Fandom: Generation Kill
Disclaimer: Based on fictionalised portrayals as seen on the HBO miniseries.
A/N: Princess Diaries AU. Erm, really. Also, title from Can you feel the love tonight, from Lion King, which really, tells you everything you need to know about the shmoop level of this fic.
Also, starting on NaNoWriMo with a bang and not a whimper. Writing various fics to achieve the 50k November wordcount :)
ETA: Now with the loveliest graphic by lunatics_word
Brad’s plans for the Friday night included: pizza, working on his bike in Doc’s garage, listening to Ray’s band butcher whatever song they’re working on and listening to Ray’s rant on modern music, radio fascists who block his career, and how Brad never listens to him at all.
Also planned: trying not to kill Ray. It’s a constant struggle.
What he did not plan at all was to learn that, apparently, he was the sole heir to the Genovian throne. As you do.
Ray’s band playing Patsy Cline would be better than that.
But, he’s getting ahead of himself. Friday starts normally, with his sister (step-sister. This is an important point here, with the whole sole heir to the throne issue. He can’t dump it on her, or exchange it for, whatever, taking out the trash duties, even though she would probably enjoy the whole sudden royalty business. She wore a tiara to the last Halloween party, after all) going through one of her fits about having nothing to wear to... whatever inane dance was coming up.
“Has anyone even invited you?” Brad asks, scowling into his scrambled eggs. He’s been writing an essay up till very late and her voice is particularly shrill this morning.
Sandy shrugs, putting up her best nonchalant expression. “It’s still early, I’m considering my options. Besides, lots of guys hadn’t invited anyone yet. You should know,” she adds, narrowing her eyes at Brad.
She despairs of him and goes to great lenghts to point it out. Brad’s pretty sure she took it as a personal affront when he didn’t try out for the team this year, despite the fact that Coach Sixta yelled at him a good few times, like that would be an incentive.
He’s pretty sure it was a few months ago, maybe, that she watched Dora the Explorer and had this weird penchant for everything pink, including breakfast food. She once asked if she could get pink bacon. Brad still hasn’t figured out what the fuck happened.
“Isn’t there a general rule that no one asks the freshmen girls to the dance?” he asks, mostly to annoy her, and she gives him a hard look, like she sees through him but is still pretty freaked that he might know something she doesn’t.
“Nate Fick asked Andie Jamison last year. She was a freshman.”
Jesus fuck, she’s done research? “Aberration, I assure you. Sides, Nate Fick was a sophomore himself last year, I don’t think it helps you now,” he offers. He’s not even going to stop and think about his sister’s apparent crush on Nate Fick, of all people.
But fuck, of all the people?
Brad shakes his head and Sandy flips him off before abruptly dropping her hand when their mother enters the kitchen. Her lips are pinched and she’s tugging at the hem of her shirt absently, something she only does when she’s really pissed off. Brad mentally runs through all the things he could have done wrong the last week or so and comes up with nothing.
“Your grandfather is coming to visit.”
“Doesn’t he, like, hate the city with the strenght of a thousand suns?” Sandy asks and gets a quick smile from their mother.
“Brad’s other grandfather,” she says, the grimace coming back really fast. She used to at least try and hide it for Brad’s sake when he was younger, but a few years back he told her not to bother. That was after the Christmas/Hanukkah fiasco. “He’s staying at the Plaza, requested your presence after school.”
“I was going to...” he starts and she shakes her head.
“You’re screwed, basically,” Sandy supplies helpfully.
“Language, please,” their mother says and Sandy nods apologetically even though she’s looking at Brad with barely hidden satisfaction.
He probably shouldn’t have made the dance remarks, but fuck that, she’s not going with Nate Fick anyway, he was just saving her from the inevitable disappointment.
After all, Fick is going to ask Andie Jamison again, she made the cheerleading squad this year and is on her best way to becoming the prom queen of everything.
And if Brad is annoyed about that, well, he’s had a shitty start to his day and it isn’t going to get better. Everything annoys him, including sunshine and wind. He’s not at all interested in Fick’s prom dates choices.
“Come on, loser,” Sandy says cheerfully and picks up her backpack. Brad shrugs and follows. That pretty much sums up the whole thing.
