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 Seventeen

The next morning felt like it came too early. The bed was sumptuous and comfortable enough that it was difficult to make himself roll out of it when the time came. Thierry had told them to be downstairs waiting for a limousine by 8 am so they could get in a full day of sightseeing.

When Boyd walked into their common room he saw it was the way they'd left it the night before; their coats were thrown over chairs and their shoes were knocked over near a wall, but their overnight bags had been brought to their respective rooms. Although it was Boyd's experience that Sin often rose early, he hadn't seemed to have left his room yet. Or he was already downstairs waiting and hadn't woken Boyd.

Either way, Boyd went about getting ready. He took a shower and ended up having to blow dry his hair because letting it air dry would have taken far too long. He got dressed in black slacks and a fitted grey cashmere sweater with a pinstripe dress shirt beneath, showing at the collar and wrists. He left his hair loose and checked the clock as he walked through the common room again. Sin still wasn't anywhere to be seen and they had to be downstairs within the hour.

Boyd walked over, pausing at Sin's bedroom door to strain his ears for any hint of movement. He didn't hear anything but that didn't mean much. After a moment, he knocked.

The door opened to reveal Sin in a pair of the faded jeans he'd gotten from the thrift store a few months ago, and one of his old t-shirts. His hair was uncombed as it usually was and he hadn't bothered to shave.

"We're supposed to be downstairs in half an hour." Boyd gestured over his shoulder. "I'm done in the bathroom."

Sin looked him over, not giving much away in his expression. "I don't see the point in going."

"Why not?"

This earned him a flat look and Sin scoffed. "You can't really be this obtuse."

Boyd watched him for a moment and then sighed, looking away and pushing some hair out of his face. He supposed it didn't matter. Sin had barely said a word the previous night, and Boyd couldn't blame him since most of the conversation had ended up in French. He didn't particularly want to be alone with Thierry all day but Sin was probably right that there wasn't much point in him going. Especially since he had seemed very quiet and rather irritated before.

"I can go alone, then. It may work better that way, anyway."

"I'm sure it will."

Boyd noted the sarcasm and shook his head. "I just meant that it was likely Thierry would end up speaking French again and you'd be bored."

Sin raised his eyebrows, his face going from blank to scathing. "Yes, I am sure it will be very likely since you made sure that it would end up that way."

"How did I make sure of that?" Boyd replied, eyes narrowing. "I wanted to make a good impression on him and introduced myself in French to build rapport. I didn't know he was going to bring everything back to French for the rest of the conversation because of it."

The other man scoffed and leaned against the door. "I would think your mother would have taught you proper manners as a child. Such as, speaking in a language that not everyone at the table can understand is fucking rude. Or maybe you just wanted to exclude me so you wouldn't have to bother talking to me even on a mission."

"That has nothing to do with this," Boyd shot back flatly, defensive anger flaring at the accusation. "Every time I tried to switch it to English, he brought it back to French. What the hell did you want me to do? Annoy him to the point that the mission fails and we both get in trouble?"

At that, Sin made a face. "Keep the fucking melodrama to a minimum. Starting a mission off in a language your partner doesn't speak sets the tone for the whole time we're here, especially with a man who condescends to me every chance he gets, without that added disrespect."

"Well, I'm sorry I'm not as versed in negotiation or building rapport as you are," Boyd said sarcastically. "Obviously your way worked so well with Thierry last time. Maybe you should come with after all and show me all the things I'm doing wrong."

"My way had to do with refusing to fawn all over him and encouraging him to flirt with me, so you're right-- you're sure one-upping me there," was the flat reply.

"As long as I get us the information, who cares?" Boyd crossed his arms, his eyes narrowing in irritation. "I'm not going back with a failed mission because I didn't feel like letting him smile at me or touch my hand."

Sin shook his head disgustedly as he pushed himself upright. "You're unbelievably fucking naive."

The irritation Boyd had been feeling became closer to aggravation. He stepped back and glanced at the clock. He could have spent more time in the room but he wanted to get out of there. "You're staying, right?"

Sin didn't respond, but he stared at Boyd with the same look on his face.

Boyd strode across the common room and grabbed his coat. He was further aggravated by having to stop and pull on his shoes rather than being able to walk out right away. He could feel Sin's eyes on him but he didn't look over. Not even when he left the room.

He shoved his fists into his jacket pockets and took the stairs down to the main lobby. His shoes made a gratifying pounding noise that echoed around him. He didn't know why Sin always got under his skin, or why a few comments or looks from him could turn Boyd from being in a perfectly fine mood to one that made him feel testy and irritable.

He didn't appreciate being called naive and he couldn't help still feeling defensive over his choice of negotiation. How many times had they been told to do whatever it took? How many people had said that Thierry was temperamental? Obviously a person had to take care around him and make sure he was happy. Thierry could just tell them to leave and be done with it and they would be the ones in trouble, not Thierry. He wasn't going to risk the mission by annoying a man with that sort of reputation.

He made it down to the lobby fifteen minutes too early and ended up lurking in the corner, trying to get his bad mood to fade so he could be properly approachable for the day. At seven minutes until their meeting time, he walked outside and stood beneath the grand opening to the building. It wasn't long until a black town car rolled up alongside him.

The driver got out and greeted him, moving around the side to open the door. Boyd got into the limousine and settled into the seat as the chauffeur shut the door behind him. He looked over and saw that Thierry was seated across the vehicle.

"Thank you for picking me up," Boyd said politely as he leaned back in his seat.

"And where is your partner?" Thierry asked with raised eyebrows.

"He will be unable to make it today. I hope my presence alone is acceptable?"

Thierry stared at him for a moment before his eyes slid to the window where the hotel loomed beyond. "Did you tell him to stay behind, or did he decide to?"

"A little of both, I suppose," Boyd said with a slight frown as he considered the question.

"I see." Thierry leaned back in his seat and looked at the driver. "Go," he said in French.

Boyd watched Thierry for a moment. The man seemed unusually serious. Boyd wondered if Thierry was trying to figure out what this turn of events meant, or whether he'd wanted Sin to be there and was disappointed by the lack of his presence.

"I could call him and ask him to join us after all if you'd like," he offered.

The car began gliding down the street as Thierry waved off the comment. "That will not be necessary. Perhaps it is just as well. He was quite jealous."

Boyd's eyebrow quirked up slightly at that. "Jealous?" More like pissed off, he thought to himself. "What makes you think that?"

Thierry gave Boyd a sidelong glance. "Surely you must have noticed."

"I confess, I was paying more attention to you than my partner."It was true enough. By the time the conversation had grown more involved and Thierry had started flirting openly with him, he'd been so distracted with how to reply that he hadn't thought to glance over at Sin again.

Thierry's lips curved into a smile and he reached out to turn Boyd's face so that their eyes met fully. "Is that so?"

"It is," Boyd said, smiling in return.

"Hmm." Thierry extended one of his fingers and slid it along Boyd's cheek. His fingertip moved down to ghost over Boyd's mouth before he dropped his hand and sat back. "I was not surprised that he is jealous. You are something I would be possessive of myself."

"You flatter me." Boyd let the smile linger on his lips. His gaze rested on Thierry for a moment, not letting his thoughts get to his face. Then he slid his gaze away to look out the window.

He wondered how much of what Thierry said was the truth and how much was simply his nature. Boyd didn't consider himself to be a particularly amazing catch, but then perhaps that was because so many people responded negatively to the way he looked and acted.

It was strange to feel the gentle caresses and be told such things so casually, and yet there was a part of him that craved it. That didn't want to be pushed away or put down. That wanted to feel loved and accepted like he hadn't since the only two people who had ever loved him had been killed. But thinking of that only brought him down the wrong path like it had far too often the last two weeks.

He shoved the memories firmly out of his mind, knowing full well they would come back with a vengeance later. They always did. They always knew how to wear down his control. How to plague him until he faltered, and swarm on him until he gave in.

"Where are we going today?" Boyd asked, pleased to hear that his voice came out as merely curious. He wanted to change the subject in his mind and the conversation. He didn't like the uncomfortable vulnerability he felt toward the idea of someone that didn't want to hurt him.

"Anywhere you want."

Since Boyd was interested in history and architecture, they mostly drove through the city. They visited several of the monuments that still existed in the area, and stopped at a beautiful park that managed to survive the bombs. The wind was light and a little cold, but the day was pleasant enough. Thierry had a bodyguard who trailed them everywhere while the chauffeur stayed by the car at all times.

Boyd and Thierry talked as they went around and despite everything Boyd found himself slowly relaxing around the other man; not even realizing that it was happening for the most part. Thierry was conversational and more intelligent than Boyd had initially assumed he would be based on the rumors. Thierry knew enough about the history of the different locations that Boyd felt comfortable asking questions. Boyd was content with simply looking at the architecture of the buildings but after they stopped for lunch he found himself growing curious about the damage the war had wrought and how Paris had started to recover.

Thierry had the chauffeur bring them to Le Marais, which had become the concentrated center of some of the wealthiest shops in the city. Part of that demographic existed prior to the bombs, but it only grew after nearby areas were decimated in the bombs. Hotel De Ville, which had previously worked as a sort of unofficial city hall, and the huge art collection in Centre Pompidou were completely gone, taking out part of Le Marais with it.

Boyd saw that the Parisians had gotten about as far as the Americans had in Lexington with reconstruction. As he looked down the wealthy street and saw the destruction in the distance, he was reminded of the Financial District back home. He wondered how much life differed here compared to where he'd grown up, and what it all would have been like had his family been in his mother's home country rather than his parents moving to the United States.

They stopped for a late lunch at an outdoor cafe on Rue Cler. They ended up sitting at a table while Thierry's bodyguard sat at a nearby table where he had good visibility but couldn't listen in on their conversation. The tables were small, best suited for two people at most. The streets were so different to Boyd than they were in the United States; back home there was a clear distinction between pedestrian areas and vehicular areas. Here, at least by this cafe, everything seemed to blend together on the same grade, with streets that were aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It lent a very integrated feel to the semi-pedestrian part of the neighborhood.

Most of the tables were full in the cafe, creating a quiet lull in the background. Boyd ordered the plat du jour and looked around as Thierry ordered. There seemed to be a good mix of locals and visitors at the cafe and there was enough pedestrian traffic that Boyd had something interesting to watch.

"You spoke of your mother yesterday," Thierry said after a moment, turning to Boyd and lifting a glass of wine to his lips. "Did she not tell you anything of her home country?"

Boyd shook his head, returning his gaze to Thierry. "Nearly everything I know about France I learned in a book. I have some memories from when I was small of her talking about Paris but it's so vague I'm not even certain it wasn't a dream."

