They arrived back at his hotel room. Todd closed the door and turned to embrace his wife. Blair suddenly backed out of his embrace. "Hold it. Before we go another round, I have a bone to pick with you."
Todd dropped his hands and walked toward the bed. " Okay, I guess I've got it coming. Let's hear it," he sat down on the bed.
Blair had been holding in all the emotions she felt; the anger, the frustration, and the fear she had been feeling all these weeks. Now that he was here, safe and in front of her, they all came rushing back with a vengeance. "How could you just go off like that and leave me? What happened to all of your promises? I came down to help you that morning and you turned away from me, do you have any idea how I felt? I knew you were in trouble, but you wouldn't stay and talk it out. Then you just disappeared, no word, no nothing." she looked at him, but he just sat there saying nothing. She wanted to scream. "I was frantic, I thought you were so distraught you might take your life. Why did you do that to me?"
Todd didn't know how to answer her. He hadn't been thinking clear that morning, the fog had descended over him and all could think of at the time was to take his filthy self away from her. "Blair, I know sorry won't cut it. I'm not sure I can talk to you about it even now. You don't know what I did that night. I couldn't look myself in the eyes, how could I look at you?"
"I know what you did," she said. He looked at her astonished. "Did you really think after all these years I wouldn't know you or what you were, and are, capable of. Todd, when you left as Pete, I knew you were going to undertake something pretty awful. Pete has only come out when your anger reached a fever pitch and you weren't angry that night so I knew you let him out on purpose. I didn't find out just exactly what you had done until after you left. But it didn't take me too long to read between the lines after John told me the state that Hesser and Kipling were found in. You tortured them, you let Pete exact your revenge didn't you? That's what drove you away from me that morning. You hated yourself because you gave into your anger and allowed it."
"Blair you're partially right. I hated myself for giving into my anger, but I despised myself more because, at one point in the middle of it all, I actually found myself reveling in it. Do you understand what I'm saying? I had turned into the very man I hated. I was no better than he was. I was laughing at their misery the same way he laughed at mine." Todd got up and strolled to the mirror. "I could hear his laughter the whole time Pete was doing it. I didn't stop it and something in me came out and relished every bit of it. When it was all over and I came home to you, Pete was still in charge and his feelings of excitement and exhilaration were churning with my own and then it hit me, what I had become. Pete was laughing and I couldn't stand that laughter any longer. I silenced Pete and took back over, but it was too late. 'His' laughter, Peter's laughter was still echoing in me, the harder I tried to shut him out the louder it became, rolling over me, telling me I could no longer deny what I really was. I was the same Monster I had been denying all those years ago. I hadn't changed, and if I stuck around I would hurt you because that was what I did. I hurt people." Todd slammed his fist into the mirror shattering it, the coldness held at bay all night, now seeping into him as he collapsed to his knees clutching his mangled hand, drowning in his own personal hell as Peter's laughter crashed over him in waves.
Blair had listened horrified by what she was hearing. He was wrong, so wrong, but in his mind, he only saw the monster. She had been frozen to one spot as he had talked, her anger evaporating as she listened to him describe what had happened that morning. Time had seemed to slow down; as in her mind, she pictured him standing over Hesser and Kipling and getting a perverse pleasure out of hurting them. At the sound of the shattered mirror, Blair snapped back to reality taking in her husband shattered on the floor. She ran and got a washcloth and went to him, "Oh God, Todd it's not true. You'll never be him." she was crying and trying to wrap his hand. "Peter would never have helped those children or placed himself in harm's way for anyone. I won't let you think that anymore. I could never love a man like Peter, but you I love to distraction."
She raised his head and looked into his eyes. They weren't focused on her and she knew he was lost hearing things only he could imagine. "You're not evil or sick, you love with a passion because you've missed it all your life. Because of your father you've been tainted, so yes you're capable of committing wrongs but you are so much more than the wrongs you've committed." She had to get through to him, she kissed him trying desperately to let him know he could never frighten her away. She prayed for some sign to tell her was making progress. "Please Todd, this is what's real. You do deserve this come take it. Come take it, come take me." she deepened her kiss, crying and hoping she was making a difference.
