Flame Turns Blue

Chapter 16

Zander shook his head as Monica approached him. He wanted to keep her at bay and he tried to raise his hands, forgetting about the restraints. He tugged at them desperately, his breathing becoming ragged and he started gagging from the tube in his throat.

Monica reached him, her voice husky from her tears. "Zander...take it easy. You have to calm down."

"Alexander?" Cameron jerked awake and saw that his son was awake as well. Awake and sobbing and gagging. He looked at Monica, who was crying as well. "What's going on?"

"Emily...Emily, she just passed away." Monica pressed her hands to her face as her tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

Cameron was stunned. "I'm so sorry." Then he looked at his son. "Alexander..."

Zander shook his head. He wanted to scream at them, to tell them it wasn't true. It couldn't be true. But he knew it was because the connection between him and Emily was broken, the way he felt broken. Sobs shook Zander and the tubing made him cough and gag.

"You have to calm down, Alexander," Cameron stated, as the monitors went off.

Bobbie came running into the room and Monica ordered a sedative for Zander.

He struggled against the hands that tried to restrain him. He had to get to Emily. He had to say goodbye. And he couldn't let her be alone. But despite his efforts, the sedative was administered and Zander felt lethargy creep over him. He blacked out for a moment and when he opened his eyes again, he realized the tubing had been removed. He whispered Emily's name but it was little more than a harsh croaking sound.

"It's going to be all right, Alexander," Cameron said. He was sitting on a stool next to the bed.

Zander heard him but didn't respond. Tears slid down his face and he couldn't stop them. Couldn't even wipe them away because of the restraints. He couldn't make his father understand that Emily needed him. Zander closed his eyes and rocked himself, his heart, mind and soul reaching out to Emily. But she wasn't there anymore. He was all alone. All alone.

* * * * *

Cameron watched from the doorway as Gail Baldwin talked to his son. Alexander was unresponsive. He simply lay there, his eyes unfocused, obviously not listening to Gail. Not listening to anyone. Only once had Zander been reactive. He had been released from his restraints and once the room was cleared he had tried to leave the bed only to collapse on the floor. Cameron had found him crawling towards the door. Crawling to reach Emily. Cameron had choked back tears as he held his son, and Zander had been too weak to put up any resistance, he had simply lain there sobbing and whispering Emily's name.

That had been three days ago. Emily had been buried today and Zander had been unable to attend. Physically and emotionally, he was a wreck and Cameron didn't know what to do to help him. Dr. Baldwin insisted that it would simply take time and patience. To her credit, she had spent every spare hour she had with Zander. Cameron appreciated her efforts. But he knew it wasn't enough. Nothing anyone did was enough. But he gave credit to everyone who tried.

Lucky was the first one to visit Zander after the funeral. Cameron knew he should have given them some privacy, but he found himself lingering outside the door.

"Hey, Zander," Lucky offered in greeting. He got no response. Lucky noticed the restraints on Zander and he wondered why they were there. Zander didn't move a muscle, he just lay there, eyes open, staring at the far wall, or maybe at nothing. "God...I don't know what to say to you. It was a rough day, but it was a nice ceremony. Emily would have liked it. Everyone made the effort to remember her with a smile instead of tears, the way she would have wanted." Lucky broke off and had to clear his throat before he could continue. "I wish you could have been there. I think it would help if you could say goodbye to her. You have to do that, Zander. You have to let go of Emily...and you have to start living again. She would want you to do that." Lucky stared at Zander and it was almost creepy the way Zander didn't even seem to blink. Rising to his feet, Lucky waved goodbye. "I'll see you later, Zander." He turned and walked out.

Cameron nodded to Lucky as he left then reentered his son's room. He studied Alexander for a long moment. No change. Blinking back tears, Cameron left again. He missed the single tear that slid down Zander's face.

* * * * *

Zander was fully aware of Nikolas' presence. He had been aware of everyone who had paraded through his room for the past few days. It had been hard to tune them out, especially when Lucky had come to visit and had rambled on about Emily's funeral. Zander hadn't wanted to listen, but it was impossible not to hear. He tried to turn a deaf ear to Nikolas now, but it was hard.

