Fandom: Generation Kill
Characters/Pairings: Nate/Brad, also Ray/Walt
Wordcount: 7575 for this part
Disclaimer: Based on fictionalised portrayals as seen on the HBO miniseries.
A/N: NaNoWriMo fic. Previous parts: hell, heaven, crossroads
It starts when they find his sister's body at a crossroads, two miles from their home.
(It starts earlier than that. Walt will never quite understand how earlier, but maybe for him it started with a recurring dream, a haunting dream that was always a nightmare but not quite, unsettling and strange. He dreams of climbing a tree, which was and wasn't the tree in their garden, the one that has been chopped down when he was seven. His foot slips on a wet branch and he's falling, falling for a long time, Amy's scream almost defeaning but at the same time so distant. He wakes up, always, with his bones aching and his mouth dry like ash.)
The coroner judges it a heart attack. She was twenty-fucking-eight, Walt thinks, with no underlying condition, no history of heart problems in the family and a mostly healthy lifestyle. This shit shouldn't happen.
He's the one who drives to identify the body. Mom doesn't feel well enough, she's having one of the bad days. In more ways than one, Walt thinks darkly. She tries to tell him she's strong enough to go, but her head is spinning when she tries to stand, there's no way she's driving, and there's no way she's going.
Amy looks peaceful in death.
People always say that and it's a load of bullcrap, but Walt can't help thinking that that's exactly how she looks. Content.
Her funeral is on a Thursday, and it seems like it would rain for the entire day, the heavy gray clouds hanging overhead, but it never does, the wind dispersing them in the evening. Mom feels better physically and much worse mentally; she makes it to the funeral but doesn't come down for the wake.
Uncle James takes care of the most things, thanks the neighbours for the caserole dishes and makes sure they won't bother Mom too much, but in exchange for that it's Walt who has to shake hands and withstand the condolences. He hides in the kitchen for the last two hours and makes sure there's enough ice for the ice tea.
The kitchen windows overlook the back garden. They used to mostly look out at the old tree, but that was a long time ago. Mrs. Sanders is sitting on the back steps with her youngest granddaughter, they must have gone out to get some fresh air. It's rather hot in the house with all the people in. Sandy Sanders (a rather unfortunate name, Walt always thought, but it's kind of adorable on the girl, with her blonde locks and bright eyes) is playing with a plastic ball, bouncing it on the lowest step. She fails it to catch it and it rolls away down the path, stopping by the foot of a tall man Walt doesn't recognize.
Must be one of Amy's collegues from work, although he doesn't look like an accountant at all.
He doesn't look like he wants to come in at all, doesn't seem like he wants to talk to anyone, and maybe that's why Walt seeks him out. He's had enough people telling him today that they're there for him whenever he needs anything, whenever he needs to talk.
The man clearly notices his approach but doesn't even look at Walt before he comes to a stop near the guy. For all the world he looks like he's about to turn on his heel any moment now and walk away.
"There's pie inside," Walt tells him, looking up. He has to look way up, the guy is fucking tall.
"Not here for the pie," he says dryly, then seems to think for a moment. "What kind of pie is that?"
Walt almost smiles, the corner of his mouth twitching a little as he tries to contain it. "Cherry, most of it." It's like they all made arrangements and there are four cherry pies and only one cheesecake and it's mostly gone anyway.
"I'll pass," the man says.
"Did you work together with Amy?" Walt asks and gets a slightly weird look, uncertain.
"We've done business together," he allows. It's not the whole story. Walt might be young, as people keep on telling him, but he's not an idiot. "I should be going. Take care of yourself, Walt," he says, and somehow, it doesn't sound like a platitude, it sounds like an order.
"Hey, what's your name anyway," Walt asks when the guy steps away, half-turned. He looks at Walt over his shoulder.
"Doesn't matter, not like we'll be meeting again," he says briskly.
"Still, some manners would be nice, if you come to my sister's funeral," Walt points out. He sounds petulant to his own ears but he doesn't care.
"It's Brad," he says with a nod of his head, like he's conceding the point. "Take care," he repeats and walks away, doesn't look back again. Walt wonders at the quiet insistence in his voice, wonders for a moment what the fuck was this whole thing, who was this Brad and how did he really know Amy.
He forgets about the whole meeting soon enough, there are things to take care of and then there's life going on, as it goes. He forgets Brad and the whole conversation until three years later.
"Wartime military? Which part of 'take care of yourself' wasn't clear?" Brad asks, sliding into the booth at the coffee place without waiting for an invitation.
