Fandom: Generation Kill
Summary: AU. Nate is a writer, and he fills the cliche to the letter by hanging around coffee shops. Brad has a broken leg and no air-conditioning in his apartment.
Disclaimer: Based on fictionalised portrayals as seen on the HBO miniseries.
A/N: Very loosely inspired by 500 Days of Summer, but only in structure, nothing else. Writer!Nate idea blatantly stolen from lunatics_word (keep your eyes peeled for her fic ;)). With thanks to kubis, who now apparently owns the voices in my head.
"I think we should go out," Nate says without preamble, like it's a conversation they're continuing. In a way, maybe it is. He leans back in his chair, looking at Brad, his head tilted expectantly.
"Are you asking me on a date?"
"Asking would be opening myself to a flat out refusal. I know better than that," Nate smirks. "Think of it as a topic for a discussion."
Brad shakes his head. He wants this a little too much and that's a surefire sign to back off and back out, but he also wants to hear what Nate's going to say. "Pros and cons?" he jokes and Nate's answering smile is brilliant.
"I didn't make a list yet, if that's what you're implying. But if you give me five minutes and a napkin, I can oblige."
"Con: you are a complete dork."
"It's not a con if you like it," Nate shoots back, in a tone that's probably supposed to be reasonable, but the effect is spoiled by the way his mouth is twitching, a smile threatening to unfold. It's already there in his eyes, warm and inviting. "Pro: you could for once stare at my ass openly, instead of casting surreptitious glances."
"Apparently not surreptitious enough," Brad mutters. His combat effectiveness is apparently fucked, not only because of his fucking leg, but because most of his senses, including his common sense, get frayed around Nate Fick. "What would we do on that hypothetical date of yours?"
"Of course, but I'll give you a free pass on the semantics this once. And it's been a while, but I think first date could mean going to see a movie."
Brad snorts. "Yes, because I have an unparalleled desire to subject my eyes and my mind to the whiskey tango retarded drivel that passes for entertainment these days."
"I take it you have seen the Avatar already," Nate offers, holding his gaze steadily. Brad doesn't smile, but it's a near thing. "I'll bite, what does Brad Colbert do on the first dates?"
"Remembers to leave the money on the table," he shoots back. Nate doesn't seem impressed, but he doesn't seem shocked either, he just waits patiently until Brad sighs and gives in. "Surfing, if the waves are good."
"Not with your leg. Next."
"How did it turn into me trying to sell you on the first date activity? You didn't even sell me on the first date concept to begin with."
Nate gives him a pitying look, his raised eyebrows clearly calling Brad's bullshit. "You were sold the moment I mentioned it. Next."
He's not wrong, sadly. Brad briefly regrets he's off the painkillers, he would have something to blame for the temporary insanity if he still was taking the pills, but he's not. He could blame Nate, and his too-green eyes and too-wide smile and too-fucking-nice ass, and his uncanny ability to get under Brad's skin, but mostly, he blames himself, for his weakness for green eyes and brilliant smiles and for the way he unfolds like a house of cards whenever Nate looks at him, whenever they talk, too easy and too familiar by far.
"We could always get coffee."
"How does it differ from every other day?" Nate asks and Brad shrugs.
"It differs in that I'm going to walk you home and you'll let me kiss you goodnight."
"It's not exactly 'letting' you if I've wanted that for a while now," Nate says quietly, his tone soft, but not in a way implicating he's ashamed or scared of the admission, but like this is something to keep close, like it's important.
"Alright," Brad says, and his voice sounds a little strange to his own ears, like it's coming from far away, drowned by the fast beat of his own heart. He doesn't get easily flustered, hell, he doesn't get flustered at all, but apparently, when it comes to Nate Fick? His body didn't get the message.
"Alright you'll go out with me?" Nate prods and Brad rolls his eyes.
"When did we revert to the seventh grade?"
Nate glances at his watch, frowning as if contemplating it. "You want the exact timeline, or would an estimation suffice? I suppose it was somewhere around the time you started stalking me."
"You're a little piece of shit," Brad tells him fondly. It wasn't even quite like that.
Brad knows seventeen important things about Nathaniel C. Fick. It's a worrying fact all in itself.
One, his name is Nathaniel C. Fick. It hasn't been that difficult to figure out, but the pieces of this came slowly. The new barista adresses him as Mr. Fick, politely and formally. The other barista, who could never be described as 'old', with her dreadlocks and headphones and a collection of increasingly offensive buttons on her vest, but who nonetheless is not 'the new barista' writes 'Nate' on his cups, followed by a smiley face. Brad doesn't get a smiley face, he gets a little plane on his cups. He doesn't ask why. He could get an answer if he asked. Then there are the two giggling girls who take their fucking time hovering behind Nate's table, pushing each other forward slowly, one of them holding a thick hardback. There's Nate's picture on the back, and 'Nathaniel C. Fick' in silver letters on the spine. It really doesn't take a genius.
