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(and perhaps it was) inevitable

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I.

Lucy’s fingers claw in his hair, pulling him sharply against her, as Flynn lifts her and shoves her back against the wall, hand sliding up her thigh to the buttons of her stocking garter, the dim dancehall music thudding from the front of the club, in a distorted, echoing way as if from underwater. Neither of them seem willing to stop kissing – or rather, practically biting each other’s mouths off, a silent and furious struggle for power, for accepting the inevitable – long enough to do this in any kind of proper fashion. It’s 1929 New Orleans, the height of Prohibition and two days before Black Tuesday, and she’s tracked him down to this illicit speakeasy, dark hole-in-the-wall, as Wyatt and Rufus are out looking for the target they think he’s here to take down, something to do with him wanting to make the Depression even worse than it was, so even FDR can’t New Deal them out of it in another few years. Lucy’s job was to keep Flynn himself distracted. Easy enough.

(She reckons, rather, that he’s distracted. So, for that matter, is she.)

(He saw that look in her eye when she had to admit that Lindbergh hadn’t changed, that she had tried, that she had failed, and God, she’s angry.)

Flynn gets his hand the rest of the way up her leg, pushing aside the sequins of her dress and curling around her stocking, undoing the button with a practiced flick, as Lucy grabs him again as he seems to think about pulling away. She can’t let him go, she has to make sure Wyatt and Rufus have gotten the mark to safety, and while there is a voice in the back of her head noting wryly that there is no requirement for her to play the part nearly this well, she doesn’t care. She suspects that Flynn might know perfectly well he’s being played – probably has some backup plan in mind – but as long as she keeps him cut off, he can’t get started on that one either.

Logic. Sense. Calculated capitulation. That’s all this is.

His mouth tastes of cigarette smoke and the stinging burn of moonshine and some dark, musky cologne. Lucy’s leg rides up on his hip, her fingers knotting into his neckerchief to pull him down against her. He kisses like a starving man. He’s already told her that he isn’t planning on going back to his wife and daughter if he somehow manages to bring them back to life, to reverse the irreversible, mend the unmendable. Has been fighting all this time – however misguidedly, however violently – with absolutely no expectation of a reward or a reunion. Just to know they’re alive again, far away from him, and the darkness he won’t bring to their door.

That, however much danger and trouble Garcia Flynn has already caused for Lucy and her friends and how much more he is certain to add to that tally, is, admittedly, a singular kind of love. So maybe he’s dreaming tonight. Maybe just once, he’s pretending this is his reward instead.

(Lucy never had much of a social life in college. Always too busy studying. There’s a priggish schoolmarm voice in her head, telling her that this is a Very Bad Idea – and another part of her that wonders, just once, what it would be like to do something stupid. Which this very very much is.)

(Perhaps she wants him to be her mistake.)

Flynn’s hand is well advanced in its explorations beneath her skirt, as Lucy rolls her hips toward him and he fingers the lacy trim of the silk panties, as their eyes lock in silent challenge – and then she arches again, hand sliding down over his, pressing him against her, as she grinds against the friction of his callused thumb. She gulps a gasp, and even he looks somewhat less in command of himself than usual. Shakes his head like a dog shedding water, and starts to let go, to pull back, as if this has been fun, but there’s still someone out there he needs to kill.

Heaven forbid that Garcia Flynn forgets who he needs to kill. Even in the face of such delicious temptation as this.

“Oh no,” Lucy breathes, leaning forward, catching his earlobe with her teeth, hand cupping his neck, pulling him back. “I didn’t say we were finished yet, did I?”

His dark eyes gleam challengingly. His voice is a hoarse murmur. “You’re playing with fire tonight, aren’t you, Lucy?”

Yes, she thinks. Yes, maybe she is. The good, the wise, the sensible, the rational Lucy Preston. Suddenly she wonders if this is written in the journal as well, if he’s been waiting for this – but somehow she doesn’t think so. The look of shock on his face when she leaned over the table and kissed him – even Flynn isn’t that good an actor. She was the one who pulled him back here, who is – and this is the worst part – barely needing to pretend. She’s an adult. She knows that you have sex with terribly unsuitable people, in less-than-advisable ways, for less-than-honorable reasons. Everyone does.

