In the Company of Shadows

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Evenfall Chapter Four

The clock on the wall silently flipped numbers. The digital read flickered slightly now and then, an almost imperceptible detail. The lights buzzed quietly and the chairs they sat in made the occasional squeaking noise when one of them moved.

Carhart and Boyd sat in the small conference room, neither speaking nor looking at the other. It wasn't a purposeful avoidance yet it was welcome, since Boyd wasn't interested in small talk and he knew Carhart wasn't either.

They had been sitting there for eight minutes. Time dragged slowly. Boyd was used to silence so it didn't bother him. For the most part he relaxed his thoughts, sitting perfectly still as he awaited his soon-to-be partner's arrival.

Thirteen minutes passed before the doorknob finally rattled and several guards escorted Sin into the room.

There were six guards surrounding him, wearing full body armor. They looked prepared to go on a full storm and siege rather than simply escorting a single man to another area of the building. In addition to their own safety measures, they had both Sin's hands and ankles shackled. It seemed like overkill but according to the files Boyd had been given access to, Sin had managed to create mayhem under similar conditions on more than one occasion. It didn't seem that much would stop him once he decided to fight.

"This is fucking stupid," was the first thing out of Sin's mouth as he glared from Carhart to Lieutenant Taylor, the head of the guards who was standing next to him.

Carhart's brow furrowed and he stared at Taylor. "Necessity?"

Taylor shrugged and didn't look apologetic. "Marshal Connors stated that all precautions will remain until the Beaulieu boy's training has completed and the final psych evaluation is put through on Vega. It's a lot of red tape but he hasn't been able to roam free for years and Connors isn't taking any chances until everything is in the computer. If Vega causes another mess in the middle of the compound, the Inspector will flip her shit. She still has to conjure cover stories for dead staff with civilian ties."

"Ah." Carhart flicked his eyes over at Sin who looked beyond irritated. In fact, he looked downright deadly.

Despite the fact that the guards seemed more overtly muscular, Sin towered over them. He looked easily 6'4" and despite the fact that his build appeared relatively thin for his height, there was an aura of violence emanating off of him at the moment. The guards appeared to be agitating him and his green-eyed glare focused more than once on two of the larger men in the escort. Boyd recognized them as the two guards he'd briefly seen leaving the fourth floor when he'd arrived with Gerant-- Dennis McNichols and Harry Truman.

"Well I have authorization to use the collar at will, so your presence and the presence of the shackles won't be necessary any longer," Carhart said after another brief pause.

"Considering the fact that his evaluation should be processed within the hour, I don't think they were necessary in the first place unless it was a mere desire to create a spectacle of him in the last possible moment," he added dryly.

Taylor shrugged again, looking unconcerned with Carhart's opinion. His orders had come straight from the top. Carhart was third in command but in this case, his words didn't make a difference.

Harry began unshackling Sin's wrists and Boyd couldn't help noticing that when the guard locked eyes with Sin, his expression looked cruelly amused and he jostled the Senior Agent around more than was absolutely necessary. Sin didn't respond other than a narrowing of his eyes but he looked like a coiled spring that was ready to snap at any moment.

When the restraints were removed, the guards stepped back almost immediately. They looked more on their guard now that the man known as the Monster was released. Harry was the only exception; he continued to smirk. Boyd wondered briefly what the reason was for Harry's attitude but he decided it wasn't important enough to take the time to consider.

"Good day, gentlemen," Carhart said pointedly when the guards lingered.

Taylor nodded but a look of hesitance crossed his face. Only after his eyes moved across Carhart's desk and rested on the activation device for Sin's collar did he turn and exit the office, signaling the other guards to do the same.

"You can sit, you know," Carhart said patiently as Sin glowered at nothing in particular.

"I prefer to stand," was the flat reply. Sin leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest, gaze focused on the window. There was something ill-fitting about his clothes-- the shirt seemed too tight and the pants too loose. They hung on his hips precariously due to the absence of a belt but Boyd supposed that he wouldn't have been allowed one on the Fourth.

"If you play nice, you will be able to avoid scenes like that in the future. Your cooperation in this project will ensure that your situation will change for the better. Indefinitely."

