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-Three

It was good that Boyd had taken the time to consider every aspect of the rescue mission because otherwise he easily could have missed a crucial step along the way. Clearance to the fourth floor was highly monitored, as was access.

It was not possible to gain access even to the elevator that accessed the floor without full clearance afforded to the user's key card. Beyond that, there were many checks and balances in place that did not allow any unauthorized entry onto the floor, including checking the thumbprint of the person against the identity listed on the card and verifying information only they would know. In this way, no one could simply steal a card with clearance and gain access.

And even having passed through all that, there were highly trained guards who scrutinized anyone who gained access to the floor. Boyd strode through the halls with seemingly complete confidence, while his heart beat quickly at the knowledge that at any second, his charade could come crashing down around hm. And if that happened, he would be lucky if all he received was the torture his mother had been threatening him with since day one.

He'd already passed through a few checkpoints but he hadn't yet entered the areas of fourth that were even higher clearance than others. The area where he'd learned Sin was being held.

He turned down the hallway and saw the first guard he would have to convince to let him through. He walked straight up to the man, who had turned a calculating stare on him the second his footsteps had echoed down the hall. He didn't look too friendly, which wasn't going to help matters but wasn't surprising. Although Luke was working with friends around Sin's room, the rest of the floor wasn't necessarily being worked by others who would be equally approachable.

The guard watched him like a hawk and held his arm out so Boyd couldn't pass, even though Boyd had already been slowing.

"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded. "You can't be up here."

"I was given one-time special clearance," Boyd said. He held up the official white document that was a little crinkled from being in his pocket.

The guard scrutinized it. Once he realized Marshal Connors' signature was on the bottom he checked the back of the sheet where the indentation from the pen pushed through, showing it was real. He then held the paper up to see the watermarks used only on legitimate documentation, and frowned when he saw Marshal Connors' official seal by the signature. Giving Boyd a suspicious look, he brought the sheet down and studied very carefully what it said. It was an order for Boyd to release Sin from confinement and to escort him back to his apartment.

"I didn't hear about this," the guard said with a frown, eyeing Boyd.

"I'm just following orders," Boyd said with a shrug.

The guard scowled, keeping the document in his hand. "This is strange. Why didn't General Carhart come down himself?"

"The Marshal is off compound for a few days on business and General Carhart was indisposed," Boyd explained, looking bored. As if he didn't care about any of this. In fact it was torturous to be this close to his goal and to have to affect such nonchalance that allowed him to be delayed minutes at a time.

The guard's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I'm going to have to clear this with General Carhart."

"Do what you have to but I don't imagine either of them will be pleased. They purposefully sent me, as Agent Vega's partner, to follow through on the order because they were too busy to do it themselves." He shrugged unconcernedly. "So feel free to question official documentation all you want, but personally I wouldn't want to be the one making that phone call."

Fingers tightening on the letter, the guard looked down at the document one more time. He was probably searching for anything to show it was a fake. After a moment, he frowned and handed it back to Boyd, who folded it back up and put it carefully in his pocket.

"Fine," the guard said flatly. He stepped to the side, giving Boyd access to the floor.

"Thank you," Boyd said and the guard only gave him an unmoved stare. Boyd turned and continued on his way, feeling his heart thud in his chest as he passed the first hurdle of his goal.

No one gave him quite as much trouble as the first guard since the initial guards were supposed to screen the people who made it to the floor. Once past them, it was assumed they had a reason to be there. In fact, the floor was nearly empty save some psychiatrists wandering around and one guard who Boyd vaguely recognized but didn't know by name. He glanced at the paper and was actually nice and helpful by telling him which direction to go to the cell. Boyd already knew where he was headed but he acted as though he didn't and thanked the guard.

Gerant and another man stood at the entrance of Sin's cell, looking through the bulletproof glass warily while they murmured a conversation too low for Boyd to understand. His stomach leapt briefly at the expression on Luke's face, but he didn't let the worry show on his face.

"Guards," he said as he came upon them. They both looked over, startled. "I have my orders to release Agent Vega." He held the document up, surveying them both with detachment. He didn't give any indication that he even recognized Luke, let alone was working with him.

