Fandom: Generation Kill
Characters/Pairings: Nate/Brad, also Ray/Walt
Wordcount: 3262 for this part
Disclaimer: Based on fictionalised portrayals as seen on the HBO miniseries.
A/N: NaNoWriMo fic, three. Part one: hell, part two: heaven.
It starts with a choice. Doesn't everything?
(Well, not everything. An avalanche doesn't weigh pros and cons, a star doesn't choose to explode. Some people would believe that those things happen because God decided they would, but God doesn't really take interest in such things most of the time.)
But the matters of mortals, of demons and even, yes, of angels, they come down to these moments. Right or left, yes or no, leave or stay.
A series of choices leads you to the crossroads on which you sell your soul. It's not an impulse, not a quick decision. You have to look, find the truth in the stories, discover the right way. Gather all the necessary items. Make the choice to bleed.
Where do you turn in your darkest hour? Where do you look for the shreds of hope? What choices do you make? Do you wish or pray or hope or do you take the matters into your own hands?
Brad knows he made the choice on his own. If it wasn't Nate who bought his soul it would have been some other demon. Maybe that other demon wouldn't give him twenty two lives, one soul isn't worth that much.
Except, apparently, to Nate.
Souls are commodity, they are currency. They change hands, sometimes a dozen times over. If it's an important soul, it may stay in one demon's possession for a decade, maybe two.
Nate held on to it for a thousand years.
"Keep it," Brad tells him.
He doesn't miss it, not at all. For hundreds of years he never thought of it, not really. Twenty years ago he walked on Nate not because Nate was the one to take his soul, but because Nate never told him and that hurt a little too much, with an echo of something he didn't quite remember.
He does remember now, the memories of his human life have been slowly drifting back in, ever since he remembered the crossroads. He remembers Anna and her warm smile. He remembers being happy, even if it's disconnected from any feelings he has now.
He also remembers the secrets. Anna's smile turning worried and uncertain around him, even though she seemed... happy. Radiant, glowing even, if you're one for cliches. She started showing before she worked up the courage to tell Brad. She was happy to have a child.
She was with a child, and she and Brad had never...
He remembers that but it feels like it had happened to someone else. He can't feel angry about that. (Except that Nate keeping a secret for so long has resonated in his bones, recalled something his mind couldn't convey, couldn't understand.)
He made a choice at the crossroads. Everyone does. A lifetime of choices, all leading up to this, little ones and big ones, everything a steady count-down, a build-up, a crescendo that culminates here, in the dirt, blood trickling down your fingers as you look up and make the wish. Make the choice.
It's not a risk, not really. You'd think that, your heart breathing like a drum, veins filling with fear and uncertainty, but you're not risking anything, you're giving it away. You can't lose your soul, you know exactly where it's going. The only question is, what price will the demon pay for it, and whether it'll be worth it.
When the subject comes up, demons who started like this often disagree. Ray would say he's been screwed at the crossroads and many would agree. Brad would always say it was more than worth it, except that he wouldn't say it to anyone. He might have admitted it when Nate asked, but that was it.
Back then, it didn't really seem like a choice, to be honest. Felt like the right thing to do, like the only thing to do. It was in his power and he has failed his men enough. Anna's baby needed a father, the men's wives needed their husbands. They all had wives or girls waiting for them, all had mothers and sisters and younger brothers waiting for their guidance. They had sons and daughters.
Brad had his soul and it was his to give away.
"Keep it," he tells Nate and it's not a choice this time. He doesn't see any alternatives. It's Nate's. What use would Brad have for it? A demon with his own soul, there must be laws and regulations against this sort of shit. What would a demon become, if he had a soul?
"Keep it," he says, and it's a risk. A huge fucking risk he's taking, his heart beating like a drum and his hands shaking. His hands never shook when he was human, but Nate sometimes reduces him to this, to a tangled mess of emotions and need and uncertainty and want so deep he can't see the end of it.
"Keep it," he says, because he's made a choice a long time ago. He's made a deal and he'll honor it. It's Nate's.
"Keep it," he says, because it's Nate's, already and always.
Everyone works the crossroads gig at one point or another. It's sort of a rite of passage, except not as fun as most rites of passage.
There's no fucking involved, for one.
Sure, you get a kiss, but most of the time there's no tongue at all, and the client is half-scared to death and half-out of his or her mind, so it's not fun for any of the parties involved.
Ray kind of likes it anyway.
Not the kissing, that's rather lame and only done because it's traditional and shit, and demons can be worse pussy fundamentalists than angel boys, and you know something is seriously wrong with that shit.
Ray kind of likes it because there's no end to the hilarious reasons people would hand their soul over for. Sure, there's love, there's getting quality pussy or quality dick and that Ray respects and doesn't point his fingers at and doesn't laugh too much. There's the whole martyrdom shtick, and it's boring as fuck but understandable, and sometimes connected to love and sometimes even connected to getting quality pussy and/or dick.
But there are some other, lame-ass retarded reasons. Fame, fortune, a record deal, as if your soul was worth becoming the next teen pop sensation and getting your own little clothes line with glitter and in such colors you'd think a unicorn shat rainbow on it. One idiot sold his soul for a fucking car, and it was a shitty car, too. Looked like a penis, though, so there you were.
