Flame Turns Blue
Monica turned at the sound of her name. She was not pleased to see Cameron Lewis walking towards her. Emily had told her about Zander's father, and about how he had blamed Zander for his older brother's death. After hearing the story, Monica had gone to Alan about firing Dr. Lewis, but Alan had explained to her that it wasn't fair to do that based on Dr. Lewis' mistakes with his children. Lord knew they had made enough mistakes with their own kids. And Dr. Lewis appeared to be good at his job, in all other aspects. So Monica forced a smile as he reached her. "Dr. Lewis. Did you want something?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I need your help."
Monica could see that it was difficult for him to admit that. "Help with what?"
Cameron sighed. "Alexander."
"Help in what way? From what I've seen, Zander is doing well. He and Emily are happy together. Zander is doing a great job for Ned at ELQ. Things couldn't be better for him."
"Except for Emily's cancer."
Monica felt the smile on her face freeze. "Your point being?"
Cameron cleared his throat. "First, let me say I'm sorry to hear about her illness. I hope the new Chemo works for her."
"That said…I'm concerned how this will affect my son. Alexander overdosed just two months ago. He couldn't handle the emotional overload. Watching Emily suffer through cancer is going to put unneeded stress upon him all over again."
Monica glared at Dr. Lewis. "You're right, it's going to be very stressful for Zander. Which is why I'm glad he's in therapy. I think Dr. Baldwin will help him deal with everything."
Cameron nodded. "I'm sure she'll try. The thing is, I may not have done the right thing by my son, but I do know Alexander better than anyone. He won't let Dr. Baldwin help him. And that worries me."
"And you expect me to help you with that...how?"
"I need to reconnect with Zander. I need to find a way to get him to talk to me. He barely tolerates my presence these days."
Monica snorted derisively. "Gee…I can't imagine why he wouldn't be happy to see you, Dr. Lewis. I mean...you did let him believe he killed his brother for the past five years. And I believe I heard rumors of you telling him he was worthless, and that you wish he had died."
Cameron raised a hand to cut her off. "I made horrible mistakes and said horrible things. I know that. And it's worse because, as a psychiatrist…I should know better. But logic doesn't apply to family. I believe you know that fact well, Dr."
"Touché. I still don't understand what you want me to do."
"I need to figure out a way to get Zander to talk to me. So I can feel him out. I want to help him through this. I know I can do that…if he'll let me."
Monica sighed and rubbed at her temples. "I don't know what to tell you. Ask him to dinner or something. I suggest a public place so that both of you behave yourselves. Other than that…I don't know what else you can do."
Cameron frowned then nodded. "Thank you. Maybe I'll try that."
"Dr. Lewis." Monica called him back as he turned to go. "I think it's a good thing that you want to do this. Because even though Zander is a survivor, and I know that first hand. He's more fragile than he realizes."
"I know," Cameron whispered, then he slowly walked away.
* * * * *
Zander paced the confines of Gail Baldwin's office. He felt wired and anxious and told himself it was the pain pills. He probably should have eaten something, like breakfast, before taking them. And it didn't help that Dr. Baldwin was asking him about Emily's cancer. Seemed everyone at the hospital now knew about it. Dr. Baldwin felt that it was important that Zander talk about what he was feeling. He didn't tell her the truth. That he felt like running away, far and fast.
"Yeah?" He looked at Dr. Baldwin and suddenly realized that she had asked him a question and he hadn't heard her to respond. "Sorry. What did you say?"
Gail leaned back in her chair. "I asked what your initial reaction was when you heard about Emily's cancer."
Zander stopped pacing and plopped down in the nearest chair. The one farthest away from Dr. Baldwin's desk. "I felt...terrified. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. And I couldn't believe she didn't tell me."
"Why do you think she kept it from you?"
"She kept it from everyone, except her parents." Zander ran a hand through his hair. "I think Emily felt that if everyone knew about it, it would make it more real. I think she was in denial. And as more me finding out. She thinks it not fair to me…or to us. And she's right...it's not fair. Emily has been through so much. Her mom dying of cancer. Drug addiction. All the stuff with Sorel. Learning to walk again. Now cancer? It's not fair."
Gail scribbled in her notebook. "How does this affect you, Zander?"
Zander frowned in confusion. "This isn't about me. It's about Emily."
"But you're a part of Emily's life. She loves you, you love her. This is going to affect you, Zander. And you're going to have to deal with it."
"So I'll deal." Zander jumped up and began pacing again. He glared at the clock on the wall. He still had twenty minutes to go. "Look...whatever it takes. Whatever I have to do to help Emily through this…I'll do."
