In the Company of Shadows

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter 39

Uploaded on 1/5/2013

Emilio ripped his gloves off, and tossed them on the floor of the helicopter. They were caked with a mix of blood and mud which was also splattered across his armor and face. His prey had been good, but not as good as him. Even so, he'd taken too long. He'd been too distracted by everything else.

By the plan. By Sin.

He could feel Bex glaring at him, and he didn't bother to acknowledge her with a glance. Instead, he sat down and ripped a nearly crushed box of cigarettes out of his backpack.

"You can't--"

Narrowed eyes met the aborted statement, and the Transport Agent cut it short. He was young and unfamiliar. Probably still in training, and too wet behind the ears to know who he could talk shit to, and who he couldn't.

Emilio flicked his lighter, and inhaled deeply. Smoke poured out of his mouth, filling the tiny cabin. "Got somethin' to say?"

"No," the guy said sullenly.

"Thought so." Emilio smirked, and turned his gaze to the open mouth of the helicopter. He took another pull from the cigarette, sucking on it like it was a lifeline, and listened to the chop-chop-chop of the blades as they whirred in the black, night sky.

"I'm fast enough," Bex said after several moments had passed. "You should have let me assist."

"Yeah?" he asked carelessly, not looking in her direction.

"Yes," she snarled. "So what if we were a minute off the timetab--"

"No," the Transport Agent cut in. When Bex's onyx eyes focused on him, he faltered once again. His face went white, but he pushed on anyway, fingers pressing against the knees of his black pants. "There were local police everywhere, media vans were coming in, not to mention civilians with electronic devices that could record. We had specific orders to not get any adverse attention. The Marshal does not want any direct link between the Janus hits with an outside organiz--"

"Shut the fuck up," Bex cut in. "Before I fling you out of this bloody helicopter."

"Why so mad, sugar?" Emilio drawled, still not looking at either of them. "The man speaks the truth."

"Fuck the truth."

The words finally drew Emilio's interest, and he took in the other agent's heated glare, the tense set of her shoulders, and the way she was staring at him with obvious animosity. "You sweet on my boy, darling? That why you got your panties all in a wad?"

"No," she said stonily. "I'd do the same for you. We're on the same team, you fuckwit."

"Hmm." Losing interest, he looked out the window again. "Too bad. Thought maybe you was movin' on from your sister seeing as how she's a major ho. Now cool out before I regale your annoying ass with stories of how me and Doug DP'd her."

Bex just made a face at him, and sat down on the floor. She lapsed into silence, and began taking apart and cleaning her guns without sparing him another glance. The Transport Agent seemed to lose interest in trying to communicate with either of them, and Emilio spent the next hour chain smoking.

They switched from the helicopter to a jet once they got into Maine, and from there it wasn't long before they arrived at the Agency. Once their vehicle rolled into the receiving area and parked, Emilio got out and headed for the doors. Bex had long since realized that he operated on a separate set of rules than she did, and didn't attempt to call him back to complete the report. He reported directly to the top.

The compound was not as busy in the wee hours of the morning, but there were still people around. Guards, agents coming from missions, late-night visitors to the gym. The usual people greeted him with easy smiles, but he ignored them.

There was a feeling in his gut that something was wrong, and he couldn't identify why that was. He glanced at his phone as he took the elevator up, but there were no messages from Carhart. No indication that anything was off. And nothing should have been off. Boyd was not active, and Seong had no reason to know that he was already out of the state. They had no reason to think that the ambush was suspicious. That Sin wasn't coming back. But the sinking feeling wouldn't leave, and it dogged Emilio all the way to Seong's office.

Seong was sitting at her desk, glancing between two tablets while she typed on one. At the sound of the door opening and closing, she didn't look up. By the time Emilio sat down across from her, she had apparently finished what she was working on and pushed the tablets aside.

"I sent a squad for Beaulieu while he was meeting with Shapiro."

"Oh." Emilio stared at her, expression unchanged.

There was a hiccup of silence as scenarios paraded through his mind. Killing her now would result in him having to shoot his way out of the Agency, which was probably suicide. Another thought chased that one: He could kill her and activate the red alert plan. But then he realized that if Boyd was dead, the plan would have been activated already.

She was lying.

"Well, Hsin ain't back yet so what are we going to tell him when he finds out?" he asked, tilting his head to the side with a frown. "The kid is going to flip his fucking shit. Are we wiping his memories again?"

She watched him steadily for a moment, and then leaned back in her chair. "Beaulieu was gone by the time they arrived. Shapiro warned him, it seems. I've sent men after Beaulieu."

"Was he seen escaping?"

"No." Her lips thinned briefly. "He'd already vacated his condo as well, but he'll make a mistake and we'll find him. I've sent men to the most likely locations for the moment."

