Archive for the ‘Manny Fanfic’ Category

Bauer BBQ 2014 by Robansuefarm Chapter 2

July 5, 2014

Author’s Note: Nope still not divulging much. I will say that I just gave Michelle my mother’s new car because loves it and I thought Michelle would too.  It’s a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Also, in making sure we have the kids at the right ages, the then Marcy Rylan had son Jackson, who should get credit for playing the baby bump that was H.B. Lewis IV, on  Oct. 21, 2009. Since she only revealed her pregnancy in the flash forward set in September 2010, Little Billy the Fourth should have been born at least approximately Oct. 21, 2010 which would make him 4 now and a year older than Dani Santos. Sarah Randall was born in 2006 and she is 8 this year.

Bauer BBQ 2014 by Robansuefarm Chapter 2

It was a short drive over to the Bauer House on Skyline Drive and still early. Michelle pulled up into the parking area between the house and the garage apartment and said briskly, “OK everybody out!” Robbie grabbed a package out of the back and took off to carry it into his old room. Michelle let Hope dance ahead, and took on her first load with Dani riding her hip and the diaper bag draped over her shoulder messenger bag style. Michelle had pushed the button to make the back of the Wrangler close, but before it could close all the way, suddenly Bill caught it and sent it up again.

“Woah there Bauer, looks like you still have a lot to carry in, why don’t you load me up?”

“Well, Lewis, you always do best as a beast of burden.

“Hardy, har, har. That’s nice talk to someone who got up early to help you on his day off with his wife and infant son,” gesturing behind him as Lizzie came bearing down on them a four year old Little Billy IV pulling her along.

“I’d hardly call Little Billy an infant any more, next thing you know he’ll be breaking hearts just like his Daddy and ‘borrowing’ the car without asking.”

“You first, Bauer. Robbie’s 18 by now isn’t he?”

“He’s 13 as you very well know. You were at his birthday party.”

“AND if Little Billy’s breaking a heart it will probably be with that little girl of yours.”

Little Billy ran up and began yanking on Dani trying to get her down. “We want to play, Michelle. Dani down!”

Billy quirked her a smile, and said “Yeah, Michelle we want to play.”

“OK, OK I know when I’m out numbered.”

She put Dani down and Little Billy grabbed her hand and they took off, a short haired blond and light brown ringlets bouncing away across the parking area and into the kitchen door of the Bauer House.

Lizzie had been about a step behind her son and she threw Michelle a quick “Happy Fourth of July” and kissed the corner of Bill’s mouth as she rushed by. “I’ll keep an eye on them.”

“Here you go. Let’s really load you down and we’ll get all this stuff in the house. I already brought a load over last night. I’ll have to pull the apple pies out of the freezer and rewarm them in the oven, but I think we can get most of this in one load.”

Bill readjusted the load in his arms, “I don’t think anybody will mind Bert’s recipe apple pies aren’t fresh this year. Everybody knows you’ve had a lot going on, speaking of which do you want me to grab that?” Bill gestured with his head toward the last two bags in the rear of the Cherokee.

“No, I”m making a special trip with those, keep your dirty mitts off them….It was really nice of you guys to come early to help with set up, you did last year, too.”

“Well, you’ve showed up with the whole family early every Thanksgiving since Lizzie and I started our new family tradition, it’s give and take, help when you can. That’s just the Springfield way.”

“Here’s some help then, see if you manage to remember your anniversary without Lizzie having to prompt you this year, it’s just 10 days after the BBQ.”

Bill, a little put out, “Of course I’ll remember my anniversary.”

“You put the wrong date on your wedding invitations.”

Bill groaned. “Won’t you and Santos, ever let me forget THAT?”

Michelle paused to think for a moment, before shoulder bumping her friend and walking into the house with him. “Nope, I don’t think, we…at least I…will.”

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Bauer BBQ 2014 by Robansuefarm Chapter 1

July 4, 2014

Author’s Note: I’m actually going to reserve my author’s note for the end and you can all wonder why, like when Perry Mason does that with his opening statement. :) I will say though that I’m not SORASing Manny’s kids so that makes Robbie 13 this year, Hope is 9, and Danielle (who I created in my Springfield Bound story would have been born in 2011 and so is now 3).

Bauer BBQ 2014 by Robansuefarm

“Hmmmm Danny,” it had been years since Michelle had woken to any other thought. Before she even opened her eyes she felt her mouth turn into its instinctive smile and out of habit she reached for Danny on his side of the bed. She felt only cold, undisturbed sheets. She instantly sat up in bed and scanned the room for him before she remembered why he wasn’t there. The smile disappeared even though she should have been happy, it was after all the day of the Bauer BBQ and she hadn’t missed one since she returned to Springfield five years previously.

As if on cue a shortie pjs clad Hope came springing into the room, hopping from one foot to other, literally too excited to stand still. She gave up and made a dive on to the bed and gave her mother a hug. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” she said bouncing up and down on the California king bed. “I love, love, LOVE today. It’s going to be such a Extra Cool Bauer BBQ this year.” Hope hugged herself with pleasure. “I can’t wait for everybody to get here….Do you think Aunt Drew will bring me a present from New York? OH! Do you think I can wear it today!”

Extra Cool was Hope’s current phrase of the moment. “I’m sure today will be Extra Cool, honey. We’ll just have to see if Aunt Drew brings you anything. In the meantime why don’t you go run and brush your teeth and put on the outfit we picked out last night. I left your new red, white, and blue playsuit on the stool by your dresser.”

“OK, Mommy!” Hope stopped bouncing long enough to reach over and give her mother a big, wet, smacky kiss on the cheek. Hope bounced off the bed, bounced out of the room, and danced down the hallway back to her room.

Michelle stood and gazed for a moment out of the window mentally and automatically running through her To Do list for the day, on days like this she missed the balcony in her own room, but Danny had hated balconies for security reasons, despite the fact that he had once used hers to very good purpose one day, he was always worried someone out to get them would use it. And she couldn’t disagree that there were people from time to time out to get them still. Danny….. She had forgotten for a moment. Why didn’t it ever get any easier to do something even if you knew it was right?

Michelle gave herself a shake and turned back to make her bed. She had recently heard some advice that you should always make your bed each day. It made you feel put together and if something bad did happen at least you were returning to a made bed. She gave Danny’s side of the bed an extra stroke smoothing it and then turned and quickly jumped in the shower and dressed. She’d already thrown what she’d need later into a bag and put her things in the car the night before. She went down the hall and stopped at Robbie’s door.

Once Robbie would have been every bit as excited about the BBQ as Hope. She remembered him racing out of the rental car five years before, but at 13 Robbie was officially a teenager now. He was prone to sleep late and if last night had been any indication he would take his extra responsibilities today very solemnly. Michelle could hear the faint beeping of an alarm clock through the closed door. Her instinct was to push right in, but she paused and knocked. They were trying to be more respectful of Robbie’s privacy now he was a teenager. No answer, so Michelle pushed in anyway. As soon as the door cracked open the noise increased exponentially (it was a very solidly built house). One of Robbie’s birthday presents last March had been a Run Away Alarm clock to help counteract this new found tendency to sleep through a tornado, but so far it hadn’t been a rousing success. The clock continued to run around the floor blaring and Robbie had merely covered his head with his pillow and ignored it.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/711cUe0F9iL._SL1500_.jpg

Feeling nostalgic, Michelle shook Robbie. “Wake up, Tiger!”

“Aw, Mom do I have to?”

“It’s Bauer BBQ today.”

The reminder brought Robbie sitting upright with a jolt. “Guess I do.”

“Run grab a shower.” Michelle gave her son a loving pat as he hurried by her.

Next Michelle turned back up the hall to go into Danielle’s room. It was a beautiful room fit for her parent’s little princess. The twin canopy bed was still a new sight having taken the place of the crib. Michelle walked quietly over and kissed her daughter on the forehead, as Maureen used to do to her and Danielle’s eyes popped open. “Mommy!” she said. Michelle made short work of dressing her youngest child, the one who was the most the mix of them both and her heart gave a flutter. Her eyes automatically flew to the window where they could at long last see the hills that surrounded Laurel falls and to the sky above. Where was Danny right now?

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Bauer’s Fourth of July BBQ – Part 1 by SJ

July 2, 2014

Republisher’s Note: Although it was much more fully developed in fanfic than on the show, it was a running theme that Michelle couldn’t cook, they touch on that in this fanfic. This writer was also part of a group that often MaryJaned themselves and a small group of other fanfic writers into stories, hence the mention of Danny’s first girlfriend. She also does a real nice of job of subtle dropping in hints and jabs about the storylines current in 1999.

Author’s Note: Hey everyone, a post on Kristi’s board got me thinking about what to bring to the Bauer BBQ. Realizing that with the planned story line, Manny may not be at the BBQ this year, I decided to go ahead and write this 2 part story now. Also, I created a recipe for a cookie that even Michelle could bake. So I guess this first part of the story is also a challenge for other Manny recipes.

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Bauer’s Fourth of July BBQ – Part 1 by SJ

Michelle’s Journal Entry—July 4, 1999 11:30 PM

 

I cannot believe another July 4 has come and gone. It is so exciting that Abby’s hearing is returning. And this BBQ was wonderful for her. Rick has been so moody lately that he didn’t even want to do this BBQ but Abby surprised him at the last minute. I think he was very happy about it. Abby wanted to have the BBQ because of family tradition and she wanted to be with her friends when she could finally hear fireworks, not just see them. I bought her some earplugs just in case the noise was too much. Abby is such a wonderful and inspiring spirit to me. I hate it that Rick does not seem to understand that she is having some bad times now along with the good. Rick is always in a bad mood lately.

Good news Journal! Aunt Meta finally helped me devise a recipe that I can actually make I was talking to her the other day about my desire to learn to cook. She told me that what I need to do when I think about cooking is think of it as a lab experiment for a Chemistry class. I told her about a cookie that Danny’s first girlfriend used to make for him and she agreed to help me come up with a recipe.

About that girlfriend, I’m not putting on my Nancy Drew cap to help find her! She’ll just have to go unfound as far as Danny is concerned. He is mine now! Danny told me about her once, they met in Puerto Rico during the summer his family lived there. They were both 14 and met at the concession stand at the San Juan baseball park. He said her name was Carla and they’d seen each other every day that summer. She loved making him these cookies which he still talks about. He said he tried to track her down again after he came into some money at age 18 but had never been able to find her.

Anyway, I played around with one of the recipes Aunt Meta gave me and I think I’ve finally hit on something good. I’ll be honest and admit to burning a few batches but I made 10 batches that turned out perfect and everyone is gobbled them up at the BBQ. I remember thinking that I had better put some aside so that the real guy can try some! So here is the recipe for my new creation, which I’m calling

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Dannys

Serves 8 to 10 (if you double the recipe do not put in larger pan/break batches up)/ Prep time 5 minutes/ Baking time 30 minutes (convection oven) 35 (regular oven)

Ingredients

22 graham crackers (use food processor or hand to process into crumbs)

½ cup of wheat germ

1 12 oz. Can of evaporated milk

3 oz. Each of butterscotch chips and chocolate chips (or use 6 oz of 1 of these)

1 ½ tsp. Of vanilla extract or use 1 tsp. of cold espresso

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 by 9 inch pan with Mazola or Pam nonstick spray

Combine all of the aforementioned ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour into pre-sprayed pan. Bake in oven for around 30 minutes. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes then cut and cool on a plate. Put the Dannys in a plastic zip-lock bag and place on top of picnic basket (so they don’t get mushed) or place on plate and set out for the BBQ! This is a great no fuss, no muss recipe for kids to make too since there are no eggs and no flour to make a mess.

 

Options–Use ½ of walnuts or pecans, add in with rest of ingredients.

You can also substitute 6 oz of peanut butter chips for the chocolate and butterscotch chips.

If you want to make Billys use marshmallows instead of the chips.

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Okay, now I have written down my first recipe! Now I need to learn to cook something a bit more substantial.

But I have no ideas.

Where was I, oh yeah, talking about the BBQ? It was around 3 PM and I was standing in the kitchen helping set out the food when I looked over to see Aunt Meta fanning Lillian while Abby waved smelling salts under her nose. Ha, Jesse again, I thought and I was right. I looked out the window and saw that he was wearing those teeny black Speedo swim trunks, again. I thought I had thrown those things out last summer. Anyway, Lillian was finally coming around and Meta was muttering that in her day, men didn’t wear those things if they didn’t fill them out properly. Lillian then laughed and said, yes, if you do not have a well packed package, make sure that the wrapping isn’t too tight. At that both women started laughing and Abby who had heard half of the conversation was just standing there looking perplexed.

Danny had told me that he wouldn’t be by until after 5 so I decided I had time for a swim and ran upstairs to put on my new tankini. I loved the suit, it was demure but functional. I tied my new pink and salmon colored batik pareo around my waist and ran back downstairs to the pool. I would have to say that the sights that awaited me were surreal.

Jesse was there in the aforementioned bathing suit with Drew in a leopard print bikini. They both looked kind of tacky if I do say so myself. Bill and Pilar were there in matching suits. Her white one piece with a diagonal red stripe matched his red trunks with a white stripe. It was kind of cute to see them trying so hard to meet each other half way. Lizzie, Marah, Susan and Tammy all had really cute little suits that seemed to range the colors of the rainbow. Max was there too and was teasing Marah much to Susan’s chagrin. Shayne was splashing around in the wading pool with the Mahler twins (who Aunt Meta had agreed to baby-sit yet again). Beth and Cassie, inexplicably had on identical suits and Jim was standing between them looking awkward as usual.

Selena and Buzz, the newlyweds, even showed. Buzz had promised Abby a lot of food from his new restaurant and they were dropping off the assorted dishes. There is still a lot of tension between Drew and Selena. Ben just came in with Blake followed by Ross and India. It is obvious they are all being a little too polite at this moment. Everyone looked happy on the surface but you could sense the stress and tension underneath everyone’s polite gossiping.

Rick is standing at the grill with Philip (Harley who just had the baby sent her regrets) and they both are laughing and drinking beer. When will someone tell Rick, a doctor BTW, that rare hamburgers are not cool anymore? I bought some veggie burgers for him to cook this year and he even served them rare, which I did not think was possible.

I had a nice swim (Bill asked the kids to help him teach Pilar how to play Marco Polo at the opposite end of the pool, so I wasn’t bothered). I was thinking about Danny again, about the 500th time that day. I’m not sure why Rick is so against our union. Abby and Meta are on our side but lately this makes Rick more determined than ever.

I resolved not to think about that and instead thought back about the night Danny and I spent together at his house. It was the night he had announced to his mother and the other so called “Springfield families” that he was going legitimate. I had waited in his room for him and when he came in and found me in his bed, well the night became a sleepless one pretty fast for both of us.

It was very special and Danny had promised to get us away from here for a real honeymoon when he took care of one more piece of business. He was working on that today and I couldn’t/still cannot wait to start on that life together. If only Danny weren’t so possessive and protective of me all the time. I talked to Aunt Meta and Abby about this too. Abby said that Rick had been like this when they were first married and his so called wild bull behavior had continued through her incarceration. She chalked it up to an intense sense of jealousy that men seem to feel when they enter into the physical nature of a relationship. Aunt Meta said pretty much the same thing but in a bit more graphic detail.

I got out of the pool and toweled off. I wrapped my pareo around my waist and looked around at everybody again. Then I heard his voice. It wasn’t his playful voice, it was the gruffly serious voice.

Michelle, what are you wearing? I want you to go and change right now. I just wink at him, but inside I’m thinking, here we go again! Then I saw him and sighed. He was wearing an off-white pair of linen slacks and a very rich looking shirt that matched the slacks. He looked a little too good. I smiled and went over to hug and kiss him but he held me away.

“Danny,” I say, “I’m not wearing anything revealing or sexy.”

“That is a matter of opinion,” he said.

