Zander did as Emily asked and moved into the Quartermaine mansion. To his surprise everyone welcomed him. From Lila right on down to Edward. Even Big Alice seemed happy to have him there. It kind of freaked Zander out and he told Emily so. What was even weirder was the fact that no one made a fuss about him and Emily sharing a room. Not that they had done anything other than actually *sleep* in the bed. Zander's physical therapy sessions wore him out and he was usually falling asleep before dinner was over.
By the second week, Zander was adjusting to his physical therapy and was able to stay awake for supper. He didn't join in the conversation much, but he rather enjoyed the acerbic banter between the family members. Usually, at least once during the meal, Monica or Alan would chide him for not eating enough. About that time Alice would pipe up stating *not to worry* and that she would fatten him up. Zander had to give her credit for trying. She baked all kinds of cakes and pies and cookies and was constantly bringing him trays of the goodies along with big glasses of milk. Zander appreciated her efforts and usually managed to eat some of the treat, which would put a smile on Alice's face. He rather looked forward to doing that.
After dinner, at the end of the second week, Ned brought up work to Zander. He had assured him that he still had a job at ELQ when he was better, but tonight he made an offer that Zander couldn't refuse.
"You seem to be getting a bit antsy, Zander," Ned commented, moving over to the fireplace where Zander and Emily were sitting.
"You could say that again," Zander allowed. He was sitting in a chair and happy to be out of his wheelchair, if only for a little while. What he hated, however, was the fact that just the few steps from the wheelchair to the chair seemed to wear him out. Zander blamed it on the physical therapy. It made his entire body ache after each session. "I feel like I'm going stir crazy."
Ned smiled. "I might have a solution. Do you feel up to doing some work here? I can bring it from the office and you can use the laptop."
Zander nodded, excitement flashing in his eyes. "That would be great!"
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," Monica interjected. She watched Zander's face fall and added, "I'm not trying to rain on your parade, Zander. But you really need to take things slow. And physical therapy wears you out."
"I'm worn out because I'm bored," Zander countered. "Seriously. I want to do this. I think it'll help me."
Monica exchanged glances with Ned then nodded. "Okay...try it out. But if it gets to be too much for you, I'm going to put a stop to it. Understand?"
Zander nodded. "Got it." He looked at Ned. "Can I start tomorrow?"
"Sure. I just happen to have some files in my briefcase." Ned laughed then headed off to get them.
"Thanks, Ned," Zander called after him, then he turned to find Emily smiling at him. "What?"
Emily chuckled. "I haven't seen you look this happy in a long time, Zander," She replied. "It's good to see."
Zander felt bad realizing that his unhappiness would be dragging Emily down. "I'm sorry, baby. I don't mean to be such a downer."
"Hey...stop that," Emily chided, gently. "Zander...there hasn't been much in your life to give you happiness."
"Not until you," he countered. "You make me happy, Emily."
Emily sighed. "I want to. But I know that you haven't been able to fully let go of your other memories of me. The couple of times we've run into Nikolas at the hospital, I can feel you watching me with him. I know it bothers you."
Zander wanted to deny it, but to do so would be a lie, and he wasn't going to lie to Emily. "I just can't stop remembering what happened. I know, in my head, that it wasn't real. But my heart still feels the pain."
"I wish there was something I could do to make the pain go away," Emily whispered, as she moved to sit on his lap. "Am I hurting you?"
"Not a chance." Zander wrapped his arms around her and held on tight. His legs were sore, but he didn't care. He had Emily in his arms and he wasn't about to let her go.
* * * * *
"NO! NO!" Zander sat up with a jerk, clapping a hand over his mouth and hoping that hadn't disturbed Emily. But he knew he had as he felt her sit up beside him,
"Zander?" Emily rubbed his shoulders.
He was trembling and couldn't stop and he could feel the cold sweat that sheened his skin. "Sorry, Emily. I didn't mean to wake you."
She hugged him. "It's okay. You all right?"
"Yeah...fine." Zander slid out of bed and carefully planted his feet. He stood up and rocked a bit, gripping the bedpost for support. "I'm gonna use the bathroom," he stated. "I'll be right back." There was a walker beside the bed and Zander reached for it, but his knees buckled and he hit the floor, hard. "Fuck!" he cursed, slamming one hand against the floor.
"Zander!" Emily was out of the bed in a heartbeat and at his side. "Are you hurt?"
He shook his head at her. "I'm just pissed. I’m so damn tired of my legs not working! I hate this!"
