Fade Chapter Twenty-Nine

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

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
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Fade Chapter 29

Uploaded on 8/26/2012

When Danny opened his eyes again, he was back in the guest room at Kassian's house. Everything was quiet and still inside, but he could faintly hear two men talking. His eyebrows drew together in confusion, but he realized that the conversation was floating in through the window that overlooked the backyard.

"--not what he wants. What if he doesn't want to remember what it was like before?"

"We don't know if that's what's gonna happen, but he can't fucking stay like this, Zachary. His pulse was so fast, I thought he was going to have a goddamn heart attack. The fucking blood vessels in his eyes burst-- I mean fuck, do you know how to fix him? 'Cause if you do, please fucking enlighten me."

Carhart and... his father. Danny hadn't met Emilio before the previous night, and the man was an enigma to him. He'd kept his distance from his alleged son, but then he'd obviously followed them to the factory to keep an eye out. And he'd known exactly what to do to calm Danny down. It hadn't fully registered at the time, but Emilio had spoken to him in Mandarin and somehow Danny had clearly understood.

"Of course I don't know how to fix him," Carhart growled impatiently. "But it's a huge risk and--"

"And they have to know he ain't in Annadale no more, so if they was gonna find him and kill him, they'd have done it already. You think for one second that the Agency ain't monitoring their expensive ass project?"

There was a pause, and then:

"No. They know he's missing, they have to. Sin said he had some doctor down there. A woman named Dr. Stein. It has to be an undercover agent."

"Right. So the cards is all on the table, babe. No matter what, our odds are fucked. His odds are fucked. Go back and get terminated for real, go back and get turned back into their whipping boy, or stay like this and have his brain fucking misfire and freak out until he implodes."

A quiet sigh. "It's up to him."

Danny sat up in bed, and threw his legs over the side. He listened as more words were exchanged, and the creaking of Kassian's back door as the two men re-entered the house. He knew they would be coming up to talk to him soon, but he ignored that and walked over to the vanity mirror.

He was pale, hair tangled, and there were red splotches around the green of his eyes where the blood vessels had burst. He was a mess, and it was the least of his worries. All he could think about was the empty warehouse, and another failure.

When the door to the room opened, Danny continued to stare into the mirror.

"You're up--"

"Take me back," he said immediately.

There was a long pause, and then Carhart came to stand next to him. Danny turned to look at his father. He didn't miss the wariness in Emilio's posture as he studied his son, and the way he deliberately hung back by the door.

"I heard everything you said outside just now, and I want to go back. What the hell use am I like this?"

"It could just be the stress," Carhart started in a frustrated tone. He stared at Danny, at the bleached complexion and reddened eyes. "But you're the one who would really know. You're the one who has to make this decision, Hsin."

Danny nodded. "Yeah, I am. And it's not just the circumstances and worry. It's been happening since I stopped taking the medication, and that in combination with the heightened stress is making something go wrong. Memories want to flood my head but then something pushes back, and there's this... clash that makes me overload or something."

Emilio's gaze shifted to Carhart, eyes narrowed and lips pursed.

"And I don't see the point, anyway. I know what I was like. I read my own file." Danny looked from one to the other. "I don't give a damn about living in some fantasy land where I can pretend I'm normal just to be away from the Agency if it means I'm helpless and away from Boyd. Freedom is not worth it without him. I don't remember everything, but I know that."

Carhart and Emilio looked at each other, and neither of them seemed pleased. But neither of them argued it either.

"So how do I get back?"

"There can't be no fancy tricks, no fronts, no clever ruses," Emilio said, speaking to Danny directly finally. "That shit don't work on Seong. Your best bet is to fucking ride your bike up to the gates and say you want to come back."

"Then that's what I'll do."

Despite the fact that it was exactly what Emilio had been insisting to Carhart during their conversation outside, he merely nodded shortly before leaving the room. Danny stared after him in confusion, and Carhart just shook his head.

