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Monday, June 30, 2014

COMING SOON!!!! NEW BOOK by AUTHOR CLOUD....

8th book in the series, Failings of the Fathers, will begin to be published very soon!  Keep an eye on us for updates!

This book follows the other 8 books in the series, starting with The Way Back.  Enjoy, and leave a comment or two for the authors!


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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 75

Blair sat in bed, propped up on pillows, looking through the photo album that she had made for Todd when he first returned.  Water came to her eyes as she turned the pages, and noted to herself, yet again, not only what they had, but what he'd missed.  She finally closed the book, and tipped her head back, rubbing circles on her belly.  "Jewel, you're so special to us.  I hope you'll always know that, my baby girl."

She looked at the clock.  It was already 9:45.  She didn't want to become anxious; it hadn't been that long that he was gone from her.  She swung her feet over the bed, and stood, carrying the photo albums to the far side of the room and placing them on the desk.  The doors to the balcony were closed, but she could see through the glass the manner in which the moon was making patterns on the French-style windows.  She walked to them, and stood, surveying the property.  "He always did know how to buy property, that's for certain.  And see what your Daddy bought this time?  It is beautiful, isn't it?"

She heard a noise on the lower level, and pretty certain it was Todd, she fought the urge to run down to him.  She didn't want to let on that she was deathly worried for him the entire time he was gone.  She didn't want him to see that she had any doubts about him being able to take care of himself or handle whatever came their way.  She went back to the bed and sat down, putting the blanket over her, and just waited.

After a few minutes, she heard laboring footsteps on the stairs.  Thinking he was tired and ready for sleep, she still waited, in her place, with his spot next to her ready to be occupied.  Finally, she heard him round the top of the stairs, but bump against the wall, and she panicked.  Throwing the covers off, she went out to the hallway, and he was there, on the ground, sitting against the wall, with he knees up and his head between them.

Her heart leaped into her throat.  "Todd?"  She said, quietly going toward him.  To the best of her ability with the baby in the way, she started to get down to be near him, and he held up his hand, as if to stop her. She watched as he struggled to standing, while she asked, "What's the matter, My Love?  What is it?" and he seemed to be only able to focus on getting to his feet and had no answer for her.  "What . . . Todd?"

As he finally got to his feet, he fell toward her, and she struggled to keep from falling herself, but then she felt him catch himself with his feet, and wrap his arms around her, his lifeline finally in his hands.  She went silent, and held him, and waited.  He needs me.  Whatever it is, he needs me, and God, he's clinging for dear life . . . please, help him.

Finally, he said, "I'm seeing things."

She whispered, without letting go, "What things?"

"Dead things.  Peter."

She swallowed, and said, "In your head?"

"I don't know."

"Let go for a minute Todd, I promise I'm not leaving you, I just . . . let's go into the bedroom.  We don't want to scare the kids."

He did as she asked, and she caught glimpse of his face.  He was ashen, tired, stricken.  She led him to the bed, and knelt down to undo his shoelaces.  She said, "Help me get these shoes off you, okay?"

He did what she told him to, and kicked them off gently, landing them with a thud against the rug.  She said, "Now, swing your feet up, and we'll talk about this.  You can tell me everything.  Tell me, My Love."

He was lying back now, on the bed, his head resting on the pillow, his eyes closed.  She wondered for a moment if it were not best he just sleep, but she remained alert anyway, sitting by him and watching.  After a long silence, he said, "I saw him.  Peter."

"No, My Love, you didn't."

"Oh, but I did, Blair, I did.  I saw him everywhere.  I saw him driving the cab.  I saw him on the street corner.  I saw him coming out of a corner store.  I saw him at the airport, and on the plane."

She cringed, and took a breath.  "But, you know it wasn't Peter.  You were imagining him.  Out of fear?  Maybe going to that clinic just was too much?"

"That's just it.  I got out of there as fast as I could, so fast, that I forgot to pay the registration fee, and Timothy had to call me back.  I turned the taxi around, went back.  He was there, in the lobby.  Staring at me.  He was so old, but so . . . evil.  The evil was all over his face."

Blair admitted to herself the terror she was feeling about Todd's mental state as she listened.  Determined not to let him see her fear, she got up and began to putter about the room, picking up and organizing some clothes.

After watching her a few minutes, he said, "Blair?  I know you're afraid of the same thing I am.  I'm losing my mind, right?"

She rushed to his side and got back on the bed.  "No, no I'm not.  I was just cleaning.  It's that nesting thing.  It hits me at all hours.  You didn't see him, Todd.  You know he's dead.  He died in front of you."

He went very quiet.  Then he said, "Yeah, he did.  So it is my mind, and it is a hallucination, and I am nuts.  Certifiable."

"No.  You're just overwhelmed by the past.  You've dealt with a lot these last few months, Todd.  It's one thing after another with you.  You don't seem to be able to have a break from it and just rest your mind.  It's never long enough of a rest."

"I just wanted to be back here, with you, the kids.  I just had to be back here."

She leaned over and rested herself on his chest, and his arms closed around her.  "I know, and you're here, and you're safe with us.  Whatever happened, well, chalk it up to being tired, drained and in a place that has very bad memories for you.  Ireland, the cottage, the cliffs, the clinic.  There's no reason to doubt yourself right now.  To me, it all makes sense.  You're just tired, Todd, emotionally, and you need to rest."

By the time she had finished her last few words, she could tell by his breathing that he was asleep.  She wasn't going to move or leave him, not until he said so.  Not until he was ready for her to.

***

At three in the morning, she felt herself moved and opened her eyes to see him sitting up at the edge of the bed.  He was still clothed, as he was when he'd first came in.  She sat up.

He said, "I woke you?  I'm sorry.  Tried not to."  He knew how tired she was getting, and that it was part of the later stages of her pregnancy.

"Who cares about that?  Not me."

He gave her the side-eye, over his shoulder, with a half-smile.  "Okay, then, not me, either."

She waited.  She reached out and touched his back, and caressed it.  "A dream?"

He nodded in the dark, but the moon's reflective glow allowed her to see the movement of him.

"Peter?"

"Yeah."

"Bad?"

"No.  Strange."

"What do you mean?  Do you want to tell me?"

She saw his shoulders lift, and then depress.  She sat up behind him, and began to massage them.  He said, "At the foot of the bed."

"In the cottage?"

"No."

"The clinic?"

"No, here."

She gulped and hoped it wasn't loudly.  "He sure gets around."

He lightly laughed, and then said, "He was trying to tell me something."

She dreaded asking him, but she did anyway, as her fingers worked magic along the base of his neck.  "What is the message?"

"He's coming for me.  For my sons.  He wants the baby."

