A Matter of Time: Part IV

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

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


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A Matter of Time - Part IV

Interlude 3.18

Uploaded on 9/12/2009

"What do you mean he's dead?" Boyd asked blankly, staring at the guard.

"We were told to execute him," the guard replied, barely glancing at Boyd before looking past him to watch the hallway beyond, as if someone would appear to attack.

Blond eyebrows drew down while a mixture of confusion, frustration and almost guilty relief made Boyd shake his head. "Who gave the order?"

"Bo-Qin," the guard answered.

"Did he finish the interrogation?" Boyd asked with a frown.

"No one spoke to the prisoner but you," the guard said flatly, looking over at Boyd briefly and seeming irritated by his presence. "Bo-Qin gave the order but did not come down here."

Boyd had to stop himself from expressing his frustration and instead he turned and headed straight for Xiaolian's office. It couldn't have even been half an hour from the moment Bo-Qin had left the room to the moment Boyd had arrived to interrogate Shaoqing further. Boyd was too tired to even want to try to process what the hell was going on.

He quickly navigated his way to the top floor and it wasn't long before the guards let him into Xiaolian's office, where he shut the door behind him. She was just finishing a phone call and he stood to the side waiting for her to finish, the words washing past him as she spoke in Mandarin.

When she finally hung up and looked up at him expectantly, Boyd asked bluntly, "Why did Bo-Qin have Shaoqing killed already?"

Xiaolian stared at him silently as if processing the question and immediately touched her comm, saying something curtly into it in her native language. He didn't know what she said but he did hear Bo-Qin's name.

"If you will be patient for one moment, I will have an answer to that question," she said quietly.

Boyd nodded and stood silently to the side of the room, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall.

Not even three minutes passed before Bo-Qin entered the room, arching an eyebrow at his wife in a manner that almost seemed impertinent.

"Why is Shaoqing dead?" she asked in a flat tone, her eyes narrowed at him and expression steely.

Bo-Qin's eyebrows drew together and he gave her a confused, albeit resentful look, as if he didn't appreciate being questioned, likely in front of an outsider. "He was a traitor; he deserved nothing less."

"Was the interrogation complete?" she demanded to Boyd, her voice harsh and impatient.

"Not if you wanted more information than where the base was," Boyd replied, shaking his head.

Bo-Qin glared at him hatefully. "You did not say it was incomplete."

"You did not ask," Xiaolian shouted at him, slamming a hand down on her desk. Her eyes were like daggers that speared into her husband furiously.

He stared back, his face twisted in indignation despite the fact that he had to know he'd made a grave error. Still, he didn't respond.

She scoffed and snarled something in Mandarin. Bo-Qin nodded shortly and left the room.

Xiaolian stared at the door for an extended moment before finally allowing her gaze to settle on Boyd again. "Obviously, I was unaware of this idiotic lapse in judgment," she said coldly. "We will be forced to make due with the information you have already obtained."

Boyd nodded, his expression calm and unaffected by the argument. "At least we got the base. We may be able to find pertinent information there as well."

She nodded shortly in agreement and straightened. "The location is being confirmed as we speak. Prepare to accompany us on the assault within the next couple of hours."

Boyd shifted away from the wall and nodded again, recognizing that as a dismissal. "I'll alert Hsin as well." She was already looking away and Boyd left without further comment.

The room was small and cramped, and only seemed more so when Boyd entered. Xiaolian, Bo-Qin, and Sin were already there and Boyd flicked his gaze across them briefly before he shut the door behind him.

"The last captain is secured," he reported.

Xiaolian nodded shortly, her eyes narrowed as she sat at the metal desk in the officer's quarters of CRS's encampment. Her eyebrows were drawn together, sweat sliding down the sides of her pale face, and Boyd saw blood splattered across her white wifebeater. She definitely was not the type of leader to stay in the safety of her base while her men fought on the frontlines.

Bo-Qin stood by her side, his eyes on the window as he surveyed the darkness outside the small building vigilantly. He didn't speak up but it wasn't too surprising-- he'd been less vocal ever since his argument with Xiaolian in Luoyang.

Xiaolian shifted finally, dragging her eyes away from the laptop computer that had been hooked into the wall and she stared at Boyd and Sin. There was definite displeasure in her expression, a harshness that hadn't been there in the first week of their mission.

"This base is now under Dǐ Zhì control. The two of you will mind it."

Boyd glanced briefly at Bo-Qin, wondering if Xiaolian had planned it this way all along or if she changed her mind after the incident with Shaoqing. He nodded curtly at Xiaolian and didn't let his thoughts make it to his face. "Do you have any specific instructions?"

"The leaders who were present have already been separated and my people have begun interrogating them as we speak. They will be executed once every drop of information has been wrung from their bodies," she said, casting a long look at her husband who avoided her eyes.

"Bo-Qin and I will retire from this encampment within the night and after that time it will be under the control of yourself and Hsin."

Sin's eyebrows rose. "Under our control?"

