Flame Turns Blue
Chapter 14Zander looked around his father's place. Not the apartment he had expected, nor the cabin in the woods. It was a good sized house with a big yard. "Doesn't seem like your type of place," Zander commented.
Cameron shrugged. "It's close to the hospital and the price was right. Your room is up the stairs, first door on the left."
"Thanks." Zander headed for the stairs with his duffle bag. He found the room and was surprised at how big it was. It was decorated simply. A bed, chair, desk and night stand and the walls were painted a soothing blue. Zander tossed his bag on the bed and sat down on the edge.
"You feeling okay?" Cameron asked.
Zander rubbed a hand over his face and was startled by the white bandage on his wrist. It still seemed so surreal to him, what had happened. "I'm a little tired," Zander admitted. He figured maybe his father would back off for a while. Zander wasn't up to any confrontations.
Cameron moved the duffle bag off the bed and grabbed the blanket that was lying on the back of the chair. "Take a nap. Doctor's orders."
"Right," Zander drawled. But he was tired enough to give in. He kicked off his shoes, crawled up to the head of the bed then curled up on his side. His eyes were already closed and he was drifting off when he felt the blanket draped over him. And just before sleep claimed him, Zander could have sworn he felt his father's hand in his hair.
* * * * *
"You didn't each much."
Zander smiled at Elizabeth. "Sorry...mom," he teased her.
Elizabeth mock glared at him then sat down. "How are you feeling? Really."
"I guess I'm okay." Zander fiddled with the straw from his coke. He had gotten in the habit of coming to Kelly's every day for coffee on the way to work and back again for dinner. Mainly because he was trying to avoid his father without breaking curfew or the other house rules, as it were. The down side to that was that Elizabeth and Lucky, along with Gia and Nikolas, frequented the place. And they all had a tendency to hound him. It had been two weeks since Zander had slit his wrist, but no one seemed able to move past it. "How are things with you and Lucky?" Zander countered.
"We're doing pretty good," Elizabeth replied. "You look tired, Zander. And I'm not saying that to drive you crazy. You just do. Is it rough staying with your father?"
Zander sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "It's awkward, at best. At worst it's like reliving my childhood which thoroughly sucked the first time around, so the repeat performance isn't exactly fun. He has no clue how to be a father to me, and I have zero interest in trying to be his son."
Elizabeth reached for Zander's hand. "I'm sure I don't make it easier on you. Any of us. But I think you need this, Zander. I think it would be too easy for you to slip back into your old ways otherwise."
"Yeah…I know." Zander squeezed Elizabeth's hand then stood up and fished in his jeans for a ten dollar bill. "Every night I think about sneaking off to Jake's for a beer. Or a bottle of Jack. And it would be all too easy to hook up some pills. But I know I can't do that anymore. Emily is going to need me and I can't be a train wreck. So...I'm gonna suck it up and get through this."
"I'm here if you need to talk, or anything." Elizabeth gave Zander a hug.
Zander hugged her back. "Thanks. It helps knowing that I'm not alone." He smiled then headed for the door. Dr. Baldwin had cancelled Zander's morning appointment, but had rescheduled it for tonight and he didn't dare be late.
* * * * *
Alexis watched Cameron poke holes in his baked potato. "How is Zander doing?"
"I don't know." Cameron put his fork down. "He doesn't talk to me much."
"You seemed surprised by that. What did you expect, Cameron. That just because Zander is living with you, under duress no less, he was suddenly going to bond with you and everything would be hunky dory."
Cameron cocked an eyebrow and drawled, "Hunky dory? Who says that?"
Alexis glared at him. "I say that. Seriously...what's your take on Zander? Is he doing okay?"
"He seems to be," Cameron allowed. "But that doesn't mean anything. My son has a tendency to hide what he's actually feeling, even from himself."
"Yeah...he does do that. Wonder where he got it from?"
Cameron sighed. "Are you done? I have some work to do at the hospital and I want to be home by Alexander's curfew." Without waiting for a reply, Cameron tossed some money on the table then left.
Alexis grabbed a bread stick in lieu of dessert and followed.
* * * * *
"Do you want a drink?"
Zander stopped pacing and glared at Dr. Baldwin. "Is that a trick question?"
She smiled and shook her head. "No...it's an honest one and I'd like an honest answer."
"Yeah...I'd like a beer. Or two. Or a shot of JD. Happy?"
"Or a pill?" Gail shot back.
Zander combed back his hair then shook his head. "Yes and no," he replied. "I want to feel numb, but I'll take a pass on the withdrawal thing. It really sucks." He moved to a nearby chair and dropped into it. "Plus I know I can't screw up again. If I do you and my dad will lock me up somewhere and probably throw away the key. And Emily needs me here."
