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BF4L: Old Habits Die Hard • London Calling ||| CIMZ: R.E.M. ||| Cloud: The Way BackThe Shadows FallBattle the DarkThe Fourth LifeThe End of BlameDiamond in the RoughHope from the OceanFailings of the FathersChasing the Monsters (in progress) ||| Karena: To Journey's EndPort Charles ChroniclesTodd's SagaMemories Unlocked (in progress) • The Mysterious Samuel Toddman (Reissue) • Who's the Real Todd? (Reissue) • Thomas Lord: Cloaked (Reissue) • Enigma (in progress, reissue) • Don't Shoot the Messenger (Reissue) ||| MONICA ANN: Dance with the DevilThe Devil You Know ||| MARIA: Spidey Sam


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 18

Todd walked back into the waiting area, and realized his hands were throbbing.  He stopped, and asked Viki for aspirin, and she searched her purse.  Handing him some coffee and two capsules, she said, "Come and sit here a minute."

"Is this a lecture?"

"No.  It's just something I want to say."

"Go ahead."

"Todd, I'm so very proud of you."

"Thanks, Sis.  But I'm just doing what I have to do to be a father."

"That's what I mean.  Our father Victor Lord was a terrible man, and a sick person.  He didn't know how to love children or raise them right.  You've broken the mold.  No sign of your upbringing where your children are concerned.  You are a giving, loving father, Todd.  You are selfless with your children, and I am very proud of you."  She leaned toward him and kissed his cheek.

Starr said, "See, we're not the only ones who know the truth, Dad.  Even when you screwed up, you were the best father in the world.  I love you."  She kissed his other cheek.  "You saved Sam."

Todd looked at his hands, and then back up to Starr.  "I had to.  I couldn't live without him."

"I know, " Starr said, tearing up.  She touched her father's hair.  "But still, thank you.  He's doing well, the nurses say he is heavily sedated so he can get better and wake up more healed."

"I want to see him," Todd said, rubbing his hand over his face to shake off the tired.  He couldn't remember what the other half of the day was about.  He felt as if he were in a stupor, under the influence of some intoxicating fluid that had no taste and took effect as time lapsed.  He was spent. "I want to see my son."

"I think you can," Starr said.  Todd stood up.  He felt unsure on his feet.  Hi daughter was helping him to his feet.  His oldest son was despairing over guilt.  Blair was cramping, crying.  Dorian was the one talking sense to her.  

What a day.

Dorian came out of Blair's room and walked over to Todd.  "She shaped up.  The cramps stopped."

"What did you do, threaten them away?"  Todd asked.

"Close," Dorian joked.

"I'm . . . so tired."  He heard himself say.  He wasn't sure who he was talking to.

"You should be," Viki started.  "This was a long day.  You physically exerted yourself more than you realize."

"She's right, it was a harrowing experience."  Dorian added.

"Dad, Addie took Hope home.  Just letting you know."  Starr offered.

"Thanks," he said.  "Dorian, is she okay?"

"Blair's fine.  Baby's fine.  Both are resting.  She had a scare.  Mostly caused by her terror.  This was a hard day on everyone."  Dorian said.

"Todd, ya look drained.  Ya need some rest yourself."  Timothy added.  "You've been through a lot, Lad."

He followed the path to the cubicle, and Jack was still sitting by Sam's bed.  Sam looked so very small, and he had casts and bandages all over him.  Todd sucked his breath in a moment, then put a hand on his eldest son's shoulder.  "Has he moved?"


"He's under heavy medication."


"Jack, you can't think this is your fault."

"I don't know."

"Jack . . ."

"I should have been watching him closer."

"It's not your fault.  It's not.  It happened."  He pulled his son's head to his hip, and patted his hair.

"Is he okay Dad?  Will he be Sam again?"

"Yes, he'll be Sam again.  He has to."  Todd walked closer to the bed.  His son seemed so tiny in the sheets, almost lost.  Under all the wrappings, he seemed hidden, like a beautiful gift.  Todd said, "Sam, I love you."

"He was blue, Dad."

"I know.  I know he was."  He cleared his throat.

"It was so . . . fast.  All of it."

"I guess that dog is one of The Mannings for certain now."

"Yea, he is.  But Dad . . ."

"Why don't you go take a break for a few minutes?"  Todd said to Jack.

"Okay."  Jack said, standing.  "Dad?"


"You were, like totally badass out there today.  I mean that.  You just did it.  Nothing stopped you.  You didn't think of anything else but saving Sam.  Like a superhero, seriously."

As Jack left the cubicle, Todd found himself remembering CJ and Sarah, Tina's children, very young, no older than eight and six, giving him a superhero doll when he saved CJ, Jessica and Marty on the mountainside instead of running to his freedom.  He'd gotten shot that day, by a cop, who didn't understand that he was giving himself up.  It was Bo.  Bo Buchanan just stood by him and held his hand when he thought he was dying that day.  He'd gotten pardoned, and let free, instead of serving the eight years that he should have for the gang rape of Marty Saybrooke.  

And it occurred to him, right then, that he ended up serving them anyway, in torment and torture at the hands of The Men of 21.  What could be worse than jail?  Torture at the hands of terror-mongers.  

