The Pawn And The Prince, Part III



Scene Title The Pawn and the Prince, Part III
Synopsis Family is all that matters.
Date October 13, 2019

A chilly September has made way for a cold October. But around the warm, crackling glow of a campfire, it's hard to tell.

Boots up on the stones surrounding the fire, Peter Petrelli stares vacantly into the crackling flame. His knees bent and arms propped up on them. He leans back against a partial wall of old brick covered in creeping ivy, the exterior of a house that no longer stands. New Jersey isn't what it used to be, especially not these days. Rolling the neck of a beer bottle between his calloused fingers, Peter creases his brows and looks over to the glow of a cigarette in the dark of night, then back to the campfire. "Sometimes I wonder if this'll ever be over," Peter wonders aloud, exhaling a sigh through his nose. His company for the night says nothing. Peter closes his eyes, rubbing a hand at his forehead before exhaling a weary, long-suffering sigh that is louder than the last.

"I hate this," Peter says to no one in particular, especially not the only other person by the fire, silently smoking in the night.

"I hate not knowing."


Invocation of his name has Peter snapping to from a daydream, looking to the passenger in the beat up pickup truck he's driving. The old man he's driving swallows raggedly, offering a look over to Peter before motioning to the vacant stretch of road they're driving down. "You missed the turn." Peter looks back to the road, shaking his head in frustration, though he plays it off as disagreement.

"There's always another fork," Peter says into the air, less so at his passenger. The old man exhales a wheezy laugh and rolls his eyes, then looks out the passenger-side window at the passing trees interspersed by rural farmland. "What's so funny?"

"She sure has a type," the old man notes, taking a drag from his cigarette before exhaling twin jets of smoke out his nostrils. Peter's wordlessly accusing stare elicits a click of the old man's tongue. "Not like that. What I'm saying is that she goes for older, paternal types. For protection. First it was that soldier, Epstein," he says with a curl of his upper lip, which elicits a look back from Peter.

"Epstein." There's incredulity in Peter's tone. "Like, Avi Epstein?" The old man nods, ashing his cigarette out the window. "He's… Wolfhound, right?" The old man shrugs, either not knowing or not caring enough to share. "So, who else?"

"Me," the old man says, looking back to Peter with a yellow-toothed smile.

"You." Is Peter's incredulous deadpan.

The old man smiles, chuckling between his words. "Well, you know, I wanted to protect the person she was." That much elicits a look from Peter, one brow raised and hands drumming on the wheel.

"You know who she is?" Peter asks, looking back at the old man. He snorts, taking his time savoring another bit of his cigarette before shaking his head in the negative.

"Not anymore," he replies. "Not since whatever happened in New Mexico."

Peter narrows his eyes, looking from the road to his passenger. "What happened in New Mexico?"

"Some damn fools tore a hole in time," is his answer, followed by a gout of smoke rolling out of his mouth. He blinks a dark-eyed look back to Peter, one brow accusingly raised. Peter scoffs, wringing his hands in a tight grip around the steering wheel. It takes him a while to formulate a proper response, reorienting the jigsaw pieces of context. He comes up lacking, missing some contextual clue to put it all into focus.

"Samson?" Peter asks his passenger.


"Mmn?" Is Samson's nonverbal response, eyes on the road, cigarette butt flicked out the window.

"Who was she before that?" Peter's attention momentarily drifts back to the road, to which Samson looks at Peter as though their stare was engaged in some reciprocal measure of give and take. Samson looks down to his old, weathered hands, then back up to Peter.

"Eileen Ruskin." Samson replies, thoughtfully. Peter's brows furrow together, and he looks back at Samson thoughtfully.

"The woman I was questioning called her— "

"Gray," Samson shakes his head as he interjects. "I know."

"I don't— "

"I don't either," Samson says with a rise of his brows, "except that my boy must've married her finally." Samson jerks forward at the sound of screeching tires as Peter slams on the brakes in the middle of the road. The old man braces with a weathered hand on the dashboard, then breaks out into a fit of coughing. Peter turns to him, eyes wide and accusatory.

"You're his father?" Peter balks and all Samson can do is laugh hysterically between coughs. He claps a hand on the handle of the door, the other hand balled into a fist in front of his mouth. Peter's tension relents when he sees Samson struggling for breath, eyes flicking from side to side as he tries to make sense of what it is he's seeing. What it is that is clearly killing this old man, other than the mostly empty pack of cigarettes in his breast pocket.

Samson looks up, tears in his eyes from laughter. "God you're slow," he says with a coarse exhalation of breath. "Of course he's my son."

