Flame Turns Blue

Chapter 11

Zander listened carefully to everything Monica said as she wheeled him down the hallway towards Emily's room. After hearing about Emily slipping into a coma, Zander had freaked for a bit. His father had wanted to sedate him but Monica had appeared and her presence had calmed Zander. Of course she had said all the right things. Telling Zander that he could see Emily if he calmed down. He had quieted immediately. Monica had then instructed Zander's father to get a wheelchair. It bothered Zander a bit that he needed it. The moment he had gotten out of bed and tried to stand his knees had buckled. If his father hadn't been there to grab him, Zander would have fallen and he doubted he would have been able to get back up again.

"I should have been there for her," Zander whispered.

"There is nothing you could have done to stop this from happening, Zander," Monica stated. She stopped as they reached Emily's room. "I'm trying to see this as a positive thing. A way for her body to heal from the inside out. Her doctor's haven't given up yet and neither have I."

Zander nodded. "I won't give up on Emily. I can't."

Monica smiled. "I know. Now, you can sit with her for a few minutes then I'm sending an orderly to take you back to your room. You have some healing of your own to do."

"Okay. Thanks." Zander smiled back at Monica then he waited for her to wheel him into the room. Once at Emily's bedside, Zander forgot about Monica's existence as he reached for Emily’s hand. She was so still and pale that it scared him, but she was still breathing and that was all Zander cared about. She hadn't left him and in his heart he knew she never would. "I'm sorry, baby," Zander said softly. "I should have been here for you. I messed up. Big surprise...huh?" A tear slid down Zander's face and he brushed it away with the back of one hand. "But I'm gonna do better…starting right now. I'll do whatever it takes to be ready for you to come back to me. Okay? So you do your part and I'll do mine."

"Mr. Smith?"

Zander turned at the sound of his name to find an orderly standing in the doorway. "Can I stay a few more minutes?"

The orderly shook his head. "Sorry...Doctor's orders." He came in and grabbed the handles on the back of the wheel chair.

"Goodnight, baby," Zander whispered to Emily. "I love you." Another tear slid down his face as he was wheeled out of the room.

* * * * *

Zander behaved himself for the next three days. He did whatever he was told to do. He ate whatever was placed in front of him. He slept when he was told to sleep, he sat with Emily for however long they allowed him too, and he didn't complain when the nurses fussed over him. All Zander focused on was getting better for Emily.

On the morning of the fourth day, Monica came in with his release papers. Zander signed them with a flourish, thanked her, got dressed in the clothes that Alexis had brought him, then he went to see Emily. Zander didn't stay long though. He was feeling jittery and he knew he needed a break. He needed some fresh air. And he needed some pills.

The moment he got back to Jake's, Zander climbed the stairs to his room. He headed straight for the bathroom and found a packet of pain pills and promptly swallowed two of them. Zander then closed his eyes and prayed for relief to come. The anxiety he was feeling made him want to jump out of his skin. And it had been difficult dealing with his panic attacks and keeping them hidden from the hospital staff. For all the sleeping and resting he had done there, Zander felt exhausted now and he moved to his bed and flopped down on it. His eyes had barely closed and Zander was asleep.

The telephone woke him from a bad dream and Zander had to clear his throat before he could get any sound out. He tried to mask his heavy breathing. "Hello?"

"Zander, it's Alexis. Are you okay? Do you want me to come over?"

"No...I'm fine." Zander ran a hand through his hair. "Um…why are you calling?"

Alexis huffed a sigh. "You've been MIA for twelve hours. Of course, none of us thought to try Jake's until now. You had us all worried, Zander."

He frowned and glanced at his watch. Alexis was telling the truth. He had been asleep for over ten hours. "Is Emily okay?"

"She's the same. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine. I just fell asleep." Zander slid off the bed. "I'm gonna go now. Thanks for calling."

Alexis sighed again. "I take it you'll be at the hospital soon?"

