Flame Turns Blue
"Aren't you supposed to be eating?"
Zander jumped at the sound of Lucky's voice. He had been lost in thought about Emily. Staring down at the cheeseburger and onion rings on his plate, Zander nodded then made a show of taking a bite of the burger. He wasn't hungry though. He was just going through the motions. Zander swallowed, drank some water, then pinned his eyes on Elizabeth. He smiled. "So...you and Lucky?" he guessed, having sensed a certain closeness between them.
Elizabeth made a face then nodded. "Does it show?"
"A little. It's nice."
"Yeah…it is." Elizabeth reached for Lucky's hand. "I'm not sure where this is going to go, but it feels right. So far."
Zander looked at Lucky. "Don't hurt her again, man. You'll answer to me."
Lucky smiled. "I won't hurt her. Not this time."
"You know…you two don't have to hang around." Zander took another swallow of water. "I really don't need a babysitter."
"Your car is still at the hospital, Zander," Elizabeth countered. "How else are you going to get home?"
Zander sighed. "Walk?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't think so. You already passed out once and you still look pale. We're taking you home."
"Okay." Zander conceded defeat. "Listen, I am kinda tired. I'll ask Penny to put the burger and fries in a bag and take it home."
"Nope." Elizabeth glared at Zander. "I know you'll dump it so we're gonna sit here till you're done eating. So eat."
Zander grimaced but grabbed an onion ring. He couldn't say anything because Elizabeth had caught him out. "Are you gonna go back and visit Emily?"
Lucky nodded. "Yeah. I can't believe she has cancer. That came out of no where."
"Tell me about it." Zander reached for the ketchup. He still wasn't hungry but he knew he needed to eat. He needed to be strong for Emily in every way. "She's scared."
"I would be." Elizabeth was weepy. "She has to be thinking about her mom."
Zander patted Elizabeth's hand. "Yeah. But this is different. They have more treatments now. Better treatments. Emily is going to beat this. You'll see."
Elizabeth wiped away a tear and nodded. "You gonna be okay, Zander? You've got so much other stuff to deal with."
"It's all about Emily for me. It always has been."
"If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask. Okay?" Elizabeth squeezed Zander's hand. "Lucky and I are here for both of you."
Zander looked at Lucky and saw that he was in agreement with Elizabeth. That meant alot to Zander. "Thanks. I appreciate that. I may take you up on it some time." He took another bite of the burger and managed to eat most of it and half the onion rings. Enough to satisfy Elizabeth.
The trio left Kelly's and Zander was glad to get home. He thanked them then climbed the stairs to his room. He took a shower, pulled on sweat pants and a tee shirt, then he crawled onto the bed. He was more tired than he had realized. Zander closed his eyes and was instantly asleep.
"You are such a loser." Alex whacked his brother on the back of the head.
"Brat!" Pete shoved him back. "And why am I a loser?"
Alex sighed. "You've got two hot chicks fighting over you and you blow them both off to concentrate on your finals? You are totally whacked."
Pete mock glared at Alex. "Listen, kid. I'm studying to be a psychiatrist. It's not easy."
"You need to have more fun."
"I can have fun later. Besides, I'm having fun now."
Alex snorted. "Yeah...I bet. Why did you make me come with you and Dad on this stupid hunting trip anyway? You know he doesn't want me here."
Pete locked eyes with his brother. "I won't let him shut you out, Alex. That's not gonna happen on my watch."
"Pete...don't bother. Dad hates me and that's just the way it is. You're the golden boy and I'm the...mistake."
Alex flinched at his father's voice. "Better go see what he wants, or he'll come over here and ream me out for holding you up or something."
Pete clapped Alex on the shoulder. "Be right back."
Watching his brother disappear through the trees, Alex then began pacing. He didn't want to be here. He wished a stupid deer would show up so he could shoot it already and they could go home. Then he heard it, a sound in the brush. He raised his rifle to his shoulder and peered through the trees. He saw a flash of brown and took aim. Easy squeeze of the trigger and...
Zander's throat felt raw as the scream died in his throat. He heard a pounding and nearly fell out of the bed as he jumped at the sound. It drew him out of the nightmare. He had been reliving the shooting. The sound of the gunshot still echoed in his ears.
"I'm coming." He recognized Coleman's voice. Zander stumbled towards the door and fumbled with the lock. Got it to click and opened the door. "Sorry, man. Sorry," he apologized.
