Fade Chapter Eighteen

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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
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Fade Chapter 18

Uploaded on 4/28/2012

Note from the authors: Despite the fact that this is an unusually large update, we want to disclaim that there are not any Danny/Sin scenes in this release. There are various other aspects of the plot that he's not included in at the moment, but after this update the Danny/Sin story arc will be the focal point.

Nathan Lofstedt was surprisingly light on his feet, given his size. And surprisingly quick to start a chase, Boyd thought as their feet pounded down the alleys, leaving echoes in their wake. He kept the target in sight and both his gun and tranquilizer at easy access. He was in no particular hurry to pull out either when they were still in a semi populated area of Jamesport.

Once a lesser known suburb of Lexington, Jamesport had been devastated by the wars but in the past few years had started to rise in Lexington's shadow once again.

Boyd had been mildly intrigued by the city, particularly since this was one of the first missions in its city limits. Although the rebels seemed to prefer Carson as a hotbed of activity, Boyd figured that defectors of those rebel groups likely had to choose new ground to haunt.

When Nathan made a flying leap to catch the end of a fire escape and shimmied his way up to the roof, Boyd felt silent gratitude for the change in scenery. The shuffling and clanging of their feet and hands on the rusted metal was muffled by the distant squeal of tires and someone slamming on a car's horn.

Boyd could hear the harsh panting of Nathan's breath; the sound of his shoes hitting the roof and his footsteps immediately pounding away. Only seconds behind him, Boyd swung his legs over the edge. The soles of his boots scraped against pebbles dotting the hard rooftop as he sought for purchase and took off again.

This area of Jamesport was filled with apartment buildings crowded against each other with skinny alleys or no space in between. That was the only saving grace as Nathan led Boyd on a fast chase across the rooftop and jumped off. Boyd didn't even pause in his pursuit.

The wind caught his clothes and hair, yanking at them in the short free fall with nothing but an alley floor ten stories beneath him. His feet hit the surface hard a foot into the next building's rooftop. He rolled to disperse the impact and was back up immediately, sprinting after Nathan who looked over his shoulder with eyes widening in alarm. Boyd's expression hadn't shifted from impassivity once and that only seemed to unnerve Nathan further.

Nathan jumped off the next roof, aiming for a fire escape. He nearly lost his hand hold and Boyd slowed his pace enough to let Nathan catch himself and scramble up. It wouldn't do to have the target turn into a pile of meat on the sidewalk-- he was supposed to bring him in alive.

When Nathan made it back up onto the roof and continued running, Boyd followed. He couldn't get a good aim on Nathan to tranquilize him but judging by the stumbling steps and slowing pace, Nathan was wearing down. Soon they would be in a section of Jamesport where Boyd could afford to pursue Nathan more aggressively.

He kept half his attention on their surroundings, noting whether civilians were in the area. They were nearing the end of the civilized section when Boyd noticed movement below.

A teenager was walking down the street and stopped beneath a fraying awning to peer into the window of a shop that was closed for the night. Landscaping forced passersby onto one possible walkway with only a short area in front for window shopping.

Boyd dismissed her presence as they landed on a rooftop with an immense garden. He kept running, following when Nathan ducked around a corner of a roof access point. As Boyd rounded the corner, he saw the barrage of heavy gardening equipment Nathan had just pushed over. The obstacle would have been awkward enough to avoid but it was the aftermath of the rain barrel tipping and rolling that caused Boyd's attention to snap to the side.

The barrel slammed into a wooden shelving unit on the edge of the roof. Large rocks, glass jars, and other pieces presumably used for gardening or decoration all tilted with the impact.

The unit groaned and toppled over the edge, right over the storefront.

A massive clattering filled the air followed by a shrill scream. Boyd ran to the edge of the roof and saw the fabric of the awning about to rip on one frayed edge. The teenager was trapped beneath, with half the items blocking her in and the other half about to crush her.

Snapping out his gun, Boyd shot the awning's fabric on the opposite side from the girl. Bracing himself with one hand and holstering his gun with the other, he leaped over the edge of the roof. The fabric split and the heavy load started to roll in that direction. The wind crashed against his body as he snapped his hands out, his fingers catching on a tree branch that nearly ripped out of his grip before he redirected his weight into an angled jump.

The awning ripped open on one end as his feet hit the ground. Grabbing the teenager roughly around the waist he yanked her through a less dense section of the bushes. They fell on the other side of the landscaping just as the entire awning collapsed and the space in front of the window was decimated.

There was a resounding crash that was more than merely sound; he could feel the impact through his ribs. The ringing silence that descended was stark in comparison.

The teenager was trembling in Boyd's arms; her eyes dilated and darting. Her breath was quick and unfinished, as if she were hyperventilating. Boyd squeezed her upper arms and shifted until he could look her straight in the eye.

"Hey." At first she didn't react but when he repeated the word with a light shake, her eyes suddenly snapped over to meet his. "You're okay. It was just an accident. Go home and forget about this. Understand?"

Her hands curled around his arms and tears started to gather at her eyes but she nodded. It seemed she was still too shocked to question anything.

"Good," he replied, then dropped his hands from her. She held onto him for a moment longer but he disentangled himself and pushed her lightly on the shoulder. "Go."

She scrambled to her feet and, as if the adrenaline was just hitting her and fusing with vestiges of fear, she suddenly took off running. He only watched long enough to make sure she didn't stop before his expression turned remote as he surveyed the rooftop.

He didn't see or hear Nathan anywhere.

A short sigh escaped him. It had been too much to expect this mission to be completely free of annoyance, he supposed.

Eyes narrowing in thought, he glanced around the street as he considered the route Nathan had already taken and where he was likely to be headed. He would be arrogant now, thinking he'd stopped Boyd. Thinking his hunter had lost his trail.

Too bad for Nathan he didn't know his pursuer.

Boyd replaced the magazine on his gun with a full one and slid the gun back in its holster. After he jerked his jacket over the gun again he started walking at a fast but steady pace. His sharp eyes swept his surroundings while he cut through alleys and passed across streets both empty and crowded.

Although it was possible Nathan would double back once he'd lost his tail, Boyd doubted it. In the direction he'd been heading, there were a few obvious choices. Most people would assume Nathan would take a bus or subway out of the city because it would be quicker. But it would also be more noticeable.

Most likely, Nathan had intended to fake Boyd out at the terminals anyway-- go into the stations and leap onto a busy subway train only to run through and out another side. Nathan had most likely expected Boyd to search the crowded subway trains and terminals for someone who wasn't there anymore.

