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 Eleven

When Sin woke up, it was with a flash of panic. Sweat was running down the sides of his face as his heart galloped in his chest. The last vestiges of the nightmare haunted his peripheral vision but when he jerked his gaze to the darkened corner, he found nothing unusual there.

Slumping back against the bed, he took a deep breath. There was a distinct tremor in his limbs and his breath was still coming fast. Phantom aches echoed through his body as though he'd really experienced whatever had happened in his dream.

He pressed the heel of his hand to his eyes and grit his teeth. Trying to remember the entirety of it was always pointless. He'd had the same nightmare countless times. Recently, it had started coming more often. But no matter how worn out he felt after waking up, no matter how dismayed he was-- only flashes of it remained.

Green grass stained with blood, rocks and the moon hovering in the blackened sky. Flashes of a body being dragged through tall grass or weeds, a slack mouth, and fingers trailing limply through dirt.


Sin opened his eyes again and pulled himself into a sitting position. His head was pounding but the ghostly pain in his torso that had accompanied it gradually faded. It was always the same when he woke up-- strange aches as though he'd just been in a fight and a clawing horror that made his heart catch in his throat. But he never remembered.

Throwing his long legs over the side of the bed, Sin combed his fingers through his hair. Disgruntled and irritated over being plagued by the nightmare so frequently, he rolled his stiff shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension from them. He didn't understand the dream or why it had such an effect on him. The fact that he woke up in a cold sweat was bad enough but the idea that he thrashed and yelled in his sleep was even worse. It still annoyed the hell out of him that Boyd had witnessed it firsthand.

Sin stood up and headed to the bathroom, shoving off the loose grey pants he'd worn to sleep. The daylight streaming into the apartment windows seemed too bright compared to the darkness of his bedroom, even if the sun was still muted behind clouds. It made him wince as his head pounded but he felt simultaneous relief as the dream drifted further away.

However, his brain didn't stop feeling muddled and confused until he stepped under the powerful streams of water from the shower. It plastered the sweaty hair back against his head and face, cooling his uncomfortably heated flesh. He smoothed his soaked bangs away and kept his face tilted up against the cold water. It felt good.

It was stupid to continuously revel in the feel of a normal shower but he couldn't help it. The fact that he had his own apartment was something that consistently surprised and pleased him in general.

It was something he'd never had before; his own space. It was a standard Agency apartment and was Spartan by default but it was still his own. He likely would never be able to add his own furniture to it like most people could but he didn't really have the desire to do so either. It didn't matter to him what it looked like; all that mattered to him was that he had it. So much of his life had been spent under the watchful eye of other people, in one trapped circumstance or another. This was the first time he was on his own.

Of course he was still confined to the compound unless he had supervision and guards stood in front of his apartment door at all times but it was better than what he'd had before. He often wondered how Carhart had managed to convince Connors to finally let him have his own quarters. The Marshal had never shown any interest in treating Sin like a normal human in the past. Perhaps they thought if they chose this tactic, he'd be more likely to cooperate. If that was the case, he couldn't deny that it had been a motivating factor.

Well that and the fact that Boyd had turned out to not be so bad.

Sin opened his eyes, lips drawing down in a frown as he finally reached for a washcloth and soap. The thought of Boyd unsettled him in a way that he didn't entirely understand. He'd had mixed thoughts about the younger man from the moment he'd seen him during the interview and he still didn't know entirely what to make of him. For someone who had seemed so taciturn at the start, Boyd had slowly morphed into not only a decent partner but a companion of sorts.

It had struck Sin as odd almost instantly and for awhile he hadn't been able to figure out why their conversations had thrown him off so badly.

Then he'd realized that during his entire time at the Agency, Boyd was the first person to really talk to him. Carhart consistently tried and failed but Sin could never look at the man without thinking he had some kind of motive. Boyd, however, didn't seem to have any. It was possible that it was all just a ploy to get under Sin's skin and keep their partnership working but if it was, Sin still couldn't deny that having someone around who didn't shudder at the sight of him was nice. Especially since Boyd had more of a reason to fear him than anyone after their nearly disastrous mission outside of Carson two weeks ago.

The thought of it once again pulled his full lips down into a scowl.

The worst part of it was that he didn't remember anything until the point where he'd already been crushing Boyd against the floor. It was just like the other times-- the other episodes, as the Agency liked to call them. The difference was for some reason this time he'd been able to snap out of it before damage had been done. He didn't know why he'd been able to and he had doubts that either of them would be as lucky again.

Scrubbing himself quickly and allowing the powerful jets of water to rinse him off, Sin had reached over to shut the faucet off when he heard it. The low click of his door opening and footsteps treading inside.

Resentful irritation flooded him and all thoughts of his nightmares vanished. It galled him to know that people had access to his apartment. In fact it really fucking pissed him off. It half made him want to storm into the living room naked and crack someone's skull open. But that would only lead to him being dragged off to the Fourth for a couple of weeks in the box before yet another bastard came waltzing back into his apartment a few days later uninvited and unwanted.

Assuming they let him out this time.

Stepping out of the shower with a grimace, he wrapped a towel around his waist and looked in the mirror. The bruises were slowly fading from his torso but the wound from the gunshot was still painful and raw looking. After the first couple of days of caring for it he'd been forced to go to the medical wing to make sure it hadn't gotten infected. As little as he liked having them attend to him, an infection wasn't something he could fix on his own.

There were sounds emanating from his living room and faint conversation. Whoever it was sounded impatient but he didn't give a shit. He turned on the faucet and brushed his teeth slowly before taking the time to actually comb his hair. It would have been amusing to walk out completely naked but at the last minute he dragged on the cotton pants. He didn't feel like having anyone gawk at his scars.

Still damp from the shower, Sin stalked out into the main room and stared flatly at the man waiting for him there.

Rueben Steig was an upper tiered support staff agent who'd been exclusively tasked with Sin. He'd made his presence known not long after Sin had relocated to the apartment and had explained how the supply cards worked, when deliveries were made and how money was removed from his accounts.

It felt like the worst kind of babysitting to have someone literally purchase and deliver all of his food and supplies but apparently every agent who lived on compound utilized this function. He would have preferred to do these things himself but since he wasn't even allowed off the compound alone, that wasn't going to happen. It also didn't help that unlike other agents, he didn't even have direct access to his own money.

