Fade Chapter Thirty-one

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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.

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Fade Chapter 31

Uploaded on 9/26/2012

Sin wasn't sure how long the procedure took or what it entailed, but he woke up two days later. He remembered being Danny, but it was like a fading dream. Several events and sequences were hazy. He remembered people and his connections with them, but the details weren't as clear.

There was enough left of the past year and a half for him to make quick connections and realizations: the first was that the Agency could take complete control of his life whenever they wanted, the second was that Boyd had found him in Annadale, and the third was that Boyd was now gone.

Sin had opened his eyes to find himself once again strapped to a bed in the lab. The first thought that had crossed his mind was that he was going to destroy the Agency brick by brick if they didn't find Boyd.

They released him from the lab, and he kept playing the part of variable subject in their science project. The deeply ingrained defiance that wanted to lash out at everyone and everything was shoved down and silenced. For all he knew, they would just wipe his fucking brain again if he didn't give them what they wanted.

So he took a pair of scissors to his hair, worked out even when he wasn't in the training center being observed for their data, and got lean again. He shut down all of the bullshit that the lobotomized part of his personality had started in terms of being remotely approachable, and developed tunnel vision.

The end goal was Boyd, and everyone else could go to hell if they weren't going to help him get to that goal.

People tried to visit him: Carhart, Kassian, and Ryan. Emilio had been shipped off on a solo, so Sin wouldn't have been able to reconnect with his father even if he'd wanted to. But for the first couple of weeks, Sin didn't have it in him speak to anyone. He would look at people, and not even be able to form words. He couldn't fucking deal with the stares and questions and sympathy from people close to him.

None of it would bring Boyd back, and he didn't have the patience for anything less than that.

For the first two weeks, the only people he communicated with were the Reapers. He went to Frederick and told the doctor that they could use him for whatever the hell they wanted, as long as they let him see the data on Project Zero. He wanted to know exactly what he was capable of now that he knew for sure that he was basically a fucking cyborg. How high he could jump, how fast he could run, how hard he could hit-- he needed to know how much he could increase the self-imposed limits that he'd previously adhered to.

He broke set records, showed them that he was their perfect goddamn agent, swallowed the pills that Ann prescribed him, and regained his clearance and active status.

The day of Sin's first mission, it had been exactly six weeks and four days since Boyd had been taken. It was ten days until Boyd's birthday, and Sin made a deal with himself that if they didn't find him by then, he would say fuck it and blow Seong's brains out. It seemed fair.

The mission was somewhere in Eastern Europe; a city that had been waylaid by disease after the war and had essentially been abandoned. The tunnels beneath it were now used to house terrorists instead of for water drainage, and they were supposed to clean them out. Emilio had just returned from his solo, so it was just Sin and Bex.

Transport dropped them off half a mile from the underground base, and they walked the rest of the way in the snow.

"I missed having you on the team," Bex said randomly. She looked at him around her hood, although her bangs were practically hanging over her night-vision goggles. "Missed getting shit done."

Sin's gaze swept around the empty grey and white landscape and his hand automatically started to reach for his pistol. Instead of his usual P97, Sin had taken to carrying Boyd's Sig with him on missions. However, he paused briefly, and instead unstrapped the M6A2 from his back. They had very little cover, and the broken windows in the empty buildings were making him paranoid.

"Not that your boyfriend don't get shit done," she went on as they finally left the openness of the main streets, and headed into the mouth of a narrow alley. "Or your father, even if he is a fucking wanker, but they don't get shit done like us."

"We're not in a special club, you moron."

He reached up and brushed the pad of his finger against the side of his own goggles. The thermal sensor on the GPS activated on the lense, and he narrowed his eyes as a cluster of red and yellow blips showed up on the next grid. "We're guinea pigs."

"Yeah, and? We're literally like, superior humans. You more than me, but certainly me as well even if I'm only Street Modded."

"Who gives a fuck? We'll all die the same anyway."

"You're such a charming bloke. You must have a huge cock to keep that kid hanging around."

"I do."

Sin held out an arm to abruptly halt her steps, and she bumped into it. Bex didn't question it, and instead shifted so that she could pin her back to the wall. He frowned slightly, dropped his hand after a moment and began walking again.

"I don't see anything for another few blocks," Bex said quietly, following noiselessly.

"Thought I heard something."

They kept moving and Sin's fingers flexed on the grip of his rifle. Even as he tracked the movement around them on the screen, his mind wandered back to Boyd.

