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 Ten

Boyd became aware of reality in parts.

Darkness surrounded him. He drifted with that for awhile, the darkness and he coexisting together; symbiotic, calm. After awhile, he realized that he heard nothing and that seemed strange. When he remembered that he could hear he realized he could feel.

Something light and soft covered him; he could feel it on his skin. He focused on that and tried to understand what it was. There was something beneath his head and beneath his back. It took awhile, but the words filtered into his brain. Pillow, bed and sheets, and the image of a cabin came to mind.

He tried to understand what that meant, and then he realized he was breathing. That shouldn't have been something he noticed but he did. His chest rose and fell, and the soft sheet was rearranging itself each time.

His fingers twitched and then he felt the pain.

His head throbbed violently. It felt like it was in sync with the blood pounding through his brain. After he noticed the headache, he realized his side hurt; mostly his shoulder. Then the aching of his back joined the clamor, followed by his thigh. Little pains and big pains joined together to make him wholly uncomfortable and unable to return to the serenity that had sheltered him just seconds before.

His sense of time was warped, so it could have been seconds or centuries before he remembered why it seemed strange that he was having any thoughts at all. Flashes moved behind his eyelids; disjointed scenes as if someone took film and cut it apart and put it back together haphazardly.

The crystal clear image of Sin's back to him while people fell was strong in his mind, and with it came the memory of being surrounded. The strike against his head and him falling to the floor. The pain of a limp body striking concrete.

His mind started to drift again but then the image of Sin persistently returned and with it came sudden understanding. Followed by delayed disbelief.

He was alive.

At the understanding, Boyd's abruptly eyes opened and he stared at the ceiling.

It wasn't the same ceiling as in the bunker and come to think of it hadn't he thought he was on a bed? Confusion muddled his mind and he sat up before he thought about the fact that he could be captured and it could be in his best interest to feign sleep.

Boyd blinked in dumbfounded confusion when he finally took in his surroundings.

He was in the cabin outside 53's rebel base, just as he had been the night before. Had it been the night before? He glanced at the windows but the curtains were drawn. What time was it? How many hours had passed? Was it more than a day?

Strangely, Warren Andrews sat in the corner. He was tied up, glowering around him, and cloth was tied in his mouth so he couldn't make a noise. Boyd stared at him for a long moment, unable to comprehend what he was doing there or why. He looked away rather than overwork his mind trying to interpret the oddity in the environment.

Leaning against the wall was Sin, his arms crossed and expression blank. But he was staring at Boyd, and he didn't even blink when Boyd looked over and met his eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment; Sin intensely, and Boyd too confused to even know exactly what was happening.

Had that memory of Sin's back to him been real? Had Sin been watching the whole time the way he had on previous missions? Had he actually saved Boyd? And if so, why? Sin didn't save his partners; that much had been made clear. Had the guilt from the previous night been so strong that he'd deviated from his routine this one time? And why in the world was Andrews tied up in the corner of their cabin?

"Sin," Boyd said finally, blankly. Unable to form any other words.

"Boyd," Sin replied flatly. He looked at his prisoner. "I took the liberty of bringing him here for further... negotiation."

Boyd looked at Sin a little strangely, his mind still scattered as the pounding of his head vied with the oddity of waking up like this. His eyebrows dragged down and he brought one hand to his head as if it would quell his headache or make his thoughts make more sense.

He looked down at the sheet that was pooled in his lap and blinked. He wore a loose pair of drawstring pants that he didn't remember putting on. When he touched his left thigh he could feel bandages beneath the fabric.

He stared at his leg and then looked up to study Sin with eyes narrowed faintly in confusion and thought.

The only explanation was that Sin had somehow saved Boyd, brought him to the cabin, secured Andrews, and taken the time to bandage Boyd's wounds and give him a fresh pair of pants. It was such a thorough and thoughtful thing to do that it struck Boyd on several accounts. The least of which was that Sin had bothered to help Boyd and also ensure that the mission could be completed. That had to be why he'd bothered to bring Andrews in for negotiation.

It was bizarre. Sin had never cared about failed missions before. Why did he care now? Why had he bothered to save Boyd in the first place? Beyond that, why had he taken the extra step of giving him even minor medical care? Even if somehow the guilt from the night before had forced his hand into saving Boyd, there had been no reason to do anything more.

Boyd didn't understand at all and although he had any number of questions he wanted to ask, he didn't think it would be a good idea to ask them in front of Andrews. It was best if he did his job as negotiator first and then, when they were alone, asked Sin what in the world was going on.

He drew in a low breath that he let out lowly and then swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He was a little dizzy when he stood and his body ached in annoyance with his insistence on moving from a prone position. Still, none of it was enough to impede his ability to function.

He walked over to Andrews and stopped in front of him, looking down at the man expressionlessly. Andrews glared up at Boyd but he seemed distracted, his attention repeatedly returning to Sin with something akin to fear or wariness.

After a moment, Boyd crouched in front of the rebel leader. His body felt like it creaked in the movement, his head and thigh particularly unhappy and shaky, but he ignored them.

"I'm going to take the gag out but if you start screaming or still refuse to cooperate, we may run into a problem," Boyd informed Andrews. "So I suggest you work with us and make it easier on everyone."

Andrews coughed and shook hair out of his eyes once the gag was removed. His face was red with anger and his eyes focused on Sin with obvious loathing. Sin just gazed back, looking completely unconcerned.

Boyd noted the exchange but didn't react to it. He kept his calm stare centered on Andrews. "We've been following your progress and we've noticed that recently you've been in a bit of a bind. We're offering a solution."

At first his only response was a low scoff as Andrews' eyes continued to burn into Sin. But then he set his jaw and dragged his gaze away. "If you want to talk, he goes."

