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Courage Ain't Allowed

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Jacob was going to kill hi- No, not… not that. Yell at him. Sic a caffeine-hyped Cassandra on him. Make him join his and Baird’s work outs. Something .

(And maybe later, when he could look at the still prone form lying on the hospital bed beside him without flinching, maybe he’d revisit that first one because goddamn it Ezekiel ).

If Baird or Cassie were to ask - which they were going to, he knew they were, could see them chewing at the bit, where they stayed at the edges of his awareness - flitting in and out of the hallway, occasionally peeking into the room. Waiting for Ezekiel to be okay so they could ask what the hell happened - Jacob already knew what he was going to say. Ezekiel was being Ezekiel. You were supposed to talk to him about this he’d tell Baird.

Even though he was still pissed, still angry (still scared), he knew he was being unfair to Baird, even in his head. Even in a conversation that hadn’t happened yet.

The case shouldn’t have been this bad. Just straight up, it shouldn’t have been. Not even in a ‘well, we’d hoped it wouldn’t be this bad’ kind of way. They were grabbing an artifact from a small town museum - which, yeah, Jacob had felt bad about that. For about two seconds. Then another person had gone into a frenzy trying to get at it. No deaths (that time around), but it was a close call. The stupid Battle Axe of Cyrus the Great (which was wrong, but no one really cared that it was the Axe of Tomyris, hence the urge to behead things).

The museum had all of one guard - retired, spent most of the night napping behind the security desk, Ezekiel had had just about a fit laughing about it, honestly. It was in the middle of nowhere. Only Ezekiel’s clippings book had pitched a fit about it, and Jacob had gone along at Baird’s insistence and since he wasn’t doing much of anything.

Ezekiel had gone in, armed with a spelled tarp courtesy of Jenkins to wrap the thing in, Jacob standing guard by the back door.

Ten minutes had him fidgeting. Twenty had him cursing. Twenty-five and he was slipping inside, the same way he’d seen Ezekiel go. He’d tried for stealth, in the dark and quiet of the dusty displays - not like it did him much good. Ezekiel was on the floor in front of the Axe’s case, a man standing over him, wielding a crowbar of all things.

He wasn’t much to look at in the dim light. Average height, average build, completely and totally average. Except for the manic look he was shooting the Axe, and the cruel snarl he shot Ezekiel’s way, as if trying to pick which one to deal with first.

The fact that Jacob managed to catch him off guard with a tackle from the side was satisfying for all of five seconds as they went tumbling down.

He’s pretty sure he got a handful of good punches in, but when he wakes up with an ache both on the inside of his head and across his left temple, he figures the fight ended with him getting a crowbar to the head, like Ezekiel. Either way, it takes him way too long to actually focus, way too long to figure out what’s going on when he does wake up.

He’s strapped in a chair - and actually tied to the chair, ‘cause they couldn’t have just a little bit of luck - Ezekiel in another one beside him. The guy from the museum is in front of them, back to them, standing by a table with the Axe laid out on a stand on top of it. The space they’re in looks large enough to be a warehouse, but he can’t tell if that’s just because all the shadows are kind of blurring together in his vision or if the space actually is that big.

It’s stereotypical is what it is, and he’s kind of ashamed they’ve managed to get caught like this. By one guy no less.

Ezekiel grumbles beside him, picking his head up to do the same sweep Jacob just managed, squinting against the bright light above them. He certainly snaps to attention faster than Jacob did.

The guy either heard the two of them waking up, or decided to give them attention at that point anyway. Even in the better light here, he still didn’t look like much, as he turned to face them. Still completely average - except for how he looked about two seconds from literally gnashing his teeth. Wasn’t a good look.

“Who are you?” His voice, oddly enough, was level - but only just and Jacob knew he wasn’t the only one who caught the seething undertone.

It all kind of just… went downhill from there.

Jacob would be hearing the crack of bone and the hiss of a barely repressed scream for a long, long time.

The beeping of the machines Ezekiel was hooked up to was going to drive him up a wall. The only reason he hadn’t broken something yet was because they were all steady - nothing was blaring warnings, nothing was trying to get attention. Only saving grace honestly.

When the heart rate monitor did speed up, Jacob just about fell out of his chair, head snapping up from where he’d been half-dozing. Still not blaring an alarm though, and once that sunk in, he made himself relax back into the chair, waiting for Ezekiel to wake up.

He wasn’t sure what his face was doing with Ezekiel did blink his eyes open, but he imagines it wasn’t too pleasant if Ezekiel’s flinch was anything to go by.

“...You look like hell, mate.” his voice was rough, weighted down. Jacob was just happy to hear it honestly. And then what he said actually sunk in and he had to take a moment to keep from shouting then and there. The doctors had already tried to get him to leave for being disruptive. Best not give them a better reason to try.

And, well, Ezekiel wasn’t lying. His own arm was currently patched up in a cast that already itched to hell and back, his face was probably black and blue, and he hadn’t changed out of the clothes he’d left the Library in yet. He was a mess, and he felt like it.

“Look in a mirror lately? Not doing so hot yourself.” It was weak - felt dragged from his chest by sheer force, and even then only just. But it wasn’t shouting, so Jacob would take it.

