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Scene 64

Sonny’s mouth opened. It was a simple reflex - he uttered nothing.

“What truth about you?”

His adrenaline rushed as he watched Taggert’s eyes drift up toward the sound of her voice – her weary, defeated voice. Sonny blinked. Her timbre was off. It almost sounded like the voice of a stranger. As his body tried to obey his brain’s command to move, Sonny watched Taggert’s gaze shift back to him. He was waiting for Sonny to respond, as was Alexis. Finally, Sonny forced a smile onto his face and he numbly turned to her.

Alexis had been crying.

Her lids were closed, but he could see the telltale signs - the slight redness and swelling in her cheeks and across her nose. It made the small, pale scatter of freckles she owned almost disappear. And then, Alexis slowly opened her eyes…those beautiful, vibrant eyes he adored had gone dim. It felt as if Sorel’s bullets were ripping into him all over again. To see the hurt that he’d allowed her to feel, even for a brief while, shattered him. Sonny’s plastic smile quickly melted.

Alexis stared down, unfocused, pressing her cold bottle of water against the hot flush of her face as she rubbed at her tensing shoulder. “And what truth about Thomas Malloy?”

This time, her dull gaze drifted to the equally silent Taggert. Taggert straightened his spine in response. He wanted to smack Corinthos – hard. The big, bad mobster had been struck dumb by the pain laced across a woman’s face. He knew Sonny would act, that he would restore her faith in Malloy, but he just wished he’s hop to it already. Alexis moved the bottle to the other side of her face as Sonny cleared his throat and found his voice again.

“Well, Alexis, you left the room before you got to hear the good stuff. Right, Taggert?”

Taggert threw his hand up in the air. “I was gonna say.”

Sonny smiled for real this time, reaching out to take her cold, wet hand in his. He gently rubbed it between his palms to warm it as he nodded toward the sofa. “Come on, sit down. Just be prepared for a few more surprises, but they’re surprises you’re going to like. I promise.”

A veil of mistrust clouded her eyes as Alexis looked from Sonny, to Taggert, then back again. She hesitated to sit just yet, instead standing her ground as Sonny’s hands began to send a calming warmth through her chilled fingers. A film of condensation clung to the bottle she still held against her cheek, and large drops began to form and seep into the valleys between her fingers. One thin trickle of cold wetness escaped the confines of her hand and crept down her wrist, disappearing underneath the pink softness of her sleeve. It sent a quick shiver of goose bumps rising in its wake, and her eyelids gently fluttered at the strange feel of it along the path of her healing puncture wounds.

“Alexis?”

Alexis suddenly realized that Sonny’s hands had stopped their light friction against her skin, and she looked down at him with her lower lip pulled between her teeth. Sonny’s dimples grew and he winked at her, almost imperceptibly. She sighed and curled her fingers around Sonny’s strong hands for support as she reclaimed her place on the sofa. Her hand slipped away from his and reached for the throw blanket, pulling half of it into her lap. As Alexis wiped the wetness from bottle onto the soft chenille, Sonny glanced at Taggert and received a vague nod of encouragement. Taggert was leaving the ball in Sonny’s court – the dynamics involved had his respect.

Alexis took a short swallow of water, and then another as she watched the silent communiqué between the two men who sat on either side of her – the two men who could barely be left alone in a room without the threat of bloodshed. She set the bottle down on the coffee table next to Sonny, and gathered the soft corner of the throw into a ball in her hands. Her eyes narrowed as she studied Taggert’s dark, chiseled face, and then the pale, large-eyed Sonny. Something was definitely up, and Alexis didn’t really like surprises.

“It occurs to me that you two have been uncharacteristically, abnormally, and disturbingly civil toward one another. I’m not sure that I like it.”

Taggert chuckled quietly, his upper body registering the amusement that his throat kept locked inside.

Alexis inhaled sharply, turning her attention to Sonny. She leaned toward him with a renewed energy and a lower tone in her voice. “Does this have anything to do with that ’understanding’ between you and Taggert that you mentioned to me…before?”

