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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 3.20

Uploaded on 9/27/2009

Sin's boots pounded up the narrow winding staircase, legs aching and thigh muscles straining as he sprinted and skipped several steps at a time. The sounds of his footsteps and the footsteps of his target echoed against the walls, bouncing around until it sounded like a gang of people instead of two.

"In pursuit," he grunted hoarsely into his comm unit.

Boyd acknowledged his comment curtly and Sin could hear gunfire loudly in the earpiece which matched the shots he'd been hearing all along, emanating down from the roof.

The beginnings of what Sin recognized as fatigue were radiating through his body and he wondered how Boyd was faring. They'd gotten on an Agency plane out of Hong Kong the previous morning but en route back to the States they'd been informed that a mission had come up and they were instead headed to what had once been a national park in Washington state.

Rather than being allowed to return to their respective homes, they were instructed to find and take out a small group led by Martin Kemp, an agent who had gone rogue three months ago. Or, Sin amended with a dark scowl, they could have returned to one of their homes to figure out exactly what was going on between them once and for all.

Frustration had erupted from both of them as weariness took over but they couldn't exactly refuse and their transport team had seemed very unimpressed with the complaints.

Kemp burst through the metal door at the top of the former police watch tower and Sin was right behind him in hot pursuit. Kemp threw a wild-eyed look over his shoulder and scrambled frantically away, his tennis shoes slipping on the damp tarmac.

"Fuck you, Vega!" Kemp shouted loudly and it finally occurred to Sin that Kemp was likely freaked out and running like a madman because he remembered Sin's reputation from the compound.

Sin glanced quickly to the other side of the roof and saw that the helicopter on the small helipad was smoking quite nicely. Boyd had obviously completed his task and was finishing off the last remaining hostile other than Kemp; the man who was presumably the pilot.

Just as Boyd cracked the pilot's neck, Kemp narrowed his eyes at Boyd and shouted in frustrated fury. He threw himself to the side as he extracted something from the backpack he held. Sin's eyes returned to Kemp just as the man hurled what was unmistakably a grenade in the direction of Boyd and the damaged helicopter.

"Boyd!" Sin shouted as he completely abandoned the 'bring him in alive if possible' note on the mission outline and shot Kemp in the back of his head.

Adrenaline shot through Sin like fire and he was moving before he even processed whether he had a plan. His feet pounded against the tarmac of the roof, moving so quickly he was nearly a blur. Boyd turned around just as Sin slammed into him, soaring off the side of the roof and careening downwards to the river that was rushing five stories below the tower.

In the midst of the fall, there was a loud explosion from above with a shockwave snapping out across the tarmac. Chunks of metal, glass and bits of the ledge from the roof rained down around them. They were just able to orient themselves for minimal damage when they landed in the water with a nearly painful smack.

The river was wide and deep, the water clouded as pieces of debris careened into the depths around them. Despite the relatively warm weather, the water was cold and harsh against their skin. Their clothing and weapons weighed them down. The currents yanked at them like children tossing toys; throwing them around as the gasp of air Sin had managed before they were submerged slowly started to burn in his chest.

Sin could feel Boyd's fingers wrapped in his clothing and digging into his skin beneath; Boyd clung to Sin practically with a death grip, making it more difficult for Sin to swim. When he looked over, he could see Boyd's eyes were wide open and darting around, his expression strained as blood clouded the water around them.

Sin struggled to regain his bearings and headed toward the surface.

They burst above water and Boyd especially drew in a great gasp of air, blond hair plastering his face in a way that partially covered his expression. It seemed as though Boyd went to say something but he choked on water and started coughing instead, his grip on Sin only tightening. Sin immediately swam toward the riverbank with Boyd inconsistently helping at his side.

When they made it to shore they stumbled to a stand, half supporting each other. Sin could feel tension thrumming in Boyd's body; his fingers were trembling against Sin as Boyd hadn't released his hold yet and wet blond hair hung around his downturned face.

Sin grabbed Boyd's arm and tugged him to the forest that loomed a few yards ahead of them. They ran through the forest quickly, moonlight streaking through the canopy of trees and illuminating their wet bodies as Sin took them on a haphazard and frantic sprint to a safe enough distance from the tower. The trees whooshed quietly and quickly around them, pale sentinels flashing by in the dark, the occasional crunching of the underbrush the only sound to give away their otherwise silent but hasty retreat.

The night was still but their speed made it feel like lukewarm wind where his skin was bared. Sin paid it no heed. His heart was pounding as concern rushed through him and they finally came to a stop a third of the way from the pickup point.

Sin ignored the blood that was oozing down his arm and turned to Boyd, immediately moving toward him. He smoothed both large hands over Boyd's face and brushed the soaked strands of hair back. There was blood on Boyd's neck and some in his hair.

"Are you okay?" Sin demanded.

Boyd released a breath that wasn't entirely steady and he nodded, his eyes lowered. His lips were parted as he panted to catch his breath and Sin could see that Boyd looked pale but his cheeks were flushed. The tension seemed to increase in him even as he remained hunched over and Sin could feel that he was shaking slightly.

