19 – Before and After

September 28th

Ryan noted that the door to his office was unlocked – Jane was already there, and quite willing to make herself at home. He stopped, refreshed his uniform, and walked in, his face as professional and content as he could make it without filtering out all of his emotion.

‘Jane,’ he said, noticing the stack of files on the coffee table in front of his couch before he had the courage to look to the older agent. ‘I’d invite you in, but-’

‘You’re the one who left me waiting,’ she said, ‘what was so important that it had you out of your Agency for several hours without logging anything with your tech?’

‘I don’t usually advise Jones of all my movements,’ he said, ‘he is busy enough without-’

‘Do you know why I’m here?’

‘Jones was kind enough to give me the short form.’

Jane stood and appraised him. ‘I cannot believe how badly that howler messed you up, Ryan, but that’s really the least of your problems.’

He required a chair and sat opposite her. ‘Shall we go through the pantomime of you telling me why you’re here?’

‘If I’d gotten a recruit killed,’ she snapped, ‘I wouldn’t be so blase, Agent.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘Not unless I’d planned it. And even then-’

‘How dare you-?!’ he said, standing to look down at her. ‘I wouldn’t-’

‘Sit your arse down, Ryan. Now. I’m your investigating officer, I would suggest not losing your temper with me, that kind of thing doesn’t tend to go well.’

He sat, nearly slamming his rear into the seat. ‘Then do not accuse me of murdering my recruit, again.’

Jane opened a file, and with a wave of her hand, the contents blurred and spread themselves across the table. A report. A medical transcript and injury detail. Photos.

Photos of a little girl with little blue eyes. Blue eyes that had taken on a touch of grey from seeing limbo.

‘I’m going to need you to explain this, Ryan.’

‘Explain what, ma’am? It’s all there in print. That’s Stef. Much younger and-’

‘This isn’t usual, Ryan, not- There are a couple of possibilities that come to mind, but I cannot imagine that they apply to you. If they do, then- You’re a better man than that, Ryan, even I know that.’

Ryan felt a sick feeling against his heart as words formed to match her unspoken fears. Grooming. Abuse. Being…improper.

‘But you have to understand,’ Jane said, ‘that it has to be brought up, even if to be dismissed.’

‘It was-’ he said without further prompting. ‘She was a child. She suffered a flesh wound due to poor timing on my part. She was brought here and my medical agents performed quick treatment on her. I returned her home and…honestly forgot about her, Jane. Carol had just- And Taylor was still being rebuilt. A toddler seemed so very unimportant in comparison to all that.’ He sat back in his chair. ‘And we are to be forgotten, so any thought would be wasted.’

Jane nodded. ‘So this was just coincidence? Was she aware-’

‘She didn’t forget me,’ he said, then released a long breath. ‘She remembered what had transpired.’

This quietened Jane. ‘That would have a profound effect on any agent,’ she said. ‘Can I make the leap that that is the cause of her counter-intuitive departmental placement?’

Ryan nodded.

‘So far,’ Jane said, ‘this just sounds like a bit of roundabout Cherry Syndrome. Your feelings towards the young lady?’

‘Paternal,’ he said without a chance to consider how much he could tell Jane. ‘There’s little more i enjoy than being able to teach a willing recruit, to show someone how- She wanted to see magic, Jane, she was excited for it.’

‘Ryan, I’m not here to question those choices. You took her into a Field Op she was in no way prepared for, and got her killed.’ She tidied up the contents of the file. ‘Recruit O’Connor said you weren’t even interested in pursuing the usual lines of query for KIA recruits.’

At least this question he’d been prepared for. ‘What he wasn’t aware of was that I had already made my own inquiries. I knew they had no information.’

‘So why not tell your recruit that?’

‘You know Recruit O’Connor’s history, I take it?’

‘Yes, Ryan, of course I do.’

‘Someone with his history has no reason to believe an agent. I thought it better for him to make his own queries.’ He affected a sad look. ‘It also let him live in hope for a little while longer.’ He raised his head a little. ‘There is always the chance that they would tell him something that they wouldn’t have told an agent, so I saw no downside in my actions.’

‘Ryan, you still haven’t said why you took her into the mirrorfall op.’

He took away all of his emotion filters and looked at Jane, letting himself feel all the pain and confusion that had been beating against him since hearing the mirror explode. ‘Because I thought I could protect her. Because I’m arrogant. I was wrong, ma’am, and my recruit paid the price for it.’

This seemed to satisfy her, and she gave him a single, slow nod. ‘That admission will go a long way in your defence, Ryan, assuming you mean it.’

