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The Ride Home
Author Message
Thaddeus Duke Offline
Management Lv. 2


XWF FanBase:
Some of everyone

(cheered; very rarely plays dirty but isn't lame either; many likable qualities)

05-03-2023, 02:35 PM

OOC notes and the story so far: with my semi-retirement now official, I still want to write Thad's story.  I feel like in this day and age, writing CDs is my only way to truly write this character.  I'm not bound by word caps or deadlines.  I'm not saddled with having to work in a little trash talk for the sake of winning a match I don't even care about.

So here we are.  To catch you up, before Lauren/Sahara married Thad she was involved with the Riggs family. (Handler of Dane Preston.)  Old Man Damon Riggs thought of Lauren as his daughter, but they've had little to nothing to do with each other since the Duke marriage.  If you know anything about Thad it's two things: how important family is to him, and how family isn't necessarily bound by blood.

Weeks ago, Damon Riggs showed up at Thad's office at LGE, inviting his family to dinner.  Thad and Damon never saw eye to eye.  The invite is begrudgingly accepted.  What transpired was Thad and Damon burying the hatchet and developing a sort of respect for one another, acknowledging their own faults and apologizing for their roles in the upheaval.

During a private conversation, Thad learned how Lauren was ensnared in the Riggs family to begin with.  At 14 years old, Lauren’s biological brothers were indy wrestlers that may have been trading their younger sister for better spots with their promoter.

If there's one more thing you know about Thad, it's how ridiculously protective he is of those he loves.  Even though Thad may mostly be done with active competition, I hope you'll continue to read up on him, Lauren and the kids.

Shall we continue?

Garden State Parkway
Somewhere in New Jersey

Dinner with the Riggs was eventful.  I learned some things I maybe didn't want to, but that is the nature of things.  In contrast to how I felt when we first arrived, I could've stayed for hours talking to Damon.  Nearing nine o'clock, I'm sort of glad Lauren pulled us out.  Cape May, New Jersey to Tribeca in Manhattan is a two and a half hour drive and Frankie has school in the morning.  Luckily, the boy had been tired out entirely and rather than his normal chosen place between his brother and sister, he sleeps in the third row seat in the back of the Wagoneer.

By and large, I'm happy we made the trip.  As stated previously, Damon and I never saw eye to eye.  When Lauren and I first got together, he acted like it was a personal assault on him that Lauren would leave his circle and find someone that loved her without condition.  To him, I was just some pretty playboy in New York City.  I wasn't serious.  I wasn't a fighter.  I wasn't anything but a lay for Lauren and nothing more.

Moreover, the way he treated her in the immediacy was also troubling.  Damon would constantly remind her how much he was there for her.  He'd run her down publicly, questioning her decision to engage in a romantic relationship with me.  To me at least, it was almost like he was trying to keep her under his thumb.  Like he was attempting to control her will.

We don't have the benefit of hindsight while we're in the moment.  I get it now though.  He cared.  He loves her like a daughter and for what it's worth, she is.  I just could never get behind someone reminding another of how good, and how generous, and how kind and decent they were to them.  To me as an outsider, it was like Damon didn't want her to leave the circle.  He wanted her beholden to him.

I took exception to that.  I have never been one to remind anyone about the things I do for them- at least not without reason.  Never in my life have I tried to make anyone feel beholden to me.  I never did things for any other motive than to make their lives a little bit easier.  I know people don't have the financial security that I was born with.  I know people have different circumstantial upbringings than I did.  That's no more my fault than it is theirs.

I have never been me simply for the recognition.  While I am not in anyway perfect, while I'm no saint… I live my life to help give my family and friends the best lives they can possibly have.  I don't make a habit of reminding them if they stray outside my inner circle.

"Dinner was nice," Lauren says as she curls up in the seat, leaning her head against my shoulder as I drive.

"Yeah it was," I agreed.

"And you thought it was gonna be a shit show," she smiles.

