Fade Chapter Three

This site is..

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.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Fade Chapter Three

Uploaded on 4/17/2011

"Hold him still."

Panting heavily as he lay on the bed, his back encased in silken covers, his chest heaving. Sweat made his skin slick. His lips were bruised and mouth still tasted of condom from the man who'd just crawled off him.

He was high on lust, on energy, and he tried to touch himself but hands snapped around his wrists and forced his arms down above his head. His knees fell open and his feet slid against the sheets, trying to find purchase. Another set of hands on his chest, holding him down.

He moaned, a desperate and plaintive sound, and was about to beg when firm fingers gripped his straining erection. His moan became a helpless groan. His eyes opened; a muffled view of the ceiling, detailed and high, with the walls a blur around him. His gaze slipped and slid, down the length of his body to the man crouched between his legs.


The name was interlaced with other memories, other moments like this; a confusing jumble that turned into one. The tilt of those brown eyebrows; the flick of that light stare, proprietary on his bare skin.

He was holding something and Boyd couldn't comprehend what it was or whether it should be strange. A thin metal rod that was slightly curved at the ends. James looked down at Boyd's erection, held firmly in his hand.

"I've always wanted to try this," came the mutter.

The rod was at the tip of Boyd's erection. Boyd's breath quickened but before he had the chance to understand what was happening, an intense pressure mixed with pain made him throw his head back with a strangled shout, his body arching as best he could. His feet slipped against the bedding and he tried to pull away but there was nowhere to go.

"Look at it move," James said, intrigued.

"That's hot," muttered Kent.

Boyd squeezed his eyes shut and breathed harshly. The pressure increased. He could feel James pushing the rod into the hole in his dick deeper, deeper, until he swallowed it whole. The rough feel of a calloused thumb was at the tip of his erection, holding the rod in.

Whimpers escaped Boyd, mostly from the confused jumble within his mind that was already translating the alien feeling into something highly arousing.

"What happens if he comes?" Tom asked.

"Dunno," James said unconcernedly. "Let's find out."

Shifting of the bed and body arching up. Hands switched at his cock, holding the rod down. Boyd felt James arranging himself, hands moving along Boyd's hips and angling his body up.

Boyd could feel something hard pulsing at his entrance. His muscles were automatically tightened from the feeling of the rod. Half-heard sounds escaped him in helpless waves and James had to drop one hand from Boyd's hips to guide his cock into him.

A shove and James forced his way inside. Boyd's harsh breath became a strangled groan. The rod was a pressure that was driving him insane and once James started to move, it only became worse. Hard thrusts that made him moan and pant, pleading, "Ohh, fuck," and "ah-- ahh..."

Something shifted at his cock and he could feel the rod start to push out before it was shoved back in. Another shout from Boyd, an intrigued, "Let's fuck him with both at once," from Kent, and soon a counter-beat fucking that made him scream.

Flash of black-- disjointed sounds and a crescendo of need--

A voice hissing plaintively; twisting like the body he felt too strongly but couldn't control-- "Fuck me. Ohh fuck, fuck..."

Pleading words that made no sense to the rushing of the blood in his head. An erection, hard and hot, slamming into him-- hips rising up to meet each other and only then did he realize he was fucking himself with the rod in his own dick. Heard a voice in the background urging him to continue; telling him he couldn't stop.

That was right-- He couldn't stop, he couldn't stop. It felt too painfully good--

He was pressed awkwardly against the bed-- his face to the side, body partially balanced against one shoulder. An uncomfortable position he couldn't bring himself to change. He started fucking himself faster with the rod, moaning for more, please, please, more.

Hands at his hips held them up at an angle; dug crescent moon bruises into his skin as the fucking got harder, shaking his entire body-- silk covers sliding beneath his knees and groaning in the background from more than one voice--

The world twisting and fading. Growls moving in and out of his understanding--

Someone was screaming; ten steps removed and it was good, that scream, it showed how much he wanted this--

A voice he didn't recognize but did. Eternity to realize it was his own. Everything was blood slamming through his veins like the energy like the erection, pushing deeper and deeper inside and making his entire body come alive.

He wanted it-- he needed it. Begged for it. Arched his back so his ass was straight up in the air and he didn't even know which of the four men was fucking him. It didn't matter. All that mattered was sating the hunger that scoured through him relentlessly with the endless need to be fucked more, faster, harder... An out of control urge that didn't let him question anything; that only let him plead.

He was building to the height of another orgasm, fucking himself with the rod harshly, nearly making himself scream from pain that he could only translate as pleasure, pleasure, pleasure-- a reckless abandonment so strong that even blood streaming down his ass would be seen as helpful lubricant. A feeling that forced him into only wanting more, more, to the point that he would do anything. He would fuck himself to death and still beg for it with his dying breath. Still plead for one more time, one more go, just one more man thrusting into him...

They growled dirty talk, calling him whore and slut and bitch and it only made him moan wildly. His breath was building, he was about to come--

They clamped their hands around his cock; pulled his balls down until they strained at his skin and he was shouting helplessly, needing that release and oh fuck when they took turns ramming his ass it felt so fucking good-- He needed to come so badly he could taste blood in his throat from crying out and yet they kept going--

The pleasure-pain built until he couldn't breathe around the feeling, his body hot and tingling from toe tips up to his head; he could almost feel it in his hair, his nose was even tingling, his lips; his mouth was wide open and his voice had risen so long and so loud he was nearly hoarse, his body not his own to control anymore-- it was all the need, the desire, the lust, making him slam that rod into himself desperately, thinking maybe he could force himself to come around their hands--

Erections that moved in and out of him, sometimes filling his mouth and choking him while fingers gripped his hair and someone else continued to fuck him-- voices changing and a hand-held video camera shifting in and out of view-- hands shoving him this way and that as they took turns fucking him in different positions, as the grunts of the men increased. He was nearly crying he was begging so desperately for release until finally, his legs splayed, the bed soft against his back and an erection seated deep within him, someone said to let him go.

He felt his balls snap up so quickly, so far, it felt like they were going to crawl up into his body. He didn't even need the cock inside him for the ecstasy to crescendo.

The orgasm hit him harder than ever before. His entire body snapped up, arching against the pleasure roaring out of his stomach and scouring out of his body. The whole world became white, his eyes wide open and sightless, and he didn't even realize he'd been gripping the sheets and screaming with abandonment until, what felt like hours later, he slowly came back to himself.

Video camera aimed at his heaving body, an erection still pounding into him passionately, and the rod against his side. Semen covered his chest, had even made it up to his face. His body rocked with the man fucking him; that deep voice groaning while hips slammed almost violently against him in an uncontrolled rush.

Excited voices were going back and forth. "Did you get that?" and "God damn, that was fucking hot," and "That's right; tag that bitch, Pat. Ride it till it bleeds."

