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Librarians fic: That'll Be The Day That I Die (1/1)

November 9th, 2016 (07:42 pm)
cranky

feeling: cranky

Title: That’ll Be The Day That I Die


Disclaimer: I own nothing.


A/N: This fills my job related trauma square for hc_bingo. It’s unbeta’ed and I wrote it after S2 with general spoilers. It’s speculative, not that I think any of this will actually come to pass. Eve/Flynn and Cassandra/Jake.


Warnings: Character death. A lot of it.


Summary: Call it magic; call it fate; call it irony. But it is life now -- it is your life -- if you want it.





-o-


Most people, when given a terminal diagnosis, go through various stages of grief. Fear, anger, denial, depression -- all of it, and then some. It was a heavy thing, after all. Living with an expiration date.


Cassandra Cillian wasn’t most people.


It wasn’t that she wanted to die, but just that the tumor growing invasively in the lobes of her brain was like the variable in a complicated equation that she finally defined. It made sense, and it made the rest of her life make sense, too.


That was how Cassandra’s mind worked: logic, numbers, math.


Problems she could solve.


That was why she decided to pick the date. When her parents packed up all her math trophies and Cassandra dropped out of college, she picked the date. Every equation had to be solved; every life had to end.


She just had the privilege of deciding it for herself.


In this, she approached the problem with utmost diligence. She took everything into consideration, calculating for the feelings of others and the cost of long term care. She factored in the things she wanted to do and the places she wanted to go, and then derived the precise date to balance all relevant variables.


Death wasn’t chaos in the cosmos; death was order among the stars. With the right timing and spot-on calculations, Cassandra could time her death to make the planets aligns and keep the universe in order. Not a tragedy; just the answer.


That would be the day, she promised herself. The day she would solve the problem. The day she would bring order to the universe.


The day Cassandra Cillian would die.


-o-


It was funny, though. How every morning after her diagnosis was better than the ones before. She almost couldn’t help it; she woke up smiling.


Because yes, she was dying.


But she knew, beyond all doubt, that she wasn’t dying today.


-o-


Irony, even more than a tumor in her brain, was Cassandra Cillian’s curse. The closer her day got, the more she pushed it away, and that was the thing about magic.


It could do things that conventional medicine couldn’t.


Magic saved her life.


Maybe it healed her tumor; maybe it just gave her more reasons to live. Maybe it was the simple belief that nothing was impossible, not anymore, not for Cassandra.


But that wasn’t the irony. No, the irony was that Cassandra’s day never came.


Even when it came for each and every one of the rest.


-o-


The first one was Ezekiel. It was a typical mission, but that was the thing about the Library. Every mission was dangerous; every mission was important; every mission played with the fate of humankind, one way or another.


That was why they did this job, after all.


Because the stakes were always, always high.


Sometimes, sacrifices had to be made.


They told Ezekiel that, time and again because he never seemed to learn.


Until, of course, he did.


The curse he took was powerful and deadly, and it saved the world.


He was lucky, according to Flynn, because he was at least given a few minutes to say goodbye.


He wouldn’t let them cry; he wouldn’t let them apologize.


No, this was his moment.


This was his choice.


“You know me,” he quipped, a smirk on his face as his seconds of his life ticked away to nothing. “Always have to be first.”


When they scattered his ashes in the wind later, she told herself he would be the last.


-o-


It wasn’t the same after that.


If anyone had doubted why Ezekiel was a Librarian, they only had to live in his wake. He could have been the best of them, Cassandra thought sometimes.


That was sadder than anything else, really. Those three words.


Could have been.


She amended the date of her death after that, and hoped the cosmos understood.


They’d failed Ezekiel, lost him like a fraction reduced to its smallest denominator.


She couldn’t lose the rest.


-o-


Promises weren’t like math, though. She could figure out the right time for herself, but she never saw it coming for the others. She wasn’t even there when Flynn died.


It would be easy to say this wasn’t her fault, this was just the way Flynn was. He’d spent so much time alone; he’d done this job longer and better than any of them. And he’d learned to accept the team, even learned to embrace them, but at his heart, Flynn would always be The Librarian.


Not the first.


And never the last.


