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-Two

Boyd headed straight to Carhart's office, wanting to free Sin as soon as possible. He knocked firmly on the door.

Carhart called out for him to enter in his usual gruff tone and didn't look up from his computer monitor when he did. "Yes, Boyd?"

"Sin's been taken to fourth but he shouldn't be there," Boyd said without preamble the moment he shut the door behind him. "How do we get him out?" He was so intent on the idea of freeing Sin that it took him half a second to think to add, "Sir," on the end.

Carhart looked up at Boyd from under his eyebrows, taking in the obvious signs of recent injury, and flicked his eyes back to the computer. "And what, pray tell, has happened to you in the past two hours since we parted?"

"Harry Truman," Boyd said evenly, eyes narrowed and intent on Carhart. "The man who assaulted Sin on fourth multiple times. The sort of thing that is probably happening right now unless we can get him out of there."

"According to my knowledge Sin has just killed the man so apparently he is no longer a threat." Carhart stopped his work and sat back in his chair, gazing at Boyd with an unreadable expression on his face. "What happened?"

Boyd stared at Carhart. He felt impatient and worried about what the guards would do. He wanted to tell Carhart that none of that was important now. But he knew that would get him nowhere.

"It will all be on the surveillance tapes, sir. I was summoned to my mother's office and when I left I went to the fourteenth floor library to write my report. Harry Truman came in. He was angry with me for reporting his mistreatment of Sin earlier, which apparently caused him to have suspended pay. He attacked me and was attempting to rape me when Sin arrived and killed him." He paused and added intently, "So you see, Sin was only doing his job protecting his partner. He shouldn't even be in there."

Carhart was silent for a moment and a weary look slowly appeared on his face. "Unfortunately the decision is not up to me. And I do not think Connors will feel especially generous about helping Sin after what happened last night."

He uncrossed his arms and rubbed his temples slowly, eyebrows knotting as he closed his eyes. "I've already attempted to reason with the higher powers but since I am apparently seen as Sin's blind protector, my word has very little weight with his punishments anymore. They think I'm soft when it comes to him."

"Last night was my fault as was today," Boyd insisted. "These are both things that I should be held accountable for instead of Sin. When the guards arrived to take him away they didn't even bother asking what happened. They just wanted to vilify him like they always do."

He paused. "I understand that you're in a difficult position, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get Sin out of there. What should I do instead? Should I contact Marshal Connors, or someone else? I won't mention your name at all if you wish; they can think whatever they like of me but I want to help Sin."

Carhart continued to stare at Boyd, still rubbing his temples. "Let me ask you a question, Boyd." He dropped his hands and leaned across his desk, staring at Boyd intently. "Why are you so determined to help him? For the past few weeks the two of you seemed to dislike each other. Is it because of some sense of gratitude that he saved you?"

Boyd watched him for a moment and then looked away, eyes narrowing pensively. "I don't know," he said honestly. "But if he hadn't come then--"

He cut himself off, not wanting to get into what his options had otherwise been. The plans he'd started to make in his mind to kill himself. If Harry had raped him and left him there and if he'd gone home in that mindset, he wouldn't have even waited for the Agency to terminate him. He would have shot himself in the head and been done with it.

He shook his head and met Carhart's eyes. "He's my partner and he's important to me. Whatever the fall out is for Harry's death, I'm involved. The second I intervened on Sin's behalf, I put myself in the middle of it all and I'll be damned if I let Sin take the fall for something that he shouldn't be blamed for in the first place. Harry was a sex offender who probably hurt more people than we even know. He deserved what he got."

Carhart sighed and stood up abruptly, folding his hands behind is back. "If only things were that simple," he murmured. "But it doesn't work that way in this organization." The General stopped for a moment, before frowning slightly. "I cannot comprehend a world where Connors would care whether or not an idiot like Harry Truman lived or died but this happened at the perfect time for him to punish Sin for not getting what he wanted out of the assignment last night."

He looked at Boyd with a scowl. "Unfortunately, my hands are tied. I've already requested the surveillance video be brought to me but there are more people against us than for us in this matter and I suspect that it will get lost along the way."

The answer felt like a verdict. Boyd couldn't let this lie like this. He'd been the one at fault for the Alexis mission. He'd been the one to push the issue with Harry by reporting it. And although he knew that had been the right thing to do, Sin had so far managed to avoid being sent to the fourth on account of Harry. Yet as soon as Boyd got involved, that was exactly what happened. The fact that the guards had kicked Sin when he was down, that they had tortured him with the collar into unconsciousness, did not bode well for what may be happening while Boyd stood there in Carhart's office arguing his partner's innocence.

He had to do something.

He had to think about this clearly. Like a mission. He had attempted to negotiate with the first leader and although Carhart was amenable to his plight he also was unable to do anything. Connors was mentioned several times already, and Boyd knew that ultimately he was the person he had to convince. His expression turned neutral and he nodded.

"Understood, sir. If it's possible, I would like to know if the file arrives so I can make my own copy if it's needed for evidence."

Carhart continued to frown thoughtfully and went back to rubbing his temples. Although he wasn't outraged and screaming, it was obvious that the man was upset.

