Afterimage Chapter Sixteen

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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
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Afterimage Chapter Sixteen

Uploaded on 2/14/2009

"What exactly is this depersonalized business?"

Ann looked at General Carhart patiently although she quirked an eyebrow in a manner that typically meant she wasn't pleased with something. "Depersonalization, General. It's a dissociative disorder."

Sin shifted in the stiff-backed chair, staring at Carhart's desk and doing his best not to feel the irritation that was creeping up. He didn't want to be sitting there having this meeting with Carhart, Ann and Dr. Schwartz. It was bad enough that the entire topic revolved around him and the state of his health, that they often spoke of him as though he weren't sitting right there, but Dr. Schwartz's long penetrating stares made it even worse.

He'd only met the man three times and despite the fact that the doctor mostly dealt with him in the same clinical manner he used for every other agent, something about him unnerved Sin. He could be droning on in the blandest most monotonous voice about Sin's lack of nutrition but the intense way his deep brown eyes bore into Sin was extremely disturbing.  

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Carhart asked, frowning. "I don't know anything about this psychological hocus pocus."

"'Hocus pocus,'" Ann repeated, narrowing her eyes. "Belittling my profession isn't really the best thing to do, now is it? Considering a large part of his return to active duty depends on what I have to say."

Carhart didn't look too concerned with her scathing tone. "Just explain yourself. How should I know what these terms mean?"

"Dissasociation," Dr. Schwartz broke in, "is the word for an individual who partitions segments of their personality or mental processes, et cetera."

"Yes," Ann agreed, eyes still pinning Carhart coldly. "Precisely. It's commonly associated with people with DID or multiple personalities as you may know it, but there are a number of disorders that are dissociative in nature. In Sin's case, I've concluded that he suffers from a form of depersonalization."

"Which means what?" Carhart asked impatiently, sitting back in his chair as he glared at Ann. He ran a hand through his brown hair in aggravation, blue t-shirt bringing out the color in his light blue eyes, which were currently sparking at the psychiatrist.  

"It means I'm a crazy fuck," Sin muttered, crossing his arms over his chest as he sunk lower in the chair.

"It means that when Agent Vega experiences intense feelings of helplessness, when he feels outnumbered or when there's an extreme threat, his mind shifts gears and in an attempt to protect himself from what is about to happen, he experiences an out of body sensation in which he can see what's going on but he cannot control his actions. In a sense, his mind decides to protect itself by putting his body on autopilot while shielding itself from the actual experience." Ann tapped Sin's thick file. "That's the layman's explanation but the full details, if you care to pursue them, are in the folder."

Carhart looked at Sin for a moment before turning another skeptical stare on Ann. "And this is why he reacts so extremely sometimes, why sometimes he doesn't remember what occurred?"

She nodded. "Such as with Lydia and the incident more recently in the medical unit, yes."

"So if this happens when he feels threatened, why the hell doesn't it happen when he's storming a base solo?" Carhart demanded. "That doesn't add up."

"Particular situations that make him feel helpless," Ann corrected herself. "Situations when he isn't in total control of himself, such as at the medical wing when he was hallucinating and seeing the staff members around him as dead targets or victims come back to haunt him. Or with my sister, who had him on a severe cocktail of drugs which exacerbated an already distressed state, and sent him into a psychotic rage."

"And what about the time in the city?" Carhart demanded, interrogating her thoroughly. "I've seen the surveillance tape-- what triggered that?"

Sin began rubbing his face tiredly, wanting to be far away from them and this conversation. He wanted to go back to his apartment and sleep. Even though the hallucinations had thankfully retreated, his nightmares hadn't and it was still hard to get a good night's rest. The one saving grace was that his nightmares were no longer as disturbingly vivid and he could at least sleep for a few hours at a time.

He'd strongly debated staying in bed that morning and not even showing up for this damn meeting but between Ann and Carhart, he would have never heard the end of it. This was the day that they would discuss whether or not he could return to active duty and when that would be. It was also the first time he was hearing about his diagnosis in depth; it seemed that Ann had researched thoroughly before coming to a firm conclusion.