Patrick Thornhart had to be saved.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Todd's Saga 5: Masquerade

        “I told you Dorian, I have to make this trip.  I need you to keep an eye on the boys while I’m gone.  Cutter says he wants me to check out a group that’s playing down in New Orleans, and I need to get away from here for a little bit.  It will give me time to regroup.  I also want to check into some Micro-breweries while I’m there.  They’re all the rage, and it might be good for the club to add to my drinks selections.”

“Blair, really?  Beer, how gauche.  I know what this is about, it’s about him?  I told you not to get involved with that degenerate again, but you didn’t listen.  Now he’s gone off and disappeared, and you’re heartbroken all over again.  When are you going to learn?”

Blair was barely able to keep her rage in. She snapped. “Enough Dorian, I don’t want to talk about Todd.”  Her emotions were all over the place because of the hormonal changes taking place in her body, but it infuriated her when anyone spoke against Todd.  So far she had managed to hide the pregnancy from Dorian, and she knew she only had a few more months where that would be possible.  “He’s gone, you don’t have to worry about him right now.”   Tell her. Tell her you’re Mrs.Todd Manning.  You know you want to. She paused and took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry Dorian, like I said, I’m stressed out.  I’ve never seen New Orleans, this is just what I need to get him off my mind.”

Dorian smiled smugly. “Of course my dear.  You’re right.  Maybe you should  go.  Who knows, you might meet a man who knows how to treat a woman the right way.”  With that she swept out of the room, content in knowing Blair was free of Todd.

Blair sat down on the edge of her bed, determined not to cry.  She had been doing a lot of that ever since her last time with Todd.  The only thing keeping her mind off him, had been the club and the problems she was still encountering there.  Cutter had been able to explain the discrepancy in the inventory that didn’t match with the books.  He had told her, he had sent two of the Dom Perignon bottles to Carl Peterson the night of the gala as a show of hospitality.  Blair hadn’t liked it but had been forced to eat the cost in order to maintain the image she wanted to project for the club and to keep clients like Mr. Peterson coming in.  Taking the financial hit had been one thing, but Blair had vowed to keep a closer eye on Cutter and his spending.

         When Cutter had suggested going to New Orleans, it had given Blair an idea.  Todd had disappeared in Louisiana, and she was tired of waiting for his text message to show up again.  She remembered how frantic she had been when she first heard of his disappearance.  The only thing that had kept her from going off the deep end had been his text to her telling her not to  worry and that he had disappeared on purpose and would be in touch.  Unfortunately, that had been his last message.  The lack of any further messages was beginning to scare her. With Cutter’s suggestion as an excuse, Blair decided it was time to go see if she could locate Todd or at least get a handle on what had forced him into vanishing.


It had been another back breaking day, and Todd had been looking forward to a quiet night.   He was heading for his car when one of the guys he worked with, called out to him.  

        “Hey, Tony, what do you say? Go into New Orleans with us tonight.  Big weekend ahead with Halloween next week.  The French Quarter comes alive.  We can hit the bars, maybe find some company.  It’s been a long week, if you know what I mean.” The men all laughed.

        Todd had taken a chance picking Tony Lord as his name, but he figured the organization wouldn't be looking for anyone other than his brother by that name and they had already snagged Victor.  He was about to turn them down when his phone went off in his pocket.  Baker was the only one who knew how to reach him on that particular phone. “Hang on Fellas, I need to check this.”
He looked at the text:

        “I’m in.  Have the run of the place but haven’t been able to find out if Victor is here.  Working on it.  Heard your name come up.  They’re searching for you, stay low. Got to go. B”

        Todd looked over at the guys he had been working with.  Baker’s information had come at the right time.  If the organization was searching again, it might be a good idea to leave the area for a couple of days.  “Okay, guys, sure.   A little weekend fun sounds good right now.”

          Several hours later, he and the guys were headed into their second club. Revelers were out in force that evening because the celebration of the first Halloween party of the weekend had gotten under way.  Many were costumed even though Halloween was still five days away.  The guys had all joined in the fun by purchasing masks so they could approach the single ladies anonymously.  Todd had agreed to wear the Phantom mask since he was the only one in all black.  He didn’t mind, because it made it harder for anyone to recognize him.

          The guys had been right about the women out and about and soon a couple of the guys had managed to find some company.  Todd, for his part, had been relatively quiet behind his mask, not engaging when several women came over.  

         “Hey, Tony, loosen up.  Remember we came to enjoy ourselves.” said one of the guys with a girl sitting on his lap. 

          “I’m loose, Al.  Just have a particular type that interest me. You guys enjoy.  Who knows when my type might come in.”  He sat back and listened to the conversation as his thoughts went to his perfect type, a tall leggy blonde with emerald eyes.  He was brought out of his reverie by the whistles of his fellow workers and looked to see who had gotten their attention.  Todd almost fell out of his chair. Even from behind, he recognized her.  She strolled across the room, her long legs seeming to go on for miles, and her hips swayed sensually.  She was wearing a shimmering emerald green, hip hugging, dress that just accentuated her svelte body.  Her shoulder lengthed blonde hair bounced freely as she moved.  She was drawing attention from a number of men around the room.   He watched with shadowed  eyes as she walked to the bar.