But Boyd had done his research before he went into this and he knew that beyond the bustling terminal for modern transportation was a relic of old. Past a few blocks of an industrial wasteland were cargo trains that were still in use.

In this day and age, who would think a fleeing suspect would take a rumbling, uncomfortable train; sneaking on in the back where they had to stay hidden and they had no control over where they went? The intel on Nathan implied he was creative enough to think of this solution but arrogant enough to believe no one else would.

Boyd's theory was proven correct twenty minutes later when, hidden in the shadows, he watched Nathan stride confidently across the railroad yard.

There was a self-satisfied smirk on Nathan's face and he hardly bothered looking over his shoulder. Apparently his fear of his pursuer hadn't lasted too long when he'd no longer seen that stone face over his shoulder. He crossed one set of tracks and headed for a cargo train that was aimed in a westerly direction.

Nathan's good humor froze with the press of Boyd's gun against his head.

"Going somewhere?" Boyd asked quietly from the shadows.

There was the shortest pause before Nathan abruptly jerked and spun, hitting Boyd's gun hand. Nathan likely planned to fight but Boyd was faster. He let his gun be pushed out of the way and used Nathan's own momentum against him as he stabbed Nathan with a tranquilizer dart held in his other hand. Nathan jerked and looked down in shock.

"Wha-- No..." His tone sounded almost questioning, as if in his surprise he wondered how this could happen.

Nathan stepped back and looked up, possibly ready to fight. But the tranquilizer in the dart was enough to knock out even a large man like Nathan. He wavered and Boyd stepped up to his side.

"Sorry," he said without inflection as Nathan's legs suddenly collapsed and Boyd caught him. "But you're coming with me."

Nathan made a noise deep in his throat-- a groan, a protest, Boyd didn't know. In moments, his entire weight buckled onto Boyd, who lowered him to the ground. He stood, surveyed the surroundings to ensure no one was around, then spoke into his comm unit.

"Target is secure. Request transport, old train yard."

There was a beat of silence and then a voice murmured in his ear, "ETA 15."


Boyd dropped his hand from the comm unit and sat next to Nathan to wait. He spent the time in stasis, listening to one of the trains take off with a rumbling of sound that echoed in the air and vibrated through his chest.

All he could see when he stared into the darkness was Sin's green eyes; flashing at him the way they used to. He couldn't help wondering what Sin was doing... if he was okay, if he was angry still. If he had told Delsin to kick Boyd out the next time he showed up at the diner. If he was watching out for himself when Boyd wasn't around. If he would still call Boyd when they watched more Grayson or if that little bit of nostalgia was lost now, too, and maybe for good.

He sighed, thumping his head back against the metal post he leaned against and turned his stare up to the sky. He couldn't see anything but a ghostly grey-black.

Did Sin look at the clouds sometimes? Did he ever wonder who else may be watching that same sky from elsewhere in the world?

Why would he, when he had no idea there was someone out there who had loved and missed him so deeply when he was gone?

Stop it, he admonished himself with a faint grimace.

True to their word, the vehicle showed up almost exactly fifteen minutes later. It was a quick hand off and Boyd's part of the mission was over. He sent his comm unit and tranquilizer gun back with them; the comm because he wanted to head straight home and the tranquilizer in case they needed it for Nathan during transport.

After he watched the tail lights of the Agency van disappear into the night, he turned and started walking. Jamesport was close enough to Cedar Hills that he had taken public transport out while he charged his car back home.

Lately he'd been taking his own vehicle to these types of missions more often because it allowed him the opportunity to work on side missions in secrecy or leave for Annadale if he had the chance. But the battery had been running low after so many long trips to Annadale and back, combined with smaller trips for the side missions. Despite his excuse of allegedly visiting the cabin, he didn't want the Agency to know how often it happened or when. It was easier to continue the ruse of using his personal vehicle for a close mission like this so he could follow a routine to keep the Agency from questioning anything he did.

The bus stop was a good mile or two from the train yard and, having nowhere to be immediately, he didn't bother hurrying. The bus only came once an hour at this time of night anyway.

The night was shadowed and dark, with few lights as he strode through the abandoned section of the city. The sky seemed to grow only darker and he wondered briefly whether it was simply that cloudy or if instead the darkness was a portent of things to come.

For all that the thought was offhanded even in his own mind, it seemed the universe conspired to prove him right five minutes later.

He cut through an alley, passing through veils of shadow that appeared between bands of light thrown from apartment windows. He was just about to the end of the alley when he slowed, his eyes narrowing and body automatically shifting deeper into the shadows.

Someone was ahead of him.

He couldn't see it yet but he could feel it.

He moved closer to the alley wall, reaching for his gun. His fingers just brushed the weapon when a silhouetted figure detached itself from the wall and stepped into the main opening. The figure's hands were lifted to show that he or she was unarmed.

Even so, Boyd drew his gun and aimed it at the stranger.

"Whoa," a man's voice rumbled from the shadows. "No need for weaponry. I just want to talk."

"Who are you?" Boyd demanded, shifting his weight for better stability in case of attack. He jerked his chin shortly. "Come into the light."

The man hesitated. "I will but first--"

"The light," Boyd repeated coldly.

There was another brief hesitation before the man moved. The heavy fall of his footsteps echoed in the alleyway moments before a pool of light fell across him. The sharp contrast of shadows left him only half exposed but even so Boyd saw it-- the tall, lanky build; the fall of short, messy brown hair above deep brown eyes; the strong nose and jaw line...

A face right out of Boyd's photo album.

"You--" Boyd started to say, his grip on his gun faltering briefly. His own golden brown eyes darted across that familiar face and body in surprise and confusion before returning to the steady gaze.

Full lips quirked up on the edges and brown eyebrows lifted. "So you do know me," the man mused. He nodded shortly, his fingers crinkling in an aborted wave. "I'm your uncle, kid. Riley. I'd shake your hand to make it official but-- well." He looked pointedly at the gun still aimed at him, although it had been lowered slightly and now threatened his abdomen rather than head.

Boyd's eyes narrowed suspiciously and he shifted half a step back. "It can't be. I understood you to be dead."

"Obviously not," came the droll reply.

Boyd only gave him a cold look.

Riley stared at Boyd a moment and then sighed. "Listen, kid. I know this is a lot to take in at once but I really need your help. I had nowhere else to turn."

