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!

Chapters


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes
Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.

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Fade Chapter 42

Uploaded on 3/2/2013

The underground WWI bunker was far more upgraded than Riley had let on. Despite the fact that it was over a century old, it was filled with every possible tech that JG could acquire. Computers, scanners, weapons and emergency supplies that were hoarded in case of emergency-- the place contained everything they needed, and more. It was also digitally secure. All signals were blocked, keeping them off radar and disrupting all known types of surveillance.

They'd holed up there for the majority of the day and worked continuously to amass the data from their sources. Boyd's head hadn't stopped pounding for hours, even after he took more painkillers. With one hand and one eye, he was significantly slower than the others. He'd been relegated to dictating intel to Bell for the first several hours, with minimal breaks along the way.

Two other JG members, Genna and Livana, had appeared during the night, and they were as efficient as any R&D agents Boyd had seen at the Agency. Sin had apparently met Genna while Boyd was missing, although she'd been in disguise at the time. Livana was a dark-skinned British woman who had found Boyd with Ian.

Bell said that more members were traveling in from different areas of Europe to help them in their endeavor. But even with the additional help, Boyd was impatient to get everything compiled. He was paranoid that they still wouldn't be fast enough before the Agency somehow ran interference.

The Agency always managed to find a way.

"I still can't believe this is real," Genna said, shaking her head. She paused just long enough to pull a lock of hair dyed dark red behind her ear.

Her fingers flew across the keyboard on one laptop while her eyes darted across another screen. The databases were becoming massive with the amount of intel gathered.

"I've been convinced for years that shit was going down behind scenes, and I'd even noted some of these incidents at the time as possible indicators, but-- damn. This is more insane than even I had imagined."

"And that's saying something," Livana muttered. Her eyes hadn't shifted from the screen where she was rapidly completing the program to disseminate the information.

Boyd shoved the computer away and, with his eye squeezed shut, stopped to rub at his temple. His head was pounding and he couldn't ignore the doubt seeded in the back of his mind. There were still some gaps in their intel, and he didn't know how significant that would end up being.

He couldn't help worrying that, even with everything they had, it wouldn't be enough. That the Agency would prevail.

If they didn't dismantle the Agency with this, how long would it hold them off? And would they track down and destroy the Journalist Guild along with Boyd and the others this time?

"Everything is almost put together," Sin said, looking over from the tablet he had been hunched over. "Why don't you rest?"

"No." Boyd swallowed a painkiller with a swig of warm water from a cup next to him. "I want to see how they plan to do this."

Before Sin could respond, a buzzing tone filled the room. Boyd and Sin looked up at the speakers mounted into the wall, while the Guild members snapped to attention. They quickly armed themselves and Livana shut down the program she'd been working in.

"What's happening?" Boyd demanded, reaching for his gun. Sin had already stood, his lean body transitioning to a fighting stance.

"Unexpected visitor at Éliane's." Bell's face was set in hard lines as he reached for a shotgun. "We have alarms strung across the property and a way for Éliane to adjust it. There are different tones for different reasons."

"What does this one mean?"

"Means we don't know what the hell is going on yet. But we weren't expecting anyone."

Boyd stood and aimed at the door. His heart raced as scenarios rushed through his mind, all involving the Agency.

Livana looked up from the computer. "Should I wipe--"

The buzzing tone flipped from a fast staccato to a more leisurely beeping noise. The Guild members appeared to relax, but a frown still crossed Bell's face.

"I'll be back soon. Don't let anyone in unless they know the code." He glanced at the two women, who nodded.

Bell exited the bunker, and Livana closed and locked the door behind him.

"If it's dangerous, I should go with him," Sin said. "If the European division sent more of their mutated Mods, he's fucked."

"It wasn't an emergency code," Genna said with a short shake of her head. She hadn't looked away from the door. "It might not be your agency, and if you go up now you'll be seen."

Appearing unconvinced, Sin remained standing with his body between Boyd and the door even when the buzzing ended. Genna and Livana eventually sat back down, remaining tense but otherwise returning to work.

Thirty minutes passed before a different alert sounded, followed by a pattern of knocks on the door. The two women exchanged glances before Genna opened the door. When Bell re-entered the room, his expression was tight and he looked at Boyd first and then Sin.

"I need you two upstairs. Liv and Genna, you can keep working. But be alert. We don't know yet which way this will go."

"What's going on?" Sin demanded, not moving from his position.

"There's someone here. As far as we can tell this isn't a threat, but you might be able to gauge it better than us."

"I asked what's going on, not for another vague statement."

Bell sighed. "Vivienne is here."

"What?" Boyd said in surprise, moving around Sin to see Bell better. "What the hell-- Why?"

"That's what we want you to verify. She gave us a story and says she isn't a threat, and it seems likely it's the truth. But she's with the Agency, so we don't know if we can trust her until we get a second opinion from you."

