Flame Turns Blue
Zander winced as he closed the door behind him. He had one hell of a hang over and all he wanted to do right now was down half a bottle of aspirin and sleep for a week. But he knew that wasn't going to happen when he spotted his father rising from the couch. It was barely five am but Cameron was fully dressed. Or maybe he never went to bed. Zander wasn't sure what his father had been wearing yesterday. Or if he had even seen him yesterday. Everything was kind of a blur right now. "Dad," Zander drawled, as he shrugged off his jacket and let it land on the floor.
"You look like hell," Cameron stated.
"Pretty much sums up how I feel right now." Zander headed for the kitchen. He opened the fridge, removed the orange juice bottle and drank directly from it.
Cameron stood in the doorway, watching his son. "I want us to be very clear on something, Alexander. If you stay out all night again, without calling me, I will let Dr. Baldwin know about it and you will be shipped out. If that's what you're aiming for with you behavior of late, then let me know and I'll make the call right now."
Zander dumped the empty bottle into the sink and ran one hand through his hair. "I didn't mean to stay out all night. I fell asleep."
"I've given you alot of freedom, Alexander. And I've broken pretty much every court appointed rule we were given to do so. I expect you to meet me half way."
"And how am I supposed to do that?" Zander knew what his father was saying. If he didn't start obeying some of the rules, he was going to be shipped out. He didn't want that. The thought of being locked up in some rehab bothered Zander more than he cared to admit. It was too much of a reminder of jail.
Cameron sighed. "Curfew is one A.M. Break it and I tell Dr. Baldwin. I doubt she'll turn you in right away. But do it again and I'm sure she will."
Zander felt a rush of anger but he tamped it down. His father could have turned him in a long time ago. He owed him something for that. "Fine." His tone was soft but cold. Zander didn't want to feel as if he owed his father anything. "I'm going to bed." Zander stalked out of the kitchen, brushing past his father.
"Are you all right?" Cameron called after him. "You haven't let me check your injuries in a few days."
"I'm fine!" Zander hissed, instinctively pressing one hand to his side. The bruises were faded and his ribs didn't hurt anymore. Zander was grateful that, overall, he was a fast healer. He climbed the stairs, made it to his room and headed for the shower. Ten minutes later he was in bed and asleep. But he dreamed about Emily.
* * * * *
Zander wasn't the least bit surprised to see Benny waiting for him outside of Jake's. Zander had managed to pay him back half of what he owed, when the money had first been due. He had been lucky at pool, and Benny had been in a good mood and had allowed Zander more time. But he now owed interest. So instead of owing five hundred more, Zander owed six hundred for the interest. Tonight he made three hundred so he was still short and he knew Benny wasn't going to like it. But Zander hoped for a little more time. "Hey Benny."
Benny grinned. "How's it going, Zman? Got my money?"
"Half of it." Zander held out the three hundred. "I need a little more time. I'm off my game."
"Sorry to hear that." Benny pocketed the money. "You can have another week, but I'll have to add on interest. So you'll owe me seven hundred."
Zander felt a knot of tension forming in his stomach. "Pretty high interest, Benny."
Benny shrugged. "Let's just say I'm helping to teach you a lesson, Zander."
"I think it's more you're trying to make yourself some money!" Zander was getting angry now. He knew Benny would keep the interest payment for himself since he had already paid off the dealer Zander had originally owed.
"It's business," Benny drawled. He reached out and patted Zander's cheek. "One week from tonight, Zman. Hope you're feeling lucky." With that Benny rambled off, his goon boy in tow.
Zander glared at Benny's retreating figure. The guy was moving up in the business and he was letting it go to his head. Still, Zander knew he had only himself to blame. Then again, maybe he would place the blame where it really belonged. On Nikolas. It was Nikolas who had flushed the product down the toilet, leaving Zander with this debt to pay. "Bastard!" Zander snarled, resisting the urge to slam his fist into a nearby post. He didn't want his father asking questions. Thinking of his father made Zander glance at his watch. He had twenty minutes to make it home before curfew.
* * * * *
Cameron felt a hundred years old as he sat down at the bar at Luke's Place. "Scotch," he ordered, when Luke appeared.
"How's your kid?" Luke asked as he poured.
"Beats me," Cameron replied. He downed the drink then gestured for another. "He doesn't talk to me."
Luke chuckled. "Big surprise. You're a judgmental jackass. I don't blame Zander for not wanting to talk to you. No doubt you judge all of his mistakes and shortcomings, pointing them out to him repeatedly, yet you never once acknowledge or accept your own fuck ups."
Cameron opened his mouth to make a sharp retort but closed it with a snap. He downed his other drink and there was a moment of silence. Then he said, "So...you think I'm a bad father?"
"I have no idea what kind of a father you are, doc. I'm sure as hell not in the position to judge on that level. I'm in the top ten of the World's worst fathers list. But I do think you suck at being a decent human being. You think you're better than everyone else. You think you're smarter and wiser. You ain't none of those things, doc."
"I'm losing my son," Cameron whispered.
Luke poured himself a drink and downed it in a gulp. "You lost him a long time ago, doc. Deal with it. You can't get back what you've lost. Zander will never see you as his father."
