Afterimage Chapter Nine

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

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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.

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Book Three: Fade
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Afterimage Chapter Nine

Uploaded on 1/2/2009

Sin hated the psychiatric wing.

It would have been nice if he'd just been able to keep going to the psychiatric center outside of the Tower but he'd been told that was only for in-patients and testing and he would have to come to this wing for actual sessions.

Unfortunately, it made him want to re-think his entire decision to go along with this. The thought had crossed his mind on their first session and it was still there now as he waited for the second.

Not only did he run into the multitude of doctors that he'd threatened and antagonized over the years, but he had to sit in the waiting room outside of Ann's office as she finished up with her previous session. It wasn't that he was impatient, it was more the fact that everyone had gone back to their previous attitudes toward him, if not worse this time around, and he really didn't want to deal with it.

There was something about how the receptionist kept glancing at him, shaking her head and then looking away, that made it seem as though he'd somehow disappointed her. He got the feeling that whatever had inspired people to behave halfway civilized towards him after the raid had shriveled, rotted and died in light of his more recent violent outburst.

Things were as bad as they'd been before the raid, if not worse. Maybe because people felt as though they'd given the dangerous criminal a chance and now they felt foolish for bothering at all? Who knew what went through the minds of Agency staff but Sin didn't really blame them. They'd trusted him not to be completely psychotic and then he'd gone and flipped out in the worst possible way.

Sin leaned forward and put his head in his hands, rubbing his forehead in circular motions as he waited for his turn to go in. He ignored the receptionist's indignant glare and instead willed his headache to go away.

As soon as he'd been released from the psychiatric center his sleepless nights had returned with a vengeance. He'd been given a bottle of benzodiazepines for his insomnia before leaving but after the first few nights of taking it, he'd realized that the pills only seemed to make the situation worse.

Sleeping had been slightly easier but the hallucinations seemed to assault him more violently before he actually passed out. The whispers seemed louder, the images more vivid, and sometimes he'd found himself curling into a ball with his head buried in his arms, trying to block it all out to no avail. After a week of it consistently happening, Sin stopped taking them altogether, deciding that he preferred a sleepless existence over the promise of guaranteed taunting from dead people every night.

It was wearying. And it made him wonder if any of this had a point.

The prescribed medication allowed him to sleep but he still saw things that weren't there and he now knew that sleep deprivation would probably once again lead to the kind of exhausted psychotic melt-down that had led to him being locked up again in the first place.

Really, was there a point? He seemed fucked either way.

"You can go in now, Agent Vega," the receptionist said suddenly.

He looked up at her but she was studiously staring at her computer, her expression seeming to imply that he'd somehow be offended by the lack of eye contact. Sin stood up without speaking and opened the door to Ann's office, glad to be away from the receptionist's constant staring.

Sin closed the door behind him with more force than was necessary and dropped down into the armchair across from Ann's desk. He slouched down, allowing his hood to fall further over his eyes, and stared at her moodily. She appeared to be going through several different folders and as he followed the trail of paper across her desk, he noticed a large box with his name on it sitting next to the trash can.

"How are you feeling?" she asked; the usual question, as if he even knew how to answer it.

"What's that?" Sin asked instead, ignoring her and indicating the box.

Ann closed the folder and sat up straight, observing him carefully. "I retrieved your entire file history from the archives. Sometimes there's a lot more information in hard copies than on the computer."

"Heh. How full was that box?"

She shrugged unconcernedly. "Full to the top. It shouldn't be surprising. You've been here for fifteen years now and you have quite a history with this department."

Sin's gaze zeroed in on the folder closest to him, recognizing the name 'Dr. Samantha Slate' immediately. He smirked humorlessly, wondering what the woman had written down about him. "I want to read them."

She raised an eyebrow. "That isn't necessary or appropriate."

"I can decide for myself if it's necessary," he retorted.

"That's fine but it isn't going to happen. Most of them are useless, anyway. It seems the closest anyone has come to a breakthrough was when you first arrived and with my sister. The rest is a confusion of misdiagnoses. Reading it would not be beneficial to anything and would likely just worsen your mood," Ann replied in a tone that was calm but left little room for argument.

Sin rolled his eyes. "Whatever."

There was a long tense silence and Ann continued to stare at him before she tapped a finger against the desk. "Are you going to be cooperative today?"

He shrugged and turned his gaze to the window. It was raining. Again. "I haven't decided yet."

There was another silence and this time she leaned forward, pointing one long nailed finger at him. "You're not here for me, Sin. You're here to improve your own situation and your attitude is just undermining that process. Either you want to move forward or stay where you are. It's your choice and so far it seems you just want to behave poorly."

Sin scowled, looking at her again. "I cooperated. I filled out your little piece of paper last time, didn't I?"

"You did," she agreed, looking down at the questionnaire he'd completed. It was an experience scale which identified his symptoms based on which answers he replied positively or negatively to. "But your attitude is clearly negative about this. You're not going to get any better unless you make an effort. I'm not just here to give you a bottle of pills and send you on your way. The issues you have are deep-rooted and medication is only one aspect of getting through them all."

"Well," Sin started, making a face. "Your medication fails anyway. Or is it supposed to make me hallucinate more frequently?"

His tone was sarcastic and he didn't really care about trying to nice it up for her. If she wanted him to take this seriously, he wanted to see some results that didn't include making everything worse.

Ann sat back in her chair and pursed her lips. "That is a very rare side-effect," she eventually said. "Did you stop taking them?"


