The Hot Zone

Chapter 2


The lights were bright, making Zander blink when he first hit the stage. And they were hot, warming his skin. Zander looked out at the room and the place was packed. Not a good thing for his nerves, but he made himself tune out the crowd and focused only on the music and his movement. He had to let everything else slide. He had to be good at this, to gain Sonny's approval, or Alexis would die.


Zander remembered what Lynn had taught him. He didn't perform a bump and grind, what he did was become part of the music. His body emulating the flow of it, the sensual beat. Zander actually danced to the rhythm, his body moving sinuously and with a grace he didn't realize he possessed. And after a moment, his nerves faded and Zander let himself be lost in the moment, feeling powerful and sexy and in control. It was a heady sensation.


At a certain point, Zander stepped off the stage and worked his way around the room. He felt the hands that touched him, caressing him. He stopped at Sonny's table and saw the way Carly looked at him. With desire glowing in her eyes. It shocked him, but no more so than feeling a hand rip away the skirt of his costume, leaving Zander clad in the G-string. Leaving him mostly naked to the crowd. Zander felt a moment of panic but he thought about Alexis and he kept moving to the music. Hands fondled him, fingers pinched his ass, but Zander deftly glided away from them before more could happen.

He made his way back onstage and finished the dance. He jumped at the applause and the catcalls and the whistles that filled the room. He looked over at Sonny's table. Sonny was gone. Zander felt panic hit him like two by four. He walked off the stage and accepted the robe that Lynn was holding out to him. Zander shrugged it on.

"Sonny's waiting in your dressing room," Lynn said.

"Thanks." Zander could feel himself shaking.

Lynn smiled and patted his cheek. "You were perfect, Zander. Everyone loves you. I knew they would." She turned him towards the back stairs, which led to his dressing room, and smacked his ass to get him in motion. "Go!"


Zander went. He climbed the stairs and reached his dressing room. The door was open. Zander stepped inside and Sonny turned from the mirror to smile at him. Zander wasn't sure how to take the smile. How to read it. He cleared his throat, trying to swallow the lump that had lodged there, then asked, "Was I okay?"


"You were amazing," Sonny replied. "I'm very pleased. But I knew you wouldn't disappoint me, Zander."

"'ll watch over Alexis then?"


Sonny nodded. "Of course. You do your job, and I'll do mine."


Zander felt relief wash over him. "I do my job."


"I know you will." Sonny moved to Zander, flicking the robe open and studying the oil slicked body. "Go shower and get dressed. I brought you something to wear. Then I want you to come out and mingle. It's part of the job."

"Okay." Zander wasn't going to argue with him. He watched Sonny leave then he closed the door. Zander realized he was still shaking. But he had done it. He'd gotten through the dance and he told himself it would get easier each time. It had too. It couldn’t get any worse. Shrugging off the robe, Zander found the clothes Sonny told him about and headed into the back to shower. Five minutes later he was dressed and he ran his fingers through his damp hair as he came out into the main room, only to freeze.

Carly was leaning against the door, smiling at him. "Hey, Zander," she purred. Then she walked over to him and kissed him.


Zander was beyond stunned. He accepted the kiss, but only for a moment, then he pushed Carly back. "What was that for?"


"A reward for a job well done?" Carly said with a laugh. She studied him. "You look gorgeous."

"Thanks." Zander felt anything but. He was wearing black pants that fit him snugly and a black pullover that fit like it was two sizes too small. Zander felt as if his entire body was outlined and on display.


Carly ran a hand over Zander's chest, as if to smooth out a non-existent wrinkle. "I picked out the outfit. You like?"


Zander sighed. "It's too...tight."


"It's not tight. It's snug. You always dress in layers, Zander. Hiding yourself. I'm just helping you show off the goods."


"I just showed off the goods, Carly. Pretty much all of them!" Zander was still wrapping his mind around the fact that he had danced, nearly nude, in front of a bunch of strangers. Mostly strangers. And it was just really hitting him, and squicking him out, to realize that Jason had watched him. Zander shuddered.


Carly took Zander's hand and led him out the door. "Come on, baby. Let's go have some fun."

