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You were right about everything. More than you will ever know… You are going to have to sacrifice everything for a cause that almost no one will believe in. The world will think that you’re a terrorist and a traitor. Even I’m going to think that at first… But you aren’t any of those things. And you’re going to think that you lost your humanity, but you didn’t, and you never will.

Hope.

That was the one thing Lucy neglected to give him when she came to him that night in São Paulo. That night, all Lucy gave him was doubt in what she asked him to do. If he wasn’t going to be able to save his family, why in the world would he sacrifice everything he had left for a cause no one would believe in?

It wasn’t her words that night in São Paulo that convinced him to recruit Anthony Bruhl. It wasn’t her words that night that convinced him to reach out to Karl Borsok for help. No. It was what she had written in her journal. Not her historical journal entries, but her entries about him. About her. About them. Through her journal, Garcia realized that it was ok to grieve the loss of his family, just as it was ok for him to fall in love again, and to allow himself to be loved.

But because of Lucy’s words to him at that bar, Garcia Flynn always knew it would come to this.

Him.

Alone.

Dying.

As he watched the empty Lifeboat return to 1848, he wasn’t sure that his heart was still beating.

Had death taken him so quickly?

Or was the pain of losing everyone he loves too great for him to bear?

Iris.

Lorena.

Lucy.

In São Paulo, on Christmas Eve, 2014, Lucy Preston told him – indirect as it was – that he wasn’t going to survive the war against Rittenhouse. She even suggested when it would happen in her damn journal.

He knew it was dangerous to travel within his own timeline.

He knew it could be deadly.

He began experiencing the side effects minutes after he arrived, long before Wyatt and Jessica ever pulled over on the side of the road – before he killed her.

He didn’t want to kill Jessica.

He had to kill her.

He couldn’t trust that Wyatt would do it himself. And he couldn’t let Wyatt come back to 2012 because Lucy and Jiya had insisted that when he did, they’d come with him. And if they all died trying to save Rufus, then who would be left to save the world from Rittenhouse? He could’ve stayed behind, but if Lucy had come to 2012, he would’ve been right there by her side.

It’s better this way.

Only he will die.

While everyone drifted off to sleep around the campfire, he wrote a letter to Lucy, and he left it tucked away in the pages of her journal.

Wyatt woke up as he made his way to the horses, and asked what he was doing. Garcia lied, of course, and told Wyatt that he was going to ride ahead to scout the mill. Wyatt didn’t argue with him, nor did he ask him not to go, and Garcia didn’t expect him to. It was, in a way, a blessing that Lucy hadn’t woken up. Because if it had been her asking where he was going, he wouldn’t have been able to lie to her. He would’ve told her the truth.

That he was going to the Lifeboat, and that he was going to take care of Jessica for Wyatt.

He has no doubt that Lucy would’ve tried to stop him, and if he continued to insist he was going to leave, he’s certain she would’ve followed him to the Lifeboat. And if that happened, he may not be standing here right now.

February 11th, 2012.

San Diego.

He stares at the empty space where the Lifeboat had been.

There’s no going back.

He’s stuck in 2012 until he faces the ultimate consequence for traveling within his own timeline.

Death.

You’re a hero, I promise. Maybe the greatest hero of us all.

Garcia closes his eyes and can see vividly in his mind’s eye the tears in Lucy’s eyes when she spoke to him in São Paulo. He can see Wyatt and Rufus sitting at a table behind her, near the door. The wedding ring on her finger.

He was wrong to fall in love with her.

He was wrong to have foolishly hoped that somehow things might have turned out differently between them than what Lucy wrote in the journal.

Blood trickles from his nose and he wipes it away with the sleeve of his coat.

He looks around, not sure what to do next, or where to go.

Portero Road.

Mile marker 47.

San Diego.

He’s not too far from where he and Lorena used to live.

He winces as pain permeates through his body.

He draws his hand to his forehead and presses against it, wishing it would stop the pain.

The only way to stop it would to be to return home to 2018.

(to Lucy)

But that’s impossible now.

In 2012, Connor Mason has only given birth to an idea of how time travel could be possible. The Mothership and Lifeboat won’t be built for another four years.

There’s only one place he can think of to go.

A place that always brought him so much joy, and peace.

Home.

-----

They look so happy.

Blissfully unaware of the tragedy that awaits them in the future.

With tears in his eyes, Garcia watches himself interacting with Iris. He wishes he could somehow be that man again. To be the Garcia Flynn who had never heard of Rittenhouse, who believed time travel only existed in books, and movies.

Somehow, he had convinced himself that seeing Iris again would help him feel better, but it only crushes his spirit more, breaks his heart in ways that he never thought possible.

He would do anything to take Iris into his arms, hold her tight, press his forehead against hers, kiss her, hug her, and tell her how much he loves her. Just to hold her one last time might somehow make all the destruction, all the death, the pain, and the suffering worthwhile.

Laughter erupts from the dinner table and Garcia struggles to remember what was said.

But he can’t.

All he knows is that yesterday, he and Lorena celebrated Valentine’s Day early because tomorrow he would be leaving to go to Azerbaijan to meet up with Karl for a top-secret mission for the NSA. His 2012 counterpart is actually going to receive a phone call from Jake Neville tonight, informing him that his flight has changed and that he needs to leave tomorrow morning for a stop-over in New York before hopping a plane to Baku.

But right now, none of that matters.

Family.

Love.

Happiness.

Those things matter.

Iris squeals with delight after slurping a long spaghetti noodle between her lips. She laughs despite receiving a stern look from her mother, and a playful wink from her father.

Garcia’s soul aches with longing to feel that joy again.

But he never will.

He doesn’t even deserve to experience it again.

He makes no motion to wipe away the tears which fall down his face. He does nothing to try to soothe the searing pain that shoots through his head as death closes in on him. The pain of knowing he will never again feel the way his younger counterpart feels is worse than any of these side effects.

He needs to leave.

He can’t risk dying right here outside the dining room window.

His soul shatters, and he swallows his cries as he gives one last look at his girls. He tilts his head back, turns, and walks away from them forever.

His knees give out as he makes his way down the driveway. He has to place his hand above the family nameplate near the street. His hands cover his eyes as he bends over. He groans.

“Flynn?”

Her voice is soft.

Like an angel.

He raises his head, squinting his eyes, and thinks he sees Lucy standing before him.

A reward for all he’s done to save the world upon his entry into Heaven? Or is she his punishment upon arriving in Hell? A reminder of everything he left behind that could have been his if he hadn’t been so afraid to tell her how he feels.

His head shakes, trying to erase her from his vision.

“Flynn… please…”

He startles when she places her hand on his shoulder, lowering herself so she looks him in the eyes.

“The Lifeboat is just down the street-”

“I can’t go back with you, Lucy. I’m dying.”

“You’ll only die if you stay here,” she says. “Please… come back with me.” Lucy moves so that she’s underneath his arm, supporting him as they make their way down the driveway.

“But in São Paulo…” he grimaces again. “In São Paulo, you told me that I sacrifice everything. That meant my life, Lucy. Let me go.” He lifts his arm from her shoulders and lightly pushes her away. He stumbles and falls into the lawn. He grunts as he uses his injured side to push himself back to his feet.

He stands, and looks at Lucy.

She’s watching him, of course. With tears streaming down her face.

“Don’t have pity for me, Lucy,” he says, trying to be dismissive of her tears. “After all I did to you… to the team… I deserve to die here, alone.” He starts to walk away from her, but stops. He turns to face her, and asks, “Did I at least save Rufus?”

Lucy nods her head, and comes to him. “You’re wrong, you know?” She grabs his arm and slings it over her shoulder again as she helps him down the street. “You said that trying to stop Rittenhouse destroyed you. Well, it didn’t. And you’re not expendable. And it wasn’t you that caused me to lose my sister, or my mother. That was Rittenhouse. It always was.” She looks up at him. “Rittenhouse caused my pain. Not you. You…” She closes her eyes, struggling to find the right words to say to him. She stops to stand in front of him, her hands on both his arms. “Flynn… you are my best friend, and I can’t do this without you.”

“What about Wyatt?” Garcia asks, regretting it immediately upon seeing the look on Lucy’s face. “Jessica’s out of the way now. Who knows, you might even return to 2018 and find out that you and him have been together this whole time.”

Lucy takes a breath, sighing heavily. “We did return. That’s how we found out you died here in 2012.”

Garcia stops and hunches over, moaning as he places his hand on his forehead.

Lucy rubs her hand on his back, hoping that her touch helps take away some of his pain.

“Rufus was in 1848 instead of you. And yes, in that altered timeline, Wyatt and I were together. Sharing a room even, but… that doesn’t mean anything for the Wyatt and me of our timeline. And… and I thought when we got home that you’d be waiting for me – for us – in the bunker. But you weren’t there. Denise had your autopsy report, and… it didn’t make any sense because if Rufus took your place in the Lifeboat on the 1848 mission, then you should have been back in the bunker, but…” Lucy shakes her head. “But I wasn’t going to give up on you.”

“Maybe you should have,” Garcia says, gesturing to his nose to indicate that now blood is trickling from her own.

Lucy wipes her sleeve under her nose, then tugs on Garcia’s arm. “The Lifeboat is just around the corner.”

Garcia stops in his tracks when they turn the corner and he sees the Lifeboat is quite literally parked in the middle of the street. He looks at Lucy.

“Out in the open? Where anyone can see it if they look out their living room window?”

“Didn’t want to waste any time saving you.” She offers him a weak smile as the pressure inside her head begins to throb. “Now, I don’t want to have to try to pick you up and force you into it, so…” She gestures to the Lifeboat.

The hatch to the Lifeboat opens and Rufus hops out of it, rushing to Garcia’s side, with the biggest grin plastered on his face. “Badass move, sending the Lifeboat back unoccupied, but ultimately that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, and that’s really saying something because, well… you know, you’re Flynn,” Rufus says as he bends down, propping Garcia’s other arm over his shoulders.

“Thought I was Flynning it up one last time, buddy,” Garcia jokes, his voice weakening.

Lucy lets go of Garcia and watches as he and Rufus get to the base of the Lifeboat. Garcia turns around, stretching out his arm, reaching for her.

Their eyes meet.

His, begging forgiveness.

Hers, timid.

Despite her fears about what will happen when they return to the present, she steps forward, and takes hold of his hand. He gives her a gentle squeeze and then tries to lift himself up into the machine. He’s too weak, and slides right back onto the damp concrete of the street beneath him.

“Here,” Rufus says, kneeling and weaving his fingers together to form a makeshift stirrup.

