Fade Chapter Thirty

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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 30

Uploaded on 8/26/2012

"Three weeks."

Carhart tilted his head back against the plush, high-backed sofa that curved along the wall of the alcove. His words were almost lost in the music that vibrated the inside of the club. "Three weeks and nothing."

"Not nothing."

Carhart lifted his beer and didn't bother to look at Emilio. "Didn't they teach you about double negatives in your extensive deportment training?" he asked dully, pointedly ignoring the distinct sound of Emilio snorting lines of cocaine.

"Yep." Emilio sat up straight, and shifted so that he was sitting closer to Carhart. "But it still ain't nothing. Ryan and Owen have heard things, stuff that make it sound like Janus might have a use for keeping people alive. There was a kid from Euro division got himself caught, and managed to escape. Said they'd had him for months. He's the only one we've heard about so far that got grabbed like Boyd was instead of assassinated."

"And he was fucking insane when he escaped."

Emilio slumped against the sofa, and knocked his knee against Carhart's. One hand dropped to the general's thigh and slid down. "Still alive though. That's important."

Carhart dropped his own hand on top of Emilio's. "Says the man who has barely spoken a full sentence to his recently resurrected son in two weeks just because he can't remember what a terrible father you've always been."

"Why don't you go fuck yourself, Zach? Or better yet-- go fuck the blonde cunt that's due here in roughly four minutes. I think the alcove across the way is free."

"Is that the one you fucked Kassian in?"

"No sweetheart, that was this one. I think you're sitting right where he was before his fucking knees went in the air."

Carhart shoved Emilio's hand away from him, and drained his beer. "You're a real scumbag, Vega."

"And you love it, baby. Don't front."

Carhart looked at Emilio again, drawn to the low tone and that deep voice even if he didn't want to be. The senior agent's eyes were bloodshot, he had two-day stubble, his hair was spiked up and wrecked, but somehow in his faded black shirt with sloppy, rolled up sleeves, Emilio was effortlessly hot. But then the heavy curtain slid to the side, Vivienne stepped into the small space, and Carhart's attention completely diverted.

Vivienne's outfit was a far-cry from her typical attire. She wore a pale-colored mini-skirt and a black shirt that exposed her shoulders and back. Her hair was gathered loosely over one shoulder, and although her makeup was simple, it made her eyes look even bluer.

When she sat down across from them, he saw weariness in her face. Her expression wasn't quite as hard and cold as usual. Carhart's eyes swept over her, and he leaned forward. The alcove was small and he almost reached out to touch her face but he stopped himself before doing so in front of Emilio.

Although Seong didn't seem to have any doubts that Emilio was in with her, Vivienne had suggested they make it more concrete. It had been her own suggestion that Emilio inform Seong about Vivienne's efforts to find Boyd despite the edict against it, and the result had been that Vivienne was put in isolation on the Fourth for the past two weeks. She hadn't been tortured, but the deprival of outside contact and basic needs had clearly had an effect on her.

"I would have arrived earlier, but this venue is difficult to navigate unharassed."

"Pobrecita," Emilio drawled, not sitting up from his slouch as he lit a cigarette. "Someone get handsy?"

She waved a hand wordlessly and looked toward the curtain. Her eyebrows drew together slightly and her lips turned subtly down on the edges but she didn't answer.

"How are you feeling?" Carhart asked as Emilio simultaneously asked: "How was incarceration?"

Her lips briefly turned down further on the edges before any expression wiped from her face. "I am fine." She looked over at the two of them; lingering slightly on Carhart, moving to Emilio, then ending somewhere between the two of them. "The timing was appropriate."

Carhart frowned slightly but filed the questions away for later. He could feel Emilio watching him as he watched Vivienne, and didn't seriously consider asking more until he could speak to her alone.

"I'm sorry about the location," he said finally. "But I think our usual locations have become overused."

"She's fine, white knight. Let's get on with this shit." Emilio blew smoke at both of them. "This little plot needs to be finished pronto, kids. The Boyd thing has that bitch on high alert to start terminating motherfuckers who dissent. Where we at with everything?"

Vivienne set a sleek black clutch next to her on the seat. "The virus team is 80% complete."

"How fast can Bree get it done?" Carhart asked.

"A week. If their current progress rate continues, perhaps earlier."

"Awesome," Emilio said, eyebrows raising. "I was having some doubts about Wonder Dyke's skills until Ryan and Owen got on board, and started making alternate egress plans with Douglas just in case we can't be wiped from the system in time."

Carhart considered that for a moment. It was good to have a backup plan just in case the virus failed or they weren't able to get it off in time, anyway. The Agency functioned 90% on technology and still, he somehow didn't fully trust it solely for a life-or-death situation like this. When their egress plan would have to be put into play, the virus was supposed to rid the Agency's network of all agent and staff data completely and deactivate any tracking devices that they may have installed in individuals with or without their knowledge.

"Anything concrete?"

