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-Five

The days after Sin's release from the fourth passed in a blur. He thought it was strange since it did not typically take so long for him to shake off the effects unless he was incarcerated for a much larger period of time. The only explanation was that either they'd given him much larger doses than usual or that the drugs combined with his concussion were responsible for the majority of his sluggishness. Whatever the case was, he'd been unable to do much other than sleep and wander around his apartment for the first three days.

Although a support agent had brought him up several bags of food and other things the day after Carhart's visit, Boyd had continued to drop by every so often to ensure that he was improving in strength. He never stayed for long and they never spoke much, but Sin had found himself once again craving Boyd's presence. The feelings and confusion surrounding Boyd, which had mostly disappeared and turned to animosity after the mission in France, had returned in full force. Only, this time Sin did very little to fight or analyze it.

Sin accepted the fact that he wanted Boyd around and it no longer bothered him. The part of him that was angry, suspicious and emotionless screamed at him. That part told him he was being weak and foolish and demanded if he'd forgotten the remote and the way Boyd had treated him. There were times when Sin listened to that voice and felt the familiar stirrings of anger and resentment that had dominated him for the past several months. But then he remembered what Boyd had done for him and the suspicion, anger, and bitterness faded away.

If Boyd had forgiven him for all he'd done and said, he could do more than forgive Boyd in return. Boyd had proven himself to be more than trustworthy. Boyd had lied for him, risked his own freedom and life by defying Connors, stood up to his mother and to the entire Agency. what more proof did he need?

Sin spent his time wandering around his apartment, feeling liberated by the absence of the cameras and thankful that Boyd had thought to get rid of them. He didn't feel pressured to hide his physical pain anymore and that alone allowed anxiety that he hadn't even realized existed to disappear. He found it hard to believe that Connors had allowed it, that they'd given Boyd everything he'd demanded without questions or consequences, but he figured it had something to do with Vivienne's influence.

Whatever the case was, things were going a lot better between them now. They'd mostly gone back to the comfortable familiarity that had been between them before Thanksgiving, but something about it was different. The moment they'd shared before Carhart had walked in had confused him. Not only had he unconsciously touched Boyd but Boyd had allowed it and had seemed to even want to touch him in return. It was a drastic difference from previous incidents and Sin wasn't entirely sure what it meant. It nagged at him constantly, especially when Boyd was in his proximity, but he didn't do it again and they never brought it up.

Sin found himself not really knowing how to react to someone who had managed to get so close to him despite all of the things they'd gone through to get to that point. However, despite his confused thoughts and hesitation, he didn't show any of it.

When he wasn't silent, he found that something had subtly shifted between them. Maybe it was relief from having gotten away with this all with the Agency, but the freedom he felt in his apartment seemed to affect his interactions with Boyd to some degree. He didn't cut to suspicion and near rudeness as quickly and Boyd, who had once been so serious, was in a lighter mood, even showing more of a sense of humor at times.

It'd taken Sin most of the week to come to the point where he could freely admit those things to himself. By the time Saturday afternoon came, he found himself extremely bored with nothing left to analyze or do. He lay on the white carpet, staring up at the ceiling in silence or pursuing his manuscript of Paradise Lost for most of the day before deciding that he needed to do something else. He'd exercised for the better part of the afternoon but soon lost his focus as his mind began to wander.

He gave up on sit ups after awhile and sat on the floor, picking at the scabs on his lacerated hands and trying to ignore the fact that he wanted to see Boyd. The desire wouldn't leave and after while he grabbed his cell phone and dialed Boyd's number. It rang three times before Boyd answered. Even then, there were rustling sounds and a long period of silence.


"Ah," Boyd's voice said mildly after a moment, sounding faintly amused. "Sorry. I couldn't find my phone and then I dropped it. It was very dexterous of me."

Sin cradled the phone between his neck and shoulder and began to pick at his hands again. "You're too clumsy; I don't think this partnership can work anymore."

Boyd chuckled. "Well. If that's all you called to tell me, I think I'll go cry in the corner now..."

A smirk tugged at Sin's mouth and he stopped messing with his hands, opting instead to flop backwards on the floor. "Entertain me before you do that. I'm bored."

"I don't know," Boyd drew out. "Maybe I only feel like entertaining myself today. But just for you, I could play video games and set the phone next to me with the TV turned up loud. You could let your imagination run wild making up what each noise means."

"I could do the same for you but it wouldn't involve video games," Sin drawled. He made a face at himself and closed his eyes. "Anyway..."

There was a bit of rustling noise. "I can't tell if this is a break-up call or sexual harassment. Are you really that bored? Why did you call?"

Sin snorted softly before speaking again. "I'm bored. Go buy me reading material."

"Reading... Do you want me to get you so you can buy books?" He sounded confused.