Lucy stands behind Garcia with her hand on his back to help keep him from losing his balance and falling backward. He places his foot into Rufus’s hands, and is lifted into the Lifeboat.

He turns to see if anyone else is here with Lucy and Rufus, and is greeted by a gigantic bear hug from Jiya.

She presses her cheek against his chest and whispers, “Thank you.”

Garcia doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he pats her on the shoulder. And he doesn’t know what to say, so he nods his head. Once Jiya releases him, he turns to help Lucy on board, but she’s already crawling up onto the machine beside Rufus who has done the same. Garcia closes his eyes and sways, catching himself on the back of a seat, and he takes that as his cue to sit down.

He struggles to find his seatbelt.

Lucy leans forward, and as he helped her in Salem, she helps him now.

And without argument, she buckles his seatbelt.

-----

Garcia accepts the awkward hug from Mason when he steps out of the Lifeboat. He shakes Agent Christopher’s hand when she tells him that she’s glad he’s back. His eyes fall on Wyatt, and he sees the struggle it takes for him to utter only five words to him, “Glad they got you back.” But Garcia knows Wyatt doesn’t mean it.

He barely glances back at Lucy as she descends from the Lifeboat.

He doesn’t want to see her with Wyatt.

He can’t see her with Wyatt.

Not now.

Not even after she came back to save him because he knows what she wrote in the journal.

That she still loves Wyatt.

Always has, and always will.

And now because Lucy came back and saved him, he will have to endure the heartache of watching her find her way back to the man who treated her like garbage while his wife was alive and living with them in this bunker.

Feeling stronger than he had been in 2012, Garcia picks up his pace as he heads down the corridor towards his room. He hopes it’s still his room in this alternate 2018. He passes Wyatt and Jessica’s room and pauses. He glances in and sees Lucy’s belongings within the room’s cubbies as well as on the nightstand next to the queen size bed.

He raises his brow.

It doesn’t look like Lucy made any effort to move out of Wyatt’s room despite telling him that this alternate timeline’s Lucy and Wyatt were sharing a room, but that it meant nothing for them since they aren’t together.

Garcia shakes his head.

He’d be a fool to believe he still had a chance with Lucy.

He wrote his goodbye to her, and he meant everything he said.

He opens the door to his bunk and closes it behind him.

It’s not as he left it.

The pile of books on the desk is gone. Books that he and Lucy were planning on reading together. He looks down and instead of My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla on the makeshift nightstand – the book he and Lucy had been reading together before leaving for 1848 – the book A History of San Francisco: 1850-1950, by Carol and Lucy Preston lies there in its place.

He sits on the edge of his bed and removes his boots. He stands and unbuckles his belt. Anger rushes through him and he tosses his belt hard onto the chair in the corner of the room. This isn’t what was supposed to happen. He was supposed to sacrifice everything for this cause, so that Rittenhouse could be destroyed. But instead, Lucy came back for him. She saved him. This isn’t what the journal outlined. This isn’t what Lucy told him would happen when she came to him in São Paulo.

He takes off his coat and throws it onto the floor as he angrily unbuttons his vest, tugging hard at the cravat around his neck until it too, is on the floor.

He cries out, unable to control his emotions any longer.

He’s supposed to be dead.

Why did Lucy come back to save him?

It’s more apparent now than ever that Lucy is not the same Lucy who came to him in São Paulo that Christmas Eve. So many changes have been made to their timeline that she has changed. Everyone has changed. Even he has changed. The fact that the journal has been rendered irrelevant is something he began to suspect as far back as Benedict Arnold, but he’s a stubborn man, and couldn’t easily let go of the idea that he might not be able to rely on it as he had always believed.

And if everything, and everyone, has changed does that mean it’s possible that if he and Lucy do end up together that their relationship might not end? Is it possible that things have changed so drastically that she could truly be in love with him instead of carrying a torch for Wyatt Logan?

Could he find love and happiness with her?

He shakes his head, cursing himself.

He can’t think this way.

He’s done so many terrible things in the name of saving the world from Rittenhouse. Things that haunt him at night. Disgust him. He’s not the same man he had watched having dinner with his girls in 2012.

He doesn’t deserve that kind of life.

He doesn’t deserve love, or happiness.

Garcia lowers his head as he unbuttons his shirt, tossing it on the floor next to his coat. He runs his hands through his hair, and then over his face.

He grabs a towel and storms out into the hallway, into the bathroom. He passes Jiya who is at the sink brushing her teeth, throws his towel onto the partition between Jiya and the shower, and turns on the water.

“Flynn?” Jiya asks, her mouth full of toothpaste.

She turns just as his trousers are flung onto the partition.

He says nothing.

Jiya turns and spits into the sink. She rinses her mouth and quietly leaves the restroom, running into Wyatt in the hallway.

“Don’t go in there,” she tells him.

“Why not?” Wyatt asks.

“Flynn’s in there, and he’s not talking. Which, I think, means he’s in a mood. And when a man like him is in a mood like that, I think it’s wise to-”

“This is my home too. If I need to wash up, I’m going to wash up.”

Jiya sneers at Wyatt. “Can’t you give him a moment’s peace?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Wyatt sneers back at her.

“It means that you go out of your way to make him feel unwelcome here. Sure, when you heard he was dead, you toasted him as if you had always respected him, but you were fooling no one. Everyone here knows how much you hate him. That you only pretend to be cordial with him because of Lucy. And if you think that’s going to get you back in her pants, you’re wrong.”

“Perhaps you forgot, but in this timeline, me and Lucy share a room. Hell, we share a bed.”

“And the Lucy who’s here now isn’t the Lucy who decided to share a room with you,” Jiya smirks. “She’s the Lucy who has spent almost every night in Flynn’s room since he got here.” She pauses in order to emphasize, “Sleeping in Flynn’s bed.”

“How would you know that?”

“Do you really think that I sleep well at night with the visions I have?” Off his stupefied look. “I don’t. I spend most nights on the computers, or watching movies on the TV in the common room. I know you like to think that Lucy sleeps on that couch, but she doesn’t.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Wyatt says. “Besides, her spending time with Flynn doesn’t make him not a terrorist, or a murderer.”

Jiya rolls her eyes. “Do you really still believe that, or do you say those things because it’s your way of trying to convince everyone else that what Rittenhouse set him up as is true?”

“You’re forgetting that he asked Al Capone to kill Rufus,” Wyatt shoots back. “Is that not attempted murder? Or how he stranded us, left us to die in 1754? Or how he kidnapped Lucy and got her captured by a serial killer?”

Jiya’s eyes look beyond Wyatt, at Lucy who is approaching them, and has obviously heard most of their conversation.

“It wasn’t Flynn’s fault that Holmes captured me, Wyatt,” Lucy says. “I mean… one could say that it was your fault for not doing your job to protect me. But instead of doing that, you demanded that Quinlan take you up to Holmes’s office in the hotel, leaving me alone and vulnerable when I discovered that George was-”

“That’s really stretching the truth, Lucy,” Wyatt says, knowing that no, she’s not stretching the truth. His eyes fall on a pair of jeans and a burgundy turtleneck sweater that are bundled up in her arms. Flynn’s. He narrows his eyes, judging her for even touching Flynn’s clothing. “He’s using up all the hot water. Might not want to go in there. Jiya says he’s in a mood.”

Lucy looks at Jiya, tilts her head and raises her brow.

Jiya nods.

Both women give Wyatt a look and walk away from him together, down the corridor towards Flynn’s bunk.

Wyatt watches them as they turn into Flynn’s room. He sighs, and despite knowing better, he enters the bathroom. The steam from the shower has thickened the air, fogging the mirrors. Wyatt closes the door behind him.

He sees Garcia standing beneath the showerhead.

His head is lowered and his hand is pressed against the tile wall.

Wyatt clears his throat. “Gonna leave hot water for anyone else?”

Garcia says nothing, but turns his head to let Wyatt know that he was heard.

He turns off the water, takes his towel and wraps it around his waist.

He looks at Wyatt.

His eyes are red and his voice is hoarse.

“I’m sorry,” Garcia croaks.

“Admitting you should’ve stayed dead?” Wyatt asks, viciously flashing Garcia a smile.

“No.” Garcia lowers his head. “I’m sorry about what happened with Jessica. I’m sorry that it came down to…” He shakes his head. “I know how much you wanted to save her, Wyatt.” Garcia looks him in the eyes. “And I’m sorry that removing her from our timeline means that you won’t be a father. I uh… I said you were gonna be a great father, and I meant it.” Garcia runs his hand over his face. “I may not like you, Wyatt. But I know what having a child can do to a man. It… changes you. Makes you better than who you were before she was born.”

Wyatt raises his brow and huffs, hating that Garcia is speaking kindly to him. “Well, maybe one day me and Lucy will have kids.” Wyatt forces a smile as he strips off his t-shirt.

Garcia swallows hard. “I’ll uh…” He gestures to the door. “I’ll leave you alone. I’m sure you need to wash up and… have a lot to talk about with Lucy.”

Garcia leaves his trousers hanging over the shower’s partition, and steps out into the hallway with only the towel wrapped around his waist. He stops when he sees Lucy and Jiya exiting his room. They don’t notice him.

“I don’t know why he’s angry. I mean, we did go back and save his life,” Jiya says as she and Lucy step out into the hall.

“He wrote that letter to me as his final goodbye, Jiya. He left us, believing he was never coming back. I imagine he prepared himself for that. And then I show up and practically drag him back to the Lifeboat?” Lucy closes the door to his room and follows Jiya around the corner, heading back to the common area. “I found him outside his family’s home…”

Lucy’s voice trails off, and Garcia walks to his room, and closes the door behind him.

The clothes he had thrown onto his chair, and onto the ground, have been placed in a laundry basket in the corner. His jeans and burgundy turtleneck sweater have been folded neatly, and placed on top of his bed. He drops the towel to the floor and gets dressed. He has no idea what time it is. All he knows is that he’s tired, and that he’s hungry. He slips the turtleneck over his head and runs his hand through his wet hair. He knows if he goes in search of food that he’ll run into Lucy and Jiya. And right now, he’d rather be alone.

He sits on the edge of his bed, leaning forward to rest his forehead against his hands.

He closes his eyes and can see himself, Lorena, and Iris having dinner in 2012.

If only there was a way to save them.

To bring them back so they could be alive again.

If only there was a way to fall out of love with Lucy.

He just wants this to end.

All of it.

He’s tired.