"Why should he leave?"

"He slaughtered half my men."

Boyd considered that. He wasn't surprised by the information; if his memory had served him correctly, it followed that many of the hostiles had been killed. Intel had shown that Andrews truly cared about his men so arguing the request would only be counter-productive.

Boyd looked over at Sin, his blond hair falling over his shoulder in the movement. His honey brown gaze moved along Sin's face briefly before meeting his eyes. "Do you mind stepping out for a minute?"

Sin raised an eyebrow briefly and said nothing. He looked from Boyd to Andrews and let his gaze flick over the tied up man, resting briefly on the flexicuffs he was secured with. Only then did the senior agent give a short nod and leave the cabin, letting the door shut behind him.

Once Sin was gone, Boyd looked over at Andrews again. With Andrews flexicuffed to a chair, Boyd was not at eye level by crouching and yet if he stood and towered over the man, it wouldn't be conducive to negotiation.

One thing he had learned was that in interviews or interrogations, people tended to mimic the interrogator without realizing it. The signals an interrogator gave could subconsciously affect the responses he or she received. The principles were just as important in negotiation, if not more.

Crossing his arms would be a defensive position, for instance, and were Andrews' arms loose he may have found himself unconsciously crossing his arms in return. Andrews may have also subconsciously viewed Boyd as being distant and may have been, in turn, less open to negotiation.

The subtleties of human interaction were even more important in negotiation. Boyd wasn't about to cut the man loose. So Boyd pulled another chair over. The chair legs dragged against the wooden floor, making faint vibrations and bumping sounds when they occasionally caught on the space between planks.

When he was seated in front of Andrews, choosing the distance carefully to be close enough to create subconscious intimacy but far enough away that it wasn't inappropriate or distracting, Boyd met Andrews' eyes.

"Rather than waste your time, I'll get straight to the point. We've noted the pressure you've been under between Janus' recruitment and the expectations of your men. As of now, it's put you in a precarious position. Unfortunately, Janus will swallow up your group and give you little in return. We have a solution to your dilemma."

"'We'?" Andrews repeated scornfully. He grimaced, showing teeth that looked bloodstained. "I don't know who sent you or who you're with but obviously it's someone just like Janus or worse."

"Better or worse are subjective terms that I can't help you with," Boyd replied neutrally. "But although our strength rivals Janus, we don't indiscriminately attack innocents and targets alike. The innocent casualties to their attacks have been high in the past and are likely to only grow as they attempt to further strengthen their army. As a man who started down this path by trying to protect innocent bystanders who had to pay the price of being caught in the middle of a war, I'm sure you can see how this is a worrisome trend. And why we would want to stop it."

Andrews shook his head and cut his eyes away, staring out one of the windows. His features were set grimly, eyes narrowed into distrustful slits.

"You people are all the same. You think you can use us to get at your goals. We didn't form the True Democracy Movement to be pulled into your political wars. We don't give a fuck about what you want. Our concern is the people of Carson and the bullshit politicians there who do what they want, when they want, and treat the people who elected them like scum."

"Unfortunately for you, you've already attracted Janus' attention and they aren't simply going to go away because you want them to." Boyd shifted forward in the chair, his forearms resting on his knees. "What we're prepared to offer you is this: You join Janus as our spy. For your protection, you will not tell anyone in True Democracy Movement about it."

He raised his eyebrows slightly to ensure Andrews understood the importance of that point, and continued speaking. "You give us information on Janus from the inside and in return, when we no longer need your services, we will provide protection for you and your men. We have no interest in interfering with your fight with Carson's government so you would be free to continue with your mission statement. In addition, the fact that you formally join Janus will look good to your men so you will no longer need to fear defection to Aarons' side. Working with us will ensure you security for your men and goals while simultaneously solving the dilemma of your current perception among the ranks."

This time Andrews released an ugly bark of a laugh. "Who do you think you're fooling, boy? You think you're doing us a favor? You forgot to add on that it will also ensure that we're under another big organization's thumb. We aren't mercenaries. We don't work for other people, no matter how powerful they are."

Boyd watched Andrews evenly for a moment and then sighed and leaned back in the chair. "Very well. I'd hoped to avoid this but you're pushing the matter." He watched Andrews seriously. "Today, a vehicle will be waiting outside Kaysen's school. It will be driven by a very friendly woman who will tell him she's a friend of his mother's and she's there to bring him home. It's possible he never makes it home."

His gaze was neutral and didn't waver. There was an unspoken threat in the intensity as he calmly listed what could happen to Andrews' two kids and ex-wife. "It's equally possible that Lily drowns when she goes canoeing at Camp Erickson next Wednesday at 1 pm. The counselor who will be with her group will be frantic when he realizes they lost her along the way. When they later find her body, it will be deemed an accident. And as for Jaime, everyone knows your ex-wife smokes, especially when stressed. Sometimes she smokes in bed. Following the family tragedies, no one would blame her for it. Unfortunately, that habit would be hazardous to her health if she fell asleep with a cigarette still burning and lit her house on fire."

Boyd continued, "It's equally possible that instead of any of this, they could be brought in for rigorous questioning until you agree to work with us." There was little doubt that what he meant, in fact, was torture. "Personally, I think the accidents would be more humane."

The threats were met with silence and a look that could have murdered Boyd on the spot if it were possible. Andrews had gone ashen and his teeth were grinding together as he strained against the flexicuffs that dug into his wrists.

The 53 leader looked as terrified as he was furious. This was a man who loved his family, even his ex-wife no matter how messy the divorce had been. This was also a man who would do anything for them; his psych file had made that clear.

"I'm not surprised," he said finally, voice raw and choked. "Anything that would employ a man like that--" he jerked his head to the door. "--would do anything."

