The following Saturday night, Alexis smiled lazily to herself as she sat curled up on her couch, legal brief in hand. She'd been interested in an entirely different set of briefs earlier that evening. Ned was back from one of his family's overseas operations. Things had been tense between them for so long, as they both struggled through the minefields that made up their lives. He was as devoted to his family, the Q's, as she was to hers, the Cassidines, and now, to his dismay, her loyalty was also shifting to include Sonny Corinthos. Even though she insisted that she did no more than handle his legal affairs, because the PCPD had a serious blind spot in their ethics when it came to him, even that was too much for Ned.

He'd left for Hong Kong after one of their many disagreements on the subject. Tonight, though, he'd shown up on her doorstep straight from the airport, with champagne, balloons and chocolates -what woman can say no to chocolates - and imported gourmet popcorn -which earned him extra high brownie points -- and eventually they had made their way upstairs to her bedroom, leaving all of their differences, along with most of their clothing, downstairs. Or more truthfully, on the stairs.

"Whoever said make-up sex was the best, told no lie." She purred aloud, stretching like a feline who'd just finished of a saucer of heavy cream. Unlike most people, really good sex woke her up, energized her, made it impossible for her to sleep. So she'd come downstairs for a moment, letting Ned 'recuperate' from his jet lag - and her.

Her private line began to ring. Not wanting to wake Ned up -- he really needed time to recover, she thought with a grin -- Alexis snatched it up on the first ring.

"Alexis?" It was Eliana.

"Eliana. Is everything all right?" Alexis asked with concern.

"I'm fine." Eliana rushed to reassure her. "I-I just wondered if I could come and see you. Just for a little while. I mean, Jason isn't home, and I just got lonely…I just wanted to get out of the apartment for a little bit… if it's too late, I'm sorry…"

"No, it's fine. Didn't I tell you if you wanted to talk, you could call me anytime?" Alexis said. "Why don't you come downstairs and we'll have some coffee."
She was downstairs less than fifteen minutes later, still dressed in her robe and pajamas. Alexis let her in. Her bodyguard stayed outside. Eliana saw the balloons, the chocolates, and most telling of all, Ned's jacket flung over one of the chairs.

"Alexis, I didn't mean to interrupt anything." Eliana's eyes followed the trail of clothing upstairs. "I can come back another time."

Alexis shook her head and led Eliana into the kitchen. "It's not a problem. Between the trip from Hong Kong and me, Ned will be asleep for a little while longer. Until I wake him up again, at any rate." She couldn't help but grin at her own words. She waved Eliana to a seat at the counter while she started preparing a pot of coffee. "What's wrong?"

"I've been cooped up in that apartment for more than a week now." She shrugged. "I just wanted to talk."

"About anything in particular?"

"One reason that I couldn't sleep was because I kept thinking about you. I was thinking, you do deserve an explanation of what happened and why."

"Only if you want to tell me." Alexis said, sitting down across from her.

Alexis listened as Eliana told her the full story of how she had come to Port Charles. How, back in Brooklyn, three months shy of her eighteenth birthday, her brother's actions had put her and her grandmother in danger. Loan sharks, looking for him to make good on major debts, had come looking for her instead. They suggested that she work it out in trade.

"They wanted me to whore for them. I wouldn't - I couldn't." Eliana said. "But they wanted their money and they wanted it then and there."
So the threats began. Against her at first, and then her abuela. At first, she could see no way out. Then one night, she heard that Sonny Corinthos was back in the neighborhood for a visit. Somehow, she managed to get an interview with him. He'd thought at first, that she was there to offer him her body. Instead she offered him her mind. And surprise - he accepted her deal.

The coffee finished brewing, and Alexis busied herself for the next little while setting everything on the table. She sat and poured them both a cup.
Eliana stared down into her cup, stirring her spoon before she began again.
"Here's where it gets…tricky. There's a Council. It's made up of the most powerful men on the east coast. Sometimes, they mediate over disputes, set certain agendas, that sort of thing. Certain of those matters are too sensitive to be committed to paper. But still, these messages need to be transmitted. Hands-on mediations between dissatisfied parties are needed."