"She's alone?" Sin demanded.

"Seems so. She kept asking if you two were here, so she might give you more information than she provided us," Bell said as they headed up to the ground floor.

Boyd was a little clumsy on the stairs, so Sin's hand remained at the base of his elbow steadying him as they followed Bell. They exchanged a glance only once, and Boyd could tell the same questions were running through Sin's mind as his own.

They re-entered the house and saw Éliane sitting in the front room with her head in her hands; her expression tainted with worry.

When they entered the room that Vivienne was being held in, Boyd saw that Riley had been guarding her. He leaned against a wall, arms crossed and a sardonic sneer aimed at Vivienne's stiff back, but the expression fled when Riley saw them enter. He pushed away from the wall and spread his hands.

"Well, lookit here, it's a whole family reunion. Someone get Éliane to come in here, too."

Bell gave the younger man an impatient look. "You can go. You'll only confuse the matter."

"Yeah, yeah," Riley said, long-suffering, but he followed the directions regardless.

With Riley gone, Boyd finally got a good look at his mother. She had been turned away, but as soon as the door opened, she swung around to face them. She was a mess; rumpled clothing, hair falling out of its constraints, her skin pale and eyes reddened and framed by dark circles.

Vivienne barely catalogued their injuries before she strode across the room. "You are being tracked," she said urgently to Boyd. "We must disable it and leave."

"What?" Boyd said sharply. "How? They already checked me twice and I was clean."

"It is new technology, recently developed in the labs. I had no knowledge of it until yesterday. We gained information on it when Breanne downloaded their high clearance data after activating the Red Alert plan. Jae-Hwa deliberately allowed you to flee. They wanted to follow you, and locate anyone that aided you. They had your location," she checked her watch, "fifteen hours ago. We must move." She looked at Bell. "There is a device in my suitcase. I need it to locate the tracker."

Bell looked at Boyd, who nodded. When Bell hurried from the room, Boyd tried to determine when the Agency would have planted the device in him. The only time that made sense was after he'd been recovered from the Janus lab in Arizona. He'd been sedated more frequently than not when in the medwing. They could have done anything to him, and apparently, they had.

Bell returned to the room a moment later, and Vivienne removed a handheld scanning device from a small bag. She input a code into the small screen, and instructed Boyd to stand up straight and hold out his arms as she moved it slowly over him.

Bell peered over Vivienne's shoulder, a frown making the lines in his face more apparent. "I have hackers whose job it is to keep track of all the latest technology and they've never mentioned anything like this."

"Why was the escape plan put into motion?" Sin demanded, ignoring Bell. The device emitted a loud beep when it hovered over the old scar tissue on the lower part of Boyd's stomach, but Sin didn't seem to notice. "Who was flagged for termination? Where are my father and Carhart?"

Vivienne went still, her fingers tightening on the scanner.

"There was a briefing. Jae-Hwa ordered Zachary and others to recover you and to terminate Boyd. The rest of the unit was to be held hostage. Zachary refused, and was shot, and Emilio was later injured as well. He would not leave with the escape team, and they were both left behind. We did not wish to leave them behind, but we did not have a choice. Their present status is unknown to me."

"Why would he--" Sin broke off, and swallowed audibly before speaking again. His voice pitched lower, and there was little intonation as he said, "He stayed because of Carhart."

"Yes."

There was another pause. "Is Carhart dead?"

Vivienne stared at the scanner with hunched shoulders. "I do not know."

Sin turned away from her as she continued.

"I wish to believe they escaped, but Zachary was shot multiple times. The compound became havoc. Agents fought agents, guards..." She shook her head and pulled the device away from Boyd, adding more quietly: "The general consensus of those who were present was not optimistic. We do not know how they would escape with their injuries."

A tense silence followed her words, broken only by the sound of Vivienne setting the scanner on the floor with a quiet thud. Sin looked partially over his shoulder again, and the heartbreak was not masked from his face.

"Remove the chip, or whatever it is, and get me when we're ready to move out," he said tersely. He left the room without waiting for anyone else to comment.

"Hsin--" Boyd instinctively went to follow him, but Bell put a firm hand on his shoulder and turned him around. Boyd stiffened and said stonily, "Remove it quickly. Please."

Bell pushed Boyd down to lie on the bed. "I have to get some items. Stay here."

The older man returned in no time, numbing the area where the tracker was and pulling out a scalpel. But the urgency to get the tracking device out of him was eclipsed by Boyd's desire to get to Sin. The pain on his lover's face had come across clearly, likely to the others in the room as well, and that alone was enough to make Boyd want to run after him.

The idea of Emilio and Carhart possibly dying didn't feel real. They were both so strong and tenacious. It seemed impossible that a Vega could ever go down for good-- especially not Emilio. Never Emilio.

Even as Boyd wanted to believe that they had escaped, that they were fine, he had to acknowledge that for all that they had been constants in his life for years now, they were still human. And as he knew all too clearly, one fight, one wound, one moment, could make all the difference in the world.

