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Cause/Effect - Part IV

Interlude 3.15

Uploaded on 8/15/2009

Boyd coughed and slumped against the wall once the guards moved away; the restraints on his wrists clanked in the movement. Joseph stood a few feet in front of him, his arms behind his back, his gaze intense on Boyd in an almost contemplative manner.

Nothing happened initially and Boyd wondered what they would do now that he'd refused to give them any information. Although he didn't know how long they'd waterboarded him-- even a few seconds could feel like forever-- and he didn't know how long the cycle of being waterboarded then held down had lasted, or how often Joseph or someone else had appeared and hit him violently, he still knew it had to have been a few days. His temporal sense was messed up but he thought it had dragged on too long for it to be any shorter.

He didn't know what to expect them to do when it became clear he either honestly didn't know anything or was determined not to tell.

In the end, he hadn't told them a thing that they could use against Sin.

He hadn't been able to keep from saying anything at all-- waterboarding would probably always terrify him-- but he hadn't released any information at all about Sin. When it had become too much, when he'd had to say something just to feel like he was releasing some of the tension, he'd shouted out unrelated or inconsequential things. He remembered the last time they'd held him and he'd given information about his relationship with Sin. Back then, he never would've released anything that he thought could hurt Sin-- during the first time being tortured like that, verifying something the Agency already knew didn't seem that terrible-- but this time he knew that any information at all would result in Sin's death. His resolve couldn't have been stronger to keep silent.

He looked up through his hair when the silence stretched, the blond strands damp and straggly from the water that had spilled down. He felt shaky and off-center; it had taken so much of his strength to resist the waterboarding that he didn't have much left for anything else, and the restraints on his wrists and ankles were magnifying what he already felt.

He was sure that some of the exhaustion and harrowed fear were visible in his eyes but he otherwise stubbornly did his best to keep his expression blank.

Joseph's eyes narrowed slightly in thought and, after a few seconds, he took measured steps forward.

"What do you find most fearful about being chained up?"

Boyd continued to meet Joseph's eyes and didn't answer.

"Is it the vulnerability?" Joseph stopped in front of Boyd, looking him up and down thoughtfully before he met Boyd's gaze with dark eyes that may as well have been black holes for all that Boyd could look away. "Or is it the loss of control? The fact that you are absolutely helpless; subject to another's whims."

When Boyd didn't reply, Joseph continued idly. "Do you remember when your phobia was cemented?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed and unease moved through him; he still felt weak from the waterboarding and if they were going to bring this up now too--

"How long did she leave you? Tied down and screaming." Joseph's voice was idle and calm.

Boyd's eyes twitched and he didn't answer. Dismal disappointment settled deep in his stomach and he dropped his head forward, blond hair sheltering his face. He'd known since Monterrey that his mother had told the Agency about what would terrify him the most but somehow he'd hoped she'd kept at least something private. Something secret.

Especially since the entire reason she hadn't let him get the help he'd needed after Lou's death was because she hadn't wanted anyone to know how messed up he was.

He couldn't feel surprised, though. When he'd been released from the hospital after Lou's death, when she'd seen that he was going to keep trying to kill himself if she left him alone, she'd strapped him to his bed and ignored the way he pleaded for her to let him go-- ignored the terror in his voice as being held down made the nightmares even worse.

"Do you have any recollection? Was it hours? Weeks? Months?" Joseph walked around to Boyd's other side. "Did you check a calendar later to find out?"

"This is pointless," Boyd said hoarsely.

"What was going through your mind at the time?" Joseph continued in mild curiosity. "Did you beg her to let you go?"

Boyd dropped his head further toward the floor and squeezed his eyes shut, the motion shifting his wrists against the restraints. He could feel the same cloying fear and panic from years ago rising within him every second he was reminded that he couldn't move; that he was utterly vulnerable. He shoved that feeling away and he tried not to remember that time--

The pain of the stitches straining against his chest and stomach as he'd thrown himself against the restraints, the way his throat had gone raw and tasted of blood from screaming. The way he'd cried so hard it had felt like there had been nothing left within him and the oppressive silence and shadows of the room that had drowned out his despair.

"Your file says that you thought you briefly lost your sense of sanity," Joseph noted. "Why did you think that? Did you see things? Hear things?"

Boyd shivered and tried to studiously ignore the memories, but it was difficult.

He had seen things; heard things.

He'd been tortured by the dreams of Lou's death, by phantoms he'd imagined of his dead lover stopping by the side of the bed. Tormenting Boyd with a body that showed all the gaping wounds that had killed him-- asking softly, "Why didn't you save me?"

There had been more-- so many more moments and emotions and horrifying visions and confusing memories... He had never known how much had been real, how much had been dreams, and how much had been imaginings caused by a break from reality.

"And then when you came to the Agency, she told them precisely what to do, didn't she?" Joseph stopped in front of Boyd, who stayed resolutely silent.

"She could do it again, you realize. She could leave you chained down for months, for years, in a room where no one would hear you scream. She could keep you alive just to punish you for your transgressions."

Boyd shuddered despite himself.

"You understand that she is serious and she has taken such actions with you before. Why don't you make it easier on everyone and just tell us the truth?"

"The truth is I have nothing to tell you," Boyd said gruffly, eyes narrowing further despite the shaky imbalance he felt inside. "You can do what you want to me and that isn't going to change."

"Those are strong words," Joseph observed. "You could be considered a liability."