Time distilling; stretched and snapping back with parts missing in between. Black and fuzzy around the edges-- his body never stilling for longer than a handful of seconds. His cock only twitching but never softening, not with the need burning him alive from inside out. A marionette to the desire, his limbs were already jerking and shifting; head thrown back and his throat a bare curve as someone raked their hands across him, pulling him into the optimal positions--

A new angle, half twisted on his side with bruised lips wide open and breath warming the covers. He barely heard another voice telling Tom to wait but he acutely felt it when the erection stilled inside him. Blood was a pounding rush in his head that whispered only one thing: more, more, he needed more. He whimpered and shifted, needing that cock to start moving again. Needing to be pounded for the rest of his life.

Hands on him and body shifting again and he was pulled up, rearranged until he was seated with a body beneath him. They slid him back onto the erection. His body burned for it as he felt that pulsing heat inside him. He moaned, threw his head back and started riding it. Rolling his hips and panting harshly and hearing Tom groan beneath him...

He was shoved back, his legs pulled up, his back against Tom's chest. Shifting of bodies that seemed too distant for him to understand, other than the words, "Think he can take it?" and the weight of another body crawling up the bed.

Words in the background that barely made sense. He could hear them rearranging the camera, talking about the right lighting and the right angle, and then another body was hovering over his. James, looking down at where Boyd and Tom were joined, and Boyd felt pressure at his entrance. Another erection trying to stretch him wide around them both and he was half screaming, half gasping; body twisting before James shoved inside--

Fuzzy darkness that wasn't coalescing properly into shapes and his chest was heaving. Somehow he'd sat up and the hands weren't there. The feeling of forceful arousal was missing-- the voices were gone--

It took Boyd a few highly confused, panicked seconds before he realized he'd been dreaming. He was sitting up in a bed, body soaked in sweat and mind buzzing. He looked around frantically, trying to remember where he was.

He had to be at Aleixo's, waking from a nightmare--

He jerked his head to the side, certain he would see Aleixo reaching over with an annoyed expression for waking him, or Vika sprawled with dark eyes regarding him sensually. He expected to see one elegant hand raised to pull him back down, a smile on her lips as she would murmur, "No, lie back, Cameron darling. Today you are mine to play with--"

But no one was next to him and in the scattered panic of the moment he didn't understand that. He looked up-- dark walls and broken furniture; shadows deeper than the night--

This didn't make sense-- he knew this place. It was his room, his childhood room, but it was a mess. Everything was broken and why--

--screaming and crying for a different reason and Sin, Sin, he was gone--

Reality hit him like a wall slamming into his whole body, compacting his lungs. It was a moment of being stunned before it all came crashing down.

Anguish overwhelmed him and he slouched forward, knees drawing closer as he squeezed his eyes shut and gripped his legs. His breath was harsh and catching in the silent house.

Emotions built within him powerfully until he could feel his eyes burning. Until he couldn't breathe around the pain and intense sense of loss that formed a lump in his throat.

The dream played behind his closed eyelids but it wasn't a dream; it was a memory.

A shameful reminder of what he'd been like; of the wanton way he'd laid himself open to be used over and over. The way he'd begged for it from lines of strangers he'd never even seen before; his moaning sucking of their cocks; the women's bodies laid before him as he'd gone down on them; the groups that had fucked him and the way he'd only pleaded for more--

The lump grew in his throat and he felt sickened. His body was curled against itself, muscles taut and fingers tightly gripped. He had to grit his teeth to focus on something so his breath would remain somewhat even. Grit his teeth so the disgust wouldn't shift the hatred on himself.

In the light of day, he always felt rage more than anything else. A furious need to lash out at everyone around him; to protect himself through anger. But at night, half-muddled by sleep and with the memories more vivid than the shadows surrounding him, it was disgust and shame that dominated him. It was hopelessness and resentment and misery.

It was memories of the lust that had burned him alive from the inside out, and distress at the undeniable knowledge of how much he'd craved any touch.

The flashes of memory were too strong. Even sitting up in bed he could still remember it all. The laughter in the background. The excited grunts of mens' voices in his ear and the moist, warm puff of their breath. Erections shoving in and out of him; out of sync beats that stretched him too wide but still had his toes curling in agonizing, desperate need--

Boyd released a strangled groan and threw himself off the bed, stumbling to a stand. He wavered in place, feeling revulsion clench his stomach and lungs.

He felt utterly alone in the house; dead black without a sound from inside or outside.

He stood in the middle of his destroyed room, shoulders tense and body shifting without direction. He felt uncertain and on the cusp of something much larger than himself. Something frightening and unknown.

He wanted to flee.

He wanted to run away and never look back and what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to handle any of this? How was he supposed to have energy after it was all sucked away to kick Slide?

He couldn't do it. He couldn't. He needed--

Vulnerability, and the world loomed terrifyingly. His feet moved of their own accord. He grabbed his jacket and keys without thinking. Threw the jacket on and barely remembered to step into his shoes. He was out the door and striding down the street within seconds.

It was the dead of the night. His block was silent. Nothing stirred, not even the branches on the trees. It was eerily still. Very few of his neighbors kept their porch lights on and the streetlights were inadequate. The whole world felt compressed and dark. Claustrophobic.

He was afraid.

Afraid the memories would never dull enough for him to deal with them properly. Afraid he would become too used to them. Afraid he'd revert to the emotionless shell it had taken years to leave behind. Afraid he'd find out he just wasn't strong enough to move on. Afraid the anger would leave him for good and he'd end up trudging through life pointlessly, with grief a sharp knife slowly bleeding him dry.

He'd only joined the Agency because of Sin. With Sin gone and with that promise keeping him moving forward, the only future he had to look forward to was being used by the same people who had sent him off to be a drugged up sex addict. Missions of killing and deceiving people for a goal he didn't believe in would be intermixed with missions where he was whored out. Licking and sucking and fucking like a commonplace hustler for nothing, for fucking nothing, because all he truly wanted was Sin.

He could have gone through anything and it would have been okay if only Sin were there.

But he wasn't.

He was gone and Boyd was left alone to grief and hatred and fear, and memories that wouldn't leave him be.

He may never find meaning in anything again.

He didn't know where he was going. He'd had no special place in the city with Sin. Why hadn't he thought to create one? A place to retreat to when he had nowhere else. Nothing else...

He didn't realize he was heading toward the Agency until he turned the corner and it loomed before him. Lights glowed faintly from windows. The Tower was a monolith in the dark; well-lit even in the dead of the night because the Agency was always moving. Always awake.

He almost turned back. He put his hands in his jacket pockets and started to slow. Something hard met his fingers and he realized his wallet was in his pocket. Which meant he had his ID.

He didn't stop to think. He walked up to the gates, flashing his ID without meeting the scrutinizing gaze of the guards. Downtime didn't mean he wasn't allowed on compound.

