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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Interlude 3.7

Uploaded on 6/21/2009

Boyd held the plastic bag with the food from the cafe to his side and leaned against the wall of the elevator as he waited for the rest of the people to load in. There was the typical mess of confusion as each individual or group had to determine whether the button for the floor they were headed to had already been pressed, and Boyd got an odd look or two when he hit the button labeled 13. He didn't know how much of that was superstition and how much had to do with the fact that field agents probably rarely stopped on the Research & Development floor.

He had to admit that in nearly three years, he'd never once been on the thirteenth floor; he didn't even know what the layout was like or where Ryan worked. But when he'd called Ryan to ask if he wanted to have lunch together and Ryan had said even though he was really hungry he was almost too busy to breathe, Boyd had decided to stop by with some food for his friend.

By the time the elevator reached the thirteenth floor, only a handful of people remained. Boyd stepped onto the Research & Development floor and was mildly surprised by how sleek and expansive it seemed, considering the fact it was the same size as all the other floors. The hallway was extra wide and the clean floor reflected the pale lights above. There were several doors that he could see leading into larger rooms, but he realized that he didn't know where Ryan was.

A woman with a clipboard and brown glasses with a modern shape had also gotten off the elevator on that floor. When Boyd stopped her to ask where Ryan Freedman was, other than a mildly strange look she gave him, she pointed him toward the second door on the right.

Boyd thanked her and headed toward the room where he paused just inside the door. The room was large and, like the rest of the floor, seemed expansive. The full length windows along the far wall provided ambient lighting and a clear view of the half-broken city beyond.

There were dozens of desks spread across the huge, open room, with small half-walls separating them, providing a sense of delineation while still allowing a person to look across the entire room from their seat or talk to their neighbor. Some of the desks seemed larger than the others and as Boyd's gaze scanned the room to look for Ryan's familiar shock of black hair, some people entered the room behind him.

"No," a man was insisting enthusiastically, "it was so great because--"

The abrupt way the words cut off and the vaguely familiar voice caused Boyd to look over.

Kaspar was staring at Boyd in surprise while a woman he'd been talking to stopped as well.

Kaspar's clothing would make him easily blend into a crowd. He wore a pale blue button-down short-sleeved shirt with a faint vertical grey stripe pattern on it. His faded dark blue jeans seemed somewhat ill-fitted and pooled at his feet over worn and chunky sneakers that were charcoal grey.

Yet the woman did anything but blend in.

She looked to be about Boyd's age, her hair straight with the occasional curl; it was long enough that it fell between her chin and shoulders, with full bangs cut straight across. Her hair was pitch black and streaked with deep red, and her eyes were a pale lavender that Boyd was almost certain was due to contacts.

She wore a black tanktop dominated by a distressed picture of a guitar, dangling black guitar pick earrings, a short purple and black plaid skirt, detached purple and black sleeves with the fingers cut out, and tall black boots that reached past her knees.

Before the moment could become awkward, Boyd smiled slightly. "Hello, Kaspar."

"Senior A--" Kaspar started to say but Boyd quirked his eyebrow just a hint and Kaspar stumbled in his words, changing it slightly shyly to, "Uh-- Boyd."

For some reason, Kaspar and the woman next to him exchanged a sidelong glance and she returned her gaze to Boyd, seeming very pleased.

"Um," Kaspar continued a little awkwardly. "What brings you here?"

"Lunch for Ryan," Boyd said, gesturing to the bag in his hand. "Do you know where his desk is?"

The woman raised her eyebrows; or at least, Boyd thought she did-- her bangs were so low that he couldn't fully see them. Her black-rimmed eyes focused on him intently, her voice nearly a purr. "Ryan Freedman? We know exactly where he is."

She smiled widely at Boyd and grabbed his arm suddenly, holding it against her side as she started to walk. Boyd saw Kaspar's eyes widen at the movement but he was being pulled across the room before he could see anything more. After a second, Kaspar padded after them.

"So can I call you Boyd, too?" she asked slyly, giving Boyd a sidelong look as she smiled with full lips that glittered with faint, pale blue-tinged lip gloss.

"I don't mind," Boyd said, looking at her sidelong.

Most people kept their distance from him yet she was being quite familiar right away. He could tell by the way she looked at him and the way she pressed his arm against her breast that she was attracted to him, which was an odd sensation only because he wasn't accustomed to that coming from a woman. Especially since it was well-known on compound that he was gay, her reaction was bemusing to him.

He decided not to comment on that and asked instead, "Do you work with Kaspar?"

"Sort of," she said, weaving Boyd around a few desks and smirking smugly at the few people who looked up, startled, and stared after them. "I'm Level 6, but we're in the same field so we collaborate sometimes. I'm Callie, by the way."

"Nice to meet you," Boyd said automatically and her grin only widened.

"The pleasure's all mine," she said in a low, smooth tone and jerked him to an abrupt halt. "Here we are," she announced cheerfully and Boyd looked over to see Ryan sitting at a huge desk that was completely covered in papers and folders that nearly buried his computer.

His space seemed to be one of four large areas in the room but his was the most secluded and was situated in the far corner near the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. No one else was at the desks around him, making him almost seem like he was in his own little island.

Ryan looked up with barely concealed surprise. "Boyd! What are you doing here?"

Boyd held up the plastic bag, eyebrows raised slightly. "I brought you lunch," he said, ignoring the way Callie and Kaspar hovered not that far in the background. "I have something for Owen, too, if he's around."

He glanced around, briefly searching for a desk that looked like it may be Owen's. He wasn't sure what that would translate to, but somehow he imagined Owen's desk to be as random and chaotic as the man was himself.

"Awesome! Thanks for going out of your way." Ryan sat up in his chair and looked around briefly before grabbing a spare chair that sat at a smaller adjoining desk that also seemed to be designated for Ryan. "You're going to stay and eat, right?"

"If you're not busy," Boyd agreed as he walked over to the chair. He noticed as he sat down that Callie and Kaspar were still watching him. When it became clear they weren't immediately going to leave, he said, "Thank you for your help."

Kaspar flashed that same shy grin from the library while Callie looked at once pleased and smug; she nodded and smiled slowly. "No problem." She turned abruptly and, grabbing Kaspar's arm, she started dragging him away much the same as she had dragged Boyd toward Ryan's desk.

Boyd watched them go, noting Kaspar looking back over his shoulder briefly before the two hunched toward each other and presumably started talking intensely. With a glance toward the other R&D agents in the vicinity, Boyd noted that many of the agents ignored the interaction entirely, some looked intrigued by Boyd's presence and eyed him appraisingly, while others seemed exasperated as they looked at Kaspar and Callie.

Returning his attention to Ryan, Boyd pulled out the To Go containers of food he'd gotten for himself and the drink and container he'd gotten for Owen, setting them on a cleared part of the desk, then handed the plastic bag to Ryan so he could get out his own food.

"You have interesting coworkers," he observed mildly.

"They're both a part of your fan club," Ryan said as he unloaded the bag onto his desk eagerly.

"What?" Boyd asked, giving Ryan an odd look. It took him a moment to vaguely remember something Ryan mentioned once about people liking Boyd or the idea of him with Sin or something like that, but that had been years ago and he'd never really taken it seriously. He'd forgotten about the conversation entirely until just now. "They actually exist?"

Ryan opened a container of baked zita and grinned at Boyd in appreciation. "I told you they did! You thought I made it up?"

"I don't know what I thought," Boyd said with a shrug as he pulled out a sandwich. "But even so, that was awhile ago and I've been out of public view for months at a time. I wouldn't have expected anyone to still care."

"Well," Ryan started around a mouth full of pasta and cheese. "There's Callie and Kaspar, obviously. Then there's Rita--" Ryan pointed to a black woman who appeared to be in her mid thirties and was dressed smartly in a pantsuit. She was writing something on a whiteboard.

"Then there's Wanda--" This time Ryan indicated a chubby, younger-looking girl with a head full of blue liberty spikes. "And Jacob."

Boyd looked at Jacob and saw a very tall, pale man with a black goatee and short hair. He was sitting on the edge of his desk and scrolling through a panel thoughtfully, both of his forearms entirely encased with tattoos.

With a feeling of bemusement, Boyd thoughtfully chewed a bite of his sandwich as he took in the collection of strangers who apparently were either pro-Boyd or pro-Boyd with Sin. It was a little odd to realize not only that such people existed but that they were such a hodge podge of people. With Callie, Wanda and Jacob on one end, then the put-together Rita and shy Kaspar... it made Boyd wonder what their personalities were like that they would even care.

Looking at Ryan again, Boyd took at drink from his water bottle before he asked curiously, "What are they like?"


"I don't give a fuck about your deadline, dude!" a female voice shouted loudly.

Ryan and Boyd looked up to see Wanda standing up and shouting at someone on the phone but from the non-reactions of the people around her, it apparently was not abnormal or surprising.

"Don't fucking rush me-- I don't care if you're team leader-- the info will get dealt with when I fucking deal with it so deal." Wanda slammed the phone down violently and sat down in her chair with a furious expression on her face, the buckles and chains on her wide legged pants jingling loudly.

"Um. Yes-- so, Wanda," Ryan started again around a mouthful, looking at Boyd with a grin and obviously waiting for a reaction.

Boyd couldn't help feeling amused, his eyes sparking and eyebrows raising slightly as his mouth stretched in a small smile. For some reason, it gave him a strange sense of satisfaction that someone who obviously had no problem saying it like it was, or perhaps just had a short temper, was part of this alleged fan club. Maybe because Boyd himself typically went by the rules so he found Wanda to be mildly intriguing.

"Is she always like that or just when told to hurry?" Boyd asked before he took another bite of his sandwich.

"Nah, she's always like that." Ryan dug into the bag and pulled out a container of sugar water masquerading as juice. "It's pretty awesome because most of us just kind of take crap from field agents just because we know we're support staff to an extent but she's like 'rawr, screw you-- without me you're nothing!' Which is also pretty true and I heart her for it."

Ryan glanced at Wanda again with a smile. "But yeah, she's a huge faghag. She loves the idea of you and Sin together, and it all started-- well she caught the attention from the rest of the fanclub because one day somebody made some lame comment about you two-- and this was like a couple of years ago-- and she was all like 'Yeah? So what if they're gay! They're so hot that they should be together! You're just jealous because you'll never be that hot!' and like, cursed the guy out."

"What?" Boyd asked, startled into a brief laugh.

The argument was so ridiculous to him that he could only feel bemused. It was bizarre to him that a complete stranger would care at all about any of it, but then, Boyd and Sin had always been high profile people and he knew there were plenty of people out there who had looked down on Boyd and even more on he and Sin being close. So maybe it wasn't so strange that there were a few people out there who would look at it as a good thing.

"So basically," Boyd summed it up, "she liked the idea of us together because she thinks we're hot?"

