In the Company of Shadows

This site is..

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 40

Uploaded on 3/2/2013

From their position on the ground, Sin could see five agents in the perimeter. The man standing ahead of them was flanked by a leaner guy with a tattooed face, and a petite Asian woman. When Sin's eyes flicked to the buildings around them, he saw another man with almost unnaturally pale skin on one roof, and yet another agent on the roof of the building across, aiming an assault rifle at Boyd.

He automatically sought out more. Seong should have sent an army after him; she knew what he could take on, but the five agents were alone. It didn't make sense. Unless...

Sin's hand tightened on Boyd. "Spliced Mods."

He could feel Boyd tense.

The man ahead of them had smooth tan skin and eyes that looked as dark as the night, with jet black hair falling partially over the side of his face. He appeared calm, as if he were meeting them for a pre-arranged coffee date.

"Good evening," he greeted them, his British accent echoing loudly in the silence. "I'm Donovan and this is my team. Vega, if you come in without trouble, we won't kill Beaulieu in front of you."

A glint of light caught Sin's eyes, and he looked up to see the pale man watching Boyd predatorily. He was flipping a knife between his fingers. From a distance, it seemed like he was still on the ledge, but Sin could see minute movements as the man shifted, gaze fixed and anticipatory.

Sin looked down at Boyd. They stared at each other for only a breath before he pivoted automatically, a spin of motion that was almost a blur in the darkness of the early morning. He wrenched Boyd in an arc so that Sin was between him and the agents that surrounded them. They both dropped their bags, and Sin was aware of motion behind him as Boyd took off sprinting down the alley.

"Two klicks East from the spot," Sin shouted, knowing that Boyd would understand. His answer was the pounding of Boyd's boots against the cobblestone and broken bottles. The explosion of a gunshot cracked through the air as Sin ripped his pistol free of the holster and shot the red-haired woman's forehead. Her body toppled over the side of the building, and the other agents burst into action.

The shuffle of footsteps above Sin signaled the movement of the pale-skinned man as he began to pursue Boyd. Sin jumped, catching the sill of a window, and gunshots exploded down the alley. One grazed his arm as he turned his body sideways, running halfway up the wall before grabbing the ledge of the roof with one hand. His fingers had barely curled around the edge when a whistling sound filled the air, and a thin blade slammed into the backside of his hand.

Nearly losing his grip, Sin yanked himself up despite the pain searing up his arm, and flipped onto the roof when another barrage of bullets slammed into the building. In the second it took him to throw himself completely onto the roof, another bullet slammed into the back of his calf.

The man that had been watching Boyd had already vanished, and Sin ignored the blossoms of pain exploding all over his body as he shifted into a fighting stance. The tattooed man leapt over the side of the roof the same way Sin had, his Agency armor glinting in the darkness when his body moved fluidly with the motions of Parkour. He was agile, as agile as Sin, and he barreled forward in a flurry of motion while the sound of his teammates scrabbling up and over windowsills filled the early morning. They skittered up the wall as easily as spiders. The tattooed man flung himself at Sin, dodging a bullet that took off part of his ear without so much as a flinch.

The man fought with a deadly grace. They matched each other blow for blow, the battle taking them across the crumbling roof. For the next few seconds, the packing sounds of blocked blows and skin hitting skin surrounded them, but Sin's lips twisted in a snarl because it was taking too long. Every moment he wasted on this spliced freak was a moment that Boyd was being pursued by a mutated Mod with a sadistic gleam in his eye.

"Give it up, Vega," Donovan called. He was watching the fight detachedly while the Asian woman trained her gun on Sin. "You can't take us all."

"Watch me," Sin growled.

The knife was still buried in his hand, and he yanked it out, tucking it between his knuckles. A well-aimed kick from the tattooed man sent Sin's P97 skittering onto the rooftop, but he retaliated with an uppercut that sent the blade slamming into the soft underside of the agent's chin. There was a gagging sound, and blood squirted everywhere when Sin yanked his fist back. His opponent stumbled, but before Sin could dive out of the way, another hail of bullets hurtled at him.

The Asian woman wasn't aiming for vitals, so Sin shifted from side to side, ducking and throwing himself backwards as her hand shifted with lightning speed to aim for each limb. She was too quick, her aim too true, and another bullet slammed into his shoulder after he managed to evade one meant for his kneecap. He staggered back again, but his foot met empty air.

There was a sudden sense of weightlessness as Sin fell backwards off the side of the roof.

As Boyd ran, he calculated his position in the city. It was dangerous to take on a Mod of unknown strength alone. He either had to get back to the Asasara for assistance, or get somewhere public where the Agency wouldn't want a fight overseen.

He hadn't seen pursuit yet but he knew it wouldn't be long. Blocks from a main road--

A blur of shadow blocked the way in front of him. Boyd barely had a glance of pale skin and metal before he threw himself to the side. A knife flew past his cheek, slicing through his hair. Boyd's boots skidded against the cobblestone, his fingers clawing into the caked dirt, and he redirected his angle just enough to sprint toward the street he'd just passed.

The man was still standing there calmly, watching him with a smile.

Not far and he'd reach--

Boyd ducked and felt a knife slice across his upper arm. He glanced around quickly but couldn't see his pursuer, so he lunged toward the nearest building door. The other agent was so fast he nearly appeared from thin air, sending Boyd flying back with a hard kick to his ribs.

"Nay, wee bird," the man said with a heavy Scottish accent. "You've got to get back to your cage."