Two, he is a Time's bestselling author. Says so on the fucking book, but is confirmed by a quick google search. Brad doesn't even need to move from his chair, which is a good thing. The cafe's chairs are comfortable, and the cafe, unlike Brad's rented apartment, has air-conditioning. Nathaniel C. Fick, the author of a recently surprisingly successful thriller series. It's surprising, because Brad has read the first part a while ago, stuck at an airport for a few hours, and it didn't make him want to use the book for toilet paper, like most of the popular drivel does.
Three, his eyes are really green.
Four, when he smiles, it always starts at the corner of his mouth, even if it's just a flicker, even if it's just a quick thank-you grin as he picks up his coffee cup, it always starts uneven and then blossoms, brilliant and contagious, and always reaching his eyes. Brad didn't think smiles like that existed in the fucking reality.
He's not sure why the last two things are important, but somehow they are.
Five, he drinks his coffee black, but with sugar. Sometimes with no sugar. There's no rhyme or reason, sometimes during the same day, when he's writing, he can go from a cup of coffee with no sugar, to the next one with three. Brad finds it oddly fascinating.
Six, he doesn't use all of his fingers when he types. Mostly his index fingers, unless a combination is necessary, but it doesn't slow down his typing at all.
Seven, he uses a fucking Mac. Brad's fingers itch to take it away from him, and then possibly stomp on the monstrosity for a good measure. He wouldn't even let his broken leg stop him, and besides, maybe the crutches would be useful for once, in smashing the damn thing to bits.
Eight, he knows all of the barista's names. In all fairness, so does Brad, he's here every fucking day, and they all wear the little tags with names and smiley faces and shit, you'd have to be an illiterate retard not to know their names. But Nate makes a point in addressing them as such, and remembering their pets or classes or shit, and politely inquiring about everything. And not politely like 'I'm just waiting for my coffee and talking makes the process less awkward', no, he sounds fucking interested. And even the angry barista, with her love for the buttons (fine, Amy. He knows the name, but using it is like inviting conversation and he has no patience for this shit) beams back, because apparently, having Nate Fick's undivided attention and interest does that to you.
Not that Brad cares about that one.
Nine, he bites his lip when he's thinking, fingers hovering over the keyboard. Sometimes, the index finger of his left hand twitches, taps the keys without pressing them, somewhere around 'd' or 'f' from Brad's vantage point. The corresponding tendon of Nate's hand moves with the rhythm, visible under his skin.
Ten, he has really long fingers. Light skin, freckles on his nose and pale all over, even in the summer. Possibly from all that sitting inside the cafes and writing shit. Sometimes, when he picks up his coffee cup, or runs his hand through his hair, Brad gets a good look at the inside of his wrist, blue veins under the vulnerable skin. Brad's not sure why it's such a fascinating view.
Eleven, he writes things down on any available surface, wherever's convenient. His yellow pad, post-it notes, napkins, the side of his coffee cup, his own wrists. There are blue smudges all over his hands and his wrists, blurred out to the point of illegibility. Nate's hands move quickly over the keyboard, but when they still, Brad's trying to make out the letters, the words. It must be important if it's on his hands, if it couldn't wait for the patience of paper, and Brad finds himself wanting to know.
He realises it's a strange desire, but by the time he does it's already too late.
Twelve, of all the pastries he seems to like the blueberry muffins the best.
Thirteen, despite all the sitting inside the cafes and writing shit, he seems to be in a pretty damn good shape. He probably runs, if Brad is any judge, going on the strong muscles in his legs. On the shape of his ass. And fine, Brad has been looking, but it's difficult not to, just ask the baristas. Or not, Brad thinks he might not like their answers.
Fourteen, he rubs his right temple when he's tired, when he's been staring at the screen for too long. He closes his eyes, head tilted to the right, two fingers pressing at his eye socket, running down his face and then back up, staying at his temple for a long moment.
Fifteen, he has an old battered cellphone, a previous generation Nokia that has absolutely no gimmicks and a long battery life. He has a new flashy one too, but that one stays in his laptop's bag unless it's ringing, it's the Nokia that stays on the table. It rings only once during the five days, and Nate's face lightens up like a fucking christmas tree. He calles the caller 'sweetheart', and the way Brad's gut clenches and his hands are suddenly cold and clammy isn't surprising but it is fucking shocking all the same. But then the conversation turns to schoolwork and pets and sisters and then Nate's voice shifts, not less fond but a bit less playful, and he's explaining to someone else that he can't make dinner because he has a book signing he can't get out of and yes, he knows his nieces would be disappointed, no need to guilt trip him. Brad closes his eyes briefly and wills himself to fucking get a grip. It works out splendidly, of course.