"Then terminate me," Boyd snapped in a low, impatient growl. He was feeling jittery and on edge and he wanted Joseph to leave. "At least I wouldn't have to hear your voice anymore."

There was a long moment as Joseph considered him, his hands still behind his back until he shifted. His clothing wrinkled in the movement and his arms dropped to his sides.

"If that's the way you feel," Joseph said, uncaring, and there was a soft click.

Boyd looked up and saw Joseph watching him, a gun aimed steadily at Boyd's forehead. Boyd met Joseph's eyes; Joseph stared at him evenly, without a flicker of emotion, and Boyd mimicked the expression in return.

"You don't have clearance," Boyd said, honey brown eyes narrowing.

"How do you know?" Joseph asked idly, checking that the gun's clearance.

"She didn't give you permission before."

"We were attempting to get information you did not provide," Joseph answered, then raised his eyebrows. "Is it so strange? She did just send you on a suicide mission. Your life is hers to use or discard as she sees fit." Joseph studied Boyd's face almost idly. "It seems you've proven yourself no longer useful."

Joseph's finger moved to the trigger and Boyd felt a spike of uncertainty that made his heart jolt. He could feel the blood tingling within him, making him light-headed.

All that time shuddering and twisting against their hold; all those lifetime-lasting moments of squeezing his eyes shut and begging them in his mind to stop-- the choking and spluttering and coughing, the screams he forced himself to cut off and the pain of abused muscles tensed against a solid surface, the tears that stained his cheeks-- It all rushed through him, made him realize it was possible it had all been for nothing. And it made the anxiety and instability rise dramatically.

It was entirely too possible that his mother actually had deemed him no longer necessary. He hadn't accounted for that in his plan-- he'd expected to be released after he didn't give the information, to probably be tailed. But with the European Division likely breathing heavily down Vivienne's neck and Boyd's questionable performance lately...

Maybe she really was writing him off for dead.

But even if Emilio was released and was able to smuggle Sin to safety, the Agency would chase Sin his entire life. Boyd couldn't let that happen-- not if he had even the slightest ability to stop it. And if they killed him here, who would find the evidence to clear Sin's name?

"Goodbye," Joseph said calmly.

"Wait," Boyd said urgently.

Joseph jerked the gun to the side at the last second.

The bullet ricocheted off the wall to the left of Boyd, whose eyes had widened as he realized that Joseph may not have been bluffing. He couldn't tell whether Joseph had intended to move it to the side all along but when he met Joseph's serene gaze, he felt increasing doubt. The silencer on the gun muffled the sound of the shot and made everything feel that much more surreal.


"My mother," Boyd said steadily despite his heart jackhammering in his chest. He could feel his entire body shaking with adrenaline and the realization that he may have just been a second away from death. "I need to see her."

"Whatever information you have--"

"My mother," Boyd said more firmly, eyes narrowing and fingers curling into fists. "I will only talk to her."

Joseph stared at him for a long moment before he stepped back. "We will see." He didn't say anything further as he turned and left the room.

Boyd slumped down as soon as he was alone again. The restraints dug painfully into his wrists, reminding him all too horrifically of his training and everything he'd been through in rooms like these. He squeezed his eyes shut as his hair fell down, covering the vulnerability he couldn't help twisting his expression.

His body was shaking, his fingers digging into his palms, and a frantic voice hissed inside his head, I don't know how long I can do this...

He'd tried to anticipate as much as he could before he'd put the plan in motion but there hadn't been much time. He would die before he betrayed Sin again to the Agency but that was the problem-- he didn't have much to give the Agency except his loyalty; his cooperation. And he couldn't give them either in this instance without ultimately getting Sin killed.

Since Boyd wasn't going to give the Agency anything that would lead them to Sin, it meant there was very little he could bargain with. It meant his life was even cheaper than he'd realized, and it meant there was a very real possibility that he would lose the chance he needed to prove Sin's innocence.

He didn't want to die; everything no longer felt meaningless. Now, he found enjoyment in life-- he'd found things he wanted to wake up for.

But he would never forgive himself if he hadn't done absolutely everything he possibly could to save Sin; even if that ultimately meant stalling long enough for Emilio to send Sin away.

He didn't know how long he waited there until the door opened again but it was enough for him to stubbornly gather his strength as he prepared for what was to come. Still, when the door finally opened and he saw his mother striding in, he couldn't deny the resounding sense of relief. The guards stayed outside the room; when the door shut with what seemed like a disturbing sense of finality, he and his mother were the only two within the white cell.

Vivienne stared evenly at Boyd for a long moment, her ice blue eyes unreadable, her lips thinned in distinct displeasure. Boyd's slightly uneven breath seemed especially loud to his ears and he only watched her in silence at first. After a few seconds of studying him, she walked forward with calm, measured steps, her high heels clicking against the floor and echoing in the mostly empty room until she stopped in front of him.

Boyd glanced toward the door, making sure it was shut, before he looked at her again. He highly doubted anyone was listening in; his mother would feel confident that she could handle the situation alone.

"What are you doing, child?" she asked, eyes narrowing. "Do you wish to die?"

"I think there's evidence that he's innocent," Boyd said intently rather than respond to the question. Vivienne's eyes narrowed even further but he continued before she could speak. "Please, just listen. The situation didn't fit what would trigger an episode for him. Look back at your notes from Ann Connors-- maybe even ask her opinion. He's still on medication, he's been stable; even Emilio's reappearance didn't cause an episode for him, so why would Bridget?"