"Nothing as good as the virus, but the training center has jammers, scramblers, cloaking devices-- we could try to stay off the radar but we'd be ten steps ahead instead of totally invisible," Emilio said as he took another drag. The cherry of the cigarette glowed red in the dim light of the alcove.

"Still good to have a plan B." Carhart looked at Vivienne and then at Emilio before rolling his shoulders slightly. Usually Vivienne ran these meetings but he automatically took the reins. There was something off about her today, and with the combined stress of being sent to the Fourth and no leads on Boyd, he wasn't surprised.

"We were all supposed to have finalized candidates today for who will be included in the inner circle of people who will be escaping with us if this comes to pass. We're also supposed to decide whose termination orders will be deemed as a red alert to set the plan into action."

"It is obvious that Hsin and Boyd should be included," Vivienne said. "I suggest Thierry Beauvais as well. His expertise will aid in those who choose to disappear into Europe."

Carhart frowned slightly at that but couldn't disagree. "At what point would you tell him?"

"In the coming week, should it be agreed upon here. I will discern prior to providing any details whether he would be amenable."

"Well, I don't like him but I have no real basis for disagreeing. He has enough contacts globally to be an asset in securing safe houses and new identities for the people who will be escaping with us," Carhart said.

Emilio just gestured vaguely.

"Bree, Ryan, and Owen obviously since they're working on the virus and are continuously monitoring any red flags. Doug obviously, and I'm not leaving Brian." Carhart said the last part firmly, looking between Vivienne and Emilio. "He's covered for me for all of these meetings, and they would destroy him in interrogation attempts."

Vivienne's lips tightened subtly on the edges. Her neutral gaze turned away to focus on the wall. "If that is your criteria, then Samuel should be considered."

Emilio nodded, and Carhart gave him a curious look but didn't bother to ask. He returned his gaze to Vivienne again, and realized that if Aisha had not died, Vivienne would have wanted her to go as well. He frowned, and once again fought the urge to reach over and squeeze her arm.

"So, Kassian suggested a candidate," Emilio piped up as he lit another cigarette. "That Blair kid. Apparently he's all disgruntled and hateful now, and he's a legit pilot. I mean I can fly if y'all want to leave it up to just me, but leaving it up to one person probably ain't the best plan since transport is the only way we're pulling this shit off and if I get shot in the head or something, y'all is fucked."

"A second pilot is preferable," Vivienne said in agreement. "However, is he trustworthy? Merely being 'disgruntled and hateful' does not on its own provide qualification for this."

"Dunno yet," Emilio admitted. "Doug is scoping him out now and he said he'll give you the details to go over by tomorrow. I guess I may as well bring up that Luke Gerant is keeping an eye on the tunnel for me, but he ain't on the list to come with. He's just doing it 'cause he likes helping, I guess. Freak."

One pale blond eyebrow ticked up subtly as Vivienne turned her attention to Emilio. "Are you planning to inform everyone on compound about our plans?"

"Who said I told him shit?"

"What excuse did you provide him as reason for needing the tunnels to be monitored?"

Emilio rolled his eyes, and blew smoke in her face again. "I didn't give him a reason, I left shit pretty vague. He wanted a favor, I wanted a favor, he knows I'll rip his balls off if he opens his mouth, and he won't anyway. Dude apparently had a major jones for bending the rules for my boy and Boyd all these years. If y'all big dogs bothered to talk to the fucking peons every once in awhile, you'd know they're pretty useful once you get friendly."

Vivienne's gaze slid away disinterestedly.

"Anyway..." Carhart shook his head, and could already see that the civil portion of this meeting was drawing to a close. It had been nice while it lasted. "So Vivienne and I discussed the fact that it may be unrealistic to set the plan into motion for every single person who is actually involved with it. It might make more sense to set it into motion only if specific, key people are red flagged for termination."

This caught Emilio's attention, and he jerked his scathing gaze away from Vivienne. "Wait, what? Which key people?"

"You are on the list." Vivienne's tone had turned a little cool, although nowhere near what it usually was. "There is no need to fret."

"What people?" he repeated, ignoring her.

Carhart hesitated before saying: "You, me, Vivienne, Hsin, Boyd-- assuming he is found before this should ever occur, and Ryan."

Emilio stared at him and Vivienne incredulously. "So you're just saying fuck everyone else?"

"This plan began with the intention of saving key people, several of whom were in danger of termination should extreme measures not be taken," Vivienne replied evenly. "It has only been through further consideration that it has expanded beyond what it was initially. If we already planned such a course of action without knowing Hsin was alive and could be saved, and if we are moving forward on the possibility of leaving prior to Boyd's return, why is it we should go out of our way to risk everyone's lives for those recently added? There are some losses that can be accounted for even if they are not preferred."

"Oh, so to fuck with people like Doug and Owen and Bree, who you motherfuckers just plan to use and endanger along the way?" he demanded, voice rising as his lip curled into a sneer.

