Fade Chapter Two

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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 Two

Uploaded on 4/2/2011

Time stretched meaninglessly for Boyd. He woke and took sedatives and slept again, although he couldn't say how often it happened because everything blended together. In the back of his mind he knew this could not be indefinite but he couldn't bring himself to care. He knew it couldn't be this easy; that he wouldn't be able to keep this tired lack of energy for long but he saw no reason to push it along. The sedatives had successfully deadened him for hours on end but it only worked when asleep.

He moved through his house slowly, barely touching anything, barely feeling like he was there. The surreal disbelief hadn't quite left him. Even though he understood what had happened, even though every time he thought about it too hard he found himself crying again and just as pained and at a loss as before-- there was still a part of him that couldn't believe that after everything, this was what he had left. He wanted to believe he'd misunderstood Carhart, or it had been a trick, or a bad dream. But he knew from Carhart's dead expression that it had been true.

He felt like the mission had stolen his life. He had nothing anymore.

Sometimes when he walked through his house, feeling no interest in doing anything yet knowing that if he gave himself enough time he'd lose the grogginess of the sedatives and start to feel despair again-- Sometimes in the back of his mind, a voice whispered that it would be so much easier if he just had Slide.

The drug that had stolen his mind, that had stolen months from him, that he still couldn't think about too clearly because it created confusion. Dual memories of the mission and everything that had happened on it-- the hands and the filth and the desperate groans from a voice that couldn't possibly be his were overlaid with the all-too-clear memory of the ecstasy he'd felt.

How attractive it was to imagine himself getting lost in it again. The seductive pull of the drug burned in his mind. Sometimes he didn't realize until later that his hand was at the crook of his elbow; brushing fingertips almost comfortingly against the faint scars.

The addiction may never fully leave, they'd said. Fight it, they'd said. He remembered those words at times and at other times he didn't.

It would be so simple and this could all go away... He wouldn't have to hurt anymore. He wouldn't have to feel anything but mindless pleasure that wouldn't give him even the opportunity for fear or pain or hatred. He could let himself drown in it. Suffocate.

It was more than tempting. Memories of his dead lover saturated the house the way it had with Lou, with his dad, and he'd really come to hate these halls. These rooms.

He didn't know how many days or weeks or hours passed before one day the empty routine was interrupted. He was standing blankly in the middle of the kitchen staring at the stove, vaguely thinking of making tea and vaguely thinking he shouldn't. It was too tempting to think of lighting something on fire. Of letting the whole place burn down around him, purifying his memories.

He hadn't come to a decision when an unexpected sound cut through the silence. At first he couldn't think well enough to know what it was, although he turned his head in the direction. It took him until the second set to realize someone was knocking on his door.

He had the absurd mental image of the agents from the time he'd been suspended showing up at his door. Black sunglasses and straight faces and an Agency van in back. Maybe they were here to terminate him. Would it go against his promise if he simply didn't fight the inevitable?

He didn't even bother looking through the peep hole before he opened the door. The first thing he noted was that apparently it must be morning judging by the light. The second was the somewhat unexpected sight of Ryan and Kassian standing there on his doorstep.

He stared at them, at first not having the presence of mind to react any other way.

"Hey," Ryan said in a very small voice, his wide indigo eyes growing wider and taking Boyd in from every angle. His gaze skimmed the blue ends of Boyd's long hair, the piercings glinting from his ears and the unnatural thinness. All leftovers from the mission.

"We um. I heard you were back. So..." Ryan trailed off again and reached up to tuck unruly spirals and cowlicks behind his ear. He was as skinny as ever but he lacked the fragility he'd had a year ago. His body looked more solid but his face had aged. There were liberal amounts of grey in his hair that hadn't been there before.

Kassian just looked at Boyd and appeared at a loss as to what he should be doing or saying. In the end, he said nothing.

Boyd watched them for a moment and then stepped back, opening the door with him in a silent invitation.

Ryan walked in almost immediately but Kassian hung back for a few seconds, eyeballing Boyd warily before he finally entered the house.

"Are you--" Ryan winced, and shook his head as if mentally crossing out the question of what he'd been about to ask. He seemed to struggle with what to say because after a few seconds of making faces he shot Kassian a helpless look.

The taller man looked unimpressed. The two made an unlikely pair to show up on Boyd's doorstep but their interactions didn't necessarily seem awkward with each other, just with Boyd. With the situation.

"Ryan found out you were back," Kassian said finally, his deep voice seeming especially loud in the silent and untouched living room. "He was afraid to come over alone in case you'd killed yourself since you weren't picking up the phone for days so he called me. I would have come anyway, obviously, but that's why we're here harassing you together."

Ryan glared at Kassian briefly before turning to Boyd. "We could leave, though. If you want."