Walt stares at him for a long moment before it connects, before he remembers. "Brad? What are..." he starts and then shakes his head slightly. Not the point, not the point here at all. "None of your business."
Brad purses his lips, like he has an entirely different opinion on the matter, but he doesn't say anything. "When are you shipping out?" he asks instead.
Walt isn't sure how he finds himself roped into a few hours worth of a conversation with the guy. He's even less sure how he manages to have a few hours worth of a conversation with the guy and not learn anything about him at all, except that he likes Die Hard movies and drinks his coffee black.
It's not that he's beginning to think there was more to Brad's and Amy relationship than Brad lets on. Walt kind of figured that out three years ago, but he won't mention it until Brad decides to. Not his business anyway, but it's sort of nice to think that maybe Amy had a boyfriend. She was always working too much and never dated anyone, not that Walt can remember.
(He'll learn much later how wrong he was on that count. It's kind of funny, except not really.)
"I hate desert countries," Brad says, fishing into his pocket for a couple of bills, not even looking at them as he tosses them on the table. Walt glances down and shakes his head; the tip is something like five times the price of the coffees and pastries they had. Who does that?
"It's a good thing you're not the one enlisting, then," Walt tells him.
Brad nods, holding the doors for two girls entering the coffee shop as they walk out. "I guess my days of fighting are well over," he allows. There's something strange in his voice, some distant quality Walt can't quite pinpoint.
Gulf War, maybe, he thinks. The dislike of desert countries could be understandable. "Were you..." he starts.
"It was a long time ago," Brad cuts him off, not unkindly but firmly. "Take care of yourself, Walt," he says, echoing his own words from their first meeting, even if it takes a moment for Walt to place them. "Don't get yourself killed or we're gonna have words."
He says it seriously, like he means them. Like he means it literally, which, seriously.
"If I get myself killed you can give me the whole lecture, how about that?"
"Deal," Brad nods and reaches out to shake Walt's hand. Walt returns the handshake and then shakes his head all the way home.
Three years later, when they drive into the ambush on the bridge, he thinks he sees Brad out of the corner of his eye.
It's impossible. It's more than that, it's fucking ridiculous, but for the brief moment's he's fucking sure of that. Brad looks at him with something like annoyance and shakes his head and that's when Walt feels the piercing pain in his shoulder.
"I was kidding about that lecture, asshole," he mutters.
"Don't move," Doc tells him sharply. Walt must have blacked out for a while. Doc's prickly tone reminds him of Brad a little.
"No case-vac," he says and Doc jabs at his wound with something that fucking stings.
"Lieutenant's call. But I'm recommending it."
"Just take it, asshole," Brad mutters. It might be only in Walt's head. He might be a bit fucked on painkillers or whatever Doc has given him.
It's the last time he sees or hears Brad... Even if that's only in his head it might still count somehow. So, it's the last time for a long while, until Brad shows up on his doorstep and talks of the upcoming Apocalypse.
Somehow it seems fitting.
Brad was never quite sure why he kept tabs on Walt Hasser.
It wasn't quite an unusual situation. Sure, it wasn't run of the mill either, but deals like that did happen from time to time, a soul for a life, a soul for someone else's happiness. Brad has done it, others have too, and Brad has made that deal with them. He never felt like hanging around their loved ones.
Amy Hasser reminded him of something, of someone. For a moment or for a few years he thought it was maybe himself, younger and braver and stupidly reckless, the same desperation driving them to the crossroads. But it wasn't that, he has come to realise once he remembered his own life, analysed it coldly from the distance of the hundreds of years.
He can catalogue his feelings from his human life. Not quite remember them but know them, as facts and not as feeling themselves. It was love, yes, for Anna, but most of all, it was duty to his men. Amy was brought there by love, yes, but also by guilt. Guilt so deep it must have reached her bones, guilt so deep it would have made her life unbearable.
She carried an echo of it through her ten years anyway, but she had made amends at the crossroads. She sold her soul for her brother's life, but also for her own absolution, for her own redemption.
She reminded him of himself, maybe, but most of all she reminded him of Nate, who seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders somehow, whose guilt for sins not committed was etched into his bones.
And then there was the kid himself, Walt.
Brad went to the wake because of Amy Hasser, because of the promise he made to her. He never expected to stay and talk to the boy. The boy, who was smart and uncertain and determined to take care of his mother and who should have a chance at a good life, considering what it has cost already.
