Fade Chapter Twenty-Five

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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
See Afterimage chapter list.

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Book Three: Fade
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Fade Chapter 25

Uploaded on 7/29/2012

The reception area was spotless and designed in a distinctly contemporary manner.

The receptionist's desk was a curved half-wall, a row of expensive-looking chairs set to the right for guests, and the main office opened behind her to the left. Boyd couldn't see inside the closed door but he saw the name Damian Perry emblazoned in clear lettering. Skyn's logo stretched across the blank wall behind the receptionist's desk. There was a hallway to the right that seemed to lead to a bathroom and some other rooms.

There was nothing scandalous or alarming about the lobby; it looked like any other corporate office and had no indication that it was the headquarters of an adult film company.

He didn't get the chance to do more than glance around before the receptionist gave him a clearly disgruntled glare.

"Did you even make an attempt at setting up an appointment?" she asked sharply.

"I did but the options were far into the future so I thought I'd stop in too."

Marla, according to the nameplate on her desk, rolled her eyes. "Yeah, and there's a reason for that. But whatever. You can just wait. Mr. Perry has a meeting scheduled in twenty minutes, so you'll probably be waiting for a long, long time."

"Thanks," Boyd said easily and took a seat. The chair wasn't particularly comfortable, which he didn't find to be a surprise given its overly sleek, metallic design. He couldn't help wondering what Sin or Emilio might have had as a design or location if they'd had a company instead.

Marla made a face, and jabbed her pen at a clipboard. "Forgetting something?"

"Oh, right."

Boyd picked up the clipboard and returned to his seat. He flicked his gaze down the job application. It was fairly standard, with the exception of questions more specific to the adult film industry, including inquiring about his previous experience or qualifications.

He wrote the name 'Cam Jansen.' He'd thought about using Cameron Whittaker; it might make him more intriguing to Damian since Skyn almost certainly would have received promotional materials a year ago before the Aleixo mission had ended.

Aleixo had just been starting a company, Zenith, with the plans of lending slaves to places like Skyn for collaborations. Actors cost money and might balk at certain acts even in porn but Aleixo would have given his Sliders for free, providing even more enthusiastic pornography-- until it was popular enough that he could charge exorbitant fees. Boyd had been one of three slaves planned to have the most exposure, with each of them representing a different look that was popular in pornography. Each of them had been featured in some way in all the promotional pieces.

But referencing it might gain the Agency's attention if the names were still flagged.

So he went with a cover he made up on his own with the knowledge that, if he grew desperate, he could always bring it up later and say he'd been trying to change his persona. He wrote down vague credentials that only implied amateur works and referenced videos he'd seen when researching the company.

When he was finished, he brought the application back up to the desk.

Marla reached out to grab it but before she could, a loud voice boomed across the lobby: "'Sup Marls."

The man that walked in was about about Boyd's height, fit, and had a head full of crimson-colored hair that was spiked into a faux hawk. He had on a slim-cut charcoal button-down shirt and suspenders with an expensive, tailored look that completely contradicted the ragged jeans and scuffed boots he wore. He stopped next to Boyd and leaned across the reception desk, lips twisting up into a big grin.

"Nothing much," Marla said with a shrug. "Chance is in but the meeting isn't scheduled for another fifteen, and your favorite person isn't here yet."

"No bigs." The man looked at Boyd, eyebrows hiking up as he gave Boyd a quick once-over. "Who's this?"

Boyd recognized him as one of the most popular adult film actors that Skyn boasted, Gordon Frost. Boyd had vague memories of seeing pornography including Gordon back at Cyclone, when some of the clients had used films to get in the mood. He hadn't remembered until he'd seen the man's face on the screen when researching Skyn.

Although, now that he saw him more closely, Boyd noticed a faded scar that arched along Gordon's cheek back to his hairline. Apparently Skyn had edited it out of all videos and photos of the man. Since Boyd didn't think the scar affected Gordon's looks one way or the other he assumed either Skyn's clientele was especially fastidious and made it necessary or it was something to do with vanity on Gordon's part.

"Cam," he answered. "I came to see if I could get an interview with Mr. Perry. I have to say," he added, "I love your work. It's no wonder you've become a top performer for Skyn."

Gordon raised an eyebrow, and his grin widened slightly. "Yeah, I'm pretty awesome, it's true." He boosted himself up on the desk to sit down, and snatched the clipboard from Marla.

"He doesn't have an appointment," she said darkly.

"Who cares? He's fucking hot. And we're short a godly blond type so Chance will jizz himself when he sees him," Gordon said as he perused the application.

"I guess." Marla frowned, eyes narrowed at Boyd in irritation. "Since Marquis went and died, I have to deal with all of these wannabes and try-hards."

Gordon didn't reply to that, but his lips flattened as he read. After a moment, he dropped the clipboard onto the desk with a clatter. "So Cam, what amateur stuff did you do?"

"What, are you pretending to be Chance?" Marla asked, her tone scathing.

"No way, babe. I'm nowhere near that big of a douche." Gordon smirked, and raised his eyebrows at Boyd. "Did you do like, home videos and upload them on the internet and stuff?"

"Well..." Boyd glanced sidelong at Marla with a slight frown and turned a questioning look to Gordon. "Does he only interview people who have been in professional works?"

"Nah, Chance talks to noobs too. But like, usually--"

The door to the office opened, and Damian Perry, or Chance as they all referred to him, stepped out. In person, the similarities to the Vegas was noticeable but not nearly as stark as Sin and Emilio. He had the same bone structure and jet black hair, but his eyes were hazel instead of green and his skin was several shades lighter.

