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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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2:

Lucy sleeps for a couple of hours before her nightmares throw her back into the waking world. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she sits up and takes deep breaths until her heart rate returns to normal. Pain and fear are her constant companions now, ever present in her waking and dreaming states. There is a steady reminder in her life that happiness isn’t something she gets to experience. She looks over at Garcia, still sleeping with his hair mussed and a shadow of stubble on his cheeks.

I don’t deserve his kindness.

It’s too much sometimes, the care he shows her when she knows it’s her fault he can’t go back and save his family. Saving the people they love, that’s what kept them both moving and now, she feels like a traitor to all of them.

He understands.

She hates his understanding. She hates the kind looks and the comforting touches and the way he seems to find her at her weakest moments. He never yells, never pushes, never…

He never blames me. How can he stand to be my friend?

Pushing aside her blankets, she stands and walks to the coffee pot. She goes through the motions, filling the reservoir with water and dumping a pouch of coffee grounds into the filter basket. She looks out the window towards the parking lot as she waits for the coffee to brew.

The sky is dark, the glow from the streetlights still flooding the parking lot and she looks out towards the hills of scrub grass and sand. It’s a peaceful kind of place, the only noise from the coffee maker as it gurgles and drips.

“Stop, please.”

Garcia’s voice startles her and Lucy turns to see him twitching in his sleep. His face twists with worry and pain and his hands grasp for something. His left arm reaches up while his right arm jerks and spasms across the sheets.

“Please, don’t.” The pain in his voice breaks her heart.

She tiptoes to his side, watching him toss and turn with the nightmares. “Garcia, wake up.”

“Don’t, don’t, don’t, no, please.”

The pleading litany tears at her and she bends down beside the bed, shaking him as rough as she dares. “Wake up. Come on.”

He snaps awake and his eyes dart back and forth around the room as if searching for the enemy. Looking at Lucy, he rubs his hand over his face and sighs.

“Um, you were having a nightmare.” She backs away and sits on the edge of her bed.

“It happens,” he says, throwing off the blanket and sniffing the air. “Are you making coffee?”

“Did you want to talk about it?” She hates the question as soon as it leaves her mouth.

He tilts his head and runs his hand through his hair, smoothing down the strands as best he can. “You first.”

She glares at him and gets up, stomping to the coffee pot and pouring a cup. “Where are we going?” She doesn’t think he’ll actually answer her but she doesn’t want to talk about her nightmares and it’s clear he shares the same reluctance.

“Somewhere safe,” he says and she almost jumps at how close his voice sounds.

She turns around and he’s standing right behind her. Lucy can count each scar running down his arms and chest, the mass of discolored tissue at his shoulder the most noticeable, but there are still so many more. Her hand reaches out to touch.

“Can I have some coffee before I have to drive again?” He asks.

She lowers her hand and steps to the side, clenching and unclenching her fist as she watches him carefully pour coffee into a cup. He adds two packets of sugar, tearing them open with his teeth and scattering the granules over the counter. Experience tells her that he doesn’t want her help, but her palms itch with the need to do more than watch him work one handed to get a simple cup of coffee.

“I’m hungry,” Lucy says, breaking the silence.

Garcia looks over at her. “We’ll stop for food on our way out.” He flicks the coffeepot off and leans against the counter. “You going to change or wear your pajamas all day?”

She hates that he makes her want to smile. She doesn’t want the fuzzy feeling of happiness that threatens to overtake her when Garcia acts playful or ridiculous. She doesn’t deserve it. Grabbing her bag, she scurries to the bathroom and locks the door. She wants to scream at him, yell and throw things until he leaves her on the side of the road. The effort to keep him at arm's length eats up all her energy but she can’t give in.

You ruined everything.

She takes a deep breath and watches her reflection in the mirror until the panic recedes from her eyes. Changing quickly, she throws her hair up in a ponytail and feels a little more put together. She walks out to an empty room. Looking outside, she doesn’t see the car and dread floods through her body.

He left.

She clutches at her bag as her heart threatens to jump out of her chest. She deserves to be abandoned in some roadside motel, she knows it, but it’s still jarring coming from Garcia. Sinking to the floor in despair, she leans against the bed as tears fill her eyes.

HONK. HONK.

Looking outside, she sees Garcia sitting in the car, waving at her and smiling. Relief and guilt flood through her and she races to climb into the passenger seat. Her panic registers with Garcia and he reaches over to pat her arm.

“There is no master plan to leave you in a run-down motel in the middle of nowhere.” He winks at her. “I went to fill up the tank while you were getting dressed.”

She shakes her head and settles down in the seat. Staring out the window, she waits for him to give up on talking to her. She feels the car shift into gear and gives a small sigh of relief.

He wouldn’t leave me. He says that now.

Lucy doesn’t want to think about Garcia Flynn and his charm and warmth and inability to blame her for all the loss in his life. She leans her head against the door frame.

“I’m still hungry.”

They stop at a coffee hut on their way back to the highway and Lucy munches on a breakfast wrap and sips at her coffee as Garcia weaves in and out of traffic. The morning light is glaring and she thinks they might be somewhere in Arizona but Garcia still refuses to tell her where they’re going and she’s stopped caring enough to keep asking.

The day passes in a blur of coffee, desert scenery, rest stops, and a small argument over music (they settle on an easy listening station and turn the volume down).

Lucy spends most of her time staring out the window, reading the various signs that confirm their location. She gives him a look of suspicion when they cross the border from Arizona into New Mexico but leaves him to his secretive fun.

New Mexico is beautiful. Hills speckled with green and tall rocky outcroppings in all the colors of the sun float past them as they keep driving through sleepy towns and traffic-clogged cities. For an instant Lucy pictures her and Garcia in some kind of wilderness retreat, full of hiking and horseback riding and getting in touch with nature. She throws the idea out. He knows her well enough to know that she’s not exactly a fan of roughing it in the outdoors. Nights of sleeping outside while they traveled in the past have drained what little joy she used to take from camping.

The sun is setting when she reads a sign for the Texas border and Lucy hits her head against the doorframe.

