Fade Chapter One

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Based on an original series and alternate future by Sonny & Ais called In the Company of Shadows.

The story contains..

Slash (M/M), het (M/F) and graphic language, violence and sexual situations. Not intended for anyone under 18!


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter One

Uploaded on 4/2/2011

The sun seemed too bright. Boyd paused at the steps of the Tower, staring out at the courtyard.

The Agency compound felt alien to him; more than it ever had before. The air was cool against his skin and he felt... strange. Nearly a year stolen from him and in a way, it was like coming full circle. Or would have been, if it were possible to imagine being in the same state of mind as he had been when he'd left.

His gaze slid across the buildings. It felt odd not seeing the deep green-blue of the Ionian Sea, or the peaks of mountains in the distance. The white buildings with their tan roofs. The sprawling property with the magnificent views. The place Aleixo called home. The place Boyd had spent the last several months.

His fingers twitched and he was jogging down the steps before he realized what he intended. His feet led him unerringly in the direction of Sin's building even as he found himself strangely apprehensive.

He was worried about what Sin would say. He couldn't help wondering whether Sin would be angry with him. What was supposed to have been a one to two month endeavor had ended up lasting nine. Not counting the two months the Agency had held him for rehabilitation upon return.

His eyes narrowed and he sped up his steps, pointedly derailing his thoughts before they went down that path. None of that mattered now.

Still, uncertainty ate at him. What if Sin had moved on? It had been nearly total radio silence in the long months of the mission. He'd only checked in twice during all that time and he doubted the information had made it to Sin. For all he knew, Sin believed he was dead. For all he knew, Sin didn't know he'd returned.

The last nights they'd spent together seemed a lifetime away and part of Boyd was afraid that he would be too late. Afraid it would turn out he'd been gone too long and they could never go back to the way it had been.

The thought was more than alarming. Especially after all the long nights he'd curled around his latest tattoo, struggling to keep in mind all the details of his lover. Holding onto Sin's memory with a near desperate quality. The times when he'd feared he'd lose himself in the mission and never escape he'd thought of Sin so intently he'd almost made himself believe Sin was there with him.

He'd obsessed about the memory of Sin's deep voice. The brush of stubble on his jawline on the mornings before he'd shaved. The planes of his body and the strength of his hands. The comfort that could be found in the knowledge that there was someone out there who was stronger than anyone, who could do the impossible, and who loved him without hesitation.

He'd thought about what he would say to Sin when he was finally home.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at the people around him with narrowed eyes. It was off-putting coming back here-- to everything so normal, like nothing had changed. Everyone acting the same as they had before he'd left. Mostly.

There was a slight difference, the way he'd noticed something similar when he'd returned from Mexico with Connors full in power. People were being more careful. More on edge. There was more tension in the air.

The wind blew his hair into his face and he automatically pulled it back. Several strands caught in the earrings dotting his ears and he wondered once again whether he should remove them. They were a reminder of the mission as were the clothes he wore.

The fitted dark jeans and the shoes were designer brands. The burnt orange zip up sweater with white accents that he wore was something he could remember Vika buying for him. Holding it up as she'd murmured that he would look so good in it she couldn't wait to take it off him again.

As Boyd approached Sin's building, he saw glimpses of the light shining off the windows.

He tried to figure out what he would say when he knocked on the door. What he could even say about the whole mission when it was still so fresh in his mind. He'd tried to imagine the best words of homecoming and all he'd come up with was, "I missed you so much." He wasn't positive he'd even get that much out before he would bury his face in Sin's chest, a sensation he felt like he'd come too close to losing the memory of, and hold tight.

Sin's residential building rose before him in no time. The guard at the front, Amos, was one who had been there the first day Boyd had ever been on compound. Amos gave Boyd a strange look when he approached but otherwise appeared to be impassive. Boyd ignored the man for the most part, already ten steps ahead in his mind.

His sneakers made little noise as he jogged up the steps, two at a time. The closer he came to Sin's, the more nervous he felt. He wondered what Sin's expression would be. He wondered how many questions Sin would have, and how long he could put off answering some of them.

