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Friday, May 31, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 84

It was morning at Unforgettable, and even though the temperatures were less than sunny, the bright glow of the morning light was shining in on The Mannings.  Blair was on the far side of the bed on her back, and Todd, strewn across the bed width-wise, was over her middle, his head on her belly.  He woke first, and adjusted his position, his feet feeling strange from partially hanging over the bed during the night.  It was just dawn, and quite early.  The entire house was silent, Ray hadn't even started calling him yet, and Blair was sleeping soundly under him.  He turned his head sideways to look up at her face. She was going to bring him another piece of life, something they never thought possible.  Something they talked about and grieved together, yet, here it was back in their sights.  Several strands of hair covered half her face, and he reached up to gently move them out of the way.  Watching her was like a daily gift to him, and he wanted it to last.

Pulling the covers over himself in case one of the kids made an early appearance, he stayed there, right where he was, so he could watch her without disturbing her, and take in everything about her.  She was the first person, the first woman, who treated him like a man after his time in Statesville, and the first woman to be unafraid when she was alone with him.  If he started to list them, there were so many ways she was a "first" for him, and it continued to go on and on and on, like something ethereal and magic.  He knew, and she did too, that she was going to be his first for everything, and his last for everything as well, whenever that came.  He turned his head slightly enough for his lips to quietly kiss her stomach, and he said, in a whisper, "I already love you, too."

Suddenly, a trampling of feet thudded through the hallway and into the door raced Hope, followed by Starr who was trying to catch her as she scrambled away.  "Granpa!  Gramma! Granpa, Gramma!"  she cried, and Blair, startled from sleep, as well as Todd, scrambled to get cover over them as she barreled through the cracked door into the room, with her mother at her heels.

Starr said, "Sorry, Mom, Dad!  She just got it into her head that she was going to wake you up!"

Blair pulled the edge of a sheet higher over her chest, and said, sleepily, "We're not used to really taking cover or securing things too well.  The boys are old enough to knock and pretty much know not to bug us in mornings."

"Sorry," Starr laughed, lifting Hope in the air.  "You, you little monkey, need to listen the first time."

"Granpa, Gramma!  I wanted to see them."

"Well, here they are."  Starr said.

Both Todd and Blair waved gently to her, and she waved back.  Hope said, "Hi!"

Todd said, "Hi, Peanut.  Sleep good?"

She said, "Yeah.  Just too long."

All of the adults made a face of exasperation, and Blair said, "Spoken like a true child.  Sleep is always too long."

Starr said, "Let me get her out of your hair and into her outfit for today," and took her out the door, closing it behind her.

Both of The Mannings watched them go, and he turned to Blair and said, "God, I wish I were here for that."

"The birth, you mean?"

"Yeah.  That."

"I'm sorry that it didn't happen that way, but I'm going to tell you something, and you won't overreact."

"All right, tell me."

"There might not be a Hope if you were here."

"You're not saying I'd tell her to abort her baby?"

"No.  Just that the only reason she lost her virginity with Cole was because of Zeus."  Darkness went over Todd's face.  "Calm yourself, now.  What came out of it is that beautiful girl.  But, it was Zeus, threatening to separate them, and make us all move to Hawaii and she thought she would never see Cole again.  That pushed her to decide to make love with him.  And the first time they did, the baby was conceived."

He swallowed.  "That's not fair, or right.  But at least she knows now it wasn't me who did that to her."

She smiled.  "Yes.  She knows.  In the back of my mind . . . well, never mind."

"What?  Go ahead, you might as well."

"In the back of my mind it was how . . . Zeus was acting during those years that made me . . . it's going to sound crazy, but I began to doubt him.  I began to doubt that he was himself, or yourself.  I guess in an odd way, I started to doubt that he was you . . . but not really.  I mean, it sounds so weird, but the first sign I got was how he treated Starr when she was pregnant, how he treated her friends.  He was so . . . he just didn't seem like . . . well, like you.  When Zeus was found out to be sleeping with Marty . . . it just . . ."

"I'm not going to say to you what I want to about this.  But Marty?"

"I know," she said, "And you don't know how much I've punished myself, up here" she touched her head, "I should have known.  I still feel guilty, you know, about what happened to you." She began to cry, and not just tearing up.  She broke down into lingering sobs.

He slid closer to her and took her in his arms.  "No, no.  That's enough.  That's not anything you need to feel responsible for."

"How can I help that?  I still think about it, every time I see, these."  Without lifting her head, she ran her hand over the scars on his shoulder, and the large one, now faded to almost nothing, that she had been there when he received.  "If I hadn't given up . . ." her tears interrupted.

He was determined to take the guilt from her.  "You didn't put those there.  Besides, it was more my fault than yours.  If I wasn't acting all tough, and out for revenge after the Mitch thing, I never would have ended up in that crypt.  Right?"

"No.  That's my fault, too."

"No, it's not."

"Yes it is.  I . . . I sent you away.  Without your children, with nothing, Todd," she sobbed. 

"Hey, come on.  That was a long time ago.  What's the sense of going over it now.  I still made my own choices, and you sent me away for a reason.  I lied.  Again.  I put people at risk.  I acted without thinking.  All those things that led to our problems, over and over and over again.  It was all me, Blair.  You just . . . you gotta stop, okay?  It's not good for us, or for the baby."

She cried a little longer, running her hands over his shoulder.  She could feel the roughness, even though they had faded.  The rectangular scars left from the eight years they were apart.  His back was also spotted with them.  Finally, she said, "I don't know why I am thinking about it this much."

"We just went through a lot.  You were scared.  Thought you would lose me.  Yada yada yada."