Sonny smiled at her clarity, and the life he saw he back in her curious eyes. He nodded.

“Oh.”

“You asked me, earlier today, about how you were rescued from Sorel…how I found you. It wasn’t just me, Alexis - it was US.”

Alexis tilted her head. “Us. You mean, you and Taggert?” Sonny nodded, and Alexis furrowed her brow. Her eyes turned to Taggert’s lopsided grin. “Together?”

Sonny’s hand suddenly reached out and laid claim to hers once more. He didn’t care if his touch made her shy in front of Taggert. He needed to hold onto her before he told her the rest.

“Together. And with the help of Thomas Malloy.”

He watched her face with care as she registered the full meaning of his few but powerful words. She took a quick, shallow breath that suddenly caught in her throat. The sound of it reminded Sonny of that first beautiful inhale the medics coaxed from her lifeless body. It had been music to his ears. He firmed his hold on her hand, and his smile deepened when he felt her do the same. He focused his dark eyes on hers, Sonny saw that she was ready to hear it all, and he was ready to tell.

“The morning that you were taken, Johnny found something on the elevator. It was your scarf…and there was blood.”

And so it began. The carefully constructed and somewhat edited saga of her rescue unraveled. Alexis was rapt throughout, holding herself still as she learned of the reluctant alliance the two bitter enemies had formed to save her life. Sonny was mindful of her delicate state as he spoke. She was strangely quiet - asking no questions, revealing no emotions. She barely moved, but to pull her lip between her teeth or shift her eyes from Sonny’s face to her hands enveloped in his and resting atop his thighs. He had to flex his fingers every now and then, just to tell where his hand ended and hers began.

Alexis tried hard to concentrate as the details unfolded before her, but she was still wrapping her mind around the first thing Sonny had said. Sonny and Taggert, working side by side? Impossible – it was impossible. How could Sonny give his trust to the one man who’d sworn to take him down? How could Taggert meet such a trust and still, to that day, hold it inviolate? It was impossible, unfathomable...but there they sat, together. It was true. They did it, and they did it for her. It made her heart swell beyond her wildest dreams.

But a sudden tremble ran through Sonny’s hand and carried into hers. A moment later, the air was pierced by the sound of the word ‘syringe’ escaping from his throat. Alexis’ eyes snapped to his and found them filled with pain. And then, without warning, the word ‘syringe’ escaped from his tightened throat. Alexis felt a cold chill creep across her face as a series of images hit her brain - the white cloth floating to the ground, the quick popping sound, Sorel’s hands on her bare skin, the unexpected sting…and the empty syringe held up before her face. She shuddered and clenched her teeth, refusing to give in to the quiver that threatened to take hold of her chin. She would stay strong, for herself and for him.

The room was silent with Sonny’s hesitation, but Alexis held her eyes to his face as he ran his tongue across his lips and continued to speak in a hushed voice. She listened with reverence, and a wave of grief came over her as she watched him re-live the moment Sorel took precise aim at Sonny’s heart by putting the bitter taste of heroin on his tongue. Alexis was stunned. She hadn’t even thought of what else Sorel might have been doing during those days, outside of what he was doing to her in that basement. But now, she knew that his rage and cruelty had not been confined within those concrete walls or to her helpless body – she wished to God they HAD been.

As a single drop escaped from the corner of Sonny’s eye, Alexis tightened her jaw. To see such suffering within him, all because of her, was too much to take. It threw her back to the image of Sonny on his knees beside her bed, eyes welling as he begged her to let Tony take away her pain. She’d never known Sonny to express such naked emotion before and it scared her, provoking a confusion of feelings. She wanted him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Sonny’s deep, dark eyes refused to let go of hers, and he kneeled at the alter of her bed while she shook with fear and pain. Alexis was overwhelmed – she couldn’t think. But she did know right then and there that Sonny had just laid claim to a part of her soul, and it would be his for life.

And now, as she studied the dark pools of his eyes and the single tear grown to many, that part of her soul rose up and sent her hand toward the rain. Sonny’s eyes closed as he felt the softness of her skin against his flushed cheek. The backs of her hands felt like the sweetest of kisses as they gently brushed away the remnants of fear that Sorel’s shattering message had wrought.

