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 Thirteen

Boyd's shoulder twinged as he hit the floor hard. He half skidded, half rolled across the cement floor for a brief moment but was able to turn the momentum to his favor. He caught himself on his hands and looked back over his shoulder but he couldn't see anything around the crates. Bullets shot tiny crevices out of the wall above his head and the sound of men shouting and screaming echoed alarmingly in the warehouse. He couldn't make sense of anything except that within a matter of seconds, absolute chaos had exploded around him.

A man went careening past the crates; he hit the wall so hard Boyd heard a disturbing crack and blood splattered out in rivulets. He collapsed against the floor in a heap as Boyd stared with widened eyes. He stayed crouched down as he moved toward the crates that were sheltering him from the fight. When he peered around, what he saw was almost like being in a dream.

The warehouse he and Sin had been sent to destroy, taking the node of a rebel group along with it, was supposed to hold fifteen men. They'd arrived to find closer to forty. And at that moment, a good ten looked to be dead or dying and the rest were trying to kill Sin.

And none of them were succeeding.

Sin was like the eye of a storm and the men darting in and flying out around him were his tornado. He had his guns out, shooting with both hands at the same time even in different directions. His bare arms gleamed with sweat and what looked like blood, and the same could be said of his face. His expression was set in that distant, serious look Boyd had seen on some of the videos. The face of death.

As Boyd watched, Sin killed five men in succession, blasting out the backs of their heads with perfect shots to the foreheads, or felling them where they stood by hits to the throat and chest. The ones who came close enough received violent kicks that had them flying backward, or hits with his elbows and the sides of his guns.

But even as they fell, others came at him like cockroaches.

Sin sheathed the guns so fast Boyd hardly noticed it happening, and soon the fight turned to bare hands. Throats were ripped out, shoulders dislocated and people thrown through the air as if they weighed no more than a paper doll. One man screamed as he was thrown back, slamming against someone behind him. The two fell in a heap of curses and growls and were nearly trampled by three others trying to rush Sin at once.

Sin jerked one man around to take the knife of another man's attack. The knife went straight in the gut while the injured man stared in shock. Sin casually snapped his neck so hard his head nearly spun backwards. Sin was already breaking the back of the man behind him as the first man fell.

Even without weapons, blood sprayed around Sin in arcs as he ripped bodies apart with little to no effort. When the hostiles shot at Sin he evaded or dragged other people up to serve as human shields. Bones snapped, breaking through skin and showing gruesomely as white shards while blood spurted out. Bodies tumbled, some in disarray and some looking mostly in tact, but almost all of the faces were set in looks of surprise. As if the person never expected to die here.

People ran past Boyd's hiding place, not noticing him, and he stayed where he was. He would be of no use in a fight like this; he was still trained primarily for small groups or one on one.

As he watched in a mild form of disbelief at the carnage that was happening around him, he tried to make sense of how it had all started. He and Sin had been setting explosives around the warehouse. It was going to be a simple bomb job and they'd been careful to be quiet. Still, they hadn't counted on the numbers and that had been their downfall.

Boyd had been leaning over to set one of the final explosives when he heard a sound. He'd looked up just in time to see a gun aimed at him. Sin had thrown him out of the way as the gun went off.

And then... this.

The first man Boyd had seen die had been the gunman and so far he seemed to have been the only one who knew Boyd was there. Sin had immediately become the center of focus for the entire warehouse and he was halfway across the cavernous room. Far away from where anyone would think to peek behind some stacked crates to see if there was anyone else to fight.

It made it seem like Sin had been protecting him. Like Sin had purposefully drawn them away to keep Boyd safe from a fight he would no doubt lose. But that couldn't be. He was probably reading into it too much... Wasn't he?

There was a scream that was cut short abruptly, the thump of another body hitting the floor, and then silence. It stretched for a moment before the sound of a single pair of booted feet walking across the concrete floor echoed across the room.

Boyd looked out from his point of cover.

As expected, Sin was the only one left standing. He was completely covered in evidence of the carnage. Blood streaked his face, splattered his clothes and dampened his hair. It was difficult to tell if any of it was his but aside from a slightly halting gait when he strode quickly to Boyd's side, he seemed fine.

"Set the charges anyway," Sin said flatly, green eyes devoid of emotion as they surveyed the room.

There was a brief beat of silence while Boyd stared at him before he looked away abruptly with a nod. As he moved out from behind the crates, he could see the massacre that was left.

It was like seeing a real life version of some of the video games he'd once played, a long time ago. How could so many people have been killed by one man? How could that man have used his bare hands for some of it? And how could it all be over so quickly? It seemed impossible.

There was no way to avoid pools of blood as he returned to where he'd been crouched before everything went to hell. He finished arranging that explosive. His fingers came away sticky with blood and something else, possibly some brain matter. He ignored it and simply wiped his hands on a clean patch of floor. He was going to have to wash his hands later.

He stood again, glancing sidelong through a fall of blond hair to check Sin but the senior agent had his back turned to Boyd as he presumably checked on something over there. There had been one explosive that Boyd remembered thinking may not have been set properly across the warehouse. He skirted the perimeter of the room to walk over there.

His boots made sticky, sucking noises as he passed through puddles of blood. He crouched by the other explosive and couldn't help looking over at the pile of bodies near him. It was an intense caricature of life cut short. It didn't even seem real.

He surveyed the room again before he turned and silently walked back toward Sin.

He stopped at Sin's side, his fingers curling around the remote as he pulled it out of his coat pocket. He held it up to show that they could remotely detonate whenever they wanted.

"I'm ready."

Sin didn't answer and the two of them left. It was dark outside, aiding in concealing the blood that spattered Sin. They got into the van and drove a block away before Boyd hit the detonation switch. The explosion rocked the van and broke out windows on some of the neighboring buildings. Fire erupted, casting strange, flickering shadows across the street as they calmly drove away.

