In The End, There's You

A while back, I started thinking about that fake spoiler circulating on the net about Todd and Blair being trapped by the murderer and making love. Here's my version of "What if. . ." that had played out. In this scenerio, who the actual murderer is isn't important, but I doubt it was Rachel. When the story begins, Todd and Blair have just been trapped in Asa's wine cellar. . . . .

In The End, There's You

Asa's wine cellar

Todd rammed his body against the cellar door trying to break it down. He hit it a second time, a third--then stopped.

"Well?" said Blair after a moment. "What are you waiting for, Todd?"

Todd turned and looked at Blair. "I know you'd probably be a lot happier if I was knocked out cold on the floor." Blair made a face at Todd. "Hey, I'd probably be happier knocked out cold than trapped in a small space with you, but me banging against the door's not gonna get us out of here any quicker. There's a chain on the door, Blair. I can hear it rattling. And even I can't break down a steel chain."

Blair rolled her eyes at Todd. "Then we'll just have to wait for someone to find us. I hate waiting."

Todd looked at Blair sardonically. "And just who exactly is gonna come looking for us?"

"Well, won't your little wifey worry when her husband doesn't come home from a hard day's work?"

Todd looked away from Blair and crossed the room. "Téa's not exactly living at the penthouse right now." He glanced at Blair, saw her raised eyebrows and quickly went on. "And don't bother asking about Starr's nanny coming looking for me; Starr's spending the night with Viki. What about Auntie Dorian? Won't she be sending out her pack of wolves for you?"

"No, Todd," Blair replied, equally sardonically. "I told her I'd be out late and not to wait up. Not that she would; she and Mel have been retiring early these days."

"Blecch!" Todd made a disgusted face. "Besides even if someone was looking for us, who'd know where to look? Unless you filed a travel itinerary with someone before leaving the Sun."

"Sorry Todd, forgot to check with my travel agent." A few minutes passed in silence. "I'm hungry," Blair said pitifully.

"Poor baby." answered Todd. He looked at her, then sighed and dug in his pockets, pulling out a battered stick of gum. He tossed it to Blair. "Here. think I'll sample good ol' Asa's cellar. Must have known I was coming," he said, pulling down a bottle at random and pulling the cork out with his teeth. He took a swig then passed the bottle to Blair.

She looked at it, then him. "No thanks. I'll stick with the gum."

"Suit yourself," he said, taking the bottle back. "But just think of the gnawing hunger. . . and the nice, dulling, very expensive, free- courtesy of Asa- wine."

Blair glared at Todd a minute then stuck out her hand. "Gimmee the bottle. After all, Asa does owe us something for building this stupid lodge you got me stuck in!"

Todd grinned. "Love your logic, Blair."


a few hours later, Blair is asleep, an empty bottle beside her. Todd is slumped on the floor, his back to the door.

Blair turned over and opened her eyes, wincing at her headache. "Uggh. Todd, how long was I asleep?"

"You were snoring for at least a couple of hours."

"I don't snore, Todd."

"Ha. A few more hours and we wouldn't have to worry about someone finding us. The door would have shattered."

"You!" Blair sat up and reached for the empty bottle as if to throw it at Todd. "Whoa," she said as a wave of dizziness hit her, "I don't think that was the wine."

"You okay?" Todd asked.

"Yes, I think so. That was weird."

"Yeah," Todd was silent for a long moment. "Look, Blair, I did some looking around while you were passed out. And. . . I think I know why you're feeling so weird."

"What are you talking about, Todd?"

Todd looked at Blair. "Asa built this cellar pretty tight. There's, there's no ventilation, no air going out or -- coming in."

"What are you saying, Todd??" Blair asked sharply, her voice rising. "Are you telling me we're going to die in here?"

"If no one comes looking for us, we . . . Well, I've been shot, drowned more than once. At least suffocation is something new."

Blair stood up, bracing herself against the wall and moved towards Todd 'til her face was inches from his. "You shut up, Todd!" she said through her teeth, "I am not gonna sit here and die in a hole in the ground -- in Asa Buchanon's hole in the ground -- with you! I am getting out of here." Blair began moving around the cellar, feeling the walls for any possible means of escape.

