Fandom: Generation Kill
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Superheroes AU.
Disclaimer: based on fictionalised characters as seen on a tv show. All fiction.
A/N: Sequel to And I can't let go, because apparently I can't let go of this verse. There will be more, it got plotty.
Not that Poke’s complaining, but he’s never, ever again playing a motherfucking yenta to anyone on his team. Or anyone ever again. Sure, the mental soap opera was driving him nuts, but this is worse, this time the stray sexual thoughts coming from certain retards are real, and it’s a hell lot more than he had ever wanted to know.
Poke’s quite good at cutting off the stream of people’s thoughts, but every once in a while something gets through and it’s going to put him in therapy for years. No one should be exposed to fucking Iceman’s rhapsodizing on LT’s eyes. Or his dick. Poke’s not sure which one is worse – the cheese or the porn.
And the worst part is; Gina keeps on asking him for details. She might be joking, but Poke’s not sure, she has that glint in her eyes. There are days he really regrets making that promise of never reading her mind without her express permission, but, well, it’s Gina and…
Well, they need to quarantine the base, because the motherfucking cheese is apparently contagious.
Nate Fick, of course, turned out to be a morning person. Brad discovered it the morning after the clusterfuck of a mission.
And it was not even the fun kind of a morning after, either, because some fucker, and Brad knew it was Doc Bryan, gave their LT some good drugs that made him too drowsy for anything entertaining. Brad hated his life sometimes, except that he kind of liked it at the moment.
So he spent the night pressed against Nate’s warm body, unable to sleep for a long while, both from the adrenaline still running through his veins, and because he spent more time than it was healthy watching Nate sleep and breathe steadily.
It was more fucking gay than if he actually got his cock up Nate’s ass, he could swear.
So, to recap: no fun times with his LT’s dick, cheese coming out of his ears, and Nate Fick turning out to be a fucking morning person.
Brad wasn’t a morning person. Not exactly. He slept when he could, getting as much rest as he could, so he could be woken up at any given time, fresh and coherent and ready to kick some serious ass. That didn’t mean he liked mornings, not unless it was clear weather and a chance of catching a good wave. And since they were squared away at the Base Buttfuck Nowhere for the foreseeable future, the chances of catching a good wave were somewhere between zero to non-existent.
So when he woke up at whatever ungodly cunt of an hour it was, he’d done the logical thing; cursed Nate a few times and then went off in search of him. Not that Brad was whipped, he was just slightly worried Nate could do something very much retarded and very much like him, like go and sulk somewhere in the corner over his dicksuck Ivy League fucking stupid noble guilt issues.
He did that sometimes.
Brad supposed he could try for subtle as he exited Nate’s quarters, but for one, in a base full of trained recon Marines (and other military personnel, but Brad didn’t really have a high opinion of their intelligence) trying for subtle was going to be highly suspicious. And besides, ever since they joined the Operation Avengers Assemble, normal rules didn’t apply to them all that much, including the fraternization issues.
(Ray had this theory that the command preferred them to blow off steam by sexing each other up, even if it meant fucking the DADT in its metaphorical ass, than by doing some other things they could be doing, like taking over the world, Pinky.
“That makes you Brain, Ray? Because I thought there was only one head you ever thought with,” Walt had muttered the first time they heard that particular spiel, shaking his head.)
He had all the intentions of starting with the mess hall first, because it’s vaguely nearing chow time, and Brad had been told even the great Nate Fick had to eat sometimes, but he passed Lt. Fry on his way and she smiled at him and nodded. “He’s in the medical, Sergeant.”
Fry was Air Force, slightly over thirty, dark skin and short dark hair, and yet at the moment she seemed uncannily like Brad’s great-aunt used to, right before she would pinch his cheeks and coo over him.
Fucking mind readers, Brad thought as he nodded his thanks and her quiet snort didn’t make him feel any better.
And of course Nate would be in the medical, Brad should have figured it out the moment he woke up. The Shield Girl was still there, curled up in one of the beds, her expression a little less vacant than it had been when Brad got her out of the building last night.
He got here out even after Nate was shot, because that had been the order he got, carried her to where the Doc was standing by and made sure she was conscious and relatively unharmed before running back inside, just in time to see the aftermath and Rudy carrying unconscious Nate out.