Tired of fighting this war. Tired of being held back by Agent Christopher’s insistence that they wait for Rittenhouse to take out the Mothership, and then follow them through time. The inaction of it all frustrates him. They have the Lifeboat. With the help of Lucy’s journal, he knows points in time where they could strike Rittenhouse when they’re most vulnerable. He had tried before when he went to 1780, that mission failed, but there are other times where Rittenhouse could be hit hard.

Hell, he could go back to 1954, to the Rittenhouse Summit, and actually blow them up. And if Lucy came with him, she might be erased from present day, but she’d still exist when they returned. He could help her get a new identity. Help her start a new life.

Destroying Rittenhouse would save Lorena and Iris, bring them back to him. But it wouldn’t save Lucy’s sister. Ever since he learned that Amy had been erased from existence, he has tried to figure out how he might be able to save her too.

He hears talking coming from the common area. He’s hungry, and thirsty, but doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now, so he waits.

He waits until he hears Wyatt shut off the water in the bathroom and return to his and Lucy’s room for the night. He waits until he hears Jiya and Rufus whispering to each other in their room. He waits until he hears the last notes of Robert Johnson’s Cross Road Blues fade from Mason’s room. He waits until he hears Agent Christopher check the bunker before going back to her family for the night.

He waits.

He makes his way across his room and steps out into the hallway. The concrete floor is cold against his bare feet. He stops. Listens. It’s completely silent. That can only mean that Lucy has joined Wyatt in their room instead of trying to lull herself to sleep on the couch by watching old black and white movies.

Garcia enters the common area.

All the lights are off save for the fluorescent lights above the kitchen sink. He opens the refrigerator and takes out a carton of almond milk, and pours himself a bowl of cereal.

He sits down at the table and eats.

The bunker’s heater kicks in causing a few metallic clanks in the hallway behind him.

He swallows and takes another spoonful of Cocoa Puffs.

He stirs his spoon around in the bowl.

He’s thankful that the only sounds he hears are from the HVAC unit. But he knows it’s only a matter of time before he will hear Wyatt and Lucy. When Jessica was here, nothing – not even a towel stuffed under the door – could prevent everyone from hearing the two of them having sex.

He gets up and goes to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. He twists open the cap and drinks it all in one breath. He sits down again and sighs.

He really doesn’t know his place on this team anymore. Yes, he’s muscle. He’s guns and ammo. But what reason does he have to stay now that Lucy has chosen Wyatt? In 1888, Lucy asked him why he was here. He never got to tell her that the only reason he stuck around was because he had fallen in love with her, and would do anything to keep her safe. To protect her.

In hindsight, he’s glad that Wyatt interrupted them.

Because if he hadn’t, he would have had to face Lucy’s rejection of him, face-to-face. At least now, he can conceal his heartache, pick up the shattered pieces of his life, and somehow find a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

He knew he was supposed to die, just as he knows that he was never meant to be with Lucy.

He finishes his cereal and sits in silence, staring down at his hands.

Does he want to stay here and continue to fight Rittenhouse, or does he want to walk away and be done with it all forever?

He doesn’t know.

The decision to fight was easier when he believed-

“I love you; you know?” Lucy’s voice is soft, coming from that awful Kem Weber couch.

Garcia swallows hard.

He was wrong.

Lucy isn’t with Wyatt.

She’s been here all this time.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “Did I wake you?”

Lucy sits up and turns to look back at him. Her arms resting on the back of the couch.

“I love you, Flynn,” she says again. “That’s why I came back to save you.” She sniffles and rests her head against her arm; her eyes remain fixed on him. “And I was imagining it… you and me. Just like you guessed. And you are my type, and… when I asked you why you were here, I… that was the first time that I realized that you felt that way too.”

Garcia stares into her eyes.

He stands and goes to rinse out his bowl in the sink.

Even with his back to her, he can feel her eyes on him. He takes a deep breath and wishes he had just stayed in his room.

“Lucy, I… I’m in love with you, but…” He turns to lean against the kitchen counter, facing her. “You don’t want me. I’m… I’m not a good man. You deserve someone who can give you the life you deserve.”

Lucy looks at him in disbelief. She shakes her head as she stands, walking to him.

“You should never believe the lies you tell yourself, Flynn.” She touches his arm. “You’re a good man. My best friend, and…” She chokes back tears, swiftly wiping them away with the sleeve of her shirt. “I hate that you think that you’re unwanted here.”

“Aren’t I?” Garcia furrows his brow. “How did everyone take the news that I had died?” He huffs, looking away from her. “Let me guess. No one but you suggested coming back to save me? Wyatt pretended that he respected me the whole time? Rufus magically forgave me for asking Capone to shoot him? Mason – likely already drunk – toasted me?” He looks into her eyes, and knows from the look on her face that some of what he’s suggested happened. “And how did you react, Lucy? Honestly?”

“When I found your note, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think for one second that you would leave with the intention of not coming back. I was angry with you. So. Fucking. Angry. I retreated into myself. After Denise showed me your autopsy report, I couldn’t bring myself to be with the others as they toasted you, and acted as if the entire time you were here that they were on your side. I prayed to God to somehow make it so you would walk out of your room and make some smartass remark about everyone thinking you were dead. I may not have known for sure that I had fallen in love with you before, but I felt it when I realized that you were dead, and that you were not coming back.”

Garcia gestures to himself. “I’m back now.”

“And it doesn’t feel like that’s what you want,” Lucy’s voice wavers. “Did you really want to die? Had you given up on this fight, given up on Lorena, Iris, and… me, to the point where death was really your only way out?” Lucy wipes a tear from her cheek. “Because I want you to know that if that’s how you feel, you can talk to me about it, ok? When my mother had me held captive at Rittenhouse, there were days where I thought the only way out was to take my own life. And when they finally trusted me to go on a trip with them, I had every intention of blowing up the Mothership with me, and everyone else inside it because I felt that was the only way to stop them. And why not sacrifice myself when I had nothing, and no one, to go back to?”

“Lucy…”

“And what they did to me when I was there…” Her voice breaks. “I wanted to die. And the only thing that kept me going was thinking about how fucked over you had been when Denise had you arrested. How you were supposed to go back one last time to save your family, but they stole that from you. I thought that maybe if I figured out how to end Rittenhouse, that would mean you’d wake up the next day, in your own bed, next to your wife, and your little girl would come running into your room to wake you up.” Lucy pauses. “Saving your girls… saving you from the heartache of losing them… that’s why I held on. You’re the reason why I didn’t take my life while I was locked away at Rittenhouse.”

Garcia swallows as Lucy caresses her thumb across his cheek.

“I don’t know what to say…” He curls his fingers around her wrist. “In the journal, you wrote how you were still in love with-”

“The journal is wrong.”

He lowers his eyes, his thumb stroking her wrist. He takes a deep breath and looks at her. “I guess I have a hard time letting go of the one thing that gave me hope for so long. I… I can’t let go of the idea that what’s in the journal is what’s supposed to happen-”

“Even after so many things in it have changed?”

“History has changed, but people. Who we are at our very core? That doesn’t change, Lucy. We are who we are. We love who we love. I don’t believe we have any control over that. In the journal, you wrote that you never stopped loving Wyatt. That’s…” He hesitates, seeing the hurt in her eyes, but he continues anyway, “… that’s who you are, Lucy. Loving him is something that you can’t change.”

“And if I told you that I never loved Wyatt?”

“I’d say you are lying.”

“I never loved him.”

Lucy stares into his eyes, daring him to accuse her of lying to him.

Garcia wets his lips, and opens his mouth, but he has no idea what to say.

He shakes his head.

Lucy places her hands on his face to force him to look at her. “Wyatt has only hurt me, Garcia. I once thought that I was falling in love with him, but it wasn’t love. He was assigned to protect me, and he did that. Do you have any idea how it feels to be protected by someone so much stronger than you? To stand behind a man who is acting as a human shield to protect you from bullets? To open up to him about the most paralyzing fear you have because you don’t think you can continue going on these missions? The emotions are confusing, and…” She trails off, uncertain if she’s making any sense.

“So, you’re saying you thought you were in love with him because of the way he protected you against me? And by that rationale then is it safe for me to assume that your declaration of love for me was brought on because I have taken on the role of your protector since joining your team in this bunker?”

Lucy gives him a look.

“I saved you in Salem. Pulled you out of harm’s way in San Antonio. I sat with you in silence and watched movies with you as you grieved Wyatt choosing Jessica over you. I protected you from those Confederate farmers who tried to stop us from reaching Port Royal, and… I held you in my arms and comforted you after your fight with Emma-”

“Stop it,” Lucy cries. “Stop trying to demean how I feel for you. Yes, you saved my life. Yes, you were there for me when I was upset about Wyatt, but I didn’t fall in love with you because of those things. I fell in love with you during our late-night talks. I fell in love with you when we would stay up and watch old movies until the sun came up. I fell in love with you because there was no expectation of love, and in the way you respect me. How you gave me the choice to decide if I wanted to be your friend.”

“But in the journal-”

“I don’t give a damn about the journal,” Lucy says. “I give a damn about you.” She looks into his eyes, but cannot hold his gaze. She lowers her head. “I… I lost my mother… I lost my sister, and… everyone else here is so caught up in their own lives that they don’t realize that I need someone to give a damn about me too, and you’re the only one who does.”

Garcia takes her chin in his fingertips and wipes away her tears with his thumb.

She looks up at him again and asks, “You said that you love me too, but… do you? Can you? Are you capable of letting go of the notion that what is written in that journal is what you think is meant to be, and just… live life in the moment?”

Garcia cups Lucy’s face into the palm of his hand.

He trembles as he lowers himself to her.

The tip of his nose brushes against hers, and he can feel the warmth of her breath on his lips. He fights with himself that he can’t kiss her now. That this isn’t what Lucy wrote in the journal. That they’re supposed to have their first kiss while waiting in a lifeboat for the Carpathia to save them from the Titanic disaster. He moves his hand to cup her ear. His fingertips tease the small hairs of her neck. He tilts his head and gently presses his lips against hers.

His heart pounds in his chest as Lucy opens her mouth to him, whimpering his name as his tongue meets hers. His other hand rests against her lower back, pulling her to him, pressing her against his chest. Warmth spreads throughout his body as she moans into his mouth.

She pulls away to kiss his cheek, and whispers to him, “I love you.”

He smiles as she kisses him again.

He releases his lips from hers and trails small, delicate kisses down her neck.

She wraps her arms around him, pulling him close to her.

She cries.

He nestles his face against the top of her head and exhales as he wraps his arms around her too.