Boyd could feel the cobwebs slowly fading from his mind. He still didn't feel fully connected to reality or these two people standing in front of him who had at one time seemed so close. Now, despite the proximity of their bodies, his mind felt planets away.

He shook his head faintly and belatedly realized he hadn't shut the door. It sounded louder than Kassian's voice when it shut. "It's fine. I was sedated." His voice was scratchy and hoarse. He hadn't used it other than to scream and cry for days. "I didn't hear."

Kassian and Ryan looked at each other for an extended moment. Then Kassian defaulted into Senior Agent Trovosky mode.

"Why don't you go up the street and get some breakfast and coffee? There's a small diner not too far up," he suggested to Ryan, giving him a look that dared him to disagree.

Ryan looked relieved to have a task at hand and nodded. "Okay, sure. I'll be right back then."

Boyd didn't react, although distantly he wondered when it was he'd last eaten. And what he'd had. He couldn't remember what was in his kitchen or whether he'd even checked since he'd returned.

The dark haired R&D agent disappeared out the front door without another word. Kassian looked Boyd up and down again, the wary expression returning.

"And you go shower. You smell awful."

Boyd didn't bother to argue or question the command. In a way, it helped that Kassian was taking charge. It gave Boyd time to struggle up from the depths. He went to his room and grabbed the first clothing he could find in the mess. He hadn't bothered to clean anything up. There didn't seem to be a point.

When he got into the bathroom, he pointedly didn't look in the mirror. He knew what he would see; dark circles around the eyes, pale skin, a thin body, and all the markings of his time as Cameron.

He hadn't thought he cared either way about being clean but once he was in the shower, once the steam started to surround him and the hot water soaked deep into him, he started to feel more awake. It seemed like forever since he'd had such a simple shower. It felt almost as good as his first shower had felt after the two weeks he'd spent in the Bowery.

He focused intently on shaking off the apathy, partially self-imposed and partially pushed along by the deadening of the sedatives. The soap felt like it was cleansing him of more than grime. For as much as it was possible given the circumstances, the shower made him feel better.

By the time he stepped out to a billow of steam, the vestiges of the sedatives were gone and he was feeling much more inclined and capable of talking to the two agents. He got dressed-- an old pair of dark wash jeans and a faded grey t-shirt that probably should have been thrown out ages ago.

He dried his hair as best he could but he knew it would be damp for awhile so he dug around in the vanity drawers until he found an old hair band. He pulled his hair back into a ponytail and tossed his dirty clothes in the hamper.

His bare feet padded across the floor as he left the bathroom. He could hear movement in the kitchen and when he came into the room he saw Kassian cleaning up, getting rid of the dust and all the other assorted surprises left behind when a person thought they would be gone a month and ended up gone for a year. Boyd ignored the pang at the thought and paused by the doorway, his arms crossed loosely. He leaned against the doorjamb and watched Kassian with a more alert look.

"Sorry it's a mess," he said, his voice less scratchy than before. "I've been... preoccupied and didn't expect visitors."

Kassian shrugged and dumped a carton of juice in the trash, swinging the fridge door shut at the same time. "Don't apologize. I figured you'd need some help sorting the place out after all of this time."

"Thanks," Boyd said quietly.

He pushed himself away from the wall and walked over by Kassian, figuring he should probably help although for such a simple task he felt at a loss as to what to do. He wondered how long it would be until he would be capable of functioning normally again. A sharp pain shot through him at the thought. It took him a moment to realize that it was because, at least the way it had been with Lou, learning to function normally again meant learning to let go. It meant fully accepting his new reality and moving on.

His throat closed at the thought and he had to turn away from Kassian abruptly. He took a stilling breath and tried to mask his movement by straightening up some random mail shoved in the corner. He didn't even know what they were. He didn't care.

He cleared his throat and forced himself to stay in the moment. To stop letting his mind wander into dangerous territory. "I didn't think I'd be gone so long," he added as explanation. He managed to say it relatively calmly, as if it wasn't indicative of so many things better left unsaid.

Kassian made a sound at the back of his throat and there was the sound of something else being tossed in the trash. "Yeah. Everyone kind of started to wonder. They don't exactly give friends and family updates on longterms."

"It wasn't what they told me." It came out more bitter than Boyd had intended. He tried to temper it by following up with, "I only had the chance to check in twice, including the pick up call."

"How long did they tell you it'd be?"

"One to two months," Boyd said darkly.

The familiar anger started to burn in him. It made it easier to remember the mission; to think about what had happened. It was a protective coating against any sharp edges of memory.

The person he was most furious with was his mother. He remembered her sitting there, staring him straight in the face and lying to him. He knew she had to have realized it would likely have lasted longer and what would happen in the interim. He couldn't forget her even, unchanging expression as she'd told him that where he would be kept in the interim was unimportant.