"Do you act so differently when making your own plans?" Vivienne asked coolly, her eyebrow arching up. "I seem to recall a certain Jane Doe you abandoned quite readily to the Fourth the moment she was no longer of use to you."

"Fuck you, bitch." Emilio stood up so abruptly that the table skidded back against her knees. He flicked his lit cigarette at her, and Carhart rose to clamp a hand down on his arm.

"What the hell is wrong with you? Don't ever--"

"Don't ever what?" Emilio demanded, yanking his arm away and shoving Carhart back against the wall. "You fucking deserve each other."

That being said, Emilio ripped the curtain back and strode away. Carhart exhaled slowly, and clenched his jaw.

"He didn't actually burn you, did he?"

"No," she said, but her eyes were narrowed and her jaw tightened slightly. The cold cast of her features was back as she looked distastefully down at the cigarette where it had fallen on the seat next to her. Pushing it to the floor with the corner of her clutch, she said suddenly, "He aggravates me."

"No shit." Carhart sat down next to her, and crushed the cigarette with his boot. "He gets homicidal in lieu of emotional. I'm not surprised, honestly. He's known Doug and Bree both for over twenty years."

Vivienne sighed and leaned back against the seat. She watched Carhart for a long moment and then shook her head, bringing a hand up to her temples. "Do what you wish with this," she said somewhat tiredly. "If you feel his is a compelling argument, the alert can be expanded to the entirety of the group."

"Well, what do you think?" he asked. In truth, he'd been troubled by all of this from the start. It made sense to keep the group small, especially considering they'd all managed to function with the staggering losses of Sin and Boyd in the past, but allowing Owen and Bree to be terminated without action would be difficult if it ever came to be. "Can we do without the others if they died in advance of the plan going into action?"

"It would be problematic finding suitable replacements at the last moment anyway. There is little point in failing the long term by being incapable of following through on the short term."

"Okay." Relieved, Carhart let his back sink into the back of the sofa as he turned his head to look at her steadily. "I'll let him sulk about it for awhile."

Her lips lifted on the edges. "Good," she murmured, and dropped her hand back to her side. Even so, despite the small alcove she still wasn't looking at Carhart; her gaze had settled instead on her lap.

He raised a hand hesitantly and brushed his fingers along the side of her face. "What are you thinking about? Boyd?"

"Yes." She didn't move away from his touch but she also didn't lean into it. "And Cedrick."

"What about him?"

Vivienne continued to stare at her lap for a moment before she drew in a deep breath that she let out in a sigh. Her lips lifted faintly again but it seemed humorless, and when she met Carhart's eyes it was one of the times when it seemed more open than usual. "Have I ever said that I felt at times Boyd received the best and worst attributes of Cedrick's and my personalities?"

Carhart nodded wordlessly.

"I have long realized that Boyd, like Cedrick, seems incapable of stopping prior to finding the answers of whatever it is that he has decided he must know. As a journalist, it seemed a necessary quality for Cedrick and, as he had been that way the entirety of our acquaintance, I did not question it. As for Boyd, at times I found it vexing. I do not know whether this is one of those times; whether I wish this particular information had remained buried."

She shook her head, looking away with a subtle draw of her eyebrows. For a moment it seemed she was going to stop talking but then she continued. "On the day he was abducted Boyd had uncovered some rather alarming news about Cedrick, which Kassian later shared with me." Her lips thinned and eyes narrowed faintly before meeting Carhart's eyes again. "Specifically, that Cedrick formed the Journalist Guild and was later assassinated by this organization in part due to that and in part due to information he uncovered which is not specified."

Sitting up straight, Carhart stared at her with widened eyes. "What? I thought he was killed in the bombings in New York."

"I thought this as well. It was what I was told, however of course there was no body." Her legs crossed and hands tightened over one bare knee. "A valentine operative who resembled me was assigned the case with the hope he might be vulnerable toward her, however he refused any advances. She was unable to gain any information from him and ultimately killed him. It seems they had planned a different cover story but when the bombs decimated New York City, it was more convenient to claim he had followed a lead to the city and died in the bombs. Such actions were normal and believable for Cedrick, so I did not question it when I was told he was there. What I questioned, instead, was whether it was possible he had survived the blast."

Carhart shook his head slowly, almost disbelieving. It seemed that every step of the way, the Agency had played a role in Boyd's life. Taken away his father, his mother, his lover, and now they were throwing him away. Jaw clenching as anger coursed through him, Carhart reached over and put his hand on hers again.

"Are you planning to investigate this further?"

She was still a moment and then shook her head, just the faintest amount. Her gaze had traveled to his hand. "He is long gone, no matter how it occurred, but we are still alive. The timing of this is such that I cannot investigate further without the potential of disrupting our plans to flee."

She turned one hand over and wrapped her fingers around his hand, her eyes meeting his. There was little to no pressure in her fingers but her hand was warm against Carhart's palm. "Even so, it is somewhat of a relief to have discussed the information with someone else."