Zander laughed softly. "Where else. Bye, Alexis." He hung up the phone and headed for the bathroom. Zander showered quickly, changed into jeans and a tee shirt, popped two more pain pills then headed out the door.

* * * * *

When Zander reached the hospital, he headed straight for Emily's room only to catch Monica and one of Emily's doctors talking outside the room. Zander listened as the doctor calmly told Monica that it was only a matter of time before Emily quietly slipped away. He figured maybe two days at best. Zander reacted without thinking.

"Shut up!" he screamed at the doctor. "What the hell do you know? Emily is not going to die…do you hear me? She won't give up on us!"

"Zander." Monica grabbed him by the shoulders. "Take it easy. It's okay."

Pulling free of Monica's grip, Zander turned away, realizing what he had just done. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Monica patted his shoulder. "It's okay. I understand how you feel."

"I won't give up on Emily!" Zander hissed, then he turned back to Monica and saw the tears in her eyes. Instinctively he pulled her into a hug and he could feel her tears wetting his shirt. "Emily can do this. She can pull through...and she will. You just have to believe that. You have to believe in her."

"I want to," Monica replied, as she pulled back and wiped at her eyes. "I want to believe it with all my heart, Zander. But as a doctor, I have to be realistic. It doesn't look good."

Zander shook his head. "I won't accept that." He turned away from Monica and headed into Emily's room. Zander sat down on the stool and took Emily's hand in his. "I'm here, baby. I'm here now and it's gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay."

* * * * *

"How are you doing, Zander?"

He shrugged, not meeting Dr. Baldwin's eyes. "I'm okay."

She moved out from behind her desk to sit next to him on the couch. Zander had plopped there from the moment he entered her office for his session. "You look tired."

"I said I'm fine."

"I spoke with Monica, she said you almost passed out earlier."

Zander sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I forgot to eat. No big deal."

Gail nodded. "Do you want to talk about Emily?"


"What do you want to talk about?"

Zander was quiet for a moment then he asked, "Do you believe there really is a heaven and a hell?"

It was Gail's turn for a moment of silence. "I'm not sure I believe in hell, per se. I don't think it's an actual place."

"Yeah…I've always kind of believe that hell was on earth."

"I think heaven might be a spiritual place," Gail continued.

Zander blinked back tears. "Do you think everyone has a shot at heaven?"

Gail frowned. "I don't know, Zander. Why do you ask?"

"Sometimes I wonder if Pete is in heaven, and if he's watching me and shaking his head at the stupid things I do. He used to do that...when we were kids. It wasn't like he was disappointed in me so much as he was...amused, or sad. He knew why I would act out, and sometimes he tried to talk to me about it. I wouldn't listen to him."

"You still blame yourself for his death."

Zander shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe." He stood up and began to pace. "You know…the doctors gave Emily two days to live. It's been four days since then. They were wrong. I knew they were." Zander knew he was rambling but he couldn't help himself. A part of him hoped that Dr. Baldwin would be impartial enough to just listen to him instead of trying to reason with him, or make him accept a reality that didn't exist for Zander.

Everyone else had spent the past few days trying to convince Zander to accept the inevitable. That Emily was going to die. But Zander wouldn't accept it and he had said as much to Elizabeth, Gia, Alexis and even Nikolas. Strangely enough, Nikolas had been the least annoying of the bunch. When Zander had told him he would never give up on Emily, Nikolas had simply nodded and backed off.


"What?" He realized he had lost track of their conversation.

Gail nodded. "You do know that everyone is praying for Emily to pull through. But they're steeling themselves for the worst to happen. She could die and you need to accept that as a possibility."

Zander glared at Dr. Baldwin. "Why should I accept that? Hell...we could all die. We all will die. By rights I should be dead right now and I'm still alive and kicking. I'd make a deal with the devil and trade my life for Emily's if I could. That's the way it should be. She should live a long life. Peter should have too."

"And you don't think you deserve a long life, Zander?"

