In the Company of Shadows

This site is..

Based on an original story and alternate future by Sonny & Ais called In the Company of Shadows.

The story contains..

Slash (M/M), het (M/F) and graphic language, violence and sexual situations. Not intended for anyone under 18!


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Evenfall Chapter Thirty-Five

The sun was so bright that rays had broken through the clouds, making him squint. Boyd remained leaning against the building, the wall hot enough to nearly burn his back even through his cotton shirt. His pose was languid and with the tilt of his head it would not have been apparent that he was actually watching a building across the street.

Passersby didn't even give him a second glance; he was one of a few dozen people scattered down the street also resting to the side as the sun slowly moved to its zenith. In a few hours, the city would sluggishly shut down for a bit while the majority of its residents would retreat to the cooler confines of the shadows and the occasional air-conditioned building. For the moment, the markets were still filled with shouts, bargaining, and the general bustle of humanity.

A small, rather dirty boy suddenly came running barefoot out of the building Boyd was watching. Dirt stained his face and his shock of dark brown hair was matted and wild. He wore a stained white tank top and ragged shorts, and the sandals on his feet looked almost worn through. Boyd looked over to watch him as the kid slowed to a stop in front of him.

"Found them," he announced, self-satisfied.

"Hey, good job, Jorge," Boyd drawled easily with a lopsided smile, holding out his hand.

Jorge gave him a look and made no move to relinquish the property. Boyd raised his eyebrows but Jorge did not budge, only narrowed his eyes slightly. "Where is it, gringo?" His tone made the word derogatory.

"That's not very nice," Boyd observed mildly. "I thought we were on good terms, Jorgito."

"Do not call me that," he said, his tone hard. "You aren't mi viejo."

"I should hope not," Boyd agreed, leaning against the building and looking idly around as if bored. "We look nothing alike and I'm a bit too young to be your dad."

Giving Boyd an entirely unimpressed look, Jorge narrowed his eyes slightly. "We are done."

"No," Boyd said patiently, the languid air of Reed's personality keeping him relaxed and unperturbed as he returned Jorge's gaze. "We've already been over this. One more stop and then you're done, remember?"

Jorge stared at him briefly before abruptly pivoting and heading down the nearest street. He waited just long enough for Boyd to follow before he turned toward him again, dark brown eyes narrowed as he studied him sidelong. Noticing the calculated look and the fact that Jorge had not answered, Boyd gave him a pointed look and stopped walking.

After a few steps, Jorge stopped, turned around and frowned up at Boyd. Neither said anything but there was a battle of wills that stretched the next few moments.

Even in the shade of the nearby buildings it was hot and sweat trickled down their skin as they simply stared at each other. Finally, Jorge's eyes narrowed and he reached into his front pocket, pulling out two small black boxes that he dropped into Boyd's hand. Boyd quickly but casually hid them before anyone would be able to properly see what he had.

Jorge stared at him a moment in calculation before he turned and started walking again. "I want more money," he said seriously.

"Kid, you're already getting enough," Boyd said, lazily looking around the street as they walked. He automatically noted where all the doors, windows, and escape routes existed. There was also a large pile of garbage nearby with an old, rusted garbage can that he could probably find a use for if he needed to run away or hide quickly.

"Mi mano gets more," Jorge said firmly.

Boyd blinked and looked over at him strangely; he hadn't exactly been distracted by noting the buildings but he was fairly certain he could not have heard that correctly. "Your hand does?"

Looking at Boyd in disgust, Jorge said, "Hermano. Brother. ¿No hablas español, huevón?"

Boyd almost smirked but he stopped himself; it wasn't every day someone decided to call him 'balls.' In the months Boyd had spent in Monterrey, he'd learned more of the language. He'd become fairly fluent but there seemed to be an endless supply of colorful slang, often with sexual connotations, that Mexicans seemed to delight in throwing out when he was least expecting it.

Learning the literal and metaphorical translations later in the studio from Sin had become a source of entertainment for him, and had more than once become a source of entertainment for both of them when one of them decided to act out what exactly he had been advised to do.

"I speak Spanish just fine," Boyd said with mild indignation just as he knew Reed would, even though he didn't actually feel upset. "You're just throwing random shit in there. What, you want me spouting English slang too, little punk?"

"I would understand," Jorge said confidently, taking them across one street and leading them down another street, far skinnier and shorter than the rest.

Boyd made a face at him. "I liked that part when you first came over and were pleased. Go back to that, it was cuter."

Stopping suddenly, Jorge turned around with a bright, charming smile and said, "Give me more money, ese, or I leave you here."

"See, you only half listened," Boyd pointed out reasonably, standing at slouching ease a few feet from Jorge. He quirked an eyebrow. "Before, with the niceness? The cute part was you not threatening or demanding shit; you were just helping out. What happened to that kid?"

Dark brown eyes glinted stubbornly. "You call him Jorgito and refuse pay."

Boyd watched him, judging the amount of stubbornness and how upset he really was. He could read him well enough to know that at this point if he didn't give in a little he would just be making things more difficult for himself. He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender and shook his head.

"Alright, alright, you're so pushy." He pulled several pesos out of one pocket and held it toward him. Jorge reached out but Boyd pulled his hand back and looked at him pointedly, his tone a friendly warning. "You're still gonna help me one more time, right?"

Jorge scowled at him but couldn't reach the money. With narrowed eyes, he nodded firmly and the second Boyd had lowered his hand enough, he snatched the pesos away and already had them hidden somewhere in his clothing before Boyd could even follow the movement.

"You learn faster than others, güero," he said with something approaching approval.

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "Thanks. I think."

"This job is dangerous," Jorge said seriously, giving Boyd a scrutinizing look. He looked entirely older than the eight to ten years he probably had lived.

Initially Boyd had noticed him because of that part of his personality. Even though he was especially small and looked like he could be seven or eight, the way he spoke and looked around placed him closer to ten or older. Right then that maturity was making itself very apparent. Rather like the children who had grown up in the aftermath of the bombs, something about him said he had seen more than children his age should. And he hadn't forgotten.

"Those people, they do not like us talking. That's why you pay more."

"I understand," Boyd said, taking the comment seriously. "Thanks for the help so far but I just need one other thing. So let's go, huh? I don't exactly feel like waiting around where we can be jumped. And go back to being a cute little kid so no one looks at us strangely."

"A normal kid here would be more strange," Jorge said pointedly but he turned and started walking again anyway.

