Lucy could prepare herself for a lot of things. She anticipated having her life threatened every time she stepped into the Lifeboat. She could mentally prepare herself for it. Sometimes now she even did that when going home to her apartment. There was an ever present risk now of something lurking in the shadows. Populated areas and crowds were safest. That's why when Wyatt, Rufus, and Jiya had wanted to get a drink after work she'd not been afraid to show up alone. She'd parked on a populated street, under a street light, on just the next block of the bar. She could see crowds just a mere ten feet away.
Her security detail would be just five minutes behind her. She'd ask them to give her a little space for tonight, at least. Rittenhouse wasn't going to risk the Friday night social crowd finding them out. Even Wyatt had admitted it would be an unnecessary risk for them to try anything on a crowded street on a weekend.
What she couldn't prepare herself for were the unknowns.
Like the man who sprung suddenly from the small shadowy alcove in the building next to her car. How she hadn't smelled him first she'd never know because as his arms grabbed her around the waist all she could smell was alcohol. He slammed her against the building. He was huge. Tall, broad shoulder, with long muscular limbs. Before she could even scream he'd brought one of his huge hands to her throat. One hand had essentially wrapped all around her neck.
"Little girls in your little black dresses, you all think you can walk right past me. Cockteases, every last one of you," he sneered at her.
Oh great, so this wasn't even about her. He was just a sexist psychopath. Wyatt had made sure to teach her a few self defense tips and he'd shown her how to break a hold like this one. She brought her arm around the chop off his hold but he'd known it was coming. He grabbed wrist and pinned it to the wall. His hand on her throat squeezed tighter and she felt panic starting to build. The blood thumped in her ears. Shit.
Focus. She thought. She remember the most sensitive areas Wyatt had mentioned to her. Her first thought was groin and she tried to kick out but he was so tall and his limbs so long that she couldn't reach him. She had a free hand but she knew her arm wasn't long enough to reach his nose or his eyes from here. If he'd only move just an inch closer.
Her breathing became more restricted as her panic became harder to hold at bay. The pure hatred in her attackers eyes made her flinch. He was going to kill her. This was not how she saw herself dying. She'd hoped old age, but given her job she knew it was for more likely she'd go out trying to save history or trying to save her team. She'd pictured something heroic. Not this.
Then she suddenly remembered Harry Houdini. Fear isn't real, she reminded herself. She'd talked H.H. Holmes out of killing her. If she could take on the most psychotic asshole of them all then she could handle this thug.
"I didn't see you," she croaked out. His hold loosened just a small amount. Not enough to give her much relief, if any.
Her free hand slipped into jacket pocket and fumbled around till she found her desired weapon.
"Lying bitch," the man said as he glared at her. "You saw me."
"I didn't," she said again. "If I had I would've stopped."
Please work, she thought. His grip was still tight but he stepped much closer to her.
"I'm not a tease," she said in a faint voice. Considering she could barely breathe she was amazed she could get that out. Come on, she thought, just a little closer.
Finally his face was in front of hers. It struck her how much this man resembled Noah. He wore expensive clothes, no doubt his haircut cost more than her last book advance, and his face was chiseled. The epitome of a young, successful, professional.
Who was secretly a total abusive bastard.
Why did that make so much sense to her?
Well, the ladies wouldn't find him attractive for much longer, she thought as she leapt into action. She needed him close, she needed to be able to hit him with force. Her hand emerged from her pocket with her mailbox key between her thumb and pointer finger. Just as she stabbed his eye with a sickening squish she heard footsteps and a familiar voice call her name.
Her attackers hands immediately released her to hold his bleeding eye and she stumbled away from him. Finally able to breathe. The man turned and lunged at her with a furious roar but a sudden hard punch from a newcomer laid him out. Felled with one punch. The punch had happened so suddenly and in such flash, Lucy had not registered who it was just as she had not registered whose voice had called her name.
"Shit, Lucy," an urgent voice said as gentle hands grabbed her arms.
Despite how gentle those hands were she was still full of adrenaline and fear, so she flinched and backed away. Her gaze never leaving her unconscious attacker.
"Hey, Lucy, focus on me. Not on that bastard," the voice said. "Come on, it's over. Look at me." Slowly the world around her came back into focus as her breathing evened out and the darkness that had formed around her vision faded. Her eyes moved from her attacker to the source of the voice and she nearly cried at the sight that greeted her.
