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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 48

Back at Courtown Demesne, Timothy had just arrived to Dorian's private wing, and used his key to let him in, not realizing she was showering and would be rather surprised when she saw him there, in her living room.  He made himself comfortable, and waited, until he heard the water stop running.  Then, he called to her, "Dorie, it's me.  I've just returned from the meeting with the RA21 contacts.  I had to close up a few loose ends before coming to see my lady."

"I'll be out in a moment!" she shouted.

He sat back on the comfortable sofa and closed his eyes for a moment.  He wasn't sleeping, but he was realizing the stress of the last two days.  When he opened his eyes, she was in front of him, fresh from the shower, in her robe.  Her hair was still wet.  She said, "Like me?"

"Ya know I do," he said, putting his arms out.  She went onto his lap and rested her head on his shoulder.

"I'm glad you're all right.  Blair was a complete mess.  She was certain Todd wouldn't come back to her, and to be honest, I was nervous about the same thing with you."

"Ah, I wasn't even near the tough stuff," he said.  "I was on the outside of it, the planning.  The RA21 demonstrate respect for the elders by refusing them a role in the action part of the attacks."

"Well, good."

"I suppose.  I wanted to be there, to support my boy.  But, it turned out all right, fortunately."

"Fortunately," she said, playing with the open collar on his shirt.

"I was worried about Todd, going in there, reliving all that.  He came through like a trooper."

"He has that trait about him."

"Ya have certainly changed where he is concerned, Dorie.  If I didn't know better, I'd say that ya'r in the midst of starting to accept him.  With Blair."

"In the midst?  I'd say on my way, Timothy," she said, "but why are we talking about him when we could be talking about us?"

He looked down into her eyes.  "Now, that's a bloody fantastic question," and he kissed her.

***

"Well, Todd, I have to say thank ya again," Patrick said, standing, and reaching into his pocket for the cash for the bar tab.

Todd reached for his wallet, and Patrick held up his hand.  "No.  I may have been captive, but I still had a bill or two on me.  And ya've done enough.  It's on me."  He placed the money on the bar, and said, "I'm off to the airport, right?"

"I suppose, yeah."  Todd said.  "I'll let you use the limo."

"Ya won't have a ride yaself!"  Patrick said.

"We'll ride with you, not a big deal, okay with you, Aiden?"  Todd said, looking to the other man.

"I don't mind.  Poor beggars cannot be choosers."

"Then, we're off."  The three headed out to the curb, where in minutes, Williams drove up with the limousine. 

Patrick said, "Ya moved the whole family here, including workers, eh?"

Todd smirked, "You caught me.  Yep."

They climbed in.  On the way, no one spoke.  Todd looked over, and Aiden was passed out into sleep, his head lolling back against the seat, mouth hanging open.  Patrick said, "He likes his ale."

Todd said, "If I were him, I might, too.  Guy's got it rough, not having a place to be, no where to come from, no family to speak of."

Patrick looked out the window.  "Sounds like someone I knew years back, ay?"

Todd nodded.  "I've been there.  I remember a time . . . well, once, I'd lost everything.  I mean, I had no real family, Peter Manning had just died.  Rebecca, this girl I was into, she left me.  I took a branch out of the trash to make a Christmas Tree.  I was  . . . without a past, and without a future, it felt."

Patrick turned to Todd, and said, "And then came waltzing in, a certain leggy blond."

Todd smiled, and it felt good to do so without a speck of malice toward Patrick.  He said, "There was a time when I couldn't even look at you without wanting you dead."

It brought silence to the car.  Patrick said, "I know this."

"Now . . . well, I can't even feel it anymore.  None of it."

"That's a good thing, then, Manning."

"It is, McPoet.  It feels . . . better."

"Ya know, I never told ya, but I'm very sorry for the things ya went through, as a boy.  I heard about them, at least some, and put together the rest."

"Thanks," he said, suddenly slightly uncomfortable.  He took his view to the window, instead.

Patrick continued, "That does not change who ya are as a man, Todd."

He swallowed.  "Try telling that to my head sometimes."

"Must be hard, Man.  But it doesn't change it. Really."

"Yeah, well, I appreciate everything you said,"  he awkwardly brushed it off, continuing to watch the scenery.

"I have to thank ya, again."

"You already did.  More than once."  Todd shifted in his seat, and looked back to the Irishman.  "How was the handler?"

"Not too bad.  He fed me, didn't bother me much.  He wasn't like Leona, if that's what ya'r asking."

"I was."  Todd looked away.  "Good thing."

"Ya.  A very good thing."

"Well, thanks for saving my life, too.  I guess that deserves to be said," Todd said.

"No problem.  There ya were.  I was wondering what this mess of bleeding man was, and it happened to be Todd Manning."

"Hmf.  Mess of bleeding man.  That about says it."

"It's over.  As are many things."

"Yeah."

"Well, we're here.  I should be going.  Seems so strange to travel with no baggage."

Todd looked at Patrick and the irony was particularly deafening.  "Yeah.  No baggage."

Both men got out, and Todd extended his hand first.  "The luck of the Irish to ya, Thornhart."

