The meeting place was in an abandoned warehouse away from the docks. Jason entered first, scoping the area out; then Sonny walked in, flanked by five more guards. Two peeled off and stayed near the entrance. The other three took up other defensive positions. Sonny and Jason came on forward alone.

"Sorel. Show yourself." Sonny called out.

Sorel stepped out of the shadows, with his own bodyguards close behind. There was a fresh set of scars on the left side of his face. Nail marks. Sonny's insides clenched.
"Sonny. How good of you to come." he glanced at his watch. "On time, as well. Very commendable." He reached into his coat's inner pocket, halting when Jason pulled his gun and leveled it at Sorel.

Sorel laughed, trying for a show of bravado, but a trace of uneasiness was in it when Jason didn't lower his weapon.

"Touchy, aren't we, Mr. Morgan? Actually, I commend it. It's those kind of sharp reflexes that assures me that our association will be a profitable one." He slowly drew out a sheaf of papers. "This is for you, Sonny. It's a list of shipments and deliveries for the first three months of our very lucrative relationship. Think of it as our honeymoon."

He made a motion and one of his men took the papers and brought them to Sonny. "The first transaction takes place Friday."

Sonny took the papers. Without even glancing down at them, he tore them in half and dropped them to the ground. Then he stepped on them, grinding them into the cement with his heel.

"I only met with you because I wanted to speak with you in person. I want to make sure that you understand this clearly. There's no deal, Sorel."

"Eliana Salazar will be sorry to hear that. Once I leave here, maybe I'll visit her one more time. It will be the last time. Regrettably."

"I see from your face she left her mark on you. I hope it's a lasting one. Only fair, since you've left a mark on her soul." Sonny hissed. "Do you have a soul, Sorel? What kind of man uses a woman that way, as a way to strike back at his enemies? Only a weak one.

"You're sloppy, Sorel. Weak, sloppy and stupid. Besides my refusal to have anything to do dealing with narcotics, those are just more reasons why I refuse to do business with you. Eliana has been out of your hold for more than an hour, now. She's safe, where you can't get to her."

Hearing Sonny's words, Sorel took a step backwards in shock. Realizing he has lost his hold on his enemy, his hand flashed towards his holster under his coat. At Sorel's first movement, Jason drew back the hammer. The click, audible in the sudden silence made by Sonny's announcement, froze Sorel in midmotion. The two men behind Sonny followed suit, Sorel's men reacted a split second after, then all of them were at a sudden standoff. Only Sonny hadn't moved.

"With the PCPD breathing down our necks, a war will solve nothing. And it's bad for business. But there's going to be a reckoning, Sorel. Someday soon. You're unintelligent, you don't pay attention to detail and your operation is second-rate. And that makes you dangerous.

"I was willing to let you handle your business. I was not about to get involved in it, in any sort of way. But then you involve people that I care about. My family. Did you think I would let you get away with that?"

"There were extenuating circumstances." Sorel began. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. "If you had only been reasonable…"

"Did I ask you to talk, Sorel?" Sonny said, his voice deadly quiet. "You came to me with a proposal; with all respect, I heard you out. With all respect, I declined your offer. With all respect. Instead of accepting that like a man, you what? Turn to petty retaliations, try to muscle me? You take your vendetta against me to the outside, to non-combatants, in a pitiful, weak attempt to force me to do your bidding. That will never happen again."

"It was an unwise move, Mr. Corinthos. I admit that. If I may, I will give you my word that it will not." Sorel wiped at his forehead. Sonny's reputation for ruthlessness, as well as Jason Morgan's, was well known. And his men were loyal. If it came to an out and out war, Sorel knew he had a good chance at losing.

"A war between us would be fruitless; you've as much as said so yourself. I am proposing a truce."

Sonny laughed shortly. "Your word. And I should believe you, because…? You even botched the dead cop fiasco. You were stupid enough to leave witness. That brought down heat on everybody. You know what, I'm going to see that the Smith kid testifies against you. Instead of taking you out myself, I'm going to let the law do it."

"Sonny Corinthos would never get his hands dirty, would he?" Sorel snarled sarcastically.

"You would have a problem with that. This is another one of your problems," Sonny said, almost conversationally. "You took out Moreno, but you're still just a soldier, not a leader. You don't know how to delegate. You're not fit to run a hot dog stand, let alone an organization.

"A temporary cease-fire, Sorel. That is all this is. I gave my word to the council that I would not be the one to break the peace for the duration of the moratorium between us. But you've messed with me and mines and I'm not going to forget it."