"I did," I confirmed.  "I'm happy I was wrong."

"I love their place so much," Lauren says as she clutches my right arm a little tighter.  "It's quiet.  Barely even have any neighbors."

"Yeah that'd be different," I thought aloud.  While I was born in Connecticut, when I turned 18 I left for New York.  I'd never really known my mother.  What I did know of her was from word of mouth by those that knew her when she lived.

As easy as it is for those 'without' to detest people like me that have far more than my fair share, what they don't know, or maybe they willfully ignore, is that money doesn't solve all our problems.  I know I missed out on having a mother.  I wanted to feel her.  I wanted to feel a connection, any connection to her that I could.

Caitlyn Henry, adopted at birth and raised by a Vietnamese family named Nguyen, was my mother.  Blonde and beautiful, I tell myself all the time that I get my good looks from her.  My father agreed.  Though I did get my ears and my red tinged brown hair from him.

The only time I felt her presence, the only time I felt a connection to her was when I set roots in the town she was born.  New York City.

For years I detested my father.  He was largely not a very good person.  He was cold, dark, uncaring, vicious, ruthless.  My mother by all accounts, was good, bright, full of light, a beacon of love.  As I've grown older and slightly wiser, I've accepted the fact that I am a melting pot.  I am both my mother and my father and no matter how their relationship transpired at the end with him killing her, I cherish it.  All of my traits, the good and the bad, I've inherited from both of my parents.

Traditionally speaking, I am most like her, but at the right times, the ruthless asshole that was Sebastian Duke, rears his head through his only son.  Resistance is futile.  I will think more in depth of my father as time goes on.  But for now, I am my mother's son.  Connecticut born, but New York bred.

Arguably, New York City's most famous orphan.

"Baby?" Lauren cuts the near silence like a hot knife through butter, easily drowning out the low volume country song playing on the Jeep stereo.


"What do you think about moving out of Manhattan?" She asks, almost hesitantly.

To be honest, I have been considering leaving downtown for several months.  She knows my connection to it.  She knows how much the city and its people and I have a love affair with one another.  It has not been an easy decision for me to come to.

"I know what you're thinking," she prefaced her argument.

"Do you?" I asked with a smile.

"You're afraid that if you leave, you're abandoning your mother," she says, convinced she knows me.

She does.  And she's right.  That has been a major factor in my holding out in making a move.

"Do you think their grandmother would agree with you that Manhattan is a great place to raise children?" She poses the hypothetical question.

"No," I answered.  "I've always been afraid to lose that connection with her.  When I bought Safe Haven as a summer home, I thought that'd be enough of a respite from the hectic life of Manhattan."

"You work hard," she continued on.  "Whether it's in the office, or on set, you work really hard.  Don't you think you deserve to come home to peace and quiet? Don't you think the kids deserve to experience the freedom to roam and play that they can't get in Manhattan?"

"It never really bothered me," I admitted.  "I love the city.  It loves me back."

"And what about the animals?" She continues her reasoning.  "Mufasa, Minkah, your stupid ferrets…"

"Otters," I corrected with a smile.

"Don't you think that Mufasa would love to sun himself in the yard in the summer?"[orange] She asked. [Orange]"And the fines! Honey, New York City may love you, but they don't love Mufasa."

"He does that in Rhode Island," I argued for arguments sake, referring of course, to our Safe Haven estate.  "I don't really care about the fines."

"And we pay like thirty grand a year in property taxes for a house we live in for three months," she argues.

Lauren… is not stupid.  She's called a dozen different things by people around the business.  She lets on that she isn't very smart, but those inside, we know her.  We know she's smarter than most, if not a little scatter brained now and then.

"Money isn't ever a factor in any decision we make," I replied.  "It never mattered much to me and it never will."

"You paid what, 70 million for the penthouse and the place in Rhode Island?  Upkeep and taxes, it's gotta be a lot of money every year."

