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Breaking Point

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**

“I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness; I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life...I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me.”

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front


Part One
Present Day

Jiya held his hand loosely, fingers tangled enough to reassure him of her presence. She led the way down the quiet hall of Mason Industries; it was late enough—or, rather early enough—that the crew was still home, or wherever they spent their time when it wasn’t here. Rufus followed her willingly, purposely lagging a bit behind so that he could watch her move without accidentally catching her eye.

He loved watching her move. Almost as much as he loved listening to her talk. And smile. And tuck her hair behind her ear the way she did when solving a particularly tangled puzzle.

“Hold up,” she whispered, stopping abruptly and turning her wrist so that he was positioned just behind her.

Confused, Rufus looked to his right toward the smaller meeting room where Agent Christopher usually broke down the outcomes of their missions…when time allowed, that is. The door was closed, the solid glass panel in the center dark except for a small, ambient-like glow. Rufus frowned; was someone in there?

“He’s been in there the last three nights,” Jiya said softly, her brown eyes on the glass door. “I just wanted to make sure he didn’t see us.”

“Who?” Rufus whispered, leaning close to her, trying to peer sideways into the room through the glass.

“Wyatt,” Jiya replied, glancing over her shoulder at him, then tugging him swiftly forward before Rufus could land on an appropriate response.

He said nothing until they were in the control room, the lifeboat looking empty and sad without the bank of lights illuminating it as they did just before he, Wyatt, and Lucy departed for a mission. Jiya dropped into a chair behind her computer terminal, then kicked another in his direction. It hit the back of Rufus’ legs and he sat down, using his heels to wheel himself over to her.

“What do you mean, he’s been in there for three nights?” Rufus pressed, pitching his voice low, though they were far enough away from the conference room he was fairly certain they wouldn’t be overheard.

Jiya lifted a shoulder and reached over to fire up her computer. “Since you got back from dealing with Bonnie and Clyde,” she said. “He came back that night, real late, and then every night since.”

Rufus frowned, troubled by this information on multiple levels, some of which he wasn’t prepared to explore. “How do you know this?”

Jiya glanced askance at him, her eyebrow arched scornfully. “Who do you think monitors the badges and security cameras around here?”

Rufus nodded slowly, eyes tracking to the computer screen as she called up a four-square image of videos, tipping her head toward the top-right image first.

“I noticed it when I came in early the day after you got back to work on the algorithm—the one I want to show you,” she explained. “He didn’t say anything to me, just left before any of the crew showed up. So, I got curious.”

She clicked a few keys and Rufus leaned forward, eyes on the screen.

“He left like everyone else, then came back late and just…wandered around,” she narrated as she moused through the time-stamped images.

“Almost looks like he’s lost,” Rufus muttered, puzzled.

“That’s what I thought, too,” Jiya’s reply was soft, almost sad, and pulled Rufus’ gaze toward her. “But…probably not in the same way you just meant,” she amended.

“What do you mean?” Rufus asked, tilting his head curiously.

“Look.” Jiya cued up different images from two nights ago, and then from the previous night. “He wanders around the wardrobe area, the library, pulls out a couple books but never actually reads them, and always ends up in that conference room, on the couch, with that iPod on.”

Rufus remembered the glowing ambient light in the room: an iPod screen.

“He’s not here all day, but it’s like…,” Jiya lifted a shoulder.

“He doesn’t want to go home at night,” Rufus concluded.

“What happened back in 1934?” Jiya asked, pinning him with that direct gaze that made his heart expand inside his chest until he couldn’t take a breath.

“What?” Rufus blinked back at her.

“Back with Bonnie and Clyde? Did something happen that you didn’t report?”

Rufus glanced back at the computer screen, then in the direction of the conference room. “Not that involved Wyatt,” he replied cryptically. “I mean, I wasn’t with them for a good portion of the time, but they both seemed fine when they came out of the cabin….”

The implication of that time apart leeched the color from his words; Jiya put her hand on his as his voice tapered.

“What is it?”

Rufus shook his head. “I’m not sure,” he replied honestly. “Just that they spent the night together in that cabin with Bonnie and Clyde. They seemed okay, but…I mean,” he glanced at Jiya, tipping his head to the side in concession, “Lucy’s like a book. Every emotion is like, bam. Right there.”

“But…not Wyatt,” Jiya surmised.

“Hell, no,” Rufus scoffed. “That guy’s like a freaking…Corellian.”

Jiya grinned at his comparison, and Rufus couldn’t help his reflexive smile. He glanced at the computer screen again.

“When has he usually bailed in the morning?”

“Around six. Ish,” Jiya replied.

“So, that gives us, what…almost three hours?”

Jiya nodded, her lips tipping up once more in that smile that was Rufus’ undoing. When she looked at him like that, he would do just about anything she asked. Part of him wanted to tell her. But another part of him was terrified at the prospect.

“I’ve wanted to show you this algorithm all week,” Jiya grinned, turning eagerly to her computer.

"Is that a euphemism?” Rufus teased.

“If you play your cards right,” Jiya returned.

Two hours later, Rufus found himself alone at Jiya’s computer, jotting down breaks in the code she’d started, and thinking about how to build the right bridges to finish what she’d started. Jiya was on a coffee run, accurately assessing that to get through whatever the next day brought them after pulling an all-nighter, they would need a serious caffeine hit. Sitting back with a sigh and stretching his arms over his head, Rufus found himself glancing once more toward the conference room.

Before he could think better of it, Rufus gathered up his notebook, calculations, and pen, set the security lock on Jiya’s computer, and made his way quietly from the control room to the hall. The conference room was completely dark; no light from the iPod to give away Wyatt’s position. Rufus opened the door, holding the latch so that it caught soundlessly when he closed the door behind him.

Moving into the room, he saw Wyatt lying with his head propped up on one arm of the couch, one booted foot on the other, and a boot resting on the ground. There was something about the man’s tense posture that looked like he was ready to run at a moment’s notice. As the song changed on his iPod, the screen lit up, catching Rufus’ eye and briefly illuminating Wyatt’s upper body.

The man’s face was turned away, toward the back of the couch, his arms folded across his belly, the white cord from his earbuds standing out against what was either a black or dark-gray Henley. Rufus glanced at the song and drew his head back in slight surprise.

He hadn’t pegged Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan as a Pearl Jam guy.

Which made him wonder if that was actually Wyatt’s iPod…or Jessica’s. Rufus debated with himself for another minute, staring down at his sleeping teammate, before canceling his instinct to show Wyatt what Jiya had come up with. Instead, he moved to the conference table and turned on one of the small dome lights at middle of the table, quietly rolling one of the chairs back and sitting down to continue his calculations.

