Title: Set out on a narrow way
Fandom: Generation Kill
Summary: Brad meets a Nate on his first day at the new school. It's a beginning.
Disclaimer: Based on fictionalised portrayals as seen on the HBO miniseries.
A/N: Written for this prompt at the kink meme. Not much kink here, though ;)
The kid's first words to him are "you can't sit there," which normally would piss Brad off, maybe to the point of shoving the kid off his own chair. It's the kind of crap he's heard before, whenever his family moved and he went to yet another school.
But that kid doesn't sound like other kids, he sounds earnest and calm and he's smiling. Not the smirking kind of a smile, or the uncertain one people get around the new kid. He sounds like he likes Brad, even though they know shit about each other.
"Why?" Brad asks, deciding the kid deserves the benefit of the doubt before Brad decides if he's a retard. The smiling could be a hint.
"Jenna sits there and she's weird about it. She's gonna make a scene and you seriously don't need that on the first day," the kid says and nods. "I'm Nate. There's an empty seat in the front row," he adds and catalogues Brad's grimace. "Or you can have mine. I don't mind."
It's a good seat, in the middle of the window row, far enough from the teacher not to be called on too often but not all the way in the back where they always suspect you. Plus, window. Brad opens his mouth to say 'yeah, sure' and says "No, front row's fine" instead.
Jenna turns out to be weird about everything, including the kind of paper she gets to draw or the pen she uses or whatever else. Brad cranes his head to look at Nate, who catches his eye and nods.
During the break he fishes out the pack of Skittles out of his backpack and shares them with Nate. Even the yellow ones.
Nate likes English and doesn't like math but Brad decides they can be friends anyway, especially since Nate isn't retarded about it and can actually do his math homework quickly and efficiently.
"It just isn't very interesting," he says with a shrug and Brad shakes his head but doesn't comment. He's sure Nate will come around.
He has a Transformers pencil case and they get into a long discussion about the cartoon and act out Brad's favourite scene during the break. Brad likes Ironhide the most, followed closely by Huffer, and he argues with Nate about Mirage for a very long time, until Nate's eyes are wide and clear and his voice gets really soft.
"Yeah, okay," Brad says. "The invisibility thing is super-awesome," he adds and grins back when Nate beams at him.
When Mom comes to pick him up he makes her invite Nate over for Friday pizza and she looks at him strangely, ruffles his hair and keeps smiling all the way home. "I'm glad you made a friend," she tells him.
In Brad's last school she kept on asking if there really wasn't anyone Brad could be friends with. He told her all the kids there were retarded, but that didn't go over well. Now, he just shrugs, it's not that he made a friend, it's just that Nate's not an idiot. Even though he doesn't appreciate cool things, like math and Ironhide.
In April, Nate decides he wants to become a detective. He reads Emil and the Detectives and then he and Brad devour anything connected to the subject, spend their Saturdays lifting fingerprints off the furniture and practicing lockpicking. Nate isn't very good, but Brad's parents become slightly concerned by the ease with which Brad disarms the locks.
Nate bothers his older sister until she gives in and checks what's required of a candidate to the police academy. She looks on bemusedly as Nate prepares a to-do list.
Brad wanted to become a race cars driver, but he looks on Nate's list and decides that he's going to do that, too. Can't let Nate go and join by himself. Brad's seen the tv shows, he knows how it goes, you need a partner to watch your back and Brad doesn't trust anyone else.
Most people are morons.
The summer after the 4th grade, Brad locks himself in his room and refuses to come out until his parents agree not to send him to his grandparents for the first two weeks of July.
Brad loves going to visit his grandparents, that's not the point. Grandpa Jim has an old car in the garage he's been fixing for as long as Brad remembers and he lets Brad help, shows him how the engine works and explains what every tool does. He doesn't mind when Brad gets the motor oil and dust all over himself. And Grandma makes the best pies in the world and serves them with ice cream.
But Nate's going to camp in July. He's going to spend three weeks near some stupid lake without Brad, and Brad had promised to teach him to stay for a long time under water, something Nate's scared of, and now Nate might be learning it without him.