When he'd first understood what had happened and when he'd thought back to the briefing-- he hadn't been able to believe she'd done that to him. He hadn't been able to believe she'd lied about something that couldn't be less unimportant.

She'd known, and she'd acted like it didn't matter.

"I'm not surprised," Kassian replied from behind him, his voice tinged with bitterness of his own. "I didn't know my mission would be over two years with the added bonus of being sent back for long periods of time even after that."

There was a moment that Boyd could have let slide. He could have kept the anger inside. But the memory of his mother's calm face was like a slap in the face that wouldn't go away.

It was something he could only fathom saying to Kassian, at least for now. Something he didn't want to talk about in front of anyone else.

He shook his head and turned to look at Kassian. His eyes were narrowed and his face was more serious than usual even for him. He didn't hide the hard look in his eyes; a glare that wasn't directed at Kassian but rather the world at large.

"The length alone would've upset me but it wouldn't have made me feel the way I do. Like I could tear the Agency down to the last piece of mortar and still want to destroy more." He didn't raise his voice but the intensity, the edged and quiet anger that was behind it, made it more powerful. "She blatantly lied to me about everything. Not just the timeline but what the mission was really about. What was going to happen there."

Kassian finished dumping the last of the likely spoiled food and looked at Boyd with raised eyebrows. "So, what really happened?"

"They forced me down and drugged me," Boyd said flatly. "My memory's confused for a bit. The first thing I clearly remember is suddenly realizing a man was fucking me."

"Was anyone supposed to be fucking you?" Kassian asked, clearly nonplussed but not appearing entirely shocked about the concept. Boyd's valentine status wasn't a secret to him or really anyone on the compound. "What did she tell you the mission was about?"

"She told me I was infiltrating a human trafficking ring that sold soldiers to Janus and sometimes slaves to individuals," Boyd replied, his arms crossed and back stiff. His eyebrows were lowered above cool brown eyes. "All I had to do was seduce one man, the leader, and call back with his location. The catch was waiting for him to come by. She said the place I'd be held in the interim was 'unimportant.' I was under the impression it would maybe be a holding cell and that the wait shouldn't be terribly long."

Kassian's mouth thinned slightly and he nodded to indicate that Boyd should continue.

Boyd felt on edge and had to take a moment to decide what to even say. How to explain how furious he felt. How betrayed.

His jaw set and he couldn't stand still anymore. He walked across the kitchen toward the cupboards, a thought growing in the back of his mind that he should make tea. But he'd run out of tea before he left and he realized he didn't want it anyway. He just felt like he needed to do something. To move.

Yet he had nowhere to move to. Nowhere to go. The house felt stifling. His entire life did.

He ended up leaning against the counter and crossing his arms again. Ended up just the way he'd started out, except in a slightly different location. It felt like an allegory of his life.

"I didn't understand what was happening for awhile. I couldn't think. I was confused. I didn't know who I was, where I was. It took a few weeks before I remembered what I was supposed to be doing there. At first I thought I was just--"

His jaw tightened. Frustration and betrayal prowled in his chest before he met Kassian's eyes again. "They kept us in these tiny, crowded rooms downstairs. They were shit holes. I slept on a filthy mattress on the floor, with springs poking through the fabric. It was covered in dirt and come and who knows what else. There were guards who brought me upstairs when I was supposed to service one of their clients." The last word twisted bitterly.

Kassian nodded slowly but his expression remained unchanged at the knowledge that Boyd had been turned into a sex slave. It was possible he'd already anticipated this but it was also possible that he was schooling his expression so as to not further feed Boyd's anger.

After a brief moment, the older agent turned to the sink and began washing his hands. The table and counters had been covered in a layer of dust before he'd thought to clean them and the dust was now on his hands.

"How long were you kept in that position before accomplishing your goal and coming back?" he asked in the same tone. Once again it was hard to tell if any of this was coming as a shock to him. It was likely he'd undergone equally horrible things on his long mission in Russia so it was possible he now expected horrors to come with longterms.

Even so, there was tension in his broad shoulders that gave away the fact that he was disturbed by the information. Kassian, who had always called Boyd "kid," sometimes seemed to see Boyd as just that. A young kid who'd been thrown into this line of work without fully understanding all that would come with it.

Kassian had sisters Boyd's age-- he was one of the few people in the Agency who regularly interacted with civilians. He'd told Boyd on more than one occasion how he wished the younger man could have had a normal life-- be a normal twenty-three year old kid.

"They didn't have clocks or calendars there. But when Aleixo finally brought me to his house I found out it was mid-June," Boyd said. "So, six months."

Another nod and this time Kassian leaned against the refrigerator door and crossed his own muscular arms across his long sleeved t-shirt. He studied Boyd for a moment and seemed to debate something before he said finally, "Perhaps it isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world that you hadn't known beforehand."