"You didn't submit your supply card," Rueben said almost immediately upon seeing Sin. He was flanked by Officers Kemp and Daniels, two of the guards that manned Sin's door. Rueben crossed his arms over his grey dress shirt and frowned disapprovingly. It was one of the two expressions he typically wore when looking at Sin; the other was a condescending sneer.

Sin shrugged and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest loosely. "Yeah, and?"

As usual, this response seemed to irritate Rueben and his scowl deepened. He was one of those support guys who took their jobs way too seriously.

A lot of people in support roles had once been candidates for something more high ranking such as field, R&D, IT or techs of some kind and had failed the required training to move on. It landed them in varying roles around the compound and there were always those individuals who made themselves believe that they were still really important just to get over the disappointment of being demoted. Sin had a feeling that Rueben was one of those people. He seemed to think that the world would come to an end if anyone submitted a late supply card.

"Yes and you aren't the only person I have to deal with, Vega."

"So quit. Tell them to send someone with a shorter stick up their ass."

Daniels snickered and just raised his eyebrows when Rueben cast him an icy glare.

"Where is the card?"

Sin gestured vaguely to the kitchen counter and didn't bother to move. Rueben was hardly the rudest person he had to deal with on the compound but he still got under Sin's skin.

Rueben jammed the card into a panel computer and waited impatiently as the information loaded. It didn't take long for the man's blue eyes to flick back up incredulously. "You didn't select anything!"

"I don't like anything on it," Sin replied with a shrug, not moving from his position by the wall. "You people gave me bullshit options. I don't like fish and that's most of what's on there. Don't most people get to choose their own food?"

"You aren't most people so you'll just have to get over it. It's not my problem what you like and don't like."

Green eyes narrowed and Sin had a vivid mental image of caving Rueben's face in. Seeming to realize his misstep, Rueben shifted uncomfortably and glanced at the guards behind him as if to ensure that they were still there. "You are on a protein-specific diet until you reach your weight and muscle goal."

"It's not my goal," Sin retorted, feeling the irritation rising even further. "If you people want to tell me what the fuck to eat, why don't you just send me whatever you want? Giving me the illusion of choice isn't going to change the fact that I have none."

"I don't have time to sit around making your selections--"

"Well I suggest you make time and stop charging into my apartment in full bitch mode." Sin looked the other man up and down, taking in the sandy hair and lean body. He was more attractive than average and Sin briefly wondered what he'd initially tried out for. If it was for a field agent position, he had valentine operative written all over him. "I don't care about your sense of superiority or your high horse, stock boy. But if you keep speaking to me that way I'd have no problem knocking you right off it."

"Was that a threat?" Rueben demanded, eyes narrowing. "I dare you to--"

"Okay," Daniels interrupted, looking exasperated. "Just take the supply card and shut the hell up already. Jesus, you're like a fucking woman on her rag."

Both Sin and Kemp looked at Daniels in surprise. Rueben just flushed and sent the guard a withering look. "Stay out of it, guard."

"Well then hurry up, stock boy," Daniels returned, using Sin's description. "We don't have all day."

Rueben appeared completely thrown off by this turn of events and he grumbled something incoherent before shoving the card in his pocket. Mortified and resentful, he shot Sin another annoyed look and stormed out of the apartment. The guards followed without sparing Sin another glance.

Sin turned away from the door and stared at the window. He wanted to feel grateful that they had gone but whatever enjoyment he would have gotten from being in his apartment and not on a mission today was effectively spoiled. He'd known from the start that privacy was nonexistent in his world but it still irked him that people actually had access to his locks.

It was possible that maintenance and support staff had access to all Agency apartments but he highly doubted they typically talked down to agents the way Rueben did to him. There was usually a certain level of respect as a person's rank increased but that obviously didn't apply to him.

And Rueben was far from the only one who acted that way. Being ultimately despised and disliked by the Agency staff as a whole made that a given. Given the things he'd done along with the rumors that added to it, at times Sin couldn't even blame them.

Aggravated by the encounter, Sin stalked around the apartment trying to find something to do. His books no longer seemed entertaining and doing sit ups quickly became boring. The entire place seemed tainted now and nothing was enjoyable. The concept of personal space was shattered every time some asshole with a sense of authority came bursting in.

Disgusted, he went into his room and stared at the meager articles of clothing that he owned. It didn't take long to grab a pair of worn sweatpants and a threadbare t-shirt. None of it fit him exactly right but it was clothing he'd owned since he was a teenager and it served its purpose for the training room.

Sin didn't look at Daniels or Kemp as he left the apartment and stalked down the hallway. He could feel their eyes on his back as he went but he didn't bother to acknowledge them. He could tell already that it was going to be a terrible day but his desire to work off the aggression that had steadily built in him was stronger than the desire to be left alone.

As usual the compound was relatively quiet around his residential building. It was set apart from the others and was considerably smaller due to the fact that it was meant for special cases. There were the usual guards posted by the main doors who stared at him as he went by but other than that, he was left alone on the walk across the courtyard. It wasn't until he got closer to the Tower that crowds of people began to appear.

The tension that had built in his shoulders only worsened as he walked up the steps. He didn't have social anxiety but he did have idiot agent anxiety.

Most people avoided him or went in a different direction if he came near them but there was always someone who would inevitably piss him off. He was dully hoping that Rueben had fulfilled the universe's asshole quota for the day just so he could work out in peace. It didn't take long to figure out that that wouldn't be the case.

It started out well enough; he'd managed to get the only remaining private room off the side of the main training space so that he wouldn't have to deal with gawkers. He spent over an hour doing various exercises and stretching in relative peace and quiet. His mind cleared and the anger slowly melted away as he lost himself in the repetition of what he was doing.

Unfortunately, when he briefly left the room to get some free weights he noticed that Harry Truman and Dennis McNichols were in the main room. It was even more unfortunate that Harry immediately noticed him. The tension returned almost instantaneously and Sin set the weights down before standing up to wait.

A blanket of quiet rage slowly swept over him but he kept it in check, narrowing his eyes. Harry was the only person on the compound who wasn't afraid to touch him. He knew better than anyone what the senior agent was capable of but that didn't deter him at all.

In fact, he seemed to want Sin to react to him. Harry did everything in his power to get him to lash out. No one seemed to understand it, even dimwitted Dennis didn't seem to entirely grasp the reasoning most times, but Sin had figured it out instantly.

