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!

Chapters


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes
Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.

Links

Our AFFN profile

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Evenfall Chapter Twenty-Nine

Midnight was the waking hour for many of Monterrey's party goers and that was the time when the club was at its fullest. Lines of hopefuls waited to be admitted to Solar; it was the most exclusive club in the city so if you wanted to get in, you either had to be on the list or had to really impress the doorman. The music emanating from the interior could be heard blocks away and strobe lights sat on either side of the door, sending streams of light dancing across the misty clouds that hung in the night sky.

Although the club was huge, it drew quite a crowd and was completely packed. Bodies pressed against each other on the dance floor, writhing together in the flashing lights and pulsing to the beat of the music. Different genres of music played on different floors and the mixture created a melting pot of sound, one which was disconcerting if you were not used to it. The smell of sweat and alcohol was almost overpowering but the patrons didn't seem to mind as they laughed, danced and drank.

Behind the Employees Only door and down the long hallway, Jessica Ramirez and her two assistants were sitting on her desk watching the monitors. Typically she would watch for any signs of trouble, eyes flicking back and forth between each screen to take in any possible illegal or disruptive activity that was going on, but this time they were watching for another reason.

"Damn, where'd he go?" Estella asked with a frown. "He just disappeared!"

"I know, he always does that," Jess said and despite her amused smirk, there was an impressed undercurrent in her tone.

"Oh he's on main now," Frankie said, pointing at one of the monitors. "How the hell did he get down there so fast?"

"Who knows? He's quick like that. Yesterday night I was on main speaking to him, turned away for a minute and then he was gone just like that. He has definite talent," Jess replied, blue eyes trained on her new bouncer with a smile playing on her lips. "I wonder if he's talented at everything."

"Probably," Estella said with a smile of her own. "And did you see-in two weeks he's managed to develop a fan club although they seem to be having trouble following him around. Ever since the first night he started working, that same group of girls became regulars all of a sudden."

Frankie rolled his eyes. "I don't see what the big deal is." Frankie's attraction to Estella was notorious even though it was obvious she would never give him the time of day. "Why is every woman that works here acting like he's God's gift?"

Estella looked at him from under half closed eyes and smirked, tossing her long red hair over one shoulder. "Because we like the bad boys and it doesn't hurt when the bad boys are fucking unbelievably hot."

"Bad boy?" Frankie asked skeptically, glaring at one of the monitors where 'Jason' was lingering in the shadows before disappearing just as suddenly as he always did.

"His attitude-he has that bad boy 'I don't give a fuck, I don't care what you think of me, fuck the world' thing going on. It's hot. He also has that silent, broody mysterious quality that we're a sucker for." Estella grinned at Frankie and smacked him on the back playfully. "I know, girls are dumb, but the bad boys are so much more interesting than the good guys."

"Especially when they look like that," Jess said, not looking away from the screens. "His lips are perfect and his eyelashes-god, it's not fair for a man to be that beautiful."

"Whatever-he's just a pretty boy," Frankie said, obviously irritated.

"A pretty boy with an absolutely perfect body," Jess replied.

"Looks a little scrawny to me."

"Lanky is hot, I hate beefy guys. And-"

"-did you see the way he handled the Anderson brothers last night?" Estella finished Jess' sentence, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet like an excited school girl. "You know I usually hate violence, I'm a total wuss when it comes to blood, but they were shooting up in the gallery and when Jason came to do an escort, they tried to resist and fight and he totally kicked both of their asses with like two simple moves. It was crazy and totally hot."

"You think everything is 'totally hot'," Frankie grumbled.

"When it comes to Jason I do," Estella admitted with a grin.

"So why don't you fuck him already then?" Frankie snapped at her. "Why don't all of you just fucking line up and let him go down the line?"

Estella rolled her eyes at him. "I'm just admiring him from afar, calm down already. I don't have the balls to actually approach him; if you haven't noticed he's a little intimidating. And I make a habit of not dating men who are hotter than me." She glanced over at Jess who was still watching Jason intently. "Besides I think boss lady wants him for herself."

Jess' attention snapped over to them and her pretty face reddened slightly, mouth turning down into a disapproving scowl. "Don't be ridiculous, I don't date my staff."

"Who said anything about date?" Estella asked teasingly.

Frankie made a disgusted sound in his throat and turned to go. "Whatever, have fun drooling. I actually have some work to do around here."

Jess crossed her arms over her chest and gave Estella a pointed look. "I think you do too."

Estella rolled her eyes and made a face, hopping off the desk and following Frankie out the door. "Sure, keep all the fun for yourself. Enjoy being a voyeur," she called teasingly before shutting it behind her.