"I don't deserve Emily. But she loves me anyway. I'm not thinking past that right now." Zander was beginning to feel jittery again and he glanced at the clock. Ten more minutes to kill before he could leave. He focused on his breathing. He would not allow himself to have a panic attack in front of Dr. Baldwin.

She returned to her desk. "How are things between you and your father, Zander?"

He shrugged and continued to breath slow and deep, without being too obvious about it.

"He's worried about you."

"I'm sure." Zander didn't try to hide his derision.

Gail scribbled in her note book. "Do you think you can ever forgive him for the way he treated you?"

Zander laughed. "Why should I? He'll never forgive me for being alive. My father would give his right arm to change history so that I'm the one who died instead of Pete."

"I think you're wrong about that, Zander."

"No…I'm not." The panic was easing and Zander glanced at the clock again. "Time's up." He headed for the door and walked out without saying goodbye. Unerringly, he made his way to Emily's room.

* * * * *

Alexis felt her heart breaking as she watched Zander through the window of Emily's room. She turned to his father. "When Emily dies, a part of Zander is going to die with her."

Cameron sighed and nodded. "I know. That's why I asked you to come here. To talk about Alexander. I've already spoken to Elizabeth and Gia and they agree with your statement. When Emily dies Alexander is going to fall apart, unless we do something to help him accept the truth."

"You can't make him accept anything, Cameron," Alexis protested.

"I have to try. Alexander is emotionally fragile right now. I don't want to lose another son, Alexis."

Alexis reached out to squeeze Cameron's shoulder. "In my opinion, knowing Zander as I do, I think you'll do more harm than good if you push him. I know he's a wreck right now, but I also know that he's a survivor. No matter what happens, he'll get through it. In time."

Cameron shook his head. "I think you're wrong. All of you. Alexander and I may not be close, but he's my son and I have to help him, before it's too late." That said he turned on his heel and stalked off.

* * * * *

Zander drained the bottle of beer and thumped it on the bar top. "Another round," he said to Coleman. It was a nightly ritual of late. Zander would go to work, go see Emily on lunch and after work. After visiting hours were over he would head to Jake’s to drink beer and play pool. He was on a winning streak game wise. He'd made over six hundred bucks. Not that Zander cared about the money. This was just a way to distract himself.

When he was with Emily, or at work, or confronted by family or friends, Zander was upbeat and hopeful about Emily. She was still clinging to life. That was all that mattered to Zander. He wouldn't give up on her or on their future. But it was hard to keep the faith when he was alone. So he hung out playing pool every night until Coleman closed the bar.


"Fuck." The curse slipped out of Zander when he saw his father approaching.

Cameron stood before his son. "Can we talk?"

Zander grinned at him. "I suppose we are capable of doing so. However, I have no desire to do so. Translation...get lost."

"I'm not leaving until we talk." Cameron stood his ground. "We can do it privately, or right here in front of everyone. Doesn't matter to me. I'm pretty sure you'll be the one who acts out, not me."

"Hey…I'm cool." Zander took another swig of beer then plopped down in a nearby chair. "Say what you've got to say, dad. Then leave me the hell alone."

Cameron sat down across from his son. "Alexander...we need to talk about Emily. You need to start facing the fact that she is going to die."

Zander didn't think, he simply reacted. He was out of his chair, his fingers fisting in his father's shirt as he pulled Cameron to his feet, then he hauled back with his other hand and slugged him in the jaw. "You son of a bitch!" Zander screamed. "Get out!"

"Alexander…" Cameron rubbed his jaw. "Please...listen to me. Let me help you."

"Get out!" Zander hissed. His body was shaking and his muscles were taut with the effort to hold back from slugging his father again.

Coleman intervened, getting in Cameron's face. "I'd like you to leave."

Cameron glared icily. "I'd thank you to stay out of this. This is between me and my son."

"Leave the kid alone." Coleman was adamant. "You ain't helping things. Leave, or I will throw you out."

"Fine." Cameron turned on his heel and left.

Coleman turned to Zander. "You okay?"

