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The children are annoying. Colonel Baird is annoying. The disruption to Jenkins’ routine and solitude is excessively annoying.

He’ll admit that doing the man-of-mystery thing had been a little bit of fun. He’d liked the disturbed glances Colonel Baird kept sending him when he miraculously showed up to get them from the forest after the Library came untethered, and the expression on the Librarian’s face when Jenkins walked them all into the Annex was gratifying in the extreme. (It is always, always worth it to mess with the Librarians.) He’ll even admit to being pleased by the fact that none of them perished inconveniently during the resulting adventure.

But then they stayed. And now they are going to keep staying, with all their touching things and breathing and saying things in irritating accents and putting magic back into the world, and Jenkins is annoyed.

He gets that none of them understand just how bad free magic would be. He has had centuries in which to watch humanity forget that particular horror and turn it into ninety-minute cartoon drivel for children. If the newbies are going to survive as librarians (experience tells him they won’t, even if his sternly buried but obnoxiously resilient sense of hope keeps saying they will), they’re going to have to learn about the old ways. And that means Jenkins is going to have to teach it to them.

Jenkins does not at all want to revisit the old ways. They’re old for a reason, and they would have stayed old if certain people hadn’t mishandled their ancient responsibilities and stirred the whole mess back up again.

Make yourself useful or make yourself gone, Colonel Baird had said.

Well. Jenkins is not about to leave, and he can in fact be useful in a way that even vexingly scatterbrained Librarians will recognize. For all the incessant, annoying questions that the children ask (where is the bathroom? why is that door chained shut? if it says ‘do not touch under any circumstances’, can I hold it? it’s so shiny!), there is one they haven’t thought of, and for that Jenkins is willing to be grateful.

He’s a little disappointed in Colonel Baird, though. As the Guardian, at some point it really should have occurred to her that the Library typically contains two general categories of things, i.e. a lot of dangerous artifacts and a Librarian, and Jenkins is not the Librarian.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Galeus is off looking for the Grail when the whole fiasco comes to a head, and by the time he makes it back to Camelot the ruins have stopped smoking and started turning into scrubland. By that point it’s hard to find everybody - most of the knights have disappeared completely, Guinevere’s retreated to a nunnery and starts crying every time she sees one of them again, and Morgan LeFay is…

Well. That’s a tale for another time, perhaps.

He runs into Lancelot once in the early days. It doesn’t go well. Galeus expects a certain amount of evil-for-the-sake-of-evil from Morgan, but Lancelot was supposed to be the best of them. The knight of knights. Arthur’s most trusted, the one they all aspired to be like.

Lancelot may have been pushed there by Morgan’s machinations, but his actions ever since prove that he has chosen his side. By going to look for the Grail Galeus had chosen his side too, although it was difficult to see the whole situation that way until later. In the moment it was just a whole lot of awful, all piled up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All right, so the adventure with the Minotaur is probably the most interesting thing that’s happened in the Annex in quite some time - possibly centuries. Jenkins will grudgingly admit that. And he probably wouldn’t have gotten around to finishing the back door if he hadn’t been so desperate to get the interlopers out of his Annex as quickly as possible.

Cassandra is at least starting to listen to Jenkins’ explanations and seems impressed by innovations like the back door, which is gratifying (and a long time coming, thank you so much Judson). And Jacob shows signs of not being entirely useless.

He still doesn’t see the point of Ezekiel, though.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Galeus was the only one of the knights who was able to touch the Grail, and so after Camelot died he just sort of… kept going with the whole questing thing. There were a lot of artifacts in the world, then - the free magic that Merlin had tamed with Excalibur and the Stone was still settling down, and there were plenty of objects that needed to be located and put somewhere safe. At the beginning that mostly meant ‘safe from Morgan Le Fay’, because the kind of havoc she could wreak without either Arthur or Merlin around to stand in her way was and is genuinely terrifying, but in the process he removed them from the sometimes innocent and often well-meaning grasp of more ordinary folk as well.

