Afterimage Chapter Four

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Afterimage Chapter Four

Uploaded on 10/11/2008

The public transportation system had never quite recovered from the attacks on the city. It had never been stellar; had never quite reached the outer suburbs, but now it was extremely limited and the actual buses were poorly maintained. With so many other things to address such as the rampant crime and massive reconstruction that was still going on, it made sense that the bus system was not on the top list of things to spend the minimal budget on but they could have made more of an effort.

As the bus shuddered down the pot-hole filled road that led out of the inner city, Sin couldn't help but think that it reminded him of the bus that had taken Boyd and him to Monterrey when they'd first arrived in Mexico. It wasn't nearly as beat up and there were actual windows instead of holes with tarp but the cushions on the seats looked as though they hadn't been replaced since the city was bombed and the advertisements that lined the sides were covered with graffiti.

It was difficult to believe that anyone would willingly ride in such a dilapidated vehicle unless they had no other choice but it was likely that many people were in that exact predicament. The bus had been incredibly crowded even at the beginning of his ride. Every seat had been taken and as he'd squeezed through the people standing between the rows of seats he'd sworn that--

It was hard to say but Sin could have sworn that through the din of overlapping conversations, someone had whispered his name.

He'd frozen in place, effectively holding up the line of people trying to fit in the bus behind him, looking around wildly for the source of that spectral whisper... But someone shoved him forward roughly, accompanied by an impatient grumble and he'd forced himself to move on. Sin chalked it up to just another case of his mind playing tricks on him and tried not to dwell too much on the downward spiral of his sanity.

Sin stared at a scrawled cursive graffiti that proclaimed 'American democracy is a sham!!' and tilted his head against the bulletproof glass of the window, letting his unbearably heavy eyelids fall half-closed. It was hard to believe that he felt as run down as he did-- never in his life had he been so weak and that was saying something since he'd averaged four hours of sleep a night for the last fifteen years. But now he only averaged about thirty minutes of sleep and even those few moments were restless and filled with horrible nightmares that made him bolt up in alarm, ruining any chances of rest again for the remainder of the night.

That's how it had been the night before and every night that week. It only got worse as time went on and he was tempted to use the sleeping pills that Boyd had given him but he was afraid. He was afraid to have a full night's sleep even if he knew he badly needed it. He was afraid of being put in the kind of induced coma-like slumber that sometimes occurred when he was in the box-- knowing he was having nightmares but unable to yank himself out of it because of the drugs. And he didn't know if he was prepared to experience that just yet.

He sighed and massaged the side of his head with one hand, the pounding intensifying with every jolt of the bus over another pot hole. Sleep deprivation was a strange thing-- it almost made him feel the way he felt when very intoxicated. Concentration was shot, his hands were extremely unsteady, his temper was short and he felt that old burning need to take his aggression out on another person.

The craving for violence had faded away in the past year, only really flaring up when he had an actual aim for it, but in the past month it had come back with a vengeance. It was disturbing and the darkness that lingered inside of him wanted it bad. It pushed him to take his anger and frustration out on other people and it made him act like the old Sin. The Sin he'd tried so hard to put in the past ever since he'd realized that he wanted to be a better person for Boyd, but that was quickly going to hell as well.

His behavior only an hour prior was evidence enough of that.

He squeezed his eyes shut, teeth grit as he went over the argument with Kassian at the Level 10 orientation. He'd wanted to hit Kassian so much-- so very badly that for a moment the mental image of the other agent bleeding on the floor had imprinted on his eyes and seemed incredibly real.

And he'd wanted to make it real. He'd wanted Kassian to bleed.

The only thing that prevented him from attacking the man had been Harriet's interruption. For some reason it had snapped him out of the blood lust and he'd had to sit down to regain his bearings; to calm down and come to his senses because that was the last thing he needed. The last thing he really wanted.

Just one more person to feel regret about.

He didn't want to kill Kassian-- the man annoyed him, Sin thought he might even hate him, but Sin didn't want the man's blood on his hands. Especially when, thinking back, he had no choice but to realize that his sudden overflow of blinding rage had been for no real reason. Kassian was condescending but it was Douglas who had done the belittling, the comparing, and it was then that his anger had started to build-- that his blood had started to boil.

He didn't know why; normally people's opinion of him didn't matter at all, but for some reason Kassian was definitely a chink in his armor.

But it made him so angry. Everyone, even Boyd apparently, was so taken with Kassian. He was so heroic, such a good guy, so easy to relate to-- such a textbook Agent who could be perfect if he wasn't so damn noble. How could he go wrong?

And Sin... what was he? A psycho, a monster, a freak-- someone who didn't deserve respect even though he basically lived for the Agency. Someone who was expected to understand normal behavior patterns even though he'd been dehumanized since he was a child. Someone who was used as a model for how a Level 10 should be even though they'd spent years keeping him locked in a cell unless they needed him for an assignment.


Because he didn't know how to behave like a normal person? Because he didn't tell everyone that killing people like Andrew McCall and the prime minister of Italy made him feel like a fucking failure of a human? Made him feel like the monster everyone said he was. And the only reason he felt a little more real now was because he had Boyd, who made the effort to understand, to touch him without fear or loathing in his eyes, and to remind him that he wasn't inherently fucking evil.

Kassian had three dozen Boyds in his life-- a ton of people who wanted to sympathize with him and understand. Sin had spent years with no one but his own damaged psyche and because of that everyone scorned him and celebrated Kassian even though their situations were nothing alike.

Sin didn't understand what anyone wanted from him. He just didn't get it. Why couldn't they understand that he would never be normal, he would never live up to society's standards of a functional person?

He couldn't.

Not with everything that had happened to him, all the things he'd done, and the complete lack of normal human interaction for years of his life. Why did he have to be constantly reminded that because of this, Kassian was so much more superior while he would always be a 'freak' and a 'dumb fuck?'

It seriously made him want to kill someone and it had taken him over an hour to calm that need for violence down.

Sin exhaled slowly and opened his eyes, staring out the window as the bus drew closer to the last stop on the line. They had reached a nicer part of the city, one that was frequented by the affluent and thus had been repaired first by the powers that be. The run-down old bus seemed very out of place there; wealthy people could still afford ten dollar a gallon gas and expensive electric cars to drive around. They didn't need to get on the bus and probably despised the eyesore in their neighborhood.