Jess shook her head and dragged her eyes away from the monitors, going to sit behind her desk instead. She had a ton of work to do and it'd been piling up all week. But much to her chagrin, every time Jason came in for a shift she found herself distracted and watched him intently through the surveillance cameras. If she wasn't watching him on the monitors, she'd go down to the floor and actually find a reason to go talk to him. It was unprofessional and somewhat embarrassing, but for some reason she found herself drawn to him.

She couldn't put her finger on it but there was something about him that was mysterious, dangerous, something that intrigued her and made her want to know more. It was the way he slipped in and out of the darkness with ease, the way he disappeared in the space of a moment, the way he walked silently and handled men three times his size with no difficulty whatsoever. It was the intensity in his eyes, the way he seemed to look right through her as if he was seeing into her soul and the way it made her heart pound whenever that raptor-like gaze fell on her. Most of all it was his attitude; he was obviously an unbelievable fighter and a beautiful man but he didn't brag, he didn't seem conceited, he didn't even seem aware of his own appeal. The brooding silence that surrounded him was alluring but when he spoke, even the simple straight forward words were enough to make her shiver when they were spoken in that low, sexy voice.

Jess covered her face with her hands and groaned loudly, annoyed at her own infatuation, or obsession which was probably a more accurate term. She hadn't been this crazy over a man since her ex-husband and even then it hadn't been this distracting. Despite the lovers she currently had and the fact that she knew she could have any man she wanted, she couldn't focus on them because her thoughts were consumed with Jason. She fantasized about how those powerful hands would feel on her body, how those perfect, pouty lips would taste, how that deep voice would sound when he moaned.

Jess shuddered and smacked herself in the head. "God, you're pathetic," she muttered and stared intently at the inventory list in front of her. Several moments passed as she stared at the same page and then slowly her eyes wandered back over to the wall of monitors. She scanned them all and suddenly spotted Jason's tall, lanky form heading towards the employee door.

Jess glanced at the watch that dangled from her slender wrist and realized that it was 2AM which meant his shift was ending. Without thinking, she grabbed her radio and switched it on, telling him to come to her office before he left. As soon as the words left her mouth, she made a face and smacked herself in the head again, realizing that she really didn't have any good reason for calling him in. Despite that, she jumped up quickly and began fussing with her hair, sitting on top of her desk and crossing her legs so that her skirt exposed even more of her thigh.

As soon as Jason entered her office the butterflies that had plagued her stomach began flapping their wings enthusiastically. She tried to stop herself from messing with her hair again and smiled at him. "Hey."

Jason walked in and stopped several feet away from her, crossing his arms over his chest and staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face. Much to her disappointment his eyes did not drop to her exposed legs or even to the way the fabric of her shirt clung to her breasts. Instead he raised an eyebrow at her and did not smile. "What?"

She wasn't exactly arrogant but she had the goods and typically men tripped all over themselves trying to talk to her. The fact that Jason didn't seem impressed by her was frustrating, but at the same time it intrigued her even more. He didn't seem interested in looking at her but she couldn't stop her eyes from wandering over his body. The black cargo pants he wore had silver zippers and short chains across the pockets and although they were loose, they showcased his muscular thighs and in the camera she hadn't been able to take her eyes off of his perfect ass. That combined with the way his black wife beater showed off his well defined, tattooed arms was enough to make her want to rip his clothes off right there. Jess dragged her gaze away from his body and focused on his face, reddening slightly when she saw the slightly impatient look.

"You're doing a great job so far," she said lamely.

"Okay."

Jess fidgeted and shifted on the desk, feeling flustered as he stared at her intently. He seemed to know she was bullshitting and it embarrassed her although it didn't prompt her to dismiss him either. "You know there are a few other people whose shifts are ending now too-usually they stay after and drink together or go out to another bar. I go too sometimes, it's a nice way to get to know everyone. You should come."

"No thank you."

Jess chewed on the inside of her cheek and looked up at him again, feeling heat spread through her as he began absently sucking on his lip ring. "Ah-" She cleared her throat and ran a hand through her hair. "You know when I called your last employer; one of your co-workers answered and was very excited to hear your name. She made it sound like you got to be good friends with her and the others. You should try to give the people a chance here-I know it sucks being new but we can be just as much of a family as your last job."

Jason shrugged and said nothing, seeming content to toy with the hoop of metal that wrapped around his lower lip and stare at her as if she was a moron.

She reddened even more but didn't let it deter her. "I'm serious."

He gazed at her with those intense eyes and lifted one of his shoulders in another shrug before drawling, "I'll think about it."