Catching himself before he hit the street, Boyd started running back the way he'd come. Staying a moving target was his only hope until he could find a place to hide and regroup.

He twisted, searching behind him. Years of being Sin's partner helped him find someone who was too fast to properly see. He heard a scuff of noise behind him, just the barest sound, and immediately shot in that direction. The bullets cracked into the old buildings and the man laughed, nowhere to be seen.

Boyd started to turn, but a knife flew at him from the side. He ducked behind a car, then twisted and shot back along the trajectory of the knife. The man seemed to disappear and reappear again further down the street, blocking Boyd from escaping to a public area.


Boyd started sprinting again, feeling the strain already pulling on his body with burning lungs and thighs. He hadn't had time to train again after Janus. He couldn't do this forever.

He was forced up a hill and felt his stomach clench when he saw a wall blocking his path. He found himself on an abandoned road, blocked off by the tall wall on one side with trees peeking over the edge. The other side of the street was filled with buildings that were in obvious disrepair and plastered with graffiti. Nearby, there was a lone vehicle that had been stripped of its parts.

It was the type of neighborhood where people minded their business and remained uninvolved. He would not find help here.

The sound of footsteps gaining on him caused Boyd to move faster. He worked his coat off, twisted, and whipped it back. He was rewarded with an irritated curse, and a brief slowing of feet slamming against cobblestone. He aimed his Sig as he ran and unloaded several rounds at his attacker.

There was a brief silence and the sounds of pursuit ceased. Boyd looked over his shoulder once again. The man had crossed the distance between them in great, bounding leaps and abruptly appeared at Boyd's side. A crushing grip wrenched the gun out of Boyd's hand and he was thrown back against a building. The impact was powerful enough for the breath to rush out of him, but it didn't stop him from scrambling out of the way of another attack.

Boyd's heart thundered even as his mind continuously analyzed the situation. He was out of weapons and the unnatural-looking man was sprinting after him once again.

Where did the man want him to go? He was as fast as Sin and Bex, and could have caught up to Boyd at any time. The wolfish expression and taunts implied that the man wanted something other than a clean kill. He wanted to keep playing this game. Maybe he was leading Boyd to the wooded area on the other side of the wall where he could hunt him like an animal.

Not far away were two ramshackle one-story buildings. Broken pieces of scrap metal, roof tiles, and a long, iron pole lay scattered across the second building's roof. Sprinting to the worst of the two, Boyd leapt onto a garbage can and scrambled up to the roof. The tiles shook around him and showered over the side onto the man, who swore even as Boyd threw himself over the side. Before he could flatten the other man to the ground, he was grabbed out of the air and thrown.

Boyd didn't have time to roll to disperse the momentum-- all he could do was throw his arms out. He landed hard on his right arm and felt a sickening crack. He had no time to recover before the attack began again. A hard kick in his stomach threw him onto his back and snapped his head back against the ground. The man grabbed him by the right arm and flipped him onto the nearby car. The bone in Boyd's arm audibly snapped. A shock wave of pain rushed through him even as he felt the hood dent beneath him.

A knife arced down toward him. Boyd jerked his left hand over, grabbing the man's wrist and yanking it to the side. The knife bit deeply into the side of his face and down toward his ear. It quickly became evident that had been a feint when the Mod immediately dropped the knife and grabbed Boyd's wrist so hard he could feel an ache in his bones.

A glint of light off metal was the only warning Boyd had. He looked up to see a knife in the man's other hand, striking down at him. He barely had time to throw his right arm up to block, and he felt the full strength of the Mod's body crashing into it.

His broken arm buckled, and he screamed as the knife plunged into his left eye.

The impact stunned Sin, and for a moment he lay motionless. The crunch of metal and glass filled his ears when the car dented inward under the force of the impact. His left hand dangled over the side of the vehicle limply. Everything seemed to slow down while he stared at the dark sky, looking at a satellite that blinked down at him. There was a damp warmness near the back of his head that indicated some sort of trauma, but he didn't react to it.

He didn't react to anything until a shadow soared through the air next to the destroyed car, and reality came rushing back with the sound of boots slamming against cobblestone.

The female Mod.

Sound rushed back to Sin's ears and the muffled silence vanished. He flipped to the side and off the car, his feet hitting the ground right before the woman fired. He dropped into a crouch when she aimed at him again, the tranq gun only recognizable by the wide, gold rounds that dropped next to her.

She fired twice more, each shot missing him only by millimeters despite his inhuman speed. When she lifted the gun again, he feinted to the side before leaping forward with one hand planted on the roof of the car. He jumped over it in one swift movement, landed behind her, and grabbed her neck with both hands. The pop was loud in the darkness, and he dropped her body, grabbed the tranq gun, and bolted in the direction that Boyd had run. He was halfway down the street when the faint sound of a voice tugged at his attention.

Someone was demanding backup.

Sin turned on his heel and sprinted back to the alley. Donovan was standing over his and Boyd's fallen bags, seeming to have temporarily aborted the pursuit. He spotted Sin, but Sin pumped the trigger back on the tranq gun three times before Donovan made it halfway down the alley. The Euro agent dodged each bullet, and Sin discarded the gun.

Donovan sent a knife hurtling at Sin. It sliced across the side of his neck as it whistled by, and he flattened himself against the wall when Donovan threw another. Ducking so that the knife embedded in the wooden panel of the building behind him, Sin jerked out the twin to his P97 and fired four shots in quick succession. The other man dodged them all, moving with the same unnatural speed and grace that Sin possessed, and was on Sin in seconds.