Then, for some reason, he goes to the kid's high school graduation. His mother can't make it for health reasons and the Uncle is abroad, and well, someone should fucking be there, even if he stays at the sidelines and disappears before it's over.
Next year he makes the trip to see how Walt's doing in college, makes it in time to see the fallout of a break-up with his first really serious girlfriend, the kind you might plan your future with, the kind of a relationship that just about kills you when it inevitably ends. Good times.
And then Walt starts sniffing around the recruitment offices for the Marine Corps. Brad missed that, never seen that coming, didn't pay attention to the hints well enough. It's been the year 2000 and everyone was pretty damn busy, the turns of the millennia always were crowd pleasers downstairs, but that was no excuse for shitty reconnaissance.
Brad opposes the whole idea vehemently. And it's not just because he made a promise to a girl a few years back, no, it's because the idea of that kid getting shot at makes his stomach clench unpleasantly.
There are days he wants to find Nate and ask him if that's how he feels. If that's what he feels when he watches humans, because Nate might try and pretend, to everyone and himself, that he's indifferent to the lives he changes, one way or another, but he's anything but. He wants to ask Nate how he deals with the powerlessness at moments like this.
Then he remembers why he can't. Remembers why he's still angry at Nate. No, not angry, it doesn't quite feel like that anymore, the heat in his stomach is gone, leaving only a lukewarm disappointment in its wake.
The kid goes to Afghanistan and then to Iraq, to the places he's going to be shot at and where people will try to blow him up. Brad's pretty annoyed with that.
He hates desert countries, he wasn't lying about that. He spent four fucking decades in the desert once, a few hundred years ago, and he still feels like there's sand in uncomfortable places. And it was a different body he had then. He goes to Afghanistan anyway, every once in a while, to check on the kid. He goes to Iraq.
He's supposed to stand idly by as the things play out as they're bound to, but he alters the course of the bullet anyway. Not by much, not even by an inch. Walt still gets hit. Brad could have prevented that too, but he's selfish enough to want to spare himself more of this fuckery, selfish enough to want Walt back stateside, in a safer line of work.
He never fucking signed up for this. He blames Nate, Brad must have gotten this from him.
"Damn you," he mutters now, and Nate smiles at him beatifically.
"We're all stocked up in eternal damnation here," he says. His fingers press against Brad's pulse, always a surefire way of calming Brad down. "Come on," he adds after a long moment.
Ray for once doesn't say anything when Nate pulls Brad away into the balcony. It's Nate's old apartment, or maybe their old apartment, the London one, where they stayed for the few years back in the eighties, right before... well, back in the eighties. Brad leans against the railing, resting on his elbows and looking out at the city.
It's all familiar, but pleasantly so, comfortably so, like it hasn't been for a while.
Nate's hand rests on the small of his back briefly before he slides in next to Brad, their arms touching almost on the whole length. "We could find someone else."
Brad shakes his head. "Ray's right, it's like a giant haystack. Unless you can use some sort of a former angel's mojo and judge people's pure hearts and good intentions, we have to rely on those very few people we actually do know."
"He's a good kid," Brad offers, then corrects himself. "He's a good man."
Nate doesn't say anything to that, just moves his hand so it lays on top of Brad's, their index fingers aligned. Brad feels a tremor running down from his wrist, his skin itching at every point of contact, warming up.
"What do you think will happen to us, after?"
Nate shrugs. "Depends greatly on whether we succeed or fail."
"You actually think we might succeed? Interesting." Nate gives him a long look and Brad raises his eyebrows in return. He's not quite sure if he believes this entire venture might work. Maybe it's crazy that he takes part in it anyway, but there you are.
You do what needs to be done.
"If we succeed, I'm pretty sure we're done in hell. Or rather, hell will be done with us, and I gather they're quite creative in their punishments. If we fail..." he doesn't finish and he doesn't have to. If they fail, it won't matter.
Nothing will matter, because there will be no world for it to matter in.
He turns his hand under Nate's, palm up, their fingers lacing together. "What do you think will happen to us?"
"Provided it's not an eternity of torment in the deepest bowels of hell? I suppose that depends on you."
Brad nods. He'd prefer, sometimes, if Nate checked his fucking nobility. It might be a residual angel thing, you never know. Then again, maybe Brad isn't quite blameless in that regard.
And then again, the one time Nate has acted selfishly it took Brad twenty years to work through his anger and disappointment. And here they are now, and the anger is gone and Brad doesn't want to waste the time they have to feel disappointed.