Harry wanted him on the Fourth and he was upset that he'd been released. Their interactions went back a long way but it had only been after the introduction of the box that Harry had taken it to the next level. While Sin was kept drugged, Harry was able to do whatever he wanted. He'd never actually gone as far as he could have but Sin had enough muddled memories of large hands groping at him as a hot wet mouth slobbered on his mouth and neck to figure out that Harry had a sexual fixation with him.

The cause was baffling but after a background check into the man's file, Sin hadn't been surprised to see that in Harry's civilian years he'd been a registered sex offender with a long history of stalking, even though he was only in his late twenties. The Agency had taken him for his military background and sociopathic tendencies but even they had shied away from a field agent path once they realized that the man couldn't reign in his sexual impulses.

"We just keep running into each other, Vega," Harry drawled as he entered the room with Dennis close behind.

"Imagine that, considering we both live on the compound," Sin said flatly, maintaining his position even as Harry kept walking closer.

"Oh is that all it is?" Harry stopped only when he was less than a hand span away from Sin, well into his personal space. Light brown eyes flicked over Sin's sweaty form, focusing on the crotch of his sweatpants before sweeping back up to his damp neck and pursed lips. "I thought maybe you were doing it on purpose."

Sin smirked, revulsion twisting with the hatred he felt for the man. "You wish."

Harry just raised his eyebrows slightly and didn't bother denying it. He looked over his shoulder at Dennis. "Why don't you give us a minute?"

Dennis blinked in surprise. "I don't think that's a good idea, Har--"

"I said get the fuck out," was the snarled response. Harry's lips curled back in a sneer and the look he shot his friend was full of venom. Judging by the way Dennis quickly departed, it would seem that Harry's abusive personality came into play in his friendships too.

Sin uncrossed his arms and curled his fingers into loose fists. He cast a quick look around the room and noted that there was indeed a small camera mounted in the ceiling although it was nearly disguised by the light fixture.

"You just keep playing hard to get now that you're free, don't you?" Harry asked, moving closer and forcing Sin to back up unless he wanted the other man pressed against him.

"Groping someone who is in a drugged stupor doesn't count as compliance," Sin replied blandly, not flinching when the other man pushed him against the wall. "I know that must be hard for a pedophile--"

"I'm not a fucking pedophile," Harry snapped, cuffing Sin upside the head.

It took all of his willpower not to respond. Sin took a deep breath and exhaled slowly but his fingers were now balled into white-knuckled fists as his eyes burned into Harry. "Is fourteen the age of consent in your fantasy world? That was the age of the boy you attacked before the Agency recruited you wasn't it?"

A flash of anger glittered in Harry's eyes and he grabbed the front of Sin's shirt, bunching the fabric. "That's a lot of talk from someone who kills civilians and rapes his shrink."

Sin grit his teeth but didn't deign to respond. He didn't know how the rumor about him having raped Lydia had come about but he wasn't going to respond to it. That was what Harry wanted-- to get a reaction out of him.

Harry smirked when Sin didn't answer and leaned forward again, raising a hand to slide down the side of Sin's face as he leered. "Now when are you going to start playing nice?" He rubbed his thumb against Sin's lower lip, trying to force the finger inside.

Sin responded instantly. Without thinking, he wrapped his hand around Harry's wrist and twisted it backward until the other man grunted in pain, stumbling back.

"Touch me and I'll kill you," Sin said flatly as he wiped a hand across his mouth. "We aren't on the Fourth floor anymore."

The other man flexed his wrist, looking at Sin darkly. "Attack me again and you will be, boy. I'll activate that collar and zap you so hard your eyes will be rolling for a week. When you wake up you'll be back on the Fourth--" Harry stepped closer again and Sin tensed. "--drugged, helpless and fully at my disposal."

The words caused a rush of memories to crowd Sin's mind. The feel of a heavy body crushing him, an erection digging into his thigh-- unable to move, unable to defend himself. The power Harry held over him at the moment was just as bad as what had happened then. The inability to react without even worse consequences made him freeze in place. He was just as helpless as he'd been in the box. Everything Harry said was true and Sin was damned either way.

Black rage rolled off of him and his lip curled, nostrils flaring as his breath began to come faster.

"Don't like that do you?" Harry taunted, thick lips lifting in a filthy smile.

Harry leaned forward again, hand outstretched as the anger began to consume Sin completely. The image of Harry in front of him began to shift and flicker as everything around them started to dim. His peripheral vision was nonexistent-- his eyes only focused on the threat before him.

"Touch me and you will be sorry."

The threat seemed to excite Harry, who chuckled deep in his throat. But just as his hand wrapped around Sin's arm, the door behind them opened. Boyd walked in, taking in the room with the same disaffected look as ever.

Sin didn't take his eyes away from Harry's as he panted harshly. His heart was pounding and his hands were starting to tremble as he forced them to stay down. But he could feel himself starting to lose the tenuous control he had over the violence that wanted to wreak havoc.

Boyd's eyes shifted over Harry, moving down to his hand on Sin's arm and then flicking back up to Sin's face. He walked toward the two, turning an even stare onto Harry. "Am I interrupting anything?"

"Mind your fucking business," Harry snapped, not even looking at Boyd.

"This is my business." Boyd stopped next to Harry, pointedly looking down at Harry's hand on Sin's arm. The young agent was the picture of nonchalance, with his hands loose at his sides and expression impassive, but there was definite strength underlying his tone when he continued. "I suggest you take your hands off my partner."

Dennis came hurrying through the door, his expression a mixture of irritation and fear as he shot Harry a look. "Sorry dude I walked away for one minute--"

"Shut the fuck up," Harry snarled, casting his friend a dark glare.

Sin wrenched his arm away but Harry responded by grabbing the front of his t-shirt. He yanked Sin against him, ripping the collar in the process. Their faces were only inches apart although Sin's bangs were shading his eyes. All that could be seen of his face was the vicious sneer that twisted his features.

Boyd's hand suddenly snapped out, wrenching Harry's wrist away from Sin's shirt. Harry jerked his hand back with a swear and Dennis slammed Boyd back against the wall. Dennis reared back his fist just as Sin snapped out of his hate-filled daze. Before Dennis could strike Boyd, Sin's hand shot out and wrapped his hand around the guard's neck.

