In the Company of Shadows

This site is..

Based on an original story 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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Evenfall Chapter Thirty-Seven

Boyd's legs cramped as he crouched in the darkness, his heart beating a little too fast although he kept his breath silent, even. The thump of footsteps on the steps shuddered dust down onto his hair, almost getting in his eyes. The footsteps were heavy, ponderous; he could tell it was a man and judging by the sounds when he kicked things over, he wore steel-toed boots. Boyd also thought he heard evidence of a shotgun; the way the gun was handled, the heaviness when it was set down, the rustling of the strap against clothing.

"No nos hiera, por favor, señor, por favor," a woman was moaning repeatedly, sounding as terrified as she was upset. Boyd knew her as María, currently crouched in the room at the top of the stairs. Even though Boyd was pressed into a crawl space in a wall, he could hear her clearly through the open door to her room upstairs. A child's voice drifted down as well; muffled sniffles and the occasional fearful cry.

"Cállate," a man ordered languidly and Boyd could hear a few things being shoved over. There were two of them in the room, walking around slowly and overturning anything in their way.

"No," María pleaded, tears in her voice. "No nos mate, no nos dispare, por favor, somos inocentes, por favor..."

Something crashed to the floor and she cried out, though it sounded more as though she was frightened by the noise than that she was actually hurt. The man made a disgusted noise, his footsteps pausing in one area for a long moment, before he said something rapidly in Spanish that Boyd couldn't understand through the floor. The door slammed shut and Boyd could hear him as he walked to the landing above him.

María made another loud, moaning wail that drifted into sobs. Boyd barely breathed as he heard two sets of footsteps descend the steps down toward him. The moment seemed to stretch alarmingly as the men paused near the hidden entrance to the crawl space.

He could hear the now-familiar sound of a cigarette being pulled out of a pack followed by a lighter flicking on a flame. The two men murmured something to each other but they were cut off by the insistent beeping of what sounded like a radio.

One of them made a noise of annoyance, there was the rustling of clothing as the radio was presumably pulled out, and the clicking of a button as he said louder, "No está aquí."

There was white noise and then someone over the radio said, "Continúen la búsqueda. El capitán se cree el sospechoso está en el área."

"¿Hemos recibido información más legítima?"

There was a pause as the man on the other side of the line rattled off something too rapid to understand, his voice muffled as if he was speaking away from the radio.

Boyd heard one of the men on the landing shift and make an impatient noise in the back of his throat. "Hemos estado recorriendo esta área durante varios días," he continued with clear irritation in his voice when the man on the radio was paying attention again. "¿Sabemos si él está realmente aquí?"

"No, pero las otras vecindades han investigado sin resultados." The man on the other end paused and added pointedly, "Todos sabemos Independencia sería el mejor lugar para esconderse, pero no hay manera de que un gringo podría sobrevivir allí."

Both men standing on the landing snorted derisively, one of them letting out a truncated and harsh laugh. "Sin duda," the one holding the radio said.

"Así que el orden es concentrarse en el Barrio Antiguo por ahora," the man on the radio continued almost offhandedly. There was a brief pause while the man spoke rapidly to someone on the other line, his words too muffled and accented for Boyd to catch, before his voice became clear as he spoke into the radio again.

"Pues," the man on the radio said dismissively, "dése prisa. Vayan a la casa siguiente y el siguiente después de que, si es necesario. El capitán quiere al sospechoso arrestado e interrogado antes del fin de semana."

The man acknowledged the comment. Once the radio was turned off the men spoke back and forth rapidly, both clearly tired of the monotony of the search. Still, they didn't hesitate to follow orders and head to the next house.

Boyd forced himself to stay still and count to five minutes even though his entire body thrummed with the need to get out of there.

He didn't have much time. If the Federales were concentrating on this neighborhood, he likely only had a small window to escape notice and run to his next safehouse. And with the directive to catch him and interrogate him by the weekend, time was even shorter.

Time seemed to drag. When he finally hit five minutes, he shifted and silently crawled forward, peering through the opening as best he could. He couldn't see anyone in the vicinity.

The tension didn't quite leave his shoulders even then; he was quick as he grabbed his bag and crawled out of his hiding space.

Dust clouded around him, catching on his hair and face. He was filthy; he'd been crawling through so many dirty areas that it coated him and he'd left almost all his clothing behind so he didn't have much to change into. His dark, plain clothes were made darker by days of grime and his hair was a mess. Although a few of the places he had stopped had running water and he'd briefly been able to clean up, it actually worked to his advantage to look like a vagrant.

He'd cut his hair shorter and dyed it dark brown. Once he stopped wearing the blue contacts, the dark, short hair and his natural brown eyes gave him a different look than anyone who knew him as Kadin Reed or even Boyd Beaulieu.

Although when he'd left the JKS he had been certain he'd done his best to blend in, from what he'd been able to gather from newspaper headlines and the talk around the city, there had been a single witness to see him go and that had been enough to change everything.

From the sound of it, it seemed as though a woman who lived in one of the nearby apartment buildings had looked out the window when the explosions began. The police and authorities had questioned everyone in the building with windows facing the center and they'd come upon her. Although she'd mistakenly told them that the sole person she'd seen exiting the property had been the only person to escape safely from that section of the building, the police had jumped on the information and deemed this lone survivor as a suspect.

And then the Federales were brought in.

Although they were actually correct about him being the suspect, it made Boyd's life much more difficult. Authorities were searching for any slender men of his height who was Caucasian, around seventeen to twenty-five, and had light-colored hair. Even though he'd dyed his hair, he'd noticed that as the search wore on, the Federales were snatching up any white man of his height and age off the streets. Rumors circulated that 'suspects' were being interrogated under harsh conditions and white foreigners without work or student visas were getting the brunt of the aggression as the government put on the heat for someone, anyone, to be found.

They wouldn't necessarily know who Boyd was or even care, but even though he had a passport stating that he was Kadin Reed, he'd been in Mexico under the pretense of an extended vacation so he didn't have a visa. The fact that he no longer looked like the picture in his passport would most likely add to the suspicion.

The last thing he needed was to be captured and detained in Mexico, probably for a ridiculous amount of time until the Agency managed to somehow get him out of it.

And there was Janus.

It was harder to discern their methods but he had very little doubt that they were searching for both the culprits and any attendee of the Orientation who remained unaccounted for. He and Sin had placed the bombs to do maximum damage to Janus while minimizing the danger to any civilians. But there had still been a few Janus attendees who had escaped.

Janus had to be searching attendees with a fine-toothed comb. And when Kadin Reed showed up missing, not in a hospital, and not among the confirmed dead, he was likely to be investigated. Even if he tried to claim he was afraid and fled, he didn't know how far that would get him. Not to mention the possibility of Janus being connected to the authorities.

If that was the case, his position was more precarious than ever if law enforcement caught him.

He heard light, quick footsteps approaching. Jorge's familiar, messy head appeared around the corner, quickly glancing around the room to be certain no one else was there.

"Go," he ordered quietly upon entering the room. "They are gone."

"Thanks, Jorge," Boyd said softly, looking quickly past him to the hallway and listening intently for any sound. It wasn't that he distrusted Jorge; it was simply that he was on high alert. Jorge either did not notice or care and Boyd slipped a few bills out of his pocket, pressing them into Jorge's hand. "For María, tell her thank you. She sounded very convincing."

Jorge shrugged and said calmly, "She knows," but he pocketed the money anyway. He jerked his head impatiently. "Go. They can return."

Boyd slipped past Jorge, moving quickly to the back door of the house where he paused to listen for any movement on the other side. It was as silent out there as it was in the house now that María wasn't feigning terror, but he still waited a few seconds to be certain. He opened the door just enough to search the surroundings, then slid into the shadows outside and headed through the tiny space of green this area had behind the houses. He only looked back once, where he saw Jorge watching him silently from the doorway with his serious dark eyes.

Boyd had to move cautiously but quickly through the streets.

The city was on a lock-down. All transportation to and from Monterrey was blocked and every official entrance and exit was heavily guarded by the authorities. No one was making it in or out of the city without being seen.

Although Tayla had helped Boyd immensely by telling him of the secret passages into Monterrey, that only helped keep them out of the radar of the authorities. It didn't mean the underground groups claiming the passageways as their territory would appreciate anyone else using them, especially if they didn't know who he was.