The butterflies went crazy again and she nodded, not trusting her voice just yet. She slid off the desk and walked towards him, heart pounding when he didn't move away and she smiled up at him. "We just want to get to know you. I." She raised her hand and hesitantly ran one of her fingers along the stubble on his strong jaw. "Want to get to know you."

Jason stared down at her from under his constantly sleepy looking eyelids and grabbed her hand. Although it was firm, it was not painful, and just the fact that he was touching her made up for the fact that he was pushing her away. "I said I'll think about it."

"I hope you do."

He watched her for another long moment before nodding and turning around, leaving the office without another word. Jess closed her eyes briefly and pressed a hand to her face, mildly mortified by her own behavior but not enough to even consider stopping it. She walked back to her desk and slumped down in her chair, allowing her eyes to track Jason's movements as he left the club.




Boyd was seriously considering sending Reed hate mail regarding his haircut.

He was used to one length of hair that made it to his shoulders; he could easily pull it all back into a ponytail when it bothered him and otherwise it made a nice curtain to hide behind. But this stupid hairstyle was cut at too many angles to properly hide anything or even be pulled back. And every time he pushed it behind his ears it just fell forward again. So, with his hands full of cascabel sauce and blood that seeped from the beef, Boyd could do nothing to keep the hair from aggravating him other than to constantly rub his temple along his shoulder awkwardly and shake his head rather like a displeased horse.

The island in the kitchen was a mess and Boyd was a little annoyed. He had never really made any food before; even during the time he was alone in his family's house, he'd made things like sandwiches that required little preparation, used the microwave, or just ate crackers or bread. Boyd only barely knew the difference between a stove and an oven, and wasn't even entirely positive he had the correct definitions for each. He still didn't know the difference between a pot and pan, but he thought there must be one because it was always said that way together, 'pots and pans,' and it wouldn't be such a common phrase if it wasn't, right? It's not like people said 'books and tomes' or 'tennis shoes and sneakers.' Luckily, he found a recipe in one of the cookbooks that required no pots or pans, but it did need an oven and it took him a long time to figure out what that meant.

At first he thought he would need to light the things on top of the contraption, but the more he read the directions, the more he thought maybe the beef was supposed to be encased in heat rather than just heated on the bottom. Besides that, there was only one dial that had numbers in the hundreds, such as was required with the 'Preheat to 300 F' and when Boyd turned the dial, it was the part that looked like a box behind glass that seemed to turn on and not the spiral black things on top.

Although he had used the oven/stove in his house before in order to heat tea, he'd never paid much heed to terminology or even how to properly use any of it. The only reason he'd even known to heat tea on there was because he'd vaguely remembered his mother doing the same when he was little. It didn't take long after his father's death for his mother to basically abandon him to the house, so Boyd had to learn how to do things. Lou, who'd always had a maid to do that sort of thing, didn't know how to operate any kitchen machinery either. So, the first time Boyd had felt adventurous enough to heat water somewhere other than the microwave, he'd gone vaguely by memories of his mother's actions. As a result, he'd often burned the water, steeped the tea too long, and in general made a mess of things. When he'd told Sin in his apartment that he was not good in the kitchen, he hadn't been joking. He really had very little clue how to work anything. And, being the sort of person who was used to knowing exactly what was happening and when, it was a little frustrating.

Standing back and staring blankly at the glass, he realized he had no idea what it meant to preheat. Obviously he heated it prior to something, but to what? Placing the food inside presumably. But if that was the case, how in the world did he know when it reached the appropriate temperature? Was it important that it was exactly on that degree? If he left it heating long enough, would it heat over 300 or did it have some sort of failsafe that cut off the heat producing agent at the correct time to keep it only at that temperature? Frowning distractedly to himself, Boyd washed his hands and flipped through all the cookbooks he could find. Unfortunately, most of them were simple collections of recipes and didn't tell him anything useful at all regarding the oven/stove equipment. A few of them were also bilingual, in a language he couldn't read.

After awhile of trying to decide what to do, Boyd settled on just preparing the food the way it said and assuming that if he left it for half an hour it would be warm enough. Turning back to the recipe for 'easy' chile con carne, he got rather frustrated when he realized it didn't tell him what the hell he was supposed to put the beef in. Would it kill these people to put better directions in these things? Recipes were totally unlike mission parameters. If this were a mission, he would know exactly what he was supposed to be doing, where, when, what time frame he had, even the location to the exact longitude and latitude.