He had expected Morgan to be pursuing a similar course of action (with, of course, an entirely different ultimate aim), but it didn’t take long to figure out that Lancelot had thrown himself into the mix as well.

Galeus was torn when he first cottoned on to Lancelot’s plan. He wanted Arthur back, of course he did, but he knew Arthur would never agree to allowing innocents to be hurt in the process. And Lancelot, it soon became abundantly clear, no longer cared about collateral damage. Even Morgan refused to work with him, for the love of sanity.

Arthur would never condone it. And Galeus is Arthur’s, for all the good it’s ever done either of them. Besides, collecting artifacts and protecting the innocent was as good a task to set himself to as anything, and would probably get him heroically killed in pretty short order.

Plot twist: it didn’t.

And neither did anything else.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It would be wrong to say there’s an Immortals Club or anything quite that tacky, but you do tend to notice after a while that there are some faces that stick around. Jenkins doesn’t see much of his own crowd any more, for which he is grateful, but over the years he’s gotten to be pretty familiar with some of the others.

He runs into the being currently known as Santa a lot. It’s not so bad, really - after a while he strikes up a friendship with Mrs. Claus, who shares a similar taste in literature. Consequently, he’s of course worried on a more personal level than usual when Santa goes missing. That the adventure will provide an additional potential benefit vis a vis Colonel Baird’s ability to cope with fragmented realities is really just icing on the Christmas cookie.

He probably should have been prepared for the sharp spike of something that goes through him when Cassandra says the name ‘Du Lac’. He definitely should have been prepared for ‘Du Lac’ to show up again (and of course, of course he chose the name ‘Du Lac’. Of course he did. He has always clung to the past, always revolved around Camelot even when the simple effects of time and human resilience should have given him some space. But no. Jenkins may have moved on, carved a whole new place for himself, but ‘Du Lac’ never, ever will).

Years, centuries of practice allow him to push aside the ache that any mention of those times always causes in his chest and get on with the task at hand without any outward distress to show for it. If he hadn’t mastered that, T. H. White and Walt Disney would have collectively ruined him years ago.

(Maybe that’s Du Lac’s problem.)

He holds off until the Junior Librarians and their Guardian have wandered away to do whatever it is they do when they’re not getting under his feet and leaving their grubby fingerprints all over his things, and then he very calmly locks himself into his workshop and has a minor nervous breakdown.

Ezekiel pushes the door open just as Jenkins is getting his breath back.

“That door was locked for a reason!” Jenkins bellows.

“Yeah, that’s why I opened it,” Ezekiel says. “But it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything interesting.” He closes the door again. Jenkins can hear his footsteps going back down the hall.

For a moment he contemplates throwing something, but everything within reach is either fragile or in a critical state of development so he settles for a loud and heartfelt ”Argh!”

At least the day had only been about Lancelot and not Morgan. There’s that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Galeus has no idea why he and Lancelot seem to have defaulted to the age they have, but he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that they both look like they could share a seniors’ discount menu with Merlin.

He hasn’t seen the wizard since the Camelot days and the myth trail can’t seem to agree on what happened to him, but it would be just like that cryptic bastard to send the two of them off to wander the world for eternity while he sleeps happily through it all in a nice safe crystal cave.

(In his darker moments sometimes he wonders if the immortality is actually Morgan’s doing, but that’s too frightening to contemplate. As the years wear on it seems less and less likely; Morgan likes to play a long game, true, but hundreds of years are surely too long even for her.

Right?)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay. After the near-disaster of the Conclave, he can admit that he sees the point of Ezekiel.

He doesn’t have to be happy about it, though. It turns out that the thief can be annoyingly perceptive when he cares to be, and that this perception will in turn push Jenkins to reveal more about himself than he might have wished to.

It’s taken him years - centuries - to develop just the right blend of all-knowing mystery and obfuscating stodginess. What on Earth possessed him to even allude to the awful, endless, grinding repetition of him-versus-Lancelot that eventually led him to seek the sanctuary of the Annex?

