Entre Nous

This site is..

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

The story contains..

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


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Entre Nous

Interlude 3.12

Uploaded on 7/18/2009

Boyd lay discreetly hidden not far from Schafer's château. He kept the binoculars trained on the staff moving about the area like busy insects; constantly trimming, mowing, weeding, cutting... Servants walked in and out of the side doors of the manor, often going out of their way to stay out of view from the grand driveway leading around the front. The compound did not have a fence but the expanse of mostly open grass that spread out in all directions would make it nearly impossible for anyone to approach unseen.

The place was immaculate. The greenery looked a shade more intense than Boyd had ever seen in nature before and each window on the three-story château gleamed in the ambient summer light. It was Boyd's third day of reconnaissance and it still struck him how beautiful the place was, from the architectural details to the theme that continued into the landscaping.

There was a large garden area in the back that even included what looked to be a maze created out of hedges, and a white marble fountain was the centerpiece to the courtyard that rested between the garden and the château. Smaller, ancillary buildings in the same style dotted the area around the garden, one of which Boyd knew held garden supplies.

He checked his watch briefly, noting that it was 12:16 pm, and returned his narrow-eyed gaze to the binoculars.

As expected, not long after that Julien wandered across the expansive lawn, heading toward the sculptured shrubbery near the northwest corner of the building. His short brown hair was ruffled and unkempt as usual and just as had happened the two days before, Boyd could see the head gardener, Thibault, gesturing angrily from across the way. Boyd was too far away to hear the exact words but the echo of the voice that made its way to him was irritated and impatient.

One of the several gardeners that worked on the lawn, Julien seemed perpetually late and discombobulated. In a way, the man reminded Boyd of a French gardener version of Owen. As far as Boyd could tell, Julien was relatively new to the staff. No one seemed to pay Julien much heed and when they did, they barely looked at him and only did so long enough to yell at him for doing something wrong.

Boyd wasn't certain why exactly everyone had such an issue with Julien except that he seemed mildly incompetent.

Julien nodded emphatically at Thibault, his head bobbing up and down repeatedly in an almost manic manner, and Thibault scowled and gestured rudely before disappearing around the corner of the house to work on his own projects. Julien waited until Thibault was out of view before he turned his back toward the house and rolled his eyes in an exaggerated, clearly annoyed manner that showed up even behind his thick-framed black glasses.

That didn't last long before Julien's expression fell back to the lazy disinterest in the world that he seemed to default to and he got to work.

Boyd had spent the first two days determining his plan for the area and he'd finally decided that the best thing to do would be to impersonate one of the staff long enough to set explosives for a distraction and to extract the target.

Of course, he'd had to determine Schafer's schedule, which had been difficult from the outside-- at first Boyd had thought about trying to impersonate a staff member who worked inside but despite the large amount and size of the windows, Boyd could only see so much from his position and the domestic staff were moving around within hidden hallways too often for Boyd to pin down the mannerisms of any of them.

Julien was the closest to Boyd's body type and age among the staff who worked outside and with his tendency to mess up, if Boyd was caught doing anything odd it gave him more of an excuse.

Schafer's schedule within the house was a mystery to Boyd but he did see that the man was punctual to a fault when he moved in and out of the building.

At 3:00 pm every day, he came outside to speak in undertones to the head of his security, a hulking man who had probably come straight from the guards who had nearly killed Boyd and Sin back in the US. The man didn't wear identification like the staff did but Boyd had tried to read lips and was fairly certain his name was Rémy.

The place was under high scrutiny-- a variety of high-tech cameras aimed at every direction of the estate was augmented with enough professional mercenaries patrolling the compound on a tight schedule to make a quick extraction difficult without being caught.

At 3:05 pm, Schafer would briefly patrol the compound with Rémy; it was a quick stroll that took less than ten minutes and Schafer would disappear inside again until the next day.

Boyd knew that period of time was his only chance to be able to capture Schafer successfully so he started planning accordingly.

He zoomed the high-tech binoculars in far enough to see Julien's face and he studied the glasses and Julien's hairstyle once more, committing it to memory along with Julien's movements. He studied the man for the next three hours then turned his attention to Schafer once he appeared at 3 pm exactly. Once more, Schafer and Rémy strolled through the compound, and once more Schafer disappeared within the château by 3:15 pm.

Boyd calmly gathered his things and silently left to get supplies.

Knowing French and having learned an authentic Parisian accent from his mother worked wonders in blending in. No one looked at him twice or seemed to question his presence as Boyd walked through the streets of Paris.

The fact that Schafer had chosen to build his château in Vallée de la Loire had made the grandiose estate blend in, although as one traveled toward Paris, many places were still destroyed from the war.

Although Schafer's château was much closer to Orléans than Paris, Boyd's flight had brought him into the country through Paris, which had given him the opportunity to visit the large metro area to buy supplies.

More importantly, it meant that some of the staff members commuted, including Julien who had an apartment in Paris. Boyd didn't know why Julien didn't just live in Orléans but it ultimately didn't matter and it gave Boyd the opportunity to operate out of a city he at least knew a little.

In a way, it was strange to be back in Paris-- back in the city that had been where so many things started in Boyd's life. He went past Thierry's old hotel, now redesigned and remodeled under someone else's name, and he realized that it had been two and a half years since he'd been on that street.