Brad's mom spends two hours on the phone with Nate's mom and when she comes up to Brad's room and gently knocks on the doors she looks like she's holding back a smile. "Beth says Nate staged a mutiny, protesting camp," she says.
Brad peers at her from over his book then ostensibly turns back to it. "It's a stupid camp."
"I'm very sorry you feel that way, because we've decided you're going," Mom tells him. "Your grandma said it's okay if you visit them in August this year. She invited Nate, too."
He knows it's going to be the best summer ever.
They have their biggest argument over a treehouse. They were to build it mostly on their own, with a bit of Nate's father's help. They've been planning the whole thing for months, revising the plans from what they wanted to what was actually doable and didn't resemble a Death Star.
They haven't thought as far as to discuss in whose garden it was going to be, and the thing blows in their faces like it does resemble a Death Star after all.
Brad gets on his bike and rides away, and they don't speak for days. At school, when Brad needs one of his books back from Nate, he tells Kevin to tell him. Nate purses his lips with annoyance and starts saying something but seems to rethink, shoves the book at him and walks away.
His Mom starts worrying on Monday, asks him if everything is alright on Tuesday and goes for the full-blown Inquisition on Wednesday. Brad eats his dinner in grave silence and goes upstairs without a word.
Nate's waiting for him on Thursday morning, sitting on the porch with his bike on the side on the Colberts' lawn. "This is stupid," he says, standing up, hands shoved into his pockets. Brad shrugs. He wants them to be okay already but isn't sure what to do. "I was thinking that tree," Nate adds with a tilt of his head and Brad nods slowly.
Nate nods back and picks up his bike, hesitates. "I'll race you," he offers and Brad scrambles to pick up his own bike while Nate rides down the path and into the street.
"Cheater!" Brad yells after him but he can't hold back a laugh.
In the 6th grade Nate goes on a trip to DC, goes to see the White House and the Capitol and comes back with a new plan and a new to-do list.
Brad thinks that if anyone else told him they were going to become the president one day, he'd tell them they were full of crap. But he knows Nate can do pretty much anything he wants.
"What am I gonna be?" he asks and Nate's expression flickers, like he's feeling guilty he hadn't considered it.
"You can be the Vice President," he says quickly. It's a good effort, Brad thinks, and for the next week or so they devise plans for what they will do when the aliens attack the White House. Their White House has secret tunnels and well-placed air vents.
The next time Brad's Mom is watching the news and they show the president, Brad pays close attention. There are the Secret Service guys all around the car, looking kind of cool with the glasses and the coats and the wires behind their ears. And Brad thinks that he could do that. Have a cool coat and a gun and shades and make sure that nothing ever happened to the president. He could do that.
Nate kisses a girl for the first time at Emma's 13th birthday party, when they play seven minutes in heaven. Brad refuses to play on principle, the principle being that the game is really stupid, but Nate is too polite to say the same.
And besides, Emma practically drags him into the closet. All the girls really like Nate, probably because he's always polite and listens to them and all and has green eyes and nice hair (Brad has sisters, he hears things).
"So, how was it?" Brad asks later and he's more curious than he thought he'd be.
"Okay," Nate shrugs. "Want to come over tomorrow and check out my new computer? I know you'd like to complain about it."
"Sounds like fun," Brad nods and doesn't call him on the change of topic. Nate keeps biting on his lip thoughtfully and Brad just rolls his eyes.
The summer before high school they go to Brad's grandparents in August. It has become a tradition. Grandpa bought an entirely new engine for the car and Brad spends a week busying himself with it. Nate mostly hangs around and hands him the right tools, holds things when he's asked to and tries not to break anything. Machines clearly don't like Nate, it's quite funny.
Nate makes two new lists that summer. One of them is the outline of classes and the extra-curricular activities that would give him the best chance of getting into the colleges of his choice, and then into the law schools. Brad keeps wanting to ask if he's going to color-code that too, but mostly he just looks on fondly.
The second list is the bucket list of everything they want to do through high school. Brad helps with that one, adds smoking weed and getting a speeding ticket, among other things, and Nate stares at him pointedly but writes those down too.
