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.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Evenfall Chapter Twelve

A few weeks passed without incident before their next call for a mission appeared. It was a relatively low-key, simple mission. Although many of their missions seemed to involve Janus on some level, this one did not.

They were to collect data on Di Zhi, a China-based faction that allegedly rivaled Janus in strength. The Agency's goal for this mission was primarily reconnaissance. Boyd and Sin were to infiltrate a cell that had moved to the United States a few months earlier. They were to steal information from their computers to determine what to expect from Di Zhi on American soil in the future.

The two agents were sent to infiltrate the base, fifty miles out of Carson. The town was deserted and had been since the last wave of bombs had moved through, decimating part of the town and leaving the rest of the people with no livelihood. Eventually, everyone had moved away and, years later, Di Zhi had moved in.

Boyd and Sin had set up their base of operations in a small building that was in the vicinity of Di Zhi's base. It gave them a good viewpoint to overlook the innocuous building without being seen. Sin hadn't shown much interest in the planning of the mission but Boyd had thrown himself into it as soon as they'd shut the door. He'd pulled up maps and blueprints on a laptop and had spent the first two hours in silence, staring intently at the screen as his fingers moved across the keyboard. When he was ready, he set the laptop on a coffee table and moved it so Sin could see it as well.

"The exits are here," Boyd said, pointing to four places on the main blueprint. "But the main database room is here." His finger moved to one of many rooms in the basement. "Although it would be best to enter the building via the nearest exit and go downstairs, that won't be possible. The building is set up so the only way to access the basement is by special doors near these two exits." He pointed to two exits that were furthest from the database room as well as being on the other side of the base from the building they currently sat in. "They've concentrated their highest security in those points."

His eyes flicked up to Sin. "Realistically, there's no way to disguise ourselves in order to infiltrate so we'll have to enter undetected. Owen's sources have given us a good idea of the timing for changing of the guards and rotations. We should easily be able to avoid confrontation or discovery by taking that into account."

He flipped screens on the laptop and showed Sin a simple simulation he'd generated of the mission using the blueprints for the layout. The simulation ran as he spoke, illustrating his plan in quick detail and showing the locations of the different areas he mentioned on the blueprints themselves.

"At 0800 hours they switch guards on the eastern entrance, and the same at 0810 on the northeastern. Since we don't know which way will be quicker and we don't want to garner attention, we should enter separately. You can take the eastern and I'll take northeastern. There are utility closets about fifty feet in on each of those corridors. That should provide an initial hiding place if necessary. The rotation will continue with a full sweep of the building until 0825 hours. These corridors seem to be the least convenient so they'll most likely receive less attention. If we hide there until the sweep is past, we will be able to proceed back through the areas that have already been checked."

The simulation continued to run while Boyd pointed at the screen to two different areas.

"Access to the basement is through here and here. I'll bring the decoder with me which should allow us to breach the security on the database room. We'll have a ten minute time window before the next group of guards moves through so we'll have to be quick. Egress will be back the way we came, behind the sweep. We'll split up at this intersection and leave through the doors we originally entered. Once outside, we'll have to avoid the scouts so I suggest leaving through this alley to the north and doubling back here. Provided there are no unforeseen difficulties, we should be done and leaving here by 0900 at the latest."

Sin stared at the maps without much interest from where he lay stretched out on the floor. His head was propped up on his hand and his face was the picture of boredom. "Sounds thrilling."

Boyd watched Sin for a moment and then flipped the laptop closed. "We have to leave in a few hours so I'm going to get ready soon. I suggest you do the same."

Sin scoffed and shook his head, laying down entirely on the floor. "I'll be sure to do that."

Boyd's eyebrow raised and he looked down at Sin. The senior agent's nonchalance caused a moment of displeasure within Boyd but ultimately he ignored it. Sin's reaction didn't really matter as long as he was ready when it was time for the mission.

Boyd brought the laptop with him and spent some of the preparation time before the mission on going over the blueprints once again. He studied them until he had them memorized, looking at all the levels so he would know what routes to take if certain ones were cut off.

