In a theft turned hostage situation, Michael Mason is taken hostage along with a bus-load full of French citizens.

He shouldn't have stayed in France. That was the mantra he'd repeated for the last hour after having been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Special Agent, we have your man. You have two minutes." The gunman pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at Michael. "You say anything you're not supposed to and we will shoot you."

Michael swallowed. The phone was put to his ear and tried to steady his breathing as he spoke in English. "Hello?"



He shouldn't have stayed in France. That was the mantra he'd repeated for the last hour after having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was Wednesday. He'd gone into the city to run errands for his boss. Dry cleaning, bank, and back to the boutique where Michael assisted one Remy Pinsonneault, who spent his olden days whittling away at miniature caricatures of the Eiffel Tower or the Pantheon or the Notre Dame in hopes that some tourist would buy a few for relatives back home. He hadn't even had the job a month, but in terms of his history with employment, one month was the longest he'd held since the eleventh grade. It was simple too; sweep the floors, charm the customers, and run errands when needed since Remy had his license revoked earlier that year. It was a chance to start over. To learn French for real and make a living doing something respectable. It was easy. Until this particular Wednesday. He was only supposed to be gone an hour. Run a few errands and be back so Remy could take a lunch break with his daughter who had flown in from Italy.

He never got past the bank.

Standing in line with a group of a dozen others, waiting for those at the kiosks to finish and leave, all Michael had registered was the sudden, deafening bang that reverberated around him and kicked his fight or flight into gear. He covered his ears. Screams echoed across the room and everyone ducked to the floor.

"Nobody move!" A masked man yelled in French as four others surrounded the customers and two took out the guards that had been on watch. They had blocked the entrances. Eight of them in total. "You will do as I say, or I will kill you."

A woman across the room sobbed and one of those with guns yelled at her to be quiet. Michael focused on breathing evenly and watched his surroundings.

The teller began to move her hand under the desk when another shot rang out. Screams followed along with blood splatter that flung specks across the desk and floor in front of it. The teller slumped forward onto the wood then slipped down under the table out of sight.

"You!" The gunner gestured his gun toward the other teller. "Pull all of the cash from the drawers and put it in a bag. Now!" The man rushed to comply.

On cue, the seven other attackers began tying the hands of everyone else in the room, searching them, and lining them up against the wall. A child called for his mother as they were separated and sat against the other wall.

"Stay, Hugo, stay." She called to him when he struggled, "It's alright."

Michael complied when one came behind him and tied a harsh knot around his wrists. He was pulled up by his clothes then moved to the line. The gunman's hands shuffled through his pockets, pulling out his phone and wallet, then along his ribs and legs and arms before pushing him to sit down.

The teller returned with the money. The gunman smiled at him and checked the bag before shooting him in the face. The woman beside Michael trembled so violently, he thought she'd had a seizure, but her eyes were awake; frantic and terrified, but awake.

"Let's go!" One gunner called and the guns all trained on the group of hostages. "Stand!" Each did to the best of their ability. "Walk!"

They were led through the bank and to a back exit where a school bus waited with a man already inside with the engine running. Michael felt his stomach drop as they began herding the hostages inside. This was more than a simple robbery. He needed to run. The gunman watching his group saw the intention in his eyes before he could act on it and pointed his gun at his chest.

"Get inside." His French was accented with Russian and Michael dropped his eyes as the Russian grabbed hold of his shoulder and pushed him toward the door. He stumbled at the force and fell to his knees. Jeans torn and knee scraped, the Russian hoisted him back to his feet then up into the bus. He took a seat.

The woman that had consoled her child previously began screaming as she was pushed toward the bus. "You can't! He has no one left!" She cried, "Please, let me go! I won't tell anyone!"

She was struck and cried out as she fell with the force. The men lifted her up and carried her toward the bus, even as she dug in her heals and kicked at them. They hit her on the head twice before she fell unconscious. She too, was placed on the bus. The remaining gunmen climbed aboard, the door closed, and the bus took off, sealing their fate.

Michael kept his eyes out for details on where they were going, following signage. That is until the gunmen began placing hoods over each of their heads. Then he paid attention to stops and starts. How long they drove. Particular sounds or smells or anything. It was a long drive. The gunmen began to question their hostages. Asking about relatives and where they lived. One sat next to him on the bench and he held his breath.

