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 41

Uploaded on 3/2/2013

The Gran Torino glided into the parking spot, but Emilio didn't open the door even after the purr of the engine stopped. Instead, he looked out the windshield and didn't take his hands off the wheel.

The compound sprawled ahead of him, clusters of trees dotting the courtyard and crowding the tall, black gate that shielded the property. From his position, he could only see the Tower shooting up through the canopy of leaves and into the steel-colored sky. That was his destination. According to the call from Carhart, that was all of their destinations.

In the nine days since Sin and Boyd had vanished, things had remained quiet until Emilio received the phone call about the briefing. They had orders to come in at noon, to the large conference room on the second floor of the Tower. The briefing would be led by Katsaros, who had been AWOL since he had made the mistake of letting Shapiro in on his plan, thus allowing Boyd to escape.

The door opened with a creak, and Emilio stepped out into a morning that was bitterly cold. He shrugged on his leather jacket and lit a cigarette. Trails of smoke followed him as he walked slowly to the Tower. He texted Doug, a curt message that just said, 'something might be up. be ready.' to which Doug replied: 'always, papito.'

The compound appeared to be business as usual. People walked from one building to the next, with a number headed to the residential halls, and there was a steady flow of agents moving toward the Tower. But even as agents and civilian staff alike walked with a sense of purpose, there was barely a face that did not look tense. He wondered how many of them were waiting for the moment when the execution squad would come for them. How many of them had made a mistake that would end in incineration, or how many of them were red flagged for nothing more than a minor error.

Emilio melted into the crowd, matching their march to the hub of the Agency and deviated only to take the stairs up to the second floor. The conference rooms were bigger there, used mostly for multi-team storms, and when Emilio went in, he saw why Katsaros had chosen it.

They were all there.

Carhart, Ryan, Owen, Jeffrey, Kassian, Harriet. Seong and Katsaros at the head of the table. Vivienne next to them.

"Looks like a party," Emilio drawled, stopping just inside the room. The corner of his mouth turned up slightly, but the attempt at a sarcastic smile faded when Katsaros looked at him without comment.

The Greek general was paler than he had been during their last meeting, and was sporting vicious criss-crossed lacerations across his hands. Apparently, even people from the European administration were not safe from the Fourth.

Emilio sat in the chair between Seong and Carhart, leaning back just enough to cause it to recline slightly. No one responded to his comment, and only Ryan made direct eye contact. The kid wore his fear like a shroud, and he was more peaked than usual.

"So, is anyone gonna talk, or is this some kind of new age meditation bonding shit?"

Seong turned an impassive stare onto Emilio and then shifted it to each of the other people gathered in turn.

"As you've no doubt heard, Agents Beaulieu and Vega attempted to flee the Agency. Beaulieu narrowly missed capture on compound," she aimed a brief look of disgust at Katsaros before continuing, "and Vega did not return from his latest mission. Two days ago, I assigned a unit of Level 10 agents from the European division to intercept them in Portugal."

There was a beat of silence, and Emilio's fingers pressed harder against the armrests of his chair. "Just one?" he asked after a moment. "If we're gonna bring my boy back, it's gonna take a fuckload more than one team."

"They were specially trained," Seong said. She paused shortly before continuing with clear displeasure in her voice and face, "It wasn't enough. One agent attempted to call for backup but was unable to complete his request. This is what the transport agents found on arrival."

A hologram in the center of the table flickered to life. A series of gruesome images of the dead agents rotated.

"Looks about right," Emilio drawled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kassian turning to look at him, but he didn't meet the other agent's gaze, even when it lingered.

"I don't..." Ryan trailed off briefly and shifted in his seat. "I don't understand what this has to do with us? What are we supposed to do?"

Seong's emotionless stare settled on Ryan. "You're to help track them down," her gaze swept along the agents, including Carhart, "and you're to recover them."

Vivienne's mouth thinned into an imperceptible frown.

"But-- but how..." Ryan started to say.

"This has nothing to do with our unit," Carhart interrupted sharply.

"Is it not?" Condescension stained Seong's voice, and she turned her eyes onto the General. "The team we sent was unsuccessful, no doubt because Vega and Beaulieu did not hesitate to do this." Seong pointed to the holograms. "But would they do the same to one of you? That is the question, and I suspect I know the answer."

Emilio opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Carhart spoke again.

"You're sending us after them," the General said flatly. "All of us."

"Yes. The field agents only, of course." She pinned Owen, Ryan and Jeffrey with her stare. "The rest of you will be aiding from the compound. And Vivienne," Seong's mouth lifted on the edges briefly, "you'll help with your contacts, of course."

Vivienne stared straight ahead at the wall.

