Fade Chapter Twenty-Eight

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

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Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter 28

Uploaded on 8/26/2012

It was the second time that Kassian was hiding Sin in his house, but this time it was more disturbing. The Agency wasn't actively hunting the man down, he wasn't on the verge of death and in need of medical support, and Kassian wasn't strung out the entire time, but it was disturbing nonetheless. This new version of Sin was completely different, but somehow Kassian still couldn't get used to thinking of him as Danny.

This Sin was quiet and thoughtful, he brooded but without the menacing glare, he apologized and said thank you, and he didn't even attempt to hide his worry and fear for Boyd. This Sin actually took the time to explain what he was thinking, and that was completely unexpected and bizarre.

It was two days since Boyd's disappearance and they'd already fallen into a routine. After the first false blip of hope from Ryan and Vivienne tracing the GPS on Boyd's second cell phone, tense silences were common and frequent. After the trace had led to nothing more than the phone itself and no sign of Boyd, they both waited in anticipation for a new lead.

When one of them started going too stir crazy, the other would break the silence. When Sin's constant pacing began to put Kassian on edge, the other man stopped. And when the pounding bass of Kassian's music started to amp up Sin's adrenaline and restlessness, Kassian would cut it off without having to be asked.

It was weird, but weirdly comforting to have someone else around. So many terrible things had happened in the past few years that Kassian almost felt numb to the situation now. However, the stress still caused him to pick up the bottle almost as easily as if he'd never stopped drinking. Being helpless when a friend was in danger was something that would never become easier to cope with, and he was in need of a distraction. Drinking was the distraction he fell back on just as he had in the past.

It had been the same when Leighton died, but he still felt more together now than he had back then. When she died, he'd almost completely lost control. Now he drank, but he was still functional, still planning, and still trying to figure out what their next move could be. He defaulted to mission mode because it was easier to think about things with that mindset. It also helped that he and Sin reminded each other constantly that Boyd wasn't dead. It didn't make sense for him to be dead. They wouldn't have bothered to take him at all if they just wanted him dead.

There were so many unknowns in the situation that it was driving Kassian insane. There had been complete radio silence from Vivienne on the subject of Sin. Kassian had no idea whether Carhart or Emilio even knew since neither man had returned his calls, and he also didn't know if it was safe to tell Ryan yet.

"Do you ever sleep?" Kassian asked as he watched Sin mechanically chew a stale bagel.

"No. But neither do you."

Raising one shoulder in a shrug, Kassian took a long sip from his coffee. "You pace the whole night, man. How do you know I'm up?"

"If I tell you, you'll think I'm weirder than you already think I am," Sin said dryly. He shoved the plate away from him and hunched forward on the counter.

"I already think you're pretty weird, Vega."


"You're welcome."

Sin's lips twitched up slightly, and Kassian shook his head. He didn't think he'd ever get used to this easy companionship they had going, but it wasn't bad.

"Do you want me to try to call you Danny? I mean I can, but it's weird."

"You don't have to. It's not even a real name so what's the point?"

"Does Boyd call you Danny?"

Sin nodded, but at the mention of Boyd he began fidgeting. His hands went back to the plate, and he began slowly ripping the remainder of his bagel apart. "He did but now that I think back, I can tell he would slip sometimes. Like when he first met me, and... other times."

Kassian watched the other man for a moment, taking in the unhappy, downturned lips and miserable, green eyes. "Are you two... together? I know you were before you disappeared but, are you now?"

The question seemed to snap Sin out of whatever depressed fog he'd started to slip into, because suddenly those eyes rose to meet Kassian's with the hawk-like intensity that was incredibly familiar. "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious. No need to get tense."

"Uh huh." Sin brushed the crumbs from his hands, and studied Kassian. "Why did you say that we don't like each other, again?"

Lips twitching, Kassian picked up his coffee cup. "I didn't say."

"So say now," Sin suggested.

It was one of those moments where Kassian was blown away by how such a subtle thing, the simple intonation of a three word sentence, could show the drastic difference between this Sin and the old Sin. The old Sin would have said it like a command, and with a lot less patience.

"Well..." Kassian said slowly, pausing with the cup against his mouth. "We never really got along because you're typically a mean bastard, but then you and Boyd broke up, and I started sleeping with him."

Sin nodded, somehow lacking any sort of surprise as he kept watching Kassian neutrally. "Did we ever have a threesome?"

Kassian nearly choked on the coffee he'd just swallowed, and spit it back into the cup. He coughed violently, wincing and set it down on the counter. After he was finished embarrassing himself thoroughly, he shot Sin an incredulous stare.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Threesome." Sin shrugged, although for the first time since that first night, his mouth twisted up into an actual amused, half-smile. "I told you I had strange dreams a lot, and most of them seem to be actual memories. So I was wondering if that one was."

