Fade Chapter Twenty-Three

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

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
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Fade Chapter 23

Uploaded on 7/5/2012

Even with the sun still hovering below the horizon, the sky a deep blue that wasn't yet starting to pale, there were some people milling around on the beach. Boyd pulled into the Blue Moon Diner's parking lot, his headlights flooding the front of the diner where Sin's motorbike was parked and Sin himself was just starting to open the shutters.

As Boyd strode quickly toward Sin, he let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Even though they'd already spoken to set up this time, every second it had taken to drive down had felt far too long to be away from Sin when he might need him.

"Hey," Boyd said a bit breathlessly when he was at Sin's side.

The shutters clanked as Sin shoved them upwards, and he turned around. His lips parted but then shut as Sin's gaze swept over Boyd once, and then again. His eyebrows twitched together slightly, and for a moment his gaze was as hawk-like and intense as it used to be. Then the moment passed, and he gave a rolling shrug of his broad shoulders that was less Sin-like.

"I didn't think you'd be here for another hour."

"I hurried." Boyd raked a gaze along Sin, checking for injuries but unable to stop himself from lingering slightly on Sin's toned arms and calves showing through his sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. He didn't see anything worrisome but still found the strange messages and lack of an explanation worrisome. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah. For now, at least." There was a healthy pause as Sin looked around them. He reached out to wrap his long fingers around Boyd's arm and pulled him forward. Sin's voice dropped to a low pitch. "You disappeared as soon as shit got strange."

Boyd's breath drew in and stilled, from Sin's touch even more than his words. "What happened?"

Sin dropped his hand almost as if it was an afterthought, his thumb sliding against Boyd's wrist. "Someone's been following me. Watching me."

Alarm swept through Boyd. He discreetly checked their surroundings for anything unusual but didn't see anything suspect. Even so, he grabbed Sin by the upper arm and half pushed, half led him back into the doorway, shifting in front of Sin for better cover.

"Give me details. Where have you noticed them? Is it one person or more?"

The corner of Sin's mouth twitched up as if somehow, even in this civilian alternate reality, he'd recognized what Boyd was doing. He leaned back against the door. "It started here. Sometimes I have to cover tables when we're short, and I felt it then. People watch all the time-- stupid kids, admirers and whatever. But this was different. It felt different."

There was a pause but Sin didn't move his steady gaze from Boyd's eyes. "It's mostly around the diner or the beach that I feel it. But recently it's been near my apartment too."

Those green eyes watching Boyd seemed more alert than in the past. The timbre of Sin's voice, the way he held himself and moved-- it was the way Boyd had felt the last time they'd seen each other before the valentine. This felt more like Sin than Danny. The magnetism that had drawn Boyd to Sin in the first place, the reason he could never forget Sin no matter the passage of time, felt like an electric spark that buzzed just on the other side of their conversation.

Unable to stop himself, Boyd shifted closer. Sin placed a hand against the jamb of the doorway and leaned down slightly.

Boyd dragged his gaze away to check the reflection in the nearby windows, taking the chance to draw in half a breath and focus on what Sin was telling him. His mind raced with the possibilities when his eyes met Sin's again.

"How long ago did you feel them near your apartment?"

"That was only a few days ago," Sin said with a dark scowl. He shook his head and sighed, his breath close enough to stir some of Boyd's hair. A shiver passed down Boyd's spine. "That's when I left you that other message. I don't know what the hell is going on but I have this feeling it has something to do with that girl who got murdered."

That would be all they needed: Janus showing their face in Annadale after the Agency had finally turned away. And what if something worse had happened when Boyd had been unable to leave compound? He nearly leaned his forehead onto Sin's shoulder in relief before he stopped himself. He turned the motion into a nod but even then he was entirely too aware of the proximity of Sin's body.

"It's good you called me. Can you give me a description of the people or have you only felt them?"

Sin shook his head, dark hair loosening slightly from the rubber band knotted in it. "Nah. They stay away from me and watch from a distance. Or else it's in a crowd, and I can't pick whoever it is out." He stopped talking for another of those long stretches, and his eyes narrowed further as he stared down at Boyd.

Unexpectedly he said, "I kept thinking about you. Not just because of this."

"Me?" Boyd asked, drawing back just enough to search Sin's expression. "Why?"

"I don't really know." Sin frowned slightly. "You just kept coming up in my mind. And then I thought maybe you weren't coming back. So. Sorry for before. For the last time you were here."

Boyd's lips lifted faintly on the edges and without thinking he reached up, absently brushing some strands of Sin's hair over his shoulder that had started to fall between them. His hand paused to rest on Sin's shoulder and slide down, lightly, before dropping away.

"It's alright. You're right to be paranoid-- I'm only sorry I incited that in you myself."

The comment seemed to have the opposite effect of what he'd intended. The guarded expression returned to Sin's face, or Danny's face, and he straightened. Distance was created between them but still, those green eyes focused briefly on Boyd's mouth. The dark brows drew together again, and Sin finally looked away entirely.

"Like I said on the phone," he began finally. "I need to know what you know. And if you want to protect me or whatever you said that night, then you need to tell me what's going on."

Boyd sighed and took half a step back. "I'll tell you what I can but speaking about this out in the open isn't a good idea. Can we go inside?"

The word 'yes' started to form on Sin's lips but then he stopped, and shook his head. "Kayla will be here soon, and I have to get to work. You should probably just come back after closing." There was a flash of irritation in those familiar eyes. "I work a double today. I figured this wasn't a good time, but I wanted to see if you would come." The last part came out reluctantly, as if he was loathe to admit it.

"I'll come back at closing," Boyd said. "I might check in before then but I haven't slept so I'll have to swing by my hotel room at some point."