She laughed through her tears.  He was so matter-of-fact about their lives.  "If we ever wrote down everything we've been through, someone would think we were a fictional couple on a soap opera or in a romance novel."  She sniffled, and looked up into his face.  That beautiful face, so different from what most people would call beautiful, but still, so beautiful to her.  And the scar.  He wore it all his life, at least all of his adult life, and let it be what it was.  But his eyes.  The hazel, changing look of them; how she could read his whole heart in them and into his very core.  

He pulled her in and kissed her.  He said, "No more of this.  I could make a list of the things you screwed up, and the ones I did, and it's still going to be 10-90, you on the ten."

She didn't answer.  She just sat up next to him and said, "Now what, Mr. Manning?"  Her nose was still a little clogged from her bout with tears.

"Now her, Mrs. Manning," he said, pointing to her belly.  Blair's face crinkled.  He said, "Not more crying, now, come on," and brushed her tear away with his thumb.  

"You think, she might be a girl?"

"Might?  We have a 50-50 chance.  Our first baby was a boy, we lost him.  Then Starr.  Then Jack.  Then Ray.  Then Sommer.  We lost her.  I think we're batting .500 on this.  Wait, let me check."

He scrunched down in the bed, and put his ear to her belly.  "Let me see, hey in there?  Girl or boy?"

"Oh, Todd, come on, it's no bigger than a peachpit right now."

"Okay."  He knocked on her side.  "Hey, Peachy, are you a girl or a boy?"

Blair laughed.  He had been successful in distracting her from her momentary sadness.  "Is Peachy answering?"

"I'm pretty sure Peachy is a girl at this point.  Yep."

"You always wanted girls.  At least, most of the time."

"That's because it's another you.  I think of that all the time when  I look at Starr.  Another Blair.  Can't ever have too many."  He kissed her cheek and got out of bed.  "Uh, missed a call.  Let me ring it back.  Think it's McBain.  Hey, M.I.B., that you?"

She watched him, pulling on his boxers and heading into the bathroom.  The tub was still full, so he turned on the jets and the heat, so she could take a bath.  He knew how much she loved baths in the early morning sun, and he opened the blinds letting the light in to the bathroom.  "Yep.  All right.  Thanks for letting us know."

He came out of the bathroom and looked at her, "I got your bath heating.  I opened the blinds.  Lots of light in there."

"You can't come in."

"I know, I know.  Stitches."

"What did John say?"

"He said Mitch is going to do heavy time, or be put to death.  He's got a list of new charges that rivals Charles Manson.  Seems he killed a guard and a woman accomplice on his way to our place.  Add that to charges of rape, assault, and the rest to do with Bitsy. . . and, well, me.  He's not ever getting out, plus all the counts of kidnapping and unlawful restraint on minors and adults.  He's done for.  And he'll be maximum security, high level because of the escape.  The Messenger has gotten deleted."  She stood up and watched him putter around the room, getting his shaving articles ready and picking out clothes for after his shower.  "Why don't you get into the bath, Babe, and I'll take a shower while you're in there?"  

"Todd,"  she called to him.

"Yep?"

"Todd, are you . . . all right with everything?"

He peeked back out of the bathroom, "Yeah, why?"

"You . . . asked Mitch. . ."

He walked out of the bathroom and back toward the bed.  "I asked Mitch how my mother got the way she is?  Yeah, I asked him that.  I wanted to know.  I still . . . wonder about it."

"I thought we knew, that she was beaten badly . . ."

"We don't know everything.  We're not sure how it went.  She's so confused."

"Is it something you really need to find out?  Is it going to bother you?"

"No, I guess not."  

She could hear in his voice that it would.  "When she gets better, maybe Bitsy will tell you.  I don't expect Mitch to ever tell you the truth about that."

"I don't think I'd ask her, that's if she ever gets better."

"She will.  I understand though, why you might not want to ask."

"Yeah.  Well, I'm showering, you coming in there?"

"I'll be in there in a minute."  She said.  When she heard his shower start, she picked up the phone.  "John McBain, please."


Todd got out of the shower and Blair was already gone.  She had left a note on the pillow:  "My love, I had to go run an errand, so I used Jack's shower.  I'll see you in a little while.  Let's have lunch together at The Country Club today, are you game?  Love, Me."

"I do, love you, lady.  And what are you up to?"

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Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 83 (adult)

After some protesting from Sam that he wanted to stay up to see his parents, the kids were put to bed.  Jack was in the family room, by the fire, with his Ipod and earphones, in his pajamas.  Starr had raided her brother's dresser and borrowed some as well.  She curled up on a nearby chair, looking through the album her mother had made for her father as a gift after his return.  She had found it on the coffee table in their suite, while she and Jack made everything perfect for their parents' arrival:  Starr had made some tea and left it hot in the Keurig for them;  Jack had started a fire in their fireplace.  One of them had thought of running a bath for them, and it was running with massaging jets and the water temperature kept just right.  And, they all waited for their arrival.

Shortly, a knock was heard on the door, and they knew their parents would not be knocking.  Timothy got up to reveal Sister Rebecca Katherine, one of his "surprises" and she blustered into the room with her small carpetbag.  "Hello all, and good evening to ya.  Children, come and hug me, I am so glad you are all in one piece."

Jack and Starr were up in moments, and then all of them retreated to the couches and chairs by the fire in the family room, and Jack colorfully mulled over the events of the day.

In the middle of his story, he said, "Hey, wait a minute!  What happened to Aunt Tina?"

Timothy said, "I put her up at the penthouse for this evening.  Just wanted her to have rest and for your parents to be able to deal with that another day."