Gail nodded. "I'm sure you'll try, Zander. But you have your own issues...to deal with. You can't let that slide. Not dealing with them will make it tougher to handle things with Emily. She is going to need all the support she can get and she's going to look to you to give it to her."
Zander stopped pacing and locked eyes with Dr. Baldwin. "What are you saying? That I won't be able to handle this? That I'm going to let Emily down? Fail her?"
"No…I'm not saying that at all, Zander." Gail approached him. "I'm saying that you can't ignore the stuff you're going through right now. Your own, personal, demons. You've tried to lock them away and forget about them for years, Zander. But they didn't go away, and they won't go away now."
"I know that."
Gail sighed. "You look tired. Are you sleeping all right?"
Zander shrugged and turned away. He didn't want her to look to closely. He had learned that Dr. Baldwin had a gift for reading between the lines and for seeing things no one else would notice. "It's been a rough couple of days."
"What happened to your hand?"
"I burned it with hot coffee. I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing."
Gail returned to her chair behind the desk. "Since we started these sessions, Zander, you haven't been willing to talk about your brother. Think we can do that now?"
Zander froze. He didn't want to deal with any of that stuff right now. None of it mattered. The only thing he cared about was Emily. "Peter is dead. Talking about him won't change that. It won't change what happened. It won't change five years of guilt. And it sure as hell won't change the fact that my father wishes I had died instead of Peter." Everything came out before Zander could stop it and he clapped a hand over his mouth as he realized how much he had revealed.
"No…it won't change any of that, Zander," Gail said quietly. "But, obviously, all of what happened affected you in ways that you haven't even begun to deal with. You need to do that before you can move on with your life."
"The only thing that matters to me right now is Emily. I couldn't save Peter. I didn't even know he needed saving." Zander felt his throat tighten with tears and he choked them back. He realized he was trembling and he moved to sit down before Dr. Baldwin noticed. He could feel it happening again. It took a concentrated effort on his part to keep his breathing even. He didn't want to do this in front of Dr. Baldwin. Zander looked at the clock. Five more minutes.
Gail laid down her pen then said, "Okay, let's deal with Emily for the moment. Do you think you can handle this, Zander? Because the bottom line is that she could die."
Zander gripped the arms of the chair to stop them from shaking. He had to force back the tidal wave of fear by focusing on Emily. His voice was barely a whisper as he spoke. "She won't die. She can't die. She's going to beat the cancer. I know she will."
"It's good to be positive, Zander, but you have to be realistic as well. Emily could die and you have to prepare yourself for that reality."
"No, I don't." Zander could still feel the fear and anxiety pushing at him from the inside out. But he only had two minutes left. He rose to his feet and headed for the door. "I have to believe that Emily is going to live. I have to believe it so that she'll believe it. We've been through hell together, Dr. Baldwin. We've earned the right to have a life together and I'm not giving up on it. I'm gonna fight for it, and so will Emily. No one can take that away from us." Another glance at the clock and Zander felt a twinge of relief. Time was on his side for once. "Look…It's been real. See you next week." That said, Zander opened the door and almost bolted from the room.
But he didn't get far before a presence intervened. His father. Zander had almost made it to Emily's room. To the one place where he could feel at peace. He glared at his father. "What do you want?"
Cameron's eyes narrowed. "To talk to you for a minute. Is that a problem?"
"Yeah…it is. You managed to avoid talking to me for most of my life, and I'd like to keep it that way." Zander made to move past his father but a hand on his arm made him stop. He glared at the hand, then turned the glare on his father. The hand was removed.
"I know that things are strained between us, Alexander. I was hoping we could work on changing that."
Zander felt a prickle of suspicion. "Change it…how?"
Cameron shrugged. "I thought we could have dinner together sometime this week. Perhaps we could manage to be civil towards one another in public."
"I can't." Zander shook his head. "I'll be spending every free moment I have with Emily."
"I heard about her cancer. I'm sorry."
Zander could almost believe his father was sincere. "Yeah…so am I. But it's okay. She's going to be fine." He ran his bandaged hand through his hair.
Cameron frowned. "What happened to your hand?"
"Nothing. Are we through now?"
"Alexander...I'm serious about getting together. I understand that Emily will be released tomorrow. If she's feeling up to it, perhaps the three of us could have dinner this weekend?"
Zander didn't want to deal with this right now, but he knew if he blew his father off, he would only keep pushing at him. "Fine…I'll ask her. But it'll be up to Emily."
Cameron nodded. "Fair enough. Say hello to her for me."