They were gone before anyone could respond and notice they'd been there.

The safehouse they had for this mission was an empty apartment in an area of the city where no one paid much attention to anyone else. On the drive over, Sin didn't speak much so Boyd didn't either.

When they got in the apartment, Sin immediately went to the bathroom. The sound of the pipes shuddering as the shower turned on could be heard through the wall. Boyd packed up their gear and did a sweep of the apartment to ensure they weren't leaving anything behind. He had their bags packed and ready to go by the time Sin stepped out of the bathroom, wearing fresh clothing and with the heat of the shower still flushing his complexion. They shouldered the bags and left the apartment, with Sin taking only a short detour down the alley to throw his bloody clothing into the dumpster.

They were back at the van and on the road again not long after having blown up the warehouse. Boyd ended up in the passenger seat, which he was glad of. He'd driven out here and although he hadn't had a physically intensive part of the mission he was still tired. Since it was going to take six or more hours to drive back to the Agency and it was already the dead of night, Boyd was glad to be able to stretch out. Still, having to not pay attention to the road just meant he had more time to think about everything. Which meant he found himself discreetly watching Sin as the city lights flashed by them.

Sin's face was cast in stark shadows as they passed between dark and light areas of the city. It made the unreadable quality of his expression seem tenfold, and lent weight to the silence between them. Although Sin had showered, Boyd still couldn't look at him without remembering the blood coating him. The flecks of something else spattered across his form like he was some nouveau art installation decorated by pieces of a corpse.

Boyd looked away, his eyes narrowing pensively as he stared out the window. He almost felt uncomfortable even turning his head away from Sin; like he had to keep him in his peripheral vision to make sure he wouldn't suddenly snap and attack him too.

The scene kept replaying in his mind. The sheer power and speed that Sin possessed; the silence with which he could move. The fact that he could get behind someone and kill them before they even realized they weren't alone.

And the bodies lying in blood.

For a moment, the memory overlaid with another; eyes wide and set in death. Glassy and too grey for how bright they'd been in life. Blood hot and metallic against his face and that hateful red creeping closer and closer.

Looking down and seeing his hands coated in blood and gore. Gloves of death.

Boyd shifted in the seat, his jaw setting and expression turning stony. He shut that thought off abruptly, even though it left the taste of nausea in the back of his throat. That fearful dread gripped his heart and made it feel like it was beating in the deep pressure of the sea.

Don't think about it, he told himself harshly the same as he had so many other times. It doesn't matter. It's not real. Forget about it. Forget about all of it. It's over.

But the massacre in the warehouse was too fresh. He could do his best to ignore the other things it made him think of but he couldn't forget the blood and death. He couldn't forget how incredibly easy it had looked for Sin.

Forty men against one. How were those odds possible in reality? How was it possible that Sin was barely injured? How could they be sitting here so civilly inside the car as if nothing had happened? As if Sin hadn't just washed the blood of so many men off his body like it was nothing?

And yet... Strong hands gripping his arm and yanking him back. The spark of a bullet ricocheting off the floor where he'd just been crouched. The crates protecting him as all hell broke loose.

He could have died tonight. He probably would have, had Sin not thrown him to the side where no one knew he was there.

Boyd looked sidelong at Sin again.

Sin flicked his gaze to Boyd and then away. He didn't say anything but Boyd could see the tension in his shoulders.

What was he supposed to do with this information?

On the one hand, he'd known Sin could kill this easily. He'd seen it on some of the videos. But things felt different when he was watching it on the screen versus being there in the room. It felt more real hearing the bones breaking and seeing the bodies falling and stepping through the blood to complete his mission.

On the other hand, Sin had saved him. But wasn't that just his job? As far as that went, hadn't it been his job to kill them as well? Wasn't Sin just following orders either way?

Except Sin had gotten hurt protecting Boyd before. He'd even saved Boyd's life on that Andrews mission. He'd told Boyd later that he didn't want another partner and that he didn't have much interest in Boyd dying. So was he helping Boyd because he was Boyd, or was he doing what he needed to do for a partner who was bearable?

Was he doing this all in self-interest or was there another reason?

The more he thought about it, Sin didn't act the same around the others. He seemed to hate being around many other people-- even Ryan, who everyone liked and who had been on Sin's side for a long time, and Carhart, who seemed to be trying to help Sin when he could. Yet Sin seemed to show interest in Boyd sometimes. He was civil toward him and there had even been the occasional time when something approximating friendliness had passed between them.

Sometimes Sin looked at him in a way Boyd couldn't identify. Sometimes it seemed like Sin actually cared about Boyd's existence. Yet other times it felt like nothing had changed between them from the first moment they'd met. There were times he had no idea at all what Sin was thinking and those times bothered him more than he cared to admit.

But then there was his blank expression as he killed people. The strength in him as blood spread like arced wings. The void in his eyes and the violence in his hands.

Sin could go either way. He was quiet and intelligent, sitting in the corner of a library talking about Milton and poetry he read when he had the chance. He was silent and alienated, sitting alone in his apartment as the darkness swallowed him the way it so often felt it swallowed Boyd in his own home. He was violent and uncontrollable, tearing at people like so much meat and shooting them with a sure hand that never wavered. He was pensive and unreadable, flicking his eyes between Boyd and the enemies as if to ensure his safety, and watching him from the corner of his eye as if wondering what his younger partner was thinking.

Which one was the real Sin? What part could Boyd believe in on any level?

It left him feeling uncertain and confused; an uncomfortable feeling for someone like Boyd, who was used to gathering information, forming an opinion, and being done with it.