People (well, demons) sometimes ask Ray what he got for his soul. Ray strikes a pose, like one of those romantics (not those who believe in true love and long walks on the beach, but like those assholes who did opium and composed weird-ass poems back in the day) and procclaims he did that for freedom and truth and justice.
Well, one of a three ain't that bad.
Brad, the motherfucker that he was, once got the story out of him, mostly by feigning disinterest and telling Ray to shut up and go sell his bullshit someplace they wanted it. (Ray didn't point out that the only reason Brad wouldn't want any bullshit was because he was fully stocked in it. He might point it out any other time, but it was 1987 and Brad was all weepy over Nathaniel and riling him up ended in Brad throwing a hissy fit and disappearing for a few months or a year or whatever the fuck.)
So, the story went sort of like this: Ray has been framed for crimes he didn't commit. He might have committed some of them, he added after a beat, when Brad peered at him from over his scotch. But those he did commit were all in the name of justice and the government was evil and corrupted.
(Brad doesn't believe him, but there's a bunch of textbooks that do. He's a footnote to history, not one of the great heroes, but there's a statue of him in a small town somewhere. The plaque has his real name on it, though, and so he doesn't take Brad to see it.)
And yeah, it's true, he joined the cause for a trim. There was this girl and she had ideals and her cheeks were flushed when she talked of courage and sacrifice, and she was so fucking pretty Ray couldn't think straight. So, sure, his motives were as pure as a filthy handful of yellow snow, but shit, he stayed because they were right.
So, to recap. Pussy, joined the cause, fought the good fight, got caught, got framed for a few crimes he didn't commit and accused of a few he did commit and they had witnesses and shit. Run away from the guards escorting him to his execution, found a handy crossroads, did a dark and blasphemous ritual to summon a demon, as you did.
Sold his soul for ten years and a full pardon.
The girl joined a nunnery.
Ray felt understandably betrayed, a little pissed, and too sober. He found a good bar and a good whore and the next ten years were a little of a blur. Good times, though. He still thinks his soul was worth more than this shit. Should have asked to become the king of France.
Well, maybe not the king of France, considering.
But, back to the point, Ray likes the crossroads gig. It's sort of fitting that he'll be the one to make the most important deal in history.
It won't be about a car or fame or glory. Won't be about pussy or dick. Won't be about love, not really. It will be the one deal Ray won't be able to ridicule, even though he'll try to. It'll be the only deal he won't want to take.
"Just get on with it," Walt will say and Ray won't know what to do, he'll lean in and his fingers will flex in Walt's shirt, his hands clammy and his lips dry, tight. "You can do better," Walt will mutter and slip him some tongue.
It'll be the last time Ray will come to a crossroads.
Amy is eighteen when she drives to the crossroads. She will be twenty eight when she'll drive here again. She won't think of running away, won't think of going back on the deal. A deal is a deal and she will get all she wanted, and it will be worth it.
Her brother will be more than worth it, all of sixteen when she'll make her second trip to the crossroads.
All of six years old when he died.
She's eighteen and crying when she's driving. It's a good thing the road is empty, no one out at this time of the night, in this cold. There's no snow yet, but a promise of it hangs in the air. The car bumps on every hole in the road, the old clunker that used to be her mother's and that she got for her sixteenth birthday.
She leaves the keys in the ignition when she gets out to kneel at the crossroads, the lights of the car iluminating the ground she digs in. Her fingers are numb and dirty, her skirt tangles between her legs, her hair falls over her red and swollen face.
Tears fall to the ground but she doesn't stop digging. Dig a hole in the ground, in that hole place the animal bones and a strand of hair. She dug out Snowflake's bones for this, didn't have time to think where else she could find the bones at this hour, fast enough.
They buried Snowflake last fall, in an old shoebox, she dug the hole and her brother held the box and read an eulogy he wrote himself, on a back of some old letter, with crayons. Mother didn't let them put a cross to mark the spot, but Amy found a large rock, smooth and light gray, and they placed it there.
She can't see the ground now, can't see as far as her hands, for the tears filling up her eyes, hot and stinging. She fishes the knife out of her pocket blindly and cuts through her palm, lets the blood drip onto the ground.
"Please," she says out loud. "Please, please, please."
Please let him live. Please bring him back. Please, erase this day, all the tears, her mother's stricken face, gray like ash, gray like stone. Please.
"That's what you want?" the demon asks, towering over her. He looks... almost kind. Calm, steadying her when he pulls her up to her feet. His eyes are blue, serious. Searching. Understanding, like he knows, except how could he, he's a demon.
It's her fault. All he wanted was to climb the tree, see better. He had climbed that tree before, just a few times, when Uncle James was watching him. He was alright, he climbed that tree before. And he was whining a little, impatient, and Amy had other things to do, more important things, she thought. "Fine," she snapped and let go of his hand. "Go."
She snapped at him, she never snapped at him. He was a polite child, full of energy and always bouncing around, but sweet. She snapped, this once, because they all had a busy day and she was tired and there were still things to do.