A chill ran from the base of her spine to the top of her head, and she shivered.  He turned toward her.  "I can't do this, I'm scaring you."

"I'm okay, just a little cold."

"Cold?" he said, surprised, and pulled the blanket around her and held her.

"That's better.  Don't stop talking, Todd, just tell me the rest.   You know talking about these dreams takes away their punch.  Remember mine, years back, about losing Max, but it was really you?"

He nodded, "That was a nightmare for sure."  Then his expression changed.  "Peter promised to take everything from me that I ever loved."

"Well the meaning's obvious.  The idea of Peter and what he did scares you.  You think it will take you away from us, if you lose your mind, or we stop loving you.  None of that is going to happen.  It's just a dream."

"His face. . . pure evil.  It's not like I remember it.  Older.  More depraved, or something, if that's even possible."

"Okay.  That makes sense, too.  He can't stay the age he was when he died, right?  Time passed."

"Yeah.  It's just, strange, that's all.  Like a warning?"

"It's you warning yourself.  When we get home, go and tell Ray about this."

"Oh believe me, I already plan on that.  Maybe when I leave here, it will stop.  Maybe it's this place, this fucking country.  Maybe Ireland has it in for me for mocking the accent and some of the residents all these years."

She took him in her arms, and slowly leaned them back onto the bed.  He ended up with his head above her breast, and his arm slung over Jewel.  He rubbed Blair's stomach where he thought he felt the pressure of the baby's foot, and marveled at how tiny it was, and how strong.

Blair caressed his face, his head, and his ears, and stroked his hair until he closed his eyes.  She said, "We're leaving tomorrow, you know that.  We'll get up, pack the kids and everyone, and leave here.  No regrets.  Now, sleep, My Love, and rest."

"Sing."

"Now?"

"Just a little."

Close your eyes and rest, your weary mind.  I promise, I will stay right here beside you.  Today, our lives are joined, became entwined.  I wish that you could know how much I love you . . .

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Todd's Saga 22: Uncovered Plot

        Todd was fit to be tied.  “This is it? This is the best you and your men could do?  You bring me his name, but nothing to tie him to the organization.  You disappoint me, Sam.  I thought you could pull anything, about anyone, out of the air.”

“Hey, I’m working on it, but I figured you’d want to know as soon as possible that he was Alison Perkins’ brother.” Sam leaned across the desk. “Look.  You don’t know just how far he’s gone to keep that relationship under wraps.  We had it all wrong.  He’s Alison’s older brother, not younger.  It’s not like he wants people to know his affiliation with a nut case.  I was actually surprised Alison’s father even managed to snag Peterson’s mother.  There was a lot of ‘Old Money’ behind her and from what I was able to gather, when Carl Peterson was born, his mother was forced to cut all ties with the Warden Perkins.  He had no further contact with his father or his younger sister as he was growing up.  His grandparents had his last name changed to protect him.”

Todd suddenly had an idea.  “‘Old Money’ huh. Maybe that’s it.  What if this organization is run by Old Money? Heck even New Money. Victor Lord could be considered Old Money and Asa Buchanan wasn’t Old Money but he was considered powerful even though he was part of the Nouveau Riche.  They were both movers and shakers.  If this organization is made up of men like that, then it would explain their interest in Victor and me, as well as Buchanan.”

        Sam moved around Todd’s desk and sat down on the edge, inches away from him.  She leaned in closer to him, giving him an upfront look at her assets. “Hmm, you know it could be worth looking into.”

        Todd always appreciated the lengths Sam went to, to get his attention.  It was obvious, she was up to her old tricks.  She was still a beautiful woman and had made a play for him on more than one occasion, but there was only one woman who had his heart. After a cursory look, Todd leaned back away from her and frowned.  “Sam, what’s with all the come-ons?  I thought I made it clear to you in LA that this was to be a purely business arrangement.”

        Sam smiled beguilingly. “Ah, Come on, Tony, it’s not like you have any other action going on.  Todd Manning is presumed dead and you’ve got a whole new identity and life.  You’re all alone, Mr. Butler, and so am I.  I just figured we could start something, now that that life is over.“ She reached over and ran her index finger down his arm.

        Todd brushed her finger away. “Knock it off!  It isn’t going to happen, so get your head back in the game.” He coldly met her gaze and she dropped her eyes and moved back around the desk.

         “Hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.  So what do you want me to do next?”  She turned back to him. She had made her play, and had failed.  As a pragmatist, she had known it was a longshot but she had felt it was worth the try.  Now it was back to business.   “Okay Boss.  What do you want me to do?”

         “See if Asa Buchanan or my bastard father ever had any dealings with Peterson’s family.  If they did, we might get an inkling just who we’re dealing with.  I’m going to see if I can find out if my brother had any other unsavory alliances besides our Mother.”  

        Sam gave a perfunctory salute. “I’ll get right on it tomorrow.  If I can’t get you to have some fun, I’m at least going to take the night off and enjoy some good Jazz down in the Quarter.  I took the red-eye to get that information to you, so the rest of the day is mine.  Any objections?”

        Todd was anxious for the info, but Sam was her own boss and even if he objected she probably would still do her own thing.  “Whatever.  Just get back to me soon with what you find out. Clear?”

         “Clear.”   Sam walked back to the couch and picked up her purse.  As she opened the door, she turned and looked back at him.  “Sure I can’t convince you to meet me later?” She laughed at the glare she received and left the office.

****

“Are you telling me Baker has now disappeared?” Carl almost threw his glass of brandy against the wall but stopped himself. Getting control he continued. “What’s that?  He hasn’t disappeared, you just don’t know where he went after he left the compound.  Alli, what do you know?”

 Alison took a deep breath. She could hear her brother’s barely contained anger and knew she needed to diffuse the situation.  “Carl, relax.  Baker told me he was going to go and do some investigating.  He said he had some info from his old days working for Irene Manning, and he might be able to come up with a lead as to the whereabouts of Victor Lord.  Before leaving, he assured me that Lord’s programming was unbreakable.”

 “I see.  That’s what Irene told me about her son Todd, but you know how that went.  Why didn’t you insist Baker take some of our men?”

 “He told me he would need to contact some of his CIA friends and I didn’t think you wanted any of our men to come in contact with those people.  I had no idea he had to go off the map to do his investigating..  I’m sure he’ll be in contact when he gets the information he’s looking for.”

“You better hope he does.  Alli, I hope you understand that if the CIA comes down on you,  you’re on your own.”  Carl’s voice dropped to almost a whisper. “Sister or not, the goal of the organization is foremost.  No one can stand in the way of our progress and when you joined me, you knew the risks.”