This, though –

This may take the cake.

She can still stop. She can still say no. Trust that there are other ways to keep him off Wyatt and Rufus’ trail, just long enough. But just then, her father’s face flashes into her head. Amiable, smiling, easy-going Benjamin Cahill. Telling her that Rittenhouse isn’t a choice. It’s blood. She’s trapped, destined, doomed to fall no matter what. Walking into the snare, eyes wide open.

You know what, Lucy thinks.

Fuck Rittenhouse.

Fuck Rittenhouse.

And for all his manifold and one other flaws, the man whose rough thumb is playing in circles over her clit, making her whimper involuntarily, hates Rittenhouse like nothing else, like no one else, in the world. Literally.

Something breaks in her, then. Something snaps. She claws harder at Flynn, shifting their weight, as his hand comes up under her thigh and lifts her again, and her fingers fumble at his belt, yanking it undone and sliding under his pleated trousers. She can feel the weight of the gun in his pocket (actually not a metaphor in this case, though he is beyond all doubt happy to see her) and reaches in, fishes it out, and slides it onto the floor. Flynn grunts, but doesn’t try to stop her. That is the thrill of this, this is power, and to her utter chagrin and confusion, Lucy loves it. This is the master criminal, the terrorist, the vigilante who’s been wrecking history left and right – or trying, at least – and she’s calling all the shots. Completely in command. It dementedly occurs to her that maybe they’re right, maybe they’re all right. This is Rittenhouse, and it wants to own everything it touches. Own him. Them. Anything else she wants.

Flynn nips at her neck, almost hard enough to draw blood, as Lucy skims down the silk underthings along her slender thigh, as they shift again and there is not much further they can possibly go before there’s no way to turn back. He nudges at her, ever so slightly – God, he is hard, and God, she is wet, and the touch of their naked skin, half of him and half of her, is doing increasingly terrible things to her self control. She hooks a hand around his leg, fingernails leaving marks, as his eyes meet hers in a question. Their mouths are wet and raw from kissing, but his lips still shape around her name.

In answer, she drags him against her, between her legs, rasping at her. He presses briefly, then slips half an inch inside, and Lucy’s toes curl in her beaded slippers, as she swallows an outcry and gets a better hold on the back of his neck, bracing herself, pressing his face into her shoulder as she wraps her other arm around his back. It has been a long time. A very, very long time.

She’s not going to tell Wyatt and Rufus about this, to say the least. Or Agent Christopher. Or anyone.

Flynn swears in some language that isn’t English, as Lucy’s head falls back, as he shoves hard enough to seat himself inside her at a stroke, pinning her and filling her at just the edge of a stretching, sweet burn. Her hips thud solidly against the worn wallpaper. Someone is going to walk into the back corridor any moment and find them here – not the first tryst they’ve ever interrupted, surely, but still not one that will make them any friends. They have to be quick, this is utter lunacy anyway, and Lucy half-comforts herself by thinking that at least it’ll be done in a moment more. Her nails rake through the sweaty dark hair at the nape of his neck, pulling him inside her as far as she can take him for a few rough, raw, rousing thrusts that make her see stars – and then, as his breath shudders out of him and he seems on the verge of surrendering himself to her completely, he withdraws with a half-angry wrench, slick against her thigh, eyes still fixed unblinkingly on hers in the dim light of the gas lamps. A faint, sardonic smile curls his lips.

“Lucy,” he whispers, with that slight, mocking caress he always gives her name, the way it tastes almost exotic on his tongue. Her leg is still up on his hip, his face very close to hers, the weight of him still lingering in her, the shape of their bodies twisted in one, this strange creature that they are, who have followed each other through time and have no home left for either of them to return to. His fingers stroke the inside of her knee. “I know what you’re doing.”

 

II.

There are ten things you need to know about the Constitutional Convention, May 1787, in Philadelphia:

1. Alexander Hamilton really does talk that much.

2. There is absolutely no way that Thomas Jefferson isn’t a member of a fledgling seven-year-old secret society, colloquially known as “Rittenhouse,” after the surname of its founder.

