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Father & Son
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)

05-10-2023, 03:07 PM

[Image: Woolworth2.jpg]
Woolworth Tower
Tribeca - New York City

Last night was a double edged sword.  I learned some things from Damon Riggs.  I learned some things about my wife.  But at the same time, I think despite the hostility that existed, what was learned has brought her and I closer together.

Today though, isn't about Lauren.  It's not about Caty or Talon.  Today, it's all about Frankie.

Frankie gave my life purpose.  I've said it before but it'll never not be true.  Before he came into my life, my brain struggled against itself.  I was constantly fighting from within because I didn't want the responsibilities that I fought for, but at the same time, I couldn't trust anyone else with the job.  I wanted so desperately to break the chains of the life I was born into.  There was even a time that I pretended I wasn't Thaddeus Duke.

From the moment he entered my life, even when he was only the son of one of my grandfather's clients, he started to change my way of thinking.  He taught me that there was a higher purpose for me in my life other than just to myself.  In a lot of ways, his entrance into my universe started me on a path to maturity.  I'm well aware I have a long way to go before I'm considered a mature adult.  At the same time, I now know when I need to be the adult in the room.

"Let's go," I said to Frankie as we entered the express elevator.  In a few seconds, we'd have descended from the top floor of the building, to the basement garage beneath it.

With a good bit of trepidation, I had still been looking forward to our trip together.  After taking the day off work, Lauren, the twins and I went to look at a house in Great Neck, not quite an hour east of Manhattan.  We both loved it.  Frankie was in school.  Only having half a day today, I wanted to let him know what was coming down the pike.  In the past, I'd have never made this decision without him, without his input.  I'm a steadfast believer that despite their youth, children need to have a voice. They need to have a say in their lives.  They deserve to be heard.  Sometimes though, the parent needs to make important decisions for the betterment of their children even if they fight, kick and scream their protests.

Someone I won’t mention here by name once told me:  “I love you enough to let you hate me.”

I also wanted to show him something I did for him.  For us too, but mainly him.

"What do you wanna take?" I asked the boy as we exited the elevator into the garage.  Ahead of us, three of our cars and my Harley.

"Mmmm," he ponders.  "Where we goin'?"

"Brooklyn first," I answered him.  "Out on the island after."

"It's so nice out," he said as we walked side by side.  That means one of two things.  Either the Vette with the top off, or the…

"Harley?" I questioned with a smile.

"I think that's a fair answer," he joked.

I still remember when he'd seen it for the first time. A judge with an agenda had taken Frankie away from me for a time during the adoption process.  It's kind of a long story, but don't ever use a child as a pawn in some kind of stupid little game to humble a man.  It did not turn out well for that judge.

That's another story for a different time.

I had been in a bit of a crisis.  I'd lost Frankie who to that point had been the light of my life.  I had been seeking the truth about my mother's death.  I had broken things off with the mother of my then-unborn twins.  You could probably say I was in a bit of a downward spiral.

During that time, I'd traded in a Land Rover for a pair of restored 1991 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softails.  The one in front of us, and the other I gave to my then-traveling companion, my sister from another mister, Dolly Waters.

After securing Frankie's return and his adoption, we'd gone home to the old Duke homestead in Connecticut.  Lauren wasn't yet a part of our lives.  Once we were settled in, we'd walked into the garage to tinker with his dirt bike to get it ready for the riding season ahead.  As soon as he laid his eyes on the Harley, they lit up like the Fourth of July.

"No you didn't!" He shouted as he ran across the floor and baseball slid beside it.

"It's a restored classic," I'd informed him then.  Moments later, he sat in front of me on the bike as I walked him through the starting sequence.  After standing the bike upright and straightening the wheel so he could reach, he held in the start button, bringing the old rumbling machine to life.  The boy was overjoyed.

Teaching him things is a highlight of my life as a dad.  I get to right the wrongs of my own childhood.  My father either never gave a damn or didn't have time, but either way, I learned very little from him.  At a young age I remembered thinking to myself that when I was a dad, I'd never abandon my kids.  I'd relish teaching them.  From baiting a hook to watching Frankie squirm and shrink away from removing the jumping, struggling fish from the line, starting a motorcycle, to hit a ball, to change the oil in his dirt bike, to tinkering with maintaining the cars.