"I can work with that," he offers. Questions flicker across Nate's face but he doesn't voice any of them, even if he has to bite on his lip, keeping them from spilling out. When Brad leans in for the kiss, he makes sure to lick across Nate's lower lip first, feel the mark under his tongue.
Nate's whole body relaxes into him immediately, unconditionally, his mouth opening with a sigh Brad it eager to swallow. God, he fucking missed this.
He might have said it out loud, whispered it against Nate's skin, because Nate tilts his head back, face flushed and eyes bright, so bright, and he looks at Brad. "Don't call out His name."
"I can't believe it's been hundreds of years and you are still hung up on the commandments shit," Brad mutters, shaking his head.
"It's not that," Nate says earnestly. "But it's just you and me. Not heaven or hell, not what we are or were, and..."
"Don't bring work home, honey?" Brad supplies and Nate laughs, startling himself, laughs honestly and openly. Brad has missed that for sure. "Come here," he says and pulls Nate in for another kiss.
Just them. He can more than work with that.
"An ex-Marine," Ray says, his tone somewhere between mortification and glee. "We're enlisting the help of an ex-Marine to help us avert the motherfucking Apocalypse. Tell me Brad, how many B-class movies have you seen in your existence and why hadn't Nathaniel stopped you?"
"Fuck off, Ray."
"In my defense, he watched most of them during the nineties, I wasn't exactly there to supervise," Nate offers lightly. His hand hovers over the small of Brad's back, fingers skimming over the waistband of Brad's jeans, touching his skin briefly under the shirt. He doesn't seem to even realise he's doing it, but it is as if he couldn't not be touching Brad in some way.
"How did you even come up with that guy?" Ray asks. "I am trying not to be offended here by the fact that you apparently spend your time with fucking mortals and not with your dear pal Ray-Ray."
"Mortals have this nice quality that they disappear after a few decades and I'm not ending up burdened with them for what already seems like an eternity. And I didn't come up with him anywhere, his sister bought his life at the crossroads."
It was worth divulging, to see the expression on Ray's face. "And you what, kept tabs on him? Brad, if you were lonely you could get a fucking puppy."
Brad doesn't dignify that with an answer.
Half an hour later, upon actually seeing Walt, Ray whistles low. "Okay homes, I see the point of keeping a close eye on that ass. It's not a B-Class movie anymore, with him as the leading man it's a bona fucking fide Hollywood blockbuster shit."
"Ray, focus," Nate says quietly. It has the effect of actually shutting Ray up, Nate has always been capable of that.
"I promised his sister to look after the kid," Brad says defensively. Ray squints at him but nods, wisely choosing not to ask why. He wouldn't be himself, however, if he didn't comment on something.
"I don't get that. I mean, she probably became a demon herself, I mean, most of the crossroads deals end up like us, right? Why can't she look after her little brother herself?"
"She wouldn't remember," Nate mutters. He raises his head to look at Brad even while he's addressing Ray, holding Brad's gaze steadily. "You can't remember, for the first few hundred years after your death. You can only remember, if you even want to, hundreds of years later, when everyone you knew is gone, when even the memory of you has died. Only then."
"This system is fucked," Ray announces.
"It works," Nate shrugs and his tone pretty much reiterates Ray's point. "Brad, would you like to go ahead and explain the situation a little first?"
"What, you don't want to drop the whole story on the kid, tell him how we want him to be the motherfucking savior of all humankind? You have no sense of humor, Nate."
"It's really tragic," Nate agrees, completely deadpan. Ray throws him a suspicious look, like he isn't sure what his reaction should be. Brad simply nods at Nate and goes to knock on Walt's door.
"I'm not sure if you remember me..." he starts and Walt raises his eyebrows wordlessly before he stands aside and lets him in.
Memory is a funny thing, especially when you are a demon.
Well, not really funny at all, not in the laugh out loud sense anyway. When you are a demon you remember all kinds of things, things that happened to others and things that are yet to come to pass.
You don't remember your human life, not at first. You aren't quite a blank slate, though, you know who you are. Or, you know what you are. You pretty much know your purpose and most of the rules of your new existence, and you know quite well you've made the deal yourself, that you used to be human and that you made the choice.
It's the particulars that elude you. The places, the names and the faces, they blur away and never surface. But never is a short time when you have an eternity, a few dozen lifetimes later you might be able to slowly work through the facts but never understand the feelings of your human life.
There's a reason for it. Unlike some other rules in hell, it's a good reason.