"You had a dream that we had a threesome?"

"Yeah. We were--" Sin stopped, and shook his head. "Well, you don't need to know the details."

"Maybe I want to know them."

"That's why you don't need to know them." The look Sin shot Kassian wasn't exactly warning, but it was getting there. "I was asking, not inviting you to have one."

Kassian shrugged, and stood up. He drained his coffee cup in the sink and went to pour himself a fresh one. "I should have just said yes. I've always wondered what it would be like to fuck you."

"Well, keep wondering, buddy."

A quiet chuckle escaped Kassian, and he reseated himself across from Sin. The amusement had already faded, and the destruction of the bagel had resumed.

"I can't keep waiting like this," Sin said after the silence stretched longer. "I'm going to go fucking insane. You people are supposed to be amazing and resourceful-- why isn't anyone doing anything? Where the fuck is his mother? Or these other people you told me about?"

"Your father?" Kassian asked, arching a brow.

Sin frowned, somehow seeming doubtful that such a person existed. "Who the hell ever, man. Where are they? Anything could be happening to him right now, and I can't even actively do anything but fucking sit here. What good is being Modified and having all of these skills if I can't use them? I can't even help research anything because I'm supposed to be dead."

The words were familiar, and the sentiment wasn't much different than how Kassian had felt when his sister had gone missing. Being attached to one of the most powerful organizations in the world, and somehow still being unable to find his sister or her killer, had driven him nearly insane. He'd drunk himself into a fucking black hole that Ryan had managed to pull him out of with sympathy, and understanding, and surprising amounts of tenderness.

"Sometimes even though we have access to all of this technology and Intel it doesn't mean a damn thing. Sometimes we're as bad off as regular cops if we don't have a lea--" Kassian stopped abruptly as something occurred to him. He put down his coffee cup again and looked at Sin. "Why don't we go back down to his house now that the police and fire marshal have cleared out? We never got to look around for ourselves."

He'd barely finished his sentence before Sin stood. They walked back to Magnolia Lane and bypassed the crime scene tape around the charred remains of Boyd's house. Any evidence that may have been there was completely destroyed, and the brief sense of purpose that Kassian had felt dwindled. Or it almost did until Sin noticed someone watching them across the street.

For all that Boyd had referenced his nosy, old neighbor; Kassian had never seen or met the woman himself. But somehow Sin had noticed Mrs. Hensley as she peered at them through her blinds, and Kassian barely hesitated before crossing the street and knocking on her door.

There was a sudden flutter of motion he could hear inside the house, complete with the squawking of a bird. There was a long silence that followed and just after Kassian knocked again the wooden door suddenly opened, leaving the old glass and wrought iron screen door shut.

A little, old woman peered out from between the wrought iron, her sharp, blue eyes darting suspiciously between the two of them. She held a phone in her hand that was so old it didn't seem possible it would still work, until she lifted the handle and a dull dial tone could be heard. She held the phone up like it was a weapon.

"What do you want?" she demanded, her voice reedy. "I'm calling the police! You're trespassing!"

"Uh. I knocked on the door." Kassian stared at her in confusion. "I'm-- I live a few streets down. I'm friends with the guy who lived across the street."

At the words, her eyes narrowed. "I know you."

She took several steps backward, the suspicion turning into outright disgust. She half stood behind the wooden door, hanging up the phone in favor of one hand pointing accusingly at them. "Filth, the both of you! I always knew that boy would bring ruin to the neighborhood. He got what was coming to him, if you ask me. His mother should have moved him out years ago before--"

She gestured wordlessly toward the burned house across the street. "Before any of this. That woman is lucky no one else was hurt or we'd have sued! I have half a mind to already. Do you know what this will do to my property value?"

"I don't even know you, old lady," Sin said with a frown.

"Ha!" Mrs. Hensley said sharply, waving a knotted hand toward his face. "You're the worst of them! Coming and going at all hours, acting like you own the neighborhood. Don't think I don't know what acts your kind does when you think no one's watching. I see what happens when he doesn't close those curtains. He flaunts it for the whole world to see."

Kassian pressed his lips together, and nodded seriously. "I apologize for the two of them, and their... flaunting." Sin glared at him, and reached out to shove his shoulder. "But can you tell me if his curtains were open the night of the fire? Did you notice anything then?"

"Of course I did," Mrs. Hensley retorted indignantly. She straightened to her full height which didn't seem likely to pass 5 foot. "I was up giving Pearl her medicine and I looked out when I saw vehicle lights. I saw those friends of his crawling around the place."

"What friends?" Sin demanded.

