Pawn Promotion


ff_des_icon.gif edward_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif

Scene Title Pawn Promotion
Synopsis In chess, promotion is the replacement of a pawn with a new queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color once the pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position. The new piece replaces the pawn on the promotion square on the same move. The choice of the new piece is not limited to pieces previously captured; thus, promotion can result in a player owning, for example, two or more queens despite starting the game with one. The pawn cannot remain as a pawn or promote to a king.
Date June 12, 2021

The rain lashes down from the slate-grey heavens with a vengeance, the leaden fall seemingly coming in waves not terribly unlike those of the tumultuous sea below. The storm has stirred the seas as well as the skies, both crashing against the sides of the metal-and-glass towers that still rise in what was once the legendary skyline of New York City.

It batters also against a figure miniscule in comparison to the raging elements and the spires of the Pelago, the edges of a stained yellow poncho flapping wildly in the wind as it attempts to tear itself from him to dance on the wind. A gloved hand clutches it closer to himself as he walks along one of the floating piers that reach out from the manmade ‘islands, rising and falling unsteadily under his feet in the grip of the rising storm. The man had bartered for two things - the poncho for one, and for the other the location of a particular ship.

The Featherweight.

The Pelago Docks

June 12th
10:12 am

Richard Ray walks slowly and carefully, one hand on the long, thick-braided ropes stretched as ‘rails’ for the pier to better keep his balance. His other comes up to push the hood of the poncho back a bit, squinting through the rain towards the boat tied off ahead and the bright, cheery colors that stained its sides. Grimacing, he ducks his head back down and kept moving.

“Featherweight,” he calls out as he reaches the gangplank, before realizing there was no way that anyone would hear him over the rain. He takes a step back, then mounts the gangplank with a step and a jump to bring him aboard, landing heavily on her deck. Stepping to the door leading to the top-floor cabin, he hammers on it with the side of his hand.

Spread out over the table is a worn piece of paper with a grid drawn over it, the hand unsteady. The lines aren’t straight, the boxes imperfect. In the boxes are little bits and baubles. Small rocks, knots of strings in various colors, a couple old bottle caps, shredded pieces of box tops, and a silver thimble.

Captain Destiny traded away the entirety of her chess set on the route to Japan in exchange for books and fuel. This is what she has left. “The blue ones are the bishops, right?” she asks, tapping a thinner and more rectangular square occupied by a tangle of cobalt blue yarn. “Or were they the cas— Rooks. The rooks?” The blonde tucks her hair behind one ear and curls a lip at the board. “You’d think I’d have gotten better at this game by now,” she laments to her partner with a self-deprecating grin. “It’s not like I haven’t had good tea—”

The heavy thud overhead has Des’ head snapping up, worried at first that she might need to go topside and secure something. The footfalls that follow quickly after tell her that what needs securing lies below with her. By the time the visitor’s fist is connecting with her door, she’s already concealing a small knife in the sleeve of her sweater.

A glance is slanted to her companion before she mounts the stairs and places her free hand on the door handle, poised to open it after the little captain takes just one more breath.

Edward Ray sits opposite of Destiny’s spot, affording a patient look to her across the table as she heads to the door. There’s gray in his temples these days, it came in right after they escaped the Ark. It’s been a long few years, and for all that he never expected to be able to get out of that death trap, the extra lease on life that he’s been given has become a welcome reprieve. It reminds him of something he was always told growing up: You can rest when you’re done.

Once the door’s opened, the man on the other side squints at the captain of the boat for a moment, rainwater dripping from the edges of the yellow poncho’s hood in front of his vision. He’d been told she’d look different than he expected - but he didn’t realize how different.

In return, his face is an unknown one; nobody who’s ever been around the Pelago before, with eyes as dark as the deep themselves and five o’clock shadow that’s threatening to reach six o’clock or higher if he doesn’t find a razor soon.

“You must be Destiny,” Richard observes, voice pitched to carry over the storm’s noise and a slight smile tugging at his lips, “Is Edward here? I— need to talk to him.”

But his face isn’t unknown to her.

Well, unknown to her, yes. But not to the other her. Or the other one. Or… the other one.

Look, it’s complicated.

The blue eyes are the same in every iteration Richard’s ever seen them in. Destiny makes them look larger, somehow more innocent. They’re larger yet, given that she’s standing stunned in the doorway between him and the man he’s come to see. “You’re Richard Ray,” she breathes out in astonishment.

