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 Twenty

It was February 11 when Carhart called Sin and informed him that he was to meet Boyd at a motel in Toronto on the thirteenth. There was a small group there being run by an alleged core member of Janus named Alexis Denis; she was gaining support easily and expanding membership. It seemed as though they were now trying to set up a base in Canada. They were to negotiate with the woman, try to turn her to their side and if that was not possible, to attempt to bring her back alive for intel gathering.

It was right on the tail end of his McCall mission and his mood had not improved. It had actually gotten worse as he watched the fallout unravel on the news, as McCall was demonized even further by the media even after his supposed suicide. It was one of those times where Sin knew that it would be better if he could just be left alone. He wanted to take his anger and frustration out on someone. Having a mission with Boyd was a terrible idea, and he knew it from the start. Not only was he still determined to just sever the connection that they'd previously had in an attempt to wipe the slate clean of all of his confusing feelings, but somehow the thing with McCall had made his irritation toward Boyd worsen.

It had started on the plane ride over to Canada. It had given Sin an unfortunate amount of time to ruminate on things. He hated the Agency, he hated having to do their dirty work, and at the moment he felt even more disgusted with Boyd for jumping to do anything to get their work done. Because of this, he wasn't prepared to face his partner especially when they hadn't even seen each other in nearly a month.

Sin got to the motel a few minutes early, stepping in and locking the door behind him.

Boyd was crouched over a table, a panel laid out in front of him while he made notes on a pad at his side. At the sound of the door opening he looked up, his eyes catching on Sin's face. There were some dark circles under Boyd's eyes and he looked a little more pale than Sin remembered. For a second he looked strangely almost hopeful which quickly shifted to disappointed and then wary. That was gone the second Boyd flicked his eyes back down to the panel and his expression turned blank.

"Hello," Boyd said, flipping to a different screen on the panel with a swish of his fingertips.

"What are we doing?" Sin asked automatically, dumping his pack on the floor unceremoniously.

"Search and retrieve," Boyd replied without inflection. He didn't look up from the panel as he spoke. "I did some recon yesterday. The compound is monitored by microphones triggered to react to suspicious sounds. Cameras follow the motion. There are also live guards. More of it can be explained on site, but the compound is an old tourist attraction. There are four buildings, one story each, and I'm not positive but I think I have an idea of which one she may be in."

He reached into a bag next to him and slid a box across the table in Sin's direction, finally looking up at his partner again. "I picked up GPS wristwatches at the Artillery to aid us."

"And what's that supposed to do?"

"We can track each other." He pulled off the wristwatch he was already wearing and demonstrated to Sin as he explained. "She's likely to be in the northern or western building. If we split up, we can each silently search for her and whoever finds her first can alert the other. If you press the button, the other person has a very limited ability to track you through GPS. A light will flash red, and turn green as they get closer. The lines that will appear on the screen represent grid points on the maps and a compass is built in if you press the button twice in quick succession to change screens. If you hit it three times, a fake digital watch screen appears so the watch will not seem suspicious if anyone investigates you."

He put the watch back on. "I thought this would be the easiest way to stay in contact while remaining radio silent. They seem to be monitoring radio waves and I don't know what channels we otherwise would be able to use without being overheard."

"Why don't we just plan to meet at whatever point at a certain time and bypass all of this?" Sin asked impatiently, checking his weapons.

"It's not that difficult to use these," Boyd said with a shrug. "And we want to get in and out. If we set a certain time, we run the risk of not finding her before that or having to wait and possibly getting caught. This way we know immediately when she's found. There's an emergency signal built in, too. So we could plan to meet at a designated point off the compound once she's found and we've both found a point of egress, but if anything happens before then we could activate the emergency alert to call for backup from the other."

"Or we could just go in together and find her before bringing her in. At least then we know what's going on with the other if there's radio silence, unless you want me to text you every time something crops up."

