Fade Chapter Nine

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 9

Uploaded on 6/12/2011

The icy winds had blasted them unrelentingly as soon as they'd left the airport in Harbin and made their way out of the main bustle of the city center. Boyd hadn't experienced such brutal cold since his trip into the Arctic Circle during Level 10 training. The winters in northeastern China were proving to be on par with what he'd experienced during his two-day trek with Kassian through Russia and Finland.

Fortunately, it had taken them a lot less time finding a vehicle here than it had there. Emilio had completed the necessary transaction swiftly and although he'd spoken entirely in surprisingly fluid Mandarin, Boyd suspected the deal had been done off the books. Bex had expressed concern early on about the possibility of finding a vehicle that would not be traced back to three such obvious foreigners. It was more than a little satisfying that her irritating doubt in Emilio had been effortlessly put to rest.

The senior Vega had been reinstated as an agent over two months ago to the date of their current mission but this was only one of a handful of times they'd all worked together. Not long after leaving the Fourth, Emilio had been sent on a solo assignment that had lasted weeks. The current mission in China was their first long international journey and their first storm as a team.

The storm in question was a relatively straightforward one. Infiltrate a Janus node that had popped up in the area and decimate it. It was a location that Di Zhi had recently reported to the Agency due to their own hesitance to act.

While Boyd had been gone, serious tension had risen in Di Zhi after their takeover of the China Reform Party. The in-fighting had weakened them and left Xu Xiaolian hesitant to make a direct attack on Janus. She'd finally decided to overtly cash in on the connection she'd formed with the Agency in a way other than information trading.

"ETA?" Bex asked as she peered out the window of the van they'd acquired.

The only sign that she felt the cold was the way her fingers clenched into white-knuckled fists which she quickly covered by slipping on a pair of gloves. She seemed determined to show no sign of weakness in front of Emilio. Her respect in his ability and history as an agent seemed about on par with what Boyd had heard about her obsession with strength.

Over the past few months of working with the woman, Boyd had realized that she deemed the worth of a person based on his skill as an agent. Her dislike of Boyd seemed to go beyond that standard but even then, her outright hostility had dimmed considerably when they'd begun working together. Despite her disgust with how she assumed he'd gained his position, she'd been unable to deny that he was a worthy agent. After he'd gone back into training to regain his form, it had been made even more undeniable.

"Ten minutes," Emilio replied flatly, not looking over at the woman at all.

Bex nodded and slipped out of the passenger's seat to join Boyd in the open space behind the center console. The vehicle appeared to be an old moving van which was fortunate considering they'd been able to easily store the equipment that they'd brought with them on the Agency flight.

She stripped off her civilian clothing and changed into similar gear as Boyd. Beneath dark-colored outerwear and flak jackets, they both wore black bodysuits with Kevlar micro-threading infused with other para-aramid synthetic fibers. The main difference in gear was their choices of weaponry. While she favored two M1911 ACPs, a Compact XM8 and a variety of knives hidden on her body, Boyd simply carried the SIG Sauer that Sin had given him, a garrote, and his tonfa.

Bex glanced at him with veiled interest. After three months of working together, they'd barely had an entire conversation, even one that was mission-related. Their exchanges were always short and to the point; professionalism infused with an obvious air of dislike.

"You any good with that thing?" she asked, indicating the tonfa.

As usual, her question came out as more of a barked demand than anything else. He'd come to see over time that she spoke to everyone that way except her superiors. In the brief time that Jordan had been in the unit, he'd realized that Bex even treated her sister harshly if not more so than everyone else.

The combination of Bex's sometimes violent domination of her sister compared to Jordan's wide-eyed submission was bizarre, bordering on disturbing. Sometimes it had seemed that Bex had a power over her twin that went far beyond the normal bounds of sibling interaction.

"Yes," Boyd replied simply. He didn't look over at her, keeping his impassive gaze on the front.

She didn't appear to have expected more of an answer and her brief interest in him quickly faded. The next few minutes passed silently as they finished adjusting their gear and fixing their comm units.

When Emilio finally pulled the van to the side of the road, they were in a remote part of the city. Their target structure was the former headquarters of a corporation that had since been shut down, the building long ago abandoned. It was large, had multiple floors and a large outer courtyard with a parking lot that they would have to cross.

Next to that building was another, smaller building that was thought to hold secondary activity or act as storage. The orders were to destroy both to ensure the thorough destruction of the node.

Emilio slid out of the driver's seat and joined them in the back. His typically animated face was blank, his eyes emotionless as they went from Bex to Boyd. At the moment he looked more like his son than ever. It was the expression that Sin had always used around people who were unfamiliar or untrustworthy. The comparison to Sin came readily to Boyd's mind, as he suspected it always would.

"Let's go over this again," Emilio said flatly, his tone clipped. "Two buildings will be destroyed. Four charges set in the designated areas in each building to ensure maximum damage is done to the infrastructure."

Bex nodded, her eyes narrowed seriously. She was one of the most intense people Boyd had ever worked with on a mission. Even when Kassian and his team had come to get him in Monterrey, there had been familiarity despite the fact that they'd been highly organized and controlled. Bex, it seemed, never relaxed or didn't know how.

"We're not looking to scare them, we're looking to kill them. We want this node wiped out completely."

Once again Emilio's vivid green eyes slid from Boyd to Bex.

"Boyd you're on first position. Bex, you run the charges."

Bex's eyes opened wide and her lips pulled back in a grimace. "What the fuck?"

Before Emilio had returned, Bex had always assigned Boyd to be the runner. It was the riskiest position, placing explosives in the building, and as such it usually fell to the lowest-ranked agent.

Boyd simply nodded.

"He should run the charges," Bex said, clearly taken aback. "I'd create more of a diversion. He doesn't even have any real firepower to keep them occupied."

"I don't give a shit if he came armed only with pompoms. He's on first. You're running the charges," Emilio replied, staring at Bex with narrowed eyes.

She bared her teeth in a grimace, glaring at him in resistance. "When I was team leader--"

"Well you ain't the fucking team leader anymore," Emilio snapped, grabbing her by the neck and shoving her back against the van's wall. "This is my team. This is our unit. I don't care what you did in Prague with your cunt twin. You do what I say or I'll rip your fucking head off. Got it?"

Bex's mouth thinned in a tight line. "Yes."

Emilio released her with obvious disgust and looked at Boyd again. "I'll be running the mission from here. Alert me if you need backup." His gaze returned to Bex scornfully. "You'll have twenty seconds to get out once the charges are activated."

She didn't react to this information and turned around stiffly, sliding the door open.

Boyd barely bothered to look between the two. Emilio had never seemed to care that much for Bex and although this was the first time they'd interacted quite that tensely, it was also the first time Boyd had seen Bex directly question one of his orders. He didn't bother thinking too much about any of it, his mind focused on the mission instead.

Bex exited the van and Boyd paused only long enough to grab a grenade before he, too, left. She had already disappeared into the shadows by the time he set foot on the ground even though he was only a few seconds behind her.

This area of China seemed to include groupings of buildings and streets dotted amongst mostly blank fields. The size of the islands of civilization varied somewhat significantly, as did the length of fields in between.

The target building had a few smaller buildings scattered around it and a small spattering of trees in the fields stretching beyond. Boyd assessed the layout quickly and ran toward the nearest building that was set at the best strategic advantage for him.

The wind was ice cold, nearly sucking the breath from him. Ice crystals felt like they were forming in his nostrils from the moisture of his breath alone. He knew it wouldn't be long until he would feel the pull on his chest as the air felt too cold to warm on the way to his lungs. The wind made everything that much worse, whipping against him with little in the way to stall the strength as it rolled across large expanses of empty land.

He ignored the cold and paused at the corner of the building he was hiding behind. The night sky spread above him would have seemed beautiful had he been in the state of mind to appreciate it. The inky black was dotted with tiny sparks of stars, scattered across the sky like spilled diamonds. The moon was a waxing crescent, barely a sliver of pale silver-gold that did little to light the world below. Although there were lights, shadows crept amongst the buildings in dark, reaching tendrils.

Since Boyd's function was to cause a diversion, he didn't bother hiding his pale skin and hair. He pulled the pin and threw the grenade, watching it skitter and clatter against the concrete before he sheltered himself by moving around the corner. The explosion rocked the quiet night with a concussion of fire and sound. There were shouts of surprise and pain and Boyd took advantage of the confusion.