"Sorry I didn't come sooner," Nikolas stated. "We didn't want to gang up on you though, and Elizabeth and Gia both feel like they're not ready to face you without falling apart. And you don't need that right now. So...that's why Lucky came alone yesterday. After he left we all hooked up at Kelly's for a few hours. Just to hang out and remember the good old days. You came up alot in conversation. There's no way to talk about Emily without mentioning you. You were a very important part of her life, Zander. And even though you and I have never exactly been friends...I'm grateful that you were a part of her life. I'm glad that Emily had someone who loved her the way she deserved to be loved."

Nikolas had been standing at the foot of the bed, his eyes locked on Zander's face, searching for a reaction of any kind. Then he saw it, Zander's eyes closed and a shudder ran through him.

"Zander...I know how hard this is for you. I know that you feel as if you lost everything that matters in your life. That your reason for living is gone. But you can't do this…okay? You can't just shut yourself from the world. You're alive whether you want to be or not. And Emily would want you to live. You know that. So please...don't shut us out. Let us in...let someone in...and we'll help you get through this, Zander. Even though Emily is gone...you're not alone. And she will always be in your heart."

Zander didn't want to hear this. Nikolas didn't understand. Emily was the only reason life was worth living. She was the only person who had ever believed in him and now she was gone. He wanted to scream at Nikolas to get out, but the words were locked in his throat. Zander started rocking, started banging his head against the pillow as if that might make the words go away. Maybe it would make Nikolas go away.

"Maybe I should go," Nikolas said, as he watched Zander rocking. He left the room and stopped at the desk to let Bobbie know what was happening.

Zander was still rocking when Bobbie entered the room. He heard her telling him to relax and he felt the pinprick of the needle as she gave him something to make him sleep. And for that he was grateful. He just wished the darkness would drag him down forever.

* * * * *

It was a rough time for everyone. Despite a progression of visitors, Zander was unresponsive to them. He was making no forward progression at all. Cameron was at his wit’s end. Gail was with Alexander, one of their daily sessions, and Cameron watched them from the doorway. When she stood up he walked out into the corridor to wait for her. "Any change?" he asked, when she joined him.

"Not really. We'll see how things go today. I told him he has to start eating and that if he doesn't he will be force-fed and it won't be very pleasant."

"Trying to shock a reaction from him?"

Gail shrugged. "It's a simple and basic reality. It might be the one thing that will work."

Cameron sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "I hope you're right. It scares me that he's not getting any better."

"He doesn't want to get better."

"I know. Maybe I should just send him away."

Gail shook her head. "I think that's a really bad idea right now. Zander is in there. He's aware of everything going on around him. He's just not ready to be a part of it yet. But don't give up on him
so soon."

Cameron forced a cold smile. "Funny...Alexander would tell you I gave up on him a long time ago." That said, Cameron turned and walked away, only he had no idea where he was going.

* * * * *

Zander struggled against the hands that held him. He cursed silently at his lack of strength. An oversized syringe was pushed between his lips and a moment later some liquefied type of food product gushed into his mouth. It made Zander want to gag. Reflexively he had no choice but to swallow it and then he did begin coughing, and tears welled up in his eyes. But the hands holding his head didn't let go and when the syringe came toward him again, Zander choked out, "No!"

"Let him go," Gail ordered. She was standing off to the side, observing. When everyone backed away she approached the bed. "Zander. Are you ready to eat now?"

"Yes." He wouldn't look at her.

Gail waved everyone out of the room then pulled over the bed stand.

Zander looked at the food on the tray. Soup and jello and toast. He didn't want any of it but he got the hint. He was going to eat one way or another. His choice. Zander tugged on his restraints to get his point across.

"I'm only undoing your right hand," Gail stated, as she did so. "The restraints go back on once you're done eating."

"I..I won't hurt myself," Zander whispered. He reached for a piece of toast and took a bite as a way to show her that he was ready to play by her rules.

Gail watched him carefully. "I want to believe you, Zander, but you have to show me that you're ready to get better. You have to prove to me that I can trust you. Do you understand?"

The toast was dry and it nearly choked Zander to swallow it, but he did so then he nodded. "What do I have to do to get out of here?"

"Make an effort to get better. It’s that simple, Zander." Gail sat on the stool by the bed. "We'll start daily sessions until you leave the hospital, then I think three times a week will suffice. And when you do leave you'll be released into your father's custody, as it were. You'll have to continue to live with him."