"We could but we can cut the time in half and run less of a risk of being seen if we split up," Boyd responded. His tone was largely still neutral but it was starting to grow tight. "The buildings are large and don't seem like they have many easily accessible hiding places within so if we're together we may raise an alarm. I was thinking we would only alert the other in the event of needing backup or having found Alexis."

Sin made a face, shaking his head. "It just seems like over-complicating the whole matter. Besides, you said you pinpointed her possible location."

Boyd sighed explosively and shoved the panel away. "I said it was possible, not that I knew for sure. I have it narrowed down to two of the buildings with the likelihood higher in one. I spent two days trying to think of the best way to deal with this situation based on the compound layout, technology, guards and number of hostiles, and you haven't looked at a single blueprint yet. Can you just not challenge my every idea for once?"

"Why don't you listen for once?" Sin replied sarcastically, flicking Boyd a once over before scoffing. "But I forgot, you don't have to. You know it all. And that's worked out so well for you lately, hasn't it?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed and his back stiffened. His voice was cold when he spoke. "When you show up and tell me I'm wrong and you know better without knowing anything about the terrain, layout, or situation, it makes me a little less likely to scrap everything to accommodate your delicate sensibilities."

"What the fuck were you rambling on about, if that wasn't telling me the situation and layout?" Sin demanded, turning to face Boyd again. All shreds of patience were blown and his face twisted into a scowl. "I think I got the picture-- you want to run around with no form of communication just because you're afraid you might get seen, rather than go in together and simplify the matter. And for someone who doesn't even have basic knowledge about the organization you work for, it's pretty hilarious that you have balls to be on a high horse talking down to me about how to run a mission."

Boyd slammed his hands on the table and stood up, his expression turning cold with anger. "You know what, Sin? I get it. I'm a terrible fucking agent, everyone's a better agent than me, everyone knows better and I should just fucking disappear. My plans never work and I shouldn't base anything on the successful missions I've had in the past because clearly I don't know what I'm doing. I can't ever be right because you've been at this so much longer than me. Everyone has. Is that what you want to say to me?"

Sin scoffed, unmoved by the outburst. "I said what I wanted to say to you. But if you want to be a dramatic little bitch about it, go right ahead. It wouldn't be the first time."

Boyd grit his teeth and his eyebrows lowered into a glare. His chest moved a little more quickly than usual and his fingers curled against the table, his eyes bright with anger as they centered on Sin. "Fuck you," he ground out.

"No thanks, sweetheart. That brief moment of insanity has passed."

Boyd's lips parted, his eyes narrowing before he abruptly turned his back on Sin. His back was stiff and his movements were sharp as he threw the panel and other items into an open duffel bag. He zipped the bag with a jerk of his hand and threw the handle over his shoulder. He didn't say anything to Sin but his expression had hardened, his jaw set and eyes narrowed into slits. He walked out of the room.

The ride to the location was spent in silence. The tension grew stronger as they sat there, forced into close quarters where they couldn't ignore the other. Boyd drove, his fingers digging into the steering wheel and expression thunderous.

When they got there, the car rocked when Boyd hit the brakes harder than necessary. He put the car in park and unbuckled his seat belt in the same movement. His jaw was set in a hard line and Sin barely got a glance at his face before Boyd grabbed the duffel bag out of the back seat and slammed the drivers side door shut when he got out. He strode across the clearing in the forest without speaking.

When Sin followed, he took out one of his guns and looked around. He had no idea which plan they were following and by this point, he'd stopped caring. He started to turn to Boyd to see what he intended but realized that Boyd had started moving away.

He walked straight toward the perimeter, dropping the bag down into one hand and suddenly throwing it violently to the side. The whirring of cameras followed the bag's movement when it crashed into a tree and Boyd walked straight into the open without bothering to protect himself at all. He kept his hand at his side, but in the failing light of the day the glint could be seen off a gun he held. And Sin realized why the bag had been open; Boyd had armed himself.