Luke stared at Boyd for a long moment before responding. "We were not informed of this. Typically we are sent direct orders about the release of one of our inmates."

The other guard looked from Luke to Boyd apprehensively. "Who's Agent Vega?"

Luke flashed the younger man, obviously the rookie he'd spoken of earlier, a mildly reproachful look but didn't reply.

"Vega is Sin's last name," Boyd informed the rookie almost casually, and turned his attention back to Luke with one eyebrow raised. "I realize it's unusual but I'm just following orders. Your friend at the entrance already examined it, but," he held the document out, "feel free to examine my orders as long as it takes for you to be satisfied."

Luke took the paper and examined it. Boyd remained silent as Luke scrutinized it with as much care as the first guard had. After a long moment, he shook his head. "While this is unprecedented, the documents are in order."

He looked at the rookie and jerked his head in the direction of the paper. "When a prisoner is released, unless Marshal Connors or General Carhart is here himself, the person would have a document such as this," he explained, not seeming in a hurry to release Sin. "When checking the document make sure it has the Marshal's seal, signature and watermark on the back otherwise it is not authentic. In that case, back up should be called immediately and the person arrested."

Boyd was pleased that Luke was following his request from the day before; he'd wanted him to treat Boyd as he would have if he didn't know him and wasn't helping him. It was for the same reason Boyd made sure that although Ryan changed the clearance code on his keycard, it would not be traced back to him. Since he'd stolen the seal himself from Connors' office, he should be the only one implicated should this all fall apart.

His expression remained remote and a little irritable, however. He felt it best to play into the well known discord between guards and agents.

"I suppose this is as good a time as any to train," he said shortly. "I've heard a lot about the way people can be treated on this floor, especially my partner. Maybe you can teach him a little humanity while you teach him the rules. Or is that out of your job description?"

"Humanity isn't on my itinerary today," Luke replied blandly. The rookie looked mildly mortified by Boyd's words and shifted uncomfortably at Luke's side.

Boyd ignored the comment and glanced very briefly into Sin's cell, but all he could see was the windowless box. He was almost thankful though, he wasn't certain he'd be able to keep up his unaffected air if he knew exactly what Sin looked like.

"Why do I hear nothing in there? Did you kill him while no one was looking or is he just too traumatized to think after what you people do to him?" The question was challenging.

Luke looked at Boyd and frowned, ignoring most of his tirade. "That's actually what we were discussing before you arrived, Agent Beaulieu. We are concerned that he may be dead by now."

Boyd blinked and only partially covered the startled expression he turned to Luke. He couldn't tell if Luke was just acting or serious, but he knew anyone watching would expect Boyd to react the way he did.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, looking to the box again with narrowed eyes. "Let me in there immediately; you've had enough time to peruse the document. Why do you think he's dead?"

Luke returned the document and walked closer to the cell, glancing at Boyd. "He had a head injury and then he was sedated. It has been quiet since and we are not to enter or unlock the box unless given direct orders, which we now have."

Luke hovered before the keypad by the door, blocking it from view and quickly input the code. There was a long beep and then the light turned green. Luke pushed the door to the cell open and beckoned Boyd to follow him as he walked around the 6 foot by 4 foot box that sat in the center of the cell. An IV disappeared into a small hole in the side, hooked to a set up mounted on the side of the box where they could refill it without having to open the door.

Narrowing his eyes, Boyd felt his heart thump louder as he approached the box. Sin would not even be able to stand in there, he would barely be able to move. For someone so claustrophobic, it had to be torturous. Boyd was sickened by the knowledge that the box even existed as a form of punishment for Sin at all.

"Open it." Boyd's voice was darker than usual. If he'd waited too long-- if he'd given Connors too much time to respond and something irreparable had happened...

The thought trailed off ominously even in his own mind.

Luke hesitated, hands poised over the keypad to the door. He looked at Boyd and for a moment, the apprehension was clearly visible in his eyes. He looked as though he wanted to tell Boyd to stand back just in case, to prepare himself, but he shook his head and kept to his act. He hovered before the door once again to block the code he punched in.