He wasn't going to lie to Sin about what exactly had happened on that mission, or why it had taken him so damn long to complete, but he wanted to put it behind him for now. He wanted to focus on the things that were more important, like reacquainting himself with his lover. Like picking up where they'd left off.

Like seeing if they could get a place together still. And whether Sin was still interested in doing so.

There was no need to rehash anything now. No doubt the expectations of him would come up soon enough, the next time the Agency gave him a valentine mission. He just hoped he never had to play another Cameron Whittaker again.

When he reached Sin's landing and headed toward the door, he was surprised to see that there weren't any guards there. He slowed down and looked around, as if the answer would be written on the walls or the guards were just out of view. The landing looked perfectly normal and perfectly empty.

His eyebrows drew down and he turned his attention back to Sin's door as he approached. He wondered what the lack of guards meant. He'd assumed that the new administration would have included a much stricter regime. That, if anything, Sin's guards would be increased. He didn't know how differently Marshal Seong ran the compound, though. There had to be some sort of logical explanation.

He walked up to the door and, after a moment of hesitation, knocked.

There was no answer.

He frowned and wondered if Sin was out. It was possible he was on a mission or even at the gym. He paused there a moment, debating whether he should check around, before it occurred to him to try calling. He pulled out his phone and speed-dialed Sin's number but the automated voice said the number had been disconnected.

His eyes narrowed and he pulled the phone away from his ear, staring down at it. Sin's name flashed on the screen. He hadn't misdialed. He tried again just in case and got the same response. Was it possible they'd changed his phone number? But why would they do that?

Without giving himself the chance to hesitate, he swiped his card in the lock box next to the door. The light flashed green and he opened the door, already calling out, "Hsin?"

He peeked around the corner and was unsurprised to find the apartment empty. The place was spotless, without a single thing out of order. That wasn't unusual since Sin didn't have many belongings in the first place and the few he had, he kept in their place. He was the sort of person to make his bed every morning after he woke up, so neatly and cleanly it could appear as though he'd never been there.

Boyd absently pushed the door mostly shut behind him as he looked around. So many things seemed off yet he kept walking. Sin's bedroom was perfectly made, which he expected. He hovered there for a moment and then opened the closet door on a whim, not sure what he intended to do. Rifle through Sin's clothing and reacquaint himself with his lover's scent? Check to see if Sin had packed clothing for a vacation? Whatever the case, what he found was not what he'd wanted to see.

There was nothing inside.

He stared and shoved the closet door open further, looking around inside and seeing nothing. He went to the dresser. Nothing. He strode quickly back into the main room and looked around for the books Sin usually kept out of the way.

They were gone.

A pit was growing in his stomach but he ignored it. He went to the kitchen and the bathroom because somehow he had to verify; had to make sure it wasn't something stupid like Sin had just thrown out his clothes. There was nothing in the bathroom, not even an old razor blade. The kitchen was equally empty, the cabinets and refrigerator looking desolate without a single item inside.

Gone, gone, gone. Everything was gone.

He stopped in the middle of the kitchen and looked around, feeling like the building was looming over him ominously. Wariness and alarm dredged up from the depths of him but he forcibly ignored it. He concentrated solely on what he saw in front of him.

He went back out to the landing. Maybe he'd chosen the wrong apartment. That year in Europe could have made him forget simple directions around the compound. But it was the right place. He remembered all too well the nicks in the door. The familiar view out the windows at the end of the apartment. The apartment number.

He stared at the apartment blankly. There could be a reason for it, his mind supplied him helpfully. Maybe they were cleared to get a new place. Maybe Sin had decided not to wait and had gotten his own place off compound or somewhere else. Maybe Sin had been staying at Boyd's all this time in an effort to remember his lover while he was gone. Sin had never been that attached to this apartment anyway.

Boyd turned on his heel, striding back out the apartment and not even bothering to shut the door behind him. He headed toward the Tower automatically and, perhaps in denial or perhaps needing to reassure himself, he flipped his phone open and called Sin's number again.

He got the same message as before.

The pit in his stomach grew.

Without needing to think about it, his feet unerringly led him to Carhart's office.

Every second that passed felt like it was too long. As much as he tried to ignore the alarm it was still there; a weight in his stomach that lent speed to his steps and tension to his shoulders. All he wanted was to see Carhart immediately and stop the questions rushing through his mind.