"It is," I confirmed for her.  In all actuality, I pay more in upkeep and taxes than most everyday people make in a year.  I'm not boasting, it's just the truth. "But I don't care about finances."

"Right but we could sell both places," she suggests.  "And I know you don't wanna leave New York, so what if we bought a place with a whole bunch of land on Long Island? We could have everything the whole family wants in one place, at one residence all year round."

"Who taught you how to argue with me?" I asked her in jest before kissing her forehead.

"Think about it Baby," she pleads.  "Nine months a year we're pretty much stuck inside with the inability to just step outside for a breath of fresh air.

"I mean, unless you wanna inhale a whole bunch of exhaust fumes.  That's obviously very good for the babies lungs."

"Okay, I get it," I finally relented with a smile.  "Is that what you really want to do?"

Lauren has a kind of love-hate relationship with New York City.  She admires it, she respects it.  But she'd much rather admire and respect it from a distance.

"I think you want to, too," she says before kissing my cheek.

"I've been thinking a lot about it for the last few months," I admitted to her.  "Purely for the kids' benefit.  The animals too, but mostly the kids.

"Downtown New York City is no place to raise a family."

"I'm glad you see it my way," she says victoriously while reaching between my legs.

"Not now Babydoll," I said to her with a smile.  "I'm about to wake up Frankie.

"Hey Frank!"
I called out.

"What about the giraffe?" Frankie asks in his mostly asleep stupor. Lauren and I look at each other a moment before bursting out in laughter.

"What the hell is he dreaming about?" She asked through her laughter.

"Who knows with that kid?" I replied as I switched on the overhead light.  "Frankie," I called out again.

The boy sits up in the rear seat.  Looking around, he wipes the sleep from his eyes.

"Where the hell are we?" He asked in his thickest of New York accents.  Francis Robert Duke was born in Brooklyn as Francis Robert Rickle.  He lived his entire life in Brooklyn until he came to live with me.  Though he was born into different financial circumstances than I was, he and I have had parallel parental circumstances.  A few months after I met him, his father murdered his mother in a jealous rage after their divorce.

Rather than see him, my buddy that I thought of as the little brother I always wanted but never had, become a ward of the state of New York, instead, I became his foster dad and later adopted him.

"Still in Jersey," she answered him.

"What the frick?" He said as his accent lessened slightly.  His accent is never thicker than when he first wakes up… or when he's mad.

"Maybe you should talk to him about it tomorrow when you take him to… show him what you did," Lauren suggested.

"Yeah maybe you're right," I agreed.

"Take me where?" He asked.  "Tell me about what? I have a lot of questions.

"For starters, didn't I tell you not to wake me up until we were back in N'Yawk?"
He asked.

"Alright kiddo," I told him while switching the overhead light back off.  "Go back to sleep and we'll talk tomorrow."

"Perfect," he blurts out as he throws himself back down across the seat.

Being his father, blood related or not, has been the greatest joy of my life.  I may be far too young and inexperienced as a dad to father a 12 year old boy, but we've grown together.  I know I don't have all the answers but he sometimes helps me out when no one's watching.  Every now and then, he'll tell me what I should've said instead of what I did say, what I should've done instead of what I did.  More often than not, he's right.  From the outside it's probably a little strange to learn that the boy sometimes lends me advice in raising him.  He's an extremely intelligent kid.  He knows I'm still learning.  He's smart enough to realize that his success as the man that he'll one day become, is directly tied to my success as his father.  He's wise enough, good enough and decent enough to not always take advantage of my parental inexperience.

At the same time, he's still 12.  He does take advantage from time to time.

While I do have two natural born children, while I love being their father too, Frankie is my first born in every sense of the word except biological.  That boy gave my personal life a purpose.  I cherish the times, as few as they may be these days, when it's just he and I.  He's a truly great kid and deserves everything he ever wants.

"Babydoll," I said aloud, cutting through the quiet ride home.  "Tonight when I was talking to Damon," I prefaced the change in conversation.

