Flip Side: Part III

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

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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.

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Flip Side - Part III

Interlude 3.2

Uploaded on 5/23/2009

Kassian stood at the counter in the kitchen, prying open a can of chicken noodle soup with a knife. Despite the fact that the cabin had come equipped with an electric stove and a microwave, they were lacking a can opener.

Sunlight brightened the interior of the cabin slightly, the rays stronger in the early morning than any other time. It was something he usually appreciated but his face and head still throbbed from the previous day's fight and the brightness just annoyed him. His overnight shift had been anything but enjoyable with his new injuries but Kassian supposed that it could have been worse; he could have been pissing blood and dealing with severe kidney damage instead of just bruises.

"So you and Sin are going in tonight, then?" he asked Boyd randomly, grabbing a plastic spoon and eating the soup directly out of the can.

The previous night's surveillance had once again proved to be inconclusive from the outside.

The mysterious visitor who'd arrived during Boyd's shift had left in the middle of Kassian's, being picked up in the same dark car that had dropped him off. They'd captured a satellite image of the man but it was too indistinct to make out his features entirely, although from the facial structure, height and build they'd determined it was very possible that it'd been Joshi.

Even so, they weren't positive if his arrival that night had been an anomaly or a pattern and since they needed to take down the lab before any material could be recovered or stored by Sector 13, they hadn't made the grab then. Decimating all traces of the material and gaining samples were more important than snatching Joshi so a move then would have likely just alerted 13 to their arrival.

Kassian was frustrated with the lack of intel and the fact that they couldn't just go in and take the entire structure down tonight but the last thing they needed was to have a bunch civilians caught in the crossfire and the Canadian government to somehow link the bombing back to America and proclaim it a terrorist attack. They had to be very careful to avoid such a situation and while Kassian had no problems being cautious, he was impatient with the idea of spending three more days in the cabin with Sin.

The plan was for Boyd and Sin to go in that night, split up and investigate the southern and eastern areas of the plant. They would regroup, surveil for one more day to ensure minimal civilian presence during the chosen hours and then make their strike the following day. Kassian just hoped there would be no snags; the mission was fairly simple but the heavy civilian presence bothered him.

He knew civilians could be caught in the crossfire and in the case of a mission where the end-result could be taking such a dangerous explosive off the street, Kassian could force himself to accept that, but it still was something that he'd do anything to avoid if possible. The fact that they were in a small blue collar town somehow bothered him even more; it was not unlike the town he'd grown up in and even if they avoided killing innocents, they would still be taking away the population's major source of employment. To ensure maximum containment of data and materials, they would have to destroy the entire plant, leaving no wing left standing.

Boyd nodded absently, at first continuing to watch the screens, eyebrows drawn down slightly as he zoomed the view in on a particular area. But after a moment of scrutiny, he relaxed and zoomed out to the main view again, apparently determining that whatever he'd seen wasn't suspicious after all.

He turned in the chair to look at Kassian more fully and, as he had been happening on and off that morning, his gaze flicked between the bruises that had become more prominent on Kassian's face overnight, and over to the coffee table that still lay broken and untouched to the side of the room.

Maybe he decided that now was as good a time as any to ask, or maybe the mention of Sin's name reminded him. Regardless, Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly, mouth drawing down a little, and curiosity finally seemed to overcome him. "What the hell happened, anyway?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Kassian asked with a shrug, pulling himself up to sit on the counter.

Boyd rolled his eyes. "The fight is, the reason isn't. I've never seen you two actually go after each other before and you didn't attack each other the first shift."

Kassian stirred his room-temperature soup and debated whether or not he really wanted to go into it. Even though the fight had been about Boyd, he didn't know if there was necessarily a benefit to Boyd knowing that and Kassian wondered if Sin would even want Boyd to know all the details. From what he could tell upon returning from the overnight shift, Sin's aggression hadn't turned on Boyd at all and Sin obviously hadn't talked about what had happened.

Kassian drank the cool broth and set the can down beside him. On the other hand, keeping Boyd in the dark wasn't necessarily fair either. "Is your comm transmitting?"

"What?" Boyd gave Kassian an odd look but automatically checked anyway. "No, why?"

"Well, mine was yesterday." Kassian shook his head and scowled. "I was so fucking burned out. I must have forgotten to turn it off or thought I did-- I don't know what but it was definitely on the entire time Sin was on his shift."

Boyd stared at Kassian and his eyes widened, face paling as realization dawned on him. "Oh, fuck," he said intently. His hand automatically checked his comm unit again even though he'd just verified it was off, and he looked at once horrified, embarrassed and guilty.

Boyd automatically looked toward the broken coffee table again, which also put the couch in view as a reminder of where they'd been fooling around the day before. "Shit," he hissed, eyes narrowed and seeming angry with himself judging by his stiff posture. "I can't believe--" He cut himself off with a sharp shake of his head and crossed his arms. "I should have made sure they were off. No, I shouldn't have even let that happen..."

"It's not your fault," Kassian asked, picking up his can of soup again. He spooned some of the thick noodles and slurped them off the plastic spoon. "It's totally my fuck up, kid. I'm the one that's sorry. I never should have started all that in the first place."

Boyd shook his head and still looking troubled. His gaze was distant as he frowned.

"It's not like he blamed you, Boyd. He knows it was me."

"I know, but we still both fucked up by even doing all of that," Boyd said heavily, leaning back in the chair and kicking his feet out in front of him. Guilt still stained his expression, the tension strong in his shoulders, and he pushed hair out of his eyes with an unhappy sigh. He looked over at Kassian after a moment. "It's not like all of this was your fault."

"Actually it was," Kassian admitted with a shrug, finishing the last of the soup and squinting across the small kitchen at the other cans. His eyes definitely weren't as good as they used to be. Perhaps it was time to take the Agency up on their offer of laser eye surgery.

Boyd drew his eyebrows down further. "How?"

Kassian slid off the counter and looked at Boyd more seriously, not really comfortable with his bare bones explanation of the fight and the way it'd pretty much implied that Sin had suddenly attacked him out of jealousy. "Because he wasn't talking to me or arguing with me-- he didn't get pissed off until I started bugging him and trying to get him to talk things out with me. Even at the point when he actually hit me it was because I said something to make him angry."

Boyd watched Kassian, studying his expression. "What did you say?"

"I was trying to apologize and he didn't want to hear it and we started saying insulting things back and forth." Kassian grabbed a can of chicken and rice soup and twirled it between both hands before glancing back over to Boyd. "In the end I said I wasn't sorry for fucking around with you and that's what started the fight. It wasn't the best thing to say."

Boyd watched Kassian for a long moment before he shook his head to himself and tilted his head down. His eyes were narrowed and he seemed to be thinking about something seriously. He was silent until he finally sighed, looking at Kassian through a curtain of golden blond hair.

"I guess it's just good you're both okay," he said at length.

Kassian just shrugged. "It is what it is."

Boyd looked at Kassian thoughtfully. "Even so, I won't do that with you again on a mission. I don't want anything even remotely like that to happen again. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt him."

