By Pilar

Todd and Téa were finally married and this time it was for real. This time it was for love. After carrying his new bride over the threshold, Todd stands uncertain in the lavishly and romantically decorated cabana, where they are to spend their wedding night. His wife in his arms, he glances uncomfortably at the bed behind them and then lowers her carefully to the floor. Awkward with each other and uncertain how to proceed they slowly separate and Téa walks away across the room. After a shared nervous look around the room, they turn to each other and a soft smile slowly transforms their faces. The smile they exchange glows with love and no small wonder that they finally made it to this point. Thus begins the wedding night of that most of unlikely of couples, Todd and Téa Manning.

“Oh, I ... I have a gift for you,” Téa blurts out.

“Oh, gimme,” says Todd like a child on Christmas morning. Téa reaches down for a small, white box and holds it out to him.

“Um, yeah, I got something for you, too,” Todd remembers. He pauses and sighs as if reaching a decision and then extracts a yellow envelope from inside his jacket.

“Oh, I didn't expect that,” Téa replies with some surprise.

Looking ill at ease Todd nods and with a deep breath they exchange their gifts. Moving to a side table, Téa opens up and empties the contents of the envelope. Behind her Todd hovers, awaiting her reaction.

“Yeah, well Briggs made it. Well, Briggs had somebody make it cause I told him to have somebody make it,” Todd explains.

“Oh, its a puzzle,” cries Téa with pleased surprise.

“Yeah, well, yeah, you know that. You're putting it together,” Todd anxiously responds. Unsure of himself, he wonders ‘if he should have given her some jewelry, maybe another pair of earrings, not a stupid puzzle.’ However, Téa thinks the gift is perfect. She fondly recalls Todd's previous attempts at acting as a normal married couple; working on puzzles and playing that “Money Hungry” game.

With a wave to the still unopened box in his hands Tea coaxes, “You open yours now.”

Without fanfare, Todd rips open the box and holds up a small, white ball. “Is it the moon?” He guesses.

“Yes, now you have the Sun, the moon and Starr,” Téa explains with a smile. She is proud of herself for coming up with the idea.

Todd is not remotely sentimental but her gift touches him deeply. He turns the moon slowly over in his hands and with something close to wonder in his voice says, “I got a lot.”

With a wide, affectionate smile Téa reassures him. “You can handle it.” Todd just looks at her, hoping that for once that could prove true.

“Look, look, you are almost whole,” Téa exclaims, pointing down at her almost completed puzzle, a picture of Todd. She smiles to herself, understanding the symbolism behind his gift. Todd had finally put all the pieces of himself, his alters, back together to form a new man.

“Wait, wait, wait. There's a piece missing,” she cries. “Right here, where your hearts supposed to be,” Téa points with a worried look, her hand slowly moving over the puzzles empty spot.

“Oh, I got... Forget it,” Todd mutters. Now that the moment is at hand, he cannot bring himself to continue. He had planned to place the missing piece in her hand and tell her that ‘she now held his heart in her hands,’ a poignant, romantic gesture from a man clearly unused to making them.

“Forget it. Forget it,” Todd tells Téa and himself, anxious now to forget the whole thing.

“No. No,” Téa protests, visibly upset. “Its your heart.”

Struggling to dismiss the subject Todd adds, “Ill get Briggs to get another one. Briggs liked making the first one so much, cutting up a picture of me and all.”

“Okay, okay, I'll stop.” Téa takes a deep, calming breath. Her emotions are running high and she is strangely disturbed by the missing piece, remembering all the times in the past when she accused Todd of not possessing a heart. Distressed at the road her thoughts traveled, she shifts around uneasily and accidentally bumps the long train of wedding gown against some glasses on a nearby table.

“Whoops,” she laughs. Feeling nervous and vulnerable, she hugs her arms, a gesture that speaks volumes for her need for comfort and reassurance at the moment.

For once eager to come to her rescue and in need of reassurance himself, Todd approaches her and ventures, “I... I think that the par... party went pretty well.”

“Yeah,” she agrees.