Boyd shook his head with a glower and dropped into one of the chairs by the table. The legs made a scratching noise against the floor before he sat down.

"The only thing ignorance got me was a lot of confusion, panic and anger. If I'd known, I could've prepared myself better. I could've said a better goodbye. We thought I wouldn't be gone long." He paused briefly, those words lingering as he imagined how difficult it must have been for Sin. How he must have wondered if Boyd was even alive. "I don't know which way would've been better for him," he added somberly.

"He didn't start acting out because he was worried about you," Kassian said bluntly. "He did it because he was angry and he hated the Agency for separating the two of you at all. If he'd known what was going to go on during that mission, he would have just been in a lot more pain before he died."

Boyd looked up at Kassian, searching his face. He didn't know what he felt other than a strange mixture of relief and distress.

He wanted to believe Kassian.

He wanted to believe that somehow, in some way, Sin had been spared unnecessary pain before it was all over.

There was nothing he could do about what he'd gone through himself-- the panic when they'd forced him down and he hadn't known what they were about to do; when he'd wondered whether he was going to die before he even officially started the mission. The confusion and betrayal when he'd found himself in a position where he was used all day while the drugs ate away at his mind. The fear that he would never get away; that the Agency would forget about him and for the rest of his life he'd be just another rentboy to fuck.

Even though he felt very alone with what he'd gone through, at least this way Sin had been protected.

"Did you talk to him?" He hadn't intended to ask the question but once it was out there he perversely wanted to know. Even though it hurt to think in terms of 'the last months of Sin's life.'

"Yes." Kassian looked away quickly as if to hide the brief flash of distress that crossed his own face. Boyd wondered if the other man had grieved for Sin. It wasn't a stretch even if the two had been something close to enemies for so long.

"I went to him when it started. I told him he was being reckless. We argued but he knew I was right. He admitted that he couldn't help not caring about the Agency anymore. He hated it very... very much by then. More than ever before. He hated what they were making you do and he hadn't even known the half of it."

Boyd's eyes burned and his fingers clenched in his hair. He forced himself to drop his hands to the table before he could do any damage. He thought about what Sin must have been going through, thought about what it would have been like if Sin had known-- and he thought about his own disjointed memories of that time.

Carhart had said that the order was carried out in March. Boyd's sense of time had been skewed but he knew he'd still been at the Palace then. It was entirely possible he'd been in the middle of a drug-induced orgy, mindlessly and desperately begging for it when the man he loved more than life itself had been back here, suffering and ultimately silenced.

The thought made him sick.

"I hate this, Kassian," he said, his voice thin and pained. He didn't intend to say it but once it was out in the open he couldn't stop. "I hate them for doing this. For taking him away from me when I need him more than--"

His voice caught and he had to draw in a shaky breath, forcing down the pain and longing. It created a lump in his throat that was difficult to speak around. "I hate that I have all these memories now. And I can't even..." He couldn't seem to finish a sentence. "I can't think about him without feeling like I'm going to fall apart but I can't stop. I miss him so much."

Kassian came over and wordlessly pulled Boyd into a hug. It was the first human contact Boyd had had since he'd found out his life may as well be over and it almost hurt. Not a physical pain, because Kassian's arms were comforting as he held Boyd close.

It was an emotional pain, because even as he desperately clutched Kassian closer he couldn't help thinking how this was the way it was supposed to be with Sin. This was what he'd been anticipating for months. This comfort; this warmth and weight.

It was all wrong. The scent that was supposed to be surrounding him; the deep voice he was supposed to hear. The warm breath that was supposed to stir his hair.

Even as he clung to Kassian, unable to hold back a short sob that he muffled against Kassian's stomach, he remembered all the moments he had held Sin this close, and thought of all the missed moments he would have in the future. All the times he would need Sin's support and end up stumbling. All the times he would need Sin's warmth and feel only cold. All the times he would need Sin's love and end up feeling lonelier than ever before.

He tried to hold it all in. Tried frantically to keep himself from falling apart. Kassian's presence both hindered and helped that endeavor and he struggled furiously until he was able to gain some sense of control. Some semblance of normalcy.

It was sad how difficult that was for him.

He was just forcing himself to pull away from Kassian when he heard the door open. He pulled back and scrubbed at his face, trying to dispel as much evidence of his instability as possible. He gathered every thread of self-control and held tight, winding it all together into a paper-thin shroud of normalcy that he was determined to hold until the two left. It was bad enough that he couldn't hold himself together around Kassian-- he wasn't going to make Ryan worry more than he needed to as well.

Boyd twisted in the chair and greeted Ryan with a small, wan smile that he didn't entirely feel but made himself do anyway. "Hey," he greeted, voice subdued and a hint thick. He did his best to steady his tone; to sound as casual and in control as possible. "Find everything okay?"