Todd clung to her for survival, she had come to him this time for real not just a dream and the waves receded as he came up gasping for air, responding to her kiss and returning it. He was shaking and the cold began to ebb away as she held him. She was crying and he realized it was for him. He hated that, hated when she cried. This time it was his fault. A certain calm came over him as he gathered himself and gently stroked her hair. "Hey, shush, don't worry about me. I won't go again, I need you. I know that now. As long as you're next to me, I'll stay afloat. You're my lifeline I don't ever want to be cut off from you again."
Blair peered at him through watery eyes and saw him looking back at her. He was back, the man she had fallen in love with years before. The man who had surprised her at every turn. She had seen him first, long before anyone else had seen the real him. The connection between them had started with that first conversation in Rodi's and even though she had been alarmed when she realized who she was talking to, she had been drawn to him. Everyone had warned her about him, but none of them knew the real Todd. She did and she was never going to let him get away again. She smiled tremulously and said. "Don't worry about that, from now on we're joined at the hip."
Todd got up off his knees and helped Blair off the floor. The motion of pulling Blair up caused his ribs to twinge and he couldn't help the slight moan that escaped as his muscles protested. Todd walked over to the sink to see the damage he had done to his hand once more. This time it was necessary to pull some glass pieces out of his knuckles. "I've really got to stop doing this," he said to no one in particular. He put his hand under the water and hissed as the pain radiated up his arm.
Blair grabbed the hand towel and wrapped his hand up. "Yes you should, I'm surprised you can still use it."
He smiled at her. "It's like the rest of me takes a lick but keeps on ticking."
Blair chuckled, only Todd could find humor where moments before he had had a meltdown. "You do need to stop beating yourself up. I accept you just the way you are with all your flaws, I didn't come into this marriage with my eyes closed, Todd. After all these years, you need to give me a little bit of credit." She took a moment to take a hard look at his hand. "I hate to say this, but I think you're going to need stitches this time."
"Nah, a couple of band-aids, a little superglue, I'll be good as new. We can probably get both down at the front desk. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry all of sudden, Let's go get some early breakfast before the paper comes out. " He went to get another shirt out of his bag when she stopped him.
"I think we should call room service," said Blair taking the ruined shirt off his shoulders. She took the next moment to start kissing his gorgeous shoulders and working her way around in front of him. "I don't really feel like going out, do you?" her hands were rubbing across his chest and the look on her face told Todd what she fancied eating.
"I guess room service could work. Do you have anything you want to order?" Todd couldn't stop what he was thinking, Blair was in her siren mode and he felt himself falling under her spell.
"I've got my eye on what I want," she stopped, and undid her zipper and let the dress fall to the ground. "How about you, do you see anything that whets your appetite." She held out her hand.
That was his undoing. He took her hand, "As a matter of fact, there is something very tasty that comes to mind." he led her to the bed stopping long enough to shed his slacks, then he joined her, meeting her eager mouth with his own. It was almost dawn when Todd fell into an exhausted sleep, his body finally giving into fatigue from his lack of sleep over the last few days.
Blair lay next to him frowning at the bruises beginning to show around his ribcage. She noticed the bullet wound from Christian had been at the center of one of the blows, and the blow had been severe enough to cause the wound to partially reopen, seeping a little. He hadn't been taking proper care of it and the wound had gotten infected. He was probably going to need some antibiotics for it. She carefully removed the towel from his hand. It had stopped bleeding. He had been right about the hand at least. She leaned over and kissed his forehead and slipped out of bed, going back to the bathroom to get a wet cloth to clean his wound and his hand. He had been reckless and almost gotten killed trying to save the girls. But after listening to him explain why he had left, she had a better idea what had driven him to do it.