"And the same here, Manning."

They shook hands, before Patrick, pushing his hands into his pockets, headed into the airport hangar.

***

Waking with Dorian in his arms a while later, Timothy slid out from under her, and sat up. pulling his pants back on, and rebuttoning his shirt.  He went into the bathroom, freshened up, and headed for the main house, in search of his sister.

The air was cold and went to the bones, but Timothy, winter man that he was, stood up against it well.  He simply pulled his jacket closed, and walked a little faster to the main door of Courtown Demesne.  Knocking, he waited a few minutes before Tina opened the door.  "Timothy, hello."

"Hello, Martina Dear.  I come to see my sister.  Is she around?"

"I am, and what of it?"  she said, coming down the last few steps, and rushing to her brother.  Giving him a short embrace, she said, "Tina, Ray is still sleeping, and I've told Blair to also take a nap."

"Good, that will give me time to relax," she said, heading up to her room to read quietly as Ray slept.

"Ah, Broham, what's brought ya here?"

"Dorie's asleep, and something's weighing on my mind."

"What is it, then?"

"Can we sit and talk, Creena?"

"Of course," she said, leading him into the drawing room.  She sat, and he did, and she noticed he was uncomfortable.  "Is this about Todd?"

"No.  He's doing well with it all.  Seeing off Patrick Thornhart right now, and keeping company with Aiden."

"Ah."  She looked at him.  "So, ya have something to tell me, then?"

"I suppose.  I am not sure how to say it."

"Oh my, is it one of those?  Ya want to marry that Dorian Lord?"

He laughed, "I wouldn't need to ask ya that.  Or tell ya.  It would be my decision, and ya know that."

She smiled, "Of course.  But ya look like the end is near.  It can't be all that bad."

"I don't know if it is or not."

"Timothy, say it fast, if it's very hard.  Just like peeling off the bandages.  Quicker is better, Dear One."

"I think I know Aiden, from the past."

"That would be many people in Ireland, Broham."

"No.  I think I know him, and I don't think it's a casual meeting."

"What do ya mean?"

"I recognize something about the Lad, something that strikes me, here,"  he touched to his breastbone.

"What do ya think it means?"

"I don't know.  But it's something . . . it almost frightens me, Creena."

She got up and went to her brother, sitting beside him and putting her hands over his.  "It's going to be all right.  Whatever it is, it can be determined and solved.  Perhaps y'ar just remembering something that brings ya a great deal of emotion, and y'ar nervous about what it might mean to ya.  I'm not sure what ya have in that head of y'ars, but if I can help . . ."

"Have ya met him?"

"Who?"

"Aiden?"

"No, not yet.  I've not crossed paths.  Tina has, and Todd, Blair.  Possibly Ray, maybe Jack.  Tina was quite taken with him.  That I recall."  She thought about it.  "Do ya want me to do something for ya?"

"I want ya to meet him, and then give me y'ar opinion of him.  Ya have to see him for y'arself."

"Fine.  That's not hard, at all, Broham.  In fact, Todd will likely bring him back here later.  At least I believe.  I know the cottage is not cleared out.  His belongings, as meager as they are, are still there."

"I want to be out of here, though.  I'll go back to Dorie.  I don't want ya to be influenced by my reactions."

"Since when have you ever influenced me, My Brother?"

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 47

"Bea, you seem to be getting much better," Ray said, reading over her notes.  "I'm going to read them out loud, so we can both hear, is that all right?"

She nodded and weakly smiled.

I know what Todd did.  I've read all about it.  I know where the scar is from and how he got it.  I know what happened.  The bad part is that I was in the Time of Black and couldn't come to help.  When he was in trouble.  I could have explained to everyone why he was so angry.  That part is not my fault, I know. 

I am trying to do what you said, Dr. Martino, and not be guilty for what happened to my boy.  But how?  I was his mother, I was there to protect and love him?  I still can't tell myself I am not to blame.  The things Peter did to him, God help me, were so bad.  How can a person do that to a child?

"I feel like you want me to answer this, Bea."

She nodded yes, and used her hands to make a gesture that he understood as "please?"

"He was sick.  There's no other explanation for what he did to not only Todd, but also to you.  Do you know Todd felt guilty, as well, for what Peter did to you?"

She jumped up from her chair, and went to the notepad.  He was a child.  A baby.  He can't.

Ray interjected.  "And you thought Peter would kill Todd.  You were afraid.  You were abused.  Do you want me to read the rest of the notes?"

She nodded again, affirmatively.

Todd was doing what he saw done.  He didn't know how to handle to anger and the pain of what happened to him.  When someone hurt him, he did it back.  I should have been there to help him.  This is why he loves Blair so much.  She helped him.  She made him see who he is, really, and tried to make him understand the bad parts.

Ray took a break from the notes and looked up.  "You're quite perceptive.  Yes, that is why, at first, Todd loved Blair so much.  Now, it's so much more than that.  They share a life, children, a home.  They want each other to be happy, and each knows that the other makes them that way."

She smiled, and appeared relieved.  He said, "Shall I read on?"

She agreed.