Donovan launched into a full-on offensive attack, and swung blows at Sin with staggering speed. This one was faster than the tattooed Mod, and his movements were more fluid and confident. They matched each other blow for blow, a vicious dance that took them out onto the main road again as Sin tackled the other man to the ground. They rolled over into the street, nearly getting crushed by an oncoming car that disappeared into the darkness without pausing, and stopped with Donovan pinning Sin to the ground.

Blood dripped down the side of the man's face from one of Sin's attacks, as the webbing between Donovan's thumb and index finger crushed down on Sin's windpipe. Gritting his teeth as his breath was taken away, Sin wrenched his arm out from under him and returned the favor, crushing Donovan's throat with an iron-like grip.

The Mod's eyes opened wide, a look of surprise crossing his face when Sin's hand completely cut off his oxygen. They stared at each other, both breathless and beaten, bloody and bruised, until Donovan's grip loosened and Sin twisted out of the hold.

He kicked Donovan back and leapt to his feet. The other agent rolled onto his stomach, and moved to rise to his knees. Before he could complete the motion and once again rely on the speed that had been enhanced in him and his team, Sin slammed his boot against the back of the man's skull. Donovan's face crushed against the curb, his mouth open and skull caved in, causing blood to pool down onto the filthy cobblestone.

"Come on, now-- I like watching this part but yer an agent, so stop fighting and I'll make it quick. It'll go right into your brain."

Boyd hardly heard the comment as his head exploded in pain greater than he'd ever felt. The man's weight bore down on him, pinning him. His feet kicked out, scuffing the ground, unable to gain purchase to flee or hit the man. Jerking on his left arm only felt like his hand would get pulled off, and his right arm was the only thing stopping the knife from embedding deep in his skull. He could feel the broken edges of his arm bones grinding against each other with the pressure.

The man leaned on him, heavier and heavier, and Boyd could feel the knife jagging deeper into his eye. He grit his teeth, holding in another ragged scream.

"Dinnae ye want to die with dignity, wee bird?" came the Scottish drawl. "If no, I'll make it fun for me. I've been gantin' for a vivisection."

It took a few harsh, truncated breaths to be able to speak. "Then do it, you sick fuck," Boyd growled.

The man's eyebrows rose. "Yer off yer head but I'm no gonna say nay."

Boyd acted the second the man's fingers lightened on his wrist. Wrenching his left hand away, Boyd slammed up on the man's knife hand. The knife sliced through his eye, nicking the bone and jerking up against his brow, but it caused the man to lose his grip.

Boyd yanked the knife out of his eye and whipped it around, slashing with all his strength across the man's throat. The blade ripped through his neck, deep enough to almost touch bone. A look of pure surprise overcame the man's pale features. He stumbled back with a horrible gurgling, gasping noise, his hands against his throat to try to hold the skin and muscles together.

For a moment the man started forward again, but blood was spurting liberally from between his fingers, splattering Boyd and coating the ground. The man's knees buckled and he fell over.

Boyd wavered on his feet as his body overloaded on pain. He felt a dual moment of déjà vu; the feeling of a knife handle in his hand, slippery with blood, and the image of a body lying on the street in a growing pool of blood. The feeling of that same blood splattered across his face.

A wave of disgust overcame him. The knife clattered to the street.

His left hand pressed against his eye, which he just noticed was pouring liquid down his face. Blood? Something else? He didn't know. When he started to look to the side, he nearly collapsed. His left eye screamed at him-- every minute shift too much. His head pounded violently to the beat of his blood, sending spikes of pain with every compression of his heart.

Turn your head, some distant part of him noted. Your eyes move in pairs.

Breathing erratically, he tried to peer through the blood for his gun. His left hand felt like it was the only thing holding all the blood in his head in place and even then he could feel a hot slick waterfall rolling down his face.

He shivered, suddenly feeling the cold bite of the air much more clearly.

When he found his gun, he had to drop to his knees to grab it. When he reached for the wall to hoist himself up, his bloody hand slipped and he fell forward. It felt like his arm and eye were about to rip out of their sockets.

The world flickered around him.

For a moment, the darkness shuddering on the edge of his vision seemed so welcoming. His eye and arm hurt so much he couldn't breathe. The cold was leeching the strength out of him. Maybe he should lie down, just for a few seconds. To give his head a chance to stop pounding.

A slow, seductive slide into silence and then a gasp of breath.


The stones suddenly came back into focus. Dark grey diamonds crowded against each other; covered in dirt and blood.

I have to get to...

He had to drag in several harsh, gasping breaths before he could get his legs under him again. He didn't realize he was stumbling down the road until he hit the edge of a building with his right arm and white noise burst in his head. He staggered, falling against a light pole.

Was he any farther than before? Through the blood he could see the Mod's body. Hardly ten feet away.

Hsin. Hsin--

He tried to take a step forward and his knees buckled beneath him. Cobblestone came flying at him. His hands shot out automatically to stop his fall-- right arm too, and he let out an agonized shout at the crack of bone against skin.

This time, the darkness didn't slow. Pitch blackness enveloped him and ice raced up his limbs. Labored breathing sounded like it was coming from somewhere else.

More distantly still, he heard voices. Soon, even that felt too far away.

The first thing Boyd noticed upon waking was that he had a massive headache.

He tried to squint and saw a white ceiling with heavy wooden beams. That was the moment everything else came sharply into focus.

He couldn't move his right arm. Something wasn't right with his face.

A jolt of fear shot straight to his stomach when he realized he could only see half of the ceiling. Everything was black to the left of his nose.