When it was time for them to head out, he was ready. He dressed in a dark long-sleeved shirt and sweater, dark pants and his usual combat boots. His long blond hair was pulled into a ponytail and shoved under a black cap so it didn't stand out as much.

When it came time for the mission, everything started out as planned. The intelligence they'd gathered proved to be accurate. Boyd was able to slip in the building when the guards were distracted with shift change. He found the utility closet to be unlocked when he needed to duck in there to escape view from one of the Di Zhi rebels walking past.

The rotations and guard sweeps came as planned and Boyd found the corridors he'd pointed out to Sin to be largely unoccupied. He had to duck out of the way when a hostile unexpectedly turned the corner, but there was an empty room nearby that gave Boyd cover. He couldn't help wondering whether Sin was finding it as easy as he was, or whether he'd run into any snags. He hadn't heard any commotion so he could only assume Sin hadn't been caught yet.

As Boyd moved further into the building, he kept his attention on his surroundings. He couldn't help noting that if they hadn't had the information they'd been given ahead of time, this would be much more difficult. Although he wasn't running into any major problems, it was because he moved quickly, to pre-designated spots, on a precise time schedule. It was giving him the opportunity to avoid the majority of the occupants of the building. If they hadn't known any of this, there were already over a dozen instances where he could have easily been caught.

When he reached the destination, he turned the corner and found Sin standing outside the door to the main database room. He gave the impression of having been there for a long time. Since Sin was scheduled to have entered the building ten minutes after Boyd, and Boyd had been moving quickly and hadn't had any issues, he'd expected to get there first and have to hide while he awaited his partner's arrival.

Boyd made sure no one was in the vicinity before he approached Sin. "That was fast," he observed, keeping his voice quiet so it wouldn't carry. "How did you get here before me?"

"Took a different route."

Boyd paused as he pulled out the decoder. He looked over at Sin with slightly narrowed eyes. "What? Why would you do that? With the timing, that should have been the best route."

"Yeah, according to you." Sin pushed himself away from the wall. "My route was easier and faster."

Boyd's eyes narrowed further. He felt a flash of irritation, although whether it was at Sin's attitude or the fact that he couldn't deny that Sin had gotten there first, he didn't know. He'd spent all that time concocting the plan and studying the intel; that should have been the most efficient route. So how had Sin managed to beat him? Why did he constantly have to one up Boyd on everything they did? It was so frustrating.

Pulling the decoder out, he set it to work on the lock. "Yeah?" he asked, unable to keep the challenge from his tone. "And exactly what route was it? Or did you just charge in without thinking as usual?"

Sin's eyebrows rose at that and there was a beat of silence before he said flatly, "I can't figure out if it's funny or embarrassing that you actually think you have superior knowledge of how a mission is carried out."

"There's a reason we're part of a unit, Sin." Boyd said stiffly. "No one person knows best which is why we all work together, including using the intel we receive from the others. My plan was based on that intel. If you had a problem with it or saw a flaw, why the hell didn't you say so before we started?"

"Apparently you got it into your head that you're team leader and didn't bother to ask what I thought. I guess since I apparently charge in without thinking and don't know how to do a job I've been doing for over a decade, it wouldn't have occurred to you." Giving him a scathing look, Sin then turned his attention to the stairwell and corridor.

"What, so now the great Sin Vega is too afraid to speak up to someone half his size?" Boyd scoffed. "Don't blame me for not saying anything when you had the chance. You could have told me the plan was terrible after I pitched it to you. Nothing stopped you but your own apathy."

"You sound like an idiot. If this is how you're going to act when I don't follow your orders, I'll go back to waiting in the van. Too bad you waited to put your bitch hat back on or I never would have bothered to cooperate at all."

The decoder flashed to signify it was finished. Boyd pulled it off the lock and then opened the door with sharp movements. "This has nothing to do with whose plan it is; it's about sticking to the plan itself. What's the point of being your partner when I never know what to expect from you? Or when you won't even tell me your opinion? I may as well go it alone like I used to."