It had always been an easy thing for Rufus to get lost in his work. Numbers were like poetry to him; they breathed, showing him a world that existed both within his reality and outside of it. The numbers folded easily into a story that in turn created possibilities he’d learned few could see, and even less understood.

Therefore, it took him several minutes to realize that quiet of the conference room had been broken by soft murmuring. Drawing his head up from his notebook, Rufus glanced around, momentarily confused, finally landing on the man lying on the couch on the other side of the room.

Wyatt was whispering something, Rufus now realized, but the words were too rapid and muddled for him to make out. His head was turned on the arm of the couch to now face the dimly-lit room and Rufus could see the man’s brows were pulled close across the bridge of his nose, a frown bending the edges of his mouth.

“Wyatt,” Rufus called, softly at first, afraid to startle him, then, realizing he may not be able to hear him over the music in his ears, “Wyatt!”

Wyatt jerked and opened bloodshot eyes to stare directly at Rufus. For a moment, Rufus wasn’t sure if the man actually saw him, until Wyatt reached up to pull the earbuds from his ears and pushed himself upright, dragging a hand down his face. In the quiet of the room, Rufus could hear callouses of Wyatt’s hand rasp across the beard stubble on his jawline.

“What’re you doin’ here, man?” Wyatt mumbled.

“Working with Jiya on something,” Rufus replied honestly, wincing at the way Wyatt’s blue irises stood out vividly in the sea of irritated red. “What are you doing here?”

To his credit, Wyatt didn’t bother making up an excuse. He simply dropped his hands into his lap, and stared with a disturbingly hollow expression into the middle distance. Rufus waited him out, curiosity approaching dangerous levels.

“What are you guys working on?” Wyatt finally deflected, wiping grit from his eyes with the pad of his thumb.

“Jiya figured out how we can track Flynn from the lifeboat,” Rufus revealed.

Wyatt frowned, tilting his head and leaning forward to rest his forearms on his knees, the iPod held loosely in one hand. “Thought we could already do that?”

Rufus tipped one hand out in concession. “We can tell when he’s returned to our present time, yeah. But with all this erratic bouncing around he’s been doing—not staying in one place long enough to get out of the ship let alone change anything—she figured it would be handy to track him in case…well, in case he doesn’t go back to the present the next time we go after him.”

Frown still in place, Wyatt lifted his chin. “Can we travel from one time in history to another without returning to the present?”

“Not…yet,” Rufus sighed, looking back down at his notebook. “That’s the piece I’m working on.”

The handle to the door bounced once, startling both of them, and Jiya pushed the door open with her knee, balancing a drink carrier of coffees in one hand and bag of bagels in another. Wyatt stood quickly and took the coffees from her, earning an appreciative smile. Rufus caught Jiya’s eyes as she moved past Wyatt and shook his head once.

“Morning, fellas,” she greeted smoothly, skimming over the obvious question of Wyatt’s chosen sleeping location. “Thought we could all use some fuel.”

“Thanks, but, uh,” Wyatt stood awkwardly holding the coffees, “I should probably get back—“

“Have some breakfast first,” Rufus ordered.

He’d noticed it was a fine balance with Wyatt if you wanted the man to respond—nothing was a suggestion. It was a request or an order. Otherwise, Wyatt often dismissed it as easily as one swatted a fly.

Jiya turned a smile on him and Wyatt replied with a helpless half-smile of his own. Rufus felt a semblance of pity for the man; there wasn’t much defense against Jiya’s smile. Wyatt set the coffees down on the conference table and pulled out one of the chairs to sit across from Rufus.

“Want to hit the lights?” Jiya nodded toward the switch behind Wyatt.

The soldier did as she requested and all three flinched with the sudden illumination. Rufus blinked his vision clear, getting his first good look at the man seated across from him.

“Damn, man,” he exclaimed. “You sleeping at all these days?”

Wyatt always held a sort of shimmering tension about him—something that held his jaw tight, his eyes focused, his skin taunt and paler than it probably should be. Rufus could remember seeing the man relax only once: the night the three time travelers had drinks after they’d been stranded briefly in 1754. Outside of that, there was always a sort of sadness and sense of desperate determination that hung in the air around him.

Now, Wyatt was all those things—plus he was sporting shadowed circles beneath his eyes to go with the jawline that hadn’t seen a razor in at least two days. Rufus watched as the man rubbed at the back of his neck, eyes darting to anywhere else in the room except toward the other people sharing the space with him.

He looked…trapped.

“I have an uncle,” Jiya spoke up suddenly, her voice cutting through the tension neatly, “who served two tours in Iraq. Just after 9/11.”

Wyatt brought his head up and looked at her, his glance both calculating and raw.

“I was in high school,” Jiya shrugged, “totally absorbed in my own drama. I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on with him, or what he was dealing with over there.”

Wyatt huffed an agreeable breath, bouncing his head once. Rufus knew the other man wasn’t much older than Jiya—more than likely, Wyatt had been barely out of high school himself when the towers went down. Based on what Rufus knew of his record, Wyatt’s time in the military came later than that first wave of soldiers the year following the terrorist attack.

“He came to my parents on Thanksgiving one year,” Jiya continued. “He’d been back home for a while, I think. At least a year. Anyway, we had a guest room for him—plenty of space and privacy. But he slept on the floor of our living room.”

Wyatt was watching her now, his blue eyes pinned to her face as though it was the only thing in the world that made sense to him in that moment. Rufus found himself holding very still.

“I couldn’t figure it out. Thought he was being weird on purpose.” She lifted a shoulder, plucking one of the coffees from the drink carrier and holding it carefully by the flats of her fingers as though to give her hands something to do. “I decided to call him on it. So, one morning I got up earlier than everyone else, came out to the kitchen, started fixing coffee. Banging around, shutting cupboards really loud. Y’know. He woke up, but just laid there. Before I could say anything he…he thanked me. Said he needed the noise because the world was too quiet.” Jiya looked up, meeting Wyatt’s eyes. “And the quiet screamed at him.”

Rufus looked at Wyatt and felt something kick low in his gut at the tears he saw burning the other man’s eyes.

“He ever say why he slept on the floor?” Rufus asked, not looking away from Wyatt.

He felt Jiya’s shrug, but it was Wyatt who answered.

“’Cause his bed didn’t feel safe.”

Jiya nodded. “Pretty much.”

Her cell phone buzzed, making all three of them jump. Pulling it out of the pocket in her hoodie, Jiya frowned at the screen. “It’s Agent Christopher. I’ll be right back.”

“You want me to come with you?” Rufus offered.