"Yeah. And Jacob is, as far as I know, not gay but he's pretty pro you guys too, probably just because he likes to go against the grain. He's our resident genius, by the way. He knows like-- everything, although it could also be because he has a photographic memory."

Boyd raised his eyebrows, mildly impressed. "I've never met anyone who actually has that. Where does he work?"

"He's hardcore cross-divisions," Ryan said, looking over at Jacob with a small frown as he unwrapped some garlic bread. "They work him like a dog because of that talent. It's too bad... we never get to talk much usually. I kind of have a teensy crush on him."

A half-smile pulled at Boyd's lips and he discreetly looked over at Jacob appraisingly. "I could see why; he's very attractive," he observed, gaze drawn to his tattoos. "It's hard to tell what his personality is like but he seems like he'd be pretty laid-back. Although, if he's not gay, is he bi or just very open-minded?"

"He's super open-minded," Ryan said with a smile, dragging his indigo eyes away from Jacob and reddening slightly. "I love when I get to talk to him. He's so smart and funny and he never gets judgmental or like, acts like I'm a kid. I even talked to him about Andrew a couple of times. But I'm not sure what he is though-- he never talks about it. I know he's single but he doesn't say anything about who he finds attractive."

Boyd nodded, watching Ryan with a slight smile before he finished his sandwich and opened the bag of chips he'd grabbed as well. "Well, if he's open-minded enough to support gay relationships then that's promising, in a way. Maybe with enough time you'll get the chance to find out what he's into."

"He's too hot for me," Ryan said blandly with a shrug. "I give up on the idea in advance."

Boyd laughed. "That's not true."

Ryan screwed up his face and shook his head back and forth but didn't say anything more on the topic, instead switching back to the 'fan club'. "Next up is Callie-- AKA Calliope-Joan, which she hates, resident musician and hot girl who thinks she can convert you to bisexuality. She's also Captain Chase's niece."

Boyd raised his eyebrows, briefly looking over at Callie again. She was sitting on the edge of a desk, kicking her feet and talking to a tall man with dark skin and a brilliant white smile.

Of all the people he'd met at the Agency, Callie did not fit the picture he would have imagined being related to Morgan Chase. Morgan seemed so serious and by-the-book, and Callie... well, Callie did not.

"She is?" he asked in surprise.

"Yeah. I don't think Morgan like, got her the job or anything. As far as I know it's coincidental. They don't even act close or anything," Ryan replied with a shrug.

"Does Morgan's sister or brother work here too?" Boyd asked, looking at Ryan again.

"Nope, both of Callie's parents are dead. I never really talk about the details with her or anything, though."

"Oh," Boyd said, not really knowing what else to say to that.

Ryan switched his gaze to Rita, who was still standing at the whiteboard but appeared to be glancing in their direction every now and again although her expression was mostly neutral. "Rita is actually funny. She's pretty traditional Christian and isn't exactly down with the gayness but when you first arrived on the compound she thought you were the cutest thing and wanted to protect you from big bad Hsin."

"Really," Boyd said, mildly intrigued. He wasn't expecting someone with that mindset to be included in the group of people. "What did she think about the rumors or me being fine with Sin, then?"

"She thinks he corrupted you," Ryan said with a smile, sauce staining his teeth as he snickered at the idea. "But she still loves you. She was sad when you came back with shorter hair."

It was quite strange but mildly amusing to hear what people thought about him from the outside. He hadn't thought anyone would have cared about his hair but he smiled slightly at that.

"I'm sure she'll be happy to know that unless another mission dictates, I'll probably be keeping it long," Boyd said with a shrug, sitting back in his chair a little more comfortably and eating a few chips. His eyebrows drew down slightly, thoughtfully. "I don't like it short for some reason... There's nothing to hide behind if I need to and I can't pull it back."

"I like it long too," Ryan said agreeably. "Although I can't decide what opinion I have on Hsin's hair. Is he just too lazy to cut it? I've never seen it this long before."

"We actually did talk about that once," Boyd said, popping another chip in his mouth and chewing it thoughtfully. "He just said he hadn't thought about it." He smirked slightly in amusement. "And when I asked if he liked it or was planning to keep it that way, he said he didn't know."

"Typical Hsin," Ryan said with a snort, wiping his hands on a napkin. "I think Ivan prefers it long, though. Maybe that will influence him."

The comment made something twist abruptly, uncomfortably in Boyd, but he kept his expression the same as it had been. It had been over a month since Ryan had proposed the idea of Sin dating Ivan, and Boyd knew that the two had hung out at some point because Sin had mentioned it in passing.

"Do you think? I heard they hung out," he commented, briefly looking down at his bag of chips as he poured out the last few broken bits at the bottom. "I haven't heard anything else."

"Really?" Ryan stopped eating and looked at Boyd with surprise. "He hasn't said much more than that?"

"No," Boyd said slowly, watching Ryan somewhat oddly. "Why?"

The other man shrugged and scratched the back of his head. "Well, I guess I don't see why he'd broadcast it to you anyway, though. It'd be odd if he randomly started telling his ex-boyfriend about his sex life. Hsin never struck me as the type to really talk too much about his sex life with anyone, really."

Boyd's stomach clenched and he stared at Ryan for a second before forcing himself to echo calmly, "Sex life?"

"Well I called Ivan last night to ask about some work stuff," Ryan said, glancing at his monitor and pausing briefly as he clicked something and read an e-mail. "Uh-- and he said that he'd call me back because Hsin was about to leave. I called back and asked how they were getting along since I guess they started talking about a month ago but in the last couple of weeks Ivan had mentioned they'd been getting along very well-- and he told me they'd slept together."

Boyd remained silent for a breath, trying to hold back his thoughts, trying to gather the facts first. Even so, his hand almost absently tightened a little on the empty chip bag, but he did his best to seem normal to Ryan. "Have they been seeing each other a lot?"

"I'm not sure, really," Ryan replied, his gaze still distracted by the computer screen, a slight frown on his face. "I know they've spent some time together but this is the first I've heard of anything sexual-- I mean Ivan told Hsin that he liked him as more than just a buddy pretty much right off the bat but he also said he wasn't trying to push Hsin into some sexual thing and that he mainly just wanted to spend time with him."

Boyd felt that quiet collection of feelings grow-- resentment, jealousy, hurt, irritation with himself-- but he tried to ignore it. Even so, it somehow made it worse to know Ivan had said that and they'd still had sex... because then it made it seem like Sin had gone more out of his way since he could have continued the friendship without sex.

And even thinking of Sin running his hands along Ivan, of fucking him, made the feelings grow stronger briefly before Boyd stifled them.

Yet even as he thought about it, he had to consider it in terms of his own experience with Kassian... it could have been the same thing. Maybe Sin and Ivan were attracted to each other and one day the two of them had been horny and they'd just decided to have sex. That was more understandable to him.

He couldn't be upset with Sin for having sex with anyone when Boyd continued to occasionally have sex with Kassian. More than anything, what bothered him was the fear that feelings were, or would become, involved with Sin and Ivan. Because for Boyd, he and Kassian felt nothing for each other other than friendship and purely physical attraction.

"So... Last night was the first time?" Boyd asked, distantly wondering if he was a masochist for asking all these questions, while at the same time he felt like if he didn't then he would just come up with conclusions on his own that would probably be untrue.

"Yeah, that's what he said," Ryan replied with a nod, turning back to his food.

And with that simple comment, Boyd felt discomfort grow sharply within him. He didn't want to immediately analyze why-- he made himself ask first, "If they were attracted to each other, if Ivan told him that right away... why did they wait?"

"Ivan just said like-- he didn't really want to hang out with Sin for that. He said he wasn't trying to make it all about sex." Ryan finished his ziti and dropped his plastic fork in the container, rubbing his stomach slowly.

Boyd had to look down, fingers curling against the empty bag as something sharp moved through him. He couldn't help comparing that to his own relationship with Sin-- couldn't help feeling at once pained and doubtful...

Sin and he had never really spent much time together; they still barely knew each other in ways. It had never been normal between them, had never involved focusing on that. As soon as they'd acknowledged their mutual attraction, they'd immediately started having sex-- frantic, hungry sex that had overshadowed everything else. That had become all that there was between them.

And even as he felt self-doubt, wondering if that was something he'd done wrong himself, wondering if Sin liked it more Ivan's way, if Sin was more comfortable with that-- At the same time, he couldn't help feeling thrown off that Sin was okay with it all.

That after all those times of insisting Boyd was crazy to think Sin could ever bring himself to tolerate anyone, of making it seem like Boyd was an idiot for even suggesting the idea-- it certainly hadn't taken Sin long to find someone he liked to hang around with, someone he also coincidentally wanted to fuck.

It was frustrating to know that within a few weeks, Ivan was achieving things Boyd couldn't in years... That Ivan was sliding his way into Sin's life and so easily doing the things Boyd and Sin had gone through hell to conclude-- the stupidly simple idea of actually saying what they felt.

He and Sin had never really discussed their feelings; they'd basically gone from acknowledging attraction straight to having sex and had never taken the time to make it clear between them what they felt or wanted. It made Boyd feel like there was something wrong with himself even as, hurtfully, it underscored his quiet fear that maybe there had been someone out there all along who was better for Sin.

Boyd realized he had been silent a beat too long and he nodded even as he crinkled the bag up and slid it into the plastic bag to throw away later. It occurred to him that it was still possible that sex would change everything for Ivan and Sin the way it had with Boyd, but even as he thought that, he somehow doubted it. Not if they'd taken the time to get to know each other first; not if they hadn't made it only about sex.

Not if, maybe, Sin liked Ivan more.

Even so, he found himself asking, "Was it still... comfortable between them when Sin left?"

Ryan shrugged but his face reddened slightly and he absently pushed some of his unruly hair off his forehand. "I guess. Ivan seemed to be in a good mood. He... said it was um... yeah."

"What?" Boyd was unable to stop himself from asking as he watched Ryan. He purposefully kept his expression as calm as it had been before and forced the hint of tension he'd had in his shoulders to relax.

Ryan began to fidget, as uncomfortable as ever to talk about sex. "He seemed... happy and impressed with how stuff went."

"Impressed..." Boyd echoed, staring at Ryan briefly before he added a curious tone when he asked, "What do you mean?"

"I dunno." Ryan gave one of his big shrugs and appeared embarrassed. "Well, he didn't go into specifics or anything but he did say that Hsin was an incredibly intense person in every possible way."

Boyd didn't even want to think about how that made him feel, especially since he'd brought it on himself by continuing to ask questions. He nodded and was just trying to figure out something to say to get it off this topic when he realized Kaspar was heading toward them from across the room, looking hesitant and a little shy but undeterred.

Boyd looked at him fully, feeling a strange sense of gratitude to the man for inadvertently interrupting an otherwise increasingly uncomfortable conversation.

"Hey Ryan, um, Boyd," Kaspar said almost nervously, eyes darting between the two of them somewhat questioningly when he saw Ryan's expression. "Uh, I'm sorry to interrupt?"