Zander was shaking so hard he thought his teeth might rattle if he replied. So he threw a twenty on the counter, went behind the bar and grabbed a bottle of JD, then he headed for his room. He slammed the door shut behind him then slumped against it as he worked open the bottle. His hands were still shaking so it was difficult and Zander cursed beneath his breath. Finally it opened and he took a long swig, feeling the alcohol burn all the way down into his gut. He knew it wouldn't help but he wanted to feel numb, if only for a little while.

"Bastard!" Zander hissed, his voice breaking on a sob as he thought about his father's words. But he was wrong. Emily wasn't going to die. She wouldn't leave him. Fear and fury raged in Zander and he threw the bottle against the wall then went on a rampage in his room, tossing everything he could find, ripping the bed apart, kicking things and punching the wall once or twice, before falling to his knees and sobbing.

"Please don't take her away from me.." Zander pleaded, unsure if he was reaching out to God or not. Maybe it was the devil who was listening. It didn't matter. "Take me instead. Emily has so much to live for. She has everything…she is everything. You can't take her from me... from her family and friends. They need her...please." Zander hiccupped on a sob and wiped at his eyes with his shirt sleeve. "No one would miss me…you know that, right? No one would care if I'm gone. You took Peter away...you already fucked that up...so please...please...don't take Emily. Don't take her..."

Zander curled up in a ball on the floor and cried himself to sleep.

* * * * *

Zander made his way down the hall to Emily's room. He felt like hell. He was shaky and jittery and the only reason he had gotten any sleep at all was because he had fallen into an alcoholic stupor. Breakfast this morning had consisted of a Bloody Mary that Coleman had fixed for him. But for all that, Zander felt determined. He and Emily were connected in a way that couldn't be explained. He was as much a part of her as she was of him and Zander wasn't ready to let go of her. He wouldn't allow her to let go. Emily was a fighter, she would cling to life with both hands and she was going to make it. Zander could not allow himself to believe otherwise.

So he put a smile on his face as he passed by the front desk, but the smile faded as he neared the room and heard voices. Talking about Emily.

"She is holding on, Dr. Quartermaine, but that might not matter. Given the latest results from the CAT scan and the MRI, even if your daughter does wake up, it's doubtful that she'll be cognizant of anyone or anything. You know what I'm saying."

"That Emily will suffer brain damage," Monica replied, grimly. "I understand."

Zander understood as well. He turned and quietly walked away.

* * * * *

"Have you seen Zander?" Monica asked Nikolas and Gia. They had come to visit Emily and she dreaded the bad news she had to give them. News that she had yet to impart to Zander. She had expected him to be there hours ago. She had even called ELQ but he wasn't at work. Monica was starting to worry.

"I haven't seen him," Gia replied. "Did you try Jake’s?"

Monica nodded. "Coleman said that Zander left there hours ago and that he was heading straight here."

Nikolas frowned. "Maybe he's hiding out somewhere in the hospital."

"Why would he do that?" Monica began, then it hit her. "Omigod...I wonder if he heard us?"

"What are you talking about?" Gia queried.

Monica shook her head. "Doesn't matter. But we have to find Zander. I'll get his father and some of the volunteers to start searching."

Nikolas patted Monica's shoulder. "We'll help." He took Gia by the hand and they headed off.

* * * * *

Nikolas and Gia searched everywhere they could think of. No sign of Zander. They passed by the chapel and something made Nikolas pause. He stepped inside and gasped. Then he called out to Gia, "I found him!"

Gia came running into the chapel. "Zander?"

"Go get someone," Nikolas ordered, as he moved to sit beside the younger man. Zander was tucked into a corner, knees up, arms locked around them, rocking. His eyes were open but Nikolas knew he was staring at nothing. It chilled him to the bone. "Hey man," Nikolas said softly. A part of him hoped that Zander could hear him. "I don't know what happened...but it's going to be okay. Help is coming. Just hang in there." Nikolas didn't know what else to say. He waved a hand in front of Zander's eyes and there was no reaction.

"In here!"

