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.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Evenfall Chapter Twenty-Eight

It seemed that the next week passed extremely slowly, but for the first time in awhile the stagnation didn't bother Sin. What did bother Sin, was his stupid assignment and cover.

Although interaction came easily when he was around Boyd, it was difficult around other people. Sin said any ridiculous thing that came to mind when he spoke to Boyd but as he'd roamed the city looking for a job that entire week, he'd realized how difficult it was around strangers. The first few days he'd automatically lapsed into his Agency attitude around people in the city and his quiet hostility had alarmed people. It was as if he'd had an aura of danger around him that kept people away and even as he'd walked down the street, people had gone out of their way to avoid him as if afraid to accidentally bump into him.

He'd realized that his attitude was actually bringing more attention to him and he'd tried to tone it down as the days passed, often asking Boyd what he should do in certain situations. Apparently he was supposed to be respectful to potential employers and maintain friendly eye contact while keeping his body language amiable. It was obvious why his tactic of glaring them into submission and demanding a job had not worked.

Finding a balance between Jason's lazy sarcasm and his own cutting severity was more difficult than he'd anticipated but the fact that he was forced to speak to civvies constantly helped him practice. By the time Saturday rolled around, he'd managed to keep the annoyed scowl off his face as he walked through the throngs of people on the sidewalks. He even maintained a neutral, unreadable expression when he'd wanted to knock the teeth out of some teenage punk's mouth who had shoved into him and then proceeded to shit talk, even when it'd been his own fault.

After five hours of wandering around, Sin stopped and sat on the grass in La Gran Plaza. The Plaza had always been one of the centerpieces of the city but after the war it'd been renovated, modernized and vastly expanded. It was a crowded place usually but at the moment, at the height of noon, Sin was the only one sitting there in the blistering heat. He didn't mind though; he'd nearly grown accustomed to it after days of walking around in it. It seemed as though finding employment in Monterrey would not be as easy as he'd hoped. Since it was one of the few booming major cities on this side of the world, people flocked to it and made the job market extremely competitive. That combined with his pathetic lack of people skills was making the task incredibly difficult.

Sin closed his eyes briefly and ran a hand through his damp hair, causing it to spike out wildly. Despite the fact that he was wearing a sleeveless shirt and threadbare jeans, he was still extremely hot. Normally he was able to deal with any kind of weather without blinking but he was not used to constant exposure to this much sunlight, humidity or stifling heat. Somewhere in the back of his mind he cursed his father for focusing so much on training in subzero temperatures and leaving out the fact that the country he'd been born in had such extreme heat. Although it made sense in a way-the temperature would not hinder his fighting ability, all it did was provide annoying discomfort. If he'd complained about such a thing during his training his father would most likely have mocked him for being weak and ordered him to sit under the sun for hours with no water for punishment. That was just the way he'd been.

Although, Sin found that the heat didn't annoy him so much when he was alone than it did when he was in Boyd's presence. It didn't make sense really and he figured it was because he was latching onto something to blame his frustration on, not wanting to admit what his real problem was. That's what had started the entire argument the day they'd arrived in Monterrey; he'd been unable to take his eyes off Boyd, unable to look away from the exposed flesh of Boyd's toned arms. He'd never seen his partner without a long sleeved shirt and to his dismay, it'd distracted him endlessly. That combined with the realization that he missed Boyd's naturally honey brown eyes had driven him crazy.

When he'd first seen Boyd on the airplane he'd been momentarily struck speechless. His hair, eyes and especially his clothing had been entirely different and it was as if he was someone else entirely. Despite the fact that Sin had found himself nearly mesmerized by the contrast of pale skin, red hair and deep blue eyes, he'd also begun wishing that Boyd had been able to keep his natural eye color; that striking light brown that looked golden in certain lights. The attraction he'd already felt for Boyd had increased dramatically and he'd found it difficult to keep his eyes from straying towards him. It'd irritated him immensely and that had only increased when he'd seen the room they'd be sharing. He didn't know how he was going to keep his behavior under control there; he was barely able to do it on the compound when he only saw Boyd two or three times a month.

That frustration combined with self consciousness about his own idiotic disguise had boiled over in anger that wound up being directed at Boyd. He regretted the things he'd said for the most part but now in a way, he was glad that they'd finally talked about it. Just the fact that he'd shown so much emotion and that he'd confessed so many things to his partner showed how much Sin had changed. Just the fact that he was able to feel so much and actually identify his emotions was a far cry from the empty void he'd been before; or at least, the empty void who'd only been capable of feeling anger and who had never touched anyone in a way that wasn't violent.

But he didn't want to think about that now-he didn't want to think about the way Boyd's soft flesh felt under his fingers or remember the way those blue eyes shooting angry sparks had somewhat turned him on. He was supposed to be working, not agonizing about his ridiculous infatuation.

Sin stood up again and looked around the plaza; it was surrounded by museums, government buildings and expensive restaurants, clearly the trendiest part of the city. He was supposed to be searching for a job that would fit with Jason's background but unfortunately he didn't really know where to start. Most people were not hiring and the people that were had not been very impressed. He wasn't dressed professionally at all and despite the fact that Ryan had created an extremely detailed CV for him, his lack of etiquette seemed to repel people. Although he'd managed to improve that aspect somewhat over the days, he realized that if he didn't find something soon he'd just have to buckle down and wear the suit that they'd insisted he bring. He didn't expect to go into a museum in ragged jeans and expect to be taken seriously, but he'd hoped that somehow it would happen. The idea of walking around in a black suit in the heat would most likely degrade the slight improvements he'd managed to make on his people skills.

With another disgruntled scowl, he shoved his hands in his pockets and set out again. He'd only walked a few blocks when something caught his eye; a woman was tacking up a sign on the window of one of the businesses along the street. The building was wedged between a restaurant and a sky rise and it seemed to be some kind of lounge or night club. Sin began walking in her direction when he saw that the sign clearly said "Help Wanted, Security for Evening Shifts."

The woman was tall, willowy and would probably be considered ravishing to any normal person but Sin paid that no heed. He ignored the tiny cut offs she wore and the way her breasts bulged out of her low cut shirt. He stood a short distance away from her with his arms crossed at his chest. She appeared to be having trouble putting up the sign and had short strips of tape stuck to her fingers as she struggled to get the paper straight on the window. Sin remained there silently, waiting, but she seemed to notice him out of her peripheral vision and stumbled backwards, startled.

