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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 43

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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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 23

"Lieutenant?  Another demand from Laurence."  Brody dropped a note on John's desk.

McBain wasn't in any hurry to read it, but since Brody stood there, waiting, he took it and opened it.  

You owe me.  A promise is a promise.  I lead you to that hell hole, and you promised to bring her to me.  Not one to threaten, of course, but isn't it best that you keep to your promises, Detective?

"Who brought this trash?"  John said, tossing it down among other papers on his desk.

"Came from the prison.  Bo said to make sure you saw it.  He's on his way to your office."

John sat back in his chair and pursed his lips.  "I suppose he's going to want to know what I promised, and when?"

"If I know Bo, I'd say yes."

"Thanks Brody," John said, running a hand through his hair.

Brody's footsteps barely disappeared when he heard another set approaching his closed door.  A light knock he recognized, and he said, "Come in."

Bo pushed the door open, and didn't say anything.  Instead, he approached John's desk and stood at the edge of it.  "You have something to tell me, John?"


"Ah, Todd, so good to see ya," Timothy said, patting his son's back.  He let go of him and went toward Blair.  "Bridgette.  My girl."  He embraced her as well.

Todd said, "You like your digs?"

"Very expensive and very charming, yes.  Thank ya."

"You're welcome.  Here's the trunk, I'm going to set it down here, and move it into your car later, okay?"

"Fine.  Did ya look in it?"

"No.  Not yet.  Dad, we're going to our room, for a while, okay?"  Todd said.

Timothy looked at Blair, and her eyes gave away what kind of day they'd already had.  "Of course.  Can we meet up for a meal later?  I'd like to talk to Bridgette about one small, dark-haired lady."

Todd looked at Blair.  "Yeah, sure.  Keep her for a bit now, if you want, but don't get too attached."

She smiled, "I was hoping you'd say that.  I'd love to talk with Dad a while,"  Blair said, "it's about time we discussed Dorian."

Todd said, "Well, have at it, then.  Is that the right expression, Dad?"

"Yes, that's the one, Lad.  What time do we have dinner together?"

"We'll be right in this building, so give me a call or something."  He went to Blair and kissed her.  "Just tired.  Don't be too long, Babe."

"All right," she said, plopping herself gracefully on the sofa and taking a strand of hair in her fingers, she absentmindedly twisted it.

Todd left, leaving Blair and Timothy in silence for a moment.  After he was gone, her body almost crumpled, and she put her face into her hand with despair.  Timothy almost jumped out of his chair to go to her.  "My God, Dear Bridgette, what's the trouble?"


"I suppose," John said.  "I've still not gotten used to immediately reporting things to you, since you leave me on my own a lot.  I've appreciated that trust, and I hope you don't think I was hiding it."

"No, not necessarily.  Now, what is it?"

"I made a deal with Laurence.  Almost a year ago now."

"I guess it won't surprise you, John, that I'm here asking why you would do that and what the outcome was?"

"It won't surprise me, no."


"Back when Todd and Blair's son was kidnapped, I visited Laurence for information.  We thought Peter may have been held up at the old Messenger Compound.  He made me promise I'd bring Todd's mother to see him."

"Todd's mother?  Why would he care about that?  Clearly he wanted to hurt her, or hurt Manning by hurting her?"

"No, nothing like that.  Seems they were in love.  When Todd was a child."

"This gets stranger all the time, John."

"Yeah, well, it gets more strange.  He made me promise, and I did.  He gave me Manning's house.  Torture chamber, not home.  Not something I'll soon forget."

Bo placed his hands on his hips so that his elbows pushed his jacket back.  "Is that where Manning grew up?"

"Yes, that's where."  John said, "We were able to get Peter there.  But of course, you know that Barbara Manning had already shot him dead."

"I'm familiar with that part, just not the part you left out, about how you offered a deal, to a known maniac, about bringing an innocent woman to see him, in prison.  And now, if he does not get his way, he could be a liability for the system, for us.  What if he causes harm to others, John?  In the name of this 'agreement?'"

John didn't respond.  Instead, he fingered the note, and then handed it to Bo.

Bo said, "I see.  We don't go around offering deals we don't intend to keep to psychopaths.  He just escaped, took the Mannings hostage, killed Terra Winfield, and the list goes on.  Now, he feels you owe him.  And you're not concerned that you may have brought his psycho wrath down on your family or yourself?"

John lost his cool, and raised his voice, matching Bo's, "To be honest, at the time, I was just thinking about Starr Manning, lying in a hospital bed, almost beaten to death, Sam Manning, traumatized, and Raymond Manning, missing.  Missing and off with a man known to be a child rapist.  And Blair out there, following the trail to get her baby back, with hothead Manning in tow.  The baby that was taken from their own yard after his dog was killed by his neck being broken with Peter's bare hands."

Bo paced.  "I understand all that.  I do.  But you'd either make good on it, or find yourself a magic way to prevent Mitch Laurence from wanting revenge if he does not get his way. And what about all the other inmates who might not trust us to follow through, now, if they hear about this?  When we need info, and make deals with them?  This is not going to encourage them to trust us, and that could hinder investigations."

John said, "So, you want me to bring that fragile woman, out of Mountainview, and into a visiting room with Laurence?"

"I don't know what I want you to do, John.  I wish you'd thought about that before we got into this.  I understand your personal feelings for Blair and for the Manning situation, but personal matters are not supposed to supersede police business.  I just hope you figure this out, and handle it," Bo said, softening his voice, "before anything detrimental happens."  Bo walked to the door and placed his hand on the knob.  "If you need my help or support, just ask," he said, leaving.

John sat back down at his desk, and roughly pushed some papers aside.  Flipping through the Rolodex on his desk, and grabbing the phone, he dialed and waited.  "Dr. Ray Martino, please."


"Tell me, if ya can," Timothy said, handing her a tissue.

"He . . . something happened.  We were at Ribsky's office.  Just talking.  The next thing I knew, he was grilling the guy about the Chicago Police.  Something about pushing everything he'd been through under the rug.  He accused the man, basically, without saying so directly.  He never told me this was on his mind.  He never did.  It's like . . . he's bent on some kind of revenge, and on top of it, he never told me.  It's like he's looking for someone to blame.  He's . . . not okay."

Timothy was concerned.  But for Blair's sake, he said, "It might not be that.  Maybe he just . . . being here might make him feel out of control."

