In the Company of Shadows

This site is..

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Evenfall Chapter Eight

The Agency gained a new light to Boyd as he walked across compound with Ryan, heading toward the R&D agent's apartment. As they started talking about his apartment Ryan complained that he wished he could paint the walls yellow instead of leaving them white. From there, the conversation shifted until Boyd learned about the sheer amount of Agency employees who lived on compound.

It wasn't mandatory to live there but for all intents and purposes, Ryan seemed to imply that the Agency preferred it, especially for field agents. Likely to avoid the inevitable questions that came when an agent lived around civilians.

They walked at a leisurely pace. What began as an explanation of where Ryan lived turned into an impromptu tour and history lesson of the compound. It was just like Ryan to go off on a complete tangent but he also had a wealth of useful information that no one else had bothered to share with Boyd.

There were four main residential buildings grouped on the opposite side of the compound from the Tower. They were fifteen floors each and contained lounge areas and mostly single bedroom apartments due to the unlikelihood of an agent ever having a family and continuing in their position. According to Ryan, about 90% of the roughly 250 field agents, analysts and R&D agents lived there except for officers and special cases who had separate living assignments in smaller buildings.  

Ryan also explained that Sin was one of those special cases. He lived in a small building that was usually used for people who needed extra surveillance such as new agents who hadn't yet been able to adapt to the lifestyle, agents with pending behavior or psychiatric issues, and sometimes even informants who needed asylum from the outside world after helping the Agency.

"A lot of the higher ranking peeps live off compound, though," Ryan continued as he shut the door behind them. "I don't think I know one rank 9 fieldie who lives in the dorms but I could be wrong. Most of them kind of grow out of the whole thing and the fact that they make a megaton more money than anyone else helps."

He tossed his backpack down on what appeared to be a royal blue and silver lounge sofa. It stood out vibrantly in a room that was full of mismatched furniture and eclectic knickknacks. There were three other chairs in different shades of blue, a grey and black shag rug and enough anime posters to fill a convention stand. His bookcase was filled to the brim and appeared organized completely alphabetically by comic book artist or mangaka. There were also a variety of graphic and science fiction novels mixed with huge tomes about mathematics, programming and computer languages.

"Sorry about the mess," Ryan added as he shrugged off his jacket and tossed it over one of the blue chairs. He absently wandered over to his desk and leaned over to turn on his PC. Like the bookcase, the desk was piled high with stacks of books, folders and CD cases. There was a small organizer full of flash drives and microchips.

"It's fine," Boyd said, glancing around.

The skinny R&D agent sat at his desk and typed in something, likely a log in code. "So, what made you want to find out more about him, anyway? I got the feeling you weren't really gonna take me up on that offer."

Boyd shrugged and found an empty chair near the desk. He sat down, his eyes straying across a poster along the wall nearby with some sort of mechanical robot that appeared to have wings. He briefly considered the logic of putting wings on a robot; wouldn't they just get in the way?

He dismissed the thought as he turned his attention back to Ryan while he considered the question. Truthfully, his interest in Sin had taken him a little by surprise as well. He'd planned to continue to work with Sin slowly, determining what worked with the older man and what didn't, while staying emotionally uninvolved throughout. But Sin kept doing or saying things that caught Boyd's attention.

One moment in particular had plagued Boyd as the week had dragged on. He'd expected Sin to be smug about Boyd's acknowledgment of his own impending death when that had come up but instead Sin had looked annoyed. Why was that? It was such a strange response, especially from a man who otherwise seemed to delight in pointing out the flaws in others' plans and how futile everything was. He didn't seem to particularly care for Boyd as a partner either, so shouldn't he be pleased about that topic of conversation?

It was yet another oddity of Sin's. And somewhere along the line, during days of studying the other man both discreetly and openly between hours of dull, monotonous surveillance, Boyd's interest had been piqued. What was Sin thinking? What was the reason for those strange reactions? Why was he so distrustful of even completely innocuous questions?

What was the truth and what was misleading?

"I find myself growing curious about him," was all Boyd said aloud.

"Shittles," Ryan suddenly exclaimed, staring at his computer screen with a frown. "I forgot to send in my supply card! Anyway, why? What changed?" The last part was asked somewhat cautiously.

"Nothing dramatic." Boyd settled back in the chair and looked at Ryan thoughtfully. "He continues to be contradictory. I've been increasingly wondering which parts are true and which aren't."

He paused and then added, "One comment in particular that he made caught my attention. When I asked about the rumors he said not all were untrue. It made me wonder what he meant."


Ryan reclined back in his chair and stared at Boyd through his thick black glasses. His mouth twisted to the side as he rocked himself back and forth thoughtfully. "If I tell you stuff, you're not gonna somehow use it against him, are you?"

Boyd frowned and lowered his eyebrows, one of the few true expressions he'd shown the R&D agent. "No. Why would I? It would serve me no purpose. I have no ill will against him; I'm just trying to understand him."

"Good." Ryan brightened and grinned at Boyd. "No offense, but I haven't met one person besides Zachary that actually wouldn't use something against him. I didn't mean like, you're an ass or something. I was just checking, especially 'cause he still hasn't been the best partner."

"Whether or not he's a good partner doesn't matter as long as it doesn't negatively affect me," Boyd said unconcernedly. He shifted, feeling something dig into his back. He sat forward, looking behind himself as he continued absently, "I don't really care enough about anything to be malicious about it."


Ryan stopped rocking back and forth and steadied himself, leaning forward to peer at Boyd intently as Boyd pulled a small figurine out from behind the small of his back. He paused, his fingers curled around the figure and gaze catching on Ryan's face. At first he thought Ryan was eyeing him so seriously because he'd leaned against a well-loved toy. He realized after a moment that it wasn't that at all.

Ryan's indigo eyes narrowed and his youthful face looked almost comical as he scrunched it together to look serious. "So-- do you want to know a lot or a little? I may make lunch while we talk if it's a lot. I need to take my meds like, yesterday, and I'll puke if I don't eat first."

Once Boyd realized he wasn't in trouble for the little winged robot in his hand, he relaxed minutely. It was probably silly to have been worried about offending Ryan over that but Ryan was one of the few people who took the time to give him any information and who talked to him like normal. He didn't relish the idea of losing that.

"I'd prefer more information rather than less," he said, setting the figurine on a pile of books nearby. Belatedly, the rest of what Ryan said filtered through his mind. Medication? He wondered why Ryan needed it. "So if you want to start making food that's fine."


Ryan got up from his chair and moved across the room to the attached kitchen that was separated from the main room only by a counter area. "Do you want anything? I forgot to send in my supply card so all I have is like, sandwich fixings and junk."

Boyd tilted his body more toward the kitchen and considered asking if he had tea, but that wasn't a staple in everyone's kitchen. And since he wasn't particularly hungry or thirsty he didn't want to take more supplies from Ryan. "I'm fine, thank you."

The room filled with crinkling sounds as Ryan removed a large bag of pretzels from a cabinet. He put it on the counter and opened his refrigerator, digging around until he leaned back with his arms full of pre-sliced cold cuts. "Mike's has the best cold cuts, FYI. Anyway, what did you wanna know first?"

"Which stories are true?"

Ryan hesitated for only a moment before putting two slices of bread on a plate. "Well, what all have you heard or been told?"