"God, you nearly gave me a heart attack!" She complained, resting a hand across her chest. "Make some noise or something!"

Sin bit back the sarcastic comment that wanted to escape and shrugged, saying in what he hoped was an apologetic manner, "I didn't want to interrupt."

The woman's frown faded a bit as she looked him over and she began messing with her hair absently, pushing back the strands that had escaped the rest of her long, black mane. "Can I help you?" Her tone was decidedly nicer, red lips curving upwards into a welcoming smile as her blue eyes twinkled. It was hard to tell if she was Mexican or Caucasian and really she looked like a mixture of the two. "Or did you just want to watch me?"

Sin raised an eyebrow and pointed at the sign, once again fighting the rude denial that he'd almost let slip out. "Actually I want a job."

She made a face and put her hands on her hips, disappointment evident. "Of course you did." She studied him again but this time it was in an almost clinical matter and two arched eyebrows lifted. "Do you have experience?"

"I've had various jobs in security for the past ten years," He replied automatically, trying to remember what Boyd had suggested he do and keep his tone respectful, polite. He uncrossed his arms and let them dangle at his sides loosely. He didn't like the way the woman was examining him but as he couldn't really do anything about it, he just stood there and let her look.

"Well, come in then and we'll talk. But just so you know, we do a background check and call references. If you're some insane killer from the States thinking you're going to come down here and start over, think again. We also do a drug test before anyone gets hired." She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Still interested?"

Sin stared at her oddly, wondering if this was her usual approach. Perhaps that was typically the kind of people they attracted, although it was not really surprising considering the amount of foreigners who lived in Monterrey. He found it amusing that although Jason's record was pretty clean, his own had him listed on several most wanted lists as a serial killer. "Yes."

"Good." She smiled and entered the building again, waving him in. "I'm Jessica Ramirez, by the way but everyone calls me Jess."

He followed her into the building and realized that it was indeed a lounge of some sort. There was a long bar across one side of the room, a dance floor and a section with couches and tables. The club seemed to go up three floors and had a long, spiral staircase in the middle of the room. It was mostly empty at the moment, save for a few business men who were engaged in a heated discussion as they sipped drinks at the bar. "Jason Alvarez."

Jess nodded and led him to an Employee's Only door on the far side of the room. She input an access code to get in and he trailed behind her, looking around idly and wondering if this was a bad idea. A security job at a club was not exactly what he'd been hoping for, although he wasn't exactly sure what he'd wanted.

She led him past a row of lockers, an employee bathroom, a break room and finally input another code to what appeared to be an office. "Do you have a resume or CV? And on a disc, I hope. I hate people who still carry around paper copies." She frowned and flopped down behind a large metal desk. Surprisingly it seemed as though she was the owner of the establishment, or at least the person who conducted the hiring.

He pulled the small disc out of his pocket and handed it to her, taking in the wall of monitors that took up one side of the room. There appeared to be cameras in every part of the club and he saw that there were three floors, all of which seemed to have different themes. There also appeared to be two private areas which hadn't been visible from downstairs. The building had several security flaws but he supposed that a nightclub in a trendy part of Monterrey had no use for top notch security. They most likely needed someone who could intimidate people into behaving, not ensuring protection against terrorists.

"The silent type, eh?" Jess smirked and popped the disc into the computer. "I like it but then again I'm a sucker for the tall, dark and broody types." She winked at him and clicked a few things with her mouse.

He stared at her blankly and decided that it was best not to respond. He had very little experience with this kind of thing but he wasn't stupid enough to think that her flirtation was professional. He put his hands in his pockets and instead focused on the fact that the air conditioner in the building was extremely strong, a far cry from the pitiful thing they had in the apartment.

"Wow, this is really impressive," Jess was saying as she scrolled down the document. "Bodyguard for two senators, security for several major corporations in America-even a brief stint at a government compound." She looked at him dubiously, raising one eyebrow again. "You realize we can in no way compete with what you probably had for a salary in the past? This would be a huge step down for you, Jason."

He didn't like the way she said his name, even if it wasn't really his name. "That's fine."

She stared at him for a moment and looked at the computer again, face skeptical. "Why is that fine?"

"Because I need a job and no one else is hiring." He stared at her through heavy lidded eyes, trying to keep his body relaxed and his expression neutral as she looked up again to study him.

"Well that makes sense," she said with a laugh. "It's hard to get a job down here-everyone's moving here lately." She nodded to herself and began to nibble on her thumb as she eyed him. "You realize this will be like-pulling apart drunks, kicking people out of the club who get rowdy, sometimes working the door? It's not the kind of thing you're used to."

If only she knew what he was used to. "That's fine."

She made a face at him. "Well you certainly have the intimidating silence down, I'll give you that."

Sin stared at her and shrugged again, mildly annoyed that somehow he was still coming off as intimidating. "Sorry."

Jess laughed and sat back in her chair. "Don't be sorry. It's sexy." She winked again and looked him over, eyes focusing on his arms and mouth. "You'll definitely draw in some girls though, I can tell you that. Hot bouncers are hard to come by."

Sin blinked at her. "I see." But he didn't really see why anyone would be drawn in by him when people typically just seemed to want to run in the opposite direction.

She burst out laughing and waved her hand dismissively. "Never mind. This all looks good but like I said, I'm going to check references and do a background check before I call you in for a real interview. I hate hiring someone only to find out that they were a rapist or a drug dealer back in the States. It's happened to me more times that I can count-one time I even almost got my license revoked over it." She shook her head and saved the document to her hard drive, pulling out the disc. "That should take me probably until tomorrow evening depending on whether or not I can actually contact the people you worked for and then I will contact you soon if everything checks out. After that we'll hold an interview and if that goes well, we'll do the drug test."

Sin nodded and took the disc back, slipping it into his pocket again. "Okay." He wondered if she'd prefer a trained assassin to a drug dealer.