I think most of all what's important, is teaching him how to be strong yet remain sensitive.  How to fight for what's right against hatred and bigotry, against those that want to do him harm.  Raising Frankie to be a good, kind man that will one day pass those lessons on to his own children is what my truest legacy will be.  My legacy as a man far outweighs and outshines my legacies as a successful business man or even as a wrestler.

Frankie had immediately jumped off to grab our helmets resting on a workbench next to the wall.  We were going for a bike ride and there was no two ways about it.  After helping him put his helmet on, I'd sat there with the bike idling.  I missed him so much.  I'd gone without him for a few months and I didn't then have the words to say to him, to explain to him what it was like without him.  I couldn't verbalize to him just what he meant to me.  But that day it didn't matter.  Neither of us needed to say a single thing yet at the same time, both of us knew what the other was thinking.

Without him, life just wasn't worth living.  Frankie was the first person I ever truly loved.  The first person I loved more than myself.  Loving him taught me what it meant to be selfless.  It taught me what it meant to be a father.

As the bike rumbled beneath us, I pulled him close to me.  He was just ten years old then and it was far more acceptable to hug him.  And I did.  I never wanted to let him go.  I cried and soaked his cheek.  He cried too as I held him and he hold onto my arms hugging me back.

"I love you so much Bub," I whispered into his ear.  He only nodded his head as we sobbed quietly together for a few more minutes.  He was finally home and I'd never let anyone take him away from me again.

Today, Lauren doesn't understand.  As a mother, she's afraid for his safety.  Don't get me wrong, I get it.  I understand it.  As his dad though, I refuse to shelter him the way I had been.  When I was growing up, I was heir to an enormously powerful entity and I was not permitted to just be a boy.  I had to be protected at all costs, my wants, my needs be damned.

Motorcycles were the one thing that calmed him when he first came to live with me.  If he was in an emotional state about his birth parents, which was often, it was the motorcycles that brought him even again.

They bonded us again after our time apart.  It's one thing Lauren will just need to accept despite her protests.

Today, he's 12.  As short as he may be, he no longer sits in front of me on the bike.  Admittedly, I miss those days.  I hang my hat on the fact that every now and then, he lets his 12 year old guard down and he reminds me all over again why I fell in love with him in the first place.  Somehow, maybe it's instinct, maybe it's deductive reasoning, he knows just when to do it.

I love those moments.

Kent Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

Turning onto Kent Avenue, I can sense Frankie looking around at his surroundings from his place behind me.  Rolling the bike to a stop beside the curb I kill the engine and step off.  After running my fingers through my wind swept hair, I watch as Frankie climbs off the machine.  While he takes off his helmet, he doesn't remove his slightly watery eyes from the building across the street.

Following his eyes, I look up at a window in the apartment building. Like three years ago, the since faded Simba decal from the Lion King still clings to the pane.

"My old room," he says quietly.

For a time, I just let him breathe.  Allowing him to process things in his own way, in his own time has become an important part of his recovery from the trauma he endured three years ago.  The building on Kent Avenue is the same one he lived in with his father before his whole entire world crumbled beneath his feet.

I still remember the day I met him.  I wasn't Thaddeus Duke then, but Jaime Henry.  I wasn't the leader of some militarized independent nation without borders, but a debt collector for a mobbed up loan shark named Alister Henry.

My mother's birth father.

That day, Keith Rickle's debt to my grandfather was well past due.  Allister Henry wasn't then and isn't now a man to test.  He's the type of guy that puts the noose around your neck and let's you run.  When he pulls, he doesn't let go… and times up.

I was sent to collect.  If his quarter million dollar debt wasn't paid in full, then bad things were supposed to happen that day.  It was an unfortunate part of the job that I didn't really like.

Going to the Kent Avenue apartment complex was just like going to any other mark.  I had my intel.  I knew about Frankie and I knew that was the weekend he'd be at his mother's.

What wasn't in the dossier, was that his mother was on her honeymoon and honeymoons are not a place you take a nine year old boy.  That day, I stood upon the roof of the building.  From there, the beauty of One World Trade stood high above the entire New York City skyline.  I reminisced for a moment about the life I used to lead as Thaddeus Duke before putting on my purge mask and heading back down the fire escape to the window with the Simba decal.