Cameron toyed with his glass. "I don't blame him. I hurt him in so many ways. And I did it intentionally."
"Wow...scare me. Better be careful, doc." Luke smirked and leaned in. "You're coming awfully close to admitting that you're as flawed as the rest of us."
"Goodnight, Luke," Cameron said as he stood up and slapped a twenty on the bar. "You've been...helpful." He had given Cameron some things to think about in regards to Alexander. A part of Cameron didn't want to believe that he had lost his chance to be a father to his son. Then again, maybe that was for the best, for Alexander's sake.
Luke scooped up the twenty and snapped it. "Maybe I would have made a good shrink, Doc. Have a good night and drive careful." With that he walked off to wait on another customer.
Cameron shook his head as he made his way to the door. "Maybe you would have," he stated, then he headed out into the night.
* * * * *
Zander paced the confines of Dr. Baldwin's office. He wanted to be anywhere but here today. He was having a rough week. Benny would be expecting payment in two days and Zander didn't have the money. It was making him edgy and he was losing his focus. He lost more than he won at pool and had a tendency to drink away what was left. Which wasn't much. So the last thing he wanted was to spend an hour with Dr. Baldwin trying to poke around in his head. Zander suddenly realized she was calling his name. He stopped pacing to glare at her. "What?"
Gail arched an eyebrow at his tone. "You seem...upset. Would you like to talk about what's bothering you?"
"Okay...what would you like to talk about?"
Zander dropped into a nearby chair. "We both know my answer to that question."
Gail sighed. "And we both know what will happen if you don't start participating in these sessions."
"Let's talk about the weather," Zander shot back, paying more attention to the hangnail on his thumb than to the woman sitting across from him. He could almost feel her glare.
"Have you been to visit Emily's grave yet?" Gail asked.
Zander shot out of his chair. "No!" he shouted, then he slammed his palms on Dr. Baldwin's desk. "And that topic of conversation is off limits."
Dr. Baldwin didn't flinch. "Why? What are you afraid of, Zander? What do you think will happen if you visit Emily's grave?"
"I'm not talking to you about this." Zander almost headed for the door but he had over twenty minutes of his session left, so he settled for pacing again.
"Okay...I'll drop it for now." Gail stood up and moved around her desk. She leaned against it as she watched Zander pace. "You ran away from home at what? Sixteen?"
Zander nodded. "Yeah."
Gail folded her arms over her chest. "Were you scared?"
"I don't remember."
"What do you remember?"
Zander stopped pacing to glare at her. He was getting good at it. "What difference does it make? It was a long time ago."
Gail shrugged. "Not that long. You won't talk about Emily or the present, so lets talk about the past. Or does it hurt too much to remember?" When no reply was forthcoming she asked, "Where did you go?"
"Miami." Zander dropped back into the chair and decided he might as well humor her. She couldn't use his past against him in any way that he could think of.
Zander sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Because it was big and...I figured I could disappear there."
Gail nodded understanding. "And did you? Disappear."
"When did you change your name?"
Zander didn't want to think about that but he supposed it was still the lesser of two evils. "I met this guy and he told me that if I wanted to disappear I had to become someone else. New name, new outlook. So I changed it. I never liked Alex much anyway. It never fit me."
Gail returned to her chair behind her desk and made a few notes. "How did you survive, Zander? You were just a kid. Did you bring some money with you?"
"Five hundred dollars. Money from birthdays and stuff." Zander shifted in his chair and waited for the next question he didn't want to answer.
"When did you leave?"
Zander felt his eyes burn and he rubbed at them with the back of one hand. "Right after Pete's funeral. I went upstairs and packed a duffel bag and left. I'm sure it was a few days before anybody even noticed I was gone. And I'm sure when Dad figured it out, he was thrilled."
Gail frowned. "Do you really believe that, Zander?"
"Pretty much. I killed the only son that mattered to him."
"But you didn't kill Pete."
Zander stood up and began pacing again. He didn't want to remember this stuff, it hurt too much. He could feel a tightness in his chest and the itchy feeling under his skin. The last thing he needed was a panic attack. He had gone for so long without one. "I told you before...I won't talk about my father."
Gail scribbled some more. "Okay. Let's go back to Miami. The money had to have run out pretty quick. Did you find a job? Where did you live?"
"That guy I mentioned...he had a restaurant and he gave me a job bussing tables. I worked there for a while but then...I started to feel trapped so I quit and hopped on a bus. I rode that damn thing for about three weeks. I ended up in New Orleans at one point. I kinda liked it there."
"So how did you end up in Port Charles?"
Zander shook his head, as if shaking off the memories. He glanced at the clock and almost sagged with relief. "Time's up," Zander whispered, heading for the door. He was shaking and he could feel a cold sweat break out on his skin. He didn't wait for Dr. Baldwin to respond, he was simply out the door and heading for the rest rooms. Once inside, Zander went to the sink and splashed cold water on his face. It didn't help. Zander felt fear ripple through him, and his breathing became ragged. He could feel his heart thudding in his chest and everything went out of focus. He felt nauseous and dizzy and black spots danced before his eyes. Zander closed them and then he heard someone calling his name. He opened his mouth to reply but darkness wrapped around him like a closed fist and he didn't feel his body hit the floor with a thud.