"Why are you talking to an applicant?" Chance asked Gordon without even looking at him. His eyes were trained on Boyd.

"'Cause I can, and it's a free world." Gordon made a face at his boss, and slipped off the side of the desk. "Where's the man?"

"The meeting isn't for fifteen minutes," Marla said again.

It was strange having yet another variation of Vega staring at him. When Boyd had first met Sin, he never would have suspected that he'd end up working with his father and standing in front of his half-brother years later. Then again, he'd never expected to fall in love with Sin either. He'd long since stopped trying to predict how the Vega line would affect his life.

It seemed Chance hadn't missed the 'intense stare' part of the Vega gene pool. Boyd went on the assumption Chance had a similar personality as well and got straight to the point.

"Hello, sir," he said, stepping forward so Chance could see him better without the desk in between. "I was just asking Gordon what it would take to get an interview with you."

"Sir," Gordon repeated, snickering. Chance shot him a venomous look, but Gordon just gave him a belligerent smirk in response.

"Bring your application and come in," Chance said curtly. "You have ten minutes."

He turned and went back on his office, with Gordon following behind. The redhead winked at Boyd. "This is his version of jizzing himself, dude. Don't take the stone cold face thing personally."

Boyd smiled in response and grabbed the clipboard but inwardly he wished Gordon wasn't going in with them. It would have been easier to get a feel for Chance without a third party but it was no use trying to comment on it now, not when he had such a short time period.

He followed the two of them into the office and automatically glanced around for egress points, disguising it as taking in the office itself.

Gordon sprawled out in one of the chairs, and looked at Boyd expectantly. Chance stood next to his desk and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked over Boyd again, slower this time, and went directly into a line of questioning.

"What brings you in?"

"I'm looking for a job and I'm familiar with Skyn's works," Boyd answered as he took a seat. "I always liked the way your videos are shot more realistically-- it makes your films stand out above the rest-- so I came in hoping there might be a position open."

"Position for what?" Chance asked, a hint of impatience working into his tone. "Photos or movies?"

"Whatever you want," Boyd replied with a shrug. "I've done both."

"What have you done in movies?"

"A lot," Boyd replied easily. Since he couldn't rely on Zenith or talking to Chance one-on-one, he had to rely on being intriguing enough in his experience to be called back. The most uncomfortable part was that he didn't even have to lie but he kept his tone light, like none of these things had ever mattered to him.

"Obviously people look at me and think twink," he said, gesturing at himself, "so I primarily have gay experience with the sorts of themes you would expect with that-- daddies, bears, other twinks. That sort of thing. But I've done straight, bi, gang bangs, different kinks..." He trailed off. "If there's anything in particular you're wondering if I've done, I can tell you."

"Mostly bottom then," Chance said, not even blinking at the list. He glanced over at Gordon, and then focused his attention on Boyd again. "I can tell you now that I like your look. That gives you an in to audition automatically, since actual attractive androgyny is difficult to find."

"Yeah, androgynous shouldn't automatically equal like, weird featureless alien," Gordon chimed in. He'd slumped down in his chair and was leaning on his hand as he watched Boyd.

Chance gave him another flat stare before continuing. "It also helps that you have experience in gang bangs. People like to see pretty blonds get fucked by a group, or in rape fantasies. The less convincing I have to do on that angle, the better. Now, do you have a sample or do we need to do a demo?"

The parallels of Chance and Aleixo talking business were uncanny; they were both confident, to the point, and unbothered by the topic. Boyd ignored the wave of memories of Aleixo and reflected that this was exactly why he'd never wanted to go anywhere near an adult industry again. It felt like anyone in the industry would look at Boyd and see similar ways to use him. The difference was Chance sold the illusion of such scenes while Aleixo simply made it reality.

He was more glad than ever that he hadn't mentioned Zenith; the idea of watching it with them while they took notes made his skin crawl.

"I don't have a sample with me but I could bring one back," Boyd offered.

That could give him an excuse to return, to maybe see Chance one-on-one. And he wanted to avoid doing anything valentine in Sin's name if he could at all help it.

"Then we'll do a demo."

Gordon wiggled his eyebrows at Boyd, the corners of his mouth lifting as he leered. "Good times."

The door opened before anyone else could comment, and Gordon's eyes flicked over to it automatically. "Hey handsome," he greeted amiably. "Just in time for the show."

Adam Blake stopped in the doorway. At the sight of him, Boyd's heart leapt in his chest and he tensed, certain that the Agency knew his plans-- that they'd sent Adam to take him in and he'd be terminated before he could even find Sin a way to escape. But even as paranoia shot through him, his mind caught up to the moment.

Just as Boyd realized Gordon seemed to know Adam, he registered Adam's eyebrows snapping together, black eyes narrowing, before he looked over at Gordon automatically.


Boyd looked over at Gordon too, other pieces falling into place. Gordon Frost was the Gordon who Adam had said was his boyfriend?

"Problem?" Chance asked, staring at Adam oddly.

"Yeah boss, what's the problem?" Gordon echoed.

Boyd's mind worked furiously. That must mean Adam's civilian cover had something to do with Skyn. Shit, he'd walked right into an active undercover.