Jiya smiled at him. “Nah,” she replied. “If it’s what I think it is, you’re gonna be needed soon enough.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, then grabbed a bagel from the bag and shoved it into her mouth, freeing up a hand to open the door.

An awkward silence quickly settled over the room. Rufus found himself wishing for Lucy’s balancing presence. The last time he’d been alone with Wyatt, he was patching up a bullet wound in the man’s side. Not exactly a memory for the greatest hits reel.

“You like Pearl Jam?” he suddenly found himself asking.

Wyatt half-smiled. “Yeah,” he replied, fingers finding the iPod and flipping it around until the screen lit up once more. “Always wanted to play the guitar like Mike McCready.”

“Guess I didn’t peg you for a grunge fan,” Rufus confessed.

“That right?” Wyatt slouched back, taking a bagel with him. He sipped his coffee. “What did you take me for?”

Rufus shrugged. “I dunno…you’re from Texas. I was figuring, y’know. George Strait. Garth Brooks. That kinda stuff.”

Wyatt chuckled. “Not everyone from Texas likes country music, man. You think everyone from Detroit likes Motown, too?”

Rufus took the hit. “All right, all right, fair enough,” he smiled, tapping the air in surrender. He grabbed his own bagel. “What else do you listen to?”

“You mean when I’m not longing for my flannel shirts?” Wyatt teased.

“Exactly,” Rufus lifted his coffee in a sarcastic salute.

Before Wyatt could answer, their phones rang, almost simultaneously. Frowning, Rufus set his coffee down and dug out his phone, connecting the call. He didn’t even get a chance to say hello before Connor Mason was ordering him to come in.

“I’m here,” Rufus stated as he heard Wyatt do the same. “Been here working with Jiya.”

“An alert came in,” Mason told him. “Flynn’s stayed at one moment in history for more than two hours.”

“Long enough to mess something up,” Rufus sighed, hanging up.

“Guess we’re up,” Wyatt said, standing and stretching. “I’m gonna…go wash up. Or, something.”

Rufus simply nodded, watching the man walk out of the room, leaving his iPod behind. Curious, Rufus picked up the small device, swiping it on. At the top of the screen he saw the name of the playlist.

“Home Tunes,” he read softly.

Something had triggered his teammate back in 1934 that much was becoming obvious. Something that made his bed not feel safe and had him turning to music he probably hadn’t played since his wife died. Stuffing the iPod into his back pocket, Rufus grabbed another bagel and headed toward the control room, waiting for the mission briefing.


Present Day

Mason Industries certainly spared no expense when it came to personal amenities. Wyatt splashed water on his newly shaved face, the cool water bracing and exactly what he needed. He grabbed the Visine from the toiletries packet on the bathroom counter and dropped some in both eyes, hoping the product lived up to its slogan.

The music had been a mistake, he realized. It had lulled him into a sense of security he should never have allowed when in an unsecure environment. He had no one to blame but himself that both Rufus and Jiya had seen so much. Had realized so much.

For a moment, he stared at his own reflection, gripping the edge of the sink until his fingertips turned numb in an effort to not punch the mirror, splintering the glass and obliterating the haunted look he couldn’t seem to erase on his own. He had a mission.  A job. Getting a grip on himself wasn’t just a good idea, it was necessary.

But a mission meant seeing Lucy.

He hadn’t seen her since they returned from 1934. Since he’d played a role. A very convincing role. A jetty of guilt cut through the sea of longing that seemed to fill up the place where his heart used to be. He could tell himself he had been thinking of Jess…had been in the moment after recalling the night he’d asked Jessica to marry him. He could tell himself that it was just part of the job.

He could tell himself a thousand different things.

The truth, though, had shot through his skin at the touch of her fingertips, burning his lips with her own. The truth that it had been Lucy he’d been thinking of when he caught her up, kissing her almost fiercely. It had been Lucy’s warmth he hadn’t minded next to him in that narrow bed. It had been Lucy’s voice he’d listened to, telling him that everyone deserved someone to be with.

Lucy, not Jessica.

And he had no idea where to put that. Nothing fit anymore. Not his apartment with his wall covered by newspaper clippings and clues to the culprit behind Jessica’s death. Not the bed he’d once shared with his wife. Not the couch he’d slept on for months after she’d died.

He hadn’t been able to breathe in that space. The space that was once theirs. Was once his.

“Get you shit together, Logan,” he growled at himself. “You are a goddamn U.S. Delta Force soldier. Act like it.”

Pulling in a slow, deep breath through his nose, he straightened until he felt his spine pop, tucked his shirt in, dried his face on a paper towel, and exited the bathroom. The group was assembling around Jiya’s desk. Agent Christopher and Connor Mason as well as several of the usual technicians were present. Rufus was slouched against the desk next to Jiya, fists buried in his hoodie, a scowl finding a home on his face.

This had Wyatt frowning; Rufus was the kind of guy who should be happy. He wasn’t the kind of guy who should have a reason to scowl like that. Except for the fact that a lunatic was running around in time, turning history inside out, erasing sisters and creating fiancés where none existed.

And…threating the very existence of America.

“Where’s Lucy?” he found himself saying before he thought better of it.

“On her way,” Jiya reported.

“We know where Flynn landed?” Wyatt asked, positioning himself across from Rufus.

“France,” Agent Denise Christopher replied. “1918.”

“Any idea why?” Rufus asked, looking over at Jiya’s computer.

“1918,” Wyatt repeated, a cold dread settling in his gut. “That’s—“

“World War I,” Lucy’s voice interjected as she climbed the metal stairs leading up to the computer banks and Jiya’s desk. She removed her jacket, draping it over one arm.

She was wearing sweat pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt, her dark hair twisted up in a messy knot that still somehow managed to look amazing. Her face was puffy from sleep—it was barely seven in the morning, after all—but she still seemed focused and ready.

She’d make one hell of a soldier, Wyatt mused. He met her eyes briefly and was oddly relieved when her glance skittered away before his.

“Oh, swell,” Rufus bemoaned. “The guy pinballs around in time for almost a week and when he finally lands somewhere, it’s in the middle of a war. That sounds like our luck.”

“When in 1918?” Lucy asked, moving to stand next to Wyatt and peer over Jiya’s shoulder.

“June 9,” Jiya replied. “Looks like he’s somewhere here,” she pointed at a set of coordinates on a grid that made sense to Wyatt, but probably looked like a Battleship game board to Lucy and Rufus. “Around the Marne River.”

“Oh, shit,” Lucy breathed, moving over to one of the spare computers.

“What?” Rufus asked, his tone anxious. Wyatt silently echoed his teammate’s obvious worry.

