Fade Chapter Twenty-One

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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.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter 21

Uploaded on 4/28/2012

It was one of those mornings when the sun was shining brightly. Beams of light were streaming through the windows, casting a golden sheen on the wall. The sky was bluer than Carhart had seen it in ages, and birds were singing in the trees that had grown in full and vibrantly green near the windows.

It was a beautiful morning.

He stared blankly down into the pan of sautéing vegetables, attention drawn by the sizzle. The tomatoes, peppers and onions were softening in the olive oil. They could probably be stirred, but he just stood there and looked. His arms dangled at his sides, shoulders pushed forward slightly and his head tilted.

His mind was on autopilot. He was wondering how it felt to be incinerated, and if they truly killed a person first or just burned them alive. He wondered what they had done to Sin. He remembered a flash of bloodshot green eyes looking at him and the cloud of misery that had rolled off of that long lean body in waves. He remembered doing nothing, and being selfish.

He wondered what Morgan had been doing when the bullet had penetrated her skull. What Aisha's task had been that had saved Vivienne but obliterated the young woman who had been a constant at her side for the past two years.

A sharp rapping on the door jolted Carhart out of the reverie he had fallen into.

He blinked and shook his head, rubbing the back of his hand across his face and flicking off the burner. The smell of the cooking vegetables had begun to have a faintly burnt tinge. He looked around the kitchen and wondered why the hell he was even bothering to cook other than there wasn't anything better to do. Weeks of no incoming or outgoing missions had finally cleared his desk.

He padded across the apartment barefoot, wondering who the hell it could be. He wasn't dressed appropriately for company. His jeans were beltless and hanging off of him due to recent and unfortunate weight loss, and his flannel shirt was open over his bare chest.

Looking through the peephole, Carhart scowled and swung the door open quickly. He opened his mouth to shout at Emilio, shut it, and then dragged the other man inside forcefully.

"Easy on the merchandise," Emilio drawled, shaking him off. "Cojelo suave, boss man."

"What the fuck are you thinking?" Carhart demanded, kicking the door shut and turning on the other man. "Are you an idiot?"

A flash of irritation darkened Emilio's expression and he looked Carhart over, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why don't you get your head out of your ass and stop assuming shit?"

Carhart opened his mouth to yell again, bit his tongue and took a deep calming breath. He closed his eyes briefly, inhaling and exhaling again.

"Why are you knocking on my front door?"

"That's better." Emilio grinned again, letting his gaze move over his former partner more deliberately. He wet his lips absently, eyes hanging on the dipping waistband of Carhart's jeans, before he looked away and walked over to the kitchen.

"I just had a meeting with Kattyros."

Carhart stared at him, translating. "Katsaros?"

"Yeah. Whatever." Emilio shrugged and took off his leather jacket, tossing it over a chair to expose a nearly skintight black t-shirt that hugged his biceps and chest. "What you cookin'?"

"I was going to make an omelet. What did he say?"

"Can I have some?"


Emilio sighed and leaned against the counter, rolling his eyes. "Relax, man. He wanted to make it clear that he likes my style, and my work, and that even if some Generals don't appreciate it, he ain't like that. Gave me a big talk about unprofessionalism and people who be holding personal grudges and shit."

Carhart grimaced and turned away, dragging the carton of eggs over. "I told you this would happen. But why would that make you think it's okay to make it obvious that we've reconciled?"

"Is that what you call it?" Emilio asked, his gaze burning into Carhart's back.

"Get to the point, Vega," Carhart growled, staring at the carton of eggs without touching them. He felt tension seeping into him which only intensified when Emilio moved closer.

"'Cause he also recommended that I try to make nice with you and fake apologize for whatever he thinks you think I did so I can keep an eye on your ass." There was a hint of a laugh in Emilio's deep voice as he moved a step closer.

Carhart nodded, cerulean eyes narrowing in thought. Katsaros was playing the same game that Vivienne was. It wasn't surprising. "Why does he need you to do this when they have Bex in my unit?"

Emilio scoffed at that. "I asked the same shit. He made it sound like she ain't the best at keeping an eye out. She's too into like, her actual job. And from the way he said it, I think they think she respects you too much. She's too fucking thick to play spy games, not like her sis."


There was a beat of silence as Carhart stared into space, his mind churning with this new information. On one hand, it made it obvious that Vivienne had been right all along about getting Emilio on their side. He didn't truly think Emilio would have betrayed him before but it also didn't mean the other man would have gone out of his way to bring him information. On the other, it was disconcerting to know that Katsaros was making moves against him already and so boldly. It made the icy pit in his stomach spread, and he closed his eyes again.

Strong hands slid up his back and squeezed his shoulders, massaging slowly. It felt good and it would have been easy for Carhart to lean into it, but it just made him tense up again.

"Just chill out," Emilio said, his voice close to Carhart's ear.

"I'm fine."

"Bullshit. You're paranoid."

Carhart turned, facing the other man with a frown. Emilio didn't back up and if anything he leaned forward, bracing each of his hands on each side of Carhart on the counter.

"I am paranoid. I didn't think my number would come up for such a bullshit reason."

Emilio's eyes narrowed. "Your number ain't up yet. Stop talking stupid."

Carhart shook his head, blond hair brushing against his forehead. "It's just a matter of time. We can delay it but it's inevitable. She wants me gone, he wants me gone, and they can do it easily en--"

"Shut the fuck up, Zachary."

Carhart stopped talking, refocusing on Emilio. The other man's brows had drawn together and his mouth was curved down into a frown. He was shaking his head and glowering, shoulders hunched forward.

"Looking at this through rose tinted glasses isn't going to change a thing. You of all people should know what's what," Carhart said emotionlessly.

Emilio flinched at the words, looking away sharply. "Just fucking stop. I don't want to hear it."

"Why? Why not be ready for it? So it won't be like with Si--"

Emilio's grabbed the front of his shirt and jerked him forward before slamming him back against the counter hard. The edge dug into Carhart's lower back.

"I told you to stop."