And he'll be across the fucking Atlantic already, bitch.

Emilio nodded, and leaned forward slightly in the chair. His eyebrows drew together, and his mouth twisted to the side. "Even so, what the fuck do we do about Hsin when he gets back? We got a lot of heat after taking out the Janus leaders. We were ambushed on our way out of Halifax, and Hsin was held back. The pilot wouldn't wait, so we took off without him."

Seong's expression didn't change. "He's reported in twice since the separation. We're giving him a window to return, and once he does, his memories will be wiped."

"Okay," he said, voice even. Wetting his lips briefly, Emilio looked out the window just so he could see something other than her face. "Are we anticipating problems from their little cohort? Ice bitch and the general, and what not?"

"I always anticipate problems from Vivienne at the least," Seong said with clear distaste. "But it's of no consequence. Even if they interfere, they'll be dealt with accordingly."

"Aiight." Emilio stood up, flexing his hands and rolling his shoulders as if he was working out the kinks. "Let me know if you need me to handle some shit. I'm gonna go score some happy pills from the Med Wing. My suit took a lot of hits."

She nodded and looked back down at her tablets.

His boots thundered down the stairs as he took them three at a time. He sent Carhart a text after he got into the Gran Torino, and then gunned the engine. He sped out of the parking lot, almost running over a guard, and showed just as much discretion on the way back to Bedford.

It was a little under an hour before Carhart arrived, and all Emilio had accomplished in that time was pacing the living room and throwing back four shots of Cuervo. He'd only half-stripped out of his suit, and the upper part hung down from his waist, exposing the bruises that were spread liberally over his torso.

"I have a weird feeling about this," Emilio said as soon as Carhart entered the apartment.

The general froze, taking a moment before he pushed the door shut behind him. "Bex just reported in that Sin got away--"

"He did get away," Emilio interrupted. He took a long drag from his cigarette, and exhaled loudly. "But I can't shake the feeling that something ain't right. She's too calm."

"Too calm? What do you mean?"

"I mean-- fuck, it's just a feeling, Zachary. She's too okay with the coincidence of Boyd taking off, and us being separate from Sin. I expected her to be shitting kittens, not looking at me more relaxed than a fucking pothead listening to Kenny G." Emilio clenched his jaw, and sat on the arm of the couch. His body was coiled tight with tension, his shoulders hunched forward slightly as he stared into space. "Something's weird."

"Just calm down," Carhart said, but his hands balled into fists as the words left his mouth. "No one has retrieved Boyd, and he's been gone for hours. If they knew the plan, Boyd would be dead by now, and Gerant is keeping me updated on all guard activity on the Fourth."

"They tried to get him before he left. I don't know if it was because they knew the plan or if it's because Sin wasn't around, but..." Emilio stubbed his cigarette out on his tongue, and flicked the butt carelessly onto his floor. "She sent a hit squad for him. Shapiro warned him to get the fuck out."

"What did they do to Shapiro?"

"Dude is probably in the incinerator already."

"Goddamn everything." Carhart finally crossed the room and dropped down onto the couch. He pressed his elbows against his knees, and after a moment pressed his face into his hands. "I don't know if I can handle waiting it out. I wish I could just be certain that they're okay."

Emilio exhaled slowly, and looked down at the general. The broad shoulders were hunched forward, his head tipped down and fingers fisted in short, blond hair. After a moment, Emilio raised his own hand, and untangled the strands from Carhart's fingers, pushing them away. Carhart looked up at him then, his face pale and drawn with stress.

"Do you think they'll be okay?"

Emilio let his hand rest at the back of Carhart's neck. He let them rest there for a moment, before moving them in a gentle, circular motion.

"They have to be."

Boyd paced, his eyes darting quickly across the dock. Only the crews of the Asasara and other docked boats were visible. Now and then there looked to be some travelers trickling in, looking down at tickets in their hands and up with strained faces toward the ships lined up in the water.

The ship swayed gently beneath Boyd's feet.

His jaw tightened and he walked faster.

A thump beside him caused him to jerk his head to the side, his hand snapping to his holster.

Tayla's dark eyebrows rose sardonically. "Chill out, cowboy." She dropped a second heavy crate on top of the first, and half sat on the edge. Her gaze strayed out toward the dock. "Loverboy not here yet?"

"He'll be here." Boyd pulled his hand away from his gun with an effort. Tension thrummed through his body, making his senses heightened for threats. Even now, he kept expecting an Agency squad to pop out between the buildings, and shoot him where he stood.