“I’m so sorry he did that to you.” Alexis whispered as her fingertips swept across his face.

The earnest expression she wore belied any awareness of the irony in her words, and it made Sonny smile. He captured one hand and pressed her palm to his lips, taking the saltiness of his own tears from her skin. His smile grew to a light laughter and he brought her hand back to the warmth of his cheek. Alexis looked perplexed.

"What?"

“That’s supposed to be MY line.” He explained, his own had reaching out to brush the wisps of bangs away from her eyes.

Alexis released a slow breath and squinted at him. “Oh. Well, now it’s mine. You’ve said it already and I really don’t want to hear you say it again, so I’m taking it away from you.”

“Bossy.”

“Sue me.”

A silent, reverent witness to the intimate sharing of release and comfort, Taggert all but held his breath. The tenderness of Alexis with Sonny was as Sonny’s had been with her since the minute she was found. Taggert had known little of tenderness in his life, and it was so strange to see it unfold so naturally before his eyes - and fascinating to see it unfold between these two particular people. But the thing that truly unsettled him was the undeniable twinge of envy he felt toward Sonny Corinthos. For all of his faults and criminal deeds, the man was proving to be Taggert’s better in his ability to love with such depth and abandon. He was beginning to yearn for a taste of what it felt like, and wondered if such a thing was ever to be for him.

His wistful thoughts gave way to an audible sigh that drew two pair of dark eyes his way. Taggert had been staring, and Sonny suddenly felt exposed. He pulled Alexis’ hand from his face with a nervous clearing of his throat. But then, Sonny remembered that Taggert knew his truth and had spoken it to his face…and there had been no denial made. There really was no point.

“I think Taggert is feeling a little left out.” Sonny teased.

For a split second, Taggert thought Corinthos had been reading his mind. He felt the blood rush to his face as he glanced at Alexis’ blushing smile, and considered himself fortunate that the hue of his skin would surely keep his secret.

“Why don’t you tell Alexis the rest. Tell her about Malloy.”

Taggert glanced at Sonny, surprised at his request. He hesitated to speak as Alexis rubbed at her eyes and pushed the wavy strands of hair back from her face. She was looking tired, but this was certainly no time to stop. It was best to bring it all home and allow her to process it at her own pace. The emotions in that room had run high, and Sonny bore a weariness of his own. To tell her of Malloy would drain him dry - it was time a neutral party took over. And Sonny trusted Taggert to give a clear and true telling of the role the man played in saving her life. He knew a strange kind of jealousy lived in his heart, though it was nothing he’d ever admit, especially not to Taggert. But he didn’t have to say the words. Sonny was stepping back and letting Malloy be a hero to the woman he loved. His action spoke volumes.

Taggert reached for the bottle of water that still sat beside Sonny on the table. “Do you mind?”

Alexis shook her head. He took several swallows, then leaned forward and clasped both hands around the plastic.

“A call came in from Jake, who was one of the scouts Sonny had canvassing the area where we suspected you were being held. He said that he’d been followed and accosted by Thomas Malloy, who had an urgent message for Sonny.”

Alexis watched Taggert’s hands fidget with the bottle as he told her of Thomas’ betrayal of Sorel, and his careful manipulations that would lead them to that basement. If Sorel had so much as suspected Thomas would turn against him, it would have cost him his life. But Thomas took the risk and made good on his promise that she would, indeed, go home. As Taggert’s words softly flowed, she felt the weight of her broken trust lifting from her. Taggert saw it, and it made him proud to restore her faith. He paused, waiting just a moment for things to slowly sink in for her. He wanted to be careful in his telling, to make sure that Alexis was grasping things as they came before he offered her more.