"Who will look for you." The man asked. His French was less accented than the Russian's, but he had a distinct smell of Old Spice deodorant. He didn't want to tell them the truth. No one would come looking for him. His mother was in Las Vegas and probably too drunk to notice if he didn't call for his twice a year check in. Though he'd had a blossoming friendship with Briar, he hadn't heard from him in months. Remy might notice, but he knew who Michael was. He'd probably think that Michael ran off with the money. The man elbowed his ribs and Michael let out a cry.

"N-no one!"

"No one at all?"

Michael stayed quiet. It was answer enough.

"Where do you live?" Old Spice asked.

Michael's breathing was uneven. He felt dizzy and his heart beat heavy in his chest. He could feel his pulse in his neck, "Paris... I have a studio in Montparnasse." He didn't know if he was supposed to go into details.

Old Spice left.

Michael breathed.

Not long after, the bus came to a stop and Michael could hear the shuffling of people down the aisles.

"You can't just leave us like this!" The shouts were from outside the bus.

Michael leaned against the window to try to see through the hood. Between the weaves he could just barely make out the grassy plains and two people standing to the side of the rode.

"Away from the window!" His hood was jerked back and he fell sideways on the seat. He sat back up. The shouts were ignored as the doors closed and the bus continued on. He had a sinking feeling. Why were they left? Where were they? His adrenaline had faded from the terror it had pushed earlier and now, he was feeling weak.

The drive was long. Any noise was silenced and the one time he had coughed, he'd been rewarded with a string of threats and gun to his head to prove they were real. He swallowed down the cough and hoped no others came. The sound of gravel under the tires sung out after a while and it wasn't long until the bus came to a stop.

"Nobody move!" The Russian shouted. Nobody did. Shuffling sounded from the front.

A moment later, he was grabbed roughly by the arm and pulled out of the bus. They made him kneel in the gravel and he winced at the rocks that stuck into his skinned knee. More people joined him in the gravel and eventually the bus left.

"Let's get them inside." Someone said and soon after, "All of you, stand."

The ground quickly switched from gravel to concrete. They walked down a narrow hall and Michael could hear his footsteps and heavy breaths bounce back to him. Thirty-two paces in, then down twelve steps. A dripping water clicked on the other sides of the room and a waft of mildew made him hold his breath. He was pulled in one direction then forced to kneel while is hands were tied to an anchor behind him. A few minutes later, the hoods were finally removed. The basement was shabby. A wooden roof above that creaked with someone's footsteps and four supporting beams across the room. Each hostage had been forced to kneel, then tied to large metal anchors that had been drilled into the concrete. Michael tried to twist his hands, but the rope didn't budge. For all his efforts, he only got rope burn and a heap of frustration.

The gunmen left. They were alone.

"Does anybody know where we are?" A young woman asked. Her mascara had smudged and her brown hair was half pulled from its ponytail.

"We haven't driven long enough to have left Paris." A business man said. He was wearing a suit and his shirt had gotten dirty at some point.

The footsteps walked above and Michael shushed them.

"Go fuck yourself. I'm not gonna take this from you too." Business man said none too quietly.

The voices above them were muffled, but pointed. Michael glanced above them then back to the man.

"Seriously dude, shut the fuck up." Michael swallowed when the footsteps headed back to the staircase.

"Fuck you!" The man was riled up now and he struggled against his bonds. "What right do you have to make us be quiet! You're no better than the bastards that put us down here!"

The door to the stairs slammed open and three of the gun men walked down. They'd removed their masks.

"What's with all the noise?" One asked. He had been the one to kill the teller back at the bank. Balding head and hard eyes didn't match the tough build this man had. His hand rested on his holster as he walked into the room and scanned the hostages. Michael dropped his eyes before they could meet.

"What do you want from us?" The business man yelled and Balding man stopped in his turning. He pivoted back to the hostage and his head went to the side. With the snap of his fingers, the two that had followed him went for the business man. "I guess you're first."

The man struggled against his captors as they untied him from the anchor, then dragged him up the stairs.

One woman couldn't hold back her cries anymore and burst into sobs.