Tayla shrugged and drew a lock of black hair tinged with blue behind her ear. Her hair had grown considerably since they'd last seen each other years ago, in the basement of the pharmacy in Monterrey, but her clothing style hadn't changed much at all. Her black leather jacket with too many zippers and a skull and crossbones patch on the back creaked faintly when she crossed her arms. With the long sleeves, he couldn't see the winding snake tattoo on her upper arm that went with the name she and Liani were known by: the Snakes. But it seemed that their business of illegal transport had only grown in the interim.

She opened her mouth but her attention shifted to a man across the ship. "Wally!" she yelled at him. She pointed at the crates beneath her when he looked over. "We've more here."

The man nodded. "That the last of it?"

"Nah," Tayla called out easily. She looked down in apparent distraction and patted her pocket for something. "Li's bringin' the rest."

Wally rolled his eyes and flicked his thumb across the screen of the tablet in his hand. "Chrissakes, let us handle the loading for once."

Tayla snorted and shoved herself off the crates. "Where's the fun in that?" Wally snorted in return but didn't answer, and Tayla grinned. She turned back to Boyd and, upon seeing his dark expression aimed once again out toward the docks, slammed him hard on the upper back.

"You'd better hope he shows soon, mate, 'cause we ain't waiting if he's late." Her cheerful tone was incongruous with the meaning of the words, and the way it struck ice deep in Boyd's chest.

"He'll be here," he said firmly. His arms tightened across his chest.

"And if he isn't?"

"I'm not leaving him," Boyd said flatly. He shifted his weight, feeling more worried as time went. "I'll get off this ship and wait for him if I have to."

"Right, well. We're leaving in two. Cheers." She spoke lightly and, with a grin and a ruffle of his hair, she strode off. She was already yelling something at Wally again, but Boyd stopping paying attention to her as soon as she left.

He stepped up to the edge of the ship, bracing a hand against the wall to steady himself against the quiet roll of the sea, and leaned over to look both ways. He searched increasingly desperately for Sin's familiar figure, but he was nowhere to be seen.

"Fuck," Boyd swore and strode back and forth. Back and forth.

Scenarios flashed vividly through his mind-- the fact that he'd had to flee early got the Agency onto their plan and they'd caught Sin along the way; Sin had been seriously injured in the mission and couldn't make it out; they'd tranqed him and brought him back for brainwashing before Sin could escape; Chance had fallen through with the ambush and transports...

If Boyd got off here, he would lose his only chance to escape. But if he didn't get off, he wouldn't see Sin again. He had to get off. But if he did, the Agency would catch up to him. They would finish the job that Shapiro kept them from doing.

The seconds dragged by torturously slowly. One and a half minutes to leaving. His fingernails dug into his palms painfully. One minute to leaving. The ship was in motion around him; people running back and forth on final adjustments.

"Fuck, fuck," Boyd hissed under his breath. He grabbed the bags he'd brought, their only worldly possessions for the next stage of their lives, and threw them over his shoulder.

Boyd grabbed the nearest crewman on the arm. "How much time do I have?"

"Before we leave?" The man gave him an odd look. "Just about now. Why?"

The dock was still empty of Sin. Boyd found it difficult to drag his eyes back to the crewman. "There's someone important I'm waiting for. Can we stall--"

"Are you fucking kidding me?" The man gave Boyd a look like he was an idiot, and yanked his arm out of his grasp. "Above my paygrade, man. Go bug someone else."

Boyd thought about trying to contact Tayla but he knew it was useless. He scoured the dock, looking for Sin's head of dark hair.

He wasn't there.

The man moved toward the ramp with purpose, and Boyd jumped forward. "Wait! Wait, I have to get off--"

"Oh, for fuck's sake," the man growled. Someone must have spoken into a comm unit in his ear because he pressed a button and said sharply, "Not yet, I got a runner. Hold off a sec." The man glowered at Boyd. "Well? Get off, then."

Boyd looked at the man with a feeling of doom clawing at his chest, and then hefted the bags further up his shoulder. He started to walk down the ramp, when he noticed movement on the far side of the dock.

Sin was running phenomenally fast. His boots pounded against the wood beneath his feet, dodging lingering pedestrians as he scrambled towards the ship. The moment Sin was on the deck, Boyd dropped the bags and jerked him into a hard hug.

"Thank fucking god," he muttered. His fingers dug into Sin's back, tangling in the fabric of his clothing and holding him tightly in relief.

"Sorry," Sin breathed into his ear.

Boyd just shook his head wordlessly against Sin's shoulder.

Sin pressed his lips to Boyd's forehead, and looked at the man. His eyes narrowed slightly when the crewmember just stood there. "Do you want to fuck off, or do you need a written invitation?"

The man gave Sin a look of disgust and turned to continue his job. Boyd gripped Sin's wrist, and then tugged him away from the ramp.

"Let's get out of view," he said with a look back toward the dock.