"You get it. I never asked about my account."

"You should look into it. Interest has probably accrued a decent amount for you by now." There was a hissing noise, more rustling, and a loud clank.

Sin shrugged even though Boyd could not see him. "I guess. There's money leftover from my father's account as well but I do not see a point, as I do not have need for money usually. Except for instances such as this one, when I am bored and have no reading material." He paused and asked almost as an afterthought. "What's that sound?"

"I'm making tea. So you're saying even though you probably have more money than me you still expect me to pay for all your entertainment?" Boyd tsked. "How unfortunate. I must not have read my contract thoroughly enough."

"I don't know how much money I have," Sin replied before adding, with a small amount of playful pleading: "Come on, Boyd."

"I don't know," Boyd drawled, dragging the words out. "I'm not certain yet this partnership is good enough for me to spend my hard-earned money on things I never benefit from."

"You'll benefit from it," Sin insisted, a smirk crossing his face. "I'll continue to be well read and we can enjoy literary discourse over cookies and tea. You're making tea already-- it's perfect."

"See, it's already starting. First you want my money for your books, now you want to drink all my tea. I suppose I will provide the cookies as well?" A sigh. "I'm beginning to think you like me only for my material possessions."

"I like you for many reasons. However, your wonderful sense of generosity is a bonus." As soon as the words left his mouth, a large amount of irritation spread through Sin. He didn't even have the drugs to blame his loose tongue on anymore.

Boyd chuckled and didn't seem to notice anything strange with the comment. "Now you're just trying to use flattery. I'm onto you, Vega. I've seen your tricks."

Sin resisted the urge to say another innuendo and replied sullenly. "I guess you don't have to go..."

"Alright," Boyd said after a moment, sounding amused and resigned. "You never told me what to get you."

"You pick."

"That could be dangerous, you realize. I could get you anything. Wedding gown books, a children's book about frogs... The possibilities are endless."

"It's okay. I trust you."

There was a long pause. "I can't disappoint you, then," Boyd said. "Give me a few hours and I'll be there."

"Excellent. I expect you here in three hours exactly."

Boyd snorted quietly and Sin could imagine the wry smile on his lips. "I'll be there," was all he said. The line went dead as Boyd hung up.

Sin flipped his phone closed and continued to lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling once again. He wondered what books Boyd would bring him and found that although he'd mostly used it as an excuse to call Boyd, he really was looking forward to having something else to read.

When he'd been a child in his mother's care, he'd had little else to do with his time but peruse old copies of classic literature. There had only been a few books in the common room of the house and he knew them all by heart; among the fashion magazines and romance novels had been a collection of works by Dickens, Stevenson and Bronte, left behind by one of the girls who'd made it a habit of picking them up when she went shopping, trying to 'get smarter' as she'd always say. He'd reread them countless times while his mother had entertained in her bedroom, when he'd been desperate to distract himself from the things that went on around him.

Although it seemed odd, Sin thought that books had done more for him than anything else when he'd been a child. Through them, he'd broadened his thoughts, his perspective of the world outside of the small Hong Kong brothel he was born in and they'd taught him how to read in English when he hadn't ever even been taught to read in Chinese.

Even after his mother's death and his father had taken him far from Hong Kong, he'd continued his obsession with reading. It was actually his withdrawn, bookish qualities that had at first motivated his father to begin teaching him how to fight. It was his shocking ability to mimic everything his father showed him the first time he saw it that had encouraged his father to train him to be an agent.

"The best agent," he'd said. "Even better than me."

Sin closed his eyes and massaged his head, trying to block out the flood of memories that came with his father's phantom voice. There were things he didn't mind remembering, things he didn't mind talking about, but then there were the things that lived in the darkest parts of his mind that only showed themselves in his nightmares.

Those were the memories that he never wanted to recover, the ones that Lydia had determinedly tried to make him relive when she'd climbed on top of him and effectively signed her own death warrant. Although he'd had no respect for the woman as an agent, a doctor or anything else, he was positive that he wouldn't have reacted so violently, wouldn't have slipped into an uncontrollable episode, if she hadn't touched him at the exact moment that she'd asked him about his mother.

Sin sat up and stared into space for a moment, lost in thoughts about his parents although that was something he usually wanted to avoid. He remembered back when he'd first entered the Agency, back when certain memories were deeply repressed and in no danger of escaping. Back when he'd told doctors the truth because he hadn't remembered why the truth about his parents were better left a secret.

He wished he could go back to that time. He wished his memories would stop pushing to the forefront of his mind. He wished they would stay hidden where they belonged; in the darkness, with the shadowy thing that took over his body when he felt threatened and lost control.