Thierry nodded and pursed his lips, flitting his deep blue eyes away. He seemed to fall into a pensive silence for a stretch before smiling briefly. "From the little I have heard of your mother, it reminds me greatly of the distance that existed between my father and myself."

The Agency's information was that Thierry's father had been a main benefactor of Janus and that there had been a falling out between the two. "Did something happen to cause it?"

"Mmm." Thierry tilted his head, his gaze moving along the cafe before resting on Boyd again. "He never liked my way."

"What way is that?"

A low chuckle escaped Thierry's throat and he sat back in his chair. "Expulsions from boarding school for inspiring rebellions, leading adults to believe... anything I wanted, and of course, seducing my male tutors."

Boyd raised his eyebrows, an amused smile playing on his lips. "Tutors, plural? How many of them did you seduce?"

Thierry smirked and leaned forward conspiratorially. "Enough of them to ensure he hired women in the future. Although I suppose the elderly gentleman didn't fall for my charms."

Boyd couldn't help laughing. "You're a dangerous man, Monsieur Beauvais."

"Of that, you can be sure," Thierry practically purred. He slid his fingers over Boyd's hand and moved them over it in a light caress. He didn't stop even as he continued to speak. "My father did not appreciate the embarrassment that I brought to his name. Even before he knew I was gay, he held some distaste for my temperament as a child. It is unfortunate that my mother died when I was quite young. I fear I never quite knew the love of a parent properly-- perhaps this is why I have always looked in other places."

Boyd looked down at their hands; at Thierry's fingertips ghosting his skin. Although the slide of skin against skin didn't produce the electrifying tingle that seemed to happen any time Sin touched him, he felt... intrigued. Comforted, in some strange way. But as he considered what Thierry said, he realized maybe their similarities were why he didn't mind so much when Thierry touched him, despite the fact that normally he would look askance at a person he just met for doing the same thing.

They'd both lost one parent early, and although Boyd had known the love of his father it was all blurred by childhood and loss that happened far too soon. They were both gay, raised by a parent who had more issues with them than acceptance, and who didn't approve of their sexual orientation. What Thierry said about looking for love elsewhere resonated in Boyd as well. The comfort he'd been missing for the past few years, the gaping hole he'd been burying deeper and deeper within himself to try to ignore how much had been stolen from him with Lou's death-- It had all been ripped back out into the open.

It was the prominence of it all in his mind that made it impossible to ignore the fact that of all the people he'd met so far since joining the Agency, Thierry was the first one who he thought may actually get what it was like to be him. The first one who may understand how frustrating it was to constantly be compared to the successful but distant parent; to be only a surname to so many people, who threw that name back at him. To be told by that parent repeatedly that he wasn't good enough; that he would never live up to his own name. To be gay in a world that didn't always accept that. To be surrounded by a life of intrigue and negotiation that rarely let a person relax. And to not always know who to trust.

Boyd's eyebrows furrowed faintly and he dragged his eyes back up to Thierry. He searched the older man's face, feeling confused and off-balanced. He knew that Thierry was a seductive type who was interested in him. He knew that he had to get the information out of Thierry about the Janus insiders, and yet...

And yet, at the same time he couldn't deny that he was comforted by Thierry's presence. He couldn't help feeling like Thierry understood him. And with those gentle touches and casually kind words, it felt like he would never hurt Boyd like so many others had. There was no denying what Thierry was capable of but Boyd knew from Thierry's files that the bare facts of what he was bringing up were true. His father and he had been estranged. His mother had died young. Thierry wasn't lying to him about that, and it made the similarities too hard to ignore.

With that in mind, Boyd found himself starting to speak, then having to clear his throat quietly. He looked back down at their hands, feeling a temptation to turn his palm to Thierry's to implicitly accept the flirtation. He ignored the urge, although his fingers did twitch.

"My mother..." He frowned, his eyebrows lowering further, and he met Thierry's eyes again. He didn't move his hand, finding himself hoping that Thierry didn't withdraw that gentle caress any time soon. "My mother was the same. She's never fully approved of me. I used to try so hard to be worthy of her praise but I have almost no recollection of it ever happening." He shook his head, his lips tilting on the edges bitterly. "Of course, when it became apparent that I was gay, it didn't help my standing in her eyes."

"We are much alike, you and I," Thierry observed. "Perhaps that is why I feel drawn to you and not because you are gorgeous."

"Perhaps," Boyd replied, his eyes remaining on Thierry.

He fell silent, taking in the way the other man was watching him. Given Thierry's reputation he'd been worried about getting on Thierry's good side. For all that Sin had criticized Boyd's approach, it seemed that he'd succeeded. But despite that, all the times he'd tried to bring up business in varying ways, Thierry had always sidestepped or deflected the topic. It was growing worrisome; they had limited time in France.

He let out a quiet breath and looked away with drawn eyebrows. He watched a couple pause as a man on an electric scooter drove by. So far Thierry seemed to respond most positively to the truth so that's what he said.

"Thierry, I don't mean to be rude but we have to return to the States tomorrow and I'm growing worried about having to go back empty-handed. I'd really like the chance to discuss work with you. Could we do that?"

Thierry patted his hand, and sat up straight. "Yes, but not now. I would like to invite you to my home this evening."

Boyd's gaze hovered on Thierry. There was no question that Thierry was attracted to him and yet until this suggestion, the flirtation had been mild and always in public. Being alone in the man's house could possibly make things turn to a different direction, and that made him hesitate.

Still, there was no guarantee anything would happen. And if anything did start happening that he didn't want, he could just say no. In the meantime, Thierry had finally agreed to talking business so that was a definite step in the right direction.

"Of course," Boyd replied with a smile. "What time would you like me over?"

"I have some things to attend to after lunch," Thierry replied, looking over as the waitress returned with their lunch. "I will drop you off at the hotel and return this evening. Please do explain to your partner where you will be, so he does not think I have abducted you and proceed to then rip apart the hotel."

"I will," Boyd assured Thierry.

Lunch passed without incident and it wasn't long until they got back into the town car and headed toward the hotel.

When he got to the hotel room, he wondered whether Sin would even be there. He opened the door and glanced around the common room for his partner. He saw that Sin was sitting on the edge of the couch, palm computer in hand as he skimmed through something on it rapidly. His lips were pursed and he didn't look entirely pleased with whatever he was doing.

Boyd shut the door behind him and took his jacket off as he walked across the room. "Did something happen?" he asked, tilting his chin toward Sin's palm computer. Although he hadn't received any notices from the Agency about any changes in the mission, it was possible Sin had.

Sin looked over at him, gaze lingering for a moment before switching back to the computer. "I have a mission when we return."

Boyd nodded in understanding and threw the jacket on the back of a chair, on top of his trench coat. "Just you?"

"Yes. Rank 10 mission." Sin turned off the panel and dropped it on the table beside the couch, standing up. He turned and observed Boyd.

Boyd nodded again and dropped onto the couch. He let his legs stretch out in front of him and leaned back, taking a moment to relax. He let out a low breath, closed his eyes and tilted his head back against the couch.

After a moment, Boyd opened his eyes and sat up. "Before we can end up splitting up for any reason, I wanted to let you know you'll have the room to yourself for awhile tonight."

Sin had been about to go into his room but he stopped completely and turned. "Why is that?"

"I'll be at Thierry's."

There was a stretch of silence as Sin stared at him for a longer period of time. His eyes narrowed slightly. "Why are you going to his house?"

Boyd watched Sin silently for a moment and then leaned forward, bracing his forearms on his knees. "He wouldn't talk business today but he said he would if I came over. We only have until tomorrow to get what we need, so..." He shrugged and trailed off.

Sin's eyes narrowed further and he brought a hand up to briefly rub his forehead. He started to turn again, stopped, and then said, "You shouldn't go."

"If I don't, how are going to get what we need?" Boyd shook his head. "We're running out of time. I'll just go over, get the information, and come back. I'm only telling you so you don't wonder where I am."

"And you think it's going to be as simple as that?" Sin asked, raising his eyebrows and staring down at Boyd without expression.

"No but what does it matter?" Boyd asked rhetorically. "He said he'd talk to me if I came over so that's what I'm going to do. Besides, after spending so much time with him I have an idea of how he works. I'll use that to figure out how to get what we need so I can stop worrying about it."

"If you had have an idea of how he works, then you're aware that there's a good chance he'll want you to fuck him for it."

"Obviously that's a possibility," Boyd said simply with a shrug. "I'm not going over planning on that. I just want him to talk. But you heard General Carhart-- you know how important this information is. We can't go back without it."

There was a long silence as Sin stared at him incredulously. "So you'd actually do it then?"

"I don't know," Boyd said honestly. "I'm going to make plans for how to get him to talk. But we're quickly running out of time and if nothing works, if he won't listen to me and it's a question between that or going home with nothing--"

His eyes narrowed and he looked away. Carhart's words were strong in his mind; to do whatever it took to get this. That he couldn't stress the importance of this enough.

"I don't know," he said again. "I guess I have to plan for the possibility of that happening, too."

Sin's lips parted but no sound came out at first. A flash of anger crossed his face and mingled with the surprise that was evident. "Did it ever occur to you to say fuck the mission, or do you actually want to bend over for that piece of garbage?"

"Fuck the mission and then what?" Boyd shot back. "Go back to the Agency and tell them sorry, I didn't try hard enough? They wouldn't let that pass. And--"

He remembered his mother, her cold eyes staring him down after she'd brought him into her office on his first failed mission. Her threat that the Agency had ways of making agents usable again. She knew what would hurt him most; what would terrify him beyond anything else. She knew and she would use that information. He was still trying to get over the shock from Lou's necklace suddenly reappearing in his life. If they did that too--

His jaw tightened and his expression set in resolve. He wasn't going to let that happen. "If a mission fails, it's not going to be because of me."

"You're a goddamn idiot," Sin replied disgustedly. "If you don't listen to me, for the first fucking time, you're going to regret it."

"If you have a magical answer to getting the information from Thierry tonight short of working this angle then by all means, tell me," Boyd said impatiently, growing frustrated with the way Sin constantly attacked everything he did. "I'd love to hear it. But if you're just going to tell me I'm doing the wrong thing and offer no other solution aside from failing the mission then I don't know what to tell you. I can't do that. I'm bringing the information back with us somehow."

"You can't do that," Sin scoffed. "Mommy isn't going to terminate you, you fucking moron. What are you scared of, a trip to the Fourth? Man up-- who cares? Have some dignity instead of being so quick to stoop to the lowest level just to please the fucking Agency."

"Man up?" Boyd demanded incredulously. He stood up, his eyes narrowing into a glare. "Do you even--" He cut himself off, a wave of anger burning through him. His teeth grit and he stared coldly, holding a hand up palm out to Sin. "You know what? Just-- Don't. Don't try to pretend you know me. Or her. You have no idea what she will and will not do to me."

