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 Fourteen

Eugene Yardley was different in both attitude and appearance than any of the other rebels that Boyd had met thus far in his career at the Agency. It left Sin wondering how his partner would deal with the man. Up until now, most of their assignments had dealt with obtaining information, dealing with small, somewhat disorderly groups or with informants who were paranoid and shaken by whatever caused them to turn double agent for the Agency.

Eugene fit none of that but maybe that was because he was an ex-Janus soldier.

Even that description seemed odd.

He didn't look downtrodden, rough or bitter like so many of the others who joined these insurgent groups. He looked more like he should be watching a tennis match at a country club rather than standing in a back alley in a shady part of Seattle. Eugene looked fit and preppy in corduroy pants, a v-neck sweater and running shoes. His light brown hair was a mess of curls and his dark brown eyes were sharp and alert behind his thin-framed eyeglasses.

He almost looked nonchalant with his hands slid casually into his pockets but the way his bodyguards surrounded him showed that he was not taking any chances. Whether he was actually frightened of them or he always had this much back up was unknown. It was highly possible that he always went around with an entourage.

Apparently Janus was as fond of deserters as the Agency was.

Regardless, Sin found the whole thing to be amusing. He didn't think it would take more than three minutes to take them all out, unless Eugene could afford exceptionally trained guards. Actually, it was entirely possible that that was the case. If someone could afford cashmere sweaters and diamond crusted watches in the post-war economy, they could afford mercenaries instead of street thugs.

"I'd ask how you boys found me but I'll assume you weren't the clever ones doing the finding," Eugene said after a long moment, his eyes sliding from Boyd to Sin and back again.

"We have our sources," Boyd agreed mildly.

"I doubt you have anything. You two are just little messenger boys for whichever government agency is currently trying to nail Janus." Eugene arched a brow. "Which is it this time?"

"We represent an independent group that is unrelated to the government." Boyd's expression remained impassive as he glanced at the bodyguards and then back at Eugene. "I imagine you already heard of us from your time in Janus. We are often referred to simply as the Agency."

A smirk slid across Eugene's face at that. "Right."

"We have some things we'd like to discuss but perhaps there's a better setting than this." Boyd gestured to the alley, which was dark, damp, and had traces of the smell of the garbage in the dumpster at the end of the block.

"The setting suits me fine," was the calm reply. "I didn't know you Agency boys were so high maintenance." Eugene's gaze slid over to Sin who stared at him blankly.

"The ambiance doesn't concern us," Boyd replied with a shrug. "I simply thought you may be hesitant to discuss potential business in the open where anyone could overhear, especially given Janus' notorious distaste for former members."

"I'm not fond of repeating myself."

As always, Boyd seemed unperturbed. "As I'm sure your time is valuable, I will make this short." He put his hands in his coat pockets. "Our organization is interested in purchasing information from you. As you've recently been running into some financial difficulties and the information we seek is likely no longer of use to you, we feel it could be mutually beneficial for all."

Eugene's other brow rose to join the first one and he rocked on the balls of his feet. His gaze switched back to Sin and focused on him for a moment as if waiting for him to contribute something. When Sin just stared at him with complete disinterest, Eugene scoffed and slid his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

"While I'm sure it must be difficult for people such as yourself-- meaning opinion-less lackeys who are sent on errands and kill quests without much say in what's happening or understanding of why it is-- I'm... not. Is there a particular reason why the Agency thinks I'd start helping them now?"

"There are several reasons, two of which being your financial situation and your defection from Janus itself," Boyd replied. "Having left their group you're liable to be targeted by them as a traitor, which no doubt would result in your torture and death. Information from our sources implies Janus may be closing in on your location. We do have the ability to aid in your continued escape by slipping conflicting information into the market, should you choose to work with us."