Gail nodded. "Do you want to talk about Emily?"
"What do you want to talk about?"
Zander managed a semi smirk. "Nothing."
Gail laughed then tapped her notepad on her knee. "You've been making good progress of late, Zander. I know that you're working hard to deal with everything. To pull yourself together and I have alot of admiration for you."
"I hear a *but* in there," Zander stated.
"But...I'm afraid you're doing all of this for all the wrong reasons."
Zander frowned. "Meaning?"
Gail locked eyes with Zander. "You can't fix yourself just because of Emily, Zander. You have to want to be better and strong for yourself. You have to be your own motivation or everything you're doing will be short term."
"Why? Doesn't everyone need motivation to accomplish their goals and their dreams? Why is it different for me?"
"Motivation is good. For most people it's about fulfilling their own dreams. Being rich. Being famous. Being happy."
Zander felt angry and suspicious. As if he were being set up to take a fall somehow. "Being loved," he interjected. "Isn't that what matters most? And I have that. Because of Emily. So I see nothing wrong with me putting the pieces of my life back together for her."
Gail leaned forward in her chair. "But what if Emily dies, Zander? What happens to you then?"
"She's not going to die!" Zander jumped up and was halfway to the door when he realized he had no where to go. If he walked out both Dr. Baldwin and his father would chalk it up as a sign that he couldn't handle things and they would start racking up reasons to send him away. Zander turned back. "Sorry," he apologized. He scrubbed a hand over his face and sat down again. "I know that Emily could die. But I can't live my life waiting for that to happen. I can't let myself believe in it...I can't. Don't ask me to do that."
"I just want you to be prepared for the worst case scenario, Zander." Gail's voice was soft. "You don't share much with me and you're hard to get to know, but I have figured out that you judge your own worth by Emily's love for you. You see Elizabeth's friendship as born out of her love for Emily. You believe that Lucky and Nikolas are nice to you only because of Emily. As if they wouldn't be nice to you based on your own merits. You have zero sense of self worth, Zander...and that scares the hell out of me."
Zander was surprised. Not by her statements, because she was right. But that she was scared of it. "What does it matter?" he countered.
Gail sighed. "It should matter to you, Zander. Your father really did a number on you growing up, didn't he?"
"I'm not going to talk about him." Zander glanced at the clock and realized it was a little past the hour. "Time to go," he stated. With that Zander stood up and headed for the door. He opened it and was surprised to find Monica standing there. The look on her face made Zander's insides twist into knots. "Emily?" he whispered.
"I'm sorry, Zander, but we had to put her on a respirator." Monica brushed away a tear. "I just wanted you to be prepared."
Zander nodded then asked, "Can I see her?"
Monica smiled. "Of course. I'll go with you." She held out her hand.
"She hasn't given up," Zander whispered, as he took Monica's hand. And it was only when she untangled her fingers to wrap an arm around his waist, that Zander realized he was shaking.
* * * * *
Zander could feel himself twitching. He could feel the panic welling up inside him, making his chest tighten, making his heart pound in his chest. His breathing became harsh pants that echoed in his ears and pain thumped in his temples. He knew he was dreaming this time but it was as if he were trapped in the moment and unable to escape and that sent his anxiety into overdrive.
"NO!" The scream was ripped from Zander's throat and his body shot upright on the couch. He buried his face in his hands, feeling the sheen of sweat on his skin as he focused on trying to breathe. The image in his head would not leave him. Emily, dressed in white and covered in blood. His blood and her blood. Weeping blood from her eyes even. Whispering that she loved him as she cut her own wrists over and over again to match his own. Telling him she would never leave him...they would always be together.
Zander jumped when a hand touched his shoulder. He couldn't stop shaking, couldn't control his breathing. He wanted to scream at his father to leave him alone but his throat felt raw and his lips couldn't form the words. Breathing was supposed to be instinct but Zander seemed to have forgotten how. His lungs were burning and every hitched breath was like a stabbing pain.
Cameron gripped his son's shoulders. "Listen to me, Alexander. I want you to focus on me for a minute and follow my breathing. Okay? You can do this. Just follow my breathing. In...." He drew a deep breath. "Out...." He exhaled slowly.
It was hard to concentrate but Zander found himself matching his father's pattern and suddenly the burning in his chest eased, as did the throbbing in his temples. And black spots no longer danced before his eyes. Then he felt himself being eased back into the pillows of the couch.
"How long have you been suffering from panic attacks?" Cameron asked.