"No.  It was like he planned it.  I think he's planning on getting revenge on someone.  And there's no one," she cried.  "Ribsky's not guilty, and for God's sake, the person to blame is dead."

"All right, Bridgette, now," he said, putting an arm around her.  She rested her head on her father-in-law's shoulder.  "What did Ribsky say to this?"

"He assured Todd he wasn't even working anywhere near this area when Todd was a child.  He wasn't involved in the case when Todd was fourteen."

"Hmf.  The attempted murder of Peter Manning, eh?"


"Blair, what happened that night?"

"I don't know ever detail.  We used to believe it was the first time Peter tried to assault Todd sexually.  But later, it was more like he couldn't take anymore of what he had been dealing with for years.  It wasn't the first time, but I think it was the last.  Involved a girl, Michelle, I think.  He didn't remember any of it, or what came before, for years."

"Buried deep."

"Yes," she whispered, crying.

"Then, there's more, likely."

She looked at him, shocked.  "What do you mean?"

"Perhaps he's just dealing with memories, some he didn't know before.  Just like when he was fourteen?"

"I don't know."

"Well, ya have to consider it."  She thought about it, and didn't want to humor it, because she didn't want it to be true.  He interrupted her thoughts.  "As I have to consider the possibility of forgiving y'ar aunt."

She looked up, "Really?"

"Yes.  I've thought about it.  Todd made me think of it a little bit differently of late."

"I just want to say that Dorian, though she's pesky sometimes, really means well.  She's a staunch protector of me, and she's seen me going through so much.  She thinks she's doing what's best.  Of course, she's wrong, but she's always been wrong about Todd."

"I realize.  It's just hard, to forgive her for those scenes in front of Jack when Little Ray went missing.  The things she said about Todd, when ya both were facing so much."

"He's forgiven her," she said standing, "and maybe you should, too."  She went to the door.  "Dorian doesn't mean to hurt anyone.  She always thinks she's doing the best for her family.  I'm going to Todd, now, all right?  Thanks for helping me pull it together."

"Sure.  I'll see ya for dinner," he said.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 42

Blair rolled over out of his arms, still asleep. He lay next to her watching her breathe. His thoughts were all over the place this morning. So much took place yesterday he felt like he had been through the wringer. He had asked a lot of his body. It was just yesterday that he had taken his first steps out of bed since the heart attacks. Now that seemed like a million years ago. All the revelations from Starr had stirred up feelings he had hoped were long dead but now he knew they were very much alive. His hate list came to mind and two new people had taken the top. Cole and Manning, with the top spot going to Manning. There was no way he could allow him to live after what he did to Blair. Todd carefully moved some strands of hair off her face. She had appeared last night when he had been so close to snapping, it was because of her that he was there.  Todd could feel Pete lurking, just waiting for the opportunity to come out. If Samuel hadn't stopped him from hurting Starr, he would have let his rage take over and Pete would have followed.

Sometime in the night he and Blair had moved to the bedroom. She was so beautiful lying among his sheets. She was where she belonged, but he had to figure out how to get her to settle with him permanently and they couldn't do that until he was able to show Llanview he was back. Todd wasn't sure what his next step was going to be. He was barely keeping the anger at bay. He turned away from Blair and was starting to get up when she caught his wrist.

Just where do you think you're going." Blair said smiling up at him.

He looked at her and said "I've got things to do Blair " he tried to shake loose, but Blair refused to let go.

"Todd stay, whatever it is it can wait.. " She wrapped the sheet around her and sat up. She looked serious. "Todd we need to talk about last night."

"I didn't hurt her. I swear Blair" Todd tried once again to free his wrist.

"You didn't hurt who, Todd?" asked Blair.

"Starr. I didn't hurt Starr, You've got to believe me. I was just so angry when she told me. I got a little crazy.  I mean, that's why you came last night, she told you. Right?" He had turned to her and was begging her to understand.

Blair let go of his wrist and grabbed his hands and said. "Starr called me but not because you did anything. She called because she had done something and she needed my help to correct her mistake. I'm here because you didn't hear the whole story and you need to. First and foremost you need to understand one important fact. Todd, listen to me. I was never raped. Walker did not rape me." Blair watched his face waiting to see if the words registered.

“But Starr said he went to jail for raping you. If he went to jail that meant he was guilty. Now you're telling me you weren't raped. Why are you lying to me? You're just telling me that so I won't try and kill him. You still care for him, after what he did to you!" Todd tried to free his hands all he wanted to do was get away from her at that moment.

Blair clung to his hands, if he got free she'd never be able to get him to hear the rest of the story. "Todd please, you have to hear me out. I don't still care for him. I love you. You have to hear all the story. Please, for the love you told me you had for me, don't pull away." Todd had broken free and moved away from the bed. Blair followed and wrapped her arms around him praying she could get through to him. "Oh God. Please listen. Walker went to prison yes, but I was wrong, he didn't do it. Todd, I had a brain tumor. It affected how I saw things, I misinterpreted the events of that night and in my mind I saw him rape me. Do you understand?   I was sick and I saw it wrong. Todd, I'm not lying. I swear it. you've got to believe me!"

Blair clung to him hoping he was still listening. "I wanted to be the one who told you of that night because I knew how you would take it. But I didn't want to protect him, I wanted to protect you." She was crying, holding on to her last chance at happiness with him. He was so rigid and she feared she had lost him. Once again he had blocked her out and put the wall around his heart.  Then she felt him take her hands and remove himself from her embrace. She turned away sobbing uncontrollably. Just that quickly it was over. She started to go back to the bed to find her clothes but collapsed at the edge burying her face in the sheets.

When he had moved away from the bed all the anger from years back had surged to the front. He was barely containing it when Blair had moved to embrace him. He remembered how she had pleaded with him after he thought she slept with Max. She had insisted it hadn't happened and he had hardened his heart to her pleas only to find out she had been telling the truth. As he stood there he realized she was more vulnerable than ever before. She was pressed against him with nothing between them, their bodies touching one another.   It was hard to hear her because of the feelings running through him, but then he heard two things. She had had a brain tumor and she came last night to protect him. Todd realized he was going to lose her again and he couldn't let it happen. With the realization came a sense of peace and the anger melted away. He had broken her embrace and stepped away to get himself under control. He turned back to her and saw that she had misinterpreted his actions. Todd wasted no more time. She was the most important person in his life and he had to let her know that. He went to the edge of the bed, reached down and drew her into his arms. With his lips he gently kissed away her tears and then found her beautiful lips, she was his once and for all and the rest of the world be damned.