3. In fact, there are several more, and this is their first real meeting.

4. It is, also and therefore, a perfect target for someone who might want to, say, burst into the meeting hall and open fire, wrecking American history and Rittenhouse’s foundations altogether.

5. Not that this fits the bill of anyone the team knows.

6. Ironically, it’s been really hard to get Rufus to stop humming “My Shot” under his breath.

7. Wyatt can certainly wear a frock coat. Even if he thinks he can’t.

8. It’s been complete hell trying to avoid George Washington, as he would absolutely recognize them from those said seven years ago, and the questions will be, to say the least, awkward.

9. (There may be odder job problems in the world, but not many).

10. And then this, of course – Lucy’s corset half unlaced, her woolen stocking sliding down her leg, sunlight spilling on the rough floorboards as the traffic of horses and carts and newspaper-sellers and costermongers and the humming commerce of a country about to be founded passes by on the muddy streets outside, in the verdant greenery of early summer, the sleek black AK-47 in the corner, and Garcia Flynn’s fingers curling under the crook of her knee.

“Are you going to insist this is just an accident again, Lucy?”

She ignores him. She hasn’t found it necessary to quarrel with what works, and she knew he was going to get here sooner or later – in fact, she’s almost surprised that this wasn’t his first target. If she can keep him here instead of mowing down the Founding Fathers with a modern machine gun (even if, in someone’s opinions, they could do with a good mowing down) she’s going to. She gives him a coy little smile, rather than answering.

(New Orleans has stuck in her head. A little too much.)

(If you do something wrong once, it’s a mistake. Forgivable.)

(Twice, it’s a little bit less so.)

“Just going to pretend we’ll always be jumping after each other through history?” he goes on, when she doesn’t answer. Slides between her knees, running both hands up her calves, to her thighs. Pushes her skirts up, moving closer. It’s a miracle anyone ever gets all their clothes off to – well, you know – in the eighteenth century. Alexander Hamilton doubtless has some tips.

“We could make this easier.” Flynn thumbs the inside of the cut of her leg, tracing ever so lightly over her wetness, as Lucy gulps down a breath and forces herself not to make a sound. “Still haven’t told the other two, have you? About how you think you’re keeping me distracted?”

Lucy gives him another tight little smile, as if to point out that apples for apples, Flynn is very distracted, and doesn’t seem to mind that he is. She drapes one leg over his shoulder, tugging him closer, as his finger finds her entrance beneath the skirt, and slides into her to the first knuckle. Their eyes remain locked on each other, as Flynn ghosts a dark chuckle against her leg and slides in a second finger, stretching her, testing her, moving his hand with deliberate slowness. Her breath stutters.

Wyatt and Rufus will wonder. She knows they will. She should tell them, she has to tell them, she needs them to wake her up, to make her stop. They saved the man Flynn was after in New Orleans, though. Averted the mega-Depression he was trying to trigger. If this works, if it does, if she almost thinks it’s tidier, easier, more ethical, to do things this way rather than racking up more bodies in the streets, well –

Flynn continues to explore her with one hand, the other holding her waist, as he moves closer. Bends down to lick at her, tongue between her legs, as it curls lightly and flicks at her clit, enough to make a traitorous moan shudder out of her. Continues to keep up a gentle but relentless pressure, heat building low in Lucy’s stomach as she almost pushes him away, almost snatches up her skirts, almost runs –

Almost.

Again, he laughs. Draws out his slick fingers, stands up slowly. Looks down at her bodice coming loose, the thick locks of dark hair lying tumbled on her shoulders. It is utterly impossible to read this man, and if Lucy had any sense – if she truly was Rittenhouse, perhaps – she’d grab the gun herself and hold him down. Finish him off. No matter how good his reasons, this man is still a wanted terrorist and criminal mastermind who isn’t going to stop until the world is burning behind him, and obviously as soon as they walk out of this room, they are back to being enemies. He’s here to fuck shit up, per usual. She can’t let him. She is saving the Founding Fathers from a massacre by letting Che Guevara give her a handjob. Far from glamorous. Defensible. Good.

She rises to her feet. Smooths her hands down the front of his white shirt; his cravat is off, the first few buttons undone. She gives him a chill ice-queen smile. Dares him to think he can get the better of her, of them, again.

