Ryan paused in front of Jones’ office – but only for a moment, the foot traffic through all of the tech department halls was such that the Agency Director loitering would be something that people noticed. And talked about. And started rumours about.
He pushed on the half-open door, and walked in.
Jones sat at a bench, a soldering iron in her hand, peering down at a pair of Merlin’s goggles. ‘Come in, sir, close the door if you need to.’
Ryan turned, closed the door, and required it locked. ‘What you told me,’ he said awkwardly. ‘Regarding the surveillance in this room.’
Jones sat up, placed the tool down and rolled her shoulders. Her shirt refreshed – changing from something that looked like an altered table of elements, to a plain, Agency blue T-shirt. ‘You’re safe, sir. Did you need to talk?’
‘She’s alive, Jones,’ he said, not hiding the joy on his face. ‘She’s alive, she’s herself and-‘ He smiled. ‘And everything is fine.’
Jones indicated to a newly-required chair. ‘That’s fantastic, sir. What’s your next move from here?’
Ryan shrugged, and let himself look helpless. It was something that hadn’t truly left his mind, but for all of the consternation it had caused, no clear path forward had made itself evident.
Jones seemed to pick up on his hesitation. ‘Well, sir, what are your options?’
‘I can’t see a way for her to become a recruit again, so much as I would like that. As forgiving as Jane was with my initial…misstep,’ he said, giving a small smile. ‘I doubt she would look favourably on his revelation. So any options that involve the Agency are out of the question.’
Jones seemed to consider this for a moment. ‘I guess,’ she said, ‘that’s contingent on how adverse she is to radical surgery and DNA swapping.’ Jones gave an unsettling smile. ‘It’s wonderful the things science can do these days.’
Ryan fixed a paternal glare on the agent – it seemed to be the appropriate response. ‘Jones.’
Jones’ normal expression returned to her face. ‘Sorry sir, hazard of the job.’
‘It wouldn’t work anyway, someone would notice that there is still-‘ he hesitated, trusting the other agent to know that he was safe, but nervous all the same, ‘it wasn’t all used in her resurrection.’
Jones sat back, her eyebrows raised. ‘Interesting,’ she said. ‘I had accounted for that possibility, but it wasn’t one that I thought was likely.’
‘This,’ Ryan said, ‘the Agency isn’t an option.’
‘Then somewhere in Faerie is your best bet. Fairyland is easiest of her temperament and socialisation to adjust to. You could do a sponsored sub-citizenship, it would get her on the system, and give her at least basic access to some of the social programs.’ Jones held up a tablet, and scrolled for a moment. ‘I think there’s provisions to waive your entitlements for a certain period for new sub-citizenships. TL;DR, she could get allowances, so long as you don’t claim in the next twelve or twenty-four months. Not the best if you’re planning to fall.’
Falling was a subject Jones had now brought up three times since the truth had come out.
His technical agent seemed convinced – if sad – that the possibility of Ryan falling was a very real one.
Ryan had never been more convinced that it wasn’t in his nature to fall.
Part of his conviction, strangely, was likely due to Rhys – whilst the man had been a monster, he had done his Duty to the last, even reporting – on time, if angry – to his own execution appointment. He had, by all reports, willingly died for the Agency, knowing that he was serving something greater than himself.
The stress of taking on Reynolds’ role hadn’t led to him to fall – neither had Carol, and even when making the wish to save Stef, there had never been the desire to wish himself free of the system.
He was an agent, even if he wasn’t one to be admired.
Ryan reached out, and placed his hand on Jones’ forearm. ‘I am not going to fall, Agent. I’ve never considered it as anything more than a passing fancy, I will be here, until my last.’
Jones seemed to relax a little, a small smile settling onto her lips. ‘As you say, sir.’ She drummed her fingers for a moment. ‘The Agency, Faerie, or sanctuary with a Court. Do you have any pull with any of the majors?’
‘I don’t think I would necessary need it,’ Ryan said. ‘She would fit best with the Mad or the Lost, and neither of those require any cache or bribery, though I’d make a donation either way.’
Jones nodded. ‘Whatever you decide, I’ll assist you if you’d like. I have…a little money stashed here and there in Fairyland. Various investments that have netted me small returns, I won’t even charge you interest,’ she said with a smile. She folded her arms. ‘Do you want me to take a look at her, sir? I’m no doctor, but in lieu of any other choices, I’m likely as close as you can get.’
Ryan sat back in his chair, then adjusted his coat. ‘I don’t-‘
He stood, and took two steps away from the agent – needing the space from her. Talking was one thing. Letting her in was another thing entirely.
‘Sir you don’t- I didn’t mean to overstep.’
He couldn’t bring himself to look at her. At an agent who had given nothing but decades of flawless service, at someone who should have been as close as a sibling, but who was three steps from being a stranger.
An agent, who for better or worse, still called him “sir”, rather than his name.
Ryan reached into his pocket, and withdrew the oubliette key. ‘Not here’ he said. ‘May I shift you?’
Jones stood, gathered a few items and a small bag. ‘Go ahead, sir.’
Ryan targeted her, and shifted them both to Stef’s apartment.
‘It hasn’t been rented to someone else?’ Jones asked.
‘I’ve taken the lease on myself,’ Ryan said. ‘I wanted to leave all of my options open.’
Jones stared at the key in Ryan’s hand. ‘I’m not sure I would have the force of will to summon one, sir. You’ve told me the circumstances, but I still can’t imagine how you managed it.’
‘It’s an act I’ll never repeat,’ Ryan said, moving the key around to find a place where it caught on the air. ‘I’m not sure I could do it again.’
Jones was silent as the door formed, and opened up.
Ryan stepped into the oubliette, unsurprised to see the chocolate ring around Stef’s mouth, and the comic balanced on her knees.
‘Hiiii,’ she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She tilted her head. ‘Is that my freaking apartment out there? Don’t let the smell in, don’t let the smell in!’
Ryan took a few more steps into the oubliette, and allowed Jones to come in behind him.
Stef tensed on the bed, and he realised that she’d likely never seen Jones presenting as Andrea. ‘It’s all right,’ he said, holding up his hands.
Stef tossed aside her comic, scooted to the edge of the bed and stood. ‘I know my people memory sucks but-‘ She stopped talking and took a step closer to Jones. ‘J- Jonesy?’
Andrea nodded. ‘Heard you’ve been a bit under the weather, Spyder.’
Ryan nodded to the tech. ‘Andrea has offered to act as a medical resource.’
Jones turned. ‘Do you mind if we have a few minutes alone?’
Ryan looked past Jones to Stef, who nodded.
‘I’ll just be outside then,’ Ryan said, then retreated through the door of the oubliette.
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