Carhart had sacrificed himself for them. He must have known that it wouldn't change anything, but still, he had done it. The idea of the rest of their team being hunted by Modified agents sent a chill through Boyd, and only reinforced his desire to destroy the Agency.

"Are you being tracked, too?" he asked Vivienne.

She was sitting next to him on the bed, her hands curled tightly over one another, eyes unmoving from Bell's precision cuts into Boyd's skin.

"No. We believe she was particularly suspicious of you following your time with Janus and thought it likely you might defect. It seems she was using you as a test subject for this technology, but it is likely she planned to install it in others in the future."

"Where are they? The others. Are they okay? Who fled with you?"

"No one else was gravely injured. There were eleven of us altogether. Thierry, Kassian, and Ryan were there. In addition, we had Douglas Ferguson, Breanne Calahan, Harriet Stevens, Casey Archer, Owen O'Connell, Jeffrey Styles, Samuel Goldberg and Brian Leblanc as the passengers. Jonathan Jones flew us to Quebec. When we landed, we all parted ways. I did not pay heed to where the others were headed, as I was too concerned with reaching you."

Boyd shot a sharp look of surprise at his mother before running the names through his mind. He'd never heard Bree's full name, but that must have been Breanne, and he remembered that Blair's real name was Jonathan. Samuel and Brian were Connors' and Carhart's old assistants, respectively, with Samuel serving as Emilio's informant. He was surprised to hear Jeffrey had been with them as well.

All the original people plus a few more had made it. They were safe. The words resounded in his mind. They were safe.

A wave of relief loosened the knot in his throat. He'd been sick with worry about the others since the moment he'd realized what had happened, and that Emilio and Carhart were hit. Knowing that they were okay made it easier to concentrate on the task at hand.

Vivienne's voice, faintly hesitant as it was, still seemed sudden against the backdrop of his thoughts. It threw him back fully into the present.

"Your eye?"

"Gone," Boyd said without emotion. "Are you going to belittle me for not looking good enough for you now?"

"No," she said quietly.

Bell watched them from beneath his eyebrows. "We're leaving the second this is out. The others are getting everything together. We'll have to try one of our other bases and hope to hell your people haven't found all the connections already."

"I have a safer location." When Bell looked at Vivienne questioningly, she added, "In Creuse. There is an old dairy farm there belonging to our contact Thierry."

"Well," Bell said, "that's a fair drive but at least we'll be far away."

Bell finally located the tracker. It was smaller than a dime, and looked like nothing more than a silver sticker. It was paper-thin and flexible. Boyd barely had the chance to look at it before Bell put it inside a sterile container and set it aside.

Boyd got up immediately, only allowing Bell to apply a bandage hastily before he strode out of the room. He tried to move quickly, but bumped into things often when he forgot to account for enough space around a corner, and let out a breath of relief when he located Sin.

He'd found a secluded spot in a small library, and was standing by the window. Boyd didn't know if it was the weight of grief that was making the change in Sin's appearance more apparent, but in that moment the differences in Sin were undeniable. The stitches in Sin's shaved head, the bruises covering a face that was gaunt and weary-- it looked like Sin had gone to hell and back. And Boyd was sure that he looked the same.

Footsteps muffled by the thick carpet, Boyd moved forward and stopped beside Sin. He reached out, touching Sin lightly on the arm even as he looked up at him. He felt his chest tighten in response to the look on Sin's face.

The pain was unmistakable; the misery and self-loathing made apparent by green eyes shot through with threads of red. Shadowed by darkness and emphasized by the pale hue of his skin.

"I should have stayed."

Boyd turned Sin toward him, leaving his fingers curled around Sin's arm. "It wouldn't have helped. She would have already wiped your memories by now."

"You don't know that." An erratic breath escaped Sin, and he inhaled deeply. "They can't fucking overpower me. They made me into what I am. I could have tried to stop them."

Boyd's voice was gentle and his hand ran along Sin's arm.

"Hsin... I know how much you're hurting right now. Believe me, I understand what you're going through. But that's why I also know you can't put this on yourself. You don't know what would have happened. There are too many variables to assume how it would have played out if you'd stayed, but what we do know is you're safe right now, and both of them cared about that more than almost anything else in the world."

Sin's eyes closed at the words. He shook his head, as if denying that he was crying, but a tear escaped his eyelashes and slid down his face. "I need to know," he said roughly. "I need to know what happened."

"We'll find out." Boyd pulled Sin into an embrace. "I promise you we will, and if they're still out there somewhere, we'll find them."

Sin nodded, his breath hitching while he wrapped his arms around Boyd. They stayed that way until the sounds of loud talking echoed through the emptying house, and an engine revving to life sounded outside.

"We have to go," Sin said, voice hoarse and thick.