Boyd followed at a proper distance. There was nothing in his mannerisms to imply that he was in the midst of illegal activity as Kadin Reed, and certainly nothing that showed he was actually an agent pretending to be a rebel activist. Although he looked relaxed and there was nothing calculating about him, he had actually been planning this for awhile.

While Sin had been training for the security position at the convention during the last two months, Boyd had been working very diligently on mapping out the city and in general thoroughly investigating any spots that caught his attention. He'd found a number of buildings and a few neighborhoods that he was certain Sin and he would be able to lose themselves in, either apart or together, for long enough to shake off anyone who may be watching them.

Through exploring the city he'd realized that there were more smuggling groups than the one he had found initially and they were all quite good at circumventing any security in Monterrey's borders. There were ways to sneak into the city that he never would have expected, including a few that circumvented the mountains and one that involved a nearby waterway that had been created for irrigation after the war in the States.

A few nights were spent watching some secret passages before he'd realized that the smugglers were not the only ones who knew of them, though they were certainly the ones policing them and frequenting them most. And that was only the ones he could access; there were others he didn't dare touch because the area or people surrounding them would be too difficult to try to pass.

In the more accessible, though still hidden, passageways, Boyd had noticed a trend.

Although it seemed that the adults of the area walked past the entrances without ever noticing, some of the children were aware. It was by monitoring a few of these passageways that Boyd realized the black market was even larger in Monterrey than he'd expected, and that he had to pursue this. He'd waited, watching, until he saw a kid he thought he could trust enough to follow through with any promises. Jorge may be very intent on getting his payment, but considering the poverty he lived in and, as he'd rightly pointed out, the possible threat to his life, it really wasn't that much that he was charging. And Boyd felt that he could trust him. After all, so far the kid hadn't led him astray, and he was straightforward enough that he didn't seem deceitful.

Jorge stopped at a squat, pale building that simply read 'Farmácia.' Boyd moved to stand to the side but Jorge tipped his head, motioning for him to follow.

"They give me it only if they see you," he said simply and walked inside.

Boyd didn't let his expression reflect the fact that he thought that was interesting.

A small bell rang on the door as they entered and he had to blink a few times to readjust his vision; it was far darker inside than it had been outside and the aisles looked almost smoky in the gloom. For a strange moment he felt a sense of déjà vu; the store was set up almost identically to one of the first missions he'd been on, only this one didn't have a second story that housed wealthy, lazy rebel leaders and there was no broken meat locker to the side with men crouched around a table and map.

No one greeted them when they entered. The place seemed abandoned and the dust he saw on the shelving only emphasized the desolation of the area. He followed Jorge quietly, feeling... something as he looked around. He wasn't quite sure what the emotion was, but it may have been a vague sense of regret. He could tell by the handwritten, yellowing sheets of paper falling off the walls and the way the store was set up that this had been someone's dream, that this had been a family business.

Once. Long ago.

This wasn't just a front to shady black market dealings; this had been someone's life before it all fell into disrepair. It made him wonder what had happened, where those people had gone, why this memory had stayed in empty shelves and little cartoons drawn on paper, why the building hadn't been remodeled and why no one seemed to care despite the fact that Monterrey was one of the most frequented cities in Mexico.

If even in a city known for its progress there could be a place like this, an echo of past lives that were truncated or skewed, then what must the other cities be like? The villages? How much desolation was there in the world today, how much more now than had been even two decades ago before that first bomb exploded on foreign soil?

The thought was a little disquieting so he tried not to dwell on it.

Even so, he couldn't help noticing that he had been in dozens of places like this since he'd started in the Agency but somehow he'd never really cared to think too clearly on the history of the place. He'd never particularly cared why this store had handwritten notes but the next had everything printed; he'd never cared that judging by a filthy, disintegrating doll discarded in the corner, a child probably once played here.

It made him wonder, briefly, what someone would think walking into his house back in the States. They would never be able to fathom what had happened in there, the history of the place, the sucking darkness of the shadows. To them, it would look like a place filled with such clean lines it did not look lived in and the fine layer of dust everywhere would simply emphasize how much it seemed uncared for.

What stories could be told in this store? What emotions had saturated the area? Were the people even alive anymore or was this place a living memory for a dead story?

Jorge's sandals scuffed against the floor, a loud noise that echoed in the emptiness of the place and made the walls seem that much closer. Boyd noted that although the shelves were covered in dust, the floor had footprints all over.

It took them nearly a minute to walk all the way to the back of the building, which was surprisingly long for how small it seemed from the outside, and without a word Jorge led him down a set of stairs and into even further darkness.

There was a moment when Boyd recognized that this could be an incredibly stupid move; he knew Jorge enough to banter with him but in truth they'd only been acquainted about a month and although the kid had led him to dangerous areas before, they'd never descended into a building that Boyd knew he could easily get trapped in and attacked if he was betrayed.

Even thinking that didn't stop him. He knew he would be able to get out of most situations and that Kadin would not have backed away if he were here.

"Huevón," Jorge said suddenly and something in the tone of those two syllables made Boyd stop where he was. It was not an insult this time, it was something closer to a warning. Jorge looked over his shoulder, his eyes gleaming faintly in the darkness, and jerked his chin forward.

"I go first. Wait until I say."

Boyd nodded silently and watched him walk to the end of the hallway and disappear down a right turn. A few seconds passed and he could hear voices echoing from ahead of him but he couldn't understand what they were saying, muffled as it was.

Whatever they were saying took a few minutes and Boyd looked around the passageway as best he could in the dark. He'd heard that when the war first hit, some of the people feared that the fighting would spread across the globe, possibly destroying Earth's entire environment.

The clouds closing in on even the brightest of locations must have been especially disturbing and so in many cities across the world, including Monterrey, some people took to building underground passages and bunkers to use in case they couldn't go above the surface. Boyd thought that was a sign of paying too much attention to the old doomsday books and movies but he did have to admit that at least it was cooler down in the passage beneath Farmácia, even if he doubted it would have saved them from radiation should there have been nuclear fallout above ground.

A scuffing noise drew his attention to the end of the hallway again and he looked over just in time to see Jorge gesture for him to follow. They entered a small door that Boyd had to tilt his head down to go through and emerged into a room that was probably two-thirds the size of his studio. He was mildly surprised to find two women at a table studying him.

One woman had black eyes and thick black hair held back in a ponytail folded in on itself. Her skin was caramel-colored and he couldn't see much of what she was wearing from her angle, other than that she had on a tank top and sleeveless coat, with a gold necklace glittering at her throat in some sort of rectangular design with points on top. A deep red tattoo of a snake wrapped around her upper left arm, curving onto the front of her shoulder and disappearing beneath her clothing. She watched him very closely and by her body language he could tell she would be a good fighter, but her facial features were actually quite pleasant and almost friendly.