"Good idea."  Jack agreed.

Starr said, "I hear their car!  They're here!"

Within a few moments, Todd and Blair appeared at the door, and Sister Rebecca Katherine was first.  "Bridgette, dear, look at your poor face.  Are ya all right?"  she took Blair in her arms.

Blair said, "I'm fine," and she smiled at Todd, over the nun's shoulder. 

Todd said, "Glad you're all still up.  We found out what's wrong with Blair, that made her faint."

Starr popped out of her chair, and Blair could barely contain herself.  "Mom!?"

Blair nodded, and Starr ran to her.  Jack said, "Uh, someone tell me what's up?"

"Your mother and I, correction, all of us, are expecting."  He said, and in the midst of the happy congratulations from Timothy, Sister Rebecca Katherine, and Starr, Jack stood, still and in awe and somewhat puzzled.  

Todd went to him.  "You're confused?"

"I'm surprised, yeah, I'm. . .I'm happy for you, Dad.  I just don't . . . "

"Don't try and understand it, Jack.  I've tried and it never happens and never helps.  Your mother's going to have another baby, something we thought we lost.  I don't know how to explain it, but it's there.  In living color."

He put his hand on Jack's shoulder and they both went back to the small crowd around Blair, and Jack pushed through and hugged her.  Awkwardly, he said, "I'm glad, Mom.  I'm happy you're happy."

"Thank you, Son.  You're growing up, my boy," she said.

"Jack and I have a big surprise for you."  Starr said.  "It's in the suite."

"I can't wait to see it," Blair said.  "I'm so happy, and of course, I owe most of it to this guy right here."  She pointed to Todd.

"Me?  I didn't do much."

"All right, spare us the details, will ya?"  The nun said, "It's late and all this can continue tomorrow, eh?  Good night, but first, show me to my room?"

Starr said, "Come with me.  Good night, everyone," and Starr and the sister ascended the stairs. 

Timothy said, "Can I bunk with ya, Jack?"

"Yeah, but I was thinking of camping out down here by the fire."

"Then that's what we'll do.  Let me get myself together," he said, heading off to the bathroom, a small bag in hand.

Todd put his hand out to Blair, "Well, Mommy, let's go on up and see what we're getting ourselves into."

They walked up the stairs, to their master bedroom suite.  Blair said, when reaching the top, "This seems so surreal in a way.  I feel like we were gone so long, and we were just here earlier today."

He lead her to the room and said, "I know.  A lot has happened.  It's going to hit us, soon."

They walked in and saw the perfectly arranged scene, and he looked at her.  "Bath?"

"You know it," she said, unbuttoning his shirt.

He slid her peasant blouse over her shoulders, and kissed her bruised jaw carefully.  She lifted her head to give him access to her neck, and he obliged, and a small rush of air came through her lips as she sighed.  He drew his tongue down her neck and onto her shoulder and said, "Something is to be said for wishes, I guess."

"Yes," she was lost in his touch and what he was doing with his mouth, "something to be said for wishes."  Then, she said, "I just thought of something.  No bath for you, you have stitches."

"Shucks," he said, undoing the front strings on her blouse and opening it.  She moved to let it fall to the floor.  He ran his lips and tongue over her chest and along her bra.  Her excitement poked against the fabric of her lingerie as he did.  He moved his hands to her breasts, and held them, feeling the hardness of her nipples against his hands, and massaged them with his thumbs.  

He then went in for a deep, hard kiss, his tongue in her mouth and curling around hers, and his body pressed against her, tight enough that she could feel him, solid and stiff against her.  She pulled back from the kiss and said, "You're happy to see me."

He said, "As always."

She put her hands in his hair as he knelt down before her and took her pants down.  He smoothed his hands over her panties as she spoke, "Do you think it will be a girl?"

That was the last thing she said before she lost sense of conversation, as he lowered her silk bikini and went to work on her, his full lips and skillful tongue bringing pleasure to her as she stood in the firelight, now naked except for her lavender lace bra.  He backed her toward the bed, still on his knees in front of her, he watched as she sat at the edge of it, and opened her legs wider to receive his mouth and tongue.  It swirled in her and over her most sensitive places.  Within moments, she was calling his name and moaning, until he heard her say, "I want you, Todd, so much."

"I want you, Blair."  She smiled hearing him.  It came so easy to him now, telling her what he wanted and felt.  He continued, "I want to be inside you, tonight, always."  He ran his tongue up her torso and she undid his pants as he stood.  As she worked to set him free, he moved his hands and slid his finger inside her, while watching his pants fall to the ground.  She wrapped her mouth around him and he both wanted to let go in her mouth and climb on top of and into her.  Seeing his wounds as a reminder of how difficult it would be to make love to her that way, he continued to touch her, and made his way onto the bed, so they faced each other as he probed and massaged her with his hands.  

Looking directly into her eyes, he watched her, swept close to finishing, and couldn't hold back from kissing her mouth as she cried out to him.  He slid closer and grabbed her hips while she was still coming, rolling her over onto him, her wetness surrounding him with a welcoming suction that made him close his eyes and moan, as she undulated in pleasure around him.  He lifted her gently on and off him, and within moments, he filled her with warmth and life, calling her name with each pulse of his body.

Todd and Blair were home.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 82

Jack walked into the cubicle where his parents were.  His father had his head rested on the edge of his mother's bed, and Blair was dozing with her hand in his, under his cheek.  He wished he had his cell phone, because the picture was something he knew said everything about them in one glimpse.  He stepped a little closer, and softly said, "Mom?"