"For how long?" Zander put the toast down and reached for a glass filled with a pale gold liquid.
He took a swallow and made a face. Apple juice. But he drank some more because it helped the toast go down.

Gail shrugged. "It'll be for a while, Zander. For the record, your father has made arrangements to work from home once you're released. We discussed it and we both agree that you need constant supervision, at least for a while."

Zander felt a flare of anger, but it didn't last long. He was too tired to care anymore. What he wanted never mattered to anyone anyway. He was never going to deserve a happy ending. And with Emily gone there was nothing to look forward to anyway. Zander had nothing to prove to anyone anymore. But he couldn't resist commenting, "I feel like I'm twelve years old."

"You have to earn our trust, Zander."

"Why? What difference does it make?" Zander pushed the tray away. If he tried to eat anything else he would puke. "I don't care about you or my father. I don't care what you think about me."

Gail nodded. "I know. But what you don't seem to understand is that we care about you. And Emily would care, Zander. And that should matter to you."

Zander flinched and closed his eyes. He would not talk about Emily. "I'm tired," he whispered. He felt Dr. Baldwin redoing the restraint and he didn't even care.

"We'll talk again later," Gail stated. "I'll be back for supper."

Zander heard her go and when he was alone again he let the tears he had been holding back fall. But he vowed that this would be the last time. He would never cry again. He would never love again or care about anyone or anything again. It hurt too much and Zander was tired of the pain.

* * * * *

Zander was frustrated. Four days had passed since he had reached his so-called breakthrough with Dr. Baldwin. They had daily sessions since then and she told him she was pleased, overall, with his progress. Enough so that the restraints had been removed yesterday. But Zander was not so pleased. His body was not recovering fast enough for his liking and it grated at him. Monica Quartermaine had told him that his recovery was slow for several reasons. One being that he wasn't as motivated to heal as he usually was and that in the past few months his body had reached its breaking point between his infection and fever, the suicide attempt and then the overdose. She told him it would take time and that he would have to be patient.

As he walked, slowly, down the hospital corridor, Zander thought about Monica. She had tried to talk to him about Emily. She had tried giving him a journal that had belonged to Emily. A special journal dedicated solely to her thoughts of Zander. He had refused it. He didn't want to think about Emily. He didn't want to wrap himself in memories. He didn't want to know her thoughts about him. It was too painful. He just wanted out of here. Zander was beginning to feel trapped. Not just by the hospital walls, but by his own, traitorous, body. Which picked this moment to fail him. Zander's knees buckled and he would have fallen had strong hands not caught him.

"You okay?" Nikolas asked.

"Just swell," Zander snapped. He was grateful for the support, but hated the fact that he needed it. So he pulled away and had to catch the wall to keep upright.

Nikolas frowned. "Let me help you back to your room."

Zander shook his head. "No. I haven't made it around the corridor yet."

"I don't think you're going to make it, Zander. Not this outing."

"Leave me alone." There was no malice in Zander's tone, he just made a simple request.
Nikolas sighed and walked away.

Zander heaved a sigh of his own and pushed away from the wall, only to have his knees buckle again. He cursed and realized he would have to eat more as Bobbie had told him. No food, no strength.

"Have a seat."

"What?" Zander looked up to see Nikolas approaching with a wheelchair. He shook his head. "I'm not getting in that thing."

Nikolas smiled. "Okay. Then I'll carry you back to your room. You've gotten so skinny that it’ll be easy enough to do."

Zander glared at him. "Touch me and I'll kick your ass!" he warned.

"Not even in your wildest dreams," Nikolas countered. "You don't have the strength to squash a fly right now, Zander. So make your choice. The wheelchair or me."

"Arrogant prick," Zander cursed, as he grabbed the arm of the wheelchair. He sat down and glared at Nikolas again. "I hate you."

Nikolas chuckled. "That's okay. Hate me all you want if that will keep you motivated."

Zander rubbed his face as Nikolas wheeled him down the hallway. "Motivated to what?"
"To live," Nikolas replied. "Emily would want that."