Once inside, I came face to face, or rather purge mask to Iron Man mask with nine year old Francis Rickle and my life was forever altered.

His too.

Instead of hurting Keith Rickle like I was instructed to, I paid off his debt out of my own pocket.  I'd had a long, friendly conversation with the boy that wasn't supposed to be there.  Disguised beneath a mask and under a different name, only Frankie knew who I really was.

Professionally, on the streets I was known as the Collector.  Obviously that's not even a name.

He asked.

And I didn't lie to him.

When I whispered my name in his ear, it wasn't the Jameson Henry moniker that I adopted, but Thaddeus Duke.

"Dad, what are we doing here?" He asked, jolting me back to the here and now.

"Well," I paused.  "Turn around and I'll show you."

Just as he does, construction workers are test firing the cannons being affixed on the stadium being built on the old neighborhood ballpark.

*BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!* The cannons fire in quick succession.

"What the…"

"Meet the new home of the Brooklyn Bucs baseball team," I said to him.

Frankie started to make his way toward the entrance to Roberto Clemente Field.

"I chose the Bucs for their name because the fields namesake was a legendary Pittsburgh Pirate," I began to explain to him.

"And because that's your favorite baseball team," he reminded me.

"Yeah well I like the underdog story," I reasoned with him.  "Me and your mom might be the legal owners Frankie, but this is your baseball team."

Saying nothing at the moment, he stops walking and looks up at me as he reaches the pitchers mound.

"But what about the other kids?" he asks.

"Caty and Talon aren't from Brooklyn," I answered.

"Not them," He says before making a pretend strikeout pitch from the mound.  "I mean the neighborhood kids.

"This is the only ballpark in walking distance and we used to have games here all weekend when it was nice."

Frankie is a selfless boy.  Always, he thinks of others before himself.  Some of that he's learned from me.  At least that's what people think.  In reality, I kind of learned it from him.  He makes me a much better man.

"That’s the best part," I began.  "When the Bucs aren't playing, Clemente Field is open to the neighborhood."

"Really?" he asked with a smile.  I nod my confirmation.  "I like that.

"Why'd you buy a baseball team in Brooklyn though?"
Frankie asked.

"Because your life has changed significantly over the past few years," I began to explain to him.  "We've had a lot of ups and downs and most people don't know that."

"I'm sorry," he said while choking back tears and emotion.

"Hey listen to me," I said as I knelt in front of him.  "You never have to apologize for what happened to you.  None of that was your fault.  You did nothing but survive and persevere with your own bravery.  Your own resolve.

"Buddy, I bought this team and put it in Brooklyn because no matter what you've been through.  No matter how much you've overcome.  Even though you're my son now, this is where you were born.  Brooklyn is where your mom and your dad raised you.

"You're a Duke now, Frankie.  A rich kid in a fortunate life.  But once upon a time your name was Rickle.

"You're a Brooklyn kid through and through.  And I never want you to forget where you came from."

"Dad… I…"

"You don't have to say anything," I hold my hand out to the growing boy that's way too quickly becoming a young man.  Instead of shaking my hand, he slaps it away and throws his arms around my neck.

I love it.  Lauren gets hugs all the time, but you know 12 year olds.  Boys don't hug other boys once they reach a certain age.

It's a shame, honestly.  There's nothing wrong with boys hugging boys.  It means nothing more than one boy telling another boy that he cares.  Society suggests it's something different.  That it's "gay."  Less 'manly.'

I've always felt differently.  Through the years, I always thought showing your emotion and being kind yet tough, sensitive yet strong while also being unafraid to be affectionate is more proof of being a 'man' than whatever tradition dictates.

As Tormund Giantsbane said, "Fuck tradition."

Quite obviously there's nothing wrong with being gay either.  And hugging boys while being a boy doesn't mean a boy is gay.  That's a bigoted adult hangup passed down from generation to generation.

I'd love to end that trend, but I am just one man, one father of only two boys.

It has taken a long time.  Leading by example has made it easier for him to feel comfortable showing his emotions.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I savor the moments.

"Times up," he advises me.

"Just a little longer?" I asked the boy.

When I was young, I never could tell if my father loved me or not.  I mean, I know he loved me, but no one could tell the difference.  When he spoke to me it was short.  As a child back then, I thought he didn't like me.  Now that I'm a father myself, I have a different perspective.  What's more likely, is that he just didn't know how to show it.  He just was not equipped.