Kassian shrugged in agreement but he continued to look at Boyd in consideration. "You know, if you don't want to hurt Sin, we can just stop fooling around in general. We'd still be friends regardless, it won't change anything."

"I know." Boyd considered Kassian then looked away, expression contemplative. "If I thought it was jeopardizing my chance to become friends with Sin again, I would in a heartbeat. But he already told me the fact I fucked you at all is what bothers him so the damage is already done. I don't think stopping now would mean anything to him, especially since he's spent time with me since and hasn't been angry since he first found out."

He met Kassian's eyes, his eyebrows dragging down thoughtfully. "So stopping wouldn't change anything at all between Sin and me-- the only thing it would do is take away one of the few outlets I have. And as much as I want to be friends with Sin, I don't want to compromise my own happiness to get there any more than I want him to do that for me, or we'll be right back where we started."

Kassian nodded in agreement. It was true; Sin had appeared to generally accept the fact even if he was obviously not thrilled about it. Even now after their fist-fight, Sin was behaving in his typical way and didn't seem excessively outraged anymore. "Just be sure about it. I don't want to become some source of stress for you. I mean I don't want us to stop messing around but I don't want to complicate other aspects of your life, either."

"I'm sure right now." Boyd's gaze almost absently moved toward the laptops, tracking movement across the screens. "If circumstances change, I might change my mind."

Boyd zoomed in on a section of the screen, scrutinized it for several long seconds, then double-clicked the mouse to return the screen to its original overview. He watched the aerial view for another few moments before he pushed the chair away from the table and stood with a long stretch, then padded into the kitchen on socked feet.

He quirked an eyebrow at the cold soup Kassian was eating and bypassed him to head toward the protein bars. The wrapper made quiet crinkling noises as he opened one, walking back to the island where he leaned against the edge of the counter and watched Kassian idly.

"I think I'm going to take a shower," Boyd said absently, as if he were thinking aloud.

"Go for it. There isn't much going on this time of day anyway. Eighty percent of this mission is just pointless downtime."

Boyd nodded, finished the protein bar, and crinkled the wrapper in one hand. He pushed himself away from the counter and tossed the wrapper into the garbage as he headed toward the bathroom. "Well if anything changes, you know where I'll be."

"Well I won't be coming to search for you," Kassian replied, matter-of-fact, although he couldn't help an amused grin from crossing his face. "Who knows what calamities may occur if Sin happened upon me appearing to accost you in the shower."

Boyd just shook his head to himself as he disappeared into the bathroom.

The rest of the morning and evening shifts were spent doing heavy surveillance and going over the blueprints of the plant. As the time grew closer to infiltration, Kassian began to get more serious despite the fact that he continuously tried to tell himself not to default into Senior Agent mode since technically they were all senior agents and he wasn't even a real part of the team yet. But it was something so ingrained in him that Kassian couldn't help it.

He made notes on the blueprints of areas that would serve well as a lab in the eastern and southern wings and together with Boyd created a route that Sin and Boyd would take later that night. When Boyd went on the middle shift and Sin returned, Kassian kept his eyes on the blueprints and began analyzing the structure of the building as he figured out the best locations for the charges that would decimate it.

The only time he and Sin exchanged words was when the time for the recon-infiltration loomed and Sin set out into the darkness to meet Boyd.

The next hour was spent diligently monitoring the live-feed as Kassian relayed the positions of the guards outside the plant to Sin and Boyd as they snuck inside. The black Volvo made its reappearance and Kassian instantly began downloading captured screens of the man who exited, zooming in and getting him from all angles before he disappeared into the heavily guarded area.

Kassian was positive that it was Joshi and relayed the message to Sin and Boyd, advising them to be on their guards as there would now be movement in one or both of their areas.

The recon didn't take more than forty-five minutes and it was only over an hour later that Sin returned with Boyd only a few moments after him.

"Something was happening on the third floor," Boyd said as soon as they'd gathered around the blueprints. He pulled his coat off and tossed it over a nearby, unused chair; his long-sleeved, plain black shirt shifted with the movement, briefly revealing a slice of pale skin above his waistband.

He absently straightened his shirt and leaned forward, eyes narrowed slightly as he studied the blueprints. His hair fell forward, partially hiding his serious expression. One hand was held in front of him, trailing the lines until he stopped on a small room tucked away in the southeast corner of the third floor. "Here."

"That's too small to be a lab," Kassian noted, looking at the paper thoughtfully.

Boyd nodded and stood up straighter, arms crossing and eyes still narrowed as he stared at the blueprints in contemplation. "I didn't get the feeling it was necessarily related, but something seemed odd. It was dead quiet in most of the building but I could hear voices in there. Maybe even someone crying, I couldn't tell." He looked up at Kassian and Sin. "I couldn't investigate further without being discovered, though."

Kassian's eyebrows drew together. "That's strange. It could be anything. It could be internal arguing within 13. It could have even been the television."

The sound of crunching interrupted his thoughts and Kassian looked over to see Sin sitting across the cabin in a dark corner, eating the first food Kassian had seen him consume in three days: the chocolate chip cookies.

"Anyway... Do you think we should investigate further or let it go?" Kassian looked at Boyd again, trying to give him the respect of a team leader even though it was difficult not to just state his own opinion first.

"Depends." Boyd met Kassian's eyes for a moment before he looked over at Sin thoughtfully. "Did you see anything of import?"

Sin shrugged, looking as uninterested as ever. "There was a likely location for the lab. A reinforced corridor that leads to the sublevel. Heavily guarded; twelve hostiles in the general area."

Boyd watched Sin steadily for a moment, seeming to consider the information before he returned his gaze to the blueprints. He studied the different sheets, leaning forward with his hands on the edge of the table, and asked Sin without looking over, "Can you show us on the blueprints?"

Instead of getting up, Sin began describing the area and Kassian's eyes automatically went to the northeast section of the diagram. The location in question was on the ground floor but was sectioned off from the rest of the plant by a set of reinforced doors and a long corridor.

"The doors are locked and from what I can see, not even all the guards know the keycode," Sin told them, eyes focused on them although his face was generally expressionless. "If you look at the blueprint, you will see that the corridor leads to an elevator and two sets of stairs, which both lead to an underground floor."

Boyd nodded thoughtfully, eyes slightly narrowed as he studied the blueprints. After a moment of comparing the section Sin had found to the other ground floor and sub-level areas, he nodded and gave Sin a satisfied look. "Excellent; I think you're right."

Boyd's gaze shifted to Kassian again. "I don't think the room I found warrants further investigation unless we run across new information that leads us in that direction. For now, we'd be better off focusing on the area Sin found and planning the storm accordingly."

Kassian nodded approvingly; he'd formed the same conclusion. There was no point over-extending themselves and including something outside the mission profile when their target was within view, especially when they were spread thin as it was. They would have to plant the charges, retrieve samples and attempt to capture or kill Joshi all within a very tight time frame and before Sector 13 had the chance to escape. Going out to explore other locations that were likely to be unrelated to their directive would have been a poor plan in the bigger picture.