This time Eugene snorted and looked at his guards. "Am I hearing a broken record? I asked why would I help the Agency? Everything about you people disgust me. It's the reason I joined Janus to begin with. I left because I didn't like what they were doing down in Mexico-- not because I'm suddenly going to switch sides."

Boyd studied Eugene quietly. After a moment, he looked over and met Sin's eyes.

So much for plan A. Negotiation was out. Neutralizing was in. If he wasn't going to be of any help, his continued existence was unnecessary. All it would accomplish was allowing Janus to possibly find out that the Agency knew about some of their defectors if Eugene ever went back. Marshal Connors wasn't taking any chances with that. He didn't even want Janus to know that the Agency focused on them specifically at all.

Without speaking or giving any indication of his intentions, Sin moved. Within two blinks, one bodyguard lay on the ground with a bullet in his head while the other was flung across the alley to crash into one of the brick walls that surrounded them.

The scene exploded into motion as the remaining guards rushed Sin. As Sin had suspected, it seemed that Eugene had the money to buy skill. These guys were trained-- likely ex-military or even spec ops. These were no green kids straight out of boot camp.

As Sin traded attacks with one of the more skilled of the group, he noticed Eugene scrambling away out of the corner of his eye. Baring his teeth in annoyance, Sin evaded a jab at his throat, twisted out of the way of a knee to his side and barely dodged a bullet careening past his head. He flipped backwards and allowed his booted foot to crush the other man's throat in the process.

"Get cover!" he shouted at Boyd, dodging another bullet as he started down the alley after Eugene. He could hear footsteps pounding after him as they pursued.

The ground was damp from recent rain and he splashed through the puddles without even noticing. The sound of the guards chasing him lessened as his legs pumped faster, distance growing between him and them. Eugene was moving like a man possessed-- managing to somehow keep a block between them as he shot terrified glances over his shoulder.

Lips turning up into a cold smirk, Sin narrowed his eyes and sprinted forward. There were no civilians in the dark neighborhood that they were in but if Eugene got any further, they'd be hitting the main street. Abandoning his plan to do it soundlessly, Sin opted instead for speed and extended one hand.

He shot Eugene twice in quick succession in the back of the head. The man dropped to the ground lifelessly.

Within the space of one second and the next, Sin had turned on his heel and run back the way he'd come. Somehow he'd failed to realize that the sound of pursuit had died away entirely.

A trill of alarm ran through him and he grit his teeth, cursing himself silently as he crossed the distance that he'd come. It had been further than he'd thought-- several blocks, and two avenues. The seconds it took to make his way back seemed to stretch unbearably as he realized that he'd fucked up by letting Boyd out of his sight.

This was confirmed when he skidded back into the alley. Boyd was sprawled on his side with the remaining bodyguard standing over him, about to blow his brains out.

Sin narrowed his eyes and unloaded into the man, barely pausing before he ran to Boyd's side. He pushed the corpse aside to get to Boyd. He scanned the perimeter quickly before he determined that Boyd had dispatched the other guards before going down.

"Boyd," he demanded harshly, dragging his partner up.

Boyd's jacket was ripped and damp with blood. Sin swore when he noticed that there was blood in Boyd's blond hair as well. A quick assessment of their surroundings told the story easily-- whenever the teen had fallen, his head had slammed against the edge of the garbage bin. It was now smeared with blood as well.

"Boyd, get up," Sin snapped again, eyebrows drawing down.

Boyd's fingers twitched followed shortly by his expression scrunching. His eyebrows drew down laboriously and his lips pulled up; making him look pained. He barely squinted his eyes open, looking blearily up at Sin, before letting them fall shut again.

After a second he grimaced further and made an effort to sit up. It took him a moment to manage it and he moved gingerly. When he was slouched, his hand went to his head where the blood matted his hair, standing out starkly against the pale blond.

"Ow..." he said thickly.

"What the fuck happened?" Sin growled, glaring at Boyd furiously.