He still didn't see any Agency personnel but he wasn't going to feel even relatively safe until they were in the middle of the ocean with no Everyman face in sight.

They grabbed their bags and Sin followed him to their cabin. The bedroom was just large enough for a double-sized bed and a set of drawers, with a tiny bathroom attached. The floor swayed beneath them and in the distance a deep vibrating sound of a horn or perhaps simply the engine droned through the walls.

As soon as they were inside the room, Boyd looked Sin over closely. Dried blood stained his hair and streaked parts of his face, caused by several cuts. Boyd did a perfunctory check of the rest of Sin but he couldn't see much beneath his clothes. Sin's hands appeared to be cut as well, with smeared blood having been wiped off at some point along his palms.

"Are you injured anywhere else?"

"Just a flesh wound." Sin stripped off the jacket and flannel shirt that he wore and tossed it onto the bed. His black body armor was seen beneath, clinging to his muscular chest. "How was it getting out?"

Boyd shrugged with a tight movement and sat on the edge of the bed. "Apparently she had an order to terminate me in the middle of my meeting with Shapiro."

Sin paused with his hands poised to shove his jeans off, and stared at Boyd. "How did you get out?"

"Shapiro warned me and gave me time to leave." Boyd's expression darkened. "He's probably dead now because of that."

"Probably." Sin sat on the edge of the bed, and stared at the wall. He was silent for a long moment, his fingers curled onto the edge of the bed.

Between fleeing and worrying about Sin's delay, Boyd hadn't had the chance to fully think about Shapiro. The psychiatrist had met Boyd at one of the lowest points in his life, had seen him through to stability and happiness, and in the end he'd sacrificed himself to see Boyd live. Boyd hadn't realized Shapiro cared enough about him or his patients to do anything like that, and knowing that he did, it made it even worse that he was likely now dead.

Boyd's eyes narrowed as he stared at his clenched fingers. The dull rush of anger was a steady backdrop to his thoughts. Yet another life needlessly lost to the Agency and its agenda.

"Did you get here without trouble?"

Boyd looked up, startled out of his thoughts by Sin's question.

"Yes. I snuck out before they knew I was onto the plan and I've been looking over my shoulder since." He hesitated, glancing at Sin sidelong and then away with drawn eyebrows. "But I had a flashback heading into the Tower, and another on my way to the ship. I hope this shit stops soon because if it doesn't go away, I'll be a liability someday."

"You're never going to be a liability." Sin was still staring into space, his dark brow furrowed. His fingers splayed on the bed as if he was going to push himself up again, but he didn't move. "They should have left with us," he said suddenly.

"I know. I suggested it but they just looked at each other and didn't say anything."

"Goddamn it."

Sin raked his hands through his hair, and fell back on the bed. His body stretched across it, and he turned his face to the side so that he could look up at Boyd. He inhaled slowly, and reached out to twine their fingers together.

Boyd smiled slightly down at him and squeezed their hands together. He shoved all the dark thoughts out of his mind and turned his body to face his lover.

"They'll figure it out, you know. They always do. And in the meantime..." He gestured to the cabin, his lips ticking up further on the edges. "For now, we're actually free. We made it."

"Yeah." Sin pulled Boyd's hand closer, and pressed his lips against it. "We did."

Boyd didn't look away from Sin's eyes; from the pale green of them focused solely on him. The cabin felt disconnected from the rest of the world.

The bedspread made a quiet shuffing sound as he braced his free hand on the other side of Sin's shoulders. Keeping eye contact until they were too close to focus, he leaned down to press his lips against Sin's.

What started as a chaste kiss grew quickly before their lips mutually parted. Sin's hand fisted in Boyd's hair, pulling him closer. Boyd straddled Sin and rolled his hips downward, growling against Sin's mouth at the feel.

"Take your clothes off," Sin said in his ear, breath hot against the tender flesh.

Boyd shuddered, licking Sin's mouth before he sat up with another press of his hips. He reached down to strip off his shirt. Sin's fingers had just closed around the buckle of his belt when someone knocked on the door.

"Fuck," Sin growled, eyes flicking to the door. His hands locked around Boyd, as if preventing him from moving.

Another knock, louder and more insistent. This time it was accompanied with a young woman's drawl of, "I've orders to bring you to a meeting, and a master key to see it done. If you don't answer, I'll come inside right now. I know you're in there. I can hear you."

When they didn't immediately respond, a look of unhappiness mutually crossing their features, there was a brief rattling of the door.

"Damn it," Boyd hissed, and twisted toward the door to snap loudly: "Hold on! We'll be right out."

"You've a minute at most before I enter," came the mild reply. There was a muffled rasp and a slight rattle, as of someone turning their back and leaning against the door. The assumption was verified when her voice came slightly more distantly: "Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight..."