"Yeah," Boyd said thickly, sounding strained. "Nothing major."

Sin ignored the comment, dark eyebrows drawing together, and he pushed Boyd against the large trunk of a tree. Boyd's back pressed against the rough bark and he drew in an aborted, low breath. Sin's hands slid down Boyd's neck, eyes narrowing at the laceration he found there before deciding that it wasn't even serious enough to require stitches.

Boyd made a faint noise, his head tilting back and eyebrows drawing down as his eyes squeezed shut. Tension made his body taut and he shook his head once. He raised a hand toward Sin's arm but although he seemed as though he intended to push Sin away, he hesitated once his fingers touched his partner.

Moving his attention elsewhere, Sin ignored the wet hair that was hanging wildly around his face now that it had half dried in their dash through the forest. He moved his fingers expertly down Boyd's chest, ripping open the jacket roughly and moving his hands up beneath the fabric of Boyd's shirt as he continued the search for injuries. His callused fingertips ran along Boyd's bare skin, catching lightly along his scars.

A low, helpless groan wrenched out of Boyd and he shuddered along the length of his body. His fingers spasmed as something in him appeared to snap. Honey brown eyes shot open, nearly wild with burning desire that scoured through Sin relentlessly.

Sin barely had a chance to register that before Boyd yanked him forward forcefully and kissed him with desperate hunger.

An exclamation of surprise escaped Sin's mouth and he pulled away partially, eyes widened and eyebrows drawn together in confusion. "What--"

Boyd made an impatient noise and dug his fingers into Sin's hair nearly painfully, jerking Sin closer so Boyd could slide his tongue into Sin's mouth.

There was a brief moment where Sin froze, temporarily unsure of what was going on or what he was supposed to do. His thoughts were like a whirlwind that moved faster than his heartbeat, but then Boyd abruptly switched their positions in near violent impatience, slamming Sin's back against the tree before claiming his mouth once again in a fiercely aggressive kiss.

Boyd shoved himself at Sin, low growls escaping his throat as his fingers dug into Sin's hair and held him still as Boyd practically devoured his mouth. Pressing their bodies together, Boyd rocked against him frantically. Sin could feel Boyd's erection through their wet clothing and it sent an electric shock through Sin's body that settled in his stomach.

The taste and feel of Boyd overwhelmed him and all initial hesitation and surprise was gone as they exchanged desperate, sloppy kisses that left both of them moaning and grinding against each other under the shade of the expansive tree.

Boyd wrenched Sin's head to the side abruptly, breaking the heady contact of their lips. Sin shuddered violently as Boyd's hot, wet mouth brushed against his ear. Sin swore, his voice hoarse and strained, as teeth sank into his earlobe before Boyd's full lips drew it into his mouth to suck on it.

Low, unintelligible sounds escaped Sin's mouth as all coherent thought left his brain. Boyd's mouth moved down his face, across his jaw and finally went to his neck where he bit down once, hard. The feel of it caused Sin to arch his back and his eyes to widen as his cock strained against the black cargo pants that constrained it. A groan shuddered out of Sin, and his stomach warmed with desire that burned through him.

Desperate half-moans, half-gasps escaped Boyd and he pulled back enough to look down almost wild-eyed at Sin's crotch. Boyd's fingers were shaking and he fumbled as he impatiently ripped open Sin's pants, groaning when Sin's large erection was freed.

He jerked Sin's pants down hurriedly, his hands trembling violently in the process. Boyd's movements were fast, intense and before Sin had even processed the fact that his cargo pants were around his ankles and kicked to the side, Boyd had shoved his own pants down halfway.

The next few seconds passed in a blur of motion, of needy moans and harsh pants, of things happening so quickly that it lent even more urgency to the heated moment. Boyd covered his own cock in saliva and bodily lifted Sin against the tree, using his weight and strength to hold Sin up with one arm while he stood between Sin's legs and reached down to position himself with the other. Sin could barely register the feeling of Boyd's hard body against his, of those toned muscles straining beneath clothing still partially wet from the river.

Boyd shoved inside Sin immediately and Sin grunted as pain mixed with pleasure and overwhelmed his senses, causing him to throw his head back. A loud shout escaped Boyd, his voice thick with pleasure and arousal. His eyes widened but almost seemed unseeing and his mouth dropped open.

Sin's fingers tightened on Boyd's shoulders and he was consumed by that hot pressure against his sensitive nerves. His body felt like it was on fire and his breathing only grew heavier as his eyes slid closed once again.

The moment passed in a blink. Boyd's movements were fast and intense, his fingers leaving wakes of heat across Sin's body everywhere he touched. Boyd leaned forward, his arms going beneath Sin's knees to lift his legs as Sin reached up blindly to grab a low-hanging branch to support himself. With Sin's legs spread and toes curling, Boyd's cock began to thrust into him with abandon.