Boyd pulled back just enough to see Sin's face. He wished he had both arms in use but all he could do was reach up with his left hand and cup the side of Sin's face. His thumb ran along Sin's cheek.

"We will, but Hsin... No matter what happens, no matter what we find, I'm here for you. If you want to talk, if you want silence, if you just want to be held... Anything you need, I'll do it for you."

Sin's kissed Boyd, and inhaled deeply. Their foreheads pressed against each other and their touch lingered. The sound of the front door opening was faint, but Riley's yell wasn't.

"We're ready!"

"Let's go," Boyd said quietly. He brushed his lips against Sin's again before they met the others outside.

Riley was hovering just outside of Éliane's main house, while two vehicles purred behind him. "Your bag is in the trunk already," he told them. "There's too many of us for one car and we're worried about being followed, so we're taking different routes. Each car has a copy of all the info-- if one doesn't make it, the people left in the other will have to do the job."

They were led to a silver car with Bell at the wheel and Vivienne in the passenger seat.

"We'll take A7, you take A75," Bell told Riley as Boyd and Sin settled into the back. "Get off on the side roads if you think you're being followed."

Riley rapped his knuckles against the top of the car. "See you there."

Bell set the car in motion the second Riley stepped back.

"It's nearly seven hours a drive," Bell said, glancing in the rearview mirror. "Any of you need a break, you let me know, but we hope to make it there in one shot."




They passed in and out of cities and open fields of the country. Everything was covered in white. Flurries fell quietly on the windshield, the wipers sweeping them away just as they started to melt. The rolling hills and pastures were beautiful, but when Sin pressed for answers, it was made surreal by Vivienne's recounting of the bloody scene she had missed at the Agency.

Sin stared out the window as she spoke, barely reacting to Boyd's hand curled around his. The details didn't make it any clearer to Boyd whether or not Carhart and Emilio had survived. It sounded like many had died, even agents and support staff they had been friendly with.

He felt sick at the idea. He spent most of the trip with his cheek pressed against the cold glass of the window, looking out at an unfamiliar countryside, thinking about all the people they'd left behind to get here. When the headache returned, he welcomed the distraction from his thoughts.

The sun had already set as they reached the farm. It was nestled in rolling hills and appeared to be several acres. The stone buildings on the property looked like they had been built centuries ago.

"Well," Bell said, clapping his hands and sweeping the room with his gaze once they had unloaded and entered the house. "We'd best find somewhere to put the rest of the equipment for when the others arrive. Riley's last call placed them twenty minutes behind schedule, and the others are closer now that we relocated."

When Boyd moved to follow, Bell stopped him with a hand on the shoulder. "Is your head still hurting you?"

Boyd shrugged with one shoulder, which Bell correctly took as a yes. He frowned, looking both of them over clinically. "Maybe you two should rest."

Sin shook his head curtly. "I'm fine. I've had worse." When Boyd started to say the same, Sin cut him off in a tone that allowed no debate. "Your injury is different from mine, Boyd. If you want to be at your most alert when we finish this, you need to rest."

Boyd frowned, for a moment ready to argue the point, but in the end he looked away without protest. In truth, with his already limited sight made worse by his head pounding so hard he couldn't see clearly, he probably wouldn't be much help. And he suspected that Sin wanted something else to concentrate on for the moment. Something to forget the gory details of Emilio and Carhart's potential deaths.

The two men disappeared into the shadowy recesses of the house, and Boyd was left alone in the main room with Vivienne.

She may as well have been a statue for as much as she moved or spoke.

Rather than sit restlessly, he began to explore the ground floor of the house. He muttered something about looking for the bathroom and walked away. He discovered quickly that he was even slower moving than he'd expected, and that Bell and Sin had been right to tell him to rest. The property was massive, and more time would be spent guiding him around than getting anything done.

It felt as though all the bits and pieces that had been taken from him over the years were finally reaching a tipping point. From here on out, no matter what had happened on the compound, even if he managed to scrape out a full life, he would never be able to leave the pain of the past few years behind. Every day he would wake up and wouldn't be able to see an entire half of the world. Every day, he would be reminded of his time with them, and everything that had happened there.

It was as though the Agency was mocking him even now.

When he made it to the back door, he found Vivienne standing outside nearby.

Her arms were crossed with her hands tucked under her opposite arms. It was dark but the moon and stars lit up the sky, casting pale silver light that reflected off the powder white snow. Her expression was something he couldn't decipher cast half in shadows as it was, but he saw that she was staring at the farmland spread out in front of them.

He didn't know what exactly made him do it, but rather than walking away he stopped next to her and looked silently out at the white-dusted fences and trees. They stayed that way for a length of time he could only measure by the cold creeping into his skin.

Just as Boyd started to move away, she spoke.

"I was mistaken."

For a moment, Boyd thought he must have heard incorrectly. He never thought he would hear her say those words. When he looked at her, nothing had changed. She was still staring straight ahead with the same enigmatic expression as before.

