When The World Was At War, We Kept Dancing
The weight of six weeks worth of emptiness dashes in the split second he catches her pilfering grenades in the artillery tent.
His chest puffs with a bursting pride.
That’s his girl.
Hearts thrum frantically against each other when they embrace, an erratic arrhythmia so distinct from the panic and the pain.
It zaps him.
An almighty lightning bolt straight to the heart.
It happens, there, with her.
It doesn't even matter that the clumsiest woman he knows is hugging him with a grenade in her fist.
Now it’s six hours post-Operation Bring Lucy Home.
Four since he almost felt the last wall between him and Lucy cave in.
He watches her slink away in oversized new recruit sweats, a mega-watt smile radiating in her wake.
She’s alive, and they have all the time in the world to be open to the possibilities.
Because he can finally admit to himself that he’s in love with Lucy Preston.
Though the days in the Californian desert are balmy, the evening shift after sundown brings about a toe-numbing draught that often leads to a fight over the thermostat. Wyatt doesn’t give a damn about being toasty in his cot, trained to persevere through sandstorms, avalanche terrain and monsoons, a draught is nothing on his scale of discomfort, but the creaking, groaning pipes that hiss all night are a thorn in his side as a soldier with heightened senses.
That and his roommate’s snoring is so thunderous it gives the nightly chorus of off-tune piping a run for its money.
It’s been six weeks worth of back and forth and he’s fighting a losing battle, leaving him sour when it comes to reconvening for work duty in the morning; if he burns the bacon he doesn’t even feel bad.
The bunker sucks.
It’s become a nightly ritual to sack off the cot full of broken springs and Rufus’ mating call to wild fog-horns with a James Dean movie in the lounge, so it’s no surprise when he finds himself crawling out of his bed and stumbling over a pile of Rufus’ unfolded laundry in search of some damn peace and quiet.
His nightly excursions are in the opposite wing to the Lifeboat launch room, so it’s not often that he runs into Mason who sleeps - surprisingly - even less than he does, but it is a surprise to find a newly rescued Lucy napping into folded arms atop the breakfast table, face pillowed on an open manila folder.
How can she even?
It’s a wonder he barely has time to mull before he’s ambling over and connecting a palm to her shoulder, soothing a gentle friction against her sweater until she’s stirring underneath his fingertips.
“Shhh, it’s just me,” he proffers, fingers sliding her natural curls away from her face as she blinks, heavy-lidded into wakefulness.
He sees the double-take in her eyes when she finally comes to, as though coming home has all been one dreadful lie.
But there’s no dream out there that can replicate the junk-yard stench of The Silo, and when he mentions that to her he earns himself a chuckle that he can feel right down to his draught-numbed toes.
He’s ached to hear her laugh.
“Edward Lewis?” he lifts a WW1 soldier profile that she’d peeled from the side of her face, “I thought Denise was looking into Keynes?”
“She was - is -,” she corrects herself, eyes flicking to her lap, then everywhere and anywhere but him until he nips at her chin with a forefinger and thumb, tilting and encouraging her to face him. They’re better than that. Maybe in the beginning they’d had their trust issues and white lies, but they’ve come so far, dancing along a line of trust he’d only ever shared with one other person in his life.
His thumb traces upwards, sanding over her cheek to break the salted trail that plummets towards her chin. He doesn’t pry because he has a relatively good idea from the date of death in the profile.
But Lucy's voice breaks anyway, just as he pulls her into his lap and holds her through shuddering sobs.
“He’s the man I killed.”
If Wyatt remembers anything of his own experiences post-war, it’s that the meaning of the word “fine” ceases to exist as a bona fide response. It’s figurative, army-issued camo for those days when the burst knuckles and raging ire can’t be excused by a poorly executed mission, or even a lousy jump back to the eighteenth century that leaves you for dead.
With a practised aloofness, the curl of a lip and a shrug it’s the most polite way to tell someone to buzz off and get off your back with the least amount of fallout. As long as people have a way to passive-aggressively signal that the shitty behaviour is pushing the limit, throw out a meaningless “are you okay?”, cue to “I’m fine”, the cycle remains relatively bearable.
It’s a cycle he finds himself in unwittingly that afternoon when the jumbo canister of Folgers coffee comes up empty, sparking a fracas The Silo dubs “Coffee-Gate”.
