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Monday, February 29, 2016

A note to my readers.

 For several years, I've been writing my stories about Todd and Blair.  It has been rewarding that you seem to like my books.  Tomorrow I'll be Re-issuing Book Two of my Samuel Toddman series.  I hope you enjoy the continuing story of my Todd.  As promised by our dear administrator, I hope my new book Memories Unlocked will be ready by Easter.  Thank you again for your readership.  It is greatly appreciated.

RKarena59


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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 60

Todd looked over to Blair. "Samuel sent his love." She reached up and wiped his tears. "It's alright, though. I still can hear him. He told me if I needed him he'd be there. Is it possible? Vicki, could he come back if I really need him?"

"Todd, I think Samuel's been with you a lot longer than you realize. I believe Samuel keeps you intact. He emerges when your life is seriously in jeopardy and you've been put out of commission. That night eight years ago he came forth till you had time to recover. But something happened and he found himself in charge so he did what he needed to do. He kept you going till your memories started returning and you woke up. Todd, don't you get it, he's you. The Todd who wants to be here all the time but is being held back. You need to get past your wall then you'll see him again. I promise." Vicki squeezed his hand and smiled.

Todd took a deep breath and exhaled, his heart had picked up speed when Samuel said goodbye and for a moment Todd had thought it would burst from the pain of losing Samuel. It had hurt so bad, but as Vicki spoke, the pain eased and he knew she was right. He felt someone checking his pulse and was surprised to see the nurse beside him. "It's returning to normal, Doctor," she walked behind him to the monitor, pushed some buttons and returned to stand with the doctor. Todd looked in alarm at Ray. "You're not stopping this. I'm alright! I've got to continue."

Ray and Dr. Levin had been conversing with the doctor and were returning to their seats. "Relax Todd, we've talked. You're holding your own, so we've all agreed to continue. How do you feel? I know it must be a shock to lose Samuel at this time."

Todd shook his head. "I feel lousy Ray, what do you think? I feel like I just lost my right hand. I'm running to catch the ball but suddenly I have nothing to catch it with. If that's how I'm supposed to feel, then this integration is terrible. Oh sure, I know he was here to help me. And since he's done, I'm just supposed to let him go. You know what. That's a crock! Vicki tells me I'll see him again and that's comforting somewhat. Except if you go by her words I'm going to have to be at death's door for that to happen. That's real encouraging. NOT." Todd stares at Ray. "When this is over. I'm getting him back somehow. If not before. For now, I'm down an alter. And all the books say I'll be the better for it. What do they know? They're not sitting here getting ready to enter the lion's den without some backup."

Ray jumped on that. "What lion's den? Why do you feel you're entering that? "

Todd looked over. "Because that how it feels. It's there again, in front of me. Ray, I know that my last thoughts and memories of the crypt weren't real but they felt real. I could have sworn Victor and Peter had me. Why Ray, they're both dead, but they're still messing with me. In my head all I hear is laughter. I don't know where it's coming from but it drives me crazy. In the crypt, in my nightmare, my father Victor left me laughing saying he was going after my son, Jack. When I tried to stop him I couldn't follow him I was trapped. The Mitch puts me in with my father and he leaves me, laughing as he goes. Once again I can't follow I'm trapped. Then it becomes incessant, pounding at me. Only it's not Victor or Mitch, no, it's my dear old Dad, Peter Manning. His laughter just keeps getting louder" Todd's eyes lose focus.

"Todd tell me where you are. What's happening?" asked Ray, Blair, and Vicki suddenly had their hands crushed and they look at Todd in alarm. It was obvious he was not in the room with them any longer and wherever he was had him scared.

"I'm home I'm in the hallway, I can hear him.  He's laughing, there's the door to his room but the laughter isn't there, it's behind me now." Todd stopped talking. He saw himself in the mirror but it's Tom suddenly moving in the hallway.

"No, I shouldn't be here, I'm going to get in trouble. Dad told me to stay out of his room." Tom turns in the hallway and looks at Todd."Remember Todd, we weren't supposed to go into his room but we did, didn't we Todd." Todd shudders at Tom's words. Blair is startled when Todd turns toward her but it isn't Todd who speaks ." Todd knew he shouldn't enter dad's room. We were both terrified but he did, Todd got Dad's lighter. We needed it. We had a visitor."

Tom looked back in the mirror and connected eyes with Todd. "You remember Todd, Michelle was nice. She brought us a cake for our birthday. The cake had a candle and we wanted to light it. That's why we needed his lighter. You remember, Todd, what happened next? Come on Todd, you tell the story."

Todd tried to speak but nothing would come out. Why did Tom want him to talk about that day? He hated that day. Everyone always wanted him to talk about that day. Even Sam had pushed him about it. It was a bad birthday, so what. He'd had other bad birthdays. Why did everyone always want to talk about that one. Michelle had brought him a cake. And his Dad had gotten mad. Peter had gotten so mad. He had just wanted to light the candle, why was that so bad? He knew getting the lighter was a risk but Michelle was so cute. Then his dad walked in and saw him holding the lighter. Todd looks at his palms. That damn lighter. Todd looks at his hands. " Dad, you scared off Michelle. She just wanted to give me a birthday cake. Yes, Dad, I know I shouldn't have gone into your room but I just wanted to light the candle. Yes, Dad, I know the punishment. That's strange, it feels different. The flame is ice cold.  My hands, they're cold. No Dad, not more. Dad, Please?" His hands were so cold. He began trembling and shivering. He was cold.

Vicki looked over at the Doctor, "He's very cold to the touch. Can we get him a blanket?" The nurse and doctor moved in to check on Todd, "He's going into shock. We'll need to stabilize him before this goes any farther. Mr. Manning, I need you to look at me. Can you hear me?"

Todd looked at the Doctor. "So cold, can't stop shivering, make it stop. Hard to breathe."

"Mr. Manning, we're going to help you but I need you to stay focused." The doctor said something to the nurse and she left the room returning quickly with a syringe and a warm blanket. "Let's get him out of the chair. We need to lay him flat." They got him down on the floor and covered him to warm him up. "Mr. Manning, I going to give you something to slow your heart down and I need you to slow your breathing. That's it you should start feeling better shortly." The doctor walked over to Ray and Dr. Levin. "This man can't keep this up. Whatever he's trying to remember is killing him. I strongly suggest you get him to stop."

Todd looked over and saw the doctors talking. He knew where this was headed. He was feeling better. If they stopped now, he would win. Todd couldn't let him win any longer. "Vicki, Blair help me?" Vicki and Blair knelt down beside Todd. "Ray's going to try and stop this. If I stop now he wins. I can hear him. He's laughing at me, calling me weak."

"Who, Todd? Who's laughing?" asks Vicki.

" Peter.  He's there just laughing. I've got to do this. I've got to stop the laughter. Help me, please. Vicki, you know! It's the secret that is killing me. I can't let him win. I won't!" Todd struggled to get back up. Grabbing the chair for support, he attempted to get to his feet. "Ray you have to listen to me."