Zander went with her, but he didn't think *fun* was going to factor into it.


* * * * *


Zander fell into a routine for the next week. He danced for four nights a week. After dancing he would mingle with the clientele, letting them grope him as he was ordered to do. Sometimes his ass hurt from all the pinching. But Zander didn't complain. Whenever he felt like screaming or trashing things or punching someone out, he just thought about Alexis and suffered through it.


But then Alexis cornered him at the elevator, later one morning, when Zander was heading out to Kelly's. She pushed Zander into the elevator, hit the button, then hit stop about one floor down. "We need to talk," she stated.

"About what?" Zander didn't like the look in her eyes.

"About your new job." Alexis was angry and it showed.


Zander felt his insides twist into a knot. She couldn't know about the Club. "What new job?"

Alexis glared at Zander. "Exotic dancing at The Hot Zone!" she snapped. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out a Polaroid which she held out to Zander. "Nice costume. What there is of it."

"Alexis..." Zander began, then stopped as he glanced at the picture. Himself, off stage and in the crowd, a hand tugging off the leather skirt. Zander closed his eyes. "Alexis," he tried again.

"Why?" Alexis gripped Zander by the shoulders. "Why are you doing that?"


Zander opened his eyes and tried to reason with her. "Why not? Pay is good, and I'm good at it." He almost choked on his own words, in part because he knew it was true. He wasn't proud of that fact, but he was good at it.


Alexis waved the picture in Zander's face. "Be good at something else! Sonny made you do this some how. Didn't he?"

"No!" Zander would never let Alexis find out the truth about that. "He made the offer, told me about the money. It was my choice to do it, Alexis."


" like dancing naked in front of strangers and letting them paw all over you?"


Zander closed his eyes, forcing himself to stay calm and to not let his real feelings show. He had to put on an act, like he did at the club. "Alexis...I don't have alot of skills...okay? No college education. There's not alot out there for me. Not where I can make this kind of money. It's dance or go back to dealing drugs."


Alexis shook her head. "You're better than this, Zander. I'll find you a job. You can go to got your GED."


"Leave it alone," Zander shot back. "I want to do this. Okay? Stop trying to save me when I don't need to be saved." He couldn't hold her sharp gaze so he settled for staring at his feet.


"I don't believe you, Zander," Alexis whispered, cupping his chin in her hand so that he had to look at her. "But I'll drop it. For now." She hit the button so the elevator headed down.


Zander managed to plaster a smile on his face. "Thanks," he said softly. And when the elevator doors opened he stepped out blindly, his eyes blurred by tears.


* * * * *


Zander made it through another week. He had three days off before he had to dance again. He was seriously thinking of going out of town for a couple of them so he wouldn't risk running into Alexis. But that thought faded when Sonny and Jason knocked on his door. Zander let them in, feeling odd about it. This was Sonny's place so the guy could do what he wanted. Which he always did. "What's up?" Zander asked, knowing that something was.


Sonny moved to sit on the end of the bed. "It's time to move to the next level, Zander."

"Next level?" Zander was confused.


"The dancing was just a teaser for the customers. Now that they've seen you, they want more, and it's time for you to provide it."


Zander knew he wasn't going to like this, but he had to ask," What are you talking about?"


Sonny exchanged looks with Jason, then said, "You need to service the customers. We'll start you off slow. Start with the men. I'm guessing you've never given a blow job before?"

"What?" Zander couldn't have been more stunned if Sonny had hit him with a Tazer. He felt about as paralyzed. "What are you talking about?"


"Male customers will pay you to give them blow jobs, or jack them off. Or both," Sonny replied. "You get to keep half of the money."

Zander shook his head. " fucking way! I'm not doing that. You said I had to dance for you and I did. I do. That's it!"


Sonny sighed then rose from the bed. He looked at Jason. "Call off the men I have watching Alexis."


"NO!" Zander was furious and terrified. He got in Sonny's face. "You can't do that! You promised you would protect Alexis if I danced for you! I'm doing have to protect her."