"Shut up!" Zander snarled. "Just shut the fuck up!" He clenched his fists and closed his eyes, as fury washed over him in waves. No one understood what he was feeling. No one could understand what he had lost. What it meant for him to be alone.

Nikolas wheeled Zander into his room then stepped around the chair. "I'll be around, Zander," he said softly, then he left the room.

Anger propelled Zander out of the chair and across the room. He grabbed his water pitcher and flung it against the wall. It was plastic so it didn't shatter, but it made a satisfying thud before spraying water over the floor. When Bobbie ran into the room, Zander glared at her. "I want to see my father!" he snarled.

"I'll get him," Bobbie replied.

Zander made it to the bed and climbed in. He wrapped his arms around his knees and willed himself to stop shaking. But he was still trembling when his father entered the room.

"You wanted to see me," Cameron drawled.

"I want to go home," Zander stated. "Please."

Cameron nodded curtly. "I'll see what I can do."

* * * * *

Dr. Baldwin agreed to let Zander go home with his father. But she wanted him to continue with daily sessions for a while. Cameron had already started working out of his house, seeing three patients a day and working on other things so that he could be with Zander, and so that he was available to take Zander to the hospital for his sessions with Dr. Baldwin. After a week, Zander felt ready to scream.

There was nothing for him to do. He wasn't allowed back to work and he didn't want to go back to ELQ anyway. Too many memories. His father had surprised Zander with a workout bench and weights in the basement. So Zander spent a couple of hours a day lifting weights and using the heavy bag that Cameron had also provided. And that in itself proved frustrating as Zander was slow to regain his strength. But he persevered and his body got stronger, but Dr. Quartermaine was still after him to eat more.

Zander let everything roll off his back. He refused to engage in confrontations with his father. It almost amused him how hard Cameron tried to connect with him. Asking if he wanted to go camping. Or play cards at night. He would suggest movies and even a weekend away in Florida so they could go to the beach. Zander had refused him at every turn. He didn't want to spend quality time with his father.  He didn't want to bond with him, especially when he knew why his father was being so persistent. Guilt. And Zander didn't want to let his father off the hook. Not after the bastard had let him spend five years wallowing in guilt over Pete's death. So Zander simply focused on his physical recovery, and he spent the rest of his time reading, when he wasn't in sessions with Dr. Baldwin or being nagged about eating.

Elizabeth and Gia came by a few times and Zander had been polite but brusque. He didn't want to reminisce with them about Emily and he didn't want to pretend that they had anything else in common. After two weeks they didn't come by anymore, although they did still call. Lucky came by once to see if Zander wanted to shoot some hoops and Zander had almost laughed in his face. Nikolas was the only one wise enough to leave him alone. For that Zander was grateful.

Then Lucky and Elizabeth had dropped by one afternoon, unexpectedly, inviting Zander to go with them to visit Emily's grave. The moment hadn't gone well. The mere mention of Emily's grave had shaken Zander to his core. A part of him knew that they thought it would be good for him to go there, but he couldn't believe that they didn't understand why he couldn't go. In the end Zander had screamed at them to get out and to leave him alone, then he had gone to his room and curled up on his bed, cursing them in lieu of tears that he refused to shed. How could they not know that visiting Emily's grave would mean saying goodbye to her. And Zander wasn't ready to say goodbye. He wasn't ready to let her go.

After that, Lucky and Elizabeth didn't even call him anymore.

One thing did make Zander happy, as it were. He had finally managed to convince his father to leave him alone. They barely spoke two words to each other now and that was fine with Zander. What wasn't fine was being stuck in the house other than his sessions. It was driving him stir crazy. A fact that Dr. Baldwin was now trying to address in his session.

"Why won't you hang out with your friends, Zander? It would get you out of the house."

He had been pacing the office, but he stopped to look at her. "They aren't my friends. They were...they were Emily's friends."

Gail shook her head. "I know that you bonded with Elizabeth on your own and Gia has been more your friend than she ever was Emily's. So nice try, Zander. Now answer the question."

"I don't want friends," he replied.

"Why not?"

Zander shrugged. "I just don't. I don't want them to care about me and I don't care about them."

Gail nodded. "I see. No emotional attachments, right? That way you won't ever be hurt again if you lose them."

"Whatever." Zander plopped down into a nearby chair. "I want to work again. I need the money and it will get me out of the house."

