Connor decided to show Ellie his mother's message for him later that day. She had helped him find the other one for his father earlier.
Josh was showing Desmond where he and Connor used to practice their archery, so Connor and Ellie were alone.
The screen went black and tears were streaming down Ellie's cheeks. She pulled Connor into a huge hug and silently cried into his neck. "My mom wrote a letter like that to me," she whispered.
Connor held her tighter and buried his face into her hair. Relief came over him and his heart rate finally slowed down when he realized that she really understood how he was feeling. Now, all he wanted to do was go back to Saratoga and give his mother's message to his father.
"Ellie, would you be upset if we left a day early?" he asked, pulling away.
Ellie shook her head. "No," she paused and bit her lip. "Connor, what was she talking about when she mentioned Jenny?"
Connor stiffened and decided it was time to stop lying. He told her what his father did in Jerusalem. Her jaw slowly dropped more and more as he told her the story.
He finally finished and Ellie had to shake her head. "Your dad did that?!"
Connor nodded. "I almost couldn't believe it myself. But it just fits into everything. It explains why the traffickers were so interested in him from the beginning. It also explains why he never tried to see us."
Ellie twined her fingers with his and shook her head. The action pushed her wavy hair over her shoulder. "It's just so hard to believe. But you're right, it explains a good deal."
Connor rubbed his thumb on the back of her hand. "Ellie, I just want him to know so badly. He thought he really hurt her and stuff. I could tell when he told me everything. He probably feels like shit because of it."
"Then let's go."
Connor took a deep breath and walked toward the door. It was time to tell Desmond that it was time to leave.
"So, let me get this straight. Your mom left you a tape to watch and she had another one for your dad. But you never saw them when you were supposed to because your grandma hates your dad?" Desmond said, leaning forward into the front.
Connor didn't look away from the road. "That about sums it up."
"This sounds like a soap opera gone wrong," Desmond said, moving back to his seat.
"You're telling me," Connor replied sarcastically.
Ellie shook her head in disbelief. She was still trying to wrap her mind around what Connor told her earlier. Mr. Kenway went to Jerusalem and pulled a Liam Neeson on the traffickers?
She knew he was a badass, but this was something else.
Ellie knew that she would definitely watch what she said around him now. Glancing at Connor, she wondered what he was thinking. What his mom said was true; he faced everything with a brave attitude. But what was he feeling?
His hands were tightly gripping the steering wheel and she saw him bite his lip a little as he drove. He was definitely feeling anxious.
They finally made it back to Saratoga and Connor dropped Desmond off at his house first. Then he sped home.
"Slow down! You're gonna get a ticket!" Ellie yelped, holding onto the door handle as Connor sped around a corner.
His mouth formed a tight line as he slowed down…barely.
They finally made it home and he quickly jumped out to get her things. Ellie sighed and slapped his hands away from her bags. "You go inside. I can get my own things."
Connor turned to sprint away. Ellie grabbed his chin with one hand and made him look at her. "Call me, okay?"
His expression softened and he leaned forward, giving her a tender kiss on the forehead.
Ellie's heart started to flop around in her chest as he pulled away. She hugged herself as he raced inside.
What a mess.
Connor burst through the door and looked around. He saw his father's Fusion parked outside, so Connor knew he wasn't gone.
"In here," Haytham's voice sounded from the kitchen.
Connor raced into the kitchen to see Haytham's befuddled face, holding a mug of tea in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
"You're home a day early," he said, setting the mug down.
Connor held up the tape. "And for a good reason. Come on," he said, walking back toward the living room.
"Connor, what is it?"
Connor ignored him and quickly set up the VCR player into the big screen TV. "You're about to see."
Haytham peered at what he was doing over his shoulder. "What in the bloody hell are you doing, you twit?"
Connor held up a hand and stuck the tape into the VCR. He pressed play and stood up and walked away, letting his father have some privacy. "You'll see. It's important."
"What in the hell is goin-"
His mother's voice from the screen cut his father off mid-sentence.
"Haytham, it's been so long."
Connor heard a heavy thud and came to the conclusion that his father had collapsed into the chair.
He leaned back against the wall of the weapon room. He couldn't help but listen in.
"I know you're probably confused about why I decided to have Connor stay with you. I have so many things to explain and so little time to do so," she paused and let out a chuckle. "It's funny; I'm suddenly remembering how I caught you at one of Connor's football games. You didn't hide yourself that well. Your scarf was too loud."
She laughed. "Why on earth were you wearing that ugly scarf? Were you being a mama's boy and wearing it because Tessa gave it to you?"
Connor heard Haytham chuckle and say, "Yes."
"I wish I knew the answer, but I have a feeling I'm right."
His mother's voice went silent for a moment and Connor heard the sound of a door opening and closing from the video.