"Oh, what the fuck," Sin muttered and stared at Boyd incredulously before following him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded, irritation heightening. First Boyd had treated him like a moron and now he wasn't even following his own plan. He felt fed up with Boyd and had a strong desire to leave him there.

Boyd looked over at Sin, reckless anger burning in his glare. "I'm making you happy," he said darkly. A flurry of snow drifted from the sky, twirling around him as he turned cold eyes back to the building.

Alerted by the cameras, six people came out only to be confronted by the two intruders striding toward the front door. They looked startled but it didn't take them long to fall back into a formation, guns aimed at them.

"Stop immediately or we'll shoot!" one of the men yelled as a warning.

Boyd looked at the man sidelong but did not stop. "I'm here to negotiate," he told them loudly, and shot the man in the head without even bothering to wait for a reply.

The alarm Sin suddenly felt completely outweighed his annoyance but before he could even comprehend the fact that Boyd had just killed someone in cold blood, he was on autopilot. Five men were pointing guns at Boyd and that's all that really mattered to him at the moment. Especially considering the fact that Boyd was striding towards them recklessly, either not caring or not noticing that he was three seconds away from being pumped full of bullets.

In the brief second it took for the men to wrench their stupefied gazes from their fallen comrade and focus on Boyd once again, Sin was reacting automatically. Twin Rugers appeared in his hands between one blink and the next, and he took out the other five before they had a chance to fire a single shot.

The main door to the compound had shut behind the men when they ran out and as no one else appeared yet to attack them it was assumed they must have heard the gunshots and were preparing themselves inside. There could have been someone on the other side of the door with a gun aimed right at him but Boyd did not even stop to check.

He simply kicked the door open and strode into the front hallway, barely bothering to dodge a bullet that skimmed past his arm. He put only minimal effort into dodging anything aimed at him. It was solely the initial confusion of the moment and the fact no one had the chance yet to properly get to their stations that he was not overcome by a barrage of bullets immediately.

"Boyd, what the fuck are you doing?" Sin shouted as he ran after him. He burst into the compound and was nearly hit by two bullets as confused shouting echoed around him. Avoiding the fire was typically easy for him, but it became more difficult when he was also trying to keep Boyd from getting himself killed.

Boyd headed down the hall ahead of him but Sin was apparently seen as the larger threat at the moment because the hostiles immediately focused on him. They aimed their guns at him, yelling orders to each other and requesting backup. Sin's eyes flicked around quickly, taking into account the position of hostiles in the room. He ended up dismissing the threat, ducking out of the way of the gunfire and sprinting after Boyd again. He sheathed one gun and tried to grab Boyd but his hand missed by centimeters when Boyd moved to the side and the bullet he avoided nearly got Sin in the face.

Sin threw himself away quickly with a curse, but while Boyd kept walking ahead of him the men in the room finally got their act together to fire at them more accurately. He stopped trying to talk sense into Boyd and went fully into mission mode. Sin whipped out his second Ruger and turned his back to the wall, quickly eliminating one-third of the people in his perimeter with single shots to their heads. He had to keep moving to keep from being an easy target himself.

Ahead of him he saw Boyd stumble and the shadow of a hostile aiming a gun. Alternating between killing the people trying to kill Boyd and protecting himself from the fire behind them, Sin was caught at a standstill briefly. It took only seconds to kill the remaining people in the main room, but that was enough time for Boyd to get far enough ahead of him that Sin almost couldn't cover him anymore. Reloading his guns with spare magazines in the space of a second, Sin ran after Boyd again. They were almost immediately caught by another rush of hostiles who flooded into the next room.

He shot two men nearest Boyd in quick succession and simultaneously took out a hostile to his left, then whipped his gun around and got a fourth man between the eyes even as he had to dodge a bullet shot at his back. Dropping to the floor and rolling, he shot three more people who were aiming at Boyd and avoided gunfire from two different directions before he pulled back suddenly into the shadows of a nearby doorway.