Sonny stared into space, feeling as if time was standing still. It was just as he’d felt while waiting for Jake to make that call and tell them that Malloy had come through. It was almost over now, as it had almost been over then. Taggert’s re-telling began to grow too vivid, and Sonny just couldn’t live it again. He couldn’t bear to feel again what he’d felt in those moments, and he consciously detached from the resonant voice filling the room. Instead, he chose to focus on the thing that made him feel the greatest bliss – the sweet face of the woman he cherished. He studied her profile as she watched the movement of Taggert’s fingers around the bottle. He calculated the angle of her jaw, the arch of her brow, the height of her cheekbones and the width of those velvety eyes. He drew an indelible picture of her in his mind, locking away the details, one by one, to conjure at any given moment when he might miss her and want her near. And as his eyes considered the distance between her dimple and the corner of her smile, Taggert’s voice was nothing but white noise and all Sonny knew was Alexis’ face.

She didn’t notice Sonny’s eyes holding fast to her. Alexis had been the object of Sonny’s focus so long that her self-consciousness with him had all but disappeared. And for now, Alexis herself was too focused on Taggert to be aware of anything but him. He owned all of her attention. Her eyes stayed fixed on the small movements of his fingernails as they picked at the damp, ragged label…but her ears were catching and holding on to every word his voice gave to her.

And suddenly, the fidgeting hands fell still and the room was bathed in quiet. Taggert took a deep cleansing breath and released it slowly. He’d ended the story just shy of Sonny’s frantic search for her pulse. There were some details Alexis didn’t need to know – unless, of course, she asked. And though Taggert was sure that she would, he believed that was best left to Sonny. He glanced at Sonny’s far away expression and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His muscles had gone stiff from the tension that they’d held, and sitting in one place for so long didn’t exactly help. After the day he’d had, Taggert needed a good, hard workout and a long, hot steam. Corinthos looked like he needed a drink. But Alexis…Alexis looked simply content.

Taggert sighed with relief. He set the bottle down on the table and clasped his hands together. Alexis’ gaze lifted to his sparkling eyes as he smiled and locked his hands under his chin. The softness of his face right then, the sound of his voice still fresh in her ears brought back a flash of memory - Taggert had been in that basement.

“You…” Her dry throat barely managed a whisper. “You were there. I heard you.”

Taggert’s smile turned shy. “Sonny did say we found you together. He meant that literally.”

“Was it just the two of you?”

“And Johnny. That’s all.”

Sonny’s voice startled her. He’d been silent for so long. Alexis smiled and turned to him.

“Johnny. No wonder he’s been so protective. First he finds my bloody scarf and then he finds ME…like that. I think I’m going to have to start chipping in for his salary. And he should definitely get a raise.”

Sonny laughed. “I’m one step ahead of you on that one.”

Alexis sighed and rubbed at her shoulder. “Wow. Some of the things he said to me in the hospital…well, there was a lot more meaning to them I thought.”

“What did he say?”

She tilted her head with a sly grin. “Most of it’s private. Sorry. But he did tell me that I was lucky. I knew that much was true.” She took Sonny’s hand and turned her eyes back to Taggert. “I just didn’t know HOW true.”

“I promised you the surprises would be good.” Sonny murmured.

Alexis laughed, then closed her eyes with a sigh. She felt Sonny’s hand sweeping across her hair and she instinctively leaned into it.

“You okay?”

She nodded, the dimples softening in her cheeks. “I’ve heard that word a lot lately – promise. Most of the time, it’s just a word that people say to make you feel better about something, but they don’t really mean it. I think that most of the time, promises are never kept.” Alexis opened her eyes. “Yours are. You promised you’d bring me home.”

“And here you are.” Sonny grinned wide, gently slipping his fingers from the tangled ends of her hair.

“He promised I’d go home too – Thomas, I mean. But I didn’t believe him, at first. I thought he just said it so I’d stop making Sorel mad.” Alexis reached for the blanket and gathered the soft purple material into her arms.

