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Cause/Effect - Part III

Interlude 3.15

Uploaded on 8/15/2009

The sponge was a neon green color but as it glided over the planes of Sin's body, it quickly darkened with dried blood, leaving his olive-toned skin wet and clean. The blood was splattered on his neck, across his chest, soaked into the crevices of his fingers, and Kassian suspected that only fifty percent of it was actually Sin's. The other fifty percent belonged to Investigator Monaghan and the thought bothered him more than he would have expected.

He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest, watching as Harriet leaned over Sin's prone form, as she gave him a thorough and surprisingly gentle sponge bath despite the fact that her pseudo patient was a shockingly beautiful suspected murderer. She never once flinched when it came time to scrub at his blood-caked fingernails and didn't even blink at the sight of Sin's completely nude and spectacularly fit body. She was completely professional about the whole thing and once he was clean, she set about stitching his wounds calmly.

Kassian didn't even know why he'd called her. He didn't know why he'd dragged her into the whole thing except that when he'd told Boyd that they could stash Sin at his place for a few days, he hadn't expected Sin to be in such poor shape. He hadn't expected the gashes and disturbingly blackened bruises that reminded him a bit too much of Sin's head wounds in Monterrey that had resulted in the man being comatose for six months.

Kassian wasn't at all sure of his own medical abilities and the idea of Sin dying in his house didn't bode well. Sure he knew how to stitch up a cut and treat a bullet wound but when it came to gauging head injuries, concussions, internal damage-- it wasn't his specialty and he'd called the only person he knew who had made a point to seriously pay attention during medical training who also happened to be someone he could trust.

"This isn't right," Harriet said out of the blue, her low voice toneless although he detected tension in her shoulders as she leaned over Sin and stitched a gash in his side. It wasn't a serious wound but it was nasty enough to get infected if left untreated.

Kassian stared at her, not understanding. "Helping him?"

Harriet looked at him briefly over her shoulder, large brown eyes narrowing slightly, impatiently, and she frowned at him.

"No," she snapped, clearly annoyed by the question. It was the first time she'd seemed openly irritated with him and Kassian found himself more than a little intrigued by the fire in her expression now that it was directed at him.

"It isn't right how they treat him. They weren't interrogating him. They just wanted to torture him before he dies."

Kassian nodded in agreement but he still couldn't keep the surprise from his expression that she was so up in arms over it. "So, you think he's innocent?"

A pause. "Do you?"

Kassian looked at her seriously for a moment, debating how to answer. "I trust Boyd's judgment."

One of her black eyebrows rose slightly at that and she turned back to Sin, leaning over him again. A gold necklace swayed against her neck as she worked. "So if not for Boyd's judgment, you would think he did it?"

There was something off about her tone but Kassian didn't care to analyze it at the moment. It would have been a lie to say that he hadn't been drinking throughout the day.

The effects were starting to show in his slightly slow thought processes and the confused mixture of feelings that were washing over him regularly as he considered the predicament he found himself in-- Helping someone who typically hated him, the possibility of termination for doing so, and memories of Russia that burst forward every time he looked at Sin even if Kassian didn't really want to know why they were coming up now.

"Not necessarily. But..." But I've seen him become homicidal over nothing, I've seen him toss Boyd across the room like a ragdoll, I know what he can do. Kassian cleared his throat and ached for another drink. "I think I would not jump to the conclusion that he's a cold-blooded murderer. I'd never believed it in the past and I don't believe it now."

"But you think it's possible he could have had a psychotic meltdown and done it?"

Kassian shrugged. "That's where me trusting Boyd's judgment comes in. I know he seemed irrational about Vega down in Mexico but when it comes to understanding Vega's mental stuff, Boyd has it down pat. He's seen it, he's dealt with it first hand and on his own. If he doesn't think Vega had an episode, I'd take his word for it."

Harriet nodded thoughtfully and sat back on her haunches, wiping an arm across her forehead as she surveyed Sin's body before she moved to examine a dark bruise across his torso. "That's what I'd been thinking. That he should know better than anyone about the likeliness of that. About the triggers, the reactions, etc."

Kassian waited for an answer to his original question and when she seemed content to continue her examination of Sin, he arched a brow. "And?"

