As soon as the truck hit the road, Todd's friends burst into laughter. Not a soft chuckling, but the kind that hurts. "You are still so drunk, my friend!" Dagur panted, in between roars of laughter. The other two men joined in, Frey and Hinrik.
In plain English, Todd growled, "What the fuck?"
"Your face... your face… you were so concerned!" More raucous laughter ensued.
Dagur patted Todd's shoulder, trying to soothe the burning fury on his face. "Did it even occur to you that if the boat capsized… that we would not be here to pick you up? We'd be capsized too."
Todd shook his head and hunched down into the seat, his Icelandic returning to his tongue, "Fuck all of you. You pulled me away from something important."
"What… getting murdered by that woman?" Dagur explained. "Your landlord called me in a panic."
"You...he called you. Shit. Thank god she really wasn't murdering me. How about the police being called? You people are fucked in the head. And...why aren't you on the boat anyway?"
Hinrik, an older cowboy of a fisherman chimed in, "Too rocky a morning. The boat would have flipped."
The car rolled into the fishing company's headquarters. The men filed out of the truck, Todd grumbling, "Take me back to my place."
"Hell no. You need to do some work..." Dagur said, "You need to breathe Iceland air, to clear your mind and body of that woman."
Todd eyed the three men as they walked towards the front door, "That woman you speak of...is my wife."
Everyone stopped in their tracks, their mouths collectively falling open, their eyes bugging. Then the laughter started, "No wonder, Thar! No wonder she was murdering you! Ohhh shit!"
The office smelled like fish and old wood, ragged couches in the corner of the room as old as time. The men plopped down on them, spent from enjoying the surprising drama of their normally unchained friend, Thar.
Dagur's voice, thick with anticipation, gave Todd a shiver as he asked for the whole story. Todd...Thar... filled them in with only the barest of mostly invented details. "We separated a while ago, and she tracked me down. She was a little upset with my… umm… choice of personal and geographic conduct."
"No shit, my friend. She know about your… conquests on a weekly basis?"
"She figured out my pattern."
Frey, the youngest man on the boat, barely eighteen, was clearly dying for more dirt, "How did she learn your pattern...you were very...behaved last night."
The other men laughed and Thar… he complied, in character… because Thar did this sort of thing. Thar had uncomplicated relationships. Thar bedded women and had a wife who didn't appreciate it. Todd bit down hard, then smiled a crooked smile and said, "I didn't recognize her due to the Brennivin... I took her to my room and made sweet love to her... she knew I did not recognize her."
The men laughed hard at Thar's gall and Dagur commented, "You mean you fucked the shit out of her and then passed out before you could return the favor, eh, Thar?"
Thar laughed along with the others, but Todd cringed in deep shame. This wasn't some northern whore, this was his angel they were talking about...this was...Téa. Even Thar had his limits.
"Hey, this is my wife. She deserves a little respect from you pigs."
The men dried their eyes and hesitated a moment before laughing more.
"You mean she deserves to come, too! Maybe we can help!"
Thar chuckled alongside them, shaking his head. The view outside was beautiful, the waves smashing against the dock, the boats being rocked, helpless to the strength of the water. He could barely hear the continued jokes of the men, their humor and joy light and free. Their lives really were uncomplicated. "Ineed to get back to her, gentlemen pigs. Who will drive me back? I'm not working today."
The reality was, as he looked at these men, that he may never see them again. He was surprisingly sad… unquestionably torn about it. He had meant what he said... he loved being Thar. He hated Todd Manning with the heat of a thousand suns. Téa nearly had him, though, especially at the story of Starr being hurt by Walker and Cole, especially at the idea of Sierra being raised by Walker. But sitting here now, he coveted the simplicity Iceland offered. He yearned for the straightforward nature of Icelandic fishing on the worker's side of things. He stayed far away from administration, from the ownership elements. THAT was complicated. But this… this was fucking bliss.
He had indeed lost himself in the ice, in Thar, getting a kind of release that he had never felt in his entire life. This release had never meant more since Mitch had gotten hold of him. Peter's damage of him had been cakewalk.
At that, the room closed in on him hard and he had to get out. "Never mind," he said softly. "I'll walk." Despite the protests, Todd smashed out into the cold air. Breathing deeply and walking fast down the road, running now, his chest tightened and darkness exploded into his head. The ice… the ice… he felt the siren's song, felt her cold wet hands on his legs, on his thighs, dragging at him, pulling at him. Lie down, she sang, lie down with me… give yourself that full peace, permanent peace, my love. Never will life hurt you again.