Boyd pushed himself up and off of Sin, who threw his long legs over the side of the bed and stood up. He strode across the room and jerked the door open, glaring down at a young woman who looked to be in her early twenties. Her hair was bleached so blond it was nearly white.

"What the fuck do you want?"

The young woman peered up at Sin with a quirked eyebrow pierced with a hoop. "I told you just now, didn't I? I've orders to bring you to the Snakes so that's what I'm doing." She glanced past Sin to where Boyd was seated on the side of the bed. "Ready?"

"No. You can tell them to wait." Sin took a step back and slammed the door in her face before turning to look at Boyd again. "Is there a reason why these people think they can tell me what to do?"

Before Boyd could respond, the woman threw the door open. She glared at Sin. "Maybe because they're letting you losers on board, yeah? In case you didn't notice, we're not a cruiseship. If you want to get your jollies off, do it another time."

"If they want to talk, they can come to me. They don't summon me. They don't summon Boyd. They got paid by chingon. In fact, they got overpaid. So you can get the fuck out of my cabin."

"I'm not going anywhere. I've a job to do."

Boyd glanced between the two of them and then stood. He walked up next to Sin and met the woman's eyes. "Give us a minute."

She eyed the two of them with clear suspicion, but ultimately shrugged. She stepped back into the hallway and crossed her arms. "I'll resume counting."

Boyd shut the door and turned back to Sin. "I'll go with her."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"She's being an idiot but all I care about is getting away safely with you," Boyd said with crossed arms. "And after stressing out thinking you weren't going to make it, I just want to relax with you. If my going makes that happen sooner, I'll do it."

"I care about the same thing, but I didn't leave the Agency to walk into another situation where someone is giving me orders." Sin sat on the bed, and rolled his shoulders as a grimace crossed his face. "If you're just talking logistics with them, I don't need to be there anyway, right? My father already paid them."

With an easy nod of agreement, Boyd stepped closer to Sin. His hands rested on Sin's shoulders, absently kneading the tight muscles he could feel straining beneath his fingertips. "Right, and you haven't had a chance to rest yet, anyway. Why don't you stay behind and I'll catch up with you when I get back."

Sin's mouth turned up slightly, and his eyes moved over Boyd slowly. "Be quick."

Boyd leaned down to kiss Sin. When their lips parted, he grinned slyly. "You don't need to worry about that. I have Plans for you, with a capital 'p.'"

Sin smirked. "I'll try to clean up some. Not that blood has stopped us... ever."

Boyd let out a short laugh and straightened. Before he could reply, there was another knock at the door. He grimaced faintly and walked over. When he opened the door, he was surprised to see Tayla standing there instead of the young woman.

"Hullo, sunshine. I dunno if Iris got the chance to ask what time worked for you before Li had her bugger off, but plans changed. If you're free I can talk now, or else we'll have to do it later."

Sin scoffed and kicked off his boots silently. Tayla perked up at the sound.

"Good on ya, mate, you made it--" Tayla was saying as she peered around Boyd's shoulder, but she stopped when she saw Sin's face. Her eyebrows raised and her lips twisted upwards with amusement. "Well. You're looking ropeable. Did I interrupt something delicate so soon into the trip?" Her suggestive tone was overlaid by a roguish glance between the two of them.

The boots fell over with a thud, and Sin began to skin off the upper part of his suit, exposing the expanse of scarred flesh beneath. "I don't know you, and you don't know me, but for the next five days we will get along better if your employees don't give me orders and threaten to unlock the door and force me to go anywhere."

All traces of amusement left Tayla's face in a flash. Her narrowed eyes met Boyd's. "Iris?"

Boyd crossed his arms and nodded. "Gave us a countdown and everything."

She let out a low swear and scowled. "That--" She stopped, straightened her features, and looked at Sin. "Sorry, mate, that's on me. She's a friend's cousin, just started and still getting worked in. She's too aggressive at the strangest of times. I'll have Liani get on her. All's we told her was to get from you both a good time for a meet and greet."

"Good." There was a more metallic thud as Sin set his guns on the scarred, wooden surface of the end table. "I'd hate to have to be a dick so early on, especially after I had an initial good impression of you from Boyd and chingon."

Tayla nodded easily and leaned against the doorjamb. "It's not in our business to piss off potential associates, either. I gave Iris a chance because--" She stopped, grimaced, and waved a hand dismissively. "Eh, it's too long a story. But for your trip I'll see that she's not a messenger for you. Stop any crewmate you like to send a message to me when you know what time will work for you, unless now is fine."

Sin nodded, and sat on the edge of the bed. He leaned forward so that his arms were on his knees, and looked up at her. "So what do we need to do? Just lay low?"