Their imprisonment in the missile-bunker would have been a mind-blowing, cooler-than-GI-Joe adventure to his six-year-old self, but in his thirties, the dank, draughty reality of living in a glorified tin can isn’t something Wyatt is willing to put up with for an extended period. His Delta Force days had been rough-sleeping at the basest level, living in hells that were far more exposed and intimidating than the generator-powered, hot water-rigged bunker where he had the FBI hand-delivering In-N-Out burger when he’d demanded a night off from cooking.
But his brothers at Pendleton had known the unspoken system of shared-living quarters. Keep to your own. Wash your shit. Rotate on duties. Simple lines in the sand that could be upheld by blunt confrontation or, on the sly, some ham-fisted brawls that reestablished the code.
He didn’t expect non-regimented civilians in The Silo to fall into line from the offset, so Mason looting his IPA stash during the height of rebooting the Lifeboat had him turning a blind eye; the night he caught Rufus and Jiya fooling around on his cot turned him on his heel with a scoffed “wash my damn sheets” thrown over his shoulder; they were aggravations he refused to let be the catalysts for detonating his temper, until one night when another failed attempt at kick-starting the Lifeboat's schematics pushed him towards an empty cooler and no respite.
They had all walked on eggshells for days after that explosion but sometimes pulling the pin was necessary. His weekly IPA delivery - courtesy of Denise’s one luxury limit - had one less hand digging into it after that.
Those were an experimental six weeks cooped up like caged rats, running into each others' space and getting underfoot, but time allowed for a semblance of order to grow. Chair in front of the door if you were showering (which he forgot fifty percent of the time, court-martial him on that one), cap on toothpaste (Rufus’ outburst), dishes left in the sink were punishable by having to make your own meals, or on a more forgiving day receive the last (and most paltry) serving, and pencil in nearing-empty suggestions on the grocery list taped to the refrigerator for the bi-weekly shop.
The last is one that three-day inducted Lucy is unaware of, a fact The Silo is oblivious to until Coffee-Gate blows up in their faces while they’re screening a Weapon of Choice rerun.
“Actually,” Rufus adopts a high-pitch voice, “they wouldn’t even have that under-wiring in the forties."
“The print's all wrong and that threading’s modern,” Wyatt volleys back, eyes darting across the room to where Lucy has pretzeled herself into a hard-back chair.
She doesn't let on if she’s noticed that they're imitating her, wordlessly tucked behind a fortress of encyclopaedias and tomes on a ceaseless hunt to pinpoint any and all altered history from their original timeline. By Wyatt’s count it’s been six or so hours since she’s left her station for more than five minutes, he’s been keeping a watchful - but not overbearing - eye over her by keeping her fed; always making an identical snack for her when he makes his own, flicking the coffee machine on when he walks by and sees the bottom of her mug and dropping a blanket into her lap when a storm rolling through amps up the draught.
If there’s one thing Lucy hates it’s being infantilized (he remembers the glow on her face when she beamed through a retelling of her scolding a NASA scientist), so he doesn’t interfere when she dozes off into a chapter about Marie and Irene Curie’s fall from Nobel Prize heights and into bankruptcy and asylums after a life-long pursuit to develop a project called “Le Vaisseau-Mère”. Lucy is as good a soldier as any these days, and after her abduction, he thinks she’s earned the right to choose how she plays out her hand.
The US Army blanket falls into a heap on the floor as she makes a break for the kitchen, an oversized mug clutched in her hand as she mutters to herself under her breath. If it weren’t for the zoo clustered around the movie he could imagine meeting her at the counter, prying a little to unearth some of those feelings she’d been drowned by on her first night back home. They’d had very little time to talk after being walked in on by Jiya, relegating themselves to an intense scouring of all sources on Nicholas Keynes (her) and preparing yet another team feast for the inept masses (him), and he could already sense the burning curiosity growing within The Silo on the matter of their relationship.
It was none of their damn business. So the side-eyeing and casual attempts to worm information out of him by a passing Jiya during shower rotation had so far left her empty-handed. A thought that trips him into that three-way battle between mind, heart and gut as he fingers the upturned corner of the label on his beer bottle, his constant just under the surface torment that he’s piss-poor at hiding in the best of times.
He distracts himself with Bond, though it’s a crappy choice of distraction because Ian Fleming hasn't even bothered to change her name. There’s a discount version of his own brunette historian being wooed by the British toff, with words that had come out of his own mouth back in ’41. It’s bad enough that he has to watch Connery paw at a Lucy-double, but hearing “I agree with him, but I trust you” no longer feels like a fanboy phrase he can holler at anymore, not after spending six weeks clawing through some of the darkest depths he’d reached in a long time. Fleming can’t plagiarise that.