"These were people you've observed before around the property?" Kassian asked. His pulse sped up and his mind automatically skipped back to the conversation with Boyd, with Vivienne. The Agency, the information, the fucking Journalist Guild.

"How should I know?" she asked, her wrinkled face pinching. "They wore black, it was dark. You think I have special binoculars over here? I only see what I see."

She paused, her hand tightening briefly on the edge of the door and her eyes moving between the two men. After a moment she set the phone down on a nearby table and shuffled closer to the door, her suspicion apparently momentarily forgotten in the face of having someone to gossip to.

"But they had to be his friends. They walked right in the door and the alarm didn't go off. I could see it was armed-- it flashes red, you know. Joe-- that's our mailman-- he set it off one time on accident when that boy wasn't around and the racket it caused!" Her eyebrows rose and she threw her hands up. "You'd think the White House was breached! People showed up right away to look around. And nothing like that happened this time, not even when all of them went inside."

"That's not--" Kassian bit down on the sentence, and looked back at the house briefly.

"What happened then?" The questions had defaulted to typical-Sin demands with a complete lack of patience. "And if you tell me that you didn't s--"

"Did you see anything else, Mrs. Hensley?" Kassian interrupted quickly. "If you saw anything else, you could help the police considerably. Imagine if these weren't his friends-- these people could come back. After the war there were so many arsonists around, or people kidnapping for ransom..."

Mrs. Hensley scoffed at that. "I wouldn't help the police if they asked! I won't risk retaliation, getting involved in that boy's business." She eyed the two of them. "But if it gets you two off my stoop, I'll tell you." She moved closer but still made no attempt to open the screen door separating them.

"I was up early for Pearl's medicine-- I can't sleep in this weather, my air conditioning unit needs fixing and my nephew keeps breaking it every time he comes over-- so I know it was 11:32 when they went inside because I saw it on my clock. A van came down the street and the lot of them unloaded and went inside, and then the van drove away. That boy keeps strange hours so I didn't think much of it. Pearl was having one of her bad nights so I stayed up talking to her and then I saw lights again. When I looked outside I saw him running in, all in a hurry like he was ready to go somewhere. I about looked away but he'd turned the lights on, you know. So then I stopped to see what was all about those people earlier. It seemed an odd time for a party but I've seen stranger things at that house." She looked pointedly at Sin and then after that carried the look over to Kassian.

"And?" Sin looked like he wanted to rip the screen door off and shake the rest of the story out of the old woman.

She eyed Sin, her lips pinching disapprovingly, but kept talking regardless. "Nothing, at first, but then all of a sudden there was some sort of hullabaloo." Her face scrunched. "Everything was so fast it was hard to see, and the curtains were only open halfway. He closes them most times but sometimes they catch. They need to get that rod looked into; mine does the same. It's part of the way these houses were constructed, you know. Makes it awful difficult to get proper privacy."

She looked expectantly at them, as if she was waiting for them to agree with her or express interest in the finer points of Magnolia Lane housing construction. It didn't happen. She harrumphed and rearranged the battered old lace shawl she had thrown on over her formless dress.

"It looked like some sort of raucous party at first-- things flying all over the place, people jumping up and falling down. He was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. And it scared me something else when he looked at the window, right at my house! Like he knew I was watching. I almost walked away-- I don't have time to get involved with his kind."

She emphasized the sentiment with a sharp shake of her head and another rearrangement of her shawl. Neither Kassian nor Sin spoke, not wanting to derail her again, and when it became clear there would be no comment she continued.

"Then he ran at the window like he planned to jump right out of it, or maybe he wanted to flaunt his party and open the curtains, when all of a sudden the lights went out. I couldn't see much but there were flashes of light," she opened and closed her hand repeatedly as if to demonstrate light flickering or a strobing light, "some of it blue. Then nothing moved for a while, and next thing I knew the van came back and parked in the driveway. Seemed like more than half the people that went inside were being carried out by the rest so I didn't see at first he was one of them."

Her eyebrows drew together, her finger tapping lightly on the wrought iron door. "The strange thing is, it looked like he was tied up but he wasn't moving so I couldn't see clearly. I only saw a little from the light of the van. Then they threw him in with the others and left."

She ended the story with a simple shrug.

They both stared at her, and although a flare of irritation shot through Kassian at her nonchalance, it was nothing compared to the storm of anger that was amassing next to him. He raised a hand instinctively, and put it on Sin's shoulder. The muscles were coiled tight, and Kassian squeezed slightly.

"What did the van look like, Mrs. Hensley?"


"Anything else?" Kassian asked patiently. He backed up a step, pulling Sin with him. "License plate? Big wheels? Anything custom?"

