Flame Turns Blue
"Can I get you anything?" Zander asked, as he watched Emily settle herself on the couch. She looked a bit pale but otherwise fine, yet Zander didn't want her to overdo and tire herself out.
"Just you," Emily replied. "You're too far away."
Zander crossed the room in a heartbeat. He let Emily take his hand and pull him down beside her, shifting them both until he was lying down on his back and she was curled up beside him. "Am I squashing you?" he queried.
Emily laughed and kissed his cheek. "Not at all. I'm fine, Zander. Really. Just a little tired."
"Take a nap."
"I will. I want to talk for a while though."
Zander wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. "What about?"
Emily sighed. "Us. I want to make plans, Zander. I want to pretend that we really do have future together."
"We don't have to pretend, baby." Zander smoothed a lock of hair off her cheek. "We do have a future together and a lifetime to make plans and do everything we ever dreamed of doing."
"Like going to Mexico?"
Zander nodded. "Like that...and getting married. Having kids. We've got time to do it all."
Emily was silent for a moment. "I want to believe that."
"Then believe it." Zander shifted a little so he could see her face. "I know that you're going to make it through this, Em. I don't doubt that for one minute."
"I'm so scared, Zander. I don't want to die." Tears slid down Emily's face.
Zander wrapped her in his arms and pressed kisses to her temple. "You're not going to die! That's not going to happen, Emily. You have to believe that. Believe me." Zander held her until her tears stopped, then he shifted her over him so that he could kiss them off her face. "We're going to grow old together, Emily. It's written in the stars."
Emily nodded and managed a wobbly smile. "I like the way you think."
"I have to believe you're going to be okay, Em. Cause my life has no meaning without you."
"I'm not going to leave you, Zander. I promise." Emily snuggled against him again and closed her eyes.
Zander kissed the top of her head. "I'm gonna hold you to that promise, baby." He felt her body relax and heard her breathing change, telling him that she had fallen asleep. Zander laid there with her for a while, then he shifted out from under Emily, rising from the couch to look at her for a long moment. Then he covered her with the afghan and headed out onto the patio for some air. He was surprised to find Edward there. "Sorry...I'll go," Zander stated.
Edward stopped him. "I want to talk to you."
"What about?" Zander could feel himself becoming defensive.
"About you and my granddaughter."
Zander swallowed a sigh. He could guess where this was going. Edward was going to tell him to stay away from Emily for her own good. "Look, Mr. Quartermaine..."
Edward waved a hand to cut him off. "I want you to listen to me, young man."
"Don't you mean…deviant?" Zander interjected. He couldn't help himself.
"Don't interrupt!" Edward huffed. He glared at Zander then continued. "I just wanted to say that I appreciate the support you've given to Emily during this, difficult…time for all of us. We both know I'm not your biggest fan, but Emily loves you and I'd have to be blind not to see that you love her back. You're good for her, in your own way...so...I just wanted to…thank you."
Zander didn't know how to respond. "You don't have to thank me for loving Emily. She makes it easy."
Edward nodded. "Yes...she does."
"Um...I should go." Zander headed back inside before an awkward silence could fall between them. He checked on Emily who was still sleeping peacefully, then headed out into the foyer and the front door, only to run into Emily's parents.
"How is she?" Monica asked.
Zander smiled. "Sleeping." He rubbed a hand over his face. He was tired.
Alan patted Zander on the shoulder. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks."
"How's your hand?" Monica asked.
Zander had forgotten about it. He rubbed at the bandage. "It's fine."
Monica pinned him with a glare. "Don't forget to take your antibiotic, Zander."
"I won't." He headed for the door. "I'm gonna get some air. If Emily wakes up will you call me?"
"We can do that," Alan stated.
Zander nodded and headed out the door.
"He looks tired," Monica commented, when Zander was gone.
Alan nodded. "But we're all tired."
Monica sighed and sat down on the bottom step of the stairway. "I know. But I'm worried about Zander. Dealing with Emily's cancer is going to be hard on him. On all of us. But I have no doubt that Zander would be lost without her. You saw how he was when she was gone."
"Well...he's holding up well so far and for that I'm grateful." Alan sat down next to his wife. "Emily needs him and I think Zander will be there for her all the way."
"I hope so," Monica replied, as she wiped away the tear that slid down her cheek. Then she let herself melt into Alan's strong arms.