He had also surprised her, it had never occurred to her that he had done more than gallivanting around the world after leaving Tea. She had been sure that he left to get away from the recriminations of the whole town after everyone believed he had faked DID to escape jail time. That he had actually gone and gotten a job during that time was a bit of a shock. Of course, now that she knew he hadn't faked
When he had disappeared on her, he was once again driven to find some purpose to stay alive so he had returned to Savannah. It had helped him back in 1998, so he had taken the chance it might help him again. She was grateful he had chosen work over suicide. Even though she realized he still had taken on a dangerous story that could have gotten him killed. Blair sat down and very gently cleaned his side, taking great care not to wake him. He looked so exhausted. His nights must have been filled with nightmares and knowing Todd that meant he had avoided sleep at every turn. She then turned her attention to his hand, carefully cleaning away the encrusted blood and laying it down at his side.
The sun was beginning to shed its light into the room. Blair got up and closed the curtains so the room would stay darker for a little longer. She picked up the phone and called room service and ordered some fruit, coffee, and some pastries along with some bandages. Although a strange request, the person on the other end took the order in stride and a short time later breakfast and bandages arrived, no questions asked. Blair quickly bandaged both the side wound and his hand and covered him. He hadn't even stirred. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down in the chair next to the bed content to just sit there and watch him. He would wake when he was ready and she would be there when he did.
Todd came awake slowly reaching beside himself but not finding Blair. He lay there trying to figure out if what he remembered had happened, or if he had just been dreaming. The answer was obvious. He had been dreaming. He was losing it, he wanted Blair back with him so bad, he was now dreaming whole scenarios. It had all seemed so real; taking down the guys on the pier, saving the girls, even Blair finding him. Todd wondered if he was ever going to get over this need to be with her.
The room was dark so it was probably still early morning. He knew he should get up, but he just wanted to go back to the dream. He couldn't make himself open his eyes. If he just laid there maybe he would drift back off and dream about her some more. She had seemed so real. He was losing it. "Tom are you around?"
"Heck yeah, Todd, how you doing? Pretty good day huh?"
"I don't know about that, I think I'm losing it. All I can think about is Blair. Am I crazy?"
"Sheesh, Todd, why would you think that? What's wrong with thinking about Blair? She's great. I love to think about her and so do the rest of the guys. I mean, well you know, she gets us. So, you made Lily happy, it was great. Man, the way you took down that Sid guy, Wow!"
"Wait a minute. What are you talking about, Tom?" Todd was puzzled. Tom was talking about his dream. That had never happened before.
"You know! Yesterday! I thought we'd had it when those guys got you. Boy, we couldn't see, we were going nuts in here. Then that guy began hitting you.."
Todd's eyes flew open. It hadn't been a dream. If all that was true then so was Blair. The room was dark, just what time was it. He rolled over to look at the time but hissed as pain shot through his ribcage.
"Hey, it about time you woke up." said Blair.
Todd's head whipped around at her first words. She really was there. He raised a hand, rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't just seeing things.
Blair moved to the bed and sat next to him. "I was getting a little worried. If you had slept too much longer I was going to call a doctor," she leaned down and gave him a kiss.
Todd closed his eyes at the feel of those lips on his. His arm went out and snagged her, and pulled her down onto him. All the events of the previous night came flooding back with clarity. All he wanted to do at that moment was savor the feel of her. She wasn't a dream any longer she was here beside him on the bed. Her touch was igniting him and he rejoiced in it. Every caress made him feel more alive. He had been nothing but a walking dead man without her.
Blair was overwhelmed. She had been startled when he had grabbed her because it was so unlike him, but she went with the flow, eager to continue where they had left off when he had fallen asleep. His hands moved over her body slipping beneath the dress and moving up her body skin against skin. His fingers played across her hips snagging the wisp of panties she was wearing and plunged underneath where she was so ready for him. Her body responded to his quest and she moaned in delight.
She arched ever closer as he continued his search. Her moans exciting him, his head dipped down as he pushed her dress up and away from her beautiful body his mouth seeking to taste her. He traveled slowly caressing her with his tongue as he made his way to her sweet center.
Blair could do nothing but squirm as the pleasure mounted inside her with every lick and caress. God, he was marvelous. The world exploded, her body going up like a torch as his lips and tongue caressed her, the sensations rolled through her wave after wave one topping the other. She collapsed on the bed exclaiming his name as he slowly made his way back up.