        “Would you look at what just walked in the door.  Now that’s one tasty morsel, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on.” Sid stated.  So far he, like Todd, had just been studying the eye-candy in the club.  He started to rise from the table, intent on approaching her when his arm was gripped roughly. “That one’s mine.” Todd growled.

         All of the guys looked in surprise at him. They had never heard that tone come from him.  Sid was all set to protest, but Tony’s grip on his arm told him if he took another step he’d be doing so with a broken arm.  His very tone was threatening, and Sid didn’t want to start a brawl. “Sure Tony, whatever you say. Let go, will you?  I’ll wait for the next one.” 

        Todd released his hand, and watched Sid slide back down in his chair.. 

         Al, who had spoken earlier, looked over at the bar and saw the blonde give a cold shoulder to several men standing close to her.  “I don’t know,Tony, that one looks a little chilly to me.”

          Todd’s jealousy towards Sid had eased.  He turned his attention toward Al momentarily.  “Oh, don’t worry, I know just how to handle someone like her.” He scanned the room looking for anyone who might be showing unusual interest in the woman at the bar.  Seeing no one else studying her, he slowly stood up and made his way toward the bar.. 

         Blair was oblivious to the conversation that had just gone down, so she was taken completely by surprise when two muscular arms and a lean body trapped her against the bar. ”Back off, Mister.  I’ll..”  She gulped as she got a glimpse of the stranger pinning her there.  All she could see, was a hint of a beard, as his face was hidden behind her own in the mirror across the bar from her.She attempted to move his arms, but they wouldn’t budge. “Release me this instant.” The stranger made no move to let her go.   She tensed up as he moved even closer.

         “Don’t you know it’s dangerous for a woman like you to be alone on a night like this.” Todd whispered in her ear.

         A thrill went through her, as she recognized the voice. Just like that she felt herself turn to putty. Unable to stop herself she leaned back into his body.  Shivers went down her spine when he nuzzled her neck for a brief moment, but she huskily replied to his statement in an effort to regain some control. “I don’t know about that.  I find it can make for an interesting night.” She reached for his face with her right hand and was shocked when she encountered the smooth feel of his mask. He was still keeping her close to the bar and she could feel his lower body responding to her.

           Across the room, Al looked over at Sid. “Well, it seems our Tony was right. That one is definitely his.”

          Sid rubbed his arm and smiled ruefully.  “Yeah, I guess so.   Man, I would never try that maneuver.”  

          “I must admit, I never would have believed it of Tony.  I think the guy’s been holding out on us.”  said Al, who then squeezed the girl sitting on his lap. “Right, Sugar?” She responded with a high giggle.

          Up at the bar, Blair turned herself in Todd’s arms until her back was against the bar. She took in her husband with the mask covering his scar.  She had to admit, she liked the beard, it made him look even more devilish. He was bronze from obviously being out in the sun a lot and her hands moved up his rock hard arms appreciating the feel of his muscles beneath them. His hazel eyes were intense as he seemed to be trying to read her mind.  She worked to get her heart to slow down and reached again for his face.  “The Phantom of the Opera, how apropos. But why the mask?”

         “Just mingling in with the revelers.  Besides, not easy to recognize this way."  Todd stared at her, his thoughts all over the place.  On one hand all he wanted to do was kiss her till her knees buckled and the next second he wanted to put her over his knees for being there. Did she have any idea  how much trouble she could be in by just being there? "What the hell are you doing here, Blair?” Todd couldn’t keep his anger in check.  He had never been so scared in his life when he realized she had come to New Orleans.

          Blair paused, she had heard that accusatory tone far too often in the past.  What had ruffled his feathers?   She frowned. “I’m here on business and I’m looking for my husband, you haven’t seen him, have you?” She responded angrily.

          Todd winced and took a deep breath. From the sudden chilliness of her tone, he knew he had stepped in it and now he had to make it right.  “I’m sorry.  It’s dangerous here right now.  I just wasn’t expecting to see you.”  He took a step even closer to her, their bodies touching fully, and placed his forehead to hers. “God, you’re beautiful when you’re angry.” His mouth found hers, and she molded up against him, accepting his apology.  Her tongue parted his lips as they eagerly tasted each other. When they parted, both were breathing heavy.  Todd held her close.  “We need to get out of here.  Hang on a moment, I’ll be right back.” 

         Blair leaned back against the bar, using it to hold her up as her legs felt weak in the knees.   Composing herself, she curiously watched Todd walk over to a rough looking group of men.  He obviously knew them, and they were certainly not white collar types.  Just what had he been up to since he disappeared off the radar?  She noted Todd’s easy swagger and couldn’t help but admire his physique in the tight jeans he was wearing.  

           “Al, I need to ask your lady friend for a favor.” He grinned at the guys and looked back at Blair. “Um,  we’re heading out, if you get my drift, but I was wondering if I could buy your mask, sweetheart.” he pulled out a hundred from his wallet and watched the girl’s eyes gleam. 