Sin gave him a disgusted look. "Nice job trying to back track. Next time you have something to say, maybe you should keep your fucking mouth shut and think before you start insulting me. I should have known your whole friendly routine for the past few weeks was bullshit."

Boyd opened his mouth to angrily retort because his main aggravation really was that Sin hadn't followed the plan, no matter whose it was. But it was true he'd started out being annoyed that Sin had somehow come up with something more efficient despite all the time he'd spent on the plan. Still, if Sin had said something in the first place none of this would have happened.

The fact that now Sin was attacking the rest of their time together as a lie only served to anger him further.

Frustrated, he turned his back on Sin and stalked across the room. He started the download of the information with curt movements, his back thrumming with tension. "Don't start making assumptions about the past few weeks."

"As far as I'm concerned, this conversation is over."

Boyd scoffed, shaking his head to himself. He wanted to argue the point; to say it wasn't over just because Sin said it was. He couldn't help feeling furious and insulted and a mess of other reactions, which made him realize even at that point that he didn't know what else he'd say to Sin anyway. He wanted to yell at him at the same time as he wanted to walk away and ignore his existence entirely.

With the tension nearly palpable in the room, the downloading of the information seemed to take forever. Even as Boyd kept his back turned toward Sin, he couldn't help running through the mission in the back of his mind. He kept track of the time while he paid just enough attention to Sin to note that he kept an eye on the corridor and door.

When the download was complete, Boyd erased any indication that they'd been there and pocketed the flash drive with the information on it.

The two of them barely looked at each other as they fled the base. Since they weren't in pursuit and hadn't been discovered, they ended up leaving together. Boyd had initially planned for them to flee separately, thinking it would draw less attention. He didn't know if it was because he'd been right about that, at which point he felt vindicated on some level, or if it was coincidence-- but as they fled together, despite their quick and quiet movements they were discovered passing up to the main floor.

Three men were there, looking startled to see them although it quickly became anger. They yelled something in Chinese and two of them reached for their guns. They didn't stand a match for Sin's speed, though. The first one had barely moved his arm before Sin knocked him out. The second one had only curled his fingers around the stock when Sin was at his side.

They got into an altercation that Boyd ran right past, his narrowed eyes zeroed in on the third man who was reaching for a communication device. The man's eyes turned to slits when he saw Boyd approach and he had to jerk his hand away from the radio to block a strike. They got into a brief fight, Boyd's hits and blocks a little harsher than normal with the aggression pent up inside him. He was able to overcome the man and knock him out with a strike to his head.

He caught the man before his limp form could make a resounding noise when he fell. Once the man was unconscious on the floor, Boyd looked over to see Sin already finished and keeping an eye out for anyone else. When he noticed Boyd was ready, they set out again. Luckily, they didn't run into anyone else.

The deserted streets flashed by them as they ran, navigating the ghost town to reach their designated point. The plain black Agency van was parked where they'd left it, shining dully in the muted light. Boyd headed toward it immediately when he saw it.

Sin, on the other hand, stopped walking a short distance away. As Boyd got into the driver's seat, he noticed that Sin wasn't making any move to get into the van.

Boyd paused, his hand on the door as he'd been getting ready to shut it. He glanced back the way they'd come, making sure there wasn't any pursuit they hadn't noticed. "What the hell are you doing? Get in."

"No, I think I'll pass on that." Sin looked at him for a brief moment before turning and walking away with a toneless, "Later."

"What?" Boyd burst out incredulously. He half stepped out of the van. "We're over a hundred miles from home!"

Sin didn't respond and he easily swung himself over the railing at the side of the road. His boots crunched over an old and long forgotten memorial cross that had been pegged into the earth there.

"Sin!" Boyd called after his partner. "Come back! How are you going to get back? What if something happens?"