The woman next to her had blue streaks in her choppy dark brown hair and wore several layers of tank tops with a pleated red and black plaid mini-skirt over black pants. Her boots had more buckles and chains than was necessary and she wore a belt with a large silver skull and cross-bone buckle. Another belt looped over that at an angle, pulled down by a sheathed pistol at her left hip, while a third, thinner chain belt seemed to carry some sort of small knives. A similar tattoo to the first woman's wound around her right arm but it was dark blue, and on her Boyd could see that the tongue of the snake licked out to end on her collarbone. Her left eyebrow was pierced with a silver loop and she had as many hoops dotting her ears as Sin did as Jason. She watched him lazily but he could tell she would be able to react quickly if she needed to.

The blue-haired woman whistled slowly then smiled in a manner that showed off too many teeth. "We found ourselves a fox," she said, her accent sounding a little off from being British. Boyd suspected she came from one of the other countries that England had once colonized.

He glanced idly around the room, noting that Jorge was standing in the shadows near one wall with a decidedly neutral expression. He had expected the first woman to reply but when only silence met the comment, he turned back to the the blue-haired woman.

He had no idea what he was supposed to be doing in there, what they wanted or expected, or even if he would accidentally do or say something wrong simply because he knew nothing about these people. He had asked Jorge to help him specifically because the smuggling groups and black market areas had many levels of security and some of them, like the ones he needed to work with in order to get the high-end materials, were completely inaccessible to anyone who did not have an in.

Without Jorge, Boyd knew he certainly would not have gotten the boxes and without a doubt he would not have even known these women existed. He'd tried to research them but there wasn't much to be found; they were known as the Snakes, they had access to the materials he needed, and some said they were not exactly like smugglers. When he'd asked Jorge he wouldn't say much either; he just seemed to imply they were pirates who stole from smugglers and then he refused to say anything further, not even giving their names.

Even though they weren't quite what he was expecting, he was vaguely relieved that at least neither of them seemed to be Mexican natives. If this transaction had been done in Spanish he didn't know if he would have made it without Jorge translating the words that were too fast for him to understand. Although, the fact that the women were not from Mexico also explained why he'd heard especially heavy accents echoing into the hallway.

After a beat of silence, he shrugged and drawled, "That gonna be a problem?"

The woman watched him, her lips slowly stretching into a smirk. She flicked her gaze to the other woman, who had not moved from her calm, politely interested scrutiny.

"He's a bit of a hard case," she said smugly.

The long-haired woman finally turned her attention from Boyd to the blue-haired woman, though she only smiled faintly and didn't reply at first.

"I told you Jorge wouldn't bring us a wanker," the punk woman insisted as if the first woman had said something. She idly played with the strap sheathing the pistol at her hip and watched her as if waiting for something.

The long-haired woman looked at Boyd again thoughtfully. Although her pleasant features were a bit of a relief against the punk woman's more intimidating look, her silent, intense expressions were mildly unnerving. The fact that she still looked friendly somehow made the fact that she was doing nothing but scrutinizing him seem especially distracting. He also wished she'd just say something already.

As if she understood that wish, she asked smoothly, "Why are you here?"

Boyd was certainly not expecting the question and he blinked at her while he considered the answer. She seemed content to just sit in silence and wait, staring at him. "'Cause I was brought here," he said after a moment, watching her with an unruffled expression. Silence dragged between them and he realized she wanted more of an answer. "And maybe you two have the answer to a problem I've got."

The long-haired woman watched him with unwavering black eyes, nothing in her expression showing what she was thinking. "What was the question?"

"How to do something," Boyd answered.

She considered that, seeming to note the vagueness of his reply. "And you believe we have the answer to a question you cannot even ask fully aloud?" She asked it simply, curiously, but he knew it was a challenge wrapped in pleasantly polite words.

Boyd did not look away from her but he tried to note Jorge's expression in his peripheral vision. That didn't help, though; his expression was as neutral as it had been when he'd entered. The punk woman was watching Boyd with an amused expression that seemed strangely entertained, as if she was enjoying how odd this seemed to him and wanted to see how he'd react.

This was obviously some sort of test but the entire situation seemed odd to him, as if they were speaking in a code he hadn't been taught. He took a moment to try to decide on the best answer before he returned his gaze to the long-haired woman with a thoughtful, more serious expression.

"There're lots of questions people can't ask aloud. Maybe you don't know the question; maybe you just can't get yourself to say it. Answers are like missing words to a question."

The woman stared at him for a long moment, her expression giving absolutely nothing away. The room seemed very still around him and he wondered if he'd said the wrong thing. But he wasn't about to specify exactly what he needed anything for; that would be sheer stupidity when dealing with the black market. The whole point of going underground was so no questions would be asked, which was why it was strange that she was pressing for answers.

There was no real way to answer her question without ignoring it or giving away too much information so he chose the philosophical route which, judging by the tension building in the room, may have been a poor choice after all. He kept his posture almost bored, though, and waited for some sort of reaction.

The room was dead silent until the blue-haired woman suddenly burst out laughing. "You people are too serious," she drawled. Boyd looked over at her just in time to see her grin widely, a flashing of teeth that seemed at once a challenge and a welcome. She pulled her boots off the table and sat down normally, the front chair legs thumping loudly on the cement floor. "I'm Tayla, this is Liani. Don't let her poker face fool you; she's actually an emotional mess inside."

Liani looked over at Tayla and raised her eyebrows. "That is a lie. But he will do."

With that simple acceptance, the mood in the room relaxed quite a bit. Jorge padded over to Boyd's side as Tayla kicked a chair underneath the table; it clattered and tilted and almost fell over before Jorge reached out to balance it.

"Sit down," Tayla ordered lazily. Boyd reached for the chair Jorge had caught while Jorge looked between the three of them. Tayla nodded her head toward the door. "Be the look out, would you?"

Jorge didn't look away from her but somehow Boyd felt like he wanted to glance over. Instead, Jorge just nodded and disappeared out the door, shutting it behind him.

The room seemed especially quiet when he left, despite the fact that Jorge hadn't actually said a word since they'd entered. Tayla kicked her feet out noisily in front of herself and studied Boyd for a moment while he watched them. Liani smiled at him in a quiet sort of way, then reached down into what appeared to be a bag sitting on the floor next to her. Boyd dropped into the offered chair and waited for them to do something.