"Yeah?" She wonders.  "What'd you talk about?"

"You," I answered quietly.  In the dark and amid the quiet, I can feel her wheels turning.

"What about me?" She asked with some worry evident in her voice.

"How he met you," I answered while holding her hand in mine.  Honestly speaking, I'm holding back tears and fighting the anger within.

"He shouldn't have told you that," she says quietly as she tries to turn away from me.

Shaking her head, she stared out the window, and I could sense how annoyed she was. I also understood why. She'd probably buried the memory deep within the vault of Sahara, and bringing it up was merely pressing on a nerve she didn't want touched.

The drive had suddenly gotten uncomfortably quiet.

"I'm sor…" she cut me off the second I tried to apologize.

"I ain't sayin' you had it easy, baby... but I sure as hell had it hard," she argued.  "I was a desperate kid lookin' for a way out."

She continued staring out the window as she spoke, refusing to look at me. "I was one step away from being homeless by choice and I did stuff like that to survive. At the time, it was better than goin' home, if that's what you wanna call that shithole.

"Unfortunately, there were adults that took advantage of my situation, but I also took advantage of them…"

I scoffed at the notion she was taking advantage of them, considering this was an adult we were talking about.

"Babydoll, you were thirteen and he was…"

"Who cares how old he was!?" She asked angrily.  "Look, I don't need you guys dredging up my past. People remind me I'm a dimwit on a daily basis, so I don't need you and fucking Damon bonding over the fact I was on the road to becoming a ringrat at 13.

"I know what I was…"
She brought a hand up to hide her face, and I could hear the painful sob she couldn’t contain. Her past wasn’t something she shared with anyone.

Not even me.

"I'm not judging you," I tried to plead with her.  "What I don't think you're seeing is that no matter what you thought you were doing at thirteen years old, you were the victim."

"I'm not a victim!" she argued curtly.

"Listen!?" I pleaded with her.  "How does a 13 year old girl even know what she's doing?  You played the game you thought they were playing.

"What you didn't realize, or maybe you did and just told yourself lies in order to deal with everything, is that no matter what you thought you were doing, the only thing they fuckin' cared about was gettin' their dick wet at the expense of a young girl that had no business being party to it.  A young girl that, regardless of what you've told yourself in the last twenty years, didn't have the mental or emotional maturity to know that what was happening, didn't need to happen.  That it shouldn't have happened!"

Silence falls over the Jeep for several minutes.  In the moment, I wondered what was going through her mind.  She seemed angry at me.  It's just a mask and I know it.  A mask disguising the hurt she feels inside.

"I cried," I admitted to her.

"You always cry, so what?" She interjected curtly.

I mean, she's right.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I'm an emotional man and I do not care who knows it.  I do not care who sees it.  My ability to show emotion in a business where everyone pretends they're big tough men does not affect my abilities in or out of the ring.

I just don't care.

"He hurt you," I begin a redirect.  "Damon wouldn't confirm or deny that that man was still alive.

"If he is, I'll find out."

"He's alive," she says coldly.

Passing my eyes back and forth between the windshield and my hurting wife, I decided to pull the Jeep to the side of the interstate.  Grabbing her hand, she strains to pull it away from me for a short second before relenting.

"Look at me Lauren," I said to her.  Predictably, she refuses and continues to stare blankly out the window.

"Babydoll?" I pleaded again.

"What?" She relents angrily, turning her head toward me.

"What do I do to people that hurt my family?" I asked her.

"It was twenty years ago Thaddeus," she stated clearly.

"Do you think that matters?"[thad] I asked her in response.  [Thad]"What if it was Frankie?"

"Don't even fucking joke about that!" She yelled back.  "He's…" she turns her head to look back at him as he sleeps soundly on the rear seat.  "He's only two-teen."

"I wasn't joking," I insisted.  "And he's not much younger than you were.  As smart and clever as he is, do you think he's mature enough to willingly choose to use his body for his own personal gain?"