           She stripped off the mask and handed it over to him, winking as she did it; then took his money and stuffed it into her top.  “Sure, Doll.  Go have yourself some fun.  My gals and I will take care of your pals here.” 

          “Don’t worry, I intend to.” he smiled at his pals and they all laughed and gave him thumbs up.  

          “Tony,don’t forget, you need to be back to work Monday morning.” yelled Al as he walked away.  The guys roared and went back to partying.

          Blair watched bemused as Todd left his friends and wandered over to another young woman.  After a few words, she handed him her scarf and boa.  Todd walked back toward Blair, his items in hand, and grabbed her, pulling her to a dark corner of the bar.”Todd, what’s going on?” 

          “Humor me.”   Within seconds he had put the scarf around her in such a way to change the whole look of her dress, then he tossed the boa around her shoulders and put the feathered black mask on her face.  He stood back to admire his work.  She now looked nothing like she had when she walked in.

          Blair caught a glimpse of herself in the mirrored wall.. “Tawd, I look like a masquerading streetwalker.”

         “Exactly, Babe.  No one following Blair Cramer would recognize you or me now.  We’re just two drunken revelers out having fun.” his eyes twinkled.  “My hotel is just down the street. I think it’s time we started doing just that.” he went in for another kiss, catching her off guard.  “God, I’ve missed that, Mrs. Manning.” he said as he finished the kiss.  He wrapped his arm around her, pulled her close and together they left the bar. 

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spidey Sam: Chapter 25

Todd and Blair walked into the house with the kids following close behind. Dorian was due back home with David in just a few hours. Blair wanted to be back at home before they got there with kids settled back in. Todd and Jack carried the suitcases in from the car. Once everyone was back in the house and all the suitcase were in as well, Starr offered to get the kids settled, leaving Todd and Blair to talk.

"I guess you will want to get out of here before Auntie Dorian gets home?"

Todd was standing at the front door not sure of what to do next. "No Blair I was going to stay."

"No you weren't Todd, I know the last thing you want to do is have it out with Dorian."

"I can handle your Aunt Dorian, besides I promised Sam I would help him hook up his new gaming system."

"You, know you didn't have to buy that for him, he isn't the one that you have to win over."

"I know Blair, I wanted to buy it for him besides he didn't ask for it, I saw him eyeing it the other day when we were downtown shopping."

"What about Jack, Todd?

"What about him Blair?  He won't let me buy his love, I'm going to have to earn it."

"So, are you up for that challenge Todd, that is quite a challenge and all the way from Port Charles?  I heard you and the kids talking the other morning about you moving back to Llanview."

"Yeah, so?"

"So, have you given any thought to it?" Before, Todd could say another word Dorian and David blew threw the door. Dorian took one look at Blair and asked Todd, "What Hell did you do to her now?" Todd just stood there glaring at Dorian.

"Todd didn't do this to me Dorian, Todd would never do this to me!"

"Sure, he would he is a violent sociopath!  Get the hell out of my house before I call the cops Todd, not that Blair would press charges!"

"I didn't do that to Blair so go ahead and call the police, Bo can show you the police report and my name is no where in it."

"Just because my niece didn't pressure charges doesn't mean you didn't do anything Todd!"

Jack came barreling down the stairs at the sound of Dorian's voice and her accusations at Todd.

"My father didn't do this to my mother, Aunt Dorian, he was with us when it happened!"

"Jack, you have no idea how violent your father can get when he doesn't get what he wants."

"I'm old enough to know about my father's past, Aunt Dorian and I do know all about it.  I also know that my father was with us kids all night the night that my mother was attacked."

"How do you know that he didn't sneak out when you and your brother and sister fell asleep?"

"My father wouldn't do this to my mother, he loves my mother!  I'm sorry Todd, I didn't mean to just blurt that out."

"Its, ok Jack, I do love your mother and, I would never hurt her like this and I'm glad that you know it."

"Jack will you please go upstairs and check on you everyone and make sure they are ok.  I want to talk to Todd alone."  Blair said.

"Blair, you can't be serious!"  Dorian said.

"Yes, Dorian, I'm very serious.  I have been with Todd for a week now and he has been nothing but kind and gentle, I'm not afraid of him because I know he didn't do this to me.  I know I told everyone I was grabbed from behind and didn't see who attacked me but, I think I have a pretty good idea who it might be"

"Who, Blair?"

"I didn't want to say anything to you before because I didn't want you to leave and take off after this person.  I didn't want you to get hurt again, so when you left me with Starr and Viki the other day I had them take me to the police station to talk to Bo.  I told him who I thought did this to me, he said their wasn't much he could do because I didn't see the person's face."

"Who, do yo think did this to you Blair?"

"I didn't want to have to tell you until Bo or I could come up proof."

"Blair just tell me now, tell us all."

"Todd, I don't want you to get crazy now."

"Too, late."

"Dorian, please!"

"I think it might have been Tomas."

"I will kill him, first Sam and now you!"

"Jack go upstairs now I want to talk to your father." 

"But Mom, Todd is right."

"Jack, now please before your brother or Hope come down." 

"Ok mom." 

"Dorian and David please, I need to talk to Todd alone." To Blair's surprise everyone went up the stairs without anymore fighting. Todd was standing with his fists clinched.