So many disbelieving questions thundered through Boyd's mind. He opened his mouth; wanting to ask them, wanting to press for details about a family he'd never known. Wanting to know why an uncle he'd hardly known existed suddenly decided to come into his life now.

It was that last question especially that burned, echoed by the suspicion and paranoia of the agent side of him. It was that part of him that pointed out this could easily be a trap.

He shut his mouth, his grip tightening on the gun as his expression darkened. He glanced around quickly, searching for any other people ready to attack him. But the two of them were alone in the alley and, at the moment with the way Boyd felt so thrown off, it felt like they were alone in the world. Like Riley was a ghost straight out of Boyd's photo album, here to haunt him after all.

He dismissed the thought impatiently and returned a cool stare to Riley's eyes. "I don't see why I should help."

Riley's expression twisted. "This is serious, kid." He dropped his hands and started forward but stopped the second Boyd's gun realigned with his head. Expression tightening, Riley turned a heavy stare from the gun to Boyd's eyes. "I really need you to listen-- just for a bit. Here's no good anyway, you're right to stop me. It isn't safe. But there must be some neutral ground we could go..."

Sweet Lynette's flashed into Boyd's mind immediately. He frowned at his uncle for a long moment. Although Riley was taller and probably weighed more, he held himself in untrained manner. Boyd thought he should be able to disable Riley even without the gun if necessary.

And if he was in Jezebel's sight, she would watch over him to make sure he was safe.

"Fine." Boyd holstered his gun. "I choose the location. I'll give you fifteen minutes to convince me why I shouldn't leave you right then."

Relief flushed Riley's face and relaxed his shoulders. He held up a hand gratefully. "Fifteen. Brilliant. That's all I ask. Lead on, grasshopper."

Boyd narrowed his eyes. "No. I will walk behind you and direct you."

Riley eyed Boyd but then shrugged. "Verbally lead the way, then."

Boyd jerked his chin. "Take a right down that street. We'll be walking a few blocks and will have to take a bus."

Their walk was silent for the first fifteen minutes, although Riley kept glancing over his shoulder at Boyd. "You look a lot like your ma," he finally commented after the third time it seemed he was about to speak. "But I can see Ceddy boy in you too."

Boyd's heart pounded. For a moment he was overrun with the questions from earlier. This was someone who had known his father, actually known him and not just heard of him. Someone who could tell him answers to all the questions he'd been too young to ask. Someone who knew about the family that was almost entirely a mystery to Boyd.

But although his lips parted briefly, although his jaw shifted, he stayed silent. He didn't want to appear too eager or give away what he did and didn't know. Not until he knew the reason for this sudden appearance of the dead.

"But mostly your ma," Riley added thoughtfully as they turned down another street. "None of us on the Beaulieu side looked like they came straight off a runway. Right ridiculous, you are. Did you ever model?"

"No," Boyd said, glancing down the street. He didn't see the lights of the bus lumbering down the road so they weren't too late. "Walk toward the bus stop across the street. The one down the block."

"Ever consider it?" Riley asked as he idly strolled according to Boyd's directions.

"No," Boyd said shortly.

"Hmm." Riley slid his hands into his pockets and looked over his shoulder, running an assessing eye along the entirety of Boyd's body. "A shame, really. You'd make a lot with the right contract."

"Why are you so obsessed with this modeling idea?" Boyd asked, an edge of irritation creeping into his voice.

"Why are you so irritated I'm giving you compliments?" Riley countered, frowning at his nephew.

"Because in my experience, people who seem especially enamored of my appearance also want something out of me I don't want to give," Boyd replied flatly. "So if it turns out you're a modeling agent and you've tracked me down to make you money or something equally ludicrous, I suggest you give up on the idea now and go home without wasting my time."

Riley stopped and turned around, his brown eyes seeming even darker in the poor lighting. He studied Boyd seriously, shifting a heavy gaze across his features to settle, finally, on his eyes. He stepped forward and started to reach out, fingers aiming for Boyd's pale blond hair, but Boyd jerked back and snapped a hand around Riley's wrist. He squeezed hard, feeling the pulse of his uncle's veins beneath his fingertips. Despite the fact Boyd's grip was powerful enough to slow circulation in Riley's hand and had to be uncomfortable, the older man only frowned slightly.

"You're, what now? Twenty-three?"

"Twenty-four. What's your point?"

Riley's frown deepened, drawing down his eyebrows. "You're too paranoid for your age."

Boyd nearly scoffed aloud at that but held it in. He only watched his uncle with narrowed eyes and then shook his head sharply, releasing Riley's wrist with a shove. "Move."

"Bossy, too," Riley muttered under his breath but turned and complied anyway.

When the bus arrived five minutes later they still hadn't spoken. They didn't say anything the entire ride and transfer to another bus. Riley glanced at Boyd a few times, even opened his mouth looking as though he planned to start some new unnecessary commentary, but Boyd's cold glance seemed to stop him every time.

He didn't know what it was, but being around his uncle put Boyd on edge. He leaned moodily back in his seat, watching his uncle stare out the window as the city flashed by. Boyd thought they were going to make it all the way to Sweet Lynette's without a word but Riley interrupted his thoughts one time with a contemplative, "The city never really changes, does it?", when they rode through a broken down area of Lexington.

Boyd didn't respond and that line of thought seemed to keep Riley occupied the rest of the way.

When they stepped down from the bus' bottom step, their footfalls echoed as harsh snapping sounds on the quiet street. The light from Sweet Lynette's poured out onto the sidewalk; a warm, buttery glow welcoming them in. The door jingled when they stepped inside. Jezebel looked up from behind the counter, her eyes widening slightly at the sight of Boyd and then jumping over to Riley briefly before returning.

"Little Boyd," she greeted warmly, a smile spreading. "You surprised me. I don't usually see you, this late at night. Hankering for a midnight snack, are you?"

"Something like that," Boyd answered, glancing around the shop. He and Riley were the only ones in there. "Are we interrupting? You haven't posted your closing hours."

"Oh pish," Jezebel answered, waving her hand dismissively and scrunching her face. "Rules like that don't need to be made. Someone wants ice cream or a place to rest day or night, I have a space just for them."

She looked over Boyd's shoulder, watching Riley. She didn't say anything but sometimes she did that, staying silent so her visitor had the chance to determine how much they did or did not want to say. A small smile remained caught on her face. Boyd glanced over at his uncle and saw the man was looking around the shop.