"Good. We'll try something else then."

Sin stared at her blankly for a minute before shaking his head. "Just forget the pills, okay? I don't like them, I don't trust them and I just don't see it working for me. And you just said that wasn't even a part of the big picture so what the hell is the point?"

"Medication is to control your symptoms so you can function in a manner that allows you to get through the day," Ann said patiently. It was entirely possible that she gave this same explanation to people multiple times a day. "You told me you can't sleep, that you see and hear things randomly-- it's unhealthy and unsafe for you to go on that way, medication can help you with that. But it's this process," she pointed to herself and to him, "that will get to the root of the problem and then we can figure out why it's occurring and what we can possibly do to control it."

Sin shrugged silently. He supposed it made sense to her but he just couldn't see how them talking would ever get anything done. The entire idea of psychiatry made him automatically skeptical and distrustful. He'd agreed to this, yes, but he still didn't like the idea of telling her about his past, about his vulnerabilities.

But he knew he had to. "I just don't see how things will ever change," Sin said finally, voice resigned.

"You have to give things a chance," she said again. "Or there's no possibility of change at all. And you're doing yourself a huge disservice by giving up before even making the effort."

Sin sighed and sat up straight. He was tired of the constant reminders of what would happen if he didn't go along with this all but at least it snapped him out of his default uncooperative mood as he reminded himself why he was here in the first place.

"So what's the process then, Annabelle? Just fill me in on that and then I'll know where this is going because otherwise I don't see a point. I'm going to keep thinking your profession is bullshit."

"The medicati--"

"No," he interrupted. "You already told me that. Explain the--" Sin pointed at himself then at her, just as she had. "That process."

Ann stared at him for a moment, clearly knowing she was being mocked but feeling strangely unoffended by it. She knew how he was, she knew his demeanor, and she also knew that the sarcastic, asshole shtick he was currently putting on was nothing more than him trying to hide the fact that he really didn't understand and that, despite the skepticism, he wanted to.

"Well, the first thing you have to do is take the medication that I prescribe you. We're most likely going to go through several different combinations until we find a good match but that's how it is for everyone, Sin. Different people experience different things while on these drugs, it doesn't mean you're any less susceptible to treatment than anyone else."

Sin grunted, feeling mildly mollified by that explanation.

"Second, we have to figure out what exactly happens before you experience these episodes. The outbursts and the hallucinations. After that, we'll delve into your history and identify the moments when these episodes first began to occur and then we can figure out why. Depending on the scenarios and depending on the incidents, we will then deal with it accordingly and hopefully find a way to reverse or at least disrupt the negative thought processes and feelings that cause you to lose control."

It made sense when she spelled it out that way but Sin didn't see it being that easy in reality. And if it was, it would be a poor day for all of the other psychiatrists at the Agency. After years of bullshitting him with every diagnosis in the history of psychiatry, it was Lydia's sister who finally made the breakthrough.

It was sad and pathetic at the same time.

But even though it seemed slightly more logical now, Sin shifted uneasily at the idea of "delving into" his history with her. He'd known from the start that they were going to go there but he wasn't prepared for it yet.

Ann continued to watch him carefully, to study the ever-changing expressions on his face and how they reflected in his stunning green eyes. She could never tell exactly what he was thinking and what he was going to say but just the fact that he was allowing her to read this much into him at all was mildly gratifying.

Once she put all thoughts of their past, of her sister and father, out of her mind it was easy to see how frustrating it must be for him at the Agency. He was largely considered to be emotionless, just a mechanical killing machine that sometimes defected, but as she stared at him and saw the vulnerability in him, it was impossible to see anything but a man who was damaged and abused.

It made her feel mildly ashamed that she'd once viewed him that way as well; but then again, it wasn't just her fault. She'd had a good excuse for thinking the worst of him and until now he'd never let anyone see this side of himself; the painfully human side. She wondered why things were different now.

"What changed?" she asked finally, breaking the silence that had stretched far too long for an hour session.

Sin looked up at her and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

Ann sat back in her chair and crossed one knee over the other as she tried to figure out how to frame the question. "Your behavior. Your willingness to cooperate with this process. Your willingness to let me see who you really are. In the past I believed you were a sociopath and several months ago I was able to determine that I'd been very wrong about that from a single muttered apology by the elevators. By the guilt in your eyes."

She raised her eyebrows again. "What changed?"

Sin didn't know what to say to that. He wasn't about to discuss his situation with Boyd with her, he wasn't about to out Boyd for the second time, but he knew what the answer was. He ran a hand through his hair as he thought about the question and in the process he knocked his hood off.

"I never had a reason to care about things before," he said finally.


He shrugged. "I figured... there was no point. People expected the worst so I gave them the worst. I had no reason to care about my situation, about how people perceived me or about wanting to improve mentally or socially. I had no reason to care about anything. It was just pointless. I accepted my life as it was because it honestly never occurred to me that there was a possibility of it being any better."

Ann nodded. "And now?"

Sin cleared his throat and chewed on his lower lip, a habit from the days of having a lip ring. "Now I have someone who actually gives a damn about me and whether or not I'm alive. So I don't want to make his life any more complicated by screwing things up that could possibly get better," he replied vaguely.

"You mean Boyd," she ventured, not feeling terribly surprised. Ryan had certainly gushed enough about how 'awesome' Boyd was and how good of a person he was for never judging Sin like everyone else did.

