Flame Turns Blue
"How are you doing, Zander?"
Zander looked up from the paper work on his desk and smiled at Ned. "I'm good. Finally catching up on things. Sorry about missing so much work."
Ned smiled back. "Don't worry about it. I understand." Ned sat down in the chair across from Zander. "I don't want you to push yourself, Zander. You've got alot on your plate and you need to make Emily your first priority. I don't have a problem with that."
"She is my first priority," Zander allowed. "Which is why I'm trying to get my life back on track. If she makes it through this, I want to have myself straightened out...you know?"
"Yeah…I know." Ned sighed. "You're doing a good job. You really are. I know I'm impressed. Two weeks ago you were in a catatonic state and now you've sorted out the chaos in this office, you're spending quality time with Emily, hanging out with her friends, taking care of yourself. I know it's not easy."
Zander shrugged. "Well…I'm pretty motivated." The phone rang and he reached for it. "Excuse me. Hello?" Zander listened for a moment, responded then hung up. "Your meeting with Hubbard Incorporated has been moved up two days. I'll get the paper work in order for you. I can stay late."
Ned shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Anita can do that. You're over the clock by an hour already. Go home, Zander. I'll see you tomorrow."
Zander closed the file on his desk. "Thanks. I told Elizabeth I would try and make it to the movies tonight with her and Lucky."
Ned stood up and followed Zander out the door. "What are you going to see?"
"I have no idea, just so long as it's not a chick flick I don't care what we see," Zander said with a laugh.
"Have a good time." Ned clapped Zander on the shoulder. "And…for the record, if you ever want to talk...just give me a call. Any time. I mean it."
Zander could see that Ned was sincere. "Thanks," he replied. "I just might do that." He smiled then headed out the door. Once in his car, Zander pulled out his cell phone and made a call. He got a busy signal. Zander cursed, glanced at his watch, then started the car and drove off.
* * * * *
Zander watched Elizabeth and Lucky necking and shook his head. "You two need a room," he teased, but there was sadness in his tone. He missed kissing and cuddling with Emily.
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth replied. "That was thoughtless of us."
"No…don't worry about it. It's great that you two have reconnected. I'm happy for you." Zander meant it.
Lucky let Elizabeth off his lap and reached for his soda. "How was Emily today?" Lucky winced. "I should visit her more often, but it's hard to see her like that."
Zander understood. He spotted Penny and raised his coffee cup in her direction before replying. "It's okay. It is hard. Sometimes when I look at her, it's like I'm seeing someone else lying there. My Emily isn't so pale and still. But then I remember every minute of our time together and I still feel the connection between us, and I know that she's still there. She's still fighting."
"I hope she wins the fight, Zander," Elizabeth said softly.
"If anyone can do it, Emily can," he replied. Then Zander checked his watch. "It's getting late and I'm beat. Thanks for the movie, guys."
Elizabeth stood up when he did and gave Zander a hug. "See you tomorrow for your morning caffeine fix?"
Zander smiled. "Yeah…I'll be here. Goodnight, Lucky."
"Bye." Zander headed for the door but not for his car. He headed to the docks instead. For a moment he stood staring out at the water, remembering a happier time when he had almost lived on the water as a kid. A time when Emily hadn't been a part of his life and even then it had felt as if a part of him were missing. Sensing a presence behind him, Zander turned and saw Nikolas standing there, watching him. "Hey."
Nikolas nodded. "Hey, Zander. How are you?"
Zander shrugged. "Okay. You?" He wondered if in some other life, he and Nikolas could have been friends. It was kind of surreal how nice the guy had been to him of late. Zander didn't kid himself, he knew it was because of Emily, but it was still strange.
"I just came from seeing Emily."
Nikolas shrugged. "The same."
Zander didn't know what to say so he simply nodded. Then he ran a hand over his face. He was tired. He glanced at his watch.
"Waiting for someone?" Nikolas queried.
"Nah. Just...hanging out."
Nikolas smiled. "Want some company?"
Zander hid his surprise at the offer. "Thanks…but I kinda want some alone time."
"Sure. I'll go." Nikolas turned and headed for the stairs.
"Night," Zander called after him, feeling the awkwardness of the moment settling over him. Then he heard footsteps coming from the other direction and he turned. "Hey, Benny."
* * * * *
The scream was ripped from Zander's throat and he sat up in bed, shivering and shaking, swiping at the cold sweat that sheened his face. He could feel the anxiety coiling in his stomach and it made him want to retch. Heaving himself out of bed, Zander made a mad dash for the bathroom and barely made it in time. He puked until he was wracked with dry heaves, then he sat on the floor with his knees drawn up, willing his mind to erase the image in his head. Emily lying in a coffin.