Sin kept walking without even so much as looking over his shoulder. He disappeared into a grove of trees nearby. Boyd hesitated by the van, anger and uncertainty warring within him. It occurred to him to run after Sin but what was he going to do? Sin was twice as strong as he was; there was no way he'd be able to drag him back. If Sin was determined to do his own thing there was nothing Boyd could do about it.

"God damnit," he hissed to himself and dropped back into the van, slamming the door shut. He put the van in drive and took off, taking a route that brought him along the woods as long as possible so he could keep an eye out for Sin.

He didn't see him again and soon he had to veer away to get to the interstate.

The more space he put between Sin and him, the more frustrated he grew. He couldn't help feeling resentful of Sin, as if this was some punishment for the argument on base. Yet he also couldn't help wondering how the hell Sin was going to get back to Lexington, and whether he would be okay. What if Di Zhi found him? What if he got hurt?

At the same time, Sin was one of the best agents at the Agency. If he didn't want to be found then it was unlikely Di Zhi would catch him unaware. But Boyd was his partner and was supposed to be there with him in the unlikely event something like that happened. What was Boyd supposed to do in this situation? How was he supposed to convince someone as stubborn as Sin to listen to him when the man always seemed to do whatever the hell he wanted whenever the hell he wanted?

Twenty miles out of the town he almost turned and went back. He got off on the ramp but at the intersection where he could turn to go back the way he'd come, he stopped.

He couldn't just abandon Sin. For all that he was angry with the man, it bothered him immensely to not know if he was okay. He didn't like the image of Sin walking silently away.

But what was he going to do? He had no idea where Sin was and if he ran into the woods alone he would probably just get lost. Or, worse, get himself caught by Di Zhi while Sin meanwhile would probably be just fine and somehow end up back in Lexington safe and sound.

He had to get the information back to the Agency. If he failed to complete this, the Agency would research the mission and hear from the van's audio that he'd been yelling for Sin to return. If he was caught a second time having an argument with Sin that resulted in issues between them...

It wasn't worth the consequences. If he failed the mission and lost Sin, there was no doubt his mother would follow through on her threats, if she didn't do something worse. If he at least got the information back on time then he could give Sin time to return on his own and the Agency may never know about any of this. Still, he wished this situation hadn't occurred because if the Agency found out about any of this he was probably the one who would receive the punishment, not Sin. They would say he'd failed in his duties to keep an eye on Sin.

This was exactly what he'd been talking about to Sin; he never knew what to expect from the other man. And since Boyd was the probationary agent, any issues would fall on his shoulders to be explained or to take the punishment.

It was so frustrating, especially since they'd been getting along better lately. He felt uneasy with this entire change and was even more frustrated with himself for his indecision. His fingers gripped the steering wheel and he hesitated until a car that had been stopped behind him finally honked impatiently.

"Damn it," he growled to himself.

His face set seriously and he ended up continuing on his way to the Agency. It was the best option available to him, even if it left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.

The rest of the drive to the Agency was uneventful. He was able to enter the compound and submit his report without Sin's absence being noticed by anyone. Or, if it was, no one commented on it. Although it did occur to him that it was possible Sin would use the opportunity to run, he highly doubted the man would. After all, there was a tracking device in him.

As far as that went, if Sin did want to flee the Agency, even angry with him Boyd wouldn't be able to blame him.

By the time he finished all his duties and got home, he still felt restless. He couldn't get the image of Sin walking silently away out of his mind. He couldn't help going in circles in his mind, worrying about how Sin was doing and cursing him for it coming to this. After a short period of time it occurred to him to check the live feed to Sin's apartment. When he pulled it up and found the place to be empty, the questions only grew.

He waited a few minutes and then shut it down, frustrated with himself.

Why should he care if Sin was alright anyway? Sin had caused as much of this problem as Boyd himself had, and he'd been the one to walk away. Boyd had tried to get him back in the van, hadn't he? It wasn't his problem what Sin decided to do.

But it was his problem. And it was his responsibility to look after Sin when he did unexpected things like this. That was why he was even at the Agency.