Jess giggled and led him back the way they came, seeming endlessly amused by his quiet behavior. As they walked, she gave him a brief history lesson on the club and how she'd come to run it. She was only in her early 30s, a couple of years older than him, and had grown up during the wars although she'd managed to escape it relatively unscathed. She and people in her family, which was apparently full of activists of different sorts, had all dedicated themselves to trying to make Monterrey a place where people wanted to live again. Various relatives of hers ran employment agencies, shelters, soup kitchens and orphanages but she'd decided after awhile to rekindle her previous passion for event planning and business by buying, at the time, a relatively cheap dive bar and transforming it into a club. In a few short years and with the help of her family she'd turned it into one of the biggest hot spots in the city and one that she hoped brought some joy to people jaded by the war.

He remained relatively silent during her speech, only nodding when she looked over at him and when they finally got to the main room again she laughed out loud, seeming amused by his serious demeanor. "I hope you don't turn out to be a weirdo-it'd be fun trying to get you to relax."

"I never relax," Sin replied flatly.

"If you end up working here you will," She promised, blue eyes twinkling mischievously as they approached the door.

He gave her a doubtful look and shrugged. "If you say so."

Jess smirked and poked him in the side, not seeming to notice when he tensed and stared at her stonily, or at least not seeming to care. "I'll call you by tomorrow. Now go get a drink or something-loosen up."

Sin ignored her comment and muttered a goodbye before leaving the club, briefly taking note of the name before he started down the street. He noticed that as he left, she ripped the sign down and disappeared back into the door.

He had no doubts that Jason's background would check out and he knew that the references would be good as well. Despite that he didn't feel satisfied or accomplished at all; he'd hoped to at least find a job where he would be relatively left alone without having to interact much-working at Lunar would most likely be a hassle and he'd constantly be surrounded by people. It irritated him but he had very little choice in the matter since it was his best bet so far.

He wandered around for a couple more hours in the hope that he would find something else but much to his annoyance, he didn't. By the time five o'clock came around, most businesses were closing down for the night and he decided to head back to the studio.

Boyd wasn't there but that was not uncommon; every time Sin had returned that week there was something new from Boyd's daily shopping trip. The kitchen was now filled with pots, pans, silverware and dishes and there were a few cookbooks crowded in the corner but they had yet to be used. The fridge had food in it, and a magnetic notepad with a pen hung from the freezer with Boyd's neat handwriting listing more items they needed. A large and very soft deep red rug had appeared yesterday much to Sin's pleasure; he already found himself going out of his way to walk across it barefoot. They also each had a light, colorful blanket on their beds, though they were folded nicely at the bottom because in the Monterrey spring heat even a sheet felt like too much.

Sin decided to take a shower to get rid of the grimy sweat from walking around all day. Grabbing a towel, he disappeared into the bathroom.


Although Boyd's arms ached from carrying around too much stuff, he was in a good mood. As much as he teased Sin about getting to sit around doing nothing all day, in fact he was gone almost as often as Sin. The main difference was that Sin was trying to find a way to make money while Boyd was running around spending it.

It was a little ironic that he was so obsessed with getting the best price for the dishes earlier in the week -- something they would be using a lot and they truly did need good quality for -- and yet here he was spending that money they saved on some of what could be argued as extraneous items. But having a week of not needing to worry about anything except getting to know the city was strangely relaxing, and Boyd was able to study the layout of Monterrey by wandering through the shops and markets for good buys.

He'd never had his own place, even though Lou at one point really wanted them to get one. At the time, Boyd was too practical; why try to scrape together money for a place when he already had one paid for? Boyd's family home was very Spartan, though, with clean lines on all the furniture and nothing out of place; there were hardly any decorations and certainly nothing frivolous.

Boyd had never bought anything for the house except things like dish towels or the occasional mug if he dropped one and had never cared to, so he'd never really bothered paying attention to interior design or the sort of things normal people purchased for their homes. But now that they had this empty studio and he knew they'd be there for most of a year... It was strange; he should have felt like they should be leaving no traces, that there was no point in making a temporary shelter look any different than it had been when they'd arrived. Yet they also had to keep up appearances by making the place look lived-in or else it would look too clean and militaristic if anyone stopped in unannounced. Not to mention that there was no harm in making the place more livable. Besides, he would be lying if he denied feeling strangely gratified by the fact that he could control what his environment looked like.

Maybe that was why Lou had been so insistent; he'd wanted something of his own, something he could mold and shape where he could see reflections of himself, something tangible that was his and Boyd's, that they could retreat to. Even his newfound interest in buying household items did not, of course, mean Boyd had any style or even necessarily had good taste. He just bought whatever he thought would be good for practicality or just would be interesting to have and for some reason found himself often buying things that were brightly or boldly colored. It was probably a need to distance himself from his typically dark, subdued home life in the States. Whatever the case, nothing particularly matched in the studio but it led to a much homier feel.

The door jammed again but Boyd just threw his back at it until it screeched open. With his awkward load he almost fell over from the abrupt give but he caught himself and shuffled into the room. Kicking the door shut violently, he made a note to himself to definitely buy tools the next day and attempt to fix the door. He'd not yet found a place that seemed to have what they needed at a reasonable enough price and he'd also been a little distracted by other merchants and stores.

He could hear the water running in the bathroom and he smirked to himself. Boyd enjoyed putting something new in the studio before Sin got back every day, just to see if he commented on it. So far he had not, but he'd bought something that was impossible to ignore this time. If Sin didn't notice this then his powers of perception would have become ridiculously poor.

Dropping the bags on the ground, Boyd wrestled his largest purchase over by the beds and balanced it against the floor and his body as he started to unfold it. At one of the markets Boyd had managed to find a cherry rosewood Japanese screen room divider. It was seventy-one inches tall and partially transparent, with a simple tree design spread across it. It would have been heavy and awkward enough for one set but Boyd had to buy two to be sure it would properly wall off the bed area. After the balancing act with the screens as well as the few bags he'd hung on his wrists, and the fact he'd walked several blocks, his arms now burned with stressed muscles. He didn't pay much attention to the feeling, though.

Boyd was just finishing arranging the panels when he heard the door from the bathroom open behind him. He started to turn automatically. "Hey, how-" Boyd stopped and stared as he realized Sin was walking around naked except for a towel he was currently using to dry his lower body off. He glanced casually at Boyd, who tried very hard not to watch Sin's hands.