“What is it?” Garcia slows down the car and looks at her. “Need another stop?”

“How much farther?” She asks, tilting her head so she can see his face. “I get that it’s a secret but I’m so ready to be not in the car anymore.”

“About three more hours and I promise, we’ll be there.” He brings the car back up to speed and checks on their gas tank. “We’ll have to stop one more time to fill up.”

“So, at least I know Texas is our final destination, great.” She slumps in her seat and pulls her hat down over her head. “I’m going to try and sleep. Wake me up when there’s a place to pee.”

“Yes, dear.”

The tone is lighthearted and happy and she still flinches at the endearment. It’s not that she doesn’t get that it’s a joke, but it stings. She closes her eyes and leans her head against the window, pretending not to hear his sigh.

She fakes sleep until she feels the car slow down and stop. The bright lights of the gas station parking lot make her wince as she opens her eyes and looks around. It’s almost completely dark and Garcia has already jumped out to put more gas in the car. Lucy climbs out and heads into the tiny convenience store. The clerk sighs as he hands her the key and points to the back. The bathroom is small and unimpressive and she hurries to pee. Washing her hands, Lucy sighs as she finds the paper towel roll empty. Shaking her hands free of as much water as she can, she wipes the rest away on her jeans and walks out.

“Ready?” Garcia is leaning against the wall and chewing on a granola bar.

“Yeah, though I wouldn’t recommend the bathroom,” she says with a small smile. “Got one of those for me?”

He nods to his side pocket and she gives him another smile. “Thanks.”

“I’ll be in the car.” He walks out and she watches, her smile still hovering on her lips.

For a few minutes, all she feels is a warm glow at his consistent attention. Garcia makes no sense to her. He shouldn’t even want to be in the same state as her yet here they are, two days into a road trip, and he’s still as attentive and friendly as ever.

Why? Why does he still care? I'm no good to him anymore.

She wants a hot shower and enough soap to scrub away the dirt and blood she still sees under her nails. It’s been so long since she’s felt clean.

“You done with that?” The clerk is standing at the counter and pointing to the key.

“There are no paper towels in there.” Lucy slaps the key in his hand and walks out.

She eats her granola while the lights from the freeway glow off the pavement. She can see the stars through the breaks in the lights and she traces the patterns in the sky, the ones she can remember. Garcia is unusually quiet, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel and watching the left side of the road with searching eyes. She doesn’t want to break the comfortable silence and so time slips by with the hum of the engine and the clack of the tires against the broken pavement.

She’s prepping a water bottle with a straw when Garcia slows down and turns the wheel, taking them from the smooth concrete to a gravel road.

“We almost there?”

He nods and turns on the bright lights. “Just a few more miles.”

“Good, I need to sleep.” SHe holds out the bottle and he takes a few gulps.

“Thanks,” he says with a smirk. “I promise there will be a bed waiting for you.”

“It better be a bed and not some cot in a tent.”

“A real bed, I promise.” His smile is soft even if he keeps his eyes on the road.

She watches as the road narrows and the sky darkens until she can see a blanket of stars above them. Fear lances her heart as she thinks about all the ways she could go missing out here and no one would know where she was. Just as she’s about to ask Garcia if he’s finally exacting his revenge on her for taking his family away forever, she sees lights ahead.

It’s an old farmhouse with a large barn in the back and the porch lights glowing yellow in the night.

“Where are we?” She rolls down the window and the smell of manure hits her nose with a vengeance. “I’ve at least established, farm.”

Garcia grins and shakes his head. “Just a few more minutes and all will be revealed.”

“You enjoy being a pain in the ass, don’t you?”

“It’s a gift.” He wiggles his eyebrows at her and she scoffs.

The car rolls to a stop next to an old Ford pickup truck and Garcia parks it and turns the engine off.

“You ready for this?” He sounds nervous and Lucy gives him a concerned look.

“Are you? I don’t even know where we are.” She opens the door and hops out into the tall grass.

The door to the farmhouse opens and two people come to stand on the porch, a tall thin man next to a short slightly plump woman, both with heavily silver-streaked hair and worried expressions.

Garcia joins Lucy next to the car and adjusts the strap on his shoulder. Without a word, he leads her forward with his left arm and they approach the couple on the porch. The woman covers her mouth with her hand when they step into the light and she rushes forward with a cry.

Before Lucy can reach the conclusion on her own, Garcia wraps the woman in a hug and holds her tight.

“It’s alright, Mama. I’m alright.”

Lucy steps back as the man joins Garcia and his mom in the hug, wrapping long arms around both of them. It’s a touching family reunion and she feels like an outsider watching something too personal for her eyes. She turns and walks back towards the car.

“Lucy, Lucy, come here.”

She turns around at Garcia’s voice. He’s holding out a hand and his parents are smiling at her through tears. With a sigh, she runs a hand through her hair and joins them next to the porch.

“Hi,” Lucy says, holding out her hand. “I’m Lucy Preston.”

“Oh, come here,” the woman says and hugs her tight. “You brought him back. Thank you.”

The gesture makes her want to start crying but she presses her fingernails into her palm until the physical pain distracts her from the flood of emotion.

“He brought himself back,” Lucy mumbles as the woman clings to her.

“Lucy, this is Maria and Asher Flynn.” He rubs the back of his neck. “My parents.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Lucy says as soon as Maria releases her and steps back next to her husband.

“When Garcia called yesterday, we didn’t know what to think.” Maria wipes her eyes and sniffles. “It’s been years and we just, we thought we’d never see him again.”

“Come on, Maria,” Asher says, patting his wife on the back. “Don’t cry. He’s here now.”

“I know that.” Maria straightens her skirt and glares at her husband. “ But I want to know what happened, now.”

“It’s late, mama,” Garcia says with a sigh. “I’ve been driving all day and Lucy is just as tired.”

Maria looks at them and hums. “Alright, well I suppose I can wait until tomorrow morning.” She waves them forward while Asher heads for the car. “Ash will get the bags, you two follow me.”