"But, um, Marshal?" Owen put in, raising a hand slightly. He dropped it with slightly widened eyes the second her attention turned to him. "How will we even know where they are?"

"They're being tracked."

"Agent Vega managed to remove his," Katsaros said, his voice stony and without inflection. He brushed his hands against the top of the table, dropping them into his lap. "But we still have a location on the Beaulieu boy."

There was an audible inhalation of breath. A low, strained sound that was loud in the sudden silence of the room. It had to be Ryan. Emilio had known that dumb fucking kid would give himself away. While Vivienne's features remained expressionless, cold like stone, Ryan wasn't able to hide the fact that he cared. But, when the senior Vega looked at Carhart, he saw the same stricken expression on his lover's face as Ryan's. Pale eyes blazing hatred, and hands that gripped his chair.


Ignoring the twisting of his own gut, Emilio rapped his knuckles against the table in a steady beat. "I can't believe they'd be retarded enough to remove the chip from one and not the other."

"The technology we used to track Boyd is new. Whatever equipment they managed to scavenge from the black market would not have detected it. We allowed the boy a head start deliberately upon his escape from the compound. We wanted to see where he was going, and who was assisting him. Surprisingly," Katsaros continued, turning a sharp glare to Vivienne and Carhart. "None of you were involved. Directly."

Seong moved her fingers across her tablet, and the gory death scenes were replaced by a slowly revolving map of France. A small red dot glowed in the southeastern section, and with a flick of her thumb, it zoomed in. Not far from Lorgues, France, the red dot grew larger. Other windows popped up; showing a satellite image of a set of small residential buildings nestled in amongst the trees, the street address, and the name Alette Laroche.

Across the hologram, Emilio saw Vivienne give a short start. She subtly pulled her hands into her lap and her expression lapsed back into a blank mask.

"As of last cycle, this is their location," Seong said. The satellite image zoomed in further, showing two buildings half hidden by trees. "We haven't any stock pictures of the building on file, so you'll have to do reconnaissance upon your arrival. They stopped at a hospital in Spain on their way, so no doubt one or both of them are seriously injured. We don't have current intel on the connection of the property owner to them, but we'll find out soon enough."

Emilio noticed Vivienne's gaze dropping to the table.

"What makes you think Vega would be any easier on us than on those other agents?" Kassian hadn't even bothered to look at the image before speaking. "Vega doesn't like me, he barely knows Harriet--" Harriet nodded in agreement as Kassian continued. "Sin knows his father doesn't give a shit about him or Boyd, and General Carhart hasn't been in the field for years. No offense, but this plan--"

Katsaros slammed his scarred hand on the table, interrupting Kassian. "Don't lie to me, you pathetic little fool. Do you think we are unaware of the friendship you and Agent Stevens have forged with the two of them? Vega is a monstrous killer, but he is loyal to most of you. And if not to you, I know he is to this one."

A slightly panicked look crossed Ryan's face when Katsaros pointed at him, and he shot a stare at Emilio in alarm. "Wha--"

"What are you talking about?" Carhart's voice was flat, but his expression betrayed his horror.

"One of you, if not more, were likely involved in their escape, or are likely to aid them in the future," Seong said flatly. "As it stands, I can't trust a one of you. So, I'll make it easy on you. The field agents in this room will leave for France immediately. You will recover Hsin Liu Vega, and terminate Boyd Beaulieu."

Ryan had begun to shake his head, even when Emilio reached out beneath the table to rest a hand on the kid's knee.

"Protest as you like, but you'd expect us to be fools to believe Vega would willingly harm the lot of you without hesitation, and that hesitation, as we know from his past, is all that's needed to gain control of him. Bring him back as well as proof of Beaulieu's death. The body should suffice or, if needed, the head alone will do. Do this, I'll know where you stand, and you will survive. Don't," steel crept into her voice as she pointed at the R&D agents and Vivienne without turning her hard stare from Carhart, "and those who remain will be terminated after interrogation."

Emilio started to stand, his hand sliding into his pocket to grasp his phone. His finger brushed against the touch screen to dial Doug, but before he could do anything more, Carhart's voice broke the silence that had blanketed the room.


Vivienne looked at Carhart in surprise. She shook her head subtly; staring with silent intensity.

Seong straightened in her chair. "No?" she echoed mildly. She glanced around the room, as if to see if others had heard the same, before settling back on Carhart. "It's not difficult, Zachary. You've orchestrated your own ways of getting the most out of Sin before. He won't even be angry with you once we wipe his memory. As for Boyd, why should it matter to you?" She pointed at Vivienne, who hadn't looked away from Carhart. "His own mother is sitting right here, not saying a word in his defense."

Seong crossed her arms. "You lose one insubordinate agent and regain Sin, or you and the rest of your team all die now. Direct insubordination here won't change the outcome for Sin and Boyd, but it will for you." An edge crept into her tone. "So, to be clear, your answer?"