Boyd fucked him fiercely, frenziedly, his hands painfully tight as his hips slammed against Sin. They were like wild animals on the scent of blood, Boyd's fingers digging into Sin while Sin's grip made the branch above him creak ominously. The tree barely moved despite the hard pounding Boyd was giving Sin; the increasingly fast slapping of skin against skin.

For the next few moments the still forest was filled with the sounds of desperate moans and labored breathing as Boyd took Sin's ass with a carnal intensity that made Sin's blood race in his veins. His attention zeroed in on that hot, hard cock, leaving Sin growling incoherently for more.

Explosions of light were going off behind Sin's shut eyes and he couldn't help swearing loudly, chanting coarse words harshly as their motions became even more visceral.

Boyd's moans became quicker, more urgent, and his fingers spasmed against Sin as he came hard inside him.

Boyd threw his head back with a helpless shout, his eyes glazed, unbridled pleasure completely overtaking his features. His reddened lips parted and he rocked his hips against Sin. Boyd's fingers were like vices against Sin's legs and he gasped for air, crushing their bodies together as his arms seemed to unconsciously jerk Sin closer.

Sin's mind was still racing, his heart galloping in his chest, and before he could even consider the throbbing erection that remained trapped between his legs, the comm unit exploded with sound in his ear.

"What's your position?" Reece's voice asked curtly.

Boyd suddenly went very still, his eyes focusing from the ecstatic haze they'd been in and snapping over to Sin's face with a look that was almost akin to horror. His eyes widened, flushed skin turning ashen.

Boyd dropped Sin's feet to the ground and he stumbled backward, gaze flicking over Sin frantically before Boyd abruptly turned his back. He hunched forward and began to fumble with his clothes.

Sin automatically pulled up his cargo pants, his hands unsteady as he zipped them over his already softening erection. His body was still alive with sensation and unreleased desire, the feel of even his clothing seeming almost unbearable against his sensitized skin.

He grit his teeth in frustration, eyes boring into Boyd's back before he growled into the comm unit, "Less than a mile from the designated pick-up."

Reece grunted in acknowledgment. "We'll be there in five."

Sin didn't bother to respond as he concentrated on evening his breathing, on willing his erection to disappear, all the while staring at Boyd's back. Sin wanted to say something, to demand what that had been about, to ask why the hell Boyd was looking so regretful now, but the words caught in his throat.

Boyd finished adjusting his clothing and glanced at Sin briefly over his shoulder but turned his face away quickly. His head was tilted down, his shoulders hunched forward, and damp blond hair hid his face.

"Copy," Boyd said into the comm unit after a moment, his voice hoarse but otherwise calm and giving no indication of what they'd just been doing. He glanced at Sin again but once more didn't allow Sin the chance to see his expression. He turned in the direction of the designation point, saying to Sin hesitantly, "We should go."

Sin's eyes narrowed dangerously and all traces of desire disappeared. "No kidding," he said flatly, and adjusted his belt before walking past Boyd.

Despite the fact that Boyd had suggested it, he didn't immediately follow. It wasn't until Sin continued to stride away that he heard Boyd's steps trailing behind. The sounds of their boots crunching through the underbrush sounded especially loud in the tense silence, until Boyd broke it with a quiet, "Hsin..?"

But Sin didn't look over and didn't acknowledge Boyd. He was simmering with annoyance and at the moment he had a very violent urge to turn around and beat the shit out of his partner.

He wanted to demand what the hell Boyd was playing at, why he played hard to get all the time before practically sexually assaulting him against a fucking tree in the middle of the forest on a mission with transport not even five minutes away. Sin wanted to demand why Boyd would do that, why he would cause such intense burning physical pleasure and pathetic hopefulness to abound before dropping into awkward silence.

Every spiteful and bitter thing that Sin had wanted to say ever since they broke up, ever since the Kassian fiasco, bubbled to the surface. He willed it down forcefully and clenched his hands into fists as he told himself that this really wasn't the time-- that he would just say a bunch of shit he really didn't mean anyway and make the entire situation worse.

He could interrogate Boyd later when Reece and whatever other idiot transport agent wasn't hurtling towards them in a van. He could demand answers later when he wasn't suffering from exhaustion, extreme sexual frustration and a mean case of blue balls that made him wish Kemp was still around to serve as a punching bag.

They made it to the main road that cut the forest in half and the headlights of the van came racing down the road almost instantly before pulling to a stop beside them.

Sin slid the door open and got inside, sitting down and glaring out the window in stony silence.

Agent Rachel Lowe was sitting in the passenger seat and she looked over her shoulder, evenly taking in Sin's expression before her eyes slid to Boyd, whose features had settled into his default unreadable mask as he climbed in behind Sin. She looked away dismissively from them and turned forward in her seat.

Boyd was quiet as he shut the door behind him and subtly paused before he sat in the seat next to Sin. He tilted his head forward so his hair covered his face, and his hands rested in his lap with his fingers curled up and twitching once.