Boyd didn't bother commenting on Sin since, from Andrews' perspective, Sin probably had seemed terrifying. After all, Sin could easily kill dozens of men and hardly seem worse for the wear the next day. Boyd didn't think he'd seen a single wound of note on Sin.

Instead, he said reasonably, "It doesn't have to be that way. If I can assure my employers that you'll work with us, none of that will happen. Of course, we'll have to keep your family under surveillance in case you decide to warn them about anything, which would be a very poor decision that would end terribly for all of you. Or if you decide to betray us, we would have to reconsider the decision to leave them be. I don't think you would care for those consequences so my suggestion is you cooperate and avoid these tragedies altogether."

"So it's all up to me," Andrews said, smiling humorlessly.

"It is," Boyd agreed calmly. "I do have some other questions. That can give you some time to consider the offer."

"Questions like what? What else can I tell you that you don't already know?"

"To your knowledge, is Jason Aarons and his group also being pursued by Janus?"

Andrews shook his head, looking slightly relieved at the question. "No. My Janus contact works only with me. Jason wouldn't know how to get in touch with them."

"Who is your Janus contact?"

This time Andrews wasn't as quick to reply. He shifted in the wooden chair, twisting his arms in the flexicuffs. "What does it matter?"

"The manner Janus contacted you or came to know about True Democracy Movement is of interest to us," Boyd replied simply. "Especially since you said the contact only works with you. It would seem there's a reason for that."

There was another stretch of charged silence as their captive seemed to roll this around in his head. Andrews was being careful and they were putting him in a difficult spot. Exposing his sources without having it fall on his own shoulders would likely be difficult. But in the end he just shook his head and looked resigned.

"Thierry Beauvais is my contact. I have a cousin, Sarabeth, who lives in England and rubs elbows with a lot of rich people who have dirty hands." Andrews smirked. "She's a much in demand... call girl, if you want to use the term. So in demand that she's pretty much courted by the kind of people that Thierry deals with. She met him at a party and they became friends. When she found out that I was looking for someone to buy arms from, she pointed me in his direction because he has contacts internationally who can set something like that up long term."

Boyd nodded in understanding. He didn't know who Thierry Beauvais was but he filed the information away for later when he would put it in the report. "How long ago was your first contact with Thierry?"

"About a year. Maybe more."

"And Janus learned of you through him?"

Andrews shrugged. "I'd never had contact with them beforehand. He said they were looking into expanding and liked our style. They liked the fact that we were going toe to toe with the politicians of Carson and fighting back. When they found out that he had dealings with us, they came knocking."

"What has your response been to them so far?"

"They know I have reservations."

Boyd inclined his head in acknowledgment. He let the silence stretch between them for a long moment as he studied Andrews closely. At length, he spoke.

"Have you made your decision?"

Andrews scoffed and continued to stare out the window. "What do you think, boy? You're not giving me any choice."

Boyd nodded once more and stood. "I will make the arrangements."

It didn't take long to get everything squared away. He retrieved Sin, who hadn't been that far away from the cabin, and after they figured out all the details they drove Andrews into the woods. The rebel leader glared hatefully at Sin nearly the entire time and seemed uncomfortable with being in the same car as him. For his part, Sin didn't seem to notice or care.

They cut Andrews loose and dropped him off where he would be able to return to his men without it ever being known where he'd been or with whom. After leaving Andrews behind, Boyd navigated them toward the major highway that would bring them back to Lexington.

Sin was silent in the passenger seat and at first Boyd was distracted with making sure he found the right twists and turns in the countryside. Once they were safely on the highway and the drive started what would become a rather boring stretch of time, Boyd looked over and studied Sin with the same intense and thoughtful stare he seemed to find himself turning on that man more than most. But then, most people didn't perplex Boyd as much as Sin did.

He remembered the way Sin had looked at him and had studied the flexicuffs before leaving Boyd alone with the Andrews. Boyd noted that along with all the other oddities of the day and now that it was silent he finally felt that he could ask all the questions he'd had to stifle earlier.

"Why did you save me?" he asked, his voice breaking into the quiet.

Up until this point, Sin had been leaning against the door with his head tilted against the window. Now he looked over, eyebrows drawing down. "Does it matter? You're alive."

"It matters to me."

Sin sat up straighter, causing the setting sun to cast muted rays against his face. He looked tired and paler than usual which was possibly due a night sleeping in the forest. The woods were considerably cooler once the sun set. His black hair was hanging around his face messily and he pushed it aside with impatience.

His full lips parted, pressed together and finally he just scowled. "It's pointless for you to die. That is basically what I decided."

"Why?" Boyd pressed, his curiosity heightened by the reply. "I'm easily replaceable. Agent Blake could take over for me immediately, no doubt, and it's unlikely anyone would have been surprised to find I hadn't made it back from this mission."

"Well, maybe I don't want Blake to be my partner," was the testy reply.

Boyd considered Sin, watching him for nuances of his expression. He couldn't deny that he was somewhat surprised by this entire situation. He hadn't expected an answer that in any way implied he could be a preferable partner above someone else. It was a curious thought since Boyd had felt for most of their partnership that Sin would have been glad to be rid of him.

"His temperament seemed relatively similar to my own," Boyd mused aloud. "I imagine after a day or two you'd hardly notice the difference."

To that, Sin didn't bother to respond.

Boyd fell silent, turning his attention to the road as one of the signs flashed by that estimated the amount of miles to various cities. They were still a good sixty-five miles from home.

"Thank you." He looked over at Sin with an expression that was a little less neutral and a little more approachable than usual. "For helping me."