"Ista? Are you here?" he heard himself ask in Mohawk.
Connor was surprised to hear his own voice.
"Hen. Can you put the casserole I prepared in the stove?" she said, sounding a little strained.
Connor heard some more clunking noises before his voice spoke again. "I'm going to help Kanen'tó:kon with Ahkso's truck. I'll be back soon."
"Alright, but try not to get as much oil on your clothes this time. It's a headache to get out!"
"Okay Ista," he laughed.
Connor heard the sound of a door opening and closing again and then more fidgeting.
"Haytham, I want to tell you why I never tried to…fix things between us. I truly wanted to, but I couldn't hurt you. Not this way."
More fidgeting sounded out.
"You probably know about the cancer by now, since I assume Connor gave you this. When I was having my first ultrasound during my pregnancy, they saw the tumor in my abdomen. They ran tests after he was born and they told me it was benign, but had a good chance of becoming malignant."
She paused and Connor heard some sniffing noises. He realized that his mother was now trying to keep herself together.
"Haytham, I was so afraid. I was afraid that you would assume that I was just using you if I came back. Now that I had Connor and the cancer in my life," she paused and Connor heard a small sob come from her. "My pride and fear stopped me from reaching out to you. All I could do was send you pictures and think of what could have been, like the fool I am."
Connor stiffened when he heard a different sound. A deep gasp that wasn't from a speaker. "Ziio," his father muttered, sounding broken.
Connor wondered if showing him the video was a good idea.
"I also couldn't bring myself to think of what would have happened if I did come back to you. I couldn't bear to think of what would have happened if I did become sick, like I am now. I couldn't do that to you. Not after all you've been through."
Connor slid down to the floor, realizing what his mother was saying. She didn't want to hurt his father. She was protecting him in her own way.
"I know why you said the things you did, and I forgave you many years ago. Jenny came to the Reservation shortly after Connor was born and told me everything."
Haytham let out a surprised grunt. He sounded as shocked as Connor was when he found out.
"Haytham, I want to right the biggest wrong we did to ourselves, and our son. I want him to know what having a true father is like, and I want you to have the joy I have."
Connor felt tears roll down his cheeks again. He was starting to get sick of how emotional he was becoming.
"He's such a blessing and I love him with all of my heart. He looks so much like you, Norónhkhwa. I see you in him every day. He has the same determined spirit that I loved about you."
Connor heard what sounded like a faint sob come from his father and decided to just go back in the room. He walked in to see his mother dabbing at her eyes on the screen, trying to compose herself. Haytham had face buried in his hands, his shoulders were shaking.
Connor sat down beside him on the couch and looked at the screen again.
Ziio fixed her scarf and continued. "Haytham, I could not think of a better person to help our son continue into the next stage of his life. He needs to believe that he is capable of going to school. And I know you can guide him in the right direction and show him that he has more potential than he thinks."
She paused again and looked up, blinking rapidly. Connor hated seeing her cry.
"I had this whole speech planned out," she said, smiling ironically, "yet here I am crying and rambling on."
Ziio looked at the camera again. "I guess I'll just ramble a bit more, Norónhkhwa."
Haytham finally looked at the screen again.
"I love you, and take care of our son. Do what you do, Mr. UK," she said with a wink.
Haytham's lips twisted into a smile as a laugh escaped from him. "I almost forgot that one," he chuckled.
Ziio reached forward and the screen turned black.
Connor and Haytham sat in intense silence for many moments. For Connor, it was to gather his thoughts. He assumed his father was trying to compose himself.
"Who would have thought that Jenny of all people would have told her," Haytham wondered aloud, rubbing his forehead.
Connor nodded in agreement.
Haytham's stare met his. "Did she give you something like that?"
Connor got up and quickly jogged back out to his car. He leaned in the window Desmond left open and plucked the other tape from his bag. He ran back in and held the tape out for his father.
Haytham inspected it, chuckling a little. "She always did this."
"What?" Connor asked, sitting down again.
"Make you feel completely broken yet whole at the same time."
Connor blinked in surprise. That was... exactly how he felt when he watched Ziio's message to him.
Haytham shook his head. "I used to love that feeling. She did it on a daily basis," he said with a whimsical smile.
Connor tilted his head. "Isn't that a bad thing though? I would hate to feel like this constantly."
Haytham chuckled, nudging Connor's leg. "Don't fall in love then."
Connor gave him a skeptical look. "What?!"
"Don't fall in love, because that's what it feels like."
Connor shook his head. "I think that's just you, old man."
Haytham ran his fingers through his hair with a knowing smirk. "I thought the same thing at some point Connor. But being with your mother…that changed my very idea of that."
He stood up and took the tape from the VCR, staring at it. "I told her my deepest, darkest secrets. She knew all of my flaws. She could have broken me so easily," he paused and glanced back at Connor over his shoulder, "But…she also made me feel like I was the strongest and most unflawed person to ever exist, even though I knew I wasn't."