"I wish I could have talked to you sooner," he admitted. "It's bad enough that you were put in isolation without any knowledge of what's happening with Boyd. I had no idea there was so much more." He lifted her hand and pressed it against his lips briefly, before bringing their clasped hands down to the couch again.

"It provided me ample time to reconsider my life in context of the truth of his death." She paused and added, "However, it was frustrating having no access to any information or databases. I had thought perhaps by the time I was released, Boyd would have returned or we would have at least found a body."

Carhart frowned, but didn't comment on the last part. He refused to even accept the possibility that Boyd was dead, as naive as it was.

"I went over the transcripts of Ivan Andel's continued interrogations. It was pretty frustrating, to tell you the truth. The man has given away nothing. All he does is recite an impressive list of Agency crimes and corresponding cover-ups in the media when he's asked questions. We can't even discount that he isn't the mole based on Boyd's abduction. For all we know, that is a result of the directory being sold to someone prior to Ivan's capture if he even is the one responsible."

"As I understand it, although the alarm was armed at the time of their entrance it did not activate," Vivienne said. There was faint pressure on Carhart's hand as she squeezed it and then let go. "As I knew I would be sent to isolation regardless, I took the opportunity prior to that to access the list of agents' alarm codes. I could not detect that anyone had accessed it, however they could have erased their presence. Assuming they did not access it, this either means they knew Boyd's code or they had technology available to bypass the system. Do we have any indication from the witness's account as to which it could be?"

Carhart shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. All she said was that it was flashing red which means it was armed, but she didn't see what they did to get in. There is technology that would allow them to bypass it, especially if they did recon on a day that Boyd's neighbor wasn't looking, but there's no real way to know. A good hacker can always erase his tracks."

Her lips ticked downward slightly but she didn't otherwise comment. Her hands rested in her lap. "While I was indisposed, were any other additions considered for our egress group?"

He started to reply but was interrupted by a loud moan that hitched nearby. It was followed by a loud, clattering sound and then the steady, staccato of skin slapping skin. Carhart raised an eyebrow at her, and shrugged. Emilio sure did know how to pick a spot.

"Three people, but we nixed all of them."


"Hughes, Harriet Stevens, and Casey Archer."

She nodded. "I can understand why Hughes was discounted, considering his involvement with Jordan Hunt. What were the reasons given for nominating and ultimately discarding the others?"

The sounds in the next alcove grew louder, and were now accompanied by rhythmic grunting.

"Archer is one of the few from my, Emilio, and Doug's generation of field agents and is extremely competent in the field. He's a good scout and sniper if it should happen that we do need to go on the run. However, approaching him about a plan like this is risky and that's why we decided not to suggest it to you."

A man's voice started demanding to be fucked harder, and Carhart shifted on the couch.

"As for Harriet, she's proven loyal in the past when it came to helping Sin and Boyd, and is a close friend to Kassian. However, even he admitted that he doesn't know where she stands at the moment. Her performance has been iffy lately, and he said she's been difficult to get ahold of. Something about relationship problems distracting her."

When there was the sudden slam against the wall next to them and the voices only grew louder, Vivienne's lips pinched. She looked sidelong in the direction of the noise before settling her gaze back on Carhart. "Is there more?"


She nodded and reached for her clutch. "This venue has become rather distracting."

Carhart hesitated only briefly before asking: "Do you want to go somewhere together?"

She paused and for the first time seemed to look at him fully. Her gaze traveled along his face, pausing at his lips before returning to his eyes. Although she had seemed ready to stand, now she settled back into the seat and set her clutch on her lap. There was a brief moment of silence before she spoke.

"Zachary, you are the only person I have felt any manner of connection with since Cedrick's death. You are the only person I trust. However, I no longer wish to continue our arrangement from before."

Carhart's eyebrows rose, and he stared at her silently for a moment. "Okay," he said slowly. "I'd noticed that you had created some distance, but can I ask what changed?"

Her expression pinched slightly and her fingers tightened briefly on her clutch. "I knew from the beginning that you were tied with Emilio and likely always would be. It was for that reason I suggested you become involved with him in the first place. However, despite your early reservations you have shown no interest in stopping with him even once there was no longer an order to hide behind. It seems to me that you plan to continue with him into the indefinite future. Am I correct?"

His immediate reaction was to say no, he did not plan to continue this arrangement forever, but the words didn't come out. Instead, he cleared his throat and ran a hand over his mouth and jaw.

"I thought it didn't bother you," he said instead.

"It did not at first but over time something became clear to me." Her eyes did not shift from his, although her eyebrows drew down. "If we continue, it seems very possible I will develop feelings for you. If you wished to be only with me, this would not be an issue, but I do not believe you would ever leave Emilio. In the end, I would become dependent on you and I would be the only one hurt, and you would be able to continue your life unaffected with Emilio."