He’s still only one man. And he’s going to lose.

But Lucy Preston isn’t going to let him get on with his idiocy just yet. She’s tired of cleaning up his messes. Incredibly tired, in fact. Of having to save everyone he might just kick off, of putting back together the pieces, of – just as he says – chasing him through history, one day after another. This ends. It will.

She slides her hands down to his hips, toying at the lacing of his breeches. Presses herself against him, then pulls his head down to hers, kissing him deep and hard and hungrily, as Flynn responds in kind and they are almost entangled, clawing, devouring, as they walk back to the bed and topple onto it together, as she stretches atop him. Straddles him, rides on him, hard and heavy between her legs, as she slides one hand into her pocket, and grabs what’s inside.

Smooth as Harry Houdini. No problem at all.

Flynn doesn’t notice at first. Just when he tries to move his hand to get better hold of her head, and it rattles to a halt, caught in the cuff. Lucy bites down a brief and stupid urge to apologize as she locks the other cuff around the bedstead. It isn’t going to hold him forever, but it’ll give them some time. She rolls off him, fumbling for her skirts. It is hell to lace up a corset on your own, especially with the FBI’s #1 Most Wanted staring holes through you. He seems amused at first – and then, as he can’t get free, angry.

“Lucy.” He rattles at the cuff. “Lucy, don’t be stupid. Lucy. Lucy!”

She doesn’t answer.

“LUCY!”

She lets herself out, shuts the door, locks it, and runs.

 

III.

It is April 17, 1912, and RMS Titanic has just docked safely in New York City, fresh off her maiden voyage – there were ice warnings, but thanks to a mysterious transmission sent on the night of the 14th, a transmission nobody can trace or even quite understand, the ship was compelled to change course and slow down. Its passengers, including some of the creme-de-la-creme of high society – John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor and Ida Straus, Cosmo Gordon Duff, Molly Brown, Dorothy Gibson, and more – have just disembarked, and the dockyards are busy. The day is pale and sunny. A huge crowd has gathered to marvel at the sleek black steamer, jewel of the White Star Line, smoke still huffing from its four funnels.

In a brownstone hotel a few steps off the New York Port Authority, in a dim back room suffused with the scent of cigarette smoke and Macassar hair oil, Lucy Preston says quietly, “What the hell did you do that for?”

Flynn gives her a twisted smile. “I can’t save lives now, instead of taking them?”

“Please.” Lucy suspects Astor and Guggenheim at least were (are) Rittenhouse, probably high-ups, and Flynn wants them alive so he can pump them for information, disrupt their projects, tap their extensive list of contacts – smoke the roaches out of the rushes. “This is like the Hindenburg, isn’t it? About perhaps who was supposed to go back on the return trip?”

Flynn lifts one shoulder in a magnificently contemptuous shrug. “Ah,” he says. “The Hindenburg. Beginning of such a beautiful relationship, wasn’t it?”

He does something with his eyes to her that makes her feel as if she’s not wearing anything, despite the silk dress and fur wrap and pinned hat. Lucy can feel her flush in her throat, closing off her breath. He doesn’t appear to bear an outstanding grudge against her for chaining him to a bed in 1787, though at least none of the Founding Fathers got capped in the ass that time, so –

“Tell me,” she says, “and I’ll leave.”

He grins. Even more darkly than last time.

“Make me.”

Lucy gives him a demure don’t you wish smile, even as she’s moving closer toward him, turning herself into his space, raising one gloved hand as if to flick a speck of dust off the shoulder of his pinstriped suit jacket. She reaches up and takes hold of his felt trilby, pulling it off and setting it aside, even as his breath catches rather satisfyingly. Femme fatale isn’t a role she plays naturally, but just now, it comes to her as easily as sliding a knife between his ribs. Leans very close and whispers, “We both know I could make you.”

“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.” This appears to delight him inordinately, even as he swings her around and pins her to the wall, the length of his body pressing against hers, knee between her legs. As if this is what he has been waiting for since the moment he got hold of her journal (however he did) and thought they were destined to do great things together. “Taken you long enough, hasn’t it?”