"We'll order something later," Boyd said, returning his attention to Jezebel.

"Of course." Her smile widened when she met Boyd's eyes. "But how's about I bring you some tea in the meantime? On the house."

Rather than argue with the woman about taking money, Boyd only said "Thank you," and led his uncle over to the most secluded spot. White noise machines had been installed at each table since the last time Boyd had visited; presumably to mask a low conversation when there were no background conversations to do the same.

At the moment, he appreciated it.

When they sat down, Boyd activated the machine and then pulled out his phone. He set the timer for fifteen minutes and laid the phone on the table where Riley could see the countdown.

"I'm listening," Boyd said simply, meeting Riley's eyes.

Riley glanced down at the timer and grimaced. He shoved himself back in the booth, his long legs unfurling beneath the table. "You're unexpectedly serious, you know that? Seems you got a bit too much influence from that bitch ma of yours."

"So you'd like to reminisce and make observations even now?" Boyd lifted his eyebrows slightly. "Because if you think I'm joking, I'm not. I will leave once this timer is finished unless you give me reason to stay."

"Why are you being such an ass about this?"

"Why did you let me believe you were dead for twenty-four years?" Boyd countered, eyes narrowing.

Riley sighed heavily and looked distractedly at the front counter where the ice cream was displayed. "Right. Well, if you're going to be so unyielding about all this I'm at least getting my sugar fix." He pushed himself up and glanced down with a gesture at the phone. "Pause that for a bit, would you? Just long enough for me to order. You haven't gotten your tea yet anyway, right? Let's start this off the right way."

Boyd considered telling him no but he really did wonder about Riley's sudden presence and, more than that, he wondered about his family. So he paused the timer for a few minutes while Riley chatted with Jezebel about the flavors, ordered and paid. He brought the tea and his ice cream back to the table on a tray and poured Boyd a cup before sliding the small mug over. This time, Riley took a bite of ice cream and looked pointedly down at the timer, obviously waiting for Boyd to start it before speaking.

"I imagine you'll have questions so I'll leave some time in your deadline for that." It was said mildly, just on the edge between insulting and accommodating. Riley took another bite of ice cream and leaned forward to rest his arms on the table. He held the spoon loosely in his hand. "But to answer your first question-- do you know how your grandparents died?"

Boyd frowned, his hands wrapping around the warmth of the mug. "Not exactly."

Riley nodded curtly, as if he'd expected that answer. "You were born a few days before Thanksgiving. We all flew in to see you. My parents were near hysterics with joy at having their first grandkid. You'd think they'd won the lottery and a half."

He shook his head drolly to himself and took another, smaller bite of ice cream. He studied Boyd while he worked the ice cream around his mouth, presumably keeping the coldness from his teeth. During the pause, Boyd found himself remembering the photograph of his family in the hospital room that he'd found in the attic years ago. If his grandparents had been that happy at his birth, he couldn't help wondering what his life would have been like had they lived to spend any time with him.

"You were born on a Saturday so you were only a few days old when Wednesday came up. With the timing and all-- Viv still in the hospital and your dad useless to the world except to show you off-- Ma had decided to make Thanksgiving Day dinner for everyone, and Dad had it in his mind to buy a load of gifts for you." Riley's expression tightened slightly and he looked down at his slowly melting ice cream. "Sentimental git," he muttered, shaking his head to himself.

"Wednesday..." Boyd repeated, his heart clenching in his chest. "You mean--"

"Right," Riley said heavily, stirring the ice cream around a bit. "They were in Lexington when it was bombed."

"What..." Boyd said, his voice turning hushed but harsh. He remembered Crater Lake; right in the heart of Vickland where he'd spent so many hours feeling comforted by a hole left by a bomb. Or the video he had watched during training of the people near the bridge in the Theater District.

Riley frowned, eyeing Boyd. "You look like you saw a ghost."

Boyd looked down at the golden brown hue of his tea. Back then, the attacks had felt a little removed-- not directly affecting him. Something he could find a way to distance himself from despite the impact the war had on his life.

But if his grandparents had been in Lexington during the bombs, if they'd perished in those attacks, then he might have watched exactly what had happened to them in their last moments. He might have sat on their graves.

He felt sick to his stomach.

"Hey." Riley reached across the table, grabbed Boyd by the arm, and shook it lightly. When Boyd looked up, he saw his uncle's frown had grown, hooding his eyes now too. "I can't say I know you but Ceddy boy used to do this thing where he took on the responsibility of everyone around him. Acted like he could protect everyone and was disappointed in himself when he fell short of the goal. Right now, if you were my brother, I'd be saying you think it's your fault they died." His grip tightened briefly, his tone firming. "But that can't be, right?"

"But if you'd all been home instead of here--"

Riley scoffed. "If we'd been home, something else could've happened. We could've died of carbon monoxide poisoning for god's sake." He released Boyd's arm and waved his hand dismissively as he sat back. "It's useless to worry about that sort of thing. It's not like you started the war or forced my ma to be obsessed with Thanksgiving or my dad to suddenly go shopping. You weren't even a week old, kid. You had no control of your bladder, let alone humanity."

Boyd let that sink in before he spoke again. "So-- Why did I get the impression you were dead too?"

Riley's stare drilled into Boyd for a long, uncomfortable moment before he abruptly looked down at his ice cream. "That's because as far as anyone knew I was there with them," he said evenly. When he looked up again, his eyes were mild and his eyebrows were raised slightly. "I was supposed to be out getting you a presie too but I got pulled away on some urgent business. Next thing I knew, the place was lighting up with bombs everywhere, mass hysteria hit the streets, and I took off."

"You took off?" Boyd repeated incredulously. "You didn't even tell my father you were alive?"

With a faint, scrunched face Riley took a large bite of ice cream. He chewed contemplatively. "Listen, kid." He waved the spoon toward Boyd. "There were some things going on that required delicacy on my part. None of that is your business. The point is, a few years later I tracked my brother down to talk to him."

Eyeing Riley suspiciously, Boyd took a sip of the hot tea. The steam billowed up, warming his cheeks and lips. "I don't recall my parents ever talking about this."

"I didn't say I spoke to your parents, I said I tracked down Cedrick. He wasn't too happy with me, as you can imagine," Riley's added drolly, "so I doubt he took the time to tell a seven-year-old about his deadbeat uncle."