"Todd, you have to stop. You can't continue in this state. You're killing yourself." Ray said as he helped Todd to sit down.

Todd grabbed Ray's Shirt "No, the secret is killing me. I can't come back. I have to do this now. I told you it's eating me from the inside out. It's my body and my decision. It ends today one way or the other. If I can't face this, I'd rather be dead. I won't be his whipping boy any longer. Do you understand Ray!"

Ray searched Todd's eyes and knew he was not going to win this fight. Todd was pleading for his right to live his life even if it meant he might lose it. Ray looked at Vicki and Blair. "You know what he's asking and what could happen." They nodded. "Vicki, you're OK with that?"

Vicki responded through her tears. "He's my brother, I don't want him to die but I promised him he'd have my support no matter what. He needs to do this," she put a hand on Todd's shoulder.

"Blair what about you? Can't you talk him out it," asked Ray?

Blair put her hand on Todd's other shoulder "I learned a long time ago that you can't talk Todd out of anything once his mind is made up. You should remember that Ray. I don't want to lose him but you see I don't think that's going to happen." She looked into Todd's eyes. " He's got too much to live for. He's going to make it through this. I know it."

Ray looked at Todd. "I'm going to lose my license over this. You ready."

Todd nodded. "I'm ready."

Both Dr. Levin and the Cherryvale Doctor started to protest. Ray turned to them and said. "I understand your concerns and so does Mr. Manning. But this is a counseling session requested by Mr. Manning, who is very well aware of his medical problems. It is ultimately his choice and as his therapist, I have to honor his request. You are under no legal obligation to remain and there is no liability on your part." Ray sat down opposite Todd

The doctor walked over and took Todd's pulse and looked him over and said. "Mr. Manning, this is against my better judgment. At least, let us hook you back up to the monitor so we'll know if you start to have a heart attack." Todd nodded and the nurse hooked him back up.

Todd wrapped the blanket around himself and leaned back in the chair. He looked at the restraints and at Ray and shook his head. " Could I have a drink," Todd asked and the nurse hands him a glass of water "Thank you."

Vicki sat down next to him. "Todd, be careful," she leaned close to his ear and whispered. "I love you no matter who you are, even Pete. Remember that please." and kissed him on the cheek.

Once Blair sat down next to him and took his hand, he glanced at Ray. "Okay, what do you want to know?"

"Alright Todd, let's go back to the night Tom was telling us about. Your fourteenth birthday. We know you had a visitor and according to Tom you went into your father's room. We heard you saying something about a lighter. Todd, was that the same lighter your father tested you with?" Ray looked at Todd.

"Huh. Yeah, that was the same lighter. But we both know he wasn't testing me. He got off on hurting people and I was his most convenient subject. You want to talk about that night. I just don't understand what makes that night so damn special to everyone."

"Maybe it's because you avoid talking about it, Todd. Why is that?" asked Ray.

"No I don't, I talked about it with Sam. I remember, but he kept pushing at me about what happened that night. Sam kept going on about finding me trying to kill Peter and pulling me off him. It was nothing."

"But why were you trying to kill Peter? What happened that made you so mad? Come on Todd, you said it was just another bad night. So what did Peter do? Talk about it, we're not going to tell. Michelle brought you a cake and you went to your father's room and got the lighter. You brought it back to where Michelle was waiting. Did you light the cake?"

"Yeah I lit the cake, at least, I... No, I didn't get a chance. My father arrived home. He was mad because Michelle was there. Then he saw his lighter in my hands. He lost it. He started yelling at me, knocking the cake to the floor, and Michelle left crying. He told me since I wanted to light something he would help and he had me hold my hand out like all the other times. I did it, I knew I had caused it by taking his lighter so I stood there. I looked in his face and I held my hand over his fire. Tom wanted to help but I had to take the punishment. I just stared at him even when my flesh started to burn I wasn't going to let him see how it was hurting. That only made him madder, he turned me around and tore my shirt down and put me against the couch. I clutched a throw with my hands because I knew what he was going to do next. Then it started one hit after another, it was the buckle, one minute a hard blow but the next a tearing strip. Blow after blow. Tom wanted to take over but again I pushed him away. He didn't deserve to be punished for something I did. He stopped and I could hear his heavy breathing then I guessed it just stopped."

"That's it Todd but why did you attack him, why did Sam say he had to pull you off your father. Todd, you’re leaving something out what happened after the beating. Think Todd " Ray knew they had found the plug but could he get Todd to pull it and let the truth come out. "What do you need Todd. Someone knows, Todd. Tom was with you. Ask Tom what happened next. Come on what are you afraid of? You said it was just another bad night but what aren't you telling me?"

"Tom, what happened? What am I leaving out? Talk to me." Todd looked for his Alter and there he was and he wasn't alone." What is it? Why are you all looking at me like that? I just need Tom to tell me what I'm forgetting. You all look so serious. Go ahead Tom, what happened next?"

Todd watched Ms. Perkins nod her head and Tom shrugged. "OK but you're not going to like this. Dad was standing behind you getting madder by the minute because you wouldn't cry or scream. He grabbed you, Todd. He threw you to the floor."

"Tom, you must be mistaken I don't remember that. Wait a minute, this is my dream, what are you all standing in front of?  Move aside." Then he heard it. Peter was laughing again." There it is he's laughing and it's coming from behind that door. What's behind that blasted door?" Todd reached out and felt the knob. It was ice cold like in his dream and he began to shiver. He had to know what was behind that blasted door.  He was about to open the door when another hand grabbed his. "What, let go." He found himself face to face with Pete.

"You're not going in that room. You can't take what's in that room." Pete looked around the room. "You fools do you really think I would let him kill himself just to get rid of me. I almost took out that bastard of a father and Todd's no match for me. Look at all of you. Let's help Todd. Poor Todd, he's got a disease he can't help himself he has to rely on others to make it through life. I'm the reason he made it this far in life. But he wants to get rid of me." Pete looks back at Todd in the mirror. "You'll never get rid of me. You don't have the guts. You didn't even want to remember so you hid everything behind a door. I'm far stronger and better able to take on your life then you are. Why don't you be a good little boy and go hibernate again? I'll just take Blair here and show her how a real man loves a woman." Pete grabs Blair's hand. She stands up and tries to pull away.

"Get your hands off me. You wouldn't know the first thing about love. " Blair struggles to free her hand.

"Now Blair, is that any way to talk to the man who takes you to the stars. Isn't that what you told Todd?" Blair breaks free and brings the hand around and slaps Pete. " Why you little tramp." He grabs her around her waist and pulls her into his lap. "I'll show you what you're missing darling and when I'm done with you let's see if he'll take you back," he put a hand around her neck. " If any of you try anything, I'll snap her neck. Back off!"

Ray looks on, wondering if he can get Todd back in charge.

Then they all hear. "Pete, You take your hand off her. Your quarrel is with me."