Not the best moment in Brad’s life, if you asked him.
“How is she?” he asked Christine, the head nurse, and she shrugged.
“Physically, she’s fine. She had a mild concussion and a few scratches here and there but that’s all,” her voice faded before she shook her head. “The man who was killed yesterday was her uncle. Not a blood relation, as far as we know, but still…. She doesn’t want to talk, it was Fick who got her to say as much,” Christine added with a sad twist to her smile.
“And how’s the LT?”
She sighed now, which basically told Brad everything he needed to know. “His wound is healing well, but he shouldn’t be up yet,” she said with disapproval, some of it apparently directed at Brad. As if he had any control over whether Nate would stay in bed or not. Oh, wait.
Shield Girl shifted in her bed, drawing the covers closer to her face, her shin resting on her bent knees as her eyes darted around and she caught Brad’s gaze. Nate instantly looked around, eyes softening when he noticed Brad, the corner of his mouth rising in a smile that tugged at something in Brad’s gut.
“Brad, this is Robin,” Nate said softly, voice even and kind, tone you’d use to speak to an especially skittish cat. “Robin, you remember Brad?”
“Yeah,” she breathed out, almost inaudible.
“Hey, kid,” Brad muttered after a moment, feeling something was expected of him. Nate looked as if was holding back a laugh at him.
Brad would take an offence at that, but a second later Nate’s expression turned back to serious and Brad almost wished the mockery back. The girl looked barely twelve and malnourished, and yesterday they shot someone she considered family.
That wasn’t something he signed up for.
Ray likes to tell the story of how Brad and the LT met.
He considers it an important part of their little group’s origin mythos, and that shit’s important if you’re aiming to be the right kind of a superheroes initiative, more like X-men or the Avengers, less like the Justice League, because those fuckers probably don’t get much pussy – look at Batman, no one’s that angry if he gets laid on a regular basis.
The story goes something like this: Ray and Brad were in Iraq with some other miserable dicksucks. One day, Ray stopped bullets with the sheer power of his awesomeness, and a day later it turned out Brad could pick up their humvee with his fucking mind and make it fly over the bridge some inconsiderate fuckers had blown up. Joke was on the goat-fuckers, if you asked Ray.
Two days later they were out of Iraq and back stateside, in the proximity of some quality pussy, which was good, and some slightly worried and very excited fuckers from the command, which was bad. Another day later, they had the best job ever, even though half of their time was spent holed up underground.
(Sure, Brad whined like a little bitch about leaving his bike behind, but Ray had plans.
“We’re gonna get you a Bradmobile,” he assured Brad. “Pimp your ride so it flies and shit, and is so loud people in four neighbouring states will hear the engine’s vibrations go right to their dicks. Or pussies, since I’m pretty sure we’re in the pussy central of the whiskey tango motherloving America.”
“Bradmobile. Really?” Brad asked, shaking his head. “Don’t tell me, you’ve already designed it.”
“Sure did, homes. It’s shit-brown, in your honour.”)
So; best job ever, a Bradmobile, and lots of pussy in their future. And then Brad goes and meets the LT, which is sort of as if he grew a pussy himself, for all the ways he grew wet at the mere sight of Fick.
That’s not the story Ray tells out loud when Brad or the LT happen to be around. Unless he’s drunk or high on Ripped Fuel.
So, the LT-friendly version of the story that also doesn’t make Brad threaten to find Ray’s secret stash of Ripped Fuel and porn mags and set it all on fire, goes like this:
It was chow time, and Brad was in an especially good mood, because his daily shitting went well, or whatever. For someone who complained about Ray’s inappropriate remarks, the man took great pleasure of telling people about his own bodily functions, and at least Ray’s spiels about pussy and the socioeconomic climate were entertaining as well as educating… So, it was chow time, and Brad was in a good mood, Poke was yapping about the Man, and Rudy was complaining about the lack of varied nutritious choices or whatever the gay fuck, Ray blanked it out as soon as he heard it.
In walks Nate Fick, the Doogie Howser of the command. And Brad looks up, starry-eyed and drooling, and their eyes meet over the crowd and the instant connection is born, and Ray makes retching noises for the next five minutes, only to be ignored while they start their star-crossed romance and shit.