He crouched and calmly started picking off anyone who ran within his sight. His hand was steady and every move was efficient and quick, going from person to person within seconds. He took kill shots, aiming at their heads, and impassively watched his targets fall. They sometimes careened forward with the momentum of their bodies and sometimes dropped where they stood.

He had grown accustomed to using his SIG Sauer since he'd returned to active duty. The first time he'd used it had been bittersweet. He'd had to ignore the thought in the back of his mind that Sin had known him so well; that the gun was perfect for his needs and he never got the chance to tell Sin how useful the gift had been. Since then, with the gun holstered at his side near his still-healing and refinished brand, he'd felt Sin's memory as a near-palpable weight.

It was at once depressing and comforting but it was something he never focused on directly anymore. At least not on duty.

It didn't take long for the hostiles to notice what was happening. As the dust was settling from the explosion, his enemies found cover and started returning fire. Bullets made sharp popping sounds as they shot by, hitting the edge of the building and sparking off the ground. Boyd used the corner as cover, calmly crouching with his gun aimed toward the sky. His head remained tilted toward the corner and he periodically ducked around to shoot back.

He knew it wouldn't be long until they realized his location and that he was alone. He did what he could to prolong it but soon they were creeping closer between gunfire and he was certain some of them would be flanking the building.

He considered his options and then crouched low and bolted out from the corner. He drew gunfire immediately from two angles; the original space and the hostiles who had started to move around the sides of the building.

He ran quickly and in a darting motion to keep from being an easy target and then made sure he was seen ducking behind a nearby building. He ran around the corner of the building at full speed so they would assume he kept going but instead he slid to a stop and hid in a recess. He sheathed his gun and pulled out his tonfa, leaving them unexpanded at first.

It wasn't long until the fight shifted from guns to combat. The first hostile who came around the corner was focused far ahead, looking around for where gunfire may spark back at him. He wasn't expecting Boyd to dart out of the shadows and take him down in one sharp, forceful hit. The man fell, his momentum causing him to topple without a sound aside from the meaty weight of his body hitting the ground.

The next few hostiles met similar fates; Boyd blended into the shadows until he saw the best opportunity to strike. He moved quickly and efficiently; every strike causing maximum damage with the least amount of effort he could afford.

The arrangement couldn't last indefinitely, however. He didn't have time to hide the bodies so it didn't take long for the new hostiles to realize what was happening. He engaged in combat immediately, forcing them to sheath their guns or risk killing compatriots with friendly fire.

The next several moments were a flurry of activity.

Soon, knives and blunt weaponry entered the fray. Boyd was at the center of it, spinning between opponents, striking hard and fast and darting away from return hits. He was fast, much faster than many of the hostiles who likely hadn't had as intensive training.

He was in the best shape of his life after months of having nothing to do, nothing to focus on, except improving himself. He was confident he was even better than he'd been when Sin had said he was comparable to Jon or Kassian. He'd sparred with Kassian and Emilio on occasion and found it hadn't been difficult the way he remembered.

He could last longer and fight harder but in this case, the very nature of his role as diversion meant there was a seemingly endless supply of hostiles coming at him. When some fell, others came to fill their place.

It was only a matter of time until he started taking hits. One in particular jarred his arm so hard his fingers tingled to the point that he nearly dropped the tonfa. He recovered quickly, swiping the tonfa back to protect his arm while he expanded the left tonfa. He used his left hand as offense and right as defense until he started to feel his hand again.

His shoulders and arms were starting to feel the strain of constant jolts and drags; of slamming his tonfa up to protect his forearms and then flipping them around to strike out. He twirled the tonfa in protection, or in some cases flipped them so he could grab them by the end and use the hand holds to rip enemy's weapons out of their hands.

When people got too close, he elbowed and kicked and attacked with whatever was necessary. He kicked a woman in the stomach to throw her off balance while he dealt with the man bearing over her on her left. He returned to the woman once he'd dispatched the man, catching her across the temple.

He had to duck more than once and nearly got thrown to the ground at one point. The fighting became more intense and involved, with Boyd having to dodge and in a few cases jerk down and swipe legs out from beneath his opponents. A few of them got their hands on him, yanking on his clothing as they tried to capture him or hold him still for their comrades to dispatch. A few had longer weapons that they tried to use on him. He felt more than one violent jolt to his body, including one cockeyed hit against his right side that left a lasting tingling feel.

It was chaotic around him but there was a zone of silence in his mind. The sounds of the furious shouts and the clanging and thumps of weapons and bodies hitting each other, and the harsh panting and running footsteps of reinforcements-- All of it fell away around him the way he kept making the crowd fall away while trying to hit him.

Even in the midst of fighting his expression hadn't shifted from the impassiveness that let the world slide by around him. He listened only for the telltale signs of attacks coming toward him; the whoosh of a weapon through the air or the feel of an enemy too close.

He was just wondering how long he'd have to do this when he heard Bex's voice in the comm unit, stating that she was putting the last charge in the first set in place. He'd been moving steadily toward empty space and at her words he darted into the shadows and turned to run. Enemies pursued him but not all; some of them hadn't realized he'd fled yet and others were in no condition to continue fighting.

He'd made it almost to the next building before he realized there was a significant lack of weight at his waist. His eyes widened and he jolted his hand back, feeling for his gun. It was missing. It must have gotten dislodged during the fight.

A thrill of alarm fluttered through his heart; something he hadn't felt even during the most intense parts of the mission.

"Shit," he hissed emphatically and didn't hesitate before he pivoted and ran straight back into the thick of the enemy. He wasn't going to leave Sin's last gift behind.

He didn't let himself engage in any one-on-one combat; he hit them hard and fast as he ran past, throwing people's heads against buildings and driving his tonfa like a stake into their stomachs, throats and anywhere else. His entire arms buzzed from fingertips to shoulder blades with the strength of it all.

He was just rounding the corner when the first explosion rent the air like thunder and lightning. The building behind him jolted with the impact of the shock wave. Mist flew out from windowsills and snow rained down from the roof. Boyd barely jumped out of the way before sharp stalactites of ice crashed down and pierced through the soft flesh of the people beneath.

Screams and chaos overcame the immediate area and there was enough confusion that Boyd was able to look quickly, almost frantically, for his SIG Sauer. The fire cast strange, jumping shadows from over the roof and some of the hostiles took off back toward the building while others started recovering more quickly than he'd hoped.

He saw his gun clatter across the ground as someone kicked it in their hurry and he dove for it, narrowly missing getting knifed in the stomach in the process. He braced one hand against the ground and twisted out of the way. He skidded on his side and swiped the gun off the ground, raising it up to shoot the man in the head in the same movement. It was a clean shot that caused a small bleeding hole in front and blew out the back of the man's head. Blood and gore sprayed across the people in the vicinity and the body dropped to the ground.

Boyd was on his feet and gone in seconds. He ran at full speed, leaping over any obstacles and occasionally twisting to shoot at pursuit.

Emilio was sitting in the driver's seat and opened the passenger door when he saw Boyd sprinting toward him. Boyd leaped into the van and left the door half open, already discarding his empty magazine and shoving in a full one as he turned to see if he'd been followed.

Without waiting for Boyd to fully settle, Emilio slammed on the gas. The back tires on the van squealed angrily and Boyd nearly got thrown out the door before he caught himself on the ceiling handle. He held on with one hand and aimed his gun with the other, peering back and getting ready to take out any pursuit. No one was there but that was likely to change soon.

One thing he noticed was that Bex was conspicuously absent. He glanced questioningly at Emilio.

Emilio returned the look steadily and drove away without so much as a backward glance. "She only has six seconds to get out," he said uncaringly just as gunfire began exploding behind them. "And we now have a pursuit. Take care of it."

Boyd nodded curtly, finding that he wouldn't mind that terribly if Bex was left behind.

The second set of explosions sounded in the not too far distance. The short delay between the sets had been calculated to catch any enemies who ran in for damage control and to give Bex time for proper placement. Even this far away he could feel a faint shuddering of the air. The shock wave was powerful enough to throw people off their feet if they were too close.

He braced himself and leaned out enough to return fire. He jerked his head in and out of the vehicle to avoid getting hit. He volleyed between aiming at the tires on the pursuing vehicle and aiming at the gunmen trying to shoot them. He killed several of the gunmen and successfully shot the driver on one of the vehicles, causing the vehicle to swerve off the road. Another vehicle was still in pursuit, though, and several of the hostiles had still been alive in the vehicle left behind.

Keeping an eye on their pursuit was the only reason he saw her.