She opened her eyes, and smiled at him.  "Hey, Son, how you doing?"

"Good.  How are you doing?"

"I'm okay.  Just feel wiped."

"Your jaw is purple and swollen."

"Yeah.  They thought I might have a concussion, but I don't think so.  They should be back to tell me in a few minutes."

"How's Dad?"

"Physically, he's okay.  I worry about him a little, you know, he's been through so much, but he was stitched up and seems to be all right."

"I'm perfect," he said, and turned his head so that his chin was now resting on the edge of the bed.  Then he sat up, and still held her hand.  "I'm perfect because none of you are gone from me.  That's what we call a win-win in business."

"You okay, Dad?"  Jack asked, and his hand went onto Todd's shoulder.

Todd nodded, "I'm okay.  Be better if I got to hug my boy, though."

Jack went to reach down, and Todd stood up, and embraced his son.  "Hey, what about me?"  Sam said, walking in, followed by Starr who had Hope in her arms.  Todd let go of Jack and scooped Sam up, slower and more cautious than usual; he could feel his stitches pulling.  "Hey Buddy, how are ya?  You were a hero, I hear.  A regular Spiderman."

"I wasn't, Dad.  I was crying a lot."

"That's okay.  I cry.  Everyone does.  Even Jack," Todd said, giving his older son a sideways glance.

"I cried like a big baby."  Sam said.

"But you got Hope out.  You got away.  That's the important thing.  You were just like Spiderman."

"No, I was like you, Dad.  Spiderman's fake.  You're real."  Sam put his arms around Todd's neck, and rested his chin over his shoulder.  "I'd rather be like you."  

Todd patted his back, and said, "And I'd rather be . . . like you, Sam."  His voice just slightly wavered, and Blair caught it.  No one else did, and the next step was embracing Starr and Hope, and the kids kissing Blair on the not-purple side, and the talk milled around to going home.  

Timothy interrupted.  "Is this shining clan ready to go home now?"

"Yay!"  Sam exclaimed, and Blair shushed him, reminding him they were in a hospital.

"All right then, all of ya, go and get y'ar things together.  I called Williams for y'ar parents, he is on his way.  We'll have a family ride in my jalopy to Unforgettable and get us all tucked in and happy for the night."

"Starr, I'd like it if you and Hope came home with us."  Todd said.  "I don't think you'd want to be alone at  La Boulaie right now anyway."

"No, and we'd love to.  It will be like old times.  I love you, Dad."  She kissed his cheek, and leaned over to her mother, "I love you, too, Mom."

Timothy ushered the kids off, and then turned to Todd.  Putting his arms out, he put them around the younger man unexpectedly and folded him in, and for a moment, Todd looked to Blair like a child.  Timothy said, "I'm proud of ya, I love ya, and I'm here for ya if ya need to talk."

Todd closed his eyes and brought in some air, and then patted the older man's back.  "Thank you.  I think I will, and I plan on taking you up on that."  He pulled away, and couldn't meet the man's eyes.  Too much was welling inside him, and he turned instead to Blair.  He said, "Are you ready to get out of here?"

"We can't go yet.  Unless they release me.  Maybe they forgot about us.  I'm sure there are a lot more people who need attention around here than we do."

"Probably, but I'll go see."  Todd said, and walked out in search of a nurse's station.

Timothy said, "You're all right, Bridgette?"

'I'm all right, Dad."  She put her arms out and he hugged her, and could feel her begin to shake a little, and pulled back.  

"You're crying, dear.  What is it?"

"It's . . . everything.  It was quite an ordeal.  We barely got to get home and deal with Chicago."

"Just give me a heads up, was it bad for him?"

"Yes.  It was bad for him.  It was bad for me, but in a different way.  I felt like I was in a terrifying film.  I was glad I was there, though, because he never could have faced it if he were alone.  He . . . I can't understand how he takes all this."

"I feel for him.  Does he remember everything, ya think?"

"Yes.  He does.  It was hard, but he pulled himself together.  I am very proud of him.  He chose us, Dad. He really did."

"He did and he chose life, Bridgette.  He chose to live, not shrivel and die.  A very big accomplishment for him.  He's spent too much of his life dying, and he's slowly been taking life as his comrade instead.  He'll be all right."

"Will you talk to him?  Or listen, I guess?"

"Of course, I meant what I said, and I could tell he means it too.  I promise, he'll come out of this better than rain.  I'm going to get going.  Ya deserve to have a bit of time alone before coming home to the troops.  I'll see ya soon.  And, there just may be a surprise for ya when ya get there."

"All right, thank you."  She waved weakly, and waited for Todd.  She thought back to the moment they discovered the secret room in the house he grew up in, and her stomach curled uncomfortably.  Todd was right.  It would be better to be Sam.  It would even be better to be anyone.  To have grown up like me would have been better than living in that house.  

He interrupted her thoughts, with a pull on the curtain and a doctor.  "Hey, you," he said.  "The doctor wants to tell us something."

Todd folded his arms, and for some reason, she found his demeanor odd, as if he were worried.  She knew it was probably just Todd being Toddian where she was concerned, and directed her attention at the doctor.

***

The ride home to Unforgettable was uneventful.  Sam passed out asleep on the backseat, as did Hope in her car seat.  Starr sat in the back with them, looking out the window.  Jack, sitting beside Timothy, was quiet and resigned.  After a while, he said, "Timothy, eh, Grandpa, is Dad going to be all right?"

"Jack, stop y'ar worrying.  Your father's choices today show that yes, he's going to be all right.  The fact that he did not kill that man dead when he had the chance, shows where his heart is.  With all of ya, and nowhere else."