Reece started driving again almost as soon as Boyd had settled into the seat.

The ride to the private airport passed silently and quickly. Within the hour they were boarding an Agency jet, en route back to the City and to a double debriefing of the Di Zhi and Kemp missions individually. Just the idea of having to sit in what would likely be an hour to two hour-long debriefing with the unit before having to sit in Vivienne's office was enough to cause Sin's already throbbing headache to start pounding violently.

He anticipated hours of being stuck working out mission reports and explaining details of the China assignment and all of it made him feel vaguely homicidal. He hadn't slept for more than a couple of hours a night in China, even less after the raid, and he hadn't closed his eyes at all ever since that mission had come to a close.

His eyes felt dry and painful as he looked out the window darkly but his body wouldn't relax enough to fall asleep when he was in the presence of the other Agency operatives on board the plane.

Sin was vaguely aware of Boyd working on a portable computer a few seats away but he didn't look over. He didn't trust himself to behave rationally when his fuse was already dangerously short and his body was starting to rebel against him in frustration.

Not for the first time he wished he had the ability to sleep like a normal human. He could have slept on the twenty hour flight back into the United States but he'd spent half the time feeling tense and the other half watching Boyd sleep.

Ironically, he'd been reflecting on how much he missed being intimate with Boyd mere hours before they'd ended up fucking again. Too bad it wasn't exactly what Sin had had in mind.

He tried to figure it out but what it ended up coming down to was it being a fluke. An adrenaline high born out of a near-death experience and fatigue; emotions running wild and out of control.

As gratifying as it'd been at the time to have Boyd fucking his brains out for the first time in over a year, Sin couldn't get the bitter taste out of his mouth when he came to the conclusion that if that had really been all it was about-- it likely wouldn't be happening again. One of the first things Boyd had said to him after they'd rekindled their strained friendship was that it couldn't be casual between them.

The tension on the small jet was thick enough to cut and the other agents on board, transport and a small team that had been picked up from Northern California, seemed to pick up on it without much trouble.

They looked between the two senior agents curiously but none of them dared say anything aloud.

The plane arrived in the City shortly after six in the morning and the relief that Sin previously thought he would feel at finally returning to the familiar place was gone. His mood was sour and it was very visible on his face. As he strode through the Tower he could feel Boyd's gaze burning into his back but once against Sin didn't look over or acknowledge it.

By the time they were patched up by the medics and seated in the conference room with the rest of the unit, Ryan looked almost too disturbed by the look on Sin's face to actually address him directly. The R&D agent also shot furtive glances at Emilio whose expression wasn't any more pleasant than his son's, before Ryan darted a confused glance at Boyd and dropped his gaze.

The words were garbled and uninteresting to Sin and he didn't bother to pay attention to anything anyone was saying. Thankfully his father didn't seem interested in doing anything other than pointedly ignoring the conversation and alternately staring out the window and at his watch. Sin didn't know if he'd be up to Emilio's antics today without a bloodbath ensuing.

Boyd did the talking and Sin stared at him in his peripheral vision from time to time, mentally willing Boyd to stop talking about Di Zhi and say something more pertinent; say, perhaps about the frantic fucking that had taken place a few hours ago.


Sin glared at Carhart. "What?"

Carhart stared at him impatiently, looking just as tired as Sin felt. "I asked you a question."

"I don't know," Sin snapped, not really knowing if the response made sense and not caring. Emilio looked at him finally, arching a dark eyebrow as his green-eyed gaze moved between Sin and Boyd silently.

"You don't know what Zhang told you?" Carhart demanded, impatience and disgust ebbing into his tone.

Sin shrugged uncaringly, glaring around the table. "I gave Williams the material. I'm sure you have the recording."

Carhart stared at Sin blankly for an extended moment before turning his irritated gaze on Boyd. "Is there a problem I should be aware of?"

Owen was watching them with a sleepy frown, seeming at once mildly intrigued and mildly paranoid. He rocked on the back legs of his chair, arms crossed and eyebrows drawn down.

Jeffrey raised his eyebrows, his dark gaze settled primarily on Sin.

Boyd shook his head, looking weary, although when he glanced toward Sin there was a flash of well-hidden guilt that it was likely only Sin could decipher. "We're both very tired. Hsin especially hasn't had the chance to sleep in days. I can summarize the information if you'd like."

"Or he could just listen to the recording," Emilio added snidely. "But I guess that's too easy."

Sin silently cheered his father for being a dick right along with him and ignored the heated glares that they were both receiving.

"Fine," Carhart said curtly. "Go ahead, Boyd."

Boyd started talking and Sin went back to tuning everyone out. His head felt especially heavy and the symptoms of sleep deprivation were starting to feel very real again. He was vaguely reminded of a time well over a year ago when the intense fatigue had left him out of control and prone to outbursts and episodes.

One good thing was that at least those reactions were under control.