They let him in.

A familiar trek that soon, with time, would be lost to his memory like everything else he wanted to keep. The clutter, the pain-- that would remain. But the good times would be lost to the inexorable march of time soon enough.

The guard at the base of the building gave him an odd look but once again had no reason to deny him.

The world was white noise around him. He didn't specifically remember walking up the stairs or swiping the card. He found himself in Sin's former living room and looked around. Dead silent and empty. Just like him.

If he gave himself the chance, in his mind he would overlay the apartment the way it was supposed to be. A book tossed to the side here. A shirt he'd left behind there. Rumpled sheets from lovemaking and steam from the shower billowing out from beneath the bathroom door. A deep voice he longed to hear again to the point that it stifled his breath.

The apartment was blurry. Tears tracked down his cheeks again and it would be forever until this pain wasn't so easily uprooted.

He walked into the bedroom, the white walls mixed with white sheets and white nothingness and he could feel it looming. The terrible, gaping emptiness that threatened to swallow him whole at any given moment. His breath quickened and he was finding it harder to stay still.

He crawled onto the bed without even removing his shoes. He lay down in a fetal position, curling himself into as small a ball as he could. As if he made a smaller target that way. As if he could make it all go away by disappearing himself.

He was acutely aware that Sin should be there in the bed with him. That Sin's even breath should be the backdrop to his dreams and that the mattress should be tipped down just so, just enough for his body to naturally roll toward his lover's.

His breath caught and somewhere within it all he was crying again; the silence broken the same as his emotions. He clung to himself, to the memories of Sin that still stained these walls and saturated the air. Shuddering sobs wrenched out of him, filling the silence with wretchedness that only made it more undeniable how very, very alone he was.

"Come back." A plaintive, reedy whisper in the night. Voice thick around the tears that were making it hard to breathe. "Don't leave me. Please..."

Empty silence answered his plea. The feeling of being utterly alone and alienated only increased and soon Boyd was lost to everything. All he felt was agony that tore him apart piece by piece, and dark silence where he should have at least found the comfort of Sin's ghost.

There was nothing for him anywhere. His home was alien to him. This bed that had once been a sanctuary was now cold and isolating.

He had nothing in life and it hurt so much it made him want to scream around the weeping but he didn't have the breath for it. It made him want to tear everything apart and make the world as broken as he felt, but he couldn't make his body move.

He was railing against the world, against his life, but it came out in choking gasps and grief-stricken sobs. No more words came to his lips because they were all meaningless. All he could do was struggle weakly to avoid getting thoroughly overwhelmed. To keep from letting everything unravel completely.

It wasn't the first time he cried himself to sleep and certainly wouldn't be the last.

"Agent Beaulieu."

The voice moved down through the darkness and dragged him back up to the surface. A few repetitions and he shifted, his head moving just so, and squinted his eyes open against the light.

Staring at a blank white wall, he didn't know where he was at first. He blinked a few times and looked toward the voice.

A man in a uniform was staring down at him evenly. His face sparked some recognition and with it came a name, Amos, and with that came a place, Sin's apartment, and with that came the reason.

Sin's death.

Boyd dropped down against the bed, his eyes closing. He felt exhaustion roll over him along with depression. Hopelessness. He wished he never had to move again.

"You have to come with me," Amos said calmly.

"Why?" Boyd's voice was dull.

"You'll miss your appointment."

"What appointment." He didn't care enough to make it a question.

"With Dr. Shapiro."

Amos sounded patient but Boyd could hear him moving closer to the bed. He wondered whether the guard would literally drag him out of bed and up to his appointment. He wondered whether that would constitute one of the two infractions he was allowed.

Boyd sighed but there was nothing he could do except obey.

It took great effort but he made himself roll off the bed and stand. He didn't bother to straighten his clothing or his hair. He didn't care. He kept his gaze on Amos' back, not letting it wander even a bit so as not to unearth more memories that would leave him struggling against sorrow.

The walk out of the building was spent in silence but by the time they were crossing the courtyard, Amos was glancing at Boyd discreetly from the corner of his eye. Boyd didn't react or acknowledge the movement. For a bit it almost seemed as though Amos was going to say something but in the end he remained silent.

It didn't seem to take that long to arrive at Dr. Shapiro's door. Amos dutifully stood to the side while the psychiatrist's administrative assistant Allison told them it would be a few minutes. Boyd stood there, blank-faced and staring at the wall. Waiting until he could leave this place.

Within minutes, the door opened and someone left. Boyd didn't look over to see who had been the previous patient. He didn't care.

Soon, Dr. Shapiro was at the door. He was a man who appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties, with mostly dark brown hair that was peppered with silver on the sides. The wrinkles at the edges of his eyes made it seem like once upon a time he had smiled a lot, and his expression seemed to default to neutral.

It was a different type of neutral than Boyd had always defaulted to himself. Boyd shut off his emotions whereas Shapiro simply seemed to be perpetually reserving judgment. Even when he'd seen Boyd at his worst as he'd gone through detox and rehab, he'd watched Boyd without opinion.

Shapiro's brown eyes unerringly found Boyd. "Come in," he said as he stepped back. Amos left and the secretary turned back to her computer.

Boyd followed Shapiro into his office.

Shapiro waited until the door was shut and they were both settled before he spoke calmly. "You missed the last session."

Boyd was silent, staring into thin air.

"Boyd, I need you to talk to me."

A long moment passed in which Boyd considered ignoring the prodding. But he knew it wouldn't do him any favors at the moment. And he was tired-- so tired from fighting the dual weight of the loss of Sin and the repercussions of his mission.

"What day is it?" His voice sounded empty.

Shapiro watched him, his palm panel nearby for notes. "Friday. October twentieth."

Boyd stared blankly at him. Seven days. Had it already been that long? Had it only been that long? He vaguely remembered Shapiro telling him at the last session that they were to meet again on the eighteenth. Obviously that hadn't happened.

"You did not answer the phone," Shapiro explained as if he could read Boyd's thoughts. "I planned to send a retrieval squad to your house on Wednesday but I was alerted by the guards that you appeared on compound in the middle of the night. I rearranged my schedule so we could meet today."


Shapiro studied him at length. He had the same thoughtful look as always, half as if Boyd were the most interesting thing in the room and half as if his mind was lightyears away in analysis. He shifted, sitting up straighter in the chair. "Tell me this. You were found in Agent Vega's former apartment. Obviously you know it's empty. Do you know why that is?"

Boyd nodded dully.

"I would like you to say it aloud."

"He's dead."

It was the first time he'd spoken the words out loud. His voice sounded distant and hoarse even to him. The words were too final; too loud in the silence.

He wished he could take them back.

Shapiro watched him and nodded once. He made a few notes on his palm panel. "What was your reaction to that knowledge?"

Boyd stared at the doctor.