“I’m sorry, Lucy…” he whispers. “I knew what I did would hurt you, and I did it anyway. I’m so sorry…” He kisses the top of her head. “I promise you… we’ll figure this out, how to stop them. How to save your sister, and-”

“How to save your girls.” Lucy’s eyes still shimmer with tears as she gazes up at him. She turns her head and looks at the Lifeboat. “I know you said that I looked five years older when I came to you in São Paulo, but… any chance you want to disregard Denise’s rules, and take it back to 2014 right now?”

“To São Paulo?”

Lucy nods her head. “Maybe instead of bringing you – him – the journal, we could both sit down and talk to him.”

“Wouldn’t that change everything about our present?”

“Is this really our present though?” She asks.

Garcia raises his brow. He can’t argue that. “You do know that if we change too much about São Paulo that we risk changing the present we want to come back to, right?”

“I know, but… what if talking to your other self somehow makes it so we destroy Rittenhouse sooner?”

“Then it’s possible that we return to 2018 and we’ll have never worked together.”

They fall silent.

“The uh… the Lucy that came to me that night, she uh… it wasn’t her that gave me a reason to fight,” Garcia says. “In fact, she gave me every reason not to fight. To just accept that my family was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

“Then why did you-”

“She didn’t give me hope, Lucy.” He pauses. “She told me that I would die, and that I wouldn’t be able to save my family. Then she handed me the journal, and left.”

Lucy shakes her head, and rests her hand on his arm. “Garcia… I… I would never… I’m so sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize for her. You may look like her, but…” He sighs, shaking his head. “It was what was written in the journal. About how you saw me. How I treated you, and how you fell in love with me, that gave me hope. That gave me the reason to fight. I didn’t fight for the woman who handed me the journal. I fought for the woman who wrote it.”

“But if she gave it to you, wouldn’t that mean she wrote it?”

“And who was it that brought it here and handed it to Wyatt? Did you write that journal, or did the future version of yourself write it? She’s on one path, and you’re on another.”

“I think I’m following what you mean, but-”

“Have you started writing it?”

“The journal?” Lucy asks, then answers her own question. “No.”

“What I’m trying to say is… if all we do is go back and talk to me, if we don’t give him the journal. We need to give him hope. Say something that will inspire him to pull himself out of the darkness, out of the self-blame, and to fight. And not just fight to save my wife and daughter, but to fight for…” He lowers his voice, “… for us.”

Lucy takes his hand and looks him in the eyes. She rises on her toes and presses her lips gently against his cheek. “Then let’s go change our history.”

-----

Garcia holds the door open for Lucy as they enter the bar in São Paulo. Lucy looks to the bar, expecting to see Garcia’s 2014 counterpart, but he’s not there. She looks up at Garcia.

He smiles, and tells her, “He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

Garcia motions to the bar, and pulls a barstool out for Lucy.

The bartender stops in front of them and asks, “O que você gostaria de beber?”

“Dois copos d'água, por favor,” Garcia says.

Lucy smiles at the bartender. She doesn’t know Portuguese, but thinks she’s figured out what was said.

The bartender turns his back to them and moments later returns with two glasses of water.

“Obrigado,” Garcia says.

“Obrigado,” Lucy mimics him.

Garcia chuckles as a smile forms on his face.

“What?” Lucy asks.

“You’d say obrigada since you’re a woman.”

Lucy shakes her head and smiles. With trembling hands, she lifts her glass of water to her lips.

“Nervous?” He asks.

“Terrified, actually.”

“Just remember that he’s me, only four years ago.”

“I know,” she says. She sets her glass down on the bar and turns to him. “I’m just afraid of how bad the side effects could be for both of us. You’ve barely been back from 2012 and now we’re here, and-”

“Hey…” He takes hold of her hand. “We’ll be fine. And if things get bad, we leave.”

O Holy Night quietly begins playing from the radio behind the bar, in Portuguese.

Oh noita santa, estrelas no céu brilham
O Salvador Nessa noite nasceu
Estava o mundo picador errante
Até que Cristo na terra apareceu

“This song is beautiful in Portuguese,” Lucy says. “It’s one of my favourite Christmas songs. Amy and I used to lay down on the floor next to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve night, and Mom – Carol, she would play this song so that Amy would fall asleep. Once she did, I helped put Santa’s presents under the tree, covered up Amy, and she was always the first one awake the next morning, completely baffled at how she slept through Santa delivering presents, and eating all the cookies since she slept under the tree.” Lucy laughs. “God… I miss her so much.”

A woman approaches them and points to the seat next to Lucy. She asks, “Este assento está ocupado?”

Lucy looks up at her, then turns to look at Garcia for help. She thinks the woman is asking if the seat next to her is taken, but she doesn’t know for sure, nor how to respond.

Garcia winks at Lucy and looks at the woman, “Sim. Sinto muito. É pelo nosso amigo. Ele ainda não está aqui.”

The woman nods her head and smiles at him before walking away.

Lucy looks at Garcia as he takes a sip of water. She had been impressed when Wyatt claimed he spoke four languages, but by her calculations, Garcia speaks at least seven. “So, how and why did you learn Portuguese?” She asks.

He shrugs. “The language curiosity bit me back when I was reading Tex Willer in Italian, before I could understand Italian. I grew up speaking English and Croatian, picked up Italian from the comic books, and just continued learning languages from there. Came in handy after the Croatian War of Independence. Opened doors to me that wouldn’t have otherwise been open.”

“Such as?”

“Meeting Lorena, for starters.”

“Oh?”

“It was because of my abilities in language that I decided to help fight other wars, and Lorena… she was a translator with the U.S. Army. I needed someone to translate Pashto since it’s not one of my languages, and that’s how we met.”

“So, you have a thing for multilingual women?” Lucy raises an eyebrow. “Because if you do, I should warn you that I’ve been told my French is terrible by Irène Curie herself, and my Russian is even worse.”

“You studied Russian?” Garcia asks, impressed.

“Nemnozhko,” Lucy says. “But that, and hello, goodbye, and how are you? are about all I can remember.”

“What made you study Russian?”

“I picked it up during my obsession with the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova in 1997 when the animated movie Anastasia was released in theatres. I swear, I think I saw it like fifteen times in the theatre before my sister decided that she and her friends were going to have an intervention.” Lucy laughs at the memory. “I memorized all the songs, and bought the soundtrack and even memorized the Spanish language version of Journey To The Past.”

“You don’t know Spanish, do you?”

“I don’t. That’s how crazed I was with that movie.”

“Do you still know it today?”

Lucy gives him a look, places her hand on his arm, and leans toward him, quietly singing part of the Spanish version of Journey To The Past, “Anda, vamos ya. Corazón no temas. No te vas a detener. Me parece que tengo mil opciones. No se a quién volvere a ver… O que tan lejos llegaré, en un viaje… tiempo atrás…”

“Your Spanish is beautiful, Lucy,” he tells her, adding, “Kinda fitting though, isn’t it? The lyrics? What they translate to?”

“Journey to the past?”

“Yeah… viaje tiempo atrás, journey to the past… traveling back in time.” Garcia smiles. “Just interesting that when you were a teenager that perhaps that was a sign that one day, you’d be caught up in… time travel.”

“Never thought of it like that. Not that I watch that movie a lot anymore. You know… maybe once or twice a year, if I remember.”

Garcia watches her as she fumbles over her words. “I suspect you watch it more than that, Lucy. Actually,” he sits up taller, “I bet it’s killing you that it isn’t one of the movies Denise brought to the bunker.”

“I miss it so much, Garcia,” Lucy admits, grasping onto his arm. “You’ve seen it, right?”

He chuckles. “I have. It was one of Lorena’s favourites too. We were actually starting to talk about letting Iris watch it.”

“She didn’t see it?”

“Iris had a very wild imagination. And,” he shakes his head. “Rasputin would have caused us many sleepless nights making sure corpsified body parts weren’t dancing underneath her bed. I’ve told you before how I had to hunt monsters in her closet, or under her bed, with a water gun, right?”

Lucy laughs. “Right… and how frequently you’d be in bed and hear her up and about, trying to hide from the monsters in her closet, and how you and Lorena would end up playing a game of hide-and-seek because she wouldn’t want to give away her hiding place to go back to bed.” Lucy smiles. “I like her spirit.”

“I wish you could’ve known her, Lucy.” Garcia’s eyes are sad while maintaining a smile as he rests his hands on top of Lucy’s.

“Maybe one day…”

Garcia nods his head and lifts his hands from hers. He picks up his glass of water and drinks from it again.

A man plops down in the barstool next to Lucy, and grumpily orders a drink, “Uma garrafa de vodka, por favor.”

Lucy looks at him and sees a scruffy, disheveled version of Garcia Flynn sitting next to her. He stares at the wooden countertop of the bar and grunts an ‘obrigado’ to the barista who places an empty glass, and a full bottle of vodka in front of him. He pours the alcohol into the glass and downs it in one gulp. Lucy looks to her right, at her Garcia Flynn, and he’s doing the same with his glass of water. She nudges him and motions to her left.

Now that 2014 Garcia Flynn is here, it’s a matter of figuring out what to say to him. They didn’t bring the journal, so they can’t lead with that. And they’re both here, not just Lucy. Already, so many things are different with this trip to São Paulo, than it was before.

“Merry Christmas,” Lucy says to him, hoping that’s a good enough ice-breaker.

“Eu não falo inglês,” he grumbles.

Lucy looks to her Garcia for help.

He nods his head and stands up next to Lucy.

“Znam da govoriš engleski, Garcia... Because I’m you.” He tells his younger self.

The younger Garcia shakes his head and blinks his eyes before checking his bottle of vodka.

“This is Lucy Preston, and...” Garcia rests his hand on Lucy’s shoulder. “You and her are going to be quite the team one day.”

“What is this?” He looks around as if something or someone else in this bar will explain why an older looking Garcia Flynn is talking to him. The younger Garcia decides to ignore him. He looks directly at Lucy. “What do you want?”

“We’re from the year 2018,” she answers. “And I know you think you’ve had too much to drink, or that this is crazy, but,” she looks up at her Garcia. “We’re here to help you.” She reaches into her purse and retrieves a small memo notebook and pen. She hands it to him.

“My God,” Younger Garcia’s eyes are wide. “The time machine? Connor Mason actually built it? I knew it!”

Garcia leans towards his younger self. “And on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016, you’re going to use the help of a man named Anthony Bruhl to organize a raid on Mason Industries, and you are going to steal a time machine they call the Mothership,” Garcia tells him. “Lucy won’t be involved at that point, but hours after you take the time machine back to 1937, Rittenhouse uses Homeland Security to recruit-”

“To force,” Lucy corrects.