"Yes. It will be your task to sort out the remaining men in CRS. Decide who can be turned and who will be eliminated. This must be complete within the next week. Hsin, you will be in command and Boyd will serve as your captain."

Boyd glanced at Sin, noting that his eyebrows were raised. "Are you taking any of your men with you?"

"I have men within Hong Kong and my personal guards will go into the city with me with the exception of Ton, who will stay here and serve as your guard."

Sin and Ton looked at each other and Sin's lips rose in a smirk. Ton, still wearing his sunglasses, gave no indication of what he thought although his mouth twitched slightly.

"The remaining men will be here, at your disposal. Utilize them wisely and do not forget that we are in hostile territory even if the remaining members of CRS are locked up. They know this area better than you. Do not become foolishly careless."

"We won't," Boyd replied, his gaze steady on Xiaolian. "We're accustomed to working in hostile territory and taking the necessary precautions."


Xiaolian stood and began unhooking the laptop and the various wires plugged into it. "I recommend you use this area--" she gestured to the room around her which was located in a one story, three-room building within the encampment. "--as your quarters as it is the most secure. Everything else is as you desire it to be."

"Will you be checking in?" Sin asked.

Bo-Qin turned to them finally. "I will. For her own protection and anonymity, Xiaolian will remain within the city."

Xiaolian didn't even look at her husband, keeping her gaze focused entirely on the two American agents. "I am sure that you have figured out this performance will be judged harshly. Do not disappoint me or further talk of negotiation will not occur and you will have to explain to your superiors why you have wasted so much time here."

She narrowed her eyes slightly, picked up the laptop and swept out of the small room. Bo-Qin studied the two of them for a long lingering moment before doing the same.

Boyd watched the closed door for a moment, his gaze unreadable but unsurprised before he met Sin's eyes. He raised his eyebrows. "So," he said mildly. "What are your orders, boss?"

Sin arched one dark eyebrow. "I have no opinion on any of this."

In the corner, Ton scoffed quietly but when they glanced over, his face was completely expressionless.

"Do you have something to add?" Sin asked blandly, crossing his arms over his bulletproof vest.

Ton didn't respond.

"Like I thought." Sin looked at Boyd again, an expression of irritation on his face. "I think it would be best if we leave the leftovers in the bunker overnight. Tell the men to sort out this mess and clear out the bodies while we go through the remaining documents and the database on the other computer to see if we can find anything resembling a list of who the fuck is actually down there. Things will go a lot smoother if we have the illusion of knowing what is going on."

Boyd nodded, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "When we can, I think we should also inventory everything in the bunker-- maybe if there are enough men that can be assigned as well. And when we're searching through the lists, I think we should check if they had access to anything of interest. If we don't get the word out immediately that CRS was taken down, maybe there are even meetings or exchanges already set up with other groups that we could compromise if we wanted."

"I thought Xiaolian put Hsin in charge," Ton's voice rang out suddenly. It was the first time he'd spoken in their presence and his accent was distinctly American.

Sin's eyes snapped over to Ton. "So you can speak after all."

"I speak when I have something to say," the guard replied in a flat, emotionless voice. "And it is highly doubtful that either the men in CRS or Dǐ Zhì will take orders from or want to work with some little white boy who looks like he should be skimming over a pool of water with wings on."

Boyd quirked his eyebrows, looking over at Ton mildly. "They'll take orders from who they have to take orders from." He shrugged and then crossed his arms. "But it's true that Hsin's in charge so it's up to him; I'll do whatever he tells me to do. He speaks Mandarin and I don't so he's better equipped to give orders anyway."

"You're missing the point," Ton replied in the same toneless way. "She put him in charge for a reason."

Boyd watched Ton for a long moment, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Although Ton's initial comment made it seem more like a combination of Boyd's feminine looks as well as his nationality that would be the problem, what it really came down to was that Boyd was obviously an outsider and that wasn't going to help them at all in this case.

He looked over at Sin. "He has a point. I'm an obvious westerner getting in the middle of Chinese-specific goals. It may be bad enough even with you but at least you blend in more-- They aren't likely to listen to me at all and my presence may just make it more difficult to convert anyone from CRS. I'll follow through with any assignment I'm given but he may be right that I should stay in the background."

Sin shrugged uncaringly, having watched the exchange with a curious look on his face that had been directed at Ton. They'd had some kind of unspoken rivalry between them since the first mission in Hong Kong and some of it seemed to have dissipated as soon as Ton actually spoke.

"There would be no reason for both of us to interview CRS anyway since you can't communicate with most of them," he replied. "I'll start that tomorrow while you see what you can find in their databases and inventory and together we will decide who is most likely to turn and who will be terminated."

Boyd nodded.

The next several days were long and arduous.

Despite the fact that Boyd and Sin shared a room, they hardly saw each other for more than a few minutes a day. Sin interviewed all the CRS rebels one by one, and since there were more than forty of them that was quite an undertaking.

Boyd's task kept him in front of computer screens for hours on end. There were five computers that he had to search through and each of them had several hard drives. Trying to track down the identities of all the rebels was unsurprisingly difficult since CRS didn't seem to have any sort of centralized database with the information.