"Why?" Zander couldn't keep the snark out of his voice. It was a reflex reaction. The inability to trust that his father might have genuine concern for anyone. Other than Peter. And even that concern had generated tragic consequences.
"Never mind, Alexander," Cameron drawled, then he turned and walked away.
Zander cursed under his breath as he turned and headed for Emily's room.
* * * * *
"How was the session?"
Zander was surprised by the question, mainly because Emily asked it the moment he entered the room. She looked as if she had been waiting for him to return, rather impatiently. "It was…a session."
Emily nodded. "Did you talk about Peter?"
"Zander…you need to talk about him."
He moved to sit on the side of the bed and reached for her hand. Smiling, Zander brought it to his mouth and kissed her palm. "I'd much rather talk about you. How are you feeling?"
Emily retrieved her hand and folded her arms across her chest. "Zander…I'm serious. I know that you're worried about me, but I want you to concentrate on yourself. I want you to deal with all the stuff that happened to you. Dr. Baldwin can help you do that, but only if you talk to her about how you feel."
"I feel like changing the subject." Zander wasn't about to let Emily get bogged down with his shit. "Hey…um…I hear you might get released tomorrow. Is it true?"
"Yeah, so mom says."
Zander mock glared at Emily. "Why didn't you tell me?"
She smiled. "I was going to tell you after your session. Who told you?"
"My father." Zander felt his expression tighten. "Speaking of which. He wants us to go dinner with him. So he and I can talk. He's invited you to come and I told him it was up to you."
"I think we should go."
Zander was surprised that Emily didn't even hesitate in her response. "Why?" he shot back.
Emily reached out to cup Zander's face with one hand. "Because he's your father and he's making the effort to reach out to you after all these years."
"And I should give a damn...why?"
"I don't expect this to be easy on you, Zander. I don't. I just think it will help you deal with things. And...for my own part, I want to get to know your father better. I want to try and understand how he could treat you the way he did." Anger flashed in her eyes as she spoke.
Zander laughed softly and leaned in to kiss Emily on the nose. He loved the way she
always came to his defense. The way she was always looking out for him. No one had ever loved him the way Emily did. Not even Peter. "Thank you for loving me, baby," Zander whispered.
Emily hugged him. "It's what I do best."
"You got that right, and I don't make it easy for you."
"Yes you do. You love me back and that's everything to me." Emily pulled back and wiped away the tear that tried to slide down her cheek. "I just wish that we had a lifetime to look forward to, to love each other."
Zander cupped Emily's face in both hands. "Hey…we do have a lifetime. A very long lifetime ahead of us. You're going to get through this, Emily. I believe that with all my heart." Zander had to believe that or he would go crazy. He couldn't even think about losing Emily. Not now. Not ever.
Emily stifled a yawn. "Sorry."
"Don't be. Why don't you take a nap."
"Will you stay with me?"
Zander nudged her over a bit so he could lie down beside her. "You know I'm not going anywhere."
Emily snuggled against him. "You make me believe that forever might be possible."
"It is…for us." Zander kissed the top of her head. "Now go to sleep and have sweet dreams."
"I'll dream of you," Emily mumbled.
Zander could feel her relax against him and the change in her breathing. Once Emily was asleep, Zander closed his own eyes and let sleep claim him as well.
* * * * *
Zander slipped out of Emily's room as quietly as he could. He had dozed off for almost an hour but she was still sleeping and Zander didn't want to disturb her. But he needed some coffee and a moment to stretch his legs. He also needed another pain pill. Zander rubbed the bandage on his hand, the burn was beginning to sting again. In fact, it was that pain which had woken him up. Digging in his pocket, Zander brought out another foil packet and popped the pills in his mouth. He spotted the drinking fountain and quickly downed them, then he turned and headed for the elevators only to see Gia walking towards him. When she reached him, Zander pulled her into a hug. "Hey…what are you doing here?"
"I heard about Emily," Gia replied. "How are you doing? What happened to your hand?"
"Everybody keeps asking me that. I burned it. And don't ask how."
Gia arched an eyebrow. "Okay. So...you doing okay otherwise?"
Zander nodded. "Yeah...I'm good. And so is Emily. She's being released tomorrow and she started a new chemo which the doctors are very hopeful about."
"That's great. Is she up for visitors? I mean…I know we're not exactly friends, but I'd like to pop in and say *hi*."
"She's asleep right now."
Gia followed Zander over to the waiting area. "That's okay. I'll stop by later. Can I get you anything?"
Zander shook his head, he was just glad to see a friendly face. "I'm fine, but thanks for asking. You're a good friend, Gia. Have I ever really thanked you for everything you've done for me?"
