Flame Turns Blue
He woke with a start and opened his eyes to see Monica hovering over him. Then Zander remembered he was in Emily's room. "Is she okay?" he asked, making to rise. He felt stiff from having fallen asleep sitting up in the window seat.
Monica nodded. "Emily is fine, she's still sleeping. What happened to your hand?"
"What?" Zander looked down and was surprised to see that the bandaging was soaked red. And he realized it was throbbing. "Oh...no big deal," Zander replied, hoping that Monica would let it go. No such luck.
"I want to look at it." Monica took Zander by the arm and pulled him towards the door. Once out in the hallway, she led him to the nearest bathroom. "Hold your hand over the sink," Monica directed.
Zander did as he was told. He knew better than to argue with her. "I'm sorry about sneaking in. I just wanted to be close to Emily," Zander said, as he watched Monica unroll the gauze. He winced as it stuck to the cut and she had to tug on it a bit.
Monica hissed as she saw the damage. "What the hell did you do?"
"Cut it on some broken glass." Zander figured it was best to tell as much of the truth as he could.
"You're awfully accident prone of late, Zander," Monica commented. She turned on the water. "This is going to sting, but I need to clean it out before I disinfect it. I want to make sure there aren't any shards of glass still inside."
Zander bit back a moan as the water hit the open wound. It stung like fire. "Sorry for all the trouble." He seemed to be apologizing to her alot of late.
Monica sighed. "I'm worried about you, Zander. You've got alot to deal with. I know how hard it is. Sometimes it's hard to function on a daily basis. To go to work, to eat, sleep…"
"Yeah...it is. It has to be worse for you. I wish there was something I could do."
"Just be there for Emily like you have been, Zander." Monica reached for a towel and patted his hand dry. She moved to the medicine cabinet and took out the supplies she would need. "This is really going to sting," she warned, before she sprayed the cut with disinfectant spray.
Zander almost bit through his lip, then settled for cursing beneath his breath. He saw the look on Monica's face and joked, "You enjoyed that."
Monica smiled. "Want to tell me the whole story? This is a very nasty cut, Zander. In fact I want you to come to the hospital later to get stitches."
"It'll be fine," Zander insisted. "And there's nothing to tell. I broke a glass and I was careless picking up the pieces." Close enough to the truth.
"It needs stitches." Monica studied her handywork. "Stay here, I'll get my bag and do it now."
Zander shook his head. "You don't have to do that. Really. It'll be fine."
Monica glared at Zander. "Sit still and wait here. I'll be right back."
"Yes ma'am." Zander saluted with his good hand. He watched Monica go then sighed and laid his head down on his arm. He felt tired to the bone. Tired enough to close his eyes while he waited for Monica's return.
His eyes flew open and he saw Emily standing before him. "Hey...what are you doing out of bed?" Zander rose to his feet and moved to Emily, forgetting about his hand.
Emily took his arm. "What happened?"
He sighed. "I broke a glass and cut myself picking up the pieces. No big deal."
Emily frowned. "So you came here to have my mom stitch you up?"
"No. I came here early this morning to watch you sleep and your mom found me dozing in the window seat." Zander cupped a hand to her pale face. "How do you feel?"
"A little weak, but better." Emily smiled then took his hand to kiss the palm. "You look terrible."
Zander made a face. "Thanks."
Emily shook her head. "I'm serious. You look tired and in pain."
"Well...it hurts a little, I have to admit."
"It's going to hurt more," Monica announced, as she reentered the room. She looked at her daughter. "How are you feeling?"
Emily smiled. "Better. Can I watch?"
Monica nodded. "Sure." She glared at Zander again. "Sit down." When he obeyed she laid out the things she would need to stitch his wound. Monica pulled out a syringe. "I'm going to give you a local so you shouldn't feel a thing other than a bit of tugging."
"Works for me," Zander replied. He looked at Emily instead of his hand as Monica went to work. It didn't take long and the stitches were in place and the wound carefully bandaged. "Thanks."
"No problem." Monica removed her gloves and tossed them in the trash. "Keep taking your antibiotic. It's a good thing you were on it, given that you waited so long to get this cleaned properly. You're still at risk for infection though."