Carhart's eyes narrowed. "Deal with it," he growled back. "Because it's the fucking truth. I won't be around for much longer. Get used to the idea, Vega."

Emilio's fingers clenched in the fabric of Carhart's flannel shirt. He shook his head, lips pressing together briefly as their eyes met.

"You get off on this. Don't you?"

"On what?" Carhart asked flatly, not bothering to pull away even when their noses brushed and Emilio's mouth came close to his own.

"On doing shit, on saying shit, that you know..." Emilio trailed off, his jaw clenching as he looked away briefly. He exhaled and returned his gaze unflinchingly. "You get your nut off by seeing me react to all of the fucked up shit you say to me."

There was a moment when Carhart thought about denying it. He thought about denying that he got a perverse thrill from seeing Emilio hurt over something he himself had inflicted. That he got satisfaction out of seeing the raw pain on Emilio's face at the idea of them being separated forever. It was twisted, but he'd reconciled with that fact long ago. So he said simply, "You're right."

"Why?" Emilio demanded. "I thought we was-- I thought you were--"

Carhart shook his head. "It's not about that. I just like the effect I have on you."

"You mean the power you fucking have over me," Emilio said bitterly.


"Man, and people think I'm a sick fuck."

Carhart shrugged in response. "Get your hands off me."

"What if I don't want to?"

A low sigh escaped Carhart's mouth. "What's your problem now? You wanted to know why and I told you why. It's always been fucked up between us, and you know this. It's always been a game of who's in control when and where. You can beat the shit out of me physically and I'm probably the only person in this world who can hurt your feelings."

"You don't hurt my fucking feelings," Emilio snapped, lips still curled down in the same frown of displeasure.


Carhart reached up to untangle Emilio's hands but it was like trying to unbend steel. He swore and wedged his fingers beneath Emilio's but Emilio responded by twisting his arms back and pinning them against the counter.

"What I don't get is why you even give a shit about the effect you have on me," Emilio said in the same bitter tone. His eyes flashed as dark hair hung in his face. "You don't give a fuck about me. You don't even really want me all that much."

The automatic reaction to agree with that just to dig deeper was swallowed almost instantly. Carhart allowed himself to be pinned against the counter, and didn't say anything at all.

"Since that night I ain't seen you but a handful of times. And even then, you never..."

Emilio trailed off and Carhart could finish the sentence easily enough on his own. He had never really shown the same aggressive desire for Emilio again. It was always Emilio making the first move, showing the most interest, wanting to see him.

"But like, you somehow find the time to take her all the fuck over town, right? To fucking stay the night?"

"That's different," Carhart said quietly, looking away. "And I don't want to talk about it with you."

"Why? 'Cause she's so fucking special? Well if that's the goddamn case then why did you ever start this shit up with me? To mindfuck me some more so you can get off knowing you have the power to break Emilio Fucking Vega down?"

Emilio's voice was rising now and there was the kind of fury in it that meant an impending beat down. He was working himself up to a violent mood, a dangerous mood, and his breath was coming fast.

"I think you need to calm the hell down. You're being ridiculous."

"I fucking hate you."

"You say that a lot."

Emilio released him abruptly and turned around, stalking across the room and towards the front door. There was a moment when Carhart really debated letting him leave. He knew Emilio would be back once he cooled off. But even so, he found himself trailing behind, reluctant to see the other man go.

It was a strange, paradoxical situation he often found himself in. Pushing Emilio away but then wanting him back. Ignoring any attraction but then the smallest thing could set him off, and the desire would flame up hot and fast. Resenting the situation and Vivienne's orders, but then forgetting that they even existed once Emilio's mouth was on him and their bodies were crushed together.

Emilio jerked the door open but Carhart came up behind him and slammed it shut. He pushed Emilio against the door, his chest flush against Emilio's back and leaned close. There was so much tension in the other man's body that it was like touching a brick wall. He was wound tight, and he was prone to snapping abruptly and violently.

"Fuck off," Emilio snarled. "I'm tired of your shit."

Carhart pressed the palms of his hands flat against the door, trapping Emilio. "Stop being angry for nothing."

"Drop dead, motherfucker."

"I thought you didn't want to talk about that."

Emilio stiffened even further and his hand shot out for the doorknob again but Carhart grabbed it and crushed the other man between himself and the door.


"Let me go or I'll rip your fucking head off."

Carhart leaned his forehead against the back of Emilio's head and sighed. He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. He shifted after a pause and moved one of his arms, lifting his hand to turn Emilio's face. It was one of those moments where there were dual desires warring inside of him. Wanting to stop this, wanting to recoil, but wanting to follow through nonetheless. Wanting to let Emilio go but relishing in the shudder that wracked his powerful frame when their mouths came closer together.

Someday, he thought absently as Emilio crushed their lips together, he would figure this all out. Hopefully before it was too late.

All coherent thought left as Emilio began kissing him with violent ferocity, teeth nipping at his lips and tongue entering his mouth impatiently. Carhart didn't even hesitate to respond. Once it started, all hesitation was gone. Kissing Emilio was like falling into a bottomless pit. It was easy to get lost in the sheer onslaught of passion that poured out of the other man. It was really no wonder that people craved him once they'd been with him once.

A feral growl escaped Emilio's throat and he turned around, tangling his fingers in Carhart's hair and gripping him like a lifeline. His other hand slid down into the back of Carhart's loose jeans, clutching his ass and flexing his fingers against it. He wrenched their lips apart, panting against Carhart's bruised mouth and said something low and rough, completely inaudible although the meaning was clear when he abruptly reversed their positions and slammed Carhart's back against the door.

One moment the back of the General's head was slamming against the door and the next his jeans were down and a hot wet mouth was enveloping his swollen cock.

His eyes rolled to the back of his head and his mouth fell open, a low groan escaping as he gripped a handful of Emilio's thick black hair.

"Yes," Carhart breathed, arching his back and supporting his weight with his shoulders pushed against the door. His eyebrows drew together, lips hanging open as he forced his eyes open to look down and watch Emilio deep throating him with ease. Those full, beautiful lips wrapped around his girth, taking it in and sliding off with the perfect measure of pressure and speed to make Carhart nearly go into convulsions.