"No, it's fine," Boyd said with a shake of his head, meeting Kaspar's eyes steadily. "Is something wrong?"

"Wrong?" Kaspar asked, eyebrows drawing down even as he fidgeted absently with the hem of his shirt. "No, it's just... earlier, I wasn't eavesdropping-- Well, I mean I guess I was? But I didn't mean to. Anyway when we brought you to Ryan, you said you were looking for Owen, right?"

"Oh." Boyd had completely forgotten about that in the wake of the new information. "Yes, I was. Is he here?"

"No but he just called Terry," Kaspar glanced at Ryan to include him in the conversation, "and Callie and I were by him so we told Terry to tell him you had some food for him or something and what should you do with it. Terry made me listen to his answer because he said Owen was being too cracked out. So Owen said to tell you to put it in his little fridge and also--"

Kaspar seemed to be diligently reciting this from memory as his gaze tilted up to the side in concentration. "That it didn't matter what you got him, he's decided you're his favorite today and you're invited to his parties any time even though he doesn't plan to have any but you can come anyway, and..."

His eyebrows drew down slightly as he seemed to be seriously trying to remember the rest. The fidgeting increased before he brightened. He rambled the rest off quickly, which made it end up seeming especially like it was coming straight from Owen.

"And he'll be back in an hour so he hopes whatever you got won't poison and kill him but if it does he wants you to tell Carhart so he doesn't posthumously get the smackdown and, PS, he hopes it's coffee because he's running low on steam."

Kaspar stopped and took a deep breath, watching Boyd almost uncertainly.

Boyd stared at him, not sure whether he was amused that the man had apparently taken the task so seriously that he'd remembered Owen's rambling word for word, or bewildered as to why Kaspar hadn't just summed up that insanity with, 'Put it in the fridge and Owen says thanks.'

"Thank you," Boyd said amiably. "I'll do that."

Ryan looked at his computer screen and seemed to be studiously trying not to laugh.

"Okay, great," Kaspar said brightly, either not noticing Ryan's reaction or not finding it odd. He smiled at Boyd, twisting the hem of his shirt briefly before abruptly seemed to notice he was doing that and shoved his hands in his pockets instead. "Um... Do you want me to tell him anything in return?"

Ryan took a deep gulp of his drink, turning away slightly as if he couldn't bear to look at Kaspar anymore.

Boyd kept his gaze firmly on Kaspar even as he was increasingly intrigued as to what Ryan was finding to be so hilarious about this. "No, it's fine; I'm sure he'll find it," he replied easily, tilting his head and studying Kaspar. "Although... I don't know where his desk is. Could you show me on the way out?"

Kaspar straightened and nodded immediately. "Yeah, no problem! You walked right past it before-- well, sort of, I mean we were in the vicinity since he's a lot closer to the door, but... Well, obviously you wouldn't have known that. Not that I'm saying you're stupid for going past it or anything, or that you thought I was saying that..." He seemed to realize he was rambling and he drew his hands out of his pockets to fidget again.

Taking pity on Kaspar, Boyd smiled slightly and leaned back in his chair. "Thanks." He almost glanced toward Ryan but could tell that his friend was still struggling to contain himself so he decided to ask Kaspar something he was curious about instead. "Does Jeffrey Styles have a desk in here too?"

Kaspar stared at Boyd blankly for a moment. "Who?"

"He's an analyst in my unit," Boyd explained, eyebrows drawn down slightly.

"Ohh, Buttrey!" Kaspar said enthusiastically then suddenly stopped and looked highly embarrassed.

"What?" Boyd stared at Kaspar, almost incredulous.

Kaspar was starting to look mortified and couldn't seem to bring himself to meet Boyd's eyes. "He-- Owen," he started out saying in a normal voice but it started fading as he spoke until he ended in a mumble. "He talked about an analyst in your unit and used to call him Buttface but then he said Buttrey rhymed better..."

Boyd's eyebrows rose and he couldn't help a faint smirk of amusement. He didn't know if he was more entertained by the idea of Owen calling Jeffrey that in front of other people and what Jeffrey would say if he found out, or that Kaspar remembered that entire, ridiculous monologue of Owen's but had forgotten Jeffrey's real name.

"You probably shouldn't go around telling that to people," Ryan said, finally looking at Kaspar and seeming to have controlled his mirth. "Jeffrey would get super pissed."

Kaspar looked between them, not seeming to know how to interpret their reactions. "Sorry... I didn't-- I mean, I wouldn't normally..." He trailed off then sighed and straightened his back.

"I won't. Anyway," he said more seriously, looking over at Boyd. "Analysts have a whole floor below us so you'd have to go there to see him. I can show you that, too, or Ryan could..." He glanced toward Ryan questioningly, with a look like he didn't want to overstep his bounds.

"I'm too busy," Ryan said, appearing confused by Kaspar's expression. "So... feel free!"

"I can't today," Boyd said before Kaspar could reply. "I have to get to training pretty soon. I was just curious."

Kaspar nodded, although disappoint darkened his hazel eyes. His shoulders actually slumped and his fidgeting stilled even as his eyebrows drew together briefly. "Okay, well..." He glanced around Boyd, as if he couldn't quite bring himself to meet Boyd's eyes, then frowned distractedly. "If you ever need help or want a tour next time you're around, just let me know. I actually know the Analyst floor pretty well 'cause my mom's there now."

Boyd nodded, mildly curious about what that area would look like although he didn't know if he cared enough to ever actually get a tour. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

Kaspar looked between the two of them again then suddenly looked over his shoulder; that made Boyd glance over as well and notice that Callie was watching them impatiently. Kaspar's frown deepened before he took a step back. "Okay... Uh. You know, actually, I could even put that in his fridge for you... If you're busy and don't want to take the extra time?"

Boyd shrugged, not particularly caring either way. He started to grab the container but then paused, wondering for a moment whether he should leave Owen a note to point out that this came from the cafe, but then decided against it.

Owen had seemed to think the food in the cafe would be better than the cafeteria so Boyd decided to see if Owen would comment on the superiority of the cornbread on his own or if he wouldn't know the difference. Boyd suspected the latter since he figured they were the exact same thing.

Boyd handed the food and drink to Kaspar. "That's fine. Thank you."

Kaspar smiled hesitantly. "I'll do that right now."

Boyd nodded and watched as Kaspar abruptly turned and strode away, apparently deciding to leave before he could start rambling further. Callie watched Boyd closely for a long moment before she turned her attention to Kaspar and Boyd looked over at Ryan.

"What was so funny?"

"He's just dumb sometimes," Ryan replied, his attention fully on the monitor now as his fingers flew over the keyboard. Sometime during the course of Kaspar talking, Ryan had once again returned to his work. "I thought he'd realized that Owen tells him to repeat stuff like that just to mess with him. Kaspar has this habit of like, memorizing quotes and random stuff and O gets a kick out of it."

"Ahh," Boyd said with a nod; he could see Owen doing that. He watched Ryan for a moment then shoved the empty food containers into the plastic bag. "You probably need to get back to work and I should go soon."

"But I wasn't finished telling you yet!" Ryan protested with a frown although his eyes remained on his computer, a furrow between his brows as he ran into some kind of difficulty or annoyance. "And--"

"Don't get on my case, Bree! I'm tired of these fucking fieldies whipping their cocks out every time they feel the need to act like big shots and I'm not takin' their shit!"

Wanda's voice rang out in the room and the two of them looked over again. The stout girl was standing up with her fists on her hips, glaring at a woman with pixie-styled blond hair and tinted, square-rimmed glasses.

Boyd remembered Ryan mentioning Bree in the past and he had to admit that the woman across the room wasn't what he'd expected for the R&D supervisor. Bree was wearing pink high top sneakers with green jeans and a faded vest with a skull on the back of it. She replied to Wanda but Ryan's desk was too far for it to be heard over the din of other conversation and the hum of computers.

"Awesome," Ryan said, sitting up straight and waving his hand at Bree to get her attention. "I've been trying to get ahold of her all day. Wanda did me a favor by getting another complaint against her."

Bree glanced over at Ryan with an arched eyebrow before waving a dismissive hand at Wanda and making her way to Ryan's corner. As she moved closer, Boyd saw that she was actually in her early forties even though she gave off a more youthful air.

"'Sup, Ry-Ry." Bree said, stopping by the desk and glancing briefly at Boyd before returning her gaze to Ryan. She had very light green eyes and petite elfin-like features. There was a rope necklace dangling from her neck with a rainbow pendant on it.

Boyd's gaze lingered briefly on the necklace; there was no doubt in his mind that she wasn't wearing that just because she thought it was pretty. Bree was the first openly gay woman he'd seen at the Agency and he found that to be rather interesting. Then again, from what he'd seen so far, many of the R&D staff seemed unique and unafraid to show their differences. He had to admit that, in a way, he found that to be refreshing.

"Can you talk to General Carhart for me?" Ryan asked, his voice completely serious now that he was speaking to his supervisor. "He's talking about putting me on downtime because of that Janus node in Oahu."

"You mean the non-Janus node in Oahu," Bree replied easily, crossing her arms over her slight chest and peering down at Ryan through her purple-tinted glasses.

"It was there! My contact was reliable!" Ryan exclaimed, obviously frustrated. "It's like they cleared out as soon as I passed over the intel! I don't know how-- but it's like-- like they somehow found out I got wind of it!"

Bree studied Ryan for a moment before shrugging. "Maybe. And maybe you just need some rest. You've got a lot on your plate, Ry. Maybe too much, too soon."

Ryan's dark eyebrows drew together and something very close to anger clouded his expression as his lips pursed and he looked to the side briefly. "My work load is a third smaller than it used to be. This is nothing..."

"You're a sick kid, Ry. Your health isn't what it used to be. Maybe you're just tired." Bree shrugged and reached up to adjust her glasses with a low sigh. "I'll talk to Zachary, though. I can't spare you right now, anyway. Well-- I'll try to. Trying to talk to him lately is like trying to talk to Jesus. I never get an answer."

"I'd appreciate it," Ryan muttered, still not looking very happy.

"Uh huh." Bree stared at him a moment longer before finally looking at Boyd. "What're you doing here?"

"Ryan was busy so I stopped by with lunch," Boyd said, tilting his head toward the empty To Go containers. He didn't know if for some reason Ryan could get in trouble for eating on the job when he was so busy but Bree didn't seem like she would care and the containers were pretty obvious. "But I know he has work to do so I was about to go."

Bree nodded, peering at Boyd through her glasses before shrugging. "Okay. I'll walk with you out."

Boyd glanced briefly at Ryan, who just looked mad, then nodded and grabbed his things as he stood. "I'll see you later, Ryan."

Ryan nodded faintly, moodily clicking his mouse. "I'll call you later..."

Bree looked down at her employee again and shrugged before turning to head toward the door. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes and toyed with it idly as Boyd followed. She didn't speak to him until they were out in the hall and even then, she only did after giving him another long stare.