Part of him knew it would be best if he kept his distance from Sin. After all, these violent spurts were unpredictable. So far they had largely been limited to missions but hadn't Sin seemed ready to kill Harry awhile back? Although Harry would have deserved anything he got, Sin hadn't seemed to realize how close he was to the brink. What if Boyd angered him like that one day? Sin had nearly killed Boyd just for trying to wake him from a nightmare.

But he'd protected and saved Boyd too. He treated Boyd differently than the others, for whatever reason. Boyd still didn't understand why but he couldn't deny that it was the truth. And he couldn't deny that there was something about Sin that made it difficult for him to turn away. Something about Sin that made it so he didn't even want to.

He couldn't help thinking that some of Sin's situation wasn't his fault, yet he was paying for it as if it was. He couldn't help thinking that he and Sin were alike in some ways neither of them fully acknowledged, yet it was that similarity that made him incapable of turning his back. Even if Sin hadn't been his partner, he felt a certain, strange sense of defensiveness for him, or perhaps protectiveness. As if he was now getting the chance to protect someone from bullying the way he'd been protected in the past.

He went back and forth in his mind, acknowledging the danger and the value that Sin represented. He still didn't know exactly what he thought but he noticed Sin glancing at him a few times. And as the silence stretched between them, he realized why it seemed strange. Although they didn't tend to have extensive conversations all the time, by now they would have spoken at least a little. Even if it was just about the mission.

When it became apparent that they would spend the whole ride in silence if Boyd didn't say anything, he turned his head toward Sin and studied him openly. That look Sin got when he was practically another person, killing indiscriminately, was nowhere to be found on his unreadable features. It tipped the scale for Boyd.

"Are you alright?"

"My injuries aren't severe."

Boyd nodded but didn't look away. "You're very quiet," he observed after a moment.

There was a pause and Sin looked over at him again. His mouth turned down slightly and he shrugged. "I don't have much to say."

"Usually you have something to say by now."

Sin grunted and focused on the road again. His fingers flexed against the wheel and he shifted slightly, eyebrows dipping down. It was clear that even if his injuries weren't severe, they were still causing him some degree of discomfort. He'd stopped hiding his wounds so completely only recently, but it was still surprising to see.

More moments stretched in silence until Sin shrugged his broad shoulders. "You weren't exactly looking very chatty yourself."

Boyd was silent a moment as he considered that. He supposed it was true enough. "I was thinking."

"About what a freak I am?"

Boyd looked over, his eyebrows drawing down. "No." He paused and then frowned. "I won't deny that the mission underscored how dangerous you can be but you've also saved me twice. I don't entirely know what to make of you but I can say for certain that I don't see you as the psychopathic monster others seem to, or that you may believe I do."

Sin turned his head and looked at Boyd fully. His eyebrows were drawn together and lips parted, genuine confusion written across the planes of his striking face. It looked like he wanted to say something but he just looked back at the road.

"What?" Boyd asked.

Black hair rustled against Sin's jacket as he shook his head slightly, dark eyebrows still knitted together. "I didn't expect you to say that."

"Did you think I would hate you now?"

There was another pause and then Sin said slowly, "No. But I thought perhaps now would be the time when the fear you've been lacking all along would set in."

"Would it have bothered you if it had?"

At that, Sin made a face. "Why do you always need so many details?"

"Why are you always so reluctant to answer when I ask?" Boyd countered.

Sin rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Because you ask questions that are uninteresting to me."

"The answers would be interesting to me," Boyd replied with a shrug. He looked out the window, noting that they were moving out of the city and onto the highway. "Should everything be solely according to what you want?"


Boyd snorted quietly and he shook his head, but there was a faint curve of his lips. "If you say so."

Sin smirked and he seemed to visibly relax. It would seem that even though he didn't want to admit it, the idea of Boyd being afraid of him had bothered him. Before anything more could be said, the loud shrill sound of fire trucks sounded somewhere in the distance. Sin looked in the rear view mirror before focusing on the road again.

He turned on the local news station and within the next twenty minutes, there was a special report of a large explosion on the outskirts of town. There wasn't any other information and no indications that anything more was known, so Sin switched the channel. Obnoxious pop music abruptly filled the car and he made a face and turned the radio off.

Boyd watched Sin for a moment, idly wondering what sort of music he generally listened to, but ended up looking away again without bothering to ask.

He watched what he could see of the scenery flashing by, although he didn't see much. Trees were dark sentinels in the night, broken up by roadway signs saying how long it was to the next several cities and billboards that hadn't seen maintenance in years. The lights turned toward the billboards to illuminate them had broken in many places, leaving strange messages behind where only half the advertisement could be read. Boyd wondered how many of the places advertised were still in existence and how many had become just one more ghost haunting peoples' memories.

With the darkness seeping in from outside and silence in the van, Boyd started to get lulled into a doze. His body rocked faintly with the movement of the vehicle and he ended up leaning his head against the side of the door. The seat belt pressed against his lap and stretched lightly across the shoulder, holding him in place as he started to fall asleep.

It felt like his eyes had barely closed when he was suddenly awoken by a change in his surroundings. He sat up a little abruptly, absently pushing hair away that had been pressed against his cheek. He squinted at the lights around him and couldn't stop a brief yawn. They'd pulled in at a 24-hour rest stop. He looked over at Sin as he started to unbuckle his seat belt.

"I want to eat before we get back," Sin said, glancing up at the diner across the parking lot.

Boyd nodded, unsurprised. Since Sin got the chance to buy anything he wanted when they were off compound, he usually wanted to stop for food when they were returning from missions.

Boyd got out of the van and shut the door behind him. He took a moment to stretch. His limbs felt creaky from being in the same position for awhile. They filled the car with gas and headed over to the diner, crossing the distance as Sin adjusted his jacket and pulled his hood up over his head.