Drawing in a sharp breath, Boyd lifted his left hand. It felt strange to feel the sudden touch of fingertips on his face without being able to see the hand. He could feel gauze over his left cheek, and a ball of bandaging pushing down over his left eye.

Memories came flooding back. The Mod, the fight, the pain. Blood and stumbling and darkness.

He noticed someone out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to see Sin moving to sit on the edge of the bed. His face was a patchwork of bruises and cuts, and his head had been shaved short although it wasn't immediately obvious why. One of Sin's hands was bandaged but Boyd couldn't see what other injuries might exist beneath his clothing.

Even with the visible injuries, Boyd still felt a wave of relief at the sight of Sin. They'd made it out, both of them. Somehow.

"Are you okay?" Boyd's voice cracked from disuse.

One of Sin's hands closed over Boyd's, the one that was not encased in a cast.

"I'm fine," he said, voice hoarse.

Boyd turned his hand so he could curl his fingers over Sin's. "You don't look fine. What happened?"

"I have a mild head injury that required stitches, and I was shot a couple of times. It's nothing for me."

"Are you sure?" Boyd's hand tightened on Sin's. "You have a habit of downplaying your injuries."

Sin inclined his head, lips sliding into a half-smile that quickly faded. "I'm fine. You know me."

Boyd snorted. "I do know you. That's why I worry."

"I'm fine. I promise." Sin's eyes dropped, and he stared at their fingers. "I tried to get back to you, but it was too late."

The sinking feeling grew stronger in the pit of Boyd's stomach. He had to swallow before he could ask the question that had been lurking in the back of his mind. The words he'd been too afraid to say.

"Is-- did my eye..." He had to stop and start over. "Am I... blind?"

There was a brief silence, and Sin finally looked up again. "Your left eye... It was too damaged. It had to be removed."

Even anticipating bad news, the words hit Boyd harder than he'd expected. His hand spasmed on Sin's and he let out a low, harsh breath. He felt hollow inside, and had to look away, turning his head back up to stare at the ceiling.


Not just patched up and temporarily nonfunctional. Not something that could be fixed in the future, maybe when they had access to better medical help, or-- or something.

It was just-- gone. And now he would never see the world with two eyes ever again.

The enormity of it was terrifying. Seeing that huge black gap where there was supposed to be sight. Where he was supposed to-- where he should have--

He felt his good eye starting to prick with moisture-- fuck, it wasn't even his good eye anymore, it was his only eye. What if something happened to it? What if he went blind entirely?

What would he do?

He'd been on so many missions, he'd been through so many fights, but scars and wounds had never seemed as chilling. In one moment, during one fight, his entire life had changed.

He closed his eye, trying to ignore the finality in his mind, that horrible voice that kept pointing out that he had to think in terms of singularity from now on. His jaw clenched and he just nodded, not knowing what else to do. Not even knowing what to say.

"I'm sorry, Boyd."

Boyd tilted his head to look at Sin. "There's no reason for you to feel sorry."

Sin swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing. "If I'd been faster--"

"Hsin," Boyd cut him off, squeezing his hand. "Stop. Don't you dare blame yourself for any of this. It's not your fault. That Mod did this. The Agency did." He paused, his lips wavering briefly before he drew in a deep breath. "But I can still see, right? And we're both alive. I'm not going to lie, this is scaring the shit out of me right now, but as long as you're with me I know we'll be okay."

"I just love you so much, and I--" Sin broke off. His fingers tightened around Boyd's, and he released a quiet breath. "Just tell me what you need."

Boyd tried to think of how to answer that, but all he really wanted was Sin's presence. He drew in another breath, slightly shaky this time. "Will you still love me no matter how I look when the bandage is off? Or if I can't help you in fights anymore? Even if-- I go completely blind?"

"I will love you no matter what, Boyd. Don't be stupid." Sin leaned forward and brushed his lips against Boyd's, lingering slightly. "We're not splitting up if we're surrounded like that again," he said against Boyd's mouth. "I swear, I'll die before someone hurts you like this again."

Boyd smiled slightly, feeling a compression in his chest lift at Sin's assurance. "Don't do that. I could live even with turning into Frankenstein's monster as long as you were there in the end."

Sin closed his eyes and tilted his forehead slightly against Boyd's. "There's painkillers," he said quietly. "For when you need them."

"Can I have them now?"

Sin helped Boyd sit up, which turned out to be useful when Boyd felt his head pounding worse than ever and might have laid back down immediately on his own. Sin handed Boyd some pills, and a glass of water from a nearby table. Feeling parched, Boyd swallowed the painkillers and drank the whole glass at once. While doing so, he looked around the room as best he could.

The walls were comprised of huge stones in the old world European style. A small window was covered with white gauzy sheers that showed him a hint of rustling tree branches outside. There was a tiny kitchen across the room, little more than a petite sink, miniature fridge, and stovetop built into the counter. A small bathroom just big enough for a toilet, sink and standing shower was situated next to it.

The room wasn't large but it was comfortable, and to his right he could now see a door that he assumed led to the outside.

It provided no clues as to where he was. It certainly didn't look like the hostels they'd researched as potential safe houses along their journey.

Boyd handed Sin the empty glass. "Where are we, anyway?"

"France." Sin's mouth turned downward, and he glanced at the door. "Your uncle's people found us. That man on the ship? He was in JG."

"Wait-- what? Why didn't he tell us? And what do you mean they found us? They were looking for us?"

