They have just enough time to discuss what story they’ll tell the general, mostly thanks to how intimidating people find him, and Chloe, enough so that they give them a wide berth, the doctor making sure his guts won’t spill out of him the only one around who doesn’t seem to give a shit.
“We don’t tell anyone about the experiments, not a soul,” it’s the first thing they all agree on, after that the rest is mostly true, save for the part with the meat hook and the fighting in the laboratory, they have to spin that part a bit. When the general asks him if he saw anything strange inside the compound, what with so many tales about it, he lies with a straight face and the man lets it go. After that only two things can happen: either the general leaves it at that and accepts it as stories the frightened locals concocted to keep others away and started to believe a bit too much, or he asks the remaining men, pushes for more. A few hours ago, that second scenario would’ve concerned him, but not now, not after… whatever the hell they just went through.
They’re tougher now, Boyce and Rosenfeld, maybe even Tibbet, though he’s showed his soft underbelly with Paul. It’s in the way they walk, the way they speak, more confident, how they touch their weapons less like a very sensitive explosive and a little more like a tool.
“What did the general say?” Boyce asks from where he’s half watching Tibbet’s card game. He’s wearing a new uniform, with pants that fit him nicely across the thighs (and maybe other places, but he’s not thinking about that now, maybe never).
“Not much,” he answers as he lays himself on his cot, he wants to get all the rest and sleep as he can cram before departure. “We’re leaving with C Company in a few days.”
Tibbet complains, Boyce tells him how they’re supposed to get Tibbet to shoot Hitler in the face so they can end the war, moods lifted. Later that day they’re eating dinner when Boyce approaches him and asks if he minds the company; he doesn’t, so he nods, intrigued that the man would rather sit with him than with Chloe or Rosenfeld.
“Something in your mind, private?”
Always straight to the point, his uncle would be appalled at his lack of tact or manners.
Boyce considers his spoonful of stew for a brief moment before taking it in and swallowing down, all in a fluid, quick motion.
“Is the food to the chef’s standards?” He mocks, half playful, half derisive, not that Boyce seems to care at all.
“It tastes a little burned,” the private replies, fully serious, and Lewis throws him an inquiring look. “Like, the bottom got burnt and they salvaged what they could, threw it into another pot and made it edible, but the taste is still there.”
He gives him what he hopes is his most unimpressed stare, because really, nobody should be impressed at that.
“And how do you get that from just one bite?”
“I used to burn all my food when I first started cooking.”
Lewis… snorts at that. He doesn’t laugh, because he has a reputation to keep, at least with people outside the five of them, but he snorts and Boyce gives him this nice, almost mischievous kind of smile and, well, the guy’s cute, he can give him that.
“Were you honestly trying to make me laugh?”
“Yeah, did it work?”
Boyce rolls his eyes and he can tell this is only going downhill from here, for him.
“Was there anything you wanted from me, Boyce?”
He doesn’t make it sound as curt as he knows he could, he tries to make it more amicable, though whether he manages or not he can’t be sure with Boyce, who’s so good at keeping a straight face when confronted. It would be irritating, if he didn’t like that about him.
“How’re you holding up?”
His hackles rise immediately, but not his walls, not yet. He reminds himself; this is Boyce.
“Bull,” Boyce replies without skipping a beat. “We both know the reason you’re siting here, eating this alleged rabbit stew, is because that Nazi asshole didn’t want you to die on him before he could do whatever it is he wanted to do with you. He missed your heart by less than an inch, Corporal.”
“Yes, I know. Your point, private?”
Yet another thing he appreciates about Boyce: they’re getting into an argument, one he really doesn’t wanna have, and the other man is getting agitated as well, but neither of them raise their voice; he likes scenes as little as Lewis does, and that’s a point in his favor, unlike Tibbet, who likes to have an audience.
He’s meeting Boyce’s stare one on one, even if he knows it’s already a lost battle, as it seems to be with him, so he sees it, the exact second when he sort of crumbles.
“I don’t know if I have a point,” Boyce shrugs, swallows another spoonful of not-quite-burned stew. “I guess I’m worried, that’s all.”
He knows he shouldn’t ask, he knows this will end badly for him, because it’s already going badly for him, but he can’t help himself, the way a kid who’s convinced there’s a ghost or a monster in their room can’t help but peek from between their fingers, from above their bedsheets.
“Why not? There’s already enough people who don’t, anyways.”
That’s not quite the moment he falls in love with Edward Boyce, but it is the moment he realizes he could, he could love this man with all his worth, and that’s kind of the same thing, in the end.