On Common Ground

Chapter 22


"No...no...don't! STOP!"

Stefan came awake with a jolt at Zander's cry. He looked at the man thrashing in his arms and realized that Zander was caught up in a nightmare. Stefan could easily imagine what horror he was reliving. The rape. He tried to soothe him awake. "Zander...wake up. It's okay...you're only dreaming."

Zander shot up, his body shaking, and his eyes snapped open. When he saw Stefan he scuttled off the bed and backed into a corner. "Stay away...stay away from me," Zander whispered.


"I won't hurt you," Stefan replied as he slid off the bed and moved towards Zander. But he moved slowly. "You're safe, Zander. It was just a dream."

"Just a dream.." Zander echoed, then he slid down the wall and buried his face in his hands. "Leave me alone.." he mumbled. "Please leave me alone."

Stefan said nothing more. He simply turned on his heel and left the room. But with every step his heart shattered a little bit more.


* * * * *


When Zander came down for breakfast, he was pale and quiet. Mrs. Lansbury fussed over him but he refused to do more than drink a cup of coffee. He sat at the far end of the long table and didn't look at Stefan.

Stefan could feel the tension in the air. It was thick enough to cut with a knife. He dismissed Mrs. Lansbury, then decided that the best way to proceed was to be business like. "You're appointment with Dr. Baldwin is at nine. I'll go with you as I have business at the hospital."

"I'm not going." Zander's tone was sullen.

"What?" Stefan frowned at him. "You can't...not...go, Zander. Unless you want to be sent away. You know that." After Zander's most recent overdose, the courts had been ready to lock him up in a rehab facility for at least a year. But between the favor's Stefan called in, Dr. Alan Quartermaine's considerable connections, Alexis' savvy and a phone call from Dr. Baldwin, the courts had agreed to let Zander return to counseling sessions, only now he had to go to them three days a week, at least for the first three months. And the sessions would last for a year. Longer if Dr. Baldwin decreed them necessary.


Zander rose from the table to heat up his coffee. "I don't care. I don't want to go."


Stefan sighed and rubbed at his throbbing temples. "I'm sorry about the nightmare, Zander. I know I caused it. But you can't let that stop you from going to the sessions. Don't let my mistake mess up your life."


"I don't need your mistakes to mess up my life," Zander shot back, his eyes flashing with anger. "I can do that all by myself. My own mistakes are monumental."


"Like falling in love with me?" Stefan countered. "Was that your biggest mistake, Zander?" Stefan could not resist asking. He needed to know if there was any chance...any hope.. that Zander still loved him.


Zander turned away from Stefan, refilling his coffee cup only to push it aside. "What time did you say the appointment was?" he asked.

Stefan was surprised but answered. "Nine."

"I'll go get ready." That said, Zander strode out of the room.


"I'll be waiting," Stefan replied, to the empty room. He was surprised by Zander's change of heart, but pleased. And somehow he felt that he had scored a few points in some way. He just wasn't sure how.


* * * * *


Zander stared at the clock. He had just over ten minutes to deal with, then his session was over. Ten more minutes. He could do that. Maybe. Dr. Baldwin was not making it easy on him. She kept badgering him with questions that he refused to answer, and she just was not getting the hint. Right now she wanted to know how he felt about Robert Scorpio. Zander decided he could answer that one. "Nothing," he stated.


"Nothing?" Gail echoed.


"That's right." Zander made himself sit down in one of the chairs across from her desk. "I don't feel a thing. Nothing. Okay…maybe a little pissed off because he tried to keep me locked up. But that's about it."

Gail jotted down some notes. "But he's your father. That has to mean something to you, Zander."


Zander sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He was tired. "It means that his sperm got the ball rolling and I'm the end result. And that's all it means."


"Okay....for now. Let's talk about Stefan."


It was Gail's turn to sigh. "How about Helena Cassadine? It must bother you that she's still out there somewhere. She grabbed you easily before, Zander. She could do it again."

Zander got up and went back to pacing. "Robert and Stefan are both keeping an eye out for her. And they're watching over me. I'm safe enough."

"Maybe from Helena," Gail allowed. "But what about from Stefan?"


"What are you talking about? Stefan isn't my enemy. He's not trying to hurt me."

Gail shrugged. "But he did hurt you, Zander. That has to have a lingering effect on you."