The security in the city had been worse right after they'd destroyed the JKS but even now, nearing two weeks later, it would still be a challenge. Boyd was hoping that in three days time when he and Sin were scheduled to meet, the secret exit he thought they would be least likely to be hassled trying to use would be a little less guarded than it had been when he'd walked past it four days prior.

He'd been doing well to stay under the radar but there was no doubt that even for him it was difficult. If he hadn't known people like Jorge, if he hadn't learned Monterrey so well, including a number of backup safe places for each area of the city, he almost positively would have been caught. The opposition was swarming everywhere.

He wound his way through the city, hiding his tracks to his next hiding place. He'd initially been going toward this safe place earlier when he'd almost stumbled upon a few Mexican authorities who were doing their rounds and had ducked into Jorge's.

The safe house on Sur loomed before him in the dark. This was one of the streets that had a dramatic drop of a hill on one side, and long stretches of space where either no one had bothered building a house or what had been built had long ago deteriorated. It should have taken less than ten minutes to get there but with the amount of presence on the streets, it took him almost three times as long.

Finally he saw his safe house.

Boyd hopped over a mound of broken wood and corrugated metal, his feet twisting at an angle to keep him upright as he partially slid down the hill. As he darted around the side toward the back door he lost his footing on loose dirt and tripped over an unexpected wooden beam. He nearly careened down the hill and had to snap a hand out to catch himself on one of the few rogue bushes.

He stopped and stayed still for a moment, heart pounding so hard he could practically feel it in his throat, and looked around to see if anyone had heard the scraping and rustling.

There wasn't a sound so, after a heart-stopping moment, he crawled his way back up the hill.

Crouched and hidden by the shadows, he pulled out a small flashlight and waited a few seconds to listen for any movement. It was dark enough that no one would see him but that also meant he couldn't tell if anyone was watching him. And, poised as he was on a relatively bare hillside, any light he showed was liable to stand out more than just in his vicinity.

After a moment he turned back and leaned down so he could see the bottom corner of the door. The flashlight was flicked on and off within the space of a breath and he was already out of the yard and onto a side street before he heard movement in what should have been his safe house. One of the tests he'd left behind, the small line he'd left at the back door, was broken and indicated that the building was no longer abandoned.

He could no longer trust it to be secure.

He slipped through the shadows, his heart pounding every time he heard a noise or he thought he saw movement around him.

It was torturous trying to head to his next location; it was nearly all the way across the city from here and required him to pass more than one busy thoroughfare, including both freeways on either side of the river. Walking in good conditions would have taken him nearly three hours, so he was forced to steal a small motorbike at one point and ride it as long as he dared. He had to squeeze between buildings and duck into carports more than once to avoid being seen by vehicles and law enforcement.

He was almost halfway to his destination when he heard the rumbling of an open-backed truck full of Federales rolling his way. He had no place to go with the motorbike and absolutely no time to be subtle. He was forced to drop the motorbike right on the side of the street and run to the nearest yard. He was only barely able to hop the concrete wall and duck out of view before a flashlight swept past his location.

The truck rolled to a stop next to the motorbike. Boyd heard them discussing how suspicious it was, thrown down like that, and he swore inwardly. He stayed crouched and silent as he wound through the tiny back yard and hopped the fence into the next door courtyard space. He was able to make it about halfway down the block that way before he ran out of back yards and ran straight up against buildings pressed against each other.

He could hear the Federales moving around down the street, presumably starting to check out the area. Cursing again under his breath, Boyd looked around for an escape route.

He ended up having to climb to the top of the wall, risking being seen while he leaped to the metal railings on a second floor balcony and scrambled up. The lights were off inside the apartment and he felt adrenaline crash through him. He heard the Federales growing closer, starting to talk about fanning out to check the backyards, and he saw the sweep of a flashlight cross the ground a few buildings away.

Shit, he thought, and hoped like hell no one would wake up when he was forced to quickly jimmy open the window and duck inside.

He landed silently in what looked to be a tiny apartment, in the ambiguous area that was the kitchen, living room and dining room combined. He heard soft snoring from the other side of a closed door and, wincing and watching that door like a hawk, he slowly but silently shut the window again. He didn't want to show the Federales exactly where he'd fled.

Without waiting for the resident to wake after all, he darted across the apartment and quietly let himself out of the apartment. After that it was a quick navigation through the building down to the street, where he peered out the the main door and, after determining the Federales weren't there, running out onto the street and as fast and far away as he could from his hunters.

After a few blocks he had to stop running to keep his footfalls from echoing in emptier streets. He wove in and out of shadows, trying to stay out of sight and away from anyone who could report him.

He'd just thought he may be safe, entering into neighborhoods where they were less likely to be looking for him, when in the middle of a skinny street the size of an alley back home he suddenly heard the thumping of many boots down the street ahead of him. He froze and turned, ready to run back the way he'd come, but he realized immediately that it hadn't just been echoes he'd heard-- there were people on that side too.

There was no time to think and he wasn't lucky enough this time to have an easy escape route.

With no other choice, he dove to the side of the street, falling into an apparent drunkard sprawl at the base of some garbage bags under which he shoved his messenger bag. Grabbing an almost empty glass bottle of tequila that was lying by him, he tipped the dregs of it onto his shirt and let his eyes seemingly fall shut although he watched the street through his eyelashes. He fell back against the garbage pile, the bottle held in his loosely curled hand at his side, and left his mouth open as if he were asleep.

He was just able to even his breath when he heard the police passing by.

Conversations in Spanish echoed from the troop of police. Although it was mostly too muffled for him to understand, he knew they were talking about something serious.

Flashlights were shone down the side streets and he knew they found him when the light passed over his prone body, moved up to see his skin color, and stopped. One man broke away from the others and headed down the alley, followed after a moment by a second. The first man shone his flashlight along the ground until a beam fell directly on Boyd's eyes.

"Levántese," he barked, gesturing with his shotgun for Boyd to stand.

Boyd ignored him at first. The other cop glanced at the first, paused, and then moved forward. He kicked Boyd roughly in the side. Boyd jerked as if he'd just been woken and peered at them bleary-eyed. He saw the shotgun aimed at him and the uniforms they wore, and dragged his eyebrows down in seemingly bewildered confusion.

When he didn't move, the first officer's eyes narrowed and he nudged him with the shotgun. The barrel dug into his ribs.

"Muévese," he commanded.

Boyd grimaced and made a big production out of just managing to sit up straight. "Cómo?" he asked blearily.

The second cop stood to the side, glancing out at the street as a few more officers strode by. Looking back at Boyd, his lip lifted when he saw the empty bottle still clutched in his hand.

"Pinche borracho," he spat. He jerked his head toward the street. "Vámonos-- éste es inútil."

The first cop shook his head, the shotgun still aimed steadily at Boyd as he scrutinized him. "No huele."

Making a face, the other man just shook his head and gestured to the garbage. "¡Chale, Javier! Él huele a basura y meada." He paused and added with impatient derision, "Al igual que todos los otros vagabundos de la ciudad."

"Alcohol, idiota. Él no huele como bebió bastantes para pasar hacia fuera," Javier, the first cop, said. Boyd thought darkly that it was just his luck he managed to run into one of the few people who would be that dedicated to the job at this hour. His partner was dismissing Boyd as a drunk and a vagrant but Javier just had to notice that Boyd didn't smell enough of alcohol.

"Muévese," Javier commanded again.

This time Boyd scraped the bottle against the ground as he grumbled about being woken up and stumbled to a stand, using the wall for support.

"Soy inocente," Boyd slurred, continuing to emphasize the impression of him being nothing more than a drunkard. "Bebiendo. Ningún crimen."

The second cop gave him a disgusted look then turned to Javier. "Tenemos mejores cosas que hacer que perder el tiempo con este cabrón," he said impatiently. He gestured emphatically to the west. "Los otros están a punto de hacer la redada de drogas en la casa de Juárez. ¿De verdad quieres faltarla para este pedazo de mierda?" he asked incredulously, jerking a rude gesture toward Boyd. He scowled at Javier and straightened, crossing his arms. "La cárcel está llena y que sería un dolor para hacer el papeleo esta hora de la noche. No vale la pena. Vámonos."

Javier narrowed his eyes into a glare and didn't seem convinced. Boyd wished he would just listen to his partner and dismiss him already. He swayed on his feet to look the part of a drunkard, although it wasn't entirely feigned. He really was exhausted and he needed to get to the next house before staying up for too many hours and eating too little food caught up to him.