Turning back to the screen immediately, Boyd silently cursed Sin for his lack of modesty. For months, Boyd hadn't been around him when he'd showered so he'd almost managed to forget that he tended to walk around naked afterward. It was bad enough before, but now that they were alone it was just exacerbated. Not to mention the constant heat which was draining his energy and making him feel a little stupid. He'd been struggling with what he thought of Sin for awhile, and regardless of anything they'd said to each other it was true that he'd found him attractive for months. Over time that had developed into Sin's image somehow inevitably infiltrating his mind when he didn't expect it and from there he often found himself thinking of Sin even when he jerked off. This Monterrey mission was going to be full of a lot of awkward moments if Sin didn't at least cover himself up after he showered.

Boyd was just thankful that he had on looser pants and an over-sized shirt today. Concentrating on the tree pattern on the screen, Boyd said distractedly, "Ah. I bought us more things. Are you done with the shower? You should put some clothes on."

Sin wandered closer to him, still idly drying himself off as his eyes focused on the Japanese screens. "Why? It's hot. Where'd you find those?"

Tilting his head toward the floor, Boyd rearranged the panel in front of him just to have something to do with his hands. He was entirely too aware of Sin's presence, making it rather difficult to do anything that would not just make the entire situation more awkward. "A market," he managed to say calmly. He took a moment to breathe slowly. "It's just... better... to wear something. More modest."

Sin made a face at him and walked over to where his duffel bag still sat at the side of his bed. He grabbed another pair of equally ragged, faded jeans and stepped into them. They were too large for him and they sagged dangerously low, dipping far below his hipbones. "Happy?"

Well, that was hardly better at all, but Boyd would take what he could get. Dragging his eyes away, Boyd looked toward the bathroom in distraction. "I'm going to take a shower... I've been out in the heat all day."

Sin seemed taken with the screens and stood next to one, running his fingers along the rosewood frame idly. "I think I got a job today."

The news surprised Boyd enough that he looked over at him. "Really? What will you do?"

Sin finally moved away from the screen and sat down on his bed, stretching out lazily and gazing up at Boyd with a frown on his lips. "It's stupid."

"Why, what is it?" Boyd asked, his eyebrows drawing down.

Sin lifted a shoulder and his mouth turned more into a pout than an actual frown. He sighed, looked away and then refocused pale green eyes on Boyd again. "Security at a nightclub..."

Boyd was a little distracted to notice that he had apparently taken his contacts out when he showered; Boyd far preferred the natural pale green to the dull brown he had to wear for Jason. But it also meant that when Sin had the contacts out, somehow the green seemed more striking after Boyd continually saw him with brown. It took him a moment to realize what Sin said and when he did he blinked in surprise. "Secu-at a nightclub?" He stared at Sin blankly. "Well. The security detail certainly fits Jason's profile and at least if you fall silent or do not feel like talking to people then any natural intimidation you may have will work in your favor. It's just the nightclub part that seems strange. Have you ever been to one?"

"Yes, I've been in one," Sin replied, voice petulant. "But I will have to interact with people a lot more than I would want to. And the woman who will eventually hire me is disturbing. I would prefer to get employment at a more professional place."

"This nightclub you've been in," Boyd said with faint amusement, "was it the one you just applied at? And why is she disturbing?"

Sin turned up his nose at Boyd and didn't answer the first question. "I believe she only wants me to work there because she finds me to be attractive for some ridiculous reason."

Boyd paused at that and looked away. While he could certainly see why someone would find Sin attractive, he wasn't entirely pleased with the idea. If Sin spent his nights around people out to drink and have a good time, how many would he meet that would get taken in by his intense eyes and personality? He would probably have people hanging all over him and who was to say Sin wouldn't welcome the treatment eventually?

Although Boyd had not analyzed that yet, now he wondered if Sin would realize eventually that he didn't like men. Maybe the only reason Sin had reached out for Boyd at any time was because he was just a body that was there, because Boyd was the only one who treated him like a human being. But here in Monterrey there were thousands of people who had no reason to do anything but that, and a nightclub would be saturated with them. He couldn't imagine that Sin could be there for longer than a week before at least one woman would want more from him.

It's not like Boyd had any hold over Sin but he also couldn't deny the fact that he didn't like the idea of others being able to touch him. But he had no right to in any way take this chance for normalcy away from Sin by saying anything about that. It would be awkward if Sin brought anyone back to the apartment, but maybe Boyd could just leave the building for awhile if it happened.

Realizing he had fallen silent, Boyd returned his attention to Sin, though he didn't really know what to say. "Well... If it's the only job you can find, I suppose it will have to do. Just... There is such a thing as 'sexual harassment' so of course if she is doing something you don't want, you should remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible but refrain from attacking her."

Sin shrugged, looking moody. "I don't know if it's a good idea. I will be around intoxicated people, people will be touching me and I will be expected to react in ways that I am not capable of. I think I will inevitably fail this mission."

Boyd's eyebrows twitched down slightly. "React in ways you are incapable?"

Sin raked a hand through his damp hair, looking frustrated. "Yes. I am supposed to be a normal man. I am supposed to not kill the drunk people who will inevitably be attacking me. I am supposed to be able to deal with people coming on to me and not be awkward and irritated by it. You should be doing this, not me."

Watching Sin, Boyd sighed and walked over to his own bed, sitting on the edge and tilting his head. "This will probably be good for you; it will give you time to grow accustomed to being around others. I can't say it is an ideal environment; you're right that it would have been better to ease into if you were in a more professional setting. But if you are a bouncer, then you at least do have some leeway. Your profession alone will be the excuse if you accidentally get a little overzealous. Besides, you have been working on these sorts of assignments far longer than I have. I had to learn everything when I started at the Agency, so you could think of this as another form of training."

"I'm bad at undercover assignments," Sin insisted and turned on his side, looking at Boyd. "I don't know to act normal. It's ridiculous that they expect me to know how. I've never been around people in a social setting." He shook his head and sat up abruptly. "It doesn't matter."

"It will be difficult at first," Boyd allowed, inclining his head. "But you will learn. You can also ask me later about any situation that arises and I will help if I can." He watched Sin and lifted one shoulder in a helpless shrug. "I'm sorry it's not an easier mission for you but we can't really avoid it. Maybe you will find a better job tomorrow. I imagine the market must be flooded, though."