A lot had happened in that time and if he'd walked down that block even a few months earlier, it was possible he would have still felt conflicted about how it had all turned out. But the sense of contentment he'd gained listening to Sin's heartbeat still hadn't disappeared and Boyd knew it never really would.

Despite all that had happened, he now truly felt at peace with himself, with his life; it was a sense of stability he'd never known he was missing until he felt it grounding him.

Now when he looked back, it seemed like he had been unstable his entire life, that he'd never quite had the right footing and each time he'd started to catch his balance, something had thrown him off. Even walking past the hotel where he'd made the mistake that had ultimately given him valentine status, even knowing he was on a mission that could very well end in death, he felt serene.

He'd never felt such a lack of conflict within his mind, of over-analysis or worry; he wasn't confused or regretful or distressed... He didn't feel anything particularly strongly but it was different from the way it had once been, when he'd ignored or cut off emotions that he hadn't wanted to feel or he'd known would hurt him.

He wasn't avoiding anything; he was simply existing.

He couldn't deny the near sense of freedom he felt to be rid of all that self-doubt and confusion-- to instead be okay with where he was at, what he was doing, and to finally know where he stood in life. To finally feel like he understood perfectly what was important to him and to have shifted his priorities accordingly. To feel at peace.

Maybe the feeling wouldn't last forever but what he felt for Sin wouldn't change.

That calm contentment stayed with him even as he worked on locating supplies for the mission.

It took him nearly four hours to find the right wig to match Julien's appearance that was well-made and would appear like true human hair up close. By the time evening set in, Boyd headed toward Julien's apartment building.

The streets were crowded in some areas he had to pass through and more than once he had to avoid a group of people walking around taking up the majority of the sidewalk. He expertly moved through the crowds and finally was at an emptier street when he thought he felt someone watching him. He casually glanced over his shoulder and at first didn't see anything until he noted two younger women standing near each other smiling at him flirtatiously from across the street. He was just starting to look away as he turned the corner when he ran into someone.

An older woman was knocked back a few steps and hit the wall with a startled sound while the worn canvas bag she was carrying fell to the ground heavily. Boyd looked toward her, somewhat startled himself, and saw that she was definitely in her late eighties if not even early nineties. Her skin was wrinkled and pale but her eyes were a striking light blue that rivaled his mother's; the color stood out against her silver hair and she seemed to be in surprisingly good shape for her age.

"Pardon, Madame," Boyd said automatically, feeling a little bad for nearly knocking over a woman who seemed impressively close to having lived a century. He crouched to pick up her bag.

"Ce n'est pas grave," she replied amiably, although she seemed a little shaky as she straightened her clothing and glanced around furtively. He wondered if she was making sure no one else was going to appear to run into her as well.

He stood and held out her bag with a smile and eyebrows raised with a mild expression. "C'est lourd," he observed, feeling the heaviness pull at his hand. "Y a-t-il des poids à l'intérieur?" He said the second part jokingly, as he knew she wasn't really carrying around a load of weights inside her bag.

She chuckled quietly and shook her head as she held out her hand. She looked Boyd in the face for the first time and she briefly went still, her eyes widening a hint as something enigmatic went through them. But it was there and gone so quickly that in the darkness it was hard to tell whether it had actually existed or whether it had just been the shadows surrounding them.

"Seulement livres et papiers," she said with a smile, taking the canvas bag by the strap and putting it over her shoulder. She held the bag close against her side. "Merci."

He nodded; the weight and shape of the items in the bag did seem more like books and papers than anything else. "Je vous en prie," he said, although really she had nothing to thank him for but he wanted to be polite. He took a step backward, made sure he still had his own bag and everything with him, then smiled at her politely. "Bonne nuit."

"Bonne nuit," she replied, studying him again briefly, eyebrows drawing down again with a slightly odd look before she smiled distractedly and walked away.

Boyd checked to make sure he had all his items just in case she'd been a pickpocket; nothing was missing. He turned back in the direction he'd been walking and continued on his way to Julien's. It took him another twenty minutes to reach the building but he knew, based on his surveillance of Julien for the past few days, that it would be at least another hour before Julien made his way home.

The apartment building Julien lived in was tall and skinny, looking similar to row houses he'd seen back in America in the general construction although not the architecture, and it was nearly indistinguishable from the identical buildings on either side.

Boyd waited around the corner for few minutes until he saw one of Julien's neighbors walking down the street as she always did at that time, presumably returning home from work. She was looking down at a small date book in her hand, flipping between pages and apparently checking her calendar.

He'd noticed that none of Julien's neighbors seemed to really know each other and didn't seem to interact much aside from the occasional nod.

He walked up to the front of the building and stopped at the main door; the place was securely locked and he didn't have the residential key needed to gain entry. He could have broken in but that would have raised alarms for Julien and the other residents so he went the easier route.

He stood to the side of the door, fumbling with his bag and searching through his pockets. He drew his eyebrows down in a mixture of confusion and distress as he started to dig through his bag roughly.

She approached and gave him only a cursory glance but when he explained that he thought he'd misplaced his keys, she dismissed him as unthreatening. He timed it so that he pulled out a set of keys and was starting to look for the correct key when she put her key in the door and unlocked it. The way he had started to reach for the door with confidence gave no indication that he didn't actually have a way to enter the building; that he wasn't actually supposed to be there.