I pointed out all of the other women pool-side. He didn’t care and was getting ready to tell me again, I just know it, when Cassie knocked Beth into the pool. In the process, it soaked Danny’s shirt. Cassie laughed looked at Danny and the other people that had gotten wet and said “oh, sorry” and walked away. Jesse jumped into the pool to help Beth and I turned away so as to not see him leave the pool, that suit of his, Drew please talk to him! The pool incident seemed to relax Danny a little bit and he started talking in a calmer tone. He said, “I know you are being a good host Michelle, but you can still do a good job in a long sleeved jumpsuit that zips up to your neck.”

I laughed nervously, realizing that for all intents and purposes he was being a bit playful but was also quite serious. I told him he had to get over this jealousy. Just then Bill and Pilar walked by and Pilar made a point of telling me how cute I was in my suit. Bill politely agreed and with that, Danny said, “that is it!” He then playfully pulled me into the house and down the hall. We entered my room and he slammed the door shut. Then he surprised me by kissing me very passionately. I told him that this was much better than our discussion at the pool. He stopped nuzzling my neck and told me again to change out of my sexy suit (HA) and into something more appropriate..

I looked at him and sighed. Then I said, “whatever you want Danny” and I reached up and unhooked my top.

 

Bauer BBQ Fanfic

June 29, 2014
Danny and Michelle, 2001

Danny and Michelle, 2001

After last year’s great contributions, I haven’t gotten a single offering for Bauer BBQ fanfic. I do have a two part Manny Bauer BBQ fanfic that I haven’t published before, but I’d love to have more.  (It’s too late if you have a story just rearing to come out or one you’ve been hesitant to send, please do.) During GLManny Bauer BBQ week I accept fanfics from anybody. The rules are:

1. It has to be set at least in a major part at a Bauer BBQ.

2. It can involve any character from Guiding Light and can be during any time period.

3. I reserve the right to edit or reject submissions.

So even if you didn’t get a piece in for this year, please start working on one for next year now while you are in the mood. Also, if you MEANT to write a fanfic and never got it done, consider doing one with a Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas theme because I also solicit fanfics about any characters for my special weeks for the holidays. And, of course, I’m always looking for new Manny specific fanfics anytime.

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Epilogue

June 27, 2014

Republisher’s Note: I am very excited to restore the full text of this fanfic to the web and I hope you enjoyed it too.

Author’s Note: Well, for better or worse, here it is…finally the end. I couldn’t end this story though without first thanking Connie and Kai. Ladies, you’ll never know how much I appreciate our friendship. I respect and admire you both more than I can say and could never thank you enough for everything! And thank you for keeping me sane!!

To all of you who took the time to read my stories, thank you for allowing me to share a little of myself. And to those of you who replied, you’ll never know how much your support and encouragement has helped me continue doing something I love to do.

Wow…I guess I should just shut up now and get to the story! :) There’s really nothing else to say but thank you from the bottom of my heart. Here’s to better days ahead…

Love,
Candy

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The Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Epilogue 

Michelle eased her shaky legs down the staircase, one step at a time, gripping the wooden banister as much as her unsteady hands would allow. She felt relief when she reached the bottom step, knowing her next step would carry her to the steady hardwood floor of the hallway leading her to her destination. Just as she was about to take that final stride, her toe stumped a rather large, metal object sitting on the floor just before her. She narrowed her eyes in the darkness at the object, as words she never wanted her children to hear from anyone, much less her, slipped from her lips. Once her eyes focused in the dim light, she saw the outline of a bright red toy fire truck. How many times had she told Justin his toys belonged in his toy box in the playroom? She sat down on one of the lower steps and began to gently rub her throbbing toe. Her anger soon subsided as the memories of the past year began to replay in her mind. There was a time not so long ago when she would have given anything under the stars to trip over one of his toys. Though she knew Justin was safe now and the threat that had been the source of his disappearance was, for the most part, gone from their lives, she still had the nightmares. Maybe a mother never got over something like that. When one of her children was in danger or in need, she knew. And she would never stop worrying about them or having that yearning to protect them at any cost.

Once the throbbing had diminished, she ungracefully pushed herself up to her feet and continued down the hall toward the living room. The soft glow from one of the table lamps greeted her as she rounded the corner. Just as she had suspected, Danny was fast asleep on the couch, the newest member of the family also sleeping soundly, nestled safely on his chest.

Madelyn Hope Santos entered their lives two weeks ago, weighing in at just under five pounds and arriving three weeks early. After spending the first twelve days of her life in the hospital, she was spending her second full night at home and had yet to spend more than ten consecutive minutes in the room her parents had lavishly furnished for her. It seemed baby Madelyn, or Maddie as her father loved to call her, would rather keep her parents awake all hours of the night.

Michelle had just come home herself from a longer than expected stay at the hospital. After a somewhat complicated pregnancy, which had landed her in the ER on two more separate occasions, she had been forced to spend the past six weeks on complete bed rest. She had suffered from a minor infection after delivering by cesarean which had Danny a nervous wreck for days before he finally accepted Dr. Sedwick’s assurance that Michelle would be fine. Then two days ago, both mother and daughter were given a clean bill of health and sent home to be cared for by their loving father and husband. Michelle was still moving around a bit slower than usual and Danny had been in his usual overprotective mode, insisting she stay in bed as much as their youngest daughter would allow her. After getting up with her just over two hours ago, she must have slept right through her latest cries. Gingerly touching her sore breasts, she knew it was almost time for her eat again and despite Danny’s proclamations that he could handle everything himself, that was one area where he couldn’t help.

She eased herself down carefully, one leg at a time, to kneel beside two of the most precious people in her life. Her eyes first focused on her daughter’s button nose then down to her small pouty lips which were parted slightly as she slept. Danny had told her from the day she was born that Madelyn’s nose and lips looked like tiny replicas of her own. But her dark hair and olive skin were most definitely inherited from her father. Rachel may look just like Michelle and Justin looked just like Danny, but this little one, she was a perfect mixture of them both. And after having survived the hardest year of their lives together, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She was their reward for everything they had endured, everything they had suffered. She was their miracle.

When her fingers began to run through his soft curls, Danny began to stir, his eyes parting enough to see his wife’s smiling face. “What are you doing up?” his voice thick with sleep. “Why aren’t you in bed?”

“I woke up and found you gone. I figured you would be down here with her,” she smiled, resting a hand on her daughter’s tiny back.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, trying to clear the grogginess from his voice. “She finally quieted down and I guess I just dozed off. I’ll take her back upstairs to her cradle. Why don’t you go crawl back into bed?”

“I’m okay,” she sighed. “Besides, it’s almost time for her to eat again.”

“Already?” he frowned, his eyes straining to see the clock on the fireplace mantle. “What time is it?”

“About 11:45, I think,” she responded.

“Man,” he groaned, rubbing fiercely at his tired eyes. “We’ve only been down here for about an hour.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t hear her crying.”

“You’re exhausted, honey,” he stroked her cheek with one hand, while the other protectively held their baby girl.

“Well Madelyn needs her mommy to stay awake right now,” she managed a tired smile. “I’ll go back to bed after she eats.”

He felt his baby begin to stir against his chest and he looked down to see her wrinkled face, knowing her cries were about to begin. “Well, Maddie, must have heard her mommy’s voice.”

“Madelyn.” Michelle corrected with a playful grin.

“Maddie.” He laughed before the cries began to fill the room. “As much as I would love to be able to help here, I think this is your department.”

“What? You mean to tell me theres finally something you admit to not being able to do?” she playfully slapped his chest as she moved her hands to pick up her crying daughter from his chest. “Come here, my baby girl. Mama’s here.”

“Yes, I am a humble man,” a cocky grin covered his face as he helped ease his daughter from his chest. “I admit there are some things God just didn’t intend for men to be able to do. Michelle began to laugh as she tried to stand, but stopped short with a grimace. Danny’s smile quickly faded as his heart skipped a beat. “Slow down, Michelle. Here, take it easy.” He jumped to his feet and put a firm arm around her waist as he helped her stand. “You want to sit on the couch or in the rocking chair?”

“The couch is too hard to get up from,” she frowned. “I’ll just sit in the rocking chair.”

“Are you still hurting a lot?”

She rolled her eyes at him, shaking her head as she began to adjust her daughter against her body. “Danny, didn’t you hear Dr. Sedwick give me a clean bill of health?”

“That’s not what I asked.” He let out a frustrated sigh as he watched his wife giving his daughter the nourishment her little body needed.”

“Danny, I’m fine,” she looked up at him lovingly. “It’s only natural to be a little sore after a cesarean. It’s just going to take a little time for me to get back to normal. Don’t worry so much.”

“I’ll always worry about you, all of you.” He moved to straddle the ottoman sitting just in front of her chair as he continued to keep his eyes trained on his daughter.

“Guess I can’t stop you,” she smiled. “But we’re going to be fine,” I promise. She watched him as his gaze continued to stare at her and the baby. He looked as if he were in a hypnotic trance. “Hey. It’s not polite to stare, bud,” she giggled.

“Huh? What?” his eyes clouded in confusion as her voice snapped him from his trance. “I’m sorry. I just…”

“It’s okay,” she tried to suppress further laughter when she saw his cheeks stain a dark crimson.

“It’s just so amazing…”

“What’s that?”

“You,” he looked at her with a look of wonderment on his face. “I don’t think you’ve ever looked more beautiful than you do at this very moment.”

“What?” she frowned, running a hand through her tangled curls. She groaned when she felt the loose, frizzy stands that had fallen free from the ponytail she was trying in vain to keep her hair out of her face. “Danny, I look a mess.”

“You look beautiful.”

“I’m a mess.”

“You…are…beautiful,” he repeated, emphasizing each word. “Don’t ever doubt how beautiful you are.”

“You like my hair again, don’t you?” she teased as she shifted Maddie in her arms.

“I’ve always loved your hair,” his eyes danced playfully. “However you’ve had it.”

“Yeah, but you love it more now that the blond is back and it’s getting long again,” she frowned as she fingered the ends of her hair, realizing she was long overdue for a trim. “Getting too long actually.”

“You’re my Goldilocks again,” he grinned, resting his hands on her knees.

“I don’t think Rachel is ready to surrender that title,” she laughed.

“Well you both can be my Goldilocks.” His hands inched their way slowly up her legs to rest on her thighs, leaning up to whisper in her ear. “You’re just the sexy one.”

Her body involuntarily shuddered as his breath tickled the hairs on her neck. “Ststop,” she finally found the strength to muster a word. Shaking her head, she pushed at his hands. “I sure don’t feel very sexy right now.”

“Oh, believe me,” his laugh seductive. “You are most definitely sexy right now. You always are.”

“You sure the kids are okay with Rick and Abby?” she sighed, eager to change the subject.

Catching the not so subtle frustration in her tone, he decided to leave well enough alone for now. “Yes, sweetie. I’m sure they’re fine. They were excited to get to spend a few days with their Aunt Abby and Uncle Rick. Of course, you know they’re getting spoiled rotten over there.”

“Rick and Abby really are lifesavers for letting them stay there for a few days. I don’t think I could have handled them and the baby.” She placed her daughter carefully over her shoulder, patting her back gently. “I miss them though.”

“They’ll be home tomorrow night,” he rubbed her legs with his hands. “I think they’re both anxious to spend some time with their new baby sister.”

“I was kind of worried about Justin,” Michelle sighed. “He was the center of attention for months and I wasn’t sure how he would adjust when the baby was born.”

“I thought about that too. I know my mother always told me how Mick was jealous when they first brought me home from the hospital, but he…” Danny stopped short when he realized where his conversation had led and feeling contrite, tried to drop his hands from her legs.

Before he could move away, Michelle reached down and grabbed one of his hands, clutching it tightly as their fingers instinctively interlaced. “Honey, don’t be sorry. You don’t ever have to be sorry for talking about Mick. He’s your brother, Danny. He always will be.”

“I just don’t even want to think about him being a part of our lives until I know for sure he is going to follow through with everything he said he would.”

“So he and your mother still plan to turn over all of the illegal business to the other families?”

“That’s what they tell me,” he sighed.

“I hope they’re serious,” she shook her head slowly. “I really hope they are.”

“Well, if they aren’t, then there is no place for them in our lives. We aren’t going to live in fear anymore. I am not going to raise my children in the kind of life I had to endure as a child. They deserve more, you deserve more. And I’m going to make sure I give it to all of you.”

His eyes were so full of love and devotion, it brought tears to her eyes. She placed her hand against his face, cradling his cheek against her palm. “You’ve given us everything we ever could ask for. You’re a wonderful man, Daniel Santos. Don’t ever doubt that.”

He pressed a kiss to her palm and dropped to his knees beside her, reaching up to caress her face. “And you’re a wonderful woman, Michelle Bauer Santos. You’re a wonderful wife and mother and my very best friend.”

“Okay, we really have to stop this,” she wiped at the tears streaming down her face.

“Emotions still all over the place, huh?” he laughed through his own tears.

“Yes,” she smiled shyly. “At least Pilar understands what I’m going through. I think Bill is running out of patience dealing with her crying spells, though.”

“Well, my little sister has always been over emotional,” he laughed. “She’s always cried at the drop of a hat. And now that Isabella is here, well I’m sure it’s only gotten worse.”

“I can’t believe she’s almost a month old and I’ve barely seen her,” she sighed, resting her head against the back of the chair as she inhaled the sweet fragrance of her baby’s soft skin.

“You’ve been just a little busy, sweetie.”

“I know, but she’s my sister-in-law’s and childhood friend’s first baby. I want to spend some time with her and let her and Maddie be together as well,” she turned her around to cradle her against her chest.

“Maddie?” he looked at her playfully.

“Okay, okay,” she smiled. “What can I say? You’re rubbing off on me. Now, I think your daughter has finally drifted off to sleep,” she whispered. “We really should take advantage of this reprieve and get some sleep ourselves.”

“Why don’t you go lay her down and come back down here?” a devilish grin on his face.

“Why?” she quizzed.

“Just go lay her down,” he repeated with a smile.

“Okay,” her eyebrows arched in confusion and wonderment of what he was up to. “You want to kiss your daughter goodnight?”

He helped Michelle stand to her feet, steadying her with his hands as he leaned in closer to his daughter. Placing a tender kiss to her forehead, he whispered. “Goodnight my baby girl. See you in about an hour.”

“Sshh!” Michelle frowned. “Don’t jinx it.”

She heard him laughing quietly as she made her way slowly back up the stairs, clutching Maddie tightly against her body. As she made her way down the quiet hallway toward her room, she couldn’t help but feel a wave of emptiness sweep through her. She was used to hearing the laughter and even the fighting between Rachel and Justin and despite the joy this new little one brought her, she missed having all of her children with her. It would be a blessing to finally have her family, her entire family, all under the same roof.

Gently, she laid Maddie down into the small wooden cradle that sat beside her side of hers and Danny’s bed. She remembered wistfully the day Danny came home so excited because he had found this cradle, a family heirloom dating from the early 1900s. The very cradle, his grandfather, his father and he, Mick and Pilar had all slept in and his grandmother had wanted him to use for his first child. Abuela had passed away shortly before they found out Michelle was pregnant with Rachel and no one knew for sure where the cradle had been stored. Then, about three months before Maddie was born, Carmen had called to tell him his uncle had called and told her he had been storing it the attic of his house in California. Danny had felt guilty at first for taking it, knowing that Pilar may have wanted it for her first baby. But Pilar knew the special relationship Danny had had with their grandmother and there was no way she would deny him the right to have his little girl, the last newborn child he would ever have, sleep in this cradle. Having a Santos family heirloom in her house wasn’t exactly something Michelle was prepared for, but with one look at the pure joy on Danny’s face whenever he looked at it, she had no qualms about letting her daughter sleep there. Their children were going to grow up proud of their name. Their father had made sure of that.

Pulling the soft pink blanket over Maddie’s back, Michelle knelt to the floor and lowered her lips to press a gentle kiss to her daughters soft head. Closing her eyes, she offered up the same prayer she had recited every single day for the past eight years and especially over the past fourteen days.