The debriefing lasted another forty-five minutes and a very perturbed-looking Carhart left the conference room quickly but not before giving Sin and Emilio another glare. Emilio watched him depart with a heavy scowl and scoffed something under his breath before following, not seeming very interested in hanging back with the rest of the unit.

Ryan glanced at Owen and Jeffrey before shooting Boyd a sympathetic smile. "I can't believe they gave you a back-to-back after China."

Boyd rubbed at his face and nodded. He dropped his hands with a sigh. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised. But there are other things I'd much rather be doing than going to another debriefing right after this." His gaze flicked briefly toward Sin but there was nothing in his expression to tell what he was thinking.

Sin rubbed the back of his hand against his face and pushed his chair back, not looking over. The idea of sitting in Vivienne's office for another hour or so was too much to bear.

"I'm going to my apartment," he said flatly, standing.

Boyd's gaze snapped over, his eyes widening slightly. He automatically reached for Sin but he stopped short of touching Sin and, after a very brief hesitation he dropped his hand. Even so, he didn't look away from Sin.

"Hsin, wait," he said in a worried undertone. "You should go. I doubt it'll take long and she might be angry or hold it against you if you don't show."

"And that has always been a major concern of mine."

Boyd shook his head, not looking away from Sin. Concern was clear in his eyes, although his head was tilted away from the others in the room. "But what if you get in trouble?"

"Then I'll get in trouble," Sin snapped. "I'm going to sleep. If she doesn't like it, that's not my problem."

The other three in the room were silent as they watched the two senior agents with varying degrees of confusion and intrigue. Owen had an expression that was mildly vacant as usual but his dark eyes seemed abnormally alert as he looked between them. Jeffrey had paused with his fingers curled around the handle of his briefcase, probably ready to leave before he became distracted by their interaction.

Boyd searched Sin's face and then dropped his eyes with a subdued nod. "Okay. I'll deliver our report."

Sin didn't bother to say anything in response and strode out of the room, his head pounding even more violently. He walked down the corridor and to the elevator bank, bypassing them entirely to take the stairs.

"--is a personal problem that has no place in a debriefing."

Sin didn't even stop and stare at Carhart and Emilio, who were standing in the stairway glaring at each other and obviously having some kind of confrontation. Carhart looked at him distractedly with a frown but Emilio replied as if Sin wasn't there.

"Why the fuck was I there, anyway? It wasn't even my fucking mission, you idiot."

Carhart reddened and Sin pushed past them uncaringly, not interested. He could hear Carhart gearing up for a full rant and their voices dimly carried down the stairs as he made his way further down.

Everything was making Sin incredibly angry and impatient and he couldn't stand to be near people at the moment. He was tired of Carhart and his father bickering like an old married couple and ignoring something that had been obvious to Sin since childhood. He was tired of having to run around on empty and having people expect more than he could give when he already gave more than most people ever had at the Agency. If he wanted to go to sleep after nearly a week of having none, the briefing could go fuck itself and they could wait.

But most of all Sin was sick of the entire situation with Boyd. He was sick of games and confusion, he was sick of things going unsaid. He was sick of being led to believe one thing only to be treated an entirely different way. He was sick of Boyd not being upfront about things and fucking with his brain in the process.

If all it had been was a random fuck, why couldn't Boyd have just said that? If it was more than that, why behave so oddly and confuse him even more when he didn't know which way to turn as it was?

By the time he reached his apartment he was simmering with anger and frustration at everything but as soon as he stripped his clothes off and allowed his body to touch the mattress, he nearly instantly fell asleep.

When he opened his eyes again it was to the sound of someone knocking on his door.

Sin looked around wearily and realized that it was well into the night even though he'd fallen asleep in the early part of the morning.

He sat up, running a hand through his hair and closed his eyes briefly, enjoying the feeling of finally being well rested. The near painful tension had melted out of his body and so had the blinding rage that had encompassed him ever since the mission in Washington. Everything that had happened hours ago seemed like a distant dream, as if it that had happened to another person, and Sin marveled at the fact that he'd lasted as long as he had before completely flipping out on someone in the state he'd been in.

The person knocked again and Sin got up, padding out into the main space before absently grabbing a pair of jeans and sliding into them so that he wouldn't be completely nude when he opened the door.

Not bothering to look into the vid screen to see who it was, Sin opened the door and stared at Boyd wearily. "Yes?"

Boyd searched Sin's face, his eyes slightly hesitant, although his expression was determined. "Can we talk?"

Sin shrugged and stepped aside, holding the door open for Boyd to come in and closing it behind him.

Boyd's gaze darted briefly around Sin's apartment before he turned to Sin. "I'm sorry," he said almost immediately, his tone completely sincere. His eyebrows drew up and his honey brown eyes were troubled.

"You should be," Sin replied bluntly, walking over to the living area and crossing his arms over his chest as he stared at his partner. "I'm getting tired of all of this bullshit."

Boyd's eyes flashed with guilt and he drew his eyebrows down, glancing away. "I didn't--" He started to say quietly before he cut himself off with a grimace and ran a hand through his hair, dragging his eyes back over to Sin. "I didn't plan to do that. I just... with the adrenaline high and then your hands touching me..."