Pete watches as his hand is forced away from Blair's neck. "So you got some fight in you after all Todd." Pete shoves Blair off his lap. "Alright then let get this under way. Let's start with a memory lesson. Tom was right, Peter pushed you to the floor.  Come on Todd, take a guess what he did next?   No clue?  Let me give you one. He held you down with his knee on your back. You couldn't move, not with his knee digging into your wounds. Do you remember, Todd? Then he did something you weren't expecting he started to strip you down."

" Why you bastard. You're lying."

" Am I, Todd, look at Rodd, and Tom.  You can see it in their faces, don't you see it Todd, the pity. Well, all you have to do is move me out of the way and the door is yours. Come on, you say you're ready, then do it, Todd...You can't...God, you're a total disappointment." Pete begins to laugh. Everyone around winces at the maniacal sound.

Then a Scream rents the air. "NO MORE!  You've laughed for the last time. GET OUT OF MY WAY!"

The room is eerily silent. All eyes are on Todd, he stands staring at something only he can see. He'd hidden it away long ago. There in front of him is a boy bleeding profusely being pinned down by an older man. He watches as the older man begins stripping the boy from the waist. The boy struggles but he can't get up the man is too strong. Then in horror Todd sees the older man begin to take his own clothes off until he kneeling naked above the boy. "God no, dad, don't I'm sorry. Dad, what are you doing? Dad, it's not right you're hurting me. Noooo" Todd drops to his knees. Vicki runs to his side. Todd looks at her. "Vicki he.. he ..god why Vicki..how...he raped me Vicki.. he hated me that much. When he was finished he rolled off me and told me to get dressed. I did it. I was afraid he might do more and then he laughed .. I couldn't take the laughter. It seemed to come at me from every side. I started getting angry because he wouldn't stop. Then everything went black. The next thing I remember, Sam was pulling me off him. Things changed after that. The abuse became more verbal rather than physical. God Vicki, how did you stand it?  How do you keep going knowing what Victor did?   I'm tired Vicki. I’ve been fighting for so long. Do you think it's safe to rest a moment? I just want to rest a moment." Todd collapsed into her arms.

The doctor and nurse rush to their patient. The doctor looks at Vicki, "He's alive. His pulse is thready and his heart is working over time. But he'll come out of this. It's too risky to let him go home, though. He'll need monitoring through the night. We'll get him a room, you can stay if you like. Agreed." Vicki agreed

After Todd was wheeled out, Vicki, Blair, Ray, and Dr.Levin sat down to discuss their next move. "What do you think? Is he ready for a merge," Vicki asked?

Dr.Levin looked at her and said. "I think there are too many unknown variables." "Vicki, Blair, you need to realize he's a long way from full integration. He just found out the truth but now he has to come to grips with it. We'll have to see what he remembers come tomorrow." says Ray "In the meantime it's been a harrowing day for all of us. Vicki and Blair you might want to get some food and relax before you settle in for the night. If you decide to go home, I have your numbers I can call if anything comes up."

"That won't be necessary. I'll be here I can't go home until I know for sure he's going to wake up alright," replies Vicki.

"That goes for me too," says Blair. She turns to Vicki."Let's get some food it's going to be another long night."

Vicki laughs "Yes, here we go again."

****

Todd woke up to the noise of the monitor beside him. He looked around and realized he was in the clinic. He noticed Vicki sleeping in a chair beside him. Images start flooding back from the previous day. Nothing could erase them this time, they were seared into his brain. Now he knew what Vicki must have felt when she remembered what Victor had done to her. No matter how hard he tried, he kept seeing Peter kneeling above him naked. Once again he felt his helplessness to stop what was about to happen. Todd covered his ears trying to silence the sounds of Peter's grunts and satisfaction as he took his pleasure out on Todd. Nothing silenced those sounds as they bounce around in his head and his tears started to fall as the humiliation and pain took over. All of those feelings of hopelessness mixed with shame and anger washed over him as if it has just happened. Todd curled on his side hating himself for his weakness. He couldn't contain the sorrow that had built up inside and he started sobbing into his pillow.

Vicki stirred and heard the sobs coming from the bed. She moved to the bed to comfort her brother. "It's alright Todd, I understand," she rubbed his back gently letting him cry. She knew he had to have that release before he could begin to heal. She had to have it and remembered her own feelings after she recalled her own trauma. Her heart went out to her brother, so like her in more ways than he realized. Life had played such cruel tricks on them. Kevin had never understood the connection she had with Todd. Nobody had. To just about everyone in town, Todd was a pariah. A plague that had turned the town upside down after his brutal rape of Marty. They had labeled him 'bad' and had refused to look any deeper.

He had built a wall around the real Todd and gave the town what they wanted. Someone to vilify. He'd only dropped the facade around a few people; herself, Blair, Tea, his daughter Starr and the children he interacted with. They had been given that rare insight into the man he really was. She had seen 'that' Todd peek out even from the beginning, and it was to 'that' Todd that she had made the first overtures as his sister. Todd, who put on such a show of needing no one, desperately craved love and acceptance like everyone else. His sobbing stopped and Todd turned over and looked at his sister. Vicki smiled down at him. "I'm so glad you're still here. When you collapsed I feared the worse."

He wiped his eyes and then reached up to wiped hers. "We're quite a pair aren't we," he said quietly.

Todd looked back at his sister remembering the horror he had felt when she told him what Victor had done to her. He had felt so filthy because he was Victor's son and had done something equally horrific to Marty. All he had wanted to do that night was put as much space between Blair and himself as possible. How could he marry Blair after finding out he was as bad as his father? What had surprised him more than anything was that Vicki had come looking for him. This woman who had every reason to hate him because he had caught her son Kevin up in his rape trial. He had let everyone think Kevin had been part of the rape. How could Vicki want to have anything to do with him? He'd been so ready to write off all Lords when he found out he was related to them. He figured they hated his guts so he was better off without them. Yet Vicki had let him in. She hadn't shunned him or pushed him away because he was a rapist instead she had tentatively welcomed him into the family as her brother.

That day when she found him in Victor's tomb had been the start of a relationship that had been a saving grace for Todd. He had never forgotten how she had come to make him feel better even though at the time she had been reliving all that Victor had done to her. "Thank you for being here. I've let you down recently, so wrapped up in my problems I haven't even tried to help you and yet you once again are standing beside me. You should write me off, Sis. I'm not worth all the heartache."

"Thomas Todd Manning, that's enough of that. You're worth more to me than you can ever realize. In fact, that's your problem. You're worth a lot to a number of people here, so you'll just have to decide to accept that fact and get on with your life." replied Vicki. "Do you want to talk?"

"I don't know Vicki, how does one talk about something like this. I was remembering the night I found out what Victor did to you. You stood there and told me, a virtual stranger, what he did. I couldn't help but be sick for you. You had been given no choice. That Monster who called himself your father hurt you for his own gratification. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe anything like that had happened to me. I knew Peter had abused me for a long time and I carried the shame of that around all these years. Ashamed because I didn't stop him. I was too much of a coward to let anyone know what Peter did to me. When I heard about Victor and his perverted acts, I was convinced I reacted against Marty because I was as sick as Victor. Now it turns out I was raised by a Monster just as sick as yours. Peter did it all, he hated me so much. I know I'll never find out why he had such hatred for me." Todd paused, thinking, "Vicki, you know what's the real sick part of all this is. I let him do those things and still tried to make him care for me. Up until he died, I pitifully wanted just one crumb of approval from him. That makes this all even worse for me, that I was such a sniveling coward and boot-licker. God what a fool I was. HUH, Pete was right, He is stronger than me."