They're moments away from one of the most expensive SFX explosion scenes in the sixties when everything flips on a dime and an early detonation booms in The Silo kitchen instead.
Wyatt’s quick-fire reaction jerks him off the couch like someone’s lit a fire under his ass as the echo of fractured glass thunders off the steel walls, leaving Bond to play to an empty audience as three other heads whip around at the ruckus.
“Lucy?” his concern tumbles out, eyes darting between the smashed dishes that Mason had cleaned and racked after breakfast, and up to Lucy, who makes no sudden move to clear up the mess. Lucy is inherently clumsy, a trait he's had to watch out for in the field and one that has tested his reflexes time and time again; nine times out of ten he has to pacify her string of apologies with it doesn’t matter, it's not your fault.
This falls under the one time out of ten.
When she doesn’t seem to be able to part with the death-stare she has aimed at the pile of shards, Wyatt approaches gently, with the tentativeness of approaching a skittish cat. He can feel eyes burning into his back, but he only has concern for Lucy, who’s sock-clad feet are too close to the mess for comfort. In seconds he’s stepping over the ceramic landmine and sanding a hand over her back, gently stroking a warm friction along her spine until he’s sure that he’s broken through her trance, assuaged when her lashes flicker upwards and she finally sees him.
“Are you okay?”
It’s dumb. He knows the answer to that before she even knows it herself, he can see it in the pallor of her skin, the dark shores of exhaustion nestled under her eyes. It’s a place he recognises.
“I'm fine,” she deadpans, tonelessly, returning to focus on the air in the empty space between them, “but we’re out of coffee.”
She slips from his fingers wordlessly and disappears down the tunnel, leaving the rest of The Silo staring blankly after her, the shattered dinner plates and mugs still splayed on the bunker floor.
The sounds of heavy gunfire and old-timey quips are the only noise in the room left when he turns back to the group, four pairs of eyes coming to a shared understanding. It's been an adjustment for Lucy since coming back from a self-imposed suicide mission, and the further she falls the higher the risk that she won't bounce back.
It's how he ends up with Lucy snoring on his chest at four in the morning in the fan room, swathed in his checked-shirt, exhausted from detailing her abduction and every Rittenhouse act of brainwashing.
The next time he sets eyes on Emma he's shooting to kill.
And Carol? He doesn't know how such an evil, cockroach of a mother could have ever have brought a light like Lucy into the world.
He fights with Agent Christopher when she deems Lucy fit to jump to Daytona, something Lucy is pissed at him about and it shows when she shoves his hands away as he tries to buckle her in. He huffs, they’ve got Flynn now and as much as he distrusts that rat-bastard it’s a seat he can fill instead of throwing Lucy back into Rittenhouse’s reach.
“Emma wants you dead, Lucy,” he flings at her, desperately trying to tamp down the visceral urge he has to unbuckle her from her seat and shove her out of the Lifeboat himself. They’d just gotten her back. He’d just gotten her back. The splits in his knuckles burn as he clenches a fist through the assault of six weeks worth of that feeling.
“So what was that bomb? A party trick?” she snarks, her dark eyes radiating a fierce, uncompromising challenge, “she wants you on her kill list as much as the Princess of Rittenhouse. Rufus is a bulls-eye.”
“Can we not go there?” Rufus pleads in between them, pausing the Lifeboat launch protocol to chastise them both, “1754 was already a bad year for me, so if we could maybe leave the dramatics for 2018?”
“Fine,” Wyatt throws himself back against his seat.
“Fine,” Lucy mimics him.
It sets the tone for the rest of their trip.
Where he expects Lucy to be she isn’t, when they agree on a plan and execute it she diverts, a maddening series of reckless behaviours that blind him at the most crucial points. It’s NASCAR, the last place he envisions Lucy wanting to split, but when Emma’s hot on his tail and there’s no sign of Lucy he begins to unravel.
Rufus bears most of that brunt.
Until he sees the blue flash of Lucy’s poodle skirt and saddle shoes being shoved into Lee Petty’s Oldsmobile.
