Zander began to heal. Physically. It was a slow process and his fever lingered, which gave Jason some concern. But overall he was doing better. The snow stopped and Jason could have taken Zander back to Port Charles, but they had talked and decided to stay for a while. There was much they needed to talk about and Jason had alot to think about. So many things to sort out. Feelings to explore. Because now he was feeling things or, at the very least, remember what it felt like to feel. What he felt more than anything was the desperate need to cling to Zander and never let him go. If he lost Zander he would lose a part of himself. A part of himself that he thought was lost forever. His heart and his soul.
Because they were staying, Jason had to go out for a while to get more supplies. He made sure that Zander was settled with everything he might need. "I'll be back in a few hours," Jason told him, one hand combing through Zander's hair, enjoying its softness. "Any requests?"
"Chocolate," Zander replied, then he smiled a bit before closing his eyes.
"Sleep," Jason told him. Zander's body was still fighting the fever and infection, and the internal damage that Jason had done. Which had revealed itself in bloodstained sheets. Zander hadn't wanted to allow Jason to examine him, but it had been a moot point in the end. Zander had blacked out and Jason had done what needed to be done. So far so good. But it bothered him that he had hurt Zander so badly. And it was strange to feel that way. To find himself dozing off only to wake up and check on Zander every few minutes. To watch his face for every sign of pain. To try and find ways to soothe him, as a means to atone for his wrongdoing. Leaning in, Jason brushed a kiss to Zander's forehead. He felt Zander twitch a bit. They had alot to work out. Zander believed in Jason's regret and sorrow for what he had done to him. But he had yet to forgive him. Jason knew that might be a long time coming, but he would be patient. He had to be. He had to have Zander in his life.
Sliding off the bed, Jason grabbed his coat and the car keys, then he headed out.
* * * * *
Zander dozed off but woke up when he heard a loud bang. He looked towards the door as three men burst inside. Zander was struggling to sit up but they were upon him, hands pinning him. He struggled against them, cursing, feeling pain tearing and burning throughout his body, then there was a pinprick in his arm and blackness swirled over Zander, then claimed him.
* * * * *
Jason made good time. He made it to the nearest town and back in about three hours. He parked the SUV then realized that there were tracks in the snow that didn't belong to his vehicle. Panic surged through Jason as he noticed that the cabin door was open. He ran to it already knowing what he would find. Zander was gone. Cursing, Jason went over the place, hoping for some clue. There was nothing to find. Jason ran back to the SUV and drove off. Back to Port Charles. Back to find Zander. He had a place to start looking. There was only one person who take Zander. Otis. If he hurt Zander, he was a dead man.
* * * * *
Sonny was enjoying a glass of wine when one of his guards was ushered in. Setting the glass down, Sonny rose to meet him. "Well?"
"We got the kid but...there's a problem," the guard stated.
"What kind of a problem?"
The guard was pale and he ran a hand over his face. "The kid is sick...hurt...he's bleeding out."
Sonny frowned. "Bleeding out? What are you talking about?"
"Internally. He's bleeding out internally. The car seat he was lying on is soaked in blood."
"Shit!" Sonny grabbed his cell phone. He punched in a number. "Dr. Rizzo, I need your services immediately. We'll be picking you up in ten minutes. Be prepared for anything." Sonny hung up then grabbed his coat before striding towards the door. "Let's go."
* * * * *
Jason made record time back to Port Charles. He headed straight to Murphy's Biker Bar, knowing that Otis and his associates hung out there. Jason strode into the bar and stopped only long enough to seek out Otis. He found him at a back table. Jason made his way over and grabbed Otis by the collar. "Where is Zander?"
"Good question." Otis tried to push Jason off him and failed. He also tried to signal for his boys to help him, but waved them off when Jason pulled a gun and pressed it to his temple. "I swear, man...I don’t' know where the kid is. I haven't seen him for like three days."