At first his only answer was a stiff shrug as Sin turned back to the window. He was fidgeting again-- absently yanking at a loose string that was hanging out of a rip on his cargo pants. His long fingers pulled at it insistently until the rip began to get slightly wider.

"Did I answer your questions the way you wanted me to?" he asked finally, still keeping his head against the window.

Boyd looked over with eyebrows that drew down. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said." Sin's eyes had closed at some point and his dusky eyelashes rested against his face. He went on without opening them. "Because if I answered adequately, I'll expect adequate responses to my question in return."

The reply caused Boyd to watch him more closely before he had to turn back to the road. "I do have additional questions," he admitted.

A low sigh. "Which are?"

Boyd took a moment to consider how to formulate the two questions that were foremost in his mind. He started with the one he hadn't already asked in some fashion. "In the past, you seemed unconcerned about whether the mission was a success. So why did you make the effort to bring in Andrews so we could negotiate with him?"

Sin frowned as though he hadn't expected that question. "There would have been no point in saving you if I'd let the mission fail. They would just terminate you and lock me back up when we returned to the compound. I'm not unaware that this mission is important."

Boyd nodded, taking that into account. He was silent for a long moment as he considered that before he spoke again, his tone thoughtful.

"I still don't understand why you saved me. I've been trying to determine the reason. I thought about how you bandaged my wounds even though you didn't have to and how before you left me alone with Andrews it seemed that you verified he was adequately secured."

His eyebrows furrowed and his fingers shifted against the steering wheel. "That implies either a concern for the success of the mission or, potentially, some level of concern for my safety. You've verified that the success of the mission mattered to you on some level so it could have simply been that. But the fact that you don't seem to prefer the idea of a new partner and that you had to fight so many people to extract us implies that in some way, at least for a portion of today, it mattered to you that I was okay."

Boyd paused, frowning faintly in thought before he looked over at Sin who still had his eyes firmly shut. "I wondered what the reason was for the change, if that was so. Why would it have been fine a few weeks ago if I'd died but now it's pointless? What's different?"

Sin made a face and finally opened his eyes, turning his head so that he could face Boyd. He studied him for awhile, mouth turned down in a slight frown before giving his broad shoulders a shrug. "I hadn't expected that you would actually... make a good partner. I didn't think this would work."

Boyd watched Sin thoughtfully. After a moment, he returned his attention to the road. There was hardly any traffic but what little sunlight could be seen was angled almost directly into his eyes.

"And at some point something made you believe it would?"

"Obviously," Sin said blandly, starting to look impatient.

Boyd nodded, feeling no need to push it any further. It was interesting to hear that Sin thought he could be a good partner. He had to admit that he was pleased since for weeks it had felt like no matter what he did it didn't get him anywhere.

"What did you want to ask me?"

Sin crossed his arms over his chest and reclined in the seat further. He hadn't bothered with a seat belt this time. "Why didn't you just use the remote and activate my collar?"

"Because I didn't feel it was necessary," Boyd said with a shrug.


Boyd looked over but couldn't read what Sin was thinking; his expression hadn't shifted. It occurred to him that Sin may not feel that was answer enough. "And I truly have no interest in harming you."

Pale green eyes flicked over to him at that but Sin's face still gave nothing away. He looked as intense as ever but just as eerily impossible to figure out.

"I didn't--" A pause. "You should never touch me when I'm sleeping. I react in a manner which I would not if I were fully... aware."

Boyd was quiet, watching Sin before shifting his gaze back to the road. He wondered what Sin had been about to say and whether he was, in his own way, trying to apologize. Or whether he was simply laying the ground rules. It was so difficult to tell with him.

"I'll keep that in mind," Boyd said with a faint nod. He hesitated, his eyebrows drawing down. "You seemed upset. I thought you were having a nightmare and you didn't seem to hear my voice. In the future, how do you prefer I wake you?"

This seemed to startle Sin. He looked over abruptly, eyebrows shooting up. "What?"

"You were clearly upset," Boyd replied, frowning with slightly narrowed eyes as he remembered the way Sin had twitched and sounded distressed. "I touched your hand to wake you. If it happens again, I'd like to know of any alternatives for waking you."

This earned him another long stare from Sin before the man sighed disgustedly. "Well that's just beautiful." He shook his head, eyebrows drawn together as if he had a headache. "And I don't know. Just leave me be, I suppose. It's safer."

Boyd wondered about Sin's response and what had seemed to disgust him. The fact that he'd had the nightmare, the fact that Boyd had witnessed it and tried to wake him from it, or the fact that in doing so one or both of them could have gotten hurt? Was it a combination?

He didn't know the answer to that but he did know that it was highly unlikely that he would leave Sin asleep if it happened again. He simply nodded and didn't verbally respond.

Sin didn't say anything and for a period of time the car fell back into silence. Traffic picked up a little once they came toward a stretch of the highway that led to a number of larger cities via intersecting interstates. The number of vehicles diminished but did not disappear once they were on the stretch that headed primarily to Lexington.

They were still thirty miles out when Boyd realized he hadn't told Sin what Andrews had said.

"It will be in the report but in the event you don't read it, Andrews named his contact with Janus. His name is Thierry Beauvais and the connection was gained through Andrews' cousin, who's an escort in England."

The reaction to this was unexpected. A long suffering sigh escaped Sin's full lips and he visibly grimaced. "I hate that little French fuck."

Boyd raised his eyebrows. "You know him?"

"I've had to meet with him twice before. He tantalizes the Agency with information and makes us jump through hoops to get it. I fail utterly at dealing with him. It would be best if I didn't see him ever again."

"I see," Boyd said after a beat of silence. That was certainly interesting. "Did something happen when you saw him before?"

There was a brief, almost uncomfortable silence before Sin said shortly, "You could say that."