Sin scoffed at that. He appeared to be in a very dark mood although it wasn't immediately clear why. It seemed unlikely that a man who was typically kept locked up would react so strongly to being restrained. From what Boyd had heard, Sin was more often than not kept restrained when escorted around the compound. It made Boyd wonder if it had something to do with Harry and his attitude, or the way Taylor had escorted him over.

Carhart leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. He appeared completely at ease when dealing with Sin. He was the first person Boyd had encountered who seemed unfazed by the ominous-looking man.

It was another oddity about the entire situation. From what Boyd had been able to gather from overhearing others, Carhart had a strange affinity for Sin. It was unknown exactly why but some speculated it had something to do with Sin's father, who had been Carhart's partner and who had died years ago.

Even so, one would assume that over time Carhart would have seen Sin for who he was. Did Carhart know something about Sin that others didn't? If Sin was the unrepentant, psychopathic killer everyone made him out to be, why would Carhart put so much effort into him regardless of how strong the past friendship may have been?

"The arrangements have already been made for you to have your own quarters contingent on the success of this trial," Carhart was saying.

That comment seemed to draw Sin's interest and his oddly pale green eyes finally focused on Boyd. One dark brow rose doubtfully as he took in the teenager.

"He looks more frail and pathetic up close. When he dies, they'll blame me anyway."

"Likely," was the flat response from Carhart. "So you should see that he doesn't."

Having already accepted that his lifespan would likely be very short, Boyd simply watched Sin in an unmoved manner. His expression remained neutral; a blank-faced stare that took in details of Sin to store and potentially analyze later.

Although he was looking specifically for clues, he couldn't read much in Sin's expression or body language. He didn't usually find it so difficult to get an idea about a person and their personality when he watched them specifically for that reason and didn't particularly care for the fact that he couldn't now.

"The purpose of this is for the two of you to meet before being suddenly thrown into a mission together. Introductions aren't necessary-- you know all about one another by now. Boyd, you will meet the rest of the team in a more formal unit meeting tomorrow morning."

Carhart had mentioned a unit before but never said much about it. He looked over at Carhart, focusing on the man for the first time. "Will I receive more information about the unit?"

Sin's gaze switched back to Boyd and remained there. It was intensely penetrating and hawk-like. The average person would have been unnerved by such an unblinking stare even without the violent history that trailed behind the man. For the most part, Boyd ignored it.

"Yes." Carhart shifted in his seat to access the touch pad that was embedded into the table beside him. "Information about the unit has been withheld until now because although every aspect of the Agency is highly confidential, what we do in my unit is even more so. The sensitive nature of our operations can be sabotaged if the wrong word gets out and there is always a chance of betrayal. Even within our own ranks."

It seemed as though there were many layers to the Agency, which did not come as a surprise to Boyd. A place that fashioned itself after a real pharmaceuticals company in order to be out in public while carrying out highly secretive government missions was likely to have multiple levels of confidentiality.

"What is the nature of the unit?" Boyd asked.

"Are you familiar with the terrorist organization called Janus?"


"Considering your psych profile states that you have been isolated from the world for quite some time, I cannot say that I'm surprised," the General replied although there was an acrid quality to his tone.

One of Sin's dark brows rose at this statement but otherwise, his intense but inscrutable stare remained unchanged.  

Carhart flicked something on the touch pad and a holographic image appeared above the table between them. It was detailed and very sharp just like the life-like holograms that Boyd had practiced shooting in training.

The images that appeared were set up similar to a slideshow. They were photographs from the carnage that had occurred during World War III. They showed explosions and bombings in the United States, Europe, Russia, Asia... evidence of once-powerful countries and former allies slaughtering one another for what had turned out to be a ten-year war.

"After the Three Treaties were signed and peace," the word rolled off Carhart's tongue somewhat blandly, "was established between the three different sides, not everyone was satisfied. Millions of people all over the world actually protested the treaties. Rallies were held everywhere with the general consensus that after ten years of carnage and millions of people dead, the three powers were essentially brushing their squabble under the table because nobody was winning. The people were expected to go back to business as usual as if none of it had ever occurred despite the somewhat damning evidence of mass graves, a destroyed environment and internationally poor economy."

