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Scene 89

"About damn time!" He muttered.

Luke's eye followed as the black Lexus sedan turned out the driveway of the Harbor View Towers parking garage and headed north, no doubt destined for the coffee warehouse. Someone in a position of authority would need to rectify the computer error that sent the new shipment from Costa Rica back from whence it came. Computers could be funny sometimes. Glitch happens.

He grinned the grin of the self-satisfied as Sonny's car grew smaller and smaller, finally disappearing into the sea of traffic. His ex-partner had fine taste in luxury automobiles. A Lexus. Luke shook his head. No mystery what Sigmund Freud would have to say about it. But he'd give a week's worth of scotch to have heard the pearls that came from the mouth of Caroline upon seeing her husband's choice of new toys. The girl was lacking in many things, but the instincts of a Spencer wasn't one of them. She new damn well what toy her husband really wanted to acquire, and it sure as hell wasn't made of metal. Nope. Not hardly. That particular plaything was made of one hundred percent top-grade female flesh…that was, 'tis pity, fifty percent tainted with Cassadine blood.

He pulled the chrome handle and gave the squealing door a shove. His long, lean body slipped out with one fluid movement. And just as the door slammed shut, the glint of the sun bouncing off wire frames taunted him from beside the gas pedal.

"Aha! I knew I'd find you somewhere. Come to papa!"

The door screamed out another demand for WD-40 as the sunglasses were quickly retrieved and the protective shield of reflective lenses covered Luke's squinting blue eyes. He turned and looked skyward, his gaze traveling up the rows of windows until it settled at the top. He scratched at his unshaven chin with one hand as the other slipped into the front pocket of his jeans to fish for change. Luke kept his eyes trained on the penthouse floor as he circled around the front of his blue Mustang. His feet somehow managed to find the curb without tripping. A small assortment of coins was pulled from the depths of his pocket, and two quarters followed the plinking path of two dimes down the throat of the greedy meter. The large living room window of Penthouse 2 was given one final wink and a smile.

"It took some doing, princess, but the prince has finally left you all alone in the tower. And now you're gonna tell me what kind of nasty spells the evil queen is REALLY casting about."

He sighed and lowered his eyes to stare straight at the building's entrance. His legs began to move.

"It's show time, Natasha. Prepare for incoming Spencer."

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Johnny ran a finger along the inside of his collar. Too much starch - again.

He cleared his throat and took hold of the knot in his tie, loosening it enough to give him clear access to the top button of his shirt. It was deftly unfastened. Ahh…breathing room! Johnny smiled as he inhaled deeply and slid the knot of his tie back up to hide the slight opening in his collar. As much as it mattered to him that he looked well put together each day, there had to be allowances for comfort. Not to mention the simple necessity of air intake. Breathing.

Johnny glanced at her door with a mild chuckle as he thought of all the times he'd heard Sonny reminding Alexis of that unavoidable. It really used to get her goat, having a client order her to breathe. But now, she smiled and did as she was told. Now, Sonny's role of client took a back seat to something more. And the look on his face as he came through her door a few minutes before made Johnny insane with curiosity. It tempted him to overstep his bounds. The lines were beginning to blur for him, and it took a concentrated effort to keep his head in line ahead of his emotions. With her, he could show more. She liked it - encouraged it, even. With the boss, it was sometimes hard to tell how far he could go. He listened and watched, and tried to take his cues as they came.

But he hadn't expected to assume this place of personal confidence that used to be Jason's place. Jason was gone, and now, Sonny looked to Johnny for an emotional reality check - a wall off which to bounce things. It was dicey, but it was a compliment. The man had been closed off for a very long time, and like Johnny, he kept his head in line before emotions. Sorel's actions against Alexis had suddenly changed all the rules for Sonny. His sense of reality was coming from a place inside of him that he simply didn't trust. It was the unfamiliar place where the heart told the truth and demanded to be honored above and beyond all rational thought. Sonny needed Johnny to tell him that it was the right place to be. And Johnny did. And he was willing to bet his left arm that Alexis was in the tenuous place as Sonny. They were two peas in a pod - strong, powerful, confident people too terrified and insecure to see what was right in front of them.