Alison felt chilled by her brother’s comment, but then she straightened her back.“Don’t worry Carl, there’s nothing official tying you, or the organization, to this compound.  I will burn this place to the ground before I let the Government flunkies find anything.  I wanted to let you know the Messenger’s followers are stepping up their efforts around Llanview, but so far there has been no sign of Victor Lord or Clint Buchanan in the area.  Do you have anything else you wish me to do?  The shipment from the other night should be reaching it’s destination today.”

Carl poured himself another drink.  His anger had cooled and there were more important things that now needed to be discussed.  “Very good.  Are your disciples in place in DC?”

“Yes, even as we speak, special gift packages are being prepared.  They await the shipment and when they are completed, they will be delivered to all those you requested.  By week’s end all those parties will be yours to control.”

“Excellent, Alison.  I’m sorry I was so upset earlier.  You have proven invaluable to the organization.   Lord and his brother Manning have been thorns in our side long enough.  Whether Lord returns or not will be moot once I have control in DC.  I’ll be headed back to Llanview tonight.  I left rather abruptly and I might have to mend some fences with Dorian Lord.”

“Gag, brother.  The woman is power hungry and not worth your attention.  Why did you even start up with her?  She married Mitch just to get her hands on the Lord fortune and then she tried to kill him.  You would have been better off with the Queen of Llanview, Victoria Lord.”

“Now Alli, that isn’t nice.  You know as well as I, that Victoria Lord is off limits and besides, it amuses me that Dorian and Victoria don’t get along.  Dorian is a beautiful woman and graces my arm and she’s as devious as they come.  I have a feeling when the time comes she’ll make a promising first lady.”

****

Todd swung back to his desk as soon as Sam departed.  If his father Victor Lord had any dealings with Carl Peterson’s family, she would find it.  He had other,more urgent, matters to check on.  He had broken open a hornets nest when he had rescued Clint and removed Victor from the compound, and they had already been stirred up by his rescue of Sid.  He needed to know if Sid and his family had made it to South Dakota safely.  He pressed his assistant’s call button. “Phil, get me Rogers at the drilling site.”  A few minutes later. his phone rang.

“Rogers, good, how’s it going up there?  That’s terrific, does it look like a good size strike?...Great...  Listen, about that man I sent to you, did he and his family get settled alright?  That’s good.  They’ve had it pretty rough recently, but he’s a good worker.  Send me the latest reports on the strike and I’ll be seeing you in a couple of weeks.”  Todd hung up and made a note  to get a few little things sent to Sid’s brother and sister, just to make the move easier.  Rogers said some of the wives of the other men had already taken Sid’s younger sister under their wings. 

       He breathed a sigh of relief.  Sid’s family was okay and now he could put his attention back  where it was needed.  The compound had to be in an uproar.  Three men disappearing in the space of two days, then the sheriff’s office investigating the one man’s disappearance.  It had to really be tying Alison up in knots.  “I wonder.  Did you call your brother, Alison?  What does he think about everything that’s happened.  He can’t be too happy right now.” 

         Todd looked at his picture of Blair and thought about calling her.  She should be told Carl Peterson was Alison’s brother.  She would want to know, with Dorian dating the guy.  He picked up the phone and stopped.  What if Dorian already knows?  No, she’s enamored with his power and wealth, but she’d never put Blair or the family in danger.  Peterson was another story.  He believed no one knew of his association with Alison.  Blair would be safer if she didn’t know. He put the phone back down.   He reached for her picture.  “I’m sorry Babe.  I know how you hate it when I keep things from you, but it’s for your own good and that of the baby.  Peterson’s capable of hurting you if he finds out you know his secret.”  Todd hated the position he was now in.  It wasn’t just Blair and the kids, Viki was also involved.  Peterson had associates everywhere.  What if his protege was involved with the organization?  The young man worked with Viki. 

         Face it Todd, you’ve got to expose this guy and quickly.  He opened a window on his computer to a tracking program.  He had managed to put a couple of tracking devices on some of the crates going out from the compound during all the commotion surrounding Sid’s mistake.  His eyes widened as the information came up. “This is curious.  Why are you sending crates to DC, Alison?  Just what is going on?  I understand the mind-controlling drugs to the Psychiatric wing at Llanview hospital, but what use are they in the capital.” A shiver went through him. “God! No way!”  Was it possible, this organization was after much bigger fish?  Could Clint have an idea what was really going on?  There was only one way to find out.  It was time to have a chat with Clint again.



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Note from the Author: Winding down with Hope from the Ocean


Hey Readers,
Thank you SO MUCH for sticking with me through the first seven books in the Todd Manning series.

Hope from the Ocean is about to close with tomorrow's posting of Chapter 75, and that will lead us to the next book - Book 8 - Failings of the Fathers....another in the series with more Manning adventures.

I laughed today when I reviewed the Book Guide that the blog owner has put up, and see that it's considered "the 2011 Return" series.  It does all stem from the Premier Kiss - but it's surely gone a long way since!  It's been about 3 years already since I started publishing these!

I want to thank you all so very much for supporting my writing and keeping the Mannings alive.

I hope you'll stick with it, again, and keep reading into Book 8, which promises to have a few surprises.

Thanks again!

Leave me your comments; I appreciate reading them!



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Your comments are 'payment' for the work of the authors. Our writers like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment when you read.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 74

Landing in Zurich was uneventful.  Todd instructed the pilot to have the jet ready within an hour for lift off to return him to Courtown Demesne.  He led the group to the limousine port, and they waited.  

Aiden said, "Todd, I can't thank ya enough for all this."

"No big deal.  Really.  Whatever works to make you better."

"I heard from the boys back in Rialto that Darren is going home.  He's fully recovered."

"That's great.  Oh, excuse me," Todd said, as his phone buzzed in his pocket.  "Hello?"

"Todd, it's Ray."

"Hey, Ray, how are you?"

"I'm fine.  Your mother is here, she wants to talk to you.  I've offered to relay what she wants to say back and forth."

"That's great.  I could use her words right now," he said.

Ray paused.  "Todd, what's going on?"

"Nothing.  Well, nothing I can talk about right now.  But when I get back, I'll be ringing your phone for an appointment."

"All right," the therapist said.  "I'm going to let her listen to you for a few minutes, then I'll read to you what she says, all right?  Is this a good time?"

"As good a time as any," Todd said, seeing the limo approach.  "We have about a thirty minute drive, so, sure."

"Okay.  Here she is," Ray said, handing the phone to her. 

"Hi, Momma.  Blair and I and the kids are all right.  Right now I am in Switzerland, doing a favor for a friend."

Ray read her words to Todd:  I love you, all of you.  Is Blair all right?  Is she going to have the baby soon?