Boyd looked around, a blearily confused expression marring his face. His hand was still on his head. "I don't know..." Given how disoriented he sounded, it was unclear whether he didn't know the answer to Sin's question or whether he was still trying to understand the situation.

"Forget it."

Sin stood up impatiently, grinding his teeth with irritation and pulling Boyd up gingerly. It was obvious that Boyd had a head wound but he didn't have time to check anything here, with dead bodies all around them and gunshots still echoing off the buildings into the night. He slid a hand around Boyd's waist and crushed him against his side, more carrying him than supporting him as he started towards the car.

Boyd stumbled along beside him, one arm around Sin's waist with his fingers seemingly absently wrapped in Sin's clothing. He looked around but didn't say anything, his dazed expression not fully leaving.

It would have been easier just to toss Boyd over his shoulder and hurry out of the vicinity but Sin was loathe to draw attention to them so soon and settled for gripping the teenager as tight as possible against his side. He took as many turns as possible to get out of the general area of the shooting.

It wasn't long before sirens sounded in the distance and Sin gave up on being discreet. He looked over at Boyd who was still trying to get his bearings, and picked the younger man up. He could feel the warmth of blood against his own shirt when Boyd's jacket pressed against it and there was no denying the startled worry that exploded in him.

The sudden feeling irritated him and Sin shook his head sharply, pushing everything aside as he ran the rest of the distance. They'd examined the maps of the area closely before coming to the meeting, just in case of an ambush or a need for a quick egress. It was convenient since he wasn't at all familiar with the labyrinth of streets in the city, and their escape was kept to empty side streets and alleys due to the knowledge.

Only once did he have to duck under an awning and into the doorway of a closed shop. A group of drunk young people were stumbling by and Sin slid sideways, blocking Boyd's bloodied face and hair from view. It likely looked like they were doing something unsavory but at the moment, he didn't give a shit.

Taking the opportunity to examine Boyd further, Sin ignored the catcall that they drew from the passerby.

"Are you more alert?" he murmured, leaning forward to hiss into Boyd's ear as he allowed his fingers to reach up and seek out the wound. Boyd twitched away from the touch. There was a gash from the sharp edge of the dumpster but the blood had already seemed to clot around the wound. It didn't stop Boyd's pale blond hair from looking garish in the light, though.

Boyd looked up at Sin, his honey brown eyes dark in the dim lighting. He nodded, although the movement was gingerly done and he still held himself in very careful positions. "I think so," he said quietly. Sin could hear pain like a faint undercurrent to his words.

"Can you run? The motel is another twenty minutes away."

Boyd's expression was taut and his face a little pale but he nodded.

"I can carry you," Sin added quickly, frowning. "You're bleeding a lot. It may be better."

Relief was unmistakable in Boyd's face. "Okay."

As soon as the noises of the group disappeared down the block, Sin picked up Boyd and began running through the darkness again. He could feel Boyd's face pressed against his chest; Boyd's arms tight around his neck. Warm blood was sticky between them and beneath that Sin could feel the beating of Boyd's heart.

The city streets went by in a blur, until they returned to the area their motel was in. It was as equally shady as the area they had met Eugene in but several portions of the city hadn't regained their stature after the economic collapse. The end result was boarded up businesses that had never acquired new owners, copious amounts of beggars, street walkers and drug dealers in equal numbers.

Their motel was one of the few in the area that afforded separate units in a ranch style that didn't require going near the management office. Sin moved silently through the shadows, melting into them and then separating himself easily once he reached the unit they'd requested. It was the one farthest from the parking lot and closest to the tree line of the surrounding area.

He set Boyd down as they went into the surveillance camera's range and supported Boyd as if helping a drunk friend. Boyd played along well enough but Sin suspected that the stumbling and slightly disoriented quality wasn't entirely staged.

Sin swiped the keycard quickly and ushered Boyd into the room. As soon as they were inside, the younger man's face screwed up and he doubled over to the nearby trashcan.