Tayla broke the silence by pulling a wrinkled piece of paper out of one of the many pockets on her pants. She stuck the edge in her mouth while she dug through her pockets for something else. "Reed, right?" she asked, her voice muffled.

Boyd nodded. "Yeah."

Tayla tilted her head in acknowledgment while Liani slid a relatively small black case across the table.

"Here is your answer," Liani said with a pleasant smile. "There are two transmitters in here and two receivers or trackers, whatever you wish to call them. The transmitters are the same but the receivers, though both shaped as watches, are two different styles to make it less obvious that they are related to each other." Liani looked at him curiously. "Are you familiar with GPS?"

"I've used similar stuff before, yeah," Boyd said with a nod. "What's the range?"

"This is low-functioning," Tayla said from the side, noisily unfolding the paper and plunking a pen down on the table, which was apparently what she had been searching for. She quirked her pierced eyebrow. "Depends on the weather and your location- the ionosphere, troposphere, your altitude, all that - and the battery power of your receiver. The watch has an internal lithium-ion battery but the life is maybe ten, twelve hours. You should keep a spare if you have to use it a lot and somehow you seem the type. In a best case scenario, you'd have it narrowed to a city block or two. That's sweet-as considering the size and price."

Boyd had to admit it seemed like a good deal. Liani smoothly continued from Tayla's words before he could say anything.

"The receivers and transmitters are civilian-grade but dual frequency," Liani added in a calm, almost gentle tone. Her gaze was no longer scrutinizing. "They are relatively reliable but it is possible for a fake signal to interfere with yours. It was made this way so it would not be tracked by the military satellites or code; several governments have been planning a way to access the data of the location of all military-grade GPS receivers or transmitters. These will not be tracked that way as I am not aware of any government that cares enough about the location of its civilians to track that."

"So," Tayla said, holding up the watch at a cocky angle, "these little beauts track these external transmitters," she held up a box with what looked like small silver earrings, "and send the location back to the receiver," she jiggled the watch with her eyebrows raised. "Exciting, eh? But since you're tracking externally there can be an automatic delay. You can use the watch without the external transmitter; they have their own transmitter inside so you wouldn't get a delay but you'd just be tracking yourself. Depending on why you want this little gem, maybe that's better. Use the buttons on the side to flip between self-tracking GPS, receiving the signal of the external transmitter, and other exciting features like how many laps you've run and what time it is in military or civilian format."

"There is a feature to install a password to access the external tracking system," Liani continued; they seemed to inherently know when the other was done speaking, allowing for smooth transitions between their comments and making it seem like one monologue with two accents and voices. "The assumption is that if you're tracking something, you may not want others to track it too if you lose the watch. There is no keyboard on the watch, of course, but you can create a password with a morse code, using the buttons on the left in whatever pattern you choose."

Tayla smirked at Liani sidelong. "Of course, if you're a civilian with this fancy GPS watch and you make it password-protected they're going to start wondering what sort of bloke carries that around."

Liani tilted her head forward. "Yes, which is why you should clearly consider your question before you create this to be your perfect answer." She watched Boyd closely as she said that, making it an extra word of caution.

"Any questions?" Tayla asked, grinning in a challenge and smoothing the paper. "Because otherwise I have something interesting for you."

"Actually, I do," Boyd said, looking distractedly down at the paper. "But I can wait a sec. What's that?"

"A game," Tayla said, smirking rather smugly.

It just looked like a blank sheet of paper to Boyd, so he looked back up at her. "What kind?"

"The kind where I test you and if you pass, something good happens," Tayla said offhandedly.

There was a beat of silence before Boyd asked, "And if I don't?"

Tayla grinned, showing more teeth than anything, in an expression that was slightly wicked. She didn't say anything and from the corner of his eye he could see that Liani was watching him without commenting as well.

Well, there was hardly a question; he saw no reason to walk away from the challenge-- partially because he wondered what he would get, and partially because he knew it would look bad and jeopardize any future dealings he may have with them. He shrugged lazily and leaned back in his chair. "Alright. I'm game."

"Brilliant," Tayla said, pleased. "I wouldn't have offered if you seemed like a piker. Now... I'm going to draw something. You get two guesses what it is." Something about the way she stated that made it seem like even the second guess would be one too many.

Boyd nodded and leaned forward, staring at the paper. It seemed like an incredibly odd test; what if she was a terrible artist? It wasn't like he'd have a clue what she'd intended. Unless this was something like a Rorschach inkblot test at which point she would be analyzing his psychology. That would be a little trickier, primarily because he'd have to consider what Kadin Reed would answer to the questions rather than what he would. But how would he know what someone who was not himself would see in a psychological test?

At first nothing happened and Boyd waited for a long moment before he finally glanced up. He saw them both scrutinizing him; Tayla in a manner that was somehow lazily mocking, as if she was waiting for him to fuck up, while Liani stared at him in the same pleasant but unwavering manner she had since the beginning. He met their gazes one after the other then looked back down at the paper again.

Tayla hadn't moved her pen at all before she asked, "Right. So what do you see?"

Boyd studied the paper for a long moment, quickly trying to figure out what the hell she was talking about. He knew for a fact she hadn't moved the pen; even when he'd looked up, he'd been watching the paper in his peripheral vision and he hadn't seen any movement. This was obviously a test but he didn't know what it was for, what answer she expected. But judging by her expression, he thought there was probably a trick to this.

He considered many replies before he finally raised his eyebrows and gave her a mildly impatient look. "You bullshitting me."

"True," Tayla said with a smirk and leaned forward on one elbow, giving him a challenging look. "What will you do about it?"

Shrugging unconcernedly, Boyd leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, kicking his legs lazily out in front of him. "Wait you out, probably. I still had questions about the GPS, you know. You're the one who interrupted this with some random shit you're not even doing."

Her smirk grew until she seemed pleased. Nodding once to herself, Tayla sat up at a better angle and quirked an eyebrow at Boyd. "Won't be a long wait. You still only get two guesses. And since you mouthed off a bit, Liani'll time you; two minutes."

This time, she started moving her pen immediately and Boyd studied the paper intently, vaguely keeping track of the time in the back of his mind.

At first he couldn't tell what she was doing. She seemed to be drawing random dots scattered across the sheet of paper, moving from one dot to mark another across the page, and it did not seem to be in any sort of order he could decipher. He glanced up at her briefly to see if she still was messing with him but she was watching the paper with narrowed eyes as she concentrated, seeming to be taking this seriously. That just made it more confusing so he looked down at the paper again, thinking quickly as he tried to imagine what it could mean.

