Fade Chapter Twelve

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

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Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter 12

Uploaded on 10/10/2011

It was nearly two weeks before Boyd had two consecutive days of scheduled downtime. Not wanting to draw any suspicion to himself, he spent the day before checking in at the Agency. When he wasn't called in for anything, he spent a couple of hours in the training room and left the compound without appearing to be in a rush.

But he was in a rush. He was in such a rush that he didn't even return home to shower before speeding down to Annadale with a pre-packed overnight bag. Once again it took him a little over four hours but he managed to make it down before nine that night.

Returning to Annadale felt bizarre now that he was coming of his own free will.

The small town was so unlike Lexington that it was at first difficult to get used to it. The air was considerably warmer, it smelled pleasantly of the ocean, and there was a whimsical feel. Music always seemed to be drifting from one direction or another and small knots of young people were found everywhere, looking carefree. He would be hard pressed to find anyone in Lexington who looked like that.

This time Boyd picked an extended stay hotel that was only two blocks away from the diner. The Oceanside Resort was much larger than the previous hotel he'd stayed at and offered two room suites. He didn't actually need the space but if he was going to be coming down on a regular basis, it was convenient to have good accommodations.

Despite the amenities, he didn't do anything more than throw his bag down in the room, quickly change clothes, and rush right back out to the diner. He wasn't entirely sure what time it closed and, thankfully, it was still open at ten.

The Blue Moon was relatively crowded and they had opened an outdoor patio section that led directly onto the beach. Kayla seated him quickly before dashing over to another table. Boyd looked around casually and didn't see Delsin anywhere. The other waitress on duty was an extremely scrawny girl with bleached white hair in a stubby ponytail at the nape of her neck.

Sin was nowhere to be seen.

Trying not to feel disappointed, Boyd glanced at the menu.

"Hi there! I'm Kelly; I'll be your waitress tonight," the blond said perkily. She had a hint of a southern accent. "Can I start you out with a drink?"

He looked up at her. Kelly's Blue Moon shirt was buttoned nearly halfway down her chest and exposed an indigo bikini top. She wore dangly earrings and bright red lipstick.

"I'll just have an iced tea for now."

She nodded, grinning at him hugely and not hiding the fact that she was checking him out. "Any starters?"

Boyd paused and on a whim asked, "Does Danny have any specials tonight?"

"He sure does!" Kelly looked thrilled that he'd asked about specials without her having to mention them. "He has these totally delicious spicy crab meat empanadas with a side of yellow rice with olives and capers."

Relief that he hadn't missed Sin made Boyd relax back into his seat. "I'll take that."

"Good choice. Danny's creations tend to be real good." Kelly flashed him another flirtatious smile and backed away. "I'll be right back with that tea. Oh. Sweetened or unsweetened?"

"Unsweetened, please," Boyd replied. He smiled slightly in return to stay in her good favor in case he needed to ask her questions later.

"Sure thing." She turned around and hurried across the room.

Once she was gone, Boyd's gaze automatically fell on the Employees Only door in back that provided access to the kitchen. He automatically hid the anticipation he felt as he listened for Sin's voice. He watched for Sin to appear, maybe to go on another break.

But he didn't see him.

It wasn't unsurprising but he couldn't deny the impatience he felt. Every time he saw a glance of black hair near the door he found himself tracking it to see if it was Sin. Every time it wasn't he felt the burn of disappointment and still found his eyes sliding to the next glimpse of black.

All he wanted was to see Sin again. All he wanted was to be by him. To have a second chance at the contented life he'd lost so abruptly.

It didn't take long before Kelly dropped off his iced tea and the special, which he started to eat as he continued to keep an eye on the room. He absently noted that the food was really good and, before he caught himself, thought he should ask Sin to make it for him some day.

As he watched the diner, he automatically assessed other customers. The couple in the corner intensely discussing something with the air of uncertainty and excitement; possibly a baby on the way, or maybe one of them was going to propose. The college student in the corner who spent much of her time staring into nothing. She'd barely touched her food and looked depressed.

The man who drew Boyd's attention more than any others. There was nothing outwardly suspicious about him but Boyd saw the subtle looks he was giving the women who were in more provocative states of dress like Kelly. It made Boyd distrust him. He seemed the type who would try to corner a woman when she was alone and if she fought back, flee and take his frustration and feelings of impotence out on someone he could pay for sex instead.

Boyd briefly considered saying or doing something to distract him but the man hadn't done anything overt and pushing it could potentially exacerbate a situation that was otherwise harmless so far. Even so, Boyd kept him in his peripheral vision in the event he needed to intercede on anything. He had no sympathy for men like that and would have no compunctions with putting him in his place.

What caught his eye more than anything was a difference in the staff. Kayla had seemed cheerful the times he'd seen her before, or at the very least friendly even when she'd been overworked, rushing from one table to the next. Tonight she seemed agitated and it grew as time passed. She started disappearing for longer periods of time.

Boyd didn't know how long he'd been sitting there but he'd nearly finished his food when he saw Kayla suddenly storm out of the kitchen, heading straight toward the front door of the restaurant. Sin was right behind her and it was a combination of that and their expressions that caused Boyd to throw down a wad of cash and follow them.