Once inside, Boyd saw that it wasn't much different than the other diners they'd been to recently. There was a bar at the front with the rest of the space dominated by booths. No one really paid any attention to them when they arrived, which was one of the good things about roadside diners. They offered anonymity since most people were just passing through.

The hostess, a girl with black curls, green eyes and a slightly bored look on her face, perked up when they approached her. Her eyes rose to take in Sin who stared back grimly from beneath his hood, before falling on Boyd.

"Hi, I'm Danielle. Welcome to Sam's Shake Shack," she said with a grin, green eyes flitting up and down Boyd quickly.

Boyd nodded politely in return and glanced away to take in the diner. He hoped they ended up in a booth a little away from others so they didn't have to overhear any pointless conversations.

Danielle started to walk them over to a booth at the front near the window but Sin said flatly, "The one at the back."

She glanced at him again and shrugged. "Sure."

The booth he'd indicated was set apart from the rest of the crowd and she placed menus in front of each of them. "The special shake tonight is strawberry shortcake if you're interested. It's pretty awesome if you like that kind of thing."

When neither of them replied aside from Boyd nodding she sighed. She gave Boyd another once-over. "Your waiter will be right over."

Sin opened his menu and didn't bother to say anything in return.

"Thank you, Danielle," Boyd said, glancing up at her as he opened the menu.

She gave him a bright smile and turned away, glancing back before returning to her station at the door.

"How cute," Sin commented from behind his menu.

"Hmm?" Boyd asked absently as he flicked his gaze along the menu. He didn't know what he felt like eating. For some reason he was in the mood for breakfast and turned his attention to the omelets. It would probably fit in his diet.

"I forget that you're blond."

Boyd flicked his gaze up at Sin with a clearly unimpressed look. "Is it possible for you to make it through a conversation without insulting someone in some manner?"

"Most likely not." Sin snapped his menu shut and put it on the table, leaning back against the booth. His eyes were barely visible from beneath his hood.

"Well, if you want to say something, just say it," Boyd said as he looked down at the menu. "I don't like it when people play games."

"I guess I won't take out my set of checkers then," was the disinterested reply. Sin looked around the diner, seemingly checking out the other patrons.

Boyd shook his head to himself and skimmed the menu. He didn't feel like getting into a roundabout conversation if Sin didn't want to say what he was thinking in the first place. He didn't respond and focused instead on determining what he was going to order.

The waiter came over and put glasses of water in front of each of them. He was tall, gangly and had shoulder length light brown hair.

"Hi guys, I'm Steve and I'll be your waiter tonight," he said in a dull sounding voice. His eyes were slightly bloodshot and he looked tired. "The specials today are the golden crusted chicken pot pie with buttermilk biscuits, the tri-color pasta tossed with lemon chicken and the strawberry shortcake shake."

"I'll have the grilled chicken three-egg omelet," Boyd said. He closed the menu and slid it over to the side of the table so Steve could take it with him.

"Potatoes or hash browns with that?"

"Potatoes, please."

Steve nodded, not writing anything down. "White or wheat toast?"


"K." Steve looked at Sin expectantly.

There was a pause where Sin stared at Steve and then asked, "What's a pot pie?"

There was another pause as Steve tucked some hair behind his ear and looked at Sin skeptically. Then he shrugged. "Uh. It's like, chicken, potatoes, peas and carrots and gravy baked into this crust stuff like a pie. It's pretty good. The biscuits are awesome too. Buttery and stuff."

Sin considered this. "I want that. And a black and white shake."

"Cool. Drinks?"

"Just water for me," Boyd put in.


Steve nodded. "K. Let me know if you change your mind."

When the waiter left, Boyd idly looked around the diner. Some men who were clearly truckers were at the counter and a number of customers were dotted throughout the room.

One woman was leaning against the table looking thoroughly despondent as she let her half-finished shake slowly melt in front of her. She kept dipping in the long spoon, pulling up bits of the half melted ice cream, and letting it fall back into the glass. One of the truckers was watching her in between bites of his meal.

"I wonder what these people would say if they knew what I'd just done," Sin said seemingly randomly.

"I don't know," Boyd said, his gaze shifting to take in the mannerisms and expressions he could see. Everyone looked, for the most part, very ordinary. "I imagine most of them wouldn't be able to conceive of it let alone know how to react."

Sin grunted, his eyes going from one customer to another. "I think they'd be disgusted that we're capable of sitting down to have a nice meal afterward."

"Probably," Boyd agreed.

He wondered briefly why it was that he could do that; why the idea of food didn't disturb him. But he couldn't change what had happened any more than he could change the functions of his body. There had been a time in his life when maybe all of this would have been too much for him, but he'd seen and experienced a lot over the last few years. And the months at the Agency had helped to deaden his responses even more.

His gaze lingered on the woman with the shake and he shook his head. "Some of them probably wouldn't care, though. She seems too depressed to notice much of anything around her. I wonder if she lives in the area and came here for comfort food in the middle of the night or if she's on a long ride where she's dreading the final destination."

Sin looked over at the woman as he finally pushed the hood away from his face. He studied her before letting his eyes skim over the people around her. He lifted an eyebrow slightly, nodding at the bar. "Whatever her problem is, big boy in the red jacket seems to want to solve it for her."

"He certainly does," Boyd mused. He studied the two for a moment. "I don't think he has a chance, though."

Steve came back with Sin's shake and placed it in front of him. It was impressively large.

"Anything else yet, guys?" When they both declined, Steve disappeared again.

Sin stirred his straw in the shake and eyeballed it. He leaned forward and took a long sip, nodding as if in approval.

"I'm surprised you didn't get one of the other shakes," Boyd said, looking at the relatively simple order. "Some of them sounded as though they may be sweeter than that."