After Du Lac finally leaves, Jenkins sits outside the Annex, his back against the stone and his feet planted firmly on the ground. He usually suppresses these instincts, but after having Du Lac in his Annex he feels the need to stand guard. Just for a little bit. He doesn’t have armor, or a sword, and it’s been so long since he’s touched either that he’s really not sure what would happen if he ever tried again.

But Du Lac knows where he is now. Du Lac offered him a place, again, and embraced him and gave him their traditional farewell, and now Jenkins really just needs to guard the door for a little bit.

The children leave him alone for a while, too caught up in their own interpersonal dramas to notice his absence. Jenkins speculates idly on their conversation as the sun slowly sets. Perhaps Cassandra and Jacob are going over their trust issues again? Maybe Colonel Baird is saying farewell to the Librarian one more time?

He isn’t terribly surprised when Ezekiel turns up. Given their confrontation - and eventual collaboration - it’s reasonable that Jenkins would be on his mind.

“Still no pizza man?” he says, disgusted, and throws himself down next to Jenkins. “I’m never going to get my pizza. This day is terrible.”

“It could have been a little bit worse,” Jenkins says drily.

“You’re very bad at sympathy.”

Jenkins smiles despite himself. “It’s been said.”

Ezekiel leans back on his hands. “So, how do you know Du Lac? There’s obviously some history there.”

“Some,” Jenkins allows.

Ezekiel makes a face at him when he doesn’t say any more. “Ugh. Fine. Keep your secrets. I’m going to go call the pizza place again.”

Any of the others would have kept pushing. Maybe it’s a good thing that they finally have an incurious Librarian.

Wait. No.

The children are annoying.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

‘Galahad’ doesn’t even appear in the myth arc until the 1400s, and it’s entirely Lancelot’s fault for getting pie-eyed and sentimental in France while an impressionable amateur poet was sitting nearby.

Jenkins can’t decide whether he’s more irritated by the clear and embarrassing sentimentality of the resulting story, or by the way he’s now been marked down forever as a sanctimoniously pious and eternally pure goody two-shoes. It’s not like it’s accurate, anyway. Just because a guy doesn’t sleep with married queens and help bring about the ruin of a golden age is no reason to turn him into a caricature. Maybe the whole physical intimacy thing has never appealed to Jenkins much, and maybe religious celibacy happened to be a convenient excuse for it, but come on.

Du Lac causes them an inordinate amount of trouble as a moustache-twirling villain, but there’s a part of Jenkins that’s secretly glad he at least isn’t still composing anguished self-flagellating odes to his former companions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jenkins has seen traces of Morgan LeFay over the years, of course. Sometimes he even thinks he sees her out of the corner of his eye: a flash of red hair in Venice as the Borgias lose their grip on humanity, a swirl of skirts around a tree as the French aristocracy comes unglued. He’s always known, intellectually, that of course Morgan’s keeping herself alive; of course she’s still causing mischief; of course as the only true Knight left he’s probably going to have to deal with her someday, and it will be awful.

Still, it’s a horrible shock to walk around a corner and find her in his Annex, standing casually in the middle of his place of safety with that tiny, spine-chilling smile on her face, and in an instant all of his vague certainties about Final Battles unravel. All he can do is stand there and watch as she walks around his table, casts a disdainful look at his experiments, runs her fingers over the books he has shelved and categorized and pored over during frantic research sessions and endless lonely nights, and with every glance, every movement, he feels as though she is able to see all of those things.

It’s less violent than he had imagined, but it’s also so much worse.

She calls him ‘Galeus’, and it feels dirty against his skin - Arthur’s Roman name for him, curled around her slithery, manipulating tongue. Her magic feels just like he remembers, an ache and a burn and a sinking feeling of helplessness that goes right down to the core of him.

Maybe Ezekiel was right, and he is a coward. He’s never sought her out, never tried to stop her directly. He still doesn’t. He sends Colonel Baird after her and pretends that it’s for the best.