"I know about his partners and that he's injured people on compound in the past. They told me during training that he was accused of some crimes in the city but the Agency demanded redaction. I don't know whether he actually committed any crimes or what specifically he was alleged to have done."

Boyd paused, going over the different rumors he'd heard, and ultimately shook his head. "I suppose in general a clarification of what he's actually done would be of use. So many stories sound like exaggerations, but he's strong and fast enough that they could potentially be true. So it's difficult to know what sort of person I'm working with."

"Well when you put it like that, it makes total sense. They probably should have cleared that all up for you anyway but I guess they didn't wanna bias you one way or the other by going into detail about shit that they consider ancient history. But I dunno, that's kind of tardo if you ask me. 'Cause now you don't even know what to believe at all."

Ryan slathered his bread with mustard and slapped a few pieces of lunch meat on it. He glanced at the clock and opened an overhead cabinet which from what Boyd could see was filled with different prescription bottles. Ryan took out two and set them on the counter next to his plate.

"So... let's see. Well, I guess-- I mean people were freaked out by him from the start just because when he came here he was only thirteen or fourteen and already like, better than everyone else at his job. He was always a little quick to react, always a little out of control when he lost his temper bad, so people always kind of treated him like he was a mutant. The first big thing that set everyone off though was the thing that happened down in Vickland like ten years ago or something."

"Vickland?" Boyd echoed. That neighborhood housed some of his worst and best memories. "What happened?"

There was a pause as Ryan chewed a relatively large bite of sandwich. Mustard smeared the corners of his mouth and he hastily wiped at it, glancing at Boyd with a self deprecating roll of his eyes. "Uh--"

He swallowed and pulled himself up onto one of the bar stools. "He was coming back from a mission-- this was before the whole partner thing. Actually... it was the catalyst of the whole partner thing, I think. And he was walking through Vickland back when it was still a complete shit hole, you know? Back when the scavengers would be out in droves and stuff?"

Boyd nodded, remembering well the way Vickland had been.

Ryan jumped off the stool and went to the refrigerator again, removing a container of milk. He couldn't seem to sit still at all. "He came across this girl being raped in an alleyway and he killed her attackers. But the girl got so frightened of him that she started screaming and drew the attention of the scavengers nearby who then thought it was Hsin who started it all. They attacked him and he went nutso and took a lot of them out. Then the cops came but he was still in like, automatic defense kill mode and didn't stop. It was pretty bad."

Boyd's eyebrows rose slightly. They'd told him that Sin could get distracted by civilians and it was partially for that reason that a partner was necessary. But Boyd hadn't taken from that, or even Sin's attitude with the way he dealt with his partners, that he would care about a stranger.

"Why would he care what happened to her? Did he know her?"

"No, not at all."

Boyd gave Ryan a slightly strange look. "Then why did he interfere?"

Ryan raised his eyebrows, talking around a mouthful of food. "It was a young girl getting gang raped... any decent person would have interfered."

Boyd considered that, studying Ryan for a moment. He still didn't feel like he understood what the distinctions were for Sin; what made him stop one incident but let others pass him by without care.

He wondered why a man who'd seemed irritated and defensive over Boyd inquiring about his health and who kept reminding Boyd that he was likely to die soon, which probably would be in part because Sin didn't help like he was supposed to, would then turn around and stop someone from being hurt when it had nothing to do with him.

It wasn't that Boyd thought the girl should have been hurt or that the men had been right, but objectively speaking, she would have lived. What was the distinction for Sin between actively stopping something a person would live through but may hurt them, and passively letting others die or, in some cases, killing them himself? Death was more permanent than pain, which Boyd knew well enough a person could live through whether or not they wanted to. So what was the catalyst for Sin's actions? Why bother protecting a stranger?

"I'm trying to understand why someone who seems content with letting people die around him, and who doesn't seem to like anyone, would bother to stop someone from being hurt," Boyd explained, shaking his head slightly. "You say that any decent person would interfere but I don't know him well enough to understand his motivations or what sort of person he is. So far it seems that his judgment of whether a person deserves death is based on whether they committed any wrongs against him or he feels it's karmic retribution. That implies he could be arrogant and feels that he can judge a person's worth for life or death based on his criteria."

Boyd paused, his eyebrows drawing down in thought. "But that seems incongruous with a person who would care about strangers being hurt. I haven't heard of him helping anyone at the Agency and I can't imagine there are never any wrongs committed here. So what causes him to help one person and not another? Is it based on the type of crime committed or the age of the victim? Has he ever helped other people aside from that girl or did something about her specifically speak to him?"

Ryan shrugged and held up a finger. His mouth was completely full and an attempt to talk around the food failed. He picked up his glass of milk and swallowed with a lip smacking sound.

"Well, I dunno. No one knows what makes him tick-- all I did was compile data and do a bunch of guesswork after he was assigned to the unit. But I do know that he considers just about everyone at the Agency his enemy so that doesn't help any would-be victims 'round these parts, know what I mean?"

He wiped his mouth and opened the pill bottles. "Like, except me and Zachary I don't really know anyone who doesn't consider him to be not... some kind of freak. And it's always been that way, even from the start. It's been years of people hating him and him hating epically in return. So yeah, I dunno. There's been conjecture by his doctors over that incident-- that he helped that girl because she was just a kid and was helpless and it brought up stuff from his own childhood. In the end, though, they think he went berserk because he was so outnumbered and felt super threatened."

"His own childhood?"

"Yep. All sorts of issues there."

Ryan hopped off his chair and began cleaning up the crumbs that had accumulated on the counter. He then stopped in mid-swipe, shook his head and instead began opening the pill bottles.

"What happened?" Boyd pressed when it became clear Ryan wasn't going to elaborate.

Having an extended discussion with Ryan apparently involved many interruptions and long pauses. He looked constantly distracted, as if he was supposed to be doing several different things at once and was having a hard time keeping them in order and getting them all done at the same time as talking.

Ryan paused yet again and began doling out pills for himself, taking them with large gulps of milk. When he was done with his routine, only then did he respond.

"There's a lot of conjecture 'bout it," he said around a half-gagged swallow of a large pill. "His earlier doctors thought he'd been badly abused as a young child whenever he lived with his mother. Then his father, Emilio, took him on and trained him to be a killer from like age eight, so I'm sure whatever method he used wasn't exactly... child protective services friendly."

Boyd was silent a moment. In that context, Sin's actions made sense to an extent. If he'd been abused since childhood he would likely have great distrust for anyone else, especially in the Agency where he'd been repeatedly treated poorly. He thought it could also make sense if Sin had identified with the defenseless young girl.

Still, although it had been referenced during training that Sin occasionally had psychotic episodes, Boyd didn't understand much about them.

"You said he went berserk and that he was in automatic defense mode. What does that mean exactly?"  

"Didn't they tell you anything?"

"No," Boyd said, shaking his head. "They told us that he occasionally has psychotic breakdowns and the triggers are unknown. We were given the remote for his collar and were informed that it was because of his unpredictability that the Agency required that he have a partner."

Ryan made a thoughtful sound and studied Boyd for a moment, scratching his fingers through his unruly mass of black hair. "I guess it makes sense a tiny bit... they didn't want to make it all about what bad stuff has happened."