Ironically, Sin was technically one of the few wealthy people that was left in the city but the idea of that money was unreal to him. It didn't exist in his mind and as far as he was concerned, it had nothing to do with him as a person. Money meant nothing to him-- never had, probably never would. It couldn't erase the memories, it couldn't make him sane, it couldn't turn him into someone that didn't cause people to back away from in fear. It didn't matter if he had twenty million or a hundred million-- he would still be someone who was hated by most people, including himself.

Self-pity and depression had apparently overridden the anger but he didn't care enough to drag himself out of it. He wouldn't have been able to even if he wanted to.

It was kind of like how he wanted to tell Boyd so badly, just explain everything to him in vivid detail... But he couldn't. He'd tried and he couldn't. It was too frightening-- the idea of Boyd looking at him in fear, disgust... The idea of Boyd looking at him the way he had in France was too much to bear; the memory of that night in the hotel was something Sin thought about constantly and it firmed his decision. He just couldn't risk it. Not yet-- not until he was in a more stable state of mind.

"And when do you think that will be?"

That voice-- that same soft voice that sounded like a cross between a faint whisper and radio interference, seemed to surround him once again.

Sin sat up ramrod straight, eyes opening wide as he looked around quickly to find the source. And this time he did.

Emilio sat in the seat diagonal to him, leaning forward as he stared at his son with a knowing smile on his handsome face. But he didn't look right-- his olive skin was ashen, a few shades paler than it should have been. His typically clear green eyes were dull, slightly unfocused, as if a film covered them but it didn't stop the intensity of his gaze. Deep red blood trickled from the side of his mouth, smeared across his perfect teeth and out of one ear as it caught and clotted in his thick black hair.

Emilio's chest didn't rise and fall with the movement of breath and his dark clothing looked shiny and wet when he shifted, as if more blood was hidden within the folds.

There was no mistaking what Sin was looking at; a corpse-- an animated, moving corpse that was smiling relentlessly at him with burning green eyes.

The image flickered and dimmed and Sin knew it was a hallucination, he knew it was all in his mind but he couldn't look away.

"Do you really think this is going to help?" Emilio asked mockingly as his image gradually disappeared.

Sin shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut again, cursing himself for what he saw as weakness. The hallucinations had been bad enough but now they were going to start flaring up in public? What else could go wrong with his fucked up brain?

"You could flip out one day and cut your little boyfriend's head off."

This time the voice whispered directly in his ear, and as frustration built up inside him, Sin spun around in his seat. "Shut the fuck up!" he shouted angrily.

But this time, it wasn't Emilio behind him. It wasn't even a hallucination. It was a middle-aged man talking on a cell phone, who was staring at Sin in alarm and annoyance.

"Just what the hell is your problem?" the man asked angrily.

Sin blinked at him in confusion before shaking his head and gesturing vaguely before turning around again. He really was losing his mind.

The bus pulled to a stop just outside Willowbrook and Sin pulled himself to his feet, tugging his hood down over his face as he shoved his hands in his pockets and practically ran off the bus. He knew getting away from it wouldn't help anything, his ghosts would follow him wherever he went, but at least he wouldn't have to deal with a bunch of people gaping at him in the process.

Sin strode down the sidewalk, trying to push what had just happened out of his mind and focused on the matter at hand. He kept his head down, not wanting to look at anyone, especially not the snobs who lived by Willowbrook park and the suspicious way they stared at him every time he came to the neighborhood.

He took a cigarette from his pack, lighting it absently and inhaling deeply as he entered the ridiculously well-manicured park. He felt out of place there, always did, as if the turmoil inside of him was somehow disrupting the peace and the ducks and all of the stupid sounds of nature.

It just seemed wrong to walk past a happy toddler shrieking at a swan when he was agonizing over all the people he'd murdered.

An ironic smirk twitched across his lips. If only these fucks in their little protected bubble knew who they were in such close proximity to.

There was a road that led up to the steep hill that Willowbrook Home sat on and he felt ridiculously winded as he made his way up. His legs felt like lead, and he found himself moving sluggishly as he took longer strides to get through it quicker. He was still moving faster than the average person but compared to his normal self, compared to how powerful and invigorated he'd felt after the coma, it was a frustrating change.

When he got to the top, Sin paused and stared at the building for a long moment as he caught his breath. He found it strange that he always came here when he was in this exact same type of mood.

Depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, miserable-- and he came here... for what? To see one of the reasons for his guilt? To make himself feel better about finally entirely admitting and owning up to the effect he'd actually had on this woman's life? He'd spent years blocking it out, refusing to speak of it, refusing to look her twin in the face because it reminded him too much of something he didn't want to remember. He'd spent years acting like it didn't bother him when really it made him feel like he deserved to be locked away in the box, far away from other people.

But owning up to it didn't make him feel better. He'd realized that the first time.

It just made him feel worse. It increased that feeling, the feeling that he deserved to be punished, that he deserved to be miserable, but he kept coming anyway and he didn't know why.

Sin pushed the door open and stepped inside, moving quietly over the floor even though his boots were large and steel-tipped.

He'd visited often enough in the past few months to recognize a lot of the staff. It'd been several weeks since the last time he was there, when the sleepless nights began to increase, and the receptionist reacted with surprise when she saw him.

Sin signed in without speaking, watching her and the strange way she was staring at him as he showed her his Jason Alvarez identification-- a souvenir from the Mexico mission. "Can I go in?"

The girl, Beth, looked startled at the words and nodded distractedly. She was one of the regular receptionists and he recognized her immediately although it looked as though she'd lost some weight. "Sorry, you just look really sick," she said in explanation. "You're so pale."

He shrugged, wondering if that was truly why she'd given him that startled look. "Yeah."

"I'll ring up someone from Lydia's wing to escort you," she said, reaching for the phone quickly.

Sin shrugged again, not having much to say about that, and waited for one of the nurses to arrive. He stared blankly at the wallpaper, eyes glazed slightly and felt himself beginning to zone out the longer it took. It was taking longer than usual but he wasn't alert enough at the moment to wonder why.

He sat down in one of the arm chairs, hunching his back slightly as he crossed his arms over his chest. As soon as his body was in the comfort of the overstuffed chair, Sin felt his eyes begin to drift closed.

He tried to fight it--he really did, but he was so weary--so mentally and physically exhausted, that it was incredibly hard. Sin let his head rest against the side of the chair, hood still hiding his face, and gazed blankly down at the carpet. He felt like a zombie-- like someone who wasn't quite alive but was managing to move around anyway. Even so, his mind continued to work and he found himself blanking out and remembering the first time he'd ever met Lydia.

"He's so cute," Lydia cooed, reaching out to run a finger down the side of his face. "How old are you, honey?"

