Flame Turns Blue
Zander paced a path from the waiting area, to the main desk, back to the waiting area. He paced with his head down, eyes locked on the floor, swerving around any and all obstacles that crossed his path. He lost track of how long he paced.
He froze and looked up to see Bobbie smiling at him. "How is she?" he asked.
Bobbie sighed. "I don't know anything yet, Zander, but I'm sure Emily will be okay. Her parents are with her right now. I just wanted to ask if I could get you anything?"
"No. Nothing. Thank you. I just...I just want Emily to be all right."
"I know. We all want that." Bobbie patted Zander on the shoulder. "You look worn out. Why don't you sit down for a while? I'll get you some coffee."
Zander shook his head then rubbed his face with his bandaged hand. "No…thank you. I'm good."
Bobbie hesitated. "When was the last time you changed the dressing on your hand?"
"I don't know." He didn't care either. All that mattered was Emily. Zander couldn't get the image out of his head of how still she had been. How pale.
"Let me change the bandage for you." Bobbie gripped Zander's arm.
He pulled back. "No. It's fine. I have to wait here for Emily."
Bobbie held firm. "Zander...it's going to be a while before you hear about Emily. I'm just going to take you down the hall for a few minutes. It'll give you something to do besides pace. Okay?"
"Okay." Zander gave in and let Bobbie lead him down the hall.
* * * * *
"I want to leave!" Emily hissed.
Monica sighed then shook her head. "You're going to be here for few days, Emily. Your white blood count is low and we need to run some more tests. And you need to rest. Plus Dr. Vanders wants to try a new chemo therapy on you."
Emily's glared at her mother. "I can't stay! Zander will know something's wrong with me."
"I think he already figured that out," Alan interjected, quietly. "He was a wreck when they brought you in, Emily. You have to tell him the truth. Everyone is going to know. We told you…you can't keep this a secret."
"No! I don't want Zander to know!" Emily blinked back tears. "I'm fine, okay? I am! We'll just tell Zander I have some kind of stupid flu. He'll believe it."
Alan leaned in to smooth a lock of hair off Emily's cheek. "He needs to know the truth, sweetheart. Now…you can tell him, or I will."
Emily wanted to scream at her parents that it wasn't fair. Not to her, or to Zander. Everything had been going so well. It had been so perfect. Now everything was ruined and Zander would treat her differently. Like she was sick and fragile. And he would know that they no longer had a future together. "It's…not…fair," Emily hiccupped as she started to sob. She felt her mother draw her into a hug. "Zander doesn't deserve this! I don't...I don't deserve this. What did I do wrong? Why did I have to get cancer?" Emily knew there were no answers to her questions, but she had to ask them anyway.
"No!" Emily stiffened in her mother's arms as she heard his voice. She raised her head and saw Zander staring in the doorway. She knew he must have heard her. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. "Zander…"
He stepped into the room, a smile plastered on his face. "How do you feel?"
Emily pulled out of her mother's arms and glared at Zander. She wasn't angry at him, but she had to take it out on someone and he had just made himself available. Besides, if she made him mad enough at her, maybe he would simply walk away and make it easier on both of them. Emily didn't want Zander to watch her shrivel up and die. "I feel like I'm dying!" Emily snarled. "How do you feel?"
"Scared." Zander made it to the bed and he reached out to cup Emily's face in both hands. "But…that's okay. I know you're scared too, so we can be scared together."
"Don't touch me!" Emily slapped Zander's hands away. She watched as her parents drifted out of the room and was glad. Then she turned on Zander. "Guess you caught me out, Zander. All those promises we made about being together forever…I was lying. I was just playing a stupid game of wishful thinking."
Zander shook his head. "It wasn't a lie, Emily. It's real. As real as my love for you. As real as the love we have for each other."
Emily blinked back fresh tears. "Didn't you hear me? I have cancer!"
"I heard you. I also heard your mother mention a new chemo therapy. Bet it does the trick."