"Most likely," Boyd agreed. "But I want to understand what I'm dealing with. I don't want to only be given the convenient information."

The R&D agent made a noncommittal sound and moved around the counter to stand on the opposite side. He leaned against it, crossing his skinny arms over his thin chest as he watched Boyd thoughtfully. It was obvious that he still wasn't entirely trustful of Boyd which wasn't too surprising considering the previous additions to the unit. But at least Ryan seemed willing cooperate.


He stopped, seemed to rethink whatever he was going to say and shifted slightly. "I'm going through everything in my head... And, as far as I know there are five documented occurrences of him having those episodes. Like, not him having them in general but it being documented because something bad happened as a result. I'm sure it's happened other times but nothing dramatic came of it. Anyways, two were before the Vickland thing and two were after. I mean there's a difference between him getting sick of someone and beating their ass and going into automatic kill mode, like I was saying."

"What's the difference?"

Ryan shrugged and walked over to finally sit next to Boyd. He crossed one knee over the other and swung his foot idly against the sofa. "One is the normal reaction of someone who has been trained to be a lethal weapon since like, before puberty but the other... the other is like, Hsin becoming someone else. It looks a lot like he completely shuts down mentally and only sees everyone around him as a threat and he starts just-- well, killing. Or torturing. Just going mental with violence until everything around him stops moving. Usually it takes someone sedating him to get him to stop and when he comes to, he's fine."

Boyd's eyebrows twitched up faintly. The Agency truly must not care about Sin's partners to not specify that such unbridled violence was a possibility. Especially if the triggers were unknown. "You mentioned he targets those he sees as a threat. Does that mean he only attacks aggressors or does he attack everyone in the vicinity?"

This time Ryan stopped and rolled his eyes upward as though he were reading an imaginary panel screen as he searched for an accurate answer. After a moment he nodded decisively. "I'm not sure really. I'd think you'd be okay if you just stayed away, but there's no way to be sure."

"Interesting," Boyd said mostly to himself, and relaxed back into the chair. "And the other times? What happened?"

This time the hesitation was longer and Ryan fiddled with his pants, looking around the room as if for guidance. While he clearly didn't seem to think the Agency's tactic for leaving Boyd in the dark was the wisest, he didn't seem overly sure of himself about overriding their decision.

He stood up again and began pacing the living room, picking up his little robot figure and playing with the wings. "Well the first two happened, like, when he first got here. The first one was because some of the older-- well, you have to understand, Boyd. Even here, some people have a real stupid ass bully mentality. Some of the guards and lower ranked field agents are especially bad. They didn't like that this kid was an automatic rank 9, right? So they decided to mess with him one day after he'd been in the training room; push him around, surround him, see what he's made of-- meanwhile it's all on camera. He had a bad episode and put three in the infirmary and cracked two of their necks. He was fourteen and like almost a hundred pounds skinnier than any of those dudes easily."

That was the first concrete example Boyd had been given for why someone within the Agency may fear Sin. No one had likely expected Sin to be capable of such a feat. "Was anyone punished for the incident?"

"The guards were. That was the first time something bad happened and since they provoked him outright, it wasn't really his fault. But then everyone knew something wasn't right with him so that's when a lot of rumors started."

Ryan frowned and sat down again, this time on a little ottoman near the couch. He placed his robot on it and stared. "I remember when I heard about that, I got really scared of him. Connors at first didn't know what to do with Hsin. He thought since he was so young, maybe he should be his ward and live with us but after that he moved him out and put him in this room on the Fourth. Not a real cell but... a crappy room that was monitored all the time."

Boyd noted that between the information he'd been given by his mother and Ryan, that meant that Sin had spent the majority of his life at the Agency locked up.

Something else caught Boyd's attention from Ryan's explanation; an oddity that stood out. "You lived with Connors?" he asked curiously.

"Oh. Right." Ryan rattled off the story without blinking, as if it didn't bother him to speak of it. "My parents were a part of the Agency. My dad was a lab tech and my mother was an analyst. They both died from the lung sickness when I was young and Connors took me in. I'd grown up on the compound so he basically knew I'd always be a part of it in some way. It helped that by that time, when I was six, I'd already tested beyond high school level. So I was useful to him and stuff."  

Boyd's eyebrow raised. "Impressive."

Ryan made a face. "Not really. It's not like I worked for it. I was basically born this way. I could read before most babies learned how to speak."

"The fact that it's a natural talent doesn't make it less impressive," Boyd replied with a shrug. "It just means that you'll be ahead of others and have the ability to go farther than anyone else."

There was no response to that. Ryan didn't seem to want to talk too much about the fact that he was a genius or anything to do with his IQ. In fact the topic seemed unpleasant to him as a whole. So he just shrugged his thin shoulders and picked up the robot again, tossing it up and down.

He looked much younger than his twenty-four years at that moment, far younger than Boyd who was still a teenager. There was something about Ryan's animated face and small stature that made him look like an adolescent instead of a grown man.

"The next incident," he said, switching back to the previous topic, "was during his rank 10 training. It isn't as well documented because the training is top secret. I couldn't find video or specifics anywhere. Just that one of the people involved with the training got mangled."

"You never found out what started it?"

"Nope. Not one trace. It's referenced as a date in one of his doctor's files and I traced it to the time he was in his rank 10 training towards the end, but that's it."

"Hmm." Boyd wondered about the secrecy of that but ultimately decided it wasn't terribly surprising. Still, it was unfortunate, because he'd been paying attention to what had preceded Sin's episodes.

"And the other two times you mentioned?"

This time Ryan visibly squirmed. "I dunno if I should talk about it... It's pretty bad. I dunno."

That was an interesting reaction. "What are you worried about?"

Ryan sighed explosively and jumped up again, going over to the kitchen area and grabbing the bag of pretzels. "Nothing, really. I dunno-- it's just a sore topic. Most people super hate him hardcore for it."

"Without knowing what it is I can't say for certain, but I doubt it will drastically change my opinion." Boyd paused, watching Ryan thoughtfully. He wondered what was so much worse than Sin mangling people or killing a number of civilians. "If you have the information in some form you can simply give to me rather than having to tell me, that would work too."

There was a pause and Ryan shook his head. "No, it's better if I tell you. There's backstory involved and stuff. A real drama fit for TV. But, now that you mention it, I did compile all my data on a flash drive. Whenever he was put in the Janus unit, I started studying him a lot."

He munched on a pretzel and studied Boyd with round indigo eyes. "Well, it starts with Lydia Connors, really. She and her twin sister Ann are the Marshal's daughters." Boyd silently noted that Connors' daughter apparently was his mother's secretary, which was interesting. "They grew up here like me and both studied to be shrinks. Ann abandoned it but Lydia didn't. After the Vickland thing, Hsin was put in isolation on the Fourth for two years. When talk started about evaluating him to be let out, she pushed to be his doctor. Problem was, she had been infatuated with his dad back in the day and she kind of got infatuated with Hsin because he looked just like him."

That last tidbit of information stood out to Boyd; he hadn't realized that Sin looked like his deceased father. Maybe that fit into why Carhart seemed interested in supporting Sin.

He nodded, silently encouraging Ryan to continue.

Ryan finished chewing and extracted another pretzel, studying it. "So, actually Lydia wasn't all there herself. She used her position to put the moves on Hsin after giving him drugs that made him loopy and he went berserk and, well, now she lives up in the Willowbrook home and is catatonic."