Still, a concentrated effort between the two of them worked well.

Sin kept Boyd updated on who he had terminated, providing digital photographs of them to check against any potential pictures in the computers, and Boyd continued to piece together information he found scattered across the computers to determine the identities of the people who remained. For several of the rebels, the CRS captains appeared to have done some sort of background check which ended up being helpful once Boyd was able to access the information.

Once Boyd scoured through everything on the hard drives and reported all the information to Sin, he turned his attention to cataloging everything in the bunker. The building was expansive and not particularly well organized, so after a day he ended up having to enlist the help of one of the English-speaking Dǐ Zhì guards, a man named Qiang, while Ton stayed in the background like a silent sentinel.

Boyd could tell from the start that Qiang wasn't thrilled to be there and at first it was unclear whether he just didn't want to work in the bunker or if it was Boyd's presence that was causing the issue.

Sometimes Qiang wouldn't immediately respond when Boyd spoke to him and sometimes Qiang ignored him altogether only to later claim he couldn't hear him. But given the echoing noise of crates being moved and contents shifted through, it didn't bother Boyd much until into the second day of the job.

The heat of late summer had only grown more prominent during the week. The bunker, with no windows, no ventilation and no way for cool air to get in or hot air to get out, ended up feeling like a sauna inside. Even with a short sleeved shirt, lightweight shorts, and his hair pulled back and off his neck, Boyd was sweating from exertion and the heat.

Boyd was tired from working overtime in uncomfortable conditions since the beginning of the week. His eyes still burned from staring at the computer screen for dozens of hours at a time and now his muscles were starting to burn from the physical workout in the bunker.

He'd pulled several crates off the shelves already without any problems so when he saw one on a shelf that was taller than he was, he tried to pull it down without thinking. He had a pretty good grip but as he slid the crate off the side, he realized it was heavier than he'd anticipated and, as it started to tip, he saw that it was also missing a lid.

"Qiang, help," Boyd called sharply as the crate started to tip and he struggled to hold it upright.

Qiang looked over and met Boyd's eyes but he didn't move toward Boyd. If anything, he seemed content to sit there and watch.


The crate nearly tipped upside down and Boyd had to turn his head down as several assault rifles fell on him and clattered to the floor at his sides. Although it hurt, Boyd didn't have time to think about it as he snapped his arms out and almost fell over trying to catch the crate. His arms yanked forward painfully in the movement and the awkwardly sized crate almost hit his feet as he was able to drop it to the floor.

Boyd leaned forward for a moment, his heartbeat thundering in his chest as adrenaline woke him up, and he straightened with a narrow-eyed stare toward Qiang.

"What the hell," Boyd snapped, his voice tight. When Qiang just watched Boyd with a shrug and looked away, Boyd demanded, "What was that? Why didn't you help me?"

"I do not take orders from you," Qiang said unconcernedly, returning to idly poking through the crate in front of him.

"This isn't about orders," Boyd returned coolly, crossing his arms. "That was dangerous and--"

"Then maybe you should not do it," Qiang cut him off blandly and Boyd fell silent briefly, narrowing his eyes.

"I shouldn't have," Boyd agreed with a frown. "But that's not the point. We're working on this project together for the betterment of Dǐ Zhì. If you'd been in that position, I would have helped you. There was no reason for you to completely ignore me."

"You are not Dǐ Zhì." Qiang ran a contemptuous gaze along Boyd and shook his head. "You are not even Chinese."

Boyd crouched and started putting the rifles back into the crate. "So?" He impatiently pushed some hair off his face that had fallen out of the ponytail. "I'm here because Xiaolian wants me here and it's the same for you. Who cares if we're not both Chinese?"

"Xiaolian does not want you; Xiaolian tolerates you," Qiang said acidly, abandoning all pretense of counting the grenades in his crate. He nearly glared at Boyd, his eyebrows drawing down. "You westerners think you own the world but we are fighting for our freedom; we are not your experiment or weekend charity work."

"I don't think I own anything but what I've bought with my own money," Boyd said firmly, tossing two more rifles into the crate. "I'm not here to cause problems; I'm here to help."

"Help?" Qiang scoffed. "What help can you give? You are too stupid to know when not to pull a box down."

"Don't bullshit me," Boyd said strongly, dropping another rifle into the crate and twisting to face Qiang more fully. "This has nothing to do with that. You just don't like me because I'm American but you aren't even giving me a chance. I've been here for half a month living under the same roof as all of you and I'm spending more time and energy working on getting this ready for Xiaolian than most of you, so don't act like I'm unable to help."

"Yes, you spend that energy," Qiang agreed, his lip lifting in a sneer. "You do it because you want something."

"Is that so terrible?" Boyd asked, lifting his eyebrows and eyeing Qiang. "Everyone has a reason for what they do; it doesn't automatically mean it's something horrible."

"It means you are here for a reason. I do not trust your motives." Qiang slid his glare away from Boyd and looked down to shift the grenades carefully in the packaging. "You will rip us apart."