Much later, after Colonel Baird and the librarians-in-training have saved the day by stopping Morgan’s spell and utterly lost it at the same time by letting her get away, Jenkins locks himself in his workshop and broods. He doesn’t drink often - even in the ale-swilling old days he didn’t have much of a taste for it - but he figures he’s earned a little alcohol. It helps set the mood, if nothing else.

Ezekiel bangs through the formerly-locked door before Jenkins has even gotten to the bottom of his first glass. Surprisingly enough, though, given the bombastic nature of his entrance, he doesn’t say anything. He just pulls up a stool and sits next to Jenkins in silence.

“What,” Jenkins says wearily.

Ezekiel shrugs. He’s sitting close enough that Jenkins can feel the motion of it against his arm, which is… Jenkins isn’t used to being touched, particularly. He doesn’t miss it, but aside from occasional hugs from Cassandra it’s just not something he’s accustomed to.

It’s unnerving. “What,” he says again.

“Rough day,” Ezekiel says. “I brought you a present.”

He drops something on the table. Jenkins stares at it.

“Is that… Morgan’s wristwatch? Did you steal Morgan Le Fay’s wristwatch?”

Ezekiel grins at him. “Well, she didn’t deserve it.”

Jenkins bursts out laughing. He can’t help it. The most dangerous magic-user in (probably) all of human history, responsible for countless deaths as well as the destruction of Jenkins’ own life, and Ezekiel… stole her wristwatch.

She’s going to realise it’s missing. She’s going to stand there with a puzzled human look on her face, checking her wrist, and her watch isn’t going to be there, because Ezekiel lifted it.

Jenkins laughs until there are tears running down his face. It feels amazing. He hasn’t laughed this hard since at least the seventeenth century.

Ezekiel bumps his shoulder deliberately against Jenkins’ and does a few finger-and-wrist stretches, practically radiating smugness.

“I definitely see the point of you now,” Jenkins gasps in between howls of laughter.

“Of course you do, mate,” Ezekiel says happily. “I’m amazing.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Funnily enough, for all the effort he’s put into avoiding her over the years, it was Morgan’s fault that Jenkins ended up at the Library in the first place.

He’d become aware of the Librarians as time passed, of course - he’d run into a few in person and even met Judson in one of his rare non-First-Librarian-related outings, although neither of them realised the significance of it until much later. He’d put together that they worked for an organization that was, if not helpful, then at least benign, and he’d been able to establish that the items they collected were not being used for harmful purposes. Frankly, it was mostly just a relief to find out that he wasn’t the only one who’d recognized the catastrophic potential of loose magical artifacts.

It was, if he remembers correctly, sometime in the late nineteenth century. (He usually has a more concrete grasp of time, but quite frankly, the excitement of the rapid scientific advances being made in those days often caused him to lose track of time.) Jenkins was just starting to explore the possibilities of applied electricity when it came to his attention that something was very wrong nearby.

He’s never been sure if it’s a side-effect of his immortality or just the end result of years of experience with magic, but he has over time developed a sense for magic and the way things need to go - not premonitions, exactly, but a vague idea of the outlines. It’s often very helpful, in that he can use it to figure out how to defuse artifacts or rechannel their impulses, but there are times when he can do nothing and then this ability is just very depressing.

Consequently, when he felt the disturbance start, he headed off to look into it. As soon as he arrived he could tell it was one of Morgan’s disasters in the making, but she seemed to be long gone so he set about attempting to dismantle her work.

Look, he did understand why the Librarian and her Guardian walked in to find a strange man elbows-deep in a clearly magical device and immediately assumed he was up to no good. In his defense he did try to explain, but then things escalated and the Guardian tried to shoot him, which of course did nothing, and then there was a lot of yelling and a fair amount of ridiculousness and the upshot of it all was Jenkins arriving at the Library for the first time tied up and blindfolded with a cataloging number pasted to his jacket.

(He is never, ever letting the Librarians-in-Training find out about it. Never.)