Instead, the sadistic writers delighted in such vague phrases as 'add beef and brown well on all sides' and 'remove all but one teaspoon of fat.' What the hell was that? First of all, browning well on all sides didn't tell him how long that took. Did he just stare into the glass until he saw it was brown? How did he know? He assumed he would have to turn it around or something and that the point of browning would occur on the edge against the metal, but if it was surrounded in heat, did it actually brown on all sides at once? And then the teaspoon comment. What did he do, remove everything into a bowl and then stick one teaspoon of fat back in? How did he remove fat anyway? What did it even look like? And what was a teaspoon? Just a normal spoon?

But what he was perhaps most indignant about was the phrase, 'Heat oil in an ovenproof Dutch Oven over medium high heat.' An ovenproof Dutch Oven? How could it be ovenproof if it was an oven? That was like saying he was a foolproof fool, or a nonhuman human. And 'medium high heat' seemed to imply the other dial which he knew turned on the spirals, but he had just thought he'd realized that an oven was the glass box and the stove was the top, but then hadn't he also heard 'stovetop oven' so did that mean that the stove was on top of the oven and that not all ovens had stoves? God. What was with these kitchen contraptions? They were so contradictory and fuck that stupid Dutch Oven, Boyd would just put the oil in a pot. Which, by the way, it would have been nice of them to tell him what exactly he was doing with this oil other than heating on medium high.

In the end, it was good that Boyd started his attempt to cook quite early. It took him hours to get everything prepared and even then he had to throw some pieces of food out as he accidentally did something wrong that ruined it. He went through several cycles of being indignant enough that he almost left the apartment to find a library to look for a book that would explain something properly instead of this vague inside-terminology about Dutch Ovens and bringing to a fucking simmer. What constituted a simmer, how did he know how to bring it to one, why would he want something simmering anyway?

Over time, in frustration, Boyd had started moving things around that didn't need to be touched. When he didn't know what something was, he looked all around the kitchen for something to tell him, maybe user manuals because honestly, why wouldn't they have one somewhere? But there wasn't a manual for the oven or the stove and all he succeeded in doing was accidentally knocking over a bag of flour and getting it all over his shirt and face. He washed his hands and got it off his face mostly, but his hair was sprinkled with bits of white and it kept getting into his eyes when he tried to finish what he was doing. Although he cleaned the flour from the floor there were still some clouds that were kicked up when he walked around and Boyd gave up trying to keep the situation under control.

The beef already looked brown to him so he had a hard time figuring out what shade of brown they meant when they said that, and the glass in the box was not the most conducive way to check. The oil also popped all over and he was irritated that he didn't have a long sleeved shirt on when one bit fell on his arm and burned. Even after he washed it off the skin puffed up a bit and he glared at it sullenly, as if to silently say that was the physical manifestation of why cooking sucked.

Sin had damn well better appreciate what Boyd was trying to do because if he didn't, they would just have to find places to eat out, which would unnecessarily deplete their account too quickly. Boyd was not cut out for being a housewife, or a slave, or anything they had joked about. He could infiltrate a rebel base and take out the leader no problem, but give him a slab of beef and point him to the kitchen and he had no idea what the hell he was doing. He was only doing this because for some God-forsaken reason he'd been motivated into trying to do something different and he knew neither of them had been eating particularly healthily since neither of them ever made anything. They'd been eating the food that could be eaten raw or with minimal preparation and somewhere along the line Boyd thought it may just be a nice gesture in general to try to make food for them both in time for Sin to get off work.

A thought that, especially when the flour exploded around his face, had been becoming less motivating by the minute.

Even so, some of his indignation faded over time and he started to get into trying to work with his hands, creating something from separate ingredients. He was curious to see if it would actually work out, and if not, he knew he was stubborn enough that he would try several other recipes until he found something he could perfect. He could not let a simple kitchen beat him; that would just be embarrassing. By the time he heard the door open behind him, the beef looked like it was probably on the way to finish simmering or baking or whatever the hell it was doing and he had the plates ready with the tortilla circles. Shaking his head to get his hair out of his eyes, he kept his messy hands carefully away from his shirt and turned to look at the door with a slightly expectant expression.

When Sin walked in he didn't look at Boyd at first and the expression on his face could easily have been described as pensively disgruntled. The corners of his mouth were slightly turned down and his eyebrows were drawn together as he shoved the door closed behind him. However, as soon as he looked up at the spectacle of Boyd standing in the kitchen covered in flour and sauce, his mouth curled up into a helpless smile and a startled laugh escaped him. He seemed surprised by the sound and blinked a couple times but he didn't seem capable of stopping it.

Boyd stared; he had never heard Sin laugh before and he was mesmerized by it. The moment he realized it was because of him, he smiled self-consciously and tilted his head down, watching Sin through red hair that did not quite cover his expression.