Well, fine, it didn’t quite go like that. But it might as well have, so Ray’s sticking to this version unless someone comes up with a better one.
“I have ten minutes till the briefing,” Nate said, his voice just a bit rough as he pushed Brad lightly against the doors the moment they closed.
It took Brad a good fifteen minutes to finally maneuver Nate out of the infirmary. Not that he didn’t like the Shield Girl, she seemed nice, for a kid raised in a terrorist cell, but she needed rest almost as much as Nate did.
Guess which argument actually got Nate out – the one about him still recovering from a gunshot, or the one about Robin looking slightly tired. You have three guesses and the first two don’t count.
“We should get to the mess, so you can eat something,” Brad told him, trying for stern and arriving somewhere at incredibly fucking turned on when Nate’s mouth moved against his throat, wet and warm lips brushing over his pulse point. “Nate.”
“Yeah,” Nate muttered. “Need this moment,” he added, his breath tickling Brad’s skin, really unhelpful if Brad was to have any hope of actually letting go of Nate any time soon.
“Ten minutes?” he asked, smirking slightly. “There are a few things I can think of that would take less time.”
Nate huffed a laugh and shook his head slowly. “Later,” he said, voice filled with promise, sealed with an all too brief kiss, just a touch of his lips to Brad’s, as if he was worried that if they started something more they wouldn’t be able to stop.
Probably a correct assessment of the situation. That was why they paid Nate the big bucks for the command shtick.
“What’s the briefing about?” Brad asked, stepping aside, his hands already aching at the loss of contact.
“Post-mortem,” Nate shrugged, smiling humorlessly. “Quite literally, in that one instance. Robin’s uncle…”
“Not her uncle,” Brad shook his head. “No one who drags a kid into this shit deserves the title.”
“They’ll be making a decision about her today, too. Her prints are in the system, she’s been moving between foster families since she was three…”
Brad could see where this was going. He didn’t have Wright’s future-telling skill, or Poke’s mind-reading shit, but he knew Nate, and Nate got worked up about things like this, convinced that if only he tried hard enough, he could fix all of the world’s problems.
“It’s going to be fine. They’ll find her some all-American, picturesque foster family in Buttfuck, Montana, and she’ll grow up on a pretty little farm, with ponies and kittens. Alright?”
“Alright,” Nate nodded. “After all, I was assured she’ll be taken care of,” he added dryly, the line of his mouth tightening, and Brad had to hold back a heavy sigh. Of course he was.
You learned to tell the officers apart pretty quickly in the Corps. It was a part of ensuring your own survival, and the survival of your brothers, if you could tell them before they were actually leading you into the war zone – the stupid ones from the inexperienced and the cocky from the competent. Then you learned how to handle them, which was the traditional job of the gunnery sergeants, yes, but all the sergeants had their share.
It took Brad just about forever to learn how to handle Nate Fick, even though he wasn’t that difficult to figure out, in some regards.
They got their first mission three weeks after Brad and Ray were brought into the project, three weeks of additional training and lots of testing on how far their powers extended.
(“I bet Wolverine doesn’t have to go through this shit,” Ray whined when they were allowed a short break. “And you know, he also got some mindreader pussy.”
“I’ll convey your regards to Poke,” Brad nodded magnanimously. “I’d also like to point out that Wolverine had fucking adamantium claws and not a whiskey tango ass-sucking girly power like yours.”
It was only slightly funny how all of their conversation that weren’t about pussy or the general and specific incompetence of their commanding officers were about superhero comics. Brad blamed Walt, frankly, because Hasser was the first one to order some Spiderman back issues to go with their normal delivery of Hustler. It only went downhill from there, and now Lilley had a poster of Emma Frost in his locker and the whole damn base was divided on who should be the new Batman.)
That first mission was a simple rescue operation, getting a group of American soldiers out from a holding facility. The exact location was apparently top secret, and not something the command thought a group of recon Marines should know; they were just going to be dropped off in the vicinity and expected to carry out the mission.
Not that they couldn’t do it, but withholding crucial information from the people who could use it the most was just plain fucking dumb.
“I am assured that we have all the intel necessary for the success of this operation,” Fick said, his expression completely earnest until you looked closer, at the tight set of his mouth and the tiredness around his eyes.