"It was black and that's all I saw," she said impatiently, eyes narrowing toward Sin. She took a few steps backward again, her face returning to the distrustful glare from before. "I told you everything so you get off my property! And tell someone to take care of that car of his. It's an eyesore. If only he'd had it in the garage it could have burned with the rest."

Sin flipped the woman off just as she slammed the door shut. "Stupid fucking bitch." He turned around and rolled his shoulders, eyes narrowing at Boyd's half-burned car.

"You need to relax, man," Kassian said with a shake of his head. He gave Mrs. Hensley a sarcastic wave as she drew her blinds shut. "You can't walk around looking like you want to punch old ladies."

"I wanted to break her neck."

"Yeah, and it was really apparent." Kassian nudged Sin forward, and started walking down the street. "Just relax. Danny-up or whatever. She was useful."

"Would have been more useful if she'd bothered to tell anyone that information two goddamn days ago." Sin inhaled deeply as he clenched and unclenched his hands. He inhaled and exhaled again, deeper this time, and then looked at Kassian. "So, if this city is anything like D.C. or Carson, there's probably surveillance cameras around a lot of the neighborhoods even if they're residential. There must be some way to see if the van she mentioned was really around here during that time. Maybe look at the plates."

Kassian nodded. "Right. The descriptions that she gave are one of two useful things we got from her."

"What's the other?" Sin asked, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"It wasn't the Agency." Kassian pulled his phone out, and once again started to text Carhart although by now he didn't expect a response. "They never would have left her alive."

It took three hours for anyone to contact Kassian. While he waited, he spent the whole time texting Ryan about the cameras around northern Lexington and watching the pendulum of Sin's personality swing back and forth the more stressed he got. When Ryan told Kassian that clearance levels had been jacked up and he had limited access to even basic things, Sin looked about ready to have a meltdown. A meltdown that would lead to violence.

Surprisingly talking him down helped. Physical contact helped. Kassian decided to swing by Killian's to buy some Xanax from a small-time pusher, anyway. Sin popped a couple of pills, Kassian knocked back a couple of shots, and they sat in the bar as he stared at his phone and waited.

"I'm losing it."

Kassian shook his head and held up two fingers so the waitress would bring him another couple of shots. "No you're not. I've seen you lose it, and this isn't it. But... you do act more like the Sin I know when you start getting angry. I kind of like Danny more, though."

Sin frowned slightly at that, and looked away. Belatedly, Kassian realized what he was implying and added: "But that's because me and Vega are both hard-headed assholes. I'm pretty sure Boyd likes the fact that you're an asshole a lot of the time."

"Oh yeah?" Sin asked doubtfully. He reached back to tie his hair back, seeming increasingly annoyed with the length. "Why would that be? I seem like an impatient fucking nutjob."

"Yeah, but you're his impatient nutjob. And I think the fact that you're so quick to tattoo people's faces with your knuckles kind of turns him on."

Sin's mouth curled up into a small grin, and Kassian tipped a shot glass at him. His phone chimed just as the alcohol scalded down his throat, and they both sat up instantly. It was a message from Carhart with instructions for Sin to go to the Mayborn Hotel, and Kassian to go to the basement of Jake & Janet's.

Kassian frowned down at the message as he relayed the information to Sin. It would have been nice for the general to have at least confirmed that they knew what was going on earlier, but at least contact had finally been made. He and Sin agreed to split up but not before Kassian gave Sin one of his guns just in case anything went wrong.

They left Kassian's bike in front of Killian's and walked towards their destinations together. In reality, Mayborn and Jake & Janet's were only twenty minutes apart but Kassian still couldn't shake the protective streak of unease that shot through him when they parted ways.

As Sin strode off towards Crandall Park, Kassian watched his lean form disappear with a slight frown. It was completely irrational to worry about someone who was without a doubt the best fighter he'd ever met, but Danny's openness was so different from Sin's stone-cold persona, that it translated to vulnerability in Kassian's mind. He could tell that this version of Sin didn't like being a killer, and it made Kassian wonder if the other man would hesitate when he shouldn't.

When Sin had disappeared entirely from view, Kassian turned to continue into the Theater District and recoiled in surprise.

"Goddammit, Emilio," he said irritably, running a hand through his hair. "Don't fucking sneak up on me."

Emilio's eyes moved slowly from where they'd undoubtedly been tracking Sin, and focused on Kassian. "Don't let yourself be snuck up on then."

Frowning, Kassian looked over his shoulder again but Sin was definitely gone. "Is Carhart at Mayborn?"

"Yes." Emilio turned and began walking in the direction of the club. With sharp, agitated motions, he pulled out a cigarette and put it between his lips.