At first he thought it was some sort of bizarre connect-the-dots picture but there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason and there wasn't any shape he could decipher that they would form.

Next, he considered other options, such as that it was a type of code or bizarre Braille spin-off but that didn't seem right either. It could have just been a lazy drawing of a starry sky, but he noticed the way her pen moved, the times it shifted one way or the other just a tiny bit as she was about to draw, as if she was making certain the dot was placed in the correct spot.

But that's all they were; dots scattered across the paper. The same size, no rhyme, no reason; just dots. There had to be more to it, though.

He could feel his time running out quickly and he knew he didn't want to fail this test. He narrowed his eyes further and tried to approach this from another angle. Rather than trying to put the dots in relation to each other, he tried to study the overall dissemination of them. As she filled in a few more dots, one area with a few dots crowded next to each other caught his attention. Something was almost familiar about it but he didn't know what at first. He looked quickly at the other dots then back at that grouping, running through everything he could think of that it could be related to. It took him a few dragging seconds until he realized it was in a similar grouping to a few of the secret passageways he knew that were near each other.

The second the thought occurred to him, he imagined Monterrey overlaid on the dots, orienting the map in his mind so the correct street was in that area. He had worked with blueprints so many times for missions that he was able to imagine schematics and twist them around in his mind, keeping himself in relation to them.

Once he considered the dots that way, he noticed that one of the other dots fell precisely on another passageway he knew of, and when he quickly glanced across the page he realized there were others that also fell into place. There were many dots in areas he didn't recognize, however, which meant one of two things; either he was completely wrong about this, or she just knew about other locations he was unaware of. He'd been doing a lot of research but that didn't mean he expected to be more knowledgeable than people who had been in Monterrey for longer.

Looking up at her, he didn't even consider waiting any longer. He had to be coming up on the two minutes and even though he didn't think he really had two guesses, she had technically said he did. It was better to be on time and wrong than be late and have no answer.

"Monterrey's secret passageways."

Tayla looked up at him, meeting his gaze while her hand stopped moving. She didn't say anything and although her eyes narrowed, her expression otherwise did not change. He couldn't read what she was thinking. They stared silently at each other for a long, tense moment, before Tayla finally dropped the pen to the table with a clatter and leaned back in her chair with her arms crossed.

"That's your answer, eh?" she asked, sounding disappointed.

Boyd didn't look away, didn't let his own expression change. "Yep," he said simply.

Eyes narrowing, Tayla frowned at him. In his peripheral vision he could see Liani shift her hands so they were hidden somewhere beneath the table. He knew she had some sort of weapon but he hadn't been able to see what it was. Although he didn't hear anything, she could easily be aiming a gun at him from the cover of the table.

He could have looked over at her, could have jerked away or even casually stood up and moved to a position where he would be in a better position to defend himself. But that would require breaking eye contact with Tayla. That would make him look weaker, uncertain.

"Sure you don't want to change it at all?" Tayla insisted, raising an eyebrow. "I said you'd get two." The disappointment had grown and the way she looked at him made it seem like she was trying to help him by giving extra time.

But Boyd was stubborn and he wasn't convinced this wasn't part of the test. "I'm sure," he said firmly.

Tayla's frown increased until she sighed heavily and looked over at Liani. Some unspoken communication passed between them and Tayla's frown became stalwart.

"What?" she asked, as if Liani had said something argumentative.

Liani didn't say anything but she stared at Tayla, the smile growing just a hint at the edges of her lips. Tayla's eyes narrowed as if Liani had just said something rude.

"Well how can you tell?" Tayla asked insistently. "Americans have terrible accents." Liani quirked an eyebrow and Tayla rolled her eyes. "Fine, he does at least. Can't understand a single..." Liani raised the other eyebrow and Tayla sighed, waving a dismissive hand. "Right, right, I know." She propped one elbow on the table and rested her cheek on her fist, giving Boyd a strange look.

"Well," she said heavily. "That's no fun for me. I wanted you to say something strange."

"You are sulking," Liani informed her calmly.

Tayla gave her a long-suffering look before she grinned suddenly at Boyd. "Right. Good on ya, mate; I didn't think you'd win. But, since you did..." She slid the paper across the table and raised her eyebrows. "Happy birthday, present from the Snakes. Sneaky ways in and out of the city, provided you don't get killed. We're not responsible for maiming, death, nightmares, anything unpleasant, you know. But if there's something good," she smirked, "then you have only us to thank."

Boyd studied the paper, making a mental note to look into some of the passageways he hadn't been aware existed. This would be incredibly helpful in their escape plans.

"Thanks," he said belatedly and looked back up at her.

Waving a hand, Tayla said dismissively, "Mi información, su información. At a price. You know how it is."

He nodded and looked back down at the map, studying it.

"I believe you had other questions?" Liani asked from the side, sliding her hands back onto the table in full view.

He folded the map and put it in his pocket. With a nod he pulled the box with the GPS equipment closer so he could study it.

"A few."

They answered all the questions Boyd had, including more specific ones on the GPS and a few other unrelated questions that he'd wanted to ask someone for awhile but hadn't found anyone willing to give the information. Tayla told him half-jokingly to burn the map after he had memorized it, but he wasn't entirely certain that was a bad idea. At least Tayla had drawn it in a manner that didn't make it obvious it was a map of Monterrey unless someone knew to overlay the streets and city.

By the time he paid them and stood, the two women seemed to be on surprisingly good terms with him. They didn't say anything as he said, "Thanks," and turned to go, but as he reached the door Tayla called out suddenly, "Next time you'll lose my test."

He paused at the door then looked over his shoulder with an eyebrow raised. "I wouldn't bet on it."

Tayla's grin was fierce. She kicked her feet up on the table and leaned back, the chair creaking, and she interlaced her fingers behind her head. "I would."

Boyd shook his head to himself and left. When he emerged into the upper room he saw Jorge, who was leaning against one of the dusty shelves. Jorge saw the white corner of paper in his pocket and looked up at him with mildly impressed dark eyes.

"You are lucky," he said, moving to walk ahead of Boyd. "The Snakes are some of the few who are not afraid of lo más chingón. They research everyone before they consider to meet so they know they are not liars, officials, bad people. Even if they meet, they do not like many. But if they like you and you pass, it is good."

"Who is lo más chingón anyway?"

"Someone not to fight," Jorge said darkly. "He is strong. His people are strong. He owns many passages to Monterrey and other cities nearby. He is well known and has many rivals so he hides how he looks. In this city, it is hard to know who you trust."