"Blair. . . "

"No, Todd! My life is finally getting back on track, you know? Dorian is healthy and happy, I'm working again, standing on my own two feet," Blair moved towards the door and pulled on the handle while simultaneously kicking the door. "My little girl is really and truly back in my life now that you stopped being so pig-headed and are letting me see Starr." She suddenly gasped and whirled around to face Todd. "Starr! Todd, we have got go get out of here! I am not going to leave my little girl alone!" She turned back to the door and began frantically banging on it with all her strength, calling out Starr's name.

Todd was beside Blair in one quick motion. "Blair, hey. . ." he said, gently grasping her hands. "Come on, Blair, you have to calm down. You--you're using up all the air."

Blair pulled away from Todd's grasp and looked Todd in the eyes. "I promised her, Todd! I promised Starr I would never leave her alone! Never! And I am not going to break that promise to my little girl!" Todd moved closer to Blair and made a tentative gesture in her direction. She looked at him, a wild desperate gleam in her eyes, and then suddenly collapsed in his arms. "I promised, Todd! I promised. . ."

Todd slowly sank to the floor, a sobbing Blair in his arms. He spoke steadily, stroking her hair. "Shhh. Listen Blair, Starr'll be okay, no matter what. She's a fighter. She's been fighting since the day she was born; you know that better than anyone." He reached out and gently raised Blair's chin. "And she will never be alone, not like you, not like me. No matter what happens to us, Starr has people who love her. What we never had--family, Blair."

"Everyone loves Starr," Blair said, almost under her breath.

"Yeah," Todd replied, touching her face gently. "Everyone does."

Blair sat up, her hand absently smoothing her hair. "And we are going to get out of here and tell her so. We just have to wait. I mean this is a crime scene, right? Someone'll be here. We just have to wait," she said determinedly.

"That's you, Blair. Always did believe in happy endings," Todd said softly.

Blair tilted her head back until her eyes were locked onto Todd's. "We almost had one, didn't we? We came so close to having -- everything." She broke the intense stare and glanced away with an almost hysterical giggle. "You know, I still think about that stupid wedding, sometimes. Those gold balloons. . ." She turned back to Todd, all the laughter leaving her face. "That was the first, and last, time I was ever completely happy. My life was full, and everything, everything was ahead of me. Oh Todd, what happened? How did we get from there to here?"

"Life happened, Blair," Todd said flatly. "I don't mean to . . . I'm not trying to hurt you but the past, the past is dead. We can't -- go back. We could say 'what if': what if I never went to Ireland, what if you and Patrick never. . . , what if I never married Téa. . . but I did; you did. Why doesn't change anything, Blair. Its over." He looked away from Blair, not meeting her eyes.

Blair sat up, her eyes blazing. "Fine, Todd. You know, you're right. The past is over, and I'm letting it go. Poof! Gone!"

"So what are we now? Like blank slates?"

"Yes!" Blair replied, crossing her arms. There was a long uncomfortable moment of silence between the two. "No," Blair said softly as Todd turned back to her in surprise. "No, Todd. You could never be just a 'blank slate' to me. You are right; the past is over, and we can't live in it. We can't let it own us. But we can't just pretend it never existed either. Denying what we once were to one another would be like denying our daughter. I don't want that, do you? Do you Todd?" Blair demanded, tears welling up in her eyes.

Todd hesitated, and then slowly shook his head.

"Oh Todd, our past is far from pretty or painless. You ripped out my heart. But you also taught me that I had one. And I think -- I did the same for you. You know, when we were together, I felt. . . You made me complete. And maybe that's wrong; maybe I should be able to feel complete on my own, I don't know. All I know is that with you, I felt whole for the first time in my life. I don't want to let that go, Todd; I can't. I won't."

Todd reached out and gently wiped away the single tear spilling down Blair's cheek. "Blair. . ." he said, asking a question with his voice, his eyes, his soul. She simply looked at him in reply. And as simply, and as sweetly, as a child coming home, he lowered his lips to hers.


timeless time later, Blair lay in Todd's arms, their clothes strewn about the cellar, a blanket pulled up over them

Blair reached up to smooth a stray strand of Todd's hair back in place. "You want to hear something crazy?" she asked.