"Wyatt," she breathed in relief.
"There you are," he said with a soft comforting smile. He moved to step closer, but paused. He held up his hands in front of him hesitantly. "You okay if I come a little closer?"
She didn't bother answering and instead rushed him with a hug. She felt like she'd slammed into him but he didn't move an inch. If she'd slammed into him like she thought then he must have braced himself for it. She felt his arms come around her, with one hand resting on her back and the other on the back of her neck.
"You're okay," Wyatt assured her.
He pulled back slightly so he could see her face. She felt his hand under her chin as he turned her face from one side to the other, appraising her for injuries. His eyes landed on her very red neck, that had a clear hand print shape marked on it. She saw his eyes darken with rage and felt his muscles tense underneath her hands that rested on his biceps. She'd seen this before, the coiled tension and violence just about to spring loose. She gripped his arms and shook her head.
"Wyatt, don't," she said just as he started to pull away from her and turn back toward the unconscious man. "He's down. Leave it at that."
The darkness lessened and his muscles twitched just briefly before she felt them relax. He was still furious but he knew she was right.
"That was a good move with the keys," he told her as he brought the hand that held her chin down to look at the wrist that would also have serious bruising. He sounded subdued as if he were working very hard to focus on her. "Smart, the way you lured him closer."
"You saw that?" She asked.
"Came outside to look for you right as his face was inches from yours. It all kinda happened in slow motion," he admitted as she heard the fear in his voice. "I was running but it didn't feel like I was getting anywhere." He turned and briefly released her as if he'd remembered something. He picked her bloody keys up off the ground and wiped them off with his t-shirt. "Not that you're going to need these tonight, but we shouldn't leave them behind."
"Why won't I need my keys?" Lucy asked in confusion.
"Because I'm not letting you out of my sight for the rest of the night," Wyatt told her as if it should be obvious. "Not after this." There it was: guilt. She knew it was coming. He sounded angry and worried, yes, but behind that was guilt.
"Wyatt, this was not your fault."
Her security detail pulled up then and she didn't have a chance to further explain because Wyatt turned away from her to yell at the Homeland Security Agents that were supposed to be guarding her.
"Where the hell have you guys been?" He asked them angrily, with a slight growl underneath his words. She'd never heard him this angry before. No, that wasn't true. Once, she'd seen him this angry only once. With Holmes. "You were supposed to give her a few minutes head start, like one or two, not fifteen."
The agents didn't bother asking what happened they simply gathered her attacker up and put him in the back of the car.
"I'm assuming," Agent Kondo said as he let out a long suffering sigh. "You're not going to trust us to be anywhere near her for the rest of the night which means we can take this asshole in for questioning?"
"Throw him in a pit in a black site for all I care," Wyatt said with a glare. "I've got her, you take care of him."
Kondo nodded before he and his partner got in their, not all conspicuous, four door black sedan and drove off.
"Shouldn't the local police handle this?" Lucy asked with a furrowed brow..
Wyatt shrugged and looked a little sheepish as he brought his attention back to her. He looked as though she'd just seen something he didn't really want her to see.
"Homeland has to question him. They have to make sure he's not Rittenhouse," Wyatt answered. "Do you still want to go inside or…"
She sighed and clenched her shaking hands into fists. She really wished they'd stop shaking. The danger had passed. But her already thin sense of safety had been shattered. She was prepared for attacks in the past but the present had always felt separate from all of that.
Wyatt's hands wrapped around her fisted ones. His thumbs softly ran over her knuckles on both hands. "Hey," he said in a soft tone. Beckoning her to look at him. She took a deep breath and brought her brown eyes to meet his blue ones. "It's okay to be upset. It doesn't make you weak, Lucy. Honestly, it doesn't. You've proven how strong you are-how brilliant you are-more times than I thought possible, long before tonight. Not only that, but stabbing that guy with your keys was so badass." He gave her half of a smile after that last line. She loved that crooked half smile, even when it drove her crazy.
Her hands relaxed and she let out a watery chuckle as tears finally started to sting her eyes. She looked down at her hands as they continued to shake.