She shrugged one well-toned shoulder, running her fingers along Sin's body without hesitation. Kassian wondered if she'd be so calm about touching him if he wasn't so heavily sedated. At the back of Kassian's mind he wondered what it would feel like to have those long, confident fingers sliding across his own chest.

"And if I take Boyd's judgment into consideration, I'd say I think Sin didn't do it." Harriet frowned slightly and turned Sin's head from side to side, now running her fingers gingerly through his long black hair and seemingly searching for hidden injuries. "Because unless he was insane at the time, I don't see him killing in cold blood. Not someone who stood no chance against him."

Kassian didn't disagree but he was curious as to Harriet's reasoning. As far as he knew, her only interaction with Sin had been the one time at the level 10 orientation. "What makes you so sure?"

Harriet stood and looked down at Sin for a moment, her brown eyes thoughtful before she pulled a sheet over his nude form. "The training, the final test. He came off as his typical self but when we faced off, when he focused on me, he gave me this look. A silent question or maybe a warning, that he was going to make a move so I'd better be ready. I stood no chance against him but when he attacked it was probably with a quarter of his true strength. Douglas wanted him to be completely ruthless and he didn't do it. He didn't see the point in completely destroying someone so... inferior."

Kassian watched her for a moment, wondering if she'd been resentful of it at the time and deciding that she'd likely been. "I see."

Harriet shrugged and turned, brushing past him to leave the room. After a moment he trailed after her with one last glance over his shoulder at Sin. He wasn't sure when the drugs would wear off but he hoped it was sometime before Harriet left. The idea of having Sin solely in his care was disturbing and he had no idea how the man would react to the knowledge upon waking up. It was possible that Sin would leave the house and if they got into an argument, Kassian knew his own self control and level-headedness would abandon as it typically did.

With Harriet there, she could be the voice of reason.

She went into the bathroom but left the door open so he took it as an invitation and followed, standing in the doorway and watching as she stripped off her damp and blood-stained t-shirt.

She wore only a bra beneath but he knew better than to think Harriet was showing off for him. She was cleaning up and that was it; she wasn't the type to pull seduction games and if her attitude toward him lately was any indication, her romantic interest in him had dwindled in the past several months. In fact, since training.

Kassian found his eyes moving over her smooth chestnut-colored skin that flowed over her lithely muscled body like silk. His eyes skimmed over her back and down to the shape of her tight round ass beneath the black jeans she wore before he allowed his gaze to quickly flick to the mirror, to the reflection of her breasts within the turquoise bra she wore.

Something in him stirred and he shifted, trying to force himself to look away but it was difficult. Kassian let his eyes focus on an economy-sized bottle of mouthwash but didn't leave his position by the door. The alcohol was making him stupid and allowing his hornball tendencies to become way too obvious.

"This is a nice house," Harriet commented as she bent over the sink to wash her face. "Not what I expected."

Kassian smirked. "That's what most people say."

Harriet pushed her shoulder-length black hair over one shoulder to keep it from getting wet and grabbed a cloth from a small rack by the wall to soap up. She didn't ask permission and he was glad of it. He was glad that her demeanor towards him had changed even if her attraction had apparently went with it. The fact that she'd looked up to him, that she'd acted as though he walked on water before, it had been a large part of the reason why he'd never returned the affection.

But now...

Kassian's eyes drifted back to her body, bent over the sink, her ass looking amazing in the straight-legged jeans she wore.

Now he wondered how he could have missed how hot her athletic body was. How gorgeous those high cheekbones were and how tempting those wide, full lips looked...

"So am I the only one of our unofficial team that has never been invited here?" she asked wryly, standing up straight and turning to him. She raised one arched brow again and gave him a sardonic smile.

"No. I can count the amount of Agency people who've visited my home on one hand," he replied with a shrug. "I just meant in general. My civilian friends. They expect some crazy bachelor pad, some loft downtown or whatever, but I've never gotten around to selling this place."


Kassian stared at her and she gave him a slightly impatient look. "Can I get by?" she asked finally.

He stood up straight and moved out of the way with a muttered apology but when she brushed past, she merely stood in the hallway and looked back at him as if he were dense.

"Aren't you going to offer me a shirt or should I prance around with my tits out for the remainder of the time I'm here?"

