Chapter 1: So Long, and Thanks for All the History
December 25, 2023
“Look at it this way,” Wyatt remarked, buckling Lucy into place, “you might save them all.”
She choked on her buried grief. Rufus. Jiya. Denise. Flynn. They’re the only reason she agreed to this plan. Rittenhouse needed control of the journal and Wyatt jumped at the opportunity, overjoyed to strip away the last physical connection between Lucy and Flynn. If it saved her friends...well those were hard to come by these days.
“Well, not all.” He shoved away, sneering as if he knew her thoughts drifted to Flynn and his sacrifice. “He’ll still die. Just after he’s served his purpose.”
The journal pressed into her leg, heavy with the weight of failing everyone. This was her only hope. Lucy wanted to run, to get as far away from Rittenhouse as she could, but their influence spanned the globe. Running left her no chance of survival. And it wouldn’t save them.
“It’s for the best,” she played along. The mask came easily.
It crossed her mind to slip a clue to Flynn while she finished writing the journal, but Wyatt read every word, searching for her betrayal. Lucy managed only one, in the entry about the O.K. Corral and the day he died. She had to lie anyway, Wyatt couldn’t let her tell him the truth, so it had been easy enough to slip in reference to Chinatown and a conversation that never occurred. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Lucy and Flynn spoke of Brutus and the Ides of March. She pretended to remember Flynn’s imaginary fear that Wyatt Earp might betray Doc Holliday. Wyatt had no way of knowing that she wasn’t ecstatic Flynn’s heroes weren’t traitors.
She knew that if Flynn could’ve chosen his death, he would’ve wanted to go down fighting beside Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
With the addition of Emma and her goons, the outlaws overwhelmed the lawmen, the battle now lasting far longer than thirty seconds. In the time it took Emma to shoot Lucy as she tried to reason with the redhead, and Flynn to catch her falling body, dragging her to safety, gunfire erupted all around them.
He pleaded with her to stay with him. Hazel eyes filled with unshed tears. Virgil Earp took a bullet in the shoulder. Flynn tugged a bandana from around his neck and pressed it to her wound. Lucy lost track of where the pain ended and his hands began. Doc Holliday went down on one knee, bleeding from his hip. She tried to reach for Flynn’s cheek, to reassure him, her fingertips leaving swipes of blood on his jawline.
Jiya pulled her from his arms; she wanted to stay there. If she was going to die, she’d rather it be with him. One of the McLaury brothers killed Morgan Earp and the other shot Wyatt Logan in the thigh, taking him out of the fight. Anguish flooded Flynn’s face knowing they’d never escape with their lives and Rittenhouse would get the Lifeboat.
He bent down, pressing his lips to hers. Soft. Warm. Home. Goodbye, my heart. Commanding Jiya, “Get her to the Lifeboat.” He pulled both guns from his holster and rose.
“I love you, Lucy Preston.”
Flynn turned to face the battle. She screamed despite her wound, watching as he took a bullet in the shoulder and kept firing. Earp and Holliday flanked him as the desperate team scrambled away, leaving Flynn behind to save their lives. The last thing she saw before the Lifeboat door hissed close was the sight of a rifle blast tearing through his body.
Lucy tucked away the memory, swallowing her tears. She focused on saving the team and believing that Garcia Flynn would find a way to cheat death. Just because Rittenhouse had plans didn’t mean he’d comply with them.
“That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”
Wyatt reached for her seatbelt and she slapped his hand away. Seeing Flynn again, alive and searching her face for answers, tore through her carefully constructed barriers designed to keep her from falling apart. She couldn’t work against Rittenhouse if she was in pieces. So she averted her eyes, catching only his annoyed glimpses in her peripheral. She didn’t throw herself at Flynn, forcing him into the Lifeboat, saving his life this time. What more did they want from her? She had no doubt Wyatt had orders to kill both of them if she went rogue.
No, she stuck to the plan. Flynn would be waiting for her in the bunker when they landed. He just would. If not, she’d burn down the world to bring him back. She didn’t care anymore. They’d taken everything from her, she had nothing left to lose.
“I told Emma we should have left you behind.” Wyatt sighed, punching in the coordinates. “You could use a good mind wipe.”
Lucy growled, unsure where the sound came from, but it fit the situation, so she accepted the visceral reaction. “I did what was asked of me, now do me the favor of shutting the fuck up.”
They tumbled through time and her heart slammed against her ribcage, a combination of angry adrenaline and unadulterated hope. They’d land and he’d be alive. They’d fix this together. She should’ve suspected Wyatt the moment he brought Jess into the bunker, but they'd all chalked it up to the fact that his dead wife wasn’t so dead after all. Any of them would’ve done the same.
Only a Rittenhouse agent would’ve withheld information detrimental to the team.
She should’ve known better. She didn’t. Not until after Flynn died.
The Lifeboat stilled and Lucy’s heart stuck in her throat. Had her clue been enough? Wyatt inputted the opening sequence and the door hissed, the rusty, cool air of the bunker rushing in. He’d be alive. Waiting for her. Waiting to fight at her side where he belonged.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” A little girl’s voice filtered into the small space. Lucy fumbled with her buckle, hope making her fingers clumsy. Flynn survived and they’d created a family. She couldn’t wait to meet their child. To see his hazel eyes on their daughter’s face. She rushed out, beating Wyatt down the stairs. Scanning the bunker she saw the team: Denise, Rufus, Jiya, they were all alive. Tears streamed down her cheeks as tiny arms wrapped around her knees. Bending down, she picked up the dark-haired little girl with Garcia Flynn’s smile. “Mommy, I missed you!”
Missed you? They shouldn’t have been gone that long. A couple of hours at most.
Denise crossed to meet them, eyeing the tears on Lucy's face. Rufus and Jiya followed close behind, pulling Lucy into a half hug. “How was your honeymoon?”
Honeymoon? Lucy surveyed the bunker, still rusted and creaking, but with a state of the art bank of computers. The kitchen tables now lacquered within an inch of their wooden lives rather than stained linoleum. Plush black couches covered in forest green throw pillows rather than cracked seventies pleather. The changes unsettled her.
Agent Christopher finally noticed the cargo pants and worn t-shirts. The blunt haircut and the circles ringing her eyes. Before she could comment, the little girl in Lucy’s arms squirmed, wriggling out of Lucy’s grasp and running behind her.
Oh god, no. Not Wyatt. She made to turn, but Jiya held out a carefully wrapped box. “This is from me and Rufus. It’s about damn time you two made it official.”
“How’s it feel to be Mrs. Wyatt Logan?” Rufus asked, nudging her with an elbow.
Her stomach plummeted, but before Lucy could formulate a response, the little girl in Wyatt’s arms yelled at the top of her lungs.
“Flynn! Mommy and Daddy are home.”
Flynn? Had he survived after all? Her head whipped to Wyatt, face lined with anger, on the verge of exploding. He let the child slide down his side, fingers twitching to the weapon on his hip.
Denise clucked in disappointment. “Amy, we’ve talked about your indoor voice. Your grandmother would be quite disappointed in you.”
The little girl hung her head in shame, tears hovering on her long dark lashes. Jiya bent down, pulling her in for a hug. “Go let your sister know your parents are back from vacation. You know how she gets when she’s reading. She probably didn’t hear the Lifeboat land.”
Denise finally confronted the obvious. “What’s up with the dystopian chic? That’s not very--” Realization dawned on her face. “You’re them. The future Lucy and Wyatt who came back and gave us the journal. It’s been five years, I’d nearly forgotten.”
“This isn’t our timeline,” Lucy choked out, lost as the present settled over her. She had two daughters, who called Wyatt Daddy even though they were obviously Garcia’s. There’d be only one reason for their names, Flynn and Amy. Lucy obviously failed to save either of them. Again. “How did he die?”
Denise studied the woman before her. She looked exhausted, beaten. Lucy’s shoulders were squared against the worst, but she seemed brittle. As if she had battled for too long. And her first question had still been about Garcia Flynn.
She tried to be tender when answering. “Someone had to go back and take care of Jess. Flynn stole the Lifeboat, sacrificing himself to save Rufus. He didn’t make it back.”
“Didn’t make it back--” She was losing him all over again.
Wyatt glared, cutting her off. “We’ve just returned from that mission. There’ll be time for nostalgia later, we need an update.”
Jiya glanced at Rufus, confused by Wyatt’s brusque attitude, but she didn’t know the world they came from. She’d give him the benefit of the doubt until she got the truth from Lucy. That woman never could keep the truth from her.
“After Flynn removed Jess from the timeline and we had Rufus back, Denise rescued us from dying in North Korea in the fifties. We thought we’d won.” A shadow crossed her expression and Lucy wondered at it. “We were home not more than a week when Ben and Carol told us the truth. Emma survived and made it back to steal the Mothership. She’d been working for Mason Industries the whole time.”
"Mason Industries? Wait, what?" Lucy waited for an explanation. Any explanation would do at this point.
“I still can’t believe he betrayed us,” Rufus said in a hush and Jiya threaded her fingers through his. He gave her a sad smile before continuing. “Luckily, Ben and Carol offered the unlimited resources of Rittenhouse or we’d all pretty much be dead ten times over.”
“We’re working for Rittenhouse?” Lucy sputtered out. Her mother was alive? A wide smile broke out on Wyatt’s face. No, this can’t have happened. Why would any of them agree to work with her parents? Dread ran through her veins. WIth the journal, Rittenhouse had access to everything the team had done to stop them. Where they’d be when. The contacts they made. The people they’d saved. Wyatt and Rittenhouse changed history, but how? They’d never know now. Those versions of Lucy and Wyatt had been overwritten with their return.
Confusion skipped across three faces. Denise found her voice first. “But, of course. You’ve always insisted we were on the right side of history.”
Flynn and Amy came bouncing into the kitchen skidding to a stop at the bottom of the computer platform. Lucy swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. She’d condemned Flynn’s daughters, their daughters, to a life controlled by Rittenhouse. Nothing she had done mattered. In the end, Rittenhouse had won.
Lucy watched Flynn curled into the armchair, book tucked under her chin as she slept, mouth open, drooling on the pages. Next to her in the bed, her twin, Amy, burrowed under an old army blanket, only her dark hair, messy against the pillow, visible.
Could she condemn them to nonexistence?
Would it be better they never lived at all? Or that they grew up, groomed by Rittenhouse for the great white future? Should she risk running? How far would she get with two five year olds who didn’t understand anything that was happening? Trekking over continents under assumed names, jumping at shadows and crying for the man they thought was their father. Should she leave them behind to continue the fight? Find Connor Mason and whatever team he’d cobbled together, abandoning them to Rittenhouse’s indoctrination?
Anyway she looked at it, they were both doomed.
She could let Garcia Flynn go, reveling in the echo of his face reflected in their daughters’. Living a lie to save their girls. Lucy could flood their lives with all her love. Make up for their missing father. It could be enough. He wouldn’t want her to save him at their expense.
They were children, their whole lives ahead of them. They could grow up and choose to fight back. But how could she condemn them to that life? How would she look them in the eye when they found out their father died and she did nothing to save him? That she'd chosen safety, walking away from the mission for fear she'd lose them.
Would they forgive her?
Would she forgive herself?
How many other children would suffer if she let Rittenhouse run rampant? For hundreds of years they’d been winding their tendrils throughout society. Spreading like a plague, threading their sickness through history. With a time machine, they’d wreaked havoc. Four thousand lives during the Trail of Tears. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The Haymarket Bombing. Kent State. Vietnam. How many other tragedies could be laid at their doorstep?
Could she sacrifice the world for the sake of their daughters?
Sacrifice Iris. Lorena.
Neither of them deserved to die. They were little more than pawns, discarded at a specific place and time to terrify a man who instead risked his soul to save their lives. None of that should have happened. But what if it didn’t have to? What if Garcia Flynn had been right all along?
Tabula Rasa. A blank slate.
One death to reboot the system, returning the world to factory settings. Before Rittenhouse insinuated themselves into every hidden corner of history.
One sacrifice. Hers this time, no one else’s.
She crossed to sit on the bed next to Amy, combing her fingers through her daughter’s hair. It soothed the ache etched into her DNA. If only she could stay here. Stop fighting and just… stay.
She stood, reaching to gently retrieve the book from Flynn’s grasp, setting it aside on the desk that served as a nightstand. The little girl mumbled her disapproval, but crawled into her arms.
Lucy allowed herself this. Her daughter, warm and snuggling into her. She lifted the covers and tucked her in next to her sister. Amy twisted in her sleep to curl around her twin, drawing her close. Lucy memorized this moment in case it never came again. However long she had with them, she’d treasure every instant.
Bending down, she kissed both of them, tugging the blanket up to their ears just the way she knew they liked. How she knew it, she couldn’t explain, but their time together was fleeting, she didn’t need an explanation. Just the image of their daughters sleeping peacefully side by side would be enough.
Maybe the universe would see fit to bring them all back together. Maybe not. If she thought too long about it, she’d never leave them. She’d hope that even if they never came back to her, they would find themselves loved by another family. One without the baggage of a tainted bloodline.
Even if no one remembered her, she would remember them.
Lucy shuffled out to the kitchen, looking over the empty couches, the random dvds and water bottles scattered across the surface of the coffee table. So familiar and yet those were not their orange pleather couches with the bar that jammed into your back whenever you tried to get comfortable. She thought of the nights she and Flynn lounged there, watching old movies and sharing a bowl of popcorn. She should’ve held his hand when she had the chance. But they were both afraid.
Lorena could come back as easily as Jess. How could either of them risk what might be between them when it could be broken at any time by Rittenhouse? They’d had such a short time together. How could she ever have known?
She should’ve known.
Rittenhouse had broken them anyway.
If she did this, she’d return to the world a ghost. She’d be alone, but she could give all of them back their lives. Without the manipulations of Rittenhouse, they could just live. There’d be a chance that Rufus wouldn’t meet Jiya, that Agent Christopher might never meet MIchelle, but the risk was worth it to save their lives. To save the world. She wished she could talk to them, but with the team working for Rittenhouse, she had no idea who to trust.
“Lucy, what are you doing up?” Jiya looked down from the computer platform at the exhausted woman staring at the living room in a worn grey t-shirt and pajama pants that puddled around her ankles.
“Couldn’t sleep.” Lucy crossed to the bottom stair, looking up at her one time friend, wanting to trust her so badly, not daring.
Jiya pushed back from the computer and sat on the top step, seeing up close the dark circles ringing her eyes. How long had it been since she’d gotten a good night’s sleep?
“Wanna talk about it?” She scooted over, patting the space next to her. Lucy joined, but didn’t know how to start. How much to say. Jiya helped her out. “I’ll take it you and Wyatt are not together in the timeline you come from.”
A bark of harsh laughter escaped her. “You could say that.”
“That’s gotta suck,” Jiya summed up, giving her a sideways glance. “Especially considering those girls are not Wyatt’s.”
Lucy stilled, afraid to show the least bit of weakness. “I’m not sure what you mean. They called Wyatt, Daddy.”
“They might call him that, but it doesn’t change the fact that Flynn is their father.”
She had no idea how to handle this situation. There was no was no handbook for dealing with protecting the dead love of your life and your children when you came from a timeline where you never so much as held hands. Oh. Until the day he died. But it seemed pointless to hide the fact from Jiya.
“Does everyone know?”
“Rufus is blissfully ignorant. He came back after Chinatown gung-ho about you and Wyatt. He’d forgotten…” she paused, trying to remember what it had been like five years ago. The memories were fuzzy. She told herself it was the five years of visions wearing on her. Seeing what she knew now were alternate timelines. Alternate versions of their lives. Different results from different choices. Sorting through them all took time. “I remember it got bad in the bunker, but afterwards he was so happy, I didn’t want to burden him with any of it.”
Her three years in Chinatown swept over her and she shuddered. Lucy wrapped an arm around her.
“I understand.” And she did. She would’ve done the same thing for Flynn. For any of them really. Until they came for the truth. Then she would tell them the absolute whole of it. She leaned into Jiya, not caring at the moment whether she could trust her or not. They’d been friends for so long, she just needed the comfort. She wanted Flynn. She wanted the life they almost had in this timeline.
Jiya laid her head on Lucy’s shoulder. “Denise probably knows about the girls, but she’d never say anything. You know this Wyatt better than me, but the old Wyatt didn’t know. I don’t think he even considered they weren’t his. Flynn died so soon afterwards and you seemed fine, so he never questioned.”
“I was fine?” Lucy asked in disbelief. How could she ever be fine after Flynn died?
“You were quieter than usual, but when we got back from North Korea, when you and Wyatt got together, it’s like you just decided to be happy. I didn’t want to fault you for that.” Jiya pulled back and studied Lucy, thinking about the nights right after she’d gotten Rufus back, she’d been lost in her own happiness. She noticed Lucy staying up most nights watching old movies, but it didn’t seem unusual at the time, so she didn’t pry. Later, when they found out she was pregnant, Jiya figured it’d been hormones. But there had been.... “I found you crying in front of the Lifeboat late one night after a mission. I think it was the OK Corral. You told me you were worried about the pregnancy and I think you were. But I think now maybe it might’ve been more than that.”
Of course it would’ve been. She would’ve protected their girls even if that meant letting them call another man father. Had she suspected Wyatt in this timeline as well or had he changed her history to make her more compliant? Altered her history just enough that she’d agree to marry him? Wiped her memory to make her forget how much she loved Flynn?
She stopped herself. In this timeline, she and Flynn had at least started to make a go of it before he died. The girls were proof enough of that. Maybe it happened the way it almost happened in hers. The night she brought a bottle of vodka to his room and they stayed up all night, holding back from falling into each other's arms. Maybe not. It’d all disappear with one choice. Hers.
All she’d have left would be her memories.
“It might’ve been more than that,” Lucy agreed. Her body felt heavy, as if a hundred bricks had been tied to her and left to drag behind as she sludged forward. Where would she go afterwards? She’d have to build a life from scratch with no help from anyone. But she wasn’t a damsel, never would be. She’d go to a time before technology when she could create a life from nothing more than her own wild imagination.
“You gonna tell me what’s going on?” Jiya leaned back, the grating of the platform digging into her elbows.
Lucy stood, brushing herself off and meaning to hurry away, but this was Jiya. She couldn’t tell her the truth, but she didn’t want to walk away. She missed her friend. And soon enough she’d be on her own.
She leaned against the railing. “You’re working late. It’s almost midnight.”
Jiya gave her a look that said, so this is how it’s gonna be then? “Upgrading the Lifeboat.”
“Oh?” Lucy tried not to glance in the direction of the time machine, not wanting to give away her plan, but she didn’t know how long she could play along with this version of reality. Wyatt would suspect her sooner rather than later.
Jiya laughed and gave her another look that said, this really is how you want to play this, okay. “Yeah, you brought back a Windows XP Lifeboat to a Windows 12 world. It needs some work.”
“What kind of work?”
An offhanded question Jiya saw right through. “It’s inconvenient to have to charge the Lifeboat the old-fashioned way. The Mothership can make several jumps in a row, leaving us playing catchup with Emma and Mason. Rufus and I created a solar panel sheeting that allows for constant charging. Won’t matter where you park her, she’ll be ready to go whenever you need her. Well, within reason. I wouldn’t stretch it more than five or so jumps in a row. You drain her battery and you’ll need a good twelve hours of charge time. And sunshine, you'll always need sunshine.”
Lucy nodded along, intrigued by the improvement, but needing to know how long she had to wait before she could steal the time machine. Her brain finally caught up.
“Wait. What do you mean, whenever I need her?”
“How long have we been friends?” The computer behind Jiya beeped and she pushed off the grating and stood, keying in the next sequence of upgrades. “Do you remember that first day? You walked in like an awestruck bunny. They whipped you into a costume, gave you only the barest of instructions, and bundled you into a time machine to go save the world.”
She’d been so young. They all had. “Nine years ago my whole life changed. Nothing was the same after that first trip. Walking into Mason Industries was like falling down the rabbit hole.”
“You mean Rittenhouse Industries.” Another patented Jiya look, ha, I knew you'd trip up .
“Yes, of course. Of course. Rittenhouse Industries.” The words choked her. She started down the stairs. “I’m sorry, I’ve been a bother. I’ll let you get back to it.”
“Lucy.” Jiya followed her down the stairs and into the kitchen. “Lucy, stop. I can tell something’s wrong.”
Lucy searched for an excuse. “I’m just overly tired, that’s all.”
“I’m calling bullshit.” She reached for Lucy’s hand, wrapping her fingers tight around her friend’s. “Something’s wrong. Really wrong. So wrong you won’t talk about it, but it’s hanging off of you. I see it in the way you scan the room like you’re expecting the worst. I don’t know what world you come from or what you’ve lived through, but you need someone or you’re going to break.”
She stared down at Jiya’s fingers and then back up at her face. Her friend waited patiently to see what she did next, not pushing, just there for whatever she needed. She’d never have this again. The thought broke her.
“I’m so scared, Jiya." Lucy collapsed into the nearest chair. Hiccuping sobs chased the words that tumbled out of her. "I don’t know what I expected handing Rittenhouse the journal. I’d lost all of you and I thought, what could it hurt? I underestimated them and gave them the roadmap to change it all so that no one was standing in their way. It’s all wrong and it’s my fault. If I’d only fought harder, but I just wanted him back. I need him alive and fighting by my side because I don’t know if I can do it without him.”
It all came out in a confused jumble and at the end of the confession, Jiya rose, walked to the cupboard and pulled down a half full bottle of whiskey.
“Start at the beginning.”
They finished the bottle and made a pot of coffee.
“So you’re going to erase yourself from history by killing your ancestor, David Rittenhouse.” Jiya sipped from her now cold cup of coffee, feet tucked under her on the plush couch, throw pillow tucked into her side. “Changing the last two hundred and fifty or so years of American history, but also hopefully ridding the world of an evil organization bent on world domination. I mean--that’s a lot. You won’t have anyone.”
“I’m used to being alone.” She and Wyatt barely spoke except on missions. There was no one else. “It’s my penance. I went along with everything because I couldn’t escape. It got too hard to try so I did what I could from the inside, thwarting missions when possible, saving one or two people when it wasn’t, but the truth is I was tired and I missed you guys.”
“But you’ll keep on missing us.” Jiya set down her cup and motioned for Lucy to lay her head on her lap, grabbing an old orange afghan from the back of the couch, and covering both of them after Lucy got comfortable. Jiya ran her fingers through Lucy’s hair, soothing her as only an old friend can do. “Are you sure there’s no other way?”
Lucy rolled onto her back, staring up at the rivets in the seam of the ceiling. Saving Jess and turning her into a sleeper. That required her to stay in her own timeline far longer than she was able. She needed to survive long enough to actually change things. Prevent Mason from creating the time machine in the first place. How could she stop something like that without knowing the exact instant the idea came into being? And even then...
“Am I sure? No, I’m not. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin to fight them in this world. They’ve changed something that rewrote all your memories. We never would have willingly worked with RIttenhouse. Giving them the journal tipped the scales and I can’t see another way to balance them. But I also don’t know how much of history will change because of this. All of the terrible things they inflicted on history could still happen. Humanity might suck on a basic level.”
“But it’ll be just people and their choices,” Jiya pointed out. “It won’t be manipulated by a 19th narcissist with a master plan and access to a time machine.”
“Bright side?” Lucy tilted her head back to look at Jiya.
Lucy lifted her upper body as Jiya adjusted so that her legs stretched out to rest on the coffee table in front of her.
“You might never meet Rufus.” Jiya brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “I’m going to do what I can, but there’s no guarantee. You might end up complete strangers whose lives never intersect. I wouldn’t blame you if you ran straight to Denise and outed me. She’d have me locked up quick enough for sure. I’m about to steal a time machine.”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“I wouldn’t do it if you asked me not to.” Lucy yawned in Jiya’s lap, curling onto her side. She meant it. She’d stay here, being mother to Garcia Flynn’s daughters and fighting against Rittenhouse no matter how futile or lonely. She’d do it.
Jiya didn’t envy Lucy’s decision, nor the burden she’d take on if she went through with this. Giving up everything she’d known to save people who wouldn’t remember she existed.
“I think I knew this was coming.” She pulled the blanket up, half curling into the corner of the couch. There were parts of my visions that I never understood. Places I’ve never been...I don’t know, they felt off somehow. Like we were all living completely different lives. I could never remember them after, but the feeling clung to me like there’d been a great disturbance in the force.”
A sleepy grin tugged up the sides of Lucy’s mouth. “Still making Star Wars references, that’s reassuring.”
“Always.” Jiya draped an arm around Lucy’s shoulders. “But seriously, I think that’s why I started right away on the upgrades. I can’t tell you what to decide, but the Lifeboat will be ready for you when you need her.”
“Thank you, Jiya.” Lucy’s eyes started to close as she burrowed into her friend’s side.
“I’m glad I got to know you.” Jiya pressed a kiss from her lips to her fingers and then to Lucy’s forehead. “I really hope we meet again.”
Twenty-four hours later she ascended the steps to the Lifeboat, turning back to look at the bunker for the last time. She knew the plan. There were no goodbyes to make. Agent Christopher and Wyatt would try and stop her if they knew. Rufus...Rufus would say there was another way, but she knew better. She couldn’t say goodbye to the girls. She’d read them two stories before bed and they’d fallen asleep curled into her side. She’d take the memory to her grave. Jiya and Lucy said all they needed to say earlier in the evening when they had a spare moment alone.
“Don’t worry about me and Rufus. We’ll find each other again.” A quick hug. “Don’t ever be afraid. You’re the Unstoppable Lucy Preston. You’ve never backed down before, don’t start now. Wherever you land, whatever you do,” she pulled back, eyes lit with fire and promise, “ whatever you do, enjoy your life. You’ll be free.”
Was she playing God? Maybe a little. When they first recruited her she thought she’d stop at nothing to preserve history. “It’s not perfect, but it’s ours.” But it wasn’t, not really. Who knows how much history Rittenhouse changed before Garcia Flynn stole a time machine and set everything in motion. They had no way of knowing. Not without going through every moment in history with a fine tooth comb. They didn't have the time or the manpower.
The Lifeboat door hissed closed, leaving behind forever the bunker with its leaky pipes and rusted, squeaky hinges, wIth its ghosts and regrets, with its forgotten yesterdays and tomorrows that would never come. Lucy reached for her own seatbelt, glancing over her shoulder at the seat diagonal from hers. A worn, brown leather journal embossed with her initials waited in Garcia Flynn’s space.
Her belt clicked, the sound loud in the empty Lifeboat. The keys of the console tapping as Lucy inputted the coordinates. She hesitated on the final keystroke, glancing at the journal, praying Flynn would forgive her. Completing the sequence when she realized he wouldn’t remember her, there’d be no need for forgiveness. Time roared around her, rattling her body as she tried to calm her racing heart.
Lucy Preston would do what needed to be done. Take down Rittenhouse. See her friends settled. Say goodbye to Garcia Flynn. She had no idea how she was going to do it, but she would. He would be happy. They would all be happy.
And they’d be free.
May 27, 1769
I wanted to apologize, I wasn’t a very good friend to you when you needed it most. I was too wrapped up in my own happiness about getting Rufus back that I disregarded how close you and Flynn had grown in the months since he moved into the bunker. I didn’t consider you might have fallen in love with him and what his death might mean to you. I didn’t know and I didn’t ask and I’m sorry.
I hope leaving this journal for you starts to make up for it. It’s been stored in a lock box in the Lifeboat the entire time. We never had access to it, Nicholas had the only copy of the key and he only doled out the information when the jump alarm sounded and we needed it for a mission. Security concerns, you know. I had to break into his office to get the key, but I wanted you to have the stories with you as a reminder. Maybe it’ll make your life a little less lonely without us. Without him.
I only wish we could remember you.
I hope you find him again one day, Lucy. I hope you find him and you get to live good long lives together. I hope you get everything you ever wished for and more.
Until we meet again,
Lucy wiped her tears with the back of her hand, tugging Flynn’s leather around her. Before she left, she found it discarded in an old milk crate in what used to be his room and now served as storage. No one would miss it. Tucking the letter safely into the journal, she took off his jacket, wrapping it around the book, and hiding both the items under the twin-sized bed in the corner of the tiny room.
She perched on the edge of the lumpy mattress watching the workmen in the field outside the window in the dim light of the cloudy sunrise. She allowed herself two more minutes of missing the team before retrieving her long white apron from the back of the door, tying it around her waist, and pulling on her simple white cotton cap. She checked her appearance in the smudged mirror and left the room, descending the back stairs into the kitchen where Mrs. J, the housekeeper/Cook/Girl Friday who ran the house, waited with coffee on the stove.
They sipped the bitter brew while the sky lightened. The short, plump woman ran a tight ship, but couldn’t make a cup of coffee to save her life. Lucy attempted to hide her grimace and failed.
“You can make it tomorrow then. I’ll expect you before dawn.” The round woman pushed up from the table. “Today you stay here with me. That way I can see what you can do.” She looked her over, clucking her disapproval. “You look like a stiff wind could blow you over.”
“I can read and write,” Lucy offered. “I was a teacher...before.”
“Good for you.” The grey and silver haired woman waddled over to the wooden counter, picking up a basket and extending it to her. “Go to the hen house and collect the eggs for the family. And be quick about it. There will be potatoes waiting for you to peel. With all the comings and goings, we will be busy from dawn until late into the night. You will pull your weight or you may leave the same way you came. I tolerate no lazybones in my kitchen.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Lucy dipped her head in respect. She’d knocked on the door, begging work with a vague story about her misfortune, hinting about a romance gone wrong. It wasn’t far from the truth. Working in the kitchen gave her access to Rittenhouse in a way that trying to beg his sympathy and get taken into his home as a socialite fallen on hard times didn’t. She’d bide her time, figure out when and where best to administer the poison, and when she was assured of his death, be back inside the Lifeboat before anyone could suspect her.
“Begone!” Mrs. J. turned her back on Lucy and bent to stoke the fire in the stove. “Time’s a’wastin’.”
She left the woman to her silence and crossed the yard to the small structure that looked like what she imagined a hen house should look like. She peeked over the half door, found the expected animals, and entered, to the muttered annoyance of the birds.
Standing there, Lucy wondered how she was even supposed to collect the eggs. The hens appeared quite unhappy at her presence and she really didn’t feel like being pecked to death. Nothing in her Stanford education prepared her to be a servant in an 18th century household. She could dress the part, knew how to tuck her kerchief into her neckline just so, but faced by a chittering horde of hens, she was utterly useless.
She eyed around an angry white and grey chicken that appeared to be challenging her, noticing a few of the nests were empty and she was able to collect the eggs without losing a hand. When she ran out of unprotected nests, she came in over the top of the angry hen, cocking its head to try and see Lucy’s hands, probably imagining what her flesh tasted like. The feathers were soft and the chicken far more agreeable than she originally imagined. She lifted it easily, shifting the weight to her left hand, retrieving the egg and replacing the bird, and letting out the breath she’d been holding the entire time.
She repeated the action and by the time all the eggs were collected, she had a reasonable handle on the whole thing. Hopefully, Mrs. J wouldn’t ask her to milk the cows. Lucy wasn’t sure she could fake that one without getting stomped on or kicked in the face. Hopefully, she wouldn’t be here that long. She had an unopened box of rat poison back in the Lifeboat with David Rittenhouse’s name on it. She’d rather be done with this whole situation sooner rather than later.
Lucy made it back to the house without breaking any of the eggs and the morning passed by as she prepared meals and chatted with the housemaids about the scientists and builders populating the field outside. Maggie had her eye on the young ginger carpenter with the smattering of freckles on his nose. Cecilia liked the blond smiling scientist with the wide brimmed straw hat. David Rittenhouse commanded them all, the outline of the viewing platform taking shape on the lawn.
Mid-afternoon they took lemonade out as the ladies joined the men in the field, spreading blankets despite the cloudy day and passing bowls of grapes back and forth. Rittenhouse brought a telescope out, setting it up in the yard and double checking the sight lines, when she moved to refill his wife Eleanor’s drink and caught his attention. She’d bent over, carefully pouring the pale yellow liquid from the glass pitcher, when Lucy felt his eyes. Her skin crawled, but she made no indication she even noticed him. It made her ill to use her body to get near him, but he’d proven interested in the past, no reason to think it wouldn’t work again.
Sure enough, later that night, Mrs. J sent Maggie to fetch her down to the kitchen to take Master Rittenhouse his nightly bourbon.
Lucy balanced the engraved tray on her left hand, the silver glinting in the hallway lamplight while she knocked on the carved, dark wooden door, nerves running through her entire body.
She grasped the brass handle and pushed into the room. Rittenhouse sat facing a large stone fireplace in a navy blue dressing gown with gold brocade that matched his knee breeches, glasses perched low on his nose, book in his left hand, a pipe sitting on the small round table on his right. She hesitated, the smoky grey walls pressing in on her.
“Come,” he ordered, startling her into motion. He reached out his right hand, never lifting his eyes from the book, and she crossed the distance, extending her tray for him to take the nightcap. “Hand it to me.”
Lucy did as she was told and his cold fingers slithered over hers as she passed him the glass.
“Lucy, sir.” She hung behind his chair, just out of sight, acting demure. Treading a very fine line that might turn dangerous with the slightest misstep. She wanted to entice him so that he sent for her again, but didn’t want to push him too far.
“Move to stand in front of the fire.” He waved his drink to underscore his command. After she complied, he peered over his glasses, studying her body as if she were standing on an auction block. She clutched the tray to her stomach, shielding herself from his dissection. “You’ll do.”
“Excuse me, sir?” Lucy started to ask even though she probably didn’t want to know the answer.
“No need for words. You’ll serve me again tomorrow evening.” He dismissed her with a jerk of his head. “You may go.”
It happened exactly as she hoped, but as she left the room that evening, she couldn’t stop the chills that shuddered through her body. Lucy ran up the narrow stairs that led to her bedroom and locked the door behind her, falling onto the bed in tears. Reaching underneath, she withdrew Flynn’s leather, slipping the journal under her pillow, and buried her face in the soft lining, imagining she burrowed into him. She reminded herself that she was doing this for the team. Saving their lives was more important than any discomfort she might feel in the face of what she was about to do. She had to do it right this time. No more mistakes.
After her private interaction with Rittenhouse, she knew the world would be much better without him in it, but that didn’t help assuage the guilt that ate at her as she prepared herself to make a run to the Lifeboat tomorrow afternoon to put her plan into motion that night.
She’d pay the price for this one death, exiling herself to the pages of history.
Begin at the beginning. That’s what they say, isn’t it? But which beginning? The knock at the door late one random Monday night? The night they told me time travel was real and they needed me to go back in time to the Hindenburg Disaster. Maybe the story starts the moment Garcia Flynn stood in front of me bathed in the light of the burning wreckage. Maybe it starts in 1781 with David Rittenhouse and Benedict Arnold. Or the moment Benjamin Cahill and Carol Preston created the perfect Rittenhouse child.
If only I knew then what I know now, but, I guess, if wishes were horses, Garcia Flynn would ride.
As it stands, that first mission was such a whirlwind, I hardly knew what to think. What I remember clearest of all was coming home to find Amy gone. My sister. My best friend. The light of my life. Gone. And only the first of my losses. Our losses. Because we’ve all lost in this fight.
I have to believe that one day we will win. We will take down Rittenhouse once and for all. As I write this, it doesn’t look very hopeful. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this insane life I’ve led, it’s that the world can change in the blink of an eye.
The next morning, Lucy started to make friends with the servants, learning to laugh at everything she didn’t know, learning about their lives. Simple. Not easy, by any stretch, but their concerns were basic. Food. Shelter. Love. Protection. It was a life that appealed to her. That afternoon, she snuck back to the Lifeboat and measured out the poison.
That night, on her way to Rittenhouse’s den, she almost ran back to the safety of the time machine. She stopped in an empty hallway, dipping into a curtained alcove and setting the engraved silver tray on the window seat. She reached into her pocket, withdrawing the poison and staring at the white powder shifting inside the clear orange plastic bottle. Was she really going to do this? It wasn’t too late. If she didn’t, nothing would change. Her presence in 1769 wouldn’t derail anything in and of itself.
She carefully uncapped the bottle. If she went through with this, it would be murder. There was no way around it; she wouldn’t pretend and call it by a prettier name, no matter the good that would result from it. Garcia Flynn, if she did this, she could bring him back. Give him the life Rittenhouse stole from him. She tilted the powder into the drink and removed a silver spoon from her pocket, stirring until the poison dissolved. Colorless. Odorless. Tasteless. It’s why she and Jiya settled on it. She wrapped the spoon in a handkerchief and tucked it back in her pocket, picking up the tray and glass and continuing down the hallway, painted portraits staring down at her as she passed them. Judging what she was about to do.
Her knock sounded too loud, brash against the quiet of the night. As before, he bid her enter and she pushed through the door, his hand already extended for the liquor. The ice cubes clinked in the glass as she passed it to him. His fingers lingered over hers and guided her, once again, to stand in front of the fire. She watched him, waiting for him to take that first drink.
He leered at her over the rim of his glass as he raised it to his lips, sipping slowly, but never setting aside his book. Disgust curdled in her stomach, facing him, determined not to break. She made the right decision. She’d gladly spend every day of the rest of her life alone to stop this man before he really got started. He dismissed her with a lick of his lips and a toast of his glass in her direction. She resisted the urge to tell him he’d just drank to his own death, but Jiya explained he’d need more than one dose if Lucy didn’t want to just kill him outright, drawing the suspicion of the household before she could make her escape.
So she waited.
The abdominal pain started the fourth day of her mission. Rittenhouse ignored it, pushing forward with the plans for his observation of the Transit of Venus. On the fifth day, Thomas Jefferson made a trip to check in with his progress. The two bewigged men scanned the lawn and field beyond, their conversation so low she couldn’t pick up anything they discussed and they fell silent any time she refilled their glasses.
Also, there was the whole, she just poured Thomas freaking Jefferson a glass of iced tea so she might not be completely on top of her game, thing. It was so utterly normal and at the same time beyond the pale of anything she might’ve imagined for her life that she almost spilled the tan liquid down the front of his starched white shirt. Luckily, she recovered in time and didn’t make a fool of herself in front of one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, but it was a close thing.
He dipped his tricorne hat to her and she blushed and averted her eyes like a good servant. She stayed close enough to them this time, in the guise of a flirtatious maid, that she overheard snippets of conversation. It wasn’t anything she needed to worry about. Plans for the Transit, when and where they would meet up to share their findings afterwards, Rittenhouse’s plans to put American science on the global map.
The fifth night Rittenhouse made her loosen the ties of her corset and stand while he circled her in the firelight, grabbing onto her hips as if she was his broodmare. He moved around her, running a hand down her abdomen.
“Have you born children yet?” His gaze scientific, scrutinizing her body for its ability to bear him an heir.
“No,” she gritted out and considered kneeing him in the balls. If he moved his hand two inches lower, she would not hold back. She was saved from physical violence when he doubled over in pain, falling to his knees, panting. She tightened the ties of her corset and yelled for help.
Mrs. J. bustled her out of the room when the doctor swept in, comforting her like a mother, worried about her reaction to the fright. The next morning, everyone assured Lucy that the Master was just fine. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. ‘Twas only the stress of the impending observations.
That afternoon, David Rittenhouse stayed in his shop, putting the finishing touches on all of the equipment, paying particular attention to each of his personally designed telescopes to be used for the first time in two days. That evening when he summoned her to the dingy room suffocating from the heat of the fireplace, he only held out a shaking hand for the tea she’d steeped for him.
The sixth day, he crept out to the field as if he’d aged twenty years in one night. He would last long enough to make his contribution to science, but not much longer. She could make her escape during the six hours of the Transit, when everyone would be focused elsewhere.
It was a kinder death than he deserved considering the legacy he’d leave behind. Lucy knew she was skating a fine line of morality. One life for hundreds. Maybe thousands. How many lives had Rittenhouse ruined over the years? She’d stop him before he could get that far. Before he could pass this sickness on to anyone else.
I should’ve been terrified of Garcia Flynn, but I wasn’t. Not when he handed me over to the Germans. Not when he stranded us in 1754. Not when he dragged me into the Mothership after I saved him from killing John RIttenhouse because I wouldn’t let him damn his soul like that. I never believed I was in any real danger, though I can’t explain why I felt that way at the time. He had my journal so maybe he knew that in spite of everything, I was safe. I made it back to Sao Paulo to give him the journal in the first place, so apparently this heroine survived to the end of the story.
I’m not so sure anymore. There’ve been so many changes since then. I’m not even sure I’ll ever go to Sao Paulo now. If it’s still in my future or if that last mission is only the afterimage of another forgotten timeline, a task for another Lucy.
Dawn inched towards the horizon, lightening the sky in the distance. Lucy’s hands shook as she straightened her cap in the mirror. She double checked that Flynn’s leather and the journal were still hidden and stepped out of her room, closing the door quietly. Mrs. J. retook her domain of making coffee after Lucy’s attempt failed miserably and now she welcomed the dark, bitter brew and the quiet they shared before the rest of the house woke for the day. They’d become friends of a sort over the last week. Chatting while they peeled potatoes, diced tomatoes, and chopped onions, while they washed the dishes together. Mrs. J was actually Mrs. Josephine Miller, wife to Gareth, the gardner, and grandmother to Timothy and Samuel, the rascal twin seven-year-olds who were far more trouble than they were worth. But their mama had died birthing them, and the Lord took Mrs. J’s son in the war. So she did what was right by her blood.
Lucy revealed very little, her stories a little hard to tell in 1769, but she did tell the matronly woman about Jiya and Rufus and watching them fall in love. About dinner with Denise when she first met Michelle and the kids. About her sister Amy and growing up trying to protect her from her wilder nature. Like when she would climb as high as she could in the old oak trees in the corner of their backyard and leave Lucy terrified she would fall. About how she mirrored Amy’s movements up through the branches just in case. Determined to catch her.
“You never mention him.” Mrs. J sipped as the first light of the day broke over the field.
Lucy kept her eyes forward. “Who?” she asked, though she knew very well.
“You’re missing him, I can tell.” A small, conspiratorial smile tugged up on her thin lips. “Did he run off, leave you brokenhearted?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
Mrs. J turned to face her and the soft sunlight lit her features, smoothing the lines of her face and revealing the woman she had been twenty years before. Her brows creased as she studied her, sadness falling over her as she saw something Lucy couldn’t hide.
“He died?” she asked, reaching across the table to pat the back of her hand, wrapping her fingers around her palm.
She squeezed Mrs. J’s hand in return and nodded. “I never told him how I felt about him. There was never time.” She almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the statement. They had a time machine. They had all the time in the world. Or so she thought.
“He knew,” the older woman assured her and Lucy let herself believe it.
The last day plodded on. Guilt, a heavy, slinking weight that followed behind her. They’d passed the point of no return. Any regret she felt could wait until she settled into her life after this. David Rittenhouse would die today and the world would forget her. Her life nothing but scattered dust.
Benjamin Franklin arrived after breakfast, greeting Rittenhouse over a plate of scrambled eggs. The two men talked excitedly through the meal and then rose to pace the length of the room until the sun rose over the trees in the distance and then they moved to pace the lawn in front of the platform while the workers finished up. Fidgeting with the telescopes to ensure everything would be perfect when the Transit of Venus began at two o’clock that afternoon. David Rittenhouse rallied himself enough that Lucy worried he might still recover, but at one point she watched him slip away to the side of the house to wretch in the bushes and knew she had done what she set out to do.
Rittenhouse knelt down, adjusting the leg of a tripod, as she passed behind him carrying a picked over tray of scones and muffins. “This will put the Philosophical society on the scientific map. Imagine what we can accomplish from here. Is Tommy still messing around with his electricity idea? What’s he calling it again?”
“The light bulb,” Benjamin Franklin responded as he peered through one of his personal telescopes that he’d transported across the rolling Pennsylvania countryside from his home in Philadelphia. “I would not be so hasty as to dismiss his ideas, David.”
“He’s a tinkerer.” Rittenhouse stood, brushing off the knees of his breeches.