"I don't have high hopes although I will keep trying." Sin got to his feet and began wandering around the studio, going to the fridge and opening it. He stared into it for a moment and then closed it again. "No food."

Boyd could not see Sin very well from his bed with the addition of the screens so he stood and walked around them. Crossing his arms and quirking an eyebrow, he said mildly, "On an interesting, related note, most people would label fruits, vegetables, bread and meat as 'food' and candy as 'snacks.'" He pointedly looked at Sin's stomach, which was entirely too thin compared to how well-built his upper torso was. "You will not be healthy if you just eat gummy bears and cookies. Eat something normal first and then we will talk."

Sin crossed his arms over his chest, looking defiant. "I've been fine all of these years. If you want me to eat something else, you should be the one to cook it."

"Clearly that may end up being the case, but it will probably be a disaster. I hardly know the difference between a pot and a pan." Boyd paused with a blink, looking thoughtful. "Actually, I don't know if there is a difference..."

"That is sad." Sin gave him a disapproving look. "You have nothing else to do so you may as well cook. And also, you should do laundry as well."

"What am I, your wife?" Boyd asked him, highly amused.

Sin seemed to consider that for a moment. "You would need to exchange bodies with my new boss for that. You can be my slave instead."

Boyd could not help a startled laugh at that. "I don't know if I like the idea of being your slave," he informed him with one eyebrow arched in challenge. "The very nature of that relationship would imply I get no compensation and I just can't agree to that."

"You get to be in my presence. That should be sufficient compensation." Sin walked around the island again and frowned. "If you're going to be sitting around here while I'm working at some ridiculous nightclub, you better make me some food."

"Excellent," Boyd said with laughter in his tone. "We have now transported ourselves to the 1950's." He shook his head and smirked teasingly. "And what will you do if I decline?"

"You will be treated poorly."

"Oh really?" Boyd drawled. "What will you do?"

"I will be dissatisfied and belligerent."

"Yes, but you can be like that anyway even without me being labeled as your slave." Boyd quirked an eyebrow in an amused challenge. "If I were your slave, that's a lot of power you want over me just for you standing around at a nightclub. Surely I'm worth at least a second job on the side too?"

Sin made a face and walked towards his bed again, brushing past Boyd rudely. "It's fine. I don't really want you to be my slave anyway. You are disobedient and I would have to beat you frequently. I will find my own means of nourishment." He lay down on his bed again and folded his hands over his chest, closing his eyes.

Boyd shook his head to himself then walked around the screen to reach his duffel bag for a change in clothing. He grabbed the clothes, watching Sin lie there in sullen silence ignoring him. Rather than being hurt by it, Boyd was amused and pleased that Sin was comfortable enough around him to do things like act childish. Since Sin was actually looking for food, he probably truly was hungry, and Boyd would end up making something simply because they didn't currently have many snacks and Boyd doubted Sin ever did anything more than open a bag of candy or a jar of peanut butter to 'prepare' his meals. But it would be awhile and Boyd had bought a present for him when he was out so he may as well give it to him in the meantime.

Dropping the clothes next to the bags he'd brought in earlier, he dug around until he found two small packages. He'd initially intended to give the gift in a different, more innocuous way, but if Sin was going to torture him by running around naked while implying that Boyd should be his subordinate, then Boyd was going to give him a taste of his own medicine. Standing up while hiding one package in each hand behind his back, Boyd walked to the side of Sin's bed and leaned forward until his face was close to Sin's. He didn't say anything at first; just smiled enigmatically and waited to be noticed.

Sin's eyes opened slightly and he stared up at Boyd with a look that was half surprised and half... something else. It was hard to say whether or not he was pleased by the proximity, but he made no efforts to move away. He gazed up at Boyd through long, black eyelashes and his lips parted slightly although no sound came out.

"I bought you a present," Boyd murmured lightly and something in the timbre of his voice made the moment seem intimate. He leaned just a little closer, red hair framing his face and hanging between them. "Which do you want? My left or right?"

Sin blinked slowly and he began to speak but no sound came out. He cleared his throat and shifted slightly, temporarily causing them to move closer together. "Your left or right... what?"

"My left hand," Boyd said softly, not breaking eye contact as he tilted his head slowly toward his left. His hair shifted in the movement, swinging between them and lightly tickling Sin's skin. "Or my right." He tilted his head toward his right. Quirking one eyebrow, he murmured with a smirk, "It's a difficult decision. Choose wisely."

Sin didn't respond at first and his eyes flicked over Boyd's face, focusing on his eyes one moment and then his mouth the next. He swallowed convulsively and shifted again, dragging his eyes away although they wandered right back not even a second later. "I want whatever you want to give me."

"Mm." Boyd's lips spread into a slightly wicked smile. "Good choice." He leaned forward slowly and it was unclear what he intended; though his eyes sparked with a strange emotion, his expression was difficult to interpret. Drawing close enough for his breath to just make it to Sin's skin, he stared into Sin's eyes for a moment with a half-lidded gaze that slowly moved to study Sin's lips.

"Don't eat them all at once." He pressed a crinkling bag of cookies into Sin's chest and within seconds had disappeared with his clothes into the bathroom. The sound of the shower turning on was almost immediate.

The rest of the evening passed relatively uneventfully mostly due to the fact that when Boyd returned from the bathroom, Sin was already asleep or at least pretending to be. Although Boyd was somewhat relieved that he didn't have to attempt any adventures in the kitchen, he was mildly disappointed that he didn't get to question Sin further about the club he would be working at and he stopped at his partner's bedside for a long moment to simply watch him sleep.

After wandering around the studio for the rest of the afternoon and putting away the various items he'd purchased, Boyd retired to bed himself although as usual, his slumber was anything but peaceful. He didn't know if it was the fact that he wasn't used to sleeping in such a vastly different environment, but several times throughout the week he'd woken in the middle of the night disconcerted and confused, not remembering where he was or why. That night was no different and he awoke with a jerk, gazing up at the ceiling blankly for several long moments as he regained his bearings, sweating uncomfortably under the sheets.

It took a long moment for him to figure out that he'd actually woken up because of a strange sound in the studio. He didn't move at first, didn't show any outward signs that he was actually aware of his surroundings just in case someone was in the room with them, but he finally realized that the sound had come from Sin's bed.