* * * * *
Zander sat in a chair by the couch and watched Emily sleep. He felt wound up inside yet he managed to doze off at one point, only to wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming that Emily had died in his arms. Zander had to get up and check her pulse and her breathing to make sure she was okay. Then he tried to calm his frazzled nerves, but it wasn't working. Zander could feel his chest tighten and he could hear how labored his breathing became. The *itch under his skin but can't scratch* feeling started up and Zander was frantic. He didn't want to have an attack in front of Emily. Forcing himself to breathe slowly, Zander headed out of the room. He ran into Alice and told her he had to leave and to let Emily know he'd either call later or be back. It took a monumental effort on Zander's part not to fall apart in front of Alice. He barely made it out the door before he began shaking so bad that his knees buckled.
It seemed to take forever for Zander to make it to his car. He sat in the driver's seat, hunched over, gasping for air as he felt his heart thudding in his chest. His skin was slick with sweat and he was shaking so hard his teeth were chattering. He felt completely on edge, like he would jump out of his skin at any moment. For a moment Zander felt so panicked he thought for sure he was going to die. But he was finally able to take control over his breathing, forcing himself to breathe in and out slowly, and after a time the anxiety eased and the shaking stopped. But he still felt jumpy and in no condition to face Emily.
So Zander drove home to Jake’s. He took a shower then called the Quartermaines. Emily answered and he told her that he had just gone out for a bit to let her rest and he would be back over soon. She told him not to rush and he told her to go ahead and eat dinner without him, he would grab something at Kelly's. So as to be true to his word, Zander headed for Kelly's. Elizabeth was working and Zander sat at the counter.
"Hi Zander, what can I get you?" Elizabeth asked.
"Oh…um...a cheeseburger to go. And a large coffee." Zander realized he had forgotten his antibiotic again and cursed under his breath. Although he was beginning to think the damn pills were part of his problem. Whenever he took them they seemed to intensify his panic attacks. Maybe it was best not to take them. His hand was feeling better anyway. After his shower Zander had covered it only with a large gauze pad. It was feeling prickly and hurt a bit, so he had taken one pain pill and it seemed better.
Elizabeth took Zander's order and gave it to the cook, then she returned to the counter. "How is Emily doing?"
Zander smiled. "She's doing good. She's home and took a nap. I'm heading over there from here."
"Tell her *Hi* for me and that I'll be over later to see her."
"I'll do that."
Elizabeth excused herself to wait on another customer.
Zander rose from his stool and headed outside for some air. He still felt jumpy so he paced a bit as he waited for his order. It was a beautiful day out but Zander didn't even notice. He was wrapped up in thoughts of Emily. He couldn't wait to see her again. She was the only thing in his life that made sense anymore.
He jumped at the sound of his name and turned to see Nikolas watching him. Zander stopped pacing. "Hi."
Nikolas nodded. "How's Emily doing? I heard she's home."
"She is and she's doing good."
"Is she up to having visitors?"
Zander considered. He didn't want Emily to get over tired, but he knew she would want to see her friends. "I think short visits would be good," he said, pointedly.
Nikolas smiled. "I get the hint. How's your hand doing?"
"Good." Zander was about to change the subject when Elizabeth came out of Kelly's with a bag in one hand. "Is that my burger?" Zander asked, fishing in his pocket for some cash.
"Sure is," Elizabeth replied. She accepted some bills and thanked him for the tip.
Zander excused himself. "I'll tell Emily you'll both be over to see her later," he said, before heading for his car.
Elizabeth watched him go then sighed. She turned to Nikolas. "How are you doing?"
"Good, and you?"
"I'm okay. Better than Zander, that's for sure."
Nikolas shrugged. "He seems to be holding it together."
Elizabeth snorted. "Barely. He passed out in front of me and Lucky yesterday. Freaked me out. He looks so tired and worn out and now he has to deal with Emily's cancer."
"She's going to be fine, Elizabeth," Nikolas stated.
"I want to believe that, I do." Elizabeth blinked back tears. "But the reality is that Emily has cancer and it could kill her. And if anything happens to her, I think Zander would try and jump in the grave with her."
Nikolas frowned. "You're being awfully maudlin, aren't you?"
Elizabeth glared at Nikolas. "It's called being realistic. You should try it some time." That said she flounced back into Kelly's.
* * * * *
"Are you sure you want to do this, Em?" Zander asked as he helped her with her coat. They were heading out to meet his father at the PC Grille for dinner. Zander had hoped against hope that Emily would be too tired for them to attend.
"I'm sure." Emily turned to face Zander. "I think this will be a good thing, Zander. Okay? And before you ask again, I feel fine. Really."
Zander sighed then fiddled with the tie that Emily had insisted that he wear. He hated the damn things, but for Emily he would tie a noose around his neck if that was what she wanted. "I have a bad feeling about tonight. My dad and I can't be in the same room for five minutes without screaming at each other."