He stood up with a frustrated scowl and ran both hands through his hair before moving over to the window, staring down at the early March frost; it seemed that there would be one last snowstorm before spring. To his dismay that simple thought automatically led to yet another memory of his father, one that involved early morning jogging during an ice storm, building up stamina for missions that would require him to run around in some of the coldest parts of the world.

"Russia," Emilio would say, "is full of frozen, heartless pricks. If you wanna beat 'em, you gotta be able to tough it out in their kinda conditions. So basically, you gotta know how to not bust your ass on a shitload of ice while half frozen and drunk."

Sin swore under his breath, trying to force the man's image away. He didn't want to remember. He didn't want to think of it.

He didn't want to see Emilio's face glaring at him disapprovingly, an expression that just as easily melted away into a large, disarming smile. That huge grin had always haunted Emilio's face and he'd often teased his son for never cracking the smallest smile. Sin had never been good at it and he'd never bothered; in the past he'd never had a reason for laughter or smiles.

Despite their differences in personality, there were times when he loathed seeing his own reflection because it automatically reminded him of his father. He hated whatever course of nature had decided that their DNA should be so exact. While he had his mother's slanted eyes and full lips, he had his father's olive complexion and strange, green eyes.

It was a constant reminder of who he was, where he came from and what he was meant to be. He was supposed to be a sharper image of his father; a killer but without the weakness for women, drugs and alcohol. An assassin without flaws. Despite the fact that his father had been dead for fifteen years, the goals were deeply ingrained in him and the training that he'd endured since he was eight years old would always be at the back of his mind.

There were times when Sin wondered what Boyd's father had been like. He'd seemed to care about his family in the video Sin saw; like he'd really loved his son. Sin wondered what he would be like if his father had been Cedrick Beaulieu. What he'd be like if he hadn't been taught to kill.

Sin turned away from the window and headed for the door, grabbing his phone as an afterthought. He needed to be out of the apartment, he decided. He needed some kind of distraction or the ridiculous thoughts would haunt him for the rest of the night.

He didn't know why the thoughts of his parents came so frequently now. It had something to do with the flashes he'd seen during the mission in New Orleans but he didn't want to think about that. In fact he wanted to avoid it at all costs. What he'd seen had scared him and he wasn't normally scared by much.

He left the apartment and went downstairs, glancing at the usual guards who stood at the entrance before heading outside. Once again the guard warned him that it was freezing, but Sin ignored him and stepped out into the biting wind with no jacket or sweater to protect him. He ignored the temporary discomfort caused by the cold and walked in no particular direction. He thought about going to the gym but he'd already exercised once that day and if he was honest with himself, he'd admit that it did very little to clear his mind anymore.

As he wandered around the courtyard, he saw several agents wrapped in heavy coats giving him strange looks but he wasn't sure if it was because he was under dressed or because he was. well, him. The thought was effective in allowing him to forget about his father but it turned his mind towards Boyd again, and the things that had happened since the mission in France.

The idea of people harassing Boyd, physically as well as verbally, made Sin hot with anger.

"--it pisses me off so much that maybe Jeffrey or Owen said something."

Sin froze in mid-step and felt himself go still. In the midst of being incarcerated and drugged he'd entirely forgotten Ryan's comment.

Until now.

Anger coursed through him, warming his body enough that he completely forgot about the cold; he turned around and began to walk towards the building where Jeffrey lived. Even though Ryan had added the possibility of it having been Owen, Sin seriously doubted it. Jeffrey had never liked Boyd, and it was more likely that he would be the one talking about it than Owen.

Sin's stride was like that of a predatory cat and the people who passed him didn't take their time moving out of his way. He knew where Jeffrey lived for the same reason that he knew mostly every agent's identity and residence; they were his enemies and any good killer knew his enemies almost as well as he knew himself.

He entered the building with relatively few problems from the guards, claiming he was going to one of the common areas. He ran up the stairs to Jeffrey's apartment on the eleventh floor. He knocked several times to no avail and he wasn't sure whether Jeffrey was not home or simply ignoring him. The idea made his temper flare even further and for a moment he could only stand there with his hands balled into fists, frustrated and annoyed and with no way of relieving it. He didn't know if his anger was irrational and at the moment he didn't care.

Sin didn't know what he intended to do once he had Jeffrey alone but for the moment he didn't care and was only focused on the fact that he didn't plan to hang around in the hallway waiting for the idiot to return. Instead, he began moving automatically down the hallway, not really sure if he should just come back at a later time or kill time in the complex until he saw Jeffrey.

But he didn't want to come back later.

He wanted to confront Jeffrey now when the realization of what the man had done was fresh in his mind; now that the anger was burning hot within him. He didn't want his temper to cool. He didn't want the next time he saw Jeffrey to be when Carhart was there to intervene. But at the same time he had to admit to himself that perhaps it was better if that was the case. Boyd had gone through a lot of trouble to free him and it was entirely possible that a confrontation with Jeffrey could wind up putting him right back in the box.