"I want you to stay here," Carhart said slowly, narrowing his eyes at Boyd. "I'm going to make another attempt to plead his case but I do not want you wandering this compound at a time like this. Not until I can get my hands on the video and make an official report. The rumors already associated with the two of you will worsen and unfortunately, right now the unofficial story places the entire blame on you. McNichols is spinning a tale that you had it out for Harry after witnessing him having a disagreement with Sin, and have had a vendetta ever since. He is saying that you deliberately provoked Harry so that Sin would have an excuse to kill him. I don't believe it, but there will be people who do. I have no idea why Harry is so popular among the men, but I can only assume it's because people are weak and will follow anyone who tries to take charge."

He moved towards the door, still watching Boyd steadily. "Do not leave this room until I come back. Call Ryan if you want. He has clearance to access my office."

Boyd nodded and took a seat. He wanted to leave immediately and find Connors but he forced himself to stay in the office. He didn't want to make matters worse. Still, the idea of calling Ryan sounded like a good one. He needed someone to talk to in case he needed to start making contingency plans.

It was at that point he realized he must have left his cell phone at his house. He glanced over at Carhart just before he could leave the room. "Could I use your phone to call Ryan, sir? I don't have my cell."

"That's fine. And you can call me Zach, you know." He said the last part almost absently. "I'm not positive how long I will be gone; it's not easy to get an interview with Marshal Connors, even for me. While I'm gone, I also plan to get the surveillance video myself. Try not to speculate too much on the treatment Sin is receiving at the moment. Just keep in mind that he has dealt with a lot and it is very difficult to break him."

With those words, Carhart disappeared out the door and a lock clicked into place a few seconds later. Being assured that Sin had dealt with a lot didn't exactly make Boyd feel any better. The fact that Carhart had told him to call him by his first name and had seemed pleased earlier was a marked difference from the more removed way he had typically been around Boyd. He could only assume it was because he was trying to help Sin.

He waited around for a bit but he didn't make it long before he decided to call Ryan. The phone rang three times before Ryan answered and when he did, his voice was weary sounding. "No, I haven't finished yet, sir."

"This isn't Carhart," Boyd said, wondering what the general had Ryan working on. "It's Boyd; I'm just using his phone."

"Boyd!" came the excited exclamation. "Did Hsin find you?"

"Yes but--" He stopped, deciding it was better not to talk about on the phone. "Can you come to General Carhart's office? It may be better to talk in person."

"What?" Ryan's tone switched from excited to worried in a single breath. "Of course, I'll be right there. Give me ten minutes."

With Ryan on the way, Boyd sat back in the chair. He wondered how Ryan knew Sin had been looking for him; they must have spoken at some point. He idly looked around Carhart's office, not seeing anything that caught his attention. When Ryan burst in, only about seven minutes later, Boyd looked over, slightly startled by his sudden appearance.

Ryan looked more unruly than usual, his thin face scrunched up in concern. "Boyd, what the he--" Ryan's face froze and then paled. "Did fucking Hsin do that to you?!"

"No," Boyd said, slightly taken aback by the vehemence. Ryan had been a fan of Sin's for so long that it hadn't occurred to Boyd that were there ever an issue between he and Sin, Ryan may side with him. Although it was all a hypothetical situation, it still felt good to realize.

He gestured to the cuts dotting his face and the ginger way he was still holding the arm that had been twisted. "It was Harry. How did Sin know where to find me?"

Ryan frowned and reached out as if to touch Boyd's face but he stopped and shook his head. "I went to him. I told him about everything that happened while he was gone and he went to find you. I'm sorry if I um, if you didn't want me to but I couldn't help it. What the heck happened now?"

"No," Boyd said, shaking his head, "it's probably good that happened. It's just--" He gestured vaguely. "Sin's on fourth and Harry's dead." He saw Ryan's shocked expression so despite it being an awkward thing to talk about, he explained. "Harry ran into me in the library and assaulted me. Sin came in when he was attempting to rape me so he killed Harry. But the guards came and took him to fourth, and General Carhart doesn't think he can get him out."

Ryan looked predictably horrified, his mouth falling open although no sound came out. His fingers stiffened, entire body growing tense as he seemed to take in what Boyd had just told him. The anger that flashed in his eyes was the most surprising thing. Boyd had never seen that expression on Ryan's face before.

"That bastard. I'm glad Hsin was there. I'm glad Hsin killed him. I wish it would have been me who did it, though."

"I'm glad he's dead too," Boyd said honestly. "Even more because he wouldn't have stopped harassing Sin."

Ryan watched him for a moment before a look of alarmed realization overcame his features. "Okay, we have to get him out of there. All of those people on the fourth, the guards, they were Harry's friends."

"I know," Boyd said darkly. "General Carhart is attempting to get the surveillance footage of the incident to prove that Sin was protecting me, but I doubt he'll be able to."

"I'm not surprised," Ryan said with another angry scowl. "God, this place is so fucked sometimes!" He ran both hands through his hair and heaved a big sigh. "Okay, two things. First of all, whatever the guards did with him, if they put him in the box-- they'd need clearance from Connors to do it. Second, if Connors agreed to it or whatever, we can't really count on him for help."