No matter how long he'd been gone from the compound, some treks were ingrained in him. It didn't take him long to reach the open lobby in front of Carhart's office. A young looking black man was sitting at the desk and looked up as Boyd entered.

Boyd stopped in front of the reception desk, not bothering to try to force his way past and cause a scene immediately. "I need to see General Carhart."

Carhart's new admin looked at him blandly. The nameplate on the desk read 'Brian LeBlanc.'

"Do you have an appointment?" Brian asked drolly, his wide brown eyes analyzing Boyd's appearance. There wasn't even a spark of recognition in his gaze so he likely didn't know that Boyd was, or had been, one of the key members of Carhart's elite unit and wasn't just some random fieldie.

"No." Boyd could see the door he'd walked through so many times to enter Carhart's office; overlaid with Sin's door burning a hole through his mind. The questions of why and what and how were making it difficult to summon any sense of patience for red tape right now. With that came a slightly clipped quality to his words. "I just returned from an extended undercover. I work in his unit. It's important."

"I'm sure what he's doing now is important," Brian replied, unimpressed. "You'll have to sign in and wait until he has a free spot. There are appointments lined up."

"That's ridiculous," Boyd said with an edge. Somehow it felt like the longer he dallied here, the further away Sin was getting. He couldn't say why he felt that, yet the thought wouldn't leave the back of his mind that Sin should have been there. He should have answered his phone.

Every second Boyd spent before he could get back with Sin was a second wasted. After so many harrowing months longing to return to his lover, to be stopped at the last second was frustrating.

He leaned forward and pulled out his identification badge, showing his name and his picture from years ago when he'd stared blankly at the camera. "I'm in one of the most classified units in the Agency. I need to talk to him immediately. He won't want you to turn me away." Although technically it had nothing to do with Janus and the unit, the implication that he had imperative information couldn't hurt. "Just tell him I'm here."

Once again, Brian didn't look very impressed with his claims. It was possible that higher tiered field agents tried to talk their way into Carhart's office all the time. "You'll just have to wait. Sorry."

"God damnit, just fucking call him!" Boyd shouted, losing his temper. He slammed his hands on the desk, leaning forward. The desperate voice in the back of his mind was growing fearful-- saying over and over, I need Hsin, I need him, let me see him, I need to see him now, God please let me see him--

"Wow, you have some serious entitlement issues," Brian noted calmly.

Before Boyd could respond, the door opened and Carhart appeared. He looked different than the last time Boyd had seen him. The General looked older. Wearied. His hair looked more ash blond than golden and his eyes were hard, even as he looked at Boyd.

Carhart's lips thinned and he looked at the younger man for a long moment before allowing his gaze to slide over to Brian. "It's fine. Thank you, Brian."

Brian shrugged and went back to looking at whatever was on his desk as the General retreated into his office once again, leaving the door open behind him for Boyd.

Boyd followed the General into the office and shut the door behind him. He turned toward Carhart immediately and without preamble said, "Why the hell is Hsin's apartment empty? I went to visit him and everything's gone."

Carhart walked to the other side of his office, stopping briefly to peer out the window. He stayed that way for a fragment of a moment before turning back to Boyd with the most detached look that Boyd had ever seen on his commanding officer's face.

"I realize you have been gone for some time but you are not the first agent to leave on an extended mission. Don't presume that gives you license to disrespect me or my office by harassing my assistant. He doesn't answer to you and he won't be intimidated by you or anyone else."

Boyd leaned back, taken aback by the response. He had to take a moment to rein in the emotions that had been building since he'd seen Sin's empty apartment. He made more of an effort to quiet the part of him that desperately longed to see Sin and see him now. He wouldn't get anywhere if he started burning bridges the moment he returned.

"I'm sorry. When I came back and his apartment was empty I was concerned. I knew you were the best person to talk to so I wanted to see you for one minute to ask about him." His eyebrows drew together and he gestured at the door. "If you could tell me where to find him I'll get out of your way immediately."

Carhart looked at him for a long moment. The weariness was shrouded around him like a cloak and he turned away to the window once again. "Maybe you should sit down."