"Well, I found him at work and like I said, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't want to talk to me at first so I kept coming back all week. Finally I followed him and caught him when he was staking out some place. He didn't know I was there at first and I caught part of a phone conversation-- something about Vanguard Industries and information, I don't know." He waved a hand dismissively.

"Whatever it was," Riley continued, spearing the ice cream with his spoon, "when he hung up and saw me there he acted real strange at first before he cooled down. We spent all night catching up and he decided maybe things would be fine in time, but told me to stay away from you and your ma 'till he'd figured out how to break the news."

Riley looked up at Boyd from beneath his eyebrows, his lips curling to the side. "Can you believe it? 'Break the news'? Like it was worse I was alive than dead..." He shook his head to himself. "Anyway, I stayed away like he asked and a month later I went to see him again. Found out he'd died a week after I talked to him. And that's the story of how this country apparently has it out for my family," he concluded as he took a giant bite of ice cream.

Boyd rested his elbows on the table, holding the warm mug in his hands and watching his uncle. He wasn't certain what to think of this so far-- he wanted to believe in this man, he wanted to feel excitement at the idea of finally having a family member who didn't seem to hate him on sight. Someone he could ask all the questions he'd always wanted to ask.

At the same time, he couldn't trust him.

Even in this story the time gap and strange reaction to the deaths in his family was causing suspicion to be an undercurrent to every word Riley spoke. Still, there was more time on the clock so he simply nodded. Let the man think he believed everything he was being told; it was easier to get to the truth when a person was being underestimated.

"So why are you showing up now?"

Riley grimaced. "You and your ma seemed to be getting along fine when I swung by your place next--"

Boyd wondered exactly Riley's definition of 'fine' could have been for that statement to be true but he didn't bother commenting.

"--so I stayed away like Ced wanted and never said anything to Viv. But I'm in some trouble now and I needed a place to run." He ate the last bit of ice cream and dropped the spoon with a clatter into his bowl. His dark brown eyes didn't move from Boyd's face. "Like I said. I didn't have anyone else to turn to, so I came to you."

Boyd stared at Riley for a long moment before he set his mug down; a careful slide of porcelain against wood. "So, let me get this straight. You let my parents believe you died with my grandparents, showed up in time for a cryptic conversation with my father only to have him die within the month, didn't bother contacting my mother or me either time to let us know you were alive, and are only coming to me now because you want me to, what? Give you money? A safe place to stay?" His eyebrows furrowed. "Are you kidding me?"

A frown dragged down Riley's lips. He leaned back in the booth, kicking his legs out in front of him and crossing his arms. "Look, kid. I'm not saying I made the best choices or anything in my life but we're still family. And even if I didn't do right by you in the past, it doesn't mean I don't mean to do right by you now."

"'Do right by me'," Boyd repeated, narrowing his eyes as he leaned forward. "What the hell do you take me as? We're only family by blood. I know nothing about you other than this strange story you've presented me. I don't even have a way to verify anything you're telling me is truth--"

"There you go, being paranoid again," Riley said with a long-suffering tone and Boyd slammed his palm loudly on the table.

"Don't patronize me," Boyd said coldly, honey brown eyes narrowing into a glare.

Riley eyed Boyd in a mixture of surprise and uncertainty. "Look, I just meant you're only twenty-four so what could you possibly--"

"What could I possibly what?" Boyd interrupted, ice cold anger starting to grow within him. "What could I know about having to make difficult decisions? What could I know about pain or loss or reasons to be paranoid?" He shook his head to himself and crossed his arms. "You know nothing about me so stop expecting me to roll over for you based on blood alone."

He stood and reached for his phone but Riley snapped a hand across the table, gripping Boyd's wrist. Boyd glared down at him but Riley met the hostility head-on, his own dark brown gaze even and his expression serious.

The tension between them mounted.

"I still have three minutes," Riley said at last.

Boyd's jaw shifted and for a moment he considered walking off anyway but he stopped himself.

"So you do," he agreed flatly and pulled his hand from his uncle's grasp. His shoulders and back were hard, angular lines when he sat again; his eyes a flash of cold through blond eyelashes.

Riley watched Boyd evenly for a long moment before he sighed and slouched forward, his forearms crossed in front of him and braced against the table. In that movement, the offhanded air fell, making him appear a decade older and two times less certain of the outcome of this encounter.

"Listen, kid--" he started to say heavily.

"I have a name."

Riley grimaced faintly. "Listen, Boyd," he continued without missing a beat. "I deserved that response, all things considered. But as much as you don't know if you can trust me, I don't know if I can trust you. But I believe I can, based on the sort of person you seem to be. All those times I watched you--"

"You watched me?" Boyd interrupted, eyes narrowing. But while Boyd was merely putting that information in context of the times he'd noticed eyes on him, Riley mistook his expression as displeasure. The older man raised his hands in a gesture of peace.

"Just on and off! I wasn't doing it to be a creep. I just... wondered how you were doing..." He scowled and trailed off as he looked away. There was a long moment of silence and then he suddenly pressed his hands to the table. "You know what? Forget it. This won't go anywhere good no matter what I say."

He pushed himself to a stand but Boyd snapped a hand out, catching his arm and causing the older man to stop and look over his shoulder, startled. Boyd watched him.

"You still have two minutes."

Riley's eyebrows lifted in surprise. His dark gaze darted to the phone, still counting down the time in large white font, before returning to Boyd's eyes. The moment stretched, as unreadable as Boyd's expression, before the edges of Riley's lips lifted.

"So I do," he said as he sat down again.

Once he had settled himself in the booth, he eyed Boyd before starting to speak once more.

"I don't feel comfortable going into this too much but I have some... addictions, and they caused my family a lot of stress when I was younger. Ced was always the perfect son even though he was younger than me and it caused me a lot of grief. Even so, he was always dependable. Always the one who would be there for someone no matter what. I messed up a lot over the years and because of my lifestyle I never got into the sort of relationship that lasted more than a month or landed me with a kid. I suppose..."

He trailed off again, this time his gaze shifting away to peer out the darkened window across the store. "I suppose, lately, aside from the issues I've been having I've also been feeling a bit lonely. Blame it on a mid-life crisis, I don't know," he said with a faint grimace, "but..."

He looked at Boyd again, this time seeming to truly study him. His dark brown gaze traced Boyd's features; from his pale blond hair, past his eyes to his nose, his full lips, his jawline, and back up to meet his eyes. "But when I really needed help, I thought of Cedrick. I thought of you."