There were also the old rumors that the two field agents had formed a sexual relationship but Ann had never believed them and until Sin confirmed it she didn't intend to change her opinion on the matter. So many people conjured up so many falsehoods about Sin's sexuality; about him being a rapist, a psychopath who relished the idea of torturing young women like his sister and so on, that even mentioning nonsense from the Agency grapevine would only be belittling to his character.

Even before she'd recognized that Sin wasn't the monster that everyone made him out to be, Ann hadn't believed the rubbish spewed and spread by psychotic guards like Harry Truman, a known aggressor and sociopath among the psychiatric department but who'd been allowed to stay regardless because he had actually been good at his job. Harry was another example of her father's willingness to ignore psychiatric instability if it meant a task was still getting done.

"Yeah," he admitted. "He's the only friend I've ever had. So I want to be someone who deserves that friendship, I suppose. I had no reason to care before because no one was ever kind to me so I didn't know how it could affect me. Now that I do, I suppose I want to protect that friendship and whatever he sees in me that makes him want to even consider me someone that deserves it."

It was probably the saddest and most pathetic thing she had ever heard anyone say and Sin admitted it in such a matter-of-fact way that it gave Ann pause. Memories of Ryan's babble idly whirled through her mind and she picked through all the nonsense and narrowed it down to him having said almost exactly the same thing nearly two years ago.

She'd always assumed that Ryan just had a crush on Sin; Ryan was always rooting for the underdog and in this case the underdog was an undeniably beautiful specimen, but it seemed that Ryan had been onto something all along. He'd apparently had Sin's thoughts and attitude all figured out before Sin had himself.

On the one hand it made her want to rush over to the medical wing and demand Ryan take up psychiatry himself; and on the other, it irritated her that someone so untrained could have figured out Sin's character so easily when actual doctors had failed time and time again.

It all came down to the fact that no one had cared enough to bother. The only person who had made an attempt to see beneath the surface and beyond Sin's reputation was Boyd.

Ann didn't know Boyd, had no idea what his reasons for that were, but she mostly attributed it to the fact that he'd been an outsider at the time of Sin and his introduction. Boyd hadn't had a reason to behave the way everyone else had; he'd had no reason to understand why the situation was the way it was and he had likely been able to see things clearly since he wasn't predisposed to instant judgments like everyone else at the Agency. She'd spent the better part of the past two years disliking Boyd, mostly because he willingly associated with Sin, but now that she saw Sin in a different light it was hard not to appreciate what Boyd had done.

No one else at the Agency had wanted to help Sin improve, likely because they wanted to see him locked away. She had been one of those people but now she could see things objectively, professionally, and watching the video of her sister and Sin had been a large part of that happening. Without finally coming to terms with that, it would have been impossible for her to sit here with Sin now.

Despite everything, she'd taken this profession because she'd wanted to help people, to understand people, and now that desire was blooming honestly and determinedly inside her. She hadn't felt this strongly about a case in a very long time, probably ever, and she found it ironic that it was about a man she'd once hated very deeply.

Perhaps it was because he was tied to her sister. Had anyone made a real effort to treat him in the past, the entire situation would have ended a lot differently. Her sister would have still been emotionally disturbed but at least she wouldn't be a vegetable.

Sin and Lydia would always be tied together in her mind and by making even the vainest attempt to help him, she felt that there would be less of a chance of there being more Lydias in the future and less of a chance of future agents being punished repeatedly for a mental condition that no one even bothered to understand. It didn't have all that much to do with Sin as an individual, or it hadn't at first, but now that she was in his presence she found herself intrigued by him.

She opened her mouth to reply but before she could, her receptionist's voice trilled into the ear piece she wore.

"Captain Scott is here to see you."

Ann's eyes narrowed in distaste and she held up a finger to Sin, turning slightly. "Tell him I'm in a session."

There was a pause and then her receptionist, Diane, said hesitantly, "I don't think he'll wait, ma'am."

Ann closed her eyes briefly and tried to fight the automatic anxiety that began to seep into her. She took two calming breaths before swiveling her chair and focusing on Sin again. Thankfully, he wasn't even paying attention to her; his eyes were focused on the brewing storm outside the window. "I have to step out for just a moment."

He gestured uncaringly, slumping down farther in his chair as he stared moodily out the window. "Take your time."

Ann watched him for a moment before exiting her office, closing the door firmly behind her. The interruption angered her but it wasn't the first time Philip had interrupted a session. He made a habit of it anytime she had a high profile client and she had yet to figure out why. During her sessions with Kassian Trovosky he'd made appearances several times after or in the middle of sessions, as if he wanted to involve himself somehow or let it be known that his presence existed.

It was rather ridiculous; Agent Trovosky didn't care about him and wasn't interested at all in anything he had to say. Philip's attempt at seeming important only made him seem foolish and the sad thing was that he'd yet to fully realize that.

Ann's eyes fell on her husband and she had to fight the automatic frown of disgust.

As usual he was all dolled up in a too-expensive suit that barely fit his doughy frame. When they'd first met he hadn't seemed like such a clown but after their marriage and her father's death, he'd quickly become a mean, drunken, greedy sloth. He'd gained an easy twenty-five pounds from alcohol consumption and not exercising, yet he continued to buy the most expensive clothes he could find to give the appearance of wealth and prestige, despite the fact that he looked like an idiot because of how ill-fitting they were.

"What are you doing here now, Philip?" she asked, impatience and obvious irritation in her tone as she approached him.

Philip's eyes narrowed slightly. "Who do you think you're talking to?"