He jerked back slightly, away from her invasive hand, and lowered his brow over his bright green eyes, mouth turning down into a warning scowl. "Eleven."

She smiled widely, hazel eyes glittering with mischief as she looked over her shoulder at Emilio who was setting up lines of cocaine on the coffee table. "Is he really your son?" she asked skeptically, eyeballing her lover. "He's way too old. Tell me he's your cute kid brother."

Emilio snorted and didn't look up from his work. "I was maybe fourteen when she had him. What's it to you anyway if I have a kid?" He looked up at her, eyes narrowed slightly, suspiciously. "You better keep your goddamn mouth shut about it too. I got reasons for keeping him secret and you shouldn't even be here."

Lydia rolled her eyes and turned back to him, reaching out again to touch his fine, silky hair. "I've got connections too, you know. I can find you anywhere you go."

"Maybe because this is one of my listed address, pendeja," Emilio replied in annoyance, not seeming to have patience for his teenage lover now that she was invading his privacy. "I made the mistake of bringing him here but you better not make the mistake of opening your big fucking mouth or I'll make you sorry."

She didn't seem intimidated at all; if anything, it caused her smile to widen wickedly as if Emilio's threatening tone was turning her on. She tilted her head to the side, wavy chestnut colored hair spilling over her bare shoulders as she leaned closer to Sin. "Can I kiss him?" she asked teasingly.

"Don't," he said, disturbed by the notion, and backed away.

"Leave the fucking boy alone," Emilio said irritably and shook his head, muttering in Spanish.

"Have you ever kissed a girl?" she continued, leaning even closer. "Huh? Maybe if you did you'd actually put a smile on that--"

"Mr. Alvarez?"

Sin's eyes snapped open and he looked up wildly at the nurse, disoriented and still stuck in a memory that was nearly twenty years old. His eyes dropped to the hand that was hovering near his shoulder and knew that it was a very good thing that the poor girl hadn't actually touched him.

Judy, another staff member he was used to, snatched her hand away at the sight of those wild green eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out so she swallowed thickly before trying again, "I can take you to Lydia's room if you're ready..."

He stood up wordlessly, still not quite in his right frame of mind, and followed her out of the waiting area and down the hall.

It was fortunate that Judy hadn't touched him... It would have been very bad if he'd physically reenacted what had happened next, Sin thought numbly.

He'd forgotten about that part... Or at least, had pushed it aside in his mind. Sin couldn't figure out, even after all of this time, why Lydia had volunteered to be his doctor after getting her nose broken by him when he'd been just a child. It was strange and just another thing he didn't understand about the woman.

"Are you okay, Mr. Alvarez?" Judy asked quietly, watching him from the corner of her eye. She always watched him like that, from the very first day, but now she looked anxious about something, worried.

"I'm terrific," he replied dully, wanting everyone to leave him alone already.


Sin sighed softly and kept his head down, not looking up again until they reached Lydia's door. He reached for the doorknob and hesitated only briefly before quickly entering the room, shutting the door behind him.

He leaned against it for a moment, staring at Lydia from across the room before finally pushing himself away and walking closer.

She looked as she always did; thin, pale and completely void of all intelligent thought. But this time instead of sitting in the arm chair, she was laying on her bed, propped up against the pillows. She looked dead in a way and he supposed it wasn't like she was really living anyway.

Sin retreated to a corner of the room where the lamplight didn't quite reach and leaned against the wall as he stared at her from the shadows. Because that's all he ever did when he went there; just stared.

He didn't speak to her, didn't touch her, didn't go near her. He just stared at her calm, expressionless face and wondered why.

Why she did the things she did... Why he had to respond the way he did... and wondered if he could ever forgive himself for ruining a young woman's life.

He asked himself the same questions every time he came but he couldn't find any answers, and instead of feeling better about it all... he just felt worse and then he tried to understand why he was coming here at all. It accomplished nothing except making him feel more like a monster but maybe, deep down, that was the point. Maybe the point was self-punishment. Seeing the results of his insanity, his violence, firsthand because she was the only person left who hadn't died as a result of it even though her life was over.

Maybe, deep down, he'd started coming here because then he couldn't pretend that everything was okay. Then he couldn't brush off the increasing instability that was getting worse every day. Then he had to accept that something was fucking wrong with him and if he didn't understand it, if he didn't admit it, it would get worse and then he would lose Boyd. Possibly even do something just as bad to him one day.

But it hurt. Remembering hurt. But if he didn't remember, how could he ever understand?

Sweat dripped off him, sliding down his forehead and along the side of his face before pooling on the table next to his arm. His heart was racing and he felt very strange. Very out of control, even of his thoughts.

Images swam together in his mind, things from the past? The present? Maybe things that didn't exist at all. But Lydia's voice was there in the background, coaxing, cooing, encouraging him to keep talking as her slender hand massaged his arm slowly, comfortingly.

"Tell me about..."

It hurt to think about that. It hurt to see those things. He didn't want to. But he couldn't control himself, and so the words kept tumbling out as she prodded him for more details, more information.

What had she given him? What was in that shot?

"And you say she gave you lessons?" That liquid voice purred in his ear, going from mildly professional to husky in a flash, hands sliding up and down his arm slower. "What did she tell you to do?"

He didn't want to tell her. He couldn't control himself. His thoughts were blurring together as images drifted across his mind and he felt himself beginning to get angry, frightened, at what was going on. By the memories of his mother-- and the lessons, and everything that had happened next.

But the words kept pouring out in a mindless ramble, and he wondered what she'd given him that was making him react this way. So out of control.

And she was touching him-- her face was so close to his-- it was disturbing him, alarming him, making him really mad. He wanted this to stop, he didn't want her to touch him. It was mixing with the memories of being eight years old and alone in a whore house, being taught how to make money since it was decided that was what he was going to do--

And he just wanted to be left alone. He hadn't wanted that. He didn't want this.

Just stop. Stop. Don't make me remember. Just fucking stop.

And then she asked, flippantly, almost as an afterthought, as her hands slid down his pants, body pressed against his as she practically sat on his lap, body thrumming with pent up desire as she listened to the point blank details of sex acts he'd experienced as a child.

"What exactly was it that killed your mother, anyway?"

And he snapped.

Heels clicking against tile drew him out of his reverie and Sin glanced towards the door as the sound moved closer. He was surprised that he'd noticed at all through the heavy door and he absently wondered why women chose to wear such obnoxiously noisy shoes.

Sin looked away from the door and focused on Lydia, almost glad that his thoughts had been interrupted once again before they took him down a road he really didn't want to revisit. He ran a hand through his hair, then shook his head at himself and his inability to remain fully conscious for more than ten minutes at a time.