Boyd could hear low muttering coming from Sin and once again he was speaking in Mandarin so Boyd had no idea what he was saying. Although he didn't have a translation, there was no denying that the man was visibly distressed in some way and his voice rose slightly at random, hands twitching oddly as though he were trying to grab something, or maybe make a fist. His entire body was tight with tension and it seemed as though one wrong move would cause it to snap like a rubber band. His eyebrows were drawn together tightly, a fine sheen of sweat coating his bare chest and his hair was damp, tendrils clinging to his forehead. It almost seemed as though even in his sleep, Sin was trying to fight showing any outward signs of discomfort, but it didn't seem possible at that point.

Boyd pushed himself up on one elbow and watched uncertainly. He didn't know what Sin would do if he woke him from a nightmare. The last time he'd woken Sin up in this state he hadn't reacted violently but that was most likely due to the fact that he'd been pumped full of sedatives. Even if Sin said he'd never meant to hurt Boyd it didn't mean he couldn't kill him simply through instinct if Boyd wasn't fast enough, and he couldn't quite forget the first incident when something like this had happened when he'd nearly had his neck broken. It was a fifty-fifty that this would not end up in him being flung around the room again but at the same time, Sin seemed better now, more trusting and before he hadn't grown accustomed to Boyd's presence yet. Now he was, now he let Boyd touch him and he even reached out on his own... and Boyd didn't think he'd be able to lay there and listen to Sin suffer even if he wanted to.

Tilting his head, Boyd thought about it for only a second before he put his legs over the side of the bed and padded closer. He had gone to sleep in loose pants made of very light fabric and a short-sleeved shirt this time because he learned early on that the long sleeves were entirely too hot to sleep in. His wrists chafed from the bands he wore and he unconsciously rubbed one hand over his bare arm as he stared down at Sin.

"Sin," he tried saying to wake him, but he knew there would be no answer. Sin jerked just a little, mumbling something that sounded particularly upset, and Boyd braced himself for what could possibly be another moment of amazing stupidity. Reaching out, he said, "Hsin," as he hesitantly brushed his fingers gently across Sin's cheek.

He didn't even have time to blink before one strong hand grasped his wrist violently and Sin's eyes snapped open; just as before, they were unfocused and not entirely conscious or sane. In the dim light, his green eyes almost glowed and were filled with a prowling darkness that Boyd felt caught in. It was impossible for Boyd to look away so he just stared, knowing there was no recognition in that gaze, knowing in less than seconds he could be running for his life.

Boyd held himself very still, barely daring to breathe too heavily so it wouldn't seem like a sudden movement, and tried to give off as non-threatening an aura as he could. Despite himself, he felt his heartbeat start to increase and the beginning of adrenaline curling through his blood. He ignored Sin's painful grip on his wrist and his own automatic reaction to want to pull away so that he could assess the situation from a safer distance.

"Hsin," he murmured instead, as soothingly as he could, "It's just Boyd. You were having a nightmare."

Sin's hand didn't move but he didn't do anything else either; his entire body was tense and he stared at Boyd with those same unfocused, insane eyes for a long moment. Whatever was going through his mind was absolutely unreadable and the longer the moment dragged out, the more time it gave Boyd to think about what he would do if this ended terribly. He didn't know if he could get his wrist away from Sin easily but he had a free hand so he could at the very least grab his duffel bag just within reach and try to swing it at him. He would just need enough time to somehow remind Sin that he wasn't an enemy before Sin neutralized him like he was one.

But as suddenly as the crazed look had been there, Sin blinked and awareness returned. His body started to relax but his fingers did not release their hold.

"Boyd?" His voice was low, uncertain and sounded slightly strained as his chest rose and fell faster with each moment.

Although relief flooded through Boyd at the sound of his name, something in him twisted slightly at the tone it was said in. Somehow it was especially striking hearing such uncertainty within seconds of that insane lack of recognition, something that usually was a precursor to violence.


Sin was breathing hard, sweat glistening on his face and chest as he stared up at Boyd with a bewildered and concerned look on his face. "Wha-- did I hu--" He stopped speaking, eyebrows drawing together and he still did not pull his hand away.

It surprised Boyd that Sin would be worried about his health at such a moment. He shook his head and, not really knowing why he was doing it but not stopping himself anyway, placed his free hand on Sin's and lightly ran his thumb along it. "No," he assured him immediately. "I'm fine." He paused, feeling drawn into Sin's vulnerable, lost expression. "You looked upset so I woke you."

Sin stared at him, breath still coming fast and suddenly pulled Boyd down onto the bed next to him. Boyd was so startled that Sin actually wanted him closer that he let himself fall forward. Sin kept one arm on Boyd and raised his other hand, raking it through his sweaty hair and then pressing the heel of it against his closed eyes. "Fuck." He swallowed and took a breath, as if trying to control his breathing. "You shouldn't-- What if I--"

After a few seconds of staying very still in surprise, Boyd relaxed against the bed slowly so Sin wouldn't think he was frightened. He didn't know what to do other than that so he stayed still. Watching Sin struggle to regain control really struck him. He didn't want Sin to upset himself further by trying to appear impervious.

Boyd took a moment to respond. "It doesn't matter. I know I said some... cruel things the other day... but I could never just go back to sleep if you were upset." He hesitated just a moment. "You don't- If you're... hurt... you don't have to act like you aren't. I know I don't handle nightmares very well, and... I don't want you to think that I think you're weak if they distress you. Because I don't."

Sin did not respond at first but some of the tension bled out of his body and he took a shaky breath, swallowing noisily. He didn't move his hand and didn't look at Boyd, but he shook his head slowly. "You don't have to... worry about me. I don't want to unintentionally hurt you."

Boyd shook his head and frowned slightly. "It's alright. I understand potential consequences if I wake you from a nightmare; you're disoriented and confused, like anyone would be. I'd know you didn't mean to, that it's not really your fault." He tilted his head so he could watch Sin through the darkness. "So I won't stop doing it."

Sin moved his hand away finally and he turned his head slightly so that he could look at Boyd. His hair was splayed across his forehead and the pillow, jaw clenched and eyes raw with some strange, wild emotion. He looked angry, unhappy-- everything about his expression screamed misery although it wasn't exactly apparent why.

He looked away from Boyd suddenly and pressed his hand to his face again. "I'm so weak," he said from between grit teeth.