Boyd studied his uncle, feeling a pull deep inside at the mention of his father and the idea that maybe he could have become someone similar to him. Someone who would have made his father proud. He hesitated, the agent side of him still uncertain about the timing and story while a deeper part of him wanted to hold onto the only relatively friendly family he really had right now.

He was still uncertain of a response when his phone suddenly buzzed and vibrated. He jerked, his hand brushing up against the cooling mug when he looked over. The timer had reached zero.

The two of them watched the phone for a moment before Boyd reached over and shut off the notification. He didn't meet his uncle's eyes as he slid the phone back into his pocket and stood. He pulled his wallet out and tossed money on the table. From his peripheral vision he could see Riley watching him tensely and, when Boyd started to walk away, Riley slouched and dropped his head dejectedly into his hands. Boyd paused a booth away and looked over his shoulder.

"Well?" he asked.

Riley straightened and twisted, looking at Boyd with drawn down eyebrows. Boyd met his questioning gaze evenly and jerked his chin toward the door.

"Aren't you coming?"

Riley was up and out of the booth in a flash, the light returning to his face and a bounce to his step. He suddenly seemed much more youthful, possibly younger even than Boyd, when he loped over and grabbed Boyd in a side hug that became a shake.

"I knew I could count on you! Even if he wasn't around nearly long enough, I knew my brother couldn't produce anything but a good kid." He leaned forward and, seeming in the spur of the moment, kissed Boyd on the top of the head.

Boyd nearly rolled his eyes at that. "You can tone down the flattery," he said mildly even as he felt a rush of pleasure at Riley's praise and the offhanded affection.

Was this what it felt like to have a father? Was this how it would have been if Cedrick had lived? Maybe they could have met at Jezebel's on Sunday mornings, to eat ice cream and talk about nothing in particular. Maybe Cedrick would have also said kind things so easily to him rather than words calculated to tear him down and make him feel inferior, like Vivienne did.

Maybe... Maybe with Riley it would be possible to have an uncomplicated relationship, like the family he'd seen others have. Like he knew would never really happen with the people he'd substituted as father figures now: Carhart and, to an extent, Emilio.

He looked away but couldn't bring himself to pull away from Riley's friendly half-hug. The decision was taken from his hands when Riley dropped his arm half a block later and slid his hands into his pockets, looking around curiously.

Boyd eyed his uncle sidelong. He had to remember not to let those hopeful emotions get the better of him when there was still a lot he didn't know.

"We should probably tell my mother about you," he observed and was met with a startled glance and eyebrows that climbed up the older man's forehead.

"What? Oh, no." He pulled one hand from his pocket to wave it in a negating manner while he shook his head. "No, that wouldn't be a good idea."

Boyd's eyes narrowed. "Why not?"

"Because your ma and me..." Riley looked to the sky with a frown and shoved his hands back into his pockets; balled fists that stretched the leather jacket out slightly in front of him. "Well." He looked down at Boyd mildly. "Let's just say we never got along."

"Why not?" Boyd repeated, more suspiciously.

Riley's eyebrows raised drolly this time, his lips stretching to the side. "Have you met your ma?" he drawled. "She's a bit hard to handle. And a lot harder to please."

Boyd watched him for a moment and then looked away. Sliding his hands into his own pockets, he tilted his head in a mild form of assent. "I can't say I disagree..."

"Right," Riley replied firmly. "She probably celebrated when she thought I was dead-- she always acted like the world would be better off without my presence and I can't say I haven't felt the same in return."

Boyd didn't answer him so the two of them continued in silence for another block. The summer wind was warm, lifting the ends of Boyd's hair and ruffling his clothing. He wondered briefly why his uncle had chosen to wear leather in the middle of summer but determined he seemed the sort who would choose it as a fashion statement even when it was inconvenient.

"So I can give you money for a safe place to stay," Boyd started to say but Riley stopped suddenly and grasped Boyd's shoulder. Boyd came to a halt, startled, and looked around as his senses automatically went on alert. Was there a gunman Riley had seen or--

A heavy hand falling on his other shoulder made him return his attention fully to his uncle, who was leaning down to look him straight in the eye. His eyebrows were drawn together; his expression earnest.

"I know you've every reason to tell me no, but I don't trust hotels tonight. I don't trust random places I've never been. I'd really like the opportunity to stay with you-- even for a night, even for a day; whatever you'll allow me. I just--" He stopped and frowned, looking away with hooded eyebrows and frustration tightening the line of his jaw. "I know it sounds stupid but right now I'd like to be as near my brother as I can."

Riley seemed genuinely troubled but once again, dual thoughts moved through Boyd's mind.

This is classic subterfuge, he thought in the cold analysis of an agent. I would do the same to a target. Play on his emotions. Make him want to believe. Make him weak.

At the same time, the part of him that didn't distrust everyone on sight and remembered Riley's same face peering out from a dusty photo album thought: And what if it's true? I've regretted too; I've wanted a chance to make up for past mistakes. I've wanted to reconcile with people I've lost. I've wanted a second chance at family and I've run to people I may not have known well when I needed help.

He hesitated, considering the options. The second Riley stepped foot on Boyd's property he would be on camera. If he was truly trying to hide from everyone then Boyd's place wasn't exactly safe. Then again, it wasn't like he was trying to hide from the Agency. And the surveillance meant that if Riley tried anything Boyd would have definitive proof to help him decide which was the accurate read on his uncle.

There wasn't anything dangerous at his house for a civilian. Anything with direct ties to the Agency was at the Agency itself or was coded so it wouldn't make sense to a civilian and was always on Boyd's person anyway. And anyone who might show up unexpectedly at his house would have a cover story as a friend or coworker.

There really wasn't anything to lose. If anything, this might give him a chance to get a better idea of his uncle's motivations.

"Alright," Boyd said, "just for now." He was rewarded with a sudden jerk forward into a hug.

"Thank you," Riley said into the fall of Boyd's hair. Boyd hesitated, his hands staying at his sides even as Riley's arms tightened and he whispered again, muffled: "Thank you."

Riley slept in the spare room upstairs while Boyd tossed and turned downstairs. He felt highly aware that there was someone else sleeping in his house for the first time since he and Sin had parted. It was an odd feeling, knowing he wasn't alone and yet still feeling like he was.

He couldn't sleep and it was due to that he heard the quiet creaking of the floorboards in the middle of the night.