"I figured that part out on my own." The words came out unimpressed and despite the way the words being spoken out loud by Boyd temporarily made Sin's chest tighten and his body briefly warm, it didn't replace the frustration of the situation.

Dismay darkened Boyd's eyes at Sin's tone and he took a step forward with one hand raised, almost as if he planned to stop Sin before he could turn his back completely or kick Boyd out.

"Hsin, I'm so sorry," Boyd said, his expression twisting slightly as he looked genuinely upset. "I didn't want to talk about it there because I was afraid of the conversation being used against us-- but I swear to God I won't tell Ivan. I'll make sure I keep my distance; I won't do anything like that again. I promise. I don't--"

He stopped and finished more uncertainly, his hand dropping at his side. "I really hope this doesn't mess everything up between us."

Sin stared at Boyd. "Why would I care if you told Ivan anything? What does he have to do with anything that happened?"

Boyd hesitated, eyebrows drawing down and his fingers flexing. A hint of confusion entered his eyes but it was drowned out by the fact that he was obviously still troubled. "Because-- Because you're involved and I don't know where you're at right now but he obviously cares about you and you get along so well... I don't want to fuck anything up between you."

Sin scoffed and turned away entirely, the conversation making him more exasperated somehow. "Ivan and I are just friends. If he's the reason you've been so on and off, why didn't you just ask if I was involved with him?"

"What?" Boyd asked, his eyebrows rising in surprise as he stared at Sin blankly. It seemed to take him a second to understand what Sin had just said. "Why would-- Since when?"

"Since July. Even before then, we were more friends than anything else. We only had sex together twice as it was so it wasn't exactly difficult to switch to a strictly platonic relationship."

Boyd shook his head, the surprise replaced by a flash of frustration at Sin's tone. He crossed his arms and drew his eyebrows down. "Everything implied you were together so why would I go out of my way to ask? You connected with him immediately, got closer to him faster than you ever did with me, and every time I saw you together you seemed to get along better. I thought you liked him more than you liked me. I knew you were fucking, it was obvious he cared about you, and then he told me you two were involved and not to give you mixed signals..."

"So despite the fact that there has been obvious tension between you and I lately, you decided that you should form your own conclusions about a make believe relationship that never even existed because you seem to talk to everyone about it except for me," Sin replied blandly.

"It's not like I brought it up to him," Boyd said in irritation, eyes narrowing. "He found me by your bedside after the Schafer mission and basically told me to back off. And I did wonder what the hell was going on-- why do you think I asked what the pool was about in China? You're the one who made it sound like it was nothing, like it was just some physical reaction. I thought that meant I'd been misreading things."

"Because I never had any indication that you had interest in me again!" Sin practically shouted, turning around to glare at Boyd. "And if that wasn't the case, why do you have to keep it a fucking secret and not say anything to me? Who gives a shit about Ivan or the possibility of rejection? If you really want to be more than friends, you should have just fucking told me."

"Because you fucking seemed happy!" Boyd snapped with an indefinable emotion that may not have entirely been anger. "I wasn't afraid of rejection-- I was afraid of being a selfish fuck with you like I always am. You'd finally moved on, you'd found stability-- what the hell was I supposed to say? 'By the way, Hsin, now that you've found someone better, I just wanted to let you know I fucking love you more than ever before. So PS, drop everything and get back with me.'" It came out as an upset, sarcastic demand.

"Yes!" Sin yelled at him angrily, slamming a hand against the wall so hard that indentations could be seen from his fingers. "You knew from the start that I never wanted things to end. Why didn't you just ask me if things with Ivan were serious before you decided they were on your own?"

"Because I thought Ivan was better than me," Boyd shouted, fingers clenching into fists and his expression twisting in frustration. He took a step forward, eyebrows drawing down and eyes narrowed. "Because you laughed with him faster, smiled with him sooner, hung out with him way earlier than you did with me-- Because we were always so fucked up and you'd only really been with me-- You finally had the chance to be with someone who you got along with right away without having to be forced together."

Boyd shook his head with a frown. "I thought you'd ultimately be happier with him and I cared more about that than anything else. And I was afraid if I asked you about it I'd fuck something up, I'd give the wrong signals or somehow influence you."

When Sin didn't immediately respond, Boyd crossed his arms and gave Sin an obstinate look as he continued bluntly, "If despite all that you were still interested in me, you could have said something to me too so don't just blame me for not asking. I had every reason to believe you were involved but you knew I wasn't. We both could have made this easier."

Sin stared at him and shook his head, black hair falling into his eyes even as he raked his hand through it to push it back in aggravation. He didn't know what to say. The fact that Boyd was interested in him was everything he'd been wanting to hear for months but it still didn't completely replace the aggravation over all the wasted time.

"This needs to stop," Sin said finally. "This thing that happens with everything going unspoken, nobody ever being upfront and honest, the assuming and the analyzing-- it just has to stop."