Bex was running impossibly quickly to catch up. Her feet were a blur across the road and it seemed like what he was seeing should have only happened in a dream. His eyebrows ticked up a fraction as she easily came up on the van despite the fact that Emilio was driving fast. They hadn't gotten terribly far but even so there was no way a person would normally be able to catch them.

He continued to exchange gunfire, covering her until he heard a thump on the back followed by one of the back doors opening. Bex slid into the van and shut the door behind her. The sound of gunfire pinging off the back of the van continued and Boyd concentrated on returning fire.

Bex used her XM8 to knock out the windows on the back doors and began unloading at their pursuers, looking completely calm and not fatigued at all despite the fact that she had just run through hostiles and narrowly escaped explosions with not more than two seconds to spare. She pumped her shotgun efficiently, aiming at tires and blowing them out of the pursuing vehicle.

The pursuing car screeched to the side, then overturned and rolled. Boyd paused, watching to see if anyone survived and who would be determined enough to continue pursuit. No one immediately crawled out of the wreckage and as Emilio continued to drive, taking them around a corner where they were no longer in sight of the Janus node, Boyd finally shut the door fully and turned to sit normally in his seat.

He replaced the empty magazine and then slid the gun into his holster. He looked down, seeing that the strap on the holster was damaged in the fight and likely had been what had allowed the gun to fall out. His lips thinned and he determined to get that fixed as soon as he returned.

"I figured you died," Emilio said flatly, green eyes flicking to the mirror so that he could see Bex behind him.

She shrugged her sinewy shoulders and stripped off the flak jacket, revealing the thin, tough body beneath. At times her looks went far beyond androgyny-- at the moment, the mix of her bodysuit flattening her already meager chest and the severely intense expression on her face made her appear very much like a man.

"Nah," she replied, not appearing very hurt by the fact that they'd left her. Her face was difficult to read so it wasn't clear exactly what she was thinking when she drawled soon after, "I'm quite hard to kill. They wasn't playing when they said I was the new Sin."

Emilio's gaze flashed to the mirror again and his expression could only be described as frozen. His full mouth thinned, lashes lowering over his eyes before they flicked back to the road.

Boyd's eyes narrowed and his back stiffened at her comment. He didn't look back at her but he turned a cold glare out the window as anger moved through him.

He didn't say anything; he knew better than to respond verbally or physically to anything related to Sin. That didn't, however, stop the vitriolic response in his mind; that she wasn't the new Sin. No one could replace Sin. His expression was stony as his fingers tightened against the familiar lines of the gun.

"Maybe you should shut the fuck up for the next thirty hours or I'll show you just how easy to kill you can be," Emilio said in a soft, dangerous voice, his gaze straight ahead and fingers clenched around the wheel as if it were the only thing preventing him from acting on his threat. Tension held his entire frame tight and every outline of muscle stood out from beneath his clothing.

Bex looked at him for a long moment, the corner of her thin lips twisting up. "I forget how sensitive you lot can be. So sorry."

"What did I just say?" the senior Vega asked in the same low tone. He looked at her in the rear view mirror again and for a moment their gazes locked.

Whether Bex backed down because he was her superior or if it was something she saw in his eyes was unknown. But she shrugged again, scoffed quietly and disappeared to the back of the van to begin stripping off her gear.

Boyd glanced coldly back through the mirror when he heard her move out of the way. He entertained images of Emilio following through with his threat. He himself would never be able to get away with any actions against Bex but maybe Emilio would. Maybe. Maybe Bex would lose her attitude once she saw she wasn't impervious.

It wasn't going to happen but it was a nice thought nonetheless.

Boyd didn't keep his gaze on the back for long; he didn't want her to see. Bex already knew that Sin was a touchy subject for him but he hadn't reacted to anything since that fateful first meeting. He was determined to keep it that way and the best way to do that was to not give her more fodder. She generally didn't bother with pointless prodding but when she knew a person had a weakness, she had no compunctions with striking at it when the person least expected.

When it came to Sin, he cared too much and still felt too bitter and depressed when he let himself think about it. If he started engaging now he would likely end up in a rapid downward spiral with a final destination of the barrel of an Agency-issued gun and a date with the incinerator.

When Boyd started to look away he glanced past Emilio and for a moment, their eyes met.

Emilio's face was hard and angry. For all that he and his son had been similar, he didn't have Sin's gift for masking his feelings with a neutral expression and a sarcastically cutting reply. When Emilio felt something, it was written all over his face and now he looked murderous. He had changed a lot in the past year; the death of his son had taken an obvious toll on him. Perhaps other things had too-- the death of his friendship with General Carhart as well.

Whatever was weighing more heavily on the older man's shoulders, there was no denying that he didn't seem as interested in playing the joker card anymore. He didn't seem as amused by things or as willing to entertain by acting like the horny former street kid that everyone had always seen him as. Now he seemed dark, dangerous and impatient. There were still glimmers of the old Emilio here and there but now they seemed like pieces of a real personality instead of just a flamboyant act.

When Emilio's eyes returned to the road, some of the tension seemed to have eased from his body. Boyd didn't know why but he suspected that like himself, Emilio found comfort in being in the proximity of someone who understood.

Boyd looked away, returning his attention out the window. His hand lingered on the gun, his fingers brushing against the familiar lines comfortingly.

Neither of them spoke and with Bex still in back, the van fell into silence. Even when she came toward the front again Boyd didn't look away from the window. Towns and cities flashed by in islands of pale light and when the three of them got back on the plane, his view of the world below was similar. Black expanses of land broken up by small planes of scattered light, almost like a reflection of the night sky above.

The plane ride seemed to take forever and Boyd struggled against the morose anger that remained in the background of his mind. The voice that demanded why Sin had to die and why Bex had to be someone who was now invading their unit.

He tried to avoid thinking too much about Sin because it never did him any good. But between Bex's comment and Emilio sitting at just the right angle for the side of his face to be so reminiscent of Sin's profile, it was difficult.

It was probably good that he didn't have any particularly fond memories of being with Sin on planes. No doubt if he had, he would have found it nearly impossible to ignore them and the gloom that still came with the knowledge that Sin was never returning.

For months, he'd found himself still looking up when he'd heard the door open, expecting to see Sin's face. If someone had called, he had checked the caller ID and had thought for that painful half of a second that maybe it was Sin. He had rolled over in bed and reached a hand out absently for his lover, only to be half awoken by the sharp reminder that he was alone. He still reached out in bed but by now he'd mostly stopped expecting Sin to appear in the doorway.

His thoughts inevitably revolved around Sin as he leaned against the window and, eventually, closed his eyes for an unsuccessful attempt to sleep.

When they returned to the Agency, it was business as usual. Their check in and report writing thankfully didn't take long. When Boyd was finished and went to leave, something in Emilio's face told him to hover behind a moment. They ended up walking out of the Tower together.

"Big plans for the night?" Emilio asked, lighting a cigarette as he flicked a glance over at Boyd.

Boyd shook his head, sliding his hands into his pockets and narrowing his eyes faintly at a gust of cold wind. His long blond hair whipped in the wind, briefly lifting off his neck and causing a chill to run down his spine. "I don't have any plans at all."

Emilio nodded, taking a drag from his cigarette and pausing to zip up his leather jacket. "Wanna come by my place? I'm getting tired of staring at the walls on my own."

Boyd glanced at Emilio. It was the first time the older man had invited him over. Maybe Emilio felt the same way Boyd did; not particularly looking forward to sitting around alone tonight. "Sure."

"Cool." Emilio started walking to the parking lot. "I live over in Bedford now."

Boyd walked at Emilio's side, remaining silent at first. Bedford was one of the poorer neighborhoods of the city and not that particularly safe. But it was affordable because of it. Not that Emilio needed affordability with the kind of money he had, or that he needed to worry about protecting himself. Boyd wondered if Emilio felt most at home there.

"Have you been there long?"

"Yeah. I moved in a little over a year ago." Emilio flicked the cherry of his cigarette, sending ashes dancing into the cold wind. "It sucked living there at first but it ain't so bad now."

"Why Bedford? You could live anywhere."

"Well I meant living in that big ass apartment all by myself. But Bedford I guess 'cause..." Emilio trailed off and tilted his head to the side, cracking his neck as he seemed to consider the question. "I dunno. I like living around my own kind. I can't relate to rich folks. All that high class shit makes me uncomfortable."

Boyd nodded again and looked away. He'd suspected as much.