He'd seen that Chance was on a watchlist but it hadn't said anything about any current or active assignments. He'd taken precautions against a watchlist but hadn't expected an agent to walk into the damn room. Even if he could still spin a story to the Agency, like he thought it would be hilarious to make a porn video for Emilio's next birthday using his son's company, Adam seeing him ruined any chances for this lead.

Still, why had Adam looked so perturbed? Why look at Gordon immediately? What did it matter if Boyd knew who his civilian boyfriend was? It wasn't like Boyd cared if Adam dated a porn star...

"What's this?" Adam asked finally, his voice coming out with an icy edge.

"Walk-in," Chance said slowly. "I'm going to have him do a demo with Gordon."


"We've been getting requests for more torture porn, and I like his look." Chance was staring at Adam as if he'd lost his mind. "What is wrong with you?"

"He's not doing a demo with Gordon," Adam said in the same tone, his gaze never leaving Boyd's.

Chance scoffed and leaned back against his desk. He crossed his arms over his chest. "Feel threatened on your own time, Blake. This is business. Feel glad that I keep him as a top so that you're the only one fucking him."

He looked over at Gordon with a sneer, but Gordon barely reacted to the words. He was looking between Adam and Boyd, his face etched in confusion. His gaze met Adam's again, and then something must have passed between them because Gordon's eyebrows arched up to his hairline before he sat up straight.

Boyd watched them. Why act so coldly, so unnerved, by another agent unless there was something to fear? Adam's distraction proved to Boyd that this wasn't about a blown cover; this was about Gordon.

And Gordon's reaction combined with Adam's concern told Boyd something that all the unspoken words in the room couldn't hide.

He turned back to Chance. "I've run into this before at other jobs. Do you mind if I see him alone for a few minutes?" He ran his eyes significantly along Adam, pausing briefly at the area between his thighs before sliding back up to his face. "See if I can't persuade him?"

An incredulous scoff escaped Chance but he just gestured at the door. "By all means."

Adam's hand locked around Boyd's arm, and he practically dragged him out of the chair and out the door. It was kicked shut unceremoniously behind him, and Marla actually yelped in surprise at the sound. Not breaking his stride, Adam crossed the lobby and entered one of the rooms across from it quickly.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Adam demanded as soon as they were alone in what looked like a studio.

"Gordon knows," Boyd said instead of answering. He stared hard at Adam-- seeing if he would deny it. "About our employer, about you. About me now too."

"What are you doing here?" Adam's voice cut across the studio in a dark growl, his fingers balling into fists. There was a flash of panic in his face, and his eyes cut to the door again as if he could see through it.

"Relax," Boyd assured him immediately, hands lifting in a calming gesture. "I'm not here to hurt him. There isn't a clean up crew out there waiting for him. He's safe."

Adam stared at Boyd with his jaw clenched and eyebrows drawn together. There was nothing relaxed or trusting about the expression on his face, and he grit the question out again:

"Then why are you here? If you're lying and something happens to him, I'll cut your mother's throat and send you a video of it. Don't fuck with me, Boyd."

The threat had the opposite effect likely intended; hope stirred within Boyd at the words.

"Would you?" he asked intently, scrutinizing Adam. "Would you actually kill the second in command and leave video evidence proving it was you-- even give it to someone who might turn it in immediately and get you tortured and killed? Would you go that far to protect or avenge him?"

"Yes. Without a moment's fucking hesitation. If the last few months have shown me anything, it's that all of you are as easily taken out as Gordon could be when it comes down to it."

"So you would do anything for him?" Boyd pressed. "You care about him that much?"

Impatience darkened Adam's expression and he took a step forward. "If you're not here for him, why the fuck are you here? I'm not going to ask again before this turns into a problem for us both."

Boyd's stare hadn't shifted from closely studying Adam's face. He didn't see anything other than dead seriousness in Adam's expression. Already, his mind was reworking the plan; adjusting for new information. Planning his next move.

His eyes narrowed faintly, fingers flexing before he looked away. The room seemed to be some sort of set for filming, but at the moment all it housed was a bed. It was unlikely there was surveillance inside such a place as this or Adam wouldn't have brought them inside. Wouldn't have talked about Gordon's knowledge or killing Vivienne.

Even so, Boyd didn't trust the place. He didn't trust anything anymore, not when it came to Sin.

"I'll tell you why I'm here but I want a fully secure location first. It will work in your favor to hear what I have to say. Will you come with me somewhere else?"


"Somewhere random so it won't be anticipated. I'll choose after we leave." He paused. "I realize I sound overly paranoid even for people in our profession but you'll understand why."

The tension didn't leave Adam's posture but his eyes narrowed slightly as he seemed to consider the words. When his lips finally parted, there was a loud, rhythmic knock on the door and Adam's attention jolted to it. He exhaled slowly and grabbed the door handle, pulling it open.

Gordon slipped in, eyebrows raised and looking strangely calm. He looked his boyfriend up and down before cocking his index finger and thumb at Boyd like a gun. "We all cool, sweetness?"

Boyd raised his eyebrows somewhat incredulously, stared at Gordon, then looked at Adam. The other agent gave Gordon an unimpressed stare.

"Did it ever occur to you to not follow me in a potentially dangerous situation, or are you that anxious to see if you still get to fuck him?" Adam asked Gordon acidly.

"I have the dangerous situation thing down to a science, baby, relax. But yes to the second one." Gordon flashed a grin at Adam, leered at Boyd, and then stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Adam so that he could twine their fingers together. "Seriously, though."