Lucy ignored him for a moment, fingers flying over the keyboard, eyes darting across the screen. Suddenly, she straightened and her eyes found Wyatt’s. The look there set every nerve ending in his body on fire.

“Belleau Wood,” she said. He felt himself flinch.

“What’s Belleau Wood?” Connor Mason asked, clearly unsure why the tension in the room had suddenly spiked several notches.

Lucy took a breath, then broadened her gaze to take in the rest of the room. It was what Wyatt had started to think of as her professor stance: her way of subtly shifting the attention of the room to her words and away from any one person. She quickly captivated each person within earshot with just a slight change in her tone.

“The Battle of Belleau Wood lasted nearly the entire month of June in 1918. It was one of the…,” she swallowed, shaking her head slightly, “one of the bloodiest battles the U.S. forces fought in World War I. Said to be the biggest offensive at that time—since Appomattox.”

“What would Flynn want in the middle of that mess?” Agent Christopher pondered aloud.

“Has to have something to do with that key he got from Bonnie,” Wyatt replied, keeping his eyes on Lucy, watching as she put mental puzzle pieces in place.

“What did it say again?” Jiya asked.

The key to medieval time and the key to the end of time,” Lucy recited. “I think you’re right…he’s looking for whatever it opens.”

“But Clyde stole it from Henry Ford in the ‘30’s,” Rufus muttered. “What’s going back to 1918 going to do?”

“Maybe he’s looking for the origin? Or the previous owner? Or—“

“There could be a million different possibilities.” Wyatt cut Lucy’s supposition off. “We’re not going to figure any of it out standing around here guessing.”

“World War I is going to be tricky,” Agent Christopher murmured.

“You don’t say?” Lucy commented, heavy on the sarcasm, one eyebrow arching high as her eyes roamed the floor as though looking at a macabre map of the past. “I mean, we’re talking primitive warfare—almost worse than any previous era we’ve visited because people were just starting to figure out the science behind deadly weapons. Trenches and barbed wire…mustard gas and bayonets…sepsis and dysentery—“

“Easy, Lucy,” Wyatt soothed as her voice began to increase in both speed and volume, “you’re scaring the kids.”

Lucy shot a look over at him, her eyes large with naked fear for a moment before she drew in a breath, visibly settling herself as she watched him breathe, and swallowed down the obvious panic that had been about to overwhelm her. Wyatt felt a swell of pride flare up in his chest and he gave her a small, encouraging smile.

Agent Christopher watched their exchange, then cleared her throat. “I meant, for your roles.” Her eyes darting between Rufus and Lucy. “Clearly, Wyatt will go as a U.S. soldier, but you two….”

“Nurse,” Lucy pointed to herself, “and stretcher bearer,” she pointed to Rufus. “Keeps us together, at least. Maybe even in one piece.”

Wyatt tried to ignore Rufus’ slight whimper of fear.

Agent Christopher nodded. “Let’s get you suited up.”

The trio headed to wardrobe as Agent Christopher called out to several of the techs to help them select the appropriate pieces of clothing. Wyatt hung back from Rufus, Lucy slowing her stride to join him. His heart beat ridiculously fast; he was almost mad at himself for being nervous. After all, this was Lucy. The same person who’d pulled his ass out of the Alamo and climbed through a window to rescue him in 1972.

None of that changed because of one kiss.

“You okay?” he asked softly.

She nodded. “You?”

“Fine,” he lied smoothly. “Just making sure you were still okay, y’know, after….”

To his surprise, Rufus abruptly stopped and turned on his heel, facing them. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?” Lucy asked, brown eyes blinking owlishly back at him.

“I knew something happened back there in that cabin with Bonnie and Clyde,” Rufus accused, pointed at them.

Wyatt scoffed, moving forward and brushing Rufus’s accusing finger to the side. “Nothing happened with Bonnie and Clyde,” he grumbled. “You make it sound like….”

“Like what?” Rufus practically trotted around him to stop him once more. “Like something happened!”

“Rufus, look,” Lucy started, a hand up in what appeared to be surrender.

“It was nothing,” Wyatt snapped, shooting a glance back over his shoulder at Lucy and watching with a stab of regret as her mouth shut with a click of surprise. “We were playing a role, like we’ve had to do every time we go out in that damn metal eyeball. That’s it.”

Rufus looked at Lucy. “That’s it?”

Lucy dropped her hand, shoulders straightening. “That’s it,” she acquiesced.

Hoping the matter was closed, Wyatt continued toward wardrobe, but couldn’t help overhear Rufus whisper to Lucy, “Tell me later?”

Shaking his head slightly, Wyatt searched through the racks of clothes Mason had amassed for this project and found the year, and the uniform, then took the clothes back to the changing area. There was something to appreciate about modern clothing—it was softer, for one. Lighter. Easier to move. In Syria, he’d carried a pack that weighed nearly eighty pounds on top of his protective gear and aside from his weapon, and even that was easier to maneuver in than the uniform of a U.S. solider from 1918.

He joined the other two, noting with some consternation that the red crosses both wore—Rufus’ on his helmet, Lucy’s on her apron—stood out like targets. Sweat began to gather along his spine at the thought of being separated from them, not being able to stand in between the enemy and his team.

“Okay, listen,” Lucy said as they stood in a bit of a circle, blocking everyone else out for a moment, as seemed to be their tradition, “the Germans were pushed back several times during this battle, but the allies don’t actually win the battle for several weeks. On June 9th the Americans and French barraged the woods, basically devastating it. We have to land away from the Front and outside of the fighting if we don’t want to be immediately blown up.”

“Big fan of not being blown up,” Rufus nodded.

“Any ideas on where to look for Flynn?” Wyatt asked, checking his modern weapon and stuffing it into a hidden pocket in his jacket before picking up the Browning M1918 BAR that Mason had somehow found for him to carry and slinging the strap over his shoulder.

“Not a clue,” Lucy sighed helplessly. “If he’s looking for something that fits that key, I can only think he’d be in some sort of headquarters or home…something that had a lock, like a box, or a trunk, or a diary.”

“Or a clock,” Wyatt said, distractedly.

“What?” Lucy looked at him sharply.

Wyatt glanced between her and Rufus. “Well, the quote’s all about time, right?” he shrugged. “Maybe the key is to a clock.”

Lucy was staring at him with wide eyes. “You’re a genius.”

Wyatt couldn’t help his reflexive smile.

“Okay, people!” Agent Christopher shouted from behind the control bank of computers. “We don’t have all day.”

The trio didn’t move.

“Kind of an ironic thing to say for someone who is leading a team of time travelers,” Lucy commented dryly.

“Seems awful eager for us to drop into pretty much the scariest environment imaginable,” Rufus agreed.