He found that even talking to Emilio about unrelated topics, he couldn't shake his somber mood. The fact that they'd leaped back twelve hours, leaving China before sunrise and returning to the Agency after sunset, wasn't helping. The dark sky seemed oppressive and made him feel tired in a way that wasn't entirely physical.

With Sin gone and their new life taken with him, the luxury of the Agency felt like a mocking reminder of the luxury of Aleixo's compound. Boyd was acutely aware that in many ways he was as caught by the Agency as he had been by Cyclone. In the end, maybe he would always amount to nothing more than a high-rent slave.

Boyd pushed his hair out of his eyes and returned his attention to Emilio, shaking off the dark thoughts in his mind. He wasn't entirely successful. Everything that had changed remained in his thoughts despite his best efforts; Sin's death chief among them. That seemed to be the case anywhere he was once he'd thought about his lover, but it happened especially at home.

"I've thought of moving as well. The house is too large."

"Are you really gonna do it or are you just gonna keep thinking about it?" Emilio asked, blowing smoke out of his mouth as they approached the end of the courtyard.

"I don't know," Boyd said with a faint shrug. "There aren't any places that appeal to me, yet I don't care for living in the house."

"Just get an apartment uptown. It don't got to be something really special. It'd probably do you good to put some distance between yourself and your past, you know?"

Boyd nodded absently, considering that. He'd been thinking about it on and off for awhile, it just never seemed to happen. Something always came up: missions, he was tired, the idea of looking for a place reminded him too much of how he'd been planning to look with Sin...

He didn't know what he would end up doing.

Truthfully, he didn't have the energy or presence of mind to sell his place. It would be a lot of work to pack and move and in the process no doubt he would dig up any number of memories best left untouched for a few more months at least. Not to mention, sometimes it was comforting to know that Kassian was so nearby; that if he really needed to visit a friend at a moment's notice, he could be there in less than five minutes.

Too often he'd woken from dreams in which Sin was still alive or from a nightmare reliving something from the mission that he'd rather forget. And, when reality was too powerful and his mind was still half-compromised by sleep, he listened to his own strained, harsh breath and felt tears track down his cheeks before he could stop them.

Even so, he hadn't visited Kassian much. The times in the middle of the night when he'd desperately wanted help he'd forced himself to stay still and deal with it on his own. He couldn't keep relying on others. But the knowledge that if ever his control broke he could walk to Kassian's was something that he sometimes felt aided him in his stoic silence.

"We'll see," was all he said.

They got to the parking lot and Emilio headed to a matte black muscle car that was sitting in a far corner of the lot, parked so that it took up two spaces. It was obviously several decades old and from what Boyd could remember, he thought it looked like a Gran Torino. It probably guzzled gas in insane quantities but it suited Emilio. The idea of him driving a small electric car seemed very out of place.

Emilio unlocked the car and slid into the driver's side. "Ready?" he asked as he turned the keys and the engine roared to life.

Boyd nodded and buckled his seat belt, looking around idly at the car. It had bench seats and an all black leather interior. "I can't imagine a vehicle that fits you better."

The other man flashed him one of his trademark grins. "I'll take that as a compliment."

With that being said, they roared out of the parking lot faster than was absolutely necessary.

Boyd rocked in his seat at the sudden power and absently braced a hand against the door. Emilio sometimes drove like a race car driver on speed.

Neither of them spoke on the ride over and Boyd half paid attention to the landscape flying past. Emilio got them there much faster than anyone who drove the speed limit and followed all traffic signals would. When Emilio finally pulled to the side and parked, Boyd looked over to see where the older man lived.

The brick building was large-- seven stories and wide enough to wrap around half of one street and the avenue that ran adjacent to it. It was relatively straightforward-- no gate or courtyards; just a simple brick apartment building whose main door led out to the sidewalk. The street itself was dark and quiet other than the faint sound of Spanish music floating from the open door of a corner store at the end of the block.

Although Bedford was considered a bad neighborhood by some, now that Boyd was here he saw that it didn't look that rough. It certainly didn't look as dangerous as some areas of the Industrial District and especially not the Barrows, which wasn't too far from the same area. This part of Bedford seemed quiet and primarily working class.

As if reading his thoughts, Emilio winked as he climbed out of the car. "Not too dangerous for you, is it?"

A man walked out of the store at the corner and started down the street. Both his hands were occupied by plastic bags drooping toward the sidewalk with heavy items. Judging by the lines, he'd probably purchased some canned food.

"I'll manage," Boyd said mildly.

Emilio shook his head slightly and flipped his keyring around his finger, walking around the car to the sidewalk. "If you go farther south it does get bad 'cause it's so close to the Barrows. Up here you got the college and Lincoln Square so it's too pricey for the hoodlums. 'Cept me, of course."

Boyd looked in the direction of the college, although he couldn't see it from this angle. Now that he thought about it, putting this area of Bedford into perspective with the areas he'd been, he realized Jaz's tattoo parlor wasn't terribly far away. Her store was in Lincoln Square where the district met with Bedford and the Barrows.

"I used to go to the college," Boyd said aloud, walking at Emilio's side. "I don't think I ever came this way, though."

"It's not a big destination. Ain't shit here, really, except houses and buildings."

Emilio swiped a magnetic chip against a panel near the door and it buzzed. He pushed the door open and walked into the lobby area. It was empty except for two sets of stairs on either side of the space, an elevator and a row of mailboxes in the wall. He bypassed the elevator and they took the stairs up to the third floor. It wasn't anything special-- just plain tiled floors and metal doors with gold numbers on them. When Emilio unlocked his door it opened up to an extremely large apartment.

There was an entrance area that led into a huge living room. Arched doorways led to a large kitchen, a hallway, and another spacious room that had doors leading off of it. The living room was sparsely furnished except for a leather sofa, an arm chair and an impressive-looking television and stereo system.

"Ain't much," Emilio said, tossing his keys on a table by the door. "I dunno if I'm even going to bother pimping it up. I can't find it in myself to give a shit."

Boyd unbuttoned his coat as he took in the apartment. "It's big," he observed. He started to shrug off his coat, noting how the relative lack of furniture made the rooms seem even larger. He looked over at Emilio. "I could see how it could get lonely."

The other man nodded, shrugged his broad shoulders as he removed his own jacket and dropped down onto the couch. "I doubt I woulda cared before but it's like, more time to think and I don't got a whole lot to distract me."

Boyd set his coat over the back of the couch and, after a moment of glancing around, ended up sitting on the other end. He nodded and leaned back. "I know what you mean."

Emilio draped his arm over the side of the couch and picked something up from the table at the side of it. It appeared to be a little tray with a small bottle and a razor blade. Him grabbing it almost seemed like an unconscious gesture because immediately after, he just set it on the arm of the couch.

Rubbing a hand across his face, Emilio arched his back until it cracked as he simultaneously released a long sigh. He ran his long fingers through his short black hair and glanced over at Boyd again. He opened his mouth to say something, frowned slightly and stopped.

"What?" Boyd asked.

The other man shrugged and picked up the pill bottle, twisting it absently between his fingers. "It's just weird, is all. I never would have thought him dying would affect me this much for so long," he admitted bluntly, dark brows raising.

Boyd drew his eyebrows down faintly. "What did you anticipate?"

"It ain't the first time I thought him dead." Emilio's green eyes focused on the bottle as it twirled dexterously between his fingers. "I never thought he'd have made it back here after the shape he was in down in Mexico. And if he did, I didn't think they'd waste resources with the surgery and time it shoulda took to get him back in order."

He stopped twirling the bottle and set it down on the table with a clatter, shifting on the sofa and drawing his legs up onto the couch. One knee bent and he rested his chin against it as he ran a hand through his hair once again. It looked disheveled and wild when he was done.

"So I mourned him but I was more pissed the fuck off than anything. Even when my snitch told me that it'd been reported he was dead. I still didn't..." Emilio trailed off and looked at Boyd with a frown. "I dunno. It just ain't the same then as it is now."

Boyd watched Emilio a moment before he spoke. "What changed?"

"I dunno. It was different before. He wasn't really real to me." His brow crinkled in thought and he lit another cigarette, taking a long pull as he seemed to puzzle over his own words. His full mouth turned down into a frown as he did so.

"Just-- see it this way, right? When I had him, I was a kid. Thirteen. When I got him back, I was a fucking assassin with a bad coke habit. I didn't know how to be his father. I didn't have no one to model myself after. My own father was a fucking gangbanger himself. I didn't feel anything for him but an obligation to protect him 'cause it was my fault he was around anyway and dealing with the shit his crazy mama put him through," Emilio explained with the same callous bluntness. He looked up at Boyd through a cloud of smoke, unapologetic for the brutal honesty.