“Right, uh... better than city hall...,” Todd perseveres, referring to their first wedding when they had married not for love but as part of a business deal. Téa just nods and they share an awkward look. “... Even with all the interruptions,” Todd finishes.

With those words, Téa flashes back to earlier that night when Todd left her stranded at the altar. She had been devastated, humiliated in front of her friends and family. Part of her is still unsure why she had forgiven him and then gone on to marry him. Perhaps it was some weakness in her or maybe it was Carlotta's words. Certainly not a Todd fan, Carlotta admitted she thought Todd hadn't meant to hurt her. ‘He looked utterly terrified’ she informed Téa. With those words still ringing in her ears, Téa decided to listen to Todd's explanation. If he had come storming in, raging about how she belonged to him, that would have been the end of them forever. ‘I’m scared. But I don't want to be scared with anyone else,’ Todd confessed. She understood this admission cost him dearly. However, it was the look in his eyes that had ultimately persuaded her to give him another chance, yet again. His beautiful hazel eyes were warm with love for her and something else, a vulnerability he never dared show her before. It was this side of Todd she had been desperately searching and yearning for him to share. Yet she also knew there is another, darker side to Todd...

Snapping away from the path her mind wandered and seeking a diversion, Téa's eye light on the candles and she moves to them exclaiming “Oh, the candles.”

“No, I'll light the candles. You can't even get in there with that big ol’ dress of yours.” Moving behind her towards the table filled with candles, Todd teases, “You're like a bull in a china shop.”

Téa laughs as she always does at Todd's oddball sense of humor.

“...the grim sweeper,” he continues.

With a grin Téa playfully bumps him with the train of her ‘big ol’ dress.’ “Uh, you know what? I'll open the champagne,” Téa offers.

 “I'll do that, too.”

“No, no, I got it... I got it,” Téa insists, waving him away.

“Delgado, what's the matter?” ‘Delgado,’ is Todd's pet name for her. Other women would probably bristle at being called by their last name by the man they loved but Téa knew Todd meant as an endearment.

In response to his question she protests with a nervous laugh, “nothing.”

Todd turns to her and courageously asks the question which plagues them both. “Are you sure you're not scared of me?”

Téa smile abruptly disappears and her eyes are awash in pain, remembering the times in the past when she in truth had been very afraid of this man, her husband, the infamous Todd Manning. All of a sudden, the tension in the room escalates and they are poised on the brink of a major stumbling block, their abusive past. For Todd, her answer is critical to his belief in their future together, to hold her and yes, to finally make love to her. For Téa, answering the question means acknowledging the past and looking deep in her heart. She must decide if she truly believes in the new Todd and his ability to love her without hurting her.

At her hesitation, Todd interjects, “That's what it is, right, you're... you're a little scared...” They exchange a troubled look and he moves away across the room, putting some distance between them. Gesturing to himself he painfully completes his thought, “... of me.”

Téa knows just how difficult that question is for Todd. It is born of his worst fears about himself. In that moment she makes her decision. Turning to him she emphatically states, “I would not be here if that were true.”

“Yeah?” Todd asks, still doubtful.

“Yeah,” Téa confirms sincerely.

Todd is still not totally convinced. How can he be considering his dreadful past, a past he can never hope to escape. “Then what is it?” He asks, striving to understand.

Téa grimaces and turns away. Suddenly all her fears come tumbling out. “I'm trying to get us back to where we were when we were at our best.. I'm afraid we rushed into this. I'm afraid you didn't get a chance to finish your therapy. And uh, uh...”

“And what, and what?” Todd needs to know.

Struggling for the right words, Téa paces around the room and her eyes fall on the bed, a bed they have both been carefully avoiding. With an anxious look at Todd, she asks, “What if I don't live up to your expectations?”

At first Todd looks stunned and then he laughs incredulously to himself. What irony! Here he was scared to death that he will fail her tonight and she's worried about pleasing him! With a shake of his long hair and another disbelieving laugh he points to Téa, “See you're scared, you're nervous?”

“Its our wedding night, Todd,” Téa explains earnestly.

Todd's smile disappears and he slowly nods. “Yeah.”

Now its Téa's turn to laugh shakily. “I think I have the right to be nervous.”