Wyatt felt a calm settle over him in the wake of their anxiety. This is what he did, what he was built for: to head into battle, outcome unknown, covering the backs of his brothers, and bringing them back home. He was the protector. It was really the only job he’d ever known.

 He grinned, clapping Rufus on the shoulder as he moved forward. “C’mon, you sons of bitches, you want to live forever?”

“Oh, now he remembers his history,” Lucy muttered, but followed.

Once inside the lifeboat, Rufus plugged in coordinates that Jiya assured him would land them in what should be a grain field inside the Allied-held area of the woods, north of the Paris-Metz Highway. They’d have to walk a bit to get to any sort of headquarters or building, but they’d also keep the lifeboat away from the heaviest fighting during that time.

“Remember,” Lucy said, her voice holding a tremble of trepidation as Wyatt helped her with her harness, “you’re part of the 23rd Infantry Regiment. If we run into anyone, I mean. And we, uh…we say we just got split off during—“

“Lucy,” Wyatt said softly, drawing her eyes. “We’ve got this.”

Lucy nodded nervously. “I called you,” she said suddenly, the words seeming to fall from her lips like scattered letters on a Scrabble board, surprising them both. “Twice.”

“I-I didn’t….”

“I hung up,” she swallowed, then laughed at herself. “Like I was back in high school. I wanted to talk to you but I had no idea what to say.”

Wyatt smiled at her. “I know what you mean.”

“Oh, this is going to be a conversation, right here,” Rufus declared from his pilot’s seat, nodding vigorously as he flipped the switches starting the engine and time components. “You two are doing a helluva lot of talking when we get back.”

Lucy chuckled, her eyes dancing slightly as they met Wyatt’s gaze. “When we get back,” she agreed.

Wyatt nodded, and then the world turned inside out.


Marne River
Belleau Woods, France
June, 1918

Lucy hated the jolt most of all. The way her body instinctively fell one way while the lifeboat shifted the other. It felt like time was wringing all sense of balance and order from her in retaliation for defying it. After so many of these trips, she thought she was starting to get a grip on the nausea, but she could see her teammates hadn’t quite mastered it.

Rufus looked positively green as he breathed slowly through his nose, flipping switches to power down the machine.

“June 9, 1918,” he confirmed. “Flux capacitor…fluxing.”

“Never gets old,” Wyatt grinned crookedly, bouncing a fist off the one Rufus held out toward him without looking.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “So glad you’re taking this seriously.”

Rufus twisted around in his seat, eyes darting between the two of them. “Right. You’re right, sorry.” He paused. “Anyone else as terrified as I am to open that door?”

Both Lucy and Wyatt raised their hands. Then Wyatt reached for his BAR.

“Look,” he said, his tone shifting into what she privately referred to as his Master Sergeant Voice. “If you can get your hands on a weapon, take it. This is a war. It’s going to be bloody and brutal and people are supposed to die.”

Lucy swallowed, nodding shakily, knowing that last was meant for her.

“But not us.” Wyatt tipped his chin down, pinning his blue eyes on them. “We are not supposed to die here. So, we won’t. Got it?”

“Got it,” Lucy and Rufus replied in unison.

“Okay, Lucy? Where do we go?” Wyatt focused on her and she caught her breath.

There was something almost electric that happened in her body when he looked at her with such intensity. She saw trust there, complete trust. And it both exhilarated and terrified her.

“There was often a field hospital about a half mile behind the worst of the fighting,” she replied, thinking swiftly, “that would be our best bet to start. And, any houses we see along the way…if there are any left.”

“Got it,” Wyatt nodded, looking over both of them both. “Everybody ready?”

Lucy nodded, waiting for him to maneuver in the tight space over to the door and hit the switch. The door shifted open and she peered out into a French grain field, the daylight gray, as though the light was being filtered through a sieve. Wyatt jumped down, cradling his weapon and glancing around quickly to gauge the safety of their surroundings before turning and offering her a hand.

Exiting the lifeboat, Lucy took a look around. They had, indeed, landed in a field, just on the edge of a smaller copse of trees and at least fifty yards away from what appeared to be a road created by wheel-ruts and damaged trees. Off to the north she saw a large, sweeping sea of green: Belleau Woods. At the edge of the wood, she could see tops of barbed wire braces, like X’s dotting the countryside.

The silence surprised her. On this day, in this place, she expected a cacophony of noise. But it was completely, utterly silent. Not even a bird called in the trees lining the field.

“All quiet on the Western Front,” Rufus whispered as he shut the door of the lifeboat.

It should have been peaceful—the French countryside, a soft summer day, light just bright enough to squint but not so hot as to make their uniforms immediately uncomfortable—but instead it felt almost eerie. Based on the way he held his weapon with the butt tucked into the crook of his elbow and a hand bracing the barrel, Lucy could tell Wyatt felt it, too.

“Thought you said the allies bombed this—“

Before Rufus could finish his sentence, the boom of a tank gun splintered the air, sending dirt, and trees skyward and causing the three of them to instinctively duck, even though it was well in the distance. It was as if the world had simply been holding its breath for their arrival before exploding into chaos.

“Holy shit,” Rufus breathed.

They stared in shock as the fighting escalated, quickly turning the tinny light of day dark with the dirt and dust of battle. She’d never seen anything like it—reading about the mayhem of the war one was thing. Standing at the edge of it, something else.

“More Indirect coming in,” Wyatt muttered, his eyes pinned to the horizon.

“What?” Rufus shot a look at Wyatt, clearly confused.

“Mortars, bombs, shelling…,” Wyatt darted a look over his shoulder at the other man. “Stuff that can get us killed even way the hell over here.”

Just then, Lucy heard a shrill whistle overhead and felt Wyatt grab her arm in a tight grip.

Move!” he bellowed, propelling her forward, his command compelling Rufus to follow. “Get to the trees, now!”

They ran headlong toward the copse of trees on the other side of the field just as the bomb landed—much too close for comfort. Wyatt didn’t release her arm and Lucy found herself pushed to the edge of her endurance to keep up with him. Minutes after they heard the first whistle of the bomb, the earth shook around them, sending them stumbling forward.

Distantly, they heard the pop-pop-pop of rifles and the screams of men. More explosions rocked the ground—each proceeded by the heavy boom of a tank gun. Trees at the far edge of the horizon splintered and shattered, turning the ground to ash. As Wyatt dragged Lucy behind one of the trees at the edge of the field, Rufus skidding to a stop next to her, she marveled at how much destruction she could see even from this distance.