* * * * *
He heard the same voice calling his name and recognized it. Emily's father. Zander opened his eyes and saw Dr. Quartermaine smiling at him. He looked around and realized he was in a treatment room. Zander made to sit up but a strong hand pressed him down. "What happened?"
Alan's smile faded. "You passed out in the men's room. I went in and saw you at the sink. You were pale and shaking and then you just collapsed."
"How long was I out?"
"About five minutes. I was starting to worry. I called your father, he'll be here in a minute. He was with a patient and I told him I'd take care of you."
Zander pushed aside Dr. Quartermaine's hand and sat up. "I don't need you to take care of me. I'm fine." He slid off the exam table and was relieved when his knees only buckled a little.
Alan nodded. "When I examined you I noticed some faded bruising on your ribs and abdomen. What happened?"
"I fell." Zander headed for the door but paused for a moment. In his own way, Dr. Quartermaine had always been good to him. "Thanks," Zander muttered, then he headed out and nearly slammed into his father.
"Are you all right, Alexander?" Cameron studied his son's face.
Zander felt the weight of his father's stare and turned away. "I'm fine. Can we go home?"
Cameron stopped him. "In a minute. I want to talk to Dr. Quartermaine."
"Why?" Zander was suspicious.
"Hospital business," Cameron stated. "I won't be long. You can wait for me at the elevator."
Zander nodded and made his way there. After a moment he punched the button and when the doors opened he stepped inside. He needed some time alone.
* * * * *
"Name your poison, kid."
Zander looked up from the bar top and glared at Luke. "Don't call me that. I'm not a kid." He was tired of having this argument with Luke.
Luke smirked. "I calls them as I sees them…kid. So…what'll you have? Some Jack? A brewski? Tequila?"
"Jack," Zander replied. He watched Luke pour then accepted the glass and downed the shot in one gulp.
"So what are you trying to forget today?" Luke queried, as he refilled the glass.
Zander glared at him again. "Don't you have other customers to bother?"
Luke shrugged. "Probably. But you're more fun to harass."
"Fuck you!" Zander stood up and dug in his pocket. He pulled out a ten, slammed it on the bar top and made to leave.
"Hey...where ya going, kid? Don't run away. The fun has just begun." Luke came around the bar to cut Zander off. "What's your hurry?"
Zander tried to step around Luke only to find his way cut off again. "Look...I came here looking for fun. There isn't any here so I'm taking my business elsewhere."
Luke was intrigued. "What kind of fun?"
"The kind that makes money," Zander replied. "Like pool."
"You play?" Luke studied Zander. "Sure you do. Bet you can hustle with the best of them."
Zander remembered the days when he was the best. "I'm out of here."
Luke cut him off again. "I have pool table in the back. Play all you like. I'll open the room and you can hustle all you like."
"You serious?" Zander hoped he was. He needed the money.
"I never joke about three things. Booze, whores and hustling." Luke grinned. "Follow me."
Zander trailed after Luke, heading towards the back of the place. There was a single door on the back wall and he watched Luke unlock it then push it open. Zander stepped inside and smiled. The room was spacious, filled only with a pool table with a red felt covering. "Tacky," Zander stated.
Luke chuckled. "I like tacky. Pick your stick and rack 'em up. I'll send some suckers your way." That said, Luke left the room.
"I hope lady luck is with me tonight," Zander whispered, as he studied the pool sticks on the wall. He picked one with a black finish and reached for the chalk.
* * * * *
Elizabeth was still on shift when Nikolas walked into Kelly's. "Hey there," she offered in greeting. "Come for coffee or to visit?"
Nikolas smiled. "Both."
"Sounds good." Elizabeth poured him a cup. "What's up?"
"Not much. How have you been?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "Okay. You?"
Nikolas sighed then took a sip of his coffee. "I kind of feel like I'm at loose ends still."
"Yeah…I feel that way too." Elizabeth moved around the counter to sick next to Nikolas. It was a slow night. "Every time someone comes in the door I keep hoping it's going to be Emily."
"Have you seen Zander lately?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "He hasn't come in here in a long time." Then she remembered. "I saw him on the docks a few days ago. He looked like hell. He was talking to Faith Roscoe. I don't trust that woman."
Nikolas frowned. "Why would he be talking to Faith?"
"I don't know. I asked, but he told me to leave him alone."
"Yeah…he does that alot." Nikolas took another sip of coffee. "Emily would hate to see him like this. I hate to see him like this."
Elizabeth felt a tear slide down her face. "I know. Zander is such a good guy. I know you two aren't friends, but he's always been there for me. Even after I treated him like crap, he was still there for me as a friend. I wish he would let me be there for him now."
Nikolas reached out and patted Elizabeth's hand. "He's just in a bad place right now. He's confused and hurting and he has to sort things out."