"So you're the sexy devil that's got some of my people all aflutter."

Boyd was mildly caught off-guard by the comment but he just met her gaze steadily. "I don't know about that but I do apologize if I interrupted any work schedules."

Bree gave him an arch look and sauntered towards the elevator bank, removing a long skinny cigarette and flipping it between her fingers. "I know my staff. Between Kaspar acting like a spaz and Callie tramping up the place trying to get your attention, I don't know what to do with them. Maybe I ought to just recommend termination for the whole lot since they can't even maintain concentration around cute boys. What good are they, right?"

Boyd shrugged, not really knowing what to say to that as he ended up walking with her. He paused briefly to throw the plastic bag into a garbage near the end of the hallway.

"Good," Bree went on, nodding. "I'll inform Marshal Viv that her boy concurs with my decision."

Boyd looked at her sidelong and quirked an eyebrow. He hadn't heard anyone call his mother 'Viv' since his father had died; but then, Bree seemed to have a thing for nicknames.

"I imagine their necessary skills for R&D range a little wider than keeping their head straight in front of someone they find attractive," he said mildly. "But if that's really the only requirement then I think she may agree. Personally, I'd say give them another chance and ban me from the area for being distracting."

"Nah. I secretly want them dead, anyway. You give me a good excuse." Bree jabbed her finger against the down button and looked at Boyd with a smirk. "I hope you realize I'm not being serious. I can never tell with you blond types."

"You would be an incredibly odd supervisor if you were serious," Boyd said with a slight smirk. He watched Bree thoughtfully; she was a curious person but somehow she really seemed to fit as someone he could see successfully managing the interesting group of personalities that seemed to come from R&D. "What do you mean, anyway? You're blond too."

Bree winked at him as the elevator finally arrived. "Exactly. And I know how dense I can be sometimes. For all I know you were sitting there taking me seriously and planned to go crying to Zachary about how I wanted to kill off Ryan and all of your new friends."

Boyd shook his head to himself, mildly amused. "The only person I'd expect to actually recommend termination for something small like that would be my mother, and I'm fairly certain even she would think twice. So, feel free to threaten your staff in my vicinity all you'd like; I promise I won't tell."

Bree smiled at him and glanced at the elevator when it arrived. They both boarded and she looked over at him again, this time curiously. "So how's Zachface these days, anyway?"

"I'll only answer if you tell me what nickname you're going to come up with for me as soon as I walk away," Boyd said, raising an eyebrow.

"Butt Boyd?" For someone that was nearly twice his age, Bree had a very immature sense of humor.

"I hope that's not your final answer," Boyd said evenly, looking at her mock-seriously with raised eyebrows.

"We'll see," Bree said with a grin.

Boyd shook his head to himself and leaned against the wall idly, crossing his arms. "Do you know General Carhart well?"

"Mmmm." Bree considered the question, studying Boyd for a moment as if deciding whether or not it would hurt to respond truthfully. "We used to be close like twenty years ago but then Emilio pretended to die and Zachary got all emo and serious and it wasn't the same, especially after he became top General in charge of everything under the moon."

The information was mildly intriguing to Boyd, and a little odd just because it was strange to imagine Carhart twenty years ago, closer to Boyd's age now. Imagining Carhart's entire generation as his age was odd in general; some of them, like Bree and Emilio, seemed immature enough in their forties that it was difficult to imagine them in their early twenties.

If Boyd lived long enough to even just reach their age, he wondered what people would assume he had been like now.

Still, if she'd been Carhart's friend then she deserved a more serious answer. He shrugged with one shoulder. "He was extremely stressed for awhile but after Emilio's existence was basically made public, he seems to have relaxed a little. He's still General Carhart whenever I'm around him, though, so I don't know what he's like around his friends."

Bree arched an eyebrow at Boyd as the elevator finally reached the ground floor. "Now that Emilio's back, I highly doubt Zachary will pay attention to any other friends," she said knowingly.

They got off the elevator and Bree stuck the cigarette between her lips. "It was good to finally meet you, Double B."

"It was nice to meet you, too," Boyd said, then smirked at her briefly and crossed his arms. "That one's much better, by the way. I may even answer to it if you yell it in a crowded room."

"Good, 'cause I most certainly will next time we cross paths." Bree grinned at him and waved before turning and walking away.

Boyd turned and headed toward the training room to meet up with Doug. They had been using one of the smaller, private rooms attached to the main space. Typically, David had used those for one-on-one instructions and Doug was using the space for the Level 10 continuation training.

As Boyd headed into their designated area, he idly wondered if Jon would be back from the extended mission he was on yet or if it would be another delightful day of training with Doug alone. He was in the main training room and was about to enter the private room when David appeared at his side and slapped him hard on the back.

"Way to not be late for once, slacker," David said cheerfully, putting his arm around Boyd's shoulders and nearly tugging him off balance.

David's ecstatic high of being able to return to work still hadn't worn off and Boyd was beginning to wonder if it ever would. David seemed to be embracing life even more fully after he was nearly killed during the raid. He'd even mentioned the other day that he and Aolani were thinking about having another kid.

Boyd rolled his eyes. "I was late once," he said in a long-suffering tone. "If you hold grudges this long, I pity Lani if she ever showed up a few minutes late to a date even years ago."

"She did and I do." David grinned widely, unabashed. "And I'll lord it over her for the rest of her natural-born life." He dropped his arm from Boyd in favor of holding his hand to his chin as he looked up to the side with a serious expression. "I remember it well. It was a summer day, the wind was warm; it was 92 degrees but it felt like 98..."

"Shut up," Boyd said with a laugh, shaking his head to himself as he turned toward the private room.

David started to follow him and Boyd gave him an odd look, since David wasn't scheduled to help with training today. Because Doug was in charge of high level promotional training, David was typically involved only when Doug wasn't available for combat training.

"I have to ask the illustrious Ferguson about something," David explained with a shrug. "I got a batch of pretty shitty rookies over the weekend and he had some suggestions for one of them."

"Ah," Boyd said in understanding.

When he walked in, he saw that Doug was already there and, somewhat surprisingly, Emilio was as well. Emilio was shirtless, wearing only a pair of shorts, and was covered in sweat. It was the first time Boyd had seen so much of Emilio's body since the man had always been completely covered up in Mexico.

Although Emilio and Sin were nearly clones in facial features, Emilio's body type was much more reminiscent of Kassian's; he was well-built and muscular, causing Boyd to subconsciously give a brief, discreet once-over of the man. Every time he was presented with obvious differences between Emilio and Sin, it was impossible for him not to take notice.

With much of Emilio's body bared, Boyd could see now that the ornate design on Emilio's forearm wasn't the only tattoo the man had; among others, there were also the numbers 1 and 3 tattooed on his front shoulders.

Emilio was laughing loudly and, oddly enough, Doug looked relaxed as he smirked at Emilio. There was nothing of the sour, mocking expression Boyd had become accustomed to seeing on Doug's face; he looked much more normal and approachable now.

Boyd paused briefly in the doorway, eyebrows raised; David shoved him lightly and Boyd looked over. "They're actually taking the time to train him again?" he asked dubiously.

David shrugged. "Marshal's orders. Treat him like any other trainee."

Although Boyd couldn't imagine that Emilio actually needed to be trained in fighting-- after all, he'd trained Sin-- it didn't really matter if that was the order sent down from above.

Boyd pulled off the light, long-sleeved shirt that he'd worn and tossed it to the side of the room, leaving himself in one of his workout outfits of a simple t-shirt and loose pants. He headed toward the other three.

Doug's expression almost immediately turned to distaste as he caught sight of Boyd and he grimaced as if it was difficult for him to be in his presence.

"Hey, blondie," Emilio greeted, still snickering from whatever he and Doug had been talking about.

"Hi," Boyd said, wondering what it was with people and nicknames today. He glanced between Doug and Emilio as David hovered near them. "So are we training together from now on?"

"When it's convenient," Doug replied shortly before looking at David with a questioning raise of one thick eyebrow.

As David and Doug walked a short distance away to discuss whatever David wanted to ask about, Emilio gave Boyd an idle once over. "You're lookin' good, boy."

Boyd raised an eyebrow slightly at Emilio and crossed his arms. "Thanks, I suppose."

Emilio smirked, stretching his arms over his head and arching his back until it cracked loudly before standing up straight and bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You were so fucking frail down in Mexico that I thought my boy was gonna snap you in two with all of that ass pounding."

Boyd stared at Emilio blankly, wishing once again that the man had never seen any of that. Especially since Emilio was apparently not the type to just let it drop. "I've been working out a lot more and I've been trying to build more muscle," he said calmly rather than commenting on the rest.

"It suits you." Emilio added with a smirk, "Maybe my son will come begging you to take him back now that you're all hot stud blanquito. What do you think? Maybe we should make a bet on it."

"I think I'll pass." Boyd took a few steps back to give himself more room to start stretching so he would be ready when Doug was.

Emilio tsked and watched Boyd, his green eyes narrowed as though he were trying to figure out what ridiculous thing to say next but instead he asked, "So how's my boy?"

"He's alright last I knew," Boyd replied, stretching an arm over his head then holding his elbow and pulling down. "I don't see him much lately. I have training and he's also been spending some time with a new friend." He switched arms to stretch the other side.

Emilio made a skeptical face, one eyebrow arching high as his mouth twisted. "My son? A friend? Surely you jest."

"It's true," Boyd said, standing up straight and stretching his arms straight above his head. He watched Emilio, not knowing why he was even mentioning Ivan except for some reason it seemed like Emilio should know that Sin had changed. "I guess they get along pretty well."

"Who is this alleged friend?" Emilio demanded suspiciously as if he couldn't believe that such a person actually existed.

Boyd paused and rolled his shoulders, eyeing Emilio somewhat dubiously as something occurred to him and he wondered if maybe he shouldn't have said anything after all. He wasn't quite sure how to predict Emilio yet and if the man had trailed Boyd and Sin in Monterrey to the point of watching them having sex, he wondered what Emilio would do with Ivan.

"You aren't going to interfere, cause trouble, or somehow snoop around where you shouldn't if I tell you, are you?"

Emilio smirked at Boyd, not even trying to hide the fact that he looked a cross between mischievous and devious as his pale green eyes twinkled wickedly. "Who, me? Naw."

"That's what I thought," Boyd said under his breath as he started to stretch his calves. "Just take my word on it for now and let him do his thing. I just thought you may want to know he's not quite as isolated as he was before."

And he realized as he was talking to Emilio that it was the truth.

For some reason, it was easier to think about Ivan when he was in Emilio's presence. Talking to Emilio made him think even more about how important it was for Sin to connect and how good it was that Sin had.