‘If I could take it back. If I could- If I had another chance, I wouldn’t take her. You have no idea how much-’

‘What of the mirror?’ Jane asked. ‘You had pieces at your feet, you would have wished away some yourself. Why not…why not make it as though it never happened?’

‘Because I always do my damndest to do my duty,’ he said. ‘I’m an agent, and…I couldn’t make a mistake to fix a mistake.’

‘Ryan…most agents wouldn’t blame you. Most agents would look the other way. I would, you know that. If you did something, now would be the time to tell me.’

Ryan hesitated.

Jane stared at him, and five seconds later, he knew it was too late to deny anything.

Hesitation, something Reynolds had once called his greatest strength, was also a liability that continued to make bad decisions on his behalf.


He took drink of water, his fingers pressing into the cool glass, delaying him for another few precious seconds before he had to answer.

‘Kay wouldn’t even be here without you,’ Jane said quietly. ‘I would never fault you for trying something for yourself, but you need to tell me, now please don’t be stupid and try to deny it.’

Ryan squeezed the glass in his hand, feeling it almost ready to shatter in his hand. ‘I tried something,’ he finally said, and calmly set the glass down. ‘I tried something and it didn’t work.’

Jane laid her hand on his for a moment. ‘Thank you for telling me,’ she said. ‘What did you try?’

‘She shot it. She was in the way.’ He clenched his hands into fists. ‘And I wasn’t quick enough. She died. I tried to- I tried to wish her back. It didn’t work.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Jane said, sounding genuinely sorry.

Ryan let a few tears slip out, then wiped them away.

‘Where’s the body?’ Jane asked. ‘If that’s what happened, where’s the body?’

‘I have some friends in Faerie that have some beautiful land, I had her buried there.’

‘I won’t bring up that breaks a few laws about proper disposal,’ Jane said with a small smile. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that from the start?’

Ryan looked to the agent for a long moment. ‘Because, until right now, I thought you despised me for what I had done for Kayla. You never-’

It was a church, of all places.

Ryan paused before he stepped over the threshold – it was the first he’d ever been in, despite Reynolds telling him again and again how important it was to recognise the symbology that was not-infrequently applied to them.

It was pointless, really. At one time, blue constructs had appeared as angels, that time was past. It was a meaningless appellation used by fae – slang, a colloquialism, truly meaningless.

He still gave the moment the quiet respect Reynolds said it deserved, and stepped into the church.

Several of the pews had been knocked over, others were covered in the blood and fluids of the dead leeches.

Jane stood at the front of the church, her gun in her shaking hand as her lover sat on the dias, her eyes glowing an electric blue.


Jane snapped her gun up, aimed at him, her hand no longer shaking, then finally turned to look at him. ‘I expected Reynolds,’ she said, no humour in her voice.

‘He-’ Ryan hesitated. ‘Director Reynolds stated that he was not going to interfere. He values your friendship over your breach of Duty.’

Jane took three long strides toward him. ‘And you, newborn? Going to call the Enforcers? Going to call in the best of us?’ She grimaced and looked away. ‘Absolutely nothing they can do will be worse than what I am about to do to myself.’

Ryan looked to Kayla, and the serene, distant look on her face. ‘What happened to her? Reynolds said she was sick-’

‘Wishes go wrong,’ Jane said quietly. ‘The leeches think she’s their god, and I’m not entirely sure they’re wrong. She’s- She’s well, but she isn’t my Kayla anymore. She was gathering them for war-’ Jane said as she swept her arm wide to indicate the dead leeches. ‘I saved her life, and now I have to take it.’ Jane let her arm drop. ‘I had two pieces, I thought it would be enough. The first piece saved her. The second piece stopped her.’

Ryan held up the small shard of mirror he’d saved. ‘In the stories there are always three wishes.’

Jane dropped her gun. ‘Newborn?’

Ryan turned his hand so that the shard rested in his open palm. ‘Reynolds keeps encouraging me to be more than a newborn.’ He took a step toward Jane, closing the distance between them. ‘Please, take it.’

Jane reached for the piece of mirror, her delicate fingers brushing against his palm. She turned from him, and knelt before Kayla. Jane held the mirror in her fist, closed her eyes, and bowed her head.

Ryan watched, unwilling to break in on the wish, and watched as the blue light faded from Kayla’s eyes.