He was pleased to see that Boyd was doing a good job as team leader, even with the tension between the three of them and the personal issues flying around the room. Despite the fact that he'd been with Boyd throughout training, this was the only time Kassian had seen Boyd on a real mission other then the Mexico debacle. That mission had all but convinced him that Boyd could never be rational and level headed in times of emotional stress and that he was too immature to handle certain aspects of what they had to do; Kassian was relieved that this mission proved otherwise.

"I think we should make it a point to take Joshi alive," Kassian said, looking at Boyd and then at Sin. "Even with samples, the Agency scientists will take some time to understand the components that Joshi created. Having him alive will make the process easier since he's the one with the knowledge."

It would also make the mission even more of a success and make Boyd look even more commendable, Kassian mentally added. He couldn't help rooting for his friend, especially considering how cynical Boyd was over the promotion.

"I agree," Boyd said with a nod, still studying the blueprints before he looked to the side in slight distraction and tilted one of the laptops toward him. He pulled up the images of Joshi that Kassian had downloaded and looked at them a moment before he straightened. "Joshi entered the eastern side." He looked over at Sin again. "Did you see him at all in your search?"

"No. I imagine he was in the lab and I couldn't enter without detection." Sin chewed one of the cookies slowly, watching Boyd before he spoke again. "Unless you brought a descrambler, we'll likely need to use a foam explosive to get through the door."

"I have one but we should bring the explosives anyway," Boyd said with a contemplative look. "I don't know what their defenses are or how long the decryption would take."

Kassian considered the situation thoughtfully. "In my experience we would need a several minute window in order for the decryption to work but that all depends on the sophistication of their locks. The foam also needs a couple of minutes to set in but it would be half the time of a highly protected key code. It depends on the route you're willing to go-- trying to take out the guards on the down low and slip into the lab to take them by surprise or make a big commotion with the foam and risk them damaging or destroying information and material before we make it down there. Even then, in either scenario there's the chance that one of the guards will alert Joshi and his men before you get through the door."

"Ideally, staying covert is better precisely for that reason, but it depends on how much time we have." Boyd's eyes narrowed and he leaned forward again, running his hand along the blueprints as he spoke. "According to this, that's the only entrance and since they chose an underground location we don't need to worry about windows. So even if they did destroy any material, at least we have three people and as long as we can capture Joshi in that scenario it would work out as best it could."

Boyd frowned to himself and straightened, crossing his arms and looking between Kassian and Sin. "I think it should happen like this-- Sin, you watch the lab while Kassian and I set explosives around the building; that way Joshi won't escape while we're busy. We'll all meet up at the lab for infiltration. We'll have to determine which way we enter but in the event of a fight, one of us will collect the samples while the other two provide cover and try to take out as many enemies as possible. Whoever sees Joshi first captures him. I'm probably the poorest shot between the three of us so I can collect the samples, but I've never worked with you before, Kassian. In that scenario, where do you think you'd work best?"

"Me and Sin can cover you," Kassian replied agreeably, seeing nothing wrong with Boyd's plan.

Kassian glanced at Sin, trying to keep his expression as neutral as it'd been when he looked at Boyd. "What about you, Vega?"

Sin barely looked at him. "My lack of care is phenomenal."

Oddly enough it seemed that Sin seemed to be in a better frame of mind since their fight. He'd gone from cold angry silence to his typical sarcastic behavior. Kassian found it odd in a way but then again, he wasn't really holding too much of a grudge over the fight either and he was glad that at least they'd gotten some of the issues out in the open.

"We'll have to go over the finer details of the plan and develop contingency plans but if no one has any objections then I'm going to recommend we go with that, then." Once again, Boyd looked between the two of them.

"Fine with me, kid," Kassian replied, looking away from Sin.

Boyd nodded and judging by the way he returned his satisfied gaze to the blueprints, he must have taken Sin's lack of reaction as assent.

"No-- Please!"

The girl's screams echoed through the courtyard like something spectral in the freezing night air. The sound was high-pitched and nearly frightening in its desperation but the men who surrounded the girl only laughed at her helplessness, at the frantic way she scrambled to get away.

Darkness surrounded them with only dim light shining outward from the open double doors that led back into the barn. The wooden steps creaked as his heavy black boots took them one at a time, moving slowly, not wanting to get any closer.

"Kostya!" One of the men looked over his shoulder, tattoos of tears darkening his pale cheeks. "You're next!"

Kassian jerked upright with a gasp, panting wildly as he stared into space for a long moment, his fingers digging into the rough fabric of the couch. For a moment all he could see was Polya's pale face, the way her thin body jerked each time another man entered her, the way her eyes rolled in her head as she screamed in pain.

He jumped off the couch, disoriented and not entirely out of the nightmare yet as he crossed the small cabin without really seeing and fumbled with his jacket. The small bottle of whiskey was still tucked inside and he began impatiently untwisting the cap.

Cold sweat slid down the sides of his face and down into his shirt and Kassian cursed himself for ever allowing himself to fall asleep. He'd rationalized it as getting rest before the storm-- being one hundred percent on the mission without letting something stupid like sleep deprivation deter his skills. He'd never expected to have that nightmare again, now of all times on a mission.

Kassian leaned against the wall and shut his eyes, removing the cap and bringing the bottle up to his lips.

"That's probably not a good idea, Trovosky."

Kassian's clear blue eyes snapped open and his gaze jerked over to where Sin sat near the desk. He was watching Kassian with a slightly intrigued expression although it didn't appear mocking.

Kassian's eyebrows drew together and embarrassment filled him, pushing the last remnants of the nightmare out of his mind slowly even though Polya's screams still rang in his ears.

"Mind your business, Vega," he returned gruffly.

Sin raised both dark eyebrows and his pale green eyes briefly dropped to the bottle of whiskey that Kassian was still clutching although it remained unsipped. Kassian had a strong urge to chuck the bottle across the room and into the darkness of the kitchen area but that would only make the situation more humiliating.

Sin had already seen it and he'd likely seen Kassian squirming in his sleep from the nightmare; he was going to put two and two together.

"You getting drunk and getting Boyd killed is my business," Sin replied in the same bland tone. "I expected more from Perfect Agent Trovosky."

"Well I never fucking said I was perfect," Kassian snarled at Sin, blue eyes narrowed. "That's what you say-- that's what the rest of them say. Believe me-- I know it's anything but true and it just pisses me off that every fucking person expects me to be."

Sin scoffed quietly in the back of his throat, almond shaped eyes never ceasing their close examination of Kassian. "I don't give enough of a damn about you to expect anything."

"So then stop saying it!" Kassian snapped, hunching forward and dropping his face into his hand. He set the bottle of Jack Daniels down onto the floor with the other, ignoring the fact that his body was practically aching with the need to ingest the liquor. "I don't call you the Monster and all of that other shit they say about you, I don't even like to call you Sin-- at least have enough decency to not mock me in return."

"Who said I was mocking you?" Sin asked calmly, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back in the chair.

"Oh, please," Kassian scoffed. "Every time you open your mouth you mock me. Even when I try to get along with you, you mock me. And this is before Boyd even came to the Agency so don't use him as a cop out."