"This experience has the ability to be quick and painless if you so let it." Balding man said as he paced across the room, staring down at the hostages. "Stay quiet, do as you're told, and you'll be back home before you know it." He stopped in front of Michael and Michael stared only at his feet. "Do anything you're not told to do and things will not be so easy for you." He finished his pacing to the stairs and left.

The silence that he left was gut wrenching. Michael swore he could hear the heart beats of those closest to him and the dripping of the pipe shattered any other sound if only for a moment. The woman that cried on the other side of the room tried desperately to be quiet, biting her lip until it bled and folding in on her trembling limbs as much as the give in the rope would let her. Michael recognized the mother staring blankly into the distance. The older man two down from him kept adjusting his position, eventually making his way to sit on his butt. Michael guessed arthritis was bugging him. Then, in the midst of the silence, a gunshot and a guttural yell. Many eyes turned to the stairs as if someone would come down to tell them what was going on. Michael kept his eyes down. Later, the business man was brought back down. He was mostly limp and had to be dragged back to his spot along the wall. He grimaced and the gauze tied around his bare foot was dripping blood. The business man threw up to the side not long after.

Hours passed before they came back again. This time they had a camera. One man held it up while another stayed out of view and barked out orders to "Look at the camera!" Michael looked up and watched as it glided over him and passed to the next hostage. They left soon after.

The silence was stale and the stench was putrid. Wafts of sour vomit kept drifting into Michael's face and he bit back at the nausea that climbed in his gut. Crickets chirped outside, only barely recognizable through the layers of building. Michael shifted his position to copy the elderly man and several others that had followed by example. His knees ached as he stretched them out in front of him. It wasn't long before his butt was numb instead. He laid his head back and tried to sleep.

Rustling above him broke his unconsciousness. It started quiet, then rose into a crescendo of solid thumps and loud voices. The door to the stairs banged open and several of the hostages flinched. Three of the gunmen came down including Balding, each equipped with their guns and their fingers on the trigger.

"Which of you is the American?!" Balding yelled. Michael's eyes widened and his stomach sank. Fear clutched his throat and prevented him from answering. The balding man banged on a support beam with his gun, "Huh? Who is it?"

He truly tried to open his mouth, to say something, to speak when spoken too, but his voice squeaked when he tried to use it.

Balding man went towards the business man who tucked himself away as far as he could, "What about you? You're loud like an American."

"No, I'm not, I'm French born, please." The business man curled away when the gun was pointed at him.

"S-stop." It was barely a whisper. His voice had caught and his breathing rapidly deteriorated. He could feel the heat rise to his face even as the balding man raised up the gun to beat his target. "Please!"

"Beau." One of the other gunmen called and the balding man turned to look at them. They pointed to Michael. He lost his breath.

Beau stomped toward him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "You are American?" He yelled and Michael trembled as his wrists were pulled taught against the ropes.

He averted his eyes and tried several times to get out the single word. "Y-yes."

His aggressor shoved him back with a growl of frustration before spitting at his feet and turning to his men. "Bring him."

"W-wait." Hot, rapid fear coiled up his spine as the others approached, "I haven't done anything wrong. I'm listening, I swear!" They came to him and one pulled him back to release him from the wall, "Please!" They pulled him to standing and pointed their guns at him with a gesture to walk up the stairs. He kept his hands in view even as they trembled a mile a minute and followed the leader up the stairs. He was led to the back of the house where an old bedroom-turned-interrogation room stood waiting for its suspects. Rough hands pulled and pushed him into position and tied him by the hands and feet to the metal chair in the center. He found himself thinking back on the last time he'd been in this situation. Tied to a chair in an interrogation room. He realized rather numbly that these situations would be completely different.

Another of the men came in and handed the phone off to Beau. He walked closer as he put the phone to his ear. "Special Agent, we have your man. You have two minutes." He pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at Michael. "You say anything you're not supposed to and we will shoot you."

Michael swallowed. The phone was put to his ear and tried to steady his breathing as he spoke in English. "Hello?"


"Briar?" He felt tears welling in his eyes. Maybe this all wouldn't end so badly after all.

"Yeah. We're trying to find you. What can you tell me."

"I-I don't-we had hoods on-" A blunt hit to the back of his head stopped his conversation and he yelped at the contact.

"Speak in French." Beau growled.

Michael nodded minutely. "H-he wants me to speak in French."