He panted harshly, fucking Emilio's mouth viciously, wanting badly to just explode in those perfect lips but wanting even more to bend Emilio over and fuck him until he begged for it. These intense, desperate thoughts hurtled through his mind at full force. All possibility of stopping, all notion of not wanting Emilio, as usual, was gone.

Emilio pulled back, his tongue sliding along Carhart's wet cock as his eyes rose to meet the blue ones that were staring down at him heatedly. Carhart's lips curled and he jerked Emilio up by a fistful of hair. He was ripping off Emilio's shirt and spinning him around to shove him unceremoniously towards the couch before he'd fully thought the actions through.

"You're so fucking easy," Emilio said, his voice low and thick with lust.

"Shut up."

Carhart shoved Emilio forward on the couch so that he was chest down. He yanked Emilio's dark jeans off impatiently, dragging the red boxer-briefs down with them and tossing them aside.

Emilio looked so perfect in that moment that Carhart couldn't do more than stare down at him hungrily as he lubed himself with saliva and the pre-cum that had started leaking from his dick. His breath hitched as he jerked himself, eyes focused on the caramel skin that poured over Emilio's broad shoulders, the toned, tattooed back and the perfect globes of his ass.

How was it possible that this raw, needy attraction wasn't present any other time except when they were about to fuck?

"Do it," Emilio demanded.

Carhart speared his cock into Emilio, relishing in the low gasp of pain, the way Emilio's back arched and the way he scooted his knees up to give better access. A choked gasp turned into a carnal growl as Carhart's pelvis began slapping against Emilio's ass as he began to fuck into him brutally.

He planted his hands flat on Emilio's back, pressing him down into the couch as he rode him. His eyes focused on the long fingers that were digging into the couch, stomach tightening as Emilio's grip went white-knuckled. He was so good at taking it, and so fucking sexy when he got needy, that Carhart found himself moving faster and harder so that Emilio would completely lose it like he always did.

Emilio swore, his voice pouring out of his mouth huskily as pain mixed with pleasure. He raised his hips to meet Carhart's thrust for thrust as his groans and demands for more steadily rose in volume. Carhart yanked Emilio up until they were pressed flush against each other again with Emilio only slightly bent, with his hands supporting him on the arm of the couch.

He shoved his cock into Emilio ruthlessly, eyes nearly rolling back when Emilio released a desperate, ruined groan of pleasure.

"Shut up," Carhart panted despite the fact that he wanted to hear it.

He wanted Emilio to beg him, to tell him how good his dick felt, how much deeper and harder he wanted it. The other man always moaned complete filth when they fucked; he begged Carhart to pound him, to come in him, or to pull out and come all over him, to hit it just right until Emilio was nearly incoherent from being completely full and stretched open. It drove the general insane. It made him want to make it messier and more obscene because that's how Emilio liked it. And that's how Carhart wanted it when they were together.

He pressed his mouth against the back of Emilio's neck, balls seizing up when his name rolled off Emilio's tongue.

"God," Carhart hissed, digging his fingers in harder as his eyes slid shut. Emilio was clenching around him, working his dick even as he fucked the other man with increasing intensity.

"Yes," Emilio panted, riding back harder as sweat slid down his bare skin. "Fuck, fuck, fuck yes, fuck me." It turned into an incoherent chant, his voice getting louder and louder until he broke off with a loud moan when Carhart shifted his hips and changed the angle.

A shudder went through Carhart as he shoved his cock into Emilio again, nailing the same spot. "There?" His only answer was a strangled gasp, and he reached up to rip Emilio's head back harshly. "Tell me," he panted, mouth pressed to Emilio's ear.

"Yes!" Emilio growled, eyes shut and lips parted. "Zachary, please. Just shut the fuck up and make me fucking come."

Carhart snapped his hips harder, and the sounds of skin smacking against skin got louder in the apartment. He was panting harder, his own gasps raising in volume, but Emilio was reaching a fevered pitch.

Carhart reached out, clamping his hand over Emilio's mouth. There was a muffled growl before teeth sank into his hand.

Pain ricocheted through Carhart's body but he didn't stop, even when Emilio kept biting him. He fucked him harder, faster, explosions of light going off behind his eyelids as Emilio's muscles clamped down onto his dick. He was vaguely aware of Emilio tensing up, of sobbing breaths and incoherent swears as the other man came hard, but he couldn't focus on it, or or the way Emilio was guttering out his name.

A hoarse cry escaped Carhart's mouth and he dragged Emilio back on him at a frenzied pace as the feeling in his gut started to ache and get more intense. He didn't even feel the pain radiating up his arm anymore from Emilio's teeth. His vision whited out when he came, filling Emilio completely as his orgasm seemed to go on forever. It wasn't until he hunched forward, spent and feeling like he was about to melt into the couch bonelessly, that he realized Emilio had broken skin on his hand.

Emilio rolled onto his side, lips stained with blood and green eyes narrowed.

"Ow," Carhart said belatedly, still breathless.

"Well, don't cover my mouth then," Emilio groused, shifting to look down at himself. He was sweating, breathing hard, and somehow despite the fact that he'd come, he was still hard. His eyes shifted to Carhart lazily, his lips curling up. "How 'bout that."

Carhart opened his mouth to reply but before he could get a word out, there was another knock on his door. He froze and Emilio pushed himself up on his elbows, annoyed.

"Goddamn it."

Carhart got up and walked silently across the room, looking into the peephole again. His eyebrows drew together and he looked again before grabbing his jeans from the floor. He stepped into them, yanking them up and shot Emilio a glance.

"Get dressed," he said sharply. "It's Boyd."

Emilio had already sat up and was sullenly fixing his own clothing. Even so they both looked disheveled, damp in some places that couldn't be fully wiped, and Carhart in particular couldn't hide the flush to his pale skin. Much to Emilio's dismay, the general hurriedly used his leather jacket to quickly swipe at the mess on the couch.