I wanted to be different.  As I was growing up I hated that man so much that all I wanted to be was better than him at everything.

Mission accomplished.

[Image: PR1.jpg]

Paradise Ridge
Great Neck, Long Island

After talking a little more and showing him around the new Bucs ballpark, it was time to show him what's next.  I was no longer dreading it as much as I had been.  As I said, normally I would hear his opinion before I'd make a life altering decision.  But circumstances dictated Lauren and I be the adults and make it whether he likes it or not.  This is what's best for him, and our other kids, in the long run.

Pulling the Harley to a stop outside the gate, the realtor sits in his car in front of us.

"Where are we?" the boy asked as the gate opened and the realtor led us up the near mile long drive toward the home sitting on the coast of Long Island Sound.  Rounding the fountain, we slow to a stop and kill the engine.

"Mr. Duke," the realtor eagerly greets me as I help Frankie off the bike.

"Nick, you've bought and sold property for me for years," I reminded him.  "Just call me Thad."

"So this is the Frankie I've heard so much about?" he asked while extending his hand to greet the boy.

"The one and only," he returns while accepting Nick's handshake.  "Dad, what the hell are we doing here?"

"Making me and my husband very wealthy men," Nick jokes… but not really.  He and his husband are high end realtors.  They have among their listings, our holiday home in Scotland, the Penthouse at Woolworth Tower, and the Safe Haven estate in Rhode Island.

"Frankie my boy, this here is Paradise Ridge," he tells my son.

Between those three properties and this one we've put an offer on, the total price is around 160 million dollars.  Mr. and Mr. Fuentes stand to earn around four million dollars in commission on the sales of these four properties.

"Dad," Frankie grabs my wrist.  "What's happening right now?"

"Thad, I'll leave you two alone and if you need anything at all, I'll be inside the house."

"Thanks Nick," I say as I lay my hand on the back of Frankie's head, urging him to follow me.  Foregoing the house for now, I lead him into the backyard of the thirty plus acre property toward the water.

"Frankie we're moving," I informed him.  "Your mom and I put an offer on this house this morning and we're pretty certain the owners will accept it.

"I kinda wanna know how you feel about that."

"I dunno," he replied quietly as we walked.  "You didn't talk to me before?"

"No," I answered back with a shake of my head.

"But the decision is made?" he poked as we reached the edge of the ridge overlooking the Sound.

"Yeah," I replied with a nod.

"This is new," Frankie said with a sigh.  "You've always talked to me first."

"I know," I agreed.  "It has to happen though.  After the…"

"Can I have a minute?" he interrupted before walking away.

At first I wanted to chase him down. I wanted to explain why even though it was a big change, that it was a good change.  Instead, I let him do his thinking.

Deep in thought myself, I'm startled by a loud explosion sound over the water.  Darting my eyes out toward the sky, I'm thrown back in time.  I hadn't even thought about it in quite awhile.

Four years ago, just before I stopped being Thaddeus and became Jameson Henry, I was on board my plane.  I don't even remember now where I was headed.

The Ares Project had been killing my people and gunning for my head at that time for months.  I was unable to handle the pressure.  I wasn't able to utilize my military in the way I knew how because they were attacking me on American soil.  I couldn't just go to war in Tennessee, for instance.

That day, just a mile or so from where I stand now, an Ares Project stinger missile struck my aircraft.  My plane was headed toward the ocean surface and there was nothing my pilots could do.  I refused, but was forced against my will into a backpack parachute and promptly shoved from the cargo bay door to escape the doomed airliner.  As I floated through the air toward land, I watched in vain as my plane crashed into the ocean.

She exploded on impact.  47 souls lost their lives that day.  A huge part of me, even today, holds survivors' guilt over that incident.  I was prepared to go down with my people.  I was prepared to allow the Ares Project to win.  After all, if I was dead, they wouldn't kill anymore of my people, right?  When I made it to land, I tested my theory.  Just as the tail had slipped beneath the waves, I called my chief of staff Jim Edwards, now deceased.  I let him know I survived, but instructed him to pretend I didn't.

