A/N: Welcome to Day Two of my Twelve Days of Christmas ficathon! Each day will be a different fandom, so look for the full list on my profile. Today's loose prompt: two turtledoves.
Yes, I wrote an outright romantic fanfic. There's really nothing else you can do with a prompt like that.
Ezekiel Jones was going to die. Seriously.
He'd been a Librarian for going on a couple of years, at this point, and life-threatening situations were old hat at this point. In fact, he thought as he watched Jake and Cassandra walking ahead of him, he would gladly be chased by a Lovecraftian beast from another dimension, rather than have to watch his coworker-teammates being so ridiculously attracted to each other without doing anything about it.
When they'd all first signed on, he'd seen right away that the big cowboy was into the nerdy little redhead. The little escapade with the Serpent Brotherhood might've derailed things on the surface, but Ezekiel was a world-class thief. He could read people like Flynn could read an ancient Egyptian tome. Jake was still sweet on math girl, and Cassandra still had a definite crush on their resident art historian. They were just extremely precise about pretending that they weren't, and it was going to drive Ezekiel nuts.
Like right now, walking together in front of him, but carefully not touching, talking but never quite holding eye contact. In step, but not acknowledging it.
It wasn't like Ezekiel hadn't tried to sort this out before. He'd tried running off with Baird and leaving them in life-threatening bonding situations during missions. He'd tried getting Jake drunk enough to spill his guts. He'd even, in a moment of desperation, tried flirting with Cassandra to get Jake to step up to the plate-never again.
But now it was almost Christmas, and he was going to make it work this time. Forget Valentine's Day-this was definitely the most romantic time of the year. The opportunities to push them together should be limitless. Right?
Jake came stomping into the room one morning with a decidedly unfestive expression. "Jones. Are you responsible for this music all over the place?"
Ezekiel affected a self-preservingly innocent smile. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't give me that. Every room I go into, there's a speaker hidden somewhere blaring cheesy Christmas pop songs. Starting with 'Winter Wonderland' and 'Let It Snow' and gettin' worse from there. I found a few of them-not all-but I couldn't shut 'em off."
"Now why would you think I had anything to do with that, mate?" Ezekiel asked.
"I might not know what your motive is, but you're the only one around here who could set up the speakers like that. And the only one who could hide 'em so I couldn't find them."
"Maybe Jenkins did it."
Jake scoffed. "Jenkins has even less means or motive than you do."
Ezekiel shrugged. "He is always fiddling with those gadgets when we're not paying attention. And maybe he wanted to do it for Baird. On account of Flynn being home for Christmas soon."
Jake looked unconvinced. At this moment, however, Cassandra practically skipped in, bearing peppermint cocoa, "which was supposed to be for breakfast, but you guys got up really early for a weekend."
"Didn't exactly plan on it. Something," Jake shot a baleful look at Ezekiel, "came up." But he took the mug of cocoa, fingers carefully not brushing Cassandra's as he did so. "Anything come up in your clippings book overnight?"
Ezekiel let the playlist of romantic Christmas music continue for five hours, looping occasionally. Finally, when it had had absolutely no effect beyond making Jake tense and irritable and Cassandra increasingly talkative, he shut it off.
Silence pervaded the Annex.
Oregon didn't usually freeze in December, but it didn't usually have a world-class thief in residence, with access to a handy ice amulet that Flynn had brought back from Sweden or someplace. Two weeks before Christmas, the day dawned bright and snowy.
In contrast to his earlier scheme, nobody seemed to find anything suspicious in Ezekiel's organizing a snowball fight, or in his immediate teaming up with Baird, forcing Jake and Cassandra into an alliance. Maybe because Baird really was the one to team up with in this scenario-she was as good a shot with snow as she was with a firearm, and she didn't pull any punches.
After about twenty minutes, Cassandra was soaking wet, and a volley of snowballs sent her tumbling backwards into a drift of snow. Jake went to go fish her out-without any prompting from anyone!-but she was laughing so hard he ended up falling into the snow with her, laughing as well.
Just kiss already! Ezekiel wanted to scream. He breathed in and out slowly. Just let them be in the moment, Jones.
"All right, who started a snowball fight before I could get here? Come to think of it, why is there snow?" Flynn appeared on the scene with his customary lack of warning. Cassandra and Jake scrambled out of the snow, but they didn't need to worry about Flynn spotting them-he was busy with Eve.
Ezekiel shook his head. Great timing as always, Flynn.
Over the next several days, he tried numerous and increasingly desperate schemes. Though he would never have admitted it, it had almost become a mission of his: get the lovebird coworker/friends to kiss by Christmas.
He organized a Hallmark movie marathon during one of Flynn and Eve's out-of-the-Annex date nights, then snuck out around 10:30, pretending to be after more popcorn. An hour later, he stuck his head back in. Jake and Cassandra had moved closer together, but there was still a solid inch and a half of space between them. The on-screen couple finally snogged. Jake snuck a look at Cassandra, then glanced away just as she took her eyes off the movie to look at him.
Ezekiel ran a frustrated hand through his hair and went to bed.
