Sub Rosa

This site is..

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.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Sub Rosa

Interlude 3.23

Uploaded on 10/25/2009

Boyd thumped a twenty ounce cup of coffee on the desk and dropped into a nearby chair. Owen looked up, his eyebrows quirking in surprise as his gaze moved from the take away cup to Boyd's even expression.

"Tell me about the Reapers," Boyd said seriously.

Owen glanced around briefly but no one else was nearby, although a few people looked over curiously to see Boyd in the R&D department again. "Awesome, I'd love to," Owen enthused, pushing his laptop away and leaning back in his chair until the front legs were in the air. His wild red curls barely moved when he tilted his head. "Maybe we can even go super stealth style on a field trip except I doubt--"

Boyd held his hand up before Owen could go further. "Owen. I know you're capable of a normal conversation without it becoming purely tangential. I'll compensate you for this but I just want the information."

Owen paused, his dark eyes assessing Boyd before sliding toward his coworkers again. The typical vacant blandness of his expression shifted, replaced by something much more serious than usual. Owen shrugged and dropped the chair to all four legs again.

"What do you want to know?"

"Everything you know," Boyd said intently. "How legit the claims are. How likely you think it really is that they exist."

"I'm positive they exist," Owen said, deadly serious as he stared into Boyd's eyes. "I'm pretty much 98% certain shit goes down in there like I've heard, too. I think they're doing experiments."

Boyd's eyebrows twitched down and he shook his head, leaning forward. "What kind of experiments?"

Owen shrugged. "Whatever the Agency wants. But considering it's up to The Powers That Be, it can't be anything good."

Boyd shook his head impatiently. "Rumors tend to be elaborated the more they're told. There has to be something people are saying about the experimentation specifically."

There was a long moment in which Owen stared alertly. The way he studied Boyd was intense and his lips pulled down in a small frown. He took a long drink of the triple shot espresso macchiato Boyd had bought him. He made a face the way he always did when he tasted coffee, especially espresso, but when he set the cup down he kept one hand loosely curled around it.

"This is about Sin, isn't it?"

Boyd simply watched him. He knew that Sin wanted him to drop this topic but he couldn't. Sin obviously wasn't taking it seriously but Boyd was less certain that it was untrue.

There was the chance that the Agency was messing with Sin-- slipping him steroids or some other drug which could enhance him during times of adrenaline. As far as that went, Boyd hadn't said anything in the van but he'd started to wonder about other possibilities too-- maybe something to do with the box.

If it turned out any of this was true, then Boyd agreed with Emilio. They should know. If they didn't, how were they going to counteract it? How could Boyd help Sin if everything fell apart the way it usually did, if Boyd had no idea what the hell he was even working with?

He knew Sin wouldn't look into this and he could understand why. Even if Sin believed him, it was probably frustrating and off-putting to imagine himself being different in yet another way; that something else was wrong with him when things finally seemed stable. But for Boyd, that didn't matter. He would still love Sin regardless of what they found out. What mattered to him was gathering all the evidence he could and gaining an understanding of what was going on and what he could realistically do to help.

There was no point in lying about it. Owen had been the one to bring up the Reapers in the first place and he'd been there when Sin had mentioned being in the building. Owen would see right through it so Boyd stayed silent.

When he didn't answer, Owen grimaced and leaned closer.

"Listen," Owen said, dropping his voice so no one could overhear. "I wanna know as much as the next guy what kinda twisted shit they've got going on down there, but straight up? You need to lay off this." His expression was completely serious and he raised his eyebrows. "The walls have got more eyes on you than a spider-infested potato. The last thing you need right now is to Scooby Doo it onto the trail and become the meddlesome kid they've gotta off."

"What makes you say that?"

Owen gave Boyd an incredulous look. "Dude, you're high profile and you always will be. And after the stunt I heard you pulled with the Inspector's investigation, I'm surprised you're still running around free as a bird. They're super paranoid with the new admin rolling in sometime and I'm sure they're expecting some shit to go down related to you or Sin as per us." He said the last word as an abbreviation of usual.

"I'm well aware of the Marshal's concerns but I fail to see how they're yours," Boyd said evenly.

That same sharp, assessing look passed through Owen's eyes. "Look, dude, don't get me wrong. I know you're fully capable of a lot of shit but some of us in R&D, we've been doing our checking on the new Marshal--"

Boyd kept part of his attention on the rest of the room, to be sure no one would approach unnoticed, but he otherwise zeroed in on Owen. "What do you have on her?"

"Nothing awesome," Owen said with a grimace. He shoved some papers out of the way so he could slide his coffee cup nearer to him. "Seong Jae-Hwa, South Korean but born in London. Hardcore with a capital H and liable to be an insufferable prat. She rose through the ranks pretty quickly over there on account of the fact she lays the smack down on anyone who so much as looks sidelong at bending the rules. She was the head of their Internal Affairs for awhile and got her former supervisor terminated over some breach of protocol. And we're talking supervisor as in mentor, as in person she supposedly trusted. As in, guy who thought she'd have his back."

He raised his eyebrows pointedly. "Unsurprisingly, she gained a rep as the sort of person everyone hoped would get taken out by a random nuclear warhead. Pretty sure they're gonna throw a Europe-wide party the second that woman steps foot on American soil."

Boyd nodded. That sounded in line with what he'd heard so far. What he didn't know was how that was going to work with what he suspected was going on with Sin.

"Regardless, that has nothing to do with this," Boyd said. "She's not here yet and I don't care how many eyes are on me. I don't intend to be obvious about any of this but I want to know about the Reapers."

"What's it going to do even if you find everything out?" Owen pressed. "Those files are restricted like hell and the lab is even worse. Trust me. I made it my own personal mission for awhile to look into it and I even recruited Jacob."

