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It wasn't until the buzzing started that Mandy began to question the wisdom of their decision. Her head felt ready to explode, and still there was nothing. Well, at least nothing she could understand. Sounds played though her mind at speeds that rivaled an old fashioned roller coaster, but they were all but drowned out by the buzzing. Then came the images. It was mind blowing, they came and went in rapid succession, but difficult as it all was to make out, Mandy has the sudden suspicion that she had stumbled on to far

more than she had bargained for.


Alexis, for her part was somewhat in shock. Not so much form what she was seeing or feeling, but from the horrific certainty that she had absolutely no control over what went for her mind to her partner's and back again. She watched only as a helpless observer as her mid betrayed her, revealing the darkest parts of her past.


The connection broke suddenly, as Mandy lost the last of the control she had been fighting to maintain. Turning her gaze to Alexis, she fought back the dizziness to see how the older woman had faired in the experience ~Apparently not much better.~ With that thought, the last of the nauseating effects cleared, and she was able to find her voice. "I'm not sure that will do much for my sister, but what the hell did they do to you?"


The compassion evident in Amanda Riker's voice brought tears to the corners of Alexis's eyes, but she would not allow them the opportunity to fall. ~I gave up crying over all of it 20 years ago, I can't let myself start it all over again now. I won't.~ She succeeded in holding back the tears, but not the emotion and bitterness that crept into her voice. "It's nothing, dead and buried, leave it."


Mandy's inherited nature got the better of her though. "But it wasn't nothing! What I saw was -"


Alexis whirled on her, her feelings of anger and betrayal at the ghosts of her past coming through clearly now. "What you saw, was the nightmare I grew up in. The living hell I lived with, and helped to inflict on others. It's dark and it's sick, and something I will have to live with for the rest of my life, but it won't help you or your mother, so just let it die, please."


Mandy nodded slowly. "So, now what? How do we explain the connection you seem to have to my mother, or to my sister's disappearance?"


Alexis's eyes shot up to the girl's face. "What? She disappeared, you know that for sure? I thought you said -"


"That my mother had no memory of what happened, and that I needed to find out some answers. That's all very true, but there was a news story in her things....I took it. I guess I figured in the state my mom was in, she didn't need to see that right now, and I was more interested in how you seemed to know something, than in the facts of a botched baby-sitter abduction."


Alexis blanched deathly white. "Do you have it with you, the news piece?"


Mandy drew the Padd from her back pocket and handed it over without a word. She didn't want to break whatever spell had come over this woman when she mentioned the disappearance. Whatever was happening now may be the closest they ever got to a final answer.


Alexis read the article, her hands shaking as she held it. ~No, God no....~ The Padd dropped from her hands, and she stared out the window, shaking.


Mandy slowly bent down and retrieved the fallen article, for the first time questioning the wisdom of coming to this woman. "Listen," she said softly, "will you be OK? I don't really want to leave you here alone like this but my Dad wants me home soon, and given everything, if I'm late, it will only make things worse. You don't have to worry, I won't say anything about what happened, I swear."


The sound of her voice drew Alexis out of her shocked state. She jumped up fast enough to startle Mandy, and crossed to the door ahead of her, reaching for the coat she had left by the door when she came home. "I am going with you." Her tone left no room for argument, and Mandy could only follow her out the door.


*  *  *


They made it to the house in relatively good time, given Alexis's transport and Mandy's directions. As they stepped out of the car, Mandy got her first good look at Alexis since leaving the apartment. She seemed like a different woman all together. Mandy didn't have much chance to reflect on that though, as she heard the front door open.


The sound of the unexpected arrival brought Will from inside. He looked from his daughter, to Alexis and back again. "Hello," he said slowly, confused. "I'm afraid Deanna really isn't up to...." His voice trailed off as he looked at the face of the obviously shaken Alexis. Memories of the night before, and earlier that afternoon with Alexis resurfaced in his mind. Whatever was going on here, she must have her reasons for being here. She and Deanna were close after all. "Come in."


No one commented on the change of track as they headed inside the house. When they reached the living room, however, one look at Deanna caused one thought to reverberate thought the minds of the two young women. She knows.


Neither Will nor Mandy dared to move as Alexis slowly approached the couch and knelt before her friend. "Deanna?"


Deanna looked up for the first time, and forced her eyes to focus on the woman in front of her. "Lexie? What are you doing here?"


Alexis swallow hard and prepared to tell this woman she would have given anything to protect, the one thing that could end their relationship forever. "I think there's something you need to know. I know what happened to you and

your little girl, and I know who helped them pull it off."


The statement drew gasps from all over the room, and brought Will and Mandy to stand behind Deanna.


Deanna's dark eyes stared straight into Alexis blue ones. "What is it you know, who else could have done this?"


Alexis stood then and faced them all, as if expecting some sort of final judgment, never breaking contact with Deanna's frightened and confused gaze.


"I did."