And he wondered why was it that the two people who'd fallen for each other were sometimes the last to know it. Johnny shook his head and leaned back against the elevator door. He remembered the morning before, when he was sure he'd caught Sonny unconsciously holding his breath. To watch Sonny watch Alexis as she opened the silver box and held the length of pink cashmere to her face was profound. And he had seen the stillness of a body locked in breathless anticipation, waiting for the smile that would send the air flowing through his lungs again. And Alexis did smile, setting Sonny's captive breath free. Good thing for Johnny. Having to remind the boss to breath was not something he looked forward to.

He glanced at the closed door of PH2 and wondered if Alexis would soon be opening it to look for him. Francis said he thought she missed him, seeming somewhat disappointed when she opened the door and found he wasn't there. Johnny was sure the comment had made his cheeks flush - and he couldn't believe she'd succeeded in doing that to him through someone else and without even trying. Blushing had become a daily event for Johnny since Alexis came home. But he didn't mind it as much as he made out. He didn't really mind at all. It felt good to know that his presence mattered, and that Alexis would be happy to see he'd returned. Johnny would be happy to see her too - to say good morning and see for himself that she was well.

Sonny had said she was - and that she'd eaten a breakfast befitting a horse, which made Johnny laugh. It also made him glad to know that her body was recovering so quickly. Jessie's hadn't. Six years of heroin had taken its toll, making the road to strength a long and tenuous one at best. And after withdrawal, his emotional state had never really been the same. He may have brought it on himself, but he didn't deserve what he suffered. Jessie thought that he did. It was payback…penance…punishment for his stupid decision to pick up that first needle and shoot his life and the soul of his mother all to hell. She had made Johnny swear that he wouldn't follow in the idolized Jessie's path, but it hadn't been necessary. Where Jessie was impulsive and daring, Johnny was contemplative and careful. Even as a grown man, choosing to work in the risky, dangerous world of Sonny Corinthos, Johnny's nature hadn't changed. He knew who he was, and it was what he wanted to be - a guard. A protector. No, Johnny's nature hadn't changed at all. He'd only put it to good professional use.

But he couldn't protect Jessie. Not from himself.

Johnny swallowed against a mouth suddenly gone dry. It had been too long since they'd spoken, and it filled him with guilt and regret. Watching Alexis suffer, struggle and finally strengthen had rekindled so much. Too much, at times. It was all he could do to keep his focus on looking out for both her and Sonny, and seeing them through this nightmare as best he could. Nightmares. Was Alexis still having them, or were they leaving her alone now that she was home? He was hesitant to ask the boss, and he would never ask Alexis. But he wondered. He hoped. And he had been counting the days until the detox pills Dr. Jones made her bring home would be gone. That day had come, and it relieved him to know that it meant the last traces of heroin would be gone from her system, if not from her memory. If not from her skin.

But she would NOT be scarred. Not like Jessie. Dr. Jones had said so, and he'd better be right. To see the marks on her arms and know they could be there to stay…it was an impossible thought. The rage it stoked in him was too blinding. And it made him want to talk to Jessie - to make sure he was okay, and that he knew he was loved. Johnny stared at the floor and conjured Jessie's mischievous grin in his mind. It put a sad smile on his face as he slipped a hand into his breast pocket and pulled out his phone. He didn't like doing personal business while on the job, but this was a rare exception.

Family was family.

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He lifted the specs from the bridge of his nose and punched the penthouse button with one knuckle.