"But he's not doing that, Nikolas. He's self destructing." Elizabeth swiped away another tear. "Zander is still trying to kill himself, he just doesn't realize it. Without Emily he doesn't believe in himself anymore. Not that he ever really did anyway. It's just that…Emily gave him a reason to try. He's just so lost without her."
"I know." Nikolas pulled Elizabeth into a hug. "But I'm not going to give up on Zander. Okay?"
Elizabeth nodded, still wrapped in Nikolas' embrace. "Okay." She stayed in the hug until a customer called for her attention. Pulling away, Elizabeth smiled at Nikolas. "Emily would be proud of you for doing this. For helping Zander. It would mean alot to her. I think it still does." That said, Elizabeth brushed a kiss to Nikolas' cheek, then she went back to work.
* * * * *
Zander winced as his fist connected with the big guys face. He was tired of people accusing him of cheating. He got another punch in then waited for the inevitable blow back. It didn't come. Suddenly Luke was there, coming between them.
Luke glared at the big guy. "Get out of my place," he ordered.
Big guy was pissed. He pointed at Zander. "He cheated! I want my money back."
"Can you prove he cheated?" Luke asked.
"No." The big guy looked confused.
Luke pushed him towards the door. "Then get out and stay out!" He looked at the others in the room. "All of you…get out. Pool table is closed for the night." He herded them all out then closed the door.
Zander waited for the lecture. When Luke simply stood there and stared at him, Zander felt his anger rising. "What? You got a problem?"
"Not really," Luke drawled. "So…how much did you win?"
"A few hundred."
Luke grinned. "Not to bad for two hours of play time."
Zander picked his pool stick up off the floor and put it back in the rack. "Thanks for the use of your table." He made to brush past look but fingers closed around his arm.
"Where's the money?" Luke asked.
Luke held out one hand and waggled his fingers. "Show me the money, Kid."
Zander had left it sitting on the side of the table. He went for it but Luke noticed and beat him to it. "Hey! That's mine!" Zander protested.
"Eight hundred bucks." Luke countered. "You were holding out on me kid." He peeled off some bills and stuck them in his pocket. The rest he held out to Zander."
"What? You're taking a fee?" Zander snatched the money from Luke's hand but he was furious.
Luke shook his head. "Call it a trust fund. Whatever you make here I'll keep half of it for you."
Zander was stunned. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Do I look like I'm kidding?"
"You son of a bitch!" Zander needed that money. He grabbed a nearby beer bottle and hurled it against the wall.
Luke watched. "You got a good arm." He moved to the corner and grabbed a broom and tossed it to Zander. "Now…clean up the mess you made then you'd better head for home. It's late."
Zander watched Luke leave, resisting the urge to hurl the broom after him. Instead he found himself doing as he had been told and sweeping up the glass. But once he had it in a nice neat pile, Zander kicked it, scattering the shards of glass. Then he tossed the broom aside and stomped out of the room and out of the bar. He didn't notice Luke watching him, and smiling.
* * * * *
Two days later, Zander was down to three hundred bucks. He had refused to go back to Luke's so he tried his luck again at Jakes, only his luck seemed to desert him there. Zander lost a hundred bucks and he knew Benny would show up to collect. He was tempted to try another game but he was afraid of losing more money. So Zander bided his time until just after midnight, then he headed out for the docks. No sense in putting off the inevitable. He found Benny sitting on a bench, waiting for him.Cameron found his son sprawled out on the couch. It was four am. He had fallen asleep just after midnight and hadn't woke up till now, so he didn't know if Alexander had made it home by curfew or not. But at least he was home. Rubbing his tired eyes, Cameron reached for the afghan and covered his son. Alexander was restless in his sleep and that worried Cameron. Alan Quartermaine had told Cameron about his son's Panic attack, but Cameron knew Alexander wouldn't talk about them. But he needed to do that. He needed to talk about his fears and his sadness. He needed to talk about everything, but Alexander wouldn't share what he was feeling with anyone. He was shoving everyone away.
"Hey there, Zman," Benny said in greeting. "Pay day."
"I have half of it," Zander stated, holding out the cash. No sense in beating around the bush. "I need a little more time. Just tack on the interest."
Benny's smile froze on his face. "Oh...I'll do that," he allowed. He waved one hand and a muscle bound goon stepped out of the shadows. Benny took the money then sighed. "Thing is, Zman...I need to teach you a lesson. You can have more time to pay me, but I'm going to let Joey here give you an incentive to pay in full the next time."
Zander backpedaled as Joey approached him. If the beating was anything like what Jason had done to him, Zander knew he wouldn't be able to stay out of the hospital this time and then Dr. Baldwin would find out and he would be sent away for sure. He couldn't let that happen. But even as he tried to keep his distance, he bumped into another solid body and strong hands grabbed his upper arms, pulling them behind him and leaving Zander open for an assault. As a hard fist ground into his solar plexus, Zander bit his lip to keep from crying out. Another hit and he knew his ribs would have bruising. Zander felt the taste of blood in his mouth but he hadn't made a sound. Yet.
"Hey…hands off the merchandise!" A feminine voice shouted. Then Faith made an appearance with two bigger goons on her tail. She stalked over to Benny. "Back off Zander!" she ordered.