The diminutive captain stops and tips her head, brow furrowed in concentration. “No. You’re Richard Cardinal, but they call you Ray over there. You’re the Director’s son.” Her eyes get big again and she gasps, slapping both hands over her mouth. There’s a second gasp when she realises she just about stabbed herself in the damn face. “Oh!” she squeaks, her hands coming away again quickly, shaking her right arm until the knife falls out of her sleeve and she can catch the handle in her palm.

“No, no, no! You’re not supposed to be here!” Destiny looks every which direction in the narrow well between the door and the cabin before finally acquiescing, “You’d better come inside!” and scurrying down the steps. “Eddie!” she hisses, like Richard can’t hear her. “It’s Chel’s son!

God, at least she finally sets the knife down.

Edward is at once wide-eyed and straight-backed when Destiny hauls Richard into the cabin. He’s so distracted that when he withdraws his hand from the table it knocks over his queen’s knight and sends it rattling to the floor. Edward grimaces, looking down to where he heard the makeshift chess piece fall, then looks back up to Richard with wide-eyed confusion.

“That’s not possible,” is the first thing Edward manages to say, though the way his eyes grow reddened at the edges and tears well up in them says he believes in impossibilities. “I—I’d—I’d stand but that’s not really, ah,” he swallows back a lump in his throat and smiles awkwardly, at a loss for words.

At the awkward words and fumbling around, Richard can’t help but grin a bit. This is definitely Destiny, even if he’s only heard her once, on the other end of the Quantum Radio Array. He shakes his head in amusement as he comes into the cabin, both hands coming up to push the edge of the poncho’s hood back to fall with a wet slap against his back.

“Impossibilities are what I deal in, pretty much,” he only half-jokes, his gaze sweeping over to the man in the wheelchair and settling there. The grin fades as he takes in Edward’s features. For someone who - in one incarnation or another - has been such a presence in his life, who’s had such an impact, they’ve spent surprisingly little actual time in the same room together.

“I know I was a lot smaller when you last saw me,” he does joke, because he’s always lapsed into humor when nervous, “Mom, uh, mom sends her best. Or she would, I mean— well. You know how she can be.”

Des glances between the two men for a moment. It isn’t awkward for her. She’s taking in the exchange with interest, and it doesn’t occur to her immediately that perhaps she shouldn’t be part of it. When it does eventually come to her, she still doesn’t offer to remove herself from the situation.

“I— bartered for tea!” she announces, a triumphant little crow in her voice. This must be actual tea and not just a couple of raspberry leaves tossed into the bottom of a mug of hot water. “I’ll put the kettle on.” At least this way, she can give some illusion of privacy as she steps further back into the cabin to fuss with the stove and the kettle.

Edward folds his hands in his lap, watching Destiny hurry past. It takes a few moments for him to let his attention circle back to Richard. It’s as if he were working up the strength for it. After a moment he motions for Richard to the seat across the chessboard that Destiny had vacated. It’s only then that he really gets a good look at him, and seems in disbelief at it all.

Swallowing down his emotions, Edward’s gaze returns to his lap. He doesn’t yet say anything, and the look in his eyes is one that Richard is unfamiliar with. There’s no calculation, no deep consideration of some grand design, no lunatic certainty. There is just the emotionally overwhelmed stare of a middle-aged man. When he finally looks back up to Richard—really looks at him—it comes with a sharply exhaled breath as his Edward’s mouth forms shapes to make words, but never really manages to say any of them.

“Tea, uh, sounds great. Thanks, Des,” Richard says; she’s familiar-yet-unfamiliar, but it’s enough that he slips into absently familiar patterns, at least as far as talking to her goes. He looks back at Edward, equally uncertain, and then steps over to the offered chair - which is when he notices the fallen piece. Bending over, he picks it up before moving to settle into the seat, reaching across the table to return the queen’s knight to Edward’s side of the table. “Here, you dropped this,” he mumbles before re-settling back to regard the other man again.

The awkward silence is broken first by him, drawing in a breath before forcing past, “I wanted to— make sure I saw you. While I was here. To let you know that— that everything turned out okay.” He’s not talking about what happened at the Ark.