Ann opened her mouth to reply smartly but she closed it, knowing it wasn't a good idea. She met his gaze evenly and not for the first time felt complete disgust with herself for allowing him to get so much control of their marriage, of her. And now that he had it, it was too late.

It had started in the very beginning when she'd foolishly wanted to believe it could turn into a real marriage, that they would some day actually care for each other and that she wouldn't be alone anymore. Giving in to him had seemed the best way to go about that at first, the best way to show that she was going to try to make the marriage of convenience work. Sometimes wanting to love someone was worse than actually loving them; the desire to attain what wasn't there just made a person more desperate, more pathetic, more willing to do whatever it would take to get that love.

So when her father died along with his promises of greatness and even when Philip became hostile, she'd continued to play the part because she didn't want to be entirely alone. After awhile it just became a cycle, an easy way of dealing with his angry outbursts. And now...

Now Ann knew that she did it out of fear. Fear of what would happen if she were to leave him; she had no protection at the Agency anymore and he could be very a violent man. It was a confusing mess of a situation and one that didn't present any easy exit strategies for her.

The dynamics of their relationship were more than a little dysfunctional and even though she despised him with every fiber of her being, she continued to be pathetically submissive to him. It was something that disgusted her but although she could diagnose and treat others, Ann had yet to figure out how to do the same for herself.

So she slid her gaze from his hostile expression and focused instead on the wall. "I'm just busy, Philip. I'm in the middle of an important session and I didn't want to be interrupted."

"With Vega?" he asked, a sneer in his voice.

Ann sighed inaudibly. Philip's obstinacy regarding the fact that she'd volunteered to be Sin's doctor was more than a little tiring. He'd railed on and on about it every night, reminding her of 'what he was' and 'what he'd done,' and Ann had little doubt that his alleged concern for her well-being was nothing more than concern over the state of his livelihood if she were to die. He wasn't foolish enough to think he'd receive a dime of her fortune and she was only useful to him as long as she was alive because of it.

"Yes, with Agent Vega."

"I want to talk to that son of a bitch," Philip said loudly, as if he was going to somehow menace Sin through the door.

Ann couldn't help the annoyance that flashed across her face and this time she couldn't rein in her words. "You're not going to harass my client," she snapped. "What you think of him has very little weight on what I'm going to do and I sincerely doubt he'd care or be impressed by your idle threats either way. You're doing nothing more here than disrupting my work and wasting his and my time by cutting into the session."

Philip's eyes narrowed further until there was just the barest glint of blue between his eyelashes. His face reddened slightly, nostrils flaring, and she had no doubt that she'd enraged him pretty thoroughly. His temper had always been short but his drinking and unhappiness with the lack of a promotion that her father had promised made his demeanor even more miserable.

"You silly little bitch," he said, a quiet rage in his voice. "You're going to disrespect me for him?"

Ann opened her mouth to deny it automatically but she realized that this had been one of the few times since the beginning of their marriage that she'd actually spoken her mind entirely in an argument. And it was over Sin. She allowed Philip to have control of her in their relationship but she wasn't about to let that extend to her work. It'd been more than enough before but the idea of him undermining this process with Sin, a process that was already difficult, made her incredibly angry.

It was a startling revelation but she shook her head anyway. "I'm not trying to disrespect you, Philip, but this is where I work. You're being unhelpful to me and you're causing a scene."

Philip continued to stare at her dangerously and for a moment she felt genuine concern that he was actually going to hit her right there. But then his eyes slid over to Diane and he seemed to slowly cool down, regaining his senses and his temper. But even then, there was still something strange in his expression; he looked suspicious, as if he couldn't quite figure out why she'd talk back to him about Sin.

"Be very careful, Ann," he said quietly.

She had no doubts about his true meaning behind that but she nodded anyway. "That's fine Philip, we'll talk about this later."

"You damn right we will."

Ann stared at him emotionlessly and after a moment he turned and walked away. As soon as he was out of view, she deflated and self-loathing filled her.

There were so many things she could say to the man but she never said them. Instead, she allowed herself to be cowed. She allowed her father's iron grip on her to continue to hold on from the grave. She continued to allow the men in her life to control her because after years of flailing helplessly and feeling lost, she'd wanted someone to give her some direction.

But this hadn't been exactly what she'd had in mind. Everyone had a weakness and her irrational fear of Philip was hers.

"Ms. Conn-- Mrs. Scott?" Diane called, mild concern in her voice.

"It's fine," Ann said calmly. "I don't want to be interrupted again."

Ann re-entered the office and situated herself behind her desk again, looking over and finding that Sin's watchful gaze was trained on her rather steadily. He was picking at a rip in his jeans and appearing mildly intrigued by something although he didn't say exactly what was on his mind.

"I'm sorry about that."

Sin shrugged, not seeming to care one way or the other. The brief break appeared to have given him time to collect himself and his thoughts. "It's fine."

Ann shifted uncomfortably; Sin's intense stare made her feel naked, transparent, as if he somehow knew what had happened on the other side of the door. It was a disturbing thought and one that made her feel even more ashamed than she already was of herself.

She didn't like people to know that she was married and dictated to by a foolish ogre; especially her patients. How could she seem like a credible source of advice about someone else's life when she had no control over her own?

She began looking through Sin's file, extracting the questionnaire. Although, now that she was safely away from Philips's wrath, Ann had to admit to herself that it was extremely satisfying to have finally told him exactly how little she thought of him. His annoyance at her willingness to help Sin and apparently jealousy over her defense of him only made Ann want to work with Sin even more.