"Ned told me you're welcome back at ELQ."

Zander shook his head. "Not there."

Gail scribbled in her note book. "Okay…where?"

"I don't know. But if you let me off the house arrest I could go out and find something. You have to trust me to live my own life sometime. Right?" Zander smiled but it was a cold curving of his lips. "I haven't tried to off myself in over a month. Trust me, if I wanted to die I'd already be dead. So you can let me off the leash and set me free."

"You haven't made an outright attempt to end your life, Zander," Gail allowed. "But I haven't seen you make much of an attempt to live your life either."

Zander glared at her. "That's what I'm trying to do. The job thing...get it?"

Gail sighed. "Let me think about it. We'll discuss it further in your next session. Which won't be until Monday." It was Friday and they didn't meet over the weekend.

"Whatever." Zander stood up and headed for the door. He wasn't surprised to see his father waiting for him to take him home. "Dad," Zander drawled.

"How was the session?" Cameron asked.

Zander shrugged. "Same old shit. Can we stop for Pizza?"

Cameron was surprised but nodded. "Of course."

"Great." Zander smiled as he led the way to the elevator. It was almost too easy to play his father. But at least it was fun while it lasted.

* * * * *

Nikolas and Gia hooked up with Lucky and Elizabeth at Kelly’s. They tried to keep connected but sometimes it was hard to do so. More because it was hard not to miss Emily when they were all together, rather than because they didn't have the time to spend.

"How's it going?" Gia asked everyone.

"It's getting better," Elizabeth replied. "I don't cry anymore when I think of her."

Gia nodded. "Yeah...time heals all wounds."

Lucky sighed. "For some of us."

They all knew who he meant.

"Have you been to see Zander?" Elizabeth asked of them in general.

"Nope," Gia replied. "I haven't had the courage. I guess that makes me a bad friend."

Nikolas squeezed her hand. "That's not true and you know it. Zander just needs some space right now. He has to figure things out and he's scared."

Lucky frowned at his brother. "You been reading psychology books?" he teased.

"Just guessing," Nikolas replied. "But Zander is in a really dark place right now, and he's got to want to find his way out. I don't think he's ready for that yet. But he is going to need us down the road."

"We'll be here," Elizabeth said softly, speaking for them all.

* * * * *

Zander entered Jake’s. He had been slipping out of the house at night for the past week. His father didn't suspect a thing and Zander intended to keep it that way. He couldn't stand being in that house anymore. And he had been desperate to find a way to feel numb. The beer and Jack helped as did the mindless flirting. And Zander had been winning at pool again so he had enough money to buy the booze. The hard part was keeping his father from noticing when he was hung over, but Zander tended to sleep in and shower before coming downstairs. Popping some aspirin helped and Zander kept a stash in his coat pocket. His father would freak if he knew about them. He was anal about Zander taking vitamins, keeping count of just how many were left in the bottle on a daily basis. As if he could overdose on them or something.

"Hey Coleman," Zander said in greeting as he reached the bar. He was feeling antsy tonight. Hyped up. Zander recognized the feeling. He was looking for trouble. "JD with a beer chaser," he ordered, plopping a ten on the counter. Zander downed the Jack then drained half the beer, before turning around to survey the room. A pretty blonde smiled at him and Zander made a beeline to her. It wasn't long before he had her upstairs in his old room. She was the fourth blonde he had been with in the past week. They were always blond. And the sex was hot and hasty and oddly unsatisfying. But Zander didn't let that stop him.

When it was over they came back downstairs and Zander started shooting pool. He had just beaten some trucker when the guy got in his face accusing him of cheating. That was all Zander needed to hear before popping the guy in the nose. He didn't stand a chance of winning the fight as the guy was twice his size, but Zander didn't care. He was on an adrenaline high and he went with it. And he didn't stop until Coleman dragged the guy off him. It was only then that Zander realized someone was dragging him back as well. He pulled free and whirled around to see
Nikolas watching him. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

Nikolas smiled grimly. "I could ask you the same thing. But I already know that you snuck out. You've been doing that for a while now."

"What are you, my keeper?" Zander shouldered past Nikolas and headed to the bar. He downed a shot of Jack then accepted the towel that Coleman handed him. Zander could feel the burn on his cheek. It wasn't going to be easy to hide from his father. He would have to tell him he fell.