Boyd didn't look away from Qiang; if anything, his stare only intensified. "We're here to help Dǐ Zhì, to see it grow stronger. We're willing to risk our lives for that or we would not have helped in the raid. And if you question any of that, then bring it up with Xiaolian. We're following her orders and I should hope you trust her at least."

"I trust her, not you," Qiang said bluntly, arching an eyebrow. "But you can still lie to her."

"So can any of you," Boyd said pointedly, starting to get frustrated by Qiang's replies. "Shaoqing did and he was one of you. Just because--"

Qiang stood up abruptly and tossed the last grenade into the crate. He looked over at Boyd with narrowed eyes. "Finish yourself." Without waiting for a reply, he stalked out of the bunker.

Boyd watched Qiang leave, his expression turning cool and anger making his shoulders tense, but he didn't bother to yell after the man. After a moment, he looked down at the crate and crouched, throwing one of the assault rifles in with more force than necessary.

"Don't take it personally."

Boyd looked at Ton sidelong and dropped another rifle into the box. He tried to make himself loosen his shoulders but he wasn't entirely successful. "I'm not, I'm just--" He narrowed his eyes and paused, staring into the crate. "Frustrated."

Ton stared at him through the darkened sunglasses he always wore. "They don't trust any outsider. I was born in China and they still took a long time to accept me because I grew up in America."

Boyd looked over at Ton more fully, studying him thoughtfully. After a moment, he sat down on the floor and decided to take a break. He crossed his legs and slouched forward, pushing hair out of his eyes. "Your family moved to America?"

"My mother is American. She took me back shortly after I was born," Ton said calmly, taking off his sunglasses and slowly cleaning the lenses on the hem of his black t-shirt.

"Why did you end up back in China, then?" Boyd asked, watching Ton curiously; partially for the answer and partially because it was the first time he'd seen the man remove the sunglasses.

Ton shrugged, glancing up at Boyd briefly, brown eyes unreadable. "My father brought me back. He wanted his only son to be in Dǐ Zhì."

"He was in Dǐ Zhì?" Boyd asked, drawing his eyebrows down.

Now that he could see all of Ton's face and Ton was actually engaging in conversation rather than standing silently in the background, it was apparent to Boyd how attractive the man really was. He was about as tall as Sin, appeared to be in his late twenties, his hair was short and spiky and his build was athletic. Now Boyd could also see that Ton's eyes were a pleasant dark brown that made his features stand out even more.

"Xiaolian's my half sister," Ton replied casually.

Boyd's eyebrows shot up and he didn't bother to hide the surprise that crossed his face. "I had no idea... Do the two of you have other siblings in Dǐ Zhì as well?"

Ton put his glasses back on, his face as blank as usual. "Not that I'm aware. My mother spirited me away when I was a newborn and she changed my name. It took my father some time to track us down and when he did, he died not too long after. I'm not too knowledgeable about what other bastards he has floating around."

Boyd nodded and leaned back on his hands, watching Ton thoughtfully for a moment. That explained several things about Ton and although the information had been surprising, he could similarities in their personality between Xiaolian and Ton. If anything, it actually made him trust Ton more. "You still go by the name she gave you even after you returned here?"

An eyebrow arched although that was the only hint of expression on Ton's face. "Of course. Why should I change my name? To be more accepted? It's bad enough that Xiaolian calls me by my last name only."

"What's your first name?" Boyd asked curiously.

Ton smirked. "Jimmy."

Boyd couldn't help a small grin. He straightened his legs to stretch them out and quirked an eyebrow. "Well. This puts me in a dilemma, then. Do you want me to call you Jimmy or Ton?"

"You can call me Jimmy," Ton replied with a shrug. "Xiaolian may be startled, though. She wishes I would go by Xu Feng."

Boyd shrugged. "I'm less concerned with startling Xiaolian than I am with calling you by what you want to be called," he said offhandedly. "If you're Jimmy then you're Jimmy, regardless of what others prefer."

Ton shrugged silently but the comment seemed to please him judging by the way his body language appeared to slightly relax.

Silence fell between them and Boyd picked up one of the rifles, inspecting it before he set it back down on the floor and it occurred to him to count everything in the crate before he completely filled it again. He should have done that from the beginning but the fact that he hadn't thought of it probably just underscored how frustrated and tired he'd felt.

He pulled himself closer to the crate then looked over at Ton thoughtfully. "Do you not like Hsin much because of what happened with Xiaolian?"

Ton's blank expression didn't change. "Who says I don't like him?"

Boyd shrugged idly, then leaned his forearm against the edge of the crate and tilted his head. "Just the way you interact; you don't seem especially fond of him."

"I don't have problems with him personally. But my job is security and I can tell that if he chose to become a threat to one of the people I am guarding, he would be deadly."

Boyd nodded in understanding and turned his attention back to the crate as he dug through it. Ton didn't reply and silence fell between the two of them again.