"About what?"

She was silent, long enough that he thought she would not reply, but then she huffed out a humorless sound.

"What did Éliane tell you?"

"Nothing. She just mentioned someone named Jacques."

"I see." A heartbeat of a pause. "He was my father."

"Oh." Boyd hesitated. She had never spoken much about family before, so for a moment he wasn't certain whether he should bother asking for more information. She took the decision out of his hands.

"He was killed when I was eight, along with my mother, Alette. My paternal grandmother raised me, however she blamed my mother for his death, as it occurred while they were aiding her friend. She blamed Éliane as well, for raising my mother the way she did. I suspect that is the reason she told me Éliane was dead when I was a child. I only learned otherwise today."

"Is she alive? That grandmother?"

"No. She died many years ago."

Boyd searched his memory for any knowledge of the story. The only thing he could vaguely remember was being told that a grandmother had died. Maybe that was this woman.

"You never mentioned her before."

"I have told no one. It has seemed unnecessary and I do not enjoy discussing these things."

She spoke in the same emotionless voice he remembered from childhood, and with that came the automatic assumption that she didn't want to interact with him. Boyd stared at her, and for a moment he almost pointed out she was the one who brought it all up. Instead, he only shook his head and with an, "Okay," he started to turn back toward the house to leave her alone.

"I did not say I would not."

Stopped mid-pivot, Boyd nearly raised his eyebrows before he remembered not to. Vivienne looked over at him in assessment, and lingered her gaze briefly on his bare arms.

"It is cold. We will wait for the others in the kitchen. I believe there is tea available."

Vivienne walked past him before he could reply. Bewildered, he followed her. While she moved straight to the counter, he remained hovering in the middle of the kitchen. The scene of Vivienne cleaning a tea kettle was oddly domestic.

"What are you doing?"

"Preparing tea."

"You know what I mean."

Her head tilted slightly, and in the lighting he saw that she had not straightened up at all even in her time alone. Her skirt suit was still wrinkled. Her hair was only partially held back by a band, and otherwise spilled down her back in a tangled mess.

"Providing an explanation." She looked over her shoulder at him. "Perhaps you should sit."

Boyd stayed standing at first, wary of what she had to say, but in the end he didn't have anything else to do, and he had to admit he was curious. He settled into one of the dining room chairs.

"It is too long a story to tell in detail so I will keep it to the most pertinent pieces." She drew a trail of long blond hair behind her ear. When she continued, it was almost as though she were speaking about someone else's life.

"Mireille told me that people could not be trusted, that I must use others before they could use me, that vulnerabilities could not be afforded, and that love did not exist. I came to realize the truth of her words as I grew. I was a wealthy, attractive young woman who was often judged negatively for this. Many felt it was their prerogative to use me for their own agendas and found it intolerable if I disagreed with their presumptions. I thought it would always be this way until I met Cedrick."

The kettle made a scraping sound as she set it on a burner. White-blue flame flickered into life, licking at the base. She turned to face Boyd, although she did not sit.

"It is not possible to overstate the effect he had on me. He was genuine, without ulterior motives, and accepted me for who I was. It seemed impossible to me that such a person could exist. I became enamored of him, and did not listen when Mireille warned me to stay away. When I fled with him, in order to silence me from her life she provided me the money I was due from my parents' deaths along with an additional stipend, and disowned me. I did not think it mattered. I had Cedrick."

It was strange hearing so much about his mother's life after so many years of silence. His mind flashed on the pictures he and Kassian had found in his attic. The photographs of his parents much younger, with Vivienne still closed off but looking more approachable than he remembered from his own life. The stipend explained why they hadn't worried about money as he grew.

"However, when we relocated to Lexington, I became fearful of what would happen should he leave. Without him, I was not only alone in a foreign country, but I also knew no one could replace him. When he said he wanted a family, I was too frightened of losing him to say no. I had hoped I would grow into the idea at some point during the pregnancy or upon your birth, but I did not. I was exhausted, miserable, and found it difficult to be around you."

"Did he know?"

"No." She turned her gaze to the black reflection of the windows. Her arms crossed tightly.

"It was... a very difficult time for me. I was aware that I did not feel the way I was supposed to feel, and yet could not force myself to do so. I felt conflicted and was certain that if I admitted my feelings, Cedrick would leave. In retrospect, I believe I had undiagnosed prenatal and postpartum depression. However, at the time, I was ashamed and spoke of my difficulties to no one."

Boyd's mind flashed back to the expression on her face after his suicide attempts, and the disgust she had shown. The way she had always belittled his own mental anguish.

She pushed herself away from the counter and started searching the cupboards for mugs.