"They also sounded like they'd make me vomit." Sin sat back and picked up the thin spoon that was in the tall cup. He stirred it around, mixing in the whipped cream. "However, I may still get dessert."

Boyd shook his head again and folded his arms to lean against the edge of the table. "You have the strongest sweet tooth of anyone I've ever met. Only you would even consider dessert after a large shake like that."

Sin drank some more, eyes moving around the diner again. "Sugar deprivation as a child."

"You're going to make yourself diabetic."

That was met with a scoff. "Like I'll live long enough to suffer the effects."

Boyd shrugged. "If anyone would in this line of business, it'll be you. Your skills are uncanny. I doubt you have to worry about much on missions for the foreseeable future."

"Aw shucks sweetheart, you're going to make me blush," Sin said around his straw, looking up at Boyd from beneath his black hair.

"Oh, is that all it takes?" Boyd drawled, his eyebrows ticking up. "I was under the impression you were shameless."

The comment seemed to surprise Sin and he actually stared with confusion for a moment. "Why?"

Boyd couldn't help a small smile. He was amused by the idea of catching Sin off guard on something like that. "I was teasing you. Nothing ever seems to get to you so if all it took to make you blush is a veiled compliment, I would be surprised."

"Oh." There was a pause. "It's somewhat sad that saying I'm less likely to die is a compliment."

"It is," Boyd had to agree.

The waiter came by again, this time with a tray filled with plates of steaming food. He set Boyd's food in front of him: a large plate was filled with the omelet and potatoes, and a second, smaller, plate next to it had toast and a small package of butter. Steve then set the pot pie in front of Sin. The table already had condiments set to the side, including a number of packages of jam. He asked them again if they needed anything else and when Boyd shook his head, he left.

Boyd tried a bite of the steaming hot potatoes. They were good but a little bland. He dusted the potatoes with pepper and a hint of salt and found them to taste better the second time around. He started eating, turning his attention first to the omelet. Since it was the protein, it was the most important thing to eat.

The food wasn't bad. He'd had better omelets but not many, and at the moment he was hungry enough that anything warm and filling was welcome.

Sin was devouring his pot pie at a rapid pace and using his large fluffy biscuits to sop up gravy from the inside of it. For several minutes they did nothing but eat in silence but after awhile, something caught the older agent's attention.

"The hostess is noticing you again," he pointed out idly.

Boyd sighed under his breath and didn't look over to follow Sin's gaze. He concentrated on eating as if he had no idea Sin had just said that. It was for the benefit of the girl, though, because he soon muttered, "I wish she wouldn't."

"Why? She's pretty enough."

"Because I'm not interested," Boyd said mildly. "And even if I were it's not as though it would matter. We'll be leaving soon and I won't be by here again."

Sin looked over at the girl again, observing her. "If she's leering at some man in a truck stop, I highly doubt she has a long term involvement in mind."

Boyd shrugged without looking up from his food. "It doesn't change anything for me."

"Why?" Sin asked again, actually looking curious as he paused in his eating.

Boyd opened his mouth to say something dismissive but he stopped when he took in Sin's expression. It was rare for Sin to show genuine curiosity in him and even more rare for him to ask personal questions, so it gave Boyd pause. He frowned slightly, more in thought than anything.

Ironically, he'd assumed that Sin had made the same assumption so many others already had. He didn't know what to think about the fact that it was possible Sin hadn't. It made him a little reluctant to come out to him only because they'd finally started to get along more consistently.

He wasn't ashamed of his sexual orientation. But he didn't want to have to deal with judgment from Sin on something he'd already received judgment on from plenty of other people, his mother included. Especially when it was something he had no control over. But if he didn't say anything now, Sin would find out eventually anyway and whatever his reaction would be, it probably wouldn't change. Better to just get it over with so he didn't let himself start enjoying Sin's company if it could all fall apart anyway.

"Because I'm gay."

A flash of surprise crossed Sin's face and he looked confused. It wasn't an exaggerated expression; his eyebrows drew together slightly and he tilted his head to the side. He studied Boyd, looked around, and then said, "So if it was an attractive man would you go off with him?"

Boyd raised an eyebrow. That hadn't exactly been the response he'd expected and it left him a bit bemused. "No. I said I was gay, not that I have sex with everyone I see who's passably attractive. I'm not particularly interested in flings with anyone, whether or not they're male."


Sin forked up another mound of his pot pie and chewed it slowly, staring at Boyd without much of an expression on his face.

After a moment of watching Sin, Boyd picked up his fork and cut off one of the last pieces of omelet. He speared the piece and hesitated with it in front of his mouth before he took the bite. "Is this going to cause a problem for us as partners?"

This earned him one of Sin's half skeptical, half annoyed faces-- the ones that implied he thought Boyd was ridiculous for whatever reason. "It doesn't matter to me one way or the other. I was just wondering if you'd ever actually been with a man."

"Ah." Boyd chewed, watching Sin thoughtfully. He supposed it didn't matter if he answered that, especially since he often asked questions of Sin. He swallowed and speared the last fold of the omelet without looking away from Sin. "Yes, I have."

"Oh." One of Sin's dark eyebrows rose higher than the other. "Weird."

"Why is that weird?" Boyd asked, giving Sin a slightly odd look.

"Because most of the time you have zero personality. I can't imagine you being intimate with another human being."

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "I hate to disappoint you, then," he said mildly as he started to eat the potatoes.

Sin just shrugged, turning his attention back to his food and occasionally observing the people around him.

A few minutes passed with neither of them saying anything. As Boyd ate, he found his gaze more than once returning to his partner. Although they'd eaten at diners before, for some reason it struck him today about how strangely normal this all was. And how he was actually kind of liking it. He was enjoying the chance to have a conversation with Sin, even if it was on topics he hadn't ever planned to come up between them.