"I have to go out for awhile--"

A flash of anxiety wiped any traces of humor off Gordon's face. "Dude--"

"I'll be fine," Adam said flatly, although his fingers squeezed Gordon's before he pulled away. "Tell Chance... that it turns out me and this person--"

"Cam," Gordon drawled.

"Me and Cam know each other from the past. He just didn't want to make it obvious in front of you and Chance without discussing it with me first because he didn't expect me to be here. We're going to go have a talk so I can figure out if he really has interest in the company, at which point I will bring him back in since Chance liked his look."

Boyd glanced at Adam and felt a wave of relief. Adam was covering for him already with Chance, even without knowing anything. It made him feel like he'd made the right choice, even though he knew the tension wouldn't leave him fully until everything was finalized.

"Fine," Gordon said. He clearly was not pleased that Adam was going off with Boyd without telling him where things stood. "Call me soon."

Adam nodded and jerked his head at Boyd as he started to leave the studio. "Let's go."

Boyd followed behind him without another glance Gordon's way, but once they were out of Skyn's area into the main building, he led the way. He had rented a truck atypical to his style and had parked it a block away, leaving his own vehicle outside Grover Books in case anyone had tailed him. He'd thought someone was following him briefly when he'd first gotten back to Lexington and although he had lost the tail it had made him take extra precautions.

The two of them didn't speak again, which gave him time to think as he drove around the city to lose any tails he might not know of and find an appropriate place.

It was possible he was overly paranoid but he'd become convinced there was no way the Agency had been unaware of his presence in Annadale, and if that was the case then they were leaving him alone for a reason. More studies, perhaps, or waiting for him to slip up.

He had to assume every moment he could be watched. He'd spent hours in his mind only, not writing down a thing so it couldn't be tracked-- identifying how to do what was generally considered impossible: make an agent disappear. Worse, make a prized 'experiment' disappear.

If his years as an agent had proven anything to him, being predictable was often a person's downfall.

The Agency probably wouldn't expect him to suddenly try to find an escape for Sin after months of knowing about him but if they did, they would likely expect him to flee too. So his first plan was to find a way for Sin to flee alone while Boyd ran interference back at the Agency. He was simultaneously working on a second plan, on the off chance that Sin would want him to go as well-- but two agents fleeing might be too dangerous.

The rest of the plan relied on finding someone to help him, as he knew he couldn't do it alone.

Emilio was the obvious choice but that was exactly the problem. If the Agency even suspected Boyd planned this, they would expect him to go to Emilio first. And with Emilio working as a double agent, Boyd would put him in a difficult, potentially deadly, situation.

No matter what, he wouldn't forgive himself if his negligence led to anyone else being hurt. But if he went to Emilio and there were repercussions on Sin, Emilio wouldn't forgive him. If there were repercussions on Emilio or Sin, Carhart wouldn't. Carhart was already in a precarious enough position with Seong that one wrong move on Boyd's part could destroy everything. If Carhart were killed because of this, Boyd knew Emilio would never forgive him.

Even though the two of them deserved to be the first to know about Sin being alive, they were also the most dangerous to approach. And even if Boyd trusted them both, he couldn't break his silence at the risk of any of them. He had already determined he would tell them about Sin before Sin disappeared, should that be Sin's choice, but at that point it would be less of a risk. Sin could immediately go into hiding and gain freedom, and Carhart and Emilio could know the truth while also having had plausible deniability that would protect them in the ensuing fallout.

Seong would have nothing to use to go after them.

Boyd's own infamous past of going to great lengths for Sin and lying about it would protect everyone even further. If Chance would help, no one would expect that. There would be no reason for the Agency to believe that Adam would go out of his way for Boyd, and with no connections to Emilio, Carhart, Ryan, Kassian-- anyone who might conceivably have been considered to help-- when it all came crashing down it should work out where Boyd was the only one who had to face the consequences.

Sin could be free, everyone could be safe, and if Emilio, Carhart, or any of them wanted to be angry with him at that point, then at least they could be angry and alive.

His mind whirred through the plans as he drove, and he glanced now and then at Adam whose expression hadn't shifted the entire time. His drive eventually led them to a seedy motel in the Industrial District. The place was so run down it didn't even have a name; just a half broken sign proclaiming 'motel' in lights that flickered even in the middle of the day.

Boyd parked the truck a block away outside a restaurant and when they checked in at the motel he used cash, a fake name, and was pleased to see there wasn't a single camera anywhere in view. Even so, the second they got in the room and it was secured, Boyd checked around every piece of fabric, every door, closed the blinds and curtains, and unpacked an arsenal of anti-surveillance devices he used to clean the room of any potential bugs and block any chance of their conversation being overheard or recorded.

When he was satisfied there was no way anyone would overhear them he turned to Adam.

"I'm only here because I think it's unlikely that you're in a big rush to sell someone out to the Agency," Adam said bluntly. He crossed his arms over his chest, his black t-shirt straining against his biceps. "And obviously you're not on a real mission. So what the hell is going on?"

Boyd eyed Adam for a moment before he leaned against a wall, felt too restless, and dropped into the rickety chair pushed in the corner of the room. He leaned forward, forearms balanced on his knees.

"Something happened and I need to find a solution for a problem. I'll tell you more but first I need to know something-- I will promise not to say a word about Gordon or you to anyone at the Agency, not even under duress. In fact, I will help you cover anything up if you need it and Gordon can come to me if he ever needs an agent's help when you aren't around. But in return I need to know that you won't repeat what I tell you here to anyone. It's incredibly important. And-- I need your help with some information."