He was barely out of breath but now that he was standing still he could feel two places on his body that bullets had grazed him despite everything he had been doing, though he ignored the pain. Pale green eyes scanned the perimeter ahead and he listened carefully. There was a pause in gunfire as his opponents tried to trace where he disappeared to. He quickly placed one man's hurried movements to reload at the top of the staircase and another's nervous panting behind a low receptionist desk in the room across the corridor.

His gaze zeroed in on the man at the staircase like a crosshair. He could hear the clicking of the magazine but before it could pop into place, Sin appeared in the hallway like the half-second flash of a phantom. Gunshots echoed deafeningly in the hallway as he shot the man at the top of the stairs, got the man who popped up behind the desk and killed two men down the hallway behind him. He ran down the corridor toward Boyd again, ducking in and out of crossfire and the shadows. He was phenomenally quick; his reflexes were triggered almost before he had even identified the danger.

Far ahead of him, he could see Boyd still striding down the hall purposefully, seeming uncaring of the violence erupting around him. Somehow he had managed to avoid any obvious wounds, which Sin could only put down to him wearing the body suit armor that Sin himself forsook.

Sin followed, but the situation became more difficult as the number of hostiles seemed to triple with each one he took out. Pain erupted from his thigh but Sin barely reacted to it as he spun around to take out three more hostiles who had rushed up the hall in quick succession. Looking toward Boyd, he quickly assessed the situation. Although there was gunfire coming from ahead of him, most of the people up there looked to be rookies or new recruits who were hesitant to outright kill; instead, they seemed to be aiming for non-vitals. Even as Sin watched, Boyd was shot in the chest from afar; he jerked from the impact but the bodysuit seemed to have stopped him from receiving any lasting damage.

Alarm lights started to flash as a warning, but Boyd jerked his hand up and shot a small box that was huddled against the ceiling near a major junction of hallways. The lights faltered and stopped.

Sin didn't even notice the blood oozing down his own leg as his boots pounded against the tiled floor. He fired quickly and efficiently, killing whoever got in his way and whoever so much as glanced toward Boyd. He was thankful for the lack of skill the recruits showed; it was the only thing saving their asses at the moment since they were completely surrounded and lacking the element of surprise.

Even with all the people Sin had killed, there were more appearing by the second. The situation was rapidly becoming uncontrollable; there were too many hostiles in the compound for him to hold off simultaneously, and too many angles from which they could strike.

If he was killed, there would be no one to watch Boyd's back. Given the way Boyd had been acting, how often he was probably saved only because Sin had managed to take someone out before they could get him, there was very little chance that Boyd would survive.

He ignored another bullet that grazed his cheek, firing automatically and watching as another teenage hostile fell to the floor. Gore and blood spattered the walls, the ceiling, and covered the floor in pools that oozed larger by the second. Dead bodies were littered around like flies swatted from the air, and some of the recruits could be seen running away from the action. People were screaming, a few were crying, and the deafening echo of gunfire created a cacophony of sound. Bullet holes dotted the walls, scattering drywall, insulation and paint flecks around them in a flurry like the snowfall outside.

The barrage of bullets stopped abruptly, the echoes still resounding around them of people crawling over their dead comrades and trying to drag them out of the way. It was unclear what caused the sudden ceasefire but Sin didn't bother to think about it; he took that time to finally catch up to Boyd. He grabbed his arm roughly, yanking him backwards with an angry growl and ignoring the blood that smeared across his fingers from a superficial wound on Boyd's face.

Boyd fell back against Sin's side but then pulled his arm away. His eyes were darting around, and the expression on his face was something that seemed to be a mixture of anger and shock. His face was pale but his eyes burned, and he didn't seem cognizant of the blood of the enemies that had splattered across his form.

