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Boys' Night Out

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Boys’ Night Out

Flynn was helping Iris with her school work, or a close proximity thereof since Iris couldn’t go to an actual school. It was such a mundane thing, simple really. But the fact that Iris was there, she was alive, and complaining about diagraming a sentence... it sometimes felt like he was at the beginning of a nightmare, before everything goes to hell.

Anxiety would rise in Flynn, regardless of him knowing that this was all real, there was nothing to worry about. She wasn’t going to disappear on him.

Across the room, Lorena laughed. It was a large kitchen, built to service an entire school, at least by 1950s standards. The new place they were moved to after Jessica betrayed them was far better than what they had before. Sure, it was very much run down but everyone had their own rooms, their own space.

Space he sometimes needed. Space he knew Lorena needed.

He loved her, nothing was ever going to change that. But his other timeline self, leaving her like he did, to protect them... for five years... it broke something that could never be repaired.

She didn’t blame him. Lorena knew he did what had to be done to protect Iris. It didn’t make it hurt any less, but it made it bearable. They promised to always be there for each other. To make sure Iris grew up only marginally traumatized by events. There was no way she wasn’t going to be affected, but they could try their best to minimize the damage.

Lorena laughed again and Flynn was glad to hear it. He truly upended her life. If Lorena could find a little bit of joy laughing with Mason, discussing classic jazz and early rock as they made lunch, well...

The door opened, Jiya walking in with Lucy in tow. He saw Lucy and smiled, it was almost impossible for him not to. She smiled back, though she looked tired. That wasn’t unusual, they easily exhausted these days, the fight wearing thin on them.

“What’s for lunch?” Jiya asked.

“Grilled-cheese sandwiches,” Lorena answered. She had taken up kitchen duty, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the team. It was her way of doing her part since she wasn’t a soldier or a scientist. She was an engineer, but structural. It only meant she could understand about forty percent more of Mason, Rufus, and Jiya’s gibberish than the rest of them could.

“Yum,” Jiya said and he agreed with the sentiment.

“There’s lemonade in the fridge,” Lorena told her. “These will be ready in a few.”

“Great.” Jiya went over to the fridge, continuing her conversation with Lucy regarding the Tong Wars. Jiya had unfortunately lived through them when she was in Chinatown.

It was when Jiya was pulling the jug of lemonade from the fridge that it happened. Lucy, who had been standing on the other side of the door, simply… fell. She pitched forward, hitting the door which slammed into Jiya, which in turn slammed Jiya into the fridge. She shouted in pain as Lucy crumpled to the floor.

“Lucy!” Flynn yelled as he was up and out of his seat.

She was laying in a heap, blocking the fridge door from being reopened, Jiya somewhat trapped. Flynn grabbed Lucy’s arm and shoulder, firmly and gently pulling her away to lay on her back. In his peripheral he could see Mason extracting Jiya, Lorena there as well, but all his attention was on the unconscious woman in front of him.

“Lucy?” He checked her vitals, her skin clammy. Pulse was steady and she was breathing, but it seemed shallow. He brushed her hair out of her face. “Lucy, come on, wake up.”

“Denise,” Lorena was on the phone, Iris tucked behind her. “Lucy’s collapsed. We need a doctor right away. … No, she’s unconscious, non-responsive.”

Lemonade was spilling across the floor, some of it starting to soak into Lucy’s jeans. Without thinking, Flynn scooped up Lucy into a bridal carry, her head lulling and flopping to lay against his chest.

“Let’s get them into the med room,” Mason said as more of a command. He was holding onto Jiya who was clutching her left arm to her chest.

The med room was the old nurse’s office. They had cleaned it up, brought some supplies in. Usually they could take care of their own medical issues. They had a lot of experience patching up bullet wounds. But none of them could fathom what was happening.

Could Lucy have been poisoned? It had been days since their last mission, and she hadn’t even ran into the Rittenhouse agents on that one. Maybe it was accidental, though what could she have possibly ingested?

Flynn laid Lucy down on the medical bed and… waited. That was all he really could do, and he hated it. He knew there were risks when they went back in time. But he was there, he could protect Lucy from Rittenhouse goons. This, he didn’t even know what this was. He was once again helpless to protect someone he loved.

That thought wasn’t terribly surprising. He knew he was in love with Lucy, known it for a long time.

Rufus showed up in a panic and Jiya assured him nothing was broken, but her wrist felt sprained.

Wyatt also poked his head in but said he’d wait for Christopher at the front. There was worry on the man’s face, he still had feelings for Lucy. But at least he seemed to have gotten it through his thick skull that ship had sailed, and he had been the one to cast it off.

About twenty minutes later, which was twenty minutes too long in Flynn’s opinion, Christopher showed up with a doctor. Everyone was ushered out except for Jiya who was waiting her turn to be examined. Flynn hadn’t even realized he’d been holding Lucy’s hand the whole time until he had to let go so the doctor could do her work.

“You okay?” Lorena asked him softly as they stood out in the hall.

“I’m fine,” he replied, trying to play it off.

Lorena gave him that look that meant she knew he was lying but she was letting him have this one. “Okay. I’m going to go check on Iris and clean up the kitchen. Let me know what the doctor says.”

Flynn nodded and she walked down the hall, disappearing around a corner. He had been lying, of course, he wasn’t fine. Lucy was ill, possibly dying, and all he could do was stand helpless in the hall. He only found comfort in the fact that he didn’t know for sure she was dying. But even so, if he could bring Lorena and Iris back from the dead, he’d find a way to do the same for Lucy, if it came to that.

Eventually Jiya walked out, a brace on her wrist.

“Any news?” Flynn asked, standing up from where he was leaning against the wall.

“Yeah.” Jiya nodded, not looking worried. “Doc took a chest x-ray with that portable x-ray machine—I told you it would come in handy—anyway, Lucy has Walking Pneumonia. Good news though, it was caught early enough. Doctor says she’ll be fine so long as it’s treated properly.”

“Walking Pneumonia?” Rufus repeated, confused.

“Johnstown Flood,” Flynn reminded him of their last mission. Lucy had been determined and it had been raining and, well, he may have grumbled something about her catching her death of a cold. He hadn’t really expected her to take that literally.

Lucy was awake by the time the doctor left. Medicine was then delivered, corticosteroids and a breathing treatment. She was also told to rest… for real rest. They wanted to avoid breaking out the antibiotics if they could.

“Hey.” Lucy smiled as he walked into her room. She was propped up in bed where she had mostly been the last three days.

They had all done their part to keep her from going out of her mind with boredom. Walking Pneumonia wasn’t super contagious. As long as Lucy didn’t cough in their faces, the were pretty much okay to hang around her.

Jiya would binge watch television with Lucy, after Rufus set her up with all the electronics, of course. Mason would chat with her about current events. Wyatt, well, he knew his military history and was trying to do better by Lucy, as her friend.

Christopher took on the mom roll, making sure Lucy was doing okay, offering that kind of motherly support. Lorena acted as nursemaid, because, in her words, she had a nine-year-old, she was probably immune to the black plague at this point. Christopher agreed it was likely.

Flynn would sit and chat with Lucy about whatever she wanted to talk about. This didn’t deviate from the normal, really, except now they had the added topic of Lucy being so over having Walking Pneumonia.