"I was so scared," Starr spoke from the back.  "I thought he was going to just shoot him through the head.  I really did, for a moment, I thought, 'we're going to lose Dad again, just like before.'  Then, he just....put the gun down, slowly, and that was that," her voice broke.

"He loves ya.  The one thing he has always had that no one could touch or ruin is his love for ya."  Timothy said.  "All of ya are very lucky children to have a father who loves ya as much as he does."

Jack gulped, and turned to the window.

"I think we all know we are," Starr said.

Jack said, "What happened to him?  In Chicago?  He was different.  He said things I don't understand."

"Ya will, when he feels it's right.  Give him time, Lad.  Give him time."

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spidey Sam: Chapter 15

Jack sat alone in his hotel room. He couldn't stop thinking about the events of the last twenty four hours. Sam had gotten sick while they were on the road with Todd. They had taken Sam to the hospital, someone at the hospital had reported them to the police. Todd was now sitting in a jail cell in Alabama. Jack and Sam were now back in Blair's custody. Jack heard a knock at the door. He opened the door to find Blair, Sam and Tomas standing there. Blair had gone with Tomas to pick Sam up from the hospital.

"Jack, you're not ready to go, I told we were leaving as soon as we picked up Sam."

"Hey, how are you feeling?" Jack said to Sam.

"I'm fine Jack."

"We want to see Todd before we leave."  Jack said.

"Todd is in jail, you can't see him, besides Sam is too young."

"I'm not too young." Sam spoke up.

"Jack, I said no!"  Blair said.

"Why? I just want to see if he is ok."

"Your father is fine, its not like its his first time in jail."

"Yeah, I know he spent eight years in jail because of him."  He directed his comment at Tomas.

"Jack, you know Tomas was just doing his job."

"No, Mom I don't know that!"

"Jack, you sound just as paranoid as your father."

"It's not paranoia if it turns out to be true."

"Jack, don't talk to Tomas like that."

"I would prefer not to talk to him at all but he keeps butting into our family business."

"Jack, Tomas is going to be your stepfather in a few months show him some respect."

Jack walked out of the room. Blair yelled after him and followed him into the hall. "Where do you think you are doing Jack?"

"I'm going to see Todd."

"Jack, I said no!"

"I'm old enough to make my own decisions, I went with Todd because I wanted to. I'm going to tell the judge that when he asks."

"Jack Manning, you maybe old enough but your brother isn't!  Todd, took him without my permission!"

"Sam had a blast, Todd is great with him, that is more than I can say about your boyfriend."

"Your brother had so much of a blast he ended up in the hospital."

"You, can't blame that on Todd, he didn't know that Sam was going to get the flu.  He took him right to the hospital the second he knew he was sick, even though he knew he would be arrested.  I'm going to see him whether you like it or not Mother!"

***

Jack walked into the Police Station and right up to the front desk."I want to see my father."

"Who is your father, kid?"

"My father is Todd Manning."

"Kid, your father is accused of kidnapping you, I can't let you see him."

"He didn't kidnap me, I went with him of my own free will."

"I still can't let you see him.  You're too young."

"I'm not too young!"

"How old are you kid?"

"I will be eighteen in a few months."

"It looks more like it to me that you will be eighteen in a few years."

"I just want to see him for a few minutes, we are leaving soon, please."

"I'm sorry kid even if you were eighteen, I couldn't let you see your father anyway."

"Why? What happened?"

"Your father had an accident."

"What kind of accident?"

"He fell." 

"I just bet that he fell!  I bet he fell on someone's nightstick!"

"I see you know your father very well."

"I want to see my father now or I will call his attorney now and tell her to get down here that he is being beaten!"

"You can relax kid your father's attorney will be here tomorrow."

"He is being transferred to Port Charles, New York tomorrow, the Police Commissioner herself is coming to get him."

"My mother is taking us back to Llanview were we live she isn't going to let us see him until the trial.  Please, just five minutes."

"Ok, kid, just five minutes."

"Thank you Sir."

Jack was led down a flight of steps into the holding area for the prisoners. The place smelled like mold and looked like it hadn't been remodeled since the day that it was built. Todd cell was half way down a row of about ten holding cells. Jack and the officer stopped at Todd's cell. "You have a visitor Manning." 

"I don't have any friends and my lawyer isn't due until tomorrow along with the commissioner."

"Dad, it's me, Jack."

Todd rolled over on his bunk to face Jack. His face was covered in bruises. He was holding his ribs as he rolled over on his bunk. He looked like he had gone ten rounds with a prize fighter and lost big time.

"What the hell did you hicks do to my father!" Jack bellowed at the officer.

"Jack relax, I'm fine."

"You're not fine, look at your face!"

"May, I please have a few minutes alone with my son."

"You have five minutes.  Your son was told that before he was brought down here."

"What the hell did you do to piss them off Todd?"

"I guess I never learned to keep my smart mouth shut.  How is Sam?"

"Sam, is fine he just had a bad case of the Flu, mom and Tomas brought him back to the hotel today."

"I'm glad to hear that he is fine."

"She is taking back us to Llanview soon.  I told her that I didn't want to go that I want to stay here with you."

"Jack, thank you for wanting to stay with me but I need you to go back to Llanview to be with your brother.  I need you to keep an eye on him make sure that Tomas doesn't hurt him again."

"I will kill him if he touches Sam!"

"Jack he is dangerous, I need you to promise me if he does touch Sam, you go to Bo."

"He is useless.  What is he going to do?"

"Jack he is the commissioner.  He can help you both out."