The mirrored lenses dropped back down over his eyes before the elevator doors shut out the glare of the bright lobby light. The car was dark, but Luke could still see the numbers lighting up as he was carried from floor to floor. He wanted them to go faster. He'd been sitting in that car all morning and was stiff-legged, restless and frustrated. Keeping an eye on the comings and goings of Count Vlad had been an unproductive snooze-fest. The man never strayed from his beaten path, bouncing like a human tennis ball from the Spoon Island, to GH, and back to the island again.

On occasion, he'd take the long way back to the launch. And Luke would follow him from a safe distance as he slowly cruised past L&B records, staring at the building like a pitiful forlorn teenage with a crush, hoping to get a fleeting glance at his object of affection. Only Cassadine was a pitiful, forlorn man with a lost son, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of the source of his rejection. It sickened Luke to see it. It sickened him to know he had a gut-level pain of the child kind with a man he'd love to see dead. The sins of the fathers had been visited upon the sons…and back again, like a karmic boomerang. But Luke had found comfort in Lulu. Stefan appeared to have found comfort in Alexis. The Harbor View Towers was the only stop Vlad ever made the hospital and home, creepy home. And it had only been twice.

But the first nocturnal visit to the no longer estranged little sister had lasted through the morning. Curiouser and curiouser…until Luke got a load of the skittish Natasha's face and arm. Until the angry heat of a thousand suns were shot his way from both Sonny and the good doc ex bro-in-law, confirming that there was indeed some strange new fruit to be plucked from the Cassadine family tree. His thoughts went to Helena. She may be staying well out of sight, but the toxic smell of her destructive intent hung overhead like a cloud. Hurricane Helena was lying in wait and ready to drop a hail of acid rain on anyone, at any time, anywhere in the town of Port Chuck. But she was a very careful woman, specific in her targets. She aimed directly for her youngest son, yet somehow misfired. The failure disgraced her. Stefan, the weak, inferior son had bested her and lived to tell the tale. Lucky thing for her there was no proof.

Still, Stefan's victory over his mother left a sour taste in her mouth. Helena now ignored him, treating him as if he did in fact lie in his grave. Her focus had switched targets, moving instead to the bastard child she'd hated since birth. Not that Luke could fault her for it. Natasha was a much more interesting subject than what Helena herself had spawned, but what did she want from her? What motive was there to hurt her? For what purpose? And why now? An alliance - it had to be. Helena had forced Alexis's hand before, with Tony's trial. She was probably doing it again, trying to force her to throw-in against her own brother. Maybe to deepen the wedge between Stefan and the precious prince, until the ties between them were irreparably severed and Helena could move in and take control. Luke smiled wryly. Little Natasha had told the old bat to go to hell and paid the price. He shook his head as the Penthouse floor was reached, the car mildly jostling to a halt.

What a waste for a woman like that to be a Cassadine - even if it was only fifty percent.

Johnny turned at the sound of rumbling behind his back. The figure revealed by the parting elevator doors straightened his spine, and he clenched his jaw as he took a solid step back in the direction of Alexis's door.

"Jonathan." Luke pushed his glasses up to sit on the top of his near-bald head. He flashed a cheesy smile as he stepped through the open doors. "Wazzzuuuup?"

Johnny tilted his head. "Not that tired old catch-phrase. It's not up at all. It's OUT."

Luke clamped a hand to his heart. "You wound me! Not nice, Johnny. Not nice at all, telling me I'm un-cool."

His feet moved further apart, firming his stance. Johnny looked Luke unflinchingly in the eye and gave a small smile and nod of his head. "Somebody had to - for your own good."

"Hmm!" Luke huffed.

"Sorry you wasted a trip, but Sonny's not here right now. I'll be sure and tell him you stopped by."

Johnny reached past Luke to give the call button a firm, single push. Luke turned his head, following the movement with his eyes. He turned back to Johnny with one eyebrow raised in bemusement.

"Sonny and I are no longer partners. Hell, we're not even friends. What makes you think I'm here to see him?"