"Right." Tayla glanced over her shoulder, frowned slightly, and then glanced questioningly at Boyd. He stepped aside so she could walk fully into the room and shut the door behind her. She didn't speak again until she had moved to lean against the wall, away from the door where presumably her voice could be more easily overheard.

"I'd stay off deck unless at night if I were you. We're all crew with just ten passengers including you, this run. I can vouch for my crew no question-- the rest of the travelers?" Her eyebrow quirked. "They're running from their own demons and they've all paid a fine price for it but you can't always say what a desperate person will do, yeah?"

"Is there any way they'd know who we are by turning a crewmember or finding a list somewhere?" Boyd asked.

Tayla shook her head. "We don't keep a manifest with names on it and I placed you far as I could from everyone else. So long as you aren't yelling out your full names and vocations where anyone can hear, it shouldn't be a problem. But be careful, anyway. Now and then we get waylaid by other pirates on the open seas and I'd hate to have anyone sell you out for an extra bit of cash on my watch."

Boyd nodded and walked over to sit on the bed next to Sin. "Have the port plans changed?"

"Nah, but Liani just told me we're hearing word of bad weather down the way. Might be six, seven days before we can port in Lisbon. You have leeway on your transport, yeah?"

"It won't matter if we're a few days late," Boyd agreed.

Tayla nodded. "Good."

"What's the food situation?" Sin asked. He was touching his own scalp carefully, and his brow furrowed as he extracted a small shard of glass.

"You get three meals a day and can buy more if you need. Booze and smokes for a price, too, if you want. Unless you need special treatment for your situation, you'll have to eat with the rest of us." She eyed Boyd and then settled her gaze on Sin. "Seeing as you don't exactly blend in, if there's a hit out on you with a description, you might want to try a disguise or two."

Sin grimaced at that. "I hate disguises. If I pay you extra, can someone just bring us food?"

Tayla nodded. "An extra one hundred a day and that's yours."

"Fine." Sin shifted so that he was laying on the bed, his legs pressing against Boyd's back. "I appreciate it," he added.

She nodded again and pushed herself away from the wall. "Anything else you need?"

"Can I get access to the radio system, to monitor traffic control?"

Tayla looked at Boyd and didn't answer at first. Her lips shifted into a small smile before she finally shrugged. "Three hundred and it's a deal. But no access to private communications."

"That's fine."

She nodded, started to turn toward the door, and then stopped. "Oh. I've a request of my own."

"What is it?"

"One of these nights, I want to come down to your cabin with Liani and play a game or two. Doesn't matter what game," she added, forestalling the question she might have seen growing on Boyd's face. "Maybe cards, maybe one of the boards or apps we have on deck. Just something to play a little strategy."

Boyd thought the request was rather odd but he didn't say that aloud. He looked at Sin and saw that his eyes were closed, his eyebrows faintly furrowed, but Boyd knew that he wasn't asleep. Since he didn't say anything or indicate he was against the idea, Boyd turned back to Tayla with a shrug.


"Brilliant," she said with a pleased grin. "Then, I'll be leaving you. Catch a crewman if you need us, like I said."

When the door was locked behind her and they were alone once again, Boyd kicked off his shoes and stretched out next to Sin on the bed. When Sin's eyes remained closed and he didn't immediately comment, Boyd crossed one arm behind his head and absently ran his fingertips along Sin's wrist with the other.

"If you want to sleep, I'll get the door if anyone comes."

"I'm okay." The green of Sin's eyes appeared as they opened slightly, and he turned on his side to face Boyd. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep until we're holed up in a random town in a random country, far away from Seong and the Agency."

Boyd's lips lifted and he lightly kissed Sin's forehead. "I know how you feel but you'd be exhausted if you didn't sleep until then. Right now, we're as safe as we're going to be for the next week and I brought extra precautions I can set up." He gestured to his bag tossed on the floor nearby. "I can keep watch."

Sin's eyes dropped to Boyd's mouth, and he leaned forward to draw Boyd's lower lip into his mouth. He looked up again, meeting Boyd's eyes after he released it. "Maybe later."

Boyd smiled and rolled on top of Sin, pushing him onto his back. His blond hair fell down around them, sheltering their view of the rest of the cabin as he leaned down. He sucked on Sin's earlobe, rolling his tongue piercing along it. The slight shudder he felt from Sin made Boyd release a hot wash of breath along the wet skin and murmur:

"If you put it that way, then maybe a lot later."

After the first night of thoroughly exploring each other, they spent the next two days holed up in the cabin, sleeping in shifts and cautiously monitoring the door. Exhausted and stressed as they both were, they didn't get the chance to enjoy each other's company as much as they wanted. But when they were both awake between shift changes, they touched each other with the same intensity as they had back at the Agency, years ago when they had thought each time would be the last.