"What about you Todd?"

"What about me Jack?  I'm going to prison, your mother and her boyfriend are going to make sure of that."

"Sam and I aren't going to let that happen Dad."

"Jack, with my record, it's pretty much a done deal."

"Sam and I are going to talk to the judge tell him what Tomas did."

"Kid your five minutes is up," the officer said as he walked towards Todd cell.

"Jack watch out for your little brother and remember what I said about Bo."

Jack began walking away with the officer. He stopped and turned back to look at Todd one last time. He knew it could be awhile before he saw Todd again. "I love you dad and so does Sam." 

"I love you guys, too," Todd said as his voice cracked. Jack walked up the steps and straight out of the door of the police station. The whole way back to the hotel he couldn't stop thinking the way Todd looked. He knew bruises like that were in Todd's future in prison with Todd's criminal history. He thought to himself, "I can't let that happen he was just trying to help us."

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The Devil You Know: Chapter 58

After the coffee and dessert was served, Todd and Blair made their goodbyes as they went to their own private Christmas present.  They walked into the Metrocourt and headed to the desk.  As they approached, Carly looked up and smiled.  “How was your Christmas?  Get all the presents you wanted?”



Blair smiled.  “Not yet, but I will be soon.”



Todd just grabbed the key in one hand and Blair’s hand in the other, heading towards the elevator.  He didn’t want to do any small talk with anyone.  All he wanted was his Christmas present.



They made their way to the room and walked in.  Like all rooms at the Metrocourt, it was luxurious.  The furnishings were all tasteful and bespoke that feeling.  And yet, off in the corner of the room, there was a tiny, limp Christmas tree.  Looking at it almost made Blair laugh.  “Are we going to be getting a dog?” she asked.



Todd’s nose crinkled.  “Why would you ask that?”



She point to the pathetic tree.  “I asked because of Charlie Brown’s tree over there.”



He looked over at, smiling.  Carly had managed to do it.  He walked over to the tree and fiddled with the sorry excuse for the decoration that were on it.  Then he looked back at Blair.  “You don’t get it, do you?”  Blair gave his a sidelong glance.  “I know the accommodations are a little bit better than our first Christmas together.  I didn’t want to go all nostalgic and go out to that No Tell motel on the highway, but I would have hoped you’d get it a little bit.”



Realization came to her eyes.  “Our first Christmas,” she whispered, a smile tugging her mouth. 



“Granted, the Metrocourt is a step up.  Back then, I wouldn’t have been allowed within ten feet of the Palace.  I was…barely living…just getting back from the damn will reading…”



“I had just had another fight with Cord.  He had to go do something for Tina and I got mad at him.  Granted, I never wanted to take him away from his kids.  But he always had to go after Tina.”



“Then, in the midst of my self-pity, there’s this knock at the door.  Some chick looking for a party.”  Todd sat down, glancing around the room.  He seemed to be avoiding looking at Blair. 



She sat down on the other side of the couch doing the same.  “A little music, a little dancing.”  Then she swept her gaze in his direction.  “Very little dancing.”



Todd shrugged his shoulders.  “What can I say?  At least the night wasn’t a total waste.”   He turned to face her.  A familiar look was in front of her.  It was the one that Todd showed to the world not often enough.  “I was just so nervous being with you that night.  Even with the dancing, it was…scary to me.  I didn’t want to…”



“I know, Todd.  I knew it that night.”



“It was a wonderful night,” he admitted.



“Even where it led to?” 



Todd knew she meant something specific with that last comment.  But he shook his head.  “What it led to was the best thing to ever happen to me.”  He could see Blair start a counter argument, but he cut her off.  “Seriously, think about it.  I had just gotten back from Chicago, where my father had cut me out of everything.  And then, within three months, I had everything.  I had a wife, a baby on the way,” he paused, taking her hand to share the pain of that memory, “a family.  And you, coming to my room that night, that was the first domino to fall.”  Then he leaned in to kiss her. 



After they parted, Blair looked at the tree.  “So this is the Christmas present, 2012 edition?”



“Yeah, I figured I owed you a reenactment at a nicer place,” Todd explained.  He was about to continue when there was a knock at the door.  Room service brought in a tray with strawberries and a bottle chilling in a bucket. 



After Todd tipped the guy, Blair came over and looked at the bottle.  “Sparkling apple cider?”



“Well, you can’t drink alcohol, so neither will I,” he said as he took it from her.  Uncorking the bottle, he poured out two glasses, handing one over to her.  Then he raised his.  “To the woman who gave me…everything.”



It was something that was usually foreign for Blair’s ears to hear.  But coming from Todd Manning, she knew those words were the truth.  They did, however, make her blush.  “Todd…”



“It’s the truth.  And coming from me, someone who has had issues with the truth in the past, I know, but I really don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have you.  And this time, for you and our kids and especially for the newest one, when she comes, I will do better.  To you, I vow this.”



She moved closer to him.  After she put down the glass, she brought her fingers to his face.  He stared into her green eyes, looking like a man adrift in the sea who had found a life raft.  When he brought his arms around her back and up to her shoulders, it was as if he was clinging to it.  They moved in closer, nose to nose.  Blair’s lips grazed over his and, for a minute, she pulled back enough to see his eyes were closed.  Then she captured his lips, their tongues exploring familiar territory.  The kiss deepened as they, in unison, moved toward the bedroom. 



Waking up the next morning in Blair’s arm was better than their first time together.  He closed his eyes again and moved his hand to her stomach.  Even though it was still early in the pregnancy, he thought he could feel Meredith moving around in there. 