“I brought you something,” he told her, holding out a couple of hardback books. He had to put in a special request with Christopher to get them. He knew he could always have Rufus download the digital copy for her, but Lucy preferred good old paper when she could manage it.

“Oh?” she took them eagerly, reading the titles. “A biography of Josephine Baker, a history of women in the space program, and… Circe by Madeline Miller?”

He smiled sheepishly as he sat down in a chair. “I thought you’d appreciate a story about an indomitable woman torn between what she was born into, and what she wants to be.”

Lucy’s smile was subdued because it couldn’t match the intensity of the appreciation in her eyes. She said softly, “Thank you.”

Flynn wanted to say ‘you’re welcome,’ or, ‘not a problem,’ but he’s afraid it would come out ‘I love you,’ so he says nothing and simply smiles in return.

The jump alarm went off and what did it say about their lives that it didn’t even startle them. Flynn immediately stood to leave, but paused as Lucy threw her blanket to the side.

“What are you doing?” he asked her as she climbed out of bed.

“What do you think?” She didn’t give him a chance to question her. She walked out of the room, towards the old gym where the Lifeboat was housed. All Flynn could do was follow.

They are the last to arrive, mostly because Lucy couldn’t rush like she normally would. Everyone was there, including Lorena who gave Lucy the ‘why are you out of bed’ look. Christopher matched it. Flynn simply shrugged as he stood behind her. What did they expect him to do? Lucy was... Lucy.

“Where did the Mothership jump?” she asked Rufus who was sitting at the computer.

He tilted his head to the side. “Um, looks like just outside Warwick, England.”

“Oh really?” Mason’s interest was suddenly peaked.

“Yeah.” Rufus tapped at the keyboard. “In 1566.”

“1566?” Lucy said, getting that look in her eyes like she was mentally flipping through textbooks. “That would be early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First.”

“Oh, Good Queen Bess,” Mason said nostalgically, as if they were old friends.

“Is Warwick near London?” Christopher asked.

“No,” Mason asked just as Rufus brought up Google Maps. “Warwick is in Warwickshire County. The county lines have been redrawn, but at one time it encompassed some places you might have heard of, such as Coventry, Birmingham, Rugby where yes, the game was invented, and a little town called Stratford-upon-Avon.”

“Shakespeare!” Jiya blurted out.

“Yes, ah.” Mason paused for a moment to think. “The man would be, oh, two years old?”

“Could this be another Robert Johnson situation?” Flynn asked, all too well remembering that trip. He almost straight up told Lucy he was in love with her. But she wasn’t ready to hear it, and if he was honest, he hadn't been ready to tell her.

He wasn’t ready now.

“I wouldn’t think so,” Mason said after a moment of consideration. “After all, there is a possibility that Shakespeare as we know him... wasn’t him at all.”

“Mordor!” Rufus shouted like it just occurred to him. Everyone stared blankly and he explained, “Lord of the Rings. Tolkien based Middle-Earth on England and Birmingham was Mordor.”

“Birmingum, not Birmingham,” Lorena corrected him

“Too right,” Mason gave her an appreciatively nod, then turned back to Rufus. “But yes, Warwickshire was basically the Shire.”

“Somehow I doubt Rittenhouse is interested in hobbits,” Wyatt said dryly and Flynn had to give him that one.

“We’re running out of time to jump,” Christopher said impatiently. “Lucy, what’s your thoughts on this?”

“I, ah,” she stumbled, mentally, then coughed hard into her sleeve. “I’m sorry, I...”

“It’s okay, Lucy,” Flynn said softly, putting his hand on her shoulder and giving it a light squeeze.

“Come on,” Lorena said with her mother-voice. “Let’s get you back to bed.”

“But the mission.” Lucy might have looked panicked if she didn’t look so tired.

“Don’t worry, Lucy,” Mason assured her. “I may be worthless at American History, but I know my British.”

“Besides,” Rufus joked, doing his best Mason impression, “he’s the only one here who can speak with a real English accent.”

Lucy seemed to want to put up a fight, but whatever energy she might have had was already drained. She looked around at everyone as if she was apologizing. “Be safe, okay?”

“We will,” Flynn assured her, the sentiment echoed by the team.

Lorena gently took Lucy by the shoulder, leading her out of the gym, back to her room.

“Rufus,” Christopher kept them on track. “Your turn to pilot.”

Jiya held up her hand which was still braced due to the sprain. “Arm wrestle you for it.”

Chuckling, Rufus stood and kissed Jiya on the top of her head. “You got to fight pirates. Let me have this one.”

“I guess.” She almost pulled off ‘petulant child’ but it was ruined by the laugh lines.

Christopher none too subtly pointed at the Lifeboat. “You boys get going. Try not to kidnap anyone this time.”

“It was one time!” Wyatt said with exasperation.

Flynn was going to point out that JFK was the second time for him. Third if you counted Anthony. Fourth if you counted Lindberg. Fifth if you counted Lucy when he kidnapped Lindberg… maybe Flynn shouldn’t mention it.

They were soon strapping into the Lifeboat. Wyatt’s arm had finally healed from where he had broken it falling from the world’s first skyscraper. The man was like a bad penny, but sometimes you needed a penny, good or bad.

As they hurtled through time in what Flynn lovingly referred to as Coach Class, he knew he was going to miss Lucy on this mission. As the journal promised, they made quite the team. But she needed rest, and not just from the Walking Pneumonia.

Her mother’s list of betrayals, from Rittenhouse to Amy. Her biological father and that whole mess. Wyatt and his trampling on her heart because he couldn’t see past his own feet. And even Flynn, with taking Amy away from her, as unintentional as it had been…

This is why Flynn couldn’t tell Lucy how he felt. He couldn’t risk hurting her again. Not with Lorena being alive and living in the new bunker with them.

If Lorena had asked, Flynn would have tried to make it work between them. He wouldn’t jump in head-first, not like Wyatt did with Jess, no. They would take it slow, not so much pick up where they left off but start over again with a head start. But they realized, quite quickly, that they would never get back what Rittenhouse took from them.

Even so, if on the off-chance Lucy actually felt the same for him as he did about her, he wasn’t going to put her in that kind of situation again. Lorena had already made it clear their life as a romantic couple was over, but after what Wyatt did…

No, he wouldn’t put Lucy in a position where unwelcomed anxiety and doubt could open her wounds anew. She would have no reason to doubt Flynn loved her, and he would never do to her what Wyatt did, but trauma has a way of throwing reason out the window.

Lucy didn’t need what would clearly be a PTSD trigger in her life.

“Holy shit,” Rufus said as he exited the Lifeboat last. “This really is the Shire.”

Rolling green hills dotted lightly with trees did make the area look peaceful and idyllic. Windmills were scattered across the landscape as the fields moved lightly in the breeze. They could have stood there for hours and watched the smattering of clouds go by, but they had a Rittenhouse plot to thwart.

First order of business: steal some clothes.

“Tights?” Wyatt said, holding up the cloth as they were hiding out in a barn.

“Hose,” Mason corrected him as he headed into an animal stall to change.

“And this?” Wyatt held up the other item of clothing given to him, a long, tunic like shirt.

“A doublet,” Mason answered as he started to change into his new grey outfit. “You wear a jerkin over it.”

Flynn ignored Wyatt’s grumbling as he went into his own stall to change. Finding a doublet long enough for him had been difficult, but he always managed to find something on these trips. When Lorena heard this, she said, “Of course, because haberdashery is Garcia’s superpower.”