They do the first thing on it on that very day, sit in the attic's window and smoke their first cigarettes that Brad stole from the pack his Grandpa hides from Grandma. Nate coughs up a storm before he calms down, Brad feels like puking his guts out but he keeps his cool, mostly, swallows the rising bile.
Nate's lips look strange around the cigarette and Brad stares for a moment before finally putting his away, Nate following suit.
"If we can't handle this shit it's going to be pretty pathetic when we try with weed," Nate tells him after a moment, the corner of his mouth twitching.
"We have a good few years to practice."
"And get a lung cancer in the process, great plan."
"Don't be a chickenshit," Brad mutters but he's not planning on repeating the experience for a long time, maybe even not ever. Shit, the whole smoking thing might look cool but is just disgusting. He still feels a little like vomiting, what's up with that shit?
"I can't believe you're taking Latin," Brad shakes his head with disdain. "Who the hell does that?"
"People who want to get into their choice of college, hopefully early admission, and go into law school?" Nate's flipping through his textbook. They didn't even get proper homework in any of their classes, there's no reason for all this, but Nate gets peculiar about his studying.
And by peculiar Brad means completely insane.
He bounces the basketball against the bed. It shakes under Nate, who sends him a reproachful look but closes his book obligingly. "What do you want, Colbert?"
"For you to take your nose out of that book, Fick. Second day of school, I know you're screwed up but at least try and hide it for a little longer, or you'll never get chicks."
"Your worry for me is truly touching," he shots back but stands up anyway, stretches and catches the ball when Brad bounces it again. "Fine, come on. I guess I can take a break to kick your ass."
"I suppose you could try," Brad nods magnanimously.
The try-outs for the basketball team are coming up. Nate isn't sure he wants to try for it at all, but Brad reasonably points out some athletic achievement would look good on the college applications. Nate counters with running track, which Brad shoots down as just not fun at all.
"Fine," Nate says before he looks up, his eyebrows raised in something like a challenge. "But only if we both make the team, it's not going to be fun without you either."
Brad nods and reaches out and they shake on it. He tries not to let it show that it sort of made him feel warm inside, he's not a fucking girl.
Brad divides his time between school, basketball practice, and the less-than-half-time job at the computer store he took because he's saving up for a motorcycle. With what he earns he'll be able to maybe buy one in fifteen or twenty years, but he counts on the good will of his parents, once he convinces Mom they're not death traps.
Nate divides his time between school, basketball practice, debate team, student council, school newspaper, and the volunteer work at the local community center, because Nate is a fucking robot who has one of those energizer bunnies batteries stuck up his ass and doesn't know when to stop and relax.
It's a good thing he has Brad, who drags him out of the house on Saturday afternoons, when Nate insists he should study, and makes him go to the movies and see something where stuff explodes a lot, or insists Nate comes over and plays computer games in which stuff explodes, or just helps Brad with his experiments, occasionally with stuff that explodes but mostly with computers and other contraptions.
"Are you building a robot?" Nate asks suspiciously one day, eyeing something electronic that looks like a head, propped up on Brad's desk.
"Why would I? I have you," Brad says around the wire he holds between his teeth. Nate reaches out and half-heartedly swats at him.
Sometime after Christmas, Nate starts dividing his time between school, basketball practice, shitload of other things, and Madison.
Brad has nothing against Madison; she's on the debate team with Nate, has calculus with both of them, has curly blonde hair and a gap between her front teeth that is more adorable than not, and she doesn't talk in a high-pitched voice, toss her hair, or pretend to be less smart than she is. So, Brad's fine with Madison and the fact of her existence, he'd just prefer if her presence didn't infringe on his time with Nate and didn't influence the movie choices when they go out as a group.
"Madison wanted me to check if she pissed you off with something," Nate tells him one Thursday afternoon, when the meeting of the student council has been cancelled and they're using the time shooting hoops on Brad's driveway.
Brad shrugs. "No idea what she means."
"Alright," Nate nodds and easily steals the ball away from Brad, steps back and dribbles it absently. "To be fair, though, you spoke maybe two words to her yesterday."
"Jesus fuck, Nate, if I wanted to be having conversations like this, I'd find a girlfriend myself."