"Depersonalization disorder is something that typically stems from people who were severely abused as children, physically, emotionally, sexually--"

Carhart's eyebrows drew together and his gaze snapped over to Sin, a deep and concerned scowl curling his mouth downwards. Ann actually stopped speaking for a moment due to the alarm in the General's expression and, sensing the lull, Sin sighed without looking over. "Don't get your panties in a bunch. It wasn't my father."

Dr. Schwartz seemed extremely curious about that comment and turned his penetrating gaze to the general, thin lips twisting slightly as he debated whatever internal thoughts he had.

"Then who?" Carhart demanded, his tone of voice making it obvious that he'd track the person down and kill them if he could. "Someone here?"

"Just chill out," Sin muttered, disinterested in the topic. "Who cares?"

"I care," the General snapped, leaning forward, youthful face marred with anger and frustration. He'd tried his best to protect Sin over the years, from himself as well as others, and the idea that something so horrible could have slipped by him was disturbing.

"If you're speaking of the sexual abuse when he was a child, then it wasn't someone here or even someone in this country, so there is nothing that can be done about it now," Ann said patiently, logically. "But if you're talking emotional and physical abuse, I think all of us, as well as his father, had a hand in that and in some cases what has been done to him here has been worse; more damaging."

Carhart looked away, likely thinking about the box, the collar, the latter having been his own idea in a skewed attempt to keep Sin out of permanent incarceration.

"Just move on," Sin snapped. "I didn't come here so you could throw me a fucking pity party."

Ann cleared her throat and crossed one wool-covered leg over the other. As the winter approached, her way of dressing changed drastically. Skirts and thin blouses were completely useless for most of the year and had been since the nuclear winter had fallen over certain parts of the world. They were a luxury she was allowed for a few months and now she'd gone back to heavy wool clothing, insulated jackets and coats.

"In any case, experiencing something that takes him back to that time, or even seeing or hearing about it, can be enough to jerk him swiftly out of reality."

There was another brief silence as Carhart let that sink in, as his eyes remained trained on Sin's sullen figure. Then it was as if something occurred to him suddenly and he sat up straight. "Did Harry and his associates ever behave inappropriately with you when you were in the box?"

Sin gave a long suffering sigh and stared at the desk, narrowing his eyes at the dark wood. "What does it matter? He's no longer with us so it doesn't really matter, now does it?"

Carhart turned to Ann expectantly. "Did they?"

She nodded her assent, even if she hesitated slightly before doing so. The concept of doctor-patient confidentiality weighed on her but she knew that in the case of the Agency, that concept didn't matter very much at all and it was critical that Carhart understood everything.

"I remember watching that surveillance video of Captain Stevens' murder," Carhart said in explanation, looking very displeased. "A few of the guards and even Stevens himself seemed to be promising certain things for later, when Sin was locked up."

"Exactly," Ann said, voice warming considerably now that Carhart was taking her thoughts more seriously. There was a long-standing rivalry between the Agency's support staff, be it clerical, medical, IT or the analysts, and the Agency's field agents, about who did more for the organization, whose job was more important, and so on. It seemed that Carhart and Ann weren't exempt from this feud.

"His mind reacted automatically because he knew what was coming, the inevitable abuse while he was restrained and drugged. The same thing goes for the incident in the city-- he saw a girl being abused, helpless, it made him remember--"

"Listen, I didn't come here so you people could make ten thousand excuses for me because now you think you've finally got me all figured the fuck out," Sin growled, cutting her off suddenly. "I'm here so you can talk about how to fix me and whether or not I get to be active again or if Vivienne is going to get rid of me. So let's just go back to that and get off this topic."

"General Carhart needs to understand these things, Sin," Ann said with a frown in his direction. "How can you expect him to explain to Vivienne if he doesn't get it himself?"

"He gets it," Sin snapped. "Poor Sin got sodomized by a fat Russian soldier, poor Sin's mommy liked to play with him before he was even old enough to get hard, poor Sin sees and remembers bad stuff that makes him go all zany-- boo fucking hoo. We all get it now, thank you Annabelle for making it oh so crystal clear now get off the topic or I'm leaving."

His tone of voice had such a strong undercurrent of impatience and anger, that for a moment everyone just stared at him. Ann looked a mix between understanding his discomfort with discussing this and being furious by the way he spoke to her in front of the others, while Carhart and Schwartz seemed largely unfazed.   