"My answer remains the same." Carhart stood up, and yanked his arm away when Emilio grabbed it.

"Zachary, sit the fuck--"


The word cracked through the room, and Emilio's heart drummed in his chest as he stared at his lover. But Carhart's attention had centered solely on Katsaros and Seong. "Do your own dirty work. Use your Modified agents from Europe. Or some of your genetically manipulated experiments from the labs. I will not do this. I won't."

Katsaros' lips pulled back in a sneer. The animosity in his face was undeniable, and it turned his expression into a hateful mask. "How dare you."

Carhart strode across the room as Katsaros started to shout. The man's tone was lethal and his expression dangerous, but Carhart's fast departure cut him off. The door slammed shut, and the room fell still. No one spoke, and Katsaros rose from his seat and bolted out after Carhart, his face darkened with rage.

Seong stood so quickly that her chair clattered to the floor. "Michael!" she shouted, and was also gone in a flash.

"Oh no." The words left Ryan's mouth in a low moan, thick with tears and worry as everyone stared at the door in shock. "Oh God. What do we do?"

Emilio speared a glance at Vivienne, but she was already looking at him significantly as she stood. The conference room was filled with a scramble of movement. Ryan jumped to his feet, nearly hyperventilating as he rushed for the now open door. The others looked on in stupefied horror, and Kassian only mobilized when Ryan ran out into the hall.

"We do this shit now," Emilio barked at Vivienne, and bolted after Ryan with the others hot on his heels. Several agents were milling around the hallway outside the conference room, and that was the case even in the main lobby of the Tower when Emilio burst out of the stairwell a moment later.

He heard shouting that was barely muffled by the blur of voices of spectators. Many people had stopped to stare, their expressions confused, some scared, some completely blank as they watched.

Years ago, this would have been a shocking sight. A complete anomaly. But now, watching General Carhart stride away from the Tower as Katsaros snarled threats and Seong snapped orders at her second-in-command was enough to make people freeze in place. Wondering what new horror was awaiting this spectacle, yet not surprised that something terrible was about to happen.

When Emilio stepped out into the courtyard with Vivienne right behind him, Katsaros was red-faced and barely acknowledging Seong. The cool, collected mask that he had worn so well was gone. Shattered by whatever had happened to him on the Fourth, and the barely concealed frustration and rage that had spewed forth after Carhart's insubordination.

"Zach!" Emilio shouted. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

"Stop him," Katsaros hissed. His eyes were wide, the whites too visible around them, and every muscle was tense and straining beneath his clothing. "Or I will put him down like a dog."

Emilio took a step forward as Carhart turned to face them. They stared at each other from across the courtyard, and a chill wracked Emilio's frame. He forced himself to remain where he stood despite his fading hope in salvaging the situation.

He kept his back to Seong, to Katsaros, and looked into Carhart's eyes. Anger and frustration made him want to lash out. Don't fuck this up, he wanted to say. Don't walk out those gates. Just go cool off. We can get out. We can do this.

He wanted to say those things. He wanted to lie. Even though he knew Carhart wouldn't believe it. How could he? The cards were all on the table, apparently had been for a while, and he knew there was no way that all of them would be able to get out. Not now that attention was focused on every single one of them.

They'd blown it. For the first time, it occurred to him that they should have listened to the kids. Someone would have to be sacrificed now. But it wouldn't be Carhart. It couldn't be. He would kill the rest himself before he let anyone have this man.

"Stop. Don't be a fucking idiot."

"I won't do this."

The words were clear, and loud enough to reach the clusters of Agency staff that were surrounding the scene. Carhart didn't even seem to register them; he stared at Emilio with bloodshot eyes and a pale face that was set in its grim determination.

"No matter what we do, someone will die. I told you, I can't do this anymore."

Shut up, you idiot.

The words were on the tip of Emilio's tongue. He could hear the murmurs, the agreement. Everyone was watching. Everyone was looking at them. And then everyone was looking at Katsaros and Seong. Scores of faces, civilian and agent, watched them from the perimeter of the courtyard, some moving closer even as Luke Gerant and a bunch of guards shoved through.

And several yards away, a familiar face.


"I'm done," Carhart said flatly.

The sinking feeling in Emilio's gut momentarily paralyzed him, and their eyes were still locked when explosions of gunshots filled the courtyard. There was a second, just a second, when comprehension failed, and Emilio couldn't understand what he was looking at. He didn't understand what had happened. He didn't understand how it could have happened.