“Sorel WAS mad, and in the truest sense of the word. I knew he wanted Zander, but he also wanted to prove something. And it seemed like the person he wanted to prove it to the most was himself. I’d never seen or heard him that way before, and I didn’t know what was really going on. I couldn’t let him see that he was scaring me, so when he pushed me I just...pushed back. Thomas warned me not to piss him off. He told me to stop it. I didn’t mean to make things worse, but Sorel kept saying these things about you. They were cryptic and convoluted and he was so angry about I don’t know what. I was afraid of what he was going to do, and not just to me. At one point I panicked and fought him. I tried to run, which was absurd and accomplished nothing but making him even more angry.”

Alexis pulled her feet off the floor and set them flat on the sofa cushion. She laid the throw across her lap and wrapped her arms around her legs, setting her chin down upon her knees.

“I thought I’d made finally managed to make Thomas angry too. But he wasn’t. He was sweet, after Sorel left the room. For whatever reason, I convinced myself that he wouldn’t let me die there - alone and in the dark. That was still the first day, I think. I’m not sure. I had no sense of time in that room. That first day or so is fairly clear, but after Sorel had...drugged me for the second, maybe third time, it all gets confused. The pieces are floating around in my head and trying to fit themselves back together, if they will at all.”

Alexis finally looked up to see Sonny and Taggert quietly watching her, patiently listening to her stream of consciousness and waiting for her to go on, if she wanted to. Her fingers twisted around the fringe at the edge of the blanket, and Alexis smiled as her head dropped down to rest on her knees.

“Oh God, I’m sorry. I know I’m rambling. I had a point when I started, but I seem to have lost it along the way. Blasted birds ate my bread crumbs.”

Sonny laughed through the ache in soul. “My forest is your forest. Feel free to wander about as much as you want. And I’ve got a whole box of breadcrumbs across the hall.”

“Alexis, it’s good for you to talk about this. You should make a point of doing so as much as you need to and with whomever you feel comfortable.” Taggert threw in with his two cents. “But you've encountered plenty of victims of violence, so I know you know that already.”

She winced at the sound of the word 'victim'. Alexis didn't want that word used about her, but she knew there was no avoiding it. She lowered her lids as she turned her head, laying her cheek against her knees. Her hair spilled across the denim and Taggert could no longer see her face, only her hand as it wandered up to tug at the neck of her pink sweater. His decision had just been made.

“You know, your instinct about Malloy was right. The promise he made to you was real, and he meant to keep it.”

Her hand froze against the side of her throat. Taggert continued, the tone of his voice strengthening.

“In fact, it turns out that he was waiting for us, to make sure we found you. He was afraid, because you were sick, so he hid and watched from a building across the ally.”

Sonny’s back arched at this new revelation, and he turned to Taggert with a harsh glare. Taggert ignored him. He watched Alexis slowly lift her head and set her chin back down on her knees. She gazed up at him in confusion.

“Is that where you caught him?”

“No. He was arrested at his home, suitcase freshly packed and just as he was about to skip town.”

“So that’s why he was caught. He waited.” It wasn't quite a question.

Taggert shrugged and scratched at his thin beard. “Could be. If he’d taken off right away, he might have made it.” He saw a hint of a sad smile cross her face. “Alexis, Malloy asked me to give you a message, but only if you wanted to hear it. And only if I didn’t think it would upset you to mention it. My sense is that is wouldn’t. I apologize if I’m wrong.”

Her eyes met his, and Taggert saw the true depth of her vulnerability swimming there. He’d come to learn the hard way that the book of Alexis Davis was not to be judged by its cover. Taggert had always regarded her first and foremost as a professional challenge, which usually translated as a professional burr in his saddle. That legal acumen of hers could thwart his most hard-worked cases in the cool blink of an eye and send steam shooting from his ears. Alexis had a way about her that made her seem untouchable - but Taggert sure as hell knew different now. To look into her eyes now was to know that something unexpectedly fragile lived within this woman of unyielding strength.

Alexis suddenly pulled her arms from around her legs and set her palms flat upon the cushion beneath her. She carefully lowered her legs over the side of the sofa, the ache of her body registering on her face as she set her feet back on the floor. She scrunched her shoulders, slightly stretching her upper back with a sigh and a grimace. Her eyes drifted to Sonny’s face, set in a blank expression, and then settled back on Taggert.