A ghost of a smirk appeared on Sin's full mouth.

Carhart flicked something on the pad again and the images changed to show the rallies that he was talking about before finally settling on one. It appeared to be the memorial park in Washington DC but it was a scene of chaos. There were dead or unconscious people strewn around a rectangular area with the remains of a monument in the middle of it all.

"The concerns of these individuals were ignored worldwide. The end result were thousands of groups internationally forming in protest with the goal of either removing the leading government of their countries politically or in most cases, by force. These insurgent groups have grown over time and have actually become a danger to the governments they oppose as they draw in more and more followers. Janus is one of those groups. They started as a small organization of protesters and eventually grew into one of the largest insurgent organizations we have seen so far in history. Their power has spread beyond focusing on the United States and they now work side by side with groups in Europe and Asia to form an army that is dedicated to uprooting the administrations that they deem are unfit."

"Tell him the part about how they're all nothing but terrorists," Sin interjected blandly, his eyes still on Boyd. "Let's not forget all of that Agency propaganda. Otherwise he may just start sympathizing with the bad guys."

Carhart gave Sin a level look before swiveling his cerulean stare back to Boyd.

"Despite their self-proclaimed nobility of wanting to change things for the good of the people, both their method and their intent has changed over time. Perhaps their words were true at the start but now Janus has become very similar to an overgrown and supremely dangerous political party. They want power and they will go about corrupting, infiltrating and murdering until they get what they want. At this point, they have such powerful allies that it is possible their aims will come to pass."

The General indicated the image floating between them. "What you see here was their very first message of opposition. In 2009, on the one year anniversary of The Three Treaties, they bombed the WWIII monument in the National Mall. It turned into a massacre of government officials, military personnel and civilians alike."

Boyd studied the image, looking at the dead bodies strewn around. A woman's arms were stretched in death toward her child lying two feet away and she was missing her lower half. Couples and families and individuals, different ages and races all alike in death.

He considered Janus and the other groups' premise. The war had certainly destroyed a lot, including families. At one time, maybe he would have sympathized with them. After all, the war had stolen his father and Lou's parents. In a way, maybe it stole Lou and his mother from him as well. Maybe without that war his life would not have gone in the direction it had and he wouldn't have spent years closing down bit by bit until there was nothing but a shell left.

Boyd thought about what his mother had said, regarding protecting the world from terrorism and supporting the US government. He took into account the fact that Carhart had said his unit was especially high clearance. His mother had said that the Agency carried out the missions and goals that the world at large could not know about or else it would be taken the wrong way.

It would follow that a group that could garner civilian sympathy against the government would be considered a higher threat, and that any unit aimed at working on that would need higher clearance due to the more sensitive topic.

He looked over at Carhart again, meeting the older man's eyes. "I see," he said without inflection. "And your unit exists to deal with this threat specifically."

"Precisely. We are Janus-oriented, along with any other organizations that orbits around them. This unit requires the agents within to perform in every role. Field agents are typically categorized based on their skills and distributed as needed once they are assigned a division. The Janus Unit encompasses every division and requires you to perfect every skill. You will not just be doing storms or gathering intel or going undercover. This unit requires you to do everything."

"How many other field agents are in the unit?" Boyd asked.

"None. You and Sin are the only field agents. There are two Research and Development agents and an analyst."

Boyd's eyes narrowed faintly, briefly; the most reaction he'd shown so far. He shifted his gaze to settle on Sin, who was staring in boredom into empty space. He understood that Sin was supposed to be a one-man killing machine but if it was such a high level unit it seemed as though it should have a larger group. What could two people conceivably accomplish against an international organization?

He returned his stare to Carhart. "Why?"

"Because the Agency lacks people with high enough classification to perform in this unit. We only have two level 10 field agents, one who is currently abroad and the other who is currently in this room and cannot work with others. But Sin is necessary because he can do what in normal cases would require an entire team."

"Good to be needed," Sin said flatly.