Ryan gnawed on his fingernails as he thought, beginning to pace the room. "If we think like Connors, Harry wasn't valuable enough to the Agency to cause an Agent as valuable as Hsin to be locked away for good, however this act gives him the reason he needs to get back at you guys for the way the assignment turned out last night. Nothing can really happen unless Connors decides to do it-- or your mom since her word has a lot of leverage with him."

He stopped pacing and looked at Boyd a little helplessly. "Other than begging Connors to suddenly turn into a reasonable human being, I doubt we can do anything other than wait until a mission comes along that needs Hsin."

"I can't do that," Boyd said without hesitation. "Sin's in there because of me. It doesn't matter how, I'm going to get him out."

He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. He dismissed the idea of approaching his mother immediately; there was no way she would help. He would be lucky if she didn't berate him for the latest fiasco as well. "More than likely, General Carhart will return unsuccessful. How do I get an appointment with Connors? Will he be more likely to let me in if I just appear on the floor, or would he prefer I go through the red tape and call his assistant with the request?"

"Yeah, that'd be the best thing to do honestly. I mean, you could try just going up there but a lot of times he won't even see Ann or me without us warning him days in advance..."

Boyd looked to the side, his eyebrows furrowing. It would be best to be proper and polite about this just to impress Connors more. If Connors was angry about how terribly the last mission went then Boyd needed to prove that he was a respectable person whose opinion mattered, especially given his recent reputation. It would be easier to represent himself properly in person, though, and a little more difficult for him to be turned away.

So he would go in person to ask Connors' assistant directly; that was the best compromise.

"Alright," he said aloud.

Before Ryan could say anything else, the door opened again and Carhart reappeared. His face gave very little away, but the tension in his shoulders and the stiff way he carried himself made his aggravation quite obvious.

"No go," he said shortly. "He already has the video and he claims that he will view it when he has the time. Sin is to stay where he is until he decides otherwise or until an assignment comes up that is imperative enough for his release."

"Fucking bullshit!" Ryan yelled in annoyance. "Man, your boss is a dickhead."

Carhart glanced over at Ryan. "Hello, Ryan." He narrowed his eyes. "Did you finish what I asked for?"

"No! Why don't you focus on what's going on now!" Ryan snapped uncharacteristically.

Carhart seemed neither impressed nor angry by the display and walked over to his desk. "There's not much more I can do, Boyd."

Inclining his head, Boyd said calmly, in total contrast to Ryan, "I understand. Thank you for trying. Marshal Connors definitely has the video in his custody, though?"

"That's what he said. However he didn't appear to be in any rush to view it." Carhart sat down at his desk and steepled his fingers together as he looked at the two young men in the room. "At this time, there isn't much more I can do. I appreciate your concern for Sin, but at the moment the best course of action is to wait or the situation could be further exacerbated. Despite that, I already sent out a notice about the pending investigation of both Harry and Hsin, so I doubt you will receive any harassment for the time being."

Carhart looked at Boyd and then at Ryan. "Boyd, I suggest you return home and rest. Ryan, I suggest you finish your assignment."

Ryan made a face but didn't disagree. "Is there really going to be an investigation?"

"It's already being looked into."

"I'm willing to testify if they need anything for the investigation." Boyd looked over at Carhart. "If there's nothing more..." He trailed off almost questioningly; he wanted to leave so he could start his next attempt to get Sin out.

Carhart nodded. "Of course. Just remember to take your own needs into consideration. You are no good to anybody in the medical unit." He stared at Boyd intently for a moment before looking at his computer, an obvious dismissal.

Ryan made another face and went out into the hall, waiting for Boyd outside. "What are you going to do?" he asked knowingly.

Looking down the hall with an intent expression, Boyd shifted his gaze back to Ryan. "I'll head to Connors' office before I leave today and ask for an appointment in person. I know it's unlikely I'll get anywhere with that but I have to try."

Ryan nodded, face pinched with worry. "Please go home afterwards. Or you can come to my place and stay there..."

Boyd looked over at Ryan, touched by the fact that he cared enough about him to worry. Less than an hour earlier, he'd been planning his own death; certain that the world was better off without him. Certain that no one would care. But looking into Ryan's face, he knew now that wasn't true. Sin's appearance had saved him more than physically, and in part it seemed Boyd had Ryan to thank for that.

He smiled genuinely at Ryan and nodded. "I'll go home. I promise. Thank you, Ryan," he added sincerely. "You don't know how much you've helped me already."

"Okay. Just call me, okay?" Ryan began backing down the corridor. "Good luck."

Boyd nodded, raised a hand in a silent farewell, and headed immediately for the nearest elevators with access to seventeenth. He focused on what he needed to say to get Sin out and how he could go about requesting an audience with Connors. He barely noticed the other people in the elevator despite the long looks they gave his battered face. By the time the elevator reached the seventeenth floor, he was alone again.

He knew the layout of the floor well enough to know the direction Connors' office was, even if he'd never had to visit it before. It took him a little bit to find and there were quite a few doors he had to swipe his keycard through just to get clearance, as well as explanations given to the guards.