Coleman nodded. "You look like hell. You okay? It sounded like you were being murdered or something."
Zander winced and ran a hand through his damp hair. His entire body was sheened in a cold sweat and he felt himself shivering. "Yeah…I'm good. Just a bad dream."
"Yeah...I get those now and then. Especially after too much tequila. Want a shot to help you chill out?"
"Nah...I'm fine. Thanks."
Coleman shrugged and turned away. "Later, man."
Zander watched him go then closed the door and locked it again. He headed for the bathroom and made it to the toilet in time to puke. When he was done he brushed his teeth then splashed cold water on his face. He was somewhat surprised that his hands weren't stained red, the way they had been on the day Peter had died. "God…I'm so sorry, Pete," Zander whispered, as he sank to the floor and buried his face in his knees. "I miss you so much...so fucking much!"
How long Zander sat there, he didn't know. He felt hot tears slide down his face and felt his body shaking. After a while he got up and changed into dry sweat pants and a sweat shirt. He put on socks and sneakers and headed out the door. It was barely four am but he needed a run to clear his head.
* * * * *
Zander studied his reflection in the mirror. He looked as tired as he felt. After an hour run he had come home, showered again and dropped into bed to sleep. He had managed to doze off a few times but gave up on getting any real sleep by seven. Another shower didn't help him relax any. Not only that but Zander's burn felt hot and prickly and it was starting to hurt again, so he reached for the foil packet of pain pills. He popped two in his mouth and washed them down with water. Emily was going home today and Ned had given Zander the day off so he could be with her. He couldn't face her feeling out of sorts. She needed him to be strong and calm, so that was what he was going to be.
Glancing at his watch, Zander was relieved to discover it was nearly 8am. He had managed to kill some time and a trip to Kelly's for coffee would kill a bit more. Emily wasn't being released until ten and visiting hours didn't start until nine. The thought of seeing Emily made Zander smile and he felt better as he snatched up his keys and headed out the door. He had his car back since that's where he had run too, was the hospital to pick it up.
He was still smiling when he entered Kelly's ten minutes later. He ordered a large coffee to go from Penny and felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning around, Zander saw Gia smiling at him.
"Hi yourself. You look happy."
"Emily is going home today." Zander doubted he could scrape the smile off his face.
Gia hugged him. "That's great. So she's doing better?"
Zander shrugged. "Well...we won't know till she gets through the new chemo, but she's feeling better and I'm taking that as a good sign."
"I hope it works out, for both of you."
"Thanks Gia." Penny arrived with his coffee and Zander paid her and gave her a nice tip. "So...what are you up to today?" he asked Gia. He still had a few minutes to kill.
Gia sighed. "School. That pretty much sums up my life right now. School…study…school."
Zander smiled at her. "Hey...that's not such a bad thing. You're really doing something with your life. I really admire what you're doing."
"Thanks. It's nice to hear. Hey…you got time for breakfast? I would love the company."
"Um.." Zander glanced at his watch. In truth he could spare the time. "Yeah…that'd be great." He moved with her to sit down at a nearby table.
Gia gave him the once over. "You're losing weight, Zander. And you didn't have any to lose."
He laughed. "This coming from Miss Skinny Minny?"
"I'm serious. You need to take care of yourself. Emily is going to need you to get through this cancer."
"I know." Zander popped open the hole on the top of his coffee and took a sip. "I'm okay, Gia. It's just been rough lately. But I'm cool."
She nodded. "Okay. Well…breakfast is on me, so I get to order for us both."
Zander laughed and shook a finger at her. "I don't think that's how it works."
"It does today." Gia smirked at Zander then turned her attention to Penny. She ordered eggs and pancakes for them both and smiled at Zander. "Hope you’re hungry."
"Yeah...me to," he drawled. Then it dawned on Zander that he actually had a bit of an appetite for once. And when the food arrived he managed to clean his plate. He also managed to pay the bill before Gia could get to her wallet. Then he thanked her for the company, kissed her on the cheek and headed for the door. Emily was waiting for him.
* * * * *
Monica was the first person Zander saw when he reached the third floor. "How is Emily?" he asked.
"She's with her doctor right now," Monica replied. "They'll be awhile. But she's doing good and she's ready to go home."
"Good. It's still okay for me to take her home...right?"