Everyone got a good laugh, but the way Lucy look at him, then away, blushing slightly, had given him pause. Just how much did she notice what he wore? What would she be thinking if she saw him now, dressed like this, legs clad in tight hose and a black brocaded jerkin jacket showing off the length of his shoulders?

They walked out of the stalls and Wyatt was still grumbling, tugging at his cornflower blue doublet. “This barely covers my ass.”

“Masculinity a little fragile there, Delta Force?” Flynn ribbed him.

“No,” he said in a way that meant yes. Then he looked to Rufus. “How did you get pants?”

“These are peasant clothes,” he shrugged. “Don’t hate the player, hate the class system.”

Mason started walking to the door. “I believe our best option is to head into town proper, towards Warwick Castle itself. It’s the center of, well, everything around here. I’m sure we’ll find clues to our sleeper agent there.”

It wasn’t that far of a walk, most things weren’t in England, not like in the States.

As they walked through town, they stood out. Mostly because of him, he was a giant amongst them. But Wyatt looked English enough, and contrary to most period pieces, black people existed in England in the 16th century.

“There’s the castle,” Mason said, gesturing to a tower that could be seen over the buildings. “You know, I visited here a few times, as a child. Warwick Castle is one of the few well maintained castles still functioning in England. Just down the road, Kenilworth Castle is in ruins, only a few walls left standing. Or, it will be.”

“Who lives in Warwick Castle?” Flynn asked as they continued on. “Right now?”

“I honestly don’t have a clue,” Mason admitted. “The Earl of Warwick, whomever that is.”

There was commotion down the street behind them, not fighting, just animation as if something was happening. They turned and watched as a cadre of guards dressed in red, with black hats, headed up the street. They were guarding a rather finely dressed man who was probably mid-thirties yet walked with a cane. Beside him was an equally dressed woman who was a bit younger. They were chatting to each other as if the guards weren’t even there. A few more plainly dressed men and women followed behind them. It was like they were taking a simple afternoon stroll.

“Oh, good lord,” Mason nearly gasped. “That’s Queen Elizabeth.”

The three of them glanced sharply at Mason, then back to the queen. She was wearing a ruffled neck collar, a cinched waist, puffed shoulders and even puffier skirt. It was actually a bit subdued compared to the paintings Flynn had seen of the woman. This was likely ‘basic’ day clothes.

“I think we can guess why our sleeper is here,” Wyatt said dryly.

“Is that Dudley with her?” Flynn asked. He wasn’t an expert in history, not like Lucy, but he knew enough. Elizabeth may have been the ‘Virgin Queen’ who never married, but she had her lovers and there was no greater love than Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester. And this man had the long face and nose of the Earl, if the paintings of him were to be believed.

Flynn had seen several paintings of Dudley in, of all places, São Paulo. Before Lucy entered his life, he had wandered into the São Paulo Museum of Art. There was a traveling exhibit of paintings centered around English nobility, or something. That time was very much a blur to him. He only went because the building was an engineering marvel. It had been raised off the ground with an open plaza below it.

It was the kind of place where he’d go to see the art and history while Lorena would be far more interested in the building itself. At the time it was a thought that both hurt and soothed him as he walked through the halls thinking—knowing—he’d never see either of his girls again.

Maybe, when this was all over, he would go back there, back to São Paulo. But would he find closure or open old wounds? It was where he hit rock bottom, where Lucy found him… and lifted him back up.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mason said after a moment of thought. “Dudley didn’t walk with a cane.”

“Let’s hope it’s not the sleeper,” Wyatt said.

The queen and her entourage began to pass them, so like good subjects of the Empire, the team moved out of the way and gave a small bow.

“Wait,” they heard a woman say loudly and everyone stopped.

Flynn risked a glance up to see that the queen herself was staring at them critically. She had an intensity, a shrewdness, that normally he admired, but this was the bloody freaking Queen of England. One wrong step and he’d find himself locked up, or dead.

She moved forward and looked Flynn up and down. “You are not from this land, are you?”

This was probably the most disconcerting moment of his life. Queen Elizabeth the First of England, one of the greatest monarchs in history, sounded… sounded like Wyatt.

No fancy, posh English accent like Mason, like he’d heard in every period piece he had ever watched. Not even a generic English accent. No, her accent was very Middle American. Flynn considered that he might be having a stroke. But seeing that the others were just as shocked as him, well, they couldn’t all be having a stroke.

“Well?” she asked with little patience.

“I have traveled from the Kingdom of Croatia,” he answered her, knowing that was the name of his homeland in 1566.

“Ah, yes, the Hapsburgs,” she replied thoughtfully. “What brings you to Warwick?”

“Just travelling through, your majesty,” he answered neutrally.

Elizabeth gave him a raised brow and a solid expression of explain, or else.

“We are travelling to Swansea, your majesty,” Mason saved Flynn from fumbling through an answer. “We have business with the coal and limestone trade.”

“Yes, of course,” she said, looking at Mason as if he was a servant who shouldn’t be speaking to her, but she would allow it as obviously he had done well for himself. “More immigrants to the port, I see. Well, all trade is good trade for the Crown.”

Elizabeth looked back at Flynn, her eyes raking him up and down again. He’d seen that look in other women before. This… this was going to be a disaster.

“Where are you lodging?” she asked, then threw up her hand to halt them. “It does not matter. You will quarter with us at Warwick Castle.”

“Your Majesty?” the man with her asked. He too sounded like Wyatt. “Begging your pardon, my queen, but is that wise? They are foreigners whom we do not know.”

“And they will stay that way unless we choose to get to know them,” she retorted, it was clearly the end of the discussion. “Peter,” she called out and one of the footmen stood forward. “Please see these gentlemen make it to the castle safely. We shall all dine together.”

The man nodded and moved out of the entourage, towards Flynn.

“This evening then, gentlemen,” Elizabeth said, and they bowed their heads to her. She continued on, everyone following except Peter.

“Shall I have someone fetch your belongings?” Peter asked them.

“We’ll have our servant fetch them,” Mason gestured to Rufus. “Once we know where we’ll be staying.”

“Very good, follow me then,” Peter nodded and then headed down the street.

Mason gave Rufus an apologetic look and they followed Peter.

Warwick Castle was as Mason described. It was beautiful, reaching five stories at one point, six if you counted a turret. A wall protruded from one side, wrapping around in a warped oblong shape, enclosing a large courtyard, across which a large mound of earth had been created as both fortification and lookout. The relaxing sound the River Avon could be heard as it ran up against the castle.

“Apologies, but you will have to share,” Peter explained as he led them into one of the bedrooms. “The Queen and her court have taken most of the rooms.”

“Understandable,” Mason said politely as Flynn took in the room.

It was tiny, though he’d say average for a castle built in the 12th Century. It had some furniture: desk, chair, wardrobe. The bed was so short that he could already tell his legs would be dangling off at the knees. Looked like he wouldn’t be putting up a fight for it, he’d take the chair. If they were there that long.

“I will show your man to the servant’s quarters,” Peter gestured to Rufus.

“Ah, yes, one moment though.” Mason pulled Rufus off to the side, saying softly. “Sorry about this. But if you want to know what’s going on, you talk to the servants. They see and hear everything.”

“I watched Downton Abby,” Rufus replied with a nod. “I’ll see what I can dig up.”