Blair couldn't believe it when he came to her. She had been convinced he wanted no more to do with her. She couldn't have been more wrong. She was still crying, but they were tears of joy as she returned kiss for kiss, needing him so bad and realizing that he believed her. He had dropped his wall and was letting her in. "Oh God Todd the things you make me feel, my heart is beating so fast it wants to take off and fly. Don't ever stop loving me, you're my drug of choice and I don't want this to end," he covered her mouth with his, then rained his kisses down her throat and over her breasts taking the moment to enjoy each before moving back to her mouth. She quivered with delight then showered him with her own kisses. Lightly flirting with his scars before meeting his mouth again. While she had captured his lips, his hands were exploring all her intimate places and making her insides melt. God what he was doing to her was carrying her to the stars until she screamed in pleasure. They joined as only two people in love could truly join together riding above the clouds in their own universe. Finally sated they came back down to earth content in merely holding one another.

As she lay there he raised his head above hers and looked down into her eyes, then he smiled and said. "Thank you for coming to protect me." and gave her the gentlest kiss imaginable.

Todd had never been happier when he had chosen to believe her and give himself to her he had felt another band release inside. It was getting easier and easier to open up. There might really be an end to his cursed life after all. All he had to do was find a way to conquer his anger. He gave her one more kiss then released her. He rolled off the bed before she enticed him into another round on the bed. There were things he had to do to prepare for his coming out. It was time he met his son again. "Blair I've put it off long enough. I need to see Jack. Can you bring him by this afternoon after school." he asked.

Blair looked up alarmed. "Todd I don't think this is the time yet. Please don't be angry but Jack doesn't know you. You can't just set him down in front of you and say 'Hi, I'm your dad.  He'd think you were nuts. The only dad Jack has known is Walker and they have a pretty strong bond. If you force the issue right now, you could lose him forever. I know you want to connect with him, but I know from experience that if pushed, Jack might choose to cut all ties with you and give his loyalty to Walker, the man who raised him. You'll have to trust me on this. Can you do that?"

"I've missed so much of his life. He's my son and he doesn't even know me. Oh, he knows about me because he thinks Manning is me, but I think Manning and I are different. I want him to know the real me, is that so wrong?" Asked Todd.

Blair thought of something just then. "That's it, Todd, you need time to get to know each other. I'll bring him here, he should meet Samuel and get to know his distant cousin. Maybe it's time for him to have another man in his life. Walker's been pretty busy with his new wife that he hasn't been around as much as he used to. Samuel doesn't have to be out. We'll just introduce you as Samuel that's all. Since Starr is living here, he'll have an excuse to come over occasionally. Get to know your son without having him be forced to choose right now. When the time is right, we'll introduce you properly. Will that work for you?"

Todd looked at Blair and knew she was right. For the time being, he would have to be a distant cousin. With luck, he and Jack could become friends. "Alright, we'll try it your way. For now I'll be Samuel with Jack but Starr will have to agree that when Jack is around she calls me Samuel or it will be over before we even get started." Todd finished getting dressed and waited for Blair to join him then they went downstairs to see what was available for breakfast.

Starr was entering the living room with Hope when they came down the stairs. She had left her dad with her mom the night before, knowing that he had needed Blair more than anything else. She looked at her dad and he seemed pretty relaxed. She breathed a little easier. It appeared as if her mom had managed to erase the damage she had caused with her statement.
"Well, I guess you decided to get up before the morning was over. Are you feeling alright Dad? I was pretty worried about you last night. I never meant for you to get upset. Mom told you about my mistake right. Back then things were pretty dramatic especially when they discovered Mom's tumor.  You did tell him about the Tumor, didn't you Mom, I certainly hope I didn't stick my foot in my mouth a second time." she said looking at them both.

"Relax Starr, I told him about the tumor. I just didn't get a chance to tell him the rest of the story." Blair turned to Todd and realized he had forgotten about the tumor. From his face she knew he was suddenly worried for her. "I had an operation and they removed the tumor. I've had no recurrence, Todd, I'm fine." She looped her arm in his and said. "Come on, I'm starving. Let's find some breakfast."

Blair and Todd ate and talked quietly about the previous evening as Blair filled in the remaining gaps about the rape trial and how it all ended up. Todd took it all in stride now that he and Blair seemed to have come to an understanding. In his own mind, he put an asterisk beside Manning's name on his list. As far as he was concerned, Manning still had to answer for pushing Starr down the stairs. They made plans for Blair to bring Jack and Sam over to see their sister's new digs and to meet their cousin Samuel Toddman. Todd figured he would wait and see how he felt, before deciding if he was going to play Samuel or actually let Samuel out to meet Jack. For his own part, he was curious to meet Manning's son, Sam. How was the little guy different from his own kids? This was such a strange set of circumstances. The kids had all believed they were related through their father Manning, but that wasn't the case. Todd was father to Starr and Jack, and Manning was father to Sam. After all these years, they weren't related at all.

As he sat and thought about it, he wondered if maybe he shouldn't forget it all. He was going to tear those kids apart and he had no wish to hurt innocent kids. Maybe Blair and Starr had been right, if he just remained a distant cousin, no one would get hurt. He could have Blair, Starr, and Hope and with Samuel's help he could make a good living. Ha! It was a beautiful fairy tale, but it wouldn't work, he and Manning couldn't live in the same town together. He knew the truth and so did other people, he wasn't going to live a lie. He had been doing that most of his life and it was finally taking its toll on his heart and his mind. Piece by piece Peter Manning had stolen his life from him and all he had to show for it was a body full of scars and personalities.