"I don't believe you," Jason replied. "Try again."
Otis was sweating. "I'm telling you, man! I don't know where Zander is. I swear it!" Desperation and fear made Otis' voice pitch higher. "I...I've been looking for him myself. He owes me."
Jason pulled out a half inch stack of one hundred dollar bills. "Now he doesn't," he stated. "You ever go near Zander again...I will kill you. Understand?" As he spoke, Jason moved the gun so that it was pressed between Otis's eyes. "And if I find out you just lied to me about having Zander....I'll kill you slow."
"I'm telling the truth, man. I swear." Otis swallowed hard. "And...Zander ain't my business no more. Okay? We're set."
"Okay." Jason released Otis, tucked the gun back in his jacket and turned on his heel. He felt panic twisting in his gut as he headed out of the bar. If Otis didn't have Zander, then who the hell did?
* * * * *
Sonny paced as he waited for Dr. Rizzo to finish with Zander. The doctor had been in the room for over two hours now. Not a good sign. Finally the door opened and Dr. Rizzo stepped out. "How is Zander?"
Dr. Rizzo shook his head. "He's a mess. He's still recovering from an infection and fever, and he has a messed up ankle, looks like someone put him in a metal cuff and he tore up his ankle trying to get free."
"I see." Sonny was surprised by what he was hearing. "But he's going to be okay, right?"
"I didn't tell you everything." The doctor ran a hand over his face and asked for a drink. When Sonny pointed to the side bar, he poured two glasses of whiskey, holding one out to Sonny. "You might want this," Dr. Rizzo stated, before downing his. Then he explained Zander's condition. "The kid was raped. Brutally. Tore him up inside. I had to put in stitches."
Sonny tossed back the shot then hurled the glass. "Sonofabitch!" This information shook him. "How bad is it?"
Dr. Rizzo sighed. "He'll heal and I don't believe the damage will be lasting. The problem is the blood loss. I hooked him up to an IV and I'll head out and get some plasma, that will help. His fever is up again and he's very weak."
"You seem to keep stepping around my question," Sonny countered. "Is Zander going to be all right?"
"Physically he'll heal. If given time. My guess is, the kid is going to be an emotional mess. Know any shrinks?"
Sonny snorted. "Yeah...alot of them."
Dr. Rizzo nodded. "You might want to call one for the kid." He headed for the door. "I'm going to leave my bag and get more supplies. I'll be back soon. I'd like to stay with him for the next few days, if that's all right?"
"That's fine." Sonny stated, then he waved Dr. Rizzo off before heading over to the side bar to pour himself another drink. His life just got a hell of alot more complicated. After downing the shot, Sonny reached for his phone. He had a very important call to make.
* * * * *
Jason was frantic, a feeling he was unaccustomed to, to say the least. He didn't know where else to look for Zander. His phone rang and he snapped it open. "Yes?"
"It's Sonny. You need to come in. Now."
"I'm in the middle of something," Jason countered.
There was a moment of silence then Sonny said, "It's about Zander."
Jason didn't reply. He simply ran for his car.
* * * * *
Sonny was back at the Penthouse, he knew that's where Jason would expect him to be. The door burst open and Jason was standing there. It surprised Sonny to see how flustered Jason looked. How panicked.
"Where is Zander? Who took him?" Jason demanded.
"I did," Sonny replied, and he saw shocked disbelief register on Jason's face.
Jason shook his head. "I don't believe you. Why would you take Zander? How...how would you even know where to find him?"
Sonny sighed. "I've known about your little trysts with Zander for over six months now."
"No." Jason shook his head.
"I had you followed one night. I had asked you to do something for me, and it was like the third time you blew me off, telling me you had an appointment and you would handle it later. So I had a man follow you."
Jason sat down in the nearest chair, sagging into it. Then he looked up at Sonny. "I don't believe you. You're messing with me."
Sonny shrugged. "You want proof that I have him?"
