Bobbie found Zander on the floor and called for two orderlies. They got him back into bed, ignoring his curses and protests, Bobbie got the IV hooked back up and Monica appeared and ordered a sedative.
"Please...no sedative," Zander begged. "I don't want to sleep anymore."
"Zander...you need to rest," Monica countered firmly. "Are you in pain?" She asked as she watched him shift a bit then wince.
Zander shook his head. "I'm just tired of nothing working right. I feel like I can't control my thoughts, my dreams or my body anymore." His fingers curled in the blankets as frustration washed over Zander. "I feel so damn weak."
Monica nodded understanding. "You are weak and you're going to feel that way for a while," she cautioned. "Your body has been through alot of trauma, Zander. Then it was inactive for a long period of time. It's going to take time, and patience, before you'll be anywhere near back to normal. In fact, I thought we could start your physical therapy tomorrow."
"When do I get out of this place?" Zander countered.
"That will depend on your progress." Monica turned away for a moment when Bobbie entered the room with the sedative.
Zander locked eyes with Monica. "Please don't give me that. Please."
Monica reached out and brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes. "You need to rest. You need to heal." She moved around the bed and injected the sedative into his IV.
"I need my life back," Zander whispered. He sighed then closed his eyes as he felt the sedative kicking in already. A warm lethargy spread throughout his body. As darkness closed over him, Zander felt Monica's hand still smoothing his hair and it was oddly comforting.
* * * * *
Zander blinked to bring Emily's face better into focus. "Hey," he replied. "What time is it?"
Emily glanced at her watch. "About eight. Are you hungry? Bobbie said to call her when you woke up and she'll bring in a tray."
"Don't call her," Zander replied. "I don't want anything right now." He shifted against the pillows to sit up a bit more and cursed silently at the effort it took. His arms were shaking by the time he had settled himself. Zander heaved a frustrated sigh, then cursed out loud as his hair fell in his eyes. It needed to be cut. He raised a hand to comb it back only to have Emily beat him to it.
"I missed this," she said softly.
Zander frowned. "Missed what?"
Emily continued combing her fingers through his dark locks. "Touching your hair. It's so soft. Softer than mine. Remember that time when I asked you what conditioner you used and you looked at me like I had two heads?"
"I remember," Zander replied, and it felt good to be able to say that. "I told you that real men don't use conditioner."
"Yeah...jerk!" Emily laughed and sat down on the side of the bed so she could bury both hands in his hair. "You should never cut your hair."
Zander had closed his eyes, relaxing into her touch as her fingers massaged his scalp, but his eyes flew open at her words. "Never?" He pretended shock. "Yeah...right. Picture me with hair down to my butt." The image made Zander laugh. And it felt good to do that too. To laugh with Emily.
She giggled and tugged on his hair before drawing him in for a kiss. "I missed you so much," Emily whispered.
"I missed you too." Zander let himself melt into their kisses and it felt almost surreal. Emily kissed him with all the love and passion that he remembered, yet the image of her kissing Nikolas still danced in his head. An image that didn't exist in anyone's reality but his own. Still, Zander couldn't shake it and he pulled away from Emily. "I'm sorry..."
"It's okay." Emily smiled and pressed one hand to his face. "We'll take it slow. Did it help talking to Dr. Baldwin?"
Zander shrugged. "I guess."
Emily nodded and didn't press him. "Um...what happened last night, Zander? You talked to Dr. Baldwin and the next thing Bobbie finds you on the floor. Were you trying to leave?"
"I felt trapped." The confession was hard to make. Zander's fingers plucked idly at the blankets. "It's hard to have people telling you that everything you believe to be real...isn't. I don't trust what I think or what I feel and it's making me a bit crazy."
"Do you trust in my love for you, Zander? Do you believe that I love you?"
Zander locked eyes with Emily and answered her as honestly as he could. He watched a tear slide down her cheek and he brushed it away with the pad of one thumb. "I see love shining in your eyes when you look at me, and I can feel that love in this moment. But what I thought happened...that pain and betrayal still feel real to me. I don't know how to shake that off, Emily."