There was another long beep but this time Luke had to punch in another series of digits, this one longer than the first, before the light flashed green and he was able to open the door. The sheer amount of precaution surrounding Sin seemed almost ridiculous, although it wasn't necessarily unwarranted considering what he was capable of at times.

"Shit," Luke hissed when he looked inside and for a moment, he froze.

Boyd moved in behind him immediately to see, alarm growing so suddenly that it actually hurt by how fast his heart leaped and beat.

Sin was half slumped against the wall, his legs splayed awkwardly because the box was too small for him to even properly sit with his legs fully extended.

His hair was hanging around his face and large purple bruises covered a huge portion of his forehead and one temple. A wide bracelet circled one wrist, and the IV disappeared into it. The bracelet was wide enough to hide the needle so that Sin could not possibly remove the IV while the tube itself was made of a special material that could not be torn or ripped apart. Sin's hands rested at his side, fingers curled and bloodied, raw and jagged. Judging by the sickening smears of blood on the walls, it was from trying to scratch his way out. There were bloody hand prints all over, as if Sin was slamming his hands around repeatedly, to the point that even his palms were scratched and torn.

His skin was ashen and, worst of all, he did not seem to be moving at all.

He looked dead.

White noise seemed to fill Boyd's perception of the world and he didn't even realize how incredibly alarmed his expression became, or that he hissed, "What the fuck?" while shoving Luke aside.

He was at Sin's side in the space of a blink, one slightly shaky hand feeling for a pulse at his neck with the other at Sin's free wrist while he stared with widened eyes at Sin's completely slack expression. His blood was thundering through him, tingling his hands in his fear, to the point that he couldn't think well enough to feel Sin's heartbeat at first.

It took him a moment, but he finally realized he could feel Sin's pulse faintly beating.

The relief that swept through him was nearly debilitating. Boyd slumped to his knees with his head tilted to the floor, his hair hiding his expression. He had to take a deep, even breath before he was able to murmur, "He's alive. But I need to get him out of here immediately and get these drugs out of his system because what the fuck--"

What had started as calm and reasonable twisted into a snarl at the end. Boyd cut himself off and had to take another moment to try to get his panic back under control. It was difficult, with Sin looking closer to death than life in front of him.

"I'm already on it," Luke said, disabling the IV with yet another code that was punched into the bracelet. He pulled it off Sin and threw it on the floor, his face twisting in disgust now that he was hidden from the cameras.

"Fucking ridiculous," he was muttering to himself. He moved forward awkwardly, the top of his head brushing the ceiling of the box as he walked around Boyd, avoiding Sin's long legs and the toilet which was smudged with blood where Sin had repeatedly smashed his head. There was only a small space that wasn't occupied and he knelt there for a second, gripping Sin's chin in one hand as he studied him.

"What are we doing?" he asked in a low voice.

It was bizarre seeing someone being able to so casually touch Sin, and that more than anything caused Boyd to be unable to respond for a moment. Sin had a pulse but he had to be almost entirely dead to allow that, to not respond, to not...

"We're taking him to his apartment," Boyd said as calmly as he could, his voice still a step distant to his ears. "I can't carry him on my own. I need help, I don't care who, I just need it, even it's a gurney or someone dragging him with."

Boyd stopped himself abruptly when he realized he was nearly rambling, something he rarely did. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly, staying out of Luke's way. He was going to have to close this all off once he was back within the cameras. He was going to have to find a way to stop the trembling of his hands, too. But he couldn't look around the box without some evidence of blood showing the pain and panic Sin had to be in. And that made a voice in his mind wonder with increasing alarm whether Sin was going to be okay after all.

Luke nodded shortly and slid both of his arms under Sin's, grunting as he tried to hoist him up. He stumbled for a moment, almost falling under Sin's weight. He caught himself and only managed to tilt awkwardly against the wall. Sin sagged against him, hair falling in front of his completely slack face that temporarily blocked the vivid bruises covering his head.

"Damn," Luke muttered as he backed out of the box, half carrying and half dragging Sin with him. "He's a lot heavier than he looks."