Emily smiled as she batted Zander's hands away from his tie. "Maybe tonight will be the start of changes between the two of you. A new beginning."
"I don't want a new beginning with my father," Zander stated. "He means nothing to me, Emily. The only person that matters in my life...is you."
"He's your father, Zander. And that does mean something, even if you don't want to admit it."
Zander opened his mouth to argue the point and thought better of it. "We'd better go. Don't want to be late." He was barely able to contain his sarcasm, but he didn't want to spoil the night for Emily. For some strange reason she really seemed to be looking forward to dinner with his father.
* * * * *
Zander toyed with his bread as he listened to Emily and his father talking. Cameron had asked Emily about her cancer treatment and she had been forthright with him about it, then she had turned the tables to ask him, point blank, why he had treated his son so horribly since they had reconnected, as it were. Zander was proud of Emily for the way she held her own with his father, and he was touched by her ferocity in defending him. But Cameron's replies unsettled Zander. He didn't want to deal with it right now. However, Emily wasn't about to back down.
"Why did you blame Zander for Peter's death for all those years?" Emily asked point blank. "You knew it was suicide, yet you let Zander believe he had killed his own brother. You let him live with that guilt for all those years. How could you do that?"
"I thought it was for the best," Cameron replied.
Emily reacted as if she had been shot. "For the best? In what way? Best that Zander believe he killed the only person who he thought loved him because knowing the truth would suck? What the hell is wrong with you? Bad enough you didn't know better than that on a *father* level. But as a psychiatrist? How the hell do you keep your license?"
Zander touched Emily's hand. "Please don't go there…okay?" He was begging.
"Zander..." Emily broke off at the look on his face. "Okay. But you shouldn't let him off the hook."
"I don't care anymore, Emily. I don't. It's over and nothing is going to change what happened or how he feels about me. I just want to let it go." Zander heard the desperation in his tone and he could see that Emily heard it as well. He was relieved when she kissed him then nodded.
Emily brushed a lock of hair off Zander's forehead. "I'll let it go. For now." The last was a warning to Cameron.
Cameron wasn't as ready to let it go. "I want us to talk, Alexander," Cameron said, once Emily was done raking him over the coals. "I want us to work things out between us."
"Why?" Zander locked eyes with his father. "What could we possibly have to talk about? Oh...wait…Peter. Cause he will always be there between us, Dad. We both know that."
Cameron sighed. "Alexander...I know I made alot of mistakes with you. I want to try and rectify some of them. If you'll give me a chance. Give…us...a chance."
Zander shook his head. "Not interested." All of a sudden Zander rose from his chair and excused himself. He almost ran to the men’s room and barely made it into a stall before his dinner came up in a rush.. Zander heaved until his stomach was empty and it hurt to breathe. He came out of the stall and rinsed his mouth with water, splashing some on his face as well. He dried his face with a paper towel then popped a piece of gum in his mouth. Zander didn't want to go back to the table, but he knew he had to face Emily, so he plastered a smile on his face and returned to the dining room. "Sorry I was gone so long," he apologized.
"Are you okay?" Emily asked.
"I'm fine." Zander could see that she was worried about him. "Look...can we go now? I think I've had enough talking for one night."
Cameron rose to his feet. "I'm not giving up, Alexander."
Zander glared at his father. "Do what you want. I couldn't care less." He heard his voice tremble and it infuriated Zander that he let his father get to him. "Let's go, Emily." Zander pulled back her chair then helped her with her coat.
"I'm sorry, Zander," Emily apologized.
"For what?" He didn't look back as they left the table.
Emily touched his face. "For putting you through that. I thought it would help you, but I can see how upset you are. I'm sorry."
Zander shook his head. "Don't be sorry, baby. I know you did this because you love me. Never apologize for that, okay?"
"Okay. Are you sure you're all right, Zander? You look pale."
"I'm just riled up. My father has a way of doing that to me." Zander put an arm around Emily's shoulders, hugging her to him. "We need to get you home anyway. You've got chemo tomorrow."
Emily frowned. "Yeah. Um...you're still coming with me, right?"
Zander smiled. "Of course I am. You know I'm with you all the way. I'll be by your side through it all, Emily."
"It's going to be rough tomorrow."
"We can make it through anything, Em. The good and the bad. So long as we're together." Zander pressed a kiss to her temple.
Emily turned in his arms for a full hug. "You're right. We can. Will you make love to me tonight?"
Zander wanted that more than anything, but he shook his head. "You need to sleep. I'm going to drop you home then head home myself."