She nodded. "I understand. I do…at least I think I do. And I want to help, Zander. Just don't push me away, okay? We can do this together."
"Yeah…okay." Zander felt her hand close over his and he squeezed gently. He didn't want to lose her again, yet there was a part of him that was terrified that this was just a lie. That she was just playing him somehow. Zander closed his eyes against the sting of tears and when he opened them he found Emily watching him, a thoughtful expression on her face.
"I think I know a way to help you believe in me, Zander," She said softly. "To believe in…us…again."
He was game for anything. "What way?" A lock of hair fell into his eyes again and Zander brushed it back with an impatient hand. "I've got to cut this mess again."
Emily laughed. "Don't even think about it. Remember that horrible chop job you got done two winters ago?"
"Hey…it wasn't that bad."
"It made me want to cry," Emily countered. "Don't cut it. For me."
Zander sighed then mock pouted. "But everyone liked my last cut. It was real...what's the word...uh...trendy."
Emily giggled. "That last cut was anything but trendy."
"I don't mean that one. I mean the one just before we got married. Gia told me it was trendy. Nice and short and..." Zander broke off, realizing he was talking about a hair cut he had only dreamed about. He really was losing it. "Sorry…sorry."
"It's okay. You're going to get things confused for a while." Emily squeezed his hand then brought it to her lips. "Hey...speaking of Gia. We were talking…about you...and I know she helped you with your overdose. She told me a little about that. Which brings me back to my idea for helping you. Talking to Gia. And I'd like to be there, to catch up on what I missed."
Zander nodded. "Yeah…that sounds good."
Bobbie entered the room. "Good morning, Zander. You're awake."
"Yeah...I told Emily not to call you. I'm not hungry."
"Well you need to eat, Zander. You start physical therapy today. This afternoon." Bobbie checked his vitals as she spoke, scribbled on his chart, then left the room, promising to be back soon with breakfast.
Emily smiled at Zander. "You do need to eat. Physical therapy is rough."
Zander formed a fist with his free hand and pounded one thigh. "I feel like an invalid!" he snarled in frustration.
"I know the feeling," Emily said quietly.
She shook her head at him. "Don't be. Just be glad that you are fully functional. Luckily everything works for you. You just need to wake up the muscles and gain your strength back. And you will."
Zander drew himself to her with their joined hands and claimed a kiss. "I love you so much it hurts," he whispered.
"Right back atcha," Emily replied, and this time she claimed his lips.
* * * * *
After breakfast, Zander slept. Monica came for a short visit and to tell him his PT was scheduled for four o'clock. Soon after Emily arrived with Gia. Zander was a little nervous about talking to her in some ways. But when she smiled at him, he felt himself relaxing. They had only just started to get to know one another, but Gia had been there for him through one of the worst moments of his life. She had even defended him to his father. Oddly enough, she and Emily were alike in alot of ways, although she doubted either woman would admit to it.
Gia greeted Zander with a kiss on the cheek. "I hear you want to talk."
"Yeah...thanks for coming. I was rather rude to you the last time." Zander felt bad about that.
"It's okay, Zander. Given the circumstances, you get a pass on that one." Gia took the stool Emily passed to her and sat down beside the bed. "So...how do you want to do this?"
Zander rubbed a hand over his face. "Well...I guess just tell me what happened since we became friends. Oh...but let me congratulate you about getting back with Nikolas. I know you love him. I remember that."
Gia smiled warmly. "Thank you. It's slow going between us, but I think we'll find our way back to each other. We're both willing to make the changes need. And I think that's what's in the cards for you and Emily. I hope I can help."
"Are you sure you don't mind me being here?" Emily interjected. The question being to both of them.
"I'm fine with it if Zander is," Gia replied.
Zander nodded and smiled at Emily. "I want you to hear this. Maybe it will help both of us." He looked at Gia. "Go for it."
Gia took a moment to think, then she began. "I came upon you on the docks, taking a pill. We had a confrontation and I told you it was sad to see you revert back to your old ways because you had come so far. You had changed your life around and you were working for Ned. Things looked good. But you were hurt and angry, and already high. You blew me off."