Franklin turned to look over his shoulder. “So were you when you started messing with your clocks.”
The day trudged on despite the amount of work there was to do. Lucy hustled to and from the kitchen to the yard so many times she could have done it blindfolded. They laid out a mid morning snack and then cleaned away the remains only to turn around and set up a light lunch of sandwiches and potato salad. Two hours and they would break from work for an hour before starting on the feast for this evening in celebration of the assured success of the American Philosophical Society. It’d give her enough time to retrieve her things from her room and make it to the Lifeboat before anyone even knew she’d gone.
She wandered to a small hill, drawn by the sunshine and her troubled thoughts. The warm late spring wind brushed across her cheeks, drying tears she hadn’t known she’d been crying. A couple of ladies rode out on horses and she watched them until they disappeared into the forest.
Maggie came up beside her, tugging on her sleeve. “Miss Lucy, Mrs. J needs you. It’s time for the cleaning up. She says, you aren’t to be out here daydreaming when there’s work needing done.”
Lucy smiled down at the teenaged girl in the simple, light blue, cotton frock, her cap threaded through with a matching blue ribbon. Her life would be safer without Rittenhouse in it, Lucy found solace in that fact.
“Well, we mustn’t keep Mrs. J waiting,” She looped her arm through Maggie’s and proceeded back to the tables set out in front of the windows, collecting the empty bowls and platters to bring to the kitchen.
Mrs. J barked at them to finish clearing and get to scrubbing. She said it with the patience of the long suffering while Maggie rolled her eyes and giggled in response. It appeared teenagers were the same no matter which century they were raised in. Lucy really would miss them and the welcoming camaraderie of the kitchen in the middle of the afternoon. She wished she could say goodbye, but that would risk the entire plan. She’d like to avoid swinging from the gallows if at all possible.
Maggie slipped away after drying the last of the dishes to meet up with the ginger boy with the freckles, thinking herself sneaky, but both women who remained behind knew better. Lucy hung around helping Mrs. J finish up with the cleaning, putting off leaving as long as she could. The older woman had taken her on, no questions asked, and she wished she could leave her with more than an empty space next to her at the stove. As Lucy wiped the big wooden table, she paused, looking over at the woman sweeping potato peels into a pile.
“I was harder on him than I should’ve been. I don’t think I really understood him until I came here.” She couldn’t explain what she meant, but she could give the woman a bit of the truth. “But, now, I think I see how hard he struggled to be the man I saw in him. And I realize that I worked just as hard to be the woman he saw in me. I don’t know if we would’ve been any good together, but I know I wish more than anything we had gotten the chance to try.”
Mrs. J wrapped Lucy in a tight hug. “Maybe you’ll get another chance.” Lucy pulled back, wondering what she could possibly mean by that. The older woman just smiled and replied, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.”
Lucy decided that Mrs. J must have a romantic streak. Must believe in soul mates and true love. She didn’t know what she believed anymore. If there was even the barest hope-- No. She couldn’t allow the thought. Without Rittenhouse, Lorena and Iris lived. There’d be no reason to interrupt that; she would never be that selfish. She had already reconciled herself to oblivion, she wouldn’t second guess herself now.
“I’d trade all my tomorrows.” Lucy hugged the woman one last time. “I think I’ll take a walk in the woods. It’s a lovely day.”
“Don’t dawdle, dear.” Mrs. J kissed her cheek and sent her on her way.
Not one person noticed when she slipped up the back stairs, pulling the journal and Flynn’s jacket out from under the bed. The servants had all skittered to every corner of the grounds for various forms of activity. The ladies, fanning themselves inside the house, bored already with feigning interest, didn’t notice her slipping down the hallway and disappearing from sight. No one paid attention as she walked towards the forest where she’d hidden the Lifeboat, the scientists too focused on the minute calculations of the celestial event to pay attention to one lowly maid out for a walk on a nice day.
The grasses brushed at her skirts as she risked one last look at the house, wishing she’d had the chance to spend more time with Benjamin Franklin. She would have loved having coffee with Thomas Jefferson, but this wasn’t a sightseeing trip.
No one raised the alarm as she slipped into the thick copse of trees and broke into a run. This wasn’t the first time she killed a man, but it was the first time she actively chose to end a man’s life of her own volition. The branches of the smaller trees grabbed at her as she tore past them. She wanted to be away from here, away from the worst she’d allowed of herself. When David Rittenhouse died would she feel any different? Would she feel a kind of snapping free from the moorings of the universe, finding herself set adrift in a sea of yesterdays, grasping at the echoes of a life she’d never get back?
My greatest regret in all this? The people I couldn’t save. Starting with Kate Drummond and ending with Amy. My failures mount, piling up behind me as I survive in the shadow. Safe. Protected. All because of a heritage I want no part of. I worry, writing this, that I might reveal too much. That I might lose everyone trying to save them. I can’t give you names or dates. Only our stories. My hands are tied and I’m forced to trust the universe.
“You believe in fate. In meant to be.”
Do I? I don’t know anymore. Flynn once believed in me. Is that enough? One person who believes?
How many times did I look at him and see a man who could inspire armies? What would he do in my place? I don’t have an army.
Driving down the dusty back roads of San Antonio, Texas in 1936, Flynn promised me we’d save the people we love as long as we didn’t give up hope.
Hope is all I have left.
Her fingers were clumsy as she inputted the coordinates. Jiya suggested, all things being equal, she revisit a mission that meant something to her. A goodbye to the timeline, so to speak. With their entire history to choose from, if Lucy had to relive one mission, praying she succeeded in eradicating Rittenhouse, but at the same time praying to see Flynn again, she knew the one. The mission that shaped the way she saw him. When she began to believe in him. In an eventual them.
If she succeeded, she didn’t want to go back to a time when they were allies. She didn’t have it in her to watch her memories turn to ashes. Their horse ride to Port Royal. His rescue in Salem. Their almost conversation in Chinatown, his arms comforting her in that dirty alley.
Or, if she failed again, to watch Flynn smile at another woman as they listened to Robert Johnson. It would break her. Another woman living the life she gave up.
She didn’t want to lose any of it. Wyatt and the Alamo, when he still believed in their mission, before Rittenhouse offered him the love of his life. Walking down the streets of DC with Jiya, so excited for her first mission. Meeting Denise and ensuring she’d start a family with Michelle. How was she supposed to say goodbye to Rufus who’d been by her side from the beginning, fumbling through history just like her?
“I’m not trying to destroy history, I’m trying to save it.”
Even with how the mission ended, she still remembered his words in that train station perfectly.
They were still enemies back then, fighting on opposite sides of a war. But in that instant, Flynn became more than the villain of the story. She wouldn’t figure it out for awhile, her entire life changed overnight and she came back to a home without a sister, but she would figure it out. It would take time, but they would become friends, become the team he always promised her. She would go back to their beginning, their real beginning, the moment that made everything that followed possible.
She would sacrifice that memory to erase another. Lucy would play witness to history realigning itself. One in which John Wilkes Booth, not Garcia Flynn, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865.
David Rittenhouse really did observe the Transit of Venus on June 3, 1769, which really did help put American science on the map. I found no evidence that Rittenhouse and Franklin observed the Transit together except for one random comment on a photo on wikipedia. But from the further research I did, it appears that Franklin observed the event from Philadelphia. Also, I just added in Thomas Jefferson because it suited my fancy. I found evidence that Jefferson knew of Rittenhouse, but none that they actually met.
Chapter 3: One Single Yesterday
I am Schrodinger’s cat. Until I open that door, I have neither failed nor succeeded. Garcia Flynn is either alive or still dead, but for now, I sit, staring at the console, the keys untouched, the monitors reflecting the landing data. I don’t need a computer to tell me that outside those doors waits 1865. Waits the answer to a very simple question: Is my fight over? Can I lay down my sword? Have I sacrificed enough?
I don't want to, but I punch in the opening sequence and step out to perch in the doorway of the Lifeboat, watching the fireworks celebrating the end of the Civil War. A country freed from war, about to be plunged into a national grief.
I remember that day in excruciating detail, the stone in the pit of my stomach knowing I possessed the power to change the future, potentially for the better, with an uttered warning. Knowing I couldn’t save the President no matter how much I wanted. It dogged my every step the entire way, and in those fleeting seconds of the assassination, I tried and failed. Maybe it was inevitable, like erasing Rittenhouse. Erasing Lucy Preston. Maybe this moment under the stars always waited for me.
In a few hours, I will walk into the Ford Theater expecting John Wilkes Booth and meet Robert Todd Lincoln. We'll cross paths again at the train station and he'll invite me to the play.
I know all the places to be. I remember.
I reserve the same room at the National before starting the day. I steal a burgundy dress, it seems only fitting, and it waits in the room for the play tonight. High collar, burgundy velvet brocade cascading down creme satin, matching brocade hat and shoes. I want to look my best. Just in case.
But that's for tonight. For now, I put on a faded brown and blue plaid dress with a worn blue velvet jacket and a pair of scuffed brown boots that are at least a size too big for me. The hoop for tonight will have to suffice for the plain dress, I don’t think Robert will mind.
Besides, what I want most I can't allow myself to hope for, I work against my heart for the sake of everyone I love.
“Oh, pardon me, Miss. I’m General Grant’s aide.”
“You’re Robert Todd Lincoln.” Am I as surprised as I was the first time around? As in awe of this man, this moment in history, as the first time I lived it? I’m not sure I have it in me anymore.
“Have we met?”
How am I supposed to answer this question? Yes, yes we very much have met before. But you won’t ever remember it. You can’t. I’m a relic from another timeline.
I know my lines. I have become the actress I once impersonated.
“No.” I laugh, the emotion skimming the surface. “I admire your father.”
I admire your father, but tonight the first great tragedy of American history will unfold before both of us and we will--both of us--be powerless to stop it. I will wear your father’s blood when I walk away from this life. Away from everything I’ve ever known.
“Miss…” Robert Todd Lincoln offers me his hand.
I scan the board hung with advertisements for upcoming shows, “Juliet Shakes…” Don’t say Shakespeare. Don’t say Shakespeare. “...man,” I finished just as unbelievably as I had the first time around.
“You know, my father’s coming to the play tonight. Have you seen it?”
“It’s not very good.”
“No? Should I tell him not to come?”
How much better would the world be if Lincoln survived to see the implementation of his dream of emancipation? There is so much hope in America tonight. Thousands of slaves dreaming of freedom. Dreaming of a future where they can do something as simple as build a home on land they own. I have already erased my life, why not rewrite the future? Is there anyone to stop me?
“And he’s just getting started.”
Tonight, the future Lincoln dared envision for America will be smothered in the cradle and delayed for a hundred and fifty years and counting.
John Wilkes Booth appears and I study him throughout the conversation, disgusted knowing he intends to murder Robert’s father this evening.
“The Lincolns owe the Booths a great debt.”
I could still stop it, taking care of Booth myself. I’ve killed one man, could I kill another?
I follow him the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, watching for signs of Rittenhouse. He meets with his co-conspirators, no one else. No bullets fly past me, chipping the brick of the building I use for cover when I stumble on Flynn meeting with Booth, that’s just an afterimage of yesterday’s timeline. I search for Flynn in every alley, every nook and cranny. I check down every street and in every saloon. He is nowhere to be found. Neither is Rufus. Or Jiya. I can’t find Denise or Mason or even Wyatt anywhere. Have I succeeded? Have they all escaped unscathed?
I turn, having wandered to the station, drawn by the clink of the repairman’s tools working on the train. The steady beat hypnotizing as I attempt to will Flynn into being.
“What are you doing here?”
“Following you, it seems.” I fumble with my lines. Right now, I just want to fall into his kind blue eyes promising the comfort of normality. It’d be easy to love him. To find solace in this sliver of my life that still exists. The sun shines between us. The scent of the wood of the platform, the oil from the tracks, the clean 19th century air, it wraps around me, urging me to give in.
“I’m a lucky man, then.”
I would be a lucky woman, but I left my heart in the Arizona desert.
“Is there any chance you’d like to see a terrible play?”
“What?” I’m supposed to be accepting the invitation, but I’m scanning the train platform for a tall, dark, dumpster fire in a great looking suit.
“Excuse me for being forward, but would you come as my guest? You’d improve the evening a great deal. We’ve met twice in one day. That can’t just be a coincidence.”
We’ve actually met four times now, I don’t say, and it’s not a coincidence. It’s the prescribed path of our lives to meet and part in the span of twenty-four hours. I’m here by choice, I don’t say, hoping that by seeing you I can keep this one day for myself.
Do you believe in fate?”
Do I? Did I ever? Maybe the Lucy who answered her door on that chilly October night seven years ago, but not me. I’ve lost too much to believe there’s any grand plan to all of this. I simply hope for a good night’s sleep. I don’t expect it for years, but one morning I’ll wake up and I won’t feel the weight of saving history. Will it be a cloudy day when I finally realize you’re really gone? That you’ll never return to me. None of you.
“I’m at the National.”
I agree to attend the play, because of course I do. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. There’s no chance I won’t be sitting in that box seat tonight, waiting for Garcia Flynn. I turn, walking into the station, expecting him to come up behind me at any second.
“We have to stop meeting like this, Lucy.”
“You son of a bitch.” The accusation I flung at him in the last timeline on the tip of my tongue. “My sister is gone, disappeared because of something you did to the Hindenburg.”
But he is not here trying to breach the divide between us, the misinformation Rittenhouse threaded into our mission. “It’s war. I lost my whole family.”
My angry retort bitter in my mouth. “Because you murdered them.”
“Rittenhouse murdered them.” The hurt flickering in his eyes haunts me even as it doesn’t appear. I’m left to my own imagination. Flynn towering over me, the fervor of his truth evident in the tense line of his shoulders. “I’m not trying to destroy America. I’m trying to save it.” He’s not here to give me a reason to believe in him. To open the door to our future together. “Lucy, one day you are going to help me.”
“Or what? You’ll kill me?” I am not defiant. Not stepping up to him though I only come up to his chest. I am not hiding my fear beneath anger and bravado, I am staring at his absence. Staring out the window at the people passing by on the platform outside.
“That’s not a threat. It’s your future.”
It isn’t. Not anymore. I only have this single yesterday.
A beam of sunlight streaks across the floor in front of me and I watch the dustmotes dance in the light. Lost. Searching. No one to find me here. Only one person in this timeline knows me, Robert Todd Lincoln. I wander back out into the dusty streets, leaving behind the ephemeral, the ghosts trailing in my wake.
I go to the National for supper, the food tasteless. Regret and sadness leaching the flavor from the meal. The world continues without me and I can’t find the energy to care. The white linen tablecloth drapes down to the dark wood floor and I study the boards worn with the path of the passing years. How many families have inhabited this room, these tables, visiting the nation’s capital. Standing in awe of the White House.
The people around me emanate joy. The war is over. Soon their loved ones will start their long trek home. Every single one of them hopeful for a future that will be ripped away in a matter of hours.
I can’t stay here any longer, the happiness suffocating. I can stop it all. It’s harder to wrestle with this situation the second time around. I push away from the table, rushing up the stairs, away from the smiling faces and the bubbling chatter of the stifling crowd. The skeleton key shakes as I grope for the keyhole, desperate to be inside the silence of the room. Finally. I slip into the cool, welcoming solitude, sliding down to the floor, my back braced against the door. I only have to make it through the play. One last memory to erase.
Robert waits for me, impeccable and handsome in his blue dress uniform, as I descend the stairs. The gown sweeps out as he crooks his arm for me to take. My hand slips over his forearm, my fingers light against the smooth wool.
“Would you care to walk?” He looks down at me like a man grateful for the company. It’s been so long since anyone wanted me around. I’ve been suffocated by loneliness these past few years. “It’s a beautiful night.”
“I would like that very much.”
I can’t remember the last time I did something as simple as walk down the street on a moonlit night. Though I’m searching the shadows for the team, for Flynn, this is nice. Simple. He asks me where I’m from? What brings me to D.C.? Have I been here before? I answer as honestly as I can. I find I want to tell him my story. So I do. As much as I can, anyway. About Amy’s face the wind, hair whipping around her, eyes closed, head tilted up into the sunshine, free spirit.
He tells me about losing two of his younger brothers, Eddie and Willie. About how it nearly broke his mother’s heart and kept him from enlisting. About how he’d give anything to spare her that pain if he could.
I think of Flynn and how he saved Gabriel, realizing I doomed another mother with my erasure and vow to make it right before I disappear. I add it to the list of stops to make before I settle in the past.
He tells me of his shenanigans at Harvard. I can’t tell him about Stanford since it doesn’t exist yet, so I tell him about being a history teacher. About becoming friends with Jiya and how thankful I was for her. How I still missed her. Missed all of you.
We speak of the war in hushed, reverent tones; how the country can never repay the debt of those who lost their lives on the battlefields. Who paid for our freedom with their blood. I understand, better than I can ever explain.
Robert’s ghosts follow, making friends with mine. We are haunted and there are no words that ease that emptiness. So we walk, under the night sky painted with stars, dipping in and out of the circles from the lamplight. His arm is solid, real under my hand, and I need this connection. This reminder. Lucy exists even if only Robert remembers.
We pass the saloon and I peak in through the window, seeing a number of various men who are not Garcia Flynn. I would know him at a glance. Some people you never forget. You remember everything about them. The way their bangs brush across their forehead. The crinkles around their eyes when they smile. The strength they share with you just by their steady presence at your side.
Ford’s Theater looms as we approach. This is the hardest part.
The crowd funnels in the doors and Robert and I mingle with the people around us. We pick up glasses of wine from passing wait staff and make pleasantries. Sipping as I laugh like a normal woman out on a first date with a handsome, attentive man at her side. Every tall, dark-haired man we encounter on the way to our box seats rattles my heart against my ribcage.
Robert waits for me to sit as I adjust the voluminous skirt around me and then takes his own seat next to me.
“Have I mentioned how beautiful you look tonight, Miss Shakesman?” He reaches for my hand. “I am enjoying this evening with you, dare I hope that I might call on you again? You’ve quite engaged me and I’m afraid, I may seem a bit hasty.”
“If only...” Staying here with him sounds like a dream, but to fall in love is to deny the future he’s meant to have with another woman. I allow myself to fall into his blue eyes, imagining a future I might live with him as my partner. “I would like that, but I leave tomorrow.”
His smile dims, but shines again as he still holds her hand in her lap. “Fate brought us together twice, who’s to say we won’t meet again.”
“I think I would like that.” As much as I like the feeling of his hand in mine.
We part and rise when General Grant joins us and Robert makes introductions. “General and Mrs. Grant, I’m pleased to introduce Miss Juliet Shakesman. Without General Grant, I might have never survived the war and without Mrs. Grant, I might have perished for lack of edible food as I am a terrible cook. Miss Shakesman is an actress who graciously agreed to accompany me to the play despite how terrible she assures me it is.”
He winks down at me and it’s so Flynn-like, I almost break. Instead, I dip in greeting to Mrs. Grant and we take our seats as the lights dim with the final warning. The low murmurs of the audience fade away as they settle in for the show. I am still checking every face though I have almost given up hope of finding him.
If there is one memory I want to forget, it’s the one barrelling like an out of control train down the tracks at me as I sit here frozen. I’ve imagined, many times, the good Lincoln might’ve accomplished if he’d survived the assassination. I can save him, it’s not too late. I could slip down the back stairs of the theater. Pull a Flynn and detain the President before Booth assassinates him. Even if it means sacrificing my life, it would be worth it. A good death.
The play begins and I am torn. The first time I lived this day, I knew the importance of protecting the timeline, fighting against my love of Lincoln all day.
“He’s always late,” Robert reassures me, but I worry anyway.
I worry whether, when faced with the choice a second time, I will make the right decision. I don’t know what the right decision is, whether I made it the first time around or not. I still don’t know why Flynn went after Lincoln in the first place. If he was Rittenhouse or if Flynn only used the assassination as a way to get at the others. I can’t believe that Lincoln is Rittenhouse, I just can’t. I’ve lost too much. Please don’t take any more, I beg anyone who’s listening.
‘Hail to the Chief’ fills the theater from the orchestra pit and I rise and turn, knowing I am about to meet Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. One of our greatest.
Robert turns, just happy to do this one thing for me. “Miss Shakesman. Allow me to introduce my mother Mary, and my father, the President. Father, please meet Juliet Shakesman.”
“Miss Shakesman, how do you do? It’s a great pleasure to meet you.” I don’t have to fake my enthusiasm when I meet the impossibly tall man. It’s still the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since childhood. I can barely contain my tears as I watch him take his final seat. Should I warn him now or is it already too late?
“It’s not such a bad play.” Robert leans over to me and I can smell the faint scent of his aftershave. Even knowing how this mission ends, I am grateful I share my last night as Lucy Preston with this man.
“It’s not what I remembered.” I wish I could enjoy it, but I am praying with every breath Flynn does not crash through that door. That I have ensured he’s living the life Rittenhouse stole from him in the first place. And I pray, in a smaller, quieter voice, I see him one more time. I would still fight if he asked me.
It’s almost time now and my vision focuses on the President. The present isn’t perfect, but it’s ours. But it’s not mine anymore. There’s no one left to stop me. This time I hear footsteps outside the door. I hear the handle turn, the lines of the play swirling with the innocuous sounds muffled by the theater itself. The occupants of the box in Ford's Theater are too engrossed in the action to notice.
“Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!”
The door slams open and John Wilkes Booth crashes through. My heart shatters, but I am on my feet without thinking. All the debates between saving history and saving the President disappear and I know that I have to try. Damn the consequences.
“Mr. President,” I scream in warning, launching myself at Booth two seconds too late. Blood sprays over me and I am not shocked this time. I knock the gun from his hand, and he pulls a knife, lunging at General Grant, the weapon slashing through the fabric of the man’s uniform, drawing blood. I come up behind Booth as he tries to stab Grant again, grabbing at his hand, trying to claw the knife from his grip.
He shoves the General into the column and his free hand shoots out, fingers closing around my neck, throwing me into the arm of the sofa. I crumple to the ground and can only watch as the two men try to wrestle the assassin into submission. But Grant is injured and Robert just watched his father die. I push up from the floor in time to see John Wilkes Booth making his escape over the balcony, landing on the stage, bloody knife still in hand.
“Sic semper tyrannis! The south shall be free!”
I move in what feels like slow motion, reaching for the President, whose body lies draped over the American flag, blood seeping into the red and white stripes, coloring the stars in the sorrow of a nation.
This is how history has been affixed the final time into reality. John Wilkes Booth fired a single bullet from a Derringer and killed Abraham Lincoln in an instant, restoring the timeline.
I wait for Robert Todd Lincoln one last time knowing he will step out of the theater to update the still gathering crowd. He will make his way to me and they will part around him. His father’s blood, indistinguishable from the burgundy and creme of my dress, drying over my heart, flaking off my fingers.
He makes his way to me, grief etched onto his face. “He’s gone.”
“I am so sorry.” My condolences ring hollow against the bell tolling for the death of a great man.
“Thank you for saving General Grant.” He is choked by tears he doesn’t have the luxury of crying. “The whole country thanks you.”
“I wish I could have saved your father.” I’ve tried twice now. Maybe the universe demands this sacrifice, I don’t know. It seems a harsh reality to endure. But I can’t say who might find inspiration in this tragedy. How this moment steers the path of the future. I know only that I am tired.
“There was nothing you could have done.” There’s so much more I could have done. I just don’t know anymore if any of it would make a difference. “I have to go.”
“Robert…” I slip my hand into his, twining our fingers, offering this small comfort. I search for words, but none come. There is nothing more I can say. Words can’t bring his father back. Can’t change the course of this country.
Maybe everything I lived through, from the Hindenburg to Chinatown. From the Haymarket Riots to the O.K. Corral. On the backroads of San Antonio and a WWII battlefield. From my first defeat of Rittenhouse to my last mission, a hail mary pass to save my friends. Maybe the universe demanded this sacrifice, my sacrifice. As I sit in a field in front of the Lifeboat, stars fading as the sun inches towards the horizon, writing the last entry in the journal of my life, I can’t regret it. My destiny is done, stitched into a history no one remembers. I have succeeded in taking down Rittenhouse at last. The team is free. Garcia Flynn is free. Only two things left to make right, two lives left to save.
After tonight, I live on as a ghost, relegated to the ink I’ve committed to these pages. The disappearance of Lucy Preston. Once I close the leather cover, she becomes a walking shadow. Maybe, one day, years from now, I will open this journal again. Remember the woman I used to be, living an unbelievable and heartbreaking adventure. I will remember my friends and the great love of my lifetime.
For now, I will see them, one last time, to say goodbye. They will not know me, but that’s okay. Rittenhouse never corrupted Connor Mason. He will take Rufus under his wing and one day Jiya will walk into Mason Industries. Rittenhouse never tried to kill Agent Christopher. She will not be lying in a hospital when her mother insists she marry a man she doesn’t love. Lorena and Iris will survive to open their Christmas presents and Flynn will never start down the path of vengeance that compromised his soul. He will never bear the weight of this forgotten timeline. None of them will.
I will carry it for all of them.
Connor Mason slammed his hand against the side of the monitor. It hurt his soul to do it, but that’s what it’d come to. He’d been on a mission following Rittenhouse to the Las Vegas desert, but the team had come and gone by the time he arrived. He wasted precious hours scouring what was still a dusty western town in 1951, but other than seeing Sinatra’s first performance at the Desert Inn, he came away with nothing.
Rittenhouse figuring out how to scramble the Lifeboat’s signal had been a huge setback and he was still playing catch up. If only he could find a way to get Rufus and Jiya back on the right side of history. He’d give anything to have Garcia Flynn fighting by his side, but he died when Wyatt manipulated him into killing Jess. No, his army consisted of Emma. After learning Ben sold her out, she jumped at the chance to work against Rittenhouse.
None of that helped him right now, though. It didn’t explain why, mid-jump back to 2023, the monitors all fritzed out and reset. It happened before he registered the occurrence and was left scrambling at the controls.
The Mothership settled around him, the rings slowing to a stop. The only explanation he could come up with, and he was definitely grasping at stardust here, is that the Mothership suffered a forced reset to its system, returning to its originating location on the last known date it existed there. What could have caused that? He couldn’t even hazard a guess. What reality would he find outside the door to the time machine? There was one sure way to find out, but he sat, staring at the console, the keys untouched, the monitors reflecting the landing data: October 3, 2016.
Chapter 4: A Walking Shadow
June, 20, 1969
Lucy taped the list to the monitor as a constant reminder of the debts she still owed. The goodbyes unsaid. Lives unsaved. Some dates she remembered. Some, she relied on the journal for information. Others, haunted her.
She landed in 1969 before she realized she’d inputted the coordinates. She rose and grabbed the bag she’d packed before stealing the Lifeboat. Finding a bland suit that would fit the bill for the day, she changed out of her bloody dress wishing she could salvage it. Bending down, she slipped the med kit from under Flynn’s seat, withdrawing an epi pen and stuffing it into her jacket pocket. She remembered from the debriefing after the Apollo mission that Flynn saved his brother after an afternoon in the park, on the balcony of the apartment where Gabriel lived with his mother.
They wouldn’t be hard to locate. A quick trip to Lockman Aerospace to play dumb for some man who’d fall for it would be the easiest part of her mission. Once she got the address, she’d stop by under the guise of Rachel Maddow, a journalist writing a story on women in the engineering field. Or Mrs. Brady, a housewife who just moved into the neighborhood. Maybe, Mary Kay, the Avon lady. Whatever got her through the door. Worse comes to worst, she’d scale the balcony however Flynn did it the first time when he managed to get to Gabriel without Wyatt noticing. She grimaced at the boring, black heels on her feet. If it came to climbing, she’d have to do it barefoot.
Well, she’d dealt with worse.
The day was cloudier than she remembered as she walked through the park close to Maria’s apartment. At the opposite end she found the street she was looking for and followed it past the row of simple middle class houses. Maria and Gabriel lived in a decent neighborhood, filled with good people who went to PTA meetings and watered their lawns on Saturday. Lucy felt awkward in the world and yet she could breathe for the first time without wondering if the next one she took would be her last. Jiya’s last. Flynn’s last. She’d outlived them all. Everyone, but Wyatt.
Hopefully things would be better for him this time around, Lucy missed the Wyatt she’d seen in the Alamo. The good man underneath it all. But Rittenhouse got to him and made an offer he couldn’t refuse. She wanted him to have the chance to be the man she knew he wanted to be.
The entrance to Maria’s building lacked security so she walked right in, finding mailboxes for the few apartments on her left. She looked to see if any of them might be jimmied open and noticed a catalogue dangling from a corkboard filled with building messages. ‘Jan! Salem came to visit, he’s napping in a sunbeam. I’ll send him home for dinner.’ ‘Neighborhood garage sale Saturday, July 26th!’ ‘July 27th: Spaghetti Sunday at the First Church of Christ.’ She scooped up the glossy magazine, checking that it wasn’t addressed to anyone specific. Finding a generic, ‘to the household’ label, she tucked it under her arm. She climbed the steps and found Maria’s door. Straightening her jacket, she took a deep breath and knocked.
Garcia Flynn’s mother opened the door halfway, unsure of the stranger on her doorstep. “Yes, hello?”
“Maria Thompkins?” Lucy put on her best smile, whether because she was meeting Flynn’s mom or as a fake for her cover, she refused to guess.
She opened the door a little wider. “That’s me. Can I help you?”
“I’m actually hoping I can help you.” Lucy extended her hand to the woman who gave Flynn his patrician nose. “I’m Martha Stewart and I think I have something that could really help you out. Would you mind if I came in?”
“Well, I don’t know, my son’s here. I’ve got my hands full.” Maria glanced over her shoulder at Gabriel playing in the small living room.
“Oh, don’t worry about him, I love children.” Lucy innocently peeked around the door. “What’s his name?”
“Gabriel. He’s my little angel.” The suspicion drained out of her face as she smiled at her son.
Lucy ignored the hole inside her thinking she’d abandoned their girls. She had to believe they’d exist again. “He’s handsome. How old is he? 6? 7?”
“Close. Six and a half.” Maria widened the entrance and waved her in. “I have some sun tea, if you’d like.”
“Thanks, that’d be lovely.” She followed her to the kitchen where a clear jug printed with bright yellow lemons waited on the countertop.
Gabriel toddled in behind them. “Can I play in the sandbox?”
“Go ahead, honey. Leave the door open.” She grabbed a couple glasses from the cupboards and filled them with ice. “Now, what is it you wanted to tell me about, Miss Stewart?”
“Thank you. Call me Martha.” Lucy took the proffered glass. “Tupperware.”
Maria led her out to the living room area and Lucy picked a chair with a good view of Gabriel. “I think I saw an ad for that. Isn’t that the burping container? It seemed rather silly.”
Lucy ransacked her brain and came up with a memory of being in the kitchen with her mother and being transfixed by the sound it made when the lid closed. “The ad was a bit silly, wasn’t it?” she hedged, guessing.
“That it was,” Maria agreed, smiling.
They chuckled together and sipped their tea. Lucy kept an eye on the balcony so she could be there when the bee stung him. Flynn would remember growing up with his brother. The first time he saved him, he only did it for his mother. The Gabriel he saved possessed a lifetime of memories Garcia didn’t share. This time it would be different.
“Anyway. You wouldn’t believe the freshness.” Lucy felt ridiculous even saying the words, but she pushed forward. “The burp, silly as it may be, is how you know you’ve got the tightest seal. You’re a working mom, right?” Maria nodded, glancing outside to check on Gabriel. Still building a sandcastle. “Imagine if you could make meals a few days in advance and have them be just as fresh as the first day?”
“That does sound convenient. I go to school at night, so often I don’t have a lot of time after work.” She set down her tea on the wooden coffee table. “How much does it cost?”
Lucy waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m just judging interest right now. If it seems like enough people would like me to come back, I’ll be put together a Tupperware party. We’ll all make a night of it.”
She started to get antsy, not sure how quickly she’d have to give Gabriel the shot and suggested they take some air on the balcony. Maria obliged and moved to lean on the half wall, looking out on an average backyard. A big maple tree with a picnic table underneath it. A simple swing set shared by the children who lived in the building.
They talked of normal, everyday things, Gabriel going back to school in the fall and how hard it was to let him walk away from her. She asked Maria what she studied at night. Why she went back to school. Maria told her about losing her first husband and Lucy told her about Flynn. They’d been talking about the Apollo 11 when the bee landed on Gabriel’s arm and he smacked it as it stung him.
Lucy was on her knees pulling the pen from her pocket and administering the epinephrine in seconds flat. Maria froze for half an instant before she started crying her son’s name. She tried to pull Lucy’s hand away.
“I promise I'm not hurting him. He’s in anaphylactic shock. It’s medicine,” she assured the frantic woman. “I’m saving his life.”
When he came to a few moments later, his mother wrapped him in her arms and wept.
“He’ll be okay. He’s allergic to bees.” Lucy stayed crouching, giving the young mother the information she needed. “You let the doctors know what happened and they can explain everything to you.”
The two women stood and the smaller woman gave Lucy a fierce hug. “Thank you. Oh, thank you so much. I can never repay you.”
“There’s no need. Really. I’m just happy he’s okay.” She’d done it, saved Flynn’s big brother, and now he wouldn’t grow up alone. He would fight and wrestle and tag along after Gabriel. Who knew how that would affect his life. Lucy hoped he would be happier. His mother certainly would.
“It’s lucky you were here.” Maria held her son to her body as he clung to her leg, frightened by what had just happened. “You were sent by God, I know it.”
Not God, Lucy thought to herself, your son from fifty years in the future. She hugged the grateful woman one last time and headed out, Maria anxious to get Gabriel to the doctor as soon as possible. Lucy smiled as she walked away, realizing that for once she’d made something better in the world.
October 3, 2016
Mason avoided opening the door as long as he considered acceptable and about five minutes after that. Long enough that he’d started to wonder if he could just live inside the Mothership. It wasn’t so bad in here. If he turned the seats just right, they’d serve well enough as a bed. He could probably tap into the wi-fi and get Netflix if he wanted. He considered taking off again, trying to get back to 2023, but then his inner scientist smacked him upside his head.
He initiated the opening sequence and steeled his spine. He’d face whatever waited outside that safety of that bulletproof door.
“Everything all right in there, Mr. Mason?” Jiya Marri's voice sounded like heaven.
He found the courage to leave the time machine, peering out at Mason Industries circa 2016. Rufus and Jiya, side by side on the computer platform. Denise Christopher pacing the length of metal grating behind them, the glass meeting room above her with a few people he couldn’t make out from his perch on the lip of the door, one foot on the stairs in front of him, one still inside.
First things first, he needed to run a diagnostic to find out exactly what in the bloody hell catapulted him seven years in the past.
“Good. You’re back in time.” Agent Denise Christopher strode down the stairs stopping five feet away to side eye him as he exited. “Why are you dressed like GI Mason?” She shook her head as if she could wipe the vision from her brain. “You know what, never mind. I don’t care. Is the Mothership ready?”
“Ready?” Mason asked, confused.
“Your last test run?” She led him to stand behind Jiya and Rufus. “Everything went according to plan? No hiccups?”
The timeline changed, it was the only explanation. He never went on any of the original test runs, not trusting his own science not to scatter him to atoms.
“The test run, ah, yes.” He looked down at Jiya, the woman he’d thought of as a daughter. Then to Rufus, the man she’d eventually choose to love. Mason had watched him grow into such a bright young man. Selfishly, he stole a moment just to enjoy sharing space with all three of them. He couldn’t help it, he’d missed them so much. They were all so young. So naive. None of the past seven years had torn them down yet. Changed them into a pale shade of who they’d been. Shaking off his nostalgia, he got down to business. “Jiya, I need you to run a diagnostic on the navigation system.”
Denise dismissed his odd behavior, moving on. “How long will that take?”
“Not long.” Mason wrapped his head around what was happening, hovering over Jiya’s shoulder. He needed information, needed to pinpoint what changed.
“Good.” She tapped him on the shoulder. “We’ve got a problem.”
He ignored her, studying the data on the screen. He had a problem. A very big one. He didn’t have time to deal with her problem.
“We’ve had a breach.” Agent Christopher attempted to get his attention again.
Yes, of course, he was back at the beginning. Garcia Flynn stole the-- He raised his eyes to the Mothership sitting parked in front of him.
She crossed her arms. “Oh, do I have your attention now?”
“A breach?” He knew how it happened the first time. Well, if that indeed had been the first time he lived this day; He was starting to have his doubts. He turned away from the computer, it wouldn’t work any faster with him watching, waiting for Denise Christopher to tell him that Garcia Flynn stole the Lifeboat.
“Rufus, bring up the file on Jessica Logan.” What did Jess have to do with any of this? She’d been killed four years ago. He scanned the document over Rufus’s shoulder as Denise gave him the rundown. “Jessica Logan. Until late last night, she was a bartender at a sports bar in San Diego. Husband, Wyatt Logan, Delta Force soldier. There are some accusations of alcoholism. Most likely, undiagnosed PTSD. It is believed she murdered him after a drunken argument two years ago. She’s been on the run ever since.”
None of this made any sense. “How did a bartender break into a highly secure facility and steal a time machine?”
Rufus brought up a second file and turned in his seat. “We think she had help,” he replied with a hint of regret Mason didn’t understand.
“Emma.” He really needed to sit down. He wracked his brain. She should be hiding out in the 19th century woods at this point. “Emma Whitmore helped Jessica Logan steal the Lifeboat.”
Okay. This was fine. Totally fine. Nothing to worry about. Jiya’s computer finished checking the navigation system when Mason decided he’d quite like to rewind time about ten minutes and go back to hiding in the Mothership. Instead, he read the results.
“Nothing out of the ordinary.” Jiya scrolled through the log. “No errors or wonkiness. Just the ten test runs. Everything looks to be in order.”
He forgave her completely unscientific use of the term wonkiness since it fit the entire situation he found himself in. Whatever happened mid-flight, it had been a major jolt to the system. Something that required massive compensation by the timeline. He leaned on the console trying to sort through the opposing information in his brain. Jess is dead. Jess stole the Lifeboat. Emma is in the woods. Emma is helping Jess. His brain should be exploding. Why wasn’t his brain exploding?
This seemed a proper time to freak out.
Denise mentioned a test run. Was there enough coincidence that both versions of Connor Mason had been mid-flight during the...uh, wonkiness? She, Jiya, and Rufus simply accepted him as Connor Mason, so he hadn’t just walked out of the room or anything to spook them when he landed in the Mothership. Maybe he replaced himself? His fingers pressed to his temple as if he could sense the imminent aneurysm.
“Mr. Mason. What is wrong with you today?” Denise asked with more than a little annoyance. He looked up at three confused expressions. “I need you to focus. The team is getting ready to jump--Don’t worry, I already gave them your time travel speech. Emma and Jessica went back to Chicago, October 8th, 1871.”
The door at the top of the room opened and he saw a woman descend the stairs out of his peripheral, but he kept his eyes on Denise. “What happened in October, 1871?”
“I’ll let our new historian explain it to you.” The woman stopped behind him and he turned around expecting Lucy. Instead, a petite blonde stood in front of him. She looked familiar, but he couldn’t place her. Where was Lucy? “Mr. Mason, I’d like you to meet Amy Wallace.”
“Amy…” he trailed off even as he took her hand in greeting, feeling something familiar about her. Why did he know that name? He dated an Amy at University. There was an Amy in R&D. Wait, that’s right, Lucy had a sister named Amy before Flynn erased her.
“May I have my hand back, please?” She looked at him like he had lost his damn mind and maybe he had.
He released his grip, shoving his hand in his pocket and ignoring the Amy question as probably just coincidence. “Yes, yes, sorry. You were going to tell me about October 8th.”
“Mrs. O’Leary’s cow!” she said, her excitement overruling her wariness.
Again he got the feeling he knew her, but he had no idea what she was talking about. “British, remember? Chicago isn’t my forte.”
Before she could answer, Denise interrupted as the center door opened. “Flynn, good, we’re all here then.”
Flynn? Garcia Flynn? Mason whirled around and nearly hugged the gigantic tree of a man who towered over him. “Oh thank the stars, Flynn.”
“I’m sorry?” Garcia Flynn extended his hand. “Do I know you?”
Oh, right, that. He took the man’s hand. “No. We’re just meeting. Now. For the first time.” He cringed, there was a reason he left the subterfuge to Emma.
“I don’t know what is wrong with you, but we don’t have time for it,” Agent Christopher huffed out, exasperated.
He glanced over all of them. When he wished to have them all back together, he meant in his own timeline. But beggars can’t be choosers. “It’s been a long day.”
“You can say that again.” Laughter spilled out of Amy and he knew.
“You’re Amy Preston!” He’d only ever seen the picture of her in Lucy’s locket, but that was her sister’s laugh.
“Amy Wallace. ” Rufus rose, reaching for the older man. “Seriously, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I mean, I’m not fine, I’m utterly and totally confused. But that is Amy Preston, Lucy’s sister.”
“Lucy who?” Rufus asked, giving Agent Christopher a worried look over his shoulder.
“Her sister!” He pointed at Amy, his head swiveling over the group, settling on Flynn, who gave him a blank stare. “Lucy Preston.”
Flynn reached for his weapon, taking a step backward. Denise indicated Rufus should do the same. She approached the scientist. “Who’s Lucy Preston, Mr. Mason?”
He crossed to Jiya, nudging her aside, searching the database for information. It came up empty. That made no sense. Mason Industries had access to every single one of the intelligence agency systems. Agent Christopher kept a wary eye on him, but made no move to stop him. He ran the search again. Nothing. It’s like she never existed. Worry settled in between his shoulder blades and he started again. This time with Benjamin Cahill. The expected files popped up. He scanned the information. One son. No daughter. Unsurprising since they wouldn’t possess that information yet. There was no way Rittenhouse was letting any of their dirty little secrets out in the universe.
Okay. He grabbed Rufus’ vacated chair, sitting down and typing in Carol Preston. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No birth. No death. No Preston person came up in the search even by accident.
Ice ran down his spine. He typed in one last name, this time into a simple google search. This name wouldn’t be in any official database. Not yet anyway. His finger hovered over the mouse, hesitating. He didn’t want to believe. He clicked enter on the search for the name David Rittenhouse. Scrolling through the meager results, he found a digital copy of a 19th century newspaper article. He read as his stomach sank. David Rittenhouse died of internal complaints during an arranged observation of the Transit of Venus.
“Oh, Lucy,” he sighed, dropping his head into his hands.
She’d done it. Erased herself. His heart broke for her, remembering the night she’d asked him what would have happened if Flynn had succeeded in killing David Rittenhouse. He refused to lie, telling her the entire world would have forgotten she existed except Flynn, Rufus, and Wyatt. It was clear she’d thought about this more than that one time.
He could go back and stop her. It’d be easy enough. With the Mothership, he could follow her. Talk her out of such a drastic choice. But what gave him the right to question her decision? She must’ve been desperate, out of options. If she didn’t return of her own volition, who was he to drag her back into the fight? She probably believed she eradicated Rittenhouse from the world.
And maybe she had. There was only one way to find out.
He looked around at the gathered group. Lucy was gone, but she’d saved Amy and Flynn. Jiya and Rufus were still sitting side by side in front of the computers. Agent Denise Christopher was still ready to lead the team into battle. He couldn’t go back to his own timeline; It was gone. Besides, if he left, the team wouldn’t have the Mothership. Wouldn’t have a way to fight against Rittenhouse if it still existed. In whatever form it still existed. Lucy would’ve checked in with everyone to ensure she’d succeeded. If she’d found peace, he wouldn’t take that from her.
No. For some reason, the universe gave him a second chance to get it right. He wouldn’t squander the opportunity.
“Connor?” Rufus laid a gentle hand on his arm as he wiped away an errant tear. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He rose and pulled Rufus into a hug. “Nothing at all.”
“Um…” Flynn relaxed a fraction, reasonably sure he wouldn’t have to shoot the man, but not quite ready to take that option off the table. “I’m armed and I’ve had quite enough confusion given I’ve just learned that time travel is real. An explanation would be wise. Who is Lucy Preston?”