For all that she’s busying herself with the very domestic and important task of brewing tea for her guest and her— Eddie, she keeps stealing the least subtle glances over her shoulder at the table. Edward has his back to her, but if he doesn’t know her well enough by now to know that she’s always keeping an eye on him, well… And she certainly doesn’t seem to care whether or not Richard catches her watchful gaze. He knows that look on her face. She’s not eavesdropping.

She’s protecting.

Just a picture of Edward Ray was enough to drive the Odessa Price that Richard is familiar with into a murder-as-a-defensive frenzy in fear for her own life, while it’s clear this one would clearly go into the same frenzy if she thought Edward’s was the life at risk. Still, she doesn’t look hostile, and certainly not distrustful or unfriendly toward Richard. In any world, and Des seems to have one common thread: They’ve lost so many people they loved and counted among their family.

While Edward fights to find the words, Destiny fills the space, buying him time without the awkwardness of silence to stretch between them. “I hope you don’t take milk or cream, Mister—” Destiny frowns. “Richard.” She shakes her head. That doesn’t feel right, but neither does calling him by either surname he’d be known by. “I’ve got honey.” And that’s apparently it.

Edward keeps his eyes fixed to the table as he says, “There’s a lovely apiary at Lowe’s, if you get the chance. They make all of our honey there. Old woman talks to the bees.” He idly plays with one of the makeshift chess pieces, brows knit together in thought.

It takes a while for Edward to do anything but listen to the sound of the wind and the waves. When he finally looks up to Richard again there’s still something missing in his eyes. All of the confidence, all of the certainty. But there’s also something Richard’s never seen in them: hope.

“Did…” Edward’s voice cracks as he starts to ask a question, giving him pause. He clears his throat and smiles awkwardly. “Did—did Lisa make it out? Juliette? Michelle?” He glances back down to the chess board, then back up to Richard. “We left before—I never knew.”

“Honey’s— honey’s fine,” Richard offers agreeably, looking over to Des with a slight smile, “Thanks. I’m glad there’s still bees, at least, I know they’re— important, we have a bunch of hives at… well. Anyway.”

He clears his throat a bit, looking to Edward when he looks up and nodding, once. “Yes,” he says softly, “They did. Michelle’s… working on adapting to things, Lisa’s the most frustrating little sister I could have— I keep trying to get her set up in a nice apartment and she keeps running off. Juliette— Juliette took the long way around, but she got through too. They all made it, Edward.”

“Antje’s lovely,” Destiny confirms cheerfully, then returns to her work of digging out mis-matched coffee mugs. She holds her tongue when it comes to confirming what she’s heard secondhand. Richard was there, living it. She didn’t even see it through her alternate’s eyes to be able to say for sure. But mention of Lisa does make her ears prickle just a little bit.

Mention of Juliette makes her feel profoundly sad in a way she can’t begin to understand why.

The relief in Edward’s expression is palpable. He practically deflates when news of his family’s survival is assured. He brings his hands up to his face, lifts his glasses and rubs at his eyes for a moment, then offers a tired smile to Richard.

Another long silence comes over Edward, time spent searching Richard’s face for signs of the newborn he hardly knew. The way he looks at Richard is so different from any other iteration of him. There is no familial connection, no fatherly love. He is a degree removed and it makes all the difference. Every iteration of Edward has felt familiar to Richard, save for one now.

“How did you get here?” Edward asks, always inquisitive no matter the dimensional drift. “Are you—did you come back for the rest of us?” He asks with genuine, heartbreaking sincerity.

There’s a clatter of a spoon against the edge of the kettle as Destiny looks up with a sudden distraction from her work. She, too, turns her curiosity to Richard, eyes wide and blue and full of hope. Scarcely daring to breathe.

“I… wish I could say I was,” admits Richard with a slow shake of his head, leaning back and bringing one hand up to push back through his hair, mussed from wind and salt, grimacing a bit, “I don’t even know when — or if — we’re getting back. There was an attack on the Looking Glass as we went through.”

The idea that he could out and out lie to Edward doesn’t even occur to him. It’s not the same man, but some habits die hard.

“Although I’d certainly be happy to bring the two of you through, and damn the bureaucracy, once we figure out a way home. We’re headed to— Natazhat, actually,” he admits, searching Edward’s face for recognition. He did belong to that agency, after all.