"You keep this up and they're going to send you away, Zander," Nikolas stated.

Zander turned to glare at him. "Like you give a damn. Leave me alone, Nikolas."

Nikolas nodded. "Okay." He turned and walked out.

"Another round, Coleman," Zander ordered. But it wasn't enough. He knew it wouldn't be. Zander didn't want to feel anything. He wanted to be numb. He finished his beer then headed out to the docks. Finding Benny was all too easy. Zander gave him his last fifty then he popped a pill and swallowed it dry. Five minutes later he was feeling no pain as he headed home, the other three pills safely stashed in his pocket.

* * * * *

Cameron closed the door to his son's room. He knew that Alexander had been sneaking out. He knew and he turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to it. He pretended to believe the stories that Alexander told him when he showed up in the morning with a bruised cheek and red knuckles. He pretended not to notice all the symptoms of a hangover. And Cameron had found the pills in Alexander's coat pocket. He debated leaving them there, but in the end he took them and he knew Alexander would never ask about them. He knew that if he sent his son away he would lose him forever. The same thing would happen if he pushed him right now. All he could do was watch and wait. Alexander had to want to save himself. If that didn't happen then nothing Cameron did would help. So as he walked away, Cameron prayed that his son would find the will, and the desire, to live.

* * * * *

By the end of next week, Zander was on a losing streak. He was off his game so he barely had enough money to buy beer, which meant he had no cash left for pills and Benny was ready to cut him off. But Zander was desperate, it was the only way he could sleep at night. Benny came up with the idea. Zander could go back to dealing in exchange for pills. He didn't even hesitate to accept the offer. He had come to this town as a dealer and he would go out the same way. It wasn't like anyone cared. He didn't have to prove himself to anyone anymore anyway.

So that night Zander started dealing again. He slipped into it easily and was welcomed back into the fold. He was on the docks and about to make a sale when a familiar figure got in his face. "Hello, Jason," Zander drawled. "You mind? I'm working here."

"Not on these docks," Jason droned. "This is Sonny's territory."

"Ohhh....gee...am I supposed to be scared now?" Zander taunted. He noticed his mark had run off and that made him mad. "You owe me for that lost sale," Zander stated, getting in Jason's face. "Pay up!"

Jason shook his head. "Don't push it, Zander."

Zander wasn't scared. "Why not? Whatcha gonna do, Jason? Beat me up again? Go for it!" Zander pushed at Jason, just like he had done before. "Come on, big guy. Hit me!" Zander made the first move, however, slugging Jason in the jaw. And that was all it took for Jason to hit back, driving his fist into Zander's midsection, but he only got in one blow before a female voice cut through the air.

"Knock it off!"

When Jason backed off, Zander turned around to see Sonny and Carly standing there. Sonny looked pissed and Carly looked worried. He smiled at them. "Well well...the gang's all here. Want a piece of me too, Sonny?" Zander taunted. Then he made a surprise move, whirling around to slug Jason again. He knew Jason would finish the job and that was what he wanted. No more pain. But to Zander's surprise, a couple of Sonny's goons grabbed him and held him fast. Zander struggled against them to no avail. When he started cursing, a hand clamped over his mouth.

"What's going on?" Sonny asked Jason.

"Zander was dealing and I told him not here," Jason explained. "He needs to be taught a lesson."

Sonny nodded. "I agree." He looked at his men. "Explain to Mr. Smith that I don't allow dealing on my docks."

Carly interrupted. "Don't do that." She moved to Zander and hovered over him protectively. "Leave him alone, Sonny. Can't you see he's all messed up. You do this and you would be doing him a favor. You'd be giving him what he wants."

"Carly...this is business," Sonny stated.

"Like hell it is!" Carly shot back. "This isn't business, Sonny. This is Zander. He used to be your friend, remember. He was good to me and I messed that up. He was good to you too. He looked out for you, Sonny."

Sonny shook his head. "That was a long time ago. And I gave Zander alot of free passes because of it. He used them all."

Carly glared at her husband. "Zander lost the only person who ever really mattered to him! He's hurting." Carly turned to Jason. "You of all people should understand. Emily was your sister. You're hurting too."