Vivienne raised her eyebrows. "That is hardly proper evidence and you are simply repeating what you said before. You called me here for this?"

Boyd shook his head. "I know on its own it isn't enough, but it should give reasonable doubt. I want to study the crime scene to find the actual evidence."

"This is ridiculous," Vivienne said flatly. "You are merely attempting to negotiate your freedom."

"I think someone set him up," Boyd insisted. "The facts don't add up. Sin suddenly having an episode with someone who he's more likely to feel protective toward, during a time when we conveniently don't have surveillance and there was no proof of what happened, with a woman representing the European Division and who was supposed to be analyzing all the employees, and having her body resemble Lydia's attack which could easily be replicated by watching the video or visiting her... That's a lot of coincidences and especially since there are people out there with a vendetta against Sin, it seems more plausible to believe he was framed."

She studied him coolly. "Even if that were the case, it hardly changes the fact that he is beginning to cause more trouble than he is worth."

"But what if it's more than that?" Boyd was so intent on getting the idea across that he was almost able to completely ignore the vulnerable position he was in; the bite of the restraints against his wrists and the strain of his body having been held in an uncomfortable position for too long. "What if I'm right?"

She watched him with a steady, unreadable gaze.

He narrowed his eyes. "What if Sin was framed-- what if whoever did it gets away with murder? We wouldn't know what their intentions would be; whether it was an isolated incident with someone specifically attacking Sin... or something else. And regardless, that means there's someone with access to the Agency who's good enough to get the drop on Sin and frame him. What if you terminate Sin and that only galvanizes the killer, shows them they can get away with this? What if you kill Sin and tell your bosses you fixed the problem only for something to happen afterward? What if later this is all discovered and your bosses determine it to be your failure?"

He gave her an intense stare. "It's already bad enough you let their Investigator die on your watch; if you can't even catch her murderer, what good are you to them? Isn't it better to be certain-- absolutely certain that you have the true killer? Especially since your bosses will probably be watching you closely?"

There was a moment of silence and Boyd was hopeful it meant she was listening to him; that he'd put enough doubt in her mind for her own future at least that she would agree.

"And if I just release you, you won't run away," she said flatly, her ice blue eyes narrowed and unconvinced.

"I won't," Boyd said, putting every ounce of sincerity he could into it so she would understand that he wasn't lying. His eyebrows twisted up and he searched her eyes. "I swear to God, all I want to do is view the crime scene. Forty-eight hours, twenty-four hours... I'll take whatever you'll give me. You can have a guard with me the entire time if you want."

"And at the end of that time frame, regardless of whether you locate this alleged evidence?" Vivienne asked, quirking an eyebrow and crossing her arms.

"I'll come back to you and report," Boyd promised, his eyes intense and expression honest. He absolutely meant every word and he did his best to show her-- to make it obvious that he wasn't trying to deceive her. "I'll walk right back into this cell if that's what you want."

Vivienne's gaze was even and gave away nothing of what she was thinking, until her eyebrows rose slightly. "There is another way to view this."

Uneasiness stirred in Boyd's stomach and he couldn't help his fingers twitching. He'd been planning on that convincing her-- on her pride and thoroughness in her career to not allow her to live with any uncertainty, and on Boyd's assurance that she would still control the situation. That he would still follow her rules.

"How?" Boyd asked warily after a moment.

"I have two level 10 agents who are skilled in their respective talents, yet have been the cause of a number of issues," Vivienne said, tapping one finger against her upper arm, her lips thinned in displeasure.

"Hsin Liu Vega may be the most efficient assassin this Agency has seen in my years but he lacks discipline and stability. Regardless of his guilt, he has been a liability from the beginning. Even with the chances he was given, the issue of his mental instability is a recurring theme that is fast making him undesirable. He is entirely capable of what he is accused of and it would not be the first time he has committed such extreme acts of violence."

Her eyes narrowed and her back stiffened slightly. "Although in some regards he has become more malleable lately, in others he continues to be a threat to the Agency's stability. And as you are fully aware, we do not allow such threats to exist."

Boyd's throat closed up and he couldn't look away from his mother as she continued calmly.

"As for you, I did not have issues of disloyalty or disobedience until you became so attached to Hsin Liu Vega. You were predictable and trustworthy before then and I did not have nearly as many issues with you even in relation to the Krauszer boy." Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Yet, I seem to recall you informing me that when it comes to Hsin Liu Vega, you will have to defy me."

Boyd stared at her, remembering the first time he'd told her no to her face, when she'd come to collect Sin after the first time Boyd had broken him off the fourth floor.

"The question with you," she continued, scrutinizing him, "is whether this is solely related to Hsin Liu Vega. Whether the skills you possess are desirable enough for the Agency to overlook the issues." Her fingers quit moving, resting against the deep red of her blouse. "You have proven yourself useful more than once, yet when you have failed you have done so spectacularly."

Her ice blue eyes nearly seemed to drill through Boyd. "As a matter of fact, each of the times you have failed, your relationship with Hsin Liu Vega has somehow been involved. This is a known fact for most and an easily deduced fact for the others. This shows that you are unwilling to expend as much energy for the Agency with Hsin Liu Vega around."

Boyd's throat went dry and he didn't speak.

She stepped forward more, her gaze intense; he couldn't look away from her and he could easily see the displeasure mixed with disappointment. "However, it is clear that despite your continual issues regarding Hsin Liu Vega, it is not simply about him. It is an undeniable fault of yours that you allow your emotions to blind you and you have proven that you will put people you are close to ahead of the mission, ahead even of the Agency."