“Thank you dear, gracious Father, for this miracle,this precious gift You have blessed us with. Thank you for all four of the miracles in my life. Please watch over my babies, all three of them, keep them safe and let them always know they are loved. And thank you for the love of my life, my soulmate, my best friend. Help him keep the peace You have bestowed on him and never let him doubt he is a good man and deserves the life You have blessed him with. And help me be the wife he is worthy of and the mother my children deserve. Amen.”

Placing one more tender kiss to her slumbering daughter’s cheek, she pushed herself to her feet, wiping the tears from her eyes she began to retrace her footsteps back down the stairs that would lead her to her husband. As she rounded the corner into the living room, her chest constricted almost painfully as the breath left her body. Her eyes scanned the dimly lit room at the dozens of candles that glowed from almost every inch of the room, the flickering flames sending shadows dancing across her face. She couldn’t have imagined this room looking any more beautiful than it did at this very moment in time, but then he appeared and she was proven wrong. Standing in the adjacent doorway, with a single long-stem red rose in his hands, was the man of her dreams, the man who had made every single dream she had ever had come true.

“Wh..what…” her voice eluded her as she followed every step he took, closing the distance between them.

“It’s after midnight,” he smiled as he held the rose out before her. He bowed his head toward her ear as he placed several warm kisses along her jaw until he reached her ear, his breath vibrating against her ear, sending shock waves through her body. “Happy birthday baby.”

“Birth…birthday?” As his arms tightened around her waist, drawing her to him, she was finding it even more difficult to complete a word, much less a complete sentence.

“Your birthday. You didn’t think I would forget, did you?”

“I almost forgot,” she smiled. “I can’t believe this,” her eyes darted from the flickering candles back to his handsome face. “I can’t believe you.”

“Well, this is just the first of things to come,” he smiled. “I have to make my sweetheart’s birthday memorable.”

“You make every day memorable.” Her fingers tenderly stroked his face as he began to pull back, walking backwards across the room while holding her hand as long as possible. “Wait, where are you going?”

“Patience, my dear.” His seductive smile nearly turned her legs to complete jelly, as their fingers finally slid from each others grasp.

She watched as he turned his back to her slightly toward the elaborate stereo system he had insisted on buying last Christmas. The music that stereo had seen thus far hadn’t extended beyond some boy band Rachel loved to listen to or a Barney song they still had not shook Justin from. But as the first strains of the music began, she realized this wasn’t a boy band and it most definitely wasn’t a Barney song. Danny’s seductive eyes, now filled with even more love and passion, found their way back to hers. He crossed the room making his way back to her as he extended his hand to her. “The first of your birthday presents, my lady. Would you do me the honor of this dance?”

Without breaking the spell his eyes held over her, she nodded slowly and placed her hand in his. As he pulled her close, their bodies molding together as if they were made for each other as they swayed to the music, any thought she had of not being beautiful or sexy or being too flabby after giving birth to her third child, it was all gone. His hands gliding up and down her spine, his lips feathering tender kisses to her neck, in his arms she felt like the most beautiful woman in the world, he always made her feel beautiful.

I don’t know how I survived
In this cold and empty world for all this time
I only know that I’m alive
Because you love me

When I recall what I’ve been through
There’s some things that I wish I didn’t do
Now I do the things I do
Because you love me

As his lips found their way to hers, he paused, their faces mere centimeters apart as he looked into her eyes. “Do you know how much I want to take you upstairs right now and just make love to you all night long?”

“I’m sorry,” her voice disheartened and remorseful as their forehead touched. “I know it’s been a long time, what with all the problems before Maddie was born and now…”

“Ssshh!” he silenced her with his finger on her lips. “I know we have to wait. And your health comes first and foremost before anything else. I want you to be completely well. I just miss you.”

“I promise it won’t be much longer before…”

This time it was his lips that silenced her. Leaving them both breathless, he managed a soft whisper. “No more talking.”

And now that you’re in my life
(Oh) I’m so glad I’m alive
‘Cause you showed me the way
And I know now how good it can be
Because you love me

I believe in things unseen
I believe in the message of a dream
And I believe in what you are
Because you love me

He continued to re-familiarize himself with her body, his hands journeying down her back, up to gently massage her shoulders before gliding up her sides. His fingers sliding the strap of her cotton nightgown down her shoulder to expose the upper swells of her breasts. He removed his lips from hers and bowing his head, trailed delicate kisses down her throat until they reached their destination. She lost herself in the hypnotic trance he held over her, reveling in the pleasure he was giving her as he touched places that his lips hadn’t touched in a long time too long. Letting out a frustrated groan when his lips stopped the magnificent work they were doing, her frustration only lasted a millisecond as those very same lips began an assault on her lips that literally caused her knees to buckle. He tightened his arm around her waist, holding her even closer as he broke the kiss, leaving them both breathless. She looked up at him with lustful eyes to see him smiling slightly in triumph, he knowing the power he held over her. Returning the favor, she cradled his neck in her hand and forced his lips to come crashing down on hers. Their tongues dancing the familiar rhythm they both knew so well before she broke their kiss. This time she was the one smiling in triumph as his chocolate eyes had turned to onyx pools, darkened with desire. Enjoying this game, he knew it was now his turn again. He lowered his head, his teeth tugging fiercely at her earlobe causing a low groan to escape from deep within her. She held onto his arms for support as his lips rested against her ear, his voice softly singing the last few words of the song as it came to a conclusion.

With all my heart, and all my soul, I’m lovin’ you and I never will let go. And every day I let it show, because you love me because you love me.

Cradling her face between his hands, he looked deep into her eyes. “I love you, Michelle.With all my heart and will all my soul.”

Feeling the tears pricking the backs of her eyes, she stared back into the eyes she loved so much, the eyes of the man she loved more than her life. “I will always love you Daniel Santos. You have my heart forever.”

He swept her off her feet, cradling her in his arms and he moved to carry her up the stairs. “I know we can’t make love, but I just want to hold you close tonight.”

Smiling at him with complete and utter adoration, she slowly nodded her head. “Is this the happy ending you’ve always promised me?”

“No,” his own eyes glistening with tears. “This is only the beginning.”

Song: “Because You Love Me” by Jo Dee Messina (John Scott Sherrill/Kostas)

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 30

June 26, 2014
Republisher’s Note: While Danny has been out of touch there have been problems brewing at the Santos house.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes – Chapter 30

Sitting in his parked car in the safety of his darkened garage, Danny thought back over the events of the night. Tonight had carried him from one end of the spectrum to the other with his emotions ranging from fear and hopelessness to peace and confidence. Resting his head against the back of the leather seat, he began to remember how he had left the house just that morning. He regretted talking to Michelle the way he had and for leaving before they had a chance to work things out. She didn’t need this kind of stress right now. His heart sunk when he recalled the look on her face right before he turned his back on her. She was so tired and he knew, worried about him. She had been carrying around her own burdens and this pregnancy, she was bearing it all herself and she didn’t need that. Despite his newfound peace with the past, the future still created a sense of dread to creep into the pit of his stomach. There were still so many things that could go wrong and the thought of any of those events coming to fruition scared the hell out of him. But he had to put those fears aside as much as his mind would allow him. For as much as his fear plagued him, his love for Michelle was greater. She needed him and for the first time in months, he was going to make sure he was there for her. Making his way across the smooth stone pathway, he slowly opened the locked front door of his house, his eyes trying in vain to adjust to the sudden brightness that greeted him. The faint sound of the television could be heard from the living room as he threw his keys down on the hallway table. Glancing at the elaborate grandfather clock in the corner of the hall, he was surprised to see the time. He hadn’t realized the hour was so late, but it didn’t surprise him that Michelle was still up. Anytime they had a fight, she would always crash on the living room couch watching reruns of old TV shows until he came to find her and they would talk things out. So she was waiting for him again. He took a deep breath, trying to steady his unsteady nerves, mentally preparing himself for what lie ahead. It wasn’t going to be easy to talk to her about Mick, about everything he’d been feeling, but he had to. He owed her that much and more. Convincing himself he was ready for this, he made his way into the living room, stopping short when he saw Rick standing in front of the couch with his arms crossed against his chest, glaring angrily at him. “Rick?””Where the hell have you been?” he snapped, taking quick strides toward him.Taken back by the venom in his voice, he looked at him incredulously. “I was at my cousin’s church. What are you…””Doing here?” he cut him off. “I’m here because my sister needed someone tonight and she sure as hell didn’t have you here to help her.””Help her?” His heart began to thump painfully against the wall of his chest as one awful scenario after another played through his mind. “What happened? Where’s Michelle?”

“I just spent the better part of the night in the emergency room, holding my little sister in my arms as she cried for the only person she wanted, the only person she needed, and the one person who wasn’t there for her!”

“Damn it, Rick!” Danny shouted, fear overtaking him. “What happened? Is Michelle okay?”

“She was having some cramps,” Rick lowered his voice, the anger still coating his words. “She was terrified she was losing her baby, your baby, and she had to call me to take her to the hospital because you were God only knows where.”

“Oh my God.” He felt the air leaving his chest as he stumbled backward, the wall catching him before he could descend any further. “Did she…I mean is she…”

“She’s fine now,” Rick finally softened his voice. “She didn’t lose the baby. Dr. Sedwick said she needs to stay off her feet for awhile and get some rest and no stress. Her blood pressure is still high, so no stress at all.”

“What do you mean still high?”

Rick laughed humorlessly, shaking his head. “Why does it not surprise me you didn’t know. Michelle has had high blood pressure for weeks now, probably because shes been having to deal with all the crap you and your family have been putting her through!”

“I…I didn’t know,” Danny stumbled over his words. “She didn’t tell me.”

“She shouldn’t have had to tell you,” Rick shouted. “Danny, have you even looked at your wife lately? I mean really look at her? She’s exhausted, she’s physically and emotionally exhausted. She’s worried about her baby, she worried about Rachel and Justin and she’s even worried about you. And all this time shes been carrying around this guilt that she is somehow responsible for Dr. Grant’s death.” Danny’s head snapped up and looked at Rick with confused eyes. “It surprises you that she feels guilty about that? She’s known Dr. Grant since she was a little girl, Danny. She thinks that if he hadn’t known her, he wouldn’t have gotten caught up with your family and he would be alive right now.”

“But that’s cr….” he shook his head.

“Crazy?” Rick interrupted him. “Yeah, Danny it is crazy. Charles Grant had his own agenda that none of us knew about. He fooled us all, even me. I know that and you know that, but Michelle is having some difficulty accepting that. If you had paid any attention to her of late, you would know that.”

“I’m sorry.” Danny ran his hands through his curls, squeezing his throbbing head between his palms. “I should have…I should have done something.”

“Yeah, you should have,” Rick snapped. “But you can’t change that now.”

“Yes I can,” he nodded. “I can.” He took an unsteady breath as Rick’s weary eyes pierced through him. “Is she upstairs?”

“Yes,” Rick spun around to retrieve his coat from the adjacent chair. “She tried to wait up for you, but she was exhausted. Pilar stayed with the kids while we were at the hospital and she tried to get them to go home with her when we got back, but neither one of them would leave their mother. I checked on all three of them a little while ago and theyre all sleeping soundly.” He thrust his arms forcefully into the arms of his coat, his shoulder brushing forcefully against Danny’s as he past by him. Pausing in the hallway, he turned back around. “I tried calling you for hours. You better have a damn good reason when you explain to my little sister why you weren’t here for her tonight.”

“I know,” he whispered, bowing his head. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not the one who needs to hear this.”

“I’ll take care of her Rick, I promise,” Danny eased his body away from the wall as he turned to face his brother-in-law’s retreating form.

“You better,” he twisted the door handle in his hands, opening the door to step into the cool darkness as he gave Danny one final warning with his eyes.

Watching the door close firmly behind him, Danny took a slow deep breath to steady his quivering stomach before he hopped up the steps two at a time. He walked down the length of the darkened hallway, carefully stepping against the hardwood floor. Upon reaching their bedroom, he eased the door open to reveal a room clothed in darkness, the only illumination coming from the faint light of the moon shining through the slits of the thin window blinds. He carefully moved his body closer to the bed and his eyes having adjusted to the darkness, saw the sheet clad form of his wife who was curled up on her side. The sheet had dropped to below her waist and the old Springfield University t-shirt she loved to wear so much had inched its way up to reveal her rounded belly. His eyes fixated on the smooth skin where just below his child lay, their child, their miracle. Despite what his actions and words, or lack of words, may have presented over the past several weeks, he was already so in love with this child. Just the thought of never seeing his or her face was more than he could bear. He had been denying it, but he knew that was another reason why he had shut himself down from feeling anything. In his foolish mind he had convinced himself that if he didn’t let himself grow too attached to this baby then it wouldn’t hurt as much if something happened. And if he allowed himself to think about this child, he would be forced to remember what could happen, what did happen. He realized now that was impossible, it would kill him if anything happened to either one of them and he would never forget what had happened. That time in his life was a part of him now and it would never be too far out of his mind. While trying to protect himself from the harsh reality in front of him, all he had really accomplished was hurt the woman he loved more than his own life.

As he carefully dropped to his knees beside the bed, his fingers instinctively began to stroke the taut skin of her abdomen as his eyes traveled up her body to focus on her face. Even in the pale glow of the moon, he could make out the dried track marks on her face where her tears had left their mark. Feeling the knife piercing through his heart, he hated himself for being the cause of even an ounce of her heartache. He could only guess how terrified she had been tonight, thinking she was losing their child, wanting him there with her. How many times had he promised her he would always be there for her when she needed him? And how many times had he already broken that promise? He made a silent oath to himself that that was one promise he would never break again.

In the luminescence filling the room, she looked like an angel, her radiant skin, her soft, glimmering hair which was slowly regaining its curls with its length, she was the essence of a heavenly being. Hadn’t Ray always told him that God sometimes sent people angels when they were in need? God had to have known how much he needed her and somehow in His perfect timing, He had sent her into his life just when he needed her the most. And with each passing day, he had only needed her more. She was a precious gifthis precious gift from God.

His body yearning to touch her more closely, his fingers began a slow caress against the softness of her face. Coming to a rest on her cheek, she began to stir beneath his touch. When her eyes parted, he saw the fear and pain, but he also saw love love for him. With one look the pangs of guilt washed over him and he once again admonished himself for his absence tonight. She had needed him and he wasn’t there for her and that was something he would never forgive himself for. But she needed him now and this time he wouldn’t let her down.

“Hey,” she whispered, her tongue extending to wet her dry lips.

“How are you?” his voice full of worry as he examined her eyes for his answer. “How do you feel? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving his. “I’m okay, we’re okay.”

“Are you sure?” his quivered voice pleaded as his eyes danced all around, looking anywhere except at her. “I mean did Dr. Sedwick say anything else? Did she think this had anything to do with…”

“Danny, look at me,” she interrupted him. She braced his face between her hands like she’d done so many times in their years together when he wouldn’t look her in the eye. “Honey, what happened tonight had nothing to do with what happened with Justin, okay?” Dropping her hands when his teary eyes finally met hers, she quietly shook her head. “It was my fault anyway.” He began to protest, telling her she was wrong, but she continued. “Yes, it was my fault. I should have been taking better care of myself. I knew my blood pressure was high and with the stress of the past few monthsI just should have handled it better. And I should have gone to Margaret as soon as I had that first pain weeks ago.”

“What?” His body recoiled from her touch as a mixture of shock and fear clouded over his face. “You had pains before today and you never told me? Why didn’t you tell me?”

She watched him closely as his shock quickly turned into a pained expression of hurt. Why was it that was all they seemed to be doing lately, hurting each other? “You had so much going on. You had just come home from the hospital and I knew you were dealing with a lot of things. I didn’t want to add to your worries.”

“You should have told me,” his wounded voice trailed off as he stood to his feet, turning his back to her. “I could have done something. You should have told me.” Peering around the window blinds, he stood there as the silence between them grew.