He took a step closer and leveled Sin with a serious stare. "But if anything happens before that," he emphasized the word by gripping Sin's upper arm, "especially if you feel them watching you again, call me immediately. I don't care if you wake me. If I am at all able to I will always come if you need me, however large or small the problem may be."

Sin pulled away and turned, keys jingling as he unlocked the doors. When he spoke, it was impossible to read his thoughts coming from this new and constantly shifting personality. "Like I said before, I can take care of myself. All I want from you is information." There was a click as the door unlocked. "See you later."

Boyd watched Sin's back. It was hard to tell where they stood, because one moment Sin was reaching out to Boyd and the next he was pulling away. Then again, it was probably Boyd's own fault-- any time he saw even a flicker of the way Sin used to be he got too close; acted too familiar. And that sudden closeness might be making Danny's wariness increase.

Maybe he kept remembering that he didn't know Boyd and, truthfully, still had no concrete reason to trust him.

Repressing another sigh, Boyd took a step backward to put more physical space between them. "Alright. I'll see you tonight."

Sin nodded shortly, paused very briefly after unlocking the door, and then disappeared inside.

Boyd stayed outside, checking the slowly-gathering crowd in the area and then doing a circuit of the building to ensure nothing seemed unusual. Even when the diner opened and customers started filtering inside, even knowing Sin had been alright all this time and likely would for the rest of the day regardless of Boyd's presence, he couldn't bring himself to leave yet.

He ordered a drink and settled into the outside seating where he could most discreetly and effectively watch all those coming and going from the establishment. Janus operatives could look like, act like, anyone; but after years of dealing with them he'd come to recognize some telltale signs and those were what he watched for.

It occurred to him that with Sin predisposed he could have gone to his apartment and looked for cameras. Knowing now that Sin was still considered an active experiment by the Agency it seemed even more possible that they were under surveillance somehow that Boyd or Sin hadn't yet detected.

But he knew in the end it was pointless no matter the outcome. Either the Agency had been watching all along at which point they were already well aware of Boyd's involvement, or they hadn't been watching and all he would do is give Sin cause to feel betrayed if the first thing he did upon gaining some measure of his trust was break into his apartment.

And even if he did find cameras in Sin's apartment, what could he do? Destroying them would only see them replaced as he knew full well from the past. It was possible that his not being overt about the possibility of being watched was all that had kept the Agency from interfering so far, believing they were getting pure data on the way the two of them interacted.

Better, then, to take more subtle precautions they may not catch in time.

He was halfway through his iced tea when movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He looked over and saw Roz, who was jogging along the beach and, in her glance toward the diner, alighted on him with a sudden grin. With such genuine-seeming good cheer directed at him, it was impossible to do anything other than smile back and wave. She adjusted her direction and jogged over to stop by him.

"Hey!" she greeted him, voice warm and friendly.

"Hey Roz," Boyd replied, standing up.

She stopped in front of him, still grinning as she wiped a hand across her sweaty face. "I thought I would be seeing more of you. Where'd you get off to?"

Boyd made a face. "We're getting killed at work so I couldn't get away for awhile," he said casually and then shrugged. "You know how it goes. Intensely busy one month, dead bored the next."

She nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I get it. I figured you ran out of vacation days or something,

and Danny didn't say much about it." Roz glanced at the diner and then at Boyd before her lips slid into a sly smile. "What are you doing here so early? It just opened. Did you come in together? Did you get reacquainted last night or something?"

"I wish," Boyd lamented with a roll of his eyes. "I was in the area so I thought I'd stop by to see if he was around."

"He's always around this place. He opens the diner like all the time. People quit that place like crazy except him. He stays even though it sucks." Roz scrunched her face up and began tying her hair back in a ponytail. "I was hoping he'd gotten laid so that he could chill the hell out."

"What do you mean?"

One of her smooth shoulders lifted in a shrug. "He's just been in a mood lately. Like... real hot and cold. Normal Danny one minute, and then tense, impatient Danny the next."

"Did something happen?"

"Not really..." Roz seemed to think about that, but after a moment she frowned and shook her head again. "No, I can't think of anything. I mean there's been drama with our friends, and Tech has kinda gone AWOL since it all started, but that has nothing to do with him. He's just like, really moody lately. That does remind me though-- Tech has been trying to contact you about that bike you were interested in. E-mailed you a couple of times, I think she said."

"Oh." Between the lockdown, Sin's cryptic messages, the lab break-in, searching for the mole, his uncle's sudden appearance, and his regularly assigned missions, he had completely forgotten to check his personal email for awhile. "Thanks, I'll check later."

He reached back to pull off the loosening band that held his hair back. Even this early in the morning, in the middle of the hottest months of summer in Annadale Beach it was already growing unbearably warm for someone who had been dressed for a stakeout and infiltration. He had thrown off his long-sleeved overshirt on the way down but the dark grey t-shirt and black pants were hardly an improvement. He ran his hands along his hair and pulled it back into a ponytail higher off his neck where the heat didn't get caught as easily.

"What's been the drama with your friends?" His eyebrows ticked upward along with the edges his lips. "If you don't mind my asking. After the week I've had, hearing about drama in Annadale sounds like the sort of distraction I need."

Roz laughed. "You don't know most of them. There's gay dramas with my friends Gage and Taz, and then another girl is being a diva, and Tech is unfortunately remaining strictly dickly and hanging out with some new guy." She sighed tragically, making a face, and making it more than obvious that she'd prefer if Tech hung out with her. "Annadale people have nothing better to worry about than who's fucking whom."

"Perhaps you should start your own reality show," Boyd suggested with a grin. "I might know a guy."

"I'll pass on that one." Roz glanced at the watch on her wrist and made a face. "Okay, I have to jam. But it was so awesome seeing you again, Boyd. My friend Edie, also known as the diva, is having one of her infamous parties tomorrow night. You should come. Maybe get Danny to come too."