"And as I said before," Carhart continued, unperturbed. "It is necessary to keep the confidentially limited to as small a number of people as possible. People talk. Things leak."

"I see." If Boyd had not seen videos of Sin on missions he likely would not have believed that all the rumors about his abilities were true. As it was, he could see how it was possible having Sin as one of two people would be like having a much larger unit.

Carhart seemed satisfied that Boyd had grasped the necessity for discretion but Sin was just starting to look increasingly uninterested by the proceedings of the meeting. Despite this, Sin gave Boyd another one of his penetrating stares and said in the same bland tone he seemed to use for most things:

"You speak as though you actually believe he will survive the first assignment. I've never seen a more helpless looking being."

"I should think you of all people understand that looks can be deceiving," Boyd replied, meeting Sin's stare head on without flinching.

Sin smirked at him, pale green eyes glinting beneath the bright lights. "Am I to believe that there's a fierce fighter lurking beneath that effeminate exterior?"

Boyd shrugged. "Whether I am or not is irrelevant. Considering how little you know about me it's foolish of you to make assumptions based on my looks alone."

"Assuming I know little of you is foolish all on its own. They have a whole file on you. On every minuscule detail of your unimpressive existence. If I really thought you were going to last more than a day, I could very easily go look at it and then I would know things that you don't want anybody to know."

"The existence of the information is meaningless unless you looked at it prior to commenting," Boyd said unconcernedly. "Which you've as well as admitted you didn't."

Sin just shrugged, not appearing very impressed or interested in the debate. "Why don't we just see him fight without the training wheels and it can be seen whether or not my assumption was correct?"

Carhart opened his mouth as if to deny such a thing but he seemed to think better of it because he paused. After a brief moment he looked at Boyd with raised blond eyebrows. "Do you oppose the suggestion? It does have some merit. You've seen what he's capable of but not vice versa. At this point all Sin knows is that you received what should have been two years minimum of training within a span of a handful of months. Assuming you're completely incapable, in that context, isn't too surprising although it's due to no fault of your own. Showing your partner that you are capable of defending yourself may be helpful in terms of him taking the partnership seriously. You were selected largely based on your personality and psych profile. However if he truly believes we are sending a lamb out to be slaughtered, he won't even--"

"Have you forgotten that I'm sitting in the room?" Sin asked drolly, eyeballing the General with obvious irritation.

"--attempt to make the effort to aid you."

"Assuming I would regardless."

Carhart gave Sin another of his level stares before looking at Boyd once again. "Thoughts?"

"It's fine," Boyd said impassively. "The logic is sound. I can fight."

He had little doubt in his mind that Sin would win any spar, assuming they went against each other, but he knew he had at least the basic capabilities of defending himself. If it would benefit the partnership to display this fact via a fight of any sort, it was fine with him.

"Good. Let's go down to the training room."

The trek downstairs was largely uneventful, although they must have been a spectacle of some sort because they drew attention from several people along the way. It wasn't too surprising given that their trio was made up of the third in command of the Agency, the widely disliked second in command's son and the most infamous agent.

Whatever the case, Boyd didn't pay much heed to the extra eyes on them. He followed behind Carhart and Sin trailed behind him at times, walking alongside him at others. His soon-to-be partner didn't speak but his eyes were often on Boyd, observing silently without giving away anything of what he thought.

When they arrived at the training room there were a few people sparring in the main area. Most, if not all, stopped to look at the three of them. Carhart gave the gawkers his level eyed glare and they immediately appeared to go back to what they'd been doing prior to the entrance.

Boyd didn't see David around which was atypical for the man that Boyd had come to believe may even have a cot hidden in a room somewhere nearby. David nearly seemed obsessed with training and sparring. Or maybe he had a very strong passion for it and truly enjoyed it. Both concepts felt foreign to Boyd in recent times.

Carhart led the two of them into one of the single session sparring rooms off to the side and shut the door behind them. It was a quarter of the size of the main room and equipped with its own weapon rack and a padded floor.

"Are we disrobing for this affair?" Sin wondered outloud, eyeballing Boyd's long black trench coat dubiously.