The muzzle of the gun pressed beneath his jaw, forcing Boyd to tilt his head back. Javier nodded toward his partner, who looked annoyed but turned his flashlight onto Boyd's face so they could see him better. Boyd squinted, the light blinding him while the familiar smell of gunpowder and metal drifted around him.

"Muestre su identificación," Javier ordered.

Boyd blinked at him and gave him a look as if he didn't understand.

"Identificación," the officer said again, sounding as though he was getting angry. "Baje la maldita botella. ¿Dónde están sus papeles?"

Frowning in a slow, confused manner, Boyd shook his head slowly. He didn't have proper identification to show that wouldn't alert Janus to his whereabouts immediately so he lied.

"En mi casa," he said finally. "Mi novia..."

"Claro que sí," Javier drawled as if he'd heard it all before and didn't believe it the first time. "Y ella no estará allí si llamamos." He kept the gun aimed at him but stepped back. His chin jerked toward his partner and then at Boyd. "Diego. Regístrelo."

"Este es el quinto hombre que ha cacheado esta noche," the second man, Diego, said in irritation. "¿De verdad crees el bombardero sería borracho en la calle?"

Javier just gave his partner a look to which Diego sighed heavily and grumbled under his breath, "¡Qué chinga!", as if this was the last thing he wanted to do. He flipped the flashlight off.

Boyd blinked in the sudden darkness. Dark purple afterimage burned into his eyes and hovered everywhere he looked.

He was roughly pushed back a step, causing him to almost fall over the garbage heap. The officer yanked the bottle out of his hand, throwing it carelessly to the side. The crash of glass against the ground was loud in the night and although Boyd didn't look away from Javier, he made sure he remembered where it sounded like the bottle had landed. He could use the shards as a weapon if it came to that, but he was still hoping he could get away without a fight. If he took these officers out, he'd have the authorities looking specifically for him. Especially with his recent brush of escaping the Federales, he had no doubt half the city's law enforcement would converge on him in minutes.

Diego made a face at the stench of garbage and the dirt and sweat that clung to Boyd before he began patting him down. Boyd rocked with the movement, bracing one hand against the wall at one point as the officer, in his apparent need to get this over with as quickly as possible, pushed him around harder than was necessary.

"Nada," Diego said finally with a shake of his head. He stepped back with his hands up as if he didn't want to touch anything else for fear of contaminating it.

Javier raised his eyebrows, the shotgun still trained on Boyd. "La ciudad está bloqueada," he said pointedly. "Es ilegal que se fuera sin sus credenciales. Usted debe saber que - todos el mundo debería." His eyes narrowed and his lips thinned. "¿Qué estás haciendo borracho en la calle por la noche?" His tone turned sharper with suspicion as he jerked the gun toward Boyd. "Si usted tiene una casa y una novia, ¿por qué no le allí ahora mismo?"

Shaking his head as if he didn't understand, Boyd stalled.

Javier was asking too many questions-- challenging his story about an alleged girlfriend and why he wasn't home with her. He could come up with answers, of course, but it wasn't going to change anything. Javier didn't trust him and no amount of bullshit answers Boyd threw his way was going to change that. Even if Diego was convinced Boyd was a waste of their time, even though Javier himself hadn't yet fixated on the idea of Boyd being the bomber, it was only a matter of time before he decided Boyd must be due to his inability to provide any concrete evidence of who he was or what he was doing there.

Adrenaline started to tingle through his body as he realized he was probably going to have to run for it. Javier seemed like he wasn't ready to give up on this and Boyd couldn't risk being taken into the department.

His mind worked quickly.

If he dropped to the ground and swept Javier's legs from under him, even if the shotgun went off it would most likely be at an upward angle. Then he just had to steal the gun and get whichever of them was a threat first before turning to the other. If he ran fast enough and stole a car or another bike, maybe he could even get away before the other officers and the Federales were on him. He didn't have a safe house close enough to this location to protect him so he may have to break into a house and, worst case scenario, hold the people hostage until he could find a way to escape.

But if he did that, they would know it was him.

Shit, he thought darkly even as he shifted his weight. It was a bad plan but he didn't have a choice.

Javier nodded his head toward Diego, who sighed in annoyance but still reached for his handcuffs. Boyd started to tense but before anything could happen, the officers' radios blared to life.

Boyd could hear shooting in the background and what sounded to be chaos with people yelling in fear and anger.

"--disparos en la casa--"



"--seis sospechosos--"

"--mos con un sospechoso de un robo--"

"¡Me vale verga! García está muerto--"

"¡Hijo de puta! ¿Ahora mismo?"

"--necesitamos refuerzo pronto--"

In the cacophony of voices, Boyd caught that a cop had been killed in a gunfight. He could already see several officers running down the street in the direction the two officers had initially been headed.

Diego grabbed the radio instead of the handcuffs and yelled, "Estamos yendo." He gave the Javier a furious look. "Maldita sea-- ¡Déjelo, Javier!" he snapped before he turned and ran.

The shotgun stayed aimed at Boyd for a stretched second before Javier finally relented. He gave Boyd a warning glare then turned and sprinted toward the action.

Boyd waited just long enough for them to move to the main street and out of his sight before he quickly snatched his bag from beneath the garbage and took off running into the shadows. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get around the officers without being seen; most of them were intent on whatever was happening several streets away, but he didn't want to risk getting caught. He could hear the resounding echoes of gunfire.

It took him another hour to make it safely to the next location. He was really hoping this one wasn't compromised as well; he was about to fall over and didn't think he'd be able to risk the extra forty minutes it would probably take to get to the next place.

The apartment building on Nueva Amsterdam looked safe enough as he approached but he still checked the perimeter. He jogged up the steps, heading to the third floor. There were several apartments but he didn't hear anyone in any of them.

When he'd found the place a few months ago there had only been a few squatters living there, mostly on the first and second floor, and it didn't seem to have changed since then. He made it to the designated unit and to his relief saw that all his tests were still in tact. He picked the lock and was cautious but quick when he entered.

The apartment was tiny; the main room had a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling that had barely worked when he'd been there before, a stove and sink to the side, and there was a small bathroom with the door wide open the way he'd left it. There was no running water and the only electricity came from someone who'd tapped into a neighboring building's supply.

The only furniture was a mattress lying in the corner and a heavy table that he had moved to mostly block the front door before he'd left. It barely gave him enough space to slide into the room, but it also meant that once he shut and deadbolt locked the door behind him, it required little effort and virtually no noise to move the table flush against the door as further precaution.

That left his only escape through the window in case of an emergency. Unfortunately that involved a three story drop to cement.

At the moment, though, he didn't care; he would plan an escape when it came. What he really needed was sleep.

The curtains were heavy and closed so he couldn't be seen as he wearily walked across the room and dropped heavily onto the mattress. It was lumpy and musty but after days of adrenaline highs, running around constantly being on the alert, and not being able to sleep for more than a few hours at a time, it was enough to make him fall asleep within minutes.

Even asleep he was on high alert and even the slightest of sounds continually woke him. He'd just managed to find some manner of sleep when a rattle at the window made his eyes shoot open and heart jolt. He threw himself out of bed, his mind racing with how to get out of there, where to go next, and what was happening. He peered around the edges of the curtain on the windows until he could verify that it had only been a gust of wind that shook the pane.

It was lighter outside, the dawning of the eleventh day since the attack at JKS and three days until the meeting with Sin. He sighed, rubbing his burning eyes, and returned to the mattress. He sat there a moment, his legs drawn up loosely in front of him while he rested his arms on his knees, and stared blankly into space.

He was exhausted.

He hadn't slept or eaten properly for almost two weeks. It shouldn't have been so tiring but he felt like he hadn't had a chance to relax since before he'd left the studio the last time, before he'd had to check in at the hotel as Kadin Reed. After months of relatively low stress, this constant hyper-awareness, the adrenaline that kicked in each time something happened, as well as the constant running and stopping was all wearying.

And the worst part was it hadn't needed to happen this way.

Boyd's gaze slid over to his messenger bag, abandoned at the edge of the mattress where he'd blindly dropped it earlier. After a moment, he leaned forward and pulled the bag closer. Everything inside would seem fairly innocuous to a casual search but there were still some essential items he needed to protect.

He pulled out his cell phone and stared at it a moment before he sighed and flopped back on the mattress. He held the phone in front of his eyes before his gaze dropped to the wristwatch that doubled as a GPS monitor.

