Do not read this story if you haven't seen episode 4x11 yet! Seriously, don't do it.
Okay, now that's out of the way - I'm SO sorry, you guys. I literally woke up this morning with the opening paragraphs here in my head, and I just had to write it.
I kind of didn't realize how seriously the show had gone with Cassandra/Jenkins until they played the end of this episode with such a romantic tilt between the two, and then Lindy's performance in the scene following killed me, and I just had to fill in a little bit of the in-between. We're sticking with Baird's perspective here, though, because I don't think my heart could take writing it from Cassandra's.
She should've known as soon as the young woman who'd just beat an untimely natural death stepped forward without hesitation and sincerely offered to end her life because she didn't want to live in a world without him.
And in a way, she did, her eyes flickering over to her every few seconds after the Back Door exploded open and turned their worlds upside down, flickering over to check on her, to make sure she was still standing, to make sure she was still breathing.
But she didn't truly realize the depth of what was coming until after it all went irreversibly wrong, until Cassandra looked towards the ceiling, eyes squeezed shut, and let out an excruciating, grieved scream, grabbing his hand as she sunk to the floor beside his lifeless body. She cradled his arm against her face, rocking against it as she sobbed so hard that it had to hurt, and Baird vaguely remembered hearing Cassandra scream at Flynn like that when she herself was dying in their arms, but it's a gut-wrenching noise she hopes she never hears again.
Baird knew she had failed, as a guardian, as a friend, as the makeshift mother of this little family they'd assembled; she'd failed him. She'd failed her; she'd failed to protect all of them, in mind, body, heart, and soul, from the trials and from this, but who would've ever thought she'd need to protect them from the Library? But Cassandra's heart had just irreparably shattered before her eyes, and the tears on her own face – the ones meant to be of happiness, the ones meant to be of relief that they had won, that they had beat this sadistic test, the ones that had morphed into shock and sadness as they all quickly realized there would be no winner in that game – suddenly didn't matter as much anymore.
Stone had already stormed out in fury; they'd all been frozen in astonishment until he had, and a quick glance over at Ezekiel told her he was alright (or as alright as he could be, considering the circumstances), so she hurried around the table to Cassandra, getting down on the floor with her, expecting a recoil but having to try anyway.
"Cassandra," she said softly, her own voice shaking.
To her surprise, all she had to do was touch the woman's shoulder before Cassandra was wrapping herself around her, dropping his hand as she desperately clung to her Guardian instead. They sat hip-to-hip, legs stretching in opposite directions. Cassandra's arms curled underneath Baird's and up her back to clutch her shoulders, and her chin rested on Baird's shoulder, too, with nothing to muffle her agonizing cries. The embrace was doing as much to comfort Baird, too, as she hoped it was doing for Cassandra, and she took a little bit of comfort in feeling the younger woman's weight against her.
Baird held Cassandra's head with one hand, the other arm wrapped around her small frame, not saying anything because what could she say? She couldn't tell her it would be okay. It was never going to be okay again.
"I...I didn't realize," she finally said, her voice small, her eyes teary.
"What?" Cassandra sobbed.
"You're in love with him," Baird sighed with a soft cry of her own.
Another quick glance up at Ezekiel told her that he hadn't quite put that together, either, though he wasn't exactly stunned by the revelation. She could almost see the look in his eyes that said under different circumstances, he might've made fun of her, but now, today, in that moment, he could only wait, like Baird, with a bated breath to see how she might respond.
Cassandra stilled for a moment, hiccupping quietly with a little jolt in Baird's arms as she tried to suppress a sob, before softly nodding against Baird's shoulder and breaking into another painful wail as she cried, "I just couldn't help it. Even if…even if I knew he'd never love me back."
"Oh, Cass," Baird sighed, thinking of the way he reached for her, the way he held onto her, the way he spoke to her, the way her name was the last thing on his mind and on his lips. "He loved you back. I think more than any of us knew."
It was an idea that was meant to be comforting, but the idea of Jenkins actually loving her, too, only served to make Cassandra cry harder, the young woman's body beginning to shake in Eve's arms as her sobs became so all-consuming, she couldn't even make noise anymore. Eve closed her eyes and just held Cassandra tighter, trying to still her convulsions.