"I should have driven you over myself," Wyatt said with a sullen sigh as he shifted their hands and laced his fingers through hers. "If I had none of this would have-"
"Don't," Lucy told him with a shake of her head. "If It wasn't for you I wouldn't have know what to do. So you have nothing to feel guilty about. You're the reason I'm still standing right now, Wyatt. You saved me. Well, you and Harry Houdini," she said with a weak laugh as she dared to meet his perfect blue eyes again. "First thing I did was start thinking through all the self defense tips you'd given me and if his arms hadn't been so damn long I would have gotten out of that hold without having to get blood on my keys," she said as she fought the dizziness that the memory of the blood brought with it.
"We'll work on that," Wyatt said with a smirk as he released her hands so that he could wrap his arms around her and pull her into him again. "There might be some tricks I could show you."
She nodded as her arms went around him too and she rested her head on his shoulder. "Sounds like a plan."
"So, what did you decide?" He asked again as he continued to hold her. "Rufus and Jiya are still inside or we could go."
"If I'm not going home then where would we go?" She asked as she nestled her cheek further against his shoulder.
The line between friends and more than that was blurring rapidly the longer they stood there holding on to each other. They both knew that, but neither felt rushed to move.
"You can stay with me," he answered. "I told you I'm not letting you out of my sight and I meant it."
His arms tightened around her instinctively and he felt her nod against him. "Okay," she said with a tired sigh. "Let's go then. I don't know if I can go inside right now."
He reluctantly released her and then led her down the sidewalk with a protective hand on the small of her back. "Whatever you want, Luce."
They reached his place and he immediately got her something to change into. Her black shift dress and light jacket were ripped across one shoulder and there was a bit of dried blood on both of them from where she'd stabbed that asshole in the eye. She'd opted for a shower too and he'd made sure she knew where to find everything before he collapsed onto his couch and put his head in his hands.
He'd been on high alert since he'd stepped out of the bar and seen that psycho holding Lucy by her throat. Even while comforting her, and himself too he had to admit, he was aware of everything around him. Looking for any danger to Lucy. She'd noticed. She'd given him worried glances because his arm had shot out in front of her at every red light despite the fact that his brakes barely jostled her.
But, god damn, of all the things to almost lose Lucy to he never once anticipate some abusive privileged douchebag would corner her on a public street. He was so used to Rittenhouse being what put her in danger that he forgot to think about everything else that could happen to her. He was momentarily back on that road where Jess had disappeared. He'd driven up and down that road for hours looking for her. The idea of something like that happening to Lucy, too-
His chest felt tight and pained. This would have been different than Jess though. He would have lost her before they'd even had a chance to be anything. He'd be crushed with grief and regret all over again but for entirely different reasons and he could not face both a second time. He wouldn't survive it.
He suddenly felt arms slip around him from behind and a chin rest on his shoulder. He was surrounded by the smell of his shampoo and soap in a freshly clean cloud. The chin that rested on his shoulder led to the feeling of a cheek grazing his. The skin was smooth and soft and still a bit wet. Lucy. He removed his hands from his head and placed them over Lucy's smaller ones that currently rested on his chest. As he sat up a little straighter a feather light kiss was placed against his jaw. It comforted him. Eased his worries and calmed his wildly spinning emotions.
He knew wrapping herself around him like she had was a bold move for her. She'd kept herself distant from people for a long time just as he had, but for different, just as personal reasons. It wasn't so long ago she'd had a deathly ill mother and a younger sister to take care of. It was probably easier to focus on living for them instead of living for herself. He gripped her hands tighter as she tried to pull them away and then turned his head toward hers. "Thank you," he said with a warm smile.
She nodded. "You looked like you needed it."
He chuckled softly and took a deep breath, inhaling her soothing scent as it continued to surround him. "I did. Still do. So, don't move just yet, okay?"
She nodded and stayed right where she was, on the couch next to him. Her arms wrapped around him from behind, her chest pressed against his back, and her chin resting on his shoulder. Her breathing and steady heartbeat and the swell of affection he felt for her reminded him that he hadn't lost her. He wouldn't have to regret anything or grieve her anytime soon. They were here in the present and he could do something about it. He pulled one of her hands from his chest and kissed the back of it.
It had been awhile since that initial conversation about possibilities but it was never far from his mind. She was never far from his mind.