Johnny smiled wide. "Luke! You finally found that Johnny Hartman CD you were talking so much about and you just had to come right over tell me? I'm flattered."

"Ha!" Luke laughed out loud. "Matter of fact, I DID find that CD. And next time you come by the club, I'm gonna buy you a drink and play it for you. But I'm not here to see you either. No offense to you OR my ex-partner, but I came to see the one worth looking at."

As Luke made a motion to pass him, Johnny stepped back and lifted his arm up to stop him. Luke looked down his nose at the tight, unsmiling face. The prince may be gone, but the princess was still being fiercely guarded. Johnny was a roadblock that Luke hadn't anticipated, and a change of tactics was needed. He pulled back, away from Johnny's arm, and gave a nod toward Alexis's door.

"I came to see Alexis Davis, attorney at law. MY attorney."

Johnny frowned. "Yeah? I didn't know that. Since when?"

"Since I was unjustly accused of murdering the lady's un-dead brother. See, this is the REALLY bad thing about being arrested for something you didn't even do - long after your confinement to a noisy, reeking, sardine can of a jail cell is but a bad memory, the legal bills remain an ongoing reminder."

"Sorry to hear that."

Johnny blinked. He hadn't meant to put such an edge in his voice, but there it was. And he knew Luke heard it. He liked Luke alright, and it stunk that he got thrown in jail on such a lousy set-up. But the man could be as low-down as they come, and Johnny could sense that there was something he wanted from Alexis that had nothing to do with paying a bill.

"But…you'll have to discuss it with Alexis some other time. She doesn't want to be disturbed."

Luke pulled his head back and squinted. "Even if I have an appointment?"

Johnny smiled. "If you did, she'd have told me."

"Maybe she forgot."

"Oh, I don't think so." Johnny's smile faded as he tapped the side of his forehead with his fingertip. "Mind like a steel trap, ya know?"

Luke paused a moment, intently studying Johnny's face. He wondered how far he could push the envelope with Sonny's stand-in, and began to test the waters with a slow grin.

"I do know. That sharp little mind is steel of the cold, hard stainless variety. Good thing the rest of her is so soft, warm and cuddly. Makes for a nice…balance. I appreciate that in a woman."

Johnny wasn't taking any bait. He smiled again. "I know you do. Must be why you haven't turned that picture of Helena Cassadine into a dart board yet, like you keep threatening to do."

"Hey! It wasn't for lack of trying. I invited the elusive Ms. Davis to come over to the club, knock a few back, and let fly with some well-sharpened projectiles at the old bat's oil-painted butt. Turned me down flat! I tell ya Johnny, the woman's just no fun anymore. But maybe she'll change her mind if I ask her real nice? Maybe she'll change her mind if I invite you and Sonny, her new best friends, to join us?"

"Maybe you'd better get back to the club before Claude does something else that'll get him fired." Johnny swallowed and firmed his stance. "Say 'hi' to him for me. And I'll tell Alexis you came by."

Luke ran his tongue across dry lips and met Johnny's unflinching stare. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to get the kiss-off from the lady herself. No offense, but I ain't talking to the hand when I came to talk to Natasha."

Johnny bristled at the sharp intonation of that name - a name he'd never get used to hearing. It always sounded lascivious when coming from Spencer's mouth. It also sounded like some kind of threat. But he didn't know why.

"No offense, but you're going to HAVE to take your kiss-off from me because the lady herself is unavailable."

"Funny. I don't remember seeing a tattoo on her forehead saying, 'Property of Sonny Corinthos, et al.' But I DO remember seeing something else there though. Looked nasty. Must have hurt. What happened, Johnny? Did Natasha fall down go boom, or did someone give her a good, hard push?"

"Don't, Luke. Leave her alone."

Johnny's made a quick, solid move forward. Luke took a quick, faltering move backward.

"Leave this building - now. And that's not a request."