He finally found the main office area dedicated to Marshal Jacob Connors. He walked directly to the assistant's desk, but made sure he stopped at the correct distance away and waited patiently to be acknowledged. If there was anything that having Vivienne Beaulieu as a mother had taught him, it was proper protocol and how to act respectfully. Even if he didn't always follow her advice.

Connor's assistant sat behind a large glass receptionist desk. The entire area was the picture of elegant minimalism and the man behind the desk was no different. He wore a perfectly cut designer suit that was fitted precisely for his slender build and silver glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. The man, Samuel Goldberg according to his nametag, had a polite smile plastered across his face but the look in his eyes was one of absolute disinterest.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Beaulieu. How may I be of help to you?"

"Good afternoon, Mr. Goldberg," Boyd replied politely. "I would like to request an audience with Marshal Connors. Could you tell me when he is next available?"

Samuel peered at him through his glasses, disinterest mingling with smug amusement. "In reference to what?"

Boyd's expression did not change, nor did his voice slip even a little from the polite professionalism. "The incarceration of Hsin Liu Vega today."

The man raised thin, dark eyebrows and a knowing looking appeared on his pale features. "Ah, him." Samuel smiled at Boyd but once again it did not reach his eyes. He glanced down at his computer and typed something briefly. After a moment he spoke into the headset he wore.

"A Mr. Beaulieu is here to see you, sir. In regards to Agent Vega." Azure eyes flicked up to Boyd again and the vapid smile remained intact. "Very good, sir." It was obvious that the connection had been severed without Boyd having to hear the other end of the conversation. "Would you like an appointment? I'm afraid he is unable to see you at the present time."

Inclining his head slightly, Boyd did not break eye contact. "Yes. When is he next available?"

"Mmm, let's see," Samuel hummed to himself. He glanced down at the computer again, nodding to himself. "April 15th, 2020. Does 0700 hours sound good to you?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed very briefly before he returned to his calm expression. It was mid February; that was two months away.

"Marshal Connors must be incredibly busy for the next available booking to be so far out," Boyd observed. "Is he going on vacation?"

Samuel blinked at him. "I don't see how that could possibly be any of your business, Mr. Beaulieu. Marshal Connors is the head of this organization; he is a busy man. It is foolish to expect him to cancel dire meetings to discuss the incarceration of a known killer."

The smile widened a bit and then the man went back to looking at his laptop. "If you would like to see him in April now is the time. The spot will close soon."

"Ah," Boyd said smoothly, "but if he left, having such an important man gone from the Agency could jeopardize the stability of the entire organization. I should think it would be the business of anyone working for the Agency."

Samuel gave him a haughty look, not seeming moved by his words. "And the fact still remains that there isn't an opening until April. Imagine that. Would you like to see for yourself?" Cool, detached amusement was quickly turning into irritation and Samuel spun the LCD screen around so that for a brief moment, Connors schedule for the next three months was visible to Boyd. "Now if there's nothing else..."

Boyd looked at the screen, memorizing the schedule as best he could at the glance he had; it was true that it looked booked. He wondered if he could get more information from Samuel.

"Surely those are not all day events," he said with his eyebrows raised. "I can't imagine he couldn't afford a few minutes to meet with me between meetings. He's only moving from floor to floor, is he not?"

Samuel gave him a completely withering look. "As a matter of fact, no. You are a fool if you believe all of his business is carried on in this building. Later in the week he will be gone from the compound for three consecutive days for meetings."

"Then I can have a phone conversation," Boyd insisted. "Or I can catch him before he leaves; when will he be gone?"

Samuel glared at Boyd, his polite facade evaporating into cold impatience. "Unacceptable. Take the appointment in April or take none at all. Unless Marshal Connors specifically asks me to make such exceptions it's impossible for me to make them."

"Why not?" Boyd asked, not letting up. "He can't even be contacted between meetings or before he leaves?"

"Marshal Connors turns his phone off during meetings so he is completely unavailable during that time. Now if you don't mind, I would appreciate it if you would stop pestering me."

Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly as he considered the situation. "Very well," he said evenly, and crossed his arms. "If you will pass a message along for me, word for word and in front of me so I know you did it, then I will leave you alone."

Samuel watched him impatiently but ultimately seemed to decide that it was better to take him up on that offer and get him out of his sight than to keep arguing the point. He put his hand up by his headset and arched an eyebrow. "What do you want to say?"

"Tell him that I know he's there and I know he's ignoring any lobbying on Sin's behalf. Tell him that seems like it's indicative of an even greater problem here at the Agency. Letting low-ranked agents and guards abuse high-ranked agents and not only ignoring it but doing nothing about it when it's brought to his attention..." His eyebrows rose and he trailed off meaningfully. "That doesn't bode well for him or the Agency."

Samuel had been taking notes as Boyd spoke and he glanced up with narrowed eyes at the end. Boyd couldn't tell if he was annoyed, affronted, or what, but he didn't care. He watched closely as Samuel told Connors over the headset that he had a message from Boyd, and relayed what had been said. When he got to the end, there was a beat of silence and then Samuel nodded. "Yes, sir."

He dropped his hand from the headset and raised his eyebrows. "Your message is relayed and the Marshal still does not have time for you. Now. I believe you said you'd leave..."