"Are you uncomfortable with the topic?" Ann asked, eyebrows rising slightly as she pinned him with a cool, unimpressed stare. "I thought it didn't bother you."

"What bothers me," Sin bit out with annoyance, "is the idea that some recent traipse into the boundaries of psychotherapy somehow excuses all of my past transgressions. Sorry but it doesn't fly with me, Doctor. I'm not doing this so you can make me feel like a better person. It's too late for that."

"I had no such fantasies," she replied, rolling her eyes at him. "Although letting go of your guilt is something that—"

"Okay, let's stay on topic," Carhart interrupted, giving the two a queer look. "The real question is-- can he return to work? Dr. Schwartz is giving him the okay, and now all we need is the word from you. You've diagnosed him but what now? Can you fix him? Is there a treatment that has a specific time frame? I need facts."

Sin looked at Annabelle, eyes narrowed slightly as he sat up straighter in anticipation for the answer.

She hesitated and for the first time, in a professional setting, Ann faltered. Her hazel eyes flicked from Sin to Carhart and back again, her lips pursing slightly as she sat back in her chair. The reality of the situation, or the gravity of it, seemed to suddenly settle on her shoulders as she realized that Carhart wanted her to simply say 'yes, Sin is fine;' as she realized that Sin needed her to say those words.

But she couldn't.

"When?" Carhart insisted, frowning at her.

"I don't know," Ann admitted finally and the declaration hung in the air for a moment before she continued. "Depersonalization, it's a very complicated disorder. There isn't just some cocktail of pills, some easy remedy, it takes time. There are experimental treatments out there, yes, but in truth the only time proven form of recovery has been through extensive therapy."

There was another long stretch of silence and Carhart's face was dropping, shoulders slumping, as she continued. "He's responding well to the treatment for his hallucinations but the real problem is the depersonalization. That's what causes him to lose control, that's what causes incidents like the one in the medical unit. And I can't tell you that it's going to be 'fixed' any time soon. There is no easy fi--"

Before she could finish her sentence, Sin was pushing himself up out of the chair and standing all in one fluid movement. His expression was stony, body rigid, as he began to stalk out of the room.

Carhart didn't bother trying to stop the agent but Ann reached out, grabbing his hand. She looked up at him, face grim but determined. "Sin, please just---"

"Just leave me alone," he growled, yanking his hand away, and was gone from the office before anyone else could protest.

"Damn it," Ann seethed, clenching her hand into a frustrated fist as she collapsed backwards in the chair, hair curtaining around her face briefly. "Damn it."

Schwartz and Carhart stared at her before the other doctor stood up, picking up his briefcase. "I'll be in touch," he said calmly, addressing the General.

Carhart nodded and followed him to the door where they spoke in low tones for several moments before the door finally clicked softly as Dr. Schwartz made his exit.

Carhart walked back over to his desk and sat down, idly eyeballing his computer for awhile as he waited for Ann to leave. But she didn't-- she seemed completely lost in an annoyed and frustrated fog as she stared blankly at the wall.

Finally Carhart stopped all pretenses of work and stared at her. "So, what's going on?"

Ann looked up at him, jerked out of her reverie. "What?"

Carhart crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow. "Okay," he said after awhile, rephrasing the question. "How are you and Sin getting along?"

"Fine. Why do you ask?"

"I find the two of you interesting," Carhart said slowly. "A year ago, you wouldn't have pissed on fire to put him out and now..."

"And now, what?" she cut in impatiently, hazel eyes narrowing at the general.

"Why so defensive?" he asked innocently, tapping his long fingers against the desk as he fixed her with an intrusive stare.

"I don't see the point of this line of questioning," Ann replied blandly, standing. "I'm sure Vivienne explained why I was chosen for the job and I've already told you why I had a change of heart about him."

"Change of heart, huh?"

Her annoyed look turned into a full-on glare and she leaned forward, planting her hands flat on the desk. "Is there something you're getting at, Zachary? The coy thing was never your strong suit."

"General Carhart," he corrected easily, although he didn't look particularly offended by the familiar use of his name.

"I'll call you General when you call me Doctor," Ann said flatly. "It's been a long time but not long enough that I've completely forgotten about young innocent Zachary getting stoned off two tokes before nearly having his way with me up against a wall."

Carhart's calm expression melted instantly and he reddened, discomfort clear.