“How could I?” her rising voice suddenly broke through the cold silence. She pressed her palms against the firm mattress, propelling her body into a sitting position as she reclined against the solid oak headboard. “You were shutting down and shutting me out of your life. I didn’t know how to say anything to you, much less something like this.”

“I had a right to know! “his angry tone matching hers.

“Well, maybe you did,” she snapped, quickly switching on the bedside lamp. “But you weren’t making it very easy for me to be open with you!”

“Shhshh,” he quickly crossed the room, sitting down on the edge of the bed as he reached for her hands. She tried to pull away from him, but he tightened his already firm grip. “You don’t need to get upset. I’m sorry, you’re right. You are absolutely right. I didn’t make things easy for you. Now please, just try to relax and take it easy.”

“Danny, we have to talk this out,” she quietly pleaded. Her rollercoaster of emotions swept downhill and the tears instantly filled her weary eyes.

“I know,” he nodded reluctantly. “And we will. But I have to know you’re okay. Please tell me you both really are okay now.”

“We are,” she affirmed as the tears spilled down her reddened cheeks. “It scared me though.”

“I know,” he bowed his head as his lips rained kisses over her hands. “I’m so sorry.”

“Where were you?” she began with a hint of accusation in her voice. “Rick and I both tried calling you for hours.”

“I was with Ray,” he admitted feebly. “We were at St. Michael’s talking and I guess time just got away from me. I’m not even sure where my cell phone is. It’s been so long since I’ve been out of the house alone, I don’t even remember the last time I had it. I’m so sorry, I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”

“Its okay,” she lifted his chin with her free hand. “We’re okay now.”

“No, it’s not okay. I should have been here. If something had happened…” He choked on the words he had been afraid to give voice to. “I’d never forgiven myself.”

“Stop it,” she scolded him. “Quit blaming yourself for this…for everything. We both have to find a way to get past everything that has happened over these past few months.”

“Years,” he corrected her with a heavy sigh.

“What happened tonight with Ray?”

The determination and strength of peace he had found earlier that night vanished the moment Rick told him what had happened. And the instant he looked into the beautiful brown eyes of his wife, his mind once again reminded him of everything he could have lost,everything he could still lose. Nothing else mattered anymore. God had given him a precious gift and he wasn’t about to do anything to lose it again. He would protect his family at all costs, even if it meant protecting them from the demons he battled inside him.

“Talk to me, please,” her voice breaking with her plea.

“I…” he buried his face into the mattress beside her. “I don’t think I can.”

“Danny, please,” her tears once again spilling down her cheeks as she gently rubbed her hand through his curls. “Honey, I love you so much, you know that. Whatever it is you’re going through, I want to help you get through it. Let me help you.”

“Do you know how much I love you?” he suddenly blurted out, raising his head as their teary eyes met.

She let out a heavy sigh as she moved her hand to cover his that had moved to lay protectively over their child. “I know, Danny. I know you love me.”

“No,” he shook his head as his free hand reached up to cradle her tear soaked cheek, his thumbing brushing at a stray tear. “I don’t know if you really understand.” He paused, staring into her eyes. Even through the tears, he could see the love he needed so much to feel radiating from her eyes. “I look at you and I see every hope and every dream I have ever had. I can’t remember not loving you. I can’t even remember what my life was like before you and I can’t imagine living my life without you.”

“You’re never going to have to…”

“You know it scares me,” he continued, their words overlapping. “It scares me sometimes how much I love you.”

“It scares you?” she questioned, a hint of fear in her voice. “Why does it scare you?”

“I’m not sure,” he answered honestly, his fingers drawing gentle circles on her bare stomach as his eyes followed their path. “I just know after my father died, everything changed for me. I was being told you had to keep a tight reign on your emotions. You could not allow yourself to feel too much, too much anger, too much hatred, too much love. You had to make sure you were always in control of every situation or someone would expose your weakness and go in for the kill. My mother told me that’s what happened to my father, that’s what killed him. And from that moment on, I operated that way, until…until I met you.”

“So you regret meeting me?” her teeth tugging at her quivering lower lip.

“No, no, no,” he answered quickly, looking up to meet her gaze. “Baby, I will never regret one second of my life with you. I just…just the thought of losing you or even the kids for that matter, scares the hell out of me.”

“You’re not going to lose me,” her eyes softened as her fingers tenderly stroked his face. “Or the kids. We’re not going anywhere.”

“You don’t know that,” his voice trembled. “Michelle, look at everything that has happened in just this past year. I couldn’t even protect my son or you from my own brother. I swore to you that night on the dock I would protect you and I swore the same thing when we brought each of our children into this world. It’s my job to protect all three,” he paused, looking down at their joined hands on her abdomen. :”All four of you. And what if I can’t? What if I let something or someone else come into our lives and one of you gets hurt?”

“Danny,” she extricated her hand from his grip and placed both of her hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look in her eyes again. “You didn’t let any of this happen. None of this happened because of something you did or didn’t do. You cannot let yourself feel guilty about this. You are the most remarkable man I have ever known, the most wonderful husband and the most amazing father I could ever ask for my children.”

“I bet you never imagined your husband, the father of your children coming from a family of killers.”

“Don’t do this, Danny. You are not your family. And you are not responsible for what happened to Dr. Grant.”

“Neither are you,” he responded as she dropped her gaze to her lap, pulling her hands away from him. “Honey, you don’t want me to feel responsible, but you have to do the same thing.” As quickly as it had disappeared, he felt that sense of peace, that same feeling he felt when he walked out the door of the church just over an hour ago, wash over him again. With her by his side, feeling her love in the strength of her touch and the outpouring devotion from her eyes, he felt the quiet determination and the vigor of that peace returning. His voice growing stronger, he continued. “We were just players in a game that we didn’t even know was being played. We were both used by people we wanted to believe cared enough about us to not hurt us. People we, to some extent, trusted. If there is any fault we can lay on ourselves, it was being too trusting. But if we lose that, what’s left? What kind of people will we become? What kind of life is that to give to our children?”

The corners of her mouth lifted slightly as her teary eyes stared at the incredible man before her. She was still bewildered by the fact that she seemed to fall a little more in love with him every day, just when she didn’t think it was possible to love him more. “So did all this profound wisdom come from Ray?”

“And Mick.”

“Mick?” her eyebrows arched curiously. “You saw Mick? He’s back in town?”

“He’s staying with Ray at the church for a little while until he can get some things straightened out…”

“Danny, he can’t come back here,” panic filled her voice. “I’m sorry, but…”

“It’s okay,” he gave her hand a comforting squeeze, trying to calm her. “He’s not coming back here. I don’t know if he ever will again. But he is dealing with what he’s done and he realizes he has to make a change in his life. Not for me or our mother or even for God. He has to do this for himself. I really think he may be turning over a new leaf this time. And I’ve seen my mother turning away a little more every day, so who knows? Maybe she’ll follow suit.”

“They would both just walk away from that life?” she questioned unbelievingly. “Just like that?”

“No,” he shook his head. “It won’t be just like that. They’ll have the other families to deal with so it’s going to take some time. But if they really want to do this, they can. There’s a way, there’s always a way.”

“Well, I hope you’re right,” she sighed. “For our children’s sake and for yours. You seem to be a little more at peace with things.”

“I am,” he brushed a stray hair behind her ear. “When I walked out the door of St. Michael’s tonight, I felt free. Free from the burdens of my past. Free from guilt. But it all vanished when I walked in our front door and saw Rick here. I was so scared, Michelle. I don’t know what I would do…”

“Ssh,” her lips silenced him with a tender kiss. “Let’s not worry about what ifs anymore. Its time we focus on each moment as it happens and promise each other that no matter what the future holds for us, we will deal with it together. No more hiding behind walls and shutting each other out from what were feeling for better or worse, remember?”

“For better or worse,” he whispered against her lips as her arms draped around his neck. “I promise.”

“I promise too,” she moved her lips closer for another kiss, this one softer but more sensuous.

“You need to rest.” To her disappointment, he broke their kiss and pulled away from her as he stood to his feet. He pulled the covers back up over her body, wrapping the thick quilt tightly around her.

As he turned his back to her, she pulled on his hand, jerking him back down on the bed toward her. “And just where do you think you’re going?”

Never allowing their intertwined hands to lose contact, he curled his toes around the edge of his shoes to pry them off his feet, kicking them aimlessly across the room. His free hand reached forward, turning the switch between his fingers as he extinguished the bright light before crawling into the bed beside her. Wrapping his arms around their baby, he drew her body to him, whispering in her ear. “I’m not going anywhere. Never again. I promise.”

Sighing contently, both their bodies began to relax in the comfort and safety of each others arms as they began to drift off to slumber. Just as sleep was about to descend over them both, they heard a soft knock at the door.

“Mommy?”

Michelle bolted upright, shaking the fuzziness from her head as her little boy’s voice registered in her mind. “Justin? Sweetie, open the door.”

The creaking door opened to a crack and then flew open as Justin ran across the cold floor and into his mother’s arms.

“What is it baby? What happened?”

“I had bad dweam.” Fat tears rolled down his chubby cheeks and he clung to his mother’s neck. “Me sweep with you.”

“It’s okay, baby,” she rubbed comforting circles on his small back. “You crawl up here beside Mommy.”

“Justin, buddy,” Danny interjected, reaching for his son. “Why don’t you sleep over here with me?”

“No,” he recoiled from his father’s touch. “I sweep with Mommy!”

“It’s okay,” Michelle carefully shifted her body to allow her little boy to settle in beside her. “He’ll be okay right here.”

“Sweetie, you need your rest and you know how restless this one sleeps,” his eyes narrowed in concern.”He can sleep on the other side of me and that will keep him from kicking you all night.”

“Look,” she nodded toward their son. “He’s already asleep. It’s okay, really. I don’t think he got much sleep tonight before I got back home. I’m sure he’ll be out like a light all night.”

“With Buddy Bear, of course,” Danny smiled as he looked at the raggedy bear clutched tightly in his son’s arms.

“Of course,” Michelle laughed softly. “Now, you get some sleep too.”

Danny leaned over to give a brief kiss to her lips before turning on his side, snuggling under the covers. Before either of them could get comfortable enough to fall asleep, there was another soft knock on their door.

“Mommy? Daddy?”

“Rachel,” Danny sighed, looking at the door to find his daughter entering their room. “What are you doing up?”

“I heard voices in here and I wanted to make sure Mommy and the baby were okay,” she admitted sheepishly, wrapping her arms tighter around her Betsy doll she held in her arms.

“We’re okay angel,” Michelle tried to reassure her. “I’m feeling much better now.”

“Why’s Justin in here?”

“He had a bad dream and he wanted to stay with us,” Michelle explained, eyeing her daughters fingers fidgeting with the buttons on Betsy’s dress. “You want to sleep with us too?”

“Okay,” her face lit with a smile as she bounced up on the bed, snuggling up against her father.

“It’s a good thing we have a big bed,” Danny shook his head in amusement. “I don’t think we could fit another body, human or stuffed, in this bed.”

Michelle laid her hand against his cheek as their children rested contently between them. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

He turned his lips into her hand, raining kisses over her palm. “Neither would I.”

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 29

June 23, 2014
Republisher’s Note: Danny turns to the church for help with his issues.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes – Chapter 29

Danny opened the creaking door with a heavy jerk as he cautiously made his way inside the warm haven that greeted him. He had been driving around for hours now, not sure of where he was going or where he was supposed to be. His mind was holding him captive in a world he wanted more than anything to escape. Having been moving on auto-pilot since he left the house, it was with some surprise that he found his car coming to a halt in the parking lot of St. Michaels. He wasnt sure why he had come here or even what he was supposed to do next, but his body seemed to have a will of its own. Standing in the rear of the church, his eyes traveled down the length of the blue carpeted aisle to row after row of padded pews. Acting on their own accord, his feet made slow steps forward until he had reached the end of the aisle, his tired body suddenly collapsing onto one of the pews. Staring straight ahead, his eyes fixated on the wooden crucifix hanging on the wall before him. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized why he had found his way to this place. He had been led there by a power greater than anything the world had to offer. He had been led there to find the answers he had been desperately seeking. For too long he had been searching for the answers on his own, ignoring that tiny voice that kept telling him there was someone who would help him. Someone to help him find his way. This place had been his refuge since he was a child, but he had lost his way sometime ago. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure how to find his way back. Closing his eyes deliberately, he bowed his head, clasping his hands together as he did the only thing he knew to do. He prayed.
“Danny?””Ray,” Danny’s voice cracked as he looked up to find his cousin standing before him. “I didn’t know you were here.””I… uh, I have a parishioner who needed a place to stay. I was just making sure they were set for the night before I left.””I’m sorry,” Danny jumped to his feet. “I shouldn’t have just dropped by. I’ll be going so you can get things closed up.””Danny, wait!” Ray called after him. “Don’t go.”Ray his sigh heavy as his body reluctantly turned toward him.”Danny, come back…please,” he pleaded. “I know you wouldn’t have come here tonight unless there was something troubling you.”

“I don’t know why I’m here, Ray,” his body slumped back into the pew he had just vacated. “I’ve been driving around for hours and the next thing I know my car is pulling into the parking lot here.”

“Why aren’t you home with Michelle and the kids?” he questioned. “Did something happen?”

“What hasn’t happened would be a better question,” Danny groaned. “I just…Michelle and I…it’s like we barely know each other anymore. We’ve barely talked in weeks and today things just exploded. We were yelling and screaming at each other and I have no idea why. I used to be able to tell her anything, but lately I just had to get out of that house so I could try to figure out what the hell is going on with me. I didn’t start out with any intention of coming here…it just…just happened.”

“Something or should I say someone led you here. Danny, you are here because you know there is nowhere else to turn. You have searched and searched for the truth you need and whether you want to admit it or not, you’ve finally reached the end of your rope. You know this is where you will find the answers you’re looking for. Here you will find the peace that will finally set you free.”

“I don’t think that’s possible, Ray, he shook his head. “I don’t think that kind of peace will ever find me.”

“It doesn’t find you, you have to find it. This should have been the first place you turned and you know in your heart you wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t think you could find it here. Danny, it’s the only way. You’ve found your way here and now it’s time take down this wall you’ve been hiding behind. God can help you. He can show you the way. You just have to ask.”

“I have no idea what I can say because I don’t even know how I feel about anything anymore,” he leaned forward, resting his head in his hands. “Ray, I’m so messed up on the inside, I don’t even know where to begin.” He could feel the tears pricking the backs of his eyes, knowing no matter how hard he fought them they were well on their way to reaching the surface.

“Just start with the first thing on your heart…”

“Michelle.”

“Okay,” Ray prodded. “What about Michelle?”

“I can’t lose her, Ray,” the tears finally breaking through. “I can’t live without her.”

Confusion clouded his eyes as he saw the torment on Danny’s face. “Why would you think you would have to? Michelle’s not going anywhere. She would never leave you.”

“You don’t know that. I don’t know that,” he replied through angry tears. “I have put her through hell since the day I walked into her life. My own brother tried to kill her. My mother wanted her dead. And now I’m killing her.”

“Danny, you’re not making any sense.”

“I thought…I thought I could protect her,” he mumbled, almost unaware to Ray’s presence. “I thought I could protect her from my world, my life. I thought I could keep her and my children safe, but I can’t. I can’t give them the life they deserve.”

“You have, Danny,: Ray protested. “You have given them that life. You cannot blame yourself for what happened to Justin. There was nothing you could have done that would have prevented it from happening.”

“I let my brother, someone who has done nothing but hurt Michelle ,” his voice low and strained with pent up anger. “I welcomed him back into our lives with open arms when I knew there was a chance he might do something. I felt it in my gut, Ray. There was a part of me that couldn’t trust him, that wouldn’t trust him. And I gave him an open invitation to walk into my house, the home Michelle and I have fought like hell to make for our family, and gave him the perfect opportunity to hurt the very people I vowed to protect with my life. What kind of father? What kind of husband allows his family to be put in that kind of danger?”