Des’ face falls immediately. Hope dashed on the rocks. She’s had this dangled in front of her before. She sniffs once and swipes under her nose with the sleeve of her sweater, scratching an itch. Definitely not crying or even in the same sea of thinking about it. “She hates that place, you know,” she asserts cryptically.

Edward only briefly glances at Destiny, then looks back at Richard. He’s quiet again for a bit, because there’s a tragic irony to Richard being trapped here of all places. But after a moment he has that familiar glint of recognition in his eyes. Though what comes out of Edward’s mouth next slaps Richard in the face like an open hand.

“Natazhat?” Edward squints. “The HAARP facility?”

It is an irony, and it’s one that Richard is fully aware of. He slants a curious look to Destiny at her cryptic comment, and then back to Edward when he speaks— leaning forward, resting an arm on the table’s edge.

“Yes,” he says seriously, “We’re looking for Drucker. There’s a— our world is having an issue with our magnetosphere, and we believe that they’d developed some sort of technology that we might be able to use before…” He trails off, grimacing.

Edward’s a smart man. He can probably figure out the rest of that sentence.

Des may not have had much for a formal education, but even she knows that’s not a good thing. “Oh,” she says softly, brows furrowing. “What are they doing out there still?”

“Drucker?” Edward bleats in surprise. “Richard Drucker?” He’d never heard that surname before anywhere else. “Richard Drucker worked for the Department of Evolved Affairs before it even had that name. He was a, a, a…” he snaps his fingers, trying to remember a title, “something to do with space. HAARP was his project, solar weather observation. He and a Doctor Charlotte Roux. Drucker was of the belief that Evolved abilities were influenced by solar activity and he’d set about to prove not only that, but that they could be manipulated and changed by exposure to specific cosmic forces.”

Edward steeples his hands in front of himself, looking lost in thought. “If Drucker’s alive he’d… have to be almost eighty by now. His—their daughter is here.” Edward says with a look of dawning confusion. “Robyn. She lives here in—she was in the Ark, waiting for—her parents are alive.” It all starts coming together, and Edward twists around to look back to Destiny.

“Des,” Edward waves a hand in her direction where she’s preparing the tea, “Robyn’s still here, right? She didn’t move to Delphi?”

“Well,” Richard quirks a smile, “He was right, so far as my understanding of the subject goes.”

As Edward confirms what they expected about Robyn’s parentage, he leans back, one hand coming up to rub against the side of his neck. “Shit. I should… probably let our Robyn that she’s here, then, because she came with us. Before she runs into herself, I know she’s been anxious about it.”

Destiny shakes her head quickly. “I saw her just a couple days ago. Dearie would probably know where to find her.” Nadira. Her eyes flit back and forth between Edward and Richard. “She… Yeah. Roux came to the Ark to wait for her mom.” To know that she’s alive sees her letting go of a heavy breath.

Then her focus stays on Richard. “Your Robyn?” She stands a little straighter. It does nothing to make her actually look taller. “Who else is with you?”

Edward looks back to Richard with the same expectation in his eyes. He doesn’t reiterate Des’ question, but his eyes do dip down to the chess board for a moment as he considers his next move in the stalled game.

A question forms behind Edward’s eyes. Richard knows the look. But whatever it is stays hidden for now, until he hears the fuller extent of Richard’s predicament.

“Myself, Robyn— ah, Eve,” Richard admits, hand motioning a bit through the air, “Some people I don’t think you know— Chess, Elliot. From this side we’re working with Cas— Saffron, you might know her. The crew of the Yeah, Buoy!.”

He wrinkles his nose a bit, “Smaller group than I wish, but it’s a long-shot mission.” Translation: He’s worried it was a suicide mission, and they weren’t going to risk too many people for that.

Seemingly unable to choose where to begin, Destiny’s eyes progressively having grown larger with each name she recognizes, she just stares gaping for a long moment. “Saff came back?” she asks tentatively. There are tears welling up in her eyes. “And you have… Eve?”

The telltale sounds of water roiling inside the kettle catch the captain’s attention and she quickly shuts off the stove. She wraps the handle of the kettle with a tea towel and starts pouring water into mugs. Though she keeps shooting glances in Richard’s direction.