Boyd had expected as much. "Write me in for April," he said and left without waiting for Samuel to reply.

The resolve Boyd felt only strengthened overnight. The next day he sat down with his panel and a cooling mug of jasmine tea, and poured over everything he knew.

Since he was considering this as a mission, he knew that the best thing he could do was start creating contingency plans. If he could not negotiate with the leader, he or Sin generally just killed them. He obviously couldn't do that here, so he had to go at it a different way.


Boyd spent a few hours on his panel going over every file he had collected regarding the structure of the Agency. He logged onto the secure server and flipped through every page that would not be suspicious for him to be viewing, and started compiling in his mind as complete a blueprint of the levels as he could.

If Connors was going to sit on this and Sin was in danger every moment he spent there, then Boyd was going to have to be creative. Although he knew nothing permanent was liable to happen, like Sin being killed, he still didn't want Sin to suffer at all. Every second he spent on fourth was a second too long.

Although he was impatient to save Sin, he knew he had to let the situation run its course to some extent. Connors had legitimately appeared to be busy for a few days and he needed time to be able to view the evidence and make his prediction. Pissing him off by doing something right away would only negatively affect the verdict. Right now, he was probably helping Sin the most by disappearing from everyone's minds at the Agency.

Still, he wasn't going to waste that time. He spent the next few days at home, planning what he would do. He had to take the time to do this right-- if he went into it without planning for every contingency, and if something went wrong, he was likely to only make matters worse for Sin and probably get himself killed in the process. And while that had been acceptable to him earlier in the week, now it wasn't.

It was probably a good thing that he was forced into taking the break. He hadn't realized how exhausted he was until he had the opportunity to sleep in every morning, and had something worthwhile to concentrate on when he was awake. The last several weeks had been stressful and difficult, riddled with depression, hopelessness, and on and off nightmares. He'd nearly forgotten what it was like to wake up in the morning and not feel like he wanted to go right back to sleep, or find a way to disappear.

On the fifth day since Sin's incarceration, Boyd was startled away from looking at the panel when his cell rang. He looked down at the display and didn't recognize the number. Doubting that it was Connors but still feeling somewhat hopeful, he held it up to his ear.


"Can you talk?" The voice was low and urgent, as if whomever was speaking was trying not to be heard by anyone in their vicinity.

"Freely." Boyd thought he recognized the voice; he just couldn't quite place from where.

"It's Officer Gerant."

"Ah, Gerant," Boyd said, mildly surprised to be getting a call from him. The surprise swiftly changed to worry. "What's wrong?"

"It's about--" There was a brief pause as though Luke was reconsidering at the last moment. "Listen, I shouldn't be telling you this. It's about... your partner."

Boyd's eyes narrowed. "What is it?" he asked, alarm making it into his voice.

There was a long pause and a rustling sound. When Luke spoke again his voice was still low but it sounded a lot closer to the phone, as if his mouth was pressed against it. "He-- hold on."

Boyd remained silent, although he gripped the phone. The longer there was silence, the more time his imagination had to paint vivid pictures of the horrible things that could have happened to cause Luke to call him. He started to worry that something terrible had happened-- maybe Sin was seriously injured or even dead... He cut that thought off immediately because if that were the case, he highly doubted he'd be hearing about it first from a guard he rarely spoke to.

He gave Luke ten full seconds of silence before he said, "Luke, I realize that you must be in a difficult position, so I appreciate that you called me... But you're starting to scare me. What's going on?"

"I'm sorry." His voice sounded genuinely apologetic. "I was trying to move to a secure spot so I can tell you in detail." There was another brief pause but this time when he spoke, it wasn't as muffled. "He's in bad shape right now and they aren't reporting his injuries, so he isn't receiving medical attention. I tried to put an order in for him but no one has showed up and I'm not sure what's going on."

Frustration was evident in the man's voice, either because of the lack of response by the proper officials or because he was putting himself at risk for a man who had killed his boss.

Alarm turned to anger within Boyd. This was exactly what he'd been worried about. He'd tried to go the official route. He'd tried to let the system work and he'd tried to believe that the guards wouldn't take advantage of the situation. He gave Connors plenty of time to change his mind. He was done with that. He couldn't sit idly by while Sin was forgotten in a place that tortured him.

His mind raced through the scenarios he had created over the days.

"If I need your help," Boyd said seriously, "in a manner that won't implicate you, can I have it? Something subtle that can help me get Sin out of there before they do irreparable damage?"

"Well--" There was another pause. "I didn't mean to alarm you. Honestly I think he's done most of the damage to himself."

That did not make Boyd any happier. "What do you mean?" he asked, an edge in his voice. "As I understand it, they drug him so heavily he can't even defend himself when he's attacked. Unless," his eyes narrowed, "did someone assault him and he attacked them in return, hurting himself?"

"As far as I can tell when he was first brought up they roughed him up a bit but nothing over the top." There was another pause. "I'm not sure what's going on, if it was a direct order or not, but for some reason he was not drugged until yesterday night because he was apparently trying to kill himself, which is typically why they keep him sedated in the first place."

