The Hot Zone
"How did you find me?" Zander asked, his voice shaking.
"Sonny Corinthos called me," Tony Castle replied.
Zander was stunned by Sonny's betrayal. "He called you?"
Tony chuckled. "I actually think he meant to help you. But...for the record...I shot him."
"Is he dead?" The question was out before Zander realized it.
"No. Not this time."
Zander felt a surge of disappointment. "Too bad." But then he realized that his father had left Sonny alive for a reason. If Tony Castle had wanted Sonny dead, he would be dead. "Do you have Nikolas?" Zander asked.
Tony sighed. "I do. Come home, Alex, and Nikolas Cassadine will be fine." He gave an address.
"Goodbye," Zander whispered, hanging up the phone. He dropped it on the floor and headed to the bedroom. Once there he pulled on socks, stamped his feet into his boots and grabbed a light jacket and the keys to the van. Moving like an automaton, Zander headed for the garage. He slid behind the wheel of the van, started the engine, and drove off. He didn't look back. His past had caught up to him. The fantasy he had allowed himself to believe in with Nikolas was over. And there was no future to hope for.
* * * * *
Jason sat at Sonny's bedside. Sonny had made it through surgery and had been in ICU for two days. The doctors were certain he would pull through.
"I'm here." Jason stood up. "Take it easy...you're going to be okay."
Sonny nodded. "I know. I'm alive...because Tony...Castle wanted me...to be...alive." Sonny coughed then moaned. He took a moment to regain his strength to speak again. "Find Zander...He'll need...need to be...saved."
Jason understood. He had called the cell phone repeatedly in the past forty-eight hours. No response. And when he sent a man to the beach house, the report back was that the van was gone and the house was empty. "I'll find Zander," Jason promised. "You get better." He smiled at Sonny then was gone.
* * * * *
Zander felt numb as he was escorted into the Drawing room. He saw his father sitting by the fire, a brandy snifter in hand. Zander said nothing as he was announced. Then his father was rising from his chair, setting down the glass and moving towards him. Zander looked at him and waited.
Tony Castle studied his son for a long moment. "You're all grown up now, Alex. Your mother would be so proud. You look so much like her. So beautiful." As he spoke he moved closer then he gathered Zander into his arms.
Zander went stiff in his father's embrace. He could feel a rough hand in his hair before being pushed back.
"You're shaking," Tony stated.
"I'm sorry," Zander whispered. It took a monumental effort to keep his knees locked so that he remained standing. He knew his father thrived on the fear he inspired in others, yet he hated it in his own flesh and blood. It was weakness and that was not acceptable to Tony Castle.
Tony narrowed his eyes as he studied his son. "It was wrong of you to run away from me, Alex."
Anger flared in Zander's eyes as he snapped, "Don't call me that. My name is Zander!" His words earned him a slap that rocked him off his feet.
"Your name is Alexander," Tony replied, as he crouched down next to his son and took his chin in a hard grip. "Never forget that." Releasing Zander's chin, Tony brushed a fingertip on the bruise that was already forming on his son's cheek. "I love you very much, Alex. And I missed you. But I am angry with you for leaving and I can't let that go unpunished.”
"I'm sorry." Zander knew it wouldn't help but he also knew it was what his father wanted to hear.
Tony nodded as he helped his son to stand. "I know you are, Alex. For now we'll put it behind us. We'll start over, starting right now. I'll integrate you back into the family, and into the business."
Zander forced a smile. "Whatever you want, father," he replied. "May I see Nikolas now?"
"Maybe after dinner," Tony allowed. "Right now I want you to go to your room and take a shower and change your clothes. I bought you a new wardrobe. Styles have changed in five years and you're not a teenager anymore. You've filled out too. But you're still too skinny."
"Thank you for the clothes." Zander knew it was expected of him.
Tony patted Zander on the back then pushed him towards the door. "You're welcome. Bruce will show you to your room. Dinner is in an hour. Oh...and Angela is looking forward to seeing you, Alex. She missed you almost as much as I did."
Zander felt himself go pale. He said nothing but simply turned and followed Bruce out of the room. They climbed the curved staircase and Zander was led to a suite at the end of the left hallway. Once inside, and alone, he fled into the bathroom and retched. Once his stomach was empty he brushed his teeth then splashed cold water on his face. Then he returned to the bedroom and studied his surroundings. His father had kept alot of his things. Pictures and books and even his old baseball glove and ball. Things from a past that he didn't want to remember. A framed photograph on the bedside table caught Zander's attention. It was a picture of him, his father and Angela. Zander had been fifteen at the time. All of them smiling. One big happy family.
"A lie..." Zander whispered as he tossed the picture on the bed. He sat down and let himself remember the past.
There were no pictures of his mother in room. When Zander was five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck. It didn't kill her but she had been paralyzed and his father had sent her away to some medical facility. Zander had never seen her again. A year later Tony had remarried. Angela. She had been twenty at the time. It hadn't been till Zander was older that he realized his mother had either died or his father had divorced an invalid. Either reality had been painful to accept.