"He's a lot of things one doesn't expect," Boyd said almost absently, and moved in on the other side to take half of Sin's weight as soon as they were out of the box where there was enough room. He looked at Luke sidelong, his expression composed once again under the cameras, even if his eyes were narrowed seriously.

"Will you be able to escort him to the apartment or do I need someone else? And regarding the drugs," there was a twist to his words where he couldn't quite keep the disgust from his voice, "will there be any side effects now that they've been stopped?"

"James!" Luke called to the rookie as he shifted to get a better grip on Sin. "Radio Travis and tell him I need him to cover me while I give Agent Beaulieu an escort."

The rookie stared at the scene with wide eyes before grabbing his radio and fumbling with it, trying to find the right switches.

Luke glanced at Boyd over the top of Sin's bowed head. "It would be wise to take him to the medical unit for further evaluation. He might have a severe concussion or worse and he has been unconscious for quite some time. However, if the orders are to return him to his quarters I would advise that you request further instruction. I assume he is to be watched in some way to monitor his condition. While he has never shown side effects before, I'm not sure what will happen in this case. He has a strong tolerance to the drugs and they normally wear off quickly once they are no longer constantly added to his system, but given his head injury I am not sure what his response will be."

Boyd nodded but his mind was racing furiously. He really should take Sin to the medical unit but could he afford to? What if Connors discovered his ploy? Boyd's entire plan rested on the fact that he could barricade the two of them in Sin's apartment, which was built so securely that it should be easy to defend when it became apparent what Boyd did.

But at the same time, what use was it to get Sin somewhere safe if he only died there, or was permanently damaged? Thinking of the blueprints, Boyd quickly ran through a few scenarios in his mind and tried to consider where the most traffic would be according to the time of day.

He calculated that he could probably count on about twenty-five minutes leeway before anyone thought to contact Samuel, and then it would take at least that long for him to contact Connors and for an order to be given to the rest of the guards to go return Sin to the box. He would give the medics that long to check him over and give him the supplies he needed, and that was all he could afford.

"Follow me," Boyd said firmly and started dragging Sin and Luke both toward a back hallway.

Luke didn't resist although he looked back towards the main exit. "Where does this lead? I don't normally take this route."

"A shortcut to the medic unit," Boyd said calmly and Luke just nodded. The next half hour passed in a blur despite the awkwardness. They were able to take an old set of elevators that were rarely used once they left fourth, but even with the back route that Boyd chose, they still ran into some people who looked at them in alarm. Boyd ignored them and tried to rush Luke as much as he could without being obvious about it.

The medics seemed surprised at the sudden appearance more than Sin's condition; they had probably seen him many times in a terrible state after being in the box, though never quite like this. After a quick but thorough check, it was concluded that Sin would be fine with rest but just in case they gave Boyd a few things that may help. Luke and Boyd were told to inform them immediately if Sin seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, but they felt that he was resilient enough that even with the damage he would ultimately be fine.

Boyd didn't feel comfortable saying anything until they were in the open air of the courtyard on the way to Sin's apartment, the only place they were free of constant surveillance that could overhear conversations.

With his head tilted forward so his hair half-hid his expression, he looked at Luke sidelong and with eyes that expressed the emphasis of his words, he whispered, "Thank you."

Luke glanced at him and nodded, supporting most of Sin's weight as he tried not to drag his bare feet along the cold ground. "You're welcome," he replied. There was a brief silence before he spoke again. "I don't agree with some of the things he has done, I don't even agree with the fact that he is free, but I also don't believe that any human being should be treated like this and I don't wish for him to die."

There was another long silence and just before they reached Sin's building, Luke looked at Boyd again. "And I think being around you helps him."

Boyd's lips stretched humorlessly. "I don't think I help anything at all," he said softly, "and I know he's done terrible things. But he'll never stop if he isn't given the chance."

Luke grunted as he carried Sin up the front stairs. "You're not giving yourself enough credit," he replied but didn't have a chance to say more as they entered the building and approached the guards.