Carhart moved back against the wall. "Not necessarily. This isn't an official training session. Although I would hope there will be no maiming. Sin."

Sin raised his dark brows and crossed his arms over his chest, not bothering to respond as he stared at Boyd once again with his penetrating gaze.

Boyd ignored Sin at first as his even-eyed gaze swept the room, taking in the weapons that would potentially be available for him to use. He moved to the wall and took his trench coat off since it would give him better movement; a small difference when paired against a man who would no doubt win within seconds, but a difference he took advantage of nonetheless.

He absently folded the trench coat and set it on the floor before he turned back to Carhart and Sin. He was left in his typical all black outfit; a long-sleeved lightweight black shirt, black pants, and black combat boots that were scuffed with age, the same as his coat. He met Sin's eyes evenly for a moment before shifting over to Carhart.

"What are the parameters for this?" He didn't look away from Carhart, although he did tilt his head minutely toward the weapons rack. "Are weapons involved?"

"If you want to use one, by all means."

Sin didn't even give the weapons wall a glance. He was fiddling absently with a loose string at the edge of his frayed shirt, eyes still on Boyd.

Boyd nodded slightly at Carhart and turned his gaze onto Sin. For the first time since they'd met, he put all his focus on the other man. He studied the way Sin held himself, looking with his still amateur eye for any signs of weakness. There were none that he could see.

Given the fact that Sin seemed uninterested in weapons, he was clearly going to use hand-to-hand combat, which fell in line with what Boyd knew of him. It would be foolish and for pride alone that Boyd would go into the fight without a weapon. Since he was feeling neither prideful nor foolish, he turned and walked to the racks of weapons.

He had his choice of just about anything. He naturally shied away from all the knives without having to think about it. Other weapons would require skill he hadn't perfected yet, like nunchucks that he would be more likely to hit himself with than the enemy. He gravitated toward the blunt weapons and the ones he'd so far shown most affinity for: a pair of expandable tonfa. He liked them because they worked well in defense, for protecting his arms and body, and could easily switch to effective offense even without expanding the full 29 inches.

He held the tonfa by the knobs on the sides, the comfort of the length of the tonfa along his forearms, and he walked back over, stopping once he was in front of Sin.

There was no official start to the spar; one moment they were three people standing in a room and the next it was two sparring with a spectator to the side. Sin dropped into a fighting stance, watching Boyd with those luminous green eyes that didn't seem to miss even the barest of movements. For his part, Boyd scrutinized Sin's stance before he moved in for an attack.

It started with quick, darting movements on Boyd's part. Although he'd been training for a few months and had significantly improved upon where he'd started, he'd started without any experience at all. His build was not one that lent itself easily to heavy muscles and so what he had at most was a toned body. However, he made up for that in speed. He was quick and light on his feet and had found a certain skill in dodging and escaping. There was no brute strength in any of his attacks; rather, he tended to use what resources he had intelligently.

He started by striking at the main spaces that made a person falter; key joints and Sin's throat and face. From there he attempted the vulnerable spots on the torso where organs lay beneath that could be bruised or ruptured. He even tried to get Sin in the groin because David had taught Boyd to be brutal if need be, as the enemy would do the same in return.

In this case, Sin didn't have to. He danced around Boyd maddeningly, a leaf just out of reach that tumbled on the wind. He let Boyd strike but he deflected easily, with no more effort than it took to swat a fly. When Boyd started putting more strength into his strikes and Sin stopped them, he could feel the powerful strength of the other man as it rebounded up the tonfa and into his arms. Sin had the steadiness and strength of a mountain combined with the speed of a predator and although Boyd had known before this he knew for certain now:

This was a man who could kill him. Easily.

Despite that, and despite Sin's reputation as a bloodthirsty psychopath, he didn't actually appear to be trying to harm Boyd during most of the fight. It was a strange contradiction and something that caught Boyd's attention early in the sparring.

It would have been easy for Sin to hurt him and make it seem like an accident or Boyd's incompetence, and Sin clearly hadn't hesitated to eliminate his previous partners. So why wasn't he being more ruthless? Was it only because he was trying to follow the rules this time? Or was there another reason?