"I agree." Boyd took a step back and rolled his shoulders, the tension slowly starting to bleed away. He studied Sin seriously with furrowed eyebrows.

"So I'm just going to tell you how it is for me," Boyd continued frankly. His gaze was intense and sincere as he didn't look away from Sin's eyes. "I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. I think about you all the time. It's been hell trying to keep myself away-- every time you're close I just want to touch you. I would do anything for you. And if I could have anything in the world right now, I would be in a relationship with you."

Sin looked away and let his back press against the wall. He closed his eyes briefly as he let the words absorb into him. He tried to ignore the undeniable elation that made his heart skip a beat as he forced out the next question, "What changed, then? Before you said we were bad together."

"That's because we were." Boyd shook his head with a frown. "I didn't even know if either of us was capable of becoming stable enough to be together. But then we both started growing on our own. You began to trust me again and you stopped caring what I thought to the detriment of your own health. And I realized I didn't want to become better just for me. That I would and will do anything for you and it didn't even matter if I got anything in return."

Sin raised his eyebrows slightly and watched Boyd, not interrupting.

Boyd's shoulders loosened entirely as he pushed hair back from his face. The strands fell back into his eyes, partially shadowing his honey brown gaze. "I realized I was wrong and selfish about some things and I finally got over being that way. You'll always be more important to me than anything else and I realized that not only was there nothing I could do to change that, I didn't even want to try."

There was a brief silence between the two of them and Sin tilted his head back against the wall. The relief and happiness was undeniable but it would be a lie to say there wasn't some wariness as well. That was the only thing that kept Sin from closing the distance between them.

"I want to be with you too. I've never stopped wanting to be with you. Even after the Kassian shit." Sin's eyes flicked over to Boyd again uncertainly. "But I just don't want to believe something and then everything gets screwed up again."

Boyd's expression twisted slightly and he leaned back against the wall near Sin's kitchen. He shook his head, not dropping eye contact. "Neither of us knows the future. I wish I could promise you everything would be perfect this time but I can't. We don't have control of much of anything and I have no idea what could happen that could mess it all up again."

Despite his words, Boyd's gaze remained earnest and unhesitating. His eyebrows drew down slightly and he shook his head again once, briefly. "All I know is that I want to put the effort into this; I want the chance to try. And if we actually talk about all the shit that messed us up before, maybe this time we'll do better."

"Maybe," Sin said and it came out sounding a lot more hesitant than he actually felt. But after months of dying hope, now that the moment was here, now that Boyd was saying the words that Sin had dreamed he would say again someday-- Sin couldn't help feeling nervous and it left him at a loss for words.

He didn't know how to express what he was feeling-- how to explain that even though he wanted Boyd more than he'd ever wanted anyone else in his life, he was afraid of things going downhill and not having any more second or third chances. He was afraid of finding out that whatever problems the two of them always seemed to have would be inevitable and that even though they loved each other, they didn't need to be together.

Sin flexed his hands and looked away briefly. "I don't know what to say. I want this but I can't help but be pessimistic about what we are both capable of. And I want to be with you despite that but it makes me wonder what will happen the next time something bad occurs."

"That's why I said it wouldn't work before," Boyd said, shaking his head again. "Because I knew I at least wasn't ready. But I really think it's different this time. I think..."

Boyd trailed off briefly, his eyes narrowing almost pensively as he ran a hand back through his hair. "I think we were both desperate before; terrified of losing the only connection we had. And because of that we both did and said a lot of stupid things. What we had was never really on a solid foundation in the first place, not to mention we both have our issues that made it even worse. But despite everything, I feel a lot more stable now and I think you do too."

Sin didn't deny that and Boyd drew his eyebrows down slightly before he pushed himself away from the counter. He walked a few steps closer to search Sin's expression sincerely, although he stopped a few feet from Sin. "That's why I think this time we could actually manage it. Right now I'm not worried about something getting fucked up because I feel different about the prospect; this time I want to go through it with you. I feel like as long as we're both willing to put in effort and neither of us gives up, it doesn't matter what happens; we can get through it."

Sin looked at Boyd for a long moment before he pushed himself away from the wall and sat down on the couch, running his palms over his jeans and looking at the carpet from beneath his hair. "How long have you felt this way?"

Boyd watched Sin and after a pause he walked over, sitting on the couch and leaning forward, his forearms resting on his knees. His hands curled and he shook his head. "I guess a few months. After I started to notice the changes in myself, in you." He tilted his head, blond hair falling in a curtain as he studied Sin thoughtfully. "Honestly, if I hadn't thought you were with Ivan I probably would've said something earlier. But maybe it's better there was a lag anyway."

Sin arched an eyebrow. "Why is that better? I feel like we just wasted time."

"We probably did in ways," Boyd allowed with a faint frown. "But..."