"Why didn't you talk to Sin?" Kassian asked after a moment of watching Emilio's expression grow darker. "I told him you might be there."

"What difference does it fucking make? He don't know me no more."

"Wow." Kassian shook his head. Why was he even surprised? "I would think you'd be happy that your son is alive."

"His body is alive but he ain't my son no more."

It was hard to bite back the string of scathing retorts that nearly rolled off Kassian's tongue, but he did it anyway. The walk to Jake & Janet's was tense, and Emilio smoked the entire time. When they got there, he procured an entire bottle of Jack Daniels from the bar and led Kassian down to the basement. It was pretty much deserted in the daytime hours, but there were still two couples in different alcoves who were obviously fooling around.

Emilio ripped the curtain aside to an empty one, and dropped on the velvet couch behind it. As Kassian pulled the curtain shut again, Emilio started drinking straight from the bottle and didn't bother to offer the younger agent any. Some of Kassian's irritation at Emilio had faded during the walk, and as he watched Emilio's expressive face, the rest of it dissipated.

"It's okay to be upset, Emilio. This whole situation is--"

"Who the fuck is upset?"

Kassian shook his head and let it drop. "I've been trying to contact the two of you for days."

Emilio gestured vaguely. Now that they were so close, Kassian could see that his eyes were bloodshot. "It's been nuts over there since Boyd disappeared. Everyone is on high alert, everyone is fucking being followed and monitored because they're 100% sure the mole had something to do with it."

"It had to be the mole," Kassian agreed. "We just spoke to Boyd's neighbor, and she said the people who broke in seemed to know the alarm codes or how to disable it which should be impossible."

"Right." Emilio took another swig from the bottle. A bead of liquid trailed down the side of his mouth and went down his neck. Kassian tracked its progress before forcing himself to look away. "And since that bitch banned anyone from looking for Boyd, everyone close to the kid is kept under watch 'cause she don't trust them to follow orders. Even me, and she thinks I'm her dude now. But I'm in the unit and she don't show favoritism all obviously."

Well that certainly explained the complete radio silence and Ryan's lack of accessibility. "Does anyone seem to know about Sin?"

"Nuh uh." Emilio set the bottle down and slumped down on the sofa. He'd drained a third of the bottle already. "If they know shit, they ain't letting it show. Vivienne told Zach, and Zach told me. We didn't believe her at first, but then... I dunno." Emilio's eyebrows drew together, and he looked down at his hands. "Anyway, it don't matter."

For all that Emilio was a hardass bastard, he was horrible at hiding what he was feeling. Kassian leaned forward and put a hand on the other man's knee. "He's not totally different, you know. He's not a complete stranger. He's still your Hsin."

Red-rimmed, green eyes met Kassian's and for a moment it looked like Emilio would say something more, but then he just grabbed the bottle again.

"Tell me what you found out, Blondie. I got to get back to the compound, and I fully intend to come in your ass before we leave this club."

Danny didn't know what he'd been expecting when he walked into room 22, but it hadn't been to automatically be yanked into an embrace. He remembered the man from some of the flashbacks and from Boyd's drawings, and Kassian had filled him in on the name and a brief history.

Zachary Carhart, third in charge at the Agency, and he'd always been fond and protective of Sin.

The general looked younger at the moment with his eyes wide and wheat-colored hair unruly while he hugged Danny fiercely. It was slightly awkward at first, but then the older man's breath started going ragged and his shoulders trembled slightly. Danny relaxed and raised a hand to press between Carhart's shoulder blades.

"I'm sorry," Carhart said thickly. Even after several long moments, he seemed to reluctantly pull away. "You don't even remember me and I'm being absurd."

"I remember you," Danny said automatically. "I mean, I remember some things. I get flashbacks a lot. I used to think they were dreams."

Carhart wiped a hand across his face and sniffed. His eyes were slightly damp and red, but he seemed to pull himself together quickly. "I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable."

"It's fine. Everyone else started stripping me to use my scars as identification so this was an improvement."

The general released another shaky sigh, and nodded slightly. He rubbed his hands along the thighs of his jeans, and sat on the edge of the bed. Carhart watched as Danny took a seat in the armchair across from him, and seemed to be taking in every minute detail.

"We talked to this woman earlier," Danny said after an awkward stretch of silence. "Mrs. Hensley. She lives across the street from Boyd, and saw the entire thing from start to finish. She even saw when the people arrived at his house."

Carhart leaned forward, eyes narrowing. He seemed to shake off his emotional outburst quickly enough.

"Tell me everything."

