Todd looked over at Blair, "I need your promise."
"Todd I promise I'll take care of the kids and myself. But only if you promise to stop being so uncertain of yourself. I believe in you and I think you'll find the strength to defeat Pete. You forget he's a part of you, even if he's seems to be getting stronger much of his strength started with you. You just have to find a way to get that back and you'll take away his power." said Blair. "You said it yourself, it's time you found out more about your alters. Sure, you've known them for a long time and you've accepted the reality of them, but Todd you've got to start facing what brought them out in the first place. I think you should have that talk with Vicki. She, more than anybody, could probably give you more insight." Blair got up and walked around the table. "I've got to go, think about what I just said. Call Vicki. I'm sure she can help you. With everything going on with Jessica, she could probably use a talk with her pragmatic brother." She leaned over and kissed him goodbye.
"Blair..." Said Todd trying to stop her from going.
She smiled. "I'll be back later with the boys," and she was gone.
Todd grinned and shook his head. Blair had always been unpredictable why should that change now. She was right about Vicki too. He reached for his phone and called. "Hi sis, are you doing anything right now. I need to talk to you. I know, Jess is Tess, but I need you. Come to the penthouse, I'm not at the hospital. See you."
He hung up before she could object. He knew better than to give her a chance to refuse. Vicki was polite enough to come just so she could tell him off for his rudeness. He was actually looking forward to seeing her, he had missed her lectures. If he was honest with himself he had really missed her. Just what was up with Jessica. It bothered him to know that Jessica suffered from DID. He couldn't understand how it had happened. Vicki would never have hurt Jessica in any way not after what she herself went through. Clint was a stick in the mud, but he wouldn't have harmed one hair on his precious daughter's head. What could have occurred to split Jessica? Hopefully, he would get answers from Vicki.
Todd headed into the living room and over to his desk. He sat down and started calling his contacts. Once he had them on their new tasks of looking into Carlo's shadow holdings, he opened the laptop up to find out what Manning had been up to in the last couple of years. Before he could do much more than put his name into search, he felt a little hand grab his pant leg. Looking down he found that Hope had toddled over and was smiling up at him.
"Dragon play wid me." She looked up with her big eyes and her arms held up, waiting for Dragon to take her.
He couldn't resist her and he didn't want to. He shut down the laptop. Manning would wait.
He reached down and lifted Hope into his lap. "What does Princess Shorty want to do?"
"Ride pwease." said Hope.
So Todd settled her on his back and had her hold on tight around his neck then Sir Dragon took off soaring. They explored the whole kingdom. He took her from one room to another all the while describing wondrous items to her and listening to her giggle in his ear. Then he swooped up the stairs, that proved a little harder than he had anticipated. He was suddenly very out of breath when he reached the top so rather than scare Hope he headed for his bedroom and belly flopped on the bed in overt exhaustion."Oh Princess Shorty, You wore out Sir Dragon. You climb off and let Sir Dragon rest on this cloud and I'll tell you another story." Hope climb off his back and he moved to rest against the pillows catching his breath. His rest was short-lived as Hope got impatient and started nudging him.
" No More rest. Dragon get up."
In his gruffest dragon voice Todd declared. "So you want Dragon to budge. Well, this is what dragons do when they don't get enough rest," he grabbed his granddaughter and started tickling her. She squealed in delight and tried to tickle him back without too much success because she really didn't know how to tickle. Then he started bouncing her on the bed and she was loving the feeling. Laughing and giggling they made a proper mess of the bed. That was how Vicki and Starr found them. Todd looked at them and smiled, as he collapsed against the pillows. "Princess Shorty look Mommy's here and Great Aunty Vicki. Playtime is over." Starr reached for Hope plucking her off the bed. "Come on Hope let's go and find a snack."
Before Todd could roll off the bed Vicki spoke up. "Todd take a few moments. I can see you're having trouble breathing. I'm fine there's no hurry. You got me here. We'll talk." and she sat on the side of the bed
He hated to admit she was right, but he didn't protest. He just laid there until the heart stopped fluttering, and the breaths came easier. He could just imagine what the heart monitor was picking up. He looked at his sister and said, "Thank you for coming. As soon as I catch my breath we can take this downstairs."