“To force Lucy onto a team that chases you through time as you try to figure out how to destroy Rittenhouse,” Garcia finishes.

“You were...” Lucy looks at her Garcia. “You are right about everything. The way you attack Rittenhouse in the past. When you eventually get me to join the fight, you have to convince me and Agent Christopher to use our knowledge to your advantage. To fight Rittenhouse with history. Between you and me, we can... we have to figure out when to take them out.”

“Are you saying where you’re from that you haven’t stopped them?”

Lucy and Garcia share a look.

Garcia shakes his head. “We haven’t, and that’s why we’re here.”

Lucy adds, “I was supposed to come here alone, and give you a journal that another version of myself wrote, but we’ve figured out that the journal is irrelevant. It served more as a written history of what history was supposed to be before time travel changes it. And it...” she looks at her Garcia again. “It had entries about relationships that don’t matter, which only complicated things and got in the way of you and me becoming...” She trails off. Yes, she and her Garcia kissed in the bunker, but in the blink of an eye, they decided not to address their kiss, and what it means for them, so that they could come here and give São Paulo 2014 another shot. And oh my God, how much their present could drastically change because of the conversation they’re having right now with this younger, scruffier, disheveled version of Garcia Flynn.

“Look,” Garcia starts, taking a deep breath, trying to remember if there was anything that Lucy had said to him that might have helped convince him to follow through with raiding Mason Industries and stealing a time machine. Other than what was written in the journal, nothing comes to mind. So, he wings it. “It won’t be easy. You’ll have to recruit men who won’t believe in you. Go to Karl first. He doesn’t care what a mission is so long as it’s dangerous and offers good money. And I know you have nothing on you now but a couple of twenty-dollar bills, but he’ll see reason. He’ll understand what’s at stake and he’ll whine about the lack of pay, and he’ll hate time travel, but he’s invested in the fight. You can trust him.”

“Where the fuck is he then because I tried to find him before I wound up here in Brazil.”

“He’ll be at Señor Pacos Mexican restaurant in Manama on New Year’s Eve. If you want to catch him slightly hungover, but sober... you’ll find him at the McDonald’s at the Border Station on the King Fahd Causeway – the Saudi side – heading back to Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on New Year’s Day. Just after noon.”

The younger Garcia pours more vodka into his glass, and holds it in his hand. He doesn’t drink it. Instead, he stares at it and asks, “So, Karl got tired of having non-alcoholic beer in Saudi? That’s why he’s in Bahrain?”

“Something like that.”

The two Garcias look at one another, then the younger Garcia’s eyes fall on Lucy.

“And you and her, are you...?” Young Garcia raises his brow.

Lucy and Garcia share a look.

Garcia smiles and tells his younger self, “At present, it hasn’t been defined.”

“But I think that...” Lucy wraps her arm through Garcia’s and looks up at him, and all she can do is smile at his younger counterpart, “that there’s... something...”

“Uh-huh... so... somehow with the ability to travel back in time, you don’t save Lorena and Iris?” His tone is disapproving.

Lucy lets go of Garcia’s arm and sits next to his counterpart. She touches his arm. “Look, Garcia... we’re still fighting this war against Rittenhouse where we’re from. We’re still trying to find the safest way to save your girls.” She pushes the memo notebook and pen towards him. “Please, write this down because it’s important.”

He looks her in the eyes, then takes the pen in his hand. He tilts his head to let her know he’s ready for her instructions.

“You can’t travel back to a time where you already exist,” she tells him.

He laughs and looks at his older self. “Well, that’s a lie right there because another version of me is standing right behind you. And if you and I are going to work together on this, then that means somewhere else is another, younger version of you. So, why don’t you tell me the truth?” He moves so he’s facing her. Staring her down. “So, tell me why – with the two of you standing right here – can’t I travel back on my own timeline to save my girls?”

“It’s dangerous,” Garcia tells him.

“How?”

“We’ve only done it once before, and I assure you it’s dangerous, and it could kill you, but… the uh… side effects, they seem to be inconsistent. Unpredictable. Before, we had to go back to 2012, and it almost killed me. It gave me a bloody nose, and both of us had terrible headaches. And right now, we seem to be unaffected.”

“So, I go back to December 10th, two weeks ago, and I kill those beasts before they can plug bullets into my wife and daughter. Wouldn’t take longer than an hour since I know the exact time, and where it happens.”

Lucy looks back at her Garcia… his counterpart has a point. She continues, “We’re not here to tell you what to do-”

“Seems like you are,” he scoffs. “Telling me what day to steal a time machine, where to find Karl, and not to travel in my own timeline – which really seems fucking hypocritical.” He shakes his head and laughs, running his index finger along the rim of his glass. “I’m sorry, but if I’m stealing a time machine, the first place I’m going to is the night those bastards murdered my family. Nothing is more important to me than saving their lives.”

Frustrated with his younger self, Garcia places his hands on Lucy’s waist and moves her off her barstool so he can sit down next to himself. He pushes the bottle of vodka away and slides the half-empty glass away from them.

“I love my girls. You, more than anyone else, understands that. I am you, and you are me, and I’m telling you that stopping Rittenhouse is more important.”

“Why?”

“You destroy them and… and Neville never sends a team to kill them in the first place. If you save them, and don’t fight to destroy Rittenhouse then… the information you stumbled upon… that still places you, and Lorena and Iris, at risk of being killed by them.”

The two Garcias stare at each other.

“I was held captive by them for six weeks,” Lucy says. “While I was with them, I learned about some of the horrible things they plan to do with a time machine. They will take the Mothership and use it to place sleeper agents at vulnerable events in history. Then they will be activated, ordered to change history to benefit Rittenhouse’s desire to rule the world. To silently take control through historical manipulation. History changes in the past, and in the present no one notices.”

“So, they’re an existential threat to the world as we know it?”

“Yes,” Lucy answers.

Garcia closes his eyes and starts shaking his head.

Lucy and the younger Garcia look at him.

“You ok?” Lucy asks, placing her hand on his shoulder, tilting her head to check that his nose isn’t bleeding, and that his eyes aren’t bloodshot.

He looks directly at his younger self. “Lucy’s sister was erased. Her name is, was, Amy. She doesn’t… she doesn’t exist in this timeline anymore, so even the Lucy you encounter here will be different – perhaps even more than we could possibly know…” Garcia looks at Lucy, and he sees the realization strike her. The Lucy of this 2014 does not share the same life, or memories, that she has.

Lucy closes her eyes, and bites down on her bottom lip, cursing beneath her breath. “My mother… in her dying breath, told me that she wished she had told me sooner about Rittenhouse.” Lucy closes her eyes. “What if… what if in this timeline she did? What if in this timeline I’m Rittenhouse? All because Amy was never born. That changes everything.”

Garcia takes hold of Lucy’s hand. “You are who you are, Lucy. Even if she raised you as Rittenhouse, I have to believe that there’s a part of that version of you who hates them, and wants to take them down. And maybe all you need is someone to help you.” Garcia looks at his younger self. “Maybe… maybe we’re approaching this the wrong way.” He shakes his head. “We didn’t think this through… we came here thinking we could try to recreate what happened between me and Lucy before in a completely different timeline. We thought if we gave you more details, that could help you fight Rittenhouse, but… we know nothing about this timeline. Anything we’ve told you could be wrong.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Garcia’s younger counterpart looks at them, confused.

Lucy wets her lips and takes a shot in the dark, “Find me. In this timeline, in 2015, I was teaching history at Stanford. If I’m not there, I might have co-authored a book with my mother, Carol Preston. If this timeline’s version of me is Rittenhouse, I’m still involved with history. Befriend me, become my best friend. Someone I can confide in, that I can trust. Don’t ask me about Rittenhouse, let me tell you. I imagine I’ll feel betrayed when you tell me that Rittenhouse killed your family, and that a future version of me came to you in São Paulo. Be honest with me, tell me that I told you to find me, and that I know that she wants to stop them too.”

“And if she refuses? If she turns me over to them and they kill me?”

“You can do this without her,” Garcia says, glancing sidelong at Lucy. “That was my intention when I began. I thought I could get the job done quickly, that I wouldn’t have to endanger Lucy, or expose her to the life she wrote about in the journal she gave me. I wanted to save her from…” He looks directly at Lucy, sadness in his eyes. “I wanted to save her from all this.”

“Then what do I have to do to stop them on my first trip back in time?” He asks. “When and where do I go?”

“Rittenhouse was founded in 1778 by David Rittenhouse,” Lucy says. “So, you’ll want to go further back than that… back before the idea of Rittenhouse began. I don’t know if it was something David’s father spoke about, or if the idea came directly from David himself. All I know is that he started it, and his son John – because of us – ran away, and sought help from other members in 1780, and changed his last name to Keynes.”

“I thought you couldn’t track him down?” Garcia asks.

“I got a good family history lesson in the six weeks my mother had me locked up,” Lucy explains. She returns her attention to the younger Garcia. “Destroying them. Killing David Rittenhouse or any of his ancestors or descendants will erase me from existence. Do not worry about that because I’m here now, and we’ll be going back to a 2018 which you will have influenced. No one will know me except for Garcia. I never wanted it to come to this. It will hurt, but if that’s what I have to suffer in order to wipe Rittenhouse from existence, then it must happen.” Lucy winces, and presses the palm of her hand to her forehead.

Garcia holds Lucy’s hand and speaks softly to her, “What about your sister?” He runs his hand through her hair. She’s starting to show signs of the side effects.

The younger Garcia Flynn watches their interaction carefully.

“I don’t think I was ever supposed to get her back,” Lucy struggles not to cry. She squeezes Garcia’s hand tight, and closes her eyes. “It’s too late for her, but…” She looks at both Garcias, “… it may not be too late to save your girls. You have to try.”

Lucy looks into her Garcia’s eyes and shakes her head, and whispers so only he can hear her, “I feel dizzy.”

Garcia nods his head, and brushes his lips gently across the top of her head.

She looks at the younger Garcia with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know if what we’ve told you will help…” She winces again.

Garcia rests his hand at her waist, ready to catch her if she loses her balance, and the younger Garcia places his hand gently on her shoulder, and asks quietly – his voice breaking, “Are you ok?”

She shakes her head – trying to both to stop the side effects, and answer his question.

She leans towards the younger Garcia, and places a kiss on his cheek. She cups his jaw in her hand, pulls away, and whispers, “You’re a hero, I promise.” She wipes a tear from her cheek. “I trust you, Garcia. Whatever you decide to do will be the right choice. Never doubt that.”

He nods his head, unable to take his eyes off her.

