Fade Chapter Ten

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

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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.

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Fade Chapter 10

Uploaded on 6/19/2011

The main training room in the Tower was more crowded than usual. When Kassian had arrived to meet Harriet, all of the private rooms had already been taken and they were forced to pick a corner of the main space. He would have preferred to spar without a dozen pairs of eyes following their progress but there wasn't much of a choice in the matter.

As one of the few Senior Agents, there would always be fascination with him and people would always watch and observe. Sometimes out of respect and other times, people just wanted to see if he was really all that he was cracked up to be. He couldn't blame him. He'd done the same to Sin when they were younger. Watching and waiting to see a flaw, some flaw, that would prove that Sin didn't deserve his rank. That had never happened of course and he'd eventually grown to respect the other man even though it had taken longer than it should have.

Harriet's knee slammed into his side and Kassian stumbled back with a wince. She bounded backwards, dropping into a defensive stance and raising her eyebrows at him.

"What the hell was that, Trovosky?"

He rolled his shoulders and tried not to look embarrassed. "Distracting myself with depressing thoughts."

She frowned and there was a brief moment of hesitation before she launched another series of attacks at him. Punch to the gut, kick to the head, spinning back flip that would have caught him in the chin if he was a fraction of a second slower. He dodged and deflected most of her attacks but it was always just barely and it was never effortless. Harriet was getting good; damn good.

"You're getting pretty bad ass," he commented after she landed a move that nearly sent him flying backwards. He would have slammed against the wall if he hadn't caught himself, grabbed her still extended leg, and tumbled her to the mat.

Harriet gave him a grim smile. She was pinned to the floor beneath him, sweating and looking gorgeous even with her hair tied back in a knot and wearing basketball shorts with a loose wife beater. "I've been practicing a lot."

"Jon not keeping you busy?"

It was out of his mouth before he could rein the comment in and Harriet's chocolate brown eyes narrowed. Kassian hastily backed off her but not before she caught him in the side of the knee with a well-aimed kick. It could have done serious damage if she'd been trying but they never sparred with the intention of injuring each other. Not usually anyway.

"Let's not talk about Jon," she said flatly, rolling to a stand. She wiped her arm across her sweaty forehead, a frown etched onto her mouth. "At least not here anyway."

Kassian looked at her thoughtfully. Maybe there really was trouble in paradise. They'd seemed to be a solid couple for the past two years but recently things had appeared to be changing. Harriet had started hanging out with the old crew a lot more, with Kassian in particular. After the stressful Investigator Monaghan incident when they'd looked after Sin at his house, Harriet had kept her distance from him. He'd been too obvious about his attraction to her and his animosity towards her new relationship and she'd backed off out of respect for Jon.

But in the past few months she'd begun calling him more, inviting him to train with her or play basketball at the park. They'd even had lunch together a few times by themselves. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed her company until he had it again. But that hadn't stopped him from wondering what the change was all about.

"Why don't we go to the cafe?" he suggested. "We've been here for two hours already and you've beaten me up enough."

She scoffed at that and tied the hem of her tank top into a knot. "You don't even attack me. How am I supposed to judge how well I'm progressing if all you do is turtle?"

"Don't worry. Next time I'll beat your ass now that I've studied all your new moves."

"You can try."

Kassian grinned and grabbed his t-shirt from the floor next to the mat. He threw it on before grabbing the small gym bag that he'd sat in the corner. It had a change of clothes inside but he wasn't going to put them on without a shower.

"How about we just go to a vending machine and grab a bench in the courtyard?" Harriet asked after a moment. Her gaze had strayed to the rest of the training room and she was looking irritated with whatever she saw.

"I've had it with the gawkers. I don't know what the hell everyone is doing here anyway. I guess they think the Marshal will give them brownie points if they appear to be training every day."

He laughed as they started out of the area. "Is that what your plan is?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, okay."

They stopped at the vending machines just by the front doors of the training area. He bought two bottles of juice and glanced at her as the machine spit them out. "If not, then why are you in gladiator mode lately? I haven't seen you work this hard in a long time. Not every day, at least."

"Two reasons."

Kassian picked up the bottles, handed her the cranberry one and cracked open the apple juice for himself. "Which are?"

She pushed the double doors open and didn't respond. The corridor that led towards the exit of the Tower wasn't packed but there were enough people around that could hear their conversation. They didn't exchange words again until they left the building entirely and began walking out into the grassy courtyard. Summer was rapidly approaching and everything was in bloom. The air was still cooler than it should have been but he didn't feel too cold in his t-shirt.

"The first reason," Harriet started as she led him to a set of benches between the cafe and the Tower. "Is that I want to give rank 10 training a go again."

"Combat wasn't one of your flaws," he pointed out reasonably. "Your problem was that you weren't versatile enough when planning."

"I'm too by-the-book," she agreed with a nod, sitting down on the bench and turning sideways to face him as he sat down as well. She drew one leg up, resting her foot against the bench and took a sip of her drink. "But I've been working on that. Even General Stephen noted that my storms have been a lot less rigid."


