“The beginning, of course. Tell me about Jessica.”
Wyatt rubbed a hand over his face. He relived that night over and over but it never got any easier. The memory was seared into his brain and when he closed his eyes it would replay. He swore he could hear the music, smell the stale beer and bad perfume. He hadn’t wanted to go, but Jessica had insisted. She said that she couldn't stand being cooped up in the house and she needed to get out. Wyatt hated the crowd, hated the flashing lights and loud noises. But he stayed because Jessica loved it.
The night wore on his nerves, he tried to use alcohol to ease the tension rolling through him, but it only heightened his agitation. Jessica had tried to pull him onto the dance floor but the bodies pushed at him and the heat overpowered him. He left her alone on the floor and tried to catch his breath outside. He returned to find her dancing with another man.
He knew the man that had his hands all over Jessica, Trevor Lawson. Wyatt didn’t know much about the short time Jess and Trevor had dated. At the time Wyatt and Jessica had been on a break while Wyatt had been in basic training. But his wife's coworker never let him forget that she could have married him instead, and always promised to take care of her when he was gone. Wyatt saw red, his blood boiled.
Wyatt shoved his way through the crowd, the tension he'd tentatively been holding had slipped through his grasp. Vision of the two of them together played through his drunken mind. His friends had laid dying and his wife was home sleeping with this asshole. He’d lost his whole platoon and here she was, openly flirting with Trevor right in front of him. The music pulsed and lights flashed the closer Wyatt got to the dance floor, he flinched at the loud crash behind him. The need to get clear of danger, pressed down on him from every direction. He tried to focused in on Jessica’s blond hair and bright smile but Trevor stepped in front of her. He twirled her around him, rested his hands on her hips.
“Get your hands off my wife,” Wyatt warned.
Jessica turned with a smile, “Wyatt you’re back.”
“Logan, good to see you made it back. Jess and I were just talking about you,” Trevor smirked.
“I said, get your hands off my wife,” he growled.
“Ah man, I was just keeping her warm,” Trevor assured with a chuckle.
Wyatt grabbed Jessica’s elbow and pulled her toward him, and began dragging her through the crowd.
“Wyatt!” Jessica yelped.
“Hey, what the hell, Logan?” Trevor objected.
Wyatt snapped back, “We’re leaving.”
“Wyatt! Let go of my arm,” Jessica demanded, tugging her arm out of his hold. Trevor scowled and followed close behind.
“Is this what you do while I’m deployed?” Wyatt snapped, in her face. “Have you been fucking him?
“What?!” Jessica gasped. “No! I’d never, do that Wyatt!?”
“Wyatt, you got it all wrong,” Trevor protested. “Just back off and we can talk about this. Jess, are you okay?”
Wyatt took a step into Trevor’s space and shoved him. Trevor stumbled but remained standing. Jessica gasped and stepped between the two men. She placed her hands on Wyatt’s chest, preventing him from going after Trevor again.
“Wyatt, you need to stop,” she cautioned.
“I am sick and fucking tired of people telling me what I fucking need. What I need is a wife that’s not out banging her coworker!” Wyatt raged.
People turned and pulled away from the scene. Jessica’s face flushed with indignation and disappointment. Wyatt knew he’d gone too far, but he couldn’t stop himself, he couldn’t quiet the roar of the gunfire in his ears. Nothing was in his control anymore and he needed space to breath. He needed people to stop asking him how he was doing. People to stop congratulating him on making it home, getting a new medal, asking how bad it was over there.
Wyatt took a shallow breath and looked down at his wife, he tried to shake off the haze that filled his mind. Her eyes were wet from unshed tears, her face bright red and her lips pursed. She reached out for his hand but he flinched back, he couldn’t be near her with his mind filled with visions of her infidelity. In his right state of mind he knew it wasn’t true that it was his own demons playing tricks on him. Wyatt turned his back on Jessica and stomped out of the bar. Nothing here was going to bring him peace tonight.
“Wyatt?” Jessica called to him.
“I’m leaving,” Wyatt barked. “Are you coming home with me or him?”
Jessica grabbed her purse, “I’m sorry Trevor, he not in his right mind.”
“As long as you're safe Jess.” Trevor glared at Wyatt.
“Don’t apologize to him for me.” Wyatt spun away from both of them. He still heard Jessica last words.
“Wyatt would never hurt me, even if he's a drunk idiot.”
Wyatt can't recall the fight in the car. He knew she hadn't wanted him to drive but he ignored her protest. She pushed and prodded his open festering wound of a soul and he couldn't stop the flood of images of running through the desert, away from his friends his platoon. Jessica had wanted him to talk, tell her what was wrong, she kept repeating that he was home, he was safe. He didn't feel home he didn't feel safe.