Boyd watched Ryan in contemplation as he took in that information. "Was she threatening or controlling just prior to his episode?"

"Nope. Just taking advantage of the situation. She was asking him questions about his childhood at the same time. There's a video and everything; I'm not sure what triggered it really."

Boyd considered that a moment and then asked the other question he'd been wanting to verify. "You said earlier that he was abused as a child. Was it sexual abuse?"

Ryan made a sour face. "Not sure, he never went into details but it was hinted at. His mom was a prostitute so anything is possible. Apparently when he first got here he implied enough to make it sound like most of the abuse had happened while he'd been with her."

He started to open his mouth to say more but before he could, his cell phone trilled. One slim hand disappeared into one of the many pockets on his green cargo pants and Ryan glanced at the screen of the phone.

"Ahh, I have to get back to the Tower."

Boyd nodded and stood. "Thank you for the information." He paused, wondering about the last incident as well as details on the others. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd be interested in borrowing your flash drive."

Ryan nodded, not looking surprised and went over to his desk. The drawers appeared to be full of assorted discs and implements just like the mixed ziploc bag that he carried in his backpack.  And just like with that bag, despite the disorderliness of the drawer, he somehow found what he needed without a problem.

"If you ever want to talk or hang out without Hsin being the topic, that'd be cool too."

Boyd looked at Ryan with surprise, his eyebrows lifting as he accepted the flash drive. He wasn't used to people being interested in spending time with him unless necessary. Most people ended up ignoring or disliking him. Since that had continued on a larger scale at the Agency, he'd expected it to stay that way. He'd expected that Ryan would forget about him after this aside from work or Sin-related interaction.

Having not anticipated that response, he answered without thinking to hide that he was caught off guard. "Oh. Alright."

The response brought a loud laugh from Ryan. The shorter man beamed, looking pleased with Boyd's reaction. "I'll get you to loosen up. We can watch Gundam together and eat nachos. But I have to jam at the moment so I'll talk about that more later."

It was probably just as well that they ended up parting after that because Boyd didn't know what to say to that. He didn't know what Gundam was, although he'd seen the name written on one of the posters. Whatever it was, he couldn't imagine sitting around eating nachos watching it. Things like that seemed so far removed from him that he didn't even consider them.

He didn't know what to make of Ryan, or even Sin for that matter despite the additional information he'd been given. As far as he could tell, Sin seemed to overreact, often psychotically, if he felt threatened. But were the threats real or were they imagined? It was so difficult to know.

He could be at the thought all day long and still not come to a conclusion so he decided to leave it be for now. Maybe he would understand more once he'd seen the information Ryan had gathered. Or, more likely considering the enigma that was Sin, he would only have more questions.

With the flash drive securely in his messenger bag, Boyd headed toward the library on the fourteenth floor of the Tower. He'd discovered it on accident when he'd first started exploring the Tower to determine what was where.

There was a library and report room that most people seemed to frequent in the lower levels, but fourteenth had the original reference library. It had everything from research material to a breadth of genres for casual reading, no doubt kept up for agents on their downtime.

He had discovered that the library on the fourteenth floor was usually empty and when it wasn't there tended to be at most a handful of people there. It was a quiet place to get away from the constant press of people that sometimes wore away at Boyd. And although most people opted toward digital books and information, Boyd liked having a book in his hands when he was reading or studying.

When he walked into the library, he thought it was empty aside from a man who appeared to be around Ryan's age. His light brown skin was offset by dark, uncombed hair. He had a stack of books in his hands and was gathering others that had been left on the tables. He kept pausing, setting the stack down and lifting parts of it to insert the new books in the correct order.

Boyd assumed the man worked in the library and was putting them in alphabetical or numerical order so he could shelve them. When Boyd entered, the man glanced up and then stared. Hazel-brown eyes shifted across Boyd and along his face before their eyes met. The man jerked guiltily and looked away abruptly when it became clear Boyd had noticed the stare. He almost knocked over part of the stack of books in his haste to return to his task.

Boyd didn't pay much attention to him and walked further into the library, perusing the aisles. He'd borrowed the first part of a series so he first returned that and picked out the next one. Bookstores and libraries had always appealed to him and they were one of the few places that could still suck him in even when he'd shut down his interest in almost everything else. He liked the peace and quiet of libraries, and the history contained in the books surrounding him. He liked the smell and feel of old books the most.

He lingered especially in the architectural and art areas, grabbing one of the larger photo books that he wanted to flip through but didn't want to haul all the way home. He decided to look through it while he was here, since it was quiet enough that he didn't have to feel like people were staring at him as so often seemed to be the case on compound. He wanted to be in the area where he would be least likely to be disturbed so he headed toward his favorite table, which was in the far back, as far away from the door as possible.

When he rounded the corner of an aisle he was surprised to see Sin sitting there at the table, reading a book. Boyd stopped and stared at him for a moment. It was strange and a bit startling seeing Sin so abruptly after he'd just been prying into the man's life.

Sin looked up at him, his expression instantly wary and kind of annoyed. "What?" he demanded.

"You're sitting at the table where I intended to sit," Boyd answered, then looked down at the mostly empty table. There weren't any other good choices of tables that were as tucked away as this one so Boyd was reluctant to leave.

Pale green eyes regarded him skeptically. "You're randomly here of your own accord?"

"Yes," Boyd said, setting the books down so Sin could see. "I came to continue a series and look through art books. I prefer this library. It's quiet, which is also the reason I prefer this corner. Fewer people come back here so I can spend time without being bothered."

"No shit," Sin said flatly, gaze continuing to bore into Boyd distrustfully. He slammed his book shut and Boyd saw that it was a collection of post-war poems. "I find it odd that you're here. I don't believe in coincidences."

"Well, that's unfortunate because that's what this is," Boyd said impassively. "If I'd wanted to track you down, why would I do something so obvious? Accidentally running across you would be a ridiculous excuse when this is such a quiet and removed area."

The other man gave him a flat look and began stacking two more books on top of the one he'd been reading. "I was thinking more along the lines of someone sending you here for some purpose but thanks for the speech."

"No one sent me." Boyd looked down at Sin's stacked books and then up to meet Sin's eyes. "Are you planning to leave?"

"Didn't you say you wanted the table?"

"You don't have to leave for that," Boyd replied, pulling his books closer toward him. "I was only hoping to take one side of the table but if you don't want me to, I'll leave instead. You were here first."

Sin gave him another one of his long blank stares, shook his head and opened the book again. "Whatever."

Boyd pulled out the chair on the opposite side of the table from Sin and sat down. He set the reading books to the side and opened the large photo book. It was a compendium of some of the most well-known buildings, cities, and styles across the world, with a portion of it devoted to the history of different movements and architects. Boyd liked it because the size of the book afforded larger, higher resolution photographs that he could look at more closely, while the history provided context.     

He flipped through the pages but he couldn't help paying partial attention to Sin. He felt a gaze on him and looked up, meeting Sin's eyes. Sin dropped his gaze back down to the book in front of him but Boyd forgot about the photo book for a moment.

