On Common Ground
Stefan never tired of watching Zander. He was a body in motion at all times and all fluid grace. He reminded Stefan of a wild cat on the prowl, the way he would stride across the room. He was beautiful and sexy, and very young. Stefan wanted him. But it was a secret that he kept to himself. A secret he didn't think Zander would ever be ready to learn.
They fell into a pattern of work and play. And Mrs. Lansbury fell into a pattern with them. She adored having Zander in the house and made it her goal to fatten him up. He loved her cooking, especially when she would make him a thick cheeseburger, but even though Zander ate most anything she set before him, he didn't gain an ounce. Stefan attributed that to his almost hypertensity, his youth and a good metabolism. But he enjoyed watching Mrs. Lansbury continue her efforts, which consisted of bring Zander snacks of her baked goods through out the day, along with tall glasses of milk. The first time she had done that and Zander had seen the milk, Stefan had almost laughed out loud at the look on Zander's face. But he had swallowed down the milk, to please Mrs. Lansbury, making faces the whole time. Only now he actually seemed to enjoy the beverage. He had done alot of changing in short time he had been at Wyndemere. Only three weeks but it seemed long, in a good way.
Stefan was more than pleased with Zander's work. He was bright and quick and creative. Stefan could get in his face and Zander would take it then turn around and give it right back to him. He understood business and Stefan's work and he applied himself to learning more and to applying what he knew creatively. Zander came up with a few ideas that Stefan would have never thought of, but which he implemented immediately. They made a good team.
When the business day was done, and sometimes it was hard to tear Zander away to even eat his dinner, he and Stefan would often play pool. And sometimes they would talk. Zander told Stefan about his brother, Peter. He told him how his father had hated him and wished him dead and how Zander sometimes wished that as well. He even confessed to Stefan how he had considered taking an overdose of happy pills with a bottle of Jack after Emily had died. By the haunted look in Zander's eyes, Stefan knew that he still thought about that at times. It scared him.
They had alot in common. It was almost eerie. Both of them were younger sons. Both of them unwanted. They understood each other on a level that Stefan was fully aware of, but he wondered if Zander was. Stefan never talked about Stavros or his mother. Mainly because he didn't want to jinx Zander. And that was how it felt to Stefan. If he talked about his family,
somehow there would be a fallout on Zander. It always happened.
One morning Stefan told Zander to put a suit on. They had a meeting at General Hospital. Zander balked but Stefan barked that Zander was his assistant and to start acting like it. Zander had glared at Stefan, but had gone upstairs to change. He came down in a blue suit, went into the study to gather the appropriate paper work, then they took off.
The meeting went well and Stefan was pleased. He decided to take Zander to the Grill for a late lunch when they ran into Monica Quartermaine.
"How is your shoulder?" She asked Zander.
Monica nodded. "You never came to have the stitches removed."
Zander shrugged. "I took them out myself. No big deal."
"You what?" Stefan was furious. He had asked Zander about the stitches and his appointment with Monica two weeks ago and Zander had even left one morning, saying he was off to the hospital to have them removed. Stefan did not tolerate lies.
"Um..." Zander shook his head. There was nothing he could say.
Stefan smiled at Monica then excused himself and Zander. He took the boy off to a corner. "Why did you lie to me?"
Zander winced. "Because I knew you would make it a big issue. And it's not. I cut out the stitches. No big deal. I've done it before."
"Never lie to me again, Zander." Stefan shook a finger in his face. "Do you hear me?"
"I hear you." Zander held Stefan's furious gaze.
Stefan relented. He knew that Zander would keep his word. They turned to leave and were at the elevators when Cameron Lewis showed up.
Zander looked at his father then turned away.
"Alexander," Cameron drawled. "Nice suit. Did you steal it?"
"Why yes, I did. Thanks!" Zander snapped back, sarcasm oozing from every pore.
Stefan watched the exchange between father and son and it struck a chord deep inside him. He could see the hurt in Zander's eyes and in his stance. He understood what Zander was feeling. How he wished his father wouldn't treat him this way, as if he were worthless simply for existing. Stefan understood well for he felt that way towards his own mother. Stefan sighed and interjected, "Zander works for me now."