Boyd didn't know the answer to the questions and for the moment he largely ignored them. Still, even when he tried to dismiss the contradiction as a pointless distinction, it tickled the back of his mind.

They moved around each other in the subtle dance of a fight. Boyd kept his tonfa flipped back against his forearms for protection when he would hop back, his honey brown eyes completely serious and constantly searching for any sign of weakness or any falter.

The tonfa made whirring noises as they sliced through the air, a blur that flickered between the two agents. When it became apparent that was going to get nowhere, Boyd's eyes narrowed faintly. Without looking he used the momentum of his arm to casually flick the tonfa out, extending them the full amount before they clicked in place.

He went at Sin again, striking while trying not to project ahead of time his intentions. Still, Sin's eyes were faster than Boyd's muscles; he always seemed to know just in time what Boyd intended and how to stop it. Boyd tried to strike at Sin's knee and Sin moved to the side. Boyd tried to move behind him to slam him in the back, aiming for the kidneys, and Sin spun away. Sometimes he didn't even appear to be focusing entirely on the fight. Even so, his reactions were immediate and he deflected with effortless grace.

Soon, Boyd was trying double strikes; both tonfa extended, swiping at Sin one after another, trying to catch him off guard. He could feel the impacts of hitting Sin's defenses all the way up to his shoulders and although Boyd had good stamina, he could feel the fight wearing at his body. A river of exhaustion and futility ate away at the granite of his mind.

As a sheen of sweat started to show on his skin, pale blond strands began to catch at the sides of his face and on his lips. With both his hands occupied he couldn't do anything about it and it soon became a nuisance, making him wish he'd tied it back. The long-sleeved black shirt was stifling despite the light weight of it and it too clung in places to his thin frame. His boots seemed heavy and he thought about how he should have removed the extra weight prior to going into this.

Then again, he hadn't expected it to last this long. He tried his best to find some hole in Sin's defenses but they were flawless and more than anything the older man seemed to be studying him. A hunter watching prey or a child playing with a toy, it was hard to tell.

Every harsh release of breath as Boyd struck, every knee-wrenching stop, every twist to the side and maneuver away, they watched each other closely. Two stares scrutinizing the other; Boyd's cool and collected, and Sin's penetrating and unreadable.

Boyd didn't know how much time passed with the routine of Sin avoiding and deflecting everything he did, but analytically it seemed like at most a few minutes and, for his confidence, it felt like hours. He was just thinking it was a good thing he didn't go into this seriously thinking he'd win or he may have lost all hope, when Sin broke the routine.

Fast as a snake unfurling itself and striking, one moment Sin was watching Boyd with the same nearly bored expression as before, and the next Boyd felt a violent twist at his right arm.

He couldn't hold onto the tonfa before Sin wrenched it away to clatter and nearly hit Carhart's feet. Boyd tried to pull the other tonfa up as defense but Sin was too fast; Boyd's arm had barely started to move before Sin reached over to snap his weapon away.

Boyd tried to hold on but the angle at which Sin attacked him made it impossible and he abruptly released the tonfa, hoping to distract Sin while he moved to strike at his face. He was aiming for his throat, wanting to cut off his breathing, but Sin moved nearly faster than the eye. It was an impossible speed for a man who had impossible strength packed into his lanky frame.

Boyd's arms were jarred to the side and before he could do anything, a large hand snapped around his throat and lifted. Boyd felt his body leave the floor, his feet hanging and entire body dragging down on the one point. It made his head pound and throat close even more from the pressure of gravity. When Sin squeezed, his windpipe was almost entirely cut off.

Breath left him in a painful, clawing rush that his body automatically fought against. His chest strained for air, his lungs dragging out against a near vacuum. His mouth could have fallen open; he could have kicked viciously at Sin and struggled like a worm trying to dislodge a fish hook. He could have clawed at the hands around his throat and he could have stared in desperation and fear down into Sin's eyes.

But he didn't.

His mouth was open no further than it had been before and though he still tried to draw breath in, the minute trickle of air Sin was allowing him was not nearly enough. Still, he didn't panic. His eyes were even as he stared down at Sin, his legs and arms loose. He couldn't stop the automatic reactions of his body, the straining chest and pounding heart, the little nibble of uncertainty that ran in the back of his mind that asked: Is this it? Will I die here?