Ryan's eyes flicked between Boyd and Kassian quickly before he nodded. He was carrying a large bag in one hand and a large cardboard jug in the other. He seemed to sense that something had been happening but he tactfully didn't comment on it.

"I bought a jug of coffee for me and Kass. Some breakfast sandwiches, muffins and a box of tea for you just in case, um, I didn't know if you'd restocked stuff..."

The R&D agent put the packages on the table and began taking out foil-wrapped sandwiches and other things quietly.

"Thanks, Ry," Kassian said with some warmth in his tone. He put a large hand on one of Ryan's scrawny shoulders and squeezed as if trying to reassure him of something.

Boyd smiled and this time it was a little more genuine. "Thank you. I was out of tea."

He pulled the box of tea closer, pleased to see that it was his favorite kind, and stood. He left Ryan to unload while he went to the stove. It occurred to him that the kettle should probably be washed but he couldn't bring himself to care. He turned on the hot water at the sink and rinsed it out instead. Having something to do with his hands helped him focus on the moment.

"So," Ryan said, a nervous edge to his voice. "I guess you haven't seen much of anyone yet."

Boyd shook his head wordlessly as he dumped out the kettle and filled it halfway with fresh water. "Just the people who were there when I returned." He didn't think it would be a good idea to bring up detox or the psychiatrist. He shut off the faucet and brought the kettle over to the stove. "And Carhart," he added, glancing over.

"Oh." The word was loaded, and Ryan focused very carefully on pouring coffee into one of the paper cups he'd brought.

Boyd paused with his fingers on the dial to turn on the stove. A pit of dread grew in his stomach but he didn't let it get to his face. What other terrible news could there be that he had yet to hear?

"What?" he asked, unable to quite keep the wariness out of his tone.

"Nothing," Ryan replied quickly, adding creamer to his cup and perching on a chair next to Kassian. He seemed drawn to the other man for assurance. It was a big change from the last time Boyd had seen them together. "He's just really different now. Zach is, I mean."

"I noticed." Boyd turned on the stove and got the kettle ready so it would whistle when finished. He leaned against the counter near the stove and crossed his arms. "He seemed... cold."

"He is. Now, I mean. Like--" Ryan paused and unwrapped what appeared to be a sausage and egg sandwich. "He's just shut down. A lot's happened."

Kassian scoffed and ignored the dainty paper cups the diner had supplied Ryan with. More familiar with the kitchen, he grabbed a larger mug for his coffee. "Understatement of the year, Ry."

Although Boyd doubted he would like the direction this would go, he wanted to hear from his friends what he'd missed. He'd had enough of suddenly finding himself in trying situations without any warning. "What happened?"

The two agents across the table exchanged looks before Kassian nodded at Ryan. Ryan seemed to always be more in the know than most other people at the compound and that hadn't seemed to have changed.

"The new admin came in January. She'd had it all prepared based on our evaluations and reviews of histories. In her first week, the terminations started."

The dread grew stronger in Boyd. "Anyone I know?"

There was a long pause as Ryan fiddled with the wrapping of his sandwich. His face had drawn into a nearly haggard looking frown. "Yeah. A lot of people... Andrew Torres was one."

"What?" Boyd said. It came out a little strained.

Maybe he shouldn't have been surprised; after all, the man had always been a little soft for Agency standards. Boyd still remembered the time they'd been together on the raid and Andrew had hesitated to kill men who wouldn't have blinked before killing him in return. He'd insisted on flipping people instead of killing them, and had believed that he could save a lot of people even while trying not to harm the ones who wanted to harm him. It was noble and a good idea in theory that, in Boyd's experience, rarely worked well in practice.

It was just the sort of thing someone like Andrew would think.

Boyd ran a hand over his face. "Ryan, I'm sorry..."

Even though Ryan and Andrew had broken up long ago, even though it hadn't sounded like there was any chance they'd ever get back together-- Boyd had spent enough time around the man during training to know that Andrew had been a good guy. He remembered late night breaks in the cafeteria, Andrew's hushed voice as he talked about his goals and ideals.

He'd been the kind of person who tried too hard to fix things. He'd tried to be the hero.

Too bad in the Agency's eyes a person was only truly the hero when they were the villain. And now there was one more man, one more good person, who was a victim of the Agency's silent slaughter.

Ryan just shrugged, trying hard to look unmoved.

Kassian cleared his throat, appearing as though he wanted to spare Ryan from having to talk about it one way or the other. "Alvarado got it too. Those are the only two people I know you knew off hand."

Boyd shook his head. He'd never worked much with Michael aside from the mission in Mexico but he didn't wish the guy any harm. Once again, he could see what the reason had likely been; the man had seemed a little unreliable. But enough to be killed?