"So they created Couriers." Alexis said.

Eliana nodded, still not raising her head. She continued her story. They recruited from all over the East Coast. Rural, city, urban, it didn't matter and brought them to a beautiful mansion and estate that was refurbished into a college setting, with dorm rooms, classrooms, everything they needed. The Council created what was, in essence, their own college. It had been like being transported to another world. They had the best teachers; they were given the best of everything, and trained in social etiquette, languages, everything they needed to know to travel in circles of wealth and power.

"These were kids like me, from the areas those ivy leaguers seem to overlook when they're recruiting." Her voice held a trace of bitterness in it. "There was not one of us who didn't realize that what we'd been offered was a once in a lifetime opportunity, be damned who was making it.
"Mediation and Financials were my majors. I also minored in business and art. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had electives. For five years straight, they trained us. And then they put us to work."

"All you had to do is sell them your soul for five more years." Alexis said softly.

"Five for five; I reckoned it a fair trade. Who paid for your law schooling?" Eliana answered, not a little sharply. "And how many years have you given to the Cassidines' concerns in return?"

"You're right." Alexis admitted. The Cassidines had provided for her, but it had come with a price too. Not just financial, but emotional too. So how much different was she from Eliana, when it all came down to it? Not much, she had to admit. For a moment, she envied Eliana. At least her debt was paid in full.

"So how did you come to Port Charles? I would think seeing you and Sonny had a prior connection, that they would see a conflict of interest."

"Is that the lawyer talking?" Eliana managed to smile at her. "My coming to Port Charles was only during the last two years of my agreement. I was due to retire soon, and it's customary to do that in a 'safe' area. For my safety and theirs. I never had a problem with that. I had already proven myself, so I guess they trusted me to be able to continue to do my job without any problem. Unfortunately, Sorel doesn't see it that way. Not anymore. He made that clear when he kidnapped us and then attacked me."

Alexis nodded. "Thank you for confiding in me."

"You're my friend, Alexis. While I've been upstairs, thinking, I realized that you got pulled into this because of me and you could have been hurt. You deserve the truth."

Ned's voice interrupted them as the kitchen door swung open and he was suddenly standing there. "Truth. That's something's that in short supply these days."

Both women jumped. "Ned!" Alexis said with a gasp.

His attention was all on Eliana. He nodded coldly to her. "Ms. Salazar, I believe?" He took in her attire, from belted robe to slippered feet. "I guess you didn't just drive over on a whim to talk to Alexis, did you?"

Eliana's heart still pounded from his sudden appearance; she raised a shaky hand to her chest. She wondered how much he had heard, but whatever it was, obviously it had been enough to make him angry. The animosity she felt radiating out from him was almost physical. Eliana dropped her eyes. She felt herself begin to panic and she couldn't deal with it.
"I've got to get out of here." She blurted to Alexis. She jerked herself out of her chair and nearly ran for the door.

Alexis brushed past Ned and followed her. She caught up with her at the door. "You don't have to go."

"I'm sorry Alexis, I can't stay…I should have never come downstairs…I'm sorry."

She tried to dissuade her, but Eliana insisted on leaving immediately. Alexis walked her out to the elevator.

"I'm sorry, Alexis." Eliana said again. She was obviously upset, but tried to calm herself.

"Don't apologize. Try to get some sleep and I'll talk you tomorrow, okay?" Alexis gave her a hug and watched as she and her bodyguard got on the elevator to return to the penthouse level.

When she walked back into her apartment and closed the door, Ned was standing in the living room, already pulling on his clothes.

"Well, who is your friend staying with, Sonny or Jason? You introduced me to that woman, we've even had dinner with her and all this time, she worked for them and you never told me?" Ned was fast approaching furious. "First it's this Zander Smith, the young punk who got my little cousin mixed up in all sorts of mayhem, and now this? Have you finally lost your mind?"

Alexis' own anger rose at this unwarranted attack. "Since you were intent on eavesdropping, you missed a few things. She doesn't work for either Jason or Sonny at this time, and I didn't know it when I met her, so as far as I ever knew, she hadn't all the time I've known her."