“Oh, you’re mistaken.” Lucy thumbs the dark stubble on his chin. “I want something. Give it to me.”

“And what do you want, exactly?”

She leans still closer. Breathes against his cheek. “Information.”

“I think it’s more than that now, isn’t it?”

She opens her mouth to say no, because what else would she say? Sensibly say? Third time’s the charm – and this, no, this has already gone far enough. There’s no point in distracting him this time, no tactical advantage to a delay. He’s not here to kill someone (at least, yet) like he was in 1929 and 1787. This, therefore. This is just about wanting. No good excuse.

Maybe this will stop it. Maybe this will turn it off.

Lucy is about to say something else. Probably important. She doesn’t get that far, because Flynn kisses her.

It’s rough, hungry, demanding, brusque, dangerous, uncontrolled – all, in fact, rather like the man himself. As if this is the long, slow-burning spark she lit when she kissed him the first time (which technically will not happen for another seventeen years – welcome to time travel) in New Orleans. As if they’ve danced and darted around each other long enough, and now this is this, that is that, and he’s completely through with waiting.

They take half a breath, and then turn their heads and go after each other ferociously again, stumbling down the narrow hall and crashing through a door into a small smoking parlor beyond – chaise longue upholstered in slightly moth-eaten green velvet, blown-glass lamps, dim in half-closed curtains. Flynn kicks the door shut and throws a heavy andiron after it; he’s clearly not about to risk any interruptions. Lucy is completely breathless, hair coming out of its elegant updo, as they are barely able to tear themselves apart long enough for him to wrench his belt undone with one hand, as she kicks up her skirts. She sinks onto the chaise as he comes down with her, as their mouths are bruised from kissing too hard to breathe, hands all over, gripping, yanking, pulling. He bears her backwards, bunching a fistful of skirt, finding his way to the old-time underwear and efficiently getting it out of the way, as Lucy kicks it off her foot. Then in half a breath more, she’s on her back on the chaise, legs akimbo, and he kneels between them, doesn’t even bother to get his trousers the rest of the way off, and thrusts half-violently into her.

Lucy’s breath is punched back into her throat as he leans forward, bracing himself on his elbows, pushing her hips wider with his own as he slides deeper, as she jerks up her head and he practically bites her lips off, tongue prodding into her mouth and muffling her whispered, “Jesus.”  He is solid and hot and very hard, and he fills her just to that point of sweet burning, as he did before. She clutches tight around him, spasming, as he draws out half an inch and then plunges back, their entangled bodies making slick wet soft sounds, as he comes to rest hilt-deep inside her, bites her shoulder, and both of them buck half up off the chaise. He gives her a moment, but only that. Then he starts to move.

He fucks her in compact, powerful, rutting bursts, square and savage, with an extra twist of his hips at the end to be sure he’s hitting her as deep as he possibly can. She claws at his back, his straining shoulders, one hand on his dark head, as the carved feet of the chaise thump against the floor with the force of their motion. He drags himself against her, with absolutely insolent thoroughness, then buries once more, as Lucy can barely stand the heat and friction and burning drive of it. He rasps slickly against her. Doesn’t quit or pull back a single one of them. One leg links around his back, and the other struggles to dig for purchase, to anchor her to the world. She seems to have somehow lost her hold altogether.

At last, Flynn gives a final jerk and shove, and Lucy feels herself about to be dragged over, then free-falling, as her world goes white and hot and melted and there’s a thousand exploding suns in her belly and her breast and her brain and every other bit of her. She claws and clings and swears. Burns.

She comes back to earth slowly, breathing as if she’s been chased by a train, to see him staring down at her as if he’s trying to memorize her face, how she looked just then, to keep it in whatever tarnished jewel-box of memories he holds away from the rest of his darkness. She just lies there, gasping, until at last, slowly, they disentangle themselves. She sits up, fumbling herself back into place. She is slick and raw and very well-fucked. She can still feel it echoing through every sinew of her.

“Tell me,” she says again, after a momentary struggle to make the words work. “What you’re doing.”

He shrugs. As if to say he has no secrets from her, never has. Has always been completely open about what he intends to do, and what he hopes for her. “You know what I’m doing, Lucy.”