And that's what led him down another line of questions he couldn't get out of his mind. Now that they were talking about sexual interest and relationships, he couldn't help thinking about Sin. The man was unquestionably attractive. His body alone was enough for Boyd to find his eyes straying toward it when he wasn't thinking about it, but Sin's face made it all that much better. His eyes were striking and expressive; intense. And his full lips were just as intriguing.

It made it worse, in ways, to remember going to Sin's that night they were arguing. He could still recall Sin's hands, strong and holding him still, but not hurting him. Despite all that strength, despite the fact that Sin could probably break bones if he wanted, and despite the fact that Boyd had been struggling against him-- Sin had held him still without harming him.

And then shoved him against the wall.

Boyd looked away from Sin and focused on his plate of potatoes so nothing could accidentally be seen in his eyes. He wondered what that had all been about. He'd wondered about it after he'd left, too, although neither of them had ever brought it up again. He couldn't deny the confusion that had come from that hard body pressing against him. That breath curling against his lips and those eyes, those damn unforgettable eyes, so close to his own.

Boyd skewered a potato and chewed on it in contemplation.

Despite the fact that Sin was often glowering at others or seemed sarcastic, the more Boyd saw of his other expressions the more he felt like he was getting reeled in. And he didn't know what made Sin more attractive: that glare that fended others off and lent mystery to him, or the intriguingly normal and, at times, uncertain way Sin could be in quiet moments like this.

It was a little frustrating. Part of him wished he hadn't been assigned a partner who looked like he could easily pass as a model on a worldwide circuit. The man's combination of features was criminal, as far as Boyd was concerned.

It was the fact that he was so damn attractive that made Boyd wonder what Sin's past was like with other people. Although so many people seemed to be afraid of him, had that always been the case? Did the fact that he'd pressed Boyd against the wall, their lips nearly touching, mean he was attracted to men or had it all been a misunderstanding? Something that had happened when they'd both gotten carried away? How many people, if any, had braved that glower to get close enough for intimacy?

Sin had said before that Boyd was the first person he really had these sort of conversations with, yet he seemed completely confident when it came to almost anything he was doing. And he hadn't hesitated to ask Boyd about being with the hostess, as if it would be perfectly normal to go to the bathroom for a quick spot of sex between the meal and dessert. So is that what he was used to? Having one night stands or quickies with whoever was interested? Or did he have a different sort of past and had just assumed that was what Boyd would be into?

"What about you?" Boyd asked curiously.

"What about me, what?"

"Your interests or relationships," Boyd clarified as he put a little more salt on the potatoes.

Sin stirred his straw around in the milkshake for a moment, regarding Boyd quietly. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking in that moment, but at least he didn't brush off the question the way he would have in the past.

After a moment he took a sip and shrugged, saying blandly, "There's not much to talk about in that regard."

Boyd watched him a moment and wondered what that meant. He must not have been with many people which wasn't surprising given his circumstances. "Who are you interested in, then? Men? Women?"

"I've grown to despise both."

The comment made Boyd's gaze linger on Sin briefly before he nodded and continued eating. Sin must have had some unfortunate ends to relationships in the past to have gotten to that opinion. It lent more questions, including whether that meant Sin was bisexual, but he didn't voice them. He didn't think Sin would answer and even if he would, he didn't know what he would do with the information anyway.

It wasn't like it really mattered how many or few people Sin had been with in the past. None of that had anything to do with Boyd.

He finished his potatoes and realized belatedly that he'd forgotten about the toast. It had cooled by then so when he tried to put some butter on one of the triangular half pieces, the crispy part of the bread was mangled more than anything.

They didn't say much through the rest of the meal. Boyd was still a little distracted but Sin seemed pretty normal. Boyd could feel the weight of those green eyes on him more than once, which wasn't unusual. Sin had a tendency to watch him on and off since they'd met.

In the beginning, it had seemed like he was watching for Boyd to slip up on some act. Then it seemed he was watching him to figure out what his motivations were. And later it seemed he was studying him, as if perplexed to find someone like Boyd existed or perhaps trying to determine what made Boyd tick. Whatever the case, it was distracting but Boyd did his best to ignore it. It was stupid of him to be this distracted by the simple questions that had come up between them, anyway.

They hadn't spent too long at the diner by the time they were both finished. They threw their money down and started across the room. Boyd noticed Danielle eyeing him again. She was sitting on one of the bar stools in a quiet conversation with one of the waitresses. Even so, after he and Sin passed he overheard one of them musing, "He's probably gay anyway."

Boyd's eyes narrowed faintly and he resisted the urge to look over his shoulder in exasperation. It irritated him that people so easily assumed that of him. If he had a more overtly masculine build and, more importantly, face, then no one would probably make that assumption based on his mannerisms. He didn't hear anyone ever speculating that Sin was gay despite the fact that he was certifiably gorgeous to behold.

So why was it that everyone seemed so ready to believe it of Boyd?

"What's your problem?" Sin asked as they walked back out into the night.

"Danielle," Boyd replied with a suppressed sigh. He looked sidelong at Sin and tried not to let it all irritate him more than it already had. "I'm tired of people making such automatic assumptions that I'm gay when I don't even stereotypically act like I am."

"Hmm." Sin considered him for a moment and reached out suddenly, grabbing Boyd's chin and leaning forward to stare down at him contemplatively. His green eyes seemed so close and intense. His fingertips slid against Boyd's skin, brushing against his neck briefly before they fell away entirely. The feel of those fingers touching his bare skin was so unexpected that Boyd almost stumbled. "Maybe it's the hair."

Boyd's eyebrows raised and his eyes slightly widened. His lips parted but he didn't know what to say at first. Sin was watching him and he wondered what the older man was thinking.