"What?" Boyd burst out, loudly and incensed. "He's horribly claustrophobic-- what sort of asshole would--"

Boyd stopped and forced himself to take a deep breath, the indignation buzzing through his limbs like blood. He gritted his teeth and slid his eyes closed, tilting his head to the floor and gripping the phone tightly. He couldn't even imagine what that must have been doing to Sin. He must have been terrified, he must have been--

"Luke." The determination in Boyd's voice made it come out very firm. "I'll be frank. I'm going to get him out of there soon, and I'll do it by fucking force if I have to. First, I will make a second appeal to the Marshal but I doubt he will help. I already tried once and he couldn't even deem to lower himself to open his fucking door." By the tight twist in his voice, it was clear what he thought of Connors.

"It was rude of me to ask you if you wanted to help so suddenly, and I apologize," he continued reasonably. "If it doesn't work with Connors, I'll get Sin out myself. I'd like you to think about it carefully, though I want to give you time. I'll contact you again if I need help, and I'll understand if you say no. I promise I won't implicate you at all in having told me this. That being said, you clearly already have more humanity and intelligence than it seems many of your peers do there. I'd like to think that I would have a friend up there when I get him out."

Luke was silent for a moment, presumably thinking about what was being said.

Boyd paused just long enough to let his words sink in before he continued. He knew his indignation and anger was only going to get worse when Luke answered the question he was about to ask but he needed to know. "Now, when I confront Connors, I'd like to know what I'm talking about. Could you explain to me better what you mean by 'apparently trying to kill himself' and what his status is now?"

"Well..." Luke trailed off for a moment. "He was cooperative at first despite the fact that they were being rather abusive as they escorted him up. But they deviated from standard procedure and did not hook up the IV, which they use for feeding and to keep him sedated--" He broke off, his voice mildly disgusted as he explained.

"This time they just tossed him in there with nothing. After the second day they'd apparently remembered that a human being needs water and food to survive, but by then he was hysterical and they were too frightened to open the box. They described loud banging, hysterical screaming in foreign languages and apparently by the third day they were severely alarmed because there was no sound at all for several hours. They knew that if he died it's their ass, so they gathered the courage to open the box. He'd knocked himself out slamming his head against the side of the toilet, apparently trying to either commit suicide or make himself unconscious."

Luke sounded frustrated and he paused once again. "Finally they hooked him up to the IV but they pumped him full of an alarming dosage of drugs and I'm afraid that combined with his head injuries, it will be enough that he never wakes up. I'm sure that's not the case but..." He trailed off.

"I didn't have a shift on fourth until today, I'm sorry I couldn't do something sooner," he said apologetically, but his voice firmed. "I will help you in any way I can unless it will jeopardize my own security."

Boyd's stomach twisted sickeningly at Luke's description, and he couldn't bring himself to answer for a few seconds. He was too furious, disgusted, and upset. He kept thinking about Sin's vulnerable expression that time he was in his kitchen, or the wild fear in his eyes when he woke from the nightmare. He knew what it was like to be terrified of something to the point that one would do anything to escape it. It was for that reason he'd been so afraid of failing the missions; so afraid of what his mother had threatened him with on fourth. The worst thing that could happen at a time like that was to have no respite-- no control.

Knowing all that, he felt such pain for what Sin must have been going through that it was difficult not to hate every person who had hurt him. But focusing on that wasn't going to help him. What he had to focus on was what he could do to help. There was absolutely no way he would let this last any longer.

"Thank you," he said tensely. He paused, had to draw a deep breath to steady himself, and managed to sound calmer when he spoke again. "I don't know yet what I'll need you to do, but I will make sure your role seems coincidental. Will you be able to call me again tomorrow at this same time, or is there a number I could contact you at?"

"Of course," Luke said and rattled off the number to his cell phone quickly and quietly. "Just let me know where I should be and what precisely I should do. Thankfully though, General Carhart has discreetly managed to ensure that none of Harry's friends are on the fourth right now. For the moment he has most of the guards suspected in the surveillance investigation on paid suspension."

"That's good, at least," Boyd said mostly to himself. Especially that it was paid suspension; he knew that if it was unpaid, they would just try to take it out on Boyd or Sin again and it would start all over again. He memorized Luke's number. "I'll be in contact." He paused, then said again sincerely, "Thank you. I realize I said it before, but I truly do appreciate that you help us."

"It's no problem, really," Luke insisted. "We're not all bad guys up there; it's just that the bad overpower the few good ones. There's a rookie up there now who thinks the whole situation is completely disturbing, but we'll see how long that lasts before the rumor mill gets to him. There's another guy, Travis, he's up there now and he isn't a complete asshole either. The three of us have shifts together today and tomorrow during the day. Whatever you're planning-- it might go better if it's while we are working."

There was another long pause. "Call me," Luke said in a rushed tone and the line abruptly disconnected.

Boyd flipped his phone closed and looked back at his panel with narrowed, contemplative eyes. Tomorrow was also the day he remembered that Connors would be going on his three day business meeting out of the building. Which meant if Boyd could not get to him today, then he was breaking Sin out tomorrow. And since Connors apparently didn't answer his phone during meetings, it was an even better time because it would take longer for him to realize what happened.