Tayla and Liani stopped by the cabin on the third day, and Boyd enjoyed the visit more than he'd thought he would. The two women were easy-going, and for all that Tayla could occasionally be off-putting, she managed to amuse them all by the end of the night.

Liani had changed more than Tayla had: now she wore a hijab, she appeared to have aged a bit more than Tayla, but she also seemed more approachable. Boyd vaguely remembered her as being more serious and quiet, but she turned out to have a dry sense of humor that appeared when least expected.

Maybe it was the bit of human interaction that didn't end in tragedy, but by the third night Boyd and Sin had stopped taking shifts and spent their time with each other instead. That night, the dark, moving water proved too tempting a view from their small window, and they decided to go on deck for some fresh air.

They went up in the early morning hours, when the ship seemed to be quietest. When they stepped up on deck, Boyd stilled at the view.

The moon was a waxing silver crescent against the pitch black sky, but what stood out to him were the stars. The clouds were nonexistent in a large section of the sky, and there he saw constellations like he'd only read about in books. With no city lights, no pollution, nothing visual to stand between them and the universe, it felt both humbling and awe-inspiring. It was the first time he understood why past civilizations had seen gods in the stars. And beneath it all, the sea was a rolling black reflection of everything stretched out above.


Sin leaned against the railing, propping his arms up on the white metal rungs. His eyes focused on Boyd, and he smiled slightly. "Impressed?"

"How could you tell?" Boyd asked with a faint twist of his lips. He leaned over the railing to peer down as best he could at the water, and then back up at the sky. "I've never seen anything like this before."

"It's nice," Sin agreed. He turned so that he was facing the water as well, and stared out into the darkness. "It's strange being so completely alone."

"I know." Boyd's gaze passed along what he could see of the horizon. "I keep expecting a hit squad to come speeding across the water."

"I know. So do I." Eyebrows drawing together slightly, Sin's fingers tightened around the rungs of the railing.

Boyd gently pulled one of Sin's hands from the rungs and entwined his fingers in Sin's. He pressed his arm against Sin's without looking away from the water. "They'll be okay. She has no reason to believe they're involved in any of this, and worst case scenario they have their own plan."

"Yeah. Maybe." Sin looked down at Boyd, a small smile flashing across his face. "Don't think I regret leaving. I don't. I want to be with you. I only want to be with you. Always. I'm just worried about the people left behind."

"I know, I didn't doubt your reasons." Boyd tipped his head against Sin's shoulder and breathed in the fresh air. The cool wind chilled his exposed skin, but he didn't mind. "I'm worried about them, too, but at the same time I know these are the only days we'll have even the slightest chance to relax. Once we hit dry land, we'll have to be on the run again."

"And keep running." Sin squeezed Boyd's hand tighter. "It will be worth it."

Boyd smiled and turned toward Sin. With his free hand, he pulled his lover down into a short kiss. Their lips were chapped and tinged with the chill of the night air, but Boyd still felt a sense of stability and completion that he wasn't sure he'd ever felt before now.

Sin's hand rested against the back of Boyd's neck, beneath the fall of his hair. The touch was light, almost gentle, and Sin's eyes seemed a deeper green in the low lighting. Boyd was struck by the intensity of happiness he could feel from such a simple moment, and at a sudden thought he let out a low laugh.


Shaking his head, Boyd couldn't keep the bemused smile from his face. "Nothing, just... We met, what? Almost six years ago?" He gestured to the ocean and the ship. "If someone had told me back then that this is where we'd end up, I would've thought they were insane."

"They put us through enough shit that it's amazing we've survived." Sin looked down again, and bumped his shoulder against Boyd's. "We're pretty tough."

Boyd smirked and rocked back against Sin. "And apparently both too stubborn to know when we're supposed to give up."

"And we never will."

"Not in a million years," Boyd agreed.

They stood together in silence for several minutes before the quiet scuff of a footstep behind them interrupted them. They pulled apart, and pivoted. A man was walking across deck; his skin pale in the night, with short dark hair and a pointed goatee. His eyes were partially hidden by black-rimmed glasses.

"Oh," he said when he saw them. He paused, glanced behind him toward the door he'd presumably come from, and then out to the sea. After a second, he continued walking toward the railing.

Sin stood up straight, but didn't step away from the railing. Still, Boyd could feel him tense.

The man stopped to lean against the railing not far from them. When they continued to watch him suspiciously, he looked over at them with a twist of his lips. "If I ruined a moment or whatever, it wasn't on purpose. I just wanted some fresh air. First time I've seen you two on board, though-- I thought I'd met everyone already at mealtimes."