"I don't need a cop out. I just don't like you and I never have."

"Why?" Kassian demanded, looking up at Sin again, eyes narrowed into slits. He was raw and emotional from the nightmare-- the memory, whatever it was-- and it was making it impossible to rein in his annoyance and impatience. It was making it impossible not to have natural reactions when in other times he'd have enough control to let not them out. "What did I ever do to you?"

Sin raised his eyebrows slightly.

"Besides this thing with Boyd," Kassian added impatiently, glaring at Sin.

"I find it amazing that you fail to own up to the fact that your 'thing' with Boyd is a slight against me. The fact that you try to make me appear irrational by being angry just makes you seem like more of an idiot."

"I never said you were irrational. I just said--"

"You said what? That you don't understand why I dislike you?" Sin continued to stare at Kassian with the same unimpressed look, his full lips pursed slightly and one eyebrow slightly arched.

"Well let me break it down for you, Senior Agent Trovosky. I don't like you because you think you're better than me. Because you talk down to me and you always have. You assume the worst of me just like everyone else does but yet you try to act like you're different. It's just like when you showed up in front of Annabelle's office calling me unprofessional, proclaiming that I was ruining your sad little life because I was too irresponsible and hopeless to show up for training."

Sin looked down his nose at Kassian, a cold smirk on his lips. "It never once occurred to you that something else may have happened. It never even occurred to you to ask. If there's one thing I despise, it's when people assume things about me and you've done it from day one."

Kassian frowned and his mind went back to the day in question but before he could even sum up the memory, Sin was going on.

"I don't like you because you cry and whine about how hard it is for you to continue to appear perfect when you could very easily stop trying so hard to live up to perfection. You do it because you like the fact that everyone looks up to you and I think you like the fact that you're considered better than me even though I am more skilled than you in every possible way."

"That's not true," Kassian denied, although he frowned slightly.

Sin just scoffed again and continued, "I don't like you because you think I should like you. I don't like you because you're so up in arms about the fact that I can't stand you when you don't even care too much for me yourself-- but even then, it just bugs you so much that there's one person in the world who thinks you're a phony."

Kassian opened his mouth to retort but Sin continued his calm assessment of Kassian's character and personality.

"I don't like you because you're fucking Boyd and you still act so mystified by the fact that I want to beat the shit out of you. You act like you can't possibly understand my motivation when in reality you knew all along how I would react probably before you even fucked him. The fact that you try to appear like the good agent, the bigger person by attempting to badger me into conversation after you gave me even more reason to despise you is laughable and the fact that you have Boyd so convinced that you're a good guy with perfectly innocent motives is pathetic to me."

This time Kassian dropped his eyes, some of the indignation dying slightly at words he couldn't fully deny.

"And most of all I don't like you because you act so exasperated by all of this. You act like you're caught up in some unprofessional drama when you're the one who put yourself in the middle of it. Apparently Boyd went whining to you about all of his issues during his idiotic training so you knew exactly what was going on even then. And even knowing it was me involved, you threw yourself into the mix and now you're rolling your eyes and talking down to me and acting like I'm the one with the problem because I treat you like the fucking asshole that you are."

This time Kassian didn't even attempt to reply and Sin continued to stare at him with that same cool gaze.

"Did I leave anything out?" Sin asked with a humorless smirk. "If you're still confused, I can go on."

Kassian's eyes focused on the bottle that sat beside him and he really had to fight the urge to drink it. It was hard to deny some of the things that Sin had said, especially when Kassian was feeling vulnerable and all of his defenses were buckling under the weight of a memory he wished he could forget.

How could he deny that a part of him did like having respect? That he did get a slight kick out of it whenever a lower-ranked agent looked at him with a polite smile before turning to Sin with scorn in their eyes. It hadn't started out that way but as the years went by and Kassian's resentment of Sin came into play, he couldn't deny that he'd felt vindicated by the fact that at least he got the respect even though Sin got the accolades of a place on Carhart's elite unit while Kassian got a two-year stint in Siberia.

And how could he deny that he'd gone into the situation with Boyd with both eyes open and hadn't even briefly hesitated about doing so? Even though Kassian always went out of his way to avoid scandal and drama at the Agency and in his private life, he'd barely given a second thought to pursuing Boyd even though Boyd had been a trainee on top of everything else.

There was no denying that he was legitimately sexually attracted to Boyd but Kassian had enough self-control to know that if he'd really wanted to, he could have suppressed those desires. Emma had caught his eye long before Boyd had, yet Kassian had never even considered hitting on the woman-- he'd known better.

So why Boyd?

What had made him risk his reputation, his relationship with General Carhart and Doug and his peace of mind regarding the fact that very few people knew about his sexuality? He'd known Sin would be angry-- it was a miracle that Sin wasn't taking his revenge by broadcasting Kassian's sexual orientation around the compound. Kassian wouldn't have been surprised if he had-- the fact that he'd risked that to fuck Boyd for the sheer fun of it was mystifying and Kassian once again wondered what possessed him to have started this all without even the slightest doubt as to whether he should.

Sin seemed to think there was more to it than simply wanting casual sex and Kassian was starting to wonder if he wasn't right.

Kassian genuinely cared for Boyd as a friend and he'd enjoyed spending time with Boyd long before sexual attraction had even come into the picture but was it possible that he'd allowed himself to act on that attraction despite everything because of Boyd's connection to Sin?

Had Boyd's attachment to Sin added an extra incentive even if Kassian hadn't been consciously aware of it? Had it made it more exciting, more intriguing-- had a part of him wanted to see how Sin would react? Or had it even been exactly what Sin was implying-- that he'd wanted something to hold over Sin?

Kassian didn't think he was capable of being that calculating but at the moment when his mind was whirling and his desire to drink was at its strongest, he was willing to accept any negative assessment of himself.

"So then why are you even being remotely civilized to me now?" Kassian asked quietly, not meeting Sin's unrelenting stare. "I agree that I gave you even more reasons to hate me so I don't understand what's changed."

Sin's eyes dropped back to the laptop and some of the confidence left his expression as he lifted one shoulder slightly. "You had a point before about Ann and I appreciated the fact that you put enough thought into the situation to even be thinking of it. Even though I still don't believe that you went after Boyd just to get a few sexual kicks, it made me think that you weren't being as malicious as I'd previously thought."

"I see."

"I still think you're a fucking asshole, though."

Kassian's gaze rose from the floor and he sat up straight, leaning against the wall to look at Sin wearily. "I don't get you, Vega. I don't understand you or why you do the things you do. I just can't fucking win when it comes to you."

"And I don't understand why you would even want to," Sin replied flatly.

"Because you're right," Kassian admitted finally, hands curling into fists as his eyebrows drew together. "It does bug me that you hate me, especially because I never understood why. And a part of me can't stand you because of your behavior but another part of me wishes that you'd stop being such a hardass to me all the time because Boyd made a good point one day about us having a lot in common. If we got past all the bullshit, I bet we could even get along."

"And once again, I don't understand why you would even want to."