Nate laughs and attempts to toss the ball over Brad's head, but Brad hasn't grown two inches in the last couple of months for nothing. "Pick one and break the hearts of the rest of the school? That would be interesting."
Brad rolls his eyes at him and lands a perfect toss. "For a given value of interesting, sure. Tell Madison we're fine. I'll even talk to her about weather or some shit, and fulfill my social obligations."
"Don't strain yourself on my behalf, Colbert," Nate says and pats him on the back. Brad's not sure why he wants to shake his hand off.
The summer after their freshman year is the first one they spend apart. Nate gets into some kind of special project thing, for the future leaders of America or the X-men, Brad's not quite sure because he tunes it out the moment Nate tells him.
Well, fine, he doesn't, but he can pretend all he wants that he does, can change the subject and act like he doesn't care at all. Nate lets him get away with it and in turn pretends it doesn't bother him. They don't argue, not at all, but the conversations for the few weeks before Nate leaves are strained and stilted, over before they begin or on subjects neither of them cares about.
"I swear, you need couples therapy," Rachel tells Brad after a mere week of witnessing it when she comes back from college.
Brad raises his eyebrows at her. "I'm sorry, I don't take advice from people who are clearly incapable of doing laundry for themselves."
She brought two sacks of laundry home. Brad wonders if maybe Berkeley spend all the laundromat money on women's studies courses or whatever the fuck. It would make some sort of sense, he supposes.
The evening before he's due to leave, Nate comes by and they watch Die Hard and eat pizza. Brad's still pissed, a little, that Nate would just leave him like that, break their summer tradition, but at the same time, he's pissed at himself for wanting that, for acting like this is about him and not Nate's future.
Even Die Hard doesn't seem as awesome as usual.
"I should go, early morning," Nate offers and Brad nods, turns off the tv on the credits and walks him outside. On the porch, Nate hesitates.
"Try not to take over the world ahead of schedule," Brad tells him. "And for fuck's sake, have some fun, it's holidays," he adds dryly.
Nate nods and steps forward, pulls Brad into a hug just this side of awkward. Brad's not sure what to do, he stays still for a moment and then lets his hands fall to Nate's back.
"Take care, Brad," Nate tells him and gets on his bike, rides away into the darkened street. Brad doesn't watch him, just turns and walks back inside the house. If he leans against the doors for a moment and sighs, well, it's between him and the doors.
"Brad, phone," his Grandma yells and Brad doesn't move from under the car, just waves at her.
"I'll call back."
"It's Nate," she says and thankfully doesn't laugh when he scrambles out and hits his head in the process. Well, she smiles and pats his cheek, and this could be worse. She hands him the cordless and disappears back in the house and Brad breathes out and runs a hand through his hair, pushing them back, before he says anything.
"How's the evil overlord camp? Learned how to pick your guards yet? Remember, they need to be stupid enough not to try and take over but smart enough not to be fooled by an average five years old."
"I'll keep that in mind. How are you?"
"You could also invest in a moat. And sharks."
Nate sighs, but if Brad's not mistaken, he's smiling. "Cut the crap, Colbert, I don't have much time. You know the amount of bribery involved in getting a second phonecall?"
"Unless the first was to your lawyer, I'm offended. And fair warning, I'm not sending you a ladder baked into a cake."
"Your grandma has that covered and I'm getting pie. Brad, seriously, how are things? I've heard some worrying stories. Broken legs and all."
"Jeez, everyone should just fucking chill. It was just a sprained ankle."
"And you kept climbing."
"Hiking. You've clearly heard the exaggerated version."
"No, I've heard the right one. I've exaggerated it myself to get you to fess up to the real one."
Brad feels a smile pushing its way out into his face. "Clearly, the evil overlord camp is training you well. You left an apprentice and soon you'll be the master."
"Only the master of evil," Nate finishes, laughing. "That's not exactly what I'm going for. So, you're really fine?"
"Yeah," he says, giving in. "Hurt like a motherfucker for a while but I'm fine." He hadn't admitted that much to his mother. Then again, his mother would make a fuss and Nate just goes quiet for a long moment, then his voice is calm and steady.