Rufus left with Peter. Flynn wasn’t worried, the guy had proven himself very resourceful.

It was Wyatt who broke the silence. “Why does everyone sound like my cousins?!”

“Score one for linguistic scholars,” Mason said wryly. “Language and accents change over time. There are various reasons for this, of course, from the influx of other languages to isolationism. And there is a vast array of English dialects spoken across the Empire. The one you think of most, BBC English, is not the one most commonly spoken.”

“And what does that have to do with the fact the Queen of England sounds like she’s about to say ‘here’s your sign?’” Wyatt added an accented flourish to that last part.

Mason stared at him blankly. “I don’t know what that means, but, to answer the question, English evolves and devolves. And it changed drastically after your little revolution. It’s been posited by linguistic experts that it’s possible Shakespearian English… sounded more like Middle American does today.”

“There you go, Wyatt,” Flynn said cheekily. “Finally found a place you’ll fit in.”

Wyatt gave him a rather annoyed look, but it wasn’t like the man could argue. Instead he crossed his arms and let out a breath. “Queen Elizabeth is Rittenhouse’s most likely target. When Lucy and the others went back to Ancient Rome, Rittenhouse had lured Caesar to, what was it called, Ostia?”

“I don’t think they had to bother with that this time,” Mason told him. “I do remember learning that Queen Elizabeth did take an occasional trip through her kingdom. I don’t remember the dates, but seven years into her reign sounds about right.”

“Makes sense.” Flynn was standing at the window, looking out, but seeing nothing but trees. “If they want to get to her, they go at a time she’d be more vulnerable than in her palace surrounded by more guards and security.”

“Vulnerable, yes, but I doubt they want to kill her,” Mason partially agreed. “If she were to die, now, then it would completely derail the British Empire.” He let out a frustrated tsk. “Sir Francis Drake is only, let’s see, sixteen right now? He is just one of the many individuals who left an indelible mark on history, but only because Elizabeth allowed them to.”

Wyatt scratched at head. “So you’re saying if Rittenhouse kills Elizabeth, Britain falls and therefore America might not exist?”

“Yes, or worse.” Mason gave a deep sigh. “You could be French.”

There was a light rap on the door, one familiar to them by now. The door opened and Rufus slipped back inside.

“Getting information was stupidly easy,” Rufus said with a laugh. “I mean, Downton Abby did not do this justice.”

“Find out anything good?” Flynn asked him.

“Yeah, so, the queen was not supposed be staying,” Rufus began. “Apparently she was going to pass through onto Kenilworth, but decided last minute that she was gonna hang out here a few days. They’re all bitching about it because they weren’t prepared.”

“Did that happen originally?” Flynn directed his question to Mason.

The man only shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Rittenhouse was trying to gain favor with Caesar,” Wyatt pointed out. “They’re probably trying to get into favor with Elizabeth.”

“I can agree with that assessment,” Flynn conceded. “But they offered Caesar salt. What would they possibly be offering Queen Elizabeth here, in 1566?”

“I suppose we’ll find out at dinner,” Mason said with a shrug. “If the agent is here, they will likely be there.”

“And they’ll recognize us, if they haven’t already.” Flynn was not liking this situation. “Dinner’s not for a few more hours. I say we go look around, see if we can find them first.”

“Yes,” Mason said with a hum. “I understand why you’d want to get this taken care of so quickly.”

Flynn frowned. “Excuse me?”

“We all saw her checking you out.” Rufus laughed. “Consent matters, but I don’t think it’s legal to say no to the queen.”

Wyatt laughed with him. “It’s okay, Flynn, just lay back and think of England.”

“So which one of you am I going to punch first?” Flynn practically growled.

Rufus and Wyatt pointed at each other.

“Yes, yes.” Mason waved them off. “I think it is in all our best interests to find the sleeper as soon as possible.”

“Let’s split up,” Flynn decided. “Mason, you’re with me. We’ll check outside, the grounds, etc. Wyatt, Rufus, you take the main building. Talk to the servants. Find out who’s new.”

“Okay, but first,” Rufus stopped them from leaving. “Why, in the Nine Kingdoms, does everyone here sound like Wyatt???”

After Mason once again explained the linguistics issues, they headed down the hall and separated at the stairs. Flynn and Mason went outside. A few people were milling about, all workers of some type. The two men weren’t going in any specific direction, but Flynn somehow found himself in front of the stables which were on the outside of the wall.

Only two poor stable hands were doing the work of getting the queen’s horses brushed down. Flynn picked up a brush and started working on a beautiful chestnut with kind eyes.

“Pardon, good sir,” one of the stable hands said, taking in Flynn’s finery, “but no need to bother yourself.”

“It’s no bother,” he replied as he continued the work. There was something soothing and relaxing about it.

“Lorena said she used to barrel race,” Mason commented. “A love of horses was something you had in common.”

“Yeah.” Flynn chose to focus on the good memories. Their life together was over, but it had been worth it. They had a lot of good times, and of course, their beautiful Iris. Rittenhouse couldn’t take that away from them. They tried once, and they regretted it.

“Young man,” Mason turned to one of the stable hands. “You seem to be shorthanded. Have you not had any new workers join you?”

“None, sir,” the man answered. “There are more of us, they were conscripted to work in the castle, help get her majesty settled in.”

“Ah, I see.” Mason gave Flynn a slightly disappointed look.

The sleeper, in theory, would be new to the area, same as them. He, or she, wouldn’t have had time to get themselves fully vetted. That’s why the sleeper had brought salt to give to Caesar. It was a way to instantly get in favor with the man. It didn’t really work out for him, though.

“Begging your pardon, sir,” the stable hand said. “But where do you hail from? I have not heard someone speak as you do.”

Flynn tried not to grin as Mason sighed, deeply. This was going to be a long mission. Flynn finished his work brushing down the horse as Mason explained that he was from London, born and raised, thank you very much.

Their next stop was the blacksmith, who also hadn’t seen anyone new other than the queens’ entourage. They were about to leave when the smith invited them to check out a sword he had recently finished. Flynn couldn’t resist. He may have wanted to be a cowboy growing up, but there was a certain appeal to being a literal knight in shining armor.

“Good weight to it,” he told the smith as he balanced it. He had taken a few fencing courses, and now that he knew Agent Christopher had also… he should really ask her to practice duel sometime.

“This is a bust as well,” Mason said as the smith walked off to pull something from the furnace.

Flynn gave the sword another experimental swing. “Every person and location we eliminate, the closer we are to getting to the sleeper.”

“How marvelously optimistic of you,” Mason replied drolly. He then let out a breath like there was something on his mind. “Flynn, Lorena told me that you and her are, for a lack of a better term, separated with no plans to reconcile, yes?”

“Basically.” Flynn gave him a side-long glance. “Why?”

“Yes, well, as you clearly already know, Lorena is quite the remarkable and intelligent woman,” he started to rattle off, almost nervously. “We’ve been spending a fair amount of time together these past few weeks, listening to my jazz records and such, and I would like to be sure you have no issue with us spending even more… time… together.”

It took Flynn a moment, but he was pretty sure he understood what Mason was trying to say. “Are you asking me if it’s okay for you to date my wife… while I’m holding a sword?”

“Well, when you put it like that.” Mason retained a completely neutral expression. “Yes.”

