On Common Ground

Chapter 9


Zander returned to Wyndemere.

Stefan was glad to have him back and he wasn't alone. He stood in the shadows of the vestibule as Mrs. Lansbury greeted Zander. With a hug. Stefan could see Zander's surprise at her actions, but then he hugged her back. And when Mrs. Lansbury chewed him out for taking the pills, for doing something so stupid, Stefan listened to Zander apologize to her, then he watched as Zander broke down and collapsed to the floor, and Mrs. Lansbury sat beside him and drew him into his arms, holding him tight and rocking him. It nearly broke Stefan's heart, yet it gave him hope at the same time. He was grateful to Mrs. Lansbury for giving Zander what he needed right now. A mother figure. Stefan then faded away, knowing that Zander would be upset if he knew Stefan had been witness to this display.

When Zander entered the Study fifteen minutes later, his eyes were a bit red and a little shiny, but the glow of pain was subdued. Stefan set aside the book he had been reading and smiled. "Are you glad to be back home?"

"Home," Zander echoed, as he sank down into an arm chair. "It's weird to think of this as home."

"It is your home now, Zander."

A smile curved Zander's lips. "Yeah...I guess it is. As much of a home as I've ever had anyway."

Stefan frowned. "You never talk about your mother."

"There's nothing to talk about."

"I know things are strained between you and your father, but what about your mother?" Stefan knew he was pushing, but he wanted to know and he felt like Zander needed to talk about it.

Zander rubbed a hand over his face then rose from his chair and made his way to the side bar. He stared at the decanters. "My mom did what she could," he said flatly. "Want a drink?"

Stefan frowned. "It's barely afternoon, Zander."

"Your point being?" Zander reached for the whiskey.

"You don't need a drink." Stefan rose to his feet and moved swiftly, snatching the bottle from Zander's grasp.

With a glare Zander turned on him. "What the fuck do you know about what I need?"

Stefan was not deterred by Zander's anger. He understood where it was coming from. Zander was hurting inside and Stefan was poking at the hurt, so he needed to lash out at someone. Better that than downing more pills. "I've lost people that I love, Zander. And I don't exactly have a *loving* relationship with my mother. You're hurting right now."

"Fuck you." Zander grabbed the decanter of scotch and made to drink from it directly.

"No!" Stefan roared, yanking the bottle from Zander's hand. His own eyes blazed with fury. "I will not let you trash yourself in this house. Do you understand me?"

Zander's expression tightened.
"Yeah...I understand. Not a problem. I'll leave." He turned to go but stopped when the decanter hit the floor with a crash.

Stefan didn't regret the mess. "You're not going anywhere, Zander. Did you forget that I'm your guardian? You can't leave without my permission."


"You can swear all you like, if that makes you feel better. But it does not change the facts." Stefan returned to his chair and eyed Zander calmly. The boy was almost vibrating with tension. "I have given orders that you are not to leave the island without my permission. All vehicles and the ferry are off limits to you unless I okay it. Which brings me to your therapy sessions. They start tomorrow and I will be accompanying you to the hospital and back. While your in the session I'll take care of hospital business."

Zander's hands fisted at his sides and his body was shaking. He made a visible effort not to hit something. "Do I need your permission to go to the bathroom?" he snarled, sarcasm oozing from every pore.

Stefan smiled. "Be angry with me all you want, Zander. Go to your room and trash it if you like, we can move you to another one. But I will not allow you to drink yourself into a stupor that won't help. And all medication has been placed in a locked cabinet. You will need my permission to take a simple aspirin. Just so we understand one another."

"You don't trust me."

"I don't trust you not to self destruct right now," Stefan allowed. He could see the hurt in Zander's eyes but could do nothing to alleviate it at this moment. "You have to earn my trust in that regard."

Zander nodded and unclenched his fists. "I get that. Can I go for a walk?"

Stefan inclined his head. "But you will have an escort."

"Never mind." Zander turned on his heel and left the room.

"You're being too hard on that boy."

Stefan jumped at the sound of Mrs. Lansbury's voice from the doorway. "I'm doing what needs to be done," he stated, not that he had to explain himself to her.

Mrs. Lansbury huffed. "Zander needs someone to believe in him, Mr. Cassadine. Someone he respects. Someone say...like you." With that she spun around and disappeared.

Stefan sighed then headed for the bar. He needed a drink.

* * * * * 

Two weeks passed and things got better. After Mrs. Lansbury's comments, Stefan gave Zander his freedom back. Even allowing him to go to his therapy sessions alone. Zander repaid the trust by proving he was worthy of it.

"How about going for a ride?" Stefan suggested, one morning. They hadn't gotten to go the last time, given Zander's overdose.

"Sounds great." Zander smiled. "I'll go change into jeans." He was wearing dress pants and a sweater, the attire Stefan required during work days.

Stefan smiled as he watched Zander head for the stairs. Ten minutes later they were at the stables. Soon after they were on the path. Stefan learned that Zander was a skilled rider and that pleased him. They raced full out, even jumping over logs and low fences, and then it happened. Zander's horse took a jump and Zander took a spill. Stefan cried out and raced over to him, jumping off his own horse to find Zander lying in a heap. Stefan touched a hand to his face and was relieved when hazel eyes looked up at him. "Are you all right?"

Zander nodded then sucked in a breath. "Got the wind knocked out of me. What happened?"

"Saddle slid under." Stefan looked over at Zander's horse. It was obvious that the groom hadn't cinched it tight enough. He would be duly punished. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"I will be." Zander sat up partway, resting on his elbows.

Stefan couldn't take his eyes off Zander's face. He was smiling, which was rare enough, and his eyes were bright with laughter. He seemed amused by the fall and in this moment he had never looked more beautiful. Stefan couldn't help himself. He leaned in and kissed the soft lips that beckoned him.



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Shelly 2004