It’s a re-run of Bonnie and Clyde when he has to make a split-second decision to force Wendell Scott to high-tail it after Lucy, leaving Rufus to fend for himself in a pre-Civil Rights Act era, but after the kerosene lamp improvisation back in France, he has high hopes that Rufus will muddle through. At least until he has Lucy out of the hands of his now shitty hero.
Things don’t go as he planned.
He catches Lucy with a grunt as she’s tossed into a stock car trunk with him, winded by a thin elbow to the intercostal space between his ribs.
“Jesus, you’re boney,” he gruffs out with a hiss, and all semblances of a fight are allayed for a few seconds as her nimble fingers brush over him in the dark.
“Oh god, I’m sorry - are you okay?” she pants, inches from his face, though she probably has no clue.
“Peachy,” he returns, knees bumping against hers as their ride cuts a corner and sends her careening back into him.
He has an idea that might spare them some roughing up.
“Can I?” he asks, reaching for her hip, or what he damn well hopes is her hip, encouraged when she rolls over slightly and lets him wind an arm around her until they’re flush against each other, “no more elbows in ribs.”
“I’m still mad at you,” Lucy assures, the warmth of her hand settling over his.
“Mad at me?” Wyatt scoffs, swatting at her ponytail as it bunches up in his face, “you were the one pulling a Houdini out there!”
He can practically feel her eyes roll at him.
“Have I not proven myself enough?” Lucy demands, and even in the dark he knows she has that pinched brow, and pursed lips in fierce defiance, “is there some man-code that says that if a woman makes a pass at you, you reserve the right to act like some crazed caveman and forget that I survived six weeks with Rittenhouse? This is my job, Wyatt. My life I’m fighting for. You don't get to raise a red flag after one bad night. You took guns and grenades to the past, illegally stole the Lifeboat and I never said anything. You don’t get to make a call like that.”
It’s all fucking valid isn’t it?
But she’s driving him crazy. When she’s vulnerable, he’s vulnerable, and that says a lot more about him than it does her, but Christ if he can’t handle the thought of Emma and Carol snatching Lucy to slowly and torturously break her. Watching her push food around a plate, sit up at three am with caffeine heartburn after trawling through centuries worth of rewritten history…catching her curled up with her locket in mournful meditation…everything she had has blown up like a fragmentation grenade and he’s just trying to help glue whatever he can back together.
“I'm sorry,” he apologizes, bracing her against him as another cut corner rolls through.
“I’m hurting, Wyatt, more than I thought I could bear,” Lucy softens, a thumb delicately oscillating over the back of his hand, “I was ready to die because I thought I had nothing left to live for. Nothing. Not Amy, not Rufus, not my Mom…and you,” her thumb stalls, “you postponing Pendleton? It’s the most hope I’d felt all year…and then they made me believe in hopelessness. Times may be bleak, maybe sometimes I let it all get the best of me, but I’m still Lucy. Lamp-wielding, fall-at-your-feet-in-an-accidental-way, fangirling history…nerd…you told me what to fight for, and it’s this. I want to be at the end when that Mothership blows up, you, Rufus and Amy by my side.”
The air feels thick, the lump in his throat hard to swallow, but the woman curled into him is a force of nature and he’s floored by her resilience.
“I know we’re in the trunk of your hero’s car going seventy, but this is probably where you kiss me,” Lucy quips, twisting in his hold until he feels her palms settle against his chest.
“No threat of snot or tears this time?” Wyatt’s heart thumps in his ears, “aren’t I lucky?”
This isn’t how he envisions it, trapped in a stock car trunk with Lucy in Daytona Florida, sweltering in the middle of ’55.
But they’ve never really been predictable, have they?
“I can still sock you in the mouth if that’s pref-“
“What the?” Wyatt’s blind descent towards her lips is distracted by something stabbing him in the knee, sliding his hand down he apologizes when he taps at Lucy’s thigh, but there it is, a long, hard rod piercing through the felt of her skirt.
“Oh!” she suddenly gasps, flapping her hands against his chest in excitement, “I may have a tool-belt under my skirt… Houdini's cut-purse trick!”
She can’t see it, but he’s bursting with mega-watt pride all over again.
“Lucy Preston, you’re a goddamn genius.”
Her throaty laugh bursts out in the dark.
“Like I haven’t heard that before.”
The Silo embroils itself in a majorly competitive game of Poker once the designated cleaners have washed and dried the remaining dinner dishes that Lucy hasn’t managed to break yet. A clean escape and take-down of a Rittenhouse sleeper agent the day before (much to Wyatt’s chagrin) still has the bunker in a state of euphoria, and Wyatt prefers that to the bitching over duties and who took who’s what.