That was a lot for Flynn to mentally sort through. In his mind he knew that once everything was over, Rittenhouse defeated, that he and Lorena would get a proper divorce and go their semi-separate ways. They would always have Iris to connect them, but Lorena would go off and have a life without him. Maybe even remarry if she found someone who could be the man he couldn’t be for her anymore.

But to be faced with that so quickly, his own love life up in the air as the woman he was in love with was unattainable?

Flynn let out a sigh. “Lorena makes her own decisions. If she wants to spend time with you, then that’s her call. And if you cross a line, she can handle herself. We’ll all hear you screaming from anywhere in the bunker.”

“Yes, well, it shan’t come to that.”

Mason was a good man. He got stuck, made some poor decisions, but then who hadn’t? In the end, he did was what was right. He’d been trying to make up for the damage his time machine wrought. Flynn trusted he would be a good man to Lorena, if she wanted him. But that was entirely up to her.

“Right, let’s go check out the rest of the place.” Flynn put the down the sword, almost forgetting to, and they headed towards the outlying buildings.

An hour or so had passed and they were no closer to the sleeper. He could only hope that Wyatt and Rufus were having better luck than them.

They found the men in the Great Hall. The stone room was two stories tall with an arched timber roof. There were inserts on the outside wall with intricate glass windows. Above these inserts was a walkway so that others could look down upon the grandeur below.

Servants bustled about, getting the table and chairs set up for dinner.

“Any luck?” Flynn asked quietly as they all stood in front of a massive fireplace that was almost as tall as he was.

“Actually, yeah.” Wyatt glanced around to make sure they weren’t being overheard, most of the servants having left to complete their duties. “So, apparently one of the men traveling with the queen, a Thomas Gresham, he’s the one who convinced her to stay over here at Warwick before moving onto Kenilworth.”

“Our sleeper?” Flynn glanced over at their resident Englishman.

“Decidedly not.” Mason was thinking rapidly. “Sir Thomas Gresham the Elder was a financier, a rather good one too. He didn’t coin the saying, but Gresham’s Law was named after him.”

Gresham’s Law?” asked Rufus.

“Bad money drives out good,” he supplied then laughed at himself. “I know that well first hand, don’t I.”

Flynn frowned. “Okay, so not our sleeper. Is Rittenhouse after him or just using him to get to Elizabeth?”

“Let me think.” Mason lowered his head and rubbed at his chin for a minute. “Oh...”

“What?” Wyatt prompted him.

“Gresham founds the Royal Exchange in London,” Mason explained. “It doesn’t officially open until 1571, once the Exchange building is completed and Queen Elizabeth gives it her royal approval. But he’s already put plans into motion to set it up. That’s probably why he’s here with the Queen, he’s garnering her favor.”

"So...” Rufus held out the vowel as he considered this. “Rittenhouse wants to tank the Exchange?”

“On the contrary,” Mason said with a small measure of respect. “David Rittenhouse’s family had to have come from Europe, perhaps from Warwick. We know he was a wealthy man, but can you imagine what damage he could do if that wealth was compounded exponentially?”

“Oh, shit,” Wyatt breathed.

“Exactly,” Mason agreed with the sentiment. “Whoever talked Gresham into sticking around, he’s our sleeper.”

"Probably someone pretending to be a local,” Rufus guessed. “He, I assume he, would want to introduce Gresham to Rittenhouse, so we just ask around for the local Rittenhouse family.”

“Won’t work.” Flynn shook his head. “Rittenhouse is an Americanized spelling of Rittinghaus, which is a German name. If David Rittenhouse’s ancestors are here, then they would have a whole other name before moving across the English Channel to Germany, then on to America.”

“How do you know that?” Rufus asked.

Flynn gave him his best disappointed-dad face. “It’s called research, and knowing your enemy.”

“I suppose it could be the Cahill’s?” Mason suggested, then frowned. “Though that is a good Irish name.”

“Close enough, right?” Wyatt asked.

Both Flynn and Mason stared at him as if to ask ‘did you really just say that?’ Wyatt raised his hands and bowed his head slightly in shame.

“We can’t know for sure,” Flynn pointed out, looking back to Mason. “Could be Rittenhouse, Cahill, or another of the founding families. But, just in case, we need to be very careful. Lucy is both Rittenhouse and Cahill. If we end up taking out the wrong person, or catching them in a crossfire, then Lucy will be erased.”

Cold dread settled through him. He came close to erasing her once, nearly damning his soul in the process. But she had been there to pull him back from the brink. Reminded him that he could still be a father to Iris, and a friend to Lorena. Could still be in his family’s life…

Lucy saved him, twice, and he nearly erased her, like he did her sister. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.

“Shit,” Rufus muttered. “Yeah, we need to be really careful.”

“That’s an understatement,” Mason said sharply. “If we erase Rittenhouse or the Cahill’s, who knows what we’ll come back to. They might not have been there when I needed money to finish the Lifeboat, and without the project I may have never hired Jiya. Among other things.”

Rufus immediately turned to Flynn. “You’re not allowed to shoot anyone.”

“What about him?!” Flynn pointed at Wyatt.

“You can shoot Wyatt.” Rufus waved him off. “That’s fine.”

“That’s not… but okay.”

“Hey!” Wyatt said indignantly and it echoed in the hall.

“No one is shooting anyone,” Mason shut down that discussion. “Let’s go speak with Gresham and find our sleeper.”

They politely asked where they might find Sir Gresham and were directed to a drawing room on the other side of the main building. There was a footman at the door who would not let them in without being properly announced. They rolled with it, but unfortunately Rufus had to remain outside.

“At least no one is looking at me like they want to hang me,” Rufus said quietly, accepting that being treated as a servant was his trade off for wearing pants instead of hose.

The drawing room was suitably ornate with paintings on the wall, brocaded furniture, and a marbled table in the center. The walls were painted in a green color somewhere between pastel and sherbet. Three younger noblemen sat off to one side, chatting, while the man who was with Elizabeth earlier, and a second gentleman, stood to the other side.

“May I introduce, Sir Flynn, of the Kingdom of Croatia,” the footman announced. “Sir Mason, of Silica Isle, and Gentleman Logan, Merchant of Milkwood.”

Mirkwood,” Wyatt corrected him but no one seemed to care.

“So, these are the three merchants her majesty has invited to join us,” the man who wasn’t with the Queen earlier said. He was older, fifty perhaps, and dressed as finely, though there was a distinct air of businessman about him.

“Good sir,” Mason said easily, “you have us at a disadvantage.”

There was something in Mason’s tone that the man recognized, and his demeanor shifted slightly. “Sir Gresham of London and the Lower Countries.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Mason said with a slight bow. “I am admirer of your work, particularly of your rescuing of the pound sterling. Your financial acuity is unparalleled.”

“Easy words spoken,” Gresham said as though talking in code.

“I’ve had my folly’s, good sir,” Mason replied back. “One’s I won’t be making again.”

“Hmmm, yes.”

Flynn was reminded why he never got into business, or business management, or really anything in that general area. An entire conversation just occurred under the surface and he had no idea what was going on. And frankly, it was a little disquieting. Give him insurgents with IED’s any day.

The man with Gresham seemed to be just as annoyed, stepping forward. “Excuse my rudeness earlier, but allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Sir Ambrose Dudley, Third Earl of Warwick.”

“Ambrose Dudley,” Mason repeated. “Brother to Sir Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester?”