Sadly, he now saw Carhart's point. There was no way he could ever go a mission like this. He could storm a base with three bullets in his body, but despite the fact that some people claimed that made him seem impervious, inhuman, he felt that this was more than evidence that he was nothing but a man who would die without getting the basic and simplest of necessities in life.

The sound of the door clicking closed was startling. How the hell was it possible that he'd heard shoes way up the hall but not the sound of someone coming in the room? His reflexes were shot to hell.

Sin looked over and was completely surprised by how utterly unsurprised he was to see Ann.

It was strange to see her and Lydia side by side. Despite the fact that he'd known them both for quite some time, he realized he'd never actually seen them together, not that this was a stunning example of twin interaction.

Ann stared at him, hazel eyes afire with what seemed like anger and confusion. For a moment it seemed that she was going to say something but she turned her face away abruptly and stared silently at Lydia.

Sin watched her, waiting for the shouting and the insult hurling and all the angry words he knew she was going to say. He'd anticipated this for some time and by the way the staff had acted earlier, it wasn't really shocking that it was happening on this day.

He'd wondered if she'd recognized him that evening all those weeks ago. Obviously she had.

But Ann just stood there, hands still resting against the closed door, looking like she'd come rushing from work as she stared at her twin and lost every shred of her most likely prepared speech now that they were face to face.

Sin straightened from his tired slouch and started for the door, intending to just brush past her and leave without the big dramatic confrontation that she'd most likely planned out in her mind. He'd given her a chance, stood there in anticipation for it, but she'd let the moment go and now he was done here. He'd had enough verbal abuse for one day anyway.

She tensed up as he drew closer but she didn't shrink away, didn't even let an ounce of fear creep into her eyes. It was almost commendable but he didn't really feel like handing out mental awards at this point.

Sin paused in front of her, giving her the opportunity to get out of his way but she just stood there with her back and palms pressed against the door. Impatience started to slip through his defeated, weary state and he reached out, fully intending to push her out of the way.

But Ann's angry gaze snapped back to his face, drilling into his eyes. "Don't you dare lay one finger on me," she said, voice steady and stern.

Sin exhaled slowly, meeting her gaze evenly. "Then get out of my way."

She swallowed hard, licking her dry lips; she seemed nervous, determined and forgetting everything she'd hoped to say. "No."

His eyebrows drew together, irritation bleeding through. "Move or I'll move you."

Ann narrowed her eyes slightly and lifted her chin stubbornly. "You wouldn't dare."

Sin grit his teeth in frustration and flexed his hands. "You think so?"

"Do it then. But you'll have to drag me and tie me down if you think you're getting out of this room without explaining to me what exactly you think you're doing with my sister." Her voice was tight and controlled.

He raised his hand, fully intending to shove her roughly out of his way but turned away at the last minute with an aggravated growl. "What the hell do you want from me? Just fucking move."

"I thought you were going to move me," she replied challengingly, eyes focused on him intently, as if she were trying to figure him out. "What's stopping you, Agent Vega?"

"Oh, that's right," he snapped, sarcasm thick in his tone. "It's so shocking that I don't want to hit you, is it? Because I'm an abusive, misogynistic, raping, murdering fucking monster, right? I'm not even a real human. I bleed green blood. Are you happy? Is that what you'd planned to say?"

Sin turned to her again and glared. "Because now it's been said so I suggest you get the hell out of my way."

Ann met his glare for a long moment before looking at her sister again. "Why would you ever think it was a good idea to come here?"

"It was an idea. I never said it was a good one," he replied flatly.

"But you've been coming here for three months now," Ann exclaimed, throwing her hands up and finally moving away from the door. "What are you thinking? How could you think this was okay? I know you think since my father is dead that you can do whatever you damn well wish, but I'll have you know that this--" She pointed at her sister. "Is not okay!"

Sin's eyebrows drew together in confusion, annoyance. "What's not okay? What the hell do you think I'm doing to her? Touching her inappropriately? Offering my services at bath time?"

"No, you goddamned idiot, I'm not saying that at all!" she snapped, self control slipping through her fingers as this confrontation went in a direction she hadn't planned. "I'm saying, you put her here! Who knows if she can see behind that blank stare! Who knows if seeing you could push her further into this goddamned dream world that she's been trapped in since you put her there! Why would you ever think it's okay for you to visit her after what you've done? Don't you have any sense at all? What the hell are you thinking?"

Sin opened his mouth to say something, anything to get her off his back and out of his way, but all he could manage was, "I don't know!"

Ann stopped, stared at him in genuine surprise, maybe that he'd actually said something honest instead of sarcasm and witty retorts. "What do you mean you don't know?"

"I mean--" He broke off, and shook his head, finally moving to the door and jerking it open. "I mean, leave me the hell alone. I'm going anyway, that should make you happy."

Sin stormed out of the room, taking long strides down the hall and shaking his head in annoyance as he heard her heels running surprisingly fast behind him.

"Don't you walk away from me!" she barked at him, all sense of protocol and propriety forgotten even though they had an audience of staff members staring at them from every corner as they passed the nurse's station.

He ignored her, walking faster but she caught up and grabbed his arm just as they reached the receptionist's desk at the waiting area, where Beth stared at them with wide-eyed alarm.

"Get off of me," Sin growled from between clenched teeth, not looking at her or Judy.

"You're not walking away from this. Not again," Ann said stubbornly.

"Let it go, Annabelle!" he shouted finally, yanking his arm away violently, just as the other nurses and Magdalene came hurrying around the corridor. Great. Just what he needed. They'd probably call the police. "Please, just let it go."

She didn't grab him again and he walked away, slamming the front door open as he strode quickly away from the entrance and down the winding path that took him down the hill. His mind was racing as he tried to light a cigarette with ridiculously unsteady hands, striking his matches several times before he could get it lit.

It was just too much.

Too much shit all happening at the same time-- too much shit being thrown at him when he could barely deal with his own neurosis and hallucinations yelling at him, let alone other people. The frustration, the anger and anxiety-- he knew where it would lead if it kept building inside him and he didn't need to be around other people when it finally exploded and sent him into a blind, seething, psychopathic rage.

He just wanted it all to stop. Maybe he'd actually take those sleeping pills tonight, consequences be damned, because he couldn't go on like this anymore.

It began to drizzle slightly and he shook his head, thoroughly unsurprised with the way this entire day was going. And to make things even better, a silver Bentley came cruising down the road and screeched to a stop beside him.

