Q&A: Boyd’s look post-Aleixo

In 2013 on our Santino & Ais Goodreads group, I had gotten a question regarding Boyd and his looks and why he might have chosen to do certain things in Fade. I realized today that it’s too difficult to direct-link to that individual comment, and I didn’t want to forget or lose the more in-depth answer.

The question and answer are both behind a cut below due to major spoilers for Fade.

(By the way, I did answer the Kassian part of her question later too and at first I was going to just leave that alone and potentially put it in another post, but in rereading my initial answer I remembered that on Lorraine’s request I had followed up with a longer answer, mixing in the Kassian part. So I just did both in this post. It makes it really long but if you’re interested in Boyd’s motivations or psychology, you might enjoy this.)


Lorraine asked:
Hi Ais,
Just finished Fade. What a wonderful, epic story you and Sonny crafted. I’m not quite ready to let it go and continue to reread favorite parts.

I’m curious, though, why Boyd kept his tongue piercing after he returned to the compound and found out Hsin was terminated. I’m not one of those readers who see Boyd as a man-slut. Prior to the Forakis mission he had only been with Lou, Thierry, Hsin and Kassian. He had wanted a monogamous relationship with Hsin and who knows if he would have even been with Kassian had Hsin not been with Ann, (actually, I guess as his creator you would know). ^.^

I could understand keeping it if Hsin were alive, since it can obviously enhance anything oral and he was dreaming about their reunion for so long. It just seems that since the piercing is a symbol of his greatest degradation, a constant reminder that he was nothing more than an object to be used at will by others that he’d want to get rid of it ASAP.


It’s kind of twisted but it’s actually precisely because it WAS such a reminder that he kept it.

Even since childhood Boyd always wanted to be loved and accepted; to be important to someone and prove his existence mattered and that he could be worthwhile. But at the same time he believed he was unlovable, he would never be good enough or truly prove himself, and he should and would always be forgotten because that was all he was worth. Those dueling thoughts are the reason for much of the variation of his emotions, reactions, motivations and over thinking throughout the series.

For the Forakis mission, he was infuriated and betrayed because of what happened and how, but it also sickened and depressed him because he believed it underscored exactly how little he was worth, and how right he’d been all along. He was terrified that Aleixo and the others were right when they called him garbage and degraded him as worthless but wanted to believe they were wrong.

He put all his energy into making it back to Hsin who he believed would be able to help him. He thought Hsin could save him. Of course, Hsin wasn’t there, and with his death went Boyd’s belief that he would ever be able to hold onto love or happiness.

His tattoo became a symbol of the strength that belief, love and acceptance could give him. The brand of Hsin’s name became a symbol of devotion that transcended death. And the tongue piercing became a reminder of how dreams could die and how it didn’t matter how much he struggled; ultimately he would never amount to anything more than the lowest he’d always been. I suppose, succinctly, it was a symbol of tarnished hope.

By that point his view of the Agency had been irrevocably changed by the Forakis mission and he believed he would always be their plaything the same as he’d been Aleixo’s; the only difference was location and the specifics of what acts he was expected to commit. He believed he would never amount to anything more and he should never pretend otherwise. (Shapiro asks him at one point why he speaks of himself and others who were there as objects, and Boyd said, “Isn’t that what I am? I was merchandise there and now I’m back to being a tool. It’s nothing but semantics.”)

Obviously that’s a pretty dismal outlook on life and his sense of self-importance but that was the way he felt, even after he started back in missions, even when he became more stable, and despite anything Shapiro ever tried to tell him. He continued to fight and believe in others but he stopped trying to believe in himself or his own future.

If you were to think of that as a wound, it festered until Danny and only started healing again with Hsin. By then, not only was he used to the piercing but it could also bring Hsin the pleasure he’d originally thought it might. And it could have changed into a symbol of how it was worth it to keep fighting whether or not he’d given up hope.

Despite all that, if by then Hsin had asked him to remove it he would have because it had become a moot point. He’d believed all his life that at his core he wasn’t worth anything (let alone love) and that he would always be forgotten or abandoned, and Hsin had proven him wrong.

Sorry that was such a long answer 😦 I even rewrote this three times trying to cut it down more because it’s too easy for me to give a super long, involved answer on this. Even now I feel like I’m skimming over some of the nuances but hopefully this explanation isn’t too confusing. I always find it a bit difficult to properly explain Boyd’s mindset because it’s so mutually exclusive to itself.

[Ais’ note in 2015: I had offered to write more on the Kassian part, and Lorraine had replied with the following message, which I’m including so you understand what I was responding to below.]


Love your explanation, Ais, (it could have even been longer, as I love the world you and Sonny created). I completely get it.

Your writing was spot on in conveying Boyd’s feelings of worthlessness. That’s the reason I didn’t get a hate on for him when he broke up with Hsin. While as a reader I totally understood where Hsin was coming from, and of course I forgave him, IRL I would have done exactly as Boyd did, especially at that age. (Although I totally disapproved of him fucking Kassian, who was so despised by our poor Hsin).