“My younger kin, yes,” Ambrose said with a bit of a herm, as if he was getting tired of similar responses. “I was going to travel with her majesty to meet Robert at Kenilworth, but the good sir here thought they might stay a few days before moving on.”

Flynn was watching the other men in the room for any sign of them being the sleeper. Nothing seemed off, there weren’t any of the tell-tale signs of being a spy trying not to get themselves caught out. Either they weren’t the sleeper, or Rittenhouse had managed to up the quality on their recruits.

They let Mason do all the talking, as he was the one who spoke their language, even if his accent was wrong. The two businessmen ended up wandering off to a corner of the room to discuss finances while Flynn and Wyatt were left to stand awkwardly with Ambrose Dudley… the brother of the queen’s boyfriend… who was standing right there when she made clear her intentions to, how would Jiya put it, oh, yes, climb him like a tree.

Or maybe it was just a flirtatious thing. Queen Elizabeth never married, but she did flirt with her suitors and others, though mostly as a tool for political manipulation. Was that all this was? Perhaps he didn’t have to worry about what might happen tonight if they couldn’t find the sleeper.

It was something he really didn’t want to have to worry about so maybe they could just find the sleeper and get the hell out of there.

“We’re in luck,” Mason said in a low voice as he came back over to them. “Sir Gresham is willing to introduce us to the man who got him to stay over here. It’s a local, wealthy, tradesman.”

“Wyatt, stay here with Rufus,” he told him, and then quickly explained before Wyatt could argue. “More guns means a higher chance of accidentally killing the wrong person. Plus, someone needs to keep an eye out here in case we’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Wyatt saw reason in the logic and agreed.

The tradesman they were after was apparently on the complete other side of town, about a mile away. While they could have walked it, Gresham worried they would not be able to get back in time for dinner with the queen. Such an absence would be inexcusable, and very costly.

They grabbed horses from the stables and trotted their way along the stone streets, passing under the East Gate. There was still a lovely breeze in the air, and the scenery could almost make one forget they were after a deadly sleeper bent on world domination, and not a leisurely stroll. He did miss horseback riding, of the uncomplicated type. When he had Iris sitting in the saddle in front of him, yelling out quips like ‘giddy-up little horsey’ and pretending she was Annie Oakley.

He’d get those days back.

“Just there,” Gresham advised them and Flynn drug himself out of nostalgia to keep a keen eye out.

Following the River Avon north, they came across a junction between it and the River Leam. Just off of it was a barn, a proto-warehouse one might call it. The goods and supplies being traded came on both cart and from river transport.

They dismounted, tied up their horses to a post, and headed towards the small cottage looking home that shared the lot with the long, rectangle barn. Flynn was wary, unsure if the sleeper knew they were there or not.

“Did you know that the word Avon comes from the Welsh word for River?” Mason said as they were walking up to the cottage.

Flynn frowned. “So the River Avon is literally the River River?”

“Yes,” Mason replied with a chuckle.

“Greetings, sir,” a man said as he opened the door to the cottage. He was older, much too old to be a sleeper. “I didn’t think I’d be seeing ya til morrow.” This man actually had an accent, though Flynn couldn’t quiet place it. It sounded… like someone squashed the Irish accent into a Yorkshire pudding.

“Yes, well, these men are interested in our financial endeavor.” Gresham gestured to Mason and Flynn. “They will be leaving early on the morrow, unless we can convince them to stay and invest.”

The man quickly glanced over them, almost immediately dismissing Mason. But Flynn’s height and finery seemed to project some kind of wealth, even if the clothes were stolen.

“Do, come in gentlemen,” he said as he stood aside. “Pardon me manners, I be Dairmaid Moynihan, a tradesman of all wares.”

“Sir Mason,” he introduced himself as they walked forward. “And my trade partner, Sir Flynn.”

The cottage ceiling was entirely too low for him, but Flynn managed. He kept a look out for any possible attack. There was at least four other people in the cottage, three of which were good candidates for the sleeper. He doubted it was the fifty-something lady who sat in a chair, knitting, but he’d keep an eye on her just in case.

Knitting needles are deadly weapons.

“Moynihan,” Mason said. “That’s a good Irish name.”

“Yes.” The man beamed brightly and started to mention how he moved down to Warwick a dozen or so winters ago. That would explain the accent being different. “Came down here to make me fortune, and I think I did rather well for meself.”

Irish, like Cahill. Could be related, could be coincidence. Either way, Flynn had to tread carefully.

“We came to grow our fortunes,” Mason spoke as if it was a novel idea. “I heard that you might have something in the works that we might also take part of.”

“Ah, yes, this new Exchange the good Sir here is creating.” Moynihan’s eyes lit up, delighted.

The next words that were spoken made very little sense to Flynn, it was all about business, finance, and the like. He let Mason do the talking while he methodically examined each member of Moynihan’s extended family who were staying with him.

“It was my cousin, Gerard,” Moynihan answered when Mason asked how he knew of Gresham’s plans. He gestured to one of the men who has been standing quietly off to the side.

Gerard, who was forty if he was a day, smiled nonchalantly and said, “I was approached by another tradesman, on the road. Told me I should speak to Sir Gresham about the Exchange. But I thought cousin Dairmaid here would be better served by what it has to offer.”

If Flynn thought long enough about what he said, he would realize how unreliable of a plan that would be. To tell one cousin in hopes that they would tell another and it would all work out. But it wasn’t so much what Gerard said… but how he said it.

“Good sir,” Flynn spoke to Moynihan while keeping his eyes on Gerard, “but how long have you known your cousin here?”

“Why, all me life, sir,” Moynihan said with a confused expression. “His grandfather, good man himself, settled down in Fenny Compton to make his fortune as a young man.”

“Yes, but, have you met Gerard before?” Flynn clarified.

“Well, not since he was a young lad.”

It couldn’t be helped. The sleeper knew who they were the moment they walked in. If Flynn had tried to play things off and get him separated from the group, he would have known Flynn was on to him. All he could do was get the man to out himself in front of witnesses. It would make explaining his actions easier.

So nice of the sleeper to oblige him.

Gerard was quick, Flynn would give him that. He swept up a heavy wood chair and barreled right into Flynn. Chaos erupted at once, lots of shouting and yelling. It was too close quarters to draw his gun and risk Lucy’s existence.

The other family got in on it, grabbing at Flynn who tried to fight back. Gerard booked it as soon as there was an opening at the door. Flynn struggled, not wanting to really hurt the others, but he managed to throw them off and make chase. He got outside to see Gerard already racing down the street with Gresham’s purloined horse.

He knew he’d be leaving Mason behind, but the man was smart, and savvy, he could take care of himself. Flynn jumped on his horse and gave chase.

A skilled horseman Gerard was not. He didn’t know how to get the best performance out of his horse and Flynn easily made gains on him. By the time they got into the city center, Flynn was literally on his tail. But Flynn was unfamiliar with the terrain, Gerard cutting around corners he didn’t see coming. This sleeper had indeed done his homework.

Some carts in the road detoured them and suddenly they were back at Warwick Castle. The main gate was open and Gerard raced through it. Flynn didn’t know what the man’s plan was, but he wasn’t going to let it get that far.

Gaining distance on the curve and urging on a burst of speed at the straight away, Flynn finally managed to get up beside Gerard.

Then he jumped.