There was the sound of footsteps running down the corridor and Sin raised his gun, preparing to fire. He'd almost pulled the trigger when he caught sight of brown hair and a female figure charging towards them, a pistol in her hand at her side. Either the woman was stupid, actually had interest in negotiating, or she had some ridiculous notion that she was going to kill Sin. Whatever the case, she did not pose an immediate threat, and despite her anger, she was probably the one that had called off the fire. She was unmistakably Alexis Denis.

"Some fucking negotiating, kid!" Alexis yelled as she approached.

Boyd's eyes shot over when he saw Alexis approaching. Before Sin could do anything, before Boyd even seemed to give himself the chance to think, his hand jerked up and he shot her in the head.

Sin's face was a study of shock. "You fucking moron," he hissed from between clenched teeth.

He dragged Boyd back the way they'd come, practically carrying him as he heard loud shouting from over his shoulder. The shouting increased in pitch, probably as they found their leader's body, and he could hear people running after them. He couldn't wrap his mind around what had just happened; couldn't comprehend the fact that not only had Boyd just pretty much murdered a woman in cold blood, a woman who held her weapon at her side in a distinct, non-threatening gesture, but he hadn't even attempted to complete any part of the mission.

Boyd moved along with Sin, letting his partner lead him without any resistance. His eyes were jerking around quickly, almost frantically, and the shock Sin had noticed before in his face only seemed more pronounced. Even so, when several of the hostiles were gaining on them, Boyd reached into his pocket and pulled out a detonator with several switches covered by a plastic casing. He pushed up the plastic cover and flipped the switches.

An enormous explosion rocked the compound, followed closely by four others at varying lengths away. The people chasing them suddenly yelled in confusion, breaking apart to go search for the new attack. Although some still followed Sin and Boyd, their numbers were greatly reduced and they were hampered by the dust raining from the ceiling, coating them all.

When Sin and Boyd burst out into the courtyard, they were met with thick black smoke, the burning heat of intense fires, and a sudden, even larger explosion nearly throwing everyone to the ground. The few rebels still running around lost sight of the two in the chaos, and the raining debris and amount of people running everywhere covered their tracks through the snow. A few hostiles looked over at them suddenly and started to shout but Sin noticed them immediately.

Sin shifted, released Boyd and spun around, feet sliding on the snowy ground as he did so. He raised one gun, whipped out the other and fired both simultaneously as he neutralized the remaining threats in their general area. He slammed one gun back in his belt and grabbed Boyd again, not even waiting to see if he would follow on his own.

The confusion caused by the blasts gave them the cover necessary to get out of the compound pretty much unnoticed. The snow had begun to fall heavier, which was annoying since he would now have to worry about leaving tracks outside of where the chaos covered them, but he ignored it and sprinted towards the forest. It was difficult running uphill through the woods with slippery snow, but Sin managed to keep going. Even if they got away before anyone in the compound saw where they were going it was only a matter of time before they noticed the tracks so he tried to waste no time.

By the time they made it to the car, Boyd was reacting just enough to pull the keys out and unlock the doors, dropping into his seat and already turning on the engine before Sin even had a chance to get inside. Boyd waited just long enough for Sin to shut the door behind him and then he was already pulling away, driving quickly in a different direction than they came. He said nothing about his behavior and his expression had shut down aside from slightly widened eyes and fingers that trembled against the steering wheel.

Sin was silent for a long moment, his eyes narrowed and his body completely tense. Half of his face was covered in blood but he didn't notice. His mind was racing as he tried to understand what had just happened.

"Well," he began, his voice a study of quiet rage. "If you want to kill yourself, do it in a more efficient way and stop being an attention whore." He looked over at Boyd, green eyes practically glowing in the darkness.

Boyd watched the road, his eyes narrowing slightly at the comment. He did not reply at first, his expression becoming so closed off that it was impossible to know what he was thinking.


Sin glanced at Boyd again, but he didn't feel the need to say anything more and turned back to the window.