Sixteen, there are moments, passing moments, when Brad isn't watching him, choosing to concentrate on his own book or his laptop or his magazine, and he hears the typing come to a slow stop, the sounds slowing down until they die out, Nate's fingers probably hovering over the keyboard as he thinks on his next paragraph. But when Brad looks up, Nate's gaze is not on the screen but somewhere close to Brad, never quite on him, but an inch to the left from his hands, or two inches to the right from his head. Brad's skin itches all the same.
Seventeen, Nathaniel C. Fick is by far the most interesting thing Brad has encountered as of late, and as of late translates to a really fucking long time. It should have been obvious from the first moment Brad bothered to remember his name, from the first moment he looked into those green eyes, and from the first time he thought the old Nokia phone was actually quite endearing. He should just shoot himself, because noticing those things never leads anything good, and he has a broken leg already, doesn't need any other part of him broken again, but here he fucking is.
The quiet click of the doors is unexplicably loud in his ears, almost like a gun shot, except there's no smell of cordite, no muzzle flash. In some ways, it's terribly anticlimactic.
Nate's still sleeping, and Brad hopes that the sound didn't wake him up. Maybe Brad should have, but he's always been pretty fucking terrible at this, at goodbyes and reunions and partings and shit. Nate doesn't like goodbyes either, especially the ones that are drawn out and awkward and stilted, the ones where you don't really know what to say and know even less what you want to hear.
(Come back to me and I will and I love you and I'll miss you and Nate and Brad and everything else, and everything.)
It's just three months, baring the possible fuckery and last-minute changes and the retardation of the command that can't be avoided. If everything works out according to the plan, he'll be back in three months and maybe Nate will still be here.
(That's the real reason Brad didn't want a goodbye. He didn't want to hear Nate would wait, because the thought that he might terrifies Brad even more than the thought he won't.)
It's not until he's at the airport that his cellphone buzzes with an incoming message, and he's half tempted to ignore it, put it off until he's not standing still in the quickly moving crowd, among all the people who know where they're going, know where they want to get. When he doesn't feel adrift, the only anchor the name on his screen.
You're such a piece of shit, Colbert, the message tells him, and miss you and have a safe flight.
It's pretty much everything he wanted to hear, some of what he wanted to say. It's close enough.
It goes like this: Brad goes to take a leak. That in itself is not newsworthy, it's not even taking a shit, which is much more important in Brad's book.
When he comes back to his table, it turns out Nathaniel fucking Fick changed his seats, and instead of his usual armchair by the window, he's sitting at Brad's table, absently flipping through a magazine. His laptop is still on his own table, left carelessly next to the half-empty coffee cup, and Brad doesn't care only because it's a fucking Mac, someone stealing it, or spilling coffee on it, would be doing Nate a favor.
"Can I help you?" he says, and it doesn't quite come out as hostile as he wants it to sound.
Nate looks up, his smile open and slightly apologetic. "I hope you don't mind. I'm suffering from a sudden and painful attack of a writer's block, need to take my mind of the thing for a moment."
"And my table helps you with that how?" Brad asks, sitting down. It's not giving in if he sits down, he tells himself.
"Better feng shui?" Nate offers breezily, and for a brief moment Brad is actually afraid he means it. He can almost feel his dick softening. Metaphorically. But then Nate smiles, a small tug at the corner of his mouth turning into a full-blown smile when he takes in Brad's expression. "Actually, I'm jonesing for some conversation, but you don't have to oblige me, you can tell me to fuck off."
"Will it work?"
"Well, you can try."
Brad nods. "Alright, one more. Why me?" He doesn't hold his breath while he waits for the answer.
"Oh, I thought it was obvious," Nate shrugs, as if it was obvious. "With your leg, there are slight chances you'll run when I start rehashing my latest chapter."
"It's so bad you need to torture an invalid with it?"
"It's worse," Nate says flatly and Brad allows himself a smile, lets himself turn it on Nate. Nate smiles back and something unfurls in Brad's chest, something familiar but forgotten. "I'm Nate Fick," Nate says.
They never quite get to discussing his latest chapter, but Brad's coffee goes cold, forgotten.
Brad can't remember the last time he was doing this, making out on someone's couch, as if kissing was the beginning and the end, as if there was nothing beyond the touch and the feel.
Nate's hand is tangled in his shirt, the angle a little awkward as Nate crawled closer, his leg hooked over Brad's good one. Nate's hair is still wet from the shower and his shirt is still damp, he threw it on without towelling off properly.