She smiled down at him triumphantly. "Same old easily flustered Zach."

"Oh and I suppose that was all my idea?" he demanded defensively.

"I never said that. I don't deny it, I'm not ashamed of it, sex is no big deal. Wasn't to me then and it isn't to me now." Ann gave him an arch look, leaning back finally in a manner that made it clear that she thought the battle was over and that she was the victor.

But before the self-satisfied smile could settle firmly on her face, Carhart shook his head. "So is that why you're suddenly so familiar with Sin?"

It was her turn to backpedal and once again Ann faltered. "What's that mean?"

Carhart stood up finally, shoving his chair back and gestured at the chair Sin had once occupied. "Just a thought. Just a theory... based on very little but still something that's been nagging at me," he admitted. "The way you interact now is quite different than it was before. Even when you first took the case, you seemed interested, intrigued, but not as personally tied up in it as you are now. Now it seems like you actually care."

Ann gave him a look as though he were the stupidest person in the world. "He's my patient and yes, I can admit that I do care whether or not he improves. I'm very aware of what will happen if he isn't allowed to return to active duty; he has no other way of contributing to the Agency other than field work. His life is my responsibility, how could I not care?"

"Spare me the Mother Teresa act, Annabelle. There's something odd with you. It's discreet but it's there."

Ann released a long slow sigh as she stared at Carhart evenly. Finally, she shrugged. "I've had sex with him. Is that what you wanted to know?"

Carhart's expression went from suspicious to horrified in an instant and he shook his head back and forth for a moment before he managed to get out an aghast, "What?"

"Oh, now you're shocked." Ann spread her arms in frustration. "What the hell were you trying to accuse me of then!"

"You're-- what? What the hell did you say?" He continued to stare at her in shock.

"I said I fucked him," Ann snapped. "Well, not regularly but it happened. Isn't that what you wanted to know?"

"No! I thought you had some weird obsession with him like your lunatic sister. I didn't know you actually convinced him to sleep with you!"

"Convinced," she repeated flatly.

"Jesus fucking Christ, woman, what the hell is with you and Vega men!"

This time Ann crossed her arms over her chest and adopted a cool look. "I could ask you the same."

Carhart made a face. "Give me a break. It's not even comparable."

"Isn't it?" she demanded, hazel eyes challenging him. "You weren't fooling me, Zachary."

"Don't change the subject," he retorted. "What the hell are you thinking? Can't you fucking keep the gate closed long enough to just do your damn job? Do you realize how unethical that is?"

"Unethical!" Ann threw her head back and barked out a harsh laugh. "Says the man who wants me to give Sin the medical okay so that he can go back to assassinating people."
A dark look crossed Carhart's face and he was silent for a moment. Talking about such classified information with a non-agent wasn't exactly something that sat well with him. The fact that she knew so much had never sat well with him at all. "Okay, Annabelle," he said evenly. "Enough."

Ann took a deep breath and nodded, rubbing her slim hands over her arms slowly. "Okay, I'm sorry. But the idea of you thinking I harbor some kind of infatuation or obsessed love for him angers me. And I knew that's what you were getting at all along, Zach, but I'm not my sister. I've had sex with him but it was nothing more than us using each other to temporarily forget about the horrible messes our lives have turned out to be. There's no feelings," she told him honestly. "There's no obsession. Just plain physicality."

Carhart looked away, obviously troubled.

"Please, Zach, don't tell Vivienne. I know that's what you're thinking and it's unnecessary. He and I are both consenting adults and it hasn't affected our professional relationship at all. It's unimportant. It really, really, is," Ann implored, reaching out to take hold of his sleeve.

Carhart shook her off and sighed, running a hand through his dark hair in his usual nervous gesture. "This is a bad idea, Annabelle. For multiple reasons. So many reasons."


"And if that's all it is, why him of all people? Why not just go cheat on your husband with some random other guy? Why Sin?" Carhart demanded suspiciously.

"Why does it matter? I don't want to explain it to you, I have a reason but it's embarrassing and personal and it was bad enough to explain it to him and admit it to myself." Ann looked uncomfortable with the topic. "But a large part of it is, well, just look at him. You, of all people, should understand that."

Carhart turned his glare on her again. "Just shut your goddamn mouth with your insinuations already."