Self-imposed isolation and newly regained clearance had given Sin time to do research. He'd caught up on anything related to Janus but there was no further intel on the inner circle of the organization. No information on a base where abducted agents were being held.

No trace leading to Boyd.

Sin had also read the entire mission report for Boyd's extended valentine.

The unrelenting anxiety he'd had since waking up in the lab had transformed into anger, and resulted in a fucking meltdown in his apartment. He'd known he was still being watched as he ripped it to pieces, but no one interfered until the anger had turned into despair and he'd broken down for every guard in the surveillance unit to see. Only then had someone come to check on him; they couldn't have their prized possession having a mental lapse after all.

"Sin," Bex said sharply.

Sin looked over at her, eyes narrowed. "What?"

"I asked how many hostiles," she repeated. "I've got loads more on my radar than I thought there would be."

He zoomed out on the screen, and frowned. "How many did the outline say?"

"Fuck knows. Weren't you paying attention?" she demanded. Sin made a face, and she scoffed. "'Course. You never pay attention. What now, then?"

They stopped near one of the dilapidated metro station entrances. This one was falling apart worst than the others and, according to Owen's source, that was why the group rarely used it. Sin had no idea if this was true, and he didn't really give a shit at this point. He was impatient with this stupid mission, and wanted to go back to Lexington.

"Kill people."

Bex lifted her own assault rifle, and shrugged. "Let's do it."

The mission didn't take long. There were more fireworks than there needed to be, but they cleaned it out, collapsed the tunnels and made it back to the pickup point with twenty minutes to spare. He and Bex took their gear off silently during the flight back, and she began methodically cleaning her weapons without speaking.

That's how it had been with Bex before he'd been put into stasis, and it didn't seem as though much had changed. Small talk with her was an anomaly, and he attributed the earlier conversation to the fact that it was their first time on a mission together in nearly two years.

He was glad for the silence, but it did remind him of how much he missed Boyd. They hadn't worked together for so long, but somehow he could remember their last mission together perfectly. They'd successfully completed the assignment but he'd pissed Boyd off in the process for not following the plan. They'd argued, and then fucked for two hours. Boyd always looked particularly hot when he was pissed off.

Sin closed his eyes and thudded his head against the window of the jet. He stayed that way for the rest of the flight, but as usual he couldn't sleep.

When they got back, Bex went off to do the mission report like a good little soldier and Sin stood in the courtyard outside of Artillery. He automatically went to the lab, but was informed that he was to have 24 hours downtime from training and working out after missions. Apparently guards would not even let him into the training area in the Tower.

Weary and annoyed, Sin raked his hands through his hair and tried to figure out what to do. If he went back to his apartment, he would inevitably end up scouring mission reports and files for Janus activity again. It was something that almost always led to him wanting to beat the shit out of someone from frustration.

Seeing Carhart or Ryan and dealing with the careful conversation and kid glove treatment seemed even worse. Kassian talked too much, and was equally as gloomy as Sin now that he was on the bottle again.

Shoving his hands into his pockets after yanking up his hood, Sin strode towards the gates. He swiped his ID at the checkpoint, and didn't bother to look at the guards.

"Going on an excursion, Mr. Houdini?"

Sin shoved his ID back into his pocket, and ignored Charles. The man made a face.

"It was a joke, dude."

Sin looked at Charles, letting his gaze flick up and down, before he turned to the gate again.

"Just leave the man alone," Lorde snapped at her partner.

"Jesus, I'm just trying to be nice. Fucking asshole." When the flat, green-eyed gaze returned, Charles shrugged defensively. "I'm just saying."

"Try to say less."

With that, Sin left the gate and headed South, and out of All Saints. It would have been faster to take the bus or train to Bedford, but the idea of being around people made him cringe. It was not something he could deal with when he could very easily end up on the fucking precipice of a frustrated, blackout rage explosion.

Sin walked to Bedford, and kept his head down the whole time. He ignored the people around him, the sounds of traffic, and the Spanish music that floated through the air as soon as he turned onto Emilio's block. He let himself in with the chip his father had given him before the false-termination, and took the stairs up.

When he got to Emilio's door, he rapped his knuckles against it three times, and crossed his arms over his chest. Now that he knew that the enhancements to his senses were real and not just random flukes like he'd told himself before, he noticed more. He could faintly hear his father's footsteps coming from the other side of the apartment, and he knew exactly when they paused outside of the door.

For some reason Emilio just stood there for several seconds, and Sin narrowed his eyes. He kicked the door impatiently.