He tilted his head toward the tattooed man Boyd remembered Ryan having a crush on. "We got nowhere real fast and despite the fact we were super secretive about it and erased all our tracks, we still got a talking to from Bree and Connors, wondering why we were looking into it. The protection is ridiculous on big name secrets like that. I bet even Ivan doesn't know what really goes down."

Boyd's eyes narrowed stubbornly. "Don't worry about what I'll do with the information. They won't come down on you even if they find out you helped; you have a nearly perfect record. I just want to know the rumors. If you won't tell me, I'll ask someone else."

Owen stared at Boyd for a long moment and finally sighed dramatically. He shook his head and took another long drink of the macchiato. "You two are ridiculous," he declared when he set the cup down. "I pity the fool who ever tries to come between you."

"The Reapers, Owen," Boyd said patiently.

Making a face, Owen tapped his foot briefly against the floor. He glanced around again in the process and shrugged. "Okay, look. Most of this? Pure conjecture and sometimes nigh craziness. But I still think there's some truth to it."

Boyd watched Owen expectantly.

"Rumor has it, this group wasn't formed at the same time as the Agency. Supposedly, that lab building originally was something else. A bunker, who knows what. But a few years into the Agency's existence, weird shit started happening. But," Owen said, his eyes brightening as he got into the topic, "there's another origin theory-- that the Reapers were around before the Agency."

"Before?" Boyd echoed, his eyebrows arching. "It was formed by Johnson's?"

"Yeah. The real Johnson's. According to that theory, which by the way is my favorite because it's all conspiracy action all night long, the whole reason our fair gov decided to ever move the Agency to Johnson's as a cover was because of the intel they had on the dudes. They knew about some sort of drug experimentation going down and thus figured that, number one, they could use it as leverage. You know--"

Owen straightened his back and lowered his eyebrows ominously as he affected what he apparently believed to be the look of a harsh government agent. "'Let us use your facilities for our secret government agency or we'll shut you down for what you've been doing,'" he wiggled his fingers, "intimidation, intimidation."

Owen relaxed back into his typical slump. "And two, Johnson's already had facilities set up that would work well for the government. Some people say the Agency was initially formed for the sole purpose of secret government experiments and only over time did it become what it is today."

Boyd stared at Owen, finding himself honestly intrigued by the information. He tried to remember what he'd been told about the Agency; its formation and goals. Everything had been propaganda but he did wonder whether there was any truth to the assertion that this place had been built for experiments.

If that was the case, then it was likely that more people than Sin had potentially been experimented on. But that also sounded a bit too much like an extreme conspiracy theory. Boyd didn't doubt that the Agency had a lot more secrets to it than it had truths, yet the fact that there weren't more people running around like Sin even after decades of operation was telling. Although it was possible other experiments were occurring, there wasn't anything else that stood out to him as terribly suspicious.

It led Boyd to believe that the Agency's existence wasn't solely about experiments. At least not anymore. He didn't know what it had been like initially.

"What kind of drug experiments?"

"No one knows what Johnson's was doing but by now, the stories about the Reapers are pretty varied," Owen said with a shrug. "Sleeper soldier programs, super soldier programs. Medical experimentation, human experimentation. Tests to see how to get people to live through another nuclear attack. There are theories they're working on how to resurrect people from the dead. Some of it's pretty fringe- or pseudoscience."

"What's the super soldier program?" Boyd asked intently.

"I don't know, really," Owen said with a frown. He absently tapped his fingers against the coffee cup. "People just make up names for shit they like to think goes down in there. I mean, seriously? I've heard of the Cyclops Project, the Unicorn Project, and even Operation Santa. So I'm pretty sure some of this is purely bogus."

"There's no proof of any of this?" Boyd pressed. "Even the less ludicrous ideas?"

Owen snorted. "Not a chance. If there was any, it's long gone. Sin's the only one I know of who ever admitted to being inside there. Honestly, if there really was a super soldier program I'm pretty sure he'd be the poster boy. But at the same time, with how secretive they are why would they experiment on such a high profile person?"

"Because everyone already thinks he's subhuman so it works to their advantage," Boyd returned, thinking aloud as his eyes narrowed. "It would allow them to test out theories they want to try on a person who no one would care was hurt, while at the same time it forces him further into alienation because of his differences. Every impossible thing he does would give them scientific data while at the same time reinforcing the general population's fear of him and making it even less likely their work would ever be discovered. It would solve two problems for them at once."

Owen's fingers stilled against the coffee cup. He raised his eyebrows, looking impressed and mildly disturbed. "That's true. I didn't think about that."

"If that's the case, they've purposefully been maligning Hsin even more than I thought," Boyd said with forming anger, his eyes darkening and lips tightening.

A beat of silence met the observation and Owen looked away once more, scanning the room. His fingertips pressed against the cup, his expression pensive. "Honestly, Boyd? I think something probably has gone down with Sin in the past. But I also think you'll never know exactly what or why, and even if you find out you won't be able to do anything about it."

"Let me worry about that," Boyd said firmly, leaning back in his chair and staring hard at Owen. "Where can I find more information on them?"

Owen shook his head. "That's about the extent anyone knows."

Boyd quirked an eyebrow and continued to stare at Owen.

After a long moment, Owen scowled and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "Look, dude. I'm not lying. I mean, you could try Kaspar."

"Why Kaspar?" Boyd asked immediately. "Why not Ivan?" He knew of Ivan's reputation for this sort of information more than Kaspar's.

"Well, you could," Owen said dubiously. "He's the conspiracy king. He probably knows a thousand times more rumors than even I know but I doubt he has any official data on it. Plus I'd think the whole 'you stole my man' thing would make you want to avoid him for awhile. But Kaspar's got that library, you know?"

Boyd raised his eyebrows, deciding not to comment on what Owen said about Ivan. Instead, he tried to remember all the times he'd been in the old library. "I don't remember a restricted section."