"God dammit," Sin hissed as Boyd got sick.

Boyd shook his head wearily, pushing himself upright when he was done but wincing in obvious pain. His eyes were still half-shut and his face was pale as Sin crouched down next to him. Long fingers flew over Boyd's jacket, undoing the buttons deftly. He pushed it aside and saw that the black long sleeved shirt that Boyd wore beneath was cut open in an arc at the top where blood was flowing freely.

Not hesitating or waiting to ask Boyd's opinion on the matter, Sin picked him up again and crossed the room quickly. The wound was bleeding profusely and getting the motel room bloody would only draw attention to who had been occupying it once they were gone, especially with the news of murders nearby. The last thing they needed on top of a trip to medical was having to explain the PR nightmare to Vivienne if Seattle cops started investigating.

"Do you know what I'm doing?" he asked harshly as they entered the bathroom.

Boyd nodded although it seemed to take a lot of effort to move his head. His breath hissed out in pain and he muttered something slightly incoherent. The only word Sin made out was "mess."

Glad that they wouldn't have to argue about this at least, Sin ripped the shower curtain aside and gingerly pushed Boyd down on the tiled floor inside. Both of them were covered in blood by this point, so Sin switched on the water and flicked the shower on-- allowing the water to spray close to where he'd situated them. It hit Boyd's face and hair indirectly.

Boyd started with a gasp, eyes opening wide.

The water started washing the blood off Boyd, along with the filth that had collected in his hair from the alley. It wasn't the most convenient option but it was the one that allowed for as little movement of Boyd's head as possible after he'd been jolted around in their egress.

"I need to wash out these wounds without making this whole room look like a crime scene," Sin said in explanation, crouching on the shower floor next to Boyd. The water was hitting his side and soaking through his shirt but it didn't matter. He'd have to change anyway unless they made the trip across the country in bloody clothing.

Boyd's eyes were more alert on Sin and he nodded. His eyebrows dragged down and his gaze slid away, squinting as he tilted his head toward the spray of water. He was slouched and looked down at the water that had started to splash back off onto his pants and trickle down his shirt.

"What about..." He gestured to the shoes still on their feet.

Without waiting for a response he leaned forward, fingers slightly clumsy and shaky as he started to untie the shoelaces of his boots. He looked determined but the position wasn't doing anything to help stop the flow of blood.

"Forget that," Sin snapped, pushing his partner back against the shower wall, reminding himself to do so gently. "Just be still."

He stood up and backed out of the shower, kicking off his own boots only because they would track the blood that had soaked into the soles onto the cream colored carpet in the main room. The med kit wasn't even out like it should have been in case of an emergency, but they hadn't anticipated injuries for such a small scale mission.

Swearing and ignoring the steadily building tension in his body, Sin narrowed his eyes and forced himself to focus solely on the matter at hand. His own issues could wait.

Unzipping the duffel bag with more force than was necessary, Sin dug out the med kit and belatedly took out his gun. It was soaked from the water. In his haste, he'd forgotten to remove it before jumping in the damn shower. Stupid. When had he become so completely unprofessional over a couple of fucking flesh wounds?

Grinding his teeth in agitation, Sin turned away from his weapon. It would have been smarter to take it apart and let it dry out but somehow that seemed less important at the moment. If anyone came bursting in for whatever reason, the mood he was in would guarantee a neck ripped out anyway. Guns weren't something he necessarily relied on.

He stripped his shirt off upon reentering the bathroom, crouching in front of Boyd. The other man was awake it seemed, and had managed to kick off his boots as they were haphazardly lying out of the shower. One pale hand was pressed against his head wound as he looked out at Sin blearily.

Pushing Boyd's hand away, Sin began looking closer at the head wound. It was bleeding a lot but the wound didn't look very deep. He checked for signs of swelling or any sunken areas but found none. Ignoring the relief that met with this discovery, Sin tilted Boyd's chin up and looked into his face.