Haytham barked out a laugh. "Goddammit."
Connor stood as well, arching a brow. "What?"
"I sound just like my father. He gave me a speech like this shortly after I graduated law school. I told him that I was going to be a hermit."
Connor shook his head in amusement. He could only imagine how Edward would have reacted to that. "What did he say?"
Haytham sighed and his gaze met Connor's. "He told me I was going to miss out on the best feeling in the world if I lived that life. And then he said something along the lines of the sappy shit I just told you."
Connor rubbed the back of his head. Ellie's face suddenly showed up in his mind. He quickly cleared his throat, feeling embarrassed.
He decided to change the subject. "So…what's the story behind 'Mr. UK?'"
Haytham let out a laugh. "When we met, she thought that my accent and manner was silly. She used to tell me that I was too British. Hence, the nickname."
Connor let out a small laugh. It sounded exactly like something his mother would do.
They looked at each other again and Haytham suddenly pulled Connor into a hug.
Connor hugged him back, feeling the emotion from before returning.
For the first time in a while, he felt at peace.
Ellie looked up at the stars, leaning heavily against Connor's shoulder.
He had just finished telling her what happened and she couldn't help but feel happy for him. It sounded like everything was alright now.
"You never told me how your dad got sappy," she reminded him, reaching for her water bottle.
Connor shook his head with a small smile. "It's too sappy, even for you."
Ellie pinched his side. "I'm a girl. Bring it."
That was when she noticed the blush rising on his cheeks.
"Now I've gotta know," she laughed, resting her head against his shoulder.
Connor turned his head a little, causing their faces to be very close. "He told me how he felt around my mom."
"And that was…."
"He said he felt completely broken yet whole at the same time. He tried to tell me that was what love felt like."
Ellie cocked her head and let out a laugh. "My mom used to tell me something like that. She used a quote she really liked."
Connor's eyes met hers. "What was it?"
Ellie looked up at the stars, smiling wistfully. "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. James Baldwin."
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye to see him looking up at the stars too.
Ellie looked up at the stars again.
He suddenly mumbled something, causing Ellie to look at him again. "What was that?"
"Oh no, you're not getting out of this one. Tell me."
Connor's face almost looked purple because he was blushing so hard. Ellie thought it was adorable.
He finally took a deep breath. "Is it weird I thought of you when my dad was telling me that?"
Ellie's eyes widened in surprise and her heart started to flutter in her chest. She couldn't stop the goofy smile on her lips as she scooted closer to him. "You thought of me?"
He rubbed the back of his neck, looking very sheepish. "W-well, it wasn't something specific about you or anything like that. I-I just started thinking of you."
Ellie avoided his gaze as she felt a blush rise up on her own cheeks. She finally mustered up the courage to meet his gaze.
He looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, it was stupid," he mumbled.
Ellie couldn't get over how adorable he was being at the moment. She rested a hand on his cheek and turned his head so he was fully looking at her. "No it wasn't," she whispered, rubbing her thumb across the little scar on his cheekbone.
His small frown turned into a grin and he leaned forward, resting his forehead against hers. "Nia:wen."
Ellie softly giggled. "For what?"
Ellie pecked his nose. "You're welcome."
Connor's eyes met hers again and he suddenly looked very serious. "I mean it. I don't know where I would be if you didn't jump over the fence last summer."
Ellie's heart started to thud in her chest and she knew he could hear it.
"You were strong when I wasn't, and I don't know what I can say or do to repay that," he continued.
Ellie didn't know what to say. Tears started to pool in her eyes and her heart seemed too big for her chest. She did the only thing she could do. She kissed him.
She felt his large hand settle on the side of her neck as he deepened the kiss.
Ellie wished this moment would never end.
Connor looked around at the small dorm room. He didn't know what he was feeling exactly. Relief? Anxiety? Excitement? His stomach felt like it was floating and swirling at the same time and he tried to ignore the feeling.
He set his bags down and sighed.
He couldn't believe that he was actually going to college.
"Connor, where do you want this?"
Connor glanced over his shoulder to see Haytham holding a large box. "Here, I got it," he said, taking it from his father. He set it on top of the desk.
Haytham put his hands on his hips, looking around the room. "Jesus, and I thought my old dorm room was bland."
Connor smiled and walked back out to grab more of his things. He weaved his way through the crowd of students who were also moving in. Other freshmen were there with their families, and the air was full of excitement and sound.
He walked back out to where his Mustang was parked. He frowned when the very box he was looking for wasn't in its spot in the back seat.
"Where do you want your posters and stuff?"
Connor looked over his shoulder to see Ellie holding the box he was looking for with a smirk.