Todd replied, "Blair's fine.  It's a ways off before the baby makes an appearance though.  How are you feeling?"

I'm fine.  I am making a surprise.  And, Ray said I am getting much better.  I don't want the sparrows anymore, and I am really doing well, Todd.

"That's great, Momma.  When can you come and live with us?  If you want to."

I wondered if you still wanted me to live with you, after . . . well, I remembered everything, Todd.  I wasn't the best mother.  I should have protected you, and got you away from him.  I'm very sorry for that.

"Momma," he said, his voice catching, "I know you are.  You already said you are sorry.  And there's nothing to be sorry for.  Peter was a bastard to everyone, no one could fight that man."

Aiden grimaced and looked out the window.  He didn't like hearing what Peter had done to Todd.  It was beyond his comprehension.  He couldn't understand how any man could hurt a child, especially his own.  Timothy's ear was tuned to Todd's words, though he also looked out the window.  Tina dozed on Aiden's shoulder.

I am trying to accept all that.  I still feel I failed, but in reality, I have another chance.  I can be your Momma now, Todd.  Ray said soon.  I hope you and Blair will still want me to live with you.

"Of course.  We talk about it all the time.  Even Sam.  He wants you to teach him how to draw.  He's  missing home."

I am missing you.  Will you be back soon, Todd?

"Yes, very soon, Momma.  And after settling the family in, my first stop will be to see you."

Bring Blair, Todd.  I have a surprise.  It will be done by then, and I want to see her and the baby and you.

"All right Momma."

I love you, My Angel.  Be safe and come back soon!

Todd ended the call and looked to the floor momentarily.  Timothy said, "Are ya all right, Son?"

"Yeah.  I'm all right.  Momma's doing better.  She's . . . doing well."

"Well, that's good.  And soon, ya'll be back home and can tend to y'ar family and y'ar mother's needs as well."

"Yeah," Todd seemed distant.

"Is there, something ya want to say, Lad?"

"I don't know.  She's doing really well, and I feel like . . . I don't know how to express it."

"It will come to ya, and when it does, let me know."

Aiden turned away from the window and to Todd.  "Y'ar Mam, she's coming along?"

"Yeah, she's doing better."

"That's good news.  Thank ya for bringing me back together with my Pappy, Todd.  It's because of ya that it happened.  Y'ar the common thread in it."

Todd swallowed.  "You're welcome," and looked to the window to watch the sights.

Timothy smirked to himself a bit, realizing it was the first time he had heard Todd actually accept thanks or praise without snarking it into the ground.  "Aiden, do ya want me to call ya Aiden, or should we call ya Eric?  What do ya prefer?"

"I have to admit, Pappy, I like Eric.  It has a regal sound.  It makes me feel like a new person, like I might have a future, it does."

"All right, then Eric it is, Son.  And of course, ya have a future; we all do."

Todd was lost in his own thoughts.  Looking out the window, he began to flash on bits of memory about being there before.  The streets seemed vaguely familiar, and some of what he saw seemed hazed over with a gray, clouded screen.  He blinked to clear his vision, and getting no result, turned away from the glass.

***

"Mom!  YAY!"  Sam said.  He was on crutches, having had his arm cast removed.  He hobbled toward her.

"Little Man, I love you," she said, bending down to hug him.  While they embraced, the crutches fell to either side of him.  "You learned how to use these, all on your own?"

"No, Sister Becca Thrin taught me."  

"She did?"

"Yeah.  She taught me how to walk with these.  It's getting easy."  He hopped about, and was able to get his crutches set back up, using Blair as support for grabbing them.

"Well, I'm very proud of you."

Sam's face turned to a frown.  "Where's Dad, Mom?  Is he leaving us?"

"No, honey, he's not.  He's helping a friend, Aiden, and Grandpa Timothy.  He'll be back later tonight."

"Will I be awake?"

"I don't think so, but you never know."

"Is he okay?"

"He's perfectly fine, Sam.  Don't worry about your father."

"Okay, but it's too late, Mom, I've been worried about him all the time."

Blair felt a pang of regret.  "Oh, Sam.  That's because you have such a good heart."

She looked up and saw her older son, standing in the archway.  "Hi, Mom."

She stood, and sighed.  "Hi, Jack.  You look older, somehow.  I don't know how.  Come here," she said, becoming emotional.

"Mom, Geez, you were gone two days.  Not even."

She kissed his cheek.  "I missed you, that's all I can say.  Where's Jenna?"

"She's in her cabin.  Sergeant Shaun on duty.  If he's not around, he doesn't let us hang out much alone.  Even though I told him."

"Told him what?"

"Jenna's not that type of girl, Mom.  She's special.  Not trampy."

"Trampy?  Where did you get that word?  Oh wait, let me guess."

"Dorian," they both said together.

"Are ya well, Dear Heart?"  The nun said, making her appearance known by stepping full into the foyer.

"I'm well, yes.  Everyone's all right.  Timothy's been reunited with his son, your nephew, Sister.  Aiden is Timothy's son."

"Yes.  I had the strangest inkling there was something like that coming down the pike.  He also called Dorian, earlier today.  She's not the happiest chicken in the coop right now, with him taking off."

"Does that mean Dad is not Timothy's son anymore?"  Sam asked, looking concerned for Todd.

"No, Sam, it doesn't.  Timothy will love both his sons.  People can love a lot of people.  Like I love you and Jack, and Ray, and Starr, right?"  Blair said.

"I didn't know everyone had as much love as you do."  Sam said, going to the stairs.  "Jack, are you going to help me?"

"Yes, Runty, I am.  Hang on," he made his way to the staircase.  "Mom, is Dad okay?"

"He's fine Jack.  He'll be back in a couple of hours."

"K."  He went to his job of bringing Sam upstairs, and within a few moments, Blair mentioned what was missing.

"Sister, where's Ray?"

"In his crib.  His nap's been done for the day, but I forgot him when I heard all this."  She sighed.  "I have another nephew.  Anyway, he's up there, in his crib, probably 'reading' his books," the nun answered.

"All right, then."  She turned to go up and see him.

"Blair," the nun began.

"Yes, Sister?"

"Is Todd really all right?  I could almost see ya falter when ya saw y'ar eldest.  He looks so like him sometimes."

"Is it that obvious?"

"Only to those who know and love ya."

"He's okay, I guess.  I'm . . . a little worried.  He still doesn't remember everything, from back when he was first here in Ireland and presumed dead.  Aman and Lily brought up things that upset him.  I can tell he's grappling with it.  It's about Peter.  Seems he already knew everything we found out in Chicago, but he went catatonic and had forgotten all of it.  I guess I shouldn't say 'forgotten,' he protected himself from it for almost his whole life."