It's cold in the room, Nate's air-conditioning actually functioning, and while it's a nice change from the sticky heat of the afternoon outside of the apartment, Nate can't be all that comfortable. He doesn't complain though, he's too busy mouthing along Brad's jaw, leaving a wet trail down his neck.
It's a bit distracting.
Alright, it's a lot distracting, considering they should probably be leaving right about now if they want to make it before the trailers, and Nate has fucking views on people coming into the movie theater during or after the trailers. He maintains that if you're not going to see the trailers you may as well stay home and download the thing. Brad thinks there's something seriously wrong with that line of thought.
Right now, he also thinks that they're probably not going to the movies at all, judging from the way Nate is licking at his mouth. He tries to shift into the kiss, into the way Nate sucks on his tongue, but he hits his cast against the coffee table, and swears loudly.
Nate moves away in an instant, biting his lip as he surveys Brad intently, concern all over his face.
"Sure," Nate nods, his tone level, but somehow Brad thinks Nate is calling bullshit. Nate makes a small noise in his throat, head tilted thoughtfully, as if he's considering his options. It's an attractive look on him, but then again, there's little Brad doesn't find extremely attractive on Nate. "Sit back comfortably," Nate tells him, matter-of-fact and decisive, and it sounds close enough like an order. There's a part of Brad that responds to it instinctively, but another part really worries for that first part.
"What are we..." he starts and Nate shakes his head, his hand on Brad's thigh.
"We aren't doing anything. You are sitting back and relaxing," he decides and Brad, fuck it, obeys, settles against the back of the couch comfortably, slides a little down in his seat.
Nate nods again. "When are you getting the cast off?"
"Next week. Why, you have plans?" Brad smirks and isn't at all prepared for the look Nate gives him, fond and at the same time full of heat.
"I just might," he says, sliding down to the floor gracefully, kneeling in between Brad's legs. "How about I'll give you a preview?"
"Got my orders," Brad says, not looking up, even though his gaze slides down the paragraph and he doesn't understand a word. "Looks like they've finally realised I'm wasted riding a desk and they're sending me off on a real mission."
"Can't tell you that."
"For how long?"
"I don't know yet."
Nate nods, peers at Brad over the top of his laptop, his hands still on the keyboard. When he closes the computer, his fingers tighten on the edge of the screen, knuckles white. Brad's own fingers tighten in an unvoluntary response, his left hand shaking imperceptibly.
He doesn't want to go. It's a new thought, a strange one, because Brad Colbert is someone who doesn't look back, whose thoughts and heart are on the road even when he's not. His bike only takes him so far, and he's been itching for months.
A part of him wants to stay, and he's terrified of that.
"How long do you have?" Nate asks, tone deceptively light, and it's the scared stiff part of brad that answers, shrugging and careless.
"A few days."
"How long have you known?"
"For a while."
It's only then that the flicker of hurt registers on Nate's face, brief and quick but impossibly there. "I see," he says, and Brad wants to tell him that no, he doesn't, he can't because Brad doesn't even know what he's been thinking, what he is thinking, what this is.
He smirks instead. In hindsight, it's probably a bad decision. "You won't miss me much. You have the book tour and all."
The line of Nate's mouth tightens, his whole body tense and stiff. "I don't..." he starts and shakes his head, abandoning whatever he was going to say. He stands up instead and walks into the bathroom, passing Brad without word, even though his hand twitches, moves fractionally closer to Brad's shoulder.
Brad can hear the water running, the sink, not the shower. He thinks of Nate standing over it, washing his hands and splashing his face with cold water, staring into the mirror. There's no answers there, Brad could tell him that much.
Except there maybe was an answer in Nate's face, maybe he had seen it a dozen times over. Brad stands up and crosses the room, leans against the bathroom's door and closes his eyes briefly.
He doesn't want to want Nate to wait, and that's just fucking messed up, but there you go. He wants Nate to want to wait, but the chances for that are slim. If not this assignment, then the next, the next deployment, the next few years. People don't wait for him, not for long, not for long enough.
"Nate," he says quietly and the water stops, the squeak of the faucet being turned off barely audible but there. "I'm sorry," he says when Nate opens the doors. It's not that he wouldn't do the same thing again, they both know better. But he regrets it all the same, the hurt in Nate's eyes, the worry.
"A few days?" Nate asks, his voice hoarse.
"Sounds better," Nate mutters and steps forward, tugs at the collar of Brad's shirt, his fingers swiftly dealing with the top button.
"I don't," Brad starts, his words swallowed when Nate leans in, crashes his mouth to Brad's, the kiss rough and hard and gorgeous as they tumble towards the bed.