It would have been nice to have a mirror handy but there wasn't one nearby. His mouth still felt swollen and he hadn't even entirely caught his breath yet. Even so, he opened the door, not wanting to have Boyd standing outside in the hallway for long. Not when anyone could be watching.

"What happened?" he asked upon opening the door, standing aside to let the younger man gain access.

Boyd opened his mouth to respond as he walked in but the second he saw Emilio, his eyes narrowed and shifted back to Carhart in assessment. What little expression had been on his face shut off and he half turned toward the door.

"I can come back another time."

"Just tell me what you wanted," Carhart said, shaking his head. "Cameras already have you coming up here. It's not a good idea for you to be coming in and out or us meeting in other places."

Boyd stopped, tension clear in his shoulders before he nodded and turned around. He eyed Emilio once again before shifting his stare onto Carhart. "Then can we talk in private?"

Emilio scoffed and extracted a box of cigarettes from his pocket. He threw himself down on the couch and stuck one between his lips.

Rolling his eyes, Carhart nodded and led Boyd away from the living room and towards his bedroom. He felt very conscious of his state of dress, and felt like it was more than obvious that something had been happening only moments before. His flannel shirt still lay crumpled in the middle of the other room.

"What's going on?" he asked again, once they were in his room and the door was shut behind them.

"Are they lying?" Boyd demanded once the door was shut, turning on Carhart with a sharp stare. "They say you're with my mother now. Is that just misdirection on your parts?"

Carhart stared at him blankly for a moment before irritation swarmed to the surface. "This is what you came to my apartment to ask me?"

"No, I came with information but then I walked in and found the man who's supposedly fucking my mother obviously just finished getting into it with Hsin's father," Boyd said flatly, crossing his arms. "And then I had to ask myself what the hell was going on."

"It's none of your business so you might have to keep asking yourself," Carhart replied flatly. "And if you want to speak to me that way, you can leave my apartment and I will see you at the next briefing."

"What, is it all about convenience to you?" Boyd asked angrily, as he took a step toward Carhart. "You act like a father to me when it's useful but then pull rank when it's not. You want me to trust you and believe in you and play along with all your games but the second I start asking questions in a tone you don't like you tell me to shut the fuck up and get out?"

"Yes, that is basically right." Carhart started to grab the doorknob, fully ready to escort him out of the apartment. "I don't disrespect you, you have no right to disrespect me. Especially when it comes to some ridiculous protectiveness of a woman you haven't spoken to in months."

"Goddamn it, wait," Boyd snapped, putting his hand on the door to stop Carhart from opening it. His shoulders were still taut with tension but his tone was much less aggressive when he looked up a Carhart and said, "Will you just-- wait?"

Carhart dropped his hand from the doorknob.

A muscle in Boyd's jaw twitched and he stepped back when it was clear Carhart wasn't going to leave. He turned his back on Carhart, tilting his head down toward the floor and dragging his hands harshly back through his hair.

"I'm-- angry," he said grudgingly, then turned toward Carhart and gestured vaguely. "I don't even know exactly why or with who. It's just--"

He stopped, stared at Carhart and then sighed. The leftover tension in his shoulders deflated. "You've always seemed to make good decisions and I want to be able to trust that about you. You're the closest thing I've had to a father since mine died. You even remind me of him sometimes. It seems bizarre to me to imagine my mother with someone but if it were anyone, it would be you. And Emilio..." He trailed off and shook his head. "So it doesn't matter to me if you're with my mother or if you're with Emilio. But if it's both at once--"

He stopped again, seemed to work something through in his mind, and frowned. "In some ways it may be none of my business but in other ways-- you're all like a fucked up family to me and right now I can't even tell if someone is being hurt and doesn't know it."

Carhart sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, feeling very weary and very old all of a sudden. "I appreciate your concern for Vivienne, but it's unfounded. I'm not going to say anything more. What's going on involves two other people, and I'm not going to speak for either of them."

Boyd studied him for a long moment and then sighed again, looking away and raking his hand back once more through his hair. "Alright." He shifted on his feet, his lips turning down faintly, and then he gestured toward the door. "And Emilio? Is he in on the mole? I initially came over with some suspicious information."

"Emilio is fully aware of everything that is going on," Carhart confirmed with a nod. "He's been brought up to speed recently, and is also helping us. You should also know that-- well, maybe we should include him in this discussion unless for some reason you don't want him to be."

"I don't care," Boyd said with a shake of his head. "I just didn't want him there when we talked about--" He gestured vaguely, as if to encompass the situation. "This."

"Well." Carhart made a face. "That is likely better off."

He opened the door and walked back toward the living room, rubbing a hand over his forehead tiredly. As if the situation wasn't uncomfortable and confusing enough, now Boyd thought he was doing his mother dirty.

It was tempting to inform him that it had been Vivienne who had suggested he started fucking Emilio while the two of them had still been in bed naked together, but he didn't think anyone would get anything out of that information. Except Boyd possibly getting an even worse view of his mother. And Emilio possibly overhearing it and ripping his throat out.

"Done with all your secret talk?" Emilio asked when they re-entered the living room. He'd gone into the kitchen and appeared to be making himself food as his cigarette dangled from his mouth, ashes drifting to the floor.

Boyd nodded and bypassed the sofa, walking to the armchair. He sat down on the edge and pulling his small messenger bag around from behind his back to rest on his lap. He pulled his panel out and then dragged the strap of the bag over his head and dropped the bag onto the floor.

He glanced at Emilio across the room. "I've been told I can say anything in front of you."

"Uh huh." Emilio dumped the vegetables that Carhart had sauteed into a pan of eggs, and began scrambling them.

Carhart watched for a moment, shook his head and looked at Boyd. "Is this about Kassian or Jordan?"

"Some of it is. I had a number of updates." He shifted his fingers across the screen on his panel and then rested it on his knee as he looked over at Carhart. "I warned Kassian about her and what her ulterior motives may be. I don't think he's likely to fall for any of her manipulations, but she has been hanging around him still. She invited him to stay with her during this lock-in."

Emilio looked up from his egg stirring. "Well he didn't buy that shit 'cause golden boy's been shacking up with me."

"What do you mean?" Boyd asked, looking over at him.