He'd almost decided to leave, to follow the part of his brain that was telling him to just walk away and let it go, when a supply clerk pushing a huge cart full of laundry came out of one of the apartments on the floor. Before Sin even realized what he was doing, he was stalking behind the young man silently in the shadows. It was painfully easy to lift the man's wallet and remove his keycard. Sin was already disappearing down the hallway before the man even noticed that there was someone else in the hall with him.

The keycard that supply clerks possessed served as a kind of skeleton key for whatever wing they were in charge of and opened every door in that area. Sin found it somewhat amusing that it'd been so easy to lift the damn thing but supply clerks weren't exactly trained to be as aware of their surroundings as other agents were so it wasn't really that surprising.

All thoughts of abandoning his temporary mission fled his mind and he used the card to enter Jeffrey's apartment without further problems. It was stylishly decorated in an elegant, minimal way, with furniture that was either red or brown. Everything he could see had an earthy feel to it and Sin was quite disgusted by the sheer amount of creativity Jeffrey had put into decorating the place. He stalked around the apartment, expression as dark as his mood.

He realized that Jeffrey really wasn't home. He hung around for nearly an hour brooding, reflecting, and effectively growing angrier, until finally there was noise outside the door and it swung open.

Jeffrey had his arms filled with files and panels and was watching the floor as he talked on a cell phone held to his ear by his shoulder. "Yes," he said impatiently. "I realize this, but I can't possibly get it done in two days. ...No, that's unacceptable."

Kicking the door shut behind him, he automatically flipped a light on as he passed and carefully set the pile on a table next to the door. He didn't seem to notice Sin, but it had been dark when he entered and he had yet to look in his direction. "Listen, I just got back to my apartment and I haven't even had the chance to check my messages. I'll see if he called. Yes. I'll do that too."

Without even saying goodbye, he flipped his phone shut and turned around as he looked up. He was so surprised when he saw Sin that he actually jumped and yelled, "Holy--!" Glancing around wildly as if searching for exits or back-up, he turned wide eyes back to Sin. "What the hell-- How did you get in here? What are you doing here?"

"I came to chat," Sin said flatly, standing up and walking towards Jeffrey.

Automatically starting to back away, Jeffrey gripped his cell phone as if it would protect him. "What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed. He glanced around quickly once more then returned his stare to Sin as he grew increasingly more paranoid. "We can talk later. Why are you in my home?"

Sin continued to walk towards Jeffrey who kept backing up without looking where he was going. Briefly, Jeffrey looked toward the door as if he wanted to run but that exit was quickly intercepted by Sin. There was no way Jeffrey would go past him and Sin kept moving closer until he was effectively invading the other man's personal space and had him backed against the wall.

"I want to talk now."

The second Jeffrey hit the wall he started to slide to the side as if in the hopes of escaping. "We can talk just fine across the room. Why the hell are you getting so close?" The last question came out as an alarmed hiss.

Strong hands grabbed the front of Jeffrey's shirt, pulling him forward and then slamming him against the wall. "Shut the fuck up and don't move again," he said flatly. Sin's face darkened and his eyes narrowed as he placed a hand on either side of Jeffrey's head and leaned in close.

Jeffrey stared at him, eyes very wide and mouth a little slack. Even so he said as calmly as he could probably manage, "Alright. You have my attention... What do you want?"

"Why are you afraid of me?"

"Because you're a fucking psychopath who just pushed me into the wall," Jeffrey snapped, some of his attitude appearing impatiently. He seemed to realize that it was not the best thing to say, however, because immediately he frowned and looked a little apprehensive.

"You've never seen me become a fucking psychopath." Sin dropped his hands and leaned back for a moment as if to give Jeffrey some room. Without warning, he wrapped a hand around the man's throat, lifting him clear off the floor with surprising strength and slamming him against the wall again. "But you will if you fuck with me."

Jeffrey choked and his head smacked against the wall. Eyes widening in fear and anger, he tried to pry Sin's hands off his throat while his feet kicked helplessly against the wall. "What the fuck!" he managed hoarsely, panicked. "I didn't do anything. I haven't fucked with you!"

"I don't care what you people do to me. I don't care what you think of me," Sin continued as if he hadn't heard Jeffrey, ignoring the way the man clawed at his hand helplessly. "I don't care that you think I'm a depraved killer who murders and rapes for sport. I don't care that you hate me and probably want me dead. Your words hold very little consequence to me."

His eyes narrowed further and his hand tightened around Jeffrey's throat. "But I do care about what you do to Boyd."