Kassian tilted his head back against the wall and closed his eyes again with a long, drawn out sigh. "Why do I need a reason to want to get along?"

"Because I don't trust you," Sin said bluntly, glancing up at him again. "And you've never given any indication of wanting to get along with me before you decided to play hide the dick with Boyd."

Kassian's mouth twitched slightly and once again he found himself wanting to laugh at one of the hideous things that Sin said. Some of the tension released from his shoulders and he slowly found himself regaining control even if he wasn't entirely sure why Sin's ridiculous comment helped.

"Maybe because all of Boyd's talking about you made me realize that there was more to you than the jackass who always has some stupid smartass remark to make." Kassian shook his head slightly. "For that kid to have been so in love with you, there has to be more to you than that and I think it sucks that you don't show anyone else your good sides."

Sin stared at him silently, a crease between his eyebrows as he frowned slightly in what appeared to be confusion.

Kassian felt mildly foolish about telling Sin that after everything, he wanted to try to be something a notch lower than mortal enemies but he pushed on anyway. "People expect shit from both of us-- they expect me to be perfect and they expect you to be an asshole and we give them what they want generally. But just by talking to Boyd I know you're capable of being something more than that and I'm sure you're more than aware by now that I'm anything but perfect, dude. I'm a drunk and an asshole and I can be spiteful and petty but whatever, I'm human and I have flaws. I never said I didn't."

"You act like you don't," Sin said after a moment, the same bemused expression on his attractive face.

"And you act like you don't have a shred of humanity in that weirdly strong body of yours," Kassian retorted. "But even when we fought before, I could see it in your eyes that you feel pain and you get hurt and I could see that you're pretty hardcore in love with Boyd, but you sit there and act like you don't have anything in you but contempt for everything."

This time Sin didn't reply at all and Kassian just shook his head and pulled himself to a stand. He picked up the bottle of whiskey, walking around the counter to stand in the kitchen area where he began to mournfully pour the bottle of Jack Daniels down the drain. It felt like he was betraying a long lost friend and he couldn't help the pained frown that creased his face even though Sin continued to stare at him.

"I have a question," Sin said abruptly.

Kassian's eyes flicked over to the other man as he dropped the bottle in the sink with a clank. "What?"

"What possessed your idiotic self to jump out of sleep and into an alcoholic frenzy?"

Kassian made a face and grabbed a bottle of water off the counter. "Why do you have to describe everything that way? It's so annoying."

"Answer the question," Sin demanded, obviously refusing to be diverted.

"I'm surprised you didn't figure out that I was having a nightmare." Kassian shrugged, dropping his gaze to study the white label on his bottle of water.

"About what?"

Kassian scowled and opened his mouth to reply but hesitated before shrugging slightly as shame washed over him. It was like a blanket that covered every other feeling, every other thought, and once again he could do nothing but think about the past and remember Polya's slack face when they'd finished with her. "Something that happened in Russia. Something I feel guilty about."

"I see."

Kassian could feel Sin staring at him for a very long time but Kassian just continued to look at his bottle, no longer feeling interested in conversation or meeting Sin's challenging gaze. The tense silence stretched uncomfortably until it was Sin who once again broke it.

"Well I suggest you get your act together, Trovosky. We don't have much time before we storm."

Kassian nodded unnecessarily and he turned away entirely to walk into the bathroom. He flicked the light switch after shutting the door and the flourescent bulb blinked a couple of times before it came on entirely, casting the small closet-like space in a dim sickly white light. Kassian moved in front of the sink and looked into the small round mirror, closing his eyes briefly and taking a deep breath before opening them again.

He looked exhausted; there were dark circles around his eyes and he was paler than usual. Even though he could run on empty for quite a while before letting the effects of exhaustion affect his performance, it didn't stop him from feeling like hell and apparently looking it.

He couldn't help contrasting his own appearance with Sin's, who looked unfazed by even less sleep and food than Kassian'd had. It was just another example of how right Sin was; he was naturally more skilled and naturally stronger than Kassian would ever be. It wasn't exactly anything new but the even though in the past he would have felt the need to better himself, to achieve more and even surpass Sin, now Kassian just felt a dull sense of acceptance that didn't even necessarily bother him.

The last several minutes, the entire mission really, had had a strange humbling effect on him and he didn't entirely understand why. Maybe it was being in such close quarters with Sin and being unable to hide all of the glaring flaws that Kassian usually tried to swallow and to downplay, even to himself. Somehow having it all come out felt like a load off his shoulders. Things were out in the open; there was no need to go into hardcore Senior Agent mode now that the dirty laundry was aired.

It was just one less person to put on that act for.

The foam explosive they'd sprayed on the door hissed wildly as sparks began to fly everywhere, burning through the heavy doors as though they were nothing more than butter. One of the fallen guard's radios began going wild, demands ringing out in the hall that was now deserted by everyone other than Kassian, Sin and Boyd.

"What's going on out there!" a gruff voice demanded through the small device.

Sin slammed the bottom of his boot against the metal of the door, clearing the hole that they'd just made for themselves. None of them acknowledged the radio as they slid through the lab's entrance, moving quickly and silently as footsteps rang out from the staircase that led down to the lab.

Two rebels appeared in the corridor with mixed looks of surprise on their faces but neither had a chance to do anything before Sin shot each of them cleanly in the head.

The three of them were at a disadvantage coming from the top with no idea about what lay in the entrance to the lab but Kassian crept down the stairs, dragging one of the bodies behind him, and when they approached the entrance, he shoved it through hurriedly.

The rebels on the other side unloaded into the corpse and Kassian lunged through the door, landing in a roll and immediately slamming his back against a heavy desk as shots rang out around him. He could see Sin moving in and firing methodically, not even flinching as bullets came close enough to graze his face, and Boyd using the gunfire as a distraction to slip in and move deeper into the lab.

Sin disappeared from sight just as Boyd slid around a corner and Kassian narrowed his eyes, leaping up and spinning in an arc, unloading a burst of bullets quickly before ducking down again. He heard a couple low thuds that meant at least two bullets had met their mark.

From what he could see of the lab, it was larger than they'd expected it to be and was teaming with hostiles. He'd seen equipment in the general area but he suspected that the real research was being done farther back and wherever Boyd had disappeared to.

Kassian rolled to the side and flit his gaze across the area before allowing his gun to automatically aim at the targets he'd seen, firing with precision and dropping rebels one by one as Sin moved in deeper, likely to follow behind and cover Boyd.

The sound of bodies falling, grunts and ricocheted bullets made the underground research facility sound like a war zone and Kassian was jogging deeper in, ignoring the blood that streaked the floor, when a movement to his side caught his attention.

A dark figure leaped out of a cupboard and ran for the door. Kassian didn't hesitate to pursue, even before he realized that it was Joshi.

"He's in my sights," Kassian said harshly into his comm unit as his feet pounded against the floor.

Joshi glanced over his shoulder with narrowed eyes, appearing more inconvenienced than frightened as he sprinted up the stairs and flung himself through the blown out hole in the double reinforced doors.