"No Todd, he isn't," said Vicki, "Pete lives on his anger. He couldn't best you yesterday because in the end your desire to face your demon was stronger than Pete's to keep you from it. He thought that making you mad would just increase his strength. If you had just been striking out in anger because he was taunting you, he would have won. But you were striking out at yourself and your fear and you had resolved that nothing would stop you from getting through that door not even Pete. He didn't have a chance. Todd, do you feel him around?" asked Vicki.

Todd closed his eyes unsure of what he was going to find. It was so still “Tom, Rodd, Ms. Perkins are you here.” No, they couldn't be gone. “Pete I know you're hiding come out show yourself.” Still no answer.  He opened his eyes and looked at Vicki. "I can't find him, Vicki. I can't find anyone. They can't just be gone. I didn't think it worked like that. I can't lose them, I just lost Samuel. They wouldn't just leave without cause." Todd was upset, he had been sure he would have time to prepare to lose them but this void, it was unbearable.

Vicki didn't know what had happened. " Todd don't panic, this could just be temporary I know it seems scary to be so alone after years of company but we don't know what's going on. You have to calm down it might simply be an aftereffect of the trauma from yesterday. Todd, look at me." Todd looked at her and she could see the pain in his eyes, she knew she could take some of that pain away. "Todd, they didn't abandon you. They're around to protect you. They can't hurt you and they wouldn't leave without saying some sort of goodbye I promise. Do you believe me?"

Todd wanted to believe her with all his heart. He drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes once again. "Samuel if you can hear me, I need you. Find the family please." He opened his eyes. "Vicki I hope you're right. I can't think of the alternative right now."

She leaned in and kissed him "It'll be alright."

Todd looked at Vicki, "I need to get out of here. Get me out Vicki. I want to go home." He looked around the room and realized Blair was not there. "Vicki, where's Blair? Oh, I get it, she left after she found out what Peter did to me. She can't stand to be around me anymore. Can't say I blame her, I'm not sure I can stand to be around me and I don't have a choice." All he could think of was the horror she must have felt after yesterday's revelation. He had hoped she would stick by him. They had been getting so close. Once again he had been wrong.

Vicki watched the range of emotions flash across Todd's face. He had run through a gamut of feelings, first looking hopefully for Blair, then disappointment, followed by anger and disgust, leading finally to pain as he thought Blair had left him. "Todd, stop that. Blair's been here all night. She probably went out while I was sleeping to get something to keep her awake." Todd had the grace to look embarrassed as he heard her words. " My guess is she'll be back any minute. Why must you always think the worst."

Todd grinned at her sheepishly. "It's my curse."

Vicki chuckled, "You're incorrigible."

"Yeah but that's why you love me." said Todd with a straight face.

"I expect the doctor will be in here shortly and we can see about getting you home. You were out for quite some time and it took them a while to get you stabilized last night. I'm afraid the doctor was not very happy almost losing you right in his own backyard. Be prepared for some 'I told you so'." said Vicki.

The door to the room opens and Blair walked in carrying some coffee and rolls. "Vicki, if you're awake, I got you some coffee." She saw Todd and quickly set the coffee and rolls down, and made her way to the other side of the bed. "Oh Todd it so good to see you awake, You're alright? You don't hurt anywhere do you? I mean your heart is fine, right? Oh god, I was so worried you wouldn't wake up. Todd, don't you ever do that again. You scared me half to death." She punched him in the shoulder and then grabbed his face and kissed him like she couldn't get enough of him.

Vicki smiled and turned " I'll go see if the Doctor is around."

Blair stopped long enough to make sure Vicki left the room and then she wasted no time crawling in beside Todd to give him a proper wake-up greeting. Todd and Blair finally came up for air. "Todd, are you really okay? I know it must have been horrible to find out what Peter did to you. But it wasn't your fault. He was a cruel sadistic man. You're well rid of him." She got off the bed to stand beside him, waiting for him to say something.

Todd looked at her amazed. Just like the first time he met her, she had no fear of him and showed no pity either. The only emotions he saw shining from her eyes was love and concern. "I'll learn to live with it Blair, it is what it is. Pete didn't hurt you yesterday did he? I should have had Ray strap me back in. I was so wiped I figured he wouldn't be able to do too much, it was my mistake."

"You dolt, the only one I was scared for was you. You were great, I knew you could take charge. What happened after he started laughing. We heard you shout ‘NO MORE’.  Then ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY!’, but you were like frozen and then there was just silence. There was nothing until you started pleading with your father. Can you tell me what happened? You don't have to, I know it must be painful. Look just forget I even asked. I wish the doctor would hurry up and get here I want to get home. " Blair started fussing with the cover because she was embarrassed, she felt stupid for even asking him to go back and relive his trauma. "I'm an idiot."

Todd reached over and grabbed her hand. "You are not an idiot. I don't blame you for being curious. I'm just not ready Blair. I'm afraid it will change the way you look at me. I couldn't take it if you looked at me with contempt, or worse, pity. Tell me you understand."

Blair looked at him and realized he was more afraid of losing her then reliving any trauma. "I don't know who's the bigger idiot. Me, for just being nosy, or you, for thinking you would lose me if I knew the gory details. Knowing, not knowing, it doesn't really matter. It couldn't change how I feel about you. Okay, I guess you do win the Most Pathetic Award, but that's the only concession I'll give you. Right now it's time to get you out of here. Llanview awaits."

Todd smiled. "What do I get for my latest win."

"You get to take home your very own Blair doll and all the trimmings that come with her." replied Blair with a grin.

"Oh goody, my very own Blair doll." He grinned and pulled her close."Come here my beautiful doll." Before they could get in any more than a kiss, they heard Vicki cough. Blair jumped away quickly and saw the doctor standing with Vicki.

"Well, it looks like you're recovering from your ordeal, Mr. Manning. Mrs. Banks says that you wish to go home. I see no reason to keep you here any longer. I would suggest that you refrain from any more counseling sessions for at least a week to give your body time to properly recover. I've given that same recommendation to your therapist. I'll see that the discharge paperwork is completed. Please, Mr. Manning, consider my recommendation, give yourself some space."
Just as the doctor left, Ray arrived.  "So you're still with us, that's good Todd. I know yesterday was an ordeal. But we made headway. Still, you know it isn't the end. You're a long way from being fully healed. Are you willing to keep going, Todd? If you are, I'll set up another session about a week and a half from now." Ray looked at Todd, he wanted to make sure Todd didn't think it was all over. Todd deserved a break but they had so much more they had to delve into. Todd couldn't get complacent.