"I thought— "

"You didn't," Samson shoots back. "It's fine. We're estranged, but I still… want him t'be happy. He nearly lost her." Samson looks up to Peter. "Ruskin. It's a long story, but they're together now, and that's all that matters. Them and their son."

"Astor?" Peter asks, but all Samson does in response is look tellingly at the road ahead that isn't getting any closed in their stall. Peter swallows the remainder of his question and shifts the truck back into drive, and resumes their journey.

"We were talking about the girl," Samson redirects the conversation. "The last time I saw her was a long time ago. It didn't end well, I couldn't… be there for her. Help. So I stayed away. Then another Eileen showed up, I imagine through the same bullshit that got everyone killed years ago." Peter's eyes narrow at that, looking incredulously at Samson.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Peter asks, but Samson doesn't bother to educate him on the topic. Instead, he waves a hand dismissively in the air, then plucks the cigarette pack out of his pocket.

"Nothing," Samson dismisses, tucking the new cigarette in his mouth. "What I'm trying t'say is… the girl isn't who she used to be. Whoever's in there is just… a hitchhiker." Samson snaps his fingers, igniting the head of his cigarette with a conjured spark. Peter tenses at the application of power, fearing what it might mean for how it was acquired, given the family tree. Exhaling a sharp snort of a sigh, Peter looks up ahead at the road. But he doesn't interrupt Samson, not after he's gotten him talking this long. "What's important is that we don't miss the next exit."

Peter shakes his head, he should've seen that coming. "How're you so sure of where she is?" He asks, to which Samson shrugs, then taps the side of his head with two cigarette-laden fingers.

"You're not the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve," Samson explains, and for now that's all Peter needs to hear. But something lingers for Samson, a question unanswered that he's had a suspicion about. He looks out the window, letting some time pass. The landscape rolls by, old and dilapidated farm houses, crumbling intersections. There's long stretches of nothing but overgrown farmland and empty, gray-cast skies. Halfway through his cigarette, Samson looks back to Peter, having let the question simmer long enough.

"You blew up in Midtown," Samson starts, plucking his cigarette from his lips and letting the wind rolling in from the open window suck smoke from his mouth, "twice." His brows rise at that. "In my book, once is a coincidence and twice is a conspiracy. Care to share your secret of eternal life?" His bushy, gray brows rise. Peter's expression goes distant, hands gripping the wheel tighter this time, forearms tense. He looks across the truck cab to Samson, drawing in a slow and deep breath.

"How'd you survive all that?"

Peter isn't sure how to answer.

"Not knowing's one of the most constant things in life," the man across the fire from Peter says, taking a drag on his cigarette in the dark. Peter closes his eyes to hide the fact that he's rolling them at the long-belated answer.

"That was almost a half hour ago," Peter says in response, bringing his beer up to his mouth and taking a swig.

"Was it?" The man across the fire asks. "Huh, must've dozed off. You know, because you're such an interesting fucking conversationalist." Peter shakes his head in response to the jab, drinking again. "But I mean what I said. Not knowing something's the most constant thing you'll experience in life. There's more shit in the world than there are labels to categorize it. Stop worrying about trying to figure every single little thing out, and just go along for the ride."

"That how you live?" Peter asks over the neck of his beer.

"It is now." The smoking man comments. "I spent a good chunk of my life looking for answers, trying t'build a narrative to shit that was just fucking coincidence." He laughs, bitterly, the end of his cigarette blooming in the dark between breaths. "You know that old spooks saying: once is a coincidence, twice is a conspiracy?"

Peter looks across the fire with brows raised. "Can't say I do."

"It's a thing, trust me," his company for the night insists. "Anyway, it's bullshit. Everything is a coincidence. There's no big plan, there's no conspiracy. Not on a big enough view. Everything is just a bunch of fucking monkeys trying to make the world have any sort of meaning." Peter looks into the fire, searching for answers there. It doesn't have an opinion.

"So, what's anything matter then? Why're you fighting?" Peter asks, pitching his empty bottle into the fire. The flames rise up, embers gust into the air, carried on colder winds. He can hear the man across from him shifting his position, getting up to stand if the movement of the cigarette's glowing ember is any indication.

He walks around the fire, cigarette bobbing up and down in his mouth. "Family," hits home for Peter. In turn, he looks up with a nod of recognition. Not everything that was said makes sense, but the heart of it matters most. Don't sweat the details, focus on the people closest to you. It's strangely poetic, and Peter had never taken him for a particularly wise man.

"Now let's stop jerking each other off," is the unexpectedly crass follow-up, followed by a gloved hand offered down to Peter.


"We've got a war t'win."

"Easy," Peter says to Samson, looking over to him in the passenger seat as he clicks the turn signal for the upcoming exit.

"I didn't."

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