Kassian pushed himself to go faster, his long legs closing the distance between the two of them as Joshi nimbly avoided the bodies of fallen rebels that they'd taken out on their way into the eastern wing of the facility.

Just as Kassian was within arm's length of Joshi, the scientist spun out of the way and turned back, extending an arm and spraying a small black bottle in Kassian's direction. Kassian automatically turned his head downwind but the substance caught his face anyway and as his eyes burned and watered, Kassian realized that it was some kind of mace.

"Fucker," Kassian couldn't help but grunt in annoyance as his eyesight went completely blurry.

He squinted and ignored the burning sensation, ignored the tingling pain, and focused on the sound of Joshi's footsteps, on the skid of his shoes against the linoleum flooring as he took a sharp right. Kassian barely even broke his stride as he began relying on secondary senses as if losing the first wasn't more than a slight hindrance.

"We're clear," Boyd's voice rang out in Kassian's ear.

Kassian blinked rapidly, trying to clear his eyes of the extra moisture as Joshi's footsteps abruptly stopped. The only indication that the man had actually switched to offense was a low whooshing sound that came toward Kassian quickly.

He dodged out of the way and saw a blur fly past him before Kassian grit his teeth. Squinting through the tears, Kassian lunged at Joshi's shape that was now crouched in a shadowed corner; he slammed into the thinner man heavily.

"Detonating in five," Sin gruff voice added.

Kassian and Joshi rolled backwards on the floor and even though the scientist struggled violently, Kassian yanked him up as though he weighed nothing more than a child.

"That should have blinded you temporarily," Joshi hissed, appearing annoyed that his homemade pepper spray hadn't had the desired effect.

Kassian grunted and rubbed an arm across his eyes as he dragged Joshi down the corridor. If he hadn't turned his face in time, it was likely that he would have been blinded. A slight mist of the substance had completely thrown him off balance even though his sight was getting clearer by the second.

Kassian hauled Joshi down the corridor, running quickly and practically dragging the scientist behind him. The man barely put up a struggle now that he was actually caught; he likely knew that if he hadn't already been killed, he wasn't going to be any time soon.

The southeastern exit seemed deserted as Kassian dragged Joshi out of the building. Joshi waited until they were in the open before he suddenly struggled harder, apparently thinking he may be able to break loose now that they were no longer confined. Kassian casually slammed a fist back into Joshi's face, rendering the man temporarily submissive.

As Kassian ran toward the rendezvous point, he saw Sin and Boyd already waiting. Sin was looking up at the facility as Boyd watched him doubtfully.

"I know what I heard," Sin said flatly.

Boyd glanced at his watch then shook his head. "There's less than three minutes-- what are you suggesting?"

Sin ignored Boyd and pointed up at the facility abruptly. "There."

Kassian pushed Joshi to the ground and removed a small tranq-gun from his belt; he injected the scientist in the neck before Joshi even had a chance to protest. Joshi fell to the ground unceremoniously and Kassian's eyes followed Sin's finger.

Movement could be seen in the corner of one of the third floor rooms. Kassian squinted but even through his still teary eyes, he could make out the shape of a woman through the window. She appeared to be tugging at the door and her blond and pink hair hung around her face, curtaining it and concealing her features; yet with that hair, there was no question who it was.

"It's that informant!" Kassian exclaimed, truly surprised. Sector 13 had gotten onto her after all; that was likely who Boyd had heard crying during recon.

Sin was on his feet before either of them really realized it, sprinting back in the direction of the building.

"Hsin, wait!" Boyd shouted, immediately starting to run after him.

Kassian yanked Boyd backwards automatically and pushed him back down. "Leave him."

Boyd jerked against Kassian, eyes narrowed and intent on what he could see of Sin, and Kassian shifted so he could hold Boyd down. Boyd's eyebrows drew down and his entire body was taut with energy he wasn't releasing; although he didn't push against Kassian's grip again, the way his teeth grit and shoulders tensed made it pretty clear that he was struggling not to.

"The building's going to blow," Boyd said tightly, turning an intense stare on Kassian. "If he's going to run into it he needs backup."

"You're not backup for Sin," Kassian said bluntly, his eyes narrowing at Boyd seriously. "You'll just slow him down even if you did catch up which is unlikely anyway since he's extremely fast. Don't let your emotions make you act stupid, Boyd."

Everything from his expression to his tone of voice was very similar to the first time he'd met Boyd in Monterrey but he didn't try to tone it down.

Boyd nearly glared at Kassian for a long moment, eyes narrowing further, something almost cold coming into his expression as the tension only seemed to grow in his body. There was a distance in his eyes that Kassian had never seen aimed at him; an iciness that was reminiscent of Inspector Beaulieu and seemed impersonal, as if Kassian and Boyd hardly knew each other.

But then Boyd abruptly looked away, gaze shifting pensively to Joshi, and he forced himself to relax enough that he no longer seemed ready to jump up at any second. Even so, his jaw was set and he didn't look happy.

"Fine," Boyd said tensely. He looked at his watch then up at the facility, expression calculating. "He has two and a half minutes, which should be enough time given his speed. But if it becomes clear he needs help, I'm not going to stand here watching. Even if I'm not fast enough, I'm going to try." His eyes narrowed slightly and his tone was blunt and stubborn as he added, "It has nothing to do with me being overly emotional; he's my partner and I'm going to support him."

Kassian just shook his head and frowned, turning his attention to Joshi as he slapped a pair of restraints on the man's wrists. While both Sin and Boyd's intentions were admirable and brave in their own ways, Kassian didn't really see much intelligence in either of their thought processes at the moment.

There was a chance that Sin would make it out but it was slim; it was likely that both he and the woman would die. And then Boyd was basically putting himself in the same situation but giving himself even less time. He didn't know what made Boyd think he'd make it in and out if Sin couldn't do it; he'd be throwing his life away for nothing.

"Take Joshi to the van," Kassian said curtly. "And I'll go after Sin."

Boyd hesitated briefly, watching Kassian very seriously before he looked past him toward the building. His honey brown eyes were narrowed and the worry was clear in them despite the fact he didn't let it move to the rest of his expression. He seemed to be struggling with something within himself; the tension rising in his body even as he shifted slightly away from the building, his fingers curling even as determination set his features.

It was only a couple of seconds before he met Kassian's eyes again, the concern not entirely hidden even though it didn't make it to his voice. Yet eclipsing that all was trust. "I'll bring it around for transport."

Kassian nodded and took off running, his long legs closing the distance between the line of trees and the building. Instead of going into the entrance they'd come from, Kassian looped around the side and headed for the doors that led directly into the southern wing. His boots pounded against the pavement, the only sound that seemed to ring out for miles in the darkness, and as he approached the entrance something else disturbed the still night air.

The sound of someone breathing hard mixed with muffled sobs came from his left and Kassian spun, instantly raising his gun.

Vanessa Marshal skidded to a stop in front of him, her pale face stricken and glinting as she burst into a new flood of tears. "Please don't shoot me!"

Kassian's eyes flit around the area impatiently, not acknowledging her question even as he lowered the gun. "Where's the man who rescued you?"