"What's he deal?" Boyd asked as he slid his sunglasses down and looked around the deserted street they were just entering.

"Weapons mostly," Jorge said, his eyes narrowing. "Anything. He has many connections. What he wants, he gets."

"Is he affiliated with anyone?" Boyd asked curiously.

"No," Jorge said, shaking his head. "He is on his own. But he sells for the best price."

"Would he sell to the big rebel groups if they offered the most?" Boyd asked the question so casually and off-handed that Jorge answered without realizing what he was saying.

"Yes. One time, he--" Jorge cut himself off suddenly, looking around the street in heightened paranoia. He looked rather like a skittish rabbit sensing a fox nearby and when he turned to Boyd it was with eyes that were angry and afraid. "I want my money," he demanded.

Boyd nodded easily and slipped twice as much into Jorge's palm than he had said he would pay him. "Thanks, Jorge," he said sincerely.

Jorge looked down at the large wad of pesos and back up at Boyd. He slipped the money away and turned, then hesitated and looked back at him with narrowed eyes. "You should not ask the questions. He is too strong, even with Snakes helping. There are many who are not lo más chingón but who like questions even less. It is dangerous."

Boyd smiled and patted Jorge on the shoulder. "Got it. Thanks, man."

Jorge looked down at his shoulder with a strange expression then back up at Boyd. "Careful, ese," he said as a parting shot, but this time the term seemed less derogatory.

Boyd's smile stretched into a grin but Jorge only barely saw it before he jogged away and disappeared into the shadows. Slipping his hands into his pockets, Boyd casually strode away, intending to take the long route back to the apartment just in case he was being followed.

Sin had decided early on that this entire part of the mission was obnoxious, idiotic and a huge waste of time. What he didn't understand was why he needed to experience what essentially was an irritating rendition of a try out, if the human resources department of the JKS Convention Center did as thorough a background and reference check as they claimed to. He had all of the fake and forged documents needed to impress their stupid, self-important checks and he knew Jason Alvarez had worked for what he supposed was extremely impressive corporations but no; that was not enough.

In addition to that he had to obtain a license to work as an armed guard for the city of Monterrey and then even after that, he had to do nonsense 'training' with a large pool of other candidates before the actual team would be chosen.

He just didn't get it. It wasn't exactly a position with homeland security. It was a fucking convention center.

He was particularly irritated at Carhart and whatever other dimwitted people had planned this mission because they could have easily forged in a fake license to make his job less irritating but no; they couldn't do that. They obviously wanted this mission to fail miserably when he began killing irritating civilians who thought they knew more about guns than he did.

Generally 'training' went something akin to:

"So what you have to do is-"

Shoot you in the fucking head with your own gun because it would be painfully easy to disarm you with the way you're holding that weapon.


Sin stared at the man blankly before raising his own weapon and unloading his entire clip into the paper target. He didn't speak and didn't even look at where he was shooting before placing the standard issued gun in front of him as he watched his 'trainer' expectantly.

The man, whose name he had not bothered to pay attention to, gave him a strange look and examined the target as it slid closer to them from across the range. His expression became incredulous as he took in the completely obliterated 'head' and he turned on Sin with a frown.

"You killed it."


"You were only supposed to immobilize it..."


Fucking civilians.

Despite his ineptitude at immobilizing suspects they decided that having possibly dead civilians was a risk that they were willing to take in order for buildings and convention centers to be guarded and secured. In short, they gave him the license and then he was allowed to move on to the actual preliminary trial for the job at the JKS.

The training consisted of a variety of tests, both physical and written. The written portion of the exam wasn't really written; it was on a computer and appeared to be nothing more than a personality assessment to make sure that none of them had major personality or psychological issues. Sin wasn't entirely sure if that left him out but if one used common sense it was easy to see the obvious answers. He was quite surprised to see that about 45% of the applicants had none because they were sent home shortly after the test was complete.

The next portion of the trial was what he supposed was a standard medical check-up to ensure that applicants were able to perform physical activities without dropping dead of heart failure on JKS property. The doctor asked him a variety of questions about his medical history even though a copy of it had been included in his application and mostly gawked at him as he stood there half naked in her office.

"Those are some scars you have there," Dr. Adler noted as her gaze drifted from the scar at his neck to the gunshots on his chest and abdomen and finally rested on Shane's attempt at castration.

Sin's eyebrows rose and he gave a one shouldered shrug. "Rough childhood."

"Okay then." She stared at him for a long moment before shaking her head and gesturing towards the scale.

He stepped onto it without commenting.

"6'4 and. 170 pounds." She stepped back and surveyed him again, a disapproving frown on her face. "You are one point away from being considered underweight which would have immediately disqualified you from this position."


"Doesn't that concern you?"

"No." He'd weighed less before coming to Monterrey.

Dr. Adler glared at him. "Don't you eat, boy?"

"I eat plenty."

She frowned again and poked at his toned abdomen. "From what it looks like, you don't consume enough calories for how much you work out."

Sin stared at her and looked relatively unimpressed. "Are we done here?"

She sighed in exasperation. "Yes."

The last part of the preliminary test was a basic obstacle course which he completed in less than a quarter of the time permitted. He didn't particularly see why such a test was needed but he supposed that they wanted to make sure applicants had some small speck of endurance before hiring them.

The entire process of getting a license and passing the preliminary trials took nearly a month and then he was finally officially hired. They required him to dye his hair entirely black, which he was glad about, and to also remove any facial piercing. In a strange way he was sad to see the lip ring go; he'd gotten quite used to it. On the other hand he was almost relieved because he'd begun to suspect that he was developing some kind of oral fixation. It was entirely possible that also had something to do with Boyd, though.

After he was formally hired there was a lengthy orientation that mostly involved him sitting in one of the large auditoriums with dozens of other new employees while not paying attention and then several more weeks of training. Although the training was tedious, it was not as useless as the preliminary tests. They were trained on the standard procedures when encountering suspicious activity, codes for the different levels of emergencies and alarms, and most importantly, they were told to study the entire convention center.

He'd assumed that he would only be required to learn the wing that the event would take place in but the fact that he was given free rein to wander the entire complex made things a lot simpler. He made careful note of all exits, staircases and vents, even snapping pictures with the tiny, lighter shaped digital camera that Boyd had given him. By the time late September had rolled in they'd constructed a detailed map of the center and had even mapped out several possible escape routes for the night of the attack as well as good places to plant the bombs.