(At the time Brad hadn’t yet questioned why he was looking closer at Fick at all, but he was starting to notice. )
“Permission to make a suggestion, sir,” Brad muttered as everyone was slowly scattering after the briefing and he lingered on for a moment.
Fick nodded. “Granted.”
“We could go in blindfolded, and tie Corporal Person’s hands behind his back, keeping with the current command’s policy.”
He was pretty sure Fick’s mouth twitched at that, a quickly contained smile threatening to show. “I will bring up your suggestion at the next meeting with the Godfather,” he said in a serious tone, holding Brad’s gaze for a longer moment.
“I’d appreciate that, sir.”
“Sergeant,” Fick said, something in his voice indicating a shift in the mood, even though his expression didn’t change, still looking straight at Brad. “I appreciate the experience you and other men have, but this is not a sort of an operation you are used to. This project is classified beyond anything Sergeant Espera dreamt of in his wildest conspiracy theory dreams, and some details are well above either of us’ paygrade.”
“Understood, sir,” Brad said quietly.
There always were things that were for the officers to know and for the grunts never to find out, but for the very first time he had a feeling that the officer imparting that bit of wisdom didn’t like it.
Coming right on the heels of the clusterfuck that was OIF and the enlightened rule of the Encino Man, Nate Fick was something else entirely.
All the usual suspects were in the rec room, in the corner they normally gravitated to when they were upset about something.
“Good morning, girls, what’s got your collective panties in a twist today?” Brad asked, sliding into his usual seat and stealing Ray’s candy.
“How’s the LT?” Walt asked with some concern.
Brad chose to ignore everyone’s assuming that he would be the one to know. Mostly because, well, he would, he had always been the one to know even before anything started between him and Nate.
“Nice, dog,” Espera told him. “Keep it to yourself or I will kick your white boy ass.”
“LT’s fine,” Brad told Walt. “Wound’s healing up alright. Can’t vouch for his mental health, though, as he’s in a meeting with our other esteemed officers.”
“It’s starting,” Poke muttered.
“Could we skip today’s newsletter of the various and numerable ways in which we’re gonna have our asses handed to us on a platter by the Man?” Brad asked pleasantly.
“Wright says there’s fuckery afoot,” Ray told him. “And since his last vision was solid, we’re not totally disinclined to believe he’s not totally full of shit.”
“What is it?”
Wright shrugged once, then again. “I can’t tell for certain, but…”
“Out with it, dog,” Poke said impatiently, waving his hand.
“They’re stepping up on the security of the base,” he said, and at Brad’s questioning look hastened to add, “that last operation has them worried, I think.”
“They think someone would be dumb enough to attack us?” Brad asked, refusing for a moment to contemplate the other possibility.
“Yeah,” Wright said quickly, biting his lip for a second. “Could be that, sure.”
It wasn’t going to be that.
Something had been brewing for the last few months, maybe even years, but the shit the command would cook didn’t always reach the grunts immediately. Until the orders came they could try and make guesses, some, like the fucking mindreaders being better at the game than others, but the officers had learned to adapt and keep their distance.
Except for Nate, of course, but no one read Nate when he didn’t want them to, not read his mind anyway. Brad was better than anyone else at finding the clues in the tired set of Nate’s shoulders or in the tension around his eyes, maybe because Nate had never quite learned how to hide from Brad.
“And he hadn’t been most pleased with his orders lately,” Poke agreed.
Brad glared at him. “Get the fuck out of my head, Poke. Or I’m going to have a little chat with Walt here, and one day you’re going to wake up drowning in your bed.”
“Walt can’t control the weather on the inside.”
Walt smiled beatifically. “No, but since I’ve been working on the last improvements to the fire-proofing after Trombley burned half the gym, I have access to the sprinklers.”
“Better not advertise that,” Nate said, walking up to them to stand a few inches behind Brad, slightly to the left, just so that Brad could see him out of the corner of his eye without turning. “I have been informed that with great power comes great responsibility,” he added.
“Spiderman’s a pussy,” Ray ventured with his standard theory. It didn’t took much to start him off. “What we need is Deadpool’s approach.”
“Shut up, Ray,” Brad muttered on the automatic, shifting in his seat to actually look at Nate. The briefing must have been a blast, because he looked like he was run over by a tank.