The armies of men looked like action figures, the destruction—though felt and heard—seemed like something captured on TV. Not real. Not happening literally before her eyes. The trio gasped for breath, staring across Belleau Woods as the German, French, and American armies did their best to obliterate each other.

Wyatt brought his BAR up, wrapping the strap of the big rifle around his forearm to keep it out of the way, and bracing the barrel in his grip. His eyes were on the horizon, his entire body tense. Lucy reached out a hand to grip Rufus’ jacket, needing to keep him close inside this nightmare.

“We have to keep moving,” Rufus urged. “We have to find Flynn.”

Lucy nodded and started to move forward, along the tree line. Wyatt, however, didn’t budge.

“Wyatt,” she called touching his shoulder.

He shot a glance over at her and she nearly winced at the look in his eyes. It wasn’t clear if he was seeing her at all.

“Wyatt, we have to go,” she tugged at his sleeve.

He nodded once, an abbreviated motion that was more a reflexive jerk of his head than agreement. Keeping the rifle at the ready, he backed away from the tree and then turned to lead them forward. As Lucy followed closely in his footsteps, she watched the tense set of his shoulders, the way his glance swept the land around them, watching the shadows, bringing the gun up as the bombs dropped in the distance.

She exchanged an anxious look with Rufus, nearly walking straight into Wyatt’s back when the man stopped abruptly.

Before she could ask what was wrong, she heard the unmistakable sound of vehicles approaching along a make-shift road.  

“Shit…tanks,” Wyatt muttered, flatting his arm across her chest to tuck her back behind him.

Lucy shot a worried look toward Rufus, who gulped at the word. Lucy peered around Wyatt’s shoulder at the road and saw a jeep filled with men wearing dark uniforms followed by two tanks and another jeep. On the side of the vehicles she could see the black cross outlined by white.

“Germans,” she whispered, tugging Wyatt back. “We gotta go.”

“Easy,” Wyatt advised. “Don’t want them seeing movement in the trees.”

Before they broke from their cover, the second of the two tanks stopped, rotating its turret gun, and fired off a blast toward the closest edge of Belleau Woods, the resounding shockwave sending all three travelers to the ground, hands over their ears. Lucy couldn’t see what the result of the blast had been; she kept her face down, envisioning a force field over the three of them, keeping the separate from the destruction.

“C’mon, let’s go,” Wyatt was saying well before she was ready to break their cover.

She let him tug her to her feet and glanced back once for Rufus before they were running again. They moved, low and fast, Wyatt keeping the lead. Lucy tried to remember the maps, the coordinates, tried to think about where to guide them when suddenly Wyatt halted, pulling the other two up short. In the distance, they could see what she thought was another tank at the edge of the smaller wooded area, tucked well back from the road.

“Wait…is that…?” Rufus muttered, moving forward.

Lucy gasped. It wasn’t a tank, it was the other ship—Flynn’s mothership. Camouflaged by some kind of netting, it blended into the edge of the trees. Lucy scanned the visible area but couldn’t see any other people. If Flynn had left guards by the ship, they were well hidden.

“He has to be nearby,” she reasoned. “There’s no way he could change the outcome of this battle at this point…. I mean, right?”

“But…nearby, where?” Rufus looked around. “Unless he’s back there blowing people up, we don’t have a lot of options here.”

Wyatt turned to Lucy. “What villages are nearby?”

Blinking at him she put her hands on her hips. “I’m a historian, not Google maps!”

Rufus and Wyatt exchanged a glance. “Fair point,” Rufus conceded.

“Wait, okay,” Lucy held up a hand, her brain practically buzzing as she mentally scanned the many history books she’d read about World War I. “We must be near Château-Thierry,” she said, peering around the wall Wyatt made with his body, as though he alone would protect them from the German artillery. “If I had to guess, it would be…that way.”

She pointed the opposite direction from where the tanks were heading.

“Well, it’s away from all the exploding and screaming, so I vote yes,” Rufus tugged anxiously at the edge of his uniform.

Wyatt bent close to Lucy, his eyes dancing slightly. “You’re a helluva lot better than Google maps.”

Skirting the hiding spot of the mother ship, the trio made their way to the rutted road, Wyatt pushing Rufus and Lucy ahead of him as he scanned the tree line and field for weapons of any sort. After only a few minutes of rapid walking, Lucy spotted the burned-out steeple of a church and several smaller stone buildings.

“There!” she gasped, pointing.

“Careful,” Wyatt cautioned. “Do we know who holds the town?”

“It will be the Allies, next month,” Lucy confirmed. “Right now, it’s—“

The ping of a bullet hitting the barrel of Wyatt’s BAR caused her to yelp, Rufus grabbing her close and pulling her away as Wyatt jerked to the side and crouched in what appeared to be an instinctive move. He brought the BAR up and fired back in the direction of the shot. Huddled next to Rufus, near the tree line, Lucy looked anxiously toward the town and saw someone fall from the crumbling window of what was left of the church bell tower.

“You got him!” she gasped in amazement.

“Yeah, let’s just hope he liked sauerkraut and not hot dogs,” Wyatt muttered. “C’mon.”

They followed behind him in a single file line, edging up to the wall of the city. Lucy pressed close, able to smell the moss and dirt stuck between the stones, for just a moment breathing in something that didn’t seem like it was balanced on the edge of death. She looked up as Wyatt shifted in front of her, his eyes tracking her position before he glanced back at Rufus, then nodded once.

And then he was moving away and she had no choice but to follow.

They scrambled around the rubble of a building, crouching down behind an overturned truck to catch their breath and get their bearings. Lucy kept herself close to Wyatt, as if his mere proximity could keep them all alive. She snuck out a trembling hand and latched onto his sleeve, noting how he seemed to lean into the curve of her fingers though his eyes never ceased their scan of the debris-filled road.

“Medic!”

The weak plea came from their collective left, near the shattered entrance to the church. Wyatt flinched beneath her grip and Rufus flattened himself against the undercarriage of the truck.

“Please….”

Lucy looked around, trying to find the source of the voice. A pale hand grabbed at the top of a stone several feet away.

“He’s American,” Wyatt whispered tensely.

“How do you know?” Rufus shot back.

Wyatt gave him a look. “Besides the fact that he’s speaking English? This.” He lifted his arm and showed them the bars on the edge of his uniform; they matched what they could see of the arm across the way. “He had to have seen your crosses.”

Lucy bit her lip bracing herself against the undercarriage of the truck when Wyatt shifted away.

“We have to help him,” Wyatt said, something tight and thin in his voice. It reminded her of the Alamo, the breathless loss she’d heard then when he spoke about the men he’d been forced to leave behind.

“You watch that tower,” she said to him, then looked up at Rufus. “C’mon.”