"That's fine." Briar switched over with him. "What can you tell me?"

"N-nothing. I-I don't know anything."

"How are you physically?"

Michael could feel the pounding in his head, "Just some bumps and bruises, nothing major."

"Did you notice anything familiar on the way to your current location."

Michael swallowed. Beau was staring at him. "Yes."

"How far outside of the city are you."

He breathed. He caught eyes with Beau and he looked away, "I can't tell you."


Steady breaths. You got this. "They said they'd shoot me."

Briar sighed. "Fine. We're on the way. Don't get cocky. Stay safe." Beau moved to take the phone back and Michael could just barely make out the last words that fled the speaker. "It won't be much-"

"You're out of time, Chief," Beau said then listened, then spoke again. "He is fine right now. We make no promises for the future. Get me the money, then we'll talk." He snapped the phone shut and turned to Michael. "Your name?"

He hesitated a moment, not sure if he was speaking to him or not. "Michael."

"Michael," Beau clucked his tongue and squatted in front of him. "You did not tell me you were American."

His breath was shaky when he spoke. "You didn't ask."

"You said you live in Paris."

"I do."

"Shame. The other American's were set free. I had hoped to not get your government involved."

He clenched his teeth, "That's hardly my fault."

"Yet you are the one who will receive the consequence regardless." Beau nodded to the men behind in and Michael gripped the arms of the seat.

"I didn't do anything." He pleaded, "I haven't done anything wrong."

"And yet your presence gives me a headache. I only wish to return the favor."

One of the men behind him gripped his shoulder and Michael let out a yelp and flinched away. Beau left. Michael trembled. His hands slipped along the metal frame from the clamminess and a cold sweat broke out across his body. More than anything, the fear was the worst part of the experience. He'd been beaten before. A punch here, a kick there. He'd had his fair share of bar fights. It was the unknown that drove him to his breaking point. The moment they switched from predictable punching to kicking him, his bladder loosened and the sobs started. He yelped at the impacts and shook against the adrenaline. His breath rasped against whimpers and gasps and hisses. Once, he was kicked hard enough that the chair tipped over and they only pulled him back upright before going back to punching.

The look on the other's faces when he was hauled back down to that stupid, stinky basement was only testament to the damage done. His body ached and he curled in on himself and tried to sleep. Unconsciousness took him much easier than it had the first time, if not for the pain and the smell of fear and vomit and mold, he might have slept soundly. Instead, he woke often to the muffled whimpers of the other hostages and the solemn stares of those that thought they could have prevented what had happened. He eventually found a position in which he could lay down on his side and finally, he didn't wake to the small noises anymore.

When he awoke, the gunmen had returned and were efficiently untying their hostages, retying them, then hooding them for transport. One by one they took them from the basement, until it was only him left. They didn't come back for him. He pulled his knees up to his chest and cried. He was going to die here alone.

He dozed off in the silence. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his stomach ached. He hurt. His head and arms and chest and back and legs. He drifted in and out of sleep.

When the door opened, he was disoriented. Beau walked in by himself. He carried his gun over his shoulder and a tray of food. Michael's stomach growled loudly and Beau set the food down just out of reach. A bowl of Mac and cheese and a bottle of water.

"You are hungry?" Beau asked and Michael swallowed and nodded his head shakily. "Thirsty?" Another nod. "You will answer my questions then."

Michael clenched his jaw and stared back at the man.

"How do you know a Special Agent with the CIA?"

A waft of the pasta hit his face and his stomach clenched. His voice was hoarse when he spoke. "I met him last year just before the attack on the Bank of France."

"An ally?"

"Not exactly."

"You have an interesting relationship with him, no?"

Michael didn't respond. He wasn't sure what he was implying.

"Are you close?"

Michael took a breath, "He saved my life, I returned the favor."

"Sounds like you will owe him again if you get out of this." Beau pulled out a pocket knife and cut the rope around Michaels wrists. He gasped at the ache in his arms as he pulled them in front of him. Beau pushed the tray closer and Michael immediately made for the water. He drank half before eating the Mac and cheese. Beau watched him. Neither said anything. It was only after it had been wolfed down that Michael wished he had eaten it slower. It settled oddly in his stomach and caused a cramp that ached when he breathed. Not that he hadn't already been aching with every breath. He finished the water.