"Dancing for me includes servicing the clients, Zander," Sonny replied, his tone soft but laced with steel. "But it's your choice. If you don't want to do it...fine. Then Alexis is on her own."


Zander knew that Sonny would follow through on his threat and Alexis would die because of it. "Bastard!" He hissed, then he shook his head and resigned himself to the inevitable. " win."

Sonny was pleased. "Good boy, Zander. It won't be so bad.'ve never been with another man…am I right?"


"Right." Zander realized he was shaking and he moved to sit in a nearby chair before he fell down. He didn't know how he was going to pull this off.


"Okay then," Sonny drawled. "Jason and I will teach you what you need to do." He crooked a finger at Zander. "Come here."


Zander stood up and moved to sit next to Sonny, as ordered. "Now what?" He should have been surprised by this, but he wasn't. He was too numb.


Sonny reached for Zander's belt buckle, glaring when Zander tried to stop him. "Alexis..." he whispered.

"Fuck you!" Zander snapped, but he pulled his hand back and let Sonny undo his belt and his jeans. But when fingers slid inside to curl around his cock, Zander pulled away and stood up. "Wait a minute. You said I had to service the clients!"


"You need to feel what it is you're going to do, Zander. So you'll understand better."

Zander shook his head. "I get the idea. I'm a guy...I know what to theory."

Sonny glared at Zander. "Sit down or the deal is off, period. Is that what you want?"

"No.." Zander knew he had no choice. Not if he wanted Alexis and her unborn child to be safe. He sat down and let Sonny touch him. But he couldn't stop himself from pulling away again when Sonny freed him from his jeans and boxers. He didn't want to do this. To let Sonny be intimate with him. To let Jason watch.


"Last chance, Zander," Sonny warned.

Zander bit his lip and nodded. He swallowed the bile in his throat as Sonny's fingers curled around him again and stroked him. Zander closed his eyes as he felt himself harden. But they flew open when he felt warm wetness on his tip and he choked to see Jason sucking his cock into his mouth.

Sonny was still gripping the base and he smiled. "Just let yourself feel it, Zander. And pay attention to what Jason does."

"I...I..." Zander couldn't get the words out. Jason suddenly deep-throated Zander's cock and all he could do was whimper. Then fingers, Sonny's fingers, were kneading his balls and it didn't take long for Zander to cum. He could feel Jason swallowing his semen and Zander doubted he could do that. He'd gag on it. And then Jason was pulling off but only to fist his fingers in Zander's hair to kiss him, sharing the taste of him. Bitter and Zander did choke to realize what was happening. What this meant he had to do.


"Now I want you to do that to me," Sonny stated.

Zander was still reeling from what Jason had done to him. The blow job, the kissing. That he had even allowed this to happen. And now Sonny expected Zander to just do this to him. Zander felt near tears. "I can't..."


Sonny took Zander's face in his hands. "Sure you can. For Alexis you can do anything, Zander."

"For Alexis," Zander echoed, even as he stood up and tucked himself back in his pants. Then he fell to his knees between Sonny's legs. His hand was shaking but he got Sonny's pants undone and withdrew his erection. It fell strange to have another man's hardness in his hand. But Zander pushed those feelings aside and focused on what he had to do. He gripped the base of Sonny's cock in one hand then bent his head and kissed the tip before letting his tongue lap at the tiny slit. All the things that Zander liked, the things that Emily had asked him to teach her, so she could give him pleasure, Zander now did to Sonny. He didn't listen to what Sonny was saying and he tried to tune out the moans. Then Zander felt fingers in his hair and he felt Sonny thrusting deep into his mouth, the tip of his cock hitting the back of Zander's throat. He gagged a bit and Sonny stopped.

"Relax and open for me," Sonny ordered. When Zander obeyed he started thrusting again then he came, hard.


Zander choked as semen filled his mouth. Sonny was holding his head so he couldn't pull off and he had no choice but to swallow. Then the cock was gone and Zander clapped a hand over his mouth and ran for the bathroom. He puked until he got the dry heaves, then he collapsed onto the floor, his back against the wall, eyes closed, panting. He jumped when he felt cool wetness on his face. Zander looked up to see Jason crouched beside him, wiping his face with a damp towel.