Sin stopped walking and stared at Ann in disgust. "Jesus Christ, you just don't fucking stop."

She got out of the car and pushed the door closed, leaning against it as she stared at him evenly. "Why are you running away from a very simple question?"

He exhaled slowly, blowing smoke in her pretty face. "Who's running?"

Ann narrowed her eyes at him, her dislike for him clearly evident in her features although she appeared to be trying to maintain her calm demeanor. It almost seemed as though she was trying to model her behavior after Vivienne and was failing miserably. There was too much going on in her expression to ever be able to maintain the frigid, icy Vivienne stare. "What do you expect from me? How can I trust that you don't have bad intentions? How can you think this is good for my sister's health? How could you think that I would be okay with this?"

"How could you think that I give a damn what you think," he snapped, taking another drag as he locked gazes with her.

It was a stand off that was quickly going nowhere and he wasn't quite sure what she wanted him to say. He knew she had the right to know what was going on with her only remaining family member but he also knew that anything he said would just make her ask more questions and that she'd never believe anything but the worst possible scenario.

"Why?" she repeated, crossing her arms over her pinstriped blouse. Once again she met his gaze unflinchingly, and this time it seemed that she was trying to make more of an effort to seem less confrontational.

Sin ran a hand through his now wet hair in aggravation. "I told you," he said slowly, voice low and angry. "I don't know why. I don't mean her any harm, even though you won't believe me. I just--" He broke off, unsure of why he was even attempting to explain himself to her.

Ann leaned forward, brows drawing together as she tried to understand. "You just what? What even made you decide to come here after all of this time?"

Fine. Fuck it. Brutal honesty it was then.

"Because I finally fucking remembered that day... what happened, and I had to fucking see her with my own eyes!" he yelled, voice echoing in the silent roadway. "I just-- I had to see her. And it makes me feel fucking horrible, it makes me feel like all of the bad things everyone says about me and it makes me feel like I don't even deserve to fucking live!"

Ann studied him for a long moment and this time there was something else behind her gaze. This time it really did seem as though she were trying to figure him out; figure out if he was being honest and what it meant if he actually was. "What do you mean you finally remembered?"

Sin chewed the inside of his cheek, glaring down at the cigarette that had finally been sufficiently soaked by the rain. "Forget it."

"And if it makes you feel that bad-- why keep coming back? As some kind of penance?" She seemed honestly curious now even though there was distinct skepticism in her voice.

He'd had enough.

Sin looked up at her and this time he didn't try to mask anything. He didn't try to hide the exhaustion, the depression and pent up aggression, the raw misery that was soaking into every fiber of his being. He just stared at her for a long moment before finally turning away. "Just leave me alone."

And she did.

She didn't ask him any more questions, didn't call after him and even though he could feel her gaze on his back the entire time he walked down the hill-- it was only after he was walking through the park that he saw her car whizzing by.

Boyd wiped dust off his forehead and stood up to catch his breath, surveying his work so far. He didn't think the attic had ever been so organized in the twenty-one years he'd been alive, although of course he couldn't vouch for when his parents had first bought the place.

He had somewhat sad, somewhat endearing memories of the attic. Endearing, because this was an area where his father used to entertain Lou and him, telling them ridiculous ghost stories, painting pictures of haunted castles and vengeful ghosts, of nights when the sky had been clear and the eerie moonlight could shine clearly on bleached bones and pools of drying blood. Sad, because the only two people who could have shared that memory with him were both killed long ago and the room had sat, wasted space that was avoided until only recently.

He wouldn't have had the proper presence of mind to come to this area before; he'd been too imbalanced, incapable of separating haunting memories with the simple loneliness of an empty house. He'd feared and run from everything that may have made him remember anything, even if they were bittersweet memories, even if in the correct frame of mind they made him smile. Now, after months of working on coming to terms with parts of his past that had destroyed him for a few years, he could walk into the attic with only a faint feeling of apprehension.

Now, he could look around and feel nostalgia more than anything else.

It was likely only due to the fact that he'd been working so hard on remembering the good parts of his father and Lou's lives and not just the disturbing parts that had led him to get the urge to reorganize the room in the first place.

Earlier that day, after Sin had left the training room following his argument with Kassian, Boyd had stopped by the medic wing, once again, to try to visit Ryan. Every time he stopped in he hoped that Ann would have lifted that stupid family-only rule, that he'd get the chance to see his friend, that he'd have the ability to verify that Ryan looked as okay as he insisted he was via messages.

Boyd worried about him; the last time he'd seen him, Ryan had seemed near death. It had been months since he'd been moved to the medic wing and as much as Ryan insisted he was fine, Boyd wouldn't believe it until he saw it.

Unsurprisingly, he'd been turned away. He'd wanted to leave something for his friend; a book, some music--just something tangible to show that he'd been there, that he cared. He ended up leaving a manga volume he'd found in a secondhand bookstore nearby. He had no idea if it was a series Ryan even liked but it was all he'd been able to find that he was fairly certain Ryan may be interested in. He knew Ryan liked anime so he hoped that was close enough.

Returning to his empty house and silent rooms, he'd stopped for a moment beside the kitchen table, looking at the worn wood grain and familiar chairs for a moment as he'd abruptly remembered that haunted, crazed and lost look in Sin's eyes glinting from the shadows the first time he'd appeared here, after he'd killed Lou's murderer.

He'd thought also of Ryan sitting there, thin and cold and warming a cup of tea between his hands, smiling knowingly while they talked about topics both inane and leading toward revelations.

He'd thought of Lou, grinning at him cockily and expertly avoiding explaining where that money had come from that was sitting on the table by grabbing Boyd's hand to pull him in and distract him with a kiss. And he'd thought of his father sitting at the table, newspaper crinkling as he turned one large page over, a furrow between his eyebrows as he studied the local news and drank his morning cup of coffee, followed by the sincere grin and twinkle in his eyes when he would look over to see Boyd watching him.

There was a feeling that had accompanied the memories and he hadn't known what to name it, except perhaps restlessness and a feeling of impotence. He'd wanted to do something tangible, something to get his body moving in order to distract his mind and he'd remembered several boxes in his room that he'd been meaning to take out for a long time. They'd been cluttering the corner for no reason for years and it had finally seemed like time to remedy that; to clean up a piece of the house that had been languishing for longer than it should have.

The actual act of moving the boxes had not taken long but once he'd spent all that energy hauling them awkwardly up the stairs to the second floor and then up the drop down ladder to the attic, he'd been overcome with the idea of cleaning and reorganizing. Maybe it was just a physical manifestation of what he'd been doing in his mind; purging the unnecessary, shifting and rearranging the clutter, trying to find meaning and order in otherwise languishing chaos.