All the running around made him wonder how Sin was doing.

The first few days, he'd been angry for a number of reasons and although the feeling hadn't left entirely, the intensity of it had faded.

He was angry that they'd spent so many months preparing for something that hadn't been what they'd expected.

Thierry had lied or the information was bad. Everything they had gone through for that information, the months of Jeffrey decrypting it, the discord between he and Sin, his valentine status, his mother's disgust, Alexis' death, his hopelessness-- at least it had all had some purpose as long as they were able to fulfill their mission. As long as they could take out a large part of Janus' organization.

But they hadn't. It turned out Thierry had lied more than to get Boyd in his bed and now everything was fucked up.

Even if they'd had to go forward with the bombs to salvage the mission somehow, Boyd couldn't help feeling affected by knowing that people he'd been in the company of for three days were all dead now. People he'd had conversations with and had played games with and had talked to for hours...

It was a little disturbing.

Although he knew he and Sin were doing their job, just as the messengers were doing theirs, and even a small delay in adding to Janus' power was helpful in the short run, there was still a sense of uneasiness that lingered within him.

And then there was Jessica.

Much of his ire centered around her and Sin. She always had to show up at inconvenient times and get in the way. She always had to distract Sin. They'd already had too many problems with the mission but at least after they'd proceeded with the plan, they could have hidden together. All of these days of little-to-no sleep wouldn't have existed; they could have taken turns on lookout if it was necessary and could have watched each other's back.

But Sin had felt it necessary to stop for Jessica and put everything off track.

Law enforcement had been closing in and it would have cut it too close for Boyd to return undetected by the time Sin found that idiot woman. To make it worse, she probably would have been fine. Emergency responders were on the way. And if she was too stupid to run to an exit in the middle of an attack then maybe survival of the fittest should have come into play anyway.

Everyone else had to die; why did Jessica get to be the exception to the rule? Why was she so important to compromise everything? What if Boyd had gotten killed trying to return so they could unnecessarily save that woman-- would that have been an acceptable loss for Sin so he could have his precious boss back?

Resentment flooded him, making his hand tighten on his phone.

He wondered if while he was running around, filthy and exhausted, Sin was staying with Jessica and using her as a cover. Sin could leisurely stay there for two weeks while they fucked as much as they wanted and all the research Boyd had done on where to hide in Monterrey and all the time he took to explain it to Sin would be for nothing. Just like all the work with Thierry ended up being for nothing.

And now, because of that one woman's presence, they lost contact with each other. It was aggravating.

They'd agreed upon radio silence during that time period to minimize the chance of being caught. With little access to places for recharging batteries, he'd been alternating having his phone off and on and hadn't bothered checking the GPS function on the watch. It was time to turn his phone on again so he did so, feeling it vibrate in his hand to signal it was on.

He flipped the phone closed, keeping it in his hand as he dropped his arm back onto the mattress. He stared at the ceiling, too tired to want to move but knowing he couldn't go back to sleep, and tried to decide how long he could stay at the apartment. He fell in and out of a restless doze while he worked on formulating plan B.

He was half asleep when he suddenly felt his hand shake.

His eyes snapped open and he brought the cell up so he could see it. The phone vibrated to signal a call but he didn't recognize the number displayed on the screen. He hesitated.

No one should know the number except Sin and very few people from the Agency. That definitely wasn't Sin's cell number on the screen, but then again that didn't mean Sin couldn't be calling from another phone. Or it could be a trap. He ran through a few options in his head quickly but ultimately decided that if this was some sort of trap from Janus or the Mexican authorities, he could turn off the phone and flee the apartment before they could pinpoint him.

Pushing himself up and bringing his bag closer so he could grab it quickly to run if he needed to, he narrowed his eyes and flipped the phone open. He didn't say anything; just waited to see what the person on the other line would do.

There was a pause. Nothing could be heard in the background other than a faint whirring sound that was hard to distinguish. After awhile a man's voice could be heard asking, "Is Mr. Grey available?"

Boyd didn't recognize the voice but that was definitely Agency code. "Yes, this is Terrence speaking."

There was another pause before the man spoke again. "Is your position secure, Agent?"


"Then perhaps you can explain why Agent Vega is deceased."

The question was so unexpected that Boyd blinked, thinking he couldn't have heard that correctly. There was a pause as he ran the sentence over in his mind again, but it was still the same words and still didn't make any sense.


"Deceased, Agent. As in dead. No longer with us. Departed from this Earth. How did he come to be that way?" The voice was calm, flat, and although it did not seem like the man was necessarily trying to be cruel it did seem like he was running low on patience.

"He's not-- What?" Boyd said again, feeling a mixture of anxiety and irritation build.

He didn't know who the hell this person was but they weren't making any sense. Sin wasn't dead; Boyd had just seen him the other week and there was no way he didn't make it out of the building alright. Sin would probably survive the apocalypse.

"We aren't supposed to meet for three days."

"I see." A pause. "As of November 12th at approximately 0300 the chip in Agent Vega's throat, the one which monitored his vitals, flat-lined before it stopped responding entirely," the man said in a matter-of-fact tone.

The words moved through Boyd's mind as he stared at empty space. That would have been three in the morning, several hours after the explosions. How could that be? If Sin had escaped, he should have been fine. Unless he was hurt in the explosion? But Sin was the one pressing the detonator; he never would have hit the button while he was still in harm's way. Even with Jessica, Sin should have been able to escape notice.

The entire situation made no sense. This couldn't be right.

Not knowing what to say, he stayed silent.

The man continued in the same tone after a brief pause, "A team has been dispatched to search Agent Vega's last known position as well as to recover you, Agent. We have your coordinates and should arrive in approximately five hours. It would be in your best interest to remain where you are until that time."

The connection ended abruptly.

The room seemed entirely too silent and it took Boyd several seconds to even think to drop his hand into his lap. He stared at the cell phone as if it would make any of this be more understandable. The part of him that was not struck dumb by the call absently noted that he still had a few bars left on the battery and that it should last long enough until the team arrived.

The team.

At least that meant he was being recovered. He had a way out of Monterrey...


The words echoed in his mind, interrupting any other flow of thought; flat-lined, stopped responding, dead.

The very concept seemed so impossible that he couldn't comprehend it. Maybe their equipment failed. Sin could have gone somewhere that the GPS couldn't track him. He probably went very deep underground, or... But there wasn't a place like that in Monterrey, Boyd knew that, he'd been all over... But he could have missed something.

He held the phone in front of him, his thumb resting on the numbers, and for a moment he almost called Sin's cell phone just to clear this up quickly. He could call and Sin would answer, pissed that he'd left him at JKS like that. And Boyd would say of course he did, Sin was being stupid...

He drew in a slow breath that somehow was a little shaky and let it out, staring at his thumb. It would be so easy. Just a few numbers...

But the man who called him would also have Sin's phone number. Surely they had checked that first. Maybe Sin just lost the phone. He couldn't be bothered to have so much shit with him all the time, right? He may not have thought to have a bag like Boyd did. It was entirely possible it had fallen out at the convention center, maybe even when he was helping Jessica.

Or else someone found him. Someone took his cell phone away and...

Boyd flipped his phone shut suddenly and dropped it to the mattress next to him, turning his attention to his wristwatch. He stared at it for a long moment, his fingers hovering near the button on the side to activate the GPS, to let him track the earring he'd given Sin as a precaution. But he stopped himself.

Five hours. The battery would last around twelve. If Sin was... If he was...

Boyd narrowed his eyes, staring intently at his watch.

If Sin was... not moving for some reason then he would be wasting the battery. He just had to wait a few hours and then he could show the man who called him that he was being an idiot. They could go straight to Sin, find him just hanging around somewhere, and they could all go back a few days early.

It was fine like this. It meant they were able to go home.


As if it was a friendly place for Sin, who preferred it here. As if they wouldn't just start using him again for anything they wanted and if Sin really was hurt would they try to make him work immediately? What if... What if he'd lost a lot of blood? What if shrapnel had hit him as he ran and because he had Jessica with him he couldn't get away?

But Sin was strong. He could throw Boyd around easily. Sin had carried Warren and Boyd out of a building filled with rebels, had killed dozens of people even with them slung over his shoulders like dead weight. He'd run into a building filled with people shooting straight at them and he'd protected Boyd as well as himself. Sin would be fine; he always was.

These people didn't know who the hell they were talking about.