Nate stepped closer, sliding into his usual seat, his fingers brushing Brad’s shoulder, as if by accident. It was enough for warmth to pool in Brad’s stomach.
“Anything you have for us, sir?” Brad asked, earning himself a quick look from Poke, who should really start to exercise what control he had over his powers, if he knew what was good for him.
“We’re going to go into a temporary lockdown in the next few hours,” Nate offered, his fingers drumming against the table for a moment, before he visibly forced himself to relax and adapt a more casual tone. As if nothing was wrong. Brad wasn’t fooled, and he didn’t think anyone at the table was; sometimes Nate was really shit at hiding his annoyance with his orders.
“How long is that supposed to last?” Brad asked.
“Until further notice. I will keep you posted on any change in status, but for now no one leaves the base and all the communications with the outside is restricted. Well, will be, in two hours or so, so I suggest anyone who has the need to contact their family do so now,” he added, and waited for the lot of them to nod in acknowledgment and file out of the room, Wright leading the procession. Man had a ridiculously hot girlfriend, apparently.
Brad took a moment before he leaned forward. “You weren’t supposed to tell us just yet, I take it?”
“I have been advised against it, but there was no actual order preventing me from sharing this information with my men,” was Nate’s answer, his expression guileless and honest and really, really not fooling Brad one bit.
“They’re really worried, then?”
Nate slowly nodded, sighing slightly. “There was seventeen people in that base, Brad. All of them with powers, and they’ve been preparing for a series of attacks that…” he stopped and shook his head. “It was a good thing we got there when we did. And it was only seventeen people. By the last count, there’s a few thousand of us in the US. Over two hundred just in here. That doesn’t sit well with some people, and we’re actually on their side.”
The shitstorm was coming, and it was long overdue. The first voices for the stricter control over the powered were raised the moment that first guy flew over DC, but so far the incidents of the powers being used for criminal purposes were few and isolated. A terrorist cell on the US soil made up of people with superpowers? Some dicksucks in Washington were going to think the Christmas had come early.
“I would like to propose a possible strategy, sir,” Brad said after a moment.
Nate frowned at his tone, suspicion written all over his face, because while Brad had been learning how to read him, Nate had apparently become quite efficient at reading Brad. “By all means,” he said carefully.
“We get Fruity Rudy on TV, have the whole damn country in love with him before the commercials and then we’re basically golden.”
“I’ll take this under advisement,” Nate nodded, his expression carefully schooled down, but the corner of his mouth was turned up, a hint of the smile he was holding back. Brad counted that as a victory.
“So, two hours before the lockdown?”
“I’ve been told it would be five, but I’m realistic,” Nate shrugged. “Last chance to make any calls you want to make,” he added.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to take the valuable phone time from Ray and whatever sister, aunt or cousin the little whiskey tango inbred moron is paying lip service to at the moment,” Brad said. What he meant was: he didn’t need to call anyone while Nate was sitting right across from him.
From the small smile on Nate’s face he judged Nate got that one.
Nate isn’t quite sure when everything begun to shift between him and Brad. It couldn’t have been right at the beginning, when Brad and Ray were transferred over into his unit, and it couldn’t be the first mission, or the second, or the third. He can’t pinpoint the moment when Brad went from his sergeant to his friend to something else entirely.
By the second year, by the time of that majorly screwed-up mission in Mexico, he was probably well and truly fucked, he just didn’t know it yet.
“It’s like we’re Indiana fucking Jonesing into those caves, motherfuckers better watch out,” Person announced happily after the briefing. It took Hasser a good half an hour and a bribe of giant sunglasses to convince him to leave the fedora behind.
“Ray, I’d just like to state upfront that if you’re jinxing us into stumbling upon some fucking Temple of Doom bullshit and if we’re going to have our asses impaled on rusty pikes in some hole in the ground, I’m going to follow your pasty ass into your whiskey tango hell and make all that Satan’s got ready for you seem like a picnic,” Poke bitched half-heartedly, looking over his gear.
Nate gave them a long look. “I believe the Temple of Doom is located in India,” he told them matter-of-factly.
“Makes me feel much better. Thanks, LT,” Ray nodded at him after a moment, speaking over Brad’s snort.