"I suppose that means she did in the past?" Ned said angrily. "Lie of omission, counselor. So excuse me if that information doesn't comfort me in the least."

"I didn't know her when she worked for Sonny. This is a matter of her past catching up with her. That happens to people from time to time. I would think you would understand about that."

"The night I called from Hong Kong, you told me you were working late and had turned off your phone at the office. That was a lie!" he shouted at her. "You were busy being kidnapped."

"I already know what you would have said if you'd known the truth."

"Yes, that your involvement with Sonny Corinthos could get you in deeper trouble than you realized. It obviously got your friend hurt, or hadn't you noticed? Sorel attacked her. And you still insist on being involved with these people?"

"I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sorel himself said so." Alexis began to pace.

"And that makes it okay?" Ned grabbed her by the shoulders and stared at her in disbelief. "Will he tell you that when the bullet comes - sorry, it didn't have your name on it?" His voice became pleading. "I don't want to fight with you on this. Walk away from all of this craziness while you still can."

"This particular craziness. As opposed to Cassidine insanity, or Quatermaine."

"The Quartermaines don't rape or kill."

"No, they just pillage and plunder." Alexis shot back as she pulled away from his grasp. "And blackmail, and backstab and God alone knows what else. I have a friend who needs me right now."

"I need you right now, Alexis."

"And you have me. I think I just proved that upstairs. Should I tell my friend, so sorry, I can't be there for you anymore because the man I love needs me - twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year and that leaves me no time to worry about you or anyone else? Oh, but wait. You have work to do, important work for ELQ, so what will I do for those empty moments when you're away? Have a life? No, that wouldn't do. What then?" She was as angry as he was now. Alexis kicked off her slippers. "Do you want me barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen?"
"Or your mindless love slave?" She perched herself on the edge of her desk and clasping her hands together, struck an adoring pose and fluttered her eyelashes at him.

"Alexis." Ned growled her name in angry frustration. Before he could say more, Alexis continued.

"No? How about Eddie's Angel? That's it. I'll live off of my personally autographed poster sales and interviews with People magazine."

Ned ignored her sarcasm. "If she's your friend, then she should understand. She should want to keep you safe. What she knows is dangerous."

"The sad thing is, Eliana would understand. She didn't want to tell me, for exactly that reason, to keep me safe. But she also felt she owed me the truth. Because she is my friend. Which is exactly why I can't desert her."

"Until when? The next crisis?"

Alexis' conscience warred with itself. She loved Ned Ashton, she truly did. As much as she'd ever loved anyone in her entire life. How could he ask her to betray her own conscience for the sake of that love? And even if she somehow could, how could she look at herself in the mirror, knowing that when a friend needed her, she'd walked away from them.

Ned watched the play of emotions cross her face. He had his answer.

"Fine. When you come to your senses, you know where to find me."

"Ned..." she said helplessly.

"Forget it, Alexis. I'm going home now, to think about all of this. I suggest you do the same." He grabbed his jacket and was out the door in the next minute.


Monday morning, Alexis stopped over to Sonny's penthouse with Zander to ask about help for the younger man. Throwing herself into her work was the only way she could keep the heartache at bay. Sonny had promised Sorel at their last meeting, that he would use the kid to take him out. Of course, that made this Zander a target.

She'd taken the case because it had escalated into a huge mess before it was over, involving Jason's little sister, Emily as well as Lucky Spencer and Elizabeth Webber. Afterwards, Emily had come to Alexis and asked her to represent Zander. But she knew that he needed help if he expected to stay alive long enough to testify. Once she had met him, she couldn't turn him away. For all of his outer toughness, Zander Smith was just a kid with a really big chip on his shoulder. But he wasn't half as tough as he made himself out to be. She ended up offering him a place to stay.
Alexis saw him as not quite the lost cause everyone but Emily seemed to think he was. So, she came to the one man she knew that could keep Zander safe.

"I'll put the kid under guard, keep him safe until the trial." It served Sonny's purpose well enough. Besides, he was fond of Emily Quatermaine, in spite of the rest of her nutty family.

"I got a million dollars invested in your bail. You stay with your guards. You follow instructions." He told the young punk. "Sorel is desperate. He had to be, if he jumped bail. If he gets rid of you, there's no case. He knows it. Now you know it. Don't be stupid."