‘I couldn’t even think about you,’ Jane cut in. ‘Everything Kayla had just been through. You saved her life, but that wasn’t all there was to it. Everything she had been through, it took all of my energy, all of my time, to stop her from going mad.’ Jane leaned back. ‘And by the time I looked up, two years had gone by. I should have reached out, I should have thanked you more than I did, but you just…I’m sorry, I am, but I could barely explain what was going on to my closest friends, let alone tell a newborn that what he’d done was a debt I could never repay.’

Ryan sat on the nearest upright pew and rocked slightly at the overload in his mind. A sure sign that he was experiencing some kind of abberation from norm that his software wasn’t expecting. That he was broken.

The sick feeling of going against Duty. Of knowing something that could get him brought before an Enforcer ruling. The pride of knowing that he had finally perhaps done something that would impress Reynolds – that it would be something about Ryan that would impress him, not something in him that was still Rhys.

The warmth of knowing he’d done something…right. Something that couldn’t be justified by Duty, but that didn’t have to be. That it served a greater good. A greater sense of right and wrong.

And the ache of knowing it would be impossible to express any of this to someone else.

He had gone against what he had been programmed to do – something Reynolds insisted was long overdue.

He felt…for lack of a better word, human.

And that was more terrifying than the phoenix.

‘This is,’ Ryan said at last, ‘a conversation we should have had a long time ago.’

‘And that’s stating the obvious, newborn,’ she said with a smile. ‘No. I never hated you, Ryan. I’m sorry you thought I did.’

Ryan poured himself another water. ‘You still have to do your investigation. Beyod just Stef. Something like that…it’s only an excuse isn’t it? They always want to check for systemic issues.’

‘No one expected you to be Director for this long,’ Jane said, ‘I’d be beyond shocked if there weren’t.’

Ryan sighed. ‘I’m sure no one says that to Grigori.’

‘Do you really want to swap places with him?’ she asked, a smile quirking on her lips. ‘People might not question him, but at least they don’t call you a sex addict behind your back. How many kids does he have now?’

‘He just sent out the birth annoucement for his one-hundred-and-eighty-first grandchild. I sent booties.’

Jane smiled. ‘Still jealous of him? That’ s a lot of responsibility.’

Family was a responsibility he’d gladly shoulder, even if it was a family that merely consisted of himself and a strangely-smelling, strange little girl. Family was work, but it was worth it.

An image of Alexander flashed in his mind, and his mood dropped further.


He looked up. ‘Sorry.’

‘I’ll be starting the top-down audit tomorrow. Are there any nasty surprises you want to alert me to?’

‘You’re aware of Agent Taylor’s existence?’


Ryan tried to smile. ‘Then that’s all I can think of.’

[table id=15 /]

18 - New Arrival
21 - Clash

  28 comments for “19 – Before and After

  1. Stormy
    August 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Just a note from me.

    I know this chapter has taken ages to come out – considering we were getting nearly a chapter a day a couple of weeks ago. There’s a few reasons for this: work’s been busy, I’ve been unwell, and…I was stuck on this freaking line.

    ‘Ryan…most agents wouldn’t blame you. Most agents would look the other way. I would, you know that. If you did something, now would be the time to tell me.’

    I wrote that line, then wrote nothing else until I opened up the document yesterday.

    It was just so…so frightening in a way. The immediate urge was delete it, and rewrite the scene so that the question didn’t come up, so that I had an easy way out.

    The more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn’t want an easy way out. I wanted that conversation to happen, no matter the consequences (good and bad) – it was a natural thing to happen, and it was something that needed to happen.

    And yet I hesitated.

    And then I worked out that was the key: hesitation. Ryan’s line about hesitating and knowing it was too late was what freed me back up to write it.

    Ryan’s a lot of things, but hesitant is one of his major flaws and qualities – he isn’t always as fast as he needs to be, which is why we even have a series in the first place. It’s also shown in the new mirrorfall-night sequence at the beginning of this book with the recruits fighting the nymph: Ryan. Does. Nothing. He stops, he thinks, and he takes time to react – basically to the detriment to everyone around him.

    And in the state he’s in thanks to how messed up he is because of Stef, he isn’t going to be on the top of his game in answering questions, and that’s when Jane knows something is up, and it then doesn’t make sense for him to deny everything, but rather to tell a version of the truth.

    And I was glad I was able to roll in the flashbacks – they aren’t as tidy as I’d like them to be, but at least we get to see Ryan’s first step towards becoming the man we know him as now. And I do like that it involves the mirror – he takes a while to take action, but when he does it’s usually (unfortunately) a bit extreme.

