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The Soft Evening Light

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Chapter 1:

She counts herself lucky.

In the days that follow the fall of Rittenhouse, Lucy helps clean out the bunker, write endless reports of their actions, and keeps out of everyone else’s way. While the rest of her team is battered, broken, and some even dead, she's unscathed by the battles with Rittenhouse. In fact, physically, she’s never been in better shape.

She’s the lucky one.

The chances of Jiya ever walking again are slim. Shrapnel from a well-thrown grenade penetrated her spinal cord and ripped through her lower back. She’s lucky to be alive, but Lucy still can’t stop the helpless anger that washes through her when she thinks about the lively woman still confined to bed rest while she heals. Rufus is already working on a hoverchair for her “just like Professor Xavier's".

Connor is helping as best he can, but he has to take extended rests and sometimes blanks out for hours. The coma-like episodes don’t seem to hurt him but he'll have seizures for the rest of his life. Lucy asked him once if it was worth it, jumping back to the same point in time, crossing his own timeline repeatedly, all to save Rufus’ mother from Rittenhouse assassins. He squeezed her shoulder and nodded, saying that when it came to the people we loved, it would always be worth it.

Garcia walks around with a sling over his shoulder these days, his right arm hanging loose and useless at his side. Three bullets shattered his shoulder and while the doctors informed them that some movement might be possible, he would never gain full motion. For a man of action, Garcia is taking this fairly well and Lucy thinks he’s simply tired. She waits for the day he disappears, hoping he will at least leave her a note, or a way to get in contact with him, but she doubts it.

Wyatt is...

Wyatt is dead.

Lucy still hasn't said it out loud, just screamed it in her head while she helped the rest of the team defeat the last Rittenhouse resistance fighters.

Emma killed him, shot him while they were begging her to listen to reason. The ambush set up for Wyatt and them had been perfect, Jessica calling for help and her child crying and Wyatt had raced ahead before they could stop him.

Lucy still saw the moment in her nightmares. Emma’s henchmen fell on them, three of the men shooting Garcia’s arm until he dropped his gun and the rest grabbing Lucy and Rufus. Wyatt stood in front of Emma and Jessica, pleading for his wife. They all watched the bullet enter his forehead and blow out the back of his skull while Jessica screamed.

His death helped them. The truth of it is still hard to take as she recounts that last battle. Wyatt’s death led to Jessica shooting Emma which led to Lucy’s team being able to escape their captors and take them down. It felt like a hollow victory.

Even though Jessica helped them in the end, Lucy still wanted to punch her in the face and scream at her until she was hoarse. It helped that once she took down Emma, Jessica sat on the ground, rocking her son back and forth, and crying. No one knew what to do with her once all the bullets stopped flying, but they couldn't risk leaving her and as Rufus pointed out, saving her is what Wyatt would have wanted.

Rufus made multiple trips that day, taking the wounded first, the dead second, and the living third. Lucy stared at the sky when they took Wyatt away, unable to face the sheet covered body.

 

*** *** ***

 

Lucy rolls over and sits up, unable to fall back asleep as her mind swirls with the events of the past weeks. She’s been staying with Rufus, Jiya, and Connor. Garcia has been as well but he’s not around much, just taking up one of Rufus’ spare rooms whenever he needs to sleep. Her own room faces the street and she watches cars go by, normal people going about their lives without a clue how close the world had come to a new reality.

We saved you all. He died to save you.

Jessica is staying with Agent Christopher, and from the reports, the only thing that can get her up and move is her son. Lucy wants to feel sympathy for the woman but a deep-seated rage still lives in her heart. Without Jessica’s cry for help, Wyatt would still be alive.

“Lucy, did you want breakfast?”

Rufus has been working hard to get the house set up for Jiya’s return. Lucy feels like a burden he doesn’t need but she’s stuck. She helps out as best she can, fetching tools and materials and being an extra set of hands to hold boards in place while he builds the necessary ramps and extensions.

“Yeah, I’ll be down in a bit.” She brushes a hand through her hair and looks down at her clothes.

No one will notice.

She’d fallen asleep in her clothes last night and has no energy to change into something else. She goes downstairs, pasting a smile on her face like every other morning and ignores her pain.

She’s one of the lucky ones.