“The kind of man who wanted to believe in the goodness of his brother. A man who was willing to offer him a second chance,” Ray protested. “You cannot blame yourself for Mick’s sins. He has to seek repentance for himself. Mick has to deal with the consequences of his own actions.”

“I let him down,” Danny mumbled shaking his head. “Ever since we were kids I was always the one looking out for him and I should have been able to see what was coming to see what he was becoming. I should have done something to save him from this life, save him from himself.”

“You aren’t his savior, Danny,” Ray knelt in front of him, forcing his head up to look him in the eyes. “You aren’t anyone’s savior. You can’t save Mick from the choices HE made.”

“I could have done something,” he vaulted to his feet, his tired legs carrying him back and forth in front of the altar. “I didn’t want this for him. I didn’t want my family to turn out the way it has. I mean my brother kills people and my mother gives the order to do so. How can I allow that kind of violence to touch my wife and my children? It’s my job to protect them and I can’t even protect them from my own flesh and blood. And what if those tendencies toward violence are in me too? I was raised in the same family as Mick. What if one day I put a gun in my hand and I pull the trigger? Because I tell you Ray, if I had come face to face with Charles Grant, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done the same thing Mick did.”

“Because YOU aren’t Mick!” Ray shouted, forcefully prodding his finger into Danny’s chest.

“I could be,” his voice barely audible.

Ray sighed deeply, trying to soften his voice. “Danny, I have known you from the day you were born. I know your heart. You are not your mother’s son.”

“But Mick is?”

“Well, to be honest, yes he is. Mick has always craved that kind of power and he was willing to do whatever it took to get it. He learned from Carmen. You know yourself something changed for her when your father died. She wanted revenge and she in turn got caught up in that life and Mick followed. But you didn’t. You found your own way, you made your own way and now you have your own life away from all that you grew up with. You and Michelle have worked hard, harder than most people have to work in a lifetime. You have had to overcome so many obstacles that have been thrown in your path. You’ve emerged stronger and even more committed to providing the kind of life your children deserve. You have your entire lives ahead of you. And you have been blessed with this new baby. Danny, you have been given a gift, a miracle.”

“A miracle?” he scoffed, shaking his head in disgust. “A miracle that could take her away from me.”

“What are you talking about? Take her away?”

“I…no,” he shook his head as the tears trickled down his face. “I can’t…”

“You’re scared that what happened last time is going to happen again.” Ray bowed his head, finally understanding his fear.

The images of Michelle’s lifeless body lying against the starch white sheets in the hospital began to haunt his mind. He almost lost her then. She was almost taken away from him forever. Almost.

Unable to hold in the raw emotions that tore at his soul, he fell to his knees onto the first step of the altar, openly sobbing. “Why?!” he shook his fist angrily at the crucifix hanging above him. “Why do You keep letting these things happen to us?! When are You going to show me some of that mercy everyone claims You have?! When is it my turn?!”

Ray gently knelt to the floor beside his beleaguered cousin, wrapping his arms around him as his body convulsed with each sob. Wishing there was some way he could absorb even an ounce of the pain Danny was feeling, his heart knew this was a burden Danny had to beara burden he had to find his way through on his own. It was the only way, if he was to ever find his way back to the family who desperately needed him. It was the only way, if he was to ever to find his way back to himself.

As his cries gradually subsided, Danny jerked his arms abruptly, pulling away from his cousins comforting embrace. Sensing Danny was retreating back behind the wall he had built, he reached for his arm before he could get away, spinning him around to face him to face the truth.

“Don’t do this,” Ray demanded through gritted teeth. “Michelle needs you. Your children – all three of them – need you. You have to find a way through this pain and this guilt. You have to find a way to forgive yourself.”

Bowing his head as a fresh wave of tears began to fall, he shook his head slowly. “I don’t know how Ray. I just don’t know how.”

“You ask God to help you,” he began softly, bracing his hands against Danny’s shoulders. “And He will provide you with a way. In fact, He already has.”

“What?” Danny raised questioning eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“I think he’s talking about me.”

“Mick,” Danny’s voice caught in his throat as he swallowed hard. “What are you doing here?”

“I think I’ll give you two time to talk,” Ray gave a gentle squeeze to Danny’s shoulder. “I’ll be in the back if you need me.”

Once Ray had disappeared behind the thick wooden door, Mick turned hesitantly toward his brother. Danny’s eyes were red and glowing with tears as he looked at the man before him. It was almost as if he were looking at a reflection in a mirrora distorted reflection of himself. He remembered as a kid wanting to be just like his big brother, wanting to be as confident and carefree as he had been. Then in a moment, their father was gone and everything changed. Mick turned into someone he didn’t recognize, someone he didn’t want to recognize. It was then that he assumed the responsibility of making sure his brother didn’t end up like their father or worse, a bitter image of the man he had been. But somewhere along the way Danny gave up. He couldn’t fight the drugs, the alcohol, the gambling and he didn’t want to. His desire for protecting his brother turned into a sense of resentment and when Mick went to prison there was a part of Danny that was relieved. And that scared the hell out of him. How could he have been happy that his brother had finally self-destructed? What kind of man wanted his brother to go to prison? What kind of man was he?

“Danny,” Mick’s voice snapped him out of his reverie. “Don’t be upset with Ray about letting me stay here. I asked him not to tell anyone, not you, not Mama. I know now might not be the right time to re-emerge myself back into Springfield, but I couldn’t stay away. Something told me I needed to be here.”

“Why?” Danny forced the words out of his mouth as his eyes clouded with confusion. “Why are you here?”

“I’ve been talking to Ray,” Mick began to pace nervously in front of him. “Not just as my cousin, but as a priest. There are a lot of things I’ve been talking to him about how I could have done what I did how I could have hurt the only person who ever had any faith in me.”

“No,” Danny shook his head adamantly. “Not me, you don’t know the truth.”

“That you wanted me out of your life?” Mick stopped pacing as he stood toe to toe with his brother.” That you were relieved when I went to prison?” Danny bowed his head, knowing the guilt of the truth of his words was written on his face. “I understand, Danny. You had every right to hate me. I made your life miserable from the time we were kids. I took advantage of the fact that you wanted to believe in me.”

“After Papa died…”

“After he died, everything changed,” he sighed heavily. “I was so angry. Angry at you for being the son he always wanted. Angry at Pilar for being his little girl. Angry at the life that took him away from us. Angry that the only way I could ever amount to anything was to become a part of that life.”

“That’s not true,” Danny pleaded. “Mick, you didn’t…”

“I didn’t feel like I had a choice.” Mick turned his back to Danny as his eyes traveled up the height of the wall to look at the very symbol of love that was going to give him his life back. “I turned away from you, from God. The only places I could find faith and I shut it out of my life. I didn’t want your help, Danny. There was nothing you could have done to make things turn out any differently for me. I had to find my own way and not you or anyone else could do that for me.”

“Ever since that day I last saw you in prison, I had this huge weight on my chest,” Danny began. “I always felt like I should have done more, there had to have been something I could have done.”

“There wasn’t,” he turned to face him. “Danny, you gave me the only thing I ever needed from you, something I never had the right to ask you considering everything I had done to you. You gave me a second chance.”

“It wasn’t much of a second chance,” he shook his head, rubbing his fingers against the knotted muscles in his neck. “There was always a part of me that didn’t want you there, that I didn’t trust you around Michelle or my kids.”

“Why would you?” He turned on his heels, marching toward Danny. As much as he hated to hear these things about himself, he knew it was his turn to help his brother. He was Danny’s last hope. “Danny, I was a threat to them. I almost killed Michelle that night on the docks and I very easily could have done it again when I came back. But I had your son kidnapped instead. I put your family in danger. You should have stuck with your first instincts about me and not let me anywhere near them.”

“They have to come first in my life,” he whispered, his eyes staring holes into the floor beneath him. “I have to do whatever it takes.”

“I know that,” Mick snapped. Danny’s head jerked up at the forcefulness he heard in his words. “Don’t you think I know that? Why do you think I left town in the first place? Danny, when we were in that warehouse and I saw all that blood, your blood, I was so angry and so afraid all at the same time. I kept thinking about how I was never going to be able to make things right with you. But at the same time I was thinking about how to get revenge on Grant, because I saw him standing there with that smug look on his face. I knew he was aiming for me, but it was almost as if he was proud of himself that he got you instead. He wanted to torture me for turning on him and killing you would have been more torture than him taking my own life.” His eyes stared absently into the distance as the memories began to resurface in his mind. “Those old instincts kicked right in without even thinking. I could feel that hunger to kill burning inside of meand then it hit me. I was standing there, my feet frozen to floor beside your slumped body and I realized it should have been me. It should have been my blood staining that cement floor. The whole thing played out in just a matter of seconds, but I suddenly began to remember it all. Us arguing with each other, the hatred and loathing I saw in your eyes toward me and then the gun and you pushing me to the floor. You see, Danny you saved me.”

“No,” Danny shook his head vehemently, refusing to look at him. “No, I didn’t.”

“Damn it!” Mick shouted, wrapping his fingers tightly around the collar of Danny’s leather jacket. “Look at me!” Danny’s body slumped in defeat as his eyes slowly moved to look at him. “Danny, you saved my life. You couldn’t save my soul. You never could.”

The silence between them was deafening as they stood before each other, neither of them knowing what to say or what to do next. Danny made the first move as he lifted his hands to his face, wiping away the swarm of tears that had fallen in the past half hour. He swallowed hard around the lump in his throat as he felt the massive weight that had been on his chest slowly easing. For years he had blamed himself for not being a good enough brother, a good enough father, a good enough husband, a good enough man. He had let his mistakes of the past hold him down. But now, he knew he had done the best he could and that’s all any of them had asked of him. They needed his best, they needed him. It was time to leave the past where it belonged.

I forgive you, Mick whispered. Danny looked at him in surprise as he heard the words he had longed to hear. Now, forgive yourself.

Danny took a slow step forward surprising Mick with the last thing he expected of him. He wrapped his arms around his brother and hugged him. Mick stood in shock as time seemed to have stood still. Closing his eyes, he was transported back in time, the Christmas before their father died, the last time they had really been brothers. He had spent the last eleven years of his life with no real life, no real love. But now he had all he had ever wanted, he had his brother.

Feeling a sense of embarrassment at the tears that began to cloud his eyes, he patted Danny firmly on the back and broke their embrace. “I think you have someone at home you need to see.”

Danny slowly nodded his agreement. “How long are you going to be staying here? At the church I mean?”

“Until Ray kicks me out,” he chuckled, uncomfortable with the level of emotion in the air. “I don’t know,” he shrugged, turning to look at the image hanging on the wall. “Until I can get things right with the big guy upstairs.”

Danny followed Mick’s gaze to the crucifix, sighing. “I think I have some things to work out with Him myself.”

“You will,” he shifted his eyes back to him. “You’re going to be okay, Danny.”

“Thank you,” Danny nodded.

“I think I’m the one who should be thanking you,” Mick smiled.

“I guess I should be going,” he sighed. “I think Michelle and I have a lot to talk about.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll maybe see you around.”

“Yeah,” Danny nodded his head as he began his descent. “Sure thing. I’ll be in touch.” Reaching the end of the aisle, with one hand on the handle of the wooden door, he turned around one last time to find Mick’s back to him as he stood firmly at the altar. “Hey Mick.” At the sound of his voice, he spun his body and turned his direction toward him.

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Moments of silence passed before he could find his voice to respond. As Danny opened the door to leave, he finally found the air that would allow him to speak. “I love you too, Danny. I love you, too.”

With a gentle smile on his face, Danny walked through the door, waiting until it completely closed before he took the steps that would lead him to his car. Staring up into the star filled sky, he took a long deep breath, filling his lungs with the cool night air. Exhaling slowly, he felt his burdens and worries leaving his body. He was still worried about what the future held. He was still fearful of what could happen in the months ahead. But he had finally come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t in his control, it never was. He had to deal with each day one day at a time and wait for a little of that mercy he had been promised. He knew he still had to make things right with Michelle, but he was ready to do that now. He had finally found peace.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 28

June 22, 2014
Republisher’s Note: Manny are dealing with the aftermath of their son’s kidnapping and Mick’s actions in response.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes – Chapter 28

The soft rain pelted against the glass pane of their bedroom window as Michelle’s eyes squinted in the faint light of daybreak. Shifting her ever expanding body, she turned to her side and ran her hand along the cold empty spot beside her. Once again her husband had never made it to their bed. To the outside world everything was fine with their family. Danny’s recovery was going better than expected. She was the loving, devoted mother and wife, slowly returning to the job she loved so much. The kids were happy and appeared to be carefree. But once the door closed and the windows were shut, reality reared its ugly head. Everything was far from fine between she and Danny. In the month and a half since he had come home from the hospital, the distance between them had grown little by little as each day passed. Neither of them wanted to talk about the barrier that stood between them, both fearful of the feelings that would be exposed if the events of the past few months were mentioned, much less discussed in depth. Those feelings were bottled up so tight inside both of them it was sitting there like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. Her shaky fingers tied the sash of her robe closed around her enlarging belly as she took slow steps toward her husband’s office, knowing before she even got there what she would find. Sure enough, her eyes landed on his sleeping form, sprawled out on the leather sofa in his office. This had become almost a nightly ritual for him since he had come home from the hospital. He rationalized that he had so much work to catch up on and since Dr. Stewart still had not cleared him to go back to the office, he had to work at home. During the day he spent as much time with Rachel and Justin as he could and the night was reserved for his work, not leaving much time for his wife. Their conversations had been limited to the kids – who was going to take Rachel to her dance class or take Justin for his check-up. He never talked about the baby, only asking her if her doctor appointments were going okay. Though he tried to hide it, she could see the look on his face whenever she tried to bring up the baby in their conversations. It wasn’t a topic he wanted to discuss. She knew in her heart how much he wanted another baby and she knew he was scared about what could happen, but having to handle this pregnancy on her own was wearing thin on her nerves. So much so that now it was affecting her health. Dr. Sedwick had lectured her at her last appointment for letting her blood pressure get so high, a fact she hadn’t shared with Danny. She stood there watching the slow rise and fall of his chest. She missed him so much it hurt. It had been months since they had made love, weeks since he had given her more than a perfunctory kiss. There was so much tension and hurt between them right now, she wasn’t sure how they were ever going to get past it. But she knew they had toand the only way that was going to happen is if they reopened old wounds. No matter how much they loved each other, that was going to be a true challenge for him and for her.Wiping away the few tears that trickled down her face with the tips of her fingers, she crossed the room toward him and pulled the thin quilt up over his body. Staring down into the face of the man she loved with all her heart and soul, she kissed him gently on the forehead, vowing to herself they would find a way. Somehow they would find a way.Making her way back up the steps, she eased the door to Justin’s room open to find him still sleeping and then proceeded to Rachel’s room to find the same thing. Finding a sense of peace within the silence, she trudged her tired legs down the hall to the nearly empty room beside her bedroom. Opening the door, she flipped the ceramic light switch, illuminating the room with a soft glow. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips as her hand ran across the smooth cherry wood of the top of the rocking chair. The same chair she had spent countless nights in, rocking first Rachel and then Justin. And now she would have a new little one to rock to sleep. She hugged her arms around her baby as she lowered her body down into the rocker, slowly gliding back and forth against the hardwood floor. Humming softly, she closed her eyes as her hands rubbed lazy circles across her abdomen. Mentally, she made a checklist of all the things she still had left to do before the baby came. Though she had much of what she already needed, she was anxiously awaiting the shopping spree she and Pilar had planned for that afternoon. With Danny’s reluctance to be involved, it was nice to have someone to share in her excitement. She couldn’t help but think back to when they first found out about her other two pregnancies. Danny was like a little boy at Christmas, his eyes lit up every time the subject of baby came up. He was adamant about not letting her lift anything heavier than a toothbrush, always waiting on her hand and foot. But this time…this time things were so different. He was distant and withdrawn, not letting himself show any kind of emotion except when he was with Rachel and Justin. Watching him last night, playing with them in the living room, it was almost as if time had stood still and they were still the same family they had always been. But then he looked up from the floor into her eyes and she could see the wall going back up. She didn’t doubt his love for her. She knew he was hurting and dealing with so much right now and she was the most logical person to distance himself from, she knew him better than anyone. She just wished he knew how much she needed him right now.Pushing her hands against the arms of the chair, she lifted herself up and took a slow, deep breath, her heart trying to convince her mind that everything was going to be okay. She just needed to give him the space he needed and he would come back to her. Right now, she had to take care of herself and her children. She looked at the small clock on the wall, realizing they would be up any minute now and she hadn’t even started the breakfast she had promised them. The silence of the house, which earlier had been a welcome haven, now gave her an eerie sensation as she made her way to the kitchen. She couldn’t wait until laughter filled the house againand one day it would…it would.**********Pulling the pan of muffins out of the oven, she placed them quickly on top of the stove as the heat began to radiate through the oven mitt on her hand. She inhaled the sweet fragrance of the berries that burst through the top of the muffins, tempting her mouth to try one. Her fingers began to gentle tug at the hot edges, pulling the muffin apart as the steam floated up toward her face.”Hey, what are you doing up?”