Boyd wasn't carrying as much weight as Luke was; somehow it'd just happened that way. Maybe Luke was trying to keep Boyd, who didn't look much better than Sin, from having to put too much stress on his body. It was easier for Boyd to pull the official document out though without having to fumble too much with Sin, and after minimal scrutiny by the guards, the two were finally able to make it to Sin's apartment.

Swiping his card through the lock on Sin's door, Boyd shoved his way into the apartment and had Luke help place Sin on the couch. He didn't want to bring him back to the bedroom where he couldn't see him clearly from everywhere. Stepping back, Boyd stared at Sin for one long moment before turning to Luke and affecting the same composed detachment as before.

"I'm fine now, guard," he informed him almost imperiously. "You can return to your post."

Luke's mouth quirked up into an almost amused smirk but he hid it quickly. He nodded and backed towards the door with one final glance at Sin. "Good luck with your... friend." He let the words roll off his tongue sarcastically and turned around, disappearing from the apartment and leaving the two alone.

If he weren't so aware of the cameras and the situation weren't so serious, Boyd would have been amused by the act Luke put on even until the end. As it was, he had to get several things done before he would let himself rest. The moment Luke was gone, Boyd shut the door firmly behind him, though he could not lock it from his side in a way that anyone with keycard access would be unable to enter. That was unimportant until they discovered his ruse, however, and he needed to get the surveillance off them first.

He had watched Sin through the live feed enough to know exactly where to find the cameras.

They were a little difficult to remove, but Boyd had done some research during his planning period and he knew what types of cameras they probably had installed and how best to deactivate them. It damaged the walls and took quite a bit of pained wrenching on his end, but he eventually managed to rip every one of the contraptions down.

The camera in the bathroom mirror was most difficult, as he had to figure out where it was located. It took him awhile and he eventually had to pry the part of the mirrored cabinet off the wall before he found the camera tucked in a recess behind. That also came out, though it was hardest to do because the angle was incredibly uncomfortable for him to try for any amount of leverage, and he had to attempt this all without breaking the actual mirror unit off the wall because he had no way of putting it back on if he did. He could have just shattered the mirror and gone through the front, but he didn't want Sin to know that the camera was there.

It seemed evident from when he'd watched the feed in the past that Sin did not think anyone was watching him in there. Boyd did not have the heart to take away that last shred of privacy Sin had thought he'd retained.

Every time he passed through the living room, Boyd looked at Sin very carefully to make sure he was still alright. Through the duration of taking the cameras down, Sin stayed almost entirely still, but as time passed he started to move a little more. By the time Boyd had the cameras in a pile in the middle of the living room, Sin was starting to twitch. He didn't look in pain so Boyd kept an eye on him as he considered the pile of electronics.

He didn't want Sin to know about the mirror camera and he was also angry with the Agency for watching Sin so invasively and denying him so many simple human comforts. There really had never been any other option than to destroy them. He sat on the floor and dismantled them one by one, using tools for some but for the most part just breaking them. He tried to stay as quiet as he could, so as not to wake Sin or alert the guards to what was happening. Even with that intention, he couldn't help the occasional crack as plastic snapped, or his subsequent hissed curses when he hurt his hand or smacked an elbow against the floor.

Movement caught his eye and he looked over suddenly to see Sin's eyes slit open and turned toward him. Seeing Sin seemingly conscious caught Boyd off guard and for a second he stared back at him, slightly wide eyed, before he thought to drop the camera he'd been working on.

Even within the handful of seconds it took Boyd to get by him, Sin had already fallen back asleep. Sweat broke out on his forehead and his skin turned a little clammy.

Even so, the sight of Sin showing even that much life was relieving. Boyd let out a shaky breath he didn't realize he was holding, and he couldn't stop himself from tentatively touching Sin's forehead. He tensed, half expecting a hand to grip his wrist painfully but Sin didn't respond at all. Boyd felt as comforted by the ability to touch him as he was alarmed because it was so unlike Sin to allow it.

For the next few hours, Boyd was constantly on edge. He watched Sin carefully, almost fiercely protective. At the slightest sound of movement at the door he turned immediately, ready to intercept anyone who stopped Sin's recovery, but no one came and no one even called him on his cell. He could only assume that Connors did not know yet what happened, or there was some other interference that was delaying the inevitable confrontation that would take place.