“You’re welcome, Corporal Person. Now, gentlemen, we’re oscar mike in three minutes, please make sure you don’t walk into any rusty pikes, per Sergeant Espera’s request,” he said, purposefully ignoring the amused look from Colbert. It was bad enough that Nate was looking for that look after every ridiculous thing he proclaimed.
Should have taken his own advice about walking into things, Nate thought half an hour later, after they somehow inadvertently managed to disturb the shaky ground in the caves. By somehow he means that the entire platoon of Marines walked all over the unsteady piles of rocks.
“I think this is my favorite fuck-up of a mission,” Colbert mused after about five minutes they spent investigating their surroundings. “Peace, quiet, no Ray Person to disturb my zen. If the air runs out in the next few hours, at least I’m going to die a happy man.”
“Don’t plan your funeral just yet, sergeant, there’s a draft two feet above my head, we’ve got air,” Nate told him, shaking his head in the darkness. They turned off the torches right after they’ve looked over every inch of the rock walls they could reach, to conserve the batteries. “Can you do anything about the rocks?”
Brad shifted but didn’t move, and Nate realized he was shaking his head. “Not unless I want to disturb more fucking rocks that are above our rocks,” he said with some annoyance. “But I take comfort in knowing that your power is pretty much as useless to us now, sir,” he added after a beat.
“I always appreciate your unflinching support, sergeant.”
They fell into silence that was quite companionable, if only for the reason that it really bought you closer to someone when you were stuck with them underground, under piles and piles of fucking rocks with a possibility of sharing this makeshift grave forever.
“I spy with my little eye…” Brad started idly.
“Darkness,” Nate guessed.
“I don’t think you know how this game is played, LT,” Brad complained, a smile audible in his tone. “I’d suggest twenty questions, but I suppose you Ivy League grads are assholes about it and guess everything in one.”
“It’s like you knew us,” Nate agreed.
It surprised him, but Nate felt almost relaxed. The first surge of panic and the adrenaline haze died down, and once the situation was assessed and for now there was nothing he could do, he felt strangely comfortable with waiting. At least he was pretty damn sure the rescue operation would be on its way – no matter the orders he was positive that if needed, Corporal Person would freeze everyone for the month or so it would take him to dig through to them all by his lonesome, no way he would leave Brad Colbert behind.
“Permission to ask a question, sir,” Brad said casually, shifting again, presumably stretching his legs, as his foot nudged Nate’s thigh before Brad quickly drew it away.
“If that’s how you play the twenty questions, it’s going to take a long fucking time, Brad” Nate muttered, getting a low chuckle in return. “Granted,” he added when nothing else followed.
“What the fuck were we even really looking for?”
Nate shrugged. “That’s classified, sergeant,” he said pleasantly. “Meaning, fuck if I know.”
“And you weren’t tempted to find out?”
“And how was I supposed to go about it?”
Brad didn’t answer immediately, and in the silence that followed Nate could swear he could feel Brad’s searching gaze. Of course, if Colbert actually could see anything in this darkness, then maybe all of Ray’s bullshit about Iceman’s other powers was actually true.
Even though at least three of the stories he heard were just physically impossible.
“Brad?” he prompted after a minute or so, when the silence stretched between them.
“You don’t use your power if you can help it,” Brad said finally, a statement and not a question, but the implication was clear.
Nate knew most people noticed that, but no one really commented. Mostly, they assumed he couldn’t overdo it; some powers taxed people more than others.
Truth be told, it was much harder not to use it all the damn time.
“I am glad your powers of observation are as impressive as advertised,” he said, but the flippancy felt flat between them; this was a comment for the rec room joking, not for this darkness. “You run around the quad every morning, even though you could literally move mountains with the power of your mind,” he pointed out. Still not the answer, but an answer nonetheless.
“Not mountains. Hills, maybe,” Brad corrected, his voice low, expectant.
“Some things are too easy to be worth even contemplating.”
Brad waited for a beat before answering. “Copy that, sir.”
“You know, if we’re going to stuck here for the foreseeable future, it’s going to get pretty fucking ridiculous if you go on with the ‘sirs’,” Nate said before he thought better of it, but at least in the darkness Brad wasn’t going to see him flushing.