Todd smiled at the look of absolute satisfaction on his wife's face as he gently caressed her body, kissing her here and there and listening to her moan his name. He gazed down at her, as she lay there almost in a fugue state still wrapped in the sensations of his lovemaking. She was real, and she wasn't going anywhere. She had promised him last night, that she loved him no matter what, and he was going to hold onto that lifeline. He reached up to move her hair from her face and she gazed up at him. "I thought you were a dream, and that everything that had happened was all in my imagination, you have no idea what it means to me, to realize you're here. I know I said it to you yesterday, but I have to say it again. Thank you for finding me."
Blair gently reached up to touch his cheek. "Don't worry, I'm here where I belong, and if you have to reassure yourself every day that I'm real, you go right ahead. I'll be here to give you that reassurance," he took her hand and gently kissed it. Blair opened her arms and welcomed him home.
Todd started to roll out of bed and again found his side protesting. he looked down and saw the bruising and the bandage. Looking at Blair he said. "Why the bandage?"
"Oh, that. Your wound from Christian reopened a little bit because of the blows. I think it was becoming infected, but I knew you wouldn't let me take you to a doctor so I cleaned it the best I could. Really, Todd, the last thing you need is an infection running through your system."
" Okay, "mom". I promise I'll take better care of my wounds the next time I run away from home," he grinned and Blair grabbed a pillow and swiped at him.
"Hey injured here, remember," he laughed grabbing the pillow and hitting her with it. She squealed and soon they were both roaring as they beat each other with the pillows.
They were wrestling on the bed when Blair's fist accidentally hit his wound and Todd hissed suddenly at the pain. "Oh God Todd I'm so sorry." Her hand quickly reached the spot feeling the area just to be sure she hadn't done more damage. The area was warm to the touch and was looking inflamed. "That does it, we're getting you checked out. Besides C.J. called while you were sleeping and said that Chase and his grandfather were going to be visiting Lily. We can take care of your side and you can see Chase." she could tell he was getting ready to protest. "No arguments Todd. Now go get cleaned up. I'll bring you some fruit, you must be starved." She hauled him off the bed and pushed him toward the bathroom. He started to turn back to her, the look on his face reminding her so much of Tom at that moment. "Go on," she ordered and he did. She couldn't help but smile. He was so endearing at times.
Blair walked over and opened the curtains letting in the late afternoon light. She really had been worried when he hadn't awakened. His body was trying to tell him something and he obviously wasn't listening. That wound should have been healed, it had been over three weeks since the shooting. He had been pushing himself ever since he left her. She walked to the door and opened it and saw the Savannah Herald sitting on the Floor. She picked it up and tucked it under her arm then she grabbed a couple of pieces of fruit and headed into the bathroom. Todd was just stepping from the shower and she took a moment to appreciate the view.
He grinned his shy grin and grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist, then walked over and took an apple out of her hand. Biting into it, he noticed the Paper under her arm. "Is that the Herald?"
"Yep," she said, still enjoying the view. She took a bite of her own apple and was surprised as some juice ran down her chin.
Todd took advantage of the moment, his lips quickly tasted the juice and found their way to her lips, after a tender kiss, he pulled the paper from under her arm and went to sit on the bed. Todd opened the paper and read the headline. White Slavery a Reality, America's Shame. Amos had done right by him and had left the story intact. He sat and read it, and thought he had done a fair job of telling the story. In his head he could hear, his bastard of a father thinking it could have been more sensational if they had captured pictures of the children and he thanked heaven there had been no photographers there.
Todd set the paper down and reached for his pants and then picked out a shirt. He thought about Lily and Chase and how close they had come to being shipped out to a foreign country, forever kept away from their family because of greed. They had been lucky, but there were probably hundreds more like them still captive. He picked up the apple and then tossed it, unable to take another bite. His heart was sick because he had only managed to put a small dent into what was a huge operation. Todd walked over to his file next to his computer and opened it to look at the picture of the CEO of the Daimler corporation. He looked like a very shrewd businessman, Todd was sure he knew exactly what his ship's cargo was, but Daimler was so far up the food chain it would be hard to connect him to the operation. Blair had come up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. his injured hand covered hers and he closed the file with the other. He prayed she hadn't been paying any attention to what he had been looking at.