"What the hell are you doing?"

There was another brief pause and Sin started to kick the door again before he heard the click of locks. It swung open and Emilio looked at him for a long moment before nudging the door open wider with his bare foot.

Sin frowned at the older man and stepped in, shutting the door behind him. He looked around the living room and raised an eyebrow. Emilio had always taken pride in his home and possessions, keeping them on the OCD side of clean. Judging by the bottles, full ashtrays and strewn clothing, that wasn't the case anymore.

He looked over to where Emilio was leaning against the door and staring. After a moment, the bloodshot, green eyes cut away and Emilio cleared his throat. He rubbed a hand over the stubble that coated his jaw.

"What'd you, cut your own hair?"


"Looks like it."

Sin gave his father a dull look. "I don't really care about my hair."

Emilio rolled his eyes and finally approached his son. He put a hand on Sin's shoulder and steered him to one of the barstools in the kitchen. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, the badass who puts no effort into being gorgeous routine. Got it. Sit your ass down, and I'll fix it."

Not bothering to protest, Sin sat down and watched Emilio walk out of the room. He was shirtless and wearing a pair of black jeans. He looked much thinner now that Sin was seeing him without a jacket and layers.

"You look like shit." he said when his father returned to the room.

Emilio shrugged and dropped a pair of scissors and clippers onto the counter. "I'm cool."

"Doing a lot of drugs?"

"Enough to get by."

Not having anything to say to that, Sin lapsed into silence as Emilio began trimming his hair. He'd carelessly chopped it off somewhere far above his chin because the idea of being pawed by the people in Unit 16 had made him slightly homicidal. The idea of any Agency staff touching him made him homicidal. It was bad enough that the Reapers did whatever they wanted to him.

Neither of them spoke for the next ten minutes, but Sin watched his father's reflection through the mirror above the bar. When he was done, Emilio put the clippers down on the counter and finally looked at Sin. He dropped his eyes almost immediately, and instead ran his hand through Sin's shortened, black hair.

"Looks better."

Sin didn't bother to respond and kept observing the other man. Emilio repeated the motion, combing his fingers through Sin's hair and ruffling it so that it looked less neat. His hand dragged down slowly, and dropped down to his side. Emilio grabbed the clippers almost immediately and blew on the guard, wiping his thumb across it.

"What's your problem?" Sin asked finally.

"Don't got one."

"Why did you avoid me?"

At that, Emilio finally met his eyes. His eyebrows drew together, and his lips turned down at the sides. "I wasn't. I was just preoccupied or whatever. A lot of shit going on."

"Bullshit," Sin said flatly.

They stared at each other until Emilio finally just shrugged and put the clippers down with a clatter. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then released a long sigh. "I was fucked up, kid. You being dead hit me fucking hard. I... I put a gun to that bitch's head when I found out."

"I know." There was a brief pause, and Sin turned on the barstool so that they were facing each other. "Carhart told me. He told me that you were on the Fourth for months."

Emilio pressed his hands against the counter, and nodded. "She only kept me around because they'd expected it, and I'm a good fucking actor." He stopped briefly, and leaned in closer to Sin. "You know that right, boy? All of this shit-- all of this with Seong, it ain't nothing but an act 'cause Zachary and Vivienne needed someone on the inside."

"I know."

"So then..."

"So then that doesn't answer my fucking question. Ever since you found out I was alive, you've been avoiding me."

Emilio scowled and turned away. He shook his head and walked over to grab a bottle from the bar. "Jesus fucking Christ, kid. What do you want from me? I was goddamn traumatized when they told me they'd killed you. I was..." He trailed off and returned to the counter, dropping a bottle of Jack Daniels on top of it.

He shrugged again and dropped his gaze to the bottle. "And then it was just fucked, okay? Like, they said you were alive, but turns out it wasn't even really you. You weren't my boy no more. It felt like a fucking joke-- like a big fucking trick. I couldn't deal with it, okay?"

Sin pushed the bottle away. "I'm normal now, so what's the problem?"

There was another lengthy stretch of silence as Emilio's eyes flicked over to his son, and then away. He shifted, fingers clenching around the side of the counter. He was fidgeting like he did, like they both did, when they were nervous.

Sin's eyes narrowed, and he stood up. "I know something else is up."

Emilio tapped his fingers against the counter rhythmically. "Look, something happened, okay?"

"Something like what?"

Wetting his lips, Emilio glanced up again and this time he didn't look away. "Something with Boyd."