"I'll try. Where is it?"

Enthused by the response, she gave him the address and the directions. It was near the university and the strip where most of the city's nightlife was.

"I really hope you come. It gets pretty crazy, but if you're with Danny that should be a good thing." Roz gave him another wicked grin before jogging off.

He stayed at the diner for a while longer but finally acknowledged that it was highly unlikely he would run across any useful intel and, to be especially thorough, he would have to stay there all day. While he would have had no qualms with it, he couldn't. There were steps he had to take before the night and, most importantly, he was exhausted.

He hadn't lied to Sin-- he hadn't slept in two days, and the longer he sat overheated in the blazing sun with too many layers, the more he could feel nausea growing in the pit of his stomach and the back of his throat. He took one last, meandering circuit through the diner and around the area, with all the aimlessness of someone wandering destinationless on a free day. Satisfied that nothing seemed suspicious or amiss, he left.

A quick stop at some stores on his way back to the hotel gave him the chance to buy some rations for the next few days as well as some more clothing. He had taken to keeping a ready bag in his trunk in the last few months, when it had become apparent he was always one phone call away from racing off somewhere, but some of what he had needed replacing.

Instead of going to the Oceanside Resort where he had a prepaid room, he drove to another hotel further down the block. It had fewer amenities and a less dramatic view of the ocean but it was suitably more expensive than the other hotels in Annadale, which meant the staff would still be discreet and it would be more likely to have an open room even at the peak tourist season.

Until he could verify whether the Agency knew he was in Annadale and whether they were watching him too, he didn't feel safe at the room they may expect him to use.

The Presidential had a wide open lobby with inlaid designs on the floor and a clean-cut decor. There were only a few people around; everyone else was likely still asleep or out at the beach. He didn't have to wait in line, which was fortunate because he was exhausted.

"I'd like to rent a room," he told the man behind the counter.

"Of course." The man paused as he checked the computer, his eyebrows drawing together slightly. "We're nearly full. The only two rooms available are courtside, not oceanview."

"That's fine." Boyd drew out his wallet. "Can you put me down for a week?"

"Yes, sir. Would you like to pay with credit?"

"Cash. And upfront, if you don't mind."

The man's gaze flicked up at Boyd briefly, questioning. He started to look away, perhaps realizing how it could be considered intrusive, but Boyd smiled easily.

"I know I don't look it but I'm an author. I have a tendency to follow my inspiration and I've angered some hotels in the past by taking off on a whim and forgetting to pay." He chuckled and shook his head. "I've learned my lesson."

The man's lips lifted faintly in return but the slight furrow in his brow disappeared at that. He returned his attention to the computer, typing at length before he finally said: "And the name?"

"Claude Eckhardt."

"Hmm. I can't say I recognize it." The man glanced up. "What do you write?"

Boyd waved a hand idly. "Fiction, mostly. Sometimes mysteries. Depends on what pays the most. I use a pseudonym so you wouldn't know it. And before you ask-- sorry, if I told you it I'd have to kill you." He winked so dramatically that the man flashed a smile before settling back into neutrality.

He handed the room key over to Boyd. "Here is your key, Mr. Eckhardt. We hope you enjoy your stay at The Presidential. Do you have baggage you would like us to carry in?"

"No, I travel light." Boyd pocketed the key and readjusted his messenger bag and duffel bag on his shoulder. "Thank you."

The room he had rented turned out to be much smaller than the one he had at Oceanside, but it was equally nice and was still large compared to normal hotel rooms. Although the windows didn't face the ocean, the courtyard was impeccably maintained. As he passed toward the bathroom he noticed a gift basket the hotel had left for incoming guests on the end table. He glanced inside and saw a small bottle of suntan oil, some snacks, maps of the nearby area, and other complementary items. As he suspected, he found even more free items in the bathroom.

After he'd thrown off his grungy clothing, closed the curtains to block the sunlight and dropped onto the bed, he found the bed itself was quite comfortable. He kicked the comforter until it was at the foot of the bed and then drew the sheet up and nearly over his head.

When he closed his eyes, he was asleep nearly immediately.

The buzzing of the alarm on his phone woke him later as much as his stomach did. He groaned and rolled onto his back, blearily reaching for his phone until he could pull it over. Even the several hours spent on a luxurious bed didn't feel like long enough when placed against two days of no sleep. He wondered if he was ever going to get a good night's sleep in Annadale.

With closing time for The Blue Moon Diner drawing near, Boyd didn't want to leave Sin alone any longer than he had to. He rolled out of bed, his bare feet thudding onto the carpet. The plan was to get to the Blue Moon before it closed and walk Sin home, maybe even stay the night on the couch if Sin would let him.

He was tying his hair back when his phone rang. He rushed out of the bathroom and grabbed his phone off the nightstand, expecting Sin--

Ryan's name flashed on screen.

Boyd picked up immediately. "Hey. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything is fine," Ryan said. "Wanna grab a bite and chat?"

"I can't-- I'm busy for a few days. How about next week?"

"Okay, I just wanted to tell you some stuff that I don't wanna blather on about on the phone," the R&D agent said lightly. "Our friend isn't going to give us the goods without a lot of prying. Also, Jacob stopped by my desk to make random small talk but I chickened out of doing much about it."

Boyd stopped in his tracks as he translated what Ryan was telling him. "Really?" he asked casually. "I thought our friend wasn't going to speak to us at all. You'll have to tell me later what Jacob said."

"Definitely," Ryan said cheerily. "It took awhile to soften him up, but I think we can get some stuff out of him. Someone like Jeffrey would relate to him better, but I think I can give it a shot."

"I can't say that surprises me," Boyd mused. "Jeffrey's always been better with the guarded type. But you can tell me about it over lunch-- I'll even buy, since I was the one who set you up with him."