BTW, the whole tattoo thing makes me cry whenever I think about it, (even right now). I was sobbing when you wrote how while on the Forakis mission he placed it on his arm so that when he was holding a dick or a woman’s hip, he could snap out of whatever he was feeling and remember Hsin. Love the tattoo parlor scene.

I was an emotional wreck throughout the whole book, especially up until Boyd first sees Danny and from their reunion after the Janus rescue until the end of the epilogue. Just perfect!

Yes, please, if you don’t mind, I’d love to hear bout the Kassian thing.


I’m glad his feelings of worthlessness were well conveyed! A person has to understand how seriously lowly he thinks of himself to understand why he does a lot of the things he does. Otherwise he probably just seems like a random, arrogant asshole lol He could still seem that way even if a person realizes that, probably, but it definitely helps explain a lot of his motivations.

For instance, one of the things I cut out from the long explanation but I’ll add now because you said length doesn’t bother you– Boyd is an unreliable narrator for this series, really, the same as Hsin is in his parts, or really anyone’s POV is. We did that on purpose because the characters would view the world differently than each other.

For Boyd, he doesn’t necessarily understand himself or his motivations at some parts of the series. Something that I think even he didn’t really realize about himself is that there’s sort of a Domino effect in his mind– I think sometimes he thinks he has to be right because if he isn’t right then he’s wrong, and if he’s wrong then he’s a failure, if he’s a failure then he’s worthless, if he’s worthless then he isn’t worth loving, if he isn’t worth loving then he was right about himself all along, and if he was right about himself all along then why should he keep fighting for something as meaningless or pointless as himself?

And then there’s a separate thought process of his: he wanted his mom to be impressed by him and his dad to notice him. The way to achieve this, he felt, was by being stellar at school. Being such a good kid/student that they would have to love him. But his focus on school, his natural intelligence and introversion, and his looks, all led to him being bullied for being different when he was younger. So he focused even more on getting good grades since that was what he could show with it. But when you couple his deep-seated feelings of worthlessness with his advanced grades, it meant that he developed perhaps too much confidence in one area of his life: school. He knew that was the one thing he was good at that no one could debate. Well, except for Vivienne lol

That confidence would have been fine except when he got to the Agency, he applied that same thought process to learning there and it just couldn’t translate properly. Being book smart as a burgeoning secret agent is not the same thing as being book smart in history class in high school. But at that point in his life, he was desperate and depressed so the dual thought processes were at their extremes. He wanted to die but he wanted his mother to acknowledge him. So he was more determined than ever to prove himself and yet more certain than ever that he wouldn’t be able to do it and it would be better for everyone if he was just gone.

I think a lot of it is subconscious but when you combine the domino effect with the school confidence/his mental state in Evenfall, all of that together is what drives what comes out as arrogance at times. He’s stubborn about believing he knows something after he learned about it in class or determined the information somehow, because it’s the only thing he ever had to prove himself and because if he’s wrong then he’s proving himself to be worthless and so on. This particularly came out whenever he was planning missions and he reacted strongly when Hsin didn’t follow it because Boyd tended to interpret that as Hsin challenging/judging his intelligence/book smarts– the one thing he was supposed to be able to rely on.

Of course, that just meant he often pissed off Hsin who felt that he was being a childish dick who was ignoring his superior experience.

I’m glad you liked the tattoo parlor scene! It was fun to write, especially since I got to bring in Jaz. Sorry the tattoo mention and a lot of the rest of the book made you cry/be an emotional wreck 😦 Although I guess I’m also partially not sorry because that means it properly conveyed emotions there too 🙂

As for the Kassian question–

On his own, Boyd is very much monogamous. He believed it was extremely important in France and didn’t care enough about himself as well as thought he could somehow prove himself if he was successful on the mission. Hence, why he slept with Thierry there. But he never would have done that if anyone had told him about valentines or had explained what the consequences would be. He truly believed that was a one time thing with extreme circumstances that would never be replicated. If it hadn’t been for becoming a valentine, he likely wouldn’t have had so much as a one night stand later.

If we were to assume that when Boyd and Hsin got together they stayed together, you’re right, Boyd wouldn’t have ever slept with Kassian or anyone else. If they’d been together in France, he wouldn’t have slept with Thierry there either. He would have been only with Hsin and he never would have ever cheated on him. Even the way things did go down, he only slept with Thierry and Kassian when he and Hsin weren’t going out.

But at the same time, they were kind of destined to crash and burn. They were both such unstable, emotionally damaged people that I don’t think it would have been possible for them to stay together without breaking apart at some point to regroup and come back at their relationship more from a position of stability and strength.

So it’s hard to say exactly what would have happened under all circumstances of What If because if it hadn’t been Ann that acted as the catalyst for them breaking up, it probably eventually would have been something else. And then those circumstances would have affected who did what with whom and when.

lol sorry I always write about a thousand paragraphs too long on everything XD Especially when it’s late at night and my natural chattiness loses the filter of trying to make myself more succinct when I’m awake.

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