"It is enough to say that such was my state of mind at the time. Cedrick's parents visited Lexington to see you when you were born, and they were killed in the bombing. As they had become a surrogate family to me, I was devastated and what I felt only grew worse. As time passed, his love for you made me feel further flawed for being unable to share it and made me worry I was losing my connection to him. I began to feel left out of my own family. Despite this, I was certain we could get through it as long as we were together. When I was told that the bombs in New York took him as well... I blamed you."

The words were said so simply, but with them came the weight of their whole relationship.

"In my mind, you became the sole reason why I had lost everything. Why his parents were in the wrong place, and why the short time I had with Cedrick was so stressful. When I fled with him, I had imagined a long, romantic life. Even with you, I had thought I could last until you were old enough to leave the house. I thought perhaps then, my feelings would change. Instead, I lost it all. I was young, left alone in a country that saw me as a spy due to my nationality, with no family and nowhere to go, and with a child I now had to support but had never wanted."

The water began making a rushing, bubbling noise in the kettle, and she turned off the burner. Despite her pause, at first Boyd could say nothing and silently watched her prepare the tea. Having all of his thoughts cemented after so many years caused his stomach to twist, but there was an absence of surprise.

"Riley said something similar... that his parents were in Lexington because of me. But he said I shouldn't blame myself."

Vivienne let out a harsh breath and shook her head. "Of course he said this. He is adept at identifying potential weaknesses in a person and manipulating them to his advantage. You cannot trust a word that man says. He has always been this way."

"So." Boyd stopped, flexed his fingers, and didn't let himself turn his gaze from her. "So, you still think it's all my fault?"

Vivienne stilled. For one moment she simply stood there, facing away from him with a straight back. A quiet sigh left her and she turned around. Her heels made her footsteps ring in the otherwise quiet room as she headed toward the table.

Once seated, she slid one of the mugs over to him without breaking eye contact.

"No. That is what I wished to tell you. Recent revelations have made it clear that the blame I laid on you was misdirected. It is the Agency who is responsible for both Cedrick's death and the deaths of his parents."

Anything he might have once felt at the words was dulled by time and all that had passed between them.

"I still don't understand why you ever joined them."

"I recognized an unparalleled opportunity to access high clearance information and a network of informants I could cultivate. I had become obsessed with the idea that, because we had not seen a body, perhaps Cedrick could still be alive and I could find him."

She took a careful sip of her tea. "I was, of course, unsuccessful, and as time passed I came to simply rely on the job itself. It became my sole reason to continue living." She paused and her eyes narrowed. "They have played me the fool. I thought I was using them but they were the ones who used me."

The words stung, and Boyd forced himself to break her stare. The Agency had destroyed their family, and them both. "Why didn't you say anything earlier?"

"I did not think my reasons would matter. Perhaps they do not. But Zachary thought it was important for us to talk, the same as he wished for Emilio and Hsin. When I learned of the Agency's involvement in Cedrick's death, I realized the gravity of the situation and thought Zachary was right. But at that point you were already gone and upon your return the timing did not seem right. I thought once more that perhaps it was not necessary. But yesterday..."

Darkness flashed across her face. "When I saw them shoot Zachary, I felt... consumed."

"Why?" Through everything, Boyd had never figured out what had truly been between Carhart and his mother. "Did he matter that much to you?"

Vivienne looked at him for a long moment. "Zachary never ceased to care, even in an environment such as the Agency. There are many of us who became twisted, but he did not. I am unaccustomed to feeling as though I am accepted in any manner for who I am. Cedrick accepted me and Zachary did as well. Seeing them shoot Zachary, I remembered the loss of Cedrick. I failed him, in life and in death. I will not make the same mistake, now that Zachary--"

She stopped, her gaze cutting away and her expression shutting off the little emotion that had been visible before. Her jaw worked briefly and, when she spoke, her voice was forcibly distant, the way he remembered from childhood.

"Now that he is gone, too."

Boyd looked down at the table. He kept trying to believe that they were alive. He kept avoiding thinking about it, because if they weren't, it would be too hard to focus on what needed to be done. But at her words, their presences flashed unbidden through his mind.

The way Carhart's weary expression would give way to a fond smile. All of the times he had watched the members of his unit knowingly, and would temper his exasperation with a kind word. His blue eyes locking with Boyd's, telling him without words when to be safe and stand down.

The rakish smirk on Emilio's face, unapologetic and brash. Emilio shoving Boyd's shoulder as a playful reprimand. All of the times Emilio refused to say that he loved Sin, even when it had been obvious.

The emergency code they'd discussed before Emilio and Sin's final mission in Canada flashed through Boyd's mind. His gut twisted. That code was useless now, if they were really...

"Oh."

Heavy silence settled between them.

"He did not deserve what they did to him, Boyd." He looked up to see her watching him evenly. "Neither did you, or any of its many casualties. The Agency overtook me and I allowed it. It was a conscious choice on my part and it is not something I can change, so I will not regret it. However, I will not accept that Zachary devoted his life to the Agency and was betrayed. I will not accept that they killed Cedrick and took my family as well. And I will not accept that they thought they could use me."