It was as though telling Sin's father about the progression cemented it in Boyd's mind, gave him the chance to look at it as Sin growing comfortable around other people and not as Sin moving on. Although Boyd still couldn't help feeling that way on some level, he just reminded himself of how it was with he and Kassian. And somehow, with Emilio standing there, that thought had even more validity than before. Although even that couldn't quell the feelings that still brewed in the distance.

"Huh." Emilio eyeballed Boyd with a scowl. "Well, I'll find out on my own. I got sources, you know. I don't need the likes of you."

"I know you do." Boyd looked over at Emilio and raised his eyebrows more seriously. "Don't fuck it up for him just to sate your curiosity, though. Even though he's found someone to spend time with it may not mean it's completely easy for him and the last thing he needs is more complications when he's trying to make connections with people."

Emilio rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why does everyone always assume the worst about me? I'm a perfectly upstanding but also awesome guy. I just want to check out this new 'friend.'"

Boyd gave Emilio an unimpressed look, although there was no bite in his tone when he spoke. "Maybe if you hadn't been such a freak in Mexico I wouldn't have to worry about you and your 'checking out' of anyone related to Sin. But you were and you told me so now I know to expect you to do odd things."

"Well, you shouldn't call people names," Emilio countered, giving Boyd a mock-disapproving look. "Didn't they teach you anything in level 10 boot camp?"

"What the fuck're ya on about now," Doug drawled, finally returning to them as David nodded at Boyd before leaving the room.

Emilio grinned at Doug wickedly. "I was just telling Boyd what you were just telling me. You know." He waggled his eyebrows dramatically, leering at the Instructor.

Doug just shrugged, uncaring, not knowing that Emilio was lying. "Don't matter to me one way or the other. He wouldn't be interested, anyway. She ain't his type."

Boyd didn't reply to the comment, since he didn't know exactly what they were talking about and he knew Doug would probably just mock him regardless of what he said about it.

"I dunno," Emilio replied, watching as Boyd continued to stretch. "Those pictures are pretty tasty. I didn't know you were creative enough to get such good camera angles, Douglas."

Doug just smirked at Emilio before turning to Boyd. "You ready?"

Boyd nodded and stood up straight, not taking much time to focus on the interaction. He moved closer and focused entirely on the training.

Today, Doug was teaching Boyd new material that he had Boyd try out by sparring with Emilio. Doug explained the moves in detail but each time, Boyd couldn't quite seem to get it right, which didn't help Doug's attitude. This happened a few times before Emilio broke in, explaining it a different way that seemed far less complicated and a lot more understandable to Boyd.

He didn't know why, but every time Doug explained what he wanted Boyd to do, it was just confusing enough that Boyd couldn't seem to do it right, and every time Emilio drawled his own explanation, it made complete sense and Boyd got it immediately. Doug didn't seem to be doing it on purpose but it did seem like Emilio, surprisingly enough, was better able to connect with the way Boyd thought and could explain it in a way that was easy for Boyd to grasp.

This went on for awhile before finally Doug stopped them in exasperation, turning to Emilio with unconcealed irritation.

"Who's the fucking instructor here? Me or you?"

Emilio shrugged his broad shoulders and looked at Doug with a raised eyebrow. "You talk like a fuckin' textbook, bro. Half the terms you're using is shit he don't know."

Doug scoffed and crossed his arms over his blue sleeveless shirt, making a face at Emilio. "It ain't my fault he's clueless. If he can't follow along, he can't follow along. Maybe they shouldn't have promoted some dumb fuck who coasted through 10 levels and lacks a lot of initial training, huh?"

"You're probably right," Emilio said agreeably. "But that wasn't his choice so quit busting his balls over it and be straight up."

Boyd looked over at Emilio, mildly surprised to find the man defending him in any manner.

"Why don't you shut the hell up and mind your business, anyway?" Doug demanded, although there was no real anger in his voice. He seemed relatively unsurprised by Emilio and his behavior. "You're supposed to listen to what I say these days, y'know."

"Ha!" Emilio pointed at Doug and threw his head back with a loud laugh before straightening. "Never. I'm probably the one who should be doing the training, anyways."

This time some indignation made its way into Doug's expression and he demanded, "And what the fuck's that supposed to mean, huh?"

"Well." Emilio smirked, green eyes narrowed slightly as he gave Doug a haughty stare. "I mean not for nothin' but-- I trained the best killer this place has to offer. Your people can't even face off against him in ten to one odds."

Doug opened his mouth to reply, scowled, hesitated, and glared at Emilio. "Well I trained Kassian and he's the best agent we've got."

"Oh ho ho, you trained Kassian! Big fucking deal, bro. My boy could probably whip his ass with both arms tied behind his back," Emilio retorted stubbornly even though he likely didn't even know Kassian or anything about him.

Boyd raised his eyebrows slightly on the sidelines, bemused by how this had become a competition, and how Doug and Emilio had turned to using Sin and Kassian as if they were bulletpoints on a resumé.

Doug exhaled loudly, his breath stirring the unruly black cowlicks that dominated his head as his ice blue eyes rolled. "Well, that's amazing for you but that don't change the fact that you're retraining and I'm--"

"You're what?" Emilio demanded, cutting him off and leaning forward. "What? Training me? Don't make me die fucking laughing. What are you gonna train me about? What?"


"I'm serious! Tell me!" Emilio demanded, pointing his finger directly in Doug's face now as he repeated the question. "What're you gonna teach me?"


"How to not comb my hair for days? How to smoke cigars and fuck up my pearly whites?"

Doug stared at Emilio blandly, unimpressed by the display. "Just--"

"How to hop like a kangaroo under the hot Australian sun while trying not to get sand in my shoes?" Emilio raised both eyebrows this time. "Well?"

Boyd half expected Doug to get angry but instead Doug's mouth twitched slightly as though he were trying not to laugh, although the exasperated expression stayed firmly in tact.

Emilio grinned at Doug, appearing pleased that the man had given up. "Yeah, baby. That's what I thought. Feel the burn of my superior knowledge about everything in the entire world."

Their interaction seemed strangely casual to Boyd, as if they were old friends. Which very well could be the case, since Doug looked to be about Carhart and Emilio's age and Boyd didn't know anything about Doug's past.

"Why don't I go take an extended smoke break and you train the little pissant, then?" Doug asked, raising his thick black eyebrows at Emilio without care.

Emilio gave him another cocky smirk and shrugged. "Fine by me-- just don't get mad when you come back to a blond killing machine that was trained exclusively by yours truly."

Doug gave him another flat look and turned to walk out of the training room. "I'll be back in an hour, Vega."

Boyd watched Doug disappear into the main training room, then looked back at Emilio and met those intense green eyes, currently watching him expectantly.

"Well--" Boyd started to say, then stopped, drew his eyebrows down slightly and studied Emilio.

He didn't know why Emilio had interfered, although it was entirely possible he'd just felt like it or had wanted to get at Doug. Regardless of the reason, Boyd appreciated that Emilio had stuck up for him, especially since no one else had since Doug had decided to take out his irritation on Boyd. He also had to admit that he thought the training would be much more successful with someone who wasn't so antagonistic toward him the entire time; someone whose teachings Boyd actually understood.

"Thank you, Emilio," Boyd said more sincerely even as a faint, thoughtful frown crossed his features. "He's been pissed at me for months now and I don't think I was getting anywhere with his instructions."

Emilio shrugged casually. "He knew that-- he just didn't care. I'm pretty sure he hopes you die or something."

"Well, I know he does," Boyd said, not bothered by this fact. "He told me that directly. But it doesn't change the fact that he should be taking issue with my mother, not me. I didn't make her give me this promotion; I even told her to take it back when I found out."

Emilio snorted and rolled his shoulders before stretching his arms over his head and twisting slightly to the side as he likely prepared for a more serious bout of training. "It don't matter to me, blondie. Doug's just taking it out on you 'cause he can't take it out on her. Don't pay him no mind-- he's easily slighted and pissy on a good day."

It wasn't exactly new to Boyd to have someone take something out on him because he was more accessible than the person of their ire, but it didn't make it any less frustrating. He'd known from the moment his mother had made her decision that this would happen; that was the way it worked with her. She did what she wanted regardless of how it affected others, then acted as though he were pathetic or childish to feel anything about it.

Doug wasn't the only one who took issue with the promotion. Other people had made snide comments or had an attitude toward him who hadn't before, but at least with them he could just ignore them or walk away. He couldn't do that with his instructor.

He had no hopes for Doug to ever change his attitude, so all Boyd could do was deal with it, take whatever information he could from Doug, and try to not let it bother him. He still had a little over a month to go in his level 10 training and after that, maybe he'd be lucky and he wouldn't have to be around Doug at all except in passing.

None of it would have mattered anyway if Boyd hadn't felt like it was a waste spending all this time on training that wasn't even getting him anywhere.

Boyd shook his head to himself and took a few steps back, rolling his neck and briefly stretching to release the tension he'd started to gather.

"Should we start where we left off?" The mild bit of attitude Boyd had harbored in his gaze before was missing now as he looked at Emilio curiously; as he took him more seriously.

"It depends on how you want me to train you," Emilio replied evenly and as he said it, all traces of his seemingly typical joker behavior melted away. "Do you want me to train you to be a good agent or a good killer?"

Boyd paused, considering the question seriously as he studied Emilio. He didn't immediately know his answer; by default, he would think he just wanted to be a good agent. But what he really wanted was to be efficient for his body type and size; he just wanted to do what he had to do and be done with it. And he didn't know which that fell into for Emilio.

"What would be the difference in your focus or the way you taught each?"

"Well, if we want to bare it down to the basics-- do you want me to teach you how to knock someone out and move on or break their neck and move on. To be a good agent, you can get away with either. But if you wanna be a walking weapon-- well, need I say more?"

Despite his almost offhanded and casual way of speaking, Emilio's expression was now completely serious. He was looking at Boyd with those familiar intense eyes and he seemed to be making sure to show Boyd that the question wasn't meant to be taken lightly.

Boyd took the time to really think about his answer, to be certain he knew what he wanted. When he'd first started at the Agency, he hadn't cared either way-- he hadn't cared if he'd died and hadn't cared if he'd killed others in the process. Everything had been completely meaningless to him.

But ever since Alexis and even more since Finley, Boyd had been forced to realize that the people he killed had their own lives, and not all of them deserved to die. Especially since now that he was level 10 he was going to be put in situations where he had to do things he didn't necessarily want to-- he may have to kill people who he didn't want to die-- it made it seem more important to avoid unnecessary killing.

Maybe that was another reason why Sin wanted to protect innocents; another reason he would run back into a building that was about to explode to save a woman he didn't even know. There had been many things Boyd had regretted, including killing Alexis, but he realized he hadn't regretted other things, like leaving Dana alive where she would hopefully get help.

He had no doubts that with Emilio teaching him, it would be possible to become a formidable weapon.

But he didn't need to be that.

He didn't need to leave a wake of bodies on every mission when it worked just as well to incapacitate them. He didn't need to leave orphans for people who were inconsequential to him when he was going to have to be doing that anyway for people who weren't.