Connor Mason’s smile held a hundred stories he couldn’t tell. “Just somebody I used to know.”
February 12, 2012
Lucy’d gotten good at stealing cars over the years. The easiest, any old seventies truck like the one where she sat waiting in an office building parking lot on the side of Portero Road at mile marker 47. Thank everything, the vehicle had a good heater as she sat there in the dark listening to We Are Young on the radio and watching the dune grass blowing in the wind. She parked the Lifeboat in a valley on the dune, hidden by the scrub brush as best she could before she picked the truck from the few cars left overnight in the lot.
Not knowing exactly when any of it happened meant she could be in for a long night. But she’d be there to pick up Jess when she got out of the car. Maybe Lucy could suggest she encourage Wyatt to get some therapy. Maybe without Rittenhouse around this time, they’d both have a chance at happiness. Wyatt loved Jess. That much was obvious from watching them together in the bunker. Lucy didn’t think he would’ve agreed to become part of Rittenhouse if it hadn’t been for Jess’ murder. She couldn’t force them to work things out, but she could definitely give them the best chance they had.
A silver late model Ford approached and her body tensed, ready to flip on the headlights and jump into motion. She really wished he could stop Wyatt from driving drunk, but her mission was saving Jess. What he chose to do with his life after this wasn’t up to her. Personally, despite everything, she really hoped he got his shit together. Wyatt wasn’t a bad guy, he’d just made piss poor decisions and it all started when Jess died.
The SUV kept driving and she turned the heater down, cracking open the window for the cool fresh air that felt good against her now clammy skin. The adrenaline roiled her stomach, her fight or flight response kicking in. Reaching for the revolver on the seat beside her, she tried to calm her breathing. She could want the best for Wyatt, but it didn’t change the history between them. She’d considered going to the bar, but facing off against Wyatt when he’d been drinking didn’t seem like the best idea she ever had. There’d be no reason for him to listen to her attempts to get him to take a cab home and then she might ruin any chance she had to save Jess’ life.
A few more cars passed by, but none of them stopped. Lucy kept her eyes peeled for Jess’ original killer, but she saw no one on this lonely stretch of road. The radio switched to commercials and she fiddled with the dials, tuning into a station playing Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive. The band always reminded her of Flynn for some reason, maybe it was the drama of their music, the pounding beats and sweeping, epic melodies.
The idea that he wouldn’t remember her hurt the most, but if everything went according to plan, he’d be happier. Rittenhouse wouldn’t steal Lorena and Iris from him. Lucy would never feel his arms around her again, but it’d be worth it. Whatever price the universe demanded, she would’ve paid it without blinking if it meant Garcia Flynn survived. She’d see him one more time before the end. It would have to suffice.
Headlights drew her attention back to the road and a dark silver, two-door sedan swerved onto the shoulder, kicking up dust as Wyatt skidded to a stop. Lucy watched Jess get out of the car, slamming the door behind her. The sedan screeched away, the blonde stumbled along in its wake. Lucy flipped on the headlights and put the truck in reverse when another car approached and slowed. She changed gears and gave the truck a bit more gas to pull out in front, cutting off the red Corvette.
Lucy tucked her revolver into the side holster beneath her jacket and got out. The wind chilled her as she followed after trying to get Jess’ attention before whoever occupied the other vehicle joined them.
“Hey! Excuse me?” she called after the drunk woman who twisted her ankle when she turned to face Lucy. “Do you need a ride?”
Jess scrubbed tears off her cheeks. “No, I’m fine.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t seem fine.” Lucy gentled her tone knowing the turmoil that must be swirling around inside the other woman. “Let me give you a ride home.”
“Hey ladies.” The man driving the sports car sing-songed, pulling up behind them and parking to block them in. They were caught between the truck she’d stolen and the burly man getting out of the car.
Lucy placed herself in front of Jess, feeling the reassuring presence of the weapon at her side. “No, we’re fine, thank you.”
“Fine…” He licked his lips and his smarmy smile sent chills down her spine. “Why yes you are. And there are two of you, double my pleasure.”
“Get in the truck,” she told Jess as she reached for the revolver.
The man stepped closer trying to intimidate the two women. “That’s not going to work for me. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.”
Jess peered around Lucy to get a better look at the man. “Do I know you?”
“You ought to, but bitches like you never see men like me. You’re just looking for your clean cut, pretty, military boy.” He smirked and Lucy wanted to punch him. “Doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere to be found, though. And that one,” he jerked his head at Lucy, “doesn’t look like much of an obstacle. She’ll be the appetizer.”
That One chambered a round and pointed the revolver at him. “Think again, buddy. Best get back in the car.”
“Jess,” the man changed his tune, attempting to lure her to his side, “come on babe, I’ve waited too long for this.”
“I think I’ve seen you at the bar,” she responded, unsure. “Wes?”
Wes grinned at the blonde, pleased. “You do remember me.”
Wes? Wes Gilliam? Lucy was really confused. Wyatt killed him in the previous timeline and it didn’t bring Jess back. Why would he end up being the killer after all?
Rittenhouse, it had to be. They knew Wyatt went back to save her and they must’ve changed things so that Jess stayed dead until they needed her. Just another pawn. Her rage fueled her. He wasn’t going to kill Jess tonight. Or any other night.
He reached for Jess. “Come on, you know you want to come home with me.”
“No. I don’t think I do,” Jess replied, back on solid ground. She’d handled his kind of handsy asshole before.
“Back off. Now.” Lucy gave him one more chance. He’d be caught by the police and spend his life in prison where he belonged. She wouldn’t alter that if she didn’t have to, but she wouldn’t hesitate if the man interfered with her mission. She glanced back at the truck only ten feet away. “Jess, please get in the truck.”
“What about you?” The woman hesitated to head to safety.
“I’ll be fine.” Lucy remembered why she liked her. Jess was smart and brave, loyal to a fault, a person to have on your side in a tight spot. She was also drunk.
“Don’t worry, doll, I’ll be with you when I finish with the mouthy twat.”
Lucy rolled her eyes so hard she swore she saw her brain. She’d been called much worse. “Trust me, he won’t touch me.”
Wes snorted. “Girl, put down Daddy’s gun, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Lucy shot him in the kneecap. “I’d suggest you get back in your car,” she said as he screamed in pain. She didn’t feel one ounce of guilt.
He tried to step forward to grab her gun and went down hard on the concrete. “You bitch!”
“You have a choice right now.” She walked forward and crouched down so she was eye level with him. “You can crawl back to that overcompensation you call a car and drive your sorry ass to a hospital--I shot your left knee intentionally--or you can make another move to hurt another woman. I know all about you Wes Gilliam. Don’t think I won’t rid the earth of you and sleep very well at the end of it all. Your choice.”
She stood and turned her back on him, leaving the vile man bleeding on the side of the road. She wouldn’t play God unless he forced her hand. She believed in justice and wanted him to spend his life behind bars, never tasting freedom again. That didn’t mean she’d hesitate if it came to it. She wrapped her arm around Jess, who’d never gotten in the vehicle, and guided the woman away from the scene.
“I know where you work, I will get you one way or another,” he warned the blonde who tensed at her side.
Dread sank in as Lucy realized he was right. Just because she saved Jess tonight didn’t mean he wouldn’t try again. But she couldn’t kill him in front of the other woman unless she wanted Jess caught up in a murder investigation. She stayed silent and walked the drunk woman to the truck, buckling her seatbelt and closing the door. Wes launched into a tirade about bitches and whores and she really, really wished she could shoot him right there.
Lucy got into the truck and drove away, Jess shivering in the passenger seat. Turning up the heat, she asked, “Better?”
The blonde nodded and stared out the window, numb. “Thank you.”
“Where am I going?” She looked at Jess huddled into the seat. Her heart broke, wishing she could’ve saved her from this night altogether.
Jess didn’t look at her when she responded, “Stay straight until you come to the light and hang a right. It’s a few miles up. ”
“Okay.” She turned down the radio. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” the blonde replied without emotion. “This is just my life.”
Lucy wanted to cry. “Call the cops when you get home. You tell them everything that happened. Where it happened. All of it.” The police should have Wes’ DNA on file from his first two murders.
“I don’t want you to get in trouble,” Jess turned to face her.
“I won’t, don’t worry.” Lucy gripped the steering wheel, anger still flooding her system. “But you need to make sure he stays away from you. When you call the cops, file a restraining order. He’s been stalking you. They won’t do anything about it, but you’ll have a file for when he comes back. You see him or that gaudy Corvette, you call the cops. It might seem silly, but it’s not. Promise me.”
"I promise." Tears flowed freely down Jess’ cheeks. “I don’t understand. Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
“You’re a beautiful, charismatic woman. This is not your fault, do you understand me?” Lucy reached for her hand. “Don’t ever blame yourself for this.”
“I just didn’t want Wyatt--he’s my husband--to drive drunk. I was scared and stupid.”
“Was it the wisest move to get out of the car on an abandoned road? Probably not,” she said as gently as she could. “But he should’ve come back for you. Maybe next time you should take a cab.”
Jess leaned her head against the window. “I tried to get Wyatt to listen to me, but he was so angry over my ex-boyfriend talking to me at the bar.”
“Does that happen often?” she asked, knowing the answer. Jess nodded. “Is he ever violent with you?”
“No! No. He can be a drunk asshole, but he’d never hurt me.”
Lucy raised her eyebrows at that. “He was drunk and driving, he could’ve hurt you. Or someone else.”
“I know,” she replied, her voice small. “I just don’t know what to do. I love him, but he came home from the war different. I don’t know how to help him.”
Lucy considered her answer, needing to be careful how she broached her next topic. “How much do you love him? Is he worth fighting for?”
“Yes. Absolutely.” Jess sniffed as she explained. “I fell in love with him in geometry class in high school. I can’t just give up on him.”
Lucy pursed her lips really hoping she was making things better. “I know you don’t know me, but maybe you should suggest therapy.”
“I have, but he refuses.” She wiped away her still falling tears.
“Then you have to make him understand how much his behavior is hurting you. Tell him you can’t take it anymore. Whatever you feel your truth is, but let him know you love him and you just want him to get better.”
Lucy took the next right and Jess broke into real, heartrending sobs. “I just want him to be the man I fell in love with. I want to go back to the days when we were happy, planning for our future together.”
“That man is still in there,” Lucy offered Jess that sliver of her own truth. “He’s just lost right now. He’s made some wrong decisions, but as long as you still love him, then he’s worth fighting for.”
“Take the next left.” She gathered her composure. “I do. He is.”
Lucy Preston smiled, knowing things would get better for them, or at least, needing to believe it would. “It won’t be easy, but you look like a fighter.”
Jess returned the smile. “I don’t even know your name.”
“I’m up here on the left, Lucy.”
She stopped the vehicle in front of a baby blue, single story ranch house. “You gonna be okay? I can always drive around for awhile.”
“No, I want to go in and have this out with him. He needs to understand that I can’t take it anymore.” Jess unbuckled her seatbelt.
Wyatt burst out of the house, frantic, and Jess opened the car door. “Jess, oh my God, Jess. You’re okay. I was just coming back to get you. I’m so sorry.”
“Let’s talk about it inside.” Jess turned to Lucy, half out of the truck. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it, I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time.” Lucy made direct eye contact with Jess. “Remember, call the cops and make a report.”
“A report? What happened?” Wyatt pulled his wife into his arms.
“She has a stalker. I’d suggest you take her safety a bit more seriously from now on.” Lucy tried for kindness as much as she could, setting aside her animosity from their history together. “You could’ve lost her tonight.”
Shock rippled over his face and he went white as a ghost. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Lucy studied his face wondering if he really understood.
Jess extended her hand and Lucy took it. “I won’t forget what you said.”
“I hope not.” She put the car in gear, keeping her foot on the brake. “Be good to her, Wyatt.”
“I will. I promise,” he responded, clutching Jess to his side as if he might lose her at any second.
“Goodbye. I hope everything works out.” Lucy took one last look at them and put her foot to the gas pedal, driving away. In the rearview mirror she watched Wyatt and Jessica Logan heading back into their house, wishing the best for them. Only time would tell.
Chapter 5: Time Enough
December 12, 2016
This time Lucy stole some random mid nineties four door sedan in the color of dirt, like muddy water coated itself across the steel and never let go. California in December never get bitterly cold, but the night had a nip to the air and she kept the heat on low to warm her toes. She sat swamped in Flynn’s leather, hands tucked into the pockets, in the fading light of day outside Agent Christopher’s house. In the previous timeline, she’d be walking through the door right now. Being introduced to Michelle. Meeting Mark and Olivia. Learning about Denise’s family. She could almost see her own phantom.
She needed a good reason to knock. To see for herself she hadn’t derailed their lives. If for some reason Lucy had screwed it up, she’d add it to her list and travel back to 1981. She still had the zip drive. All Denise’s memories, her family frozen in amber, recorded for history. But, right now, she watched the big window at the front of the house for a glimpse of the interior.
After a half hour of deliberation, she gave up on formulating a good reason and settled on an okay one. Which is how Lucy found herself knocking on Denise’s door, an old map she’d scrounged from the glove compartment in hand.
The green door swung open and Agent Christopher greeted her with a brusque, “Yes. May I help you?”
“Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you.” Lucy unfolded the map, turning it around a few times to figure out which way was up, “but I seem to be lost and I left my cell phone at a rest stop somewhere along the way. I’m coming down from up north and I was supposed to meet my sister an hour ago and I don’t suppose you know the way to San Jose?”
“Is this some kind of joke?” Denise eyed her, wary of the flustered brunette standing on her porch in the darkness. She didn’t look dangerous in the oversized leather that came down to her knees, but she couldn’t say that with certainty.
Lucy half-crumpled the map trying to fold it, covering while she tried to find a reasonable excuse to give to her former boss. “Err, um, no. I’m supposed to--”
Michelle’s voice interrupted. “Who is it? The mustard chicken is getting cold and the kids are hungry.”
“A woman needing directions. Go ahead and start without me,” Denise called back to her wife thinking the woman standing in front of her indeed looked lost, but not the kind of lost she gave as an excuse. "I must’ve missed your name.”
“Josephine.” She couldn’t give her former friend her real name, on the off chance that she decided to investigate her afterwards, so she picked a name she’d been considering using in her new life. The older woman stood at attention, ready to react at any second. She knew that look. Denise was about to start asking questions Lucy couldn’t answer. She had the confirmation she needed and no reason to linger like a stalker on the porch in the dark. Shoving the map back in her pocket, she started to walk away. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you. I’ll just be going. There’s probably a gas station around here somewhere.”
“Hold up.” Motherly instinct overrode her better judgement and Denise decided to help. She widened the door for Lucy to enter. “Come on in, I'm Denise. You can use the phone to call your sister. You look like you’ve been on the road all day. We’ll get you set up and on your way.”
The warm light of the home, the chattering of the family in the background, beckoned her. She should go, should leave them to their dinner, but it was her last chance to say goodbye. She stepped inside.
“Phone’s in the kitchen. Follow me.” They passed the living room filled with classic, older furniture. Comfortable, like your grandmother’s favorite couch, following Denise down the hallway to the dining room. “Josephine, this is my family. Michelle, my wife, and our kids Mark and Olivia.”
The kids glanced up from their plates, mumbling hellos, and Michelle corrected them. “Manners. Swallow and then speak. We are not heathens in this house.“ The beautiful short-haired woman rose, wiping her hands on a cloth napkin and tossing it aside, to shake Lucy’s hand. “Welcome.”
“I’m sorry, Denise said I could borrow your phone. I didn’t want to be a bother.” Snapshots of her dinner with them flashed in her mind. Lucy wouldn’t cry, but standing in the middle of her abandoned life punched her in the gut. “I just need to call my sister.”
“Oh, you’re no bother at all.” Michelle’s head quirked to her wife and back again, communicating with a look of long married partners. “You look hungry. Can I pack you something for the road?”
Tears crested her lids and Lucy blinked, swallowing the emotion threatening to overwhelm her. “That’s not necessary. I’ll just be in and out.”
The three of them entered the kitchen and Denise’s wife went straight to the cupboards, pulling down plastic to go containers and turning to the stove where the extra chicken warmed in the oven.
Lucy memorized Denise’s smile as she gazed at Michelle packing up dinner for a complete stranger. Watched her cross the small space to wrap her arms around her wife from behind, placing a kiss on the side of Michelle’s neck. This mattered. This small win. They were happy. In love.
“Phone’s next to the fridge,” she called to Lucy without letting go of the woman bent over the stove.
The two woman whispered to one another as Lucy dialed the one number she still knew. A number with no destination. She listened to the this number is not in service recording while pretending to speak to Amy, hushing her voice so as not to interrupt the couple’s moment. “Hi Amy, it’s Jo. Yeah, I’m lost again. No, yeah, I misplaced my phone. Yeah, again. I’m getting directions now, I’ll be there soon. Sorry. Love you.”
Lucy returned the phone to the cradle, turning, and Michelle handed her a warm container of Mustard Chicken while Denise flattened the map out on the countertop. “You aren’t far.”
She listened, intent on the directions while trying not to break down. She still had another stop to make before heading back to the Lifeboat.
Only once she slipped into the car again, pulling away from the curb and heading towards her next destination, did she finally allow the tears. Silent, reflecting in the light of the passing headlights, they felt endless, as if she might drown in the vast ocean of her sorrow. She wished it were raining to hide the stream down her cheeks, but the sky that streaked above her was full of stars.
She parked in a dark corner of the hole in the wall, neighborhood pizza shop lot, leaving the car running since she didn’t feel like hot-wiring it again, and heading inside. She took the chance that there’d be a pizza for her to pick up. If not, she’d order one and deliver it as “a mistake.” By the time the teenager manning the register managed to look up from his cell phone, Lucy had already scanned the order list and located the one she wanted. No one else would order that pizza besides Rufus and Jiya.
“Hi!” She bounced, overcompensating with enthusiasm, and leaned on the counter. “How ya doing?”
“Um, good. I’m good. Good.” The gangly teenager in the Urban Outfitters concert t-shirt stumbled over his words, blushing at her smile. “Um...how can I help you?”
“My friends ordered a pizza for delivery, but I had to drive right by here anyway so I figured I’d just pick it up. That’s not a problem, right?”
“Not at all. What’s the order?”
“It’s for Rufus and Jiya,” she offered, figuring at a tiny shop like this, they’d probably know the regular customers by name. “It’s the half ham and cheese…”
“Half mushroom, spinach, and banana peppers?”
“Yes. Exactly! I didn’t miss it, did I?” Lucy donned her brightest smile, feigning complete innocence.
The curly-haired boy turned to call to the surfer zoned out at the oven in the back, “The Carlin order? Sandy didn’t take that one yet, right?”
“Nah.” The other teen blew his blond bangs out of his eyes. “Just about ready, though.”
“Cool, send it up here when it’s done.” He smiled back at her. “I gotcha. Not a problem.”
“Thank you so much!” Lucy paid with cash from the stash they kept in the Lifeboat. All the leftover currency from their missions stayed in the lock box next to the medical kit. The teenager gave her a smitten grin as he handed over the pizza and she gave him a little wave on the way out the door. “Have a great night!”
She dropped the smile the moment she walked out the door. Jiya’s apartment wasn’t far. The food wouldn’t even finish steaming by the time she dropped it off. The streetlights cycled by as she wound her way through the side streets. At least this time she wouldn’t need to make small talk. Unless Rufus wasn’t there. Then she’d have to get creative. She prayed she didn’t have to get creative. She was running on fumes.
It took a few circles, but Lucy located Jiya’s building and climbed the grey painted concrete stairs to the second floor, opening the hallway door and following her feet down the deep green carpeting to apartment twenty-eight. She heard two muffled voices through the door.
It’s not sexist if I use a woman to beat you.
Rufus was there. Jiya had been right, they had found each other again. Lucy knocked on the door.
Oh, I can pay for it.
I can afford pizza, Rufus.
“Yes! I am starving,” The door opened and Jiya answered with a beaming smile. “Hi! You’re not Sandy. You new?”
“Just started,” Lucy lied, just taking in her friend’s happy face. She peered around Jiya to the paused video game, scanning over two hoodies thrown over the back of the couch, and over to Rufus gathering plates in the kitchen.
“Right on, well, I’m Jiya, that's Rufus," she jerked a thumb over her shoulder and pulled out her wallet, "you’ll probably see us a lot.” Jiya looked up, cash in hand. "How much do I owe you?”
“Uh...$18.23.” It took Lucy a second to bring her brain back online. She nearly forgot she was supposed to be delivering their pizza, ecstatic that her two friends were still falling towards each other in the new timeline. She handed it over to a quizzical look on her old friend’s face that brought with it a surge of memories. Flashes of the two of them in the bunker. Watching tv and sharing a blanket and a bowl of popcorn.
“Thanks so much! Keep the change.” Jiya handed over twenty-three dollars. She started to close the door and pulled it open again. A flicker of concern crossed her expression. “You okay?”
Lucy looked away from Rufus who paused midway to the living room. “Yeah, sorry. Have a good night.”
Jiya poked her head out the door and Lucy walked away. “You too.”
It took everything she had not to run straight down the hallway, bursting into the stairwell, away from the concerned eyes of her old friend. Jiya had always been more perceptive than the others. She pushed out the door at the bottom of the stairs. Her friends are happy. Her friends are happy. Her friends are happy. The mantra flowed over her as the cool air hit her face. She breathed it in. There’d be time enough for heartbreak at the end of her mission.
“Have a slice.” Rufus held out a box of pizza to Mason and Agent Christopher, opening the lid as he and Jiya crossed the cavernous warehouse to join the team. The space they temporarily used as home base until Denise located something better was bare, only two eight foot tables for the computer equipment and a couple card tables for mission planning. Stacks of steamer crates holding the last of their wardrobe lined the outer walls, scavenged when they had to abandon Mason Industries. After Connor informed them it was compromised by Rittenhouse--well, now The Reverents--they had to move their entire operation overnight. They’d been moving every couple weeks since then, using Mason’s offshore accounts to rent whatever new space became available.
Flynn lay on one of the trunks and sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Do I smell food?”
“Oooh, Hawaiian, my favorite.” Connor grabbed a slice, expertly folding it in half for easy on-the-go eating.
“Lifeboat jumped.” Denise took the box from Rufus and dropped it on an open spot on the table. “Eat up. Who knows when you’ll see your next meal.”
Rufus dusted off his hands and sat down behind the bank of computers. “April 18, 1775. Boston, Massachusetts.”
“The midnight ride of Paul Revere,” Amy answered the unspoken question as she snatched the last two pieces of pizza. “We all familiar or do we need a grade school lesson? One if by land, two if by sea, everybody got it?”
“Some historian you are,” Rufus retorted.
“As I’ve said before, my minor was in history. My degrees are in Political Science and Sociology.”
“So why do we keep you around again?” Flynn asked as he joined the group, glaring at Amy when he noticed the empty pizza box. “Where’s mine?”
“You snooze, you lose, buddy.” Jiya elbowed him aside as she joined Rufus at the computers.
Amy relinquished a slice to him with a dramatic sigh. “You keep me around because I’m the best you’ve got for understanding The Reverents and how they’ve been influencing history. And because I’m awesome.”
Flynn rolled his eyes, stealing the last half of her slice. “So what do we think? Emma and Jessica are trying to scuttle the Revolution? They succeed and we’re all still British subjects?”
“Bully for them,” Mason mumbled around a nibble of pineapple. “What? I’m British.”
“You’re drunk!” Agent Christopher chastised.
Mason shrugged. “You try remembering two timelines. Rittenhouse. Reverents. Abraham Lincoln. Ulysses S. Grant. Two times around with Houdini. We’re good guys. We’re bad guys. We’re good guys again. You’d be drunk too. Besides, you wouldn’t have known you all were working for The Reverents in the first place if not for me.”
“Fair enough, still, no Mason on this mission. That leaves Flynn, Rufus, Jiya, and Amy.” Denise turned to the blond popping a banana pepper in her mouth. “Give us an idea of what we’re up against.”
Amy finished her slice and dug through what she retained from her undergrad class on the American Revolution. “Well, from what I remember, Revere contacted Robert Newman and Captain John Pulling at North Church in Boston to hold up two lamps to warn Charleston that the British were coming in by way of the Charles River. Revere then left Boston by boat, right under the noses of the British and made it to the Hancock-Clarke house to warn Sam Adams and John Hancock that the Tories were on their way, ostensibly to arrest the men, but also the Brits were actually headed to Concord to hit the ammunition stockpile stashed there.”
“I feel like I remember something about them all being a part of a spy network or something, right?” Rufus asked, pausing in his work on the jump parameters.
“Yup, all of them were part of the Sons of Liberty. Without them, the Brits would’ve razed Concord and Lexington to the ground, potentially crippling the Revolution. If Emma and Jess stop Revere, the Brits take out the munitions stores and the Battles of Lexington and Concord never happen. Who knows what happens to the Revolution after that. Not to mention, if they do something as simple as take out any of the three men, Adams, Hancock, or Revere, they punch history in the face pretty hard.”
Jiya snickered. “Is that the language they taught you at Berkeley?”
“Hmm, sorry, I must’ve been in a coma the semester they offered a class on the correct nomenclature for femme fatale duos bent on ravaging history,” Amy snarked back.
“So safe to assume the three men are Reverents?” Denise looked to Amy for confirmation, keeping them all on track.
She nodded. “Pretty safe assumption. No reason for Jess to target them otherwise.”
“So, we have to protect the enemy to save America.” The older woman grabbed a laptop and brought up a quick google search of Paul Revere’s ride. “At least you can have maps this time.”
Mason snorted. “And you wonder why I’m drunk.”
Denise ignored him, speaking to Amy. “Has Jessica let any other information on The Reverents slip out? Anything that could give us a leg up on what she and Emma have planned?”
“Not since the Apollo 13 mission. Still thinks that taking out the right person will bring back her husband. But I dunno, I get the feeling she’s not really the one in charge. Like it was her idea to steal the time machine, sure, but it’s the other woman, Emma, who concerns me. She’s the one with the plans, I’m almost certain. At least with Jess, it feels like she really believes she’s fighting the bad guys.”
“To be fair,” Rufus interrupted, “The Reverents really are the bad guys. Who knows how long they’ve been white-washing history.”
Jiya shrugged in agreement. “I mean, he’s not wrong. Other than the killing people thing, I can’t say I can argue with Jess. Her methods, sure, but her motives? Taking out bad guys to save her husband? I get that.”
“Well, we can’t just let her slaughter Adams, Hancock, or Revere. It could irreparably change history. We’re the good guys, even if we’re batting for the bad guys. Keep an eye on Emma and let me know if anything changes. Mason and I will stay here and keep digging into The Reverents based on the other people we know who are connected to them and work on getting us a more permanent home base.” Denise scanned over her team, Rufus and Jiya hard at work on the calculations for the jump; Amy leaning down to study the google search while the maps printed in the background; Flynn already rifling through the steamer trunks and withdrawing a deep burgundy long coat; they were ready. “Grab what you can use from the wardrobe, you’ll have to steal the rest when you get there. I want you all ready to jump in fifteen.”
April 18, 1775
Amy pulled her forest green cloak around her. The steeple of the North Church loomed and a bitter wind blew over the four of them as they crept in the shadows, keeping an eye out for Emma, Jess, or any of their henchmen. Flynn brought them all to a stop in a darkened alley across from the chapel’s front door. “This should keep us hidden until Newman and Pulling show up. At that point, Rufus, you and Jiya make sure they get to the steeple. Stay hidden if at all possible, but don’t hesitate to intervene if necessary. We need that signal.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll make it happen.” Rufus kept his voice down. “I don’t feel like learning to eat blood pudding.”
Jiya shook her head. “Trust you to think with your stomach. Don’t worry, Flynn, I’ll keep him on track.”
“I have no doubt. Meanwhile, Amy and I will head towards the river and meet up with Paul Revere to accompany him to Charleston and then ride with him as far as Hancock-Clarke House. Meet us there if you can. If not, once we’re sure all the riders are off, we’ll meet both of you back at the Mothership.”
He held out an arm to back everybody up when he noticed two shadows slinking along the wall that lined the garden next to the rectory.
They huddled together and Amy whispered, “Remember, it’s likely Emma and Jess will be at the church, the boat, or at the house in Lexington with Adams and Hancock. I’m betting the house, but we can’t skip any of the steps. We don’t know how any change can alter what comes after.”
“Agreed. Everybody be prepared to meet up with them at the worst possible moment.” Flynn turned to Jiya and Rufus. “Try and get to the boat. I have a feeling we’re gonna need all the manpower we can muster if we do find them in Lexington. They won’t come alone.”
“With the upgrade of the nuclear core,” Rufus added, warning, “they can make several trips in a row now. They have the ability to bring more people into the past as needed.”
The two hooded shadows moved again. Flynn nodded. “It’s time. Stay close and stay out of sight.”
Rufus and Jiya crossed the street and skirted the wall of the rectory. Jiya stuck her foot out in time to catch the door before it closed fully and they slipped in behind Newman and Pulling.
Flynn waited until they both disappeared into the building before he turned his face into the brisk, salty wind and followed it in the direction of the water. They stayed out of the lamplight as the crossed over a couple blocks and came to the edge of a small park, darting under the cover of the trees that dotted the lawn until they came to a wooden walkway that connected to a series of short docks.
“Hold up,” Amy put a hand out to pull him off the path, using the darkness under the branches of a large oak to hide them. “Where are the guys who’re supposed to ferry Revere across the river? They should be here.”
“You think Emma and Jess beat us here?” He unholstered his weapon and so did she, he noted with approval. He didn’t see the blonde or the redhead anywhere, but that didn’t mean much. “Stay low. We need to get over there and see what’s what.” He jerked his head to the gun in her hand. “You remember what I taught you?”
“Yes, Dad,” she said with affection. He insisted on teaching her after she almost got shot on the Oppenheimer mission. She didn’t really put up an argument.
He glared back at her. “Remember to breathe.”
They’d worked together long enough that they moved as one and made it to the docks without incident. He moved methodically, checking the length of each before proceeding to the next. On his third inspection, he found two bodies, slumped over on the muddy bank, half hidden by tall weeds.
Flynn jumped down and bent over to check on their condition, noticing their breath puffing out into the cold air. A trickle of blood ran down one man’s forehead, the other sporting a blossoming bruise on one cheek. He pulled them further up the bank to keep them from the cold mud and lapping water. He didn’t have time to get them help, but they wouldn’t die, and now they wouldn’t freeze. He climbed back up to rejoin Amy. “They’re fine. Probably wake up with a vicious headache given the walloping they each took to their skull.”
“Notice anything missing?” She drew his attention to the empty docks and then the water to see the receding shapes of the rowboats carried downriver.
Flynn rose and grimaced. “I did notice a definite lack of boats.”
Amy scoured the shore in both directions praying for something small enough to get them across without being seen. She squinted at a black boat-ish shaped blob down the bank a ways, caught by a low hanging bramble of branches. She hopped off and picked her way through the mud that sucked at her black granny boots, stolen from the farmhouse nearest to where they’d parked the Mothership. Her stolen dark green dress dragged behind as she prayed the blob wasn’t just an unfortunately shaped tree trunk.
Flynn followed, watching her back, gun in hand so they weren’t caught unawares. “Any luck?” he asked over his shoulder.
After determining it was indeed a row boat, she spun around, almost falling over into river before she caught her balance. “We’re good. It must’ve gotten tangled and never picked up by the current. But I can’t quite reach it from here, I’m gonna have to wade out a bit.”
He surveyed the situation. “Back up. Give me a second. Maybe neither of us needs to get pneumonia tonight.”
She moved behind him as he scanned the bramble looking for a branch he could tug free. Caught between the rowboat and the tangle, he saw a long piece of driftwood sticking out far enough he could just reach it from the bank. Freeing it jarred the boat, but not enough to send it into the current. He lifted the branch over the side, dragging the prow of the boat close enough that he could pull it the rest of the way to the shore.
Amy jumped down to help him drag it to the nearest dock and tie it off until they were ready to use it. “Guess that means we’re rowing tonight.”
“Guess so,” Flynn huffed out and sat down to let his legs dangle over the surface of the water. “Might as well get catch your breath, I don’t think Emma or Jess are still here. They did what they came to do and moved on. Revere will be here soon enough and we’re gonna need a cover story to get him to trust us.”
“I don’t remember anything about the trip over the water to Charleston other than two people rowed him across. We could say we were sent by Newman? That he dispatched us to ensure he had a way to get to the other side?”
He squinted, thinking. “Is there any reason why he should trust us?”
“I mean, you could say you’re a member of the Sons of Liberty in New York. Maybe you’ve come down to visit your cousin?”
Flynn heard a scuff of a footstep and jumped up finding a dark-haired man in a long black jacket and breeches approaching with hesitation.
Amy looked to Flynn and back at the man. “Mister Revere?”
“Where are Joshua and Thomas?” he asked, hovering several feet back.
Flynn pointed to the weeds. “We were following two spies, your men must’ve met up with them.”
Revere reached for the pistol at his side, noticing the single row boat behind Flynn and Amy. “How am I to know you are truthful? That you aren’t responsible for what befell my men?”
Amy stepped forward two paces, holding up her hands, settling in a cover story that should suffice. “My name is Abigail and this is my father, Nathaniel. We were sent by Benedict Arnold in Connecticut. The spies are suspected of giving information to the Loyalists about the movements of the Sons of Liberty there.”
He relaxed his posture and Flynn gestured to the boat. “You have no doubt noticed that there is only one boat. My daughter and I are headed across the water in pursuit of the spies. We think they are headed to a house in Lexington where Adams and Hancock are staying. You could join us.”
“I see no other choice. Maybe fate wills it this way since the Hancock-House is also my destination. Name is Paul Revere.” He reached out, shaking Flynn’s hand and then tipping his tricorn hat to Amy. “We should be off. No reason to dawdle in the night when there are Tories about.”
Flynn looked over his shoulder at the church steeple, rising above the roofs of the neighboring buildings. He wanted to wait for Rufus and Jiya, but they really couldn’t waste time. He stepped down into the slightly curved bottom of the boat, situating himself and holding out a hand for Amy. “Boat’s not much to look at, but she’ll ferry us across.”
Paul Revere untied it from the dock and stepped down to join them, placing himself next to Flynn and taking up the second oar. “Sound travels across the river, the Redcoats will be out there with us. Silence is paramount.”
Garcia Flynn dipped his oar into the water with care and pushed away from the shore. The legendary patriot rowed next to him as all three refused to look away from the steeple, waiting for the signal. The church had all but disappeared as they reached the middle of the river and the two lanterns finally shown out across the water. The only sounds were the slapping of the small waves at the side of the boat and three identical sighs of relief.
Amy’s heart pounded in her chest, knowing that British war ships surrounded them and that at any second they might be discovered. She had no idea what to expect if she were captured, but she knew one simple fact: she really enjoyed hot showers and was relatively certain that traitors to the crown wouldn’t see even one drop of hot water anytime in the near future. She decided she would pass on that experience and focused on staying as quiet as possible even though her brain was rambling a mile a minute, cataloguing everything she experienced. She was a witness to history. The shine on that never got old.
When the finally reached the other shore, which felt like an eternity, they were greeted by Colonel Conant, John Larkin, and a few of the other Charleston Sons of Liberty who’d seen the signal from North Church in Boston. Introductions were made all around and most of the group scattered to finish gathering horses and weapons for the riders. Revere insisted Amy needn’t need to accompany them all the way to Lexington.
Ever the gentleman, Paul Revere gave her an out. “It’s no fit ride for a lady, if you’ll pardon me, Miss.” He directed the rest of his address to Flynn, excluding her from the conversation. “Your daughter should remain behind. You can return for her afterwards. She will be safe here with the Colonel’s wife.”
She barely contained rolling her eyes. “I grew up around horses, don’t worry about me. If I could only borrow a pair of breeches.” Both men looked askance at her request and she explained with an amazing amount of patience, gesturing at her legs. “The dress will only get in the way.”
Larkin glanced at Flynn for permission, who laughed. “My daughter has her own mind, I doubt all of us combined could keep her from joining the ride this evening.”
“I think my son has a pair that will fit her,” Colonel Conant conceded and turned, unconcerned and moving on, to Paul Revere. “Mount the horses the minute the men return. We’ll see you armed, but then you need to be away. The message must be carried on swift wings.”
Which was how, a few minutes before eleven pm on April eighteenth, Garcia Flynn and Amy Wallace ended up armed with revolutionary rifles strapped to their backs, riding beside Paul Revere. The stars streaked by above them, filtering through the branches above as they raced through the Massachusetts countryside on a mission to save America, stopping along the way to rouse the troops. Flynn felt hope growing inside him with every passing mile. They would succeed in taking down down Emma and Jess, keeping America on the path of freedom. They’d bring the Lifeboat back so that they didn’t need to chase after anyone bent on wreaking havoc throughout history anymore.
Then he could go back to his simple life working as an NSA asset and seeing his daughter as often as possible. He promised Iris he’d build her a swing-set in his backyard and had every intention of following through. He knew how lucky he was that he and Lorena remained good friends even after the love they found in the midst of war couldn’t survive normality.
She didn’t stop him from joining the team, just promised they’d still be there when he returned. She never needed the mission details, knowing that if he chose the fight, there was a reason. Something that drew him in. She always saw him as a hero even when he didn’t. He’d done things in war he couldn’t forget. Ghosts that followed him and he knew he sought redemption. From God or the Universe, he couldn’t tell which, but he felt haunted.
Paul Revere brought his horse parallel to Flynn’s and they slowed enough that conversation was possible. “Split up. There’s a patrol up ahead. Follow the river, I’ll draw them away and meet you where the river crosses the road to Menotomy. That’ll take us the rest of the way.”
He pulled away, splashing through the shallow water and crossing the road just beyond it. As predicted, the two British soldiers caught sight of him and jumped on their horses to follow just as Flynn and Amy passed by not fifty feet away. They encouraged their horses to go faster, not wanting to run afoul of any other patrols that might be stationed along the way. They were blind without Revere.
No matter, Flynn had a gun. As long as he had a weapon, they’d be fine. He had no idea where the river met the road, and it’s not like he could stop in the middle of the forest and take out the map Denise printed for them. He’d just have to trust that Revere was a man of his word and would meet them where he said.
He was and they rode the rest of the way together to Lexington, stopping several more times along the way to send other riders out into the night, carrying the message far and wide, before arriving at the Hancock-Clarke house an hour later.
“Dawes must have arrived before us. Good.” The American patriot remarked as he led his horse into a pasture already filled with several others. “But I did not expect this many guests.”
Flynn tensed, dismounting his horse and retrieving the rifle from his back. He shared a look with Amy. “There’s a safe bet we just found Emma and Jessica.”
Amy slid down and when her feet hit the ground, grabbed her own weapon. “Don’t forget their goons.”
“What is all the kerfuffle about?” Revere dusted himself off, unconcerned. “What have we to fear from the fairer sex? These cannot be the spies you spoke of.”
“They are not to be trifled with,” Amy replied, smirking at Flynn who said nothing, clearing his throat.
“The women are not to be trusted,” Flynn slung his rifle over his shoulder, still tense. “They haven’t started firing yet, which makes me nervous.”
“What do you think they want?” She eyed the curtained windows, no gun barrels pointed out at them.
“Only one way to find out.”
Paul Revere strode ahead of them, dismissing the warning, and knocked on the door. Flynn and Amy approached the house, well lit for midnight. Revere knocked a second time and the door cracked open.
A man in his mid fifties with salt and pepper hair answered, widening the opening. “Paul, we’ve been waiting for you.”
Revere furrowed his brow. “How would you know I was coming?”
“Come in, come in.” The older man swept them inside the house, closing the door behind them. “We have made friends this evening who bring us dire news.”
He led them into a low ceilinged room with hardwood floors and a stone fireplace. Emma sat at a square wooden table with man with dark hair that curled just below his ears. Jessica stood behind her, leaning on a wooden bar. A beefy blonde with a military cut lurking next to her.
“Good of you to join us, Flynn. Amy.” Emma dipped her head in mock respect. “Please, take a seat. We have much to discuss.”
Paul Revere eyed the two who rode with him tonight with distrust. “I thought you said your names were Nathaniel and Abigail.”
“We hoped to pass through these parts without suspicion, easier under assumed names,” Flynn covered with ease never taking his gaze off Emma. Revere accepted without argument and he and Amy took the last two chairs at the table while Flynn posted up behind the tiny blond, cradling his rifle in his arms, not the least bit impressed. “What’s this all about, Emma?”
“Tsk tsk, where are the pleasantries?” Emma laid a pistol longer than her forearm on the table in front of her. “Introductions first, please. Garcia Flynn, Amy Wallace,” she gestured to the man on her right, “meet John Hancock. The grandfatherly gentleman next to the fireplace is Samuel Adams.”
John Hancock rose from his seat and bent in a small bow to Amy, Sam Adams approaching her side with a tilt of his head before taking her hand. “Miss. A pleasure.”
Both men acknowledged Flynn but allowed him a wide berth. Emma’s feline smile annoyed him, but she proceeded as if they were simply setting down for tea. ”You, of course, are well acquainted with my compatriot, Jessica. The man next to her is Stiv, he's here to make sure everybody stays nice and compliant.” She adjusted the silk of her grey with silver filigree skirt before rising, holding out a dainty hand and dipping in a perfect curtsy. “And you must be Paul Revere.”
“I am, Ma’am.” He took her fingers and placed a chaste kiss on the back of her hand. He turned to Flynn as he rose. “These two charming ladies cannot be the spies of whom you warned me.”
Emma giggled. “Oh, is he still telling that silly story? Garcia,” she walked over and swatted him on the arm, “you really need to stop with these jokes.” She swirled back into her chair. “Now, where was I? Oh yes. You're probably wondering why I gathered you all here."
"To start," Amy said with amusement. "Seems like a lot of work just for a bit of chit chat. Can we get on with it. The others have miles to go before sunrise."
"Well, actually about that." Emma flicked a finger at Jess. "She's still hung up on bringing back Wyatt, though I've explained plenty of times now that men are nothing but trouble. She refuses to believe me, though I imagine she'll learn the hard way one day. Alas, until that time, I promised her she could kill these men in her misguided attempt to bring him back."
"What is all this nonsense?" Paul Revere rose to argue, but the Stiv crossed the room to slam him back down in his seat. "We have not the time for this."
"We had plans for you, but I suppose I will come up with some excuse to give the boss." Emma focused on Flynn. "I'm here to offer you--"
"I decline your kind offer," he drawled out.
Her ruby red lips pouted, "But you didn't even let me get it out. That's just not fair."
Sam Adams pounded a fist on the mantle of the fireplace. “Enough of this. The Redcoats will be at our heels before long.”
Emma held up a single finger. “Hush now.”
Amy leaned forward. "Let's stop playing these games. What do you really want, Emma? I know you aren't here supporting Jess out of the kindness of your heart. She's obviously nothing more than a pawn. So come on, spill it. What's the endgame?"
"You're unconditional surrender, obviously."
"Oh." Flynn checked the barrel of his rifle for bullets. "Why in the world would we surrender? I've got you right here, I can just shoot you and walk away."
"Well, first, because you are so far behind, you aren't even playing the same game as me. Second, I'm offering to let you walk away with your lives. Or, whatever life you could make in this godforsaken wilderness." She nodded to Jess who moved to stand next to Paul Revere, relieving the man of his revolver and pressing her pistol into his temple, and then to Stiv who pulled a gun on Amy as Flynn aimed his rifle at Emma. The redhead drew back on the hammer of her pistol and pointed it at John Hancock. "Now that we're all properly aggressive, why don't you listen. These men are all Reverents, though they haven't exactly named themselves yet. This is their beginning. The Sons of Liberty become the shadow government that runs America two hundred and fifty years from now. Without them, The Reverents fizzle out before they even start."
"You're all mad!" Hancock shoved away from the table and stood to leave. "I have no idea what any of this has to do--"
Emma shot him in the thigh. "Do please sit down." He screamed, collapsing into the chair.