Jason gave Zander the towel. "You okay?"

"No." Zander wasn't going to lie about it.


"Sonny said to take it easy the rest of the night. You done good."

Zander nodded. He felt sick but relieved. But he knew this wasn't over. "So what happens next?"


Jason stood up slowly. "I'll come by tonight." He walked out.

Zander knew what that meant. Tonight he would practice on Jason. Bile rose in Zander's throat again and he heaved once more. Then he got up, brushed his teeth, used mouthwash for good measure, then he left dressed in sweats and took off for a run. Zander ran for miles. He ran until his legs were shaking. Then he went home and showered. And when Jason showed up in his room, Zander did what he had to do. And he almost proud of the fact that he didn't puke afterwards.


* * * * *

The three days off passed by too quickly. Each night Sonny had Zander service him and Jason, for practice. By Friday night, Sonny deemed Zander ready to perform. Zander felt sick all over again. But he did what he had to do. He danced then he went off stage and followed Lynn to a room in the back. A bed room suite. A man was sitting on the bed, waiting for him. Zander resisted the urge to turn and run out the door. He put a smile on his face and walked over to the man, hating the way the man's eyes moved over him. Of course Zander was still in costume, which meant he was basically naked. He felt like a piece of meat.


"God…you're fucking beautiful," said the man on the bed.

Zander didn't respond. He simply fell to his knees between the guy's legs and undid his pants. He disengaged himself from all tactile and sensory awareness, beyond what he needed to focus on. Getting the job done right, and fast. And Zander was almost surprised to find the man cumming the moment Zander closed his mouth over him. Not that he was complaining. But then the guy pulled out, so much of his ejaculation landed on Zander's face and chest. Before he could react, Zander found hands cupping his face and a tongue licking off the semen. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, forcing back bile. Then the man was kissing Zander, shoving his tongue in his mouth. It took all of Zander's willpower not to push him away.


Then it was over. The man pulled back and put himself back in his pants. Then he tucked a one hundred dollar bill into Zander's G-string. "Worth every penny," Said the man. before heading for the door.

"Fuck!" Zander hissed, then he made his way into the bathroom. He managed not to puke, and there was mouthwash which he used. Then he splashed water on his face and dried it with a towel. Sonny had told him he would service three men tonight, so Zander had two more to go. He told himself it didn't matter. But when he returned to the bedroom and the second guy was waiting, Zander found himself blinking back tears.


But he made it through. Then he washed out his mouth again and the third guy entered. A big guy, heavyset and layered with muscle. And he had huge hands. He grabbed Zander and kissed him, one hand sliding down Zander's back to grope his buttocks. Zander squirmed then found himself released. He resisted the urge to wipe his mouth with the back of one hand and watched as the guy unzipped himself, freed his cock, then sat down on the bed.

Smiling, the big guy called Zander over. "Come on, pretty boy. Blow me."

Zander said nothing. He went to the man and dropped to his knees and pretty much lost all control the moment he took the thick cock into his mouth. Fingers fisted in his hair, and the guy thrust into his mouth hard and deep, nearly gagging Zander with each thrust. His throat ached and he thought for sure he would retch when it was finally over. But even as Zander gagged on the cum and tried to rise to his feet, the big guy hauled him onto the bed and one hand ripped off Zander's G-string. Then the heavy weight of the other man's body was pressing Zander down as the wet mouth sealed on his and fingers curled around his cock, stroking him. Zander couldn't move and panic flared through him.


"Get off him!" It was Jason.

The big guy turned his head, saw Jason, then got off the bed.

Zander could see that Jason had a gun. He wanted Jason to shoot the bastard. But Jason merely escorted him out. Zander made to get up when he realized Sonny was standing there, holding out a robe. Zander slipped it on. He was shaking.


"You did a good job tonight, Zander," Sonny told him. "Go get dressed and Jason will take you home."

"Okay." Zander headed for the door only to stop when Jason touched his arm.


Jason just studied Zander for a moment, then he asked, "You okay?"