Lauren again looks back at Frankie.  His innocence is fading quickly at this point in his life.  Her and I have both resolved to protect what's left of it for as long as we possibly can.

"No," she answered with tears in her eyes.  "He's so sweet.  So little…"

"What'd you do when you found out Lincoln Tritter was conspiring against me last year?" I asked her.  Lincoln Tritter was the leader of my intel team.  In the final days of the final war, Tritter was outed as the architect behind the hijacking of my personal plane a couple years back.  Frankie was on board that day.  He was as much a target as I was.

I will go in depth about my wars at a later time, but know that Lincoln Tritter did not survive his tangle with the lioness mother of our eldest cub.

"I don't want to talk about that," she replied.

"Why is your life, why was your innocence worth less than his?" I asked.  For a time, she says nothing.

"Babydoll, you know as well as I do that I will protect those I love," I began to explain.  "Besides those three back there, you're the most important person in my life.  I love you more than anything.  There is nothing you can't tell me.  There is nothing I will judge you for.

"There is no length I will not go to. There is nothing out of bounds when it comes to my family.

"By any means necessary, Babydoll.

"You know that better than anyone,"
I reminded her.

"So what happens next?" She asked.

"When I found that mafia thug that beat you up," I began my answer.  "What happened to him?"

"But it's been twenty years," she maintains her argument.

"There is no statute of limitations where I'm concerned."

"He probably doesn't even remember me," she states.

"Maybe not," I agreed as I pulled her close to me.  "But he will before I'm done.

"Lauren, I'm not mad that you wouldn't tell me,"
I begin to teach her something about her husband.  "I couldn't begin to imagine how hard that is for you to talk about.  It was hard enough for me to hear it.

"I need you to know, I need you to remember that I'm your safe space.  There is nothing you can tell me that will ever make me feel any different about you.  There is nothing you can say to me that'll ever make me love you less."

Turning in my seat just a little, I look back at my three beautiful sleeping children.  "Their innocence needs protecting," tears begin falling down my cheeks as I speak.  She may never admit it, but hers too.

"Yours deserved to be protected too," I said to her with a sniffle.  "I wish that hadn't happened to you.  It breaks my heart that it did.

"I haven't used this phrase in a long time but Babydoll, come Hell or high water I will deliver the Lion's Justice to that son of a bitch if it's the last thing I do."

Lauren leans forward, wrapping her arms around me.  I do nothing for the moment but hold her right back.  Damon telling me made her feel violated all over again.  Maybe he shouldn't have, but I'm happy he did.  Latching onto my upper arms, she grips tight as she cries her silent tears.  As a man, as a father, I fear what I would do if anyone ever tried to violate any of my kids.

Something I never understood about the psyche of American father's is the different standards they hold for their daughters versus their sons.  You see it all over with dad's making threats related to their teenage daughters.  But what about their sons?  No teen boy should ever touch their teen daughter, but they care significantly less if their teen boy touches someone else's teen daughter.  Are their sons worth protecting less than their daughters?

I don't see it that way.  I want my sons to remain as innocent as possible for as long as possible, just the same as my daughter.

Lauren pries herself away from me before wiping her eyes and snotty nose on my shirt.

"Thanks," I said with a quiet smile.  "Y'know, I'd say I wish I'd been there when that happened but I was only like 4."

Got her.

Lauren chuckles out loud and comes in for another hug.

"I just knew you were going there, Leander."

[Image: wgqr9W2.png]

1x  XWF Universal Champion || 3x  XWF Xtreme Champion || 1x  XWF Supercontinental Champion (First)
1x  XWF Hart Champion (Last) || 2x  XWF Television Champion || 1x  XWF Tag Team Champion
1x  OCW Savage Champion || 1x IIW Tag Team Champion  || 2x  SOTM (9/20, 7/21)
2021 Male Wrestler of the Year (shared w/ Alias) || XWF Hall of Legends
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