"You're right Ray, I asked for your help and I'm in this for the long haul. I know what happened yesterday was the basis for so much but I also know I'm still royally mixed up so you make that appointment and I'll be here. But for now, I'm going home. I need to see my granddaughter and get one of her special hugs, they always do me a world of good. " he held out his hand.

Ray shook it. "See you later. Todd, take care of yourself"

Ray left and Vicki went to sign Todd out. Todd left the clinic with his hand holding Vicki's and his other arm around Blair's waist. He released Blair and opened his sister's car door. " I've never figured out why you love me, but I'm mighty glad you do. Thank you for standing by me. Vicki, I'm not hiding any longer. It's time to let people know I'm here. This is a heads up." He leaned over and kissed her cheek."Be careful going home, I'll talk to you soon." he closed her door and walked over and slipped into the car with Blair. He sat down and then in the back of his mind he heard "Todd, I've found them. We're all here." Todd smiled and turned to Blair. "Let's go home."

Epilogue

Several days later. the phone rang in the Penthouse. Todd picked it up and listened intently. He hung up the Phone and looked at Blair. "It's done, they have him. It's time. Blair would you like to join me. I have a trip to make to someplace near and dear to my heart." Blair grabbed her bag and followed him. He doesn't get the car, instead, he headed towards the Manning building. He nodded to the doorman and headed for the private elevator to the executive offices. They got out on a very familiar floor and Todd strolled to the door labeled Managing Editor Sun Publications. He entered pushing the doors aggressively to get the occupant's attention.

She spun in her chair at the sound of the door crashing open. Then she slowly stood up. "Todd but...what...Blair...??"

"Kelly ..... Really I've never known you to be at a loss for words. You always had so many words when you found ways to interrupt the private conversations Blair and I used to have. What still nothing. Then I guess I'll talk..I'm Back, I Am and I Always Have been, TODD MANNING !!


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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 59

Starr and James enjoyed the view. "Something else isn't it? Quite a step up from the apartment I had with Cole. OK, course this is just temporary till I can finish a couple of semesters and decide what I'm going to do. Samuel's wants to have some family around and I needed to get out of the house with everyone there feeling sorry for me. Anyway, what do you think?" asked Starr.

"Starr this is freaking awesome. Samuel is something else too. I mean when we walked in here tonight it was amazing. He did all this just for Sam and Hope. That was cool. Heck, this whole evening's been cool. I wasn't sure what to expect, I mean I know he's not your dad but I still figured he'd give me the third degree. Now he's gone and left us alone. No offense Starr but your dad would have been standing over us with a shotgun before he'd let us be alone here. Oh gosh, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to hurt you, what with your dad still in a coma. It just that Samuel is so different from your dad." James apologizes.

Starr turns and faces him. "It's ok, you're right. Samuel and my dad are two different people. I found out something about my dad earlier. It seems somebody’s been giving my dad some medicine that has been working on his mind. That's why he's been so paranoid and obsessive lately and they think it's also why he's in a coma. And well, Samuel he's cool and he's really trying to get to know all of us and our friends. Come see the pictures Samuel painted of Hope and me." She led him to the portraits.

"Hey, they're real good. You say he actually does this for a living. He must be doing alright to afford this place. What's the one that's covered?" James goes to uncover it and reveals Blair's painting. "Wow, you didn't tell me your Mom and Samuel had a thing."

Blushing, Starr covers the painting. "Well, it's kinda of hard to think of one's Mom like this. Besides it's their business and they want to keep it under wraps right now. Samuel said he was going to come back and talk. We don't have a lot of time. Let's take advantage of the little time we have." She grabbed his hand and drew him back upstairs.

Blair arrived at La Boulaie, Jack got out and opened the front door and entered. "Jack I don't want you getting on the computer, you need to go to bed. You hear me, Mister." Since Jack was out of earshot, Blair said. "Todd, follow me I'll show you Sam's room."

Before entering Todd looked at Blair. "You better make sure Dorian isn't around. Don't know what she might do if she saw me."

Blair looked around and then saw the note. She opened it and read it. "You're not going to believe this, Dorian just got married today. She's off on her honeymoon."

Todd looked at her in disbelief, "You're kidding, right? Who the heck would marry Dorian?"

"Why Todd, it's an old friend, one I'm sure you remember. Dorian is now Mrs. David Vickers Buchanan," replied Blair. She led him up to Sam's room and he laid the boy down. Todd removed his shoes and covered him then followed Blair out of the room. She stopped at a room listened for a minute then knocked. The door opened and Addie stood there. She looked at Blair and saw Todd, her eyebrows raised "Well, this is a surprise."

"Momma, I just brought the boys home and I'm taking Todd back to the penthouse. I'm spending the night there so could you see that the boys get to school in the morning." pleaded Blair.

"Blair, you're not giving enough time to the boys. You of all people should know how important it is for the boys to have some stability, Todd.'
said Addie.

"You're right on so many levels Addie, but we just spent the evening with them, now we need our time. I can't stay here. The boys don't know the truth. I can't risk making Jack angry at me at this time. I need Blair and I need your help. Please, Addie?" Todd looked at her waiting for her answer.

Addie looked from Blair to Todd and knew they really needed this time. She didn't like having to keep the truth about Todd from her grandson, but they were his parents. It was up to them to tell him the truth, hopefully, they wouldn't wait too long. "Alright Blair, I'll see the boys get to school tomorrow but you two need to let Jack know the truth and soon. It's not going to be easy for him no matter when you tell him, you might as well do it sooner than later." She moved forward and gave each a kiss on the cheek and then sent them on their way.

On the way back to the penthouse, Blair decided to bring up her concern about Jack "Todd I need your help, I heard something this morning about Jack that has me worried. I can't believe it could be true but he's been really out of sorts lately and I'm beginning to wonder. It's was told to me that Jack might be bullying someone in school. If he is and if the story is true, then we have a problem. I was told he might have endangered someone's life. I don't know what to do."

"Blair, first things first, how reliable is your source? Do you trust the person who told you?" asked Todd

"That's just it Todd, I know that the person who told me is reliable and she cares for Jack. I think she told me so I can stop Jack before he goes too far. Todd, how did I miss this? If it's true I've let him down.  I've been so wrapped up in my problems that I haven't seen my own son going through something. And now the man he idolizes is lying in a coma. How did he go from teasing his little brother to a boy that would hurt another boy for kicks?" Blair looked over at Todd. He was looking straight ahead obviously thinking. She pulled into the garage and parked.  "Todd, you know this is none of your doing, right? I know I always got after you about the way Starr grew up, doing schemes with you. But you were a good father you were just unorthodox. You didn't have a chance to raise Jack. If anyone is at fault with Jack, it's me."

"You don't understand Blair, I'm to blame too. The night you brought Jack to meet me I found out that he might be into bullying. I didn't say anything because I wasn't positive but if I had said something to you we might have been able to stop him before it escalated. If he's starting to hurt this other boy, things could get worse. Both of us have been so wrapped up in my problems that we've been ignoring our son's. I hope we're not too late, Blair. I'm wondering if we shouldn't go back and confront him tonight, but if we do that we'll have to tell him who I really am. That could end up pushing him farther away. God, this mess keeps getting bigger by the minute." Todd drew in a big breath and expelled it."What do we do now?" he looked at Blair "Well it looks like my holiday is over. Back to Reality." They got out of the car and headed for the penthouse.