"We are switching locations." Beau said and Michael felt all hope leave him. Second locations were never a good thing. "Do you want to use the restroom before we go?"

Michael nodded solemnly. Beau took one had on the gun strapped on his shoulder and grabbed the empty tray with the other. It was a lazy posture, like he didn't think Michael was capable of running. Who knew, maybe he wasn't.


Michael was guided to a restroom without any windows. He pissed and washed his hands. He had to find a way to get away or leave a sign or something. He left the water on as he quietly rummaged through the things in the bathroom. It was messy, but there wasn't much in terms of weaponry or writing utensil. Unsure of what would be useful, he grabbed a couple flossing sticks, a lone rubber band, and some pieces of toilet paper and shoved them in his back pocket.

"Hurry it up, American." The Russian gunmen banged on the door. Michael quickly turned off the tap and dried his hands on the towel. When he opened the door, the Russian motioned for him to turn around and tied his wrists again. The hood was back. The car he was put in was much different than the school bus he had ridden in to begin with. The leather seats smelled new and the air conditioning was cool. He counted as they drove even as the driver blasted a French musician he hadn't heard before. He reached into his back pocket and he pulled out one of the flossers. Sawing was the first option, but when that proved futile, he switched to stabbing the pointed tip into the rope and pulling to loosen the know. About two hours later, the car came to a stop and turned off. When the driver got out of the car, Michael pulled free from his bonds and pulled his hood off. The car had dark tinted windows. He could see the driver outside talking with others. They were in a forested area with a cabin-like house in an opening. He didn't see any guns on them. Making a split second decision, he unlocked and opened the car door as quietly as possible. The latch was too loud and his captors saw him.

"He's getting away!" One shouted and Michael bolted. He ran as fast as his aching limbs would allow and then some. His lungs burned with exhaustion but the pounding of feet right behind him told him that if he stopped he was dead. A gunshot sounded and hit a tree nearby. Michael flinched and ran all the more. It was a fleeting attempt though, and he was tackled to the ground only moments later. He frantically grabbed for anything to use as a weapon and get away, but the loose underbrush of pine needles and dirt did nothing but poke his hands and dig under his nails. He wept as his captor hit him twice over the head to stun him, then pulled his hands back to their bonds. His legs couldn't hold the weight of his body when he was lifted to his feet and a second man had to come to drag him back to the house.

Beau stood at the foot of the house as they pulled him back. He clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Not your smartest move, Michael."

Michael glared and spit the dirt from his mouth. They took him into the house and to a room not much unlike their previous interrogation room had looked. His hands were tied to the chair and he was left alone. He cried. He'd been so close. That had been his only chance. His sobbing had long quieted by the time they returned. He stared at his knees. Beau set a chair across from him and sat, leaning down to his line of sight. He stared at him with a stern expression.

"You did a bad thing, you know."

"Fuck off." It was weak.

Beau's eyebrow rose at the curse and he leaned back. "You've caused a lot of trouble. What happened to cooperating?"

Michael glared at him. His body was reacting to the fear despite his anger. "You hurt me whether I obey or not."

Beau seemed thoughtful for a moment. "You're right." His eyes turned dark, "But I hurt you more when you deliberately disobey. You lose out on privileges."

Michael clenched his fist to keep from shaking. He'd known this was coming. He glared defiantly.

Beau scooted his chair a little closer. "I'm going to break you finger now, do try to keep quiet."

Michaels breathing faltered as he took hold of his hand and he squeezed his eyes closed. The sudden movement and sickening pop from his pinky were too quiet to hear under Michaels cry. His limbs shook and he leaned as far away from the monster in front of him as he could.

"You need to breathe, Michael." Beau grabbed his chin to turn him to look him in the eye. Michael sobbed and tried to pull away but the grip was only tightened. "In and out." He whimpered and tried to follow as instructed. "Very good. Next."

Beau released him and before he could protest, broke his index finger. Michael groaned loudly with the effort of not screaming. His fingers ached at every movement.

"Please…" Michael flinched when Beau reached for his thumb. "Please. Don't."

The snap rang in his ears and Michael stammered on his next breath. He sobbed. His hand was badly misshapen and hurt.

Beau stood and turned to one of the men. "Gordon, get the CIA on the line."