If someone was coming at him with killing intent, he would fight to kill in return. But if he just needed to knock someone out to get past them or if their death wasn't necessary, then he saw no reason to kill.

"Then right now, I just want to be a good agent," Boyd replied, gaze steady on Emilio.

Emilio rolled his eyes but didn't appear too surprised. "Sucker. Let's get on with it then."

Emilio spent the majority of the next hour teaching Boyd a number of moves; it was the first time in a long time that Boyd felt like he was finally catching on more quickly, that he didn't feel like a complete idiot during the training. But although Emilio was far clearer in his explanations than Doug had been, Emilio was a more hardcore trainer.

Whereas Doug would at least tell Boyd what he'd done wrong and show him how to do it again, Emilio wouldn't. When Boyd messed up, Emilio would interrogate Boyd with questions like, "Why do you think that's wrong?" He would make Boyd do the move over and over again until finally Boyd got it right, and even then Emilio made him do it a few more times to burn it into his brain.

At one point, when showing Boyd a new move, Emilio moved right up behind Boyd, their bodies mostly pressed together in what seemed like unnecessary proximity. Boyd ignored it at first until Emilio's hand dropped to Boyd's hip, which seemed completely unrelated to the move. Boyd looked over his shoulder, noting that Emilio's expression was as intensely serious as it had been since they'd started.

Before Boyd could say anything, Emilio suddenly moved and violently threw Boyd to the floor to finish showing him the move. Boyd slammed into the floor with a pained grunt and completely dismissed the brief, odd moment as a fluke.

The training was incredibly intense and even in that short period of time, Boyd could feel his muscles straining in the pleasure-pain of a good workout. Emilio was a ruthless trainer, not giving Boyd a moment to rest, but the repetitiveness combined with the clear explanations was starting to really burn the trainings into his mind.

Emilio taught increasingly complex moves until finally Boyd was able to slam Emilio to the floor in a successful attack. But Emilio grabbed Boyd before he could get away and threw Boyd down next to him, immediately rolling on top of Boyd and pinning him firmly.

Boyd ended up on his back, sweating from exertion, shirt partially riding up his stomach and otherwise caught to his skin the same way long strands of golden hair caught along his lips and the side of his face. His eyes were half closed but focused on Emilio as he panted heavily. He couldn't move with the way Emilio held him down and he didn't even bother to try; he knew Emilio was stronger than he was and for the moment he wanted a chance to catch his breath.

Emilio's face was inches from Boyd's, hands that were as firm and callused but not as incredibly strong as his son's holding Boyd's bare arms immobile to the floor. Half their bodies were pressed against each other, Emilio's hips pushing Boyd's to the floor, and at such proximity it was impossible to look away from those intense green eyes.

Emilio stared down at him intently, his lips slightly parted although he wasn't nearly as winded as Boyd was. Emilio's gaze briefly moved from Boyd's eyes to skim the rest of his face, pausing briefly on his lips, before moving up again.

One of Emilio's eyebrows lifted slightly and he smirked with half his mouth before shifting in a manner that caused his crotch to press down against Boyd's as though he seemed ready to push backwards and stand up, but he didn't.

"Not bad," he drawled, although it wasn't entirely obvious what he was referring to.

Boyd was caught by Emilio's expression, by that too-familiar face combined with that low drawl and the pressure against his crotch-- Boyd's honey brown eyes briefly intensified and flicked down to what he could see of Emilio's body, shirtless and showing off every powerful muscle, before returning to those incredible green eyes.

He couldn't deny how attractive Emilio was, or that the way their bodies pressed against each other, slick with sweat and body heat caught between them, was something that appealed to Boyd. He even had the very brief, passing thought that with the reputation Emilio had, he was probably incredible in bed.

But he knew he was only attracted to Emilio because he looked so much like Sin and the short moment was acknowledged and dismissed in seconds, leaving him perturbed about the whole thing. His eyes became less intense and more impatient as he jerked against Emilio's hold.

"Get off me," Boyd said, voice low and slightly gruff.

Emilio's expression didn't change but he bit his lower lip, dragging his teeth over it before lifting both eyebrows this time. He gave Boyd another once over before bounding backwards and standing up straight with the same wicked look in his eyes. "Your loss, blanquito."

Boyd rolled his eyes and pushed himself up, trying not to groan in the process. His body ached intensely but even so, it felt good to have worked so hard.

Boyd didn't really know how to take that whole interaction; he'd always been under the impression that Emilio was an incredibly flirtatious person and he knew Emilio had probably slept around, he just didn't know if Emilio'd had sex only with women or if he'd been with men too.

He didn't know how much Emilio was serious about and how much he was messing with people. Although it was possible Emilio had just been trying to throw him off, Boyd didn't see why a man who wasn't at least bisexual would have sat there watching his son fuck another man.

It was hard to tell, though, and it didn't matter to Boyd anyway because regardless of Emilio's sexual orientation, it wasn't like Boyd was going to have sex with him.

Rather than comment on the oddity, Boyd took a moment to stretch his arms and wince slightly, looking at Emilio sidelong. "Are we done for the day?"

"Sure, why not," Emilio replied airily, grabbing his shirt from the corner and tossing it over one tattooed shoulder. "Maybe I'll go smoke Douglas out."

Boyd nodded and walked to the side of the room, eyes narrowing slightly in pain as he leaned over to swipe his shirt off the floor. He was too overheated to put it on again right away.

He started to head toward the main room with Emilio when Doug and Captain Morgan Chase entered. Morgan had a displeased expression on her face and Doug appeared mostly indifferent, although his mouth was set in a slight scowl.

"If I wanted a rogue agent to train our new level 10s, I would have assigned him to do such," Morgan was saying in an annoyed tone as she glared at Doug.

"Well, technically he ain't rogue anymore in the first place and in the second, it's not like he ain't qualif--"

"I don't want to hear your excuses," Morgan cut Doug off coldly. "Next time I hear about something like this, I'll go straight to the Marshal."

"Oh noes," Emilio said in a mock-frightened voice. "Not the Marshal!"

Morgan's eyes slid from Doug to finally focus on Emilio. She stared at him with obvious dislike and her dark-hued lips curled down slightly.

"Nice seeing you again, cowgirl," Emilio drawled, leering at her. "Too bad you're wearing clothes today."

Doug looked away studiously, focusing on some point beyond the wall as Morgan's face went bright red-- her lips thinning. "You are a disrespectful pig."

Emilio just made a kissy face at her in response.

Morgan scoffed in disgust and gave Doug another warning glare. "Heed my warning, Instructor," she snapped and turned around, stalking out of the room.

Boyd watched her go, wondering what that had been about and whether it had anything to do with Doug and Emilio's earlier conversation. He looked over at Doug and Emilio, finding himself hoping that Doug wouldn't entirely listen to Morgan and would let Emilio continue to train him at least sometimes.

"Man, what's with the women in this place these days?" Emilio shook his head, arching an eyebrow at Doug. "Why do bitches think they have to be bitches to get respect from people? I'd take 'em a lot more serious if they didn't walk around with a lead pipe up their asses."

"Or Zachary's cock," Doug muttered. "Although I guess she ain't even getting that these days because of you and now I gotta deal with the attitude."

Emilio just smirked, looking incredibly smug. "What can I say?"

"Don't say nothing," Doug replied, making a face and turning his attention to Boyd. "Same time tomorrow unless a mission comes up. If you want bitch boy here to train ya, do it on your own time."

Doug jerked his head at Emilio and stalked out of the room again.

Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly as he looked over at Emilio. "What happened with Morgan?"

"What?" Emilio asked Boyd distractedly, his gaze caught somewhere through the open doorway and across the main training area. Boyd followed Emilio's gaze and could only assume he was distracted by the attractive woman who was walking past in the hallway beyond the training room.

Emilio dragged his eyes away and looked at Boyd. "Oh, she hates me and dumped Zachary because he's letting me stay at his place. But she's a boring cold-hearted bitch anyway so good riddance, right?"

Boyd quirked an eyebrow. If Carhart and Morgan's relationship had fallen apart in relation to Emilio, Boyd could see why she would be pissed. But then again, if Morgan only dumped Carhart because Emilio was staying at his place, that seemed like an extreme reaction. So Boyd figured there had to be more to it-- especially with Emilio's earlier comment about her wearing clothes. And if that was the case, it was probably something Boyd didn't want to know about anyway.

"Why would you stay at his place?" Boyd asked instead.

Emilio finally looked at Boyd fully and for whatever reason, his expression was serious again. He narrowed his eyes slightly at Boyd and he shrugged his shoulders seemingly casually although the motion wasn't as animated as it'd been mere moments ago. "Because allegedly they ain't got no room for me and I ain't letting them keep another Vega in a cage on the Fourth."

Boyd watched Emilio thoughtfully for a moment.

Emilio wasn't allowed off compound and with the residential complexes still under reconstruction, there weren't any open apartments. He hadn't thought about where Emilio had been staying but he probably had only been given the choice of a cell, which Boyd wouldn't want to stay in either.

Not only that, he found that for some reason he didn't want Emilio to have to-- maybe only because Emilio looked so much like Sin, or maybe because Boyd couldn't help respecting the man a little more after he'd taken the time to talk back to Doug and train Boyd, regardless of his reasons.

Boyd nodded in understanding. There was a brief silence and Boyd paused, considering Emilio before he asked, "Do you think you would ever train me again, during off time?"

Emilio stared at him in what appeared to be something akin to surprise before he lifted a brow. "Is this an excuse to be all up on me so you can pretend I'm Hsin?"

Boyd raised his eyebrows and gave Emilio a look. "I don't recall being the one initiating anything," he said dryly, then explained before Emilio could find a way to sidetrack the conversation. "It's an excuse to actually learn something during this period and hopefully become more on equal grounds with the other 10s."

Emilio continued to stare at him with slightly narrowed eyes as he absently chewed on his lower lip. "I'm surprised you'd lower yourself to asking one such as myself for help. Before you all acted like you didn't like me."

With a casual shrug, Boyd crossed his arms and met Emilio's eyes evenly, his tone blunt. "I didn't like you because from the stories I'd heard, you were a self-absorbed asshole who had done more psychological damage to your son than you'd ever known or acknowledged. I thought you were a large reason for many of Sin's issues and I thought if you hadn't been in his life quite the way you had been, or if you'd only treated him differently, maybe it would have been better for him. Maybe he could have been happy. You did little to change my opinion with the way you acted when you first showed up, so I saw no reason to act nice around you since I'm always going to side with Sin."

Emilio made a face and a glimmer of irritation flashed in his eyes as his well-formed mouth sank down at the sides. "I'm tired of all you fucking people assuming shit about me. It's getting old real fast."