Boyd ended up in the living room, feeling stressed out. He dropped onto the couch and leaned forward, squeezing his eyes shut and resting his elbows on his knees. His fingers dug into his hair and he let out a harsh breath.

As his resentment and frustration faded, and as he went over the argument in the base, he had to acknowledge a few things that at the time he'd been too angry to notice.

First, Sin had never actually insulted his plan. He'd only stated that he'd followed his own route. Boyd had been so frustrated by Sin's ability to always one up him in everything that he'd automatically taken it as an insult to his skills when it was possible Sin hadn't been thinking anything of the sort. Second, Boyd had been the first person to insult Sin. Sin hadn't started being caustic until Boyd had implied he didn't think ahead.

When he thought harder about it, in a way he had contradicted himself. He wanted Sin to treat him as a partner, yet he hadn't asked Sin what he thought when initially crafting the plan.

It was so frustrating to him.

It wasn't like he hadn't asked because he didn't value Sin's opinion. It was simply that Sin had so rarely shown any interest in the planning of the mission that Boyd had automatically taken over. Planning missions was what he felt most comfortable doing and what he thought he was best at, whereas Sin was best at fighting and executing the mission itself.

Guilt became a weight alongside worry and frustration and it was all muddied by surprise that he even cared in the first place. What did it matter to him what Sin thought? Why should he care if he'd been unintentionally rude?

Yet it did matter. And he did care. And he didn't understand why.

Still, he couldn't deny the worry that continued to eat at him, nor could he ignore the increasingly unlikely scenarios that popped into his mind about what may have happened to Sin after they'd parted. That only increased the frustration.

Time seem to stretch endlessly. At length, he gave in and decided to check the live feed again. It was a few hours after he'd returned; surely Sin would have had enough time by now?

At first he didn't see anything in Sin's apartment. He watched for several minutes and was just starting to consider attempting to focus his attention elsewhere when Sin's door opened. Sin entered the apartment and Boyd felt such relief at seeing him that at first he didn't notice how angry the other man looked.

Sin strode toward the bathroom the moment the door shut behind him. Boyd could see that his jeans were muddy and he looked slightly damp, probably from the rain that had started to fall. Sin stripped off his clothing, leaving it as a trail on his way to the bathroom.

As soon as Sin was naked and went to turn on the shower, Boyd switched to the view in the living room. Sin had enough issues of violations of privacy without Boyd adding to it on his own.

Even though Sin had walked around naked in front of him before, it still made Boyd feel uncomfortable to see someone when they weren't aware it was happening.

Instead, he idly looked around Sin's living room. He'd seen the place often enough when he'd watched the live feed. Although he gave Sin his privacy in the bathroom, he couldn't stop himself from watching Sin in his apartment where he seemed to be aware of the scrutiny of others. He'd tried to avoid the live feed after he'd first discovered it but he'd found himself returning there more than once; looking for those elusive flashes of who Sin may really be.

Sin wasn't in the shower long and soon reappeared with a clean pair of jeans. When he strode to the kitchen, his expression dark and nearly pensive, Boyd found his gaze running down Sin's body almost absently.

A few beads of water still clung to his sculpted body, trailing along muscles that narrowed to hips that seemed in danger of being exposed by the low pants. A possibility that seemed even more evident when Sin jerked the refrigerator door open and pulled out a carton of juice.

His green eyes were narrowed and eyebrows lowered thunderously even when he tilted his head back and drank straight from the carton. When he was finished, Sin shoved the carton back into the fridge and pulled out a candy bar that he unwrapped and started eating. Even with the chocolate bar in his hand, he was glowering at thin air. The scene was incongruous and yet so much like what Boyd had become accustomed to with Sin.

Boyd watched him, wondering what his dual feeling of unease and comfort meant.

Since he didn't have an answer for himself, and couldn't even be certain he was assigning the correct labels to his own reactions, he ignored the feeling and focused instead on Sin's obvious aggravation. Sin balled up the wrapper and threw it into the garbage. Soon, he started pacing.