With a shared uneasiness they look away and scrupulously avoiding each other they circle the room. Finally, with a wary glimpse behind them, they sigh deeply and head back towards the bed. With a roll of his eyes Todd tosses back the flimsy, white nightgown draped across the covers. Gingerly, they sit on opposites ends of the canapé bed.

Todd turns to her and admits, “I'm nervous, too.”

Téa gulps and with an uncertain smile ventures, “Hey, brave, new world, huh?”

“Brave new world,” Todd solemnly agrees.

With a look of deep resolve, staring straight ahead and at the exact same moment, Todd and Téa move close to sit side by side. They are two people deeply in love, who have been through so much to be together yet here in bed they find themselves intimate strangers. In their long and stormy relationship the bedroom remained uncharted territory. Awkward and fumbling, they make their way to each other and their lips finally meet. It is Téa who reaches out to kiss and embrace Todd. At first he can barely respond, too frightened that he will make a wrong move and lose their tenuous connection. Téa coaxes his lips until some of his tension eases and he kisses her back. His hands slowly move up and around her shoulders. Hearts pounding, they melt into each other's arms and take the first, long-awaited step of their journey.

Surprisingly, it is Téa who pulls away first, overwhelmed and perhaps a little unready for the promise in that kiss. She pauses and listens to the words of the love song playing softly in the background. She murmurs, “This music is beautiful.”

After a shared smile Todd admits, “Yeah, I picked it.”

Téa is touched by his selection for the beautiful lyrics of the song speak the love words she longs to hear from Todd's own mouth. His attempts at romance were rare, though she acknowledges when he put his brilliant mind to it, he could be a sensitive and romantic man. Her brown eyes soften further with memories; a hospital room bursting with peach roses; a dive into the sea to save a treasured pendant; and finally this man falling to his knees promising her the wedding of her dreams. She leans over and smoothes her thumb over his full, sensuous lips and murmurs, “You can be awfully romantic when you want to be.”

Eyes still shining from their kiss, Todd asks almost shyly, “Yeah?” He is a man who rarely receives compliments and certainly not of the romantic kind.

“Yeah,” Téa reaffirms with a brief caress of his hand. With sudden inspiration, Téa suggests, “Hey, do you think we could dance?”

Still reeling from her unexpected praise and surprised by her suggestion, Todd responds, “Uh, yeah sure. You know... probably not in here. You have that big ol’ dress, knock over something...”

Todd stands and heads for the door, running his hands through his long hair, a sure sign he is uneasy. “Outside,” he suggests. He tries the door but it is stuck. “Uh, the door's a little jammed.”

“Maybe you shouldn't have kicked it shut when you carried me in,” Téa jokes.

With one mighty pull Todd finally opens the door. With a relieved sigh, he walks outside and turns back for her. “All right, outside.”

Téa can see that Todd is clearly relieved to be out of the cabana. She realizes they will lose their closeness, that hard fought intimacy if they leave the room now. “Wait, wait, wait, wait. Come back here. Come back here. Close the door,” she coaxes.

Todd walks back inside the doorway, fidgeting and brushing his hair back. He leans his shoulder against the open door and turns to Téa. “No, I just ... just got it open,” he protests softly.

“I want to dance in here,” Téa pleads with a tender smile and holds out her hand to him.

Todd licks lips gone suddenly dry. After a long, deep breath, he closes the door and walks back to his bride. Awkward at first, they fumble to hold each other. Unlike the formal dance they shared earlier, Todd and Téa want and need to be closer. He finally slips his arm around her back, drawing her close. Her arms reach out to enfold his waist. She tucks her head under his and burrows into his chest. Listening to the beating of his pounding heart her earlier doubts disappear and she smiles in utter contentment. Slowly Todd lifts his free arm up and around her shoulders, softly caressing her bare skin. His face suffused with tenderness, he gently rests his head on hers and relaxes into their embrace. Savoring the joy of holding his love in his arms, Todd allows himself to enjoy a rare, precious moment of happiness. All doubts momentarily forgotten, Todd and Téa sway together, lost in their own magical world.