"What are you doing?" Amy shoved Stiv out of the way and moved to kneel in front of Hancock. She ripped at the fabric of her skirt to staunch his wound. "Why are you doing any of this? Do you hate America this much?"
Emma rolled her eyes. "Samuel, do I need to shoot you too or will you behave?" she asked the man trying to disappear into the walls. He shook his head to indicate he had no intention of giving her a reason to shoot him. She adjusted her gun, leveling it at Flynn. "Alright then. As I was saying. Think of all the good you could do."
Flynn leaned against the fireplace, intent on every twitch of Emma's fingers. "You waited for us to arrive, planned out this whole little scene, and for what? Why haven't you just killed them?"
"Well, I'm only gonna kill Adams and Hancock. We have plans for Revere." Jess flinched, shock rippling over her face. "Yeah, sorry, I lied. But I promise, we really are gonna save your honey bun, just not today." She dismissed the blond and focused again on Flynn. "I'll be taking Revere with me."
"Taking him where, Emma?" Flynn really wanted to shoot her, but she was gloating and the more information he could glean from her, the better.
Her Cheshire grin returned. "Like I said, you're playing checkers and I'm playing three dimensional chess."
"Out with it," Amy gritted her teeth. "You had plenty of time to do all of this and yet, you're sitting around wasting time."
"Who said I was wasting it?" She tapped a hidden earpiece. "Anthony, have you located it? And the sleeper is in place?" Her eyes narrowed as her lips curled up in a conniving smile, red fingernails scrolling over the wooden table. "Ah, yes, good. Leave the Lifeboat for me and head home whenever you're ready."
Dread filled the pit of his stomach. If Emma had control of the Mothership. He really hoped Rufus and Jiya were okay. "I won't let you leave this room alive."
"You won't have a choice." She rose and Stiv grabbed Amy, using her as a human shield.
Flynn hesitated, knowing if he shot Emma now, Amy was as good as dead. The redhead crossed to Revere.
Tears rolled down Amy's cheeks, brave even with a gun to her head. "You're going to kill America. Who knows what the world will look like afterwards. Why would you risk it?"
"America's become a cesspit. The Reverents thought they could shape their perfect society, but they failed." She circled around the table, reaching out to lower Jess' gun. The blond's hands shook as silent tears streamed down her face, but she let Emma take control of Paul Revere. "Go take care of Adams."
"The Society sent you." Revere met the redhead's gaze without blinking. It wasn't a question.
"Your little insurrection is over." The butt of her gun ran over his shoulder and back as Emma moved behind him, whispering in his ear. "It's time to come home now."
"Don't let her do it, Flynn," Amy pleaded with him, wrestling against Stiv's hold as he walked them towards the door. "I don't matter, they do."
But he couldn't take the risk even though his aim followed every single footstep Emma took. He could save Paul Revere or Amy, but not both. He could take out Stiv, but Emma would disappear with Revere to god knows when and where. He glanced at Jess who had Adams on his knees, gun against his forehead.
He was all out of good plans and had discarded half a dozen bad ones when behind Emma, the door burst open and Rufus slammed into the redhead, knocking Paul Revere out of her grasp. Flynn took the opening to fire a bullet at her, but he missed and she fled, slamming into Jiya before vanishing into the night. Stiv, realizing he was about to be left behind, threw Amy into the table and followed suit. Jess refused to budge, staring down Samuel Adams, finger on the trigger.
"Jiya," Flynn barked orders, "Hancock's been shot. Stop the bleeding as best you can, I have to go after Emma. Amy will explain." Jiya blanched, but bolted to Hancock's side. Flynn nodded, slinging his rifle over his shoulder. He helped Amy to her feet. "You've got to talk Jess down, stop her from killing Adams. Don't waste any more time than necessary, we're gonna need to jump out of here as quickly as possible to keep Emma from getting both time machines."
"Go. We've got this." She set her lips in grim determination and he gave her a half hug.
"Rufus, you're with me."
The two men ran for the horses and Amy knelt down beside Paul Revere. "You okay?"
"This has been one of the weirdest nights of my entire existence." He scrubbed at his face and pushed up from the floor.
She brushed her hands off on her breeches. "If you only knew the whole story."
"I don't think I want to."
Amy studied the man so many Americans admired, knowing now that he not only helped found America, but also the secret society that wrapped its tendrils around and strangled its growth as a nation. What would the country have become without their influence? Could the team find a way to stop it? That was a question for another day. "You have to finish the ride."
"William! Where is he?" Revere finally pulled himself together. "He should've been here by now."
"William?" Amy asked, confused.
"Dawes. He was supposed to meet us here. He left before me and took the shorter route. I thought him already here."
"Well, I'm sorry to tell you, if he's not here by the time you reach your horse, you need to leave without him. You have to finish the mission. America needs you." Amy pretty much shoved the man out the door before edging her way around the table to Jess. The woman's entire body vibrated. "You don't have to do this."
"I do. It's the only way." Amy stepped close enough to see the tears streaming down the other woman's cheeks. "You don't understand. They took him from me. And why? Because he opened the wrong file? Asked the wrong questions? How was he to know who The Reverents really were?"
She tried to reason with her. "This isn't the way. Then you're no better than them."
"I am them now, can't you see that? I was a bartender before this. Now I don't even know what I've become." Jess whipped around to face Amy and a whimper escaped Adams. "Do you know how many men I've already killed to bring him back?"
She reached for the grieving woman, because that's really all this was, a grieving woman trying to do anything to bring back the man she loved. "But it hasn't worked, Jess."
"But it will. She promised me."
"And then she left you behind."
"These three started it all. If I take them out, The Reverents disappear."
"You don't know that. You don't know how many other people share their belief. You'll never stop them all." Amy's heart broke for her. She couldn't imagine how desperate Jess must've been to resort to such extreme measures. "And if you do, how will you live with yourself at the end of it all?"
"It doesn't matter, because Wyatt will be alive." She turned back to face Samuel Adams who prayed under his breath as she brought the gun to his head again. "They're terrible people. All of them. If you knew half of what they'd done to history...They don't deserve to live."
"I don't disagree with you, but it isn't up to us to play God and you know it." Jiya rose from tending to Hancock and tapped her wrist. Time was running short. They needed to go two minutes ago when Flynn and Rufus left. Amy held out her hand. "Come with me. Choose a different path. We'll find a way to bring them back, I promise."
Jess relinquished her death grip on the weapon, but kept hold before fully handing it over. "Swear to me you'll find a way to bring him back."
Jess handed over the gun and Jiya let out a sigh of relief. "Awesome. Can we go now?"
Amy passed her pistol to Adams. "If you can get Hancock out of here before the British get here, do it. If not, you can't be here when they arrive. Good luck."
She nodded goodbye and ran with Jiya and Jess for the horses. They needed to make up for lost time. She worried that she'd never find the tracks, but four people galloping at full blast left a mark on the earth that wasn't hard to follow. She lost it a couple times, but never for long and after awhile she could hear the thumping echo of the hoofbeats against the sides of the rocky ravines. The three women screamed through the pine trees, sharp needles tearing at their sleeves, the bare branches of oaks and maples reaching down to rip strands of hair, slashing at their cheeks. The thunder of horses grew behind them and Amy risked a glance back as they raced through an open field to see at least a half dozen Redcoats on their tail.
They caught up with Flynn and Rufus and screeched to a halt in a narrow glen. The Lifeboat sat in the middle, door open, light blazing into the space to shine on Flynn and Emma in the center, guns drawn.
"Get in the Lifeboat," Flynn commanded, never taking his eyes off Emma.
Jiya slid down from her horse while Amy dismounted, jumping to the ground and yelling to Flynn. "A whole mess of Redcoats are headed our way, so get a move on unless you'd like to reveal time travel to the British army in 1775."
Jess hesitated, unsure, and Amy offered her hand up to her. "You're either with us or you're staying here. Make a choice."
Rufus caught sight of Jess clambering down. "What the hell is she doing here?"
Amy stopped dead in front of him. "She's with us."
"She's been trying to kill us!" he argued, looking to Jiya for backup.
"She's not the enemy, Rufus," Jiya responded, standing shoulder to shoulder with Amy while Jess hovered behind them. "She's a pawn as much as any of us."
"There isn't enough room. We can't fit everybody." Rufus scrubbed a hand over his face. "I don't have time to adjust the calculations and we don't know what kind of effect that'll have."
"Then I'll stay behind," both Jiya and Amy answered at the same time.
Flynn glanced over at them. "Get in the damn Lifeboat, all of you. Now!"
"Not until you get your ass over here. I know how your brain works." Amy shoved at Jiya, who didn't budge.
"Shoot her and be done with it, Flynn. The British are coming!" Jiya turned, grabbing Jess and shoving her into a seat in the Lifeboat.
Amy crossed her arms over her chest and waited. "Any time now, buddy." She could make out the seven soldiers headed their way.
Emma called to Flynn, "What's it gonna be? I've got another ride coming so--"
Flynn shot before she finished taunting and it grazed her right arm as she dove for cover. He made a beeline for the Lifeboat, growling at Amy about how sentimentality would get her killed one day. They dropped into their seats, snatching at the seatbelts.
Jiya stayed standing, glancing over them. She leaned forward to Rufus, fingers flying over the controls, and kissed him on the cheek. "Come back for me."
"What? No." Rufus argued, reaching to close the door.
Jiya smiled, covering his hand. "I can survive alone in the wilderness until you come back for me."
A musket fired and they all heard it take a chunk out of the metal surface of the time machine. Jiya blinked and lifted her hand.
It was long enough.
"I'm not leaving you behind." Rufus closed the door and the Lifeboat jumped.
December 25, 2014
Lucy landed on the dunes behind the house. She put off leaving the safety of the time machine as long as possible, but her mission would remain incomplete until she stepped outside. After that, she could drown herself in booze and tears, but until then, her heart pounded in her chest, anxiety raging through her system.
The last goodbye, the hardest one. The one she put off, avoiding her heartbreak as long as possible. They would be happy and her sorrow meant nothing in the face of giving them the chance to live and love together for years to come.
She opened the door and unbuckled her seat belt, stepping out into the cool, salty air from the ocean blowing her hair to whip across her cheeks. The sun, low to the horizon, lent the world an ephemeral feeling as she picked her way down the sandy dunes, avoiding the low scrub brush that scratched at the legs of her jeans and the bottom of Flynn's leather jacket. She pulled it around her, more for the comfort than warmth.
She reached the bottom and stopped to dump the sand out of her sneakers that gritted through her socks against the soles of her feet before continuing. She prayed with every step forward that she hadn't failed. She kept to the edges of the yard, tucked into the hedge to avoid notice. That was the last thing she needed, to explain why she lurked in a suburban neighborhood backyard on Christmas morning. She peeked in every window as she made her way around the house, but saw nothing until she came around the front. Christmas lights twinkled out the big bay window in the early morning sunlight, inching its way above the roof.
Lucy crept to the window, leaning against the side of the house, hidden behind the Christmas tree, but peering around so she could take in the family within. They all wore matching Christmas pajamas and smiles. Iris tore at brightly colored wrapping paper, tossing it over her head. Lorena reached down and picked up a discarded bow and stuck it to her daughter's nose. Flynn came into full view, handing a mug of something steaming to Lorena and Lucy could tell they were happy as he smiled down at his wife and child, the crinkle still in his eyes, but he seemed unburdened, lighter than she remembered.
Iris hugged a blue box to her chest, jumping up and down with joy, and slammed into Flynn's legs trying to hug him and the present at the same time. He picked her up, avoiding the sharp edges of the box, moving the bow to her head and kissing her nose. Lucy memorized his smile as he held his daughter in his arms. He would never know what it was like to lose them. Never again. They were safe and free of Rittenhouse.
When the first tear fell, she knew it was time to leave, but she stayed where she was, cheek against the brick wall just to the side of the window, the red brick scraping against her shoulder. The low bushes in the front pressed in on her, but she didn't move, imprinting this memory, never wanting to forget this happiness. This was her reward.
When the second tear fell, she brushed it away and took a deep breath, watching Iris scramble down her father's body and sit cross-legged on the floor, dragging another present from under the tree.
The third tear fell when Flynn hunched down to his daughter's side and pulled a small box from the branches of the tree, decorated with handmade ornaments. Iris blinked up at him in wonder and opened the box, carefully this time, ensuring that none of the paper ripped. She withdrew a long necklace with a locket dangling on the end. Lucy's barely contained tears broke free when he opened the locket, showing his daughter the pictures secreted within.
She fled and the hedges reached for her, slowing her flight. She didn't belong here. This wasn't her family. She gave up her family. Her sister, her mother, her daughters, they were all gone and she was the sole remaining heir of the Preston family. The time had come to disappear into the past.
Lucy slammed into the Lifeboat, closing herself off from a world that had forgotten her and inputting the coordinates to the place she would come to call home. A new name. A new life. A new Lucy Preston, the old one tucked away in the corner of an attic and gathering dust. She said goodbye and let it all disappear as she jumped into the past.
December 17, 1880
Lucy laid in bed, counting the cracks in the ceiling that spread through the bubbling paint and water stains. Yvette moaned in the next room over, a feathery, tittering sound that meant she wasn't even trying with this one. C'est la vie, Lucy thought. Sometimes a name tumbles from your lips, arms cradling you in a dirty alley and sometimes...
Yvette--was that a bark? No, no, but not quite anything else. Maybe if a seal's bark and a cat in heat could birth a sound. Yeah, that about worked.
Lucy rolled on her side, smoothing out the lumps in the mattress with her shoulder and hip, like memory foam, but shitty.
"Oh, Frank. Yes. Right there. Yes."
The bed stopped thumping against the wall. "You're not even trying, ‘Vetta."
Well, at least he knew it.
Heavy boots tromping towards Lucy's door covered the resuming bang of the headboard. Three quick raps in between moans.
"Come on in, Doc." Lucy sat up in bed and lit the hurricane lamp on the side table, a dim glow from the sooty glass widening as she turned up the flame. He dipped his head to her as he entered her room, dropping his hat on the chair by the dresser. "Kate take off again?" Doc grunted and flopped down into the threadbare velvet chair by the small table covered in books under the window. "Whiskey's between Whitman and Gaskell, just past the pile of Dickens. Pour me one."
Throwing back her yellow and blue quilt, Lucy tugged on a pair of thick wool socks and sat cross-legged on the bed, tucking the billowing white nightgown under her knees.
Yvette continued with a bit more enthusiasm than before.
Doc handed her a glass and leaned back in his chair, legs stretched out in front of him. "You know, the ladies would be happy to fit you up with something," he waved his glass around in her general vicinity, "a tad more flattering."
"What are you saying, Doc? Don't you think I'm pretty?" She batted her eyelashes over the rim of the glass.
He smirked, taking a long draught. "I'm saying you look like my grandmother, all you're missing is the white night cap."
"Awwww, now you're just trying to make a girl blush," Lucy drawled with an affected southern accent.
Yvette vocalized her way to the final curtain, ever the trooper.
“Shouldn’t be long now,” Doc said of Yvette and her John and lifted his boots, crossing his ankles on top of the steamer trunk at the foot of Lucy’s bed. “Tomorrow’s the big night. You ready?”
Opening night--well, reopening since the miners of Tombstone preferred less opera, more risque burlesque--of the Bird Cage Theater where Doc got her a job as a bartender in exchange for the room. Until she figured what the hell she was gonna do with this new life she had, she worked for Lottie and Billy Hutchinson. They’d warned her the clientele would be a rougher crowd, she assured them it wouldn’t be a problem. She’d been shot at before.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, I imagine.” Doc’s eyes scanned the floor, the scuffs on his boots, the amber liquid in his glass. Must’ve been a bad fight with Kate. Katie Elder or sometimes Mrs. John Henry Holliday if the two were in one of the happier phases of their tumultuous relationship. They loved each other, but in the way a lightning bolt loves metal. “You want to talk about it?” Doc grunted at her and refilled his glass. “Words, Doc, use your words.”
“You’re one of the most infuriating women I’ve ever met.”
Lucy stretched her legs out in front of her and leaned back against her pillows. “It’s part of my charm and you know it. Now stop avoiding the question.”
“Are you lecturing me on avoiding conversations?” He narrowed his eyes, a cock to his head, “You ever gonna tell me about that leather you keep next to the bed?”
She reached without thinking to run her hand over the soft black surface. “Touche, dear Doc.”
John Henry “Doc” Holliday. The man had a heart of gold, but hid it beneath the drunk, swaggering asshole who swanned around Tombstone. But Lucy'd seen it her first night in the saloon. She stumbled out of the Lifeboat and straight into a bar, staying there until well past midnight. Vague memories filtered in from the night, but she had no doubt she was crying into her whiskey about a secret society bent on world domination and a horse named Flynn. Doc, gentleman that he is, refused to speak of whatever passed her lips that evening.
She'd woken up in the Bird Cage Theater and stayed there. Sure, it was a bar, brothel, and site of the world’s longest running poker game, but the women were all lovely. Well, except for Deborah. She didn't really care for the snooty blond, but she played downtrodden society girl to a tee. She supposed there was a market and Debbie filled a demand.
“It’s unlikely we’ll see Kate again,” he forced out through clenched teeth. He glared at her, indicating it was her turn to share.
“He…” Doc waited for her answer, content to sip his whiskey while she sorted the words. “I loved him.” She sipped her drink to cover the wobble in her voice. “He died.”
“Al, darling, I’m so sorry. I reckoned you shot a man in Reno and stole his coat.” He winked and leaned forward, tilting his glass to her, letting his cheeky smile fall away. She lifted hers as well. “To absent friends.”
May 25, 2018
Jess clutched the phone, listening to the message, hearing his voice for the first time in four years. Wyatt was alive. Her heart pounded as her hand raised to her mouth, holding in her sob. She slid down the metal casing of the exhaust fan, feeling the bars pressing into her back. Amy saw her and burst into motion, at her side, concerned.
“Are you injured?” The blond scanned the woman on the floor, her knuckles turning white from her death grip on her phone. “What happened?”
Jess ended the replay of his voice, his warm baritone that she missed so much, dread sinking in as she realized there was only one way Wyatt came back. The Constantine Society. She stared at the phone, wanting to run out of the bunker, straight into his arms. She met Amy’s worried gaze. The woman who gave her the chance to fight the people who stole him from her in the first place deserved the truth. The team deserved the truth.
“Wyatt’s alive.” Amy’s eyes widened and she plopped down on the floor to sit cross legged in front of Jess. “Back from a mission, apparently. But we both know…”
“No. Maybe something we did trying to save Edison changed the timeline. It’s not necessarily the Constantines.”
A harsh laugh covered the sob she shoved back down, she’d cry later. “Remember how much easier it was when we thought our biggest problem was the Reverents?”
The Constantines put them to shame. The Reverents just wanted to disrupt history so they could control the future. As long as they didn’t get their hands one of the time machines again, they were just your average secret society playing puppet master. But the Society? The only thing the team could figure out was that they were trying to kidnap historical figures from time. They had no idea where they came from or what they were trying to accomplish.
“Ahhhh, the good old days.” Amy scooted over to put her arm around Jess. “Still, we’ll check to make sure it wasn’t losing Tesla.”
“Nothing else changed. The sleeper did their job, collected all Tesla’s research before burning the lab to the ground.” Jess dropped her head into her hands. “The world thinks he died that night in the fire and Edison took all the credit. What are they trying to do? They’ve got Einstein, Tesla, Marie Curie. Who’s next?”
Amy pushed up from the floor and squatted in front of Jess, taking her hands. “We’ll figure it out. I promise. But first things first.” She stood and pulled the other woman up and into a hug. “He’s alive. Your husband’s alive.”
Jess let her tears fall and clung to the first friend she’d made since losing Wyatt four years ago. She walled herself off from the world and tried to drink herself into the grave. Instead, she’d found the team and they’d saved her life.
“Even knowing they probably brought him back, I’m happy,” she whispered. “I can’t help it.”
Amy leaned back, wiping away her friend’s tears. “As you should be. Now, let’s go figure out what’s what.”
They joined the team and filled them in, explaining that yes, Wyatt had been dead before they left on the mission, but now he was alive again. Jiya got to work tracing Wyatt’s life while Mason and Rufus kept researching the ripples of Tesla’s “death” on the timeline. They knew he didn’t die in the fire because they chased after Emma and Noah as they ran through the New York City streets, Tesla dragged along against his will. But the Society always ensured that whatever scientific progress was meant to happen still did. So they never came back to a radically altered present. However they accomplished it, it required an amazing amount of precision.
“You’ll have to meet with him.” Agent Christopher addressed Jess, now seated at the table turning her phone absently in her hand. “But keep in mind he’s not the same Wyatt you knew.”
Jiya pushed the laptop across to her. “See anything out of the ordinary?”
Jess scanned the info on the screen, nothing from the past looked weird, but after the date of his original death, it carried on without a blip. He continued working with Delta Force and apparently they were still married, living in the same ranch house she’d abandoned four years ago.
“Nothing. It’s like our lives just continued on as if nothing happened.” She leaned forward and clicked on a connected link, reading. “At least I’m not wanted for murder anymore.”
“What did his message say?” Denise joined them at the table.
“Nothing special. Hey babe, back from the mission. I’m home, looking forward to seeing you.” They had four years of a life she knew nothing about. And he was waiting for her at home. The home she hadn’t stepped foot in since that awful night when she fled for her life. To this day she still didn’t know how she escaped, chalking it up to knowing the area better than her pursuers. Then came Emma and the entire life she shared with Wyatt felt like a mirage.
Agent Christopher gave her a look of pity laced with concern. “Are you up to it?”
“Yeah,” her voice croaked out and Jess cleared her throat, rubbing the heels of her palms into tired eyes. “Yeah. I’m good.”
“Good.” Denise reached out, squeezing her hand. “You understand I’m gonna have to ground you otherwise until we sort this out.”
Jess nodded, mute, but understanding. In the middle of preparing an appropriate response, the bunker alarm sounded and the team jumped into motion.
March 1, 1692
They slipped into the courtroom, winding through the gathered crowd to get as near to the front as possible. Tituba stood impossibly straight on the small wooden platform, fear stiffening her spine. A dark haired man sat in front of her, haughty, impeccable. A young clerk at a table, feather pen in hand, recorded the trial for history.
“Tituba what evil spirit have you familiarity with?” John Hathorne asked the round woman with long jet black hair held back by a colorful beaded headband.
“None.” She did not tremble that any of the team could tell, holding her head high.
Last night, when the team found her in her small hut behind her slave master Reverend Parris’ house, she denied any ill intent. She practiced a kind of Voodoo, but as a religious doctrine, not out of malice. After a bit of digging and getting the South American slave to trust them, they found her stash of mushrooms that she used to communicate with the spirits.
When they finally calmed the woman enough to let her know they weren’t interested in attacking her, she admitted that Betty and Abigail, the daughter and the niece of the Reverend, had seen her one night in the middle of a ritual. A few days later, they snuck into her shack to eat a handful of the dried fungus each while Tituba was out gathering herbs. She found them when she returned for the evening, but by then it was too late. The damage was already done.
The man sitting judge over her trial peered at her through narrowed eyes. “Why do you hurt these children?”
“I do not hurt them.” She wrung her hands, twisting her fingers together.
Rufus had convinced her to tell the truth. To admit that the girls, being precocious and nosy, had gotten themselves into trouble, but that she never saw any witches. Her false confession saved her life in the original timeline, but with Emma and The Society running rampant, the team was fighting blind. They had no idea what The Society could possibly want with the Salem Witch Trials. By the time the team found Tituba, Emma had come and gone. It took a bit of coaxing, but they found out that the redhead threatened to tell Reverend Parris that the slave practiced witchcraft if she didn’t cooperate and accuse Sarah Good and Goody Osborn of being in league with the devil.
“Who is it then?” Hathorne probed.
The team moved to stand behind her, lending her support in telling her story. They’d debated the whole situation, unsure if they were doing the right thing, but it seemed like if Emma wanted her to lie, they should encourage her to tell the truth. The moment arrived and the team held its collective breath.
“The devil for ought I know.”
The crowd murmured in the background, pushing forward with every new statement. Amy covered her mouth to stifle her groan. “What are we gonna do now?” she whispered to Rufus who shrugged, looking disappointed in this turn of events.
An angry grimace spread across the judge’s face. “Who have you seen?”
“Four women sometimes hurt the children,” Tituba scanned the room seeing the team behind her wearing identical looks of panic.
Hathorne pressed her for names. “Who were they?”
Amy and Jiya tried to get close enough to whisper to her, to try and get her to tell the truth. To stop all of this before it started. Who knew what would happen to history, but they were flying by the seat of their pants. The Society wanted to kick off the witch madness that swept through Salem and neighboring villages, that couldn’t be a good thing.
Tituba turned back to the man in front of her. “Goody Osburn and Sarah Good and I do not know who the other were. Sarah Good and Osburne would have me hurt the children but I would not. She further said there was a tall man of Boston that she did see.”
“Did you never see the devil?” Harthorne sat forward in his seat, palms flat against the table in front of him.
The woman stared straight ahead. “The devil came to me and bid me serve him.”
Flynn bent down to whisper to Amy. “This isn’t going to end well.”
The tension in the room ratcheted up as Rufus and Jiya exchanged looks and he slipped his hand into hers, asking the obvious. “Anybody else feel like we should head towards the exit?”
“With a quickness.” Amy tried to back up, but found herself trapped by the crowd. Flynn could get them out of there, but it’d be far more dramatic and likely to involve bullets. She scanned the room looking for an easy exit. “So, any other ideas?”
The trial droned on as the people around them worked themselves into a lather, shoving at each other, their voices raised in anger.
Hathorne quieted them so he could proceed. “When did you see him?”
“I see him now.” Tituba pivoted in a slow circle, lifting her arm to point at Rufus. “He is there!”
“Fuck,” Amy bit out.
“You could say that again.” Flynn reached for the gun tucked into his side. The people around them turned to face the four of them. “We need to go. Now.”
They broke into motion, trying to push through the mass of angry Puritans who snatched at their sleeves. Flynn didn’t have enough ammo to kill them all and thought that being the instigator of the Salem Slaughter didn’t sound like a very good idea. Instead, he shoved his gun back in his holster and grabbed Amy’s hand and dragged her through the mess of people, Jiya and Rufus hand in hand behind them.
“Stop them!” John Hathorne jumped up, knocking over his chair as all hell broke loose.
Flynn and Amy almost made it to the door when three men tackled Rufus to the ground. Jiya screamed and elbowed a young, rail thin man in the ribs trying to get back to him.
Rufus struggled against the hands that held him. “Get out of here!”
Amy ripped her hand from Flynn’s and pushed aside a squat woman on her left, reaching for Jiya.
“Keep going,” Jiya turned and commanded her as the men threw Rufus to his knees. “There’ll be no one to help him if we all get caught!”
“We’ll get him back.” Amy wrapped her fingers around her friend’s as they ran for the door.
Flynn gestured impatiently. “Sooner rather than later, ladies.” He blocked the doorway, headbutting a farmer in a dirty, brown cloak, putting the man’s wife in a headlock, and kicking a burly man in the chest. “Let’s get a move on.”
February 11, 1881
Rain poured down outside, splashing in under the swinging doors to the saloon. The kids sat gathered around the tables, chalkboards in front of them, working on their sums.
“Yes, Jimmy?” She came from behind the bar to the curly-haired boy with the crooked smile.
“I don’t understand.” He blinked up at her, pointing to his slate.
She knelt down and scooted him around to face her. She took one of his hands folding over half his fingers so that he held up two. “How many is that?”
He used to the pointer finger of his opposite hand to count. “One. Two. Two, Miss Flynn.”
“Good. Now we add two more.” She lifted his other two fingers. “And how many does that give us?”
Jimmy pursed his lips together, squinting and counting silently. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Four?”
Lucy brushed a stray curl away from his forehead and tweaked his nose. “That’s right!’
“Yes!” He burst into a grin throwing his arms around her neck.
These were the moments she lived for now. Teaching her kids. She didn’t miss Stanford one bit she thought as she scanned over the handful of kids sitting at the round tables that would soon be filled with hard drinking miners. She found a purpose when she realized that Tombstone didn’t have a school yet. They weren’t many children in town, but they were there. The saloon wasn’t the best place for a classroom, but it kept them out of trouble. Lottie made them sandwiches at lunchtime and the ladies doted over all of them as they passed the time before work started for the day. Surprisingly, it worked.
She straightened at the sound of the swinging doors and waved to Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. “Hey guys, how ya doing?”
“We’re well, Alice. Stopped by to say hello.” Doc took a seat on a round wooden stool at the bar. “What’s with all the little ones?” he asked, eyeing the children who’d begun to squirm in their seats.
Lucy grabbed a bottle from the shelf behind her. “They didn’t have a teacher. Now they have me.”
Earp joined him, setting his hat on the bar beside him. “That’s mighty nice of you, Miss Flynn.”
Lucy shrugged. “I saw a need.”
“Still,” Doc fidgeted with the brim of his hat, “seems like you like it?”
“I do.” She lifted his hat to her head and set a whiskey in front of the two men. “Now, what can I do for you?”
Wyatt cleared his throat. “We need to ride out tonight and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind staying with Josie?”
“More trouble with Johnny?” Johnny Behan, Cochise County Sheriff and Josephine’s former beau.
His lips formed a grim line. “We’re hoping to take care of it, but I’d feel better if neither of you were alone this evening.”
“Of course. I’m off tonight anyway. My only plans involved a date with Mr. Carroll.”
Doc’s eyes shot to hers. “Who’s this? I don’t believe I’ve met the man.”
Lucy laughed out loud. “Oh, the adorably overprotective Doc Holliday.” She took off his hat and plopped it back on his head. He pushed up the brim so he could give her a practiced glare. “Lewis Carroll, Doc. But I promise to run all my beaus by you first before I accept a stroll around town at sunset.”
He ignored her sarcasm and slammed back his whiskey. “See that you do.”
If it hadn’t been the late 19th century, Lucy would’ve been offended. But considering it was and both he and Wyatt Earp had taken it upon themselves to look out for her in what was, undoubtedly, a rough town, she let it go. She knew neither of them would question her if she made a choice for herself. Friends looked out for each other. That’s just how it worked.
Lucy collected Doc’s glass. “Be safe out there tonight.”
Earp finished his whiskey and donned his hat, nodding to her. “Josie’s expecting you for dinner. She’s making fried chicken.”
“I’ll keep her safe.” She tipped her head in response.
Doc caught her gaze, the lines carving out from the serious look in his eyes. “Shoot first if it comes to it.”
He swept around, coat billowing in his wake as the two men strode away from her. Off to fight outlaws in the wilderness.
March 2, 1692
“Last chance, Rufus.” Emma tapped anachronous red nails against the iron bars, her face flickering in the light of the torch she held. “You know you don’t stand a chance otherwise.”
On the opposite side of the cell, he stared out the window at the last rays of sunlight, ignoring the redhead. “Go away. I’m not interested.”
“That’s what I told Anthony, but he really wanted to get the old gang back together.” He looked back at her as she pretended to consider the situation. “What if I told you I’d let you bring your little girlfriend along for the ride? Trust me, you really want to be in on this.”
“Keep talking…” Rufus hedged, wondering how much information he could drag out of her. He crossed to the door, their faces a foot apart, the bars of the cell between them.
“Oh, silly Rufus, good thing they never asked you to go undercover. You’ve got a terrible poker face.” She reached through and booped him on the nose. “Nope, you sign in blood first, so to speak, and then I’ll show you what we’ve been up to. So what do you say? What’s behind door A? Or the gallows?”
He wrapped his fingers around the bars, leaning his face closer, and Emma backed up. “I’d rather be hanged.”
The turning of a key in a lock sounded down the torchlit hallway. She offered him an icy smile. “Looks like you’re about to get your wish.”
Flynn, Amy, and Jiya used the darkness of the woods to hide from the gathering crowd of townsfolk, come to watch the hanging. The team successfully stopped the Salem Witch Trials. Yay for them. Boo for Rufus who spent the night on a cold dirt floor awaiting his death.
Flynn checked his rifle for ammo. “Remember, wait until they get Rufus up on the scaffolding. We need him isolated. They won’t risk moving him from the jail without a posse.”
“I warned him this would happen.” Jiya didn’t glance away from the throng. “He wouldn’t listen.”
Amy bumped her shoulder. “We’ll get to him before anything happens. You’ve said yourself you see several different ends for any given event, right?”
“Yes.” Jiya scanned the distance. “I won’t let him die.”
“None of us will,” Flynn reassured her. “You and Amy pull your hoods over your head and blend into the crowd. I’ll stay back here and take out the noose. The shot will scatter the crowd and that’s when you two make your move. Free him and I’ll cover your retreat. We rescue Rufus and get the hell out of here. End of story.” He ran a finger around his neck. “This collar is driving me crazy.”
Jiya and Amy flipped up their hoods and moved into the bloodthirsty crowd. On the other side, they could see a group of torchbearers making their way to the front. Jiya almost broke into a run when she saw Rufus, hooded, his wrists, waist. and neck bound by rope, lead up to the scaffolding with a single noose dangling from it. She slowed her breathing and stood stock still next to Amy just behind the front of the crowd.
By the time they lowered the noose around his neck she was shaking with rage. She’d kill anyone who got in her way and feel absolutely no guilt about it. Time slowed as she waited for Flynn’s bullet to find its target, to hear the ricocheting echo of his shot. The instant the noose fell, she burst into motion. Shoving through the people just in front of her, she jumped onto the scaffolding while Amy barreled into Judge Harthorne, the man who’d condemned Rufus to death. Despite the size difference, her hit was unexpected and she knocked him off his feet. They tumbled down the stairs, taking out two more guards at the bottom.
Amy rolled over, holding her ribcage and trying to catch her breath. Running feet pounded around her, vibrating into her back, as the crowd screamed and fled in every direction. From her vantage point on the ground, she could see Jiya working to free Rufus, but she needed help. She sucked in a gulp of air and kicked at the head of the judge who clawed her legs as she crawled away. Scrambling to her feet, she dragged herself up the stairs. Jiya worked on his wrists while she sawed at the bonds around Rufus’ ankles with a jagged knife. Several more shots fired from the trees and Amy glanced up in time to see a dart of red hair. If Emma wanted to take them out they were fish in a barrel and Flynn wouldn’t be able to hold them off for long.
“We’ve gotta go,” Jiya shouted to her, realizing their predicament when a bullet whizzed by her ear. The rope around his wrists finally gave way. “How long?”
“Thirty more seconds.” Amy panted out, still breathless from her fall down the stairs.
“Totally, really thankful for the rescue, guys, but I’d like to be on my way now, if that’s okay with you down there.” Jiya pressed her knife into his hand and pulled her rifle from her back, kneeling down to aim at one of Emma’s goons who crept through the trees. Her shot went wild, but the bark of the nearest tree sprayed in his face and he stumbled back, giving them a bit more time.
“Got it!” Amy sprung to her feet, brandishing her knife ahead of her.
They dove off the platform, running for the safety of the trees. Someone on Emma’s side took out a middle aged woman in a simple green dress who crashed to the ground in front of Jiya. She didn’t have time to stop and stumbled over the prone woman. Rufus skidded to a halt several feet ahead when he realized she’d fallen, dust kicking up around him. A Puritan man threw himself on top of Jiya, rusty knife in hand, and she fought against him. His weapon caught her upper arm and she gritted her teeth against the pain.
Seconds later a bullet took the man in the shoulder, launching him backwards and off of Jiya. She clutched at her bleeding arm and looked up to see Flynn lowering his rifle with obvious relief.
Rufus helped her to her feet, pulling her into his arms. “How bad is it?”
“It’s okay. I’m okay.” Jiya kissed him and stepped back, chaos swirling around them. “Let’s go home.”
The site where I found a transcript of the trial of Tituba
The Bird Cage Theater:
I did adjust the date of the opening by a year because I really wanted to use the location.
Some cool photos of the Bird Cage, now a museum.
June 11, 1881
Lucy perched on a stool beside the bar in the early afternoon sunlight, reading the new Henry James novel that arrived in the mail the day before. Portrait of a Lady intrigued her the first time she read it in undergrad and wanted to give it another go to see how she felt about it now. Plus, there was a severe lack of good literature this far out in the frontier.
“Al.” Doc Holliday rested his chin on top of the swinging doors to the saloon. “I have something I’d like to show you.”
He pushed open one side, holding out his hand to her. She looked over the top of her novel. “It was just getting good.”
“Awww, Alice, darling, don’t leave a man standing here waiting for you to take his hand. Come. Walk with me. ” He wiggled his fingers at her. “Please.”
Lucy knew he had a crush on her, but Doc didn’t even know her real name. Or where and, more importantly, when she came from. If she pursued anything with him, well, there’d be a long, complicated conversation they’d have to have. It would definitely need to include whiskey. Oh, she didn’t think he’d have a problem with her fake name. But the: hey, I’m actually from the 21st century conversation might be a bit trickier. She could just show him the Lifeboat and take him to see Shakespeare. Or maybe to the opening of the Moulin Rouge. He’d probably love that.
“Well, I don’t see how it could hurt.” She marked her place and set the book aside. Missy, busty, brunette, and sweet as pie strolled down the wooden staircase next to the stage. “Hey, Miss, mind keeping an eye on things for a few?”
She sauntered over, shooing Lucy out the door. “Doc already asked. Have fun.”
Lucy’s curiosity piqued, she stood and crossed to take Doc’s hand. “What are you up to?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.” He held open the door and she strolled through. They stepped out onto the wooden walkway, falling into step as he looped her hand around his arm. “Lovely day. Not too hot yet this year.”
If by not too hot, you mean, god she really missed air conditioning. Doc continued with his cat that ate the canary look. “Alright, out with it.”
“You do say the oddest things.” Doc gave her a perfect Flynn side-eye and her heart flipped, enunciating her tall Croatian’s absence in her life. She took a deep breath. She gave Flynn his family back, he’d never carry the weight of their death. That’s all that mattered. She choked back the tears that still came too easily. Couples passed by them, some nodding with an occasional, hi, Miss Flynn, Doc.
“Are you happy, Alice?” He slowed their pace.
Happy? Maybe not completely, but a reasonable facsimile of it. “Of--”
“Don’t just say of course.” He tilted his head to look at her, his hat blocking the sun. He laid his hand over hers. “I know you miss him.”
She missed him like Alaskans missed the sun. “There’s nothing to be done about that.”
“I wish I could make it easier for you. I want nothing more than for you to be happy.” He turned to lead her down a small step onto the dusty road. He fell silent and they watched the stagecoach roll past them. They crossed to the other side and he paused them beneath one of Tombstone’s rare trees. “I know we have not known each other long, but I’ve come to cherish our friendship. I do not wish to rush your grief, but I’d like you to know that it would give me no small amount of pleasure to assist you if you ever required it.”
He really was the sweetest man. Maybe one day she’d be ready to move forward, but for now, it made her happy to stroll down Allen Street with him, seeing all the new construction for the people who streamed into Tombstone daily. Seven new saloons, five boarding houses, and a General Store. More housing to the south and to the east, two more churches, and two new brothels. Tombstone’s answer to Chinatown, Hopstown, shaped into being a few blocks away under the direction of Sing Choy, China Mary to those who liked her. An astute businesswoman who would rule over her small domain and win the hearts of everyone around with her kindness and generosity to those in need.
The sound of hammers and saws accompanied this simple moment in front of Vogan’s liquor store and bowling alley. She smiled. “Thank you, Doc. That means a lot to me. You were my first friend here and I’ve come to rely on you. One day…”
He squeezed her fingers and leaned forward to kiss her cheek. “We’ll talk of it then. I’m a very patient man, darling.”
Lucy brushed her fingers over the lingering feeling of his lips, the bristle of his moustache, surprised at her reaction. She might not be ready, but she blushed just the same. Rather than speaking, he tugged her into motion, a half smile playing across his face, and they turned the next corner. Wyatt Earp waited, leaning against a post in front of the Mercantile.
He tipped his hat to her. “Afternoon, Miss Flynn.”
“Delightful day for a stroll.” She dipped a sarcastic curtsy. “So either of you have any intention of enlightening me?”
“You’ll see soon enough.” Earp swept his arm out and she continued forward to Lord knows where. In the time they’d all been friends, she’d learned never to guess what those two had up their sleeves. They always surprised her.
She figured she’d play along. “How’s Josie?”
“She’s well. Wants you to come for dinner on Sunday.” They turned another corner and Lucy could hear the noise of a small crowd at the end of the street. “She’s making her dumplings, you don’t want to miss them. They’re a treat.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” The crowd grew louder and she could make out the edge of it as they approached the end of the block. When they got close enough, she saw many of the customers from the Bird Cage and the parents of her students. Pete and Susan, Sally’s mom and dad. James and Penelope, Jimmy was their first child and they were expecting another by the end of summer. A dozen others stood in front of a brand new white washed building with a small steeple. Lottie and Billy. Yvette and Polly. China Mary and Ah Lum. Virgil and Morgan and James. She stopped and turned to Doc. “What’s this all about?”
He led her into the crowd, all wearing bright smiles. “You’ve got too many students now for the saloon. We figured you could use a place to do all your fancy teaching.”
“You built me a school?” Lucy’s jaw dropped and she pulled away from him to stare.
“Well, not just me, sweetheart.” He spread his arms wide. “Everybody got together and voted. We had a town meeting and everything.”
“You built me a school,” she said, feeling very much like she’d stepped into Wonderland.
“Miss Alice! Miss Alice!” Jeremiah came running up to her full blast, barrelling into her knees. He’d really come out of his shell in the time she’d been teaching them. His dad died in a mining accident the summer before and he stopped talking except to say please and thank you. “Did you see? Did you see?”
“Not yet, little man.” Lucy waved to his mother, Serena, the waifish woman with the big brown eyes who stood off to the side.
Doc chuckled and bent down to the little boy’s level. “You want to show her?” Jeremiah’s head bobbed up and down. “Well, go on ahead.” .
“You won’t believe it.” He grabbed her hand, dragging her forward, right up to the front door. He reached up to the door knob and tried to push it open, but he was only five and trying to do it one handed. She helped a little.
Sunlight streamed in over four rows of wooden desks. Jeremiah ran in and took a seat at the front. “This is where I’m going to sit!”
A large chalkboard hung at the head of the room, right behind a simple teacher’s desk. She moved to the front of the classroom and ran her hand across the smooth surface. Opening the top drawer, she found a stack of blank paper, pencils, and a handful of chalk lined up in a row. The whole place smelled of pine and possibility. She looked up to see Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp standing at the back of the room next to a line of coat hooks, grinning ear to ear.
“You haven’t seen the best yet,” Doc said as he walked down the middle row. He nodded to the door behind her.
What else could there be? They’d built her the perfect little one room schoolhouse and she loved every inch of it.
She turned and opened the door onto a small back porch with a set of stairs that led up to a separate entrance to a second floor. She climbed the stairs, seeing a set of yellow and white gingham curtains hanging in the window of the door.
“It’s unlocked,” Doc called from the bottom of the stairs.
The knob turned easily in her hands and she opened the door to a small apartment that ran the length of the schoolhouse. It was bright and airy, a light breeze blowing from a window behind a large rocking chair next to a small bookshelf filled with her small collection of books. She spun around, taking it all in. The circular dining table to the side of the kitchen set with a short vase of white Zinnia. The matching gingham curtains above the sink. To the left of a small cast iron stove there was a second door.
Doc stood in the entrance, leaning against the frame. “Open it.”
She did. It was a simple bedroom. Her blue and white quilt lay on the full size bed. Flynn’s jacket hung over the back of a chair in front of a dresser. The small assortment of items she’d collected over her time in Tombstone lay scattered around the room.
She whipped her head around. “How did you?”
“Missy and Yvette arranged it.” He adjusted his hat, fidgeting. “You seemed like a woman who might like her own space. Or at least one a bit...quieter,” he added with a wry smile.
“I don’t even know what to say.” Thank you didn’t even begin to cover the enormity of what the town had done. She was blown away by their generosity. Six months ago, she’d been a stranger and they took her in. Fed her. Clothed her. Gave her a job and a new purpose. Helped her start to heal. Then they’d built her a school. And a place to live, apparently. “This is amazing.”