"I'm good at that," Zander stated softly.
"Yeah. It's a gift you have," Gia replied, but with a teasing note in her voice. "Then the next time we talked you were in jail and you needed Alexis to bail you out. But she was busy so you got me instead. Mac offered you counseling or jail. You were being stubborn and stupid, we talked for a few minutes, then you agreed to the counseling. That's when your father showed up. You guys had a confrontation, he came storming out and told Mac to lock you up, that you weren't worth the effort. Mac and I were both stunned by what he was saying and Mac decided to give you another chance anyway. You were bitter and left. I followed you and you told me that Cameron was your father and about what happened to your brother. That it was an accident. You left. The next time I saw you was after your overdose. I was furious with your father, at how cold he was when he stopped in to see you. Of course, I had already given him a tongue lashing before that. I tracked him down here and gave him a piece of my mind about you and he blew me off. So you two have that in common." Gia stopped and studied Zander. "Do you remember any of this?"
Zander nodded. "Yeah...pretty much. I remember the docks. I think I asked you something about us becoming friends and no one telling me."
Gia laughed. "Yeah...you do remember."
"So I take it Nikolas is still filthy rich, so he never married Lydia and Stefan is obviously still alive."
"Who is Lydia?" Gia asked.
Zander made a face and shook his head. He didn't want to explain about that. If it never happened, if Lydia didn't exist, there was no point in talking about her. Other memories, real memories, washed over Zander. And he knew they were real. He looked past Gia to Emily. "I ended up in jail after I called you. I beat up the pay phone at Jake’s. I shouldn't have called you. It was stupid."
Emily moved to the bed and took his face in both hands. "I was stupid, Zander. Stupid and thoughtless and confused. When I heard your voice I was so happy, but I could tell something was wrong. You sounded so desperate and I could hear the pain in your voice. It scared me and I said stupid things. But I couldn't stop thinking about you and that call helped me make the decision to come home. I was miserable without you and hearing you on the phone made me realize just how much I wanted to be with you."
"I'm glad you came back," Zander whispered.
"Me too." Emily kissed him.
Gia stood up. "Um…I guess you two don't need me anymore," she interjected.
Zander broke away from Emily and laughed. "Sorry about that. Thank you for helping."
"Call if you need anything." Gia grabbed Zander's hand for a moment then she headed out.
"She's a good friend to you," Emily stated as she snuggled up next to Zander.
He nodded. "Yeah she is. Never thought that would happen."
Emily ran her fingers through Zander's hair. "I'm so sorry about your brother. It must have been awful for you, Zander. Why didn't you ever tell me about that?"
"We had enough bad things going on, Emily," Zander replied. "And it was something I spent three years trying to forget. Then my father shows up out of the blue and BAM...I'm messed up again." Tears filled his eyes and Zander couldn't blink them back fast enough to keep them from falling. He felt Emily's arms slide around him and he hugged her to him for all he was worth. "I'm so sorry...I'm such a fucked up mess."
"Shhh....baby...it's okay. You’re okay." Emily pressed kisses to the top of his head as she rocked him. "We're together now, Zander. You and me against the world. We're going to make it through everything."
Zander didn't reply, he just held on to her and let his tears fall. He still felt confused by his emotions and his thoughts. But all that mattered in this moment was that Emily was in his arms and he finally felt safe.
* * * * *
Physical therapy was a medical version of hell, Zander decided. His body ached in ways he didn't know it could and he was exhausted more than he thought possible. And all from making a few trips up and down between a set of parallel bars. It made Zander mad to remember how useless his legs had felt, and even his arms failed him a few times, sending him to the floor. The therapist had given him a bunch of medical reasons for why his body didn't want to obey him. Atrophy bullshit and other stuff that Zander didn't want to hear. In the end he had focused solely on Emily. She had been proud of him and that meant something to Zander, even though he was angry at himself. By the time he was done had had been bathed in a cold sweat and had pretty much collapsed into his wheelchair.