Sin sat down again, and pushed Boyd back down to the bed gently. "That man on the ship, his real name is Ian. He happened be on the same ship as us. Apparently JG has used the Snakes for travel as well. He recognized us but didn't want to approach until he cleared it with his people, which he did after meeting up with them after the ship docked. According to Ian, they went looking for us immediately because they were afraid we would disappear."

There was a pause, and Sin reached out to brush his fingers against the bandaged side of Boyd's face. His lips thinned before he spoke again. "I killed the four Mods, recovered your bag with the data, and went to find you. You were with JG, with Ian and a British woman, and I nearly fucking killed them before I realized that they were trying to help. All I could see was you, and all of the blood, and I lost it.

"I went into a complete rage, and I didn't snap out of it until Ian screamed that he knew your uncle. Livana said they could give you care. So I trusted them with you, and I went. And I kept thinking, what if I lose you? What if you die? After everything. And I thought..." Sin trailed off. He wet his lips as his brows knit together. "I thought this must have been what you felt like in Mexico. Watching me dying. Watching me bleeding."

Boyd pressed his hand against Sin's cheek and temple. He didn't look away from Sin's eyes. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I never wanted you to have to feel that way."

Shaking his head, Sin grasped Boyd's hand in his own and kissed it. "Shut up. Don't apologize." Their fingers twined together again. "We treated you as best we could in the car, to stop the bleeding, and we drove into Spain. Other JG people were based there, including the founder, a man named Bell. They did the surgery on you there, and treated my wounds before I agreed to come here. To France."

Boyd ran his thumb lightly along Sin's warm skin. "It sounds like they saved our lives."

"Yeah. But I don't trust them yet. I came here because I had no choice. There was nowhere else to go. No one else to help you. Or to help me remove the chip that the Agency had planted inside of me."

"What?" Boyd started to sit up but aborted the attempt with a wince. A chip would explain how the Agency had found them so quickly, but-- "How did that happen? We checked before we left."

"I don't fucking know. I told Ian that we both scanned ourselves, and that the Agency didn't follow you to New York so if it was anyone being tracked, it had to be me. There was no other explanation unless someone sold us out on the ship, and Ian said there is technology that would make a tracker undetectable by conventional means. JG has access to their own tech shit, and sure enough, they scanned us again, and I had a device in me."

Boyd was quiet a moment, and he shook his head in disgust. "We never would have gotten away. How long have I been out? We haven't had any issues since you removed it?"

"It's been two days with no sign of the Agency. Unless they're regrouping and figuring out what to do, they must not have a lead on us." Sin ran a hand through his hair, movements sharp. "I wish I could believe that's what it was, but they won't give up that easy. We took out five Modified agents from the Euro division. They weren't completely enhanced like I am, but they were still valuable, rare resources. Even if Seong miraculously gave up on us, the Marshal of Euro division won't."

"It won't be long until they find us. If we didn't stand out enough already, now..." Boyd gestured to his eye and grimaced. "And if a Mod-- hell, if a normal agent came after me right now I'd be dead." He paused. "Hsin, I want to help the Guild. There's a solution for this, and together I think we can do it."

Instead of replying, Sin's attention switched to the door. Boyd turned his head just in time to see an elderly woman walk in. She was very carefully carrying a silver tea tray with refreshments. When she looked up and saw them staring at her, she jumped in place. The porcelain cups and plates rattled, nearly falling off.

"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed. She set the tray down on the nearest surface, and straightened with a hand pressed to her chest. "I did not think you are awake."

Boyd looked at Sin questioningly, before turning back to the woman. She smiled kindly at them, sky blue eyes standing out against her pale, wrinkled skin and silver hair. Her gaze caught only briefly on Boyd's face before sliding away.

"This is not a good time, I think," she said, almost to herself. "I will leave tea and go. Please, be comfortable. You are my guests."

Boyd tried to figure out what was niggling at the back of his mind as he looked at her. "Who are you?"

"I am..." She paused. It almost seemed like she wasn't going to continue but then she lifted her head up high and spoke: "My name, it is Éliane Devereux. Your mother, Vivienne, she is my granddaughter. So I am, to you, a great-grandmother."

Boyd stared at her, overcome by surprise. "I don't..."

He almost said he didn't have living family aside from his mother, but then, he'd already been proven wrong once with Riley. What the hell was with random family members showing up out of nowhere lately?

"I don't understand," he finished instead.

She smiled at him sadly. "I know. I am sorry for it. But we have met before, yes? In Paris. I did not know it was you at first but your features, I know them. Vivienne, yes, and I have seen a photograph of Cedrick, but you remind me of Jacques as well."

"Who-- Jacques?"

"Ah, yes." She shook her head. "I should leave this for another time. You need rest now?"

"No." Boyd pushed himself up with his left hand, feeling his head pound at the new elevation but not as badly as before. He started to swing his legs over the side. "I need to know what's happening."

"Calm down," Sin said. He stood and put a hand on Boyd's shoulder, steadying him. "She will explain. Bell and Riley will too. They're back now. I heard them pull up."

Boyd relented. With Sin's help, he rearranged himself to let his back rest against the headboard. With a promise to be right back, Éliane left the room. Not long afterward, the door opened again, this time with Éliane, Riley, and a black man Boyd had never seen before.

Riley looked over at Boyd but quickly averted his eyes when they caught on the bandage over Boyd's eye. Riley wouldn't look at him directly afterward. Boyd felt his stomach clench, even more when he realized that Éliane was also avoiding his gaze.