It was the cataloging number that did it in the end. The Librarian and her Guardian swore they hadn’t put it there, and Judson was always prone to attributing things to The Mysterious Ways Of The Library, and so after a tedious number of interviews to determine whether Jenkins was evil or not he was dutifully ‘shelved’ in the Annex and generally left to his own devices.

Jenkins has, after all, developed a general sense for the way things need to go. And there are worse ways to spend a few decades than smack dab in the middle of the biggest collection of magical artifacts in the world.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When it all comes to a head, it happens frighteningly fast. It’s one of the downsides to living for so long, actually - sometimes the future really hits you in the face.

In this particular case, it’s more of a secret booby trap in a sarcophagus that gasses them all, but the metaphorical effect is the same. The next instant the Librarian and the Guardian are through the portal to the Loom of Fate, hot on Lancelot’s trail, and Lamia is bleeding out on the Annex floor.

The children are distraught and frightened. It’s harder than Jenkins had expected to leave them there.

He’s had centuries to plan for this. He has, at last count, fourteen contingency plans, each tailored to a different possible strategy that Lancelot might employ (he only has twelve for Morgan, but then he’s always known Lancelot better). This is one of his most dire scenarios, true, but it’s not insurmountable.

In less than a minute after the portal opens Jenkins has his hands on the magical device Morgan built all those years ago, helpfully shelved in the Annex next to the immortal being who likes to tinker with magical artifacts. With the flip of a switch and the unorthodox use of a very unconventional marble, Jenkins has a hotline to the woman herself.

She makes a face when she sees him. “Ugh. Don’t you knock? And what on Earth have you done to that spell? It’s all… mechanical.

In this place, with this kind of communication, time is not an issue. Jenkins forces himself to remember that, to tamp down his adrenaline, slow down, and focus. “Well, I had some time to kill.”

Morgan smiles. “You have, haven’t you? Poor Galeus. All those years without Arthur to tell you what to do.”

“It’s been aimless at times, I won’t lie,” Jenkins says easily. Arthur is far past even Morgan’s reach, and his name doesn’t hurt any more. “Mysteries annoy me. But you’ve been awfully quiet these past few years yourself, Madame Mim.”

A flash of irritation crosses Morgan’s face. “It was nice of you to bring magic back to entertain me,” she says, switching tracks.

“Well, it wasn’t me personally, but you’re welcome.”

Morgan frowns at him. “You’re being a lot more inscrutable than usual, Galeus. Something has changed.”

“And you’re being more direct. Maybe it’s our age showing.” He’s not sure if that’s the kind of barb she’ll rise to, but he tosses it in anyway. Her expression doesn’t change. “I’m surprised you haven’t already picked up on Lancelot’s latest disaster.”

Wherever she is now - Jenkins would guess the Mirrorlands if he had to, but it’s difficult to say for sure - it’s insulated enough against his own dimension to protect her from the backlash of reality ripping apart. She doesn’t even try to access the magic of his world, though.

“So he actually did it,” she says, looking tired. “He’s so predictable. And yet still disastrous? It’s honestly exhausting.”

“I know,” Jenkins says with feeling. “Whatever set the two of us on this path…” he shakes that off and refocuses. “I can deal with his current plan myself, but it would be nice to stash him somewhere afterwards so he can’t pull this crap again.”

Morgan smiles. “Oh, so that’s what you want.”

Jenkins shrugs. “It occurred to me that it would be in your interests as well. I can’t imagine they have Patek Philippe outlets in the Mirrorlands.”

“I would have thought petty larceny would be beneath you, Knight of the Round Table,” Morgan says, rolling her eyes. “You’re not wrong, though, it’s incredibly boring here. Are you honestly hoping to trade a trinket like that wristwatch back for my help?”

Jenkins shrugs. “Call it a bonus.”

A slow smile spreads across Morgan’s face. “You’re letting me set my own terms? That’s so… sweet.”