The guilt Boyd felt before returned as he wondered whether Sin was so aggravated because of him. It very possibly was the case.

Sin's comment that the past few weeks had been a lie ran through his mind again. Did Sin truly think that? Did he actually believe Boyd had been playing him all along? And if so, did this mean Sin was going to return to the way he'd been before? Judging by the way Sin had been acting back in town, Boyd worried that may be the case. And that was the last thing he wanted.

It surprised him that he cared that much about it but he couldn't deny that he did. He'd come to appreciate having someone to talk to on some level; someone who didn't automatically hate him for his name or the position he'd gained. Someone who didn't take it as a personal affront if he wanted to be quiet for a few minutes or, at times, hours. Someone whose fleeting expressions of interest or intrigue or even near-camaraderie felt like a victory over the suspicious glares from the past.

He didn't want to lose all the progress they'd made simply because of one ill-timed argument and misunderstanding. A wave of uneasiness moved through him again and he reached for his phone without thinking. He dialed Sin's number, staring at the numbers flashing on his phone before turning his gaze up to the computer screen when he heard Sin's phone ringing.

On the screen Sin had paused to lean against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest. His face was turned to the side and half cast in shadow as he appeared to stare into space. However he looked over at the phone.

Sin's mouth twisted slightly and a distinct look of annoyance washed over him before he pushed himself away from the counter. He crossed the kitchen in two strides and grabbed his phone without even looking at the screen.

"What?" he demanded curtly.

"Hi," Boyd said into the phone as he closed down the screen. He didn't want to be staring at Sin's expressions when Sin didn't have the chance to look at him in return. It didn't feel right.

There was a brief silence and then a flat, "What do you want?"

Boyd paused, realizing he didn't know exactly what to say. He'd called with the thought that he didn't want it to return to the way it had been before and yet he wasn't entirely sure how to go about that. "I wanted to make sure you'd made it back alright," he said after a moment.

"I'm not entirely incompetent at traveling."

"I wasn't implying you were."

There was another pause before Sin said, "Well, as you can see I survived. Are we done?"

"No. Look--" Boyd sighed, bringing a hand to his forehead and closing his eyes. He'd never been particularly good at admitting his own faults. He'd been raised to be so proud that sometimes he felt at a loss as to how to properly word apologies. "It wasn't my intention to insult you on the mission. I was frustrated."

This time the silence was longer. For a moment it almost seemed like Sin had hung up but then there was a toneless, "I see."

Boyd thought about turning on the live feed again so he could see Sin's expression and get an idea of whether he was making matters worse. But that was an unfair advantage that he didn't want to take. He paused and then pressed on, deciding that since he'd started this he may as well finish it.

"It isn't that I don't value your opinion; I just didn't think you were interested in the planning. I thought it would be most efficient if I planned it based on research you likely didn't want to do, and I assumed if you had a better idea than what I presented then you would tell me."

Sin made a low sound on the other end. Judging from his tone, he didn't seem entirely trusting of this explanation. It was entirely likely that he now believed that all of their interaction that had been civilized and even sometimes pleasant had been an act. If that was the case, then he'd likely think this was now an effort to regain his trust. It was a frustrating situation.

"Why don't you come to the compound and we can discuss this in person," the senior agent said at length. His voice still held heavy notes of skepticism.

Boyd raised his eyebrows, mildly surprised by the suggestion. He'd half expected the man to hang up on him. "Alright. Where would you like to meet?"

"Come to my apartment," was the short reply. The line went dead immediately after.

Boyd slid his phone in his pocket and grabbed his keys on his way out. As he drove to the compound, he wondered about the situation. This was the first time he would be in Sin's apartment-- the first time either of them had invited the other to his house.

It was interesting that Sin hadn't chosen the typical neutral territory of a courtyard or somewhere else. However, there they wouldn't have even the modicum of privacy that Sin's apartment offered. Boyd assumed that Sin wanted to talk in person so he could see Boyd's body language and expression, to gauge whether he was telling the truth.