Carhart looked at Emilio, his mouth twisting to the side. It had been his own interference long ago which had resulted in Kassian and Emilio going on a mission together. Kassian had needed a watcher for a probation period when his drinking had been bad, and Carhart had had his own reasons for choosing Emilio. A misguided notion that perhaps Emilio would take interest in the tall blond senior agent and lose interest in the general himself.

It had worked to a point, but Emilio had been furious when he figured it out.

"Well I could probably bang him easily enough if I wanted to," Emilio mused, stirring the eggs around idly. Carhart frowned slightly at the words. "But I haven't so far. No reason to yet."

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "And what exactly would be a reason?"

"Wouldn't you like to know."

Boyd made a soft scoffing sound under his breath and shook his head. "Just don't fuck with his head, Emilio. He has enough going on as it is and doesn't need any extra confusion."

"Don't no one need you babysitting them." Emilio turned off the stove and looked over his shoulder. "You really like being all up in people's shit."

"I'm just looking out for my friends," Boyd replied unrepentantly.

"Oh that's what they call nosy bitches. Good to know."

Carhart sighed, unsurprised that Emilio had likely eavesdropped the conversation in the bedroom. He'd hoped that hadn't been the case, but obviously it was, and obviously he'd taken some offense to Boyd's interference.

"What did you find out?" he asked Boyd.

Boyd looked over at Carhart. "Well, like Emilio said, Kassian turned Jordan down and will be staying at his assigned quarters. And there may still be some disturbance between Jordan and Bex. Jordan seemed irritated when I asked where her sister was."

"It's not surprising. They both had disciplinary action not two days ago," Carhart replied shaking his head.

"For what?" Boyd asked, his eyebrows canting up slightly.

"Fighting. Each other. Bex beat Jordan up pretty seriously, although most of it was cosmetic. But obviously for someone like Jordan, that's serious enough since her looks are a large part of her job."

Emilio walked into the living room with a plate full of food and sat down on the couch. He obviously hadn't bothered to make Carhart a plate even though it was his kitchen, his food, and his pre-sauteed vegetables.

"Golden boy actually mentioned that to me. I think he was there whenever it happened."

Carhart raised his eyebrows. "Interesting. They kept that part out when she went to the med wing."

"Did he say what started it?" Boyd asked Emilio curiously.

"Pretty sure Jordan stalked him into the showers at the training rooms late one night and Bex tracked her down. She don't like her sis getting so much cock." Emilio looked at Carhart with intrigue. "Did you know those two girls fuck each other?"

Carhart made a face. "I had a notion." There was a pause as he blankly watched Emilio eat, and then he shook his head with a sigh. "It's really not promising that Kassian is a cause of the twins fighting. Everything is going to shit. And with General Katsaros here now, I think they're going to start making moves to replace key players a lot faster than we thought."

Boyd looked over at Carhart sharply. "So anyone who may be a thorn in the side or possibly under review for termination is in more danger now?"

He gestured vaguely. "Maybe. Who knows? Now that this thing with the mole is out, I'm sure anyone who crosses them will be in danger. And I'm sure they'll need scapegoats sooner than later."

Boyd's eyes narrowed and his lips thinned as he looked down at his panel. He was silent for a tense moment before he sighed and with a faint grimace squeezed the bridge of his nose. "Damn," he muttered almost too quietly to hear. He dropped his hand and looked up at Carhart, a heaviness casting weight to his features that wasn't entirely hidden by his neutral expression.

"Then there's something I should tell you. Do you know Ivan Andel?"

The question was unexpected and Carhart frowned. He glanced over at Emilio who looked blank at the question. He likely had no idea who Ivan was.

"He's a brilliant R&D agent with paranoia and anxiety problems," he told Emilio before looking at Boyd again. "What about him?"

Boyd paused again, seeming to debate something in his mind before he sighed. "It may be nothing, but when I first heard about Hsin I tracked down everyone with information. I was told he spent a lot of his time with Ivan and I ended up at Ivan's apartment. He was incredibly paranoid about my presence. He's--"

He frowned, his eyebrows drawing together. "Disturbed and hates the Agency. When I was there, I noticed he had a board filled with what looked like code. He referenced that he planned to go about things his own way, which I took to mean he had some sort of plan for the future."

Carhart frowned, turning to Boyd further. He pictured Ivan and his eyebrows drew together slightly. Other than the fact that Ivan was a known rabble-rouser on the compound to a certain degree, he didn't have any specific information on the man. While Carhart knew every field agent inside and out, the R&D agents were Bree's specialty.

"Be more specific. What do you mean he has a plan for the future?"

"I don't know exactly," Boyd said, shaking his head. "He doesn't like me and he seemed especially paranoid when I visited him so he didn't give details. But yesterday I saw him on compound and tried to talk to him, to see if I could get more information. He told me he didn't want to incriminate me, and that it would all be over soon. That the Agency wouldn't know what hit it."

Carhart stared at him, unable to reply for a moment. The information speared through all of the other thoughts crowded into his brain as he tried to assess what he knew about Ivan.

"Oh wait, that's the kid Hsin used to fuck," Emilio said randomly, eyebrows lifting. "I remember him now."

Boyd nodded, glancing over at Emilio. "Which is why I didn't suspect him for the longest time, and honestly why I was hesitant to bring him up even now."

"I don't see him settin' up Hsin, though," Emilio replied doubtfully. "He used to puppy trail my boy."

Carhart frowned at that. "I don't know much about their relationship."

"They dated for awhile," Boyd explained. "It was during the time when I'd broken up with Hsin. Ivan was protective of Hsin and to be honest they got along very well. Even after Hsin and I got back together they stayed in touch and Hsin spent a lot of time with Ivan at the end."

Carhart looked at Emilio, frown deepening. "So then Emilio has a point, would he play a part in setting Hsin up? Or do you think he's unrelated to that?"

"I don't believe he would hurt Hsin so unless he was one of several people involved in the framing and he was positive Hsin would be saved, I don't think he was related to that. But--" Boyd shifted on the edge of the seat and frowned as he looked between Emilio and Carhart.