Boyd couldn't help feeling perplexed by Sin. Was the distrust and sarcasm that bordered on rudeness his true feelings or were they a defensive reaction to others? Where did truth end and deception begin when it came to Sin, or was it all an act regardless? Sin seemed reasonable enough now but he didn't know whether Sin was acting this way for a particular reason.

But what was of particular interest to Boyd and what he hoped he may end up finding more information on within the flash drive was the quieter side of Sin. The person he was at moments like this, when he didn't seem like he wanted to push Boyd away immediately. When there was the indication that there could still be more to him.

The books he'd chosen were interesting enough on their own. Poetry, albeit post-war, and classic literature hinted at a deeper intellect or at least a person who may be thoughtful. And the fact that Sin had dropped his gaze rather than staring defiantly into Boyd's eyes was just another moment to consider.

Sin seemed to have so many aspects that were deeply or partially hidden and if Boyd had felt the strength of emotions he once had, he would have characterized his interest in Sin as fascination. As it was, he found himself growing almost grudgingly intrigued by the older man.

He leaned against the table with his arms partially crossed, and studied Sin more closely for a moment before he flicked his gaze down to the poetry book.

"How is that?" he asked, his voice a low tone for the library but cast with a faint hint of curiosity.

Pale green eyes flicked up instantly. "What?"

"The book," Boyd said, gesturing at it. He didn't look away from Sin's face. "I haven't read anything by that poet. I was curious if it's good."

There was a pause where Sin stared at him mutely but then his eyebrows drew down and his full mouth twisted slightly, giving his face more animation than it had had since Boyd arrived at the library. The expression was at once incredulous and confused but then a silhouette from the nearby aisle shifted and Sin's face smoothed back into his usual bland look.

He looked over as the library attendant shelved a couple of tomes before hurrying back the way he'd come. It was only then that Sin answered.

"Rather dull, actually."

"Hmm." Boyd leaned back in his chair. "Do you read a lot of poetry?"

Again, green eyes leveled him with a suspicious stare. It seemed as though Sin couldn't figure out why any of this information would be of value to his partner. "I don't really read a lot of anything. Until recently, I haven't had access to books since very early in my childhood."

The response was spoken curtly but then after a breath Sin added, "However I enjoyed classics and epic poems at that time. After enjoying Milton as a child, the word play here seems relatively amateurish."

Boyd studied Sin with increasing interest as it became apparent that the intellect he'd thought was there did exist. After all, there weren't many children who would enjoy Milton. "You had advanced taste for a child," he observed. "I used to read well above my grade level as well."

"And look where we both ended up in the world," was the dry response. "How far our good taste has gotten us."

Boyd's lips faintly twitched at the edges. "Intelligence doesn't always equate to common sense. Or, for that matter, the ability to fully choose one's path in life."

Sin watched him for a moment and leaned back in his chair, pushing unruly strands of fine black hair out of his face. The constant fall of it seemed to irritate him and it was obvious he wasn't used to having so much. He seemed to be considering something, perhaps whether or not he should say something, but in the end he just looked back down at his book.

Boyd debated going back to reading but he was loathe to give up one of the few times Sin seemed relatively approachable. "Is your love for Milton why you got that tattoo?" he asked curiously. "Initially I thought you simply enjoyed the irony of the quote."

The other man made a face at the word 'love.' "It was both. Milton's use of language was extraordinary. Especially considering it's a nearly four hundred year old text but the subject matter manages to still be applicable now." There was a slight pause and Sin raised his eyebrow. "I'm surprised that you recognized the quote."

"His wording is memorable," Boyd replied simply with a shrug.


Before any more could be said on the topic, the silence of the library was broken by a loud voice towards the front. A slightly disjointed conversation floated to the back where they were sitting. Although the context meant nothing to Boyd, he noticed that Sin's eyes had narrowed slightly and his posture had stiffened.

There was no immediate indication as to what exactly had made him so tense until heavy footsteps came closer to them and Harry Truman appeared next to the table. The muscular dark-haired man leered down at them, his mouth twisted in a mocking grin.

"Study date?" His thick eyebrows lifted, brown eyes going from Boyd to Sin. "Mind if I join?"

"I do, actually. I only give reading lessons on Sundays."

Harry's eyes narrowed slightly but the smirk didn't leave his face. "You're a real smart ass when they let you out of your cage, aren't you?"

Sin just stared at him flatly.

"Is there a reason for your interruption?" Boyd asked, watching Harry impassively.

Heavy lidded eyes swung over to Boyd. His eyes flit over Boyd's thin build and his smirk widened. "We're meant to check on Vega here from time to time. I volunteer for the job. He's like a pet of mine."

Harry's smirk spread into an outright grin as his brown gaze moved back to Sin. "Aren't you?"

The tension seemed to be steadily building and Sin's fingers had curled loosely around his book. His eyes never left Truman's even as he slowly began putting his stack of books together. "I hear word that there's a sixteen-year-old in the training complex, Harry. Perhaps you should go see if he's your type. A bit old but you seem open to variety lately."

The guard's face flooded with color and he jerked forward instantly as if to swing. Sin didn't move an inch; he didn't even flinch as Harry's clenched fist stopped only centimeters from his high cheekbone. Harry's mouth had pulled back into a snarl at that point but he retracted his fist as Sin stared at him with the same chill in his vivid green eyes.

"Are we finished?" Sin asked, voice quiet and deadly.

Harry didn't answer as he seemed to struggle to control his flaring temper. Sin stood, picked up his books and walked away as if the incident hadn't even occurred. Despite the fact that the guard had come with the intention to provoke, he was the one who looked the most upset by the incident.

His eyes dropped to Boyd and turned into slits as if he hated Boyd as well for witnessing the interaction.

Boyd returned Harry's glare with a largely impassive stare, although his eyebrow ticked up faintly. What little emotion was visible on his face showed that he wasn't particularly impressed.

There was definitely an especial amount of tension between those two. The implications of the conversation shed some amount of light on it, including the slightly disturbing way Harry had addressed Sin.

Harry finally seemed to relax, rocking back on the balls of his heels and rolling his shoulders. He ran a hand through his thick brown hair, gave Boyd another assessing glare and then turned without a word.

Boyd watched the man go, his eyes narrowing faintly in thought. After he was alone again, he turned his attention back to his book. However, at that point the silence was almost distracting. He found that he felt it was unfortunate that Harry had arrived since he'd finally been making some amount of conversational progress with Sin.

He kept thinking about what Ryan had said, and the implications of Sin's past, and the familiar way Harry treated Sin. In the end he found that the questions clamoring in his mind did not allow him much respite for looking at photographs of architecture. No matter how detailed they were.

He sighed and shut the book. He wasn't sure whether he was more discontent with the fact that the interaction had distracted him from being able to concentrate when alone and had effectively ruined any chances of a quiet few hours... Or whether, instead, he didn't mind that Sin had been there and he was more displeased that Harry had interrupted them.

It was odd to consider the idea that he could have been, on any level at all, enjoying Sin's company. Still, now that Sin was entrenched firmly in his mind again he decided he may as well look into the information Ryan had provided him.

He ended up putting back most of the books and only brought with him the continuation of the series. When he got home, he opened his father's old office which he hadn't touched in years. He could almost feel the presence of ghosts, shifting just out of his perception.

When he turned the light on it flickered dully. Many of the light bulbs had burned out long ago and he hadn't bothered replacing them. The bombs had affected the electricity and some rooms had stronger currents than others.