She absently held the door open for him as she walked in and Boyd smiled at her gratefully. "Merci."

"De rien," she muttered before returning her attention to the date book and jogging up the set of stairs in front of her.

Boyd paused in the entry way and waited just a few seconds to make sure she had a good head start before he walked up the stairs as well, moving at a sedate pace until he heard the distant echo of her keys jangling as she opened her apartment door. Shortly after that, he heard a door shut and he continued up the next flight of stairs more quickly.

He'd been able to determine from surveillance through the windows that Julien lived alone on the third floor, in the apartment overlooking the main street. Although he didn't know specifically what the apartment number was, it didn't take long to find the place based on the building's set up.

It took very little effort for Boyd to pick the lock and within seconds he was inside the dark apartment. He shut and locked the door behind him, then took a few minutes to move silently through the place, making sure no one was in there and there were no surprises. Satisfied that the apartment was empty, he checked his watch and sat down in a small, comfortable chair to the side of the room to wait for Julien to return.

Nearly thirty-five minutes passed before there was the quiet scrape then jingle of keys on the other side of the door. Boyd silently stood and moved over next to the door, on the side the door would be opening toward so he would initially be blocked from sight.

Julien opened the door and automatically looked in the other direction toward the light switch, which he absently flipped on before he shut the door without looking. He was just turning around when Boyd moved behind him and, with almost laughable ease, swiftly knocked him unconscious in one of the quicker ways Emilio had taught him. He caught Julien as the man fell, holding him carefully against himself as he strained his ears to make sure no one had heard anything. The building was silent around him and he'd caught Julien before he could thump against the floor.

Manhandling Julien up onto his shoulder and ignoring the spike of pain from his bad arm and all the bruises littering his torso, Boyd carried Julien into the bedroom where he set him down on the bed, then went to lock the door and grab his simple plastic bag before he returned. He expertly gave Julien a shot from one of his tranquilizer syringes, using enough that the man should be out for the next day at least. Just in case, he tied Julien up with some belts and put him in the closet, removing Julien's glasses first to make sure they didn't get lost or broken.

Boyd slept in Julien's apartment, staying near the closet so he would hear if the man happened to wake up. He ate some of Julien's food the next morning and stole Julien's uniform and work ID, pleased to see it all fit decently.

When he pulled his blond hair up and out of the way beneath the short brown wig and he put Julien's chunky black glasses on, then loosened his posture until he stood hunched forward, he thought it should be a fair enough approximation that no one would notice in the few hours that he was going to be there.

He checked on Julien again to make sure he was still unconscious and that there weren't any obvious medical issues. After he saw that Julien was fine, he grabbed Julien's work bag where he hid his own items beneath Julien's work tools and he headed out.

When he got to the château he came in from the back and was immediately stopped by two guards who checked his identification. He made sure to stay true to Julien's mannerisms and gait, keeping his eyes mostly trained on the grass and his expression bored. The guards looked at Boyd but let him pass without much scrutiny which was a good sign that the disguise should hold up long enough for the mission.

He sauntered his way across the grass, hefting the bag up further on his shoulder and looking around discreetly. There were four guards in his vicinity, including the two from before, and he knew that there would be even more on the other sides of the building as well as those monitoring the camera system and the others patrolling inside.

He casually shifted his gaze across the wall of the château, reacquainting himself with the placement of the landscaping and getting a closer view. Although his binoculars had given him stellar capability of zooming in, it was still good to see the places in person so he could tell if there would be anything obvious that would interfere with planting the explosives. Nothing stood out to him as a major issue so he continued toward the shed.

He turned the corner and nearly ran into Thibault, who looked over with a scowl and angry glare.

"You're late again!" Thibault roared in French as Boyd passed him and Boyd immediately ducked down and hurried faster toward his destination. Thibault threw his hands up, looking seriously pissed off as his face turned red. "You useless--! If your father hadn't gotten you this job, I would fire you! Get to work!"

Boyd nodded emphatically, nearly tripping over his own feet as he went to the shed.

Once out of view within the shed, he set the bag down and quickly hid a slim explosive with a timed detonator back in the corner beneath an old pile of tools that it looked like no one had used in years. He gathered a few supplies from the shed and walked out without spending much more time than a person would expect in there.

As he walked toward the main garden area, he realized he knew very little about gardening, especially for expensive areas that included sculptured landscaping. Although he'd researched a little and a certain amount was common sense, that was about the extent of his knowledge. Masquerading as Julien was going to be helpful in case he messed up but he was just hoping it wouldn't become an issue.

He spent the next few hours out in the surprisingly warm, muted sunlight. After the initial bout of insults and irritation the several times he passed, Thibault became distracted by working on other projects and left Boyd alone. Boyd moved around the perimeter of the château, keeping his head down as he worked.

He started to get a headache from wearing the glasses. Although the prescription was low, his own eyesight was perfect but he hadn't had the luxury to find fake lenses that would fit perfectly in the frames and he hadn't wanted to risk buying glasses that wouldn't match. So he compensated by occasionally taking the glasses off to rub at his face as if to wipe away sweat, although he was really letting his eyes adjust back to normal now and then.

The landscaping gave him the perfect opportunity to plant explosives around the house and to be close enough to windows to see if he could overhear anything, although most of them were closed to keep out the heat of the day. He had to be discreet about placing the bombs, setting the bag down where the cameras and guards wouldn't oversee, pulling the explosive out at the same time as something more innocuous so it would hide the movement.