It was probably selfish, and it probably seemed as though she was using the situation, but she found that it was something she couldn't quite help. There was something exciting, exhilarating, about defiance and it made the self-loathing turn into empowerment as she regained her composure and focused once again on Sin.

"The first thing I want you to do is explain the thoughts that go through your head, the feelings, right before you have a violent episode," she said finally.

Sin stared at her, caught off guard by the question and cleared his throat as he rubbed his chin. "I..." He trailed off for a moment, eyebrows drawing together. "It's happened several times over the years," he said finally. "I don't know."

"Okay," Ann relented and flipped a page in his folder. Surveillance stills made the file thicker, heavier, and the contrast of the wild man in the pictures and the calm person in front of her was stark. "Let's pick out three separate known incidences that are considerable lengths apart."

Sin stared at her uneasily. He was confronted with his past offenses every day; his mind wouldn't let him forget. It wasn't something he wanted to get into right now when he felt minimally more unbalanced than usual. "I don't want to talk... about certain things."

"We're not going to discuss the incident," she told him. "Not yet, anyway. We'll get there later. For now I just want you to tell me how you felt."

Still feeling suspicious, Sin shrugged. "Okay."

"So let's talk about what happened in 2012," she said. "When you defended that civilian in the city and everything that happened after. Was my sister correct in identifying that as an incident of you losing control?"

Sin's gaze flicked away from her and he stared out the window again. His mouth felt slightly dry as his mind automatically supplied a bombardment of mental images from that day; of the carnage he'd caused, of the six civilians and four uniformed cops that he'd killed in the street. It was something he'd always remembered, something he'd never felt comfortable with, but now it was a large part of the nightmares he had at night.

And sometimes it wasn't just civilians-- sometimes other people were there too. Sometimes it was Lydia's throat he was ripping into, his father's neck he was breaking as former partners rushed to stop him in a confusing dreamscape that caused him to jolt awake, drenched in sweat.


"Can you identify the moment when you felt yourself beginning to get angry?"

Sin cleared his throat again. "It was when I saw them hurting the girl."

Ann nodded, eyes completely focused on him, on the obvious agitation he was feeling at the memory. "Why did it bother you?"

Sin glared at her for a moment. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why wouldn't it bother me? She was just a kid."

"I didn't mean it that way," Ann explained. "In those days most people were used to seeing sex crimes and murders in the street. Things were falling apart and everyone was jaded. Evidence of that can be seen in the surveillance tape; there were many people around scavenging but you were the only one who investigated her cries for help. What did those cries make you feel?"

Cooling down slightly, Sin shrugged. "I guess..." How had it made him feel? "I guess, it wasn't specifically her. I didn't know her, had no reason to care about her. But, now that I think of it and a similar situation that happened recently, I suppose seeing someone completely helpless disturbs me and I want to help them despite myself."

"But why did it make you so angry? Why did it cause you to change so suddenly-- into this entirely different person you appear to become when you go berserk?"

Sin shrugged again, feeling mildly aggravated by the question. "I don't know."

"Look at it this way," Ann said patiently. "You wanted to help because you're instinctively a good person. That's what I believe. However, you could have easily dispatched those guys and saved the girl. Instead, you had an extreme reaction that went far beyond wanting to help-- wanting to get them off of her. My question is, what was the difference then-- seeing this helpless girl-- from whatever incident you're thinking of when you also wanted to help someone?"

Sin shifted in the chair again, chewing on his bottom lip once more. It was disturbingly easy to go back to that place, to put himself back into that mindset at the time of helping the girl, and the only explanation was that he'd relived it so startlingly vividly many times recently. So it wasn't hard to find the answer, even if he'd never really questioned his own motives or actions before. "It made me remember times when I was helpless and being attacked and nobody helped me."

"Did you relive those memories right in that moment before you attacked?" she queried, pen moving across a clean sheet of paper even though she didn't take her eyes off him.

He looked increasingly distressed by what he was apparently remembering now; he was sweating, fidgeting, and his blatant vulnerability had an odd effect on her. It almost made her want to soothe him in some kind of way, to put him at ease, but there was really no way to go about doing that.

"I did," he admitted. "It wasn't the way things are now-- it wasn't... hallucinations or anything. But I felt the way I'd felt in the past and it made me want to strike out-- to defend her because I hadn't been able to defend myself."

"So you felt helpless at that moment, even if it wasn't you being attacked," Ann surmised.

"Yes." He'd never thought of it that way before but he'd never had much of a reason to really analyze it. The revelation wasn't a happy one and he wasn't necessarily pleased about sharing it with her. He sighed and averted his gaze; uncomfortable with this, with his memories, with the way she was absorbing every bit of weakness he displayed.

"So why did that transfer to the civilians?"

Sin frowned, eyes flicking away from the window and back to her, before returning to the window.

"Elizabeth, get out of here! We got this, he's done--"

The shout was abruptly cut short as a broken piece of glass slashed across the man's throat and spilled his blood all over the pavement.

A cold sweat was settling on Sin's skin, moisture dripping down his back, and he felt his heartbeat increasing rapidly. Why did this have to happen now? Here?

He grit his teeth together and focused on the question, on trying to answer it, trying not to lose himself in what that memory made him feel.

But it was hard.

"I don't know. I can't just snap myself out of it when that happens. In most cases, I'll be detained and wake up later on not even knowing what had happened." He paused for a moment, thinking about that. "Actually, in some cases someone has been able to... bring me back to myself. My partner has been able to, I'm not sure why."