Zander didn't reply, he simply walked out the door.


* * * * *


Sonny talked to Zander about what happened, that it was to be expected but that he or Jason would always be watching and would always protect him.

Zander simply thanked him. Then he did what he had to do. By the end of the week he couldn't remember how many guys he gave blow jobs to. He did know that he made over a thousand dollars in tips. Zander tucked the money into a sock in his drawer.


One night at dinner, Sonny told Zander it was time to move to the next level. They were dining alone. Carly was at the movies with Michael. "You'll service the female clientele," Sonny stated. "I don't think you need lessons for that."

"Fine," Zander replied. He saw no point in arguing. He knew that if he didn't do this, Alexis would be sacrificed. "When do I start?"


"Tomorrow night. Just one woman a night."

Zander nodded. "Blow jobs too, I take it?"

Sonny shook his head then stabbed a potato on his fork. "I think I'll have you concentrate on the women for a while. You've proven your loyalty, Zander."

"Thanks." There was no sarcasm in Zander's tone. He was relieved and almost grateful. "I'm not hungry," he said, pushing back his still full plate. "Can I go now?"


"Sure. Don't be out late," Sonny cautioned.

Zander smiled then headed upstairs to grab his jacket. He left the Penthouse and headed for the docks. He wanted to be alone, yet at the same time he didn't. He was feeling a little shaky because he kept having the dream. The one he used to have of the man knocking a woman down the stairs. It haunted him. He turned and ran into a warm body. "I'm sorry."

Elizabeth smiled at him as he steadied her. "It's okay. I wasn't watching where I was going."

"Me either. How are you?"

"Pretty good. You?"


Zander shrugged. "Can't complain." Wouldn't do him any good if he did.


Elizabeth studied Zander then frowned. "You look tired."


"Yeah...a little. You know how sometimes you just can't sleep?"


"I get that myself." Elizabeth sat down on the bench, drawing Zander with her. "What have you been up to? Still working for Sonny?"


Zander flinched, then made himself relax and nodded. "Yeah."

Elizabeth frowned. "I'm actually a little surprised. I would have thought...with Jason back...I mean.."

"I know what you mean. I kinda thought I would be let go myself."

"Well...I guess it's good then. I's Sonny. I think you could do better."

Zander appreciated her honesty and her concern. "'s a job." A job he hated but was trapped in.


Elizabeth sighed. "Yeah...I know how that feels. Waitressing at Kelly's is *A job*. Maybe someday I'll win the lottery and be able to devote my time to my painting."


"Maybe." Zander stood up. "Uh...I gotta go. Nice seeing you."

"Nice seeing you too." Elizabeth got up as well.

Zander waved then headed off. He just wished he had someplace to go. Someplace away from Port Charles and Sonny Corinthos.


* * * * *


For two weeks, Zander serviced women. It was better than giving blow jobs, so it was easier to accept. The women were all appealing in their own ways, so Zander found himself settling in to his new position. He told himself it wasn't like he had another choice. A fact that he was reminded of daily. Every day now Zander would catch sight of Alexis at some point. Alexis and her, obviously, pregnant belly. So Zander focused on doing what had to be done and letting everything else go.


Until Sonny gave him a stack of one hundred dollar bills. "What's this?" Zander asked.


"You share of the money from the services you…rendered," Sonny replied. "Ten thousand dollars."

"Ten thousand dollars," Zander echoed, staring at the money in his hand. Then he laughed. "I guess now I'm officially a whore." That said he left the penthouse, the money burning a hole in his jacket pocket.


* * * * *


Zander made a beeline for Jake's but got sidetracked when he ran into Alexis on his way. He didn't want to deal with her right now. She was a painful reminder of what he had become. And he wanted to drink himself into oblivion so he could forget.


But Alexis grabbed Zander by the arm when he tried to brush by her on the docks. "Where are you going in such a hurry?"


"What's it to you?"


"Zander...what's wrong?"


He realized how he had sounded and he apologized. None of this was her fault. He had made his own bed and he would have to be a good sport about lying in it. "I'm sorry. That was rude of me. I'm just…kinda antsy."

