The Hot Zone

Chapter 24


Zander came awake slowly. His eyes felt heavy-lidded and gritty but he forced them open. Everything looked blurry so he blinked to bring it into focus. Not so surprisingly, he was in a hospital room. Zander shifted and tried to sit up, only to realize he was in restraints. He cursed softly.


"About time you woke up." Nikolas rose from the chair in the corner and walked over to the bed. "How do you feel?"


"Like crap." Zander couldn't keep the anger he was still feeling out of his voice.


Nikolas nodded. "Dr. Baldwin had you pretty well sedated."

Zander tugged on the restraints. "Would you mind taking these off? I'd like to go now."


"They're staying put and so are you?"

"Excuse me?" Zander did not want to hear that.

Nikolas locked eyes with him. "You heard me. Mind telling me what happened?"


Zander didn't want to talk about it, but he knew Nikolas could be more stubborn than he was. He wouldn't let it go. "I flipped out, okay?"



"No particular reason. Just me being me." Zander tugged on the restraints again. "Can I go now?"


Nikolas shook his head. "You have to talk to Dr. Baldwin first and just so you know.....she told me she intends to have you admitted for a few days."


Zander felt anger washing over him and he fought to keep it in check. "She can't do that!" he spat.


"Yes I can," Dr. Baldwin replied. She had walked in just in time to hear Zander's remark.


"Why? Because you're pissed at me for wrecking your office? Sorry…okay?" Zander's tone was sullen and unapologetic, but he continued on. "I'll pay for the damages now let me out of here!"


Gail looked at Nikolas and he exited the room, quietly. Then she turned back to face Zander. "I think that what happened in my office was a cry for help, Zander. And I'm going to help you."

Zander snorted. "By locking me up in the psych ward? Let me're going to try shock therapy on me. Won't help."


"Why are you so angry?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" Zander yanked at his restraints. "You fucking knock me out then you strap me to a bed. And now you want to lock me up and throw away the key! Wouldn't you be pissed?"


Gail waited for Zander's anger to abate then she asked, "Do you love Nikolas?"


Zander glared at her, suspicion glimmering in his eyes. "What the fuck kind of question is that?"


"A very direct one."


"Yes...I love Nikolas."

Gail nodded. "Then his feelings matter to you, right?"


Zander suddenly realized where she was going with this. She wanted to use his feelings for Nikolas to motivate him. But Zander wasn't about to play her game. "Get out!" he hissed.


"You're making things harder on yourself, Zander. On everyone."

"Get the FUCK OUT!"


Gail's expression tightened, but she turned and walked to the door. "I'll be back later," she warned, then she was gone.


Zander closed his eyes against the sudden sting of tears. He was so damn tired of everything. A part of him wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.


"Zander?" Nikolas walked over to the bed. "You okay?"


"Please take me home," Zander begged, opening his eyes and locking them on Nikolas’s face. He saw sadness in the dark gaze. Sadness and love. It hurt Zander, knowing that everything he did hurt Nikolas in some way.


Reaching out, Nikolas took Zander's hand, twining their fingers. "I love you too much to let you walk away from this, Zander. You need help."


Zander squeezed Nikolas's hand, feeling safe in their connection. But he knew how fragile it really was. "This isn't helping," he whispered.


"Walking away from Sonny and the Hot Zone, that will help," Nikolas shot back.


"I can't do that."

Nikolas's eyes glittered with anger. "Why not?"

Zander tried to tug his hand free but the restraints held fast. "I just can't...that's all."

"That's not good enough, Zander!" Nikolas pulled away and threw his arms up in defeat. "I don't get know that? I just don't get you!"


"You never will," Zander replied. He closed his eyes and said, "I'm tired." Better to send Nikolas away, if only for a little while.


Nikolas sighed and ran a hand over his face. Then he bent over and kissed Zander on the forehead. "I love you," he whispered. "No matter what you do or what you matter what...period. I love you." Then Nikolas walked away.


Zander fought back tears.


* * * * *


Alexis smiled at Zander. "Can I get you anything?" she asked.

Zander tugged at his restraints. "You can get me out of these," he replied.

"Sorry. Bobbie told me not to touch them. I guess you can't be trusted not to leave." Alexis made a face. "Imagine that."


"You know...I appreciate you coming here, Alexis...but I'm really not good company right now. Okay?"


She nodded. "I know that. I just wanted to see for myself how you were doing."


Zander smiled. "Never better."


"I know about you and Nikolas," Alexis blurted out. "He told me everything. Well...not *Everything*. But I know he loves you and I think that's wonderful. For both of you. I love him too, right?"

"Is this leading up to something?" Zander countered.


Alexis sighed. Zander knew her too well. "I know that you've been through alot of bad shit, Zander. Nikolas was vague, but I know some of it involved your father, and I know for a fact that your involvement with Sonny and the Hot Zone is bad news all the way around. You need to quit what you're doing."


Zander glared at her. "You need to mind your own business."

"I love you, you were family!" Alexis shot back. "In my heart you are family. So I'm not going to sit back and let you destroy yourself."

"You don't get a say in my life, Alexis. So leave it alone."


Alexis shook her head and glared right back at Zander. He could be so damn stubborn at times that she wished she could shake it out of him. "You're all messed up for a reason, Zander. And I have no doubt but that it's connected to Sonny. And I'm not letting go of this until I find out the truth."


Anger blazed in Zander's eyes. "Stay the fuck out of my life!" He shouted at her. "Do you hear me?"


"No, Zander...I don't hear a thing." That said, Alexis walked out of the room, blinking back tears.


* * * * *


Zander was dreaming about Arroyo, only the man's face morphed into his father’s, then there was a bang and Zander found himself covered in blood. He came awake with a start, only to feel a hand on his chest, easing him back against the pillows. Zander blinked his eyes into focus and realized it was Jason. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see how you were doing."

"Did Sonny send you? Maybe he can get me the hell out of here!" Zander was still in restraints and he tugged at them in frustration. His heart was still thudding against his rib cage and he found it hard to shake the images from his dream.


Jason shook his head. "Sonny can't help you, Zander. But I know someone who might."

Zander's eyes narrowed in suspicion, but he allowed himself to hope. "Someone who can get me out of here?"

"Eventually," Jason allowed. "I spoke with Nikolas and we talked to Dr. Baldwin."

"About what?" Zander was confused.


Jason locked eyes with Zander. "A new therapist. His name is Brad Jennings. He'll be here in the morning to see you. Dr. Baldwin agreed to giving you over to his care."

Zander felt anger flare up inside him. "I don't want another fucking therapist. I don't want anyone probing in my head! Got it?"


"You want out of here, then you'll talk to Dr. Jennings," Jason stated. "Your choice." Then he was gone.


"Bastard!" Zander snarled, to the empty room. He tugged at his restraints again, then laid his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes. He did want out of here and he would do whatever it took. He would play the game and fuck them all.



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