Kassian's mouth quirked up into a mischievous grin that he couldn't quite help with a few drinks in his system and he raised his eyebrows at her suggestively. "Should I answer that honestly?"

Harriet didn't look amused. "Just give me a fucking shirt, Kassian."

He shrugged, unfazed and somehow feeling intrigued by her usage of his first name. He couldn't remember if she ever had before, at least to his face. It was odd and not for the first time he wondered why her attitude toward him had changed so much in the past few months.

Maybe it was her own promotion. She wasn't level 10 but she'd basically been given a portion of Kassian's former duties. It was possible that being an equal on some regard had taken away her automatic deferment and overly respectful attitude. Whatever the hell it was he was glad for it, although it brought up a new dilemma of him being undeniably attracted to her, bitchy personality and all.

If anything, her attitude made him like her more. Most people were intimidated by it but the annoyed spark in her eyes actually looked pretty hot.

Harriet shot him odd looks as he walked silently to his own bedroom and he looked around, rubbing a hand through his short blond hair. It would have been so easy just to give her a tanktop or something that would reveal some flesh but as horny as he was, playing games and manipulating situations wasn't really his thing, even when half drunk.

In the end he threw her a black Fear Factory t-shirt with a skull on it. "Might not be clean," he commented with a shrug. "Most of my clothes aren't freshly washed until I have nothing left."

"That's fine," she replied and pulled it on.

The bagginess was disappointing and he cursed himself for being a gentleman in behavior if not in thought. "Well, hopefully it doesn't smell like sweat or--"

Shit, hopefully he hadn't given her a post-masturbation clean up shirt. He'd been jerking off a lot more lately since his semi-regular fuck, Boyd, had decided that sex wasn't on the menu anymore and an influx of missions had made seeking out casual partners more difficult than usual.

"Or?" Harriet stared at him, eyebrows lowering over her eyes as suspicion began to creep up onto her face. She lifted the collar of the shirt and sniffed it, still eyeballing him before giving a shrug. "It just smells like you."


Harriet crossed her arms over her chest and gave him another penetrating look although it was softened by a slight smile. "Relieved?"

Kassian raised one shoulder casually and looked around. His room was a mess and it occurred to him that she hadn't even commented or seemed put off by it. She'd said very little about the state of his house ever since showing up. "Why would I be?"

She started to say something, seemed to think better of it and then shook her head. "Nevermind."

"Right, well, do you want anything to eat?" Kassian slid out of the room and waited in the hallway for her to follow, suddenly feeling awkward about her being in there. He wished he could read her the way he typically could read most people but her expression was completely impenetrable at times and he'd never spent enough time with her on a one-on-one basis to figure her out entirely.

"Sure," she replied. "Illegally harboring criminals and getting involved in possibly suicidal plots always makes me hungry."

Kassian looked at her again before going down the stairs and he saw that her face was as stoic as usual despite the cynical comment. He almost asked why the hell she was getting involved if she felt that way but decided against it.

"Well all I have for the occasion is beer, vodka and some frozen pizza. We could order in but I'd rather not have any random strangers showing up at the door just in case Vega wakes up and isn't... together yet."

"You mean just in case he's still out of it from the drugs and confuses us with his tormentors?"

"Actually, no." They entered the kitchen and Kassian opened the freezer door, staring inside blankly and feeling annoyingly embarrassed by his lack of real food. "According to Emilio, Vega wasn't even fighting back."

Harriet looked at him with interest as Kassian turned and held up a box of frozen pizza and a frozen meal that was allegedly healthy. She gestured at the pizza as her choice. "Was it odd speaking to Emilio?"

Kassian considered the question as he turned on the oven. Considering the fact that his only interaction with Sin's father had been down in Mexico when he'd been in his Chingon disguise and the night before when Kassian had driven into the heart of the Industrial District to pick up an unconscious and very battered Sin, the answer was... yes.

"The circumstances made it inevitably odd. He had his unconscious son in a shipping container so you can't really get much more bizarre than that. Other than that and the night in the tunnel, I've never spoken to him." He glanced over at Harriet. "Have you?"

She inclined her head automatically, perching on one of the stools and leaning against the counter lazily. His gaze hung on her for a moment too long and he forced himself to look away.

