Sonny was up soon after dawn, moving quietly so as to not waken Carly as he rolled out of bed.
Once he was dressed and had come downstairs, he tried sitting at his desk and going over figures for his coffee warehouse, but the numbers on the pages kept blurring. He found himself unable to concentrate. Finally he gave up. He scribbled a quick note for Carly and put it on the table where she'd find it as soon as she came downstairs.
Then he had Johnny drive him to the hospital. It was barely past dawn when he arrived at General Hospital. Sonny walked the halls of the hospital, hearing very little besides the hums and beeps of the various machines used to keep their patients alive. When he came to Eliana's door, he found himself hesitating as he raised his hand to knock softly at it. He turned away for a moment.
Just then, Jason stepped off the elevator. Only Sonny could see it, but Jason was looking a little ragged around the edges, the results of a sleepless night. Sonny knew that Eliana and Jason were friends of a sort, but had never pried any further than that. Unlike what other people thought, Sonny knew that this had to hurt him.
"How is she?" Sonny asked.
"She woke up in the night." Jason said. "But this morning she was better than she was last night. This is not easy for her, but she's a fighter, Sonny. She's not going to let what Sorel did to her destroy her."
He gestured to the bag in his hands. "She begged me to get her something that didn't come from the cafeteria." he quirked a small smile. "She has particular taste in coffee."
He studied Sonny for a moment, then handed him the cups. "You want to take that in?"
"You don't mind?"
"I know this isn't easy for you, Sonny." As usual, this man who was closer to him than any blood brother could be, knew what was in his head. "You two have some talking to do, right? I'll just say good-bye and then take off. Unless you need me."
He shook his head. "Nah, you get some sleep."
Sonny took the bag from Jason and paused while the other man opened the hospital door.
Eliana lay motionless in her bed, eyes closed, curled up away from the window and the first rays of the sun streaming in. At least the images had stopped for now. She still couldn't sleep.
this morning, around four a.m.
She woke up in a panic. Even through the lingering, drugging effects of the medications they'd given her, her body recognized before her mind could, that this place was alien. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest as her body lurched upwards, muscles screaming in protest.
Midnight blue shadows draped the room with unfamiliar shapes. It was not a small space.
But still, unfamiliar.
There was a movement by the window and the shadows in the corner seemed to shift and move.
"Hey, it's just me." Jason said seeing her panicked look. He crossed the room to her from the windowsill seat where'd he been sitting.
At the sound of his voice, the memories came flooding back. So did dull, echoing levels of pain, shredding the last of the painkillers. She groaned softly.
"Where am I?" she finally managed to get out.
"You're in the hospital."
"Hospital?" she looked around, still a little disoriented. She could make out an armoire against the far wall, and other furniture.
Jason recognized her confusion. "This is one of the hospital suites, not one of the regular rooms. Sonny told them to put you in the best they had." He looked down at her intently. "How're you feeling?"
"Oh. Okay, I see." She lowered herself slowly back into the bed, forcing herself to relax. Eliana gave him a wan smile. "I've felt better. And worse." A shadow crossed her face. "This is definitely better."
She looked around the room. There was a chair right by her bedside. "Have you been here all night?"
Jason shrugged. "Not all of it, but most. I wanted to keep an eye on you. Sonny was here too. The nurses told us you would be out all night. I told him to go home to his wife, that I would look out for you."
"I remember Sonny coming for me, him taking me out of there. And you." she said, still staring at him. "It was you that found me, right?"
"Yeah." he asked. Jason didn't know what to say next. "Do you, you know, remember anything?"
"I remember everything." Her face closed down. Her skin crawled with the memory. Even though she knew better, she felt soiled, dirtied. Anyone who saw her could see it. What was Jason thinking about her now? she wondered. That she'd let
Sorel…no; she wouldn't allow herself to think these thoughts. But they came back, she couldn't help them.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"No, but I will be." Eliana shook her head. She willed her body to stop trembling and failed. "I need to take a shower."
"Do you need me to get you anything special?" he asked.
"Could you just stay here?" Thank you, Jason, for not asking any more questions. "Right now, being in a small strange room, is not making me feel all that good." Actually, it was making her physically sick to her stomach.
"You're safe here. Sonny has one of his men outside in the hall, but I'll look after you for as long as you need me to." Jason replied. He didn't know why he'd said that last sentence, but it was true. He hadn't planned on saying it; his words startled both of them. They stared at each other. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
He helped her out of the bed, trying not to react when she flinched at his touch, or the apology she gave in a tiny voice.
Eliana went into the small bathroom. She made the spray as hot as she could stand it, then scrubbed herself, scrubbing and scrubbing until her skin tingled. "I can't get clean." She whispered out loud. Eliana fought back the tears, fought them down and pushed them away as she cleansed the memories of Sorel's touch from her skin.
She stepped out of the shower feeling no cleaner than when she went in. As she began to towel herself dry, her eyes caught her reflection in the mirror over the sink. She saw the bruises on her cheek, her collarbone, the other marks...her hands began to tremble. Her heart began pounding as she heard Sorel's cruel laughter. This is all in my head, she said to herself.