"And you obviously don't know shit about me if you think I haven't been tortured in every possible way at the Agency, and I still wouldn't ever become their little prostitute," Sin replied acidly. "But go ahead, have fun."

Boyd's jaw set and for a long moment he could only glare at Sin. Anger, indignation and frustration warred within him until he didn't know what to say. The tension in him made him feel locked in place until he abruptly turned his back on Sin.

"I can't talk to you right now," he said tightly as he started toward his room.

"That's fine," Sin snarled, his lips twisted down into a vicious scowl. "Because I'm fucking done with you. This is the second time I tried to help you, and the second time I completely regret the effort."

Boyd felt a welling of something at the words but he didn't let himself focus on it. He stalked into his room and shut the door harder than was necessary behind him. But even being alone in the room didn't help; the atmosphere felt oppressed, giving him no way out.

He dropped onto the bed and leaned forward, his fingers digging into his hair as he squeezed his eyes shut. Sin's words echoed in his head, jumbled by Carhart's and his mother's and he didn't know what to think. What to feel.

What was he supposed to do? He didn't want to have sex with Thierry but he couldn't walk away from all this. He couldn't go back to the Agency with nothing-- not when Carhart had said straight out that they had to do anything it took. He couldn't walk away from the Agency or his responsibilities. He couldn't disappoint his mother. The consequences of failing...

His chest tightened at the thought-- at the memory of pain lancing up his arms from his wrists; his own screams echoing around him and the darkness closing in on every side. Terror eclipsing everything else to the point that he didn't even know anymore what was a dream from that time and what was a horrible mockery of reality. The memories of Lou's murder that wouldn't leave him and the knowledge every time he'd slept and woken that he was alone-- left completely alone and without any recourse and no one would care and no one would help him--

His eyes squeezed shut harder and he let out a harsh breath, his mouth falling open as he curled inward. No, no, he couldn't do it. He couldn't. He didn't care what he had to do to avoid that; he would do it.

Even so, Sin's words continued to haunt him. He thought about Sin commenting on trying to help him twice. It could only be referring to the necklace-- to Jared. It was the only thing that made sense to Boyd. Guilt and confusion were nearly suffocating at the thought. He knew they needed to talk about that all-- but it was so hard for him.

Did Sin really regret it?

Did he regret anything he'd done or tried to do for Boyd?

He didn't want those words to cut him so deeply-- I'm fucking done with you, and, completely regret the effort. He didn't know what to do. He knew Sin was angry with him, he understood that probably part of it was related to their distance the past two weeks contrasted to how friendly he'd been to Thierry.

But what was he supposed to do? Why couldn't Sin understand? These were things he'd been burying for so long, things that had nearly killed him in the past, and in less than two weeks he was expected to be able to get over it and talk rationally about something he'd never even brought up? Something Sin somehow had found out on his own and suddenly shoved in his face?

Just because Sin could take any torture and not budge didn't mean everyone else was the same. Just because Sin thought a trip to the Fourth was doable didn't mean the very prospect of it couldn't terrify Boyd. Especially with the imaginings made more vivid by memories recently stirred up, like dirt at the bottom of a lake. Clouding everything that used to be so clear.

And just because Sin thought he knew everything about the Agency didn't mean he understood Boyd's mother, or the resolve she could have about her work. Sin was so confident she wouldn't have him terminated but he hadn't grown up with her. He didn't know how she could be.

He wouldn't have chosen to have sex with Thierry; after all, he'd only ever slept with Lou so a one night stand seemed strange to him. But he didn't even know that it would come to that anyway. And Sin could mock him all he wanted but in the end, what was one night with a man who at least was charming compared to possibly weeks in the alternative?

If he could only succeed in this, everything would be okay. Even assuming they had sex tonight, he would be in an entirely different country from Thierry tomorrow so their one night together wouldn't matter anyway. The Agency would be happy with the outcome and they could all move on. It's not like he planned to make this a regular occurrence; the desperate measures would be only for this one extreme case and he could go back to his life the way it had always been before.

No harm done.

He told himself that but he couldn't forget the look of disgust on Sin's face.

By the time he had to head downstairs, he was almost relieved despite the ominous feeling he'd developed about the night. He just needed to get out of there. He just needed to get away.

He didn't see Sin as he left, a fact he was grateful for. He didn't know what he would have said and he didn't want to have to see whatever expression Sin would level his way. He was already a little uneasy about what may end up happening at Thierry's but it didn't shake his resolve to avoid the terror that otherwise would likely await him.

He took the stairs on the way down so he had more time to school his expression and loosen the tension in his shoulders. He didn't want to let on to Thierry that he was distracted or worried. He had to focus on getting the information. In order to do that he needed to be clear-headed so he could notice any shifts in Thierry's mood that he could take advantage of.

He was glad to see the driver had been sent alone to pick him up. It gave him more time to prepare. To think. He walked across the sidewalk, the cold cutting through him harshly. He'd left his coat behind and the wind was just as icy here as back home. After getting in, he sat in the back, his expression blank and his mind anything but as he watched the city flash by outside the tinted windows.

The driver brought them to Avenue du Maréchal Maunoury in 16e arrondissement. The building they pulled up to was beautiful from the front; brick with white trim and almost looking more like it belonged on part of an old estate or mansion rather than being luxury apartments.

Thierry lived on the highest floor and when Boyd was let inside, he took in the apartment. He had to admit it was beautiful.

Less ostentatious than the hotel, the apartment had hardwood floors with tall ceilings, warm cream walls, and dark trim. There were two floors, as evidenced by the large open area where the second floor was cut away almost like a balcony looking down on the first floor. It made it feel like a luxury loft.

Continuing that theme were the floor to ceiling windows along one side, overlooking Bois de Boulogne park and, beyond it, what little could be seen of the River Seine. The only chandelier he saw was hanging from the second story in the open living room area, about even with the first floor's ceiling. The apartment was spacious, the furniture was tasteful but obviously expensive, and it looked well lived in.

"Welcome," Thierry's voice called from somewhere further in. He appeared moments later, wearing an indigo v-neck shirt that fit tight against his toned arms and chest, and black pants that were obviously fitted to his body. It was the most casual that Boyd had seen him so far, which was further enhanced by Thierry's bare feet and tousled wavy hair.

"I thank you for coming, once again."

"Thank you the invitation," Boyd replied as he walked further into the apartment, toward Thierry. He looked over at the windows covering the wall.

"You have a very nice apartment." He gestured out the windows and meant it when he said, "Even at night, the view is amazing."

"I enjoy beautiful things." Thierry's lips curved into a grin and ran his hands over Boyd's arms briefly. "And you, my dear, are frozen. Would you like some wine to warm up?"


Thierry moved to a mahogany cabinet and opened the door, pulling out glasses. He took them to a glass coffee table where there was a waiting bottle of wine. He filled both, and glanced over at Boyd.

"Make yourself comfortable."

"Thank you."

A large sectional couch curved around the coffee table. Boyd sat down, finding it to be surprisingly comfortable. He picked up a glass of wine, the liquid seeming a rich burgundy hue in the lighting. He held the glass carefully so as not to spill and leaned back, hearing the quiet crinkling of the fabric as it settled around him.

Everything felt warm and inviting. The impression was furthered by licks of flame in the electric fireplace he hadn't noticed before, set nearby within the wall. He watched the fire for a moment as he took a sip of the wine, the taste of it filling his mouth and warming his tongue. He looked over at Thierry and smiled, hoping to take control of the conversation from the start.

"I was pleased when you told me earlier you were interested in discussing our mutual acquaintances. Janus has been a growing concern for us and we're very grateful for any help you would be willing to give. After all, you're something of an expert on the topic."

"Expert?" Thierry held his glass contemplatively and frowned thoughtfully. "Perhaps. It was not always this way, though. At one time I was just a novice, barely understanding my place in it all."

It was more than Thierry had said about anything related to work so far so Boyd took to the topic. "As I understand it, you got into the business when you were eighteen?"

"Seventeen, actually." Thierry took a sip and crossed one knee over the other, his gaze moving to the window. "I was aware of my father's dealings with Janus since I was quite young. When he died, I simply took up the mantle. It was interesting... to say the least. "

Boyd watched Thierry thoughtfully. "What was it like?"

A small smile quirked across Thierry's lips and he raised an eyebrow. "To say they did not know what to expect from me would be accurate. To them I was a spoiled child trying to involve myself in affairs that were better left out of my reach. They did not respect me, even when I began to work for them."

Boyd smiled faintly, although the expression was more contemplative than anything. He could understand that feeling to an extent. "What did you do?"

"I refused to give up." Thierry turned to Boyd on the sofa and tilted his head thoughtfully, as if he were remembering back to that time. "Their world, my father's world, it was something that intrigued me. For so long I felt as though I was without purpose and this thing-- this strange thing that I do, it gives me purpose. After quite some time, they finally began to admire my tenacity."

Boyd nodded and took a sip of wine as he thought about what Thierry said. His eyes were drawn to the fire; to the flickering flames that were incapable of settling.

He wondered if he would ever get to the point of feeling a purpose in any of this. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt that he was only at the Agency while he waited for something to change. While he waited, most likely, to die.

He didn't feel any purpose in his life aside from being in a state of in-between, and the occasional time when something drew his attention enough for him to be intrigued. But those moments always faded and he was left once more to disinterest. Apathy that recently had been struggling to keep in check all the dark thoughts it had grown to hide.

"Did you feel that way right away?" he was unable to stop himself from asking. His eyes flicked over to Thierry. "Having a purpose?"


Thierry set his wine glass down and rested his arm on the back of the sofa. A low laugh escaped his throat and he shook his head slightly. "No, at first it was a game. Perhaps like chess. Or perhaps a spectator sporting event that I had helped to fund so that the teams could keep playing. It kept me busy, but I did not truly expect to become so immersed and to eventually care."

Boyd nodded again and shifted on the couch so he was turned more toward Thierry. He tilted his head slightly, studying the other man thoughtfully. "What drew you away from working solely with Janus like your father had?"

One of Thierry's hands began absently sifting through Boyd's hair as he pondered the question. After awhile he said, "I did not like the idea of putting all of my eggs in one basket, as they say."

"It must have been a trying time, when you were learning the ways and who to trust," Boyd said thoughtfully. He didn't react to the fingers threading through his hair, letting Thierry do as he pleased. "Did anyone take you under their wing and help you out?"

"Not at all," Thierry said with another of his intimate smiles. "And what of you?"

Boyd was disappointed but not entirely surprised by the subject change. "Not at first. Things are changing over time, though."

"Sin did not guide you?" Thierry asked, eyebrows ticking up slightly. "Is he not an agent of some high degree?"