For a moment, Sin just stared at him without comprehending what he meant. Of course something had happened with Boyd. He was missing. But then Emilio's fingers began tapping faster and he shifted his weight, eyes skimming away, and it clicked into place.

Sometimes when Sin got extremely angry, he found that whether or not he was having an episode, there tended to be a disconnect between his thoughts and his initial response. He didn't remember grabbing Emilio and lifting him off the floor, and he didn't remember pinning him against the wall, but what seemed like a couple of blinks later, that's the position he found them in.

"It was just the one fucking time," Emilio grit out as Sin's fingers dug into him violently. He didn't try to fight back or escape as his toes brushed against the floor, and he didn't even recoil. He allowed himself to be pinned to the wall, and met Sin's glare.

"I can't fucking believe you," Sin growled. His grip tightened even as he tried to calm the rush of anger that wanted him to do something to his father. To fucking hurt him. "I don't even know why I'm surprised."

"I didn't fucking do it on purpose!" Emilio snapped. He took a deep breath and wet his lips again. When he spoke, it was in a low, controlled voice.

"We were both fucked up over your death, kid. It was right when he came back to active duty, right when I fucking got off the Fourth, we got wasted after a mission and it just fucking happened. It was stupid, and it was my fucking fault because I should have known better. He was fucking practically blacked out thinking I was you--"

Emilio broke off, eyes narrowed and lips pressed tight together. As he stared into Sin's eyes, some of the forced calm seemed to ebb away and Emilio exhaled shakily. He reached up to put his hands on top of Sin's where they were digging into his shoulders.

"Hsin... Lo siento, hijo. Por favor, no me odies."

Sin jerked his hands away and turned, stalking towards the front door. Emilio followed as soon as his feet hit the floor. He grabbed Sin's shoulder and forced him to stop.

"Please, Hsin. I'm sorry. What do you want me to fucking say, kid? I'm a fuckup. But I never meant to get nothing going with your goddamn boyfriend. It never happened again, we didn't even talk for ages after it happened. I felt like a fucking piece of shit."

Jaw clenched and hands balled into fists, Sin refused to look at his father. He stared at the front door, and then closed his eyes. He didn't want to believe it. He didn't want to think about it. If he did, he wanted to hurt them both. The urge was so strong that Sin's hands trembled with the struggle to keep them balled up and steady, instead of hurling into his father's face.

"I'll fucking beg you," Emilio said roughly after a tense, stretch of silence. He curled his fingers against Sin's shoulders and pulled him back slightly. "Just don't fucking hate me for some stupid, bullshit mistake. It didn't mean nothing. I swear to God, it wasn't nothing."

Sin opened his eyes again, and forced himself to take deep, even breaths. Emilio tugged on him, turning him around so that they were facing each other again. It was one of the few times in Sin's life that he had ever seen his father look so visibly distraught. His eyebrows were furrowed, and his jaw was clenching repeatedly as he stared at Sin.

He wanted to stay angry; to keep reeling in the searing streak of hatred that had spread through him at the words, but Sin already felt it draining out of him. Seeing Emilio Vega stare at him with pathetically bloodshot eyes, and a genuinely apprehensive look on his face was enough to make all of the rage begin to decay.

"Why did you even tell me?"

"Because I didn't wanna fucking lie to you. And I know Boyd's gonna tell you when we find his ass, and I didn't want you thinking I was trying to hide it and shit. But that's why--"

Another shrug, another moment of Emilio looking everywhere but at Sin. "That's why even after you got your head straight, I kept avoidin' you. 'Cause... I felt bad. I felt like maybe you'd hate me, and even though I dealt with that shit before, shit is different now. Everything's different now, kid. Both of us could fucking die in the next two weeks with the way that place is running, and that ain't gonna happen with you hating me. I won't let it."

Sin looked away again. He didn't want to watch his father getting emotional. He didn't want to accept that this was fucking reality. There were so many things that had happened in the past year that he was now finding out about and had to swallow and justify, that it was starting to become overwhelming. He had to accept that Boyd had been whored out and fucked by scores of people on his mission. He also had to accept that he'd been thrown in some other damn town with fake memories and had wasted months fucking around with random nobodies while the people closest to him were forced to deal with his supposed death.

He had to accept that Boyd had lied to him for months. But that one was easier, because Boyd had also risked his own life just by keeping in contact with him. The Agency could have taken Boyd out whenever they wanted just for stumbling upon their project, but Boyd had kept at it, kept driving down between missions, kept putting his fucking neck on the line just to see Sin, and make some kind of connection. And he had. The spark had finally come back with the blood and violence and adrenaline of fighting Janus, but that had been what brought them together in the first place.