Lucy looks at her Garcia, wipes away another tear, and walks to the exit. She stops, her hand on the door handle, and looks back at both men.

She leaves.

Garcia turns to his younger self, and is asked:

“Can her sister be saved?”

Garcia shakes his head. “I don’t think so. Maybe if we had been working together on my first trip to the Hindenburg, we could’ve taken a trip back to fix things, but now…” Garcia shakes his head. “As much as I want to save Amy, I don’t think it’s possible. The timeline has been altered too much.”

Young Garcia slides the memo notebook over to his other self. “Write down as much as you know about her sister. The names of her parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents. If you know her birthday, and how her parents met. Just because I need to stop Rittenhouse, doesn’t mean that it wipes an entire family from existence. Or maybe, I can find a way to stop it without killing anyone. I don’t know. I just… it seems Lucy has lost so much, and if I can do something so that her sister is alive again when you go back…”

Garcia nods slowly. “She says she’ll be ok, but I think over time it’ll destroy her. I may not be able to do it in 2018, but if you…” Garcia starts writing down names and dates, and brief summaries of stories Lucy told him about Amy, her mother, and her father Henry Wallace. “If you can stop Rittenhouse, and Carol Preston still exists, you need to make sure she meets Henry Wallace in 1979. UC Berkeley. Lucy told me that they always said it was love at first sight.”

His counterpart nods his head and remains quiet as Garcia continues to write down as much information as he can about Amy. Then he says, “I’m never going to give up trying to save Lorena and Iris. But I can’t…” He looks down. “I can’t understand how four years later I’d be willing to love again.” He pauses, looking up. “You do love her, don’t you?”

“I do,” Garcia answers. He closes the memo notebook and hands it to his younger self. “I didn’t want it to happen. I tried to resist it. I did everything I could to keep her at arm’s length. To make her hate me, but… you can’t help who you fall in love with. It’s inescapable. Your heart wants who your heart wants, and your mind damns you, curses you, and screams at you to run the other way. To try to hurt her, to push her away, so that she stops falling for you too, but-”

“Sounds like she’s as bullheaded as Lorena.”

“I like to imagine that if Lorena were still alive, or if I could somehow save her and Iris, that Lucy and Lorena would be friends.”

“And Lucy really does want to save them too?”

Garcia wets his lips. “I think she blames herself for what happened to them. Lucy’s considered pureblood Rittenhouse. She’s a descendent of David Rittenhouse himself – the man who founded the group.” He shakes his head. “I think she feels that her connection to the group indirectly places her to blame for Rittenhouse murdering our girls.”

“If she’s an active member now then… what is the best way to get her to trust me? To open up to me?”

Garcia raises his brow and smiles. “Don’t force anything on her. Don’t assume you know everything about her because you don’t. Give her the choice to decide to become your friend. My Lucy, she… she had such little control over her life. All her decisions were determined by her mother – who is one of the leading members of Rittenhouse. Support her, be her friend, or her shoulder to cry on when she is figuring out how to walk away from the life she knew. I uh… I used to think she was weak, but she’s not. She’s a fighter. She’s stubborn, and self-sacrificing. She will drop everything for the ones she loves, and will push her own needs aside.”

The younger Garcia nods his head. “Kinda like with Lorena? Show her that it’s ok to put her needs ahead of others sometimes? Show her that she’s the most important thing in your life?”

Garcia glances behind him at the door. He knows he doesn’t have the time to keep talking to his 2014 counterpart. “Look, a couple days ago, I had the chance to kill the pilot of the Mothership that Rittenhouse controls. I could’ve taken away their ability to travel through time, but I didn’t. Instead – without thinking – I stayed with Lucy who had been hurt, and I held her in my arms as she cried. I didn’t realise it in the moment, but thinking back on it now… she’s more important to me than Rittenhouse.”

The younger Garcia takes a sip of his vodka, raising his brow, uncertain he likes what he’s hearing. “You know I can’t guarantee that I’ll feel the same, right?”

“That won’t matter because when Lucy and I return to 2018, we’ll replace you and her other self.”

“And what will you do if I save Lorena and Iris, and in my future, I’m still married to Lorena, and Lucy is not in my life?”

“I’ll go to them… let Iris jump into my arms. Hug Lorena, and then… I’ll do my best to explain what I’ve been through. That I’m changed. Not the same man she married. And I’ll tell her that in the timeline I’m from she was dead, and that despite my efforts not to let it happen, I fell in love again.”

“You’ll break her heart.”

Garcia lowers his head and says softly, “I know.” He swallows hard and looks into his counterpart’s eyes. “But I’m not going to betray how I feel. I can’t lie to Lorena and be with her when I’m in love with Lucy.”

“You’re a real son-of-a-bitch, you know?”

The younger man stands up, and downs the rest of his glass of vodka. He glares at his future counterpart, has half the mind to punch him square in the face. He grabs the memo book, and angrily tosses it into a trash bin at the bar’s back door.

He exits into the back alley.

-----

Lucy doesn’t know how long it’s been since she left the bar, only that it seems like it’s taking forever for Garcia to join her. She stands outside, leaning against the cool brick wall of the establishment. Several passersby have wished her a “Feliz Natal!” and given her strange looks when she responded to them with “Merry Christmas.” Apparently, English isn’t quite as common in São Paulo as she assumed.

Her head is throbbing.

The painful sensations are growing worse.

She tilts her head and stares up at the stars above.

Perhaps somehow, in another time or reality, Amy is casting her eyes on the same night sky.

It’s a nice thought.

She sighs as she closes her eyes and rests the back of her head against the wall.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

In Brazil, in December, it’s the beginning of summer.

The nights are cool, and the days are getting warmer. Yet, despite that, on their way to the bar she noticed that fake snow is used to decorate the inside of windows of stores and apartments. Sparkling, multi-colored Christmas lights adorn the balconies and windows surrounding the bar. And the familiar sounds of Christmas carols – albeit in Portuguese – echo through the alleyways nearby.

The door opens and Lucy opens her eyes.

She smiles.

It’s her Garcia Flynn.

“Ready to go back home and see what damage we’ve caused?” She asks.

“I don’t know…” He offers her his hand, not wanting to tell her that the end of his conversation did not end well. She takes it, and they start walking. “How’s your headache?”

“Getting worse, but not yet unbearable. You?”

“Surprisingly, not as bad as it was in 2012.” He gives her a soft smile and brings her hand to his lips. “No matter what he does, Lucy, when we go back, we’ll still have each other.” He stops and takes her face in his hand. “You know that I choose you, right?”

“And you know that if your wife and daughter are alive when we get back, that I’d understand if you left me to be with them, and I wouldn’t try to stop you.”

(self-sacrificing)

Garcia looks at her and caresses her cheek.

“Plus, you have no way of knowing what you would really do if they were alive. You’ve said that you’d walk away, but… if Iris is in your arms, and Lorena standing in front of you, do you really think you could?”

Garcia doesn’t know how to answer her question because she’s right. He can talk all he wants about how he’d hug his girls, and explain to them what has happened, but at the end of the day, that’s just his assumption. The fact is that he has no idea how he would really feel with his girls standing in front of him.

Lucy runs her hand down his arm, and holds his hand.

Sadness in her eyes.

They walk in silence, taking in the sounds of Christmas being celebrated around them. A Santa on a motorcycle speeds down the street, and a handful of wrapped candy rains down around them. Lucy glances up at Garcia, wishing she could hear his thoughts because the look on his face indicates that something is on his mind.

“It kinda sucks that we’re not going back to Christmas time in our timeline, huh?” He asks.

“I guess so.”

“We could… we do have a time machine, and I doubt that anyone will be in the bunker after what we’ve done here tonight.”

“I don’t think we can do that,” Lucy says. “Rufus mentioned something about the machine not being able to go into a future that is further ahead of the time we left.”

Garcia nods, and they continue in silence.

“What did you do last Christmas?” Garcia asks.

“Not much. I was entangled in this top-secret assignment to chase after some guy who stole a time machine. No big deal.” Lucy winks at him. “Actually, I uh… I missed Christmas.”

“How?”

“You’re stupid,” she tells him. Her breath catches, and she hangs onto his arm for support as she’s struck by a bout of vertigo. She takes a deep breath. “I believe Christmas happened while you had me kidnapped, and took me to the Chicago World’s Fair.”

“Considering what I was doing then, I had no concept of time.” He grasps onto her arm to make sure if she stumbles that he will catch her. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok. I uh… missed out on some big Christmas party, with a guy I barely knew who was my fiancé. And um… no one on the team seemed to remember either. Well, Jiya did tell me that Rufus got her a bracelet, so there’s that.”

“I’ll make it up to you. This year. I promise.”

“That might depend on what kind of 2018 we return to.”

“I trust that this version of myself will get a few things right. He seems… determined enough to change our history.”

“You’ll probably return to find Lorena and Iris waiting for you with open arms,” Lucy says, smiling at him. “And I mean it, you have no obligation to stay with me if that happens. All we’ve done is share one kiss, admit that we love one another, but we’re not officially anything, and-”

Garcia’s lips press against hers, taking her breath away. He places his hand on her lower back and presses her against him. Lucy whimpers as her mouth opens to him. 

He pulls away, and rests his forehead against hers. “I want us to be officially something, Lucy…” he whispers. “And I promise you if Lorena and Iris are alive when we return that I will figure out how to tell her what we’ve been through so that she understands-”

“That I’m the other woman?”

“That I’m in love with you.”

His words send shivers up her spine, and she trembles in his arms.

He kisses her lips again.

“I trust that he… that he’ll find a way, Lucy. That somehow you and I-”

“Gave him hope?”

He nods his head, and whispers, “Esperança... hope.” He kisses her forehead, and then wipes away blood that has begun trickling from her nose.

----

Sleigh bells ring
are you listening
in the lane
snow is glistening
A beautiful sight
we’re happy tonight
walking in a winter wonderland

For his height, Garcia is actually quite coordinated while ice skating. He’s still a little cautious, and one-hundred percent aware of everyone around him. He looks down at the little girl who clutches tightly onto his hand.

For a four-year-old, she’s doing quite well on the ice. Hanging onto her father’s hand as she stares up at the starry night above. The tall buildings surrounding Rockefeller Center have her in awe. She points excitedly at the bronze statue of Prometheus at the side of the rink, and then tilts her head back to stare up at the large Christmas tree behind it.

She is leaning so far back that she slips, yelping as she falls onto her behind.

She looks up at her father and giggles.

“Need help getting up, sweetheart?” He asks.

“No. Mommy taught me to act like a puppy dog to get up all on my own.”