She turned away just for a moment.
"It doesn't sound very fair," the demon says and she shrugs. Her bones crack when she does, a quiet sound but loud to her ear. She'll always remember the sound, for years.
For ten years, to be exact, and then she won't remember it.
Her second trip to the crossroads is calmer. Her car is a better one, her hair is neatly tied and she's not crying, not at all.
She saw her brother last night, came home unexpectedly. She's been planning it for weeks but wasn't sure she should. Drove all day, radio turned up so she wouldn't have to think, and made it in time for dinner.
She dodged the questions easily and listened to his stories, about school and the trouble he was up to with his friends, and about that one girl from his English class. She felt old listening to him, overwhelmed by his excitment but not less grateful for it.
God, she felt old and she was just twenty eight and she was going to die the next day.
"I love you," she told him and he looked at her like she was crazy.
"Yeah. You too, sis," he said finally, slow like he still wasn't sure what she was on, but earnest and warm. "Hey, are you staying for long? Can I borrow your car tomorrow?"
She laughed. "Yes. Sure you can."
He borrows it to take the girl to the cinema and comes back flushed and happy, with pale pink lipstick smudge on his cheek. "Thanks," he says, tossing Amy the keys.
She catches them easily. "You're welcome," she says and gets in. "Just an errand," she says.
The crossroads looks the same, she could find it in her sleep. She made her way here in many of her dreams, in many of her nightmares. Now, she's not afraid, she's certain.
"Was it all that you wanted?" the demon asks and she nods.
"It's more than enough," she tells him. "He's happy. He's alive," she adds and shrugs, her bones cracking when she does. "But I wouldn't expect you to understand."
The demon looks at the ground, at the dirt in the road. "No, I don't think you would," he agrees.
The demon reaches out, his hand gently cupping her face. "It won't hurt."
"I don't care."
He nods. "I wouldn't expect you to," he agrees with a slight smile, a strange smile. "You're not worried or afraid of anything, except for one thing."
"He's the only one..." she stops. They haven't been close for years, she was too afraid she'd fuck something up again, hurt him somehow. But her brother was the only one who counted for the last ten years, he had to be. She couldn't leave anyone behind, couldn't make anyone promises she wouldn't be able to keep.
Her mother despaired she'd grow old alone but there was no fear of that, really.
The demon nods. "I'll look after him."
Somehow... Somehow she believes him. It's funny, bordering on idiotic, to believe a demon, to trust a demon like that, but she looks in his blue eyes, clear and kind and filled with understanding and thinks that yes, she trusts him with Walt.
"You better," she nods and rises to her tiptoes to kiss him, closing her eyes for the last time.
"Humanity," Ray shakes his head, clearly disgusted. "Why the fuck does it have to be humanity? Most of the time they're running around, figuring out if an encountered object is something to eat, run away from, or have sex with. What the fuck do they know about saving the world?"
"It's their world," Nate points out, not unkindly.
Brad snorts and turns to Ray. "Weren't you human a mere few hundred years ago?"
"Fuck off, Brad," Ray tells him. "And also, weren't you? Most of us didn't just appear one day like we fell from the sky," he says with a glance at Nate.
If he thought he'd get any kind of reaction, he was mistaken. Nate sits still, thoughtful.
Brad doesn't pretend not to be watching him. He's a little tired of pretending anything, doesn't need it. The secrets between them, he hopes, are all gone, and it feels like they're building something anew amongst ruins. It feels tentative and uncertain, like a house of cards, except that there's scaffolding that's made of steel.
"In any case, it's a needle in a fucking haystack, and guess what the needle is made of?" Ray asks. It sounds a little rhetorical. "Fucking hay!" he finishes and Brad was right about rhetorical.
He does have a point, though.
They are fucking demons, if anyone knows the dark side of human nature, it's them. The evil people are capable of, they've seen it all. Things hell wouldn't have even dreamed of.
They see love, they see sacrifice, but guess what, all of the ones they see show something like this, they're all dead or they have signed their souls away.
It's a haystack, but it's a thin cover of hay covering a shitload of manure. Good luck finding the needle.
"I might know a guy," someone says, and after a moment Brad realises it was him.
"Yes?" Nate prompts.
"Nevermind. It was a bad idea."
He has promised his sister he'll look after the boy and he has, dropping by every year or so, making sure the kid was alive and well and not terribly unhappy.
He has promised his sister he'll look after the boy. Dragging him into the whole apocalypse business was probably exactly the opposite.
"You want to protect him," Nate says, like he understands. Fuck, he probably does, better than anyone, Brad thinks. "Wouldn't you rather have him make his own choice?"
Sometimes, Brad thinks, sometimes he kind of hates Nate. In a way that tears at his heart and makes him want to crawl inside of Nate somehow...
Maybe he shouldn't call it hate.
"Damn you," he mutters.
Nate smiles beatificaly. "We're all stocked up in eternal damnation here," he says. His hand strays to Brad's wrist and presses against the inside of it, comforting. Brad closes his eyes.
Doesn't look like they have much of a choice.