“I’m letting you propose your own terms,” Jenkins corrects. This is the part of the plan that worries him the most. He thinks he’s scattered enough seeds to lead her where he wants, but Morgan has always been capricious. She might choose something else just to be contrary.

Morgan laughs. “Oh my god, you’ve turned into such a bureaucrat, Galeus. Arthur would be in stitches.” She eyes him for a long moment, and then smiles. “All right. I’ll stash Lancelot somewhere safe and guarantee his imprisonment and fair treatment. In return… I want an answer.”

“Could you elaborate on that?” Jenkins says, frowning. In Morgan’s world, ‘fair treatment’ could mean a lot of things. The fey are notorious when it comes to loopholes and exact language, and Morgan isn’t called ‘Le Fay’ for nothing.

“To a question you’ve been asking for centuries,” Morgan explains, eyes dancing. “‘Why me?’ I’ll do what you ask, but in return you’ll never find out why you are the way you are.”

It’s such a classic faerie deal. As if an answer is a physical thing. As if he hadn’t given up on that answer so long ago that he can’t even remember being tormented by it.

Still. There’s a lot to be said for letting people think you’ve got more pressure points than you actually do.

He lets himself look indecisive. Morgan smiles that bone-chilling little smirk. “Do you have much of a choice, Galeus? You and Lancelot - you’re like Sisyphus and the boulder. You must want to be rid of that weight. And the children!” She adds, mock-concern heavy in her voice. “You have to think of the children. Those sweet young things.”

Jenkins makes himself look away. “Fine. You have a bargain.”

Morgan smiles. “Fantastic. I do hope you’ve kept up on those fencing skills.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s later. Events have happened.

Jenkins sits on the stairs to the Annex’s gallery, taking advantage of the moment of quiet. The others are off capering excitedly through the restored Library, revisiting old stomping grounds (Flynn) and discovering new ones (everyone else, and hopefully someone will notice that Jacob’s gotten himself trapped by Da Vinci’s sketchbook soon. Jenkins feels like he’s done enough stepping in for the day, but he will if he has to).

It’s nice to have the Annex to himself again. It’s nice and… echoey. Kind of empty-feeling.

Dammit. He’s gotten used to having them all underfoot, hasn’t he.

Ezekiel melts out of the shadows in the doorway and saunters over to the stairs, plonking himself down next to Jenkins. Given the space available, it pretty much puts them hip-to-hip.

Annoying. Even more annoying that it makes Jenkins feel better.

“So,” Ezekiel says, drawing the word out. “One of the downsides of having the amazing thief brain that I have is that I wonder about things. Like where’s Du Lac? Where did you go after Lamia got stabbed?”

“You know, I once thought about how nice it was that you weren’t as curious as the others,” Jenkins says pointedly, studying the ceiling.

Ezekiel laughs. “I’m conditionally curious. I’m very curious about how that wristwatch isn’t in your workshop any more, and whether or not it was useful.”

Jenkins gives him a surprised look.

“Thief brain, mate,” Ezekiel says. “Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.”

“Well then,” Jenkins says, burying his surprise. “Yes. It was useful. And I hope we won’t see it again.” Mostly because it will be attached to Morgan’s arm, and dealing with Lancelot ruined four of his Morgan contingency plans. That’s probably going to cause problems.

Ezekiel shudders. “No kidding. She was scary.” He claps his hands, standing up. Jenkins’ leg feels cold where Ezekiel had been pressed up against it. “So, Jake is standing in front of some manky old notebook yelling something in Italian and Cassandra says it’s making her see things. Want to go watch?”

Jenkins sighs. “I suppose I’d better get involved. I assume the Librarian’s being useless.”

Ezekiel makes a face. “He and Colonel Baird disappeared, and I refuse to go find them. I just know it will be scarring.”

“All right then.” Jenkins lets Ezekiel pull him to his feet. The thief’s hands are, perhaps not surprisingly, very strong. “Up to me again. Typical.”

“It’s so hard to be skilled,” Ezekiel agrees.