"Todd, I need you to calm down, I need you to listen to me.  I don't want you going after Tomas.  I want you to stay here with me and the kids.  I don't want you to go back to Port Charles.  I need you here with me and the children.  I know you don't want to be with me, and that is fine, I just need you to be here with me though.  The kids need you too.  I know I have no right to ask you to give up your life in Port Charles after what has happened between us."

"Blair, stop.  I love you and the kids.  I'm not ready to be with you again and I don't when I will be but, I want to be here for you and the kids.  So, yes I will move back to Llanview for now."

"What about Aunt Dorian?"

"What about her she is always going to think the worse of me.  She always has and she always will, that is partly me fault though, I guess.  I'm not going to live here anyway that would just be too much stress on everyone.  I will find a place near by, in the mean time I still have my suite at The Palace."

"You won't go after Tomas, Todd, you promise me?"

"I'm going to talk to Bo tomorrow Blair."

"I will make you a promise that if I do go after Tomas, I promise to come back to you and the kids.  Now I have to go back to the hotel and make some arrangements for the paper.  Blair, please don't tell the kids, I thought we could both tell them together tonight at dinner."

"Ok, Todd that sounds great."

"I will see you later Blair."

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Hope from the Ocean: 17

Jack was sobbing, and Shaun walked to his side, and knelt beside him, taking Ray from his arms.  The toddler was not dressed for winter weather, and Shaun instinctively wrapped him in his own coat against his chest, and said, "Jack, come on.  Let's go inside.  We'll get Williams to bring the car around."

Jack couldn't move.  Sobs racked his body, and Shaun, struggling to keep the little boy warm, put an arm around Jack.  Mixie was circling them, and licked Jack's cheek.  "The baby's cold, we have to go inside, Jack.  Come on."

Jack stumbled to his feet, and almost as if drunk, grabbed on to Shaun's arm to steady himself.  "He . . . just jumped, Shaun.  I've told him so many times, he insisted the snow was soft.  We were getting out of the copter. . ."  Jack began to hyperventilate, and as Shaun got him into the house, he grabbed a Dunkin Donuts bag on the counter and made him breathe into it.  The dog was behind them, pacing nervously.

"Easy Jack, take it easy.  And you too, Mixie."  

Jack's face was red from the cold and covered with tears.  His nose was running, and he was trying to catch his breath.  Finally, he was able to talk again, and breathe normally.  He continued, "He always talked about doing this.  I never thought he would.  We've all told him no.  We were getting out of the copter.  He said, 'Jack, watch this,' and . . ."  he broke off, crying.  After a few minutes, he started again, "I didn't look right away because I was too busy texting.  When I looked up, he was already at the edge and counted.  When he hit three, he  . . . he jumped."

Shaun took Jack in his arms.  "It's all right, Jack.  It's not your fault.  Let's go, Williams is here.  Grab the baby's stroller and put his snowsuit on over his clothes."  He lovingly bent to the dog and said, "And you, you little numbskull.  You're not as stupid as you look.  I saw you out there, digging for that kid.  You're a good boy.  You're a good, good boy," he petted him and scratched behind his ears.  The dog's tail wagged, and Shaun got him a small pile of treats to eat.

Jack did as he was asked, and Shaun helped lock the house up as they went out into the driveway.  In the limo, Ray fell asleep, and Jack, sullen and defeated, sniffled, red-nosed and still wet-eyed.  Shaun took his own cell phone and contacted Dorian, telling her briefly what had happened, and asking her to spread the word to Starr and Addie.  Jack said, "Call Aunt Tina.  She's Ray's nanny.  We might need her if, well, if . . ."

"There's no if, Buddy.  But I know what you mean.  I'll call her."


In the waiting room, Blair stood by Todd, her coat open, her camisole and lounge pants wet from the snow, and her skin whitish.  She was visibly trembling.  Both were standing, as if in shock, as their middle son was taken into the emergency room for treatment.  He finally looked at her.  "Blair, you're trembling," he said.  Her lips were bluish and quivered against each other.  Her hair was completely disheveled, and he opened his coat and pulled her into it.  She huddled against his chest, her untied shoes soaked with cold water.

He went to touch her face, and she said, "Todd?  Your hands."

He looked at his palm, which was covered in abrasions and cuts.  Lacerated in various places, his skin was raw and open.  Both hands were the same.  He said, "So?  I didn't even feel it, I just . . . wanted to dig him out."

"My God, you're our protector, Todd.  You're meant to keep us safe," she said.  He closed his eyes and felt her sob against him.  "Please, God, don't take my son," she cried against his chest, and he pulled her as close as he could.  Over her shoulder, he saw the doors slide open, and Jack came in, with Shaun who had Ray in his stroller.  Ray was fast asleep.  
Jack said, "Mom, Dad," upon seeing them, and Todd, keeping Blair inside his jacket, put an arm out to bring his oldest son in as well.  Shaun went to the desk and asked for blankets for the family.  Ray, still asleep, didn't fuss or stir.  He just kept himself in baby dreamland, as the rest of the chaos continued to unfold.