"Well, there isn't. Not really," Owen said with a frown. "But it's like, dude's got no life outside books, right? And his mom used to be crazy hardcore about saving everything she found. She's like some sort of bibliophile hoarder, I swear."

Owen shook his head to himself and yet at the same time, he seemed pleased despite his words. "She worked a lot on the databases so I bet, if it's anywhere, you can find stuff there. Also, I know Kaspar's got a rockin' collection of books back at his apartment. He's got three bedrooms and two of them plus his living room are libraries. No lie."

Boyd crossed his arms, eyebrows drawing down faintly as he looked out the window. He could see the barest ghost of his expression reflected back at him, looking determined and stubborn. He contemplated how best to get the information from Kaspar when Owen continued casually:

"Plus, he remembers everything he's read and he's got a hard-on for you. I think you'd make him joygasm just by asking to see his pad."

Boyd quirked his eyebrows and looked over at Owen, who raised his hands in helpless innocence. "Just sayin'."

Boyd shook his head to himself and pushed his chair back. "Thanks, Owen. I'll get you into the cafe next time you want lunch. Give me a call."

Owen brightened considerably, his back straightening and a huge grin crossing his face. "Oh, what! Sweet! I've been waiting for this day my whole Agency life! And PS, the cornbread was thoroughly superior."

A faint smile crossed Boyd's face. "How do you know that wasn't the placebo effect?""

"Because you would never break my heart and lie to me like that, Boyd Beaulieu," Owen deadpanned, giving Boyd a doe-eyed look. "I trust in your decency above all others."

The smile became a light chuckle. "Well, when you put it like that..." Boyd started to stand and then paused, looking at Owen in curious contemplation. "You were talking about The Powers That Be earlier."

"Sure was," Owen agreed happily. His mood seemed to have heightened considerably once the offer of visiting the cafe was out in the open.

"They're in charge of both Agencies, right?"

"Yep." Owen raised his eyebrows. "Which reminds me; I have plans for merch somewhere down the line. What do you think about a t-shirt that says, 'Tagged by TPTB' for new recruits? I was thinking it'd be like froshing them in advance so it's less painful when it happens later."

Boyd shook his head, although it was more in response to Owen's digression than anything. "Who are they? Who's in charge?"

Owen snorted. "Dude, I'll know whether those sleigh-bells I heard one Christmas morn really came from Santa before I know who's calling the shots here. Gotta be someone huge and international but that's about as far as I can guess."

Boyd stared at Owen for a long moment and then turned away, his gaze returning briefly once more to the ruined city spread beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. He wondered whether he would ever learn the answers to any of the questions he found himself increasingly intrigued by.

"Okay." Boyd crossed his arms and studied Owen. "If you hear of anything new, let me know."

"Roger Wilco," Owen replied casually with a dutiful salute.

Boyd turned and left, already running through what he could recall of Kaspar's schedule and determining when he would stop in there next.

Boyd strode down the empty hallway. He had barely seen anyone on the way up to Carhart's floor which wasn't unusual for this residential complex. He wondered whether Emilio would give him shit for being ten minutes late. He hoped not, since when Emilio got on a rant he sometimes didn't give up the topic for hours.

When Boyd reached Carhart's apartment, he knocked loudly on the door without delay.

There was no answer and when a long moment passed, he knocked again. Once again, there was an extended pause and just as he was considering leaving, he heard sounds on the other side. It sounded like someone talking loudly and angrily but Boyd couldn't make out the muffled words. When the door opened abruptly, he caught the tail end of one sentence.

"--give a shit who's at the fucking door. You always find a goddamn reason."

It was Emilio's voice, snarling at Carhart, who had been the one to open the door.

Carhart looked at Boyd blankly and seemed generally unfazed by the fact that Emilio was apparently cursing him out. "Yes, Boyd?"

Boyd fought the urge to raise his eyebrows and instead looked briefly past Carhart's shoulder. He couldn't see anything of note so he met the general's eyes again. "Emilio told me to come by for training."

The general raised his blond eyebrows slightly but that was the only hint of expression on his face. He was the picture of calm neutrality as he raised his fingers to continue buttoning his shirt and stepped to the side so that Boyd could enter.

Emilio stood at the back of the living room, fuming. His dark eyebrows were lowered over blazing green eyes and he was glaring at Carhart before shifting the stare to Boyd.

Boyd shifted his gaze past Carhart's shirt, which was clean and pressed and had been only partially unbuttoned, and met Emilio's eyes calmly despite the man's glare. "Are you still planning to train?"

Emilio scoffed and turned so that his tattooed back was to the two of them. He was only half dressed, in loose pants and barefoot with his hair spikier than usual. "Well I guess I have nothing better to do."

Carhart rolled his eyes and picked up his black jacket from where it lay on the arm of a chair.

Boyd nodded and crossed his arms, shifting so he leaned against the doorjamb. He kept his gaze bored, as though he had nothing on his mind except to wait for Emilio. But the peculiarities of the moment did not escape him. Emilio's comment, Carhart getting dressed, the fact that Carhart's clothing was unwrinkled... Carhart's calm reaction compared to Emilio's irritated one...

Carhart slid into his jacket and nodded at Boyd. "Good luck with training." That being said, he shifted past Boyd and departed the apartment.

When the door shut, Emilio turned around and flipped it off. "Little bitch."

Boyd quirked an eyebrow and couldn't stop himself from asking mildly, "Troubles?"

"Your face is trouble," Emilio muttered sullenly, sprawling down onto the sofa and crossing his arms over his chest like an upset child.

"I get told that a lot," Boyd deadpanned.

He didn't shift away from the wall near the door, although he did glance around the apartment briefly. Nothing seemed out of place.