"You don't get it, Zander." Emily watched him sit down on the side of the bed. A part of her wanted to hug him to her and another part of her wanted to push him away. "My mother died of cancer, now I'm going to die too."
Zander pulled Emily into his arms. "You're not going to die."
She struggled against him, but only for a moment. His arms felt warm and strong around her, and Emily gave into the desire to feel safe in his embrace. She melted against him, her tears wetting his shirt front. "I don't want to die," she sobbed.
"You're not going to die...not unless you give up, Emily." Zander shifted on the bed so they were lying down together. "And you never give up when you want something. And you want to be with me. Just as much as I want to be with you. You want to get married, have kids, go to Mexico. We can do all that. We will do all that. As soon as you get better."
"You make it sound so easy," Emily whispered, her voice raw with tears she had left to shed.
Zander kissed the top of her head. "No…not easy. But doable. We can do anything together, baby. Anything."
Emily wanted to believe that. But she was too tired to have hope right now. So she said nothing. She simply closed her eyes and listened to Zander talk about all the wonderful things they were going to do together, and eventually Emily drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face, and a bit of hope in her heart.
* * * * *
Zander heard soft footsteps approaching and he opened his eyes to see Monica standing next to the bed. She smiled at him and Zander shifted so that he could slide out from under Emily. Once on his feet he followed Monica out the door, knowing that she wanted to talk to him. He needed to talk to her too. "I'm sorry about falling asleep in there," Zander apologized.
"Don't be sorry," Monica countered. "You helped Emily and that's all I care about. How are you doing, Zander? I know it had to be quite a shock to hear about the cancer."
"Why didn't she tell me?"
Monica sighed. "Emily has been in denial. It happens. I know that from personal experience. Besides which, she was clinging to you and the future the two of you were planning like a life line. She could…pretend…that everything was okay when she was with you."
Zander ran a hand through his hair. "How are you doing?" he asked. And in this moment it seemed important that Monica be okay. For Emily's sake. She would need her mother to help her through this.
"I've been better," Monica allowed. "I'm sure you have a million questions, Zander. But it's late and you need to rest. Emily is going to need you. It's going to be a long, rough battle."
"But she's gonna win." Zander didn't doubt that for a minute.
Monica smiled. "I hope so. Now go home. When you come to see her later, we can talk and you can ask your questions."
Zander hesitated then nodded. "I'll go, but promise me you'll call if Emily needs me."
"Thank you." Without thinking, Zander pulled Monica into a hug. He wanted to offer what comfort he could and he could feel her initial resistance, but then she sagged against him and Zander could feel her trembling. They held each other for a long moment, then Zander felt her pull away. "Goodnight," he whispered, knowing there was nothing else to say in this moment.
Monica nodded. "Goodnight, Zander."
He watched her walk away then headed for the elevator.
* * * * *
Zander entered Jake’s. The bar had long since closed and Zander was glad. He knew he should go upstairs and try to get some sleep, but he also knew he wouldn't be able to close his eyes. All the way home a tiny voice whispered in his head, *Emily has cancer...Emily has cancer...Emily has cancer* Zander rubbed his temples, wishing he could get the voice to stop. He made his way across the room to the bar and slipped behind it to swipe a bottle of Jack Daniels. Zander threw a twenty on the bar then grabbed a shot glass. The first three shots went down a little rough, but the fourth went down smooth, warming Zander from head to toe, yet he realized he was shivering.
Leaving the glass on the bar, Zander grabbed the bottle and headed for the stairs, meaning to go to his room. But before he could reach the stairs his knees buckled and he felt the familiar tightness in his chest. "Not now.." Zander hissed, even as his back hit the nearby wall and he sagged down it till he was sitting on the floor. He drew in long, shuddering, breaths and was relieved when the feeling passed. But the ache inside him didn't go away, nor did the fear. Emily had cancer. Zander buried his face in his hands and cried.