Boyd looked away abruptly, absently pulling some hair behind his ear as he tilted his head down in a nod. In his mind, his skin tingled quietly but maddeningly where Sin had touched him. He resisted the urge to scrub at it or linger his own hand briefly against his cheek.

"Could be," he said, although his voice wasn't quite as calm and collected as usual.

Sin didn't answer and the two of them got back into the van. They pulled back onto the road and continued on their way toward Lexington. This time, there was no way Boyd was going to be able to sleep. He was entirely too aware of the fact that they were alone in the cabin of the van. They weren't even that particularly close to each other, but the proximity was enough that if Sin had to reach over for something his arm would sometimes come close to brushing Boyd's. And Boyd didn't know if he did or did not want that touch to happen.

He felt confused.

He couldn't help going back to his debate from earlier. The sheer strength that Sin had was contrasted so starkly by the way he was around Boyd. He not only treated Boyd differently by actually talking to him and now showing genuine curiosity in certain aspects of his life-- but he also treated him differently physically. He could kill people with little to no effort but when he touched Boyd, it was different. He protected Boyd, or held him without harming him, or, most bewildering of all, gently ran fingers along his skin.

The thought made a shiver tingle up Boyd's spine. Part of him wanted Sin to touch him again. He wanted those long fingers to slide back and tangle in his hair. That same part couldn't help wondering what it would have been like had their lips touched that night in Sin's apartment. What would Sin taste like? How firmly did he hold the person he was kissing? How would it have felt to be wrapped in those powerful arms, held tight against that strong body?

Boyd's lips thinned and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. What the hell was wrong with him that he kept thinking these things? Why couldn't he make himself forget it or ignore it all like he'd been able to with so many other things for so long?

He resisted the urge to sigh and focused instead on watching the road signs flash by. That didn't take long to bore him, however, since the road signs were few and far between on this stretch of the highway. With nothing but darkness outside, inevitably he found himself paying attention to Sin instead.

He noticed that as they grew steadily closer to the Agency, Sin started to grow tenser. His fingers started to flex against the steering wheel and his eyes became progressively hooded. Boyd observed the shift in his partner's demeanor for a few minutes before he asked something that he'd been wondering for awhile.

"Why don't you ever just run away?"

The question seemed to surprise Sin because he gave Boyd another of his slightly perplexed looks. Then he shrugged, mouth turning up slightly. "Where would I go?"

"I don't know." Boyd gestured vaguely. "Anywhere but the Agency. You could flee to another country where they don't have a strong reach."

There was a stretch of silence as Sin looked out the windshield, guiding the car through the blackness that surrounded them. After a moment he gave a careless one shouldered shrug. "I wouldn't be any use on the outside. Someone who can slaughter a warehouse full of hostiles and still maintain an appetite isn't exactly inclined to the domestic life."

"Maybe, but have you tried?" Boyd asked with a faint frown. "There are many types of jobs out there even in civilian life. Is the idea of a domestic life all that's stopping you?"

"No. It just wouldn't work."

"Why not, though?" Boyd pressed. "Are you worried about them noticing too soon if you left on a mission? Because if so I could cover for you."

The comment caused Sin to look over and give him a long assessing stare. His lips pursed together and his green eyes skimmed Boyd's face before he looked back at the road. "Why would you ever do that?"

"Why wouldn't I?" Boyd replied with a shrug. "I'm your partner and as such your well-being is important to me. I've seen the way you're treated at the Agency so if you wanted to leave, I wouldn't blame you. I could easily tell them I lost you on a mission. Or if we wanted it to be more believable you could injure me; make it look like you attacked me and fled. It could even be fairly severe if that was needed. Since there's already a running bet on how soon you'll kill me if a mission doesn't, I'm sure no one would question that too closely."

"Did it occur to you, in this fantastic plan, that they would terminate you for losing me?" Sin asked scathingly, seeming irritated by the suggestion.

Boyd shrugged unconcernedly. "It wouldn't matter. In this line of work, it's inevitable I'll die anyway. Since it'll happen regardless, I don't mind it having more meaning by at least helping you."

There was another stretch of silence as Sin scowled without looking over. He didn't bother to explain what he was thinking this time and he shook his head slowly.

"What?" Boyd asked, watching him a little more closely.

"I just think you're brain dead sometimes. You're almost like what happens when a completely thoughtless person meets a borderline one." A pause. "Besides, it would never work. This collar cannot be removed without surgery and it has a tracking chip inside."

Boyd considered Sin for a moment. He was bemused to hear Sin mention a psychological disorder like borderline personality since it wasn't one of the more well-known ones. Since psychology had been an interest of his own during school, it made him wonder if it was something Sin was interested in as well. Still, now that Sin mentioned that he did recall Carhart saying something about surgery.

"I see," was all he said aloud. He paused. "What if you found a black market surgeon who could remove the collar?"

Sin sighed, seeming to tire of the subject entirely. He never seemed to have very much interest in the conversation if it was focused on him, especially if it was sympathetic in any way.

"They'd have tracked me down by the time I was ready for the procedure to be performed. The Agency has connections internationally. We also have a European division. And in addition to that, the procedure is complicated. The collar is connected to my spine, and also situated in a way which makes it possible to sever my jugular easily during removal."

"Hmm." Boyd turned to look out the windshield, leaning one arm against the door of the van. "That does make it problematic. I see your dilemma."

Once again Sin just shook his head silently.

The rest of the drive was spent in relative silence, broken only by a few inane comments back and forth. Boyd was surprised by how comfortable it felt. He wondered how long this would last or whether the two of them would end up sliding back to earlier interactions at some point. He hoped that didn't happen.