"Boyd, I know this is difficult but I need to ensure you have come to terms with this. The only way to do that is to acknowledge how you feel and--"

"Move on?" Boyd interrupted, his eyes turning dangerous. A flare of defensiveness shot through him-- the cogs of the machine were here, already trying to flatten him back into shape.

"Cope," Shapiro replied calmly. "You've experienced tremendous stress and if you do not acknowledge it, you will only harm yourself in the long run."

"That would be terrible for the Agency, wouldn't it?" Boyd asked offhandedly, his tense shoulders contrasting the barbed words. "Losing an agent they've only just managed to regain."

"It would be terrible for you," Shapiro corrected him.

His dark eyes took in everything of Boyd; the stony, shuttered expression and the way his body language closed everything off around him. Boyd watched Shapiro with increasing anger and distrust. What did the man expect from him? What did he want him to say? He wanted Sin to be forgotten so easily? He wanted Boyd to get on the bandwagon of saying, 'yeah what a waste but oh well, guess it's all over now'?

His teeth grit and he wanted to tell Shapiro to get out of his face. To stop pretending he knew what any of this felt like or that he wasn't just trying to efficiently push Boyd along so he could return to being useful. Shapiro didn't give a shit about him or his coping. How could he, after sitting there for all those weeks-- staring Boyd straight in the face and not even bothering to give him any warning--

"Why didn't you tell me?" Boyd ground out. The words came out accusatory. Hard.

Shapiro shook his head; a subtle motion. "The timing was inappropriate. You were already in a very vulnerable position."

"And when I left?" Boyd demanded, eyes narrowing to slits. "It didn't occur to you that maybe someone should tell me before I ran to his apartment and had every goddamned hope for the past year ripped away?"

There was a beat of silence and then Shapiro said in his same neutral tone, "Boyd, we need to talk about this."

Boyd only shook his head sharply, his jaw setting, and he looked out the window. Tension made his back so stiff it was nearly painful. Resentment and anger moved within him and he wanted to get up and storm away. He wanted to shout at Shapiro that they didn't need to talk about anything-- that anything that should have been said or done was long past. That any bullshit salvation Shapiro wanted to offer Boyd was just a blatant lie that he could see right through.

"It's alright to feel anger, Boyd," Shapiro was saying in the background. "It's alright to feel betrayed. Holding it in won't make it go away."

Boyd's lips twisted coldly on the edges, the rest of his expression remaining as hard as stone. "Why don't you tell me more of what I feel, Doctor? It seems we don't need to talk about any of this at all since you already have me all figured out."

Shapiro watched Boyd with that same neutral stare as always. "We've talked about this. Remember when you first returned and you were in denial about what had happened. We talked about your tendency to avoid directly confronting psychologically challenging situations and how that hurts you in the long run."

Boyd's eyes narrowed dangerously. Fury was a dark river moving through him, sweeping away everything in its path. He didn't want to hear some Agency-paid shrink telling him some contrived analysis. He didn't want all these bullshit lies about caring about his health or the long run or any of that. They didn't care at all what the long run was for him; all they cared about was using him up in the short run first.

They wanted their notes and their charts and their bullet pointed lists. They wanted to know how best to exploit him. They wanted to fuck him just as much as Aleixo and his clients did, only the Agency would do it more metaphorically. And that made it almost worse.

Disgust and hatred made Boyd incapable of sitting still any longer. He stood, his body tense as a rubber band and expression shuttered and cold.

Shapiro watched him with frustrated disappointment flashing in his eyes before it was hidden. The psychiatrist shook his head. "Don't do this, Boyd. I'd like to--"

"This isn't an official appointment so I trust cutting it short is acceptable?" Boyd interrupted flatly.

Shapiro hesitated and frowned. He looked down at his palm panel, flipping through a few screens or making notes; it was hard to tell. Whatever the case, his frown increased and he shook his head. "It isn't a full session," he allowed, "but I think it's best if--"

"Then I think we're finished," Boyd said tightly and strode toward the door.

"Boyd, you don't have to go through this alone," Shapiro said, standing up as well. His eyebrows were drawn down and the palm panel lay askew on the desk. His fingers were light on the desk but his right hand twitched; almost as if he wanted to raise it to stop Boyd from leaving. Or he wanted to pick up the phone and tell the Marshal how uncooperative his patient was being.

Yes I do, Boyd thought, the words barbed and hateful in his mind. He didn't speak them aloud; he simply looked at the doctor with a dark glare that said more than enough on its own.

He turned before Shapiro could speak again and paused at the door just long enough to say over his shoulder, "I'll be here on Wednesday, Doctor." Without waiting for a reply, he left.

He didn't know where his feet were taking him. He didn't have anywhere to go. He didn't want to go to his house or Sin's old apartment. Even if Ryan or Kassian were available, he couldn't bring himself to see them. The city felt too large and hectic; he didn't want to be around a lot of people. At the same time, he didn't want to be alone.

He felt cast out from every recourse and didn't know what he wanted or what he could do. He was restless and knew the closed-down control on his emotions would only last so long before the levy broke and he was overwhelmed once again.

Seeing Shapiro and having the man bring up when he'd first been assigned as Boyd's psychiatrist only served to heighten Boyd's restless anger. Shapiro had appeared when Boyd had been going through detox and rehabilitation; two of the worst months in his life.

He remembered flashes of conversations between the doctors during detox.

Impressed voices observing how Slide was a true synthetic aphrodisiac that had been perfected. How smart to target the brain rather than relying on the vascular system. How nice that it worked as well on women as men. How intelligently designed, to literally turn a person on whether they wanted it or not and force their thoughts into nothing but sex. Make them crave it with a desperation that could make them destroy themselves for it. How smart to add the amphetamine so the user could go for days and days. How smart to make it so highly addictive.

It had destroyed Boyd's body and part of detox had been trying to regain some strength. Although Aleixo had built up his nutrition enough that he met Aleixo's needs, Boyd had still spent months prior to that going on binges of sex that had literally lasted days or weeks at a time; day and night without rest, fucking this person or that. His body had repeatedly reached its breaking point and had shut down, causing him to pass out wherever he'd been and not move or reawaken for sometimes days on end.

His heart had taken a lot of strain from the mission. Even with their help, coming down from the high had been horrendous. He'd still longed for Slide; needed it with every fiber of his being.

He'd never struggled so hard against anything in his life, and it had been especially terrifying because he'd been struggling against his own mind and body.

Worse still was realizing later exactly to what depths he'd been pushed and how he'd wanted it at the time. Even with the doctors assuring him that it was physically impossible for anyone to fight Slide's effects, that it was a measure of his mental control that he'd been able to overcome the handicap enough in the end that he'd even exceeded the mission parameters, it was still difficult not to blame himself for it all.