"He is but he wasn't interested in being my partner," Boyd replied with an unconcerned shrug. "In the beginning I think he was simply amusing himself seeing how long it would take for me to fail or for something to happen to me."

"How unfortunate."

A frown marred Thierry's expression and his hands slid up to glide down the side of Boyd's face. "It would have been quite terrible if I would have never been able to meet you."

Boyd smiled. "I doubt it would have mattered. You wouldn't have known what you were missing, right?"

Thierry let his fingers move down to trace the side of Boyd's mouth. "Perhaps that would have been the worst part."

They spoke for awhile longer before Thierry invited Boyd to the other room for dinner. Over time Boyd learned that Thierry had made it himself, which somewhat surprised Boyd, who had expected him to have hired help for everything. He commented on how good the food was and Thierry seemed pleased by the compliment.

During dinner the conversation flowed in different directions a few times. Boyd continued to bring it back to work in different ways at first, attempting to get Thierry to follow through on his promise. Thierry bypassed the topic at first and then implied it would be better not to talk of such business over food. Boyd nodded and they went back to talking about nothing particularly important, dotted throughout with questions about their personal lives.

Afterward, they ended up on the couch again. Boyd wasn't used to drinking so much in one day. Despite dinner to balance it out, he started to notice the effects of the alcohol on his system. His body felt warm; his blood buzzed pleasantly through him. His head was starting to feel clouded and once or twice he found himself saying a little more than he'd intended. Giving a few more details than he normally would.

He had enough wits about him to try to talk about work, or Janus, or Thierry's time as he grew into his job. He asked about Thierry's life, how he knew about his father's involvement in Janus, whether anyone had ever visited his house. He tried to be straightforward and remind Thierry that he'd said he would talk about work. He tried many angles but every time somehow the conversation turned away before Boyd got anything of value.

At times he set his glass down on the table with the intention of no longer drinking any more. Thierry kept refilling his glass, and it took him a bit to realize that because of that he was drinking more than he thought he was.

As time went on, Thierry's flirtation grew more pronounced. He moved closer to Boyd, sitting near enough to him that the heat of their bodies felt trapped between them. He touched Boyd more as well, with the brush of his fingertips or press of his hand lingering. Becoming more bold.

Boyd started to grow confused; influenced by the pleasant burn of alcohol in his system, the muted warmth of the fireplace, and the heat of Thierry's skin brushing against his.

It seemed like Thierry's face grew so much closer over time, those handsome features focusing solely on hm. He wasn't accustomed to being the center of anyone's attention in a manner that was so positive and prolonged. Thierry murmured words of encouragement and praise and compliments; flattering Boyd yet seeming genuine about it. As if he truly did think Boyd was worth something and he was pleased to have met him.

Without fully realizing what he was doing, Boyd started to tilt his head slightly into Thierry's touch. He was feeling the comfort of someone who had nothing but gentle touches and words for him. It was such a contrast to what he was used to that it worked its way into the buzz from the wine. Infecting his blood and his thoughts.

He thought he was being diligent and mindful but somewhere along the line, things spun away from him. Despite the many times he'd tried to redirect the conversation, he wasn't getting anywhere. Around the time Thierry's hand slid along his thigh, Boyd realized it was very late at night. Midnight had already long passed them by and he hadn't gotten anything they needed.

Time was running incredibly short.

As that thought crossed his mind, Thierry leaned in to kiss him. Boyd automatically drew back, keeping their faces mere inches apart. He could feel Thierry's breath, warm against his lips, and their eyes locked.

Boyd couldn't read much except desire in Thierry's blue eyes. His thoughts were muddled and confused. The one thought that he couldn't ignore was that maybe Thierry hadn't given him any information yet because he hadn't been responding to his obvious attraction. Maybe he wouldn't follow through unless Boyd followed through himself.

He'd had time to think about what he would do in this circumstance and the wine made him feel pleasant, lacking his typical over-analysis. He'd run out of time and options. So when Thierry's eyelashes lowered and he leaned in again, this time Boyd didn't pull away.

Their lips met; an almost gentle caress at first that slowly built. Boyd hadn't kissed anyone, hadn't touched anyone other than Lou. Thierry's lips were soft and the taste of them seemed strange and unfamiliar. That sentiment was echoed in the unfamiliar slide of a hand along his leg, and the feel of Thierry's other hand tangling in his hair at the nape of his neck.

The oddity of the situation was fast overcome by the power of a sensual touch after so long. The body he'd forsaken awoke at Thierry's hands, aided by the burn of alcohol in his system. His breath caught when Thierry's lips slid along his jaw and centered on his neck. All the times Thierry had touched him before it had felt gentle or warm but that was it; there wasn't the electric tingle that sucked away his thoughts like when Sin brushed his bare skin with calloused fingertips. But with Thierry focused so fully on him, and under the expert maneuverings of his hands, Boyd felt desire stir inside him and grow.

Thierry's lips returned to Boyd's and their kiss deepened until Boyd felt the moist slide of a tongue against his lips. He parted his mouth and learned quite quickly that Thierry was an amazing kisser.

Before he knew it, he was letting out breathless moans, his eyes falling shut as his body automatically arched against Thierry's. Boyd could feel Thierry's erection through their clothing; hard and moving against him. It made him moan deeply, which became a gasping groan when Thierry slid his hand beneath Boyd's pants and started kneading his half-hard cock. Boyd's head jerked back and he gripped Thierry's arms; his mouth falling open as he breathed heavily. He could feel Thierry's lips smile against his skin.

For a moment all Boyd could do was moan helplessly, his fingers digging into Thierry's shirt as he jerked his hips up against Thierry's skillful hand. His body was an instrument that Thierry played to perfection; rising him up to a crescendo and stopping just before the climax. Boyd didn't even realize when he'd been moved to lay back on the couch, his legs splayed open with Thierry kneeling between them, rolling his body against Boyd's increasingly quickly. But when Thierry's hand shifted and moved for his shirt, Boyd snapped back to attention enough to grab his wrist.

He shook his head, his eyes half closed but still intent on Thierry. It took a second for his voice to work through his throat and when it did, it came out husky but firm.

"Not the shirt. Or underneath."

If Thierry thought the condition was odd, he didn't let it show. His hand moved away and he returned to kissing Boyd deeply. Their tongues worked against each other, filling Boyd's mouth with Thierry's taste. Boyd could feel Thierry's hands working on his pants and soon Thierry drew away. He sat up, his lips reddened from kissing and face flushed with desire. His hair was messy and his eyes seemed especially blue as he took in Boyd sprawled beneath him.

Thierry shifted and he moved back along the couch, his hands running along Boyd's thighs and down his knees, his shins, until he pulled off his shoes and socks. His fingers pushed up beneath the hem of Boyd's pant legs briefly, playing along the bones of his ankles. Then his hands were moving, pressing back up Boyd's legs and skimming the waistband of his pants. Dipping below to brush the hair from Boyd's navel that disappeared beneath the pants.

It seemed as though Thierry took enjoyment in every part of this. Even with his erection pressing against his pants, he seemed to be in no hurry to get straight to the act of sex. Being able to feel Boyd and unclothe him at his own speed seemed to give him some sense of satisfaction on its own. Nimble fingers unfastened Boyd's pants, laying them open to show his underwear beneath. Thierry's eyes were centered on Boyd's groin and the shape of his cock that he could see through the stretch of the fabric.

Thierry pushed the underwear down under Boyd's balls, allowing his half hard cock to spring free. Long fingers slid around his cock, with just the right pressure and speed as he started to masturbate him. Boyd gasped and twisted beneath Thierry; his body arching into the touch and his hands digging into the cushion and back of the couch. His hips jerked and he rocked up into Thierry's hand, breathless moans escaping him with increasing urgency.

When Boyd thought it couldn't feel better, Thierry moved his thumb to the head of Boyd's cock and played with the slit; rubbing in a motion that made Boyd groan loudly with an, "Ah-- Ahh!"

Just as Boyd felt himself teetering on the edge of control, Thierry's hands disappeared. Boyd panted heavily, his eyes opening enough to stare through dusty eyelashes down his body. Thierry was watching him with the intensity of an artist his muse, crouched between Boyd's splayed legs. Boyd started to bring one hand down to his erection to finish but Thierry's hands were a gentle rebuke; twining his fingers around Boyd's and pushing his hand away.

He didn't say anything but the desire in Thierry's eyes and the tilt of his lips clearly said, 'Let me.'

Hands moved along Boyd's body again, this time hooking beneath his pants and underwear and pulling them down. Inch by torturous inch, Boyd's body was bared to the room. He tried to help Thierry, alternately lifting his hips and his legs so Thierry could slide it all off him. Thierry wasn't moving that slowly but it felt like forever when all Boyd wanted to do was finish the rise of the orgasm clawing at his stomach and tightening his balls.

When Boyd was naked except for his shirt, Thierry returned to the space between Boyd's legs. Boyd's knees were drawn up and tilted open, giving Thierry a perfect view of his body as he looked down. His hands rested on Boyd's knees, sliding up and down along his thighs and pushing them open even more. His gaze took in Boyd's erection, straining at the air below the crumpled hem of his button-down shirt, and traveled up to center on his face.

"Look at you," Thierry murmured, his lips lifting into a satisfied smile. "Flushed and waiting."

He ran his hands down to the hollow where Boyd's bare thighs met his hips. Thierry's thumbs rubbed near the curl of hair at the base of Boyd's cock. Boyd moaned quietly, his cock twitching, and Thierry's hands shifted away again.

The cushion of the couch depressed beneath Thierry's weight as he braced his hands on either side of Boyd's face. He leaned down to kiss and nuzzle against Boyd's cheek. "You are so perfect," he breathed into Boyd's ear. "If I could capture this moment..."

There was a pause as Boyd's chest rose and fell beneath Thierry's; their bodies nearly touching but not quite. Thierry kissed him again on the cheek and then slid off him, standing at the side of the couch. Boyd looked at him questioningly but before he could say anything, Thierry had his hand held out and smiled.


Boyd watched him a second and then held his hand up, letting Thierry pull him off the couch to a stand. They stepped around the coffee table, where Thierry paused to pull a condom and a bottle of lube out of a discreet drawer. There was a rug laid out in front of the fireplace and Thierry pushed Boyd down until he laid on his back. The warmth of the fireplace surrounded him, rolling over him in waves while the rug against his bare skin felt decadent.

Boyd felt lost in the moment; drugged from the heat, the wine, and the need to fulfill the desire that had been building steadily within him.

The sound of the condom wrapper being ripped open was muffled beneath words Thierry murmured in French that Boyd barely listened to. He lay back against the rug, his head tilted and eyes burning down his body; locked on Thierry's every movement.