Zander winced at the mention of the antibiotic he hadn't been taking. But he was sure he would be fine. "I'll be fine. Thank you again."
Monica nodded. "Just promise me you'll try to be more careful in the future?"
"I'll try." Zander turned to Emily. "Don't you think you should get back in bed?" Without waiting for a response, Zander swept her up into his arms and carried her out of the bathroom. He strode easily down the hallway and back into Emily's room. Zander laid her down gently on the bed.
"You sure know how to sweep a girl off her feet," Emily said with a smile. She let one hand fist in Zander's hair. "I love how you love me."
Zander leaned in for a kiss. "I feel the same about you."
Emily pulled Zander down onto the bed with her. "Hey…don't you have a therapy session today?"
"Supposed to. I'm going to call and reschedule though."
Zander arched an eyebrow at her. "Why? Duh…because I want to stay with you today."
Emily smiled. "You can, after your session. You have no excuse to miss it, Zander. I want you to go. Please? You won't miss anything but me sleeping."
"It's not a big deal if I reschedule, Emily." Zander really didn't want to see Dr. Baldwin today. He was still upset about the way she had tricked him. Even though Zander knew it was really his father's doing, he was still angry at Dr. Baldwin for ganging up on him.
"It's no big deal if you show up," Emily countered. "I want you to go. Do it for me?"
Zander sighed. "You don't play fair. You know I can't refuse you anything."
Emily hugged him. "Good. Then come lay with me until you have to go."
"Works for me." Zander shifted until he was lying on his back with Emily curled up beside him. He let his fingers comb through her hair. "So tell me the truth...you really okay?"
"Yeah. Tired, but okay."
Zander kissed her temple. "You're gonna make it through this, Em. I know you are. You're the strongest person I know and you're a fighter. You never quit."
Emily laughed softly. "Never say never. But I am motivated to win this fight. I want to grow old with you, Zander. I want to have lots of kids with you and watch them grow. I want to be a grandmother and take care of the grandkids. I want to watch you changing diapers and teaching our boys to play ball."
"Hey...I'll be teaching the girls too, ya know."
"Yeah...you will." Emily smiled. "We've got so much left to do, Zander. And I want to do it all."
Zander hugged her close. "We will, Emily. We will."
* * * * *
Zander shrugged as he closed the door then moved to sit in the chair across from Dr. Baldwin's desk. "Sorry. I was with Emily."
Gail nodded. "How is she?"
"So far so good."
Zander shrugged again.
Gail leaned back in her chair. "You're angry at me because of what happened with your father and the family counseling idea."
"Give the lady a gold star." Zander let the sarcasm roll off his tongue.
"I'm sorry about that, Zander. It was a bad judgment call on my part."
Zander sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Forget about it. That's what I'm going to do."
Gail studied him. "Are you sure you can do that? In essence I betrayed your trust in me."
"Don't sweat it. For the most part I don't trust anybody anyway."
"Not even Emily?"
Zander locked eyes with Dr. Baldwin. "There are exceptions to every rule, and Emily is it. She would never betray me."
Gail smiled. "Be careful about putting Emily up onto a pedestal, Zander. Don't get me wrong. I know she loves you and I doubt she would ever hurt you intentionally. But we're all only human, which means we all make mistakes."
"Can we talk about something else?" Zander shifted in the chair. His hand was throbbing and he wanted to get this session over with so he could take a pain pill then be with Emily.
"What do you want to talk about?"
Zander sighed. "I don't know. The weather?"
Gail jotted down some notes then said, "Why don't we talk about your brother."
"What's to talk about? Pete is dead. End of story."
"Do you still think about him?"
Zander winced. "Every day." He was surprised to hear himself admit that out loud. Had to be because he was so damn tired.
Gail rose from behind her desk and moved to sit in the chair next to Zander's. "Have you talked about him to Emily?"
"She knows the basic story."
"But nothing more?"
Zander locked eyes with Dr. Baldwin. "Just so we're clear on this. I haven't told anyone everything about that day. Talking about it changes nothing. I still feel what I feel and Peter is still dead." Zander jumped up and began to pace. He wanted out of here.
Gail followed him with her eyes. "If you don't talk about it, Zander...you'll never be able to move past it. You'll never be able to let it go."