"I think Ivan honestly cared for Hsin, and he was already a bit unstable before any of this happened. You remember what it was like when we lost him," his gaze lingered especially on Emilio. "I know I wanted to tear everything down when I found out. So for Ivan-- my worry is that Hsin was one of the few people he trusted here. With the Agency terminating Hsin, with the hatred Ivan already felt toward most of the agents, and if there's even more pressure on the termination of anyone in the way, it seems like he has nothing to lose. I didn't want to betray his confidence but given recent events I couldn't ignore his comment."

Carhart looked over at Emilio for his opinion but the other man just shrugged, not seeming to have anything to add.

Mulling this over, Carhart frowned slightly before focusing on Boyd once again. "I'm going to discuss this with Vivienne. Some of this are at odds with the way we have already been thinking so we have to revise our strategy based on the possibility that this guy is involved. And I do not want you following him. She and I will follow up on this. If he notices you hanging around, he will almost definitely get suspicious of your intentions."

"In the long run, it'd probably just be easier to terminate him and see if shit stops," Emilio said with a shrug, finishing his food and setting the plate to the side. "If he don't seem to be in cahoots with no one else anyways."

Carhart nodded. "If his record is actually deemed worthy of termination, you may be right and it may be the best solution if he does seem suspicious enough."

Boyd frowned and pulled the panel back closer to himself. He looked down with a slightly troubled expression at Ivan's face, staring back out at him from the screen. "Well-- is that necessary?" His gaze moved to Carhart. "As suspicious as his comments are, it could be a manifestation of his illness or he could have nothing to do with the mole. I'd hate for it to push along a termination order."

"What did you think was gonna happen?" Emilio asked him, arching one dark eyebrow.

Carhart picked Emilio's plate up from the sofa and walked the short distance to the kitchen to put it on the counter. He was actually somewhat curious about that himself. If it came down to speeding up an inevitable termination in order to possibly weed out a possible mole or traitor, he knew Vivienne would give the order without hesitation.

Boyd set the panel down next to him on the seat, turning golden brown eyes onto Emilio. "Just because he won't talk to me doesn't mean he may not talk to someone else. He specifically doesn't like me because Hsin chose me in the end. I hoped we could study him more-- and unless there's enough proof of his actual involvement we could detain or ignore him while we focused on finding the mole again."

"It's your mother's call," Carhart said. "But it's a distinct possibility that if we study him and cannot prove something concrete, she'd have him terminated just to be sure. And if he's planning something against the Agency, that puts all of us in danger."

Boyd nodded, his eyes narrowing pensively as his gaze lingered once again on Ivan's face. "That's true..." After a moment he sighed again and leaned back in the couch. "I realize how serious this is and that, with a wide and practical enough view of the situation it could be argued that it's best to be preemptive. But I still can't help thinking of Hsin."

"Yeah?" Emilio asked as he stood up. "Hsin's dead. And whoever the fuck is behind this shit had a hand in it. Them fucking with him over that Inspector bitch was one of the nails in his coffin. If this numbnut is even possibly in on it or dealin' with the fuckers who did, who gives a shit?"

"And if he's not and we get him terminated, we were instrumental in killing one of Hsin's best friends over a misunderstanding," Boyd replied. "The same way it almost happened to Hsin."

"I could give two shits about him being Hsin's little friend. Cut the noble shit already. If you didn't know this was a possibility, you're just plain stupid and naive. You can't fucking rat someone out and then try to play the righteous card," Emilio said with a scoff.

"Then I'm an idiot because I would like one more chance," Boyd said, meeting Emilio's eyes head on before shifting his gaze to Carhart. "Will you give me until the end of the lockdown before you report him to my mother? He can't start anything with such high security and if he already had something planned then it must be automated and we can't do anything about it now. But with more time maybe I can stop him or at least verify his involvement."

Shaking his head, Carhart sighed slightly and rubbed a hand over his face. He didn't really know what Boyd expected from them. With his and Vivienne's own termination warrants looming, it was difficult to care about the moral aspect of this.

"I'll agree to that," he said finally. "But if nothing is concrete by the time the lockdown is over, it's up to your mother. And even then, nothing is set in stone."

Boyd nodded in understanding. "Thank you." He turned the screen off and slid the panel into his bag. "I probably shouldn't be seen staying in here too long," he said as he stood and swung the bag strap over his head. "I'll alert you if I find out anything else of note."

Carhart nodded. "Good work. Thank you for coming, Boyd."

Boyd nodded again, although there was the faintest draw on his expression, lending him a slightly distracted look. He hitched the messenger bag strap diagonally across his chest and glanced at Emilio. His expression was unreadable and his gaze lingered briefly before shifting to Carhart. In the end he didn't say anything. Soon after, he checked the hallway for anyone watching and then left.

Carhart looked at the door for a moment before turning his gaze to Emilio. "What was that all about?"

Emilio gave him a flat look. "What?"

"You were pretty harsh," the general noted dryly.

"And that's something to note? I'm always fucking harsh."

"Not usually with Boyd."

That earned him another look and Emilio got up, seeming to have lost all traces of the former heated mood he'd been in. "Yeah well that was before he barged in here and ruined my good time, and then came up in here with his holier than thou self righteous attitude and shit. I don't need some fucking kid telling me what to do and who to fuck and preaching on morals, okay? I don't got no motherfucking morals."

"Fine." Carhart looked at the clock. "I'm going to contact Vivienne."

"Aiight. Just take a shower first. I'm sure she don't want spic residue in her twat."

Shaking his head, Carhart made a face. "You're disgusting."

"I'm just keeping it real, bro." Emilio gave him an unfriendly stare and grabbed his jacket. "Next time, you owe me. My ass hurts."

"I don't owe you anything," Carhart replied calmly, raising his eyebrows. "You like getting it well enough. You're not doing me a favor by bending over."

"How about I shove my dick down your throat and see how long it takes you to gag?" Emilio asked in the same almost joking but clearly unfriendly tone.

"We can see how long it takes for me to bite down."

"And for me to knock your fucking teeth out."