Their gazes locked and Boyd's golden brown eyes looked focused.

"Are you good?"

Sin felt the movement of Boyd's nod. "The water helps."

Long fingers splayed across Boyd's face, pushing wet hair to the side. For a moment Sin let his hand stay there, pressed against Boyd's cheek, but then he shook his head and let it fall away. A low sigh escaped him and Sin narrowed his eyes, reaching back to extract antibiotic ointment from the kit.

"How the hell did those two idiots jump you?"

Boyd shook his head and grimaced faintly. For a moment it almost seemed he wasn't going to answer but then he spoke. "I took care of one and two came back at me at once. One cut me and then I got him. The other was too close and disarmed me." He frowned, his eyebrows dragging together. "Then I fell."

A scoff escaped Sin's lips and he leaned forward, carefully applying the ointment to the wound.

"That's the last time we split up. Got it? I run, you fucking run."

"Okay," Boyd said, slightly subdued.

He had his head tilted forward so Sin could see the wound. Despite how careful Sin was being, as he tended to the main part of the cut Boyd winced suddenly and automatically jerked back a little before he stopped himself. One hand reached up and curled around Sin's wrist. He didn't apply any pressure or try to push Sin away; his fingers simply pressed against Sin's skin. Sin stilled and looked down, meeting Boyd's eyes again.

Boyd's fingers twitched minutely against Sin's wrist but he didn't say anything. His golden brown eyes were caught on Sin; quiet and seeming somehow more intense with his blond hair plastered in strings against his cheek and the sheen of water on his skin. Droplets of water ran down the planes of his face, sliding toward his lips and chin.

In that moment an image flitted across Sin's mind; the memory of him pressing Boyd against the wall as the younger man panted furiously, their lips only centimeters apart.

Sin's mouth opened slightly, eyebrows drawing together as his gaze flicked down to Boyd's mouth again. But then the feel of water sluicing down his arm snapped him out of the daze, and he abruptly looked away. He reached over and shut off the water. A few drops fell from the shower head while water tinged pink with blood flowed toward the drain.

He backed off and grabbed a thick wad of gauze. "Hold this against the wound."

Boyd's fingers brushed against Sin's as he took the gauze with a nod.

Sin shook his head, eyes dropping to the blood still seeping from Boyd's chest. He reached over, intending to rip the already destroyed shirt down the middle but before he could do it, Boyd's hand suddenly snapped up with a harsh grip on Sin's wrist. He shoved himself back against the wall, as if trying to get away or to put space between them. At the same time his knees snapped up, putting more of a barrier between the two of them.

"No--" Boyd said urgently, his voice seeming to wrench out of him. "Don't."

Sin looked up in surprise. Normally Boyd's expressions were subtle or subdued but Sin saw naked fear, nearly terror, in Boyd's wide eyes and ashen skin. There was a skittish quality to him, as if he was one heartbeat away from tearing away from Sin and running out of the room.

Baffled by the reaction, Sin could only stare. He had no idea what could have caused such an extreme reaction and for a moment, he felt a flash of impatience. He had no idea how deep the laceration was or how much blood Boyd had lost. They didn't have time for this shit, not when they were expected at the airport within the next several hours.

But the fear in Boyd's face stopped him.

"What if I just rip the part where the wound is?"

Even this suggestion seemed to scare Boyd on some level. He remained coiled for a moment, his hand tightening on Sin's wrist and eyes intense on Sin's face. After a moment, he seemed to force himself to attempt to relax. He dropped his hand to the shower floor, his fingers curled in a fist braced against the tiles. He tilted his head down slightly so he wasn't looking Sin in the eye. There was tension in his shoulders still, but he nodded silently.

Sin nodded, still watching Boyd contemplatively before he stood. "Let's go in the other room, you need to get your head elevated."

