Jason was becoming frustrated and worried. He couldn't find Zander. He was about ready to turn back and head for the house, hoping that Zander had returned, when he heard the sound of hooves. Turning Thunder around, Jason saw Diablo galloping towards them, riderless. Jason tamped down the sudden rush of fear that threaten to wash over him and maneuvered Thunder so that he could grab Diablo's reins. Now, at least, he had a direction to head in. Jason took off, leading Diablo, and ten minutes later he found Zander. The boy was lying in a crumpled heap near the side of the trail. Jason dismounted quickly and tied off the horses to a nearby tree. He ran to Zander's side and the first thing he did was check for a pulse. Steady and strong. "Zander..."
Zander moaned then stirred.
"Easy," Jason said, as he rolled him onto his back. He heard Zander hiss in pain and realized he must have injured himself during his fall. He watched as Zander cradled his left side before trying to stand up. "Stay down," Jason ordered, then he made to lift Zander's shirt only to have his hand slapped away.
"Leave me alone!" Zander snarled.
Jason backed off. For the moment. "What happened?"
Zander sat up slowly, his left arm pressed close to his side.. "I fell off my horse." His sarcasm was clear.
"Why did you take off," Jason countered.
"Because I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge." Bitterness and anger colored Zander's voice.
Jason studied him for a moment then said, "You remember."
Zander closed his eyes. "Everything." His good hand rubbed his thigh where the brand was.
"Alcazar is dead," Jason stated. "He can't hurt you anymore, Zander."
"Well that makes everything hunky dory, doesn't it?" Zander rose to his feet but swayed.
Jason grabbed him and had to hold firm when Zander tried to push him away. "I'm taking you back to the house. Selena can check your injuries. She'll help you get through this, Zander."
A bitter laugh escaped Zander. "I don't need a shrink, Jason. I just...I want to go home, to Port Charles. Go back to my life."
"You can't go back, Zander. And you can't pretend that everything is okay."
"I can do whatever the fuck I want!" Zander snapped. "I want to go back."
Jason shook his head. "We're staying here. This is our home now."
Zander was stunned. "What? You expect me to believe you want to stay out here? What about Sonny?"
"He knows about my decision."
"Why would you want to stay out here?" Zander queried. "Hmm? Seriously. I want to know why."
Jason released Zander to fetch the horses. "The things that happened changed all of us, Zander. I can't go back either."
Zander accepted Diablo's reins, then he locked eyes with Jason. "You fucked me too."
Jason mounted Thunder before replying. "I wanted you."
Zander laughed and almost choked, then hissed in pain and huddled over, cradling his side. But when he saw Jason start to dismount he hissed, "Don't!"
"Let's go back," Jason said. He watched Zander mount Diablo, his face turning white at his efforts. He wanted to help him but knew any attempt on his part would be rebuffed. So he stayed put. Once Zander was settled in the saddle, Jason turned Thunder around and headed for home. He heard Diablo following and felt relief. Zander might remember everything that had happened to him, but he wasn't ready to accept it. And the journey to acceptance was going to be hell.
* * * * *
Elizabeth was relieved to see Zander and Jason riding up to the house. She looked at Selena and smiled and they both stepped off the porch to greet them. Elizabeth frowned as she saw how pale Zander was and how slowly he dismounted. "What happened? Are you all right?" She asked, moving to his side. She tried to touch him but he pulled away from her.
"I'm fine," Zander stated.
"Let me take a look at you," Selena interjected.
Zander glared at her. "Leave me alone." He headed for the house, his gate determined but slow.
Elizabeth made to follow but Jason grabbed her arm. "I want to make sure he's all right!" she protested, trying to shake off Jason's hand.
"He's not all right," Jason stated. He looked at Elizabeth then turned to Selena. "Zander remembers what happened. He remembers everything."
"Oh god.." Elizabeth whispered.
Selena hugged her. "We'll help him get through this," she said firmly, then she turned to Jason. "I take it Zander got hurt somehow."