"Awesome. Call me whenever, I'll be around." Ryan ended the call cheerfully.

Boyd hung up the phone, his mind racing. He had thought the information on Vanguard Industries had been corrupted but he'd given it to Ryan anyway to see if anything could be recovered. Apparently it wasn't corrupted at all; it was just so heavily encrypted that Ryan couldn't access the information yet.

Maybe Boyd would be able to find out more about his father and his connection to the Agency after all.

Ryan's call served to distract Boyd shortly so that he was a few minutes later leaving than he had intended. Between that and the slightly longer trek from The Presidential to Blue Moon, when Boyd arrived at Blue Moon he saw the place was already closed. He did a circuit around the building, looking for Sin.

He wasn't there but his motorbike was still parked in the lot.

Suspicion rising, Boyd peered in the door. He didn't see any movement inside. He didn't see any movement anywhere.

The worry he'd felt earlier increased. Where the hell was Sin?

He called Sin's cell phone but was unsurprised when it went to voicemail. Eyes narrowing, Boyd assessed the surroundings. Although Sin could have been kidnapped, Boyd doubted such a thing would happen without some sort of indication that there had been a fight or struggle. Even as Danny, Boyd didn't imagine Sin would let himself easily be taken away in a vehicle.

Which meant they were probably within walking distance in a secluded area. The only place he could think of was the nearby pier, unless they'd hauled him indoors somewhere.

His instincts told him to check the pier so he ran in that direction. The sounds were completely silenced when he moved out to the sand, slinking along the brush and shadows to duck behind one of the broad columns that supported the pier above. As he got closer, he could hear the sounds of low voices, and quiet demands. He heard just enough to realize that these people were definitely related to Janus, and they were definitely targeting Sin because of what he had seen months ago.

Boyd shifted around a column and was finally able to see them.

There were five men surrounding Sin, and the one speaking was aiming a gun at Sin's head. Despite this, Sin didn't appear frightened. He was looking at them with cold indifference that seemed to be throwing the leader of the group off guard.

Boyd had his gun out and shot the man in the head in seconds. Blood sprayed his colleagues and they jumped in surprise. The shot was so unexpected that it took a second for everyone to realize what had happened, but as soon as they did chaos erupted.

One of the men immediately threw himself behind one of the columns. "Kill him!" he shouted from behind his new vantage point. A shot rang out, the bullet ricocheting off the reinforced metal of the column behind Boyd's head as he dove out of the way.

"Get fucking rid of him now!"

The remaining three men turned to Sin, still unarmed and not seeming to expect much resistance from a lanky, short order cook. Their misconceptions were quickly corrected when Sin snatched one off his feet with one hand. His expression was still blanketed in indifference as he spun the man around and snapped his neck in two clean movements.

A low swear echoed from the direction of the second shooter, and then there was the sound of scrabbling as the man began to run.

Boyd hardly took the chance to be surprised by Sin's reaction. Seeing that Sin was able to handle himself for the moment, Boyd automatically took off running after the escaping operative. The man dodged around the concrete pillars, keeping Boyd from a good shot while simultaneously shooting back at Boyd when he realized he was being followed. The sharp crack of bullets hitting concrete echoed underneath the pier.

The Janus operative clearly had an escape plan on the other side of the pier so Boyd gave up on trying to aim and instead ran faster. The columns flashed by as pale markers of his speed until he saw the man darting across an open space.

Boyd aimed in the brief second he had, clipping the man in the knee. The man fell with a pained shout, the weight of his body crashing to the sand. Boyd didn't slow his sprint and the seconds it took the man to flip onto his back and start to aim were all Boyd needed.

Boyd kicked the gun out of the way and dropped onto the man, his own gun pressed against the man's forehead.

"Move and I'll kill you," Boyd said lowly.

Sweat glistened along the man's skin and his face was pale even in the poor lighting. Boyd could see the whites of his widened eyes before bravado caught up with the moment and the man's eyes narrowed, his body tensing.

"Why don't you, then?"

"I have questions," Boyd answered, his tone emotionless but the threat behind it real. "If you don't answer them I'll kill you and ask one of your friends. I suggest you stop planning an escape. You won't get far. But if you cooperate with me I may let you live."

The moment stretched, the man remaining tensed while he studied what he could see of Boyd's face, then flicked his gaze to the gun that was too far out of reach. He dropped back against the sand, apparently resigning himself to temporary capture.

Narrowing his eyes, Boyd stepped off the man and holstered his gun. He dragged the man to his feet, ignoring the way the man cried out and his injured knee crippled beneath his weight. Hauling the man with him, Boyd quickly returned to Sin so he could help with the remaining attackers.

When they broke into view of the fight scene, the man at Boyd's side stilled at the sight. There was blood splattered around, darkening the sand and staining the columns. The three men that had attacked Sin were dead. Out of the two that had remained behind with him, one looked as though his face had been crushed in and the other's throat had been cut open brutally.

Sin looked up at Boyd when they came back. His face and clothes were splattered with blood as well, and he was using the hem of his shirt to wipe the handle of a knife clean. When he was done, he tossed it down amongst the bodies.

As shocking as the scene was, Boyd didn't react. He wondered if Sin'd had an episode, but he looked normal. That seemed almost more alarming than if he'd seen the detached expression Boyd remembered from so long ago. But he didn't have time to consider it immediately.

Boyd could feel him struggling to get away the closer they drew to Sin but Boyd's powerful grip didn't let him stray. Boyd turned away from Sin to throw the man back against a column, Boyd's body weight holding him still with one forearm pressed against his throat.

"How many did they send?"

The man's gaze wrenched over Boyd's shoulder, darting between the bloody bodies and Sin's impassive face. Boyd shoved his arm forward, causing the man to gag and choke, his wide eyes snapping back to Boyd's cold glare.