"She thought they were friends of his at first, because she said the alarm never went off like it has in the past and they were able to easily get in. She saw when Boyd came home, saw the entire fight through the windows in the living room, and then watched as he was taken from the house and thrown into the back of a black van. Kassian thinks it was Janus or whoever your traitor is, but he said the fact that Boyd's house was destroyed is not normal."

"It isn't." Carhart stood up and crossed his arms over his chest. "Did he explain the mole?"

When Danny nodded, Carhart went on. "We've had agents targeted in the past several months but it never seemed this personal. But that makes sense. The timing between this and the Janus activity lately is too coincidental. We never had reason to believe it was Janus who had the agent directory before, but if they have it now, it makes sense that they'd go after Boyd so viciously. You and he have been a very specific thorn in their side for years."

"Is that why they blew up his house, then? Because it's personal?"

Carhart frowned. "I'm not sure. I know they have a visual of Boyd, and I know that they know he has a partner. I think it's likely that the device was timed to kill anyone who may have come searching for him."

Danny leaned forward and pressed his forearms against his thighs. His chest tightened, and that fucking image passed before his eyes again: blond hair darkened by blood, lips blue, golden eyes open and staring blankly. Danny shuddered, and closed his eyes.

"This is my fault."

"How?" Carhart demanded, skepticism heavy in his voice. "This is not the time for you to become irrational. You and he are so protective of each other that you blame yourselves as soon as something happens with the other."

"But it is," Danny insisted, opening his eyes again to stare up at the general. "If I knew who I was, if I'd known things, I would have never told Boyd about the Janus activity in Annadale and gotten him mixed up in it. I would have handled it myself. And now for all I fucking know he's--"

Danny broke off, and shot up out of the chair. He began to pace again as the aching in his head intensified. The Xanax had briefly dulled the racing of his pulse and the constantly flashing mental images and flashbacks, but it was already metabolizing out of his system.

Carhart watched him pace, and took a step forward although he didn't touch him. "It's amazing," he said quietly. "How much you two have been through and even now your feelings haven't changed. Even though you don't remember anything."

"Being with him makes me feel different." Danny shook his head as he tried to figure out how to explain what he hadn't even been able to figure out himself. "Since I moved to Annadale I felt... peaceful I guess, but it still seemed wrong. Everything seemed off, like something was missing. It didn't feel right until I was with Boyd. And even then, I was a fucking asshole half the time because I knew he was hiding things."

"He was trying to protect you. He couldn't have known how any of this would play out if he told you or anybody else."

"I know that now."

Danny stopped pacing and stared hard at the general. "I can't live like this. I can't exist knowing there are parts of me missing. I can't function knowing he's out there somewhere and I have to wait for other people to act because I have to stay in hiding."

A flash of uncertainty crossed Carhart's face. "I understand, but there's nothing we can do for now. Let's focus on following up on the Intel you and Kassian just gathered. Vivienne or I will have to get into the city's surveillance system. Everyone else is blocked at the moment."

"Okay." Danny nodded, and inhaled deeply again. "Okay."

"Hsin..." This time Carhart did step forward. He tipped Danny's chin up and stared into his eyes. "You have to tell me if something's wrong with you. You've been on medication for a long time, and I don't know how they've messed with your mind further."

"I'm fine."

"You don't look fine," Carhart said sharply. "You look like you're unraveling."

In truth, Danny felt like he was. Sleep was impossible, eating was impossible, and the continuous flashes and synapses were making him feel completely out of control. With every passing hour, the symptoms that had started weeks ago grew progressively worse. It felt like someone had unplugged him, and things were starting to go very, very wrong.

"I'll be fine."

Carhart didn't look convinced, but Danny wasn't very convinced of it himself.

"We'll find him." Carhart said firmly.

"How do you know? How can you be so sure?"

"Because you and he are like my wayward fucking children and I refuse to lose one now that I finally got the other back." Carhart looked away briefly, eyebrows furrowed. He looked exactly like the drawing from Boyd's sketchbook at that point; wearied and sad. "We'll find him."

Kassian showed up at the hotel an hour later. He looked less steady, and Danny could smell alcohol, and cologne that Kassian hadn't been wearing before. Carhart didn't seem to miss those things either, and when he spoke to Kassian it was more formal, and his eyes narrowed slightly. Regardless, they scraped together the bare outlines of a plan and of how they would stay below Marshal Seong's radar.

This time whoever was making moves at the Agency made them faster. Danny didn't know if it was Carhart or Vivienne pushing things, but by the end of that night they had solid Intel and a possible location on the van. It was surprisingly easy to fall into the rhythm of a mission's parameters, and by the time they were driving out of Lexington in Kassian's truck, the two of them were in sync.