It was in the beginning of October when he noticed that the east wing of the center was suddenly off limits due to 'construction' purposes. There were no visible signs of constructions or construction workers although he noticed several times that there were several cars parked in the lot of that wing. Questions about the strange activity led to vague answers and when he realized that even his managers seemed to have very little idea about what was going on, he came to the decision that the East wing was most likely their target area.

October seemed to be the beginning of the cooler weather in Monterrey, which meant the average temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 100, so that evening Sin chose to walk back to the studio.

The last stage of their assignment was only three weeks away and he felt a combination of impatience to get it over with and disappointment that their time in Monterrey would be ending so soon. Despite the fact that the entire mission had seemed like a mini vacation he'd always known that eventually they would have to go back to the Agency, go back to reality. He'd thought about it many times over the last several months but now that it was so close he realized, and not for the first time, that he was dreading it.

He wasn't looking forward to returning to his cold, lifeless apartment now that he'd gotten used to their colorful and almost homey studio. He wasn't looking forward to the reminder that everyone who surrounded him at the Agency was an enemy; that most of them were just waiting for him to show any sign of weakness so that they could pounce. He wasn't looking forward to trying to adapt the new side of his personality, the side that had emerged in the Monterrey heat, to his usual persona at the Agency.

And he wasn't looking forward to the way he would have to hide his new sexual relationship with Boyd. Sin had never quite forgotten Connor's warning about what he'd do if he ever found out that Sin was 'sexually functional' and he didn't really want to know if the man would actually carry out the threat.

By the time he returned to the building his hands were shoved into the pockets of his stiff, black slacks and there was a slight frown plastered on his face. He ignored the neighbors who greeted him and entered the studio to find Boyd sitting at the small dinette with a variety of objects in front of him.

"What are you doing?"

"Playing with some expensive toys," Boyd answered, looking over at Sin with a slight smile. "How was your day? Mine was interesting."

Sin wandered over to the table as he began loosening his tie and eyed the toys in question. "What was so interesting about it?"

"Well, first of all, this," Boyd said, tilting his head so Sin could see as he pushed his hair away from his right ear. A silver post was situated at the top, the skin a little red around it.

"Um. Great?" Sin gave him an odd look and pulled the tie from around his neck entirely.

"You should be a little more enthusiastic," Boyd said with an amused smirk. "You're going to have to wear one too." He held up a small black box, with a matching silver post lying inside.

"What are we, going steady?" Sin tossed the tie on the table and began unbuttoning his shirt as he stared down at the box. "I don't think I'm ready for such a commitment."

"Are you ready for a GPS commitment instead?" Boyd asked, quirking one eyebrow.

Sin's long, tanned fingers paused in their unbuttoning and he sprawled down in the chair opposite Boyd. One dark eyebrow rose and he studied the earring skeptically. "That thing? Where the hell did you get something like that?"

"At a pharmacy." Boyd slid a watch closer to Sin and looked at him expectantly. "We'll both be wearing one of these too. It tracks the transmitter. I've already set both the codes into the watches so we will be able to track each other if we need to. This is rather like a far superior grade of tracking devices we had in Canada. You can toggle between regular time, your own position, and my position, by using the buttons on the side. There are other features but they aren't as pertinent right now. It should be accurate to two city blocks or less, and the battery will need to be recharged every ten to twelve hours. I've already bought us each a recharger and one extra battery. While we have the outlet, I would suggest keeping the spare battery charged at all times." He slid them toward Sin.

Sin examined the watch and then the charger with an impressed look on his face. "Will any average rebel figure out how to access the GPS in the watch if they look close enough or should we smash it if one of us gets caught?"

"We have a few options," Boyd said, pulling out the second watch and turning it around to study it thoughtfully. "I doubt many would figure it out but it's a possibility, especially if Janus gets involved. Probably the best option is a password. We can set it so it would work like morse code with the buttons on the side. That would seem suspicious if we were just typical civilians but at the point of someone getting that close to discovering our identities, it's probably better to look suspicious than reveal the other's location."

"I think setting a password would be a good idea," Sin replied and began unbuttoning his shirt again. "Where did you obtain such interesting gadgets?"

"These women I met," Boyd said with a pleased smile. "They're smugglers who call themselves the Snakes. I'm not certain if they have the same range as lo más chingón or even if they smuggle anything themselves; they may just steal from others. Either way, they're apparently some of the very few who aren't afraid of him."

Once again, Sin's hands paused and he looked up at Boyd for a long moment before he finally finished and shrugged the hot, sweaty shirt off. "Did Jorge introduce you to these people?"

"Yes. They seemed decent enough. I did extensive research before I even attempted to contact them; they're definitely not related to Janus or any of the American rebel groups."

"Hmm." Sin ran a hand through his hair and leaned back in the chair, arching his back in a stretch. "What else did they say about him?" He didn't specify who 'him' was but his tone made it obvious whom he was referring to.

"They actually didn't talk about him, but Jorge said he's someone to avoid," Boyd said, setting the watch down to give his full attention to Sin. He rattled off the facts the way he usually did when speaking of missions. "He apparently owns and/or operates several secret passages from Monterrey to surrounding cities. He deals mostly in weapons but he isn't limited to that; Jorge said he could deal anything, he has enough connections. He's not affiliated with anyone and sells to the highest bidder. He would definitely sell to large rebel groups like Janus, though I can't say if he has in the past. It sounded as though he probably has at least once but Jorge was very nervous, I could barely get him to talk about it. He seemed concerned that they have contacts everywhere and even conversations in the back streets could be overheard, which is probably not untrue given the apparent extent of the man's power."

Sin grunted and leaned on his elbows as he studied his partner calmly. "Well for the time being I'm going to assume the man isn't a threat until he thinks we're a threat to his business, which we aren't. It would be interesting to find out more about him, though. At least he most likely isn't affiliated with Janus and most likely will not interfere with the mission." He picked up the watch again and eyed it thoughtfully.

"He probably won't, unless he suddenly gets involved with Janus at the last minute." Boyd shrugged with one shoulder. "I highly doubt he would, though. That reminds me."

He pulled a large ream of paper from the center of the table and noisily started to unfold it so that Sin could see. It was the same map they'd been working on for weeks, detailing the convention center, but there was an extra circle that Boyd had penciled in an area he pointed to. "I've been looking at the map again and it occurred to me that if we place another bomb near B12 we would better compromise the structure. As it is, I think that section would just be a lot of flash and smoke."