Another guard entered the room before anything more could happen. Sin's eyes flicked over to him quickly and he realized that it was Luke Gerant.

"What the hell is going on?" Luke demanded, staring at the scene incredulously.

Harry snorted in disgust and flexed his hand. "Nothing. Piss off."

Sin released Dennis although he noted that his fingers had already made red marks on the man's throat.

"Officer Truman was harassing Sin," Boyd spoke up, moving around Dennis. "He was using Officer McNichols to watch the door so no one would enter and obviously planned to escalate the situation. I attempted to intervene and you see the result."

Sin looked at Boyd with surprise and adjusted his shirt. Adrenaline was still pumping through his veins but the desire to eviscerate both men was slowly fading. "Boyd--"

"Shut your mouth and mind your business," Harry interrupted, narrowing his eyes at Boyd hatefully. "It's between me and Vega."

The look on the guard's face gave Sin pause. There was genuine animosity there for Boyd and that did not bode well for the future. Shaking off the last vestiges of the episode that hadn't actually come, Sin kept his eyes focused on Harry. He wouldn't put it past the man to try to attack Boyd now-- his temper was that bad when he didn't get his way. But at the same time he usually didn't strike out with an entire audience.

"It isn't between you two," Boyd replied flatly. For the first time since he'd entered the room, his expression shifted from bland and emotionless; his eyes narrowed and he turned a cold, hard stare on Harry. If he noticed Harry's obvious ire, it didn't seem to bother him. "You're clearly a deranged man taking advantage of the situation. Sin may feel unable to properly respond but I don't. I'll file a formal report on you if that's what it takes."

A vague feeling of unease shot through Sin and he shifted where he stood. "Let's go."

Luke ignored him and looked between Dennis and Harry with a scowl. There was obvious dislike imprinted on his expression as he nodded. "It may be a good idea for you to report this."

Dennis shot him an incredulous look. "You're taking their side over us?"

Harry just sneered, not looking surprised in the least.

"It's an incident that clearly needs to be put on the record. You were on camera the whole time anyway. It may be best if everyone has their side of the story documented," Luke replied diplomatically despite the way his eyes betrayed his clear disgust. "Besides, others in the training facility were aware that something was going on. A maintenance worker grabbed me while I was passing to inform me that something was happening."

Sin just shook his head, impatient to leave. He had no interest in filing reports or documenting anything. "I'm out of here."

Boyd remained focused on Luke. "How do we file official reports through the guards' database? Do I report what I've witnessed to you or should I write a report and send it in?"

Harry scoffed with disgust and turned around to walk out but not before giving Boyd another dark glare. He brushed by Luke rudely with Dennis following behind him.

Ignoring them, Luke nodded. "Go to the third floor-- that's where the guard command center is. All incidents that occur on the compound are reported there before being distributed to the proper chain of command for the individuals involved. Since it involved Truman and McNichols, I'll make sure my captain gets it."

Boyd nodded. "I'll do that. Thank you."

Luke looked at Sin and opened his mouth to speak but before any words could come out, Sin walked out of the room. He almost kept going until he was clear of the training area but he made himself stop. As much as he wished that Boyd would have left it alone instead of pressing the issue, he couldn't deny that he felt oddly... pleased that the younger man had been so vehement about defending him.

Frowning, Sin looked over his shoulder and saw that Luke was exiting the room with Boyd right behind him. The guard stopped and stared at him for a moment.

"Not terrified of me anymore?" Sin asked with a raised eyebrow, flicking his gaze over the man.

Luke frowned at him. "So you were awake that day..."

"What does it matter?"

"I guess it doesn't." Still frowning, Luke shook his head and looked at Boyd. "Let me know if you have any issues filing the report. You can find my number in the directory. Take care."

Sin ignored the thoughtful stare the guard pinned him with and waited until Luke walked away to speak. "Why did you do that?"

Boyd's gaze idly ran across the room before he met Sin's eyes. "You seemed like you were about to hurt him and I wanted to intervene before you could get in trouble for something that isn't your fault. I also wanted him to know that not everyone will ignore such blatant harassment. By reporting it, maybe he'll see some consequences for his behavior."

The comment was met with silence as Sin stared down at his partner for a long moment. Several things about Boyd's answer stood out to him as unexpected and it threw him off guard momentarily. However there were too many eyes on him and he still felt the burning desire to bash someone's face in.  

"Let's get out of here."

Boyd's gaze was thoughtful on Sin before he nodded and followed him out of the training room. Most people avoided looking directly at Sin when he came close to them but as soon as his back was to the rest of the room, there was the instant heat of stares on his back. A few mutters echoed around the room and Sin thought they undoubtedly believed he'd once again caused some issue. He couldn't help wondering what people would think if they knew the truth.

They continued walking until they were through the lobby and outside of the Tower, well out of earshot of anyone who would be brave enough to eavesdrop. They ended up stopping to the side of the courtyard, with trees nearby and most of the others on compound far away. Only then did he glance down at Boyd's serious face.

"You unnecessarily brought yourself to the attention of someone you would have been smarter to avoid."

Boyd shrugged, looking entirely unconcerned. "It doesn't matter. I wouldn't have stayed quiet walking into that regardless."

Sin scowled at him and moved to cross his arms but thought better of it as the wound in his arm twinged with the halted motion. "You're either being cocky or stupid. Truman is the pack leader of a lot of guards who run this place. The ones that hate me and field agents in general, not guards like doe-eyed Gerant back there. It would be wise to not get on their bad side just because of me."

Boyd looked over and his eyes narrowed. There was a flash of something in his eyes that Sin was unaccustomed to seeing in Boyd; a firm, hard edge that was as close to anger or a warning as Sin had so far seen. "So I should allow a terrible person to hurt others in front of me simply because it could be inconvenient for me to say anything? Do you think they wouldn't hate me anyway? I'm already disliked because of my mother and my position. You're my partner and I'm going to help you. Even if it wasn't part of my job, I would not let that go."

Sin opened his mouth to reply but halted abruptly. Frustratingly enough, he found that he didn't know what to say in response. There was something intriguing about the way Boyd's eyes were flashing at the moment; about the way his quiet voice had an undercurrent of vehemence on Sin's behalf. It was so unexpected and bizarre that he could only shake his head as he tried to form proper words.