"See that you are," he says, and it sounds a little like an order. "Take it easy, alright?"
Brad wants to tell him to stop being a mother hen and go back to his telekinesis class or whatever they're doing, but he finds himself nodding instead. "Okay. You, too."
"How much trouble can I get into at the evil overlord camp? Even the sharks are training sharks only and have teeth made out of styrofoam."
"Safety first," Brad agrees.
Sophomore year Brad gets his driver's licence, his first car, first handjob, first blowjob, and first girlfriend. Not in that order, of course.
His car is old and rusty and makes strange noises, but it has a decent leg room and has to last him only until he buys a bike. He doesn't discuss the handjobs and blowjobs because he might not be a gentleman but he doesn't tell either. Kissing's fine. The girl... her name is Julie, she works at a computer cafe on the weeekends and always carries screwdrivers in her bag. Brad seriously appreciates that in a person.
Nate breaks up with Madison sometime around Halloween and Dawn's party, but the circumstances are unclear. They're still friends, albeit awkwardly. Can't say that for Nate and Julie, even though they have the awkward part down perfectly.
At first, Brad thinks it's the same thing it was with him and Madison, that Nate is worried that Brad spending time with Julie, making out on the couch or talking about why no one sane would buy a Macintosh, would take time from them, from Brad-and-Nate. Except that Nate has even less time for Brad than Brad has for him, between the three classes they have together and the practice and the games they almost don't see each other.
Well, apart from lunch, when Nate steals his fries and Brad draws crude scenes at the margins of whatever book or folder Nate's carrying this time.
The point is, Nate seems to be bothered by Julie in a way that Brad wasn't about Madison. Nate, who likes everyone and is adored pretty much universally, achieves new levels of passive-aggressive bitchiness around Julie.
It's almost hilarious except it puzzles the fuck out of Brad.
"What's your deal with Julie?" Brad asks him finally, when he's driving Nate home after practice, after Ferrando pushed them past the reasonable point and well into insanity, and Nate said that he'd rather sleep in the locker room than try to make his legs work on the bike.
"I don't have a deal with Julie."
Brad snorts. "Pull the other one, it has motherfucking bells on. Not that I don't appreciate the reminder that Nathaniel Fick can be a prissy little bitch when he wants to, it's always entertaining as all hell, I'd just like some explanation to go with it."
Nate sighs and looks at the houses they pass for long enough that Brad thinks he's not going to say anything, and prepares himself to poke him in the side. "She's not g..." Nate starts and stops almost immediately, shakes his head and bites his lip. "No, you're right. I'm just being an asshole, sorry."
"Well, you are an asshole, asshole, but I don't mind. What you are being is weird."
"Noted," Nate nods and that's that. Next day at lunch he gets Julie a soda when he gets one for Brad and himself and doesn't roll his eyes when Julie talks about some band. Instead, he asks leading questions and fakes interest so well Brad is hard-pressed to see the signs of lying.
"If you keep this up, I'm gonna think you're falling back on your old career plans and prepping yourself for a life in politics."
Nate smiles at him brilliantly. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he says, teeth flashing, holding the fake smile until he laughs genuinely. "Besides, if I do, you're getting pulled into that shit right with me, remember, you're my Vice-President."
"I hear the pay is good," Brad agrees.
Brad breaks up with Julie at the end of the school year. They have an argument that starts from basically nothing and ends with Brad stopping mid-sentence, clenching his jaw and walking away, leaving his car in the parking lot because even he isn't crazy enough to drive this angry.
Nate steals a bottle of whiskey from his father's cabinet and they get really drunk for the first time ever, sitting on Brad's room floor. It's one for the bucket list.
"She wasn't good enough for you," Nate says quietly at some point, so quietly Brad isn't sure he spoke at all, at first.
Brad shakes his head. "Got this the other way around. Not good enough for her," he offers and takes a swing out of the bottle. It burns his throat, but by the time it gets to his stomach, the burning sensation's not bad.
Nate shifts, sits on his heels and looks at Brad seriously. "Brad, no," he says, his voice sure. Brad thinks he could almost believe it, because Nate's telling him so.