"What?" he asked, his smile stretching to a slightly embarrassed grin from how amused Sin was. "I don't look that ridiculous, do I?"

Sin locked the door, not taking his eyes off Boyd or bothering to hide the large grin that spread across his face. He dropped his keys on the small coffee table-- another one of Boyd's surprise additions to the apartment that had been accompanied by a secondhand loveseat-- and walked over to the island, leaning on the countertop with his elbows.

"Ridiculous wasn't the word that came to mind," Sin drawled, seeming to be in a much better mood than a few moments ago.

Warmth flooded through Boyd at Sin's expression and all the annoyances he went through to make dinner suddenly seemed worth it. He would have preferred it if Sin weren't wearing the brown contacts; he would have loved to see that spark in his natural pale green eyes. They had been closer since the night they'd fallen asleep together, but it was mostly shown in the way Sin was a little more likely to smile around Boyd, or how comfortable they were around each other. Even though this was the first time Boyd cooked, even though they were on better terms, this reaction was far better than he had expected.

"Oh really?" Boyd asked with a wide, amused smile. He walked over to the island and leaned his hip against the other side, his hands still held carefully away from everything they could get dirty. He had yet to get the leftover cascabel sauce off them but with Sin there smiling at him it seemed less important to do so immediately. "What was the word?"

Sin leaned forward a bit and raised an eyebrow at Boyd, reaching out and running a finger along his forehead, managing to collect a large amount of flour. "I'm afraid I can't share that information with you. It's confidential. But it wasn't bad."

Boyd was mildly distracted by Sin touching him and leaned into it a little, but when he saw the white covering Sin's finger he couldn't help an amused, self-deprecating smile. "It was probably 'messy,'" he said, bemused. "Look at my hands! They're so covered in cascabel sauce I haven't even been able to keep my hair from my face." He held his hands out to Sin to show him.

Sin's gaze dropped to Boyd's hands and he arched an eyebrow. "Cascabel? What's in it?" Without waiting for an answer, he leaned forward and enveloped one of Boyd's sauce covered fingers with his mouth, absently closing his eyes as he did so.

Boyd's eyes widened and he was so surprised that he didn't even think to hide his reaction. Dropping his other hand to the counter and leaning all his weight on it was mainly what kept him steady with his knees getting a little shaky. His mouth fell partially open and with a darkened, half-lidded stare he could not seem to look away from his finger disappearing into Sin's mouth. It was warm and wet and with Sin sucking the sauce off so thoroughly, every other thought in Boyd's mind disappeared. He didn't even realize that he exhaled with a hint of voice making it into his breath, or that he had not answered Sin's question. All he could feel was Sin's tongue against his skin, the heat of his mouth, even the slight press of the lip ring against his finger. Heat pooled in his belly as he felt himself begin to harden.

Although it seemed he'd done it with the sole intention of tasting the sauce, Sin didn't seem in any hurry to release Boyd's finger.

Sin licked his lips absently and gripped the counter. "Tastes good."

"Ahh," Boyd said, a helpless half-breath of a sound. He held himself up by a slightly weak hand on the counter, his gaze completely caught by Sin's lips even though his finger was free and hovering in front of him rather stupidly.

Boyd felt flushed, completely arrested by an overload of sensations and reactions he was not expecting from his partner. Sin's saliva cooled on his finger in a manner that took entirely too much of his attention, making it difficult for him to think past anything his body was telling him. The entire situation left him off-balance and uncertain although it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Dropping his gaze and free hand to the island, he tried to steady his breath, the rapid beat of his heart, and his thoughts.

Sin didn't speak for a long moment, opting instead to stare at his partner with slightly parted lips and narrowed eyes. He licked his mouth again and finally dragged his eyes away, raking a hand through his unruly black and white spikes.

"So, what are you making?"

"What..?" Boyd asked in a slightly dazed voice, not looking up though his eyebrows furrowed down. "I don't... kn..." He stared at the counter and shook his head to clear it. "Oh. Ah." Blinking, he finally glanced up at Sin then turned his attention to the oven. "Chile con carne?"

"Ah." Sin walked around the island, trying to ignore the thoughts swirling in his head, and instead began poking at the ingredients and peering into the oven. "Is it almost done?"

"I don't... know..." Boyd stared after Sin, highly distracted by the way his tank top showed off his arms and clung to him as he moved, and especially the shape of his ass when he bent over to peer into the oven. "I think... it said another twenty minutes."

Boyd looked back to the counter, trying to keep his lower body tilted away from Sin's view, and said suddenly, "I don't need to sit here watching it. I'm going to shower or I'll never get this mess off me. If it seems done before I'm out you can just eat." Without looking at Sin again he headed straight for the bathroom.