He worked casually, not once changing his mannerisms or moving too quickly.

By the time 3 pm rolled around, he had maneuvered himself until he was on the side of the château that he planned to use for the escape; straight out from there was the hidden vehicle. He needed a chance to loiter in the area until Schafer would come around the side during his stroll on the property, so Boyd took out a pair of gardening shears and started pretending to trim one of the sculptured bushes near him.

Adrenaline started to build within him in anticipation; he had to get this right, he had to properly pull off this mission or he would be returning to a swift death.  

Guards strolled around the property on a regular basis and Boyd watched them out of the corner of his eye, senses on alert as his heartbeat quickened during his wait for Schafer to appear. Not even five minutes had passed before he felt someone's presence approaching quickly from the side. He looked over just in time to see Thibault storming up to him.

Without warning, Thibault hit Boyd hard on the back of the head, causing Boyd to nearly drop the gardening shears even as he automatically crouched down the way he'd seen Julien do.

He had a heart-stopping moment where he thought Thibault had discovered that he wasn't Julien or that the man would have been able to tell it was a wig when he hit Boyd. But when Boyd looked over with one hand holding the shears loosely at his side, the other against the back of his head as if to protect it although in truth he was making sure the wig was still on properly, he saw Thibault glaring at him furiously.

"Are you trying to destroy that?" Thibault demanded in French, pointing furiously at the bush.

"No..." Boyd mumbled when he realized Thibault was waiting for a response, but even that bit of a reply was enough to make Thibault continue irately.

"Then what the hell were you doing?"

"...Trimming," Boyd said sheepishly, keeping his voice low and indistinct so he wouldn't sound too different from Julien.

"That wasn't trimming, that was shitting on a work of art," Thibault fumed loudly, brown eyes intensifying in the strength of his glare. "You don't know what you're doing! This job requires far more delicacy than your bumbling hands can manage. If I'd left you alone, you would have caused hours of extra work fixing all your mistakes!"

"I'm sorry..."

"I don't care if you're sorry! You're always sorry! You're the most pathetic excuse for a topiarist I've seen in my life, and I've had this job for twenty-seven years! If Monsieur Schafer had not been such good friends with your father--"

"Is there a problem here?"

The smooth voice cut in and Boyd looked over, realizing that Schafer and Rémy were approaching with narrowed eyes. Rémy was staring hard at Boyd while Schafer looked between Boyd and Thibault alertly, gaze intent.

Thibault jumped in surprise and immediately shook his head, briefly bowing forward deferentially. "No, Monsieur Schafer. I was merely reprimanding my employee about a mistake..."

"Who is this?" Schafer asked keenly, shifting his stare toward Boyd, who was feeling frustrated with Thibault.

Although the man's argument had brought Boyd's target right to him, it was a bit of an issue since he'd had to set all the explosives on a timer. He'd been relying on Schafer's punctuality to ensure that the man would be further away from the building at the time of the explosions.

"Julien Devereaux," Thibault replied.

"Devereaux?" Schafer echoed, eyes narrowing and mouth pulling down in a frown as he scrutinized Boyd. "You're Jean-Michel's boy?"

"Yes," Boyd said, ducking his head and feeling his thoughts race. He was acutely aware that he was standing only two feet from a bomb that was going to explode in a few minutes and that the last thing he had time for now was someone questioning his cover.

"You don't look like him," Schafer said suspiciously and Rémy reached over, grabbing Boyd's chin and wrenching his face up.

"He doesn't," Rémy agreed with a scowl.

He looked Boyd up and down, eyes narrowing on the gardening shears in Boyd's hand before he reached out and yanked the tool away, throwing it to the side out of Boyd's reach. He kicked Boyd's toolbag to the side as well, so it wasn't as easily accessible. Boyd's eyes flicked down briefly, making sure nothing had been exposed that shouldn't, and looked up again at Rémy with a wide gaze that he made confused and a little fearful.

Rémy turned to Thibault with his thick, dark eyebrows drawn intimidatingly over his eyes. "Who approved his presence?"

Thibault was looking between the three of them in growing confusion and alarm. "Monsieur Schafer did, three weeks ago when Monsieur Devereaux requested it before he passed away..."

"Three weeks ago I was not in France," Schafer said curtly. "I approved the boy based on Jean-Michel's recommendation but this boy does not look like him."

"People always say I look more like my mom," Boyd offered, looking between all of them with slightly widened eyes, doing his best to appear innocent, like he didn't understand what was happening.

"Chantal has blue eyes, just as Jean-Michel did," Schafer said flatly as Rémy's fingers tightened on Boyd. Schafer's jaw set and he stared even harder at Boyd. "Would you care to explain how you ended up with brown?"

"I don't know," Boyd practically whined, bringing a hand up toward Rémy's wrist where he tried to pull the man's hand away. He didn't put much strength into it so he would continue to appear pathetic. "Am I going to lose my job? Because I really need it..."

"You'll lose a lot more than that if you're lying to us," Rémy promised darkly and Boyd stared into the man's eyes before darting his gaze toward Schafer, who was watching him mercilessly.

"I'm not," Boyd protested, twisting his face up. "Dad asked that too and I don't know... You'd have to ask my mom."