He moved quickly without being obvious about it and pulled out his phone as he walked out the door, although he discreetly watched them.

"So all of a sudden," Kayla was saying loudly, her face flushed and eyes narrowed. The pretty red-haired woman looked on the verge of tears that she was clearly trying to keep back. "Just all of a sudden--"

"It's not all of a sudden!" Sin interrupted sharply. He was standing with his back to Boyd, holding one of Kayla's thin arms to prevent her from storming off. "It's been like this for months and you know it. I don't even come over anymore."

Her mouth trembled slightly and she looked away sharply. "You are such bullshit," she hissed furiously, yanking her arm away. "To do this now, now of all times-- what, are you fucking Tech again?"

There was a low exhalation of air. "You always have to bring her up, and it has nothing to do with anyone but you and me."

"Then what did I do?" she demanded, her voice louder as she looked at him again. "What the hell did I do to make you turn on me? I love you so much and you don't even care!"

Sin wiped a hand across his face in frustration. He was wearing only a white sleeveless tanktop beneath his apron. Boyd could see that his strong back and shoulders were taut with tension. "Kayla--"

He made to grab for her again but Kayla raised both hands and shoved his chest. "Don't you fucking touch me!"

Sin looked around, visibly annoyed that this was happening in front of the diner. Boyd wasn't the only one in the vicinity but he was the only one making it seem as though he was doing something else. People in the parking lot were openly enjoying the show.

"I appreciate everything you did for me, but this just--" Sin broke off, clearly struggling with finding the words. He had turned to the side, away from the direction of the parking lot gawkers. Boyd could now clearly see the expression on his face-- the frustrated and angry look Sin had always gotten when he couldn't express himself the way he wanted to.

"Just, what?" she demanded, tears falling now although her face was still twisted and angry.

"I just don't feel the same way about you," Sin replied finally, seemingly reluctantly. His full mouth was turned down in a frown, his eyebrows drawn together. "I waited because I was hoping I would start to. But it didn't happen. And I don't want to keep leading you on."

Kayla looked even paler, and she backed away from him slowly.

"I'm sorry," Sin said, his voice still low but with the ring of sincerity. "I didn't want to hurt you."

She shook her head slowly, lips pressed together. It looked like she was struggling with something she wanted to say but in the end she just turned her back and began walking away from the diner.

Sin's face went from guilty to exasperated instantly. "Kayla! You can't just lea--"

"Fuck you!"

"You're just going to screw Kelly over like that? You can't just leave in the middle of your shift!"

"Watch me," Kayla yelled over her shoulder and kept going.

He stared after her for a long moment before turning around stiffly. He looked upset but now the agitation and anger at being abandoned by one of two waitresses in a busy restaurant seemed to be overtaking whatever personal drama he'd had going.

"Goddamn it," he muttered and raked his hand through the strands of black hair that had escaped his ponytail before slapping his cap back on his head backwards. He started stalking back into the diner and only seemed to notice Boyd when he was near the door.

Embarrassment swam to the surface and Sin shook his head, grumbling quietly, "Never fuck someone you work with."

That being said, he disappeared back inside.

Boyd stared at the door for a moment before he thought to flip the phone closed and slide it back in his pocket. His expression closed off; the default neutral that didn't share his thoughts with the world.

He turned, his shoes making soft scuffing noise against the pavement, and walked away.

The world was meaningless white noise.

Sin had a lover.

He'd thought of the possibility in the weeks he'd been unable to return. Still, somehow he'd hoped that there would be a part of Sin that would remember him and the promises they'd made to each other. Part of him that would miss Boyd even if he didn't know who he was-- a part that would forge some level of connection between them that could be reignited.

Yet hearing Sin comment about something that could have applied to their own relationship... Sin really didn't remember him at all if he said that so offhandedly to him.

The knowledge was a heavy weight in his stomach.

It may not matter that he'd found Sin again after so long or that he'd been so desperately hopeful at their reunion. It didn't matter that just seeing Sin filled him with happiness. Sin had an entirely separate life here that he was living disconnected from Boyd. Not only was there no guarantee they would get back together-- there wasn't even any reason on Sin's side. He could easily leave Boyd behind for good even though against all odds they'd found each other again.

And if that was the case, what was all this for? Why had he been pulled from his meaningless life into the Agency, thrown into something that had caused him more pain and elation than anything else he'd ever experienced-- why had he been turned into an agent, a killer, a valentine, if he couldn't at least have Sin?

The thought was depressing.

Boyd's foot dropped a few inches from the concrete pad of the parking lot down to the sand of the beach. The ocean spread before him; dominating the horizon while birds swooped and rose as small black shapes against the dark sky.

He walked until he stopped in the middle of the beach; people talking and laughing and moving around him, feeling so far away. When he'd realized Sin was here in Annadale Beach he hadn't felt so alone. But now, simple words and a simple fact made him realize he still was.

All those months Boyd had thought only of Sin. All those times he'd leaned on Sin's memory for strength and conviction. All those nights he'd woken in pain and forced himself to keep going because it was what Sin would have wanted...

It hurt to know it may mean nothing.

He dropped down onto the sand, the warmth of it burning through his clothes. It matched the burning in his chest.

Even hundreds of miles away the Agency had found a way to destroy the one good thing he'd found in the last several years. The one relationship he'd treasured above all else-- the one person he'd been able to trust without question.