Monica nodded. "Of course. Emily would raise holy hell if I tried to stop you."
Zander laughed. "Yeah...she probably would do that."
"Zander...what happened to the wrappings on your hand? I told you to keep it covered."
"I forgot." Zander tried to hide his hand behind his back, but Monica reached around him and pulled it out to study it. "It's fine."
Monica frowned at him. "Does it still hurt?"
Zander shook his head. "Nope." It was the truth. Since he had taken a double dose of pain pills just over an hour ago, it didn't hurt in the least. And his anxiety had eased.
"Come with me." Monica pulled Zander along by the wrist. "I'm going to clean it and wrap it again."
"It's fine, I told you," Zander protested.
Monica didn't respond. She pulled Zander into the treatment area and pushed him down onto a stool. Then she set about collecting the supplies she would need. "You have to keep it sterile, Zander, in order to avoid infection. I thought I made that clear to you," Monica stated as she sat down across from him.
Zander resisted the urge to sigh. "Sorry."
"No prickling or burning sensation?"
"Uh...maybe a little. Nothing bad." Zander didn't know why he felt compelled to lie about it.
Monica patted at it with a sterile pad soaked in a medicated solution. She then coated it with ointment then covered it with another sterile pad, before wrapping it with gauze. "Are you taking the antibiotic?"
Zander winced. "More or less." He could see that was the wrong answer. "I just forgot."
"I'm going to give you a double dose. Don't forget to take the rest as prescribed. Got it?"
"I got it." Zander rose from the stool. "Can I go see Emily now?"
Monica nodded. "She should be ready. I'll be in shortly with the pills."
Zander thanked her and made good his escape. He almost ran down the hallway and peeked in the window. Emily was up and dressed and alone. "Hey beautiful," Zander stated as he entered the room.
"Zander!" Emily ran into his arms.
"Did you miss me?" Zander laughed as he hugged Emily to him. He never wanted to let her go.
Emily kissed his cheek then pulled back to look at him. "You look tired."
Zander narrowed his gaze at her. "Don't start," he warned, teasingly. "I'm fine, Emily. I just missed you last night."
"I missed you too. I feel like I'm losing precious time when I'm not with you."
"Well...you're with me now. That's all that matters. So when can we blow this pop stand?"
Monica entered the room in time to answer. "The paper work should be ready in about five minutes. She turned to Zander and held out two small packets of pills and a glass of water. "Take these."
Emily frowned. "What is that?"
"Nothing," Zander was quick to reassure her. "Just antibiotic. I forgot to take them this morning."
"Did you eat breakfast?" Monica asked, before handing them over.
Zander nodded. He took the pills and the water and downed them under the watchful eye of Emily and her mother. "Thanks," he said to Dr. Quartermaine.
She smiled. "No problem. I'll go check about the paper work."
"Let's go out in the hall," Emily requested, taking Zander by the hand and leading him out the door.
"I'm so glad you're feeling better," Zander told her. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. Then he stiffened as he saw his father approaching. For Emily's sake Zander played nice. "Hello, Dad."
Cameron nodded. "Alexander. Emily. Have you talked about dinner?"
Zander wasn't surprised by his father's directness. "We did." That's all he offered.
"We accept," Emily interjected. "How does tomorrow night sound?"
"Are you sure you'll feel up to it?" Cameron asked.
Emily nodded. "I'm sure."
Cameron offered a half smile. "That's fine then. Seven o'clock at the PC Grille?"
"Works for me." Emily turned to Zander. "Is that okay?"
"Fine." It wasn't but Zander was willing to lie about it for Emily's sake. For whatever reason, she really wanted to do this.
Cameron nodded. "Good. I'll see you both tomorrow night." With that he turned and walked away.
Zander felt himself relax when his father was out of sight. "Are you sure you'll be up to dinner?" he asked.
"I think so. We can cancel if I don't." Emily hugged Zander, nuzzling his cheek. "I think it will be interesting."
"Or something," Zander allowed. He saw Monica approaching, waving a sheaf of papers at them. "Looks like it's time to go."
Emily kissed him. "Woohoo. Take me out of here, Zander."
He commandeered the wheelchair from Bobbie. "My pleasure," he said, as he lifted Emily into his arms then settled her into the chair. "Home sweet home, here we come." With that Zander wheeled Emily over to the elevator and for the first time in a long time, he felt like everything was going to be okay.