Johnny's feral tone took Luke aback. He'd never seen the soft-spoken man assume any semblance of a menacing air, but Luke had often wondered if a perfect storm was raging somewhere beneath the stillness, lingering quietly and waiting for the proper inspiration to break. To see it begin made a part of Luke want to laugh. Another part of him wanted to grab handfuls of the neatly pressed charcoal gray jacket cloaking Johnny's slight body, and shove him against the wall. Neither would be productive. Luke's heartbeat began to quicken, and his eyes shifted toward the door of PH2. Now he was certain - the princess had been hurt bad, and those close to her were afraid it would happen again. Luke was afraid too. He had to be prepared. He had to protect his own.

His jaw tightened as he met Johnny's hard stare. "Sorry, my man. I don't take orders from you, and I ain't leaving."

He'd barely moved a muscle before Johnny's arms were between their bodies, forcibly holding Luke back. Luke didn't give in to his renewed impulse to pull physical rank, deciding to make use of his big mouth instead.

"Alexis! Come out, come out, wherever you are! Ollie ollie oxen free!"

"Dammit Luke!" Johnny gave him a hard shove, sending Luke stumbling into the wall. "You need to learn when to back the hell off before somebody, namely YOU, gets hurt!"

"Whoa! Take it easy there, slugger." Luke glared hard.

"Johnny?"

Alexis's muffled voice turned both men's heads in the direction from whence it came.

"It's alright, Alexis. I'm here." His eyes fixed on the door handle. He wanted that door to stay closed, with Alexis remaining safely inside.

"What's going on?"

"Nothing for you to worry about."

"Your guard dog is being a little over zealous, that's what's going on! Call him off, will ya?"

Again, a vague movement toward her door sent Johnny into action. Luke tried to dodge away, but Johnny was quick and deft. Before he knew it, the taller man had been turned around with his front side pinned against the wall and one arm twisted behind his back.

"Owe! Geez, Jonathan! Lighten up. Come on, baby! Help me out here!"

"Johnny? Is that Luke?"

"Well it ain't Helena in a Spencer disguise!"

"He was just leaving." Johnny tossed over his shoulder.

"Was not! Alexis and I have a little game of 'Show and Tell' to play."

"No games, Luke." Johnny hissed. "This is dead serious - I'M dead serious. Alexis is off-limits to you, end of story. Got it?"

Luke was silent as the left side of his face squirmed against the wall. Damn! Johnny must be working out. He hadn't expected the little guy to be that strong and agile. And he sure as hell didn't expect to meet with such fierce opposition once Sonny had been maneuvered out of the way. He cursed himself for underestimating the situation, and for forgetting the protective instincts that a damsel in distress can arouse in susceptible men. Sonny's instincts may be coming from a more primal sexual imperative, but the purely protective nature of a gentle man was clearly not to be discounted. Johnny's claws were just as sharp as Sonny's - he just didn't smile while making them known.

"She knows you're here, and her door is still closed. Alexis doesn't want to see you, so you need to leave."

"I'm going to have to tell Sonny-boy you do him proud. Protecting the precious little gold nugget tucked away in the vault with as much passion as he would himself - if he was here. Well, maybe not QUITE as much passion. And I'd be sure to keep it that way if I were you. Catch my drift?"

He gave Johnny a wink. Johnny was not amused.

"I asked you to leave."

"You forgot to say please."

Luke grimaced as he felt the sharp introduction of an elbow into his spine.

"Please." Johnny intoned flatly.

"Point taken." Luke's eyes began to water, and he shifted them downward, toward the source of his pain. "Literally."

Johnny smiled. "Good."

He slowly released his healthy grip, his eyes holding fast to Luke's face. He was fully prepared to be fought, but Luke stayed where he was until all contact between them had been broken. Johnny moved back, closer to Alexis's door as Luke pulled his wrenched arm up against his chest and rubbed at his shoulder. He took a long moment before turning around and fixing his gaze past Johnny's head. His lips began to curve into a sly grin as his fingers continued to work his muscles.