"You aren't," Boyd said firmly. He watched closely and hesitated just a moment before asking softly what he wanted to know. "What did you dream about? Do... you want to talk about it?"

There was a stretch of silence before Sin exhaled slowly. "I dreamed about how weak and pathetic I am." He moved his hand away so he could turn to look at Boyd.

Boyd waited a moment and wondered if it was okay that he was asking these questions; Sin did not seem angered by it so he took that as a sign that he could continue. He didn't know any other way to help Sin in these cases unless he had more information, knew more of what was going on. And sometimes, people just needed to talk about it. "How so? What was happening?"

Sin dropped his gaze to the sheet, eyes shadowed by his hair.

"My father... was there. My father-- my parents--" He paused, seeming unsure of himself. "That night, when I hurt you, my dream was about them. And now-- my father was angry about my weakness, my training-- I was ruining everything so he was retraining me."

Sin had never really talked about his family before, other than an aside here or there. Although Boyd read the information Ryan provided him, there was still a lot he didn't know. He wasn't sure what would be good or bad to talk about, but he decided to just do his best and keep his voice gentle. "Why did he think you were ruining everything?"

"Because I'm a failure. I'm not turning out the way I was supposed to be." It was all said in the same hollow voice and Sin did not look up again.

"What were you supposed to be?" Boyd asked carefully. "What did he train you for?"

A humorless smile flitted across Sin's mouth. "To be him-- to be the better model of him. To be all of his strengths and none of his weaknesses but he said-- he--" Sin frowned, confused. "I mean, in the dream, I was weaker than he ever was. He knows-- knew, where I am weak and he will exploit it, just like he did during my training."

Boyd narrowed his eyes slightly. Despite the good memories Carhart may have of Emilio, Boyd didn't think he liked the man. Someone who trained his son to be a perfect model of himself without even allowing for the same weaknesses? He smoothed his expression almost immediately though, not giving away his annoyance. "What did he say?" he asked Sin calmly.

Sin looked up at Boyd finally, face blank and eyes unreadable once again; it was an expression that had been absent from his face for a long time. "I'm not supposed to make myself vulnerable to others-- to care for others. Eventually my weakness will be used against me and I will regret ever trying to be like other people."

Boyd stared at Sin for a moment and once again tried not to let his displeasure show. Seeing that expression resurrected made Boyd unconsciously want to anchor Sin in the present, in a time that didn't turn him inaccessible and unreadable. He reached out without really thinking and laid his hand firmly but gently on Sin's bare shoulder, where he let his thumb slide comfortingly along his skin.

"Was your father always like that?" he asked quietly.

Sin closed his eyes briefly when Boyd touched him and when he opened them again he seemed less blank, less empty although the remoteness was still there.

"Yes. When we first met, he didn't know what to do with me but once he found a purpose for me, that's how things were."

"When you first met?" Boyd blinked and shifted up on his elbow just a little to get a better view of Sin's expression. "What do you mean?"

Sin traced his finger against the sheet, studying it intently. For a moment it seemed like he wouldn't respond, that he didn't want to talk about it, that he'd shut down with Boyd just like he did with Carhart, but he didn't.

"My dad took me when I was eight," he said slowly. "I'd never met him before then-- he wasn't accustomed to being with children so he didn't have use for me and didn't know what to do with me."

Sin's mouth lifted into another strange smile. "The first time he spoke to me he asked if I wanted a cigarette."

"Where were you before that?"

All of the muscles in Sin's body seemed to tense up and his eyes flicked to Boyd briefly. The moment stretched but then Sin looked away and it ended.

"With my mother." There was another silence and he raised his hand slowly, letting it rest on top of one of Boyd's. "He took me from... there."

It was surprising and a little alarming that even though his father apparently trained him ruthlessly since he was a child, Sin was actually reacting more to the idea of his mother. Boyd almost stopped himself but... if he didn't ask now, he may never know and for some reason, he really wanted to know. He wanted to know about Sin's past, about his life, he wanted to understand all of the things that had turned Hsin into Sin.

"Where was she? You sound... as if that was a bad place to be."

The answers came slowly and it was obvious that this was uncharted territory, something that hadn't been touched on in awhile. "In Hong Kong."

Sin paused, eyes focused on the sheet, his hands flexing. "When I was a foolish, misled child, I used to wonder what my father would be like. I never thought I would meet him, I wanted him to take me... away. To protect me and save me. And when she died, I thought that he had finally done that."

Boyd shook his head and tightened his hold on Sin's shoulder, feeling a mixture of emotions that was difficult to distinguish between. "You weren't foolish or misled. That's the way it should have been. You can't help that your father was so... different." He ran his thumb along Sin's skin again, hoping he was saying the right thing. He wasn't very good at comforting people; he was far better at ignoring or being cold to them. "Your father... Where did he take you? When did he start training you?"

Sin shifted so that he was on his side facing Boyd although he kept his eyes downcast. "I'm not positive but I suspect he brought me here. That's why Carhart was asking me questions about it, although we never stayed in one place for too long. Often we were in Europe for one reason or another. At first he just ignored me, he stared at me and seemed at a loss. I think he regretted taking me away; maybe he thought it would be an adventure and then realized I was useless to him. After a few months he decided that-- he thought that I had potential. He told me that he would train me so that it would not be wasted-- that I would become like him."

Sin was quiet again and looked up at Boyd again. "It made sense to me. I knew even from that age that I wasn't really normal. I'd already been... violent. The people me and my mother had lived with were always disturbed by me." He paused for a moment, seeming to be trying to work it out for himself, struggling with his own memories. "Anyway, I was misguided, I thought my father would be my ally but he taught me to trust no one, not even him. If I confided in him, he just used my weaknesses against me."

"I'm sorry," Boyd began carefully. "But he shouldn't have done that. He can't expect you to be perfect if he was not himself. I'm not saying that humanity is perfect, but not everyone will automatically hurt you." He shifted and reached out to slowly push Sin's hair from his eyes.

"But it's true. I was always weak-- as he trained me, he constantly saw my weakness and he tried to rid me of it. He taught me so much, taught me how to be strong. He taught me how to survive, how to fight, how to protect myself. Even when he realized--" Sin broke off suddenly and looked somewhat surprised by what he'd almost said.