Emilio ran a hand through his hair and released a long, low sigh. "He pisses me off. He never fucking changes, not even in nearly twenty years. Still the same jackass with his morals and black and white ideas of shit," he muttered.

"Hmm." Boyd studied Emilio thoughtfully.

He wondered whether Emilio had made a move on Carhart and was turned down. He'd been wondering for awhile whether there was more going on between those two, but the only vibes he ever seemed to get came from Emilio.

He didn't say anything because he knew Emilio wouldn't tell him anything anyway but it was a question that hovered in the back of his mind.

"And he thinks he's got me all figured the fuck out. Every time I say anything he thinks he knows why or what I'm really thinking. He thinks he's got everything so well in hand and in order but he's always the first one to back down and run away when he feels cornered," Emilio continued to rant, eyebrows lowering further over his eyes.

"He likes to mindfuck me, blondie. And I'm going to flip out and fucking murder him one day because of it."

Boyd didn't know what to say to that, although it lent weight to his theory. He paused and then pushed himself away from the door and loosened his arms. "That does sound like him," he agreed. "At least as far as being a few steps ahead and seeming to think he knows what a person's thinking."

"Sometimes," Emilio said in a low dangerous voice. "Sometimes I get so fucking angry I just imagine myself killing him. That's how crazy he drives me. Sometimes I just want him to fucking die so I won't be like this no more."

Boyd didn't doubt that Emilio could kill Carhart, provided he ever did lose himself enough to do it. Emilio had proved to be on par and to even surpass Sin in some ways which led Boyd to believe that as formidable as the General may be, he wouldn't win that fight.

"If that ever happened you'd regret it far more than anything in the end," Boyd replied calmly.

"Yeah," Emilio agreed quietly, nodding seriously in response. "I'd probably blow my own brains out after. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad though..."

Emilio seemed completely serious. Boyd studied him-- the face that was so familiar to him, combined with dark comments that were reminiscent of things Sin sometimes said when he was truly upset and saw no point in the future. Boyd couldn't ignore comments like that from Emilio any more than he could from Sin.

Boyd walked over and sat down in a chair near the couch. "Why do you say that?"

"Because my life sucks," Emilio replied with another sigh, finally looking over at Boyd. His full lips twisted up into a mockery of a grin and as he sat up straight on the couch, he rolled his shoulders. "But I love myself too much for suicide so it won't happen."

Boyd considered Emilio for a long moment and then shrugged casually, leaning back in the chair and resting his hands against his lower stomach. "Good. Because if you killed Carhart and then yourself, I think it would upset Hsin. At which point I would have to hunt you down in your afterlife and kill you again." He quirked his eyebrows. "It's much less work to avoid the entire debacle in the first place."

"You couldn't kill me if you really tried, which is why your bitch ass is over here disrupting my shit in order to beg me for training."

"I don't recall begging for anything," Boyd replied, watching Emilio with an unfazed expression. "I seem to recall you telling me to meet you here because you were too lazy to meet me in the gym." He gave Emilio a mild look. "The fact that you forgot isn't my fault."

"Well maybe not," Emilio replied, once again in full on exaggerated joker mode. "But I do recall you begging for Hsin's cock. 'Fuck me harder, harder, oh--oh god--YES!'" Emilio exclaimed in a voice that was obviously meant to mimic Boyd's.

Boyd smirked and shifted, leaning forward with his forearms resting on his open knees. He knew Emilio was trying to get to him and he wasn't about to give Emilio the satisfaction. "I never said I didn't beg your son," he said in a low rumble, raising his eyebrows. "I beg him a lot." He flicked his gaze along Emilio's body and shrugged, meeting Emilio's eyes again. "I just don't beg you."

Emilio's mouth stretched into a wide grin and every trace of anger and darkness fled his handsome face or at least appeared to. "Oh but you would if you'd go for a ride. I guarantee it, cutie."

"Believe what you want," Boyd replied idly. "But that's a theory that will remain untested."

"What if Hsin agreed to a threesome?" Emilio asked, raising his eyebrows.

Boyd almost laughed at that. "He wouldn't."

"I know he wouldn't," Emilio said, making a face. "But in theory, if he did."

"Why are you so curious?" Boyd asked, drawing his eyebrows down and giving Emilio an odd look. He was starting to become genuinely perplexed by the man. "Did you actually get intrigued watching me fuck Hsin or are you just not used to people telling you no and now you need to figure out what it would take to become yes?"

Emilio shrugged, clearly unashamed. "Both. And I wouldn't mind fucking both of y'all."

Boyd stared at Emilio and then shook his head dismissively to himself. The talk about Sin, no matter how far-fetched, made him think of what he'd wanted to talk to Emilio about.

He straightened and looked at Emilio more seriously. "I've started looking into the Reapers."

Emilio gave Boyd a considering look as if he was debating continuing to pursue his previous line of questioning. Ultimately, he simply shrugged. "And?"

"Mostly rumors so far," Boyd admitted with a shrug. "But I have a possible lead where to look for more information."

There was a low expulsion of breath and Emilio leaned forward slightly, hunching over the coffee table. He took a bag of weed out of his pocket and emptied it onto a stack of magazines where he began breaking it up. "Any chance of you getting to a point?"

"Well, some of the rumors talk about drug experimentation," Boyd replied, leaning back in his chair with a contemplative look. "There's even a theory that the Reapers were formed with Johnson's, that it was one of the reasons this became the cover, and that they only later got incorporated into the Agency when the government took over."

Emilio arched a brow at that and slipped a small glass pipe out of the same pocket. "Sounds like some grade A paranoid bullshit to me."