Shaun, taking the blankets to The Mannings, directed them to the seats.  He bundled Blair in one of them and expressed to Todd his concern about her violent shaking and off-colored skin.  Todd agreed, and Shaun quietly went off to get a nurse to actually see Blair.  Meanwhile, the doors opened to another group.  "Sam's popular," he said, aloud.  "He's got the biggest entourage in the place."  Through one set of doors, in rushed Addie, Dorian and Starr.  Hope was in tow, without someone to watch her.  Through another set of doors raced Tina and Viki, both frantic and rushing to the front desk, Tina having Beanie poking his head out of her carry bag.  

"It's been too long, Todd.  I'm scared."  Blair said.  He could feel her body trembling.

"Blair, you have to stop shaking, you have to calm down," he said.

"Mrs. Manning?"  A nurse said, standing suddenly in front of them.


"Come with me, the doctor wants to see you, check you out.  You've had quite a day."

"I can't leave here until I know my son is all right."

"That's easy to solve," a voice said, and coming toward them was a tall, dark-skinned doctor, who continued, "Your son seems to be out of the woods.  We've had to heavily sedate him, but it is nothing to be alarmed about.  It's likely the best way for his body to deal with the traumas."

Todd and Blair had both stood up, and she leaned onto him for support.  "What's wrong with him?"

"Mostly broken bones.  Two cracked ribs, one of which punctured a lung.  One leg is broken, one arm dislocated, and one wrist fractured.  He also has some contusions here or there.  He has no brain damage, that we can surmise, from the lack of oxygen.  You got to him very quickly, it seems."

Blair turned and without words, looked at Todd, who said, "That you can surmise?"

"I think he will be fine, honestly.  With the exception of the broken bones, he's not had any long-term or life-threatening damage."

Viki said, "Oh thank God," and she and Tina hugged each other.  Beanie watched from his place in the carry bag, and whimpered.

Todd turned to Blair and said, "Babe, go with the nurse, please.  I can't lose my partner in crime."

She nodded, and hugged him.  Her voice husky with tears, she said, "Thank you, Todd."

As she made her way into the examining room, Dorian said, "Todd, what happened to your hands?"

At this point, his hands appeared grotesquely torn.  They stung and burned, but he had not really begun to notice until the doctor walked off.  "I . . . was digging."

Shaun stepped in and relayed the events of the afternoon.  Both Todd and Jack were too emotional to speak, but sat together, the father's arm around his son, his bloody hands covered in make-shift bandages from paper towels from the men's room.  Starr said, "Dad, you need to be treated.  Your hands."

Dorian took one of his hands and turned it over.  "She's right.  These are all open wounds," she said, and went to look for a nurse.

"This place is hopping tonight," Shaun said.  "I heard them say they are short staffed."

"As long as my son is all right.  They said they'll come and get me when I can see him.  I . . . have to get the image of him all blue and still out of my head, you know?"  Todd said, his voice splintering.  Tina sat beside him.  "Listen, my brother, I am so proud of you.  Let me take Ray back to your house and put him to bed.  When you all get home, I'll be there to help.  How's that sound."

He looked at her.  "You just love that kid, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do.  But do you mind Beanie?"

"No.  He'll be company for Mixie."  Then he remembered.  "My God, Mixie was digging, too.  Do you remember that, Jack?"

"Yeah, Dad.  I remember.  The little nut was digging beside us.  I think he got one of Sam's feet free before you pulled him out."

"Go ahead, Tina.  Williams is still outside."  Tina took Ray in his stroller and Jack's set of house keys and left to tend to Unforgettable.

Dorian returned, holding materials in her hand.  "Looks like I'm playing doctor today, Todd."

"I want a real doctor!" he called out.

She said, "I am a real doctor, just not practicing.  Let me see those hands."  She carefully cleaned and wrapped Todd's palms and fingers, and at one point, she looked up into his face.  "You were scared."

"I was.  He . . . wasn't breathing.  He was . . . blue."  His voice was not steady.

"He's all right now.  Thanks to you.  If you weren't who you are, Todd, that boy could have died.  We all think you're crazy because you have a helicopter as a toy.  It saved his life.  And you're out there, without gloves, digging through piles of ice and snow to get to him.  Do you think these things will ever go unnoticed?"  Dorian said.

"I don't know.  I just did what I had to.  I've been cut up worse than this in places that hurt thirty times more.  Believe me."

She did.  She knew he was telling the truth, and on his wrists, she could still see the faint bands of tanner skin where the electrode cuffs were.  She looked back up to his face, and took it in her hand, directing his eyes to her.  "Thank you, Todd, for loving Blair and the children."

Viki was looking on, and said, "Seems Dorian might be starting to see the light, Todd."

"Finally," Addie said.  "It took long enough."

"She might be right about this one, but she wasn't wrong about the rest.  I'm not perfect.  I've brought Blair some tough times."  Todd said.

Starr chimed in, "But you're the love of her life, and that's all there is, Dad."

Minutes later, Timothy, bringing some extra blankets and some hot coffee, walked toward them all.  The waiting room was filled with The Mannings and their extended family, and it began to appear like a commune.  Todd got up, and seemed to wilt when his eyes rested on his adoptive father.