Every one of his personalities was an individual with likes and loves, but he felt closest to the personality that had just surfaced. He was comfortable with Samuel. Tom was his younger brother so to speak and as Todd had grown older, he had protected Tom more than Tom protected him. Todd had also outgrown Rodd. Rodd had showed Todd ways to please the ladies, but Rodd couldn't help Todd get over his fear of commitment. Todd had to stumble through his relationships on his own. Todd felt like he finally made a breakthrough in that department this morning when he got past the fear that all women were liars and had decided to trust his heart to Blair. Then of course there was Pete. Todd had always tried to keep his rage at bay, but Pete gloried in it. Pete protected him from a secret he didn't want to face, but Pete also held it over his head like an ax. Pete relished the idea of getting even and last night had been no exception. Pete had been right there ready and waiting to take over and he had almost succeeded until Samuel had intervened. Samuel's composure and his insight into Todd's feelings for his daughter had kept Todd from making the biggest mistake of his life. Samuel really did know more about Todd's true self than he did. Starr had said it.  Samuel was the one who had kept the 'real' Todd alive and that's why he was now sitting with the woman he loved. He looked across the table and realized Blair was watching him.

She smiled and said. "You've been a million miles away. Are you alright?"

He nodded but then smiled ruefully. " I was thinking about the kids and the turmoil that is going to take place when the truth come out that I'm the 'real' Todd Manning and Manning is an impostor. I've also been thinking about my alters. It's funny, but they've been coming to mind more and more. Lately, I've been feeling the strain of hiding them. The other day Pete almost hurt you and it was all I could do to take back over. I fear I'm losing my control over them and I can't let that happen. I think I need to have a long chat with my sister. I don't want to lose you or my sanity, but I'm beginning to doubt if I can beat Pete. There's a place in me that's wrong and it is hiding something. Pete is tapping into that and it's making him stronger. I need a promise from you. If Pete succeeds in taking over, you have to promise to take the kids and get as far away from him as you can. He'll hurt you and I wouldn't be able to live if that happened."

He was dead serious and Blair felt that chill again. There had to be a way to make Pete harmless. She would not leave Todd without a fight even if that meant taking on Pete once and for all.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Thank you, readers!!! 225K!!!!!

Sometime soon, we will be hitting our 225K reader mark!

Thanks to everyone who reads and forwards our writers' work here at TRTM Fanfic Hub.  We appreciate your reading our work!

Soon, we will be opening a new chapter with an excellent offering by Karena, "Memories Unlocked."

Additional to this, we have two new possible writers coming to the hub.

More news later and thank you again for your support of our authors.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 22

"We're here," he said, looking out into the airport parking area through a wall of tall windows.

She was next to him, their hands clasped at their sides.  She said, "We are."  She couldn't help but look at him, as his hazel eyes transfixed themselves on the view outside the window.  

He swallowed; she saw it.  He said, "I hate this place."

"I know," she said, moving her other hand to touch his arm right above where he held her hand, tightly.  "We can go home."

"I  . . . know, I know we can.  I just . . . Pamela wants to talk to me.  I said I would."

She nodded, and turned away from him, also looking at the view.  "You don't owe her anything, Todd.  You're not Peter."

He didn't answer.  Instead, he turned to her, "Let's figure out where we get our car."  He glanced around him, "I think it's outside the third set of doors over there."

"Okay."  She stared straight ahead as he did.  She waited.

He took in a large breath and said, "How could I not remember all of it."

She kept looking ahead, and said, "Who'd want to?  It was like anything else.  Survival."  She could feel him turn toward her, sharply, and she looked at his face.  She said, "You were surviving.  You remembered when you were ready.  That's what people do."  She paused.  "And you know that."

He shrugged, and a weak, boyish smile formed on his face.  "You're so pretty."

She knew where his heart was, regardless of his compliment of distraction.  She said, "It's all right, Todd.  I'm right here.  And I'm not going anywhere.  And," she said, flipping her hair a little, "thanks."

He nodded slightly, and put his second hand out to her.  "Should we go get that limousine?  I forgot to mention it's a pink Hummer.  That's all they had left."

She laughed, holding both his hands, and then pulling them to wrap his arms around her in the middle of the airport waiting area.  He obliged her, awkwardly, and looked into her eyes, aware of the tens of people around them.  She said, "Pink it is.  Everything is okay with me, Mr. Manning, if it's with you."

Never one to be often publicly affectionate, he leaned in, gently, and took her top lip in his, kissing her softly.

She, in her surprise, said, "What was that for?"

"Just because you're pretty," he said.  They both turned to go toward the doors, "and you're mine.  Thanks for reminding me of both of those things.  Every day.  Makes it all easier."


"You're a real cowboy?"  Sam asked with fascination.

"I suppose, maybe I am," Cord said.

"Where's your hat?"

"They don't wear those, Squirt, unless they're out in the sun or something,"  Jack said, looking up momentarily from his textfest with Jenna.

"Jack's right, most of the time.  My grandfather used to wear his around, though.  He'd spend a lot of money on just one hat."  Cord said, catching Tina's eye out of the corner of his.

Sam crinkled up his face, in disbelief.  "Like how much?"

"Like once, he spent over five hundred dollars on one."

"Wow!  That's a lot for a hat.  Did he have a lot of money, like my Dad?"

"Yeah, I suppose he did."

"Where is he?"


"Your grandfather?"

"He passed on, Sam."

Sam looked down to his hands.  He said, "Mine, too.  Well, kind of."

"Runty, come on, don't start that,"  Jack said.

"Wait, Jack," Cord said, "Sam, what did you mean?"

"I don't know who my biological grandfather is.  But, Dad's father he had growing up, he died.  Grandma Bitsy shot him to save Mom, Dad and Ray."

Raymond Thomas Manning looked up from his cars, as if recognizing what was said, but said nothing.  He just looked at them all, with a curious innocent expression, and Jack said, "Come here, Ray, let's go outside and play for a while." The teen picked Ray up under the arms, and took him onto the veranda in the back of Llanfair.

"Really, she did?"  Cord asked, realizing the child needed to talk.

Sam nodded.  "Mom and Dad don't really like when I talk about it.  Anyway, Peter, that's the guy, he's not really my grandfather, but he is dead, like yours.  My other grandfather, Grandpa Timothy, he's really nice.  He adopted Dad and us.  I was adopted too, and so was  Dad, and Mom doesn't know who her Dad really is.  But my Dad said Peter's not our family and I don't have to worry about being like him."

Cord looked at Tina, who was watching with a concerned expression.  Everything about Sam brought out the pity in anyone listening, as well as seeing his reactions to his own words.  

"I'd say your Dad is a really wise man," Cord said.  "Even if he was your family, you still wouldn't have to worry about being like him."

"Why not?"

"Just because it doesn't work that way.  You're your own man.  Look at your father now.  He's nothing like Peter, is he?"