How did Blair love him, even though she knew that he hurt that woman?  How did she not hate him for that?  I wonder this often.  

"Simple," he said, putting the completed notes down, "She forgave him and that was because she loves him."

***

"I'll stick to the single life, Maties," Aiden said, drinking his beer and eyeing a provocative red-head sitting with her legs crossed in the corner.

"It's Margaret or nothing, for me," Patrick said, swigging his beer.  Todd hadn't said much.  He was holding his Scotch glass, and tinkling the ice against the sides.  Patrick said, "Manning, of all people, ya should be chiming in about your woman."

"I'm nothing without her.  Not anymore.  Everything about me is wrapped up in her.  I think she's the same.  It's just the way we are, you know, Todd and Blair.  A household name."

"Ah, ya got it bad, Paddy!"  Aiden said, laughing and tipping his head back with his bottle. 

Both men had finished two beers each, and Todd was nursing his first drink.  He said, "It's different with us, I  . . . can't explain it."

His tone made both men straighten their faces.  Patrick said, "Ya been through a lot, eh?  Still not easy for ya to be entirely happy.  Ya'r not used to it yet.  It can't sink in."

"I'm just jealous," Aiden said, becoming more serious.

"Get y'arself a woman, Lad," Patrick said.  "It's not like y'ar the ugliest beast."

"It's not that," and the conversation had taken a somber turn, "I don't have anything to offer.  I guess I'm good enough to look at, get physical with, but I've got no past.  I don't know who I am, or who I come from.  An orphan of sorts."

Patrick drank the start of his third beer.  "Ya mean ya can't remember?"

"Yeah.  If I do, Pal, I get the headache of the heathens."

Todd said, "I don't want to push you, but do you know anything aside from what you told me?"

"No, nothing."

"Well, memories are not all they are cracked up to be," Patrick suddenly blurted.  

Todd's face was a mixture of surprise and comedy.  "Uh, who's telling who that?"

"Remember the Wild Swan, Mr. Manning?"  Patrick said, and both he and Todd clanked their drinks and swigged.

"The Wild Swan?"  Aiden asked, "On the isle of Innishcreg?"

Both looked at him.  Patrick said, "Ya know it, Lad?"

"Know it?  I grew up on the isle.  I was raised there, by strangers.  They found me.  Don't ask how I got there or why.  I just know that they found me, raised me.  Named me Aiden."

He sounded confused, or, Todd thought, possibly avoiding thinking too deeply as it might result in excruciating pain.  He said, "You won't believe this, but Mr. Poet and I have a history there.  I was shot and left for dead.  Blair was pregnant with Starr."

"Ah, Starr.  Is she the lass I met today, slightly, at breakfast?  She was on her way out of the kitchen with the little blond girl?"

"Yep.  That's my daughter and her daughter."

"Ah, you're a grandpappy!"  Aiden said, laughing and drinking, but he could not keep from reverting back to a solemn expression.

"I am.  Couldn't love them more if I tried."  Todd added.

"Ya'r young for that," Aiden said, winking at the red-head as she now passed by.

Patrick said, "That coincidence is too much.  The fact that ya grew up there, and that we first met there, and that Todd almost lost his life there . . . "

Aiden said, "It is a bit of a trick on the mind."

Todd said, "You said you don't know how you got there.  How they found you."

Aiden closed his eyes, "I don't.  But I was still recovering, from this," he pointed to his head.  "It was fresh, the wound.  That's all I remember.  That and the one photo that was in my pocket.  The family that cared for me found it on me and gave it to me.  I've kept it ever since."  

He fished through his pocket, while Patrick went on.  "I also met Margaret there, on Innishcreg."

Todd started, "Wish I could share all of the fond memories there, but being shot in the back is . . ."  his words dropped off as he looked at the photo.  It was old, tattered.  The woman in the picture was raven-haired, with eyes that pierced even from the flat photograph.  He said, "Is this your mother?"

"Yes.  She's young there, in her teens."

"She's beautiful," Todd said, studying the photo another moment.  She was standing with a short coat and tights, with shoes with buckles on them.  "She's about, what, nineteen here?"

"She's seventeen in that photo, it's written on the back,"  Aiden said, drinking again, "I can't remember her in life."

He handed Aiden the photo back.  "She's really stunning.  Such dark hair, and light eyes.  Just like you," Todd added.

"I suppose.  That's all I have.  I don't know the rest.  That's it.  A man without a past."

***

Well then, we are lucky that we have Blair.  She forgave him.  I forgive him.  I will never be able to forgive Peter.  Some things are unforgivable.  Maybe someday the woman will forgive Todd.  

"Did you know that right now, he's in Ireland saving that woman's husband's life?  She already forgives him, Bea."

Bea's eyes filled with water, and she wrote, quickly, and handed it to Ray.  

That's beautiful.  My son, he is a good person, inside, when you push away all the hate and the pain.  Is he safe?  Will he risk his life?

"He may.  But he's a grown man, Bea.  He has to make choices for himself."

That is why they are all in Ireland, then.  The last time, you wanted me to think of God loving me.  And read about Him.  I did.  I want to believe you.  I do. It is very hard to believe that God will forgive me for letting my baby be hurt.