"Don't mind him. He doesn't know how to deal with all of this."

Danny frowned, and sat back on the edge of the bed. He was ready to go to the Agency now and get everything over with, but the exhaustion from the last few days had finally hit him.

"Deal with what?"

"Everything. Boyd being gone, but you being alive has really had an effect on him." Carhart sat next to Danny. "I don't know how much you know about your relationship with him, or with me for that matter, but it's complicated and always has been. He's your father but he's still learning how to deal with the emotional aspect of that. You were separated for nearly two decades and just as you'd come together again as family, we were told that you'd been killed."

Danny glanced back at the door doubtfully. "He doesn't seem very thrilled with me. Is it because I'm different?"

Carhart's mouth lifted in a crooked smile. "Emilio had a meltdown in the middle of the compound when he found out about your alleged termination. He spent months locked up because of it. When I told him that you were still alive... he just stared at me. He couldn't even speak, and then he walked out of the room. He doesn't let anyone see those emotions. Not usually. But I will say that he isn't thrilled that the Hsin he knows isn't the Hsin that's been returned to him."

"Oh." Danny looked down at his hands, at the calloused fingers and faint scars. "The Hsin he knows seems like a psychotic freak."

"What gave you that impression?"

"Different things. Kassian--"

The general's smile faded and morphed into a frown. "Kassian isn't the authority on character or a well-rounded personality."

Danny raised his eyebrows. "He seems pretty normal to me. Nice at least. Honest."

"Right." Carhart's expression didn't change but his jaw clenched just slightly. "If you were a psychotic asshole, Boyd wouldn't love you. The two of you went through a period of time when you both had blinders on and were obsessively codependent, but I think you've both come to accept each other's flaws."

"Flaws," Danny scoffed. "I apparently have a habit of going on berserk killing sprees, and the entire... Agency or whatever is afraid of me because of it. To the extent that I had to be locked up when not on a mission. Seems more extreme than a flaw, General Carhart."

"Don't call me that. And if you know that..." Carhart trailed off briefly with a frown. "If you know how it is, if you know what it will be like, why do you want to go back to it? We can still search for Boyd without you returning to that nightmare. That place has tried to strip you of your humanity for so long. Don't you want to try being free?"

"I do. I'm not some masochist. But like I said before, being free somewhere else means nothing if he isn't there with me."

Kassian and Carhart tried to talk him out of it for the rest of the night, but by morning they'd given up. When it came down to it, they couldn't stop him. Termination wasn't even a legitimate cause for concern as it was unlikely that they'd waste their best test subject just because he seemingly chose to return to them like a well-trained dog. Worst case scenario was that they wiped his memory, and once again took him off the grid. It was a risk that Danny was willing to take.

Carhart was convinced that Seong had to have been watching Danny down in Annadale, but he had no idea to what extent. Just in case, they had come up with an explanation for the things that had happened in Annadale as well as the past few days in Lexington. Danny just hoped that Mrs. Hensley stuck to her vow of not cooperating with any sort of authority figure if any suits from the Agency questioned her in the future.

He stashed the backpack at Kassian's house, only then realizing that he'd never actually looked at the USB, and headed to the Johnson's compound that afternoon. His father never made a reappearance.

Impatience and worry for Boyd overrode any anxiety about facing the Agency or Seong, but when Danny took off his helmet at the security checkpoint at the Agency compound, he hadn't exactly expected guns in his face.

"Is this some kind of joke?" the female guard demanded. She looked extremely alarmed, but kept her gun on him even as she took a step back.

Danny looked from her to the male guard, and let his eyes drop to their nametags. Officers Lorde and Charles.

"I need to see the Marshal."

"Identify yourself," Officer Charles blurted out. Like the female guard, he was gaping at Danny in confusion. "Are you some other fucking Vega clone? What the hell is this?"

Danny could already tell that this was going to be really annoying. "I don't know what I am," he said, not keeping the irritation out of his voice. "I just know I need to speak to the Marshal, and she'll be interested in seeing me."