Boyd paused, seeming to be trying to collect his thoughts before he shrugged. "I guess we have proof now that we can both feel something about each other but it doesn't have to affect missions or fuck up the rest of our lives somehow. At least for me, it was never the actions that messed things up, it was the emotions I felt in the process. And now I don't have to doubt that I can still be as good of a work partner as you need without compromising my feelings for you."

Thinking back on the end of the Monterrey mission, Sin nodded with a slight frown and studied the other man closely. He traced Boyd's features with his eyes and had to drag his gaze away before he became distracted and focused on what he was now free to do physically. "I suppose that's a good point."

Sin could feel Boyd's gaze still burning into him, moving along the contours of his face. Boyd's expression was shadowed and he paused before his fingers twitched and he shook his head. "One thing I want to be clear about is I won't just have sex with you. I can't be casual with you. If we get involved, I want it to be about more than that."

"I don't do casual sex with anyone, let alone someone I actually want something more from," Sin replied faintly. If he wanted this to be about sex, he would have had Boyd on his back and screaming by now.

Boyd nodded, looking unsurprised by the answer. "I think this goes without saying too but I don't want even the slightest possibility of miscommunication. I think that unless one of us has to for work," Boyd's eyes narrowed subtly but his tone was unchanged, "then neither of us should fuck around with anyone else."

"Even if Kassian starts coming on to you again?" Sin asked, trying to keep his voice neutral as he thought about that. Kassian had made it clear during the days that Sin had been holed up at his house that he and Boyd had stopped fucking and that it likely wouldn't happen again any time soon. But who was to say it wouldn't happen again ever?

Boyd grimaced and sat up straighter, turning his gaze on Sin. "What happened with Kassian absolutely won't happen again," he said without a hint of hesitation. "Even if he tried, which he won't, I wouldn't mess around with him if I was with you. The same goes for anyone else. You're the only one I want."

Sin couldn't help the trace of a smile that ghosted across his full lips and he leaned his head back against the back of the sofa, turning slightly to face Boyd. "Good to know."

A faint smile crossed Boyd's lips in return and he fell silent, his honey brown gaze lingering briefly on Sin's mouth before dragging up to meet his eyes.

This time Sin didn't stop himself from reaching out and extending his hand, brushing his fingers lightly along the side of Boyd's face until they dragged across his lips. Boyd's gaze was captivating and he subtly leaned into the touch. Sin's eyes narrowed slightly and he had to force himself to look away and drop his hand.

Boyd reached over, curling his fingers over Sin's hand, his thumb brushing against his skin. "Hsin," he said, not looking away from Sin's face.

Sin's pale green eyes rose and he looked directly into Boyd's.

"What about you? Would you still choose me over someone else even if more options came up in the future? You haven't been saying much and I want to be sure I know where you stand."

Sin shrugged, not breaking Boyd's gaze. "I don't want anyone else. I never did. What happened with Ann was an anomaly, not anything to do with attraction or desire."

Boyd's fingers strengthened against Sin's and he smiled. "So, does that mean you want to try?"

"I never meant to say that I didn't, just that I have reservations about what will be expected," Sin replied with a slight frown. "I just want it to be like it was when we were in Mexico."

"That's what I want too."

Sin nodded and shifted slightly, not knowing exactly what he was supposed to do or say in this situation. When they'd first gotten together there hadn't been any conversation making it official or about what they expected from the situation. It'd been sex and heat and passion.

Judging from the previous night, they still had the heat but the current conversation was making him more awkward than horny. Even though he'd assumed this conversation would end with one of them getting fucked into the back of the sofa, that didn't seem likely when he could barely tolerate sitting still while having the conversation because he had no idea what to say.

Sin ran a hand through his hair and looked at Boyd blankly for a long moment. He tried to work out the proper thing to say but was drawing a blank. "What now?"

Boyd's fingers slid away from Sin's hand and he shrugged. "I don't know. I guess we just... go from here and see where it takes us now that neither of us has to hold back."

"Ah." Sin nodded and crossed his arms over his chest again, shifting slightly. "Well be warned that I have no idea what to do in this situation. It is different now than it was before. Now I feel as though there are ways to go about this relationship and I don't know what those ways are."

"I don't think there are rules per se," Boyd replied slightly dubiously, his eyebrows drawing down. "Other than what we already agreed on. I'm not an expert on any of this, either. I plan to figure it out as we go."

There was another short silence as Sin let those words absorb into him. He felt his shoulders relax and some of the tension seep out of his body. The fact that Boyd was in somewhat of the same boat as him made the situation less intimidating.

He released a low breath and unfolded his arms, still watching his partner and feeling unsure of what to do or say in response.

Boyd's eyes moved along Sin's face. Preoccupation shadowed Boyd's features briefly as his eyebrows furrowed. "You know, I've been wondering... Given how everything went with Ivan, it seemed inevitable you would stay together."

He met Sin's eyes questioningly. "So... why did it end?"

Sin looked at Boyd sidelong before shrugging simply. "Because he wasn't you."

Continue to the next interlude: 3.21, Pandora