Boyd himself had caused far more problems than Andrew or Michael likely ever had. He could only assume he was still alive because of his recent successes in missions and the fact that he'd given the Agency even more than they'd expected on the last mission. Still, he didn't expect that to last indefinitely. With the standards it seemed the new regime was holding everyone up to, it was probably only a matter of time until he was deemed unfit as well.

He could hear the water churning and he turned around, shutting off the burner before the water got too hot. He pulled out the strainer and started to shake some loose jasmine leaves into it. "Has anything else changed?"

"Yeah, some things," Kassian replied, finally unwrapping his own breakfast. He'd already downed two cups of coffee. "There's no possibility of refusing a mission at all now but I always knew that would be coming. Termination is pretty much guaranteed after two infractions as far as I can tell based on people who were close to terminated agents. Agent Keeps told me that her boyfriend had made a mistake on some storm in Brussels-- the mistake being that he went back for an injured teammate and delayed the egress dramatically-- and was given a warning. But then on a following mission, another mistake occurred and he was never seen again after getting an escort from check-in."

"And I'm not sure if there's such thing as status separation anymore," Ryan mumbled. "I think everyone just has to do whatever they're told, if you have a certain status or not. 'Cause I know an R&D agent who fit a certain profile and got sent on a field mission to attract the attention of some important terrorist."

Kassian nodded, as if he'd also heard about that.

"Oh," Ryan said, looking at Boyd from behind his large glasses as he chewed slowly on his food. "And there's new people in the unit now... Replacements for you and Hsin."

Boyd paused as he sat down, mug of tea in hand. He couldn't say he was surprised about any of the information and yet it was still disconcerting to consider.

Being back at the Agency was already enough of a change for him after a year of being a drug-addicted sex slave half out of his mind. Being back without Sin as support was something he still couldn't quite comprehend. Being back at the Agency with even the Agency itself being different, including the unit he worked for... It felt alien to him.

It made him realize his own situation could have changed well beyond even the amount he'd come to anticipate. After all, the main reason he'd been in the Janus unit had been because of Sin...

He took a moment to grab one of the muffins and started to unwrap it. His fingers shook slightly in the process and his stomach almost felt concave. It was an odd feeling and made him wonder how long it had been since he'd last eaten. He wondered if he was so hungry he didn't feel hungry at all. He wondered if he would ever feel normal reactions again.

The smell of breakfast and the texture of the muffin only reminded him of the first time he and Sin had ordered from a diner and had decided to eat breakfast in bed. He remembered lying back against Sin's chest, rising and falling evenly with his breath, their legs intertwined. A tray sitting next to them on top of flattened-down covers and the feeling of relaxation that could only come from being with Sin. They'd talked about what they wanted in their new place. They'd hoped a diner like that would deliver there as well.

At that time, there had been any number of breakfasts in bed in their seemingly open future.

Now, that hope was gone. He took a bite of the muffin but it was tasteless to him. He may as well have been eating cardboard. It all seemed so meaningless and pointless to him; these routines he had to go through when everything led back to Sin. The Möbius strip of his mind.

He continued to chew, not letting his thoughts make it to his face, and looked at Ryan. "Do you think I'll be reassigned?"

Ryan swallowed a particularly large bite of his sandwich and shook his head. "I don't think so. At least, whenever Zach did the whole intro to the new members of the team thing, he said Jordan, one of the girls, would only be in the unit until you came back."

Kassian was nodding in agreement as he wiped his greasy fingers on a napkin. "She's more for undercover ops and valentines. I heard she was pretty much going to cross division for that type of thing."

Boyd wondered if the Agency would assign him something like that in the future as well. After all, they'd been so impressed with his latest mission that no doubt they'd like to test out his new-found skills whenever possible. The bitterness was evident even in his own mind.

"What are they like?" he asked even though he was only mildly interested. He continued to pick apart the muffin.

Ryan made a face and shook his head, unruly hair moving around like a black halo. "Weird English-Japanese twin girls. I don't like them at all. Bex is a real bitch. She hates Owen especially."

Boyd set the half-eaten muffin down and drank his tea instead. He was unsurprised to find that even jasmine tea, his favorite, didn't taste the way he remembered. Would anything ever feel the same again? How long would it take to find pleasure or familiarity even in the simplest of things, and did he really want to gain that back?

He didn't want to forget Sin. He couldn't forget him. Yet the constant reminders everywhere, in even the most innocuous of places, were exhausting.

He struggled with twin desires that made it harder to care about anything else; harder to think and feel. He wished he could shut off his thoughts while at the same time he was afraid of the moment he would wake up and not have Sin be the first thing on his mind. Not be the face he saw in every memory. He felt so conflicted and tired.

He found himself wishing Kassian and Ryan would leave so he could take another sedative.

He sipped the tea, trying to pretend he was savoring what tasted like nothing more than bitter hot water, and made an effort to stay in the flow of conversation. "Why?"