When had Harriet become so distracting? The ridiculous thing was, she wasn't even trying. In his experience, even if a woman wasn't interested in him for some reason they still wanted him to find them attractive. Harriet seemed to be the exception.

"A couple of times. He found me in the gym one day and couldn't help but come over to harass me. I expected to dislike him on principle of him being an arrogant pig but it was difficult to not be amused. He actually..."

Harriet hesitated once again and Kassian gave her a questioning stare. She cleared her throat and continued, "He actually reminded me of you."

Kassian stared at her, his face a study of incomprehension and she actually snickered.

"I don't see how that's possible," he replied slowly, unsure of how to take such an unexpected comment.

Harriet studied him evenly for a moment. Her eyes flicked away to focus on the window behind the kitchen table and the pool that lay beyond in the backyard before she looked at Kassian again. Her lips pursed and when she spoke it was with an overly casual air.

"Do you still go to Jake & Janet's?"

Kassian's eyebrows shot up. "What? Yeah I go--" When I want to pick up a one-night fuck. "I go there not infrequently. Why?"

"I've seen you there."

His mouth fell open and he only closed it after realizing how stupid he must look. Jake & Janet's was a club on the fringe of what had once been the Theater District that was visited by people from virtually all walks of life and who generally were just looking to get laid. It was pretty well known that if a person walked in and was even slightly attractive, he or she wouldn't be walking out alone.

"What? Why? That place is a meat market, Harry."

She rolled her eyes at his appalled tone. "I wasn't there scouring the place for men if that's what you're thinking. I went there once for a bachelorette party in the basement, once for a birthday get together and the third time..."

Harriet stopped for a moment and looked at him fully. "Anyway, I saw you there every single time."

Understanding dawned on Kassian and he felt equal parts annoyed with having been watched and uncomfortable with the idea of what she could have witnessed. But her expression was merely thoughtful and curious with no condemnation for whatever she'd seen.

"And?" he asked impatiently, not even knowing if he wanted her to go on. Jake & Janet's wasn't exclusively a heterosexual club and if she'd been there one of the times when... He cut the thought off quickly and grabbed a glass, pouring himself a drink which was likely an incredibly stupid idea considering the fact that he was already feeling off his game.

"And... your ability to pick someone up within the span of fifteen minutes for a one night stand would probably leave you with a valentine status if the Marshal ever got wind of it," she said with a half smile.

Pick someone up, not specifying gender...

"From what I've seen of Emilio he has the same talent, although your technique is considerably less obvious than his."

Kassian turned away and busied himself with putting the frozen pizza on a flat pan and shoving it into the oven. The discomfort was steadily growing within him but the nagging curiosity wouldn't go away. "Why'd you go there the third time?"

"To see if you'd be there."

Kassian froze slightly before shaking it off and looking at her over his shoulder. She was staring at him steadily, obviously waiting for a reaction. "Why?"

"Because over the past several years I'd convinced myself that I was in love with you and at that point, it'd reached its most pathetic and embarrassing pique." The disgust at her own actions was clear in her tone. "I'm sure you noticed at some point, Kassian. You're not oblivious or stupid and even if I wasn't exactly putting it out there for you on a platter, it was no secret from just about anyone in the division that I treated you different than everyone else."

Kassian turned slowly and stared at her, repeating the words in his head. He wasn't surprised by the information but her use of the past tense stung when it shouldn't have bothered him at all. "So, what changed?"

Stupid question. He was making himself look overly interested. Stupid alcohol made him talk too much.

Harriet threaded her fingers together and dropped her gaze to the glass door of the oven, watching the pizza cook. "Mostly it was during the level 10 training. It had a lot to do with Boyd."

"What?" How many disturbed exclamations did that make now? Two? Three? "I mean-- why?"

"I'd watch how he interacted with you and how you responded. He was always so casual, never seemed to take your status seriously or show you what was, in my view, proper respect. It pissed me the hell off at first and irritated me a lot because you were never that at ease hanging around me. But after awhile I just realized that you were more comfortable around someone who didn't see you as Senior Agent Trovosky and Perfect Agent Trovosky."

Harriet shrugged, shifting again to look him in the eye as she arched an eyebrow. "And then I realized how uncomfortable it probably makes you to have people always expecting the very best from you and how unlikely it was that you'd ever hook up with someone who perpetuated that expectation in every way." She gestured to herself. "So I gave up."