He gave himself just enough time to clean up properly and then headed to the Agency. Once at the compound, he didn't stop for anything until he reached Connors' reception area.

"Is Marshal Connors in?" he asked without preamble.

Samuel gave Boyd an unimpressed stare. "You again. His schedule hasn't changed since the last time you were here. In fact, you're lucky I did mark you for April 15th because now the earliest meeting is Ju--"

"I need to talk to him," Boyd cut Samuel off flatly. His eyes narrowed seriously. "And I won't leave until I'm given the chance."

"Then you'll be here for several months," Samuel said unconcernedly.

"I want you to call him," Boyd insisted.

Samuel's back straightened and his lips thinned. "If you think your existence even registers for Marshal--" Samuel started, affronted.

Disgusted, Boyd didn't let Samuel finish. He strode around the assistant's desk and right up to Connors' door, where he looked up at the camera. "Marshal Connors, I would like to request an audience." His tone was determined but he was careful not to be too disrespectful. Connors held all their lives in his hands and he could easily just have Sin terminated if he got angered.

Samuel stared at him with angry, narrowed eyes and hurried over to him. "Mr. Beaulieu, you are taking this too far. If you don't leave now I will call security."

"Feel free," Boyd said dismissively, having no time for him. He turned back to the camera. "Can you hear me, sir? Please, this is very important. I don't mean to be disrespectful of your time but Sin may be seriously injured. I would really like to talk to you-- only for five minutes, or whatever time you can spare."

"You're being ridiculous," Samuel stormed at him, eyes flashing. "If you think for one second that Marshal Connors is going to fall for yo--"

Before he could continue, there was a buzz and the light next to handle of the door turned green. Samuel went silent and stared at it in shock, his mouth slightly ajar.

Boyd ignored Samuel and walked into the room. He shut the door behind him and glanced around, his gaze finding the Marshal at his desk. He kept his expression and posture completely respectful, and paused by the door.

Connors stared at him calmly, his eyes slightly narrowed although there was no real expression on his face. "Sit down."

Following the direction, Boyd walked to the seat and sat down. He watched Connors calmly; he had never actually met the man before and what he was confronted with was somehow surprising. Connors' hair was black with liberal amounts of silver near his temples and his eyes were steel grey. Seeming older than Carhart by at least a decade, Connors also looked far less generous. The impression was largely in the tilt of his lips.

Even so, he looked distinguished and, to Boyd's mild surprise, was actually wearing a suit. For some reason Boyd had expected him to be fully encased in military paraphernalia with an ugly expression on his face the moment they met. Instead, they had a brief moment to simply observe each other.

"Your display has certainly captured my attention," Connors said flatly, not much emotion in his voice although there was a distinct edge to it. "I'm sure Vivienne would not be pleased with your behavior."

"She likely would not but she rarely is pleased with anything," Boyd said honestly. "So I admit I didn't take it into account. Some things are more important than what others will think."

Connors' expression did not change. He leaned back in his chair and surveyed Boyd clinically, taking in his injuries without commenting on them. "An interesting response. But it leads me to ask, how did you think I would interpret the message you sent for me?"

"I hoped you would take the time to consider the impression the situation gives, if you had not already," Boyd replied.

"Ah, so you mean to say you didn't intend it as a threat? What were your exact words?" Connors stared at him flatly, tapping his thick fingers on the desk. "It didn't bode well for me?"

"It doesn't," Boyd said, and shifted forward a bit in his seat. "This organization is run very hierarchically. There are certain privileges associated with the higher ranks, and the people who spend years working their way up to that level expect a certain amount of respect and protection. The fact that ongoing, targeted harassment can exist and everyone ignores it doesn't look good and could breed resentment. Right now, the fact that Sin is the victim and he is already maligned means that most people may not be paying attention to it. But if the perpetrators start to feel that they can get away with whatever they want because they'll never be held accountable, it seems destined to only end in unnecessary trouble for all levels of management."

Not looking very impressed, the Marshal leaned back in his chair and glanced down at his computer screen. "It's interesting that you think I am unaware of anything you just said. Do you think that your existence here will suddenly serve to enlighten me on how to run this organization? And that is aside from the fact that you did not answer my question."

"I'm not threatening you, Marshal. I'm humbly asking you on behalf of my partner to please consider releasing him from confinement. I have reason to have concern for his health."

Connors stared at him blankly for a moment before an almost irritated expression began to form on his otherwise stony face. "I'm fully aware of Vega's condition, mentally and physically. According to his tracker, his vitals have not dropped yet so for the moment he is still alive. Other than his possible discomfort and what you perceive to be the unfairness of the situation, why should I release him? More importantly, why do you feel this need to put yourself in danger for him? And believe me, Boyd, you can consider the failure of last week's mission as a considerable mark against you both."

Boyd considered that question, wanting Connors to know he was taking this seriously. "Because he's my partner, sir. And because no one else does. Everyone deserves someone who will speak up for them when they're unable to do so themselves. And because the reason he's in confinement right now is due to helping me when I was being attacked. He didn't do something unprovoked; he was reacting to a well-known threat."