Boyd pushed himself up, using the wall for balance. He stepped out of the shower and made his way to the outer room. Sin grabbed the medical kit, keeping close behind in case Boyd lost his balance again.

The next few moments were spent propping Boyd's head up with pillows as he stretched out on one of the full sized beds. Sin sat next to him, using his knife to cut Boyd's already destroyed shirt at an angle that only exposed the very top of his torso and his left shoulder. The gash was deeper than Sin had thought and he shook his head again, mouth pursing in displeasure.

"I'm going to stitch this up."

Boyd nodded, tilting his head back against the pillows with eyes that were squeezed shut. His fingers curled into the covers and his chest rose and fell a little more quickly than normal.

Time stretched silently for awhile. Sin methodically sewed the wound with the precision of a surgeon. He'd done it often enough to himself to complete the task easily on someone else. But even as his hands moved confidently, closing the gash once he'd cleaned it thoroughly-- his mind was churning.

Everything was going wrong. The entire partnership had evolved in a way that he would have never possibly imagined. From the start, nothing had gone as he'd expected. He'd never expected to be intrigued by Boyd, or to find anything in common with him. He'd never expected to feel reluctance about allowing the teen to die. He'd definitely never expected to eventually start enjoying Boyd's company, and especially had not expected this god awful attraction.

As soon as he'd noticed Boyd's features that day in the thrift shop, the entire thing had taken off at a speed he hadn't been prepared for. He hadn't been able to stop noticing things about Boyd from that point on, which had manifested into a confusing desire to do... something, that night in his apartment.

After finding out that Boyd was gay and had been sexually involved with men, the situation had gotten worse. Trying to picture somber, expressionless Boyd without any of his inhibitions had somehow morphed into picturing him losing those inhibitions with Sin. It hadn't even been something he'd consciously done; the thoughts, the wondering-- they'd randomly accosted him and then refused to go away.

Scowling deeply, his green eyes flicked over to Boyd's face.

"Don't fall asleep yet."

One eye peeked open, peering at Sin through pale eyelashes. "You have a needle in me," Boyd said tightly. "I'm not going to sleep."

Sin smirked. "It doesn't hurt that bad."

Boyd scrunched his face up and closed his eyes again, dropping his head back against the pillows. "It doesn't feel good."

That couldn't be argued with so Sin fell silent again as he worked. The nagging feeling that had been plaguing him since he'd gone back to the alley to find Boyd on the ground came back.


Boyd's eyes opened and he looked at Sin in surprise. His eyes flicked across Sin's face before he said, "It's alright. There's no painless way to stitch a wound like this..."

"That's not what I was talking about."

There was a brief pause. "Then what?"

Sin made a face, glancing over at Boyd again. "What do you think? If I'd been on top of things, this wouldn't have happened."

Boyd was quiet a moment, watching Sin with those eyes that had so often seemed silently trained on him. "It's not your fault. If you hadn't gotten Eugene, we both would've been in trouble. The rest of this..." He gestured to his wounds. "It just happens sometimes."

Unconvinced, Sin just shrugged. He finished stitching the wound, cleaned it up again and applied a bandage. Despite the fact that his wounds were now attended to, Boyd still looked like a mess due to his clothing. They had several hours before they had to meet the Agency crew who would be transporting them back to Lexington, so Sin reached for the pack with the intention of giving Boyd a fresh pair of clothing. However it occurred to him that Boyd likely wouldn't change in front of him for... whatever reason.

"If your head is feeling better, you should change," he said in his usual toneless voice, standing up finally. "We have seven hours before the transport team will expect us, but I wouldn't advise sleeping right away since we don't know if you have a concussion."

That being said, Sin turned to walk back to the bathroom.

"Sin," Boyd said suddenly before he got far.

Sin paused, turning to look over his shoulder.

One of Boyd's hands was absently touching the stitches peeking out of his ruined shirt. His eyebrows were drawn together and his gaze tracked Sin's face before settling to meet Sin's eyes. His expression was sincere when he said, "Thank you."

