It was a quiet day, nothing had happened so far. Cynthia was filling her time with paperwork and plenty of cigarettes. Bringing her attention to her window, she stared out at the street. There was some humour in how people could go outside and live in blissful ignorance whilst she worked behind the scenes, breaking God knows how many laws just to keep her country out of a war.
Well, not out of a war, they were currently fighting one with words and rivalry. Not that the people outside of her building knew much about it. They probably never would.
There was a knock out the door and she leaned back into her chair. "Come in."
Susan walked in and placed a small note on there. "A message for you."
Thanking her with a nod and smile, Cynthia reached out and grabbed it. It didn't look formal, it was in a crinkled envelope with sloppy penmanship like the writer was drunk; there were a few droplets of water damage that had a blotchy mix of brown and inky blue.
She opened the envelope and pulled out the small slip of paper.
There were only a few words.
Curt Mega dead. Shot in the head. I'm sorry.
Her cigarette fell from her hand and she suddenly wished she was the one living in ignorance. He was dead.
Getting the news that Curt Mega was dead, shot in the forehead, was the worst thing Cynthia had experienced. Yes, she'd been close to agents but she'd never had someone like Curt.
By God, he was annoying. No, scratch that, he was that irritating itch on your back that you can't reach and that won't go away. Anything she said to him was like water sliding off a duck. It went over his head. She tried to drill some sense into him, the Lord knows she did, but it wasn't enough, clearly.
What was worse, though, was the funeral. Because who was stood there, tall and still fucking alive?
Owen. The same man they'd presumed dead for four years. The same man Curt had mourned and she had no doubt that he was sloppier in the field because of him.
It was his fault. His fucking fault.
The black-eyed Susans she had brought along dropped from her hand, falling at his grave.
Then, she descended upon Owen, grabbing his jacket and pulling him towards her in a righteous fury. How dare he be here? How dare he not show up for four years when they were all in pain? When Curt was in pain?
In hindsight, she couldn't remember what she had actually said, it was blocked out by a foggy wall of red hot, searing anger.
After that, there was nothing. No memory, no emotion to name. Just the vast black and emptiness that came with losing a son.
It occurred to her that he wasn't her son, that he never would be because of how harsh she was with him.
In the early hours of the morning, where the image of Curt resigned to his fate with large, hopeless eyes swirled in her head, she wondered if he knew.
What, she wasn't sure. Just that she wanted him to know something.
(That was a lie. She was aware that what she wanted him to know was how much he meant to her. But to put that in words was entirely different to thinking it).
Two years later and Barb reappeared with a renewed determination. Wasn't she off on an early retirement?
"Lavernor, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Smoke and try to focus. Forget about the fact that Barb was one of the only people who knew Curt like she did.
Barb glanced over her, up and down, and then threw a glance over her shoulder. "There's a plan."
Cynthia raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. "And are you going to explain it?"
It was some time before Barb spoke again and Cynthia had little patience anymore. Well, she never had much to begin with but it had only diminished more. Although, before she had the time to get more annoyed, Barb spoke.
"There's a plan we have, we just needed some resources."
She scoffed, flicking some of her cigarette ash off the table and sitting up. "If your going to speak in riddles, you're not going to get my help."
In all the time that Cynthia had known Barb, she had never looked as unsure of herself as she did now. It was like she was doubting herself or, at least, doubting what she had to say. That was never a good sign; it was a sure way that something was going to fail.
It was the same look Curt had on his face the last time she spoke to him. She wouldn't make that mistake again. Not to someone she... liked.
"We think we can get Curt back."
Choking on smoke, Cynthia shot up from her chair. Taking a moment to collect herself, she turned her fury to Barb. "Do not lie to me Lavernor. You might have gotten my help but now? Now you're going to leave and kiss goodbye to your chance of ever getting out of your early retirement."
"No! Wait, Director Houston, please. I'm not lying, you have to believe me!"
No, no, she couldn't. Belief was so easily crushed and losing hope was like... like... she didn't actually know. There was only ever one time she had belief, had faith and she knew how badly that had ended.
But, when she looked at Barb, studied her, yes, she was unsure and hesitant, but in her eyes there was a spark of something she hadn't seen in a long time. An ember being carefully nursed into a quiet fire that would eventually roar. People did say the phoenixes rose from ashes, didn't they?
She sat down. "Explain."
The idea was to somehow get back in time and save Curt. It would erase the last six years but, at the end of the day, Owen would never have left and, according to Barb, that was when everything went downhill. Cynthia couldn't help but agree.
So, when Barb asked her for help, she thought of Curt. He was rash, indecisive and cocky person she'd ever known but he had such a good success rate. There was only two times she could think that he had failed and, in both situations, someone had died.
She shoved down her doubt, she shouldn't think like Cynthia Houston. What she needed to do was think like Curt Mega.
"Whatever you need."
For the first time in a while, Cynthia let herself feel that spark of hope again.