Fuck. Did he have that to look forward to for the rest of his life? People who looked at him like his existence was something uncomfortable that they couldn't face head-on? Would he always see that first flash of pity before the eyes slid away?

His fingers dug into his palm and he had to turn away from them. He tried to pretend it was on purpose, like he'd just wanted to look out the window, but it only made it worse.

I have to turn my whole fucking head just to see this side of the room, he thought bitterly, furious with himself and the Agency and the permanency of this truth.

Warm fingers at his palm made him jump slightly. He looked down to see Sin's hand gentle on his own, discreetly uncurling his clenched hand. A comforting brush of skin against skin. Boyd tilted his head up to see those green eyes blazing into his face and not sliding away.

He let out a quiet breath as the tightening in his chest receded.

Sin sat back in his chair, letting his hand slide away from Boyd's, but it remained on the bed where Boyd could feel the faintest depression in the blankets. The dragging of the chairs and settling of people slowed and stilled.

The black man sat closer to the bed, his gaze focused on Boyd. He had short hair that was greying on the sides, and light brown eyes. His dark skin and stocky build stood out in his crisp white button down shirt and dark washed jeans. He looked to be in his fifties, and had a friendly face with the sort of wrinkles seen from a lifetime of smiling.

He clasped his hands in front of him and rested his elbows on his knees. When he spoke, his voice was a soothing rumble, with a slight accent that was hard to define. It sounded faintly Southern American to Boyd's ears.

"Hello, Boyd. My name is Bellamy Sall but most people call me Bell. I operated on you and Sin both. I understand that you're wondering what's happening right now but I want to get the important part out of the way first. How are you feeling? Anything you'd like me to look at to help with your comfort?"

"I'm fine."

"Good. No headache? It's normal to wake up with one."

"I already took some painkillers."

"Good." Bell's gaze hadn't shifted from studying Boyd. It was the clinical once-over of a professional, but Boyd noted that he, too, didn't seem uncomfortable looking him in the face.

"Take those every four hours for now. By tomorrow, the headache should recede. There are some timelines we'll have to talk about-- when your compression bandage will come off, how soon we can look into an artificial eye, and some precautions for the next two weeks. That can happen now or later depending on your preference."

Boyd hesitated. With the bandage on, it was too easy to feel like maybe his eye was just damaged for now and needed a rest, even though he knew that wasn't true. Hearing 'artificial eye' said so casually felt daunting and frightening.

He wanted to know what he was supposed to expect-- how much would change in his life. Would he ever get used to it? Would he ever be able to drive, or fight, or shoot as well again?

But even with all the questions buzzing through his mind, he didn't want to discuss any of it with Riley or Éliane in the room. And right now, he wanted answers of a different kind. So he ignored the loss of his eye as much as he could, and focused on the other topics at hand.

"That can wait."

"Okay." Bell turned his attention to Sin. "And you? Any complications or concerns since yesterday?"

"No. But now that Boyd is awake, we want the whole story. You didn't just help us because suddenly Boyd's relatives are feeling nostalgic."

"And what are you all doing together, anyway?" Boyd asked suspiciously, looking at Riley and then Éliane. "You two aren't even related."

Riley crossed his legs, his ankle resting on his opposite knee. "Long story, shortstop, but if you want the condensed version, I needed a safe house in France, and tracked her down. She's been helping ever since."

Sin appeared uninterested in this detail, and kept his attention on Bell. "You want something from Boyd, so what is it?"

Bell watched him for a long moment in return and then sighed. All the weight seemed to fall back into his face and he nodded. "It's a fair point, and I can't say we hadn't tried to contact you initially for a reason." He looked questioningly at Boyd. "How much do you know about your father?"

Boyd hesitated, trying to figure out how fully to answer that. "I know he was involved in the Guild. Central to it. I know he was a journalist and he seemed to be obsessed with the truth."

"That's the truth, if I ever heard it. Your father, he was a great man." Bell shook his head, repeating to himself: "A great man. He believed in people-- saw something in everyone, something worth saving. He believed that if the people of the world were treated with respect, given as much of the unbiased truth as possible, they'd choose right in the end. Whatever end that might be. He really thought good always wins in the end if people try hard enough."

Boyd didn't say anything. It sounded pretty in line with what he'd already gleaned from the journals he'd read.

Bell paused, his dark eyes studying each of them in turn. His hands flexed in front of him, fingers tangling together and releasing. The white fabric of his shirt strained at the movement of his muscles.

"I want to tell you a story," Bell said solemnly, "so bear with me."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old, worn photograph that he held out, first showing Sin and then Boyd. Cedrick's face beamed out from the picture, not looking much older than Boyd himself. This close in age, Boyd could see more of the similarities between them. Cedrick had an arm thrown over the man next to him who was unmistakably a younger Bell, also smiling widely. They appeared to be sitting in a pub that Boyd thought may be Killian's. When neither Boyd nor Sin reached out to take the photo, Bell turned it around and stared down at it. His shoulders bowed slightly.

"The idea for the Guild first came up at a party. Your father and I met there and, well, I suppose that's a story all its own. But we were both frustrated by the media at the time. We set out to tell the truth when everyone else seemed set on choosing sides. We had grand ideas about what we could do, about how far we could reach." A smile crossed his lips but faded quickly. "Back then, we knew we should be careful, but we had no idea how dangerous it would turn out to be."

He sighed heavily and sat up straight in the chair. "Cedrick had a knack for finding the little details that unraveled everything. And he was stubborn. When he got something into his head, he would see it through to completion come hell or high water."