Boyd knew he'd placed himself in grave danger with this act but it didn't matter. He was determined to make sure Sin was alright and aware before he would let himself be dragged away, if that was what they intended to do. He wouldn't mind too much as long as Sin was alive and well-- and out of that horrible box. Some day, Boyd wanted to destroy that as well.

Sin woke up a couple times, but he was in such a state of disorientation that all he could manage was slurred speech and mumbling. He looked very confused, his eyes glassy any time they opened. He seemed even more baffled whenever Boyd came near, as if he could not quite believe it was him.

A few times he suddenly jerked and threw himself around as if he were having a nightmare or thought he was still in the box. Boyd was there each time to put a gentle hand on his forehead and a quelling one on his shoulder to keep him from hurting himself.

"It's okay, Sin; it's Boyd," he assured him each time. "You're out of the box. I'm here."

It was clear several times that Sin was almost aware of Boyd's presence but then he slipped back asleep for varying lengths of time and Boyd just took to gently threading his fingers through Sin's overgrown hair to soothe him even when he was asleep. He felt strangely liberated by the idea that he could touch Sin without reprisal; he didn't want to stop stroking his hair, even though it was greasy and dirty from Sin being in the box for so long. He trailed his hand softly down the bruises on Sin's temple, smoothed his hand over his forehead, then found his fingers in Sin's hair again.

At one point, Boyd realized he had been staring at Sin quietly for long enough that his knees cramped against the floor where he knelt and one leg had fallen asleep, so he shifted and forced himself away. Sin stirred and mumbled something that sounded a little cranky, but otherwise did not respond. He was so out of it, so incredibly different than his usual self, that Boyd didn't know what to think. On the one hand, he felt special to be privy to such a moment but on the other, the vulnerability frightened him. As if he could do something now that would break Sin when he didn't have the chance to defend himself.

The idea of anyone taking advantage of Sin in this state was utterly repellent to him. At one point, he stood over Sin, looking down at him on the couch and thinking darkly about how he would have killed Harry himself if Sin hadn't taken care of it for him.

Sin stirred on the couch again, murmured something sleepily and fell back unconscious. Boyd walked to the kitchen and grabbed a large bowl from the cupboards. The plastic bowl made a dull sound as he set it in the sink and filled it with warm soapy water.

He spent the next hour sitting on the coffee table next to the couch, gently cleaning Sin's face, torso, arms and feet-- the parts he could reach without disturbing the only clothing Sin wore; his pants.

Although Boyd could have removed Sin's pants to wash him, he didn't feel comfortable doing so and he decided Sin could shower all he wanted when he woke up. He didn't want to take advantage of Sin's helplessness when it wasn't absolutely necessary. The fact that others had probably removed his pants when he couldn't defend himself, others like Harry and his disgusting friends, made it impossible for Boyd to even consider performing such an act.

Boyd left Sin's hands for last. The water had already been bloodied multiple times, causing him to pause and dump it out and refill it.

He was very gentle with Sin's hands. He ran his fingertips lightly along them a few times, comfortingly, to see what such powerful hands felt like when they weren't gripping him painfully. He was lost in the feel of Sin's skin, his expression relaxed and entranced, when something made him look up suddenly with guilt, like a child caught doing something wrong.

Sin's eyes were open and trained on him, but they were glassy and he still looked half out of it, half confused. He searched Boyd's face vaguely, as if looking for the point that would prove him an illusion.

"You're not real," he murmured, slurred.

Boyd stared at him, caught by the open, confused expression on Sin's face. "Yes I am," he said softly.

Sin watched him in sleepy, drugged confusion, and he almost looked upset. "Sorry," he mumbled, struggling to keep his eyes open.

Shaking his head, Boyd smoothed Sin's hair gently from his forehead. His expression twisted briefly. "Why?"

He didn't expect an answer and he didn't get one. Sin fell asleep within moments and did not wake again until long after Boyd finished cleaning his hands.