There are three kinds of demons. Those born in hell from the anguish and torment and pain, an altogether sorry lot. Those who fell from heaven. And those who were born of the earth.
In some ways, demons who used to be human are most valued. They're not as powerful as the fallen angels, not even the oldest of demons of human origin could have a chance against an angel, not in a fair fight. Not in an unfair fight either, and most of demons' fights are rather unfair.
But fallen angels are a skittish sort, withdrawn and distant. They don't participate in petty fights, they rarely meddle in the affairs of other demons. They're obedient to their superiors but disengaged otherwise, more of a legend than an everyday hellish existence.
Nate wonders sometimes whether they have gotten it right, whether he wouldn't be better off removing himself from the earthly or demonic matters. Learn how to switch off the feelings he had picked up along the way.
But there's Brad, and so it's never a viable option.
Brad isn't... Brad isn't a typical demon either. Nate might be biased, of course. He knows he is. But it doesn't change the facts.
Human demons are valued in hell because of their humanity. Not tempered by their soul or the conscience anymore, they have an imagination that the demons born in hell could never comprehend. That imagination is their most dangerous weapon, making them capable of coming up with most unusual cruelty.
There are those who find other pursuits, like Ray's neverending quest to mock everything in the world and beyond it. And then there's Brad, who needs to keep the promise he made to a girl selling her soul for her brother's life.
The dark side of humanity is what makes the hell thrive. What remains of its best in hell's demons is what could prove to be its downfall. That's why the rules are in place. You can't care if you don't remember.
The removal of your soul doesn't mean you stop caring. The memories are the last link that needs to be severed. And when that proves to be impossible, they are suppressed, for long enough to not matter anymore, to be a mere echo of what they were.
Once everyone you loved is gone, once every trace of your life has been erased, once there's only grass in the place of what used to be your grave, only then you might recall your life. At that point, it doesn't matter at all.
Sometimes, Nate thinks, it might be a blessing. (It still feels like a sacrilege to say, but he doesn't care anymore.)
He remembers Brad when they met for the first time, at the crossroads.
When someone calls upon a demon at the crossroads, when someone is ready to make the deal, the demon can look into their heart, into their mind, and most importantly, into their soul. It's not that different than checking the merchandise, after all. Nothing all that special about it.
Except that one time. He remembers the pain, the determination, the acute disappointment Brad felt. Disappointment with himself. Nate looked at him and couldn't understand how that could be possible. How anyone could look at Brad, into Brad, and feel anything but love.
It was the first time Nate thought that maybe he was capable of love. It felt a little like falling. It felt a lot like flying, high above.
He remembers Brad when they met for the third time, first time for Brad in some ways.
Brad looked at him with curiosity and humour but without recognition. That could have been disappointing, except that it was expected. It could have been disappointing if Brad's eyes weren't so clear, all the pain and worry and guilt and all the disappointment with himself gone completely.
Nate has many regrets about that moment and many that followed, about some of his actions or about the things he should have done but didn't. And yet, he can't quite bring himself to regret his part in keeping Brad from remembering all that brought him to that crossroads.
When Brad finishes explaining why he's here, Walt doesn't quite laugh in his face but it's a near thing.
"I think I need something to drink," he mutters and rummages through the fridge. "Do demons drink beer? Do demons even drink at all?"
"Not if the shitty beer you're holding is the only thing you've got to offer. And isn't it too early in the day for booze?"
"I've figured you'd approve. Aren't you supposed to tempt me into doing all sort of stuff like drinking or drugs or, I don't know, going on a killing spree?"
"I'm on my day off," Brad quips. His voice is deceptively light but his eyes are careful, assessing. He accepts the bottle out of Walt's hand cautiously, his movements slow like he's coaxing a scared animal. It's sort of annoying.
What's even more annoying is that Walt actually believed every word of the story. Not just because Brad apparently hadn't aged a day in the last ten years, and not just because he's beginning to suspect that one time he saw Brad in Iraq wasn't a stress-induced hallucination, but because somehow, deep in his gut, it feels like the absolute truth.
Could be an indigestion starting, though.
"You know, when I was in the hospital there was this guy who had a mental breakdown," he starts conversationally, taking a swing from his bottle. "He talked to angels and shit."
"Probably just fucking crazy. Angels are assholes," Brad says, and it sounds like it needs a punchline so Walt waits. He isn't disappointed. "I should know, I've been sleeping with a fallen one for the better part of the last millenium," he says fondly.