Ashe ambles off without a word and Lucy gets the impression that he's used to being volunteered for tasks by his wife.

Lucy looks at Garcia and he gives her a wide smile. “After you.”

“Your parents, huh?” She follows Maria up the stairs while Garcia puts his hand on her back.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he whispers as they enter the house. “I guess I forgot how she could be.”

“You forgot, huh?” Lucy looks at him with a smirk.

“Now, do you need one room or two?” Maria asks, her voice coated with curiosity. 

Garcia coughs and Lucy blushes.

“Two rooms, please,” Garcia says with a slight whine to his voice.

Maria doesn’t say anything but her eyebrow raises slightly before she turns and continues through the house.

Lucy looks around as they walk, taking in the warm colors of the house and the various cabinets full of pictures and knick-knacks. She feels like she’s stepping into another dimension, a different world she’s never seen before with loving parents and a welcoming home where childhood drawings are treated with the same level of care as world-renowned artists.

“Garcia, you can stay in your old room and Lucy can take Gabe’s.” Maria points to a closed door. “He won’t be back to visit till the end of the semester.”

Lucy watches Garcia’s face at the mention of his brother. There’s a soft smile on his face and she reaches out to touch his arm. He looks down at her and his smile spreads, reminding her of just how beautiful he is when he’s happy. Maria ushers Garcia through one of the doors and Lucy stands outside, her arms wrapped around herself as if to hold back every emotion swirling around inside of her.

He brought me home to meet his family.

She imagines what it would be like if he wanted her, the feel of Garcia’s arm wrapping around her waist to keep her safe or the way his lips might capture hers in a moment of passion.

“Lucy, are you alright?” Garcia touches her arm and she steps away.

Friends. You’re just friends.

“Yeah, just tired.” She looks at the floor, at the painting on the wall, anywhere but at him.

He drops his arm and moves away. “Alright. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Yeah.” Walking back to the closed door, she glances behind her and sees Maria wave Garcia down to her level, kissing his cheek and giving his shoulder a squeeze.

She opens the door and walks into her designated bedroom. It’s painted in a soft green with brown trim, a reading chair and the bed the only furniture besides an entire wall of bookshelves. It’s masculine and sleek and Lucy flops on the bed with a sigh.

She sits up as Maria shuffles into the room carrying another blanket and a towel.

“I don’t know how warm you like it and you look like a stick of a thing so I brought an extra blanket. The bathroom is across the hall and you’ll want to shower quickly as the hot water doesn’t last.” Maria places her bundle on the reading chair just as Asher walks in with luggage.

“I, um, I, thank you,” Lucy says, not sure how exactly she should be interacting with Garcia’s parents. “I didn’t know we were coming here.”

Grabbing her bags and placing them next to the bed, she gives Asher a smile and he nods before taking the rest of his load over to Garcia’s room.

Maria pats the bed a few times. “Well, with Garcia, we weren’t sure what to expect.” She gives Lucy a bright smile. “But we are happy to have him home and it’s enough for now.”

“I don’t want to be in the way,” Lucy says. “I can head home if you want to spend time with your son.”

Maria gives her a sharp look and tilts her head. “You won’t be a bother and if you are, I’ll be sure to come out and tell you.” She walks to the window and opens the curtains. “You get some rest and in the morning, I’ll make a big breakfast.” Her face falls as if it’s taken all her energy to keep a cheerful attitude. “We can eat and I’ll try to understand why every piece of information I’ve had about Garcia has come from the evening news reports.”

It hits Lucy then, that this is Iris’ grandmother, a woman who must have loved and cherished her granddaughter in all the right ways. The only thing she’s heard is that her beloved son killed his family, became a terrorist, was arrested, then Iranians kidnapped him and that was over four years ago. Lucy sits in stunned silence as Maria smoothes out her dress and coughs back tears.

“I’m sorry,” Maria says, at last sitting on the bed and putting her head in her hands. “I don’t want to pressure him or you but I need to know.”

“Maria, they’ll tell us everything in the morning,” Asher says from the doorway, his face drawn and somber.

Lucy wants to run outside, jump in the car, and drive as far from this house as she can. It’s too much, their grief mixing with her own until she feels like someone is standing on her chest.

I shouldn’t be here.

Maria stands and moves under her husband’s arm, wiping at her eyes while he squeezes her shoulders. “Yes, in the morning.” She gives Lucy a watery smile. “Sleep well.”

Lucy watches them leave and doesn’t know if she’ll be able to sleep at all. Her hands shake as she takes out her night clothes, changing quickly and crawling under the blankets of Gabriel’s bed. She thinks about sneaking into Garcia’s room and stealing the car keys, driving to Montana or Wyoming, and disappearing from his life forever.

“Lucy, are you dressed?” Garcia’s low voice comes through the crack in the door and Lucy shakes her head.

He finds her at her weakest moments and she can’t turn him away. “Yeah, come in.”

He sneaks into her room, closing the door behind him with a soft click. “Are you okay? I know it’s a bit much but they’re good people.”

“I’ll be fine,” she answers, sitting up and putting a pillow behind her head. “I mean, I would have appreciated a little warning that I would be meeting your parents and we should really figure out what to tell them.”

“I want to tell them the truth,” Garcia says, sitting on the bed and facing her. “I mean, it’s going to be hard to fake the idea that I know anything about Gabriel since I’ve technically never grown up with an older brother.”

“And you think they’ll believe you?” Lucy crosses her arms. “Time travel isn’t something that most people will simply take on faith.”

“Well, there’s also the fact that I look exactly like the man who saved Gabriel from that bee sting,” Garcia says with a smile.

The moon and stars are shining through her window, giving Garcia a faint glow as he talks. He’s gesturing as much as he can with one arm and Lucy feels that familiar soft warmth in her chest.

“Yeah, okay, whatever.” She slumps back into the bed and rolls over onto her side. “We can tell them the truth.”

“Um, okay then.” He sounds hurt but she can’t bring herself to reassure him.

After a few minutes, she hears him sigh and feels him stand up from the bed. “Sleep well, Lucy.”