"No.  He's not."

"See?  People make their own choices."

"But I want to be like my Dad.  He's my hero, for real."

Cord nodded.  "That's good."

"Mom said that the good thing about Dad is that even though he made bad mistakes, he is sorry, he paid for them and made up for them, lots of times over."

Cord swallowed.  He could hear Blair saying those very words.  The thing was, she wasn't wrong.  At least not anymore.  He said, "Yep, he has."

"Once, a bear came when we were in the woods.  And Dad, he pushed us behind him, like  with his hand, and then he told us to run when the mother bear noticed us and made her chase him away from us.  He could have died, but he didn't care because he wanted us alive."

"Did he really do all that?"  Tina asked.

"Yep.  And, another time, I was just a little kid, and I thought the snowpile was going to be soft and fluffy like a cloud, and I jumped off the balcony and landed in the snowpile and I wasn't breathing good.  Dad dug through the ice to get me.  His hands were all cut up and bleeding.  That's why I don't like him to ever go away from us."  He looked down at his hands again.

Tina's eyes welled with tears.  Cord looked at her momentarily, and then said, "He did all that, huh?"

Sam nodded.  "Mom said Dad wouldn't quit until he got me out.  My dog helped, too, but he's dead now.  Peter killed him."

Cord wanted to change the subject for the child's sake, so he said, "Sam, I tell you what.  Maybe you can finish these stories about your Dad later on, and right now, we can go outside with Jack and Ray and toss the ball around.  What do you think?"

"Yeah, that's okay.  I don't have that many more big stories, only small ones.  But the small ones are better.  Dad's really a hero, I think.  He helped Mom have Jewel, right in our house.  And like when he adopted me and set up a bunch of bouncy houses in the yard and had a big party and married Mom again.  And adopted me so I don't have to go with my biological father ever again.  All that was great."

Cord smiled, standing up.  "That does sound great.  Wow.  What bouncy house was it?"

Sam stood up, too, and slipped his hand in Cord's.  "A Spiderman's Cave one, and a big giant Spiderman head with those balls in it that you can hide and play in.  And he had a band, and everything.  That was the best day of my whole life."

"Sounds it.  Aunt Tina, you coming?"

"Yeah, I'm just getting little Jewel here a jacket.  She'll have to go out there, too."  She finished and put the baby into the carrier.  All of them went outside to the terrace, and saw that Jack was being chased around the yard by Little Ray.


They pulled up in front of Jack Ribsky's PI office in the pink Hummer Limo, and as they disembarked, Todd said, "God, I have to trade this in.  How could they not have a different one yet?"

"We could have just gotten a regular rental car, Todd.  And besides, this isn't that bad."

"I guess."

They walked up the pathway to the door, hand in hand.  She was determined, their entire visit, to be what he needed her to be and follow his lead.  His reaction to landing in Chicago had solidified that fact in her mind.  She followed him toward the door, and they entered the building.  It was a modest office building, with a barely-there small foyer that was two steps from the door to the actual office.  Todd pushed the door open, and they went inside.  They both stood in a small office area, with a woman at a desk.  To say the room was minimal in decor would be underestimating.  Todd said, "Hello, we have an appointment to see Mr. Ribsky."

"Certainly, I'll let him know you arrived."  She disappeared into a small door.

Todd and Blair sat in the only two chairs in the front office.  Their hands were still interwoven.  He placed them on his knee.  She said, "It's tiny."

"Gets the job done, I assume."

"You okay?"

"Sure, I'm okay, what would make you think I'm not?  The fact that we're in Peter Manning's hometown?"

She rested her chin in its customary place on his shoulder.  "I miss the kids."

"Me, too," he said.  "That night in the tent was fun, wasn't it?"  He looked at her out of the side of his eyes.

"Yes, it was.  We'll be back to them in no time."

"Right," he said, and then the door opened.  

Ribsky walked into the center of the small room, and extended his hand. Todd rose, and Blair did as well, still holding his other hand.  "Todd," he said, shaking his hand, "I hope I'll be able to help."

He grasped the man's hand firmly.  "Jack, I'm sure you will.  This is my wife, Blair."

Ribsky turned to her, and smiled, and extended a hand to her as well.  She let go of Todd's and shook it.  "Pleased to meet you, formally," she said.  "I think we saw each other at the hospital, the last time we were here."

"Yes, I think we may have.  Come into my office," he said, and walked away.

The three of them stood in a small but neat area, not decorated, but having basic essentials:  a window, with stacks of folders and papers on the ledge; a desk with a lamp and piles of files; two chairs facing the desk; and a cabinet in the corner where more files were stored.  On the wall were pictures.  Jack and his wife, Pamela.  A young family, a husband, a wife and three children, where the husband looked like Jack around the eyes. Separate photos of each of the children in the family shot were framed in with gold frames, matching each other.  A picture of Jack, in his police attire, was also in the collection.  Blair took notice of all of them and heard Todd say, "I want to thank you for agreeing to meet with us here, first."

"Of course.  Why not?  I hold no malice toward you, Todd.  You have to realize that by now.  Nothing your father did is your responsibility."

"It's easy to forget that sometimes."

"Well, you have to.  Trust me.  In this business, I've seen enough fallout from cases to know the answers.  And you're not the cause of your father's sickness, or his actions."

Todd gulped, and reached for Blair's hand again, and she took it and held it on her lap, this time.  He said, "Thank you."

"So, where do we start?"  Jack cut to the chase.

"I guess the trunk.  You said you towed it here."

"All right, sure."

Todd said, "Is it brown, with pretend travel stickers?"

"Yes," he said, getting up and going to a closet across the room.  "That sounds right."


Blair felt a change in Todd's skin at the palm of his hand.  She kept steadfast, and held his hand gently, running her fingers over his knuckles with her other one.

"You were a cop, right?  In Chicago?"  Todd said, and Blair wondered why he was asking.

"Yep, for a long time.  Finally got sense and retired.  I worked for the force for almost 30 years.  Most guys go a twenty-five."

"So, you were working for the city when . . . when I was like seventeen or eighteen?"

"I worked thirty years, Todd.  That would put me starting when you were about 16, right?"

"Sounds right, yeah."

"Why did you ask?"

Blair said, "I think he, he was wondering if you were here during a certain time."