Thierry had taken his pants off somewhere along the line and was pulling a condom over his erection. His eyes were centered on Boyd and the display of his body; wide open and ready to receive him. It didn't take Thierry long to prepare himself with lube and then he was leaning forward, mouth unerringly finding Boyd's again while his erection slid alongside Boyd's. Boyd's groans grew louder and more helpless and then Thierry was shifting, his erection moving to slide between Boyd's butt cheeks and press maddeningly at his opening.

Boyd didn't hear himself gasping, asking for Thierry to do it. He only felt desire that ripened into passion as soon as Thierry finally relented and pressed his erection into Boyd's body. Boyd felt himself stretching painfully to accept Thierry's girth and for a second he could only arch beneath him; cock ramrod straight and body straining. Thierry paused, his lips raining kisses along Boyd's mouth and jawline, until Boyd was able to relax and the pain receded.

When Thierry moved, Boyd's thoughts scattered like leaves in the wind.

Pleasure blossomed in Boyd; a small bit at first that expanded incredibly fast and soon took over his whole mind. Thierry rocked into him; pulling his cock out and pressing it back in; a maddeningly slow movement at first that let Boyd feel every second of pleasure that his body could endure. Boyd arched and writhed and pressed up against Thierry; his feet braced against the rug to give a better angle while his body worked with Thierry's in the rolling of their hips. Boyd moaned, wordlessly begging for more, and just when he felt like he was going to go insane from pleasure just on the cusp of his reach, Thierry complied.

The sound of flesh slapping against flesh mingled with their moans and gasps. Boyd felt himself nearly come the first time Thierry shoved into him faster, deeper. His toes curled against the rug and he shook his head helplessly, his head thrown back and body quaking. His fingers dug into the tendrils of the rug and he nearly lost himself in pleasure. Somehow Thierry sensed it and held back just long enough for Boyd to, gasping, regain his control.

Then they were rocking against each other in heady abandon and Boyd's moans grew to echo in the wide open room, intermingled with Thierry's quieter groans.

Thierry was a confident but gentle lover; worshiping every piece of Boyd that he touched as if he were a priceless piece of art to be handled properly. There was skill and passion in his lips and tongue and hands, and the burn of his eyes when he stared down at Boyd.

As Thierry brought him closer to orgasm Boyd let it all slide away for the moment; the fears and uncertainty and hopelessness that had plagued him too often the last few years. He let himself forget about everything and focus solely on the pleasure of a body moving against his, and the heat of an orgasm curling in his stomach and flooding him with anticipation.

His hand snapped down to his cock not long after and this time Thierry allowed it; plowing deep into Boyd with heat and pressure that made Boyd feel dizzy.

He hadn't been touched like this in years and it was making it all come back; blue eyes hovering over his and soft lips he'd kissed innumerable times smiling down at him. Curly blond hair mingling with his. Their fingers intertwined as they panted, trying to stay silent in Boyd's bedroom even though Boyd never managed that. Inevitably, his voice was always freed from him with throaty moans and hoarse words saying how good it felt. Moaning his best friend and lover's name like a desperate prayer.

Those memories were muted with the alcohol and heat, and for a moment with his eyes closed he grew confused by thoughts of other touches against his skin. The memory of Sin's hands brushing against him and that uncontrollable flash of electricity that always seemed to linger behind. Those pale green eyes burning into him and that hard body with water sliding down it from a recent shower.

A thought came unbidden to his mind: if it felt this good with touches that didn't ignite his skin, what would it be like with Sin doing this instead? What would it be like to rock against that muscular body, and have that large cock buried deep inside him as their bare skin pressed against each other relentlessly?

Thierry's voice slid through that thought; murmuring words Boyd hardly heard as he lost himself in the feel of an erection pressing against his sensitive nerves. His hand quickened on his cock, jerking and sliding and squeezing. Thierry reached beneath Boyd's thighs and pulled him up at a different angle, spearing more deeply into him.

Boyd's body snapped, his eyes going wide open as his orgasm abruptly slammed through him. He came hard, his hand still jerking helplessly against his cock and his whole body tense and arching beneath Thierry. Boyd was moaning, nearly shouting with the intensity of the pleasure ripping through him, and for a second he didn't see the room around him. All he saw were white sparks dancing behind his eyes and all he felt was rapture rushing through his blood.

When he was finished, he panted heavily and slumped down. His body was sated and heavy from the rush of orgasm. Thierry kept rocking into him, his hands squeezing against Boyd's thighs until his moans became more urgent and breathy. Then his body was snapping, his hips helplessly jerking more quickly against the pressured heat of Boyd's body, and he came. He still rolled his hips against Boyd for a few seconds as he finished, wringing every bit of pleasure out of it for both of them. Boyd lay back against the rug, exhaustion mingling with satiation, and languished in the feel of that hard cock still rolling into him until finally Thierry stopped moving.

Thierry's hands pressed against the rug above Boyd's shoulders and he hovered over Boyd, still inside him although Boyd could feel him softening. He kissed Boyd, their lips pressing against each other and heads tilting just so in order for their tongues to tangle. The kiss lessened and then Thierry's tongue slid out of Boyd's mouth. He kissed Boyd along the side of his lips and then down his jaw, ending once more on the side of his neck. Boyd could feel the moist heat of Thierry's breath against his neck, stirring his long blond hair that was spread out on the rug beneath him.

And then Thierry was pulling out of him and dropping onto the rug beside him. He pulled the condom off and put it to the side out of the way.

For a moment, they didn't speak while they each fought to catch their breath. Boyd felt his body burning from the heat of orgasm and he felt too tired to move. He stared up at the ceiling, his body tingling and eyes falling half shut. Thierry's hand was on him again, brushing down his cheek and sliding into the strands of his hair, damp from exertion and clinging to his skin. Boyd's head tilted over and he looked at Thierry. The older man was watching him with sated pleasure but there was something else there. Something that could possibly be fondness or perhaps simply satisfaction from great sex.

Still, with the passion of the moment starting to cool like the sheen of sweat on his skin, Boyd's mind started working again. The circumstances one by one fell back into place until the reality of what had just happened was undeniable.

He'd just had sex with someone for information.

It was something he never would have thought he would do and something he couldn't turn back from having done. The disgust in Sin's eyes flashed in his mind and he couldn't get the harsh words out of his head:

I still wouldn't ever become their little prostitute.

Boyd looked away from Thierry, his expression becoming blank as he turned his face toward the fireplace. Something curled in his chest at the memory of Sin's words and he didn't have the presence of mind to be able to identify what it was. Shame? Defensiveness? Resignation?

The wine still muddied his thoughts; the post-orgasmic bliss slowing down his movements. But none of that was enough to make him forget the situation. The bit of possible affection he thought he'd seen in Thierry's face and all those gentle touches Thierry had rained down on him only underlined to him that their motivations were different. Whatever it was Thierry had wanted from him, even if it was just to have sex with someone he was attracted to, Boyd had only ever wanted information. Without that forcing his hand, he never would have been lying here half naked after having let Thierry fuck him.

He sighed quietly and pushed himself up to sit. He moved mussed hair out of his face and looked down at Thierry, not missing the small flash of disappointment in the man's eyes. It made that unidentifiable emotion burn deeper within him.

"Thierry," Boyd said, his voice still husky and thick. "About the information..."

He was interrupted by the sound of a cell phone chiming loudly. Thierry rolled onto his side elegantly, reaching for his pants. He answered the phone and soon stood, walking away.

Boyd watched Thierry's bare back disappear into the kitchen. When he didn't immediately reappear, Boyd pushed himself up to a stand and looked for his clothing. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, just finishing with his shoes when Thierry returned. He rested his arms on his knees and watched Thierry.

"Unfortunately, I must go dear one. My assistant is arranging a flight as we speak."

Boyd's eyebrows shot up and he stood. "But we haven't had the chance to talk..." If Thierry still denied him the information even after all this, Boyd didn't know what he would do.

Thierry was tying the sash to a robe that hung on his muscular shoulders as he flashed Boyd a quick, charming smile. "Do not fret. I have the information on a flash drive, I will send it with you when my driver takes you back to the hotel."

"Oh." Boyd felt warily hopeful about that news but wasn't going to feel like the mission was over until the flash drive was safely in his hands. Still, he felt a little relieved that Thierry didn't deflect or ignore the topic again. "Thank you."

"I hope that you will want to see me again some day. Perhaps this was not just for work?" Thierry's eyes stayed on him for a moment before drifting away.

The comment made Boyd feel like Thierry really did like him and hoped he would say it was more. And that made him not know what to say. He didn't want to lead Thierry on or lie to him but at the same time he didn't want to be rude. He didn't dislike Thierry but the reason he'd had sex with him was for work.

Still, he didn't know if the Agency would need to contact Thierry again so he didn't want to say the wrong thing. And, more importantly, Thierry had been kind in his own way. He'd welcomed Boyd into his home and had made sure Boyd had a pleasurable night. He didn't deserve a slap in the face after all that no matter how often he'd deflected questions about business. Especially since Boyd had actually enjoyed some of their conversations.

"You're a very charming man, Thierry," Boyd replied with a small smile. "I was worried about the information but I still enjoyed my time with you. I can't say what would happen if we saw each other again, but I would be happy to talk to you again. You're the first person I've met since joining the Agency who has so much in common with me."

"I am glad to hear it." Thierry came over and kissed Boyd's face again, although he didn't make an attempt to do anything more.

They said their goodbyes, Thierry's including a brief, lingering touch. It wasn't long until Thierry's driver appeared at the door, somehow seeming to know the precise moment to appear. That seemed to be the case with all the people Thierry hired.

Boyd followed the driver down to the town car, and the whole ride back to the hotel he still worried about the flash drive. He was planning to ask about it but when he got out of the car, the driver opened the window and held out a plain white envelope. Boyd accepted it, feeling the familiar lines of a flash drive inside. He felt a measure more of relief and told the driver to thank Thierry once again. He placed the envelope safely inside an inner pocket and headed toward the bank of elevators inside the hotel. He still felt a little light-headed from the alcohol.

He was still thinking about Thierry and the flash drive when he opened the door to the hotel room.

Being so distracted, he was nearly hit in the face.

He barely dodged out of the way, jerking his head to the side as there was a crash against the wall. It took a second for him to realize that something had been thrown at him, and another second to realize it was the remote to Sin's collar. The remote had shattered and fallen to pieces, scattered on the floor.

Boyd looked up, completely taken aback, and saw Sin standing across the room. His eyes were narrowed and body taut, clearly angry. Taken so off guard by nearly getting brained, Boyd couldn't stop himself from demanding, "What the hell?"

"What the hell yourself," Sin said coldly, flexing his fingers. His words were laced with barely concealed ire. Everything from his expression to the tension in his body was humming with hostility.