But now this.

"When did this happen?" Sin asked. His tone was dull as he stared at a spray painted mural on Emilio's wall. It was Lexington on fire, as it had likely looked when the bombs hit over two decades ago.

"Fucking months ago. Last winter. Almost a year."

When Sin didn't immediately respond, Emilio reached out and grabbed his chin. He forced Sin to look at him, and narrowed his eyes.

"You know kid, if you want to be mad I can't fucking change it. But it wasn't planned, it never happened again. It was just drunk bullshit. But if you wanna blame someone, put that shit on me though. Don't take it out on him. And I'm saying that even as fucking pissed as I am right now that he couldn't fucking tell me my kid was alive all this time."

Sin shrugged, and returned his gaze to Emilio. "Does it mean that much to you?"

"What?" the other man asked sharply, meeting his eyes.

"That you didn't know."

"Fuck yes, it does. You mean a lot to me, you dumb motherfucker. You and Zach are... are the only goddamn reasons I came back to this shit hole of a city. And yeah, don't give me that fucking face. I know it's hard to believe."

Sin shook his head slightly. He stared at Emilio, at the expression that was equal parts desperate and determined.

"Does he know about this?"

"No." Emilio's eyes opened up wider, as if he just caught on to the possibility that Sin could mention this to the general. "He'd flip his fucking shit."

They stared at each other until Sin finally released a disgusted sigh and looked away. His eyes fell on the door to the bedroom, and his knuckles went white as his hands balled into fists again. His mind wanted to supply mental images: Boyd and Emilio kissing, writhing against each other, Emilio marathon fucking him like he'd done to so many other conquests in the past when Sin had unfortunately lived with him.

Sin's chest tightened, and once again he was stricken into silence.

Part of his brain was telling him to walk out. Just fucking walk out and tell Carhart and let Emilio deal with the aftermath of the general's disgust.

But then Sin looked at Emilio again and saw actual dread seeping into the other man's face. He was afraid of Carhart finding out; afraid of messing up whatever it was they finally had between them. And it would be easy to fuck it up at this point. Sin had no doubts that the idea of Emilio fucking Boyd, who Carhart looked at as another son, would push the general over the edge.

But Sin also knew that he wouldn't do it. If it was as Emilio said, it wasn't worth it.

"I'm not going to say anything." Sin swallowed and forced his hands to relax. "But if I ever have any inclination that you were really just acting on your filthy fucking need to bang everything with a pulse, you can go back to acting like I'm dead."

"Well, that ain't never gonna happen, kid. It was a mistake, and neither one of us was happy about it." Emilio searched his son's face, gaze intense. "So we cool?"

"We're something."

Emilio continued to give him the same scrutinizing stare, but after a moment his posture slightly relaxed. "Good enough I guess."

Sin said nothing to that and walked back to the counter. He opened the bottle of whiskey and dragged a short glass over so that he could fill it. Emilio approached after a moment, but he didn't attempt to reclaim his bottle.

"Well you're drinking, so I'm gonna assume you ain't holding up too well with all of this shit that keeps getting flung at you."

The liquor burned down Sin's throat as he drained the glass. He let it drop to the counter with a loud thunk, and looked at his father evenly. "I'm going to kill Seong."

Emilio's eyebrows shot up. He gave Sin an assessing look, and leaned forward with his forearms pressed against the counter. "How?"

"I have a meeting with her in two weeks, after my testing is complete with the Reapers. If Boyd isn't found by then, I'm going to kill her at the meeting."

"Okay, so..." Emilio didn't seem too concerned about Seong's impending doom. "You need a plan then, boy. You can't just go in, snap the bitch's neck and then run out. There's already a plan in place to get t--"

Sin poured himself another drink. "I'm not that concerned with getting out, honestly. They can do what they want to me."

As Sin drained the second drink, he could hear very faint sounds. The ticking of a clock or other device in the room, a dog barking somewhere in the building, and the people next door arguing. None of it came across completely clear, but he could still hear it.

"You--" Emilio stopped, and took a deep breath. He was staring at Sin incredulously, although irritation was starting to make its way into his expression. "You and Boyd are both some fucking retards. I seriously can't stand either one of you idiots. It's always the self-sacrificing bullshit and never a plan that fucking is sensible. Jesus Christ, I hate all of you people."