Connors stared at him, bushy eyebrows rising slightly. "I admire your tenacity, Boyd. However, I regret to inform you that I have no intentions of releasing him early and I would appreciate it if you would not waste my time with such matters simply because you feel the burning desire to root for the underdog. Although with his ability to snap a neck with considerable lack of effort, I would hesitate to even describe him as such."

Although the comment could have referred to anything, the way Connors said it led Boyd to believe that it was a reference to the video. Boyd took to that immediately, hoping to be able to use the situation from the video to prove his point. Although it was a little embarrassing to know Connors had viewed the footage, it was a necessary evil in order to protect Sin.

"Sir," Boyd said earnestly, "not to belabor the point, but if you've viewed the footage than surely you see that Sin was only protecting me? Officer Truman had a documented history of sexual assault, and he had accosted Sin in the past. He was a predator who targeted victims who he felt were vulnerable, which most often was Sin. Does that context not factor into his treatment?"

"I do not see why it should be deemed acceptable that he killed a man who could have just as easily been incapacitated or knocked unconscious. You may try to put Vega in the role of innocent victim, but he's anything but. He's a menace, and he only remains at this organization because at the moment, he is not replaceable."

Connors pulled a pack of cigarettes from his desk and extracted one, although he didn't move to light it. Boyd's gaze flicked down to follow the movement, and in the process he noticed Connors' seal for official documents had been pushed closer to his side of the desk by his panel computer.

Boyd took that information into account. With the way this meeting was going, he was likely going to have to do one of the contingency plans, and the seal may be just what he was missing in one of them. Despite the quick thoughts running through his mind, his gaze did not linger even the slightest and when he looked back up at Connors, none of it had made it to his expression.

Connors' gaze remained on Boyd and his eyes had narrowed with impatience. "The extreme nature of his responses are inappropriate, and he will be punished until he understands that."

"But how will you know when he understands?" Boyd pressed. He sat forward in his seat, watching Connors intently with his eyebrows drawn up. "Sir, please. I understand what his reputation is and I know the types of acts he has committed in the past. I am not ignoring those aspects, but I think there is more to him than many people have the opportunity to see. I think he does already understand when his actions are inappropriate. And while I understand that he has to be held accountable for killing another member of the Agency, how long will be deemed long enough? The place he has been put does not give him the chance for self-evaluation. He's put in a place that tortures him. If the point is for him to understand, couldn't he at least be moved to a holding cell or isolation of another sort?"

"No," was the flat response. "This is not a correctional facility. He will learn through punishment, or he will be disposed of in the future. It is as simple as that. Further commentary on the methods in which the Agency instills obedience is unnecessary and unwanted. As I said, these methods have been in place long before you were here, long before your mother birthed you-- and it is very successful. Is there anything else?"

Boyd leaned back in his chair and shook his head, letting a hint of defeat make it to his expression so Connors would think he was ready to give this up. "No, sir."

"Good." Connors finally let his cigarette, taking a drag as he watched Boyd through the smoke that drifted between them. "I do have one question, however."

Boyd paused with his hands on the arms of the chair. He'd been about to stand up and he looked over at Connors curiously, having expected to be dismissed. "Yes, sir?"

There was another pause as Connors watched him thoughtfully. Then he said calmly, "There has been speculation of an involvement between you and Vega that extends beyond the realm of partnership, and even friendship. What's your opinion on this rumor?"

Boyd's expression was perfectly blank aside from a slight frown, as if that hadn't occurred to him before and he was considering it. Inwardly, he was slightly worried that the topic had come up; especially after he'd probably done himself no favors by arguing so passionately on Sin's behalf. He didn't know what would happen if Connors had it confirmed that he and Sin were sexually attracted to each other and had almost acted on it, but he doubted it would be good.

"Well, sir, I think there are a lot of things people say that is exaggerated. And the fact that both of us are high profile makes us easy targets for a disgruntled person's wandering mind."

"I see."

Connors ashed his cigarette and looked at his computer again. "That's all."

Relief moved through Boyd at that; knowing that Connors wasn't going to press the issue. Although, he could only hope he'd given the correct answer.

Nodding, Boyd dropped his eyes to the floor, his gaze passing so casually past Connors' desk that it was unnoticeable when it lingered for half a second. He leaned forward and used the desk as a brace to push himself up, though he acted as though he was trying to hide the pain his body was in. Connors did not seem to notice or care, and Boyd palmed the seal discreetly. He slipped his hands into the pockets of his trench coat as usual when he was upright.

He tilted his head forward politely. "Thank you for your time, Marshal Connors. I appreciate you accommodating your busy schedule for a few minutes with me."

Connors nodded, watching him for a moment with a look that was difficult to interpret and turned back to his work.

When Boyd left the office he noticed Samuel's indignant glare, but neither of them spoke. Calmly striding through the complex, Boyd waited until he was several floors down and out of the elevators before he flipped his phone open and dialed Ryan's number. He watched his surroundings seemingly idly as he waited for him to answer.

"Is everything okay?" Ryan asked as soon as he picked up.

"Yes," Boyd said, eyes tracking a few of the people passing by. "But I need your help."

Continue to Chapter 23