Slowly pulling slightly apart they gaze into each other's eyes and souls. For the first time in their marriages they share the desire to make love and become one. With conviction ringing in her voice Téa states, “This will work. I promise you. We'll make this work.”

Todd looks down at their joined hands and then up into Téa's face. It is a face shining with love for him and trust in him. He believes he does not deserve her love and certainly not her trust. Not with all the hurt he has caused and the lies he has told. Yet, he does not want to disappoint her. He needs to live up to that look. He starts to hope that ‘maybe it can work. With her love maybe I can change.’ For the first time in a long, long time, since before Ireland, Todd feels ready to open up, to let himself go and finally make love to a woman again, to this woman who he cannot live without. His thumbs brush a brief caress over her hands, and he mentally adds his promise to hers, ‘we’ll make this work.’

Todd leads Téa back to their bed. He helps her lift the long train of her wedding gown back onto the covers and out of their way. This time they sit close together. When Todd leans towards her, Téa takes a deep breath and slowly turns her back for him. He moves in close behind her and his hands reach up not to remove her gown but to remove her pearl necklace. Trembling, he fumbles with the clasp for a moment. Breathless with anticipation, hands clasped in her lap, Téa's eyes slowly shut and she drops her head forward. Clasp finally undone, he holds the necklace in one hand against the side of her neck while his other arm reaches up and around and wraps across her bare shoulders. Delicately, seductively, ever so slowly his fingertips slowly glide the necklace down her long, white neck and then across her chest in a soft caress. Almost mesmerized by his touch, breath ragged, Téa gasps as the sensations flowing through her body. Overwhelmed by the tenderness in his touch Téa is lost in wonder. ‘That is the sweetest, most intimate touch I have ever felt from Todd. Can this really be happening at last? Is this gentle, tender lover really my Todd?’ Her last coherent thought for a while is ‘This is the Todd of my dreams... at last.’

Dropping the necklace aside, Todd's fingertips return to slowly graze a path from her neck up the side of her face to tenderly stroke her temple. Todd's face is filled with tenderness and passion but there is a hint of watchfulness about him. With every move, he pauses and checks Téa's reaction carefully. He is terrified of losing control, of doing something she may not want or like. Slowly, allowing her every chance to pull away, he moves even closer against her back. Fingertips still gently caressing her face, his head drops and he presses lips in a soft kiss against the base of her bare neck. As the wedding vows, to love, to honor and cherish course through his mind Todd's eyes slowly close and for a long moment he holds that kiss, cherishing  the feel of his bride in his arms.

Todd lifts his head and with shaking hands slowly turns Téa around and into his arms. His eyes are filled with love, desire and a question. Hers radiate love, trust, and the answer he is seeking. He leans forward and begins to gently lower her back onto the bed. Hearts beating as one, faces inches apart, their eyes lock as his body follows her down. Bracing himself with one hand, his chest comes to rest gently on hers. Faces softened with rapture their eyes relay the shared thought that mere words cannot begin to express how much this moment means to them both. Words are unnecessary as their lips finally meet and melt into a long, deep kiss.

Todd breaks their kiss and pulls slightly back. Téa arches up toward him, her body craving his touch. He tenderly caresses the side of her face and marvels at the beauty of his bride. Overwhelmed by his feelings, a passion he thought banked long ago flames in Todd's eyes. Momentarily overcome by the power of that look, Téa turns her face away and into his caressing hand. In perfect harmony with the two lovers, articulating their unspoken feelings, the song Todd has chosen for them plays on, ‘I cannot find the words to say I need you so... I love so...’

Todd leans forward and presses a whisper of a kiss on Téa's cheek and then tenderly brushes his face against hers. He sits up at her side and for a moment she is startled, worried he means to turn away from her again. But turning away from Téa is the last thought in Todd's mind. Their eyes lock as he removes his jacket, tosses it carelessly aside, and bends right back over her. With arms braced on each side of her head, he leans forward and presses soft kisses on her lips. Téa's arms reach up and slowly stroke his sides. Her hand moves to the back of his neck, fingers running through the hair she loves. Todd stretches out and melts into her embrace... the pink tape begins to play.