But if what the man said was true-- If Sin really was in trouble, if he was hurt that much, if he'd... Boyd crossed his arms at his stomach and stared intently at the floor.

The last thing Boyd had told him was that he deserved it if he got caught.

Ever since they'd at least started treating each other as partners, Sin had always come for him. Even when they'd been angry with each other, he'd saved Boyd. And what had Boyd done in return?

Sin had told him so much over the past months he'd never told anyone else. He even slept around Boyd-- something he'd hardly done back home, as Boyd had seen when watching the live feed. In their studio he'd been relaxed even with Boyd right next to him.

Because he trusted him.

Sin trusted him and Boyd had left him at JKS.

It didn't matter that Sin had made a tactical error by going after Jessica or that it could have compromised Boyd's safety for him to return. Sin was his partner and he should have been there to help him. No matter what the truth ended up being-- he still couldn't deny that he had abandoned Sin.

There was a long moment of silence even in his mind; a stillness that came from the acknowledgment that he'd run when he had the chance to help someone he cared about. He'd let his anger and jealousy dictate his decision and then justified it with logic, but that didn't change the facts. After years of regretting standing there watching his best friend be murdered and doing nothing about it, was it any better to have run away like a fucking coward when someone else he cared about as strongly needed his help?

He felt sick.

He laid back down on the mattress but he knew he wouldn't sleep. His body was tense and his mind raced, alternating between all the reasons the man had to be lying or misinformed by faulty equipment and worrying with a sickening knot in his stomach that the man had sounded so certain...

Time stretched, the seconds going agonizingly slowly. He couldn't help wishing at once that the team would get there faster so they could find Sin, and wishing they never got there at all.

It was almost exactly five hours later when Boyd heard a knock on the door. The short, staccato rap somehow fit the personality of the man he'd heard on the phone.

He silently approached the door, being certain to stay to the sides for further protection in case anyone shot through it. He had already moved the table aside in anticipation of their arrival.

There was a crack on the side of the door that worked more or less like an eye-hole and Boyd used that to look out into the hallway. He counted five people standing in the hall; they wore civilian clothing but each of them had at least one large duffel bag that Boyd recognized from the Agency.

Even so, he enacted the Agency protocol for this type of situation. "Who are you looking for?"

"Terrence Grey," came the short reply.

Boyd flipped on the light and opened the door, stepping to the side so they could enter.

The five agents filed into the room and subsequently spread out as if they were checking it for strengths, weaknesses and overall security. No one spoke at first or even so much as glanced at Boyd as they continued to search the room. Only when the tallest man locked the door did anyone actually focus on him.

The tall man appeared to be in his early thirties and around 6'2". His fit, muscular build was well defined by the thin t-shirt he wore. He had dark blond hair that he wore short in military style and blue eyes that seemed to peer straight into Boyd's soul and didn't care for what he saw.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Agent Beaulieu," the man said calmly although it seemed to be more of a formality than anything else. Boyd recognized his voice from the phone. "I've heard much about you although I've never been able to officially make your acquaintance."

Boyd looked at the other four briefly before settling his attention on the man. "It's a pleasure to meet you as well, but you'll have to excuse me if I'm not certain who you are."

The man nodded and let his duffel bag drop the floor at his boots. "I'm Senior Agent Kassian Trovosky and this is my team."

Boyd kept his expression impassive, hiding the surprise he felt at the knowledge.

Kassian? Somehow he'd expected him to look different. He supposed it made sense to send the other rank 10 in for something related to Sin, but it seemed strange. He thought Kassian was on an extended undercover mission.

He glanced at the others quickly, silently wondering who they were.

Kassian nodded towards the other people in the room although he continued to watch Boyd. "The two gentlemen to your left are Rank 9 Field Agents Casey Archer and Jonathan Jones." Both men were Caucasian although Casey had light hair and was muscular while Jones was dark haired and had a leaner, more average build. Kassian gestured towards the only female in the room; a tall, athletic-looking black woman who had the striking features of a model even if her expression was anything but pleasant.

"The lady is Rank 9 Field Agent Harriet Stevens and the gentleman to your right is Rank 9 Field Agent Michael Alvarado." The last man was the shortest in the room and appeared to be the youngest. He was thin and seemed to be Latino. "In cases like this, I'm allowed to hand pick a team to accompany me. We've all worked together on high priority missions for years."

"I see," Boyd said after a moment. He tried to be polite and respectful considering these were his superiors but he was finding it difficult to reconcile his worry for Sin with the casual, albeit professional, way everyone else was acting. He felt like they should be more urgent.

"Thank you for the introductions. I'm assuming none are needed for me."

"No, we know all about you, Agent Beaulieu," Harriet said coolly, brown eyes trained on him critically. Kassian's gaze snapped to her and his eyes narrowed slightly. She caught the stare and said nothing more, although her expression didn't change.

"Before we go any further it is imperative that you give us any pertinent information to the assignment that you and Agent Vega were on. I am not here to debrief you as I do not have the specifics of the assignment, however it is imperative that we know precisely when and how you became separated before we continue." Kassian stared at him expectantly.

Boyd nodded and answered in the typical matter-of-fact manner he used when explaining missions. "Agent Vega and I were in the JKS Convention Center on November 11th on an assassination detail. We planned to destroy a wing of the convention according to plan. I escaped but Agent Vega noticed an injured civilian on his way out. I instructed him to leave but he stopped to help her. Law enforcement was in the area and I wasn't able to return to aid him without risking capture. We had agreed that if we didn't connect immediately then we would meet two weeks later at a predetermined spot. During that time, we were to observe radio silence except in the case of emergencies. I never heard from Agent Vega and we were not supposed to meet for another three days."

"So much for not being debriefed," Harriet murmured quietly.

Michael rolled his eyes at her. "Shut up, Harry."

"My name is Harriet," she corrected, giving him a flat look.

"Like I said. Harry." Michael grinned at her cheekily and it was obvious that they'd had this exchange more than once before.

"Enough already," Kassian snapped, looking at the both of them impatiently before his gaze slid back to Boyd.

Boyd kept his gaze trained on Kassian, not giving away anything in his expression. He didn't know why Harriet obviously didn't like him but it wasn't helping. He was outnumbered five to one, they all had a history with each other, and a lot more experience. He just wanted to know why they were so convinced Sin was dead, then find him and make sure he was okay.

He stayed silent and ignored her comment.

After a moment, Kassian nodded shortly. "Since it appears that you have no idea as to how Agent Vega was killed or when it happened, I will tell you what we do know."

He clasped his hands behind his back. "Shortly after 0200 hours, the tracker reported that Vega's vitals were quite erratic. The device does not tell more than his current heart rate but it seems as though he was experiencing some sort of trauma before he subsequently flat-lined at approximately 0309. The plan is to search his last known position for signs of Janus perpetrators in case it is one of their bases. It has been assumed that it is they who are responsible for his death, although that has obviously not been confirmed as of yet."

It was years of practice that kept Boyd's expression from not so much as twitching at the words. Kassian spoke of it so casually, as if Sin really was dead. Boyd considered the information for a moment before he asked, "Is it possible the equipment malfunctioned or it came back as a false flat-line?"

Kassian raised an eyebrow at Boyd and the look on his face was almost disapproving. "Unless we are all suddenly believing that coincidences are the most likely solution to any situation, that is difficult to accept. I find it improbable that after nearly an hour of an increasingly unsteady heartbeat, the device just happened to flat-line because of malfunction before it was destroyed. And yes, the assumption as of now is that it was destroyed most likely in the same manner in which he was killed. A possible gunshot to that area of his neck or any other number of scenarios."

"Understood," Boyd said calmly.

He kept a neutral stare on Kassian despite the alarmed increase of his heart rate. The mental image that automatically came to mind of Sin being shot in the neck and discarded made him feel sick.

This was surreal.

He wondered distantly if maybe this was all an extended fever dream. Or maybe-- maybe Sin had tried to flee the Agency and had found a way to remove the GPS. Maybe he hadn't had the chance to contact Boyd to tell him he was okay.

But an increasingly unsteady heartbeat..?

It could have been the surgery. That was probably all it was. Surgery.

While Boyd's mind reeled, Kassian was talking in the background. Boyd made himself focus on what the man was saying.

"We are to infiltrate the location with the utmost caution. My methods are very different from what you were used to when you were with Agent Vega and I suggest that you accept that now. I do not run into a base wildly shooting and killing as many as I can; I respect the lives of others, especially the people on my team, and I do not do anything that would endanger them."