"Did he ever hint that he knew anything like that?"

"No.  He did know about when he was fourteen, but he never knew the rest.  The Bitsy parts, and the little boy parts," her voice snagged in her throat when she said the last phrase.  "We never had an inkling about them until after he started with the memories in Greece.  Meeting that girl, Orinia.  Her story hit home with him.  He started fighting memories in his mind, in his dreams.  Then, you know what happened next.  When we got back, after Timothy's bout with cancer, he started having short flashes, and that's when it gradually came back.  Being in Ireland again must have been the catalyst, and we didn't even realize it."

"I see.  Well, he knows everything now, about that at least.  He's faced all that with your help."

"I'm just afraid of what's next.  He's been home for over two years, almost three now.  And this still isn't fully over."

"No.  I see that it's not.  But it must be rounding a corner.  Soon.  He's come a long way, Bridgette."

"I know.  He has.  He couldn't get through a night without torment when he first came back.  It wasn't easy, Sister."

"I can imagine.  But as bad as it was, Dear, ya were able to create that little boy up there," she nodded to the stairs.

"Yes.  Ray.  I never really talked about it with anyone, but I know we made Ray the first time we were together after the eight years."  She drifted off a minute.  "He was so . . . lonely.  He just . . . "

"Needed ya, like he does now, only different, eh?"

"Yeah, I guess that's true.  Anyway, I'm hoping this won't take too much out of him.  I'm hoping it will just be a passing thing, but, Sister, I am scared."

"Why, Bridgette?  Tell me, if ya need to."

"It was . . . things he didn't remember.  He hallucinated about Peter.  He had told me about that, when he returned from Ireland in 1996.  He was so bitter and so closed off to me.  And it was my fault.  But beyond that, he told Aman that Peter called him and visited him.  The hallucinations were that real to him.  It frightens me.  I'm scared that if he imagined those things, that way. . . I mean, what else could there be?  It's been one horror after another."

"Dear One, he can handle it.  He can.  He has come this far, and he's trusted ya with all of it.  He can do this, with y'ar help, and the love of the children."

Blair nodded, and embraced the nun.  "Thank you," she said, and headed up the stairs to hold her third baby boy.

***

"This is the Vanderclausen Clinic.  I'd recognize the front doors anywhere," Todd said, while all four of them were still in the limousine.

"It's different than I thought," Aiden said.  "Looks older than I imagined."

Ivy crawled up one side, and there were several places in which maintenance should have been carried out.  The windows were trimmed in ecru paint that was peeling in places.  Lights surrounded the extremities of the building, and they were just flicking on as the twilight moved in.  Todd suddenly felt a chill in his back, and his three traveling companions disembarked the limo, expecting him to follow.  He sat, staring up at the top spire of the clinic, and Timothy leaned back in.  "Son, are ya coming?"

"Yeah, I guess I am.  Sure."  He got out, and shut the door behind him.

The series of events that followed seemed gray and muddled to him; Timothy basically took over, helping Aiden through paperwork and seeing him through the process.  Todd remained reserved, taking in his surroundings, while at the same time feeling disconnected and isolated, even with people around him.  

They made their way to a trim, crisp hallway with green paint and ecru trim.  Turning into a small room, Aiden made his way to the bed.  Timothy said, "Eric, does it seem like I can rest with ya here?  That you'll be all right?"

"I'll be fine.  It's clean and warm.  Nice.  Better than most places I laid my head the last few years."

Todd stepped forward, "Hey, listen, I think I'm going to be on my way.  I . . . feel sort of out of place here.  It brings back things I don't want to relive.  If it's okay with you, I'll say my goodbyes.  I'll leave the limo for you and Tina, Dad."

Timothy studied Todd's face.  "If that's what ya want, Son."

"Aiden," Todd said, extending his hand, "I mean, Eric.  I'll definitely be in touch and I hope you get well quick."

Aiden took his hand and shook it, then brought him into an unexpected embrace.  "Brotha, I'll miss ya.  Don't be a stranger.  There are phones here.  Aside from the fact there will be bills coming y'ar way, I'll want to hear from ya."

"You will.  Tina, you going to be okay?"  Todd asked her.

"Sure.  You bought us the best hotel in town."  She smiled.

He turned.  "Old Man?"

"Yes, Son.  Everything will be all right.  I'll see ya soon, I want to see Eric through the first of the surgeries before I go back to America.  I'll be here, any time ya need me, just make a call and I'll be there for ya.  Always."

Todd's sojourn to the sidewalk to call a taxi felt as if he was in a gray tunnel lined with cotton.  He could see everything, but somehow, he saw it younger, like viewing an antique film from years back.  He stood on the corner, waiting for the cab, and huddled in his jacket.  He wanted to be in Blair's arms, and hold his children.  The chill wouldn't leave him as he watched cars pass, until a yellow one with black and white checkers on the bottom half drove up and stopped.  Getting in, he turned back quickly to look at the building, and for a moment it seemed even younger, then faded to what it really was.

The drive was a half-hour one, and then, he would be on his way to Blair and the kids.  The car passed various buildings, homes, cars and people, walking to and from, and he looked out the window and soaked in the atmosphere.  It was definitely European, and more refined than what he would see in Ireland.  He thought back to Greece, the seaside places in which he made love to Blair by the waves, and also discovered the beginnings of his truth.  Of the three, Ireland was the dimmest, foulest one.  He suddenly felt an urgency to get his family out of the Godforsaken country, and back home.

"Driver?"

Thinking the man did not hear him, he spoke louder, sitting forward in the seat.  "Driver?" He tapped the shoulder.  Then he looked into the rear-view mirror, and saw the face of Peter Manning staring back at him . . .

He sat up, with a gasp, and looked into the front seat, frantic, spying a short, stocky man, with a stub of a cigar poking from his lips.  He breathed out, relieved.  

You were dreaming.  You fell asleep.

"Don't reach over the seat like that, kid, now whaddya want?"

"You speak English?"

"Most of us do."

"How long until the airport?"

"Ten minutes.  You punching a clock?"

"No, just asking."  He sat back.  He ran his fingers through his hair, and shook the image of Peter in the front seat loose from his mind.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 73

"What's that you have there, Bea?"  She held up the materials, and he recognized them as basket weaving items.  He said, "Well, are you making something?"

She nodded, and held up what appeared to be the base of an oval-shaped basket.  She pulled a piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to him.  It was a drawing of a basket, elliptical in shape, with a tall handle for carrying.  The handle had pink ribbons tied within it and onto it, and inside it slept a very tiny baby, under a pink blanket.  She was smiling when he looked back to her.

"You're making a basket for Todd's daughter."

She nodded.