Gordon pulled out a flip phone and dialed a number. He handed it to Beau and Michael caught a whiff of Old Spice.

"Hello, Chief Briar." Beau greeted in heavily accented English before switching back to French, "Have you made the arrangements we discussed?" Quiet, then, "I suggest you hurry. Your friend here seems to be in a large amount of pain." Beau looked to him and Michael couldn't muster up the same anger that had been there before. Now there was only fear. "But of course." Beau said, then set the phone at Michael's ear.


"Briar." Michael tried to steady his breathing.

"What happened?"

His lip trembled as he spoke. "I had an opening and tried to run. They broke my fingers. I don't know what else they're gonna do."

"Man up." Briar said and Michael felt like crying all over again. "I told you don't get cocky. This is not their first rodeo. They won't hesitate to kill you if they think you're not worth the trouble."

"I'm sorry." He gasped in a large breath and fought back tears.

"You don't need to be sorry. You need to be tough. You can do this. It's gonna hurt, but you'll heal."

Michael nodded. Beau took the phone back. He pulled it back to his ear and left the room. A sob overtook him not a second later when the other captors left advanced toward him.

Briar had been right. It did hurt. They didn't move him when they were done. They left him in the middle of that room tied to the chair and only barely clinging to consciousness. After struggling to stay awake for too long, he gave up and succumbed to the darkness. If a concussion took him, so be it.

But he woke. His head bandaged and some of the blood mopped up. His head rung with pain and his fingers hurt at every movement. His body ached. Ached. Ached. Ached. Ached.

The door opened. He winced at the noise, but didn't open his eyes. Water was poured on his head and he jolted and coughed up the liquid that he'd inhaled despite the agonizing fire it burnt in his chest.

"Wake up." Russian said.

Michael squinted his eyes up at the man. The Russian held out the bottle to his lips and Michael drank as much as he could before he took it away again. He coughed once it was removed, gagging from the effort, fortunately barely escaping vomiting all over himself. He closed his eyes. He shivered.

"Is he up?" Beau walked into the room and grabbed a handful of Michael's hair to pull his head back. He went with the motion and squinted at the bastard.

"You're out of luck today, kid. Your government is late with the ransom." Beau said. Michael's heart sank. His lip trembled. All this effort and he would be killed anyway. Russian untied his bonds. He was too weak to struggle and they manhandled him into an open room with a table on one side. He was kneeled in the center and a camera came in to record. They zoomed in on his injuries and then again on his face once Beau stood behind him and pulled on his hair enough that it wasn't hidden anymore. Beau's speech spoke of liberty and loyalty. Michael tuned it out. It was over when Beau put a gun to his head. Michael breathed in. Breathed out. Of all his time here, it seemed he was the most calm now. He swallowed when the man behind the camera signaled the okay to go.

"America, you have abandoned your brother. You will now watch him die." Beau clicked the safety off, "Any last words, Michael?" He pulled his hair back to face the camera.

Michael stared straight into the lens, "I'm sorry ma… and it's not your fault, Briar."

A moment passed. His head was releases to fall back to his chest. The click of the gun cocking rung in his ears and time seemed to stand still as he waited for blissful death. A breath. One last one. Multiple gunshots rang out and Michael fell forward. Pain exploded along his shoulder. Very belatedly, he realized he was still alive. Another shot, then another. Two more in quick succession. Michael didn't move.

"Police! Nobody move!" Was called from the other side of the house. Michael didn't move.

"Two apprehended, three dead." A voice called, "more suspected to be on site."

A woman came into the room. Michael didn't move. Her hand pressed to his shoulder and Michael moved. He twisted her gun away and pointed it back at her as he scooted away into the corner of the room, under the table. It sat awkwardly in his left hand, but his broken, right fingers wouldn't be able to hold it at all.

"Target located. Alive, but currently posing threat." She said into her comm. Michael followed her movement.

"Target not a threat." Briar's voice came through her speaker, "I repeat. Not a threat."

"He stole my gun and has it pointed at me."

"Copy. On my way."

Michael shook from his position. A moment later, Briar appeared. He projected his movements and slowly lowered his gun to his holster. "Michael."

Michael shook.

"It's okay. You're okay now." He slowly made way to him.

Michael shook.