A long time passed before Zander moved again. He was still shaking as he hauled himself to his feet. There were a packet of pills lying on the side of the sink and Zander opened them with difficulty. He popped one in his mouth then scooped water into his cupped hand to swallow it down. Then he splashed cold water on his face, brushed his teeth, and practically crawled back to bed. The sheets were damp from his night sweats, which had been occurring for the past week. So Zander grabbed the bed spread and moved to the chair by the window. He curled up and closed his eyes, willing himself to go back to sleep. He could hear how ragged his breathing was and it seemed as if hours passed before the pill kicked in and the vice grip of anxiety lifted from around his lungs and he could breathe again normally. Then his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.
* * * * *
Alexis toyed with her food, she wasn't really hungry. She wished she hadn't agreed to have dinner with Cameron. It wasn't a date or anything, mostly they had gotten together to talk about Zander. "He seems to be doing good," She commented.
"He won't talk to me," Cameron stated.
"You push too hard."
Cameron ran a hand over his face. "He needs to talk about what he's going through, Alexis."
She glared at Cameron. "Zander talks to Gail, remember? Leave him alone. Remember what happened the last time you pushed him too hard."
"I've talked to Gail. She told me that Alexander doesn't open up to her about Emily. Or Peter. Or me."
"She told you that? I thought there was a doctor-patient confidentiality thing going on?"
It was Cameron's turn to glare. "She didn't say it in those exact words. But I could tell by what she did say that my son isn't talking about the things he needs to talk about."
Alexis let her fork drop onto her plate with a clang and locked eyes with Cameron. "You listen to me. You don't know what Zander needs to talk about. You know NOTHING about Zander! You had a chance to know what a great guy your son is, but you threw it away, just like you pretty much threw Zander away. You are part of his problem. You sure as hell aren't the person who is going to be able to fix Zander."
"So you admit he's broken?" Cameron countered, almost gleefully.
"Aren't we all?" Alexis took a calming breath. "And that most definitely includes you, Dr. Lewis."
Cameron sighed and nodded. "I know. Physician…heal thy self and all that. But it's Alexander I'm worried about right now. Tell me what to do? How do I get him to let me in?"
Alexis huffed, then sighed, then she decided to be blunt. "Stop treating your son like a mental patient, and a particularly annoying one at that. I think that would be a good start."
"I don't treat him like that," Cameron protested.
"Like hell you don't."
Cameron rubbed at his face again. "How should I treat him then?"
Alexis leaned in then said softly, "How about...like a person?"
* * * * *
"Dinner is on me," Gia said, giving Zander a look that brooked no argument.
But he gave her one anyway. "On one condition. We don't talk about Emily." Zander was tired of everyone asking him about her and offering their sympathy, as if she were already dead and gone.
Gia considered for a moment then nodded. "Deal. So...what do you want to talk about?"
"Are you and Nikolas back together?" Zander asked, a teasing glint in his eyes.
"Why would you ask that?"
Zander shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe it's the fact that you two seem to be together most of the time. Speaking of which, where is Nikolas? Why aren't you having dinner with him?"
Gia laughed and playfully smacked Zander on the shoulder. "He's at some board meeting and we're getting together later. And, to answer your question, we're trying things out."
"Are you happy?"
"I think so."
Zander gave Gia a hug. "Then I'm happy for you. And for Lucky and Elizabeth. It's kinda weird though."
Gia nodded. "It is a little strange, but in a good way. We've all done alot of changing. Growing up."
"Change is good," Zander said softly.
"You've certainly done your share of changing, Zander," Gia stated. "You're nothing like the scared kid I first saw three years ago."
"I'm not a kid anymore," Zander allowed. "But I'm still scared."
Gia rubbed his shoulder. "We all get scared, Zander. That's when friends come in handy. And, in case you've forgotten...I’m a friend. Your friend."
Zander chuckled. "I could never forget that, Gia. And I will always be grateful to you for seeing past the *thug* image and accepting me as a good guy. Not that I am a good guy, but it's nice that you think so."
"You are a good guy, Zander," Gia countered. "In spite of all the crap that life has thrown at you...in spite of all the mistakes you've made.....in spite of the way people have hurt you and betrayed you...you show people respect. You value truth and honesty, and when you love someone you love them with everything you have. That's admirable in my book."
"Wow…I've really got you fooled, haven't I?" Zander laughed but his heart wasn't in it. He felt bone tired and sometimes getting through each day left him feeling drained. But he knew he would keep muddling through. He had to. For Emily.
Gia looked at Zander and locked eyes with him. "No…you haven't got me fooled, Zander. I know how much you're hurting right now. I know how sad you are and how alone you feel. I can see it in your eyes. I just wish there was something I could do...or say...to make it better for you."
Zander blinked back tears then pulled Gia into a hug. "You just did," he whispered. "You just did."
