Blood slid into the corner of his open mouth.
He wanted to spit, to get the taste of her blood out of his mouth, out of his system, out of his mind before it burnt into his memory, but his face was frozen. Muscles wouldn’t move, and it wasn’t just his face, his body had followed suit.
Sounds were a garble – he was sure that the Enforcer was talking to him now, or at least about him, as that was the process, it was the process, it was process, it was the process, it was-
He felt the blood on his cheek slide down his chin and begin to drip away.
She was-
They had-
No, the Enforcer had-
The Enforcer had been talking, he had been looking at him, there was no gun, there was no second Enforcer, there was-
Someone. Someone in the room had done it.
Shapes in his vision spun and he forced himself to work them out. The Enforcer stood and walked to the door, leaving piles of paperwork in his wake.
Paperwork that would never be done. Paperwork that couldn’t be done. There was no one to do it. There was no one to show him what to do. There was no one to explain all of the little boxes, or what signature was needed where, there was no one to love him.
He forced himself to turn and look at her.
Dead eyes stared from a slumped body. Bone, blood and brain matter stained her hair. The ruffles on her dress were ruffled. There was the faint stench in the air of a post-mortem defecation. She slipped a little on the chair, and he felt himself jump.
There was the sound of a gun being placed against glass.
He looked away from the body, and across the conference table.
Ryan.
Ryan’s gun. Still warm. Murder weapon.
He vaulted over the table, knocked his commander – chair and all – to the floor. He kicked him, hearing bones snap with every impact – ribs, fibia, tibia, the bones in each hand with a stomp each, the spine.
With a grunt, he threw the chair clear across the conference room, and heard a window shatter, not that it mattered.
Ryan coughed weakly, unable to move, but didn’t shift away, didn’t heal himself, and didn’t even try to stop him.
He stood over him, then dropped, straddling the feeble agent, lifted his fists, then began to use them on autopilot – thinking wasn’t required for punching, thinking wasn’t required for much he had to do and the only- The one-
He screamed, and felt Ryan’s skull cave in under his hand.
The body twitched under his hand for a moment, then disappeared.
‘Again?’ Ryan asked as he reappeared, standing in a pool of his own blood.
He grabbed the agent, and swung him down onto the conference table, shattering the glass. The impact reached Magnolia’s chair, and she slowly slipped off, and fell onto the floor in a graceless heap.
His first instinct was to berate her for the fall – she was better than that, she knew better than to fall that way, that she should be on her feet again, that she should- She would never- She would never anything, ever again.
He stepped across the remains of the table, and grabbed at her boot, careful to avoid touching her dead flesh, and tore the knife from her boot. He spun, ready to stab Ryan, but this time his commander was paying attention.
The small cuts from the glass were healing as Ryan backed away, his suit rippling, looking new again. ‘Taylor-’
He shifted across, stabbing with the knife before he’d fully reintegrated. Ryan dodged, but it was close, so close, close enough to- He thrust out his arm again, and Ryan jumped back, narrowly avoiding the blow again.
‘Taylor, listen-’
‘No!’ he screamed, the word forcing itself from his throat. He shifted forward, and slammed Ryan against the wall – just like Ryan had done to him in the halls of the Magpie Court.
He lifted the knife and a wall of sound hit him – magic ran through him, a physical warning to go no further, to back away, that he was at the point of no return. He retched and shook his head, trying to clear his mind, trying to see straight again.
A hand touched his forehead, and he felt the beginnings of a connection.
‘Don’t make me,’ Ryan said, choking the words out. ‘I hate doing it.’
He slammed the knife into the wall, and began to choke him. ‘You-’
[I was following orders.]
‘You killed her!’
[And you think they would have done less to me if I had refused?]
He head-butted the agent, and watched blood pour down his face.
Ryan shifted from his grip. ‘I didn’t want this!’ he said, ‘I didn’t recommend it, I didn’t agree with it, and I didn’t want to do it!’
‘You could have warned me!’ he roared.