Eyes widening, Jeffrey tried to say something but he only choked. He tried to kick Sin away but he was not particularly strong and it did nothing to alleviate the pressure on his neck. Tears started to gather at the edges of his eyes as he struggled to breathe and he shook his head a little; though it was unclear whether he was denying doing anything or just trying to silently ask Sin not to kill him.

Sin stared at Jeffrey coolly for several moments before abruptly releasing him and allowing the man to fall to the floor at his boots. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."

Coughing and drawing in deep, shaky breaths, Jeffrey crouched and didn't answer for a minute. "What," he gasped finally, anger and fear making his voice quake, "the hell are you talking about? I haven't done anything to him!"

Sin's temper flared and he fought the urge to smash in Jeffrey's face with a kick. He opted instead to press the steel toe of his boot against the man's chest, once again pinning him to the wall. "Who told you to open your fucking mouth about the assignment in France?"

A flash of guilt passed through Jeffrey's face with a faint grimace. He took a moment to respond, still panting to catch his breath. His eyes were narrowed when he looked up.

"What are you, going to beat me up about that? I'm not going to talk to you like this. Let me up and we'll have a civilized conversation." 'You asshole' seemed to hang in the air.

"You're lucky I don't rip your arms off about it," Sin replied but released Jeffrey. He took a step back, crossing his arms over his chest and glowering down at him.

Jeffrey stood with all the dignity he could muster after being thrown around and he straightened his shirt rather importantly. Giving Sin a sidelong, very suspicious look, he skirted around him and headed for the living room. He paused before sitting down, as if waiting for Sin to come over and sit first as he was the guest.

"Tell me what your actual problem is and we can discuss it," Jeffrey said with a hint of irritation. One hand rose to rub his throat unconsciously. "Threatening me won't ease your mind and it certainly won't make me happy."

"Your happiness is not my concern," Sin retorted. He followed Jeffrey over to the couch, looking at it dubiously without sitting down. "Are you aware of the fact that Boyd was jumped in the courtyard, among other things, because of your burning desire to spread the word on his sex life?"

Jeffrey narrowed his eyes, looking affronted. "If you must know, yes, I am aware of it. I didn't mean for it to happen. I told only two people in passing, but sometimes even one is enough."

Sin stared at him for a moment before exhaling slowly. "What the hell is your problem with him anyway?"

"I don't like him," Jeffrey said bluntly, though it twisted easily to his usual taunting nature. "Are you going to attack me again because I'm saying bad words about your little... partner?" There was no doubt he meant that more than one way. "Or would you like to sit down and be a normal guest?"

Sin made a face and sprawled onto the couch, slamming his dirty boots down on the coffee table. "Better?"

Glaring at the boots, Jeffrey sat down rather primly on the edge of a chair. "Well. I can hardly expect more, I suppose." He sighed, irritated. "What were you wanting out of this interrogation, anyway?"

"I'd intended to break your nose and possibly other body parts as well," Sin drawled. "But I'd like to know exactly how these rumors came about before I make a decision. I normally wouldn't give a fuck what who said about what, but at the moment, I do."

"How eloquent." Jeffrey sighed and sat back in the chair, one hand moving to cover his eyes. "You likely won't believe me, but I truly didn't intend for it to go so far. I simply told my two closest colleagues about it because I thought it was funny."

He raised an eyebrow and surveyed Sin from beneath his hand. "Many of us dislike both Beaulieus, although you didn't hear me say that. She's been ruthless as long as I've known but suddenly her son appeared and now it's nothing but favoritism. He rose through the ranks despite not deserving it. In fact, there's absolutely nothing special about him at all, yet he gets whatever he wants due to his mother. So when he messed up in such a scandalous way, of course I wanted to share. I never told my friends to tell others but apparently they did. I thought it served him right for everyone to know but after the courtyard incident, I did feel a little bad."

Sin wasn't happy with this information but he wasn't any angrier either. In truth he found it to be unsurprising that people on the compound felt that way. It was exactly how they'd felt about him when he'd arrived at the age of fourteen and had immediately risen in the ranks.

"Jealousy is a terrible thing," he said, sounding bored. "But I could care less about who dislikes Boyd. It would be perfectly fine with me if no one liked him at all as long as they kept their fucking hands off him."

Jeffrey raised an eyebrow. "Careful. It's precisely that sort of talk that will only exacerbate it further."

Sin stared at him blankly for a moment before frowning. "What? Why would that exacerbate anything? What exactly are these stupid rumors anyway?"

Another raised eyebrow and Jeffrey looked at Sin as if he were an idiot. "One would think you didn't spend your life on the compound. Amazing." He straightened in the chair. "For months there have been rumors that you and he are sexually involved. Apparently there was something to do with your apartment, I don't really know what it was and I don't particularly care to know the sordid details." His expression twisted in distaste.