"I don't know. She thinks he's stupid and annoying, I guess. She's-- well, she's supposed to be..." Ryan trailed off awkwardly and looked pained. "I guess she's supposed to be the new super assassin..."

"Ryan," Kassian said in a warning tone.

Ryan just frowned. "Sorry. But, I mean, someone is going to say it to him sooner or later. And... And when he goes in to meet Bex she will probably say it herself."

Boyd stared down at his tea. He was getting so tired already that he almost couldn't bring himself to feel anything at that information. And yet...

And yet he thought of the new Marshal, callously casting Sin aside. Of the person he loved more than life itself getting killed and someone already there to take his place. An assembly line of soldiers. Ryan had really meant it when he'd said 'replacement.'

It sickened Boyd. It infuriated him. It made him so sad it hurt.

She wasn't Sin's replacement. No one was. No one could ever take his place. He tried to imagine going into the Agency and working with anyone but Sin. The idea was repellent. And working with someone who was supposed to be the new super assassin?

He hated the new girl already and he hadn't even met her.

The anger was there again, muffled and nearly silenced by the churning hopelessness. He didn't know if he could do this. He didn't know how he was supposed to move on without Sin in his personal life, let alone his professional.

He resisted the urge to push away the half-finished muffin. He was under no delusions that he would finish it. Any hunger he could convince himself he felt was gone.

"I see," was all Boyd could think to say.

There was a beat of silence and Kassian crumbled the foil from his sandwich into a ball. "I have to get going in a minute. Are you going to be all right, Boyd?"

The older man sounded uneasy. It was clear he was worried about Boyd sitting alone in the empty house. Ryan looked nervous, probably for the same reason.

Boyd stared at the muffin for a moment, the question moving through his mind. Would he be all right emotionally? Not now. Maybe eventually, far in the future. So far in the future he couldn't even comprehend it right now. And would he be all right physically?

He dragged his gaze up, meeting Ryan's eyes first before moving to Kassian's. He wondered if he looked as dead as he felt inside. He wondered if it mattered even if he did.

There was only one answer he could think of for the question. Only one reassurance he was capable of giving them.

"I promised him I would keep going."

"Did--" Ryan broke off and his indigo eyes, for a moment, looked lost and hurt. "Did you talk about it before? About... if it happened?"

Boyd nodded wordlessly and listlessly pushed some hair back that had started to fall out of the loose ponytail. He was silent at first, thinking back to that time. Remembering the what if's that had become reality. He wondered what it had been like for Sin. He'd had his own what if's to deal with during the mission; his own uncertainties.

"What was he like?" Boyd asked before he could stop himself. "During-- while I was gone."

Kassian and Ryan exchanged another one of those wordless looks that now seemed common between the two of them. They had been barely acquaintances before the mission and now they appeared undoubtedly closer. Much closer. Kassian almost appeared to be some kind of support system for Ryan but in the past several months, the younger man had likely needed one desperately.

"He was okay at first," Ryan said finally. They had apparently silently decided that Ryan would do the talking. It made sense. He would have been around the most. "Well, as okay as he usually is. But then the weeks started going by and it started becoming really obvious that he was just really angry with everything, especially when the twins were transplanted into the unit. I don't really know what all he thought about the new admin-- he didn't really talk about it."

There was a thoughtful silence as Ryan's brow furrowed. "Bex surprisingly seemed to like him. It seemed like she wanted to understand him or know him better but he didn't share the interest. The only person he really talked to or I saw him with during that time was Ivan so he may know better what Sin was really thinking or feeling. I mean, besides what he told Kass that one time."

Boyd nodded again and fell silent. His gaze dropped to his tea, to the golden liquid that was slowly cooling. He didn't feel like finishing even that one cup. It was pathetic; even his comfort drink no longer looked good to him.

It made him think of his mission again, made him resent it even more. He could remember the months dragging out for him. The routines that had developed. The ebb and flow of his high. The constant back and forth between the filthy lower levels and the ludicrously opulent upper levels. The faceless men and women who'd waited in the suites, looking over with pleased smiles when he'd been brought in.

He remembered that time and now it wasn't just the things they'd done to him and the things he'd begged them to do. Now, every moment had a counter-moment that made it worse. Where he imagined what it had been like for Sin, and he imagined how he could have made those last months better for his lover. If only he'd been here. If only he hadn't been gone. If only they hadn't drugged him and spread his body open and fucked him over and over--

His eyes narrowed and he realized he didn't know how long he'd been silent. His expression tightened and he ran a hand over his eyes. He was so tired. It was so hard to keep going with everything hurtful and hateful clamoring for his attention. It was no wonder Ryan and Kassian kept sharing looks; he probably seemed half out of his mind. In truth, he probably was.