His lips curled down slightly and he added, "I realize I'm asking for promises before you know the context but it's imperative I know I can trust you."

There was a moment of silence as Adam digested the information. The only sounds were the faint buzzing of the AC unit, and a bug flying around and knocking into the bulb of the lamp.

"What if you tell me and I don't want to be involved?" Adam asked. "Keeping my secret only goes so far if the alternative is me getting killed by the Agency for some other reason."

"You don't have to be directly involved," Boyd said with a shake of his head. "I just need to know if my plan is viable based on information you already know. And if it is, you don't have to do anything other than omit that you know anything about any of this. It shouldn't come back to you."

Boyd paused, thinking about the worst case scenario. If Sin did start to get away through Chance and the Agency caught on somehow, even if they went to lean on Adam it would be too late by then anyway. Sin would either be gone or he would have lost his chance.

He grimaced and shook his head, more sharply this time. "If it does come back to you then it's all fucked anyway and you should blame me for everything. Make something up where I made you give that information and sell me out on any point you want so their attention shifts to me. Just, don't get anyone else involved."

"That's all well and good," Adam said slowly. He paused, mouth turning down into a frown as he stared at Boyd. "But what if I just said no and walked out now?"

"Then you walk away," Boyd said simply with a shrug. "As long as you don't tell them even the little I said, it doesn't matter. I still won't say a word about Gordon even if you don't help me." He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms, eyes narrowing thoughtfully on Adam. "Frankly, I'd rather know you're one hundred percent into this before I tell you anything anyway. It's safer that way."

Adam sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. He swept a hand through his thick, black hair and looked at the curtained window. His expression was more morose than usual, and after a moment he shook his head.

"As long as it's not something that's going to fuck my own situation up, I'll help you. I don't really like helping people, but it's the least I can do since you're being a decent human for some reason about this Gordon thing."

Boyd felt the knot in his shoulders unwind at that and he let out a low breath. "Okay..."

He couldn't stay seated anymore and stood, his long legs pacing the room. "Then." He frowned. Now that the time was on him to finally tell someone the secret that had been plaguing him the last three months, he almost didn't know how to say it. In the end, he decided to be blunt.

"Sin is alive."

Adam stared at him blankly. He blinked once, then again, and raised his eyebrows. "I'm confused."

"They did something to him-- messed with his memories-- and shipped him off to another city. He's been living there having no clue about his real past."

"Wait--" Adam stood up from the bed, and stared at Boyd like he'd lost his mind. "So. You're saying that... the Agency wiped his memories and moved him instead of terminating him."

"Yes." Boyd turned and met Adam's eyes openly. "Look, I know I sound like I'm crazy. Maybe you're thinking I was so distraught over his death I've created some alternate reality, I don't know-- but the thing is, I checked into it. This is a new program they're testing to find a way to shelve still-usable agents until they can be pulled back in. "

His expression narrowed seriously. "Think about it. If they could just wipe the memories of an agent who was always useful but just had insubordination issues-- why wouldn't they do it? Why not just wipe him clean instead of terminating someone they couldn't replace?"

"And they can't replace him because he's Modified, right?"

"He isn't Modified," Boyd replied with a faint frown. He'd never thought about anyone thinking such a thing and the way Adam said it so certainly made him wonder what other assumptions people made about Sin. "But I suppose he is genetically engineered. That's what makes him valuable to them."

Adam's expression had changed very little throughout the conversation. He still had his customary expression of gloom, except now he looked like he may be regretting agreeing to get involved after all. Despite that, he latched on to the comment as if it had some interest to him.

"It's a common thought process in some circles that Emilio Vega modified him as a child, tweaking him out on blackmarket gene-splicing drugs. Some people think that's why he's bizarre."

Boyd's eyebrows rose at that and he stopped, giving Adam a sidelong look. "People actually think that?"

"Some people. There are plenty of theories about Sin." Adam shrugged. "It's less bizarre than your genetic engineering story since blackmarket Modification is fairly common now."

Boyd stared at Adam for a moment. He moved over to the bed and sat on the edge of it. "Well. They're wrong. Emilio never did that to him. All things considered, he wasn't a terrible father to him growing up."

"Who cares about that? Get to the part where I'm supposed to be helping you do something for your genetically engineered boyfriend."

Boyd frowned but it was more in thought than anything. "Janus is after him for something else and I have no idea what the Agency ultimately plans to do with him. I doubt they'd go to all the trouble of experimenting like this if they never plan to use him again, or do something even worse. He's fucked either way right now and I don't--"

He stopped abruptly, eyebrows drawing down and gaze shifting away. He stared at the curtains as if he could see anything through them. As if he could see Sin. "I just want to find him a way to get away. From all of this. If he wants. I just-- I want him to be able to be free for once in his life. To actually have a say in his own future for once."

"Oh Jesus." Adam rolled his eyes. "Look--" Adam's cell phone chimed, but he ignored it. "If you start getting emotional, I'm leaving. What part can I possibly play in all of this? What does his brother have to do with it?"

Boyd looked sidelong at Adam but didn't bother responding to the emotional comment. "He has the sort of connections that might be able to make a person disappear," he explained, "and he's not someone the Agency would think to check at first. Not with the two of them not even knowing each other, me having no connection to him, and especially not now that I know there's a long term undercover with him. So I was going to feel him out but you might know him better. Is he a viable option at all?"