* * * * *
Zander listened to Dr. Baldwin scold him. He knew that he wasn't participating in his sessions. He didn't really care.
"Zander, I can't help you if you won't talk to me," Gail stated.
"What do you want me to say?" Zander countered, heaving a sigh. "That I still feel guilty about Pete's death? I do. That I will never forgive my father for the way he treated me? I won't. That I miss Emily? I do. Satisfied?"
Gail slumped into a nearby chair. "You need to work through these feelings, Zander. You need to process them, to deal with them, otherwise you will never move past them."
Zander got up and began to pace. "What if I don't want to move past them? Hmmm? God...we've had this conversation a gazillion times. I like my misery, okay? I don't trust being happy. It's just a set up for me to take a fall in some way. And I'm tired of doing that. I just want to wallow in my misery. And I am dealing with things, aren't I? I'm going work, I'm laying off the booze. I'm hanging out with Elizabeth and Lucky and Gia. I'm living my life. Isn't that the end goal here? The point of all these sessions?"
"Ultimately, yes," Gail allowed. "But what if I told you I think you're just going through the motions, Zander? You're doing what you think you have to do to get people off your back."
Gail rubbed her temples. "I can't. You're very good at it. So far. But it will catch up to you, and that worries me."
Zander shrugged. "Don't let it. I'm nothing to you, Dr. Baldwin. These sessions are court appointed and that is the only reason why I'm here. I'm doing my time, as it were. You're just the unfortunate sap who got stuck with me."
"That's not true, Zander."
"Sure it is. And that's okay with me."
Gail stood up and blocked Zander's path, forcing him to stop pacing. "You don't trust me anymore, do you?"
Zander smiled. "I never did, so you're off the hook. And I'm outta here. Time's up." Zander made good on his escape. He headed out the door and down the hallway towards the men's room. Once inside he slipped into a stall and dug out the foil packet in his back pocket. His hands were shaking as he tried to open it and Zander cursed as he struggled with it. Then suddenly the pill popped out and landed with a plunk in the toilet. "Fuck!" Zander hissed. It was his last pill. Yanking his cell phone off his belt, Zander punched in a number. His hands were shaking so bad it took two tries before it went through. "I need to see you," Zander said without preamble. "Right now. When then? Okay...one hour. Don't bail on me, Benny." With that Zander hung up and left the stall. He splashed cold water on his face, dried it with a paper towel, and was relieved to see that he looked perfectly normal. Plastering a smile on his face, Zander left the men's room and headed for the elevator. It was time to visit Emily.
* * * * *
"Zander?"Zander made it to the docks. He was late. He paced for a bit and was relieved to see Benny clomping down the stairs. "Sorry," Zander was quick to apologize.
He froze at the sound of his name. He knew that voice. Wincing, Zander turned to find Edward Quartermaine striding towards him. "Mr. Q," Zander said in greeting.
Edward hemmed and hawed for a moment then said, "Thank you."
"For what?" Zander couldn't help but be suspicious.
"For believing in Emily. For not giving up on her when everyone else seems ready to do so." Edward rubbed a hand over his face and heaved a sigh. "I know that the prognosis doesn't look good, but I'm not ready to let go of my granddaughter, and I'm glad I'm not alone. So...thank you for that."
Zander wasn't sure how to respond. "You're...uh…welcome," he muttered.
Edward looked at Emily's room. "You going to visit her?"
"Actually, I just got done reading to her. Um...I'm heading out to meet a friend for a while."
"Then you won't mind if I sit with her for a while?"
Zander was surprised to be asked. "Of course not. I know Emily will be glad you're with her." Zander glanced at his watch. Benny would be waiting for him. "Good night, Mr. Quartermaine."
Edward nodded. "Goodnight, Zander." He turned and entered Emily's room.
"Twilight Zone moment," Zander muttered beneath his breath, then he headed for the elevators, only to be waylaid by his father. "I'm in a hurry," Zander began.
"I won't keep you," Cameron promised. He drew Zander over to the waiting area. "I just...I wanted to give you something. Actually, it's a gift from your mother."
Zander frowned at the package Cameron held out. It was a narrow box about six inches long. "My mother?" he echoed.
Cameron nodded. "She bought it for you for your birthday...before you left home. I've had it ever since. I'm not sure why. But...I was cleaning out my desk drawer and I saw it and...I want you to have it."
Zander couldn't argue that logic so he took the box and pulled off the top. Inside was an ivory handled pocket knife with his name carved into it. ALEX.
Cameron watched his son. "She picked it out herself."
"It's beautiful. I wish I could thank her."
"I have her number, if you'd like it."
Zander shook his head. "Not now. Maybe later." He couldn't deal with one more complication in his life. "Thanks. Uh…I've gotta go."
