Deciding not to touch Excalibur to your head isn’t noble, or selfless.
It’s the moment when your death sentence stops defining you.
(it’s other things, too; so many things. But what it isn't is a grand gesture, either cosmic or karmic, it is seeing this man, dying in front of you, because of you, offering you life; a sword that is his best friend, a sacrifice that should be for him, he’s offering it to you)
Isn’t that the kind of man who deserves to live? Isn’t that the kind of man you want in the world?
You hold Excalibur up to your head, and you realize: a world without Flynn Carsen isn’t much of a world. The person you’ve become? Are becoming? The world can do without her.
The person you’re going to become—she’ll be the kind of person that would have deserved Excalibur.
(when you hear Flynn’s voice again, after a moment when you’re not sure if he is alive or not, you realize he sounds like eucalyptus and lavender and the perfect bite of lemon meringue pie)
You make friends for the first time in years.
None of you want to be friends. Jake doesn’t want to be friends. You kind of think Ezekiel hasn’t had a lot of friends, so he doesn’t understand what the fuss is.
But these people have seen you at your worst, and hopefully they’ll see you at your best. They know you’re dying; they know numbers are colors and your brain is cross-wired and sometimes you forget to filter what you say and you describe paintings in taste and numbers. They know you’re going to die, they all knew that right off. There’s never the awkward hesitation of not knowing how much to tell people, or when to tell them.
They know you’re going to die sooner rather than later; in the meantime, you have a world to save. Plus: magic is still pretty cool, tumor or no.
The first time you know Jake trusts you is when he takes you to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and you tell him that looking at a Jackson Pollock is like eating ice cream with sprinkles.
(he makes a face before dragging you to see the Kandinskys and tells you about how Kandinsky was a synesthete, too, and you tell him these paintings taste like a fruit smoothie with an undertone of parsley and now you’re hungry.)
Ezekiel trusts you because you trust him. Ezekiel is complex in many ways, and this is not one of them.
Eve respects you because you’re the one who stands up to her the most. You and she can almost wrangle the boys. She also teaches you how to throw a decent punch. There’s something in Eve that feels so like you, like you’ve been cut from the same cloth, just sewn into different garments. Eve never makes you feel like you don’t belong.
And Flynn is mostly gone but when he’s at the Annex he always has a handkerchief for bloody noses—though that’s mostly snappy dressing on his part. He doesn’t make you feel like you’re a traitor (Jake does, still, sometimes) or that you are anything less of deserving to be here. When you all went on your first mission together, he’d said something about how it was like being inside his own head, just louder, when you and Ezekiel and Jake were talking. Sometimes it’s like that with Flynn—he might not know all the steps you’re going to take, but he can see where you’re trying to wind up, and that’s nice. Not having to explain everything—it’s nice.
He’s also the most huggable Librarian, and that’s important.
The thing is: you accept you’re going to die. You accept that you have lasted the longest of many, many Librarians. You're going to die doing what you've been called to do. You're going to die saving the world, or at least trying to. You'd sort of hoped your death would be less slow-bleeding-out from a magical wound-
But you don’t die, because a frightened woman agrees to hallucinate and live in unpredictable pain, and, eventually, die—so you can live.
She isn’t the one that’s supposed to protect you. That’s your job. You’re the protector.
She saves you; or you save her, it’s really just a matter of perspective.
She holds an object with magical healing powers in her hands, the pardon for her death sentence, and she doesn’t take it. When it comes down to it, she makes the sacrifice play. She doesn’t use it for her own gain. And isn’t that the kind of person you want holding magic?
Isn’t that the kind of person you want in the world?
She's the kind of person you want in your world, at any rate.
You think it’s interesting that the worst versions of you, Eve, and Cassandra are megalomaniacs that want to take over and/or destroy the world.
There’s something to that, you’re just not sure what.
You don’t think you’re supposed to remember what happened in all of those other realities, since it wasn’t technically you in them, but you’ve been the Librarian for a very long time, and your brain can hold more than most.
It’s how you know that when Stone was The Librarian, he and Eve were involved. And, you think, Eve and Cassie.
And that makes you think: are the Librarians that interchangeable? Are the Guardians?
Eve isn’t the first Guardian you fell in love with, and apparently you aren’t the only Librarian she could love.
It’s not fair to Eve, but you wonder.
The thing is, for so long, there was only The Librarian and The Guardian. There wasn’t anybody else who could understand what you were going through—the danger, the excitement, the adventure. And now you’ve got the LITs, and The Guardian isn’t the only person you have to relate to.
That’s something you think about on Summer Vacation.
Eve likes Plans and Blueprints and Lists of Things to Do.
You, Flynn Carsen, have been flying by the seat of your pants for longer than you’ve known her, and you’re not sure you can change.