Sin watched Boyd disappear, eyes moving over his retreating form and the way he looked in the slightly ragged jeans he wore. When the door closed behind him, Sin made a face at his own behavior and walked across the studio to one of the couches. He yanked off his sweaty shirt and dropped it on the floor, sprawling down into the overstuffed couch as he kicked off his boots.

He didn't know if it was the heat, the distance from the Agency or the fact that he was temporarily pretending to be someone else, but for the past few weeks his thoughts had been completely consumed by sex. After twenty-eight years of thinking he was asexual, he suddenly couldn't think about anything else. Ever since the night they'd slept in the same bed and the following morning when he'd woken up with the worst case of morning wood he'd had in awhile, every time he looked at Boyd he suddenly felt consumed by filthy thoughts and explicit mental images. He'd probably jerked off more times in the past two weeks than he had in his entire life.

Despite that, he never considered telling Boyd or acting out the things he pictured himself doing. He didn't want to jeopardize the friendship they'd worked hard to finally stabilize, especially not when he remembered how disastrous his last attempt had been. Whenever he wanted to cool himself down or get rid of a stubborn erection, all he had to do was remind himself that Boyd had been afraid that he would rape him that night in France.

If he hadn't been confused enough about that though, now he had other thoughts on his mind. Working at Lunar was probably the most obnoxious assignment he'd endured in awhile which was emphasized by the sheer amount of people who took it upon themselves to touch him casually. He could deal with the violent aspect, incapacitating drunk people was easy as long as he reminded himself not to accidentally kill them, but it was the other part that disturbed him.

He allowed Boyd to touch him because he trusted Boyd, he liked Boyd; he didn't take kindly to strangers rubbing against him or caressing him. He didn't like the way that gaggle of young girls followed him around and took turns trying to grab his ass. He didn't like the way the female bartender had boldly slid her hand down his chest, towards his crotch, but what he really didn't like was Jess.

And the fact that he didn't like her was because she made him curious. Anyone else who tried to touch him quickly backed off when they saw the expression on his face, but she was determined. The way she looked at him and spoke to him made it clear that she was attracted to him even if he couldn't possibly fathom why. After years of being treated like a leper, he couldn't imagine anyone being attracted to him, even if he supposed he wasn't physically repulsive. But Jess seemed incredibly taken with him and the more she did it, the more curious he became.

He'd never been interested in anything sexually before so it was only natural for him to wonder if these feelings he had were only for Boyd, who was unattainable, or if they could transfer to someone else who actually had interest in him. He didn't find himself to be attracted to Jess, he didn't really enjoy being in her presence, but the more frustrated he became the more he considered the idea that maybe it was possible that he would enjoy something sexual with her. It was strange that he was considering such a thing, especially considering the fact that for years he'd considered sex to be a weakness, an act that made a person entirely vulnerable to someone who could very well be an enemy. But now that he was pretending to be Jason, he felt almost liberated in a way that he'd never been before. He had the freedom to do things he'd never been able to do before. He wasn't under constant scrutiny of people who expected the worst from him. For these few months, he didn't have to be the monster from the fourth. He could be a man who could satisfy these new, unrelenting urges, even if the person he really wanted to satisfy them with was completely untouchable.

He was absently unbuckling his belt fifteen minutes later when Boyd came out of the bathroom. He looked up and immediately looked away when Boyd appeared damp, slightly flushed from the heat of the shower and wearing nothing more than a robe and the tracker that was wrapped around one ankle.

"Make me food," Sin said blandly, mostly because he had nothing better to say.

Pulling a lock of red hair behind his ear, Boyd headed toward the oven rather than the beds. He crouched down so he could see inside the glass, making sure the robe covered all the essentials in the process. One side slipped a little on the top, revealing a glance of his collarbone and just a hint of the right side of his chest before he absently pulled the robe closed.

"I can't tell," he said uncertainly, peering at the food with a slight frown. "I think it will be ready in a few minutes." He ran his hand through his hair to get it off his face and because it was wet it was actually marginally successful. He stood, absently cinched the robe a little tighter when it started to slip at his collarbone again, and crossed his arms loosely at his stomach as he tilted his head. "Let me get dressed and then I will check."

Sin eyes tracked the progress of the robe as it slid down repeatedly and he stood up, black pants sliding down his hips even more than usual since they were unbuttoned. He walked over to the kitchen again and smirked at Boyd.

"I didn't really think you would cook," he commented. "So does this mean you finally agree to be my slave?"