He said, "Bea, I think it's lovely, but I believe it might be too small, that base you've done."

She smiled, tilting her head to the side and shook her head, "no."

"You believe your dream."

She nodded.

"You believe there will be a very tiny baby girl."

She nodded again, and pulled out a piece of reed, and began to weave it through.  Ray watched her diligence and made a few notes.  Then he said, "What would you like to talk about today?"

She pulled a note from another pocket, and handed it to him.  He read it aloud.  "Going to live with Todd and Blair," he read aloud.  "I see.  This has been on your mind a lot."

She agreed.

He said, "Do you know if Todd and Blair want you to go and live with them?"

She put the basket down into her lap, and her face seemed almost annoyed with him.  She got up, took the pad off the table, and then wrote.  Handing it back, she had an expression he was not sure he'd seen from her.  She was teasing him, or at least, being playful.  He read:  Would I just invite myself to live with my son and his wife?

"I suppose you wouldn't.  I just wanted to make sure.  Everyone has their own life to live, Bea."

More writing.  He invited me.  Blair said so, too.

"Then this is good, right?"

Scribbling.  Yes.  If someone says I am good enough to go.

He looked up from the last note, and she was beaming at him.

"I see what this is all about.  You want to know if I am going to recommend outpatient treatment for you."

She shrugged, smiling adorably.

"Well, you're not wanting to 'go with the sparrows' anymore."

She wrote:  No, no.  I'm over that.  If I go with the sparrows, I leave my son and his family and the chance to know them all.  I'm especially excited about seeing the new baby.  I will cherish her, the precious little thing.  I can't wait for her to be born!

"You have not had a catatonic incident in months.  You're doing quite well.  Maybe in a few weeks, Bea.  I think it will be possible.  When Todd and Blair get back and get settled, I think it can be arranged."

I have to thank you, so much, from the bottom of my heart.  I must say thank you from the deepest place.  You have really helped me.  Todd was right about you.  You are a friend.

"Thank you, Bea.  I do wish you and Todd and the family all the best."

And I you.  I hope that things go just as we hoped.  When will they be back?

"I'm not sure, what was the last that Todd said to you?"

When he calls me, he doesn't answer my questions.  That's because he can't hear them or read them.  So he didn't know I wanted to know.

Bea laughed, and Ray did as well.  "Well, I can remedy that.  Would you like us to call him, and I can relay what you are saying?"

I would love that, could we?

"Absolutely.  I have a patient now, how about you come back in an hour and see me.  We'll call him then, all right?"

She nodded and picked up all of her basket materials.

"And Bea?"

She stopped and looked at Ray.

"I think it's a lovely gift you're making for the baby.  A very nice gesture."

She smiled, and walked out.

***

A while later, Tina, Aiden, Timothy, Todd and Blair were in The Wild Swan ordering an early dinner.  "Well, we'll be getting back to Courtown Demesne soon, eh?"  Timothy said.

"I guess we will."  Blair responded, then, "Todd, can all of us fit in the copter?"

He said, "Sure.  Why not?" and took a swig of his drink.

"What's next?  I'm ready for anything that sets my head straight."  Aiden asked the table.

Tina was quiet.  Blair noticed, but turned her attention to Todd, who began answering.  "I'll send you to Switzerland, the clinic I was in.  Brilliant people, the Swiss, at least the ones there.  I was good in no time . . ." he faltered, staring off.  

Blair touched her hand to his wrist.  "Todd?"

"Yeah, I'm here.  The clinic's great.  Just the place for you.  The bills don't matter, I've got that.  I'll bring you there."

"And I'll go with ya.  If that's all right."  Timothy said.

"I appreciate all of this, I do.  I feel humbled."  Aiden said, and then turned to Tina.  "Will ya come with me, please, My Lady?"

Tina's expression showed surprise and a hint of elation.  "I didn't think you . . . I wasn't sure . . ."

He laughed, and she smiled.  "Of course, what would I do without ya?"

Blair was smiling, and looked at Todd, who was fighting a smile himself.  She leaned over and kissed her husband's cheek.  "That's for being so generous all the time."

"Yes, Todd, same here, without the kiss, Mate," Aiden smirked, the twinkle back in his eye.  

How could I have not seen it sooner?  He's the spitting image of Timothy.  "I feel shunned, Buddy."  Todd answered.  Aiden laughed.

"In all seriousness, we'll bring him to the clinic, get him settled."  Timothy said.

"I . . . kind of already called."  Todd said.  "I've made arrangements.  It's just getting him there."

"I can go," Timothy said.  "And I think it's best I do.  He's going to need support."  He looked to Aiden,   "I'm y'ar father."

"That's true, Pappy.  But I'll need my brother along, as well."

Todd wasn't sure how to feel, but Blair felt relief.  She knew that with all he had been through, this was not the time for Todd to feel deserted by the only father he'd had who was worth the time of day.  She curbed a smile, and said, "I think that's a good idea.  I could use to rest up, be with my kids for a day or so."

Todd looked at her, and said, "Are you sure?"

"Yeah.  You're in good hands.  Tina knows how to use a pistol."

Aiden burst out laughing.  "Ya do?  Little Tina?"

"Oh, wait until she tells you the one where she fought off the big, mean, cult leader and saved our son."  Todd said.  He dug into his sandwich and let the conversation go.

As Tina told Aiden about the home invasion at La Boulaei, Blair watched how enchanted he was by her, and the twinkle in his eye brightened.  Timothy leaned over and spoke to Blair, in her ear, "I've got y'ar man, Bridgette.  He's fine with me, no worries."

Todd chewed, swallowed, and said, "I heard that.  I second it, Blair.  I'm all right, but will you be?"

"What?" she said, acting as if there would be no reason for her to be distressed.  "I'll be fine.  Sister Rebecca Katherine will see to it."

"Ay, she'll say her prayers over ya," Todd mocked.

"She likely will, and more," Timothy said.

"It's only a day.  I'll be all right.  When will you go?"

"What about tonight?  Can we make it? It's 4:00 p.m. now."  Aiden seemed anxious.

"Well, if I get the jet fueled now, we could be there by, say, 7:00?  I could fly back to Dublin by nine or ten."  Todd said, looking at Blair, and she didn't balk.  "And don't worry about clothes and things you need, I'll take care of that."  He handed Timothy a credit card, and said, "Don't let Tina get a hold of that unsupervised."

She sucked her teeth at her brother, and said, "Well, thanks, I guess."

"All settled, then," Todd said, wiping his mouth and throwing his napkin into his plate.  "Let's copter back to Courtown Demesne, drop off my beautiful wife, get on the jet, hit the Alps, get Aiden settled in his new digs, and I'll be back before you know it."