Garcia is sitting at the kitchen table, a plate of eggs and bacon in front of him. She watches him carefully spoon food with his left hand and bring it to his mouth. He spills half of it back onto the plate and she wants to vomit. This is her team now, tired and broken people trying to readjust to their new normal as best they can.

“Morning,” she says as she sits down in her normal spot.

Rufus is in the kitchen, reading something on his phone as he fries two eggs. “Morning. You sleep alright?”

“Just fine,” she lies.

Sleep is elusive and demonic now, at once a luxury and a burden. When she can catch it, her dreams are filled with nightmares of blood and fire and gunshots and when she lies awake and stares at her ceiling, her nights are long and the dread of reality hangs like a ghost by her bed.

Garcia stares at her, saying nothing, though his eyes tell her how readily he sees through her lies.

I don't care.

Breakfast is a quiet affair, her attention on her plate of food and not on the conversation around her, something about a new workspace for Jiya and Connor.

“Are you doing better?” Rufus’ question cuts through her fog and Lucy looks up to answer.

Garcia answers the question and she realizes that it wasn’t for her. “I’m adjusting. Probably be some time before I can help with any of your projects.”

“Hey, no worries,” Rufus says with a shrug. “You’re helping with the planning.”

The two men share a smile and when Garcia looks at her, Lucy turns the corners of her mouth up, a facsimile of a smile. He doesn’t look away and she lowers her head before the smile breaks into something else and gives away her emotional state. She picks at her food, pushing the egg around and watching the yolk ooze across the plate.

She carries her plate to the sink and scrapes her leftovers in the garbage, hoping no one notices how little she’s eating these days. She has to keep going, she knows this, but she wants to lie down and sleep for a week, maybe more.

That’s not fair. You need to help Rufus.

Turning back to the table, she finds the two men with their heads together, whispering so quietly that she can’t make out the words.

“Did you need my help today?” She asks, curious for a split second before apathy washes over her.

Rufus pulls away, guilt written all over his face. “Um, no. It’s just drawing up a new layout for Connor’s room.”

She nods and heads back to her room, pausing long enough to catch that they are whispering again.

You’re making them worry.

She wants to say something, anything to ease their minds and let them focus on the other members of the team. Her mind is blank, an empty whiteboard with smudges in the corners, so she keeps walking.

The quiet of her room wraps around her like a blanket (a shroud) and she sits on her bed, drawing her knees to her chest and staring out the window. Reaching behind her, she pulls her blanket up over her shoulders and tilts sideways until she hits the pillow.

 

*** *** ***

 

“Lucy, Lucy, wake up.”

She flails out of sleep, catching someone in the jaw as her limbs fly in the air.

“Damn it!” It’s Garcia’s voice. “Lucy, it’s me.”

She stills, breathing hard and staring at him as he massages his face. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

He looks at her and shakes his head. “It’s alright. I knew you were dreaming and should have been more careful.”

She sits up, looking out the window to see the sun beginning to dip below the horizon. “How long have I been sleeping?”

He looks at his watch. “Almost ten hours.”

She rubs her eyes and gives him a smile. “Guess I needed it.”

He doesn’t answer. Standing up, he moves to the door and Lucy sees her suitcases packed next to her bed.

“Am I going somewhere? Is Rufus kicking me out?” Panic streaks through her chest. “What did I do?”

Garcia moves to her side and kneels down, putting his left hand on her shoulder. “You didn't do anything, Lucy. I thought it was time we get away from California for a bit.”

“We?” The word echoes in her mind.

“Yes, we.” He stands back up and puts a hand on his hip. “Denise thinks it would be good for me to disappear for a bit while she straightens out my warrants with the State Department.” He looks out her window. “I suggested that maybe you should come with me, for a change of scenery.”

She shakes her head. “I’m fine. Rufus may need more help.”

Garcia steps back and frowns. “Lucy, I know you’re not fine.”

“No, really,” Lucy says, trying to struggle out of her blankets. “I just needed some sleep.”

He paces the room and she wants to push him away, make him leave her alone, but it’s too much effort so she watches him in silence.

“I think we all know you haven’t been well,” he says, looking at her as he paces. “You won’t ask for help so this is us asking you.”

“Us?” She feels a twinge of anger, but it’s buried under the weight of listlessness. “Jiya is still in the hospital, Connor keeps falling into comas, and you-”

She can’t say it. She can’t say Wyatt’s dead and she can’t speak Garcia’s injury into existence. The world feels like it’s collapsing in on her with every breath.