"Carly," Sonny began, only to break off at the look she gave him. "What do you want me to do?"

"Let me talk to him. Alone." Carly pleaded.

Sonny sighed and waved off his men. "We'll wait for you in the car." He moved off with Jason and his goons.

Zander glared at Carly. "Fuck you!" he hissed, hoping to shock her into going away. But she held her ground. "Leave me alone, Carly! I don't want your help!"

"I know you don't," she countered, softly. "But you helped me when I needed it most, Zander. I know we're not friends now, but I'm going to do what I can to help you. Whether you like it or not. So don't do this to yourself, okay? I know what it's like to lose someone who is your whole world. I felt that way after I lost my baby, and after I lost my friend. You remember...Carly? I went a little crazy, both times. And that's what you're doing right now, Zander. Going crazy. But you have to stop this, I mean it. Sonny is going to walk away this time, but it won't happen again."

"I don't care," Zander snapped.

Carly blinked back tears. "Yes, you do."

Zander laughed and shook his head. "Don't pretend you understand me, Carly. You don't."

"Emily would hate this."

"Emily is dead!" Zander shouted. "She's rotting in the ground. She doesn't give a damn about me anymore and neither do I! Got that? So leave me the fuck alone!" Zander whirled around and punched the stairwell railing for all he was worth. He could feel the impact jar all the way up his arm. It hurt like a bastard but it was a welcome pain.

Carly reached out to him but pulled back when he turned on her. "Okay…I'm gonna go now. But don't give up on yourself, Zander. You're worth saving. That's all I'm saying." Carly turned and walked away.

Zander laughed but it was a broken sound, even to his own ears. He pulled a packet of pills from his pocket with his good hand and popped one out of the foil. Fuck Benny if he didn't like it. Zander would get the money somehow. He swallowed the pill then dropped down to sit on the bottom step, waiting for the pill to kick in. He didn't even realize it when he started to bang his head against the railing, trading one pain for another.

* * * * *

"Alexander...you're going to be late."

Zander winced at the sound of the voice, it was too loud and pain throbbed in his temples. He turned his head on the pillow and glared at his father. "Late...for what?"

Cameron yanked back the bed covers. "For your session with Dr. Baldwin. I let you sleep in but you need to jump in the shower. I'll have breakfast ready for you. You need to eat something."

"Whatever," Zander drawled. He waited till his father was gone to get out of bed. He had to drag himself into the shower but felt better when he got out. The aspirin he took helped a little. A Bloody Mary would help more. Zander dressed in a tee shirt and jeans then clomped down the stairs. His father had coffee waiting for him and toast. Zander accepted the coffee, but after one sip he was running for the bathroom.

"Here, wipe your face."

Zander accepted the damp towel and did as he was bid. He had pretty much puked his guts out and now he wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed. He looked at his father. They both knew that Cameron knew what was going on. Zander had yet to figure out why his father hadn't said anything to him. Why he let the game go on. Why he hadn't shipped him out to rehab yet. He didn't ask.

Cameron reached down and gripped his son's arm, hauling him up to his feet. "You have to eat something before we go. It will help."

"I don't feel like going today," Zander countered, sullenly.

"You can't miss a session." Cameron practically hauled Zander back into the kitchen. He settled him in a chair and placed a plate of toast in front of him. "Eat."

Zander glared at him. "I said I'm not going!"

Cameron slammed his palms down on the table. "You are going and that's final! Do you want to be shipped out, Alexander? Because if that's the case I can make a call right now and you'll be settled into your new room by nightfall!"

"No." That was all Zander said. He watched his father sit down and drink his own coffee, his eyes never leaving Zander's face. Zander picked up a piece of toast and took a small bite. His stomach protested but the bite stayed down. He managed to eat half a piece.

"Good," Cameron stated. "Go brush your teeth and we'll leave."

Zander said nothing. He simply did as he was told.

* * * * *

"You're late."

Zander looked at Dr. Baldwin and shrugged. "So what? It's not like I want to be here anyway."
Gail sighed and drummed her fingertips on her desk top. "I have to admit, our sessions are not very productive of late. You've become more withdrawn than ever, Zander. That worries me."