A faint frown pulled at her lips even as her hand reached out, resting on Carhart's knee with a faint squeeze. "Zachary, I care for you but it is difficult enough for me to become involved with anyone. I cannot go into something knowing it will be one-sided. It would make me feel as though I would be giving control over to someone who will not give me equal control of them in return."

At that, Carhart stared at her in surprise. Out of all of the things that he'd expected her to say, this was not one of them. "I had no idea," he said automatically. "I honestly had no idea or that things... may have changed."

She shook her head and withdrew her hand. Her attention turned down to her clutch, which she opened briefly and closed. "There is no reason you should have known. I was not fully aware of the extent of the situation until my isolation."

A silence lapsed between them, and Carhart dragged his gaze away from her face. She looked so lovely that his immediate reaction was to reach out and reassure her. He wanted to say that things weren't the way she thought they were, and that he could reciprocate fully.

In truth, he did think it was possible. He had never thought seriously about a long-term relationship with her, or something more than what they had, but he knew that he cared about her. But then there was Emilio. He'd told Emilio that nothing like that would ever happen with Vivienne, and Carhart knew that the moment that changed... things with Emilio would go on a downward spiral.

Sighing, Carhart's eyebrows knitted together as he shook his head slightly. He couldn't say the things that were coming to mind, and he couldn't reassure her. Saying that he was planning to end things with Emilio would be a complete lie.

"I wish things weren't so complicated," he said finally. "And I hope this situation didn't cause you any more stress than you're already under. I care about you, and I enjoy being with you."

"It has not yet but I imagine it would have in the future." She shook her head and the frown became more pronounced. She stood abruptly and smoothed her skirt, her tone turning more brisk. "At any rate, I do not wish for you to pity me. I informed you of the reason for my decision so you would not believe I thought poorly of you as you might have otherwise. You are still welcome to contact me should you need a friend."

He nodded and stood as well. The troubled feeling wouldn't fade despite her words, but all he said was: "I appreciate you talking to me about this."

Her shoulder moved in a subtle shrug. "I will see you on compound."

Vivienne gave him one last look before leaving the alcove. He stared at the heavy curtains even after they had swung shut behind her. The general waited for several minutes before he left as well.

The realization that he wanted them both wasn't one that surprised him, but the fact that Emilio was the one that he couldn't do without did. Or maybe he was just surprised that he'd finally admitted it.

He took the train, and called Emilio as it hurtled through the city. The other man didn't answer, but the general decided against going to Emilio's apartment in Bedford. Getting off in All Saints instead, Carhart walked to the compound from the station. The walk didn't take long, but he enjoyed the silence while it lasted.

As soon as he was in the confines of the Agency, a strange sense of claustrophobia engulfed him. For the first time in over two decades, he was very aware of the fact that the compound was essentially a prison. The guards and cameras had new meaning for him now, and he often found himself wondering how Sin had dealt with it all of these years.

The thought of the younger Vega caused Carhart to slow his pace, and he looked over his shoulder at the training complex. In the three weeks since Sin had returned to the compound, it seemed that Seong had him either training or being tested in the lab more often than not. That combined with the fact that Carhart kept a cautious distance did not make for the reunion he would have wanted. Not that Sin, or Danny, remembered enough for it to matter anyway.

Turning, Carhart started towards the complex. He slipped his hands into his pockets as a light rain began to fall, and considered the man that had just seemingly returned from the dead.

For all that Sin had not lost his steely glares, and quiet seriousness, some of the differences in his personality were startling. This Sin was not as quick to obviously show impatience, was more willing to listen and take advice as long as he wasn't being coddled, more intuitive and definitely more expressive of his feelings. This Sin was dramatically more approachable, but Carhart missed the unyielding intensity and brusqueness of the old Sin.

It was difficult to approach this new Sin sometimes, because their interaction was so different. Formerly hard-won smiles and agreement came so easily that sometimes Carhart found himself at a loss. He was so accustomed to having to prove himself to Sin and fight for every slight smirk, that this completely put him off balance.

What threw him the most was the fact that Sin had had enough time in another location to actually become this new person. He'd picked up mannerisms and speech patterns that were completely unlike himself, and it really emphasized that passage of time. Carhart had mourned for over a year, and for over a year Sin had only been a couple of hours away.

Boyd finding Sin had likely been pure luck and coincidence, but the fact that he'd hid it for months still made a mote of resentment form inside of the general. He understood the reasoning behind it, and he knew it had been the best decision when there had been so many unknown variables, but he couldn't help thinking that he wished Boyd had trusted him more.

Picking up his pace when the rain began to come down harder, Carhart ducked into the training complex just as the first crack of thunder sounded. He could hear the rain pelting down onto the roof as he made his way through the corridors. He knew that Sin would be training in the observation room; he'd been assigned to train there almost every day for the past few weeks. It was lined with a two-way mirror, and was self-contained in that one rarely needed to leave that particular area since it was equipped with its own weapons and utilities.