"This is business," Benny countered, but there was fear in his eyes. He knew who Faith was.
Faith smiled coldly. "Don't make me ask again, weasel. I don't like repeating myself." She smiled when Zander was released, but frowned when he stumbled. She ignored Benny to go to him, guiding him down onto a nearby bench. "Easy, baby," she cooed, one hand caressing his face.
Benny didn't like being dismissed, but he knew when not to push his luck. He did shake a finger in Zander's direction. "Three more days!" he snapped, then he clapped his hands and headed off with his goons.
"Thanks," Zander said, his voice hoarse from the pain he was choking back.
"You're welcome," Faith purred, letting her hands glide over his chest. "Let me see the boo boo." She had his shirt half undone when a sharp voice interrupted.
Nikolas was there, glaring at them. "Leave him alone," he ordered.
Zander felt as if he were trapped in a bad sit com. "Get lost, Nikolas!" he snapped, and instantly regretted it as the pain made him lose his breath. But he knew he just had to hang on a little longer and it would get better. Like he had once told Gia, the first fifteen minutes were the worst.
"I'll take care of Zander," Nikolas stated, his eyes locked on Faith.
"I'll bet you will," she purred, rising from the bench. But she leaned back in to kiss Zander on the cheek. "See you around, baby."
Zander nodded. "Thanks again."
Faith smiled. "Anytime." She gestured to her body guard and they moved off.
"You okay?" Nikolas asked.
"No!" Zander glared at him then slowly stood up. He smacked away Nikolas' helping hand. "Leave me alone!"
Nikolas sighed. "What happened, Zander? It wasn't Jason this time. Are you really that eager to die? And, by the way, death by pummeling seems rather slow and painful."
Zander walked to the end of the dock. He pressed a hand to his ribs and carefully stretched. No lasting damage, thankfully. "I guess I haven't made myself very clear in the past, Nikky. So I'll do that now. Get…the...fuck...out…of…my…life!"
"Sorry, Zander." Nikolas shrugged. "The moment you became a part of Emily's life, you became a part of mine."
Nikolas moved to confront him. "We've had this talk before. I'm not going to let you trash yourself, Zander. That's the bottom line."
Zander felt anger welling up inside him. He was so damn tired of everyone making choices for him. Of doing what they thought was best for him. It was his life and he had a right to live it anyway he wanted, or to die if that was his choice. And even though Zander didn't know what the hell he wanted right now, he still had the right to be left alone to figure it out. "Emily is dead. When she died, any connection that you've imagined between us...died with her. Get that through your thick head and leave me the fuck alone!" Zander turned away, feeling the burn of tears he refused to shed. Just saying Emily's name dredged up a thousand little memories of her. Of moments and words and the way she smiled. He didn't want to do this now. Not ever. All Zander wanted to do was forget.
"It doesn't work like that, Zander," Nikolas said softly. "You can't forget Emily. You can't run away from, or avoid, everyone and everything that reminds you of her. You have to accept that she's gone and find a way to move on. Make the memory of her something that you treasure instead of something that haunts you."
"Emily was the only good thing in my life," Zander whispered. "She was all I had...and I didn't deserve her. God took her away from me. Just one more punishment. One more way to kick me in the face. Just like he did with Pete." Zander had forgotten Nikolas was even there until he felt a hand on his shoulder and he jumped. He whirled on Nikolas and snarled, "I am nothing like you and the others! I'm a waste of space. Always have been...always will be! Just ask my father...he'll tell you. So stop wasting your time on me! I'm not worth the effort!" With that Zander shoved Nikolas away from him then ran off. And he kept running, until he made his way home.
Cameron jumped. He was surprised to Alexander's staring at him. "You okay?" he asked.
Zander sat up slowly. "Fine." He ran his hands through his hair then stood up. "Um...can I ask you something? It's...a favor actually."
"You can ask," Cameron allowed. He could see that his son was nervous.
"I need to borrow some money."
Cameron felt his expression tighten. "Why?"
Zander rubbed a hand over his face. "Why doesn't matter. Will you give me the money or not?"
"Not unless you tell me what you need it for."
"Forget it." Zander headed for the stairs.
Cameron cut him off. "Is it for drugs? Is that what it's for, Alexander? Are you high right now?" He gripped his son by the shoulders and stared hard into the hazel eyes. He could feel the hatred that glared back at him. It shook him a little but he was too angry to back off. "I won't let you do this to yourself again! Do you hear me?"
Zander shoved his father off him. "Fuck you, dad!" he shouted. He grabbed his coat and stormed out of the house.
"Well…that went well," Cameron drawled to the empty room. He could still hear the echo of the door slamming shut behind Alexander. Dropping into a nearby chair, Cameron buried his face in his hands and sighed.
* * * * *
Zander stepped off the elevator and strode over to the penthouse door. He had almost turned back a dozen times, but he didn't know where else to go. He took a calming breath then knocked on the door. Relief flooded Zander when Carly opened the door. "Hi," he said.
She was surprised. "Hey, Zander. What are you doing here?"