Everything shut off. All sounds were muffled. He could only see Carhart, his Zachary, his best friend and lover, his everything, on the ground. Emilio's feet moved slowly at first, then faster, then the warmth of Carhart's blood was covering his hands. He pressed them against the wound, the wounds, but the stain of red continued to spread. Multiple entry points. Multiple gunshots. The pale blue eyes were looking up at him, and ragged sounds were coming out of Carhart's mouth.


The scream was wild, raw, but it wasn't Emilio's. Someone was crying, feet were sprinting towards where Emilio was kneeling on the ground next to Carhart, but there was a scuffling sound and the footsteps halted abruptly.

"No! No! Zachary!"

Emilio looked up, and saw Ryan. He was crying, screaming, and Kassian was holding him back. Owen was moving to help.

"Oh God, oh God, he's dead, he's dead, they killed him--"

The screaming got louder, more hysterical, and the words sent a shiver down Emilio's spine that spread through his body. His hands were shaking, he couldn't keep them still. He touched Carhart's face, pressed his fingers against the mouth he'd kissed, the shadowed eyes, bruised from lack of sleep. They were closed now. The blood from Emilio's hands was streaking the fair skin, staining the blond hair, and the shuddering sounds stopped.

Emilio shook his head briefly, again not comprehending. This was wrong. It was wrong. He'd been right there. A few feet from Katsaros. A few feet from Seong. Carhart's eyes had been focused on his. They'd never flicked behind him, never reacted to a gun, why hadn't anyone reacted? Why hadn't he turned around?


His voice sounded strange. Broken. Everything got blurry, his face was damp, and his heart stopped. A shout ripped out of him savagely. There was no sound in the courtyard other than the choking sobs and a continuous, keening wail that muffled just slightly when he pressed his face against Carhart's neck.

Sound filtered back in, but nothing came through clearly. A confused garble of shouting behind him, around him, Seong's sharp voice and Katsaros' defensive snarls, and Ryan's anguished cries. But Emilio couldn't look up, couldn't open his eyes.

"Don't be real," Emilio said against Carhart's ear. "Don't be real. Don't be real. Please. Please. Please."

No response. No movement. Just the warmth and smell of blood, taking over a scent that was so undeniably Zach, something that Emilio had remembered for over a decade, and yearned for, and had come back for.

"Emilio, we've got to go, mate. You've got to get up."

Doug's voice was close, and a hand was on Emilio's shoulder.

"They've got guards around us, baby. We've got to move."

Emilio looked up abruptly, ripping himself away from Carhart. His breath came in explosive bursts as he stared up at Doug wildly. "Take them, and fucking go," he snarled.

Confusion clouded Doug's face, then understanding. "Don't."

"Don't let them bring him to the incinerator."

"Emilio, don--"

It was unclear how much time had passed between the shooting, and Doug intervening, but there were guards around Katsaros when Emilio stood up. Seong was turned away barking orders, and Vivienne was gone. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. When Emilio ripped his gun from its holster, he sent the first bullet directly into Seong's head.

The shocked silence exploded into a chaos of noise. Kassian released Ryan, who went running for Carhart's body. The area erupted in sudden movement; people were shouting, and there was a confused rush as civilian staff tried to take cover.

Yanking his own pistol out of its holster, Kassian met Harriet's eyes briefly as she shoved Jeffrey and Owen away from Seong's body.

"Find Blair," Kassian shouted at Harriet. She nodded shortly, not hesitating before she shoulder-checked a uniformed guard out of her way and sprinted into the converging crowd.

Blood was pooling on the steps of the Tower, and guards were beginning to swarm. In the blink of an eye, everything had gone to hell. Kassian ducked down, and spun to the side, pressing his back against the staircase. He sent bullets slamming into the guards who were swarming around Emilio and Doug.

Katsaros was shouting orders and taking cover behind a bench as Emilio unloaded indiscriminately into anyone wearing a uniform. He was like a one-man war machine, unleashing carnage and dodging bullets, as if the hatred and grief that caused him to scream over Carhart's body was now turning him into the monster that Sin had always been labeled as.

Emilio was fighting recklessly. He did not take cover, and he did not try to protect himself. He was unmoving beside Carhart's unmoving body, seemingly uncaring or unaware that he was now also injured.

"Goddamn it, Vega! Take fucking cover!" Doug shouted as he fired.

Emilio didn't heed the warning, and took a bullet to the shoulder although he ripped a knife out of his boot and sent it flying into his attacker's eye with barely a pause in between. The man dropped to the ground, and Kassian saw that it was a level 9 agent.

The situation had moved beyond guards.

"Archer!" Kassian yelled, spotting the sniper in the crowd. "Cover me!"

Archer's head snapped over to Kassian. In the sea of chaos, he looked completely calm. He immediately dropped into position as Kassian ran through the courtyard. He wove through the crowd, barely dodging bullets and evading interception. He ran by civilians, guards, and bypassed Owen as Jeffrey jerked the other man to the ground, clearly trying to drag him to cover.