"Spoil sport," Emily teased.
"You know I'm right."
Emily sighed then nodded. "Yeah...I know." They reached the car and she slipped inside. "You know I love you, right?"
Zander looked at her, at the love shining from her beautiful eyes, and it almost made him cry. No one had ever loved him the way Emily did. No one ever could. "Yeah...I know. I love you too, more than anything." Blinking back tears, Zander closed the door then headed for the driver's side, all the while thanking god for blessing him with Emily.
* * * * *
Zander did as he said he would. He dropped Emily off at the Mansion, leaving her in her family's good hands. He then drove home to Jakes, but he knew he wouldn't sleep. He was too wound up to even think about it, and his hand was bothering him again. First thing Zander did was head for his room to change. He tossed aside the suit for jeans and a t-shirt, then he took a moment to down a couple of pain pills. He didn't want to feel anything tonight. Afterwards, Zander headed back downstairs and made his way to the bar where he ordered a beer. Coleman gave it to him on the house. Zander took a swig then noticed the pool table was empty. He smiled and headed over to it, grabbing a pool stick as he passed by the wall. A few beers, a few games of pool, and all would be right with his world.
To Zander's surprise, the next few hours passed by quickly. He made a hundred bucks playing pool, he got a steady buzz from the beer and the pain pills, and before he knew it Coleman was closing up shop. Zander waved goodnight as he headed upstairs. It was almost three am. Zander stared at his bed then bypassed it for the chair in the corner. He didn't want to close his eyes. He didn't want to dream. He just wanted to hold on to the warm buzz that enfolded him. So he grabbed a book and curled up in the chair as he waited for his alarm to go off.
* * * * *
Zander knocked on Dr. Baldwin's door. She had called him first thing this morning to ask him to come in for a session. Zander had been surprised and had been going to refuse when she told him that it concerned his father. She wouldn't tell him anything more and Zander was intrigued enough to agree to show up. He had called Emily to ask if she could get a ride to the hospital and he would meet her there. After explaining why, Emily had agreed. Zander was about to knock again when the door opened. He was stunned to see his father standing there. "I'll come back!" Zander snapped.
"Alexander, wait!" Cameron grabbed his arm. "I'm here for a reason."
"And what reason would that be?" Zander shrugged his arm free of his father's grasp, but he did enter the office.
Dr. Baldwin rose from her chair to greet him. "Zander…your father asked me my opinion on family counseling and I told him it was a good idea."
Zander frowned. "Family counseling?"
"You and your father."
"No way!" Zander shook his head and turned towards the door. He was out of there.
Cameron blocked the door. "Hear me out, Alexander."
Zander glared at his father. "I'm not interested in anything you have to say. Got that? You had a lifetime to talk to me and you had no desire to do so. You blew me off, Dad, without a second thought. Now I'm doing the same to you." Zander pushed his father aside and strode out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
Storming down the hallway, Zander felt himself shaking with anger. But he couldn't let himself lose control. Emily was going to need him to be strong and calm for her. She was going to need him more than ever today and Zander was determined to give her what she needed. He made himself slow down and headed for the men's room. He splashed cold water on his face, took some deep breaths, and told himself to forget about his father. No one mattered except for Emily. So Zander took a deep breath, released it slowly, then headed out to find the woman he loved.
* * * * *
Emily wiped away a tear. The chemo had passed surprisingly quick with Zander by her side. He had kept her focused on anything but the IV dripping into her vein. When it was over he wrapped an arm around her waist and walked her out to his car. The side effects kicked in soon after and Zander had to pull over so that Emily could wretch. Never once did Zander complain. He held her hair back while she puked and offered some bottled water to rinse her mouth. Then he drove her home and tucked her into bed.
Now he was telling her funny stories, stories that made her laugh and cry. Some of the stories she knew he was making up, others she could guess were about his childhood. Those stories were bitter sweet and Emily longed to ask questions about them, but she held her tongue. It was enough right now just to see Zander smiling.
Emily was surprised by the question at first, then she realized she had been yawning. "A little, I guess."
Zander nodded. "Take a nap. A long one. You'll feel better."
"Will you stay with me?" Emily scooched over to make room for him and she curled up against his side the moment he lay down. "I love you, Zander."
"I love you too, baby," he replied, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Now go to sleep."
Emily closed her eyes and drifted off with a smile on her lips.
* * * * *
Zander felt shaky. It had been a long day with Emily alternating between dozing and puking for the most part. Zander had stayed with her through it all but now she was feeling better, over all, and she wanted him to go home and get some rest. A sentiment her mother echoed at him. So Zander had given in, kissing Emily goodnight before following Monica down the stairs. He was beyond tired at this point.