Alexis nodded, then studied him. "Are you all right?"


"Fine. Uh...I really need to go though. Maybe we can talk later."


"Okay. I'm going to hold you to that." Alexis released Zander's arm.

Zander smiled at her, hoping that she couldn't see how forced it was, then he turned and almost ran up the stairs. Once out of sight he did run, all the way to Jake's. And once there he ordered a shot with a beer chaser, picked up a pool stick, made a bet with a biker and flirted with every pretty girl in the place. For a while Zander was able to pretend that he was the guy he used to be. But the fantasy ended when Jason showed up.


He confronted Zander at the pool table. "Time to go home."

"I don't want to go home." Zander said, as he raised his beer bottle in a mocking toast. "Go away. I'm busy." He bent over to make a shot and a striped ball landed in a corner pocket. Even drunk he was on his game.


"I'm taking you," Jason stated. "We can do this the easy way and you walk out with me. Or the hard way...I toss you over my shoulder and carry you out. Your choice."

Zander laughed. "My choice?" he echoed. "Now that is funny. I don't have a goddamn choice in anything I do! And we both know it. So...fuck off!"


Jason moved around the table and gripped Zander by the arm. "Walk out of here with me, Zander. Make the right choice...again."


"Or what?" It was the wrong thing to say. Zander found himself hauled over Jason's shoulder and his stomach lurched as he was carried out the door. Zander struggled to make Jason put him down, but Jason didn't stop until he reached his car. Zander felt like puking as he was set back on his feet.


"Bastard!" Zander hissed.

Jason opened the door. "Get in the car."


Zander considered giving Jason the finger and leaving, but he knew he wouldn't get far. So he got in. Then he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He was going to have the mother of all hangovers in the morning. Then he heard a female voice and opened his eyes to see one of the waitresses talking to Jason. A moment later, Jason tossed Zander's jacket on his lap.


"Forget something?" Jason drawled, then he got in the drivers seat.


"Doesn't matter," Zander whispered. He felt in the pocket. The money was still there. And it still made him feel like a whore.


* * * * *


When they got back to the penthouse, Sonny was waiting for them. He gave Zander a warning to behave then sent him to bed. Zander felt like he was twelve. But he did as he was told, and headed straight for the shower. He dried off, pulled on a pair of boxer briefs, then slid into bed. The room spun a bit when he closed his eyes, but Zander didn't care. He was tired. And soon he drifted off to sleep.


But it didn't last. He dreamed again and woke up in a cold sweat. Zander got up, moaning as pain thudded in his skull, and headed for the bathroom. He took a double dose of aspirin then pulled on sweat pants and a tee shirt, grabbed a blanket off the bed and curled up in the chair by the window. He didn't want to sleep again. But at some point he drifted off, coming awake when fingers combed through his hair. Zander opened his eyes and a blurry image came into view. He blinked it into focus.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Carly said softly, her fingers still combing through his hair. "How do you feel?"


"Great," Zander stated, then gave lie to his word by moaning and clutching his head when he tried to get up. "Okay…I feel like shit."

Carly winced in sympathy. "Jason told me you'd have a whopper of a hangover this morning. I made my famous hangover remedy." She moved to the dresser and plucked a glass off a tray. "Try it."

Zander took the glass and studied the contents. Then he sniffed it and wrinkled his nose. "Looks like a Bloody Mary...and smells like something died in it. I'm not drinking it."


"Yes you are." Carly grabbed Zander's hand and forced the glass to his lips. "Drink'll feel alot better."


"Ungh.." Zander mumbled around the glass, then he took a swallow. It made him gag, but he swallowed again when Carly tipped the glass. It was that or wear the rancid brew. In the end, Zander drank most of it and after a few moments of feeling like he was going to hurl, he had to admit he felt better. His stomach settled down and the throbbing in his skull eased to a doable ache. "I think it worked," Zander stated.

Carly smiled broadly. "Of course it did. Would I lie to you?"


Zander smiled back. " wouldn't. Thanks, Carly."