"I shouldn't be here, but I need a favor. I'll understand if you say no. I expect you to...I just didn't know who else to ask."
Zander shook his head. "I think it's better if I stay out here."
Carly nodded then stepped out into the hall. "What's the favor?"
"I need to borrow some money. Seven hundred dollars. I swear I'll pay you back."
"What do you need the money for?"
Zander couldn't meet Carly's eyes. "Drugs. But it's not what you think. Not to buy them...but to pay back a dealer for product that I lost. I fucked up and I'm trying to fix things. You know what, this was a bad idea. Forget it. I don't know what I was thinking." Zander made to turn away but found Carly's hand on his arm.
She turned him back to face her. "I'll loan you the money, Zander."
"No…you won't." Sonny interjected, as he stepped off the elevator. He glared at Zander. "You don't belong here and you are to never ask my wife for anything again. You understand me? You fix your own mistakes, Zander. That's what real men do."
"Sonny...it's no big deal," Carly protested.
Zander raised a hand to silence her. "No...Sonny's right. It's my mistake, if I can't fix it on my own...I deserve whatever happens to me." With that Zander turned and walked away. He didn't see the figure standing in the shadows, watching him.
* * * * *
Luke watched Zander working the room. The kid had charm to burn, when he wanted, and he was turning it on tonight. Half the women in the place were all over him. One in particular seemed determined to strip him in front of everyone. An older woman. Almost old enough to be Zander's mother, which meant she was old enough to know better. Shaking his head, Luke left the bar and approached them. He cleared his throat until they stopped kissing and smirked when the woman glared at him. She had her hand down Zander's pants. The kid looked like he was too drunk to feel it. Zander was pretty much on auto pilot at this point. Not feeling any pain and going with the flow. Luke was all too familiar with that mode of self destruction. He smiled at the woman and held out one hand. "Five hundred bucks," he stated.
She frowned. "For what?"
"For the kid." Luke pointed to Zander. "That's how much it costs for his services."
Luke sighed. "He's the most expensive stud in my stable. Makes me lots of money. You want him, you pay for him. For the record he's clean and he is old enough to drink. Barely. Oh...and he's worth every penny. Never had a dissatisfied customer."
A look of horror crossed the woman's face and she removed her hand from Zander's pants. "You…you…you're a male whore?"
"What?" Zander had just caught on to what Luke was doing. "No...I'm not!" He glared at Luke. "You bastard!"
"Pay up or ship out, lady," Luke countered. "The kid ain't free."
The woman collected her purse, stuffed her boobs back into place, then stormed off.
Zander was furious. "You son of a bitch! Why did you do that?"
"Why not?" Luke was not impressed by Zander's rage. "You've been whoring yourself out for the past few days. Might as well get paid for it." He ducked the right cross Zander swung at him and caught the kid by the shoulders. "I've got a back room with a cot. You can crash on it till you come down from the high you're on." He practically carried Zander across the floor and it worried him a bit that the kid wasn't putting up much of a fight. Then he felt Zander go dead weight on him and realized he had passed out. Luke sighed then paused to haul the kid over his shoulder.
* * * * *
Cameron put down the phone. He missed the cradle, cursed, then quietly put it in its place. Luke Spencer had just called to inform him of his son's whereabouts and that Alexander had been high and had passed out. Cameron ran a hand over his face and could feel himself shaking. Time was running out. Alexander was spiraling out of control and Cameron felt helpless to stop it. He would not send his son away, yet he was going to lose him anyway. He closed his eyes against the hot sting of tears, but they trickled down his cheeks regardless.
* * * * *
Zander bit back a moan. His head felt like it was ready to explode and he didn't want to open his eyes but he couldn't put off the inevitable. He opened them slowly and a blurred figure came into focus after a few blinks. His father. Zander closed his eyes again.
"Drink this." Cameron held out a glass. "Luke Spencer tells me it will help what ails you."
"Great." Sarcasm oozed off Zander's tongue as he sat up, but he took the drink and gulped it down. It tasted nasty enough to make him almost heave, but a moment later he felt his stomach settle and the throbbing in his temples eased a fraction. "I take it Luke called you?" Zander eased off the cot. His legs felt a bit rubbery, but they were stable enough. He put the glass down and looked around for his jacket.
Cameron nodded. "He told me what happened. You can't keep doing this to yourself, Alexander."
Zander smirked. "Watch me." He found his jacket and pulled it on.
"I'm taking you home."
"I can get home on my own."
Cameron invaded his son's personal space. "You're coming home with me."
Zander pushed his father back a step and made to go around him. "Fuck off." He was not expecting the slap that made him reel backwards. Zander stared at his father in shock as he pressed a hand to his stinging cheek. "Been a long time, Dad. Bet that felt good."
"Yes...it did." Cameron shook his hand.
"What...figure you'll slap some sense into me?" Zander took a confrontational step forward. "You'll have to hit me harder than that. You know how stupid I am. You've told me enough times. One slap won't penetrate. Go ahead. Do it again!"
Cameron backed away from his son. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Zander laughed, a cold sound that was harsh to his own ears. "Yeah...I know. Me too. I'm sorry I was ever born." His voice cracked on the last word and Zander ran for the door.