"Well, considering the fact they think the Agency was solely about experiments in the beginning, probably," Boyd agreed with another shrug. "But when you think about it, it's true that they did take over a huge pharmaceuticals headquarters. The facilities are designed to manufacture drugs and if they incorporated any of the original staff, there would certainly be people who still know how to design new ones. And--"

Boyd shook his head. "If it weren't for the impossible things I've seen Hsin do, I'd probably think it's a ridiculous conspiracy and that's it. But now I'm not so sure something isn't going on..."

"That's all well and good but 90% of the shit that people say about the labs, and have been saying since I was younger than you, is total bullshit." Emilio began packing the marijuana into his pipe and put it to his lips although he paused before lighting it up. "I could buy that Johnson's developed some kind of drug that acts like a steroid, though."

Boyd considered Emilio thoughtfully. "After this all came up, I started thinking about the box. I know they keep him sedated when he's in there but what if they're slipping something else in there too? Maybe a drug like that?"

Emilio flicked his lighter and dipped it into the bowl of the pipe. He inhaled deeply for a moment before pulling away and exhaling. The smoke flooded the room and wafted over to where Boyd was sitting. "Or even some kind of pure form of Pandora, you know? I got to thinking 'bout that the other night."

"Pandora?" Boyd echoed, drawing his eyebrows down and ignoring the smell. "You think it would generate those kinds of results?"

Emilio took another hit from his pipe and spoke through a cloud of smoke when he finally exhaled. "I bet you don't know much about PD, do you? Not a clean cut rich kid like you."

Boyd crossed his arms, taking some offense to the comment. "That really has nothing to do with this. But I'll take your answer as yes, it would."

"That has everything to do with it," Emilio retorted, rolling his eyes. "Do you know what the fucking drug is all about or don't you?"

"Yes," Boyd said in mild irritation. "It's a popular street drug that affects people differently; some experience a high that often results in sexual encounters and others seem to feel as though they've become more powerful. A person can't build immunity to it, which is part of its allure, but massive quantities have been known to cause heart attacks and other serious issues which have, in the past, led to death."

"Yeah so when you take enough, it makes you feel all jacked up and it ain't exactly just a state of mind type thing. You fuck longer, you fight harder and whenever I used to pop enough caps, I could run a fucking marathon and still feel like I wouldn't break a sweat, you know? It was some crazy shit. And you never build a tolerance to it so people who pop that shit like candy are always feeling like superman, well, until they keel over and die."

Emilio leaned back in the sofa and set the pipe beside him on the cushion. He stretched his arms up and rolled his shoulders, looking entirely more relaxed than he had when Boyd first arrived. "So imagine that shit but without being cut with other stuff."

Boyd raised his eyebrows, rather horrified by the idea of something like that being used on Sin. "That does sound like it could be... If they kept him on a relatively low dosage of that over a long period of time, it never would reach critical levels for him." He paused and frowned, crossing his arms. "But what about in Monterrey? He didn't take anything there. Would it have lasted eight months?"

"No. And he couldn't be on a low dosage for it to work the way it's supposed to neither." Emilio shrugged.

"How high of a dose would he need if it were pure?"

"I dunno, I've never fucked with the shit pure before. But for him to be able to do the shit he does, I imagine it'd have to be pretty high. But it wouldn't add up anyway because Sin ain't never high. People who are fucked up on PD look like they're fucked up on PD. So unless Johnson's made some special batch of it..."

"Or something else entirely that no one's heard of," Boyd said, tilting his head thoughtfully. "Who's to say they didn't create their own cocktail out of aspects of pure Pandora and other drugs to generate the results they wanted?" He considered that. "Although, I think it would be difficult to create something that effective with so few side effects or telltale signs."

Emilio nodded, shrugged and lapsed into pensive silence. After awhile he tilted his face against the sofa and rubbed his cheek against the fabric like a cat. He gazed at Boyd from beneath his long black eyelashes. "Wanna take a hit?"

Boyd found it a little difficult to look away from Emilio when he had such a relaxed, languid expression; probably because it automatically made Boyd wonder whether Sin would ever look at him like that. "Not really."

A flicker of disappointment flashed through the stunning green eyes and Emilio rolled his eyes upward, turning his face to the side. "Zach used to smoke with me a long time ago."

"That's nice but I'm not him," Boyd replied with a shrug. "I don't want to compromise my ability to think."

"Yeah, well you're a little bitch anyways."

Boyd leaned back in the chair and watched Emilio, unfazed by the offhanded reply. He wouldn't care no matter what Emilio thought of him but especially since Emilio didn't seem serious, he didn't feel the need to respond.

"How do you and my boy even have fun?"

"We don't need to be high to have fun with each other," Boyd replied pointedly.

Emilio scoffed at that. "Yes, I forgot that you got all that Vega dick to keep you entertained. So sorry."

Boyd rolled his eyes. "If all I cared about was fucking him then things would've turned out differently. We have fun because we enjoy each other's company. We talk or hang out. We have some similar taste in books. We were listening to music the other night."

Emilio wiggled his fingers. "What a couple of party animals. How can you stand it?"

"You do realize not everyone's concept of a good time includes getting high, drunk, or partying with random people," Boyd said evenly. "You know Hsin isn't like that so I don't see why you expected a different answer."

"He was in Monterrey sometimes," Emilio said with a frown, glancing over at Boyd seriously. His eyebrows drew together thoughtfully. "I used to watch him when he was at work."

Boyd watched Emilio for a moment and then shifted forward, resting his forearms on his knees. He considered not answering with the full truth of the situation, yet there was no reason for that. Emilio, for all his faults, had so far seemed to do right by Sin since he'd returned.

"I know," Boyd said, his eyebrows drawing down and honey brown eyes turning regretful. "We were just talking about this the other night. The difference is, that was Monterrey, where he could relax and no one recognized him. He was happy there. Here, we just tried to go to a restaurant and he was so uncomfortable that I told him we would bring the food home."