So, Todd brought everyone with him.  He did not want to leave them.  You told me that. 

"Yes.  They'll be home soon."

I am proud of him.  I am proud he is trying to make things right.  It has been many years, hasn't it?  He is still trying to make things right.  He must know it was all very wrong.

The expression on her face, coupled with her words on the paper, brought a lump into Ray's throat.  "I can assure you, Bea, he knows."

She wrote a while, this time, and Ray waited patiently, for her to hand him her words.

Just as I do.  I know how wrong I was to allow it.  I didn't mean to.  I thought about it, and you were right.  Sometimes I thought it was better to stay quiet, and just accept it, and it would be over.  But it got worse and worse, Doctor.  Sometimes, I can still feel some of it. 

I want to be forgiven.  Like Todd.  What good can I do so I can be forgiven?  I would like to have ideas of how I can make it right.

"You're doing it, Bea.  By loving him, and loving Blair and the family.  You're doing it by trying to get better, and facing it.  It will happen.  I can tell you, all of them already forgive you, and never really saw you as at fault.  But for whatever part you may have played, they forgive and love you.  And I think you are starting to believe it."

She smiled at him, and took the pad, and scribbling quickly, she turned it back to him.  She'd drawn a heart with wings.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Todd's Saga 18: Complication

        “My God!  Victor.” whispered Clint in shock.

Todd, though stunned to see his brother, reacted quickly and shifted in such a way that Clint blocked Victor’s view of his face.  He gripped Clint’s arm. “Quiet, let me handle this.”  From his vantage point, he studied his brother.  Standing at the other end of the building, Victor was dressed in the organization’s uniform, and he was armed.  He wasn’t moving towards them, he was just waiting for an explanation. Todd disguised his voice, dropping it down and making it guttural. “Stay out of this, Lord.  I’m doing what I was told.  Taking Buchanan, here, for a walk in the fresh air.”

Victor looked puzzled then his hand slowly began drifting toward his weapon.  “Funny, I could have sworn Buchanan wasn’t ready to face the world yet.  What do you say we go looking for Baker and ask him.”

Todd pushed Clint forward, walking slowly toward Victor.  “Hey I don’t want to get in trouble.  It was just a little walk, no sense bringing Baker into this.  Look I’ll take him back to his room, and you can forget where you found us.  With all the commotion going on, I figured walking back here was safe.”

“You figured wrong.  The perimeter is out of bounds to unauthorized personnel.  I’m afraid I’ll have to report you no matter what.” Victor stated coldly. “Give me your name.”

“Who made you the boss?” Todd growled moving himself and Clint even closer.  “Come on, give a fellow a break.  Baker doesn’t have to know.”

Clint looked over his shoulder at Todd and back to Victor. “Wait a minute.  What’s going on? Victor, what’s gotten into you? Viki’s been worried sick since you disappeared and now Todd said…”
   
Victor’s eyes turned sharply from Clint’s face to the man holding him. “Todd?”

“Shit! Damn it Clint!” Todd acted immediately as he saw his brother pull his gun.  He shoved Clint into his brother with as much force as he could.  The momentum was enough to jar Victor and put him off balance, sending both men tumbling to the ground.  Todd immediately stepped on Victor’s hand still holding the gun and snatched it free.  Then he moved quickly to cover Victor’s mouth before he could shout out.  He put the gun to his brother’s forehead. “Don’t move.  By rights, I should end this here.  You tried to kill me twice, you bastard, and if I ended you, maybe this damn organization would get off my back.  Clint, get up.”

Todd kept his eyes on his brother as Clint got back off the ground.  The rage in Victor’s eyes said it all.  The first chance he got, he would try and make a move.  Todd had no choice.  He slammed the butt of the gun into Victor’s head knocking him out.  Tearing the sleeves off Victor’s jacket, he used them to make ties for his hands and feet and tore off a portion of his slacks to gag him.  “Clint, help me get him back to the fence.  We need to get out of here now.  They’re going to realize you’re missing soon.”

“Why don’t you just leave him here?” Clint looked around uneasily.

“I can’t do that, he knows I’m alive.  These people think I’m dead, and I want it to stay that way.”  Clint helped Todd and together they moved Victor to the fence where Todd quickly opened the breach.  “You first, Clint.”  Todd looked back toward the front gate. Things were back to normal there, but he knew any minute an alarm could be sounded.  He handed his brother through the fence then clamored through himself.  Finally, he closed the breach once again.

        “I hope you’ve woken up, Clint.  We got a walk ahead of us and you’ll need to keep up.  I can’t carry Victor and coddle you at the same time.”  Taking the gun, he handed it to his ex brother-in-law and hoisted Victor up onto his shoulder. “Here.  Knock him out again if he comes to.  I don’t have time to fight with him right now.”  He set out, keeping a watchful eye on Clint as well as their surroundings.

        It wasn’t the easiest of walks.  Todd had to change his course a number of times to avoid some sinister looking boggy areas.