Cameron nodded. "All right. Maybe I could call you later?"
"I'd rather you didn't," Zander said shortly, then he turned on his heel and headed for the elevator.
"Was that Zander?" Monica asked, as she approached Cameron.
Monica studied Cameron. "How are things between the two of you?"
"They could be better," Cameron allowed.
"He seems to be doing well."
Cameron stiffened. "You think?" he drawled sarcastically. "When did you get your psychology degree, doctor?" With that Cameron turned on his heel and strode off.
* * * * *
"It's okay, Zman. You're a good customer," Benny replied. He held out a foil packet.
"Thanks." Zander traded it for a fifty. He didn't wait but popped out a pill and swallowed it dry.
Benny watched. "You okay, man?"
Zander nodded. "Great."
"Call me if you need more," Benny said, before clomping back up the stairs.
"Sure," Zander called after him. He wasn't even sure what Benny had said to him. All he wanted was to feel numb again, if only for a little while. He moved to sit on the end of the pier as he waited and pulled the pocket knife from his coat pocket. Idly, Zander traced his fingertip over his name. It didn't feel like it belonged to him anymore. Alex was a whole different person. A person he didn't even really remember. A person he didn't want to remember.
Flicking open the blade, Zander began stabbing the tip into the wood between his legs. Stab…stab…stab. A sudden memory hit him. He vaguely remembered hearing his father's voice when he had been out of it. Telling him that he had made so many mistakes with him. Telling Zander he was sorry. And a part of Zander had almost believed him. Almost.
Too many childhood memories were locked in Zander's mind. Harsh words and painful moments that still ached deep inside him. Zander couldn't forgive what he couldn't forget. Not where his father was concerned. Cameron had spent too much time, too many years, pounding it into Zander's head that he was worthless. That he would never amount to anything. That unlike Peter he would always be a failure. That he was stupid and a waste of space. "Bastard!" Zander hissed, and the knife blade thumped harder into the wood.
Zander didn't want to think about his father anymore. The pill was starting to kick in and a warm flush spread throughout his body. He could feel himself relaxing, but his mind was still chaos.
Thoughts of Emily danced in Zander's head. How strong and brave she was. Zander still believed he had been far more terrified overall during her kidnapping. He had admired her spirit even then. A smile curved his lips as he thought about all the good times. Dancing under a street light. Snowball fights in winter. Kissing in the barn. Making love in the boat house. Beautiful, perfect, memories that Zander would treasure forever.
But even Emily's love couldn't banish the guilt and the pain that were a part of Zander's soul. He remembered the day Pete had died. His father had sedated him for two days following the incident so Zander didn't remember much of what happened.
His mother had tried to help him deal with things at first. But once Peter was buried in the ground, she had slowly fallen apart. And Zander's father had blamed him for that as well.
Zander wondered where his mother was now. He wondered if she missed him. He missed her alot. Even though she hadn't always defended him against his father. Even though she sometimes blew him off the same way his father did, favoring Peter over him, Zander still loved her. For trying. "I'm sorry, mom," Zander whispered, blinking back tears. One slid down his face and Zander lifted a hand to brush it away. He was surprised to see blood on his hand.
"Hey Lucky." Zander didn't have to turn around to recognize who called him.
Lucky moved to the end of the dock. "What are you doing out here?" he asked, then he gasped. "Zander…oh my god!"
Zander felt fingers clamping around his wrist. He whimpered because it hurt and tried to tug his arm away but his muscles suddenly felt leaden.
"I need help!" Lucky shouted, as he struggled to keep pressure on Zander's open wrist. "It's gonna be okay, man. Just hang in there."
"Lucky?" Nikolas came running up with Gia in tow. One look at Zander told the story. "Gia…call 911." Nikolas was already on his knees on Zander's other side. He saw the knife in Zander's right hand and tried to pry it out of his fingers. Zander struggled against him. "Easy," Nikolas said softly.
Zander pushed at Nikolas then he tried to kick Lucky away from him. "No!" he screamed, clutching the knife in his fist. "Leave me alone!" They were crowding him and Zander felt as if he were going to suffocate. It wasn't supposed to be like this. In his dreams, Pete had always promised Zander that dying wasn't scary and it didn't hurt.
Lucky held tight to Zander's wrist. "Grab him," he told his brother.
"Did you call 911?" Nikolas yelled at Gia, even as he grabbed Zander and helped Lucky to pin him down. It was hard watching Zander struggle to escape them. He was heaved up against them and Nikolas swallowed bile when he saw the blood that seeped out from between Lucky's fingers. "Gia!"
"They're on their way," she stated. "What can I do?"
Nikolas' expression was grim. "Pray," he whispered, then he set himself to keeping a firm grip on Zander, as the younger man struggled desperately against them.