"Oh." Emilio rubbed his perpetually stubble-covered jaw and used his other hand to finger the smooth surface of his pipe. After a moment those intense green eyes lifted and studied Boyd seriously. "What's the point of the two of you being the way you are again?"

Boyd drew his eyebrows down. "What do you mean?"

The older man shrugged his tattooed shoulders slightly and slid his gaze away, twisting the pipe between his fingers. "What's the point of being together... that way."

Boyd stared at Emilio blankly. It took him a moment to realize he meant being monogamous. It was probably pretty telling about Emilio in general that he didn't even say the word aloud, yet Boyd got the feeling that Emilio honestly wondered about the answer. He would probably deny it and pretend he was high if Boyd asked but that didn't matter.

"Well," Boyd said slowly, "for one, the time that didn't happen everything got fucked up for a year. After everything fell apart, I tried doing the casual thing and it was fun for awhile but ultimately, it felt pointless. I still cared about him, couldn't stop thinking about him... the idea of him being with anyone else hurt. We love each other and don't really want to be with anyone else. At that point, there's no reason to be with other people."

Emilio's well formed mouth pulled down into a skeptical frown and he looked at Boyd from under his eyebrows. "You never want to fuck around with anyone else?"

"Well, like I said, when I wasn't with him I slept with other people. But when I'm with him, no," Boyd said seriously. "I don't. Because it's not worth it to mess up what we have. I'm happy with him."

Another pause. "I don't understand why people think it's so bad."

"What? Fucking someone else when you're involved with someone?" Boyd asked. "Or staying casual indefinitely?"

Emilio just shrugged silently. He'd gone from casual and relaxed to moody in the space of five minutes it seemed.

Boyd paused and leaned back in the chair. He didn't know what Emilio was getting at but he decided to answer regardless. "There's nothing bad with casual relationships if that's what you're into. But fucking around with someone else when you're involved, unless you're both okay with it, is a betrayal of trust. That's what it comes down to."

"Maybe if you're a sentimental bleeding heart," Emilio replied, not looking at all convinced of the explanation. He shook his head and scoffed quietly to himself.

Boyd crossed his arms and gave Emilio a narrow-eyed look. "If you're going to be a dick about this, forget it. I got it in my head you wanted honest answers but if you just want to hear the bullshit you expect, then I suggest you talk to someone else."

"It's forgotten," Emilio said, arching an eyebrow. "I didn't think the answer would make you sound like such a weepy over-dramatic woman. You act like fucking someone else is some ultimate breech of loyalty. I can't even take you seriously when you tell me that kind of nonsense."

"Coming from a person who can't even say the word monogamous, who probably has issues with trust, and who seems to think that by not admitting aloud that he loves his son and wants to protect him then it won't be painfully obvious that it's the case," Boyd trailed off pointedly and shrugged. "Frankly, I don't give a shit if you think that about me because you're clearly so far in the other direction that anything dealing with acknowledging love will probably seem overly emotional to you."

The other man shrugged again, seemingly unconcerned. "And you're so obsessed with your conventions of love that you can't understand anyone who doesn't believe in it or go along with it. Big deal."

"Not really," Boyd replied blandly. "You asked why people have an issue with that type of behavior. I answered with the reason most people would give. Like I said, it depends on the people and what they're okay with. Personally, I couldn't care less what you do with your life."

"You said it like it was a fact. It's a betrayal of trust, you said. Just the retardedness of that statement makes it impossible for me to take anything else seriously about this entire conversation."

Boyd just shook his head. He didn't want to continue with the conversation because it was clearly going nowhere and it was only serving to irritate him. Instead, he was struck by Emilio's varied speech pattern, which had become increasingly obvious to him during the course of the conversation.

"Why do you talk like that?" Boyd asked instead.

Emilio glanced over at him again. "Huh?"

"The way you speak," Boyd clarified, tilting his head and studying him. "Sometimes you speak so casually, with more slang than anything, and sometimes you speak so properly." He shrugged. "I thought at first it was related to when you were being yourself and when you were not but I'm not certain if that's the case."

"Oh." Emilio sat up straight and poked at the pipe, peering at whatever was left in the bowl. "Whenever I'm trying to explain something to a stubborn motherfucker and trying to make my point, I tend to start talking more like how they taught me to speak, you know? And whenever I'm just chillin' I talk more regular like how I used to talk before they tried to knock it out of me."

"They as in the Agency?"

Emilio nodded. "Yep. They kept me in fucking speech and deportment classes for ages when I first got recruited."

Boyd watched Emilio thoughtfully. Now that he thought about it, Emilio had been a street kid for most of his life. "You probably never did go to school, did you?"

Pale green eyes rose briefly, flicking over Boyd before settling on his face and for a brief moment the older man was silent. But then he just raised his eyebrows almost challengingly. "Nope. I didn't even read or write all that well until I got here."

"Hmm." Boyd considered that. "How long did it take you?"

"Not too long to get better with writing and speaking proper, I guess. Maybe a month, maybe less. But they wanted me to completely change me the fuck around and turn me into some lame ass with no personality. All of a sudden I was supposed to stop using slang and stop dressing the way I dress so I could assimilate easier with the rest of the compound. Fuck all that."

Boyd smirked slightly in bemusement. He couldn't imagine Emilio being like everyone else. "That's impressive," he said simply.

Emilio just shrugged and lifted his pipe again, taking another hit. He closed his eyes briefly as he inhaled, held it in for a moment and then exhaled slowly. When he looked at Boyd again, there was something dark in his eyes. As much as he'd been obviously trying to get over whatever had been going down before Boyd arrived, the lingering effects of it could still be found in his face.

"I dunno if I feel like training today," he muttered.

Boyd nodded, unsurprised. As soon as Emilio had settled in, he'd assumed that may be the case. "I'll go on my own, then."

"You could just go bang Hsin and get a workout that way."