"Even when he saw the severity of my weakness," he amended. "He continued to try to improve me, to show me how to handle it, but I always disappointed him, even when my weaknesses became my strength. But he didn't like that either and so--" He stopped again, eyebrows drawing together, confused by his own rambling.

Boyd paused then hesitantly ran his fingers through Sin's hair, a comforting gesture. "You were eight, Hsin," he said quietly, his gaze caught between searching Sin's face and becoming entranced by the dark, smooth hair falling between his fingers. He didn't really know why he called Sin by his real name, but it somehow seemed appropriate and he liked the way it felt on his tongue.

Sin seemed to lean into his touch, seemed to crave the gentleness of it with an almost sad desperation.

"No," he said again. "I wasn't. I was... unstable and as I got older, it's just gotten worse. He realized it and tried to counteract it by intensifying my training, by making me stronger, by teaching me control. I tried to maintain it, to control myself in that state-- but I was never able to make it go away."

He didn't say specifically what weakness he was referring to, but it seemed that he was speaking of his mental instability, the way he could snap and lose control.

Boyd frowned just slightly but the expression was gone quickly. He was not particularly happy about what he was hearing, but he didn't dare let his voice or expression show anything but calm reception in case Sin misinterpreted it and stopped talking. He continued to play with Sin's hair, dropping his hand down to his temples and forehead occasionally to caress his skin absently.

"What exactly was this training?"

Sin's eyes looked distant as as he remembered things from long ago.

"Just... training. To teach me how to be a capable fighter, assassin-- to teach me how to enhance my strength, my endurance. We would spar-- at one of his houses, he would spar with me outside in the cold to show me what I would possibly endure on an assignment where warmth was not an option. When I was older, eleven, when I showed that I was capable of using my body as a weapon, he began to show me the proper usage of weapons."

He stopped talking for a while and stared into space, eyes narrowed slightly. When Boyd just looked at him encouragingly, Sin just shook his head before going on. When he spoke, he didn't seem particularly upset about what he was saying; there was no hostility at all in his voice.

"From the beginning of my training he taught me the importance of distrust. He taught me not to sleep too soundly because it was the most vulnerable time and anyone could slip in and kill me in the dark. He would come into my room while I slept and attack me-- it was my biggest failure for many years. If I complained of an injury he would exploit his knowledge of it while we sparred-- teaching me to never show weakness in front of others, no matter who they are, to never trust the people closest to me or open up to them too much."

At that, Sin's gaze flicked over to Boyd and he smirked slightly, ironically.

"Anyway, he was sure that someday I would be everything he'd hoped; with time and practice, I would become the agent he'd never been. Already I had been a suitable match for him in a fight although I had never been able to overpower him, but still he had faith in me even if he never praised me when I succeeded in bypassing the goals he set. Even when he realized that I was fucking insane, he thought that strength of the body could overpower weakness of the mind. He was wrong. Obviously."

Sin fell silent, seeming broodingly contemplative and it was obvious that he still considered himself not up to par with the standards his father had set. It was fascinating that where others saw a man who was completely impervious, a walking lethal weapon who was to be feared and controlled because of the power he wielded, Sin saw weakness. It was almost disturbing to imagine what Emilio would have had him become, what he actually wanted him to be.

It was entirely possible that if it were up to his father, Sin would have been a blank slate, a soldier with no concerns or interests other than strategy and violence.

Boyd's fingers paused only briefly in playing with Sin's hair before he resumed. His father sounded. inexorable. What had started as distaste for Emilio's training grew to something closer to anger.

The memory of Sin, pale-faced and slightly sweaty, staying completely silent in the passenger seat about wounds that had him crying out in pain when he thought he was alone. He was so good at concealing his pain, at guarding himself completely from the outside world and deflecting anything that was in any way invasive. How could Emilio do that to him? Even if he didn't know how to deal with children, even if he wanted a legacy, even if he realized that Sin wasn't always stable... How could he look at a small child and decide his future for him? How could he tell him he had to be a perfectly controlled killing machine while ignoring the fact that what he really had was a vulnerable, hopeful human who wanted to believe in a future he'd only imagined before?

His touch remained gentle through Sin's hair and he stayed relaxed lying on the bed next to him, but he couldn't help some of that heat making it into his voice.

"But if you were unstable in any way that must have made it worse. Pushing you so hard, not giving you a chance to rest or just. be yourself." He narrowed his eyes and shook his head to himself.

"He just. He couldn't expect more from you then he was even able to give himself. Did he even ask you if you wanted to train, if you wanted to learn anything he decided to show you? It's as if he was punishing you for... for just being human."

Sin shook his head slowly and his face grew a bit darker; a brief flash of that frightening person shining through although it wasn't immediately obvious why.

"I was never just human," he said softly. "He didn't know that at first but-- I think somehow he saw it in me; that was the potential he saw, even if he never completely identified it at first. His training-- it showed me how to control myself, it gave me purpose. Without him, I think I would have truly become what everyone says I am."

Watching him quietly, Boyd did not respond at first. "If you think it helped, then I can't disagree," he said finally, a little doubtfully. "But I don't believe you were never just human. I don't care what happened; you were still born just like everyone else. You were a baby, you were a child, you are now an adult." He watched Sin's hair fall through his fingers and frowned, his brown eyes looking especially dark in the shadows.

"You'll always be human to me." He didn't entirely realize he said the last part aloud; it was an absent, truthful comment.

There was a brief silence and Sin stared at Boyd for a long moment before slowly, uncertainly, he raised one strong arm and wrapped it around Boyd's waist, pulling his partner closer to him. He let his head rest on the pillow, looking over at Boyd quietly.

Sin closed his eyes and muttered a very quiet 'thank you' before saying nothing more.

Boyd's eyes closed, warmth moving through him at the whispered words. He slid one arm around Sin and held him a little closer, marveling for a moment at how close they were, at the fact that Sin had been the one to initiate it. He ran his hand gently around to the back of Sin's neck where he continued to let his fingers slide through his hair. He could feel Sin's heart beating a little faster than usual and he let that calm him even more.

Silence overcame the room, but it was comfortable and relaxing. Boyd felt surprisingly at ease with Sin in his arms and he tightened his hold on him. Eventually Sin's breathing became slow and even and together they fell asleep.

Continue to Chapter 29