Ann seemed to consider that for a moment. "How does he approach you when trying to 'bring you back?' Does he touch you or speak to you in a calming way? Maybe, showing you that he's not a threat?"

Sin nodded briefly but, not wanting to get too far into that, he went on. "But these civilians just-- at the time, I saw them as enemies. They were attacking me, surrounding me, it didn't matter who they were. They were coming at me and I couldn't drag myself out of... out of whatever mindset I was in at the time. I couldn't control myself or stop what was happening."

Ann's eyes narrowed briefly. "You couldn't stop it? Did you want to?"

Sin nodded without hesitation. "I did. I knew they were civilians-- I knew they, even the cops, weren't really a threat to me. They were attacking me but I could have run away. I could have disabled instead of killed. I knew they were weak. But the other part of me just saw them as enemies that I needed to neutralize and that part of me had all of the control at the moment, that part was dictating my actions and I couldn't stop it."

There was a brief silence and Ann stared at him intensely. None of his files had ever mentioned such a thing; this was the first she'd ever heard about this. "How did it seem at that moment?"

He paused for a moment before speaking, trying to think of how to explain. "Like I was watching myself react but couldn't control my actions or what I was doing."

Ann continued to stare at him before writing something else down. "I see."

Sin jerked his gaze back to her, still feeling disoriented but slowly calming down as he focused instead on her sudden interest in what he'd said. "What does that mean? What are you writing?"

"I don't know what it means yet," she replied. "But it's something for me to explore."

They stared at each other for a moment before Ann stopped writing and went back to the previous line of discussion. "So at first you felt helpless and then you felt threatened, cornered, surrounded-- even though a part of you knew that logically you could try to escape, these stresses dominated your senses and dictated your actions. You became completely consumed by it and that's when you reacted both times."


"So how about Captain Stevens?" Ann asked, flipping the page and studying a still of Sin dragging the man backwards into his cell. "What happened then? From your expression and the look in your eyes, you appeared a lot like you did when you first saw that girl. But the situation is entirely different."

Sin shook his head, eyebrows drawing together as his mouth turned down into a frown. "Why do we have to do this?" he demanded, annoyed. "I don't want to talk about this. I can't fucking deal with it right now, Annabelle. I just don't want to."

"Why? How will we get anywhere without talking?"

"I don't know but this is not getting anywhere right now anyway." Sin hunched forward and rested his elbows on his knees, pressing his face into his hands. "Why do we have to talk about what a horrible fucking person I am?"

Ann's eyebrows shot up. "I don't remember that coming up anywhere in this discussion."

"Yeah, okay," Sin grunted against his hands. All they were doing was talking about all of the people he'd killed. He was obviously a very upstanding citizen.

"We're trying to narrow down the triggers for your outbursts, for your episodes," Ann corrected. "And the fact that you describe having been unable to stop yourself even though you wanted to proves to me at least that this has nothing to do with good or evil. This has something to do with an illness that takes all of the control out of your hands and doesn't even give you the opportunity to make your own choices."

Sin sighed and massaged his forehead again. "If you say so."

"So," Ann began, going back to her previous comments. "You were being escorted back to the Fourth and this was in... 2018-- three years ago. You were being locked in a holding cell after failing to cooperate with any of your assigned partners."


Ann nodded, studying the picture. "You were heavily secured it seems, with an entire team of guards surrounding you. However, they didn't appear to be physically threatening you. Were there verbal words exchanged?"

Sin shrugged. "Yeah, maybe."

Ann studied the picture and then looked up to consider him thoughtfully. "How is it for you on the Fourth? How are you treated?"

A humorless bark of laughter escaped his mouth and he looked up at her finally. "I'm surrounded by people who hate me, who have good reason to hate me, and they have me at their mercy. Drugged, tied down, completely helpless. How do you think I'm treated?"

"So they abuse you regularly." Ann looked down at the picture again. She recognized Harry Truman in the picture and his sidekick Dennis McNichols. She was very aware of the incidents between them and Sin in the previous year and she had no doubts that they'd been the ringleaders of whatever torture they'd inflicted on Sin. "Was Captain Stevens involved in this torture?"

"Not personally."

"But he allowed it?" She studied Sin, the way he met her gaze evenly, clearly unashamed by whatever they'd done to him. It was a change from her usual clients; men always acted as though any kind of humiliating torture or sexual abuse somehow made them look weaker. It was common and for some reason it pleased her that Sin wasn't responding this way. "Or maybe, he promised it?"

"Hmm." Sin eyed her for a moment, mildly impressed by her skills of inference. "I guess you can say that. He was too afraid of me to get involved personally but when I was surrounded by twelve guys and chained up, he felt safe enough to tell me exactly what was going to happen to me later."

"Ah." She wondered how many other officers of the Agency had cruel and sadistic aspects of their personalities. "So when you were walking, did you have any anxiety about what would be coming soon?"

"I suppose. It made me angry. If they attempted such a thing without completely incapacitating me first, I probably wouldn't have cared as much. But I don't do well with being immobile-- helpless."

Ann nodded and flipped the page again, not planning to make him go down that avenue any further. Not yet, anyway. "And this more recent incident-- the report says that you were delusional, not in your right mind, and kept backing away from the crowd but for some reason many of the agents kept following you. One witness reported that the more they went at you, the more enraged you became, and that if you'd been left alone the entire incident could have likely been avoided."