“I believe that the title of her royal highness the base’s princess was taken over last week by Hasser. They even made a tiara for him.”
“It actually worries me that I am certain this is true,” Nate muttered. “And that’s not exactly what I meant.”
“What did you mean, sir?” Brad asked, purposefully obtuse, a trace of laughter in his voice.
“Brad,” he said exasperatedly.
“Nate,” Brad shot back in the matching tone.
“Not that difficult?”
“Like pulling teeth. But I’ll live.”
Nate couldn’t keep a smile off his face at the deadpan tone. They lapsed back into an easy silence, listening to the quiet hiss of the draft, trying to make out other sounds that might mean the rescue team arriving. No such luck yet, and Nate moved to take off his Kevlar, running his hand through his hair tiredly before resting his head against the rocks again.
Closing his eyes didn’t make any difference with the total darkness surrounding them, but it lent to a little rest, when his eyes weren’t instinctively straining to try and make out some shapes at least.
“You can sleep, I’ll wake you up if something terribly interesting happens,” Brad volunteered. “Like maybe our retarded comrades finally getting their shit together for long enough to take down a few stones. Bound to be more cooperative then hajis, at least.”
This was Brad Colbert, of course, mind reading without powers and in the total darkness. “I’m too wired to sleep,” Nate shrugged. “Tired at the same time, though.” The last few weeks had been filled with missions and preparation for more missions, as the command seemingly realized that whatever assignment they could give them would be carried out, even if it was looking for cheese on the moon. With the way things were going, that was actually a valid option for their next operation, if you asked Nate.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Brad deadpanned. “That’s what makes us devil dogs go forth and conquer. That, and happily some MREs that aren’t peanut butter shit.”
Nate rolled his eyes at the familiar complaint and reached for his backpack, feeling around for the familiar packaging. He tossed the packet at Brad, who seemed to catch it easily. Maybe he really was a ninja, as Person claimed in his less lucid moments.
“Take your chances with this.”
Sounds of the opening packet, then of Brad licking his fingers. In hindsight, Nate should have known then, from the sudden hot and cold feeling, that he went well over the invisible line, but at the time he couldn’t tell it apart from all the weariness and anxiety.
“Jalapeno and cheese,” Brad proclaimed, his voice almost giddy. “Thanks, mom.”
“I thought confusing your commanding officer with your mother was typical of corporal Person and his special brand of psychosis,” Nate mused. “I think you’re spending too much time with him.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling everyone, but they’re refusing to pay me more for working in extremely dangerous conditions,” Brad muttered and shifted again, stretching his legs for more comfort. The space they had wasn’t all that big, and his lightly bent knee was touching Nate’s calf, but this time Brad didn’t move away. He probably didn’t even notice, but Nate had.
“They probably assume the hazard pay covers this already,” Nate said, succeeding in keeping his voice level.
“There’s being shot at, and all the attempts they make at blowing me to bits, and the whole part of apparently sending us to motherfucking caves to get rid of us… and then there’s working with Ray Person and listening to his litany of inbred goat-fucking homoerotic fantasies.”
“Goat-fucking and homoerotic?”
Nate shook his head, laughing. “If you didn’t spend a lot of time assuring everyone otherwise, I’d say you were quite fond of him.”
“He’s like a flea-ridden, diseased mutt that followed me home, doesn’t want to leave, and tries to hump my leg all the time. You could say I’m fond of him, like I would be of an STD.”
It was probably as much of a ringing endorsement as Brad could give, Nate supposed.
There was a snoop of light suddenly shining into his eyes. “Here you are,” Lilley said cheerfully. “Been looking all over for you. We’re on our way, just stay put.”
“And you just what, decided to go ahead to keep us company?” Brad asked, shaking his head.
“My orders were to find you, so the rescue team isn’t going in blindly.”
“How is going through the solid rock not going blindly? You can even find your way back out?” Brad bitched, apparently very happy to see Lilley. Nate snorted.
Now that his eyes got used to the light again, he could make out the piece of rope sticking out of the wall. “I’ll be damned, it’s the Ariadne’s thread,” he laughed.
Lilley gave him a pleased look. “Gunny Wynn’s idea. Said you’d appreciate it, sir,” he nodded.