Ezekiel grimaced, glancing around for a long moment before moving to push himself up to sit. And maybe Jacob was feeling just a little bit vindictive when he let him struggle for a moment before leaning over to help with his one useful arm.

The silence that settled over the room after that was… it wasn’t tense, but it was thick. Waiting for one of them to break it.

“So… we get the Axe?”

“Did… did we get the Axe? Are you serious right now?” Ezekiel shrugged, wincing when that pulled at his arm in a sling (and a cast all its own), before blinking and actually looking down at himself to take stock apparently. Busted arm, an impressive number of bandages covering and even more impressive number of stitches, what had to be one hell of a bruise on his side, possibly still imprinted with the bottom of a boot. Jacob couldn’t imagine that felt great on top of an only recently healed bullet wound from a previous case.

“Well, it’s what we were there for.” he mutters, eyeing the blanket over his lap. Jacob kind of just stared at him for a long moment before heaving out a sigh (and he didn’t miss Ezekiel’s flinch at that either).

“...Baird grabbed it, yeah.” he offered after a long moment. Ezekiel seemed to relax, just barely, and stayed quiet. Jacob was half tempted to let the silence ride until Ezekiel broke it himself - it wouldn’t take long, honestly. But… “...Why’d you do that?”

“Do wha-”

“Don’t you dare, Jones.” he was rather proud of himself for keeping his voice low, level. Because he certainly didn’t feel like that right now. Ezekiel glanced up at him, expression already schooled into its usual devil-may-care smirk, even if it didn’t carry nearly the same weight when he was surrounded by the crisp, too-clean white of the hospital bed.

“We needed time. I got us that.”

He knew he was staring.

Of all the excuses he’d expected, that, honestly, hadn’t been one of them.

They hadn’t needed time. They’d needed a way out. And Jacob had been pretty sure they would’ve been able to do that, had Ezekiel gone with what Jacob had thought was the plan - they’d gotten so much better at planning together on the fly after the fight in Charleston.

Ezekiel could get out of those restraints in no time. Jacob couldn’t. One of them free gave them much better options than neither of them.

Distracting the man - which, they never did get a name, huh - wasn’t going to be pleasant, Jacob knew. He’d seen similar looks on similar men, and knew gritting his teeth and bearing it was about all he’d be able to do. But he could deal with that - had dealt with worse, honestly. Shangri-La hadn’t exactly been a picnic.

Jacob doesn’t know when Ezekiel decided to throw that out the window - before or after the first punch landed, or after the too-loud sound of his arm cracking maybe - but one moment, he’d had all the man’s attention, and the next, Ezekiel was yelling, throwing barbs and insults and lord only knows what else since Jacob only heard about half of it, trying to breathe through the pain in his arm.

He’d tried to get the man’s attention again - he’d been able to see that Ezekiel’s ropes were half undone, they just needed a couple moments more - but either the man had lost what little patience he had, or he’d been staring at the Axe for too long, because whatever Jacob said had gone right over his head.

By the time Ezekiel had stopped reacting, Jacob had been screaming.

He doesn’t know how Baird found them. He frankly doesn’t care. One moment he was watching his best friend get tossed around like a ragdoll, the next, the man was dropping to the floor, out cold with a barely restrained Eve standing over him.

And now, here they were, in the hospital, hours later. And Jacob was trying to wrap his head around what Ezekiel had said. And failing.

“...Time for what?” he didn’t know where the question came from, but he figured it was as good as any. Maybe Ezekiel could actually explain this to him. But when he just blinked in response, clearly also not expecting the question, Jacob felt his stomach drop. “You didn’t have a plan, did you?” He didn’t say anything, offering a rueful smile, just a shade too fake, instead.

Goddamn it.

“You know. We get it already.” That got him a confused look, so he just took a deep breath. “We get it already.” he repeated, “You're brave, the goddamn bravest of us all,” and what's that say about him, that he means every goddamn word and that his voice cracks on that truth, that he can still see Ezekiel doesn't believe him and it just makes him angrier, sadder, and he’s shouting by the end, and he doesn’t mean to but “you can take that hit for us. You don't gotta keep proving it. Give someone else a chance to take it!” He’s pretty sure his glare is murderous when a nurse pokes her head in to tell him to keep it down. She returns the glare but ducks back out without a word.

He dragged his good hand through his hair, not looking back at Ezekiel just yet.

“I know Baird talked to you. So here’s my bit. We need-... No.Fuck that. I need you - you’re my best goddamn friend, and I can’t lose that. Not for a case, not for an artifact that means absolutely nothing, and certainly not to some random asshole. So could you at least try ? Just for a little while?” He’s not actually sure that last part had any sound behind it, he voice cracking too hard, but he’d said it, and he wasn’t taking it back.

When he dared to glance sideways at Ezekiel, he looked… well, shellshocked would be apt. But Jacob knew he wasn’t going to get an actual response for awhile. So he just shook his head slightly, huffing and hauling himself up. “Baird wants to talk to you again.” he shot over his shoulder as headed out. Closing the door behind him wasn’t the hardest thing he’s ever done, but it was pretty damn close.

But if the burning behind his eyes was anything to go by, he needed to get some space, and get it quick. He nodded stiffly to Baird where she was leaning on the wall across from him before heading down the hall. There had to be an empty room somewhere.