Title: An Appointment Kept
Characters: Mabel Collins, Jenkins, OFC, Jacob Stone, Cassandra Cillian, Ezekiel Jones
Pairings: Mabel/Jake, Cassandra/Jake
This is all justlook3's fault. She wrote a poignant little story of an AU happy ending for Mabel that unleashed this plot bunny for me. A non AU ending for Mabel. Major Character Death, sort of.
Mabel Collins felt like her brain had been vibrating in her skull for hours. Whatever Jacob Stone and his fellow Librarians had done to the power grid of Collins Falls must have shorted out her ground. Shaking her head to clear it, Mabel opened her eyes, expecting to find herself surrounded by the helpful strangers who had brought the first hope in decades to her trapped friends and family. Instead, the darkness refused to blink away.
A chill of fear tingled along her spine. Was she blind, now? She tried to raise her hands to scrub at her non-cooperative eyes but found to her increasing terror that she could not reach them. Whatever space she was in was so tight that her arms could not bend high enough to reach her face.
Her throat closed around a scream as her enclosure began to shake.
Suddenly, she could hear voices.
"Do you think she's okay? She wasn't like the others."
"The only way to tell is to check."
And then light rushed in blinding her again momentarily. Mabel closed her eyes tightly against that bright pain.
"Hey! She's moving!" an unfamiliar voice with a strange accent shouted "She's all right!"
"Take it easy, Miss Collins," a vaguely more recognizable voice instructed. "You've been playing Sleeping Beauty. It won't do to move about too quickly."
Memories began to color in the edges of her mind. They had been about to shut down the power to the turbines leaving everyone stranded still, out of phase with the real world. "What happened to the others?" she tried to ask, but her voice croaked so that she could scarcely understand herself.
Apparently her rescuers comprehended her garbled request.
"They're all fine," the stranger said reassuringly. "Here, let me help you out of that thing."
Mabel risked peeking out under her lashes, still sensitive to the light. Two people stood over her, looking down. The one she recognized—Jenkins, she remembered—wasn't smiling but his face was set in pleased lines. The other was someone she had never seen before, a middle aged woman with dark brown skin and hair dyed every colour of the rainbow in tight spirals sticking out all over her head. Her smile gleamed joyously, and she let out a delighted chortle.
"I do love it when a plan actually works!"
The strange woman reached out for Mabel's hands and helped her sit up in what appeared to be a box. As she changed angles, Mabel felt small items sliding off her stomach. She looked down and recognized her collection of post cards. Who would have taken them off her bulletin board? She wondered, momentarily annoyed. And why had they been in a box with her?
However, Jenkins thoughtful offer of a glass of water distracted her from the mystery.
Her throat felt much better after the drink, and she began to notice her surroundings. She was in her archive. There was the old car that Jacob thought she should have driven. Why had she been boxed up in an archive like an antique?
"Where are the others?" she asked Jenkins.
"Ah!" he said. "They've been asking to see you."
He gestured toward the doorway, which filled with eager faces she had not seen in 100 years. Their clothing was manifestly out of fashion, but they were real and here. The experiment had worked! In spite of everything, it had worked, and they were free!
Mabel let the woman help her scramble out of the box, and then she was surrounded by her people, able to hug and touch them.
Eventually, she turned, face wet with tears, to Jenkins and the stranger. "Thank you. Thank you all. I can't believe it's over."
She looked around the room, filled with 87 people. But some faces were still missing. "Where are Jacob and Cassandra and Ezekiel?" she asked. "I need to thank them, too."
The woman exchanged an enigmatic glance with Jenkins.
Jenkins cleared his throat. "I'm afraid I have some less than welcome news. The original experiment at the power plant failed, Miss Collins. The capacitor blew to smithereens. Every one of your out-of-phase people was caught in the network of the gas lamps, unable to communicate. You reacted as though someone had cut your power. We did not know if you were dead or alive, but Jacob insisted that we treat you as alive. You've been waiting here until we were able to rebuild and recharge the capacitor.