He ignored the depression that threatened to loom and focused instead on the lesson Shapiro had taught him-- to redirect his thoughts in a more productive manner.

He tried to look at this objectively.

Boyd was tied to the Agency, which he'd joined because of Sin all those years ago. Yet with Boyd an agent and Sin a civilian who didn't even remember his past, that life was more of a danger to Sin than anything else now that he'd escaped it. With the enemies that came with the Agency, Boyd's continued presence in Annadale could only increase the likelihood of Sin or others getting caught in the crossfire. Especially with the dangers the mole presented.

If he really wanted to think only of Sin's physical safety, the best thing to do would be to leave Annadale for good. To never return, to never try to get involved. To pretend he never saw Sin.

Strictly speaking, for who Sin was now, it was probably best for his emotional well being too. After all, if he didn't remember Boyd he didn't know to miss him. Obviously he already had people he was involved with here so he wasn't missing anything if Boyd never returned. And here he could be normal.

That was something Boyd could never offer, no matter how much time passed. He would always be caught by the Agency. He would always have blood on his hands and be subject to disappearing for good at any moment. If he really wanted to help Sin, he should take this as a sign and go.

But he didn't want to leave-- he wanted to latch onto Sin and never let anyone come between them again for the rest of his life.

It was hard to be logical about something he cared so much about. Someone who was more important to him than anyone else. It was hard to think about finding Sin after all this time and stepping back, just giving in so someone else could take the place he'd fought so hard to be.

He knew the old Sin hadn't wanted to flee to save his life alone-- not if he couldn't be with Boyd. He hadn't wanted Boyd to hide it when he was attracted to him or interested in him.

The old Sin wouldn't want him to walk away.

The ocean rolled endlessly; waves rising and falling to become gentle pulls on the edge of the beach. He sighed, dragging his legs in to rest his elbows on his knees.

What should I do, Hsin? You didn't want to be without me because you couldn't forget me back then. But you don't know me anymore. You don't know to miss me. I don't even know if you're in there anymore. And if you aren't, isn't it better that I do what's best for the new you?

The words hung in his mind with no immediate answer.

He grimaced and dropped his head forward with another sigh. His hair tangled in his fingers and his eyes squeezed shut.

His head hurt. His chest hurt. He felt so conflicted and tired.

It hurt to find his lover again and still have to be on guard. To be a world apart in lifestyle now and not even know what he could or should say or do. To have to balance promises of the past with the situation of the present.

To know that he may have to walk away.

To know that it may turn out that the only true happiness he would have in his life after Lou would be those brief moments he got with Sin in the midst of those traumatic years. To know that in the end he'd become pushed so far to the fringes of society that now that his lover was no longer there with him, he couldn't enter his life again.

To know that there could be someone else where he so desperately wanted to be-- someone else who had far less history with Sin but who could talk to him and touch him and be so casual while Boyd had to act the part of a stranger who wasn't hurt by unintentionally painful words. Even though Sin broke up with Kayla now, how long would it take for him to find someone new? Assuming he didn't already like someone else.

For all the time he'd thought Sin was dead he'd thought that if only Sin were alive, things would be better. He could love Sin again and Sin could love him again. Sin could tell him it was alright that everything had turned out how it did. That he still loved Boyd no matter what happened while they were apart.

That he still wanted Boyd; that he'd never forgotten him during those long months. That he never would.

But he had.

There was a sharp pain in his chest at the thought and Boyd lifted his head to stare at the ocean.

He couldn't blame Sin for not remembering him, not if the Agency forced that upon him. Yet part of him wanted to shake Sin and tell him to fight what the Agency had done, to fight for Boyd. To fight for them. He wanted to say he'd fought for Sin while he was gone; he'd burned ink into his skin as a reminder, had branded himself with Sin's name. He wanted to say that Sin couldn't let the Agency take this from him too, not after they'd taken so much from him over the years.

Hadn't their relationship been important enough? Hadn't it changed both of them? Hadn't it been an integral part of who they were now? So how could it fully disappear from Sin's mind or feelings no matter what the Agency did?

He couldn't help hating the Agency for everything they'd done, for even now being an obstacle that could keep them apart. Yet he was grateful that in the process they'd provided Sin this chance to be free of alienation and the demons he'd spent his life immersed in.

It was so conflicting and confusing, knowing that in the process of his own life being destroyed his lover's was improved.

He sighed, a sharp burst of breath. He pushed himself up, feeling restless all of a sudden. Hands hooking in his pocket, he half turned to look back at the diner.

What would you want me to do, Hsin?

If he stayed around Annadale he knew there was no way he could hold himself back. He would want to be with Sin again in any way Sin would have him. He couldn't stand by and watch as Sin hooked up with someone else, potentially for good, without Boyd trying to get closer first.

But even though he was positive the old Sin would have wanted him to interfere, the old Sin didn't have the current information. He didn't know about the increased dangers at the Agency. He didn't know about the circumstances or Danny's opportunity for a normal life.