Schafer's eyes narrowed even further at the implication and Boyd's mind raced furiously. He casually glanced at his watch as he shifted his hand on Rémy's wrist and he felt his heartbeat skyrocket when he saw the time. He realized with alarm that it was less than a minute before the explosions would start and he was nowhere near where he had to be.

"We can go call her now," Boyd added, looking between all of them in apparent desperation. "Would that help if you checked it all with her? I really don't want to be in trouble... My dad wanted me to have this job so bad and it's all I have left of him. If I can't even make it a month..."

Boyd trailed off and let his eyes glisten briefly before he added pathetically, "Please don't fire me, Monsieur Schafer. Please."

Schafer's gaze flickered between uncertainty and suspicion before he glanced at Rémy. No words needed to pass between the two before Rémy released Boyd's chin, although he didn't step back and he seemed poised to attack if Boyd so much as twitched the wrong way.  

"You have one chance," Schafer warned as he stepped back. "We'll see what Chantal has to say."

Boyd let relief overcome his expression and he nodded emphatically. Schafer and Rémy started to turn while Thibault was staring at Boyd oddly and Boyd had to keep his expression completely unknowing of what was about to happen.

The first explosion suddenly rocked the compound from the other side of the château; the sound was deafening and the bushes around them shook from the shockwave through the building. Glass could be heard exploding and a huge plume of smoke and fire raced toward the sky.

Rémy immediately threw himself on Schafer, knocking him to the ground to protect him. Thibault shouted in alarm and looked around wildly while Boyd dropped to the ground and reached into his bag. He pulled out the tranquilizer gun, bringing it up and shooting Thibault in the neck in the same motion. Thibault staggered in surprise aand crashed to the ground.

In the background, another explosion ripped through the air while people screamed in shock and fear.

"What the hell--" Schafer demanded furiously even as Rémy started to look over his shoulder to see what was happening.

Rémy just saw Boyd aiming the tranquilizer gun at him before Boyd pulled the trigger, hitting the man square in the back and causing him to drop heavily against Schafer. Boyd's hands were surprisingly steady as he grabbed an extra tranquilizer cartridge from the bag before he stood and kicked Rémy off Schafer, moving as quickly as possible.

Successive explosions went off, just enough lag in between to cause complete havoc. In the back of Boyd's mind he counted them down, knowing each second they were coming that much closer to the one right next to him.

Schafer looked up when Rémy's weight was removed; he only had a second to see Boyd's emotionless stare before Boyd shot him twice with the tranquilizer, just to make sure the man would stay unconscious.

It was awkward trying to get a handle on Schafer's dead weight and as Boyd's heart thundered in his chest and adrenaline rushed through his system, he knew it was taking longer than it should.

As soon as he had Schafer thrown over his right shoulder, holding the man's legs firmly against his chest and keeping the tranquilizer gun in his hand at his side, Boyd took off sprinting toward the trees that hid his vehicle.

He ran as fast and hard as he could but Schafer was heavier than he'd anticipated and it slowed him down. Although his training had significantly improved his stamina and strength, in this situation it still wasn't enough. He couldn't adequately run while holding the other man, who was heavier and taller than he was, and the wounds he'd sustained on the previous mission didn't help matters.

He heard someone shout behind him, a different sound than the screams of fear, and out of the corner of his eye he saw some of the grass near him kick up. Over the cacophony behind him, he recognized the muffled sound of a gunshot and he looked over his shoulder to see where the guard was.

That was when the two bombs exploded in a row.

The next few seconds were confusing. The side of the château ripped apart from the sheer force of the explosion and a huge plume of flames ate through the landscaping, consuming the man where he stood and moving out through the wind. Almost immediately following that, the tool shed exploded to Boyd's left.

The sudden onslaught of sound deafened Boyd and the shockwave was like a truck hitting him from the side and behind. He was thrown to the ground like a doll tossed aside by a child and the wind was nearly knocked out of him.

Debris and burning pieces of wood and landscaping crashed around him in a shower. His hand ached, feeling crushed between the ground and Schafer's legs, which he hadn't released and his ears rang so loudly he couldn't hear anything else. His body hurt all over and he couldn't even tell exactly where or why. Something heavy abruptly hit his upper left back and the pain that violently ripped through him wrenched a cut off scream out of Boyd, his eyes squeezing shut briefly against the perfectly manicured grass brushing his lips.

He couldn't even understand what had happened; all he knew was that pain was reverberating through him powerfully.

His mind went into shock and even as his ears rang loudly from the explosion, even as he was half-blinded, he took a few quick breaths then steeled his resolve. He scrambled to his feet and managed to maneuver to keep Schafer on his shoulder, his back and body screaming at him in the movement.

He started running again without giving himself the chance to think. All he knew was that he had to get Schafer to the car; he had to get them to the Agency plane that would be waiting for them. His arm tightened on Schafer's legs and he sprinted as fast as he could.

By the time he reached the vehicle, the pain grew stronger. When he tried to reach with his left hand toward his right pocket to get the keys without having to drop Schafer, his left side hurt enough that he couldn't help a twisted shout.

He grit his teeth and blinked back the pain; but he couldn't see out of his left eye, couldn't even understand if he was just blinded by blood or if something else was happening.

All he knew was something was wrong.