"Raise your arms."

"Seriously?" Danny demanded, eyes narrowing at them.

"Raise your fucking arms, freak," Officer Charles shouted.

Well this was sure starting off with a goddamn bang. Sighing disgustedly, Danny raised his arms. To his dismay, Charles yanked up his shirt.

"This is getting ridicu--" Danny stopped in mid-sentence when Charles not only examined his torso, but began going for his belt as well. Danny recoiled and shoved the man back despite the fact that he was still holding the gun.

"Hey! What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

"Vega has another scar," Charles said stubbornly. His eyes had widened considerably and he didn't seem as interested in being aggressive now, but he also didn't seem ready to let it go. "Down there."

"You must have lost your mind if you think I'm showing you my dick."

"What! I didn't mean-- I meant he has a scar, if you're him, then you should have the same scar."

"You've seen all of the other ones, you idiot. And how the hell do you know where my scars are, anyway?" Danny asked, staring at the guy incredulously. "What, do you people have naked Sin trading cards? Pinups?"

Charles' face colored, and Lorde snapped out of the stupor she'd fallen into as she stared. "I'll call Marshal Seong right away."

"Thank you," Danny said dryly, still eyeballing Charles.

The woman did a double take, and fumbled with her ear in an obvious attempt to access her comm unit. They all stared at each other for the next five minutes, and Charles insisted that he keep his hands in the air until an entire squadron of guards in riot gear showed up. Unable to accept that this was seriously people's reactions to him, Danny stayed silent even as they shoved him down to the concrete and frisked him more thoroughly than was necessary.

Apparently their orders were to take him to a nondescript building instead of the "Tower" as Lorde called it, and the entire group of guards marched him across the courtyard. They seemed intent on boxing him in to shield him from view, but Danny saw several people recoiling or doing double takes once they caught an inevitable glimpse of him. There wasn't much the guards could do to conceal him entirely since he stood two inches over the tallest one.

At one point someone actually shouted "Hsin!" across the yard, and Danny looked around to see a slender young man with unruly black hair and thick-rimmed glasses staring at him in wide-eyed disbelief. He recognized the guy from one of Boyd's sketches, but nothing else clicked into place in his memory, and they hustled him into the building before any other contact could be made.

The building was sterile and white but none of the guards said a word about what the place was, or why they were there. Once inside the main lobby of the place, the guards in what looked like fucking SWAT gear left Danny with a different group of guards who seemed to work the interior of the building. Like the other group, these guys stared at Danny warily as if he was going to lunge at any moment.

"What is this place?" he asked instead, looking around. As soon as his eyes moved from the guards, something pricked his neck and everything went black.

For the second time in twenty-four hours, Danny opened his eyes after having passed out. His head was pounding, and the fact that his surroundings were totally alien did not help. He was laying on what felt like a hard, metal slab with a sheet on it, it felt like someone had scrubbed his skin hard enough to scrape some of it off, and he was wearing different clothes: plain, white pants, a white tank top. There were electrodes attached to him, as well as an IV, and there was an Asian woman staring at him from a chair at the foot of the bed.

She looked to be in her fifties and had two prominent scars; one that crossed her cheek and cut through her lips on the left side, and another that passed through her left eyebrow and ended on her upper eyelid. Her jet black, short hair was sprinkled with grey.

"What are you doing here?" she asked with a British accent.

Danny expected to hate her on sight or to feel something by looking at her, but he didn't. He felt nothing, and was only going on Kassian's description that this was Marshal Seong.

"Am I not supposed to come back?" he asked, drawing his eyebrows together. "I'm a little... confused."

"No." She leaned forward, bracing her arms on her knees, and watched him closely. "I didn't imagine you'd be back unless we brought you in." Her tone grew sharper. "You aren't supposed to recall a bit of this so how is it you knew where to go?"