Maybe the old Sin was right-- maybe they'd never had a chance. Maybe Boyd should take a lesson from all those times they'd been thrown apart. Even though Boyd knew Sin was the best person for him, maybe it wasn't the case the other way around. Maybe there was someone out there who was better for Sin. Maybe, after all those times Sin had worried that Boyd wouldn't love Sin in a domestic setting, it was Sin who wouldn't love Boyd in these circumstances.

And yet...

"Why did it end?"

A flash of Sin's face, partially in profile with those vivid green eyes taking him in.

"Because he wasn't you."

Boyd turned around fully to look at the diner. The outside lights had turned on, reflecting off the windows and covering part of the activity inside.

It reminded him of the past. Of one of the first times they'd eaten together, when they'd gone to that diner all those years ago and Sin had reached out suddenly and touched his hair. It reminded him of an argument they'd had more recently, when he had worried that Sin only wanted him because of the role he filled and not for himself, and Sin had said he'd been attracted to Boyd from early on.

Something had changed in both of them during their partnership.

Boyd no longer wanted to be with anyone but Sin. And Sin had felt the same. If it turned out he had to give Sin up to this civilian life in Annadale then so be it. He would leave his ability to love with Sin as well and continue his life as an agent until the day that life killed him.

His expression set. But that time wasn't now.

If he left Sin behind it would be after he'd done everything he could to fulfill the promises of the past. No matter what Danny may want now, Sin had once loved Boyd. And Boyd wanted Sin above all else. If he wanted Sin to fight for him, he had to fight for Sin first.

His own desires were aligned with the old Sin's. If he was going to go against both of them in order to protect the current Sin by leaving for good, he was only going to do so after he'd determined without a shadow of a doubt that he was doing the right thing. Otherwise, he was only assuming that Danny didn't want him around or wouldn't come to love him, when Danny didn't even know him well enough yet to make an informed decision.

He was still Sin's partner, no matter what. And to be the best partner he could right now, he had to look at this the way he would a mission.

First, gather the facts. Make a plan and execute it, and adapt along the way as new intel arises. Above all, keep the success of the mission in mind.

In this case, Sin was the mission. And success would be his happiness, no matter what that meant for Boyd.

With that thought firmly in mind, Boyd turned and headed back to the hotel to plan his next course of action.

"Man, you sure fucked us," a dry voice observed calmly. "Now we're stuck with Tracy and Kelly. Both hot but not a complete braincell between them."

Boyd looked up to see Delsin standing behind the bar, talking to Sin. He was indicating the dark-haired girl that had seated Boyd when he'd walked into Blue Moon Diner that morning. Sin had come out of the kitchen and was apparently waiting for Delsin to make him some kind of drink.

"How observant of you," Sin replied flatly, sounding so much like his old self that it was temporarily jarring. "Next time, I'll stay in a bad relationship for the sake of the diner."

"Eh. Wasn't that bad."

"It was going nowhere," Sin replied dully, picking up the glass that Delsin plopped down in front of him. "I waited too long as it was. It just made it worse."

Delsin didn't look impressed and poured himself a shot of tequila. "Yeah? Well my ex used to beat me up."

Sin stared at him.

"It's true. I think it was all of the Asian porn I kept on my laptop."

"You're an idiot."


Sin shook his head and started to turn and head back to the kitchen. His eyes ran across the diner, sliding by Boyd and then immediately returning. For a moment his face was unreadable but then he forced his lips up in a half smile of greeting.

Boyd smiled in return but he didn't want to appear as though he'd been listening to their conversation or watching Sin, so he looked away casually as if their gazes had just happened to meet. The last thing he needed was for Sin or Delsin to think he was the next stalker. Even though, admittedly, that was essentially what he was doing.

He leaned against the table on his forearms and kept a bored expression on his face as he pretended to idly watch out the window. In reality, he watched Sin in his peripheral vision.

Sin had stopped his walk back to the kitchen and hesitantly headed for Boyd. Even in a greasy apron and the same worn backwards cap, Sin looked amazing. The major difference between who he was now versus who he had been was that his expression was completely open. There was no default look of indifference now; Sin just looked slightly embarrassed.

Sin stopped beside the table and reached up to adjust his cap. "Hey."

"Hey," Boyd replied, looking up at Sin.

He made sure he didn't stare too hard into those eyes or run his gaze along every nuance of Sin's expression like he wanted to. This was the closest they'd been in good lighting since the first time they'd run into each other and he was struck even more by how much he missed Sin.

A strand of hair had fallen along the side of Sin's face, near his temple and dangling down by his cheek. Even thinking of this as a mission, Boyd wanted so badly to reach up and brush it aside.

He wanted to feel Sin's skin beneath his fingertips again; to remember the sensation of those silky strands of hair sliding between his fingers. He wanted to follow his hand with his mouth, capturing Sin's full lips in a kiss and reacquainting himself with the taste and feel of his body. He wanted to hear the quiet catch in Sin's breath and experience the vulnerability in that strong body when Sin relaxed fully around him.

He wanted to feel those arms encircle him and pull him close like they'd never been apart.

"I just wanted to let you know that I hadn't forgotten about the bike if you're still interested," Sin said with a shrug, sliding his hands into his pockets.

"Oh." The distance between their thoughts felt like another gulf between them. Sin was still looking at him as if they'd never met. Polite interest for a near stranger. Boyd hadn't expected anything else and yet the yearning he felt for his former lover tripled with their proximity.