Although Boyd could have tried to track someone else down to help him, he decided against it because it would take too much time and probably end similarly. So he spent the next several hours working his way through the bunker alone. The sun set and after awhile Ton disappeared, presumably to check on Sin.

He was just starting to work on a new row when he heard a scuffing sound. Boyd paused, looking over his shoulder and seeing Bo-Qin walking in on one of his check ups.

"Hello," Boyd said, dropping his arms to his sides and turning around completely.

Bo-Qin stopped a short distance away and nodded in greeting. He looked a great deal less hostile without Xiaolian glowering at him nearby. "Have you prepared a report of all that has been accomplished?"

Boyd rolled his shoulders absently, trying to work out some of the kinks. "I planned to have it by tomorrow; if I work for another few hours I should be finished in here so I can provide a complete report on this rather than a partial."

"We are more interested in the detainees," he replied in his typically curt tone, a frown pulling at the sides of his mouth. "You mean to say you have not gathered any information?"

Boyd shook his head. "I've already looked through all the computers and have that information compiled. Hsin is almost finished with sorting through the detainees last I heard but I haven't spoken with him today yet."

Bo-Qin nodded, watching Boyd work with a serious expression on his face. His lips thinned slightly, dark eyes following Boyd's movements before he asked, "And what of Wei Jianli? Has it been confirmed that he was at this base during the raid?"

Red flags rose for Boyd at the comment. Shaoqing had told Boyd where the encampment was and had listed a number of the people they would find there. When Boyd had reported the information to Xiaolian, he hadn't mentioned everyone Shaoqing had told him about because he hadn't known who had been important. Wei Jianli hadn't been one of them he'd reported.

Boyd didn't let the suspicion get to his expression. He simply shrugged casually, pushing hair off his face that had fallen from his ponytail. "We don't know yet. So far, not everyone Shaoqing mentioned has been here but we should know by tomorrow."

Bo-Qin nodded and if Boyd hadn't been watching closely, he would have missed the discreet way tension seemed to ease out of Bo-Qin's posture.

"I will be staying on the encampment until the report has been complete."

Boyd nodded easily. "Are you staying in the officer's building?"

There was a brief hesitation before Bo-Qin replied. "Are you and Hsin sharing accommodations?"

"Yes," Boyd said calmly, leaning against the shelving unit behind him.

Bo-Qin stared at him, pursing his mouth slightly. "It is possible that I will."

"You should consider it," Boyd replied agreeably, taking in every nuance of Bo-Qin's behavior without showing that he was paying any special attention. More hair started to fall out of the ponytail and he tilted his head forward to pull the band out.

"There's more space," he continued absently without looking away from Bo-Qin despite the blond hair that fell around his face and partially shadowed his expression. He slid the hair band around his pointer and middle finger to hold it as he pulled his hair back into a tighter ponytail and secured it. "And it's quieter."

Bo-Qin continued to watch him, his narrow-eyed gaze following the motions of Boyd's hands before he focused on a point over Boyd's shoulder. "If I do, I will not be there until very late as is. I must check into various things on the encampment and get reports from the men. In the case of my arrival, it would be preferable if one of the men readies accommodations for me."

"I can see to that." Boyd tilted his head and rested his hands on the edge of a shelf behind him. "Do you have any preferences you would like me to convey?"

Bo-Qin shook his head and started to turn away. "No. But perhaps I will speak with you later."

Boyd nodded. "I'm sure we will," he agreed and Bo-Qin left without responding.

Boyd waited until Bo-Qin was gone before he walked to the door and casually checked to see if anyone was within view. Several guards were in the area and he didn't trust the security of the bunker for what he would have to do so he decided to finish for the day. He shoved the doors to the bunker closed and secured them, stepping back and wiping a hand across his forehead. He didn't hide how tired he was in order to make it seem as though he was simply too weary to finish tonight.

He could feel a few suspicious stares drilling into him as he headed toward the officers' building but he ignored them. He stopped one of the guards to instruct him to ready a room for Bo-Qin; Boyd knew the guard was going to follow through simply because it was for the husband of Dǐ Zhì's leader.

Once Boyd made it to his shared room with Sin, which he was unsurprised to find empty, he shut the door firmly behind him and moved to the corner of the room where he dropped onto his bed and leaned his back against the wall. He pulled a handheld computer out of his pocket and sent a quick, encrypted email to the Agency asking for information on Wei Jianli.

Almost twenty minutes passed before he received a reply, stating that Wei Jianli was a very influential man in CRS and giving the details they had. Boyd knew Wei Jianli was not present at the raid. Boyd's eyebrows twitched up slightly and he erased all evidence of having sent the message before he slid the computer back into his pocket and immediately left the room.

Sin was exactly where he expected him to be: sequestered in a room as he compiled information from the interviews.

"I have some data from the bunker," Boyd reported, careful to not seem too casual with two men aside from Ton in the room.

Sin glanced up at him. "Anything imperative?"

Boyd met Sin's eyes and kept his face casually turned away from the guards as a significant look passed through his eyes. "Not about the data; however, I have some questions about how to finish the project." He tilted his head and glanced at Sin's workload. "I can speak to you about it later when you aren't as busy."