"I didn't until recently, and I still don't remember a lot." Danny frowned at her, and pushed himself up. Playing stupid was just as annoying as he thought it would be, but he didn't bother to hide the irritation. "What did you people do to me? I don't understand."

"Gave you an alternative to death is what we did, and here you are, ruining the point of it all." She scowled and sat up straight. "Couldn't call in with a phone first, could you? Had to stride right into compound in the middle of the bloody day."

"Well what the hell do you expect me to do?" he asked defensively, glaring right back at her. "I came up here from Annadale and all of a sudden I was freaking the fuck out, having meltdowns in the middle of the street because my brain was malfunctioning. I only remember that this place exists, that I work here, and a couple of people that are connected with it including you. Sorry I wasn't considering proper protocol."

She leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms. Her dark stare was unrelenting. "Explain how you came to be here. What you remember."

Danny pressed his hands down onto the hard surface beneath him. The electrodes and needle from the IV served as an irritant, and he struggled not to fidget with them or yank them off entirely. "Some shit was going on in Annadale Beach, and I got mixed up in it while working at the Blue Moon Diner. Some girl was killed by people that wound up being from Janus. And then Boyd showed up."

There wasn't a flicker in her expression as she said, "And?"

"And I didn't remember him at all. He acted weird at first and I didn't get it then, I didn't get it until just a couple of days ago. I don't even know why he was there except most likely that Janus was operating down there." Danny stopped and stared at her, trying to figure out what to say next. He'd gone over it several times with Kassian at the blond agent's behest, but now he wondered if it was even believable.

"He kept his distance from me at first, but he showed up a few more times down there. He'd talk to me sometimes, and I started having dreams about him but I guess they were actually memories."

"So you only saw him at the diner?"

She knew Boyd had been at the apartment. He didn't know how he knew, but he was certain of it.

"No. He came over a couple of times too. I didn't trust him for awhile. I felt weird around him."

It was impossible to tell what she was thinking from her flat, unmoving expression, but she leaned back slightly in the chair. She crossed her legs, one ankle braced on the opposite knee.

"What kind of dreams?"

"Missions." He paused, and raised his eyebrows. "Fucking. Other people were in them too, but I don't know who they are."

She nodded at that. "And what brought you from having wet dreams about some stranger to malfunctioning in the streets of Lexington?"

Danny shrugged again. This was the easy part, the part that was closest to the truth. "Janus tried to kill me, and Boyd was there. We took care of the people, and for some reason that's when I started remembering a lot about him. I got kind of fixated on him, I guess. The last time he came down, he was at the diner and I flipped out on some guys. He calmed me down, and we hung out for awhile. When he left, I followed him back up here."

"When was that?"

"Two days ago." His hands ball up in the sheet, fisting it. Something beeped, and it was nearly deafening in his ears. Wincing, he looked over and saw that the machine monitoring his heart rate had spiked.

"I got here and his house was destroyed. I freaked out, and don't even remember a lot of what happened other than I managed to rent a motel. I don't know what happened but as soon as I saw his house, all of these things started coming back, and I started blacking out and having intense pain. And then I came here."

She stared at him for a long moment. "Well," she said finally. "I can't say as I expected you to come back of your own volition like this. You had a unique opportunity others would kill to have."

Danny looked at her, and for a moment he couldn't even decide what to say. She made it sound like they'd sent him to the beach on early retirement. But then again, he wasn't supposed to know otherwise. He really wasn't even positive that there was an otherwise.

"I guess," he said noncommittally. "But I don't really know what this is all about. Am I supposed to, and I don't remember? Did I sign some kind of waiver saying I'd give up my memories in exchange for an extended vacation?"

Jae-Hwa's eyebrows rose. "Is that what you've concluded?" She looked interested in the answer, but continued without waiting for one.

"Fascinating. They must have improved the system greatly this time around. I'd have thought after being back here and having direct contact with your partner, you'd have recalled a lot more."