And reality was something that he didn't want to think about right now. Zander shook away the thoughts and went to the walk-in closet. He found black pants and a dark blue pullover and he took them into the bathroom. He showered and dressed then sat in a chair, waiting for the guard to arrive to escort him to dinner. Zander knew that he would be carefully guarded in every way. His father would never allow him to leave again.
All too soon, Bruce appeared and Zander followed him down to the dining room. He felt himself go pale again when Angela rose to greet him. She was as beautiful as he remembered and she greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Zander didn't hug her back.
"Sit here," Tony ordered, pointing to the chair at his right. "I hope you're hungry. You need to get some meat on your bones."
"I'm hungry," Zander lied. He would do and say whatever he had to to please his father. Nikolas was locked up somewhere and Zander would not do anything that might cause him harm in any way. So he suffered through dinner, eating what his father put on his plate. And when the meal was over he asked again. "May I see Nikolas?"
Tony nodded. "Bruce will take you to him. Angela and I have tickets to a show so we'll be out late. After you visit with your friend, go to bed, Alex. Get a good night's sleep. We have alot to talk about in the morning." Tony rose from his chair and kissed the top of Zander's head, then he took his wife's hand and they left.
Zander rose from his chair the moment they were gone. He went to find Bruce. "Take me to Nikolas," he ordered. He could be his father's son when he chose to be. Zander followed Bruce to a sectioned off wing of the house. There were two guards on the door and Zander felt shaky as he waited for the door to be unlocked. The moment it was he opened it. Once inside it closed and he could hear it being locked again. Zander saw a comfortable suite. A bedroom area, with sitting area and a connecting bathroom. He saw Nikolas sitting in the chair.
"Zander!" Nikolas rose to his feet and ran over to him. He hugged Zander to him then pulled back. "You're shaking."
"Are you all right?" Zander asked as he pulled out of Nikolas' arms. He wanted to be held but this wasn't the time or the place.
Nikolas nodded. "I'm fine. No one hurt me."
Zander was grateful for that. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "This is my fault."
"Tony Castle is your father."
Nikolas took Zander's hand and led him over to the couch. He pulled Zander down to sit by him. "I've heard stories about him. Horror stories."
Zander almost laughed. Almost. "Every word was probably true."
"You're scared of him. Terrified. I can see it in your eyes."
"I'm scared to death," Zander allowed. "I have good reason to be. But I promise I won't let him hurt you, Nikolas. I'll find a way to free you."
Nikolas shook his head. "I'm not going without you."
Zander rubbed a hand over his face. He felt tired in his soul. "You can't be here, Nikolas. Trust me. Okay? I have to find a way to set you free."
"What about you, Zander? What about your freedom?"
"My father will never let me go. I got away once but never again." Zander choked on his own words. He rose from the couch and began to pace.
Nikolas watched him then said, "What did he do to you?"
Zander stopped. "You don't want to know."
"Yeah...I do. Please...talk to me, Zander. Make me understand what's going on here." Nikolas went to Zander and brought him back over to the couch. "Share this part of your life with me...please."
"I tried so hard to forget this life," Zander whispered. But then he decided to tell Nikolas everything. It was the one thing he could give the man he loved before they were parted forever. He told Nikolas about losing his mother when he was five, about her fall. And how his father had remarried a year later. Then he explained everything else.
"I didn't really miss my mom when she first left. In fact, I didn't remember much about her or what happened to her for a long time. It wasn't until later, when I was around twelve, that I realized my father was keeping me drugged so that I wouldn't remember. In fact...I was happy with Angela as my step mom. I really loved her."
Nikolas was horrified. "Your father drugged you? How did you find out?"
Zander rubbed at his temples, they throbbed with pain. The stress of all that had happened today was catching up to him. "I had to take these pills every day at breakfast, then again before bed. They always made me feel a little fuzzy and kind of...detached from things. And my father had a doctor on the payroll. Dr. Benson. I'd see him every week, he would check on me. My father told me it was because of traumatic events from my childhood. Dr. Benson was a psychiatrist."
"I'm so sorry, Zander. It must have been awful for you," Nikolas stated.
"That was nothing compared to later," Zander replied. It still shook him to remember everything that had happened between fifteen and sixteen. The incidents that had driven him to run away in the end. "It all started when I fell in love with Chloe Marianza. She was the daughter of Giles Marianza, and my father's self proclaimed enemy. It had been something out of Romeo and Juliet with the Capulets feuding with the Montagues. And it had just as deadly an ending for Chloe's brother, Mark." Zander paused as the memory washed over him. He shuddered at the impact it had on him after all these years. "It was after my father learned about my relationship with Chloe," he continued. “We had been so careful to keep it a secret, but my father had found out. He always does. The first thing he did was beat the crap out of me, then he had locked me in my room. Next he had told me about Mark's death. Said it was a car accident. But I knew then just as I knew now...my father had arranged the accident as a warning to us all. So I stayed away from Chloe."