“I feel her too,” Blair said sleepily.  She opened her eyes and smiled at him.



“She’s what, the size of a pea?  You can feel that?”



“Call it mother’s intuition.  But I have always felt our children, even when I didn’t know I was carrying them at first,” Blair informed him.  “And both Starr and Jack were anxious to get into the world.  I have no doubt this one will be the same.”



Jack’s birth flashed through Todd’s memories.  At the time, his timing wasn’t as surprising to Todd, because he had believed the baby was Max’s.  As Todd thought about it more, a wave of shame, one that would never leave him, washed over him.



Blair noticed the change in his demeanor.  She knew just what he was thinking about.  “We both made a lot of mistakes there.  I don’t want you…I don’t want you going there.  Not with a wedding to put together in less than a week.”



Todd grinned.  She really did know him well.  “Yeah, I guess we should get rolling on that,” he said.



Before another word was spoken, there was a knocking at the door.  Todd pulled on his slacks and puttered out to the entrance to the room.  Opening it, he found a room service waiter.  “Compliments of the hotel,” the man informed him as he wheeled the cart in.



After the waiter left, Blair came out.  “Carly seems to know what you like,” she commented.



“Well, I did live here for a few months and I did basically order the same things every morning,” Todd explained as he opened the covers on the plates.  “Although, I know I never ordered this.”



A plate of chocolate chip pancakes lay before Blair.  “Well, somebody told the kitchen staff about this,” she replied.  They ate the breakfast before them and were about to head back into the bedroom when another knock was heard at the door.  This time, when Todd went to open it, Starr, Jack and Sam barreled in. 



“You’re not dressed yet?” Starr asked.  “We have so much to do and so little time to do it.  Come on, let’s move!”



“Hey, Shorty, we just finished up breakfast, okay?” Todd said to her, giving Jack a bewildered look. 



Jack shrugged his shoulders.  “Don’t look at me.  She had us up at an ungodly hour because she said we needed to get stuff ready for the wedding.  Christmas break, and I’m up at seven am.  Not fair.”



“Well, we’ve got a ton of things to do.  Mom and I need to go find dresses, which Sarah will meet us for and you three, CJ and Uncle Victor have to go get tuxes.”



“The only way Victor will definitely be in the wedding party, Starr,” Todd told her, “is if Cassie is in it.”



“Aunt Dorian called Cassie last night and said Cassie will be delighted to be there for Mom,” Starr replied, a smile on her face.



“Did you actually hear Cassie say that, or are you just taking Dorian’s word for it?” came her father’s incredulous question.



“I spoke to Cassie myself.  Remember, she has barely as much trust in Aunt Dorian as you do, Dad,” Starr said.  Turning back to Blair, Starr went on.  “Now, come on, we have things to do, dresses to see.  She waved both of her parents towards the bedroom.



Once in there, Todd turned back to the hotel’s main room.  “She’s up to something.”



“You think?”  Blair asked sarcastically.  “She’s got that look in her eyes that I haven’t seen since she was a little girl.”



“The one she kept giving me when I was trying to propose to you that Halloween?”  Blair nodded to him.  “She looks like you when she does that, you know.”



“Actually, I think she looks like you when she does that,” Blair retorted playfully. 



“Last time I checked, we were the parents.  We should just shove them out the door and tell them that Mommy and Daddy need alone time,” Todd said.



“You don’t have time for alone time,” Starr’s raised voice informed them.



Todd gave Blair another look and she could only reply with a shrug of her shoulders.  “Let’s just humor her.  I know she’s excited about this.  She always has been and you don’t outgrow it.”  She stepped closer to Todd and kissed him deeply.  “Then, when we finish all the running, we’ll send the kids out for dinner and we can continue with this Christmas tradition, okay?”



Todd’s eyebrows rose into his hairline as he deepened the kiss.  When they parted, he offered her a crooked smile.  “Sounds like a plan.  Let’s get the show on the road.  I just finalized the rest of the plans for our day.”



They headed out of the bedroom and herded the three kids out of the room.  They had a wedding plan to put into motion.   


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 81

John McBain was already in the lobby when Mitch Laurence came down the staircase, followed by the Mannings and Timothy Broderick.  Blood soaked his prison issue shirt at the left shoulder.  Tina, with the children, was standing by the door as well.  She said, "Are you all okay?"

Todd said, "Yeah, Tina, we're okay."

At the base of the stairs, Mitch stopped and Todd, losing his composure, walked away from the group and into the living room, gun still in hand, the other hand pressed to his forehead.  He put a blanket down before sitting on the couch, and put his legs up in front of him.  Blair, handing the gun off to Timothy, followed him.  

Starr said, "Hope?" and the little girl ran to her arms.  They embraced, and Starr said, "We need to call an ambulance, the kids and my father have to be checked."

"Already done," McBain said in his soothing, deep voice.  "You want to tell me what happened up there?"

Sam, standing by John, said, "You're a bad man," and ran up to Mitch, kicking him in the groin.  Mitch immediately went to his knees in front of McBain.

Jack said, "Now that was cool, Sam.  Come here, buddy."  Sam ignored him.  Jack said, "Okay opposite game over."

Sam went to Jack, who picked him up.  "I was scared, Jack," he broke into tears again, lying his head on Jack's shoulder.

"You're a hero, Sam.  You saved Hope.  How about some ice cream?"

"I'll take him, Hope should have something too.  But, they need to get warmed up, maybe some cocoa."  Starr said, bringing the children out of the room.