"I remember some things," Danny admitted. "I remembered where it was, what it was, and I remembered missions, different people." There was a pause, and then he raised his eyebrows slightly. "I remember enough to know my life here sucks, but I'd prefer to not keep straggling around being broken."

"It's easy enough to wipe your memories again," she said dismissively. She drew one leg up over the other at an angle.

"I don't get it though, why the hell wipe my memories in the first place? Why not just..." He raised two fingers and slid them across his neck.

One dark eyebrow rose. "Because you're a valuable asset but you'd have been a right pain to deal with the way you were. With all the previous successful genetic experiments, you were perfect for testing the new HM project."

She leaned forward, her arms resting on her braced leg. "And data from you has gone a long way."

"Data from Dr. Stein," he said.

"Yes, Dr. Stein." She scrutinized him briefly. If she was looking for something, he couldn't tell if she found it. After a short pause, she continued. "But we were watching you as well. You didn't expect we weren't, were you?"

Emilio and Carhart had, but Danny had no idea what Boyd's thought process had been. "I don't know. When I started remember things and having nightmares, I wondered why no one ever came to find me."

"If you were malfunctioning so quickly we might have, after your next appointment. But we'd been gathering data from Stein and the cameras at the Blue Moon Diner as well as in your apartment. We were able to see your progression."

She fell silent briefly, her dark gaze sharp and unmoving on his face. "We knew of Beaulieu too, of course. That he'd made contact with you. That he'd watched you. That he told you he was with Murphy Corps. It's lucky for him he didn't tell you the truth there or it'd have ended much differently. Still, I'd wondered if you'd admit to that part of it."

The words said so calmly almost washed over Danny, but then he played them back and his poker face almost slipped. They really had known the entire time. All of Boyd's careful maneuvering, all of his planning, all of the risks he'd taken, all of it was for nothing. If he'd known, he could have fucking asked for backup with the Janus situation, he could have--

Danny wet his lips and shut down the line of thought.

"Why didn't you stop him if you knew?"

She shrugged casually. "Because he made good data."

Danny heard a faint vibration. She leaned forward, pulling out a thin phone and glanced at whatever was on the screen before turning the screen black again and setting it back down next to her. She returned her dark stare to him. For a moment she was quiet and something in her expression made Danny think she was debating whether to bother saying more. In the end, she must have decided it was worth an explanation.

"You wouldn't have known even with your memories, but I knew of you two before I even set foot in the States. The two of you were infamous, particularly together, and I knew I'd need to take care of the situation. You were salvageable because of your skills and enhancements, he was not. But once he was gone, I knew you'd be useless for a bit afterward so the project was good timing. Two birds with one stone and the like."

She paused with a frown. "Or so I thought. It was a real surprise to find he had some use left after all in the unit. So I let him take the Annadale Beach missions and when you two met, it was good data to see what an HM agent would do when confronted with someone from his past."

Seong's legs straightened in front of the chair, her boots scraping quietly across the floor. "Seeing as he didn't interfere, I let him be. But we'd have known the second anyone looked into you, and I'd have known he was behind it. He'd have outlived his use at that point."

A lot of what she said went over Danny's head, but the gist he did get was that he and Boyd had been her guinea pigs, and he wanted her to fucking die. He wondered for a moment how he would act if he was his true self. What would 'Sin' say? How would 'Sin' act? He didn't know, and at the moment, he was too fucking exhausted and too tired of the way these people spoke to even care. They never got straight to the point or said anything clearly.

"So then what happens now?" he asked, and didn't bother to keep the weariness out of his voice. "Are you going to ship me off somewhere else? Kill me? Fix me?"

"We'll adjust your medication and put you back into training here. If all goes well we'll reinstate you as a full agent."

"You--" Danny stopped, and stared at her incredulously. "You're leaving me like this?"

She gave him a sidelong look. "Of course."