Sonny turned and began to walk out of the warehouse. Then he turned back, his voice low and savage. "One more thing. If you think you will get anywhere by coming after anyone I care about again, I will burn you and everything you own, everyone you care about and have ever cared about, to the ground. Then I will grind the ashes beneath my heel. There will be no hiding from me, not in the farthest corners of the earth. Not with the passing of time. There is no amount of money will keep you safe."

Sonny knows as he speaks the words, that if Sorel succeeds in hurting his family again, that he would become as he said, like death incarnate. Caring about no one, nothing, until the man before him was ash on the wind.

Jason backed out after him, and then his men after that.

The two men got into Sonny's car.

"Do you think he took your threats seriously?" Jason asked.

"He'd better. I meant every word. I have got to chop this man off at the knees. Or better yet, I'm going to have his cojones."

"You said you didn't want a war now."

"I don't. But I am going to cripple Sorel where it hurts. In his pockets. He is going to go down, slowly and painfully. And he while he may think I am to blame for it, he will never have proof. I am going to gut his organization from the inside out." Sonny made a savage gesture with one hand across the throat. Emasculata.

Sonny and Jason parted ways on the penthouse floor, Jason going to his own apartment, Sonny to his. He shrugged off his coat, and went to the bar to fix himself a drink. Glass in hand, he returned to his desk and sat down heavily. Sonny opened the packet of papers Jason had given him and studied them slowly, one by one, trying to absorb the impact of what they told him. Unbelievable. He downed the scotch and ran his fingers through his hair, exhaling heavily.

There was a sound behind him. Sonny turned in his seat to see Carly coming down the stairs from their bedroom. Sleep-tousled, she was still the most beautiful woman he has ever known. He watched her as she crossed the room to him and reached for his glass.

"Do you need another?" she asked.

Sonny took her hand and turned it so he could drop a kiss on her palm. "No, it wouldn't do any good." He came up out of his seat and gathered his wife close to him, burying his face in her honey-gold hair, inhaling her sweet fragrance. "This is what I need. Mmmm..... much better."

Carly returned his embrace for a moment, then pulled back from him to look at him searchingly. "What is it, Sonny? Can you tell me about it?"

He took her by the hand, picked up the papers in the other and led her to the couch. They sat down side by side. "Eliana Salazar and Alexis Davis were kidnapped tonight." he began. "Not to worry, they are both safe and sound. Mostly." he added, thinking of Eliana in the hospital. Jason had told him that he was on his way there later that night.

"Mostly?" Carly echoed. "I thought Alexis wasn't involved in your -- coffee import business." Carly said. "And why Eliana Salazar? It's been a long time, but you've mentioned her name before. Someone you bought art from."

Her eyes narrowed as she realized that there was more of a connection between the two of them than she had realized.

"Alexis was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was Eliana that he wanted." Sonny said. "Eliana and I both grew up in Brooklyn, same neighborhood. We knew each other, even though we weren't friends or anything. Our age difference for one thing. I'm at least ten years older than her. She has a brother my age -- him I knew -- we even ran with the same crew for a short while. Her dad was a cop too, was partnered with Deke for two or three years." His face twisted momentarily with the mention of Deke's name.

Carly knew even the mention of this man's name brought Sonny pain. Deke Woods had been a monster. He had been Sonny's stepfather, a brutal man who had abused and beaten both Sonny and his mother.

"We didn't really know each other when we were kids growing up. No more than knowing someone lived in your neighborhood, ya know? I'd see her in church -- when I went." He couldn't resist responding to the little grin that Carly gave him then. "OK, when my mother dragged me there. Or at the bodega or the movies...stuff like that. Just around.

"Her older brother was my age. He was in Joe Scully's crew, but not long. Thought he was a real smooth talker. A hustler. Thought he was bigger and badder than he really was. But she was all right, a real stand-up kid. Smart."

"Sonny, what that does that have to do with why she was kidnapped tonight?" Carly asked.

He ran his hand over his face. "I'm getting there. Eliana got into some financial difficulties through her brother. This was right after I took over -- got started in the business here in Port Charles. I still went back to the old neighborhood once in awhile, back then. She came to me and I helped her out."

"Helped her out?" Carly repeated slowly. She bit her lip; unsure if she liked the sound of that and all that it implicated.

