Noon time found Alexis and Zander down by the docks. Alexis had bought them
both containers of chili from Ruby's, and they  had wandered down to the
docks where they had sat on the bench and eaten it.

"I hope you don't mind that I wanted to eat outside." Zander said to her as
he scooped up the last of his chili and spooned it into his mouth.

"After spending all those weeks cooped up in and under guard, I can only
imagine how much this means to you." Alexis said, as she smiled at him. She
had grown fond of him, she thought to herself. She'd only realized how much
she cared  after he'd been kidnapped. "But now, what are you going to do with
yourself now that you're free?"

Zander shrugged, his dark hair falling loosely over his forehead.. "I haven't
really had time to think about it."

"Well, it's time to start thinking about it, Zander. Now that you've
testified against Sorel, you're finally free to start thinking about the rest
of your life. Do you even have an idea of what you want to do with it?"

Zander was silent for a moment. "I don't know. I've never had the chance to
think about stuff like that before, Alexis. I mean, before, it was all about
just worrying about where my next meal, where my next dollar was coming

Alexis watched him as he tried to shrug off the effects his words had. He did
want anyone feeling sorry for him, including her.  She liked that about him.

"I guess you don't know what that's like; considering your family and all."
He was saying.

 That I didn't have to fight, just as hard as you did, to survive? You'd
never believe me anyway."  Alexis thought to herself.


Zander's voice jerked her out of her momentary musings. Alexis turned on the
bench to see Sonny standing on the stairs. His expression was uncertain, as
though he wasn't sure if he had wanted to be noticed by either of them.
Remembering the angry scene that had been the last time they'd seen each
other, she didn't blame him. Alexis didn't know if she was ready to face him

But Zander didn't know about any of that. All he knew was that Sonny and
Alexis were the only two people in the world that gave a damn about him.
"Sonny! Hey!" He kept calling until Sonny started down the stairs towards

Sonny hadn't seen them until it was almost too late. Alexis and Zander.
Seeing them together, he could feel the affection that she had for the
younger man. He had demeaned the emotional tie Alexis had felt for Zander in
the abstract, but seeing it, that was another thing. Once upon a time, he had
had that. Once upon a time long ago, there was someone who had cared enough
that they would do anything for him. But that was once upon a time…long ago….

Zander was calling him, waving him over. They'd both seen him.  Sonny refused
to admit to the guilty feeling he'd felt when he saw Alexis, but he couldn't
quite bring himself to meet her eyes. Against his better judgment, he came
down to join them.

"Sonny; man, I'm glad that you and Alexis are both here."

"Why is that, Zander?" Alexis didn't look directly at Sonny either. She
didn't trust herself to say anything to him. After everything she'd said to
him in anger, and yes - more truthfully - in hurt, what was left to there to

"I wanted to apologize to you both. And together seems the best way." Both of
them looked at him, puzzled. Zander explained himself. "Alexis, I know that
Sonny didn't tell anybody that he had me taken. But it's not his fault. It's
mine. I didn't do what I was told. I broke the rules he laid down for me. I
don't want the two of you to be mad at each other over me. I'm not worth it."

"You're worth everything." Alexis said.

"You're worth more than you think." Sonny said at the same time.

At the sound of each other's voice, they both fell silent. Alexis' eyes
flicked up to meet Sonny's but just as quickly, dropped away.

Sonny noticed. And though nothing showed on his face, it hurt. While Zander
continued his apologies, Sonny tried to get some idea of how Alexis was
feeling but he couldn't read her. She was in lawyer mode and it was firmly in

Sonny shrugged. "What's done is done. No sense in apologizing, 'cause you
can't change it." Sonny stared right into Alexis' eyes as he spoke. "You made
choices. And you were man enough to deal with the consequences." Sonny nodded
once, sharply. "I respect that. But Alexis is right. It's what you're going
to do with the rest of your life that counts."

"Sonny's right." Alexis said.

Sonny shook his head slightly. "You've got a great person looking out for
you." He said to Zander. "When Alexis is in your corner, she's in it one
hundred percent. You can't ask for a better friend."  His eyes held hers for
just a moment.