Seong picked up her phone, and typed something quickly on the screen. She stood up and slid the phone into her back pocket. "After being released from this facility, you'll report to the Training Complex. We'll have a trainer finalized for you by then."

Danny's stared at her and wasn't able to talk, wasn't able to ask because the disappointment was fucking crippling. No memories, no Boyd, no fucking memories of Boyd.

"I suppose you've nowhere to stay. You'll be assigned your old apartment." Her lips lifted on the edges as she added, "Maybe it will bring back some memories."

His eyes narrowed slightly. He knew he shouldn't ask, but he couldn't stop himself. "What about Boyd? You're not going to search for him at all? I thought he was one of only a few top agents or something?"

The Marshal had approached the door but at that, she turned and look over her shoulder at him. "His dodgy promotion is not worth the risk of more agents and he's only valuable so long as I can use him for Janus. Searching for a dead agent, or an agent who's likely been quite damaged, is a waste of resources. He knew what to expect. He's lucky enough he made it this long."


A hint of impatience crossed her face as she opened the door. "There will be no rescue."

His hands balled into fists but he didn't say anything more as she walked out.

Danny was kept in the medical facility of the lab for three days before being sent to a sparsely furnished apartment with two guards manning the door. One of them, Office Daniels, offered him a slight grin that brought Danny to a stop because it was so unexpected. With the exception of the boy with the glasses, the only looks that had been thrown his way had been angry and the only comments he'd overheard had been about the unfairness of 'the monster' being saved when so many others had been terminated.

"Welcome back," Daniels said, grin widening slightly when Danny gave him a curious look. "I'm sure people have been giving you a ton of grief, my dude, but I've always liked you."

"Oh." Danny looked at the other guard who was staring stonily ahead. "Well, thank you."

Despite allegedly liking him, Daniels' eyebrows shot straight up at the expression of gratitude. "Man, you really are different."

Danny nodded and swiped his newly obtained ID into the door. "For now I am."

Seeing the apartment brought back nothing, not even a flash. He walked around slowly, staring at the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, and just felt blank. Frustration swelled inside of him, and Danny shook his head curtly before returning to the bedroom. They'd sent him a supply card in the lab, and he jerked the closet open to see whether it had been filled. All of his possessions, all of Danny's possessions, were in Annadale and would likely stay there until the Agency wiped all traces of his presence from the town.

The supply card had obviously been filled, and he pushed through the hangers listlessly without really seeing the plain, basic clothes that he had asked for. The only thing that caught his attention was that the t-shirts were softer and thicker than the cheap things he usually purchased. Apparently the Agency had money to burn on designer t-shirts from Glass Town.

He stopped, and the sleeve of a black hoody dropped from his hand. Glass Town. Why the hell did the name of a random, rich neighborhood in Lexington come to mind but nothing else? Nothing important? Nothing about who he was, or what his relationship with Boyd had been?

Frustrated and angry, Danny started to slam the closet door shut but something caught his eye. The faded, black backpack. Some time during the past few days, Kassian had dropped it off. Or likely Carhart so that Kassian wouldn't draw attention to himself.

Instinct made Danny close the closet door and sit with his back pressed against it as he slid to the floor with the backpack beside him. There was a nagging thought at the back of his mind about surveillance that he couldn't explain, but he listened to it nonetheless. He sat in a manner where his body and the closet door would hide the laptop screen even if there were cameras.

Everything was still in the backpack except for Boyd's gun, and the photo album with his family pictures. A surge of protectiveness went through him, but he forced it down. He hadn't understood why he'd grabbed the gun at the last moment, but according to Kassian it'd been a gift to Boyd for his birthday. If Kassian had known that much, he'd likely just removed it for safekeeping. In its place, Kassian had put a cell phone. It looked flimsy, like one of the prepaid kind, which meant is likely didn't have a name attached to a bill. It was already programmed with a few numbers: Kassian's, Carhart's, Emilio's, and Ryan's.

Ryan... The name instantly connected to the kid with the glasses from the courtyard.