Edward makes a disconcerted noise in the back of his throat, settling his hands in his lap. “Well, if nothing else I can wish you luck. It sounds like you have quite an expedition on your hands, and unless you’re going to wait a year or so for the storms to subside, I doubt Destiny or I will be much help. Especially if you plan on crossing into the mainland. I hear it’s not very wheelchair accessible,” he says with a thin smile.

“I’m just—something in shock too. I can’t believe your mother let you come here after everything she did to get back to you. At least… not without coming with you. She must have faith that you’ll be able to make it back, or…” Edward’s eyes wander the room, “she already has a plan to get you back. Maybe.”

Looking over to Richard, Edward grows silent again and takes in his appearance. With a slow shake of his head, Edward sighs in disbelief. “I still can’t believe it’s you. The last time I saw you, you were…” he pantomimes a bundle the size of a football. “Just this tiny little thing. Then you were—” Gone is a word he can’t bring himself to say. Trying to dismiss darker thoughts of darker times, Edward shakes his head. “I suppose all that matters is that things turned out for the best. You—you seem well.”

“I know,” says Richard, smiling faintly, “I was… and you caught me on the other side of things, and made sure I was taken care of. Which— even if it wasn’t you— I’m grateful for.”

Then he’s spreading his hands to either side, and states bluntly, “If you don’t think I’m dragging you two along, though, you’ve got another thing coming. The ocean isn’t very wheelchair-accessible either, and whether or not you settle up in Anchorage or— if we have a way back, coming back with us? I wasn’t planning on leaving you here in the middle of all this.”

A glance to Destiny, then back to Edward, “And I inherited my mother’s stubbornness, before you try arguing with me.”

Destiny nods her head very solemnly as she sets a mug of tea down in front of Edward. “He’s very stubborn,” she murmurs to him with a conviction she should have no right to, yet somehow still comes by honestly. The second mug is set down for Richard. The third, she picks up from where she left it by the stove, staying standing in a lean as she cradles it in her small hands.

“We can get a wagon,” she says with more volume, meaning to include both men in her plan. “I’m sure people have them. Or…” Destiny glances around the four walls of the cabin. Her heart can be seen to sink in the blue depths of her eyes, already feeling a loss that has not yet happened. “I can trade the Featherweight to Ms Terrell. She’d probably make a wagon for me in exchange.”

Edward’s expression shifts from concern to defiance. “Absolutely not. It’s safe here in the Pelago.” His attention is fixed on Destiny. “You are not gallivanting across the nuclear wasteland left of this country on a god-knows-what kind of—of—fool’s errand.” He glances at Richard. “No offense.” Then back to Destiny. “You’re staying here, with James’ ship.”

Then, over the frames of his glasses, Edward fixes Richard with a stern look. “I don’t know what our relationship was like in your world, but I’m not one to be told what to do. You may have noble intentions or…” He exhales a sharp breath out his nose. “I’ll slow everyone down. Wagon, no wagon. I am a liability, Richard. I can’t even go to the bathroom myself.” He says with a mixture of anger and frustration. “I am not going to be the reason someone dies on that road.”

Richard’s silent for a moment, fingertips drumming on the arm of the chair he’s seated in, regarding Edward steadily from behind dark lenses. He doesn’t seem angry by that defiance, just like he’s trying to figure something out - and the set of his expression is indeed stubborn.

Finally— almost reluctantly, but out of nowhere— he asks, “Does the Pelago have a prison?”

Destiny’s throat gets tight when Edward raises his voice. She freezes in place except for her chin to lift and the corners of her mouth to quiver - but only just. The pursuit of the family who’d left her had destroyed the family that chose her. The monument to that mistake creaks and groans all around her with the voice of a familiar friend. It rocks her to sleep at night in its powerful arms.

The short blonde squints across the cabin at Richard, attempting to ascertain what he could possibly be angling for with that reference. Then she sneezes. Only Destiny could sneeze like the tiniest persian kitten, so that her entire little body jumps from the force of it, hard enough to be jostled an inch or so in one direction or the other. One hand comes up to rub under her nose with the back of her hand, folding the cuff of her sleeve over discreetly in lieu of a tissue. Her wounded gaze falls on Edward again as she tries to decide which direction his accusation is facing. That street could go both ways.

Rather than choose one way over the other, she continues moving forward. Pulling her mug closer to her and leaning nearer to him, Des fixes Edward with a look that’s serious and apologetic at once. “Are you bringing Else?” the young sailor asks Richard, tipping her head slightly in his direction without breaking eye contact with one half of the family she’s chosen now.