"Fine." Ann couldn't help but smile at his annoyance with the topic.

"I won't tell Vivienne yet," he said finally, reluctantly, after awhile. "But only because so far nothing seems to be coming of it all. But as soon as I catch wind of this all going bad..."

"That's fine," she agreed quickly. "The first time this seems like a problem I'll be the first one to make my exit."

Carhart just shook his head disapprovingly, staring out the window of his office and down at the view of the city. The oppressively overcast sky seemed to go on for miles and miles, past the half-destroyed city and even beyond the strange patterns of suburbs; some in perfect condition, others a mound of blackened rubble. "I just have a bad feeling about this."

Ann was silent a moment, staring at his gloomy expression. "About me and him or the entire situation that he's in?"

"Everything," he admitted. "Everything just looks dark."

"He'll be fine. His biggest problem at the moment is his temper and complete lack of patience," Ann said, trying to appeal to his logic. "Besides, even though his disorder can't be cured overnight, the fact that I've diagnosed it and can at least start on treatment and the experimental programs might be enough for Vivienne to put him back as active."

"I know that," Carhart replied, shaking his head. "But it's more than that, it's--" He broke off, frowning, shaking his head.


"Nothing. Nevermind."

Ann frowned, walking around the desk so that she could face him; study his expression and see the actual fear in his light blue eyes. Her phone began vibrating in her purse, the sound muffled but noticeable in the near-silent office. But Ann ignored it and focused on the general and the distress in his face. "What do you know, Zach? What's going to happen?"

Carhart didn't answer for a moment and when he did, it was with a resigned sigh. "Nothing good."

Thunder cracked loudly and a streak of blinding white flashed across the sky as Sin absently wondered whether or not sitting under a tree was a good idea at the moment. After another flash struck somewhere closer, Sin didn't move, coming to the realization that he really didn't care.

It was hard for him to pinpoint exactly what he was feeling at the moment but if he really tried, it was something close to sheer hopelessness. Complete and utter despair for the state of things; of his mind, his future, just... everything.

How could it be that a couple pills could have solved one problem so easily but there was no apparent real fix for the other? The anger and frustration that had built in his chest had been so overwhelming that Sin didn't even know what to do with it now. He felt a strong need for violence, to inflict pain on someone else or himself. A desire to just do... something to get the load off him.

But he knew it was just another bad idea; fleeing the compound and getting away had been the better option and of course, as had been the case so many times in the past few months, Sin found himself at Willowbrook.

Sin stared up at Lydia's window, vaguely able to make out her slight form in the dimming light, and wondered how many others would suffer because of him. How many other lives would he unintentionally ruin because he couldn't control his own mind? His own body?

Sin grit his teeth and dragged his gaze away, trying to ignore the suspicious burning behind his eyes. He shook his head and tangled his fingers in his hair, tilting his head back against the tree trunk. Life had been better before he'd learned how to feel. Now that he did, now that he had a reason to care, he was a complete mess. Now that he wanted to be someone better, saner, someone deserving of Boyd's love, the possibility seemed farther away than ever and the realization was painful.

After everything that had happened in the past two years, after everything had seemed so impossible... after all of the obstacles that had gotten in the way of them having a connection, a friendship, a closeness that Sin had never thought was possible for him to experience, it was his own darkness that would tear them apart.

And Sin had no doubt that someday it would be Boyd that he turned on in a seething rage. His father had been the center of his world as a child and Sin had still killed him; even if Boyd had been able to snap him out of his rage so far, that didn't guarantee what would happen in the future.

That fear had been what had kept Sin at a distance for the past few months but he knew he wouldn't be able to go on that way forever. It was too difficult to leave Boyd, too hard to keep things from him, impossible not to want to stay by his side and feel his warm body and breathe in his scent...

The thought trailed off and Sin shuddered slightly, eyes closing as a mental image of Boyd pale and bloody and unmistakably dead flashed before them.

Why did everything have to be an uphill battle?

The sound of footsteps several yards away drifted over to him through the howling wind but Sin ignored it, even as they came closer. He knew it was Ann and he wasn't surprised. She popped up everywhere these days; she was like a rash he couldn't get rid of.

There was another loud boom across the sky as Ann approached him, a steady drizzle beginning to fall as she stared down. He didn't look at her and they just stayed in silence for a while before she finally sighed. "Do you want to sit in my car so that we can talk?"