"That went well."
Cameron turned to find Luke leaning in the doorway. "I don't know what to do."
Luke shrugged. "Not much you can do at this point. The kid is scared and confused. Nothing makes sense to him right now. You can't fix that for him."
"So...What? I just let him self destruct?"
"Pretty much. Zander will either reach the point where he's ready to help himself, or he'll try offing himself again and succeed the next time. That's what this is all about, doc. Your son is trying to figure out whether or not he believes his life is worth living. And when your entire life seems to be nothing but pain, sometimes it ain't worth the fight." Luke pushed off the doorframe and walked away.
Cameron sat down on the cot and prayed.
* * * * *
"Buy you breakfast?"
Zander looked up to find Nikolas standing over him. "If I say yes...will you leave me alone?"
Nikolas smiled. "Maybe. You look like hell."
"What? You don't like the new me?"
"Not really. I think I liked you better when you were an arrogant teenaged thug."
Zander knew what Nikolas was doing and he wasn't going to play along. "I'll pass on breakfast." He pushed off the bench and made to leave, only to find his way blocked.
Nikolas locked eyes with Zander. "Have breakfast with me or I'm going to be your shadow all day long. I'll dog you everywhere you go. And you know I'll do it."
"Yeah...I know you will. What I can't figure out is why?" Zander was too tired to curse at Nikolas to leave him alone. He didn't have the energy.
"I think you're worth saving, Zander," Nikolas said softly.
Zander chuckled. "Then you're a damn fool." He sighed. "Will you settle for coffee? If I eat anything I'll puke on your shoes."
Nikolas made a face. "Okay...coffee it is."
"Like you're in any position to make conditions," Nikolas teased.
Zander glared at him. "No talking, okay? We drink coffee. We don't talk. We don't pretend like we're friends. Because we're not."
Nikolas nodded. "Works for me." He turned and walked off towards the stairs.
"Jerk," Zander muttered, before heaving a sigh and moving to follow.
* * * * *
Zander paced the docks. Tonight was the night he was supposed to pay off Benny. He had done fairly well at pool, making three hundred dollars and quitting while he was ahead. But he knew Benny wasn't going to let him off the hook again. He was four hundred dollars short and Benny was going to make him pay for it somehow.
He turned to see Faith approaching. She was dressed in black, per usual, and she reminded Zander of an old world movie star, but without the class. "Mrs. Roscoe."
She smiled. "Call me Faith. I've been looking for you."
"You have?" Zander was more than a little surprised.
"I have," Faith purred. "I want to make you an offer. How would you like to work for me?"
Zander frowned. "Doing what?"
Faith shrugged then let her fingertips dance over his chest. "We can work out the details later. So…what do you say?"
"Can I think about it?" Zander heard a heavy clomp of footsteps and turned to see Benny approaching. He looked to be alone. "Um...I have business to take care of right now."
"Want me to scare him off?" Faith ordered.
Zander shook his head. He knew he had to take care of this by himself. "No...I got it. Thanks." He watched Faith saunter off then turned to face Benny. "I have three hundred, that's all," Zander blurted out. He could feel his palms sweating as he held out the cash.
Benny waved it away. "Your debt has been paid, Zman. Paid in full. You're off the hook."
"Who paid it?"
"It was done anonymously."
Zander could see that Benny was nervous and it was then that he noticed that Benny had a black eye. Zander didn't know what to think. "I don't get it."
Benny shrugged. "Don't worry about it. You're debt free, Zman. And for the record, we're done doing business together. I think it's bad for both of us."
"Yeah...can't argue that," Zander stated. He watched as Benny walked off, then he headed off on his own. There was someone he needed to see.
* * * * *
Zander tracked Carly down at Kelly's. "We need to talk," he said, sitting down at her table.
Carly was surprised. "Okay. What about?"
"Did you pay off my debt?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
Zander ran a hand through his hair. "That money I asked you for...to pay my debt. Did you pay Benny off?"
Carly shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about, Zander. And I don't know anyone named Benny."
"You being straight with me?" Zander locked eyes with Carly and he saw no deception there. Just confusion.
"I'm being straight," she replied.
Zander nodded and stood up. "Okay...thanks." He took off.
Carly sat at the table for a moment then she spotted Jason coming through the door. She got up and cornered him. "Did you pay off Zander's debt?" Carly didn't need a reply to read the truth in his eyes. She was the only person who knew how to read him. After a moment of silence, Carly asked, "Why?"
"For Emily," Jason said softly, then he turned and walked out the door.
* * * * *
The last place Zander wanted to be was Dr. Baldwin's office, but he had missed one of his sessions and this was the reschedule. He had no choice. There was alot of that going on in his life. It made Zander feel jumpy. Everyone seemed to be making his choices for him. Controlling what he did. Taking care of things for him. He had no vote in anything. His entire life felt like one big manipulation and Zander wanted to scream. But that would set off warning bells in Dr. Baldwin, so Zander settled for pacing and chewing on a finger nail.
"Is something bothering you, Zander?" Gail asked as she watched him pace.
Gail sighed. "You seem...jumpy."