Archer dropped to a crouch by Doug, automatically pivoting his back to Doug's and shooting a guard who was just swinging his gun toward Kassian.

"We need to move him out of here," Kassian shouted, skidding to a stop beside Ryan and Carhart. "They'll take the body."

Ryan looked up, eyes red and expression frantic as he pressed his palms to Carhart's wounds. "He's not--"

"On your left!"

Archer's shout caused Kassian's attention to jerk away from Ryan. A swarm of field agents were rushing to the courtyard, all of them fully armed, and all of them transplants from the European division from what Kassian could see.

A rain of gunfire ripped up through the courtyard, and Kassian threw himself backwards as Archer pinned Ryan to the ground beside Carhart. The assault was directed specifically at them, at Doug and Emilio, which meant only one thing.

Katsaros was mobilizing his people.

Kassian scrambled behind the trunk of a tree as Archer put a bullet through the face of a red-haired woman they'd once gone on a storm with.

"Archer!" Kassian shouted. "Move Carhart to the training complex. Now!"

The sniper grabbed hold of Carhart and began pulling him out of the killzone. Ryan scrambled over to where Emilio had staggered near the steps while Doug took a bullet in the vest, and tackled a Fourth Floor guard to the ground. Emilio was covered in gore, although it wasn't clear how much of it was actually his.

Ducking as someone pumped bullets in his direction once again, Kassian sprinted closer to the Tower and nearly collided with Katsaros. The man had rushed him fast, but Kassian strafed out of the way. Out of ammunition, he yanked a knife from his belt and abandoned his gun.

Katsaros aimed his own pistol at Kassian's head, and narrowly missed when Kassian once again ducked to the side. The bullet penetrated another field agent who had come up behind Kassian, and the woman fell to the ground, dead. A quick glance showed that it was Jenny White.

Kassian darted into Katsaros' space as the man swore viciously. His lips were pulled back over his teeth, and there was a wild look in his eyes that wasn't entirely sane. He released a howl of anger when Kassian swiped at his midsection with the knife, cutting him open, and then following it up with a slice to his face.

Katsaros aimed again, but Kassian kicked the pistol out of his blood-slicked hand. It landed a few feet away, and Katsaros retaliated with a right hook that sent Kassian reeling back. The wind knocked out of him as Katsaros shoved him to the ground, and they rolled twice before Kassian managed to pin the other man beneath him.

The knife had fallen in the struggle, and both of them reached simultaneously for the gun. The tips of Kassian's fingers grasped it first, and he jammed it against the General's eye as he panted ferociously.

"You didn't have to shoot him," Kassian said through his harsh breaths. "You didn't have to kill him."

"He should have died long ago," Katsaros snarled, his voice guttural in its anger. "He was a danger. You all are. This Agency needed to be cleansed."

"And now it has been."

Kassian didn't flinch when he pulled the trigger, and blood and bits of brain splattered all over his face. He sat for a moment, still breathing hard, but got to his feet when Ryan's voice rang out across the courtyard. Kassian stepped over the body, and rushed to the Tower once again.

He could see Jeffrey dragging Owen towards the training complex while Archer ran for cover with Carhart slung over one shoulder, and Doug provided cover. The fight had spread, and now field agents from Euro were fighting agents from the original regime. Luke Gerant shouted orders to his guards to assist and block off entrances to the surrounding buildings.

Kassian bypassed them all, shoving his way through the chaos. As the crowd shifted, he saw Bex, Emilio and Ryan several yards away from where he stood. Bex was bleeding furiously from several wounds, but had gained the upper hand during the fight and was pinning Emilio to the ground with her knees. Ryan threw himself at her back, but she fended him off almost effortlessly and he went flying to the side.

Raising his gun, Kassian aimed at Bex's head but the chamber clicked and nothing happened. Swearing, Kassian threw the gun to the side and pumped his legs, crossing the distance between them. Bex had her Glock to Emilio's temple as he stared up at her, his full lips spread in a red, fearless grin. Kassian shouted, some wordless, horrified sound, and expected Emilio's face to turn to pulp, but nothing happened.

Bex hesitated, and Emilio laughed, an ugly, hysterical sound that carried across the courtyard.

A new voice, identical to Bex's, rang out through the discord. "Bex, you bloody idiot!"

Kassian knocked Bex to the ground just as Jordan raised her weapon, finger on the trigger. She tried to aim at Emilio around her sister's fallen form.

"No!" Ryan screamed, his voice high and terrified. He grabbed Emilio's discarded gun, and wrenched it upward, unloading the magazine into Jordan's chest. Jordan's eyes widened and she fell even as blood spread across her clothing.