"I don't care." He paced about the room. Zander felt like testing his limits today with everyone. "I wanted to blow off today but my father wouldn't let me."

"You look pale, do you feel okay?"

Zander smiled. "I feel great." He wanted a drink and was already counting the hours until he could head to Jake's tonight.

Gail nodded. "What happened to your hand?"

"I got pissed and punched something," Zander replied, staring at his raw knuckles. It hurt like a bitch, his whole arm was sore.

"Did it punch back?" She noticed the bruise on his cheek.

Zander shrugged. "I tripped."

Gail glanced at her notebook then asked, "How is the job hunting coming?"

"Okay I guess. Haven't really been looking all that hard. Not sure what I want to do."

"What are you good at?"

Zander laughed. "Playing pool, drinking, selling drugs and having sex." He went for the shock value and was disappointed when Dr. Baldwin merely smiled at him.

She did write a notation this time. "What about bartending? I bet you could pick that up pretty fast."

"I thought I was supposed to stay away from alcohol."

"Have you been?"

Zander gave her a side long glance. "Trick question?"

It was Gail's turn to shrug. "Just for the record, I'm due to send in a report to the courts at the end of next week. I don't have much to tell them that's positive, Zander."

"Hey...I haven't tried to off myself. Isn't that the point of these sessions? So you're doing your job and I'm doing mine."

"I'm supposed to be helping you deal with everything that's happened in your life and guide you into finding a way to turn things around. You're not doing that."

Zander chuckled. "Well...seems to me like you're the one not doing your job after all. Not my problem."

Gail glanced at the clock. "I think we'll cut today short. I have to talk to your father before you leave and I have another patient coming in fifteen minutes."

"Fine by me," Zander said as he headed for the door. He knew he was pushing his luck today with both is father and Dr. Baldwin. But he didn't care.

"Wait in the lobby," Gail instructed. "I wont' be long with your father."

Zander plopped down on the couch. "Take your time," he drawled, as he reached for a magazine.

* * * * *
Cameron looked up as footsteps approached. He was in his office waiting for Alexander's session to be over. Somehow he wasn't surprised to find Gail Baldwin standing there. "Is the session over?"

"Yes. Zander is waiting for you in the lobby. I told him I needed to talk to you first."

"What about?"

Gail sighed. "He's using again."

Cameron nodded. "I know."

"Why are you letting this happen? The whole point of him living with you was to stop this destructive behavior."

"I can't make Alexander want to live. I can't give him a reason to want to live. He has to find that reason on his own."

Gail shook her head. "So you're just going to watch him self destruct? I won't do that. I'm writing to the judge and requesting that Zander be sent into rehab for six months."

Cameron stood up and faced Dr. Baldwin. "Don't do that. When they ask for my report I will refute everything you say."


"Alexander is testing me. He's waiting for me to betray him. I won't do that."

Gail sighed. "You're going to lose him. He's still looking for a way to die."

Cameron rubbed a hand over his face and nodded. "I know that. But right now he's still coming home every night. To my home. And that's all that matters. I watch him sleep at night and I'm grateful that he's there. I have never supported Alexander in the past, but this time I'm going to support him no matter what. Even if that means supporting his decision to die in the end."

"I don't condone what you're doing, but I won't hamper your decision. For now." With that Gail turned and walked away.

"Thank you," Cameron whispered when she was gone. Then he headed out as well, to find his son and take him home.

* * * * *

"Who's Emily?"

"What?" Zander had been in the process of buttoning his shirt but he froze at the question. He glared at the pretty blonde who was shimmying into her jeans. Zander couldn't remember her name. Tina, or Terry, or something that started with a *T*. "What did you say?"

The blonde smiled. "I asked you who Emily was? You said her name in your sleep a few times. An ex girlfriend?"

Zander was trembling. He couldn't get the buttons to work on his shirt so he left them. He grabbed his keys off the night stand and headed for the door. "Emily...is nobody," Zander whispered, as he walked out without looking back.

* * * * *

Zander paced the docks. He should have headed home but he was too angry. Too wound up. Two shots of JD didn't help nor the pill he swallowed. He needed some kind of release and he smiled as he saw a figure approaching. Zander was about to get what he wished for. He intercepted the other man and drawled, "Hello, Jason."

Chapter 17