Flynn didn’t need to launch himself into the air, just give himself leverage to grab Gerard and pull him down off his horse. Of course, that meant Flynn went down too, but he was expecting it. Tuck and roll, as they say.

The two of them landed hard on the grass, nothing he couldn’t handle. He quickly got to his feet but Gerard had recovered as well. The men faced off, muscles coiling, ready to attack.

“What is the meaning of this?” Elizabeth’s voice boomed they froze in place.

Flynn risked a glance sideways to see the queen approaching them, several of her entourage about her. Had she already been in the courtyard when they road in? It didn’t matter, she clearly wanted an answer. “This man is a traitor to the crown.”

“Lies!” Gerard spat back. “This man intimated me, attacked my family, and chased me here.”

Okay, true, it did look a little bad on Flynn’s part, but, still, he could find a way out of this. He always did. “My humblest apologies, your majesty, but I did lie to you. I did not come here for trade. I have been tasked with hunting down traitors to my homeland who I believe wish to now do harm to yours.”

Elizabeth thought this over for a moment. “And what evidence do you have that this man is one of these traitors you speak of?”

“It’s just that, your majesty, it is how he speaks.” Flynn smirked and didn’t take his eyes off Gerard. “His speech is naturally that of my fellow hunter, Sir Mason, but this man attempts to speak in the tongue of your land.”

Rittenhouse had sent an Englishman back, not realizing just how much the accent would be different. But to blend in, to call himself family to Moynihan, he would have to fake an American Midwestern accent. The others might think his accent slightly off from being from farther south, but Flynn had plenty of experience of hearing an English person try to fake an American accent and fail just enough to be noticeable. It was all about the R’s.

Gerard realized he was busted, and he let that show on his face for a split second too long. If Flynn could see it, then undoubtedly the keen Elizabeth did too.

The massive courtyard started to get crowded as Wyatt and Rufus found their way out of the castle. Flynn could see the man had his hand on his gun, hidden under his jerkin, but Flynn gave him a subtle look to hold. Especially as Mason, Gresham, Moynihan, and some of his actual family members finally joined the party.

“What is the meaning of this?” Moynihan demanded as he dismounted his horse. Then saw the queen and choked a bit on his words, bowing his head quickly.

“This man is not your cousin,” Flynn said before Gerard could defend himself. “He lied to gain your trust, to get you to talk Sir Gresham into staying here in Warwick. I can only guess his plans involved action against her majesty.”

“That’s a lie and you know it!” Gerard shouted. Of course it was a lie, it had nothing to with Elizabeth, but he couldn’t exactly explain time travel to everyone.

Mason stepped forward. “If you only knew Gerard as a boy, then how can you be sure this is him as a man?”

“He…” Moynihan stumbled. “He knows things, about our family.”

Because he probably spent weeks memorizing anything he could find on them before getting sent back. Mason spun it to fit their narrative. “Of course he does. He targeted your family specifically to be unwitting accomplices to his crimes.”

“I would never!” Gerard seemed to only know how to shout right now.

“Silence!” The queen demanded and even the birds in the trees went quiet. She leveled her eyes at Gerard. “Can you prove that you are this man’s cousin by anything other than your word?”

“Ah…”

“Why don’t we go to Fenny Compton and ask his siblings if they claim him?” Mason said smugly.

Gerard really should have jumped at the offer, to at least buy himself some time. His silence was detrimental to his case.

“And you, good sirs?” Elizabeth looked between Flynn and Mason. “Do you have any proof other than the way this man speaks, as if his jaw will fall out of his mouth?”

“No, your majesty,” Flynn admitted, but he poured every ounce of sincerity he owned into his next words. “Please believe me when I say this man will do nothing but bring you misery and harm.”

Elizabeth slowly glanced between them all, trying to decide on what to do with this strange predicament.

“Apologies, my queen,” one of the younger men who earlier was hanging out in the green room with Gresham and Dudley spoke up, “but might I make a suggestion?”

“You may.”

“I propose a trial by combat,” the man said with a flourish. “I have just come from a trip to Florence. The people there have some rather gentlemanly rules regarding The Duel.”

A duel? Flynn knew his way around a sword, but it had been some time since he practiced. He had no idea the skill level of his opponent.

“I accept,” Gerard said, and Flynn gathered the man had at least average to above average skills if he was so eager to risk it.

One of the men ran off to get some foils for them to use while the other explained the rather civilized rules. Elizabeth listened quietly but he could see some disproval in her eyes. According to Mason, she banned dueling in 1571. It might be a few years earlier now.

“If I lose—”

“You won’t lose,” Mason assured him as Flynn prepared himself by shedding his jerkin to just wear his black, billowing doublet. “And don’t die, I won’t be explaining this to Lorena. Or Lucy for that matter.”

“This is a first blood duel,” Flynn reminded him. “I just have to make sure I knick him before he knicks me.”

“Dude,” Rufus was squinting at him as he handed over a pair of black gloves he had sourced from someone. “You look like the Dread Pirate Roberts.”

“What?”

“Say, ‘you killed my father, now prepare to die.’” Rufus grinned.

“Gentleman,” the younger nobleman called them to their places.

“I am not going to say that,” Flynn told Rufus as he turned, putting on the gloves. “That was Inigo Montoya’s line.”

“You just got fifty-percent cooler, Flynn,” Rufus called to him. “Don’t die.”

“I’m not going to die,” Flynn mumbled and took his place.

The foil he was given was nice, hand crafted in Italy. It had good balance which was a plus. Unfortunately, his opponent had the twin. This was going to be… interesting.

He just needed to make sure he could land a shot on Gerard before the other man got in a lucky strike. If Flynn won, then they would take ‘Gerard’ back to ‘Croatia.’ It might do good to finally catch a sleeper for once.

“Ready, gentleman.” The young nobleman glanced between them. “Begin.”

Neither of them immediately attacked, no, that would be a foolish move. Instead they sized each other up, seeing how they flexed and tensed. An attack can come from the arm, the elbow, the wrist... and a bad swordsman would tell you exactly what he was about to do right before he did it.

Gerard was not a bad swordsman.

The man darted forward, thrusting the foil at Flynn’s lower right. He had to hastily step back, twisting his foil down in a parry to knock his opponent's sword away. The tip of it caught on Flynn’s thankfully loose doublet, but it was clear it wasn’t even close to catching the skin. But if that was just a test lunge, feeling out Flynn as a swordsman, then he was in trouble.

Flynn decided to do his own experiment and did a faux-lunge at him, pulling back prematurely to see how the man reacted. Gerard recovered quickly once he realized what had happened. Flynn smirked but he wasn’t exactly feeling it inside.

Sure, this was supposed to be a first blood duel. A scrape of the skin, that is all it took. But he had no doubt that Gerard would skewer him if given half the chance.

No, Flynn wasn’t dying in the 16th Century. He just got his family back. He was going to stop Rittenhouse and see his daughter grow up to be whatever she chose to be, be it an accountant or a dragon hunter—she had expressed interest in both. He was going to make it up to Lorena for all the pain he put her through. Support her in whatever she chose to do next in her life.

And then there was Lucy… the woman he was hopelessly in love with…

Gerard lunged again, this time swiftly sweeping across and Flynn had to hop back, again on the defensive. He’d never get anywhere like that. His best bet would be to use his incredible reach to his advantage.