But the eyes that met Sin's showed no fear.

As if to test what he saw, Sin's hand squeezed, completely cutting off all of Boyd's breath, not even allowing the minute amount of air as before. Although Boyd's hands automatically twitched and his lungs automatically screamed for air, he otherwise remained motionless.

He understood that the idea of dying should be frightening but the feeling wasn't there the way it should be. He stared at Sin, his vision slowly going black on the edges. He couldn't ignore a thought that flashed through his mind:

Would it all be better anyway if he wasn't forced to continue existing? Was this simply the way it would end, with his mother nowhere around to stop it?

Sin looked up at Boyd from where he dangled limply and tilted his head slightly to the side. His pale green eyes narrowed and his full mouth twisted up slightly in a way that wasn't quite a smile. There was a challenge in his eyes and the dark smirk on his mouth twisted further when his fingers dug in harder.

Their eyes remained locked, positions unchanged and Boyd suffocating in grim silence until Carhart's voice cracked out like a whip.

"Sin. Enough."

Sin's hand abruptly opened and he allowed Boyd to fall to the floor like a discarded rag doll. Boyd caught himself with painful jars against his arms and pushed himself up to a stand. He coughed, dragging in deep breaths. His head pounded painfully. Sin's eyes remained fixed on the blond teenager for a long stretch before he shrugged and looked over at the General.

"I suppose he isn't entirely without skill. He's possibly better than the average new field agent," Sin commented tonelessly.

Boyd concentrated on steadying his breath. In the back of his mind he wondered whether Sin would have really killed him had Carhart not been there. He doubted it, since it would have sent the man straight back to a place he didn't want to be. But he couldn't be certain, as there had been nothing in those green eyes to tell him what Sin had truly been thinking.

When Boyd could draw in a breath without feeling like it was more effort than it should be, he fully straightened and looked at the other two.

"Good work," Carhart said, appearing genuine. His lips were set in a pleased smile and he nodded at Boyd. "There was no expectation that you would actually defeat him. On the contrary, you exceeded my expectations as far as your skill with the weapon. David was correct in saying that you learned quickly. I think you would have been a good match for the average agent."

Boyd nodded his acknowledgment, feeling somewhat pleased by that.

"How well do you understand your role in the unit?" Carhart queried after a moment. He was watching Boyd in an analytical way, as if he was adding this new bit of information into what was already filed into his head.

Boyd studied Carhart, trying to determine how to answer. When he spoke, his voice was rough from the abuse of his throat.

"I understand I'll primarily be a counterpoint to Agent Vega to ensure the smooth execution of missions and that the Agency remains secret. Judging by training, it seems I'll also be expected to adequately defend myself, be capable of basic to intermediate offenses, negotiate on behalf of an entity which I assume is the Agency or your unit, have a basic understanding of how to infiltrate an area undetected, and deceive others in a convincing manner."

"Good." Carhart looked at Boyd before turning his gaze sidelong at Sin. "Right now you are considered largely a glorified babysitter. However if you play your role well, I guarantee that you could become more than that. I see potential in you. But keep in mind, your success or failure depends entirely on your partnership with Sin. That is your starting point. That is why you are here. Don't forget that-- his previous partners did and they paid for it."

Sin shrugged at the comment but neither man said more than that on the topic of Sin's former, and now deceased, partners.

"The only way a partnership can be successful," the General added after a brief pause, "is by trusting one another, which is--"

"A big fucking stretch at this junction in my career," Sin said dully, raising an eyebrow at his commanding officer skeptically.

"--not going to be something that comes quickly," Carhart spoke over him. "But the relationship that develops between the two of you will determine how this plays out. If you don't get along, you will both fail. And I am sure neither of you desires failure for your own very different reasons."

Neither of them answered but Carhart didn't seem surprised. In the end, what he said was the truth. And regardless of how well they would or would not get along, Boyd suspected that neither of them wanted to see the consequences of failure.

Continue to Chapter 5