Vanessa breathed loudly through her mouth, hugging her arms to her chest as though she were trying to calm down. "I-I don't know, he kicked out the window and I came down the fire esc--"

Kassian brushed past her, running back in the direction from which she'd come. When his feet crunched over broken glass, Kassian's eyes flew upward and focused instantly on the fire escape that led up to a third floor window. He distantly heard Vanessa approaching behind him with questions mixed into her sobs but he didn't respond as his gaze locked on a silouhette in the window that could only be Sin's.

His shadowed figure was still in the darkened room and Kassian shook his head slightly as worry, irritation and panic starting to set in-- he knew there were only seconds before the entire building exploded.

Yet Sin just stood there as if he were waiting for something-- there were no hostiles near him, there was no reason why he shouldn't be moving--

"Vega, what the fuck are you doing!" Kassian screamed at the top of his lungs, thoughts a whirlwind of confusion as he watched Sin contemplate suicide.

The sound of his voice must have shook Sin out of whatever stupor he'd allowed himself to fall into because his face turned to the side, green eyes narrowing down at Kassian. Suddenly he lunged forward just as a loud boom shattered the silence of the night and the building shuddered in several successions of explosions, the majority of the complex erupting into a ball of flames.

"Oh my God!" Vanessa screamed and Kassian turned, his body slamming into hers from the impact and shielding her from the debris that rained down on them. He dragged her backwards awkwardly, feeling the heat of the fire on his back and glass slamming into his skin. Even as he tried to get out of range of the soon-to-be collapsing facility, he frantically scanned the area for Sin.

"Run northeast if you want to live!" he shouted at Vannessa. "Head for the treeline, look for a black van."

The woman stared at him in petrified confusion. "Wha--"

"Move!" Kassian shouted, pulling her up and shoving her in the direction before he ran back towards the building. The heat of the flames was so powerful that it burned him without touching him but Kassian ignored it and searched the area until he saw a dark figure laying crumpled on the ground a few yards away from him, half hidden in a shallow ditch.

As Kassian moved closer he saw that Sin was struggling to pull himself up from the ground. There was a large bloody gash in the side of his head and one of his arms hung awkwardly at his side as Sin tried to work with the other. His clothes appeared darkened and singed and Kassian had no doubts that there were a large amount of injuries beneath them. Still, it would have been a lot worse had Sin landed on the pavement instead of the grass.

"What the hell are you thinking, Vega!" Kassian demanded as he grabbed Sin. The other man just collapsed against him limply and Kassian sighed, picking Sin up and throwing him over one shoulder before he turned and jogged to the spot where the van would be.

"He's received three shots of tranquilizer," Boyd was saying, watching Joshi expressionlessly as two agents reached in the open van doors to drag the man out. "The last was nearly an hour ago and he hasn't stirred since."

Agent Lowe shrugged, unreadable eyes trained on Joshi as she checked his pulse. "Well, you didn't kill him. That's all that matters."

Boyd's gaze shifted over to her steadily. "I wasn't implying that would be an issue. The medical staff will want to know what he's received."

The look Lowe gave Boyd was stiff. "My mistake, Senior Agent Beaulieu." She spoke calmly but the tone with which she said Boyd's title didn't hide the fact that she had an issue with him or his position and that her comment hadn't been an accident.

The other agent, Williams, looked between the two of them before getting a good grip on Joshi's upper body. "Let's get going, Rachel," he said firmly, tilting his head toward Joshi. "We don't have all day."

Lowe watched Boyd for a moment longer, her eyes narrowed and lips tightened before she broke eye contact and nodded toward Williams. She grabbed Joshi's legs and helped load the man onto a stretcher that they then strapped him into. Lowe pointedly avoided looking at Boyd again as she and Williams wheeled Joshi away.

Boyd watched her, expression completely unreadable, although Kassian could tell by the lack of tension in Boyd's shoulders that he was unsurprised by the reception.

Kassian shook his head slightly, nodding at the two politely as they left the area. He didn't know what issue Lowe had with Boyd, but she'd always been nice enough to him. Whatever the case, he wasn't particularly interested in the details at the moment.

What had started out as a relatively easy mission had turned incredibly stressful and the nagging questions of what the hell Sin had been thinking and what had the Agency done with Vanessa when they picked her up at the US-Canadian border wouldn't stop hounding Kassian. He knew it was entirely possible that they were going to move her and her kids to a secure location to surveil her and keep her safe from 13 but it was also likely that they were going to terminate her because she'd seen their faces.

It could go either way but he planned to follow up on it. As reluctant as he'd been to support Boyd and Sin getting killed to save her, he was glad that she'd lived. She'd been an asset to them and the entire mission and her life had been endangered for it. If it hadn't been for Sin's efforts, her life would have ended entirely.

Kassian's gaze drifted from Lowe's retreating back and focused on Sin. He had a serious head injury as well as a fractured arm and ankle, but somehow the guy was still walking around as if he felt no pain. Sin mostly seemed irritated that he'd been ordered to go to the medic unit, as if he'd be better off tending to his own wounds.

It was hard not to feel respect when looking at Sin now. Sin had done something risky and reckless and stupid but at the same time it'd been so selfless and brave that Kassian felt like a coward in comparison. For all that people thought he was so much better than Sin because he didn't do assassinations, Sin had showed far more concern for a civilian than Kassian ever had.

Sin started to walk away and the movement seemed to catch Boyd's attention as he looked over. With everyone gone except the three of them and the only guards too far away to see much, Boyd's gaze slid almost unconsciously along Sin's length. He'd been periodically doing the same during the time that Sin had been unconscious in the ride back to the Agency, and every time it almost seemed as if he was checking Sin's wounds, making sure they hadn't worsened when he wasn't looking.

The same concern that hadn't been entirely hidden in Canada remained in his eyes now, although it was far more shuttered with the Agency cameras glaring down on them from every angle in the underground loading area.

"Sin," Boyd said abruptly, already heading toward him.

Sin stopped walking and looked at Boyd. "Yes?"

Kassian watched the exchange and wondered if he should leave, a thought that strengthened when Sin's green eyes flicked to him seemingly unconsciously, but Kassian didn't move. He needed to speak with Sin too.

Boyd, however, seemed unconcerned with Kassian's presence; he simply dropped his voice so it wouldn't echo across the entire room. He stopped right in front of Sin, searching his eyes with slightly drawn down eyebrows. He didn't entirely hide the intentness or faint worry that made it into his tone. "You're heading to the medic unit, right? Not to your apartment?"

"I hadn't decided yet," Sin replied with a shrug. "I can take care of myself."

"It's not a question of what you're capable of," Boyd protested in an undertone, gaze straying briefly toward the wound hidden by the bandage wrapped around Sin's head. There was a subtle twinge in Boyd's expression, a slight tightening of his lips and faint narrowing of his eyes. "Just because you can deal with pain doesn't mean you have to. You could have died and serious head injuries shouldn't be taken lightly, not with the complications that can occur. Please go to the medics, or at least seriously consider it."

Sin gave a half-shrug but his eyes once again drifted from Boyd to Kassian and he cocked an eyebrow at him instead of answering Boyd. "What?"