He didn't pay heed to the ambiance and booted up the computer. It was old and unused and took a long time to load, with labored whirring in the process. He ended up leaving it to load to go make himself some jasmine tea, and when he returned it was finally ready.

For so many years, this room had been off-limits; partially due to an unspoken rule of his mother's to not disturb anything that had been his father's, and partially because he hadn't wanted to be reminded of old ghosts anyway.

He remembered from childhood sitting quietly in the living room, reading a book or drawing on paper and looking up every time he thought he heard movement that indicated his dad was done. He used to long for those moments when his father would abruptly open the door and appear, tired lines etched into his face from hours of working on the computer.

Even so, his brown gaze used to dart around immediately and the second he saw Boyd, he always broke into a grin.

Boyd remembered the way his dad had swooped down on him and picked him up, hugging him against that chest that had felt so broad and inviting and safe, and the affectionate way those large fingers had ruffled his hair or held him closer. The obvious happiness and excitement in his voice as he'd proclaimed he was done with work and asked Boyd what he wanted to do.

That moment when his father had appeared in the hallway had always been Boyd's favorite. Although there were sometimes hours if not entire days prior to that when his father would rarely appear, the moment he had entered the room he'd always lit it up. Walls had seemed too paper thin to contain that grin. Dismal days had seemed brighter.

His presence had always seemed larger than life and the sparkle in his eye had so often seemed genuinely happy or mischievous. The smell of ink had seemed to linger on his father's clothing as well, although Boyd had never known specifically why. It had just been his scent. That, mixed with old books and newspapers and generic soap.

Perhaps that was why Boyd felt an affinity for old bookstores and libraries. Aside from the ability to disappear into a corner, it was a comforting place the way his father's arms had once been.

After his father's death, the room had been used occasionally; oftentimes by Lou to play a game, although Boyd had also utilized it for schoolwork. Some of their use had been important and some frivolous. When he thought of pulling up an internet browser he imagined the search engine still displaying a search for Latin phrases.

The thought made his stomach clench and expression shut down, and he looked away from the familiar background to stare at the wall. He ignored every thought that went through his mind until he was certain he could stay on task.

The times of his father or Lou using the room were long ago and those memories were best left untouched. None of it held any relevance or meaning for his life anymore. If it weren't for the fact that the office held the only computer in the house, he would not have even opened that creaking door.

He sat down at the desk, brushing off the thick layers of dust that were in the way, and set his mug on an old jewel case to the side. Although his mother never came home anymore and his father was long dead, he still automatically followed etiquette to keep from staining the furniture.

Once the flash drive was inserted and a window popped up on screen, he saw that Ryan had collected quite a bit of information. There were many folders and files, and judging by the extensions Ryan had compiled videos, images, and documents.

Boyd clicked through a few of the images first. They appeared to be pictures of Sin over the years. Most were still frames from security or surveillance cameras. One picture was what appeared to be a mug shot from jail and another appeared to be a picture taken for identification purposes for the Agency.

Sin's appearance hadn't changed much over the course of the years; every image portrayed the same penetrating green gaze and unruly black hair although that had taken on streaks of red at some point. The progression in age was interesting, not because of his physical appearance, but because of the slight change in demeanor as he'd grown older.

The image of Sin at the age of fourteen showed a thin, sinewy boy with almost delicate features. Long black eyelashes framed his pale green eyes. As intelligent and calculating as those eyes seemed to be, teenage Sin's face was completely void of any expression or emotion. Several pictures of him over the subsequent years seemed to follow that trend. It was hard to imagine that scrawny, striking child going on assignments and taking lives, but Boyd knew Sin had.

At some point his mannerisms appeared to have gradually begun to change. His face became extremely expressive and often the look in his eyes was challenging, hostile and accompanied by the mocking smirk that Boyd was familiar with now. The change could imply that Sin had found the ability to express himself over the years by rediscovering emotions he hadn't been able to have as a child assassin.

Boyd's experience with Sin, however, told a different story. He suspected the opposite was true. Sin's provoking manner seemed like an act or defense mechanism to keep others at bay until he could discern their motives. What he was truly feeling was something only Sin knew.

He returned to the main folder and watched the videos.

The first video he saw seemed to be the one Ryan had referred to with the girl that had been attacked.

Grainy footage from what appeared to be a surveillance camera filled the screen. From the angle, Boyd guessed that it was fixed on a streetlight as it hovered above a street he recognized in Vickland. The date at the bottom of the video was seven years old, which explained why the area had not been cleaned up yet. This hadn't been long after the second major wave of bombs that had devastated the country.

After joining the Agency, Boyd learned that prior to the peak of the war all those years ago, paranoia had been high. Cameras had been installed nationwide in concealed vantage points to watch high traffic areas and the sections of the cities that were known to house criminal behavior.

It had been an attempt to catch terrorists in the act. In order to avoid losing anything, the footage had been routed through heavily protected wires and casings to automated facilities that could record for years even without a single person present to monitor. Several of the cameras were destroyed during the war, despite all precautions taken, but many had survived.

Boyd doubted that many of the people on screen knew they were being recorded, if any at all. He had grown up in Lexington and had visited Vickland with Lou many times, and he didn't remember ever noticing any cameras. It was possible, of course, that any that had remained in Vickland had been removed in the years between the second wave of bombs and when Boyd had been old enough to be wandering that neighborhood with Lou.

At one time, Vickland had nearly been an extension of the Financial District. Since the bombs, it had fallen into disrepair. And, for people like the girl running across the screen, it had become dangerous.

Boyd watched as the scene played out. A young girl of thirteen or fourteen ran across the screen in terror, three men who dwarfed her petite form running after her. They caught her quickly and began tearing at her clothing before they forced her down within view of several scavengers who didn't pay much attention to the affair. Her mouth was wide open and her face was twisted, showing that she was screaming loudly in panic.

Sin appeared, walking calmly down the street. He didn't seem to be startled by the scene before him but he did stop and observe. The men halted their activity and words were exchanged, but the camera didn't pick up any sound.

Sin appeared to be staring at the young girl with a blank look on his face as she sobbed and struggled, but there was something in his eyes that made it obvious that the disinterest was only on the surface. The slight curl of his mouth, the way his hand slowly balled into a fist; they were all telling signs that Sin felt something else as he looked at the scene. It was not an expression that Boyd was familiar with and it inspired curiosity in him as he watched.

Without transition, Sin abruptly looked at the men with an expression of wild fury. The look was deadly, frightening and Boyd wondered if this was what Ryan had meant when he'd said that Sin could 'lose it' sometimes. The expression on Sin's face had the ability to send a shiver down a person's spine and it was painfully obvious that in that moment he was not entirely sane.

What happened next was a blur. One second Sin was standing there facing off against three considerably stronger looking men and in the next, he was slaughtering them. His movements were almost graceful, decisive-- he killed effortlessly and with a skill that was startling.

They truly hadn't stood chance.

The carnage was over seemingly within seconds. Afterward, Sin stood there covered in blood. He stared, wide-eyed and snarling. The girl unsurprisingly began screaming in terror. This time it caught the attention of the scavengers and for some reason, the entire scene erupted in chaos.

Boyd could only assume that the scavengers had thought Sin had murdered three men and was now attacking a girl. It was the only reason he could think of to explain what happened next.