The stakes are high.
He eyes the mishmash of personal luxuries piled on the table: half a box of Chocodiles, a pair of slipper socks, an “IOU my next commissary” coupon, a mini-fan, a pack of hair ties and disinfectant spray.
He’s really playing for that dumb spray because he’s over living in squalor and with a four-legged creature that isn’t Mason on his knees looking for a lost Lifeboat component. It was the first time he’d truly ever heard Rufus scream when the rat made an appearance, and though he won’t admit, he still feels the remnants of a shiver electrify his spine whenever he thinks about the little shit scurrying across his cot.
So far, Jiya is clearing up the table because Rufus barely knows his aces from his twos, Lucy is a piss poor bluffer and he’s been distracted by the little lip bite the historian has been sporting since they sat down to the table. If there’s one thing that Lucy isn’t it’s a quitter…even in the face of terrible odds. So, competitive, good-sport Lucy is out in full force and he can’t help but admire her from across the table.
“Tongue in mouth,” Rufus mutters as he reaches past Wyatt to throw down his IPA bottle cap chips.
“One word: rat,” Wyatt snarks back.
Rufus nods in understanding.
In the moments that he’s not being distracted by domestic Lucy in all of her pyjama-wearing, bare-faced radiance he’s managed to build a good hand. In go four IPA caps on his behalf and he receives a goading scoff from Jiya before she returns with an equal bet.
“Thought you’d be better at this, Logan. What did they teach you in Special?”
It turns out non-techie focused Jiya is a bit of a scamp.
“I played this in the middle of Syria, Miri. Under enemy fire.”
“Fighting talk,” Rufus jibes, before stuffing a handful of goldfish crackers into his mouth, “you guys are so A Fish Called Wanda.”
“Over my head, Carlin,” Wyatt throws back, “I told you, you gotta go pop-culture, not cult-culture.”
Lucy nudges Rufus, “I was thinking more Three Amigos, minus an Amigo.”
“Not you too, Preston,” Wyatt rolls his eyes.
It always ends up like this. He lives with a bunch of nerds.
Mason folds, followed by Lucy with “I was out a while ago”, which surprises neither Wyatt or Jiya. Rufus caves a few rounds later and it’s down to The Scamp and his dumb luck. He really wants that spray. That and he heard Lucy complain about cold feet and fifty-year-old grime ruining the two sets of clothes she owns now. So he’s playing for the fucking slipper socks too.
The room sinks into a state of laughable silence when they’re forced to draw.
His hand isn’t the best, but it’ll hold if Jiya’s been bluffing.
When his four of a kind outranks her full-house Mason slaps him with a congratulatory blow on the back. A moment built for trash-talking and gloating suddenly becomes a whole world of pain and gritted teeth when he feels skin split.
It takes them all a moment to work out what just happened, though Lucy is completely oblivious and it starts to unsettle her when Jiya asks if she needs to grab the med kit.
The last thing Lucy needs on her plate is a reminder that her Mom and cohorts tried to take them out, so he plays it off with a stern “I’m fine” and fakes normalcy by swiping his winnings.
“Happy birthday,” he jokes, tossing Lucy the slipper socks and then unpacks a Twinkie just to spite Rufus, all while ignoring the searing pain throbbing across one of his avulsions.
It's an awkward roundtable as he fakes through another few minutes until the table disperses, settling concern until him getting up and beelining for the bathroom means nothing other than he needs to take a whizz.
He makes a point of shoving the chair in front of the door this time.
Arching his back to shrug off his shirt is a task in itself and he uses all memory of Delta Force pain management tactics to stop prying eyes come a running. The blue check shirt falls into the rusted sink, and he’s left in his plain white tee which now sports a bloody splotch across his right scapula.
“Goddamn, Mason,” he grunts, thoroughly pissed. The guy is seriously getting on his nerves.
The white tee joins the sink wardrobe and he checks the damage in the mirror, satisfied to see that it’s only one edge of the avulsion that’s torn. It'll heal quick. That's something he needs asap before he’s on another jump in sweltering heats and a starchy white shirt.
If he gets Jiya to bandage him up again he’ll be good before the Mothership has time to make a move. He fumbles in his pocket for the government-issued untraceable cell and taps out an SOS to Jiya and reads it once over to make sure he’s made it clear: don’t tell Lucy. He doesn't put it as nicely as that but the message is all the same.