"Unorthodox methods do have merit, I've come to realize. Especially because it catches people off guard."

"Exactly." Kassian set his bottle down beside him and looked at her fully. "So what's your other reason?"

A shadow crossed Harriet's face and she frowned again. She chugged her juice for a long moment, draining the bottle and averting her gaze. Only when it was completely empty did she sigh quietly and glance over at him. "I've been wanting to distract myself."



Kassian arched an eyebrow at her contemplatively. "Are you having problems?"

There was another silence and Harriet squeezed the plastic bottle, crushing it in her hand. She turned it over for a moment before shrugging and tossing it into a trash receptacle nearby.

"Honestly? I don't know. Stick me in a crowded room with a hundred civilians and I have no problems pinpointing the dirty one. Put me in a room with my boyfriend and I can't figure out what's truth, lies or evasion. It's pretty fucking impossible."

"Well, he is an agent. He's supposed to be impossible to read."

"Not to me," she replied sharply. It was obvious that this was a sore issue with her.

"It was never this way in the beginning. Now I'm lucky if we spend two nights a week together and that's not counting time spent on missions. He's so... distracted now. His attention is always somewhere else. He says it's stress from the new admin, but I don't know. He isn't even as affectionate as he used to be."

Hearing Harriet complain about a lack of affection was more than a little odd. For a long time she had seemed completely uninterested in love and romance entirely. He just couldn't picture her wanting to be stroked and cuddled.

"Work is pretty stressful lately," Kassian said diplomatically, running a hand through his short blond hair. "The pressure is on for everyone after the first couple of months when anyone below the expectation meter got terminated."

She looked at him for a long moment before shaking her head decisively. "He's fucking other people."

Kassian stared at her blankly. "What?"

"I'm sure of it," she said flatly, emotionlessly. "I've been cheated on before. I know the signs."

"Okay," he replied carefully, sitting up straight and rubbing his jaw. Fidelity wasn't exactly his strong suit either but he couldn't deny that the idea of someone playing Harriet dirty pissed him off. "So you think he's cheating on you. But what makes you think it's more than one girl? Do you really think Jon would do that?"

"Before we got together, Jon fucked anything with a hole between its legs. He's romanced most of the attractive female civilian staff and a bunch of agents too. He just doesn't go about it in the obvious douche way like Emilio. He's discreet, kind of like you."

Kassian made a face at the comparison but didn't interrupt.

"Emma was all for me and him hooking up but even she, Queen of Positivity, warned me that he was a ladies man. The first time he admitted being attracted to me to her during training, there was apparently a laundry list of other women as well."

"Yeah but that doesn't mean--"


He stopped at her angry shout and looked at her closely. For the first time in a long time, her front was completely down. She didn't look like the hard ass tough chick she always tried so hard to be. She looked betrayed and heartbroken.

"Please stop defending him. You don't even fucking like him."

Well, there was no denying that. Jon had a certain kind of underhanded arrogance that got under Kassian's skin like nothing else. It didn't help that he'd gotten with Harriet at the same time that Kassian had gotten interested in her.

Although now, he wondered if that obstacle hadn't been a good thing. Jon was a shit for doing this to Harriet but Kassian couldn't honestly say that he would be any better of a mate for her. He hadn't gone the relationship route since he'd been married and that had ended in large part to him being unfaithful to his wife.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart."

She shrugged, face once again a mask of irritation. All traces of sadness were gone. "Shit happens."

"One question though-- why the hell are you still with him?"

Harriet glanced over at him, raising her eyebrows. "I want proof. I'd really like to catch him in the act. And then I'll completely eviscerate him."

Kassian winced. He almost pitied the poor bastard when that happened. He opened his mouth to reply but before the words could get out, his phone chirped. He extracted it from his pocket and saw that it was an alert from his electronic datebook.

"Shit. I forgot I have an appointment at the Tower."

"Are you late?"

"No, but I won't have time to go home and change."

Harriet rolled her eyes. "I'm sure whoever won't be too shocked that you're not in Perfect Agent Trovosky form."

He smirked and stood up, thankful that at least the breeze had dried the sweat that had been running down his face and chest. "I hopped that train awhile ago, Stevens. I'm going to get going but give me a call if you need anything. I'm here. Always. For anything you need."

She looked up at him, a strangely wistful expression briefly crossing her countenance before she nodded curtly and looked away. "Thanks."

"And don't do anything that will get you terminated. If this is all true, he isn't worth it."

Harriet gave him a wan smile and he turned reluctantly to walk away. The entire way up to the psychiatric wing, the subject weighed on his mind. It bothered him that Harriet hadn't told him sooner and he wondered why she'd kept it to herself for so long. Had she thought he'd rejoice in the news or make light of it?

It also made him want to find Jon and bash his head into a wall. It was hypocritical given his own history but he'd always been fond of Harriet and protective of her. For years she'd resisted various agents who had tried to come on to her and the first time she'd allowed herself to be sucked in, she'd been burned. It sucked. A lot.