Mitch paled, recovering from the pain, and John said, "And, you're under arrest for escape, the rape and beating of Bitsy Manning, conspiracy to commit rape on a minor, the kidnapping of Starr, Jack, Todd, Blair, Sam, Hope and Ray Manning, the attempted murder of Todd Manning, and numerous other crimes."

Jack, not sure of the whole story, swallowed when he heard the charges that Mitch was facing.  He could only imagine what his father had learned in Chicago.

Mitch did not respond, he just stared at John, as if staring him down.  McBain made no effort to avoid Mitch's gaze, and didn't give credence to it, either.  John pulled Laurence to standing and lead him out to his squad car.

Timothy said, "So, Jack, are ya all right?"

"I'm okay."

Tina said, "You offered to go with Mitch.  That was a heroic thing to do, Jack."

"You weren't so bad yourself," Jack said to his aunt.

She was still holding Ray, and the two of them had forged quite a friendship.

In the living room, with the tent still set up for the kids, Blair sat beside Todd, and he had his head back and eyes closed.  He put his hand, resting on his thigh, palm up toward her.  She put her hand in his.  She said, "I've never been more proud of you than right now, Todd."

"Same, Babe."

"An ambulance is coming," Blair said.

"Yep."

"We're all right."

"Yep."  He gave her the side eye.  "You saved my life."

"I guess.  Yeah.  Maybe."

"Good shot."

"I had practice."  She smirked, and he smirked back.

He reached across himself and touched her face.  "He knew nothing had better happen to you."

"Likewise," she said.

"He'll get more jail time."

"He might get the death penalty."

"He might.  I'd rather see him suffer, though.  Suffer.  Hmf.  Yeah, that sounds fair.  All I can think of right now is suffering.  My mother's."

It got very quiet, the two of them holding hands in the living room.  She said, "I don't know, I'm almost relieved.  You chose us, Todd.  You could have killed him.  I thought you were going to."

"I could have.  But," he looked to her, and smiled weakly, pushing his hand through her hair.

"Then we would have lost you."

"I know," he said.  "Didn't want that.  Not after all we've been through."

The EMTs pushed through the doors and Blair stood up quickly to greet them, then fell back onto the couch unconscious.  "Shit!"  Todd said, "Blair, hey?"  He tried to turn to her and lift her to him, but the pain in his legs made it too difficult.

The EMT said, "Sir, let me see your legs."

"Check her first.  Now!"

The techs checked Blair's vitals and soon, she stirred.  "What happened?" she asked.

"You fainted," one of the paramedics said.

"Check my husband, he was stabbed."

"We are, ma'am, he just won't let us until we check you.  You feeling all right?  I suggest everyone goes to the hospital for a check up.  The little girl was close to shock, that can be dangerous."

"Hope?  Peanut?  Is she all right?"  Todd asked.

"Currently yes, but we're going to take the whole family to Llanview Hospital, just to make certain everyone's all right.  It's common in situations like this."

"Common?  You get situations like this?" he asked.

"Sometimes.  Home invasions.  Becoming more common, yes."

"Home invasion.  That sounds right," Blair said, groggily.  "I didn't realize how tired I am," she said, and her hands were trembling.

The Mannings were all loaded into the ambulances, Jack and Starr, who had little injury more than emotional shock, went with Timothy and Tina in his car.  The others rode in the sirened vehicles.  Hope went with Blair, and Sam went with Todd.

At the hospital, Sam, Jack, Starr and Hope checked out fine.  Little Ray was as perfect as ever, as if he was totally unscathed by the whole experience.  Hope, who was close to shock at the house, was doing better.  Her color returned; the hot milk and a warm blanket and seemed to be helping her come back to herself.  Starr would not leave her side, and stood by the hospital bed, petting her as she drank some  apple juice.  Todd's wounds were bandaged by the nurses.  He was given a total of sixteen stitches in some of the places where the deeper cuts were.  His pulse raced as they worked, and later, he told Blair that he had realized that getting slashed by Mitch made him grateful there was at least one place Leona hadn't worked his handiwork.  He couldn't shake the feeling that the all-too-familiar pain would stay with him for a few days.

Blair was still in the process of being examined, because of her passing out, split lip, and her bruised jaw, and was in the cubicle next to her husband.  She was instructed to lie back and rest while the medical staff did their tests to assure there were no complications from the "punch" impact that could have caused her fainting.  Since her blood pressure was a bit erratic, she was the last one to be cleared.  Todd moved the curtain that separated them and peeked at her.  "Hey, you okay in there?"

"Yeah, are you?"  She said.  He noticed how weak she sounded.

"We had quite a shake up.  It brought up some bad memories for me.  I'll probably need your love and care all week."

"That's fine, I have plenty of that.  And I'll need yours."

He extended his hand as far as he could to her, and then grabbed a hold of her bed, and pulled his slightly closer after kicking out the brakes.  She took his hand, and held it across compartments.

"Ah, screw it."  he said, jumping off the gurney.

"What are you doing?  You have stitches!"

"Can't let some little stitches keep me from my OTB.  Besides, I had lidacaine.  I can't feel anything.  At least right now.  This stuff would have come in handy . . . well, different times."

He took her hand and covered it.  He stood aside her bed, and at her urging, pulled a chair up and sat. He would do so until he got caught.  She said, "The kids are okay."

"Yep.  We're okay, too."

"Guess we are, yeah, and I'm glad.  I just . . . I think it was a little too much for me.  My heart was pounding so much, holding that gun on him."

"You mean being a heroine and saving me and all that?" he said.

"Yeah.  All that.  Almost losing you.  All that emotion."

"You didn't lose me, not even close.  I'm right here."

She tightened her grip on his hand.  "I know you are."

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