“It was nothing. Really. Everybody pitched in.” He looked back down the stairs. “Well, take a look around and when you’re finished, come back down. They’ve got a whole picnic set up out back. The kids are excited to see you.”
He turned to leave and she crossed the space, placing a hand on his arm to stay his exit. “Thank you, John Henry. Really.”
June 2, 1863
Combahee River, South Carolina
Oh, of all the mighty nations
Of the east or of the west,
Harriet Tubman’s voice echoed through the forest, a haunting sound accompanied by the bullets that flew from the masters’ rifles as their slaves streamed down the banks to freedom. Rufus and Jiya fought alongside Tubman and Company C of the 3rd Rhode Island on the John Adams as the ship navigated the mine filled waters. Rowboats set out for the shore taking all who could escape with their lives.
The glorious Yankee nation
Is the leader and the best.
Plantations burned around them as Flynn and Amy tore through the trees after Emma and Noah, trusting Jiya and Rufus to keep Harriet safe from Wyatt and any one of The Society’s interchangeable foot soldiers. If they made it back to the Mothership, the team would have to start all over again. Flynn was sick of this wild goose chase. He wanted to end it here and now.
There is room for everybody
And her banner is unfurled!
Working for The Society, Emma, Wyatt, and Noah bought a second term for Herbert Hoover and ensured Roosevelt never took office. They took out Caesar Chavez, started the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and chipped away at workers rights. Then they killed Einsenhower and replaced him with Nixon, eleven years earlier, and the team returned to a world where no one knew John F. Kennedy. They bombed the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, eliminating Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglas. Then they shot Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman as they sat drinking coffee in a Greenwich Village coffee shop.
It's a general invitation
To the people of the world.
After every mission, they returned to a darker world, those who remained behind harder than they were before the team left. Flynn kept track of the changes in a journal that stayed in the Lifeboat at all times. Anyone not on the mission read the journal when the team returned. Some missions, nothing happened. Sometimes Emma tried to recruit one of them. They lost more historical figures: Abbie Hoffman, Natasha Romanov, Mozart. They trained everyone on weapons and there were always three people to defend their families, now staying in the expanded bunker. They needed all the firepower they could get if the Constantines found them; The Society’s discovery of their last stronghold, a constant threat.
Make no delay,
Harriet’s voice never wavered as she pulled a woman with two babies, one clinging to her shoulder, another hanging from her neck, tiny feet digging into her back, onto the deck of the John Adams . She sang and the slaves threw off the bonds that tied them to masters who had no rightful claim to even one of their breaths.
Come from every nation,
Come from every way.
Gnarled hands passed Jiya two pigs, while the scarred hands of another pressed a chicken into her care for the length of time it took to clamber aboard. Rufus held crying children, soothing them with his crooning baritone joining at the chorus, a harmony to Harriet’s.
The land here is broad enough,
So don't you feel alarmed.
Uncle Sam is rich enough
He'll give you all a farm.
The pounding of the horses’ hooves thundered underneath them drowning out the song as Flynn and Amy gained ground on Emma and Noah. Up ahead the redhead said something to the man at her side that roaring wind ripped away before it reached Flynn’s ears. He didn’t have to wait long for answers when the two of them broke apart and headed off in separate directions.
“Damn it!” Flynn glanced at Amy, already preparing to follow after Noah. “No. We don’t split up.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll catch up with him. You go get Emma,” she yelled right before spurring her horse forward, pulling ahead of him.
“Damn it,” he swore under his breath. She’d be fine, he trained her himself and she was a damn good shot. She’d be fine, he reminded himself again as he pushed his horse faster, trying to catch up with Emma. Five minutes later, when he realized she’d led him on a merry romp through the woods, he broke off after Amy. Ice ran down his spine. None of it had been about Harriet Tubman or the raid that freed seven hundred slaves.
The Mothership came into view and Flynn watched in horror as Noah dragged Amy up the stairs. He was close enough to hear her scream when the door closed behind them.
August 23, 1881
A knock sounded on her door as she sipped a cup of coffee in the chair that caught the early morning sunlight. Riya, the grey tabby that adopted her, protested when she stretched out her legs and rose to answer. Doc Holliday stood at the top of the stairs, holding a silver pail with a red checkered cloth tied in a loose knot.
“Good Morning, Alice.” He dipped his hat to her. “I thought I might walk you to class this morning. If you had no objections.”
“And you packed me a lunch,” she teased him, taking the pail from his outstretched hand.
He held his hat to his chest. “My dear Alice, you are a most terrible cook who doesn’t know how to make the simplest things--”
“Hey! I learned to make bread. You can’t keep holding that against me.” Lucy indicated he should enter since she was still in her stockinged feet.
“Not too mention,” he rolled his eyes, an affectation he’d picked up from her, and continued as if she’d never interrupted, “you are frequently forgetful and I worry that if I do not bring these offerings of food, you might wither away to nothing.”
He added a wink for good measure. The scoundrel. “Why I oughta…”
She swatted at him and he caught her hand. “Have you thought any further about the dance on Saturday? It’s the big town end of summer celebration. It would be my honor to escort you.”
Their first date. If she accepted. She wanted to say yes, but Flynn’s leather still hung over the chair in her room. She still reread their stories in the journal as if she could bring him back to her just by wishing for him. But Doc’s palm warmed as it held hers and her heart sped up at his touch. They spent every Sunday together, strolling through town at sunset, but a man of his word, he never pushed her for anything more than conversation. They shared their stories and she told him as much as she could about her life. About her family, her sister. Jiya. Rufus. Flynn.
She wanted to say yes, but they needed to have a conversation first. “John Henry, nothing would please me more than to be your date for the big dance.” She reached up to touch his cheek as he smiled, basking in his happiness. She had to do this right. “Would you meet me after school today? I have something I’d like to show you.”
May 13, 2018
“I wanted everything you have on the OK Corral. And I mean everything.” Flynn pinned every single person with an angry glare as they gathered around the tables piled high with stacks of research. Thankfully the team raided the closing libraries aboveground to save as much of history as they could before it burned, so they had a decent collection of information as a resource.
Jiya and Rufus both had un-networked laptops and a pile of zip drives with as much of the internet as they could save before it went down. Lorena and Denise had sorted the hardcopies, encyclopedias, history books, and wikipedia entries printed out in case they lost the zip drives, into more manageable piles. A stack for each of the major players. Any resource they could find on their histories that might explain what the Society wanted with Tombstone, Arizona.
Jess focused on searching for any confirmation that Emma had taken Amy with her to 1881. Denise took Wyatt Earp. Mason started on the town of Tombstone itself, locations of businesses and places Emma, Noah, and Wyatt might use.
Flynn cracked open his first file on Doc Holliday. “The Mothership landed two days before the shootout, we’re already an hour behind. I want us ready to move in six hours. We’re not rushing off this time. I’m done going in blind. We’ve got time, let’s use it wisely.”
Michelle fed the kids a makeshift dinner of leftover spaghetti and apples and kept the coffee coming. After clearing and washing the dishes, she kissed her wife and shooed the kids off to get ready for bed. Mark complained, as usual, that he was old enough to help. Denise used her Mama Bear voice on him and he scampered with a quickness to his room.
Flynn tucked Iris into bed, stealing a few minutes alone with her. He always worried she’d disappear while he was away and every time he came back, he looked for her first. If he died on a mission, Iris would still have Lorena. He couldn’t imagine a life without Iris. But it didn’t change his mission. Whatever The Society planned, the team would stop them. Then he could rest.
He rejoined the team and noticed Lorena and Mason, heads bent close together as the read their separate texts. He didn’t hold the attraction blossoming between his ex-wife and the brilliant scientist against either of them. Of course not. But he could wish the same for himself one day.
“Holy shit,” Mason exclaimed out of nowhere, startling Flynn out of his thoughts. “I found her.”
“Who? Amy?” Flynn crossed to stand behind him, peering over the man’s shoulder. A dark haired woman posed on the stairs of a schoolhouse with a group of children. Something in her gaze tugged at his memory. “Who is that?”
Connor Mason stared down, studying the picture, hardly believing his own eyes. Then turned to look up at Flynn. “That is Lucy Preston.”
October 24, 1881
“Who can name the sixteenth President of the United States?” The quiet and studious daughter of Feng Yunshan raised her hand. Lucy called on her. “Yes, Fei?”
“Very good!” Lucy walked past the little girl and dropped a piece of candy in front of her. It was almost Halloween and the day after tomorrow there’d be a shootout in town. Chances were she wouldn’t hold any class for a couple days at least with the excitement. She could celebrate the holiday early. “Now, who can tell me about the Emancipation Proclamation?”
From the front row, Jermiah raised a tentative hand. “Yes, Jeremiah?”
“Was that when President Lincoln freed the slaves, Miss Flynn?” He leaned forward on the desk and tucked his legs under his knees, waiting for her approval.
“Yes!” She gave him a high five, introducing it a hundred years too soon, so sue her, and tossed him a piece of candy. “Let’s see who was really paying attention. Lightning round. What year was President Lincoln elected?”
Sammy’s hand shot up. Lucy pointed at her. “1860?”
“Good job!” A piece of candy slid across the surface of her desk. “How long was he President?”
One of her older students, Emmanuel, raised his hand as if it took quite a bit of energy. Lackluster, but bribeable with treats. “Manly?”
“Four years,” he answered offhandedly.
“Alright, Smartypants, when did he die?” Lucy knew he was bored and looking for stimulation. She ordered some new books to challenge him, but they hadn’t arrived yet. She made due.
“April 15, 1865,” came his quick answer. Intelligence sparking in his eyes.
“Where?” A shadow blocked the light from the open doors at the front of the schoolhouse. Probably Doc come to walk her home after school. Lucy ignored him in favor of the twelve year old in front of her that loved knowledge. All knowledge. Any knowledge. He soaked it up like a sponge.
“Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC.” Emmanuel yawned dramatically.
Smartass. She kept her chuckle to herself. “And the name of the man who assassinated him?”
“John Wilkes Booth,” a deep voice answered and it wasn’t Emmanuel’s. She knew that posh British accent anywhere.
Lucy looked up and saw Connor Mason taking up half the doorway. Just behind him, the man she never thought to see again. “No. Just. No. You can’t be here.”
“Miss Flynn?” Jimmy asked, standing to come stand in front of her. A tiny champion.
She tore her eyes away from Garcia Flynn, shoving down her tears and her anger at the universe, and bent down. “I’m good, little man. We’re gonna let school out a little early today.”
“Awwwww, Miss Flynn,” Jeremiah whined.
She laughed and stood. “Don’t worry, I’ll see you all again tomorrow.”
Her students gathered their slates and chalk and shuffled towards the door, giving the two men who moved out of the way a wide berth. Lucy organized her desk, putting off looking at him again as long as possible. She’d given it all up for them. Her entire life so they’d be safe. Free of Rittenhouse and it’s machinations. Garcia Flynn and Connor Mason stood in front of her, all of it had been for nothing. She had failed.
Flynn studied the woman fighting tears as he walked through the line of desks. The instant she’d seen him, he watched her entire world fall away, crumbling to dust before her. The light and joy he’d seen only moments before with her students, gone, blown away like a dandelion tuft. Now she bent over her desk, staring at the surface and clutching a ruler like a lifeline. Flynn’s heart broke for her and he wanted to take her in his arms, to comfort her. What had Mason left out of his farfetched narrative about being a relic from an aborted timeline? What had this woman meant to him?
The shadow fell over her hands and Lucy spoke without raising her eyes. “You aren’t supposed to be here.”
Yes, I promise this is still a #Garcy story. I would never break your hearts by lying to you. You'll just have to be a bit more patient for that part of the story.
The song Harriet Tubman sings during the Combahee Ferry Raid was Uncle Sam's Farm. I found the information here: https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/harriet-tubmans-great-raid/
Full lyrics can be found here:
Chapter 8: Time After Time
October 24, 1881
Lucy traced veins of wood the color of wet sand on the surface of her desk with the fingers of her right hand, refusing to see him. Instead of meeting the hazel eyes she knew so well, she relished the bite of her ruler slicing across the palm of her opposite hand. She lowered herself into her chair, adjusting the skirt of her faded burgundy and grey plaid dress, still clutching the ruler. Her thumb rippled over the lines etched into the wood, praying she’d wake up from this beautiful nightmare.
She missed him so much.
She wanted to jump out of her seat and shove him right back into the Lifeboat. Lucy didn’t give it all up for him to die in Tombstone. She’d come to stand vigil over his one time grave in Boot Hill Cemetery, it seemed a fitting place to grieve, standing sentry against the chance ever coming again. Whatever was happening, she would handle it.
“Gentlemen.” Lucy found her voice, she could fake this. They didn’t know her, but she knew them. Swallowing her tears, she pulled herself together. “I’m sorry, forgive me. My manners. I’m Miss Alice,” -- shit-- “Flynn.” What had she been thinking taking his name? That she could keep him alive as her last tribute to the man she’d loved and lost? She’d been a fool. Now he was standing five feet from her and she couldn’t even look at him.
“How can I help you today?” She forced herself to look at him and averted her gaze as soon as his eyes met hers, placing her ruler on the desk, adjusting it millimeters. Realizing she was fidgeting, she folded her hands in front of her.
“Why shouldn’t we be here, Miss Alice Flynn?” Connor Mason asked with an uncharacteristic smirk that reminded her of the man standing at his side. And was that amusement that skittered behind his eyes? No, couldn’t be.
She focused on finding an excuse for her previous behavior. “I was in the middle of class, I don’t like to be interrupted.”
“I thought you said her name was Lucy?” Garcia Flynn lifted one stupid eyebrow that she ignored. “Are you sure this is her? She doesn’t look that intimidating.”
Oh, Lucy would show him intimidating-- Wait, WHAT? She kept her voice as even as possible, asking, “Who are you looking for? Maybe I can help you.”
“You, Lucy Preston. I”m looking for you.” the corners of Mason’s lips edged up in a knowing smile.
Her stomach plummeted. “How?”
“I was on a mission when you,” he searched for the right words, “took matters into your own hands.” He gave her the look of a disappointed, but understanding, father. “It’s been interesting keeping the two timelines straight.”
“You remember me,” she breathed out, standing. It was more than she ever hoped for. There was one person in the world that remembered her. She’d be eternally grateful for that. Even if she was about to send them straight back to the future, Mason remembered their timeline. She came around the desk and fell into his waiting hug, imagining how hard that must have been. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s been helpful at times.” He brushed back a stray lock of her hair away from her face and stepped back, folding his arms over his chest. “And yes, I remember you. Daughter of Benjamin Cahill and Carol Preston, sister to Amy Preston. We saved Robert Johnson together.” He turned to the man standing next to him. “And because at least one introduction is still necessary, Garcia Flynn, please meet our brilliant historian. Brave, kind, and foolish self-sacrificing slayer of dragons, Lucy Preston.”
“Slayer of dragons?” Flynn’s hand slipped into hers as if it’d never left.
Mason chuckled. “Being fanciful. I missed her.”
She stared at their joined hands. He was real. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Lucy.”
“It’s good to see you again.” She raised her eyes. He looked good, long brown duster sweeping to his ankles, dark brown suit and light blue linen shirt the color of faded denim that brought out the warmth in his eyes, worn brown hat pulled low. A long moment passed before she found her voice again. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story,” Connor replied.
She let out a heavy sigh. “I figured.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “Jiya and Jess are here too.”
“Jess too?” Lucy scrubbed at forehead with her palm.
“Yes. Shorthand? She’s the one who stole the Lifeboat in this timeline.”
“The Lifeboat?” Lucy glanced up at Flynn and back at Mason, who nodded. “Well, I’ve got coffee upstairs, I imagine I’ll want to be sitting down for the rest.”
A rap on the door frame drew her attention to the front where Doc waited, hat in hand, a happy, unconcerned smile on his lips.
“Afternoon, Miss Alice.” Something he saw in her expression brought him rushing to her side, hands framing her face, thumb tracing across her cheekbone. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m good, Doc.” She raised a hand to cover his, leaning into his palm. “I promise.”
She kept his hand in hers when she turned back to Mason and Flynn. Her heart warred with itself, but she knew that Doc had been by her side for the past ten months, she wouldn’t turn away from him now. “Doc, I’d like to introduce you to Connor Mason and Garcia Flynn. Guys, this is John Henry Holliday.”
“Friends call me Doc.” He shook each man’s hand in turn.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Doc.” That Doc Holliday was half in love with Lucy didn’t surprise Mason at all. Flynn, on the other hand, seemed to be having a bit of a hard time. How much was meeting Doc and how much, Lucy, he didn’t venture to guess.
“Doc Holliday,” Flynn said with no little bit of awe, tipping his head to the famous gunslinger. His eyes shifted for an instant to Lucy’s hand in Doc’s and wondered why he felt disappointed. “Nice to meet you.”
Doc studied the man before him, finally meeting the leather jacket’s rightful owner, before turning to Lucy. “These are them?”
“Yes. Well, sorta. It’s complicated. We were all about to head upstairs.”
Mason cleared his throat. “Um, not to be insensitive, but do you think that’s wise?”
“He knows everything about my past already.” She squeezed Doc’s hand. “We’ve agreed not to discuss the rest, aka why you’re here. So, we’ll go upstairs. Have a nice chit chat. You’ll give me the lowdown and then you’ll turn around and go back where you came from. We’ll take it from there.”
She caught the crinkle between Flynn’s brows out of her peripheral and knew he didn’t like her plan, but he didn’t get a choice. He could make every other choice in his life, but she would not lose him. Not again.
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” Flynn retorted, stubborn as ever.
Mason laid a hand on his arm, reading the tension in Lucy’s body, the anguish in her eyes, and understanding at once what had pushed her to erase herself from time. “Let’s go upstairs and have a sit down. I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee in forever.”
Doc swept his arm out. “Can’t guarantee you’ll get one now, but if you’ll follow the lady upstairs, she’ll attempt to oblige you.”
“Still better than what we’ve got right now,” the scientist replied, steps behind her. She glanced back at him in question. “We’ll explain everything upstairs.”
Lucy climbed the stairs and opened the door to her home. “Grab a seat, I’ll be right in.” She pulled the it closed again and waited for Doc to join her. “So, hi honey, how was your day?”
“Fine, fine.” Doc wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her in for a quick kiss that she deepened. “Did you miss me?”
“Always, Doc,” she murmured against his lips.
They parted and he leaned back against the railing, running his fingertips over the Zinnia growing in the planter hanging over the edge. He planted it for her in the summer when he found out how much she liked the desert flower. “That’s him then.”
“It is and it isn’t.” Lucy’d told Doc everything about her life the night she accepted his invitation to the dance. He’d taken it far better than she expected, saying only, Well, that explains quite a bit. So she took him to the opening of the Moulin Rouge and they kissed for the first time beneath the brand new Eiffel Tower. “That Flynn doesn’t know me.”
“It’s him.” She made to argue, but he twined their fingers, drawing her nearer. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“I never thought I’d see him again.” Lucy dropped her forehead to his chest and he traced a thumb down the back of her neck.
He pressed his lips to the top of her head. “And how do you feel about that?”
“I don’t know.” She straightened and searched his face as if she could find the answer written there. “They were safe, I was done. And now--” Now someone was threatening the peace she’d found in Tombstone and she’d be damned if she lost Doc like she lost Flynn. “Now I’ve got to walk into that room, back into the fight I thought I buried with the life I sacrificed at the universe’s demand. When all I want to do is run away with you.”
“Say the word and I’ll saddle the horses.” Lucy threaded herself around him, listening to his heart beat. She couldn’t walk away, no matter how much she wanted to. Garcia Flynn needed her. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him. “But you can’t do that, can you?”
She kept her cheek to his chest, relishing the temporary haven. “No. I can’t.”
He smelled like the high desert, all sunshine and sand. Probably out with Marshall Virgil Earp and his deputies chasing the McLaury and Clanton brothers, ringleaders of the Cochise County Cowboys, rustling cattle in Mexico. With still Sheriff Johnny Behan too busy collecting taxes to put a stop to their illegal activity, the outlaws rode rampant through the backcountry. Tensions surged in recent months after Mexican Commandant Felipe Neri sent troops north of the border into the Guadalupe Canyon killing five men, including the father of the Clanton clan, Newman Clanton. But so far there’d been nothing major enough to spark off the gunfight in two days’ time.
Up until now, she’d been careful about what she told Doc. Oh, she regaled him with fantastical tales of the future, with its airplanes and cars and five hundred channels of television. How much he believed her, she didn’t know. But he loved her stories and she loved to tell them to him. More than that, though, she kept locked inside her, fearing anything she might say could change the future. Terrified she was destined to lose the man she loved in Tombstone, Arizona. She never expected to fall for the gunslinger, but he slipped through her defenses.
One night, after far too much whiskey, he asked, “What do you know about my future?”
And she answered, “Too much.”
They never spoke of it again, but he knew something stalked his future. Now her past waited in her home.
“Well, we’d best get to it then.” Doc wound his fingers through her hair, holding her against him for another moment.
Lucy raised her head from Doc’s chest. “Avoiding it won’t make it go away, I suppose.”
He kept her hand in his as they parted and she reached for the door handle. Stepping inside, she saw her old friends. Connor Mason perused her small bookshelf and the man whose leather still hung in her closet, leaned against the wall behind her rocking chair, staring out the window. Neither of them looked out of place, rather it felt like they’d stepped into her life months ago and she only just noticed.
“Coffee?” Doc reminded her as she took in the scene.
She squeezed his hand, mouthing a thank you. “Yes, of course. Welcome. Make yourselves at home.” Moving to the cast iron stove, she opened the small door checking that the embers still smoldered, throwing in a couple of pieces of wood and stoking the fire. Doc settled into his normal seat at the table facing the kitchen, watching her fill the kettle and set it atop the stove. Lucy asked while reaching for her grey, metal cups, “Rittenhouse?”
“No, not Rittenhouse.” Mason placed the book in his hand back on the shelf and crossed to take a chair at her dining room table. “You did the world a service when you eliminated him.”
“But then, how are you here?” She turned to place the cups on the table noticing Flynn stayed put by the window.
Mason leaned forward, forearms against the edge of the table. “Nature abhors a vacuum.”
Her shoulders sagged. “Are you saying that an organization like Rittenhouse will always exist?”
“I am,” he confirmed with as much kindness as he could. “This time around, they were called the Reverents. Started with Paul Revere the night of his midnight ride.” Lucy sighed and retrieved the sugar, placing it in the middle of the table and sitting down to wait for the water to warm. “But, as I imagine it would have been with Rittenhouse, the Reverents weren’t the real big bad.”
“Of course not. Can’t make things too easy.” She fell back in her chair, rubbing her heart as if she could soothe the ache of her abandoned life. “That’s why nothing changed except my existence. Why you’re all still fighting.”
Mason stretched a hand out to her and she leaned forward to take it. “You had no way of knowing.”
“Still...” She glanced at Flynn, immobile at the window. She accepted the heartbreak of it. He could stand there a stranger because she saved him.
Mason saw the pain she shoved back down before it overwhelmed her. “I remember how bad it was. The team split, turned by Rittenhouse without their knowledge. Forced to work for the enemy. Emma and I, an unlikely partnership, the only thing standing between history and oblivion. I would have done the same in your position.”
“Doesn’t change anything,” she said, hopeless. Was this just her life? Destined to fight an evil organization in every timeline no matter where she hid in history? She wanted to be Miss Alice Flynn, sweetheart of Doc Holliday and teacher of the children raised on the frontier. Witness to history, no more and no less.
“It’s why we need you.” Garcia Flynn finally spoke as he pushed off the windowsill.
Her eyes darted around the room, avoiding him, avoiding his inevitable disappointment in her. “Because I failed epically the first time around?”
“You didn’t fail.” His eyes found hers and begged her not to look away. “I’m here. I’m not dead. I’m standing right in front of you.”
She broke their eye contact and pushed away from the table. “How did you know?”
“You won’t look at me.” She could feel him watching her, hoping she’d turn around and face him. “Like you’re afraid I’ll disappear at any instant.”
The kettle whistled and she used the excuse to cover her roiling emotions. Doc stood and came around to her side as she gripped the handle of the kettle, unable to move. He laid a hand over hers and she allowed him to see her tears. He peeled her fingers away, raising her hand to take the yellow and white crocheted pot holder from her.
“Talk to the man, Alice.” He pressed her hand over his heart, reassuring her that he understood. “You’ve been running from him long enough."
“Why are you so good to me?” She wanted to beg him to run away with her. To hell with history.
“Because you see me for the man I’m trying to be, not my worst impulses.” He smiled, wiping away an errant tear that clung to her chin.
She kissed him and turned to face Garcia Flynn standing frozen, lost in the middle of her living room. Instinct pulled her forward, drawn to him, but she stopped short, gripping the top of a small plaid loveseat. “I lost you, twice now that I’m aware of. I thought, if I could save Lorena and Iris, you’d be happy and safe. But there you are. Standing in my living room. Smack dab in the middle of it all. I can’t lose you, not again. I can’t do it. I won’t. So please, tell me what you know and leave.”
“That’s not happening.” He closed the distance, leaving the loveseat between them. Lucy could touch him if she wanted, she remained behind the barricade between them, waiting for him to continue. “I lost her.”
“Lorena?” she asked, assuming they were still together since she’d seen them that Christmas. “Not Iris. Please, not Iris--” She broke off, blinking away two dark haired little girls.
“No. No, they’re fine. Safe in the bunker.” Confusion flickered in his eyes. “No. Amy. I lost Amy.”
Lucy felt like she’d been sucker punched. She whirled on Mason, sipping coffee across from Doc. “My Amy?”
“As far as I can tell she’s the same girl. Born to a different mother, but I assume she took her DNA from somewhere farther back in her father's genetic line.”
Amy was alive, but not her sister. “Like when Ethan told me I looked just like his mother.”
“I imagine, yes.” Mason stood to pull out a chair for her to stumble into, but Doc beat him there.
She looked into his understanding blue eyes as he knelt down, hands on the arms of her chair. “My sister. She’s alive.”
Flynn hadn’t moved from his spot. “And I lost her. I need your help to get her back. Nobody knows about you and you have an entire timeline’s worth of memories to draw from. None of the changes from our timeline have tainted your memory.”
Connor filled a cup of coffee and Doc pressed it into her hands. She stared at the ripples on the surface reflecting her gingham curtains, following the drift of the steam up to his concerned face, his blue eyes waiting for hers. Her steady, goodhearted Doc. The man who packed her cold fried chicken in a lunch pail and walked her home from class.
Taking strength from his simple presence, she turned back to Flynn. “Yes, but that timeline is gone. How could it possibly help you now?”
Mason refilled his cup and set the kettle back on the table. “The new timeline seems to parallel the old one. Instead of the Hindenburg, we started at the Great Chicago Fire. We never met Alice Paul, instead we followed them to the 1848 Seneca Convention. We still went to Salem, but it had nothing to do with Abigail Franklin.”
“Rittenhouse isn’t Rittenhouse, it’s the Reverents.” She sipped, rolling the information around in her head. Doc rose, moving back to his chair, staying close in case she needed him again.
Connor turned, resting his elbows on his knees, facing Lucy. “And it’s not the Reverents at all. Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the American Revolution were the Reverents rebellion from their parent company, so to speak. It’s the Constantine Society who’ve been orchestrating everything. We have no idea where they come from or what they want, but they’ve been abducting historical figures from time.”
“And now they’ve got Amy.” Flynn crossed to the table, pulling out the last chair and sitting across from her, not allowing her to look away.
Lucy reached for Doc’s hand, drawing his attention to her. She wasn’t asking permission, but she wanted to know he’d back her up no matter her choice. He nodded.
She set her coffee on the table and straightened. “One last mission.”
Garcia didn’t refuse to look at Lucy Preston so much as he preferred to face the distant mountains. He listened, committing every word to memory, but he really wanted to know why she wouldn’t look at him. He suspected he’d died and she mourned, but he didn’t remember. So he wanted to pick a fight with her. Wanted to see the color rise in her cheeks. Wanted her flustered. It made no sense. None of it.
Instead, she made coffee.
Mason and Lucy discussed their shared timeline and he wondered why it bothered him. Doc Holliday, the Doc Holliday, mind you, rushed to her side and Flynn felt--he couldn’t place it--like the world had been ripped away, and he fell, weightless, screaming in a soundless void, grasping at a past torn from him.
Flynn wished he had the benefit of Jiya’s visions, he knew they had begun to splinter. She believed she’d started glimpsing their other life. Lives. He didn’t know. A dry wind blew over his face and he watched a hawk swoop across the open sky.
She talked to him. Finally. Because of Doc. But. Still. It counted. She wanted to yell at him, he could tell.
“You won’t look at me.” He answered her question without knowing and the emptiness shivered around him. I’m right here. Look at me. Please.
His confession tumbled out of him, he lost Amy. Of all people. His best friend and little sister. He lost her, failing Lucy before he ever met her and he can’t explain why that mattered so damn much.
He won’t leave without Amy. When he stormed into the darkness, she stayed beside him, reminding him of the goodness in the world.
Lucy collapsed into a chair with the knowledge, Doc kneeling in front of her. Flynn could swear he felt Lucy’s hands between his despite the fact that he stood half a room away. The phantom feeling haunted him and he moved without thinking. Sitting across from her, falling into her brown eyes and flailing.
“One last mission,” she said to Mason and Flynn’s heart thrashed inside him.
“So...you and Doc Holliday?” Connor Mason asked oh so innocently as Lucy opened the door to the Bird Cage.
“I’ll admit it took me by surprise as well.” She waved to Billy and Lottie, scanning over the tables on the off chance Emma or Wyatt Logan could be found there. No such easy luck. “Let’s say hi to Yvette, see if she’s noticed anything.”
She skirted around a particularly raucous game of pinochle, but nobody looked ready to throw a punch, nothing to worry about. It was eight o’clock, the real excitement wouldn’t begin until at least eleven.
Mason tried to appear unfazed, it didn’t work. Madeline, all legs and ass, slithered by him, eyeing him up like tonight’s dessert. “Lucy, what is this place?”
“Saloon. Brothel. One time classroom and home for the first seven months I spent in Tombstone.” Missy cleared Bernard out of Lucy’s normal seat at the bar and shooed him upstairs. Jenny waved him up, waiting framed in the arch of one of the bird cage boxes that lined the second floor balcony.
Mason perched on the stool, reassessing the woman beside him. “You lived in a brothel?”
She shrugged, catching Yvette’s attention. “Hey Evie, how is everybody?”
“We’re well, Ali. Miss you around here.” The statuesque woman glided down the bar and retrieved the good bottle of whiskey from the shelf below the register. “You going to introduce me to your new friend?”
“This is Connor Mason.” Lucy accepted two glasses as Evie poured another for herself, turning to the only man who remembered her real name and handing him a shot. “Old friend from home.”
“Well, as I live and breathe.” Yvette gave her a wide-eyed look of disbelief. “It is a great pleasure, Mr. Mason. We never thought to meet any of Alice’s friends. Welcome to Tombstone.”
The three toasted and slugged back the shots. “He’s here looking for someone. Any chance you’ve seen a tall woman with flaming red hair?”
“Saunters like the devil herself?” She pulled a draft of beer for Michael, sitting two stools down, and set it in front of him.
“That’d be her.” Lucy pointed at her glass for another shot. She needed it.
Yvette obliged her. “She was here, earlier this afternoon. Met with Frank and Tom.”
“Ike or Billy anywhere to be found?” She turned the glass in her hands, glancing at Mason to see how he handled the whole situation. He looked about ready to choke on his refilled whiskey or explode. One of the two.
“Not hide nor hair. They argued with Virgil and Morgan again, so they’ll show up soon enough, I imagine.” Yvette sashayed down the bar to greet the newcomers, two miners, sufficiently cleaned up after supper to spend the night playing poker.
Lucy turned, propping a foot up on the middle rung of Mason’s stool. “Alright, so we know Emma’s connected with Tom and Frank McClaury, brothers and members of the Cowboys. You did your research before arriving, I assume.” He nodded absently and she almost snapped her fingers to make sure he was still with her. He nodded again, more firmly this time. “Good. We’ll hang out a bit longer to see if they come back. They’re regulars here, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.”
“You lived in a brothel.” Mason tossed back his second whiskey.
Ahhhh, that explained it. “Yes. Yes, I did. But I never took you for a prude, Connor.”
“Oh, no! No, of course not.” The prostitutes didn’t bother him. The options for occupations for women in the old west were limited, and more power to them. He tried to phrase his words so they weren’t offensive. “I just--You’re just--I mean--You’re Lucy Preston.”
She pretended shock, “Oh, so I’m that much of a prude?”
He pushed his whiskey away from him, dropping his head into his hands and groaning. “No, that’s not what I meant at all.”
“Stop, Mason, it’s fine. I can see why you’d have a bit of cognitive dissonance about it.” She bumped his shoulder with hers. “They took me in. Gave me a job. They were nice. It was very normal.” She leaned back, lifting her whiskey from the bar. “A bit more sex than in the bunker, but no one was actively try to kill me, so six of one, half dozen of the other, I figure.”
He didn’t lift his head, but his wrinkled and scarred hand covered hers. “I missed you.”
The band fired up behind them. An argument broke out across the room and Billy Hutchison broke it up, booting the guy out. Lucy watched for either of the McLaury brothers, but more likely, Doc and Flynn would run into them before she and Mason did.
Doc Holliday and Garcia Flynn, together, on a mission. Lord have mercy on Tombstone. When the time came to split up, Flynn wanted to pair up with Doc, and when could she ever deny him anything? It was better this way, anyway. Lorena and Iris lived in the bunker. He had his family to return to and it’d do no one any good to reopen old wounds. Nothing could change what she’d done.
“Will Emma harm her?” Lucy scratched a nail at the edge of her glass.
Mason knew she meant Amy. “We don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” She could tell he hesitated, starting seven sentences in ten seconds. “Whatever it is, just say it. I need all the information I can gather if we’re gonna get everyone out of here alive.”
Mason sighed and gave a little wave to Yvette, who refilled their glasses. Normally, Lucy’d demure, but Garcia Flynn walked back into her life today. At this point, she focused on not falling apart.
“That’s the problem. We have no idea what the Constantine Society wants with her. They tried to recruit or outright kill all of us at one time or another, but Amy?” He stared at the amber liquid. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Lucy and hated that he only had bad news for her. “Why take her? Though she’s integral to our team, and though we all love her dearly, abducting her hurts us emotionally, not physically.”
“Flynn seems pretty shaken.” When he confessed to her that he lost Amy, she understood the tension in the line of his shoulders, the intensity in the set of his lips. “Could that be enough? Unsettling the team to undermine any effectiveness they might have?”
Mason shook his head. “That has very little to do with Amy. When he returned from the mission without her, he was angry, but he got right down to business. If they were trying to shake him, they failed. If anything, it redoubled all of our efforts against them. We’re losing the fight and teetering on the edge of giving up. Even with all of us, we aren’t enough. Things have gotten bad.”
“Define bad.” Lucy should’ve made Yvette leave the bottle.
“Benjamin Cahill is President.”
“It’s happening again,” she bit out under her breath and chugged the rest of her shot. She turned to Mason. “I couldn’t have failed harder if I’d actually tried.”
“You didn’t fail. You got rid of Rittenhouse and saved Lorena and Iris. You couldn’t have stopped the Constantines since we had no idea back then. We only know now because Emma tried to abduct Paul Revere.”
Yvette heard Lucy’s glass hit the bar a little harder than she intended and wandered down. “Everything okay, Alice?”
Lucy laughed and once she started, she couldn’t stop. “No, no, nothing is even remotely okay,” she managed to get out. “Just leave the bottle, if you would, please.”
“You sure?” Evie asked, uncertain what to do since, with the exception of Alice’s first night in Tombstone, her friend rarely drank more than one or two whiskeys. “You want me to send for Doc?”
Lucy knew he’d understand. He’d come and either share the bottle with her or walk her home and brush a kiss across her lips before tucking her into bed. She’d done the same for him when he got too carried away drinking and gambling. She never minded, it didn’t happen often and she liked taking care of him.
“Not yet.” There’d come a point when she’d need him tonight, but right now, she needed answers. “You’ll know when.” She accepted the bottle from Yvette and tugged the cork out, pointing it at Connor Mason. “Start at the beginning.”
With Jiya and Jess off to dig up information in Hopstown and Lucy with Mason at the Bird Cage, Garcia Flynn and Doc Holliday wound their way through every bar in Tombstone starting with Shorty’s. They played fifteen hands of Poker and seventeen of Spades. The beer was watered down and the whiskey burned through the system, but they continued on, gathering information. A miner with a scar down his face named Shep had seen Emma with two dark-haired men talking to Ike Clanton earlier in the day.
Walking down Allen Street towards their last stop, the Crystal Palace, Flynn asked. “What’s she like?”
“Alice?” Doc slowed their pace, giving them time for whatever the man wanted to know.
Flynn shoved his hands into the pockets of his duster, missing his weapon. “Lucy.”
“She’s always been Alice to me.” He stopped and leaned against a hitching post, using the wood to strike a match and light his cigarette. “She doesn’t like me to smoke. I don’t do it often anymore, but, I think we can both agree, today’s been a day.”
Flynn smiled, liking the man. “Sure has been. Up until a few hours ago, Lucy Preston wasn’t anything, but the crazy story Mason told when he’d had too much scotch. She didn’t exist anywhere.”
“She’s been here. With me. ” Doc took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to describe the woman he’d fallen in love with, to the man she loved before him. “The town built her a school; she’s loved. She’s kind and has a heart the size of a mountain. Many of the kids she teaches believe she walks on water. Living in Tombstone isn’t easy, but I like to think she’s liked it here.”
The full moon rose above them, the wind with a nip to the air. A drift of cloud passed overhead and the sounds of the bars around them mixed with the snuffling of the horses behind them. Flynn’s eyes pleaded with Doc’s to help him understand.
“The night she arrived, she cried into my arms about you. Well, you were a horse at the time, but she was drunk so I read between the lines. She saw herself as responsible for everything that happened.” Doc remembered this strange woman who stumbled into his life and how it felt like she fit there from the beginning. “Anything more is for her to say, but we became friends after that. It took time, she was sad for months, but she started picking up the pieces. Started teaching the little ones during the day when the saloon was empty. And at night, she broke up brawls and threw a mean right hook. Alice adopted Tombstone as much as we adopted her.”
“She sounds pretty amazing.” Flynn wished he knew her.
Doc stepped back onto the walkway that led to the Crystal Palace. “That she is, Garcia Flynn. That she is.”
They pushed through the entrance to the bar and scanned the room, seeing Wyatt and Virgil Earp sitting at the bar.
“Doc.” Wyatt Earp greeted them. “Who’s your friend?”
“Old friend of Alice. Garcia Flynn.”
Wyatt flagged down the bartender. “Round of whiskey, Pete.” He stuck a hand out to Flynn while Pete lined up four glasses on the bar. “Never thought to meet one of Miss Alice’s friends. Funny you share a last name. You related? Creepy uncle, maybe?”
Flynn shook the man’s hand and then accepted the shot of whiskey from Doc. “Coincidence. Nothing more.”
“Coincidence, you say.” Wyatt leaned an elbow against the rounded edge of the bar. “Might be better if this coincidence headed back to California.”
“Ignore him.” Doc Holliday shot a look at his best friend to behave. “We’re a mite bit protective of Miss Alice ‘round these parts.” He lifted his shot and the other three men joined him.
Virgil Earp slid his empty glass down the bar and slipped a hand into his pocket, sweeping back his coat to reveal his badge. “Speaking of, what brings you to Tombstone, Mr. Flynn?”
“Tracking the people who abducted one of my team. Her name’s Amy. Young. Blond. Stands about yea high.” He held a hand up just below his shoulder. “The woman who took her is tall with bright red hair. She’ll have at least two other men with her.”
“Saw the woman and one of the men turn in their weapons at the livery when they stabled their horses earlier,” Virgil offered. “I pointed them in the direction of the Grand Hotel. Didn’t have your girl with them, though.”
“Not my girl,” Flynn corrected with some amount of patience. The man standing in front of him might be Marshall Virgil Earp, but he’d still lay him out flat if he crossed a line. “She’s part of my team, I’m supposed to protect her.”
Wyatt Earp huffed. “Doesn’t seem like you’re doing a good job there, friend.”
“That’s enough of that, Wyatt.” Doc stepped in between the two men. “Miss Alice trusts him, that’s enough for me.”
“Well, I think we can both admit her judgement leaves a lot to be desired considering she’s taken up with you.”
Virgil laid a hand on his brother’s chest. “Very funny, brother. We both know Miss Alice is the best thing that’s happened to Doc in a long time and if this man is her friend, we’ll help him.”
Wyatt Earp grunted, but agreed. “But only for Miss Alice.”
“You and Lorena?” Lucy asked, incredulous. They’d finished almost half the bottle as he’d filled her in on life in the bunker. “So...you and Flynn’s…”
“Ex-wife.” Mason waved his hand in a circle to encourage to follow through on the thought.
“Ex-wife,” she said, tentative, “are together. Like, together together.”
“We’re not picking out china or anything, but yes, we’re together together.” He smiled at her sideways from where his head rested in the crook of his arm on top of the bar. “She’s lovely.”
Before she could answer, the saloon doors swung open and Doc Holliday and Garcia Flynn strode through side by side. She grabbed the bottle of whiskey and refilled her glass. Propping her head up on her hand, she watched them cross the room. Both locating her first before scanning the area for threats. Both at her side and dipping their hats to her. It was enough to make a girl swoon. Instead, she drank more booze.
“Ah! Look! Flynn’s back! Hi Flynn!” Mason waved as he tried to sit up. It took a bit of work, but he managed it.
Doc came around to her side and wrapped a solid arm around her waist. She leaned into him as he whispered, “My turn?”
She smiled drunkenly, reaching up to cup his cheek. “Your turn.”
“It’s my pleasure to see you home safely, Miss Alice.” He caught Yvette’s attention, waving for their tab.
“You know her money’s no good here.” She leaned forward, lowering her voice. “Everything okay?”
“Keep your head down for the next few days. If you see anything…”
“I’ll send for you right away.” She patted his hand and nodded to the rest of the men, moving onto the clamoring customers.
Flynn watched as Doc helped Lucy, looking tiny and lost, to her feet. “Do you need help?” He wanted to help.
“No, I’ve got her,” he replied, not unkindly. “Get your friend over to C.S. Fly’s on Fremont. Tell them Doc sent you, they’ll set you up with whatever you need. We’ll regroup at the schoolhouse in the morning.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Lucy looked up, reaching out to stop Flynn from leaving. “She’s here. Emma. Talking to Frank and Tom. They’re here for…” She trailed off when her fingers made connection with his forearm. She jerked away. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Flynn assured her as she burrowed into Doc’s shoulder, hiding her tears. She didn’t want Flynn to see her drunk cry. “We know about Emma. We’ll talk in the morning, I promise.”
Doc waited until they were outside before he pulled her fully into his arms, a comfort to the chaos. He let her cry, knowing she needed it. He couldn’t even imagine the turmoil raging inside her. But he knew, without a doubt, that she’d tell him anything he wanted to know if he asked. He held her closer, wishing he could take away the pain, knowing there was nothing he could do.
When he cries slowed, she lifted her head. “Let’s go home.”
He swept her up in his arms. “Your wish is my command.”
“I’m not really that drunk you know.” She chuckled, winding her arms around his neck and resting her head against his chest. “Well, I’m drunk, but not that drunk.”
He bent down and kissed her nose. “Oh, I know. You still had half a bottle left. You and I have finished far more sitting around the fire.”
“I adore you, Doc Holliday.” She wasn’t ready to tell him she loved him, afraid of what followed behind, waiting to tear him away. Seeing Flynn had confused her, but it didn’t change how she felt about the man who carried her down Allen Street in full view of God and everyone up at midnight on a Wednesday. But she didn’t want to make the same mistake she’d made with Flynn. He died before she told him that she’d have moved heaven and earth for him.