Spinning around on her heels, she sees Danny’s bleary eyes looking back at her and for some foreign reason she felt nervous in his presence. “Hey. Good morning. I was…I was just getting some breakfast ready for the kids. You want anything?”

“Nah,” he shook his head as he rubbed his eyes. “I’m just going to get some coffee and head back into the office to get some work done.”

“I missed you last night.”

“Yeah, well I was working late and I didn’t want to disturb you,” he mumbled, staring down at the two day old newspaper sitting in front of him.

“You could never disturb me,” she sighed, pulling the paper out from under his sight. She forced him with her stare to look her in the eye. “Danny, I can count on one hand the number of times you’ve actually slept in our bed in the past week.”

“I have a lot of work to do,” he protested. “Since I’m still under house arrest, I don’t have a choice but to work late hours here at home.”

“Danny, you know it’s more than that,” her voice quivered on the edge of anger. “I feel like I have to walk on egg shells around you. What’s going on with you?”

“What?” he feigned innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She shook her head in disgust, slamming her fists down on the counter in front of him as weeks of pent up frustration finally reached the surface. “Damn it, Danny! Don’t shut me out!”

“What do you want?” he returned her anger.

“I want you to talk to me,” she fought the tears that threatened to consume her. “Ever since you’ve come home from the hospital you have been doing your best to keep your distance from me and keep me closed off from whatever it is you’re feeling.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped, spinning in his chair to escape her piercing glare. “It’s just your hormones talking.”

“Don’t you dare patronize me!” the anger in her voice startling him to turn around to face her. “You have no idea what I’m going through or what I’m feeling because you haven’t bothered to take the time to find out.”

“What? Do you think? That I don’t love you or care about you?” his voice cracked, the hurt evident in his eyes.

“No,” her voice softened suddenly. “Danny, I know you love me. But this distance between us….I can’t take it anymore. We’ve got to break down this wall we’ve built between us and get everything out in the open. You’ve closed yourself off to me and I know I’m not totally blameless. I’ve been doing the same thing. But we can’t do this anymore. We have to talk about what happened with your mother, Dr. Grant, and Mick.”

“Why?” he shouted, throwing his hands in the air as he turned toward the door. “Michelle, all of that is over and in the past now and I am not going to bring it back up. It’s better left exactly where it is, in the past. And that’s where it’s going to stay, now and forever.”

He spun on his heels leaving her standing in the silence, staring at the swinging door he just exited. She could feel the angry words boiling inside her, but she knew she needed to keep herself calm. Despite her best attempt, the words of fury were on the tip of her tongue. She turned her body quickly, trying to follow the path her husband had taken when a sharp pain enveloped her causing her to double over. She fought to catch her breath as she clutched the edge of the counter trying to regain her equilibrium.

Expecting to hear her retort, Danny had strayed only as far as the living room where he paced in an enraged march. Despite his anger, a part of him knew she was right. He had been keeping his distance from her, but for so many more reasons than she knew. But he didn’t want her bearing his burden now. Didn’t she know he was trying to protect her, protect her from the truth, protect her from him?

When he didn’t hear her rebuttal, he made slow steps back toward the kitchen where he was met with silence. Assuming she had gone upstairs, he pushed the swinging door open to find her standing with her back to him, leaning against the edge of the counter.

“Michelle?” his voice barely audible. When she didn’t turn to face him, he moved closer, his heavy heart immediately causing him to feel contrite. “Listen, honey, I’m sorry. I…”

When he drew closer he saw the pained look on her face, her hands clutching her side and his remorsefulness quickly turned to full fledged panic. He slid to a halt at her side, placing his hands on top of hers as he tried to swallow, wetting his parched throat enough to talk.

“Baby, what is it? Are you in pain?”

“I’m….I’m okay,” she winced. “I think I just pulled something in my side.”

“Here sit down,” he led her to the kitchen table, helping her sit down. “Do you want some water or something? Should I call Dr. Sedwick?”

“Danny, it’s okay,” she grabbed his arm as tried to spin away from her. “I’m okay.” She exhaled sharply, trying to slow her wildly thumping heart. “It already feels better.”

He knelt to the floor in front of her, interlocking their fingers as he rested their joined hands in her lap. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten you upset like that. You don’t need any kind of stress right now.”

“Danny, don’t do this please,” she begged. “We can’t keep doing this.”

“Doing what?” he snapped, dropping her hand as he quickly stood to his feet.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she shook her head, her voice on the verge of tears. “I feel like I’m on the outside and I can’t live like that, Danny. We have a baby going to be born in less than five months and you won’t even talk about it. Whens the last time we’ve talked? Just you and me.”

“We talk all the time, Michelle,” he ran frustrated hands through his disheveled curls.

“A conversation that does not involve Rachel or Justin,” she added.

“I honestly don’t know what you want,” he demanded.

“I can’t keep acting like everything is just fine with us when it’s not,” her voice pleaded with him to understand. “We have to get everything out in the open. If we don’t, were going to destroy ourselves and each other.”

“You know I…no, never mind,” he shook his head. “I am not getting into this with you. I told you I’m not going to talk about it and we are going to leave it in the past where it belongs. House arrest or not, I’m getting out of here for a little while.”

She wanted to scream after him and make him at least tell her where he was going, but she just didn’t have the energy. Physically, emotionally, mentallyshe was just tired.

“Michelle? What’s with Danny?”

“Pilar,” Michelle’s head snapped up at the sound of her voice. “What are you doing here?”

“Baby boutique shopping,” she looked at her curiously. “Did you forget? We were leaving early since it’s an hours drive….” her voice trailed off. “Michelle, what’s wrong? Danny just drove out of here like a bat out of hell.”

“Hell would be a good way to describe our lives right about now,” her voice trembled.

“Okay, you come in here with me and sit down,” Pilar set her purse down on the counter, reaching for Michelle as she led her by the hand toward the living room. “You look really shaky, Michelle. Now start from the beginning and tell me whats going on with you and my brother.”

“The kids will be up soon,” Michelle whimpered, the tears pooling in the corners of her eyes.

“They’ll be fine,” Pilar quieted her. “If they come down I’ll get Rachel to take Justin into the playroom.” She gently pushed Michelle down on the couch. “Now, tell me what happen.”

Michelle looked up into the warm, loving eyes of her sister-in-law and saw the eyes of her husband looking back at her. It would be so easy to simply pour out her heart to her, but Mick was her brother too. She didn’t know how much Pilar knew about what happened. How could she tell her that her brother was a killer and her mother was the one who ordered him to do it?

“Michelle, it’s Mick, isn’t it?” Pilar questioned.

“How…how do you….” Michelle’s voice trembled.

“Before Mick left for California he told me,” she answered her unspoken question. “He told me everything, Michelle.”

“He’s not exactly keeping it a secret, is he?” she scoffed, hastily wiping away her tears with the backs of her hands.

“It’s not something he’s proud of, you know?” Pilar sighed. “He felt horrible for what he did, but he didn’t think he had a choice.”

“Are you defending him?” Michelle gasped, clutching her hand to her chest. “He killed someone Pilar. He pulled out a gun and shot someone in the head.”

“I know, I know,” tears began to fall from her sorrowful eyes. “It was horrible and no, I’m not defending him. I have never defended anything he or my mother have ever done. But he honestly thought he was protecting Danny’s life…and your life, too. I think this is really going to change him. He’s dealing with what he’s done and he’s remorseful for it, Michelle. He hates himself for what he did, but he is seeking Gods forgiveness and yours and Danny’s.”

“I don’t know, Pilar,” Michelle stood to her feet, crossing the room as she stood staring out the window. “I don’t know how to forgive something like this. And to be honest, I can’t deal with Mick right now. I have to find a way to reach my husband.”

“Can’t you see it’s one in the same?” Pilar placed comforting hands on her shoulders. “Michelle, Danny won’t forgive himself for what Mick did. If you can’t forgive Mick, then he doesn’t believe you can forgive him.”

“Is that what he said?” Michelle whipped around to face her. “Has he talked to you?”

“No,” she shook her head solemnly. “Danny doesn’t talk to anyone when he’s like this. He’s shut himself down until he can find a way to resolve this in his own mind. He always did that growing up. But this time is different. This time he needs your forgiveness.”

“Danny didn’t do anything wrong,” she shook her head.

“But you see he feels like he has,” Pilar pleaded. “Michelle, I can see it in his eyes. He may not be saying it with his words, but his eyes are begging you to forgive him. You know when Justin was missing and you were pushing Danny away I reminded him how much you needed him and to just give you the chance to open up to him. I’m telling you the same thing now Michelle. Danny needs you now, more than ever. Don’t give up on him. Go to him and work this out.”

“I don’t know how,” her cries overtook her as her body slid to the floor. “I don’t know how to get through to him. Pilar, I feel like I’m losing him.”

Pilar dropped to her knees beside Michelle and wrapped her arms around her. “You’ll find a way. I promise you will both find a way.”

 

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 27

June 16, 2014
Republisher’s Note: Manny have to deal with the truth.
Author’s Note: Sorry this got a little long. I tried to break it up into two chapters, but I really wanted everything in this chapter to stay together. Thanks for the feedback and I hope you enjoy! :)Candy
**********************

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes – Chapter 27

Michelle steered the car carefully out of the hospital exit, making the left hand turn that would take her home. She had made this journey thousands of times in the four years she had been practicing at the hospital, but today was different. The butterflies found their way to her stomach yet again causing a mixture of excitement and worry as her fingers gripped the steering wheel. Casting a sideways glance to her right, she gazed at her husband, his head resting against the side window with his eyes closed. This past month in the hospital had been so hard on him. After spending a week in ICU he had spent the rest of his hospital stay working fervently with a physical therapist, as well as a psychologist, trying to recover from the trauma his body and mind had undergone. She couldn’t help but be worried about the toll this was taking on him. The details of the shooting and the persons involved remained an unspoken barrier between them. She knew he was avoiding the truth, avoiding having to admit to her everything his brother had done. And if she were honest, she had to admit she didn’t want him to. As per her lengthy track record, she was pushing her own feelings down as far as possible, not wanting to face the truth herself. In her brief moments of rationalization she knew they would have to deal with this one day before it came crumbling down around them. But for now, the truth was better left unsaid.

“Hey,” her fingers gently caressing his cheek. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he opened his eyes as he brought her fingers to his lips for a soft kiss.

She sighed silently as the knot in her stomach tightened. He had barely managed to say ten words since they left the hospital. Dr. Stewart assured her over and over again that physically Danny was fine. And in her doctor’s mind she knew he was right. But she wasn’t worried so much about his physical wounds healing she knew his wounds ran much deeper.

Turning the car into the driveway of their home, she noticed the familiar cars parked along the street down from their house. So much for being a surprise, she thought.

“So I guess everyone is here, huh?” Danny’s lips curved into a soft smile.

“They aren’t known for being very discrete,” her eyes sympathetic as she put the car in park. “I’m sorry. I know you wanted some peace and quiet, but the kids were so excited I couldn’t tell them no.”

“It’s okay. I want them to be happy.” He pulled her hand into his, “I want you to be happy.”

“We are,” she smiled, placing a tender kiss to his lips. “More so now that we have you home.”

“Well, it’s good to be home,” he muttered, his hands reaching for the handle on the door. “I don’t think I could have taken another day of Nurse Hatchet.”

“Cratchet,” she corrected him with a laugh. “She wasn’t that bad.”

“Let her stick you twenty times looking for a vein and then see if you feel the same way,” he frowned, his eyes looking through the side mirror following the slow descent of the garage door closing behind them. “I tried to tell her my wife was a doctor, but she wouldn’t listen. I still don’t see why you couldn’t have been the one treating me.”

“Because I’m your wife,” her voice caught in her throat as she reached down, trying to help him ease his still sore body from the car. “I couldn’t have done it even if they had let me.”

“I’m sorry,” he leaned against her as he stood to his feet, his palm cupping her face. “I know you were scared.”

“You know what?” she forced a smile as he slid his arm around her shoulder for support. “Let’s not think about any of that today. Today’s a day to celebrate and that’s what we’re going to do.”

He nodded his head as they slowly made their way toward the house. She eased the glass door open, leaning against the heavy wooden door behind it as she helped Danny up the few steps leading to their house. Her fingers fumbled for the light switch trying to find their way through the dimly lit kitchen. They both flinched at the sudden intrusion of the light that illuminated the room.

“I think they’re in the living room,” she whispered as they began to make their trek down the hall.

Nodding his agreement, he shouted into the air, “I guess no one is home. Sure was hoping I could see my two munchkins, but I guess they didn’t care that their ol’ dad was coming home today.”

Before they could even enter the doorway of the living room, two little bodies came flying out of the darkness, their arms clutching each of Danny’s leg.

“We’re here, Daddy,” Rachel shouted. “We wouldn’t leave you.”

“We hide,” Justin exclaimed excitedly. “We supize you.”

“Well, you did surprise me,” he chuckled as his eyes surveyed the gathering of smiling faces before him.

“Kids take it easy,” Michelle scolded, trying to pull them away from Danny. “Daddy is still sore so we have to be very, very careful around him.”

“I’m sorry,” Rachel jerked back, her eyes wide with fear. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Danny knelt ungracefully down to the floor and pulled both his children into his arms, clutching them close to his body. “You could never hurt me,” he whispered. “I promise.”

“I’m so glad you’re home,” Rachel whispered into his ear, her arms wrapped around his neck.

“Me too princess. Me too.”

******************

Michelle set the ice bucket down on the counter before her and let her body collapse onto one of the nearby bar stools. She rested her elbows on the countertop and held her weary head in her hands. She was completely and utterly exhausted, but she was determined to not let it show. To everyone else, she was the loving, happy wife who was overjoyed to have her husband home. But on the inside, her emotions were warring with one another and she physically felt sick. As elated as she was that Danny was finally out of that hospital and home with her and the kids again, the fear that had hidden itself in the back of her mind once again began gnawing away at her. As long as he was in the hospital, she knew talking about the events of the past month wouldn’t be discussed, but now that he was home, she still wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to even think about Mick or Dr. Grant or any of it. And there was a large part of her that didn’t know if she would ever be ready.

“Michelle?”

Jumping to her feet, Michelle turned around to see Abby entering through the swinging kitchen door. “Hey, I was just getting some more ice.”

“Hey, it’s me,” she pulled the bucket out of Michelle’s hands. “I know you better than that.”

“Abby, really,” she moved toward the freezer to retrieve a bag of ice. “I’m fine. I have my husband home, everything’s perfect.”

“Michelle, everything is far from perfect,” she reached around Michelle to close the freezer door. “And you are far from being fine. Sweetie, Rick is really worried about you and so am I.”