Vivienne had put together a surveillance trail that had snagged images of the black van from right outside of Boyd's subdivision and into Carson. The Wasteland stretched between the two cities significantly and the trail was lost for awhile, but she'd managed to pick it up again in the shell of what had once been an industrial district of the other city. They'd narrowed the possible location down using pre-war maps of Carson, and pinpointed a specific section of the neighborhood where the van had last been captured on the functioning surveillance systems in the city.

"No fireworks until we have a location for Boyd," Kassian said as he adjusted the comm in Danny's ear. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, and all traces of the slightly inebriated man from earlier that afternoon had disappeared.

Danny nodded, and flexed his hands slightly. The armor Kassian had insisted he wear felt heavy and threw off his equilibrium.

The potholes in the streets became so deep that Kassian's truck rocked violently over the roads as if they were in the middle of uncharted land. The city was black and dead silent, with only the occasional flickering streetlight to show there was electricity available at all. They didn't see a single person but Danny kept catching glimpses of movement from the corner of his eyes; just the barest shift of black against darker black, and unknown whether it had been human, Feral, or animal.

They had to approach the area carefully, going in a wide circle to ensure there were no tails. Kassian had Danny watching for cameras and checking against the maps Vivienne had provided them to show where camera systems might be. She had warned them that although they had no reason to believe Janus knew the Agency had tracked the van to this location, they still couldn't be certain whether Janus was watching the surrounding area for anyone approaching.

The closer they grew to the warehouse, the tighter Danny's chest felt. As the tension built inside of him, it thrummed through his body and brought with it equal parts anticipation and impatience.

Danny could not stop thinking of the alternative to rescue as the shadows grew bolder, and as the buildings loomed around them like shattered sentinels. Too vividly, he could imagine Boyd dead. Too vividly, he could imagine getting there too late.

His jaw shifted, eyebrows hooding his eyes, and Kassian stayed quiet although Danny caught the occasional flicker of blue eyes in his direction.

They had narrowed the possible location down to a few blocks, and searched each one. Danny's eyesight was sharp in the gloom, giving them the advantage of not even needing the lights on. Most of the buildings were destroyed either from the war, or simply from abandonment over time. Most of the area didn't have any indication of electricity but there were a few blocks that were dimly illuminated by flickering bulbs, and it was there that they saw the tracks.

Danny saw them first; the barest contour of shadows along the ground. His heartbeat pounded in his chest, a vibration that hummed along his ribcage, and he could feel adrenaline tingling even to the tips of his fingers.

This was it. He knew it with certainty. This was the place.

They followed the tracks, their booted feet silent except for the occasional quiet crunch of gravel and dirt beneath the soles. Kassian was a shadow that moved in and out of the dark, silently communicating with Danny through hand gestures and looks. They had the comm units, but it didn't feel right to speak, not when they were this close. Anticipation felt like a heavy blanket stifling his lungs.

The tracks vanished for a short while but picked up again and finally arced into a large building looming above them. The doors were all shut but several of the windows on the second and third floor were broken.

The doors were locked, but it was easy enough to breach the locks, and soon they were inside. The building appeared to be some sort of old warehouse or factory, with a huge open space and hallways leading off in another direction. They found the black van, parked and seemingly unoccupied in the middle of the room. There were dark splatters against the concrete floor that Danny recognized to be blood.

Kassian moved toward the van immediately, peering carefully inside, but Danny's attention had shifted elsewhere. As soon as they'd moved further into the room, the silence gave way to a faint sound: a murmur of people speaking, unintelligible, but within it he recognized a voice.


"I hear something."

"Wait--" Kassian started to say but Danny was already moving forward.

He could hear the voices growing louder; could hear the faint clinking of metal against metal. The sound was still muffled, still not clear enough, but as he grew closer he could distinguish words.

"You may as well give up," a man's voice was saying. "We have plenty of time to find all the ways to make you talk."

Danny followed the sounds down a hallway.

Boyd's voice came across in a low growl, "Fuck y--" The words twisted into a pained shout.

Rage burned like bile in Danny's throat. He saw a light flickering under a doorway at the end.

"I could do this all day but can you take it--"

The metal wrenched with a catastrophic sound as the entire door buckled beneath Danny's foot. The door ripped off its hinges and flew into the room, crashing and skidding across the concrete floor with a screech that echoed throughout the building.

As Danny entered the room, ducking and immediately pinning himself to the wall with his gun out, he was vaguely aware that Kassian was behind him. However that thought was almost immediately lost when he quickly looked around the room.

There was a metal slab across the room with a conveyor belt nearby. Blood splattered the area; not a truly significant amount.

The place was empty but the voices kept going.

"--no one will be coming to save you--"

Danny saw the faint flashing of light at the end of the room and realized that a digital recorder was emitting the voices. His eyebrows drew together and the anger temporarily stunned him. He couldn't move, speak or react but suddenly Kassian's hand was clamping down on his and yanking him out of the room.