"So it was already believed Boyd or you were homosexuals, but the moment it became known that Boyd had slept with a man for information, it was confirmed. Being a homosexual is not exactly something a person advertises around here." He shrugged and looked bored.

Sin stared at Jeffrey doubtfully, mouth twisted into an annoyed frown. "You realize," he said slowly, "that all of that is bullshit. Or are you an idiot too?"

Jeffrey grimaced and waved a hand impatiently. "What should I care? The point is, everyone believes that there's obviously something wrong in his head to have put out for the Agency without even having been asked, and it's made worse by everyone thinking he's involved with you. It gives him zero credibility. So when the most recent rumors surfaced, people believed it. After all, it's clear from the mission to France that he'll do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, just like his mother. So, their thoughts go, who knows what kind of sick person he truly is?"

"And what exactly are the 'most recent rumors'?"

Jeffrey hesitated a moment, as if wondering whether he should continue. "Well," he said, watching Sin carefully. "Mind you, I don't necessarily believe this; I'm just relaying the rumor. Apparently he baited Harry until the idiot man attacked him, and had set it up so that you would arrive just in time to take Harry out. It was all related to some issue that had happened before and he used you for his dirty work."

Sin glared at Jeffrey and didn't know if he wanted to laugh or hit someone. On one side it was so ridiculous that anyone who believed such a thing was obviously mentally deficient in some way. On the other hand the idea that there were people actively harassing his partner over such utter foolishness made him even more pissed off.

"That is by far the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he said and made a face. "I snapped Harry's neck because he was assaulting my partner. Protecting Boyd is my job and that is why I am no longer being incarcerated. If anyone else decides to pull the same shit, I won't hesitate to do it again, consequences be damned."

Sin stood up, irritation practically radiating off of him in black waves. "Next time I suggest you keep what's said in a briefing inside the conference room. I'm surprisingly pleased that I won't be forced to hurt you but that doesn't mean it will stop me if this kind of thing happens again."

He turned abruptly and headed for the door but not before pausing and glancing back at Jeffrey. "Thanks for the information, by the way."

Jeffrey's eyes narrowed as he studied Sin, as if trying to determine whether he was being sarcastic. In the end he just shrugged. "You're welcome this time. But next time I expect a warning phone call and far less proximity. It makes me not want to help you out in any way."

Sin snorted. "Yeah, yeah," he said over his shoulder and went out the door.

He stood outside the apartment for a moment with his hands shoved in his pockets, staring at nothing in particular. He'd almost forgotten how ridiculous people could be when faced by someone younger and more powerful than they are.

He'd felt that particular kind of anger directed at him when he'd first joined the Agency. People had hated him long before he'd earned the reputation of being a bloodthirsty monster. They'd hated him just because he'd earned the prestigious level 10 rank at the age of fifteen when there were people in the Agency who'd been striving to achieve that for years.

He was damned lucky that no one had ever found out about his embarrassing display at the hotel in France. It probably would have made the situation unbearable.

Sin scowled and strode down the stairs, casually dropping the keycard on the floor before he exited the building. He didn't like to think about anything that had happened in France because he didn't really know what to think about it anymore.

On one hand it made his temper flare dangerously as he remembered Thierry's condescending comments and Boyd's flirtation, but now he wondered if he'd ever had any right to be angry over it at all. Now that he reflected back on the entire incident he was pretty sure that the dejection and bitterness that he'd felt had more to do with the fact that it'd seemed like Boyd had trusted a man he'd just met more than Sin, rather than the fact that he'd actually slept with that man at all.

On the other hand, thinking about France also made him remember other things... Things that were better left forgotten in the hateful haze he'd been in that night. Things like the feel of Boyd's body pressed against his and the taste of Boyd's mouth on his tongue. The sound of his panting breath and sudden moans.

Sin had thought he was able to completely forget about it but ever since that day earlier in the week when Boyd had allowed him to touch him... he couldn't get it out of his mind.

Sin scowled and walked back towards his building. Once again, people avoided walking near him but he didn't blame them; he probably looked like he was ready to snap. It was barely ten minutes later when he approached his building and saw Boyd standing outside of his building talking to the guards.

None of them seemed to notice Sin approaching; he was still too far away and walking too silently.

"What's that, presents for your boyfriend?" one of the guards was saying. He reached over and pulled on the edge of a paper bag Boyd held in one hand.

Boyd didn't let it go; he only narrowed his eyes slightly although his face was mostly blank. "Don't you ever grow bored with this?" His voice was tinged with weary irritation as he dragged the bag closer, away from the guard. "Come up with something more creative at least."

The guard yanked on the bag so abruptly that it almost ripped. "I'm just doing my job, princess."