"You hear that, Natasha! You're gold, baby! Passion-inspiring gold!"

"God, what the hell is wrong with you, Spencer?"

"What? The woman shouldn't know what she's worth?"

"She knows."

"Great. Glad to hear it. Now YOU need to know something, Jonathan. I'm not the one who put that gash on her head, I'm not the one who put her in the hospital, and I'm not the one you need to protect her from. On the contrary. The little gold nugget and I have an understanding between us. It's the kind of thing that comes from having enemies in common - the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

He glanced at the door, knowing full well that Alexis was standing right behind that thick slab of wood and listening to every word he said. He would flush her out, one way or the other.

"And another thing you need to know - and maybe Sonny-boy does too - is that Alexis and I may keep secrets from other people, but not from each other. Isn't that right…Alexis?"

"What do you want Luke?

Her weary voice put a victorious expression on Luke's face. Her weary voice put a fearful expression on Johnny's.

"I wanna see ya!" Luke shouted.

"You saw me yesterday."

"Yes I did - a little too closely for your comfort, I think. But not nearly close enough for mine." He paused, waiting for a response that didn't happen. "Come on, Natasha! Cut the Garbo routine. Coy doesn't suit you. Besides, you know your secrets are safe with me. At least…they have been up until now. But things can change in the blink of an eye."

Johnny glared at him through narrow eyes. "Don't even THINK about threatening her, Luke. I swear on my mother's life if you do anything to…"

The sharp clicking of metal cut his voice silent, and he turned just as the door behind him swung open. Alexis stood rigid in the doorway, one hand wrapped tightly around the handle and the other holding onto the doorframe. Her face was completely bare, all marks of Sorel right out in the open, and her hair hung in loose, layered waves around her face. Her eyes had gone directly to Luke's face, and she stared up at him unflinchingly, as if presenting him with a dare. But the truth was, she'd just accepted one. Johnny couldn't help but smile inside as he looked at the strong, confident face of this brave woman. Sonny had been right - she lookd well. Yet Johnny was still worried. He'd wanted that door to stay shut.

"Alexis, I'll take care of this. Go on back inside, okay?"

"It's alright Johnny." Her gaze never strayed from Luke's face. "If Mr. Spencer wants to see me, let him look."

And look he did. He stared…at the muted, marbled shades of purple and green that lay across her left cheekbone. Luke was surprised. Her make-up had kept all evidence of bruises well hidden the day before. And he was confused. Putting someone in the hospital was absolutely Helena's style, but what he saw on Alexis's face wasn't. The gash on her head could have come from anything - the bruising came from a fist. That kind of outward violence was too bourgeois for she of the cleverly elaborate murders and gothic revenge. Unless she was getting desperate…and sloppy. And very afraid.

But Alexis was doing her best not to show Luke any fear. She stared at him with those deep, dark eyes of hers blazing bright with defiance. She expected him to make things worse, and she was bracing herself for it. Luke didn't enjoy seeing a woman look at him like that - like she was waiting for him to take aim at her Achilles heel just for the fun of it. That wasn't what he wanted. He may not be much of an innately gentle man, like Johnny, but the look on her already injured face was making him feel a little dirty. He just wanted to get the truth, and get out of her way. He hoped she would let it be that simple, but this was Natasha. There was nothing simple about her. And her natural instinct with him was to spar. It was mutual. It was their way - their dance…their antagonism tango.

Alexis took a slow, deep breath as Luke studied her face with the corners of his mouth slightly upturned in what looked to be a smirk. She shifted her jaw. It was all she could do to hold her ground and meet him on his level. And she was already tired from lack of sleep, battling bad dreams, and sifting through the heightened emotions stirred in her morning hours with Sonny. The day was young and she already felt the need for a nap. Instead, she would use her minimal energy to shut Luke down. The strain of maintaining a normal appearance through their encounter at GH exhausted her, and she knew that if she didn't deal with him now he would keep coming back at her - like a boomerang, or the proverbial bad penny. But his scrutiny of her face made her want to slam the door right in his. She couldn't hold her tongue any more.