The quiet was broken only by the creaking of the windows as the wind pressed against them, and droplets of water slowly ticking out of the faucet into the sink.

"Bellamy informed me that you plan to expose the Agency, and that you have gathered information from various sources in order to do so. Do you believe that the information you have is sufficient?"

Having a question that had a simple answer helped him to focus. It was less confusing than having to put his mother's life in a different context or consider the question of whether her explanations mattered.

He could understand so many pieces; depression, the fear of losing the most important person, the stupid things a person might do or say to keep them. On the other hand, no matter her reasons, the fact remained that the things she had done to him had left him with visible and hidden scars. He didn't know what to say about any of that and was relieved that she didn't seem to be expecting a response to it.

"As much as we're going to be able to get." He tapped the mug as he ran over the information. "I'm a little worried it won't be enough. But we have an extensive list of cover-ups, the information gathered by JG, a Director's name--"

"A Director?" Vivienne cut in. Her expression sharpened intently. "Which one?"

"Simon Perry."

She was already shaking her head as he said the name. "No. That will not do. Simon Perry has not been a Director for years. You need the entirety of the current Board to be effective or they will simply evade and begin anew. Do you have a tablet?"

Boyd stood, leaving the kitchen briefly to find the few belongings that had been recovered from Portugal. He went through it clumsily and pulled out the tablet he'd been given by Ryan months ago. The thought of Ryan made him briefly wonder where he was, whether he was still okay, whether he'd ended up with anyone else. But he had to shove that thought aside, like so many others. He unlocked the tablet and gave it to her.

He watched her type, still trying to figure out what he thought about all of this. It was too difficult to process, especially with the possibility of taking down the Agency looming before him. When Vivienne returned the tablet, all other thoughts vanished from Boyd's mind.

Mark Sutton, Duncan Clark, Nathan Mead, Alton Daniels, Victor Welles.

The names were spelled out in the document, black against the white of the page, but for all its innocuousness, the impact of the information was staggering. Their full names, dates of birth, addresses, even their social security numbers, detailed information on their families, and where to locate photographs-- everything was there.

When he looked up at her in surprise, her face was hardened.

"It is my nature to know the variables to all equations. If they believe they can use me without consequence, they are as ill-informed as anyone else who has ever tried the same in my life."

Seeing the Board of Directors spelled out so succinctly made the doubt that had been plaguing him disappear. The main missing piece had been the upper structure, but now--

They could do this.

With this, with everything else-- they could really do it. They could dismantle the Agency. They could stop the attempts on their own life-- they could protect their friends who had fled. They could get back at the Agency for what it had done to Carhart, to Emilio, to his father, to the fallen agents, and to the innocent people who had been assassinated along the way.

They could end it all.

"When it is available, I will view the list of cover-ups as well. Perhaps there are further details I can provide."

Boyd nodded, feeling overwhelmed by the moment. "We would love that. Does anyone else know this?"

"I cannot say. I gathered that information from various informants without providing them the context, as insurance should they ever threaten me."

Floored, Boyd could only think to say, "Thank you."

"Do not thank me. It is far too late to attempt to rectify what I have done. This," she gestured at the tablet, "is simply something I can and must do right now."

Her features seemed simply set in stone now, rather than the piercing cold from most of his life. Here, at the scratched wooden table with mugs of tea and information spread out before them, he briefly remembered the rare, pleasant moments. The nights she had taught him French, correcting his accent and grammar and occasionally saying something positive. Thinking back with the information he had now, it put a different light on the weariness he remembered in her features; the way she used to glance back at the hallway. Looking for his father.

They had been just three people living in that large home, but between them had been enough lies by omission to forever change their lives.




The full team assembled a little under an hour later. Riley, Genna and Livana arrived as well as others in the Guild. There was a flurry of activity as they worked with a new sense of urgency to not only expose the Agency, but to take it down before its leaders could find them and destroy them all.

During this time, Vivienne disappeared. She did not say goodbye, but to Boyd, one had not been needed. A goodbye was trivial in contrast to all she had finally told him. He could only assume that he would never see his mother again, and that she had stayed at the farmhouse as long as she had only to speak to him, to explain, and to share what she knew.

The idea was as hard to believe and comprehend as the possibility of Carhart and Emilio being murdered on the compound that had brought them all together. But Boyd pushed aside the confusion of warring emotions that he felt at her discreet departure, knowing that he would pick it apart and analyze it later when this was finished and they were free.

Genna and Livana began the task of weaving the new information into the data they had compiled as well as hacking the satellite that would broadcast the information globally. At Sin's suggestion, they included an exposť on Janus. The public demolition of a covert, Western organization would cause people to turn to the remnants of Janus despite the fact that they were just as corrupt, and they wanted it known that neither group could be trusted. It would also help keep Janus from finding a way to begin anew.