He couldn't move his neck or shoulders without pain ripping through him. He breathed heavily through grit teeth and managed to get the keys out and unlock the door. He tried to ignore everything but completing the mission and he moved around to the passenger side where he dropped Schafer against the seat.

It was the first time he'd seen the man since they'd escaped the fire and Boyd went completely still when he saw Schafer's back. Blood drenched it so thoroughly that the original color of the clothing was lost. A huge piece of twisted metal stuck out and was angled from Schafer's right side-- the same direction that had been on Boyd's left-- accompanied by smaller but still substantial shards of glass.

A portion of his clothing was gone and his skin was dark red, while part of Schafer's hair was singed.

Boyd felt his stomach drop.

His breath quickened and he automatically reached up, pulling Julien's glasses off. Blood shone dully on the frames and his skin felt painfully sensitive to the touch.

He didn't need to see a mirror; didn't need to feel his back.

He understood why it hurt so much; why he couldn't see properly. He knew that his own back would mirror Schafer's. That he'd also been hit with burning debris.

Even realizing that, he didn't let himself think about it; he arranged Schafer as best he could to avoid injuring him further and shut the door behind him. He'd had to leave his bag behind so the only first aid kit he had was beneath the passenger seat and he knew there was no point. This was beyond the capability of the kit.

He was especially concerned about Schafer because if after everything the man died due to complications from being speared in the back, Boyd was going to be terminated anyway.

It was probably only adrenaline and shock that let him keep moving despite the pain. His hearing was muffled; even the roar of the engine was lost to the ringing in his ears.

He knew he'd been close to the explosion and he couldn't help feeling afraid that maybe he'd been too close-- maybe all the damage would be permanent. Maybe he would never see or hear properly again.

Yet once again, he barely even acknowledged the thought before he concentrated solely on getting to the rendezvous point.

Even so, driving was made more difficult by the situation. His neck spiked in pain whenever he turned his head. He had to keep his upper body away from the seat of the vehicle because when he tried to lean back he could feel glass or metal or something digging into him until it felt like his nerves were being frayed. His left eye was still blinded by blood and his upper left arm and shoulder sent a shard of agony through him each time he moved them.

He felt increasingly shaky and weak, his thoughts becoming scattered, and he distantly wondered if he and Schafer would bleed out before they could even reach help.
Boyd didn't remember much of the drive. He was focused on the route he needed to take but each second made it that much harder to ignore everything, to keep his attention on driving and not on the pain or glancing toward Schafer's increasingly ashen face.

He looked over briefly and could see that his left upper arm was injured, the sleeve burned away in some places and skin beneath red and bloody, speckled with shards of glass, metal and dirt. When he had to glance in the rear view mirror at one point he could see that blood ran down the left side of his face from multiple wounds.

He didn't even fully realize that his thoughts were becoming less coherent; that his reaction time was slowing. The car started drifting off the road at one point and he almost didn't realize it in time before a sign loomed before them. Alarm fought its way through Boyd's sluggish mind and he jerked the steering wheel, the car swerving back onto the street with squealing tires. The movement rocked Schafer against the door and made Boyd's left side scream at him.

Boyd's eyes widened and adrenaline rushed through him with the pounding of his heart. His gaze darted around frantically and in confusion, his fingers gripping the steering wheel almost painfully. His body shook and he could hardly think properly-- he could hardly even understand that he was losing his ability to concentrate.

Fear crawled through him and he wondered if he'd make it.

Boyd drew in a deep breath and narrowed his eyes, focusing intently on the road and hoping it would be enough.

By the time he reached the destination and put the car in park, Boyd distantly realized he was breathing heavily and the vision in even his good eye was strained and darkening. He slumped forward against the steering wheel, the movement causing his back to spear in agony and he could feel blood slick and hot running down his back, his arm, his face.

A helpless, pained groan escaped him despite himself and he felt overwhelmed for a moment.

He hurt so much, he just wanted it to stop...

He was just gathering the strength to drag himself and Schafer out when the door was suddenly yanked open. He looked over quickly and had to grit his teeth in pain when the abrupt move cut through him. He couldn't see very well but he did feel hands on him, pulling him out of the car even as the other door opened and Schafer was grabbed as well.

At first, Boyd tensed and planned to fight; the world was moving confusingly around him and he couldn't understand what was happening or who had him.

But when he blinked the blood out of his eyes enough to focus, he recognized a fellow agent.

He couldn't tell if anyone was asking him anything or what was happening; the moment he realized he'd made it to transport and they could handle it from there, he finally acknowledged the pain, the weakness of the blood loss, and what had just happened. The adrenaline that had been thundering through him faded away and he shuddered along the length of his body, his hands shaking and unseeing eyes falling shut.

Boyd didn't even know if anyone was holding him before he passed out.

Darkness flashed in and out of his sight. Light was there and gone. Pain reverberated through him and he didn't even know if he was groaning or making noise.

Dull, overwhelming ringing in his ears that denied any voices, any sound.

Limbs that tried to twitch and were held still. Eyes that struggled to open a slit then fell heavily shut, as if the weight of the world were pushing them down.

Thoughts that moved too slowly, too disconnectedly.

Blurred faces appearing and disappearing in glimpses. Hitched then even breathing, a distant feel.

The slow deadening of the ringing, replaced by silence, replaced by the muffled rise and fall of voices.

The knowledge that something was wrong but not the capability of understanding or remembering what.