“It’s a classic,” Nate agreed, glancing at Brad, who cracked a quick smile before frowning at Lilley again.
“Wouldn’t need it if you didn’t have such a pussy power. Even the fucking Shadowcat could get us out of here all by herself, you’re more useless than a trim, Lilley.”
“Fuck you, Brad,” Lilley nodded back. “We should be here shortly, stay frosty. Sir,” he added and went back through the wall.
Now that he was assured of the help coming, Nate flicked his torch on and placed it between two small rocks, pointing upwards, the snoop of light illuminating the ceiling.
“How does he go in with clothes and a piece of string and can’t get a person through?” Brad asked, shaking his head, but it was probably meant to be rhetorical.
“We’re going to discuss the physics and inner workings of having superpowers now?” Nate asked, feeling the smile creeping up again, and he leaned back, setting himself more comfortably against the rock wall.
“A pastime as good as any, sir,” Brad shrugged, his eyes half closed, but he didn’t continue the conversation for a while, long enough for Nate to start thinking Brad had fallen asleep. “I spy with my little eye…” Brad started lazily, eyes closed.
“Rocks. And then more rocks,” Nate shot quickly.
“You really don’t know how to play this game,” Brad said fondly.
It turned out Nate was being quite optimistic about their timeline; the lockdown was announced an hour after the briefing, fifty-four minutes after he let his men know.
“Frankly, I’m surprised you didn’t see this coming,” Mike told him, shaking his head. “You might be the most optimistic realist I’ve ever met,” he added, and it sounded a bit like a compliment and a lot like an insult.
They were going over the schedules for the next few days. Training exercises followed by more training; anything to keep everyone busy.
“I’ve checked up on the girl,” Mike said once they were done, when he was rolling up the maps for the next day’s run.
“I thought they were going to get her out before the lockdown.”
“I’ve been told she’s safer on the inside. With the news from Washington, I’m not sure if I don’t agree with them,” Mike muttered, shaking his head at Nate’s expression. “Robin’s taken care of, she’ll be fine.”
“Yes, I’ve been assured of that,” Nate nodded thoughtfully.
Mike sighed. “Choose your battles, Nate. And let me know what your decisions are,” he added, a curious inflection to his voice. Nate searched his face, looking for something to confirm his suspicion, but Mike just nodded at him slowly and moved to walk out, passing Brad on his way. “Sergeant Colbert.”
“Gunny,” Brad acknowledged him, and closed the doors once he stepped in. “I keep waiting for him to ask me about my intentions,” he told Nate.
“What are your intentions?”
“Up till about a minute ago I planned to use our unexpectedly acquired downtime and bend you over your desk, but you look like shit.”
Nate laughed which, judging from his pleased expression, had been exactly what Brad was aiming for. “It’s been a long day,” he said. “And it’s barely afternoon.”
“It’s about to get worse,” Brad muttered, pulling up a chair and turning it around, straddling it as his elbows rested on its back. “The guys had been listening to the radio, there’s some shit going down in DC that doesn’t sound good.”
“They didn’t hear we’re on the communications lockdown?” Nate asked perfunctorily, shaking his head. “It’s the registration idea, it’s making rounds again. This last thing is just going to add fuel to the fire.”
Brad nodded, his hand falling to Nate’s knee, a comforting weight, warm even through the layers of Nate’s pants. “What’s the plan?”
“The command’s plan? I’m not privy to all the details yet, but I’m assured everything is under control,” Nate said, watching Brad closely.
“Sure, that plan,” Brad shrugged, then leaned forward, his height allowing him easily to lean over the back of the chair and rest his forehead on Nate’s. “How are you feeling?”
Nate rolled his eyes. “I know it looked bad, but thanks to Doc’s skill it’s like I’ve been shot a week ago, not yesterday. It’s healing well.”
“Good,” Brad nodded, and a second later Nate was being pulled up and closer, the chair hitting the floor with a soft metallic crack. Brad was efficient in anything he did, in combat and in this, his touch deliberate and sure as he pushed Nate’s shirt up, long fingers running up and down Nate’s sides.
The edge of Nate’s desk was now digging painfully into his side, but he didn’t care all that much. They probably didn’t have much time until someone needed something, but for this moment, it was perfect.