Nikolas reached out and touched Zander on the arm. "I'm sorry...god…how awful for you."
Zander shrugged. "That was my life back then. And it was at that time that I was reminded of how deadly my father could be. It was then that I remembered what had really happened on the night my mother fell. I remember being in bed, sleeping, but I heard shouting...it woke me up. I snuck out of my room and I saw my parents screaming at each other. I saw my father hit my mom and she fell down the stairs. I still don't know for sure if she's dead or not. I don't know where she is." A tear slid down Zander's cheek and he lifted a hand to wipe it away, but Nikolas beat him to it. Zander shook his head. "Killing someone doesn't affect my father. He doesn't feel it in any way. He would kill you and not even blink. I won't let that happen."
"It won't happen," Nikolas replied. "What else happened, Zander? You left home?"
"Eventually," Zander allowed. "Remembering about my mom really fucked me up, but the last straw for me was when I learned what my father had planned for me. Plans involving Angela." Zander closed his eyes as he remembered that night.
"She was just thirty and more beautiful than ever when I turned sixteen. That night had set off a chain of events that I have tried desperately to forget." But Zander knew he would never forget. "My father let me drink wine on my birthday and I went to bed feeling woozy. I had thought it was the alcohol, only to learn later that my father had drugged me, and that his ultimate present to me was Angela."
Nikolas was confused. "Angela?"
Zander nodded. "She had come into my room to seduce me. My father wanted us to have sex so that he could have another son. I never learned the medical reason, but my father couldn't sire anymore kids, so he wanted me to do it for him."
"That is fucking sick!" Nikolas interjected.
"Sick or not...I had sex with my step mother. I only vaguely remember it happening." Zander opened his eyes and got up to pace again. "The next morning I woke up, I felt awful, I puked, I showered and for a little while I thought I had dreamed the whole thing. But my father came into my room and told me what his plans were. I just stared at him in disbelief. I didn't argue with him or protest it. I knew what I thought about it wouldn't matter to him. I just prayed that Angela wouldn't get pregnant. And then I made plans to leave. Once I learned she wasn't pregnant and that my father wanted us to have sex again, I was ready to go."
Nikolas shook his head. "I don't believe this. It's like a nightmare."
Zander chuckled, but it was a bitter sound. "It was my life. But I couldn't bear to live it anymore. I had money put together and a back pack of stuff. I was going to slip out that night then something happened." The memory of it rocked Zander. He didn't realize he was swaying on his feet until he felt a hand steady him. Zander looked at Nikolas then continued his story.
"I was getting ready to leave when I heard voices shouting. It was my father and my uncle Joey. He wasn't really my Uncle, but he had been my father's friend since before I was born. They were like brothers and I really loved the guy. He was always good to me." Zander broke off as his voice choked on a sob. He rubbed his eyes, took a deep breath, then continued. "Anyway...I don't remember what they were arguing about, but suddenly I saw my father pull his gun out of his desk and he shot Joey. I watched him do it. I watched Joey stagger back then hit the floor. I remember there was blood...everywhere." Zander was lost in the memory for a moment. It was so vivid that he looked down at the floor as if he would see the blood there.
"Zander..." Nikolas grabbed his shoulders and shook him. "Hey…it's okay. You don't have to tell me the rest."
Zander shook his head. "No...I want you to know. I want you to understand why you have to leave."
Nikolas opened his mouth to argue then sighed. "I'm listening...but I'm not leaving."
"I made to leave...but I was so shocked that I stumbled and my father saw me. He grabbed me and shook me hard and told me to forget what I saw. I don't remember what I said. I just remember him calling the guards to dispose of the body, then he took me to my room. He called Dr. Benson and I remember my father holding me down while Dr. Benson gave me a shot. And stuff was foggy for a while, but I came awake and heard my father talking to someone about putting me in a mental hospital. I knew if that happened...I'd never get away. So I begged my father not to send me away. I promised I wouldn't say a word about Uncle Joey. But he didn't believe me. He said it was for the best right now...and that he would take care of me. But I kept thinking about my mom and how she went away and never came back." Zander broke off, wiping tears off his face.
"What happened?" Nikolas prompted.
Zander made himself calm down. He remembered that day clearly. "One of the guards drove me to the hospital. Dr. Benson was waiting there for me. But when the car stopped at a light, I jumped out and ran. I just...kept running and I never stopped, until I got to Port Charles."
Nikolas took Zander into his arms. "I'm sorry...I don't know what to say."
"There's nothing to say, Nikolas." Zander let himself be held for a moment, knowing that he would never be with Nikolas again. "This is my life…again. But I will find a way to free you." Zander pulled away from Nikolas and his eyes grew cold. "When you're free...you have to forget about me."
"I can't do that," Nikolas protested.
Zander moved to the door and banged on it to be let out. "You don't have a choice," Zander hissed. Then the door opened and he was gone.
© Shelly 2004