As he got near, Briar kneeled down in front of him. He slowly reached out and took the gun from Michael's hands. Michael sobbed. Briar spoke into his comm. "I need an EMT on site immediately. Gunshot wound to the shoulder, blunt force trauma to the… everywhere, and broken fingers."

With a dull fascination, Michael looked to his shoulder. He could see the blood seeping out and peeks of his exposed skin through his shirt. It was horrific. He fell to the side.

"No. Come on, hang on, Michael." Briar applied heavy pressure on his shoulder and Michael screamed. "You're almost done. Hold on just a little longer."

He sobbed and closed his eyes.

"Wake up," Briar patted his cheek roughly, "stay awake."

It was too late. He drifted into the darkness, away from the fear and the uncertainty and the pain. He could feel his body being moved, but couldn't do anything about it. Things attached to his limbs and wrapped around his face. It was all chaos. It was all quiet.

He awoke when the air conditioning started up and the beeping became too insistent to ignore. He squinted into darkness. The hospital window was open and he could just barely make out the city lights and nearby buildings through the darkness of night and the gummed up eyes that blurred in a fresh onslaught of tears. He swallowed around a dry mouth and gasped when he tried to lift his head. The muscles in his shoulder flared in agony and he whimpered before laying his head back gently.

"How are you feeling?"

Michael flinched and turned toward the voice, aggravating his injuries further. Briar was slumped in the sterile plastic chair against the wall. Michael tried to steady his breathing. In and hold and out and in again.

"Where am I?" Michael asked eventually.

"In a hospital."

"But where?"

"Creil." Briar sighed, "About an hour outside Paris. Now, how are you feeling?"

Michael turned to look at Briar and winced at the motion, "In pain. Thirsty."

Briar grabbed a small cup with a straw from the side table and held it up for him. He drank it all. Briar stood then and walked out. When he returned, a young woman in nurse's garb followed.

"I hear you experiencing a lot of pain?" She asked gently and went to the monitors. "I can push forward your next dosage now that you're awake."

Afterwards, as the morphine kicked in and the drowsiness began to take him, Michael mused that after all this time, Briar had stayed by his bed when he was injured.

He was in the hospital for two weeks, during which, agents questioned him constantly about his time as a hostage. Where he was kept. Who else was there. Apparently, they'd only caught five of the men that had planned the attack, three of which died the day he was rescued. After he left the hospital Briar checked up on him in his apartment often. He'd bring groceries and run errands. Michael finally got around to calling his boss. Remy explained that he'd heard what happened and that his daughter would stay to help him until Michael was back on his feet—that he'd have a job waiting for him whenever he was better. He got into a good therapist who helped him process the trauma he'd experienced. He called his mom. She was glad to hear from him.

The video of his would-be murder had been streamed live that day and, when he was finally cleared to go back into the world, people would stop him on the street to tell him they were glad he was okay. It pissed him off. They didn't know him. They spoke to him like they knew his trauma, but where were they when he was being held in a basement or being beaten for something he had no control over. He smiled politely anyway and thanked them.

Going back to work was a challenge. The sling around his shoulder prevented him from moving his arm and he was told to avoid lifting anything heavy. The first time Remy asked him to run an errand, he accepted, then proceeded to have a panic attack in his car for an hour. He did his work, but Remy didn't send him on errands much anymore.

Things went back to normal during the months that followed. A writer offered to help him share his story. The acknowledgements in the streets died down and the pitying looks faded to indifference. Briar stuck around this time. They went out drinking until Michael was put on anti-depressants. Then Briar drank and Michael sipped a soda as they talked and watched whatever game was playing on the tv at the pub three blocks from his studio. His wounds healed. He could stop wearing the sling. Briar pulled Michael into some of his missions. Simple intelligence stuff. Life was better. He could pretend that nothing ever happened.

But on the days where he'd waited too long to bathe, the days in which he'd begun to get weird looks from the people who were around him, or in which Briar jokingly told him he smelled like a pig. Those days in which he was forced to peel back his clothes and avoid looking at his shoulder long enough to shower. Those were the days that he realized he'd never be fully alright again.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed! If you did, leave a comment below and we can rant about how great Bastille Day is.

Honestly, Richard Madden's performance during the interrogation scene really inspired a lot of this fic. He's such a good actor.