Garcia smiles as he watches his little girl on her hands and knees. She puts one foot in front of her, and pushes herself back up to her feet on her own.

Another skater whisks by them, twizzling on one foot. And then in a grand sweeping motion comes back toward them. She glides on one foot to come to a stop beside them.

“Iris! Did you see me fall?” The little girl asks the older girl, unable to stop giggling as she hobbles towards her, then unintentionally wrapping her arms around Iris’s legs to keep herself from face-planting onto the ice.

“I did,” Iris looks at her father, and winks. “But I swear you looked just like your puppy Teddy when you stood up. Did you bring him with you?”

Lily squeals, covering her mouth with both of her mittened hands as she laughs. She shakes her head. “No, silly. Teddy can’t skate!”

“Are your mom and Lucy here yet?” Garcia asks Iris.

“Mom texted me. They’re stuck in a long line at a department store. Said they’ll be here as soon as they can.” Iris kneels next to Lily and tells her, “Your mommy said that she thought she saw Santa Claus in disguise.”

Lily’s eyes go wide, and Garcia has to place his hand on her back to keep her from falling backwards again.

“No. Way!” Lily looks up at her dad, then back at her older sister. “Was he eating cookies? Was Rudolph with him?”

“I don’t know, Lil’.”

Lily hobbles to her sister and tugs on her wrist. “Tell me everything,” she demands.

Garcia nods, and says, “I think I’m going to go rest my feet.”

Iris smiles and takes hold of Lily’s hand. “Remember, you have to lift your feet off the ice, Lily. Do you remember what I told you earlier?”

Lily nods her head. She lifts one foot off the ice and stomps it back down, then does the same with her other foot. “Stomp on the bugs,” she repeats what her sister told her when they first got out on the ice.

Garcia doesn’t move as he watches his girls skate away.

Five years ago, he never could have imagined his life would turn out the way it has. He and Lucy had gone to his younger self in São Paulo. Everything they told the Garcia Flynn of 2014 wound up changing so much about the 2018 they returned to.

The bunker was abandoned, and had been for some time when they returned. None of their belongings remained. They had nothing.

Garcia makes his way off the ice and sits down.

He leans over and unties the laces of his rental skates.

It wasn’t easy coming back to a world they knew nothing about. With a few Google searches they discovered that Carol and Benjamin Cahill never met, and Lucy had never been born. Thankfully, Garcia still existed and still had shady connections. He was able to get Lucy set up with official identification – birth certificate, driver’s license, social security number, and even a doctorate degree in history from Stanford University.

Lucy tried teaching again once her life was officially set up.

While history still appealed to her, teaching did not. So, she took time off.

They conceived Lily unexpectedly in the spring of 2019, and she was born on December 10th of the same year – five years to the day that Rittenhouse had originally murdered Lorena and Iris. It was as if Fate was trying to erase the awful association that Garcia carried with him whenever December 10th rolled around.

Garcia and Lucy married at Hutterott Castle on Red Island – a fairy-tale-like wedding venue near Rovinj, Croatia – six months after Lily was born. Iris was their flower-girl. Lucy thought about asking Lorena to be a bridesmaid, but decided it was too soon after her amicable divorce from Garcia to ask.

It wasn’t easy for Garcia when they returned from São Paulo, but he went back to Lorena and Iris – they were alive again, saved by the other Garcia Flynn who refused to abide by the time travel rule to not travel in his own timeline. Despite his anger when he left the bar in Brazil, the other Garcia let Lorena know what happened in 2014. That she and Iris were supposed to have been murdered, but he came back in time to save them because a future version of himself came to him with information on how to stop it from happening.

Because of what the other Garcia had done, Lorena understood when Garcia explained everything he had been through from 2014 to 2018. That he loved her and Iris, and nothing could ever change that, but… in the timeline he was from, he lost them, he loved them, but he had moved on and found love again with Lucy.

He introduced them a month later.

They were instant friends.

Watching the two of them together was like watching two women who had been friends since they were kids. And when they moved to New York City last year, Lorena told them she would move to the area too. There was no reason not to because to her, Lucy and Lily were also her family. And there was no way that any of them wanted to keep Iris away from her father for so long.

“Garcia!”

He looks up and sees Lucy and Lorena waving at him.

He waves back, smiling.

They’re both carrying shopping bags so he knows that they have no plans to murder their feet in these God-awful rental skates. He slips his feet into his shoes and stands. He shouts up at them, “Are you coming down, or do you still have shopping to do?”

“We’re going to put the bags in Lorena’s car, then we’ll join you!” Lucy shouts down to him. “Make sure to take pictures of the girls, ok?!”

Garcia nods and gives her a thumbs up.

Words cannot express how it feels to see how much Iris loves Lucy.

When they first met, Iris was hesitant. Uncertain if she wanted to like the woman who she thought had stolen her dad from her mother. But over time, Iris grew to love her. And before she became a teenager, she would spend time with Lucy and her newborn sister, watching – and singing along with – the animated movie, Anastasia.

It took Garcia a long time to get used to the sound of laughter and joy in his home.

Laughter and joy that seemed to follow Lucy since their return from 2014.

Though she grieved the loss of her sister, she opened her heart to him. She learned how to let go of her past, and to look forward to the future with him at her side. She took care of him, and he took care of her, and for the first time in her life, Lucy was – and is – truly happy.

But years of war, violence, and death – and the ghost of his past hovering over him, made the transition to a normal life more difficult for Garcia. Even today, he still remains prepared for the worst to happen. He triple checks that doors and windows are locked before retiring for the night. He keeps his weapon clean and loaded – stored up high in his and Lucy’s closet. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, he gets out of bed to check that Lily is safe, asleep in her bed. And when she was just a baby, he would stay up with her in her room, falling asleep by the side of her bed.

He goes to therapy.

Sometimes alone; sometimes with Lucy.

He struggles with lingering doubts that he deserves to be loved after everything he has done. Of course, he can’t tell their therapist that he used to be a time traveling killer, so he talks about what he did while time traveling, but makes it out as things that he did while serving in the military.

Today, he has more good days than bad, and that allows him to sit back, relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy – and live – his life in the moment.

He reaches into his coat’s inside pocket and retrieves his phone. He swipes it on, opens the camera app, and takes pictures of Iris trying to teach Lily how to do some kind of jump – a hop really – on the ice.

He smiles.

Lucy was absolutely radiant while pregnant with Lily.

They’ve discussed having another child, but decided against it due to the fact that they’re not getting any younger.

While she was pregnant, Lucy didn’t work.

She took her time to get used to this new life.

And she allowed herself to enjoy their new reality.

She mourned the loss of her mother and sister. She learned how obnoxious Garcia could be while she was expecting. She didn’t mind the attention he showered on her, she enjoyed it. She enjoyed being with him, learning things about him that she never imagined were possible.

Before, he had been her enemy. Then her ally. He became her best friend, and eventually they became lovers. Parents. And finally, husband and wife.

After their wedding, she bought herself a journal, and began writing in it.

Garcia never asked what she was writing. He sometimes thought that maybe it was another journal she wanted to give to him. And he was right.

He had been putting away dishes one night when she sat down on the barstool at their kitchen counter. She set the journal down in front of him. She told him she wrote something, and wanted him to read it. But she didn’t want him to say anything to her about it until he had read the entire thing.

He agreed.

It took him three nights to finish it.

He went to her.

He set the journal down on the coffee table as he sat down next to her on the couch, and he told her he loved it. That Karl knew people in publishing and might be able to get someone to read it, and possibly publish it. It took her nearly two years, but she had finally found her calling as a writer of historical time travel novels – drawing on her personal experiences of traveling through time, trying to save history, dealing with the fallout from changed history, all the while falling in love with another fellow time traveler.

She could never tell the truth of where her story ideas came from. She’s appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning America to promote her Timeless book series. She’s been invited to book signings all across the country, but only goes to them during summer vacation so Lily and Iris can explore the United States, and learn of its history along the way.

This summer they will be in Europe for her Timeless book tour.

It’ll be the first time they’ll take Lily to visit Croatia.

He smiles at the thought of being able to show Lily around the town he grew up in, and to show her where his grandmother used to live.

NBC even bought the rights to create a television series based on the books, but the series was cancelled after only two seasons because fans rallied behind Lucy when the network decided to rewrite the romance of her novels. Instead of the female protagonist falling in love with her former enemy – Garcia thinks the term used was ‘enemies to lovers’ – the network wanted the protagonist to fall in love with the character that represented America, the soldier. Fans weren’t happy, and boycotted the series. It was a bizarre couple of years, for sure. And it upset Lucy that the network wanted to change her story so drastically, but the love she felt from her fans helped soothe what the writers had done.

Garcia found his calling too.

After returning from 2014, he knew he never wanted to work with top-secret agencies or on top-secret missions again. He walked away from espionage work, and swore he would never again fight in another war. In the alternate 2018 they returned to, he and Karl had started a private military sanctioned firm. Garcia handed the business over to Karl. And although Karl can’t talk about the work the firm does, it sounds like it has been quite successful.

Garcia wanted a slower-paced life.

A life where he could spend time with his girls – all four of them.

He went back to school and got degrees in linguistics and education. And he is now the head of the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University here in New York City, where he also teaches several courses for Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and Russian languages. 

In what little free time he has for himself, he’s teaching himself Polish, Icelandic, and Finnish.

They looked up Amy Preston, as well as Amy Wallace, but it seemed that despite Carol marrying Henry Wallace, they never had any children. Lucy struggled with the fact her sister never existed. But she knew in order to live a life her sister would be proud of, she had to move on.

To let her go.

Lucy still wears the locket around her neck from time to time, and has added a photo of him and Lily to it.

He asked her once if she ever wanted to reach out to Carol or Henry. Even if she couldn’t come out and say that she is Carol’s daughter, maybe she could befriend her. Get to know her mother outside of the world where Rittenhouse existed. Lucy thought about it, but ultimately decided that she needed to leave her past in the past. Carol never had her in this reality, and there was no reason for them to meet.

Henry lived long past 1998 in this timeline, and every now and then Garcia would find Lucy searching his name on Google to see how he placed at local golf events in California.

He passed away last year, and Lucy expressed her regret in not ‘accidentally’ running into him, and letting him know how much she admired him – even if that meant only being able to mention his skill at golf. She keeps her memory of him alive through her novels, where her protagonist’s father is an avid golf player, with other interests in things Henry enjoyed in life such as gardening, bowling, and convincing himself that he was an amateur astronomer – by means of setting up a telescope on the pool deck in his back yard.

Garcia is snapped out of his thoughts when a man slaps him hard on the shoulder.