Sin watched him for a moment before turning back to the desk. "I was just finishing up the most recent updates. We can speak privately now if you would like."

"I need to finish a few things so I can meet you in the room when you're done if that works for you," Boyd replied in agreement. He didn't trust the security of any room on the compound but their own.

"That's fine," Sin replied and turned back to the array of images and words that were scrolling across the touch screen of his laptop.

Boyd nodded and turned around, glancing past the guards. The two guards he didn't know were studiously ignoring him and although Boyd couldn't see Ton's eyes because of the dark sunglasses, he thought it was possible the man had briefly looked at him in silent acknowledgment, judging by the slight shift of his head. With a subtle nod in return, Boyd left.

He returned to the officers' building, checking first to see if Bo-Qin's room was readied, which it was. Bo-Qin's room shared a wall with Boyd and Sin's so he was hoping Sin would return before Bo-Qin to better ensure the man wouldn't overhear them, even if they were quiet. He suspected it would be hours until Bo-Qin returned, though, and minutes before Sin did.

When he entered their room, he did an immediate scan to check for any audio or visual devices planted in there since he'd last left. Unsurprisingly he didn't find anything so he sat down on his bed and waited for Sin.

It didn't take long and when Sin arrived he was scowling slightly as he shut the door behind him. "I'm sick of this fucking mission."

Boyd raised his eyebrows. "Problems with the interviews or just tired of it all in general?"

"In general," Sin snapped, ripping off his over-shirt and tossing it in the corner. He'd been wearing the same clothes for the past few days. "I don't really give a shit about Dǐ Zhì or teaming up with them to stop Janus or any of this nonsense."

"Well, if we can get them on our side then maybe we can more quickly finish with Janus," Boyd said reasonably, kicking his legs out in front of him and stretching his arms. "We're getting pretty close to this mission being over, anyway."

"I don't even want this mission to be successful," Sin said flatly as he took off his undershirt and sat down on the threadbare sofa to unlace his boots. "I don't want to work with this bitch for an extended period of time."

"Why are you so mad at her?" Boyd asked, mildly perplexed while he watched Sin.

Sin gave Boyd a flat look and tossed his boot against the wall. "Oh, I don't know, maybe because she's having me order executions of dozens of people?"

Boyd studied Sin more somberly and after a moment he nodded. "Yeah, that's pretty shitty," he agreed. "Especially since for some of them, the only thing they have going against them is their loyalty to a group that isn't hers."

"So then why are you shocked that I don't want to work with her?"

Boyd shook his head. "Your attitude toward her has just changed quite a bit since her name had last come up. Before, you didn't seem to care much about anything and I haven't had the chance to talk to you lately. I didn't know the interviews were bothering you so much."

Sin said nothing and stretched out on the sofa, putting his hands behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. "I can't concentrate anymore."

Boyd was silent a moment, his eyebrows drawn down slightly as he ran his gaze along Sin in mild concern. Sin seemed especially tense and although it was possible it was due solely to the interviews, it seemed like maybe there was something more. He drew his knees in and loosely looped his arms around his shins, tilting his head as he watched his partner.

"Is something else bothering you?" Boyd asked cautiously.

Sin shrugged, his pale green eyes still on the ceiling. "When I'm in Hong Kong, I think a lot about my childhood. Some of the younger people I have interviewed reminded me of that even more."

"How so?" Boyd asked. "Do they remind you of yourself when you were younger?"

"Not necessarily." There was a brief pause and Sin drew down one of his arms to cross against his bare chest as his stony expression grew more contemplative. "But some of the soldiers are not much older than I was when I came to the Agency. It is mostly the idea of not having a choice in the direction your life has turned, of being born into violence and pain."

Boyd watched Sin before nodding. "It's true. There are a lot of people who end up forced into a life they otherwise may have avoided."

"Sometimes I wonder," Sin said slowly, his eyes narrowed. "What would have happened if my father hadn't been abandoned by his father, if he hadn't seen his mother and sisters slaughtered in front of him. Or... what would have happened had my mother not been sent here by her family."

"I think things would have been very different for you," Boyd said.

"I probably wouldn't have existed," Sin replied with a shrug. "If they had led normal lives, the events leading up to my conception wouldn't have occurred. He wouldn't have been a gun runner and she wouldn't have been a psychotic whore."

Boyd was silent a moment. For all the horrible things Sin had been through in his life, he couldn't help selfishly preferring that Sin still existed despite that rather than Sin never having been born in the first place.

"Probably," Boyd had to admit. "But the circumstances still could have happened without quite so much trauma. They could have each been in Hong Kong or somewhere else on their own and met by happenstance like my parents did."

"Do you know how they met?" he asked, looking over at Boyd finally.

Boyd watched Sin, taken in by that pale green gaze. "I know they met at the brothel when they were both young. And Emilio had some connections to the place."

Sin nodded, his eyes still on Boyd. "Yes. The circumstances of them being in Hong Kong are directly related to the dysfunction of their lives but I don't know much more than that. He did not like to speak of her with me. I think it disturbed him."