"Hmmm?"

She rolled over and shifted position so that her elbows were resting on Todd's chest, and she was looking him in the eyes. "We haven't been together in a long, long time, but I still reach for you sometimes--in the night." She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I turn over, half-awake, and just reach out, expecting you to be there. I mean, I guess my body and my heart still expect you to be there even though my head knows that we've both moved on." She was silent a long moment. "Do you love her? Téa?"

Todd shifted uncomfortably and began to sit up. "Blair, I . . ."

"No, Todd. No more secrets, no more lies."

He was silent a long moment, then looking over her head, he began to speak. "She looks at me sometimes the way you used to. Like there's something worth looking at, and she's not afraid of me." Todd turned and met Blair's eyes. "When we split up, I thought that part of my life was dead. And when I married Téa . . . well, you know why I married Téa; it was a business deal, nothing more. But Téa, she wanted something more, and after a while, I guess . . . I did too. I wanted -- a family, you know, a daughter, a wife but . . ." Todd shifted again, and paused as if looking for words. He went on, "I care for Téa, but its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."

"A jigsaw puzzle?" questioned Blair.

"Yeah. And you're looking for the right piece, and you find one that almost fits, so you shove it in the space and make it fit. But then when you do find that right piece, you see what a poor fit the other one was." Todd looked deep into Blair's eyes, and reached out to stroke her cheek with the back of his hand. "Blair, no matter how much I tried with Téa, no matter what I did; you were there, beneath everything. Téa wasn't, isn't the one I want. Blair, in the end, there's just -- there's you."

Blair took Todd's hand in both of hers and brought it to her mouth, her eyes never leaving his. She held his palm against her lips for a long moment, then smiled gently. "You know when I was so upset before about Starr? I kept thinking of all the time I never spent with her, all the things I still wanted to teach her. How to stand on her own feet and fight for what she loves. How to love and be loved in return. How to look clearly at the world and live fully, without fear. But she has all those things. You've given her all those things simply by living and loving her. I love you, Todd. I have always loved you." She reached out, held his head in her hands, and drew his lips to hers.

As she pulled back, she yawned and said with a note of fear in her voice, "Todd, its getting harder to keep my eyes open."

Todd lay back and drew her head back to his shoulder. He began to stroke her hair gently. " Close your eyes. You remember when Starr was sick, and you were in the accident?" He felt her head nodding against his chest. "You had this dream of you and Shorty running through this field chasing butterflies, remember? That's what I want you to think of. You and Starr and . . . me. . . in that field with the stupid butterflies. . ." He watched her eyes close and a smile play across her face as she pulled him close against her. Todd held Blair close, his lips pressed against her hair. As his own eyes began to close, Todd whispered, "I love you, too, Blair. . ."and then closed his eyes, Blair, his love, his soulmate wrapped in his arms.


Epilogue

5 months later

"Tee, I miss my mommy."

Téa's face softened as she reached out to straighten one of Starr's curls. "I know you do, angelita, but --"

"Téa!" called a male voice, as the front door closed.

"In here, mí amour!" Téa called back.

"I've brought Chinese home for din -- Starr, honey, what are you doing here?" asked Reverend Andrew Carpenter, coming into the living room of the rectory, carrying a take-out bag.

"Viki dropped Starr off to play with River. She had to pick up a, umm, package from the airport," answered Téa with a look at her husband. "Starr, why don't you go get your things together in the playroom. I'm sure Aunt Viki will be here soon to pick you up."

"Okay, Tee," said Starr.

Andrew watched her walk up the stairs then turned to his wife. "So Blair's coming home from Switzerland? How is she?"

Téa started to rise from the couch, and Andrew quickly moved to her side to help her. She smiled at him and placed a hand on her rounded stomach. "Thanks, love. This little one's been active today." She went to the closet and got Starr's sweater, laying it over the back of the couch. "Blair and Todd wanted to surprise Starr. Viki said that Blair is fine--though if Asa had confessed any later, the damage could have been irreversible. But she's one hundred percent better; in fact, when Cassie dropped off River this morning, she told me that she and Todd would have been back sooner but they stopped off in Paris for a belated honeymoon."