"Stop it," Boyd snapped, sounding outright annoyed now. "You don't need to inspect this; what the hell would I even bring in that would be a danger? These are just books-- you can tell from the feel and weight, unless you've never been literate enough to pick one up."

The second guard present was one Sin recognized, Officer Allen, who sometimes warned him of the cold and tried to tell him to bundle up. Although he didn't go out of his way to interrupt the other guard, it was obvious from the way he rolled his eyes that he was exasperated and annoyed by the scene.

"Oh ho." The guard seemed to thoroughly be enjoying himself now as he smirked. "You're getting pretty hot and bothered, aren't you, blondie? Must be getting yourself ready for some railing now that you took the cameras down."

"You don't even know what you're talking about," Boyd said coldly. "I took them down because it was a blatant violation of his privacy."

The guard snorted. "Yeah right. You know, I've met a lot of valentines with this job but none of them as sick as you, willingly taking it from that freak and even going out of your way to get the status." His eyebrows rose. "What are we going to find out next about you? You like a good gang bang once in awhile? If so, I'm sure you can find some people who'd be willing to finish what Harry started."

Boyd's eyes narrowed into a glare and his fingers tightened into fists against the paper bag.

Sin didn't know if it was the fact that he'd just heard about all of this crap in detail from Jeffrey or if it was seeing someone harass Boyd at all. Whatever the case, something in Sin snapped. He crossed the remaining distance so fast that no one had properly become aware of his presence before he suddenly appeared in front of Boyd.

Grabbing the guard by the neck, he lifted him up and slammed him violently against the side of the building with the same strength he'd used on Jeffrey. Only, this time the danger radiating off of him implied that he would do a lot more than simply scare the man.

"Is there a problem?" he asked flatly.

The guard looked thoroughly startled and a little frightened. "The fuck--?" he hissed.

Allen moved over immediately to intervene. "Put him down," he said sternly but not unkindly. "You could get in a lot of trouble for this."

Sin ignored Allen and stared up at the man who dangled from his iron grip. "Because I could have sworn that it looked like there was a problem."

"Vega, put him down. Please man, don't make me have to do something I really don't want to do," Officer Allen pleaded.

"Then I suggest you keep this idiot in line." Sin squeezed harder, resisting the urge to crush the man's windpipe, before letting him drop to the cold ground. "Next time keep your fucking mouth shut and your hands to yourself," he said coldly, eyes narrowed into slits.

After a long, tense moment that seemed to last for an eternity, Sin finally just walked over the guard and entered the building. He heard the guard hiss vehemently behind him, "I'll see that fucking animal back in his cage."

Sin automatically took the stairs, assuming Boyd would follow him, and stormed up to his apartment silently. He swiped his keycard in the door with more force than was necessary. His hands were balled into white knuckled fists and fury was a cloak of tension surrounding him. Once he was in his apartment, he took a long, deep breath and raked both hands through his hair, closing his eyes briefly.

"What's wrong?" Boyd asked the moment he shut the door behind them. "Did someone say something to you?"


Boyd gave him a sidelong look and headed past him toward the table. "Okay..."

"I'm just tired of people fucking with you," Sin snapped, agitated.

Pausing as he set the books down, Boyd gave Sin a look that was difficult to interpret. "Oh. The guards." He shrugged and turned toward the window, but there was tension in his back that Sin didn't miss. "Thank you for the help but it's nothing to worry about. It's not very important and what happened downstairs was a fluke."

Sin turned his dark glare onto Boyd, eyes narrowing. "What the hell do you mean it isn't important? And how the hell is it a fluke?" He shook his head, mouth turning down. "Why don't you defend yourself?"

Boyd shook his head. "Why should I?"

"Becau--" Sin broke off abruptly and stared at his partner incredulously before taking a slow, calming breath. "Because you could wipe the floor with that idiot and he has no right to treat you that way. He's a fucking useless, lazy guard and you're a level 9 operative. You contribute a lot more to this idiotic Agency than he does and you were not trained to be a fucking doormat to those morons."

"Well the last time I tried it didn't work out so well for me," Boyd replied darkly, crossing his arms. "So what's the point? They'll grow bored with it eventually. The more I struggle against it the more entertaining they find it to be." His shoulders were tense and for all that his jaw was set stubbornly, there was a troubled look in his eyes before he looked away. "And anyway, there's some truth to it."

"Which parts are true? I know I've been gone but please feel free to fill me in."

Boyd sighed and turned toward the window, peering out at the compound laid out before them. "I don't know. I did get the job primarily due to my mother, even though I never asked her to do anything for me. They may be right that I don't deserve my rank."

"You got the job," Sin began in a flat, irritated tone, "because you were good enough. Your mother submitted your name but Carhart had no intentions of taking you seriously until I told him to give you a chance. And then you proved yourself. End of story."