It wasn’t easy, though. Not when Eve came back alone, shellshocked and covered in blood. She explained what happened in halting, complete terms, as though she couldn’t believe it. As though she thought it really couldn’t be real.


They’d offered to go back, retrieve his body, bring him home. They’d all offered, every last one of them. Stone and Jenkins had almost insisted.


But Eve spread her fingers on her pants and shook her head with a resolution she didn’t know she had. “He’s gone,” she said, voice wavering just a little. “Flynn’s gone.”


Stone would ask for the whole story, about the ninjas with katanas and the heroic last stand. Jenkins would gently make sure that the artifact was safe, that Flynn’s death wasn’t in vain.


It was Cassandra, though, who took Eve to the bathroom and washed her hands and brushed out her hair. She held her, pulling her close until her chilled skin grew warm again.


“It was my job,” Eve murmured when she ran out of tears to cry. “It was my job.”


Cassandra smoothed her hair and kissed her gently. “No, it was his job,” she reminded her.


Eve looked up, eyes red and cheeks stained. “Then what the hell was I there for?”


“Oh, Eve,” she said, wishing it were enough this time. “There are many ways to save a life.”


-o-


And many ways to lose it, too. Sometimes people died before their hearts stopped beating. Sometimes people lived months, years, decades before their bodies finally caught up with the rest of them.


For Eve, the heart attack was almost a relief. She died in her room, eyes closed and hands open. She was smiling.


They all knew Flynn was waiting.


-o-


It was the only funeral that didn’t break Cassandra’s heart.


All the same, she checked her calculations.


Another adjustment was in order.


-o-


The work was harder, after that. Serious, too. Four Librarians was pared to two, and there was no Guardian for a safety net anymore. Cassandra and Jake knew the risks too well now -- three funerals and a lifetime of memories -- and they took nothing for granted.


That was why it changed, of course.


Nothing for granted.


They believed the lie that they had nothing left to lose.


Still, when Jake took her hand one day, she pulled away on instinct. There were, after all, a thousand reasons to say no.


He tilted his head, almost beseechingly. “Just the two of us now, Cassie. If I can’t trust you, then who can I trust?”


She’d waited so long for this, all those years and all those missions. He’d given her everything else over the years, but here was his last gift, just waiting for her to take it.


She shook her head, willing him to understand. Because Ezekiel never got the chance; because Flynn and Eve were stopped too soon. Because. “We can’t.”


“Not like there’s a rule--”


“But we can’t--”


“You’re all I have in this world,” he said, shrugging his shoulders in futility. “You’re living this life with me one way or another.”


“But I’m dying, Jacob,” she reminded him, because sunlight made shadow, every time. Because she’d taken him to get drunk when Ezekiel died; because she’d reminded him, until her voice was hoarse, that the job was still worth doing after Flynn never came home; because she’d held him -- she’d held him tight enough to feel his heart against her own -- until his tears finally ran dry after they’d found Eve dead. Because she couldn’t see him hurt like that, not again, not if she could help it. Not because of her. “I can’t do that to you.”


He studied her, taking in every inch of her face like he was seeing it for the first time. Then, he stepped closer. Pausing, he cupped her face and leaned himself in toward her, pressing his lips to hers.


The rush of emotions threatened to overwhelm her.


She smelled it; tasted it; saw it; felt it. A thousand impulses, each stronger than the last. It was like all the digits of pi and the number 6.


In an instant, Cassandra knew every secret the universe had to offer.


A thousand reasons to say no.


But only the right one to say yes.


Jake pulled away, smiling. “We’re all dying, darling,” he drawled. “Might as well do it together.”


-o-


It was the most natural thing in the world.


Every mission, side by side. Talking art and math, science and history. Saving the world every week, twice before Friday.


And magic.


Cassandra and Jake.


It was magic.


-o-


She still worried sometimes. About the tumor in her brain, and if she was living on borrowed time. She made an appointment to see a neurologist, but something always came up. She could borrow a little more, it seemed.


That wasn’t what she really worried about, though. She knew she was dying, but she felt guilty about living. She hated it, really, and wondered if Ezekiel, Flynn and Eve would understand. She missed them, and she wished they could be there, wished they could be as happy as she was.