"Jordan!" The grief in Bex's voice almost rivaled Emilio's, and her anguished cries only ended when Kassian slammed his fist into her temple, knocking her out.

"What the fuck were you doing? Do you want to fucking die?" Kassian roared at Emilio, getting to his feet and leaving the twins on the ground. He grabbed Ryan, and jerked the smaller man up.

"Fuck off, Blondie," Emilio sneered, and got to his feet unsteadily. He staggered, and Ryan rushed to his side.

"I'm not leaving without you," Ryan said fiercely. "If you want to do this, you'll get us all killed."


"Shut up, Kassian!"

Emilio untangled himself from Ryan, and shoved him forward. "Just fucking go. I'm right behind you," he said flatly.

With the rest of the Agency engaged in combat, they slipped through the trees and took the back way to the training complex. Kassian kept his eyes on Emilio the whole time, not trusting the other man not to go throw himself into the thick of things once again. Vegas didn't give up that easily. If Emilio had a death wish, he was going to make it happen one way or the other.

They ran into the squat, long building that housed the training center. Doug was just inside, a shotgun gripped in his hands as he stood pressed against the wall next to the entrance. As soon as they were in, Doug smashed his fingers against the keycode next to the door.

"All in?" Emilio asked, his voice still flat and dead.

"Yup. And them fucks will have a goddamn hell of a time getting in once they figure out who's fighting whom. First time I think it's good that we keep the rookies locked in this bloody building."

When Emilio didn't respond, Doug's mouth pressed into a thin line, and he did not move his intense gaze from the other man's face. Kassian wondered if some unspoken communication was passing between the two.

Before he could demand how the next phase of the plan had been modified and if they had found Blair, voices echoed down the corridor. Owen appeared to have been trying to run back to the entrance, but Jeffrey had seemingly yanked him back.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Owen snapped furiously. He twisted and shoved Jeffrey away roughly. "Get off me already!"

"Then stop being such an idiot and trying to go back out there! You're going to get yourself killed." Jeffrey looked ready to grab Owen again, but the red-haired man only sneered.

"Like you fucking care."

Jeffrey's face twisted into an indignant glare.

"We're all here," Ryan called out to Owen, his voice thin and weary. Owen started moving toward them faster. When Jeffrey caught sight of the others, he suddenly slowed his step. His arms crossed his chest defensively.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Kassian barked, pointing at Jeffrey. "Isn't he a sellout?"

"Fucker wouldn't let me go--" Owen was starting to say in irritation, but Jeffrey cut him off with a heated glare and furious retort of his own.

"I didn't sell anyone out, you assholes. Seong called me into her office and made me choose her or death. The reason she noticed me at all was because of Owen--"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Owen demanded.

Waving the question off, Jeffrey continued hurriedly. "She wanted someone watching the unit. Especially Boyd and Carhart. 'Just in case,' she said. I didn't know who else she had reporting back if I acted like I wasn't complying. I was too scared to do anything else at first but then I figured out I just had to be obvious and no one would do anything around me I'd have to report."

Jeffrey shifted his sour stare away from them. "Obviously none of that matters anymore, so now I'm not going to watch you morons kill yourselves."

Owen eyed him suspiciously, but relented on his glare.

"Right." Emilio reached for Doug's shotgun. "I'll go back out and distract them," he said flatly.

"No, you are fucking not, Vega," Doug growled. "I been waiting for you this whole fuckin' time, and if you think I'm lettin' you go back out now, you're goddamn mad. Just because they got Zachary--"

"Whoa, whoa, wait!" Owen said in alarm, waving his hands. He moved between them and the door, and grabbed onto Emilio's upper arm. "Don't do anything stupid, Senior. Or any of you. He's still alive."

Emilio's empty gaze jerked to Owen, but he didn't move. Not even when Ryan sprinted down the corridor. Kassian started to follow, but one look in Emilio's direction rooted him to the spot.

In the sudden silence, there was a barely audible dripping sound that was accompanied by small, crimson splatters that had begun to pool beneath one of Emilio's dangling hands. It was then that Kassian noticed how damaged Emilio was. How the steadily darkening stains of blood on his clothing couldn't possibly belong to someone else, and how his olive complexion looked chalky.

"Let's go, mate," Doug said quietly. He put a hand on one of Emilio's shoulders, and didn't move it even when the other man flinched as if he'd been abruptly brought out of a trance. Emilio jerked away and followed Ryan. He put a hand on the wall at one point, and left a smeared handprint behind.

Kassian's eyes followed the older agent as he limped down the corridor, a trail of blood streaking the linoleum behind him.

"They're both fucked," Doug said when Emilio had rounded the corner.

"I know," Kassian said.