The phone chimed again, and this time Adam pulled it out of his pocket. He thumbed over the touch screen as he responded. "He has money and he has connections. I've seen him make people disappear in more ways than one, so yes he can certainly make that happen."

Adam looked up at Boyd again. "But why would he care? What are you going to do to make this worth his while? He cares about family almost as much as he cares about human decency. Not very much at all."

"I was planning to pay him as much money as I can. Is there something that might sway him more?"

"I don't know," Adam said. He smoothed the pad of his thumb along his phone absently. His eyes were focused on Boyd, even when the device chimed again. "Sin's brother is peculiar. It takes a lot for something to draw his interest, but the appearance of an insane, on the run brother would likely pique that. Him helping is another story. He has to be handled in a particular way."

Boyd considered that, his lips turning down on the edges. "Do you have intel you'd be able to leave me on how to handle him?"

"No. I've been working with him for years for this assignment. It's not something you're going to be able to study up on." The phone went off three times in quick succession, and Adam grimaced. "He's insanely rich, so the money would have to be phenomenal. It will take some time. But I suppose I could act as your go-between."

Boyd relaxed and nodded. It was a good thing he'd already been putting varying amounts of money into two separate protected accounts for a while now and had otherwise been relatively frugal. He should be able to pull an exorbitant amount out without it catching the Agency's attention.

"Thank you, Adam."

"Don't thank me yet. He might still say no." The phone chimed again, and Adam sighed. "Gordon wants to track me down."

"Tell him to come if he wants," Boyd said unconcernedly. "As long as he isn't around when we're discussing Hsin, I don't care."

"Hmm." Adam considered that before thumbing out a quick message to the red-haired man. "I'll let him come briefly. It will placate him somewhat I guess."

Boyd nodded and fell silent briefly even as he continued to watch Adam. There was a faint fluctuation in the man's expression whenever Gordon seemed to be the topic of conversation or his attention; just the smallest draw of his lips that Boyd translated as vague, fond exasperation. He wondered if Adam realized he did that.

"What's the story with you two, anyway?"

"He's an idiot." Adam slid his phone back into his pocket, and looked around before dropping into the chair. "But disgustingly enough, I love him."

Boyd's eyebrows ticked up slightly. Considering Adam's rather morose nature and comment about expecting Boyd to become emotional earlier, he hadn't expected Adam to outright say that.

"Did you meet through your cover?"

"No. I--" Adam broke off, frowning. He shifted in the chair and rested one ankle on the opposite knee. "I'm a pretty terrible agent technically, I suppose. Fighting and killing is all well and good, but I quite loathe this job and don't carry things out as well as I could if I cared more. As a result, I rather idiotically got him mixed up in something when I needed a safehouse several years ago."

Boyd glanced over his shoulder, determined the pillows didn't look too disgusting, and pushed himself further up the bed so he could lean against the headboard.

"That's how he found out about the Agency?" he asked, crossing his legs.

"No. Well, in a sense." Adam paused, and arched a brow at Boyd. "Do you really want to hear this or are you just being polite for some bizarre reason?"

"Don't you remember?" Boyd's lips quirked in a smile. "I'm a curious person."

"You're a pest," Adam said, although a hint of humor made it onto his pale face. "If you must know, I didn't tell him for a long time. He's an idiot, but he's not stupid. He figured the vast majority of it out on his own. Somehow he made the connections between me, my mission the night I met him, Johnson's Pharmaceuticals, Murphy Corps being a cover for a government organization..."

The dark haired man trailed off. "It's ridiculous, and I still have no idea how he did it. I'm assuming it's a combination of his ability to believe far-fetched things, and the fact that he was a drug-dealer with ties to all kinds of people in this city."

Boyd grabbed one of the excessively lumpy pillows from behind his back and tossed it to the other side of the bed. Figuring all that out seemed impressive to Boyd, although he didn't know the specifics so it was hard to say. Gordon's actions earlier had made it seem like he wouldn't be that savvy, but that could be the persona he showed so he would be underestimated.

"Did he confront you with it?"

"No, not for a long time. He was more concerned with alternatively despising me for stalking him, and getting me in bed." There was a pause, and Adam made a face. "I wasn't stalking him because of some deluded infatuation. Not entirely. My compromise for not killing him after using him for a safehouse was keeping an eye on him. I became fond of his foul-mouthed, ginger ass for some reason, and after multiple near-death experiences of his that had nothing to do with me, we ended up... where we are now."

"If you keep being so emotional about him I'm leaving," Boyd said mildly, faint amusement curling his lips.

"It's more like exasperation and disgust."

"Right. I'm sure those are the reasons you're risking your life for him and threatened to kill my mother before you even knew what I'd do with the information."

Adam sat back in the chair, resting his arms on the sides. "I could be disgusted by my own affection."


"I'm not very affectionate or loving as it is. As shocking as that must be. But the situation is complicated."

"Does it have anything to do with him being a porn star?" Boyd asked curiously. "I would imagine his profession combined with his seeming personality might complicate things a bit."

Adam's lips pursed and his dark eyes slid away after a pause. "Yes, well. We have an open relationship."

"That was his idea?"

"Well." Adam tilted his head slightly, still looking at some point across the room. "I don't particularly like to share, so it wasn't mine."

Boyd continued to watch Adam for a moment before he said, "I'm sorry."