        “Do you the hell know where you’re going?” said Clint as he stumbled over another rotten log.  He kept one eye on Todd and another on his footing because the ground was uneven  and treacherous.

       “Yes.  Sorry but there’s no easy path through this stuff.  I worked around this compound for over a month.  Believe me, the only easy path is the road, and we certainly can’t take that.  By the way, beware the snakes.”

       Clint looked around, wiping the sweat gathering on his brow. ” Don’t worry about me, I was born on a ranch and have done my share of rattlesnake round-ups.” He smiled at Todd’s disbelieving look.  “Rattlers are a menace in Texas.”

        “Um, sure.  Whatever you say.  I was just giving you fair warning about the ‘critters’ down here.” Todd started walking again.

         Clint shook his head, wondering what made the man in front of him tick.  He stared at Todd’s back, and the motionless Victor hanging there and started following him. Just then he thought he heard a moan. “Hey, is that Victor?”  With his eyes on Todd’s burden, he wasn’t watching where he was going.  Before Todd could answer him, his foot snagged in a tree root, and he was falling.  He sprawled on the ground and began cursing.

         Todd had stopped and turned around just in time to see Clint’s fall.   He also saw something else.“Clint, be still and move back slowly.”

       “What?” Clint had stopped cursing and heard the faint rattle coming just in front of him.  There on the ground less than a yard away were several black and grey snakes. Their triangular heads and stubby bodies ended in rattles that were vibrating vigorously. “Damn!”  He stilled, not making a move.  

        Todd kicked up some loose leaves and ground cover and sent it towards the snakes to distract them and give them something other than Clint to attack. One of the snakes struck out at the bark that came towards it then it slithered in the opposite direction looking for cover.   The other snakes also chose to withdraw away from the flying debris.   Todd looked down at Clint.  “Sorry, should have been keeping a better eye out for them.  You okay?”

        Clint nodded, “I’m fine, thanks.  You did warn me, I got distracted.  I thought I heard Victor waking up.  How much farther do we have to go?”  He gripped the tree he had fallen next to and got back to his feet, brushing himself off.

        “Not much.” Todd shifted his brother back into a better position on his shoulder. “Almost wish he would wake up. The son of a bitch is heavy.”  He started walking again.  About twenty minutes later they broke through the treeline to find themselves at the road that paralleled the back of the compound. Todd dropped his brother to the ground. Victor moaned but showed no real signs of coming to.

        “He’s lucky to be alive.  You hit him pretty hard.” Clint said, looking at the man lying on the ground.

        Todd felt his brother’s pulse, and it was strong.  He looked over at Clint and noticed the older man swaying.  The walk had taken a toll on him. “Sit down, and give me that gun.  Knowing him, he’s probably faking it.  I’m not worried, he’s got a hard head.” Todd reached into his inner pocket and pulled out his phone.  “I’ll have our ride here shortly.”   He called his car and glanced at his watch.  It had taken longer than he would have liked, but the car wasn’t that far away.  They had been walking for a little over an hour, and he still hadn’t seen or heard anything indicating  that Clint’s absence had been noted.  Maybe Baker was too busy trying to figure out what had happened to Sid Reilly.  Todd shook his head and tried not to think about it.  After what he had seen the last couple of days, he knew he could no longer trust the man.  The only thing working in his favor was the fact that Baker hadn’t given him away.  Blair was right, the guy was just working both sides for the money.

         Clint leaned back against the tree and watched Todd.  He remembered all the times he and Todd had knocked heads over the headlines. He also remembered a time when Asa had actually been working side by side with Todd to get Alex elected mayor.  Asa had seen just how resilient and driven Todd was.  Clint could now see a little of that strength that seemed to push Todd.  “You and your sister are more alike then I realized.’

Todd looked over at Clint, surprised by the comment. “What do you mean?”

“No matter what, you both are determined to overcome any adversity that faces you and you’re both stubborn and want to do it all by yourselves.  Viki didn’t want my help with the Banner, and when I did help, she hated it.   You’re the same way, never asking for help.”

Todd shrugged his shoulders. “If that’s what you see.  To rely on others you have to trust them, and I found out the hard way that trusting the wrong people just gets you hurt.” He nodded toward his unconscious brother, “Case in point.”

“What did you mean when you said these people think you’re dead?  Who are these guys and why were they holding me?”

“I don’t know much except they threatened to harm my family if I didn’t kill Victor.  I’m still trying to figure them out.  Clint, have you ever seen or heard of a company that uses this at their symbol?” Todd slid his sleeve up and showed the fake tattoo on his arm.   He watched the older man, to see if there would be any reaction.

Clint took a look at the tattoo and felt his heart start beating faster.  He closed his eyes as the image became blurry, and the words of his programming filled his head  The organization is to be protected at all cost. His breath caught and he clutched at his chest.  “I…” his hands were shaking. He couldn’t go on. Be protected  at all cost!  Be protected at all cost!  “My heart!”

        Todd jumped to his feet and went to Clint, the tattoo forgotten.  “Hey, take it easy.  Don’t you die on me, Old Man.”  Todd sat on his haunches and reached for Clint’s neck feeling for his pulse.  It was strong, but racing.  “Take some deep breaths, and just relax .  I think you’re just having a panic attack.  I used to get them all the time.” Just then Todd heard the sound of a car coming.   He peered down the road and saw that it was their ride. “Clint, my car is here.  We’re going someplace safe.”