"Téa, does that bother you?" Andrew asked, moving towards his wife with a slight frown creasing his forehead.

Téa swiftly turned to face Andrew. "Oh, love, no! No, it doesn't. " She smiled ruefully and drew her hand through her hair. "When Blair and Todd came out of that cellar, and he wouldn't leave her side, I remembered a whole lot of things I had forgotten somewhere along the way. You know, I don't think I was ever really in love with Todd; I was in love with, with the idea of Todd. With 'saving' Todd Manning and then having this perfect little family--husband, wife, daughter. And I forgot what I knew when I first married Todd: that he loved Blair and vice versa, and that the little family wasn't mine for the taking." Téa reached up and cupped her husband's cheek with her hand, then glanced down at her stomach and smiled gently. "And then when I found out I was pregnant with our own niñito, things just--clicked into place. Andrew, I love you and our family, completely and fully. You and River and this baby are the family I was looking for with Todd. Té amo."

Andrew covered his wife's hand with his own and bent his head to hers, kissing her tenderly. Just then, the doorbell chimed.

Starr called out, while coming down the stairs, "Tee, Andrew, can I answer the door?"

Téa turned around encircled by her husband's arms and leaned back against him. "Sure, sweetheart. I think it might be for you anyway."

Starr went to the door and flung it open. Todd and Blair stood on the porch, hand in hand, beaming at the sight of their daughter. "Mommy!" shouted Starr, starting to run to her mother's outstretched arms, then pausing abruptly, looking up at Todd. "Daddy, is it okay to touch Mommy now? 'Cause when she was in the hospital we weren't allowed to hug her."

Todd kneeled down and pulled his daughter close, brushing her hair off her forehead. "Shorty, I know it was scary when your mother was in the hospital. But she went away to some really good doctors, and now she is better than new. You can touch her anywhere--believe me I know," he added under his breath, with a grin.

Blair glanced quickly at her husband, a smile playing about her face before kneeling before her daughter. "I love you so much, Starr," she said, beginning to choke up. "I'm sorry that I scared you before, and I promise nothing like that will ever, ever happen again. Do you think I could have a great big ol' hug now, baby?"

With that, Starr threw herself into her mother's arms with a glad cry, and Blair wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter, as if she would never let go. Todd straightened up, brushing his wife's hair gently as he stood up. He turned to face Téa and Andrew, who were observing the reunion with soft smiles. " Téa, thank you for watching Starr. You too, Andrew," Todd said, with an unreadable expression on his face.

"It was no problem. I love Starr, you know that." Téa answered, glancing at Blair and Starr, still absorbed totally in one another, then looked up at her husband from within the circle of his arms, smiling into his eyes. "And I think--I think things are finally as they were meant to be."

"Yeah," answered Todd, the tension leaving his face. "I think you're right about that."

Just then, Starr pulled back from her mother's arms and looked at Blair and Todd. "Mommy, Tee's gonna have a baby! And River gets to have a little brother or sister. Could I have a brother or sister, too?"

Blair looked up at Todd, and smiled at her husband. "I think Daddy and I could work on that."

"Work hard, Mommy!" demanded Starr.

"Well," said Todd, to his wife, "gotta give the kid what she wants, right?"

Blair stood up and took Starr's hand in hers. "Come on, Todd, lets go home." She reached out and tucked his hair behind his ear, with a seductive smile. "We have a lot of 'work' to do!"

Todd scooped his daughter up in his arms and said, "Say good-bye, Starr."

" 'Bye, Tee! 'Bye, Andrew!" she called over her father's shoulder. The Carpenters called their good-byes back to Starr, as Andrew softly shut the door behind them. Todd reached out with his free arm and put it around Blair's waist pulling her close as she laughed up him and touched her daughter's cheek.

And the sun began to set as the Mannings took their daughter -- and went home.

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