Whatever the case, he spent hours moving items around, stirring up clouds of dust as he pulled sheets off boxes and assorted items that, in most cases, hadn't been touched for two decades. He realized very quickly that this was not the sort of task he could fully accomplish in one day or even several, but in a way that was somehow comforting.

Now he knew that if he came home feeling restless, he had a project; something tangible, something useful, something that would remain there waiting for him even if it took him months to return. There were too many boxes with too many random, assorted items within to properly organize without looking through everything so he'd settled with getting a general feel of what may be contained by taking one part of the attic, glancing inside, and arranging accordingly. There was one corner of the attic he hadn't touched at all but that was a project for another day.

By the time evening rolled around, his jeans and black t-shirt were coated in grime and sweat, the bandanna he'd tied over his hair to keep it out of his eyes was full of dust and cobwebs, his arms and back had a pleasant ache from all the lifting and shifting, and there was enough dirt on his hands that small whorls of his fingerprints seemed especially visible in certain places.

He finished moving an especially heavy box and accidentally hit the single bare bulb in the center of the room; it swung back and forth freely, causing shadows to roll disconcertingly across the floor as if he stood within the cabin of a ship, rocking with the movement of the sea. He was just turning around to stop the bulb when something out of the corner of his eye made him look down.

A shadowy figure stood downstairs near the hole that led to the attic and for a brief, confusing moment it made him think of a ghost chained to the past in one place, eerily watching the living world pass around it. He nearly jumped at the sight but the more logical part of his brain kicked in almost immediately, telling him that he knew that silhouette, that he recognized that presence, that this was a living person he was looking at and not something supernatural.

He let out a breath that was only slightly shaky and finally stilled the light bulb, which cast stark relief across Sin's face, still half-hidden by the shadows of his hoodie.

"The day you learn how to knock will be the day my chances of heart attack decrease by a good thirty percent," Boyd said, giving his partner a half bemused, half exasperated look.

Sin gave him a wan smile and leaned against the wall, staring up at Boyd and making no move to climb the ladder. It was possible he just didn't feel like making the effort when he looked increasingly haggard but it was also very likely that he was unsure of how big the attic was and he didn't feel like having his claustrophobia flare up on top of everything else. "The day you upgrade your security system is the day... well, I'd probably end up getting in anyway."

"My security system?" Boyd echoed, dusting his hands off on his thighs.

He clicked off the light bulb next to him with a tug on the string hanging nearby, then walked through the sudden darkness of the attic to the hole. He'd left a light on in the hallway on the second floor and another one down on the first floor, so it wasn't completely dark where Sin stood but it wasn't very bright either. It was unusual for him to leave any lights on that he wasn't using; but then, it was unusual for him to touch the attic as well.

He climbed down the ladder a few rungs and dropped to the floor near Sin, turning to him with a teasing smile. "What's wrong with it? Do you want me to get a moat with alligators? Because I will, but only if you say please."

Sin rolled his eyes and shoved Boyd's shoulder lightly. "Dumb ass. Anyone could just get in here with the way it is now. Your windows aren't even bulletproof. The only thing you have going for you are the radiation shields."

"And my charming good looks," Boyd reminded him. He reached up, sliding his hands along Sin's shoulders and pulling him down for a kiss, almost as if welcoming him home. Instead of pulling away at the end, he grinned against Sin's lips, a hint of that familiar mischief in his eyes. "The only one who's burgled me so far has been you, and all you've stolen is my time, energy, and inclination to get out of bed. But you're right; I'll look into it."

Sin leaned his forehead against Boyd's for a moment, the same tired smile on his face. "You'd better or else someone will bust in and kidnap you-- then I'd have to go rescue you and I don't really have the energy right now to be an adequate hero."

Boyd laughed. "You can be my anti-hero and make someone else do it."

Sin snorted softly. "Yeah, we'll just call Kassian over since he's your new best buddy." He turned and walked towards the staircase to go back downstairs.

Smiling to himself, Boyd followed him, pausing only to flip off the hallway light before he went downstairs. "Good idea," he said, going along with the joke. "It'll give him an excuse to pull out his Captain America costume."

Sin headed toward the living room and sprawled on the couch, kicking off his barely laced boots as he stared up at Boyd. "I'd laugh but I'm too tired at the moment."

Boyd bypassed the couch to close the living room curtains. He often left them open during the day to get more light into the otherwise dark room but ever since the time he'd had agents sitting across the street watching him 24/7 he'd had times when he'd become paranoid about people looking in at night,when the light inside the house made it especially easy for them to see him but not vice versa. There was no reason for anyone from the Agency to be watching but that didn't mean the neighbors couldn't be staring out their windows as well, and it was no one's business what he was doing inside his home, even if he was just talking to his partner.

Once they had a modicum of privacy and he wasn't feeling quite as paranoid, Boyd walked over to the living room table that was next to the couch. Moving a few items aside, he sat on the edge of the table facing Sin. He could have chosen one of the chairs but they were too far away for proper conversation and anyway he'd never thought they were all that particularly comfortable.

"That's a shame," he said finally, studying Sin's face in the dim light from the hallway. "I like your laugh."

Another half-smile as Sin gazed up at him with tired green eyes. "Well, you're the only one who makes me laugh so it would be unfortunate if you didn't."

Boyd smiled, feeling pleased and a bit proud. For some reason it was gratifying to know that he could make Sin laugh even when others couldn't. It wasn't that he wanted Sin to only be relaxed enough to laugh around him; maybe it was because it was a result of their history together, of all the time they'd spent going from two strangers who antagonized each other to what they were now, whatever that was exactly. It made him feel like it had all been worth it.

"So tell me," Sin drawled, eyebrows raising slightly as he turned on his side to better stare at Boyd. "What made you seek out Captain America anyway?"

"I didn't seek anyone out," Boyd said mildly. "We ran into each other at the grocery store during the summer."

Sin thought about that for a moment as he mentally went through the information he had stored in his brain of the people that he'd always felt the need to watch out for; people he trusted even less than usual. "Yeah, I guess he does live around here."

"You know where he lives?" Boyd asked with an eyebrow raised. "What is that, preparation for last minute slumber parties?"

"Years ago I memorized the information of people who I feel could someday be a danger to me. I know where a lot of people live," he replied. Jeffrey hadn't been too thrilled about that fact.

"Makes sense," Boyd said, considering that. "That must've been how you knew where to find me the first time you showed up here."