Kassian had always thought that relationships between agents was a risky and often bad idea. It was almost as difficult as being with a civilian if not worse. At least with civilians, there was the illusion of a different life. It was full of deceit but he didn't know if that was any worse than being with an agent.

Agents were trained liars. They were taught how to manipulate people in order to get what they wanted. Subterfuge was like second nature to them. Throw that in with the fact that they were all basically trying to live for the moment because the next could be the last and the fact that valentine or not, sex could always be a part of the job and he didn't know how anyone did it.

How could two people like that make it in a relationship together? It was what he asked himself whenever he was lonely and yearning for something that he considered impossible. Unattainable even.

It was how he'd comforted himself back then. Or at least, it was how he'd tried.

Sin and Boyd had made it difficult after awhile. He'd never seen two people more in love. Two people who had made it work despite all of the shit they'd gone through together. They made the impossible seem possible and that was when the depression and loneliness had really gotten bad for Kassian. Everyone wasn't inept at functioning with another agent. Or at being in love. It was just him. Well, that's what he thought anyway.

Of course none of these epiphanies or self realizations had come easily. He'd just started drinking again and wallowing in self pity. It had started to affect his work and eventually, he'd been ordered to start up the psychiatric sessions again to straighten himself out. He'd been resentful at first but in the long run, it had done him well.

The revelations of the roots of his problems had come with Ann. He was sure a lot of the rank 10 haters would love to be a fly on the wall during one of those sessions. They'd love to learn that Perfect Agent Trovosky, once a well loved agent back when he tried so hard to impress everyone, was a mess.

Insecure, self-hating, lonely, incompetent at expressing his feelings for another human and deathly afraid of failing in any way. Afraid of failing at work but even more afraid of failing in his personal life. And he was at an age where casual sex was fun but was starting to lose the glamor. He wanted a mate. Someone to talk to. He wanted someone who could understand him. He wanted what Sin and Boyd had had.

They had been a picture of hope for him after awhile. After the sessions had started and he'd started understanding himself more-- After he'd started trying to help himself instead of rocking out at his own pity party-- He'd started thinking, if they could do it, why couldn't he? The jealousy had slowly turned into seeds of inspiration. It had barely had time to bloom before Sin turned up dead and everything went to hell all over again. At the Agency and then even more horrifyingly, with his own family.

The thought made his heart beat faster and he shook his head slightly, pushing the thoughts into a space far away.

"Hey Sara," he smiled at Ann's admin as he entered the small waiting area outside of her office.

Sara grinned at him. Her eyes quickly and discreetly flicked over his muscular frame. She seemed to appreciate the sleeveless t-shirt and close fitting cotton shorts. "Straight from the gym?"

"Unfortunately. I forgot I had a session today." Kassian leaned against the side of her desk and found himself holding her gaze. She had pretty blue eyes and thick sable hair. By default, he found himself flirting with her every time he walked in.

"Well, you're looking great as usual. I wish I had a fraction of your dedication. I'm ridiculously out of shape." Sara affected a self-deprecating smile that was utterly bullshit.

Whoever handled the civilian hiring at the Agency always took on people in good health who were relatively fit. There was always the chance that trusted and loyal civilians could move up in the ranks.

In the past several years, Douglas had told him that nearly 20% of new agent trainees were civilian staff members wanting to move up. It had never been that way in the past but paranoia of infiltrations from outside organizations had caused the powers that be to start promoting from the inside. And civilian staff members with an impressive tenure could be whipped into shape just as well as some sociopathic kid from Brighton or the Barrows. Maybe even easier since they came without the attitude problems and time spent on deportment training. It helped that they already knew all about the Agency and understood how things worked.

But Kassian played along and didn't hide the fact that now it was his eyes that were moving up and down. "You look just fine to me."

The pleased smile that spread across Sara's mouth was so sexy that a sudden mental image crossed his mind of him flipping her over, yanking her dress up and impaling her on his stiffening cock. It was pathetically easy to get him riled up. Sara seemed quite aware of her effect on him. They gazed at each other and there were definitely heated sparks flying.

But then Ann Cock Blocker Connors opened her door and gave them an unimpressed stare. She looked the same as she always did. Dark hair pulled back in a long braid and business casual in dark dress pants with a pale beige blouse.

"Were you planning to send him in or were you going to be conducting today's session?" she asked Sara blandly.

Sara reddened and jerked her gaze away, fiddling with her computer and looking suddenly self conscious in her white dress. "Sorry, Ms. Connors."

Ann looked at her a moment longer, speared Kassian with a similar stare, and then turned to walk back into her office. Suitably chagrined, he trailed behind her and shut the door.

"I would appreciate it if you'd refrain from fucking my assistant," she said bluntly, picking up her purse from the desk. "It's hard to find one that isn't a complete agent groupie. She at least only seems interested in your penis in particular but it would be nice to keep the drama at a minimum in my work space."