“What did Thomas want to tell me?”

Taggert smiled reassuringly. “That he’s sorry for what he did, and that he’d give anything to be able to undo it.”

Sonny’s eyes rolled upward and he stared at the ceiling. Alexis was silent.

“He’s not the most articulate guy I’ve ever met, but for what my two cents is worth I believe his remorse is sincere.”

“Articulation doesn’t matter so much to me. Sincerity does.”

“I knew that.”

“I appreciate you giving me the message.”

Taggert nodded. “If you want…well, if you have a message of your own, you let me know and I’ll take care of it for you.”

Alexis lowered her head as she cleared her throat. “I…no. Thanks.”

Sonny’s loud exhale sang through the air. It was finally over, and he was relieved.

“I think Corinthos has sprung a leak.” Taggert teased.

Alexis frowned and returned her attention to Taggert. “Um…speaking of leaks, Sorel doesn’t know that Thomas is the one who…”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“He can’t find out, Taggert. He’ll have Thomas killed if he knows he betrayed him.”

“Sorel isn’t going to find out, Alexis.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because the only people who know the truth are right here in this room. Oh – and the little one knows too.”

“Who?”

Sonny shook his head. “Johnny.”

Alexis’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “The little one?”

Taggert chuckled.

"That's mean!" Alexis admonished.

“And you'd better not let HIM hear you say it.” Sonny warned. “Johnny works out too, you know. Isn’t that right, Alexis?”

She gave him a full-dimpled smile. "So it would seem." She turned back to Taggert. "Just us, huh?"

“You don’t have to worry, Alexis. Malloy is safe from Sorel.”

“Okay then.”

Alexis’ smile softened as her mind drifted to the thought of Thomas – his arms of iron wrapped tightly, painfully around her body, the clean smell of his freshly laundered shirt against her face as the sharp needle hit her skin...and the terrifying flood of sensations taking quick control of her. But there also came the thoughts of his blue eyes smiling shyly down at her, the taste of peppermint that he put in her mouth, and the cool dampness his hands moved across the heat of her face. He had hurt her and he had comforted her, and at times, with Sorel, she saw the same hint of fear in Thomas’ face that she knew he must have seen in hers. Alexis closed her eyes. Her feelings were conflicted, but she knew she didn’t want to see Thomas hurt. She didn’t want Sorel to hurt anyone – not ever again. Sorel…hurt…a horrible thought began to creep into Alexis’ mind.

“Honey – Alexis, are you okay?” The look of distress taking over her face made Sonny innocently slip, and the whispered word of affection sounded like a scream to his own ears. But Alexis didn’t even seem to hear him. He moved his hand to her chin, and she abruptly turned to him with large, frightened eyes.

“My God…” Her expression took him aback, and Sonny’s hand pulled away from her face. “Are you two insane? Thomas came to you, said he was double-crossing Sorel, and you just believed him? You trusted Sorel’s accomplice to lead you to me? He could have been leading you into a death trap! Sorel could have been lying in wait for you, and having a damn good laugh about it too, I might add. What the hell were you thinking?”

“We were thinking that Sorel was hurting you, and we needed to get you out of there as soon as we could, and any way that we could.”

“At what risk?”

“Whatever risk it took to get you home!” Sonny’s sharp tone left no room for doubt that his next words, carried on a gentle voice, were also the gospel truth. “And I’d do it again in an instant.”

Alexis studied the dark depths of his eyes, but couldn’t quite find what she sought there. She squinted at him, but Sonny was unflinching. Finally, she turned to Taggert.

“I would expect this kind of rash behavior from him, but you should have known better, Taggert. You’re a professional.”

“Yes I am. And my professional motto is ‘protect and serve’, councellor.”

“Yes it is. But ‘protect and serve’ in no way, shape or form means taking blind and potentially life threatening risks. You’re a smart man, Taggert, but taking the word of someone on Sorel’s payroll based on unsupported faith…well that’s just not smart.”

Taggert leaned forward and set his chin down into a cupped palm as his elbow dug into his thigh. He looked her straight in the eye and smiled. “Zander Smith.”