There was only the briefest of hesitations before Sin said, matter of fact, "Because I was responsible for her death."

Boyd drew his eyebrows down slightly, his gaze caught by Sin's. He knew what Sin was referring to but at the same time, he didn't think it would go over well to tell Sin. And he didn't know the story from Sin's side; he only knew what Emilio had told him. "What do you mean?"

"Remember what I told you?" Sin asked, his voice even despite the tension that had visibly wound its way into his body and face. "About what happened to me shortly before she died?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly as he recalled Sin talking about being raped and thrown in the cellar as a child. "Yes," he replied with a nod.

Sin studied him and raised his dark eyebrows slightly. "I knew that from that point my life would be a continuous cycle of johns and being beaten and locked in the cellar if I did not perform in a satisfactory manner. I knew I would not live long under those conditions so I decided to kill her."

A slight feeling of discomfort passed through Boyd, and he didn't know if it was more for the idea of Sin being stuck in that sort of lifestyle or if it was the fact that Sin really had been that calculating at that age. He didn't let it get to his expression, although his fingers twitched against his wrist and he couldn't help drawing his eyebrows down.

"How?" Boyd asked quietly.

"I poisoned her over a period of time," Sin replied emotionlessly, his eyes boring into Boyd's.

Part of Boyd wanted to look away from Sin's eyes but he couldn't make himself. "How long?"

"Does it matter?" Sin asked, his eyebrows rising slightly. "Will the amount of planning make it less difficult for you to hear?"

"I don't know," Boyd said honestly, shaking his head. "I just... don't entirely understand." His eyes were intense with mild disquiet yet at the same time something like sadness as he studied Sin. "You were so young, Hsin... Why did you think to poison her rather than anything else? Why didn't you just run away?"

"Because I didn't want the chance of her following me or making them find me. She was obsessed with my father and in turn, obsessed with me because I look like him. She couldn't have him but I was hers."

Boyd studied Sin intently, his eyes narrowing slightly as he ran the words through his mind. He wasn't really surprised by Sin's answer. Although the idea of Sin committing premeditated matricide, especially at such a young age, had been disturbing the first time Boyd had learned of it from Emilio, he'd since had time to think about it more.

He'd always known Sin had to have had a good reason for doing it; even with Sin's violent upbringing, Boyd knew that at his heart Sin was not a cruel person, that he wasn't prone to unnecessarily harming others. Although it was possible Sin had been completely different as a child, Boyd hadn't thought that was the case.

What had been difficult for Boyd to fully understand had been the distinction between Sin violently responding one day and killing her versus being intelligent and coldly logical enough to know to poison her over time; to watch her deteriorate and continue regardless.

There was a huge difference between snapping one day and killing someone in a few heated moments, and planning someone's death and not stopping even if there was still time during the course of it. One way could happen to anyone; the other way required a far more cunning mind.

He had begun to wonder why exactly Sin had poisoned her. Had it been one of many choices he'd gone through and he'd decided it was best or least detectable? Or had he simply run across poison one day and tried to poison her without thinking, and when she remained alive he continued to poison her in an act of desperation to get out of that life?

He'd been wondering since talking to Emilio what role everyone had ended up playing in Sin's mother's death. He'd wondered how far Sin had felt pushed and how he hadn't felt there were any other options. And especially after Sin mentioned his mother's obsession with Emilio, Boyd could see what had been going through Sin's mind.

Even in the few months Emilio had been back, Boyd had seen how people behaved around the older man. People somehow seemed very taken with him and more than one person acted in a way that seemed out of character once lust for Emilio became involved.

Boyd knew that Sin's mother had been deranged and he could only imagine those reactions had been even worse with her. He also knew that because Sin and Emilio looked so similar, someone could use one in fantasies about the other such as Lydia had.

So the sad truth was Sin was right; she probably would have chased him down. And Sin had been so young and unique... Most likely, he either would have met a worse fate on the streets or they would have tracked him down and dragged him back, making it even more traumatizing for him once he was back in their control.

For as disturbing and sad as it was, killing his mother had probably seemed like the safest and best solution to Sin.

After a moment of silence, Boyd's eyebrows twitched down as he continued to meet Sin's eyes. "Why are you telling me this now?"

"Because I was thinking about it," Sin said as he shifted into an upright position. "And I'm tired of being afraid of what you'll think of me. Either you'll accept me or you won't."

Boyd shook his head. "It doesn't change anything." He searched Sin's expression and didn't hide his sincerity. "It doesn't make me happy for various reasons, including what you were going through and what would've happened otherwise. But you're still the same person to me."

Sin nodded, his gaze intense as he stared at Boyd and after a long moment he turned away. "I'm going to wash up while I have the chance. What did you have to tell me?"

"Oh." Boyd had nearly forgotten about that after Sin's confession. "I think Bo-Qin's a traitor."

Sin raised an eyebrow. "Okay?"