"How many?" he repeated dangerously.

"F-five!" the man stuttered, his voice breaking from restricted air. "Just us!"

"And how many more do they plan to send?"

The man's wide eyes and silence were all the answer Boyd needed. The anger that had been growing in him since he'd first heard of Sin being followed turned cold and sharp. Without a flicker of expression, Boyd violently slammed the man's head back against the column. A dull crack sounded before the man fell limply to the ground. He searched the man's body for a cell phone and turned it off then put it in his own pocket before letting the man flop back to the sand.

"Give me your phone," Boyd ordered Sin, who eyed him but ultimately complied. Boyd powered off the phone and separated the battery before handing it back. "Watch him," he jerked his chin toward the man. "I have to get something." He started to turn then paused and looked over with a firm, "And I don't care if you can handle yourself-- you're unarmed and covered in blood. If someone shows up in the few minutes I'm gone, hide. Let me handle it for once."

Sin looked at him for a long moment and he opened his mouth to say something. He paused, and his lips twitched down slightly before he seemed to shake off whatever he was about to say. His eyes ran over Boyd again briefly before he turned his attention to the man.

Boyd didn't wait for Sin to change his mind; he ran between long patches of shadow back to the Blue Moon Diner. He grabbed the emergency clean-up kit he kept in his trunk and an old black hoody that had fallen out of his ready bag at some point.

When he got back he was relieved to see Sin hadn't moved and the man was still unconscious. He knelt next to the man and glanced up at Sin through strands of fine blond hair that had fallen out of its band.

"What happened anyway? I told you to call me."

"They were watching me when I closed up," Sin said calmly, wiping his arm along one blood-spattered cheek. It smeared across his face more, but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes were focused on the dead men around him before they flicked over Boyd. "I saw one of them waiting, and it was the first time they made themselves visible so I knew they'd stop hanging around and do something for a change. I figured they'd follow me, so I led them here so civilians wouldn't get involved."

Boyd paused at that, looking at Sin more closely. 'Civilians'?

As much as he wanted to ask, now wasn't the time to get into a discussion on his choice of terminology. As he started to unzip the emergency kit, he glanced over his shoulder in the direction he'd run after the insurgent. He was fairly certain he remembered seeing large concrete blocks as he ran past.

"If you want to get out of here I can clean up. I'll find you a safe place where you can wait until I'm done."

"Why would I leave you to get rid of them?" Sin shrugged and gave the area around them an assessing stare. "I'm the one that killed them."

The comment drew a sidelong glance from Boyd. He was starting to get worried by how calmly Sin was taking everything. He needed to get Sin away and safe as soon as possible, to figure out what was happening and to keep him from being discovered as a civilian covered in blood next to a pile of bodies.

"Then go bring me some of the larger rocks or pieces of concrete from over there." Boyd pushed his hair back from his forehead with the back of his hand and nodded in the direction he'd seen them. "We'll need at least two per body."

Once again Sin looked like he was going to say something, but in the end he simply turned and walked away in the direction Boyd had pointed.

Boyd removed a syringe from the kit, and a dosage of the powerful sedative the Agency used in its tranquilizers. He shot the man with enough to keep him unconscious for a few hours, then pulled out some zip-ties and secured the man's wrists and ankles. When he was finished he pulled the man deeper into the shadows beneath the pier.

The next several minutes passed in tense, rushed silence. While Sin finished gathering the rocks, Boyd started preparing the bodies. Boyd kept glancing up at every breath of noise in the night. When all the bodies were tied to enough concrete to weigh them down, they checked to make sure there were no witnesses and brought the bodies up one at a time to dump at the end of the pier.

They had finished dumping the bodies and Boyd was just starting to unpack the blood-cleaning component of the kit when Sin's hand suddenly closed over Boyd's mouth and he yanked Boyd back. Boyd let out a quiet, harsh breath, startled by the movement. Sin's other arm snapped around Boyd's chest at an angle that put Boyd in mind of the first time they'd touched each other in Monterrey. Sin pulled him further beneath the pier, hiding around a column with Boyd crushed against his chest; their bodies flush to one another.

Sin's hot breath stirred the hair near Boyd's ear. Boyd didn't have to ask why Sin had pulled him back; he knew how good Sin's hearing was. His assumption that Sin had heard someone was confirmed seconds later when the scraping of footsteps could be heard above them. Judging by the meandering footfalls, the people had no idea they were walking above a crime scene.

Boyd rolled his eyes around, trying to see Sin's expression, but Sin only held him tighter. The minutes seemed to drag by agonizingly slowly as the people above them chatted about nothing in particular. Being held up against the hard lines of Sin's body after so long apart, it was impossible for Boyd to not respond. His hands gripped Sin's wrists, his heartbeat increasing as he felt hyper-aware of every minute shift of Sin's muscles.

Throughout it all, Sin didn't let go; even when he could have. His breath stayed ragged against Boyd's ear, and at some point he could feel Sin getting hard. Boyd's breath quickened and he felt his own arousal grow, his pants starting to become uncomfortable. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his head back against Sin's shoulder, teeth grit as his fingers dug into Sin's skin.

There was something going on, something more important than the feel of Sin's body against his own, but he couldn't focus on it at the moment. All he could focus on was the fact that this felt like so many missions when they'd been high on adrenaline and lust, and wound up fucking despite the gory scene they'd just left behind or the fact that one or both of them had been injured.

A voice at the back of his head kept trying to remind him that Sin was a civilian now. He had just killed three people, and he shouldn't be able to refocus his attention so quickly. But instead, all Boyd could do was press himself back against Sin and try to keep from rolling his hips back, as Sin panted against his neck with damp, hot lips touching his skin.