"Son, come here, Boy,"  Timothy said, putting his arms out.  In doing this, he dropped the entire stack of blankets onto the floor, and had quickly handed off the coffee to Shaun.  

Todd's body almost seemed to deflate as he stood in the man's embrace.  Pulling back he said, "Dad.  Almost lost him."

"Nonsense, he has the likes of you for a father.  We all should be so blessed."  The older man said.

Todd was interrupted by the nurse.  "Mr. Manning, would you come with me please?"

"Why?  Please.  I can't.  Please.  Did she lose the baby?"  Todd said, and Dorian put her forehead into her hand, as Viki gently touched Todd's arm.

His sister said, "Todd, it's going to be all right.  Listen to her and she'll let you know what's going on."

The nurse said, "No, she didn't.  But we want you to come in, and help calm her.  She's quite upset."

Todd flashed a look to Dorian, who said, "I'll come with you, Todd, if you want."

He didn't answer, but couldn't say no, so she got up, and said, "Starr, Jack, check on your little brother.  Your parents will be there momentarily."

Todd and Dorian both went to Blair's cubicle, and she was sobbing, with a hand on her belly, protectively.  She looked up and she said, "Sam, Todd.  Sam?"

"Blair, he's all right," he said, stroking her hair, and kissing her forehead.  "Babe, you have to stop crying.  It's not good for you and the baby."

"I'm cramping, Todd," she said through her sobs.  "I'm going to lose her.  Our miracle baby."

"The cramps are from the cold.  You're not losing the baby, Blair," Dorian said from behind Todd.

"No, see, you're not.  You have to stop crying, Babe.  You have to.  You're upsetting yourself, and the baby.  There's nothing to cry about.  The baby's here.  I'm here, Sam is fine, he's resting.  The family is here for us.  Ray is at home sleeping with Tina, Mixie and Beanie.  Everyone is okay."

"Don't lie to me, Todd, please."

"Blair, stop this."  Dorian interjected, and stepped close to her, almost pushing Todd aside.  "Stop it now.  You're a Manning, aren't you?  Now, get it together and fight.  Everything is all right, Sam is fine, your husband here saved him.  Your baby will be fine too, if you let her.  Stop that crying right now!"

Both Blair and Todd looked at each other and then back to Dorian.  "Did she call you a Manning?"  Todd said.

The older woman said, "You, go see your Son.  I've got to get this one under control!"

Todd said, "Yes, Ma'am" before kissing Blair and whispering, "I told you I'd never let anything happen to you or your babies again."

She hated to let go of his hand, but she did as he left the room.

Dorian, waiting a few minutes for Blair to finish dreamily watching Todd leave, said, "Now, where were we?"

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

R.E.M. Part 1

R.E.M. Part 1

Todd had been sent on some sort of warped scavenger hunt slash wild goose chase, and there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn’t going to go home and encourage the freaks who had been sending him messages to take another shot at Blair or one of the children. And he wasn’t going to ignore the messages and his only chance at finding out who was responsible for this. That left the detestable option C: dancing like their puppet on a string and trying not to walk into a trap.

The last message he’d received in Llanview had directed him to 5316 West Gladys Street. There was no Gladys Street in Llanview, but there were a handful scattered around the country. Two jumped out at him: one in Kaplan, Louisiana, not far from where he’d been held prisoner for eight years, and one in Chicago, Illinois, where he’d spent a childhood not much more enjoyable than his imprisonment.

He tried Louisiana first. Kaplan’s West Gladys Street was a dirt road crawling with small children who spoke in soft southern drawls that made him homesick for Blair. They stopped and stared when Todd approached, but politely escorted him to number 5316 when he asked. An old woman opened the door to him and handed him a card with an all-too-familiar triskelion on it.

“The man said that if a stranger came around, to give him this,” she explained.

“What man?” Todd asked eagerly.

“Just a man,” she said, and try as he might Todd couldn’t get her to elaborate.

He flipped open the card.

Try again.

It took a day to get to Chicago. Gladys Street was halfway to Oak Park, and while most of the homes were buzzing with activity, number 5316 was empty.

The door was unlocked; Todd walked in, one hand tight on his gun. The house was small and empty, but for one note left on the kitchen counter.

August 20. 10:00 p.m.

That gave him a day to wait.  

He got a room in a hotel downtown and holed up inside of it. Chicago had nothing he wanted to see. He’d been just fine with leaving it forever when L.U. had offered  him a full athletic scholarship. He’d barely been back since, and those memories weren’t good ones, either.

But it seemed that he was alone in his desire to forget. Downstairs, the hotel’s restaurant was hosting the 20th reunion of one of the local high schools. The music drifted up to him. It hadn’t seemed so annoying in 1993.

One, two princes kneel before you
That what I said now
Princes, princes who adore you
Just go ahead now
One has diamonds in his pockets
That's some bread, now…

“You might be a prince,” Blair had said when he’d shown her the key Peter Manning had revealed on his death bed, just down the street from where Todd was now.

It might have been okay to be a prince. Being a Lord was something he could have done without. More and more he believed that everything in the mess he found himself in now went back to Lord family’s twisted wreck of a family tree.