"Just like that?" The question was out of his mouth before he could stop it and he hoped the disappointment wasn't as obvious to her as it was to him. What the hell was his problem? He hadn't even realized how hot she was until today.

"Well, Jon helped some too," she replied with a smirk. "Him relentlessly asking me out made me appreciate how it felt to be wanted again. Made me realize I was wasting my time running after someone with no interest in me."

"Jon?" Kassian stared at her incredulously. "You're fucking Logan?"

Her expression switched from good-natured to irritated within the blink of an eye. "I'm seeing Jon."

He gave her an unimpressed look. "Like I said."

The irritation began to slide into a narrow-eyed, pissed off, take-no-shit Stevens glare. "He wants it to turn into a serious thing."

"A regular fuck?" He was antagonizing her on purpose but he couldn't help himself. The combination of her obvious disgust over her past alleged love for him and her apparently more serious thing with Logan irked Kassian.

Harriet's full lips curled down into a scowl. "Some people are actually emotionally mature enough to want something other than an endless stream of one night stands and don't want to settle for a lonely, pointless existence that revolves around the nearest warm body's open legs."

Kassian opened his mouth to reply, found himself at a loss, and then found himself getting defensive and pissed off at the same time. The comment stung more than he would have expected and his hands closed into fists as his eyes narrowed. He fought the urge to lash out, to say something cruel and hateful, something that he knew would turn her self-righteous attitude into a puddle of self-conscious insecurity.

He swallowed the anger, turned around, and threw back the drink he'd poured, immediately refilling the glass. The silence between them was heavy and more than a little uncomfortable.

He could feel her eyes boring into his back and as his body warmed from the alcohol and his thoughts got more incoherent, he found himself replaying the final fight with Kelly in his mind. He'd told her that he wanted a divorce and she'd told him that he was emotionally stunted and incapable of accepting anyone's love; that he would be alone because of it, forever.


The hand on his shoulder was unexpected and he tensed up, muscles coiling as he jerked his head to the side and stared at her with what he hoped was a neutral expression. "What?" It came out sharp, venomous, and likely ruined any chance of her not seeing through the stoic front.

Harriet looked at him hesitantly, her eyes dropping to the glass in his clenched hand. For the first time since she'd arrived, she looked at a genuine loss and it reminded him of the way she used to act in his presence before. Unsure of what to say, unsure of how to act, not knowing what was out of bounds.

"Maybe you should lay off the vodka."

"Maybe you should mind your business," he replied darkly, clenching his teeth and forcing himself to look away even as he released the glass with more force than was necessary. The sound of it bouncing against the counter echoed in the otherwise silent room.

Anger, betrayal, humiliation-- so many negative feelings were filling him at the moment but no matter how stupid he felt for letting someone from the Agency, Harriet of all people, see him in this state-- he couldn't make himself seem to stop running her words in his mind. The words that had been so like Kelly's, the summation of his character in a single sentence that still fucking hurt, that still nagged at him, years later.

"I didn't mean it that way," Harriet was saying quietly. "I didn't mean to judge you or the way you live. It was a defensive response and you know how I am when I get pissed. You should know that I think more of you than anyone at the Agency."

Kassian shook his head, willing her to shut up, not wanting to hear her singing his praises in some lame attempt to take back a comment that had cut like a knife.

"More people think like you than me, anyway. I just can't do casual. And what I said before... it was cunt-worthy. I'm a bitch."

"Just stop," he said tightly. "I don't need your pity."

"Pity?" She sounded surprised now, confused. "Why the hell would I pity you?"

Because it's true, his mind seethed. Because no loves me the way Vega and Boyd love each other. Because you gave up on the idea of loving me without ever even trying. Because no one wants to be bothered with a drunk who has an anxiety attack at the idea of anything permanent.

"Listen," Harriet said more insistently although she was starting to sound uneasy as well. "Just forget whatever I said. Please. I wouldn't have spent eight years trying to fool myself into thinking something could work out if I didn't think you were a great guy."