"So I did the only shit I thought I could do while still being me. I didn't even know if I liked the little fuck, let alone loved him. I was glad that he survived after Connors sent the hit out on me and kinda followed his life from time to time out of curiosity but... he still wasn't real to me. He wasn't like, my son. I never felt that way. Like he was mine or my family. Even in Mexico when I watched y'all. He was just like, this project that I was proud of 'cause it did well. It wasn't until I came back that I started getting attached to him, like the way I was supposed to, you know? And now him being gone just fucking is horrible. Just when we was getting along."

Boyd considered that with a faint nod; it made sense the way Emilio explained it. But the thought about how even Emilio had come to love Sin in a way that made him feel his son's loss in such a painful manner... It was sad and Boyd didn't know what to say to that.

He looked away, his gaze passing over the pill bottle. He was starting to feel even more depressed as they talked about missing Sin and he couldn't stop the voice in the back of his mind that wondered what was in the bottle. That wondered how long whatever drugs were inside could make everything feel better.

He could admit to himself that in the depths of depression that sometimes made it hard to think or move during the lulls between missions, there were times he would have broken down and taken something if it had been right in front of him. Times when he'd longed for a hit of Slide and had contemplated going into the city to find a dealer. Times when the longing and pain of losing Sin had been so sharp he'd wished for anything to make it stop.

He'd ignored the temptation for the most part except one night a month and a half ago, when he'd remembered the leftover bottle of vodka in his cupboard from before the mission. He'd only meant to take a drink or two to dull the ache. But one drink had become several and in the process of sitting in his living room, reliving every terrible and wonderful thing that had happened in there, he'd ended up finishing the bottle. He'd tried to go buy more but had passed out before he'd made it across the living room.

The next morning, he'd woken to a hangover and the piercing ring of his cell phone, with a summons to a mission. He'd managed to make it through the mission successfully and, he hoped, without anyone knowing how much he'd had to drink.

Still, it had scared him. He could have messed up in the mission and gotten terminated over something as stupid as being unable to stop drinking once he'd started, because the pain was still so sharp and the alcohol seemed to temporarily make it go away.

Having just come back from a mission now, it was unlikely they'd be called in to another one so soon. They'd been unofficially told before the mission that they should expect to have a day or two of downtime following it. That knowledge wasn't helping quiet the voice that whispered he could, just for tonight, let it all go away again. He could, just today, find a way to forget.

He could find a way to manage the pain.

He hadn't realized he'd fallen silent, his eyebrows drawn down with a half pensive, half yearning look as his gaze hovered on the bottle. He narrowed his eyes and looked away with a sigh, running a hand back through his hair.

He was still so distracted when it came to Sin. Still so full of sad, desperate longing.

"Sorry," he said with a faint grimace.

Emilio looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. "For what?"

"I'm just..." Boyd shook his head and raised his hands in a helplessly vague gesture. "Distracted. Not very good company."

The other man scoffed around an exhalation of smoke. "It don't matter. I'm not exactly being mister entertainment."

Boyd shrugged and shifted on the couch. He felt his gun digging into his lower back with the movement. He pulled the gun and holster off and leaned forward to set it on the table, his fingers briefly sliding across the barrel as he sat back. He pulled his legs up, crossing them and angling himself in the corner of the couch so he could see Emilio better.

There was another moment of silence as Boyd thought about what Emilio had said earlier. The talk about family was sticking in his mind. "Hsin never spoke about his grandfather. Did they ever meet?"

"Nah, they wouldn't have. I don't even remember if I told him anything about my pops. The old bastard's been holed up in San Quentin for like three decades for a triple murder. Unless he's dead now. Or transferred to Brighton since that's what they do with lifers sometimes," Emilio replied without compassion, shrugging. "I probably would have never seen his ass again if I hadn't bothered tracking him down before he got sent off. The reunion wasn't that awesome, anyway, so it wasn't never no big loss."

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "Triple murder?"

Emilio finished his cigarette and stubbed it out in an ashtray. "Yep. Vegas have always been killing sorts."

"Who'd he kill?"

"Fuck if I remember their names. Some gang folks. No one worth missing." Emilio shrugged and went to extract another cigarette from his pack. He'd always been a smoker but never a chain smoker as far as Boyd had seen.

Emilio slid the cigarette between his lips and raised his eyebrows slightly. "'Course lots of people would have felt the same about him. Just another dead gangbanger. Probably a lot of people would still feel the same about me if I got shot tomorrow. No one ever cries too hard about us hoodlum types."

"What about anyone else?" Boyd asked, finding himself mildly intrigued by the idea of Sin's bloodline. "Other Vegas."

"Pssh," Emilio scoffed again, white teeth flashing in a sardonic grin as he took the cigarette from his mouth unlit. "All of my uncles were up to their teeth in the same shit as my pops. Any of my family who stayed down there together grew up and became part of drug trade or died because of it. Whenever I found him after my exile in Brazil, my aunt made me a sandwich while my uncles and pops talked about killing some cops."

He watched Boyd, lips twisted up slightly. "That shit goes back deep. My grandfather wasn't no better. The last few generations of Vegas are all twisted up in illegal shit. I bet it's in the genes, all this obsession with blood and killing. My grandma used to say we descended from the Aztecs, though," he added finally, tapping the tribal tattoo on his forearm. "So I guess that would make sense, then. Although my mom brought in her own brand of crazy so I guess she didn't do me no favors."

"Hmm." It was strange to think of so many Vegas. That explained Emilio's tattoo, which now that Boyd looked at it more closely seemed to be a rendition of the Aztec calendar. It made him wonder what his own ancestors were like. He knew next to nothing about his family, although the little he did know implied his family history was far less violent. "Does everyone look so similar like you and Hsin did?"

Emilio actually looked indignant about the question. "Fuck no, they don't. Bad enough Hsin was prettier than me, I can't handle that much competition. I look more like my mom except for my skin and hair. She was Brazilian and Ecuadorian-- my pops' family is mostly Mexican with some mixing here and there. My other son doesn't even look like me as much as Hsin did. He could even pass for a blanquito if he tried."

"So you do have other children," Boyd mused. He and Sin had wondered about the topic long ago. Given Emilio's promiscuity, Boyd had always assumed Sin had to have at least one sibling. "Just one?"

"That I know of," was the unashamed reply. "I used to move around a lot when I was young but when the Agency came knocking, I was mostly in the city and no other bitches ever came asking for child support. I didn't even know this one existed until recently-- his mother told me she'd aborted him."

Boyd drew his eyebrows down. "How'd you find out, then? She can't have tracked you down at the Agency..."

"Nah, your mother told me. I looked him up after that."

"Ah," Boyd said in understanding. Knowing Vivienne, she had probably known for a long time and had waited until it was most in her favor to bestow the information. "What's he like?"

"Eh." Emilio made a face and adjusted his position on the sofa, stretching one muscular arm across the back of it. After returning to the Agency he had always bragged about Sin and how powerful he was. He didn't seem in any hurry to do that about his younger child. "I've never met him even though he lives here in Lexington now for whatever reason. He seems to be set up financially so I didn't feel obligated to help him out and he seems to have done okay without some daddy figure barging in. But let's just say he follows the Vega family footsteps even if his name ain't Vega."

Boyd shook his head in bemusement, wondering if there really was something in the genes. He wondered what Emilio's other son knew about his family history, and what he would say if he met Emilio, or if he ever could have met Sin. He wondered if any of the Vegas had ever had a strong familial connection like Boyd had felt to his own father before he'd died.

"Were you close to your father?"

"He dumped me in Brazil when I was six. So not really, no," was the amused reply.

"Why did you track him down, then?"

There was a brief silence as Emilio observed him. He idly caressed the scar on his lower lip and tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. "I don't remember, really. I was just a kid back then with stupid ideas in my head that he'd help me out 'cause I was tired of sleeping in back alleys and dodging death squads. He did, I guess. He set me up to learn how to do what he did even though I took it like twenty steps further and turned their drug shit into some serious international trade. Tough guy but not much of a thinker. None of them was."

Boyd nodded. It sounded similar to Sin's own past with Emilio; how Sin had once hoped his father would save him from a painful life and how in the process of attempting to do so the father intensified the situation. He wondered how far back the cycle went and whether Emilio's other son would end up in a similar situation with offspring of his own some day.