"Who was that?" she inquired, she had just caught a glimpse of the man, but he was obviously a person of interest to Todd.
"Someone I'm looking into, it's nothing you need to worry about," he took her hand and walked back to the paper. Handing it to her he asked. "So give me the truth. Is it alright?" he walked to the window letting her read. He realized he was watching the sun go down and marveled that he had slept so long. After a few minutes, he turned around so he could see her face. A tear was glistening on her cheek as the light hit her. "What, it was that bad?"
Blair dashed the tear away and went to him. "It was excellent, Todd. You captured the plight of those children and the callousness of the men keeping them captive. The reporting of the rescue was riveting. You should be proud. Vicki will love it." she flipped through the paper to see if there was anything else she had missed and spotted the Editorial, Amos had printed it also and then added his own to complement Todd's. She handed the paper back Todd, "Someone else agrees with me."
Between Blair's high praise and Amos's Todd felt relief and was glad that he had chosen to come to Savannah. Perhaps in some small way, he had made a difference after all.
Todd had been wearing his ring nonstop because he couldn't stand to lose sight of Blair. But as they stepped out at the hospital, he took it off and put it away. There had been no time to replace his cane so he took Blair's arm and they headed to Lily's room. They could hear a great deal of chatter coming from inside the room so Blair knocked and waited for the come in.
Suddenly a young boy barreled into Todd, "Wow it's really you. You're my daddy's genie. Golly!" Chase grabbed his hand and pulled him into the room. "Grandpa this is the man who helped me, and you know what, he did it even though he can't see. He's magic you know."
Todd felt his hand being taken and pumped. "Mister I'm right glad to meet you. I'm so grateful you helped my grandchildren. C.J. tells me you diverted four men away from that damn warehouse the night you and he rescued Lily. That's some trick for a blind man to undertake. I must admit I would have to agree with the children, that's a right special talent you have."
Todd usually had an aversion to handshakes, but the old
"Now you're being modest Uncle. You drew those men away from the warehouse and completely sucked them into looking for you. Then you kept them busy somehow. All I had to do was meet Kym at the door. There's no way a normal man would have been able to accomplish what you did that night so although you don't want the title. I'm afraid you'll always be 'Ali' the genie and superhero to my kids. Joshua, I'd liked to introduce my Aunt Blair to you also. She was at the docks last night when the big rescue was undertaken." After Blair was greeted, the talk turned to the big rescue and the article in the paper.
"That Thomas Lord wrote a pretty in-depth article. He must have been in the thick of things yesterday," said Joshua.
"You could say that." said Blair looking with pride at Todd.
C.J. hadn't paid any attention to the by-line but now realized who Thomas Lord was. "You're a hell of a reporter Uncle Todd. but how did you know about the warehouse in Wilmington?"
"That was easy C.J., I just followed up a hunch on the Ship and it panned out. This organization is making billions off the backs of young children and young girls. It's unfortunate that I couldn't make a bigger dent in their business. I'm going to continue to follow up and see what else I can do to stop this."
Joshua had been listening and he knew a man with a purpose when he saw one. C.J.'s uncle was a man driven by something deep inside himself. That was why he had helped Chase and Lily and then gone back into the thick of things last night. He had little regard for his own safety as long as those he helped were safe. Joshua recognized the trait, he had seen it in some of the men he fought alongside during the Vietnam War. They too had pushed through battles like they were trying to exorcise demons. This man was doing the same. Joshua frowned, for some of those same men, the demons had finally won. The only thing going for C.J.'s uncle was his wife. She just might end up being his saving grace.
Todd felt the urge to turn the talk away from his part in the whole rescue thing so he headed toward the bed. He knew approximately where it was located in the room because he had counted his steps the night before. "Lily, how are you doing. You're awfully quiet."