They joined the others in one of the sparring rooms as the battle continued to wage outside. Despite the fact that the training complex was soundproof and lacked any windows, the ground occasionally shuddered, indicating that the violence had escalated further. With full access to the explosives in the armory, and years of tension building, Kassian wasn't surprised that the two divisions were trying to massacre each other.

"Status?" he demanded immediately upon entering the room. Carhart was stretched out on the padded floor, paler than Emilio and still unconscious. His shirt had been removed, and the wounds washed and bandaged tightly. Crimson could still be seen through the thick wads of gauze. Harriet hovered beside him with assorted medical supplies spread out nearby.

Emilio had sunk down to his knees and was staring down at his lover silently.

Blood covered Archer's hands and spattered his shirt. "The General has lost a lot of blood. Gunshot wounds to the torso and neck. Owen started an IV, his airways are clear and we've stopped the bleeding for now. Still," he glanced at Emilio with a brief pause before turning back to Kassian. "He needs help, Kassian. More than we can give."

"So what do we do?" Ryan demanded, his voice high. Kassian stood next to him and pressed both hands down on his shoulders. "Bree just messaged me that she and the others are already out and headed to the helipad. She breached the locks that blocked the tunnel. We can go, we can take him with us, get him to someone--"

"We'd just slow you down," Emilio cut in sharply. He pushed Archer's hand away when the sniper tried to attend to him. "Just get fucking going, kid. Before the Euro generals get their shit together and take this bitch back over. Once shit clears, y'all is gonna be the first fuckers they come for."

"I'm not--"

"Do you have a plan?" Archer cut in, staring at Emilio. "He has an hour or two, max, without better treatment for these wounds. Where he was hit here," he pointed at the side of Carhart's neck. "If he'd been shot higher up or at a closer range with a higher caliber bullet, he'd be dead already."

"There's a plan, and it involves getting the fuck on a helicopter and out of Lexington in the next twenty minutes," Emilio growled. He reached out and ran a hand over Carhart's face, releasing a slow, shaky sigh. "These motherfuckers don't got no time to sit around wondering what to do with this hard-headed idiot. I'll take care of him myself."

"But--" Ryan started to say.

Owen put a hand on Ryan's shoulder and squeezed. "Ryan, buddy," he said. "It sucks, but he's right. We have to run back out into the fight just to get to the tunnel. And we need to get to Blair, like yesterday. Senior's better off figuring out a way to get help to come here or using his connections to get him somewhere safe."

"You're wasting time," Emilio said, not looking away from Carhart. "They'll shut down the fucking tunnels, and block any airspace once they reconfigure a chain of command. You won't even be able to make it to Thierry's contact in Quebec before they shoot your asses down."

"You're injured, too," Kassian said. "Badly. What are you going to do?"

"Don't worry about me."

Owen's lips trembled as he stared at Emilio and Carhart. Jeffrey was a pale, silent shadow behind him. When Ryan's shoulders began to shake slightly, Kassian pulled him closer, turning the younger man away.

"Let's do this," Kassian said sharply. His tone left no room for further debate.

They mobilized as Emilio gave orders from his station beside Carhart. He did not move, and instead, twined his fingers with Carhart's. He went through the plan in a gruff, strained voice, and refused to divulge his own plan.

Kassian directed Archer and Harriet to get the supplies that Emilio had stashed in the training room weeks ago, while Emilio demanded explosives, ammunition, a cell phone charger, and cigarettes. Within five minutes, they were ready to go, and Doug tossed Emilio a small, waterproof pack filled with supplies and some emergency money.

The last time Kassian saw Emilio, the last time he walked through the door of the room where he'd trained Boyd years ago, he saw that Emilio had climbed to his feet and was standing protectively in front of the man he refused to leave behind. His mouth twisted up into the cocky smirk that had graced his handsome face so many times in the past, and he nodded at Kassian. There wasn't a trace of fear in his eyes.

The door shut between them, and Kassian turned away.

Outside the training complex, the compound had transformed into a warzone. The divide between the new and old regime had erupted into an onslaught of violence that had surpassed even what Kassian had imagined before they'd slipped out of the door.

The once deceptively peaceful landscape of the gated world that so many had inhabited for years was on fire.

Bullet-riddled bodies were strewn along the dead grass, civilian employees were screaming and trying to get into buildings that Luke Gerant had likely locked down to prevent further access to ammunitions or calls for assistance, and the sounds of continued battle were everywhere.

As the group slipped to the northern gate and the small residential building that housed one of the underground tunnels, the sound of police sirens could be heard in the distance. With the compound of Johnson's Pharmaceuticals on fire near one of the richest neighborhoods in Lexington, it likely could not go ignored despite the mandates that had previously been put in place about the JP property being out of the jurisdiction of local cops.