"Fine." Sonny made a call, talking softly. "You'll have your proof in a little while."
Jason stood up and began to pace. An uncomfortable silence fell between them. Until Jason knew the truth, he had nothing to say to Sonny.
Sonny was content to watch Jason. To read the conflicting emotions on the other man's face. This wasn't the Jason he had always known. He had changed. Zander had changed him. Sonny shook his head.
Time ticked by slowly. Almost an hour passed before a knock sounded on the door. Sonny answered it, accepted something from the guard, then closed the door and turned to Jason, holding out his hand. "Here...is this proof enough for you?"
Jason looked at Sonny's palm. Lying in it was a lock of dark hair. Jason picked it up. He knew the texture well. It was Zander's hair. "You sonofabitch!" Jason snarled, curling his fingers over the lock of hair, even as his other hand fisted in Sonny's shirt and slammed him against the wall. "Where is he?"
"Some place you'll never find him," Sonny replied. "Now let go. We need to talk."
"If you hurt him....there's nothing to talk about."
Sonny smiled coldly. "You're the only one who hurt him, Jason. You're the one who raped him."
Jason reacted as if he had been slapped. He released Sonny and backed away. He turned blindly towards the door and ran out.
Sonny heaved a sigh and pressed a hand over his chest to smooth down his shirt. He knew Jason would be back.
* * * * *
Jason looked every place he could think of for Zander. It had taken less than an hour for the guard to bring Sonny a lock of Zander's hair. Which was still in Jason's possession. He wrapped it in a scrap of paper and tucked it in his pocket. But Sonny had hidden Zander well. Some place new. Jason couldn't find him. So he returned to the Penthouse. "What do you want?" he demanded of Sonny.
"I want to know what the hell is going on, Jason!" Sonny shot back. "I thought I knew. I thought it was just a sex thing, and that it was all about control for you. Zander has never been one to just accept what people give out. He doesn't blindly do what he's told. I knew how that grated on you. So I let it go for a while. But then you started to change."
"I haven't changed," Jason replied. A blatant lie, but one that had to be told. Sonny could never know the truth.
Sonny shook his head. "I've seen it, Jason. I know it. But what I don't get is...why did you rape him? Why? I don't get that. He's a fucking mess, Jason. And that's not like you. No matter what you do...it's clean and fast and remorseless. What you did to Zander. It was slow and messy and I can see the regret in your eyes. I can feel it."
Jason kept a neutral expression on his face, but he had to fight for it. "Zander is my personal business. He doesn't concern you or us."
"Zander is the reason you changed, Jason. That concerns me...and us."
"I want to see him." Jason could only imagine the damage Sonny's goons had inflicted. He knew Zander would have put up a fight.
Sonny sighed. "He's safe and he's been looked after. I won't hurt him, Jason. I know that I would lose you for certain if I did."
Jason locked eyes with Sonny. "What do you want? Why did you do this?"
"I want you to break free of this...thing...you have with Zander," Sonny replied. "You have to give him up, Jason. If you don't...you're going to lose everything. No one will trust you to do your job anymore, starting with me."
"Zander is separate from my work."
Sonny shook his head. "You're not hearing me, Jason. I don't know what happened to make you hurt him. I can see that you're worried about him. You have some connection to him that needs to be severed. That's all I'm saying about it."
Jason held Sonny's icy stare. "And if I refuse?"
"Zander pays the price."
"You kill him and you have me to deal with...you know that, right?"
Sonny let a half smile curve his lips. "You and I have always been a team, Jason. We work together well because you understand me."
Jason shook his head. "That's not why," he countered. "We made a good team because I gave you my obedience and my support. You need that from me. I had no problem giving that to you."
"Zander is a part of my life for reasons that I don't have to explain to you. I'll continue to give you what you want, Sonny. But you have to give me Zander."