"I guess she was desperate. Her brother had sunk himself into some local sharks for a lot of cash. Her parents were both dead by then, and the two of them were living with their abuela. The people he owed were starting to come around the grandmother's house. They wanted her to pay off her brother's debt. In trade. She was smart enough to know that once they had gotten their hooks into her, there would be no getting out. So she came to me.

"Instead of offering me her body, she offered me her brains. I guess I kind of liked that. An offer like that took balls, so I admired that. I gave her a job in my organization. I didn't know why I did it at the time - except she didn't deserve that sort of life and that was the only way somebody like me could really help her. She was smart, ambitious. I remember her being an artist and everyone in the neighborhood saying how good she was. Plus, it was something about helping somebody else out of the old neighborhood, I guess.

"She was in the life for a few years. In a peripheral way. I can't -- won't -- tell you any more than that, for both yours and her protection. But she's out now. She's one hundred percent legit. You know she runs the Amara Gallery here in town, and a few others in other cities besides. I never brought it up, mainly because it was before me and you, but I was her bankroll for her business.

"She was kidnapped tonight, because of her ties to me."

Carly looked puzzled. "Over a legitimate investment? That doesn't make sense, Sonny."

Sonny gestured at the papers on the coffee table in front of them. "It didn't; until I saw these." He ran his hands through his hair once again. "These papers say that Eliana is my sister."

Carly picked up the papers and read them. When she had done, she looked at Sonny again. "You believe them." It wasn't a question.

"Yes. I remember my mother being pregnant when I was ten. Instead of being happy, I remember her going around being real sad. I didn't think much of it then, I was just a kid, and Deke made my mother sad all the time. I remember her going to the hospital. When she came home, there was no baby. I was told that it was a girl and it had died." Sonny looked off into the distance, not really seeing her right now. "What are the odds, that this is not the same baby.... that the dates coincide too well. Why else is my mother's name on one of these birth certificates?"

"Who is this other name?" Carly asked. "On the second one?"

"Juanita Salazar.... and the father was Eduardo Salazar, Deke's partner. He was over to our house often enough that I knew him. Him and Deke were drinking buddies for a time.
"I know that Deke had something to do with this. I remember his wife too. She was cubano, like my mother, Adella. She was one of the few friends Deke allowed her to have. Hell, she may have been the only one."

"So you believe that it is true?"

"Yeah. And somehow Sorel found out and tried to use it -- and her -- against me."

Carly snuggled up under him. "Sonny, where is she now?"

"She's at General Hospital." She felt her husband's muscles tense up. "It was Sorel. He had her kidnapped. While he had her, he slapped her around some, and if that wasn't enough, the bastard raped her."

"No. This is not your fault. This is Sorel's fault, not yours, Sonny." Carly said. No Sonny, I won't let you do this to yourself again. Everything bad that happens to somebody is not your fault. She reached out and turned his face towards hers. Deke Woods had beaten his mother, and done who knows what else. She knew how Sonny hated violence against women. The fact that another woman was hurt because of her ties to him was killing him, she knew it.

"Sorel was looking for any way he could to control you. Lay this where it belongs, at Sorel's door, not yours."

But she knew the man she loved would punish himself, once again, for the sins of another. All she could is hold him close.
So she did.

After a time, she took his hands and drew him to his feet. There were times when there was nothing she could say that would make him put the burden of his guilt down. All she could do is try to take a portion of it from him, help him shoulder the load.

So she led him towards the stairs, up to their bedroom. Tonight it would be a haven from everything outside.

Partways up the steps, Carly halted. She drew Sonny to her. He needed little urging. Carly brought her lips to his. She wanted to draw the pain from him.

Sonny let himself sink into the kiss. They made their way to their bedroom and closed the door behind them, shutting out the world. The room was dark except for the flames dancing in the fireplace. Never letting go of his hands, Carly moved to stand before it. She slowly sank to her knees, drawing him down with her. She kissed him again, quivering slightly as his arms came up and pulled her close, molding her body to his.

This was not a time for foreplay. He sought forgetfulness in her arms, the solace that her body could give her, and Carly understood and gave it.

They undressed one another quickly, hands sweeping over smooth muscled flesh and satiny curves and hollows with sweet familiarity. Then Sonny was pressing her back, entering her smoothly, even as his mouth captured hers once more. His movements were slow, intense, his arms a welcome vise about her. Carly moaned softly as he took her. Soon he was driving into her with smooth, insistent strokes. He groaned into her mouth, as they became one, giving as well as taking, sharing, wiping all the pain, all the heartaches away. It was just for a little while, but for tonight, for now, it was enough.