It felt like some sort of rapturous torture to be held so close to the lover he'd lost for nearly two years, knowing at the same time he couldn't do anything about it.

It seemed like forever but was likely closer to ten minutes before the people above them finally decided to wander off. Sin kept Boyd close for an extended time even after Boyd no longer heard anything, possibly ensuring the people were well out of range.

Sin's fingers released him slowly, sliding along Boyd's skin. There was a slow exhalation of breath that stirred Boyd's hair before Sin finally took a step back. When Boyd turned around, Sin's eyes were focused on him with rapt intensity. The green eyes skimmed his body, focusing on the area between his thighs before moving up again.

Boyd tried to still his breath but the sound remained, strained and quiet. His heart pounded so violently he wondered if Sin would be able to hear that too. He couldn't turn from Sin's gaze once caught, and the silence felt charged with electricity that passed, unspoken, between them.

"Let's finish this," Sin said finally, his voice low.

Boyd nodded distractedly, drew in a deep breath that he let out slowly, and then nodded more resolutely as he turned away. They cleaned the scene in silence that felt even tenser than before. Boyd felt Sin's gaze burning into him more than once, particularly when Boyd accidentally brushed against him at one point.

When they were finished, Boyd packed up the cleaning kit and then grabbed the black hoody from the sand where he had dropped it earlier. He tossed it over to Sin with a quiet, "Put this on."

"Thanks," Sin said, pulling it on without question. He yanked the hood up and let it dip down to cover the top part of his face. "What now? I doubt going to my apartment right now is a great plan."

"I wouldn't have let you," Boyd said, shaking his head and straightening. "It might not be safe. You can stay at my hotel room until we figure this out."


Satisfied that Sin wasn't going to argue the decision for any reason, Boyd hiked the strap of the emergency kit bag higher on his shoulder and nodded toward the unconscious Janus operative still crumpled on the sand. "Can you grab him? I'll need my hands free for the keys."

Sin leaned over and grabbed the man with one hand, throwing him up over his shoulder as if he weighed nothing. With one last check to make sure the area looked undisturbed by anything suspicious, Boyd started quickly toward the parking lot with Sin falling in line next to him.

They didn't speak until they got back to the parking lot. Boyd put the kit back in the trunk and unlocked the back doors so Sin could place the man inside. With the door shut and the man secured, Boyd paused and glanced at Sin's motorbike.

"Leaving that overnight may seem suspicious."

Sin glanced over at his bike with a nod. "Okay, I'll follow you to... wherever it is you're staying."

Boyd shook his head. "They could have tampered with it." His narrowed stare swept the bike. He had first intended to check the bike or ride it himself to keep Sin safe. The problem was, if Boyd was injured or killed then Sin would be left without backup and it would draw unnecessary attention to them.

The oddity of the bike being left overnight was soon outweighed by Janus' threat.

"We may have to leave it for the night after all. Are you opening tomorrow?"

"No, I'm off tomorrow. If anyone asks, I'll just say I had trouble with it tonight or something."

Fingers curling around his keys, Boyd nodded and shoved his phone and wallet into his back pocket. "Don't leave without me tomorrow, then. I want to be there with you just in case."

Sin shrugged and didn't disagree.

The drive was spent in silence, with Boyd paying close attention for any tails or any other sign of Janus not giving up on Sin's life. He stopped only long enough to drop the man off at an untouched, foreclosed business he had scouted out long ago as a safehouse. He made sure the man was tied to something immovable and properly drugged before he returned to Sin who sat waiting in the car.

It didn't take long to get to The Presidential. They made it through the hotel lobby without incident, the black hoody serving to cover the blood staining Sin while Boyd had turned his shirt inside out to hide the blood that had gotten on him while transporting the bodies. Even so, it wasn't until the door was closed and locked behind them that Boyd finally relaxed. He started to move toward the bathroom, intending to clean up, but a hand clasped his wrist.

When he looked up, Sin had pushed his hood back and was staring at him. His jaw was clenched, and for the third time that night it seemed as though he was going to say something only to stop himself. His fingers started to slide away, but at the last second they closed on Boyd again and tugged him back.

"Is it weird that I really want to fuck you right now?"

Anything else Boyd had intended to say or do was completely lost the second Sin uttered those words.

"No," he said automatically. His gaze sharpened on Sin, flicking between his lips and eyes; desire briefly overrunning him after having wanted to hear those words from Sin for so long. His mind belatedly caught up to the moment. "Yes. I don't-- Why are you asking me this?"

Sin tugged him closer, head tilting down so that they were closer to eye level. "Because I just killed three men, and I'm covered in blood but all I can fucking think about is pressing you up against the wall."

"Shit," Boyd hissed, face tilting away and eyes briefly shutting even as he gravitated closer to Sin's body heat. He couldn't focus on anything else, couldn't feel anything else, other than the electricity that buzzed along his skin at Sin's every touch and burned in his stomach at Sin's every word. "Don't talk about it if you're not going to do it, Danny."

Strong hands with an iron grip settled on Boyd's shoulders, digging in and drawing him closer. The touch, the intense and hungry look on Sin's face, the eyes like green fire-- it was all so familiar.

It was hard to remember that this was different than any other adrenaline-based, post-mission encounter until Sin's lips brushed his hesitantly. Before, there had been no question that Boyd wanted lips and hands on him after the heart-pounding action or violence of a mission. There had never been a doubt that he was ready to be stripped and fucked hard after watching Sin display the fullest extent of his power.

But this new Sin, Danny, didn't know that.

Despite the fact that Boyd's hands clenched the hoody with barely concealed need, the first kiss was almost uncertain. Boyd returned it forcefully, pressing into the hard, lanky body, and flicking out his tongue. Their eyes met again and Boyd nodded thoughtlessly, not even really knowing why except to try to convey that he wanted this-- he needed this, he craved it.