Boyd's gaze dipped down to Sin's pants, where a hint of hair could be seen. He snapped his attention back up to Sin's eyes and refused to look away again, because two showers in a row would be entirely too suspicious. "Mm. I suppose I am considering something along those lines. But I'm holding out until you prove to me it's worth it."

Sin made a face at him. "You should feel lucky I would bother to consider you worthy of being my slave," he deadpanned. "Some people would jump at the chance."

"Or perhaps," Boyd said, stepping a little closer, "you should feel lucky I am even considering being your slave. There are some who would fall over themselves to have me at their beck and call."

Sin leaned against the counter and stared at Boyd as he crossed his arms over his chest and barely concealed the leer on his face. "Well wh--" Before he could finish his sentence, something began beeping wildly. Sin blinked and shook his head slightly, looking over at the stove. "I guess it's done."

Distracted from wondering about the expression he briefly saw on Sin's face, Boyd looked over at the oven. "Damn."

His attention was fully absorbed by preparing the food, but it was clear he was awkward in the kitchen. He couldn't remember at first how to turn off the timer and then when he opened the oven he almost forgot that he needed something to pad his hands because everything would be hot. He opened two drawers before he found a towel thick enough to wrap around his hand and pull the beef out. It looked decent but smelled better, but Boyd almost slopped it all onto the ground when he stood too quickly. Even after he set the dish on the stove top he didn't think to turn the oven off for almost a minute and he couldn't find a spoon to put the food onto the plates so he ended up using a spatula.

The end result was a rather messy-looking chile con carne and cheese burrito for each of them, with some leftover meat in case they wanted to make more. He frowned to himself and checked the cookbook a few times, a paranoid, completely unconscious gesture, and tried to pour the sauce on top so it looked exactly as it did in the picture. When it didn't look at all the same he was irritated but just decided next time he would do better.

Shaking his slowly drying hair out of his eyes, Boyd then wiped a bit of sauce off his cheek with the back of one hand and turned to Sin with a slightly frazzled expression. "Well. Honestly, I expect it to taste terrible. These recipes are completely incoherent and they don't know how to give proper directions for anything." He sounded a hint indignant but otherwise seemed to be in a good mood. "But I'm going to get dressed first." He held the plate out for Sin to take.

Sin grabbed it and inhaled, bypassing the dining table and instead wandering over to the loveseat. He folded his legs under him lotus-style and started to eat but then paused and decided to instead wait for Boyd.

Although Boyd initially was just going to dress behind the screen, when Sin sat on the loveseat he was in full view of the beds. So, after a distracted glance Sin's way, Boyd swiped his duffel bag off the floor and disappeared into the bathroom just long enough to change. He reemerged with scruffy red hair that was half-dry and a typical pair of low-rise pants and a shirt. He didn't bother putting on socks or shoes; instead, he tossed his duffel bag in the general vicinity of his bed and padded barefoot over to the kitchen. Pulling his bangs out of his eyes as he leaned over, he smelled the burrito rather dubiously, as if he had not been the one to make it. Glancing distractedly at Sin again, he gave up and just brought his food over to the couch, setting the plate on the coffee table and leaning forward to start eating.

Sin took a large bite of food and chewed slowly for a moment, staring at his plate suspiciously before he swallowed. He paused for a brief moment and then practically inhaled everything on the plate, not even making an attempt to practice anything resembling table manners. "Is there more?" He asked around a mouthful of burrito.

"Yes," Boyd said in faint amusement, eating his burrito far slower, though it ended up being just about as messy simply due to the nature of the food. He tilted his head toward the counter. "There is enough for a few more and the tortilla shells are next to the stove."

Sin unfolded his legs and got up, ignoring the way his pants were dangerously close to completely falling off, and went over to the island. "How do you put all this shit together? Just throw it in the shell?" He didn't wait for an answer before he began throwing ingredients on his plate without even bothering to try making it right.

"Oh, look at that, he learns so quickly," Boyd said teasingly between bites. He brought one leg onto the couch tilted at an angle and rested his arm on it, watching Sin with amusement. "I'm surprised this tastes decent. I feel nigh incompetent in the kitchen."

Sin shrugged and brought his loaded plate back while making vain attempts at pulling his pants up with his free hand. "You aren't incompetent at anything apparently," he replied and plopped down again, eating with his hands rather than silverware.

Boyd looked at him sidelong at the comment, feeling like he was just given a very good compliment, even if he wasn't quite sure why. Since only within the last few weeks he had been convinced Sin thought he was a backstabbing, worthless idiot, it was a surprising but nice thing to hear that he felt him competent. Returning his attention to the last bits of his burrito, he pushed some of the beef around idly before looking up through his bangs.

"How was your job?" he asked lightly.