He rolled silently out of bed and crept upstairs. Faint rustling came from the second spare room; the one where he had placed all the assorted boxes he had dragged down from the attic ages ago. When he peered around the corner into the room he saw movement. Half-hidden by the piles, Riley was opening and closing drawers slowly so as to quiet the action, and carefully lifting the edges of the interwoven cardboard box lids to see inside.

A weight settled in Boyd's stomach and, after a moment of watching his uncle, he crept silently back downstairs to his room.

What was Riley doing? Looking for items to pawn to make some money? There was nothing particularly of value in that room aside from some old silverware and jewelry. The only thing of value to Boyd was due to sentimentality: the journals his father had left him, which he had long since relocated to his bedroom.

This time when he laid awake staring at the ceiling, he couldn't sleep for an entirely different reason.

The next morning when Riley came downstairs, hair awry and clothing askew, Boyd looked over from the stove with the mild curiosity of someone none the wiser. A huge yawn stretched Riley's face and caused tears to gather at the corner of his eyes as he ambled into the kitchen.

"Sleep well?" Boyd asked as he pushed the lid down on the tea kettle and flipped the stove's range to medium high.

"Like a baby," Riley said happily and dropped into a chair at the kitchen table. "I didn't wake up once! Thanks again for this, Boyd, you've no idea what it means to me..."

"All night?" Boyd asked in the questioning tone of a host pleased to hear his guest had a good stay. He glanced over his shoulder as he reached to open a cupboard. "I've had guests say it's a bit uncomfortable up there and they needed to take a walk in the night. Something about ghosts, if you'd believe it."

Riley smirked. "Sadly, can't say as I had a visit from the supernatural." He laced his hands behind his head and tilted his chair back. "No-- I was out nearly the second we got back and just woke up now."

There was nothing in his face to show he was lying. Boyd nodded and turned back to the cupboard, although his hand tightened on the oatmeal container briefly.

So he'd been right to distrust this man.

That simple thought felt like a knife cutting straight into his stomach, with a worse feeling than when he'd been stabbed in the past. He drew in a quiet breath before he turned with a mild smile.

"What's family for?" he asked, and answered himself: Deception, apparently. He held up the container. "Oatmeal?"

"Love some, thanks," Riley replied, dropping back to all four legs on the chair.

Boyd nodded absently and went to pull some bowls from another cupboard. He wondered whether he should even bother asking Riley what he'd been looking for, since clearly the man would lie anyway. Still, it hurt. If Riley had wanted money, Boyd had offered to give him some. And if he was looking for something else, he should have asked.

The fact that he hadn't...

As Boyd set the bowls on the table and sat down, he reflected that it was his own fault for letting himself be pulled into the story anyway. He just missed his father so much he gravitated toward anything that seemed it might fill that void from his childhood.

Riley was looking around the kitchen idly and Boyd was just considering saying something regardless of the futility when his phone suddenly buzzed in his back pocket. The Agency phone.

He stood, pulled out his phone, and waved a hand at the stove. "Keep an eye on the kettle, would you? I have to get this-- My friend's calling me about some plans we're finalizing for the weekend. It should whistle when ready."

Riley nodded and watched him leave the room. As Boyd walked down the back hallway he checked the caller ID and saw it was Carhart. Eyes narrowing faintly, because it would be just his luck to get a mission now when he had an untrustworthy guest in his care, he walked outside into the backyard where he could get some privacy.

"Get on compound," Carhart said bluntly the second Boyd verified his identity.

"What?" Boyd said in surprise. He automatically glanced at his house, even though he couldn't see his uncle through the walls. "Now?"

"Yes," Carhart said curtly. "I expect you here in thirty minutes."

Something about his tone made it obvious this wasn't a normal mission alert. Boyd felt the chill of alarm spread from his stomach outward.

"Yes, sir." He hesitated and asked, "Did-- something happen?"

There was a stretch of silence before Carhart said flatly, "Yes."

He hung up before Boyd could say anything further.

Worried, Boyd stared at his phone for a moment before returning it to his back pocket and going back inside. His uncle was in the same place he'd been before, slouched in the chair looking like he didn't have a care in the world. Boyd paused in the archway to the kitchen, staring at him until Riley twisted to meet his eyes and, upon seeing Boyd's expression, straightened with a frown.

"Did something happen?"

"My friend's grandma," Boyd said, gaze darting away and arms crossing. He furrowed his eyebrows until they hooded his expression and, after a hesitant moment, he crossed the room quickly and turned off the stove.

"She's-- There was--" He stopped, busied himself with setting the kettle onto another burner, then braced his hands against the stove and dropped his head down. "They don't know if she'll make it," he finished quietly.

"Oh," Riley said, already starting to rise. "That--" He cut himself off and stayed, hovering, near the kitchen table. "That's terrible."

"Yeah," Boyd said softly, staring down at the kettle. "It is."

There was a long moment of silence before Riley asked, "So... your friend called to tell you...?"

Boyd let out a low breath and then shook his head and turned. "I'm sorry but you're going to have to leave after all. He wants me to come help him out with everything and I don't know how long any of this will be. It could be days..."

"Of course," Riley said, although he didn't sound entirely happy about it. Still, he didn't argue as Boyd walked out of the room toward his messenger bag. He leaned down to swipe it off the floor of his bedroom and then pulled a wad of cash out of his wallet. "Here." He held it out to Riley, who stared with raised eyebrows at the amount.

"Good God, kid, who did you blow to get this much?"

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "Thank you for the vote of confidence."

Riley grimaced. "I was joking, I didn't actually mean--"

"Just take it," Boyd said, shoving the money against his uncle's chest. Riley automatically reached up to catch the bills before they floated out of his grasp. He stared down at the money in his hands and for a moment he seemed caught off guard by the gesture.

"Thank you, Boyd..."

Boyd shook his head. "Don't mention it." He didn't even know why he was giving the man money when Riley had clearly been intending to steal from him. With a sigh, Boyd turned. "You'd better grab your things. I'm just going to pack some clothes in case I'm gone awhile."

Without looking, Boyd had no idea if Riley nodded but he did feel his uncle's presence disappear, followed shortly by the creaking of the steps as he jogged upstairs. Once he knew Riley wasn't in sight, Boyd moved the stack of books, sketchbooks, and assorted junk from the corner of his room to access the small hidden compartment he'd made in the wall.

He reached in, feeling around by touch alone while he watched over his shoulder for his uncle's reappearance, and grasped the small box filled with his father's old journals. He immediately placed it into his messenger bag and hid the compartment once more behind the cover and books. He grabbed some random clothes to throw atop the box so it was less obvious what was inside his bag, and then walked into the hallway just as Riley took the steps two at a time down to the first floor.