Nikolas turned to see Gia coming towards him with Bobbie and Monica in tow.

Monica reached them first. "What happened?"

"I don't know...we found him like this. He doesn't respond at all…he just keeps rocking." Nikolas couldn't take his eyes off Zander as he spoke.

"Help me try to get him on his feet," Monica requested.

Nikolas knelt down and they tried to unwrap Zander's arms from around his knees. Zander's fingers had a death grip on his own arms, but once they pried them open, he was easily pliable. Nikolas felt creeped out. It was as if Zander was a life sized doll.

Monica turned to Bobbie. "Get me a sedative," she ordered, then she turned back to Zander. She grabbed a pen light from her lab coat pocket then gripped Zander's chin in one hand as she shined the light in his eyes. "Pupils are dilated."

"Is that good or bad?" Nikolas asked.

"The situation in general is bad," Monica replied.

Gia moved to kneel beside them. "What's wrong with him?"

Monica sighed. "He's catatonic. Zander has been suffering an emotional overload for a long time, and right now he's basically shut down."

"Here's the sedative," Bobbie interjected as she arrived with the needle. She had also brought along a gurney and two orderlies.

"Thank you," Monica said as she accepted the syringe and an alcohol swab. She gave Zander the injection then waited until he had gone completely limp before allowing the orderlies to place him on the gurney.

Nikolas watched them go. "So...what happens now?"

Monica shrugged. "We wait."

* * * * *

"How is Zander?" Elizabeth asked, as she and Lucky arrived at the front desk. Nikolas had called her to say that Zander had been admitted and was in a catatonic like state.

Monica sighed. "He's the same. Unresponsive."

Elizabeth shook her head. "What happened?"

"I don't know for sure, but I think Zander overheard me talking to Emily's doctors. The prognosis is not good. Even if Emily wakes up from the coma, it's more than likely that she'll suffer permanent brain damage."

"I'm so sorry," Elizabeth whispered, blinking back tears. She hugged Monica.

Monica hugged back then pulled away. "Zander hasn't been willing to accept that Emily could die, and so far she's clung to life. But I don't think he was prepared for this. I know I wasn't. It's like a living death."

Elizabeth wiped away tears. "But...you can't know for sure, right? I mean. Not until she wakes up."

"No we won't know for sure, but then again it's unlikely that she'll ever wake up."

"And Zander?"

Monica wiped away a tear of her own. "His father went to see him last night. He said Zander was drunk and in no mood to listen to reason. Personally, I think it was a mistake for Cameron to push Zander, I think it helped send him over the edge. And then he shows up this morning and I'm sure he must have overheard us…and he couldn't take the reality check. So...he's shut down emotionally."

Elizabeth tried to wrap her brain around what she was hearing. "But he's going to be okay, right? I mean…he'll come out of it?"

"I don't know," Monica admitted. "I just don't know."

* * * * *

"Hello, Alexander." Cameron greeted his son as he sat down on the stool next to the bed. There was no response and he didn't expect any. The sedative Monica had given Alexander had worn off, but his son was still unresponsive. He simply lay there, hooked up to two IV's, eyes open and focused on nothing. He was also lightly restrained, Cameron's own suggestion which had been validated by Dr. Baldwin as a genuine concern, seeing as how Alexander had a history of violent reactions, and they had no way of knowing when he might come out of this and whether or not he would hurt himself.

Cameron sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He felt a hundred years old today. "I don't know what to say to you, Alexander," he began. "I believe you can hear me though. I suppose I'm being rather cowardly by talking to you now, when you can't respond. But I believe it's the only way you might listen. I know that I made so many mistakes with you. Some of them are forgivable. That's why I act the way I do towards you. You are a constant reminder of how I failed as a parent. And we both know that I've never handled failure well, be it my own or someone else’s. I punished you simply because you refused to be the person I thought you should be. And I sabotaged any attempt you made to prove yourself to me, for that reason alone. You see...Peter, he always did what I wanted him to do. He did it to make me happy. You were so different you didn't stand a chance. You couldn't live up to my expectations because I wouldn't allow you to. I'm so sorry, Alexander. You have no idea how sorry I am."