"Maybe I don't want to let it go! Maybe it's the only link I still have to Pete!" Zander was shouting and he cursed when he realized how out of control he was feeling. Dr. Baldwin was pushing his buttons and he was letting her. He had to stop this. He forced himself to calm down then said softly. "Peter is dead. My father hates me. I dealt drugs for Sorel. Those are things that I can never change no matter what I say or do. So I live with it. Talking about any of it won't make me feel any better. Okay?"
"Okay for now," Gail allowed. "Would you like to talk about Emily?"
Zander sighed and made himself sit back down. "I don't want to talk at all. I don't want to think about my feelings with you or anyone else."
Gail returned to her desk. "You're locked into these sessions, Zander. You can't get out of them unless you want to get sent away. And for the record, I'm not going to lie to the judge for you. If you don't work with me then there is a good chance the courts will decide that your mental state is questionable and put you into a rehab."
"Why? I'm not crazy. I'm not doing drugs, I'm not an alcoholic. I'm working hard at my job. I'm trying to support Emily. Is that wrong?" Zander felt the anger rising up in him again and he fought to keep it from taking control.
"It's not wrong, Zander...and you're not crazy. That's not the point." Gail softened her tone. "You have been through so much for someone so young. It's too much for anyone to handle. I can see that, even if you won't. All I'm asking is that you help me to help you."
Zander rubbed a hand over his face and he realized that he was getting angry with Dr. Baldwin for the wrong reasons. It was his own fault he was stuck with these sessions. She was just doing her job. But Zander still didn't feel comfortable after what had happened with his father and the family counseling. He could easily imagine his father asking Dr. Baldwin for a weekly report on his sessions with her and being disappointed in the results. "Can we talk about my father?" Zander blurted out.
Gail nodded. "Of course."
"Is it crazy for me to hate him?"
"I can't answer that. I really don't know the whole story between the two of you."
Zander was surprised. "You mean dad didn't tell you?"
Gail shrugged. "He told me a little about what happened. How he had blamed you for Peter's death only to learn that Peter had committed suicide."
"Did he tell you how he never wanted me? How I was a mistake since the day I was born?" Zander could hear the venom in his own voice as he spoke.
"Did he tell you that? That you were a mistake?"
Zander nodded. "More times than I can count."
Gail scribbled on her note pad. "How did that make you feel?"
"It must have hurt."
A cold chuckle escaped Zander. "Sad to say…it still hurts. But I'm pathetic that way."
Gail opened her mouth to reply but her phone rang. She answered it and dealt with the caller efficiently. "Sorry about that," she apologized. "Now…where were we?"
"On hold till next week," Zander replied. "Time’s up." He pointed to the clock on the wall then stood up and headed for the door. He didn't look back or say goodbye, he simply walked out. And Zander kept walking until he reached the men's room. He ducked inside and fumbled in his pocket for a packet of pain pills. Popped two in his mouth, used his hand as a cup to down some water, then he wiped his hands and face on a paper towel. Once he was with Emily, everything would be all right.
* * * * *
When Zander reached the Quartermaine's it was to discover that Emily had company. Lucky and Elizabeth were there and he found out that they had made plans for the four of them to go to the amusement park tomorrow night. So long as Emily felt up to it. "How do you feel?" Zander asked, as he joined her on the couch. But he could see for himself that she looked much better. He color was better and she had an energetic vibe.
"I feel good," Emily replied, stealing a kiss. "So is tomorrow okay? We don't have to go if you don't want to."
"Sounds like fun," Zander assured her. He looked at Elizabeth and Lucky. "Sure you want to hang out with me?" he joked.
Elizabeth punched him in the arm. "I think we can manage to put up with you for a couple of hours," she said with a smile.
Zander smiled back. It felt good to be here with Emily. To be among her friends. He knew that she needed this and it felt good to be a part of it with her. This was the way things were supposed to be. Zander looked at Emily, searching for signs of fatigue. "Maybe you should lie down for a while."
"I've been resting since you left this morning," she replied, one hand running over his thigh. "I feel fine, Zander. Okay?"
"Okay." He leaned in to steal another kiss.
Lucky shook his head. "You two need to get a room."