“What—but, I don’t—“

Before Rufus could finish his protest, she was moving and to her immense relief, both men followed. Wyatt had the BAR up, eyes on the street, the church tower, every doorway in their immediate surroundings. Rufus reached the man before she did and the look of trepidation on his face cranked her heartbeat up another few notches. She climbed over the rubble and dropped down beside the wounded soldier.

“Is he…,” Wyatt’s voice broke off, and she heard stones rattle as he backed toward them, his rifle never lowering. “Was it me?”

It only occurred to her in that moment that Wyatt might have been the cause of this man’s wound. With a shaking hand, breathing as slowly and evenly as she could to stave off the black gathering at the edges of her vision, Lucy turned the soldier over, looking for a bullet wound. She caught sight of the soldier’s face first and felt her gut kick at the youth she saw there; he was barely twenty.

Blood had hardened the folds of his uniform, drying on material as the young man had lain in the protection of stone for some time. Pressing the back of her hand to her mouth and looking around, Lucy saw the body of another soldier—this one clothed in the darker gray of the German uniform—lying face-down a few feet from them.

“Lucy?” Wyatt called again, his face turned away from them.

“No!” She replied quickly. “No, you didn’t do this.”

“Ma’am?” the soldier whispered, blinking large brown eyes up at her in confusion.

“Hi,” Lucy’s smile trembled. “You’re going to be okay. We’re…, uh,” she looked up and around, completely unsure about where to take him that would be safe. “We’re going to get you out of here.”

Wyatt climbed over the make-shift barricade, propping the rifle against the stones. His hands moving quickly, he opened the soldier’s jacket and Lucy watched as his face tightened in a grimace that she knew could only mean one thing. The moment Wyatt registered the young soldier’s eyes were on him, though, the emotion vanished and something else appeared. Something solid and reassuring.

“What’s your name, Corporal?” Wyatt asked.

“D’Antonio, Sir,” the young man replied.

“Where you from, D’Antonio?” Wyatt asked, pulling the soldier’s undershirt up and peering at his belly, then glancing quickly at Lucy and pinning his eyes to her apron. It took her a moment to realize he wanted to use it as a bandage.

“Queens, Sir,” D’Antonio gasped, paling further as Wyatt pressed Lucy’s folded-up apron against his wound.

“Yeah? I’m from Texas,” Wyatt said, wrapping the stings of the apron around D’Antonio’s middle and tying them tightly overtop of the dressing. “We got a saying there when things are tough, but we have to push through. We call it ‘cowboy up.’”

Wyatt handed the BAR to Rufus, met Lucy’s eyes, then nodded toward the damaged church.

“W-we got a sayin’ like that back in Queens, too, Sir,” D’Antonio stated.

“Yeah?” Wyatt grinned. “What is it?”

D’Antonio’s eyes flicked quickly to Lucy, then back to Wyatt. “Prolly shouldn’t say.”

Lucy smiled, watching as Wyatt closed the young Corporal’s jacket over the field-dressed wound. His hand was shaking. On instinct, she reached out and grasped it, ignoring the blood staining his fingers, and squeezed. He looked at her quickly and the knowing that he held in his eyes turned her heart inside out.

“Fair enough,” Wyatt said, glancing at Lucy before looking back down at D’Antonio. “My friend here’s gonna cover us while we head into the church.” He looked over his shoulder at Rufus who, to Lucy’s relieved surprise, nodded once, holding the BAR like he’d been born with the thing in his hand. “You ready to cowboy up, D’Antonio?”

The young soldier swallowed tightly, then nodded. “Y-yessir.”

Wyatt eased D’Antonio to a seated position, then tucked his shoulder against the young man’s chest, hefting him across his shoulders as he stood in a crouch. Rufus was up, rifle in hand and Lucy clambered to her feet following Wyatt as they headed to the broken stairway the led to the gaping hole of the church entrance.

Later, Lucy would realize that if she’d led the way into the church instead of Wyatt, she would have died the moment she crossed the threshold. As it was, the only thing to save Wyatt’s life was the body of a kid from Queens, New York. Gunfire erupted the moment he entered with his wounded cargo over his shoulders echoing in the cavernous chamber of stone; Lucy and Rufus hit the ground, Rufus bringing the rifle up to fire back only once the shooting had stopped.

“Wyatt!” Lucy screamed over the echo of bullets.

Rufus stopped firing to avoid hitting Lucy as she crawled forward into the church, scrambling toward her teammate. Wyatt was huddled against the inside wall of the church, D’Antonio’s body sprawled across his legs, a hand gripping the young man’s throat where blood pumped at an alarming rate over his fingers, spilling across the floor.

Lucy could tell D’Antonio was dead before she dropped down next to Wyatt, but the soldier didn’t appear to see it. He was pressing his fingers against the young man’s carotid artery, curling the limp body toward him, muttering, “C’mon, kid, don’t do this…no, now, c’mon…cowboy up, you hear me?”

“Wyatt!” Lucy whispered fiercely, shaking him. “He’s gone. It’s over. Wyatt!”

She took his face in her hands, turning him toward her; the wounded look in his eyes nearly broke her heart.

“He’s gone.”

Wyatt stared at her, his hand slipping from the young man’s bloody neck. She could feel him trembling, his eyes tragic with damage much greater than the body he held in his arms. Something tore inside her—a feeling of loss and longing that was both welcome and foreign.

“Guys,” Rufus whispered, his body warm at her back. “We’ve…got company.”

Lucy released Wyatt’s face and looked over her shoulder at the front of the church. She’d been so intent on bringing Wyatt back from wherever he’d been mentally heading, she’d forgotten to look for the danger that sent him there in the first place. Expecting to see a force of German soldiers, she blinked in surprise at the sight of Garcia Flynn flanked by three men, none of whom were his pilot, Anthony.

The anger that quickly replaced the surprise was nothing compared to the simmering rage that seemed to shake the air around Wyatt as he released the poor Corporal from Queens and surged to his feet.

“You son of a bitch!” Wyatt growled, drawing his Army-issue .45 from the pocket of his uniform in one swift motion as he stepped forward.

“Hold it!” Flynn bellowed, raising a hand to stop the men at his sides from firing. It was only then that Lucy realized Rufus had raised the BAR and was standing just behind and to the right of Wyatt, facing off with Flynn. “Don’t shoot him. Yet.”

“I’m gonna kill you,” Wyatt snarled, not slowing his advance, his arm steady, aim true.

“What’s stopping you, Sergeant?” Flynn asked, moving forward, careful to stay out of the line of fire of the men with him, his own weapon trained on Wyatt’s chest.