The night passed slowly, with Boyd refusing to leave Sin's side for longer than absolutely necessary. He was exhausted and his eyelids felt heavier by the hour but he would not go to sleep until he was certain Sin was safe from the drugs as well as someone trying to take him away. He was in a state of half-sleep himself, kneeling by the side of the couch with his head tilting further down when he heard talking on the other side of the door.

Boyd leaped to his feet suddenly, wavering a little, when Vivienne appeared in the doorway with a glacial expression and shut the door behind her. Perhaps due to Boyd's abrupt movement, Sin slipped half-awake and was just able to tangle his fingers in Boyd's sleeve.

Boyd looked down at Sin in surprise, temporarily distracted from his mother. Sin was only half-conscious but his glassy-eyed stare was locked on Boyd. "No," he muttered.

"I'm not going anywhere," Boyd assured him.

Either comforted by the answer or too tired to care, Sin's fingers dropped from Boyd's sleeve and he collapsed back onto the couch, apparently asleep before he even properly woke. Boyd stared at him before turning to his mother, his expression becoming remote.

She watched them with an unreadable expression, then flicked cold eyes up to Boyd. "What did you expect to gain from this?" she asked flatly and without preamble.

"Exactly what I got," Boyd said staunchly. "Sin's freedom for now."

Her eyebrows raised and she crossed her arms. "Oh? Your wish was for temporary respite that would lead to worse consequences than if you had simply been patient?"

"Maybe that's all it will be in the end but I couldn't stand by and do nothing."

Her lip lifted, clearly showing that she was unimpressed. "Do you have any concept of what you have done?" she demanded. "The charges against you are severe. Insubordination, stealing from the Marshal, forging official documentation, entry to the fourth floor without permission, misappropriation of Agency assets, destroying Agency equipment--"

Her eyes narrowed and her jaw tightened. "I could continue. Do you not understand the consequences of your actions? Forging the documentation alone could be grounds for termination."

Boyd had known going into this he was putting himself in danger, but at the time all he'd been able to think about was Sin. Now that Sin was relatively safe, he had the chance to focus on other aspects. Hearing her lay it out only underscored to him how serious it all was.

Still, it didn't change anything for him.

"It doesn't matter."

"Because you wish to die?" she asked with disgust.

"No," he said firmly. "Because this is more important."

Her lips thinned and for a moment she only stared at him in clear distaste. "You are a short-sighted fool." She turned around and strode back toward the door.

"You're leaving?" Boyd asked, surprised. He didn't think it would be this easy.

"I am remedying the situation," she said coolly.

"How?" Boyd asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion. She didn't respond and he started after her. When he saw her reaching for the doorknob, his hand snapped out and grabbed her wrist before she could open the door.

"How?" he repeated in a hard demand.

She looked over at him at first with indignation that soon shifted to an icy glare. "You will unhand me at once," she ordered.

His fingers only tightened. "Not until you tell me what you're going to do."

She jerked at her hand but Boyd didn't release her. Her eyes narrowed to slits. "I will have your partner removed by force and deal with you later."

"No you won't," Boyd said coldly, hardly realizing that it was the first time in his life that he had told his mother no.

Vivienne went still, turning a disbelieving stare onto him. "What did you say to me?"

"I said I'm not letting you have him." Boyd's grip firmed on her wrist. His eyebrows lowered darkly over a dead serious stare. "Not until he's better. He was nearly killed in that box because of the discrimination against him and Connors wasn't doing anything to help. If I let Sin out of my sight now, with the mood on the compound as it is, he could die. So I won't let anyone touch him, I won't leave his side, until he can defend himself. I will fight to keep him safe with every ounce of strength I have."

His jaw tightened. "After he's capable, if you need a scapegoat, target me. But until then, if you're getting reinforcements, you'd better get a lot and you'd better expect a fight." He released her wrist abruptly with a jerking motion that made her hand fall away from the door.

She stared at him, her face a mask of ice. He couldn't tell what she was thinking and he realized he didn't care. Although it should have scared him to defy her for the first time in his life, especially since he'd always wanted nothing more than to please her, he found that instead he felt only resolve.