"I haven't done all that much, Zander?"
"Are you kidding? You got me through one of the worst times of my life. And I've been through alot of shit. You didn't know me or particularly like me, but that didn't stop you from helping me." Zander smiled and reached out to squeeze Gia on the arm. "It really means alot to me, Gia. Thank you."
Gia nodded and smiled back. "All I did was try and see you through Emily’s eyes, and once I did that...I understood what she saw in you, Zander. Although meeting your father and learning a bit about your horrific childhood did help make me a bit more sympathetic towards you. You haven't had things easy."
Zander shrugged. "No…but I've got Emily and she makes everything in my life okay."
"She's gonna make it through this, Zander. She's strong."
"I know, but thanks for saying that."
Gia nodded. "Sure. Listen, I'm gonna go. I'll be back later. Tell Emily I stopped by."
Zander followed Gia to the elevators. "I'll do that. See you later." He watched her go then headed for the men's room. When he returned it was to find Lucky and Elizabeth pacing outside of Emily's room. "Hey...guess you heard the news?" Zander offered in greeting.
"Yeah," Elizabeth replied. "Emily's mom called me and I ran into Lucky and told him. We checked on her and she's asleep. Is she okay?"
"So far." Zander put a smile on his face. He could see how upset Elizabeth and Lucky were and he wanted to reassure them. Emily loved them both and Zander knew how much they loved her back. But before he could say anything, he felt a wave of dizziness hit him like a ton of bricks. Silver spots danced in front of Zander's eyes and he heard Elizabeth calling his name before everything went black.
* * * * *
Zander came awake with a start. He made to sit up but pressure on his chest kept him down. He blinked to focus his vision and Monica's face hovered over him.
"Just lie back and take it easy," she ordered.
"What happened?" Zander stayed down but combed his fingers through his hair. Then he remembered. "I passed out."
Monica nodded. "You scared the hell out of Lucky and Elizabeth. They're waiting outside the door to make sure you're okay.
Zander sighed. "I'm fine."
"Well…I’m going to run a few tests to make sure."
"No!" Zander realized how sharp his tone was and he apologized. "Sorry. I'm okay, really. You don't need to do any tests."
Monica locked eyes with Zander. "You passed out for no reason, Zander. That worries me."
Zander plastered a smile on his face. "There is a reason. I haven't eaten anything since yesterday and...I've been taking my medication and I think Emily told me that I was supposed to eat something with it."
"That's right. You shouldn't take them on an empty stomach." Monica frowned. "I suppose not eating and taking the medication could make you pass out. Especially given how stressed you've been since finding out about Emily's cancer. And I'm betting that you didn't get much sleep last night."
"You'd win that bet," Zander confirmed. He sat up slowly and was relieved when she allowed it. "So…you see, I'm fine. I just need to eat something."
Monica grabbed Zander's arm as he stood up. "I want you to go to the cafeteria and I'm going to ask Elizabeth and Lucky to go with you to make sure you eat."
Zander made a face. "Uh…no thanks. I don't do hospital food." He was rather grateful for her hand on his arm, because he felt a little shaky on his feet. Then a thought hit him. "Promise me you won't tell Emily about this? Please? I don't want her to worry about me."
"Okay…I won't tell her. But only if you go eat then go home and get some sleep." Monica guided Zander out the door.
"Zander?" It was Elizabeth. "You okay?"
He smiled and nodded. "I'm fine. Embarrassed, but fine. Thanks."
Monica looked at Lucky. "Would you and Elizabeth be willing to take Zander to Kelly's and make sure he eats something? Then he needs to go home and get some sleep."
"We can do that," Lucky replied. "No problem."
"I can take care of myself," Zander protested.
Monica glared at him. "Not happening. You could pass out behind the wheel. Then what would I tell Emily?"
Zander winced. "Point taken. But can I say goodbye to Emily first?"
"She's still asleep," Elizabeth stated.
"I still want to see her before I go."
Monica nodded. "Go say goodbye, then go home. Or I will tell Emily what happened."
Zander felt her pat him on the arm before she headed off towards the nurses station. He turned to Lucky and Elizabeth. "You really don't have to babysit me. I'm fine."
"That's okay," Elizabeth replied. "We don't mind. And we can talk. About Emily. Go say your goodbyes. We'll wait for you by the elevator."
"Okay." Zander headed for Emily's room. He needed to see her, just to reassure himself that she was okay. Because even though Zander had to believe that Emily would beat the cancer, there was a part of him that couldn't help but think that if he stopped believing for just one second, then she would somehow slip away from him. And Zander knew that if he lost Emily, he would go insane.