She doesn’t respond and closes her eyes against the urge to reach out and comfort him. She waits for the door to open and shut once more and then opens her eyes with a sigh. Sleep stays just out of reach as Lucy lies in bed, listening to the house creak and groan around her.

Chapter Text

Sunlight streams through the window as Lucy listens to Maria making breakfast. She hears dishes rattling and soft music filtering through the walls but she can’t make out the words. She’s heard the shower turn on a few times, the rattle of the front door, and various animal noises as they are roused from their sleep. The noises are unfamiliar but they make her feel less alone in the early morning light.

A knock on her door pushes her to climb out of bed and she wraps her robe around her shoulders as she cracks open the door and peers into the hall.

Garcia leans against the wall with wet hair, his phone in his left hand as he scrolls through his messages. He looks rested and comfortable and sexy and she entertains the idea of walking up and kissing him. She blames it on the lack of sleep.

“Morning.” He’s staring at her with a smirk and she gives a small wave. “Are you awake?”

Shaking her head, Lucy closes the door and grabs her toiletry bag and the towel Maria left for her on the chair. She leaves the bed unmade and her bags open on the floor and turns off the lamp by the door before walking back into the hallway.

Garcia is still waiting for her in the hall with a grin on his face. “Can I say morning now?”

“Morning,” Lucy says, making her way to the bathroom, deciding to ignore the easy happiness radiating from him.

“Did you get any sleep?” He asks, bouncing on his toes as he follows her.

“Sure, plenty,” Lucy says with a huff. “Are you going to join me in the bathroom or can I have some space?”

He backs off and holds out his hand, a flicker of hurt across his face before he masks it with a smile. “I should go see if Mama needs any help in the kitchen anyway.”

Watching him disappear around the corner, Lucy smacks her forehead with her hand and groans.

Great, ruining the day before breakfast, the Lucy Preston special.

It’s too late to try and call out an apology so she heads into the bathroom to get ready for the day. Not that she knows exactly what she’s going to be doing while she’s a guest of the Flynn family, but it doesn’t hurt to at least be prepared.

Showered and changed, Lucy walks to the kitchen to find Asher sitting at the table while Garcia pours orange juice into glasses and Maria carries out a giant stack of pancakes. The table already holds a plate of bacon, a pan of eggs, and a pile of toast.

“Enjoy your shower?” Maria asks with a smile, setting down the large platter and giving Asher a kiss to his forehead.

Lucy nods and takes a seat. “Yes, thank you.”

“Oh good,” Maria says, sitting down on the other end of the table and pointing to the pancakes. “Dig in. I made them with bananas and cinnamon, just like Garcia likes them.”

Lucy watches Garcia’s ears turn red at his mother’s comments but he doesn’t say anything. He hands Lucy the plate of toast and she gives him a look of gratitude. She doesn’t do well with so much heavy food in the morning but she can handle buttered toast and a helping of eggs.

“So, when do I get to hear the whole story?” Maria asks as Lucy sets toast on her plate and Garcia spoons eggs onto her plate.

“You’re not even going to let us eat first?” Garcia frowns at his mother.

Maria shakes her head and points at him with her fork. “I waited all night. I don’t care if you have to talk with your mouth full.”

Lucy snickers at Garcia’s disgusted face and earns her own glare in return. “What? It’s not like you haven’t told people before.”

“True, but I wasn’t trying to actually make them believe me,” Garcia answers, carefully picking his fork up with his left hand. “It’s easy to tell the truth when people naturally assume you’re crazy.”

“I wonder where people got that idea,” Lucy says, shaking her head at him. “You weren’t exactly subtle in the beginning.”

“I didn’t have time to be subtle,” Garcia answers, still concentrating on keeping his food balanced on his fork.

He gives up when his hand twitches and the egg falls to the floor, taking a pancake instead and eating it with his fingers. Lucy puts down her toast and stares at the wall, the buttered bread sticking in her throat.

Garcia looks at Maria with apologetic eyes. “Sorry, I’m still getting used to eating with the wrong hand.”

“No, you eat and don’t worry about it.” Maria points to his right arm. “How much longer do you have to wear the sling?”

Lucy coughs and covers it up by taking a large gulp of orange juice. She wants to disappear into the floor, anything to escape this conversation.

“Uh, months at least.” Garcia reaches across the table and taps Lucy on the hand as she stares at the floor. “Hey, stop that.”

“The doctors say you may never regain the use of it, so don’t tell me what to do.” She’s angry. Angry at Garcia for acting like everything is alright, at her own inability to keep her emotions off her face, and at the world for leaving them in tatters.

We were supposed to defeat Rittenhouse and live happily ever after. I was going to tell him everything, how much I wanted him with me, how much I -

“What happened?” Maria asks, the fear in her voice bringing Lucy back to the present conversation.

Garcia is still looking at her with a worried frown but Lucy ignores him. “He took three bullets to his shoulder and then kept trying to use that arm.”

Maria gasps and Lucy looks up to see her holding her napkin to her mouth.

“Sorry,” Lucy whispers, unsure about how to handle Maria’s distress.

“Mama, do you remember how Gabe almost died from that bee sting?” Garcia asks, pulling his mother’s attention away from Lucy’s horrified face.

Maria blinks in surprise, tilting her head in a way reminiscent of Garcia. “What? Yes, of course, I remember.”

“That guy who saved him,” Garcia continues, keeping his eyes fixed on his mother’s face. “That guy you talked to in the park and told about his murdered family?”

“How do you know about him?” Maria asks, her eyes darting between Asher and Garcia. “I never told anyone about the park.”

Asher leans forward, his eyes darting between Garcia and Maria as if trying to follow half of a conversation.

“Well, I know everything about that day, because…” Garcia looks at Lucy, his eyes telling her that this is her last chance to try and come up with a story.

She nods her acceptance about telling them the truth.

“Because I was that man,” Garcia finishes.

Maria looks at him, wrinkles her brow and shakes her head. “Garcia, that’s not possible.”