Cameron was surprised and it showed. "He does?"
"Yeah…I do," Zander broke in. "And it's legit. Sorry to disappoint you, dad." He then stalked off, heading for the stairs.
"I didn't know," Cameron muttered beneath his breath as he watched his son go.
Stefan locked eyes with Cameron. "You don't know much about your son at all. Do you? Pity. He's a remarkable young man." With that Stefan turned on his heel and strode off. He had a feeling he would have to go in search of Zander.
Stefan found Zander at Jake's, playing pool. And drinking. "Let's go home," Stefan stated.
"No thanks." Zander guzzled some beer then leaned over the pool table to make a shot. He sunk a striped ball.
"We need to talk."
Zander smiled at Stefan. "I'm all talked out. I want to drink and play pool."
Stefan grabbed the pool stick from Zander and got in his face. "Fine. You can do that at home. You're on my time now, Zander. And I don't pay you to play pool and drink beer. We have work to do."
"Whatever." Zander finished his beer then brushed past Stefan. Once in the car he apologized. "Sorry. I shouldn't have acted like a jerk. Of course, I am a jerk. But I owe you alot and I was wrong. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I understand." Stefan concentrated on driving and they didn't speak the rest of the way home. Once there, Zander asked if he could change before they continued working and Stefan agreed. They both changed then settled into work.
At dinner time Zander begged off, heading for the game room instead. An hour later Stefan checked on him, and he wasn't at all surprised to find Zander drinking and playing pool. "Mind if I join you?" Stefan asked.
Zander shrugged. "Your table, your booze."
"Thank you." Stefan poured himself a drink then watched as Zander racked up the balls for a new game. "You know, my mother and your father would no doubt get along famously. They're very much alike."
"I doubt that." Zander giggled.
Stefan smiled. "They're alike in how they treat us, Zander. In the way that for them, you and I will never be anything more than mistakes. And there is nothing we can do to change that."
Zander downed his drink and poured himself another. "Like I care."
"You do. So do I. Foolish of us, but that's the way it is." Stefan took the first shot at Zander's invite and sank a solid.
"Whatever. I don't want to talk about it." Zander gulped down his drink, winced at the burn, then poured yet another.
Stefan watched him carefully. He was worried. Zander seemed to be falling back into a funk. "What do you want to talk about?"
Zander shook his head. "Nothing. I don't want to talk at all."
"Do you ride?"
"What?" Zander frowned at the question.
Stefan repeated it. "Do you ride? Horses. I have a few. I thought maybe we could go for a ride in the morning."
Zander rubbed a hand over his face. "I dunno. Maybe."
"So you do ride?"
"Yeah…it's been a while though."
Stefan was pleased. "It's like riding a bike. You don't forget. Good. I'll inform the groom to have two horses ready for tomorrow. We can ride before breakfast."
Zander chuckled. "Yeah...if I'm still alive." He downed his drink and headed for the bottle.
"Don't." Stefan grabbed the bottle away from him. "Don't say that, Zander and don't do it. Your father is not worth it."
"I know that!" Zander reached for the bottle and cursed when Stefan kept it from him. "Look...either I drink here or I go back to town and drink. You decide."
Stefan smiled sadly. "You're not leaving the island, Zander. I'll post a guard to make sure of it. And I will not allow you to drink yourself into oblivion."
Zander glared at Stefan. "What…the fuck…ever." Very deliberately he set his empty glass down on the side table, then he walked out of the room.
"Damn." Stefan drawled the curse then he rubbed his temples. He could feel a headache coming on. He finished his drink then decided to make the arrangements for riding in the morning. Zander would no doubt have a hangover, but the fresh air would do him good. After speaking with the groom, Stefan retreated into the study to read, but he couldn't concentrate. He decided to try and talk to Zander. But when he knocked on the boy's door there was no answer. Stefan felt the need to check on him so he opened the door and stepped inside. He clicked on the light and gasped.
Zander was lying on the floor, an empty packet of pills lying next to him. "Zander!" Stefan checked for a pulse. It was weak and thready. He jumped up and grabbed the phone, calling for 911 and the medivac helicopter.
© Shelly 2004