He stepped into the darkened room that sat on the other side of the two-way mirror, and was surprised to see Emilio there. The senior agent had his hands planted on a table and was leaning toward the mirror, his green eyes narrowed intently. He was focused completely on an apparent sparring session between Sin and Jenny White.

"Date end early?"

Carhart scoffed and joined Emilio by the mirror. He had no idea why Sin was fighting Jenny; she had just returned to active duty after a slow-healing injury. Carhart didn't see how pairing a freshly healed agent with a veritable fighting machine was valuable.

"Don't ever assault Vivienne in any way, ever again. I mean it."

This time Emilio scoffed, and he gave Carhart a scathing look. "If you call that assault, you're in the wrong line of business, buddy."

"I mean it."

"Yeah, I'll consider myself warned."

Carhart looked at Emilio steadily, and put a hand on the other man's arm. "I know you're used to doing and saying whatever the fuck you want, but there are limits. And unless you want to have problems with me, you won't do something like that again. She's one of the few people who are in this with us, and she's been in it with me from the beginning. I care about her, just like I care about Hsin, and Boyd, and Ryan, and I wouldn't want you treating them like that either."

Emilio's eyes narrowed slightly, and he shrugged Carhart's hand off. His lips pursed but after a moment he returned his attention to Sin. He didn't say anything, and Carhart just shook his head before looking at the mirror as well.

Sin was in a loose fighting stance, and was easily evading Jenny's attacks. Her form and technique were flawless, but he countered and dodged every move almost preemptively. When Carhart looked at Sin's face, he expected to see the bored, irritated expression that would have been the norm in the past, but now Sin seemed to be actively paying attention to the fight.

"It's strange seeing him now."

"Tell me about it. He should have stomped her out by now. He's being nice." Emilio said the word with disgust heavy in his tone.

"Maybe he doesn't feel the need to humiliate people during training sessions anymore."

"Maybe he's fucking her," Emilio suggested as Sin flipped Jenny effortlessly, and pinned her back to his chest. He mimed breaking her neck, and her face wrinkled in a frown. "I wouldn't blame him. She comes like a SuperSoaker."

Carhart sighed. "How would you know that?"

Emilio gave him an incredulous stare, and the general just shook his head. "Nevermind. I don't want to know. Regardless, I really doubt it. Apparently Danny is as much in love with Boyd as Hsin is."

"People and their fucking monogamy."

Carhart almost commented on Emilio's tendency for psychotic jealousy and his apparent desire to have their own arrangement be one-sidedly monogamous, but he didn't bother. Instead, Carhart kept watching Sin. Jenny had left the training area, and the room was now being transitioned for something else.

The mats were cleared away, and Sin spent some time staring down at an array of guns on a long table. He picked them up, examined it, and then picked up another. A closer look told Carhart that they weren't typical guns; they were prepping him for target practice with holograms.

For the next several minutes they watched silently as Sin dodged lasers, and fired his own as the holograms materialized all around him. His movements were fluid, confident, and fast enough that sometimes Carhart had a hard time keeping up. It didn't seem as though Sin had spent a year without training, or that he didn't remember his old training. The years that he'd spent as a living weapon seemed ingrained in him.

But after a moment Emilio said: "He's fucking it up."

Sin flipped backwards and dropped into a crouch, raising his gun and shooting three holograms in quick succession.

"How do you figure that?"

Emilio shifted again, and his eyes narrowed into slits. He pointed at his son through the mirror. "He's not fucking going for kill shots. Watch."

Carhart's eyebrows drew together, and he tried to follow what Emilio, and likely what Seong and Katsaros would be noticing when they played back the recordings. But Sin's hands moved so quickly that it was difficult to catch at first since the holograms disappeared almost instantly.

"There," Emilio said after another figure had been dispatched. He pointed at one of the holograms a moment later. "Watch the one on the left, and follow where the laser goes when he shoots."

Carhart watched and noticed a flicker in the hologram near its thigh before it disappeared completely. The frown on his face deepened, and he tried to follow Sin's movements closer.

"Is it that obvious? I can barely tell."

"It's obvious because I know my kid," Emilio said shortly. "I trained him since he was fucking four foot nothing, and fifty pounds." There was a brief pause, and Emilio pointed at Sin again. "Like it or not, killing is natural for him, memories or fucking not. It's in him, like a fucking reflex, like breathing."

Carhart's eyes shifted from Sin to Emilio as he spoke.

"Every time he raises the gun, he automatically points for a vital. Heart, head, neck-- and then he shifts to somewhere non-vital. When they playback and slow it down, they're going to know."

"Why would he--" Carhart stopped, and ran a hand over his jaw. "Does he not want to kill?"

Emilio's mouth twisted up slightly, and he shook his head. "Nah. It ain't that. The fucking kid is smart. He's doing it on purpose."

There was a brief silence between them, and Carhart sighed quietly. "I hope he knows what he's doing."

Danny had spent a week in the lab building after coming back to the Agency. The two weeks after that had consisted of twelve hours a day of training and was sometimes followed by an hour or two of additional testing in the lab. They hooked him up to machines and did various stress tests and simulations, and didn't bother to tell him about their findings.