"But," Mabel looked from Jenkins to his companion, "but that took 100 years last time."
"You're right," Jenkins said sympathetically. "With better materials, it did not take quite so long; nevertheless, what you remember occurred 75 years ago."
The ground wavered under her feet, and Mabel was grateful for the strong arms of the strange woman who helped her sit down. She had watched worlds die and new ones be born, had seen friends grow old and left flowers on their graves. But to have the years vanish without her noticing? Every person in Collins Falls whom she had known, except perhaps for a few children, would be gone.
Then the engineer girl and the disapproving thief—and Jacob Stone . . .? "They're all dead now." She answered her own question.
"They are." Jenkins nodded, then looked away, but not before she recognized the loss in his face. She'd seen it in her own mirror.
"And you are . . .?" Mabel asked.
"Not quite as easy to kill," Jenkins said. "Somewhat like yourself. And this is Justa Obiseke, The Librarian now."
"Pleased to meet you." Justa stuck out her hand.
Mabel shook it silently.
"Mr. Stone left something for you," Jenkins added, pulling a thick envelope out of his pocket. "The Appointment Book kept track of this as well as the progress of charging the capacitor."
Carefully, Mabel took the envelope from him. She did not want to open it until she was alone.
The next hour blurred out for her as Jenkins and Justa introduced all of them to the last descendent of the Collins family who had agreed to oversee their assimilation into a world beyond their imagination. They had lost 75 years of invention and change.
As grateful as she was to be reunited with her family and friends, Mabel needed to find a space she could call her own and just rest. The irony of needing rest after 75 years of lying there doing nothing did not escape her.
She discovered that the Librarians had arranged for her house to be declared a Historical Monument, and that none of her belongings or furnishings had been moved in all the time she had been gone. A polite caretaker had kept the place more spotless than Mabel had ever managed.
When she was alone at last, Mable sat in her chair and stared at the envelope in her lap. How strange to receive a message from beyond the grave from a man whom, it seemed to her, she had kissed only yesterday. She could still remember the brush of his fingers on her cheek, the feel of his hand cradling her head, the warmth of his touch on her hip. They had only known each other a few days, and now he had lived an entire lifetime, and was gone. She wished she had asked Jenkins more. She wished she knew where he had been buried.
With trembling fingers, she unsealed the envelope. A thick stack of postcards slid out into her hand. The first one was of the Eiffel Tower. She turned it over and read the message, written in a firm, neat hand: When you visit the Eiffel Tower, remember the way the lights made everything glow.
Slowly she leafed through each card. The first ones were photographs on paper: The Gates of Babylon, Machu Picchu, a house in the Swiss Alps. Pictures from around the world, each with a message on the back.
Imagine the whole city with walls of lapis lazuli.
Make sure you are at the Inti Watana at noon on November 11.
Get off the Bernina Express at the Pass. You'll love the hike over to St. Moritz.
The more recent cards were on some substance other than paper, and the pictures moved. One of them was of Jacob riding a camel in the middle of nothing but sand; he turned and waved, and the camera zoomed in on his smile and blue eyes that looked even younger than when she had known him. Mabel wondered who had taken the photograph. Perhaps the most recent cards answered that question because he was standing in a tropical location with his arm around a woman whose hair had once been red. Jacob's own hair was just as wavy as it had been, but was a snowy white. The two of them laughed and called greetings to her out of the card. Do not eat the Durian!Jacob recommended. And Cassandra made a face and nodded agreement.
He had obviously enjoyed his life after they had parted, had travelled to all the places he had dreamed about back when he was trapped in his family business in a town of people content to go nowhere. Mabel found herself brushing tears from her eyes. And she could not have said whether they were happy or sad.
The final postcard was an ordinary one. Made of paper. The picture was of the Taj Mahal. On the back the handwriting was no longer firm or neat.
This is my last card. Getting a little too old for all this gallivanting. I hope you get to read these, Mabel. And you'll find your account still in your name and containing sufficient funds for you to travel anywhere in the world. Go have fun.
Love, Jacob Stone.
The first flight she booked was to Paris.