Michelle brushed past Abby as she moved toward the window, staring at the shadows cast by the moon on the lush green grass in her backyard. Emotions she didn’t want to deal with tonight were brimming on the surface and she fought them with every ounce of strength she had left in her body.

“Please,” Abby begged, resting comforting hands on Michelle’s shoulders. “You dont need to keep these feelings and emotions inside anymore. You’ve been so strong for Danny and for the kids, but it’s time you start thinking about yourself and what this all has done to you.”

“You know?” Michelle whipped around, looking into her sister-in-laws warm hazel eyes.

Abby nodded slowly. Rick told me about Mick and Dr. Grant and he told me everything.

“I can’t,” Michelle shook her head, crossing the room again toward the freezer. “Listen, Abby, I appreciate yours and Rick’s concern, but really I am fine. Danny and I will work through this and we’ll be able to put this behind us soon. It’s just going to take some time. Danny still has his continued recovery ahead of him and the kids are so happy right now. We just have to focus on the here and now. The past is over and none of it can be changed.”

“But it’s not all in the past,” Abby pleaded. “Michelle, you haven’t dealt with any of this and you have to find a way. It’s so important for you to not just sweep this under the rug, now more than ever, you have to find a way.”

“We will,” Michelle whispered. “We will find a way, just not now. Danny doesn’t need this. He just needs to stay focused on getting better right now.”

“Michelle, you have more ice?” Bill paraded into the kitchen, startled to see Abby. “I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Michelle spoke up quickly, avoiding Abby’s penetrating stare. “Here’s the ice,” she grabbed the bag of ice in her hand as she walked toward him. As she reached the door, she glanced back at Abby. “I have to go back and see if anyone needs anything.”

Abby simply nodded her head as she watched the door swing close behind her. “Oh, Michelle, I hope this does’nt all come crashing down on you, you or Danny.”

*************

“So how are you feeling?” Ray eased his body down onto the couch next to Danny.

“Okay,” Danny’s voice betrayed his attempt to sound nonchalant.

“You’re hurting, aren’t you?”

“It’s not that bad,” he winced, trying to shift his body into a more comfortable position. “I’m just not used to moving around this much. But don’t breathe a word to Michelle. She’s worried enough as it is.”

“She has a reason to be, you know,” Ray began. “And I’m not just talking about your physical injuries.”

“I can’t, I don’t want to get into that now.”

“Now or ever?” Ray provoked. “Danny, man, you’ve been to hell and back and I understand that. But you can’t keep this all bottled up inside you.”

“You know, don’t you?” Danny looked at Ray expectantly.

Ray nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving his cousin’s tortured face. “Mick made a confession to me before he left town.”

“Well maybe his conscience is clear now,” Danny snapped, turning his head away from Ray.

“And yours isn’t?” Ray questioned.

“Ray, look around,” Danny’s eyes scanned the room. “Look at the happiness on the faces in this room. Pilar, Michelle, Justin, Rachel, heck everyonelook how happy they all are. If I go digging through the past, I’ll take that away from all of them and I can’t do that.”

“But you’ll destroy yourself if you don’t.”

“That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” his glistening eyes trained on his two children as their laughter filled the room. “Michelle and my children have to come first.”

“Hey, what are you two talking about so seriously over here?” Michelle laughed, sliding down into the small space next to her husband.

“Nothing important,” Danny rubbed his hand up and down her leg, glancing sternly at Ray.

“I’ll go see how the kids are managing with that movie,” Ray returned Danny’s look as he walked away.

Michelle noticed the look between them and worry crept into the pit of her stomach. Her hand grasped Danny’s chin, turning his face toward her. “What’s going on ? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” the smile that stretched across his lips didn’t reach his eyes. “Everything’s fine.”

“Danny…”

“You know, you need to take a break,” he shifted uncomfortably against the back of the couch, trying to give her some more room as he pulled her hands into his. “You’ve been running around here like a madwoman all nightpouring drinks, getting people food…”

“I just want to make sure everyone is having a good time,” she whispered, laying her head down on his chest as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

“They are.” He rested his head against hers, wrapping his arms around her, holding her close. “But I think you’re night as the perfect hostess is over. The guest of honor wants you exactly where you are.”

“Well, the hostess is exactly where she wants to be,” she sighed tiredly, snuggling closer to his side. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you.”

His eyes continued to search the sea of faces, coming around to land on his mother and Ray in deep conversation. She had been to see him almost daily in the hospital, never once mentioning Mick’s name. She had to know that he knew what she and Mick had done, but they avoided any talk that would lead them to discussing what had happened. Pilar had been the one to tell him Mick was in California, staying with their uncle until things settled down here. Then he would be back in Springfield. One day, they would all have to talk about what happened. One day, Danny knew he would have to face the truth. One day, but not today. And he couldn’t stop the part of him that wondered if there ever would be a right day.

“Danny?”

His wife’s voice drawing him back to the present, he glanced down into her questioning eyes. “Yeah?”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just tired,” he mumbled, avoiding her penetrating stare.

She extricated herself from his arms and stood quickly to her feet. “Well, I think everyone is about to call it a night. Why don’t you go on upstairs and lie down?”

“I want to wait until everyone leaves,” he shook his head. “I should at least tell everyone good-night.”

“Well, that’s exactly what we were coming to do,” Rick interrupted as he and Abby made their way from across the room.

“You’re leaving?” Michelle reached up to hug them both.

“Yeah,” Rick nodded, his eyes full of concern as he looked at his little sister. “I have an early day at the hospital tomorrow and Abby has the state inspector coming for his annual visit at the day care. I’m glad you’re home, Danny. I know my sister needs you now more than ever.”

Michelle threw a stern look at her brother, shaking her head at him. “Yeah, you know the kids can be a handful, but Abby and Pilar have been great helping me out with them.”

“Well, I’m here to do that now,” Danny slowly stood to his feet, wrapping an arm around her waist.

Just dont overdo it, Rick shook his finger at him.

I have my own personal doctor here, Danny nodded his head toward Michelle. She wont let me do too much.

“Just take care of each other,” Abby forced a smile to her lips. “Please just take care of each other. And if you need anything, you know were just a phone call away.”

“Thanks,” Danny smiled, oblivious to the looks shared between the sisters-in-law.

“Thank you,” Michelle nodded. “I promise you we will be fine.”

Abby forced another smile and grabbed Rick’s hand, pulling him toward the door. Following their lead, one person after another began their departure as well. Bill, Pilar and Ray made their way to the door, reassuring them both that they were ready and willing to help in anyway they could. When the last of their guests had left, they turned to see Carmen as the only one remaining. Sensing she wanted to talk to Danny alone, Michelle excused herself to check on the kids.

“We haven’t had much of a chance to talk this evening,” Carmen began, her voice soft.

“Well, it’s been kind of hectic with so many people here,” he responded. “I’m glad you came. It meant a lot to the kids that you were here.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” she smiled, her hand caressing his face. “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you are finally home, Daniel. When I saw you in that hospitalI do’nt think I’ve ever been so scared in my life.”

“I was pretty scared myself,” he admitted. “But my fear started long before I ever landed in that hospital and it hasn’t gone away.”

“I know,” she bowed her head. “And I’m sorry about that. I didn’t know until it was too late and your brother came to me for help.”

“Mick always was one to shoot first and ask questions later,” he walked away, turning his back on her.

“I know your brother doesn’t always follow the best plan, but he loves you and he did what he thought was best.”

“Is that what you did too?” the accusation evident in his tone. “You did what you thought was best?”

“Danny, you know enough about this business to know I did what had to be done,” she snapped. “Charles Grant had to be dealt with and if I hadn’t he would have continued to come after you, Michelle and the kids. I was NOT going to let that happen. He hurt you and he had to pay.”

“You know what, never mind,” he spun on his heels heading toward the door. “I don’t know why I even brought it up. You did what you thought you had to do and I have to do the same. My wife and my children have to be the most important people in my life and I have to keep anything dangerous from entering their lives. If that means keeping you and my brother away from them, so be it.”

“You aren’t serious,” Carmen gasped in shock.

“I’m damn serious,” he shouted, his eyes piercing into her. “I will not let my family be used by you or Mick ever again. I will die before I let either one of you hurt them.”

“And that’s exactly what you almost did,” her voice strained with unshed tears.

“Everything okay in here?” Michelle asked hesitantly from the doorway.

“Yeah,” Danny’s voice quivered, his angry eyes never leaving his mother’s face. “My mother was just saying good night.”

“Yes, I must be going,” Carmen nodded, shifting her gaze to Michelle. “I must thank you Michelle for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful evening. Please give the children a kiss for me and tell them their grandmother loves them.”

“They know that Carmen,” the corners of Michelle’s lips lifted slightly as she wrapped a protective arm around Danny’s waist. “They love you, too.”

“Thank you,” her moistened eyes turned back to Danny. “I will do anything to make my family happy. I promise you, you are all safe now.”

Michelle felt the tremor shoot through Danny’s body as they stood in silence watching the front door close behind Carmen. Sliding her body around from his side to face him, her stomach tensed seeing the distance cloud his eyes.

“”Hey,” her hands bracketed the sides of his feverish face. “What’s going on with you and your mother?”

“I’m kind of tired,” he shook free of her touch. “Why don’t we leave this mess for tonight and I’ll help you clean it up tomorrow?”

“Danny…”

“Michelle, please,” his eyes begged. “Not tonight, okay?”

She nodded her head slowly as she placed her hand in his outstretched hand, letting him lead her up the stairs to their room. The fear she had been feeling for the past few weeks plagued her mind as she watched her husband sit down on the edge of the bed, shrugging his arms from his pull over shirt before resting his head in his hands. She could feel him retreating behind the wall he had built around himself, not wanting to let her or anyone else in on what was happening in his mind. She wanted to tell him she knew what he was going through, yet on the other hand, she wasn’t sure she did. Battling her own emotions over what had happened, she had tried to keep her own feelings at bay in deference for her husband. But maybe if she told him that she knew, but what did she really know? Her heart and mind had been in constant struggle ever since the night Rick told her about Dr. Grant, but she couldn’t afford to allow her heart to get the better of her. There was too much at stake now.

Shaking her head, she tried to push those thoughts back into the recesses of her mind, hoping against hope that they would grant her the reprieve she so desperately needed. Praying a hot bath would help her relax, she turned on her heels marching toward the bathroom. As her body quickly shifted directions, her head began to swim and she stumbled backwards into the awaiting arms of her husband.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” his voice thick with worry.

“I just got a little dizzy,” she confessed with a frown, trying to slip from his grasp.

“No,” he shook his head, dragging her back toward the bed as he forced her to sit down. “There’s been something going on with you for weeks now. I know you were keeping things from me while I was recovering, but I’m fine now. Honey, whatever it is, you can tell me.”

She shook her head, trying unsuccessfully to keep her tears at bay. She could feel the words she had longed to say for weeks on the tip of her tongue. He was right, she was keeping so many things from him, but she hadn’t had a choice. He didn’t need the added strain she knew her words would bring him. And she worried that now wasn’t the right time either. But looking at him now, his eyes darkened with worry, she didn’t think she would be able to keep the truth from him anymore.

His fingers rested under her chin as he gently lifted her face toward him. “Honey, tell me, please.”

“Danny,” her voice trembled through her tears. “I don’t…I’m not sure how to tell you.”

“Please, just say it,” he begged. “Nothing you say could be worse than the thoughts going through my head right now.”

“I…uh…well,” the palms of her hands hastily wiped at the wetness on her cheeks. “When you were in the hospital, Dr. Stewart asked for some of us to donate blood in case he needed to give you more transfusions. So your mother and I went to the lab and we both donated blood for you.”

He looked at her expectantly, fearful of where her story would lead. Feeling his trembling hand against her leg, she jumped to her feet, pacing the length of the room. “Rick…he was really worried about me because I hadn’t been feeling well. I tried to tell him it was just stress and worrying about you. He, uh, he didn’t tell me he was going to do it, but he got the lab to analyze some of my blood.”

What he seized her hand as she stepped in front of him and forced himself to his feet to stand in front of her. “Baby, what is it?”

“Danny, I didn’t know,” her tears resurfaced as she buried her face in his chest. “I swear I had no idea.”

He fought the bile rising in his throat as he eased his wife’s weeping body back down on the bed, sitting down beside her. “Michelle,” he whispered, cradling her wet cheek in the palm of his hand. “I need you to tell me, okay? Please, I need to know.”

“I, uh,” she pulled back from him, trying unsuccessfully to clear the tears from her face. “Danny, I wanted to talk to you about this when Rick first talked to me, but I couldn’t. You needed to focus on getting stronger and I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Worry me now,” he pleaded.

“Danny,” the tears dripped from her chin into her lap, where her hands fidgeted incessantly. “I know I should just tell you, I’m just not sure how I…we…I mean Danny, I’m pregnant.”

They sat in unnerving silence as the shock of her revelation sunk in, neither of them looking at the other. Danny felt the swirl of emotions coursing through his body; jubilation, excitement fear, worry. Turning his gaze toward her, he covered her hands with his as a fresh wave of tears fell from her eyes.

“Michelle,” his unsteady voice began. “How…I mean I thought all the doctors said…”

“They did,” she mumbled, finally lifting her head to look at him. “The chances were miniscule…they said it would take a miracle…”

“A miracle?” he repeated in a whisper. He quickly stood to his feet turning his back to her, the haunting images of the past flashing through his beleaguered mind. Michelle pale and lifeless, lying in a hospital bed for weeks fighting for her life. His son all kinds of tubes sticking from his tiny body as he fought for every breath. No, he couldn’t go through that, not again.

“Danny?”

He felt her arms slide around his waist from behind, her lips pressing feathery kisses to his bare back. Normally his body relaxed under her soft touch, but his mind wouldn’t let him forget and his body tensed even more as each memory replayed in his mind. “Michelle…”

“Everything’s going to be okay,” she whispered between kisses. “Everything will be okay.”

“How can you say that?” his voice shook as he turned his body to face her. “Michelle, you almost died last time, I almost lost you forever. How….”

“But you didn’t,” she interrupted him, resting her hands on each side of his face. “You didn’t lose me. Honey, I know it was a difficult time, but we made it through that and well make it through this.”

“Can you promise me that?” a solitary tear slid down his face as he jerked away from her. “Can you promise me that what happened last time won’t happen again?”

Her heart splintering upon seeing the torment in his eyes, she reached for him again, but he pulled away, crossing the length of the room to sit on the bed, his back to her.

“Danny, you know I cannot make you those kind of promises. No, it’s not going to be an easy pregnancy,” her feet took slow steps toward him, sitting down on the edge of the bed beside him. She reached for his hands again and pressed their joined hands over the barely noticeable bulge of her stomach. “But this baby is our miracle, a gift from God. After you were…” she swallowed hard around the lump in her throat. “After you were shot, Ray and I had a long talk at the hospital. He told me to hold on to my faith and the day would come when God would send a blessing into my life I didn’t even know I needed. And He has. Danny, I didn’t know how much I wanted…how much I needed this baby until Rick told me I was pregnant. After everything we’ve been through, everything that has happened to us, we deserve this. And no one can take this away from us.”

“I’m afraid,” his voice broke as the onslaught of tears flowed down his face. “I’m afraid of losing you.”

She pulled him to her as they held onto to each other as if they were the others sole lifeline. “You will never lose me. That I can promise you. Whatever happens Danny, you will always have me right here,” she placed her hand over his heart. “And from there, I will never leave you.”

Clenching his eyes shut to keep the insistent tears from escaping any further, he held her tight. He wanted to believe this baby was their miracle, their gift for everything they’ve been through. But he had had so much taken away from him in his life, his grandfather, his father, his grandmother, he knew a piece of him had died right along with all of them. And somehow that emptiness he had felt over losing those people from his life seemed to be filled to some extent with Mick’s reemergence in his life. But Mick was gone again and the emptiness was back. If something happened to Michelle, if something went wrong again he knew there wouldn’t be enough pieces of him left to go on.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 26

June 15, 2014

Republisher’s Note: Danny wakes up to some harsh realities.

Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes Chapter 26

From Chapter 25:

“Rick, I can’t leave Danny,” she whimpered. “I can’t.”

“Michelle, you aren’t doing him any good if you make yourself sick,” Rick pleaded.

“He’s right, Michelle,” Ray agreed. “Danny wouldn’t want you to do this to yourself.”

“Danny has never left my side,” she shook her head. “And I’m not about to abandon him when he needs me the most.”

Before any of them could protest, Dr. Stewart entered the waiting room.

“Paul,” Michelle leapt to her feet as her heart began to pound wildly against her chest. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“Your husband just came to.”

*************

Chapter 26:

The heels of her sandals clapping loudly against the newly polished floor, Michelle raced down the hall as fast as her legs would carry her. She didn’t know if anyone had followed her and at the moment the men she had ran out on were the furthest thoughts from her mind. Only one thing mattered now, only one person mattered. She threw open the door to his room before she finally allowed her body to slow. Her heart thumping wildly, she eased her way into the room. At first glance it appeared as if nothing had changed. Danny laid motionless on the bed with the same look as she and Rachel had left him just hours before. The glow from the monitors still cast a greenish haze across the room as the beeping of the heart monitor rang in her ears. Nothing had changed. What if she only dreamed the words from Dr. Stewart she had longed to hear? Maybe Danny hadn’t regained consciousness. Maybe she was dreaming now. She saw the tiny slits of his eyes opening open as his lashes slowly began to flutter. Tears sprang to her eyes as she took slow steps toward the bed, carefully sitting down on the edge next to him. Please don’t let this be another dream, her heart pleaded. Please let this be real.

As she felt his hand on hers, she knew. She looked into the eyes of the man she had given her heart to so many years ago. The eyes of the man she loved more than her own life. This wasn’t a dream, this was real. He had kept the promise he had made to her so many times since the day they met, he hadn’t left her.

“Hey,” her voice strained with emotion as her fingers caressed the side of his face. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve missed seeing these beautiful eyes?”

He extended his tongue, wetting his dry lips as he tried to piece together enough sounds to form a coherent word, but she quickly stopped him. “Sshh! Don’t try to talk right now, honey. You need to rest.”

“But…” his raspy voice stuttered.

“No buts, mister,” she smiled, running her hand through his thick, unruly curls. “For once in your life, listen to your wife.” Her smiled faded as worry clouded over her eyes. “You’ve been through a lot, Danny. You need to just take it slow.”

“The kids…

“The kids are fine,” she whispered, her trembling hand moving to rest on his face. “They are with Abby right now and she’s watching them like a hawk.”

“Somebody…they need….protect them,” he grimaced with every syllable.

“They have police protection,” she sighed, knowing his worry. “I promise you they are safe. No one is going to get to them,not again.”

“You,” his face contorted in pain. “I don’t want….he will hurt you.”

“Honey, please,” she pleaded, her heart tearing in two seeing him in this pain. “Don’t worry about me. I promise you no one is going to hurt me or our kids. And you have a guard right outside your door, so you don’t have anything to worry about. Everyone is safe.”

“Please,” he winced as he tried to shift his body. “Don’t let him…hurt…hurt you.”

“Danny,” Rick spoke up, signaling them both they were not alone. “You don’t have to worry about Michelle. I promise I’m keeping my eye on her.”

“Michelle,” Dr. Stewart proclaimed, drawing her attention away from her husband’s face. “Danny really needs to rest right now. Why don’t you take a break and let Danny get some sleep?”

“No,” Danny gripped her hand as tight as his weakened strength would allow. “Don’t go.”

“It’s okay,” she pressed a warm kiss to the hand in her grasp. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Michelle,” Rick protested, throwing a weary, but frustrated look in her direction.

“Rick,” she glared at him, standing to her feet before turning back to Danny. “I’ll be right back honey. I just need to talk to Rick for a minute. I promise I’ll be right back.”

“Michelle, you nearly fainted not even fifteen minutes ago,” Rick snapped once they were in the safety of the hall. “You are completely exhausted. I know you are worried about Danny and so am I, but I’m worried about you too. You aren’t taking care of yourself at all.”

“Your brother’s right, Michelle,” Dr. Stewart interjected. “Danny is going to need you now more than ever and he’s going to need you well.”

“Okay,” she relented, throwing her hands up in surrender. “You win, okay? Listen, I know you’re both right, but I can’t leave the hospital,not tonight.” Rick groaned loudly as his shoulders slumped. “Rick,” she pleaded, praying he would understand. “Danny just regained consciousness and I’m sure hes scared and confused about what’s happened. He needs me here with him tonight I need him tonight. I promise once he falls asleep, I’ll go down to the doctors lounge and try to get some sleep myself. Abby even brought me a change of clothes. I will be fine.”

“I swear you are so stubborn,” Rick shook his head, his hands planted firmly on her hips.

“Hey, I learned from the best,” she smiled, trying to ease the tension between them. “Don’t worry about me so much.”

“That’s not possible,” he pulled her into his arms, kissing her firmly on the forehead. “Just remember you promised.”

“I know,” she sighed, hugging him close. “Please don’t tell the kids he’s awake yet, just in case…”

“It’s okay,” he leaned back, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “I understand. We’ll just tell them he’s doing better and leave it at that. I’ll find them and Abby and get them back to the house. You call if you need anything, and I mean anything. I’ll check back in the morning and see how things are and if Danny’s up to it, I’ll bring the kids up for a visit.”

“Thank you,” her arms drew him into another embrace. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“You just take care of yourself,” he pointed at her as they separated. “I’m going to question these nurses tomorrow to see if you kept your promise.”

“I will, I promise,” her smile fading as tears began to cloud her eyes again. “Kiss my babies goodnight for me and tell them I love them.”

Rick nodded slowly as he placed another kiss to her cheek. “I love you, sis. Things are going to turn around now. Just keep believing that.”

“Thank you,” her voice quivered. “I love you, too.”

Dr. Stewart waited until Rick had rounded the corner down the hall before he turned his attention back to Michelle. “Danny needs peace and quiet right now. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of questions about what happened, but it’s important that he remain as calm as possible. I have a few more patients to look in on, but I’ll stop back by before I leave. Have the nurses page me if you need anything.”

“Thank you, Paul,” she smiled as she watched his retreating form disappear around her corner. “For everything.”

Taking a deep breath to calm her jittery nerves, she re-entered the room to rejoin her husband. Her heart pounding against the wall of her chest, she sat back down in the chair beside him and reached for his hand. Upon feeling her touch, his eyes slowly opened.

“Dr. Stewart says you need lots of rest right now, so you just close those eyes and get some sleep,” she whispered.”I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

“I need to see Mick,” his voice barely audible.

“Danny, no,” she shook her head adamantly. “What you need is rest. You can talk to Mick later.”

“No,” he groaned. “You don’t understand.”

“Understand what, that he is the reason you were shot?” she demanded, her anger rising.

“You know he was there,” he winced, his voice growing weaker.

“Yes,” her voice softened. “Listen, none of that is important right now. We can talk about all this once you are feeling stronger. For now, you have to get some sleep. Rick said he would bring the kids up here when you’re feeling up to it, so you have to get stronger for them, and for me.”

“It’s important….I need…I need to see Mick,” he struggled with every breath, trying to make her understand.

“Did I hear someone calling my name?”

Michelle’s head snapped up to see Mick’s smile suddenly die on his lips as their eyes locked. How dare he come in here? After everything he had done, all of this was his fault and he had some nerve to show his face anywhere near them. Danny wasn’t strong enough to tell him he wasn’t welcome here, so it was up to her. She wasn’t going to allow him anywhere near her husband, never again. Danny had suffered enough by the hands of his brother. But no more.

“Michelle…Michelle.” Her husbands pleas broke her from her thoughts as she turned back to him.

“It’s okay,” she tried to calm him. “I’ll talk to Mick in the hall, but I’ll be right back.”

“No,” he began softly. “I have to talk….talk to Mick.”

Shaking her head, she looked back and forth between the brothers. “No, there is no way I’m leaving him alone in here with you.”

“Michelle, please,” Danny begged.

“Danny,” she groaned.

“Please…..I need to do this,” his eyes pleaded with her. “Please.”

She looked into the desperate eyes of her husband knowing he wouldn’t rest until he talked with Mick. “Five minutes,” she stood to her feet, reluctantly releasing his hand. “I’m coming back in here in five minutes whether you two are finished talking or not.”

She brushed past Mick, her shoulder bumping into his arm as she came to halt at his side. Her eyes glared as her voice dangerously whispered, “If you do anything to upset him, I swear it will be the last time you ever do.”

Mick nodded in silence his understanding. He waited until he heard the door close behind her before he cautiously made his way to his brother’s side. Easing his body down into the chair Michelle had just vacated, he looked at his brother and felt another wave of guilt wash over him. He knew it should have been him in this hospital bed and if it hadn’t been for Danny it would have been.

“I need a favor,” Danny’s weak voice broke through the silence.

“You need something from me?” Mick questioned incredulously.

Danny nodded slowly, his voice barely a whisper. “I need you to watch out for Michelle and the kids. I don’t know…he might come after them. I can’t….”

“Danny, you don’t have to worry about him,” Mick sighed.

“No, he threatened Michelle and if he…” Danny stopped short, grimacing in pain.

“Just stop, okay,” Mick panicked. “Please don’t get upset. You can’t get upset right now. I promise you, Michelle and the kids are safe. He’s not a threat…not anymore.”

“But…”

“No, listen to me,” he stood to his feet, turning his back to Danny’s fearful face. “I never wanted this to happen, you know. None of this worked out the way it was supposed to, but it happened and it’s over now. I promise you nothing will happen to your family. He will never threaten them again.”

Realization began to descend over Danny as he acknowledged the weight of his brother’s words. “Are you saying…did you…”

“He’s not a threat,” Mick repeated, his body jerking around to face him. “Just leave it at that.”

“You killed him.”

“I didn’t have a choice,” Mick snapped, slamming his hands forcefully against the back of the chair. “I had an order from the top and I had to do it.”

“Our mother ordered you to kill him?”

“Yeah,” Mick slowly nodded, avoiding the disappointment he saw in his brother’s eyes. “But I would have done it anyway,” he whispered.

“How could you do this?” Danny turned his head away from him, staring at the closed door, praying for his wife to return and take him away from this nightmare.

“He shot you,” Mick snapped, crossing the room to stand on the opposite side of the bed, forcing Danny to look at him. “You know this is the way things work. You know there was no other way.”

“Do the police know?”

“I’m sure they’ve found the body by now,” his fingers fidgeted with the zipper on his coat. “It’ll look like a mugging or an armed robbery. No one will ever know.”

“But I know,” Danny shut his eyes, trying to block out the images of his wife’s face. “I have to tell Michelle.”

“Why?” Mick frowned. “Let it go Danny. It’s over. We can put all of this behind us now and just move on. You’ve left that life behind you. Leave it in your past. Just walk away.”

“But it’s not my past,” he whispered coldly. “It’s my present and I can’t keep secrets from her. She has the right to know that there is still…danger is still out there.”

“I told you I took care of all of that,” Mick shook his head. “None of the other families are a threat to any of you…not anymore. Danny, you deserve to have that life you always wanted and you can have that now. Don’t let this take you back there. If you go back you’ll be giving him exactly what he wanted. Turn your back on all of it and just let it go.”

“But you’re still in, Mick,” his eyes narrowed. “You’re in deeper now than you’ve ever been.”

“There was no other way,” his voice barely audible. “I did what I had to do.”

“You’ll never be able to get out now, you know that?”

Mick looked up into the eyes of a man he respected,a man who had taught him more about what life was really about than anyone else in his life,a man who was willing to give his life for him,a man who almost did just that. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for Danny and if this was what he had to do to give Danny the life he and his family deserved than so be it.

“I know, Danny, I know.”

*********************

Michelle sat down in a chair near the ICU nurses desk, impatiently tapping her foot against the shiny tile. Checking her watch every thirty seconds, she was counting down every second of the five minutes before she returned to her husband’s side. It was against her better judgement to leave Mick alone with Danny. What if he said something to upset him? Danny was still so weak, he couldn’t take that kind of aggravation or stress. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. Her mental debate ended when she stood to her feet, ready to march back in, regardless if five minutes had passed or not.

“Michelle.”

She turned around to see her brother quickly approaching her. “Rick, I thought you left with the kids.”

“I was,” he began breathlessly. “But something came up so Officer Peters and Abby took them home. Michelle, I need to talk to you.”

Looking at the fear in his eyes, her stomach automatically began to tighten. “Rick, what is it? Is it the kids? Is it Danny? Did Paul get bad test results?”

“No, no,” he shook his head quickly. “The kids are home with Abby. And Danny is fine. Paul said his latest test results looked good. Why don’t we go in here so we can talk?”

“Rick, you’re scaring me,” her voice quivered as they rounded the corner and made their way to two adjoining chairs in the waiting room.

“I don’t want to scare you,” his eyes focused on his fidgeting hands as he struggled to find the right words. “I just don’t know exactly how to tell you this.”

“Tell me what?” she pleaded. “Please, Rick, just tell me.”

“Dr. Grant is dead,” he blurted out.

“What?” her eyes wide with shock. “When? How?”

“They found him down on the docks, a single bullet to the head,” he sighed, reaching for her trembling hands. “Police are calling it a mugging, but…”

“But, what?”

Rick bowed his head before mumbling, “They haven’t ruled out a mob hit.”

Her hand flew to her mouth as she felt the bile rise in her throat. She looked up hesitantly into Rick’s awaiting eyes and with one look she instinctively knew. “You think Danny’s family is responsible for this.”

Rick stood slowly to his feet, turning his back to her, not wanting her to see her words confirmed in his eyes. “Why would they do something like this? Dr. Grant was a good, decent man. Why would they kill him?”

“Michelle, there’s some things you don’t know,” he sighed. Frank told me the Springfield police were contacted by the FBI three days ago asking for his help. They had been watching Dr. Grant for years. He apparently was involved on some level with drug trafficking here in Springfield and then again in New York. They never had enough evidence against him to charge him with anything, but they kept following his every move. They were suspicious when he left New York so suddenly to return to Springfield, so they followed him here and they saw him…they saw…”

“What?” her fearful eyes urged him on. “What did he do, Rick?”

He exhaled slowly, moving back to sit down beside her, taking her hands in his. “They followed him several times to the warehouse. Michelle, he was there the night Danny was shot.”

As her brain registered his words, the absurdity of the whole situation won her over. She had known Dr. Grant since she was a child. Their families had shared dinners and holidays together. He had been one of her biggest supporters when she decided to apply for medical school. There had to be some mistake, there had to be. She shook her head as she looked back at her brother. “Rick, no, there’s no way Dr. Grant had anything to do with taking Justin or shooting Danny. He couldn’t have, I’ve known him practically my entire life, he wouldn’t do that to me.”

“Michelle,” Rick tried to reach for her as she paced the room. “Maybe he just got in over his head. Maybe he didn’t have any other way out.”

“No,” she shouted. “There has to be some mistake. There’s no way….he couldnt have done it…if he did that would mean….”

“Danny’s family is responsible for his death,” he finished her unspoken train of thought.

“No, no, no.” She covered her ears with trembling hands, wanting all of this to stop. Her shaky legs carried her back and forth across the room before Rick placed his hands forcefully on her shoulders. Despite her attempts to squirm away from his grasp, he held her firmly, forcing her to accept the reality of the situation.

“Michelle,” he whispered.

“I can’t deal with this, Rick,” tears spilled from her tired eyes. “It’s too much. I can’t think about Dr. Grant. I can’t think about who killed him. I can’t think about anyone else except for Danny. He needs me right now. I have to go.”

Before he could stop her, she spun on her heels and raced back down the familiar hallway. Her heart leapt to her throat when the door was jerked from her grasp, almost colliding with Mick as he exited. Their eyes locked and with one look she knew. He had killed Dr. Grant.


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