  2. August 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    And that line of thinking, of bringing your own doubts and desires and humanity to your characters, is what keeps us coming back for more. (and something I’m really jealous of, I don’t really do that in my writing, im trying to more. )

    • Stormy
      August 15, 2013 at 5:59 am

      …and I’m truly grateful I get reactions like that and not “KEPT US WAITING LONG ENOUGH DIDN’T YOU I QUIT FOREVERS BYEBYE”.

      The scenes where I get insight into Ryan are never the ones I expect, but I’m always glad when I do.

      (Now, if I could just finally get Magnolia to click, I’d be happy…).

      • Kunama
        August 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

        Re TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH comments… I don’t think you’d be missing much useful input from someone who’d leave such a disrespectful response on the site of an artist who provides free, decent content.

        Hurrah for more Ryan backstory!

        • Stormy
          August 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

          You’d…you’d be surprised how easily people can turn on you.

          The first time I killed Stef off (like, legitimately first, back in MF1.0), I had a bunch of people leave and never come back, because they thought she was gone for good. >_>

        • August 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

          I know the IN thing with a lot of webfic people at the time was to make you care about characters, then kill them, to prove you could and still write a story.

          Hmm, im now imagning a series where the readers vote each week or month on a character, the current viewpoint character then dies, and the next one takes over. So vote for your fav, and you get story from their perspective, but also doom them to DIE!

  3. Elad Hen
    August 15, 2013 at 5:09 am

    This is my first response to Require: Cookie. I read MirrorFall 3.0 and MirrorHeart 3.0 (up to chapter 21. Well, now 22) then skipped on to read MirrorShade 2.0 and I’m now starting Grey Edge.
    I Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the series. Stef is growing to be one of my favorite protagonists ever. Yeah, she’s broken in oh-so-many-ways, but she’s also very very human and endearing and beautiful. I guess I can see her through Ryan’s eyes.
    I also found your choice of putting a father-daughter relationship in the center of the series (at least up to where I got) fascinating and thought provoking. The fact that it is basically an adoption between adults (well, Stef is technically an adult, if not emotionally) makes it all the more interesting.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is I love your work. Keep it up and I promise to keep reading.
    So yeah, I’m telling my friends: “You gotta read this. It’s all about MiB, magic, dying worlds, goblins and whatnot, but the important parts deal with being a parent, growing up, mental and social disabilities and cookies. Many cookies.”

    • Stormy
      August 15, 2013 at 6:22 am

      Hiii newbie!

      *digs around in lost and found, finds a hat that may or may not have magic in the brim, a small piece of unicorn horn, and a beaker that bubbles when you aren’t looking*

      (Just my 2c, I dislike GE and I’m looking forward to the rewrite when I can fix a lot of the problems, OUB is a lot better though! 🙂 ).

      //I Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the series.//
      ^_^ Thank you.

      //Yeah, she’s broken in oh-so-many-ways, but she’s also very very human and endearing and beautiful.//
      Like a tribble.

      //I guess I can see her through Ryan’s eyes.//
      That’s a really, really big compliment, thank you. I mean it. If people can emphasise with her from that perspective, then I must have done an ok job. 🙂

      //I also found your choice of putting a father-daughter relationship in the center of the series (at least up to where I got) fascinating and thought provoking. //
      I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – Stef and Ryan are basically my revenge on all the shows I used to watch where there was obviously a parent-child relationship going on between characters but nothing was ever said to that effect, and it was predominantly set up to be inferred, rather than just someone coming out and saying “well, goddamit, I’m adopting you” (or even a “we’re totally family right?”).

      It never made sense to me why people would just, like, talk about the way they felt – people are free enough to speak and speech when they’re falling in romantic love, and express that through numerous different ways, so why is a different dynamic expressed so infrequently?

      Stef’s the heart of the series (aha. aha. No, I don’t get tired of making this joke), and the extension of that are the people she loves – there’s going to be other dynamics, but Stef’s strongest bond is always going to be with Ryan, cause he’s the first person who’s loved her, and really been there for her. That’s not to say that things will stay the same, or that she won’t grow and change (oh boy is a fairly major change coming), but he’s her daddy, and he’s always going to be there for her.

      //The fact that it is basically an adoption between adults//
      I’m a big believer in choosing your family – this, I think is very much evidenced by the fact that I refer to Wraith as my brother, someone I originally met as a fan, who is as close to me as any blood family I’ve ever had. (…and who came across the world and lived in my house for two months ^_^).

      //Keep it up and I promise to keep reading.//
      Just forgive my lack of a schedule – you guys get content as soon as it’s ready – sometimes that means five chapters a week, sometimes it means once a month.

