Elliot's leg throbs as he maneuvers his truck through the twists and turns of the interstate. The only thing taking his mind off of his leg is the dull ache in his shoulder. Both are lasting reminders of his misadventure with Vance . Eliot pulls off the highway and into the parking lot of a small diner, he needs to rest and he could use a break and some food. The pain makes it hard to focus and he has a long drive ahead of him.
The diner reminds Eliot of simpler times in his life, a time before life became so very complicated. Eliot takes a seat at the counter, ordering up comfort food to soothe his soul. A glance toward the pie case makes him smile at the thought of Parker's usual reaction to such a wealth of treats. The chocolate addiction was a trait inadvertently passed down by Sophie. The lilt of Parker's laughter rings through Eliot's mind as he digs into his burger and gravy fries.
The diner is truly Eliot's kind of place, filled with truckers and locals. Eliot makes small talk with the waitress as he pays his tab. For a brief moment he takes a look at the scenery through the window with a warm smile, it has been a long time since he spent time in familiar surroundings. This drive used to be second nature to him, he could still do it blindfolded. As he restarts his truck, Eliot's mind fills with a jumble of incomplete thoughts from his past colliding with the present.
Eliot takes a look at himself in the rear view mirror as he backs from his space. How different he looks now. He is a different man now. Long gone is the soldier with the high and tight hair and crisp uniform. Father Time has etched more than a few lines on his face and his work has left him with a body covered with enough scars to give Frankenstein a run for his money. Eliot is quite certain that if he gets shot again, he will start setting off metal detectors in airports from all the shrapnel. Eliot tucks his hair behind his ear with a flick of his finger before placing the truck into drive.
The invitation from an old friend was one that he could not refuse. Lately, Eliot's past has been calling. This last DC job with Vance was the prelude to an unexpected invitation. Eliot knows that he needs this. He needs to make peace with parts of his past. The invitation was one of fate after running into an old friend and far be it for him to tempt the hand of fate. The air grows colder as Eliot continues northward with the changing colors of the trees. Eliot takes in the sight of the exit towards Boston with a smile. So much of his life is tied to that city but he dare not set foot back there. He is still wanted in Boston and his time is better spent on this side of prison walls.
Eliot crosses border after border until he pulls into the familiar seaside town in Maine. He rolls down the window a bit for a sniff of the cool salt air. The place looks the same as the last time he was here. This was a place where time seems to have stood still in the best possible way. Eliot makes his way down the narrow streets to the outskirts of town. The main drag becomes the country road that leads up to the inn. As he pulls into the parking lot of the Inn, the image before his eyes could be straight from a Normal Rockwell postcard..
The Inn is grand in the colonial style with wrapping porches and clapboard siding. The rose garden is wrapped for the approaching winter's nap in burlap. The hedges and bushes are the bare framework of their sculpted summer forms with their leaves beginning to fall. The air is filled with wood smoke from the chimney. The porch lights are on in anticipation of his arrival which guide Eliot's way to the entrance. The sight of this place was always a pull at the heartstrings. It was one of the few places that Eliot left a sense of belonging. He can see the flicker of light as the front door opens, Paddy and Mickey walk from the porch towards the truck as Eliot grabs his bag from the front seat.
Eliot winces as he is slapped on the back and wrapped up in a hug by Paddy. Eliot turns to see Connie coming up from behind Paddy. Eliot's unit was like role call at an Irish bar and it amuses him to this day. Paddy grabs Eliot's bag from his hand as the three walk into the Inn. As they cross the threshold, they are greeted by Paddy's mother, Mrs Hannigan. Mrs Hannigan is a wisp of a woman who was 5 ft of concrete when cross. Her features have soften to becoming that of a doting grandmother over time. Mrs Hannigan lavishes kisses and hugs on all of the men as they enter. When they came to the Inn on leave, they were family and it still feels that way today.
The Inn has not changed with the old world grandeur remaining intact. The atmosphere is warm and inviting with the spirit autumn of the season is everywhere with the scent of wood smoke wafting through the air. There is something about Maine that always soothed Eliot's soul. Maine became home over the years spent coming back here. The boys are ushered directly into the the kitchen. Mrs Hannigan immediately plies her boys with coffee and pie to refresh them after their long drives. The conversation comes easy and the hours fly by into the evening without a glance to a watch or a phone. The company distracts Eliot's mind from the aches and pains of his wounds from the DC job. The four of them end up sitting by the fire in the study sipping brandy by nights end. Eliot has not felt this at home for so very long. Nate, Sophie, Parker and Hardison are his family but this was his family in his previous life. There is no need for pretense; there is no need for explanation. Eliot is truly at ease in this company. He can let his guard down and relax. They linger in conversation well into the night. As the hour falls between really late and way too early, the men retire to their rooms. Eliot takes in the warmth of the blankets as he drifts off to sleep. He peacefully drifts into his dreams. As his mind calms, he is transported back to his first visit to the Inn. The smells and sounds of the house are a lullaby.
Eliot wakes in the morning from the most restful sleep that he has had in a very long time. Eliot's worries seem light years away until he rolls over awaking the aches and pains of the bullet wounds. Eliot lies flat breathing heavy breaths until the wave of agony subsides. A glance out the window reveals autumn leaves dancing on breeze in the icy morning air. Eliot can hear everyone beginning to stir downstairs and he can use some coffee to clear his head. Eliot steps into the steam of the shower to bring him back to center before he joins the others in the kitchen.
As Eliot crosses the threshold of the kitchen door, Paddy offers Eliot a cup of coffee in relay race fashion. Eliot follows Paddy as they walk out to the back porch with a view of the barns. Eliot notices that the horses are out and appear to have been fed. He can see the sleep still in Paddy's eyes and by sleep… he means the hangover. Paddy could not have been the one to tend to the horses. Eliot wonders if again perhaps he has managed to curry the favor of fate in presence of perhaps another long lost friend still being close by.