Emily giggled. "What a good idea." Her eyes were dark with passion as she looked at Zander.
"I think we should go now," Elizabeth stated, standing up and pulling Lucky to his feet.
They hugged Emily goodbye, waved to Zander, then headed out.
Zander heaved a dramatic sigh. "Finally…I thought they would never leave."
"Me too," Emily replied, as she moved to settle herself on Zander's lap. "I missed you. How was your session?"
Emily frowned. "Don't shut me out, Zander. Please. I know you hate the sessions, but I think they're good for you. And I know you feel like you have to protect me from bad things, because I'm fragile and stuff...but that's not true. I want to know about everything that goes on in your life. I want to know how you feel about everything."
Zander hugged Emily to him, pressing a kiss to her temple before drawing back so that he could look upon her pretty face. "I love you more than life itself," Zander whispered. "That's all that matters to me. The stuff with my father and Pete...it's in the past and that's where I want it to stay. My father and I will never be close. Pete is the only thing we have in common and all he really does is serve as a constant reminder to us both that I'm a failure as a son."
"You're not a failure, Zander." Emily cupped his face in both hands. "You didn't fail your father, your father failed you."
"Whatever." Zander took one of Emily's hands and brought it to his lips, pressing a kiss into her palm. "Can we not talk about this? It's depressing."
Emily sighed. "What do you want to talk about?"
Zander smiled. "Let's talk about how beautiful you are. How perfect."
"Bor-ing," Emily sing-songed.
"What do you want to talk about?"
Emily leaned in to Zander, a twinkle in her eyes. "How about we don't talk at all? Actions speak louder than words...you know."
Zander got the hint even before Emily's hand slid between them to press over his manhood. He slid his arms beneath her then rose to his feet with Emily cradled to his chest. "Are you sure you feel okay?"
"Zander...I feel better than okay. I swear. Now...take me to my room and ravish me already." Emily giggled and blushed a bit.
"As you wish," Zander replied, stealing a line from the Princess Bride. He kissed Emily, then he headed for the stairs.
* * * * *
Zander came awake with a start. The dream was still vivid in his mind. Emily's funeral. It had been raining as she was lowered into the ground and as Zander wiped a hand over his face, it came away wet. He shivered. It wasn't rain but a cold sweat and he could feel his chest constricting, signaling another attack. Zander slid out of bed and slipped on his briefs and his jeans before padding into the bathroom. He closed the door then moved to the sink to splash cold water on his face. It didn't help. What it did though was remind him about his injured hand. It was throbbing and he wished he had thought to bring some pain pills with him.
As his breathing became labored, Zander dropped down to the floor, pressing his back against the wall and drawing his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his arms around them and rocked, willing himself to relax. But his chest thudded hard in his chest and he could feel a tingling in his head and under his skin. Sheer terror seeped over him and Zander felt his skin break out into a cold sweat again. And he was shaking so hard his teeth were chattering.
He heard Emily call his name but he didn't react. He couldn't. He was too wrapped up in trying to breathe. Zander felt her kneel beside him. He felt Emily's arms wrap around him and then her soft voice was in his ear. He knew she was trying to sooth him but he couldn't concentrate on her words. Then he could barely hear her because his heart was beating too loud and too fast.
"I'm going to get my mom."
"No!" Fresh panic hit Zander as Emily's words finally sank in. He grabbed her arm and held fast.
Emily pressed one hand to his face. "Zander…you're sick. My mom will help you."
Zander shook his head, ignoring the stabbing pain in his temples. He had to take a few deep breaths before he could calm down enough to speak. "Please…Em...don't call her. I'm okay."
"You're not okay. You're sweating yet your skin is cold as ice. You're shaking. You can't hardly breathe.."
"I'll be…I'll be okay." More deep breaths and the feeling of panic slowly started to ease. "Please...Please just hold me," Zander begged. He wanted to weep in relief when Emily did as he asked. He let go of her arm as she shifted to move beside him, then he felt her arms wrap around him and Zander hugged her back for all he was worth.
Emily smoothed Zander's hair. "It's okay, baby. I'm right here."
Zander said nothing, he simply clung to Emily until his breathing evened out and he stopped shaking. Then he eased out of her arms, knowing that she wasn't going to let this go without an explanation. "I'm sorry I scared you."