They stared at each other for a long moment before Sin just shrugged his broad shoulders and disappeared into the bathroom to clean up. He stayed in there probably longer than was necessary-- detailing the shower and the tiled floors as best as he could to get rid of all traces of blood. Afterward he showered himself after noticing that streaks of Boyd's blood had dried to his arms, hands and chest.

There was a strong desire to separate himself from Boyd as long as possible, that co-existed with a desire to watch Boyd and make sure he was okay. And it was that unhesitating response, that automatic action of attending to Boyd, which was disturbing him.

Why the fuck did he even care? It wasn't like Boyd didn't have medical training. He knew how to take care of himself, and if he didn't then he'd be taken out. It was a fact of life. A basic tenet of their lives. Yet here he was, babying the teen, running through the street in some rush to get him to safety.

And that wasn't even mentioning the actual panic that he'd felt at seeing Boyd sprawled on the filthy cold ground and covered in blood.

Sin turned off the water with more force than was necessary and stepped out of the shower. For what felt like the first time in a long time, he looked at himself in the mirror. It was usually something he avoided-- he didn't like being reminded that he was nearly a reflection of his now deceased father. But even so, Sin looked at his own face and tried to figure out what the hell was different. Where had he gone so fucking wrong? When had he become just another weak person?

He'd think that years of conditioning himself to not care about other people would have held out longer. He'd think that years of being alienated would make him not as likely to get sucked in. But all it took was genuine interest in him and a smile, and things had slipped out of his control.

Shaking his head, Sin turned away.

The next few hours passed slowly. They talked from time to time but Sin mostly withdrew. He dropped into a brooding mood and looked out the window silently most of the time, watching for anything out of the ordinary. After awhile he remembered to send in the initial check-in on his panel to say that negotiation had failed but Eugene was terminated.

He left Boyd alone to doze from time to time, prodding him every once in awhile to ensure that he rose easily. In that time Sin wondered what the hell Boyd's problem was with his shirt. It was entirely possible he'd been delusional due to the head wound but before and after that, he'd seemed fine. It would have been easy to ask but Sin didn't think he'd get an answer and at the moment, things felt alternatively tense and awkward anyway.

By the time they left the motel and met the plane at a private airport outside the city, things had slowly fallen back into routine. Without the urgency and adrenaline going full force, it was easy to push things aside.

After the flight back to Lexington, Boyd was sent to medical directly from transport and Sin was left with the task of writing up the report. By this time it was the middle of the afternoon and his body wanted to rest. He ignored it and typed a bare bones report that barely included any detail. It was pointless anyway considering they would debrief later that day.

Thinking about the debriefing sent an irritated flash through him. It was tempting to blow it off. He hated sitting at the conference table and listening to everyone's bullshit input. He'd lost interest in the details a long time ago.

Sleep came easily enough once he returned to the apartment, and when he woke three hours later it was already nearly evening. Glancing at the clock, Sin wondered if he'd missed the meeting but no such luck.

It was a complete chore to drag himself back to the Tower with the throngs of obnoxious staff. It was even worse to sit through the debriefing and listen to them all talk about future options and other possible defectors of Janus. Everyone played their roles well, and not for the first time did Sin wonder if Owen, Jeffrey and Ryan actually had these personalities or if they just acted a part for other people's benefit. He'd wondered the same thing about Boyd when they first met.

Looking over at his partner, Sin noticed that Boyd's eyes had been on him. They looked at each other briefly before mutually glancing away. After that, Sin kept his eyes on the panel in front of him, or zoned out completely.

"Are you with us?" Carhart asked him at one point, giving him a flat look when Sin's hair curtained his face as he leaned on one hand.


"Don't let me interrupt your nap," was the sarcastic reply.

"I wouldn't."

And the debriefing dragged on.