The sinking feeling from before grew stronger but Boyd avoided acknowledging it. He tensed, a defensive reaction, and eyed Carhart's back warily. "Why?"

"Because you should prepare yourself," was the flat response.

Boyd's stomach dropped and his throat went dry. He couldn't look away from Carhart's back. He stayed still for a long moment, not liking Carhart's words or his tone. Not liking where this conversation seemed to be going. Not liking that the tenuous explanations of, "he's just on a mission," or, "he decided to move," seemed to be getting even thinner.

He shifted and for a moment the pressure made him think of fleeing the room. He could tell Carhart he'd just look for Sin himself and he was sorry to bother him. He could prolong the time he could keep telling himself everything was fine and all these signs meant nothing. But he knew that would just be a fantasy.

He hesitated and then walked over to one of the chairs, taking a seat. The chair felt too heavy in his hand. The seat was too hard. Nothing was right.

By now, he was supposed to be telling his lover how much he'd missed him. He was supposed to be feeling like everything could be alright again after all.

Instead, he was sitting here feeling like he was waiting for the executioner's axe to fall.

"What happened?" His voice came out thinner, a little more afraid than he'd intended.

"She had him terminated in March." Carhart's voice was still blank; emotionless. "He's dead."

Although Boyd had as much dreaded as expected that reply, it still hit him hard. Like a weight slammed into his chest and knocked all the air out of him. His heartbeat was fast but it hurt, like the muscle didn't want to work properly, and for a moment he wondered if he was imagining this all. If this was some bizarre dream and he'd wake up to Aleixo beside him in bed.

He didn't realize he was gripping the arms of the chair until it slowly filtered through his brain that his fingers hurt. Carhart's emotionless face burned into him. The man who had been more protective of Sin than anyone, the man who had time and time again been there for Sin, the man who acted like Sin's father more than Emilio-- and he was standing there telling Boyd with a straight face that Sin was dead?

He was saying it so calmly, like it didn't matter-- like the person Boyd loved more than life itself hadn't been ripped away from him while he'd fucking been-- While--

He shook his head; a distant and disbelieving motion. Everything felt one step removed. Nothing made sense. This couldn't be real.

"I--" Boyd's words stumbled over his tongue that didn't seem to want to move properly. His eyes had started to drift away and he dragged his gaze back but that was almost worse, staring at that dead expression when he felt like his world was crashing down around him.

He couldn't make sense of this. "I don't under..."

He brought one hand up to his head, to push back his hair with shaky fingers and he didn't even know what it was within him that was holding him together. What it was that took over immediately after hearing that sort of news. What could keep him calm and collected when all he wanted to do was scream and deny.

He shook his head again. He was doing that a lot. "Why?"

"He was on probation from the beginning. When she arrived--" Carhart said "she" with a near tangible tone of dislike but other than that, his voice was continuously devoid of all emotion. His blue eyes were like chips of ice. At the moment his expression was reminiscent of Vivienne.

"She wanted to give him the opportunity to prove that his past incidents were just that. Past. She didn't want to waste a valuable asset. But towards the end, his performance began to suffer. His personality began to change back into what it had been before. Reckless, uncaring about the mission, hostile to authority. His missions were successful but they began to resemble the messiness that they'd had in the past. He was--"

Carhart broke off abruptly and stared at Boyd. His jaw worked and his eyes narrowed before he finished the sentence. "He was gone before I'd even been aware that the order had come down."

Boyd couldn't look at Carhart anymore. He couldn't even sit still.

He stood abruptly and turned away, walking a few steps but having no destination. His fingers tangled in his hair and he tilted his head up, staring at the space where the wall met the ceiling. There were cracks in the plaster that spiderwebbed out. He wondered where they came from. The thought was distant and unrelated to the rest of the world; unimportant and passing through his stunned mind with as much context as caring about what the weather was like the day it happened. The day Sin--

The cracks seemed to blur and it took him a moment to realize that it was his eyes that were blurry. He blinked and tried to hold in the howling mess he could feel rising to the surface. His chest felt constricted. He couldn't breathe fully; his body felt too hot. His heartbeat hurt his ribs, or maybe it was his heart itself that ached.

This didn't make sense. This couldn't actually be happening.

He couldn't think.

