Eve Baird grunted as a burly attacker grabbed her from behind. She kept her feet firmly planted on the ground and struggled, eventually managing to flip the woman over her shoulder and onto the hard rock beneath their feet.
When they got back to the library, she was going to murder Jenkins. When he laid out their mission plan, he hadn't mentioned that the artifact they were sent to retrieve was also being pursued by a group of cultists who got very violent when anyone got in their way.
She looked around. For the first time since the fight began, the attackers were all either neutralised or busy fighting the librarians, so Eve was free to move around unrestricted.
She took advantage of that brief moment of reprieve to find Ezekiel. She'd already spotted Jacob and Cassandra holding their own, but she hadn't seen how the youngest librarian was faring against the unexpected ambush.
She spotted him and blinked. Hard. He was... winning, to put it mildly. He'd acquired a baseball bat somewhere, and was putting it to good use. His form was perfect, and he was taking advantage of the top of the bat (where all of the real force was) to do great damage.
"How did you become so good with a baseball bat?" She asked in astonishment, barely realising that she'd spoken aloud until he responded.
"You taught me," he replied distractedly, not taking his eyes off of the cultist he was fighting.
That couldn't be right. The only time she'd ever even seen him with a baseball bat had been... the time loop. He'd packed it along with the grenades, claiming it was "just in case," though he'd never actually gotten around to using it.
But, she reminded herself, just because she didn't remember him using it didn't mean that he hadn't. And he had already known it was there, so he must've already had it at least once. The skill he was showing, however, did not come with only one session of training.
And Baird hadn't missed how Ezekiel had carefully avoided mentioning how many times he'd had to go through the loop. He could've been through it hundreds or thousands of times, without them ever knowing. She'd privately had her suspicions about how long he'd been in there—several dozen times at the very least. You didn't get the knowledge about and familiarity with the base that he'd had in only a few tries.
Adding that to his unexpected prowess with the baseball bat—which must have taken dozens of loops by itself to attain that level of skill—and she was left with an uncomfortable picture of just how long he'd been in there.
But then they came to the crux of the problem. Ezekiel didn't remember the loop. He'd told them so right after they got back to the library, and Ezekiel Jones was many things, but a liar wasn't one of them. So how had he remembered? And, more importantly, just how many times had he been forced to live through that video game, watching what were quite possibly his only friends die over and over?
Her gaze was still on him as he took down the last of the attackers with a resounding whack to the head, and, as he turned around to ascertain the status of his friends, his eyes locked with hers.
For one of the first times in her life, Eve looked away first.
.-.. .. -. . -... .-. . .- -.-
A/N why yes the title is a high school musical reference you're welcome
anyway, I just really needed the team to realise what ezekiel went through for them bc they like never mention it again which bugged me
warning: I thought of this while I had been trying to go to sleep for an hour already and the idea would not leave me alone, so I had to write it in the middle of the night (aka right now) so any lack of quality writing can be blamed on sleep deprivation and not me being a shitty writer. that's my story and I'm sticking to it