It was difficult not to wonder how, in essence, he could have ever reveled in being raped. Wanted it. Begged for it. How even at the Agency, even knowing everything that had happened to him and knowing what the drug would do, the addiction had still made him crave another hit.

Shapiro knew that. He knew how hard it had been for Boyd. He knew the pain and fear that had dominated him. He knew that returning to Sin was the primary goal Boyd had clung to as strength to come clean. Strength to force himself through all the moments when it seemed so difficult; like an endless battle with himself as the enemy.

He knew, and he deemed it too inconvenient to warn Boyd that the support he'd so desperately been anticipating wasn't going to be there. That the person he'd forced himself to live through all that for wasn't even alive himself.

Expression setting, Boyd strode quickly down the hallway. Thoughts of drugs, sex, anger and Sin made his body tense and lips thin.

When he reached the elevator bank and waited, he ignored the people milling around him and the numbers flashing above the doors. Aggravation warred with restless uncertainty. His thoughts were a complete mess; interwoven and stumbling over each other and incoherent but still so intense. He knew he couldn't, shouldn't, be alone but he didn't know what to do about it.

He couldn't say what passing thought triggered it but suddenly he knew who to visit.

The only person he could see at the moment, even though the thought of it was painful. Once the thought crossed his mind he couldn't ignore it. He needed to shove away his anger about the mission and focus on the more important question: what had happened to Sin.

He got onto the far elevator, the one with restricted access, and when he reached the fourth floor he flashed his ID and told the guard he was there to visit a prisoner. Some sections of the fourth floor were highly restricted and access was only allowed to certain people. But in this case, the area Boyd wanted to go allowed visitors.

The guard patted him down to search for any weapons. Once it was clear that he was clean, he was escorted through pristine, surgical hallways that he didn't let himself focus on too closely to keep memories from resurfacing. Memories of coming on this floor to save Sin. Of being brought to Shane's. Of torture at the hands of his own allies, all in the name of becoming stronger so he could be used more often.

A vicious cycle that only benefited the Agency.

He was led to a long hallway filled with heavy doors and small windows at the top with covers that when necessary could conceal even the hall from the inhabitants. He remembered the area from when he'd been sent to isolation.

His wallet, keys, ID, phone-- anything that could potentially be a weapon or give the prisoner a chance to escape was confiscated at the door. He focused on keeping his breath even and barely heard when the guard warned, "Just so you know, you're on your own in there. If any stupid shit happens like you get yourself taken hostage, we aren't saving you. Vega's staying in there and in that case, so would you."

Boyd nodded distantly, feeling his heart hammering in his chest as he stared at the innocuous door in trepidation. When the door swung open and he was escorted inside, he didn't even hear the door slam firmly shut behind him. His gaze had already shifted past the overwhelmingly white walls and focused unerringly on Emilio.

It hurt as much as he feared it would.

Those features were too familiar: vivid green eyes and olive complexion; full lips and an aristocratic nose. The differences didn't matter because looking at Emilio made Boyd see Sin, in more luring detail than he'd been able to recall for a year.

With how strongly longing hit him, it was like being reunited with the man he loved. It made his chest ache and breath catch and body go oh so still.

Overlaid on Emilio's face he could see Sin's; that smirk that used to twist his lips; the knowing look in those pale green eyes as they'd focused solely on Boyd. The strength of those smooth arms and the way he'd smelled-- musk and cigarettes and soap and oh God, he needed Sin so much-- he loved him so much it hurt, it was a physical ache and he wanted to rush to the corner and embrace him--

But then the face shifted; made an expression Sin never would. And the details that weren't quite right settled more firmly on the face. The scars. The more muscular build. The less delicate features.

Pain moved through Boyd so violently that he couldn't keep it from his face. He had to look away, half turning his body from Emilio so he was staring at the blank white wall. He physically hurt inside; a wrenching of his heart and stomach. He set his jaw and crossed his arms. He asked himself why the hell he was doing this to himself. Why he was visiting the one person who was going to make it impossible to forget how much he longed for Sin.

Yet he couldn't stay away. He felt compelled to understand what had happened. Compelled to see the only person left who may be hit as hard and hurt as much as he did. The man who had attempted what he himself would have done as well, if only he had he been here.

If only...

"Hi," Emilio's voice floated across the silent room, low and rough; likely from having been unused for however long he'd been remanded to the cell.

"Hi," Boyd returned, voice just as quiet.

Boyd took a moment to steel himself, drawing in a breath before he turned to look at Emilio again. He tried his best to look at him objectively, constantly reminding himself in the back of his mind that this was Emilio, not Sin, and he needed to forget that they looked so alike because it wasn't going to make this any easier.

Emilio looked exhausted. The same deadening had happened for him as had happened for Carhart but it didn't seem as severe. The usual joker mask was conspicuously missing. If anything, Emilio appeared to try to smile and failed. It was a marked difference from when Boyd had last seen the capricious man and he found it to be disconcerting.

He hesitated and then walked closer to Emilio, looking down at him blankly before he had to turn his face away again. Too close. Sin and Emilio still looked too similar. He couldn't look the man in the eye. His imagination told him that the tired look may have been on Sin's face as well during his absence, when the anger faded and Sin found himself alone in bed at night.

Boyd's eyes narrowed and he sat down on the floor next to Emilio-- not quite as close as would be normal but not far enough away that it was obvious he was trying to give himself some space. He pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his chin on his knees, staring straight ahead at the far wall.

"I just got back," he said, not knowing what else to say in the heavy, dismal silence.

He could hear the rustle of Emilio's hair brushing against the plain white tank top he wore as he turned his head to look at Boyd. "For real?"

Boyd nodded wordlessly, not letting his gaze waver from the wall. His fingers tightened briefly against his legs.

"Wow. Pretty long." Emilio shifted beside him and Boyd could hear things popping as the other man stretched. "Nice hair."

Boyd was silent, not knowing what to say to that. There was the briefest twitch at the edges of his lips; a faint, bemused expression.

There were a lot of differences in his appearance.

Unit 16 had given him a few ear piercings and had dyed the ends of his hair blue before the mission had started. As a runaway teenager who'd ended up destitute in the Bowery, it had fit the image better than his previous, more clean-cut look. On the mission itself he'd gained a few more piercings, mostly on his ears but most notably in his tongue. His trendier style of dress had been courtesy of Vika's preferences and Aleixo's wallet, and since his return he'd done little to bother changing the look.

So of all the things to focus on, the fact that it was his hair Emilio commented on brought Boyd back to a time that seemed like forever ago. Jumping out of the van with a pounding heart. Standing there with his arms splayed and hands open as he'd stared into the blinding headlights and had waited for lo más chingón to let them go. The swaggering footsteps and that purred, qué lindo, as he'd commented on Boyd's changed hairstyle.

He looked at Emilio sidelong, trying to keep it partially in peripheral vision so he couldn't get sucked into those green eyes.