"Nothing. I just want to have a word with you," Kassian replied.

Boyd drew his eyebrows down a little and gave Kassian a slightly odd look, likely wondering what he wanted to talk to Sin about but Kassian just looked at him neutrally and didn't explain.

Sin frowned slightly but he didn't address Kassian again, instead saying to Boyd, "I'll let them splint my arm."

Boyd all but ignored Kassian again for the moment, turning to study Sin with a hint of concern still visible even as some of the tension left his shoulders. "Alright," he relented, then paused and sighed quietly, running a hand through his hair.

Golden blond strands fell back into Boyd's face, partially concealing his otherwise serious expression. "For the record, I really wish you wouldn't do such risky, last minute things like that, but I hope it works out with her. I don't know what they intend to do with her and I doubt it will mean anything to my mother, but I'll recommend in my report that she and her children be placed in protective custody." He shrugged with one shoulder. "Especially if the emphasis can be on her use as an informant, maybe that's the route they'll take if they haven't done anything already. I'll say the same thing if anyone asks my opinion as team leader for the mission."

"I'll do what I have to do," Sin said bluntly, his face otherwise expressionless even though he lifted his eyebrows. "Even if they end up blowing her head off, I'd do it again anyway."

"Well, that's a cheerful statement of hope," Kassian mumbled from the side.

"I know you will," Boyd said evenly, gaze steady on Sin even as his eyebrows twitched down briefly, "but you just leave before anything can be decided, you don't even give anyone the chance, and I wish you wouldn't because your life is more important than that informant's. If you're that determined to risk it for other people, at least let me help-- let us work together to save them. Don't forget that you have a partner."

Sin just shrugged and said nothing in response. However, when Boyd just shook his head slightly and after a moment of silence turned and left, Sin's eyes followed him seemingly of their own accord and almost absently ran along the length of Boyd's body.

Kassian cleared his throat slightly and moved closer when Boyd had left the garage entirely. "Vega."

Sin looked at him and made a face. "If you're planning to give me a grandstanding lecture on reckless behavior, save it."

"Not at all. I do think it was reckless and foolish but at the same time it was also incredibly brave." Kassian studied Sin briefly and was mildly pleased that the man actually seemed taken aback by the compliment. "In fact, if more people saw that side of you I'm sure you'd be the one who would be deemed Captain America and Mister Morals and all of the ridiculous names they give me."

Sin made a face at that, rolling his green eyes. "Don't kiss my ass, Kassian. What the hell do you want to talk to me about?"

"I'm not kissing your ass," Kassian retorted. "I'm making a statement of fact."

"So you've made it. Are we done here?"

Kassian sighed and narrowed his gaze on Sin's pale blood streaked face. "I want to know why you didn't escape right away."

A distinct look of discomfort clouded Sin's expression and he shrugged again. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do," Kassian said sharply. "You had nearly forty to forty-five seconds between the time Vanessa escaped and the building blew and you just stood there until the last minute. I'm not stupid, Vega. I know what I saw."

Sin brought a hand up to push his overgrown bangs out of his eyes, appearing to need something to fidget with under the scrutiny of Kassian's stare. For someone who was typically so quick to have a retort or a witty comeback, Sin appeared at a genuine loss for words.

"You were going to kill yourself," Kassian accused when Sin didn't respond.

He'd expected Sin to deny it but instead, Sin finally met his eyes again and looked completely unapologetic as he replied, "It crossed my mind."

"Why?" Kassian demanded, taking a step forward and fighting the urge to grab Sin and shake intelligence into him. "Because of me and Boyd?"

Sin scoffed at him. "Don't flatter yourself."

"Then why?" Kassian persisted.

"Why didn't you tell Boyd about this?" Sin completely switched topics, moving to cross his arms over his chest and then wincing slightly as he dropped one arm back to his side. It was the only indication of pain he'd given so far.

"It's not his business," Kassian returned matter-of-factly. "You're not his lover anymore. If you were, as a friend, I'd probably tell him. But you're not and since the mission was already complete, it had no effect on that and there was no reason to bring it up. Besides, I didn't think you'd appreciate it."

"I wouldn't have," Sin agreed, some of the cold sarcasm slipping out of his voice as he eyed Kassian. "But I don't see why I should tell you anything."

Kassian sighed wearily, his eyebrows pushing together as his mouth turned down into a frown. "Because even though I didn't go blab to Boyd before I knew all of the facts, if it turns out that you're going to endanger your life on a mission like that, you could potentially be endangering your teammates as well. Especially Boyd, since he gets all emotional when it comes to you and tries to endanger himself in the process. He tried to run after you and I stopped him-- Imagine if he had; something bad could have happened. So I think that if you're that messed up mentally right now, we need to be aware of it and if I believe that, I will go to Boyd because I think as your partner, he should know."

They stared at each other evenly for a stretch of time and Kassian was ready to give up and walk away but then Sin shook his head slightly and averted his gaze. "My life is empty and pointless. It briefly occurred to me that I could easily escape it at that moment and then I wouldn't have to continue going through the motions anymore."

Kassian couldn't argue with that; he knew how difficult Sin's life had always been. For several years he'd known that the Agency had kept Sin in a holding cell when he wasn't on missions, that they put collars on him and locked him in a box, that he was treated like nothing more than a pitbull that they took out of its cage when they wanted him to fight. And Kassian also knew just by hearing Boyd speak of Sin and their relationship, that Sin's life had briefly been more than that.

It was no surprise that Sin felt lost and miserable now; that he felt like he'd been returned to square one. It was a large part of the reason Kassian had felt the need to make an attempt, as lame as it was, to help Sin by agreeing to replace him in the unit. So he understood why Sin would want to kill himself; if Kassian really thought hard about it, he couldn't pinpoint something that Sin would think he had to live for.

Still, Kassian wasn't going to support the idea even if he understood it. "Why did you change your mind?"

Sin exhaled slowly and he tilted his head to the side slightly as if he were contemplating his own answer. After awhile he just lifted one shoulder and said plainly, "Because I don't think I want to give up yet."

Kassian was surprised by how relieved he felt but then again he'd also felt surprised by his own desperation to revive Sin in the back of the van in Mexico. His own opinions and thoughts regarding the other man were so conflicting and confusing that the didn't know what to make of it sometimes. For all that they clashed and disliked each other and couldn't get along, Kassian didn't like the idea of Sin not being around anymore even if he didn't entirely understand why.

"Things can get better," Kassian said finally.

"Maybe." Sin didn't seem very agreeable but he did look thoughtful as his intense gaze bore into Kassian. After awhile he closed off his expression completely and just nodded neutrally. "I'll be seeing you on our next mission together, Senior Agent Trovosky."

Kassian screwed up his face and sighed heavily. "If it's as exciting as this one, I can't wait."

Sin smirked at him and turned entirely, walking away.

The garage was silent around Kassian and he stood there for a long moment, staring after Sin then staring into empty space before finally shaking his head and leaving as well with the intentions of going home to a nice stiff drink.

Continue to the next interlude: 3.3, Alter