She threw up her hands and demanded he pull over. She couldn't deal with his silent bitterness anymore. Wyatt had refused, but Jessica had screamed at him stop the car. She told him she would rather walk, his internal demons mocked him with words of failure. He slammed on the breaks and silently watch her get out the car, arms on her hip she shut the door and walked away. Wyatt stared at his wife's retreating back for a moment before he pulled away.
It only took him twenty minutes of silence and doubt for him to turn the car around. He hoped she would forgive him, he had made a fool of himself and her. He knew he was going to need to beg, but Jessica was worth it. Their love was stronger then one night. But she wasn't on the street he left her on. Or the one next to it. Wyatt tried to remain calm, to convince himself that she just beat him home. He drove home and called her name but there was no answer.
For two weeks he lost himself in the search. Her family and friends came by constantly to aid in the search. His friends stood vigil, and forced him to sleep when they could. Wyatt can still hear the hollow knock on the front door when the San Diego detectives arrived. Jessica had been found and she was never coming home again. Someone had taken her for him. He had thought he knew pain, he thought he knew loss but nothing compared to the hole that ripped through his chest on learning his beautiful Jessica was killed and it was his fault.
“Jessica and I were fighting and she asked to get out of the car.” Wyatt looked at his friend, wrecked by the words that could never heal him. “That was the last time I saw her, in the side of the road. She was so disappointed and mad at me. And I just left her.” The last words were whispered.
Rufus placed a hand on his shoulder, “Wyatt, man you are so focused on her death that you have forgotten how she lived. Tell me about Jessica. How did you two meet?” Rufus worried that he might have pushed too hard.
Wyatt snapped his eyes up to his friend’s, and a wave of bitter sadness engulfed him. Rufus was right - he’d forgotten his wife. He thought about failing her, losing her, and missing her. But he never thought about the time before, when they were happy. Wait that's not right, Wyatt realized. In Arkansas with Lucy, he had told the story of their engagement.
The sensation of a soft cheek against his hand and softer lips on his, invaded his mind. Kissing Lucy had been a ploy apart of an act but weeks later he could still feel her lips against his. But he couldn't remember the last kiss he shared with his wife, he had forgotten.
He stumbled from the couch and rushed to the bathroom, he fell to his knees in front of the toilet
and he expelled a week long bender. Wyatt heaved until nothing was left in his stomach, he felt the cool sensation of a towel on the back of his neck. He rolled his head to look up at Rufus.
“My mom always did it when I got sick,” he said with half a shrug.
“Thanks, it helped,” Wyatt grumbled.
Wyatt tried to stand and would have fallen back to his knees, if Rufus hadn't caught him. Together they got him back to the couch, Rufus brought water and crackers he found.
“Not too fast,” Rufus warned.
Wyatt nodded, “High school, junior year.”
“Huh?” Rufus started but stopped when he realized Wyatt was talking about Jessica.
“I was on the football team and we were playing a game against our rivals. I wasn't paying attention and I bowled over one of the cheerleaders. She laughed and asked if I at least caught the ball. Her brown eyes sparkled with amusement when I handed her the ball and asked for her number.
That was all it took for me to be knocked off my feet in love. We were inseparable after that. Crowned king and queen at prom, voted cutest couple, we didn't go anywhere without the other. Her parents worried we were going to fast, but we ignored them.
When Jessica was accepted to San Diego State, it was the first big challenge in our relationship. College wasn't an option for me, I wasn't good enough at sports for scholarships and my family didn't have the money. The only way I knew to get a real education was from the military G.I. Bill. We fought for weeks, it was a first for us we normally agreed on everything. I promised her I would try the community college before enlisting.”
Wyatt stood from the couch, the memories of their last summer before she left for college filled his head. He worked two jobs and didn't have a lot of free time but she never complained. His first paycheck he bought her a charm bracelet, with a diploma and a heart. He promised that every year he would buy her another charm. That was the night they first made love, on a blanket under the stars.
“I barely lasted a semester, before the burden of two jobs and classes became too much to handle. I went straight to the recruitment office after my last class. Jess was pissed when I told her, she expected more from me. We fought when we talked and stopped calling each other as much. She came home for Christmas and I told her I was leaving after New Year’s.
“She told me she didn't want to be a soldiers wife and she need time to think. I was heartbroken but stubborn. I wrote to her while I was training, talked about my day how much I missed her. She wrote once told me she went on a date, but couldn't take my bracelet off. I begged her to meet me in Texas when I was on leave, before I left for more advance training.
I was so nervous she wouldn't show, when she did it was like nothing had changed. I was only home a few weeks but I had a plan. I asked her to marry me under the tree where I first kissed her and dropped the ring.”
Telling the story to Rufus didn't hurt as badly as he had thought it would. Talking about Jessica became easier, each word peeled back a layer of shadows that covered the sun, allowing the light back in.
“We were married on our five year anniversary, she said so I only had to remember one day, October 16th. A few weeks later I started with the Delta Force. Deployments are frequent and erratic, sometimes we were away a few weeks others it was months. Jess stayed in school and got a degree in Social Work, the work kept her busy while I was away. I knew she hated the time we were apart. She wanted to start a family, but I wasn’t ready.