Adam shook his head and stood, pulling his phone out again. "Don't be. I can't complain since it was me who suggested he stay working for Chance, after Chance almost got him killed on more than one occasion. But it's in Gordon's best interest to stay connected to someone powerful in Lexington considering some of the enemies he's made over the years. Things were not easy at first, but we've made it work. And he's spectacular in bed." There was a pause, and Adam gave Boyd a narrow-eyed stare. "Although I guess you were about to find that out."

Boyd rolled his eyes. "There was maybe five minutes left in the time I'd been given when you showed. If anything, he'd have found out how fast I can get a guy off with my mouth. And," he added, "it isn't as if I wanted to do anything. I just planned to talk to Chance but Gordon followed us in."

"The three of us had a meeting." Adam walked over to the door. "And don't say that in front of Gordon or he'll want to have a contest. He once bragged to me that he could make me come in under a minute."

He jerked the door open as he said: "Or maybe you should say it. He can demonstrate on me."

Gordon walked in, his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his jeans. "Demonstrate what?"

"Your blowjob skills."

"Oh." Gordon frowned slightly, looking between Boyd and Adam. "Why? Are we having a threesome?"

"You're such a moron."

"Well, dude. Context or whatever would help." Gordon rolled his eyes and waved his hands in front of him. "Forget it, I don't even want to know."

"Gordon," Boyd commented once the door was shut. "It worked out fine but you'd be safer avoiding a similar first reaction to other agents. Most of them don't have my temperament and might react far differently."

"Yeah, thanks for the tip, twinkle toes." Gordon threw himself down in the spot that Adam had just vacated. "I like how you agent-types think you're so cool and intimidating. It's cute."

"Shut up," Adam said good-naturedly, cuffing Gordon on the back of the head.

"No, seriously, it is. You should have seen Adam before I started turning him out regularly. All super-serious face, and trying to scare me. Do they try to teach you dudes that as a tactic or something?"

"Well, first, you haven't seen me try to intimidate anyone," Boyd said with a shrug. "So you don't know whether or not it would be successful on you. But more importantly, Adam and I both aren't the types of agents you need to worry about. The ones you need to worry about won't even bother trying to intimidate you at all, they'll just kill you instead."

"Yeah, sorry, I kind of already know lots of people like that so it's not that scary anymore." Gordon shrugged. "So what are you guys doing? Just hanging out in a hotel? Gabbing about blowjobs?"

Boyd watched Gordon. The man seemed unnecessarily cavalier about everything, especially considering it was Adam's life at stake. Boyd thought about reinforcing to Gordon that he wasn't bothering with empty threats, he was simply telling the truth, and that it truly could be dangerous if Gordon assumed everyone was like them.

But if Gordon and Adam had made it for years with this arrangement then presumably Gordon knew when to actually be careful. Because if he didn't, he was going to get Adam and possibly himself killed one day. And Boyd had to assume Adam had impressed that upon him long ago.

So rather than bothering with any of that, he answered blandly:

"Of course. Didn't Adam tell you? That's in the agent handbook-- Sleepover Topics 101."

"Why are you encouraging him?" Adam asked, shaking his head.

"Because he's enthralled by me, obvs," Gordon said. He winked at Adam, and cocked his fingers at Boyd again. "So, what happens to you dudes when you fuck up?"

"Depends on the severity of it but tortured first, usually, and sometimes killed," Boyd replied. "Some mistakes warrant skipping the first step."

"Huh." Gordon levelled Adam with a long look, and crossed one knee over the other. "Interesting. I never got a real answer about that from certain people."

Boyd glanced at Adam as well, wondering if Adam had purposely been keeping Gordon in the dark on some topics and he shouldn't have answered so candidly. But Adam didn't look any differently than normal so it didn't seem he had a problem with it.

"Well," Boyd said, looking back at Gordon. "Sometimes when we care about people we worry about what we say to them more than a stranger would."

Adam rolled his eyes. "Don't listen to him. He has a lot of feelings."

"At least someone does, Mr. Roboto," Gordon muttered, slumping down in the chair and crossing his arms over his stomach. "So what's the deal with you people, anyway? Why join some dumb organization that makes you do all kinds of lame ass shit and then fucks you up if you make a mistake?"

Boyd glanced at Adam. "I have no idea why he joined. As for me, I had no idea what it was or what would be expected of me but I wanted to die at the time and it seemed as good a place as any."

"Geez. You must have been some emo kid."

"Yes, well. That seems to happen when you have a lot of feelings," Boyd said mildly.

"It's cool, no judgment here. I used to spend my days getting stoned so I could deal with all of my feelings."

"And fucking 250lb, bodybuilding serial killers," Adam added flatly.

"Yeah, well. Shit happens." Gordon grinned at Boyd. "Sooo... what's your name?"

"Oh." He'd completely forgotten he'd never actually introduced himself. "Boyd."

"Hi, Boyd. Does that mean you're not really going to be the new Marquis, and were only there for, like, covert motives?"

"I won't be working there, no."

Gordon actually looked disappointed, which wasn't lost on Adam at all. He made a face and grabbed Gordon by the back of his neck.

"Okay, that's enough. We need to actually go have our meeting with Chance, and Boyd has to go do whatever Boyd has to go do."

Before Boyd could speak he felt his Agency phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out immediately, his sense of ease cutting off as sharply as his face went blank. He saw Carhart's name, glanced at the other two in the room, and answered the phone.

"Can you be in within the hour?" the general asked immediately.


"Good. Be here." Carhart hung up without another word.