Boyd looked at him sidelong but didn't have a response to that. It made him wonder what had happened but he didn't get the impression that Sin would answer. He supposed he'd pushed it enough already, getting the answers he had.

They ended up falling into silence again and this time neither of them made any effort to interrupt it. The rest of the trip passed without incident, although Boyd noticed that the sheen of sweat on Sin's face seemed to grow more pronounced over time. When they reached the Agency, Sin left for his apartment without another word.

It didn't take Boyd long to submit his report and he headed home immediately afterward.

He ended up making some tea and then realized he didn't know exactly what he wanted to do. He debated it for a few moments and then decided to finish looking into the information Ryan had provided him.

At first, a lot of what he found was similar to what he'd seen before. There were excerpts from reports, some more images, some video clips from missions, and more background. One thing Boyd noted was that there still wasn't a lot about Sin's early life.

There was nothing on his mother and all it really said about his father was that he'd been a well-known, well-regarded agent. Boyd suspected there had to have been more on a man who'd apparently spent years at the Agency. He wondered whether the lack of it was due to information being on lock down. It was also possible Ryan simply hadn't been interested in gathering any of that since he'd grown up on compound and likely already knew anything he wanted to about Emilio Vega.

Whatever the case, Boyd still had a few folders to go through when he ended up clicking on one of several files with extensions he didn't recognize. They were named variations of 'cam01' and it quickly became apparent why.

An image of an empty apartment came on screen; the walls were white and the furniture was plain but looked as though it would be comfortable enough. He heard sound over the speakers and realized that this was a video. He didn't see anything happening but there seemed to be shadows passing just on the edge of the screen.

He closed down the file and clicked on the others, flipping through a bedroom and a kitchen until Sin's face was abruptly on screen. It was startling and a little alarming, since Sin was staring seemingly straight out the screen at Boyd. It took Boyd a moment to realize based on clues in the background that this appeared to be a camera of some sort in a bathroom mirror.

At first, Boyd thought these were videos but he realized as he watched that they weren't. This appeared to be a live feed to cameras that Ryan had hacked into.

He didn't have much time to think about those implications as his attention was instead caught by what Sin was doing.

Sin was very pale, his naturally olive complexion ashen. His lips were parted as his breath came out labored and choppy, eyebrows drawn together as he tended to himself with trembling hands. His eyes were glazed slightly, his full lips pressed into a tight line.

It was startling to see such a stoic man show pain and it made Boyd's attention zero in completely on the screen. He forgot about the tea, he forgot about the other files. He couldn't look away from Sin and the glimpse of an open expression such as he hadn't seen since Sin had run out of the cabin.

On the screen, Sin shifted and looked down until black and red hair hid part of his face. He appeared to be taping up his arm with a bandage that was already stained crimson. Now that Boyd could see his chest and arms, he also saw that there was a variety of lacerations and bruises on Sin aside from whatever wound he was tending to-- including a bruise that was an intense shade of purple and covered his entire left side. Judging from what Boyd could see of the sink, the arm wound was more serious than the rest. Blood was everywhere; running down his arm and leaving small puddles in the sink. Boyd then saw the pliers, peroxide, and the unmistakable sheen of a bullet coated in blood.

Boyd's thoughts stilled and he stared in muted surprise and a hint of discomfort.

After a moment of gripping the sides of the sink with his long slender fingers, Sin stepped back. All he wore were loose jeans that hung precariously on his thin hips. He grabbed a small pill bottle from the counter with a grimace, opened it and swallowed a handful dry. He tossed the bottle back into the sink and stood there for a moment, looking at the mirror.

He truly looked terrible and for a moment, Boyd wondered if the other man had gotten some kind of infection. He'd suffered with blood loss and an exposed wound for hours. It would explain the sweat and his pallor.

After a moment Sin took a long deep breath and seemed to be trying to get himself together. He stood up straight, ran a hand through his unruly black hair and wiped sweat from his face. But the movement caused him to grimace again, his teeth flashing as he clenched them. It wasn't obvious if it was the arm wound causing him such tremendous pain or the entire collection that he'd accumulated during the mission.

He stayed that way for a moment longer before a resigned look crossed his striking features and Sin climbed into the tub. He curled up in there, facing away.

Boyd couldn't drag his eyes from the screen, even when Sin lay there for a long time. He had obviously been hurt saving Boyd. With the amount of gunfire that had been flying around, at least as far as he remembered, it was a testament to Sin's skill and speed that he didn't have more wounds. But then, the fact that he'd been hit at all showed how difficult it must have been.

It caused a flash of guilt in Boyd. At the same time, it made him wonder why Sin had hidden it. Was it simply ingrained to show no weakness to anyone since it seemed like so many people at the Agency preyed on him? Or had it been something specific to Boyd? It had seemed like Sin thought of him a little more as a partner but perhaps he still didn't trust Boyd despite the fact that he'd saved his life.

Whatever the case, something about seeing vulnerability in a man who otherwise exuded such strength caught Boyd's attention in a way he hadn't expected. That glimpse of Sin seemed so elusive compared to the way he conducted himself on a daily basis.

Something in Boyd reacted to it; something that felt a connection and made him want to see more of that side of Sin. It made him not want to look away from the screen so he wouldn't miss another fluctuation; another moment of openness in an otherwise guarded face.

At length, Sin stilled and it seemed as though he could be trying to sleep. When it was apparent nothing was changing in the bathroom, Boyd flipped back to the other files, paying more attention this time. It appeared to be an Agency apartment, which was unsurprising since this was probably where Sin lived.

If that was the case, Sin apparently didn't have privacy anywhere.

There was a camera view for seemingly every angle of his apartment. The fact that Boyd would be able to see Sin in his bedroom, in the bathroom, in what seemed to be every inch of an apartment... His eyes narrowed and lips thinned, and he leaned back in his chair.