He grabbed the last box and kicked the door shut. "I'll show ya."
Connor could feel Ellie following very closely behind him as they weaved through the crowd. Luckily, his room was on the first floor.
They finally made it back to his room to see Haytham pulling the microwave from its box. "I hope this fridge Mr. Miles mentioned is big enough for the two of you. I know how much you eat," he said, setting the microwave down on the floor.
Connor shrugged. "He said it was decent."
Haytham rolled his eyes. "And since when can we trust his judgment?"
Everyone looked toward the doorway to see Desmond proudly carrying two suitcases. "Trust me Mr. Kenway, it's big."
Haytham just rolled his eyes.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles filed in after him, holding various bags and boxes. "Hello Connor!" Mrs. Miles chirped, looking ecstatic.
Connor couldn't help but smile at Desmond's mom. She had to be one of the happiest people he'd ever met. He finally got to meet her shortly after what happened with Cross and Vidic. She had been away on a business trip most of the year and had hurried back when she heard what happened. Connor never saw a more dedicated mom. He was sure Mrs. Miles and his own mother would have gotten along.
A heavy hand suddenly settled on his shoulder. "Is this all of your things?" Haytham asked.
Connor looked around and shrugged. "I think so. Let's check the cars to be safe."
They waved to the Miles family as they walked out, weaving their way through the crowd again.
Connor checked his car and then his father's car. Yup, everything was out.
"Well, I suppose this is when we leave you."
Connor looked at his father and was surprised to see a solemn expression on his father's face.
"I guess," he said, not knowing what to say now.
Ellie broke the ice by wrapping her arms around his neck and pecking his cheek. "Make sure to visit soon," she said, pulling away.
Connor wanted to give her a real kiss, but he wasn't going to with Haytham standing right there.
Haytham rolled his eyes and walked back toward the dorms. "I'm going to chat with William for a little longer."
Ellie giggled when he was out of hearing range. "And you think I can read minds."
Connor shook his head. "My mom must have taught him how."
Ellie shook her head and rested her hands on his arms. "I guess I'll just have to teach you pretty soon, huh?"
Connor shrugged. "It would help."
Ellie snickered and stood on her tip toes, giving him an expectant look.
Connor leaned down and rested his lips against hers, trying to remember this moment. He missed her already.
"GET A ROOM!"
Connor looked to see Desmond basically hanging out their window and waving cheekily at them.
Connor's furrowed his brow. "I'm gonna-"
Ellie's hand on his cheek dissipated that irritation that was forming. "You'll have plenty of time to get him back," she reminded.
Connor wanted to get him back now.
Ellie wrapped her arms around his chest and the warm fluttery feeling that usually came with it started to flow throughout his body. He wrapped his arms around her.
He really was going to miss her.
"Are you two done snogging?"
Connor gave his father an exasperated look.
Haytham winked before resting a hand on his shoulder. "Remember what I told you."
Connor nodded. Haytham was giving him tips about college all summer. Connor knew his ears would bleed if he heard them one more time. "I will," he said, hoping that his father got the hint.
Haytham nodded and Connor's eyes met his. Pride was shining in his father's eyes and Connor couldn't help but feel happy. "She would be proud of you," Haytham said, giving him a sad smile.
Connor smiled right back. "She was right, though."
"You got me here. I wouldn't even be in college if you didn't force me to go on visits."
Haytham blinked in surprise before letting out a soft chuckle. "I suppose she was."
He patted Connor's shoulder again before he began to walk toward his own car. He looked over at Connor before he left, giving him a small smile. Connor knew that was as close as he was going to get to a goodbye. His father didn't do them that well.
"I'm going to miss you," Ellie said, cutting off his train of thought.
Connor grinned sadly down at her. "I'll visit as often as I can. I promise."
Ellie grinned up at him. "Okay, and I'll send you cookies."
Connor laughed. "Why cookies?"
Ellie shrugged. "So you remember why you like me."
He shook his head in amusement and let out a soft laugh, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "You know that's not the only reason I like you."
Ellie looked up at him and smiled before pecking him on the cheek one more time. She started to walk toward Haytham's car as well. She waved at him over her shoulder before finally turning and setting a brisk pace down the sidewalk.
Connor stood on the sidewalk in front of his dorm building and watched as the Fusion pulled out of the parking lot. He waved to Ellie as Haytham drove away.
He didn't know how long he stood out there, and he didn't care.
Connor looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. "I'm here Ista. I'll make you proud," he whispered.
He walked back into the building, stepping over the threshold into a new world.
He was glad to know that she was there to experience it with him.
Well, this is it. The End. Good Lord, I cannot express how much every favorite, follow, and review has meant to me. I smile whenever I get those emails and I'm just so glad that you all enjoyed my writing so much. Do not worry, this isn't the true end. A sequel will come in time...