Edward doesn’t quite know what to make of Richard’s question, but Destiny’s is easier. “Nobody brings Else anywhere, she’s an outdoor cat. If she wants to be somewhere, she invites herself along. Just like Captain Tibbs does sometimes like she owns the place.”

“As for prisons…” Edward says with a look from Destiny to Richard. “Not, as such? We have to lock up the rowdies from time to time, but I don’t think you’re looking for the drunk tank. If someone is a trouble-maker here the solution is either exile, or a long swim.” There’s a graveness in his voice that implies the deeper meaning.

But then, Richard feels a hand on his shoulder and the sleight weight of someone leaning to whisper in his ear. “Richard Ezekiel Cardinal,” comes the southern fire from a familiar old ghost.


“You are not about to suggest a prisoner execution to help Edward Ray are you?” Abby casts a spurious glance at Richard, then across the table at Edward. She clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “How were you raised?” She asks with a squeeze to his shoulder. She knows the answer. He was raised Catholic.

Just about to answer the question regarding Else - even with Edward’s addition - Richard stops before he forms the words, tongue stilled by that subtle touch and comment. He doesn’t respond, at least not aloud.

You can’t blame this man for the sins of his other selves, he thinks - loudly - unsure if the memory-ghosts stirring within the conduit can hear his thoughts at all, but hey, it’s worth a try.

“I…” He motions a bit towards Edward, “I can heal you. I just need a… source for the life force in question, and unfortunately, I don’t think you have a spare whale hanging around.”

I invite Else places,” Des counters quietly, but she’s always trying to treat Else as she was, like she hopes the most lucid version of her friend will come out to play more often if she just stands there waiting for her with an outstretched hand.

Ultimately, however, Edward is right, as Edward Ray so often is. The argument is left to lay. She doesn’t remark upon the treatment of ne’er-do-wells. It’s a part of life, and violent death came to Destiny’s doorstep when she was very young, even if she hadn’t seen the atrocities of the Arcology.

The little blonde lifts her head to look up then, hope bringing a light to her blue eyes. “You can use mine,” she offers helpfully, missing the implication of why a whale would be necessary. “I’ll do whatever I can to heal him.” She holds out her hand as if to say take it!

In Richard’s head, Abby gives Destiny a look and clicks her tongue. “Don’t you dare take that hand Richard Cardinal.” She leans that hand harder onto his shoulder, as if the weight of God himself was disapproving of all this.

“I didn’t need to feed off of other people to make miracles happen, Richard.” Abby says with a furrow of her brows. “I might’ve needed a good sit-down, a Gatorade, and a power bar, but I made it work. And I wouldn’t be here if a piece of me wasn’t still with you.” Abby steps around Richard to look into his eyes. “All you need to do is ask Him. You know the words.”

Ignorant to Abby’s proselytizing, Edward sucks in a breath over his teeth and gives a worried look to Destiny, then back to Richard. “Heal?” He doesn’t mention the more unsavory portions of it, not immediately. “Richard I—” He’s at a loss for words. But then his eyes track to Destiny’s hand. Hope, but also fear, sinks into Edward as he looks back to Richard.

“I wasn’t going to,” Richard says irritably, glancing sidelong to someone who - to everyone else in the room - doesn’t seem to be there at all. “She doesn’t understand the cos– and I know it worked that way for you, but the White hasn’t so much as been willing to twitch short of talking to you, let alone…”

Trailing off, he realizes that he’s probably looking insane at the moment, and he looks back to the other two with a nervous little smile. “Sorry, uh. One second, talking to somebody you two can’t see.”

He pushes himself up to his feet to step away, turning his back and hissing under his breath, “It’s never worked that way for me, Abby, I don’t want to slip and…” Kill someone.

Destiny doesn’t retract her hand in the face of Edward’s concern and reluctance. “You’re all I have left, Eddie. You an’ Else. If there’s a chance I can make this better for you, I’ll do it. I– I should’ve been—”

Whatever self-blame she may have been about to indulge in is derailed by Richard’s one-sided conversation with the ether. The little captain watches him for a brief while, then finally begins to retract her hand when she realizes it’s not about to be taken anytime soon. Turning back to Edward, Des leans in so she can whisper to him. “I don’t think that’s his ability. He’s not supposed to be the talks-to-ghosts person, he’s supposed to be the spooky shadow person, like that Margo Lane chick from the old movie.”