“The last few years we spent a lot more time fight than getting along. The closer the end of my enlistment contract came, the more we fought. She wanted me to get out, but I excelled at being a solder. I didn't have a plan or any idea what I would do if I wasn’t a solder. When I was home she would leave pamphlets on job fairs, applications, and printed job announcements around the house. It was exhausting, for both of us.”
Wyatt refilled his water glass and looked out the small window. He hadn’t thought about the fighting outside that one night. She hated the quiet when he got home after a mission. She wanted to go out, he need to stay in. The world outside confused and presented challenges he wasn’t sure how to cope with. He saw the sadness that draped around her shoulders when he was around, but he didn’t know how to help himself much less her. They weren’t the same people and he can’t honestly say where they would be now if she hadn't died.
Rufus, step beside Wyatt placed his hand on his shoulder and looked out the window. “We were together almost ten years. Married for almost five when she was killed at twenty-seven.” Wyatt’s voice low. “I replay that night, over and over but nothing changes. I tried everything I could think of to change it. But nothing has worked. I felt cheated,” Wyatt ventured. “But now, now there is something I didn’t plan. I didn’t see coming.”
Rufus, watched his friend stand up taller, open his eyes and take a deep breath. He knew that Wyatt wasn’t talking about time travel, he was talking about Lucy.
“Being around Lucy is like waking up from a bad dream. She reached in and pulled me out of the fire, pulled my head out of my ass. I’m not sure who has saved who more.”
“I’m sure, I've done plenty of saving too,” Rufus murmured under his breath.
Wyatt chuckled, “Yeah, you have.”
“So why are you shutting her out?” Rufus wondered.
“Shit man, I’m terrified,” Wyatt blurted. “After losing Jessica, I never thought I would be happy again. That I would ever want to be with someone else. I never thought that I would fall in love with a bossy know-it-all that can’t buckle a seatbelt.”
Wyatt gasped in surprise, his eyes widened and his eyebrows went to his hairline.
Rufus looked at him and smirked, “Is that the first time you said that out loud, or did you just realize?”
“Both,” Wyatt breathed.
“So, what are you going to do?” Rufus insisted.
“Rufus, I have no idea. You saw me in ‘67, when she was hurt. I don’t know how I survived Jessica dying, but Lucy…” Wyatt trailed off with a shiver. “No, I can’t even image it. I am damaged and I can’t bare to drape her in sadness, like I did my wife.”
“Lucy is not Jessica. She has her own layer of sadness, her own baggage. Let's not even bring up the surprise fiancee.” Wyatt scowled. “Her sister is gone, and was never here. Her childhood father is not her father and she has to deal with us.”
Wyatt nodded along, “I don’t want to be a burden.”
“You are not a burden, you are our friend.” Rufus corrected. “I know if Lucy was here she would say the same thing. She’s worried about you, and would have been here if I didn’t tell her to wait. I don’t know how much longer she can wait.”
“I know, I just need to work through what happened.” Wyatt hated worrying her. The image of her on the stairs still haunted him.
“How much more is there to work out? You love her and she loves you.”
Wyatt shook his head, but smiled. “She never said that.”
Rufus stared at Wyatt until the other man looked away. “Well, she hasn’t.”
“I am sure she is just as terrified as you are. But, you need to talk to her, tell her how you feel. If you want to back out of the team, tell her. And me. We need you man, but if you can’t do it then we will understand.”
“I’m not going anywhere. This is my fight, and you are my team.” Wyatt’s voice was full of conviction. “ Does Lucy think I want out of the team?”
“I don’t know what Lucy is thinking, besides being worried about you.”
“I should go tell her I’m not leaving.” Wyatt grabbed his car keys and jacket.
“Ah man you might want to shower, and sleep. You still look like shit, and kind of smell.”
Wyatt looked down and couldn’t remember his last shower. “You’re right, but I can still text her.”
Rufus cringed and rolled his head. “Are you sure you want to go that route? At this hour?”
Wyatt nodded and grabbed his phone.
Wyatt 02:20am: Lucy I’m not going anywhere. Talk when I’m sober?
He didn’t get an answer right away and then he realized the time, oh she was not going to like that, he thought.
Lucy 02:35am: Good, sleep, water
Wyatt beamed up at Rufus, and he realized that he was laying down on the floor. He didn't even remember getting there. Lucy was right it was sleep time. He typed another message but fell asleep before sending it. Rufus took his phone and looked down.
Wyatt 02:40: I love Lucy Preston, tell her in the morning.
Rufus laughed and sent the message to himself only so he had proof to show Wyatt. He placed a pillow under his head on the floor and left a glass of water, too. He covered Wyatt with a blanket and wondered when Wyatt would face his last demon, self-doubt, and take a chance on love again.