"Shut up and don't waste any of our time," Nate tells him.
It feels like a temporary ceasefire, but it feels better than anything else in the world, too.
Brad gets in early, the heat already making his apartment pretty much hell on earth (and he's been to desert countries, this is worse). Amy gives him a wave hello and starts on his usual order unprompted. This is partially why he comes here. And, well, it's next door to his apartment, and his movement is a little limited as of the moment.
There are only two other patrons inside, an older man in a suit, pristine despite the heat, reading a newspaper and drinking an espresso, and a girl with large headphones and a canvas bag, stirring her latte absently as she switches between songs on her iPod.
Nate stops in the door to let her out, and she looks up, an absent 'thanks' on her lips, and then she freezes in her tracks, her mouth founding a small 'o'. Brad shakes his head, as she walks out, looking dazed.
"Don't you write political thrillers or some such? Because there's something wrong if your target demographic buys your books along with the vampire drivel."
"I appreciate all the readers, and I'm glad when they find something in my books that appeals to them."
Brad gives him a long look. "You've been doing any interviews lately?"
"A few. I do have a book out, and the interviews don't hurt my sales. I'm assured of this."
"Any of them accompanied by your picture?"
Nate rolls his eyes at him and thanks Amy when she brings him his coffee. She hovers for a moment, shrugging at Brad's questioning look. "He's big on tumblr," she offers.
"The fuck?" Brad asks politely and she shrugs again, fiddling with the button on her vest.
"Started with dream casting his characters, but someone found his facebook page and the pictures, and, well," she smiles brilliantly and Brad smiles back, because now he has plenty of new mocking material, and that's not something to frown at.
The girl from earlier comes back, carrying Nate's book and dragging a friend behind her. Figures.
Nate signs the book, chats politely for a while, answers a question about an apparently enigmatic ending and all the while, he looks earnest and pleased and pleasant, and Brad doesn't blame the girls for giggling all their way outside.
"I'll need to read one of your books sometime," he tells Nate.
When Nate looks at him it's far from earnest and pleasant, but it's honest and somehow fond. Brad's not a flustered girl, but his skin warms up under that gaze all the same.
"Would you like me to sign one for you?" Nate asks, a wry note in his voice, and Brad takes a sip of his coffee, washes down the first response.
"You could sign my cast instead," he mutters. Nate hasn't offered before, even though he has a tendency on scribble on every available surface around him, and Brad hasn't asked, even though his cast has already been autographed a few times, by the members of his platoon, present and former, whoever is stateside and happens to be around, by his sisters and his niece and nephew, even by Amy, who drew a little plane on his ankle in the first week he started coming here.
Nate's quiet for a moment, and then he's reaching for his sharpie, uncapping it. "I could," he offers softly, shifting his chair closer. He studies the signatures already there, Poke's insults and Ray's dirty limerick by Brad's knee, and he moves to the less occupied area on Brad's thigh, scribbles down a few lines, signs his name with a practiced flourish of someone used to signings and fucking autographs.
Brad squints at the line. "What is it?"
"Last line of the book I'm writing now. I'm probably spoiling it for you, if you ever decide to read it."
"You have the last line already?"
"I like to know where things are going," Nate tells him, his hand still on the cast, and Brad thinks he can feel the warmth through it. It itches, and he left the fucking clothes hanger at home.
He ignores the sensation and pretends to look at the signature for a long time, as if he hadn't memorised it already. "It's going to sell nicely on e-bay, I think."
Nate's eyebrows go up, and he swiftly lowers himself to one knee, gingerly shifting Brad's leg so he can write on the sole of his foot.
"I can't read it," Brad complains and Nate shrugs and reads it out.
"Dear e-bay buyer, fuck you. Regards, Nate."
Brad really likes the way his lips form the word 'fuck'. "Now the price is going to be astronomical."
"Glad I could help," Nate says magnanimously, moving to sit back in his chair, still smiling.
Brad's has a set of keys to Nate's apartment for over a month before he uses them for the first time.
It's not a big thing, the whole having the keys thing, Nate has just handed them to Brad one morning, when he was leaving early to get to a meeting and never asked for them back. When Brad mentioned it, Nate just shrugged and told him to keep them, 'just in case'. It wasn't A Big Step or whatever pussy bullshit some people made out of things like keys and drawers and toothbrushes.
He uses the keys on a Friday when Nate is at a bookstore downtown, reading his first chapter, and Brad has an unexpected afternoon free. It's not the only unexpected thing.
There's a woman sitting at Nate's kitchen counter, drinking cofee and writing something on Nate's manuscript, the bound copy that has been sitting there for the last few days, as Nate says he can't look at it just yet.