They swooped in on Sin with pipes, bats, bricks-- whatever was in the debris that lay in piles in the area, and he responded with lethal force. Everyone who came near him fell to the ground. No matter what they threw at him and how many jumped on him, his lanky form managed to overpower them. It wasn't long before police arrived in droves and he was finally taken down.

Boyd frowned slightly at the screen in thought and moved to the next file in chronological order.

The video was the same night but apparently several hours later. The picture was sharper and showed Sin sitting at a table in a small room. He was still covered with dried blood but the wild look was gone from his face. Instead he looked withdrawn and dismayed. He kept looking at his hands and scrubbing them against his pants, his full mouth turned down deeply at the sides. After awhile he got up to pace the room, scratching at the dried blood that clung to him and raking his hands through his hair at random.

Boyd could hear the brush of fabric and realized this video had sound.

It went on that way for awhile until two men appeared in the room. One stayed by the door and one approached Sin, telling him to sit down and be still. He introduced himself as Detective Lyons and his partner as Detective Valdez. The next several minutes passed with them attempting to question Sin about the incident. Sin answered vaguely and then ceased to respond at all when Lyons became increasingly aggressive.

The man seemed intent on ignoring the way the incident had actually begun and instead labeled Sin as a rapist and mass murderer. The interview went on a downward spiral from there as other crimes were brought up; crimes that had happened in other parts of the city but which Lyons appeared to be trying to implicate Sin as the perpetrator.

"You're a fucking moron."

It was the first time Sin had spoken in several minutes on the tape-- nearly fifteen Boyd saw when he looked at the timer. The response was immediate. Lyons snatched Sin up by the arm and slammed his head down onto the table with a resounding thump. Boyd knew without even having to think twice that Sin had allowed himself to be manhandled. But the detective was not so intuitive-- he twisted one of Sin's arms behind his back and leaned down to hiss something in his ear that was inaudible.

Valdez remained generally expressionless as he maintained his position by the door.

The abuse went on for some time. It seemed that Lyons was prepared to beat a confession out of Sin and for some reason, Sin was letting him. Perhaps he didn't want to cause any more trouble by lashing out. Perhaps he was just waiting for the Agency to arrive and get him out like Boyd knew they eventually did.

Maybe it was something else entirely. Judging by the darkly haunted look that had been in his eyes prior to the interrogation, it seemed that Sin had been affected by the incident that had led to him being there. Maybe he felt some sense of guilt or responsibility? Maybe he even thought he deserved to be roughed up?

Boyd wound up skipping through a lot of the interrogation. The physical abuse and Sin's lack of response was uncomfortable to view.

The detectives kept him there for over three hours while repeating the same redundant questions in the hopes that Sin would crack and agree to confess to the assortment of crimes. By the time Boyd resumed viewing, Lyons was panting and covered in splatters of blood. He was visibly frustrated and it made him more violent as Valdez kept guard by the door.

Through it all Sin had remained aggravatingly passive and it wasn't until Lyons straddled him on the floor that he had a visible reaction. Before then, he had stared blandly into space as though the abuse was boring to him. Now, his pale green eyes locked with Lyons'. Boyd didn't know what passed between the two men but Lyons stiffened and his hackles rose.

"You're mine, you piece of shit," he said quietly, his voice intense as he whispered into Sin's face. "You killed civilians, cops-- who knows what else you've done. You're going to own up to it, boy."

"I'm not going to own up to anything," Sin said flatly. "Now get the fuck off of me."

Lyons sneered and removed his gun from the holster. "Do you really think you can give me orders? You do what I say when I fucking--" He slammed Sin's head against the floor for emphasis. "--say it. If I say open those cocksucking lips and blow my gun, you'll do it. Won't you?"

Sin's lips curled back into a sneer.

"Won't you?" Lyons repeated, pushing the barrel of his gun against Sin's lips.

In the space of a second, Lyons went from straddling Sin to flying across the room with savage violence. He slammed against the wall but almost before he'd made it, Sin was on him again. The gun flashed in Sin's hand just as Valdez shouted and drew his own gun.

A shot was fired and Valdez crumpled to the floor, blood pooling beneath him.

Sin growled, dark eyebrows drawing together. He looked pissed off and frustrated and murderous but not insane like he had earlier. His breath was coming faster although Boyd doubted it was from exertion. At that point, Lyons climbed to his feet and threw himself at Sin in a stumbling blind rage.

"Fuck it," the younger version of Sin said flatly and raised the gun. He unloaded it into Lyons head until nothing remained but pulp. He stared at the body for a moment, tossed the gun down and walked out of the room.

The video ended shortly after, leaving Boyd to stare at the screen blankly.

He wondered about the violence in the two connected videos. It seemed from the first one that Sin hadn't been in his right mind when he'd killed the civilians and cops, and yet he hadn't attacked until he'd been attacked first. Or, in the case of the three men, the girl had been attacked. Yet he'd allowed the detective to abuse him for hours and didn't react until he was on the floor.

Was that because Lyons had pinned him down?

He didn't have an immediate answer to that so he continued to sift through the information that Ryan had meticulously cataloged. After that incident, the Agency covered up what had happened and locked Sin away for two years. He was kept in a cell on the Fourth Floor Detainment Center and away from the general population.

The next documented information was that Lydia Connors was acting as Sin's newest psychiatrist. Apparently they intended to release him to active duty if he could pass psych evaluations. As Ryan had referenced, that also ended in failure for him.

There were scant amounts of scanned documents from Lydia's files as well as some files that had been taken from her computer. None of it was very helpful or conclusive due to the randomness at which they were included and it seemed likely that Ryan hadn't been able to recover the majority of her files.

The main thing of note in the file of Lydia Connors was how she came to land in Willowbrook Home in a catatonic state. Boyd found a video of the infamous session.

The clarity of the video instantly allowed Boyd to recognize it as Agency quality. Sin was there, as was Lydia-- he recognized her immediately as the identical twin of Ann Connors. The video was not long compared to the interrogation video with the detectives. It lasted only forty-five minutes but those minutes were disturbing in more ways than one.

From the nature of the conversation it seemed that during his incarceration, guards reported that Sin had been having nightmares. To pursue this, Lydia claimed she wanted to give him something to relax in order to discuss them further. This immediately seemed wrong in Boyd's mind but the woman carried it out anyway, instructing Sin to take an unknown quantity of unknown pills. He seemed hesitant but ultimately looked resigned to the process despite the fact that it seemed he did not expect it to work.

Within the next few minutes, the effects of the drugs were clear. Sin's pale green eyes drooped, his voice slurred-- she encouraged this, telling him to shut his eyes and relax. To remember what his nightmares had been. He answered sluggishly, clearly drugged, and she coaxed things out of him. No matter how disturbed he seemed or how resistant-- no matter how his breath became labored and sweat began to trickle down his brow-- she continued. That alone disturbed Boyd.

She moved closer to him, stroking his face, cooing that he should relax. Murmuring how much he looked like his father. All the while, Sin seemed caught in one of the nightmares she'd begun questioning him about.

"No," he uttered in a low strained voice. "No--"

He twisted his head, full lips parted and overgrown messy black hair hanging around his face as he half slumped over the table. Muttered words in a different language escaped his mouth but they were too low and whispered for Boyd to hear.