'What do you care?" The words were meant to be harsh, but they came out as a ragged whisper.
Cameron said nothing. He rose to his feet and disappeared but soon returned with a glass of water. "Drink it."
Zander obeyed him without question for once. The water soothed his throat.
"I have some breathing techniques for easing panic attacks," Cameron stated. "I could show them to you."
"Maybe later." Zander rose from the couch on shaky legs and batted away his father's helping hand. "What time is it?"
Cameron glanced at his watch. "Almost midnight. You fell asleep on the couch and I let you stay there. You were exhausted. I heard about Emily being put on the respirator. I'm sorry, Alexander."
Zander glared at his father. "Why? Because it's one step closer to the grave?" he snarled. The images from Zander's dream danced eerily in his head and he scrubbed at his forehead with one hand. "She's not giving up, Dad, and neither am I."
"Alexander...you need to talk about this. About what it means."
"It means that Emily has to fight harder and I have to help her. I have to keep believing in her." Zander paced around the living room, wishing a bottle of Jack Daniels would magically appear. He was almost desperate for a drink. He wanted to get mind-blowingly drunk, pass out, then sleep without dreaming for a week.
Cameron sighed. His beeper went off and he sighed again. He went to the phone and called in. Hanging up he turned to his son. "I have to go in to the hospital."
Zander said nothing.
"If you need me, call me."
"Whatever." Zander watched his father go. He ran upstairs and jumped in the shower. He dressed quickly in jeans and a pullover, grabbed his jacket and longed for his keys only to realize that his father must have taken them with him. Zander cursed then a smile curved his lips. Five minutes later he was on his way having hot wired his car.
* * * * *
"Aren't you out past curfew?"
Zander looked up to see Alexis standing before him. He had been sitting on the docks for over an hour. Sitting and thinking and remembering. "You gonna turn me in?" he asked.
Alexis sat down beside him. "I should. Convince me not to."
"I just needed some fresh air and a chance to think."
Zander shrugged. "Everything. I actually broke curfew to head for Jake’s and a beer."
Alexis rubbed his arm. "What stopped you?"
"Emily. I can't screw up again. She needs me."
"I wish there was something I could do, or say, to help you through this, Zander."
He pulled her into a hug. "Just promise me you'll slap some sense into me if I screw up again. Okay?"
Alexis chuckled as she hugged him back. She eased away and pressed her palm to Zander's face. "You have my word and I'm a world class slapper." Rising to her feet, Alexis pulled Zander to his. "Time to go home."
"Yeah." Arm in arm, Zander and Alexis left the docks. But Zander still carried with him the image of Emily, covered in blood.
* * * * *
"Hey Emily." Zander sat down on the stool next to her bed. He tried to ignore the rasp of the ventilators and the various other beeping noises. He tried to pretend there weren't tubes and lines coming out of Emily. He simply took her hand, the one without tubing, and brought it to his lips. "I miss you, baby. You have no idea how much. I don't do too good without you, but I'm trying. When you wake up you're gonna need me and I'm gonna be there for you." A tear slid down Zander's face and he brushed it away.
"I had a dream about you last night. It was a good dream. Mostly. You were beautiful and perfect and you came to me and we made love. Then we danced in the moonlight. I can still hear you laughing. Then you kissed me and you told me that that you love me and you always will. And that no matter what happens...you will always be with me. And all I had to do was remember that and everything would be okay." Another tear slid down his cheek and Zander swiped it away with his shirt sleeve. "When I woke up I could almost feel you with me. We're still connected, baby. That's how I know you haven't given up yet. You haven't given up on us...or on me." Zander couldn't stop the tears from falling now. He leaned in to kiss Emily's pale lips then he turned and headed for the door. He saw Bobbie at the front desk and managed to smile at her. He saw Monica in the elevator and was able to make her smile, even laugh for a moment. Then Zander was in his car, and he drove to a familiar place.
* * * * *
"Dammit!" Cameron slammed the phone down on the desk, earning a glare from Bobbie. He glared back.
Cameron turned to find Nikolas standing there. "Yes, something is wrong. Alexander blew off curfew and his call ins. And I'm stuck here at the hospital so I can't go look for him."
Nikolas nodded. "I'll find him."
"Why? You don't even like my son."
"Does it matter why?"
Cameron shook his head, realizing he was biting off Nikolas' head for no reason. "No, it doesn't matter. Please find Alexander." He pulled out his business card. "This has all my numbers including my beeper. Keep me informed."
Nikolas put the card in his pocket. "I can do that." Then he headed for the elevator.