A single tear rolled down Cameron's face and he brushed it away with the back of one hand. "I told you that I wished you had died instead of Peter, and I saw the look on your face when those words came out of my mouth. You knew that's how I felt, but it was a whole other reality to hear it. I was horrified by what I'd said. But it was too late to take it back. And, there is a part of me that won't accept that Peter chose to die. I used to ask God why he couldn't have taken you instead, and then I would feel guilty and I would blame you for that guilt. I wasn't ready to blame myself for anything. I'm still not ready, which is why I'm telling you all of this now. I couldn't do it when you were awake and aware. I couldn't bear seeing the pain in your eyes. The pain of betrayal. It's easier to accept your hatred for me, Alexander. Far easier than seeing disappointment and the reality of another failure staring me in the eyes."

Cameron choked on a sob and shook his head. "I just want you to know that I...I'm sorry. For everything. I do care about you, Alexander. I doubt you would believe that...but it's true, and I don't want to lose another son." Slowly Cameron reached out and smoothed a lock of dark hair off his son's forehead. He remembered another time when he had tried to do that and Alexander had snarled at him not to touch him. It had hurt.

Heaving a sigh, Cameron rose to his feet and left the room, finding Alexis outside waiting for him. He could see that she was upset and he knew why.

"You can't send him away," Alexis stated.

"I think it's for the best," Cameron argued. He wanted to have Alexander placed in a long term rehab facility.

Alexis snorted. "You just can't wait to write him off, can you? Zander doesn't follow your rules, he doesn't do things the way you think he should, so lets just ship him off and he can be somebody else's problem. Well...I'm not going to let that happen. I'll take responsibility for Zander."

Cameron glared at her. "You couldn't be more wrong, Alexis. I'm not trying to blow him off. I want to help Alexander."

"Then prove it. Believe in him for once and let give him time to get through this." Alexis glared right back at Cameron. "The doctors think that it's temporary, that Zander had just retreated for a while to work things out in his head. Be patient, Cameron. And have a little faith in your son. Zander is stronger than you know." With that she turned on her heel and walked away, heading straight for Zander's room.


Alexis sighed as she entered and sat down on the stool by his bed. She reached for his hand. "Hey, Zander. It's me...Alexis. I hope you can hear me. I want you to know that I'm praying for you and I know that you'll find your way back to us. To Emily. I know you haven't given up on her, and I haven't given up on you."

Alexis reached out to smooth a lock of hair off Zander's forehead and then she felt it. His hand twitched in hers. It was probably nothing more than a reflex action, but she took it as a sign. "It's going to be okay, kiddo. Just don't give up on yourself." Leaning in, Alexis pressed a kiss to Zander's cheek, then she left him to rest.

* * * * *

Three days after finding Zander in the chapel, Monica entered his room and was stunned to find the bed empty. Panic fluttered in her gut but instinct sent her down the hall and into the elevator. One floor up she hit the floor running. Somehow she wasn't all that surprised to see Zander in Emily's room. He was sitting on the stool, but his head was resting on Emily's stomach and Monica could tell that he was sleeping. She moved forward quietly and gently touched his shoulder. He stirred then sat up with a jolt. "Easy," Monica said, rubbing his shoulder. "I'm sorry I startled you. How do you feel?"

"I don't know...scared," Zander replied.

"We need to get you back to your room, Zander." Monica eased him off the stool. "You had us all worried."

Zander nodded. "Sorry…but I heard what the doctors said about Emily and I guess I didn't handle it well."

Monica wrapped her arm around Zander's waist and led him towards the door. She could feel him fighting not to lean on her too much. She could feel him trembling and knew that he was exhausted both physically and emotionally. "I'm not handling it too well either."

"I guess I was trying to hide from the truth and I can't do that anymore."

"Zander...you know that there are alot of people who want to help you. I'll help you."