"If you hate me, then why are you so riled up?" Sin asked flatly.

"Just shut your fucking mouth, and let me think for a minute."

Emilio combed his hands through his hair and rocked back on the balls of his feet. They stared at each other silently until he began to pace the room.

"Aiight first of all, ain't no one going on some suicide run. I'll make her lock your punk ass up on the Fourth before I let that happen. I can make it happen so don't test me, kid."

"There's a chance that whoever is above Seong won't even terminate me. I'm their only source of data for the HM Project. They're more likely to put me on the--"

"Shut the fuck up," Emilio snapped, and stopped to slam his open palm against the counter. The bottle and the glass jumped upon impact. "I'm really annoyed right now so just shut your goddamn mouth unless you have something normal to say."

Sin made a face and sat down on a barstool.

"I know you and Blondie like to go all Joan of fucking Arc any chance you get, but let's rewind this shit a few weeks and break it down again before you decide all bets are off." Emilio frowned and massaged his temples with one hand. "How the fuck are you and Kassian so goddamn sure that it was Janus? I feel like a shit ton of time is getting invested in thinking it's Janus just 'cause Captain America said so."

"Nothing else makes sense though," Sin said in frustration. He frowned and leaned on his elbows before pressing his face into his hands. "The Agency would never be that sloppy. Leaving fake trails, and witnesses and surveillance. Janus is good, but they're still civilians when it comes down to it. They don't think the way the Agency is trained to think."

"Yea but who says it has to be the Agency or Janus? Boyd's been around other organizations and people. He's bound to have made some other fucking enemies, somewhere."

Sin tensed, and he looked up at his father slowly. His eyes narrowed. "You're right."

Emilio raised his eyebrows. "Okay?"

Standing abruptly, Sin released a frustrated exhalation of breath. "Those goddamn kids in Annadale. We were investigating them and we never finished because I ran the hell up here and found out that Boyd had been taken."

"Wait, what? What the hell are you talking about?"

"These friend people that I-- that Danny had down in Annadale Beach," Sin said impatiently. Now that the realization had formed fully, his heart was practically pounding. How could he have forgotten something so important? Another thought piggybacked on that one almost instantly: the memory reversal was the reason.

"Before all of this happened, we'd been checking into them because they were in communication with Janus recruitment operatives. They also knew that Boyd was with me."

"How the hell did you forget--"

"I didn't just forget. It's that fucking experiment, procedure-- whatever. I lost some of my memories from that time period," Sin snapped. He stood up and started for the door. "I'm going down there."


"What?" Sin demanded, looking over his shoulder. "You can't fucking stop me."

Emilio rolled his eyes, and stood up straight. "No one said I was, boy. Just give me a second to get my shit together, and I'll go with you." Sin was momentarily surprised into silence, and Emilio waved him off. "Don't stand there giving me stupid looks. Just work on putting your brain into high gear so you can remember anything else."

Nodding slowly, Sin watched as his father disappeared from the room. He shook the surprise off after a moment, and focused on Annadale. Roz, Tech, Kayla, Taz, Gage... All people that had meant something to him at some point while he was Danny, and now he could barely register that they were friends. He felt a complete disconnect between that life and his life as Sin. When he remembered basketball games, and movie nights, and Pandora parties, it was surreal.

Emilio came back into the room with a distressed t-shirt stretched across his broad shoulders and a leather jacket in one hand. He stepped into a pair of boots, and they headed out as he sent a message to Carhart that they were going out of town.

They didn't speak for the majority of the ride down to Annadale. They stopped only for gas, and Emilio kept a steady mix of metal and dubstep playing during the drive. Sin stared out the window, and although he could feel his father's eyes on him from time to time, he didn't look over. Sitting together for almost four hours made it impossible to not focus on what had happened between Emilio and Boyd. He kept wondering about things, about details, and jealousy made him grit his teeth until his jaw hurt.

He spent the majority of the time telling himself that it didn't matter. They'd both thought he was dead and gone; ashes in the incinerator. They'd both been lonely and miserable. He had been the one in Annadale having relationships and accumulating lovers. Boyd still wanted him. Boyd still loved him. Emilio hadn't been a replacement.

Sin repeated it in his head like a mantra until the desire to smash Emilio's face into the steering wheel slowly subsided. Neither of them really spoke until they drew closer to the small, college town.

"So who are we talking to first?" Emilio asked around a cigarette as he turned off the Interstate.

"Tech," Sin said curtly.