"Anytime. Glad I could help." Carly took back the glass and put it on the tray, then she turned to look at Zander. "Are you okay? I mean...other than the hangover? You look sad."


"I'm good. Really." Zander stood up, the blanket falling away, forgetting that he was almost naked until the look in Carly's eyes reminded him. Zander was surprised by the passion he saw in her gaze. Passion and…desire. Zander told himself he was still drunk and seeing things.


Carly cleared her throat and turned away, even as Zander wrapped himself in the blanket. "I should go. Want to go shopping with me later?"

Zander chuckled. "Shopping? Me?"


"Toy shopping. A friend of Michael's is having a birthday party. Come with me? I need a guy's perspective."

"Ask Sonny."


Carly sighed. "Sonny is busy...with business." Carly pouted then drawled, "Please?"


Zander shook his head. "You're whacked but...okay. I'll go."  

" ready in about an hour." That said, Carly left the room.


"I'll be ready," Zander told the empty room. Then he headed for the bathroom to shower. How pathetic had he become, he wondered. When he was looking forward to toy shopping with Carly as a distraction to his life.


* * * * *


Another week passed. Sonny gave Zander a break. Tonight all he had to do was dance, no servicing anyone. Zander felt relief knowing he didn't have to *perform* after his *Performance* on stage. So he was feeling rather upbeat as he stepped onstage. By now he had fallen into the cadence of his routine without having to think about it. He just moved to the beat and let himself feel the music. Zander now turned his every movement into a seduction. He had even gotten to the point where he rather enjoyed teasing the audience, as it were. Since they were there to leer at him, and most would only get to do that, Zander started taking pleasure in turning them *on* as it were, knowing that he would walk off the stage when the music was done and leave them feeling frustrated. He was frustrated as hell at feeling so helpless, at having no control over his own life. Zander was feeling petty enough to want to give some of that frustration back. And there were even times, like tonight, when he enjoyed the routine. When he could almost become lost in the dance and in the music. It was kind of like a rush knowing that he could control this one thing. The seduction of the dance.


So when Zander stepped on stage, he was ready to put on a real show. He even went so far tonight as to flirt with the customers to an almost risky degree. The bouncers had to pull a few people off him, men and women alike. Zander felt almost giddy with power. Or maybe it was the three shots of Jack before the show that gave him the high. No matter. He laughed when his leather skirt was ripped off him, and his felt sensitized as hands caressed him. Zander was caught up in the sensuality of it all as he moved to the far table in the back corner. A smile curved his lips until the shadows faded back and he could see the person watching him. Nikolas Cassadine. Zander froze. Luckily the music came to an end a heartbeat later. Zander heard the applause and the screams and adulation that signaled his exit and he turned around and fled.


* * * * *


All the way home, Zander cursed. He couldn't believe that Nikolas Cassadine had come to the Hot Zone and he had seen him dancing. It felt like a nightmare that Zander couldn't wake up from. It haunted Zander in his dreams and woke him up a few times. Sadly, he preferred this nightmare to the other one.

Come morning, Zander had decided to just pretend it never happened. Sonny was off with Jason on business so Carly and Zander were on their own. Michael was with his grandmother for the day.

"Let's go to Kelly's for breakfast," Carly said. "I love their omelets."

"Sounds good," Zander replied. So they took off. They entered Kelly's and found a table near the counter. Elizabeth came and took their order.


Carly smiled at Zander over her coffee. "Great show last night. You were really into it. Told you you'd be great."


Zander buried his face in his hands. He was actually embarrassed. "I can't believe I'm saying this...but I don't mind the dancing so much anymore. It's kind of...liberating."


"Gives you a sense of power over the audience, doesn't it? Knowing they're salivating over you."


"Shhhh!" Zander reached over and clapped a hand over Carly's mouth. "I'd rather the whole world not know about this...okay?"


Carly nodded and pulled Zander's hand away. "Sorry. I know. It’s not meant to be advertised. It’s looked really beautiful and sexy out there, Zander. It's gives me pleasure watching you. I'd dream about you moving like that...making love to me."