Her young voice spoke up. "I mustn't speak until I'm spoken to. It'll get me in a lot of trouble, just like when I got in trouble earlier," her voice had lost some of its joy from the previous night.
"Why Lily, you won't get into trouble. Why would you think that?" Todd was alarmed at the matter of fact way she had answered. It was like she was repeating some of her training. What had happened since they saw her last? "C.J., what's she talking about?"
C.J. too had been alarmed at Lily's comment. It had come out of left field. "I don't know. Lily, when did you get in trouble?" He walked to the bed and was further alarmed when Lily shrank back from him. "Whoa Lily, I'm not mad just tell me why you think that way?"
"Because I made him mad when he came in earlier," Lily said.
"When who came in, Lily?" asked Joshua.
"The nurse. I was getting thirsty and Daddy had left to go get breakfast. I had pushed the button hoping someone would come help me and he came in and asked what I wanted. I was scared because he wasn't the nurse who had been helping me before, he seemed mad because I had rung the help button. All I did was ask for some more water and he got all mad. Kym said they yell because we don't know our place. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make him mad. I know my place, I'll be good." she was staring down at the bed afraid to even look at anyone.
Blair walked over and gathered the girl into her arms. She was shaking with fear. "Honey, you didn't do anything wrong. Shh. I'm sure the nurse wasn't really mad at you. He was probably upset about something else entirely. Your dad can find out and make sure he doesn't come in here again, though." She looked with concern at C.J. and Joshua and then she saw Todd's face. She saw the pain behind his eyes and his frown and knew he was feeling like he had let Lily down somehow. Even Chase was looking sadly at his sister.
Chase decided quickly to do something about his feelings. He walked up to his big sister and patted her hand and said. "Don't worry sis. If he tries to make you upset again, I'll kick him in the shins. That'll teach him to be mad at my sis." he was rewarded by Lily squeezing his hand and Blair smiled at him gratefully.
Blair continued to hold Lily and whispered encouragement into her ears about how strong she was and how brave she had been all the while she had been held. C.J. and Lily's grandpa had both gone in search of the nurse or an explanation as to why a male nurse had ever been allowed anywhere near Lily. As she held Lily, Blair glanced over at Todd. He had gotten so quiet after Lily had told them about the nurse. "Todd are you okay." He didn't answer, he was looking a little pale and Blair wished he would say something to let her know he was okay. He obviously was worried about Lily and she feared he would think himself responsible because he didn't get her out sooner. She felt Lily stirring in her arms and released her looking to make sure the girl was alright.
Lily pulled out of Blair's embrace and squared her shoulders and lifted her head. She had heard Blair's question to her great uncle and she looked over at him. Lily sensed something was wrong. He was worried about her so much and she could tell he was hurting for her. She didn't know him but he had come to mean a great deal to him during the time she had been held. she had imagined him her protector and he had shown up. she couldn't let him think he had let her down. Suddenly she kneeled on the bed and grabbed Todd's hand. "Don't worry about me, you did everything you could, I've got Chase and Dad and Grandpa to help me, thanks to you. I know it's not going to be easy to forget what's happened and what they did to me. But I'm going to fight it and win. You did that for me. You gave me hope when I was trapped and you got me free." She was crying for him as well as herself. He was her superhero and she didn't want him sad.
Todd grasped her hand amazed that she was trying to comfort him. He put his arm around her slight shoulders and gave her a simple hug. "I'm alright Lily." his voice caught as he choked back his tears. "I just want this nightmare over for you." he kissed the top of her head running his hand soothingly down her hair.
Blair reached over and got the girl to lay down and began singing her a song she had used to lull Starr to sleep. Lily was mesmerized and slowly drifted off to sleep. Chase had climbed into bed with his sister and had fallen asleep next to her, his little arm protectively around her. Blair and Todd watched over them until C.J. and Joshua arrived back in the room then they departed promising to see them at least one more time before heading back to Llanview.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Your comments are 'payment' for the work of the authors. Our writers like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment when you read.