“It is,” Lucy says quietly. “If you have a time machine.”

Asher and Maria stare at her, their eyes wide with shock. They look at each other with worried confusion and Lucy can’t think of what else to say.

“She’s right,” Garcia says, giving Lucy a smile. “Mason Industries built a time machine and that’s how I could go back and save Gabe.”

“Time travel isn’t possible,” Maria says, shaking her head. “It’s just, not.”

“I’m sorry, I know it’s a lot.” Garcia stands and kneels next to his mother’s chair. “It’s the truth though. How else would I know that Gabriel had a chocolate ice cream cone? Or that we watched coverage of the moon landing on the ice cream truck’s small black and white tv?”

“I don’t know, I don’t…” Maria looks at Asher and Lucy follows her gaze. “Do you believe this?”

Pushing his plate away, Asher clasps his hands under his chin and looks at his son. “I don’t think it’s a joke, Mar.”

“We’ve been fighting a war, a quiet one through time.” Lucy stares at the tablecloth as she speaks. “Garcia started it the day Lorena and Iris were murdered. We finished it a few weeks ago.”

There’s silence at the table as the Flynn family stares at Lucy.

“I came to your office as a repairman, remember? I complimented you on your designs.” Garcia sounds like he’s pleading for his mother to believe him.

Maria cups Garcia’s face in her hand. “It really was you?” She seems dazed like she’s not sure she’s dreaming.

He nods and she grasps his shoulders, pulling him close. Lucy looks away.

“I don’t know if I can even begin to understand time travel,” Maria says as she lets Garcia go. “But I want to know everything.”

Garcia nods and sits back in his chair, looking down at his food. “I didn’t kill my family.”

“I know that,” Maria says and Asher reaches out and puts his hand on Garcia’s arm.

“I just needed you to hear it from me,” Garcia says.

Her food tastes like ash in her mouth as Lucy listens to Garcia tell his part of their story, the classified documents, the report, the murder of Iris and Lorena, and the strange woman who gave him a journal and sent him after a time machine.

I’m never going to be that woman.

Lucy knows it, but there’s a part of her that wonders if she has to be. She has to go to Brazil and hand Garcia a journal that’s not written yet because that sets them in motion. To get to this point, wouldn’t she need to go back?

It will still be five to six years before Connor finishes his new time-traveling invention, Rufus gave her the data once, and Lucy still shakes when she thinks about stepping into another machine. If she never goes back, will that break the timeline?

“Taking down Rittenhouse became our mission together, but it hasn’t been easy.” Garcia is still explaining things, his parents hanging on his every word.

Lucy stands and tucks her hands into the pockets of her sweater. “I need some air.”

She wanders outside and looks around the sunlit farm. It looks different in the morning light. There is open pasture in front of her, now that she can see past the porch, and a few horses run through the field. Chickens are scratching in a pen next to the barn and squawking as they eat their morning meal.

Asher does all this before breakfast?

She watches the chicken for a minute, smiling at the strutting rooster and his hen harem. She hears a noise, something banging from inside the barn. She looks back at the house to see if anyone is coming to check on her but there’s no movement on the porch. Deciding that she’s safe to explore, Lucy wraps her sweater tighter around her body and walks inside. There are stalls to the left and right with a pathway down the middle and a set of stairs that Lucy sees leads up to the loft.

BANG.

Lucy jumps at the noise and walks towards the back of the barn, kicking up hay dust as she looks for the source of the noise. The last stall on the right shakes as another “BANG” echoes through the barn and Lucy creeps closer.

“You okay in there?” She asks, putting her hand on the closed door and looking into the stall.

A large white goat with long curving horns stares back at her, thudding its front hoof against the hay covered floor.

“Hi there big guy,” Lucy says, waving at the animal.

He rushes the gate and Lucy barely has time to jump away before he headbutts the stall door.

BANG.

Lucy stumbles away from the stall falls into a nearby pile of hay with a squeak.

Guess you’re a little upset.

Dusting off her clothes, Lucy stands back up and wanders around the barn but doesn’t spot any more irritated animals. The pissed off goat seems calmer now that his temper tantrum has been witnessed.

The barn is bringing back childhood dreams of wanting to live on a farm, just like this one, and raise animals and live with her best friend (because boys were gross). It’s a soft memory and Lucy smiles as she climbs the steps to the loft. Hay fills half of the loft and the other half houses various household odds and ends. A worn-looking rocking chair grabs her attention and she drags it over to the circular window at the back of the loft.

She sits and stares out the window, watching the horses eat and run and the world quietly go about its business, as if untouched by the darkness in her heart.

Garcia still has his family. He’ll be okay.

It’s a relief, after all this time, to know that he’ll be safe and cared for without her. She doesn’t know how long she sits by that window and plans for her departure, but a noise below her jolts her back to the present and she moves to stand up. She recognizes Garcia’s voice and sits back down. He’s having a discussion, not looking for her, and she’d rather stay hidden and alone.

“-without them in it. I know they’ve been avenged.”

“They’re resting easy now.”

The deep and accented voice of Asher brings out her curiosity. Sliding off the chair, Lucy creeps forward until she can look down into the lower section of the barn. Garcia is leaning against a wall with his head down while Asher uses a pitchfork to load a wheelbarrow with hay.

“I know.” Garcia drags a hand over his face. “That’s enough, it has to be.”

Asher stops moving hay and looks at his son. “And then there’s Lucy.”

Garcia’s head whips up and he gives his father a calculating look. “What about Lucy?”

“You can fool the world, Garcia,” Asher says, talking while he works. “You can't fool me. You dote on her, it’s obvious, but you never could use your words like a normal person.”

Garcia shakes his head. “She doesn’t even want to be here. I’m trying to give her space but I think it’s just pushing her away.”

Asher looks at him. “So long as you didn’t kidnap her, I say give her some time to adjust.”

Garcia huffs and Lucy smiles a bit at the reminder of when he did actually kidnap her. Looking back on those few days, now that she has had a chance to see the real Garcia, she sees how desperate and panicked he’d been as he tried to keep his version of reality from crumbling to dust. She rolls onto her back and stares up at the ceiling, feeling self-conscious about her eavesdropping.