Lunging forward, he knew he was extending himself but it was a risk worth taking. Gerard parried away his sword and Flynn swept around in a circle to quickly lunge again. Stepping back with one foot, Gerard barely avoided the blade.

Cursing in Croatian under his throat, Flynn pulled back before the other man could press an advantage.

Another feint, another parry. While the crowd seemed to be enjoying the duel, sans the queen of course, Flynn was beginning to wonder if he had gotten in over his head.

Gerard lunged just as Flynn was mounting his own attack, the two moving towards each other, blades sliding each other out of the way until their hand guards plowed together with a sharp clank. They couldn’t immediately step back because it would open themselves to attack. It was a game of attrition at this point.

“If I killed you right now,” Flynn growled lowly so only Gerard could hear, “Rittenhouse wouldn’t even think twice. They don’t care about the grunts they send into the field.”

“All wars have grunts,” he replied in his natural accent. “Someone has to fight to make sure Rittenhouse’s legacy burns bright.”

“You really drank the kool-aid, didn’t you.” Flynn could understand the mechanics of such things, but every time he saw the blind loyalty to a group who thought of them as nothing but fodder... he just... he fought for the independence of his country, of his people, and here this man was, throwing his own away.

Gerard’s hand moved quick, slipping a knife from the folds of his vest, thrusting it at Flynn.

If he wanted to fight dirty, then Flynn was welcome to oblige.

Jumping back, Flynn deflected the knife as best he could with his left hand, the blade cut his shirt easily, the sharp point grazing his skin. As this happened, he let go of his sword with his right, using the momentum of swiping left to pivot on his heel. Yes, it opened his back to his opponent for a split second, but Gerard was surprised enough at the maneuver that he couldn’t recover before Flynn’s right elbow connected with his head.

Gerard went down, nearly avoiding impaling himself on his own blade.

“Foul! Foul!” the nobleman shouted.

“He started it!” Flynn kicked the knife away from Gerard’s hand as the man tried to blink away the stars.

“Aye,” one of the other men called out. “I saw him pull the blade.”

“Such dishonor!” Moynihan exclaimed. “He be no kin of mine.”

“Gerard broke the rules,” the nobleman declared. “He is forfeit.”

Many voices rang out, debating the validity of the duel as a whole. Some argued that yes, Gerard should not have pulled the knife, but Flynn did not act with honor either. Gerard made his way to stand and Flynn feared he might rabbit and they’d lose him.

“Silence!” the queen declared and all obeyed. “This elder has disowned his own kin,” she said, pointing at Moynihan. “If he ever was. Return him from whence he came and at great haste.” The ‘or else’ wasn’t said but was clearly heard.

“Yes, your majesty,” Flynn said with a bow of his head.

Elizabeth then turned and made her way back to the castle, the crowd parting for her as if she was Moses.

“Well,” Mason said as the people began to disperse. “I guess that means dinner’s off.”

Flynn had Mason exit the Lifeboat first. This gave him room to unbuckle and maneuver Gerard who was cuffed, his mouth duct taped because he wouldn’t shut up. Flynn pushed him out of the hatch and walked him down the ladder.

“I said no kidnapping!” Christopher admonished him before he even got to the bottom step.

“This is the sleeper.” Flynn defended himself.

“Oh.” Christopher offered him a ‘job well done’ smile. “Good work. I’ll get a team to take him to a lovely black site I know.”

As Christopher took Gerard and cuffed him to a chair, Flynn was getting nervous. In theory, if he had screwed up, then everything would be completely different. He saw Lorena but, “Where’s Lucy?”

“She just had a breathing treatment,” Lorena answered. “She’s resting.”

Relief poured over him. No one had died on this mission, but that didn’t mean he didn’t change things enough that Lucy got erased like her sister. They needed to stop Rittenhouse, and soon. They couldn’t keep erasing and creating new people, even if it was just an accident.

Lorena tilted her head slightly. “You look like the Dread Pirate Roberts.”

“See, I’m not the only one who thinks so,” Rufus said as he came down the steps.

“He does!” Jiya laughed. “Say ‘have fun storming the castle.’”

“That was Miracle Max.” Honestly, he thought these two were geeks.

“Besides,” Mason laughed, “no castles were stormed on this trip, thankfully.”

“You left Wyatt behind?” Christopher asked.

“Yep.” Rufus moved to the computers. “Gonna run the usual diagnostics, recharge the battery, and we’ll go back for him.”

“Sounds like a successful mission then.” Christopher said with about a much appreciation as she ever allowed herself to show. “Good job, everyone.”

“I have to say, we wouldn’t have pulled it off without Mason.” Flynn always gave credit where credit was due. “His knowledge of business finance came in a lot handier than one would expect for 16th century England.”

“Yes, well,” Mason didn’t even pretend his ego didn’t enjoy that. “The language of money is universal.”

“Oh!” Rufus popped his head up and looked at Jiya. “The media has been lying to us for years. Everyone in Elizabethan England sounded like Wyatt.”

Jiya did a double take. “What?”

“Yeah, so, apparently dialects do weird shit like that.” Rufus laughed. “Connor mentioned that some scholars think Shakespearian plays sound better in the American accent.”

“That can’t be right.” Jiya was frowning as if someone offered her stinky cheese.

“I do believe they are incorrect in their assessment,” Mason said matter of fact. “Can you imagine a Texan as Hamlet?” Still wearing his Elizabethan clothes, Mason raised a hand and dramatically brought the Bard’s words to life. “Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt that I love…

Somehow he found himself looking straight at Lorena as he trailed off the quote. Lorena simply smirked and said, “I’m more partial to He is a lion; that I am proud to hunt.

The way the two looked at each other, Flynn thought he should feel awkward, but instead he felt… happy for Lorena.

Jiya let out a herm sound. “I’m more of a O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.

“You know,” Rufus looked over at his girlfriend, “sometimes you terrify me, and I’m strangely okay with that.”

“As it should be.” She leaned over and kissed him.

Gerard, who had been cuffed to the chair this whole time, muffled out something that sounded like, “Please kill me now.”

Flynn just shook his head and started to head towards the exit.

“Garcia,” Lorena said as he walked past. “I’d change before you see Lucy. We don’t want the poor girl to faint twice in one week.”

He let out a confused, “What?”

Lorena had already moved on, towards Jiya, asking her what she thought of Emma Thompson’s portrayal of Beatrice.

Annoyed, he left the gym and, well, he should rebandage the cut he got first. It was more like a scratch, really. And Gerard’s knife was new, not from the 16th Century, so Flynn probably didn’t have to worry about too many nasty germs. He put antibiotic cream on it and promised himself if he started to feel a fever coming on, he’d tell Lorena.

But for the moment he felt good, light even. So he changed into some jeans and a turtleneck, then headed for Lucy’s room to see how she was doing.

He knocked on her door and heard a very light, “Come in.”

Flynn opened the door, the room was dark, and Lucy looked like she had been sleeping.

“Mission go good?” She asked groggily.

“Yeah.” He stood with the door open to let in some light. “We stopped the Rittenhouse plot and bagged a sleeper.”

“Good… good…”

“You’re tired,” he said softly. “I’ll let you sleep.”

“Okay.” She gave him a little smile. “You have to come back and tell me everything… that…” she yawned, “happened.”

“As you wish,” he told her, then slipped out, closing the door behind him.

But what he really said… was ‘I love you’…