"What is it with you and hair?"

"You're just so cute that I can't help but notice when shit changes," Emilio replied, a wry grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Boyd smiled briefly and for a moment he meant it. But then he looked at Emilio more fully and seeing that face that close made the pain move through his eyes again. Made the smile fade.

His eyebrows drew down and he looked away. He pushed hair back from his face, propping one arm against his knees as his fingers curled into his hair and rested at the back of his head. Pensiveness clouded his expression and he had to take a moment before he could speak evenly.

"I'm still-- dealing with everything."

"No doubt," Emilio agreed faintly, his deep voice still sounding loud in the cell. "I'm still dealing with shit and I been here the whole fucking time." A low scoff escaped his throat and Emilio sat up straighter, scrubbing his hands across his face.

Boyd's eyebrows furrowed and his fingers tightened against his hair. He stared at the wall, his breath quickening slightly like his heartbeat. He felt dismal and dull at the same time as a distant thought he'd been studiously ignoring since he'd heard the news grew stronger.

He stayed still a moment, knowing he shouldn't even ask, knowing it was a stupid question considering the circumstances-- but still wanting an out. Wanting to believe that maybe Emilio's threats against the Marshal were all an act...

"Emilio, you didn't--" His voice sounded too abrupt; too breathy and hopeful. He looked over at the older man before he could stop himself, the hope a sad, fervent glint in his eyes as he studied Emilio's face. "The contingency plan you had before. You didn't--" You didn't get to Hsin before they could, did you? You didn't send him away and he's really okay, he's really alive, and this is all an act to fool the Agency?

The reaction was immediate. The unasked question seemed to hit Emilio like a punch in the gut. He flinched away from Boyd and for a moment, the pain was raw on his face. Like someone had just ripped the scab off a wound that still inflicted tremendous agony.

"Boyd," Emilio started, his voice rough and even quieter. "Boyd--"

He stopped again, and for the first time since Boyd had met him, Emilio seemed to be at a loss for words. Finally he just looked away and said in the same rough voice, "No. I didn't see it coming. No one did."

Boyd felt his heart twist, that hated familiar ache that made it hard to breathe, and he could feel his eyes brighten. He grit his teeth and looked away, rubbing his face as he wordlessly nodded. His breath drew in a little too quickly and he had to press his hands against his eyes, trying to ignore the way that answer added even more finality to something he kept wanting to be untrue.

"I'm sorry," he said, voice thickening as he struggled to keep inside the pain that wanted to rise again. He pressed more firmly against his eyes. "I didn't--" I didn't mean to make you hurt again; I didn't mean to be like this. "I don't--" I don't know what to do; I don't know how to move on. I don't know how to make this stop ripping me apart.

Words wouldn't formulate correctly and he couldn't seem to finish a sentence. He didn't know what to say; what to do. His mind rotated hopelessly around the future he and Sin were supposed to have. Around the broken hope that maybe somewhere out there Sin was waiting for him and if he could just escape the Agency, if he could just get away they could be reunited--

"We were supposed to move in together when I returned." He hadn't meant to say it aloud but it was there, twisted and hopeless and holding back all the anguish that seemed so close to the surface every second of every day, seemingly for the rest of his life.

There was another beat of stilted silence and the touch of a hesitant hand brushed Boyd's arm before it dropped.

"You know," Emilio said, his voice nearly back to its normal octave now that he'd swallowed whatever Boyd's suggestion had made him feel. "I feel worse for you than I do for me. And he was... he was my boy. Nobody ever believes me but I really..." A hesitation. "I... you know. You know what I mean."

"I know," Boyd said quietly, his voice heavy. It took him a long moment of fighting against the rush of emotions until finally he was able to return to some semblance of control. Even so, his eyes were red when he dropped his hands and looked over at Emilio. "I've known for a long time. It's the only reason I ever gave you a chance."

The crooked smile made another reappearance on Emilio's handsome face. "Thanks, chico. At least you got a little faith in my word. Other people around here think it don't mean shit. Some generals in particular."

Boyd shook his head and dropped his head back against the wall. "Why did he think you threatened the Marshal if not because you cared about Hsin?"

"Fucked if I know. I don't know what he thinks about that... I haven't seen him since before I found out."

"Oh." Boyd was silent and drew his eyebrows down. "He's changed. He's cold now. Tired. I don't know if that happened before or after."

Emilio looked at him for a long moment, digesting this fact slowly. "I wouldn't know either. He put me on ignore months before... it happened."

Boyd was quiet at first, not entirely sure what to say to that. He'd never fully understood the relationship between Carhart and Emilio, although he had assumptions and insights into parts. Belatedly, something Emilio said filtered through his mind. His eyes narrowed slightly, a contemplative look more than anything, and he looked over at Emilio.

"You haven't seen him at all since then? Didn't he tell you about Hsin?"

"Nope," Emilio drawled, forced nonchalance in his voice although his green eyes narrowed. "I overheard random strangers talking about what they'd heard. It had been more than a day already."

Boyd looked at Emilio sharply. He didn't know what all had happened between Emilio and Carhart and in all honesty he didn't particularly care. They had their own issues and Boyd had no particular loyalty to either above the other.

Emilio really hadn't been a bad guy to Boyd since they'd met. If anything, he'd helped out by training him and otherwise showing to Boyd, at least, that he did truly care for his son on some level. And for most of Boyd's time at the Agency, Carhart had done right by him and Sin. He'd been there since the beginning and he'd looked the other way on more than one occasion to spare Boyd or Sin punishment or worse.

Knowing how Carhart had always seemed before, Boyd couldn't believe what he just heard. He was angry enough that Sin had been terminated; angry that no one had been given warning at the time. Angry that he hadn't been warned, either, when he'd been released from detox. The fly-by-night way they'd all lost Sin was painful enough on its own.

But to imagine actually being here and not even finding out until a day or two later by gossip, no less, was horrible. Emilio certainly had his faults but he was still Sin's father. If random strangers knew it, Carhart had to have found out by that time.

"What the hell happened between you two?" Boyd asked in disbelief. "Why didn't he at least leave a voice mail or somehow send a note? He had to have known..."

Emilio shrugged, eyes flicking away to focus on some point on the wall. His heavily stubbled jaw clenched and unclenched before he shook his head, uncut hair shifting with the motion. "It's complicated, chico. There's a lot to it. He just don't have any reason to go out of his way to spare my feelings anymore."

Boyd shook his head. He didn't know what level of 'complicated' warranted not telling a father his son was dead but he wasn't going to argue the point. "They told me you threatened the Marshal," he said instead.

"If I'd had a gun at the time, me and her would both be dead now." A humorless smirk crossed Emilio's mouth. "She let me slide with a solitary sentence due to my 'expected distraught emotional state.'"