He doesn’t even manage to press send before an agonized whimper echoes behind him.
“There’s a chair in front of the door for a reason,” he grumbles.
His resolve is in shreds.
Hearing Lucy hurt for him is like a stinging, red-hot poker to the gut.
The moment the heat from her fingertips sands over his skin he slumps, finally too exhausted to keep up the charade. He’s seen her in some states and hasn’t he insisted on being there? To be the one to cut around the bullshit and let her lean on him in the worst of times? It’s not something he ever wanted to burden her with, but it suddenly feels good to have her there, witnessing his unmasked truth. He hides enough from the world.
“Where do you keep the salve and bandages?” Lucy finally breaks the silence, a resoluteness set in her tone. There’s no way she’s leaving and he knows he can’t make her.
After raiding the shelf behind his cot and stumbling through the door with an additional chair, Lucy gets him to sit while she gloves up and lets him instruct her. Once upon a time, she would have run away at the mere inkling of a wound, barely able to sit in the same room as his gun-shot to the left flank, but the war against Rittenhouse is desensitizing her.
When all of the salving and bandaging is done she breaks down, “I can’t believe you were this close.”
“Hey,” he soothes, tugging on the hand curled around his shoulder, prompting her to circle round and face him; it breaks his heart to see her flickering, damp lashes, “these are just hazards of the job. I’ve seen much worse in the field…people died in there, I was more than lucky with these scratches.”
“We can’t let Emma get away with this, Wyatt,” her eyes darken with that fierceness he’s come to know since her rescue from Rittenhouse, “she’s a monster.”
“Then all the better to take this and use it as motivation, Luce. Don’t fixate on the pain or what it’s done to me, channel it into finding every dirty little secret those bastards have and use it to bring them down. Can you do that, for me?”
Her tears stem.
“That’s my girl.”
It’s a damn near miracle Wyatt thinks as Rufus barrels through the hotel room door, arms laden with stolen Paramount lot costumes.
“My powers of invisibility are still intact,” he explains, dumping the lot onto the bed, “Lucy, I don’t know women’s sizes but this looks like it’d fit.”
Wyatt has to disentangle his hands from Lucy’s hair at the speed of light because as soon as Rufus has pulled a white and gold gown from a garment carrier she’s suddenly flapping her hands and squealing in excitement. It only takes seconds before she’s snatching it from Rufus and twirling with it on the spot.
Rufus is bewildered, “I guess that’s a well done?”
Wyatt gives him a shrug, equally confused and still holding cooled hair rollers in his hands, but it’s all moot at the sight of Lucy in a burst of happiness.
“Is this a white girl thing?”
Lucy gently comes to from her dizzying heights and blushes, glancing over at him and then back to Rufus with a nod.
“Maybe,” she admits, still holding the dress against her body, “but do you even know what this dress is?”
Wyatt and Rufus shake their heads in unison, they have no clue but Wyatt’s sure they’ll get the rundown based on the glimmering excitement flashing in her eyes, the moment right before he knows she’s about to school them in that bursting at the seams way of hers.
He can’t believe he used to find it annoying.
“The Philadelphia Story? Tracy Lord?” she posits, garnering another round of blank looks from them.
“Katharine Hepburn?” her voice transitions to pleading.
Wyatt has a vague idea of who she means but he keeps quiet.
“Audrey Hepburn’s sister? Cousin?” Rufus throws out on a whim, though Wyatt knows he’s probably never watched a movie before the sixties unless it had aliens and quantum physics in nerdy quantities.
“A common mistake,” Lucy shakes her head, accidentally loosening some of the leftover rollers which sends her right back to the chair in front of Wyatt, dress still clutched against her chest, “Katharine was - is - an actress, the definition of a modern woman in the thirties and forties. She wore slacks, walked around bare-faced and refused to let the media into her life, they almost destroyed her career when she refused to play the Hollywood game. They labelled her “Box office poison”, critics panned her…until she reinvented herself with The Philadelphia story. This dress…it just represents a middle finger to the patriarchy,” she sighs, giddily.
Wyatt's heart is thumping against his chest. He doesn’t care that Rufus shoots him an I-know-I-was-right smirk while Lucy’s distracted by her examination of her gown. It doesn’t stop him from untangling hairpins and twisting out curls at her instruction, though his hands are a little less steady now. They’re nineteen years before their Daytona trunk entrapment, twenty-three years post grenade hug and lightning to his soul, and seventy-seven years away from a present where he’s fighting all odds and biding his time to give his heart away.