"I killed him," Cassandra finally cried, struggling to talk between heaving breaths. "I...he told me not to touch it."
"No," Baird said quickly, knowing Cassandra reaching that conclusion had been inevitable.
"I should've just volunteered for the tethering. The magic doesn't bother me. It should've been me," Cassandra said, speaking quickly between sobs.
"Cassandra," Baird whispered.
"Or why didn't Jake just shoot me when I asked him to?" Cassandra blubbered. "I didn't want anybody to die, but I could have…I would have…"
"I'm not sure that would've changed anything," Baird said honestly, running her hand soothingly through Cassandra's hair. Her words went unnoticed as Cassandra continued to weep and even Ezekiel began to flinch at the sounds of her devastation.
"This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't touched it," she sobbed, nearly shrieking her words. "I killed him."
"Cassandra, this wasn't you," Baird said, her voice still soft but firm. "It was the Library, Cassandra. You didn't do this."
Cassandra pulled back just far enough from Baird to look at her. Her face was soaked with tears and nearly the color of her hair. "The Library did this?" she whimpered, sounding almost bewildered. Baird cupped one hand around Cassandra's face and brushed away a few tears before simply stroking her cheek. She nodded her answer. It was meant to be reassuring. Cassandra looked to Ezekiel for a second opinion.
"Nobody blames you, Cassandra," Ezekiel agreed honestly, his voice low. "We all agreed to read the scroll, and we won. The Library did this."
"The Library did this?" Cassandra repeated, still a bit of a question, the bigger meaning of the words on their lips rolling around in her brain.
"Why would the Library do this?" Ezekiel muttered, still in place leaning against the table.
"The Library did this," Cassandra repeated one more time, low and angry and no longer questioning.
It was meant to be reassuring. It was meant to calm her down. It was meant to be a statement that would set her mind a little bit at ease, and as Cassandra sat in front of her, still holding onto her steady arms, her eyes rapidly moving as her mind still reeled, Baird thought it might had momentarily worked.
Instead, Cassandra just screamed in misery again, her throat burning, her heart breaking in an entirely new way. The cry went almost directly into Baird's ear from their position on the floor, but she didn't flinch; she didn't move. She just wrapped her arms back around Cassandra as her body slumped against her again. This time, Cassandra's scream made her cry, too.
Having finally heard as much as he could bear to hear, Ezekiel picked himself off the table and gingerly grabbed Jenkins's arm, the one that Cassandra had left dangling behind her when she sought out Baird for comfort. He gently placed it on Jenkins's body before turning to the women. He walked around to reach Baird and crouched down to her ear.
"I'm going to find Stone," Ezekiel said. He made sure to speak in a tone that was loud enough to be heard over Cassandra's frenzy but still hushed. "None of us should be alone right now."
Baird nodded her agreement, and Ezekiel wandered out of the room, his nose twitching as he tried to fight back tears of his own. Baird glanced up at Jenkins on the table, the image blurry through her own tears, before turning her attention back to the inconsolable, heartbroken, nearly hyperventilating woman in her arms.
"Cassandra, do you want to move…" Baird started softly, thinking there had to be a more comfortable place for them. She rubbed her back slowly, trying to get her to just breathe.
She couldn't finish her question before Cassandra shrieked, "No!"
"Okay," Baird said, holding Cassandra's head as she turned to lay it in the crook of Baird's neck. "Okay, we'll stay here."
Baird steadied her own breathing and blinked her tears away as Cassandra's rolled down the length of her neck. She looked around the Annex, and something inside of her knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again. Jenkins was gone, Stone was angry, Ezekiel was closing himself off, and at that moment, she didn't know how Cassandra would come back from this. Flynn was gone, and the Equinox was coming, and there was nothing she could do. With three desolate Librarians, one missing one, and no one to actually perform the ceremony, tethering seemed like more of an impossibility than it had seemed just twelve hours ago, before they all touched those red buttons to help them decide. Baird sighed and laid her head against Cassandra's, letting herself slip into feelings of hopelessness.
None of this was how it was meant to be.
Thank you for reading! Any & all feedback is appreciated.