"You defended me, that was enough. And I..." he trailed off for a moment, looking away casually with a slight shrug. "I appreciate it. No one ever has before. But taking it further isn't necessary. I would not like... to see you once again get hurt because you were trying to help me."

Boyd's lips were parted as if he planned to continue arguing, but Sin's words made him pause and search what he could see of Sin's face. After a moment he shook his head and his eyebrows drew together. When he met Sin's eyes, he looked quietly determined.

"It'll be alright; that doesn't concern me. What concerns me is you have such low expectations that even someone speaking up on your behalf is enough for you, and Truman seems too arrogant to stop until he's challenged. I'm not going to stop halfway on this. If something happens to me on a mission, I'd prefer to have your treatment on official record first. Your next partner may be unwilling to help."

At that, Sin glared. "Will you shut up about next partners? I decide to go along with this shit and you're still all ready to drop dead at any moment."

"I'm being realistic," Boyd replied simply. "I'm more likely to die before you do. It has nothing to do with you being a good partner. I'm simply thinking ahead."

"You're an idiot."

Boyd's eyebrow quirked up at that but he didn't seem angry. He simply scrutinized Sin before responding. "What are you worried about anyway? Is there something I should know about Truman?"

Sin rocked back on his heels for a moment before answering, debating how far into it he wanted to go. It would have been smarter to end the conversation before he gave Boyd further ammunition for filing a report.

For some reason, however, he didn't.

"He's a predator and he views me as an ideal victim. The fact that I'm generally hated suits him because no one is likely to believe me if I tell anyone, but he doesn't actually care about what I've allegedly done. When he's denied what he wants, he gets worse and he will lash out. It doesn't help that his buddies tend to man the surveillance station."

Boyd's eyes narrowed. "I see. As a predator, does that mean he's attacked or harassed others in the past? Or has it mostly been you due to your circumstances?"

"I know he had a record of it before he was recruited here."

Boyd seemed to consider that. "How long has he been here?"

Sin shrugged again, looking away from Boyd finally. "At least five years, perhaps more. He first appeared on the Fourth two years into my first incarceration."

Boyd's lips twitched down on the edges. "Does everyone know what he's like? Officer Gerant didn't seem surprised by the situation."

A low scoff escaped Sin's mouth and he shook his head. "All of the guards on the Fourth who are in the maximum security wing know what he's like. I don't know what it is to Gerant. Maybe he's a bit more squeamish than the others."

Boyd shook his head. "Why would you not want me to file a report? He obviously has no intentions of stopping and is unlikely to with that history. Everyone knows and looks the other way. The ignorance and discrimination in that alone is astounding. Doesn't it bother you at all?"

Another shrug and this time Sin couldn't help wanting to turn away from the topic. He wasn't interested in being seen as the victim in some unfortunate circumstance. Harry Truman was a nuisance and a danger to him only because he couldn't defend himself without making the situation worse. It would be something he'd have to deal with or learn how to in order to avoid the box.

"I'm used to it. It doesn't make a difference to me anymore. People will do what they want because of what they believe about me."

There was a beat of silence and then Boyd frowned. He crossed his arms, somehow seeming stubborn in the act. His tone was matter-of-fact when he spoke. "Well, I don't accept your status quo. He already dislikes me so not filing the report wouldn't help. And regardless of that, I disagree with your treatment. I won't stand by and do nothing when it's within my power to at least put down in words what everyone else would like to conveniently ignore."

There was obviously no point in arguing the topic so Sin just shook his head. Boyd seemed determined to go through with his plan and he wasn't going to keep fighting him on it. Besides he couldn't deny that there was something interesting about this stubbornness. It was a change from the way Boyd usually acted.

Switching topics entirely Sin asked, "Why were you there, anyway? I'd never seen you there before."

A gust of wind burst past them, whipping Boyd's hair into his face. His eyes narrowed and he tilted his face against the wind. The leaves rustled on the trees around them, while most of the other people in the courtyard gave the two of them a wide berth.

"You told me it was a good place to train."

Sin looked at him with surprise and recalled the brief discussion a couple of weeks ago. He hadn't expected Boyd to actually listen. At the time, he'd only said it to distract himself from the odd thoughts that had started shifting in his mind. Thoughts such as a random desire to cause Boyd's fleeting smile to reappear and curiosity about why Boyd went to Ryan's house when he had seemed so reclusive before.

Boyd's eyebrows twitched down at Sin's expression. "Is it so strange that I went there?"

"No. I just--" Sin stopped, scowling because he couldn't figure out what to say. After a moment of hesitation he finished, "That is, I didn't think you would actually go. I took you for a loner."

"Oh." Boyd studied Sin, his eyebrows drawing down further. After a brief pause he spoke again. "There are times I don't mind being around others. Since you recommended it, I went."

Not knowing what to say to that, Sin looked down at his torn shirt for inspiration and realized that it was worse than he'd thought. The entire collar was destroyed and the shirt was ripped haphazardly to the left. There was a beat of silence between them.

Boyd's gaze ran down Sin's front. "If you need to leave to change..."

"It's not like I have much to change into, anyway."

"Why not?"

"Because the clothes I have are the clothes I've had for over a decade. I don't get out much to do more shopping," was the bland reply.

Boyd watched Sin thoughtfully. "Are you still not allowed to leave on your own?"

Sin shook his head, casting his eyes in the general direction of the gates. "Not without an escort. I am not to be trusted in the city on my own."

"Hmm." There was a brief pause. "Would you like to go now?"

His eyes snapped back to Boyd and this time he didn't bother trying to hide the surprise on his face. "With you?"


There was another extended pause and Sin said finally, "You're really not afraid of me, are you?"

"No, I'm not." Boyd's gaze was unwavering as he met Sin's eyes.

There was something ironic about that, considering Boyd had almost been killed by him not even a few weeks ago. They looked at each other for a moment longer before turning to walk towards the gates of the compound.

"Do you drive?"

Boyd nodded and gestured to the large parking lot by the residential buildings, not too far from the entrance to the compound. "Usually. My car's in the main lot. "

With a somewhat skeptical hesitation, Sin followed Boyd. He stole discreet looks at the younger man as they walked, trying to determine why this invitation had suddenly come about.

Yes, they'd had more frequent conversations lately, including topics other than missions or the Agency, but this was still unexpected. If Ryan's words were anything to go by, Boyd had apparently spent time with him outside of briefings. But Ryan appeared to be a sociable and outgoing person in general. Him trying to get to know Boyd made sense. Seeing Boyd outside of the Agency was not something Sin had ever thought about.