"," Sin replied, closing his eyes. "But I guess it just turned out that you were a threat to my chastity."

Boyd grinned rather wickedly and slid off the table, coming closer to the couch. "I'm up for threatening you again, if you want."

Sin opened one eye and looked up at Boyd again. "Sadly, and I know this will shock you, I don't think I have the energy."

"What if I do all the hard work and you just get to enjoy?" Boyd asked, kneeling next to the couch with one hand supporting him past Sin's far shoulder and the other absently pushing hair off Sin's forehead.

He hovered over his partner, golden brown eyes a shade darker in the shadows cast by the couch as it was back-lit from the hallway, blond hair held back by the bandanna and low ponytail. "Would you want to then?"

"I think..." Sin trailed off, leaning into Boyd's touch with a slight shuddering breath. He would have never thought that such a simple thing-- being touched by another person with tenderness-- could make him feel so good, could momentarily wash away all the bad things and he could just feel. Just feel normal. Like a regular man that someone could touch without fear and hesitation. "I think I'd be down for that," he said softly.

With a satisfied smile, Boyd pulled Sin to his feet, pressing their bodies together as he led them backwards to his bedroom. His slender hands wrapped around the collar of Sin's hoodie, tugging Sin's face down as they navigated the house; he took Sin's mouth again as he slipped his tongue inside with a slow, languid kiss that deepened gradually until they finally pulled apart to pant against each others' lips.

Despite Sin's claims of having no energy, his hands moved over Boyd's body, sliding down his back and squeezing his ass as they halted just inside Boyd's bedroom. He only took his hands away to unzip his hoodie. Sin's breath came faster as he ripped off his t-shirt to reveal his finely muscled arms and chest.

Boyd took in his lover's body with barely concealed lust, having seen Sin naked dozens of times before but never quite able to get over just how beautiful he was. Even as tired as his partner was, as weak he felt, Sin was still the most exotic-looking and gorgeous man he had ever met. The fact that his body looked like it was carved out of stone made it even better. The combination of high cheek bones, brilliant green eyes and a remarkably masculine physique was incredibly striking.

Swiping his tongue over his lips quickly, the taste of Sin on his mouth making him even hotter, Boyd pushed Sin backwards on the bed and stripped off his own dust covered shirt-- tossing it on the floor before doing the same with his underwear and pants.

He stared down at Sin, at his low hanging ripped jeans and the hipbones that protruded temptingly; Boyd was almost uncomfortably hard as the anticipation of what they were about to do made him even more excited.

Boyd knelt on the bed, unbuttoning Sin's jeans and tugging them down, unsurprised to see that he wore no underwear at all. Boyd dragged his eyes away from his partner's body to stare into his eyes, lips turning up into a hungry smile as Sin gazed up at him with a mixture of lust and impatience.

Boyd's smile just widened slightly as he ran his hands down Sin's chest, shifting so that he was kneeling between those muscular thighs, fingers barely touching his skin.

"Stop making me wait," Sin chastised, voice low and husky.

"Stop being so impatient," Boyd teased, leaning down to press his mouth against the hollow of Sin's throat, lips wrapping around the Adam's apple that bobbed violently as Sin swallowed hard. Although it had not been that long since they'd last had sex, he loved the taste of Sin's skin and the feel of his warm body moving against him; each time it felt as intense and arousing as the first time they'd been together.

His lips brushed against Sin's skin as he moved between the spots he knew Sin loved the most, paying special attention to the sensitive spot near his ear. Boyd took great pleasure in the feel of Sin moving beneath him, of the way he could make such a strong man lose any sense of control in a positive way.

As he worshiped Sin's lower ear with hot, sucking kisses in a way that drove all coherent thought out of Sin's mind, Boyd reached blindly for the almost-empty bottle of lubricant that sat on the night stand. He squeezed a generous amount into his hand, applying it to himself first and then reaching forward to graze his fingers along Sin's dick, finally pulling away from kissing him.

"Although it's a good sign that you can't get enough," Boyd added belatedly, half-lidded eyes pleased and intent on Sin's slightly glazed eyes and lustful expression.

And it was a good sign. Actual penetration for Sin had been a delicate subject a little over a year ago as Boyd had tried to understand the boundaries of this new aspect of their relationship but they'd come a long way since then. Now, he knew Sin's body almost as well as his own and he felt no hesitation about doing what he wanted with it, including taking his turn to fuck his partner's brains out when previously he'd always been the one getting fucked.

Sin hissed softly as Boyd's lube covered fingers began to run up and down his erection, stroking it with just enough pressure to be satisfyingly rough but not uncomfortably so. He spread his thighs apart further, almost unconsciously, and raised one knee as Boyd's hand slid down to fondle his balls-- massaging them in a way that made him shudder violently.

Sin's breath came in short, abrupt spurts as Boyd slid his fingers up again and began to jerk him off fast, milking his cock as the beginning of clear semen began to leak from it. Sin's eyebrows drew together as he slid his eyes open and stared down at Boyd's slick hand and the way it flew over his swollen erection.

He dragged his gaze from the erotic sight to instead stare at Boyd's naked body, at the pale limbs that were slender and toned, at the strong shoulders and flat stomach and finally at the lube covered dick that was pressing slightly against Sin's ass.

"You gonna do it or what?" Sin managed, voice slightly strangled as he felt the burning in his gut intensify and his toes curled in the sheets. He dug his fingers into the bedding, eyes rolling in his head as Boyd made a low sound in his throat without actually answering the question.

But the burning was getting hotter as his body tensed and Sin thrust into Boyd's hand violently as he came hard, semen covering Body's hand as Sin swore breathlessly, heart hammering wildly in his chest.

Boyd's eyelids lowered as he gazed down at Sin with an intense expression that was libidinous, carnal. Without giving Sin any warning at all, Boyd shoved his painfully throbbing erection inside his partner with one swift thrust, no resistance given at all since Sin's body was now completely relaxed.

Boyd nearly shouted in pleasure -- never quite prepared for how amazing it felt for his cock to be surrounded by all of that tight, hot muscle-- and wrapped his fingers under Sin's knee to lift his leg slightly. Boyd's veins raced with blood and lust as hot as the body that surrounded him, and all thought left his mind as instincts took over. He fucked his partner wantonly and with abandon, slamming his hips against Sin in the process.

Sin's fingers clawed at the bed, arching his back with a guttural cry of pleasure, all coherent thought gone from his head as Boyd's cock pounded him roughly, the pressure on his nerves causing him to slam up against Boyd violently, dick stiffening once again as he begged for more without comprehensible words.