Boyd studied Sin quietly for a moment. His eyebrows drew together as he looked away with a silent nod.

Sin turned around, walking to the table with his books. "What did you get me?"

"A variety of books, some of which are given in jest," Boyd replied, his tone becoming more normal and losing the pensive quality. "You'll have to guess which ones are serious."

Sin stared at Boyd suspiciously for a moment before picking up a purple book with what looked like a large image of a peanut butter sandwich on it. "The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book." He stared at it, turned it all around in his hands and then looked up at Boyd with raised eyebrows and a smirk. "Excellent."

Boyd seemed amused by his reaction and the rest of the tension that had lingered in him disappeared. "So you can be more creative."

"What's not creative about eating with my fingers?" Sin asked and opened the book, flipping through the pages. "Besides, I think you should make this stuff for me."

Boyd scoffed. "I am not as skilled in the kitchen as you may believe, so you'd best watch what you request." He gestured to the bag. "Keep going."

Sin pulled out two more books. A Terry Pratchett book and a large, wide hardcover anthology of Neil Gaiman's best novels. Both were from the earlier part of the 21st century. He sat on the floor absently, folding his legs as he read the back of each book. His face took on a thoughtful expression and he began picking through the pages, becoming completely engrossed for several long moments.

Boyd leaned against the counter and watched.

After perusing the books, Sin stacked them on his pile and looked into the bag again. He reached up to the table and caused his shirt to ride up slightly, a movement which Boyd's eyes followed. Sin pulled out The Art of War from the bag. "I've wanted to read this for a long time. I first saw it when Kassian had a copy during his rank 10 training."

"Kassian?" Boyd asked absently as he watched Sin. "I haven't met him."

Sin added it to his pile before reaching into the bag once again. "You are not missing much by not being acquainted with Kassian. He is a poor attempt at a replacement for me." He pulled out more books, and glanced at Boyd. "How much stuff did you buy?"

"Enough to not fail your test," he said with a faint smirk. "You told me you were bored and needed entertainment so I decided to provide you with plenty of material."

Sin didn't answer, instead opting to look at a book about animals. He'd liked animals since he was a child, likely because he could interact with them without having them actually speak. As a child he'd never been able to own a pet, but he clearly remembered times when he had wanted one before leaving China.

A smile growing across his face, Boyd sat on the counter and watched.

After several long moments, Sin looked up at Boyd and closed the book abruptly. "What are you smiling at?" he asked defensively.

"No." Boyd waved at the book. "Go back to looking at the animals. It was endearing."

"Endearing?" Sin asked disdainfully.

"Yes." Boyd's smile spread further, and although he seemed amused his expression seemed largely genuine. "You were very intrigued. I wasn't expecting that."

Sin gave Boyd a withering look and nudged the book towards his pile. "Whatever..."

He turned his attention to the bag and the last book inside. He pulled out a copy of Milton's Paradise Regained.

There were very few things that ever embarrassed him or put him at a complete loss for words but for some reason Boyd was having that effect on him at the moment. It was humiliating in a way and for a moment he almost wished that he could go back to his completely untouchable act and his removed attitude. But the satisfaction alone he got from the knowledge that Boyd knew him well enough to understand his taste in literature and to remember his preference for Milton... He knew returning to that mentality wasn't going to happen any time soon.

"You did very well on this test," he observed, casting an appreciative glance at his partner and not giving away his thoughts.

Boyd smiled, appearing to be pleased. "Good."

Sin stacked the books and looked over at Boyd again. "Thank you," he said again. "That should satisfy my boredom for a long time."

Boyd's smile increased briefly as he slid off the counter. His feet made quiet thumping sounds when they hit the floor. "I'm glad to hear that." He turned toward the door but didn't yet leave. "Now that I've done what I came here for, I suppose I should leave."

"You--" Sin cut off abruptly and crossed his arms over his chest. He didn't want Boyd to leave, but for some reason it was apparently difficult to say this out loud. "Do you have somewhere to go?" he asked instead.

Boyd's gaze caught on Sin's face, his eyebrows lifting briefly. "Well--" He glanced at the door as if it held the answer to the question. "No..."

"Well, you don't have to leave then. Not right away or anything." Sin shrugged, feeling awkward. "Unless you want to."

Mild surprise flitted across Boyd's face followed by a smile that softened his lips. He turned away from the door, his body tilted toward the living room. "No, I'd be happy to stay."

"Ah. Well. Okay."

Sin looked around, not entirely knowing what to say after that. It occurred to him that this was the first time he'd invited Boyd to stay longer, and he didn't really know what to do as a result. Even so, he couldn't deny that it was pleasing that Boyd agreed.

Continue to Chapter 26