"How kind of her," Boyd said darkly.

Emilio just rubbed his hands together, lips pressing together in a grim frown.

Silence fell between the two for a moment and Boyd wasn't sure what to say. There wasn't anything that could be said, really. He thought about leaving but he couldn't quite make himself. There was something else he felt like he had to ask. A morbid need to know.

"Did you ever find out how it happened?"

Emilio's hands stilled briefly and he looked down at them. His dark brows were drawn together slightly as he considered the question.

"You mean... why they did it or how they did it?"

"How they did it," Boyd said, studiously looking at the far wall. His eyebrows drew down and his fingers tightened against the folds of his pant legs but he otherwise did his best to keep his expression and voice as even as possible. "Did he-- Was he in pain?"

There was another silence that was only broken by the sound of Emilio sighing quietly. He stood up and ran a hand through his tangled black hair, looking much thinner than he had months ago.

"I dunno if he was or not. No one saw him get taken so I dunno if he fought back... or if he knew what was going on or if they tricked him or whatever to get him to go. A lot of folks got terminated in those first couple of months. From what I heard about them, they got an escort to the Tower and never came out."

Boyd pushed his hair back and tangled his fingers in the strands, staring at the white wall with a blank nod. He knew what lay in wait for an agent who was terminated. No one knew exactly how they were killed-- maybe that depended on the reason for the termination-- but the one thing everyone agreed on was where they ended up.

The incinerator in the basement of the Tower. Burned to ashes that spread out of a great black chimney on the edge of the compound. Released to the air to be caught forever in the bleak restlessness of the city.

A dismal end to lives forever cast in shadow.

And yet... Maybe it was because he still had it in the back of his mind that there could be another end to this, or maybe he simply wished to be in denial. Whatever the case, he couldn't help going over what Emilio had said.

No one saw it. No one knew it was coming. No one knew until it was over. Why was that? Had it simply been because the new Marshal had suspected some people would put up too much of a fight, or had there been another reason?

He frowned and looked up at Emilio. "The others were seen being escorted?"

"A lot of them, yeah." Emilio glanced over at him, his mouth still drawn down in a frown. "It ain't exactly easy to do shit in secret here even though they always tried to keep terminations hidden. We all know it happens but they try to make it not be so obvious. Usually, anyway. I'd never seen no shit like what happened when the new bitch took over. Dozens of people were terminated, chico. Too many to keep it discreet. And there's always people on the compound so after awhile, everyone figured out what the three-man escort to the Tower meant."

Boyd watched Emilio, dueling thoughts in his mind. One hopeful despite everything, wanting to believe there was more to the fact that Sin hadn't been seen. The other pessimistic, pointing out that Sin wouldn't be the first person spirited away and never seen again. Even under the new administration.

There was no question why the new Marshal had terminated so many people. She'd been looking for people to weed out months ago-- well over a year, he had to amend darkly, taking into account the year he'd been gone. Months before her first piece of furniture had landed on US soil, Marshal Seong had likely been determining who she felt could stay and who should go.

What he didn't know was how she operated.

Sin was a high profile person. Terminating him on its own was significant but the way it was done... Why in the dead of the night with no witnesses? If she'd wanted to exert control over the compound, why not make a public spectacle of it? Show everyone that even the strongest and most dangerous person was hers to control? Or had she purposefully done it silently to prove that sometimes not knowing and not seeing were more frightening than anything else?

Gears shifted in his mind. A spark of hope flittered through him.

"You're certain no one saw Hsin taken away?" Boyd pressed. "No one at all? Not even a glimpse?"

Now Emilio was staring at him with slightly narrowed eyes. His lips were twisted slightly, expression darkly brooding, but Boyd couldn't tell what the other man was thinking. And Emilio didn't volunteer his opinion on Boyd's sudden interest.

"Hsin being terminated was big news. It woulda come up if someone had seen it. The details would be everywhere by now."

Boyd nodded, not looking away from Emilio. He had to agree with that statement, which made it even more strange. Although Kassian and Ryan had both met the Marshal, they hadn't had much to say about her. It was difficult to understand what sort of woman had moved in to take ironclad control over the Agency, when what he heard about her was conflicting.

"Why do you think the new Marshal did it so no one saw?"

"I dunno." Emilio shrugged his broad shoulders and looked up briefly, as though he could see the woman they were talking about through the floors. "It didn't seem like she was trying to hide shit. It seemed like she wanted to make a statement and my boy would have been the icing on the cake of that shit. But then again she ain't stupid-- maybe she knew he'd fight. Maybe she wanted as little people involved in the process as possible."

Boyd nodded again and looked away, his eyebrows drawing down faintly. His tongue absently moved in his mouth, shifting the piercing around as he considered that information. The answer didn't do much to settle the question either way.

He stayed silent for a moment, thinking how he would have to do more research on this. Somewhere along the way it had become a personal mission. A question he needed answered before he could move on. Something to focus on to take his mind away from the grief that otherwise seemed omnipresent.

He shifted and finally dropped his hands to the floor, moving away from the wall. He looked at Emilio, for the moment able to see him as the man he was and not the man he reminded Boyd he wanted to see. It was a sad state of affairs when even the mercurial Emilio was quieter and more serious, stuck in his own little corner of a terribly white room.

Boyd found himself looking forward to the day when Emilio was released, for no reason other than to be able to leave this image behind. Enough had happened on the compound when he'd been gone. He wanted at least a few things to remain the same so it didn't all seem foreign.

He sighed quietly without meaning to but even if he'd been able to, he wouldn't have taken it back. It summed up how he felt without words getting in the way.

"I should go," he said aloud, his voice calm and quiet with a hint of regret at leaving Emilio alone again. He knew how terrible isolation to one's own mind could be.

As if in response to Boyd's thought, Emilio looked outright disappointed. "It's cool," he said, sounding nearly sullen. "I appreciate you coming to see my lonely ass at all. No one else comes down even though they woulda been allowed to for the past couple of months. Maybe that means I'll be out soon."

Boyd pushed himself up, his body feeling like it was creaking in the movement even though he hadn't been sitting there that terribly long. "Maybe," he said, hoping that was true. He looked at Emilio and added, "I'll visit you again if that isn't the case."

A familiar glimmer of Emilio's old smile briefly graced the man's face before he said quietly, "Thanks, chico."

Boyd smiled slightly in return, subdued, and because he had no more words to say he walked over and knocked on the door to be let out. He didn't look back as he stepped into the hallway and the door swung shut behind him. He didn't want to see Emilio's expression. He would rather a glimpse of the old Emilio be his lasting memory. Just in case.

When he left, his mind was abuzz. He didn't stop to think about where he would go next; he had to get answers to his questions as soon as possible.

It took a few hours but Boyd was finally able to track down Travis Rendazzo. When he finally found the guard, he was standing near the edge of one of the more secluded courtyards on compound. He seemed to be on break, having chosen one of the quieter places the same way Boyd and a few others did.