"Thank you, Sonny." Alexis sent Zander downstairs to her apartment. "He's not a bad kid," she began.

"Just a stupid one." Sonny raised a hand in warning. "You're getting emotionally involved, counselor. Not a smart move."

"We all make mistakes, Sonny. Even you. Does the name Stone ring a bell? Or Jason? So allow me mine's. But anyway, thank you." Alexis said. He'd already put up bail for the boy, to keep him out of jail until the trial. He wouldn't have lasted a week in there. She handed him the copies of the bail agreements and closed her briefcase, preparing to leave.

"Alexis?" Sonny asked in a deceptively casual voice. "Have you seen Eliana lately? How is she?" He hadn't gone back over there. The look in her eyes when she saw him; he couldn't take it.

He walked over to his bar and made a pretense of pouring himself a glass of water.

Alexis looked at him, seeing how carefully he held himself, waiting for her answer. He is really torn up about this, she thought to himself, feeling surprise at the realization.

"You haven't seen her?" she asked.

"When we first brought her to Jason's apartment, of course." He answered quickly. "And once after that. But I was thinking…the way she acted when I was there…maybe…she'd rather not see me… that it would be easier for her - not me." He said the last two words defensively.
"Alexis, you're a woman…I mean, you know what's going on in her head better than I could. How do you think she's doing?"

Alexis took a deep breath. "She's doing as well as can be expected, I think. She's not eating or sleeping much, but really, what else can you expect?
"Do you know what the act of rape does to a woman? I wonder if a man can truly understand it. The physical assault is the least of it. That damage, as bad as it is, heals, sooner or later.
"It's the emotional hurt that Eliana will have to get past. I've seen enough cases to know. Psychologically, she may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder - that means flashbacks and nightmares where she re-experiences the rape in her head. She's already having trouble eating and sleeping."

She crossed the room to stand behind him. She hesitated, then put one hand on Sonny's shoulder.
"I think you need to know, she asked me some questions about what could happen if she pressed charges against Sorel."

"I already told her to do what she feels she got to do. If nailing Sorel for her attack will help her up here," Sonny turned around and tapped a finger to his temple. "Then she's got to do it."

"The problem is, she knows what the repercussions might be, for you, as well as for herself. But I don't think she wants to give anyone a chance to use her for a weapon against you, Sonny. Not the legal system, not anyone. She's actually considering not pressing charges at all."
Alexis tilted her head slightly and smiled at Sonny sadly. "From what she said, that's all about you, not herself. Eliana told me how you two first met. How she got involved in all of this."

"Yeah? She was something else, even then. A smart kid. I couldn't see her end up being used like that. She was smart enough to know that once those sharks got their hooks into her, it would be hard, if not impossible for her to cut them loose."

"Why did you get her in deeper with the organization as a courier?" Alexis asked.

"I was doing something good for her!" Sonny said defensively. "At least I thought I was. When she came to me, I put her to work in my legit business. It was the Council who approached her about everything else. Ten years and she would be free and clear. After her abuela died, she had no one. I didn't dissuade her; maybe I should have. I took care of her the best way I could at the time!"

Sonny dropped into a chair. "For all the good it did. Now it's all ashes in my mouth. All my good intentions-what the hell good are they now?"

"Now, what she needs right most of all are the people who care about her to be there for her. Whether it's easy or hard. Just be there for her, Sonny."

"How am I supposed to do that when I'm the reason why…" he stopped in mid sentence. "Every time she sees me, she sees Sorel. The time I went to see her, Jason told me she had another nightmare."

"That's not true. Sonny, you are nothing like that maniac." Her voice softened. "The sad fact of the matter is that she is probably going to have bad dreams for a long time to come. Just go be with her. Sit with her. Talk or don't talk, it doesn't matter. She needs you."

Alexis smiled. "You two are more alike than you know."

"How so?" Sonny asked.

"Both of you are stubborn to a fault." Alexis answered with another smile. "And each of you are trying to protect one another. Go see your sister."

Out of their sight, Carly was on the staircase listening to every word.