Kassian grinned. "How do you know it's only my cock she's after?"

Ann gave him a flat stare once again. "Because she only looks on the verge of humping her desk when you come around."

His laugh filled the room and she gave him a wry grin in return. This was why he loved having her as a doctor. She was so fucking blunt and in his face. She wasn't afraid to talk to him like he was a regular person. She was like a really cool friend who happened to be an incredibly intelligent doctor.

"You stink, by the way."

Kassian rolled his eyes and opened his gym bag. She seemed completely unfazed as he extracted deodorant and put it on in front of her.

"You don't look dressed to go out for lunch," Ann observed dryly. "I suppose you forgot."

He froze in mid-roll and looked at her blankly. Then it dawned on him and he winced. He had forgotten. During their last session he'd asked if she wanted to have lunch sometime-- talk about things in a non-stifling compound setting. She'd been reluctant but had eventually agreed and now here he was, completely unprepared.

"Damn. I'm sorry. I've been kind of preoccupied. I can go change--"

"We could just stay here and have a regular session."

Kassian made a face. "No. It's not a big deal, really. I have clothes in my bag."

Ann put her purse down and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She looked impatient and a little exasperated. "If it means that much to you, why don't we just go to the deli. It doesn't have to be a fancy affair and I don't have a lot of time."

He agreed and they headed out. Sara pointedly stared down at her computer as they went by and Kassian felt slightly guilty for getting her into trouble. He'd told himself to tone down the flirting but somehow it never happened.

They took Ann's car to Mike's Deli, a neighborhood spot over on the east side of Cedar Hills. The front was a small convenience store and the back had tables and chairs where people could have their lunch. They ordered at the deli counter, Ann getting tuna on rye and Kassian getting turkey and swiss cheese, before grabbing a table in the far back. Thankfully it was empty, likely because the lunch rush had just left.

"So, how have things been in the past few weeks?"Ann asked as she situated her food on the paper plate. She had also gotten a fruit cup and a bottle of water to go with her meal.

He shrugged and thought about the question before answering. Things had gone from steady but dull to complicated as soon as Harriet had come back into the picture. Being around her was nice but also a cause of anxiety and irritation when the other factors entered the fray. "The same, I guess. Well, I don't know actually. I guess back and forth."

She raised her eyebrows. "When I saw you three weeks ago, you seemed more positive."

"Yeah," Kassian admitted, picking up his sandwich and staring at it. "I'm trying to stay that way but it's hard sometimes when I start thinking too much. I've been okay though, no drinking or anything. The only time I really felt very down was today."

"Do you know the cause?"

He hesitated. He always hesitated when it came to talking about Sin to her. It was ironic that he danced around issues with his psychiatrist for worry that they would make her uncomfortable. It probably went back to the fact that he'd known for so long that he'd started thinking of her as a friend.

He couldn't imagine opening up to anyone else after having spent so long establishing this level of trust with one person. He couldn't imagining someone else clinically reading his file, learning the most personal details of his life, asking about his wife, the divorce, the long-terminated Agent Schafer, and more recently, Leighton.

Just the thought made his fingers twitch with anxiety.

Ann frowned at him slightly, sensing that he was holding back. "Did something happen?"

"No, it's just that..." Kassian trailed off and shifted in the chair, chewing slowly. "I was thinking about Vega earlier."

She didn't give a visible reaction as she asked, "Which Vega?"

He hesitated again, longer this time. "I was thinking about Sin."

There was an extended silence as she observed him. She sat back in the chair and touched her chin with long slim fingers. "This isn't the first time you've exhibited reluctance to discuss Sin."

Kassian shrugged, not denying it.

"Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about him?"

"No, not at all."

"Then where does the issue lay?"

He paused briefly and finally decided to tell her and be done with it. "I don't know if talking about him would bother you. I know it's ridiculous and that you're a professional and I'm sure I'm not the only one of your patients to bring him up but, there you have it."

Ann stared at him. Her eyes had narrowed a fraction, her mouth thinning in displeasure. "He told you, didn't he."

The words were so accusing and irritated that for a brief moment, it seemed like she wanted to jump up and go bitch Sin out for blabbing their business. But in that exact same instant, she seemed to remember that Sin was dead. She deflated and her expression turned weary as her eyes dropped down to her food.

"I'm sorry," Kassian said with a sigh. He shook his head and frowned. "It was stupid of me to bring it up."

"No. I'm glad you told me."

"Well, Sin didn't tell me. At that point we barely got along. As far as I know, the only people who know who are currently not at this table are Boyd and likely Vivienne since she seems generally omnipresent."

Ann regarded him carefully before nodding. "That is comforting at least." She didn't ask how he knew but given he'd talked about his friendship with Boyd over time, it likely wasn't hard to figure out.

"No one is judging you, Ann. You don't have to look at me that way."

She continued to watch him with the same inward expression and a flash of intuition went through him. He'd made a mistake by telling her. She was debating discontinuing him as a patient. The flash of intuition was replaced by a flash of panic.