“Oh, I think they’d approve,” Jenkins assured her.


“But why do I get to be happy?” Cassandra asked. “When they didn’t even get to live?”


Jenkins smiled fondly. “The choice isn’t always ours to make,” he said. “We can’t pick when we live or die, but we can determine how. As for you and Mr. Stone, I imagine our friends would like to know their deaths weren’t in vain.”


She smiled back, pecking him on the cheek. “Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.”


-o-


After that, she stopped doing the math.


There was no date, not anymore.


She could solve any problem and calculate any outcome, but there was no equation for happiness.


And there certainly was no proof for love.


-o-


Maybe that was why Cassandra never saw it coming.


She should have, of course. Of all people, Cassandra should have seen it coming. She should have calculated the odds; weighed the probabilities. She could tell you the velocity of the bullet as it left the gun; she could determine the exact force when it hit Jake’s chest; but she couldn’t tell you why.


Why Jake was too slow; why the warlock had a gun in the first place. Why they had come to retrieve this artifact; why they hadn’t thought to arm themselves with more than a crowbar and mathematical equations.


Watching him fall, it struck her how long she’d been doing this job.


And how she’d never be doing it long enough to get used to this.


-o-


On the ground, she scooped him up, shaking her head. “No,” she said. “No, no, no.”


His chest hitched, blood flecking his lips. “Cass -- I--”


He convulsed, fresh blood spilling down his chin.


No,” she said again, eyes starting to burn. There had to be a way to change this; they were Librarians, damn it. This was what they did. They found alternative solutions to impossible problems. There was a spell, a magical reversal, a last minute miracle.


This was just another problem; just another equation to solve.


There was never a problem Cassandra couldn’t solve.


Never.


He gurgled this time, eyes locked on hers. Pain creased his face, but somehow he managed to smile.


“No,” she said, voice breaking on a sob now. “Jake, no.”


“Yes, darling,” he murmured, voice no more than a whisper. “The answer’s -- always -- been yes.”


She was still holding him when the life drained from his body. She was still trying to figure out the solution when his eyes dimmed.


Her mind tripped over itself -- the taste of his lips against hers, the raised scars on his skin, the sound of his voice when he talked about art -- and she fumbled the math until all that was left was a null set.


All the questions in the world.


But not an answer.


At least, not the answer she wanted.


-o-


She buried Jake in Oklahoma because she didn’t know where else to do it. His father showed up and so do all the people who used to call him a friend. It was a good turnout -- the whole town, really -- but Cassandra couldn’t help but feel she’d made the wrong choice as she listened to the eulogies.


These people didn’t know him, not really. They could talk about the games he played as a child and the way he used to eat a whole pizza by himself, but that wasn’t who Jacob was.


That wasn’t who any of them were, though. They were more than the sum of their habits, greater than the length of their job description. What they did couldn’t be quantified or qualified. Jake would be remembered as a cowboy, just like Ezekiel was a thief and Eve was a Colonel and Flynn was a wayward academic. They were more than that, but no one would remember that now.


No one but Cassandra.


Because she was the last Librarian.


She’d never understood, just how lonely that was, and she wondered how Flynn survived ten years like this.


Singular.


And alone.


-o-


Back at the Library, she did the math again, the equation she’d put aside when she let Jake in. She’d forgotten about it, left it cast aside to collect dust along with the CAT scans and x-rays she’d stopped trying to understand.


She thought, maybe it was her time.


Maybe it was her time, to make the stars align, to put her life in order in the long history of things. She’d lived, after all. Lived much longer, much fuller than she’d ever imagined. She’d experienced and she’d discovered and she’d traveled and she’d loved. More than she deserved.


Maybe she could solve this equation, then.


Finish this proof once and for all.


But Ezekiel shook his head diffidently, and Flynn looked at her knowingly. Eve squeezed her hand, and Jacob wrapped his arms around her so tight that she almost couldn’t breathe.


When Jenkins found her, the equation was left unanswered.


She thought maybe that was how it was supposed to be.


-o-


It was quiet after that.