Ribsky came back to the desk with a very large trunk, and it slammed onto the desk loudly.  "If you're asking what I know about your past first-hand, I can tell you it's not very much, and most of it is from last year."

"So you know?"  Todd asked.

"I read.  Small things I'd heard.  You were fourteen, you were arrested for attempted murder.  Your family was able to provide legal counsel that got you freed."

Blair saw her husband swallow and felt his hand go dead in hers, clammy and cool.  "Maybe we should just deal with the trunk," she said, before realizing that it was that very item that Todd was staring down and entranced with.

Todd said, "I didn't think I'd ever see this again.  He took it from me, and said he burned it, after we got home from the legal proceedings that day."

"One step at a time, Todd.  If you can't open it right now, we'll bring it out to your limo, and you can transfer it to Timothy's car later, and get it home to Llanview."  Ribsky said.

"I . . . " Todd started, then, "don't want to open it right now.  I'd rather talk about something else,"  Todd grimaced a little.  "Your past, with the CPD.  No offense intended, but, this police department is the same one that let my abuse, and my mother's, slip by undealt with for years, and had Mitch Laurence in town selling salvation and trying to knock up innocent women.  The same force that, 9 months ago, ignored calls from neighbors that there was screaming coming from my father's house.  The same force that let Peter Manning slip through their fingers when he came into town and went back to his old home in broad daylight, with an APB on him from Llanview.  And some of those same policemen are likely still around, if not in charge of the whole thing.  You'll have to excuse me if I doubt them."

Blair looked at Todd, surprised.  She saw Jack swallow.  He said, "I respect that.  I don't necessarily agree, but I respect it.  It's a very busy city, Chicago.  There are more calls than hours in the day.  Demanding.  Why do you think I got out when I did?  Could have worked at least seven or eight more years.  Too much crime and too little time."

"We understand," Blair said, squeezing Todd's hand gently.  To her surprise, he pulled it free.  

"So, can you tell me anything about that time?  Like who were the cops that did show up the night when I was fourteen, or anything else you can tell me?  Anything at all?  I mean, shouldn't the cops have known," his voice caught.  He composed himself, and said,  "Shouldn't they have known what they were dealing with when they saw me that night?  Trained personnel, shouldn't they have recognized an abused kid?"

Blair was beside herself.  Ribsky put down the files he was straightening.  "Todd, let's get this out of the way, okay?  I want you to know that I wasn't involved in your case or this jurisdiction when you were a child.  You were already sixteen and out of the system by the time I started as a 25 year-old rookie.  I think that had to be said, because something like that never would have gone unnoticed by me if I were involved."

Todd did appear reddish, but Blair knew he was not likely embarrassed, and said, "Thank you," rising out of his chair.  He put his hand out, and Ribsky took it.  Blair had her hand on Todd's shoulder, lightly, and then he took it and held it, as they started to make their way out.

Ribsky said, "Your wife.  She's your best friend, huh?"

"Yeah, she is.  She's just about my best everything."

"Mine is, too.  Take care of her, Todd."

"He does," Blair said, smiling back at the man.

"Todd, the trunk," Ribsky said.

Todd went to the desk, and picked up the trunk.  By his stride and his face, Blair could tell that her man was determined to get them out of the office and to their next destination, and then, out of Chicago, Illinois, and hopefully, for good.  She followed him to the limo, parked at the curb.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 41

After finishing their ice cream, Starr had gathered her textbooks and sat down to do some reading. Todd went back to the laptop to see if he could get anymore useful information on Hesser or the Kipling Facility. He discovered that the facility was started by a Dr. Ivan Kipling. It seemed Dr. Kipling had disappeared some time ago, but was rumored to have dabbled in mind control. Very likely the new projects were extensions of his original project. As far as Hesser was concerned, he had his money and interests well concealed. Todd already had found several companies that were no more than shadows really, he would get his contacts to work on some of them in the morning.

Starr put her work down and came over to her dad at the desk, "Dad you just got home, you should rest. I promised the Doctor you wouldn't overdo your first night home."

Todd looked Starr and said. " I've never been one to need a lot of rest and that's all I've been doing the last few days. Besides, we need to talk. We've put this off long enough." he got up and walked back over to the couch. " Come on Starr, there are things I need to know and only you can tell them."

"I don't know Dad, I don't want to get you upset or anything, maybe now isn't the time for a serious conversation. Like I said, you just got out of the hospital I wouldn't want to say something that might put you back in there." said Starr.

"But you see Starr, that tells me right there, that you're hiding stuff from me and I just don't do well when people hide things from me. So you might as well talk to me. I'm probably going to be upset no matter what." Todd looked at his daughter, he could tell she really was concerned for him. He patted the seat next to him and said. "It's OK Starr, I'll be fine. If I don't get some answers soon I'll go crazy. All of you have been walking on eggshells around me expecting me to crack. I'm stronger than it seems right now. Sure my ticker is a little weak but it's still going.  I'm not going to break anytime soon, at least I hope not. If you really want to keep my stress level down then help me. Answer my questions."

Starr sat down next to her dad. She wasn't sure what he wanted to know but she feared he was going to ask about Cole. Looking at him she replied."Alright Dad. Ask your questions."

"What did Cole Thornhart do to set Manning off?" asked Todd looking into her eyes. Starr dropped her gaze and Todd knew Thornhart did something he wasn't going to like either.

"Dad it happened a long time ago. Cole never meant to do anything, not really. It was a mistake." said Starr.

Todd took a deep breath." OK it was a mistake, but what was 'It'?"

Starr could see he wasn't going to stop until he had the whole story so she sat up straighter and looked him in the eyes again. “I'll start at the beginning. I had just started high school and was having a hard time.  I had just found out all about what you had done in your college days." she stopped and met his gaze and this time Todd winced. "During the murder trial all your past came out and I found out you had raped Marty Saybrooke. Then I had to stand outside the prison gates and wait as they executed you, or rather the man I thought was you. It was such a lot to take in. Thankfully the truth came out and Walker survived but he became doubly protective of 'his' kids.”  

Starr stood up and moved away thinking of that year. She turned around and faced her father. “The kids at school, especially some of the girls,were cruel and I met Cole. He was on the football team and a year ahead of me in school. Somehow we connected and one night we went to a party after a big game. I didn't know it at the time but Cole had been taking steroids. He was under a lot of pressure to be the best player at school and so had started taking them. That night at the party, one of the cheerleaders said something nasty and I got upset. Cole and I went to one of the bedrooms to get away from the crowd but Cole got the wrong idea and wanted to make out, I couldn't do it and he got furious and tore up the bedroom and accidentally tore my dress."