After years of seeing her as a doctor, he'd truly come to appreciate their sessions. They helped him understand himself in a way that he'd never thought possible. They helped him make decisions based on that understanding. Would that happen with someone else? It was hard to say. Distrust was ingrained in him too strongly to confide so deeply in someone new. Especially with Jae-Hwa's people now infesting the psych department.

"You know everything about me, Connors. Why is it so earth shattering that I know something about you?" he demanded.

"It's inappropriate."

"We exist on a hitman's version of Gilligan's Island," he retorted. "We are pretty much isolated to the same group of people and it will stay that way indefinitely. Do you think everything about your personal life would remain a secret? Especially for someone whose small group of friends includes people who were involved with that drama?"

She didn't answer but didn't break his gaze.

"If you drop me, you're doing it out of embarrassment. I've known about this for over two years, Connors. And look how much you've helped me since then. If you want to stop doing that just because I know you fooled around with Vega, you are one disappointing doctor."

"Are you through?"

He was working himself up into a nice furious rant but cut it off and nodded shortly. He picked up his sandwich and took a large bite.

They sat in silence for nearly five minutes. Him glaring out the window as he ate and her staring at him evenly. It was finally broken when she sighed and raised a hand to her forehead as though she had a terrible headache.

"I'm not going to drop you, Kassian. Unless you keep referring to me as 'Connors.' I detest that as much as I did my married name."

"Don't tell me that and then go behind my back and do it anyway."

"I'm not afraid of you, Kassian," Ann said dryly and finally picked up her own food. "If I was going to drop you, I would tell you. I would think you'd know by now that I am not frightened to tell you something you don't want to hear just because you're a great hulking brute."

He glared at her for a breath longer before grinning. "I guess you do prefer your men skinny."

She gave him an arch look. "Well," she said casually. "Obviously you had never seen the man naked if you characterized him as skinny."

"Believe me, Ann, it's not like I hadn't thought about it," he laughed and once again she cracked her wry smile. When his surprised laughter had died down, he thought for a moment before posing his next question. "Okay, hear me out for a second. I have an idea. Give me this one afternoon to pry into your shit, and then I'll forget the conversation ever happened."

"We should really be talking about you now, Kassian. Informal session or no, we are still here for you."

"Oh, come on now." Kassian crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side. "We talk about me all the time. You've been my doctor for going on four years. We've been acquaintances for much longer than that. I know nothing about your life except what others have told me. Throw a man a bone."

"I'm your doctor. You don't need to know about my personal life."

"So for the next ten minutes, stop being my doctor," he suggested with a smile. "And then I'll never ask you about your personal life again unless you bring it up first."

Ann sighed long and low, clearly tired of the issue. "I fail to understand why this interests you."

"Because it's interesting," he replied dryly, making a face. "And I'm curious. Like I said, we've been aware of each other for, what? Fifteen years? And I know zilch about you except, as I said, what I've heard from other sources."

Her hazel eyes narrowed slightly when he repeated the last part and he wondered if that had been the deciding factor in her acquiescence. "Three questions and then we're done with this."

"Why did you sleep with him?" Kassian asked without delay. He'd wondered about that from the moment that Boyd had told him. Ann didn't seem particularly surprised that it had been his first question, either. "It seems so not your style. Despite what they said about your sister, I never considered you to be an agent groupie."

Ann gave him an appalled look and chewed as she stared at him sourly. He just raised an eyebrow in response and finally she answered. "Lucky boy. That has a two part answer. Unfortunately for you, you will get the short summation of events."

"Which is?"

She thought for a moment, once again touching her fingers to her chin. Her hazel eyes drifted to the window and she seemed to be considering how to respond appropriately. "I was in a place where I felt as though control of my own life had slipped from my fingers."

"Because of your husband?"

"Is that your second question?" she asked pointedly.

"No. Never mind, go on."

Ann seemed satisfied that he wasn't planning to quiz her on her ex-husband. He didn't blame her. The word around the compound was that he'd managed to rip her off for a ton of money before using resources he'd gained from the Agency to disappear. According to Ryan, Captain Philip Scott had been unsatisfied with his lack of progress in the organization and that he'd blamed Ann bitterly for it. It was pretty irrational considering she hadn't been responsible for promises her father made before he'd been assassinated.

"Sin posed a way to strike back at the forces that were binding me by doing something that went against everything that was mandated of me. I was willing, at that time, to risk everything to feel like I had control again. As you know, it's a lot easier to accept a loss of control in the work place than it is in your own personal life."

"And it didn't help that Vega was ridiculously good looking."

She gave another wan smile. "Yes. Vega men have the ability to make you want them. In Sin's case, without even trying. He wasn't even attracted to me."

Strange guy. Maybe he'd been gay after all.

"Next question." Her tone had returned to the brisk businesslike way it had been before, as if she was decisively ending that line of discussion.