Doc stopped walking and spun them around in a circle and she laughed so hard she thought might burst. “About damn time you admitted it. I’ve adored you since the afternoon you called me John Henry.”
“You gave me a school and I gave you my heart.” She nestled into him. “Don’t tell anyone, but I like this. Being in your arms.”
He carried her all the way to the steps that led up to her home. “I like holding you.”
“Then come upstairs.” He set her gently on the first step, but she kept him close, her arms around his waist, his coat surrounding both of them. “I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
“Alice,” he whispered, breathless, “what will people think?”
She leaned forward, kissing him. “When have you ever cared what people thought?”
“I care about you and if I stay, the town’ll talk,” he said, not walking away. “It’ll complicate your life.”
Lucy trailed her fingers down his spine. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my life is kind of complicated.”
“I might’ve noticed such a thing.” He winked at her. “I imagine the couch would be comfortable enough. If it’ll make you feel safer, I suppose I could forgo honor for one evening.” They may never share another evening and he selfishly wanted to see her face first thing, bathed in the soft sunlight of early morning, at least once.
She led him up the stairs, unlocking her door. “I promise not to compromise your manly virtue.”
When Lucy woke in Doc’s arms the next morning, he lay on top of her quilt, his body curled around hers, a shield against the world. She savored the simplicity, engraving the feeling into her memory. She never wanted to forget this first morning waking up at his side.
“I love you, John Henry,” she whispered into the dust motes that floated in the light that filtered in over them.
Doc felt her snuggle closer, thinking him still asleep, and let her words settle over him. I love you, too, he said, silently, because he wouldn’t steal this moment from her. She’d tell him again when she was ready. He hadn’t lied to her when he said he was a very patient man. He started falling for her the night she stumbled into his life and found himself head over heels by the time he asked his best friend to help him build her a school. It’d taken her this long to invite him to stay, even though he knew she’d been tempted many times, he was in no rush.
He let her do it all on her own time. She was worth the wait.
Chapter 9: See What's Become of Me
You might notice I added extra chapters to this fic. I don't know why I ever try and predict how many chapters a story should be. We haven't deviated from the planned narrative, the story just wanted to breathe a little bit, so to speak.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
October 26, 1881
Doc caught Alice as she crumpled to the ground. “Why would you do something so stupid?” He wanted to stroke her face, but his hands were occupied, holding her, trying to stop the bleeding.
Instead, she reached up, wasting her strength to touch him. “I love you, John Henry, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
“I love you too, Alice--Lucy—” He tried to say the right thing to make her stay with him.
The world faded away, narrowing to his face. “I liked being Alice.”
October 25, 1881
She cancelled class for the next couple days, on account of she had old friends in town.
“What about Halloween, Miss Alice?” Jimmy wanted to know.
Doc threw him a piece of candy and looked to her for permission to give a piece to the rest of the kids. She nodded, shaking her head at the silly normalcy of it all. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
“Oooooh, Miss Alice has a boyfriend!” Sally singsonged to the tittering of her classmates. Jeremiah and Jimmy started making kissing sounds.
“Alright, alright,” she smothered her chuckle. “That’s enough of that, my little kittens.” Doc shrugged at Sally in solidarity, winking and slipping her an extra piece of candy. “We’ll have Halloween first day we get back, okay?”
Happy cheers chased away the darkness and she basked in it as her students dispersed, barrelling into the autumn sunshine.
The team replaced the children in her classroom. Jess and Jiya each occupied a bench on opposite sides of the center walkway. Mason sat behind Jiya, perched at the edge of his bench, knees poking out between the rows. Virgil and Wyatt Earp guarded the front door while Doc and Flynn posted up behind Lucy, leaning against the chalkboard, an angel on either shoulder.
She sat behind her desk, all of them waiting, deferring to her.
Normally, Flynn would suggest something rash and destined to leave nothing but scorched earth behind. Then she’d argue about the need to protect history, blah blah blah. Repercussions, blah blah blah. Jiya and Rufus would argue in Nerdspeak and keep the team from creating a paradox. Mason would roll his eyes and Denise would bring her Mama Bear voice to the party. Try not to kill anyone, Flynn . Then they’d go off to fight the bad guys.
None of that happened this time around.
She took a deep breath. “Alright, so let’s figure out what we know. According to Virgil, Emma and her crew are likely unarmed and staying at the Grand.”
“They turned in their weapons when they arrived, but I don’t think we can count on them paying attention to that law if it suits their purpose.” Jiya looked to Jess for confirmation.
The one time Rittenhouse agent turned ally nodded. “There’s no way Emma doesn’t have a backup plan or nine.”
“Definitely,” Flynn agreed from behind Lucy. “She may not be armed herself, but I have no doubt Wyatt and Noah will have some kind of weapons available to them.”
“Let’s keep that in mind.” Lucy looked to the back of the room, she couldn’t say more with the two Earp brothers there. “You guys, head to the Grand, see if they’re still there. They shouldn’t know you’re on to them, so you’re our best bet to get a jump on this whole thing. Mason, I want you back at the Bird Cage today. Any information that needs to be passed along can go through you. We’ll check in every few hours. No one engages them alone.”
Lord knows if they brought future weapons with them. If they had, it wouldn’t matter how good either of the Earps were, they wouldn’t stand a chance, and Lucy doubted they turned those in at the city limits. She swallowed her fear for her friends, old and new.
Shaking off the foreboding feeling that hung over her, she focused on the Earp brothers. “Do what you do best and keep the peace while digging up whatever dirt you can. If you find Amy, bring her back to the schoolhouse. Otherwise, meet back at my place for supper.”
Wyatt Earp gave her an appraising look, as if he was really seeing her for the first time. “We’ll find her.”
“Be careful.” She nodded and both men replaced their hats, dipping their heads and heading out the door. “Next. We need to find the Mothership. It’s possible they’ve stashed Amy there since she hasn’t been spotted in town. Doc,” she smiled over her shoulder and he joined her, leaning on the desk beside her, “any idea where you’d hide a giant white hamster ball? It’ll be relatively close by, they’ll want their escape route handy.”
“A few ideas, yes.” He slid his hand over so their fingers touched, a small offer of strength. “It’ll be hidden?”
“Or at least camouflaged. ” She wound her pinky around his. If they could get the Mothership, they could force Emma to stay her hand on whatever the Society had planned. It was a long shot, but she’d try anything to keep her people safe.
He ran his thumb and forefinger down his mustache, considering. “Might be best to get to the high ground, take a look around from there.”
“You, me, and Flynn will ride out then. Take Flynn and round us up some horses.”
“As you wish.” Doc kept their fingers entwined. “You going to see Sing Choy?”
“Can’t hurt. That woman has her finger on the pulse of most of the goings on in Tombstone. Might be she’s heard something.” She looked to Jiya and Jess. “China Mary is pretty much the Godfather of Hoptown. Anyway, I’ll introduce you, but I don’t know anything about the Constantines. You do. The one thing I learned from fighting Rittenhouse is the obvious plan is never the real one. They’ve always got an agenda and it’s never what it appears on the surface.”
Jiya pushed off the bench. “Duly noted.”
Lucy tried to recall her timeline. They ended up in Tombstone after losing Rufus. But in this one, Jess never abducted Jiya, so the team never went to Chinatown, Meaning, Rufus never died. “Why isn’t Rufus here?”
Mason ignored his hangover, pushing off the bench. “We always leave one scientist behind in case of emergency. I wanted to come on the mission, for obvious reasons, and Jiya’s a better shot.”
“You said that the new timeline missions paralleled the old, correct?” She needed to wrap her head around the differing histories.
“Yes, and it appears that events happen in the same relative chronological order. It’s never the same, but it’s the same.” He walked to join Jiya and Jess now standing in front of Lucy. “We’ve just come from the Combahee Ferry Raid.”
Her brain tried to sort through the different histories. “Making this mission...”
“Chinatown,” Mason finished for her. Their eyes met and the weight of Rufus’ death descended to lay a thick layer of regret over both of them.
Lucy refused to allow anyone to die this time around. “I won’t let it happen again.”
Flynn moved to her side. Needing to be nearer. Wanting to comfort her and not knowing why. “What happened the last time you were here?”
Her eyes shot to Doc, terrified that anything she might say could change the future. She’d allowed herself one alteration already, and who knew what price the universe would demand in return. She couldn’t risk more. Doc knew he stood on the precipice of whatever stalked him, but nothing more. What if she revealed the wrong thing? She could lose him like she lost Flynn. She could lose Flynn again too. Lose both of them. If that happened, she didn’t know how she’d survive. Her heart slammed in her chest and the room spun.
Doc knelt down beside her, his hand her anchor. “It’s already changed from the history you knew. By keeping information from them now, you’re harming the mission more than helping. I’ll step outside if you’d prefer.”
“No,” she replied, her voice sharp, panicked. She refused to leave either of them alone. Doc squeezed her hand. Closing her eyes, she sucked in a heavy breath. She could be careful. “We followed them to Tombstone thinking they wanted to take out Doc or one of the Earps. No matter what we did, nothing made a difference. We even tried freeing a herd of cattle and tipping off the McLaury brothers to get them out of town, but Emma had already gotten to them. I was trying to reason with her when she shot me.”
Doc tensed and Lucy watched as he wrestled with his urge to bundle her off to the hills. “That’s not happening. Not on my watch.”
“I had more hope back then, I still thought—I was naive.” Lucy’d been worse than useless, she’d been a detriment and Flynn died because of it. All because she believed the best in everyone. Gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. “I won’t make that mistake again. Don’t worry.”
Flynn’s knuckles turned white, his grip tense on her desk. “You said you thought they were after Doc and the Earps. What did they really want?”
“I didn’t know until it was too late to do anything about it.” Until Jiya found the encrypted emails after they left Flynn to be buried by strangers. “They wanted Flynn. Wyatt, Logan that is,” there were too many Wyatts in her life right now, “had been working with them the whole time, feeding Rittenhouse information and pushing us in the direction of one final confrontation. What better place to take out your enemy without anyone the wiser than the most famous shootout in history? Flynn kept us fighting, kept us from dying.” She blinked away the memory of the rifle blast. She wanted to reach for him, to reassure herself that he stood beside her. “We got away, but not without a cost.”
Doc asked, “Was that when it happened?” his voice gentle, thumb tracing over her palm. He glanced up to watch Flynn’s harsh edges fall away, Lucy’s pain all too evident.
“Yes.” She pursed her lips, forcing down the sobs that threatened to surface. “He’s the reason we got away. I'm still here because he's not." Lucy refused to cry. Refused to break. Fuck the universe. She was going to slay this one last dragon and go back to her quiet life. She’d rip a win from its fetid, dripping jaws, she didn’t care about right or fair or repercussions. "Doc, you and Flynn go get those horses. Mason, head to the Bird Cage and talk to the girls. They’ll trust you now that they know you’re with me. I’m gonna take Jiya and Jess to the Can Can. Hopefully, Sing Choy can help us.”
Doc rose and kissed her temple. “I’ll keep him safe,” he whispered, only for her.
“Not just him.” She could barely get the words out. She reached up, gripping Doc’s lapel, the fabric of his jacket bunched between her fingers. “Not just him.”
Virgil Earp walked into the Grand Hotel with his brother and ran smack dab into the redhead and two dark haired men in the ornate lobby framed in warm oak. Marble cafe tables placed before the tall windows and couches and chairs circled rich mahogany tables in the sitting area. “Oh, pardon me.”
“No pardon needed, Marshall Earp.” She dipped in curtsy. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure, ma’am.” Virgil removed his hat and offered her his hand. He studied the men behind her. One, obviously military. Not one to think outside the box, purely muscle. The other, educated, but not unfamiliar with a weapon.
“Miss Emma Whitmore” She allowed him to place a kiss on her knuckles, then turned to the men flanking her. She introduced them, first the soldier, then the school boy. “May I present, Misters Wyatt Logan and Noah Beneventi.”
“A pleasure. My brother, Wyatt.” The Marshall sized her up. Sharp eyes studied him from beneath the lowered eyelashes of a demure gaze. It was all a ruse, but that didn’t surprise him.
“Wyatt Earp.” She sauntered to his side. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to meet you.”
“Ma’am.” He tipped his hat, knowing better than to trust her. If Miss Alice said the woman was dangerous, he believed her.
“What brings you to Tombstone, Miss Whitmore?” Virgil asked, leading her to the mauve and gold brocade loveseat and chairs around a low table. He should send Wyatt for Alice and Doc, but Emma had been expecting them, that kinked their plan from the get go. He needed to figure out what she was playing at.
Emma flashed a smile at the flustered young man behind the reception desk. “Some tea would be lovely, if you would.” She floated to a seat, the rippled train of her pale green gown sweeping to spread around her ankles. “I have business in town, Marshall."
Wyatt Earp unbuttoned his jacket, leaning back in the scoop backed chair. “What kind of business?”
The door to the hotel swung open and Frank McLaury and Ike Clanton strode in, dark brown suits dusty from the road. Their eyes adjusted to the light and they spotted Virgil and Wyatt. Tension spiked, the enmity between the men well known,and the doorman and a maid in a grey cotton dress scurried out of the line of fire. The smattering of guests milling around parted and disappeared as Frank and Ike headed for the Earp brothers.
A frightened server hurried to the table, head bowed, carrying a silver engraved tray bearing a pink and white tea set. The china shook as she placed it in front of the group.
“Thank you so much, Penny. I can take it from here.” Emma slipped her a coin, which the woman stowed away in the pocket of her apron. “Go on back to the kitchen now.” Wyatt Earp made to stand. She leaned forward, pouring the tea. “Oh, you don’t want to run away so quickly. There’s so much more fun to be had. But we’ll be having no violence during tea, so you can all just settle down.”
Virgil relaxed his stance and picked up a delicate china cup. “What’s this about, Miss Whitmore?”
“All in due time, Marshall. First things first.” Emma held out another cup for Wyatt Earp.. “Cream?”
“No thank you.” He reached to retrieve the steaming drink.
“Frank. Ike. Please, do sit down. We’ll have a civilized conversation if you please.” The two Cowboys removed their hats and dragged two more chairs over to the small circle. “Lovely. Thank you, gentlemen.” She lounged back in her chair as if holding court in Elizabethan England, Noah and Wyatt Logan lurking behind her. “Tell me, how is the election going, Deputy Earp?”
Virgil glanced at his brother, but said nothing, they needed to present a united front. He knew about Wyatt’s desire to replace Behan as Sheriff, but why this woman wanted to know about it concerned him.
“It’s going well, Miss Whitmore.” Wyatt Earp blew over the surface of his drink. “Tell me why, pray tell, it involves a stranger to our town.”
“Let’s say I have an interest in your little town. Call me a peacemaker.” She straightened, sitting her cup on the saucer. “I’d like to think this alliance between you and Ike can bridge the rift between all of you.”
Frank stiffened. “What’s she about, Ike?”
“This redheaded bitch knows nothing. I ain’t never seen her before, have you?” Ike shoved forward in his seat, glaring at Wyatt Earp. “I would never align myself with this sumbitch.”
“Oh my! I must apologize.” Emma pressed a gloved hand to her chest. “I must’ve misheard.”
Virgil set down his tea. “What do you think you’ve heard?”
“I’m sure it was nothing. Something about a reward and how the capture of the criminals would help your brother. But I’m sure now I’m mistaken.”
“And how’d you come by this information?” Virgil asked, staying seated as she rose to leave.
She gave a dainty shrug, gesturing to her tall, silent muscle. “The boys wanted to play poker. I accompanied them, the game is so fascinating, is it not? Anyway. A man in a mustache mentioned something in passing.” Emma smothered a contrived giggle. “Oh, I can see how that’s not very helpful what with all the mustaches here. I’ll have to make the boys grow them to fit in better.”
Ike kicked back his chair. “I won’t listen to some devil haired harpy. Let’s go Frank.”
The two men stormed out and Emma gave Virgil and Wyatt Earp an apologetic smile. “I seem to have caused a bit of a commotion. I do apologize. I’ll just excuse myself.”
Both men stood and tipped their hats out of habit, watching her walk away. Once she left the building, Wyatt held up a hand to stave off any questions. “He was supposed to give me the names of the robbers of that stagecoach back in March when Philpot died.”
Virgil loved Wyatt, but also knew that he craved more power. “Why am I only hearing about this now?”
“I wanted to wait until I had something solid to bring to you.” His big brother raised an eyebrow. “Fine. Yes, I wanted to bring them in myself, leverage it for the election. Can you blame me?”
“Of course I don’t blame you, I just don’t know why you didn’t ask for my help. I’m your brother.” The Marshall buttoned his jacket and made to leave. They needed to follow Emma.
Wyatt Earp pulled his hat down. “I suspected one of the robbers to be Bill Leonard.”
“Doc’s friend?” He pushed through the door and they stepped out onto the front walkway scanning the street. There, taking a right on Fourth Street.
“I can’t imagine he would’ve taken kindly to that, do you?” A wagon passed in front of them, kicking up dust as they waited to cross.
Virgil held onto his hat as a brisk wind rolled over them. “No, I don’t imagine he would. He doesn’t much care for traitors. For Ike to turn against someone Doc considers a friend wouldn’t bode well for his future prospects.”
The brothers followed them down Allen Street. “No, it wouldn’t. Why I didn’t tell him in the first place. I was hoping to avoid Doc knowing about Ike’s part until he got his reward. Deal was he headed out right after. Once his brother Billy and the others found out, there’d be nothing left for him here anyway.”
Virgil put up an arm to block Wyatt, watching as Emma and her group crossed to the other side of Fremont in front of the post office, passing the Wells Fargo and entering the office of the Epitaph, one of two Tombstone newspapers.
“What in the world is she up to?” Wyatt asked as they leaned back against the wall of Hafford’s Saloon.
Virgil ducked his head and lit a cigarillo. “I don’t know, but I intend to find out. I’ll stay and keep tailing them. You head back to the Bird Cage and fill Mason in. Doc and Alice need to know that Emma’s attempting to play Ike and Frank against each other, more than likely using Doc as fuel for the fire.”
“You think?” Wyatt pushed off the wall.
“I do. I’m also a mite baffled about why she was expecting us, but she obviously worked it out for us to come into contact with Frank and Ike. Maybe she thought she could cause strife between us, but you’re my brother. There’s very little you could do that I wouldn’t forgive.”
His younger brother nodded. “We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Sing Choy gave Jiya a job delivering laundry for the day. Many residents used her service making it easier to at least check the houses and businesses for any sign of Amy or Emma without drawing attention. Jess, she put to work as a bartender at the Can Can where she’d be in place to overhear any number of conversations. Lucy headed down Fremont to meet up with Doc and Flynn at Dexter’s livery.
As she approached, she noticed Sheriff Behan in the process of cuffing Doc. She hurried to his side, reaching for him.. “What’s the meaning of this?”
The Sheriff tugged him out of her grasp. “I have a signed affidavit attesting that John Henry Holliday robbed the Benson stage on March 15, 1881.”
“Oh, this is just ridiculous. You know he wasn’t involved in that.” Lucy thought back to the middle of March. The Ides of March. She’d taught her kids about it and then went for tacos with Yvette because Doc and the boys had been chasing a lead on the Cowboy’s rustling activities. That’s right. “He and the Earps had ridden down to Bisbee on federal business. Now let him go.”
He sneered at her. “Forgive me if I don’t take the word of Doc Holliday’s whore.”
Flynn advanced on the man, using his height to his advantage. “You will not speak that way to Miss Flynn.”
“You’ll have to take it up with Doc’s wife.” Behan ceded ground by jerking Doc back to take him into the jail.
Doc wrestled against the man’s hold. “You know damn well we aren’t married.”
“That’s not what Kate said last night at the Occidental.”
Kate was in town? That couldn’t be coincidence. Lucy knew Doc had gone to check on her in Tucson back last winter when she’d gotten herself into a spot of trouble. She thought he’d gone up in the hopes of reconciliation, but he returned with a freshly broken heart. They’d gotten drunk and fought was all he’d say as he clutched a bottle of whiskey in a tightened fist and passed out in her chair.
“Lemme see that paper.” Lucy extended her hand not expecting him to give it to her. She wasn’t going to argue his use of the word whore. It didn’t matter anyway since she and Doc knew the truth. They had bigger problems. She snatched the paper from his grasp and read over the affidavit. Kate’s signature was barely legible, her story a jumble of half remembered thoughts. Lucy slapped the paper against his chest. “How drunk did you have to get her to convince her to lie?”
Behan stumbled backwards, trying to get away from her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, I bet you don’t.” She started writing a mental note to the universe. Dear Universe, please, if you would, fuck off. She should know better than to make a plan. Nothing ever goes the way it’s supposed to, usually going to hell at the worst possible moment. “How did you even know where’d he’d be?”
The Sheriff started walking away, not fleeing so much as putting as much distance between them as quickly as possible. “He wasn’t at Fly’s. Easy to whittle it down from there.”
“You were going to arrest him at my school. In front of my students.” Dexter’s was the closest livery, Behan had probably just stumbled across Flynn and Doc. She seethed, “Why? Because he’s the better man than you? You small, inept coward.”
Doc admired his fierce champion, ready to burn the world for him. He lifted his bound hands to reach for her, the Sheriff held him in place “I know you’d prefer to shoot him, but I fear that might complicate matters. Go find Wyatt and Virgil, we’ll have it sorted by afternoon.”
“If you insist.” Lucy pinned Johnny Behan with glare that promised harsh retribution if he so much as accidentally scratched Doc. “I’ll be along shortly. Don’t get comfortable, I want him home for supper.”
Lucy put the casserole in the oven and stirred the soup. How else was she gonna feed the small army of people who’d descended on Tombstone? They wasted a good couple hours tracking down Wyatt through Mason and then collecting Virgil as well. By the time they made it to the jail, they’d already started to lose the light. They found Doc locked in a cell and the Sheriff out running an errand. But Lawmen being Lawmen, they insisted on going through official channels rather than just unlocking the damn door.
So, instead of sitting there, she checked in with Jess and Jiya and headed to the schoolhouse to cook and piece together the new information. Emma had something up her sleeve, that much was obvious. But this was a woman who waited in the wilderness for ten years, her plan would be nothing they ever saw coming.
“What could they possibly want with the OK Corral?” she asked Flynn, who’d been her shadow all day. Offering suggestions on occasion, but mostly staying quiet as she babbled on like a tour guide about Tombstone. She knew she was filling the silence that might dredge up any old memories best left to the past, but she had to focus on getting them all of it this alive.
He sat at her table, mug of coffee in hand. “You said they were trying to tear apart the team in your timeline?”
“Yes.” By killing you. “She succeeded.” Jiya died next. Then Agent Christopher. “But it’s all mixed up. It all started when Jess abducted Jiya and stole the Lifeboat. We lost Rufus when we followed her to Chinatown in 1888. We were already compromised by the time we got to the OK Corral.”
Flynn watched her putter around the kitchen just as he had watched her sit behind her desk this morning. Intrigued by her ability to seem right at home and yet obviously out of sync with the world around her. Every once in awhile, a fire danced in her eyes, but she smothered it, never allowing it to kindle.
“Emma used Harriet Tubman as a distraction to get Amy. But we still don’t know why.”
Lucy stopped, pie in hand halfway to the windowsill. “Using her for bait. There’s an important reason for you all to be here, we just have to figure it out. My guess? She wants to kill you all again.”
Flynn clenched the mug in front of him. “Let her try.”
She set down the pie and leaned against the countertop. “All I wanted was a simple life.”
“I’m sorry we interrupted your retirement.” He grabbed the kettle, refilling his cup, and set it back down, a little too forcefully. “As soon as we find Amy, we’ll leave you alone.”
She sighed, grabbing a cup of coffee for herself. “I don’t mean it that way.”
“I don’t know how you mean it, Lucy. I know this is hard for you, but this is my life now. You gave it up. I don’t have that luxury.”
“You don’t know what I gave up.” She turned to stare out the window, the steam of the pie rising up.
“Because you won’t talk to me.” She heard his chair scrape against the floor and tensed, feeling him come up behind her, the center island between them. “Do you think I can’t feel this connection to you? I find myself reaching for you and I don’t know why. I want to wrap you in my arms and never let go. It makes no sense. And the one person, the one person who can answer these questions refuses to acknowledge my existence. You don’t want to tell me, fine. We'll save Amy and I'll be gone."
“You only think you want to know.” Her sins slammed at their cage, demanding confession to the man she’d wronged most. But once spoken aloud, he’d never look at her the same. They’d be irrevocably broken.
He pounded a fist on the oak countertop. A bowl of apples wobbled and he reached out to steady it, flexing his fingers. “Damn it, Lucy. Talk to me. I deserve the truth.”
“You want to know the truth?” She whirled around, moving the bowl of apples and leaning forward, one hand inches from his, the other grasping at air instead of drawing him close. “In the first timeline you sacrificed yourself before I could tell you I loved you. In the second, you sacrificed yourself to save Rufus and I ended up married to Wyatt Logan, a man I despised. Then, surprise, he’s raising our children as his own. Our children, Flynn.”
Flynn’s head whipped up, she met his eyes. “We don’t have children.”
“The one timeline where we’d started to make a go of it and I don’t remember any of it.” Lucy dropped her forehead to her folded hands. She choked out, “We had twin girls, Garcia. They had your eyes.”
She waited for him to storm out. To leave her to her sins. As her heart crumbled, she realized she still hoped to see their faces again.
“You erased them.” Flynn waited for her confirmation.
They studied the grains of wood, neither looking at the other.
He deserved the truth, but it ripped at her to give it to him. “Yes.”
“Why?” His hand reached forward to cover hers.
She’d been desperate, fueled by grief. “I was trying to save you the first time around and I ended up providing a roadmap for Rittenhouse to take over. I returned and everything was wrong. Everything but our girls. I only had two days with them, but I knew I couldn’t raise them in that world, condemning them to endless fighting.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, she let them fall where they may. “I could give you back your family. The life you always wanted. I went back to check on all of you. You were happy. Safe.”
“I never saw you.” He rubbed an absent thumb over her knuckles. "Jiya and Rufus remember meeting you. Denise and Jess too. You made contact with them, but not me.”
“How?” she asked, allowing herself this, his hand in hers. “How did you find me?”
“Mason found a picture of you in an old history book. From the day you opened your school. He’d talked about Lucy Preston for so long, we figured you for a ghost.” A tiny smile flickered in his eyes. “He made you seem larger than life. This mythic Athena.”
“It hurt too much.” She pulled back, wiping her cheeks, denying herself any further comfort. This conversation, too much a reminder of things best forgotten. “To see you. Talk to you. I visited one Christmas morning, watching how happy you were through the window. I worried that any interaction with you would start it all again.”
“Start what again?” Flynn sought something to occupy his empty hands.
“All of it.” Lucy lifted the lid of the pot and the scent of chicken noodle soup wafted up over her. She stirred, her back to him, avoiding his look of condemnation, knowing she deserved it. “The timeline started with you and me. I kept a journal of our lives together. The day I gave it to you set off a series of events that ended in your death. Twice. I couldn’t take the risk that meeting me would put you on that path again.”
“So you gave up everything.” Flynn turned to pull down dishes from the cupboards, setting the table for supper. It felt familiar. They’d done this before.
“Amy came back. They will too. Somehow.” She replaced the lid on the soup. “I have to believe they’ll exist again.”
He paused, plate in hand. “What were their names?”
“Amy and Flynn.” She wiped the sweat from her forehead and stared out at the mountains. “Named for the two people I couldn’t save.”
She pulled out the silverware drawer, grabbing what she needed for the expected guests. She placed the forks and spoons carefully around the table before heading into the kitchen to leave some plates and bowls out on the counter for Virgil and Wyatt. They only sat down for Sunday supper.
“I don’t know if I can forgive you,” he said, trying to be gentle.
Even though she expected them, his words pierced her. “I don’t blame you.”
She couldn’t expect him to forgive her if she couldn’t even forgive herself. She’d chosen to give them up in hopes of a better life for all of them. She’d been wrong and would live with that regret for the rest of her life.
“I understand why you did it.” He finished setting the table and found his hands empty again. He shoved them in his pockets.
“But you would’ve stayed.” All the fight drained out of her. “Like I said, I failed.”
He saw the weight of her guilt, cresting over her in the fading light of sunset. “I don’t think you failed. I think you were backed into a corner.”
“Living in Tombstone was supposed to be my penance.” The sun sank behind the mountains and she moved through her home, lighting and turning up the lamps. “Finding Doc probably saved my life, but I never expected to find happiness again. I didn’t think I deserved it after all I’d done.” She stopped in front of him, finding his warm hazel eyes looking down at her with such understanding. “You are alive to hate me. If this is what the universe demands as recompense, I gladly pay the price.” She’d give whatever it took to save his life in every timeline. Even if it meant never seeing him again.
Jess lifted the lid on the garbage can, tossing out the trash. She was already running late for their meetup back at Lucy’s. A scuffling of pebbles sounded down the alley, hidden by the deepening shadows. She grabbed the lantern hanging from a hook at the back door and held it out in front of her. A shape moved further into the darkness. She shifted the lamp to her left hand and reached for the weapon hidden under her skirts at her thigh. They all knew the laws of Tombstone, but none of the team were willing to go in unarmed.
Cocking back the hammer of her revolver, she aimed and called out. “Identify yourself. Flynn? Jiya?” One of them might be injured and unable to answer. She took a few quick steps farther down the alley and her husband came into view. She almost dropped her weapon, but reminded herself he was working for the enemy. “Wyatt! What are you doing here?”
“You have to know,” he halfheartedly raised his gun, “I never wanted it to end this way. If you’d only joined us when you still had the chance.”
“You can’t mean that.” He’d come to kill her. Her husband. The man she loved and fought for and moved heaven and hell to save. “This isn’t you.” Her hand shook, but she kept her weapon trained on him. “You’re Delta Force. You believe in right and wrong.”
He jerked his gun at her, but kept his finger parallel with the trigger. “Wrong. That man is dead. The Society recruited me. Trained me. Made me the man I am today. They revealed the truth about the world.”
“What truth?” She tried to keep her voice level, but adrenaline flooded her system. She really didn’t want to shoot Wyatt. “That you’ve been brainwashed? The man I loved is still in there, I know it.”
He let out a bark of laughter. “You don’t know anything. They brought me back to life when you gave up on me.”
“I never gave up on you,” she pleaded with him, wanting her Wyatt back. The man who picked her wildflowers simply because they made her smile. Maybe the team was right, maybe he was too far gone. But she had to believe.
“You did and they became my family.” He backed away, sighting her down the barrel of his gun.
Jess uncocked her weapon and dropped it, kicking it to the brick wall at her left. She wouldn’t shoot him. Couldn’t. She loved him too much. “I’m your family.”
“No.” He tensed, focusing on the task at hand.
“Yes. I am.” She stepped forward, knowing he wouldn’t hurt her. “I’m the same woman you proposed to on that hill in West Texas. You dropped the ring and I’d never seen you more panicked. You were scrounging around in the grass as if your life depended on it.” She reached out and he allowed her to help him lower his gun. “If I hadn’t already been in love with you, I would’ve fallen head over heels that day.”
“They’ll never let me go.”
She wound their fingers together, the lamp in her hand lighting their faces. “Come with me.”
“I can’t.” He pulled her in and kissed her as if his life depended on it. She wanted to hold onto him forever. She could bring him back, she knew it. He shoved her away from him.
A voice sounded behind her as she stumbled. “Jess! Get away from him.”
Wyatt turned and ran as Jiya fired. Jess slammed into her, sending Jiya’s shot wide and he disappeared into the alley.
Jess stepped in front of her friend, keeping her from pursuing him. “Please. Stop. He’s my husband.”
“He was your husband.” Jiya tried to go around her.
“I can’t let you kill him.” She refused to move, holding up her hands, the lamp projecting a circle of light that surrounded them. “He can be saved, I know he can. Please. I changed, he can too.”
It could happen to any of them at any time. Their pasts could be ripped away. Jiya’d seen them, their other lives. Just snippets. Snapshots. Past, present, and future, mixing with reality. Kissing Rufus. Losing him. The team fighting side by side, but in places they’d never been. Wyatt with them in at least one timeline. Lucy, the unknown woman at Flynn’s side, haunting her. Drifting in and out of focus.
Jiya holstered her gun, brushing her skirt back down. “There’s going to come a time when he has to make a choice. I won’t hesitate to shoot him if he puts any of the team in danger. But, I will give you every chance to save him. I would do the same for Rufus.”
Flynn accompanied Virgil and Wyatt Earp back to the Grand to check for Emma and then they’d head over to the Oriental Saloon. Lucy didn’t like letting him out of her sight, but she trusted the brothers. She stayed with Doc, heading first to the Occidental Saloon and then next door to the Alhambra with Mason, Jess, and Jiya. She knew from history that the Earp brothers would meet up there with Doc later and be there to break up the disagreement when Ike accused Doc of revealing his deal with Wyatt Earp.
There was still no sign of Amy. Lucy assumed Emma kept them from riding out this afternoon because the woman held her sister wherever they’d hidden the Mothership.
Over dinner they pieced together Emma’s team’s movements, starting with her cryptic meeting at the Grand with Wyatt and Virgil, through the dozen sightings collected by Jiya and Jess that filtered through the denizens of Tombstone, to her arrangement of Doc’s arrest. All day she kept them dancing to her tune. Obviously Emma had allied with Behan and the Cowboys, but to what end? And why then antagonize the Cowboys as much as Flynn and the team? She seemed to want them all off kilter, flailing around while she...what?
Warm light beamed out of the Alhambra as they approached. Large glass windows framed a slice of life in the Old West, people gathered at the end of a long day to relax and socialize with friends. The alcohol flowed freely and laughter mixed with the tinkling of the piano when Doc and Lucy opened the doors for Mason, Jess, and Jiya. Mirrors glittered from behind the glass-cased shelves full of etched bottles of liquor. The brass taps shone, reflecting the smiling faces of the patrons.
“Wow,” Jiya summed up.
Doc smirked and bowed, hat in hand, sweeping out his arm in welcome. “Not what you expected then?”
“Not at all,” she breathed out. “I imagined all saloons as dirty, dank, dark places you’d avoid in the middle of the day. This is,” her eyes swept up the pine banister to a second floor of hotel rooms, “amazing.”
“To be fair, there are plenty of those as well.” Lucy laughed and led them to a larger table in the front of the bar with easy access to the exit. Doc signaled Pete, the bartender, to bring them a round of beers.
“Hey Doc, Miss Alice. I’ll have those right over for you.”
“Thanks, Pete.” Lucy adjusted the skirt of her rose colored gown with burgundy piping, taking a moment to simply enjoy spending time with the team again. Jess and Jiya raided her closet, so to speak, earlier in the night when they all dressed for the evening. Jiya wore a dress from her Bird Cage days, forest green bodice with thin off the shoulder straps that trailed black lace down her bare arms. Jess chose a baby blue gown with pale yellow filigree over the bodice and a matching, high necked, crushed velvet jacket.
Tiny hats atop their heads, they lifted their beers in toast. Lucy had them back, even if only for a few days. Jiya sat across from her, awed by the splendor, but still alert to the room. Jess kept an eye on the bar, studying the customers, reading their intentions. She looked harder, but more hopeful. She could see the friendship that had developed between the two women in the way they communicated. Jiya understanding a slight gesture on Jess’ part, Jess nodding at Jiya’s unfinished sentence.
Mason looked older, which, of course he was. He’d lived through two years of his life twice. But it was more than that. She could see the weight of carrying the two timelines in the way he held himself. Still Connor Mason, with his quick and easy smiles, but he scanned the bar, more cautious, less scattered. Every so often, he’d fade out and she wondered where he went, but then he’d come back with a shake of his head and return to the conversation without missing a beat.
Doc held her hand under the table, earning their respect and friendship as the night progressed. She wished she could keep them all. She missed them more than she realized until they sat across from her in the town she’d made her home. She squeezed his hand, remembering stories that never happened as the team told stories she wasn’t part of.
In the middle of Doc regaling them about the time she cold-cocked a miner who grabbed one of the servers at the Bird Cage, Lucy caught a glimpse of Kate lurking in the back hallway. The woman gestured to her. She kissed Doc and excused herself, winding through the tables of faro players, almost elbowed by a couple that decided to dance in the middle of the walkway.
She reached the hallway and Kate beckoned her on, out of Doc’s line of sight. She hesitated. Lucy’d assumed that it was Behan working with Emma, but she didn’t know Doc’s ex well enough to gauge her desperation. On the off chance the woman had information, she followed, willing to do anything to protect Doc.
“Alice!” Kate’s hand shot out, grabbing Lucy and dragging her around the corner, their faces inches apart, her eyes sketching to the swinging doors of the kitchen behind her.
“What are you doing?”
“You have to believe me,” the wild haired brunette pleaded, fingers clutched around Lucy’s forearm, “I had no idea what she was planning to do.”
She pried Kate’s fingers from her arm. “Who?”
“The redhead, Emma.” She glanced over her shoulder as if she expected to be interrupted at any second. “The Sheriff came to me with a plan to get back at Doc. I admit, I was mad that he took up with you, you’re everything I’ll never be, but I never meant it to go this far.”
She let of a sigh of relief. “It’s fine, Kate. Doc’s out of jail. He’s pissed at you, yes, but he’s fine. He was with Wyatt and Virgil at the time of the robbery. Nothing to worry--”
“No.” Kate gripped both her arms this time, shaking with frantic energy. “You don’t understand--”
Ice ran through Lucy’s veins as gunfire and glass exploded in the front room. She dropped to the floor as a shower of wood splinters sprayed the hallway in front of her.
Flynn heard the gunshots from a block away and dropped his glass of whiskey. Looking to the front windows, he saw the crowd streaming past, running for their lives. He lurched into motion, knowing those bullets were aimed at the team. At Lucy. He withdrew his gun and burst through the front door, Virgil and Wyatt steps behind him, weapons already drawn. The three dove for cover behind a wagon while the gunfire continued.
“Has to be coming from the Alhambra.” Flynn peered around the spoked wheel. “I don’t see anyone outside the Occidental.”
Virgil eyed the gun in his hand. “I assume the rest of your team is also armed?” Flynn nodded. “Well, thank God for that. Hopefully it gave them a fighting chance. We’ll just pretend I deputized all of you earlier in the day.”
Flynn risked another look around the wheel. The streets had emptied. Everyone either fled or hunkered down inside the businesses that lined the street. Good. Fewer civilians to worry about. He looked back at the brothers. “Cover me.”
They nodded and inched closer so that when he dashed up the stairs to the porch of the Oriental and ducked behind a bench, they were there to return any fire. He waved them forward, the path clear for now, almost making it across Fifth Street when a second round of gunfire sounded and they raced for shelter against the wall of Campbell’s Saloon. They stayed low as they crept down Allen Street, almost to the side street that connected it with Fremont on the other side.
The first shots shattered the front windows.
“Get down!” Doc yelled. The team dropped and he tipped the table, sending the beer mugs crashing to the floor.
“The Clantons and McLaurys?” Jiya asked, grabbing her weapon, chambering a round, and flipping off the safety.
Doc stayed low and crept to the edge of the table while she took up post at the other with Mason and Jess between them. “Didn’t get a good look. Seems like the best guess.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, screams and bullets filling her ears. “Okay, let’s do this.”
“Yippee ki yay, motherfucker.” Mason cocked his gun. He and Jess turned and knelt behind the center of the table.
Doc had no time to figure out what the man meant. “When I give the signal, Jiya and I will lay down cover fire. Mason, you and Jess get to the next table over. Take them on from a second angle.”
A brief lull in the shooting gave them the opportunity they needed. They returned fire, useless when the barrage started again and they took cover. A bald man on their right panicked and attempted to run, gunned down where he stood. Jiya watched Pete rise from behind the bar, rifle loaded, and fire off two shots before Ike Clanton kicked in what was left of the door and took aim at the shelves behind him. Amber liquid and glass sprayed in a glittering arc.
“We have to get out of here,” Kate yelled over the chaos, the clattering of dropped pans from the kitchen, the ricochet of bullets.
A young man fell at the end of the hall and Lucy scrabbled for him, her hand wrapped around his, yanking him to safety. “Run!” She pushed him towards the kitchen. Kate clawed at the ruffled train of Lucy’s dress. She barked at him again when he hesitated, “Run!”
“I’m not leaving him.” She ripped the Kate’s hands from the long fabric. “And you wouldn’t either if you really loved him.”
“You don’t know how hard it is.” Kate scurried backwards and scrambled up the wall. “I owe the wrong people, she promised to help me.”
“I don’t care. Everybody makes choices in life. Doc would’ve helped you and you know it. All you had to do was ask. And if he’s dead out there, you’ll live with that choice.” Another burst of gunfire erupted and Lucy stood, despite her own terror, closing the space between them before the other woman could escape out the back. “You’ll live with it until I hunt you down and put you in the ground.”
“I never meant to hurt him.” Lucy slammed the woman against the wall, arm braced across her shoulders pinning her in place. “They got me drunk.”
Kate wrestled against her hold, but she didn’t give her the chance to escape. “You could’ve come clean, you had all day to find me.”
Doc thought the shooting would never end. They fired and reloaded. Chips of blonde wood flew over their rapidly dwindling barricades. Fired and reloaded. The team ducked, shooting in brief blinks of time.
Mason grazed Ike’s thigh. Billy Clanton climbed through the remnants of the window, firing over the fallen bodies, ignoring the patrons cowering underneath the tables, hiding behind wooden chairs, focused on the team. Pete jumped up and got off two more rounds as Tom and Frank McLaury filed in behind Billy and shot the taps, beer cascading over the bar. Jiya darted to the next table where a young couple crouched, frozen in terror, and Doc covered her, catching Billy in the shoulder.
There came a point when there was nothing they could do, but pray.
The gunfire ceased and the absence of sound crashed over them. Flynn and the two Earps broke into a run towards the Alhambra. Four men turned the corner at the other end, fleeing the scene to disappear into the night.
“Wyatt, you’re with me.” Virgil took charge, “Flynn you get in there and assess the--”
The three men slid to a stop in front of the devastated saloon, jagged glass and shards of wood everywhere. The door hung from the hinges, the glass oval window in the center, a gaping maw. The screams and cries of the wounded waved over them.
Flynn moved first, glass crunching beneath his boots as he stepped onto the stairs, praying he wouldn’t find their bodies. That he wouldn’t have to bury another friend. An image of Lucy, covered in glass and blood, riddled with bullets, assailed him, but he took another step. Closer to the damage. And another. The scene before him resolved and he stood in the doorway, bodies strewn at his feet.
“Doc!” Lucy’s voice cut through the fog.
Blood. Everywhere. His Sunday best shirt, her favorite, the soft white linen stained red. Her feet slipped on the detritus, the shattered glass, the spent casings and splintered wood, and she fell into the wall, now scarred with the memory of the massacre. His body slumped over. Unmoving.
She refused to fall. The uninjured stumbled past her, fleeing. She pushed forward. Jiya stared. Doc. She needed to get to Doc. Jess pitched to the side and retched. Flynn stood in the cracked and broken door frame, face rigid in anger, her avenging angel once again. Virgil and Wyatt, shocked into immobility, their weapons forgotten at their sides.
“I need help over here!”
Doc’s voice. Alive. The image clarified. Mason’s hand. Doc bent over the older man. Blood pooling around his body. Lucy ran to his side, tearing her skirt to staunch the bullet hole in his shoulder. Flynn somehow behind her now. Virgil and Wyatt, triaging the room. Jess and Jiya helping those they could. Fewer casualties than imagined, but the dead and the dying surrounded them.
“We need to lift him.” Doc commanded. Mason’s blood seeped into her pale pink sleeves. “I need to know if the bullet’s still inside.” She nodded, on the verge of breaking. “Al, I need you with me right now.”
Flynn knelt down, his hand on her shoulder. She focused on Doc’s warm blue eyes. “I’m here. I'm good.”
“I won’t leave you,” Flynn said so low she might’ve imagined it, but she believed anyway.