He didn't like it. As a person who valued his privacy, the idea of everything being on display was disturbing. Especially in the shower, since he didn't even look at himself in the mirror when he was in the bathroom. He always looked away and didn't feel comfortable with the air hitting the bare skin of his torso even when he was alone. It was mildly nauseating to put himself in Sin's place and think of everything being bared without his permission.

Did Sin know about the cameras?

Was any of this with his consent? Doubtful. Did he know he was being watched? Maybe he did but again, Boyd doubted he'd known about the one in the bathroom. A man who had ridden in silence with a gunshot wound wouldn't have let pain show so easily if he'd known anyone would see it.

It made Boyd wonder who all had access to these feeds. Who may be watching now as well, analyzing Sin and noting any vulnerabilities.

The next morning seemed to come too soon. Boyd had ended up going through the rest of the information and then watching Sin sleep for an extended period of time. He didn't know how long he was up and he didn't know why he'd watched Sin for so long.

He couldn't forget Sin's pained expression or the glimpse of emotion before Sin had run from the cabin. Those moments contrasted with so many of the other times he'd been around Sin and it made him wonder what had been happening behind those sarcastic looks all along.

He found it to be distracting and tried to push it out of his mind.

He may have been successful if it hadn't been for the fact that when he walked into the conference room for the debriefing, Sin was there. It was the first time Sin had shown for a debriefing and it was surprising enough to Boyd that his steps slowed when he walked in.

Sin looked up at him steadily, eyebrows rising. "Late."

Boyd couldn't help staring at Sin. If he hadn't watched the live feed, he would not have believed that Sin was injured, nor that the vulnerable look he'd seen would ever be on that face. At the moment, Sin had more of a silent 'I told you so' look than anything.

It took a moment but Boyd got himself to move again, continuing toward the chair he typically used. Which turned out to be next to the one Sin had chosen. No one else had arrived yet and Boyd considered replying that he was early but he was more curious about Sin's presence.

"What are you doing here?" he asked as he sat down.

"If I'm going to start being your partner, I supposed it meant I had to show up here." Sin slouched in his chair and eyeballed Boyd from under his overly long bangs. "Why? Do you want me to go?"

"Of course not," Boyd said, pushing the chair at an angle so he could see Sin without craning his neck. "I was simply surprised to see you."

"I see." Sin looked at him and began absently tearing at a frayed pocket in his cargo pants.

Boyd continued to watch Sin. Nothing changed; the room remained silent and no one walked in. After a moment, he decided to try to see if Sin would voluntarily acknowledge his wound or whether he would keep it a secret.

"Incidentally, how are you?" Boyd asked. "I didn't think to ask you yesterday if you had any troubles executing the mission."

"It went as expected," was the vague response. Sin's green eyes slid away as he answered, focusing briefly on the door.

Boyd watched Sin thoughtfully. He supposed that could be a true enough answer; it would have been expected that with such heavy gunfire Sin would get hit at some point. But if he hadn't known Sin had been injured he would have assumed that meant there were no issues.

He wondered if Sin had purposefully chosen that wording so as not to lie or whether it was incidental. Was he simply trying to be vague enough to stop Boyd from questioning him further?

He couldn't push the subject without making it known that he'd seen the live feed, which he was hesitant to do. He didn't think Sin would appreciate the invasion of privacy. Yet he didn't want to give up the chance to see those glimpses of the more open, vulnerable man behind that strong demeanor.

Boyd's gaze lingered on Sin's features, which he couldn't help distantly noting added to his allure, before he looked away with a nod. "I wanted you to know that I appreciate your willingness to help and interact."

Sin made a face, eyes swinging back to Boyd. "Don't start thanking me. I almost killed you five hours before the mission."

"It doesn't matter," Boyd said impassively with a shrug. "It would have been an accident."

This earned him another incredulous glare. "Well it matters to me. If I'd have killed your dumb ass, the odds of me finding as good a partner are slim to none. So just ensure that you don't pass on too quickly. I'm starting to get used to you."

The comment caused Boyd to look over at Sin with a more alert expression than he'd had since they'd met. He stared at Sin a moment, his lips parting and eyebrows shifting up slightly as he searched Sin's expression, but words wouldn't immediately come to him.

The distant emptiness he typically surrounded himself with cleared for a moment at the surprising idea that someone cared about his life. That Sin actually did want him as a partner and that it wasn't meaningless to him if he died.

Even his mother didn't seem to care if he lived or died and most of the people on compound had thought Boyd wouldn't last more than a few weeks. Many of them seemed to hope that would be the case. Boyd himself was already resigned to the idea of his death so having Sin, of all people, comment against it made a strange sense of warmth flood through him.

A smile spread across his lips at the thought. It was small but genuine and it lingered briefly. A flash of surprise crossed Sin's face and his eyes briefly dropped to Boyd's mouth.

Boyd studied Sin's expression, wondering about that look. He opened his mouth to speak but before he could, a sound at the door caught his attention. His expression automatically closed off, returning to a blank stare before he'd fully turned his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a flash of annoyance on Sin's face.

"Hola!" Ryan's voice sang out even before the door had fully opened. "How--"

The words abruptly cut off as Ryan focused on Sin and he froze in mid-step, gawking. "Hsin!"

Sin stared at him flatly, mouth turned down.

"Uh..." Ryan trailed off and began walking again awkwardly, jerking at the straps to his backpack and tripping his way to his side of the table. "Wow, I didn't expect to uh, see you... ever."

The senior agent didn't reply and switched his gaze to the wall.