Walt shakes his head. "I don't even know what to say to that," he concludes. "Fuck."
"I know it isn't fair, dropping it all on you. But we're on a tight schedule and believe me or not, demons don't exactly make a lot of nice human friends they can ask for a favor."
"We aren't friends either," Walt points out.
"I think you're making my point rather than undermining it."
Walt sighs. Getting into any kind of a debate with someone who a) isn't human and b) has a few hundred years experience on Walt would be really counterproductive. He's still not entirely convinced he hasn't been in some kind of accident and isn't having an especially vivid hallucination. "Why are demons trying to save the world?"
"Because as I mentioned already, angels are assholes and they don't want to help."
"Makes sense," Walt deadpans. "And you're asking for my help because what, there's no one advertising in the Yellow Pages as the world-saving Chosen One?"
"If you want some kind of a rousing speech moto bullshit I can get Nate to give you one. He's much better with words and he could probably pull it off without making faces. But if you want the straight answer, yeah. We can find someone else. It will take a while because believe me or not, demons don't make acquaintances with good men all that often."
Walt starts to protest, wants to point out they have that wrong because he's not a good man by a long shot, but Brad raises his hand, something in the accompanying gaze silencing Walt effectively. Might be a fucking demonic power, you never know.
"The destiny crap is just that, crap. Anyone could try what we're trying. Not everyone would bother, I suppose. But I'm here and I'm asking if you'd help us."
What do you say to that? What can you say?
Brad nods, like he hasn't expected anything else. "I'll let Nate know we can move on to the planning stage. And before they arrive, I'm really, really sorry for Ray's... well, everything. He's rather special."
Walt wants to ask what he means by that. He has to say, he's morbidly curious as to what 'special' entails when describing a demon. Three seconds later he has his answer (later he'll realise it's not even an introduction to the real answer), when two men materialise out of the thin air and the shorter one grins and winks at Walt.
"So, he's in, homes? Fantastic, now please tell me the whole world-saving business is all about a virgin sacrifice and he's it."
Walt thinks beer isn't enough for this, he might break out the whiskey he's been saving up for a special occasion. You don't get more fucking special than the end of the world, right?
Ray isn't quite sure why he joined the fucking rebellion, or revolution, or resistance, or whatever the fuck they're running here. Sure isn't a lemonade stand, even though it's haphazardly put together like one.
Ray has never been an idealist. He died for a cause, sure, in a way. More like, joined the cause, fought for the cause, got fucking caught and then sold his soul to get out of dying for the cause but ended up dying anyway, because that's how that shit went.
That one he joined for a girl. He remembers her now, when he bothers to think of his human life. She was pretty and determined and her eyes were bright and her hair was shiny and her breasts were... well. Fucking ace. So Ray can't be blamed for going a little overboard in fighting the evil government and shit.
At least, that's what he thinks happened. He remembers the events quite clearly, but his feelings at the time are something of a mystery. Those he can't remember. Sometime he thinks he might have believed in the cause... must have been because he was pussy-whipped.
Now he doesn't even have that as an excuse.
Not that Brad and dear Nathaniel aren't very attractive, but Ray would sooner go kick Lucipher in the nuts than step into that.
And yet, here he is. It might be because there's no way he's letting Brad have all the fun in stirring up shit, and it might be because Nathaniel can be pretty fucking persuasive when he wants to, and it might be because Ray fucking likes the world much more than when he was alive. They have every porn imaginable now. And great booze, and Skittles, and caffeine. Ray kind of wants to see what they'll come up with next.
It might be better if they had any sort of a plan, but if Ray had faith in anything (and if he did, it wasn't much), it would be in Nate's brains. They had an unfortunate tendency to turn into mush when Brad was concerned, but other than that, he was pretty damn sharp, he'd figure out what needed to be done. They've already figured out that they'd need a human.
And speaking of the human.
Sure, Ray was curious the moment Brad mentioned him. To hold Brad's interest the kid had to be something, of course, but Ray hasn't imagined this.
Ray's not nearly a thousand years old, like Brad is. He's not a fucking fallen angel either (and honestly, they should have seen that coming. Fuck, it was enough to look at Nathaniel to figure it out.) and he's motherfucking glad of it. He's just a few hundred years old and doesn't have any special powers or whatever, but there's few things any demon knows.
How to look into hearts and minds and souls. How to look at a person and know their darkest thoughts and desires, to know what buttons to press to lead them to damnation. That's easy.
How to look into the past and find the worst secrets and the most painful moments, how to use them like a knife and how to cut deep.