Bell's expression darkened. "But that tenacity had a cost, and sometimes he wouldn't give others enough information when he was looking into something. He didn't like to cry wolf until he was positive he was right. I think that's what happened when he died."

Boyd turned his head to see Riley, but the man was looking down at a small tablet in his hands. He didn't bother looking up even when Boyd asked:

"And Vanguard? Did he actually talk to Riley about it or was that a lie?"

Lips thinning, Bell followed Boyd's gaze. "He didn't talk to Riley, but we did hear the name from a reliable source. Not long after Ced died, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the bombs hit, we thought-- I received a message on a secure line. One meant only for emergencies, that only Guild members had. Someone calling out 'Vanguard Industries,' Ced's name, and gunfire cutting it off."

Boyd wondered if this was connected to some of the information he'd dug up on his father. "Who left the message?"

"Julian Jones, a private investigator," Bell replied. "In the year before he died, your dad had said he was onto something big, but he wouldn't tell me anything more. We'd had a bet-- God," he winced, "we were so young and stupid. We'd said whichever of us uncovered the most interesting story by the end of the year would get his bar tab paid by the other on New Year's Eve."

Bell shook his head with a sigh before he continued. "At any rate, I knew he had someone else helping him, but I didn't know who. Not until I got that call and it led me to JJ Investigations. Except, thing was, the office was wiped. We might have missed it if we hadn't heard the message, but we still saw some signs of a fight. What looked to be bullet holes in the wall."

Boyd and Sin exchanged a look.

"We checked later." Bell's eyebrows drew together. "It made no damn sense. No 911 calls or witnesses, yet somehow within a couple of hours of me receiving that message, JJ Investigations was gone. We found a story later. It said he and the women working insurance across the hall were killed when the ex-husband of a former client of Julian's snapped. But that didn't explain how the reporters knew information even we couldn't find, why there hadn't been police involvement at a homicide scene, why we couldn't find anything of Julian's, or why he'd called me in a panic. That's when we knew something was very wrong. Eventually, we started to wonder if Cedrick's death hadn't been an accident after all."

Boyd's gaze hovered on Bell. The information filled in some of the blanks in the information he'd gathered over time.

"So, what made you decide to contact me?"

There was a brief pause after that, and Bell slid the photograph back into his pocket. He drew in a short breath and let it out slowly. His eyes turned up to settle on Boyd somberly.

"I knew Cedrick. I knew he would never leave it all to chance. Whatever he'd uncovered, the information that had gotten him killed, there was no doubt in my mind that he'd left it somewhere safe. We dug into Vanguard Industries and found a few public articles about them, but once we realized how covert they were, we backed off completely. Anything buried that deep is too dangerous with nothing to go on. We had no idea what we were dealing with.

"For years we laid low, never mentioning Vanguard Industries. We didn't know what we were dealing with, just that whoever was involved had the power to make people disappear and cover it up. But I could never forget, and after a while, we discovered Riley," Bell gestured at the man, who wiggled his fingers in a wave at no one in particular without looking up from his tablet. Boyd saw that all along he had been playing some sort of game on silent mode.

"We thought Ced's brother might know more than us, so he ran leads for years. You might not know it given the way he usually acts," Bell's expression tightened and Riley rolled his eyes, "but he's damn good at what he does. He just works better with a certain crowd."

"He means assholes usually like me because I'm an asshole myself," Riley put in helpfully. He smirked and looked up, his thumb remaining on the screen.

Sin stared at him with undisguised dislike, and Bell pushed on.

"After a point, we'd run down every lead we had except you, Boyd. By then, we'd learned you worked for Murphy Corps, and we had discovered several similarities between the two organizations over time. We knew you were our best bet at this point, so we watched and waited."

At that, Boyd cut in, "Why didn't you just tell me? Why send Riley in with his bullshit story?"

"Hey, now, it wasn't all bullshit," Riley protested. "I really do have money problems."

Éliane scoffed quietly. "He has a habit of bending the truth when he feels."

Riley shrugged, appearing unconcerned. He returned his attention to the game.

"You have to understand," Bell said, his face drawing tight. "We didn't know if we could trust you. Riley was the best choice because he had the family connection to fall back on, but the rest of us were complete strangers to you."

Not entirely convinced, Boyd looked between the two men with a frown. "But if Vanguard Industries possibly got my dad killed, wasn't it a bit rash to throw the name at me?"

"Might have been," Bell admitted. "But before you, we'd had no insider with any of the private military groups."

"Did you ask my mother?" Boyd asked, and Riley let out a harsh laugh. He turned off the game and dropped the tablet in his lap.

"Your ma is the biggest bitch I've ever known, kid. She doesn't do shit to help others unless it works in her favor first," Riley said with a scoff. When Éliane shot him a sharp look, he raised an eyebrow. "What? You haven't seen her for years. She's a bloody ice queen. You must've seen it when you were around her before."

"She was a child when I last saw her. I was certain she would--" Éliane stopped, clenched her fingers in her lap, and looked away with a sharp shake of her head. "This is not the time. Please, Bellamy. Continue."

"Cedrick never would have left information with her," Bell said without hesitation. He seemed sure of his answer, and looked at Boyd fully. "She was too obvious of a choice for outsiders looking for the information. And she was completely unaware of the Guild."

"So then what made you believe he'd leave something for me?"

"We didn't know if he would. We don't know if he did," Bell corrected himself. He rubbed his face wearily. "I won't lie to you, Boyd, we're close to giving up. Our leads ran cold two decades ago and I haven't dared step foot in Lexington for nearly that long. It wasn't until we found out you were employed by Murphy Corps that we seriously considered you as an option. And then we started thinking like Cedrick."