In the end, Boyd couldn't think of anything to say to that and they fell quiet once again. The silence wasn't particularly uncomfortable and yet it was something that seemed stronger than it should have to Boyd. Perhaps because he was used to silence when he was alone and it didn't bother him to be quiet around another person, but even Emilio's presence wasn't enough to stop his thoughts from inevitably sliding back to Sin.

Bex's comment earlier about her being the new Sin mixed with his own pensive contemplations about the future Emilio's other son would have, and how Sin would never get that opportunity. He and Sin never would have had children and even if they'd been capable Boyd didn't think they would have been interested. With their line of profession, it had also been inevitable that they would die young; it had just been a question of how young.

But they could have grown as old together as possible for them. They could have made a life together the way they should have all along. They could have been their own small, imperfect family. They could have loved each other into the future.

It felt too cruel, having spent years building a relationship that finally had become stable only to have it ripped away.

He wished there had been more time. He wished an entire year of his life hadn't been wasted on that mission and he wished he'd been there when Sin's life had ended.

He wished a lot of things, and had many circuitous thoughts, but none of it did anything to lighten his mood. And when he looked over at Emilio, he was struck once more with how much Emilio looked like his son. How much it hurt to see that face and know Sin would probably have looked something like Emilio if he'd only lived to be his age.

It was like looking at a ghost of a future that would never exist. It struck a chord deep in Boyd the way it did every time he thought about his lover's death.

His heart twisted and he looked away, his gaze falling on the pill bottle again. He was sidelined by the thought of something stilling the fatalistic downturn of his thoughts.

"What's in that?" he asked, gesturing to the bottle.

Emilio glanced down at the table. It seemed that he'd been in his own reverie.


Boyd was fairly certain he'd been given Pandora on the mission but he didn't remember it clearly. The other drugs the clients had sometimes given him were all overshadowed in his mind by the memories of Slide. What he knew was that Pandora was supposed to be intense but not as debilitating as Slide. Knowing it wasn't addictive just made it harder to tell himself he shouldn't try it.

"What's it feel like?" Boyd asked, eyebrows furrowed.

Emilio's dark brows raised in an expression that reminded Boyd so much of Sin that it was painful.

"It feels like whatever you want it to feel like," Emilio drawled, giving Boyd a level gaze. "Times one thousand and ten. I mean it depends on how much you take, but... why do you ask?"

"I want to stop thinking," Boyd said bluntly. His eyes were dark and pensive; his face drawn. He gestured toward the bottle. "Maybe it would help."

There was an extended silence in which they just looked at each other. Emilio's gaze was slightly narrowed and thoughtful as he took in Boyd. After awhile of considering the younger agent, Emilio shrugged his broad shoulders.

"It's probably not a good idea, chico. And weren't you the one on your high horse about how you didn't need drugs?" Emilio arched a brow. "When you thought you'd lost Hsin before, you never wanted to start popping caps then."

"It doesn't matter," Boyd said dismissively. "Times change."

He was graced with another long stare before Emilio stood up in one fluid movement and slid the pill bottle into his pocket. He turned away from Boyd and walked to the other side of the room. Boyd felt a flare of irritation that Emilio pocketed the pills. He hadn't expected Emilio of all people to take them away when he expressed interest.

"You can have a drink if you want but that's about it." Emilio stopped in front of what appeared to be a small bar. "If you wanna start gettin' all fucked up to drown your sorrows, do it with whiskey like a normal person. You don't wanna be like me, do you?"

"Pandora isn't even addictive," Boyd replied testily. "I've been through rehab for Slide. I think I can handle a little PD."

"So go score it somewhere else," was Emilio's flat reply.

Boyd's eyes narrowed. Knowing there was a release from his anxiety there, across the room, but it was taken away from him made his frustration rise. "Why are you so resistant? You're the one who told me I was too boring before."

Emilio didn't answer for a moment and poured a generous amount of Johnny Walker into a stout glass. He turned when it was full and took a long drink from the golden liquid, green eyes focused on Boyd again.

"'Cause I don't think my boy would appreciate me participating in you becoming some loser drug addict. I don't benefit shit from getting you high except thinking Hsin would probably think I was some kind of motherfucker for doing it. Sorry, kiddo-- the pros and cons ain't adding up in your favor in that respect."

Boyd stared hard at Emilio for a tense moment and then looked away with narrowed eyes and a stubbornly set jaw. He felt a mixture of frustration, anger, and depression. That reaction overtook him for a moment, filled with resentment toward Emilio and thoughts of forcing the older man to give over the pills after all. He could probably get them away if he acted abruptly enough. What did the old man need to hog them for, anyway?

There was a clawing longing within him, needing something to fill the void.

For that second he turned calculating. He automatically ran through scenarios of how to get what he needed-- and how far he may need to run before Emilio could catch up. How quickly he could down the pills before Emilio had a chance to stop him and how at that point it wouldn't matter anyway and maybe Emilio would start supplying him with more--

With a conscious effort, he shoved aside those insidious thoughts. Instead, he made himself focus on what Emilio had said.

He was right; Sin wouldn't like it.

And for all that trying to keep in mind the expectations his dead lover may have had was sometimes as painful as his continued attempts to move on, he still knew that he couldn't in good conscience do anything else. Memories of Sin were growing clouded but he could still imagine the look Sin would have given him had he been privy to his thoughts.

"A drink, then," he relented.

The other man nursed his whiskey briefly before setting the glass down on the black lacquer top of the bar. Another glass was extracted and Emilio filled it, giving Boyd a sideways look before sliding it closer to the edge of the bar in his direction.

Boyd walked over and picked up the glass, taking a drink. Although he wanted to down the whole glass, he was careful not to do so. With the looks Emilio was giving him, he didn't want the older man to determine he shouldn't even be drinking at all. He looked down at the amber color of the whiskey and the diffraction of light in the liquid.

"Thanks," he said, more subdued.

Despite Boyd's concerns, Emilio tossed his own drink back in one gulp and refilled it instantly. There was silence between them as Emilio lounged against the wall, his green eyes focusing on some point across the room.

The gusting wind shrieked outside the windows, interrupting the silence briefly. Emilio's mouth tightened at the sound and he shook his head, sighing in disgust and tossing back his second drink before pushing away from the wall and moving away. He shed his outer shirt, revealing a black wife beater beneath, and he kicked off his boots unceremoniously. His movements were short and there was obvious tension in his shoulders, the lines of his face set in irritation.

Sin used to say that his father's moods had always swung abruptly, sometimes for no reason at all, and this seemed to be one of those times.

Boyd found that at the moment he preferred that. Even if he didn't know what was going on in Emilio's head, it just proved that at least Boyd didn't have to be on guard. For all he could tell, Emilio's thoughts were a mile away. With the freedom of not being watched closely, he finished his glass and refilled a second that he drank just as quickly.

The alcohol burned down his throat, all the way to his stomach. He could feel his body tingling faintly. He felt relief in the knowledge that soon he wouldn't have to care that his lover was dead and he was in an apartment with someone who missed him as intensely as he did. Someone who looked like the person Boyd missed so achingly.

He filled the glass a third time and took a more normal drink. After glancing at Emilio, who hadn't moved, Boyd let out a sigh and walked away from the bar. He dropped onto the couch and leaned his head back, resting the glass on his knee. The cushions were comfortable and the alcohol made him feel warm while some of his cares slowly started bleeding away.

He wondered if all of Emilio's thoughts inevitably returned to Sin the way his own did. He wondered if Emilio was mad about the pills. He knew Emilio was right about them but he didn't know if his own opinion would change once he started to lose some inhibitions.

"Sorry," he said before he realized the words were going to leave his mouth. Must be the alcohol working on him already; loosening his tongue and making the words bypass his mind. He looked over at Emilio. "Could you keep them in your pocket? It's less tempting that way."

A low laugh escaped Emilio's mouth as he grabbed the whiskey bottle from the bar. He sat on the arm of the couch and swigged straight from the bottle. "I'm all for getting fucked up but I ain't ready to help you go down that road. I'll save 'em until I'm by myself."

"Good." Boyd threw back his head, finishing off the glass of whiskey.

He started to hold his glass out for more before his eyebrows twitched down. An odd look crossed his face as it occurred to him that he could drink straight from the bottle, too. He set the empty glass on the coffee table next to his gun and looked over at Emilio, wordlessly holding his hand out.

Emilio handed the bottle to him carelessly, sliding down to sprawl beside him on the couch. "We're some miserable bastards."