“I don’t know if time is something I have anymore,” Garcia says, his voice fading into a sigh.

“So talk to her,” Asher tells him, his voice steady and strong.

“Right. What do I say?” Anger touches Garcia’s voice now and Lucy shrinks further back into the loft. “She’s depressed, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress, and I’m supposed to try and convince her that I don’t blame her, that I want...I just want to see her smile again.”

Asher snorts. “You brought her home. How can she not know?”

“She’s been hurt before. I don’t think she even knows how much I -.” He cuts off and Lucy feels the distress coming from him.

“Okay,” Asher tells him with an apology in his tone. “You know her better than I do, but anyone with eyes could see you’re attached.”

“Attached is putting it mildly.”

“You’ve been through so much, moj sin.” Asher coughs a few times before he continues. “Lorena would not want you to be unhappy.”

“I’m not sure I could do it again.” Garcia’s voice sounds strange like something’s caught in his throat. “I feel like she’s slipping away no matter how hard I hold on. If I lose her-.”

A clattering draws Lucy’s attention back to the barn floor and she watches as Garcia crumbles into his father’s arms. Asher holds him, patting his back and petting his hair and Lucy wants to jump out the window or do something truly crazy, like run down there, hold him in her arms, give him the comfort he needs.

Dotes on me? Does he love me? Why?

Crawling back to her rocking chair, Lucy folds herself against the aged wood and listens to the chickens and horses outside. She tries to absorb the fact that Garcia might not want to simply be her friend.

Attached. That’s what Asher said.

Ever since Amy’s erasure, she’s felt like a helium balloon at the country fair, discarded and floating into the sky. The only times she’s felt grounded have been at Garcia’s side but she felt like she was using him to get by, to help herself feel better. She knows he’s her friend, that much they’ve managed to make clear through the movies and the vodka and the late nights when everyone else sleeps but she’s always kept her desire for him firmly in the “never going to happen” portion of her mind.

How can he be so attached?

She’s broken and used up, the last heir to Rittenhouse who threw away her heritage for the good of the world and now it doesn’t need her anymore. He doesn’t need her.

There’s more movement below and she looks across the loft to see Asher and Garcia walk out of the barn. They move slow and she can tell that they’re talking but she’s too far away to make out the words. She waits a few more minutes, to be sure they won’t come back, and then slips down from the loft.

BANG.

The angry goat is at it again and she can’t blame him for his frustration. Feeling stuck, trapped in a place you can’t escape from, that’s been her life since some strange government man came knocking, telling her that her country needed her expertise.

She’s still trapped, even now, but it’s a different kind of prison. It’s one of her own making and it's inside her mind and she doesn’t know if she has the strength to pull herself free.

She walks out of the barn and looks towards the house with its wide front porch and faded yellow paint with white trim and the flower boxes in the windows. There is a peace that lives here and she feels like she will taint it if she stays. She thinks about Garcia and his conversation with his father, his break down over the thought of losing her.

She wants to give up, walk away and leave him to heal with his family. She wants to run into the house and throw herself at Garcia, wrap herself around him and never let go. In the end, Lucy walks to the house and sits on the cushioned porch swing and watches the horses run.

 

 

Chapter Text

Days pass by in a fog. Lucy’s aware that she is moving, talking, interacting, but a part of her is cut off from reality as she processes. She feeds the chickens, eats with the Flynn family, goes for runs around the fence, and tells stories of time travel to Maria and Asher. Some days, she wakes up determined to leave the idyllic farm, sure that Garcia will be fine without her. All it takes is seeing his relieved smile as he greets her in the morning to remember his words in the barn.

I’m not sure I could do it again. I feel like she’s slipping away no matter how hard I hold on. If I lose her-

The panic in his voice, the resounding desolation at the idea of her gone. She doesn’t know how to handle it and so she doesn’t…but she stays. Garcia doesn’t push, doesn’t touch, and sometimes they go a whole day without talking, but she stays and watches and drifts.

She’s sitting on the porch, pushing herself on the swing to create a small breeze in the sun-soaked air, when Garcia comes out of the barn, leading two horses with saddles and matching bridles. He walks up to the porch and leans against the railing.

“How are you this morning?” He asks with a soft smile.

Lucy puts her foot out and stops the swing. “Okay. What are you up to?”

Smiling that smile that makes Lucy want to agree with anything he suggests, Garcia waves the reins. “We’re going for a ride.”

“Oh, we are, are we?” She stands and walks to the edge of the porch and she likes the feeling of looking down at him from the top step.

“Yes,” he says with certainty. “I’ve got Marge saddled and she’s very excited for a trip, so I know you don’t want to let her down.”

Lucy looks over at the horses as they patiently wait for something to happen. Her whole self rushes in as she turns to look at Garcia, to take in his hopeful eyes and beguiling smile and the way his shoulders are just tense enough to know he’s waiting for a rejection.

“Should I change?” She asks, looking down at her long skirt and flip-flops.

His entire face lights up and the fog around her dissipates with the force of his joy. Lucy wants to shy away from the glow but she takes it all in with a sense of wonder. She blinks as the world rushes back in, sounds and smells almost overwhelming her senses.

“Sure, yeah. Change.” He looks like he might step up to offer his help but changes his mind at the last minute. “I’ll just wait here.”

Lucy thinks she might be disappointed that he’s not coming with her but she gives a small smile and disappears into the house.

It smells like fresh bread and cinnamon when she passes the kitchen and she pokes her head in to see Asher and Maria standing by the table. They have their arms around each other and Maria is leaning against her husband as they look out the window towards the backyard. They look peaceful and content and in love and she swallows the envy in her heart and leaves them to the moment.

I’m not sure I could do it again.

Her fear is bubbling up into her stomach but Lucy shoves it away and hurries to her room, slipping on jeans and boots and pulling her hair up into a ponytail. The fog is gone, burned away by the brightest smile she knows and she doesn’t want to slip into its haze again. She looks in the mirror and frowns at the pale tired woman looking back at her. Shaking her head, she tucks her shirt into her jeans and walks out of her room.