Years of training at the Agency lifted the edges of Boyd's lips in a friendly smile that hid his thoughts. "Thanks. I am but it's no hurry."

"Well, that's good because she said she won't be finished with it until at least the fall. It's her current side-side project I guess. She's a little ADD with her hobbies." This time when the crooked smile appeared, it looked genuine. "She told me to ask for your email address or something."

"Of course." Boyd looked down at his messenger bag and pulled it up onto his lap. He absently pulled some hair behind his ear as it started to fall forward, and dug around until he found a scrap of paper.

How inane the conversation was and yet he couldn't deny the thrill that at least Sin remembered him. Not the important parts, but he still recognized him. Better to see that in those unforgettable eyes than the blankness from before.

He found a piece of paper and pen, the tip poised for writing before he paused. He looked up at Sin, trying to ignore the scent of Sin that his overactive mind was convincing him he smelled. In the middle of the diner, he was smelling food and not Sin. He knew that. But Sin's proximity brought with it all the memories the Agency had buried with Sin; made all the more intense for him being the only one experiencing them.

"What does she prefer? Email or phone?"

"Email. Tech is typically glued to her computer."

Boyd nodded and wrote down a secure personal email address he rarely used but knew he would obsessively check after this, just in case Sin decided to email him. When finished, he handed the piece of paper to Sin.

It disappeared into one of Sin's pockets and he inclined his head. "She'll probably contact you with the details to see if you're really interested. She doesn't fuck around with her bikes so she'll probably feel you out to see if you're really interested. She comes across as a humorless bitch via text but she's a cool girl."

Boyd smiled faintly at the description. "Thanks for the warning." He put the pen back in his bag and dropped the bag to the floor. "How fast does yours go, by the way?"

"Not very, but it's fine for me. I like to keep things simple." Sin's broad shoulders rose in a shrug.

Boyd nodded and leaned back in his chair. "Do you know if she can make faster bikes, too, or does she specialize in your model?"

"I'm not too sure. She'll give you all the details, though."

"Danny, the kitchen is on fire!"

Sin made a face and looked over his shoulder at Delsin. He shook his head without dignifying the exclamation with a response, and rolled his eyes. "Well, I gotta go. It was nice seeing you again..."

He trailed off and it was obvious that he didn't remember Boyd's name.

"Boyd," he replied easily, keeping the twinge out of his expression.

"Sorry." A familiar smirk curved up onto Sin's full lips and he arched a brow. "Old age."

He started to turn away but hesitated, and looked at Boyd again. "By the way... About what you saw yesterday. Or rather, what I said."

"I won't tell anyone," Boyd said, meeting Sin's eyes. "In case you're worried."

"Thanks. If she comes back to work, I don't want there to be even more bullshit."

Boyd nodded, his lips lifting faintly on the edges in something that wasn't quite a smile. "I understand."

Sin nodded at him and walked away, disappearing into the kitchen that he'd been neglecting.

Boyd's gaze lingered briefly on the door before he made himself look away.

He had to push himself through the initial emotional reaction to being near Sin and instead focus on the first step of his mission. The task at hand was to find more information the best way he knew how. Since Sin hadn't reacted to anything so far, it was going to take too long to find out through conversation what exactly was happening and what exactly Sin remembered.

He was better off surveilling.

He asked for his check and paid but remained seated at the table. He didn't look directly at the Employees Only door again, as if he'd forgotten about Sin's existence.

Like any surveillance, it was most important to remain discreet. The second the target or any incidentals knew he was watching, it would cause problems. He'd determined that there was only one exit to the restaurant; all the employees and customers went in and out of the same door. To keep suspicions down, he left the diner just before he would have been noticeable as lingering too long. Sin's bike was in the lot so Boyd knew he was still there.

Satisfied, he moved to a bench halfway down the block and put on a pair of dark sunglasses to fend off the glare of the sun. His location was ideally situated, where he could appear as though he was enjoying the nice day and watching the beach but in fact he could watch the diner.

He had to slather on some sunscreen in the time he waited for Sin. The heat was almost palpable.

He kept his surveillance on the diner but left the bench just long enough to buy a cheap sun hat from a vendor nearby. That worked better anyway, giving him an opportunity to fold his too-noticeable long blond hair back in on itself and push it up under the hat. He also pulled off an over shirt he'd worn and put it in his bag, leaving his bare arms open to the sun with the tank top on underneath. A change of clothing would help detract from Sin noticing him out of the corner of his eye.

One more application of sunscreen, two bottles of water from another vendor, and a car rental later and Sin finally appeared. Boyd sat in the car waiting until Sin was at the exit of the lot, looking around for a chance to pull into traffic. Boyd pulled out onto the street behind him.

On a Friday afternoon, the main drag of Annadale Beach was full of bicycles, buses and cars. As it was, he was easily able to keep Sin's dark-haired form in sight, following just far enough behind that he blended in with the rest of the traffic but close enough to catch the same lights.

Sin didn't live far from work. It was at most a ten minute ride before he pulled to the side of the street and parked his motorbike at an angle. Boyd slowed half a block down and then stopped, parking on the side of the street in front of an apartment complex. He turned off the car but didn't move to exit. He waited until Sin barely glanced down the street before he disappeared into a small apartment building. Then he got out of the car and headed toward the building.