Blair surprised him.  "There's no need to take me all the way home.  Let's all go to Dublin Airport, I'll get a limo home.  No big deal, really.  It will save time," and she turned to look right into Todd's eyes, "and that will bring you home faster."

Everyone agreed to the plan, Todd paid the bill, and they headed to the copter.  Piling in, Timothy took pains to pull Todd to the side.  "Are ya sure this is what ya want to do?  Leaving Blair?"

"It's a few hours.  We were apart for eight years, Dad."

"All right.  And don't ya stop calling me Dad.  I'll be sorely hurt, My Boy."

"I won't quit that, if you don't quit me."

"I can't.  I am devoted to being y'ar father.  That stands."

"All right, then let's get going."

"All right."

They both took their seats in the copter, and as it lifted off, Blair looked across to Todd.  She said, "We're leaving Innishcreg."

"I know."

"We're together, Todd."

"I know that, too," he said, nodding slightly.  The green of the island became less vibrant as he pulled the helicopter into the sky.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 72

The afternoon sun was peeking in a side window.  Tina was on her back, and Aiden was sprawled across her, and both were in luxurious sleep.  A light knock came at the door.  Both of them stirred slightly, but never opened their eyes.

The knock was repeated.  Aiden opened his eyes, and lifted his head, then kissed Tina's hand as it landed on her own middle under him.  She woke as well.  Groggy, she said, "Someone's at the door."


He still didn't want to move.  He was half-intoxicated by the closeness they had shared not long before.  He put his head back down, and then all four of their eyes sprung open when they heard, "Aiden, me Matie, open up!"  It was Todd doing his best imitation of an Irishman.


Tina covered Aiden's mouth.  "It's my brother!" she whispered, frantically.


Aiden smirked below her hand.  He also raised an eyebrow.


Tina said, in a whisper, "Are you going to be quiet?"


He nodded.  She took her hand away.  He said, "Ya don't want y'ar brother to know that ya'r with me?"


She looked into his eyes, which were filled with self-doubt.  She whispered, "No, it's not that."


"Are ya embarrassed?"  He asked her.


The knock was louder.  "Hey, you?"


They listened closely, and could hear Blair with him.  "Maybe he's napping, Todd."


"Napping?  Hmf.  AIDEN!"  He slammed his fists on the door.  
Both Aiden and Tina jumped.

Aiden looked at Tina, and not wanting him to think she was ashamed of him, she said, "Go ahead."


He got up, opened the door, and blocked the view into the room with his body.  "Hi, Todd.  What's the matter, Pal?"


"Nothing, Blair and I have something to tell you.  It's important."


"I was sleeping, Mate.  I need me beauty rest," he said, trying to shut the door with a large smile.


"Hey, it's important, Aiden, what's up with you?"  Todd said.


"I, uh . . ."


"Come on, let us in, it's like major, life changing stuff," Todd said, gently pushing the door.  To his surprise, the bed was unmade, but empty.  It appeared Blair was right.  "Oh, you were really sleeping?"


"I was."


Todd walked in anyway, followed by Blair, and she looked at Tina's shoes along side the bed, and pointed, "Uh, Todd?"  She raised an eyebrow.


"Aww, Geez," he seemed disgusted.  Then looked at Aiden, questioningly.


"Aiden, Todd means . . ."  Blair began.


"I'm just . . . never mind me, Aiden, but it's my sister."  Todd stumbled.


Aiden laughed.  "Ya may as well come out, Little Tina."


From inside the bathroom and wrapped in sheet, Tina walked into the room.  


"Nice toga," Todd said to her.


She smirked sarcastically.


"We're going now," Blair said.


"Huh?  We have to talk to Aiden, Blair!"  Todd said.


"We're going now," she repeated, and took his arm.


"What's the matter, Matie?  Something wrong?"  Aiden asked.

"Nothing's wrong, we're just going," Blair said, practically dragging Todd out of the room.

Tina sat on the bed.  "Wait, guys, I'll go," she started to put her shoes on.  She kept the sheet as a gown around her.

"You wouldn't have to leave, Tina." Blair said, "If Aiden wanted us to stay, and talk now, you would stay, too."

Todd's eyes shifted to the side.  Blair said, "Wouldn't she, Todd?" and widened her eyes.

He folded his arms, and stayed silent.  Then, catching Blair's look, he said, "Yeah, well, whatever Aiden wants."  Todd gave in.

"It's settled.  What is it?  What have ya got to tell me?"  Aiden said, sitting beside Tina and taking her hand.


Tina said, "I'll be right back, Aiden, I'm going to get dressed."  She got up, keeping her sheet gown, and went into the bathroom.

Todd seemed slightly disgusted, but it was exactly how Blair expected him to act since they walked in the door.  Blair said, "Todd?" and her eyes were as if warning.

"Well, we, uh, found something out that you might want to know."  He sat in the side chair.

Blair stood watching him with her arms folded over her chest, and they were resting on her baby bump.  "Go on," she said.

Aiden interrupted.  "All right, what is this about?  Ya went to see Aman and Lily, didn't ya?  Are they all right, Mates?"

"Oh, they're fine, don't worry," Blair said.

"Tell me, then," Aiden said, and he looked wide-eyed and innocent.

Todd didn't know where to start.  His impulse was to blurt out the truth to him, and just say the words that he was Timothy's son.  He looked at Blair, and then stood up, "Sit here, Babe," he said, and walked toward her.  

She was still looking at him, admonishingly.  She sat down, and said, "Aiden, what did you learn when you were at Aman and Lily's?"

He recited back what he had found out from talking to the only parents he had known.  When he was finished, Blair said, "Well, when Todd heard that story, he put some facts together.  It's something extremely good, but also very sad.  Hard to explain.  But I will say this; you'll be fortunate to be part of it once you know."

Tina came back into the main room, and sat beside Aiden again.  Blair noticed that he fumbled for her hand.  "I am confused, Dear Girl, I wonder what y'ar trying to tell me."

"I am trying to tell you that, well, we know who your father is.  Your biological father," she said.

Aiden's expression changed, and Blair knew she saw a hint of moisture in his eyes, as well as a prevailing hope.  "Ya do?"

"Yeah.  It was easy for me to figure out, once I heard Aman talking.  It was too big of a coincidence to be anything else."  Todd chimed in.

A knock on the door was heard.  Everyone sat in silence for a moment, and Tina stood.  "I'll get it, I guess."  She went to the door, and Todd, Blair and Aiden waited to see who was there.

Todd shook his head in amazement, and Blair, covered her mouth.  There at the door was Timothy Broderick.

***

"I know y'ar worried, but ya shouldn't be.  Timothy is a grown fellow, who takes care of himself, and has had to for many years," the nun said to Dorian. 