Leo showed up to take care of the horses and Jason waited until he was gone to reply. "He took a spill, I think he hurt his ribs."
"I'll take care of him," Selena promised. Then she entered the house, following in Zander's wake.
* * * * *
Upon reaching his room, the first thing Zander did was strip and get in the shower. He set the water for as hot as he could make it without scalding his skin off, then he lathered himself and rinsed off, about a half dozen times. He felt dirty in a way he couldn't explain. As if there were a layer of invisible dirt just under his skin. A layer he couldn't reach, which meant he would never be clean again. It made him feel itchy and he started to scratch his forearm. Zander didn't realize it until he got out of the shower and was toweling dry, but he had scratched himself hard enough to bleed. He plastered a couple of band aids over the scratch then dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved pullover. He didn't know what to do next. He didn't want to stay here. But Zander knew Jason wouldn't let him just walk away. He had made that very clear.
He jumped at the sound of his name. He had hoped to avoid Selena for a while. But when she knocked and called out again, he knew he would have to face her. Still scratching at his arm, Zander opened the door. "Before you ask...I'm fine," Zander stated.
Selena nodded as she walked in then closed the door. "Jason said you took a spill. May I check your ribs?"
"They're fine." Oddly enough, Zander had forgotten about them until now. He realized they did hurt but it was a pain that was familiar and acceptable.
"I'd like to see for myself."
Zander shrugged. "Whatever."
Selena nodded to the bed. "Sit on the edge." When Zander obeyed she moved to him and carefully lifted his shirt. She made a face as she studied the bruised skin then gently brushed a fingertip over it. "I'm going to press on it a bit," she warned, before doing just that.
"Shit!" Zander hissed. It hurt more than he had expected.
"I'll wrap them," Selena stated. "I don't think they're cracked or broken, even though there is a bit of swelling. But they will be sore for a while and if you find it hard to breathe or any other discomfort, please let me know and we'll take you to the hospital."
Zander stood up, pushing his shirt back down. "Fine." He moved away from her and paced around the room.
Selena watched him. "Do you remember everything?" She asked.
"Pretty much," Zander replied. When he closed his eyes he could remember how black the little room Alcazar had locked him in had been. "I must have had *fuck me* tattooed on my forehead."
"You were used, Zander. Used and violated."
Zander shrugged, unwilling to accept her explanation. "I let it happen."
Selena shook her head. "You didn't have a choice."
"How do you know? Were you there?"
"No...No I wasn't. But you were drugged and tied up and sometimes it was about protecting Elizabeth."
Zander didn't want to talk about it. "I'm tired. Can we talk later?" He would find an excuse to get out of it then as well, but he knew to give Selena a bone, otherwise she would push the issue.
After a moment of hesitation, Selena nodded. "Okay. Get some rest."
"I will." Zander watched her go and the moment he was alone again, he began to scratch.
* * * * *
Jason watched Zander pour himself a shot of whiskey. Watched as he downed it in one, smooth gulp. He expected him to pour another, but Zander set the glass aside. Jason walked over to him. "How are you feeling?"
Zander shrugged. "I'm not sure. I remember everything and sometimes I can feel it like it was still happening. But...it's like it wasn't me. You know?"
"If you need anything...just ask." Jason didn't know what else to do. In reality, he had no idea what Zander was feeling right now. No clue as to what it was like for him to have such horrific memories.
"How about a happy pill?"
Jason's eyes narrowed. He wasn't sure if Zander was kidding or not. "That won't help."
Zander locked eyes with Jason. "Sure it would." He would have said more but Elizabeth entered the room. Zander turned away from Jason.
"Zander?" Elizabeth went to him.
"Hey." A weak smile curved Zander's lips.
Jason watched as Elizabeth reached out to Zander. He could see how Zander made sure he kept distance between them, staying just out of reach. He was worried. Zander was too calm, and Jason sensed that this was just the calm before the storm.
© Shelly 2004