He wasn't fast enough to catch the security door before it swung shut but he was able to shift and peer in the glass door to the mailboxes inside. He saw the name Danny Cruz on one of them and then memorized the apartment number and address. Next, he walked around the building, checking to see if there were any cues as to the direction Sin's apartment would be facing. From another angle he was able to see a few of the apartment numbers on the first floor and through that calculated that Sin's apartment number probably put him at the back of the building.

He spent some time looking around, finding a place in the backyards of the apartment complexes in the area where he could settle down and watch the upper floors without being seen. He pulled a book out of his bag and leaned back against a tree, the branches shifting lazily in the light breeze and churning dappled shadows across the pages.

It was probably another hour of watching the windows over the top of the book, turning pages periodically to continue the ruse of reading, before he finally saw a glimpse of Sin's face out of one. He seemed to be in a bedroom judging by what looked to be a dresser in the background. He paused briefly by the glass doors opening to the small balcony off the back. He was looking up and out, his pale green eyes likely seeking out the partial ocean view from his place and straying nowhere near where Boyd reclined.

Although it was only a brief glimpse before Sin disappeared again, Boyd zeroed his attention in on that area until he was able to determine which windows were from Sin's apartment and which belonged to someone else.

Satisfied, he packed up his book and left. If Sin found him skulking in the backyard so soon after talking to him, it would be difficult to explain.

That night, he started the first of what would ultimately be a series of discreet searches for information on Danny Cruz. He didn't know what the Agency's plan was or whether they-- or even Sin-- would have anything flagged. He had to be exceedingly careful, taking his time with masking his presence even on the public searches.

He found a birth certificate that said Daniel Angeles Cruz had been born on March 5, 1991. All the information, from his parents' names to the hospital he'd been born, looked legitimate but Boyd knew to be false. He wondered how thorough the Agency had been. Whether they had inserted fake records at the hospital itself verifying Danny's birth or whether they had purposefully chosen one of the hospitals who had lost their earlier records during the war.

According to Danny's residency placard, prior to Annadale Beach he'd lived in Washington DC. Boyd made a note of the address so he could visit the place sometime. He searched around online and found that the area was known to be a bad neighborhood. When Boyd checked where Danny had been prior to that he was mildly surprised to see they'd listed him as having been in a mental institute.

He paused, his eyebrows raising and fingers resting on the touch screen before he flipped through the records to find the reason. On the public databases, all he could find were convictions. According to the court records, he'd been charged with manslaughter, the plea had been insanity, he'd been transferred to mental court, and they'd committed him to an institution.

The information read close enough to Sin's true history that it made Boyd wonder why they'd done that. If they had the opportunity to make Sin believe anything, why give him a similar history? He made a mental note to look into that further at a later date.

By the time he had exhausted the information he could find in databases that he could be fairly certain would not automatically raise a red flag at the Agency, it was late at night. He moved around the room, interspersing getting ready for bed with getting ready for the next day, and finally laid down in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

The silence of the room was resounding, now that he wasn't focused intently on the mission he'd assigned himself. The empty space on the other side of the bed ate away at his thoughts.

He fell into a restless sleep, thinking of and remembering Sin. The slide of those strong hands along his skin. The quiet smile. Those green eyes, turning on him and understanding even the words Boyd couldn't form. The rise and fall of that warm chest beneath him the last night before they parted for good...

His alarm screeched, feeling like it was only a handful of seconds later.

"--to be another sunny day in Annadale!" A man's voice swarmed out of the radio clock, for some annoying reason going off at the same time as the buzzer. Boyd jerked awake roughly, his eyes snapping open. "Grab your flip flops and get down to the beach, and don't forget to stop by our tent for the promo--"

Eyes burning and face scrunching, Boyd swung a hand over to smack the button to shut off the alarm. For just one moment he flopped back onto the bed, letting out a low sigh and scrubbing at his face. He was starting to wonder whether he would ever get a good night's sleep again.

Despite the low amount of sleep, he was up and out of the room in no time. He swung by the early riser's continental breakfast room off the hotel lobby and left with a croissant in one hand and an unfortunate cup of coffee in another. He wished more places would take to having plain hot water available as well so he could make tea, but with sleep still gumming his eyes he settled on the bitter-water-taste of coffee to increase his levels of caffeine.

Surveillance tended to be tedious work and this turned out to be no exception.

Typically he could at least be with someone else so he didn't have to worry about needing to look away for a bit to dull a headache or stand up to stretch and walk around. But he didn't want to miss Sin so he settled into the spot he'd found the day before and waited.

Sin had always been an early riser, largely because he had difficulties sleeping. It seemed that was still the case now. Boyd saw movement in the early morning hours; a shifting of shadows in what he assumed to be the main area of the apartment, and a flicking of a light that was shuttered by darkness soon afterward. A door closing into the bathroom?, Boyd wondered.

Not long afterward there was more movement and then Sin was pulling the curtains open at his glass doors. He stood there, bathed in the subtle light of the sleepy town, his familiar features cast in shadows that Boyd couldn't fully read. When Sin moved away from the window and laid down on the bed, Boyd had to move positions so he could just barely see in at his angle. He couldn't see Sin's expression as well as he wanted, but he could see that he was looking out the window to the world beyond.