Zander shrugged at her. "Is that a problem for you?"
"I'm thinking it might be a sign that something is eating away at you," Gail countered. "Something that I might be able to help you deal with. If you tell me about it."
"Where's the fun in that." Zander was in a snarky mood. "But tell you what. If you can guess what's bugging me, I'll talk about it."
Surprise shone in Gail's eyes but she took the bait. "Okay. How many guesses do I get?"
Zander smiled. "Three."
"Did you argue with your father?"
"Like that's anything new," Zander snorted. "Eeeeh. Wrong guess."
Gail tapped a fingertip on her desk as she considered. "You're feeling trapped?"
That was a little too close to the truth and Zander flinched. She was a little too good at this game and might just guess right. Zander decided he might as well let her play with this guess, as it was a part of what was bothering him anyway. "You got it. You're good."
"So you'll talk about it?"
"Sure." Zander dropped into a chair but continued to gnaw on his finger nail. "I'm tired of feeling like I'm twelve years old. Like I need a keeper. I haven't tried to off myself in months but I feel like I'm on a suicide watch, and it's driving me nuts." Zander felt like he was having deja vu. They had had this conversation too many times before. It was symbolic in some ways. He felt as if he was stuck in limbo.
Gail nodded. "So...maybe you need to focus on something positive and productive."
Zander almost rolled his eyes and what she might be thinking. "Like what?" he challenged.
"Like...you haven't gotten a job yet. That would help get you out of the house and you'd be doing something positive and productive and it would look good to the courts."
"That's a subtle hint," Zander taunted.
Gail shrugged. "You don't seem to get subtle, Zander. So I figured I'd try something just short of a sledgehammer."
He chuckled but it was a nervous sound. Zander pushed out of the chair and began pacing again. "Yeah...maybe you're right. Maybe a job would help."
"Any ideas of what you might go for?"
"McDonalds?" Zander was kidding and hoped she got the joke.
A laugh escaped Gail. "Doesn't seem like your style, but it is honest work."
Zander's eyebrows arched. "You mean I have to get honest work?" He wasn't sure he was teasing her this time.
"Might be a good idea." Gail was about to say more but her phone rang. She excused herself and answered it. She only spoke for a minute, but when she was done, Zander was gone. Gail looked at the clock. Time was up.
* * * * *
Zander went looking for Faith and he found her on the docks. He was pleased when she noticed him and called him over. "Faith…about that job offer you made me. Is it still on the table?"
She smiled at him and nodded. "The offer is still good, Zander. I take it you're interested?"
"Yeah, I am. What would I be doing?"
"Like I said before, we can work out the details later." She walked a slow circle around Zander then pinched his butt, laughing when he yelped. "First things first. You need a new wardrobe."
Zander frowned. "Why?"
Faith pinned him with a stare. "Because I said so," she purred, then she took him by the arm and led him towards the stairs.
* * * * *
Zander brushed a piece of lint off his jacket sleeve as he loped down the stairs. He was going to be late and he didn't want to piss Faith off. He had only been working for her for a week and he liked his job. Basically he acted like a bodyguard, only there wasn't much guarding to be done. For the most part they had been going out every night, to eat dinner then go dancing. Last night they had sex, although Zander didn't remember it much. Whatever pill she had given him to mellow him out had pretty much knocked Zander into a twilight Zone state of mind. He didn't care. He liked feeling numb. It made life easier to deal with.
Thanks." Zander stepped around his father and headed for the closet to remove his overcoat. He shrugged it on.
Cameron followed him to the door. "I take it you have a job?"
"What was your first clue?" Zander's tone was more teasing than testy. He was in a good mood and refused to let his father ruin it.
"Where are you working?"
Zander opened the door. "None of your business," He said softly, then he firmly closed the door.
* * * * *
Nikolas had gotten a call from Luke Spencer, telling him that Zander was working for Faith Roscoe. So Nikolas tracked them down and he was stunned to see Faith hanging all over Zander and Zander was letting her. And it didn't take a genius to notice that Zander was higher than a kite. Nikolas marched over to them, pushed Faith off of Zander, took Zander by the arm and hauled him over to a corner.
"Get off me!" Zander snapped, trying to free his arm.
"Shut up!" Nikolas snarled back, tightening his hold. He reached the corner and turned Zander around, slamming him hard against the wall. "Keep your mouth shut and listen." Nikolas shook a finger in Zander's face and was almost amused when Zander clamped his lips together and silently glared at him. "You are going to go back to Faith and tell her you quit. Then I am taking you home. You got that?"
Zander's jaw worked and anger flared in his eyes. "You don't get to tell me what to do! You got that?"
Nikolas poked a finger in Zander's chest. "I do this time. Because if you don't do as I say...then I'm going to make a phone call to Dr. Baldwin and tell her everything. And in a few hours you'll be locked up in rehab, Zander. Is that what you want?"
"Fuck...you." Zander pushed Nikolas back and stalked off back to Faith.
"Dammit!" Nikolas knew that Zander was beyond caring at this point. He grabbed his cell phone and made a call. But it wasn't to Dr. Baldwin.