Sin shrugged, wondering exactly where she was going with this all. "I don't know. Maybe. What's the point of all of these correlations? Is there one?"

"Of course," she replied with a raised eyebrow. "The point is that, by your own descriptions, we've identified the feelings that lead to your episodes. Feelings of helplessness, of being threatened, of being cornered, the inability to defend yourself because you're actually unable to or because you feel outnumbered. And by your own admission, this stems from something in your past, some incident that you relive whenever you're in these situations, and you react strongly, violently, to defend yourself like you were unable to back then."

"I don't care about what happened back then," Sin replied flatly. "It doesn't bother me. I'm not some poor traumatized child. I don't cry myself to sleep thinking back on the things that were done to me. I go to sleep thinking about what I've done to other people."

"That may be true," Ann relented. "But that doesn't mean those incidents, that the strong physical and psychological abuse as a child, didn't have lasting effects on your mind. Whatever happened to you, and I don't know what, caused you to build in yourself a defense mechanism for the future. So whenever you relive those feelings, even if you're not aware of it and even if it isn't something that plagues you at night, that pre-constructed mechanism springs to the forefront and takes control of the situation so that you can protect yourself."

Sin rubbed his chin again, eyeing her thoughtfully as he took this into consideration. "You're not trying to imply that I have DID, are you?"

"No, not at all." Ann shook her head sharply. "I'm not implying you created multiple personalities to handle different situations-- I'm saying when you feel threatened, completely cornered and helpless, your body shuts you out so it can react accordingly to the threat so you don't have to actually feel it, or experience it. I wouldn't ever classify you as DID but I certainly think you have a dissociative disorder."

"Interesting," Sin murmured, eyes narrowed slightly. The description seemed to fit but there were so many disorders to cover so many things that he still had his doubts. "And it can be... fixed?"

Ann sighed and leaned back. "Sin, there are no quick fixes for this situation."

"Fine," he said, disappointed. "Then what about all of the other shit-- the more immediate issues. The hallucinations and insomnia-- if it wasn't for that, I think I'd be fine. I hadn't freaked out in a long time until all of this other shit started hitting me from every direction."

"That may be-- I don't want to say 'easier'-- but something that we can approach right away. I have a diagnosis based on your questionnaire and the things you told me in the first session but you have to have an open mind about it."

"Okay. My mind is open."

Ann stared at him skeptically for a moment before continuing. "I believe you have what is called Psychotic Major Depression."

Sin scoffed automatically, crossing his arms over his chest. "What the hell is that?"

"Don't scoff," she ordered, pointing at him. "Everything fits. The age demographic, the symptoms fit you to a tee-- depression, negative physical changes since the offset of the depression, hallucinations, constant guilt, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep--" She pointed to his questionnaire. "Frequent thoughts of suicide."

Sin dropped his gaze, sorry that he'd answered as honestly as he had on that stupid paper. "How do you know it's not schizophrenia or something?"

"Because I'm not just looking solely at your symptoms," Ann replied. "I'm taking into consideration the fact that you only began to suffer from hallucinations when you began to suffer from severe thoughts of guilt and depression and that this all occurred for the first time within the last several months, which puts you in the age bracket of people who generally suffer from this disorder. I'm also taking into account the fact that you don't have completely bizarre paranoid thoughts that are seen in schizophrenics as well as the fact that at the moment, you seem completely functional and approachable and don't show constant signs of uncoordinated thought process or confusion. There are also some other factors that can be taken into consideration and because of that you're going to have to get some blood-work done."

Wonderful. Another trip to the medical unit.

Sin nodded anyway, rubbing a hand across his face as he stood. It was drawing close to an hour and he was simultaneously dreading leaving the office while anxious to be out of her watchful sight. On one hand, for reasons he couldn't quite explain, he felt more in control at her office, as if things couldn't go quite as wrong there because she was so calm and the environment was so isolated from everything else. But on the other hand, the diagnosis, the lack of diagnosis, the questions and penetrating stares... it was putting him on edge.

"Alright well, that's great I guess. I'm officially psychotic and uh, I guess good job on figuring that out."

Ann glared at him and made a face, writing rapidly on a prescription pad. "Okay, smart-ass. I'm giving you two prescriptions. One for an anti-psychotic and another for an SSRI. Take them as directed and make sure you note any side-effects. I already told you, we're most likely going to go through a number of combinations before getting the right one."

Sin shrugged and stuffed the papers in his pocket. "Fine."

"It will take a few weeks for the full effects to set in," she warned. "So make sure you take them properly or it will slow down the process."

He grunted and turned to leave but after a brief hesitation, she called out to him.

"Sin, wait."

Sin paused with his hand on the doorknob but didn't turn entirely. "What?"

Ann hesitated again, eyebrows drawn together slightly and she really didn't know what possessed her to say it but she allowed the words to roll off her tongue. "If you need me, if you get scared or feel like you can't handle something that you feel happening, call me. All of my numbers are on the card I gave you last time."

This time, Sin looked at her over his shoulder, green eyes slightly narrowed in suspicion. "Why are you being so nice to me, Annabelle?"

"I'm your doctor."

"Yeah," he agreed. "But why are you going out of your way to be nice to me? Being professional and being kind are two different things and I'm not sure I deserve your kindness."

Ann faltered and stared at him blankly for a moment, unsure of how to respond when she didn't entirely know the answer herself. She'd taken the job with a grain of salt, unsure of how it would proceed and not really counting on herself to get emotionally involved with it. But now she found that she was becoming emotionally involved, but not in the way that she'd thought.