Despite the night passing in growing horror, the next morning Boyd still couldn't comprehend what had happened. It all felt like a bad dream; like a nightmare he just needed to wait long enough to wake up from. He'd spent most of the night curled up on the couch, digging his fingers into his shins and burying his face in his knees, trying to come to grips with what had happened.

He'd killed in cold blood.

It wasn't the first time he'd had to kill on a mission. The first time had been an accident, when he'd meant to incapacitate instead. His aim had been off and he'd watched the man drop from the gun shot to the face. He'd watched in shock as the blood sprayed out around him and his body crumpled to the floor. He hadn't had the chance to fully deal with it at the time since it had been in the middle of a fight, but he'd dealt with the guilt afterward.

The knowledge that there was blood on his hands that he could never take back.

He'd thought that was bad enough at the time. He'd felt sick with the understanding that he'd taken a human life, but at least he'd been able to justify it to himself. The man had been aiming a gun at him and had planned to kill him. He'd been able to tell himself it was self defense.

But Alexis...

The anger and shock had lasted him until he'd gotten home but then the guilt and regret had hit him full force. He'd ended up vomiting into the toilet, losing the little food he'd eaten while he'd been waiting anxiously for Sin to arrive at the hotel. Misery and nausea had eclipsed all else and soon tears had tracked down his cheeks as he'd clutched the toilet seat with as much pain as he had the nights he'd been trying to get over Lou's death.

What had he done?

What in the world had he done?

The weight of the world felt suffocating on him; blurring the room around him like the tears in his eyes, and everything began to feel more and more hopeless.

He still didn't understand why he'd done it. It was just-- Sin had made him so furious and upset, and on top of everything else that had happened the last month, he'd snapped. He'd thought, if they all knew so much better than him, if they all hated him and his ideas so much, then he'd show them. He'd do it their way. He'd do it Sin's way. He'd go in guns blazing and prove to them--

Prove... what, exactly?

That was what he didn't know. He didn't know what he'd been thinking because all his thoughts had left at the idea of Sin hating him. Of not having a second chance. Of not having what they'd had before-- that fragile friendship that he'd somehow so irrevocably managed to destroy.

It was all his fault. Everything was his fault. He'd fucked up so many times and every time he tried to fix it or ignore it, he only fucked up further.

He never should have let the anger overcome him. He never should have let the fear and frustration guide him, and he never should have reacted to the pain at the idea of Sin never wanting him again. Because of stupid mistakes of his. Because one or two things he did that were wrong or ill-advised over-shadowed all the good things he'd struggled to do before then.

Because the night with Thierry, Boyd's valentine status, and the fear born from the aftermath of Lou's murder could wipe away everything else between them. Because it could make all those moments of charged energy dissipate until when Sin looked at Boyd, all Boyd would ever see was impatience and disgust.

How much more did Sin hate him now? And how could he have lived with himself if he'd gotten Sin killed?

After Alexis, there was even less hope than there had been before that he could pull out of this. He'd sabotaged everything and he'd taken innocent lives in the process. The idea of Alexis having a family left behind, or a Boyd to her Lou running around, made him feel even more sick.

He spent the night in a state of wretched misery, wondering more and more why it was he'd lived past Lou's death.

When the debriefing came around the next morning, Boyd thought about not going. But the part of him that, despite everything, wanted to do the right thing wouldn't let him stay home. He had fucked up and he deserved anything he got. Alexis' spirit deserved revenge.

He washed himself up just enough to be presentable, but his eyes were dark and bloodshot from lack of sleep and his resolve felt shaky. He was afraid to see Sin. Afraid to see the cold, disgusted expression of his partner and have it all underlined to him that Sin had completely given up on him. That his latest actions, whether born of pain, panic, or fear, were all too damning for whatever relationship they had built to be able to recover.