"I suppose," she answered.

"He's off chasing something, a dream, perhaps.  He hasn't had a chance to let us know yet, but I am sure it's a big one, it is."

"I'm just concerned, you know, he seemed so driven when he left here."

"He did.  But ya have to have faith that he's doing what needs to be done."

"I just wish he'd call, that's all," Dorian said.

The nun walked into Dorian's little kitchenette.  "I'll make us tea."

"All right, thank you," she answered, and found herself on the couch.  "Are the kids all right?"

"With Lieutenant Shaun?  They'll be fine," she laughed.

"That's true.  Let's just hope Little Ray doesn't run off and hide again, the dickens.  He's getting to be quite a handful."  

"And then some.  A little dickens indeed!"

Within a few minutes, the teapot whistled.  "Ah, tea, something that fixes what ails ya."  She poured, and brought it to the coffee table.  She noticed Dorian's face.  "Me thinks ya love my brother, Dorian."

"I just might, Rebecca."

"No one calls me that, and it's surprising to hear.  Not bad, mind ya, just different.  I am not used to just hearing my name."

"What made you go into the convent?"

"A very long story for another day, Dear."

"Think he'll call us," she said, sipping.

"I have no doubt."

They sat in silence.

***

"Ah, y'ar all here."  Timothy said, entering the room.

"Hey, Old Man, how did you get out here?"  Todd asked.

"I have my resources, just as you do, Son."  Timothy said to Todd.

Blair was on her feet and hugging him within minutes.  "Dad, glad you came."

"Yes, I felt it was important for me to come and tell Aiden something.  Something I discovered.  Of course, I am glad that the two of ya are here, and you, Tina."

Aiden looked up, and at that moment, his face illustrated a dawning.  He slowly went to his feet, and stood eye to eye with the older man.  The room was very quiet before he finally spoke, "Timothy . . . y'ar my father, aren't ya?"

The reactions in the room were silent but powerful.

"Yes, Aiden, I believe I am.  I've been given information from the RA21, put together bits and pieces.  Y'ar eyes.  They . . . let's just say I recognized ya, early on, but couldn't fathom it."

Blair's hand went back to her mouth, and she was crying.  Todd went beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, pulling her against his side.  Tina sat, still on the bed, her eyes fixed on Timothy and Aiden's exchange.  Todd heard a small sigh escape from her.

Aiden said, "How, then?  What's the rest of it?  My mother was killed, that was . . . that was . . ."

"That was my wife, her name was Erin.  Erin McCarthy Broderick."

Tears began to stream down Aiden's face.  Todd averted his eyes, and swallowed.  Blair rested her head on his shoulder.

"Were ya there?"  Aiden asked.

"I was.  I was meeting ya, both of ya, for lunch at Leo Burdock's . . ."

"The fish and chips fare."  Aiden's eyes became distant a moment, and then he looked back at Timothy.  "I . . . know where that is."

"I was waiting, for ya and y'ar mother to come and meet me for lunch.  Ya came across the street, both of ya.  She had y'ar hand.  She . . . was shot first."  Timothy's voice wilted, and crackled in his throat.  

Todd stepped forward, and put a hand on his shoulder.  "I can do this, if you want."

The old man touched Todd's hand, and patted it.  "No, Son, let me tell the rest to y'ar brother."


At this, Todd was overcome and went back toward Blair, who reached up and just put her arms around him.

"She was shot first, she pulled ya to her, to cover ya.  I see it plain as day.  But don't try and remember it, just believe.  It's painful enough for me, and I don't have the injury ya do."

Aiden's throat worked, and the tears continued to streak down his cheeks.  He reached his hand back behind him, and Tina, seeing it, took it.  Through her tears, she held it, and covered it with her other hand.

"After this, I was dragged off screaming.  Ya and y'ar Mam, ya were dead.  I was carried off, out of my mind.  But ya didn't die, Son.  Ya made it.  The Men of 21 got ya, but ya made it."  Aiden didn't speak, he just listened, and then nodded for Timothy to continue.  "The RA21 got ya back.  A man named Owen Leary relayed everything to me.  The Men of 21 had ya for a while.  Did some damage to y'ar mind.  But it's nothing that can't be fixed."

Todd, still in Blair embrace, whispered to her, "Brainwashing."  She tried to push the thought of the little boy, not quite Sam's age, having his mind played with by sick sadists.

Timothy said, "There's a bit more to that, but right now, I feel that what's important is . . ."

"That y'ar my father.  My Pappy.  And I'm not an orphan, anymore."  Aiden's voice was husky, and soft. 


"Yes, I'm y'ar Pappy.  And Todd is y'ar brother, for what it's worth.  And his wife and children are y'ar family, too.  And my sister, she's y'ar aunt."

Both Tina and Blair were close to sobbing, but controlled themselves as much as possible.  Todd held his own, but Blair noticed a singular tear beginning when she brought her hand up to touch his face.

Even though he was crying, Aiden smiled his large, genuine grin.  "What's my name then, please?"

"Y'ar name is Eric Broderick, Son.  Eric is eternal ruler, and Broderick is a loose translation for brother."

Aiden gulped; Timothy could see it as the younger man broke down, and Timothy put his arms around him and embraced him.  "I missed ya, Son."

At this, the soft but audible sobs of Aiden and Tina, and the sniffling of Blair could be heard in the quiet of the room.  Todd was still holding fast to his wife, his eyes closed and a few tears making their way down his face.  Blair's hand was in his hair in the back of his head, and her other was over his back, lovingly comforting him.

Aiden broke the silence, and pulled back from his father at last.  "This is a big day, and I'm glad all of ya were here for it."  

Timothy turned to Todd and Blair, and could see Blair's face, complete with tears, over Todd's shoulder.  She shook her head "no" slightly, so that Timothy would realize something was off with Todd.  In her heart, she knew the difference between the reception of Aiden by his father and the news from Aman and Lily about Todd's painful experiences in their home years back was playing on his mind and heart.

Aiden sat on the bed, and embraced Tina.  She softly said, "I'm so happy that you've found something you've wanted for so long."

Timothy walked toward Todd and Blair, and put a strong hand on Todd's shoulder.  He said, "Todd.  Son?"

Blair let go of her husband, and he turned, "Old Man," he said, running a hand through his hair, and unceremoniously wiping his eyes on his sleeve.

"Come here, Lad," Timothy said, and put his arms around Todd.  "Whatever it is ya've learned means nothing anymore.  Ya have y'ar family, Bea, who's working to get well, Blair and the children, my sister, a new brother, and me, your old Dad.  You're all right, Boy.  I'm not going leave ya," he said, patting Todd's back, strong and protectively.

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