July 21, 2016 by Lyn
President Lincoln was holding a reception.
Luca wasn’t certain why he’d been invited, but he had a feeling it had something to do with the two blonde women in front of him – the icy English Regine Avonmorea and the silly and frivolous tree-blossom Michaela Carmichael née Linden, whose current husband had that lost look that Luca had already come to associate with Mike’s spouses, especially the male ones.
“Isn’t this fun?” said Daeva asked him, in a girlish titter that set Luca’s teeth on edge. “I wasn’t sure, when Georgie told me that the President was having a party – he’s so dour! – but I’m glad we came, now. Look, here he comes, and who’s that lovely Mick with him?”
“Really, Michaela.” Regine’s voice dripped disapproval. “With your husband here?”
“With my husband here,” Mike grinned happily. “Maybe in the same bed, George is a wonderful man.” She shifted her expression to less of a leer, though, either at Luca’s frown or at the President, moving closer.
“Mrs. Avonmorea. Mrs. Carmichael. Mr. Hunting Hawk. So glad you could all make it. Might I have the pleasure of introducing you to Ruadhán MacAoife, without whom this war would have been much harder-won.”
The ginger-haired youth at the President’s side didn’t look like a warrior or any sort of war-winner at all; he was slender, pale, with glasses perched on his nose and a spotting of freckles over his nose and cheeks, his shirt improperly fit to him and his shoes scuffed. “It wasn’t anything like that, Mr. President,” he objected, even his accent – thick as porridge – selling him short. But Luca had seen this man before.
“The guns, right?” he asked, much, it looked, to everyone’s surprise. “You did the modification to the Gatlings that made them run smoother.”
MacAoife blushed. “I did, at that,” he agreed weakly. “I didn’t expect…”
“General Hawk was one of our primary strategists,” the President interrupted. “Although he generally preferred to remain behind the scenes.”
“Oh, ah, I see.” The boy met Luca’s eyes, his gaze suddenly very sharp. “I see, yes, I do.”
Luca noticed, deep in the boy’s eyes, a triple ring of gold around the pupil. Fae, probably. And, from that set of shoulders, probably a half-breed. He smiled at the boy.
“Your advances helped us win the war,” he said solemnly. “Thank you. You’re a good man.”
Washington’s Birthday, 1972
Luke found Reid at the Lincoln Memorial, eating a sandwich and watching the crowd. The skinny scientist, who looked a bit older but no less unimposing than he had over a century ago, noticed Luke before he sat down.
“I already told Regine no, you can save your breath.”
“Won’t take me long, then.” Luke sat down next to him and pulled out his own lunch. “But I’m not here to ask for her. You know all her reasons already. You know why she needs you.”
“She’s got my son. He can take care of the genetic material for her, and the rest of it… no.”
“Like I said, I’m not here to ask for her. Your son is not you. Anymore than my sons are me.” Luke shrugged. “That’s not the point. I don’t care if you make kids for her or not. I don’t care if you do the other shit she wants. That’s her problem.”
In the expression Reid aimed at him, Luke saw echoes of the much-younger Ruadhán in an earlier century. “I don’t think you’re here for my machine gun skills this time.”
“Maybe later,” Luke hedged. He didn’t want to get into that part of things right now.
“Later?” Reid raised an eyebrow, and then both eyebrows. “Interesting. So why did you come all the way out here, when I’d already told Regine no?”
“Because I need you there,” Luke told him flatly. “Not just because you’re a brilliant teacher, and we need more of those, but Mike respects you, which puts you on a short list of about three. Maybe two. And Regine sure as hell isn’t going to keep Mike in check, or Mike keep Regine on the straight and narrow.”
“Regine seems straight and narrow enough,” Reid protested.
“More like tunnel vision,” Luke grumbled. “Look, Ruadhán… Reid… I need you there because you’re a good guy with a strong backbone and a great mind. And we’re going to need all three of those things, I think, if this little project of Regine’s isn’t going to explode.”
“You make it sound like it’s not your project, too.”
“Parts of it are,” he sighed. “But in parts, I’m just along for the ride – trying to steer the bronco and mostly trying not to fall off.”
The younger man studied him thoughtfully for a long time, long enough for Luke to squirm. He was good in Intinn, Regine had said, but he had to use the Words, right?
The smile he finally produced did nothing to reassure Luke. “I’ll do it. But for you, not for her.”
“Good enough,” Luke sighed in relief. They were going to need every good man they could get.