"Did it bother you when he died? You didn't seem very..." He moved his hand vaguely. He almost aborted the question, but it had nagged at him since the day that he'd found out. It had coincidentally fallen on the morning of a session with her. When he'd told Ann, it had been the first she'd heard of it as well.

"I guess I was curious because there weren't very many people who gave a damn, and I wouldn't have even known that you had been involved judging by your non-reaction on the day I told you."

Ann blinked at him and a shadow crossed her pretty face. She actually looked away from him and touched her bottle of water but she didn't pick it up. The question had clearly caught her off guard.

"I'm sorry, maybe that was an asshole implication."

"No, it's fine." She looked at him again. "I mourned more deeply than I thought it would, if you must know. And it did nothing to absolve me of the guilt I felt over what happened between he and I."

It was clear that she planned to say nothing more and yet he had so many questions. Did she use the word died because she didn't look at it as murder or was she simply being Agency-PC because she was in a position of authority with an agent? Why did she feel guilty?

But he shook his head and didn't ask any of those questions. They were leading into a realm that would likely make her uncomfortable, and he didn't want her to regret talking about it at all. So instead he changed the topic entirely.

"What do you do when you're not at work?"

Ann raised her eyebrows and her lips turned up slightly. She finished chewing and shook her head slightly. "You realize that is a very poorly phrased question."

Kassian chuckled. "Yeah, I did after the fact. Allow me to rephrase. Do you live for the Agency like Inspector Beaulieu or do you actually have an outside life these days?"

The smile on her face went up further and she seemed amused by the question. Amused and a tad pleased, as though she was happy that her personal life wasn't making the gossip rounds anymore. "Yes, I do. I spend a lot of time reading these days and I have also been dating. Is that sufficient for your curiosity?"

"No." She didn't seem ready to shoot down any related questions so Kassian figured it was safe topic as long as he didn't push too far. "Do you actually have success dating civilians?"

Ann looked at him in consideration and finally uncapped her water. She crossed her legs under the table and allowed her hazel gaze to shift out the window. "It depends on the civilian. For the most part, no. They are too normal for me. I came to realize that when one views them self as damaged, it's difficult to carry on a relationship with someone who's not. You feel self conscious. Inadequate. At those times, I would have appreciated being with someone who also had a questionable past."

Kassian's eyebrows shot up. "Wow. Most doctors wouldn't want to tell their patients that they consider themselves fucked up or damaged."

"Most doctors are full of shit," she retorted blandly. "I was raised in the Agency from birth. Anyone who would think I am anything but damaged is deluded. For a child to know the things that my sister and I knew, there was no possible way we could grow up normal in the conventional sense of the word. But the fact that I recognize that and don't try to put on airs of mental superiority is why I have a good relationship with my patients and why other doctors can still be regarded with distrust. Being marginally open with patients is pretty unorthodox but I find that it benefits both parties in the long run."

"Ahhh, I see." Kassian narrowed his eyes and smirked. He opened up the bag of chips he'd gotten to go with his sandwich and dumped them on his plate. "This is all a method, isn't it? This whole casual lunch thing. You're trying to seem more easy to relate to so I spill my guts."

Ann scoffed and wiped her thin hands on a napkin, tossing loose strands of light brown hair out of her face. "Oh please. You spill your guts already."

He grinned, not denying that and took a large bite of his sandwich. It was good but Mike's Deli was always pretty amazing. The deli meat was the best quality in the city and they used homemade herb mayonnaise that was delicious.

They sat in comfortable silence for awhile and watched the other patrons trickle in and out. There weren't many people. It was a neighborhood deli and most people were still at work at this time of day. It seemed that most of the customers at this time were older people and that suited Kassian fine. He wasn't in the mood to be crowded in the back dining area with a lot of other people.

Ann finished half of her sandwich before breaking the silence. "I've allowed you to eat in peace but now I'm going to remind you that we still need to get caught up. Casual lunch or no."

Kassian had expected as much and wasn't very surprised when Ann asked what had caused him to start thinking about Sin earlier. He explained that his thoughts about Sin had been more byproducts of other events than anything else and recounted his time with Harriet.

"And you believe she is ready to be in a relationship with you now," Ann said, gazing at him contemplatively.

"That's just the thing." He shifted in his chair and rested his elbows on the table, leaning forward. "I think she'd be less opposed to being with me now. I think she possibly even regrets rejecting me before when they first started out. But even though I've been wanting to take a shot for awhile now..."

Kassian trailed off and his lips turned down in a frown as he ran a hand through his short blond hair. "Now I'm questioning if it's even a good idea. She isn't the kind of woman to do casual and I don't know if I can be what she'd want me to be. I don't want to cause more issues when she's already having enough."

Ann nodded and stabbed her fork into a melon slice. She was observing him the way she often did in meetings. Thinking about what he was saying and comparing it to things he'd said in the past. Making sense of him when he didn't even make sense to himself sometimes.

"Do you think the issues you have in your own life would be a problem for her?"