He smiled. "I know. Thank you."

Monica guided Zander towards a nearby wheelchair then took him back to his room and got him tucked back into bed. Smoothing his hair back, she had one question to ask. "How did you get out of the restraints?"

"They were loose," Zander replied, stifling a yawn. He closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.

Smiling, Monica headed out to the front desk to page Cameron Lewis.

* * * * *

"I'm not going," Zander stated adamantly, but in a soft tone. He held his father's glare, even as his fingers plucked idly at his blankets. Two days had passed since he had come out of his catatonic state. Two days of being tested and talking to Gail Baldwin. In between Zander was allowed to see Emily. Now it was time to explain things to his father.

Cameron sighed in frustration. "It's the smart thing to do, Alexander. You need help."

Zander smiled at his father. "I zoned out for a while, but I'm fine now. Dr. Baldwin believes that, why don't you? Look...what I need to do is go back to living my life. Back to work and back to trying to do normal things. I need to lay off the booze and I need to work towards a realistic goal." Zander was quoting Dr. Baldwin a bit.

"What goal?"

"My future with Emily."

Cameron groaned and ran a hand over his face. "There is no future with Emily. You know that."

Zander shook his head. "No…I don't know that. She's still alive when the doctors were sure she would be dead by now. And they don't know for sure what state she'll be in when she wakes up."

"If she wakes up," Cameron interjected.

"Okay...if...she wakes up." Zander ran his fingers through his hair. "I know that Emily may never wake up. But she might. Either way I have to go on living. If she wakes up I want to be ready for her. I don't want to be a train wreck that she has to fix."

Cameron cocked an eyebrow. "I'm glad to hear you say that, Alexander. That's progress. But…I still think that a few months in a treatment center would help you reach that goal. Even a few weeks."

Zander shook his head. "No."

"Alexander…" Cameron broke off when Monica entered the room.

"You're free to go," she said, waving a sheaf of papers at Zander. "Get dressed, sign the papers then we'll send you on your way."

A genuine smile curved Zander's lips as he accepted his release papers. "Thank you so much."

Monica looked at Cameron. "Why don't we give him some privacy?"

"Of course." Cameron followed her out.

Zander waited till they were gone to slip out of bed. He got dressed in the clothes that Alexis had brought him, then he stuffed his money in one pocket, strapped on his watch, ran his fingers through his hair then grabbed his paperwork and headed out to the front desk. Zander borrowed a pen from Bobbie and signed his name with a flourish. Then he slipped into the elevator and spent an hour with Emily. Zander told her about his plans for their future, and then he read a bit of a Dean Koontz novel to her. Emily had admitted to being addicted to them so Zander made it a point to read a chapter a day or more. Then he kissed her and made good his escape, slipping out the front door before anyone could hound him about needing a wheel chair.

The day was a little cool but the sun was shining and Zander began walking. He had a destination in mind. His cell phone was in his jacket pocket and as he walked, Zander made a phone call.

* * * * *

"Hey man. Long time no see."

Zander nodded. "How ya been, Benny?"

Benny swiped at his nose and shrugged. "Could be better. So…I hear you're on the up and up, Zman. You never were all that good at dealing anyway. Hell…Sorel only hired you cause you were a kid and could blend in at the Raves. Plus you looked all innocent with that pretty boy baby face of yours.."

"Shut up!" Zander shot back, but he was laughing. Even though it was a painful memory. He would play along to get what he wanted. "Whatcha got for me?"

"Good ole standby," Benny replied, fishing a packet of pills from his back pocket. "Don't take more than two at a time, man. They'll kick your ass for sure."

Zander nodded and took the packet while holding out a folded fifty dollar bill. "Thanks."

Benny grinned. "So…see ya around, Zman?"

"Yeah…I'll be in touch." Zander waited till Benny was gone before moving to the end of the docks. He ripped open one of the packets and popped the pill in his mouth, swallowing it dry. Then he closed his eyes and waited for the numbness to sink in.

Chapter 12