She does, at that. She thinks of the fact that even with every ulterior motive in the world, Flynn has saved over two thousand lives – everyone who was supposed to die on the Titanic, and didn’t. All the children they will have, the grandchildren, who would never otherwise have been born – the things they will do, see, invent, experience. The change to history is beyond comprehension.

And yet. Insisting that they die, that things go back to one way they happened to play out, out of all the countless thousands of possibilities – doesn’t that make her the monster?

They’ve chased Flynn all this time to stop him from hurting people. What the hell does she do with this now, instead? Where does she even begin to work it out? She is facing the utterly unknown, uncharted, unfathomable. Remembers her insistence that Lincoln had to die, it was how it had to be, and Rufus and Wyatt’s incredulity that they just had to sit back and let it. And when push came to shove, when it was in front of her –

She looks over at the man who shot Lincoln, and gets to her feet, letting her skirts fall. Shaky-legged and watery-kneed, needs to steady herself on the chaise. “You know,” she says, half in a whisper. “You know we won’t let you. No matter what.”

He seems amused. Not in the least surprised. “Oh, of course,” he says, getting to his feet, and pulling his trousers up, doing up his belt. “But not for much longer. You’re going to join me soon, Lucy. Trust me.”

And with that, he actually leans over and kisses her cheek, half-genuinely-affectionately, as if he’s going to pick up milk from the store and wants to know if she needs anything while he’s out. Pulls on his jacket, straightens his cravat. As she stands there, shaken and silent and still undone to the flesh, the blood, the bone, he lets himself out, closes the door behind him, and is gone.

 

IV.

The winter of 1838 in the state of Illinois is the coldest that anyone remembers. The rivers and ponds are frozen over a foot thick, and it snows every two or three days. The whiteness would be almost pure, if it wasn’t pocked and pitted with bloodstains from the starving, straggling, nearly-barefoot Cherokee Indians being forced to march by armed U.S. militiamen, evicted from their ancestral homelands east of the Mississippi River, to accommodate a gold rush and expanding settlement in the states of Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. President Andrew Jackson signed the order; President Martin Van Buren is seeing it carried out. It will become known as nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i. Or rather and more simply, the Trail of Tears.

Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus, dressed in layers of fur and wool and greased leather and blankets, are still freezing solid. They are face to face with one of the ugliest and most unforgivable episodes in all of American history, and none of them are entirely certain what to do. Flynn went here straightaway after saving the Titanic, and he hasn’t turned up just yet. Wyatt and Rufus are staring at the huddled, shivering, sick Indians, herded by armed men on horseback, with looks of total horror, and Lucy can’t blame them in the least. She is the one who’s along to make sure history happens as it is supposed to. That is her job.

This, though.

This is absolutely terrible.

“I – ” She clears her throat, chokes on the cold air, and coughs. “I’ll go looking. Flynn might want to prevent the Indian removals from happening, provoke an outright war between them and the settlers. That way, the country is even more divided running up to the Civil War, and the Union won’t be able to – ”

“Probably,” Wyatt says, clearly not listening, as he keeps staring at the Indians. “Lucy, we… are we really supposed to just – what? Leave them like this?”

Lucy flinches. She is very close to grabbing a musket and shooting down one of the soldiers herself, like that’s going to do anything. This is the same paradox as with the Titanic – do they still have to stop Flynn if he does something objectively decent, saves lives, even if it’s in the interest of further destabilizing American history? What cost – her soul? – is it going to take if she stands and turns a blind eye and lets this happen, because America might be destroyed altogether by the Civil War if she doesn’t?

Doesn’t this deserve to be destabilized?

“I’ll go look for Flynn,” she repeats, barely above a whisper. “You guys sneak in there and at least see if you can – “

Rufus gives her a strange look. “Go look for Flynn,” he says. “Again. By yourself.”

“It’s working, isn’t it?”

“Is that all it is?”

Lucy opens her mouth, doesn’t know what to say, what she can possibly. She can’t tell them, but she hates keeping secrets from them. Surely they must suspect something. They spend enough time together, they know she’s turned oddly evasive and noncommittal on the whole subject. Still, though. This –

She’s still trying to say something, anything. She’s interrupted by a gunshot.