Her lips tightened. "If anything, your latest antics have only proven others right; that it was a mistake to promote you. Your faults remain consistent; your emotional attachments cause you to become rash and unreliable. You seem to believe you can do whatever you want and in the process you question authority. I cannot even claim to be certain you are first and foremost loyal to the Agency anymore."

Boyd's heart thundered in his chest and he shook his head, feeling the enormity of the situation start to rise against him. He couldn't argue any of the points because they both knew they were true. "I tried to tell you I wasn't ready--"

Her hand snapped out, gripping his chin tightly as she leaned forward with ice cold, narrowed eyes. "Take responsibility for your actions, Boyd," she said coldly. "I will not allow you to be a child, acting as though you had no control over the situation. You have had more than enough chances to improve and you have squandered them. For what? For this?"

She jerked her chin briefly to indicate the rest of the room. "What do you gain by this? Do you so enjoy making a mockery of everything I have taught you?"

"I don't know what you want from me," Boyd burst out. His wrists pulled against the restraints. "I'm not passing on the blame-- I've fucked up a lot, I have a lot of flaws. I'm trying to improve but I can't be perfect and some parts will always be the same no matter how hard I try. I can't completely make myself into a new person. You knew that and you still promoted me. I'm not trying to piss you off, I just don't know what you--"

"I want you to act like a professional," Vivienne snapped, and anger actually seemed to darken her eyes.

"I'm trying--"

"You are not," Vivienne cut him off firmly, then released his chin as if he disgusted her. "You are simply doing whatsoever you choose, expecting me to be there to pick up the pieces."

Boyd shook his head helplessly but he couldn't fully argue against that. "I know I've done a lot of things wrong, I know-- I know I've really fucked up before and I've made it hard for you." His eyebrows twisted up and he met her eyes sincerely. "These are my faults and I know I have to pay for them. I'll do that, I'll comply with whatever you want of me-- all I ask is to have this chance first."

"The very fact that you are still requesting that proves my point." Vivienne crossed her arms once more and said with finality, "If this is all you wanted to say to me, then this conversation is finished. You have proven yourself untrustworthy when it comes to your emotional attachments and I must question whether either of you are worth it to keep around. And believe me when I say that at this point, Hsin Liu Vega is almost a more viable option than you despite the accusation against him."

Boyd stared at her in trepidation.

He had truly thought he could convince his mother but the longer he was kept on Fourth, the longer his mother stared at him with that unmoving expression-- the more likely it seemed that in the end he was going to fail. And that thought heightened his anxiety considerably; made it that much more difficult to ignore his vulnerability when he didn't even have control over his freedom let alone his future or Sin's.

"That won't--" he started to say helplessly, his words tumbling over each other. "I'll change--"

"I find that doubtful," Vivienne cut him off flatly. "If anything, this has all become more pronounced. You have become so accustomed to defiance that you now lie straight to my face because of him. And I am not deluding myself into believing that you would not do the same for any other attachments. Your tendency to attempt to protect those you care about is futile and stains your record at the Agency."

Boyd could feel hopelessness starting to rise. He shook his head, knowing not to lie to her right now; not to try to bend the truth.

All the confidence he'd felt before, that he'd been feeling since the moment he saw Sin crouched in the corner and he'd promised to prove his innocence, started to dwindle and collapse in on itself.

He wished he had something he could say-- something that would fix the situation, make it better, but they both knew she was right.

Vivienne watched him coldly and then turned and headed straight for the door.

Panic made Boyd throw himself at his restraints, his body jolting when he was caught. "Wait!"

She didn't slow her steady stride, her high heels clicking powerfully against the floor and intermingling with the echoing rattles of the restraints.

"Wait-- Give me a chance, please!" Boyd yelled desperately. "You can't-- The Agency needs--"

She seemed to ignore him as she calmly approached the door. Boyd felt his heart literally ache as she neared the door and fear overcame all else. He struggled violently against the restraints, as if he would be able to break himself free, as if he would be able to fix everything.

Each step she took away from him made the horror grow stronger and his vision blurred as helpless tears filled his eyes.

"No-- No, please, I won't--"

Her fingers curled into a fist and raised with the intent to rap on the door and Boyd threw himself desperately and ineffectively toward her. He'd failed. Sin was going to die. Sin was going to die--!

"Mom, please!"

Boyd's voice was raw with emotion.

Vivienne paused, her knuckles hovering inches from the door, and she looked over her shoulder with an expression that was completely unreadable.

Tears streaked Boyd's cheeks, his honey brown eyes red. His eyebrows were drawn up and he jerked his arms at the restraints again, a helpless gesture more than anything.

It was the first time he had ever called her 'mom' and the first time in a long time that he was so vulnerable in front of her.

"I need him," he amended, his voice cracking, and he slumped against the wall. He couldn't stop his breath from catching and releasing unevenly. The white room was brighter and details were lost as tears fell down his cheeks and burned in his eyes.

There was a long, tense moment as she watched him, her eyes narrowed slightly. Yet ultimately she turned and walked back in front of him, stopping where she'd been standing before and observing him without speaking.

"Please give me this chance," he pleaded, not caring if he seemed pathetic, not caring that he was showing her exactly how much this affected him.