Frowning, Sin slid his hands into his pockets. Not knowing where he stood with another person wasn't something he was used to. Most of his interaction with people on the Agency was either one way or the other; they ignored him or went out of their way to ostracize him. Not even Carhart had offered to escort him off the compound before.

Another thing that bothered Sin was that he couldn't decide whether this behavior was genuine or just a way to keep their partnership going smoothly. He had reached a point where it was now pointless to deny that Boyd intrigued him. Everything from his unexpected behavior to the surprising pleasantness of his face being brightened by a smile. Sin couldn't remember the last time anyone had graced him with that expression and it had struck him at the time. But that still didn't give him any more insight into whether this was all an act or not.

Suspicious and quiet, he followed Boyd to his car. It was black and sophisticated looking but Sin didn't pay any attention other than that. They got in and briefly stopped at the gates while Boyd showed his identification and cleared their trip with the guards. It was easier than Sin had thought and he could only assume that Boyd was already on the list of the few people he was allowed to leave with.

As they left the Agency behind, it was quiet in the car at first. There was no music playing and the engine was smooth. They didn't get far away before Sin saw Boyd's face tilt in his direction, and his eyes flick along Sin's length. "Do you have any preferences for price range?"

Sin made a face, having forgotten about that necessity. "Somewhere cheap. I'm kept on a cash allowance. I don't have access to my account."

"That seems strange," Boyd said, looking at him sidelong. "Why not?"

"Because they control every aspect of my life," was the matter of fact reply. Sin shrugged, letting his eyes slide out the window as they drove through All Saints, the neighborhood that the Agency was in. The majority of it was trees with Silver Lake Park not too far away but as they went further south, neighborhoods began cropping into view.

For a moment it seemed Boyd was going to say something else. His lips had parted and he studied Sin's profile a moment, but then he looked away. "I know of some affordable places. If you have no objections, I'd planned to bring you to a thrift store anyway."

Sin shrugged. "I don't care how I look. Wherever is fine."

Boyd nodded and continued driving, leading them southwest toward Vickland neighborhood. Sin didn't pay much attention to where they were headed, although he did note as the scenery passed by that Boyd was taking a few of the lesser used residential back roads. They backtracked to the North to get to a through street and then came back down. They hooked up with Dauphin Street in far western Vickland, just before the area started to transition to the upper class Financial District.

It wasn't until Boyd parked the car that Sin realized the quickest route by far from the Agency would have been to drive all the way down Dauphin Street. Boyd had gone out of the way to avoid it and had probably taken twice as long to get to the destination. The information clicked with Boyd's behavior on their first mission together. Sin glanced over at his partner, wondering just what had happened with the younger man in that area.

"Why are you going out of your way for me, anyway?" he asked, not voicing the questions going through his mind.

"Because I want to," Boyd said simply and honestly. He pulled the keys out of the ignition and looked over at Sin. "I don't have a very good answer aside from that. Except..."

He paused, his eyebrows drawing down. He searched Sin's face thoughtfully, as if he could find the answers he was looking for there. "It bothers me to think that you have no one to rely on, and that most of your alienation appears to be due to others' issues more than your own. I'm not in the habit of acting before I think, and I've taken the time to consider you. I've yet to find a reason why I shouldn't help you. So when something occurs that makes me want to help, I do."

Eyebrows rising, Sin tilted his head to the side. "You really don't seem like the charitable type. You seem like the mind your own business and try not to give a fuck or get involved type."

Boyd's lips tilted up humorlessly on the edges. "Normally I am. It seems to be different with you."

Not entirely knowing how to respond to that, Sin looked away and opened the door. It would have been easy to press further and demand why, to try to figure out if the words were true or just carefully crafted lines. But for some reason he didn't want to.

Boyd got out of the car and turned his attention to Sin over the top of the car. He tilted his head in the other direction to indicate where they were going and slid his hands in his pockets. He waited to speak until they were walking side by side.

"There are a lot of second hand stores in the city but I think Aspen's Closet is best as far as the price and quality. How much money do you have?"

"I don't know," Sin replied with a shrug. "A couple hundred. They don't give me very much."

"That should be more than enough here." Boyd looked over with a frown. "Unless that's what they provide you for a long time. What if you were to use it all here? Do you get more this week?"

"No. It doesn't matter, I don't buy anything anyway except shit from the vending machine."

Boyd shook his head. "It seems insulting to have your own money withheld."

Sin scoffed and started walking towards the store. There were a couple of people in front that gave his torn shirt dubious looks before averting their gaze. "It's pretty tame compared to locking me in a box."

"Yes, but the fact that it occurs to them to limit your freedom on small details as well as large is what adds to the insult. Why should it matter to them if you were to have access to all the money you've earned? It isn't as though you could buy your freedom."

Boyd reached out and caught the door before it could fall shut behind a woman who was leaving. He went into the store and Sin followed, sliding his hands into his pockets.

The truth was, Sin hadn't even thought much about his allowance when it'd been implemented. In the past, he hadn't been given any of his money at all. He'd been told that it was sent to his bank account where it would remain for safe keeping until he was deemed capable of handling it on his own. Now he had the fleeting wonder if it had been a lie. If they'd never actually paid him all of these years.

With a frown, Sin shook his head absently. Whatever the case was, he'd find out eventually.

Boyd turned to the right and glanced at Sin as they walked. "The majority of the men's clothing is toward the back but there's an area you should check first."

He led Sin to what looked like a small alcove that was all but hidden on the side. It seemed like an area that was off limit to the public but Boyd walked in as if it were normal to do so. A short hallway opened up that they walked down. At the end around the corner was another room. Several racks of clothing and shelves of shoes filled the room. Boyd stood to the side, gesturing to the racks in back that seemed to have men's clothing.

"These are the new arrivals. It's best to check here before the good items disappear too quickly on the main floor. The shoes are especially good to peruse here first."

Sin arched an eyebrow at Boyd. "Come here a lot? You don't seem very hard up for cash."

Boyd's eyes tracked across the room, a distant look crossing his face briefly before he shrugged. "My mother's wealthy but until this position I wasn't necessarily. I've never had to worry about having a home but as for money for food or supplies, it varied. I became accustomed to minimal spending when possible." He seemed lost in thought. "And my..."