As the moment approached, Boyd noticed tension growing in Sin. He moved closer to him, standing at his side in a quieter corner of the room.

"What's wrong?"

"I wonder what will happen when different groups start fighting over who is going to pick up the pieces," Sin said quietly. "And who is going to do the Agency's job when that happens."

They looked at each other. They were standing by one of the large windows as the sun began to rise, the dark sky illuminated by streaks of pink and gold. The uncertainty in Sin's expression caused a slight edge of doubt in Boyd, but he pushed it away.

"We can't control that. What we know is that the powers in place right now are corrupt and have caused as much or more harm than good. This is the only way to protect our friends, us, even the innocent people who were being controlled." He squeezed Sin's hand. "Whatever happens, at least we'll finally be free to make our own choices. Live the way we want to live, the way we've dreamed for years."

"Do you really think so?" Sin turned slightly, and looked at the JG members.

They were grinning at each other, and counting down with Riley. Someone had brought out a bottle of wine they planned to share when it was done. Bell's arms were crossed, and a glint was in his eyes as he looked on with pride.

"I know they're getting what they want," Sin said. "But will we ever really get what we want? Do we even know what we want?"

There was a collective exclamation of excitement, and Boyd turned entirely to look at the monitors that had been set up in the room. The first of many messages flashed across the screen; messages that would be broadcast across the world in many languages. A Guild member was in another room broadcasting live on the radio, the words recorded to be looped later. Next to him were two other members, speaking the first of many translated versions.

For decades, we have been lied to and manipulated. For decades, government agencies and radical, activist groups have fought for control and we have been caught in the crossfire. It stops now.

The sentences seemed to swell, and they exploded across the screen. As the words scattered, data, graphs, pictures and videos they had compiled took their place, playing in a never-ending loop that would go on until a hacker better than Livana and Genna managed to end it.

It was all laid bare, the structure of the Agency, the hierarchy, a reference to the brutal way its own members were treated, the videos of assassinations and murders juxtaposed with lists of slaughtered civilians who had been caught in the middle. Clearing the names of so many people whose life works had been twisted in their death. The names of the Directors scrolled in an unending marquee, always present and reminding viewers that it was they who did this, it was they who had pulled the strings behind it all.

And when Janus' time came, when images of the lab where Boyd was found, of the rooms where Sin had been tortured in Monterrey, and their plans to win the political war with guerilla tactics and biowarfare was shown, it all started again with new footage, new documents, new videos-- all of it reinforcing what had already been stated.

As he watched, a chill slipped through him.

It was finally happening. It was real. The world was seeing everything he saw, everything that had been building for years. All the lies, conspiracies, all the things he'd hated to be beholden to, all the things that had twisted and changed his fellow agents. All the things the Agency had fought to contain.

Everything was unraveling at a rapid pace on those screens, seeming impossible after all the time and effort it had taken to pull it together. After all the lives lost just to have these lists.

He wondered what the other agents were doing-- the ones left at the Agency, but especially their friends who had already fled. How they would react when they saw this broadcasting across televisions and computers. Whether their friends would know it was Boyd and Sin who had done this, and whether they would understand why, instead of merely disappearing, they had taken things this far.

As he watched the JG members huddle around their computers, as he watched Bell grinning and scrubbing briefly at his eyes, he thought of his father. If he'd lived, while he might have eventually sought to expose the Agency, he probably never would have been able to get all the information in one place. But when it came down to it, this victory was partially due to Cedrick. His death had rippled out across the years, moving people into the positions where this information could be gathered.

It felt strange, and terrifying, and hopeful, and more than anything he thought of his father's small handwriting sprawled across an old journal's wrinkled page:

I hope someday you'll continue my legacy.

"Let's go."

Boyd jumped at the words, and was torn from the trance that had momentarily caught him.

He looked up at Sin, questioning and silent, shaken by what was happening and the magnitude of it all. There was a swelling in his chest that he couldn't contain, an emotion that caused a breath to escape his mouth instead of words.

"Now. Let's leave now," Sin said again, his voice low and the words slipping from his lips to Boyd's ears, not meant for anyone else. "Just disappear."

The members of the Journalist Guild were not looking at them and barely seemed to register that they were still in the room. They were all manning a station, barking orders and leaning close to screens as they presumably fought to keep the messages on the air, desperate to protect the culmination of their efforts throughout the years.

Boyd didn't protest when their fingers locked, and Sin tugged him out of the room. They disappeared into the shadows, walking away from the unceasing narration that droned during the program, and away from the journalists who had helped them to finish it all.

The moments it took to slip out of the farmhouse were few. It felt like heartbeats compared to the scope of time it had taken them to get to this point. Soon, their boots were crunching on the snow outside. Soon, breath ghosted out into the cold air, and Sin led Boyd away from the property.

Their hands clasped again, and this time neither let go.




Continue to Fade Epilogue...