"Heh." Boyd took a long swig from the bottle. He could feel the whiskey swirling against his tongue before he swallowed. He held the bottle back out to Emilio and once the older man took it, he dropped his arm to the cushion.

He tilted his head back as his lips stretched humorlessly, the alcohol warming every part of him, from his toe tips up to his head. "We are, aren't we? Pathetic..."

There was no immediate response as Emilio wrapped his mouth around the bottle and took a long gulp. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed continuously and when he finally stopped, amber liquid trickled from the side of his mouth. His expression was hard to describe in that moment. Miserable, yes, but there was a savage desperation there that the whiskey wasn't easing away.

Emilio stood up again, gripping the bottle in one hand. He looked around the apartment blankly for a moment, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair again. "Let's do shots," he said abruptly, voice rough.

Boyd rolled his head to look up at Emilio. From this angle, Emilio looked taller than he was; as if he could have a few inches on Boyd if the two were standing. That impression enhanced those striking green eyes and the strong line of his jaw; the fall of light against his olive complexion and the line of those full lips that looked so familiar.

It was like staring up at Sin.

The whiskey wasn't enough to mask the sharp pain at the thought, nor the regret and depression that followed. Boyd's eyes narrowed and he looked away, his lips thinning and eyebrows drawing together.


He pushed himself up off the couch. He was a little unsteady when he stood, although it was more a feeling of mild dizziness than anything, like he'd stood too quickly. He let himself catch his balance with the back of his calf pressing against the couch, and when he was steady he walked over to the bar.

"Life is bullshit," Emilio said flatly, filling two shot glasses from a different bottle. "Just when I fucking think I know what to expect from myself and my fucked up life, people got to die or consider me dead and just turn me all the fuck around."

Boyd nodded and then reconsidered that action when it made him feel unbalanced. He pulled out one of the barstools and dropped onto it, leaning against the counter top on his elbows.

"I know," Boyd said. "Everyone I love keeps getting killed. Not that it matters; I'll probably die soon anyway."

"Nah," the other man said in the same bitter voice as he picked up his shot glass. "You might live out a couple of decades and end up like me. Cheers."

Boyd shook his head dismally. At the moment, he couldn't even sardonically imagine a future in which he lived more than a handful of months. He felt so hopeless. He picked up the shot glass and downed it at the same time as Emilio.

A sharp, powerful taste overwhelmed his senses and burned all the way to his stomach. He let out a low breath and squeezed his eyes shut, slouching forward and shaking his head sharply as if to fight off the kick of the drink. That was powerful stuff, whatever it was. It certainly made him lose his train of thought about the likelihood of his death.

Emilio poured him another shot, which Boyd downed just as quickly. It was a little less startling the second time but still hit him hard.

Things slowly stopped mattering or fully making sense. His senses were fuzzy and the room felt hot. He unzipped his sweater and dragged it off, nearly getting it tangled on his arms when he couldn't figure out how to get it off properly. He dropped it carelessly to the floor near the bar stool and leaned against the counter, eyebrows furrowing as he stared at Emilio.

The man could be Sin's twin. Boyd tilted his head and started thinking stupid thoughts, muddled and distant and irrelevant but seeming important to him anyway.

Would Sin pour a drink the same way? Would he like the taste of this alcohol? Did he ever learn any bartending skills at Lunar that Boyd hadn't seen? What would Sin be saying right now? How would he be looking at Boyd?

Boyd dropped his chin onto one hand, watching with half-lidded eyes as Emilio filled a third shot glass for each of them. Details and worries seemed unimportant and far away. Emilio's eyes seemed so green. It made Boyd wonder if Emilio avoided looking in the mirror so he wasn't reminded of Sin. Boyd thought that he would have to do that if he were Emilio.

He downed the third shot when Emilio gave it to him. Everything felt so pleasant and blurry. The room was fuzzy warm like a blanket and out of focus. He leaned heavily against the counter top, supporting himself on his elbows so he wouldn't lean too far one way or the other. The two of them continued on in that way but he lost track of what he was drinking and how much after the third shot.

Some part of him acknowledged that he was well beyond thinking properly but he more than equally didn't care. None of it mattered. His worries were muffled and removed the same as the clarity of the room and the intricacies of speaking clearly in proper, complete sentences.

He knew he was feeling messed up but he couldn't tell how poorly Emilio was doing until Carhart came up. That in itself was a sign that the older man must have been more than feeling the effects of the alcohol. Boyd had never heard of Emilio talking about his feelings, or his obsession for the General, but there he was ranting about it all.

Boyd couldn't remember how the topic started; just that suddenly Emilio was talking about how much he missed Carhart; how much it bothered him that the other man was completely out of his life. How desperate he was for Carhart but there was also bitterness that swung in and out, making it sound like he didn't think any of it would be resolved.

If Boyd had been more lucid, he would have noticed that the savage desperation Emilio showed and his intense desire to get fucked up had as much to do with Carhart as it did with Sin. Instead, he listened and nodded and drawled responses, occasionally adding his own dismal proclamations. At times he forgot what he said almost as soon as it passed his lips. He forgot a lot of what was being said to him as well.

He remembered dragging the bottle of whiskey closer to him and drinking straight from it, the glass cool against his hands. At one point he remembered setting the bottle down with a clunk and drawing his eyebrows down, every movement seeming to take a lot of effort and go too slowly. He remembered wondering when Sin had gotten there and why he was so upset.

Something about the thought wasn't quite right but it didn't matter enough for him to determine what it was.

He remembered picking up the bottle again and it being really heavy in his hand, and he remembered taking a long drink and thinking he had to say something before he could forget; the thought already wandering away from his mind before he could fully formulate it.

After that, everything was blurred. He had vague memories of movement, and the room being hot, and sweat on his skin. The texture of the couch against his hands and a deep voice murmuring words he didn't fully understand.

When he woke, his head pounded and something seemed strange. It took him a moment to realize it was that he felt cold for some reason and that something had just changed in the room. He grimaced and squinted, the light seeming ungodly bright and his body feeling entirely unwilling to move properly. His mouth tasted terrible.

He realized he was lying on a bed at the same time that he realized he was naked. He frowned, arduously pushing himself up to a slouching sit and rubbing at his face. He noticed movement in the room and blearily looked over, seeing Emilio partially turned away from him and getting dressed.

Boyd stared at the other man, his mind still working through the fog of sleep and alcohol, but even then he didn't miss their similar state of undress.

"What happened?" Boyd croaked.

Emilio took a long time to answer, shimmying into his jeans silently and refusing to turn in his direction. The back of his tattooed shoulders were stiff and wrought with tension. His movements were jerky and sharp.

"Don't remember?" his hoarse voice asked finally, although he still didn't turn around.

At Emilio's voice, Boyd had a sudden flash of memory. That low voice growling into his ear and full lips pressed against his skin. Hands wrapped around his arms and his body on fire with need.

He remembered his back slamming against the counter top on the bar; their mouths crushed against each other intensely. His body stretching and glass sliding and crashing around him. Laying against the counter and his hands digging into the edges as a thick erection shoved into him. As he was filled in a way he hadn't been for months.

He remembered his own lustful scream; the way he'd thrown his head back and the way his back had arched in overwhelming pleasure. He remembered his legs wrapping around that muscular body, urging the thrusts to go deeper and harder. His own voice calling out in desire. Sin's name a breathy chant on his lips as he'd stared up at who he'd thought was the man he loved.

He didn't have to ask to realize it hadn't been a dream. And the man he'd thought he'd been having sex with hadn't been Sin at all.

Frustration and disgust with the situation moved through him sharply, pounding through his mind like the hangover. He grimaced, rubbing his hands over his face and curling forward with his knees pulling closer. His lower back and ass ached in the movement.

He wanted to shove the memory away because with it came a vague recollection of elation at being with Sin again. That knowledge just seemed disquieting and came with a flash of guilt when he realized that he'd been fucking Sin's father, thinking of the son.

"Damn it," he hissed.

Emilio made a low sound and finally turned, looking directly at Boyd. He looked like a mess. His hair was in disarray and his eyes were completely bloodshot. There was such naked guilt and vulnerability on his face that for a moment it was almost jarring.

But then he looked away again, quickly, and continued fixing his jeans. "I didn't seduce you. Don't be thinking I did. It just fucking... everything got fucked up. I can't even--" Emilio broke off abruptly and gestured wordlessly.