Emily nodded. "I know just how you feel. But it'll get better, Zander. You're doing great at PT, making really good progress."
"Yeah…yeah, I know." Zander took a few deep breaths, forcing himself to relax. "I'm sorry to lose it like this. I know it was alot harder for you when you were learning to walk. I don't have any right to complain. I'm just impatient."
"Complain all you want, Zander." Emily leaned in to kiss away his frown. "You have a right to feel whatever you feel."
Zander heaved a sigh. "Yeah? Well…right now I feel like an ass." He was about to make the effort to try and stand when a knock sounded at the door.
"Zander? Emily? You guys all right in there?"
It was Ned.
Emily giggled then called out. "We're fine."
"I fell out of bed!" Zander shouted. He figured there was no use in lying about it and there was the fact that he doubted he could get back up without some help and he was too heavy for Emily to haul around.
"Need some help?" Ned called back.
Zander sighed, then yelled out, "Yeah!"
Ned entered the room and came right over. He easily pulled Zander to his feet. "Should I wake up Monica?"
"Please don't," Zander begged. "I've been humiliated enough for one night."
"What happened?" Ned helped Zander get back into bed.
Zander rubbed a hand over his face and swallowed a sigh as Emily pulled the covers back up over him, fussing with them. "I just…I keep forgetting that my legs don't work right yet. I wasn't tired so I figured I'd go for a run and BOOM! Fell down."
Ned chuckled. "Well...hold off on the running for a while. Walking comes first." He looked at Emily who had crawled back into bed as well, then back at Zander. "Need anything else?"
"Nope," Zander replied, then he gave a crooked smile. He was trying to laugh at himself about this, but it was hard to have a sense of humor. "I'm good. Thanks."
"Sure." Ned smiled then headed out, closing the door behind him.
Emily wrapped her arms around Zander. "Hey...since we're both awake...wanna fool around?"
Zander pretended to consider her offer. They had just gone back to making love a few nights ago. It had been wonderful but it seemed a bit surreal to Zander at the same time. And he still had flashes of Emily and Nikolas making out at the cottage. Images that weren't real, but they screamed reality to him all the same. Leaning in to kiss Emily on the nose, Zander whispered, "I'd love a rain check. I'm a little tired."
"You got it, baby," Emily replied. She snuggled against him then closed her eyes, but then she pushed back up to kiss him goodnight. "Sweet dreams."
"You too," Zander replied. He closed his eyes but knew he wouldn't sleep. And he was right. Zander spent the night watching Emily and remembering both the good times and the bad.
* * * * *
Another week passed and Zander knew he had pushed himself too hard. Between working for Ned at home and his PT sessions, plus his weekly session with Dr. Baldwin had been today and that in itself tended to wear him out. Zander knew he had overexerted himself. Every muscle in his legs screamed with pain but Zander refused to take anything for it. He had made it without taking pills since he had woken up from his coma, and he wasn't about to start now. It would feel like taking a step backwards.
He looked up from his plate to see everyone looking at him. He realized it was Monica that had spoken. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
Monica frowned. "I asked if you were okay."
"No you're not," Emily interjected. "I know you're hurting, Zander." She looked at her mother. "He won't take anything for the pain."
Monica rose from her chair and moved to Zander's side. She pressed a hand to his forehead. "You feel a little warm. I think we need to get you into bed and I'll give you something to help the pain and to help you sleep."
Zander shook his head. "I don't want anything, thanks."
"Doctor's orders." Monica reached for his wheelchair but stepped back and let Zander get into it himself when he glared at her.
"You keep pulling that Doctor card on me," Zander stated, trying to convince himself that he was only giving in so easily because he knew he would lose in the end anyway. But the truth was, he felt like hell and he was afraid he might topple over soon.
Monica smiled then grabbed the back of the chair and wheeled Zander off. "I do pull it on you. You leave me no choice."
Zander nodded. A few minutes later he found himself in bed without really remembering how he got there. Emily was lying beside him, combing her fingers through his hair. "Hey...did I fade out?"
"A little. You were talking to us but you were kinda out of it. It was funny." She smiled then kissed his nose. "Go to sleep. I'll be with you."
"Okay. Love you." Zander closed his eyes.
Emily snuggled against him. "Love you too."
* * * * *
Zander woke up screaming Peter's name. He opened his eyes and looked down at his hands, expecting to see them covered in blood. He was shaking so hard his teeth about rattled.
"Zander…baby.." Emily clicked on the light then reached for him.
Zander said nothing. He just wrapped her in his arms and held on tight.
© Shelly 2004