"Well I'm not a great guy," Kassian growled, looking at her coldly, the alcohol making his tongue loose, his temper worse and the unyielding desire to say something to make her fucking doubt herself stronger. "If you knew half the things that I did in Russia, people would think I was the fucking monster. Not Vega."

Harriet froze, dark eyes narrowing slightly, staring at him but she shook her head slightly as if brushing off the comment. That only angered him further and suddenly the real source of his anxiety-- of his ridiculous desire to drink the day away despite the high risk situation, despite the fact that he should be fully on top of his game now of all times-- came rushing to the surface.

Vega and Monaghan and Russia and Polya, murder, knives, Siberia, a fresh grave by the cabins-- if only Boyd had known what Kassian had been doing the last time he'd been out there and why he remembered the location so specifically...

"Vega's fucking innocent and he gets his side split open by a steel-toed boot while you fucking stand here telling me what a great guy I am when I've actually done what the fuck they're accusing him of doing," he hissed, his words jumbling together as they spilled out of his lips.

"I should be the one waiting for an execution. I should be the one people fucking hate. I'm the one who fucking watched a teenage girl get gang-raped and stabbed and fucking cut to pieces and then offered to dispose of the bod--"

"Shut up, Kassian!" Harriet barked, her face ashen as she took a step back.

The rest of the sentence died on his lips and Kassian froze, realizing what he'd said and he took a step back. It was the first time he'd said it out loud and now that he had, the memories came back clearer than any nightmare ever had.

Polina's writhing body, her tormented face, the betrayal in her glassy blue eyes. The excited grunts of the men, the expectations, the sense of watching himself do things that should have been impossible for him-- for Kassian-- but not for Konstantin. The cold frozen earth as he dug the holes, spread out through the forest, different body parts in different locations. Collapsing in the cabin afterward, vomiting, sobbing, and the first time he'd done heroin-- the beginning of an addiction that had lasted throughout his mission and only ended after he'd come back to the Agency and they detoxed him.

Kassian shuddered violently and suddenly realized that somehow Harriet had come forward again and she was putting a hesitant hand on his arm, was saying words in a very un-Harriet like soothing tone, reassuring him that it'd been his cover, something about identity separation. He pulled away abruptly, finally coming back to his senses even if the room swam around him as the full effect of half a bottle of vodka on an empty stomach finally caught up to him.

He lurched forward and retched violently in the sink, acid and alcohol coming up and burning his throat as Harriet rubbed his back. She probably would have fucking held his hair if he had any. It went on for several moments until there was nothing left and he turned again, sagging against the wall and staring at her pathetically.


She nodded in agreement and although she didn't seem disgusted by him, by his admissions, he couldn't bear to see the pity and the sadness in her face. Feeling sorry for him. Finally seeing him for what he was, which was nothing close to the put-together and professional person he played at being on the compound.

"Fuck me," he muttered to himself, closing his eyes briefly and wiping his arm across his mouth. "This is embarrassing."

"Kassian it's-- it's okay, I'm not--"

"Don't," he said harshly, avoiding her eyes. "Just don't say anything."

Harriet nodded and released him, backing away but her eyes burned into him and he couldn't bring himself to look up. The moment stretched for what seemed like an eternity and just when he'd decided to say fuck everything, leave Sin in her care and get the hell out of the house, a voice rang out from the doorway.

"Where the hell are my pants?"

Kassian and Harriet looked up quickly to see a very naked and a very disoriented-looking Sin standing in the doorway, staring at them in obvious confusion. His body was a motley of bruises and cuts, his pale green eyes glazed and slightly unfocused.

"Agent Vega!" Harriet turned away from Kassian and hurried to Sin's side before he could collapse on the tile floor.

"What's going on?" Sin demanded, still somehow managing to sound menacing even as drugged as he was with his voice more slurred than Kassian's.

"I'll explain everything," Harriet replied firmly, grabbing his arm. She'd once again defaulted into professional pseudo-medic role. "But I'm taking you back upstairs."

"Wha--" Sin staggered and slumped against her, his eyes sliding closed again. It was a wonder he'd actually made it down the stairs in one piece with the amount of shit that was still in his system.

"Kassian, help me," Harriet snapped, looking over her shoulder at the other senior agent.

Yanked out of his self-pitying reverie and thankful for the distraction, Kassian jumped up and followed her, wiping an arm across his mouth with a grimace.

