Ryan shifted to the hall with no doors. It was a small, dead piece of the Agency, no longer connected to the rest of the building. It was always cold here, colder than the rest of the Agency – it felt like a mausoleum, and the association wasn’t entirely inaccurate.
He moved along the hall, and touched a hand to where a doorknob should have been.
A security prompt appeared in his HUD, and he manually entered the long password string – this was one that was unable to authenticated automatically. Another step. Another delay. Another chance to turn around and leave.
It was almost an oubliette, in its own way.
A place to hide someone away from the world. To be forgotten by all, except those who truly cared.
The code was accepted and a door appeared in the wall. He twisted the doorknob and walked in, closing and locking the door behind him as he did.
The office never changed. Nothing ever changed. And nothing ever would change.
The office was the same size as his, and had the same large set of windows at the back – though these were hidden behind sheer curtains, projecting a recorded image of the outside world.
And at the large desk, made of dark wood, sat Director Reynolds.
Reynolds lay slumped across his desk, lifeless as a corpse, looking as uncomfortable as could be, covered in a thin layer of dust that seemed to permeate, even in this dead section of the Agency.
He was sleeping, dreaming, and saving the world by being locked away from it.
Ryan removed his jacket, and laid it on the couch across from the desk, then moved to clean up his Director, as he always did.
He pulled on Reynolds’ shoulders and made him sit up in the chair. He required his hair to be tidy, his suit to be refreshed, and the thin layer of dust to be dismissed.
Reynolds was breathing, his heart was beating, and his vitals were the same steady pulse as they had been since the night he’d collapsed in the street.
He gently laid Reynolds back on the desk, ensuring that the chair was close enough so that he wasn’t stretched out too far.
It would have been more humane to put him in a bed, or in a tank in the basement. It would have been easier to let the Central scientists take him and monitor him.
Easier, but not better.
Here, in his office, Reynolds was home – and Ryan had to believe that some part of him knew that, that some part of him appreciated that, even if he never woke up again.
In Central, they might dissect him.
In Central, they might try and figure out the method by which Sol had stolen their dreams.
In Central, the might anger the monster that had already threatened the world once.
He moved to the couch, sat, and required a drink.
It wasn’t impossible for agents to become alcoholics.
There were fae alcohols that could impair them, as much as any human. Normal liquor was just for the taste – but it still felt like a crutch to drink when in a bad mood.
But it had been what Reynolds had suggested, so it was a pattern of behaviour he had maintained.
He required a scotch, and rested it on the arm of the couch, the condensation beading on the glass, then sliding down to the leather.
Reynolds drank, sang, partied and made merry with everyone around him. He was loved by agents, recruits and contacts. He always seemed to have time to give advice, make a joke, or simply fly the Agency flag when it was called for.
Reynolds was everything he couldn’t be. He was, he was sure, a disappointment to him.
But Reynolds had loved him anyway – as a father, as a teacher and as a friend. He had put up with his “faults” and his lack of growth. He wasn’t what his Director had expected of him, and that had always hung in the air.
Ryan took a sip of his scotch.
He was a disappointment to his father, as much as he was a disappointment to his son.
He’d disappointed Eilise, and Carol and the others that had come and gone over the decades.
He was never enough for the recruits – especially when trying to juggle two jobs without help.
He hadn’t disappointed Stef, but in the space of a few hours, he’d failed her.
And she was still paying for his mistake.
He took another mouthful of drink, and stared at his Director, trying to imagine what he would have thought of proposing to adopt a young woman after knowing her barely a few days.
Reynolds would have moved through his various roles, commenting as necessary. His friend would appreciate the gesture, but tell him that he was wrong. His father would caution him, and warn that it was too great of a leap. His Director would ask about the impact on his workload.
And Reynolds would have asked him to justify it, and needed an answer other than “because”.
‘Because I love her,’ he said quietly.
Because she was sad, and scared and lost. Because she had suspected the smallest kindnesses to be routine, and not genuine. Because she remembered him, when there should have been other people to write over the memory with bigger and better memories.
Because they fit.
‘It surprises me,’ Jane said, ‘that you come here.’
Ryan looked up, the ice in his glass rocking as he sat straighter. ‘Why?’
The agent regarded him quietly for a moment, then sat on the couch beside him. ‘You always seem to do the opposite of what I would think.’
Ryan dismissed the glass. ‘I thought you would have cut me some slack after the church, Jane.’
‘I need to ask-’
Her voice was serious. He’d just mentioned the church. There was one thing she’d never asked him. ‘No, he didn’t tell me to do it.’
‘You were a newborn, Ryan,’ Jane said, ‘I find it hard to believe that it was your decision. I admire and appreciate that you did, and that wouldn’t change if-’
‘He encouraged me to be more than I was, but do you think any Director worth his position could encourage an agent under his care to go against the core tenants of Duty, and use one of the most highly-ranked items of contraband that exist? He encouraged less drastic measures.’
‘So why did you?’
‘Because it would have been a waste of two lives. The breach of Duty was well worth it.’
He looked away for a moment. ‘I feel…I feel like I truly started to live during the mirrorfall. Death’s song was the first thing I had ever been able to ascribe beauty to, and that changed me, right down…to the soul I don’t have. Reynolds liked and admired you, and I saw the opportunity to help you. I wanted to be more than I was, so I acted in a way that was closer to the man I was supposed to be.’
Jane looked to Reynolds. ‘He would be proud of you, Ryan.’
‘I truly hope he is.’
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