All at once, the camp turns into chaos as half a dozen men on horseback, dressed in black with bandanas over their faces and cowboy hats pulled low, gallop in, opening fire with the distinctive rat-a-tat-tat of modern machine guns. Lucy’s heart vaults into her mouth as she, Wyatt, and Rufus duck and run, preparing to try to shield the Indians, only for them to realize that the newcomers – they must be Flynn and his cohorts, who else would have AK-47s in the nineteenth century? – aren’t shooting at the Indians. They’re shooting only, and intently, at the soldiers, who are yelling and scrambling and bracing to fight back, but whose balky single-bore muskets are barely a match for the weaponry they’re faced with. And at that, somehow, something in Lucy snaps.

She breaks from cover, runs, grabs one of the muskets from where it’s leaning against a log, and doesn’t even know how to fire it, apart from the rudimentary. Points it, manages to cock it, and feels the incredible, jerking kick through her entire body as it goes off, almost deafening her. One of the soldiers yells and somersaults off his horse. She did that. Shot him. Like she did Jesse James, but this – James was going to die anyway. Who knows if this man was supposed to. It doesn’t matter. She’s crossed the Rubicon, she’s acted to consciously interfere and change history because she wasn’t going to let the injustice stand.

It’s happening.

She’s turning into him.

Just like he said.

Lucy’s frigid hands are numb on the polished-wood barrel. She has no idea how to reload, even as someone yells, points at her, and appears to take exception to the death of his friend. But then the next instant, one of the men on horseback gallops up, almost casually shoots him through the back of the head, and holds a hand down to Lucy. Familiar dark eyes gleam at her beneath the snowy brim of the cowboy hat. “Morning, ma’am.”

Lucy wants to say something, wants to yell at him – but the camp is still in total uproar, and instinct drives her to grab his hand, as he hauls her up on the horse in front of him and puts his arms around her. “Take the reins!”

“What, so you can shoot more people?” Lucy has to raise her voice over the crack and strafe of more machine-gun fire, even as the Indians, realizing this is some sort of rescue, are grabbing up their things and trying to run. “Are you –”

Flynn gives her one of those looks he does so well, shrugs, and swings the butt of the rifle to his shoulder, even as Lucy has no choice but to grab the reins or be pitched off in the tumult. She catches half a glimpse of Wyatt and Rufus trying to get the Indians to go, for however far they’ll get before news of the attack spreads. She feels numb and stunned (or maybe that’s just the searing cold) as Flynn takes aim, shoots down the guard in the rough-hewn watchtower built at the perimeter of the camp, and regards his handiwork with satisfaction. “Feels good, doesn’t it?” he says in her ear. “Destroying the bastards who deserve to be destroyed?”

Lucy doesn’t answer, in part because she can’t deny that this is exactly what she feels. It might not alter the entire outcome of the Indian removals, of the injustice of it – but try as she might, she can’t bring herself to wish that she did differently, even knowing that she’s on the verge of becoming the same sort of historical wrecking ball as him. Oh God. Oh, God. It is happening.

Flynn slings the rifle back over his shoulder, then canters off through the snow, her still clutching to the saddle, to the small log cabin on the far side of the clearing. He reins in, swings down, and pulls her off after him, shoving through the door and into the one tiny, dank, woodsmoke-smelling room beyond. Lucy stands shivering and dripping snow as he bends down, stacks some of the damp sticks of wood in the earthen hearth, takes out a modern lighter, and gets a fire going. “There,” he says, with considerable self-satisfaction. “Unless you wanted to get warm some other way?”

She chokes slightly at his presumption, even as she can’t resist moving closer; she is absolutely frozen through, and the warmth is heavenly. She stretches out her hands, feeling sensation slowly return, as he watches her with hooded eyes, leaning with studied casualness against the wall. Wyatt and Rufus will come back any minute, unless they haven’t realized just yet that they lost her in the uproar. Or they could be making sure the Indians get to safety. Anything.

“You shot the man, Lucy,” her companion says, after a moment. “You’ve gone past the point of no return, now. I told you.”