“Hey, fucker!”

Garcia turns and sees Karl Borsok smiling up at him.

“Karl. What the heck are you doing in New York?”

The two men embrace.

“Had to hunt you down,” Karl says. “Wasn’t too hard since your wife is a famous novelist, and you’re a big shot professor at Columbia. And… mail forwarding forwarded your Christmas card, so your address was on that.” Karl smiles. “Whose idea was it to do an ugly Christmas sweater card?”

“Lorena.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Lorena.” Karl laughs.

“How long has it been?” Garcia asks.

“A couple years, at least.”

“So, out with the truth… why’d you have to hunt me down? Are you in trouble again? Because I don’t do that kind of work anymore.”

“Knocked up a girl.” Karl shrugs as if this is no big deal.

“I thought you had a vasectomy?”

“I did,” Karl answers. “Got it reversed for this one though.”

Karl holds up his hand and peels off his glove, revealing a wedding ring on his finger.

“Well, shit!” Garcia exclaims. “I thought you said Karl Borsok wasn’t the type?” Garcia smiles, and pulls his longtime friend into a hug. “What’s her name and when’s she due?”

“Karl!” A woman’s voice calls out.

Karl grins at Garcia. “There she is now.”

Garcia can’t help but shake his head. Never in his life did he think he’d see the day where Karl would tie the knot, and be an expectant father.

Fuck.

Karl Borsok is going to be a dad.

That guy.

The little shit who always managed to get himself into the worst situations, is going to be a father.

He watches as Karl approaches the woman who called out his name. She’s shorter than him, even with a large burgundy winter hat on her head. A blue and green plaid scarf is around her neck, and the buttons of the navy-blue winter coat she’s wearing are strained by her growing belly.

“Amy, this is my good friend, Garcia Flynn,” Karl gestures to Garcia. “Garcia, this is my wife, Amy.”

“Nice to meet you, Amy.” Garcia extends his hand to her.

“Ooh. Strong grip,” Amy says with laughter in her voice.

Garcia looks at her, shaking his head. She looks familiar to him. Has she been a student in one of his classes? “Učiš li hrvatski ili ruski?”

“I’m sorry. What?” Amy looks up at Karl.

“She doesn’t know either language,” Karl tells him. He looks at Amy. “He asked if you study Croatian or Russian.”

“Oh, I wish! Unfortunately, I managed to suck at Spanish in high school, so I did not continue language study after I graduated.”

“What did you study?” Garcia asks.

“I majored in broadcast journalism. Thought I wanted to be a news anchor, but instead I run my own podcast about the importance of proper pedagogy in children’s athletics.” She smiles. “I teach P.E. at an elementary school.” Amy brushes a loose strand of hair off her face and feels awkward as Garcia looks at her. “I’m sorry, but you’re looking at me as if you’re trying to remember if we’ve met before?”

Garcia lowers his eyes. He’s not certain, but she looks so much like the picture Lucy has of her sister inside her locket. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

Amy nods her head.

“Is your mother’s name Carol?”

“No,” she answers. “My mom’s name is Julia, and my father’s name is Derek.”

“Oh… I just… for a moment there I thought you looked a lot like my wife’s long-lost sister. Her name was, is Amy too.” Garcia runs his hand through his hair. “How long are you two in New York?”

“Thought we’d stay through Christmas, then head back to San Francisco after,” Karl says. “I remember you asking me for help tracking down Lucy’s sister before. Does she still have that picture of her?”

“She does.”

“Is she here?”

“She’s shopping with Lorena. I think they’ll be here once they get the bags in the trunk of the car,” Garcia tells him, looking around to see if Lucy and Lorena are nearby.

“I ask because…” Karl looks at Amy.

He’s interrupted when Lucy sneaks up behind Garcia and covers her hands over his eyes.

“Guess who!” Lucy giggles and sneaks around him.

She rises on her toes to kiss his cheek.

Garcia leans down and kisses her on the lips, and rubs his cold nose against hers. He holds her hand and asks, “Where’s Lorena?”

“Oh, she decided she wanted to skate with the girls. She’s waiting in line to get her skates.” Lucy smiles and turns. Her eyes light up when she sees Karl. She shakes her hand loose from Garcia and goes to Karl, and throws her arms around him, and kisses his cheek. “Karl! What are you doing here?”

“Knocked up a girl,” he says nonchalantly. 

“Oh God, Karl,” Amy says, exasperated. “Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m Karl’s wife.”

Lucy turns her attention to Amy.

Her heart stops.

“He makes it sound like I’m some girl he banged on the wall outside of a crummy bar in Baku, the way he says,” Amy mimics Karl’s deeper voice, “I knocked up a girl.” Amy’s smile fades when she sees that tears are welling up in Lucy’s eyes. She looks at Karl and then to Garcia. “Did I say something wrong?”

Lucy shakes her head and though she understands that Amy has no idea who she is, she wraps her arms around her, and hugs her tight.

“Oh! She’s huggy,” Amy says. She smiles as she looks at Garcia from over Lucy’s shoulder.

Lucy pulls away, but keeps her hands on Amy’s shoulders. She looks at Garcia, then to Karl. “How did… I thought… how is she here?”

“Do I know you?” Amy asks. “I mean, I don’t mind hugs. I love hugs, but-”

Lucy removes her gloves and hands them to Garcia. Then she unbuttons her coat and pulls out her locket. She opens it, and shows the picture of her and Amy, to Amy.

“That’s me! Have we met before? Because, I’m really good with faces and names, but I don’t think we’ve ever-”

“You’re my sister,” Lucy says, wiping a tear from her face.

Amy looks at Karl.

He shrugs and goes to Lucy. “Can I see your locket again?”

Lucy holds it out to him, and he inspects it. Amy stands beside him, as does Garcia. All of them are staring at the small photo of Lucy and Amy.

Karl turns to Amy. “Smile really wide,” he tells her. Amy smiles, and all three pairs of eyes look at her. Karl nods his head. “Babe… that’s you in the picture.”

“I…” Amy looks at Lucy, squinting her eyes, searching Lucy’s face for familial resemblance. “I was adopted, so… I guess this is possible, but… what kind of twists of Fate would have had to happen for me to marry Karl, who knows Garcia, who is married to you?”

“You have no idea,” Lucy says, shaking her head.

Garcia smiles as he watches Lucy embrace her sister again.

In Lucy’s novel series, her protagonist never gave up hope that somehow her sister – who she named Esperança – could somehow be restored to her timeline. Garcia always thought that was indicative of the silent hope Lucy carried with her that one day somehow, Amy would come back to her.

Lucy pulls out of their embrace and wipes tears from Amy’s face.

She starts laughing.

Hard.

“What is it?” Amy asks, wiping away tears.

“Garcia and Karl are brothers-in-law!”

Lucy spins around to laugh in her husband’s face.

Garcia and Karl share a look.

Holy shit.

They are related.

Brothers-in-law.

What the fuck will family gatherings be like from now on?

That remains to be seen.

Garcia laughs and takes Karl into his arms, patting him hard on the back.

Karl’s sneering, but deep down, he can’t wait to corrupt Garcia’s little girl because now he’s officially her freaking uncle Karl, and the idea of teaching Garcia and Lucy’s daughter how to pull pranks, and to eat without the use of utensils, is too much. He can’t wait to get started, so he asks, “Does this mean we’re invited over for Christmas morning tomorrow? How about tonight?”

“Yes!” Lucy exclaims. She takes hold of both Karl and Amy’s hands. “Karl met Lily when she was just a toddler-”

“She still looks like a toddler,” Karl says, looking out at Lily and Iris on the rink.

“But Amy still needs to meet her niece, and her step-niece, and Lorena, and...” Lucy drags Karl and Amy to the board at the side of the rink, and tries to wave down Lorena, Iris, and Lily. But they’re too distracted with skating that they don’t see her.

Karl noogies the top of Lucy’s head. He leans down and tells her, “Merry Christmas, Lucy...” He kisses her on the cheek, and whispers, “Garcia gave me that memo notebook with all the info I needed to find her...” Lucy turns and looks up at him with wide eyes. He smiles. “I found her, but never expected that I’d fall in love with her in the process of getting to know her.”

Lucy bites down on her bottom lip trying not to cry. But her eyes well up with tears anyway, and she tenderly wraps her arms around Karl and hugs him. “Does my Garcia know you did this?”

Karl shakes his head. “I kinda went about it on my own, didn’t want to give you any false hope, you know? In case nothing came of my search.”

Behind them, Garcia hobbles to the rink’s entrance. “I’ll go get the girls so they can meet Amy,” he tells them as he steps onto the ice. “But I swear, I’m never ice skating again after tonight. These things are killing my feet.”

Lucy goes to Amy, and wraps her arms around her waist. They watch as Garcia makes his way to centre ice, where both Iris and Lily tug on both his arms. He shakes his head vehemently, but then whatever they’ve said, he reconsiders. He watches as Iris demonstrates a little jump, and then looks at her father expectantly.

“He’s gonna fall,” Lucy predicts.

“Nah. I think he’ll land the jump,” Amy says. “It’ll earn him a perfect ten.”

Garcia winds his arms up behind him, and bends at the waist, and then thrusts himself into the air.

He lands, but his arms and legs flail in every direction as he struggles not to fall on his ass.

“Ten bucks says he doesn’t fall,” Amy says.

“Twenty says he does,” Lucy tells her.

“You always have this much confidence in your husband?” Amy turns to look at her sister.

“He’s over six feet tall, with long limbs. This can only end badly,” Lucy explains.

Then before they know it, Karl is on the ice – without ice skates on, which is a violation of the rink’s rules – and he’s trying his best to run towards Garcia.

“What the heck is your husband doing?!” Lucy shrieks with laughter.

“He’s an idiot,” Amy says as if none of this is a surprising turn of events.

Karl crashes into Garcia, and both of them fall hard onto the ice.

Karl on top of Garcia.

The two men laugh hard as they slip and slide, trying to stand up. Lily sits down on the ice, and goes on all fours, and it’s obvious that she’s trying to instruct them both how to stand up. Lorena has pulled out her phone and is recording all of this for posterity. And Iris, embarrassed, has skated off to go socialize with a couple of her friends from school in the corner of the rink.

Lucy and Amy are keeled over with laughter as Gene Autry’s rendition of Up On The Housetop plays over the speakers as snow begins to fall around them.

Up on the housetop reindeer paws
Out jumps good ol’ Santa Claus
Down through the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones, Christmas joys

Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go?
Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go?
Up on the housetop, click, click, click
Down through the chimney with good Saint Nick