The hesitance vanished and in a blur of movement, Sin was shoving Boyd against the wall in a full body press. They began to tear at each other's mouths impatiently as staggered breaths and half-stifled moans filled the air in the otherwise silent room.

The feel of Sin, the taste of him-- all of it came together in an explosion of want that had Boyd ripping off the other man's hoody impatiently. His hands skittered over the shirt beneath, yanking at it as he tried to touch more, feel more, get more. There was still blood drying on their skin, stiffening it in some places and flaking off as they clawed at each other.

Boyd barely noticed. None of it mattered. The men who'd died didn't matter. Janus didn't matter.

All that mattered were the hands yanking open his belt, and the tongue exploring his mouth.

Boyd arched his back against the wall, grinding against Sin in harsh, impatient movements. He sucked Sin's tongue into his mouth hard, relishing in the groan of pleasure and the fact that Sin still liked it mixed with pain. The knowledge made him harder, needier, and he slid his mouth down to the junction between Sin's neck and shoulder before digging his teeth into the flesh.

"Fuck," Sin groaned, hands tightening with no regard to the strength in them. Boyd hissed in pain but shoved his shoulders against the wall anyway, using it as leverage. He arched his back, trying to get more friction, and growled when Sin pulled away briefly. He instantly grabbed at the taller man again, but Sin shoved him back against the wall with a low, "Get your pants down."

It took a moment for the words to process but when they did, Boyd began stripping his clothes frantically. His gun and holster were just hitting the floor heavily as he reached out and finished ripping Sin's shorts open. They fell down to his knees, but that was all they needed and Boyd couldn't wait for more. With his back against the wall, he wrapped one leg around Sin and budged his heel up against the back of Sin's knee.

"Oh God," Boyd moaned, thudding his head back against the wall and squeezing his eyes shut as Sin rutted against him. The feel of their bare cocks pressed together, of Sin's hands on him, Sin's lips sucking a bruise into his neck-- it was making Boyd burn, his gut tightening dangerously as he began rocking faster. His cock was leaking now, steadily, and he knew he could only take so much before he exploded.

"I need you to fuck me," he panted, voice low and thick with need. "I want you inside me."

Sin groaned, fingers clenching tighter against Boyd's ass. "I fucking want to."

"Then do it," Boyd demanded, frustrated because he needed this.

He needed Sin inside of him, stretching him open and filling him to the core. He needed to be fucked hard by his lover and filled with his come. He needed that proof, that reminder, that Sin still wanted him-- that everything they'd fought for hadn't been lost to him forever. That after everything he'd been through, someone like Sin could still want him just to be with him.

His thoughts ran into each other, incoherent and scrambled and all focused on Sin's body, his cock, his strong hands, that burning green gaze, the two of them being connected... When Sin didn't move immediately he reached down and grabbed the stiff, hot length of Sin's cock. The size of it made him moan, and he pressed the sticky head against his opening impatiently.

"Wait-- Stop," Sin grit out, and backed off again.

"I don't fucking care, I can take it! Please, Hs--" he broke off desperately as he caught himself from saying the name.

"Fuck." Sin looked around the room, his breath coming hard. His gaze fell on something, and then he was jerking Boyd around with impatient violence. They stumbled backwards, tongues twined again as Sin shoved him towards some unknown destination.

The backs of Boyd's thighs slammed into something hard, and there was an abrupt crashing sound. Sin shoved him back to sit on the end table in place of the now-fallen lamp. Boyd hooked one leg around Sin again, drawing him near even as Sin fumbled with the gift basket that was dangerously close to joining the lamp on the floor. He yanked the suntan oil out of the basket and shoved the rest of it away, flicking the cap open.

"Yes," Boyd panted. "Hurry."

Sin slathered the oil on his cock and pressed against Boyd's entrance, pushing through the tight ring of muscle almost immediately. Boyd let out a ragged groan and threw his head back, his hands spasming on Sin's shoulders. With a few thrusts, Sin was seated deep inside of him.

The loud moan that filled the room came from both of them. Boyd felt stretched wide, the sharp ache of pain mingling with the pleasure of being able to touch Sin again. Their eyes met and Boyd hissed:


Sin's hands slid down his body, brushing against his scars and making the sounds pouring out of Boyd's mouth grow louder. Sin pounded hard and deep into him, powerful thrusts that shoved Boyd's upper back against the wall and made him shout. His hands scratched across Sin's back before clenching in his long hair.

"Yes-- yes-- fuck me--" Boyd pleaded shamelessly, his breath coming ragged and fast.

Sin swore, something incoherent and grit out, before he suddenly shifted his angle, piercing up and making Boyd's body jerk with every movement. Fingers digging painfully into Boyd's sides, Sin slammed Boyd back down onto his cock.

"Oh Jesus-- fuck--"

The end table was pushed back and Boyd's head almost slammed into the wall with the frantic way they moved against each other. He arched his back, rising off the end table with one hand braced against the wall and both legs wrapping around Sin. His body clenched around Sin in the movement, muscles a hot, tight squeeze that made Sin cry out loudly.

Within seconds they were tearing at each other again; Sin grabbing Boyd with no regard to his strength and fucking him so hard that Boyd's voice rose in a desperate, near-endless scream. He met Sin's thrusts with frantic rocking of his own, his arm quaking with trying to keep his head from cracking against the plaster, his other fingers digging into Sin's shoulder. The slapping sound of skin against skin became a hard and fast counter-beat to their moans.

Every sound Sin made went straight to Boyd's cock until it was a constant ache between his thighs. He dropped his hand from Sin's shoulder and started frantically jerking it, fingers clenching as he did it rough and impatient. When their gazes met, those green eyes burning with fierce intensity, the white hot knot in Boyd's gut suddenly exploded.