There was no point in trying to hide or deny it-- if anything, the less honest and sincere he was now, the worse he was going to make it for himself in the long run. He knew how perfectly capable she was of walking out of that room; of keeping him chained up until she needed him. He knew how capable she was of signing Sin's death warrant and he knew that even with Emilio's help, it was entirely possible Sin would still get hunted down and killed for something Boyd knew in the deepest part of him that he didn't do.

He shook his head. His eyebrows drew together and up; his nose was stuffed and made his voice thicken. "I can work harder-- I can keep improving. I can be who you need me to be. And Hsin-- if he's innocent, if he's mentally stable, then there aren't any immediate issues with him. You don't need to terminate either of us. Just give me this chance, please."

"Why are you so desperate for this man?" Vivienne asked without inflection, a frown pulling at her full lips. Although those were her words, it was almost as if she was asking instead how Boyd could care so much for Sin.

Boyd shook his head at first, not even knowing how to answer. He felt chaotic and vulnerable and terrified that after everything he wouldn't be able to help; that he would be stuck here chained to a wall while Sin was killed.

He didn't know why she'd paused; why she was talking to him now when it wouldn't be surprising if she simply left. He wanted her to see-- to truly understand why it had to be like this for him, yet it took him a few seconds to even think of a response.

"If you'd known Dad was going to die and you had the chance to do something to stop it... Wouldn't you have done everything you could?" Boyd returned, looking up with red-rimmed eyes that burned into her.

Her eyes twitched; he couldn't tell what she was thinking so he didn't dare try to interpret the action. All he knew was that he felt almost nauseated by the strength of the emotions churning inside him.

When she shifted her weight and it seemed like maybe she was going to leave after all, Boyd jerked at his restraints and felt the hopelessness nearly overwhelm him.

"Please," he implored, feeling utterly powerless. "I'll do anything you want, I swear to God I will. Anything. I won't question you, I won't hesitate. Whatever you ask of me, I'll do it over and over again if you want. I'll be in your debt, I'll--" His voice cracked and failed him and the tears coursed harder down his cheeks. He didn't hide anything as he stared into her eyes. He was so scared of losing Sin; of knowing that somewhere out there, he'd been silenced forever while Boyd failed to save him. While Boyd broke the promise he'd made. "Please let me do this. Twenty-four hours, that's all I'm asking for. Please."

Another long, incredibly tense moment dragged between them, making Boyd's hitched breathing and attempts to regain composure seem that much louder in the otherwise relative silence. Vivienne studied him so closely it was almost clinical and he knew she was weighing the options; he knew that if she still said no here then that was the end of it.

He couldn't help feeling terrified that it hadn't worked-- that after everything she was still going to deny him. The silence was almost unbearable until she abruptly broke it.

"Ten hours under constant supervision." Her expression was hard and calm and her tone brooked no argument even as she agreed to his proposal. "You will return to my office at the end of it and I will determine what to do then."

The wave of relief Boyd felt was staggering and he dropped his head forward, nodding weakly as he slumped against the restraints. "Thank you," he whispered gratefully.

She reached out and grabbed him by the chin, her fingers cool and clinical as she forced his face up to meet her eyes. Her gaze was completely unreadable yet her lips thinned and pulled down at the edges slightly in a serious expression.

Her fingers tightened against him as she warned coldly, "Do not mistake me. Regardless of the outcome now, I will not allow you to defy me to my face, especially over another agent. You are useless if you are not loyal to the Agency and your feelings for him create an unacceptable distraction. If you cannot be loyal to the Agency or successfully complete missions due to how you feel then you will quickly find yourself with dire consequences. I will no longer look the other way."

"I understand," Boyd said immediately, not wanting her to change her mind.

"You have had more than enough chances. If you still prove yourself unworthy of the Agency's time and energy, I will personally see to it that you are terminated," she continued in the same tone.

Boyd nodded as best he could.

The stubborn willpower he'd been relying on to get him through the time they'd been holding him on the fourth floor was slowly crumbling and breaking down as exhaustion was starting to suck away his strength. The pent up fear and uncertainty was probably what had been keeping him going and the knowledge that he had a chance to help Sin meant the relief was starting to replace it, although he still had a daunting task in front of him.

Almost as if she knew what was going through his mind, Vivienne tightened her grip even further and she said sharply, "Boyd."

Boyd blinked, completely refocusing on her, and he was caught by the severity of the look in her eyes. He stared at her, his honey brown eyes showing relief but still vulnerability; dark circles under his eyes from sleeplessness and his pale skin stained by bruises and dried blood.His fingers were lax and wrists hanging against the restraints, his body sagging and blond hair messy and matted, and falling loosely against the sides of his face.

He felt weak in body and in spirit but his determination hadn't faded, and he didn't bother to hide any of that from her.

As he stared into her ice blue eyes, her expression stern and unmoved, there was a moment when something unspoken passed between them. They both knew without having to say it aloud that she didn't have to allow this; that even if she believed Boyd was right she could have had someone else study the crime scene again instead.

They both knew that especially between Monterrey and the Schafer mission, Boyd had not been a good enough agent by the Agency's standards for her to give him this chance. That, in a way, she was putting herself on the line by letting him go. If he didn't follow through like he promised it would seem even worse to her superiors, who likely wouldn't take lightly to nepotism in these already tense circumstances.

They both knew he was highly in her debt and Boyd knew it wasn't something he would easily be able to repay.

What he didn't understand was why she was helping him. Yet he didn't want to ask-- didn't want to push it, to do anything that could make her reconsider.

Instead, he said seriously, "I won't let you down and I won't forget my promise. I'll do anything you want."