"Tech?" the other man asked doubtfully. "What the fuck name is that?"

"It's an alias. She's-- fuck, I can't remember her address."

Emilio slowed down as they entered the Annadale Beach city limits. "You remember her real name?"

"It's..." Sin glared at the dashboard, and thumped his fist against the window in frustration.

"Calm the fuck down. Hurt my car and I'll throw your ass out." Emilio exhaled a cloud of smoke and glanced at Sin sidelong. "Just think."

Exhaling loudly, Sin tilted his head back against the seat. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the bits and pieces. Meeting Tech when she'd come to visit Roz at the apartment building, the way he'd been drawn to her androgyny, and the first time she'd invited him over. It was like trying to remember the dialogue in a movie that he'd watched years ago; he could remember the sequence of events but not the details that filled them in.

Eyebrows drawing together, he focused on her apartment because he was sure that the conversation had happened there. She was embarrassed of her name, it didn't suit her...

"Summers," he said finally. "Her last name is Summers. I can't remember her first name, though."

"Good enough," Emilio drawled. He turned off the main road, and began guiding the car towards the beach. "Lo más chingón, I need to make a query."

Sin glared at him. "What ar--"

A low, male voice filled the car: "What would you like me to find, Naco?"

"...You named your car's computer lo más chingón?"

Emilio ignored him and continued cruising along as if he knew where he was going. "I need a people search for a female in her twenties, last name Summers, and goes by the alias Tech. She should be in the Annadale Beach civilian registry."

"Yes, Naco. Searching Annadale Beach civilian registration. Please wait."

Sin's eyebrows rose. "You hacked your car's computer?"

"I prefer the term enhanced. You should know about shit like that, right Sugarplum?"

Emilio glanced over at Sin and winked. "Now this bad boy can search for all kinds of useful shit. City and federal databases, underground bunkers, fucking nuclear weapons probs. 'Course it won't find other agents or people who are erased from the grid. Also, addresses don't always match the--"

"I fucking get it, shut up already," Sin snapped. "How long is this going to ta--"

"Query complete," the computer purred. Sin made a face. It sounded like a goddamn porn star's voice. "Two matches found. First match, Tecla N. Summers, age 29. Also known as Tec."

"Next match," Sin interrupted. "Too old."

"--Resident of Annadale Beach. Unemployed. Registered felon--"

"Next match, sweetheart," Emilio said. His mouth curved up into a smirk as Sin rolled his eyes.

The computer instantly stopped. "Okay, Naco. Next match. Caroline C. Summers, age 24. Also known as Tech. Resident of Annadale Beach. Employed at Helmsley Industries. Position, IT supervisor."

"There's our girl. Can you find us a home address for little Miss Caroline?"

"Of course, Naco. Now coordinating with the Global Positioning System."

"Thank you, baby."

Sin scoffed as the GPS system activated and a holographic map spread out over the dash. Their position blinked green and a line extended out over the map, ending at a blinking red cursor in the north side of the city.

"You're so fucking inappropriate. Even with technology."

"What can I say?" Emilio jerked the wheel and did an illegal U-turn in the middle of the street. Horns honked and someone yelled angrily out their window. "I'm a motherfucking lothario of humans and robots alike."

"Just shut the hell up and get us there."

It didn't take more than fifteen minutes to reach the bungalow that Tech rented on the beach. Emilio parked, and they both exited without delay. There was no conversation or planning, and no Trovosky-like warnings about subtlety when dealing with civilians. Sin walked up to the door and knocked while Emilio pulled out a .45 ACP and cocked it as he stood alongside the door and just out of view.

It took a long moment for anyone to approach, but Sin could faintly hear Tech talking on the other side of the door. He couldn't make out every detail but he could tell that she was on the phone and seemed apprehensive about opening the door.

"She's alone."

Emilio nodded and tucked the gun into the back of his jeans. Footsteps approached the door, and there was a long pause before the locks began to click quickly and Tech jerked it open.

"Where the fuck have you been?"

Sin raised an eyebrow at the slight girl who was glaring up at him.

"We've been fucking worried sick about you! You just up and disappeared after accusing me of doing who the hell knows what. Your apartment was cleaned out by management, you never fucking showed up for work. Kayla and Roz are frantic. I was tracking everyone down who was at Edie's stupid party because you got me all paranoid and guilty. Everyone is--"

"Will you shut up?"

"Yeah, for real," Emilio drawled.