"I was surprised to hear the hospital had released you. You really have to be careful. You almost died Todd. I know you well enough to know that you don't think you can die. But I assure you that you can." Vicki knew she was talking to a brick wall when it came to his taking risks, but she felt she still had to try.
He was breathing easier and rolled off the bed. He offered his sister a hand and helped her off the bed. Then he guided her out and headed back downstairs. " I know Sis. That's why I called you," he smiled to himself. She hadn't expected him to agree with her. He had her off balance, wait till she heard the rest. When they got to the bottom of the stairs he steered her towards the studio. "Before we continue our conversation, I thought you might like to see Samuel's work." He showed her the portrait of Starr and of Princess Shorty. Then they made their way back to the living room and Samuel's gallery.
Vicki had seen Samuel's work in the hospital, but she was really impressed when she saw his paintings of Starr and Hope. He had managed to capture Starr's youth but also her newfound maturity, and his delightful painting of Hope was pure magic. But when Todd led her into the living room she finally saw the pictures Samuel had painted of her, Tea and Blair. She had been looking for Todd and hadn't noticed the gallery when she arrived, now she couldn't believe she had missed it. They were truly stunning. Samuel had painted them, but they were Todd's visions. Vicki remembered sitting long hours for Portraits because her father had wanted them. But none had ever looked like these, Samuel's portrait of her had been painted with love. She had known Todd loved her although he never really had said it but that he saw her so alive and vibrant touched her deeply. His pictures of Tea and Blair also were alive with emotion. She even felt a little like a voyeur looking at his picture of Blair in what was obviously a very private moment. His love for all of them brought tears to her eyes.
Todd had been watching his sister trying to get an idea how she felt about the paintings. Even though he knew Samuel had painted them, he was proud of them and wanted his sister to be proud of him. He never really gave her much to be proud of and yet she still stuck by him. He saw the tears and reached for his handkerchief and passed it to her. "I guess that means you like them?" he asked.
Vicki turned to him and said. "I love them and the person who envisioned us that way, namely you. I am very grateful you found a way to express yourself through Samuel. I only wish you could do it alone." She dried her tears and realized that Todd's handkerchief was monogrammed ST and she recalled when Walker had given her one of Todd's with TM on it, that was when she had started thinking that Walker might be Todd. She had come full circle. She was standing in her brother's home, and he was doing what Walker had done. The big difference was that this time she didn't have any questions. She knew without a doubt that the man in front of her was her brother finally come home.
"I want that, Vicki," said Todd, he walked to the portrait of her. " I want you to be proud of me, just me. I'm just not sure if I'm strong enough to face this world without them."
Vicki was stunned. Todd was actually talking to her about giving up his alters.
He continued, "I look at this painting and I see Samuel painting it one minute, then for just an instant I'm doing it. Does that make any sense?" he turns back to his sister. "I know that I shouldn't remember any of it. According to Ms. Perkins, I was in some kind of dream state for eight years. It seems as if Samuel and I are getting closer than ever. I'm beginning to remember some of Samuel's memories when I wasn't there. And last night, it was Samuel who stopped me from doing something rash, at least I think it was him. It's like he's getting under my skin and I'm getting into his psyche.... What's happening, Vicki? Am I losing him? I don't want to lose him, but I would love to be like him. I was jealous of him yesterday. All the nurses acted like they liked him and they were wishing for his speedy recovery. No one but my mom and you ever wished something like that for me."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing, from what Todd was describing it sounded like he and Samuel were merging, he was integrating with Samuel. How could she make him understand he wasn't going to lose Samuel, not really. Todd's psyche had produced Samuel in his hour of need. Todd had faced the crisis that had brought Samuel out and now that he was no longer needed he was giving himself back to Todd. "Todd it sounds like you're beginning to merge with Samuel. You've started to experience the parts of him that had been separate from you. If you don't fight it you and he will become one, I'm not sure if this is going to have much effect with your other alters, they've been around for a long time and they came out for entirely different reasons. I think the reason you're merging with Samuel is because you faced the event that split him from you in the first place. I think the other reason you're merging is because you want to be more like him you want those characteristics that make him likable and loved”
She walked over and sat on the sofa. “Todd you won't truly lose him, and I'll tell you something I've discovered about this disease, you might very well see him again. Those of us who suffer from DID never fully integrate. I thought I had and Nicki has proven me wrong several times. Jessica has also found out that no matter how integrated we feel our psyches are fragile. Unfortunately, we break easier than others. But I'm still stronger integrated than I was separate. Jessica will be too eventually. But you Todd, look how strong you are separate. Just imagine how strong you could be if you were whole."