"It's okay, baby," she whispered, light brown hair tumbling loose from its clip as she knelt beside him. Lydia began rubbing his neck, running fingers through his hair.

Boyd's eyes narrowed on her before he focused on Sin's fingers, the way they were gripping the edges of the table with a white knuckled grip. The table began to slowly cave beneath it and Sin's breath became audibly more ragged, his voice more distressed. Lydia didn't seem to notice.

"Shh," Lydia said, pushing his hair back and crouching beside him.

Boyd thought she had to have noticed how much it was making Sin's condition worsen. It seemed so evident to Boyd the way Sin seemed to cringe away from her touch. The way she was stroking him was obviously worsening whatever was happening but Boyd could only assume she didn't care. It was surprisingly irritating for him to watch. He wanted to be able to tell her to stop; to think about Sin and his mental health. He wanted to demand what she thought she was doing.

It was around that time that Lydia began kissing Sin. She seemed utterly incapable of stopping herself as she stared at him with ill-concealed desire. It was a feverish look; at once worshipful and obsessive. She either ignored or didn't realize how badly he was reacting to her probing tongue and groping hands. She slid one hand down, rubbing against his crotch as she continued to rape his mouth.

That was when he reacted.

His eyes snapped open. They seemed completely devoid of awareness or recognition. It was the wild-eyed look from the incident in Vickland and he reacted with the same violence.

He was obviously out of control and completely unaware that she was Lydia Connors rather than whatever he'd been seeing behind his closed eyelids when she'd begun touching him.

This time the attack wasn't as decisive as the last; it was tinged with a frantic angry madness as if he wanted her to feel pain. Whatever he'd been remembering or dreaming about in the drugged stupor had driven him further over the edge then usual. She paid for it with broken glass used to slash her face and body before the guards charged in and stopped it all.

The video was brutal and violent, with blood spraying and Lydia screaming in terror. Sobbing and begging Sin to stop. There was a small part of Boyd that felt uncomfortable watching it on her behalf, but the larger part of him couldn't believe she had pushed it so far. It disgusted him that she had so obviously taken advantage of someone in such a vulnerable position, all for her own gain. Especially since Sin had been known to react violently before then, so mentally compromising and then sexually assaulting him was an even stupider thing to do.

The disturbing way she'd seemed incapable of stopping, apparently getting off on his resemblance to Emilio, was only matched by Sin's seeming inability to stop himself once he'd started attacking her. It was a situation which was unfortunate on both their parts but Boyd couldn't feel any sympathy for Lydia. She was supposed to be Sin's psychiatrist, a position that needed to inspire trust since people were at their most vulnerable when discussing their issues. Yet the first chance she got, she was all over him. If that hadn't happened, what would she have done in the future? How often would she have drugged and raped Sin, adding to the abuse he already received, all so she could get off on her own delusions?

Boyd's face shifted, turning cold and displeased with the thinning of his lips and narrowing of his eyes. He replayed the video and paused on Sin's expression, studying his face. He wondered about the difference between episodes and what could cause it.

That prompted him to skip to the last recorded episode of Sin's. This one was only a year old and had been captured on surveillance of the Fourth as he was escorted upstairs after the death of his last partner.

For the most part Sin seemed silent but his eyes were brimming with impotent rage as Harry Truman was seen on the video hauling him down the corridor. They were accompanied by Dennis McNichols and Luke Gerant. There was another guard there whom Boyd had never seen and a man whose badge marked him as a lieutenant in the guards. There wasn't audio in the surveillance cameras in the halls but the interactions were clear.

Harry and Dennis were taunting Sin, getting in his face and touching him in an overly familiar way that made it obvious that this treatment of him was the norm. Luke was the only one there who looked uncomfortable with what was happening but he didn't say anything to intervene. The lieutenant, if anything, seemed amused and pleased by the entire exchange as he offered his own unheard comments. He kept grinning at Sin smugly, even when Harry pinned Sin to the wall outside of his cell and got very close to his face before saying something in his ear.

At this point, Boyd could now pinpoint the signs of Sin's episode approaching. He was shaking visibly, his face pale with rage and eyes widening slightly. Anger seemed to build in him before his face snapped into the blank mask of indifference and he erupted in a blind rage.

Harry threw himself back just in time but the lieutenant wasn't lucky enough to escape. Sin grabbed him and yanked him back into the cell right before Dennis frantically slammed the door shut. He locked the door with the keypad, his fingers shaking visibly.

There was a brief argument between the guards after that before they began calling for reinforcements. From what Boyd read afterward, it had been too late for the guard captain and he died of his wounds. Apparently Sin had ripped open the man's jugular with his teeth.

There was an interesting mix of punishment and forgiveness when it came to Sin's episodes which made it seem as though the Marshal dealt with them with some mote of logic. He punished Sin for the civilian incident which had compromised Sin's identity in the city and resulted in many deaths, which had drawn more attention than wanted. But Boyd was unsure if the time spent on the Fourth for that was an actual punishment or a way of keeping him isolated for a couple of years until the public forgot that they'd ever seen his face.

The two years of incarceration following the Lydia incident, however, was clearly a punishment. This wasn't too surprising considering she was the Marshal's daughter. Even then, Connors must have viewed the tape if Sin had been briefly jailed rather than terminated for the attack. There was no denying that Lydia had brought it on herself as she took advantage of Sin and used her position to get what she wanted. If the Marshal was anything like Boyd's mother, he would have had very little tolerance for her behavior or sympathy for what had followed.

The final incident had also seemed to be forgiven, or so it appeared. Sin was initially put on the Fourth due to his failure to comply with his partners but no extra time was tacked on for the death of the guard captain.

In fact, Sin had been released sooner than ever. Was it possible that these deaths meant nothing to the Agency in the face of Sin's skills? Or was it possible that the Marshal viewed these same videos and came to the conclusion that the attack had been provoked? If so, why didn't they share this with the majority of the populace instead of allowing Sin to be labeled as a monster and alienated as a whole as if he were someone who killed at will for enjoyment?

The entire situation was baffling.

Even when Boyd thought of his own interactions with Sin, his thoughts were inconclusive. Sin seemed to react based on threat level but that wasn't always necessarily the case, even during times when Sin was in his right mind. After all, how much of a threat was Boyd truly to Sin? And yet when Boyd had touched him on that first mission Sin had slammed him against the car and cut off his breath. Yet if Sin had truly wanted to kill him, he could and would have. So how much of Sin's behavior was threatening bravado, how much was insanity, and how much was a defensive reaction he may not be able to control?

The only thing Boyd could conclude with any certainty was that Sin was mistreated on the compound. He suspected that such treatment added to the issues but he didn't know to what extent. Maybe Sin was simply this way on his own regardless of how others acted. Maybe others acted that way as a result of how Sin had treated them all previously. Or maybe it was the systematic dehumanization of someone who made no effort to do anything but live up to their poor expectations of his behavior.

Whatever the case, Sin was as much a mystery now as he ever had been. Especially when Boyd thought about the moments when it seemed like there could be more to Sin than initially met the eye. Which was the lie? The quietly sarcastic man who read poetry and Milton in the corner, or the crazed person who could literally rip people apart and who killed in cold blood?

Or was either a lie at all?

Continue to Chapter 9