With a wrenching scream, Boyd came hard, his eyes flying wide open as hot ecstasy rolled through him. He lost the strength in his arm and crashed back against the wall. Without pulling out, Sin slammed Boyd down flat on the end table and held him in place with a strong hand on his stomach. Boyd arched his head back and howled in pleasure as Sin started slamming his cock into him more violently.

Boyd's passionate shouts of, "Yes-- don't stop, just like that-- fuck me, baby, please--" and Sin's harsh, escalating groans overwhelmed the rattling sound of the end table thumping against the wall. Boyd's entire body was alight with sensation, his skin tingling beneath every shift of Sin's fingers; every reminder that this was Sin touching him. Sin's hair fell down around them and Boyd arched up even as he grabbed Sin at the base of the neck and jerked him down.

Their lips met with fervid intensity, tongues shoving into each other's mouth in a mimicry of Sin's cock driving into Boyd in quickening thrusts. He began slamming himself on Sin again, trying to increase the pressure almost deliriously. Sin's cock brushed his prostate with every violent thrust, and Boyd's still-hard dick began to ache again as his gut clenched.

The moans coming from Sin started growing in intensity and he broke away from the kiss. Boyd breathed harshly and dragged his lips down, licking and biting hard into Sin's smooth skin. It roused another raw groan from Sin, just like it had in the past.

"Fuck, Boyd--"

Heat crescendoed inside Boyd with Sin's increasingly erratic thrusts. He was intoxicated on the thrill of knowing he was the one making Sin lose it like this. Of knowing it was Sin pounding deep into him, wanting him so recklessly and laying claim to him as passionately as ever.

"Come inside me," he growled hotly into Sin's ear.

The words tore another ragged moan from Sin and he began to pound into Boyd with bone-jarring thrusts that rocked both of them. Boyd's body thrummed wildly in time with the rhythm, nearly burning with even the air against his sensitized skin. He barely had to squeeze his inner muscles before Sin's voice faltered and, briefly, broke.

Sin's hands spasmed and suddenly he was coming. As heat flooded Boyd's insides, Sin crushed Boyd in his grip. He dropped his forehead against Boyd's shoulder as he rode out his orgasm and released a string of incoherent swears.

The short glimpse of Sin's euphoric expression was enough to make Boyd come again without touching his erection. His orgasm wasn't as intense the second time but he was exhausted when he came back to the moment and felt Sin collapsed on top of him with his cock still inside of him.

Sweat was a fine sheen across both of them, their chests rising and falling rapidly against each other. Boyd could feel Sin's toned stomach pressing against him and the staccato pounding of his heart.

Suddenly he felt overwhelmed. Without thinking, he threaded his fingers through Sin's silky hair and licked a thread of sweat off Sin's temple, followed by kissing the same spot.

Sin made a low sound deep in his throat and rubbed his nose against the side of Boyd's neck. He mumbled something nonsensical and pulled back just enough to brush his lips against the side of Boyd's mouth. There was a flash of a half smile as they made eye contact, but then Sin blinked and the affectionate expression was gone.

He pulled out finally, dick still slightly hard and leaving Boyd feeling strangely vacant. There was a moment when they just looked at each other, and then Sin pulled his shorts up.

"Jesus," he said, voice slightly hoarse.

Boyd pushed himself up on his elbows, his gaze passing across Sin's features. He wanted to drag Sin close and kiss and touch him into the night, especially following that brief glimpse of the Sin he had known, but Sin's expression stopped him.

He didn't know whether Danny was going to pull away again, feeling like they had gotten too close.

Boyd sat up, his back aching powerfully in the movement, and slid off the edge of the table. His heartbeat was still coming down from its high and his knees felt weakened by what they'd just done. The happiness he felt at being wanted by Sin still, the buzz of sated satisfaction from passionate sex with Sin, was tempered by the not-quite-right mood in the room.

Having intended to gather his clothing, he paused when he noticed the faint indents on Sin's neck where his teeth had sunk in. He lifted his hand to touch the bite mark but, not wanting to push his luck, redirected the motion smoothly to pushing hair off his own face instead.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah." Sin raised his eyebrows, raking a hand through his hair. "Just pretty fucking intense."

"Yeah." Boyd's lips curved faintly on the edges. "Sorry. I get that way sometimes."

The corner of Sin's mouth twitched up into a smile that faded as his eyes moved over Boyd again. He seemed to focus on the reddened skin he could see on Boyd's neck and hips. The areas that would most likely have angry bruises in a few hours.

"Apparently I do too," he said after a brief pause.

"Adrenaline will do that," Boyd said as he picked up his discarded clothing from the floor.

His lower back felt like it was on fire. It was probably a good thing Sin had insisted on using some form of lube or he'd likely be a mess of torn skin and blood. In the time since they'd last been together, Boyd had nearly forgotten how intense and violent Sin could be. And how quickly it made him lose his own inhibitions to have Sin want him so powerfully that he briefly lost his sense of control.

"Yeah," Sin was saying. "Sorry if I hurt you, though." There was a pause and then Sin's eyes dragged away from Boyd slowly. "I'm going to take a shower."

"Okay." As Sin started toward the bathroom Boyd called out, "Danny." Sin stopped and looked back at him. "You didn't hurt me. This--" He gestured to the red marks. "I liked it. I wanted it that way."

Sin stared at him and paused briefly before his mouth curved into a smirk. "I'll keep that in mind."

He was half turned towards Boyd, shorts sliding down his narrow hips, splattered in blood and looking thoroughly disheveled. So many things had changed since Sin had become Danny, but somehow the look on Sin's face in that moment washed all of it away. The slight upturn of his mouth, narrowed eyes nearly hidden beneath long black lashes, the arch of one brow:

It was like looking at his Sin again.

Continue to Fade Chapter 24...