Wyatt didn’t reply; Lucy stood, skirting the edge of the destroyed sanctuary, eyes darting between her team and Flynn’s men. She could see bodies in German uniforms scattered at the edges of the room, some sprawled across the stone as if flung there by a disinterested giant, others crumbled as though flattened by a massive hand. Her breath stuttered in her lungs as she searched for a way out of this—for all of them.

“He was already dead,” Flynn shrugged, nodding toward D’Antonio’s body at the entrance of the church. “Surely you aren’t blaming me for simply speeding it along.”

“Shut up!”

Wyatt shifted his grip on his .45. He was now inches from the other man, the barrel brushing the lapels of Flynn’s uniform. Lucy could practically hear him sizing up his options. It took her a moment to realize that the only reason he didn’t shoot other man was that the three people Flynn had brought with him were now positioned strategically at the edges of the church so that their weapons were trained on Lucy and Rufus.

“Let them go,” Wyatt growled, his voice so brittle it practically broke against the air the minute it spilled from his lips.

Flynn causally grimaced. “No, I don’t think I will,” he said shaking his head. “You see, I came here for a reason. And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” He half-sang his last sentence and Lucy caught sight of Rufus rolling his eyes and giving his head a shake in her periphery.

She felt too removed from the other two; she started to move forward and gasped when an arm slipped around her shoulders, the point of a blade resting just beneath the curve of her jaw. Wyatt heard her sharp intake of breath and tore his eyes from Flynn for a moment to meet hers.

“What are you doing?” Wyatt demanded.

“I have need of a historian,” Flynn shrugged. “Lucy can help me.”

“You’re crazy,” Lucy scoffed, dismayed that her voice shook. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“I thought you might say that,” Flynn replied, and Lucy swore his eyes glinted in the fading daylight that filtered through the broken windows of the sanctuary. He nodded once and Lucy saw Wyatt tense, his body shifting toward her when suddenly Rufus cried out in surprise and pain.

Her eyes shot over to the pilot as the BAR he’d been holding clattered to the stone floor. He grappled with a man twice his size, with far superior training in hand-to-hand combat. The other man shoved Rufus against a stone wall, slapping him, then holding him still with the flat of his forearm.

Wyatt turned to help Rufus, but jerked to a stop when Lucy yelped. The man holding her tightened his grip, pulling her arms roughly behind her, his companion stepping up with a length of rope to wind around her wrists.

“Wyatt!”

“Let them go!” Wyatt yelled, clearly torn about which direction to turn.

Flynn raised his pistol to Wyatt’s forehead, his eyes deadly calm.

“You shoot him and I will never help you!” Lucy shouted, fear like an icy river down her spine. “You may as well kill me, too!”

Flynn huffed an amused breath, lowering his weapon and shaking his head. Momentarily confused, Wyatt began to lower his, too, his shoulders shifting instinctively toward where the men held Lucy captive.

“I thought you might say that, too,” Flynn intoned and before any of them could react, he brought his left hand up with a powerful swing, catching Wyatt at the temple and sending the other man staggering.

Lucy saw the glint of something metallic in Flynn’s hand: brass knuckles.

“No! Wyatt!” Lucy shouted, looking frantically across the room where Rufus was struggling against his own captor.

The hit caused Wyatt to drop his weapon, but he brought his head up and charged Flynn like a linebacker, a roar of rage echoing against the stones. Flynn was bigger than Wyatt—heavier, taller, more muscular—but Wyatt was trained. His attack was vicious and meant to maim. Lucy was certain had the soldier been at his best, Flynn would not have been able to beat him.

As it was, Flynn fought dirty. Lucy struggled against the hold of her captor as she watched Flynn slam Wyatt against fallen church pews, the reverberating crack enough to steal her breath. She silently cheered as Wyatt used a piece of stone to break Flynn’s nose, but whimpered as Flynn slammed Wyatt across the face with a loose board. She held her breath as Wyatt struggled back to his feet, his face and mouth bleeding, his stance wavering, but his punches still strong, solid.

He managed to unbalance Flynn and get him to the ground, his hold on the man’s neck brutal. Lucy felt the two men guarding her shift forward and she stomped, hard, on the toe of the man behind her, shoving her shoulder into the other one. One of her guards brought his gun up, the barrel trained on Wyatt.

“No!” Flynn choked out through Wyatt’s tenacious grip. “No. He’s mine!”

Lucy gasped as Flynn punched Wyatt in the side, the smaller man folding helplessly as his air escaped. Flynn hit him again, and again, until Wyatt’s responding punch merely glanced off Flynn’s shoulder. As the Master Sergeant fell to his knees, Flynn slid the brass knuckles from his left hand to his right and crashed his fist against Wyatt’s cheek, crumbling the soldier like a house of cards.

“Wyatt!” Lucy gasped, tasting tears at the corner of her mouth. “No!”

Flynn continued to kick the fallen soldier, oblivious of Lucy’s protests and the complete lack of retaliation from Wyatt.

“You’re…gonna kill ‘im!” Rufus managed past the arm at his throat.

“Stop!” Lucy screamed. “I’ll come with you!”

Flynn paused with his leg reared back for another kick to Wyatt’s motionless body. He was gasping, his face bleeding from multiple places, his uniform splattered with dirt, dust, and blood. He looked up at Lucy.

“Willingly?”

Lucy sucked in a trembling breath. “Yes. Just…don’t hurt him anymore.”

“Lucy…no!” Rufus fought against the man holding him against the wall, managing to drive a knee into the man’s groin. He vaulted over a fallen pew and shoved the rifle being lowered to sight on him to the side, reaching for Lucy at the same time.

Lucy cried out a warning, but the third man recovered and cracked the butt of his rifle against Rufus’ sternum, knocking him to the floor.

“Stop!” Flynn bellowed. “Enough of this. Take her,” he waved at the men holding Lucy before dragging the back of his hand across his blood-smeared face, “before the rest of the German army gets here.”

“You’re a bastard, Flynn,” Lucy spat.

“I don’t know what you’re so upset about,” Flynn muttered, wiping blood from his eyes. “You told me not to shoot him, so I didn’t.”

The men dragged Lucy forward; she tried to dig her heels in, tried to halt her movement, looking frantically back at Rufus, then over at the unmoving form that was Wyatt.

“Wait! Wait—I need to know if they’re okay!”

“Shut her up!” Flynn ordered.

Lucy felt a hand clapped over her mouth, making it nearly impossible to breathe, fight, and move all at once. Before she was ready, she was hauled from the crumbling church, into the smoky afternoon of Château-Thierry.

Away from her team. Away from the lifeboat. Away from everything safe.

**

Continued in Part 2.