"Hi," she says uncertainly, eyeing the keys in Brad's hand before her gaze flickers down and up, taking him in. "Nate's not home yet," she adds, and Brad feels a chill running down his spine, even though her hair is strawberry blonde and her eyes are a familiar green.
He remembers the surprise of coming home to someone who had already moved on, to a girl who couldn't be bothered to wait for him. It's a fresher wound than he thought.
"I'm Brad," he says and she smiles nervously, unevenly, the corner of her mouth rising first, and she pushes a strand of hair behind her ear before she answers.
"I'm Sarah. Nate's sister," she adds, but if she hopes that comment would prompt a similar explanation from Brad, she'll be disappointed.
"The younger one, right?" Brad asks, heading for the coffee maker, and she relaxes a little bit more, probably establishing Brad isn't a burglar or whatever the fuck. "How's med school treating you?" he continues, gesturing at the coffee maker and she nods eagerly, picking up her coffee cup to hand it to him.
He's probably showing off a little. If Ray was here, he'd point out that raising his leg and pissing on the table would be a surefire way of marking his teritory, but Brad has heard Nate bitch about spilled coke, piss would just annoy the fuck out of him.
"Even more studying than I thought," she offers. "But it's great."
Of course she would think so, she's a Fick. Brad nods and tops off her cup, and then fills up one for himself, taking a sip. She's tall, it runs in the family apparently, but Brad still has a good couple of inches over her and right now it's not an advantage. He feels uncomfortable in the small kitchen, under her curious gaze.
If she's anything like Nate at all, he has maybe three seconds.
"So, how do you know my brother?"
Or less than that. He's saved by the key turning in the lock, except it might be the case of frying pans and fires. "Hey, you're here already?" Nate calls from the hall, and Brad isn't quite sure whom he's speaking to. "I can't believe you finally used your fucking key," he adds, the last words quieter, fading, as he takes in the two people in the kitchen. "Sarah!" he exclaims and she laughs, moving forward to hug him. "I thought you weren't getting in until the day after tomorrow?"
"Got an unexpected free ride from a friend. Is it okay?"
"Of course," Nate smiles, but his eyes flicker briefly to Brad, hesitant. "You want to unpack? I could take you out for dinner later, because there's absolutely nothing in my fridge."
"Not true. I think you have some stale chinese," she tells him and picks up her bag from the chair it's been hanging on. "But yeah. And fuck, I need a shower," she adds and walks out, but not without turning her head to look over her shoulder. "I don't know what did infinitives do to you, but there's some fucked up split shit on the third page. Or your editor just hates you."
"I see the family resemblance," Brad informs him when she leaves.
Nate rolls his eyes and then takes one step closer to him. "I didn't know she was coming in today."
He probably doesn't mean it that way, but Brad smiles sardonically. "Don't worry, I'll be out of your hair in a moment. Didn't tell her anything either, so your secret is safe."
Nate just stares at him. "What the fuck are you..." he gets it and looks away, breathing out, and the cold feeling that settled in Brad's gut doesn't let go but holds on to his stomach somewhat fierce. But a second later Nate is moving, his hand flattened out on Brad's chest as he pushes him against the fridge. "What about the fucking don't ask don't tell?"
The fact that he's right doesn't make Brad any less angry. Anger translates to dead calm as he speaks. "I didn't ask anything of you."
He's not quite sure why it matters at all, why it bothers him that Nate never mentioned him to his family. He hasn't met that many of Nate's friends and that's fine, he has met his agent and she just looked at Nate for a long moment and asked if it's a thing to be kept out of the press if anything happens. But at this particular moment he feels how thin and irrelevant his presence in Nate's life is and he would give a lot to change it. Not his fucking call, though.
Nate doesn't move for a long moment, long enough for Brad's heartbeat to slow down under his fingers, for their breathing to match. Nate ducks his head, his lips briefly brushing against the skin of Brad's neck, a ghost of a kiss gone too soon.
"Sarah!" he yells, stepping away. "Do you have a moment?"
"Sure, what is it?" she asks, stepping back into the kitchen, her braid undone already and her jacket off.
"I'd like you to meet Brad," Nate says and Brad wants to tell him he doesn't fucking have to do it, he shouldn't fucking do it just because Brad had a moment of insanity, but Nate doesn't sound resentful or annoyed, his tone is light but poignant somehow. Fond.
"We've met," Sarah says, raising her eyebrow.
Nate shakes his head at her. "I meant as my... fuck, insert one of Beth's rants on not applying labels to relationships and non-relationships. This is Brad."
Sarah tilts her head back, watching them, and smiles slightly. "Alright," she says. "Nice to meet you, Brad."