Time that alternately stretched and stilled.

Quiet beeping of machines and tiredness that dragged him down. Constricted movement and sight. Lights and faces that stared down at him and, eventually, the understanding of what had happened.

Darkness moving through again.

Boyd moved slowly down the hallway, feeling exhausted and sore.

Even nearing two weeks past the day he'd returned from France, his body was still stiff and they'd placed his left arm in a sling to minimize his movements.

His face was still sensitive to air but he'd been lucky, considering the circumstances.

He had what amounted to a bad sunburn on the left side of his face and left arm and a partial thickness burn where he'd been hit on his back near his Mea Maxima Culpa tattoo. The sensitive skin was slowly starting to heal where the wound would most likely scar but considering the fact that he was already covered in stitches and small wounds from debris, an extra scar didn't bother him.

The fact that Julien wore glasses ended up helping. As it was, the larger shards of shrapnel had cut him just below his eyebrow and on the upper part of his cheek, while little pieces of glass had shattered across the left side of his face.

He'd managed to get through the mission without permanent damage and his downtime due to injury was not estimated to be terribly long. However, with the paper-thin hospital gown, the sling, the reddened skin and the bandages over the wounds on his face, he looked rather like an invalid. At least he got to wear pants beneath the gown and it wasn't open in the back.

Maybe that was why the nurse originally hadn't wanted him walking around. He was just glad she'd finally relented and had given him Sin's room number, even if no one would really tell him how Sin was doing.

It was late evening by the time he was able to make the trip to Sin's room. He ignored the curious looks he got when he walked the hallways of the medical building; it probably wasn't every day that a level 10 field agent stumbled around in a sling with bandages on his face.

When Boyd finally reached the correct room number, he hesitated only briefly before he knocked on the door.

There was a long pause before the door swung open and Sin looked out at him. He was shirtless and had a bandage over his abdomen and shoulder but other than that, he looked fine. He was no longer pale and trembling from blood loss and his eyes weren't glazed over with pain. If anything, Sin looked as gorgeous as ever as his pale green eyes narrowed slightly and his expression sharpened as he gave Boyd an intense sweeping once over.

Sin shifted to the side wordlessly, his silky black hair falling to the side of his face with the motion, and he gripped the doorknob as he waited for Boyd to enter.

The relief Boyd felt at seeing Sin's healthiness was intense and he couldn't help looking him over once more, just to make sure he was seeing Sin correctly; to make sure he hadn't missed anything. He didn't entirely hide the relief from his expression but he made sure not to react as strongly as he wanted.

"How are you feeling?" Boyd asked once he was inside the room.

Sin shut the door and hesitated a moment before turning to Boyd entirely once again. His full lips were turned down slightly as he ran a hand through his hair. "Fine. I'll be discharged soon. The wound to my abdomen didn't permanently damage anything."

Sin frowned slightly and shook his head, looking away before his gaze seemed to automatically return to Boyd's face. He reached out hesitantly and brushed the tips of his fingers along the bandage on Boyd's face before he quickly withdrew and turned towards the bed.

"Good," Boyd replied, deciding not to comment on the brief touch. He knew he probably looked pretty ridiculous, wearing a sling and partially bandaged up like he was, but he didn't care. He absently studied Sin's strong back but he made himself shift his gaze away almost immediately.

There was the briefest of pauses before Boyd asked, "Where exactly were you shot? I couldn't tell before where all the blood was coming from."

Sin sat on the bed and shrugged, indicating himself with a faint, nearly lifeless gesture. "Shoulder, abdomen, upper thigh. If it wasn't for all of the blood loss I think I may have been fine. I feel stupid for being injured the way I was, for not being strong enough to keep going."

Sin scowled and didn't look up as he picked at the thin linen pants he wore. "But that fucking intel screwed us. That mission was practically suicide. He nearly had an army in there."

"You're right; it was," Boyd agreed. "I still don't know what happened. But about the rest-- don't be ridiculous, Hsin."

Boyd watched him more seriously, studying the way Sin fidgeted and the way he hunched forward a little. Boyd's eyebrows drew down as best he could with a bandage over one and he shook his head slightly. "You were a lot stronger than anyone else would have been in your place. Even with severe blood loss and nearly falling unconscious, you were still dispatching almost more people than I was and I was completely fine. If it hadn't been for you, neither of us would have gotten out of there."

"And if it wasn't for you, I'd be dead," Sin replied, looking up finally to meet Boyd's eyes. Sin searched Boyd's expression, running his gaze along the planes of his partner's injured face. "Why did you come back? You could have been killed and after we came back, you almost were-- Carhart told me what happened, that you're on probation now, that your mother practically sent you on a suicide mission."

Boyd was caught by Sin's stare and he had to make himself look away, to make sure he wouldn't accidentally get lost in the vivid green of Sin's eyes. He looked down at the string Sin had been playing with on his pants.

"I wasn't going to let you die," Boyd said resolutely. "I abandoned you before. I'm not going to do that again."

There was a brief, charged silence and this time Sin didn't look away. His lips moved but no sound came out and he frowned slightly before clearing his throat. "I won't put you in that position again. I promise."

Boyd shook his head the slightest bit; just enough for his hair to shift against the sides of his face. "Don't put undue stress on yourself," he said, taking a moment to make sure he wouldn't give away too much when he looked up again. He met Sin's eyes and was unable to look away this time with Sin watching him so intensely; the guilt and shame were clear in his beautiful features and Boyd felt his heart twist in response.