He looked at the paintings Samuel had done out of love and turned to face his sister. "I've been trying to imagine that Vicki, but to do that means that I have to confront Pete. I have a very tenuous hold on Pete in the best of times. He's getting stronger, as I get angrier. Between trying to hold my anger in check and holding him in check, I'm exhausted. Blair and I were talking earlier about Pete. How do I merge with someone I barely like? We tolerate each other Vicki. He's everything I hate about myself but he has a purpose or he wouldn't be here. If I overcome him, will I become him? What if I can't take him? What if he succeeds in taking me? I'll have put all that I love in his path."
He walked over and sat down with her. "I'm on unstable ground here. You think I'm strong and that couldn't be farther from the truth. Right before being taken by Mitch, I met our father. Vicki, he said I was like him. The night before Mitch put me in with Victor I had a good look at my life and realized just how much I am like him. Vicki, it terrifies me! Now I have to face my own mortality. You feel stronger integrated and you believe I would be too. I'm beginning to think you might be right. I think I'm going to need to be up to full strength to take on Hesser and right now I'm fighting my own body and I'm in a power struggle with myself. I need your help and your support. Do I have it?"
Todd sat there looking expectantly at his sister. She was unusually quiet. He wasn't sure if her silence was a good or bad thing. "Uh Vicki, If you don't want to help, I understand. I don't deserve your help after everything I've done to you. You were so supportive of me all those years ago and then you felt I trashed our relationship for my freedom. You had every right to feel that way. I did use you. I can't take back the hurt. I know you're very worried about Jessica and I'm asking you to spread yourself even thinner to worry about me too. So I don't want you to worry. Just forget I asked, I don't think I'm capable of facing my alters right now anyway. If you're right and Samuel and I are merging then OK that's meant to be. Maybe I'll try my hand at drawing and see if I can produce some art like Samuel. In the meantime, I'll be good and let my body recover. I can only handle one battle at a time. I'll just have to prioritize the battles; first, the Body, then the Mind, and then Hesser. If I do this right, I'll live and be Todd Manning again. If I don't, I probably won't know it because I'll no longer be me. If that happens write me off and keep your distance I wouldn't want to hurt you like our father did."
"Thomas Todd Rodd Pete Samuel Ms. Perkins Manning enough! I've heard all the self-pity I'm going to listen to. No son of Victor Lord is going to give into it while I'm around. He was the most despicable man I knew for his actions against you and me. But he had steel for a backbone and so do we. I've never backed down from a fight and the Todd Manning I know would scratch and claw his way through the masses to get what he thought was coming to him. If you are really Todd Manning then you have every right to demand back what has been taken from you. So you're a little worse for wear, you're not going to let it keep you down. If you need my help to cope with your alters or support you in your fight against them, count me in. We, Lords, stick together. There aren't many of us left. " said Vicki.
Todd smiled, " Anything you say, Nicki. Anything you say." He held up his hands in surrender. He hadn't seen Vicki this feisty since she talked to him at Llanfair years ago. Vicki's alters had been just as diverse as his, and Nicki had been the most outspoken. Nicki had been the most irreverent of her old man and had shocked Todd quite a number of times by her forthright attitude. Vicki had surprised him a lot that year following her integration. She was still his "sainted " sister, but her wings had definitely been ruffled by the changes to her personality. Once again her halo slipped a little as she gave him some of the hard truths.
Vicki blushed as she realized she had just slipped and let Nicki come out. But she had had enough of his gloom and doom talk. What he really needed was a swift kick in the pants. " I meant it, Todd, if and when you're fully ready to face your alters I'll be here for you. If you want my two cents worth. I think you should try, but I will understand if in the end if you can't."
Todd once again smiled and took her hand in his and kissed it. Surprisingly it didn't feel awkward, instead Todd realized it was something very natural for Samuel who had spent his last eight years living the life of a Frenchman in Paris. "Thank you. Now enough about me, fill me in on my favorite niece. When did Jessica's first alter appear?"
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