Zander was stunned. "Whoa...where did that come from? shouldn't say things like that?"

"Why not?" She gave him a come hither smile. "It’s true. And don't worry...Sonny knows how I feel about you."

"Jeesuz...are you trying to get me killed?" Zander couldn't believe what he was hearing.

Carly reached out and took his hand. "I love Sonny...and he loves me. But we both realized something. We need other people in our lives. He has Jason."

Zander almost fell out of his chair. So Carly knew about Sonny and Jason. He shook his head. "We need to change the I can't deal with this, okay? Not now."

"Okay...but we are going to talk about it, Zander." Carly pressed a kiss to Zander's palm then let his hand go.


"You do like to blindside people, don't you?" Zander countered, narrowing his eyes at Carly. He wished he could read her mind, then he decided it was probably for the best that he couldn't. But she did behave herself and they enjoyed breakfast. Carly got a call from Bobbie that Michael wasn't feeling well so she took off, leaving Zander to finish his coffee and pay the bill. When he was done he stepped out of Kelly's and almost ran into another person coming in. Zander stumbled back and started to apologize, but the words froze in his mouth when he saw who he had run in to. Nikolas.


Nikolas nodded at Zander. "Sorry."


Zander nodded back. He was finding it hard to make his vocal chords work. "Uh...yeah. Me too. Sorry." Zander couldn't meet Nikolas' eyes. Instead he shuffled aside and hurried off. He didn't see Nikolas turn to watch him leave, a smile curving his lips.


* * * * *


After the run in with Nikolas, Zander stayed close to home. He did finally go and visit Alexis and it turned out to be a nice time. She didn't push him about the dancing or working for Sonny issues. They ate popcorn and watched movies, then called out for Chinese. It felt like old times. Zander asked about her pregnancy and Alexis told him that it wasn't Ned's baby. That she had run into an ex-boyfriend from college. They had had a few drinks. There had been a few sparks. Her birth control pills failed her and *poof*, she was pregnant. He knew about the baby but had a wife and kids back home. So he was cool about signing legal papers giving Alexis full custody of the baby. She was happy about it and looking forward to being a single mom. She had asked Zander to be a godparent and *Uncle Zander*. He had happily agreed to the *uncle Zander* part, but had asked for time to think about the *godparent* thing.


So Zander was in a good mood when he returned home. Carly was out, staying at her moms with Michael, who had the stomach flu. So it was just Sonny and Jason to contend with and when Zander came in they were working on warehouse business. So Zander said his goodnights and headed for the stairs. Then Sonny cornered him and Zander's good mood vanished.


"Zander...we need to talk," Sonny stated. "Business." He looked at Jason. "We'll finish this tomorrow."


Jason nodded and walked out.

Zander came back into the room and faced Sonny. "Is something wrong?"


"Not at all. I'm very pleased with you, Zander. But it's time to move up to the next level."

"What does that mean?" Whatever it was, Zander knew he wasn't going to like it.


Sonny moved to the couch and sat down, folding his hands in his lap. "You're building an incredible reputation, Zander. Everyone wants it's time to let them have you, for the right price."

Zander shook his head. "I'm already doing that. I'm servicing your clientele...remember?"


"I remember." Sonny smiled but it was a twist of his lips. "I have several...gentlemen...who are more than willing to pay me a small fortune to fuck you."


"What?" Zander could not believe what he was hearing.


Sonny's smile froze. "You've had sex with the women, now you'll have sex with the men. It will be a select few, and they will pay handsomely."

Zander backed away towards the door. He felt as if the room were shrinking in on him. "I'm not doing that. No fucking way!"

"Are you forgetting about Alexis?"

" I'm not. But fuck you, Sonny. Fuck the deal! I'll find a way to protect Alexis myself." Zander was serious, so much so that he put his hand on the doorknob and was ready to walk out. Until Sonny whispered a name he could never forget. Zander felt himself begin to shake. "What...what did you say?"

Sonny was happy to repeat it. "Alexander Anthony Castle. That is your real name...isn't it?"

Zander couldn't reply. Darkness hit him like a 2x4 and he crumpled to the floor.



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