"I'm glad that Sonny kept you safe when I couldn't." Alexis said slowly,
finally admitting the truth.

"It was the two of you working together that kept me safe. Without both of
you, I wouldn't be standing here." Zander insisted. "I owe the both of you my
life. And I'm not going to waste it. I made mistakes that I don't want to
make again."

"Yeah, kid, you made mistakes. But when push came to shove you stepped up to
the plate and delivered." Sonny said. "But you had no real idea of what you
were dealing with. I know you thought Sorel was just another "business" man,
-- like me. The truth is, we are worlds apart.  There are lines I won't
cross, certain businesses I will not get into. My word is my honor and I
protect those I care about. But Sorel is a cold blooded killer. He has no
morals, no ethics. Man or woman," And here his eyes flashed to Alexis for a
moment. This time, she didn't look away. "Young, old…doesn't matter. Make no
mistake, Sorel would have killed you, or hurt anyone in his way to get what
he wanted…which was you. So you had to disappear. And nobody could know so
that they didn't become a target as well."

A small silence bloomed between the three of them. Sonny took the time to
study Alexis' face. She's more hurt than angry,  he realized. Not because she
thinks I lied to her. She's hurt that I didn't trust her. Because she trusted
me as a friend.  And that's why she was so furious with me. Sonny digested
that fact in quiet surprise. "The question is, what are you going to do now?"

"One thing for sure, you need to start picking your friends better." Alexis

"Well, he's got you for a friend, so he's off to a good start." Sonny said to
her. He turned to Zander. "Sometimes friends do things you don't understand
at first, but sometimes you got to look past what they did and think about
why they did it.  Sometimes a real friend requires trust."

"I trust Alexis. And you." Zander hesitated. "I thought maybe I could come to
work for you."

"Trust is a very important thing between friends, Zander." Alexis said. "And
it's not that I don't trust you to have the intelligence to make your own
choices. But are you sure that's what you want to do?

Sonny watched Alexis carefully as he answered him. She didn't react. "Are you
sure? Don't do it because you think you owe me anything. You don't."

"I owe you my life." Zander answered.

    "It's your life. Do with it what you want."

"I want to work for you, Sonny. I'm tired of being a pawn, of being used,
without power."

"Do you know what you're asking for?" Sonny asked.

 "Zander, the world is there in front of you. The horizon is limitless for
you. I can understand your need for control of your life. It's a very basic
drive for many people." And here, Alexis looked at Sonny. "Sometimes it
motivates everything they do. Overwhelmingly so in some cases."

"Sometimes, so much, they forget to breathe." Sonny said. He allowed himself
a small smile.

This time, Sonny was able to read her gaze very well. Yes, she was still
angry at what he had done. But Alexis had a very methodical, logical mind.
She knew him well enough to read the unspoken explanation and apology he'd
just given her, and weighing it against all the facts he'd presented her with
had come to her own conclusions. He'd done what he'd had to do. She'd
accepted it. It showed in the tiny smile she sent his  way.

Sonny looked at her and nodded slightly. Alexis looked back at him and nodded
back. Another flicker of a smile passed over her lips. "Sometimes it makes
them into control freaks."

Alexis changed the subject back to Zander. "School is an option. College
opens your mind to possibilities that you don't even imagine."

"School?" Zander asked, his disbelief plain. He made a face.

"School is a definite option." Sonny agreed. "Brawn, I have enough of.
Brains, I can always use. You say you owe me and you want to work for  me?
Well, that takes discipline and the ability to follow orders. So, consider
this an order. You get yourself together and go back to school. And then, if
you still want to work for me, we can discuss the options then. Meanwhile,
we'll get the paperwork started to get you in PC University. I'll get my
lawyer to get started on a trust fund to handle the finances." He paused.
"That is, if I still have a lawyer."

Alexis seemed to think for a minute. "I can have the papers ready by
lunchtime tomorrow. Just in time to get him registered."

Zander groaned. School.

 He didn't notice the satisfied smiles that both Sonny and Alexis wore.