Eyebrows drawing together, Boyd returned the phone to his pocket and wondered what that was about. Since it was Carhart, it was most likely a briefing but it could be anything else. He didn't bother thinking about it too hard since the answer would come soon enough.

"And now he really does have to go do something," Adam said. He pulled Gordon up by the arm and nudged him toward the door.

"Wait," Boyd said before they could leave. He turned his gaze on Gordon as he stood. "I don't know if it will come up, but if you ever need an agent to help you for any reason-- protection, cover, a place to hide, anything-- and Adam isn't available, you can come to me."

Gordon's eyebrows shot up and he looked between Boyd and Adam, and back again. "Really? Why?"

"Because Adam is doing something for me so I want to do something for him. Besides," Boyd added as he crossed the room, "it isn't really your fault you're involved with the Agency in the first place so you shouldn't have to worry about the consequences of it."

"Yeah, tell me about it," Gordon said, shooting Adam a small smirk.

Something about Gordon's attitude had been tickling at the back of Boyd's mind. As he pulled out his phone and started thumbing through his contact list, he realized abruptly that Gordon reminded him a little of Lou.

They weren't very similar except for the way they seemed to go through the world; not seeming to take seriously the things everyone else did and seeming so certain it would work out alright in the end anyway. He supposed that was a good counterbalance to Adam's naturally pessimistic nature but the connection only served to underscore to Boyd that he didn't want anything to happen to Gordon in the future.

"I'll give you my cell number," Boyd said. "You can call me if you need anything but, obviously, don't give the number out." He glanced up. "Equally obviously, don't tell anyone what I am."

Gordon just stared at him in surprise and for the first time seemed incapable of forming a reply, which Boyd took to be assent. They exchanged numbers and soon afterward Adam and Gordon left.

When Boyd got to the Tower he found that the summons had been for a briefing. The anonymous tip Boyd had left regarding Annadale had made its way through the system and was now resulting in a mission. The mission would start in the coming weeks, with one of them enrolling in the university. Boyd volunteered to take it, much to Bex's apparent relief.

The briefing didn't take long and Ryan had to run out afterward to a previous engagement, so Boyd couldn't follow up on the phone calls.

As he headed back toward his house, he noticed a message on his phone and listened to it. In the background he could hear what sounded like a gambling establishment, with machines pinging and people cheering and the occasional louder voice of what sounded like someone calling out a bet.

His uncle's muffled voice seemed to be addressing someone else.

"No, I told you I want-- oh shit, wait." Riley's voice suddenly became much clearer as the background sounds grew dimmer. Boyd translated it in his mind as his uncle walking to a quieter corner or perhaps even outside. "Hey. Uh. Just wondering how you are."

Riley sounded slightly distracted and his voice moved further from the phone for a moment. "Something came up and I can't be around for awhile but I want to meet with you again. The twenty-eighth? Mayborn Hotel. I'll call you with the room number when I have it." There was a pause and then, "Anyway. You don't have to call back... I'll just track you down when I'm back in town if I don't see you at the hotel."

The background sound grew loud, abruptly, and almost as quickly quieted again. Riley sighed heavily and his voice arced away as if he were pulling the phone from by his ear. "No, I already told you--"

The voicemail abruptly ended.

Boyd deleted the message and made a mental note to remove anything of any sentimental or monetary value from his house before his uncle could return. He also knew he would be showing up at Mayborn Hotel, if for no other reason than to figure out his uncle's angle.

Remembering abruptly that he had to check Tech's messages and needing a place to hide his valuables, he turned back into the thick of town. After he'd eventually located a suitably secure storage facility that he paid for with cash and used a fake name, he stopped by a 24-hour internet cafe. His personal email account was untraceable but he still took several precautions on the computer before even accessing it.

Since he rarely used the address, the inbox was nearly empty with the spam folder boasting only a few messages. He saw several emails from Tech and dismissed them after skimming them. There was nothing new in them that he hadn't already learned from his last Annadale visit.

It was the email from an unknown address that caught his attention. He hadn't given the email address out to anyone other than Tech and Sin, so there was no reason anyone should know it.

There was no subject and when Boyd opened it he saw a compressed attachment with a name that seemed to be a random combination of letters and numbers. The email itself was simple:

if you receive me, it means my owner did not set back the timer and has already been taken care of by mutual friends. open me if you are prepared to die, be hunted, and endanger the people you care about

Boyd stared at the message, his fingers twitching on the keyboard.


He'd nearly forgotten he had given Ivan this address during the lock in, as a way to contact him when he had been trying to find a way to prove or disprove Ivan's innocence. He'd half expected Ivan to throw out the email address, as he had very reluctantly accepted it at the time.

When he looked at the date it had been sent, he saw it had arrived in his inbox the day before; a week after the break in at Chandler Heights. No one had seen Ivan during that time and although Boyd knew the Agency had him, what he didn't know was whether Ivan was still alive or whether they had already terminated him without advertising it.

He surreptitiously glanced around but, as before, no one was anywhere near him let alone paying any attention to him. He had specifically chosen this cafe for its lack of cameras and its terrible set up for discreet surveillance. If someone was watching him, he would know.

He reread the message, stared at the attached file for a long moment-- and thought of Sin.

For all of Ivan's paranoia, Boyd didn't doubt the veracity of the email's claims.

It wasn't safe, not right now. He still needed time to get everything ready for Sin before he could risk getting involved in anything else.

His lips thinned on the corners but in the end he closed the message and signed out, leaving the attachment untouched for another day.

Continue to Fade Chapter 26...