Edward, with his brows furrowed, glances briefly at Destiny and gently puts a hand on her arm in the way he does when he needs her to be quiet, and she falls into an immediate hush as he slowly pivots his attention back to Richard. Edward can’t see the drama playing out in Richard’s mind, but it both fascinates and concerns him all the same.

“That’s not up to you.” Abby says in that way she says things that is at once reassuring and frustrating all in one. “Richard, you need to have faith. I know you were raised right, I know you know what that means. Sometimes, you just need to put your faith in God’s hands and pray. Miracles do happen, Richard… we used to make them happen all the time.”

Abby leans forward against Richard’s back, putting her arms over his. “You know how to do this.” But her voice is just a whisper in the back of his mind. She’s not there anymore. If she ever was.

Richard closes his eyes, breathing out a heavy sigh. At its heart, she’s not wrong– he doesn’t know what he has faith in anymore, but he does have faith. That everything is going to work out. That there’s a plan.

At the end of the day, does it matter who made the plan?

“Just bloody quote James 5 at me, at this rate,” he mutters in response to her words, drawing in a deep breath. What he lacks, sometimes, is faith in himself. He takes a deep breath, then turns back, easing back into the chair across from the others.

“Alright. I… think maybe I can do this without any other– sources,” he says, contradicting what he’d said earlier, “If you’re willing to try, Edward.”

Unconsciously, Des’ brow twitches at the name James, but she doesn’t have any comment about whatever it is Richard’s going through at the moment. She rests her hand over Edward’s and tightens her fingers around it gently. She watches Richard with uncertainty, then turns back to her companion. “The choice is yours.” It isn’t that he needs to be told that, but she thinks maybe it helps him to know she’ll understand either way whatever he decides.

It takes a long time for Edward to formulate a response. The way Richard says do this about fixing his damaged spine as casually steals the words out of his mouth and replaces them with soft gasps of apprehension. Edward regards Destiny out of the corner of his eyes, if only just for a moment, before returning his focus to the man across the table.

It’s remarkable to Richard just how much of Edward’s piercing stare was just his personality and not his ability. Those wide eyes, that stare that cuts right through you. Nothing about that had anything to do with precognition, and everything to do with who he is as a person. Edward Ray didn’t need an ability to know he’d murder to protect his family. And if there was one thing he passed on to Richard Ray, it was that.

Reaching out across the table, Edward offers a hand. “I’d be a fool to not believe in miracles after the life I’ve lived, and the conversation I’m having right now.” Is his answer. He doesn’t know what to expect, but he is willing to find out.

The hand is offered, and Richard’s gaze falls to it… and stops there for a moment. The strange realization surfaces through the grey tangle of his mind that he’s never actually touched Edward. Any of them. Not since he was a babe, too young to remember, swaddled in the man’s arms on one side of the Looking Glass or the other. As if the man wasn’t really flesh and blood, but an idea.

He’d given every other Edward Ray in the universe his unwavering trust. But it was this one, the one with the least connection to him, that was trusting Richard with his life. It could be seen as an irony, or it could be seen as just another circular aspect of the ouroboros that makes up the life of Richard Cardinal.

One hand lifts to pull the shades from his face, carefully folding them and setting them to one side. A breath’s drawn in, and he reaches out to take the other man’s hand, lightly-callused fingers clasping Edward’s own securely. Dark eyes meet lighter, and he offers a slight smile of reassurance. “Miracles do happen,” he echoes Abigail. She was right, after all. They made them happen all the time.

Pray, she said. He didn’t pray often, not anymore. It wasn’t that he didn’t have faith. He did. He would never have said yes to this mission, never had leapt into that portal, if he didn’t have faith. He knew that things would work out– somehow– for the best. He knew the world would be saved for his children to grow up in. If that wasn’t faith, what was?

Please, he said to himself, his eyes closing, Please help me. Please help this man. I know it’s within your power. And it’s within mine. If you help me.

After so long fighting to keep the Conduits in check, it was counterintuitive to give up control now. But it seemed that’s what he would have to do, and trust in his faith. Because it would work, he told himself, and he believed it in that moment.

He believed in God, he believed in fate, but above all else? He believed in Edward Ray.