She gives him life and the world is a whole lot less dark when Lucy’s around.
When they’re all dressed to the nines, powdered, bow-tied and rehearsed, there’s a moment just as he’s following Lucy out of the hotel door, when she halts, just out of Rufus’ earshot and leans into him with a coy smile.
“Very Macaulay Connor,” she bites down on her painted ruby lip and flutters her lashes, his lapel slatted between her fingers, then sashays away, glinting under the hotel lights.
It’s a moment in time that he’ll savour, even seventy-seven years from now.
Rufus doesn't tell them that he hadn't technically gotten them invited to the grandest party in all of La La Land. The techie-turned-playwright is forced to improvise on the not-on-the-guest-list issue and his go-to remedy is to introduce them as event performers, the next big singing duo “White Folks”.
“Like Kenny Baker and Frances Langford?” Wyatt hisses when they’re over the threshold, horrified at being labelled a musician. He barely survived 1941 Germany when he spoke the damn language, but this was so far out of his depth. What did he know about music pre-Led Zeppelin? Squat.
“It got us through the door, didn’t it?" Rufus snaps back, then tosses a thumb in Lucy’s direction, “if anyone gets fishy get Lucy to throw out a tune, she sings all the time in the shower. She's not that bad.”
Lucy gasps, flushing beet red.
“You can hear that?!”
“Acoustics, Lucy,” Rufus admonishes, and while he’s on the topic something flashes in his mind, “and for the record, could you sometimes shake it up from John Denver? I’m getting a country road complex.”
“I - um - no more John Denver," she concedes, palms cupped over her flaming cheeks, “but if we get pulled up on this I’m not doing it on my own,” she turns to Wyatt, steely-eyed.
“I need a drink,” Wyatt growls, snatching a tumbler from the tray of a passing cocktail waitress and throws it back without so much as a wince, “now let’s go find the bastard that stole this movie.”
Wyatt really tries not to let his jealousy get the better of him when Lucy worms her way into William Randolph Hearst’s circle, a clenched fist shoved into his pocket at the sight of Hearst’s hand sliding across her waist and settling on her hip.
“That's gotta ruffle some feathers, huh?” Rufus sidles back up to him after scoping out the ballroom for Emma and co.
“What?” he scoffs back with as much conviction as he can muster, “some glorified Rittenhouse paper-boy?”
He doesn’t respond, waiting for the silence to transform into something less invasive than his overt green-eyed envy towards the sleeper.
“You know she probably knows?” Rufus pauses on his champagne, undeterred by the peeved side-eye Wyatt throws at him, “I mean, I thought maybe you already told her, Jiya said -.”
“Jiya said what?”
Rufus has the grace not to be offended by his snap response, already glaringly awkward about having admitted to knowing something about that first night back at The Silo, but as always, Rufus is a lending ear to problems he would otherwise sideline or pussyfoot around.
Wyatt takes a breath, then tells him to go on, against the anvil in his gut.
“Just…what are you waiting for? I lived with you for every day of those six weeks, thought you’d burn everything to the ground just to get to her. Now she’s here and what? Cat got your tongue? You’re wasting time with every day you let her think there’s not a chance, and she’s not going to say it first because of your wife.”
That punches Wyatt straight in the gut.
It’s a revelation that drags like a ball and chain for the rest of the evening, tripping him at every corner until he's shoving Lucy through a set of red curtains and on stage after being hunted down by event management.
He’s winded for the second time that night.
Gritty bathroom performer Lucy is nothing in comparison to what he sees on stage.
Everything is overshadowed by the willowy brunette who blossoms from a nervy, timid opening to a presence that transfixes and awes from the stage to the balconies. It’s a birthing of a Lucy he hadn’t yet met, a window into the woman who could have been if not for her Rittenhouse royalty and the unjust destiny thrust into her lap.
It both stuns and saddens him.
But mostly, it brings back that strike of lightning tenfold.
Gone is any hope for following the operation when Lucy slinks back through the curtain, rosy with delight. He barely gives her a moment to collect herself before he’s marrying their hands and waltzing her into the nearest empty hotel room, bursting with unspoken truth.
