On Common Ground

Chapter 3


Stefan practically ran out the doors but skidded to a halt when he saw Zander leaning against his car. He wisely said nothing and simply unlocked the doors to let him in. Once they were settled he asked, "Where do you live?"

"Jake's." Zander leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

"Jake's?" Stefan echoed.

Zander sighed. "It's a bar. A dump. I have a room upstairs. It's east, past the docks on Harbor St. You can't miss it."

Stefan started the car. "All right then." And they were off. But a few minutes later Stefan looked over at Zander and realized that the boy was asleep. He made a decision. Stefan made a U turn, then headed off towards Wyndemere. He made good time and was pleased when Zander slept through the ferry ride over. There was no need to wake him until Stefan had pulled into the garage. "Zander."

"What?" Zander came awake with a start and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He peered through the windshield. "This isn't Jake's."

"I brought you to Wyndemere." Stefan got out of the car as he spoke then closed the door.

Zander was out of his side, moving a bit stiffly. "Take me home!"

Stefan shook his head. He watched Zander sway on his feet but thought it wise not to offer help in this moment. The kid was angry and he had a right to be. But Stefan had faced down worse anger in his lifetime. He would simply wait for Zander to wind down. He was nothing if not a patient man. "I can keep a better eye on you here," Stefan stated.

"I don't need you to keep an eye on me!" Zander hissed. "Does everyone think I’m twelve? I've been on my own since I was fifteen. You got that?"

"I got it."

Zander kicked a tire. "Fine. If you won't take me home then I'll walk."

Stefan stifled a grin. "You'll have to swim. I shut down the ferry for the night."

"Dammit!" Zander cursed then he swayed until a strong hand steadied him.

"It's only for one night." Stefan allowed Zander to shrug off his hand. "You can have a pick of rooms."

Zander glared at him. "You know what? You're just like Nikolas."

Stefan was startled. "Really? In what way?" He had always seen himself and Nikolas as polar opposites.

"You both decide things for people, or about people, or whatever, and then you expect them, and everything, to fall in line."

"You're right." Stefan wasn't about to argue the truth. "It's the Cassadine way."

Zander winced. "It's sucks."

Stefan headed for the side door. "Are you coming?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Not really." Stefan let himself smile this time.

Zander kicked the tire again for good measure, then he followed Stefan through the door and inside the great hall of Wyndemere. "Awful big place for one person," Zander commented.

Stefan could not have agreed more. "It's lonely," he allowed. "Do you have a preference to color?"

"Say what?"

"For your room." Stefan led Zander into the library. "There's the green room. The blue room. The white room. You get the idea."

Zander almost laughed. "Do you have a polka dot room?"

Stefan shuddered. "Thankfully...no."

"Whatever is fine. I'll be sleeping, right? So the color doesn't really make a difference to me." Zander moved around the room, looking things over.

"The green room then, I think you'll like that." Stefan called Mrs. Lansbury and asked her to prepare it. "As soon as it's ready we'll get you into bed," he said to Zander.

Zander nodded. "Yeah…whatever. Tell you the truth, I don't think I could sleep right now. You got a pool table?"

Stefan was surprised but nodded. "Do you play?"

"Yeah. It's the only thing I've ever been any good at. Useless skill, but hey...it's paid the rent some months." Zander laughed but it was a dull sound.

"Come with me." Stefan led the way to the game room. He watched Zander's eyes light up at the blue felted table. "I take it you want to play a game or two?"

Zander ran a loving hand over the side. "Can we?"

Stefan gestured to where the sticks were racked up on the wall. "Take your pick. I must warn you, I've won a few competitions myself."

"Great…I love a challenge." Zander picked a stick then grabbed a chalk cube. "Hey...got anything to drink?"

"Of course. What would you like?"

Zander replied without hesitation. "Beer."

Stefan stared at him then drawled, "We have milk, juice, water and soft drinks. Try again."

"You're no fun." Zander made a face then moved to rack up the balls. He had to do it one handed.

"Nikolas used to tell me that." The words were out before Stefan could stop them. He felt embarrassed and made to cover his faux pas. "I'll get us some sparkling water." With that he left the room, only to pause in the hallway to blink back tears. He was so damn tired of feeling alone.



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