Boyd responded without hesitation, thrusting faster, slamming harder, as his head fell backwards and his mouth dropped open. He grabbed the underside of Sin's other knee with his free hand and lifted Sin partially off the bed as he moved in and out of Sin with animal-like instinct that banished everything from his mind except for the need for more.

"Ah...ah...oh fucking--" Sin stammered, breaking off with a loud groan as Boyd's erection began to grind against his prostate with mind-blowing precision. It was something that had only happened to him a couple times since they'd begun to explore this new path and as usual the pleasure it caused him was indescribable as it scoured through his body and erased any hope of coherent thought.

Sin orgasmed for the second time almost instantly, causing his muscles to contract wildly around Boyd's cock. Boyd cried out loudly, leaning forward to pound into Sin increasingly harder and faster. It wasn't long before he shouted in ecstasy as he came inside of Sin while experiencing a white-hot pleasure that made his entire body feel like it was on fire.

Boyd released Sin, collapsing on the bed beside him as he panted harshly, soft moans escaping his mouth as his eyes closed almost immediately. They lay side by side for several long moments, regaining their bearings after an almost unusually intense bout of sex that had left them both sweaty and exhausted.

After awhile, Sin shifted on his side, rolling over in the now wrinkled sheets so that he could face Boyd. After watching him for a moment, staring at his peaceful, sated face, Sin scooted down slightly and rested the side of his face against Boyd's chest.

He could hear the other man's heartbeat slowly returning to normal and for some reason it made something in him churn uncomfortably. He'd never felt this close to another human before, never had someone who wanted to be close to him and touch him and make him feel good, but there was still a space between them. There was a gap that was filled with Sin's secrets and his new talent at lying, a distance between them that he'd been trying so hard to keep Boyd from noticing and it made the entire situation feel somehow incomplete. He wanted the closeness of their bodies to be reflected in the rest of the moment, yet he was the one who was making it this way.

A frown marred his face, the nagging thoughts coming back to harass him now that the pleasure was gone, now that he wasn't consumed by overwhelming desire. It was frustrating and it made him wish that he could just go back to walling off certain parts of his memory so that he could enjoy his partner the way he had so easily in the not-so-distant past.

But Sin couldn't because of the dark shadow that followed him around constantly and wouldn't let him be.

"Hey," he said quietly, knowing that Boyd hadn't drifted off just yet.

"Hmm?" Boyd murmured, lazily bringing a hand up to run his fingers gently, absently through Sin's hair.

"I've been--" Sin broke off and frowned slightly. "What would you say if I told you, I've been thinking about... maybe going to see Lydia?"

"Lydia?" Boyd echoed, waking up a little in surprise. His fingers didn't stop but his eyes slid open as he looked down as best he could. "Why would you want to?" There was nothing judgmental in the question; merely baffled curiosity.

Sin raised his shoulder slightly, staring down at the winding scars on Boyd's pale skin as he struggled to find the words to come up with an explanation. But it was hard when he couldn't even explain to himself why he continued to go. "I'm not sure," he admitted finally.

"Well," Boyd said slowly after a moment of waiting for Sin to continue. "I suppose I would say that you could if you wanted, but I don't think she deserves that attention from you."

Sin's gaze focused on the mutilated tattoo on Boyd's hip and placed one hand on it. "Why not?"

"Because she hurt you," Boyd said simply. For a moment it almost seemed he would not explain further but then he shifted slightly and rested his hand over Sin's, continuing more sincerely, "She wasn't a good person, Sin. She purposefully drugged you so you couldn't fight back, knowing damn well what she was doing to you, and asked you about things that would upset you. She took advantage of the situation and her role as your therapist to gain power over you, to use you. Frankly, it's disgusting to do that when a person is so vulnerable and I think she got exactly what she deserved."

Sin said nothing for a long moment, not entirely sure how to respond. He didn't disagree with Boyd, he wasn't blind to what had happened... he knew Lydia had knowingly exploited him and had put herself in a very dangerous situation.

But... it didn't make him feel any better about any of it. It didn't make him feel justified in completely destroying the woman's life and it didn't ease the guilt as the scene replayed over and over again in his mind. All that knowledge did was make him feel hopeless, impotent. It just showed how weak he was, how little control he had over himself when he felt threatened and how dangerous he could be.

"No one else has that point of view," Sin ventured finally. "Most people think it's an example of why I should be locked away forever. Because of how dangerous I can be, because of how... out of control I can get."

Boyd's fingers tightened briefly on Sin's hand comfortingly, in contrast to his somewhat derisive tone as he spoke about Lydia. "What would've been a better scenario? Lydia got to do whatever the hell she wanted just because she's Connors' daughter? Because she's 'normal'? She didn't have to take responsibility for her actions or deal with the consequences because she wasn't 'crazy?' It's okay for people to do whatever they want to someone who's supposedly mentally unstable? That's fucking stupid and illogical."

He seemed annoyed on Sin's behalf and the idea that Sin had to keep dealing with the same bullshit. "The reason that happened is a direct result of the way you were trained to defend yourself. It's not indicative of some overwhelming psychological illness on your part that can never be fixed like people seem to think. It's simple human behavior and conditioning. If any of those holier-than-thou idiots had been in your place with your history they probably would've done something far worse. They just think they can judge you because they don't know you and aren't in your shoes. You're no more a monster than anyone else."

Sin said nothing because really, what could he have said?

He'd been on the verge of telling Boyd everything, of confessing that he'd already been going to see Lydia, that he'd been racked by overwhelming guilt ever since these nightmares and hallucinations started and that he felt very close to the edge of insanity.

He'd wanted to tell Boyd the truth; that he really was losing his mind like everyone always said. That something was wrong with him, with how his mind worked; that it caused him to see and hear things. That when the darkness woke within him, he had an almost unbearable thirst for blood once he felt those familiar stirrings of an out-of-control temper.

He wanted to tell Boyd that he was wrong.

But how could he?

How could he ruin it? How could he take the faith that Boyd had in him and crush it, proving that Sin really was psychotic, dangerous, capable of monstrous things? How could Sin correct him, change that viewpoint and take away that comforting touch forever? How could he take the chance of losing his only friend, the only person who'd ever cared about him or taken the time to understand him? How could he potentially scare away the only person who'd ever made him smile?

He couldn't.

So he just intertwined his fingers with Boyd's and closed his eyes, squeezing Boyd's hand in an unspoken 'thank you for trusting me, thank you for having faith in me' and hoped, for Boyd's safety, that he wouldn't fall asleep.

Continue to Afterimage Chapter Five...