Honestly? You’re not sure you want to.
You’re going to be honest and admit that hearing that Cassandra hasn’t spent three solid months with Stone and Ezekiel cheers you up.
Then it irritates you. Why wouldn’t they want to spend time with Cassandra?
By the time you realize you’re jealous, Eve’s already called you on your sulk and misattributes it to Prospero.
Okay, at least half of your sulk is Cassandra related.
Maybe more, because you think Cassandra would have shoved you both into the glowing portal.
There’s a reason Guardians aren’t chosen from the list of Librarian candidates.
Cassandra has freckles dusting her shoulders like stars.
She’s in a sundress, here, in the Annex, and apparently she’s brought a little bit of Peru with her.
She is talking to herself, her fingers dancing through the air, her voice a low hum about theorems and the volume of the sea and, yes, hypothetically, Atlantis could move around, towed by a giant undersea creature, or many smaller sea creatures, a city broken into sections like Venice—
What is wrong with Jacob Stone? What’s wrong with Ezekiel Jones? They obviously can’t be that smart—
“Flynn, where was the last place you saw Atlantis?”
“I was on Cornado Beach, in San Diego, three years ago.”
“Okay,” she half-closes her eyes, “Yellow, blue, El Nino and Santa Ana winds, taking into account the global weather patterns of the past three years—“ her fingers move faster, touching things only she can see. “Given current weather conditions—“ her nose starts to bleed, and you pull out a handkerchief, blue with purple paisley and you’ve altered how you accessorize because nobody likes to see dried blood on a pristine white handkerchief, particularly their own.
“There are four possible locations that climate and current dictate Atlantis should be right now. Oh,” she makes a face. “Banana-flavoring, pea green, I hope it’s not there, pea soup when I had the flu when I was ten, I hated missing school, it made me so mad—“
“Cassandra,” you touch her shoulder, star-freckles under your fingertips. “Cassandra? Stay with me, okay? I need coordinates.”
Her face relaxes as you talk, her lips pressing together in a smile even though her eyes aren’t focused on you yet. “Lemon,” she says.
“Cassandra? Are lemons good?”
“Flynn,” she says your name, even though you’re not positive she realizes you’re the one in front of her.
Her eyes snap to your face. “Flynn?”
You smile, and she smiles back, which is the precise instant you know you’re in trouble.
And the smile falls, her hand flies to her face. “Sorry,” she says, avoiding looking at you. “Um. Kleenex?”
“Here,” you say, wiping at the blood over her lip. “I’ve got you.”
Your hand might cup her cheek longer than is required.
You try and count her freckles when you get bored. You never get far enough to get a solid number to work with, and there’s clothes in the way—sleeves and straps—but usually by the time you get to the point about being upset by clothing curtailing your counting, you’re not bored anymore, and then, you’re Librarians, and boredom is a nearly-extinct creature in your line of work.
It's a perk of working out of the Annex instead of wandering to and fro on the earth, and if Cassandra and her freckles are a major factor in you staying, well, that's just a topic you're going to avoid at all costs.
Then there’s the memorable day Cassandra wears a strapless dress and you fall out of your chair when she comes in, her eyebrows inching toward her hairline.
“I thought I saw, um, there was a thing—I think wings?” you stammer.
She flicks her hair over her shoulder and she knows, and you know that she knows, and you can see it, the heaps of trouble you’re going to get into because that’s just who you are, who both of you are.
Later, you track her down to the moonroom—it doesn’t have an actual moon in it, just a lot of glass and a permanent view of the night sky—and she slips her hand in yours and leans her head on your shoulder.
“The sky is wrong,” she says. “This isn’t the celestial configuration for any place on earth at this time of year. Or ever, actually.”
“It’s programmable. Custom night sky.”
Together, you design a skyscape: a waxing crescent moon—you don’t like to think of waning and Cassandra, Cassandra is not something brilliant and fading but glowing and growing—and a meteor shower, and constellations that can’t exist in the same sky.
You make sure to put Cassiopeia up, and it’s cheesy but it makes her smile.
It also makes her lean into to you, her hand on the back of your neck, and when she kisses you the meteor shower starts.
You think maybe she planned this, that's she's a good three steps ahead of you, and you can’t seem to mind.
Flynn says “I’ve got you.”
His hands on you are seven, purple, the steady metronome of a grandfather clock, and you taste pie. (and blood, but that’s real and not crossed wires)
You lean into his touch, you close your eyes. (purple, tick-tock, lemon, lavender, never makes you feel like all he sees is brain grape. He sees math, and science, and his eyes are always so warm)
(and you were right, when you met him: Flynn Carsen is exactly the kind of person you want to protect the world. But then, so are you.)