How to look into the future and how to steal every happy moment waiting there.
Every demon knows how to do it. They don't always choose to, but the knowledge is there. Ray takes no pleasure in bringing pain, he greatly prefers bringing humiliation, as long as it's hilarious. It's the best part of being a demon, if you ask him.
And then Brad goes and introduces Walt fucking Hasser to him and Ray feels like someone hit him over the head with something heavy like a motherfucker.
He grins and winks, because that's what Ray does. "So, he's in, homes? Fantastic, now please tell me the whole world-saving business is all about a virgin sacrifice and he's it." He can't quite hear his own words over the ringing in his ears, unfamiliar and fucking annoying.
Walt gives him a look and turns to Brad. "That would be Ray, I presume?"
"The one and only," Brad agrees. Apparently he has been maligning Ray, the fucker. And all Ray has done for him was to be fucking supportive when he and Nathaniel had their quiet days. Or decades.
"Don't listen to a word that fucker said. Demons are pathological liars."
"Aren't you a demon too?" Walt asks, crossing his arms, unimpressed.
"Maybe. Would you like to check me for horns and a tail?"
"Ray," Nate says quietly, stepping forward. He even put his serious face on. Not that Nathaniel is anything but serious most of the time. Sometimes it seems like he only smiles for Brad, and that's just too fucking gay.
"I'm just saying," Ray shrugs. "If the kid needs someone to make a man out of him before the end of the world, I'd like to offer my services."
"Good few years too late on that," Walt mutters darkly and some part of Ray sits up and begs. It might be his dick. He's not proud of it, but there it is.
But if it was only that, only the pretty face and a rather spectacular ass, Ray would be fine. But he can look into Walt and see the core of steel and the broken heart and the painful memories and he wants to make it better. He wants to wrap himself around Walt and keep him safe.
This shit doesn't fucking compute.
If that's what Brad feels when he looks at Nathaniel then Ray takes back every time in the last couple hundred years when he called him a fucking pussy. Because if Nate...
Wait, Nate is saying something. Ray tunes back in, turning his attention away from Walt. It's harder than you'd think.
"Three seals have been broken, there's still time. If we stop the fourth from being broken, we have a chance of keeping the horsepeople from riding out."
"Fourth seal..." Brad starts.
"Death," Walt supplies and shrugs. "Sunday school," he adds in a tone of explanation. Of course, Ray thinks. "So what, you want me to stop Death? I think I need to sit down."
There's a note of panic in his voice, like the whole thing is just kicking in. Ray automatically steps forward, but Nate gets there first, his hand on Walt's shoulder, comforting. "It's alright," he says, his voice perfectly even and calm and Ray is standing a good few feet away but he feels the echo anyway, his whole body relaxing, mind slowing down.
"I can get him there," he finds himself saying. Nate looks up, eyebrows raised questioningly. "War is going to know where it'll happen, all the horsepeople are like this tight. And Walt's going to need back-up."
Nate nods. "He's going to need more than back-up but we'll get there. You think War will tell us anything? Last time..."
"I might be able to convince her," Ray shrugs.
"War. As in Four Horsemen War?" Walt asks.
"One and the same. We used to... well," Ray shrugs, for once not quite eager to rely all of the things they used to get up to. Brad gives him a strange look but the asshole doesn't have a higher ground to stand on, really.
"You know, I was going to spend the evening watching the game," Walt mutters, more to himself than to anyone else. "Didn't know I'd have stopping the apocalypse, keeping one of the seven seals from being broken, and going to see one of the Horsemen of the apocalypse as an alternative."
"Horsepeople," Ray corrects him. "She's sort of sensitive about that one."
"Of course she is," Walt nods seriously. "Do I get a sword or something too?"
Ray supposes he would fall in love with him right then and there if that hasn't happened already the moment he laid eyes on the guy.
"You were right," Nate says once Ray and Walt disappear to talk to War. Brad was half tempted to accompany them, just to make sure Walt would be alright, but one, War kind of worries him and two, he had seen the look on Ray's face. Walt will be more than alright, Ray will make sure he'll be safe.
"I'm usually right," he says automatically, reaching out to run his fingers through Nate's hair. He missed doing this and he's going to use any quiet moment they have now, and not only because they might not have many left. "What was I right about this time?"
Nate smiles slightly and leans into the touch obligingly. "Walt. He is a good man. He's a good choice."
"I wish he wasn't. The kid's been through enough."