Releasing a long suffering sigh, Carhart shook his head. "Goodbye Emilio."

"Yeah, whatever."

Emilio left with the door slamming more loudly than usual behind him.

The sound of the door slamming echoed loudly in the hall, and a service clerk gave Emilio a startled look as he strode away. His movements were sharp with tension and impatience which was emphasized when he didn't react at all to the greetings and flirtatious smiles he elicited on the short walk to the Tower.

Rolling his shoulders, Emilio sidestepped a couple of overly enthusiastic agents in Bermuda shorts and yanked out his phone. It took one jam of his fingertip against the touch screen to get Doug's ringback tone to begin blaring out of the tinny speaker, some awful house music, and then the mop of black curls and permanently bloodshot blue eyes appeared on the screen.

"Hey faggot," Emilio greeted him, scrounging up a sharp smirk. "Meet me in the training room in thirty so I can smack you around for awhile."

"Oh baby," Doug drawled. He looked inexplicably like he'd just woken up despite the fact that he seemed to be in his office. He sniffed, blinking at the phone. "I like it when you rough talk me. Unfortunately I'm way too hungover for your brand of foreplay, love. Bring me liquor instead."

Scoffing, Emilio jogged up the stairs to the Tower and barely missed a step as he turned around to walk backwards to get a good view of a long legged R&D agent in a miniskirt. He switched off the video chat and held the phone to his ear instead.

"No thanks, sweetheart. I don't get tanked until at least three p.m. I got standards."

"Who said anything 'bout sharing?" There was the sound of Doug striking a match and a deep inhale. "I got some pretty prime chronic too. And if I get fucked up enough, I'll let you suck my cock."

Emilio's mouth twisted up into an actual grin. "Must be my lucky day. I spent years dreaming about that awful fucking sound you make when you come."

Doug's laugh turned into a wheezing cough. "I know. You dreamt about my uncut dick every night."

The elevator was empty when Emilio stepped in, and he swiped his card to get to the exec floor. "Keep telling yourself that, asshole. I'll see you in a half."

Emilio's stride eased into a more casual stroll as he stepped out into the exec suites for the second time that day. And for the second time that day, he stopped in front of the admin's desk with a sugary smile.

"Hello again, sweetheart," he drawled, leering at the Marshal's absurd French assistant. "Seong in?"

"Marshal Seong is in, yes," Gabriel replied, frowning. "I'll announce you--"

Emilio ignored the rest of the sentence and resumed his stroll around the desk and further down the hall. He tapped out a rhythmic beat on her door and waited until she buzzed him in.

"Hey, chinita," he said, dropping down into the chair opposite her desk. The fast, automatic inventory of the items in her office turned up the same things as it had two hours ago: gun holstered on her shoulder, the sharp edge of a desk or bookcase, paintings with breakable glass, an ancient sword in a display case, black box with unknown contents.

His mouth curled up again, and he kept his eyes on her. "Anything special happen in the past two hours?"

"No," Jae-Hwa said, looking completely unperturbed by Emilio's sudden appearance. Dark eyes shifted back down to the panel she'd been perusing before Emilio's arrival. She finished typing something short and then set the panel upside down, turning her attention fully onto him. "Do you have an update?"

Emilio tilted his head back, resting it on the edge of the chair. Looking at the ceiling through his hair, he considered the question and rested one ankle on the opposite knee. "A half assed one. I'm back in General Zachary's good graces for now."

Jae-Hwa nodded and leaned back, the chair squeaking slightly. She laced her hands together in front of her. "You're sure of it, then? He isn't playing you for the fool?"

"Well, he thinks he's playing me. Him and bitchface both do. Pretty sure it wasn't his idea to all of a sudden start trying to get in my ass again. They prolly think I'm the biggest fucking idiot the Agency ever spit out, but it's better off that way."

Her cell phone buzzed on the desk. "Well, I can't say as I'm surprised." She reached forward, activated the screen, and read what it said as she continued, "Beaulieu is a bit shortsighted that way. Loads of arrogance, that one." Her lips thinned briefly before she flipped the screen off and tossed the phone back on the desk.

"So," she met Emilio's eyes, "had he anything of interest to say?"

He shrugged one shoulder, taking out a cigarette and flipping it between his fingers. After a moment he brought it up and tapped it against his lips instead.

"Well he's pretty fucking convinced you're about to off his pretty ass. I think your Greek dude being here is making him nervous."

"Good," Jae-Hwa said briskly. Light glinted off the chunky silver ring she wore when she intertwined her fingers again. "If he's liable to make mistakes, better he feels the pressure now and gets it over with so I can cull the unnecessary elements. Now," the chair squeaked as she leaned forward and rested her forearms on the desk. "Kassian Trovosky. I took the liberty of seeing to it you'd be roomed with him. Tell me what you've learned."

The tapping against Emilio's lips paused briefly but his expression didn't change. He shifted and pain radiated up his spine as he let his boot drop down to the floor. Zachary was gonna have to start lubing his dick better than that.

"Golden boy is a moron, but we already knew that shit." He arched a dark eyebrow. "And a real miserable fuck. All he does is bitch and moan all of the goddamn time. I was tempted to shove my dick in his mouth so he'd shut the fuck up. He's got his balls all knotted over the twins. Don't think Jordan's gonna be able to tap that source anymore."

"Oh? What did he say?"

His cell phone started ringing in the tight confines of his jeans, and he silenced it with a click of his finger. "Well, he knows she's an in-house valentine, and just seemed to be over the whole damn thing. He didn't stop bitching about you sending some crazy Jap bitch to spy on him until he started laughing over how all it did was break up the dynamic dyke duo."

Emilio's mouth curved up slightly. "Which is pretty goddamn hilarious when you think about it. You probably would have been better off sending his ass on a noble mission where he saved burning orphans and got to smoke warlords in Africa or some shit."

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "I see." Her dark stare remained unwavering on Emilio's face for a short moment before she looked down at her phone again.


"Is there anything else to report?" she asked as she typed something on the screen.