"It's bullshit," Sin replied as he began eating his new plate of food at an alarming rate. "Apparently intoxicated civvies think they can do what they want with their hands. I don't understand what these people want from me."

Eyes narrowing just slightly, Boyd studied Sin over his food. "What do they do?"

Sin shrugged and glanced at Boyd. "They are very... forward. This group of teenage girls constantly follow me around and attempt to engage me in conversation or touch me. Some of my co-workers have put their arm around me or attempted to touch me in some way, and Jessica, the woman who owns the club, seems to be interested in me."

Boyd blinked slowly and tried to ignore the spike of displeasure he felt at the thought of anyone else being close to or interested in Sin. "Ah," he said neutrally after a moment, tilting his head down to the plate but watching Sin in his peripheral vision. "What does she look like? Jessica."

Sin gestured vaguely. "Like a woman. I don't know." He pictured Jessica for a moment and chewed thoughtfully. "Quite tall, slender, long legs, very large breasts, long dark hair and large blue eyes. I suppose she is technically an attractive woman."

"Sounds so," Boyd agreed calmly, watching his plate as he finished his food.

"I don't know how to appropriately respond to things these people do. I do not know what Jason Alvarez would do-- what a normal man would do. I don't have any experience being constantly surrounded by civilians, especially civilians who are apparently obsessed with flirtations and sex." Sin shook his head and licked sauce from his fingers, sitting back and balancing the now empty plate on his knee.

"Have you ever been with a woman?" Sin asked, voice casual.

Boyd felt uncomfortable with the question. Here was the person he found himself increasingly attracted to, talking about an apparently beautiful woman, and now bringing up sex with her and others. He drew in a breath and pushed his plate further onto the table so it wouldn't fall.

"Ah," he said after a moment, watching the floor before he finally was able to drag his gaze up to Sin's. He tried to keep his tone casual but he didn't know if he succeeded. "No, I don't suppose I have."

Sin frowned slightly. "Well you have more experience with civilians than I do. If you were in my place, how would you act? For example, they constantly ask me to spend time with them socially and I suspect that my employer knows that the person I am supposed to be would be interested in such a thing." He looked frustrated and began to toy with his lip ring absently. "This is why I have never been good at these assignments. I do not understand how someone who has no experience with civilians is expected to pretend to be one of them."

"You will only learn by being around them, though," Boyd pointed out, and he found it a little easier to ignore Sin playing with his lip ring now that he had thoughts about Sin and Jessica in his mind. He felt strangely stupid saying he had never been with a woman; that was what men were supposed to do, not sleep with other men. Sin had never had the chance to be normal, but maybe now he would realize with all his options, there really was no reason to notice someone as boring as Boyd.

He couldn't let his biases ruin Sin's only chance for normalcy. Drawing in a deep breath, Boyd leaned back in the couch and crossed his arms lightly at his stomach. "I would probably spend time with them," he answered, trying to think about what he would honestly do in that situation. "If you continue to deny them you will stand out more. However, I would only go once in awhile so that I would not give myself too many chances to accidentally say something I should not, or act in a manner they do not expect. In your case, I would suggest accepting next time, but not every time. Someone like Jason Alvarez probably accepted more often than not, but they do not know that necessarily, and if you feel too awkward or uncomfortable in the situation, it will stand out and seem even stranger than if you had said no. It would be better to ease into it and give yourself a chance to become accustomed before you push yourself too hard."

Sin made a face and put his plate on the table, stretching out his legs and folding his arms behind his head. "I don't particularly want to do that, but I suppose that I can. It seems that being so detached garners me a lot of attention. People are not nearly so preoccupied with people who do the things they expect."

A faint smile pulled at one edge of Boyd's lips. "That would be my mindset whenever I plan to infiltrate," he agreed dryly.

"See?" Sin raised his eyebrows at Boyd. "I can learn."

"I never said you couldn't," Boyd said, mildly amused even if he meant what he said.

Sin slouched down farther into the sofa and shrugged languidly, putting his feet up on the coffee table as he scratched his stomach absently. An almost petulant scowl tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Well I don't know if this ability to learn will extend to this socializing thing. I suspect that I would be antisocial even if I actually were a normal person. I just have no desire to spend time with large groups of drunken civilians. I'd much rather stay here in the apartment with you," he complained.

Boyd looked over with a sidelong smile but didn't respond directly. It was already past three in the the morning by the time the kitchen was cleaned up but the time was spent with casual, alternating conversation. Despite the stuffiness of the room and the almost unbearable heat, the environment was relaxing and not for the first time since the start of the mission it was just like they were two normal guys hanging out and not agents, assassins.



Continue to Chapter 30