He trailed off, eyes narrowing. He shook his head to himself and crossed his arms. "I knew others who didn't have much money so we came here sometimes. I bought my trench coat and boots here, so they do have some quality items."

Giving another shrug, Sin swept his gaze over the racks but found that he kept getting distracted by the other people. He couldn't help absently wondering if any of these civilians would recognize him from the incident all of those years ago-- were his unique features ingrained in anyone's mind as the Vickland Psycho?

It made him more antsy than he thought it would. He hadn't been in the city for so long that the familiar anxiety that swept through him at the idea was surprising. It was also stupid-- he knew the Agency would smooth over any scrapes or recognition should anyone try to make a big thing of it. He also knew that technically his name had been cleared, even of the slaying of the civilians and police. It was something else that bothered him, though; the possibility of running into someone who'd actually been there...

"I just need a new t-shirt, really," he said flatly.

Boyd's eyebrows rose skeptically. "How much clothing do you have?"

Sin mentally cataloged the things he had. It didn't take very long. A handful of t-shirts, a couple of pants and one pair of boots. He didn't own a proper coat of any kind that would be suitable for cold weather. Not to mention that all of the articles he had were incredibly worse for the wear and old.

"Enough," he answered vaguely.

"What constitutes 'enough' for you?" Boyd asked dubiously. "I've hardly seen you in anything aside from that."

Sin opened his mouth to retort but frowned, finding that he didn't have one. "I have... a few items."

"A few," Boyd repeated, looking at Sin askance. "What? A pair of pants and possibly two shirts?"

"I have two pair of pants, for your information."

"My mistake," Boyd said mildly, his lips pulling to the side faintly. He ran his gaze along Sin, taking in his threadbare clothes. "And exactly how long have you had this clothing?"

Feeling decidedly unimpressive as a result of the conversation, Sin turned away and shoved some clothes around unceremoniously on the rack. "Some years. What difference does it make? They're clean and covering the essential body parts, aren't they?"

Boyd walked over next to Sin, absently pushing a shirt aside to glance at it. When he looked over at Sin, the subtle tilt of his lips and the cast of his eyes betrayed mild amusement. "Yes but you've nearly worn the clothing through. It gives the impression that you've worn the same thing almost every day for decades."

He paused, the humor largely fading to be replaced by the earnest study of Sin's features that Sin was becoming accustomed to with Boyd. "Anyway, I think we should remedy that today. If your summer clothing is this threadbare I don't have high hopes for your winter choices."

Making a face, something occurred to Sin. "I probably could have sent my service slave out to do all this."


With a dismissive shrug, Sin made a more conscious effort to look at the stuff on the rack. "Some damn fool service staff man who was assigned to deal with me. He hates me almost as much as I loathe the sight of him."

There was a black bomber coat that would suit his purposes during the winter time. The inner lining was worn but not nearly as worn as the things he had now. Mildly surprised that he'd actually found something that caught his eye, he picked up the hanger.

"With how infrequently you buy new clothing, would you really want someone like that making those decisions?" Boyd asked idly as he turned to a nearby rack. He pushed some clothes apart, the hangers making quiet scratching noise with the slide of metal on metal.

"Considering how people cringe at the sight of me, it doesn't really matter what I wear or look like but I suppose you have a point."

Sin looked down at the coat and then at the other racks. He didn't even know what else he should have. Surviving for years on the bare minimum made it difficult to figure out what was supposed to be a necessity.

"Hmm." Boyd pushed a plain black long-sleeved thermal shirt back so he could see it fully. He held the bottom out, his eyelashes sheltering his eyes briefly as he studied it. His gaze shifted over to Sin in assessment. Without saying anything, he pulled the shirt off the rack and held it out to Sin who stared at it.

"Are you going to dress me like you?"

Boyd looked over, seeming startled. "What? No. I doubt you have warm clothing for winter and this is in good condition. You don't have to get it if you don't want; I just thought you may want to try it on."

Sin smirked and tossed the shirt over his shoulder. "I'm just messing with you, sweetheart. No need to get all explanatory."

Boyd's near-perplexed gaze lingered on Sin. "Why do you call me that?"

The smirk widened and Sin reached out, cupping Boyd's face and moving his chin from side to side without really thinking about it. But then the feel of Boyd's soft skin against his callused fingers startled him and the sarcastic comment he'd been about to make got lost somewhere.

Sin's eyebrows drew together and he dropped his hand, staring at Boyd blankly. He'd been about to say "because you're so innocent and cute" but somehow that seemed like a bad idea at the moment when he randomly realized that Boyd actually was quite attractive.

"Because you're... young."

Boyd's eyebrows drew down and he gave Sin an odd look. His hand moved up to his chin, seemingly absently brushing where Sin had touched him, and then he turned away. He pushed some clothes aside on the rack.

"Some of the trainees said the same thing."

"That you're young?" Sin stripped off his t-shirt and tossed it aside.

Boyd nodded, looking sidelong at Sin and then turning his face away again. "They seemed surprised. I suppose it's because I went straight to a high rank without a pertinent background. Even so, you were recruited much younger than I was, so am I really such a precedent?"

Sin pulled the thermal shirt over his head and shrugged his shoulders to loosen it up. "It's because you're off the street and don't have any experience in anything. It makes it seem like it's nepotism. In reality, it's just because mother dearest knew two rejects of society might get along, I think."

A strange look seemed to pass Boyd's face at that but his head was tilted at an angle where his expression was mostly sheltered by his hair. He pushed aside a worn t-shirt with a logo of an old soda company. "You may be giving her too much credit."

"Probably." Sin looked down at the shirt again before yanking it off. There were two other customers in the area and they gave him long looks as he switched back into his ragged t-shirt. "I really hate civilians."

"Most people use a dressing room," Boyd said mildly.

"I'm not shy." Sin threw the thermal over his shoulder and walked back out toward the main store. He thought he heard Boyd mumble, "I noticed," but he couldn't be sure as he left the room.

The main space was larger and more spread out. It looked large and overwhelming and it belatedly occurred to Sin that he didn't really want to be there. Somewhere along the line he'd just agreed because he wanted to be around Boyd.