"All in my head." She repeated aloud. But that didn't stop the trembling. Or the sudden shortness of breath. The walls began to close in on her, the laughter echoing monstrously. "Oh God…." She gasped. Eliana reached for the doorknob.
Then Jason was knocking on the door. "Eliana, are you all right?" he asked through the door.
She couldn't answer. There wasn't enough air left in the room. Jason's voice began to penetrate her consciousness; only it seemed to be coming from far, far away.
"Eliana?" he called again.
Jason had been concerned at the amount of time passing since the shower had shut off. When he called her name and she didn't answer, he became a little alarmed. He was thinking about breaking in the door when it opened. Eliana came out.
"I'm alright," she said. She looked a little shaken, even so.
"No, you're not." He said. She was pale and making too obvious an attempt to not tremble. He started to make a move to help her back to the bed, but then he remembered her reaction earlier when he'd helped her out of it.
Their gaze met briefly and just as quickly, fell away. The look in both of their eyes told one another that they were both remembering it.
"All right, I'm not okay." Eliana snapped back. He couldn't even bear to touch me just now. "What do you suppose I do about it?"
He was shocked at how bitter her voice sounded.
She really wanted to apologize to him, not bite his head off. She hung her head, ashamed. The moment passed and Eliana climbed back into the bed.
"Do you want me to call a doctor?" Jason didn't know what else to do.
"No," she said with a sigh. "They've already done all they can do. I'll mend."
"Maybe somebody to talk to?"
"Counseling? You mean so they can hold my hand and tell me that it's alright for me to feel what I'm feeling?" Eliana gave a short, bitter laugh. "No thanks."
"You can talk to me." Jason said quietly.
"Thanks, Jason. I appreciate the offer." Eliana said. "If I could talk to anyone about this right now, it would probably be you. You've always been a good friend. But I've got to work this out in my own head first."
She forced a smile to her lips and changed the subject. "There is something you can do for me. I know it's still kind of early, but do you think in a little while, you could find a decent coffee shop open?"
With Jason's presence, she'd felt safe; safe enough to slip back into a natural sleep for a few hours. But the nightmares wouldn't leave for long. She woke up again just after dawn, fighting herself free from the memories. This time, she was expecting him and even managed to smile in relief.
"Still want that coffee?" Jason asked. "Any particular kind?"
"Sure, as long as you're asking." She tried to smile as she told him her preferred blend.
While he was gone, she tried to close her eyes, but that did no good. Sleep had deserted her and left reality in its place. When she closed her eyes, the images she saw behind her eyelids caused Eliana's flesh to crawl until she couldn't bear it. With a muffled curse, she stumbled to the bathroom and into the shower. This time she left the door open, trying to hold off her reactions. It didn't help.
Eliana was still shaking when she climbed back in the bed. Unconsciously, she grabbed one pillow and hugged it, trying to soothe her still jangled nerves. At the sound of the door opening, her eyes flew open and her heart thudded uncomfortably even though she knew there was nothing to be afraid of here.
She expected to see Jason. He walked in and held the door open. He took in her wet hair and damp skin, but said nothing about the fact that she had just taken a shower two hours earlier. "You have another visitor," he announced, trying to sound cheerful.
Sonny came in right behind him.
Her eyes widened as she looked from him to Sonny, then back to Jason again, her eyes unreadable. Unconsciously she clutched her pillow tighter to her.
Is she afraid of me? Sonny wondered. Face scrubbed, damp hair curling about her face, a haunted look in her eyes, she looked younger than her twenty-seven years. I failed her, of course she is.
Jason stayed by the door. "I'll be back later, bring you some clothes."
Eliana thought he might have said something more, but he didn't, except to say goodbye again and promise to look in on her later in the day.
Jason turned away before she could read the unfamiliar longing in him to stay by her side. Carly always said he had that knight rescuing damsels-in-distress syndrome, and the last thing Eliana needed right now was him hovering over her. He remembered how she had flinched when he had helped her out of her bed. And how she had come up with an excuse to get him out of her room. No doubt, she'd feel more comfortable with him gone.
Eliana stared after him. He was gone before she could say a word. And the last thing she wanted was to watch him walk out of that room. He couldn't bear to look at her, couldn't even bear to so much as touch her hand before he left. The sudden lump in her throat kept her from calling him back. She swallowed hard and turned her eyes away. He'd probably only been there under Sonny's orders. That brought her mind back to the other man still standing there. She looked up at him nervously, then dropped her gaze again under Sonny's considering gaze.
Sonny was the first to break the silence between them.
"I brought, well, Jason brought your coffee. He said something about you and Sulawesi Kolosi?" he said. He busied himself taking the thermos and two cups from the paper bag and pouring them both a cup of the rare Indonesian blend. He handed one to her. "A real gourmand, huh?" He tried to laugh a little, but even to himself, it sounded flat and forced. "If you like, I'll have some flown in fresh just for you, how about that?"