        Hearing Todd’s words, Clint felt his heart slowing down, and the pain in his chest eased up.  “I guess I just have to admit I’m not up to these long treks anymore,” he said weakly.

        “Right.” Todd wasn’t so sure that was the cause of Clint’s pain, but he would worry about it later.  “Hold on, while I flag him down.”   He showed himself and waited as the car slowed to a stop.  Opening the back door, he went back to help Clint off the ground.  Once he had Clint settled, he headed back for Victor.  He was just about to pick him up when he noticed his brother’s eyes opened and glaring at him.  ‘You’re awake.   Well sorry pal but you’re just going to have to take another nap.”  Todd didn’t hesitate.  He knocked his brother out again, lifted him up on his shoulders and carried him to the car dumping him onto the floorboards.  It was getting dark and he could make out flashes of light in the woods as the car pulled away.  If the car had not arrived when it did, they would have been captured for sure.  He sat back breathing a little easier.

        Clint looked down at the unconscious Victor and back up to Todd.  “Where are we going and what are you going to do with him?”

        Todd frowned.  His plans were going to have to change.  Once again he was flying by the seat of his pants.  He had figured on rescuing Clint and Victor, but that was when he thought they were both prisoners.  Now he had a dilemma on his hands, and Victor was the cause.  His brother had once again gummed up the works.  “You’re not going to like this.  I need your help Clint.  Someone is going to have to keep watch over Victor until I can figure out how to change his attitude towards me.  If I let you go back to Llanview, it’s likely they’ll try and take you again.  So for the time being you’re just going to have to stay hidden for a while.  I’ll get word to Viki somehow that you’re alright.”

        “I don’t know, Todd.  Why don’t we just call Bo and let him handle this?”

          Todd reached across and grabbed Clint’s arm suddenly. He pushed the sleeve up. “Take a good look.  They’ve been keeping you drugged and doing who knows what to you.  Someone in Llanview set you up.  They’re still there, and until I figure out who’s involved, you can’t go back.  I’m sorry but for now, you and my brother will have to be my guests for awhile.”

          Clint could see the needle marks in his flesh and his jaw clenched.  Whoever had held him had wanted something from him.  He sat back as Todd let go of his arm. “Okay, I’ll agree to stay hidden, but I want to know everything that you know.”

         “Fair enough.“ Todd began filling Clint in on what had happened since his return to Llanview.  At their feet, Victor listened to everything they were saying.



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Friday, February 7, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 46

Patrick had been awake for several hours, but had chosen to lie in the morning silence until Timothy made his way out of the bedroom.  Patrick sat up, plumping the pillows and leaning onto them.  He said, "I go back today, and see my beloved Margaret."

"Yes, ya do.  Todd is coming.  I must go out for a while, to take care of a few loose ends with my contacts.  Once ya say y'ar goodbyes, ya'll be on your way.  And a bright future, I wish ya both."

"Thank ya.  I'm grateful."  Patrick said.

"I am sure ya are.  But remember, it's Todd and the RA21 that ya owe a debt of gratitude to."

"I promise ya, I know what Todd means to ya now, and I'll make certain he understands that it's all said and done.  Once and for all."  Patrick acknowledged.

A knock came at the door.  "And ya get your chance sooner than later."  Timothy went to the door.  He said, "Todd," and hugged his son to him, patting his back.  As they pulled back, "I am so proud of ya."  

"Eh, Old Man, all in a days work."  He stepped rather awkwardly into the flat.  "Patrick.  I'm glad you're seeing the light of day."  Aiden entered the apartment, and Timothy greeted him with a handshake.  Both men turned to watch the rest of the interaction unfold.

Patrick said, "It's more than that.  Ya know this."

"Okay, McPoet.  It wasn't much," Todd said, stepping back.

"It was.  And if ya can stop your snarking for more than a minute, I can tell ya exactly what it means."

***

"Sister, I think this is important for Todd,"  Blair said, giving Ray his bottle and putting him down in the crib.

"Ah, yes, he needs this kind of thing.  He's always been searching for something to bring him peace, give him that heroic status the children talk about.  He's so hard on himself; no one is harder on Todd than Todd."

"He's my hero.  So much, Sister.  He doesn't even realize it.  He's stuck in believing the worse about himself.  Especially with . . . how he grew up."  She caressed her son's hair, as his eyes closed in the crib and the bottle fell to the side.  "He didn't have the things Todd's given Starr and his sons, in the short time he's been with them.  He . . . never had it," her voice cracked slightly, and the nun put a hand on her shoulder.

Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "I'm so very sorry, Bridgette."  

Blair wasn't sure she had ever heard the nun ever speak so quietly.  She said, "I am, too.  It's not fair.  He was just a little boy.  He deserved love, and he deserved to be safe."

"Ya can't go back, Dearest.  Ya can't change it.  He knows that, and he's trying to move on."