"Yeah, see, you're my best friend. Is your job to say that."
"True," Nate admits. "But as your best friend I also wouldn't lie to you." He seems like he wants to say something else but he rethinks it and reaches for the bottle, taking it out of Brad's hand and taking a swing, his lips wrapped around the neck of it. It takes a long moment and he doesn't even cough like Brad can't help doing after every drink out of it. It's sort of impressive.
"You may not be in the possession of all facts," Brad points out and Nate shrugs. His face is slightly flushed already.
"Maybe," Nate allows, his voice soft, like he's humoring Brad. "So," he adds, shifting back to his former sprawled position, back against the bed and his shoulder brushing against Brad's. "You were in love with her?"
Brad's not quite sure the past tense applies yet. He's not quite sure love the right noun. He's not quite fucking sure what's next. "Yeah," he says and Nate takes it and doesn't ask anything else, and they just sit like that, with an occasional swing from the bottle, until Brad falls asleep.
Few days before the start of summer holidays Nate asks if it's possible he could tag along with Brad to his grandparents this year.
Brad stares at him for a very long moment, enough time for Nate to start saying he just wanted to ask but it's fine if Brad doesn't want him there. It's enough for Brad to swat the back of his head.
"You're such a spazz, Fick," he mutters. "Grandma asked if you were coming about seventeen times now. Don't make me disappoint her. It's sad, but I think she likes you more than she likes me."
"Doesn't everyone?" Nate asks but he looks ridiculously pleased.
"So what, the evil overlord camp doesn't want you this year? Too evil or not evil enough?"
Nate shrugs. "I'll get back to you on that, the jury's still out."
Brad's grandmother is indeed ridiculously fond of Nate. She makes him sit in the kitchen, eat pie, and tell her everything that was going on with him since the last time she saw him, and with two years of that, Nate's gonna be stuck for a while.
Brad refuses to understand Nate's pleading expression and leaves him there. It's not quite in revenge for the last year and the evil overlords camp, but maybe next time Nate will think twice before leaving Brad for the entire summer.
At the end of the month Grandpa presents Brad with the keys to the car, the one he's been working on for pretty much ever, for as long as Brad remembers. "I know you wanted a bike, but this will get you everywhere for a while," he says with a shrug and Brad hugs him for a long time, even though like Brad, Grandpa Jim doesn't do open affection very well or very often.
"And it's safer," Grandma adds pointedly and from the look on Nate's face, she's not the only one approving of that.
"Don't even," Brad warns Nate, who crosses his arms in the perfect mirror of Grandma's pose and Brad wants to laugh, bites his lip to hold it back.
"Come on, Colbert, give me a ride," Nate demands. He's not the only one, and the first trip Brad makes in his new car is driving Grandma to the grocery shop, while she tells him to please slow down every three minutes. Nate is laughing in the backseat and trying to pretend he isn't.
Brad is kind of stupidly in love with his car already, so he doesn't mind.
Brad gets back with Julie in January. Well, on New Year's Eve, to be exact. They make out at Samantha's party and it kind of goes from there. Julie apologises for a few things and so does Brad, not for all of them, but that's compromise for you.
Her parents are out of town and next day Brad stays over. It's good. It's great, in fact.
He's not quite sure why it happens, he realises Julie could do much better. She has plans, grand plans that mean she knows exactly what she wants to do, who she wants to be. She has her future mapped out, colleges and careers and Brad can't quite pinpoint where he fits in those.
Julie's a bit like Nate in that. Focused and driven and heading for something great. Brad knows it's not coincidence he's drawn to both. It's really kind of weird they don't like each other.
"You're thinking too much again," Julie tells him, her eyes still closed. Brad tries to smile and kisses her shoulder.
Next day it turns out that maybe he doesn't think enough, because somehow he manages to forget to tell Nate about Julie and when they meet in front of the cinema and he's holding Julie's hand and Nate's holding two tickets, well, okay, Brad is an idiot, but that's been previously established.