His throat closed and he distantly noted that his scalp hurt from the way his fingers were gripping the strands. His eyes burned and for a moment he thought he wouldn't be able to hold it together. That he was going to break down right here and never get out of the office. Quaking, tenuous control was all he had. Pieces of string wrapped around his stubborn will and it wasn't going to hold for long, fraying strand by strand with shuddering leaps.

He would never see Sin again.

The truth and weight of that simple sentence was almost too much.

How could it be true? How could--

He would never touch Sin's hair or breathe in his scent or lean against his warm body or--



This wasn't really happening. This--

No, no, this wasn't right but it was real--

He couldn't speak. The words wouldn't form in his mind and even if they had, he couldn't have said them. Even air was stretched thin through the constriction of his throat. Words were too large, too meaningful to make it past.

"Boyd." Carhart was speaking again and although his voice was just as steady, it wasn't quite as wooden as it'd been before. "You should rest."

Boyd shook his head, wordlessly at first until he could draw in a breath that seemed too sharp. He blinked rapidly, trying to focus; trying to hold it all in. Trying so hard to maintain the control.

"I can't." His voice was quiet; strained. Hoarse. His muscles were taut-- trembling ever so slightly. "I won't be able to. I'll--" I'll lay down and I'll think of him. I'll close my eyes and dream of him. I'll convince myself he's still here. I'll wake up and every time, every time I'm alone and the bed is cold and I remember I'm all on my own now it'll rip me apart--

The tears welled and the next time he blinked they ran down his cheeks; silent and undeniable and liable to strengthen, to become a flood rather than a stream.

There was a hint of a sound behind him and then he felt a small bottle being pressed into his hand.

"Sedatives," Carhart's voice said quietly.

Boyd's breath was too shallow, his eyes aching. His fingers curled around the bottle tightly, like a shadow of the lifeline Sin was supposed to be for him right now. His knuckles were white and it was all he could do to drop his head forward, to squeeze his eyes shut and simply nod.

Silence fell in the room; a kind he didn't have the presence of mind to even begin to identify. He could hardly focus on anything external when everything internal was so perilous. So ready to shudder and shatter and break.

He stood there, alone and slumped forward, focusing all his stubborn will into smoothing his breathing as much as possible. Into gathering the frayed ends of his control and yanking it all tighter, tighter, into a ball he could hold together just long enough to get away from this place.

He didn't know how long it took him but finally, his voice sounding distant even to him, he said, "I have to go." At least, he meant to say that. He didn't know what words actually made it out of his mouth.

Carhart's voice sounded further away when the man spoke next, as if he had already retreated to the other side of the room. "You should have a couple of weeks left of downtime. Use the time wisely. They will be watching you for signs of weakness upon your return to active status."

Boyd couldn't even begin to think about that, let alone how to respond. He wiped the tears off his cheeks and shoved the bottle in his jacket pocket. He tilted his head down so his hair would fall forward, sheltering his face, and he left without a word. He didn't look over to see whether Brian glanced up at his exit. He didn't look up at all; not when he went to the staircase and not as he jogged the several flights down.

He kept his back straight for the most part, a charade of stability and confidence he absolutely could not feel. Maybe it was the part of him that came in for damage control that allowed him to hold off on any reaction until he felt it was acceptable.

Maybe it was his deep-seated stubborn will that wouldn't allow himself to show obvious weakness within the Agency compound, where Agency eyes and Agency whispers could follow him. He wasn't going to give any of them the satisfaction of seeing how fractured the world had become around him.

His hands were shoved in his jacket pockets and later, he wouldn't remember how he got home. Time jumped around him; fragments of reality broken apart and stitched back together by an amateur.

He found himself in his living room.

Dust coated everything; the sentinel of an empty house. His fingers hurt and he realized he was holding the bottle so hard the plastic had started to hairline fracture. He pulled it out and set it on the table. Carefully, so gently. A slide of plastic against scratched wood.

Tension was a taut rubber band within his muscles. Constricting him. Making him shake.

His mind was so crowded and strained that at first he didn't understand what was happening. He couldn't formulate a thought and certainly couldn't string together a sentence. The house that should have been so familiar to him felt alien. Removed. On the other side of an inter-dimensional rift and he was standing here, on this side, looking across the chasm to a reality he could no longer have.