He didn't get to interact much with anyone except for on his walks to and from specific locations on the compound. However, the brief conversations he did participate in or overhear made one thing clear: Sin was a pariah, and was considered to be insane.

In light of this news, Seong's decision made more sense. Why give him his memories back and take the chance of him becoming an unstable, unpredictable person again when he was functional like this? It would never happen unless he took away some of that functionality.

Danny left the observation room without bothering to look for his father or Carhart. He'd known they were there, could hear their whole conversation, and had no desire to seek them out when they didn't bother to make their presence known. Instead, he walked directly to the changing rooms.

He stripped off his sweat-soaked shirt as soon as he entered, and kicked off his sneakers. He was down to his briefs when Jenny came around the corner, wearing only a towel. Her dark brows rose, and the way her eyes flicked down his torso and to the bulge in his underwear wasn't even subtle.

"Too bad you're gay," she said after a moment, and grinned.

Danny snorted and threw his own towel over his shoulder. "I've been with women. I'm still not interested, though. Sorry."

Jenny's eyebrows disappeared into her damp bangs. "You're sorry? Wow. I think I like you being all nice and apologetic."

Danny walked around her, and headed to the showers. "Don't get used to it."

The faucet squeaked as he turned the hot water on full blast, and he didn't flinch when the spray scalded his skin. He pressed his forehead against the cool tile of the wall, and closed his eyes.

Three weeks and no Boyd. Three weeks and no more memories. Three weeks and well over three thousand missed opportunities to make a killing shot or blow.

Today he'd pushed it, and hadn't even made one. He went easy on Jenny, he talked to her and pretended that talking to her made it impossible to go anything but easy. He showed them that Danny was too soft to be an assassin and a ruthless killer, but his speed and strength made him a resource that they couldn't possibly give up.

Carhart and Emilio's conversation hadn't been the only one that he'd overheard.

It's not working like this.

His skills are unparalleled, but the edge is lost, that savagery--

He can be retaught.

He needs to remember what he is.

It was just fragments of a deliberately soft-spoken conversation, but it was enough. Danny shifted and turned his face up to the spray. He raked his hands through the long, wet tangles of his hair and wondered how much longer they would take to put him back to normal.

He stayed in the shower for several more moments, letting the spray beat against him and what should have been his sore muscles. When he was done, he turned off the water, wrapped the towel around his waist and padded out into the locker room.

Danny had known someone was out there before even entering the room, but he'd thought it was possibly Jenny still changing or perhaps waiting to give him another shot.

Instead, he found two guards.


"No problem, Agent Vega," the taller of the two said calmly. "We were waiting until you had completed your shower."

Danny looked from one to the other, and flexed his hands slightly. These guards were from the labs; there was no doubt. Typical Agency guards hauled him around and disrespected him every chance they got. Lab guards followed the edict that Hsin Liu Vega should be treated with "compassion and tolerance."

"Dr. Stein wants to see you. She requested that we alert you to that fact."

At that, Danny tensed and some of his certainty faded.

Dr. Stein.

In truth, he'd barely thought of the woman until now but the mention of her name caused Danny's jaw to clench. "Fine."

The guards walked ahead of him, but it wasn't obvious that they were escorting him anywhere. Even so, Danny had learned to keep a low profile on the compound. He kept his hood up and pulled down over his head to avoid the staring. It didn't work, but it was better than nothing. Being a spectacle was not something that he would ever get used to.

When they got to the lab, he was directed to a floor he'd never been on and did not have access to on his own. He walked to the last office in a long corridor, and stared blankly at the name on the door.

Dr. Connors.

Frowning, Danny hesitated briefly before knocking on the door. All doors in the labs locked automatically, and his card would not gain him access. He stood in confused silence for a long moment before the door emitted a short beep.

The woman sitting behind the desk was most certainly Dr. Stein, but the nameplate on the desk said Dr. Annabelle Connors. Danny shoved his hands into his pockets and stared when the young-looking, dark-haired woman gave him a grim smile.

"Fake name," Danny commented blandly. "Are you people all complete fucking liars?"

"Yes." She stood up, and walked around the side of her desk. Not making any moves to come any closer to him, Ann folded her hands behind her back. "It's very complicated, Danny. But that's the nature of this organization. We're made to be liars, and we become adept at it."

"Why are you calling me Danny? I think the jig is up on that one."

"Do you feel like Sin?"

Danny shrugged, and turned his attention to the window. Looking at her made him angry, especially because she was so calm. "No. He seems like my evil, split personality."

"The relationship that me and Sin had in the past is complicated. For many years I was one of those people who thought Sin was evil, but once I let go of old biases and looked at the facts, I realized that he-- that you, are anything but."

"Yeah?" Danny arched a brow, his tone challenging. "Well, he's nuts at least. I looked at my file, and it's pretty gruesome."