It’s not a date, it’s a horse ride.

Lucy tries to slip past the kitchen without being noticed but she jostles a side table and winces as a set of snowglobes knock against each other.

“Garcia, are you al-oh, hi there.” Maria tilts her head as she sees Lucy rearranging her knick-knacks. “You alright?”

“Yeah, just me, being clumsy.” Lucy smiles at the concern in Maria’s face.

Maria takes in her change of clothes and cocks her head. “You going somewhere?”

“Apparently, Marge will be very upset if she got all saddled up and then didn’t get a ride.” Lucy shoves her hands in her pockets. “Garcia and I are going to go take her out for a walk.”

Maria’s face brightens with a smile and she holds up her hand. “Wait just a minute.” She hurries back into the kitchen, leaving Lucy to rock back and forth in her boots and wonder if she can slip out before Maria gets back.

Maria comes back with what looks like a lunch box and an apple. “Here, give the apple to Marge and she’ll be your best friend.”

Lucy takes both items. “What’s in the lunch box?”

“Oh, just a little something in case you get hungry.” Maria shoos her away. “Go, enjoy your ride.”

Lucy wants to give the bag back, tell her it’s just a ride, nothing else. She doesn’t. Garcia is standing next to the horses, brushing a hand across one of their noses and looks relieved when she reappears. She guesses he might have thought she changed her mind.

“Ready?” He asks with a grin.

Her fear slips back into her mind, dripping with all the reasons she should reconsider, leave him to his life without her.

If I lose her…

“Yep,” she says, holding up the lunch box. “This is from your mother.” She holds up the apple. “And this is for Marge.”

Garcia throws his head back and laughs and Lucy is too captivated by how utterly beautiful he is to focus on her fear. Maybe she can do this, focus on him and keep the fear and doubt locked away. He doesn’t want to lose her and it’s strange to think of him needing her, but she can do this, for him.

Marge takes the apple with a delighted shake of her head and Lucy gives her pets while she munches on the treat. It’s a simple thing to make a horse happy and Lucy basks in the easily won love.

Once Marge finishes her apple, Lucy climbs into the saddle and settles into position, giving the horse a pat on the neck. Garcia walks to the opposite side of his horse, a tall dun-colored gelding named Tesla, and mounts with a little struggle as he finds his balance. His stubborn nature, something she knows firsthand can lead to catastrophe, is helping him now, though Lucy supposes most people would call it determination.

“We won’t go far,” Garcia says as he urges his horse forward. “Once we get past the gate, we can let them run.”

Lucy follows him away from the house, the familiar gait of Marge throwing her back to when she would spend hours on a horse, often with Garcia or Wyatt, trying to keep ahead of their enemies. Shaking away the cobwebs, Lucy focuses on the sight of Garcia ahead of her, the reins held loose in his left hand while he urged his horse around divots with his knees.

Watching Garcia is almost involuntary at this point. Lucy doesn’t know how anyone could look at the sky or the birds or the trees when he’s right there in all his six feet, four inch glory, brushing dark hair back from his face or grinning at some inside joke. She watches him until he looks back and then she flicks her eyes away to stare at some spot off in the distance.

“Still with me?” He asks as he slows down Tesla and waits for her to catch up.

“Yep, just enjoying the scenery.” She waits for him to turn back around before she snickers into her sleeve.

The laughter feels good after the fog of indecision and panic. She wants to be better with him and the realization is almost enough to send her back to the safety of her room. She hasn’t wanted anything in so long, it took her a while to figure out what it felt like. Digging her heels into the side of Marge, Lucy catches up to Garcia as he crests the hill and a valley opens out in front of them.

“What do you think?” Garcia stretches his arm in the direction of a patch of blue among the green.

“I think it’s beautiful.” The valley is a wonder, with green stretching out in front of her, dotted with the bright colors of wildflowers.

The buzz of bees hard at work joins the jingle of the bridles on their horses as they make their way to the small lake at the middle of the surprise meadow. Lucy soaks in the heat and smell of the valley, letting the perfume of flowers and water and grass engulf her body and soothe her mind.

“Mama told me about this place when I was a teenager,” Garcia says, letting Tesla walk at his own pace towards the water source. “I suppose she knew I needed somewhere to run when I felt overwhelmed.”

“Mother’s intuition.” Lucy wonders if her mother ever had that, or if molding her for Rittenhouse was too important to pay attention to her introverted kids need for privacy.

He’s so vibrant that I forget he’s as private as I am.

“Something like that,” he answers, gifting her another smile.

He could also charm the scales off a snake.

They dismount at the lake and after pulling the bags off of Tesla, Garcia lets the two horses wander off to munch on the sweet grasses. He stretches a blanket out and places it close to the lake, throwing himself down with a groan.

He looks up at her. “Going to join me?”

She looks at the blanket and back at him and slowly lowers herself down. It feels more intimate than even sharing a room with him. They are close enough to touch but he keeps his distance and reaches back into his bag, pulling out a book. The cover is worn and the spine is cracked and Lucy can tell it’s been well loved over the years.

“What’s that?” She asks, her curiosity overriding her slight discomfort at how close they are.

“My favorite book growing up.” He shows her the title and she smiles at the cartoonish front cover of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. “I'd sneak away when I could and sit out here and read.”

“What's it like?” Lucy asks, staring out towards the lake.

“The book?”

“No, being here, with your parents again.” It’s a heavy question, one she wouldn’t have dared to ask a few days ago, but it’s been so long since she felt at ease with him and she wonders how it feels to come home.

“It’s strange,” he says, flipping the book over in his hand. “It feels like our world didn’t touch this farm. Nothing's changed.”

“Just you.” Fear claws at her throat but Lucy forces it down and looks over at Garcia. “So you feel like you don’t fit.”

“It’s an adjustment.” Garcia sets the book down and looks at her. “It’s worth it, to see my folks and give them closure. The old me would have taken this all for granted but I know how close we were to losing everything.”