Monica had made his day even more rotten by telling Zander that he would be going to PT five days a week. That if he worked hard he should be out of the wheelchair in a couple of months. That was the part that messed him up. The wheelchair thing. Zander hadn't thought about needing a wheelchair to get around. He wanted to walk out of this place, ASAP, on his own two legs. But that didn't seem likely.
"Great," Zander muttered beneath his breath. He was already in a foul mood and now his father showed up. "Dad," he drawled back.
Cameron entered the room. "How are you feeling?"
Zander slapped a smile on his face. "Just great."
"I asked about your session. You need to try harder. Of course, that has always been your failing, hasn't it, Alexander. You don't want to have to work hard for anything."
"Fuck you, dad," Zander shot back, and he told himself that his father’s words didn't hurt him. They couldn't hurt him anymore. But a little voice in his head called him a liar.
Cameron's smile was brittle. "Such brilliant linguistic skills, Alexander. You make me proud."
Zander reacted on instinct. He grabbed the water pitcher off the night stand and hurled it at his father. "Get out!"
"You haven't changed one bit, Alexander," Cameron commented, as he wiped at his wet shirt. Then he stared at the puddle on the floor. "You make a mess and expect others to clean it up for you."
"I think you should leave!"
The order came from Emily, who was standing in the doorway, vibrating with fury.
Cameron turned to look at her. "Why did you come back to him?" he queried. "You can do so much better." Before Emily could respond, Cameron stepped around her and left the room.
"Sorry about the mess," Zander whispered. He hated that he was helpless. In that moment he would have given anything to be able to get out of the bed and clean it up himself, just to prove his father wrong.
"Forget about it," Emily replied, moving to his side. "Your father is a wretched excuse for a human being, Zander. I can't believe he's a psychiatrist."
A watery chuckle escaped Zander. "Boggles the mind, doesn't it."
Emily kissed him tenderly then said, "I have good news."
"I could use it."
"You can leave here in three days."
Zander was stunned. "Seriously?"
Emily smiled and nodded. "Seriously. But there is a condition to your release."
"Figures." Zander's instant good mood deflated. "What is it?"
"You have to come home with me."
Zander frowned. "What do you mean…home with you? You live with your parents."
Emily nodded. "Right. The house is wheelchair-friendly. You know my grandmother is in a wheelchair. And there is a room you can stay in on the first floor. No stairs to deal with."
"No…no way!" Zander shook his head vehemently.
"Why not?" Emily shot back, her eyes flashing.
Zander could tell she was ready for a fight and that made him smile. Emily never backed down when she wanted something. Or when she was fighting for someone she loved. Zander remembered that well. She had fought for him and saved his life, in more ways than she would ever understand. "Me living with your family is a really bad idea, and you know it. Your grandfather would have a heart attack."
Emily shook a finger at Zander. "Liar. I've been talking to Ned. Grandfather actually respects the work you do at ELQ. And when was the last time he called you a deviant?"
"I'm not living at your parents’ house, Emily. It's not happening."
"Then you stay here for another week then you'll be moved to a rehab."
Zander was stunned. "What? No. If I can leave in three days then I'm going home."
Emily shook her head. "My mom won't sign you out. And you can't take care of yourself, Zander. No way can you get a wheelchair up and down the stairs at Jake’s. And how would you get to PT? You can't drive for a while."
"I don't care." Zander set his jaw. "I'll figure something out."
"I want you to be with me, Zander," Emily countered. "I'm asking you to be with me. Please? Do this for me...and for us. We can be together every day. I can help you. Maybe even motivate you." A devilish light danced in her eyes as she spoke. "I want to sleep in your arms again, Zander. If you come home with me, we can do that. Don't you want that?"
Zander ran a hand over his face. "You don't fight fair," he whispered.
Emily laughed. "Nope. Not when I want things my way. Come home with me," he begged, leaning in for a kiss.
"Anything for you," Zander replied. And he meant it. For Emily he would swallow his pride. For Emily he would try to catch the moon. For Emily he would lay down and die. "I love you."
"I love you too."
For the first time Zander believed her, without a doubt.
© Shelly 2004