Sonny sighed and poured himself another drink. "With Zander in your life, you're no good to me, Jason. You crossed a line with him. What I want to know is...why did you rape him? Why do that? Hell...you messed him up good. Do you really think he'll want you back in his life after that?"
Jason ran a hand over his hair. He paced for a moment then asked, "What's the bottom line here?"
"You have to choose, Jason." Sonny locked eyes with the other man. "Me or Zander."
"I'll be back with my answer," Jason stated. Then he turned and headed out the door. He had to think. Once upon a time the choice would have been easy. It had always been about Sonny. But Zander had changed that. Zander had changed everything.
* * * * *
Zander came awake with a start. He felt disoriented and then he remembered being grabbed and his eyes snapped open. He was in an unfamiliar bedroom. And he wasn't alone. A middle-aged man, with graying hair, sat in a nearby chair. He was reading a book. "Who are you?" Zander asked, then he coughed a bit because his throat was dry.
Dr. Rizzo introduced himself as he rose to his feet. There was a glass of water on the bed stand, with a straw in it. He held it to Zander's lips. "Just take a few sips," he instructed.
Zander obeyed and felt a little better. "Where am I?"
"That's not for me to tell," Dr. Rizzo replied. "How do you feel?"
"I've been better." Zander shifted a bit and winced in pain. He raised a hand to run through his hair and noticed an IV taped to the back of it. "What happened to me?"
Dr. Rizzo pressed a hand to Zander's forehead, almost smiling when he pulled his head away. "You lost alot of blood and your fever kicked back. You've been out of it for two days."
Zander was stunned. "Why am I here?"
"Another question I can't answer." Dr. Rizzo sat down on the side of the bed. "Do you feel up to eating something?"
"I want a shower." Zander felt sticky and gritty and dirty. He felt like he might never feel clean again.
Dr. Rizzo nodded. "I'll make you a deal. You eat something and I'll help you shower."
Zander wanted to tell him to go to hell, but he realized that the man was not his enemy. Not yet anyway. And Zander was smart enough to know he had to bide his time. He was too weak to do anything physical. So he would accept the doctor's help and learn what he could. "Deal," Zander whispered.
"I'll get some soap," Dr. Rizzo stated, as he rose from the bed.
"Where the hell am I?" Zander wondered to himself, once he was alone. Then his eyes drifted closed and the thought faded away.
* * * * *
Two days passed since Sonny gave Jason his ultimatum. He knew that time was running out and that Sonny had been generous to him to allow him this much time. But Jason couldn't make that choice. Zander had given him a gift and Jason wasn't willing to give it up. A part of him almost wished he could go back to the way things had been. To be the man Sonny wanted him to be again. But there was no going back.
So Jason had done what he could to find Zander on his own. He had failed. Sonny gave nothing away and now Jason knew he had to make a decision. In his desperation he went to the one person who might understand his dilemma. Carly. All too many times she had tried to put him into a position of choosing between herself and Sonny. Jason had never allowed it. But now he was in the position of having to play his heart against his head. Something Carly was all too familiar with doing. Jason always thought Carly made the wrong choice every time, but he had accepted her choices because they were her mistakes to live with. He felt nothing and so remained unaffected by it. But now he felt too much and it was driving him insane.
"Thank you for coming," Jason said, as she appeared on the docks.
"You sounded almost…desperate," Carly replied. "I've never heard you sound like that before, Jason. What's wrong?"
Jason bid her to sit with him on the bench. "Did Sonny tell you about Zander and me?" He blurted out.
Carly frowned. "You and Zander? What are you talking about?"
"I've been fucking him for over a year now."
"What?" Carly's stunned disbelief showed on her face. She shook her head. "Wait a minute...what is this? A sick joke?"
Jason locked eyes with Carly. He had to make her understand. "It started soon after Sonny kicked him out. We ran into each other at Jake’s...it was inevitable. And something just rubbed me the wrong way about Zander. And it had nothing to do with his past connection to Emily and that whole mess. It was all about Zander. About how he wasn't afraid of me when he should have been. I almost killed him once, at the Canadian border. He was scared to death, and yet he faced me like a man. He was a fucked up kid, but he faced me in spite of his fear. That impressed me almost as much as it pissed me off."