"Seen enough?"

Luke pursed his lips and exhaled with a raspy noise. "Consider the 'show' part handled. How about we move on to the 'tell'?"

Johnny moved between them, keeping his voice soft. "This isn't your business, Luke. It's hers. For God's sake, have a little respect."

"Oh, I do. I have respect - the same respect for survival that Alexis has. Remember that understanding I mentioned before, about the enemy of my enemy? Well Alexis and I sort of have a pact to help each other survive against enemy forces that would seek to dance on our graves. We'd much rather be the ones doing the dancing. Isn't that right, darlin'?"

Alexis swallowed and her eyelids lowered only halfway before rising again. Holding Luke's unyielding stare, she'd begun to feel somewhat dizzy. And there was something about his eyes that suddenly unsettled her. They made her afraid to keep staring, and just as afraid to look away. She halfway blinked again, and Johnny's worried eyes cast themselves her way. Alexis could feel them on her, and she knew that he was on the verge of taking control if she didn't do it first - and quickly.

"State your purpose, Spencer. Are you trying to tell me something, or ask me something?"

She flexed her fingers away from the doorframe, then curled them tightly around it again as she leaned her shoulder against the edge and shifted her weight into one foot. Luke's eyes shifted to follow the light movements of her tense body. Alexis took a deep breath and squeezed her lids tightly shut for a quick moment while her eyes were freed from the grasp of his. But the dizziness intensified, and she opened her eyes again with a weary exhale. Luke's gaze had already settled back on her face. But his expression had vaguely softened, and his head tilted just so as he looked down at her and answered her harsh question with a quiet whisper.

"Ask, baby. Just ask."

Johnny watched in silence as her bottom lip went into hiding between her teeth. And then her large eyes lowered from Luke's face and found their way to his own. She was going to let Luke ask - she was going to let him in. A split second later, Alexis gave the door as quick shove, opening it wide. Johnny began to slowly shake his head, and she gave him a light, one-dimpled smile.

"It's alright, Johnny."

She took a single step back, and Luke strode past her into PH2 like he owned it. Johnny made a slight move, as if to follow in Luke's path. Alexis smiled with both dimples and held a flat palm up against his chest.

"I know where you'll be, if I need you."

Johnny looked past her face to the back of Luke's balding head, his eyes shooting daggers into the pink scalp. Luke suddenly turned around and gave Johnny a blank stare over his shoulder. Johnny didn't mean to move again, but he must have. The pressure of Alexis's hand increased, and he glanced down at the feel of it. His head stayed bowed as his eyes slowly lifted up to hers. He wanted Luke gone, and she knew it. But she wanted Luke there, and it was her choice. Sonny would not be amused.

"Johnny?" Alexis arched her eyebrows and widened her eyes. "Don't even think about calling him."

Johnny's mouth dropped open. She had read his mind. His impulse was to protest, but it would be a lie. His mouth closed again. Alexis moved her palm from his lapel to his cheek in a brief, soft, reassuring touch. He felt his face begin to heat up - on its way to growing pink, no doubt. Her hand was suddenly back on his chest. She smiled, and Johnny smiled back.

"Be careful with him, okay?" He murmured gently, for her ears only.

Alexis nodded and let her hand fall away from him. Johnny's eyes stayed on her face as she pulled away from the threshold and reached for the edge of the door. She slowly pushed it closed, taking both her and Luke Spencer out of his view - and out of his reach. The sound of the catching latch put a twist in the pit of Johnny's stomach. He felt he'd somehow failed her. Johnny still wanted Luke gone, but it was still Alexis's choice.

And Sonny would still not be amused.