Blair had seen Jame's car which meant he was still upstairs. She said. "You're not going to grill James are you?"

"Blair I'll give him a pass tonight. I'm too tired to go after anyone right now. But they better be downstairs when we get there." Todd watched in amusement as Blair carefully pulled out her phone and texted something. Of course, that was only going to help if Starr was paying attention. They opened the door to music playing and laughter coming from the living room. It appeared that Starr and James had taken all the pillows and made a huge pile in the middle of the floor and they were busy jumping on them and having a pillow fight trying to see who could knock who off their feet. Blair and Todd smiled and skirted the pile. "You kids have fun." said Todd as he grabbed Blair's hand and headed upstairs. He looked at Blair "I made you a promise earlier, It's time to keep it." she blushed and followed him up.

****

Todd was pacing the living room waiting for Blair to arrive. He had been on the phone the previous morning with Ray, and they had agreed that since Todd wanted to face the door to his secret, Dr. Levin should indeed be present in case Pete made another attempt to take control. Ray also stipulated that if at any time Todd's heart experienced any problems the session would be halted immediately. Todd had to agree or Ray would have called off the session right then, but he was extremely frustrated.

The morning before, Todd, Blair, and Starr had sat down and discussed Jack and his bullying. Blair and Starr were going to do some more checking to find out how far out of hand it had gotten and Todd was going to try and get Jack to open up to Samuel. Todd hoped Jack would see Samuel as someone who wouldn't judge him but would listen. Something was eating at his son and he could relate. He had his own demon he was trying to eradicate, and he realized just how much a single act could fester inside.

Blair came through the door and saw him pacing. He stopped when he saw her. "What's the matter, Todd. Why are you so stirred up."

"I'm just concerned about today. I want this over with but I don't know if my body is up to it and if it isn't Ray will halt the session. Any changes in Manning's condition." Todd said to change the subject. "Give me some good news. Tell me he's coming out of the coma."

"All they're telling us is that he's getting stronger and they think he might awaken at any time. Tea said if he wakes up she'll send me word." Blair looked at Todd and said, "Shall we go?"

They made good time getting to Cherryvale and entered the clinic with time to spare. As they entered the sessions room, Blair observed that some extra equipment had been added. Along with the Doctor and nurse from the previous session, Dr. Levin was there conversing with Ray. The room had been rearranged so that a heart monitor and leads could be hooked up to Todd to better keep tabs on what his heart was doing during the session. Two more items had been brought into the room. A chair with restraints sat in front of the monitor and in front of the chair sat a full-length mirror. Blair looked at the chair and then at Todd but he didn't seem surprised. "Todd?" she asked.

"It's a precaution, Blair. I don't want Pete getting free if he takes control. Ray and I agreed it would be safer all around. Ray, I take it everyone is here." asked Todd

"We're waiting for one other person, Todd. I felt you might need a little more support today. She has agreed to leave if you don't want her here. Here she is." said Ray

Todd turned and saw his sister walk through the door. "Vicki, what are you doing here. This isn't something you want to see. I ..." he looked over at Blair "Tell her, she doesn't need this, not right now. Vicki, you have so much happening in your life. You don't need to worry about me. It can only bring up memories for you. You really shouldn't be here. " Todd pleaded with her silently to go but at the same time, he couldn't help being grateful that she was there for him.

"Todd, I promised you a long time ago that I wouldn't abandon you. You're getting ready to face your demons much the same way I had to face mine. I won't leave you alone with them. I had my family with me when I went through it. Well, guess what, you're my brother, and families stick together in a crisis. It's your choice. Do you really want me to leave?" Vicki looked at Todd waiting for his answer.

Todd looked at his sister with tears in his eyes. "No, please stay," he turned away from everybody and quickly wiped his eyes. "Well Docs, let's get this show on the road." Ray put chairs on either side of Todd's chair for Vicki and Blair. Todd sat down and the Nurse hooked him up to the monitor. Then Ray strapped his hands in the restraints. There was just enough give in them for Todd to comfortably hold Blair's and Vicki's hands. Ray's chair was on one side of the mirror facing Todd and Dr. Levin's was on the other. After a quick check by the Doctor to ensure he was fit enough to continue, the session began.

Ray began, "Todd at our first session we went back to the events of your last night in Llanview in March of 2003. You experienced some trouble that day so much so that we lost you for a short amount of time and if Blair hadn't been here we might not have gotten you back. I think it's time you talked to Samuel and between you maybe we can piece together the true events of the evening. Will you agree to this?" Ray inquired looking at Todd.

Todd looked at his sister and Blair, then nodded at Ray. Looking into the mirror he called to Samuel. To Todd's eyes, the chair in the mirror appeared empty and he saw Samuel approaching from behind the chair until he sat opposite Todd. Todd's eyes blurred and once again he had the sensation of looking through two pairs of eyes.

Samuel spoke, "This really is a unique feeling. Tom told me about it but I must say it's a little disorienting. Good morning everyone." Samuel squeezed Vicki's hand and looked at her. "Thank you for coming. It means a lot to both of us. Alright, let's start with my first real memory. The first sensation I had was hurting all over. It was dark and I felt hands holding me down. I was trying to open my eyes but they were so heavy. I remember struggling to catch my breath. My lungs were burning and my body felt like it was being pushed to the ground by a giant hand. I could hear laughter. It was nasty. I tried again to open my eyes I had a need to see who was laughing." the hand Blair was holding suddenly jerked and began trying to free itself from the restraint. Todd's eyes had lost focus even though Samuel's voice sounded strong, then his voice stopped. Todd whispered "No let go. stop don't do it." Todd's whole body was struggling to get free now.

Ray looked over at Dr. Levin who spoke. "Samuel you need to get control back. He needs to hear your story. He's trapped in his delusion again, you need to make him listen. Come on Samuel take control."

"Todd, you need to listen, It's me, Samuel, hear my voice. Todd listen, we're being held down by two men. Strangers. There is a third man. Do you hear me Todd there are three men? The two holding us, they aren't important. They're flunkies. They've been beating on us. Hurting us as they're kicking us and holding us down. Todd, feel them, not one pair of hands, there are two pairs of hands. Feel them. Todd, it's not your father. Peter's not there.  Peter's dead remember?" Samuel got full control and Todd's body got still.

Todd spoke somewhat unfocused "It's not Peter, but it was, I saw him." he blinked," I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, something crushing down on me, body felt so heavy hurt everywhere. Chest hurt, then heard laughter...it was Victor, he was coming for my heart, he told me so in the crypt." Todd became unfocused again.
Samuel moved in swiftly "I see the knife Todd, look, it's coming down but not towards my heart, the third man is talking.  I can hear him.   Can you hear him, Todd? come on listen, hear what I hear. He's taunting me, he says he's going to make sure I never forget him. He brings the knife closer He says.. he says?..."