Garcia kneels at her feet, tilting her head up and wiping away the tears already dripping down her face.

“I’m asking you to come with me,” he says, his voice gentle. “Please.”

Lucy looks up at his pleading eyes and then down at his arm hanging in its sling and wants to sink into the floor. She wants to go back in time and destroy her father so that she never existed and then maybe everyone would be okay. It would be worth it.

“Okay.”

His smile brightens the room and for a moment she’s focused more on how beautiful he is in the twilight glow than on the shambles her life has become. The sunlight through the window turns his hair into a tumbling mess of dark brown and amber, highlighting the small glints of grey at his temples.

He stands and the moment passes. “Well, come on then.”

“Wait, now? Why aren’t we waiting till morning?” She wants time to think, to plan how to cope with being alone in a car with Garcia, going who knows where.

“By morning, you might change your mind,” he says with a smirk.

“I don’t even know where we’re going,” she argues, pulling one of her bags to her chest.

“Oh, well then it’s a good thing I do.” Garcia grabs the largest bag and heads for the door.

She huffs and looks around her room. Most of her clothes are missing, everything except her cold winter gear, so she can guess that they’re headed somewhere warm.

Maybe he’ll take me to a beach and I can lie in the sun till I burn up.

She watches from the window as Garcia maneuvers her suitcase into the back of a dark blue SUV. Sighing and running a hand through her hair, now hanging limp and greasy along her back, Lucy picks up her other bags and walks down the stairs. Rufus is nowhere in sight and a part of her is glad. She doesn’t know how to say goodbye anymore. There is a parcel on the table with a note on the top written in Rufus’ familiar scrawl.

Enjoy the road trip. Don’t let Garcia pick the music. Love you, Rufus.

Looking in the box, she sees Twizzlers, kale chips, pretzels, a bag of M&M’s, and two bottles of water.

Goodbye Rufus.

Between her two bags and the box, her hands are full when she reaches the car and Garcia takes the box of snacks from her.

“These go upfront, those go in the back, and you can sit with me or nap in the backseat.” He moves to the driver’s side, putting the snack box on the roof while he opens the door and then depositing Rufus’ gift into the car before climbing in.

She watches and aches for him and wants to crawl back into her bed and hide from the world. He’s waiting though and she can’t bring herself to back out now, so she loads her bags in the back, shuts the door, and climbs in beside him.

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise.” He wiggles his eyebrows as he starts the vehicle.

Lucy doesn’t talk. She stares out the window as they pull into the street, the late evening traffic already dying down as they make their way towards the highway. Street lights are flickering to life as they join the stream of cars heading out of the city and she rolls down her window. The breeze blows through her hair as she hangs her head out the window and stares up at the darkening sky.

“You hungry?”

She jumps at the sound of his voice, looking over to see him pushing the box of goodies in her direction. Looking at her watch, she groans and rubs at her face.

“Did I fall asleep?” Sleeping usually means dreams but all she can remember is the hum of the car and the cool air of the night.

“A little,” he says. “Don’t worry. Your snoring is in no way loud and obnoxious.”

Lucy glares at him and digs out the kale chips, popping open the container and sighing. “How much further?”

“We’ve got a full day of travel to get through,” Garcia tells her, nudging the box with his elbow. “Can I get some pretzels?”

She opens the bag and after debating whether or not he could drive and eat with only one arm, she holds out a pretzel. He opens his mouth and she feeds him the snack, concentrating on keeping her hands from shaking as she helps him eat.

You did this.

The insidious thoughts twist in her brain and her stomach churns with nausea. There is no escape from this, the ever continued reminder that if she’d been a little more cold, a little more calculated, they could have won without so much heartache.

“Can I have something to drink?”

His voice sounds strange like he’s holding back something. She would know, she’s used to making the same effort.

“Yeah.” Twisting open a bottle of water, she takes a deep breath and brings it to his lips.

He shakes his head and nods towards the glovebox. “I put some straws in there if you don’t mind.”

Releasing her breath, Lucy grabs a straw and slips it into the bottle. Garcia gives her a smile as she holds the water up for him to drink, a sad and mocking expression, and she swallows hard against the knot in her stomach.