      //So yeah, I’m telling my friends//
      I once tried the “SHE REQUIRES COFFEE AND COOKIES” line on someone, and they erroneously got the image of a preppy girl conjuring designer drinks and biscotti. >_> I made sure to emphasise the mental illness angle after that.

      • Elad Hen
        August 15, 2013 at 7:00 am

        :)))) I’m the newbie now! SO COOL!

        [gets shot!]

        • Elad Hen
          August 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

          How much will I miss if I skip GE?

        • August 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

          Stormy, like all good authors, is hard on herself. GE is good, read it. (just bear in mind that things will get changed)

        • Elad Hen
          August 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

          Thanks alexanderthesoso. Good point. I guess I’ll continue reading it.

        • Stormy
          August 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

          *resurrects you*

      • Elad Hen
        August 15, 2013 at 7:16 am

        Also – can’t seem to find the donation page.

        • Wraith
          August 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

          We don’t have a donation page, actually. What we do have is the Kindle version of MF 3.0, and at one point we had a cafepress store, although I’m not sure if that’s still open. . .

        • August 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

          open as magnolia for taylor. http://www.cafepress.com/profile/63291262

        • Stormy
          August 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

          Prompted by this, I’m gonna write up a “how you can help” page with monetary and non-monetary ways, which will include a PayPal donate button. 🙂

        • Elad Hen
          August 16, 2013 at 2:40 am

          Great. And thanks for resurrecting me. Living is nice 🙂

  4. nw25f1
    August 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm


    I’m new here but I think this is a great series. I’ve read all that currently exists of the main series (current versions) and am loving it. Please write more soon.

    Interesting to find out that Ryan had taken some mirror before meeting Stef, can’t wait to see where all this is going.

    Require: More.

    • Stormy
      August 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      Hi even newer newbie! (Newerbie? NEWERBIE!).

      *distracts Applebaum and gets into Lost and Found* *finds a piece of memory glass that always shows a clown, a tank of slightly mutated mealfish, and a discount card for Famous Fry’s*

      I just loved the idea of Ryan…to some degree repeating his mistakes, and having some parallels between his first mirrorfall and Stef’s mirrorfall (if you go back and read both phoenix conversations, you’ll notice there’s a degree of similarity between the dialogue ^_^).

      It also really helped tie everything together for me – in the original version of MH, the character that Jane grew out of was rather disconnected from everything – having their backstories like this helped make it feel far more cohesive, and it also gives Jane – as investigating agent – reasons to empathise with Ryan, and not just judge him by the letter of the law.

      // Please write more soon.//
      Next I think (plans may change) will be Taylor and Jane fighting again, while Mags and Merlin are adorable.

  5. RJ the Wolf
    August 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    o.o took you long enough!.. j/k j/k 😉 sorry but you were asking for it after that earlier comment. muhahaha! this is good, definitely worth two weeks, please don’t make a habit of it, but i read alot of webcomics/web novels so i’m used to the irregularity of other peoples lives. XD i enjoy these characters and i enjoy their stories. you could rewrite them ad infinitum and i’d keep reading again and again. please don’t ever stop ^_^

    • Stormy
      August 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm


      Actually, due to a couple of things, there might be a brief delay before the next…but I’m gonna do a blog post about it later (it works out better for you guys).

      // you could rewrite them ad infinitum and i’d keep reading again and again. please don’t ever stop ^_^//
      …Ok, in the next rewrite of Mirrorfall, Stef will be a boy and a expert in bioinformatics instead of hacking.

      And in the one after that, she’ll be a pony.

      And in the one after that, Jonesy/Taylor will be canon.

      And in the one after that, Stef won’t be in it at all.


      That’s totally what you meant by ad infinitum rewrites, yes? 😀

      • August 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

        Then in the next one, Jonesy/Taylor will be IN a cannon.

        • Stormy
          August 17, 2013 at 2:02 am

  6. MacDitch
    August 20, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Finally got here – Nature of Nurture wiped me out.

    Loving how this is going and can’t wait for more Merlin. 🙂

    “There’s little more i enjoy” – “i” should be “I”
    “the usual lines of query for KIA” and “him to make his own queries.” – wouldn’t “enquiry”/”enquiries” fit better?
    “Beyod just Stef” – “Beyond”?

    • Stormy
      August 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      //Loving how this is going and can’t wait for more Merlin.//
      There’s Merlin in the next chapter! 😀

  7. MacDitch
    October 29, 2013 at 2:02 am

    And the newly posted Chapter 24 needs moving/inserting between this and Chapter 25.

  8. October 12, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    . Beyod just Stef. Something like that…it’s onl


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