She wasn't conflicted with thoughts of Lydia or remnants of her anger towards Sin-- instead she found herself attached to the idea of helping him progress and she'd automatically made him a top priority over everything else in her life. It was strange and she wasn't entirely sure why she was doing it but she supposed it had something to do with Philip.

It felt good to defy him, to do something he was so against and, most of all, the idea of turning someone else's life from the negative to the positive, of giving someone else some sense of control, made her feel productive and useful, unlike how she felt about her own life. Of course other patients also gave her that feeling but the depth of Sin's problems, his desperation, the fact that his life truly did hang in the balance-- it was entirely different.

But Ann wasn't going to tell him that. This wasn't about her-- it was about him.

"Because I want to," she responded finally.

"Hmm." He stared at her for a long moment, analyzing every part of her expression and demeanor, before turning away again.

Sin exited the office and shut the door behind him, fingers closing around the prescriptions in his pocket. He closed his eyes and clenched the papers in one fist, doubts and 'what ifs' consuming him for a moment before the receptionist's watchful gaze fell on him and broke him out of the reverie.

He pushed away from the door and turned his head abruptly, once again hiding beneath his hood as he walked away. Keeping a low profile was something he'd taken up lately; it was a lot easier than running into confrontational people who wanted nothing more than for him to get himself even farther on Vivienne's bad side. Normally he wouldn't care; he'd either break a few arms or, depending on his mood, he'd maybe even let them have their fun.

But he didn't want to risk anything else while on this probational time-out from field work and he couldn't trust himself to not lose his cool even after making the decision to not fight back.

Sin pulled a cigarette from his pack as soon as he stepped out of the Tower, lighting it quickly and striding away with his head down. His hood shielded his cigarette from the rain but the wind whipped it about wildly, making it a rather difficult task. After awhile he and the cigarette became so drenched that he just flicked it away with a disgusted sigh.

The concept of depression had never occurred to him but he supposed it fit according to the textbook laundry list of symptoms that went along with it. It seemed odd to think of himself as depressed; it implied that he actually knew what it meant to be happy and was somehow missing that and he wondered if that was actually the case.

There had been times in the past year that he'd been at ease, peaceful, maybe even satisfied, but had any of that ever lasted long enough for him to know what true happiness felt like? He didn't think they had. Brief moments of pleasure between periods of anger, silence and unavoidable problems didn't quite brush the surface of what he imagined true happiness to be.

Yet here he was, diagnosed as depressed.

What a strange predicament to be in.

The walk back to his building was uneventful, the only incident of note being the way Officer Daniels quickly averted his eyes when Sin started up the steps to his building. It was a change from the previous almost-friendly way they'd interacted after the Monterrey assignment, but it wasn't a very surprising one even if it did cause a slight tinge of disappointment to flare up abruptly.

But Sin didn't let it show and he marched up the stairs and into his cold, dark apartment without looking at anybody else.

The guards didn't say anything to him and he pushed the door closed, leaning against it before allowing himself to slide down to the floor. He couldn't understand the things he was feeling; the almost disappointment at once again being the pariah even though it'd been nothing more than a joke to him before.

And he couldn't understand this entire situation or what to make of it. Medication, therapy, dealing with Ann and her attitude and whatever that meant... he just didn't know how to respond to it all. He didn't know what he was supposed to do to make this all work; it was completely out of his realm and the confusion, the frustration, made him just want to say fuck it and give up.

But Sin knew he couldn't, or he knew that he wouldn't, because he wanted to be better for Boyd. He wanted to be the person Boyd saw when he looked at him, when he smiled at him, when he let Sin touch him. He didn't want to be the walking weapon, the crazy bastard who flipped out and hurt people for no reason. He didn't want to be the pariah anymore.

Being alienated was a lot more difficult to swallow after Monterrey; after having friends and people who would miss him.

But look how that wound up.

"Fuck this," Sin whispered, pressing his face into his hands as the images of Jessica's dead body immediately began to assault him. "I can't fucking do this."

Not alone.

It was too easy to want to give up. It was too easy to hide in his apartment and eye every possible thing that he could turn into a weapon because, Jesus, sometimes he just wanted to put himself out of his misery.

Every time he heard that laugh, that ridiculously charming, booming laugh and he knew the hallucination of his father's shade was behind him, it was so hard not to just end it finally, once and for all.

But he didn't and the fact that he couldn't bring himself to just stop caring about the consequences of his actions frustrated him even more.

And in those moments he really just wanted Boyd. It wasn't until they were completely separated that he realized how much he'd come to rely on his partner, on his acceptance, on the feel of his hands. Just the fact that someone existed who wouldn't shy away from him or talk down to him, someone that would treat him like a normal man and talk him through all of the bad shit that he really couldn't understand or control.

Sin raked a hand through his hair and thudded his head against the back of the door, staring up at the ceiling and after a moment he came to the abrupt decision that he was going to tell Boyd. Just in case anything happened, just in case something went wrong, he wanted Boyd to know and he didn't want it to come as a surprise. But more than that, he was so tired of trying to keep it a secret and the moment Boyd stepped out of the barracks it would be impossible for Sin to hide it anyway.

The idea excited him and disturbed him at the same time. Either Boyd would understand or he wouldn't, but either way, at least Sin would get to see him again before the inevitable failure of this entire attempt came crashing down around him.

He couldn't ask for much more than that.

Continue to Afterimage Chapter Ten...