“I don’t wanna talk about it. Why do you wanna talk about it?” Ezekiel demands.
Jake chases him down the hallway towards the Library. Once they get in there, it’ll be near impossible to keep up with him. “Because as soon as I brought it up, she froze and now you’re doing this. You’ve been avoiding me, Jones. When are you going to tell me why?”
“I’m not ignoring you. You’re reading too much into it.”
“You bring M here all the time. She probably knows as much about magic as we do at this point. What don’t you want me to know?”
Ezekiel huffs and Jake wonders if he’s breaking through to him.
“I’m not your enemy, Jones. Even if it feels like it sometimes.”
The thief’s shoulders slump and he slows. He leans back against the doorway to the Library and Jake stands across from his, his arms crossed over his chest. “Fine.” Ezekiel tips his head back and takes a deep breath. “M complained that sometimes I dodge the question.”
Jake scoffs and Ezekiel quickly gives him a dirty look. “Sorry. I didn’t mean—well you do.”
“Whatever. She got upset about it a month ago, so I might’ve told her too much about the DARPA case.”
“The one you almost died from.”
“That one, thanks Stone.” Ezekiel rolls his eyes. “I told her… more than I really intended to and she got all… worried about me.” He huffs. “And I like it. That someone was visibly worried about my well being.”
“Yeah, but it’s not the same,” he cuts Jake off. “We both know the risks of this job. I care about you guys, but she cares about me outside this place. She cares about me… because I’m just Zeke Jones to her. I’m not Ezekiel Jones, master thief. I’m just… me. And I like that.”
“So what did you tell her? What’s the issue? Why are you avoiding me?”
Ezekiel sighs. “Because I know that it hurts you that I’m getting close to someone outside the Library. I’ve watched you let go of countless women who you could love and could love you in return, but you let this place control your relationships. I love the Library, but mate…” Ezekiel shakes his head. “I’ve let her go once. I can’t do it again.”
Jake’s tongue runs along the inside of his teeth. He’s been proud of the fact that he puts his job first, because the world matters more than his own individual needs. The team matters more than just him. Here is Ezekiel proving him wrong. One of his closest friends, not that he would ever admit it, has made a friend outside of the Library. And she’s wonderful.
Jake likes her more than he expected the first time they brought her in. He and Cassandra had gone to a bar to review how that Louvre case had gone.
“We really shouldn’t keep bringing people into the Library every time they’re in danger. It’ll get out of hand and they may tell everybody,” Jake had said that night.
Cassandra shrugged. “You know how I feel about people knowing about magic. But I see your point. It’s not as if we do it every time and like you said, you think Ezekiel really likes her.”
Cassandra held up a hand to stop him. “I know you don’t think he should, but he does. And I don’t know much about relationships, but I know Ezekiel. And Ezekiel doesn’t get that dopey expression or visibly care like that with anyone else. Not even us.” Cassandra took a swig of beer then. Ever since the Dorian Gray incident, she was only ever allowed one beer when she was with the guys so they could monitor her.
“So let him have this one,” she continued. “We’ll be right here to clean up broken pieces just like we always are.”
So Jake let him and he likes the girl Ezekiel has chosen. She likes architecture and always takes a book (with Jenkins’s permission) home with her. She sucks up books like they’re water and returns excited to discuss what she’d learned with anyone. It is usually him or Jenkins. And Jake likes talking with her about what she’s learned, because she doesn’t understand it the way Cassandra or Ezekiel do. But she’s not so defensive about it as Baird. She’s the perfect level of interested in magic and Jake enjoys that.
“I’m worried that your head isn’t in the right place,” Jake tells Ezekiel now.
The thief’s brow furrows. “What do you mean? I’m here with you guys. I spend more time with you than I do with her. I come every time the Clipping’s Book acts up or you call. What more do you want me to do, Stone?”
Jake sighs, shaking his head. “Nothing. I don’t want you to do anything. What I really want to know is what you told her. What you let her know that you feel like you can’t tell me. Or Cassandra. Or Baird.”
“I told Baird,” Ezekiel states. “She found out. Found me sleeping in the Annex one day.” Jake watches him ruffle his hair in frustration before heading down the steps of the Library. He doesn’t rush away like Jake expected him to, so Jake trails after him. He realizes that Ezekiel might need to blow off energy while he tells the story.
His patience rewards him. “That DARPA case,” Ezekiel starts. “You guys died more times than I could count, in front of my eyes, over and over again.” Both his hands run through his hair. Jake can’t remember the last time he’d seen the thief so agitated. “I started locking you guys in the closet just so that I would be the only one to die, because I just couldn’t watch it anymore. Sometimes there would be blood. Other times all I would hear was screaming, specifically Cassandra screaming.” Ezekiel blows air through his teeth. “It haunted me in my sleep.”
“You remember,” Jake breathes. “You remember that DARPA case and you told us you didn’t.”
“Well, I lied because I didn’t want you guys to think differently of me.”
“Those things you told us…”
“I care about you guys. I’ve never thought about dying for anyone else. My mother, sure, when we were on good terms.” Ezekiel glances over his shoulder. “We’re on good terms now, so don’t worry about that.”
Jake notices the ease in Ezekiel’s gait; how he’s slowed down to let Jake catch up. “You told M all that?”
“I told her all that. On our date to a monastery in China,” Ezekiel tells him. “She asked me what my worst memory was. That was it.”
“And now she’s worried about you.”
“I can’t really blame her, can I? I just told her that my worst memory is of my friends repeatedly dying, which only happens because this is my job.”
Jake reaches out for him, turning him by the shoulder. “Man, you should’ve said something.”
“What was I supposed to say? ‘Oh yeah, I remember and it keeps me up at night’? We were preoccupied with Apep. There was no time for me to be scared.”
“You weren’t sleeping at home, so you were staying in the Annex. That’s how Baird found you,” Jake states, knowing Ezekiel pretty well.
Ezekiel shrugs, shaking his head at the same time. “Yeah, that’s what happened. I just… I kept trying to exhaust myself so that I would black out sleep. It worked for a while.”
“Until Baird told you it wasn’t healthy.”
Ezekiel smirks. “That’s exactly what she said.”
Jake nods thoughtfully. Ezekiel’s phone pings and he feels his Clipping Book flutter in his pocket. “New case.” They hurry back to the Annex.
“Have you told Cassie?” Jake asks.
“Didn’t so much tell her as she found out.”
Jake shoots Ezekiel an incredulous look.
“We were playing around with her gift and she transferred a memory to me and if I sat perfectly still, I could relay an answer back. Neither of us are sure how it happened, but she might have gotten a little more than just my answer. She didn’t really tell me what she learned, just the look on her face said enough.” Ezekiel glances over at him as they enter the Annex. “I let her pick at my brain to practice, because I wouldn’t answer her questions. She filled in blanks.”
“I was the only person you didn’t tell!”
“Because you’re my big brother who I banter with. We don’t talk about this kinda stuff.” He takes Cassandra’s side, as Jake takes her other. She’s already reading the entry. “What’s the issue?”
“Something about moose and Canadians.”
Jake snorts. “Looks like we’re headed to some northern city in BC. Where’s Baird?”
“Chasing after Flynn in Venezuela. I’m sure she’ll catch up,” Cassandra says as she lines up at the Door. Jenkins is already setting it up for them.
Jake rests a hand on Ezekiel’s shoulder farthest away from him, pulling him close. “Don’t feel like you can’t tell me things. We can banter, but I also want you to feel as if we can talk about that kinda stuff.”
Ezekiel smirks. “Sure thing, cowboy. I’ll keep that in mind.”