Starr stopped unable to tear her eyes away from her Dad's. She watched his hands dig into the cushions of the couch and figured she better tell the rest before he exploded. "Dad before you go off the deep end, he didn't hurt me, he just scared me because his rage happened so fast. The cheerleader call the cops and gave them my name and said Cole had assaulted me. I tried to tell the police that nothing had happened but they called our parents. Walker and Mom and Marty came down to the station and Walker about lost it when he heard the story, then he found out Cole was Marty's son. He accused Marty of deliberately bringing her son back and putting him in school with me just for revenge. Then we all found out Cole had been using steroids and Walker forbid me to have anything to do with Cole." Starr paused again waiting for a reaction. She wondered what was going on in her dad's head at the moment.

Todd had been listening, the more Starr said,the more he sympathized with Manning. He saw himself back in college and those early days with Marty. Then he went back to the day his rage got the better of him and he hurt Marty and had almost destroyed the both of them. Where Marty was concerned it seemed that fate had stepped back in and tangled them up again. Manning had reacted just as he would have, but obviously Starr had other ideas. Since Starr had stopped for a moment Todd asked. "You were forbidden to see him, how did you end up pregnant by him?"

Once again it was Starr's turn to drop her gaze. "I guess I'm my father's daughter. The more Walker forbid me, the more I did the opposite. Cole and I saw each other whenever we could find a moment. Then Walker disappeared only to be found months later. Someone had tried to kill him because he went looking for his son Sam. While Walker was missing Cole and I fell in love, and when Walker returned he grudgingly agreed we could see each other. Walker and Mom remarried to get custody of Sam and everything was great for a short time then suddenly Walker told us he was moving all of us to Hawaii and I freaked. I thought I was never going to see Cole again, so he and I met at the Palace and that is where Walker found us.  He went ballistic and started beating on Cord.  Later, I found out I was pregnant and Cole and I ran away to Atlantic City. Walker found us and when he tried to go for Cole,I tried to stop him.  He accidentally pushed me down some stairs and I almost lost the baby. That’s when Mom stepped in and took control.”

“About time, why did she wait so long?”

“She was trying to be there for Walker but when he endangered me and then Sam, she was forced to take us from him.  I made the decision to have the baby and I was going to give her up for adoption. In the end I got to keep my beautiful little girl and Cole and I moved in together right before my eighteenth birthday. Things were going pretty smoothly until Marty was pushed down some stairs and lost the baby she was carrying. Everyone suspected Walker of having pushed her and Cole nearly beat him to death. Cole found himself in jail for the second time. He was given probation because Walker chose to be lenient but when Eli Clark, Mom's last husband, kidnapped Hope and me, it proved too much for Cole. He thought we were in a warehouse that blew up and so he killed Eli after Eli was already in custody. That was Cole's third offense and he's at Statesville serving a ten year sentence and here we are with you."

Todd didn't know how to feel. First she drops the bombshell that she was caught in bed with Cole, at which point he would have probably torn Cole's head off if he was there right then. Then Starr tells him that Cole flew off the handle faster than he did. How could Walker have let them live together? He looked at his daughter and realized she was like him. Starr had made a number of rash decisions because she was reacting to her father's actions. Now she was living with the consequences of those decisions. Here she was an unwed mother of a two year old whose father was in prison for ten years and whether he like it or not, Todd knew it was all his fault. He'd wanted the best for his daughter. But his actions through the years had tainted her life and now she was caught up in his problems once more.

"This is my fault. You shouldn't be here. You need to get away from me and stay away. I'm the reason, your life is a mess. Your mom was right. She wanted you to have a normal life and a normal home and I screwed that up. Even when I wasn't here, my curse was and Manning ended up doing and saying much the same things I would have. You reacted to that and now you're here without a husband, trying to go to school and take care of a daughter all on your own. Shorty, I never wanted that for you. Please forgive me."

Starr looked at her father in surprise. The last thing she had expected was an apology. He really thought he was to blame for her life. As she sat there she realized there had been a lot of times she had blamed him for the turns her life had taken but now she knew that she had made her own choices. Had some of them been in reaction to her father's autocratic demands? Yes possibly, but she made up her own mind and always had. Sometimes it had gotten her into trouble and she learned that there were consequences for all actions.

If you made a mistake, you paid for your mistakes and went on. She would never regret having Hope and she would never regret being Todd Manning's daughter. She wasn't going to let him push her out of his life for her own good. It was her choice to be sitting with him at the moment and it was her choice to stay. So she needed to stop his pity party right now. "Whoa Dad, stop right there!  I don't accept your apology. You are not now, nor were you ever the cause of the choices I made. Sure I'm your daughter but my choices are mine and mine alone. Get this, I love my daughter and I don't think of her as some mistake I should be ashamed of. I don't regret falling in love with Cole either. He was my first love and we have Hope to show for it. I made my choices and Cole made his. That we can't be together is the outcome of those choices. We live and move on. If I learned anything from you when I was little, it's that you can't change what has happened but you can make sure it doesn't happen again."

Todd shook his head, had he just heard Starr chastise him the way she used to. He looked at her, yes there it was, that look of total exasperation because her dad was being an idiot. He used to love it when she got mad at him. If he had screwed something up, she let him know. Well he realized he had screwed up again and she was letting him have it. Boy was he getting sappy, he sat back and started laughing. Starr had just pointed out he needed to get over himself and boy was she right.

Her dad was driving her crazy tonight. She had just watched him go from super angry, to contrite, and now he was laughing his head off. Starr wondered if something was wrong, maybe he was confused from lack of oxygen or something. "Dad? Are you alright? You're not acting yourself. See I knew this would be too much for you."

Todd heard the concern in her voice and tried to bring his laughter under control. As his laughter subsided he held up his hand "Shorty relax, I'm fine. You just caught me by surprise and the absurdity of the moment set me off. By the way, Thank You. It's been a long time since I've laughed so hard even if it was at myself." He grinned at his daughter.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Starr checked her father over. He seemed fine after all . Maybe he had just needed to release some pent-up emotions. One thing was good, his anger toward Cole seemed to be forgotten. " Well if you’re sure you're okay, why don't we call it a night."