Kassian nodded at the other four people in the team and they began unzipping their bags and removing gear as he started to do the same. "It is also important for you to take into consideration that you are not officially a part of this team." He pulled a black, plated vest out of his bag and tugged it on, eyes never leaving Boyd's. "For now you are no more than our charge. Part of our mission here was to retrieve you and that is what we have done. Although you will accompany us to the base, any action that you take which goes against my command will be dealt with swiftly and you will be handled appropriately from then on."

"Which means keep your mouth shut and do what the boss says. Got it?" Michael asked with a smirk and tossed a bulletproof vest to Boyd.

Boyd automatically caught the vest and put it on without saying anything. He was glad he'd at least been told of the mission but he didn't want to just tag along. He wanted to contribute. And if the Agency had been monitoring all that, why the hell hadn't they alerted him immediately so he could have gone and helped Sin?

Casey put on his gear with expert efficiency while he watched the exits as if enemies were about to burst through and attack. "Just follow our lead and you won't get in the way," he told Boyd seriously, glancing at him only briefly before he looked away again. "Stay in the back and don't fuck it up."

Boyd looked at him steadily, not bothering to answer. It wasn't like he'd never been on a mission before. He may not be from this team and he may not have been a rank 9 as long as they had, but they didn't have to act like he was an idiot.

He felt someone watching him and he looked over at Jonathan, noticing that the agent was studying him with a quiet intensity. He didn't seem disapproving like Harriet; he just seemed curious. Boyd met his eyes blankly for a moment before he turned his attention back to Kassian, ignoring the others.

"We have little to no information about the building he was in but we do know its location and that it is on the edge of the industrial district, near the waterfront." Kassian finished strapping weapons and ammunition to himself and nodded approvingly when he saw that the rest of his team had also finished. No one gave Boyd a weapon or seemed intent on doing so. "It's entirely possible that we will find nothing there but a corpse and if that is the case, I want to be perfectly clear as of now that our orders are explicit in this regard and we are not to recover it."

"What?" Boyd asked before he could stop himself, looking at Kassian in surprise.

They weren't even intending to bring him back, to give him a decent burial? If Sin really had died in the line of duty, he didn't even get a fucking tombstone or anything? Did they seriously intend to just leave him there to rot in Monterrey, like garbage they didn't feel like hauling home? The thought angered Boyd as much as it sickened him.

He knew right then that they could punish him all they wanted but if he really did find just Sin's corpse-- God, he desperately hoped that wasn't the case, that despite all appearances Sin was still okay-- he wasn't about to just leave him there and walk away.

Kassian's eyes flicked away for a moment and just then it seemed that he was almost uncomfortable with what he was saying. Considering the things Sin had said about the man, about his moral code, and by Kassian's own comment about how much he valued life, it wasn't exactly a surprise that he didn't seem thrilled with this aspect of the assignment.

"It isn't my choice but it is what we were ordered to do," he said quietly. "If we were to disobey orders and retrieve it, it is extremely doubtful that it would be handled any differently than the other bodies that are constantly incinerated on the compound."

He looked at Boyd again, face once again neutral. "So you see, there is no point in going against the decision. It would be a fruitless effort and if we find that you become difficult or irrational if this time comes, you will be detained accordingly. Remember, our orders are also to bring you back."

Boyd stared at Kassian for a moment before he spoke, his voice decidedly neutral but just a hint cold. "Understood."

If they did find Sin's body he would have to find a way to get away long enough to contact Jorge and arrange a decent burial for Sin. But it wouldn't come to that. He didn't need to worry about funerals, they just needed to worry about hospitals.

Sin would be okay. He had to be.

"Good." Kassian picked up his bag and gave the room a final once over. "Then let's move out."

They trooped down the stairs in just as efficient a manner as they'd entered the room; not moving until they were positive that every nook and cranny of the building was secure. They didn't seem concerned with the authorities or drawing notice and at first it puzzled Boyd, even more so when he began to wonder exactly how they'd entered the city in the first place with as many weapons as they had. However, he didn't have to dwell on it long; once everyone was situated in the team's van, he received an explanation without having to ask.

Kassian glanced at him in the rearview mirror as he began to drive. "I suppose you're wondering how we entered the country and city when it is under such heavy lock-down," he began in an almost conversational tone. "It was fairly simple and uneventful, as we were prepared in advance and had suitable cover stories and identification to placate the border patrols. We took a plane to the Mexican border before driving to Monterrey."

"Our cover is that we're pretty much bad ass bounty hunters from the States, looking for a specific criminal in the city," Michael interjected. "Mostly American bounty hunters get in trouble for coming into Mexico with that shit but it's easy to pay off the right people and Johnson's has more than a few connections in these parts, know what I mean? Besides, they don't care so much as long as we're bringing an American criminal back to the States. They mostly get mad when bounty hunters fuck with their citizens." He raised an eyebrow at Boyd. "By the way, you're the specific criminal. That's your cover for when we leave."

"Ah," Boyd said. That made sense and explained a few things, though he wondered if they weren't giving him weapons due to that cover or if they just didn't trust him with any. "What's my crime?"

"Grand larceny," Harriet said in a bored tone. "And tax evasion. White collar crime for a white collar boy."

"Hmm. I must be a dangerous rich boy if it took five of you professionals to take me in," Boyd observed, looking over at her with an unaffected expression.

She looked at him as if he was the stupidest person she'd ever seen. "I sincerely hope you are not trying to imply that you would ever pose a threat to anyone else in this vehicle."

"I certainly don't look like I could, which is why I was commenting on the fact that according to that cover, five of you would be coming down to pick up a simple white collar criminal," he replied calmly.

Harriet made a disgusted noise. "Even white collar criminals have protection and your specific profile implies that you have ties with organizations that would give you an ample amount of it."

She paused and gave him a condescending look. "Despite what delusions of grandeur Mommy's help has caused you to obtain, you do not only look like you could not hurt us but you simply cannot. And if you are trying to somehow imply that the cover is in some way inadequate, you should take that up with General Stephen because he is the clever one who devised it. However, since our cover has gotten us much farther than any of your strategies have gained you, I don't think you have room to criticize anyone. All your plans have gotten you so far it seems is a terrible stench and a dead partner."

"Oh lay the fuck off already, Harry," Michael piped up suddenly, twisting in his chair to glare over at her before Boyd could reply. "We all know you're asshurt about him getting special treatment but do we really need to hear about it for the rest of this mission?"

"I concur," Kassian muttered, not taking his eyes off the road.

Harriet made a face at them but remained silent.

Boyd turned his attention out the opposite window, not bothering to look at Harriet again.

At least now he knew what her problem was. He couldn't be surprised by it since she wasn't the first and certainly wouldn't be the last person to hate him due to the idea that he received special treatment.

What bothered him more was her comment about a dead partner. She didn't know what Sin was to him, she didn't know how much it would rip him apart if it really was true, so her condescending attitude really irritated him.

Keeping his expression devoid of any emotion, he stayed silent as they drove through the streets. For a few minutes, no one said anything. He could feel a gaze burning into him and he finally looked over to meet Jonathan's eyes.

Jonathan was watching him with that same intense curiosity from before and it was starting to unnerve Boyd, like he was a bug under a microscope. He stared back at Jonathan who didn't say anything for a few drawn out moments. Boyd was just about to look away dismissively when the man suddenly said, "Hey, you know David?"

The question caught Boyd off-guard. "What?"

"David Nakamura. He trains people," Jonathan said intently. "He was your trainer, wasn't he?"

"Yes." Boyd stared at him. "Why?"

"He's good people. We trained together." Jonathan's gaze, if anything, only seemed to intensify. "You know how he names his moves sometimes? There's one called the helicopter?"

The man was seriously strange. "I don't recall that move," he said after a moment.

"Oh." Jonathan looked disappointed and he leaned back in his seat. "Well. I named it."

"Oh." Boyd stared at him, not really knowing what to say. Silence grew between them before he added, "Maybe he hasn't had the chance to teach it to me yet."

"Maybe," Jonathan said, though he seemed mollified by the explanation. He suddenly gave Boyd a briefly pleased look then peered out the window. "Call me Blair, by the way. And he's Archer." He nodded toward Casey, whose raptor-like gaze was focused on the van and what he could see outside the windows. "Don't call him Casey; he hates that."