"That's what I planned for the encore," Boyd deadpanned as he stood.

Emilio smirked and shook his head.

Boyd left Carhart's apartment and headed toward the gym. When he entered the room, he saw that a few people were already there. Two agents he recognized from Counter-Terrorism were sparring in one corner and another agent was working out on her own.

Boyd was just about to head toward an empty area when he noticed a familiar form at the other side of the room. Sin was working out on the pullup bar, his shirt discarded to the side and showing off his muscular torso. Sweat shone on his skin and Boyd paused, taking in his lover's form. After a moment, he walked over and stopped next to him.

"Hey," he said with a small smile.

Sin had his feet dangling from the bar and was lifting his upper body with ease, bringing it up to his toes. His eyes focused on Boyd as he continued his reps, full lips flitting into a pleased smile. "Training?"

"Supposed to," Boyd agreed, his eyes running along Sin's body. "Vega Senior bailed on me so I was going to come here alone." The smile widened, playing on his lips with faint mischief. "I think I'm glad he did now."

Sin smirked and stopped his exercise. He flipped backwards off the bar and stood up straight, raising his arms to tie his hair back tighter. "Stop looking at me like that, troublemaker."

"Hmm." Boyd casually shifted so he was facing away from the others in the room. He smirked, running his gaze even slower along Sin's body, thinking about how much he wanted to run his lips and tongue along that glistening skin. "Maybe you should stop looking like that in public, then."

"You're insatiable." Sin's mouth twisted up further and he picked up a towel that lay discarded at the side, rubbing it over his face and flinging it over his shoulder.

"True," Boyd agreed with a pleased tilt of his lips. He took a step back and made an effort to be more casual. He tilted his head toward the pullup bar. "How long have you been here?"

Sin picked up his t-shirt as well. "A couple of hours. I was about to head back to the apartment."

Boyd glanced over his shoulder at the training room. The female agent was discreetly peering at them from beneath her arm as she stretched and he found that he didn't really care. Even so, the desire to spend the next several hours training paled when he could potentially spend the time with Sin. There was plenty of time for him to train later.

"Mind if I join you?"

"I was hoping you would want to." Sin gave him another of his discreet smiles and turned towards the exit.

"Good." Boyd slid his hands into his pockets and followed Sin to his apartment. The guards gave them some sidelong looks but they were growing accustomed to Boyd being around Sin's more and Boyd didn't pay much attention to them.

"What happened with my father, anyway? Why didn't he go?" Sin asked as the door shut. He walked into the kitchen area and pulled a bottle of water out from the fridge.

"Carhart and he were arguing when I came by and it seems like I interrupted something." Boyd trailed Sin into the kitchen and leaned against the countertop. "Carhart left and Emilio was upset and angry. Personally, I think he tried to come onto Carhart and he was turned down."

Sin didn't look particularly shocked by this statement and he simply nodded agreeably as he drained half the bottle.

Boyd drew his eyebrows down. He wasn't surprised by Sin's lack of response and yet it just made him even more intrigued. "What's going on with those two, anyway?"

There was a pause as Sin finished the entire bottle and set it down on the counter. He wiped moisture from his lips with the back of his hand and shrugged. "I don't know about what is going on these days. I don't speak to my father that frequently and I doubt he would tell me anything now."

"These days," Boyd echoed, watching Sin thoughtfully. He tilted his head, his elbows resting on the counter behind him. "What about before?"

"My father had a disturbing obsession with him before. I wouldn't be surprised if it's reared up again now that they're living together." Sin pulled himself up onto the counter and leaned his head back against the cabinet above it.

"Disturbing obsession?"

Sin reached up and pushed his hair back again, frowning slightly at the strands that clung to his still damp forehead. "He wanted to have sex with him badly. Not from the start but even at the start, something about Carhart drew him in for some reason. I had never seen him behave that way about another person before."

Boyd pushed himself up onto the counter across from Sin, his feet dangling. "What was he doing so differently?"

Sin seemed to consider the question carefully before answering, as though he were trying to remember the details. "He would talk about him a lot, which was odd enough on its own. My father didn't trust anyone but yet it became clear that he was very fond of Carhart and liked him and wanted him around. He even started bringing him to the loft and hiding me just so that he could see him more."

Boyd raised his eyebrows. "Odd," he mused. He thought about it a moment. "I'm guessing Carhart denied any advances, if any, that were made?"

"The strangest thing was that for their entire partnership, he didn't make any overt advances that I was aware of and I am sure he would have told me. He ranted about his frustrations with Carhart constantly even though I barely responded. I thought his attraction was fairly obvious but Carhart, it seemed, was oblivious until they were sent on an extended undercover mission together at Brighton Community Prison."

Boyd knew Brighton to be a rather infamous, all-male security prison. If the mission was extended and undercover in a place like that, and especially taking into account Emilio's personality...

"Something happened there between them, didn't it?" Boyd said, although it came off more as a statement than a question. "I can't imagine they'd get away on an extended undercover in a place like that without at least one encounter."

Sin smirked and raised his eyebrows slightly. "According to my father, due to the nature of the environment they ended up changing their cover stories so that Carhart was his male lover instead of just his sidekick. I'm not sure on the details but as far as I know, they had sex several times and my father believed that this sort of relationship would continue outside of the mission. But when they returned, Carhart let him know that there would be none of that."

"Ahh," Boyd said in understanding.

He leaned back, bracing his hands on the counter behind him and narrowing his eyes in thought. That made complete sense with what he'd been seeing since Emilio's return. Emilio's preoccupation with Carhart clearly wasn't one-sided, though, or Bree wouldn't have made the comment she did about Carhart forgetting his other friends now that Emilio was around. Even so, the idea of Carhart and Emilio sleeping together...

Boyd made a face and shook his head. "I don't want to think about Carhart having sex."