Danny left the phone in the backpack for now, and took out the laptop instead. He booted it up and felt around in the backpack for the USB. He didn't find it immediately, but after some groping he felt it along the seam and tucked into an inner, hidden pocket.

Not bothering with a perusal of his background information again, Danny went straight to the USB. There were a number of files on it, and it didn't seem to be organized in any particular way. From what Danny had learned about Boyd in the past month as well as all he'd been told, that seemed atypical which meant that it was likely deliberate.

There were several art files, scanned images of things Boyd had sketched as well as images that looked like he'd drawn them on a tablet. There were random bits of research about various things that Danny mostly ignored until he got to a folder that was buried within three other folders. He opened it and an array of meticulously organized items items appeared. Hesitating only briefly, Danny began to go through them.

Somehow, he wasn't surprised that it was about him. Him as a test subject for something called Project Zero. A lot of it was nearly incomprehensible to him without prior knowledge of the scientific language and terminology used, but he understood enough: they'd been making minor alterations on him for over a decade, but it seemed that it had been suggested way before then.

There was a note to a Marshal Connors from someone named Dr. Scheible that dated back as early as 2005. Danny wasn't sure about his own age anymore, but he didn't think he could have been much older than 13 or 14 years old at the time.

The child is exceptional, but there is no evidence of illegal modifications in his system. However, his extraordinary pain tolerance and endurance suggests that he may be a candidate for the superior agent project.

There was no other mention of the "superior agent project" for years, until sometime in 2013. Danny flipped back to the original Hsin file on the laptop, and saw that the date coincided with the span of time that he had been incarcerated on the Fourth floor following the mass killings in the city. Apparently this Connors person had left him alone until Sin had started seeming like he may be a problem in the long run.

It had started with tweaks to his speed and strength and when his body didn't reject the enhancements as other test subjects had, they'd begun doing more. There were large chunks of time where they had been exceptionally prolific with their work on him but then other spans of time when there was little activity at all.

Danny didn't understand the lapse and sudden surges, but it seemed like it had come to a head somewhere in late 2020 and early 2021 before dropping off completely. They'd gone all out during that time, and made every possible enhancement that they were fully competent at: they maxed out speed and strength enhancements, eyesight, hearing...

Lips tightening, Danny began to click the links that were attached to the references to his new enhancements. Enhancements. Not modifications. This wasn't anything like the illegal, risky gene splicing drugs that people used to modify themselves. This was real. They'd turned him into something that was barely even human anymore.

There were pieces of mission reports attached as evidence of his improved body, as well as video clips. He read a mission report from late spring 2019 where he'd taken on an entire base while carrying an injured and unconscious Boyd as well as a captive. Another report from the fall of 2019 where he'd killed nearly twenty men single-handedly, other reports that noted things like his speed, and an analysis of injuries sustained in the line of duty in the summer of 2020 following a mission in Mexico. There were clinical notations of his rate of recovery, metabolism, and responsiveness to new procedures.

Video clips of him in the training room working out tirelessly, another clip from a mission where he appeared in the shot after having jumped down from a considerable height-- his feet thudded against the ground before he took off running again, dodging civilians by throwing himself sideways and running along the side of a wall before he flipped forward and disappeared from the shot.

More surveillance footage from 2023 of him on a mission with Boyd and Emilio where he'd destroyed a structure in a nightclub. There were even clips of him having sex with Boyd, two of them. One in which the bedrail was bent in his grip while he fucked Boyd, and another where it showed the aftermath of a particularly aggressive bout of sex that led to various bruises on Boyd afterward. Danny watched that one repeatedly until he was positive that Boyd was just as into it as he--as Sin was, and that he truly did not seem to mind the roughness.

It was all so much that Danny had to stop for awhile. He paced the apartment and got a bottle of water from the stocked fridge. There was so much information compacted into the files, but not the kind he wanted.

He wanted human interaction, not proof that he was basically a goddamn cyborg.