They got Sin back upstairs without too much difficulty and Harriet eased the nearly unconscious man back onto the bed. Sin stared up at her through his long eyelashes, the glint of green flicking between her and Kassian as Sin's eyebrows drew together.

"What the fuck is going on?" he asked, voice gruff but still thick with exhaustion.

Harriet looked at Kassian, appearing at a loss, and stepped back as if content to let him handle the situation.

"Your father and Boyd busted you out," Kassian said bluntly, shrugging. "I don't know the details but--"

Sin immediately sat up and began another attempt to get out of the bed but his movements were sluggish. It was a miracle he was even conscious at the moment but the drugs were apparently heavy enough to seriously disable him.

"Calm down, Vega. It's done." Kassian sat on the edge of the bed and pressed his open palm against Sin's bare chest. It was cool and hairless, his skin surprisingly soft, and Kassian could feel the powerful muscles tensing and roiling beneath.

"He's going to get himself killed," Sin ground out, a sweat breaking out on his forehead as his eyes slid almost entirely shut. An exhalation escaped his mouth and for a moment Kassian thought the other man had fallen asleep but not even a few seconds passed before Sin's eyes snapped entirely open again and he made another vain attempt to rise.

"He's went through a lot of trouble for you, Senior Agent Vega, so has your father," Harriet said stonily, looking down at him with disapproval. "Going back and turning yourself in won't spare them. Don't make their efforts be a complete waste."

Sin growled quietly and went slack against the bed again, squeezing his eyes shut briefly.

"I know he's out of control with this shit," Kassian said reasonably, finally moving his hand away from Sin's body. "But it's already been done. You're already here. There's no talking sense into him now."

"And why the fuck are the two of you in on this?" Sin's voice was low and controlled, although aggravation was evident in his tone.

"Boyd asked me to help him."

"And Kassian asked me to help," Harriet added.

Sin shook his head from side to side and dug his long fingers into the damp sheets. His entire body was like a coiled spring ready to pop and Kassian couldn't deny that even bruised and lacerated, Sin was quite a sight to behold.

As if on cue, Harriet took a step forward and threw the sheet back over Sin's lower body.

Not even daring to look at the woman, Kassian instead focused on Sin. "I know I'm not your favorite person and you're not mine either, Vega. But neither I nor Harriet believes that you did what they're accusing you of. I trust Boyd's instincts and my own. Sometimes it's not so bad to fight for something you believe in. Even if it is phenomenally stupid and reckless."

Sin didn't respond and Harriet cleared her throat quietly. "Wouldn't you do the same for Boyd?" she asked pointedly.

"That's different," Sin uttered. He had pressed a hand against his face, turning his head to the side. His voice was hoarse and thick with emotion, something that left both Kassian and Harriet momentarily stunned.

Kassian recovered more quickly. It probably would have come as a shock to him before, seeing Sin so obviously in distress over someone else, someone he obviously cared a great deal about, but that had been before their mission in Canada. Before he'd seen the pain in Sin's vivid green eyes when the subject of Kassian's trysts with Boyd had come up.

"Why?" Kassian asked, genuinely confused. "Because you think his life is worth more than yours?"

"Yes," Sin answered almost immediately, sounding miserable, still not moving his hand.

Kassian shook his head, frowning in disapproval. "You should know by now, Vega. Not everyone feels that way and Boyd certainly doesn't. That kid is loyal to you to a fault but obviously he isn't the only one. Stop with the self-hatred and be grateful--"

"Be grateful that he's going to get himself terminated?" Sin tried to demand but his voice was too weak, his breathing growing heavier as the drugs began to overwhelm his weakened body once again. "I'd rather die."

Another pause.

Harriet's eyes rose and she looked at Kassian just as Sin's breath became long and even, signifying that he'd fallen back asleep.

"He really loves him," she said softly, sounding surprised.

Kassian shrugged and turned away. "Yeah."

He walked out of the room when she just looked at him and he headed down the hallway, forcing himself not to pause in front of the bedroom he'd once shared with Kelly, forcing himself not think about the things that had occurred before Sin's abrupt arrival in the kitchen.

But he couldn't stop himself from thinking that being loved that intensely must be nice.

Continue to Cause/Effect: Part IV