The drive to the Agency felt like he was heading to his own execution. Despite that, knowing how the people who hated him were likely to latch onto any insecurity he showed, he kept his expression closed off and head held high as he walked through the courtyard. It felt like longer than a few days had passed since the start of his breaking point had been reached thanks to Moua, and he kept his gaze straight ahead.

When he walked into the conference room, despite being on time, he saw that everyone was already there. He felt like their gazes were all accusatory when they turned on him, even though he knew logically that they were not. The sins of the mission felt like they would be easily readable; like the metaphorical blood that stained his hands would be seen by Carhart's keen eye. Boyd took his seat, the sound of the chair's movement seeming too loud and echoing in the tense silence of the room.

Carhart sat at the head of the table, his hands folded in front of him as he stared at Boyd and Sin with a cold, angry expression on his normally pleasant face. His mouth was pressed into a hard line and he didn't say anything for a long moment. The others at the table were equally silent; Owen seemed more alert than usual and Jeffrey was giving Boyd strange, sidelong glances as Ryan's wide, alarmed eyes went from Sin to Boyd.

"You--" Carhart focused on Sin, voice quiet despite the obvious undertone of anger. He paused, closed his mouth and began again. "What did you do?"

Sin stared at him with a bland expression on his face and seemed in no hurry to defend himself.

Carhart slammed a fist into the table and leaned forward. "What the fuck happened? No report was filed and I want details, right now."

"It was my fault," Boyd said quietly from the side.

Everyone's eyes turned to Boyd collectively. Ryan seemed to be in a state of shock; he was one of the few people who knew Boyd well enough to realize something was very wrong with his behavior.

Carhart's anger seemed to dwindle a bit and he looked over at Boyd with an expression that was mostly confusion and surprise. "Was negotiation out of the question?"

Boyd didn't know what to say to that. He stared at Carhart, unable to lie; unable to tell him that negotiation wasn't possible, but equally unable to say he didn't even try.

In the end, he remained silent.

"This mission was extremely important," Carhart said, voice growing hot again. "Death was to be the absolute, last resort in this case. This woman could have provided valuable information to us about Janus, information about its leader and the core members. So this time you're going to give me more than some bullshit, half-assed answer. I want details, I want to know exactly went down and why. I have to answer to Connors after this. You aren't just working for me." Carhart's eyes flicked over to Sin and they narrowed, as though somehow he couldn't completely believe that none of it was his fault.

"We were completely surrounded," Sin said derisively. "Did you people really think they were going to let us carry the woman out without a fight?"

Boyd's eyes shot over to Sin. He was surprised to hear Sin covering for him but kept his expression blank so Sin wouldn't get in trouble by being found out.

"I'm not really surprised," Ryan spoke up suddenly, dragging his eyes away from Boyd. "They chose Alexis to represent their group in Canada because she was tough and because they trusted her to do anything necessary to ensure their success. It was very doubtful that she would have agreed and honestly, the compound was large and teeming with soldiers that came from the OR with her and new ones that she'd recruited."

Carhart absorbed the comments but continued to stare at Boyd, waiting for him to speak, to say that this was the case.

Boyd could not look away from Carhart, and something in him quelled at the idea of lying.

But if he didn't lie, then Ryan and Sin would be implicated too. He didn't know if he cared what happened to him anymore but neither of them deserved to get in trouble for trying to cover for his idiocy. He was thankful that he had so many years of practice to keep his expression and gaze emotionless despite what was happening in his mind.

"It was a difficult mission. We were surrounded. Amidst the chaos, the danger to our lives, and the fact that the plan fell completely through, I made a decision based on the circumstances and shot her," he said tonelessly.

Carhart was never a difficult man to please, probably because he constantly tried to see the best in people. He rubbed his forehead and seemed to deflate somewhat. He still seemed irritated, something in him not quite seeming to believe what he was hearing but for some reason, he didn't press the topic. The edge didn't leave his tone though.

"What will become of the base in Canada? Will they send another representative?"