Bell dropped his hands into his lap. "I remembered how damn obnoxious that man was, showing off your drawings to anyone who walked by. Saying things like, 'my five year old draws better than you do' and it actually being true. Pictures of you everywhere. And even the Guild's release date, the third Saturday of every month..."

"The same day of the month I was born," Boyd noted, and Bell inclined his head.

"You were so young when he died. Completely uninvolved. But that's the beauty of it. With so many other possibilities-- Riley, me, his wife, any Guild member-- why would anyone ever think of the kid? We knew that any information he might have left with Julian was gone forever. But then it occurred to us that maybe he'd have left it for his son to figure out. Maybe he thought we'd involve you in the Guild sooner, or maybe he thought it would be natural for you. Ced always thought you would follow in his footsteps someday."

There was a beat of silence after Bell's proclamation; one in which Riley, Bell, and even Éliane looked at Boyd with various levels of expectation.

Sin's eyes had shifted to Boyd while the story was told, but he didn't speak and his expression barely changed. "Are you doing this?"

Boyd met Sin's eyes. "I think it's the only way."

A moment passed quietly with the three members of JG looking on, but Sin turned away from them and stepped in front of Boyd. He reached out to ghost his fingers over Boyd's bandage, and as Boyd stared up into the green eyes, he didn't see any of the indecision that had appeared in his lover's face when the idea had come up before. No more fear that Boyd wanted to work with JG because of the brainwashing. If any of it was still beneath the surface, Sin must have shoved it aside.

All Boyd saw in his gaze was the burning intensity that appeared when he wanted to destroy someone.

Boyd reached up, gently pulling Sin's hand down so he could brush his lips against Sin's knuckles and then bring their hands back down to the bed. Sin's gaze was caught on Boyd for a few seconds longer before he turned to JG.

"Vanguard Industries was a front for a covert, government organization that recruits anyone--including criminals--who fits their profile for the perfect killer," Sin said. "We work for that organization. Boyd was recruited by his mother, but neither of them had any knowledge of the connection to Cedrick's death."

Bell's eyebrows shot up. "You work--" He held up a hand as if to forestall more information and closed his eyes with a pained look. "All this time..." he muttered to himself. His hand dropping into his lap was accompanied with a sigh. "Then, what is the purpose of this organization?"

"To eliminate domestic terrorism and any threat to the US government, on paper, but in practice it also manipulates the media, creates mass cover ups, and is a catch-all for all the acts the government wants done but can't order because of accepted conventions." Boyd looked at them all in turn. "You want to know why my dad died? Fine. We can tell you. I know how he came upon the information, and how he was killed. You're right that he left me something-- and what he didn't leave me, I found out on my own."

Relief clearly washed over Bell's face. His fingers shook when he brought one hand up to his face. "Thank God," he muttered.

"But if we tell you the details," Boyd continued seriously, "you're putting your whole organization at risk for attack. I want to be clear on that. And the information doesn't come for free. I want something in return."

Bell peered between his fingers. His hand dropped into his lap and his jaw flexed as he studied Boyd and Sin in turn. "What is it?"

"I want to expose the organization. It needs to be destroyed."

Sin's fingers tightened around Boyd's briefly. "We have information, but we don't have the means to disseminate it. If you want to know what Boyd knows, you will do it."

Bell's face relaxed and warmed with a grin. Years seemed to melt from him, and there was excitement in his voice when he spoke. "That's exactly what I've been wanting to do all along-- to find the people responsible for Cedrick's death, and to expose the truth that he so desperately wanted to find. If you can get us that information, by God we will get it disseminated the world around, I promise you that on my heart."

"We've been working on some new models, actually," Riley put in. He leaned forward, one leg tipped against the other. He settled his gaze on Sin. "You know that girl I was with when you came with the blond model type? That's Genna, though she goes by a lot of aliases. She's obsessed with government conspiracies and already has something set up for a scenario like this. You get us the info and we don't even have to muck about. It can just," he snapped his fingers, "go. Like that. Worldwide, local, targeted, multiple languages, digital, paper, no matter. We can do it."

"Good," Boyd said, unable to deny the relief he felt himself. That was going to be their biggest hurdle. "But we'll have to be especially careful in the coming days. Are you positive this place is safe? Because the people who attacked us are the ones we worked for, and they will kill me and all of you if they find us."

The creases around Bell's eyes tightened. He looked back at Éliane.

Éliane shook her head. "It is not a worry. My house, it is safe. If they still come..." She smiled impishly and gestured at herself. "I am old but not helpless. My house and I, we have surprises for guests we do not invite."

"This has become our headquarters for the area. There's a bunker on the property that's from the first World War. We've enhanced it and use it as our base of operations." Riley crossed his arms. "So what's the big reveal, anyway? What got my brother killed?"

"The organization we worked for is known as the Agency," Boyd said. "There are two divisions and both are controlled by the same board of directors who operate it in complete secrecy, even from us. But my dad found the identity of one of them."

Sin's gaze went from Riley to Bell and back again. "Keeping the integrity of the Agency's cover is of the utmost importance. If you talk, they will kill you. If an unsuspecting civilian even stumbles upon a mission, they will erase that person. Cedrick found out something that even people within the organization do not know. If we're going to take them down, we have to make sure that everyone knows what we know. And what he found out."

Bell's smile turned sharp. "Then we'll make sure that's exactly what we do."

Continue to Fade Chapter 41...