He went hunting through the archives and found an honest-to-goodness love potion, which he spiked two of the eggnog glasses with the next evening. Unfortunately, Jake's glass ended up with Flynn somehow, causing a scene that Ezekiel hoped he would forget but knew he wouldn't, which ended with Flynn sweeping Eve into his arms bridal style and carrying her off to who knew where. Cassandra's dose of potion had absolutely no effect on her beyond giving her a serious hallucinatory attack. Jake swooped in to take care of her in his typical protective fashion, but did absolutely nothing else.
Ezekiel decided to just be glad nobody knew he was the one who'd spiked the drinks.
In an act of desperation, he called in a favor with Santa, somehow wangling a deal that involved a very temporary borrowing of the latter's sleigh. He then faked a convincing 24-hour flu, leaving the others to what he hoped would turn into a romantic flying double date. From what he heard later, however, Flynn had ended up in the back seat with Eve instead of driving, and Cassandra had had to take the reins, since it turned out traveling in three dimensions involved a lot of math. She, or so it seemed when telling Ezekiel all about it, had loved it. Jake, with nothing to distract him from the height, had not.
Ezekiel ground his teeth in frustration, and started hanging mistletoe from every spot in the Annex he could reach.
"You seen Jones anywhere?" Jake asked as Cassandra came up to him, wading through the snow. He'd gone outside to shovel it, just to avoid that bratty kid and his schemes.
"I think his clippings book sent him off somewhere," Cassandra said, frowning a little. "Cleveland, maybe."
"Good," Jake grunted, putting his back into another shovelful of snow.
"Why good?" Cassandra inquired.
"Well, maybe you haven't noticed, but he's been going out of his way to play up every romantic Christmas trope he can around here. And he's not doing it for Flynn and Eve, 'cause they sure don't need any help."
Cassandra went pink, not just from the cold. "Oh. Yes. I thought some of that might've been him." She looked down at the snow where her feet were, then back up. "Some of it was kind of fun, though."
Jake jammed his shovel into the snow and finally met her eyes. "Cassie, I'm glad you got some fun out of it. But for me, it just makes things more complicated."
"Because you like me, but you don't trust me," Cassandra finished for him.
"Ain't about that, not anymore." Jake sighed. "I trust you about as much as I trust anyone in this sorry world. But I've had good things in my life come and go, and I don't want to set my heart on nothin' unless I can count on it sticking around."
"The brain grape," Cassandra said softly, looking at the snow again.
Jake laughed in spite of himself. "Wasn't even thinkin' about that, tell the truth," he said. "This job-we do dangerous stuff all the time, face down monsters and magic that make us look like ants. Means there's likely a magic cure out there somewhere for what you got. But it also makes it likely one or both of us is gonna be gone sooner than we'd like."
Cassandra squatted on the snowbank, getting on eye level with Jake in his waist-deep shoveled path. "When I first found out about the brain grape," she said softly, "I couldn't let myself enjoy anything, because I was always thinking 'What if this is the last time I get to do this?' Christmas was...really horrible."
Jake didn't say anything, but he stood there and let her talk, waiting for her to get to what she meant to say. He was so patient with her it made her want to cry sometimes.
"But then I figured out, Christmas is full of temporary stuff, and it's beautiful anyway," she went on. "The snow melts, the trees lose their needles, the decorations get packed up. But you enjoy it anyway, in the moment, because if you spend all your time thinking about it ending you miss the amazing stuff in the middle."
She finally met Jake's eyes. They were crinkled at the corners from him smiling. "Amazing, huh?" he said.
Cassandra went pink as she realized the connection she'd made inadvertently. "Um-." The rest of her half-formed explanation was lost as the snowbank she was crouched in gave way beneath her, sending her sliding into the pathway Jake had just shoveled. A strong arm went around her waist before she could hit the ground-Jake saving her from yet another fall-but this time he didn't pull her up, keeping her in a half-dip.
"I reckon you're pretty amazing, too," he said, and then he was kissing her.
Ezekiel Jones shot back into the Annex in a burst of blue light, then straightened and dusted himself off with no small amount of pride. Not only had he handled the situation in Cleveland single-handed, but he'd come up with a foolproof way to finally get Cassandra and Jake to spill their guts. This time, it was really going to work.
At this moment, the couple in question entered from the hall, with the flushed look that people get from spending time in the snow and hand very much in hand. Ezekiel watched incredulously as Jake dropped Cassandra's hand to slide his arm around her waist, and Cassandra tucked her head against the cowboy's shoulder. He surreptitiously pinched himself to make sure-nope, they were still doing it.
"Seriously?" he squawked. "After I try so hard to set you two up, you finally get together when I'm halfway across the country?"
Cassandra giggled unapologetically. Jenkins, appearing from somewhere as he would do, gave Ezekiel a meaning look. "Sometimes, Mr. Jones, it is best to simply stand back and let events take their course."
Jake pointed an accusing finger at the older man. "You didn't have anything to do with this, did you?"
"If by 'this', you mean the circumstances under which you and Miss Cillian at last admitted the truth to each other-congratulations, by the way-I most certainly did not. I might, however, have been responsible for Mr. Jones' clippings book sending him off for the day to deal with the incident in Cleveland."
Jake laughed, Cassandra looked astonished, and Jenkins merely smirked in a self-satisfied way. Ezekiel took them all in with a mixture of shock and incredulity. Finally, he threw his hands in the air. "I give up on you lot," he proclaimed, and exited up the stairs. With any luck, his scheme for Jake and Cassandra could easily be adapted into a prank on Colonel Baird and Flynn.