Her eyes narrowed further and something indefinable passed through them as her jaw clenched slightly. After a moment, she released his chin and she turned on her heel, striding away.

"If indeed you are correct, I want to know who killed her," she ordered without looking over her shoulder. "I will not tolerate such impudence within these walls."

She knocked on the door and it was opened quickly. Without glancing back, she walked out and he could already hear her having a conversation in an undertone with one of the guards before the door slammed shut again.

Boyd felt his heart nearly skip a beat as he sagged completely, ignoring the way the metal dug into his wrists. He closed his eyes, face tilting toward the floor, and breathed a shaky sigh of relief.

Officer Amos stood along the far wall, his dark gaze idle as he watched Boyd move into the room. Despite that, he seemed alert and ready to react at a moment's notice if Boyd made a wrong move.

Boyd looked around the room Bridget had been using as her office and for a moment he felt overwhelmed by despair.

The Agency had already cleaned up.

Although Bridget's files and other effects were still on the desk and dotted around, any traces of blood or signs of a struggle were gone. He'd asked if he could have access to the information the Agency had compiled and he'd been given part of it, although not the entire in-depth report.

He was able to see that the ruling for her cause of death was blood loss due to multiple stab wounds, that there had been a struggle, and that Sin's prints were on the murder weapon-- the letter opener. The only other prints had been Bridget's.

He found out that Sin had been the one to call the guards and that he hadn't denied killing her when they'd arrived, although he'd seemed panicked. Sin had been alone in the room and no one had seen anyone else in the vicinity.

No one heard or witnessed the murder and it was noted that Bridget's body had been reminiscent of Lydia's wounds-- frenzied slicing and cutting. She could have been lucky enough to have lived like Lydia had, except Bridget's carotid artery had been severed at some point, making it inevitable that she had bled out.

In short, all the evidence pointed toward Sin, who himself expressed doubt that he hadn't done it. Even Emilio thought it was possible Sin had and Boyd could see why anyone who had any doubt in Sin at all would look at the scene and determine that he was guilty.

But after everything that had happened between them, Boyd trusted Sin implicitly. He believed in him without a hint of hesitation and he didn't question that Sin was innocent. Although the crime scene was damning for Sin, the murder itself was incongruous with Sin's current state of mind and there were too many questions for Boyd to accept Sin's alleged guilt.


How the hell was he going to find this evidence when he didn't even know what to look for? When the crime scene had already been tidied up so any signs he may have been able to see in the blood or aftermath were long gone?

He checked his watch and saw that he'd already lost an hour to getting out of Fourth, receiving and reviewing the report, and getting access to the crime scene.

Nine hours until Boyd was potentially returned to the fourth floor and Sin's fate was sealed...

Boyd's eyes narrowed in determination and, ignoring the aches and pains from the last few days, he started a thorough search of the room.

He didn't find anything of note in the first few hours, although he checked through everything he could find. He ended up locating folders for each of the agents who had so far been interviewed.

Sin's folder had short bulletpoints that he read through, eyebrows drawing down as he searched for anything that could give him a clue. Bridget had noted in her elegant cursive that Sin was uncooperative; that he was aware he was likely going to be terminated at some point, yet he wasn't afraid. She'd written that he didn't seem as though he felt the need to rebel, so she thought he would continue in his role despite even knowing that. She didn't think he would pose a problem until the point the Agency decided to terminate him.

Boyd shook his head to himself, lips pulling down in a frown.

Her comments about Sin made it even less likely to Boyd that Sin had been the killer. It sounded as though Sin had been rational and his usual self during the interview; Sin himself had said he couldn't think of anything that had happened that had triggered him. There was absolutely nothing in there about instability or irrationality, the sorts of things Boyd would expect before Sin would have such a violent episode.

It just didn't make any sense.

Boyd tossed the folder down more firmly than he needed to, feeling increasingly frustrated. He was about to close the drawer when he noticed that one of the folders was thicker than the others. When he pulled it out, he saw his name written on the tab.

"What the hell," he muttered under his breath, his eyebrows drawing down in confusion as he flipped the folder open. It didn't make sense to him that he would be the only one of all the agents to have an especially large file.

Several pages of paper were neatly stacked inside, as opposed to the one or two sheets for everyone else.

He skimmed what she'd had to say about him. The notes started out the same as Sin's and the other agents' folders he'd glanced at as comparison. The quick analysis of what he was saying was sprawled across the crisp white paper.

She'd thought Boyd showed promise, but only if his failure rate dropped and if he stopped doing things based on emotions. As he flipped forward, he saw that she'd started to write out full phrases of what Boyd had said, apparently on topics that were of interest for her.

Around Boyd's words were more notations. She'd picked up on Boyd's resentment over his promotion but surprisingly she'd thought this was good; it showed he was dedicated enough to want a promotion based on merit.

Boyd scanned through the rest, seeing that she'd continued to write out his comments of interest until the very end of the interview. But when he went to the front again, he saw that she hadn't done that the whole time.

That was odd, since she hadn't written out any of Sin's phrases.

He pulled other folders out and flipped through those quickly, not really reading who the files were for and rather seeing if it was only notations for everyone else. Even after he checked all the notes for the other agents, he saw that his was the only file with phrases actually written out in their entirety.

Folders littered the area around him in a haphazard manner and he ignored it, his gaze intent and movements a little quicker as he concentrated solely on the discrepancy. There was no reason he could think of that Bridget would find him to be intriguing enough to change her notation style; not when she hadn't repeated it even for Sin. Although it was possible that she'd planned to do the same with Sin sometime later in the interview, he doubted it.