Todd's eyes suddenly focus directly across at his image in the mirror, and in a voice as cold as ice he says "That son of a bitch said he was going to give me L for Lawrence as he sliced my cheek wide open." All eyes were on Todd. His voice was dripping with hate "He's a dead man. He engineered Sam's death and almost killed me, I owe him big time." Todd was looking at the mirror through one set of eyes again but he saw Samuel sitting opposite him.

Samuel was nodding. " Well I'm done you don't need me anymore."

Todd looked stricken "You're done when I say you’re done. I do need you, don't leave. I need your help with Jack. You give me the stability I've always lacked."

"Todd, I won't be that far away but I'll no longer be readily accessible. You'll do fine. Thank you for letting me have the time I've had. Give my love to Blair and Starr and Princess Shorty" Samuel got up, fading as he walked away.

Todd looked at Vicki, as the tears flowed from his eyes. "I've lost him. I didn't want to lose him. I don't want to lose any of them. How can I get him back?"

Vicki got closer and hugged her brother as his grief took over. On Todd's other side, Blair too was in tears for the friend she had spent such a brief time with but would sorely miss.

"Todd you haven't really lost him. He's here. He'll always be here." Vicki covered Todd’s heart with her hand.

In the back of his mind, he hears. "I'm here, Todd when you truly need me." Todd raised his head and looked once more in the mirror and smiled.


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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chasing the Monsters: 31

"Todd, it's Sister Rebecca Katherine."

"Ah, Sister, top o' the morning to ya," he mocked.


"Now, Todd, ya know ya can't be mocking y'ar old aunt and still get the information I have for ya."


"All right, Sister, I'll be nice.  How are you?"


"I'm fine.  And ya and y'ar family?"


"Great.  Things are good.  Really good," he said, turning on his side and watching Blair in her short silk nightie brushing her hair.


"I'm glad.  Y'ar mother will be making a visit, I hear."


"Yeah, she's coming today.  I'll be going to pick her up in an hour or two.  I think I'll copter it, take Jack with me for the ride."


"That's wonderful, really.  I just wanted to tell ya how excited she is, and how much she wants to be there."


"I know, she could barely contain herself on the phone."


"I just thought that ya should know, she's been . . . painting."


"Yeah, she mentioned it.  Not sketching but painting.  That's cool.  She's done a lot of nice work, I heard from Ray."


"She has."


He waited, and it was silent.  He said, "What's the matter?  You're . . . not telling me something."


"Not yet, no."


"Well?  Sister?  Buck up, let's go."


"She's been painting interesting subjects of late."


"Yeah, she's got a good eye.  What of it?"


"She's also taken to painting people."


"And?"


"Her most recent one is a large one, sprawling actually, and the subject is, well, Mitch Laurence."


He was silent.  He cleared his throat, "Laurence?"


"Yes.  Seems she is quite taken with the memory of him."


Blair said, "The last man who made her feel safe."  


He repeated her words.

"Yes, ya understand her already.  I knew ya would.  Just thought ya should know in case the subject came up.  Treat her kindly, Lad."


"Of course.  She's Momma, there's no other way to treat her."


"Precisely.  Love ya, my nephew.  And say hello to the babbies and the wife."


"I will, Sister."


He hung up.  For a moment, he just stared into the fireplace, where the embers from the previous night's fire were still softly glowing.  Blair turned to him, "Hey, you all right?"


"Yeah, I'm fine.  Momma's coming.  That's good.  
She's been painting Mitch."

Blair sat on the edge of the bed.  "I heard." 


"The bastard."


"She doesn't know everything, Todd."


"I know."


"She only knows that he . . . loved her."


"Ugh, on an empty stomach?"


"Well, it's true.  She only remembers his love.  She doesn't know anything else about him, except the home invasion, maybe, and she might not be all clear on that either."


"She was so out of it then."


"She was.  So sad.  She's so much better now, Todd."


"I know, I'm . . .  glad about that.  I just . . . this Mitch thing.  She has to be told."


"It will be okay.  She will find out, in her own time, Todd.  She just . . . she only remembers him as her savior, he saved her from Peter.  That's what she knows.  And, as hard as it is to believe, she loved him."


He rubbed his hands over his face.  "Shit."


"He did save her, Todd.  Regardless of what that meant for you."


"I guess, yeah."


"He saved her sanity, as well.  At least, until Peter tried to kill her.  Think about that."


He stopped, and he did what Blair asked.  He thought about his mother, being brutalized by Peter and then going into the arms of debonair, slick Mitch Laurence.  It was the hand she had been dealt.  "She . . . needed someone, I guess.  Doesn't make it easier."


"No, I guess not."


"Well, I'd better get up and get ready.  I'll copter over to get her.  Does Jack know?"


"That he's going?  I don't know."


"I'll go get him."


"Don't bother," she said, "I have to go by there to get to Jewel's room.  Time for her breakfast.  I'll tell him."


"Okay," he said, turning onto his back.  His hands were under his head, and his elbows flanked his ears.  He looked at the skylight in the ceiling, and for a moment, he thought he saw several small birds through it, and he blinked his eyes, quickly, until the sight of them was gone.  He sat up, abruptly, and then threw off the covers, to go and prepare himself for the day.


It wasn't twenty minutes later when Jack showed up at the door of the master bedroom, and said, "Dad?  You ready?"


"Almost.  You?"


"Yep.  We're going to get Grandma Bitsy, right?"


"Yeah, right.  Coptering."


"Okay, cool."  He sat on the edge of the bed.  


"So, where's Jenna lately?"


"Busy, doing an art portfolio for placement classes.  She's really into this college thing."


"Good for her," Todd said, trying not to show his disdain for the fact that Jack had opted out.


"You're still mad at me, right?"


Todd finished the last of his daily hygiene routine, and turned to his son, dragging a towel over his face and neck where he had just shaved.  "No, I'm not mad at you, I'm just . . . trying to understand.  Give you some space to do your own thing."


Jack looked at his shoes.  "It's okay, I guess."


"What is?"


"Being a copyboy."


"You don't sound convinced."


"Yeah."


The room was silent as Todd grabbed his jacket, and went toward the glass wall.  "You coming?"


"Yeah, I'm down," his son said, following.


They climbed into the helicopter, and Jack said, "A big change."


"Hm?  From?"


"How it used to be, for you.  When you first started out."


Todd nodded.


"Dad?"


"Yeah, Jack," he said, handing him the earphones they both would wear on the way, to be able to speak to each other.


"What if I told you that . . . I'm starting to, sort of, well, rethink things."


"About?"


"College."


"I'd say, okay, let's talk, I guess."


Jack got very quiet and turned his attention out the window.  Then he said, "Dad?"


"Yeah?"


"Think I'll be punished, sometime?"


"No."


"Like in the future, something bad will happen to me, or to my wife or my kids, because of what I did?"


Todd was careful.  He'd always believed, himself, that all the pain that had been brought to Blair and their children was his fault:  a result of his actions in the past.  Karma's a bitch.  "Nope.  Doesn't work that way, ask your mother."