“What about Zander?” Alexis was clearly frustrated.

“He was on Sorel’s payroll too, once upon a time, until a smart woman took him at his word - on unsupported faith. I have no regrets about my actions. Do you?”

Alexis swallowed. The tension in her shoulders began to release as her mind worked to make sense of Taggert’s example. “But I got to know Zander before I trusted him. Are you saying that you knew Thomas before this?”

“No. I’m saying that I had my reasons, just as you had yours. And I did know one fact about Malloy that was in his favor – he had no priors. Rookies are the most likely people to turn tail and run, no matter what the…profession. It wasn’t too hard to believe that this particular rookie could have realized he’d bitten off more than he could chew. Playing first henchman to Joseph Sorel is hardly taking a baby stop toward a life of crime. That’s taking a full-fledged jump.”

As he watched the wheels of Alexis’ mind turn, Sonny’s temples throbbed. He never expected Alexis to question their response to Malloy, but she was always surprising him that that sharp brain of hers. He wasn’t prepared to explain it away himself, but Taggert was quick. Sonny could see where he was going, and trusted him to continue giving Alexis the kind of logical rationale she could accept. There was no need to confess that they’d heard Malloy’s gentle way with her in the wake of Sorel’s cruel provocation – all for the benefit of Sonny’s burning ears. Malloy didn’t know they were listening, and that was the one and only true key to his credibility.

“And I also felt in my gut that he was for real.” Taggert added.

“Why?” She wouldn’t leave it alone.

Taggert's thinking moved fast and furious. “Because…he told Jake that you needed a doctor.”

“So?”

“So…think about, Alexis. If Malloy had been baiting a trap to ambush Sonny, why would he have told him to bring a doctor? That would have just been an extra person in the way, and for no reason.”

Her questioning eyes shifted away from Taggert, and he could tell by the change in her expression that she’d accepted his detective’s brand of deductive reasoning.

“I suppose that makes sense.” She looked away in vague embarrassment. “I didn’t mean to go off on you two like that. I know you had good reasons for the decisions you made. But now that I’m hearing all this new information, it’s a little disconcerting to realize all the things that could have gone wrong. And for how many people.”

Taggert grinned and lightly touched her hand. “Hey, you were worried about us getting hurt. I think that’s kind of cute.”

“Cute?” She wrinkled her nose and protested. “I am not cute.”

“Here we go again.” Sonny joined in the teasing, awash in relief that it was finally over. Alexis scowled at him with her arms crossed, and Sonny pointed at her. “What we have here is an enigma - a woman who doesn’t like compliments. Go figure.”

“Thanks, Corinthos! Now I know how to get her all flustered in the interrogation room. I’ll tell her she smells good and call her cute.”

“You do and I’ll sue you for harassment - and win!”

Taggert laughed heartily. “Don't I know it! But that might be one risk I’m willing to take, just for the sheer fun of it.”

“Hardy har har.” Alexis sighed and leaned back against the sofa.

“Listen, Taggert, I do know what kind of a risk it was for you to keep a confidence with Sonny. It kind of brings new meaning to the words 'above and beyond the call'. Or maybe, 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Okay, bad joke. Sorry."

Taggert kept his eyes holding to hers as he watched her squirm. She WAS awfully cute when flustered, though he knew it was mean of him to enjoy watching it.

"What I'm clumsily trying to do is find the proper words to say, about what you did for me. But the best I can come up with is...thank you, Taggert. I guess my verbal fountain is a bit dry.”

Taggert arched a single eyebrow. “Well that’s a first.”

Alexis saw Sonny’s quickly grinning face out of the corner of her eye. “Shut up, Sonny.”

“Like you said, it’s the sincerity that counts. And I’m with Corinthos - I’d do it again. But please don’t make me.”

Alexis cocked her head. “I’ll do my damnedest.”

Taggert smiled at her. “I appreciate that, Alexis. But the truth is...” He fixed Sonny with a pointed gaze.

“I wasn’t talking to you.”