When he got to Sin's building he already had his ID card out from showing it to the guards. He saw the swipe pad next to Sin's locked door and remembered being told in passing something about his access rights. He swiped the card out of curiosity, half expecting it to not work. The lock pad flashed green and he opened the door, walking into Sin's apartment.

Boyd barely had the chance to see that Sin had put on a shirt before he registered Sin's reaction. The expression on Sin's face was one of genuine surprise. As the door shut, it turned to anger.

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

Boyd stopped, not expecting that greeting. "What?"

"Why do you have access to my quarters?" was the sharp demand.

"How should I know?" Boyd felt like Sin was accusing him of personally seeing to it that he had reason to anger Sin. "It's not as if I set the access myself. Ask HR."

"And so you take it upon yourself to just fucking barge in here?" Sin practically snarled in response, his eyes narrowing.

"You invited me over!" Boyd protested, defensive anger flaring in the face of Sin's aggression. "You were expecting me any time now. I didn't think it was such a problem."

Sin scoffed disgustedly. "You didn't think walking into someone's home without alerting them to your presence is a problem? You people think you have so much power over me that you can do whatever the hell you want."

"Stop assuming all this shit of me," Boyd snapped. "You keep accusing me of all these thoughts I never have."

"Well whatever fucking thoughts you have are obviously not making themselves seen in the way of your actions," Sin retorted. "You act like a self righteous, condescending little bitch on the mission and now you walk into my apartment as if you have the right to have access to it. It never crossed your mind that you're crossing a line? It never occurred to you that you're invading my privacy just like everyone else does every fucking day?"

"I was just testing the card," Boyd shot back in frustration. "I didn't think it would work. I never would have even tried it if you hadn't invited me here and hadn't been expecting me any minute. I won't ever use the card like that again."

Sin just shook his head, looking off to the side as his jaw clenched and unclenched. His entire body was wrought with tension as he stood ramrod straight with his arms crossed.

Boyd sighed, feeling exasperated by the situation. He looked away broodingly, pushing his hair back from his face. This distance and misunderstanding kept seeming to happen between them. But he'd come over here to apologize and even if he had to stumble through it, he was determined to do so.

"I don't have ill intent when it comes to anyone, Sin, least of all you," he said with tired honesty. "I have times when I get frustrated or do something without thinking, just like anyone. I'm sorry for my mistakes but none of the issues today have been purposeful on my part."

Sin didn't respond or react even enough to show whether he was listening.

"I didn't want to argue," Boyd pressed on after a pause. "I only came to apologize. Earlier, I was frustrated after having spent hours on something that was completely ignored. Maybe it seemed like I think I know more about missions than you but I don't. When I get frustrated I say things I don't mean, and sometimes you seem to assume the worst of me no matter what I do. And..."

Boyd hesitated. He knew this was all on camera but at the same time it was important to him that Sin hear what had been on his mind all day. "And I don't want that. I don't want you second guessing me based on one or two events and ignoring everything else in between. I thought we were getting along better lately. I wanted it to stay that way."

Sin still didn't respond and after a moment, Boyd sighed and dropped his hands at his sides. His expression closed off as he turned away. He wasn't going to put himself out there like this if Sin wasn't going to do anything other than act like a statue.

"Forget it."

Before he could turn the door handle Sin grabbed his arm and yanked it back. Boyd was briefly tugged off balance. He jerked at his arm but Sin didn't shift; his fingers were as strong as steel and just as unyielding.

Frustrated and annoyed, Boyd twisted and shoved Sin in the chest to get him to back off. It had zero effect aside from making Sin's eyes narrow.

"Just fucking wait," he said, jerking Boyd back.

"Let go of me," Boyd snapped.

Sin was as strong and unmovable as a mountain. The thought that Boyd couldn't get away grew stronger as Sin didn't give in at all. Boyd started to struggle more in earnest, becoming unnerved. It was beginning to feel too much like being held down and a thrill of alarm made his heartbeat skyrocket.