"I'm talking in past tense," Boyd pointed out, studying Emilio contemplatively. "I can already tell you're far more complex than that and now I think you and Sin are a lot more alike than just your looks. I think you both hide what you don't want others to know about you, probably because if you didn't it wouldn't perpetuate whatever stereotype works best for you. If I didn't take you more seriously, you're right that I wouldn't have asked you to train me-- I would have expected you to be an asshole the whole time, to just mess with me and not take me seriously. It would've been pointless."

Emilio crossed his arms over his chest loosely and the annoyance instantly melted out of his expression but he didn't immediately guard his face as Sin would have done-- he just put on a big smirk, although whether or not it was genuine wasn't entirely obvious. "Me? Hide anything? What you see is what you get, baby. I'm more open than a teenage girl's legs on prom night."

"This isn't you," Boyd said without a hint of doubt in his voice, his honey brown gaze steady on Emilio, almost seeming to see through him. He frowned slightly and tilted his head enough for blond hair to brush against the side of his face. "I met the real you down in Mexico, where you had the luxury of being who you really are because everyone who knew you like this thought you were dead."

Boyd raised his eyebrows subtly. "If you ask me, the way you joke around is an act to throw people off, keep them unbalanced. Maybe to make them underestimate you or maybe it's just a defense mechanism. It's because you act like this at the Agency that I heard all those stories, that people assume all these things of you, but once I found out you were Chingón I knew there was more to you than that."

Emilio's gaze flicked over Boyd's face and the side of Emilio's mouth twitched up slightly but then he just shrugged exaggeratedly and said slowly, "Or maybe... you just think I'm cute. Admit it, Boyd. Don't deny your true feelings anymore. It's meant to be-- you, me, my boy... How would you like to be in the middle of a Vega sandwich?"

Boyd stared at Emilio for a long moment before the ridiculousness of the comment made him lose the seriousness in his expression. He shook his head to himself, a faint, bemused smile twitching the edges of his lips. "Are you bi?"

"Why would you ask such a thing?" Emilio asked, expression now full of innocence and confusion.

"Maybe because you like to watch men fuck, you were coming onto me at the end of training, and now you're inviting me to a threesome with your son?" Boyd asked mildly, quirking an eyebrow. "I don't know many straight men who would do all that, even jokingly."

"Not all straight men have access to my arsenal of smart ass retorts; my repertoire is quite impressive," Emilio replied breezily, shifting to put on his shirt, covering the tattoos that sprawled across his muscular chest. "Although..." he trailed off leadingly, green eyes twinkling with amusement as he eyed Boyd.

Boyd waited a moment for Emilio to continue and when he didn't, Boyd could tell it was probably going to be a set up but he decided to take the bait anyway. "Although what?"

"Although..." Emilio drew out the word, paused, and then tilted his head to the side as he looked at Boyd with a half smirk. "I have a theory about early childhood stimulation leading to more... adventurous sexual behavior in adults."

"Hmm." Boyd tilted his head slightly as he considered Emilio, golden blond hair partially falling across his eyes before he shook his head once briefly to get it out of the way. Sin had told him about what Emilio had said about his own early life. Given the fact that Emilio's childhood had been pretty fucked up, and 'adventurous sexual behavior' could very well mean sleeping with both genders, he felt that pretty much answered his question. "I'll take that as a yes, then."

Emilio scoffed. "I said no such thing. But anyways, you need to do me a favor if you want me to help you."

"What is it?" Boyd asked curiously.

There was a pause before Emilio shrugged again. "You need to tell my boy that this whole ignoring his father thing is about to come to an end. I can't touch my overseas accounts and the Agency gave Hsin all my Agency money and since I doubt he's using it..."

Emilio let the sentence trail off and looked at Boyd pointedly.

The irony of the situation struck Boyd enough to make him feel thoroughly amused. Boyd had completely forgotten about the account until Emilio mentioned it.

Nearly twenty years of the money accruing in Sin's name uselessly and then about a year before Emilio suddenly returned from the dead, Sin finally took an interest. Boyd doubted that Sin would care about giving Emilio back the money that was his but it amused Boyd that it had happened this way.

Especially since it had been due to Boyd's insistence that Sin had looked into it and realized how much money he had and had even started using any of it, and now Emilio was asking Boyd to basically look into having it taken back.

"I'll mention it to him," Boyd promised although he couldn't help a faint smirk pulling at one side of his lips.

"You better if you want my expert help on your training," Emilio replied, jabbing a finger at Boyd's chest.

"I will," Boyd said a little more sincerely, then quirked an eyebrow. "So does that mean next time after training you'll hang around so we'll do our own? Or are we setting up separate times?"

"I dunno. Whenever. I'm around." Emilio didn't seem too concerned with scheduling.

"Alright," Boyd said with a nod.

Emilio began backing away. "Don't forget what I said," he warned Boyd with a narrow-eyed stare and turned entirely, walking out of the room.

Boyd was about to follow Emilio but then remembered that before he'd started training, he'd left his keys and wallet on the side. He went back and searched for them for a few moments before he swiped them off the floor. He shoved them in his pocket and decided he'd cooled down enough to throw his long-sleeved shirt back on.

The main training room typically had at least a few people in it at any given point of the day so at first when Boyd walked in, he almost didn't pay attention to the people off in the far corner. But one of the voices sounded distantly familiar to him and when he glanced over, he realized he recognized all three men, and that no one else was in the room.

Ivan had apparently been trying to work out and and was interrupted by two men who were crowding him near the corner. Although Boyd couldn't hear much of what was being said, he could tell they were harassing Ivan for some reason.

Boyd knew one of the men as Moua, a Hmong man who was powerfully built despite not being particularly tall. The other was a white man with short, dark brown hair and blue eyes, who was called Fritz.

When Boyd had been harassed two years ago, Moua had been one of the people who had taken especial pleasure in joining in on the fun. Moua and Fritz were both field agents, Levels 6 and 4 respectively. Although they both seemed to take issue with Boyd's existence, Moua did far more than Fritz, who tended not to speak much.

When Moua shifted, Boyd could see that Ivan was wearing a tank top that exposed his thin shoulders and arms. The paleness of his skin made a bruise on his shoulder stand out even more vividly-- the telltale bruise was very pronounced, and looked very much like impressions from someone's fingers.

Boyd felt a jolt go through him as he realized what it was, instantly taking away the relatively good mood he'd been in. It wasn't unlike the bruises he and Sin would often come out with after sex.

Ivan had told Ryan that Sin was intense in every way. Apparently Sin fucked Ivan just as hard as he'd fucked Boyd, and enjoyed himself with Ivan as much as he had with Boyd. That bruise was the sign of Sin losing himself in the moment, of forgetting his own strength as he pounded with abandon into the body beneath him.

Boyd had been on the receiving end of those bruises enough to know what it had probably been like for Ivan and that knowledge speared through him harshly.

It would have been incredibly easy for Boyd to just walk away and pretend he didn't see anything; to let Ivan deal with Moua and Fritz's bullshit on his own. Boyd didn't owe anything to Ivan and he didn't even particularly like the man.

But it wasn't fair to Ivan that Boyd didn't like him simply because he was involved with Sin, and regardless of Boyd's personal issues, that wasn't enough reason to walk away when someone was being harassed.

Two years ago, Boyd hadn't stood up for himself when those same men had joined in with the others to make him feel worthless. He was a different person now and he wasn't going to walk away from them trying to do that to someone else, regardless of if Ivan asked for his help.

"Hey," Boyd said, voice clear and commanding as he approached them and the three looked over. Moua and Fritz seemed mildly surprised by his appearance but that quickly faded as Boyd came closer. "What do you think you're doing?"

Fritz stayed over by Ivan but Moua's features sharpened and he sauntered over to Boyd, getting into his personal space and causing Boyd to stop. The intensity of how much Moua disliked Boyd was crystal clear in the man's dark brown eyes, the same as it had been two years ago. If anything, it seemed to have increased.

"Look who came by," Moua drawled, looking Boyd up and down before he stared hard into his eyes. "Bend over for any new intel lately?"

Boyd's eyes did not so much as twitch and he didn't look away from Moua's gaze despite the quiet anger that rolled through him. Instead, his expression remained as cold and unreadable as it had been when he'd first walked over.

Normally he didn't care what people like Moua had to say, especially since he knew that as a fellow field agent, Moua really wasn't that surprised by the existence of valentine ops. He knew that Moua was saying that just to piss Boyd off. But today it didn't help his mood.

"Just walk away, Moua," Boyd said lowly, his tone firm. "You have no business here."

"And you do?" Moua demanded, stepping even closer until they nearly touched and he crossed his arms as he stared at Boyd. Although Moua was actually shorter than Boyd, the way he eyed Boyd made it seem like he was looking down on him. "This doesn't have anything to do with you."

"I know you have a history of harassing people," Boyd replied evenly, his posture strong and eyes intense. "And if you don't have to own the place to start that, then I don't have to own it to stop it."

Ivan looked at Boyd with interest, raising his eyebrows slightly although he didn't say anything. His expression was the same as it had been before Boyd came over; thoroughly unintimidated and almost bored by the entire situation.

"Why do you even care?" Moua asked Boyd shrewdly, eyes narrowed. "Is it gay pride month and you faggots are sticking together?"

Boyd's eye's narrowed slightly but that was the only indication that his irritation was growing stronger. He wasn't surprised to find that Moua and Fritz were harassing Ivan because of his sexual orientation; he'd expected as much when he'd walked over.

"I care because idiots like you are an embarrassment to the field. You clearly don't have legitimate business with Agent Andel, so back off."

Moua snorted, clearly unimpressed by Boyd's command. "I don't take orders from you. I don't give a shit if you're supposedly a 10 now. You don't deserve it-- everyone knows it. You're only where you're at because your mommy pulled some strings."

Boyd's gaze did not so much as flicker on Moua's face but his expression became a step colder. The reminder of the bullshit he heard even more because of his mother's decision wasn't helping matters and he only felt the irritation growing.

"I'll only tell you this once, Moua," Boyd said evenly. He wasn't even making a threat when he continued; he was stating a fact. "Leave before I make you leave."

Ivan continued to look on calmly, not contributing to the argument in any particular way.

But Moua wasn't listening; he continued even more harshly, eyes glittering with disgust as he watched Boyd sharply. "I'm surprised you're over here playing hero anyway since this one seems to have taken your place with your... partner."

Moura smirked and lifted his shoulders slightly. "You boys must be pretty hard up if you're taking it from that psychotic fucking fr--"

The anger surged in Boyd, made him want to beat the hell out of Moua-- partially because it was Moua, partially because Moua was the representation of an attitude that pissed Boyd off, and mostly because of what he was saying.

Boyd moved faster than Moua could react, suddenly appearing behind the man and violently twisting Moua's arm up behind his back even as he shoved Moua hard against the wall. Moua let out a startled grunt of pain, eyes widened in surprise as he turned his head to the side, his cheek pressed against the wall.

"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," Boyd said warningly into Moua's ear.