Ryan gave an awkward laugh and was clearly trying to make up for his lapse. He was unhooking his backpack and opening it up but his gaze kept straying back to Sin who studiously ignored him.

"Hello, Ryan," Boyd greeted, partially as a way to break the awkward silence. "Are the others on their way?"

"Owen's probably stopping to get coffee," the R&D agent replied quickly. He was still flushed red from embarrassment and fiddling with his laptop. He seemed to be one of the few people who still preferred a laptop over thinner hand held devices.

"So, how are you guys?" he asked, awkwardness still as prominent as it had been a few seconds ago. He snuck a glance at Sin out of the corner of his eye.

"Grand," Sin said blandly.

"Fine," Boyd said. "And you?"

"Oh, you know. Busy, not being able to sleep because of all of my projects-- although... oh! That reminds me," Ryan burst out, looking over at Boyd but not before his gaze stumbled over Sin once again. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to come watch anime with me. I just downloaded a series I've been searching for forever. It's super old."

Sin's gaze switched to Boyd but he said nothing. The information seemed to catch his attention although Boyd had no idea why.

"Is it the one you have on the walls with the robots?" Boyd asked, not knowing much about anime or what kinds of series existed.

"No but if you're interested in mecha, I have a ton of Gundam stuff. The series I found was called Rurouni Kenshin. It's so cool; it takes place in the 19th century and is about this awesome samurai guy in Japan."

"Where else would a samurai be?" Sin commented, eyes still on Boyd. He only shifted them after Boyd returned the stare once again.

Ryan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I dunno. I was just explaining..."

"I don't know what I'm interested in," Boyd admitted, turning his attention back to Ryan. He didn't know what mecha meant but apparently it had something to do with young men and robots with wings. "The series you mentioned is fine. Is it historically accurate?" he added curiously.

"I'm not sure so far, it just finished today. I didn't want to start until I had it all. There's a movie too." Ryan flicked a look over at Sin. "Hey, you know, you could--"


"Okay..." Ryan frowned but didn't seem terribly surprised.

The door opened before any of them could speak. Owen shuffled in, his eyes bleary and half-lidded. He looked across the room and stopped just inside the door when his eyes fell on Sin. He stared at Sin, looked down at his coffee, and then turned around and headed back for the door.

"Where are you going?" Ryan demanded, sitting up straight. "Owen!"

"Something's wrong with my coffee, Ry-Meist," Owen mumbled sleepily as he continued toward the door. "I think they gave me a shot of L-espresso-D. I'm seeing things now. I'm going to go away and come back and see if anything changes."

Sin's gaze flicked over Owen before moving to Ryan. He didn't appear very moved by any of this but then again, he always looked that way around other people.

"Come sit down before Jeffrey gets here and starts badgering you."

Owen made a face and stopped. He turned around, peering at Sin again and then looking over at Boyd and finally Ryan. After a pause he shuffled back over to the table and sat down next to Ryan, carefully setting the coffee cup on the table.

His sleepy gaze didn't waver on Sin even as he leaned over to Ryan. "Okay but just so we're clear... Sin Vega is sitting on the other side of the table right now and I'm not imagining it? I've been having some weird dreams lately so I don't know what's going on right now. I might look down and realize I'm naked."

A low scoff emanated from Sin's full lips and he slouched down in his chair, tapping his knuckles impatiently against the desk. Now that other people were in the room with them it seemed like he couldn't wait to leave.

"It's good that he's here," Ryan said with an encouraging grin, apparently deciding to pay no attention to Sin's unfriendly behavior. "I'm glad. We can all be one big happy unit now and everything."

"Oh yeah, it's all good," Owen said, relaxing and finally looking away from Sin. He took a long drink of coffee and immediately grimaced, his entire face scrunching up. He looked over at Ryan with his eyebrows dragging down.

"I just didn't wanna be hallucinating in the middle of meetings again. I got a lot of dirty looks the time it happened with Stephen. I don't know why it's such a big deal anyway. It would've been way more exciting if there really were tap-dancing penguins in there, even if it made it kind of hard to concentrate."

Boyd didn't pay much attention to Owen as he found his gaze straying to Sin. He wondered if Sin didn't want to be around others at all or whether it was specifically the way Owen and Ryan were acting that caused his impatience. Given how uninterested Sin had seemed for a long time in even interacting with Boyd when they were alone, Boyd assumed it must simply be the idea of being around a lot of other people.

It made him wonder why exactly Sin had come. Was it really that he was trying to make more of an effort to be a good partner? Was he finally putting some amount of stock in this whole process? Or, perhaps, had General Carhart or someone else recently told him he needed to start attending the meetings?

He thought that maybe it really was just that Sin was trying to be nice but he wasn't certain if he only thought that because that was what he wanted to believe. He knew that there was more to Sin than his gruff exterior but some of his motivations were still a mystery to Boyd.

The door opened and General Carhart and Jeffrey arrived at the same time. Carhart's gaze immediately fell on Sin and he arched an eyebrow as he took his spot at the head of the table. "Nice of you to finally join us."

"No problem," Sin replied with a smirk. "Nice group of misfits you have here."

Owen rested his chin against his palm, still looking half asleep. He raised one hand briefly, just a flick of his wrist, with a look that clearly said 'guilty as charged.'

Jeffrey's eyes narrowed and he stared at Sin in clear distaste as he took his seat across the table. His lips were thinned and for a moment it seemed he planned to say something but in the end he remained silent.

Carhart ignored the comment and looked between his two field agents. There was a slightly pleased tilt to his mouth but he evened it out after a moment and turned to business.

They went over the mission with Boyd doing most of the talking. Sin didn't speak even when it came up how Boyd and Warren Andrews had been saved. From time to time, Boyd noticed Sin observing him but for the most part Boyd ignored it as they discussed the mission and information he'd been given by Andrews.