He walked off the main road and took an access path to the water. He breathed hard, his soul too real now, out now on the surface, Thar weak, slinking down and away from his grasp. What triggered this? Jesus. Todd's wounds splashed blood now, like the ocean's wild waves, open for the world to see and he could not let that happen. He could not show this… he could not give in to this.
Memories of the tomb bit at him, the torture imposed on him by Mitch and his goons. The torture from before, from farther back. He lost touch now and quieted. His voice gone.
But the screams he heard in his head were loud, deafening, an endless straining of his vocal cords.
He stood at the edge of the water, watching the grey distance, feeling the cold on his cheeks. He dropped his coat to the ground, feeling the ice now on his face, his body. He stripped his clothes off and felt more of that cold. The torture was real again. He stood still and silent and in awe of its power, watching the men cut into his body with their blades, watching blow after blow against his bones. He heard the cracking of his body and mind, heard the soft tearing of flesh and muscle. The bloody torture quieted him. His mouth parted and his eyes glazed over with shock. He could not scream or breathe or think.
The water called to him and he knew this was it. Thank god, thank god… the pain would end.
Night had long fallen on the small town and the men could not account for Todd's whereabouts. They were lighthearted about it because Thar most likely was bedding some whore just to spite his nagging wife, but Téa was paralyzed with fear because she knew Thar did not exist in reality. She drove the streets, slowly and deliberately. She searched the port and the bit of coast she could access. There were far too many places to disappear into here on Iceland's rocky shores. She then walked through the pubs. His friends had assured her that he was fine, but she knew better. She would give him until morning. Then she knew… she'd have to report him missing. Again.
Téa landed back at his apartment. She settled into the one chair in his room. Sat in the room with only one light on. Waiting, praying, trying to rise above her worries.
Near eleven that night, Todd returned. Téa jumped to her feet and ran to the door. He stopped at the sight of her and she knew the trauma had returned. All it took was one look at the glazed expression on his face, at the shallow look in his eyes. God no. This was on her. She should have left him to Thar.
She reached for him and his skin was icy, the cold of it coming right through his shirt. "God, where were you?" He shook his head slightly and backed up at her touch. "Where's your coat, Todd? Jesus you're freezing." She pulled him inside and closed the door. She grabbed a blanket off the bed and wrapped it around him and he sat on his bed, walking easily there, like a child.
Téa hit the stove and lit the burner to get hot water going for tea, her hands shaking with fear. He wasn't talking, he was staring straight ahead, that glazed look… god, god...not again. She ran to the closet for another blanket and wrapped it around him.
"I'll fill the tub..." And as she began to pull away, he grabbed her wrist and growled, "Stop."
Her whole insides twisted and tears flowed out of her, "I thought… I thought..."
"I'm fine, Delgado. I'm just fucking cold, and… feeling like such an asshole." She wrapped her arms around him, laughing just a little with relief. He held onto her tightly, so tight she could barely breathe. He loosened his grip on her at last and pulled back to look at her.
"You should know, you should… understand… they did horrible things to me, Téa. I don't know why. For Mitch's enjoyment? What they did went beyond revenge. It was… torture."
He had never spoken of this to her other than in general terms. She could only surmise details based on the scars. He never told her specifics. She listened and said nothing.
"They strung me up… with chains..." He laughed. "Like in a movie. Sometimes I thought I was in a movie. Hanging there for days it seemed. Those chains made the marks on my wrists. They whipped me. That gave me scars on my back and chest." He laughed in a particular way… again. "They burned me, they cut into me with a knife. More scars. And all of it was done, just to hear me scream." Quietly, he said, "They laughed a lot. They were excited by my pain. Do you know what I mean by that? They were… excited."
Téa nodded and held his hand. She looked him in the eyes. And he looked away. Down. He was ashamed. Téa had seen this before… abused people, victims thinking they caused what happened. It was their fault, they believed.
"To this day, Delgado, I cannot scream no matter the pain or fear. Nothing comes. On the boat… situations came up and I should have screamed. Scared like hell… or in fucking pain from something stupid..." He chuckled again and breathed. "I couldn't scream. Nothing… comes. The men… they think I'm some kind of tough guy. But it's not that. I can't bear the sound of my voice. I like speaking Icelandic… because it's not English. I screamed… in English."
Téa put her head on his shoulder and he touched her.