"I'm an idiot," Wyatt said with a self deprecating chuckle.
"Nope, you don't get to talk about yourself like that," Lucy said immediately. "You're not an idiot."
"Lucy, we started a talk two months ago that we never finished. We never finished it because I'm an idiot," Wyatt told her as he turned in her arms and met her eyes. "I thought you had too much to deal with. I thought you wouldn't want to deal with your mother and Rittenhouse and then have to deal with me."
"Deal with you?" Lucy asked with an amused grin. "You make it sound like you're equally as bad as Rittenhouse."
"Equally as messed up, maybe," he said with a huff.
Lucy shook her head at him and brought a hand up to caress the side of his face. "No one is as messed up as Rittenhouse." She said it seriously but he could see the teasing in her eyes. It worked, he felt himself chuckling quietly.
"Thanks," he said sardonically.
"Wyatt, we're all messed up," she told him as she ran her thumb across his cheek. "I mean, look at me. I was on the brink of losing my mother completely, dove into my job and my sister and shut everyone else out. Only to then lose my sister and do the exact same thing all over again. Now, I've lost both my mother and my sister and I'm still falling into the same old defense patterns. You weren't the only one keeping your distance," she admitted. "I thought concentrating on the job would keep me from dealing with everything else. I should know by now that it never works. So, you're a little broken," she said with a small shrug and a warm smile. "So am I."
She was sitting so close and looking at him tenderly. The combination of everything hit him at once. Her concern for him, the feel of her body pressed close to his, her hand on his cheek. He couldn't have stopped himself from leaning in, even if he'd wanted to.
He kissed her softly, lightly, hesitantly. He was testing the waters, waiting for her reaction. She responded rather quickly, just as softly. He pulled his lips from hers to kiss her jawline, all the way up to the hinge of her jaw just below her ear. His line of sight caught the bruises forming on her neck and it reminded him of what she'd been through earlier that night. He dared to move a bit lower, gently kissing the sensitive bruising. Wishing that he could make them go away. He trailed kisses over every inch of the large mark on her neck and then pulled her bruised wrist to his lips as well. His other hand moved to rest on the crook of her neck. He ran his thumb lightly across her now purple skin. No one would be able to do this to her again. She'd know how to handle it next time before it got to that point. Or he'd be there with her to stop it. He was fine with either option, but it would not happen again.
He pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes, taking her in again as her freshly showered scent still wafted around him. Her hair was damp against his hand as it rested on her neck and he found himself trying to memorize every sensation.
"I'm teaching you how to fight," he said suddenly.
Lucy laughed. "Is that what you're thinking about during all of this?"
He laughed too and nodded. "Partially." He opened his eyes and found her brown ones searching his in amusement. His thumb ran across the discolored skin on her neck and he took a deep fortifying breath. "This," he said as his thumb flitted across the bruise. "Cannot happen again. I already know how you'd feel about me lurking around you every minute of every day-" she scoffed, confirming his assumed answer of 'hell, no' was correct. "So, I'm teaching you how to fight. It'll be basics, but you need to know how to make the most of yourself in a fight. To keep you safe. If I can't be there with you then this is how I keep you safe, okay?"
If she were going to protest, he hoped that last plea changed her mind.
Her hands ran through his hair and she smiled at him with a look so full of warmth and affection that he almost forgot to breathe. "Okay."
He quirked a brow at her suspiciously, knowing how she felt about sports. She thought she wasn't coordinated enough so she avoided them with a passion. "Okay?"
"I know you need to protect me," she answered him. "And if teaching me to fight brings you some peace of mind then let's do it. Tell me when and where."
He flashed her his trademark crooked smile. "We'll figure that out tomorrow. I think I have better plans for you tonight, ma'am."
Her eyes widened and she grinned wickedly at him. "You do, huh?"
"We've got to make up for that lost two months somehow, don't we?" He asked as he leaned toward her lips again. This night may have started with his insides being suddenly twisted with fear and anger but it wasn't ending that way. He was twisted around with a completely different feeling that was much more satisfying. Hopefully, this one stuck around long enough for him to find out what it was and where it would lead.
His arms went around Lucy and he held her tightly as his lips found hers again. For tonight, at least, she was leaving his sight and he planned to make very good use of that time.
No more regrets.