Determined, he returned to the room and hunched over the laptop again. He began methodically going through the video files, looking for anything that showed how he'd interacted with people-- with Boyd.

Bypassing the statistical data, he followed a thread that led to items about flaws and questions. It focused on his mental instability and how to deal with psychotic episodes without "damaging the material." The scientists had doubted the administration's use of drugs, shock treatments and mental torture and thought it may cause him to prematurely shut down. There was an e-mail written by Dr. Frederick that was from the January 2022:

Alternate methods of control must be utilized by administration. The material is in danger of permanent mental damage if various uses of torment continue at the current rate. Compassion and tolerance must be considered when he succumbs to psychosis.

Frederick's proof came in the way of surveillance videos, audio files and write-ups of incidences on the compound.

There were videos of Sin losing control during episodes juxtaposed with other videos that proved his responsiveness to kindness. Him slaughtering a guard captain in his cell overlaid by a guard shoving him against a wall in the training room; Boyd intervened there and the dark menace on Sin's face had slowly eased away.

There was a clip of him and Carhart talking in the apartment and then somewhere else on the compound. The only thing that really stood out about it was that it had begun with him storming out furiously, and the general was able to calm him down just by talking, and a hand on his arm.

It was near the end of the list that Danny finally found what he wanted. There was a video of him and Boyd hugging each other fiercely in some kind of medical room.

"Please don't hate me ever again. I can't take it. I know it's not good to tell you this but I can't live knowing that you hate me."

The timestamp said January 2022, and it wasn't difficult to figure out that this was likely part of the reason why Kassian had said they had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Danny watched the desperate way they clung to each other, the way his former self sounded close to tears as he buried his face against Boyd. It looked fucking traumatic, like they weren't even together at the time, but somehow it made all of this awful research worth it.

There was so much evidence that he was a horrible, sub-human being, and very little evidence that he'd actually been something Boyd would realistically want. But this was proof. Even broken up, they'd apparently loved each other.

Danny closed his eyes, and tilted his head back against the door. He wanted to remember, he wanted to remember everything and not just bits and pieces. He forced himself to calm down, to focus, to fucking remember something.

He sat there like that until the laptop nearly slid off his lap as his body grew tired. He sat there until he was barely conscious and as usual, that was when things started sliding into place like a slideshow of photo stills and brief recordings.

Him choking Boyd, lifting him up off the floor and staring up into his blank face.

Dashing Boyd to the floor in a warehouse to get cover before spinning around with a gun in each hand, and unleashing an onslaught of violence on the men inside.

Shoving Boyd against a wall in a hotel, and kissing him fiercely.

Watching Boyd sleep in a narrow, twin bed as sunlight streamed through a window and they lay tangled together and sweaty.

Waking up in a white lab room, strapped to a bed.

A dark tunnel, and the sound of splashing as he ran.

Boyd slamming into him in his dark bedroom, and a gunshot.

Carhart smiling at him, looking exasperated and fond.

Going through music on a laptop with a serious frown on his face only to look up and see Boyd watching him in amusement.

A gray cat.

Him, covered in blood and pressed against a wall in the corner of a cell. Boyd kneeling beside him and swearing that he'd find out the truth.

Emilio and he screaming at each other.

He and Boyd shouting at each other, arguing over a mission, parameters, about Sin doing whatever he wanted and discounting Boyd's abilities because he wasn't a super agent too. Shoving each other, slamming Boyd against the floor, kissing.

Carhart and Emilio watching each other across a conference table, and looking away when the other noticed.

Bullets, blood, pain, and Boyd shielding him as bullets slammed into the blond's armor.

When Danny's eyes opened again, the sky was lightening. He'd fallen asleep and he remembered more bits, more pieces. He remembered fighting for each other. But it still wasn't enough.

He had to report to the training center at 0800 hours, and as Danny shut down the laptop, he knew exactly what he was going to do.

Continue to Fade Chapter 30...