Tech finally seemed to notice Emilio, and she gave him an incredulous once over before turning back to Sin. "Okay, what's going on? Fucking seriously, Danny. I don't have patience for this."

"Yeah, neither do I," Emilio said bluntly and shoved her backwards and into the house. He elbowed by her and Sin followed, shutting and locking the door behind him.

"Dude--" she started to protest as she rubbed her shoulder where Emilio had shoved it.

"Listen sweet pea, as fucking charming as it is to stare at your nipples through that tank top, I'm kind of in a rush. So let's get straight to the motherfucking point. Who you been talking to about Danny-boy?"

Tech crossed her arms over her chest belligerently. "I don't even know you. What are you, Danny's brother or something?"

"Father, actually."

She looked at him doubtfully. "Uh. Right. And even if I was stupid enough to believe that bullshit, Danny said he didn't have any family. But I guess you were lying."

Sin didn't bother to reply to that. His brain was working through the words she'd spewed at him after opening the door, and connecting it to the confusing cluster of other information from the day he'd confronted her about that same party.

"The man you were dating... Trenton. He was at the party?"

Tech stared at him and took a step back. Now that they were enclosed in her apartment and Sin was staring down at her with an intense, narrow-eyed glare, some of her defiance and anger seemed to fade. A hint of unease crept into her face.

"I told you before that he was," she said finally. "It was one of the last times I hung out with him and his friends before they took off. They were all really interested in who saw the thing with Leens for some reason. They kept going on about how it was probably some government cover-up, and they thought some fanatical government people from the college had taken Leens out because she was part of some amazing group who wanted to make real changes."

Emilio looked at Sin and then back at Tech. "What else did they say? Who was doing most of the talking?"

"Please tell me what the hell is going on. Are you in some kind of trouble because of this?"

Sin scoffed, and didn't bother to hide his contempt. "As a matter of fact I am, and somebody else as well. I should blow your fucking brains out for all the trouble you've caused."

Emilio nodded in agreement and reached out to lock his fingers around Tech's upper arm. She didn't even react; her eyes were locked on Sin's face. He looked back coldly.

"Answer the question or I'll get you talking some other kind of way, sweetheart," Emilio said flatly. "I don't like beating up on little girls but I damn well fucking will if you don't tell me what you did to get my son in trouble."

Tech finally reacted to his touch, and jerked her arm away. "I don't know his friends. There were a few of them, okay? Some Indian lady was asking most of the questions. I don't even remember who mentioned you first. I didn't think anything of it at the time since Leens being murdered was big news in this town, so I probably said your name without thinking. I know even Roz backed me up and started bragging about how you were smart enough to know something was wrong."

She swallowed and pushed on, her brow furrowing. "But after awhile they were creeping me out with all of their weird, conspiracy shit. They kept trying to get me interested in some club because they thought my skills with technology and engineering would be useful to them, but I said no. They didn't even tell me much about it yet so I guess Trenton lost interest when he found out I wasn't some crazy liberal activist."

"How did you meet him?" Sin demanded. All of this sounded like definite Janus recruitment. Not the wide-scale recruitment of soldiers like in Monterrey; this was different. Janus was sending out people to hand pick intellectuals. "How did they notice you in the first place?"

She rubbed her arm, face pale and pinched. "I think Edie mentioned me for some reason. I don't know why."

Edie again.

"How do they know this Edie bitch?" Emilio demanded.

At this, Tech hesitated. She started to open her mouth and then snapped it shut almost instantly. Sin reached out and grabbed her, yanking her forward and nearly lifting her off the floor. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open, but no sounds came out.

"Listen to me, you little idiot," Sin hissed, leaning forward until his nose nearly touched hers. "You and your friends nearly got me killed, and someone else is in danger because of you oblivious, drug addicted morons bringing us to the attention of a bunch of fanatic psychopaths. So tell me what you know or I will rip your fucking jugular open with my teeth."

"There's my boy," Emilio said proudly, grinning.

"Shut the fuck up," Sin didn't even look at the other man.

"What happened to you?" Tech's voice came out strained. Waves of menace were radiating off of Sin, and a tremor went through her thin frame. "Who are you really?"

"I'm not your Danny anymore," he said flatly. "Now talk."

Tech nodded jerkily, and took a deep breath. "Edie's family is close to the Indian lady, and they ended up becoming like... I don't know, they were donating money or something to whatever group they're trying to get going."

Sin's fingers went slack. He let Tech drop to the floor and looked over at Emilio even as he said:

"Get Edie over here. Now."

Continue to Fade Chapter 32...