He tried to twist out of Sin's grip but Sin snapped his other hand out and grabbed Boyd by both his arms. Long fingers dug into him before Sin abruptly slammed him back against the wall, pinning him with hands digging into his upper arms.

Suddenly Sin's face was so close to his that their noses were nearly touching. Vivid green eyes were blazing down into his and Sin was growling again, "I said wait."

The words caused Boyd to still, his chest shifting as he caught his breath. The panic that had started to set in at being immobilized faded as Sin's uttered words caused his breath to mingle with Boyd's harsh pants. Boyd made a conscious effort to try to calm himself, to stop his chest from heaving against Sin's from the exertion to get away. The panic was gone but the remnants of it only made him hyper aware of their proximity.

The smell of Sin, freshly showered, his still damp hair against Boyd's face, his mouth shockingly close when his lips parted to speak. Those intense green eyes burning into Boyd with smoldering intensity that seemed at the moment just as caught as Boyd's. Sin's lips parted as if he was going to speak again, but he didn't. His eyes just remained locked with Boyd's, his fingers loosening although they didn't slide away.

"Why?" Boyd's voice came out a little rough.

The response wasn't immediate. Sin's eyebrows drew together and he opened his mouth to speak but closed it soon after. There was frustration in his face at that moment-- frustration that was marked by confusion. Whatever was causing it didn't make Sin back off, though. He remained nearly pressed against Boyd as his narrowed-eyed gaze skimmed over Boyd's face before focusing intently on his eyes. His hands shifted, bracing against the wall on either side of Boyd's shoulders.

The feeling of Sin's body so close against Boyd was causing his thoughts to scatter. He couldn't help noting Sin's muscular shoulders. He knew what Sin's chest looked like beneath his shirt, covered in beads of water that slowly traveled down his body.

With Sin so close, it was impossible not to think about that, and impossible not to notice how attractive his features were. Boyd's gaze started to drop to Sin's full lips but he made himself look back up to Sin's eyes before he could. Not that staring at those green eyes was much better. Uncertainty dominated the confusing emotions that were beginning to swirl inside of him.

"What do you want?" he pressed.

"You--" Sin broke off and scowled. He backed off as suddenly as he'd made contact and retreated a step. The last vestiges of confusion disappeared as he said gruffly, "You piss me off."

The attraction Boyd had been feeling faded with Sin's words and the loss of his proximity. Boyd raised his eyebrows, giving Sin a mildly incredulous look as he pushed himself away from the wall. Now he was just annoyed again.

"That's what you wanted me to stay and hear?"

Sin turned away and stood with obvious tension. There was hesitation before he spoke but when he did it was awkwardly. "I don't know what to believe when it comes to you. I don't trust you. I don't trust anyone. And I don't want to."

Boyd crossed his arms and looked away. "I don't know what to say to that."

"Don't say anything," Sin snapped, turning again. He ran his hands through his damp hair, exhaling slowly. "Just shut up for a change."

The senior agent went silent again, watching Boyd out of the corner of his eye. He seemed unsettled by something and it was making him fidget as he haltingly spoke the next few words. "I like getting along with you. But I don't trust you. And I don't know what to fucking do about that."

Boyd was quiet, watching Sin for a period of silence. "Well," he said, his eyebrows drawing together. "I don't entirely either, but since we both like getting along with each other why don't we keep aiming for that?"

"I don't know how to get along with people." Sin sighed disgustedly and looked at Boyd fully again. "I'm twenty-eight and you're the first person I ever had a normal conversation with. You can't expect much from me. And if you do, you will be sadly disappointed."

"I'm not particularly extroverted myself so I can't promise I'll do much better," Boyd said, shaking his head. "But I'm willing to at least try for this partnership."

At that, Sin stared at him in seemingly genuine confusion. "Why?"

"Because it's a significant portion of my existence at this point," Boyd said honestly. "And since I prefer to get along with you rather than not, I see no reason to not put in effort."

Not looking entirely convinced, the senior agent shook his head. "We'll see."

Continue to Chapter 13