"Alright." After a moment Boyd looked out the window as well. In the reflection off the glass, he could see Harriet and Archer both looking incredibly unimpressed.

The scenery rolled past and in his mind Boyd found himself automatically placing them in context of the city and the secret passageways. The city was confusing as hell, with streets that started and ended abruptly, areas that had no rhyme or reason to the layout and other areas with sections that seemed logical but were intersected by diagonal streets that cut the blocks into strange shapes. Some streets wound back in on each other and disappeared and reappeared across the city like a serpent winding in and out of the water.

The street names were all over the place as well, after almost anything a person could think of: People, days of the year, heroes, Zodiac signs, countries, capitols, seemingly random words... It had taken Boyd awhile to even figure out how to navigate the city in the first place but all those months paid off as he watched their progress.

As they drove, he felt increasingly anxious about what they would find.

Their target area came upon them abruptly; it went from increasingly poor residential homes to large blocks of concrete and foreboding buildings rising around them. Kassian drove around the back on a service road until they reached a building that provided cover. He pulled the van up to the back, parking it next to an outcropped wall that would keep them out of view while they silently unloaded from the vehicle.

It was obvious that the team had worked together before. Kassian didn't even need to give a signal before they spread out and without a sound approached the neighboring building. Boyd started to go with them but Archer suddenly put his hand on his chest and shoved him back a step with a sharp look. Boyd slid his gaze over to him, meeting his eyes evenly, but stayed behind them by a few steps anyway.

Once he was around the corner, he could see the target building.

It was a squat clinic, looking long ago abandoned judging by the faded address spray-painted on the wall and the creaking, half-broken sign. The doors, on the other hand, looked curiously well taken care of.

Kassian's team moved in silently and quickly, securing the perimeter before they even attempted the building itself. Boyd could feel his heart thundering in his chest as he followed them, wanting to push them aside and run in to see what was happening. Instead he stayed back and tried not to imagine Sin's corpse, images that kept flashing through his mind growing more grotesque and vivid the closer he came to the building.

The entire area seemed completely deserted. No other sounds could be heard other than the faint drilling of a jackhammer several blocks away. The wind picked up slightly, whipping Boyd's choppy, uneven hair.

He stared at the door intently, wishing they would just go in already. Wishing they would stop being so fucking thorough when he sensed no one in the general area except them.

Finally Archer approached the door, .45 in his hand as he walked sideways along the wall and seemed to listen for any sounds on the inside. He glanced at Kassian, who looked at Boyd with a tense expression on his face. The look was strange and it was hard to tell what the man was thinking. Finally Kassian's eyes slid to Archer and he nodded once, shortly.

Archer abruptly spun towards the door and kicked it open, before ducking out of the way again and pinning himself against the side of the building once again. Nothing happened; no one called out in alarm and no one began firing out at them.

From Boyd's angle, all he could see was darkness beyond the doorway. He felt his muscles tense with the desire to run in there. Finally, Archer, Harriet, and Blair all moved in. Michael continued to watch the perimeter and Kassian, surprisingly, continued to watch Boyd.

"It's empty!" Harriet's voice called out eventually.

Kassian finally nodded at Boyd and strode toward the clinic himself.

The first thing Boyd noticed about the inside of the clinic was that it looked filthy; the walls were covered in a thick layer of grime and dust that didn't seem to have been disturbed in years. But as he looked closer, he realized that other things in the small lobby didn't look as dirty. Chairs weren't covered in the same layers of dust as the walls and there were obvious footprints tracking through areas of the room.

There were only three doors from the main lobby and the team checked them all one at a time. One room was completely covered in the sheen of dust and obviously hadn't been used in some time. The second appeared to be a small office. Although there were no stacks of paper sitting around, there were obvious places in the grime on the desk where objects had been sat down recently, one of which appeared to have been a large box or case.

Finally the team turned to the third door and Kassian hesitated, eyes once again finding Boyd's in the darkness as he slowly twisted the doorknob. Boyd's heart sped up, breath coming a little faster as his stomach twisted with anxiety. He shifted his intent gaze to the door.

Kassian pushed the door open and stared inside. Before Boyd could see anything, Michael immediately looked over Kassian's shoulder and his eyes widened slightly.

"Well, shit."

Hearing Michael's tone, Boyd moved so he could see in.

The room was eerily covered in blood.

Sin wasn't there.

The air was dank and abandoned. The smell of blood was thick and overwhelming. Splatters could be seen on the walls, mixing with the dust and grime. Dull metal shone from what appeared to be a surgeon's table, covered in long streaks of blood that twisted and stretched in patterns that told stories on their own. Small pools of coagulated blood had gathered on either side of the table as if something had been steadily bleeding and dripping in those particular spots.

But the most alarming part was the drag marks.

The layer of dust on the floor was not only interrupted by footprints there; a solid chunk was entirely rubbed away as if something had been dragged from the table and toward the back door. A disturbing amount of bloodstains streaked across that section of the floor and a smeared, bloody handprint was vaguely visible on one side of it.

Boyd's eyes widened and he stared in shock, gaze darting around to take in every splatter. He couldn't seem to concentrate on any one area until he saw the pools.

He looked back up at the surgeon's table and his imagination gave him a ghostly flash of Sin strapped down, screaming, or maybe he'd just been lying still like when he'd been drugged in the box and he'd been incapable of even defending himself.

Boyd felt nauseated and almost swayed, placing a hand against the wall to steady himself. His heart was resoundingly loud to him, like an echo it seemed everyone else would be able to hear around him. When he saw the drag marks he grit his teeth and slid his eyes closed to give himself a chance to gather any sense of control.

It took much of his willpower not to just shove between Michael and Kassian, to run across the room and follow those drag marks. The door was shut but it didn't matter. He'd already been out back. He knew nothing was there.

But somehow, standing by that room, he felt like maybe if he just opened the door Sin would be there. It would turn out that all the blood wasn't his, it was his attackers', and there were no bodies because he'd already disposed of them. If he just opened that door, Sin would be slouched against the wall and would look at him mildly, saying he'd been waiting for them to come pick him up already.

Boyd let his breath out in a slow, quiet release, then managed to say, only slightly shaken, "They took him. Do you know how to find him?"

No one seemed to listen to him. Harriet walked around the room as Michael and Blair opened the door and began looking around the back more thoroughly, flashlights on as they examined the floors.

"It looks like they did him here," Harriet said flatly, gesturing to the surgeon table. "Dragged the body out back."

Michael reappeared in the doorway, nodding as if he were confirming the theory. "There's some blood and tire marks in the back. They probably took it elsewhere to discard."

Boyd looked immediately at Kassian, his gaze intense. "Do you know how to find him?" he repeated more firmly because they either hadn't heard him the first time or were ignoring him. "Because I do."

But Kassian didn't seem to be paying him any mind. He glanced at his watch and then surveyed the room again. He walked over to a corner of the room where what looked to be a pile of garbage was situated. Harriet took out a small digital camera and began snapping pictures of the scene.

"Obviously they're not here," Kassian said. "Since we have no data on their actual base of operations, let's spread out and find any information, if there is any, before heading out." He crouched down and picked at the pile of discarded sheets and cloth before extracting what appeared to be a torn white shirt, stained with blood.

Boyd immediately recognized Sin's shirt. His eyes narrowed and although it was upsetting to see, more than anything it angered him. The people who took Sin had hurt him so much that they'd actually managed to overpower him. They had, he assumed, kept him strapped to a surgeon's table and dragged him around like he was garbage.

And now, the rescue team was ignoring the one person who had been in that city for months, who was telling them he had a solution. The longer they waited in that room, the longer those five screwed around poking at blood pools and trying to reconstruct the scene, the less chance they had of finding Sin in time before something worse happened.

Even with all that blood, he refused to believe Sin was dead. Even if he had flat-lined, it was possible he'd somehow been revived. And even if that wasn't the case, Boyd was still going to find his fucking body.

Making a noise of disgust, Boyd turned his back on the room and strode further into the main part of the clinic. He wasn't going to be able to help Sin by staring at that scene; there was no point in focusing on the past when what was important was the future.

Within a few seconds he had removed his watch and flipped it over to the GPS tracking system, waiting with his heart pounding and breath held as the screen went briefly blank. For a moment, he thought Tayla and Liani had failed him, that the GPS wasn't working after all even though he and Sin had tested them when they'd first put them on. Then green lines spread across the screen and a small dot languidly blinked up at him.