Sin studied the map before nodding. "I think you're right." He tapped the map before sliding his finger over to the East wing of the complex. "Remember when I mentioned the alleged construction that appears to be going on in this wing? Well there continues to be no signs of actual construction although today I once again noticed several cars in the parking lot as well as activity in that area while I was doing my rounds. I asked my managers if they had any information about what was going on and whether or not I should pay attention to any strange visitors but it seemed that they were completely clueless as to what was actually occurring. Mrs. Morrano even voiced her own skepticism about whether or not they were actually doing construction although she didn't seem to have any alternate theories."

Sin leaned back in his chair again and pulled his pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. "I believe it's safe to assume that Janus is beginning to make preparations for their conference and that the East wing is the one that they will occupy. It is also safe to assume that lower management has no idea about who or what Janus is involved with if we go according to the people I encounter. It's not surprising though. I doubt Janus and their inside contact would tell random civilian employees at the JKS about their plans."

"Hmm." Boyd looked at the map with his eyebrows slightly furrowed. "So how many innocents are we talking about here? I know the idea is to get all the leaders at once, but if a lot of the staff is entirely unaware of the situation, we'll want to minimize the overflow of explosives or fire as much as possible..."

"It seems that the preliminary amount of guests per night including artists and JKS staff would be around 500. Of course we want to minimize civilian casualties but we also have to make sure that the rear exits and all exits leading to the East wing are blocked off, so it may not be possible to completely avoid losses."

Sin wasn't too pleased by the idea but he also wasn't intent on focusing on that aspect. He pointed to the long corridors and adjoining rooms that ran between each wing of the complex. "The main civilian event is being held in the Grande Ballroom of the South wing so the Southeast corridor will be a problem area. Entrances 4 and 5 need to be blocked off on the Southeast corridor and so do 7 and 8 in the Northeast corridor. If there are any staff in the Southeast section they may have difficulty escaping although if they aren't completely idiotic, they can easily make their way to the main exits in the South wing."

Boyd studied the map, taking into account what Sin said, then finally nodded. "Alright. Well, I'll obviously be in the Janus convention for a lot of this but I can take the Northeast corridor if you take Southeast. We can communicate with these." He slid a small radio over to Sin. "It's a short distance radio, which means once we get out of range, they're useless. If for some reason we are unable to meet up again after setting off the explosions, I suggest we give ourselves a two week time period after the convention before we try to meet; that should be long enough to lose any tails we may have inadvertently acquired. What do you think about meeting in the forest I showed you? That should be out of the way enough that we could meet in private, and it's bordering a few smuggling passages I was recently alerted to."

"Sounds good," Sin replied.

He studied the radio and the wireless headset that went along with it, noting that it was small and discreet enough to not gain them any unnecessary attention from others. They would come in handy for their communication since he would primarily be placing bombs in his section while Boyd covered his own and identified target locations. They'd already realized early on that they would possibly get separated in the ruckus. After the bombs were in place he would take up his position in the mezzanine above the conference hall where the rebels would be as he waited for word from Boyd to begin taking their targets out.

Although the commotion and the bombs would likely provide cover, it was still possible that they'd be able to pinpoint his position and target him after tracking the location that the bullets came from. If that was the case, meeting up with Boyd could potentially risk both of their identities or take away their ability to escape. They'd already have to take separate routes out anyway, so if that happened it was best to just meet later. He would escape from the South exits, detonating bombs as he went and Boyd would escape from the North as he did the same.

"Carhart and Jeffrey would be quite alarmed to actually see me sitting here forming detailed plans," he commented wryly.

"Mm," Boyd agreed, then grinned teasingly. "Maybe I should take a picture for the scrapbook."

"Only if I can include a picture of you naked and on all fours begging to be fucked," Sin deadpanned.

"It wouldn't work," Boyd said smoothly. "That would be a classified, for your eyes only picture. If we put that in a scrapbook that Carhart and Jeffrey saw, I'm afraid I'd have to kill them."

"Afraid they might like it?"

"I hadn't thought of it," Boyd said dryly and raised an eyebrow. "Why, do you want them to?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if they did," came the retort. Sin scooted his chair back from the table and stood again, unbuckling his belt as he eyed his partner thoughtfully. "Are you looking forward to seeing any of those people again?"

The question was sudden and more than a little random for the current conversation but it was something that had been on his mind lately.

"I don't know." Boyd watched Sin for a moment, his gaze drifting along his body and settling on his hands at his belt. His attention lingered there a moment before returning to Sin's eyes. "I wouldn't mind seeing Ryan again."

"Oh." Sin turned away from him slightly as he finished taking off his uniform. "Why?"

"I like him." Boyd slid the radio back into its protective case then glanced over at Sin. "He's my friend. He'd be yours too if you let him; he's cared about your well-being for a long time."

That earned him a skeptical snort as Sin stepped out of his pants and began rummaging in the dresser for a pair of shorts. "I don't see why he should care about me but I suppose I will have to take your word for it." He paused and pulled out a pair of baggy basketball shorts. "I don't know what it means to have a friend so I don't know how I am expected to let him be one."

Boyd shrugged and leaned back in his chair, watching Sin idly. "There aren't exactly any set rules on how to earn or find friends, but it's basically trusting others, I suppose. As for what it means... I don't know, but I'd consider myself to be your friend, and you to be mine."

"That's different," Sin replied with a slight frown. Was it different? He didn't even really know. "You're my partner, that is why I eventually began to trust you. And now I suppose we are friends if that's what one goes by, but we are friends who also have sex. If that is the standard definition of friendship, I'm not sure I want to engage anyone else with it. I have no desire to fuck Ryan."

The smile Boyd flashed Sin seemed to be a little too pleased for simple amusement. "Well, no, the sex isn't typical. You can be someone's friend without ever doing anything like that. It's not like I've slept with Ryan but I still like him."

"I wouldn't be surprised given your alleged history of bedding anyone at the Agency who catches your eye." Sin smirked and sat down on the couch, automatically reached for his pack of cigarettes and realized he'd left it on the table. "It doesn't matter anyway. I have no reason to spend enough time with Ryan to develop any kind of relationship other than the one we have now. The only reason you and I became so close is because I was forced to have you as a partner."

"Be still my beating heart," Boyd said mildly, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. His feet kicked out in front of him and he quirked an eyebrow. "You'd best tone down the loving words there or I may become attached."

Sin smirked. "What can I say? I'm a charming guy."

Shaking his head with a quirked smile, Boyd pulled out a white sheet of paper that looked to have a bunch of random dots on it. "If you're done preying on my insecurities, come over here and let me show you something, smart-ass."

Sin scoffed but still rose to his feet and walked over. "I'm only coming to get my cigarettes."

"I know," Boyd said, but he was smiling to himself.

Continue to Chapter 36