* * * * *
Zander sat in a chair next to Emily's bed and watched her sleep. He had arrived at the hospital over an hour ago and had spent most of that time talking to Monica about Emily and her treatment. Zander had a better understanding of what Emily had been going through and what she had to deal with in the future. It wasn't going to be easy, but Zander intended to be there for her all the way. He would be her rock of Gibraltar. He would never let Emily see him fall apart the way he had last night.
"Good morning, beautiful." Zander was on his feet and leaning over to kiss her cheek. "How do you feel?"
Emily sighed. "Tired. You look as tired as I feel." Her face scrunched up as she blinked back tears. "I'm so sorry, Zander..."
He gathered her into his arms. "Don't, Emily. Don't be sorry. It's okay. You're going to be okay."
"I wanted everything to be perfect for us."
"Do you love me?"
She pulled back and looked at him in surprise. "Of course I do. More than anything."
Zander smiled. "I feel the same way about you, baby. So everything is perfect for us."
"Zander...I want to believe that.."
"Then believe it. I do." He kissed her on the forehead then laid he back down against the pillows. "I talked to your mom and she explained stuff to me. I know you have tests today and stuff, but I'm gonna be around. Okay? I'll only be gone for my session with Dr. Baldwin."
Emily nodded. "When is it?"
Zander glanced at his watch. "In about ten minutes."
"You can talk to her about this, you know." Emily reached out and cupped her palm to Zander's cheek. "I want you to talk about how you feel. To me and to Dr. Baldwin. This is so unfair to you, Zander. You have enough to deal with without me adding to it."
"Don't go there, Emily." Zander touched a finger to her lips. "I'm okay, you're okay. We're gonna be okay. And that's that. Got it?" He smiled at her even as he gave her a mock glare.
Emily smiled back. "Got it. What did I do to deserve you?"
Zander kissed her lips. "That's the question I ask myself every single day. Only I know I don't deserve you, Emily. I'm just grateful as hell that you love me."
"I know the feeling." Emily hugged Zander then pushed him away. "Go to your session."
"Going." He rose from the bed but had to steal another kiss to get him through. "I'll be back soon."
Emily frowned. "Don't you have work?"
Zander grinned. "I called Ned and asked for the day off. He understands. He's a good guy."
"I think so too. Now shoo." Emily waved him away.
"I love you." Zander threw over his shoulder, and he smiled when Emily echoed him. But once out in the hallway, Zander's smile faded and he sagged against the wall. He ran a hand over his face and was of half a mind to blow off the session, head back to Jake’s, and get drunk. But Zander knew he couldn't do that to Emily. He couldn't disappoint her in that way. Didn't change the fact that his head was pounding though and Zander dug in his jeans pocket for a tiny foil packet. Pain pills that had been prescribed to him by Dr. Quartermaine, and not the ones he had gotten yesterday. These were from when he had been beaten by Jason so they were stronger. Zander popped two in his mouth then headed for the nearby water fountain. As he drank to swallow them down, he remembered he was supposed to be taking his antibiotic as well. Once the pills were down, Zander wiped his mouth with the back of one hand then turned to head down for the elevators. He punched the button and stepped back when the door opened.
Nikolas stepped out. "Hey Zander."
"Hey. What are you doing here?"
"I heard about Emily. How is she?"
Zander plastered a smile on his face. "She's doing okay. She's going to be fine."'
Nikolas nodded. "She has to be."
"Yeah." Zander knew how much Nikolas loved Emily. He knew it would be hard for him to deal with this. But they both had to be strong, for Emily's sake. But Zander didn't want to talk about this with Nikolas. Not now. "Um…I have to go."
"Sure." Nikolas stepped aside, but grabbed Zander's arm as he passed by him. "Listen...I know this is going to be hard on both of you. It's hard on me too. If you want to talk sometime...Just call me."
Zander was surprised and didn't try to hide it. "Sure. Okay." He pulled his arm free and stepped onto the elevator. He punched the button then leaned against the railing, letting his body sag against it. Zander wasn't much into religion, but he had always believed in god. So he closed his eyes and prayed. For Emily.