He felt such a sense of relief that he slouched and slid his eyes closed, his head tilted down for a moment.

He didn't get the chance to do anything more before Kassian strode into the lobby and abruptly yanked him backwards. "I told you not to go anywhere unless I said so," he said in an irritated tone, although the unidentifiable expression remained on his face.

"You weren't listening to me," Boyd snapped, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He held the watch up so Kassian could see. "Look, he's only fifteen minutes away if we take the right streets. There's no point in staying here anymore."

Kassian stared at him for a moment before snatching the watch away and looking down at it. Harriet and Archer had come partially into the room to observe the exchange and they stared down at the watch in confusion.

"It's a GPS receiver," Kassian said out loud, although he spoke to no one in particular. He looked up at Boyd with slightly narrowed eyes. "How is it tracking him? Not through the chip."

"That chip only tracks to the Agency and wouldn't be any help in this type of situation," Boyd said dismissively although he was trying to keep a tight rein on his irritation. He didn't want to be explaining this, he just wanted to go. "So I got us each a receiver and transmitter. And before you ask, yes, it's encrypted, yes, we took the proper precautions, yes, I trust the technology, and no, it won't pinpoint him directly but it will give us a hell of a lot better idea than just wandering around looking at bloodstains and hoping the bad guys were nice enough to give us tire tracks all the way to their home base."

Kassian stared at him blankly. "Does that answer my question? No. I asked how it is tracking him. What is the device that was used. I am aware of what the chip does and I could personally care less about your feelings on the current situation. If you don't like how things are done you can be easily detained and kept out of the operation until we return to the States. I am only allowing you to be here out of the kindness of my heart." He held up the watch. "Now answer the fucking question."

"An earring," Boyd said after a moment, trying to stay calm. Frustration and impatience burned within him. He pushed his short hair out of the way and pointed to an innocuous silver post in his upper ear. "Like this one."

Kassian raised an eyebrow. "While I have to admit that your method is clever, let's take the facts into consideration. It is highly doubtful that the perpetrators thought to remove his earrings because the idea of hiding a transmitter in an earring is not one that would normally spring to mind, but I want to understand your reasoning behind obviously thinking that this means Vega is still alive. It is entirely possible that we could follow this tracker and find nothing but a decayed corpse with an earring still in." He paused and looked at the GPS again.

"I don't care," Boyd said firmly. "He's my partner. I want to find him or his corpse. I need to know what happened. You need to confirm it for your mission as well, right? I'd rather we followed all the leads and just found whatever is at the end, regardless of what is there. If he's dead then I can't do anything about it, but if he's still alive then hurrying could save his life."

After a moment Kassian slipped the GPS into his pocket. "I didn't say I wasn't going to look into it. I just want you to be aware of the possible outcome."

He turned away from Boyd and called out to the rest of the team. "We have a new objective. It appears that Agent Beaulieu and Vega set up a tracking system. We're to follow the signal as it very well may lead us to the rebel base." He made no mentions of saving Sin's life and it clearly was not the motivating factor in his decision.

Boyd followed behind the others as they returned to the van. Kassian drove, letting Blair navigate with the GPS while Boyd sat in the back and tried not to let his worry spiral out of control. He concentrated on the parts of the mission that he could affect.

From what he'd seen of where Sin's transmitter was located, he was in a particularly rundown district, one of the original neighborhoods of Monterrey that had never been restored and never been properly taken care of.

He'd heard Jorge refer to it simply as 'the place of bad omens,' the sort of area of a city that Americans would darkly refer to as a graveyard. It wasn't that there were a lot of dangerous people there; it was that anyone who stayed in the neighborhood had no hope, no ambition.

They were like ghosts to this life; barely touching it; barely alive. Although Boyd had been there several times to determine if there were any places he would be able to hide, he hadn't felt comfortable. He'd only seen two people when he was there, and both of them had peered out of broken windows from upper floors of nearby buildings, their faces skewed by the dirty glass and their hands leaving dusty imprints on the pane.

It had been more than a little disturbing, making him feel like he was back in his house, with the half-seen and half-heard memories gliding in and out of his perception.

It wasn't until he happened to see out the window what street Kassian planned to take that he realized the GPS wasn't giving them the fastest directions.

"Wait," Boyd said suddenly, "go straight and take a right on the third street down instead." He saw Kassian's blue eyes turn to survey him through the rear view mirror but he just shook his head. "I know where we're going, and the GPS would be correct but they started construction down there last month. Even at this time we'll get stuck in traffic. If we go straight, we can bypass it and get on one of the quicker side streets."

There was a moment when he thought Kassian may ask him more or just ignore him but instead he followed his directions. Boyd relaxed against the seat and watched the windows more closely from that point to navigate them as quickly as he could to the correct area.

As they were drawing closer to their destination, he thought it would be in the best interest of their mission as well as his peace of mind to explain what he knew of the area so they could more quickly locate Sin.

"The tracker is civilian grade so it won't pinpoint him specifically but it should be within a one or two block area," Boyd said, watching out the window as they rolled through the desolate streets to finally stop, hidden by a building where they could see the area ahead of them that the GPS pointed to. Several buildings crowded against each other like dirty, desolate children; most of them long ago partially collapsed. There was the stench of hopelessness and death in the air. A dog lay in the middle of the street, the carcass half-eaten by insects and probably other dogs.

Boyd glanced quickly at the street to get his bearings, then leaned toward Kassian so he could point things out without being obvious.

"There are really only five buildings they'd even consider using here; the rest would collapse if anyone stepped inside or are already occupied by people who I guarantee would not give it up. The most likely choices would be 1635, 1639, 1739, 1741, and 1747, all depending on their intentions. 1635 is a rarity and has a deep lower level that would be good for security but it doesn't have many exits and its backyard is tiny and runs right against a building, which would make it difficult to escape. 1639 has a very good view of the street around it and the upper floor is well-fortified, providing multiple escape routes as well as a good vantage point."

He paused and gestured down the block. "The 1700 block has buildings that are falling apart more. 1741 has electricity hooked up by previous squatters who leeched it from a few blocks away, but they've since died, possibly of electrocution. Their corpses were still inside as of a few weeks ago and are unlikely to have been moved. 1739 has heavy-duty locks on all its doors, including one room in the far back in the downstairs that seems as though it would make a good holding cell. 1747 has running water and one of the rooms upstairs was covered in some sort of material that seemed to me it would make it more soundproof."

Kassian absorbed the information before dispatching the agents into groups of two. Just before they split up, Blair stopped Boyd with a hand on his upper arm. Boyd looked over at him questioningly, his mind already several steps ahead as he tried to pre-plan every move, but Blair just gave him an intense, solemn look before he pressed a gun into his hands.

Boyd looked down at the semi-automatic in mild surprise before looking back up, but Blair just said, "What if Kassian needs backup?" before he disappeared out the back door.

Boyd checked the magazine; it was full. Good. At least he would have some sense of protection now in case they were attacked. He jumped out the door and followed behind Kassian as they headed toward 1639.

The house was exactly as he remembered it; abandoned, forlorn, filled with dust and the haunted memories of those who had passed through before. They secured the perimeter first, entering the building in much the same way they had the clinic. Kassian went first, his gun drawn as he slipped through the house, with Boyd following behind.

They checked the house and then walked quietly up a set of stairs. They were slow, methodical, and it made Boyd's heart just beat faster and his worry grow. It was agonizing, going so slowly when he didn't know what would be around the corner. When he didn't know what he'd find or if they'd even find anything at all.

At the top of the stairs, Kassian kicked the door open and entered in a quick, well-practiced manner with Boyd right behind him as cover. The room was empty, unused, and Boyd felt shaky as the adrenaline continued to pump through him but he had nothing to spend it on. He wanted the wait to be over, the torture of imagining every possibility and yet not having anything to focus on in front of him.

He moved to a window to peer out sidelong, trying to determine if he could see anything from that vantage point. There was nothing outside; abandoned toys from years ago, overgrown vegetation mixed with broken concrete. The place was desolate and showed no sign of recent use. It didn't seem as though anyone had touched it for years.

He was just walking to the next window when Kassian's radio made a noise. Boyd's heart leaped and his gaze snapped over immediately.

Within a breath Michael's voice suddenly came over the radio:

"We found the body."

Kassian didn't look away from Boyd's widened eyes as he raised the radio to his mouth.


Continue to Chapter 38