Jack was silent again, for a while.  Then he said, "What's it like to love someone that much?"


"It's the greatest and the worst thing there is."  Jack turned quickly to his father, and Todd glanced sideways, without taking his eyes off the controls.  He said, "The greatest because she makes everything okay.  The worst because every day, I run the risk of losing her."


"I don't know, she's got it pretty bad for you, too."


"Not as bad as I do."


"I think it's pretty even, Dad.  Really.  I mean, she takes you back, well, she did, over and over.  She forgave everything that was ever wrong."


"It shouldn't be like that.  There shouldn't be an 'over and over.'  That means I hurt her too often."


Jack looked back out the window, "She forgives you, I can tell.  She's crazy about you."


"She is, huh?"   Todd half-smiled.


"Yeah.  When you weren't here, she was, well, weird sometimes with Zeus.  And after they broke up, she was never right, always looking for something.  Most of the guys were total assholes.  I used to tell her, but she didn't listen.  She was probably looking for you."


Todd realized the magnitude and accuracy of his son's words.  "You were always looking out for her, huh?"


"Yeah.  Like that Eli guy,  I never liked him.  Turned out to be a psycho killer, who almost murdered her."


Todd's chest tightened.  What would I have done if I fought my way back for eight years, and she was dead?  "Bad Dude, huh?"


"She thought she killed him, shot him and everything."


"That's your mother.  Believe me."  Jack smiled, and in that moment, even out of the corner of his eye, Todd could see Blair in his son, more than anything else.  He said, "I guess it's lucky she did."


"Yeah.  She was never really right without you.  And I only figured it out when I first saw her after you came back.  You weren't even together, you just showed up, at the premier.  The night after that, when we got home, she was totally different.  She was moving like she was in some kind of haze.  It was like something had changed, but nothing had, at the same time.  I'll never forget that.  And, the first time I saw you, at the cabin, I watched her face more than anything else.  It was like I'd never seen her before."


Todd nodded, and remembered exactly the day Jack was talking about:


Todd breathed deeply and sighed.  "Jack, you know, I can tell you why.  I was twisted up inside.  I was afraid.  I was scared your mother would never love me, and I was scared of loving you.  I thought you were another man's child, and that's not an excuse for what I did, because there is none.  But, it's the reason I did it.  I was too cowardly to accept it otherwise.  When I found out you were mine, I did everything I could to bring you back.  And I lied, to your mother, and I hid your illness from her.  I did all of that because I was not a whole man.  I've made a lot of mistakes, but it doesn't mean I don't love you."


Blair noticed Jack's face softening, and his posture sinking a bit into the couch.  Todd continued, "Every day while I was gone, I repeated your name, your mother's, your sister's, over and over to myself."


"That makes no sense.  Why would you do that?"


Todd stopped for a moment.  "I can't explain all of it, but trust me, it made sense.  I was being held against my will, and the people who had me wanted information from me.  So I went through a lot of things that were difficult and sometimes made me feel like I might lose my mind.  So, I held on to the only thing I had and loved, and that was you three.  It was my way of coping,"  He paused, "Jack, look at me, can you?"


Jack acquiesced.  Todd continued, "I am sorry for what I did.  I can't take it back.  But, your mom forgave me, and I am so lucky that she did.  It's up to you if you want to forgive me or not, but believe me, I am your father."


Jack did not respond, but his eyes lingered on Todd's for a few additional moments.  "All right, so say you are.  If you are, then you'll be able to forgive us, right?"


Todd half smiled, "For what?"


"For anything.  Like, something we did wrong."  


He shook himself loose from the memory.  "Hmf," Todd continued, "I guess the first time we met, formally, was in Viki's cabin.  You were different than I thought, and brazen, like I imagined."


"How was I different?"


"You knew I was your father.  You hardly questioned it."


"I kinda knew as soon as you showed up.  Told everyone, at the house.  The first night, Mom was so weird.  I knew, even told Starr you probably were our real Dad.  The next morning, Mom was out at the crack of dawn, basically, to go and see you in the jail.  I was like, 'yeah, it's him.'"


He swallowed, "I remember."


"Anyway, she's never been right until you came back, and I couldn't see it, until you were there.  Starr knew, she said, inside somewhere.  Mom was different than she remembered her to be when you were there."


"You don't say?"


"Even with Zeus, she was never like she is now."


"What, screwed up?"


Jack laughed, "No,"  he paused.  "Happy."


They flew the rest of the way in mostly silence, Jack staring out the window over the land, and Todd soaking in what his son had said.  Happy.  The elusive butterfly of his world.  Did he really make her happy?  He remembered so much angst and sadness, but at the same time, he knew his son was right, because he was never the same without her either, and it had started when he came back from Ireland, before Starr was born, to find her with Patrick Thornhart.

If he had just been able to put aside his jealous ire and love her.  Things would have been different, but then, much of what they had now might not even exist.  What struck him strangest was that Patrick's name did not even make a slight tightness in his chest or fists, it was like any other name.  It no longer had the same meaning, and time passing, a few lives saved on both sides, had deadened the power of Patrick in his psyche, as a threat, and washed it away.  Of course, when thinking of Patrick, his thoughts couldn't help but rest on Marty, and he hoped, with a lump in his throat, that she was all right, and finally at peace and able to move on.  


It had been a long road, for all of them.


Jack said, "Dad?  Did you hear me?"


"No, I didn't, what is it?"


"You flew over Mountainview and past it."


"Oh, my bad," he said, dipping and turning around.  They landed on the lawn, as customary for Todd Manning.


Both hopped out, and Bitsy was already on the lawn not far away.  She waved, her calico dress blowing in the wind behind her, and her hand held a wide-brim hat on her head.  Todd noticed she still wore white bobby socks in her loafers and a small pang of realization came to him, remembering his own fascination with white socks for a large part of his early life.  "Momma!" he called out and started to walk to her.  He embraced her, and looking over her shoulder to Jack as they turned, he smiled.


Jack took his turn hugging his grandmother, and then, dutifully picked up her luggage.  Todd grabbed her other bag, and her art portfolio, the large, leather one he had bought her.  He said, "Come on, Momma.  Hop in."


"Oh I love being in the whirlybird, Todd!"  she said, still childlike in her words and actions.


Jack packed the luggage carefully and climbed into the back of the cab.  "Let Grandma Bitsy have the front, Dad, she can see more that way."


"All right.  Momma, that okay with you?"


"Oh, yes, thank you, Jack," she said, climbing in beside her son.  "This will be like, sort of like a bird, again, Todd.  Like flying."


"It is flying, remember?"


"Yes, I remember.  It's so much fun."


He smiled.  Turning a few dials, he lifted off, and Bitsy was pulling at her belt to make sure it was tightly fastened.  Then she folded her hands and looked outside through the glass.  "Beautiful as ever," she said.  "You were always fascinated with flying.  And with birds."


Todd didn't respond, instead, he looked ahead and concentrated on getting them home.


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