By the end he was ready to go back to the safety of his empty apartment where he could try to drown out his extraneous preoccupation with recent developments in peace. He was determined to somehow mentally retrain himself and get back to the place he'd been in before Boyd had come along and complicated everything.

But that too was ruined when Boyd stopped him after everyone else filed out of the conference room.

Sin looked over his shoulder and turned, facing his partner entirely. He gave him a full once over for the first time since the briefing had started. He was paler than usual, but seemed better.

Boyd glanced at the door and then studied Sin a little more closely. "Thanks for waiting," he said, watching Sin with a thoughtful air. He hesitated and then turned to his messenger bag lying on the table. "I wanted to give you something."

He pushed the flap of the bag up and pulled out something that was rectangular and wrapped in several layers of white tissue paper so Sin couldn't see what it was. He held it out to Sin, his eyes not leaving Sin's face.

Confused, Sin took the package. It was heavier than he'd expected. "What is it?"

"Open it and see," was all Boyd said.

Not entirely knowing what was going on, Sin ripped the paper down the middle. It was a book-- an archaic looking hardcover book. It was reddish gold in color with a plain cover. The spine was more elaborate despite the fact that most of the cover was faded with age. He could just read the words 'Paradise Lost' fading on the spine.

Eyebrows shooting up, Sin looked up at Boyd. "You're giving this to me? Why?"

Boyd shrugged, looking down at the book. "I've had it for awhile but after I saw your tattoo, I started wondering whether you would appreciate it more." He reached out, his fingers brushing the cover. The movement must have pulled at the stitches because his lips thinned briefly, but when he looked up at Sin again there was only interest in his eyes.

"It's a second edition. I wanted a first but those are too expensive. I was lucky enough to find this at an antique store I frequent." He dropped his hand at his side and shrugged again, seemingly absently. "Anyway, I wanted to give it to you as a thank you."

Trying to figure out what to say and completely failing, Sin looked down at the book. He felt simultaneously awkward, baffled and... pleased. The book was something he would appreciate. He hadn't read it in years and he didn't have access to any real books of his own that he could enjoy. But aside from that--

Sin cut the thought off sharply. "Why do you keep thanking me?"

"Because--" Boyd stopped, his eyebrows drawing together. "Because you're nice to me. And you listened when I..." He gestured to his shirt, looking highly uncomfortable. "You could have forced me and you didn't. And I..." He hesitated. "I appreciate that."

"Oh." Sin stared at him and then back down at the book again. "I see."

If Boyd was underwhelmed by Sin's response, he didn't show it or look surprised. There was a pause and then Boyd turned and flipped his bag closed. "Well, I'm going to leave. I have some errands I have to run today." He put the strap of the empty bag over one shoulder and turned toward the door. "I'll see you later."

There was a moment where Sin struggled with an appropriate response. He had none. This was a situation he had never been in. But he opened his mouth anyway, to at least say goodbye, when his cell phone vibrated against the pocket of his pants. Caught off guard, the moment passed and Sin ended up not speaking at all as Boyd left the room.

Irritated, Sin took the call without even looking at the caller ID.

"What?" he growled.

"Problem, Vega?"

Sin paused and glanced down at the book in his hands. He had a sudden desire to cover it up again, as if Marshal Connors could see it through the phone. There was an instinctive part of Sin that didn't want Connors to know that he and Boyd got along now. He couldn't explain it, but it wouldn't go away.

"No," he snapped. "What do you want?"

"You, in my office, in twenty minutes," was the chilly reply. "You're being sent out within the hour."

The call ended and Sin slid the phone back into his pocket. Whatever he figured out to say to Boyd, it would have to wait. With a low sigh, Sin left the conference room and headed to his building to drop off the book reluctantly. It too would have to wait until his mission was over.

Feeling inexplicably gloomy, Sin wondered who he would be assassinating now.

Continue to Chapter 15