Nate looks between them and then smiles at Julie, nice and polite. "He's going to forget all the anniversaries, get ready for that," he tells her, best friend to girlfriend, with a mocking look at Brad. If Brad didn't know him he'd miss the fact that Nate is pretty fucking pissed. "Here," he hands Brad the tickets. "They're sold out now, so I suppose it's the two of you and I don't have an excuse to procrastinate and put off my reading list for any longer. Have fun."
"Nate, you don't have to," Julie says at the same moment as Brad says "Nate, come on."
Nate shakes his head. "Seriously, I don't mind," he insists and nods at them before turning on his heel and walking away.
"Could have gone better," Julie mutters, squeezing Brad's hand. It's sort of an understatement.
Next day Brad waits in front of Nate's doors to be invited in instead of just letting himself in. "Fucked that up," he offers as a greeting.
Nate nods. "Could have gone better," he agrees and Brad wants to say 'funny, that's what she said' but he's not that stupid. "Brad, I don't need a fucking newsletter on your life," he says, dismissive, but there's hurt underneath and Brad knows that if the roles were reversed he'd be a lot less understanding about the whole thing. That's Nate, though.
"I'll cancel your subscription," he says and Nate nods, moves away to let him through. Brad pauses when they're a few inches apart. "The cinema thing was shitty, though."
"Yes, it was," Nate says, a genuine smile hiding in the corner of his mouth, before it melts away and Nate looks up seriously. "If she breaks your heart again..."
"If, then I'm not getting you any more whiskey. You're gonna have to deal with cheap beer."
Grandpa Jim dies in April.
They say it was peaceful and painless, and that he died in his sleep. Brad's not quite sure he believes them.
His sister picks him up from school, comes to get him in the middle of English. She nods at Nate and her lips move like she wants to say something but doesn't.
Nate's at their house as soon as the classes end, looking a right mess, like he run all the way. He hasn't picked his new car yet and Brad was giving him rides for the entire week. He forgot, should have warned Nate, or someone.
"Sorry," he tells Nate, who just stares at him and shakes his head, steps forward and puts his arms around Brad, holds for long enough that Brad relaxes and lets his head drop to Nate's shoulder.
They walk outside later, after a long while, Brad's not sure how long. He needs fresh air. When they sit in Brad's car, Grandpa's car, Brad rolls down the windows and doesn't move for a long while. Nate leans back in his seat, his eyes half-closed. They don't say a word for hours and Nate doesn't seem to mind.
Brad falls asleep at some point.
He's not sure who carried him back inside, Nate or his father or both of them, but he wakes up in his bed, shoes off but the rest of the clothes still on, and walks downstairs unsure of his footing. Nate's at the kitchen table, mixing the pancakes batter for Brad's mother, talking to her in a quiet voice.
"Hey. I hope you don't mind, I asked your mom if I can go to the funeral with you."
"I think he'd like that," Brad's mom says and Brad's not sure whom she means, Brad or his Grandpa. Both are true, so it probably doesn't matter.
"Grandma will be happy to see you," Brad adds and stumbles over his own words. "Well, not happy. I mean... not...."
"I know," Nate nods. Brad figured he would.
They spend the day in Brad's room, watching some old movie Brad can't even figure out the plot of. It's black and white and it's something about a musical. Or Nazis. Brad falls asleep again, in the afternoon. He needs to stop doing that, he's not a fucking child.
Nate's writing something in his notebook when he wakes up. Of course. He looks up at Brad and tilts his head. "I called Steve and had him pick up the notes from our classes, drop them on his way home. I'm making copies for you," he adds and hesitates for a moment. "I called Julie, too, she was worried. She has practice till five but she's gonna come over later."
Brad wants to say that it must be serious, if Nate's calling Julie out of his own free will, but he can't even open his mouth. He tries, but a hoarse 'thanks' is all that comes out. There's something about what Nate said that demands his attention but he's not quite sure and he's too tired, despite all the sleep or because of it, to try and think about it.
Nate tosses his notebook onto Brad's table and moves back onto the bed, lying down side by side with Brad. Brad turns his head and hides his face in the sleeve of Nate's shirt. "Thanks," he repeats and Nate shifts slightly, so that he can reach out and press his hand to the back of Brad's head.