"Nope. But seeing you twice in one day sure is a thrill, beautiful." He pushed himself out of the chair in one fluid movement, and paused. His eyes swept around the office again briefly, and this time he tried not to focus on the feel of the hunting knife strapped to his boot.

She shook her head and waved a hand. "You're dismissed. Keep in touch on any updates. I expect you'll hear more from General Carhart in the future."

"Sure thing, boss lady." He smiled at her and thought about prying her fucking eyes out with his knife. It rallied him into turning around and walking out of the office before it got too tempting.

The meeting did little to calm him down, and if anything the tension had set in more. Smoking some ganja with Doug seemed like a pretty solid plan, and Emilio made his way to the training center to find the wayward training instructor. His feet pounded down the stairs, and by then he was already on his third analysis of the conversation with Seong so he nearly ran directly into Harriet.

"Watch where you're going," she said flatly, dark eyes boring into him.

"I was, that's why I nearly wound up on top of you, sweetheart."

Harriet's eyes narrowed, and her jaw set. She moved to elbow by him, and he readjusted his stance instantly to block her. "Goddamnit, Vega."

"Ah ah ah, Senior Agent Vega," he corrected with a wide grin.

"Get the hell out of my way, Senior Agent Asshole."

"I love it when you get sassy."

Harriet sighed, looking up at the ceiling. "Do you actually want something, or is it just a convenient time to show how immature you are?"

Emilio tilted his head, considering. "I want us to make gorgeous little mulatto mutt babies."

"It can't be mulatto unless you're actually white."


"Jesus fuck, whatever." Harriet reached out and pushed his shoulder impatiently. "This has been a stunningly racist conversation but--"

"It ain't racist if we're both brown, baby."

Apparently this was the last straw because she nearly knocked him over in her effort to squirm by. He laughed and for the second time in the past twenty minutes, got a nice view of hot agent ass.

Emilio finished his stride down the corridor, and found Doug slumped by his desk idly repacking the bowl of a water bong. The office was a complete mess-- empty food cartons, wrappers and beer cans everywhere. The air was also smoggy with smoke, and the smell of marijuana.

"Jesus Christ, Douglas." Emilio threw himself down into the armchair across from Doug's desk. "You look like you've been on a fucking bender instead of locked down."

Doug smirked, running a hand through his wild black curls. "What the hell else am I gonna do?"

"Gee, I dunno. Get off your fucking ass and train someone?"

"Piss on that. I'd rather celebrate this holiday in Ferguson style." Doug picked up his lighter and arched an eyebrow. "No one else has got to do any work, so why the hell should I? These numbnut baby agents can fend for themselves for a while."

The response rubbed Emilio the wrong way, and his fingers flexed. The image of cutting Seong was replaced by an image of himself snuffing Doug in the face. "Then what was Harriet doing here? You let people see you like this, you dumbass? No wonder you've stayed demoted for-fucking-ever."

Doug had started to drag the bong closer to him, but paused at the string of questions being aimed at him from across the desk. He blinked as if he'd never seen Emilio before, eyes bloodshot and expression bemused. "To wax poetic about paranoid delusions and women's insecurities. What in the hell is up your ass, Vega? Carhart's semen working into your bloodstream and turning you into a good little trained puppet?"

Emilio leaned forward and smacked a hand against the side of Doug's face. "No, you dumb motherfucker. You--"

"Jesus, Emilio!" Doug exclaimed, rubbing his head with a frown.

"--clearly are too retarded to understand how the Agency works these days. Do you fucking think that bitch is going to let you get a free ride while she's shipping in dudes from Eastern Europe to be new instructors? She got her panties in a wad over one throwaway comment that Trovosky made while you sit here acting like you're a motherfucking college kid in Annadale. You're going to get your monkey ass shot in the head."

Doug didn't start looking interested in the rant until Kassian's name was thrown into the fray. This fact did little to calm Emilio down and he leaned forward, intent on knocking his dumbass friend upside the head again. Doug dodged this time and pushed his chair further away from the desk.

"I'm not bloody stupid, Vega. I know I'm not too far from the shit list."

"Oh. Fucking dandy. You and dumbass blond Zachary share the same fatalistic bullshit. How the fuck did two such pathetic losers survive the bombs?" Emilio scoffed, tugging another cigarette out of his pocket and shoving it between his lips. "Darwinism is a myth."

Grimacing, Doug edged closer to his desk again. He looked at Emilio warily before setting his elbows down. "Now, what's this about my boy Kassian?"

Emilio paused with his lighter halfway up to the end of his cigarette. "She was quizzing me on his bullshit with Jordan. And... Well, I apparently fucking said the wrong damn thing."

"Wrong thing, like which thing?"

"Oh, all alert now, are you?"

Doug's face darkened, and his blue eyes narrowed into slits. "I like Kassian. He's a good agent, and a good man. Don't fuck around, Vega."

The words did little to improve Emilio's mood, and he flicked the zippo. The flame shot up too far to be necessary, and he gave a belligerent shrug. "Well, I doubt Mr. Good Man will be burned alive like my kid, but he ain't gonna be her golden boy no more neither."

The instructor opened his mouth to likely demand more specific answers but before he could, Emilio's phone started ringing again. Casting Doug a baleful glare, Emilio tugged the phone out and saw that it was Boyd calling. Emilio frowned, staring at the little bastard's picture and wondered why in the hell he was calling.

The call went to voicemail, and Emilio saw that Boyd had been the one to call during the meeting with Seong as well. Why he felt the need to call ten minutes after they'd parted ways was a mystery that Emilio didn't really give a sweet goddamn about solving. Well, not really anyway.



"What?" Doug asked, already all intent on his bong again.

Emilio shrugged again, thumbing out a text message and asking Boyd what the hell he had to say that couldn't be said in front of Zachary.

The answer wasn't long in coming: It's better to talk. Can you call or meet me later?

It was tempting to say no just to give the kid a hard time, but curiosity got the better of Emilio.

"Who's that?" Doug asked as smoke poured out of his mouth.

"No one," Emilio drawled as he replied to Boyd to meet him in an hour.

Continue to Fade Chapter 22...