Stef slowly munched on the sundae, still expecting the walls of the bubble-room to shatter at any point, just like the window of the ice cream store.
Ryan was talking, but she wasn’t hearing any of it – from the words she was able to pick out, it just seemed like the boring, everyday stuff: details of one mission or another, small titbits about recruits.
The same stream-of-consciousness stuff you did when someone had undergone a trauma to stop them from freaking out.

She squeezed Ryan’s hand tighter, needing the connection to the real world, to life, to…anything that wasn’t the world of being a brain-in-a-jar.
‘If you didn’t require this,’ she said, interrupting him, ‘how’d you get it?’
‘The oubliettes are older than the universe,’ Ryan said. ‘They are one of the few things that survive from universal cycle to universal cycle. They are a constant as much as Death and her sisters. Thus, they are from the same order of magic, the same as…the same as your new heart.’ Ryan reached out to the wall and touched it. ‘Thus, wishes are easy.’
She reached back, put her hand beside his, and thought of hot fudge – a moment later, the remains of the sundae were dripping with hot, rich fudge.
Stef spooned up some fudge and looked across the wall to Carol. ‘So why-’ she bowed her head. ‘I know it’s a stupid question. But if- Why can’t you wish her better?’
‘It doesn’t grant that kind of wish.’
‘But-’ she put down the bowl of ice cream and pressed a hand to her chest. ‘But this one could?’ She scooted off the bed and stood, then turned back to look at him. ‘Why didn’t- You could totally use this. If- If she means that much, then why the hell did you bother saving me when there’s something so much more important you could do?’
Ryan stood and smoothed down his uniform. ‘It would be unfair to you,’ he said. ‘I won’t take a chance with one life to potentially save another.’
Stef took a step towards the glass. ‘But I’m no-one,’ she said. ‘And she-‘
‘I don’t trust myself to make the right wish,’ Ryan said, his gaze slipping away as he looked towards the floor. ‘The first-‘ He sat back on the bed, his forearms resting on his knees. ‘When I started to tell you about what we were, you guessed that it took a while for agents to,’ a perfunctory smile crossed his face. ‘I believe the term you used was “become people”. This was, I think, more true for me than a lot of my peers. My Director often spoke to my slow emotional growth. I saw my first mirrorfall when I was five, it was the first time I had felt a lot of things.’
She sat back down, but kept looking to the princessy bed in the other part of oubliette – the woman who needed a wish far more than a useless, stinky hacker.
‘I met Agent Jane for the first time on the same night as the phoenix. She made it quite clear to Reynolds that she intended to get a piece of mirror to heal her lover – the woman that would become her wife.’
‘What was wrong with her? Agency doctors are like Star Trek good, so I can’t imagine-‘
‘Kay was in a coma. An idiopathic sleeping sickness that has no known cure. People go to sleep and never wake up. They waste away their entire lives in coma wards and die of old age. Jane…took a piece of mirror, two actually, and tried to wish Kay well. The first wish, for whatever reason, went awry – she woke up, but she was not herself. The leeches began to flock to her, treating her like the goddess of their world.’ He looked up. ‘Jane used the second piece to stop the leeches, and to halt Kay from doing any further damage.’
‘But you said- Wife, right?’
‘I took a piece of mirror myself. It was the first time I had gone against Duty, and as far as first infractions go…’ He smiled.
‘Yeah,’ she agreed, ‘fairly major.’
‘Using the piece I had stolen, she was able to get Kay back. But- But the fact that her first wish didn’t work has always frightened me against using mirror for any purpose. I don’t think I could live with myself if something were to go wrong.’ He looked at the glass wall. ‘More wrong than it already has gone.’
‘But you took a chance with me?’
He put a hand on hers. ‘How could I not? I’m just so thankful it’s worked out for the best.’
‘Me too,’ she said, hugging her arms around herself. ‘So what now?’
‘I need to go back to the Agency,’ he said. ‘At least check in – it’s not unusual to be out of system territory, but I’ve been doing it a lot more than is normal and I’m still being audited.’
‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m guessing that’s my fault.’
Ryan looked uncomfortable for a moment. ‘Stef, you have to stop blaming yourself for something that is empirically my fault.’ He looked away. ‘I never should have taken you to that operation. It was my poor decisions that did this to you-’
‘But I asked,’ she started.
‘And I should have known better. I was arrogant and I have ruined your life, I’m more sorry than you can understand.’
‘I don’t blame you.’
He put a hand on her shoulder. ‘You should.’
‘Oi, narc,’ she said gently, ‘the only reason I came back is because of you, okay? Because- Because there’s stuff to learn. Because there’s magic, and that was worth coming back for.’ She swept her arm wide. ‘I am in a fucking bubble older than the universe that’s dispensing ice-cream as soon as I ask for it. Do you have any idea how fucking mind-blowingly cool that is? Boo-fucking-hoo, I died. I don’t give a shit. I’m okay with it, and you should be too!’
He lifted his hand from her shoulder to rest it on the top of her head. ‘You’re very strange, Stef.’
‘It’s kind of my superpower.’ She looked around. ‘So…is there like a door or something, how do you get out of here?’
Ryan stood and walked towards a bare patch of the bubble wall, a door forming as he came close. He pushed on the door and it opened. ‘I’ll be back soon. Ask the oubliette for whatever you need.’
[table id=15 /]