The two men shared a look over her head while she begged Mason to live. The only one who remembered. She tried to slow the river of his blood while Doc lifted him. Dismay flickered across his face and he laid the man back down as gently as possible.
“There’s nothing I can do.” Doc swiped his wrist over his forehead, a streak of red marking him.
“Doctor Wallace.” Lucy glanced up at Flynn and back to Doc, desperate, frantic. “I’ll go.”
Doc covered her hands with his to stop her movement. “Stop, Alice, the bullet’s still in there. We can’t save him here.”
“Jiya,” Flynn called over to where she and Jess helped an older man leaning against a stool, a bar towel held to his head. He knew what needed to be done. Pete replaced her at Jess’ side and she hurried over. “We need to move him.” To the Lifeboat, Lucy understood, nodding. “There’s a wagon outside.”
“Will he survive?” Lucy stared at her fingers, the blood dried and cracking, flaking away. Afraid to allow Jiya to press her hands to his wound until she knew.
Flynn’s body curved around from behind, protecting her, lifting her hands, nodding to Jiya. “I promise you.”
Lucy wanted Emma dead. Period. Full stop. Dead.
Doc warmed her a bath then stepped outside to stand guard next to the Zinnias. She scrubbed off as much of the blood as she could before stepping into the steaming water.
She’d only wanted peace. A quiet life.
She’d kill Emma and go back to teaching school. Emmanuel’s books should arrive any day and she’d promised the kids they’d dress up for Halloween, she couldn’t disappoint them. Flynn joined Doc on her doorstep, their muffled voices drifting through the open windows. Lucy slid under the surface, staring at her rippling ceiling.
She’d fight for the team this one last time and then say goodbye. Play Lucy Preston, her final role in this Greek tragedy, and then walk off stage, away from the endless fight. If the Society was all out just changing history, none of her knowledge mattered anyway.
She dressed and opened the door on the two men she loved and couldn’t bear to lose. Flynn tipped his hat to her, excusing himself to spend the night in her classroom, guarding her until morning.
Lucy wound one arm around Doc, laying her head on his chest while reaching for Flynn’s hand as he turned away. “Thank you for staying.”
“I couldn’t leave you,” he whispered, twining their fingers, rubbing a thumb over her knuckles before releasing her hand. “I’ll be here when you wake.”
Doc followed her inside and allowed her to remove his shirt, tending to his wounds in silence. Wanting to whisper a hundred I love you’s, but not tonight, not in desperation.
When she led Doc to her bed that night, she had no idea it wouldn’t be forever. That the love she’d found with him had an expiration date. She thought she had time. In hindsight, she should have expected it. She’d been foolish to believe in fate. In meant to be.
The universe never promised her a happy ending.
I fell into the rabbit hole of research on the OK Corral, but here's a couple links that were especially helpful.
--if you scroll down on the second webpage, you'll find links to tons of article. Though, to be fair, there are so many different versions of what happened over that 24 hours, that it's hard to piece together the truth. Like I said, rabbit hole.
I did conflate a few events. Sheriff John Behan really did get Kate drunk and get her to betray Doc, but it happened several months earlier. Kate did, however, return to Tombstone in the days before the shootout. I just linked the two events.
Chapter 10: The Last Stand of Alice Flynn
When Lucy Preston stepped into the Lifeboat on October 3rd, 2016, she didn’t know it wasn’t her first time. It wasn’t even her second time. Lucy Preston and the Lifeboat spent their timelines together, stitching history, fixing mistakes, creating rifts and ripples in time. Saving Flynn. Saving Amy. Lorena and Iris. Rufus. Jiya and Jessica and Connor Mason.
The Lifeboat remembered.
Every timeline. Every mistake. Every sacrifice.
It begins with fire. It ends in destruction. Their hands, the only anchor in a swirling world. Life rages as they race to catch up, trying to stave off the end of life as they know it. They have tried. Time and again. Every once in a while they almost win.
The first time--the very first time--she stood among the flames, the Lifeboat saw them all. The infinite variations.
They are touchstones. Lucy Preston and Garcia Flynn. The choices they make when they come together affecting each iteration. Circling. Looping. Finding each other. Losing each other.
Lucy Preston stepped out of time and the Lifeboat bided. Recording this history. Waiting for her choice.
October 26, 1881
“I want you to have this. It’s our story.” In the almost dawn, Lucy held a battered brown leather journal, her thumb tracing over her initials, the engraving worn into the cover as they stood next to her woodpile. “I gave it to you once before and I want you to have it again.”
She seemed reluctant, holding it out to him as if parting with it pained her.
He asked, “Is it full of the rousing misadventures of a time traveling band of outlaws and heroes?” Joking to ease her sadness. “I’m the outlaw, by the way.”
“You’ll always be a hero to me, Garcia Flynn.” He smiled and she released the book to his care. It broke her heart to know that if they survived the day, she’d likely never see him again. “I want you to know the man I loved. What he meant to me. To all of us.”
He ran his fingers over the tattered and overflowing pages. “I wish I remembered it.”
“If wishes were horses…” The sun crested the horizon. She wrapped her knitted shawl around her, watching the world lighten. A cool wind blew down from the mountains and she was thankful for Doc’s old trousers she’d tailored to fit her. “Do you still love to ride?”
“I do.” He tucked her journal into the inner pocket of his duster and knelt down to gather wood. “I wanted to be a cowboy growing up. There were these comics.”
Lucy smiled, bending down next to him. “The Tex Willer comics. He had a horse named Dynamite.”
“Your Flynn?” She held out her arms and he filled them with rough pieces of wood.
“My Flynn.” She remembered the first mission where she’d thrown caution to the wind and decided to trust him. “He said he liked that they helped the good guys against the bad guys.”
He held her eyes. “Sounds like me.”
The Lifeboat came in hard, no time to finesse the landing.
“Rufus! Lorena! Somebody help.” The door crept open while she raced to unbuckle Mason. She scrambled to catch him as he tumbled out of his seat. “Don’t you die on me old man.”
The sound of the stairs rolling to the time machine gave her hope. “Help me. Mason’s been shot.”
“Michelle, wash up and meet us in the Med Room.” Jiya nearly cried when Denise stepped into the machine, crouching down to check his wound, lifting the wad of bloody pink satin. “Bullet’s still in there?”
Jiya nodded, adjusting to help carry him. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”
Rufus came running, taking one look at his girlfriend struggling down the stairs and relieving her. Lorena shooed the children into their rooms and made a beeline for the operating room they’d cobbled together in the bunker. A friend of Michelle’s from the hospital helped them set it up and keep it stocked. It’s nowhere you’d want to do surgery if you had any other choice, but they rarely had any other choice.
Lorena joined Michelle, scrubbing up and controlling her rage at the person who shot Connor. She didn’t have the luxury of anger right now. Instead of screaming, she channeled all her energy into saving his life.
Jiya leaned against the doorway, exhausted, ready to fall down. “Emma set us up. Used history to play us. We were sitting ducks.” Denise caught her as she slid down. “We barely survived.”
“Rufus, get her into the shower. Michelle and Lorena can handle it here.” He bent down and wrapped his arms around Jiya, helping her to stand. “She can fill us in after.”
They hobbled slowly towards the bathroom. Jiya was the Leia to his Han, Arwen to his Aragorn, battle weary in a torn and bloody gown. Whatever she’d seen had shaken her and he was helpless to do anything more than wrap his arms around her and shuffle down the hallway.
“When was the last time you ate?” It was the very least he could do and the only thing he cared about right now. She looked--he’d never seen Jiya look so lost.
It took her a minute to realize he was talking to her.
“Lucy made soup.” She couldn’t stop looking at him, afraid he might blur into her vision where she held him in her arms as he died. “Um, it was before…” she drifted off trying to remember how long ago it’d been since she sat at the table with everyone. “Before everything…”
Rufus tucked her into his side, pressing his lips to her forehead. “Okay then. We’ll get you cleaned up and fed and then you need to get some rest.”
She sagged against him, exhausted. “I have to get back. They need me.”
“I’ll go instead.” As long as one of them stayed behind, it didn’t matter which.
“No.” Jiya sank onto the bench next to the shower and let Rufus remove her black granny boots. “You’d be going in blind. There’s no time to bring you up to speed.” She leaned forward, touching her lips to his. “It has to be me.”
They circled Lucy’s desk, bent over the map of Tombstone. Bandaged and exhausted, but upright. Still fighting even with the plan completely out the window. Emma tore through the pages of history and scattered them to the wind.
“We need to be smart if we want to stand a chance.” On her left, Flynn studied the grid of the town. “Who knows how many soldiers Emma’s ferried here for the fight. We have to be prepared.”
“Wyatt and Virgil?” She needed to focus, she’d become soft, too long away from the mission.
“Patrolling.” Doc smoothed out the edges of the map. “We should post a couple folks to keep a lookout on the surrounding area. I doubt they stuck around after the Alhambra.” Doc squeezed her hand, pointing out the best spots. “I suggest one at the Aztec and one at the Oriental.”
Flynn turned to Jess. “Third Street, that’s edge of Hoptown, correct?”
“Yes. A block up is the Can Can, from what I gathered it serves as a kind of gateway to the community. Nothing that happens there happens without Sing Choy’s approval.”
He looked between Jess and Lucy, “You think she’ll help us?”
“I think she’ll demand it,” Lucy stated. “This is her home. She’ll want in on the fight.”
Doc laid the heel of his hand on his gun, his body turned toward hers. “Wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of others wanted in on whatever happens today.”
“In the original history,” Lucy started, figuring she had no good reason to withhold the information any longer, “the shootout was the result of a feud that festered for months beforehand. Tombstone had taken sides, but when it came to the fight, the Cowboys and the Lawmen worked it out Old West style. The town could debate who was right and wrong, and they did, in the trial afterwards, but they understood it. It made sense. What happened last night is different.”
“What are you saying?” Flynn saw a flicker of fire in her eyes.
She faced him, anger coursing through her veins. “I’m saying we let them fight.”
Flynn didn’t disagree, but she needed to see the whole truth. “They’re civilians.”
They had no right to keep them from this battle, Tombstone was their home. “They were attacked last night. They’re memorizing the names of the dead with their morning coffee, if they slept at all.”
“I was a civilian,” Jess added. “They killed my husband and it didn’t matter that up until that point I’d only ever been a bartender. Nothing would’ve kept me from fighting.”
Flynn straightened. “Some of them will die.”
“Some of them already have.” She blinked away the destruction, the long moments believing Doc had been killed. Sally almost lost her dad last night and all Pete had done was show up for work. He hadn’t deserved to be caught in the crossfire. None of them had. “They have a right to decide for themselves.”
“Everybody’s a civilian until they choose otherwise.” Doc knew this town. They’d rather die than show their bellies in surrender. Three quick knocks brought their attention to the front of the room. “Probably Virgil--”
“Yoo hoo!” Emma poked her head in the door. “Oh good! You’re all here.” She stepped into the classroom, flanked by her two favorite henchmen. “The people here are so helpful, you wouldn’t believe. They probably would’ve walked me to your front door if I’d asked.”
Lucy reached for the pistol at her hip, Doc and Flynn mimicking her movements. Jess stepped around the desk to stand at Flynn’s side.
“I’m completely unarmed, promise!” Emma held up her hands. She twirled down the walkway. “See?”
“You might be, but I have no doubt that your minions have at least one gun on each of them.” She pulled her weapon out of the holster, holding it at her side.
“A girl can’t be too careful” Emma shrugged. “But, I’m not armed, where’s your sense of honor?”
“Yeah, I don’t trust you.” Lucy bit back a harsh laugh, but laid her gun on her desk, keeping her hand nearby.
The redhead cocked a hip against Jeremiah’s seat. “Now, why would that be? We’ve never even met before. Why would you mistrust me already?”
“You shot up one of my favorite bars.” Foreboding chills swept over her and Mason’s unconscious body covered in blood flashed in her brain. Jinny and Steve, huddled next to Jiya, too scared to move in the aftermath. Benjamin, who tried to run and died on the floor of the Alhambra instead of at home, surrounded by his family. “You hurt people I care about. Why in the world would I trust you?”
“Why indeed?” Emma dismissed her and focused on Flynn. “It’s good to see you again. I suppose you came for your sociologist.” Her eyes cut to Lucy and back so quickly, she thought she might’ve imagined it. “I could be convinced to bargain for her release.”
Flynn tensed, gun out of the holster. “What do you want?”
Lucy’s heart plummeted, she knew what Emma wanted. She wanted Flynn. Lucy’s fingers twitched near the handle of her gun, ready to shoot the woman and be done with it all.
“I thought it was fairly obvious.” Emma glanced over her shoulder at Wyatt leaning against the window on the right side of the classroom. “It’s pretty obvious, right?”
“Absolutely. Plain as the nose on your face,” he replied, avoiding Jess’ eyes.
Lucy despised games. “Just spit it out, Emma.”
“Testy, isn’t she?” She addressed Noah standing by the coat rack near the door.
He rolled his eyes. “You are being a bit much, right now.”
“You wound me.” She fluttered a black lace glove to her chest. “But you do have a point. So.” She clapped her hands together and narrowed her eyes at Flynn. “I’ll trade you one pretty little blonde for the older brunette. She’s a little worse for wear, I’ll admit, but c’est la vie. The heart wants what the heart wants. Isn’t that true, Flynn?”
Doc and Flynn answered by aiming their weapons.
Whatever Lucy expected Emma to say, it wasn’t that. “Excuse me?”
Doc cocked back the hammer of his revolver. “Over my dead body.”
“Why me?” Of course she’d trade herself for Amy, sister or not, but it didn’t make sense. Emma had no reason to want her. “I’m just a schoolteacher.”
Lucy hated the confident smirk that spread across the other woman's face. “Oh, I think we both know that’s not true.”
She knew. Somehow Emma knew.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She pretended nonchalance, but her heart thudded in her chest. She wanted to grab Doc and Flynn and run for safety. There’d be no more death. Not if she could help it. But if Emma knew about the other timeline...
The redhead pushed away from the desk. “Do you remember Stanley?”
“I’m sorry, Stanley?” The name sounded familiar. She thought back, knowing she’d heard it before, but where?
“Everybody forgets about Stanley.” Emma sighed and snapped at Jess. “Focus! You had your chance to be reunited with your husband and you betrayed the Society. He’s ours now.” Jess ripped her eyes away from Wyatt, glaring at the woman she once thought her friend. The door opened behind Emma and she spun around, Wyatt and Noah drawing their weapons in response. “Oh, good! You’re back. I was getting bored having to do all the heavy lifting. How’s Mason? I heard he got shot last night.”
“Go fuck yourself.” Jiya leaned in the open doorway, shotgun propped against her shoulder.
“Well, everyone is so rude today. And here I was just trying to be nice.” Jiya straightened and strode down the aisle, aiming her weapon. Emma stumbled back a step, holding up a hand to stave off her advance. “Don’t forget about Amy. Kill me and you’ll never find her.”
“Talk or I shoot you in the face and take my chances.”
“Fine, fine, fine. You guys really are no fun at all.” She threw hands up in surrender. “But seriously, can we put the guns away? It’s getting tense in this little schoolhouse.”
Jiya looked to Lucy, who nodded, and returned the rifle to her shoulder, smirking.
“Now where were we?” Emma tapped a fingernail on her chin. “Oh yes. Jiya, would you kindly fill in the rest of the class on Stanley?”
“Stanley was Mason’s first test pilot,” she responded, wondering what she’d missed. “He went crazy.”
Emma tssked her. “Not crazy. You of all people should know that.”
Jiya thought back to the few times she met him. He had seemed nonsensical, talking in half thoughts about forbidden colors. She knew he suffered from visions, same as her, but she assumed his brain had cracked somewhere along the way.
But what if she had it wrong? What if he’d gone far beyond her ability? She’d only recently learned to navigate her visions with any accuracy and started seeing what she thought were the other timelines. The more she worked at it, the more she could unravel. If that were the case, Stanley had years of practice on her.
Emma’s eyes lit up. “Now she’s got it. See, Stanley’s not crazy so much as hard to understand. So when he started babbling about the historian, we paid attention. The Historian is hidden. Protect her. Protect the Historian. We figured her to be a figment of a broken mind, but recorded every one of his episodes, just in case. Then one day he gave the historian a name: Lucy Preston.” She turned her back on Jiya and focused entirely on Lucy. “Of course we had to find you, but when we ran a search, nothing came up. You didn’t exist. We’re not sure how you did it, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. We spent months tracking you down. Even hired an entire team to decode Stanley’s babblings.”
Lucy sank into her chair. “Why couldn’t you just leave me be?”
Emma stepped up to her desk. “If you were important, we obviously wanted to control you. Then the more we learned about you, the more we realized we needed you.”
“It still doesn’t explain how you found her.” Flynn was losing patience. No one would harm Lucy. He didn’t care that they barely knew each other, it’d be a cold day in hell before he let danger anywhere near her.
Emma leaned over the desk. “Stanley wouldn’t shut up about Doc Holliday. We figured he was just a fan of the Old West at first, but when he started connecting the two we followed the trail straight to Tombstone. For the longest time we had no idea what you looked like or how to find you. Then Stanley’s team had a breakthrough. They’d been using photos of this little band of heroes who kept fighting against us. Kinda like a Rorschach test, trying to stimulate his visions. Pulling information out of his head like strands of spaghetti. And do you know what we discovered?”
“Can you just cut to the chase?” Lucy reached for the pistol that still rested between them.
“You,” she leaned closer, “had a sister.”
Flynn pulled his weapon and pressed it to Emma’s head in the time it took Lucy to process the information. “You abducted Amy and brought her to Tombstone to draw her out.”
“If I die, so does she.” Emma stared up the barrel at him.
Lucy found the straw that broke her back. She couldn’t fight anymore. She stood, resigned to this surrender. “I’ll do it.”
Doc touched her shoulder, drawing her attention to him, worried. She never gave in. “Alice, please don’t do this. There’s got to be another way.”
“No tricks, though. Try anything and I’ll kill her and leave her body on the steps of this quaint little school.”
Lucy ignored Emma and laid her hand over Doc’s, answering his plea. “There isn’t.”
Emma interrupted the moment, giddy with her win. “Don’t worry, I’m not dragging her off right now. We still have a few hours before the big event, we wouldn’t want to disappoint history.” An icy smile graced her lips. “I might suggest you say your goodbyes.”
“You don’t get an opinion on this, Flynn. She’s my sister.” Lucy sat on the top of the picnic table behind the little schoolhouse where she’d spent her days preparing lessons. Next to the fire pit where she and Doc sat night after night, learning to love again.
Flynn wanted to shake her out of the haze that settled over her. He could see her anger simmering below the surface. “I get that, I do, and I want to save her too, but you can’t sacrifice yourself for her.”
“Why not? You sacrificed yourself to save me. Twice.” Lucy pushed off the table and started to walk away. “Seems only fair.”
Flynn needed her to understand, she couldn’t just hand herself over to Emma. “You cannot do this. There’s a reason she wants you.”
She spun around, wanting to throttle him. “You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t get that she’s using Amy to bait me? I’m not an idiot, Flynn. But what else do you expect me to do? I’m not losing anyone else.”
“I expect you to fight. I expect you to be the Lucy Preston Mason talked about like the second coming. I want you to slay some damn dragons.” He made to step closer to her and she put up a hand to stop him. “So far all you’ve done is make Chicken Noodle soup.”
“You--” She choked off her first response. Garcia Flynn had no idea how close he came to being slapped. “All I wanted was a quiet life.”
“Guess what? We don’t always get what we want.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” She threw her hands up, wanting to scream. “You know what? I’m done with this. You go back inside with Doc and figure out this Hail Mary pass you two have cooked up. I’m not helping you plan your funeral. I’m going to have a drink at the Bird Cage and say goodbye to Yvette.”
Why couldn’t she see how important she was? “What about all that talk about letting the town fight? That they had a right to defend what’s theirs.”
“That was before I knew I could end this without any bloodshed.” Lucy took a deep breath. “Nobody else is dying for me.”
Garcia Flynn wanted to strangle her or kiss her until she came to her senses. “You are the most infuriating woman I’ve ever met.”
“So you’ve said before.” Had he though? Or was that another lifetime? She couldn’t remember anymore. All she knew? The universe expected her to say goodbye to both Flynn and Doc today and she just wanted to burn everything.
He pleaded with her. “What about Doc?”
Doc understood. He stayed behind and planned to save her even though she knew it was hopeless. He let her walk away, knowing she would find her way back to his arms before the end. Flynn wanted something she couldn’t give him. He wanted the woman she used to be. The woman she left behind.
“It’s Amy. Doc gets that.”
Flynn gazed down at her, willing her to believe. “I don’t think he does.”
“You have a choice.” Lucy folded her arms over her stomach, wishing she could give in, to believe in the hope that filled his eyes. It was too dangerous. “You can’t save both of us.”
He stepped so close she could hardly breathe. “Yes. I can.”
“I’m sorry.” She reached and her fingers butterflied across his cheek. “But you’re wrong. I’m going to save my sister, I don’t care what it costs me.”
She turned her back on him and walked away.
“Lucy…” He called after her. “Lucy, please don’t do this.”
She kept walking, knowing he’d follow. The chances that she wouldn’t be shadowed by either Doc or Flynn the rest of the day were slim to none. Nothing either of them could say would change her mind and they both knew it. Her sister needed her. Nothing else mattered. She took a right onto Toughnut, past the wagon shop and Dexter’s and the Mining Company. She’d been walking the streets of Tombstone for a year now and she’d come to love the place history dubbed The Town Too Tough to Die.
Turning left on Fourth, she passed the General Store and hung a right on Allen. The windows of the Grand Hotel showed a packed front room. It was the same across the street at the Cosmopolitan. Tragedy brought people together in a way nothing else could.
She couldn’t say goodbye to all of them so she kept walking.
“Miss Alice!” Jimmy ran up behind her. “You’re okay.”
Lucy turned and knelt down, his dirty, tear stained face searching hers for answers she couldn’t give him. She pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m okay, buddy.”
He wouldn’t let go of her, shaking in her arms, and it enraged her. Emma did this. She scared Jimmy. And what about Jeremiah? He’d already lost his father and now this. No doubt all of her students would hear sooner or later. Their lives were hard enough without the interference of some psychos with a time machine.
“Momma said your friend was hurt.”
“He was, but he’s gonna be okay.” Lucy brushed his bangs back from his forehead. “How’s your mom and baby sister?”
“Good.” He sniffed and rubbed his nose on his sleeve. “Momma’s at home with Janey. Papa went to meet with the men at Hafford’s.”
“Is that where you were before you saw me?”
He stared at his feet. “Papa tried to make me leave, but I snuck back in.”
“Your Papa’s right. That’s no place for a little boy.” She kissed him on the forehead and rose. “But I bet your Momma could probably use your help, don’t you think?”
Nodding, he scuffed a worn black boot at the dirt. “But I wanna help.”
“No buts, young man. I want you to go home and stay there until your Papa comes back. You hear me?”
He straightened up at the sound of her teacher's voice. “Yes, Miss Flynn.”
“Good. Now go.” If she cried, he’d trail her around all day, so she shoved down her regret at leaving him. Leaving all of them.
He hugged her one last time and then she watched until he disappeared around the corner of Fourth. How dare Emma try and steal this peace from her. She continued on, passing the Oriental, oblivious to the few people and wagons on the streets. If anyone spoke to her, she didn’t hear them, lost in the feeling of helplessness that overwhelmed her. Flynn didn’t understand, it’s not that she didn’t want to fight, she just wasn’t willing to risk any one of them.
Pushing through the door of the Bird Cage, she waved to Yvette. Her regular stool sat empty, waiting for her, the rest of the bar packed despite the earliness of the hour. Bits of angry conversation drifted in as she wound through the tables. People wanting vengeance. Wanting blood. She wanted them all to go home. To save themselves while they still could. She’d make a speech if she thought anyone would listen.
Yvette made her way to Lucy, a glass of whiskey already in hand. “Give me five minutes and I’ll get Lottie to cover me. Then we’ll talk about what that look on your face means because I’ve known you long enough to know it’s nothing good.”
Three minutes later, Yvette led her past the stage, out the back, and across the street to the empty lot. Several wooden crates formed a circle around a makeshift table. When she still worked here, they’d sneak away some nights just to sit in silence under the stars when the chaos of the saloon got to be too much. Other nights, the staff came out after closing, passing a bottle and telling jokes until the sun rose.
“Is Mason okay?” Evie asked, extending the whiskey in her hand.
She declined. “Jiya says it was touch and go, but they think he’ll live.”
“I’d ask if you’re okay, but I know you’re not.” She slung an arm over Lucy’s shoulder and tucked the smaller woman against her side.
What else could she say? “No, I’m really not.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing.” Yvette took a slug of whiskey. “Well that sounds like a load of horse crap if I’ve ever heard it.”
Lucy dropped her head into her hands. “Not you too.”
“Look, I don’t know what’s really going on here.” She made to protest and Evie hushed her. “Stop. I don’t need to know the details, but I know there’s something different about you. I’ve seen you face down a man twice your size without blinking. Things that would’ve sent other ladies running for the hills made you laugh. And now, these old friends of yours show up out of nowhere, only one of which you mentioned before. The one I suspect, by the way, is the man who broke your heart. So yes, if you’re trying to tell me you’re just giving up, I call bullshit.”
“You call bullshit?” Laughter exploded out of her. She shoved off her crate, pacing the small lot. “Nothing I’ve done has made a damn bit of difference. I saved their lives and for what? For them to relive it all again. Why did I give it all up in the first place?” Evie smirked at her choice of words. “You, shut up.” Her friend mimed buttoning her lips. “Fine. Yes. I’m the idiot who gave it up the first time around, but you don’t get it.”
“No, I’m fairly certain I don’t.”
Lucy stopped and faced Evie. “Well, let me tell you, it sucked.” Her friend looked confused. Poor word choice, no wonder the woman thought she was weird. “It was just a constant string of bad days.”
“I don’t honestly see how that’s possible.” She lifted the bottle to her lips and drank, teasing the truth out of the other woman one sentence at a time.
“Okay, it wasn’t all bad. There were some pretty great moments.” Lucy paced and remembered sitting next to Flynn, listening to Robert Johnson pour out his soul in a warm Texas bar. Remembered Mason getting drunk and quoting Shakespeare. Jiya stealing leg warmers from the eighties. She accidentally kicked the crate and bent down to pull it back into place, sitting down hard. “I love Doc.”
Evie laid her head on her shoulder. “I know you do, but I don’t think that’s really the issue, do you?.”
“I’m tired.” She accepted the bottle and sipped.
“Aren’t we all?” The wind carried a chill as it blew past them. They stared off at the scrub brush and the mountains. “Sometimes I look at you and you’re Alice Flynn, my friend. But sometimes it’s like I’m looking at you through a dusty mirror. I can’t see you clearly. Every once in awhile I think I see the woman you really are, but then when I blink, she’s gone again.”
Lucy sighed, wishing she could explain everything. “I’m still the same woman who lived in the bedroom next to yours.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever been that woman.” Evie looped an arm around hers. “I think you came here because you were running from something. And maybe you had every right to. With what happened at the Alhambra last night, I probably wouldn’t blame you if I knew the whole story. The only thing I do know for sure, is whoever think you are, Alice Flynn, you can’t hide that you’re a hero. I see it. Doc sees it. Wyatt. Virgil. All of us.”
She pressed her forehead against her friend’s shoulder. “I really wish I could tell you everything.”
“Like the fact that you’re a time traveler from the 21st century?” Evie laughed at her shock, her mouth gaping open. “Yup. That’s about the face I made.”
Lucy sat up and their knees banged together when she turned. “What? How?”
“You really shouldn’t leave Mason alone when he’s drunk.”
She closed her mouth. “Well, shit.”
“Exactly my response.” Yvette wound their fingers together. “But seriously, listen. You brought us all together. We became a real town because of you. You don’t have to leave us, we accept you no matter how crazy your story is, but I don’t think you want to surrender. It’s against who you are at your core. You fight. No matter how minuscule the chances. I mean, you fell in love with Doc. Talk about long shots.”
Lucy pulled the blond to her feet. “You know we’re probably gonna die, right?”
“Everybody’s gotta die sometime.” The prostitute turned bartender turned friend hugged her and didn’t let go. “Might as well go down standing up for something we believe in.”
“And what’s that?”
Evie released her. “You.”
“I--I--” Emotion choked her words and she cleared her throat. “Where do you want to go?”
“I’m sorry, what?” They both wiped at the corners of their eyes.
Lucy tucked her bangs behind her ear. “I have a time machine. If we survive, I’ll take you whenever, wherever you like.”
“I like it here.” Without speaking both women turned to go back into the Bird Cage.
She opened the back door and the sounds of the bar rolled over them. “So do I.”
Kate scurried around the corner onto Sixth, Lucy followed. After the Alhambra, she wouldn’t put anything past the brunette slinking in the shadows. Sure, she’d promised Yvette she wouldn’t go off all willy nilly, but then she hadn’t expected to stumble upon Kate trying hard not to be seen as she turned onto Toughnut. The land opened up into the Chihuahuan Desert with its rambling tumbleweeds and scrub brush shaped by thousands of years of winds roaring down between the mountain ranges.
Lucy hung back, waiting for the woman’s next move. Kate glanced over her shoulder and scrambled down the side of the hill above the entrance to an abandoned shaft of the Good Enough mine. Lucy darted across the street, dodging a wagon filled with kegs of beer and ducking down behind a bush with densely packed branches. She paused, listening for the sounds of Kate’s descent, scrabbling behind when she disappeared into the mine. Lucy crept along the white stone wall, voices drifted up to her and she followed the sound, stepping into the shadow of the entrance.
“You have to let me get him out of here.”
Lucy huddled beside the wood frame, needing to get closer. There could be no good reason to meet here, this shaft of the mine had been closed when it flooded last spring. She edged inside, dipping into the darkness of the corner overlooking the main floor of the mine where several tunnels intersected and threaded out under the town.
“Mmmmm, sorry, no. That wasn’t part of the deal,” Emma taunted.
Kate begged, reaching for the uncaring woman. “You promised if I kept her out of the line of fire you wouldn’t hurt him.”
“I promised I’d try.” Emma’s laugh bounced off the carved stone walls and Lucy shrank further into the shadows. “Pull yourself together. Doc Holliday’s survived worse. Though, I wonder why you still care. He’ll never take you back after what you’ve done.”
From her vantage point, Lucy could shoot Emma and be done with it, but the way Mason spoke about the Society, killing the redhead wouldn’t accomplish anything other than a slight delay. They’d send another Lieutenant to head up the team.
Kate scrubbed at her face. “I just need his forgiveness and he needs to be alive for that.”
“Alright, alright.” Emma threw the woman a bone. “I’ll do my best. Now, you, go back to your room at Fly’s. Have a drink. There’s not much time left.”
Kate started for the stairs, but paused, turning back. “Why is she so important?”
“Don’t strain yourself, you couldn’t possibly hope to understand. Tell you what, if you can find him, you can try and use your wiles to lure him away. Now go,” she shooed the other woman up the steps, “I need to touch base with Amy and make sure she’s ready to go.”
Lucy had nowhere to run. If she went for the entrance she’d draw the attention of both women. Her only choice was to crouch in the darkest part of the corner and pray Kate was too upset to notice. The other woman raced to the first landing and turned, getting closer. Lucy held her breath as she reached the second landing. She crested the last flight of stairs and If Kate saw her as she passed, she made no sign of it.
Only then did Emma’s words sink in. Touch base with Amy. Ready to go.
Her sister was not a Constantine. No, she wouldn’t allow it. They changed her history. Had to be. Maybe she was playing along to get information. Maybe Emma had her trussed up like a pig and that’s what she meant by ready to go.
Amy better be trussed up like a pig.
Lucy took the stairs down two at a time, refusing to lose track of Emma, who’d headed down the far left tunnel. She hurried behind, pausing every so often to listen for the scuff of a shoe or a muffled cough, following the light of Emma’s lantern and avoiding beams of sun from openings at the surface.
Slowing, she drew her weapon and held in place around the bend of a curve. Ahead of her, Emma entered a small room and Lucy inched forward, wanting to kill the redhead. She’d taken so much from her already, she couldn’t have Amy too.
Lucy pressed against the cold stone walls, calm washing over her as she waited for a clear shot. She breathed through the adrenaline, focusing on the woman who’d been the cause of so much pain. She fired and Emma stepped out of the way, chips of stone spraying as she whirled around, grabbing for her own weapon and getting off two wild shots that sent Lucy diving for cover. Her shoulder slammed into a two by four post as the redhead disappeared into an offshoot tunnel. She righted herself and took off in pursuit.
They traded rounds of bullets, tearing through the winding tunnels. Lucy finally got a break, grazing Emma’s upper arm and spinning her into the wall. She drove her shoulder into the redhead’s stomach, taking both of them to the ground. She didn’t stop to catch her breath, kicking at the other woman’s weapon before punching her in the face. Lucy slammed her into the ground when she struggled, adjusting her body to trap Emma’s wrists beneath her knees.
“What do you do to someone who has taken everyone that you loved?” Her mother’s face as she lay dying flashed in her mind. Rufus, shot and bleeding out in Jiya’s arms. Flynn as he gave his life to save hers. She doubled over, awash in guilt and regret. She straightened, moving one hand to Emma’s throat, pinning her in place. With the other Lucy pressed the barrel of the gun against her forehead. If she didn’t pull the trigger, Emma’d take everything from her again. “You can’t have Amy too. I will save her.”
“How are you gonna find her if I’m dead?”
Lucy smiled, tightening her grip around her neck. “How hard do you think it’ll be to get the information out of Kate?”
“Why would she give it to you?” Emma choked out, coughing as she gulped for air.
“Love.” Lucy pulled back the hammer of her pistol and fired.
Emma twisted, freeing her hands and rolling out of the way as the butt of the gun headed for her face. Her knee connected with Lucy’s rib cage, knocking the gun out of her hand, and Lucy collapsed to the ground, gasping for breath. Clutching her stomach, she tried to drag herself away from Emma, who scrabbled up and pushed off the rough hewn wall. Lucy scrambled to get her feet up in time to block her attack, shoving her backwards.
She jumped up, focusing her rage on eliminating the threat to the people she loved. Emma would never stop. Her fist smashed into Lucy’s cheek, splitting her lip. She tasted blood and returned the favor, knocking the woman back. As long as Emma Whitmore drew breath, they’d never be safe. The redhead surged forward, catching her around the waist and they crashed to the ground together, wrestling for the upper hand.
Emma came out on top, choking her as she repeatedly drove her fist into Lucy’s head. Her ears rang and her vision dimmed as she clawed at Emma’s hands, trying to pry her fingers loose.
“Poor Princess Lucy. Gave up her entire life.” She thrashed on the ground, refusing to go down easy. “And for what?”
Flynn’s appearance startled Emma enough that she released her hold and Lucy sucked in heavy gulps of air. He ran down the tunnel towards her and Emma pushed off the ground, escaping. He fell to his knees on her right and she rolled over, going for the weapon she knew he carried on his hip. Lucy needed to stop her.
The sleek, modern metal felt right in her hands and she emptied the chamber after the fleeing woman. She kept firing until she emptied the chamber and Flynn took it from her, wrapping his arms around her. Cradling her, gentle, careful. Lifting her off the jagged stones. She had nothing left to give. She couldn’t protect any of them.
“Flynn,” she sobbed out, shattered. He leaned down, touching his forehead to hers, their other life flickering just out of sight. His breath brushed over her cheeks and she clung to him as he let her cry. “I can’t...I can’t.”
Doc waited, leaning against the railing of the front stairs of the little schoolhouse. His hat hid his eyes, but she could see a slight smile playing at his lips. “Welcome back.”
“You don’t seem surprised to see me.” She climbed the steps and circled her arms around his waist.
“I’m not.” He breathed a sigh of relief, threading his fingers under her braid and holding her close. “In the time I’ve known you, you’ve never walked away from a fight. Not when someone needed you.”
She pulled back and he took in the cut above her brow, the trail of blood down the side of her face, her split lip, and the bruise blossoming another cut on her cheekbone. She rushed to reassure him. “I’m okay.”
“What happened?” His fingertips feathered over her skin, inspecting her injuries.
“I followed Kate to the old mine shaft and found Emma.” She winced when he moved his head and the early afternoon sunlight hit her eyes. She looked up at him, the lines around his eyes tight in anger. “Don’t be too mad at Kate, she was trying to save your life.”
“If you had died…” He let the thought trail off, his thumb tracing gently over the bruise. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, pressing it to the wound above her eye.
“I didn’t.” She leaned into him. “They’ve been using the tunnels to get around and Amy’s working with the Society. Flynn’s exploring the tunnels to see if he can find the Mothership.”
“Your sister?” She nodded and closed her eyes, willing away the coming battle. “Shit. I’m so sorry, Alice. Come inside, let me take care of you.”
He led her up the stairs, pushing the door open and winding an arm around her waist when she wobbled. Hatred for Emma washed over him as he helped her limp up the aisle. He would tear the redhead limb from limb if she couldn’t.
Over their year together, Alice showed him the man he wanted to be. He saw it in the disappointment reflected in her eyes when he fell into the dusty chair in her tiny room above the Bird Cage after another bar fight. She always knew he started them, but she cleaned the blood from his face just the same. But it was also in the happiness that rippled over her face when he returned from a ride with Wyatt and Virgil, as if his simple return gave her joy.
She liked having him around.
Doc pulled out the chair behind her desk and settled her into it, reaching into the bottom drawer where she kept a small medical kit. He ran to fetch a bucket of water from the well out back and when he returned, she sat still, staring off at nothing.
“We’re going to beat them.” Dabbing a clean towel in the water, he cleaned the cut above her eye. “We won’t let them win.”
She studied the buttons on his shirt. “I’m going to kill her.”
“I’ll be right behind you.” He felt her smile beneath his fingers as he gently wiped the skin around the bruise.
“I won’t lose you.” Lucy caught his eyes and flicked open a button, her fingers exploring the line of his collarbone.
Wetting the towel again, he tended to her split lip, careful, unwilling to cause her even the smallest bit of additional pain. “The others will be here soon.”
She dipped her head, her lips brushing against the hollow of his throat. “We have time.”
Standing, she pressed the line of her body against his, taking the towel from his hand and tossing it aside. Desire filled her eyes as she unbuttoned his vest, running her hands over the plane of his stomach. Doc sucked in a heavy breath and surrendered, lowering his lips to hers. Tender. Searching. Lifting her onto the desk, fitting himself into her. Sighting, she melted in his arms, wisps of kisses trailed down her neck.
“We’ll never have enough time,” he whispered, his words an invitation to stay, a temptation dancing across her heated skin.
In the end, they’d always wish for more time. No matter what followed after, when he slipped inside her, filling her as she wound her legs around him, holding him close, they forgot about the world and existed only in these stolen moments where her name fell from his lips like a prayer and a benediction.
Alice Flynn stepped out of her schoolhouse. Yvette leaned on the banister at the bottom of the stairs, rifle slung over her shoulder. “Lovely day. Anyone in the mood to kill a redhead and some Cowboys?”
“Well, Miss Yvette, feels like you might be spoiling for a fight.” Virgil remarked as he, Wyatt, and Morgan stood in the small yard, hands on their weapons, badges glinting in the sun.
The blond shrugged. “Seems to me, someone needs shooting, you shoot ‘em.”
“Can’t disagree with that.” Doc checked his gun, tilting his face to hers. “What do you say, Alice?”
He offered her his hand, his steady strength, and she claimed her right to walk by his side on this day.
On her left, Flynn holstered his weapon. “Time to slay some dragons?”
She kept Doc’s hand in hers as she looked over their motley crew. The Earps and Yvette. Pete and James. With Flynn and Doc at her side she believed for the first time that they could do this. She wouldn’t have to leave this town or these people. They’d protect what was theirs, save Amy for the team, and Lucy could go back to her students and her schoolhouse and her simple life on the frontier.
“Time to slay some dragons.”
A bitter wind blew through the empty streets of Tombstone. Even those who didn’t know something was coming felt the ominous weight hanging over the town like a thunderstorm on the verge of cracking open and unleashing a deluge. Lucy strode down the center of Third Street, Doc on her right, Flynn on her left, the friends she’d made in this town behind her. The scared peered at them from behind the closed curtains of the apartments above the stores and saloons. Hammer struck metal as they paused by the blacksmith’s and she heard the whinny of a horse from the corral.
The brim of her hat kept the low sun from her eyes as they stopped at the corner of Third and Allen, nodding to Jiya and Jess as they joined them. “Everything good to go in Hoptown?”
“Sing Choy’s people are in place.” Jiya adjusted her shotgun from her shoulder to her hands. “They’ll be ready when necessary.”
“Alright then, you and Jess get back there and be ready for whatever happens. Pete, you post up in the Harwood House, James, you’ve got the Tobacco shop. Yvette,” Lucy turned to her closest friend, “Kate’s at Fly’s, I’m trusting you to keep her out of it. Who knows how Emma plans to use her, but I want her off the board.”
“I won’t let you down.” Yvette dragged her into a hug, reluctant to release her. She finally let go of her friend, setting her worries aside. “Pete, you and James are with me.”
Lucy shoved down her fear for her town. “Earps, you clear everybody out of the alley behind the Corral. Make sure they know that anybody who stays behind, fights.”
Virgil Earp tipped his hat. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”
“We’ll get everybody to safety and be there when you need us.” Wyatt extended his hand to Doc. “Keep our Alice safe.” He released his best friend’s hand and turned to her. “Make sure our boy doesn’t get himself killed.”
She pulled him in for a hug. “I promise.”
Lucy watched with trepidation as Evie and the Earps led their troops to their positions. Everything would go as planned, she reassured herself. They’d make their stand. When Emma saw this town wouldn’t go down easy, she’d be forced to retreat.
If wishes were horses...
The Lifeboat watched as they faced off. Flynn and the new one, Doc, a nice addition to her little family of misfits and outlaws, standing behind her. Wyatt Logan and Noah Beneventi, a wall behind Emma and Amy. The tipping point approached. When forward was the only option.
“You gonna come quietly?” Emma stood there unafraid, weapon aimed.
The dust kicked up between them. The Lifeboat knew that Lucy would never give in, but which ending would it be this time? Seven times out of ten they made it to the OK Corral. One time, she convinced Flynn to run away with her. They lived a little longer that time. But in every timeline, this was the beginning of the end.
Lucy cocked a hip, an affectation she picked up from Doc. “You think that’s likely?”
“I think it’s smart.” The antagonist splayed her fingers against her weapon. “Otherwise…”
“Otherwise you’ll kill them. Yes, I know.” The Lifeboat saw Lucy’s exhaustion. Three times, it’s gotten the best of her and the storm of Flynn followed after. This time…
There’d be a shootout. Of course there would. And people would die. Because they always did. Most times, she lost Flynn and stumbled down the rabbit hole head first and begging for death.
Emma waved a hand and Frank McLaury stepped out of Harwood House, gun to Pete’s head. His brother Tom pushed open the door of the Tobacco shop, James led before him. Virgil and Wyatt Earp spun around and Ike and Billy Clanton came out of the back door of the Can Can with Jiya and Jess, lining up behind Emma and Amy. Morgan Earp peered around the corner of Fly’s trying to cover both the Clanton brothers. More of Emma’s minions revealed themselves, perched on the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
“Amy.” Lucy Preston always tried to save her sister. Always. But not like this. Lucy’s erasure affected everything that came after. In the other timelines, Amy never joined the fight, sheltered by her big sister. “This isn’t you. The Amy I knew--”
The younger woman cut her off. “I’m not the Amy you knew.”
“I’m sorry, I know.” Lucy moved forward, Doc and Flynn shadowed, weapons pointed at the ground, but at the ready. “I just mean…”
“You don’t understand, yet. You will.” Amy lifted her gun as Emma laughed.
“How can you say that?”
“You have to see it to believe it.” Her sister waved her over using the gun. “Now, come on over here. Nobody needs to get hurt.”