* * * * *
Zander smiled as he took fifty bucks from another sucker. He waved his pool stick and asked, "Anyone else?" But there were no takers. He had pretty much beaten them all and it was a rather slow night for Jake’s. "Okay. I'll be at the bar if you want another shot." Dropping the pool stick in its slot, Zander sauntered over to the bar. "He downed the shot of Jack that was waiting for him and was about to order another when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. Whirling around, Zander groaned as a fist connected with his chin. He had double vision for a moment then shook his head to glare at his attacker. A guy not much taller than him but twice his weight. "What the hell was that for?"
"You cheat!" The guy snarled.
"Say what?" To Zander those were fighting words. He lashed out and the guy screamed as his nose was flattened. Zander grinned. It was time to have some fun. Or it would have been had not Coleman, and Nikolas, intervened.
Zander glared at them both but backed off and turned back to the bar. He cursed when Coleman refused to serve him anymore. "Fuck you!"
Coleman smirked. "Too late." He looked at Nikolas. "Take the kid home, wouldja?"
"Yeah...I will." Nikolas studied Zander for a moment then said, "You missed curfew."
"Yep. Missed three call ins too. Whasit to ya?"
Nikolas sighed. "Your father is freaked out. He kinda sent me to find you."
Zander laughed at the image. "My dad? Freaked out? Right. He's probably hoping I disappear."
"Let's go, Zander." Nikolas reached for his arm only to have his hand smacked away.
"I can walk." Zander headed for the door, his stride only a bit exaggerated.
Nikolas was surprised but followed. "You're making this awfully easy."
Zander chuckled as he slid into the passenger seat of Nikolas' car. "Might as well go home. Coleman cut me off."
"Good point. Want to talk about it?"
Nikolas started the car and headed out. "Want to listen to some music?"
Zander nodded then leaned his head against the head rest. "God...I'm so tired." He was glad when Nikolas said nothing but simply turned on the radio and drove home. Once there Zander thanked Nikolas then got out of the car. He was surprised when Nikolas followed him. "You don't have to baby-sit me."
"Yeah I do. And I have to call your father." Nikolas followed Zander into the house.
"Whatever." Zander moved to the couch and flopped down on his back. He closed his eyes and willed the room to stop spinning.
Nikolas called Dr. Lewis on his cell phone, told him Zander was home, then hung up. "Your dad will be home soon."
Zander snorted. "Yippee."
"I'll stick around." Nikolas waited for a smart remark but none was forthcoming. Zander was asleep. He covered him with a blanket then decided to leave.
The moment the door closed, Zander was off the couch. He headed up to his room and removed the bottle of Jack and the two packets of pills he had stashed there a few days ago. His father hadn't bothered to look for them since Zander had been so well behaved of late. Zander's fingers shook as he tore open the packets. He swallowed all eight pills down with the Jack then sat with his back against the wall to wait.
* * * * *
Cameron opened the door and heard a crash. He ran for the stairs and found Zander in his room, trashing it. The bed was torn apart, the mirror on the wall was shattered, the chair was in pieces. And his son was staggering around, drinking from a bottle of Jack. "Alexander!" Cameron ran forward and grabbed the bottle, then ducked the punch his son swung at him. One look at him and he knew he was high. Cameron smashed the bottle to the floor then grabbed his son by the shoulders. "What did you take?" he demanded.
"What...what do you care?" Zander shot back, his words slurred. "Leave me…alone!"
"Dammit, Alexander! I need to know what you took and how much?" Cameron shook his son.
Zander laughed. "Good stuff...and…n-not…not enough of it. I'm not...not numb yet. I can still... feel her."
Cameron was angry and scared. "When did you take them?" he asked. "Tell me!"
But Zander wasn't listening. He was still muttering beneath his breath. "I can feel her...but it's not…it's not the same." His voice broke on a sob. "I can't lose her. I can't.." Zander reached out as if touching someone only he could see.
"Alexander listen to me!" Cameron felt his son try to pull away from him. He held on tight as Zander struggled against him, screaming at him to let him go. Begging him. But Cameron couldn't let go. Not this time. He wrapped his arms around his son and held on tight. Then he stumbled as Zander's body suddenly went limp and his eyes rolled back in his head.
"Alexander!" Cameron watched in horror as his son's body spasmed, gripped in seizures. "Alex? Alex!" Cameron fell to his knees, holding his son in the curve of one arm as he grabbed for his cell phone and dialed 911 with a shaking hand. Then Cameron checked for a pulse but Zander's body was spasming too hard for him to find one. Then suddenly he went still. Cameron checked for a pulse and for breath. The pulse was barely there but there were no breath sounds. Snapping into *doctor mode*, Cameron began CPR on his son.