"That would be nice, Sonny." Her using his first name seemed awkward all of a sudden. Strange, when she had become used to using it so many times before.
"Alexis wanted to come by to see you, but Jason said you were finally sleeping, so I told her you needed your rest. She'll probably come by this afternoon, though."
"That'll be fine." Eliana replied tonelessly. She found she didn't know how to act around him now.
They each sipped at their coffee in silence for a moment. Sonny couldn't stay still, but paced the room. The silence grew between them, each of them caught up in their own thoughts, and not knowing how to break it between them. Sonny stared out the window. Now that he was here, he didn't know what to say. How do I begin to apologize for destroying her life?
Eliana was silent too, as she stared into her cup. He's probably furious at me, I gave Sorel the ammunition he needed to come at Sonny and escalate the tensions between them into an all out war. I put his wife and her child in danger… all my fault…all my fault…
"I'm sorry, Sonny." she blurted out.
He turned so suddenly at her words that Eliana jumped. Since she'd woken up from this morning, sudden loud noises and movements made her jumpy; her body reacting instinctively before her mind could.
"Don't." Sonny said angrily. He was over by her bed in two quick steps, but froze as he saw her flinch. "Don't you ever apologize to me about this...about anything. It's me that should be apologizing to you."
"You?" Eliana said wonderingly. "No, Sonny…"
Sonny kept on talking as though he hadn't heard her. "I have the papers - the birth certificates and all of it. If it weren't for me, none of this would have happened to you. If not for me, Sorel would have never been in your life. If not for me, he would never have done -- what he did to you. He's
going to pay for this, I promise you. Nobody hurts mi familia."
The words hung between them. It was the first time they acknowledged the bond between them. Before either of them could say anything, Sonny's phone rang. Rising, he walked to one corner while he answered it. He listened briefly, and spoke shortly in reply before hanging up.
"I've got business to take care of." he said regretfully. "But I'll be back later on to look in on you, if that's alright."
Eliana nodded. "That would be fine."
She stared after him as the door closed behind him. Mi familia.
She thought of Eduardo. He had been all the family she'd had left. The fact that he was probably dead sank in. Eliana sank down in the bed. But try as she might, she couldn't cry for him. She couldn't even cry for herself.
Later that morning, Jason had come by with a change of clothes for her, but had left again soon after. Then shortly before noon, the doctor on her case came to see her. Eliana insisted on him signing her out. He wanted her to stay for another day or so, but what else could they do for her? Nothing. So she was going home.
After the doctor went to prepare her discharge papers, she asked Sonny's bodyguard to call her a cab. Her side was still sore, and her wrist bandaged, so dressing was a slow process. Her entire body ached, so that she had to rest between moves. She was leaning against the bed, breathing shallowly to try to ease the ache in her ribs, one hand gripping the bed rail when Sonny and Jason walked back in.
"Where do you think you're going?" Sonny said.
"Home. And I asked your man to call a cab, not you."
Sonny ignored that. "The doctor says you should be here for at least another day."
"I'm fine." She stood up. A small hiss of pain came out, but she clamped her lips on it and moved to slip on her shoes. Her knuckles tautened and paled where they gripped the railing, but she refused to acknowledge it.
"Are you gonna stand there and try to tell me you're fine? You're not. And you are not going home."
"Excuse me?" Eliana asked, more than a touch of attitude in her voice.
"It's too dangerous for you to go back there. You'll stay at the penthouse." Sonny said.
"No, I won't. With all due respect," she retorted. "You don't make my decisions for me."
"Then where are you going to go?" Sonny demanded.
"Back to my own place, maybe?" She is not going to be a burden to him. To anyone. She will not show weakness. To him or any man. Not ever again.
"No way...that apartment complex is a nightmare to protect. Too many people coming and going. Sorel is still out there. Do you really think he won't come after you again?"
"Then I won't put your wife and son in the line of fire--any more than they already are."
"I'm trying to keep you safe." Sonny said. The words came out hard.
"And I am not going to let Sorel claim my life." Her voice was just as sharp as his. And as adamant.
Dark eyes clashed with darker. Both of them were strong willed, both of them determined to have their way.
As dissimilar as they were, Jason saw the resemblance between them for the first time.
"How about a compromise?" Both of them turned to him. "Eliana, could you come stay with me in my penthouse? You could stay there for as long as you need to." He started ticking off reasons. "It's familiar, you've been there before,"
He ignored the sharp glance Sonny gave him. It had only been once. "I'm barely there, anyway, so privacy won't be a problem. You'll be as safe there as you would with Sonny. He's right. You can't take the chance that Sorel won't try some retaliatory move against you." He turned to Sonny. "She'll be across the hall from you."
Sonny looked at Eliana. "Well?"
"Since you asked me, Jason," she said pointedly, "Yes, it sounds like the best thing. For now."
Sonny nodded in satisfaction. She sounded a little like her old self. She looked at him and managed a small smile. "Can we please get out of here now?"