"Are you regretting dragging him into the apocalypse or introducing him to Ray Person?" Nate asks, fighting a grin and Brad nods.
"The latter might be worse," he admitted. "So, about the sword Walt mentioned," he says and there it is again, the same flicker of... something on Nate's face Brad would have missed when Walt mentioned it if he didn't happen to look at Nate at the time.
To be fair, he spent quite a lot of time looking at Nate, so chances he'd miss it were slim. But still.
"You might as well tell me, because we don't have time for me to get it out of you by sucking your dick."
"That's a great pity," Nate says mournfully, then sighs. "I might know the location of one of the flaming swords."
Brad narrows his eyes. "Might know? We're not going to see one of your angel friends again? Because Poke was right, I think those feathers are causing allergies."
Nate shrugs. "It's not like they had me clean out my locker and turn in the stapler when I quit," he offers and his matter-of-fact tone startles Brad into a laugh.
"You know, I've heard some mortals steal office supplies from their employers but you've managed to make it out with one of the flaming swords the archangels carry? I knew there was a reason I liked you."
"Just one reason?" Nate asks.
"Fishing for compliments, Nathaniel?"
"I thought I might at least get something, if you're not going to suck my dick," he offers dryly before he closes his eyes and turns his head a little more, nuzzling into Brad's palm that is still cupping his face. Brad wonders if Nate suffers from the same affliction he seems to; it seems he's become incapable of not touching Nate whenever they're close enough.
"Later," he promises softly.
Nate nods and opens his eyes, making a visible effort to come back to business. "It might be an advantage, but using it poses a danger. Every angel would be able to know exactly where it is, where we are. Or where Walt is."
"Would angels actually harm a human?"
"Which Bible have you been reading?" Nate asks darkly and shakes his head. "Maybe it won't get to that point."
"Yes, try that once more with actual feeling," Brad tells him and leans down to kiss him, brief and chaste, because they really don't have time for this.
Then again, time is relative, when you're a demon. Maybe they do have a few moments for this. If they don't, then what the hell are they even fighting for here?
Nate seems tired. Demons don't need sleep, not really. It feels nice sometimes, but it's not needed, none of the bodily functions is necessary. It's not the lack of sleep that shows on Nate's face, but the worry and the weariness brought on by guilt and the weight on his shoulders.
"You remember the first time we met?" he asks and Nate gives him a long look.
"Which one?" he asks and Brad smiles, because it's just the question he expected.
"The third one if you're sticking to the chronological approach, I suppose. The one that counts," he offers. "You've asked... You've asked if I could stand the heat."
"I think I was speaking literally. It was rather hot at the time."
"Shut up, you're spoiling the moment," Brad tells him. "And I told you I could take anything you'd throw at me. That hadn't changed, you know?"
The corner of Nate's mouth twitches. "You're saying I shouldn't feel guilty about dragging you into this mess?"
"Where you go I have no choice but to follow," Brad shrugs. "It's alright. And since I'm here, I suppose I can keep an eye on Walt too."
He won't be alone in that, judging from Ray's reactions. And something tells him that Walt is going to prove to be pretty capable of keeping himself safe too. And all of them have Nate. Most of all, Brad has Nate.
When he thinks back to that first meeting he remembers the wonder he felt looking into Nate's eyes. Like he knew him. Now he knows it for the truth, but it doesn't take away the feeling, because it wasn't like that. It wasn't recognition as such. It didn't matter that they met before.
It was about looking at Nate and knowing. Knowing what he wanted, what he needed, knowing how his future would turn. Knowing that he'd do anything, go anywhere, for Nate. Instant and undeniable.
Brad thinks that maybe he lied to Walt, maybe there is something like a destiny. Only it's not the case of what the future holds for you or what will happen, it's about finding that one thing that grounds you, your center and your home.
If he's honest with himself, this is the reason he wants to save this world. For Nate.
"Hey, you remember the first time we met?" Nate asks slowly.
"The third one, I suppose."
Brad smiles and bows his head. "I might," he allows.
"It was the first time I was... glad. That I had fallen. That I could be there, in that place, at that moment. Because you were there."
Brad's fingers tangle in Nate's shirt as he leans forward and rests his forehead on Nate's. "Would it sound wrong if I said I'm glad you have fallen too?"
Nate huffs a laugh, the warm air tickling Brad's lips. "Yes, very wrong," he agrees right before he kisses Brad.
They might not have much time, but they have this moment. As far as Brad is concerned, this moment lasts forever.