Boyd looked down at the remote on the floor and back up at Sin warily. It wasn't difficult to figure out what Sin what must be thinking, and at the moment he seemed furious enough to snap. Boyd didn't know what could trigger an episode so he quickly tried to think of the best way to explain without making the situation worse.

"Sin, I wasn't--"

"Don't give me your fucking--" Sin crossed the room with disturbing speed, stopping only when he was centimeters from Boyd's face. "--bullshit," he growled, shoving Boyd back against the wall. He leaned forward until they were nose to nose, his lips pulled back into a snarl as his eyes glittered dangerously behind his messy black hair. "You like fucking with me, don't you?"

"I'm not fucking with you." Red flags went off in Boyd's mind. With Sin that close and angry, he didn't know what would happen. He shifted and started to move around Sin, wanting to have more maneuverability. "Aren't you even going to let me answer?"

"It doesn't matter," Sin growled, slamming Boyd against the wall with more force, and causing his head to snap back against the wall. A spike of pain shot down Boyd's neck. Before Boyd could do anything, he felt his wrists being grabbed and twisted up, and pinned above his head. Sin shoved Boyd against the wall with his body, and leaned in close enough for their faces to nearly touch.

"What are you going to say?" he asked, his mouth pressing against Boyd's ear, voice low and hateful. The heat of his breath curled against Boyd's skin. "You weren't going to use it? Then why was it in your pocket? Why did you fucking bring it? Everything you say is bullshit, and a lie, you just fuck with my mind and I'm stupid enough to-- to just let you..."

A growl of frustration vibrated in Boyd's eardrum.

Boyd tried to stay still. The mood Sin was in was violent, dangerous, and it was something that had never been directed at Boyd before. But his thoughts kept zeroing in on the feel of his wrists crushed in Sin's grip, and the knowledge that he couldn't get away. The immovable press of Sin's body against his and the confusion of the different distractions that represented.

He jerked at his arms without thinking but they didn't move. His breath quickened at that, his chest rising and falling to brush against Sin's. He pulled harder and tried to twist away but it was useless. And the more he realized that, the more he wanted Sin to let him go and back up just a step. The vulnerability of the position made it difficult to concentrate on anything but the fear growing in him.

"Let me go," Boyd ground out.

"I want to hurt you so bad right now," Sin's deep voice uttered in his ear, as the grip only tightened.

Boyd's breath caught and his stomach fluttered at the words. He struggled but Sin's body was pressed against his, keeping him flat against the wall. He grit his teeth as his head pressed back against the wall, his heart slamming in his chest as he tried to concentrate on anything but any of the thoughts clamoring for his attention. His fingers curled uselessly above Sin's hold.

"What do you want from me?" he burst out.

"I want you to go away," Sin growled back, tightening his grip until his fingers were digging into Boyd violently. His breath was coming fast, and he shook his head. "I was fine before you came along, and now you did this to me and I want to fucking rip your throat out so bad, and I still can't do it."

Frustration and uncertainty spiked within Boyd. "Did what to you?" His fingers tingled as he started to lose feeling in them. "What the hell did I do?"

"You made me think that--" There was another frustrated hiss of breath and Sin pulled back slightly so that his eyes were burning into Boyd's while their faces practically pressed together. "I fucking thought--"

Sin broke off again, gnashing his teeth and jerking Boyd violently against the wall. "He was a helpless, emaciated, fucking drug addict. And I ripped him apart because of what he did to you, and you-- you just treat me like I'm a freak, and you sit there in my face and make nice with Thierry and let him take you home and fuck you."

"Goddammit, Sin, it's not the same thing!" Even if Boyd hadn't been caught by Sin's body, he would have been caught by the look in his eyes.

"It's--" His lips parted and his eyebrows drew together. His eyes were intense on Sin; tainted with the memories he'd tried so long to ignore and the difficulty of it all being brought up again. "Thierry was for work. Everything with you--" He stopped, frustrated by his inability to finish a sentence. "It's hard for me to talk about like this but it isn't how it seems to you. I don't think you're a--"

"Just shut up," Sin cut him off, shaking his head. They were so close that his hair mingled with Boyd's by the motion, curtaining their faces slightly. "It doesn't matter-- I just want you gone."

Sin's released Boyd's hands from the wall and then moved his hands up the side of Boyd's neck. Sin's hands were shaking slightly; from frustration or rage, Boyd didn't know. But when Sin's fingers moved up to dig into Boyd's face as their foreheads touched and air shared between their mouths, Sin didn't seem to have a very good handle on the situation at all. The decisiveness and confidence he usually maintained was gone in the place of this ragged desperation and anger.

"I wish I could hate you. You make me so fucking angry all the time, you make me act this way--"

With his hands free, the tension and fear that had been thrumming in the back of Boyd's mind dissipated. He reached up to where Sin was painfully gripping the side of his face, his fingers around Sin's wrist. He didn't know what he planned to do but when he felt Sin's heartbeat pulsing faintly against his fingers, it sidetracked whatever movement he'd intended. He shifted his thumb absently across Sin's skin, feeling the rise and fall of his tendons and veins.

For a moment, he didn't know what to think. Sin's eyes felt too close; too phenomenally green and far too intense and focused on him. And when Boyd's lips parted, any words he'd planned to say briefly failed him when their lips brushed. He could feel Sin's breath, heating his skin, and feel the tickle of that silky black hair against his temple. His fingers twitched against Sin's wrist and his head tilted slightly; just enough to feel that maddening touch against his lips again.

He hadn't realized his eyes had dropped to look down at Sin's mouth until he felt his eyelashes barely brush against Sin. He looked back up, those green eyes drawing in his attention to the exclusion of all else.

"What--" His voice sounded too thick the first time so he stopped and started again. "What do you want me to say?"

Every word caused their lips to brush together more, and Sin seemed to unconsciously lean into it. "Nothing," he said, his voice the same angry growl. A ragged breath escaped his throat.

His fingers did not become any gentler even as the word brought their mouths together again, this time with more pressure. He leaned in again, his fingers digging in harder and his body pressing in closer despite the fact that his body was still taut with barely concealed rage. Even with the violent blackness still emanating from him, he seemed unable to create space between them despite the intimacy that it was creating.

Every time Sin's lips touched his, Boyd felt a current pass through him that made it harder and harder to think. The obvious anger wasn't enough anymore to stop Boyd from being aware of every plane of Sin's body, pressing against him. Even with the pain of Sin's fingers digging into him he couldn't ignore the addictive feel of Sin's bare skin beneath his fingertips, or the fire that burned in those green eyes. Boyd's breath let out shakily and his fingers tightened on Sin's wrist.

"Then--" he started to say.

He was cut off when Sin's mouth crushed against his in a hard kiss.

The kiss took away whatever control Boyd had. His hands jerked up to grip Sin's arms and a ragged groan wrenched from the depths of his throat. Their lips and tongues were warring with each other before Boyd even realized he'd opened his mouth.

Suddenly Sin's taste was all around him; intoxicating and making him crave more. Every time he'd been attracted to Sin and had ignored it, every time he'd wondered what Sin would feel like pressed against him, came back at him in an overwhelming wave of desire.

He wanted-- needed-- more. He had to taste every centimeter of Sin and feel every millimeter of him press him to the wall. He had to swallow every muffled moan and dig his fingers into those hard, muscular arms.

Sin's long fingers slid through his hair, ripping his head back as he continued to explore Boyd's mouth with his tongue. The same harsh desperation was present in the way he kissed Boyd, in the way his hands gripped him violently. But the hunger in it, the hot frantic pace, sent sparks of fire shooting through Boyd's body.

They panted against each other's mouths, teeth clicking together at times as they ravaged each other sloppily, noisily, as low groans echoed in the otherwise silent room. A low swear escaped Sin's mouth when after awhile one, or both of them, began grinding against the other almost unconsciously.

Sin yanked Boyd forward like a rag doll and before Boyd's spinning mind could even comprehend the fast, savage motions, he was on the floor and Sin was on top of him.

Boyd threw his head back and gasped loudly as the new position gave more strength to the grinding of their hips. He was almost uncomfortably hard, his body coming alight to every brush and push and pull of Sin's hands on his body. He felt dizzy with the savage passion of the moment and the jerking motion of their bodies.

His hands scrambled across Sin's back, fingers gripping and digging in; scrabbling for a place to hold while at the same time wanting to touch every part of him. Sin's mouth was on his; his hands tangled in Boyd's long hair and pulling back. Their kiss was all nipping and sucking and jaws working hectically and Boyd had never experienced anything like it. He felt swept away by the pure, unbridled hunger with which they devoured each other whole.

Boyd slammed his hips up against Sin's, his breath quick and frantic and not enough to fuel his feverish mind. Sin's lips pulled away and the loss was nearly devastating until Boyd felt Sin's hot breath traveling down his neck. Moist heat followed the erotic feel of Sin licking him, followed almost immediately by his teeth nicking him. Boyd's body arched up against Sin with an, "Ahh!" that became, "Ohh fu--" and then a groaning shout.

Lips that were pressed red from hungered kissing dropped wide open and Boyd's body was taut with a nearly overwhelming desire to feel everything of Sin at once. Suddenly, the layer of clothing between them was too much. His hands jerked down to Sin's waistband and, trembling with the need to feel Sin's naked erection against his own, he started to unbutton Sin's pants. His thumbs and fingers felt clumsy and every part of him was yearning toward Sin until Sin's hand sliding beneath his shirt made his heart nearly stop.

Tension of a different sort slammed through Boyd's veins like ice. He grabbed Sin's wrist and pulled it away, starting to say, "Wait."

Sin twisted out of Boyd's grip and closed powerful fingers around his wrist. He slammed Boyd's arm down impatiently, pinning it to the floor. Boyd jerked at his arm automatically but Sin only tightened his grip. Fear was like cold water running through Boyd's veins; a chill raising the hair on his skin.

"Sin, wait--" he burst out in growing alarm.

There was no chance for thought. Sin's other hand was already going for his shirt.

The terror of being held down took on a whole new level that transcended the moment. The fear that was so ingrained within him at the idea of anyone seeing his bare chest made him feel nauseated and exposed and far too vulnerable-- The grip of that hand on his wrist suddenly grew more ominous and the fear he'd felt earlier returned with a vengeance-- the knowledge that he was entirely at someone else's disposal and they could do anything-- they could hurt him and no one would hear him scream--

Boyd panicked.

"No!" he shouted, the word wrenching out of him.