There had to be a reason-- a simple, logical reason.

Boyd leaned back and pulled his folder closer, opening it again and scouring through the area where it transitioned. She appeared to have started writing more down when Boyd's valentine status had come up and whether he would seduce Thierry.

At first Boyd thought it was possible that she had done so because of the fact that he was one of only a few homosexual-designated valentine operatives, so perhaps the information was especially pertinent. But because she'd continued in that form until the end...

Boyd dropped his head back against the desk, closing his eyes and drawing his eyebrows down with a frown as he tried to remember what had happened during the interview during that time. His mind worked a little more slowly than he wanted and he was having a hard time completely ignoring how utterly exhausted he was, how much his body hurt and how lightheaded he felt.

It took him a second but then he recalled that there had been a beeping noise; that it was after that when she'd picked up the pen.

A thrill of hope passed through him and his eyes snapped open.

He hadn't paid much heed to it at the time, since he'd just assumed it had been her phone or something. But maybe...

He looked through his file one more time, verifying that it made sense, trying to think about Bridget's personality from what he'd seen of her.

She hadn't been the sort of person not to document everything. There was no way that she'd let every other interview go without recording phrases or comments that the Agency or Marshal Seong would find of interest. The fact that she'd only written down Boyd's, and that it had coincided with the beeping--

Maybe she had been recording everyone else; but maybe she hadn't needed pen and paper for it. Maybe there was a camera or audio device or... or something in the room. Maybe the battery had run low or the memory had become full, and she'd been forced to write out Boyd's answers because she otherwise wouldn't have been able to document what he'd said.

And maybe the real killer hadn't known about any of this.

Boyd jumped up so quickly that Amos reached for his gun, but Boyd barely paid him any heed. His mind was working furiously as he considered this new possibility, as his gaze darted intently around the area.

He was analyzing the room for an entirely different reason now; not as a crime scene but rather where he would place a recording device if he hadn't wanted anyone to know.

Having at least an idea of what he was looking for made his next, painstakingly thorough search of the room more bearable. He ran his hands along and under every surface he could find, peeked around corners, practically tore apart the desk, pulled out books from the bookshelf...

"What the hell are you doing?" Amos finally asked after Boyd dropped another book carelessly to the floor and moved on to the next shelf; he didn't have time to be careful.

"Looking for something," Boyd said absently as he looked up at the bookshelf, which was taller than he was. Narrowing his eyes, he glanced around for a chair.

"Obviously," Amos said dryly, then straightened and crossed his arms, watching Boyd oddly. "But what?"

"Something I'm pretty sure I'll find," Boyd replied, dragging a chair over and climbing onto it so he could see on top of the bookcase. There was nothing but dust on that or the other bookshelves.

"That's real helpful," Amos muttered and Boyd shook his head to himself as he dropped back to the floor.

Boyd stumbled as his legs almost gave out on him but he snapped his hand out to catch himself on the back of the chair, then he doggedly straightened and shoved the tiredness to the back of his mind. After a second, he frowned and headed toward a small closet in the back corner.

He'd been through the closet in his first search; all it held was storage for extra supplies. But it was a prime location for watching the desk unnoticed so maybe...

Boyd started pulling items off the shelves in the back of the closet and dumping them to the floor in his haste, the bruises on his body pulling especially painfully in the movement. He didn't care that he was making a complete mess; the hours were ticking by entirely too quickly for his peace of mind and he had to find the recorder before his time was up.

Apparently galvanized by the short exchange, Amos let a long beat of silence pass between them before he asked dubiously, "You really think he didn't do it?"

"Positive," Boyd said firmly as he shoved a bottle of window cleaner to the side and flipped on a flashlight he'd found; he aimed the beam of light around the darker corners. Nothing, once again.

Silence descended briefly again before Amos asked, confused frown evident in his voice, "Why?"

Boyd pushed the mop and broom to the side and paused, looking over at Amos seriously. "Because I know him better than most people do. And I know he wouldn't have done that to her; not like that, not now. It doesn't make sense."

"But he didn't even deny--"

"Not denying something and confessing to a murder are two different things," Boyd said strongly and returned his attention to the closet. "I think in this case, he was as likely to believe ill of himself as anyone else was because he didn't know what had happened."

"Considering he's fucked in the head, that still doesn't mean anything," Amos said pointedly, although there was no bite in his tone. He seemed more perplexed than anything.

"I don't really care if you or anyone else believes me now," Boyd said with a shrug, stepping away from the closet with a frown darkening his features. There wasn't anything in the closet, which was frustrating. Although, if he was right and someone had framed Sin, that was a place where they could have hidden.

He spent another hour scouring the place, each time feeling a thrill of hope when he discovered somewhere it could have been, and each time feeling increasingly frustrated when it wasn't there.

He knew he was right, yet the longer it took to find the proof, the more nervous he got... Doubt was starting to worm its way into him-- not that Sin had committed the crime, but that he wouldn't be able to prove he hadn't.

It didn't help that he hadn't slept or eaten well in the last few days; that his body ached from being held captive on Fourth and that he could feel exhaustion growing heavier by the second. He kept glancing at his watch, an almost manic pressure that bore down on him every minute that passed.

By the time over six hours had passed, Boyd had torn the place apart and he still hadn't found anything. A wave of despair pressed down on him and he dropped into Bridget's chair, leaning forward against the desk and placing his head in his hands, his shoulders slumping.