A dusty museum of memories surrounded him; color fading from the world like a watercolor painting left out in the rain. His movements were stilted.

He ended up in his bedroom. The curtains were drawn, drowning out the cheerful sunlight that was so incongruous anyway. Everything was just as he'd left it. In a hurry all those months ago, he'd tossed his clothes around looking for his keys. He'd left his closet door wide open.

The sheets and covers were still crumpled from where Sin and he had slept.

His feet led him unerringly to the far side of the bed. To Sin's side. He stood beside the bed and stared down, lifting one hand with his fingers spread as if to touch his lover's face; to stroke back that silky black hair and brush against that smooth skin. He could almost see Sin lying there, his strong body relaxed and motionless, his chest rising and falling. He could almost see those vivid green eyes half-closed in relaxation. The elegant lines of his arms at his sides.

The way he used to look when he'd lain there, relaxed and at peace. The way...

The black of Boyd's bedspread bled into the sheets as tears coursed down his cheeks. The little ball inside him cracked and jolted. He was shaking; tremors that started small and soon overcame his entire body. He didn't hear or feel his quickened breath. Didn't feel his fingers clench or his teeth grit. Didn't feel his face contorting.

In his mind he still saw Sin. He saw the man he'd been, the man he'd become after years of struggling and fighting and setbacks. He saw the man he'd loved, still loved, more than anything and anyone forever and Sin was supposed to be here. He was supposed to be just a phone call away. Just a simple knock on a door and when it opened he would be there, angry or relieved or upset-- it didn't matter, it didn't matter at all anymore, as long as he was there.

Sin was his salvation and now--

And now--

Fissures in his control and the moment Sin wavered and disappeared from his mind's eye was the moment he broke.

A guttural sound wrenched out from the depths of him and he suddenly couldn't stay still. The groan became a shout became a scream and he turned, ripped the lamp off the nightstand and threw it across the room. The crash against the wall didn't make anything better; didn't do anything to calm the storm raging within him and the vast emptiness that waited for its end. He screamed as he turned to his bookshelves, tearing books off, ripping down boxes. Destroying the order in a room that didn't deserve it anymore.

He threw and broke things haphazardly-- not caring what he grabbed, what he threw, as long as it ended up as broken as he felt inside. The only thing he didn't touch was the bed. The place Sin had been. The home for his memory.

Paper and splinters and glass and he was blind to what he was doing, deaf to his own howls. Tears filled his sightless eyes. He lost connection with everything except the agony that burrowed a seed down into his heart and wouldn't leave.

He didn't know what he was doing until he distantly realized his wrists were jarring with impact and he came back to himself enough to know that he was violently pounding on the wall. A futile effort, as if tearing down his house could tear down the walls that separated them.

All those years of struggling and craving for each other and there had always been obstacles, sometimes intangible, but they'd always overcome them. How could it be that it turned out this way? Even if he'd known for a long time that there was the possibility that Sin would die, he'd always imagined himself there for it. He'd imagined he'd at least have a chance to react.

He'd never imagined that it would happen and for months and months he'd be clinging desperately to the image of a lover he didn't know was dead.

Gasps shuddered through him and he was crying so hard he couldn't draw a full breath. He hit the wall one more time and stilled, his forehead pressed against it and body slumping until he slid down to his knees. He curled forward, his fingers digging painfully into his sides.

The top of his head pressed against the wall and he was sobbing; a wretched mess in the middle of chaos and it hurt, it hurt so much. If he could have just one thing he would have given anything to have Sin back. To hear his voice just one more time. To feel his breath against his cheek.

That only made his gasp catch; made him cry so hard he couldn't breathe and couldn't think. His body was mindless, snapping around the wailing and even his voice was starting to leave him.

Every thought hopelessly rotated around Sin.

He didn't know how long he stayed there, mostly crying and sometimes pleading with empty air. Twisted words that drowned in his sorrow, ebbing and flowing with his breath. Yearning, desperate murmurs of, "Hsin-- Hsin--" mixed with moans of, "no," and, "please," and, "oh God, don't leave me."

