Notes: Well this is it. The last little epilouge. Think of this as the little bit that sometimes comes after the closing credits. Just a little extra to wrap up and give it a final feel.
Also, at the start of this shindig I asked if anyone could Catch That Refference with the title. The title is a sort of homage to my first really positive experience with Fanfiction. Somewhere out there is a site called The Mellon Chronicles written by Cassia and Siobhan, they're a long series of fanfics about Aragon and Legolas based on the concept that they met shortly after Aragon turned twenty and became close friends, companions, and partners in misadventure for the many years between then and the start of Lord of the Rings. The title (Cell Number Eight) is a refference to a fanfic by the same name which (like my own fic) took place almost completely inside a Cell whose number was eight and was mostly about a growing father son relationship (though in that case it was between Legolas and a young boy). As a Lord of the Rings geek I couldn't help myself and do apologies.
Cell Number Eight
Two years. It was almost two years to the day after he last saw Nathan Ford that Eliot checked the address scribbled on a scrap of paper, paid the cab driver, and climbed out of the cab. He shouldered his black duffle that held what was left of his worldly possession without flinching despite the still healing wounds that peppered his body.
The war was over, even if he hadn't been in the actual final fight. He'd done what he could, fought hard, helped the rebels press toward liberation, protected the people caught in between, and paid more than his fair pound of flesh for the cause.
It had been worth it. Somewhere out there in the blood and carnage and sweat and war, somewhere out there he'd saved a life instead of ending it, made a difference, found what he was looking for.
Even if he hadn't known what he was looking for before and didn't know what he'd found now. But he knew that somewhere out there he'd figured out where his road would take him next. Where it should have taken him a long time ago.
He more limped than walked up the long pathway across the huge yard, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other. He'd come straight here from the war zone, not slowing down until he was mounting the front porch steps. He was on his last legs but he hoped he could soon lay down and rest for a little while.
He knocked on the front door and waited, leaning against the side of the doorframe and trying not to think about what would happen if he got turned away. He wouldn't be turned away.
He really hoped he wouldn't.
A pretty young woman in her mid twenties answered the door with a smile, her eyebrows furrowing at the sight of him. She looked a long moment, then slowly the smile on her face widened. "Elie…"
"Hey Joey." Eliot said weakly. "I uhh…. I'm home?" He shifted his weight uneasily, trying to find the least painful position to stand in and hide his discomfort and worry.
Joey turned away and Eliot let out a slow sigh. So she was still turning him away.
Then she bent down to pick something up from behind her. When she turned back she was holding a small toddler who'd been hiding behind her legs. The boy looked toward Eliot with wide blue eyes just like his mothers and Joey pushed open the screen door, holding the boy out toward Eliot. "Big brother? I'd like you to meet your nephew Eliot."
Two years to the day from when he'd parted ways with the man named Eliot Spencer returned home from work to find a package waiting for him with the day's mail. It had a handwritten return address, but no indication to who it was that actually sent it.
He was trying to consider if he should even take it in the house or call IYS in case a mark had thought to take payback when he glanced at the return address. Zagreb, P.O. Box 824.
Nate knew where he recognized the handwriting from now.
He took the mail and package inside, greeting Maggie and Sam with a kiss and a hug, chatting a few moments before finding his way up the stairs to his study.
He sat the bills on his desk and slowly, carefully, opened the package.
Inside was a small magnetic travel chessboard with a single slip of paper with three simple words. "White moves first. –E.S."
Nate spent two days trying to decide if he'd do just that. It had been two years without any sort of contact. It had been two years since they'd made the clear decision not to be friends.
But this wasn't friends. This was chess by mail.
He was staring at the chess set when Sam toddled in and held up his arms in the usual clear sign he wanted to be picked up.
Nate leaned over, pulling the boy up and settling him in his lap. Sam reached out a small hand toward the chess set. "Horsy."
Nate picked up the white knight and put it in Sam's hand. "It's called a Knight. It moves in L shapes, three in a straight line then two left or right." Sam looked at the piece and then started babbling to himself about the horses and knight's adventures, clearly uninterested in the mechanics of a chess game. "That's alright." Nate muttered. "You're still a little young for chess."
Nate looked back toward the chess board, thinking, smiling softly. "Hey Sam. You're probably not going to understand this, but I want you to know. Somewhere out there you've got a big brother named Eliot, running around in a dangerous world. He's a criminal, and maybe a bad guy, but there's a village in Croatia that's still standing because he helped the people learn to defend themselves. There's a woman somewhere out in the world who survived to adulthood because your big brother was hers. Two years ago he was the reason I came home to you. He saved my life."
Sam was looking at Nate, wide eyed and in awe. "I gonna meet my brother?" Sam asked.
Nate sighed moving the other knight for his first move. "In a perfect world you would." Though he knew in a perfect world Eliot Spencer would be whoever he had been born as, would have grown up in a safe home, wouldn't have become a hitter, would be married to his childhood sweet heart, and would never have spent two weeks in some Cell outside of Cairo.
In a perfect world Nate wouldn't have either.
But Nate looked down at his son and grinned. "But when you're older and I teach you how to play chess you can play it with him."
Sam nodded solemnly before moving back to playing with his little knight, snatching another piece from the board.
Later, after going out and sending a letter with his own first move to the return address, Nate was walking back up to his study when he heard laughter coming from the living room. He leaned against the doorway watching as the little boy played with his horses and army men, playing out a miniature war staring his favorite action figure who was leading the toys to defend their homes.
He had just turned around, heading back upstairs to go back to work, when he heard Sam speak for the village toys one more time. "Thanks Eli't you saved us!"
He paused on the stairs and glanced upwards, lips moving to repeat the prayer he'd uttered two years ago. "Protect my sons."