Was he pensive? Was he just tired?

It was too hard to tell, but in that moment Boyd wished more deeply than he had since finding Sin that his lover would remember him. He overlaid this scene with his imaginings of Sin lying awake wondering about him, worrying about him, in those long months he was gone on his mission. He wanted to believe Sin remembered him on some level; that the longing could still be there the way it had never left for Boyd.

He wanted to believe he hadn't been completely forgotten. That he couldn't be, not if Sin had loved him as deeply as he said he had.

But his hopes, as partially selfish as he knew them to be, were no more clearly written on Sin's face than they ever were. Those eyes were too far away to show the pale green or the framing of thick dark lashes. All Boyd could see was a glint of light off his eyes and the slow rise and fall of his chest and eyelids. It seemed Sin drifted off to sleep briefly, or maybe he meditated-- whatever it was that drew his gaze inward, Boyd was transfixed; breath barely moving and gaze unshifting.

He missed Sin.

He felt it as a pull on his heart; an intense desire to break into that building and go up to his apartment and curl up next to him. To be there where he'd once been able to be; dark and light hair intermixing and the warmth of that strong body so close. He could breathe in his scent the way he had before.

In that moment, he wanted Sin for Sin-- for the quiet of his breath and the unspoken words in his eyes. It was little of physical attraction and everything of emotional. He wanted to just hold Sin without the body needing to be involved other than strong arms and a comforting heartbeat. The reminder of the peace that was so long gone now it felt a lifetime had passed.

His breath was sheltered in his lungs; held still like the moment stretching out. Taut and complicated and making him miss and love so much it was almost a second heartbeat in his chest. It was a moment that was destined to shudder and, ultimately, collapse.

Outside staring in, the silence of what he could hear in that apartment with the windows closed was countered by the slow revival of the town around him. It had gone quiet in the moments of early morning. But as the sun's ascent slowly lightened the sky from black to midnight blues and soon pastels, Boyd started to hear the shift of Annadale Beach from night to morning.

The muffled sound of traffic began to be heard in short bursts from the road on the other side of the building. There was the creaking, quiet shuffing of windows being pushed open and clips of music from people listening to songs as they got ready for the day. Doors began to open and close, with joggers stretching and disappearing down the steps to head toward their favorite spots, while the jingling of tags and the clacking of nails against concrete marked dogs and their owners taking off for a morning stroll.

He sat there for another handful of hours, the dredges of the coffee long gone cold in his paper cup with crumbs of the croissant scattered around him as miniature leftovers for the ants to bring home. He had to shift and stretch and move again a few times, each time more careful than the last to keep hidden, before Sin finally got up.

After that, it was another extended watch through the windows until Boyd realized he could see the edge of what looked to be Sin's main door to the apartment if he moved just so. He kept an eye on that as best he could, since he was unable to get much of a view of what Sin was doing otherwise aside from moving around the apartment in a normal fashion. When he finally saw the main door open he quickly straightened his cramped body and moved alongside the building so he could see which direction Sin would go.

Sin's lean form appeared out the front, his half-lidded gaze glancing briefly down the street before he turned and started walking in the opposite direction Boyd was hiding. Boyd waited a few seconds, pulled the sunglasses on and adjusted his hair under his hat, and then followed at a sedate walk.

He kept a good distance between them, occasionally stopping to look at something on the side of the street or pausing to peer in a store's window in order to keep in line with the meanderings of most people who were out and about on a mid-morning Saturday.

It turned out Sin's destination was the grocery store, where Boyd shadowed him for a bit. Even divorced from his old life in Lexington, it seemed that while this version of Sin had better choices in food he still bought a lot of sweets. That knowledge brought with it an unexpected wash of affection that had Boyd fighting the trace of a smile.

He watched to make sure Sin would be distracted for a bit and then grabbed a few things off the shelf for himself, partially because he was starving and partially so he didn't stand out. He went through the checkout before Sin, affording himself the chance to put the few items into his messenger bag. He moved to an inconspicuous place outside and then trailed after Sin again on the return to the apartment.

The next wait was far shorter and this time he stayed out front. Less than an hour after disappearing inside, Sin reappeared. He strode across the sidewalk to his motorbike, where he swung one perfectly long and lean leg over it. The low rumble of the bike was drowned out by the surrounding traffic.

Having anticipated this possibility, Boyd got into the car and went after him. The route Sin took brought him through a few of the back residential streets. On a beautiful summer day in a college town known for its beach, there was no shortage of people to hide his presence. He remembered this area of Annadale Beach quite well from when he'd been in the town for Level 10 training. The park Sin ultimately headed to was the same place Boyd had once observed from atop a building, stealing a man's motorcycle not terribly far from where Sin parked his.

The park was as populated today as it had been those years ago. Boyd watched Sin stride across the vibrant grass and head straight toward a basketball court where several men around his age were gathered. The familiar way they greeted each other made it obvious that they at least knew each other prior to now, and more likely were friends on some level.

Boyd settled down against a tree far enough away where he wouldn't be noticed, but close enough that he could still see them clearly. He stayed downwind so he could hear whatever words would drift his way.