He looked at them questioningly. Boyd shifted against the railing, debating briefly whether to answer or not. He ultimately decided that they might stand out in memory more if they were completely uncooperative, but he wasn't going to give the man any important information.

"Neither of us have been feeling well. Thought we'd get some fresh air, too."

"Ah," the man said knowingly with a nod. "Seasickness." He turned to face them, with one arm still leaning against the railing. "Name's Eli. What can I call you two?"

"James," Boyd said, gesturing to himself, and then for Sin, "and Ethan."

"Americans, I see." Eli flashed a smile. "I've been on this sort of transport a few times, and I don't always get a hometown accent along the way, even when we're leaving port from there. Where are you headed?"

Boyd raised his eyebrows at that, and Eli let out a humorless laugh. He waved his hand with a short shake of his head.

"You're right, sorry. Weird question, considering the circumstances."

"It is." Sin's eyes raked over the man, and he shifted his weight away from the rail.

Boyd glanced at Sin, and followed his lead. "We'll let you have some peace."

Eli's eyebrows rose and he glanced between the two of them, but then he shrugged. "Alright then. Maybe I'll see you both around."


The two of them headed back toward their room. Even so, Boyd could feel Eli's gaze on them until they left the deck.

They saw Eli once more on the deck, but that time the man didn't speak to them. Even so, they took to barricading the door after their nightly excursions to the top. They didn't dare talk about their plans, and they occupied their time by focusing on each other. When their time on the ship finally drew to a close, they'd had sex on every possible surface in the cabin. They'd licked the salty tang of the ocean from each other's bodies, waking each other from sleep with hands and mouth almost every day.

The cycle of sex, sleep, and finding ways to release their anxiety seemed to go on forever, but when they finally docked in Lisbon, the departure was almost abrupt. They packed their belongings, armed themselves, and followed the other few passengers onto the deck. Eli was nowhere to be seen.

They arrived in the dead of the night, with the dark lines of the suspension bridge Ponte 25 de Abril spread in pale lights against the black sky. The passengers wandered off while the crew members began unloading the designated cargo. Tayla looked up through a fall of blue hair and flashed a quick smile at Boyd and Sin.

As they were about to walk down to the dock, Liani walked over. Her clothing was darker than she'd worn earlier in the trip.

She smiled with a curve of her lips and no teeth, and looked between the two of them. "As-salamu alaykum. If you need us in the future, you know how to find us."

"Thank you for your help," Sin said. He paused, and then added, "Chingon and I both are grateful."

"It is our pleasure." She paused, glanced over at Tayla who jauntily waved at her lover, and then turned back to Sin and Boyd. Her back shifted slightly toward the rest of the passengers, and her voice dropped further.

"Tayla tends to trust her first impression very strongly. She liked Boyd from the start, and it became stronger with his referral and the new business from Di Zhi. I won't lie; we were suspicious when chingon contacted us for the first time, but when we learned it was for you two it was an easy answer. Now, we may work with him again in the future." Her lips quirked. "Perhaps we should make small statues of you both to keep aboard and use as money idols."

"I'm pretty sure any statue of me would just scare people away," Sin said blandly.

"Perhaps, but that could be of use as well." She winked and then looked over her shoulder. Boyd glanced back just in time to see Tayla waving a tablet with her eyebrows raised pointedly. Liani's lips thinned and she stepped back. "It seems I'm needed. Insha'Allah we will meet again."

"I'm sure we will," Boyd said. He hitched the bag up further on his shoulder and flashed a small smile at her. "Thanks for everything."

Liani nodded and, with a friendly pat on Sin's arm, walked back over to Tayla. The two women began to speak to each other, with Tayla pointing out something on the tablet.

Boyd turned his attention back to his partner. "Ready?"

"Let's do it."

The wind had a biting chill to it when Sin and Boyd stepped off Asasara and onto the pier. The place was nearly empty so early in the morning.The water of Rio Tejo was nearly black, reflecting the nearby lights like stars. The wash of the waves, the creaking of ships in the harbor, and the thump of cargo being loaded and unloaded were the only sounds aside from the quiet brush of Sin and Boyd's footsteps on the pavement.

They veered away from the main walkway to cut through a side street between two buildings. A short jog across a street, and subsequent hop of a fence brought them across an empty parking lot, and through another side street. As they walked down the poorly lit street, a wrought iron fence came into view. It blocked their way to the bus stop visible just beyond.

Before Boyd could comment, Sin stopped abruptly and his hand clamped down on Boyd's arm.

Boyd looked at Sin, and felt a chill crawl up his spine. Sin's eyes were focused upward, and he was completely still.

"We're surrounded."

Continue to Fade Chapter 40...