When they got to the Agency and parked in the garage, Boyd hesitated when he got out of the van. He found himself unwilling to leave Sin immediately like he always had, although there wasn't much that he could do about it. He shut the door behind him and looked at Sin over the hood of the van.

"Well..." He gestured over his shoulder. "I suppose I'd better write the report..."

He didn't look away from Sin, though. It was almost a bit awkward, as if he were acting like they were two people on a date trying to decide whether or not they should kiss at the front door. He almost made a face at the fact that his mind picked that analogy.

"I'll go too."

"You will?" Boyd asked in surprise.

Sin shrugged nonchalantly, looking around the parking lot. "If it's some private thing you like to do, then I won't."

The comment drew an unexpected laugh from Boyd. Trust Sin to make writing a report sound like he was going off to masturbate. "I do prefer the old library but I assure you, I'm not doing anything that can't handle a witness or two," Boyd said dryly with amusement clear in his eyes.

Vivid green eyes slid across Boyd's face, studying him more thoroughly than was necessary. It was almost a full moment before he turned and said only, "Let's go then."

Boyd ended up leading the way up to the old library. He could feel Sin's eyes returning to him on and off as they waited for the elevator, although it was no more than normal.

There weren't many other people around, given that it was in that time period that was either very late at night or very early in the morning, depending on a person's perspective. Only one other person ended up in the elevator with them. The young woman was apparently trying to discreetly creep to the corner furthest from Sin without anyone noticing. She seemed tense and unnerved and kept glancing at Sin through her hair.

Boyd couldn't help wondering what all these people would think if they saw the other sides of Sin that he did. It was hard to be terrified of a man who could be so normal.

No one was in the library and Boyd headed toward the back where the old computers were pushed against the wall. Most people used them for little other than a catalog check of the books but since they were the first generation of computers that had been used for reporting, they still had the software and databases installed. Boyd preferred the quiet of the library to the crowded bustle of the main reporting room, where he sometimes had to wait for a computer at peak times.

He sat down at the computer and got to work. Sin leaned against a table nearby, his arms loosely crossed.

And he watched.

At first Boyd tried to ignore it but it became very distracting, feeling that gaze burning into the side of him. He thought maybe Sin was making sure he wasn't being disingenuous and writing horrible things about what Sin had done at the warehouse. He thought maybe Sin was checking his wording to be sure.

But when he looked over, he was startled to realize Sin was staring at him.

Only him. Not the computer at all.

The first time their eyes met, Boyd's fingers stilled on the keyboard. He was caught by that intense stare and he wondered what Sin was thinking. What he wanted. How it could possibly be worth his time to have followed him up here only to stare at him while he worked.

He ended up smiling slightly at Sin, almost as if he were trying to encourage or reassure him for something he didn't even know, and turned back to the computer.

From then on, he was acutely aware of the way that stare was centered solely on him. And, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he'd spent so much of his time being unnoticed by others, he found he kind of liked that Sin was so interested in watching him. Especially when he wasn't doing anything particularly exciting.

Sin didn't say anything and Boyd didn't want to break the spell so he didn't say anything either.

When he sent the report and closed out of all the programs, he stared for just a second at the blank screen. Then he turned to Sin, searching his expression-- for what, he didn't know.

"Did you make it good?" Sin asked calmly, not breaking his steady stare.

Boyd's lips tilted up on one side as he stood. "Oh, did I ever," he drawled. "Stories will be told for years to come about this one."

"It's always good to have something to add to my resume," Sin said with a smirk, pushing himself away from the table.

Boyd couldn't help a faint sound of amusement. "Don't forget; you can put me down as a reference as well."

They looked at each other for a moment before Sin shook his head slightly and finally looked away. "I suppose I should return to my quarters."

"I should probably go home, too," Boyd said, although it wasn't with much conviction. He was reluctant to leave Sin's company. He paused and then tilted his head toward the library's entrance. "We could walk out together..."

It sounded so stupid that he half wished he could take it back.

But if Sin found the comment odd, he didn't let on. He didn't even make a joke about it or twist the words like he normally would. "Okay."

Boyd watched him for a moment and then smiled slightly and turned to leave. They walked back to the elevator together, not saying anything but alternatively watching each other.

Boyd couldn't get that stupid comparison out of his mind about a date, which was ludicrous considering the circumstances. He didn't know why it was so prevalent in his mind. Sin was one of the only people he'd spent any amount of time with in a long time, but he'd spent time with Ryan as well. And as far as date analogies went, going to someone's apartment to eat dinner and watch shows fit the bill much more than walking out of a place of work with a coworker.

So why couldn't he ignore the flush of pleasure he felt at being able to extend his time around Sin just those scant few extra minutes? Why couldn't he ignore the fact that Sin was so attractive? And, most of all, why couldn't he ignore that Sin had seemed equally reluctant to part as well?

Nothing of import occurred on the way down in the elevator and out into the courtyard. Being out in the clear night, Boyd slid his hands in his pockets and tipped his face up toward the sky.

The buildings of the compound were like monoliths in the night, but he could see dotted spots of color scattered across them where lights glowed through curtains and windows. There were probably other agents returning home from missions right now, and still others getting ready to depart. In the quiet of the night that thought made him feel, just for that moment, like he was part of a greater whole. It was reassuring, after having felt isolated for years.

He paused at the point where their paths would diverge and looked over at Sin.

"I'm parked over there," he said, tilting his head toward the main parking lot. As if Sin wouldn't know, since that was where Boyd usually parked. But it seemed as good a way of saying 'I have to go now' as anything else.

Sin nodded, pulling up his hood again and letting it fall to shade his eyes. "See you around."

Boyd nodded and after a moment, the two of them parted. He glanced back once on his way to his car. Sin was walking silently toward his building, the hoody making him a tall, dark figure that slid in and out of the shadows like a wraith.

Continue to Chapter 14