"Did you take your antibiotic, Zander?"
"Yeah." The lie came easily. Zander appreciated Monica's concern, but his hand was doing better and he didn't have time to worry about taking the stupid pills. He didn't need them anyway.
Monica walked him to the door. "Drive carefully and get some sleep. Emily is going to need you tomorrow."
Zander frowned. "She'll feel better, won't she?"
"Better…but still weak. You were good for her today...thank you."
"No need to thank me. I love her."
Monica smiled. "I know." She pushed him out the door. "Go home. I'll see you tomorrow."
Zander waved. "Goodnight, Dr. Quartermaine." He was down the steps and halfway to his car as she closed the door behind him. Zander slid behind the wheel and headed for Jake's. He knew he needed to sleep, but he knew he would dream about Pete dying and Emily's cancer and he wasn't up to dealing with it right now. So Zander headed straight for the bar and ordered a shot of Jack. He downed it, asked for another, then turned towards the pool table. Maybe he could make some more money tonight.
Two hours later, Zander was another hundred dollars richer and feeling no pain. He felt a hand on his shoulder and figured it was another sucker wanting to challenge him, but when he turned it was to find Lucky staring at him. "Hey…what's up?"
"You seem to be," Lucky replied, his expression stern. "Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
"What are you...my mother?" Zander shook Lucky's hand off his shoulder and staggered towards the bar for another drink. Only to find his way blocked by Lucky. "Move it or lose it," Zander warned him.
Lucky was not impressed. "Don't do this to yourself, Zander. Emily needs you. Don't self destruct now."
Zander glared at Lucky. "That's not what I'm doing! I just...it's been a rough day, okay? I just wanted to be numb for while."
"Yeah…well I think you passed numb about six shots ago." Lucky grabbed Zander by the arm and steered him towards the stairs. "You're going to bed right now."
"Okay!" Zander tried to pull away but Lucky's grip on his arm was firm. He had intended on protesting, but he realized he had to put on the brakes. He had to get some sleep and sober up by morning, for Emily's sake. So he let Lucky help him to his room. Zander face planted on the bed. "Thanks," he drawled. "Close the door behind you on your way out." It was a less than subtle hint for Lucky to leave.
Lucky sighed. "I'll check on you in the morning."
Zander groaned. "Don't bother."
"I'm doing it for Emily," Lucky stated, then he headed for the door, closing it shut behind him.
"Whatever," Zander slurred, then he drifted off to sleep.
* * * * *
Two hours later Zander woke with a start. He was shaking and his skin was bathed in a cold sweat. He could feel his chest constricting and he rose from the bed. His knees buckled and he caught himself against the wall before making his way into the bathroom. After heaving up the contents of his stomach, Zander brushed his teeth then hit the shower. It was barely 4am but he knew he couldn't go back to sleep. He felt a bit calmer though, and took that as a sign of being able to better control the attacks. However, he had the mother of all headaches so Zander reached for the pain pills. He took two of them and was taken aback to see how his hand shook as he held the water glass. He was getting that itchy feeling back as well and Zander was desperate to ward off another attack. He headed downstairs and grabbed a bottle of whiskey from behind the bar. Maybe the hair of the dog would help settle his nerves. Zander poured a shot, downed it, and closed his eyes at the burn.
Big mistake. The minute his eyes closed the image of Emily appeared. Emily pale and cold and still. Emily dead and about to be buried. The images flashed in Zander's head like a video tape being edited at top speed. "NO!" he screamed, slamming his hand against the bar. He forgot about the glass he was holding and it shattered. Zander hissed in pain and turned his hand over to see a deep gouging cut across his palm. "Fuck!" he muttered beneath his breath. Zander grabbed a towel from beneath the bar and wrapped it around his hand, then he grabbed another towel to sweep the glass shards off the counter top and into the trash can.
Heading back upstairs, Zander rinsed his hand under cold water. It hurt like a son of a bitch, the worst part being that it was the same hand he had burned. Then it dawned on Zander that maybe that was a good thing. He could wrap it for the burn and no one would know how stupid he was being. So Zander wrapped up his hand, took another pain pill, then headed out the door. He wanted to be long gone before Lucky showed up.
Zander headed for the Quartermaine's. He climbed up the tree outside Emily's window, slipped inside, then curled up on the window seat and was content to watch her sleep. And oddly enough, it was as if he could feel her breathe. Zander matched each breath of his own to Emily's and in no time at all he was drifting off to sleep.