The first moment he has an internet access, Brad fires off an e-mail to Nate, before he can talk himself out of it. He's not quite sure where they stand. He probably would be more certain if he had the guts to ask, but well.
The weather sucks, the food is atrocious, and the retardation I have to deal with reached whole new levels. It takes skill. Brad.
He uses Nate's non-descript, private e-mail account, and his own unofficial back-up one. He still can't bring himself to write down what he wants to, his fingers still above the keyboard for a long moment before he types his name. miss you, love you.
PS, he writes instead. Have fun on the tour.
He deletes seven different sentences before he clicks send.
After a while, all the European cities start to look the same. Especially when it keeps on raining. Beer's decent, though. You'd like the place I'm in now, they have a dragon. Flames come out of its mouth after you text message it. Take care, come back in one piece. Nate.
Can it be two pieces if one piece is very, very small and insignificant? Asking out of curiosity, and because my big toe might fall prey to rot. You are shitting me about the dragon. B.
I wouldn't shit you about the dragon. I even got its number for you. Be careful, come back in one piece. N.
Lovely, I have been on the market for a new girlfiend. B.
Fuck you, Colbert. Also, come back in one piece.
Brad's not quite sure why Nate keeps repeating the same phrase, like a mantra or a litany. Like a prayer, only neither of them really believes in any god. But it keeps on turning in his head, in Nate's level tone, keeps him warm when it needs to.
I miss you. he writes, no sign-off and nothing else, stares at the screen for too long after he sends it.
In the end, they really just go get a cup of coffee, for the simple reason that Brad doesn't really have a freedom of movement, despite what he claims, and Nate doesn't own a car, and getting a cab and maneuvering with his crutches would be just more trouble than it's worth. Brad can't wait for the damn thing to come off.
"Are you guys going to be here every evening now too?" Amy asks them, not unkindly, and Brad gives her a look. "Not that I mind, you're my best tippers, so clearly I'm a fan."
"Go away. And bring me a fucking coffee while you're at it," Brad tells her and she laughs, comes back with coffees and a little fucking candle that she proceeds to light and place in the middle of their table.
"I have a friend who plays a chello, if you want some romantic music."
"Go away," Brad repeats and she finally does.
Nate's laughing. He would.
It's a nice sound, though, Brad has to admit, warm and low, his eyes shining and so amazingly green. Brad is sure he's staring, but he doesn't even mind that.
"About that kissing part," he says, surprising himself, and Nate shrugs.
"Not until you walk me home. Or rather, until I walk you home, because it's closer and easier on your leg."
"Drink your fucking coffee faster," Brad tells him, getting another startled laugh, the sound washing over him.
When they finally kiss, it's against Brad's closed doors, already inside his apartment, Nate's head tilted back, his neck and throat exposed to perusal, his skin pale and inviting, and his pulse frantic.
His breath is warm on Brad's skin. Everything about Nate is warm and already familiar and impossible to resist. Brad pulls him inside, a little awkward when balancing the crutches, and lets himself have this for a while.
Even though he's no longer hiding in the coffee shop from the heat, Brad spends here more time than he'd like. But Nate insists it's his favorite place to write, free of whatever fucking distractions he claims to have in his own apartment. In some ways, Nate is just a walking cliche of a liberal dicksuck pseudo-intellectual hack of a writer.
Except for the part where he's actually smart, writes decently, and Brad really appreciates his cocksucking skills.
Brad really can't win, can he?
And speaking of, there's Ray fucking Person sitting at their table when he comes back from the men's room.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Brad asks, not unkindly.
"Why, waiting for my caramel machiatto with sprinkles, of course," Ray shoots back. Nate, fuck him, laughs at that, shaking his head.
"I meant, in my town."
"They made this an Iceman town? Do you have a festival, too, with a gay-ass parade with some inflated shit rolling down the streets as people shout huzzah and throw confetti? Because I have an idea for a representation of your ego. It's already inflated, Brad."
"I think I'm beginning to figure out why you never introduced me to your friends," Nate nods his head.
"Please, I'm awesome," Ray says matter-of-factly. "So, you're the girlfriend?"
Brad gives up, and sits down, looking at Nate, hoping to wordlessly explain none of this is his fucking fault. Then again, Ray's a Recon Marine, Brad should have at least changed his number. That would have maybe bought him a week more, at least.
"I don't think girlfriend's the term," Nate says seriously. His laptop is closed and put aside, like he's settling in for a longer conversation. With Ray Person. Brad can't even find the right words to describe the trainwreck that's bound to happen, but that's probably alright. Ray will find them for him.
"You know," Ray says, later, when Nate has gone home and Ray is occupying Brad's couch, nursing a beer and pretending he watches the first Terminator movie. "Your boy seems alright. For a fruitcake."