Loosening her fingers from around Edward’s as he shifts to offer his hand out, Destiny finds herself letting out a slow breath, realizing then how much tension she’d been holding in. “I’m right here,” she murmurs softly to both of them. Whether they realize or not that she means that as more than simply in an emotional support capacity, she cares very little.

More than she believes in miracles, Destiny believes in the misfortune — the harm they can cause. She bears the weight of that truth many times over. Her optimism wavers, but only for a moment. There’s a distant pang from a place so remote that it doesn’t have enough time to grab purchase and be appreciated for what it is. It isn’t brought about by a fear of the failure of this leap of faith. No. Destiny’s unrealized fear lies in what happens if this endeavor succeeds.

Destiny believes that — one way or another — everyone leaves.

For Richard, it starts with an unusual sensation. Warmth, like sliding his hand into hot bathwater. Then, a prickling tingle that he more associates with the black conduit. But it isn’t cold, and doesn't leave a feeling of emptiness or hunger behind. The warmth spreads up Richard’s arm, accompanied by the faintest white glow between his palm and Edward’s. The look in Edward’s eyes is all the answer Richard needs to know it’s working.

Soon, this feeling of warmth has reached Richard’s chest. It coils around his heart like tightly-clenched fingers and leaves him feeling at once short of breath, but also content and sedate. Like the gentle, soporific caress of anesthesia. Edward’s eyes widen in the same moment, reacting to something he feels from the connection.

Richard,” Edward gasps breathlessly, his grip tightening like a vice. For a moment, Richard’s eyelids droop and he feels the intense call of sleep. A weariness setting in as though he’d been up for days. But when he feels a hand on his shoulder, that weariness lightens just a little. He sees Abby there, in his peripheral vision, for just a moment. Enough to see her smiling, but then—no, just a figment of someone’s imagination. She’s not there anymore. If she ever was.

Destiny cannot feel the exchange happening, cannot feel what Edward and Richard are experiencing, but she can see the miracle playing out before her with crystal clarity. Where, down under the table, she sees the unimaginable.

Edward’s foot moves.

Thirty-Nine Years Earlier

Prime Timeline

Grace Episcopal Church

December 24th

Thick snowflakes fall from a dark night sky. New York is drowned in a sea of white, and there are but few sounds of traffic on Christmas Eve, save for but a few. The muffled din of choir music fills the air half a block down from a brightly lit church sitting on the corner of a quiet, snowy street. Christmas Eve service is well underway and there is not a soul in sight on these cold streets…

…save for one.

A lone man in a puffy blue jacket waddles down the snow-swept sidewalk, cradling a blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. Edward Ray’s glasses are fogged up, making it even harder for him to see at night. He stops a hundred feet away from the church down the street, looking down into the bundle cradled in his arms. A single, tiny hand reaches out and grasps the tip of Edward’s nose, squeezing gently.

Eyes welled up with tears, Edward swallows back a lump in his throat and averts his eyes from the baby in his arms and up to the church. With more haste in his steps, Edward hurries to the stoop of the church, lingering in front of the great, shut doors. He pulls one side open, stepping into a small, candle-lit foyer that empties out into the nave. The pews are filled tonight with people joined together in song.

Edward turns not for the nave, but for a small table nestled near the front door with a donation box set atop it. He lays the bundled child down on the table, tucking the blanket around him tightly. Edward’s mouth works in frustrated motions, struggling to convey an expression other than grief. Instead, he just scrubs a hand down his face and starts to step away and the baby begins to cry. Edward hesitates, then steps back over and lets the tiny baby hold his outstretched finger. He fumbles on the table for a pen and a scrap of paper, and…

…hesitates. Then, like a man possessed, he hastily scribbles something on the paper and tucks it into the baby’s blanket and tears himself away. When the baby begins crying again, Edward doesn’t look back. Instead, he hurries out the doors and shuts them with such an urgency that people at the back of the nave turn around to see what the commotion is about. It’s only then that the crying of a baby elicits looks of concern.

An elderly man in the back row rises from his seat and moves to inspect the noise, finding the baby laying there on the table, abandoned. He steps to the doors, throwing them open to search the street, but there is no one to be seen. He turns back to the table, to the crying baby, and sees the note tucked into the blanket.

It’s just a name.

And an apology.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License