Someone rolled her over onto her back and Alice struck out reflexively, panic brain refusing to believe that she was being rescued. This time she didn't connect though, her fist was wrapped up in Malcolm's bigger hand. He looked so worried for her that she felt the hysterical urge to apologize. He was saying something to her but her hearing was filled with a weird high pitched buzz noise and she couldn't focus. But his hands were pressing down on her and the easy numbness was fading away as the pain came screaming back. Malcolm's hands were knocked away as Stuart kicked him away from her. Ace struggled to sit up, dizziness and nausea raking her system as she moved. In the hallway in front of her, Malcolm rolled to his feet, facing the deranged Stuart. Blood dripped down from Malcolm's chest where Stuart had driven part of the knife.  A pair of boots skidding into view, followed by the rest of West as he ran towards them, face full of murder. But she didn't spare him another glance after that, too stunned by the deadly dance between Malcolm and Stuart. West charged into Stuart, slamming the larger man against a wall and away from Malcolm.

Stuart shoved the Cuban away from him, leg shooting out to squarely land against the Los Santos' knee. Unfortunately it was just the right kind of kick in the wrong location and West's knee slid out of joint with a disturbingly loud pop. Malcolm quickly dragged West away from Stuart, leaving the younger man next to Alice.

Now she could see it, how Malcolm had more than earned the name Reaper. He moved like a king cobra, all sublte, hypnotic sways that tricked the mind into mirroring the movement. Even thought Stuart had the d*** hunting knife again, the potential for a violent death was all too likely as he faced down the once gang member. Stuart struck with the knife, slashing out with it. Malcolm swayed back, the knifes edge catching a line down his chest but he ignored the injury, swayed back in, heavy fist crunching against Stuart's collarbone. With a wet sound Stuart screamed, the knife falling out of his hand as Malcolm broke his collar bone. Not satisfyed with simply unarming the man who had terrorized his financee, Malcolm then grabbed Stuart by the hair and Mal slammed his knee up into Stuart's face, destroying the attacker's nose. There was a terrifying gleam to Malcolm's eyes that warned Alice to close her own. She squeezed her eyes shut and heard a sickening crunch sound a moment later, followed by a heavy thud as someone hit the floor.

It was only after she flinched away from someone's hand that Alice opened her eyes again. Stuart lay on hte ground, Malcolm's jacket covering his head and back. It took her a moment to realize why it looked so wrong, and then it hit her. She could see the press of his face against the jacket, but his feet were pointed the opposite direction. Malcolm had snapped Stuart's neck. She stared at the dead body in shock, not hearing it when West and Malcolm tried to talk to her. She nubmly allowed them to press hands against her wounds, wondering why she was suddenly so cold as the police and paramedics rushed towards her. None of it felt real.

Stuart was dead.

Alice blinked at the paramedic pressing a gauze pad to her, another one trying to ask her questions. She opened her mouth to respond when the blackness hovering at the edges of her vision mugged her and she blacked out.

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Ten stiches from her temple to her jaw. Twenty eight from her ear to her shoulder. And a whole host of new nightmares. Alice spent the rest of May in the hospital. Her injuries were worrisome, and there was a plastic surgeon schedulled to speak with her about handling the scarring Stuart's attack would leave. But the doctors would have released her before June except for the fact that Alice had a full on panic attack anytime she considered going back into that school. Actually she had panic attacks constantly anymore.

The hospital psychologist kept reassuring her that eventually she'd be able to wake up and not feel the terror in her gut, a churning panic that sent her running to throw up every morning. Eventually the constant fear riding her would fade and she could try to have a normal life. The doctors only let her leave the hospital when the psychologist told them that she needed to start trying to regain control of her life.

The first week of June, when everyone else was in school writing their final exams, Alice wrote hers from Salali's apartment. Malcolm had to be at the school for his students, but Alice was not yet comfortable being on her own. So Sal had handed the shop over to her assistant manager for the week and stayed with the traumatized Ace. Mr. Bottomswell himself came to ensure that she was given the exam, watched while she wrote it and collected it so no one could complain that she got unfair treatment. On his way out, he stopped and looked at Alice.

"If you ever need anything Ms. Spade, I want you to know that I'll be there. I am so sorry for all the things you've suffered and I hope to God that the rest of your life is full of happiness and love only." the elder man stated, tears swimming in his eyes as he looked at her. But Alice had no happiness in her gaze. She still felt hollow and numb during the few times she wasn't filled with fear and panic. But she put a smile on her face so he wouldn't see that. 

"Thank you. Right now I want nothing more than to never have to step foot in your school again. It's a lovely place, but there are too many bad memories for me there." Alice's voice was soft. She'd actually torn a vocal cord while screaming for help, something she hadn't even known was possible.

Mr. Bottomswell nodded, as if he understood her inability to return to the school. The shrink had tried to push her to go back, thinking that she might get over the panic attacks faster if she confronted the fear head on. And she had tried, really she did. But the closer Salali had driven to the school, even with the shrink in the back seat trying to calm her, Alice fell into a screaming panic attack. It always made her feel so pathetic and weak, but that didn't stop them from happening. And Malcolm wasn't helping her feel any safer.

He had killed Stuart to protect her, and then he seemed to disappear. It was obvious to anyone watching that he was struggling to handle the fact that he had killed, and not wanting to inflict that on the already damanged Alice, but to Ace, she only knew that he wasn't around. He texted her, but used the excuse of exams to stay away. So Alice had to face her demons alone, though she always had Monster and Salali around to help her when she needed someone to be there.

After another emotional outburst, Alice was in the bathroom washing her face. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw someone who, in a word, was broken. "You're sick everyday. You're an emotional wreck. You have rollercoaster mood swings. Pa-the-tic." she said to her reflection. She gave herself a real look over, the first in a long while. After the attack, looking in the mirror just showed her the physical evidence of Stuart's attack. The line of black down her face and the nearly parallel line on her neck and hidden under her shirt. She didn't move around much anymore, and the only good thing that seemed to come of her enforced idleness was that she'd finally put the weight back on, despite getting constantly sick.

Alice stared at her reflection for a moment, then straightened up and walked out to the front door. "I'll be right back Salali. I'm just heading out to the shop for a moment. Taking Monster with me!" Alice called out. She saw the large Native woman's eyebrows lift in surprise, but Sal just nodded, lighting her pipe. This was the first time Alice had voluntarily gone anywhere without a human escort. But something very important had just occured to the scarred dancer that pushed her fear into the background, giving it some perspective.

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A/N: The next chapter is a little different. It's still in Alice's POV, but I'm switching it to first person POV just for the one chapter. It's very emotional, and I feel that this is the best way to portray that for the character.

For those of you who are wondering, Malcolm was stabbed shallowly in the shoulder/chest area and slashed in the chest/stomach area. Mostly superficial, though he would have to keep one arm out of commission until stitches were removed. West was fine other than a dislocated knee. Those hurt like hell though, so it wouldn't improve his mood any.

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