"Not really," he replied dully.

"Well do it anyway," she snapped impatiently.

Sin glanced up finally, eyes sparking like a green fire even though the rest of his face was etched in moroseness. "Why is it that you think you can tell me what to do?"

"Because that's my job," Ann replied acidly, displeasure practically oozing from every fiber of her slender figure as she glared down at him. "My task, as assigned, is to get you ready to work again, to figure out how to do that, not to let you die under a tree because you're too thick to realize that we're in the middle of a storm."

"Has it occurred to you that I just don't give a shit?" Sin asked flatly, although he finally pulled himself to a slouching stand. He crossed his arms over his chest, staring at her through his overgrown hair.

Ann shook her head, looking up at the sky as she finally demanded, "Why are you here, Vega? I told you not to come here. I made it crystal goddamn clear that you are not to see my sister  yet I get a call from the Willowbrook staff telling me that you're lurking around outside."

"If I'm lurking how could I be seeing her?" Sin retorted.

"You have no idea what kind of effect your presence has on her," Ann went on as if he hadn't spoken, eyes blazing. "If there's even the slightest possibility that this isn't a permanent condition-- that she's just doing it to herself and can one day come out of it, how do you know that seeing you consistently just won't cause her to crawl deeper into the darkness!"

"I--" Sin broke off, face troubled, turning his eyes away from her to glance up at the window again with a frown. "I didn't think about that."

"Because you don't think," Ann practically shouted at him in frustration. "You just react! You do whatever comes to your head and don't stop to question why you're doing it, whether or not it's a good idea. The only time you do think is when it's about yourself."

"That's not even remotely--"

"You're so worried about the state of your own mental health, but you don't even begin to think about what affect you could have on my sister's! At least you're still alive. She's just a damn husk! But you just don't car--"

"I don't care?" Sin roared, anger taking the place of misery as he stood up straight, glowering down at her. "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, Annabelle. You have no fucking clue. Why the fuck do you think I'm so desperate to figure out what's wrong with me? So I can go back to the Agency's little missions and assignments, because I'm so fucking anxious to please Vivienne and Carhart?"

Ann paused, temper cooling in the face of Sin's wrath. She shrank a little but didn't back down, didn't step back, even though he was practically screaming in her face.

"Or maybe you think I just want to save my own ass? I'm scared to die?"

She shrugged, tone still stiff. "Everyone wants to save their own asses. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"Right," Sin growled. "That's exactly it, Ann. You hit the nail right on the head. I did want to save my own ass-- I did when I thought there was a chance. I did when I thought I could maybe be normal and appreciate the fact that for the first time in my entire life I'm not being treated like a fucking animal."

Ann's eyebrows drew together in confusion. "It just takes time, Sin. And even the general agreed, after you stormed off, that Vivienne will okay a return as long as we cont--"

"I don't give a fuck about being active! I care about not going crazy and killing someone I care about because I'm too weak to control my mind!" Sin looked away, breath coming fast as the emotions began to overwhelm him. He swallowed hard, a dizzying sensation overcoming him as the burning behind his eyes grew stronger. "I'm afraid of killing someone I'm close to again."

Ann's mouth dropped open slightly and her eyes searched his face for a sign of what that meant. She grabbed his arm and turned him back toward her, taking in the way he trembled, the way his hands were clenched so hard that the fingernails drew blood-- the way he looked on the verge of a breakdown. He looked so distraught, so traumatized, that somehow it just came to her. The knowledge, the realization, because really there was no one else that fit.

"So that's what happened," she said finally, simply.

"I didn't mean to," Sin said in a choked voice, lips trembling slightly as he finally said it out loud. His eyes were red with unshed tears and he turned away from her again, covering his face with his hands. "I can't fucking do this anymore. I swear I can't do it. I see it every time I close my eyes and it makes me want to die every single time."

Ann opened her mouth to reply but struggled with what to say. This wasn't something she'd expected, not in the least, and she felt completely inadequate. What was there to say? How could she console somehow who realized they'd murdered their father?

So she just stared at him, at the way he was closing in on himself with such intense self-hatred, and put a hand on his shaking shoulder. "Don't do this to yourself."