Boyd shook his head, his headache growing stronger. He looked for his clothes. His underwear was nowhere to be seen but his jeans were within sight. They were just outside the room, looking as though they'd been dragged across the floor, likely caught under someone's feet. He let out a low breath that came out harshly, somewhere between a scoff and a sigh.

"I thought you were Hsin," he said, his voice twisted in bitterness that was mostly aimed at himself. He got out of bed and walked over to his pants. His hair fell around his face as he leaned forward, pulling his pants up with sharp movements. "I probably jumped at the chance."

Emilio shrugged and wiped a hand across his face before combing his fingers through his hair. "I dunno. It wasn't like-- like you came on to me. It was just-- I don't even fucking know. It just happened and I don't fucking remember why I didn't stop it." His voice rose at the end and sheer frustration and anger could be heard in it. "I'm such a fuck-up."

Boyd shook his head. It wasn't like Emilio had forced him to come to the apartment or get so shit-faced drunk with a man who looked almost exactly like his dead lover. He couldn't help the frustration he was feeling about everything: the situation, his stupid hopeless thoughts about Sin that he couldn't seem to stop, and how pointless all his attempts had been to make the pain go away. None of it ever worked. None of it was ever right.

With a sigh, Boyd turned toward Emilio. One hand pressed against his forehead as if to still the pounding of his head, while his eyes briefly squeezed shut. His other hand raised, his palm out to the older man.

"Emilio, just-- stop. You didn't make me come here. You didn't make me drink so much like a damn idiot. I should have known better. Even when I was sober I thought you looked like him."

He dropped his hands and looked at Emilio heavily. "You stopped me from taking PD. I wouldn't have been capable of stopping myself from starting down that path."

"Still." Emilio shook his head stubbornly and finally turned to face Boyd entirely. His full mouth was turned down in a frown, eyebrows drawn together miserably. "I know how I get when I drink. I fucking get all depressed over Zach and I just look for anything to just-- just, I dunno-- I don't mean like, that you were just the nearest body but--"

Boyd thought that was probably exactly the case but didn't bother saying that aloud since it didn't matter anyway.

Emilio stopped again, obviously struggling. "Fuck me, I can't even explain. But that's just how I do, Boyd. I drink and I fuck. I never shoulda started drinking with you."

Boyd sighed, more lowly this time. He looked away.

He wished he could go back and do the previous night over, only this time not drink. Or at least not let himself get so drunk that he didn't know to stop, or not start, everything that had happened.

That view of the wall was too familiar to him. He abruptly remembered the mattress beneath him and the view of the room through long eyelashes. He remembered the unmistakable feeling of Emilio's sweat-slicked, hard body moving against him.

But more than anything, he remembered his lack of thoughts.

It was a strong memory of being overwhelmed by the intensity-- the way his entire body had been buzzing from more than the alcohol. He'd felt alight with heady sensation. Every shift of Emilio's fingers across his overheated skin; every tickle of hair brushing against his cheek when he'd felt the warm sucking heat of lips and tongue and teeth moving across him.

He remembered the way he'd thrown his head back with a gasp; the way his hands had clutched at Emilio's bare back and the way he'd alternated between drawing in sharp breaths and practically sobbing out screams of pleasure. He remembered kissing Emilio deeply; the sensual ravaging of their mouths and the short gasps of breath in between. The way Emilio had rocked deep inside him, hitting every perfect spot to make Boyd let out ragged groans that grew louder and huskier as time passed. The way they hadn't even needed to be joined at other times to make Boyd ratchet up higher in the bed and groan-gasp-plead for more.

He remembered the stretching of those lips into a smile that had captured his attention. The rumbling chuckle that had stilled Boyd's breath.

He'd needed it-- needed those insanely talented fingers and lips and tongue and it was there, so vividly in his mind-- the shuddering memory of sex that was so incredible, so intense, he'd been able to do nothing but jerk and moan and beg and writhe, wanting it to never end. Making the physical acts even more gratifying had been an aching feeling of love. So muddled into seeing Sin's features where instead there were Emilio's, he'd lost himself in ecstasy.

The shot of memory was so intense that for a moment Boyd stilled. His jaw shifted and eyes narrowed, and tension seeped into his shoulders. He abruptly dropped his hands and looked for his shirt.

Of course Emilio had to give him such mind-blowing sex he was going to have an even harder time ignoring the flashes. It made everything that much worse, especially contrasted with the love he'd felt for Sin. The feeling of being uncomfortable around Emilio only increased.

He didn't know what to say to the other man. He didn't know what would make this better or make either of them feel less responsible for any of this.

Boyd felt even worse about the whole thing than he would have if he'd gone into it without a thought of Sin in his mind. Even if that would have been like forgetting Sin and leaving him behind, it would have been better than what had really happened.

Boyd didn't see his shirt in the room so he guessed it had to be in the living room out of view. "None of this should have ever happened."

"Obviously." Emilio turned his face away again, eyes narrowed as he looked out the window. It was storming outside, rain pounding against the window. "Better to forget that it did."

Boyd couldn't argue with that. He just hoped he would be able to. He made a noise of assent, not having words to voice any of his thoughts and knowing it was pointless anyway. They were both thinking the same thing.

He walked out of the bedroom, looking for the rest of his clothing. His coat and sweater were by the bar and when he swept his gaze across the room he saw his shirt crumpled near the couch. The cushions were askew and he suddenly remembered himself crouched over, moaning lasciviously around Emilio's cock as he'd deep-throated the man.

The memory of that hot, pulsing flesh between his lips was so strong he could almost taste the pre-come and could remember the pressure against his tongue. The way he'd dug the ball of his tongue piercing into Emilio's sensitive flesh and had him crying out in pleasure. The intense, nearly frantic movements of their bodies. Emilio's fingers twisting into his hair, holding him still while he fucked his mouth.

Boyd's eyes narrowed into a glare as if he could dispel the memory through force. He swept the shirt off the floor, turning away from the couch as he pulled the shirt over his head. His back and shoulders were stiff with tension.

He didn't know what was worse; fucking Emilio while thinking of Sin at the time, or the memories now righting themselves and starring Emilio rather than Sin.

He pulled on the rest of his clothes, eventually finding his underwear where it had been ripped off near the bar. He shoved it in his pocket and moved to pulling on his shoes. He could see Emilio in the bedroom still, not having moved from his position.

Boyd sighed again, a reaction he seemed to be having a lot, and tied his shoes tightly. His gun and holster were still sitting on the coffee table and he tried not to look anywhere that could bring about some sort of memory as he picked it up. He fastened the gun at his waist again, sliding it back to its place on his side, near Sin's name burned into his flesh. The gun felt heavier than it should, like a weight that wouldn't let him forget the night before.

His lips turned down. He could still feel the hangover pounding through his brain but more than that, he felt the other remnants of the night. His body was sated and sore the way it got after a long, hard fuck, or after a marathon of acts. He couldn't remember most of the night but somewhere within him he knew they'd been at it for awhile. The fact that he remembered Emilio fucking him in three different places told him enough on its own.

He couldn't even care anymore about random, casual sex. He'd been used for it enough on the long mission that it had become meaningless to him after awhile. But that same uncaring distance couldn't be applied to this situation.

Every plane of Emilio's body, every shift of his fingers, put him on the verge of remembering one more thing he didn't want to remember. Shoving into his face the shameful difference in his ecstatic feelings the night before and the far less glamorous reality of fucking the father of the man he loved. It felt like the ultimate betrayal to Sin's memory, played out in desperate, yearning movements and a mind that buzzed with longing and lack of common sense.

He was so disgusted with the situation that it felt like a pit weighed down his stomach.

His expression was drawn and serious by the time he was ready. He was tempted to leave without saying anything but he felt that he should. He walked over to the bedroom, pausing in the open doorway and staring at Emilio's tense back. The storm was crashing down rain on the city below, with angry clouds darkening the day. The weather reflected his mood.

Emilio didn't speak despite Boyd's presence and for a moment there was tense silence between them. There wasn't a perfect solution to this situation. There wasn't even a good one. There really wasn't anything they could do other than operate on mutual denial.

"We just won't talk about it again," Boyd said. "As if it never happened."

There was no hesitation before Emilio nodded his agreement although he remained faced away. For a moment it looked like he might say something but then he just sighed and crossed his arms over his chest.

In the end all he said was, "Take care of yourself, Boyd."

"You too," was all Boyd could say.

He stood there for the briefest second before he left, his lips parted as if he would say more. But no words would come and likely wouldn't no matter how long he waited.

Continue to Fade Chapter 10...