He knows he must look wild, as deliriously electrified as he had been racing in Daytona with his childhood heroes, but Lucy doesn’t seem to understand the reference in this, wordlessly eyeing him with a mixture of confusion and euphoria.
“What’re you-,”she barely manages to breathe before he’s telling her to hear him out, currents coursing through his veins.
He has so many words to say, so many tamped down feelings that he’s bottled up for god knows how long and it’s all failing to come out coherently. It takes him cupping her jaw and smoothing a thumb over her skin like a blind man reading braille before he’s anchored enough to get past the jittery mess of truth lodged in his throat.
“You know you saved my life?” he exhales with a tremor, magnetised to the set of tawny eyes brimming with growing discernment, “back in The Alamo I was ready to give up; I was a dead man walking…you got me to wake up from that hell.”
“Wyatt,” she whispers, cheek curling into his palm reverently.
His heart is jack-hammering against his ribcage, fierce and resolute.
By god he loves her.
He’s lost so much, more than his fair share, but he’s found so much more along the way.
In goes the grenade.
“I fell in love with you, Lucy; right there in the middle of the farmhouse in ’34. Then again in ’55. In fact,” he laughs, “I’ve fallen for you in every century since 1754.”
It’s a scintillating moment before he dares to prove that confession, walking a tightrope between wanting to purge even the tiniest moments that make him weak at the knees for her and ending another second without having kissed Lucy Preston.
It’s the latter that wins out.
He kisses her and the world falls away.
The blast radius knows no boundary when he’s twirling Lucy in his arms, knocking into an armchair and a bedpost, drunk on the high of their mutual thirst for more. It’s a kaleidoscopic spin under the chandelier, out onto the balcony and into the moonlight before either breaks for breath.
Lucy's brimming with unshed tears.
“It’s felt like forever since 1934.”
“Eighty-four years,” Wyatt confirms.
Her giggle is a hymn to his ears.
“What took you so long?”
He doesn’t have an answer for that, probably never will, but punctuates his answer with something better, a kiss and a silent promise to be open to any and all possibility with Lucy Preston.
The woman he loves openly.
It’s just past midnight in The silo, the creaking, groaning pipes bellowing down the halls.
Wyatt’s awake, scooping newly purchased Folgers into a filter and fighting a yawn into the back of his hand. He blearily drops a sugar lump into one mug and cream into another, stirs and juggles them over to the coffee table, cursing when he can’t find a free space for the library Lucy’s made of the area.
“Goddamnit,” he hisses, burning the length of his thumb when he nudges a mug a little too hard.
“You know asking for help might save you a few burns down the road?” Lucy tips her head up from the book in her lap, nose crinkled at his determination.
"I've got it, see,” he shrugs, finding purchase for the last two of three unbroken mugs.
He’s looping back to settle behind her when she begs him to crank up the volume on their portable transistor radio, just a little. They’re far away enough from the door that he concedes, unwilling to share the night with anyone other than the historian glued to Keynes’ manifesto.
Nights spent half-watching James Dean movies have been put on indefinite leave for the foreseeable future.
She shuffles forward a little as he slips back into place behind her, bracketing her with his knees before settling her back against his chest with a satisfied sigh. Contented is a word he’s evaded for a long time, but slowly and surely it’s a feeling Lucy is bringing back into his life with every free moment they manage to grasp, whether it be washing the dishes, doing Silo laundry or these midnight trysts.
He palms a warm friction along her bicep and under the sleeve of his shirt that she’s wearing, waiting while she places an encyclopaedia of twentieth-century history aside and grasps a thick black book embossed with the initials LP in the corner.
“We’re doing this?” she peers up at him for confirmation.
“Might as well look at what we’re heading into, right?” he shrugs, “if you think you wrote it you’ll know soon enough.”
“You won’t hate me if I call you a jackass? I called you that a lot in my head back in Jersey,” she distracts herself from the first bookmarked page, gnawing at her bottom lip. His muted laugh rattles her against his chest. It’s such a Lucy thing to be concerned about considering Flynn’s ambiguous and shady references to the black book. He knows, deep down, there are things in there that neither probably want to read or relive, but they’ve made a promise to fight for a future. If that means preparing themselves and evening the playing field against Rittenhouse it’s something he’s willing to face.
He wants out of all of this and to take Lucy with him.
His lips come to settle at her temple, one, two soft kisses before he urges her to turn the cover.
“Okay, just remember - insults are forgiven. Statute of limitations.”