He struggled furiously beneath Sin; not feeling when Sin's grip changed or when the weight of his body started to pull away. His eyes were blind to everything around him. All he knew was someone was restricting his movement and he needed to get away but he couldn't-- he couldn't, he was trapped and anyone could do anything to him and he wouldn't be able to stop it--

He lashed out violently, one fist catching Sin on the shoulder as he hardly even registered himself screaming, "No, no, don't touch me--"

The next thing he knew he was sitting up, his knees drawn to his chest and hair awry. His body trembled with tension and fear and his heart jack-hammered against his ribs in a painful rhythm that nearly stumbled over itself in alarm. His lips were parted as he panted heavily and his fingers gripped his knees while, wild-eyed, he stared at Sin.

There was confusion in Sin's green eyes; confusion that was mixed with something else that wasn't as readily identifiable. But both emotions faded quickly until Sin's face was inscrutable. Without a word, he stood and walked into his room.

Boyd stayed crouched there for a minute; shaking and overwhelmed. He dropped his head into his hands, his fingers digging painfully into his hair and yanking back, and he dropped his forehead forward. The ragged panting of his breath caught moisture between his chest and knees and he felt sick to his stomach. He couldn't even fully comprehend what had just happened; the vestiges of panic were still shifting their way around his pounding heart and the scattered thoughts of his mind.

His head pounded to the drumbeat of his heart and his stomach clenched inwardly. He had to swallow back bile and fight against the confusion that swirled around him maddeningly like a snow storm.

When he finally was able to come to grips with the situation, he hissed out a harsh breath against his knees. Exhaustion was a seductive pull on his mind and body. When he pushed himself to a stand, he looked past Sin's shut door but couldn't go over there. He had no words for anything; no way to think properly about any of this and certainly nothing that could make it better.

He was still feeling the fear too keenly, and with it came the memories that had been bubbling too close to the surface lately. There was too much vying for his attention; too many thoughts and feelings and clustered, contrasting feelings cluttering up his head. He felt so weary and, in some ways, scared. Scared of all the things that were happening and the lack of control over so much, and the knowledge that his body and his mind were sometimes running full speed in opposite directions, with him left behind feeling torn.

He disappeared into his bedroom, leaving the palpable feeling of leftover tension behind in the common room. He couldn't think and didn't want to, and knew the luxury of a blank mind would not extend to the hours of the night. His mind was on overdrive despite the pressure of exhaustion on his body. He lay there for what felt like hours, eyes alternatively wide open and squeezed shut, and his teeth gritting as he tried to hold together control of his emotions.

What little sleep finally overtook him was filled with restless, harrowing nightmares, and dreams where everything went horribly wrong and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The next morning came far too quickly. Boyd's eyes burned as if he hadn't gotten a wink of sleep and his body felt creaky and hollow, like a dusty old house. He hit the alarm clock a little harder than he'd meant to, and it was a process to drag himself out of bed and pack his clothing. He felt the presence of the door to the main room behind him like a hard stare centered on his back. When he could no longer delay it, he went out into common room.

Sin was sitting on the couch, his bag ready to go and resting near him. He wasn't doing or saying anything but cold silence filled the room like a muffling blanket. Boyd felt it strongly and noticed that Sin didn't look over even at the sound of the door opening.

At first, Boyd went about finishing packing. He put away his jacket and felt far too aware of the broken remote in the corner when he went to retrieve his trench coat. He kept glancing at Sin in the corner of his eye, wondering if he should say anything and at the prospect feeling such an overwhelming lack of inspiration that it dried up any words in his throat.

When everything was ready and he had nothing to do but hover there awkwardly, he checked his watch and saw that they still had about fifteen minutes until they needed to go downstairs even early to catch the ride to the plane. He perched on the arm of the couch and looked over at Sin.

"Sin, I..." Boyd started to say, his voice seeming abrupt in the quiet. Sin looked over, his green eyes cold and unreadable.

The blank set of Sin's features made Boyd's throat close. The words that had been difficult to say before now felt nearly impossible under the weight of the previous night. Even without that, what could he say? I didn't mean to hurt you? I need some time alone to think? I never meant for any of this to happen?

None of that would mean anything.

He closed his mouth, looking away with a troubled look. After a second, he shook his head and stood. He turned his back on Sin but then paused and looked over. His eyebrows drew together.

The only words that came to mind were, "I-- was never going to use that." He gestured at the remote.


The flat words didn't give Boyd any indication as to whether Sin believed him. Boyd let the silence stretch but the fact that Sin spoke at all seemed like it could be a good sign. He hesitated, and then forced himself to push on before he could lose the ability to say even this much.

"And, last night, I--" He stopped, searching for words with his hands rising briefly. He dropped his hands into his lap and shook his head. "I panicked."

"I have no idea why such a ridiculous thing happened anyway," Sin replied in the same blank tone. He pulled a palm panel out of his pocket and flipped it on. "I'm not usually in the habit of wanting to finish someone's leftovers."

The comment felt like a slap in the face. Boyd opened his mouth but words didn't come at first.

It wasn't something he could deny.

Going into this trip he hadn't planned to have sex with anyone, and he certainly hadn't planned to move on to nearly fucking Sin right after he'd finished with Thierry. That behavior was completely uncharacteristic of him and he still couldn't fully say what happened.

But then, he hadn't expected to feel that drugged heat of Sin's body shoved against his. Or for a hectic hunger he'd never felt before to steal away his thoughts and make him unable to stop from wanting more and more of his partner. If Sin hadn't accidentally triggered ingrained thoughts and memories that made him panic, they probably would have continued.

The worst part was, even in the light of morning looking back on the follies of the day before, he couldn't forget the electricity that had shot through him at every one of Sin's touches. He couldn't forget the way his body had craved Sin like an addiction.

And he couldn't say that he didn't still want it, even knowing how awkward and cold things were, and knowing Sin was angry with him, and knowing it was probably impossible that anything like that would ever happen again.

Even knowing all that, he couldn't regret what had happened, what had almost happened, and he couldn't ignore the part of him that was unable to deny his attraction to Sin any longer. He couldn't put the whole thing down to some silly mistake or being drunk, because he'd been noticing Sin for months.

The inclusion of Thierry the night before-- If that ruined things between them, if it took away an opportunity he hadn't planned to pursue but had been given the chance to follow anyway...

Boyd's eyebrows lowered as he watched Sin. "So-- if it hadn't been for Thierry last night..."

"I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's bad enough that I behaved that way at all."

Sin shoved his panel into the pocket of his cargo pants and stood up, grabbing his pack. He seemed to be studiously avoiding making eye contact, his full mouth turned down into a scowl-- the first signs of an expression since the conversation had begun.

Boyd watched Sin for a moment, wondering what that meant and whether Sin regretted what had happened, the way he said he'd regretted ever trying to help Boyd in the first place. Not wanting to push it, or maybe more than that not wanting to find out that was true, he looked away and let the topic drop.

It wasn't long until it was time to head to the airport. The plane ride home was spent in silence between the two of them. Boyd didn't know what to say or even if he wanted to talk at all, and Sin didn't speak.

Boyd used his Agency panel to write the report during the long hours they were in the air. When he was finished and sent it off on the secure connection, he found himself staring at the blank screen. With nothing to distract him further and Sin's presence next to him, he couldn't help going over the previous night.

Logically, he understood why he had panicked. He knew it stemmed from Lou's murder and everything that had happened afterward. He'd known since then that any time he was held down or he lost control of a situation, it scared him. Even if the other person had no intention of hurting him, he couldn't help panicking, reliving memories at times and at other times simply reliving the fear in the automatic struggling of his body.

Even logically knowing that Sin probably hadn't intended or meant to hurt him didn't mean he'd been able to so easily convince the adrenaline-laced aftermath in his body. Or fully ignore the disturbed, nearly nauseated feeling at the thought of anyone bearing witness to the memory of a time he'd struggled for so long to deal with. It was a Domino effect of thoughts and reactions that triggered every time the idea came up that someone was going to touch his bare chest or see him when he didn't want to be seen.

And since he never even wanted to look at himself in the mirror-- the very idea of it aversive to him-- there was never a point when he wanted to be touched; wanted to be seen. Never a point when the idea of it didn't fill him with fear, and the act of it making it worse.

He found himself watching Sin out of the corner of his eye occasionally but Sin's expression hadn't changed. Although they sat next to each other, their arms occasionally brushing each other due to the close quarters, they interacted as little as if they were miles apart. Boyd tried to sleep a few times and was only marginally successful.

Boyd felt like they had been gone much longer than a couple of days when they made it back to the Agency. He checked to make sure the report had been received and found that the debriefing was set a few hours later. He decided to go home to shower and change.

For some reason, once he was home alone, time seemed to drag endlessly. He felt isolated in those empty rooms and it was more difficult not to think too much about everything that had happened on the trip. The argument with Sin. The night at Thierry's. Those heated few minutes with Sin and the subsequent fall out. He dropped his forehead into his hands, sitting on the edge of his couch and closing his eyes against the thoughts pounding through his head.

When he left his house, he noticed his neighbor Mrs. Hensley watching him openly through her kitchen window. When she saw his head tilt in her direction, the blinds abruptly fell down with a swish. He resisted the urge to shake his head and just got into his vehicle.

She had been eyeing his family for most of his life but it had grown even more pronounced the last few years. He was fairly certain she'd witnessed a time he and Lou had messed around in the living room, one night when they'd forgotten to close the shades. The memory was bittersweet and filled with the weight of loss, and he sighed when he put his car into reverse. He couldn't think too much about Lou or the pain of it all would distract him during the meeting.

When he walked into the conference room, he saw that most of them were already there and seated. He paused very briefly before deciding to take his usual spot at Sin's side.

"Hey Boyd," Ryan greeted him with a smile.

"Hi," Boyd replied. He sat back in the chair, his fingers absently tightening around the flash drive in his pocket the way they had on and off since he'd been given the information. He was anxious to give it over to Carhart.

"I'm busy right after this," Ryan said quietly, when the door opened and Carhart came in. "But can I call you later? I wanted to see if we could set up a training thing like we talked about before."

"Of course," Boyd said with a nod, although his eyes strayed to Carhart like a magnet. The flash drive was burning a hole in his mind. He was tempted to give it to Carhart immediately but decided to wait until the appropriate time.

"I was think--"

"First of all, good job Boyd," Carhart cut Ryan off as soon as he sat down.

He glanced over at Jeffrey and nodded. The analyst seemed to take that as a cue because he began going through whatever documents he had before him. Jeffrey was one of the rare people who still preferred paperwork to electronic copies in some circumstances.

"Not only did Thierry come through for us for the first time, but you managed to develop a romantic relationship with him that may be helpful to us in the future."

Jeffrey's fingers paused briefly in flipping through his papers and he looked sidelong at Carhart before returning his gaze to Boyd with a raised eyebrow. He somehow managed to look disparaging and smug at once, without saying a single word. Meanwhile, Ryan looked at Boyd in surprise, his expression mirrored by Owen.