Carly reached out and touched Jason's arm. "I don't understand how....I mean...you fucked him? I don't get that."
"You cared about Zander once," Jason countered. "Why?"
"I dunno. There's just something about him. That and the fact that we had so much in common. And he treated me with respect. And I betrayed his friendship." Carly sighed. "I still regret that, every day of my life."
Jason nodded. "I betrayed him too. Long story short, that night at Jake's...we played pool and he beat me. Three games in a row. And he was smug about it and I wanted to wipe the smirk off his face. I did. I kissed him. We were alone, it was after closing. I kissed him then I bent him over the pool table and I fucked him."
Carly stood up and walked to the end of the docks. She was shaking. "Why are you telling me this, Jason. Cause I'm not sure I want to hear it."
"I did what I did because Zander could push my buttons when no one else could. And it was like riding a high. But it was gone in a moment and I wanted it back." Jason stood up and joined Carly. "It was the first time I felt...something. I didn't hurt Zander...he's a tough kid. And that's the thing. After it was over, he turned around and he slugged me. Damn near broke my nose."
"I remember that...you nose being all swollen. You said it was from an altercation."
Jason nodded. "It was."
Carly sighed and shook her head. "I still don't understand why you're telling me this."
"Let me finish then I'll explain." When Carly nodded, Jason continued. "The next night I felt unsettled. So I went out and found some other guy and fucked him." Jason broke off and paced the dock for a few moments. He knew that Carly wasn't shocked by his telling her he had fucked a guy. Jason had told about his *habit* a long time ago. How he would find some guy and fuck him because he didn't have to worry about holding back with another guy. He knew what shocked her was that he was involved with Zander of all people. A part of Jason was still shocked by that fact as well. But Jason was now beginning to wonder if Carly could get past her shock. If she could help him make his choice. Or if she would turn away from him and he would lose her, just as Sonny had predicted.
"Go on," Carly said after a moment. "Tell me the rest."
Jason turned to her then nodded. "After I fucked that guy, I went back to Jakes and found Zander again. I felt nothing with the other guy, but I felt this...connection...with Zander and I needed to know if it was just a fluke. It wasn't. And Zander became my addiction. And to make a long story short....Sonny knows about him. About us. And he wants me to choose."
Carly was stunned. "What about Zander? What does he want?"
"I don't know. Sonny has him somewhere."
Jason nodded. "He's making me choose between him and Zander. There was a time when it would have been an easy choice."
Carly locked eyes with Jason. "But you love Zander."
"Do I?" Jason wasn't sure if that was what he felt. It had been so long.
"I can see it in your eyes, Jason," Carly whispered. "You love him."
Jason shrugged. "I don't know how to choose, Carly."
She smiled at him. "You have to go with your heart, Jason. You'll regret it if you don't. What about Zander? Does he love you too?"
"I never gave him a choice, Carly. I never made...love...an option."
"You know what makes Zander special, Jason? It's that he understands people. He does." She smiled sadly. "He understood me and he accepted me for what I am. Even when he knew that I could hurt him, he took the risk. If he's been with you for over a year...that means something."
Jason laughed, and it was a bitter sound to his own ears. "It means I gave him no choice. I made him be with me, because I needed him like a junkie needs a fix. And I hurt him, Carly. Worse than you can imagine."
Carly shrugged. "I can imagine alot. I hurt him too, remember?"
"I raped him." Jason put it out there to see her reaction. He saw disbelief in Carly's eyes, then she shuddered and turned away from him. Jason figured she would walk away and that would be that. But after a moment she faced him again.
"Why did you do that?" Carly asked.