It was a startling realization; almost as startling as the realization that he found the teenager attractive. He'd never given much thought to who looked good and who didn't before but for some reason his mind was working differently around Boyd. Sin had no idea if this was a normal part of being around someone consistently. He didn't really have any other human interaction to use as comparison.

Scowling at the thought, Sin walked over to a rack full of denim just because he'd always wanted a pair of jeans. He tried to focus on the task at hand but all of them looked the same to him so he carelessly pulled one off that was his size and didn't bother to search too hard between styles.

It wasn't long until Boyd reappeared at his side with several articles of clothing slung over his arm. He held up a pair of black and red sneakers with his free hand. "Do you like these?"

"I have shoes."

"One pair, right?" Boyd asked, unperturbed.

Sin glanced down at his worn boots. "Do I need more?"

"Yes. If those get worn out, what will you use to replace them?"

Making a face, Sin took the shoes and looked at them dubiously. He supposed they'd be an improvement for working out. "Fine."

Boyd smiled slightly, seeming pleased. "I found some pants and a t-shirt. And I'm not positive you'll like this sweater but it seems warm."

Sin briefly glanced at the items Boyd was holding. "Looks good. Can we leave?"

"Does it bother you to be here?"

A brief hesitation and then Sin shrugged, eyes flitting around. No one was really paying them any mind now that he wasn't stripping but he still felt uneasy. Like someone would remember his face or would just pick up on the fact that he didn't belong there.

"I don't feel comfortable around... civilians in Lexington."

Boyd watched Sin, a faint frown in his eyes and lips that only increased when he looked around the room. He was silent a moment, absently holding the clothes closer to his chest, most likely to relieve the heaviness of them at the other angle.

"Well," he began but then closed his mouth and paused. "I don't think anyone is paying any attention to you at the moment. Maybe we could stay a little longer? If it isn't a problem."

Looking around again, Sin considered it. It was true that no one was giving him strange looks; the discomfort was likely his own paranoia. The only people looking at them at the moment were a group of teenage girls. Now that he was paying attention, Sin faintly heard them commenting on both of their looks. According to the girls, he had amazing eyes and Boyd had beautiful hair.

Smirking, Sin relaxed somewhat. "I suppose staying won't be too bad. This area isn't as cramped. And those girls would like to know what conditioner you use, I think."

Boyd shook his head to himself, although there was a hint of a smile on his lips. "I'll never tell."

"Maybe you should. You may even get a date out of it."

With a quiet scoff, Boyd turned to the nearest rack. He used his free hand to absently push aside a pair of jeans that looked twenty years old. "I hardly think that will happen."

Sin raised an eyebrow. "So little faith in yourself?"

Boyd gave Sin a sidelong look, his eyes narrowing faintly and lips pursing subtly. After a moment he returned his attention to the clothing. "No. I'm uninterested in them."

The comment caused Sin to give the girls another assessing look. By now they seemed aware of the attention they were getting and to his irritation, one of them smiled at him encouragingly. His eyes narrowed into a glare and the girl, a petite red haired little thing, instantly dropped her bold gaze.

"Well. I can't say they exactly strike my fancy either. But then again, I'm not looking to add pedophilia to my list of crimes."

Boyd shook his head to himself but didn't comment further on the girls. He continued flipping through the clothing, at times moving aside three or more pants at once. The rest of their little shopping expedition went uneventfully. Boyd took the liberty of grabbing a couple of other items that he deemed to be essentials and Sin went to stand in the abysmally long line.

To Sin's dismay, the group of girls managed to stand right behind him. They stared openly and murmured to each other. One of them wondered if the two of them were gay. The question surprised Sin so much that he turned around completely and leveled them with a steady glare. They instantly shut up, obviously thinking they'd gone too far, and didn't talk again.

Irritated, Sin shook his head and turned away. He glanced at Boyd but his partner had wandered off at some point and was out of ear shot.

The comment hadn't particularly offended him. When he thought about it, he supposed long-haired, blond Boyd with his androgynous face and thin build was likely assumed to be gay based on appearance alone. Pair that with the two of them shopping together while Boyd nagged him about things he needed and it could be a possibility.

What surprised him most was that his automatic response hadn't been to think that he wasn't gay at all. He hadn't thought anything other than that they needed to shut the fuck up already and quit talking about them. That being said, Sin was pretty sure he wasn't gay himself. Harry's fondling hadn't exactly gotten him excited but neither had Lydia's.

But then again, the idea of intimacy in any way was so far removed from the reality of his life that he couldn't picture himself having sex with anyone at all.  It wasn't even something he'd ever bothered to think about. He'd had no reason to. The only people he'd regularly been in contact with since childhood were the people of the compound and they all thought he was subhuman.

The only person who had ever overtly expressed attraction to him had been Thierry, and that had likely been more of an attempt at expressing control over a situation than anything else. And while Sin found himself capable of noting whether or not a person was attractive, it never went very far beyond that.

Irritation turning to idle curiosity, Sin moved up in line and looked over to where Boyd was standing. He took the time to study the teenager's face closely. He had good features-- a wide mouth with full lips, golden brown eyes, and what would likely be a nice, lean build if he ever put weight on. Sin tried to figure out if he really was attracted to Boyd or just capable of noting that he was good-looking.

It was impossible to tell, so he gave up on the endeavor and instead focused on what Boyd was doing. He was picking through a stack of charcoal-colored thermal shirts. He was on a real keep-Sin-warm kick. He apparently thought that Sin was destined to die of frostbite because of the way he dressed.

The line moved up again and Boyd came back to stand beside him. The proximity made the idle curiosity return and Sin tried in vain to figure it out. The three girls behind him were too ridiculous to even count as possibilities for women and they were closer in age to him than any other female in the room. A quick inventory of the other male customers told him that Boyd was by far the most attractive, although that was more of a fact than anything else.

It was bordering on the pathetic side of sad that his abnormality extended this far. He wondered what Boyd would think of the girls' comments. There were certain people on the compound who joked about Boyd being gay much for the same reason that the girls had likely assumed it, but Sin had no idea if it was true. He couldn't really imagine Boyd being sexual with anyone. He barely had an expression half the time.

The thought sparked interesting mental images in his head and Sin smirked, shaking his head and pushing it aside.

Boyd looked over, drawn out of reverie by Sin's amusement. His eyebrows furrowed as he gave Sin an odd look. "What?"

"Nothing," Sin said, declining to explain.

Continue to Chapter 12