Cassandra worked efficiently and ruthlessly. Ezekiel wasn’t there, after all, to wow them with his prowess. Flynn wasn’t flitting in and out at a moment’s notice, regaling them with the latest way they needed to save the world. Eve wasn’t at her desk, coming up with practical solutions to their magical problems. And Jake couldn’t pull her aside with a story about art or history or the way things used to be.


With no distractions, her magic flourished, and the Library had never been safer. She amassed power, determining to protect the world in the way she hadn’t been able to protect her friends.


She learned how to be confident like Ezekiel; she learned to see the big picture like Flynn. She learned to defend herself like Eve.

She learned the value of what she was saving, just like Jake.


They would never see it, the person she became.


They’d be proud of her, she liked to think. All the times she’d saved the world; all the people she had protected. They’d be so very proud.


And a little disappointed all the same.


-o-


It was Jenkins who said goodbye next. He’d been preparing for weeks -- years, really -- and when he finally called her to his bedside, she already knew what he was going to say.


“You’re leaving,” she said.


He sighed wearily. “I’m leaving.”


“I thought you were immortal,” she told him, willfully obtuse.


His smile was sad. “No, no,” he said. “Just long lived.”


“So why now?” she asked. It had been ten years since Jake, twenty since Eve, twenty-five since Flynn. Thirty-five years since Ezekiel. “Why, after all this time? Your job’s not done.”


“No, of course it’s not,” he said. He paused, studying her. “But I don’t think it’s mine anymore.”


Cassandra frowned, somewhat confused. “But…”


He inclined his head.


“Me?” she asked in surprise. “But I’m a Librarian.”


“And you have been one of the best,” he assured her. “Your time, your experience, your dedication -- they will be great assets in your role as caretaker.”


“But--” she spluttered. “I’m already dying--”


“Cassandra,” Jenkins said, intently now. “The rest of the world has been dying around you, but you’ve always chosen to live. Call it magic; call it fate; call it irony. But it is life now -- it is your life -- if you want it.”


“And if I don’t?” she asked.


He settled down in his bed, letting out a long breath. “You’re the genius here, Miss Cillian,” he said. “Not me.”


-o-


She buried Jenkins in the Library, in a vault that appeared just for him.


A man who had lived centuries.


And the woman who’d outlived him.


The woman who’d outlived them all.


Ezekiel, Flynn, Eve, Jake, Jenkins.


People who had made her who she was.


People who had made her live.


That was friendship; that was family.


That was love.


The purest magic the world had ever known.


-o-


When she made it back up to the annex, someone, inexplicably, knocked on the door. She paused, confused, before the knocking resumed.


Finally, she went over and answered it.


There was a girl, young and confused. She bit her lips for a moment and then offered Cassandra a letter. “I got this letter, offering me a job,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to come, but….”


Cassandra took the letter, recognizing the print. She opened it, reading the invitation as if it was her own. She still remembered, what it was like to have that chance, what it was like to see the possibilities of life stretch before her, infinite and undefined.


She saw herself, there. Believing in the impossibility of hope.


That wasn’t all she saw, though. She saw Ezekiel, better than he had any right to be but with everything to prove to himself. She saw Flynn, experienced and nuanced but in need of a family he didn’t know he wanted. She saw Eve, careful and calculated but with hard edges ready to be softened. And she saw Jake, ready to come into his own, once and for all.


This was what Jenkins had been talking about. Call it irony, call it fate, call it magic. This was Cassandra Cillian’s life, thanks to all the people who had gone before.


Her eyes looked up at the girl again.


Young and uncertain. She’d probably never heard of magic before in her life.


“Well, you’re here,” Cassandra said, and she stepped back, opening the door. “You might as well come in.”


She hesitated. “Look, I don’t know if I’m going to take it.”


Cassandra gave her a plain, nonplussed look. She’d lived too long to put up with indecision. “You’re not the first. You won’t be the last, but this is your job -- this is your life, if you want it. And let me assure you, beyond all doubt, the answer has always been yes,” she said, and it felt like she’d been waiting her whole life for this moment and all that would come next. She grinned, because she wasn’t alone anymore. Maybe she never was. “You may as well learn that now, and we’ll get along fine.”