They measured each other for a long, tense moment. Her back was stiff and his shoulders were tense; they each held their heads high and their narrowed eyes met each other. Their jaws were each set with a hard line. They were a mirror of each other in some ways, but while Vivienne looked coldly remote, Boyd was unwavering and steadfast.

At length, her hard blue eyes shifted to look over Boyd's shoulder at Sin, still lying defenseless on the couch. Her lips thinned and she seemed distinctly displeased, but the fact that she didn't speak immediately gave Boyd the impression that she was running through something in her mind. She turned unreadable eyes onto Boyd again.

"You intend to make a massacre if necessary in order to preserve one man's safety for even a short few days?" She spoke without inflection but when Boyd only nodded resolutely, her eyes narrowed and she continued sharply, "Why?"

"He's my partner."

"That answer is not acceptable," Vivienne said curtly. She crossed her arms and stared him down. "Answer me why you would go to such lengths for such a paltry goal."

"Because saving him from torture and possible death is the furthest thing from insignificant to me." Boyd's expression set in hard, stubborn lines. "I know you don't believe human connection is important. I know you've never cared for my taste in friends. I know this may be foolhardy and I know it may end in tragedy. But I don't care. He protected me when no one else gave a shit what happened to me and I'm going to do the same back for him no matter what it costs me. He's my partner and he's my friend and no matter how stupid this may all seem to you from the outside, it won't change my mind."

There was another long beat of silence. The tension was strong in the room and Boyd wondered how long he was going to end up having before she ordered him forcefully removed to the fourth floor. Good thing he'd brought some weapons over to Sin's ahead of time just in case.

At length she looked away. Her eyes narrowed and eyebrows lowered faintly but it seemed to be pensive more than anything. Her lips turned down on the edges and then she half turned toward the door again. Her intent stare did not waver on Boyd.

"Very well," she said without inflection. "Agent Vega has already served most of his punishment and it would not do to have him incapacitated indefinitely. I will see to it that you both remain undisturbed for the minimal time it requires for him to recover. However," she added in a hard tone, "I can make no guarantees for you. I will speak with the Marshal, yet given your astounding disregard for protocol it should not come as a surprise to you should you meet with dire consequences."

Boyd's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Some of the tension left his shoulders and his hands dropped to his sides. He had hoped she would give him some more time before calling in the reinforcements. He'd never expected her to talk to Connors on his behalf, and he'd certainly never expected her to help him keep Sin in the apartment.

"Thank you," he said in shock.

She shook her head, jaw shifting as if she were annoyed by his words. She turned her back on him and reached for the door, but paused with her hand on the doorknob. "You have tried my patience far too often of late. I expect you to consider your actions more carefully in the future. And Boyd--"

She turned a cold stare on him. "If you lay a hand disrespectfully on me once more, I will not be this lenient again. I am your superior. You will treat me as such."

Boyd could only nod dumbly, still processing the fact that it seemed he'd actually gotten away with this. "Of course, mother."

She gave him a thin-lipped look of warning, and then she was gone. He heard her already making clipped orders to the guard as the door swung shut.

Boyd stood in the middle of the room, staring at the door in a mixture of disbelief and wonder, and then looked over at Sin. His partner had not stirred again. He was half on his side, lying along the couch with one hand dangling over the edge. His fingers were curled and his eyebrows twitched down occasionally, his expression shifting with his dreams.

Boyd walked over, looking down at Sin and then crouching at his side. He couldn't help pushing some of Sin's hair back from his forehead and letting his hand rest there a moment, feeling the heat of his partner's skin.

"It'll be okay, Sin," Boyd said softly. His fingers sifted through Sin's hair and then he let his hand fall away. "I promise."

He sat there quietly, feeling a little silly to be making such statements to such a strong person like Sin, and especially when he was unconscious. Yet he couldn't deny the relief he felt at being able to say those words, and for the first time truly being able to believe them.

He moved further down and knelt by the couch at Sin's legs. He watched his partner, long after his eyes had grown heavy and his mind had started to piece by piece let go of the stress of the last few days. When he rested his arms against Sin's legs, the comfort he felt in knowing Sin was safe and would be for now made sleep inexorably draw him near.

Continue to Chapter 24