Boyd's voice and expression softened of their own accord. "You're human, Hsin. If something happens, whether you mean it to or not, it's okay. I just want you to tell me again like you did this time. That's all that matters to me."

Sin shrugged and didn't look entirely convinced that he wasn't responsible for the whole situation but he didn't say anything more on the topic. Instead he focused on Boyd's face, on the bandages, and his eyebrows drew together. "How long will it take you to recover?"

"I have a few more days to a week here, depending on how everything goes," Boyd replied as he shrugged with his good shoulder, not knowing how Sin knew but glad he didn't have to explain everything. Maybe Carhart told Sin about the mission's outcome and Boyd's injury as well.

"I'm basically fine at this point but they're a little worried about where I was hit in the back; I guess they want to keep me under observation. The stitches and skin graft should take care of everything but they want to make sure I have full mobility and there are no complications. But otherwise, once the stitches are removed I'll pretty much be back to normal. There may be a short delay where they have me do some physical therapy to make sure everything's okay but I should be back to active duty soon."

Sin nodded, his frown deepening and he stood up again to move closer to Boyd. This time he didn't hesitate to touch the bandages but he still did so gingerly before trailing his fingers down until they also brushed the unbandaged part of Boyd's face.

Boyd watched Sin, not moving away and not leaning into the touch even though he wanted to. With Sin that close it was difficult not to reach up and touch him too; not to run his fingers through that silky black hair or even to pull Sin down for a kiss. He'd thought Sin was going to die, thought he'd lost him, and knowing he hadn't made the intensity of his feelings skyrocket this close to his former lover.

But Boyd knew he couldn't react to that feeling, especially since Sin was looking at him with intensity and guilt shadowing his features. Instead, he watched Sin calmly, wanting Sin to know he was okay with being touched but also taking care not to show his desire.

"They're going to get rid of the scars?" Sin asked, dropping his hand once again.

"The main ones-- on my face and back when they can," Boyd agreed, a humorless smile pulling at the side of his lips and his right eyebrow quirking. "They don't think I'd make a good valentine otherwise."

Sin didn't look too surprised by the explanation and he smiled slightly. "Even if their reasoning is for their own purposes, I can't say that I'm going to complain about your face not being disfigured."

"Hey, maybe I'll look dashing with scars," Boyd said lightly with a faint smirk. "No one is even considering this possibility."

Sin just shook his head and gave Boyd a mild half-smile. "You're ridiculous."

Boyd smiled faintly at Sin then sighed, becoming more serious. "Honestly, I'm not surprised. Even if they didn't want me as a valentine, it would be hard to blend in for my normal job if they left all the cuts and scars on my face, and the burn scar on my back would probably be inconvenient too. But I wouldn't care even if they left me as is."  

Sin raised his eyebrows slightly at Boyd. "Why? Tired of level 10 field agents being sucked in by your good looks?"

Shaking his head, Boyd didn't hide his brief amusement as he smiled faintly. The expression faded as he looked at Sin more seriously, answering honestly. "It's because it's the first time in my life I don't regret anything."

He watched Sin sincerely, frowning slightly. "Even if they'd terminated me, I would do it all over again. I feel like for once I know without a doubt I did the right thing. And even if it had all been worse-- even if I looked in the mirror and all I saw were scars, even if people stared at me oddly from now on, I wouldn't be ashamed. I would feel more proud than anything, to know I can get it right sometimes."

Sin stared at him silently, his fingers curling into loose fists as he seemed to turn the words over and over in his head. He once again started to speak, stopped himself and said finally, "Well I'm glad that won't be necessary."

Boyd smiled in return. Silence feel between them briefly until Boyd said, "Anyway, I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Sin's face drifted back into his typically serious expression and he nodded. "Thank you."

"Thank you for trusting me," Boyd returned, studying Sin. His golden brown gaze was intent on Sin and without pretense, and his lips drew down slightly. "When you told me what was happening."

Sin's broad shoulders rose in a shrug and he frowned slightly. "I nearly didn't but it wasn't because I don't trust you. I had a feeling-- something... something Kassian said to me from Canada, it made me realize that you would likely risk your life trying to come back for me but I never thought you'd actually abort the mission."

Boyd nodded; Kassian must have told Sin how Boyd had tried to chase after him. "Given my past track record, I can see why you hadn't expected that."

Sin nodded and he stared at Boyd with his intense hawk-like gaze. His mouth parted slightly and his eyes narrowed once again as if he were trying to see through Boyd, to figure him out, but then Sin looked away again. "The past doesn't matter anymore."

"Yeah," Boyd agreed, watching Sin thoughtfully. "I think you're right." There was a brief moment of mutual silence before Boyd glanced toward the door. "Anyway, I should probably get back. The nurse didn't really want to let me go in the first place so she's probably waiting for me."

Sin didn't look surprised. "Get better."

"I have to," Boyd said, gaze sparking in mild mischief. "Otherwise I'll never get to see this mythical Grover Books and that would be truly unfortunate."

Sin gave him a half-smile that looked tired but genuine. "You will."

"Good." Boyd smiled again. "I'll see you later then."

He hesitated for only a moment longer before leaving the room.

Continue to the next interlude: 3.13, Circles