They drive for another three hours before Garcia announces that he’s too tired to keep driving. Lucy offers to drive but he tells her that it would ruin the surprise. She tells him that she hates surprises and he shrugs and says he can live with that.

She gives up the fight, too drained to keep fighting with someone as stubborn as Garcia Flynn.

Garcia finds a motel off the highway and gets them a room while Lucy drags their bags out of the car and towards the sidewalk. As tired as she is, it’s nice to be out in the world instead of holed up in Rufus’ spare bedroom. She stretches, working out the inevitable kinks from spending long hours in a car, and waits for Garcia to come back with the key.

The motel room is small with two full-size beds crammed into one area and a counter with a coffee pot and microwave in the other.

“Which bed did you want?” Garcia rummages through his bag as he asks the question, pulling out a small black bag and heading towards the bathroom.

Lucy sits down on the bed closest to the door.

“Alright then,” he says. “I’m going to shower and change and then the bathroom’s all yours.”

“I’m fine,” Lucy mumbles.

“Your hair is greasy, you haven’t changed out of those clothes in two days, and you’re starting to smell,” Garcia says, his soft voice cutting through Lucy’s passivity. “I’m asking you as a friend to take a shower.”

Glaring at him as he closes the bathroom door, she grabs one of her bags and throws it open. Inside is carefully packed bras, underwear, socks, and a toiletry kit. It’s all organized in tidy rows and she blushes at the thought of Garcia going through her drawers and pulling together all the clothes she might need on their trip. She hears the shower turn on and Garcia says something in what she imagines is Croatian.

“Are you alright?” She asks, walking to the door and knocking against the wood.

“Yeah, I’m good, just banged my arm against the towel rack.”

“Oh, okay.” She stays at the door, listening to the rustle of the shower curtain as he climbs in.

Her mind offers her a flash of what he might look like under the spray of hot water and she backs away from the door and runs back to her bed.

Don’t think that. You can’t think that.

She sorts through her bags while Garcia finishes his shower, pulling out pajamas and an outfit for tomorrow, trying to decipher where they might be going. Her swimsuit isn’t packed so she waves goodbye to the prospect of a beach but other than the idea that it must be somewhere hot, she has no clue.

The bathroom door opens and Garcia steps out, running a towel over his hair and standing in nothing but low hanging sweatpants. “Shower’s free.”

It takes her a moment to register his words and she looks away, hoping he didn’t notice her staring.

“You didn’t use all the hot water did you?” She teases as she steps past him.

“Hey that was never me, that was-” he stops, staring down at the floor and then throwing his towel onto his bed.

“That was Wyatt,” she finishes, grabbing her bag and pj’s and disappearing into the bathroom.

She locks the door as Garcia says something but her head is ringing with the mention of Wyatt blood everywhere, staining the ground and her stomach rolls in protest and she doesn’t try to understand what he’s trying to say. She barely makes it to the toilet before her stomach heaves and she vomits kale chips and pretzels and water into the bowl. Tears are streaming down her face when she’s done and Garcia is knocking on the door but ignores the noise. Gunshots echo in her head and images of blood and gore flash behind her eyes.

“Lucy, please, are you okay?”

Taking ragged breaths, she goes to the sink and splashes water on her face. As she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t recognize the person staring back at her. She sees dull hair, pasty skin, large bags under her eyes, and worry lines etched into her forehead. She curls her fist and resists the urge to punch the mirror.

“I’m fine.”

“I don’t believe you.” Garcia’s voice is low and desperate.

“You don’t have to,” she answers, keeping her voice even. “I’m going to shower.”

Lucy doesn’t know if she hears the sigh or if she simply knows him well enough to register the action. She carefully undresses in the small room, folding and placing each article of clothing on the sink. Climbing into the shower stall, she turns the metal handle and lets the water run while she arranges her shampoo and conditioner on the edge. Her skin feels itchy and uncomfortable and she steps under the spray, scrubbing at her arms.

The images of death are fading as the hot water beats down on her head and she makes it through the shower without bursting into tears. She thinks this might be a win.

When she walks out of the bathroom, Garcia is already in bed, leaning against the headboard and reading something on his phone. He looks up and gives her a smile.

“Feel better?”

She nods and crawls into bed. “The shower helped, thank you.” She rotates until she faces away from him and hopes he lets her fall asleep in peace.

“You know, you can talk to me.”

“I know.” She doesn’t turn around.