Jason closed his eyes then whispered the truth. "He felt too much and I punished him for it. And because I needed to punish myself and the only way I could feel anything was through Zander. I felt his pain and tried to make it my own. But I can't do that."
Carly nodded. "Zander's whole life has been about pain, Jason. He's been a physical and an emotional punching bag for just everyone he's ever known. He just kind of absorbs it into himself. But I could always see it in his eyes. And I always knew that when he got angry and lashed out, he was trying to hurt himself because he felt he deserved it somehow. He just radiates this pain...and yet he has this amazing capacity to forgive everyone but himself. And he understands what it means to love someone. Even when no one will love him back the way he deserves." A tear slid down Carly's face and she wiped it away with the back of one hand. "I think you could love him, Jason. I think maybe a part of Zander knows that. And maybe you could heal each other."
"Do you really believe that?" Jason asked. He wanted her to believe so that he could believe.
Jason almost smiled but the smile faded. "If I choose Zander over Sonny...what happens to us, Carly? Do I lose you?"
Carly moved to Jason and hugged him. "You never would choose between me and Sonny...and I will never choose between Sonny and you. I can't give you any better answer than that."
"Fair enough," Jason replied, hugging her back for a moment. He knew that ultimately she would follow her own advice. Follow her heart. And her heart would always lead her to Sonny. Jason understood what that meant now. "I need to find Zander. Will you help me?"
"I'll give you a call," Carly allowed. "But that's all I can do."
Jason kissed her cheek, then pulled away. "That's enough. Thank you." He turned and strode off. He had made his choice.
* * * * *
Carly came through and Jason found Zander. He let Dr. Rizzo walk away and was surprised when the doctor took a moment to explain Zander's condition. Jason was relieved to learn that Zander was healing. He was disturbed to learn about Zander's nightmares. Jason knew that he was the cause of Zander's demons. Once the doctor was gone, and Jason was certain the guard was securely restrained, Jason went into the bedroom. He found Zander asleep. Jason reached out to touch his face, pulling back when Zander's eyes opened. "I'm sorry," Jason whispered.
Before Zander could reply another voice stated,
"So you made your choice."
Jason turned to see Sonny in the doorway. He knew he would come. He knew that Carly would tell him in the end. Jason didn't begrudge her that. "Yes. I made my choice."
Sonny sauntered over to the bed and looked at Zander. "What about you? Jason picked you over me. But do you pick him, Zander? After what he did to you?"
"I just want to go home," Zander whispered. He held Sonny's cold gaze for a moment, then he looked at Jason. "I want my life back. As fucked up as it was…it was my life. You took that from me."
Zander nodded. "Okay...then give it back."
Jason shook his head. "You can't go back, Zander. You know that...I know that. There's no going back for either of us."
"I can send you any place you want to go, Zander," Sonny interjected. "I'll set you up with a place, a job, everything you need to start over."
"I disappear from Port Charles and you get Jason back...right?" Zander countered.
Jason knew that was what Sonny was hoping. "I made my choice," Jason stated to Sonny. "Even if Zander leaves...I can't go back either. We can't go back, Sonny. You're right...I changed. Zander changed me. Sending him away...won't make that go away."
Sonny rubbed his jaw then nodded. "You're right." He looked at Zander. "The offer still stands. You can go anywhere, Zander."
"When can I leave?" Zander queried. He wouldn't look at Jason.
"In the morning. Do you have a preference?"
Zander thought for a moment. "Some place warm."
Sonny nodded. "Consider it done." He looked at Jason for a moment, then he walked out of the room.
"I can't forgive you," Zander whispered.
"You shouldn't," Jason replied.
Zander plucked at the blankets, keeping his head down. "Why would you pick me over Sonny? I'm nothing."
Jason reached out and cupped Zander's chin in one hand, forcing him to look up at him. "You're everything to me," He whispered, then he turned and walked away. And as he closed the door behind him, a tear slid down Jason's face. He let it fall.