When they reached the door that led down, Ryan input the passcode with shaking fingers. His tears had dried, but he had lapsed into an unwavering silence. Using a scrambler to cause the door to lock automatically when they shut it again, the seven of them slipped into the small space beyond the door and began to descend into the darkness of the tunnel.

Kassian ran steadily. The only sounds were the splashing of water around their feet and Ryan's labored breathing. By the time they climbed out and into the dreary, cold afternoon, Ryan's breath had turned into a steady wheeze. With scant minutes left before Blair was set to leave, Kassian led the group to an SUV that had been planted in a nearby garage when Carhart, Emilio and Vivienne had finalized the original plan.

They sped away from the compound as a voice on a loudspeaker demanded that the gates to Johnson's be opened. Ryan twisted in his seat to look out the rear window of the vehicle as Archer drove. His slim, pale fingers clutched the leather and he rested his face against it.

Johnson's Pharmaceuticals fell away behind them. The compound that had housed them for years, that had brought so many of them together, and had torn so many of them apart, was steadily disappearing. The glow of fire licked at the black monolith of the Tower; looking even darker and more ominous against the clawed branches of the trees and the iron grey of the sky. Here in the car it was silent, but Kassian could still hear a ghost of the screams and explosions.

It was all falling apart as they fled.

"What do you think will happen?" Harriet asked quietly. Her dark eyes were focused in the same direction as Ryan's.

"I think..." Kassian licked his lips, and tried not to look over his shoulder as well. "I think the compound and all of the staff will be liquidated."

No one spoke following the comment. Tense quiet filled the vehicle until they reached the wide-open space of the wastelands, and eventually came upon the helicopter.

The rotors were already moving when they arrived. The drone overtook all sound around them as Archer slammed on the brakes, and they jumped out of the SUV. The door was open on the side of the helicopter, with Vivienne standing to the side. Her eyes darted between them for a moment before she had to stand flat against the wall while everyone poured in. She searched the bloodied, dirty faces, and then peered out the helicopter again.

Kassian barely got a glance at the others inside the helicopter, Bree, Thierry, Samuel and Brian, before Vivienne's hand gripped his upper arm and pulled him to face her.

"Where is he?" Her voice was taut.

"We had to leave them."

"You had to leave them?" she demanded icily even as Blair's voice came across:

"All ready?"

"No," Vivienne said even as Archer called out, "Go!"

Her fingers tightened on Kassian. She was searching his face with more emotion than he'd ever seen on her, which even then wasn't much. But in the draw of her eyebrows and darting of her eyes, he could see the worry staining her features.

"They were supposed to be here. What happened? Is Emilio-- did Zachary...?"

Kassian exhaled quietly, and put his hands on top of hers. "He wasn't going to make it."

She jerked back as if she'd been burned. For a second, a stricken look crossed her face, but Kassian was continuing even as he noticed it, and her expression turned distant again as she listened.

"Not on a three hour helicopter ride. Not when there isn't a safe place to get him care. The Agency has eyes and ears in every hospital in the country, and he needed something immediate." He stopped briefly, steeled himself, and continued. "It wasn't an option to put everyone else at risk. So Emilio stayed behind. I'm sorry."

The helicopter swayed around them. Archer reached up and pulled Vivienne down. Her eyes were centered on Kassian even when Archer scoffed and reached over to buckle her in when she did not move.

"Will he make it?" She asked it so quietly that Kassian almost didn't hear.

"I don't know. I... I don't know Emilio's plan."

"The place was a fucking mess when we left. We're lucky we weren't shot trying to get to the bloody tunnel," Doug said. His arms were crossed over his chest, shoulders pushed back against the side of the helicopter. "That crazy fuck might throw together an insane plan, or he might blow himself and the compound up if he can't get Zachary out."

"Even if they got out of there, they needed real medical assistance immediately," Archer said. "Zachary didn't have much time with those wounds. Emilio wouldn't let me touch him, but I could tell that he was not in much better shape. The longer they wait, the weaker they'll get, the harder it will be to escape without further injury. And Zachary, if he gets another serious wound, he'll die from blood loss."

Ryan's mouth trembled; Kassian reached over to grab his hand but Ryan pulled it away.

After a moment Archer added, "If they didn't get out already, they aren't getting out at all."

Vivienne's expression tightened and she turned to stare out the window of the helicopter. She didn't speak again.

There was a beat of silence before Owen spoke. "So... What next?"

Kassian exhaled slowly, and tilted his head back. His eyes slid shut, blocking out the sky and Lexington's skyline, as he answered.

"We split up once we get to Thierry's people in Quebec, hope Bree's program worked, and try to disappear." The whir of the rotors filled the brief silence until he said, "And most of us will never see each other again."

Continue to Fade Chapter 42...