"I know," she said, going to the window seat, and resting her hands on her bump.  "Sometimes, I don't know how he does it, Sister.  He's been through so much."

"He does it because of the children and because of y'ar love.  Ya know this."

Blair smiled, but her eyes teared.  "I hope Patrick relieves him, somehow, of the guilt and responsibility for what happened twenty years ago.  It would be an important step in healing."

"I think he will.  The question is, how will Todd receive it?"

***

"I know what it means.  I found your sorry behind.  What of it?"  Todd said.  

Timothy watched his adopted son carefully, seeing beyond the bravado, and softly said, "Listen to him, Son.  Give Patrick a chance to talk."

Patrick said, "There is only one man alive who can understand what The Men of 21 would perpetrate on another man, on another human being.  That man is you, Todd.  Ya didn't have to relive it all, just to find me.  Ya could have let the agents try, in their own time.  Problem is, I was already primed to die.  If ya didn't step in . . ."

"If I didn't step in, you'd be skewered Irishman.  I get it."

"Stop it.  Ya have to listen, Man.  Ya can give me that, can't ya?"

Todd looked down, and then said, "Mind if I sit while I am listening?  You're long-winded."

"No, I don't mind.  As long as ya shut that trap of y'ars and hear me."

Todd looked to his hands.  "Go ahead.  But make it quick, the plane is set to go, and it has another stop to make."

Patrick started off booming, from the gut.  "The type of man who would go back, into his personal hell, aside from all the other things of damnation ya've learned since ya came back to the living, and face it all again for someone else is not a coward.  The kind of man who would do this, show this bravery and selflessness is not the man who would hurt an innocent woman."

Todd looked up, suddenly, and focused his eyes on Thornhart's face.  Patrick's voice softened, "That means the man who did that terrible thing, all those years ago, is dead.  He's no longer living.  So ya must not continue to pay his debts.  He's gone, Man, and he's paid.  That's all there is and it has to stop here and now."

Todd didn't speak, he just continued to stare at Patrick, and his eyes took on the appearance of relief and grief at the same time.  

Patrick said, "And I'm not alone in this.  Someone else, who knows first hand, that it's over.  And you know just who I mean."

Todd swallowed.  "I . . . appreciate you saying all this to me.  But why?"

"Because it's the damn truth, Man.  It's time to let go.  For all of us.  You, me, Margaret, and y'ar wife.  It's time."

Todd couldn't find words, but lowered his head and grimaced, as if to keep from breaking down. 

Patrick continued, "Now I deeply thank ya for saving my life, and giving me the chance to go back and live it.  And ya have to live y'ars, too."  He extended his hand.  Todd stood, and taking the large, rough hand, shook it.  "I can't thank ya enough, for my freedom and my life," Patrick said, and pulled Todd to him, briefly in a short embrace, complete with a strong back slap.

Timothy raised his eyes to the ceiling, and felt them sting with moisture.  Then he turned to the young, scarred man beside him.  "Ya did well, Young Man.  I don't know ya, but I wanted to say this turned out to be a pleasant chapter."

Aiden said, "It has," and the two shook hands as well.  "Aiden," he said.

"Timothy," and then, "pleased."

Todd noticed, while pulling back from the embrace with Patrick, that Timothy's expression when looking at Aiden was one of slight recognition, that faded instantaneously as they turned back to the main event.  Then Timothy said, "I must be going, now.  I'll be in touch later, Son.  Patrick, good luck to ya and to y'ar family."  The door closed after him, with the familiar grab of the lock.

In the silence, Patrick said, "So when do I leave?"

"You go later this afternoon," Todd said, "I had to get clearance, set things up.  Papers, etc.  We needed someone to meet you back in the U.S. to assure everything is right.  Won't be until close to supper hour."

"Ah, Brothas, that gives us time to hit the bar, eh?  Drinks all around."  Aiden said, smiling his huge, striking grin.

Patrick shrugged, "I'm all right with that.  Todd?"

"Why the Hell not?"  he asked, and the three of them went out the door toward the tavern that Aiden frequented most.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 45

Todd and Blair made their way to the kitchen, and sitting at the table was Aiden, his elbow propping him up, as he ate, rather ravenously, Tina's creation of a pseudo-Irish breakfast.

Todd said, "Hey," and went to the refrigerator.

Blair said, "Good morning."

"Ah, finally, the two of ya must have finished with those promises, eh?"  he grinned largely, and his teeth showed.  He had quite a handsome smile.

Blair blushed a little, Todd jumped in, "You know it, Bro."

"It's worth it in the end, eh, Todd?"

"She is.  Always."  Todd drank his orange juice.

Aiden took another bite, "Why do Americans eat strange things in the mornings, eh, Mate?"

"You're calling us strange?  You Micks eat the weirdest things I've ever heard of."

Tina chimed in, "Something called black sausage."

"Ya don't want to know what's in that," Aiden said.  "Ya won't like it.  Besides," he said, shooting Tina another winning smile, "What Little Tina here made is good enough for me."

She smiled back, and Todd and Blair shot each other a look across the table.  Blair was trying to eat fruit and yogurt, but nothing was agreeing with her.  Aiden said, "So, you're going to have a babby?"