"How could I not?" Sin replied, voice shaking as he struggled to get control of himself again, to stop showing such weakness in front of her. When he spoke again his voice was low and more despondent than ever. "Whatever you people think about how horrible he was to me... He saved my life. He made me strong. He was all I had. I wanted to be him, I didn't want to fucking murder him."

Ann nodded even though he couldn't see her, mind racing to put things together. "And you think this is going to happen again? You'll kill someone else in that state, someone that you're close to, that you're thankful to?"

Someone like Boyd Beaulieu, Zach, maybe even the others in his unit? It made sense now-- Now she saw why he was so anxious to be cured, why he wanted so badly to be healthy and normal when he'd never cared before.

"Yes," Sin said finally, turning around again as he took a couple deep breaths. He wasn't shaking anymore but he looked on the verge of something drastic. His eyes looked empty, completely devoid of the personality that he'd begun showing lately, the man she'd started to feel at ease with. There were times that he'd admitted to feeling truly suicidal and Ann wondered if this was one of those times.

"Sin, it's not like there's no hope," she said, shaking her head as the rain finally began to fall steadily. "We're going to try the experimental programs, we're going to go ahead with the therapy... If you'd sat there and given me two more minutes to explain, you'd know that."

Sin stared at her for a moment before shrugging and looking away. He didn't seem any more enthusiastic by her words and as his arms hung loosely at his sides, fingers slack and limp; he looked absolutely defeated.  "I suppose."

Thunder crashed again and Ann jumped, putting a hand over her chest as her heartbeat rocketed. "You just have to have some faith, Sin," she bit out as the rain began to thoroughly drench them both. "I know life has dealt you a shitty hand but you can't always assume the worst. Sometimes things do get better and since you have people trying to help you now, since you're not in this completely alone, now wouldn't be such a bad time to start trying to believe that."

Sin shook his head wearily, his bright green eyes bleak in the shadows. "It's not that easy, Annabelle."

"You're right," she agreed. "And it never will be that easy, but I didn't think you were the type of person to expect things to come easy. You have to fight for things, even if it's fighting to believe in something, and if your life really has been going so differently that you actually care about yourself and your future, I'd think whatever caused you to change would be worth fighting for."

This time, Sin just looked down and didn't reply.

"You have to try, really try, to move past the things that happened before. That was then-- this is now. Those people can't be brought back to life, those things can't change. And I can see that it hurts you, that it makes you feel like a horrible person, but if you really want things to improve for yourself and the other people you've gotten close to, you have to try to get past that or it will keep dragging you down, keep hindering the progress that we can make."

Sin shrugged. Her words sounded so convincing, so confident, but that didn't necessarily mean any of it was true or that her encouragement would change the outcome in the long run.

They stood in silence for several long moments and after awhile Ann sighed heavily and shook her head, backing away. "I can't afford to become ill, Sin. I need to get out of this weather."

Sin nodded, not looking at her, and she hesitated briefly, once again taking in the raw misery in his eyes, the hair that was plastered to his pale face and the rain that was battering him relentlessly, drops of water sliding down the tip of his nose, down his cheeks. He didn't even seem to notice; he just stood there as if he didn't feel it, and Ann realized there was no way she could leave him there alone.


Sin's eyes flicked up at her but he didn't speak.

Ann faltered once again, unprepared for the intensity in his gaze. It was almost frightening and she could only wonder about the individuals who had faced him down when he was truly in a rage. "Just come with me, Sin. I'll drop you off somewhere or you can come to my apartment until the rain stops and dry up."

He stared at her silently before finally appearing to become aware of their surroundings once again, of the storm, the thunder, and the icy cold that was seeping in.

Ann sighed in frustration and huddled closer to herself, the chill sinking into her wool coat. He always looked at her so suspiciously, as if she was up to something or he couldn't be sure that she wasn't. "I'm not trying to-- I'm just--"

She broke off and sighed. "I'm just trying to be nice to you, Sin. That's it. You can follow me or not."

Ann turned to go, anxiety eating away at her, the responsibility she felt for his well being weighing on her shoulders, but after a moment she heard his quiet footsteps trailing behind her. As they headed to the car, the faint imprints of their shoes on the wet grass was the only sign that they'd been there at all.

Continue to Afterimage Chapter Seventeen...