Ryan glanced at his laptop and chewed on his lower lip, a nervous habit, as his eyes flicked over the information on the screen. "Honestly all is quiet on this end," he said apologetically. "My contact in the OR has been distant of late and frankly, I'm not sure how long I'll be able to get information out of them. However, there's been a lot of scrambling and contact between Toronto and different countries in OR over night. But until I hear back from my guys, I don't really know what's up. I have ears in Toronto as well, but they don't seem to know much more than what was reported on the news. I still can't really get over the fact that one of her rookies called the local cops in..."

Boyd didn't realize they'd called in the cops and he found himself going over every bit of the mission to make sure he had left no details that could link Americans to it. He would definitely be in a lot more trouble if any connection appeared.

Owen scratched his head and leaned against the table, more alert than usual. "I doubt anything'll come from that, though. I had some Canadian cop-guy friends," he looked a little confused by his own wording but continued, "and it's not like they suck or anything but when it's shit like that, they usually don't find anything. There's enough controversy with the rebels in the first place that even if they investigate, they have to be all political and shit about what they say."

"Beyond that," Jeffrey spoke for the first time, flipping through screens on his panel, "the accounts the rebels gave were scattered and incoherent. It sounds as though they were all so startled by the events that they did not properly see anything. There are about," he counted silently, "five conflicting stories. They can't even seem to agree on whether a bomb exploded or an earthquake hit, though the earthquake theory is pretty stupid given that it's Toronto."

He looked straight at Boyd with an expression that for once had nothing but professionalism in it. "Maybe they were just confused. Did they seem that way to you, Boyd?"

Boyd stared at him, and felt even worse knowing that it seemed everyone was covering for him. Why were they doing this? Why did they even care, especially Jeffrey? Why weren't they letting him take the fall he fully deserved?

"Many of them did seem like new recruits," Boyd offered after a moment.

Jeffrey nodded to himself and flipped to a blank screen, looking over at Carhart. "Honestly, they're probably too scared to do much other than figure out if they want to regroup right now."

Sin remained silent and Carhart crossed his arms over his jacket, dark eyebrows pushing together in annoyance.

"Well Connors will be pissed," Carhart said flatly. "If this explanation doesn't fly with him, expect some kind of repercussions." He looked at Sin for a long moment and then at Boyd. "If this goes wrong it will not only be bad because of the loss of intel, but it will be a PR problem as well. Discretion should have been key."

He shook his head, annoyance obvious in his expression. "Is there anything else on the table?"

Boyd knew the moment PR was mentioned that he would be hearing from his mother sometime soon. The prospect was not pleasing. He dropped his gaze to the table but said nothing.

"Yes," Jeffrey said, sitting up straight. "I have decrypted a little more of the flash drive. However," and he held up a hand as if to forestall any early signs of celebration, "it's not connected enough yet. So far I have a lot of information that isn't complete. Monterrey seems to be a large theme, and there appear to be details regarding security that needs to be created for some type of event. There's also a list of sectors and rebel groups from across the world, but none of it is completed enough to know what it's for. It doesn't have any addresses or names so it can't be a contact list."

He paused. "Everything else is too incoherent at the moment to report yet. I'm still not positive it's all legit, but it seems more likely that it is. I won't be able to confirm this until I've had a chance to tackle the second file."

The tension in Carhart's shoulders seemed to visibly release and some of the frown lines on his forehead disappeared. The importance of the information seemed to completely overshadow the disastrous mission. Carhart looked almost relieved that he'd have good news for the Marshal. He glanced at Boyd again, his expression less severe and nodded. "Excellent. Perhaps my ass won't be completely handed to me after all."

The General stood up and uncrossed his arms from his chest. "But don't think this is over just yet. I'll be in touch. Dismissed."

Boyd relaxed slightly when Carhart left the room then pushed himself up immediately. He didn't meet anyone's eyes as he left.

Continue to Chapter 21