Moua started to try to move but although Boyd's body was slighter, Boyd was in a better position and knew how to hold a person immobile. Clearly taken aback and angry, Moua glared as best he could over his shoulder back at Boyd. "What do you care what I say about that--"

Boyd wrenched Moua's arm up harder, causing Moua to cut himself off with a muffled hiss of pain.

"Let me give you some advice," Boyd said, voice low and cold. His mouth was near Moua's ear, strands of Boyd's long blond hair partially falling out of the low ponytail he had it in, a stark contrast against Moua's short, black hair. Tension thrummed in Boyd and it mixed with the spike of adrenaline and the rushing of his blood to make his hand tighten on Moua's arm.

"When someone tells you to walk away, walk away. When you don't know what someone's capable of, don't push them. And when you're in my presence, don't talk shit about Sin." Boyd put more pressure on Moua's arm as emphasis.

Fritz appeared at Boyd's side, already reaching for Boyd to presumably jerk him away, but Boyd used his free hand to intercept and redirect the motion, slamming one of Fritz's arms away and grabbing Fritz's other wrist. Moua started to push back but Boyd shoved his body against him, holding Moua still even as he tightened his grip painfully on Fritz.

"Don't." Boyd's flat stare and voice were ice cold as he looked over at Fritz, who hesitated when he saw how utterly serious Boyd's expression was. "Regardless of whether you believe I deserved the promotion, I've still had the training. If you want me to break Moua's arm so thoroughly that it may never heal properly again, by all means, continue with what you were doing. I'll just turn on you when I'm done with him."

Fritz glared but a flicker of uncertainty passed across his features and he seemed especially taken aback by the surprising strength of Boyd's grip. When Boyd released Fritz after a moment, Fritz stepped back with crossed arms and watched with heated blue eyes but he didn't make another move to interfere.

Boyd returned his attention to Moua, wrenching Moua's arm up even harder and ignoring Moua's grunt as he continued, "If you think this is only about Sin, you're mistaken. I haven't forgotten any of the shit you did before and I know you could very well be doing the same to Ivan. You think you're so powerful and in control because you know how to talk down to people for who they are, but you're just a pathetic little boy lashing out. I don't care if you're afraid, bigoted, so deeply closeted you're in denial-- your problem is your problem and if I keep seeing you taking it out on others, you'll just be giving me the excuse I need to come down on you."

Boyd waited a few seconds to see if Moua would reply but the man just grimaced. Boyd briefly put even more pressure on Moua's arm; Moua's breath grew harsher as he forced himself to stay silent despite the intense pain he had to be in, then Boyd abruptly let go and stepped back.

He watched Moua without a hint of emotion, his eyes unforgiving. The way he stared at Moua, it as as if Moua was not only completely insignificant to him but he felt the man was a waste of oxygen as well.

"Get out of here." Although Boyd didn't raise his voice, the quiet strength of the words combined with the ice cold way he spoke made it a command reminiscent of his mother.

Moua glared hatefully at Boyd before his gaze shifted toward Ivan briefly, as if he was debating saying something as a parting shot. But then he just absently rubbed his arm and turned to stalk away. Fritz followed, giving Ivan and Boyd an annoyed look as he passed.

Boyd watched them leave, his frigid expression intensifying briefly before he looked over at Ivan. The bruise on Ivan's shoulder was stark and vivid; up close, Boyd could see the imprints of Sin's fingers even more clearly and that cut through Boyd all over again.

The hurt feeling was like a knife in Boyd's stomach but he didn't let it get to his gaze or body language, and although the iciness started to fade from his features, his expression was still unreadable. As he met Ivan's grey eyes, Boyd felt even worse for having accidentally left the comm unit on during that mission in Canada. If it could hurt this much to learn details after the fact, to see the evidence firsthand, then how must it have felt for Sin to overhear it?

"Are you alright?" Boyd asked calmly, rolling his shoulders briefly and trying to make the tension in his body loosen even as he couldn't help feeling on edge in Ivan's presence.

Ivan shrugged carelessly and didn't seem too perturbed. "Yes. I'm not afraid of them. You didn't have to go out of your way for me either, but thank you."

Boyd nodded, gaze flicking briefly to where the two had disappeared into the hallway. "How do they know you're gay?"

Ivan bent to pick up a towel, throwing it over the shoulder with the bruise, although whether or not he was intentionally trying to cover it wasn't obvious. "I don't hide it from anyone. I don't care what these retards think. It all started because they can't get over how I'm thin with long hair-- they call me fag and I just shrug and confirm it. I think it actually threw them off guard the first time around."

Although the answer was somewhat surprising, since in Boyd's experience it seemed that most homosexuals and bisexuals in the Agency were deeply closeted, it somehow didn't seem uncharacteristic for Ivan; at least, the little that Boyd knew of him. And it did seem to fall in line with the other R&D agents, who didn't seem to care what anyone thought.

"They would probably assume it anyway even if you denied it," Boyd said with a nod.

"Oh, they do." Ivan shook his head and pushed blond hair out of his face as he adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses. "People can think what they want. I don't care. I have nothing to hide from these morons."

There was a very brief pause as Boyd studied Ivan, keeping his expression completely unreadable as something that had been said earlier bothered him. "Why did Moua know about you and Sin?"

Ivan looked at Boyd blankly for a moment before he just shook his head slightly. "He doesn't know details or anything but apparently some of his buddies saw me and Hsin leaving the compound together a couple of times and they formed their own conclusions. If Hsin gave indication that the rumors bothered him, I would deny it, but he doesn't care and obviously I don't care, so I don't. It's not like I'm ashamed of it or something."

Boyd felt his hackles raise and at first he didn't know why other than it seriously annoyed him that Ivan was already calling Sin by his real name. It didn't bother Boyd when Ryan and Emilio did because it made sense, because Emilio was his father and Ryan had been on Sin's side from the start.

Maybe it was a distinction only in Boyd's mind, but to him the name 'Hsin' shouldn't be taken lightly.

To Boyd, it signified a deeper connection to Sin-- it meant getting past all the bullshit that often seemed to come between them, pushing past all the layers and defenses and misconceptions and dealing on an incredibly personal level with his partner. Because of that, Boyd only called Sin by his real name in moments when he felt especially close to him-- when they were in bed together, when it was one of the few quiet moments they'd had together, if there was a life or death situation...

He felt as though using Sin's real name was something to earn, like earning Sin's trust, and the fact that Ivan thought he could throw it around after a few weeks only pissed Boyd off.

It struck Boyd at the same time that Ivan apparently didn't care about being seen with Sin, that Sin didn't care if anyone knew about them. He couldn't help comparing that to how it had been with he and Sin... They hadn't gone out of their way to hide what they'd been but Boyd also hadn't advertised it, and if anyone had asked him he probably would have changed the subject or lied.

He couldn't help feeling a combination of annoyed, resentful, and-- worse than the others-- self-conscious in response.

It wasn't that Boyd was ashamed of Sin, it wasn't that Boyd cared what people thought... yet he was protective of Sin, of what people would think of him or say to him, so did that mean Boyd cared after all even when he'd told himself he didn't? Ivan truly didn't seem to care and as much as Boyd didn't for the most part, he felt an uncomfortable shift as he realized his own actions didn't quite match up to Ivan's.

Did Sin like it more that way, did it make him feel better?

Boyd suddenly remembered Kassian's comment, the way he'd been so adamant about no one knowing about them; the way he'd made Boyd feel in the truck and the way Boyd had to come up with cover stories for situations like Kassian's family stopping by. The way Boyd had been willing to sneak out the back door like the shameful secret he represented for Kassian.

Boyd wasn't angry with Kassian over this-- Kassian had the right to choose who knew about his sexual orientation, Boyd had gone into the casual relationship with Kassian knowing full well how closeted the man was, and Kassian was his friend so he wanted to support his decisions.

Still, it was the one part of the current situation with Kassian that didn't make Boyd feel very good and the more times it came up, the more it made Boyd feel uncomfortable. And in this context, it made Boyd stop and rethink his own actions from the outside.

In truth, being the first person to really get close to Sin made him feel a strong sense of happiness, of pride that had bordered on territoriality in the past. But now Boyd wondered if any time he'd avoided doing or saying something in the open Sin had thought he was ashamed. And if Sin hadn't then, would he think that in retrospect after seeing the way Ivan was and had something to compare Boyd to?

Was Ivan once again managing to do something right that Boyd had done wrong?

When it occurred to him that maybe in that regard Ivan did have more of a right to call Sin by his real name-- after all, he was seeing Sin, they were having sex, and Ivan clearly wasn't ashamed of Sin in any regard-- it felt like a stab in the gut again, only this time it was as if someone twisted the blade viciously then pulled it out and stabbed him once more.

"I see," Boyd said calmly. His honey brown gaze was steady on Ivan and gave absolutely nothing away of what he was thinking or feeling, and he made a point to keep his body language as close to it had been when he'd first walked over.

Even so, some of the tension had returned to his shoulders and when he paused again, he told himself to stop commenting but was unable to do so. "You're calling him Hsin," he observed.

"Yeah." Ivan looked somewhat surprised by the comment. "I asked him if I could and he said yes."

Boyd nodded and looked away, feeling irritated by the answer, by how offhanded and easy Ivan made it sound.

Maybe Boyd was the only one who thought anything deeper about the subject; maybe Sin wouldn't have cared all along if Boyd had called him by his real name. But it would probably always hold special significance to Boyd, who had met Sin at a time when they were both completely closed off from the world, and the progression toward getting closer was represented in his mind by the name Hsin and what it meant to him.

He realized he didn't want to be standing in front of Ivan anymore; he didn't have anything else to say. Now that Moua and Fritz were gone, Boyd felt even less reason to be over there and he just wanted to walk away.

"Well," Ivan said amiably. "I'm going to get out of here. Thank you again, Senior Agent Beaulieu."

"I'm sure you've had to deal with that a lot on your own but it's not a problem; I wasn't going to walk away from that," Boyd said, glad that at least it seemed the conversation was about to end.

He took a step back and tried not to be disturbed once again by the similarities between his and Ivan's appearance; to not feel on some resentful level that maybe some of the effort Sin was putting into Ivan was effort he otherwise would have been putting into Boyd.

But he dismissed it because he knew the thought was egotistical and he also knew it wasn't true. Sin had clicked with Ivan far faster than he ever had with Boyd... and Boyd was certain that Sin wouldn't hang around with someone he didn't like no matter who they resembled.

"I hope they leave you alone for awhile, though," Boyd added, and he did mean it. Regardless of anything about Ivan that put Boyd on edge, Boyd saw no reason to wish harassment on anyone simply because of who they were.

Ivan nodded and a faint smile graced his features. "We'll see. Have a good day, Senior Agent Beaulieu."

The R&D agent lifted his hand in a small wave and walked over to where the locker room was.

Boyd briefly watched Ivan go before he left the training room as well and headed toward his car.

Continue to the next interlude: 3.8, Chronological Disorder