"Here's my number," Riley told him, handing over a piece of paper obviously ripped from the corner of an envelope with a phone number scrawled in black ink. "Call me when you're available. I'd like to talk more. Maybe next time we can even reminisce a bit, what do you say?"

"Sounds good," Boyd answered as he stuffed the paper into his pocket. He sent Riley out ahead of him and set the alarm on the house before jogging out and locking the door behind him. "Head to the Mayborn hotel," he told Riley as they both started down the front steps. "Cliff and Western. It's a good place to lie low until you can find somewhere better."

"Thanks, kid." With a smile, Riley reached over to ruffle Boyd's hair. While the affection had felt flattering the night before, now Boyd didn't know what to think of it. "You're alright."

"Like I said," was all Boyd said as he dug his car keys out of his bag. "Flattery..."

Riley smirked and raised a hand in an idle wave. "I'll see you around." He started toward the sidewalk and then stopped and called over his shoulder just as Boyd was getting into his car. "Hey. Where's the best place to pick up a cab from here?"

"Third and Forrest," Boyd called back, pointing in the direction Riley would need to walk. He pulled his messenger bag strap over his head and set the bag in his passenger seat. "Or, barring that, catch the train," he added. "Get off at the Crandall Park stop by Theater."

Riley made a short salute with two fingers to his forehead and out. "Roger," he said and started southbound on Magnolia Lane's picture perfect sidewalks.

Boyd waited until Riley was out of view before he pulled out of his driveway and drove northbound toward Sixth Avenue North. He made only one stop on his way to the Agency, to relocate his father's journals to a more secure place outside of his home. He didn't know why he felt the urge to hide them, but after seeing his uncle digging around in old boxes he couldn't help feeling like Riley might steal the only unbiased references Boyd would ever be able to gather of what his father had really been like when he was alive.

When he drove on compound, he was stopped at the gate by the guards, who checked his identification. They seemed more alert than usual; gazes darting around at every movement and glares hooded by heavy eyebrows. Boyd wasn't quite sure what to make of any of it but didn't bother asking. He would just get the answer from Carhart anyway.

He parked in the lot and grabbed his bag. As he was starting to walk away he heard other cars pulling in behind him. One of them paused, idling in the middle of an emptier area of the parking lot. Boyd glanced over his shoulder and saw Aisha was driving the car Vivienne used and had paused before parking. The two of them appeared to be in the middle of some sort of tense conversation, which was confirmed when Vivienne opened the back door suddenly and stepped out, looking down at her watch.

"I have no time for this," Vivienne was saying shortly. "I must be ready in fifteen minutes."

She shut the door firmly and stood next to the car while Aisha leaned over to peer out the open window.

"Would you like me to run and get it for you?" Aisha asked and Vivienne's lips tightened while she glanced between her assistant and the Tower.

"Hurry," she ordered Aisha and turned to walk toward the nearby sidewalk. Aisha eased off the brake and started to back up the car. She stopped when Vivienne looked abruptly down at her phone and called out, "Aisha." The aide looked out the open window questioningly and Vivienne made a curt, impatient gesture. "There is no time. Now she wishes for more information; I will need you inside with me."

Aisha nodded and put the car back in gear to ease it into a parking space. Vivienne was watching her phone as she walked between some cars toward the sidewalk. Boyd started to look away, losing interest in the interaction even as he briefly wondered what had his mother so upset.

The explosion was completely unexpected.

Heat and light ripped through the air violently, throwing Boyd down to the pavement. He reacted automatically, bracing himself to minimize the damage and rolling with the momentum. He found himself on the concrete with shadows flickering around him. His ears buzzed faintly.

He pushed himself up and looked over his shoulder immediately to see his mother lying half on the sidewalk with her car completely immersed in flames.

The compound had gone still with surprise; agents and guards turning to look at the bomb. Boyd shoved himself up, his fingers brushing bits of glass that had flown that far, and ran over to Vivienne's side.

She was scratched and bruised, with pieces of glass embedded along her back and side. Her clothing was ripped and her jacket was ruined. One of her shoes remained from where she'd been thrown out of it, blood leaked down one side of her face, and her hair had started to come loose from the french twist. Still, glancing back Boyd could see that the majority of the damage appeared to have been stopped by the vehicles partially protecting her from the explosion.

She groaned when Boyd touched her shoulder.

"Are you alright?" he asked her.

Vivienne sat up, her jaw shifting and clenching; her face dirtied and expression for one moment caught between surprise and pain. She looked over at the car completely engulfed in flames, with Aisha not even a shadow to be seen within.

There was no question that Aisha was dead.

Vivienne's eyes narrowed and her expression immediately shifted; closing off completely to something cold and remote.

He saw her fingers curl against the pavement; her shoulders stiffen. Then she was pushing herself up, her ice blue eyes flicking up to Boyd's face. Their eyes met and for a second he saw more than the cold; he saw a warning. Her expression was sheltered between dirty blond hair falling free and his body blocking her from the rest of the compound.

"Be careful, Boyd," she said quietly, her lips barely moving. He could hardly hear her over the roar of the fire and the people now approaching.

Before he could react she was already pushing herself to a stand. She jerked her arm out of his grip and leveled him with a scathing look. "I can help myself," she said icily, then turned a commanding stare on the guards who were just arriving.

"Put out that fire this instant. Lieutenant, begin an investigation immediately. You-- Officer Thorsen. Send Samuel to my office. As for the rest of you," her icy blue stare swept the group of people who had gathered, her tone flat. "Remain on compound. You have work to do."

She stopped only long enough to retrieve her fallen shoe and pull off her other, half-broken high heel before she continued her power walk as if she hadn't been interrupted by a car bomb and the death of her assistant. She was already pulling out her phone to call someone as she strode away.

People nearby muttered about Vivienne being an ice bitch and how her assistant was forgotten immediately even after putting up with all of her crap for years. A few seemed to think it was too bad Vivienne hadn't been in the car after all, while others wondered who did it. Even the people who would have loved to see Vivienne die sounded worried by this turn of events and the audacity of it. He heard a few agents wonder if this had something to do with the sudden call to return to compound.

Boyd barely paid attention, his gaze shifting from his mother's retreating back to turn and watch the fire burn.

Continue to Fade Chapter 19...