“How?” Her heart pounds in her chest and she looks down at the blanket. “How do you adjust to that much change?”

She’s ready to bolt, sure that asking him is a mistake. His hand on her shoulder is a surprise and it steadies her.

“You lean on the people who care about you.” His voice trembles as he speaks. “And you try to live on for those who can’t.”

Her face feels as if it’s on fire. “What if it’s too hard?”

“That’s why you don’t do it by yourself.” He keeps his hand on her shoulder and gives it a squeeze. “You can’t let change break you.”

She's at a cliff, uncertain as to whether she jumps and trusts he will catch her or whether she turns back and runs.

She jumps.

“I already feel broken.” It's a soft whisper but she knows he hears it from the way his hand tightens on her shoulder.

Without a word, he gathers her up and hugs her tight and she lets herself collapse in his embrace.

“I'm sorry, Garcia.” The pressure releases in her chest. “I knew I was taking away that last chance but I couldn't, wouldn't risk Rittenhouse getting their hands on either ship.”

“I know.” He leans back and looks down at her. “I've told you before that I don't blame you for making that call.”

“I blame me.”

“I know.”

It's quiet for a minute and then Lucy speaks again, the words bubbling inside her. “It was the right decision, blowing the ships up.”

“I agree,” Garcia says with a small smirk. “It certainly got everyone's attention.”

“If I'd told someone, they might have tried to stop me.” Lucy looks up at him. “Maybe we should have tried to get Wyatt back.”

“And maybe Rittenhouse would have found a way to take the Mothership back and we'd still be fighting.” Garcia shakes his head. “It's all a maybe game now and I can't speak for everyone else but I'm glad it's over.”

She picks at a thread on the blanket and tries to gather her thoughts. It’s a jumble of what she’s done and how everyone must hate her and that nothing can ever be changed back. No saving Lorena or Iris, no bringing back Wyatt like they brought back Rufus, no stopping Jiya from being paralyzed...life seems so final now.

“We’re all moving on, Lucy.” Garcia’s soft voice anchors her back in the moment. “No matter what you think, you deserve to move on as well.”

She wants to, she wants to take that little step forward and acknowledge that she deserves to find some kind of happiness now. Her eyes drift towards Garcia’s bound arm and it’s a like dunking her head in a bucket of cold water. Standing up, she walks to the edge of the water and stares out across the meadow.

I blew up the time machines and I broke the team.

“This isn’t your fault.” Garcia’s voice is right behind her and she turns to face him, tilting her head up to look at his face.

Anger sparks in his gray-green eyes and without warning, he wraps an arm around her waist and lifts her up and walks into the lake.

“Garcia put me down!” She struggles against him but there’s no doubt who’s stronger and he wades out until he’s hip deep in water.

Without a word, he drops her in the water and she squeals as it covers her head for a brief moment before she pops back up. She’s livid, furious that he would do this to her and she turns to him with rage in her eyes.

“There, yes!” He’s smiling and pointing at her. “Come on Lucy, get mad!”

She screams and slaps the water. “You’re an asshole!”

“What else?” He pushes water in her direction and she yelps as it floods over her waist for a moment.

Lucy feels it all bubble up out of her. "I hate being like this!"

"What else?" He keeps pushing.

“I hate that I can’t fix things!" She's screaming at him and it feels good. "I’m just stuck and I hate that this is my life now and I’m scared all the time and I hate you! I hate that you don’t hate me!” She’s crying by the end, wiping tears from her face as she glares at him.

With careful movements, he walks forward and wraps her in his arms, doing his best to hold her tight while she cries. It’s too much and not enough and Lucy buries her face in Garcia’s chest as she lets go for the first time in a long time and cries.

She’s shivering with spent emotions as well as from the cold water that's soaking her clothes. She pulls back and looks up at him, catching him with his eyes closed and a small smile on his lips.

“I’m cold.” Her hands find purchase in his shirt and tug at the fabric. “Can we not be in the water anymore?”

A laugh escapes his lips and he nods, leading her out of the lake and back to the blanket. There’s not much space to stretch out but Lucy lies down and relaxes as the sun warms her skin and dries her clothes. Garcia takes up a position beside her and maybe it’s the release in the lake or maybe she’s just too tired to really care anymore, but she grabs his hand and threads her fingers through his until their palms are pressed together.

She’s almost drifting off to sleep when Garcia moves and slides his hand free. Opening her eyes, she sees him grab something from the saddlebags and sees that it’s the lunch Maria packed for them.

“Hungry?” He asks, opening the top and pulling out two sandwiches and a container of grapes.

She doesn’t sit up but she nods and holds out her hands. “Grapes.”

Garcia smiles and hands her the container. “As requested. Glad to see you're as eloquent as ever.”

“I got dropped in a lake, so screw you.” The light-hearted teasing feels good after all the time she spent shying away from him, afraid to make him mad.

He sits back down with his sandwich and they eat for a bit in comfortable silence. Lucy realizes that they’ve always been like that. The need to fill the silences was never necessary between them.

“Sandwich, please,” she says, handing him the half eaten container of grapes.

He gives it to her without a word and in a moment of daring, Lucy sits up and leans against him while she eats. It’s a chicken salad sandwich made with dill pickles and Lucy hums in pleasure.

“I couldn’t ever hate you, you know,” Garcia says, breaking the silence.

She looks over at him. “Yeah, I think I know.”

“Good.” He doesn’t say anything else, just eats and brushes crumbs off his shirt and watches the wind push ripples across the surface of the water.

Lucy puts her head on his shoulder and looks over at the horses grazing on a nearby patch of clover. She feels, not better exactly, but lighter, like a weight that once sat on her chest is now floating to the bottom of the lake and she can leave it there. She wants to get better and she wants to be happy again and she wants to know what it feels like to kiss Garcia and not be torn up inside. What started as a way to make Garcia feel happy, has shifted into making her own happiness a reality and Lucy thinks that later, much later, she might have to thank him for throwing her in a lake.