"Hold on Shorty, we're not quite done yet. I get that I'm not to blame for your choices but you need to admit that you've made some bad choices because you were trying to get back at me or Manning. So the question comes down to this. How do I get past the fact that you felt you had to get back at me? Were you that angry at me?" Todd asked

Starr thought about his question. She had never thought about it before but she had been mad at him for a long time. Of course it was Walker she had really been mad at but her Dad had a share of that anger too. " I guess I was Dad, you always professed that you loved me, but then you would always disappear. When Walker came to town, he said he knew you were alive but couldn't come home at that time. Why Dad, why did you always leave? When I was little and you married Tea, you just left. You didn't even say goodbye. Then you and Mom finally got back together and you messed it up again. Every time you messed up, you and mom broke up but I got left. Then you disappeared in 2003 and again, no goodbye. It hurt Dad, it hurt bad. I wanted you back so bad that when Walker said he was you and told me things I thought only you could know, I believed him. But you know what Dad, he kept leaving too. I know that some of the reasons were beyond your control. It still didn't make me feel any better. Walker had as much, if not more trouble than you, sticking around. First he ended up in jail for raping Mom...,"even as she said it she wished she could take it back.

"He what! He raped your mom. I don't care if he's pawn or not, he's a dead man. I'll kill him." Todd was furious. There was no way he could have raped Blair. He had come close to it only once but had stopped himself. That was something he would never do to another woman. He began heading for the door.  Suddenly, he realized he was being held.  He started to shake free, almost throwing whoever was holding him to the floor, but as he grabbed the arms he heard Samuel. "Todd, stop now!  You're going to hurt Starr." he stopped and blinked. He was gripping his daughter's arms and she was scared to death.  He let go and staggered back. God what have I done.  I almost hurt Starr, what kind of monster am I? He stumbled to a chair and sat down shaking uncontrollably. He was so cold.

The moment the words left her mouth, Starr knew she had just lit a powder-keg. In seconds her dad had headed to the door and she knew he was going after Walker. She had gone after him instinctively, knowing she had to stop him from leaving the Penthouse and making the biggest mistake of his life. What she hadn't been ready for was the rage on his face when he grabbed her. She had never confronted that rage before, she was scared for him and for herself. How was she going to stop him? Just as suddenly he had let go of her, but the look on his face tore her heart in two. He was terrified he had hurt her and it had horrified him. He had turned so pale then he collapsed in the chair. She realized he was in shock, he thought he had been about to hurt her.

Starr grabbed a throw and quickly went to wrap it around her dad. "Dad it's alright.. I'm alright.. you didn't hurt me." She reached up and cupped his face in her hands. "Dad you've got to believe me.  I'm not afraid of you. I know you would never hurt me. You were just angry, but I know you weren't angry at me. Please tell me you're okay." she knelt down and hugged her dad until he stopped shaking. She rearranged the throw around his shoulders, as she was fixing it he reached for her and turned to face her. She looked into her Dad's eyes. He looked so haunted.

He struggled to get out the words. "God forgive me.... I would never ever hurt you..you must believe that!"

She was crying as she hugged him close again and said. " I know Dad, I know!"

They comforted each other and then Starr felt her dad withdraw. It had been a subtle change just a simple straightening of his shoulders, a breath drawn in and exhaled and she released him. He still looked way too pale. Todd removed the throw and handed it to Starr and stood up and crossed to where he kept the liquor. Grabbing a glass he poured himself a drink and downed it immediately, then he poured a second. He took the second drink and walked over to the portrait of Blair in his arms.

Todd recalled that night like it was yesterday, it had been perfect. What was really funny was that when he and Blair had made love that night, Blair was already pregnant with Starr. She had been conceived only four months before. The irony of full circles is how things can come back and haunt you. It was only one or two days later after making a baby with Blair that he had turned around and almost raped her. Now after all this time to hear that she was raped and supposedly by him, what a cruel joke. He downed that second drink and headed to get a third. As he reached for the bottle a hand reached over and stopped him. It took but a minute to realize that the hand wasn't Starr's, there she was, her eyes glistening with tears as if she had just stepped from the painting.

Todd didn't know how she had gotten there and he didn't care. Setting his glass down he swept her into his arms and carried her back to the couch. Then he slowly began undressing her. One by one he unbuttoned her blouse and removed her bra his fingers caressing her breasts. Blair had wasted no time getting his shirt off and her hands were playing across his chest as once more he captured her lips. Together they explored each other remembering all those special places that they knew to give pleasure to each other. They ended up on the floor in front of the fireplace with nothing between them and only the throw covering them. He held her close and looked down into her eyes, "You are more beautiful, then I remembered. You'll always be the one for me. You were my salvation one Christmas when I didn't think I had any one. You're the mother of my children please don't send me away again, I'll die for sure."

"Todd there is no one else I want. You have always been the one who understood me, and accepted me. I don't ever want you to leave again and I'm never going to let go, I realized that the moment I saw you in Paris. We're stuck with each other so get used to it." he lowered his head and captured her lips as she reached up and tangled her fingers in his gorgeous hair.

Some time later Todd fell asleep in her arms and she held him close. She had been so terrified when she'd received Starr's text messages. Blair had rushed out of the house and headed straight for the penthouse. Starr's message had said something about accidentally telling Todd about Walker and her and the rape. The second part had simply said 'Dad needs you.' When she had walked into that room and seen Starr's face she had known something bad had gone down. She moved into the living room in time to see Todd head over for another drink. The instant their hands had touched there had only been two people in the room, her and Todd, no one else mattered.
Blair looked at him sleeping, Tea had told her that Todd had always has trouble sleeping without waking up as if from a nightmare. Blair had different memories. There had been nights when Todd had trouble getting to sleep and nights when she was sure he didn't sleep. But there had been nights after they made love that his sleep had been undisturbed. She remembered him saying something to her during their last wedding about how she kept the noise away. Was that it, was she really able to help him shut off the voices in his head? Did that explain why he was able to sleep with her when he had had trouble with Tea? God, to be able to help him with that made her feel so good. He needed her as much as she needed him. She would tell him her story in the morning. She carefully reached and snagged a couple of throw pillows. Positioning one under his head and one under her own, she got comfortable and fell asleep.

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