Boyd kept his expression perfectly blank, although he couldn't help a spike of irritation by the cavalier way Carhart had mentioned that. He hadn't planned to tell everyone since it wasn't really anyone's business anyway. And as far as that went, what did he mean by it being helpful in the future? He hoped Carhart simply meant they could play on the way Thierry had seemed to like him, and not that they expected any of that to happen again.

He dug into his pocket, wondering also why Carhart seemed so confident about information they hadn't even seen yet. The flash drive had been too heavily encrypted for Boyd to even know what was on it. He avoided eye contact with the others and held the flash drive out to Carhart.

"Do you want this now or later?"

"Jeffrey will take it. He's been decoding the information since early yesterday, but it is always good to have a hard copy."

Boyd felt the room go still around him. Early yesterday? How could they possibly... The flash drive felt heavy in his hand as he stared at Carhart.

"Yesterday?" His voice came out surprisingly even considering the way his mind was racing.

The General nodded, not seeming to notice anything was amiss. "Yes, Thierry e-mailed the information early yesterday morning. We haven't gotten far yet, but judging from the level of encryption-- well, Jeffrey can explain it."

Sin turned his head and stared at Boyd for a long moment before letting his pale green eyes drift away.

The information made Boyd's mouth go dry and he dropped his hand to the table, the flash drive still clutched in his hand. When he calculated the time difference in his head, that meant Thierry must have sent it to the Agency after their lunch but before Boyd had gone to his loft.

Anger coursed through Boyd. That bastard. Thierry had refused to talk business and had strung Boyd along until he'd felt the crunch of time-- until Thierry's advances had been what Boyd had felt were his sole hope for getting the information-- And all along it had already been sent?

Had the wine been to make him more compliant? All that talk that had made Boyd feel sympathetic toward him, all those times Thierry had changed the subject to a topic that Boyd could identify with, all those times Thierry had acted like he liked Boyd--

Had anything been real or had he been playing Boyd all along?

He'd gotten Boyd to have sex with him based on needing information he'd already sent, and then had the audacity to ask Boyd whether it had all been about work for him-- and Boyd had even felt bad for the man. He'd felt like he was the one being an asshole by not reciprocating affection toward Thierry-- affection he was now doubting had ever been anything more than part of a carefully crafted game.

All that second-guessing and the hesitation and the arguments with Sin and the possible degradation of their partnership-- for nothing. For a man who'd manipulated everything just so he could fuck an agent he wanted to fuck-- And the whole time Boyd had known Thierry was known to be manipulative, he'd known he could be a seducer, but he'd thought he'd been in control. He'd thought it was the only choice he had...

He felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He sat back in his chair, hardly hearing a word of the meeting around him as he brooded about how furious and disgusted he was with the entire situation.

He started paying attention around the point that Jeffrey talked about the information more in detail.

"There are essentially two files I'll need to decrypt; what looks like a public-key cryptosystem and a one-time pad. The public-key will take a bit but I should be able to crack it. But the OTP will be a hassle." He looked up at Carhart with a serious look. "If they did that right, it's unbreakable."

Carhart stared at him flatly. "So then it's pointless?"

"Not necessarily," Jeffrey replied, straightening his back and looking very much in his element. "Thierry plays games but I doubt even he would have given us information we could not decipher. I have some ideas for dealing with this, including checking into some extra files on here that may be nothing. If I were a betting man, I'd say I'm going to have to decipher both main files and somehow combine the information between the two before I can fully understand what exactly is on here. But this is the level of encryption I would expect from Janus, so it lends credence to the idea that it may be legitimate. I just won't know until I'm done."

There was a brief silence as Carhart rubbed his chin and seemed to take in this information. "How long are we looking at?"

Jeffrey shook his head and pushed a sheet of paper back in place on top of the pile. "Hard to say, sir. It could be weeks; it could be months..." His lips turned down on the edges. "If I didn't have access to the sort of equipment I do here at the Agency, it could have potentially been years. A lot of it depends on how difficult or random the algorithms are. The one thing I know for sure is the OTP will take awhile. I'll have to rely on Thierry to have given us a clue for that or we will get nowhere with it. But I'm confident I can figure something out."

The General shook his head in disgust. "Leave it to that bastard to give us information that may be out of date by the time it's decrypted. I guess we will just have to take it on faith that he didn't screw us."

Jeffrey smirked at that and looked over at Boyd; his tone light when he spoke. "Oh, I think some of it could be taken for fact."

Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly but he didn't say anything.

The rest of the debriefing passed without incident, although Boyd noticed Jeffrey glancing at him in amusement now and then. He seemed to have taken some amount of delight in knowing what had happened between Thierry and Boyd. When the debriefing ended, Ryan reminded him about calling but had to rush off. Carhart and Owen were next, with Jeffrey glancing over his shoulder with a smirk one last time.

Boyd hadn't felt like walking out with any of them so he let them all leave. He planned to do the same with Sin, but his partner didn't leave right away. After a second of waiting, Boyd stood and turned to go.

"I hope you realize how badly you fucked yourself," Sin's deep voice rang out.

Boyd was half tempted to keep walking but Sin's words made him pause and look over his shoulder. "What do you mean?"

Sin scoffed and looked at him flatly, pushing his chair back to stand. "I mean you should have listened to me instead of disregarding what I had to say."

Boyd shook his head impatiently. He felt like he'd already received enough slaps in the face with what he'd learned and the looks he'd received during the mission. He didn't want to have to stand around while Sin rubbed it in his face even more.

"Look, if you just wanted to keep me behind to tell me I told you so, I don't see why we need to talk about it. You said I would regret it. Knowing now how everything turned out, I do." He spread his hands. "Happy?"

Sin shrugged as he looked at Boyd scornfully, moving around the table to approach him. He looked his partner up and down, green eyes moving over him slowly before focusing on Boyd's face once again.

"It's strange how I thought I had you figured out, only to realize you're nothing like you appeared to be."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Boyd asked, irritation rising. He wanted to walk out of there but for some reason couldn't; not with Sin talking to him. "Weren't you the one trying to get me to go off with that girl in the diner? Why was one time of casual sex so acceptable to you there but suddenly so terrible when I made a mistake thinking I had to do it with Thierry?"

"Because doing something for yourself, and doing something for the Agency are entirely different things, you idiot." Sin stopped and stared at Boyd before shaking his head. "You pretty much submitted a resume to become a valentine, and you're attempting to compare that to sleeping with a waitress?"

"Valentine?" Boyd echoed blankly. The term sounded only vaguely familiar to him. "What are you talking about?"

There was a long silence as Sin glared at him with increasing impatience and hostility. "You are the worst. So willing to do anything for the cause, but you don't even know basic things about the cause you're rushing off to do anything for."

He walked closer to Boyd, until they were once again face to face. Sin raised his eyebrows, not looking at all sympathetic as he said coldly, "A valentine is a usually young, more attractive than average field operative who is sent on missions that require things of a sexual nature. And you put your name in the fucking hat."

Boyd's eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up. "What?" he burst out incredulously. "Why the hell would they-- But no one ever said anything about that. I don't want to have my name in for that kind of assignment."

"Too late, idiot. You basically asked for the title. Why the hell do you think I kept telling you not to do it? Because I was so desperate to ensure that you stay chaste?"

"Well a little more fucking information would have been helpful," Boyd shot back testily. Although he was largely angry with himself, he couldn't help lashing out at Sin. He made an easy target for his frustration. "I just thought you were pissed at me because it involved Thierry and the Agency, neither of which you seem to like. Why didn't you mention valentines before instead of being so vague in your warnings?"

Sin gave him another unimpressed stare. Judging from the look on his face, he seemed to think Boyd was a hopeless idiot.

"Because I didn't know you were completely ignorant. Don't blame me because you were so quick to fuck for information. I tried to warn you, and you didn't want to hear what I had to say. Take responsibility for your own bullshit. Or maybe next time, inquire as to why I'm so against it instead of just assuming whatever nonsense it was that you assumed."

Boyd grit his teeth and he looked away with his arms crossed. His eyebrows drew down broodingly, his eyes narrowing. He felt so incredibly frustrated by everything that had happened that he didn't even know what to do with the overwhelming feelings.

And the worst part was that he really didn't have anyone to push the blame on. He was furious with Thierry for manipulating him like that, for being so evasive and playing with Boyd until he was put in a position where he thought he had no choice. But he was also upset with himself for the possibility of that one mistake becoming something that could haunt him. With Thierry not there and himself otherwise to blame, there was no release for his anger and frustration.

After a moment he restlessly pushed his hair back from his face. "Well-- How do I tell them not to mark me that way? I only meant it to be a one-time thing, and even then it was because of the circumstances."

This earned him a completely incredulous stare and Sin grabbed his arm, appearing to lose all patience with him. "Don't you get it? Are you fucking oblivious? It's not up to you. Now that you put the idea in the air, they'll take it and run."

"But there has to be something I can do," Boyd nearly shouted back, the frustration making his eyes shine when he stared up at Sin. He jerked at his arm and made a sharp gesture while his other hand curled into a fist. His body thrummed with tension. "I don't know, a-- a review board, or-- what if I talked to General Carhart? What if he put in a word for me? I'd be terrible at that kind of assignment. They wouldn't even want me for it anyway. There has to be some sort of oversight that I can contact or lobby... Even if it's the Marshal."

By this time, Sin was just shaking his head and rubbing a hand across his face. He wasn't looking at Boyd anymore, and when he answered, it was with unfeeling finality. "They own you. They don't have to ask for permission. The only thing you had going for you was that you were a glorified babysitter for me. Now you let them know that you can be used for something else."

Boyd stared at Sin for a moment, searching for anything in his body language to say there was something he was holding back-- something to take away from the finality of Sin's words.

But there was nothing.

He felt his breath quickening as the reality of the situation crashed down around him. The idea of what he could be asked-- told-- to do, and the knowledge that he had gotten himself into this predicament all on his own. All because he hadn't understood Sin's warnings, and because the Agency had introduced him to this lifestyle but then seemed to keep so much pertinent information from him; even more than normal, from what he'd been able to gather from Ryan's responses in the past.

He turned away from Sin and pressed his hands against his face. He didn't even want to think about being assigned anything sexual with a target but it was there in his mind anyway. And with that came the inevitable thought about what he would do if that target tried to pull off his shirt and what if it happened like it had with Sin where he'd panicked? What would the Agency do to him if he failed a mission because of that? If they punished him it would only make the fear worse and the cycle would continue and what was he going to do? What was he supposed to do about any of this?

He felt his eyes pricking and he let out a rough breath. "Fuck," he hissed to himself.

"Exactly," Sin said without emotion, and walked out of the room.

Continue to Chapter 18