"I think he has ties to CRS," Boyd explained, his eyebrows drawing down as a frown shadowed his features. "He was asking me earlier about Wei Jianli, whether he was here during the raid."

Boyd quirked his eyebrows and continued before Sin had to ask, "Turns out Wei Jianli is one of the highest officers in CRS. I can tell you after scouring through every hard drive that his name is not mentioned anywhere even once, and he's one of the people Shaoqing told me about but who I never mentioned to Xiaolian. The guards told me I was the only one who spoke to Shaoqing so there's no way he'd know that name short of one of the CRS prisoners telling him or him knowing ahead of time. He also seemed relieved when I said we hadn't found him here yet. Not to mention, I found it very suspect that he had Shaoqing killed before I was done with him."

"I found that odd as well. Even as overzealous and overprotective as he tries to appear, he has had enough experience with Dǐ Zhì to understand the concept of a thorough investigation," Sin said calmly. "But we need real proof or confirmation before taking this to Xiaolian. She'll just get offended that we're claiming she married a double agent without having anything to back it up."

Boyd nodded, leaning back on his hands and stretching his legs out in front of him as he considered that. "It's possible we could try to get him on recording admitting something."

Sin leaned his bare back against the wall and studied Boyd for a moment. "The only plausible way to do that is to let him know that you know Xiaolian is just stringing us along and to express frustration and disgust with the scenario. If he's in CRS, he won't take long to jump on that. Even if Shaoqing was a sorry excuse for a double agent, his and Bo-Qin's goals are still the same: make powerful allies."

Boyd nodded again. "He'll be in late tonight so I'll try to catch him tomorrow."

Sin narrowed his eyes slightly, opened his mouth to say something before shrugging and looking at Boyd more directly. "You could try tonight. He'll be tired and less on guard. And also, it may help to imply that you are on a more... familiar level with him."

Boyd quirked his eyebrows, mildly surprised because it was one of the few times Sin referred to Boyd's valentine status even that directly and the first time it didn't seem to be some source of contention between them. It was also the first time he could recall Sin suggesting he use it. It was good to know his status wasn't coming between them anymore.

Although he didn't relish the idea of this turning into anything like a valentine, it wasn't a bad suggestion based on the way Bo-Qin had seemed distracted or curious at times, and the subtle way his gaze had lingered on either of them.

"You want me to seduce him?"

Sin snorted discreetly. "I'd be surprised if you made it that far but implying that it's a possibility wouldn't be a bad idea. His responses to our alleged relationship have caught me on more than one occasion and even before this conversation I'd wondered if he was curious about the dynamics of a homosexual relationship because he was trying to picture himself in one."

Sin shrugged in an offhand way, tone matter-of-fact. "But on the other hand Bo-Qin doesn't strike me as the type of man to exchange information for sex, so any indication of you having interest in him shouldn't seem like a bribe so much as another factor that would get him to start talking to you in a less formal way."

Boyd leaned against the wall behind him and nodded, watching Sin thoughtfully. He couldn't deny the mild relief that Sin wasn't asking him to go very far.

"I can do that." Boyd tilted his head slightly and after a second a small, lightly teasing smirk played at his lips. "You know, he's been eyeing you as much as me. Am I getting this assignment because I'm the valentine or is it just that you don't want to do it?"

"It has nothing with wanting to do it. The last time I spoke to him I wasn't on very friendly terms and in addition to that, it wouldn't be believable if I tried."

"Why not?" Boyd asked curiously. "You don't think you could seduce someone?"

"Not at all," Sin replied with a shrug.

Boyd raised an eyebrow. "What about Ivan? It didn't seem to take you terribly long to get involved with him."

"That was different." Sin made a face, looking disturbed. "We were friends, he implied he would like to be more, and that is all that occurred. There was no grand seduction on either side."

"Oh." Boyd shifted his gaze away casually, almost absently studying the door to the room as if he could see the rest of the building through it.

Sin's explanation made sense yet at the same time, it didn't help the twinge that moved through him. He had to grow used to Ivan and Sin being together and it was really his own fault for bringing it up.

Still, he couldn't help thinking that it wouldn't be hard for Sin to seduce Boyd if it weren't for the circumstances. Sin had been doing a damn good job in the pool, even if he hadn't meant to.

"Anyway, I think he's going to be back late so I'll stay up for that," Boyd said with a shrug after a moment.

Sin watched Boyd for an extended moment, his eyes slightly narrowed before turning away fully. "There's no need to push it too far. If he is a traitor or mole, he's been isolated and closeted for many years. A mere indication of a future connection should be enough to spark his interest."

Boyd nodded and shrugged. "It's not like I want to fuck him anyway so I don't plan to try anything major. Like you said, an indication is probably enough. Even without the closeted aspect, I doubt he'd think it believable if I suddenly tried to sleep with him now since we've barely spoken the entirety of my time here."

Sin continued to stare at him before finally saying, "Good."

Boyd watched as Sin left the room. After the door shut behind him, Boyd let out a low breath and closed his eyes as he dropped his head back against the wall.

Continue to A Matter of Time: Part V