The house loomed around him. He felt alienated. Alone. Light years away from everyone else on the planet; halfway between this world and the next.

How was he supposed to go on like this? He couldn't get out of his mind the memory of Sin's body, warm against his bare skin. The weight of Sin's arm on his back. The comforting murmur of his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his chest. The memory of the cabin; of the night they'd fallen asleep talking about what if's.

He remembered clearly the darkness around them that had felt special back then, rather than terrifying like now.

He couldn't forget the memory of his whispered confession, I don't know what I'd do if I lost you, and Sin's firm response of, You'd keep doing what you have to do. Right?

He remembered the pain he had imagined that he would feel in that possible future and it was nothing like reality. There was no comparison. He remembered leaning up to stare at his lover's face; to commit to memory every detail of those beautiful features. And he remembered his reply:

I promise, if you die I'll keep going.

Those words had been an oath; a balm for Sin's worries. Yet now he cursed himself for them. What had been reassurance for Sin now became shackles for Boyd. He couldn't go back on his word; he could only trudge forward into a future that was meaningless and hopeless and without end.

Why did he always have to be the one left behind? Why did he always have to be the one to gather the broken pieces and glue them back together, a mockery of what he'd once been? Why did he always have to suffer through the loss-- that gaping, wrenching loss that sucked him up, ripped him apart, and carelessly threw him aside?

Why did it have to be this way? Why did he have to be alone again? Why could he never seem to hold onto happiness?

He cried until there was nothing left. Until every ounce of moisture was sucked out of him and drenched his knees in tears. His nose was so stuffed he could only breathe through his mouth and his head pounded. He was exhausted and even when the sobs slowed and eventually stilled except for the occasional shudder, he couldn't bring himself to move for a long time.

When he finally shifted, his body ached and his legs tingled from being in the same uncomfortable position for too long. He felt empty and lifeless and yet as he stood and looked over the damage he'd done to his room, and when his gaze fell on his bed, he knew it wasn't over. He knew the pain and anger and sorrow would only return, again and again and again. He knew it would be a very long time until those feelings left him, if ever at all.

He shambled through the house, forcefully trying to keep his thoughts on the sedatives alone. He did not look around; did not give himself the chance to rekindle other memories that would rip him open once more. He picked up the bottle and went to the kitchen, filling a glass with water and taking two sedatives immediately even though it said to only take one. He filled the glass again and brought that and the bottle back to his room.

He had to drag one of the nightstands back in place. Although it was scratched and looked worse for the wear, it was steady enough and that was all that mattered. He put the glass of water and the bottle of sedatives on the nightstand, so when he woke and wanted to fall right back asleep like he knew he would, he wouldn't have to leave to drug himself again.

The thought of lying there indefinitely taking pill after pill until he wasted away was appealing. He didn't entertain the notion for long because he knew he wouldn't do it. His promise kept him from giving up. He couldn't go back on his word.

When he laid down in bed he automatically turned on his side, facing the side of the bed where Sin usually rested. He imagined he could still see the imprints of his lover's body. His fingers met nothing but cold sheets and empty space when he reached his hand out and even though he thought he'd cried all he possibly could, he could already feel the tears pricking at the back of his eyes. Could feel his throat and heart constrict and the dread and fear move within him.

He closed his eyes and rolled over, pulling the other pillow closer. He thought he could still faintly smell Sin's scent; cigarette smoke and musk and something alluring and so painfully familiar. The tears rose as he clutched the pillow, burying his face in it and curling in the fetal position. He clung to the pillow like it was Sin himself. Like it could bring Sin back to him.

After the mission he'd just finished, he hadn't thought he would ever feel relieved by the seductive pull of drugs on his mind again, insidiously stealing his thoughts and his control until darkness rolled in. But curled on his bed, missing his lover so intensely it was like someone had reached inside him and ripped out every major organ while he was still alive-- he did feel relief.

He couldn't think anymore. He didn't want to exist. He wanted to fall into empty darkness and forget for awhile that this was what his life had become. Forget that Sin was never coming back.

Sleep shuddered along the edge of his vision and moved in swiftly, a deadening weight that stole his senses and pulled him into the yawning black.

Part of him hoped he would never wake again.

Continue to Fade Chapter Two...