Zander did his best to keep his distance from Elizabeth, but she didn't make it easy on him. In the end he blurted out that he was tired and escaped to his room. Once there Zander stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes, but he knew he wouldn't sleep. The images of all the things Alcazar had done to him and let be done to him, danced in Zander's head.
He jumped at her voice and was stunned to see Elizabeth standing at the foot of the bed. He hadn't heard her come in. "I'm tired," Zander whispered, hoping it would be enough to send her away. It wasn't. She was climbing onto the bed and then she was cupping his face and kissing him and a part of Zander wanted to melt into it. To accept the love and comfort that she offered. But he couldn't do that. He couldn't let her touch him. Zander gripped Elizabeth's wrists and pushed her away from him. "Please...don't."
Elizabeth eased back and locked eyes with Zander. "I'm not going to go away," she said firmly. "I'm here for the duration. There is nothing you can say to turn me away from you, Zander. Nothing you can do. I understand what you're going through. You know I do."
"Yeah…you saw it!" Zander couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. He hated the fact that Elizabeth had been witness to so much of the humiliation he had suffered through.
"Alcazar raped you, Zander. He raped you, used you, abused you, drugged you and violated you. All acts of a sick, cruel and twisted man. A man who is now dead and can never hurt you again, Zander. You have to focus on that...and on dealing with what happened and letting those of us who love you...let us be with you and help you."
Zander shook his head. "You can't help me, Elizabeth. No one can."
She glared at him. "So…what? That's it? You just crawl into a hole and wait to die? Or would you like me to run into the bathroom and grab a razor blade. I'll help you slice your wrists open if that's what you want!"
"Don't…I'm sorry.." Zander was shocked by her words and by the intensity of her emotions. But most of all he was shocked by the tears that slid down her face. "Please...please don't cry," he begged, and then his own tears were falling and he desperately wanted to simply disappear, to fade from existence. But Zander knew that wasn't going to happen. He couldn't erase the memories of what Alcazar had done to him, any more than he could erase what he felt for Elizabeth. He pulled her into his arms and buried his face in her hair. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry.." Zander whispered, over and over again.
"It's okay...it's okay, Zander," Elizabeth replied as she hugged him back. And they held each other, letting their tears wash away the pain if not the memories.
* * * * *
Zander was still scratching. At times the habit got so bad that Jason threatened to glue mitts on his hands to make him stop. Selena told Zander it was like a subconscious tick. A way to banish the negative thoughts and feelings he had. In his mind they were a part of him and they weren't so much an itch he needed to scratch as they were emotions imbedded deep inside him. He was digging away at the shame and guilt that he felt. Trying to purge the bad feelings in search of new ones. Healing ones.
Once Zander accepted that definition, the scratching eased up. And whenever he was tempted to start again, someone always seemed to be around to slap at his hand and distract him. By the end of two months, the habit had faded away. Although the memories and nightmares still haunted Zander. But for all that, his relationship with Elizabeth deepened. Zander wasn't ready to make love with her, he didn't feel clean enough and he knew he wasn't anywhere near healed inside. But things were better. If he could go without sleeping, and dreaming, his life would have been almost perfect.
* * * * *
Jason knew that Zander was at a crossroads in his life. He had to make a choice to take a chance on trusting all of them and moving on, or retreating into himself and shutting out the world forever. Jason wanted him to make the right choice. And if that meant pushing Zander's buttons, so be it. But before he could put anything into motion, fate intervened. Jason was on the front porch when Zander came flying out of the house. It was late, after midnight, but the night was warm and the stars were bright in the sky. By the wild-eyed look on Zander's face, Jason knew he had suffered another nightmare. When Zander tried to step off the porch, Jason grabbed his arm. He ducked the punch that probably would have broken his nose, then he grabbed Zander with both hands, pinning him against the wall with his body. "It's okay," Jason stated. "You're okay, Zander."
"Let me go!" Zander struggled against Jason. "Please...please!" He begged.
"I can't do that." Jason held firm until Zander went still, his body going limp and sagging against the wall. Jason kept him upright. "You can't run away from this," Jason said softly. "You have to face it, Zander. I'll help you." He would have said more but suddenly Zander's mouth was on his and his tongue was pressing past Jason's lips. He let it happen, kissing Zander back and eventually taking control of it. And when Zander tried to pull away, Jason wouldn't let him. He continued kissing him until they were both breathless. "You know that I will never hurt you."
Zander nodded, one hand lifting to wipe away tears. "I know that...I'm sorry."
Jason smiled. "You have nothing to be sorry for. Let's go upstairs." He guided Zander into the house then up the stairs to his room. They found Elizabeth sitting on the end of Zander's bed.
"Everything okay?" she asked, then she explained why she was there before they could reply. "I came to check on Zander and when I saw the bed was empty I....I went looking for him." She looked at Zander. "I saw you and Jason on the porch and I knew he would take care of you...so I came back here."
"Thanks for worrying about me," Zander told her.
Elizabeth moved to him and smoothed one hand through his hair. "I love you...I can't help but worry."
Zander nodded "I’m tired."
"Get in bed," Jason ordered. He knew that Zander's exhaustion went soul deep. "Do you want Elizabeth to stay with you?"
"I want you both to stay," Zander requested, as he settled himself in the middle of the bed. He had run out of the house in his light sweats, so he was ready to go back to sleep.
Jason nodded and shucked his boots, socks, shirt and jeans, leaving only his boxers. He looked at Elizabeth and they climbed in the bed on either side of Zander. Jason watched as Zander turned into Elizabeth, pillowing his head on her chest. Jason curled himself around Zander's back, one arm draping over his waist, his hand coming to rest on Elizabeth's abdomen. She was combing her fingers through Zander's hair and it wasn't long before Zander was asleep.
Elizabeth looked at Jason. "You love him as much as I do," she whispered.
"Yeah...I do," Jason replied, without hesitation.
"I'm glad," Elizabeth countered. "He needs us, Jason. But it's not going to be easy for any of us."
Jason knew that better than anyone. But he had hope. "No...it won't be easy," he allowed, as he looked down at Zander's beautiful face. "But it will be worth it," he whispered, then he let his own eyes close. But Jason never quite fell asleep. Instead he kept watch over the people he loved.
© Shelly 2004