‘I was the only one who knew the results of this meeting beforehand,’ Ryan said, ‘they would have known it was me that warned you.’
‘You could have-’
‘I was thinking of myself!’ Ryan said, raising his voice. ‘For once, Taylor, I was thinking of myself! I am sorry, gods, Taylor, I am sorry, but you are far from the most important person in my life, and I couldn’t risk it.’
‘This is a g-!’ he slammed a hand over his mouth, and focused on nothing.
Nothing. The void. Weapons. Revenge. Not that word. Anything but that word. That word didn’t exist, couldn’t exist, there was-
No.
No.
That word didn’t exist.
He looked up, and saw nothing but pity on Ryan’s face. ‘Say it, Taylor.’
He took a step back. ‘No.’
‘Say it.’
He backed away, and fell over one of the felled chairs. ‘No!’
Ryan knelt in front of him. ‘I’ll say it if you won’t.’
He grabbed Ryan’s jacket, pulled him down and shook him, hoping that it would shut him up, begging it to shut him up, to never speak again, to never say anything, for everything just to go black and take him like it had taken Magnolia.
She was dead and she was dead and she was dead and he was alone and she was-
‘Glitch,’ he said.
The tears started, and he didn’t care that people could see his weakness.
Ryan shifted out of his grip, mumbled another apology, then left the conference room, leaving him alone.
Alone. He was alone again. He should have always been alone. Being with her had been a mistake. Weakness. It was all weakness. He had-
He crawled across the room to her body and wrapped his arms around it, a morbid parody of the lover’s embrace she had taught him. She hadn’t really begun to cool yet, but she felt so wrong, the skin was wrong, she was wrong, everything was wrong.
Everything was-
The blood in the carpet began to soak through his uniform, but he barely noticed. It wasn’t as though he was ever going to move again, there was no point in keeping up appearances. There was no point to anything, no point to-
He had seen people talk to their dead lovers, their dead friends, their dead family members – as if they could still hear them, as if words shouted at a corpse meant anything. They didn’t mean anything, as soon as a life ended, communication was meaningless.
‘Come back.’
Everything was meaningless. Everything was pointless.
‘Come back.’
She hadn’t gone down in a fight like she had wanted. He had, however, fulfilled his promise of killing her – or at least being the cause of her death. He choked, and wiped at his face with a bloody hand.
‘Magnolia…’
There was no movement. No tiny spark of life. Nothing left to-
No chance.
Minutes had passed – she wasn’t coming back, she hadn’t made a deal with Death, she had passed on.
Passed on and left him alone.
A slim body in a suit appeared in front of him.
‘This is what you wanted, right?’ Carol asked as she lifted a felled chair and sat in front of him. ‘For everything to be simple again?’
‘No!’
‘Sure it is,’ she said with a condescending smile. ‘You never wanted this, you never wanted her.’
‘I didn’t know that I did,’ he said. ‘I-’
‘You’ve wanted to be a proper agent again since the first time she fucked you!’
‘I…wanted her.’
‘Well, you can’t have her. Come on, Agent Taylor, you’ve got a department to run, recruits to yell at, a new Aide to find, work to be done, duty to be done.’
‘No.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Not without her.’
‘She’s just a human, she’s just-’
‘Everything,’ he whispered. ‘Just…everything. She didn’t…I wasn’t incomplete to her, she’s only known me like this, she’s not comparing me to a dead man. I was…good enough for her.’
‘Do your duty, Agent Taylor.’
He scowled at the phantom. ‘Do yours, Whitman.’
The contempt slid from her expression. ‘Are you sure?’
‘I can’t…not without her…duty isn’t enough any more. Duty doesn’t…’
She stood, and returned a moment later with the knife, Magnolia’s knife. ‘You sure?’
He held his dead lover tighter. ‘Don’t let them bring me back this time.’
Whitman gave him a nod, then plunged the knife into his neck.
He didn’t fight the loss of sensation, of the growing darkness.
Everything slipped away, and he fell.