"Yes."

"Then I won't describe black sausage or white sausage to ya."

Blair grimaced, and said, "Thanks."  She noticed that in the light, he was a stunning man, aside from the scar running along his head.  His eyes were piercing, almost familiar.

It was clear that Tina had noticed also.  She was smiling and doting on him, and Todd thought he detected a slight degree of protectiveness in her.  She said, "Do you want anything else?"

"No, Dear Little Tina, I'm quite happy with this.  The closest thing to a real Irish breakfast I've had all month,"  Aiden said.  Their eyes lingered.

Todd looked at Blair, and under his breath, said, "I think we should leave, or else get them a room."

Blair widened her eyes and admonished him.  "Stop."

Todd laughed a little and kept eating.  

A few minutes later, Jack came barreling down the stairs and said, "Here, Dad, your phone was going off."

Todd took it from Jack.  "Hello?"

"Son, how are ya?"  Timothy said.

"Hey, Dad, how's it going?"

"Fine.  Top a' the morning to ya, and to that lovely wife."

"Thanks."

"Ya made it, and ya did quite a brave thing, Son.  I'm proud of ya."  Timothy said, and then added, "There's someone here who wants to see ya."

"Let me guess, he's hairy?"

Blair, walking by, slapped Todd's arm playfully.  Timothy said, "Well, he's alive.  That should be something."

"Patrick."  Todd sighed, and Blair detected a note of emotion in Todd's voice.  "Yeah, sure, I'll come and see him.  He wants to pester me about the accommodations on the plane, right?"

"Just get yourself here soon," Timothy said, ending the call.

***

Jack was laying on his back, staring at the ceiling.  He was playing his old-school music, with both earphones in, and his expression was as if he were far away.  Blair came to his door, and went over to him, and shook him.  He removed the earphones.  "Yeah?"

"You okay?

"Yeah, I guess."

"You miss her, don't you?"

"Who?"

"Jenna, Jack.  Come on."

"Yeah, I miss her.  I really do.  She's cool people, I love talking to her.  I mean, I can talk to her here but . . ."

"Have you spoken to her?"

"A lot.  Yeah.  I hope Dad doesn't mind but the bill is going to be bad for international calling."

"Your father won't care in the least about that, Jack.  That's not his concern.  You know that."

"I guess.  Yeah."

"It's okay to miss her.  We might not be here too much longer, our business is almost done."

"That's good.  I miss home, I don't like my tutor, and I miss Jenna.  I even miss Unforgettable."


"Actually, I do, too."

"Can we go home, Mom?"

"Soon.  I think we will be going home very soon.  I just have a feeling about it."

***

"You ride in limousines often, eh?"  Aiden said, climbing in.

"I do.  I don't own a car.  Just the limo and the helicopter," Todd answered.

"That would have been a treat.  What kind of money ya got, Brotha?"

"Enough.  My late great father the pedophile left it to me."

Aiden's smile faded, and he looked to his feet.  "I don't know what to say to that, Paddy."

"Not much to say to it.  My biological father gave me up for adoption to a sicko who abused my adoptive mother and I."

"Not much better, either way, eh?"

"Not much."

"Is she alive?"

"My adoptive mother?  Yes.  I recently found her.  She's mute.  From the beatings."

Todd could see Aiden's throat working.  The Irishman said, "This seems like it's the tip of a larger story, for some reason, Man."

"It is.  There's a lot, just . . . it's almost like it's not my life, you know?  But at the same time, who else's can it be?"

"Ay, I see.  Your wife, the two of ya.  I see you're very close."

"We are.  For a while, it wasn't quite that way.  We always loved each other.  Always.  Even when we weren't together."

"It's the way it is, when ya find your kindred one, eh?  Nothing else matters."

"You sound like you have experience?"
  
"Actually, no.  I got the idea from my parents.  The ones that took me in.  This is why I have no past.  I was found, injured . . ." he pointed to his head.  

Todd was cautious.  "You were a child?"

"Ay."  He seemed unable to go beyond the place they were, so Todd didn't push, remembering the headaches.

"So we both had it rough as kids, that explains it."  Todd said, "But nothing can explain your flirting with my sister."

Aiden smiled, and his grin was contagious and sprawling.  "She's quite the beauty.  Those crystal eyes."

"She's a beauty, all right."  Todd heard the sarcasm in his own voice, and added, "Sorry, she's my sister, hard to think of her any other way."

"She's kind.  Has a sparkle in her smile.  I'm sure ya've seen it."  Todd didn't say much else, he just smiled to himself.  Aiden continued, "And Blair, she's simply a gorgeous woman."

"She's the most beautiful woman in the world," Todd said.

The rest of the ride was quiet.  Aiden was nestled between watching the countryside from the limo window and dozing; Todd was on his phone, looking at photos of Little Ray going to the stairs, only to be met with the gate, and getting frustrated faces, trying to bite it to move it out of his way.  He laughed lightly to himself. 

My sons, and Starr, and Jewel on the way.  It's all you and me, Blair.  All of it.

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