He looked up at the others with a mumbled, "Sorry." He tried to stay in the moment and rested his hands around the lukewarm mug of tea. "Was he okay physically? Nothing terrible happened on any missions? They didn't--" His fingers twitched against the mug, his eyes narrowing faintly. "They didn't put him in the box?"

"Nothing happened... that I know of beforehand. Everyone in the unit found out really belatedly and then it kind of spread around the compound. He'd been gone for a week when I found out." Ryan swallowed audibly and took his glasses off, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Emilio and Zach found out right away. Zach shut down-- even when he told us, he was so... so... just not there anymore."

Boyd stared at Ryan. What would he have done if he had been here and it had still happened like that? Without warning or word; Sin just suddenly... gone. He shook his head slightly to rid himself of the thought. "And Emilio?"

"Heh." Ryan flashed a weak grin.

"Threatened to blow the new Marshal's brains out. He's been kept in a holding cell on the Fourth for months. I'm not sure how long he's punished for though," Kassian informed Boyd with a shake of his head.

Boyd's eyebrows twitched up slightly, the first reaction he'd shown in awhile. "Was it to her face?"

"Oh, yes. He fucked up a few guards to get close enough to her. Allegedly, some people thought he was going to try to kill her right then. He's lucky not to be terminated if that was the case but I think she may have expected that reaction and terminating him would be another level 10 resource gone."

Boyd shook his head. He almost said aloud that it was too bad Emilio didn't succeed but decided against it. He didn't need them worrying about him going vigilante too.

"Have you met her?"

They both nodded.

"Carhart said they'd watch me for signs of weakness when I return to active duty." Boyd's fingers brushed against the mug and his eyebrows twitched down.

Active duty still felt forever away even though it was only a couple of weeks; probably less by now. At the same time, it felt too soon. He didn't want to go active duty again as equally as he wanted to go active simply to have something to focus on other than grief.

"Is there anything I should know before I have to meet her?"

Kassian shrugged. "I'm not sure what to say, really. Even though she came in with a reign of terror, when I met her for a mission she was relatively unremarkable. Straightforward, curt, but nothing that different from anyone else here."

Boyd considered that. At least that told him something. What, exactly, he likely wouldn't know until he met her himself. That was yet another thing he wasn't looking forward to. He sighed and finally pushed the tea and muffin away from him. "I suppose I'll end up meeting her soon enough anyway." He paused as something occurred to him. "Has it been said whether Emilio will return to the unit once he's released?"

"Zach said he will be," Ryan said with a nod.


At least there would be one person he knew how far he could trust on missions. It would be good to have one familiar face after all the changes, even if that face was going to make letting go of Sin be that much more difficult. He knew he was going to end up cursing how similar they looked at some point.

Kassian looked at his watch and stood. His forehead was creased with a worried frown. "I really have to get going, Boyd. Call me if you need anything. Don't fucking hesitate, kid."

Boyd nodded although he already knew he wouldn't call. He was going to have to figure out how to deal with this on his own eventually. Relying on anyone else too heavily was just going to make it worse. In the end, support was only fleeting. Under this new regime, how long did any of them have? How long until Kassian was terminated, or Ryan, or anyone else? How long until he was left alone again, assuming he wasn't terminated first?

At the same time, he knew it was easy to think that in the daylight with people around him. In the middle of the night when the bed felt too large and empty and all he had were memories masquerading as dreams...

"You're still on speed dial," was all he said.

Kassian leaned forward and pulled him into a half hug, squeezing one of Boyd's shoulders. "Take care," he said briefly against Boyd's ear before pulling away and heading to the door.

Ryan stood as well, looking mildly disappointed. "He's my ride so... I guess I'm going too. I brought extra stuff because I figured maybe you didn't have a lot here after so long."

The R&D agent ran a hand through his hair and offered a barely there smile. "I'm sorry I'm not much of a comfort anymore. I just... don't know what to say about stuff anymore, I guess. There's nothing really to say to make any of this better."

Boyd shook his head and stood. "You don't need to say anything. It's enough that you came."

Another withered smile was sent Boyd's way before Ryan left as well. He had changed so much over the past couple of years that there was barely anything left of the energetic and enthusiastic young man that Boyd had first met upon entering the Agency.

That seemed to be the way it worked at the Agency; a person was worn down until they became a shell of who they once were.

Boyd didn't leave the kitchen until after he heard Kassian's truck start and drive away. He trailed out to the living room, locking the door and absently setting the alarm, and then stood there not knowing what to do with himself. He felt curiously blank and he wanted to stay that way; to have even that brief respite from the intense and fluctuating emotions.

In the end, he curled up on his couch, wanting to avoid his bedroom as long as possible. He lay there waiting to doze off, hoping he wouldn't have to take sedatives in the end.

Continue to Fade Chapter Three...