Danny looked at Kassian blankly and the other man began dragging him down the hall, boots pounding against the floor.

"They lured us!" Kassian shouted.

Comprehension set in and fragments of knowledge from Danny's other life clicked together. The recording had started when they'd entered the building. IED with a tripwire or pressure detonator. Possibly delayed fuse. Timed to lure them in deeper; far enough into the building that a normal person couldn't escape.

Danny threw Kassian over one shoulder like he weighed nothing and took off running, bringing them bursting out of the building faster than should have been humanly possible. Instincts told him to get distance, as much as possible, and he dove behind the hull of an old jeep across the street just as the warehouse exploded.

Glass shattered around them, light and flames erupting as bright and hot as daylight. The jeep rocked and nearly flipped over before Danny's hand against it steadied it to settle back down as a shield. The explosion was fast and violent and within seconds they found themselves surrounded by devastation with the flickering glow of orange flames lighting the area stronger than the dull streetlights.

"Damn it," Kassian breathed. He scrambled to his feet, eyes flicking between the burning building and Danny. His eyes were wide, and for the first time in two days he seemed incapable of the calm that he'd been so obviously trying to emit for Danny the entire time. Now he just stared in open-mouthed shock as Danny got to his feet, unscathed and not even out of breath.


"Fuck," Danny hissed, hands balling up as he squeezed his eyes shut. The anger was coming fast and hard, running over him like a freight train as fragments of images and voices compacted together to release in his brain.

It wasn't Boyd. It was another setup. Another trick. They'd known someone would come, that he would come-- that Sin would come. And he couldn't do anything-- Boyd was gone.

"Motherfuckers," he shouted so loud that the sound echoed across the deserted area in a way that caused Kassian to shudder. Danny's eyes snapped open and he released a sound that was almost a growl before slamming his fist into the metal frame of the jeep.

"Fuck, fuck, FUCK!"

Distantly, Danny registered that Kassian was fumbling with his phone even while he didn't look away but Danny didn't care. Fury had overtaken everything. He was destroying the vehicle, ripping pieces off and denting it, throwing parts violently and with enough force for them to vanish into the inferno across the street.

Just as Kassian started to jam his finger against the touch screen, Danny dimly heard Emilio's tinny voice demand: "What the fuck is going on?"

"It was a false trail," Kassian shouted over the roar of the fire. "There was a proximity bomb this time, and Sin is freaking out."

"ETA 2 minutes," Emilio's voice said flatly.

Danny completely destroyed the vehicle and panted wildly, his hands pressed to the sides of his head as he paced the area. The sound of his own heartbeat and rushing blood wouldn't leave his ears. The violence he'd inflicted hadn't calmed him at all; his pulse was only racing faster, and his thoughts were becoming more erratic.

Kassian had started hesitantly approaching at some point.

"Sin, calm down, it's not over--"

"I can't FUCKING calm down!"

Kassian started forward again, and grabbed Danny's arm. Danny shoved Kassian away violently, and was opening his mouth to tell the other man to back off, to tell him that something was going wrong in his head, when pain ripped through him. Crying out, Danny crumpled to his knees and pressed his hands against his temples harder.

The sound of boots pounding against concrete filled his ears, and Danny screamed again as the sound thrummed in his skull. He dragged his hands down to press against his ears and shook his head, breath coming in sharp, ragged bursts as he tried to muffle the sounds that were overwhelming him.

"What the hell is wrong with him?" a voice demanded as the sound of running skidded to a stop.

"I don't know, he just started screaming!"

Strong hands gripped the sides of Danny's head and forced him to look up. He couldn't see through the tearing of his eyes, but over the onslaught of noise and pain, he could barely make out a voice talking to him in a different language. He could faintly see someone looking down at him, and it was like looking at a rougher, harder version of himself.

"He's like fucking... malfunctioning or something," Kassian's voice drifted through the rush of noise.

The other voice didn't answer Kassian at first, it just kept speaking to Danny, the tones calming and commands clear: close your eyes, breathe, think of something good, breathe.

The images that flashed behind Danny's closed eyelids were different this time. No more death, or blood, or violence. No more screams of pain, or explosions, or anger. Just Boyd, and sunlight, Boyd smiling, trees, lips against him, laughter, a swinging bench, and contentment.

"There's something wrong, and we can't fix him," the other voice said quietly, and Danny's eyelids grew heavy as fingers dug into a point in the side of his neck sharply. "We have to take him back."

As Danny's vision dimmed and everything started to slow down, one last thought resounded in his mind:


Continue to Fade Chapter 29...