"When they bored of their blades, they broke my bones with a bat. They said… 'this is Jackie Robinson's bat… see what it can do?' I hear them sometimes… their voices. Their breathing… the… sounds that they made when they were turned on by what they were doing to me, the sounds they made when they'd turn to each other… in front of me, covered with my blood, looking at me while they did… that. Finally, they locked me in a box to recuperate, all so… so they could start again. Téa, I do not know or understand why I'm alive. Sometimes I think God wants me punished, too. Revenge for the things I've done… for the things I will do."
He smiled at her, caressing her face, her hair. His eyes moved over her, washing over her. "I didn't think of you. I dared not think of you. To think of you would have killed me. I thought of the sky and the ocean. I thought of clouds above me. I thought of a fly that buzzed in the darkness of that room. I watched the cuts on my body scab over and get reopened...and scab over again.." He chuckled and his eyes watered. Tears filled them but did not fall. He tightened his jaw and Téa imagined the sheer force of that. She immediately touched his cheek and he relaxed some, his eyes closing as he pressed hard into her hand. "I'm sorry I ran off today," he said. "I don't know what happened. The men played a bit of a prank and I was in that office and suddenly I was me, really ME...and I knew I had to go home… and it all was there in front of me again. The dark, the pain, the screams in my head. English, English."
"I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have surprised you this way." She pressed into him and he held her to him. He breathed gently, relieved to feel her again.
"No, nothing to be sorry for. I'm a fucked-up guy who has to man-up. I have a family...a life..." He laughed that quiet laugh that Téa was beginning to recognize as an expression of sheer disbelief. He fell back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. "Téa, I wanted to die today. I was going to walk into that ocean so I could stop the images, the memories of everything. The shit done to me… the shit I did to so many others. To Marty..." He paused. "There were others you know. Marty wasn't the only one I hurt… like that. She was the worst… but..."
"I'm not a good person, no matter what you think, what you believe… what my sister wants to believe."
Téa said nothing to that. She knew he was not a good person in some ways. But she knew him in other ways he did not like or care to see. He always denied his goodness.
"Thank you," he said, "for not arguing the point."
Téa laughed softly, "I ain't no fool, Manning. I know exactly who and what you are."
"I'm going to go home with you."
"It's where you belong. With me… with your children. With your family. To unseat Walker as a false god."
With that Todd grabbed her and placed her squarely on top of him. He grunted in a decidedly sexual way. They looked in each other's eyes. Unwaveringly. He grabbed her hips and massaged her ass, whispering, "I was not a gentleman last night."
He moved her against him, until the hardness became evident and she grinned, knowing he was crazy as ever. How does one go from the depths of torture to making love? She wriggled out of her clothes, and she removed his. She placed her body squarely on top of him once again and gasped with pleasure at the depth of their connection. He rocked his head back and moved her more. She straddled him and sat up, moving her hips. Slowly, tortuously slow. When she was close, she'd stop. When he was close, he'd stop. Many times they did this dance until finally she breathed, "I can't take it anymore."
"You be selfish, Téa… use me." He was beautiful, his body beautiful and tight. The room's sole light threw shadows across him. She nodded and touched his chest, his nipples. He quirked at that, his face serious and eyes low-lidded.
"Use me," he said.
She did, faster and faster, holding onto his shoulders… until she screamed… her beautiful mouth open with hard orgasmic delight. When she looked down at him, those tears had finally fallen from his hazel eyes and he smiled at her. It was only after she had her joy that he rolled her over and quickly took his. He shook with the intensity of it, shook with the relief.
After, he held her in his arms, tight, tight. They crawled under the covers and stayed that way. Warm now, hot now...
He loved the sound of her screams because they, unlike his, were full of love and hope and pure passion. In his arms, she fell asleep.
In the dark, though, Todd remained awake.
He looked towards the morning, when he'd begin his journey back to Llanview… to reclaim everything that was his. He knew then, in a moment of absolute clarity, that the punishment God had given him was indeed preemptive. And he knew this because when he landed in Llanview, he would have the strength, the resolve… the determination… yes, he'd possess all that was necessary to get everything back. And that meant when he landed in Llanview, he would do everything in his power...
... to torture and kill Walker Laurance.
He smiled, then didn't. Squeezed Téa to him, whispered to her sleeping form that he loved her, and that Thar was dead.
No, he'd never be a good person… and so in that vein, in that light of the great truth, he vowed that he would live to hear the screams of Walker, and then… his blessed, permanent silence.
Welcome home, Todd Manning.