Travis was leaning against the thick trunk of a tree, a cigarette in one hand as he regarded the gates around them. His dark hair was windblown and disheveled around his long pale face. When he caught sight of Boyd he just raised his eyebrows slightly and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

"Hi," Boyd said as he drew to a stop near the guard.

"You're looking for me?" Travis asked, sounding half surprised and half suspicious. "Luke ain't here, bud."

"I know." Boyd casually shifted his weight so he was a bit more out of view from anyone approaching. "I was hoping to talk to you."

Travis flicked his cigarette and pushed away from the tree. His eyes swept their surroundings briefly before focusing on Boyd again. "What for?"

Boyd crossed his arms and leaned a shoulder against the tree. He met Travis' eyes calmly. He'd had time to consider how to go about this as he'd searched for the man. "I just returned from an extended mission and was hoping you could help me with a bit of information I won't be able to find a year later."

"Why in the hell would I do that?" Travis asked with a half surprised laugh. "You never even talked to me unless Luke was with me. And you're trouble, trouble I ain't looking to tango with, not with that dyke bitch up in the Tower looking down."

"I'm not asking you to do anything for me," Boyd replied, shaking his head in return. "I just have some questions, after which I'll leave you alone forever if you'd like. Even she can't find anything wrong with two people talking for a minute or two on their break."

Travis gave a rolling shrug but still looked uneasy, his dark eyes flicking to the Tower. "I dunno. I dunno, man. I don't know nothing."

Boyd sighed and shifted so he was blocked completely from the direction of the Tower by the tree. It seemed he was going to have to try the grieving lover approach. He dropped his hands at his side and looked at Travis earnestly. "Look-- You know as well as everyone else that I was involved with my partner. You probably even know that I loved him. I was coming back expecting to move in with him and all of a sudden I'm told he's dead."

He shook his head, his eyebrows drawing together and up a little. "I understand your reluctance but all I'm trying to do is find a bit of closure. Just-- two questions. Please. If you want something from me in return, I'll do it. But please, Travis. You're the only guard I know who treated him with any amount of respect. I don't know who else to ask."

"You could ask Luke," Travis suggested hopefully. "He's a guard. He actually liked that weirdo."

"He doesn't work the incinerator," Boyd said, shaking his head. "That's the information I need."

Travis scoffed and spat on the ground, looking around again. "I didn't work the incinerator either until that bitch came around. It was just temporary. But then she wanted more of her own people up on the Fourth and kept my ass down there on barbecue duty."

"It sounds like a lot of things were shaken up when she arrived," Boyd said with a frown. "You must have seen a lot of change, especially stationed where you were."

"Yeah, yeah, don't try that fake camaraderie shit with me, Boyd. You're a fieldie, and I'm a scumbag guard, and you only like Luke 'cause he helped your asses. Just tell me what you want before someone sees me hanging out with you and they think I'm involved."

Boyd was actually relieved by Travis's response; it was going to make this easier. "I'm trying to understand what happened when he died and afterward. Do you know anyone who was there when they terminated him?"

"Nope. All new guards were involved. Some of my more dickheaded colleagues were angry that they didn't get to take Vega out."

Boyd nodded, focusing on the information more than what he would have liked to be able to say or do to those colleagues. "New guards as in people from the Euro Agency or as in newly recruited or promoted here?"

"What do you think?" Travis asked impatiently.

"And after?" Boyd asked. "Were you there when he-- When they must have brought him to the incinerator?"

At that, Travis hesitated. His eyes narrowed slightly and he frowned at Boyd. "Why would you want to know about something like that..."

"Because I want to know how he was treated. I couldn't be here to say goodbye, we don't have funerals and even if he'd had one I would have missed it..." He frowned and shook his head, leaning back against the tree. His eyebrows drew together pensively. "I know it sounds macabre but I don't know any other way to feel like I have some sense of closure than to know what happened when I was gone. And since I know how little most guards liked him when he was alive, I just--"

He waved a hand and sighed, dropping his arm. "It worries me to imagine what could have been done to him. I'd rather hear the details, even if they're disturbing, than create even worse stories in my mind."

Travis stared at him and looked vaguely horrified. "You have issues, man. Thank God I didn't see anything. No one else did either. I'm not providing you information to go home and hang yourself."

Boyd's eyebrows lowered slightly as he gave Travis a dubious look. "You don't need to lie to me if that's what you're doing... I can take it even if something bad happened. I just need to know-- I won't do anything crazy."

"I'm not lying," Travis snapped, glaring at Boyd and spitting on the ground again. "Nobody saw shit down in the pit. Trust me, everyone was all fired up about it. No fucking pun intended."

"How can that be?" Boyd asked with a slight frown as he crossed his arms. "She had all new guards there too?"

"That night? I guess. No one I know was on duty there..." Travis trailed off, looking at Boyd oddly. "Look dude, I got to go. You're weird as shit and I don't want to deal with it. Or be seen with you. Trouble."

Boyd nodded somewhat absently and pushed away from the tree. "Thanks for humoring me..."

Travis looked at him, shook his head, and turned to walk away.

Boyd stayed near the tree, mulling over what he'd learned. Although he was relieved to have had Emilio's information and his own theory verified, it still didn't help answer the question burning in the back of his mind:

Why were there no witnesses?

How could he believe his lover was dead, really dead, if he didn't have a body? If he didn't have an account from one person who saw that he really had been killed?

He headed back into the Tower. He spent the next several hours doing what research he could without getting caught. He ended up in the library on the fourteenth floor, making sure first that Kaspar was nowhere to be found. He didn't want to deal with anyone; his sole focus was on corroborating what he'd been told.

He checked the databases he had access to and even broke into some he didn't. He attempted to access the surveillance system but unsurprisingly he wasn't able to; not that it mattered. Whatever the cameras may have caught, by now the Agency would have wiped it all away or put it in storage. He searched for any sign of anything that could help him understand what had happened, or any hint that anyone had seen anything, but he ended up with the same conclusion he'd already reached:

No one had seen Sin disappear.

That understanding was followed up by a thought he couldn't ignore: Maybe something else happened. Maybe Sin got away somehow and Marshal Seong was covering it up.

Maybe they came for him and he beat them all down and he fled the Agency, knowing they were out to kill him. Maybe he didn't know Boyd was back yet and he would come out of hiding once he knew. It had been over two months since Boyd had returned but less than two weeks since he'd been released. Boyd could endure whatever length of time Sin needed to wait to ensure he wouldn't be caught again. He could do it. He could give Sin any space he needed if only...

If only...

Boyd's expression was as studiously blank as the computer screen at the thought, although his insides twisted.

He had to know what happened. He had to put these questions to rest.

Continue to Fade Chapter Four...