He felt nauseated; from exhaustion, sleep deprivation, hunger, and the constant stress of trying to find something he couldn't even prove existed. His head was starting to pound, his vision was spotty and darkened on the corners, and the adrenaline that had been driving him was fast running out. Even so, his determination hadn't budged and he didn't dare take a break.

Another guard had come to relieve Amos and the new man, Krueger according to his tag, stood like a silent sentinel in the corner of the room. Boyd could feel that constant stare burning into him but he was too tired to care about what the man thought.

His fingers shook as he ran them through his hair and he let out a long, low breath. His eyeballs practically throbbed and he thought to himself that if he could-- when he found the recorder and if his mother let him go-- he was going to sleep for a day.

He tried to go over everything in his mind again.

Bridget had seemed meticulous; she'd taken her job very seriously from what he could tell in the notes. She had to have recorded the interviews yet he doubted she would have wanted anyone to easily find it. Otherwise, the information could have been compromised or lost. He'd thought about all the possibilities, taking that into account.

She could have hidden it incredibly well-- he'd tried checking within and under every drawer, every chair, bookcase... She could have hidden it in plain view-- he'd even tried checking the current cameras to see if she would have placed it on there.

For several long minutes, he ran over every place he'd checked and where she may have put a recorder, then sighed heavily and opened his eyes. He looked up, gaze automatically falling on the large clock displayed high on the wall, slowly counting down the time.

After a few seconds of staring at it blankly, feeling so tired he could hardly think, he suddenly frowned and straightened.

He stood up and dragged the chair over to the wall, then climbed up again to reach the clock. Maybe he needed to think about the items that were so commonplace that he'd automatically been looking past them. He pulled the clock off the wall and scrutinized it but couldn't find anything strange.

That didn't discourage him, though. He dropped back to the floor, stumbling in the process and very nearly falling over this time, and stared around the room so intently that it was practically a glare. After a few minutes of checking out different items, he ended up by the thermostat. The small box stuck out of the wall, a dial available to adjust the temperature.

He scrutinized it, then noticed that one of the screws on the faceplate was missing. That distant spark of hope that had been thoroughly dashed so many times stirred once again, and he went over to the closet and dug around until he found the small toolbox he remembered seeing before.

When he walked back to the thermostat, the guard's heavy gaze on him the entire time, he pulled the faceplate off and felt his heart jolt, literally skipping a beat when he saw a tiny black device hidden within. He pulled it out and turned it over, his stomach clenching in anticipation and fingers shaking when he realized that it was a recorder. When he popped it open, he found a small memory card inside.

It was the second time that week he felt such a sense of relief that it was staggering.

He looked toward the guard and narrowed his eyes. "I need an uncorrupted computer."

It was the first thing he'd said to Krueger, who watched Boyd evenly for a moment before he made the request into his comm.

Boyd sat down at the desk again, feeling jittery and nervous and hoping to God that this was going to say what he thought it would.

It seemed like forever before the door finally opened and another guard walked in with a small, slim laptop under his arm. Boyd took it immediately and shoved items off the desk, not caring when items crashed to the floor or that the new guard hovered there in mild intrigue rather than leaving.

After getting the laptop booted up and the memory card ready, he felt tension pounding through him along with his heartbeat as he slid the card into the slot in the computer. A few harrowing seconds passed as a window popped up informing him of the external device and he was finally able to open the audio file.

He could see that it was a long file but when he went to the end, it quickly became clear that the device had still been recording even as people moved in and out of the crime scene. He quickly skipped back bit by bit until Bridget's voice caught his attention.

"--injured due to your decision not to wear body armor?"

"Correct," Sin replied, his tone unsurprisingly uninterested and indifferent, not even pretending to be respectful.

"I see." Boyd could practically see Bridget's controlled smile and the thoughtful tilt of her head. "I see that you consider speed to be paramount over your own safety precautions? The mission's success over your own survival?"

There was a low sound of Sin scoffing. "If I agreed with that, you'd know I was full of shit. I'd have gotten shot even faster if I'd worn the armor and it's as simple as that. Protecting my torso doesn't matter when two dozen guards are chasing me and aiming for my head. It had nothing to do with the mission's success."

"I admire your brutal honesty."

"I'll sleep soundly knowing that," Sin replied in boredom.

A brief moment of silence passed between the two.

"You're not concerned with impressing me." It sounded like an observation more than a question. "You're aware of the likely outcome of your evaluation."

Another silence.

"You're an interesting man, Agent Vega. It's a pity that your mental stability is so precarious."

Once again Sin did not respond but this time the silence was broken by the disturbingly abrupt sound of something falling over-- a chair, a body, something. Whatever it was made a loud clattering sound and Bridget's voice rang out in alarm.

"What are you doing!" Bridget shouted, her voice twisting between anger and fear.

There was a mixture of noise-- scuffling, muffled shouts, and then real terror entered Bridget's voice as she began screaming for Sin to wake up, to help her. But she never once said her killer's name and the recording picked up the wet sucking noise of continued stabs even though the killer never made a single sound.

The nearly debilitating relief Boyd felt was jumbled with anxiety as he knew he had to get the information to his mother immediately. He looked up, just catching the guards' surprised expressions.

He stopped the recording and stood, honey brown gaze satisfied and determined despite how exhausted he looked.

"Bring me to the Marshal."

Continue to Cause/Effect: Part V