“I’m not interested in having this conversation.”

Flynn raises an eyebrow. “Fine. We don’t have to talk.”

“What – what happened in New York, it was completely a – “

“An accident?” He laughs, low and rough and derisive. “An accident, Lucy? Do you really think that? After everything that’s happened between us, do you think anything about this is accidental? You and I – we’re destined, somehow. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. But you knew all the places I picked out in history. I care about it as much as you do. I know why it matters. And now you’ve had a taste, you’ve seen you don’t have to just sit back and let stupid and terrible and pointless things happen in the name of some evil, idiotic larger purpose. This is power. This is what you’re meant for.”

“That’s what my father said to me.” Lucy doesn’t look at him. Doesn’t dare. “About Rittenhouse. About how I’d come to it, one way or another.”

Flynn considers, then shrugs. Takes a step. She is horribly aware of his proximity, and the way her heart is racing madly beneath the shawl. “I think you’re choosing a side right now, aren’t you?”

Lucy turns to look at him, which is a mistake. He is very close to her now, and the expression on his face is – soft, almost. Utterly intent. She can feel the heat of his breath on her cheek, the warmth of the flames still on her back. He reaches out both hands, puts them flat against the wall on either side of her head, leaning down. And she’s lifting up her face, rising on her tiptoes despite herself, meeting him halfway, as they – for the first time, slowly, conscientiously, carefully – bring their mouths to touch.

Flynn is almost gentle as he kisses her this time, as his hands start venturing beneath the still-dripping wraps, getting just enough of the clothes out of the way to find his way in, and she gasps as his warm, rough hand cups the cold curve of her breast. His fingers trail down, seeking an invitation, not opposed to creating their own if necessary, and her leg comes up, foot braced on the woodpile, to lift her skirt. She is so very, very cold, and she wants so much to be warm, in any way that might present itself. Her fingers clutch at the wet wool of his jacket, sliding beneath, running along his chest, urging him closer.

He drops to his knees in front of her, pushing aside her skirts and drawers, hands bracing her thighs, as he leans forward and licks a rough stripe between her legs, in her wetness, that makes her moan. She can feel the buzz of his dark chuckle against her exquisitely sensitive folds, as he sets to his work with his customary cool, deliberate thoroughness. He does seem to enjoy this, giving her pleasure without thinking to ask any particular reciprocation, the relentless heat and pressure and insistence of his mouth like nothing and no one she’s been with before. Her breath stutters. She grips at his hair, pushing him deeper, as his tongue enters her and plays about. Kisses her inside, then moves up in slow, light motions to her clit. He has plenty to do to that too.

Lucy gulps, feeling nothing but searing heat dazzling through her, any idea or memory of cold completely obliterated. Once Flynn is finished with his very thorough exploration of her, he kisses the cut of her leg, running his hands down the backs of her thighs. Seems almost at peace, as if he might not quite care so much about what he does wherever he goes, but rather in that the knowledge that she will follow him, and this, however much she is still trying to deny it, is very likely to happen again. That he has ever so slightly altered his tactics, until she’s started to support him. Act of her own volition to help him.

This is surreal. She could still stop it. She could.

She doesn’t.

She tugs him to his feet, tastes herself on his lips as he leans in to kiss her, and starts to fumble at the complicated buttons of his trousers. Wants him in her, roused and slippery and quivering and wet as she is, wants whatever this is, wants it. He shifts, tugging them down over his hips, and she reaches for him,  caresses him with her thumb, hears him actually gasp as she circles the tip. Then he claims her with a quick, deep, matter-of-fact thrust, and she cries out.

Flynn lets out an even more self-satisfied sigh as he slides fully into her – the third time now, this is hardly a novel experience, and yet its attraction does not appear to be waning in the least. Both of them take a moment, as he closes his eyes and allows himself to absorb the sensation of completion, of possession. He is preparing to start to move, as Lucy rolls her hips on him, urging him to it – when, just then, the door of the cabin flies open.

Flynn jerks out of her lightning-fast, yanks his trousers back up, and spins around. Not quite fast enough.

“You,”  Wyatt Logan says, grim and furious, pointing the gun. “Get away from her right now.”