The Lifeboat calculated, searching its data banks for possible reference timelines, coming up empty. Doc Holliday and Tombstone changed everything, Lucy Preston never had a home until Alice Flynn claimed one.
There was no way to predict what happened next.
“How can you say that?” Lucy, on the verge of breaking. Not her sister. Anyone but her, please. She’d held on this long in the hopes that it was all some big cosmic joke. And now she was supposed to accept that Amy wanted her to join Emma. Join the Society.
“You have to see it to believe it.” Her sister beckoned her forward. “Come on over here. Nobody needs to get hurt.”
Someone always got hurt. No matter what she did. No matter what choice she made. Kate Drummond. Bam Bam. Alice Paul.
They were surrounded and she flailed for a Hail Mary pass, something to avoid the bloodshed. A calm settled over her when she realized she already had a perfectly good plan, remembering when she’d tried to infiltrate Rittenhouse. She’d go undercover, blow up the Mothership, and take them down from within. First she’d have to convince Doc and Flynn that surrender was their only option. They would have to stand down, but it might be the only way to save everyone.
Lucy placed her gun on the ground, raising her empty hands and slowly standing. “Fine. Fine. Just let them go okay?”
“Alice!” Doc reached for her, missing as she skirted his hand, moving closer to Amy. Emma aimed her weapon at him.
“Doc, stop, please.” She met his eyes even though it killed her. “This is the only way.”
Flynn pointed his weapon at Emma. “I won’t let you take her.”
Lucy glanced up. Yvette stood next to Kate, framed in the window of Doc’s room in Fly’s looking down over the scene in horror. She wondered if she’d ever see either of them again. Flynn and Doc tried to talk sense into her, but she barely heard them. It would take time to get the Society to trust her, but she was a willing casualty. However long it took, she’d give everything.
Nobody had to die.
“We’ve lost.” She faced Flynn, regret pouring out of her. “Go home. Raise your daughter. I won’t let Iris lose her father.”
Doc pulled a second revolver, inching closer to her. “Well, I’ve got nothing to lose, but you.”
“Don’t you dare. I didn’t save your life to have you just throw it away.” Lucy took another step, halfway to Emma. In her peripheral, she saw a cloud of dust and turned.
Jimmy shimmied out from under the porch of Fly’s and sprinted towards her. “Miss Alice!”
Time slowed. She never believed the people that claimed that until the moment Billy Clanton flinched and fired and Doc launched himself into the path of the bullet heading straight for the boy.
But she was closer than he was.
“No.” Lucy said, sure of her choice as she threw herself in front of Doc, watching as the bullet tore into her stomach.
“Damn it, Lucy,” Emma screamed in frustration and grabbed for Amy’s arm.
As Lucy fell, the back doors of the buildings behind the OK Corral opened and the citizens of Tombstone rushed into the alley. Doc jerked forward to catch her, paying no attention when a bullet sliced across his hip, gunfire erupting from all sides.
“Why would you do something so stupid?” He bent over, arms wrapped around her, hands trying to stem the flow of her blood.
She fell into his blue eyes. At one time, she’d seen forever there. She raised her hand to his cheek, touching him one last time. “I love you, John Henry, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
“I love you too, Alice--Lucy—” His words, anguished even as the battle raged around them.
“I liked being Alice.”
This town would remember her, would remember Alice Flynn. Jimmy clung to Doc, crying as Flynn bent down in front of her to catch her hand as it slipped from Doc’s face.
It wasn’t a bad way to die.
Flynn killed Billy Clanton first and then shifted to cover Doc as he held Lucy. Emma and Amy ran and he let them. He’d find Emma and kill her slowly for this. Jess and Jiya exchanged fire with Noah and Wyatt as they covered the women’s retreat. Flynn swiveled and eliminated two more of her people, one on the roof of the Blacksmith’s and one firing from above Fly’s. Noah grazed Jess’ shoulder and Flynn swore he saw a look of panic on her husband’s face. He used the moment to his advantage and sent two bullets in the direction of the two men. He missed and they ran, Jess and Jiya chasing after.
Wyatt Earp took on Tom McLaury. He fired, grazing Morgan’s shoulder blades and diving behind a fallen horse. Wyatt Earp strode forward, sending several bullets over the flank of the animal until the other man tried to scurry away. Frank McLaury shoved James away from him, attempting to run and Virgil shot him dead. When Ike realized they were losing, he turned tail and ran down the side of the Can Can that led to the entrance of the underground tunnels. Flynn didn’t worry about him, Sing Choy’s people spread out to take care of anyone who went underground.
One by one they either fell or fled. Flynn shoved away his weapons and turned back, bending down to Lucy bleeding out in Doc’s arms.
"I liked being Alice." He caught her hand and his heart stilled as her eyes closed.
“Save her,” Doc commanded.
“I’d have to take her back to her time.” He brushed his thumb over her fingers, trying to calm himself so he could think straight. “There’s no guarantee.”
Doc lifted her as carefully as possible and the two men rose. “Whatever it takes. Save her.”
“You know where her Lifeboat is hidden?”
“Yes. Don’t worry, I’ll protect it with my life." Doc yelled to Jess and Jiya when they returned, “Horses, you need horses.”
They bolted into action, gathering three from the area that were already saddled.
“I don’t know how long it’ll be until she can come back.” Flynn grabbed the reins that Jiya held out and mounted. “If ever.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll wait.” Doc relinquished Lucy to Flynn’s protection, brushing her bangs away from her forehead and kissing her, whispering I love you one last time. “Now go.”
Flynn spurred his horse into a hard run, holding her close to absorb the shock of the rough ride, but not willing to slow, knowing every second counted. The sun set as he raced for the Lifeboat, willing her to live.
Doc Holliday bent down to scoop up Jimmy, holding the boy close as they watched Alice Flynn disappear from their lives.
Chapter 11: Hazy Shade of Winter
Chaotic joy filled the room as the team sat around her apartment above the schoolhouse. Rufus and Jiya decorated cookies at the table while Denise and Lorena made space in the living room, moving her couch and rocking chair to form a half circle. Jess lifted the lid of a cast iron pot and the smell of mulled wine suffused the room. Lucy chopped bread into cubes for the stuffing, happy. They’d all survived.
Iris jumped off the chair she’d dragged to the window. “They’re back! They’re back!”
She flung open the front door, snow blowing in, and Lorena called after her, “Coat!”
Mason snatched it from the back of Jiya’s chair and tossed it to her, walking over to peer out the door, snowflakes coating his face. “Looks like they might need some help.”
“Can I Mommy? Can I?” Flynn’s daughter bounced up and down in barely contained excitement.
Lorena let out a dramatic sigh, a smirk tugging at her lips. “Not in your stocking feet.”
Iris looked down at her feet in confusion. Mason bent down and retrieved her boots from behind the still open door. She plopped down in a drift of snow and pulled them on, looking to her mom for final permission. Given the nod, she ran out the door, almost forgetting to grab the railing, and hurried down the stairs as quickly as the snow would allow.
Lucy brushed the crumbs from her hands and joined Connor at the door, watching Doc and Flynn riding up, a tree tied atop a makeshift sleigh behind them. Iris stopped at the picnic table and started throwing handfuls of snow up in the air.
When her father got close enough, he dismounted and jogged over, arms open to receive her running jump of a hug. He kissed her on the nose and went back to help Doc with the tree. Lucy watched with amusement as Flynn handed Iris the rope to help drag it across the yard. She picked her way up the stairs, rope clutched in both tiny hands and pulling for all she was worth.
A timer on the oven sounded and she moved to check the turkey. Jess slid out of her way and Lucy used the potholders Jimmy’s mom knitted her to remove the large, heavy pan, setting it on the counter and grabbing the baster. Laughter rippled over her as the door opened.
“‘Twas a successful hunt,” Doc proclaimed proudly as he and Flynn crossed the living room to stand the tree up in the corner.
Flynn withdrew a pocket knife and flicked it open, cutting the twine to free the branches, flinging melting snow everywhere.
“I’m beat,” Iris declared, collapsing onto the sofa, boots dangling over the edge and dripping on the knotted rug.
Everybody was still laughing when the Earp brothers knocked and entered, arms laden with overflowing wooden crates.
“We come bearing gifts.” Virgil made his way to the tree as Lucy pushed the turkey back into the oven. “This being your first Christmas in Tombstone, we didn’t think you’d have any ornaments.”
Wyatt picked one at random, a handmade snowman with a painted red scarf and hat. “It was Sally’s idea. She and your other kids got together and made some for you. The town sent you the rest.”
She bent down, reaching for an engraved silver bell tied on a simple green ribbon. It tinkled a light airy sound as she dangled it. She set it aside and lifted a crocheted white angel with painted brown eyes and long strands of brown yarn for hair.
Iris leaned her head on Lucy’s shoulder, wrapping her arms around her neck. “She’s beautiful.”
“I think we’ll save her for last, yeah?” She felt the little girl’s head bob up and down. “Should we get to decorating?”
Flynn’s daughter came around to kneel in front of the crates, intent on choosing the best first ornament. Lucy reached in, retrieving the silver bell. It jingled as she stood, crossing to hang it on the edge of a branch that spread across her front window. Big, fluffy flakes swirled outside and she lost herself in their dance. Doc threaded his arms around her waist and Flynn slipped his hand into hers, tilting his head down to capture her lips in a kiss that tasted of home.
Doc’s lips drifted down her neck. “Merry Christmas, my love.”
“Sretan Bozic, moje srce.” Flynn’s tongue darted out, parting her lips.
A pulsing beep woke her, alive and in an unsurprising amount of pain. The damp, metallic smell of the bunker filtered in and the events of the last two days rushed over her. Had they survived? Had she saved them?
“She’s coming around.” A woman’s voice, muffled through the haze of painkillers.
“Lucy?” A hand held hers.
She tried to open her eyes, but the light hurt. “Flynn?” she croaked out. Her voice was rough, unused. She tried again. “Flynn?”
“It’s me. I’m here.” He brushed a lock of hair from her cheek.
She blinked away the tears as her eyes adjusted and his face came into focus. Dark circles ringed his eyes, his hair unkempt. He’d lost weight, his grey t-shirt hanging off his normally lean frame.
“It’s good to have you back.” A dark haired woman leaned over her, making notations on a chart. “You had us all worried.”
Lucy remembered her. Lorena. “Did you save me?”
“No.” She folded her clipboard to her chest, shooting a look at Flynn. “That was done in a proper hospital.”
Lucy tried to lift her head and failed. “I’m in the bunker though, right?”
“You are now.” Lorena adjusted the drip of one of her IV’s and shot a look at Flynn. “Garcia insisted we bring you back here.”
“She was in danger,” he said, his words clipped. She could feel the tension screaming through his body as he clutched her hand.
A heavy sigh escaped from the woman. “You could have protected her.”
“No, I couldn’t.” He dropped her hand, standing. “The others will want to know she’s awake.”
Lorena pinched the bridge of her nose as he walked away. “I don’t know how he did it, but he got you out of that hospital the moment you could breathe on your own without anyone the wiser. I don’t want to ask too many questions about how he managed it, but by the time he got you back to the bunker, we had every piece of equipment we could possibly need.”
“He’s always been so dramatic,” Lucy chuckled and it hurt.
Lorena laid a hand on her shoulder. “You need to take it easy. That bullet did a lot of damage and you nearly bled out before we got you to the hospital. You’ve been under for almost a week and your body still needs time to heal.”
“When can I go home?” Doc. She needed to get back to Doc. Jimmy. Evie. Had the Earps all made it through? She remembered the sound of gunfire and needed to make sure the town was okay.
The other woman moved to hang her chart on the end of the bed, “I’m sorry, it’ll be awhile before you’re back on your feet. I’m Lorena, by the way. Though I suppose you know that already.”
“We’ve actually never met.” Lucy lifted her hand in a small wave. “But yes, I know who you are.”
“So you’re really from Mason’s timeline? You knew him before?”
“I did, though we’re technically from different timelines. Close enough.” She shifted on the bed, trying to get comfortable. “He’s the only friend I have left from my old life.”
Lorena came around to help her. “He missed you too. He talked about you a lot.”
Lucy yawned sinking into the pillows. “I feel bad. He told me how hard it’s been for him.”
“Don’t be.” The light behind her turned off. “Now get some rest.”
The creaking, humming sound of the bunker lulled her to sleep.
May 14, 2018
“Lucy fucking Preston,” Emma seethed over Anthony, “is not dead. Trust me. Keep looking.”
He minimized the death certificate for Alice Flynn. “What does it matter? He still has Amy.”
Emma gripped the back of his chair. “She’s his niece, not his daughter. It’s all about the bloodlines, Tony, you should know that by now. Speaking of, any chance you can get the hospital to run a DNA test?”
“Easily done, it’ll just take time.” He dug into the Preston file, ordering the test and had the results sent to an untraceable email address. “You want them compared to Cahill’s?”
The redhead gave a curt nod. “He may trust Stanley’s ramblings, I like cold hard facts. And I will not go back to the President empty handed.”
Benjamin Cahill wanted Lucy Preston and Emma never failed him before, she wouldn’t start now. She wouldn't let some scrap of a schoolteacher stand in her way. She couldn’t get out of this by dying, Lucy ought to know that by now. Just because they couldn’t change her timeline didn’t mean her friends weren’t fair game. Emma would find a way to bring her back and then strip her of every friend she had until she had no choice but to work for the Society.
If Lucy wanted to do it the hard way, fine by her. “Pull up our file on Holliday.”
May 23, 2018
Lucy lost track of time in the fog of recovery, but every time she woke, Flynn was there. Sometimes with a book. Sometimes sleeping with his hands tucked under his head on the bed next to her side. Once, she woke to him telling her a story in Croatian and kept her eyes closed, just listening to the warm, caramel of his voice.
Once, he knew she wasn’t sleeping.
“I haven’t read it yet.” Flynn picked at a stray thread on her blanket. “I--”
Her fingers stretched for his. “You don’t have to. I just wanted you to have it.”
He wanted to say more, but the vision of Lucy dying in Doc’s arms haunted him. In another timeline, he died to save her. In this one, he failed and it nearly cost her life. He’d never forgive himself for that. First Amy. Now Lucy. Still, he couldn’t pull away from her. He knew he should, but he needed her touch.
She faded out again as his fingers twined with hers.
A week later, Michelle deemed her ready for her first foray into the bunker. Jiya hadn’t started Jess on their Vanderpump Rules obsession yet, so they watched a few episodes before Lucy started dozing off in the corner of the couch and Lorena bundled her off to bed again.
The longer she stayed awake, the less Flynn kept her company, replaced by Mason. Both still healing, they passed the time sipping tea, remembering who they were before. He brought in a Scrabble game and they played until until someone came in and took the board away, insisting on rest.
She’d missed all of them so much, but she wanted to go home. She missed her schoolhouse and her kids. She missed Evie and the Earps. She missed Doc.
One morning she shuffled to the kitchen and found Jiya waiting for her. “So I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.”
“Um, okay.” Lucy filled the kettle, lifting it to the stove and lighting the burner. She leaned against the counter, catching her breath. “What’s up?”
Jiya helped her to one of the tables scattered around the area. “You’re not staying, are you?”
“I’m not.” She settled into one of the chairs.
Her one time friend nodded and sat across from her. “I know we had hoped you’d stay, especially now that Amy’s fighting with the Constantines. We could really use someone to catalogue the disappearances and help us figure out which ones are connected to the Society.”
“I can’t.” As much as she missed them, the ghosts of the people she knew before haunted her around every corner of the bunker. Even Flynn. Whatever the connection between them, she had a lifetime of memories he didn’t share. None of them were the people she knew except Mason. “I don’t have anything left to give. As much as I hoped, I never thought I’d see any of you again. I thought I’d stopped them. You had your happy endings. When I thought of you all, you were living free, unencumbered lives, knowing nothing of Rittenhouse or the Society. You didn’t need me. I found a place to belong again. I never expected that.”
Jiya laid a hand over hers. “You don’t have to explain. I get it. Probably better than most since I’ve seen snippets of that timeline. I just want you to know that you have options.”
Lucy tried to pull her hand back. “I don’t belong here anymore.”
“You do. But only if you want to. Like I said, you have options.” The dark-haired scientist squeezed her hand and withdrew, giving Lucy the space she so desperately needed right now. “When we got you back, you were in bad shape. Neither Michelle or Lorena could do anything, so we needed to get you to a hospital. And for that, you needed a record in the system.”
“I figured as much.” It’d taken her a day or two to realize it, but there’d need to be at least a basic paper trail on her or the hospital would start to ask questions none of the team were prepared to answer.
The tea kettle whistled and Jiya waved at her to stay seated. “We needed a name and because you’d gone to such trouble to erase Lucy Preston, we used the name you chose, Alice Flynn. Though, I apologize, we did list Flynn as your husband since we needed to be able to get information on you without a next of kin.”
Of course the first time she married Flynn, she’d been unconscious. “I understand. I’m sure there were no good options.”
“Not really, but I’m still sorry.” Jiya fixed her a cup of tea and set it in front of her. “You’re dead, by the way.”
Lucy studied her hands as if they might disappear if she looked away. “I’m fairly certain, I’m alive. Though, after the events of the last few days, I guess I’d be forgiven if I forgot whether I lived or not. It’s been weird being back here.”
“You’re alive, I assure you, but I get how you feel. Having visions makes it difficult sometimes to figure out what the hell has actually happened. It feels like you’ve been with us forever and yet it feels like we’ve only just met.”
Jiya returned to her chair and Lucy missed her friend, missed just sitting in the kitchen having a cup of tea. She wanted them back. For real back. But Jiya didn’t remember their first mission together. Rufus didn’t remember how many times she relied on him as her anchor in the swirling void. She never met Denise in 1981. Never fell in love with Flynn while hoping to save his soul.
She never prepared for this eventuality, though she probably should’ve seen it coming.
“No, I mean,” Jiya continued her thought, “You died in the Stanford Hospital. I wanted to give you a chance to escape. If you wanted it. I can’t guarantee it’ll stop them from coming after you, but you’ll have a head start at least. The important thing is that any of that information can be altered. If you’re ever ready to be Lucy again.”
A silence hung between the women.
“Thank you.” She didn’t know what else to say. She loved them all, but they weren’t her family anymore.
August 27, 1880
Doc Holliday played a game of poker in the dim light of the saloon, Kate Elder at his side, one toe drawing lazy circles in the air as she chatted with the redhead on her other side. Doc dealt another card to her husband, Noah, and one to himself, picking it up and placing it alongside the others in his hand. The doors of Dan Thorne’s Cabinet Saloon opened, spilling light into the room.
A gangly teenage boy with dirty cheeks and worn brown boots pushed into the room. “Mr. Holliday?”
“Back here, Petey.” Doc laid down his hand of cards.
He wound his way around the tables and passed over the missive. “Here you go.”
“Thank you,” he replied, slipping the boy a coin and opening the letter.
Kate set down her whiskey and leaned forward. “What is it?”
“Wyatt needs me in Tombstone.” He folded the paper and slid it into his inner pocket. “I’ll leave tomorrow.”
“No,” Kate pouted, draping her fingers over his forearm. “You promised we’d go to St. Augustin’s. Emma’s never been.”
Doc lifted her hand, brushing his lips across her knuckles. “This is important, Katie. Wyatt needs me.”
She huffed back in her chair. “Wyatt needs! What about what I need? We never have fun anymore since you met him. First you drag us away from Vegas and now this. Just when we were finally making friends.”
Emma batted her eyes at Noah. “Oh, don’t let him ruin the fun! Tell him we just have to go.”
“Who’s to say the road to Tombstone doesn’t meander through Tucson?” Noah straightened his cards and set them aside, winding his fingers through his wife’s.
Kate inched closer to Doc, wrapping one of his hands in both of hers. “I don’t see why we have to go to Tombstone at all. Virgil never deputized you. You owe them nothing. You saved Wyatt Earp’s life once, do you have to go around doing it forever now?”
Noah pulled out a pocket watch, glancing absently at the time. “We’ve had good luck in Vegas. Thinking about heading back after festival if all goes well at the tables there. Seems to me, a gambler like you’d do well with a competition such as this.”
A delay wouldn’t hurt anything in the long run really. Besides, Wyatt and Virgil should be able to handle one group of outlaws if anything happened before he got there.
“Please,” Kate pleaded, giving him a look of drunken adoration.
Seeing her smile, he knew he couldn’t deny her.
June 6, 2018
“You’re leaving.” A statement. Flynn leaned against the railing of the computer platform. Not stepping any closer to Lucy as Jiya prepared the Lifeboat for the jump.
Lucy shoved her hands into the pockets of her borrowed hoodie. “I am.”
“You need to heal.”
She couldn’t look at him. “I’ll heal better at home.”
“Okay then.” He pushed off, turning his back on her.
“Okay then,” she said, quiet, and stepped onto the bottom rung of the rolling stairway.
He whirled, forgetting his tight control. “How can you walk away?”
“What choice do I have?” She froze in place, waiting for his movement.
He stayed several feet behind her. “You could stay and fight.”
“The last time I stayed for the fight, I nearly died.” Lucy pivoted to face him, resisting the urge to show him the red puckering wound across her abdomen knowing he would take it as confirmation of his failure to protect her.
He flinched. “What about Amy?”
“What about her?” The cool air of the bunker blew over her, sending chills down her spine.
“She’s your sister.”
If Flynn reached for her right now, she’d collapse in his arms, desperate for the life she left behind. He didn’t. Neither did she.
It was better this way. Her place was in Tombstone.
“No. She’s not.” Lucy turned and climbed another step. “None of you are. I’m sorry, I really am. But…”
Her regrets choked her.
“What?” he asked, hopeful.
She didn’t need to turn around to see the optimism in his eyes. “That life is gone. Nothing’s gonna bring it back.”
The journal burned a hole in his pocket. He couldn’t tell her how scared he was of what the pages contained. Because he already knew that he’d burn down the world for her. Even without their stories from another timeline.
Flynn didn’t argue as she stepped into the time machine and the door closed behind her. He stayed rooted to his spot until the Lifeboat disappeared, letting her walk out of his life.
December 24, 1881
A coating of snow that’d be gone by morning lay across the picnic table and fire pit. A soft light shone out of the small window at the top of the stairs. Doc was waiting for her. Because of course he was.
“Let me help you.” Jiya wrapped an arm around her lower back.
Lucy clung to her shoulder, each step painful. “I’m sorry. I really am.”
“Don’t be.” She brushed the snow off the next stair with a sweep of one foot. “Nobody blames you.”
Eight more steps and she’d be home. “Flynn does.”
“Flynn’s…” Jiya searched for the kindest words, settling on, “complicated.”
She focused on making it up the stairs. “That’s the understatement of the century.”
The door opened and Doc stopped in his tracks. “You’re home.”
“I’m home.” She saw the relief in the entire line of his body. He met her halfway and folded her against his chest.
“I knew you’d come back.” His fingers tangled in her long brown hair. “Let’s get you inside.”
Lucy pulled back and reached for Jiya. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. “Come up.”
“It’s Christmas Eve, you have to stay.” Doc helped her up the last few stairs and leaned forward to open the door, warmth and the scent of pine pouring over her. Strands of popcorn and cranberries looped around a bushy tree, ornaments dangling from the branches, a handmade angel at the top.
She was home.
They shared a cup of tea and Doc filled them in on the town’s recovery, Lucy tucked into his side. Everyone would be excited to see her again. He’d told them all her friends had taken her to a hospital in Bisbee. Doc had ridden out every week she’d been gone to keep up appearances.
Jiya didn’t stay long, not knowing how long before the Mothership’s next jump. The Society went dark after the OK Corral, but who knew how long that would last. The alarm sounded three times, but the data packages came back empty, so they had no idea if the Mothership jumped or not. Mason went to work, trying to sort out the issue. Apparently it started happening after his last update, so he had some place to start. He’d figure it out. Until then, they waited.
“She should be just fine,” Jiya assured him, rising to her feet when Lucy started to fall asleep next to him. “As long as long as she takes it easy.”
She sat up, rubbing her eyes. “You’re leaving?”
“Yeah, it’s time.” Lucy started to get up and Jiya waved at her to stay seated, bending down to hug her goodbye. “Remember what I said. It’s your choice.”
She held onto her old friend for a little while longer. “Thank you. For everything.”
Jiya hesitated, wanting to say something more, but holding back. “Take care of yourself, okay?”
“You too.” Lucy released her. “Come back anytime. You know where to find us.”
Jiya smiled. “If you need anything...”
“I know.” Lucy squeezed her hand as she walked away.
Doc shifted, adjusting the pillows to fill the space he vacated. “I’ll see you out.”
“Stay right there with your girl. There’s no need, I’m just out back. Be good, Doc.”
Saying goodbye didn’t hurt as much this time. They’d had one last mission together even if it had ended with her getting shot and almost dying. She’d save the people she loved. As she lay there against Doc’s chest, his steady breathing soothed her as much as the fingers he ran through the strands of her hair. Lucy fell asleep in his arms, waking only when he carried her to her simple bedroom with the blue and white quilt.
He untied her sneakers, hiding them under the bed. “I love you, John Henry Holliday. I wanted to say it when, you know…”
“You’re not dying in my arms?” He lifted the blanket and she slipped under. “Yes, let’s not do that again.”
She reached out from under the covers and he knelt in front of her. She cradled his face, promising, “Never again.”
“I love you, Alice Amelia Flynn.” He leaned into her hand, closing his eyes, grateful to Garcia Flynn for saving her, however he did it.
“Come to bed,” she said around a yawn and felt him smile against her hand.
“I’ve still got a few presents to wrap. It’s Christmas tomorrow.” He laid his hand over hers and turned to brush his lips across her palm. “Sleep, I’m not going anywhere.”
In the morning, he kissed her awake, his moustache tickling her lips. “I missed you. Did I tell you that?”
Lucy would remember the warm light beaming from her windows forever. “You didn’t have to say it. You decorated for Christmas. You were waiting to welcome me home.”
“It wasn’t just me.” He stretched beside her and his long legs distracted her. “Jimmy insisted on helping when I was away.”
“Is that so?” she chuckled and tried to hide the wince of pain from her injury.
He caught it anyway, his hand reaching for her, but holding back, afraid his touch would cause her pain. “Are you okay?”
“I will be.” She pulled him close and kissed him for every day they’d spent apart. The rest of the morning they spent together. Sharing coffee and breakfast. Baking cookies and opening presents. Doc had stocked the pantry and they set to preparing for a small Christmas dinner.
Jimmy pushed through the door as she was chopping carrots. “Doc! Ma wants to know if you’re coming for--”
His eyes widened, welling up with tears and she rushed to his side. “Oh, bunny, it’s okay.”
“I’m so sorry, Miss Alice. I didn’t mean--I just wanted to protect you like Doc.” He sobbed into her shoulder, inconsolable.
She let him cry until her ran out of tears and then brushed his hair back from his face. “My fierce little Champion, what you did was very brave, but you’re just a little boy. I’m your teacher, it’s my job to protect you. Okay?”
“Okay.” He nodded, his tiny face so serious.
Doc called from the kitchen, “Tell your mother thank you, but Miss Alice is back, I’ll be having supper with her.”
Jimmy scrubbed a sleeve against his cheek, wiping away the last of his tears. “Mama’s been making sure Doc eats. She worried he’d wither away to nothing with you away.”
“Well, then,” Lucy cast an amused glance over her shoulder at Doc, “I owe her a debt of gratitude as well. How’s your baby sister? Getting big?”
He nodded. “Papa says she’s growing like a weed.”
“Tell your parents I’ll come visit just as soon as I can.” She buttoned his coat and kissed his forehead. “Merry Christmas, Jimmy.”
He threw his arms around her again. “Merry Christmas, Miss Alice.”
By mid-afternoon, her home above the schoolhouse filled with friends stopping by to check on her. They brought food and presents and the happiest day she could remember since before she stepped inside the Lifeboat for the first time. Penny knitted her a soft red scarf and Sally drew a picture of her class dressed up for Halloween since she missed it.
Evie dragged her into her bedroom and gave her a pale pink silk nightgown. They giggled like schoolgirls, pulling themselves together only as they joined the rest of the group in the kitchen. Doc gave her a questioning look and she just winked at him in response. The Earps sat around the table, passing a bottle of whiskey as day eased into night.
The only thing that could’ve made it better would have been Flynn and Mason and the rest of the team.
After everyone left, the food consumed, the presents opened, the carols sung, and her home a quiet wreck, Doc pulled her into his arms in front of the tree.
“I have one last present for you.” He slipped a hand into his pocket, withdrawing a black crushed velvet ring box. Breath held, he opened it and she gasped at the simplistic beauty of the ring, a small pale blue topaz surrounded by engraved silver leaves. “I saw it on one of my trips to Bisbee. It doesn’t have to mean anything, but when I thought I lost you, I knew I didn’t want to live another day without you by my side. Nothing would make me happier than to call you my wife, but no matter what, I’ll stand by you. If you’ll have me.”
“Oh, I’ll have you, Doc Holliday. I’ll have you seven ways to Sunday.” He lifted the delicate ring, slipping it onto her finger. “And twice on Thursday.”
December 27, 1881
“What do you mean you met Emma before?” Lucy looked up in panic from the couch where she had a new book of American history open in her lap.
Doc set down his pencil. “Did I never mention it? I could’ve sworn I did.”
“No. No you didn’t.” She dropped the book and threw the afghan back from her legs, standing up too quickly and reaching for the arm of the couch to catch herself when the room spun.
He rushed over, steadying her. “Be careful, Alice. You need to take it easy.”
“You don’t understand. It never happened.” She clung to him, a cold sweat slicking down her spine. “You never met Emma. I was there the first time.”
He helped her back down to the couch, sitting across from her. “It was before I came to Tombstone. Kate and I were in Prescott and she wanted to go to this festival in Tucson. I’d received a telegram from Wyatt requesting my presence here.” He shook his head as if sorting through a fog. “Emma and Kate became friendly and we decided to go gambling at the festival together.”
“Does that even make any sense? How would you have forgotten meeting her before?” She gripped his hands, tugging him closer. What else had changed? Had he forgotten their first days together? When they found solace and friendship in a shared bottle of whiskey. “She went back and changed your past.”
Emma could do it again at any moment. Doc could disappear from her life without warning. He could forget her altogether while she sat there holding his hand. Would she even know or would her memory change?
“She didn’t delay me long,” he tried to reassure her. “Kate wanted to return to Vegas, but Wyatt asked for my help. I couldn’t let him down.”
She’d come so close to losing him. “Was that the only time?”
“The only time?” He gathered her against his chest, pulling the afghan over them.
Her heart began to calm with the warmth of his body. “That you met her before.”
“Yes,” he said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Whatever it is, we’ll face it together.”
She fought against sleep, terrified he’d be gone when she woke. “She can’t have you.”
“Never, my love.” He kissed her temple and memorized the feel of her in his arms. “Sleep, I’ll be here in the morning.”
March 18, 1882
“Line up your shot.” Doc leaned over her, his arm laid down the length of hers. “Don’t rush.”
He stepped back and the world narrowed to the orange five ball and the corner pocket. She breathed and shot, launching the cue ball in a little arc that thumped down against the green felt table. The Earp Brothers laughed as she straightened.
“At least we’ve finally found something you aren’t good at,” Evie joked as she bumped her hip into Lucy’s.
Lucy laughed along because it felt good to have this lighthearted moment in the pool hall. The group of them had dinner at the Grand Hotel and attended a musical at the newly opened Schieffelin Hall in celebration that she was finally healed and deemed well enough for a night out.
Morgan took the pool cue from her and she bowed out of his way, winking. “Don’t let me stand in your way.”
“As if you could.” He winked back and turned to lean over the table.
Doc extended his hand. “You’ve never played a game of pool in your life, have you?”
“Nope, I told you that. Did you think I was flirting with you?” she teased, stepping towards him and slipping her hand into his.
The glass window shattered and Lucy turned back in time to see Morgan Earp crumple to the ground. Doc pulled her forward, wrapping his arm around her waist and sweeping her out of the line of fire. Another shot buzzed over her and lodged in the wall above Wyatt’s head as Virgil scrambled to get to his brother. Instinct kicked in and Lucy flipped the table, dragging Doc down behind it as he drew his guns.
Wyatt yelled over the chaos to Doc. “We need to get to the alley. You good?”
Doc looked to Lucy to ensure she’d drawn her weapon, kissed her and nodded back to Wyatt. “I’ll be right back. Shoot anyone who comes for you.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. Just go find the person who did this to Morgan.”
Lucy crawled over to Virgil, hands pressed against Morgan’s bullet wound, his brother’s blood seeping through his fingers. “Help me. We need to get him up.”
Morgan’s glazed eyes found Virgil’s. “Don't, I can't stand it. This is the last game of pool I'll ever play."
“I’ll get Doctor Miller.” She watched as Virgil lifted his little brother in his arms, gentle, begging him to fight, Evie following in his wake.
Wyatt and Doc returned and the room fell quiet as the three different doctors failed to save the life of Morgan Earp. In his final hour, his brothers gathered around an old card table in the back room of the Campbell and Hatch Billiard Parlor and promised to bury him with his boots on.
May 25, 1882
They woke to the smell of smoke seeping through the floor of her bedroom. Lucy threw back the covers and grabbed a pair of trousers from the chair next to the bed. Doc did the same, smothering a cough as the curtains blew more smoke in through the open window. The moment her feet hit the hot floor, she knew they were in trouble.
“Get dressed!” She swallowed a lungful of smoke and doubled over, choking.
“Alice!” Doc shoved his boots on and sprinted around to her side of the bed.
Tears filled her eyes. “The schoolhouse is on fire. We need to go. NOW!” She snatched Flynn’s leather from the back of the chair, shoving her arms into its too long sleeves.
He swiped his hat off the chair and prayed the back stairs weren’t blocked. If they were, they’d have to jump for it. Doc threw the blue and white quilt over both of them and reached out for the handle of the door, finding it cool to the touch, and nearly ripped the door from the hinges in his attempt to get them to safety.
They made it to the kitchen and the curtains above the sink blew back from the window. All she saw was flames.
They stumbled through the thickening smoke to the back door. Doc pulled back the curtains and panic set in. Fire crawled up the railing and the edges of the stairs, it’d be close getting down them before they collapsed. He didn’t give either of them time to think. He pulled open the door and they ran, flames licking at their feet. The third step from the bottom collapsed from their weight and they both dove for the ground.
They crashed into the hard-packed earth and scrambled to their knees, clinging to each other as they took great heaving gulps of fresh air. Lucy tore her eyes away from his to see her schoolhouse--her home--completely engulfed by a raging inferno. Her books and knickknacks, the homemade ornaments, Sally’s picture of Halloween, her potholders and the white zinnias in the flower box on the porch, all gone. She wanted to cry, but there wasn’t time. The fire had already spread as far as the wagon shop on Third and Dexter’s around the corner on Toughnut.
“The horses!” Lucy shoved to her feet, Doc right behind her as they ran towards the screams of the animals mixing with the roar of the flames on either side of them. He kicked in the gate and the horses stormed past them. They beat through the fire to free one last mare, trapped, her stall blocked by a fallen two by four. The filled two feed buckets from the water trough and doused the flames enough to kick through the beam, freeing the mare.
The roof of the livery collapsed behind them, the way back to the street blocked. Doc dragged her out the back door of Dexter’s towards the saddle shop across the way. The fire hadn’t completely consumed the building and he slammed a shoulder into the back door so they could run past the bolts of leather and out the front to Allen Street. All around them the fire tore through the city, eating through the wooden buildings like kindling.
Lucy turned to look down the street and saw Emma Whitmore standing in the center of the street not fifty feet away. Doc stilled beside her, rage flooding both of them. None of the panicked citizens paid her attention, scrambling for buckets to try and save Tombstone from complete destruction. She blinked back tears from the smoke and the heat and ran for the woman who’d burned down a town to get to her.
They ran for two blocks, Lucy desperate to stop Emma once and for all, before Doc pulled her to a stop.
“It’s a trap, you know it is.” He threaded their fingers together. “Don’t let her win because you want vengeance.”
Lucy screamed for everything she lost. “Why couldn’t she just let us be?”
The city burned around them, she could feel the heat of the flames pressing in. Doc’s ice blue eyes stared her down, begging for more time, but they knew. They both knew. The moment Emma Whitmore walked into their life marked the beginning of their end. Their separation, inevitable.
Lucy’s old enemy forced her back into the game she had absolutely no desire to play. The whole thing sucked big old donkey balls and she was fucked. And not in a good way like she dreamt where she, Flynn, and Doc decorated a Christmas tree together and then made love under its branches.
In another world, she would have kept both of them. In another timeline, they would’ve hung ornaments on another fifty trees, year after year, growing laugh lines and memories. Their children and grandchildren bumbling around them, a mixture of Lucy and her outlaws.
But as the Grand Hotel burned behind her, she knew the truth.
She and Doc were never meant to be. No matter how much she wanted it. No matter how much he wanted it. He was her safe harbor. Time to repair her broken soul.
And now she had to leave him. Them. Yvette. Wyatt. Virgil. Jimmy. Sally and Jeremiah and all the rest of her kids.
She hated Emma. She wanted this life.
Doc must’ve seen something in her eyes. “I know, my love. I know.”
“I don’t want to leave you,” she whispered as he pulled her to his body, one arm around her waist, the other sliding up her back, fingers winding in her hair. Lucy gripped his lapels, her silver ring glinting in the light of the fire, reminding her of their wedding that was only weeks away. She felt their life together slipping away from them. “I wanted to grow old with you.”
“Alice, most of the best days of my life, I’ve spent with you. There’s not one day of it that I would change. When you met me I was a drunken lout.”
She kissed him silent, a smile underneath their tears. “You’re still a drunken lout.”
“Hush now, woman, I’m professing my undying love for you.”
The city still burned, but she kissed him again, because she could. She drew back and mimed locking her lips before stealing his hat, her eyes reflecting the flames.
“There will never be another woman like you.” He shook his head in exasperation. “For the rest of my life, I’ll be looking over my shoulder thinking I see you. Hoping you’ve returned to me again. Even though I know this is goodbye, I’ll never stop hoping you come back home.”
“You could come with me…” Even as she said the words she knew the impossibility of it all.
His thumb stroked against her lower back, drawing her closer. “You know I can’t. Tombstone needs me.”
“I can’t stay.” She dropped her head to his shoulder. “Emma will never stop.”
He didn’t try and hide his heartbreak as his hands framed her face. “I know, my love.”
What else could they say? There would never be enough words to fill the void that gaped between them while she faced the future and he stayed rooted firmly in the past.
Instead, they kissed like it was the first time because it was the last time. Neither of them knew what the future held. She wanted to ask him to wait for her. To tell him she’d come back to him. To Tombstone. But she had no idea what the future would demand of her. If she died, which seemed pretty likely given everything, he’d live the rest of his life wondering if she’d come back to him.
He deserved a chance at whatever happiness he could find.
“I will never forget you.” Desperate tears mingled with their kisses as the fire closed in.
He dragged his lips away from hers. “You have to go.”
No, she wasn’t ready. She’d never be ready. “I love you, John Henry Holliday.”
A window exploded in the heat of the flames.
“I love you too, Alice Flynn.” He stepped back, the hardest thing he’d ever done. “Go be Lucy Preston. Save the world.”
December 25, 2014
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Lucy poured her third glass of vodka, considering her plan. A yellow legal pad lay on the dark wood of the bar, a list of historical names staring up at her. She never meant to continue the mission. Then she read about the bombing of the Seneca Falls Convention in the history book Doc got her for Christmas. Lucretia Mott. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Frederick Douglas. All gone. She started compiling the list that night. She told herself, she was a historian, it was her duty to track the changes to the timeline.
Every day she stayed in the past, she risked losing Doc. To a bullet like Morgan. Or to Emma’s machinations in his timeline. She’d worried constantly that she’d wake up and the man she’d fallen in love with would be gone. A stranger to her. Their entire life together wiped away.
She wanted the life Tombstone offered her, but she really should’ve known it couldn’t last. If Emma wanted her, she’d stop at nothing to drag Lucy back and wouldn’t care one bit about who got caught in the crossfire. She’d left her town behind to protect them, but was she really willing to go back to the mission full time?
The list stared up at her. Lucy spent the last week holed up in a tiny, bare hotel room. Borrowing books from what was left of the Sao Paulo University library and compiling the names of those Mason told her had been abducted from the timeline. Tesla. Einstein. Marie Curie. Mozart. Searching for other events that might be connected. She could see evidence of the Society’s manipulations in the city all around her. She saw it in the crumbling infrastructure. In the way the people around her cast furtive glances over their shoulders in broad daylight. In the way the world dimmed around her as if reverting from technicolor to black and white.
Still something held her back from returning to the fight. Maybe it was the simple fact that she’d nearly given her life, she’d earned retirement. She could start again somewhere new. Could disappear into a life as a barmaid in some forgotten corner of history where nothing ever happened. She’d have to keep moving. Stanley would find her again if she stayed too long in one place.
But could she leave this timeline to the same fate that sent her back, scrambling to change things the first time around? Back when it all seemed so simple. Save Rufus, save the world.
She sipped her vodka and the door of the bar swung open, smoke swirling in the humidity that rolled in off the street. So many things she should’ve seen coming, but she never expected the tall, dark haired man who filled up the doorway.
“Of all the gin joints.” She tossed back the rest of her shot as he took the seat next to her. He looked...good. She smiled, remembering a long ago conversation, he’d been so bad at flirting with her. “How’d you find me?”
Flynn signaled the bartender for a second glass and Lucy poured him a drink. ”I read the journal.”
“Oh.” She refilled her glass.
He reached into his pocket, withdrawing the battered brown journal. “This is where it started for me, but it was the one place you never went. I took a leap of faith that you’d be here.”
A leap of faith. “Things are that bad?”
“They are.” His thumb traced across her initials in the leather. “Food’s getting scarce, society’s beginning to break down.”
It was all happening again. Only this time, it was bigger than Rittenhouse ruling America straight into a dystopian grave. Had her absence from the timeline really changed that much?
He set her journal down and picked up the legal pad, reaching into his pocket for a pen and proceeded to add names. Abbie Hoffman. Amelia Earhart. John Lennon. Elizabethan playwright, Ben Jonson. Margaret Sanger, inventor of birth control. Suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst.
He recapped his pen and pushed it back to her. “We need your help.”
“I’ve failed to stop them. Repeatedly.” The added names filled her with dread. “I’ve got nothing to offer you.”
“You came up with half this list working on your own.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Imagine what you could do working with your team again.”
“They aren’t my team.” Her glass came down on the bar a bit too hard. She gave up Doc and her life in Tombstone. She gave up Flynn and her life in the bunker. Lucy Preston had no team. Nothing to tether her to the here and now. She couldn’t bring back the past and it wouldn’t do to pretend she could.
“But they are.” Flynn turned to face her, his hand covering hers as she gripped the edge of the bar. “We’re the same people you wrote about. Rufus and Jiya still hold video game battles in between missions. Denise still cooks her mother’s Chicken Biryani and knits atrocious scarves. Mason still quotes Shakespeare when he’s drunk.”
“It’s not the same. I’m sorry, but it’s not.”
“Only because you won’t give us a chance.” Flynn slammed down a shot and swiped the bottle from her. “You’re bound and determined to fight and die alone.”
Her knuckles went white around her glass. “If you really knew the trail of bodies in my past, you’d understand.”
“No.” He gave her a hard look, but there was kindness behind it. “No, I wouldn’t. This is war, Lucy. We are fighting for the survival of humanity. People die. Whether you’re there or not. It’s just a matter of how determined you are to die on whatever suicide mission you’re planning.”
Lucy stole the bottle back. “I’m not on a suicide mission.”
“Aren’t you?” He raised an infuriating eyebrow. “You chose to erase yourself and hide out in one of the most dangerous places in the Old West. Don’t try and deny it, you chose to go die like I did in the OK Corral. It’s only finding Doc that saved you.”
She wouldn’t deny it, wouldn’t lie to him, but the timelines hung between them. “What’s left for me in the bunker?”
Flynn slid the journal across the bar. “Only our stories.”