"It's okay. Do you feel better now?" Emily eyed him with concern.
"Yeah...I'm fine now." Zander stretched out his legs then made to rise. His knees buckled for a moment and he felt Emily catch his arm. "Sorry."
Emily wrapped an arm around his waist. "Let's continue this in bed. You need to lie down."
Zander sighed but let her lead him back into her room. Once they were back in bed he tried to explain. "I feel stupid."
"Why? You can't control a panic attack."
"How..?" Zander broke off and gazed at Emily in stunned disbelief. "How did you know it was a panic attack?"
Emily smiled and brushed her fingertips across Zander's forehead soothingly. "I suffered from them for a few months after my mom died. It's what happens when you're suffering from a stress overload, both mentally and emotionally."
Zander felt a sense of relief that Emily understood, but he also hated the fact that she had seen his weakness. He wanted to be strong for her, she needed him to be strong. And the last thing Emily needed was to worry about him. "Then you know it's no big deal and that I'm fine."
"Have you told Dr. Baldwin about the attacks?"
Emily sighed. "You should tell her, Zander. She might be able to prescribe something to help ease you through them. Or even suggest some breathing exercises that might help."
Zander smiled then leaned in for a kiss. "Maybe I'll tell her about them next week. Okay? Don't worry about it…or me. I'm good."
"I can't help but worry, Zander. I love you."
"Love you too." Zander shifted them so that she was tucked close against his side. "Go back to sleep. You need to rest up for the Amusement Park. It's gonna be fun."
Emily nodded then closed her eyes. "I can't wait."
Zander kissed her temple. "Me either." He lay still, content to listen to Emily breathing. And he felt her fall asleep and it helped him to relax all the more. Enough so that he drifted back to sleep himself.
* * * * *
Morning came and Zander felt better. He left Emily to go home, shower, change into jeans and a black t-shirt, rewrap his hand, swallow a pain pill and tuck a couple in his pocket, then he was ready to pick Emily up so they could meet Lucky and Elizabeth at Kelly's for breakfast, then head off for the amusement Park. It was a beautiful day and Zander felt like everything was going to be all right. Life was good.
The group ate a leisurely breakfast and Zander's appetite was back, a fact that both Emily and Elizabeth commented on, which bothered Zander a bit. But he just laughed it off. "You'd think I was wasting away or something," he joked.
Emily squeezed his hand. "No…you've just had alot to worry about, namely me. And I worry back…you know that."
"Well stop worrying, baby." Zander kissed the tip of her nose. "The day is beautiful, you're beautiful and we're going to have fun today. That's all that matters."
"Good point," Lucky interjected. "And on that note I'm going to go pay the tab. Breakfast is on me and *no* arguments." Lucky glared at Zander as he spoke.
Zander shrugged and grinned. "Go for it, man." He didn't want to ruin today with any petty comments or macho posturing between him and Lucky. They had come to an unspoken understanding of sorts a long time ago and Zander wasn't about to rock the wobbly truce between them.
The group headed out and made their way to the amusement park. Six hours later they were still having fun, but Zander was worried about Emily. He had been trying to get her to go home after three hours, but she wouldn't listen to him, insisting that she was fine. In fact, she was more worried about him and his hand. And he knew she was keeping an eye on him because of his panic attack last night. But Zander felt great. He had popped another pain pill in the bathroom so his hand wasn't bothering him. And simply watching how much fun Emily was having made him feel almost giddy. She looked beautiful and her eyes danced with happiness. Emily had never looked more alive.
She had enjoyed every ride in the park, more than once. Zander's favorite was the Ferris Wheel where they had snuggled close and kissed. And she loved the stuff bear he had won her. And she ate everything in sight. But now Zander knew she was winding down. The fact that he hadn't had to convince her to let him give her a piggy back ride through the park was proof to him that she was worn out. Zander wanted to get her home. But Emily wanted one more ride on the Ferris Wheel. So now they were waiting there turn in line. Zander had his arm around Emily's waist and he could feel her weight sagging against him. He looked at her and was shocked to see how pale she was. "Emily?"
"Zander…I don't feel so good," Emily whispered. Then she collapsed in his arms.