Zander marched over to her desk and slammed his palms down upon it. "What the fuck are you talking about?" She was making him angry now. Stefan loved him. Zander knew that in his heart and in his soul. He locked eyes with Dr. Baldwin. "Stefan never hurt me!" he snapped.

"Yes he did," Gail countered. "When he raped you."

"What...what.." Zander couldn't finish his thought. He felt as if he had been kicked in the gut. There was no way Dr. Baldwin could have known that. Not unless someone had told her. But there was no one who would have done that.

Gail rose from her chair and came around her desk to confront Zander and, as if reading his mind, stated, "Stefan told me what happened. How he raped you."

Zander shook his head. That made no sense. But still he felt the need to make her understand the truth. "I made him do it. I lied to him...I hurt him...." Tears burned in Zander's eyes and he blinked them back.


"The blame for what happened lies squarely on Stefan's shoulders, Zander," Gail replied. "You didn't ask for him to rape you."


"It wasn't rape!" Zander shouted, then he clapped his hands over his head in a childish gesture. He didn't want to hear any more of her lies. He looked up at the clock and almost wept with relief. Time was up. Zander heard Dr. Baldwin calling his name as he ran for the door. But he didn't stop. He just kept right on running.


* * * * *


Stefan learned about Zander's session and the reveal from Dr. Baldwin. He tried to find Zander, but he was long gone. Stefan called home and was relieved when Mrs. Lansbury eventually called back to tell him that Zander had arrived, safely. He had finished his business at the hospital, and now he was home. He entered the game room to find Zander shooting pool. He could feel the anger that emanated from Zander's taut body. Stefan said nothing. He simply moved to sit down in a nearby chair and watched the game. It was for Zander to make the next move.


"Why did you do it?" Zander stood before Stefan, pool stick in hand, his body practically vibrating with fury.


"I felt she needed to know the truth in order to help you," Stefan replied. "And I knew that you wouldn't tell her."

Zander tossed the pool stick onto the table then clenched his hands into fists at his side. "You had no right," he ground out.


Stefan shrugged. "I did what I felt was in your best interest. You won't face the truth, Zander. You keep finding a way to avoid it. You tell me that you still love me and that you want us to be together. And I think you want that, in your heart. But your head won't accept what I did to you. And you never accept the reality of it until you are willing to face it."


"Face what?" Anger made Zander's tone rough. "That you raped me? I get that! I was there…remember?"


"I remember."

Zander grabbed a pool ball off the table and hurled it across the room. It made a deep dent in the nearby wall before dropping to the floor with a heavy thud. "What do you want from me?" It was an accusation of sorts.


Stefan rose to his feet. "I want you to admit the truth, Zander. That you can't get past what happened. That we can't get back what we had."

"I love you!" Zander's voice broke as he spoke and he, angrily, swiped a lone tear off his face. "I love you so much."


"I love you too." Stefan stayed rooted to the spot even though his entire body ached with the need to take Zander into his arms. The young man was in such pain. A pain that Stefan could feel. A pain he shared in his own way.

Zander shook his head. "You don't love me. You know why? Because you don't get what love is." More tears fell and Zander rubbed his shirt sleeve over his eyes to blot them. "You hurt me."

Stefan felt his heart break in two. "I know," he whispered.


"No...you don't know." Zander's knees buckled and he gripped the back of the chair next to him. "Why? Why did you do that? Why did you hurt me?"


"I was hurt and angry at your lies, Zander." Stefan wasn't making excuses, he was simply stating the facts. "I'm sorry…I am so sorry."

A sob escaped Zander as his knees buckled again and this time he sank down to the floor. "You hurt me because you thought...no…because you really believed that you could make me love you. That you could force me to love you. But you can't do that, Stefan." More tears slid down Zander's face and he didn't bother to dry them. "I love you...I love you simply because I do. Don't you get that? I love you because I do."


Stefan fell to his knees beside Zander. His own face was wet with tears and he felt as if his insides were twisted into knots. His heart had long ago shattered, but that pain was nothing compared to the pain that radiated from Zander's crumpled form. Pain that Stefan had caused. Pain he longed to be able to heal. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry.." he whispered. Without thinking he reached out for Zander, pulling him into his lap and rocking him. As they both wept.



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