It wasn't until Boyd mentioned Thierry's name that the routine of the debriefing seemed broken.

"Oh no," Ryan groaned with an almost comical grimace. "Not that guy again. Ugh. And also, my sources all dried up with him. They lost touch or don't have any access to him anymore. We'd have to go through the civilian route to get in touch with him."

Owen took a long drink of coffee, made a face, and set the cup down heavily. He nodded tiredly, seemingly barely listening before something apparently clicked. His head shot up and he straightened abruptly, looking between Ryan and Carhart. "Wait, what? We're talking Mr. Suave in the tux? I know someone with the direct connect."

"Good," Carhart said. "We'll get a feel on how agreeable he's feeling lately and decide how to approach him from there. If he is having recent contact with Janus shot-callers, that goes directly against his previous claims that he'd fallen out of contact with them."

"Who is he exactly?" Boyd asked, looking at the others with slightly drawn eyebrows.

Looks were exchanged around the table and Sin rolled his eyes. "A pointless asshole with a lot of connections."

"Basically," Ryan agreed with a snort of amusement.

"Yeah, I don't think anyone wants to claim him as their BFF," Owen said and then finished off the rest of the coffee in one gulp. When he made a face and started to set it down, Jeffrey snatched the cup from his hands and moved it well out of Owen's reach.

"Whoa," Owen said in surprise, looking over at Jeffrey. "What's with the ninja move?"

"You'll play with it and irritate us otherwise," Jeffrey said shortly, turning his attention to Carhart.

Carhart once again ignored the side comments and looked directly at Boyd. "Thierry Beauvais is a wealthy entrepreneur who uses his vast wealth to either help or hinder different political groups in Western Europe. His father had been one of the first benefactors of Janus when they were nothing more than a fledgling group but when he died, Thierry didn't show that same exclusivity and instead began playing various groups against each other seemingly for his own amusement."

He paused and glanced at Sin. "We've had previous dealings with Thierry. In the past he's shown interest with helping America gain access to certain people but he's very temperamental. The most recent negotiation with him ended in disaster when Sin took the liberty of insulting him to the extent of the mission failing."

"He's a condescending fuck," Sin replied with a shrug.

Boyd leaned back in his chair, studying Sin briefly before returning his attention to Carhart. "Are there worries that despite his interest in helping America in the past he may be uninterested in negotiating with us again?"

"It's possible. But we won't know for certain until we contact him. At that time, we'll have a follow-up." Carhart looked at Owen. "Get your source on this as soon as possible. I want a contact number immediately."

"I'll be all over that after the meeting," Owen said with a nod. "Like a mongoose on a snake." He frowned. "The trained ones, anyway."

Jeffrey glared at him from the side.

Carhart shook his head. "If no one has anything further to add, we'll wrap up for now. Owen, I expect you to be in touch within the hour."

Owen nodded again, although this time he eyed Carhart briefly as if wondering if he was in trouble.

No one spoke and Carhart soon left. Jeffrey wasn't far behind him, pointedly taking the cup with him and throwing it out in the garbage on the way out. Owen rolled his eyes but he left unusually quickly as well, no doubt to work on his assignment.

"Don't mind Jeffrey, by the way. He has a permanent case of stick-in-ass," Ryan confided, glancing at Sin with a brief hopeful grin. When he got a non-response in return, the R&D agent sighed and looked over at Boyd again. "Well, if you're interested in the anime let me know."

That being said, he gathered his stuff quickly and headed out of the room. When the door shut, Sin looked over at Boyd with raised eyebrows. "Interesting."

"That does seem to be the best word to describe the unit," Boyd replied, inclining his head in agreement.

Sin just shook his head and shoved his chair back, dropping his hands on the arms of the chair as if to push himself up. He didn't do it automatically though and his vivid green eyes rested on Boyd for a long moment. There was something almost curious about his gaze and it was the most deliberately open Boyd had seen his expression so far.

But then the senior agent shook his head and stood. "Well, I'm off to the training room to likely be hassled by complete morons."

"Is that the one on the first floor?"

"Yes. It's an unfortunate place to go because it's widely used by every single idiot on the compound but it offers a wide variety of equipment to work out and spar if you want to do that sort of thing." There was another pause and then he added, "My new found freedom to roam the compound leads me there more often than not."

Boyd's gaze hovered on Sin. He was unaccustomed to Sin offering up so much information. It was nice and almost seemed as though Sin was still interested in interacting even when they weren't on a mission. He nodded, pulling some hair behind his ear.

"That's good to know. I'm primarily used to the training complex but I don't have access to it anymore. Are there places where a person can be left alone or does it get too crowded?"

"There are private rooms." Another pause. "You should consider utilizing the area. To further your training."

"I will." Boyd's lips tilted up a hint on the edges in a quiet smile that was gone almost before it was there. "Thank you. I've needed a place to go."

Sin looked at him sidelong and then after a stretch, nodded curtly as he turned away. "I'll see you around."

Boyd nodded and watched Sin leave. The latest mission seemed to have changed a lot in even the peripheral parts of their interaction. It was somewhat unexpected. He'd as much as expected to die the day before and now not only was he alive, but a goal he'd been struggling with for weeks was realized as well.

He couldn't help feeling intrigued by this new possibility. He wanted to know more about Sin when he wasn't on guard. He'd thought he would only be able to do that by watching the live feed but now he was starting to wonder if maybe he'd have the opportunity to see it firsthand.

As he stood, he thought about the training room. Maybe if he started stopping by there he could train but also get the chance to observe Sin. Maybe Sin would continue to talk to him as an equal if they ran into each other there.

He was still considering the idea when he left the room.

Continue to Chapter 11