Marry him, marry me
I'm the one that loved you baby can't you see?
Ain't got no future or family tree
But I know what a prince and lover ought to be
I know what a prince and lover ought be

He’d barely been gone for two days. It was too early to waste one of the prepaid disposable phones he and Blair had acquired in between the marriage license and the wedding bands.
But he deeply, desperately wanted to hear her voice. He wanted to bitch to her about the stupid KAD-esque soundtrack that was making him feel like Zach and Powell might walk through the door at any moment. That was safe enough, wasn’t it? He wouldn’t tell Blair where he’d been or where he was or anything that might put her in danger.

He looked at his watch. It was after one in the morning, but it was the night of the Man of the Year Ceremony back in Llanview and no doubt Blair had stayed late at Shelter making sure everything had gone smoothly. She’d be awake.

Besides, the phones weren’t going to do them any good if he got himself kidnapped tomorrow.

He had nineteen hours to wait.

He used the first of his phones to call the first of Blair’s.

“Todd?” she asked.

From that one word, he could tell that she’d been crying. She’d leaned against the door and cried when he’d left, too, and he’d stood on the outside listening to her and feeling like a piece of shit.

“It’s me,” he told her. His own eyes were starting to fill with tears. “I wanted to hear your voice. I thought you’d be up because of Clint’s big show.”

“You heard about that?” she asked.

“They set that up before I left,” he reminded her.

“Oh. No, they took the award away from Clint and gave it to Bo instead. Clint got drunk and crashed the ceremony. His acceptance speech went something like ‘from the bottom of my heart, screw y’all.’ We had to have the paramedics strap him to a gurney and get him out of—”

Whatever else Blair had meant to tell Todd was lost when Todd choked on his own laughter. The lost time with Blair and his children was the worst, but missing out on watching the Buchanans make fools of themselves sucked in its own right.

“It wasn’t funny,” Blair said lamely.

“There is no way that wasn’t funny,” Todd corrected. “You don’t have to pretend to be a pillar of polite society with me, Blair.”

Blair chuckled weakly. “It might have been a little bit funny. But never mind that. Where are you?”

“You know I’m not gonna tell you,” he pleaded. “Don’t waste the time we have asking questions I can’t answer.”

“I know. I just… I couldn’t not try. It sounds like you’re at a party. I can hear music.”

“Class reunion downstairs,” he grumbled. “It sucks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to relive 1993.”

“Neither do I,” Blair agreed.

“Makes me think about Kevin Buchanan.”

“Makes me think about Asa Buchanan.”

Todd winced. “You win this round of the most pathetic contest. How bad did Clint mess up Shelter? You gonna have to close for repairs?”

“Nah. No real damage done. Business as usual tomorrow.”

“I wish I could be there. Just sitting on that stool staring at you. That’s all.”

“Drinking my scotch.”

“Listening to that kid you hired sing about getting white girl wasted. Did you have her perform for Clint tonight?”

This time Blair laughed for real. “No. We should have had her write a special version.” She sang a few bars. “Dancing in my boots getting cowboy wasted.”

“I miss you,” escaped his throat without permission.

“I miss you, too.”

“Anyone else in Llanview notice I left?”

“Viki pumped me for information. She’s worried about you.”

“Did you tell her anything?”

“Of course not. Nora asked where you were. That was weird.”

“She was just hoping you’d tell her you chopped me up and left me in a freezer somewhere.”

Blair didn’t bother to comment. Instead, she continued her recitation. “Tea… Tea’s been okay. She’s really the only one who has any idea what’s going on. I—I showed her my ring. I’m sorry. I just had to tell someone. I was missing you so bad, and she can’t tell—”

“Not unless she wants to lose her best chance at ever seeing Victor again,” Todd completed bitterly. “You get a nice chain for your ring?” Blair couldn’t very well walk around Llanview with a wedding band on her finger when their marriage was a secret. She had promised to wear it on a chain around her neck, close to her heart.

“I couldn’t bring myself to take it off. I wear it behind another ring. It’s so small it’s easy to hide, and people are used to me wearing a lot of costume jewelry. No one’s gonna suspect.”

“I can see Dorian and Jack sneaking into your room at night just to make sure I’m not there and finding it.”

Blair laughed. “That’s why the door is locked. Anyway, Jack was really sweet tonight. I told him how much I love you, and I think… I think he’s coming around.”

“Dorian coming around too?” Todd asked wryly.

He could almost hear Blair roll her eyes. “Well, so far there’s only been one rant about how much she regrets not knowing about me when I was a little girl because if she’d raised me I never would have fallen for you.”

“Did you tell the head witch that she’s wrong as usual?”

“You don’t know that,” said Blair. “If we hadn’t both been so pathetic that day we met in Rodi’s, if all those pathetic, awful things hadn’t happened to us to make us who we were right at that moment—”

“No way,” Todd corrected. “It was always going to be you and me no matter wh—”

In unison, their phones beeped angrily. One use per phone, and one quick use per phone. Just like that, they were cut off.

Todd was alone with the music again.

He lay on the bed and pretended that there was an icicle’s chance in hell that he’d ever be able to fall asleep.

Oh life, it's bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I've said enough…

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