Brad nods. "How's Walt, by the way?"
"Good. He says 'hi'," Ray says without missing a beat. "We've been visiting with his mom last month, that was awesome. She's a lady of a fine taste, so she obviously loves me, and bakes me shit."
"That could be because when you stuff your face, disgusting as the ensuing sight can be, you shut the fuck up for a while," Brad tells him. "Leave Nate alone, he doesn't deserve the Ray Person's misguided attempts at threatening him with a shotgun if he breaks my poor heart."
Happened once, when he made a mistake of bringing the one girl he dated after Julie to Poke's anniversary party. What a mistake that was, in more ways than one.
Ray looks at him for a while, his head tilted, a funny look on his face. "See, I had the speech all planned-out, nice and pretty. Was gonna tell the guy I'd gut him like a fish with a rusty nail if he ever does something fucking stupid like fucking you over."
It's a good thing he didn't. Nate would have loved it, probably, he seems to be morbidly fascinated by the stream coming out of Ray's mouth, and if Ray doesn't watch out, he could end up immortalised in Nate's next book, which would just make Ray insufferable and Brad would have to kill him. But Brad can't help but wonder what would Nate's answer be.
"I congratulate you on finally learning how to restrain your retard self."
"I didn't have to threaten him," Ray continues as if Brad hadn't spoken, "because the way he looks at you, homes, I think he'd have the rusty nails out before I could get to him."
I'll be done in two weeks, if all goes well, Brad writes and stares at the screen for longer than he'd like to admit. The cursor waits, blinking in and out of sight. It's a bit mocking, and Brad has a newfound sympathy for Nate, for all the times Nate stared, unblinking, almost in trance, at the white screen, hands still on the keyboard.
He's not sure how to put what he wants in words. Nate usually seems to know pretty fucking well what Brad means, even when he's not saying it, but there's an ocean between them now, there's no cues to pick up on, Nate can't read it out from Brad's eyes, from his face, can't figure it out from the way Brad's hands hold on to him.
I could swing by your place, once I'm in town. If you don't mind.
Brad's been coming to the cafe for almost two weeks, ever since the air-conditioning in his building fucked itself, and the super seems to be in no hurry to get it fixed. It's walking distance, even with the crutches, and after he buys a coffee, the barista leaves him alone, apparently not bothered by the fact that he's taking up a table for a few hours.
Considering that most of the clients just come in, get a coffee and go, Brad doesn't even feel very much guilty about that.
That morning, when he walks in, there's a guy sitting at his regular table, half-hidden behind a laptop. It's a Mac and Brad detests him on principle. It saves time, really.
"You're at my table," Brad says before he thinks better of it. He's being an asshole, there are seven other tables around them, and he's not anal and obsessive enough to really care, but there's something about the guy that makes Brad stop. He's not sure what the fuck it is, but it's something.
"Technically, my table," the guy says, closing his laptop. "I've been coming here for the past year, excluding the times when I'm out of town," he adds, and Brad expects him to wave Brad away, tell him to fuck off, something along those lines, but instead, he stands up, gathers his things and moves two tables down.
That's not exactly what Brad expected. He expects people to be assholes, it's comfortable and familiar. He doesn't expect the guy to smile, wide and brilliant.
"You can have the table, but I expect it back intact. Not one dent or scratch," he adds and sits down at his new table, on a much less comfortable chair from the cafe's eclectic collection.
Brad feels like smiling back. It's going to be trouble, he can tell.
You're a fucking idiot, Colbert, Nate writes back and Brad can almost hear his warm tone, see the gaze Nate would turn at him. Just come home.
It's late when Brad gets in, his plane was delayed and the unending retardation of the airline officials will never cease to amaze him, but once they touched the ground, he didn't really care that much.
He doesn't want to wake Nate up, so he doesn't ring the doorbell, but the key, amazingly, still fits. Maybe he shouldn't be surprised, but the warmth pools in his stomach all the same, drowning the rest of the doubt, washing it away.
Brad's side of bed is occupied by Nate's laptop and a stack of printed out pages, marked with the green pen Nate uses during the second edit. Nate's fingers are marked with it, it's probably only luck that the sheets got out unscathed.
Nate's hair is a bit longer, enough to get into his eyes when he's asleep like that, on his side, his eyelashes casting shadows on his cheek.
Brad hesitates before he moves to gently place the laptop on the nightstand on his side, before he gathers the papers and stacks them on top of it. He fishes out the pen from the folds of the sheet and Nate open his eyes, eyelids flickering briefly, his eyes dark green in the faint lights from the street outside.
"Hey, you're home," he says and Brad nods.
"Yeah," he whispers, not trusting his voice with anything louder.