"Why? He's not unattractive."

"I know, but..." Boyd waved his hand. "He's like my dad. At least, he's the closest person to what I remember my dad being like. It's like imagining my parents having sex." Which was really not a mental image he wanted to consider either, come to think of it.

Sin nodded, watching Boyd and said randomly, "Did I tell you that my father kissed me during a mission recently?"

"What?" Boyd said, completely taken off guard. "Why?"

"It was months ago, actually. In the summer. We were sent on a mission to deal with a woman with a kink for gay sex. She seemed to find the idea of us together appealing."

"Ahh," Boyd said again, although this time he tried not to imagine Emilio and Sin together for different reasons. "I imagine he was thrilled with the idea. Do you know twice now he's mentioned the idea of a threesome with you?" He shook his head to himself although he couldn't help a faint smirk of amusement. "The first time he actually asked me if I wanted to be in the middle of a Vega sandwich."

Sin stared at him for a moment before allowing a half scoff, half laugh to escape his mouth. "He's such an idiot."

"Yeah," Boyd agreed, his tone somewhat thoughtful before he shook his head. "He'll probably lay off the idea for awhile but we'll see."

One of Sin's dark eyebrows arched and for a moment it was like looking at Emilio again. Disturbingly similar features and the exact same skeptical countenance. If it weren't for the scars on Emilio's face and the fact that Sin's eyes were almond shaped while Emilio's were large and round, it would be like looking at the same person.

"You're intrigued by this idea, aren't you," Sin said knowingly, his voice sounding vaguely amused.

"Maybe," Boyd admitted reluctantly, pulling some hair behind his ear and giving Sin a half guilty, half bemused look. "I mean, it's like being asked if I want to fuck two of you at once and that's not exactly a horrifying thought to me."

The smirk didn't leave Sin's face but he rolled his eyes. "Just don't say that to him."

Boyd shook his head with a faint smile. "I won't. He'd probably take it seriously and think it would actually happen."

"If I'd go along with it, I bet you'd want it to."

A smirk grew on Boyd's face and he flicked his eyes along Sin briefly. "Maybe," he drew out somewhat playfully and then he shrugged. "But only if it was something you actually wanted. And even then it's weird. He's not you even if he looks like you and he's still your father."

Boyd paused and smirked. "So I think the only solution is to clone you and have both of you pleasure me at once."

Sin slid off the counter and turned to the fridge, opening it as he replied. "Like I said. Insatiable." He removed a bag of mini chocolate bars from the refrigerator and shut it. "I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Sure," Boyd said, gaze caught by the chocolate. Some things never changed. "What is it?"

There was a lull as Sin unwrapped one of the bars and popped it into his mouth. He chewed slowly and stared at Boyd, seeming to hesitate.

Boyd waited for Sin to continue and when he didn't, he drew his eyebrows down and looked at Sin more alertly. He started to wonder why Sin would hesitate and could only presume it was something Sin was reluctant to bring up. Which probably meant something bad.

"What?" Boyd repeated, growing a little paranoid. "Is something wrong?"

"No." Sin's gaze shifted to the side and he focused on a point beyond Boyd's head. "I was just wondering about the possibility of... an idea, that I had."

"Okay," Boyd said slowly, giving Sin an odd look. "What's the idea?"

Sin began to fiddle with the empty candy wrapper, chewing slowly as he flicked his gaze over to Boyd. "Well, I thought perhaps we could go somewhere together."

The comment took Boyd off guard and he searched Sin's expression for a moment. His lips tilted up faintly on the edges but he was still cautious, wanting to know what exactly Sin was considering.

"Where were you thinking?"

"I'd read something about Vermont. The mountains there. I thought maybe we could rent a cabin." Sin's gaze had shifted to stare at the wall, his posture rigid.

"A cabin..." Boyd stared at Sin. He almost couldn't believe what he was hearing. The idea of it was incredibly appealing to Boyd, even more so because Sin had brought it up. A smile grew on Boyd's face but even then, he still had to be realistic about it. As great as it sounded...

"Hsin, it sounds amazing but we'd have to get time off..."

Finally Sin looked at him again. He tossed the wrapper in the garbage and shrugged. "I already spoke to Carhart. He said he would try to make it happen."

"What?" Boyd said in surprise. "You think they'll actually let us?"

"I'm not sure. He said he'd see about it but he doubts we will get as much time as I asked for." A slight frown crossed Sin's face but he shook his head as if dismissing the disappointment. "I hadn't really expected them to go for that anyway."

"How much time did you ask for?"

Another brief pause. "Two weeks."

"Two--" Boyd started to say incredulously and then cut himself off. He stared in a mixture of shock and building happiness at Sin.

Ever since he and Lou had been small, they'd had grand dreams of going off some day on a trip-- just getting away and having fun. After everything that had happened and especially after Boyd had become entrenched in the Agency, he had never believed he would have the chance to do anything like that.

A full, genuine smile stretched his lips and lightened his expression. He slid off the counter and walked over to Sin, stopping in front of him and resting his hands on Sin's hips.

He couldn't deny how happy he felt; how touched he was by Sin's idea and the fact he'd already looked into it. He felt like this was a moment that showed him without words that Sin truly loved him.

"I can't believe you did that," Boyd said quietly, his eyes searching Sin's intently and his expression clearly pleased.

"You don't think it's... stupid?" Sin asked slowly, skeptically, green eyes narrowed slightly with suspicion.

"No," Boyd assured him, the smile still on his lips. "Not at all." He slid his hands up to Sin's shoulders and pulled him down into a kiss. "I love the idea."

The end of his sentence was muffled by Sin's mouth. What was meant to be a chaste, sweet kiss turned into something deeper and more intense as the anticipation of two weeks with complete privacy began to take hold of them.

Continue to the next interlude: Making It Count