Thaddeus Duke was effectively dead while Jameson, Alister Henry's collector, was born.  I was wrong.  For the first few months, things were quiet.  I went about my new life as Jaime Henry but every once in a while, I'd get a reminder of who I really was.

A few months later I'd made a life altering decision.  My men and women would not be lost in vain.  I shed the purge mask and resolved to annihilate the Ares Project once and for all.

Three years.

It took three years and the loss of thousands of my uniformed men and women.  About a year ago, the war was over and Ares Project General McGovern died by my own hand.

I promptly set my sights on dissolving the military state without borders that I took control of from my father years before.  Thing about war is… you can take the soldier from the battlefield, but you can't really take the battlefield from the soldier.

Things… terrible things.

They linger.

That was my last battle.  I retired from military service upon its dissolution as an undefeated military commander of four wars.  Today I'm grateful for the service of those that fought and lost, and fought and won beside me.  Without their sacrifice, there's more than a good chance that even if I had been killed in battle, that my kids would have stayed targets.

Most people will never understand what it is I went through.  I’m happy they don’t.  Yet a big part of me wishes someone understood.  People can relate to me on so many levels.  That isn’t one of them.

I’m snapped back to reality as a fly lands on my hand.  Shaking it off, I search around for Frankie, finding him sitting on the edge of a boat dock jetting out into the sea.  He sits quietly with his legs folded in front of him.

”Hey,” I said to him as I strolled up and took a seat beside him.  “What are you thinkin’ about?”

”I dunno,” he lied.

”Safe space,” I reminded him.  ”No judgment.”

”I just get scared,” he whimpered.  ”Change is difficult.”

”I know, buddy,” I said as I wrapped my arm around him.  ”Frankie, you’re the toughest person I ever met in my life.”

He snaps his head toward me in disbelief.

”I’m serious,” I said with a chuckle.

”You were a wrestler,” he argued.

”Yeah but let me tell you a little secret,” I prefaced.  ”There’s a difference between being physically tough and mentally tough.  A lot of wrestlers are physically tough.  I mean, it’s sorta the name of the game.

“Most of them.  I’d say easily 90% are mentally weak.”

He continues to stare at me dumbfounded.

”It’s true.  They lie, they cheat, most aren’t remotely honorable.  They take a tough loss and you’ll hear them whining about it for weeks when the cameras aren’t rolling.

“But you?  You’ve been run through the ringer kiddo.  You can handle this.”

”Am I being selfish by not wanting to do it?” he asked.

”You’re gonna love this,” I tried to reassure him.  ”You remember when I was with Adi?”

”I liked her,” Frankie answered.  ”She was a little strange, but really sweet.”

”Yeah she was,” I agreed.  ”You remember when we went to Hawaii and she was down on the beach while you and I climbed up this giant hill to a cliff that was like…”

”Yeah I remember that!” he yells out excitedly.  ”That cliff was so high.  It was like a thousand feet or something.”

”Less than I hundred,” I corrected him.  ”But you were scared then too,” I reminded him.  ”And what’d I do?”

”You tricked me, as I recall,” he answered with a smile.  What a smile this kid has.

”I didn’t trick you so much as I took advantage of you being distracted,” I reminded him further.  ”You were afraid to jump.  So I ran.  I grabbed you and cradled you in my arms.

“Then we jumped together.”

”Yeah,” he remembered fondly.  ”I screamed like a bitch but… I knew I was safe with you.  I knew you had me.

“I trusted you.”

”Well how ‘bout you trust me again?”

He stared up at me for what seemed like an hour.  In reality it was more like thirty seconds.

”Is there a lot of land?”

”Just a hair under thirty acres,” I answered back.

”I dunno what an acre is but it sounds like a lot,” he thought aloud to himself.  ”I guess it could be a lot worse.

“Plus the yard is really big.  Caty and T.J. will love playing outside.  And Minkah and Mufasa.”

Together, we make our way to our feet.  For a moment, he stares out across the water.

”It’s been a long three years, Dad,” he says while not taking his eyes off the water.  ”Maybe this change is a good one,” he looks up at me, but I’m not where I was.  When he finds me, I’m running full speed toward him.

His eyes grow wide and he tries to dart away, but it’s too late.  Like three years ago in Hawaii, I picked him up into my arms while on the run and plunged into the ocean.

”Son of a BITCH!” he cried out as he clung to me.

[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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