"I don't know. She knows about the drinking, or she did anyway. She saw it."

"Yes, you told me."

He shrugged and leaned his cheek against the open palm of his hand. "Ever since I got to know Harriet, I've always respected her. She's strong, smart, ambitious and doesn't rely on her looks to get what she wants. She doesn't try to fit anywhere like so many other people do. She has it together, she always has. And me..." Kassian released a disgusted exhalation and rolled his eyes. "I'm all over the fucking place, Ann. I have so many issues that I'm still working out."

Ann made a thoughtful sound as she chewed slowly on the likely canned fruit in her cup. Mike's was good for sandwiches and deli meat but the fresh fruit and vegetables weren't much to write home about. But to her credit, Ann didn't turn up her nose and complain. For a rich woman who could probably fly in produce from South America if she wanted to, it was somewhat impressive.

"The two of you go in cycles," she said finally. "She admired you but felt inadequate thus she became ambivalent about whether or not she should attempt to pursue you. Ultimately she decided not to try. She overcomes this and now you are where she used to be. Not feeling good enough, thinking you aren't on a high enough level to deserve her."

He scowled. Harriet had once categorized her infatuation with him as pathetic. The fact that he honestly was in the shoes she'd taken off two years ago wasn't exactly flattering. Would she think he was pathetic too? Kassian considered that and shook his head. And here he was, obsessing over how she saw him again.

"This is really frustrating," he complained, sitting back and heaving a disgusted sigh. "I've been really trying to stop living this double life. I've been trying to stop caring so much about being perfect at work but it's fucking impossible with Harriet."

"Well she held you on the highest pedestal for years, Kassian," Ann replied reasonably. "I'm sure it's very easy to feel as if you've let her down by showing her that you weren't the archetype she thought you to be. And I'm sure it's difficult for yourself to see her view of you changing. As painful as it was for you to have that dual life, you've admitted yourself that you did enjoy having people think so much of you. I'm sure even more so with Harriet, since you admire her just as much."

He shrugged, staring down at the crumbs left on his paper plate. "I still don't know what to do about it. It's just like what you were saying before, honestly. When I'm around her now, I get hung up on how much more together she is than I am. It'd be easier if she had something wrong with her."

Ann raised an eyebrow.

Kassian made a face. "I'm joking."

"You need to lay the cards out on the table, Kassian. Will you ever get over this preoccupation?"

"I don't know. Probably not. I'll probably just end up being fake around her and trying to act like nothing is wrong. I probably wouldn't even tell her half the things that are on my mind ever because I'd think she would judge me. And she probably would. She can be very judgmental, especially if it's about something she can't identify with."

A group of teenagers entered the deli, laughing loudly and bombarding the previously quiet space with noise. Ann's eyes flicked in their direction and for some reason their appearance prompted her to look at her watch.

"You mentioned that before, with the drinking."

"Yeah. Honestly, it was frustrating. She just didn't get it. Her response to my being an alcoholic was as simple as 'just don't drink anymore.' She couldn't wrap her mind around how that wasn't an easy fix and how hard it was for me. She just... didn't get it and it made me feel like a jackass."

Ann crumpled the wrapping to her sandwich but didn't avert her gaze from his. "I need to be going but let me ask you this before we bring this to a close. Is this an issue you see resolving in the future? Think carefully before you answer."

Was it likely that Harriet would stop being difficult to please with less than perfection? Would he stop wanting her to see him as perfect and nothing less? Probably not. They were apparently destined to always be on different wavelengths.

"Probably not," Kassian admitted reluctantly.

"Then keep that in mind before you decide what course to take."

They left the deli not too long after and she dropped him off at the Agency parking lot where he started to walk off to his truck. He'd barely managed to lift his arm to open the door when his phone beeped.

"Fuck me," he scoffed, closing his eyes briefly and shaking his head. For a moment he wanted to smash the damn phone against the ground but the crazed notion passed and he slipped it out of his pocket.

Marshal Seong wanted him in her office in twenty minutes. Just fucking awesome.

Swearing again, Kassian opened the door with more force than was necessary and hefted his gym bag inside. Lips turned down in a scowl, he did an about face and strode back to the Tower. Weariness from the work out and the frustration over Harriet was giving him determined tunnel vision. All he saw was the Tower, the briefing, and the end of the briefing when he could hopefully get an hour of rest before he was carted off to whatever mission she was sending him off on.

That single minded determination was what caused him to miss Ryan until the shorter man elbowed him in the side.

"Rude," Ryan chastised, frowning at him. "Make me look dumb, why don't you?"

Kassian looked over at him in confusion. "What?"

"You ignoring me, ass. I've been yelling your name for the past couple of minutes and you just walk on like you're too cool to reply!"

"Oh. Sorry." Kassian paused, and then grinned despite himself. "I bet you looked like a loser."

"I did," Ryan complained.

"I didn't know you were so sensitive, babe." Kassian's mouth turned, and he gave Ryan a sideways look, gaze flicking him up and down.