He pulled out the food he'd bought and opened the water bottle that was already sweating through the plastic. For the moment he set the book to the side that he'd brought as a cover and instead discreetly watched them through his reflective sunglasses as he ate. Although there were several people there, as they started to play he noted three of them in particular.

One was because he was the only one of the seeming friends who was sitting to the side watching rather than playing. He had long silver-blond hair and looked to be in his early twenties. Everything he wore seemed to be brand name and over time Boyd noticed that he had the type of gestures and personality that was obviously gay.

The other two were in the game. One of them was on the same team as Sin and looked to be in his early twenties as well. He had tanned skin and a cocky smile that seemed to perpetually hover on his lips. His hair was dark and cut short. He was loud, his voice carrying farther than anyone else's; to the point that Boyd was able to gather a little bit of intel. Most of what the man said was joking. Through him Boyd eventually found out that the blond man sitting to the side was named Taz. He also learned the name of the other person who had caught his attention.

Gage looked to be Sin's age and was on the opposite team. He was tall, muscular, and, judging by how infrequently his lips moved, intensely silent. He had the sort of imposing presence that reminded Boyd of the way Sin used to be. His blond hair was braided in tight rows along his scalp and his eyes were narrowed. It was difficult to tell if that was due to the sun or if it was his default expression.

Sin's speed and grace hadn't changed at all. As they played, Boyd found himself wanting to be over there too. It had been so long since he'd had the opportunity to do anything physical with Sin. He missed sparring with him; that mixture of sweat and exertion and the challenge of beating his lover at the game a little longer than the time before. He missed having the ability to rake his gaze over Sin's body without garnering a second glance, and the adrenaline high that so often led to frenzied sex. He missed the elation of it all; the endorphins that had buzzed through him and the fierce grin that had moved like second nature across his lips.

The book in his hands made a quiet shifting noise as it slid slightly down his lap. He sighed and flipped a page while glancing down. It was the same book he'd been pretending to read when staking out the lab on the compound. A book he'd randomly grabbed from his library but coincidentally had been one Sin had given him.

It made his life feel very ordinary and very odd all at once.

He stayed there for awhile, watching his former lover play basketball and seem to truly enjoy it. It was strange, watching Sin interact with so many people while not seeming to mind their presence. Strange to see him so accepted, like he hadn't been since Monterrey. Strange to see glimpses of that smile, still so quiet and reserved in a way but more beautiful to Boyd than ever after so long an absence.

Sin's team won, as Boyd expected.

Gage was surprisingly quick on his feet, possibly even agent material, but no one else could contend. Boyd watched the way Sin was light on his feet and fast with his hands, but he knew more than anyone that Sin could go much faster.

He was holding himself back.

Whether it was because he didn't want to stand out too much-- something Sin had never seemed to enjoy, especially after the idea of experimentation had arisen-- or whether it was for another reason, Boyd didn't know. Whatever the case, even with Gage on the opposite team it meant they had no chance.

Although several of them lingered afterward, Sin left not too long later. Boyd wondered whether this was a regular occurrence-- maybe a weekly Saturday game that Sin showed up for but didn't want to spend the day hanging around with others. He told himself to check again in the future on another Saturday if he got the chance.

By now Boyd was getting used to the trek back to Sin's apartment. He found another place to linger so he wouldn't be attracting attention, and waited another few hours for Sin to reappear. During that time he accessed some networks to do a few more searches on Danny Cruz but didn't get much more information than he'd already gathered.

He had to put on more sunscreen and settled as far into the shade as he could. Sweat trickled down his skin; a distracting and at times torturous feeling that was steadily soaking places on his tank top.

It wasn't until hours later in the late afternoon as it trended toward evening that Boyd saw Sin again. He'd had to move around several times in the course of that time, at one point sitting a block away in the outdoor seating of a small cafe. Even with the slight change in scenery he'd started to become lulled by the hours dragging out, the unrelenting heat, and the lack of sleep. So when the familiar long lines of Sin's shape appeared, Boyd perked up immediately.

Sin walked down to the beach where he jogged for awhile. Boyd moved along at a slower pace, keeping him in his field of view while trailing his bare feet through the edge of the water. The rise and fall of the ocean water along his overheated skin felt wonderful, as did the sand digging into toes. He held his shoes with the crooks of two fingers and watched the silent form of his old partner shift in and out of view between small, thinning crowds of people.

The sun made its way toward the horizon, coloring the sky in brilliant purples and reds and pinks that blended so perfectly with each other it was difficult to say where one began and another ended. The shadows grew long and the wind off the sea was a cooling balm against hot skin. The ocean waves were white caps far out to sea; turning gentle and unimposing at his feet.

Eventually Sin slowed and then stopped, cooling down with walking and shaking out his limbs. And then he was sitting down, nestled on the beach in a quiet area separated from most of the other people who had also lingered. He sat there during the sunset, the olive tone of his skin and those pale green eyes only enhanced by the rich lighting.

Boyd sat down away from him, watching him and wishing so many things. Soon, even those wishes fell away and he was able to take a moment to simply sit and breathe. To enjoy these moments he'd somehow managed to find-- stolen glimpses of the man he still loved.

They sat there, meters and worlds apart, taking in the same quiet evening with vastly different reasons.

Continue to Fade Chapter 13...