"I can understand how you might come to that conclusion if that's all you had to look at, but there's much more to Hsin Liu Vega than incident reports and scientific data."

There was another brief pause, and she sighed quietly. The apprehension in her tone was a direct contrast to the professional, unflappable woman he'd known in Annadale.

"Why don't we both sit down?" she suggested.

Frowning, Danny sat in the chair opposite to her desk. He took in the tension in her posture, the way she did not maintain direct eye contact with him, and he knew something was off. "What's going on?"

"Like I said," Ann started slowly. "You and I have had a long, complicated history. It goes back to my sister. You were her patient in the past as well."

Danny stared at her blankly before it snapped together in his mind. He hadn't paid attention to the last name at the time when there was so much else to take in, but he knew that she was talking about Lydia Connors.


"It took a long time to get over my anger," Ann went on. "But I was able to because I realized that she had abused her power and provoked someone who was clearly prone to dissociative episodes. When I took you on as a patient years later, we formed a bond. Dysfunctional, but it was there, and we made progress."

He frowned and didn't say anything to that.

Ann didn't look away from Danny's intense stare as she said: "When the Marshal recommended that you be submitted as a candidate for the HM Project instead of terminated, I wasn't involved in the decision. At first, I had no idea. Later I learned that Dr. Krol, your other psychiatrist, had disagreed with both options. When he refused to cooperate, I was brought on to go to Annadale for sessions and treat you. And now they want me working in the labs so that I can continue to do so."

"Wait..." Danny frowned, and leaned forward. "Back up. He disagreed? Why?"

"He thought it was wrong," she said simply. "Dr. Krol was very professional, and cared about all of his patients. But he isn't around anymore because of his adamance that the experiment not be done." Ann's gaze cut away from him briefly, her eyebrows drawing together. "It's not something I can discuss now, but I'm sure you understand."

Danny was starting to. The Agency was a horrible place full of sociopaths who believed that lying and manipulating people was okay as long as there was a greater good. And even if Ann seemed to have good intentions, she was just like them.

"Why am I here right now?"

"You're here because I know what you're doing. I know you're trying to prompt them to restore your memories."

He shrugged, not surprised.

Ann folded her hands in front of her. "They've decided to do it. I just came from a meeting about it."


"You just claimed that your true self is a psychotic, evil twin who is capable of gruesome acts. Why would you think it's good to return to that?"

The question was easy to answer, because it was something that Danny had been going over in his mind for days. Did he really want to go back to that? Was it worth it? Did he want to remember all of the horrible things that had been done to him, and the horrible things that he'd done to others? The answer was always yes.

"Good is a strong word," he said finally. "But I'd rather be a whole person than a shell of one. I know there's part of me missing, and I know there's things about me... Weird habits and thoughts, that I've always had and will only be explained by knowing everything."

There was a brief pause as Ann studied him.

"It has nothing to do with Boyd?"

Danny stared at the doctor and said nothing.

"What about Kayla and Roz? You made real connections in Annadale with people who are removed from everything to do with the Agency. If you were to stay this way, you could reconnect with them and visit with them between missions. If the Agency reverses the HM condition, it's possible that you won't care about those friends anymore, and it's also possible that you won't even remember them."

There was a long pause as Danny took that in. This information was news, and not something he had considered. "I won't remember anything from this time period?" he asked, frowning slightly. "I won't remember being Danny?"

"I'm not 100% sure.." Ann leaned forward across the desk, and there was genuine concern in her expression. "There was a reason why I compared this condition to a fugue state when I began treating you in Annadale. When I studied the project and researched all of the other subjects, I realized that most of them had completely forgotten their new memories once reversal was attempted. That's what happens when someone recovers from a fugue state. They don't remember what they did while in that state. It's not 100%, and most other trial subjects were not nearly as strong as you, but it's a possibility."

Ann sighed quietly. "That's why I wanted to speak with you. They want to reverse it now: today. They want you to be the automatic killer that you were before, even at the expense of the other problems. I know you as Sin, and I know you as Danny. I care for Sin. I was close to Sin. I owe Sin-- I owe you, a lot. I owe you enough to try to stress the fact that you were happy like this. You were happy in Annadale."

"Happier but not happy. I always knew things were missing."

"I know you did." Ann's words came out with resignation, and she sat back in her chair. "Are you sure this is what you want?"

Did he want to trade memories of Annadale for memories of his real life, and of Boyd? Danny didn't hesitate to say:


Ann nodded, and schooled her expression into neutrality.

"Then it's your choice. It's your life." She stared at him for a moment longer before dropping her hazel eyes to the tablet on her desk. "I'm supposed to send for the guards to escort you to Dr. Frederick, but I'm sure you can manage on your own."

Danny nodded and stood. He looked at her and almost thanked her for being honest and straightforward when so few other people had been. But he didn't. He just shook his head and turned away.

He left the office and headed up to Dr. Frederick's. He was ready to be normal again.

Continue to Fade Chapter 31...