"Don't call me babe. And don't give me that look. You're not really flirting with me, anyway."

Ryan said it in such a bland, uninterested way that Kassian couldn't help but laugh.

"But there was that one time... That one night..." he trailed off meaningfully, smirk growing into a leer as he wiggled his blond eyebrows.

"Oh please," was the indignant reply. "That was nothing."

That actually stung a little. Kassian shrugged, and made a face.

"Well to hell with you then, little man."

Looking entirely too pleased with himself, Ryan adjusted his glasses and hefted his large backpack. "Where are you going anyway?"



"That was earlier. I have a briefing with the Marshal."



Ryan hefted his back pack again, frowning. "I was going to see if you wanted to come over and-- oh grosser, it's the she-devil."

Kassian looked over and saw that Ryan's expression had soured considerably. His indigo eyes were focused on a tall thin woman a couple of yards ahead of them. Kassian had opened his mouth to ask what Ryan meant but the question was delayed as his eyes caught on long legs encased in skintight black denim and an off the shoulder sweater that looked like it was made of studs and chains.


Ryan gave him a disgusted glare. "You'd screw anything if it came in a nice enough wrapper."

There was a moment when Kassian could have defended himself, but he couldn't think of anything honest sounding so he just shrugged. "What crawled up your ass? She's--"

The woman in question turned around and the sentence died on Kassian's lips.

"Kassian Trovosky!" Jordan flashed a blinding white smile surrounded by pillowy lips and pink lip gloss.

An image of Bex juxtaposed itself for a moment and there was no way in hell that the Agency had not surgically enhanced Jordan. That didn't stop him from picturing her mouth on his dick though.

"...Hunt," he said slowly.

"Go away," Ryan said with flat uncharacteristic rudeness.

"I was just thinking of you. How excited I was, to be going on my first mission with the famous Perfect Agent."

"What?" Kassian and Ryan chorused.

Jordan smiled and her dark eyes moved to Ryan.

"Oh, hello Ryan. I didn't notice you."

"Why are you going on a mission with Kassian?" Ryan demanded, staring at her suspiciously.

"Well, I don't know, we haven't been to the briefing yet."

Kassian barely reacted as she threaded her thin arm through his. She gave him a sideways look, her lips curling up devilishly. "But they only really use me for a certain sort of mission so I can only imagine..."

"Ugh." Ryan made a gagging noise.

"I have no idea what's going on," Kassian admitted.

"We'll find out soon enough."

Jordan started to tug him towards the Tower but Ryan grabbed his t-shirt, and dragged him back.


Jordan's innocent expression turned into one of irritation. "What is it now, Ryan?"

"I don't need anything from you," Ryan said coldly. "I need to speak to Kassian. So... go away."

They stared at each other for an uncomfortable stretch of time. Kassian scratched the back of his head, not feeling any more enlightened.

"Fine," Jordan said flatly. She gave Ryan a cool stare before turning her attention back to Kassian. "See you soon, Kass."

"Don't call him Kass."

Jordan just laughed and walked away. Kassian enjoyed the view until Ryan punched him in the shoulder.

"Stop ogling her, you idiot! Don't you understand? She's perma valentine. They're going to make you have sex with her!"

Kassian raised his eyebrows slightly. "Sorry kid, but that isn't quite the crisis scenario you had me envisioning."

Ryan gaped at him. He made inarticulate noises before throwing his hands up in frustration. "Dude, it's like-- she's evil, okay? If poke her, you're poking the devil's vagina. It's just not kosher."

A half laugh, half scoff bubbled up, and Kassian clamped down on it when Ryan gave him a death glare that would have made Sin proud.

"You do remember that I like women too, right?"

"Oh my God, you dumb ass blond."

Getting irritated now, Kassian sighed. "What's the problem, Ryan? Just spit it out and stop talking in weird riddles."

"She's just... her and her twin both-- you just should stay away from them. And she's like fucking batshit, anyway. I looked her up and it's no wonder that she's so damn spacey and weird. You don't need someone like that in your life, Kass. Seriously."

"Ry, it's just a mission. One mission."

"But why her?" Ryan demanded, indigo eyes narrowing. "Why you? They never send you on valentine type missions! It just is creeping me out!"

Releasing another frustrated breath, Kassian frowned down at his friend. "You need to simmer down, little man. You're more high strung than usual. Stop hitting up the coffee shop with Owen so much."

Ryan glared at him and pressed his lips in a thin line.

"I'll call you later, okay?" When Ryan didn't respond, Kassian grasped his thin shoulder and shook him slightly. "Okay?"

"Fine. But don't say I didn't warn you that she's a mentally damaged cunt from another dimension of badness."

They looked at each other and then Ryan turned, and stormed off.

Confused and almost amused by the bizarre exchange, all Kassian could do was turn and continue his walk to the Tower. He frankly didn't mind being sent off with someone a little damaged. At the moment it actually seemed like it was right up his alley.

Continue to Fade Chapter 11...