“Godfather’s coming to town?” Ray whistles after Brad tells him why he’s not able to make the band practice session. Which is actually one of the brightest points of his day, because they still have no decent bass player and their lead vocalist hadn’t recovered from laryngitis.
And the on-form members are still kind of really shitty to begin with. Ray maintains he’s fine with that. “Ninety seven percent of professional bands are complete and utter motherfucking shit,” he points out usually.
Brad can’t quite argue with that.
“Could you stop calling him that? I almost slipped last time he visited,” Brad complains. His mother looked like she was going to either have a heart attack or burst out laughing.
“Why do you think I do that?” Ray asks. It’s probably supposed to be rhetorical. “Sides, homes, you can’t tell me he doesn’t have mafia connections. I mean, fuck, Plaza, every damn time? And I’ve seen the cars too, he must be filthy reach and do you know what he does? Or did? No one ever told us, that’s some shifty shit, I’m damn sure.”
“It must be a pretty scary place in your head,” Brad mutters.
“Fuck you, it’s awesome. The voices are good neighbors most of the time, too,” he adds as they’re stepping onto the bus.
Brad rolls his eyes and pretends not to look around. There’s no reason to expect... yeah, okay, Nate Fick’s there, standing at the back of the bus, holding on to the railing with one hand, a book in the other. Brad’s been informed (by his sister, who else) that Nate’s car is in the shop for the week, some accident with a drunk driver running into it in the parking lot.
Sandy’s two steps away from Brad, they have a deal of pretending not to know each other most of the time, especially if Ray’s in the general area. That’s another new development, Sandy used to find Ray hilarious and now she just goes quiet and unresponsive around him.
“She either likes me or hates me, and I’m hoping for the latter,” Ray shrugged the first time she practically freezed him out at school.
“Why would you want my sister to hate you?” Brad asked, intrigued despite himself.
“Because the alternative would be her liking me and she’s your little sister, homes. What would you do if she liked me?” Ray asked, most reasonably for Ray. He had a point.
Now, Sandy and Beth and the new girl, whatshername, Tina, giggle and toss their hair a lot, like that’s going to make Fick look up, take one look at one of them and invite her to the prom. Dance. Whatever the fuck is the whole cotillion affair. It’s going to have an Under the Sea theme and that’s more than what Brad needs to know.
“You need to work on your face, it’s too fucking obvious,” Ray says and Brad startles.
“You look positively murderous. Aren’t you supposed to pretend to like your grandparents, or something? Could be just the rule in my house, though, I always knew my mother was a rotten liar, there’s a long history of lies and untruths, starting with the Santa shit. Not that I’m complaining, it had fostered a skill of reasonable paranoia in your pal Ray-Ray.”
“You’ll thank me when my preparations for the zombie apocalypse pay off, Bradley,” Ray informs him magnanimously.
Brad doesn’t dignify that with an answer, partly because zombie apocalypse, really? And partly because they’re at their stop and Nate Fick’s making his way towards them. Well, towards the door, probably, but still.
Brad’s not sure when this started to happen. He was pretty sure he wasn’t fucked up in the head over Nate Fick last year. He’s not even sure what it means that he apparently is all kinds of fucked up in the head over Fick now.
He probably owes his sister an apology, but he’d sooner disembowel himself with her nail clippers than admit it.
“Oh, hey,” Fick says, looking up and noticing Brad.
Which, what the fuck? Maybe he’s confusing Brad with someone else, lots of people who look like Brad in their school. Except, not really, not since he hit the growth spurt and shot up a good two or more inches on the tallest guys.
They stop at the curb after leaving the bus and Fick takes in Brad’s expression before he helpfully supplies “I’m Nate, we have English and algebra together,” like they haven’t for the previous two years.
Okay, come to think of it, they might have exchanged the heys before, but that was before Brad’s stupidity kicked in, before the, whatever. He liked Nate before, what he saw of him at school at least, but the, okay, the fucking crush was relatively new. And terrifying, because. Let’s start with the fact that Fick was a guy and move on from there.
“Nevermind, sorry,” Fick says now and Brad shakes his head, because clearly, it’s not the right moment or the right place to have a fresh bout of homosexual panic. He still likes girls, he just gets a little flustered around Fick, too.
“No, yeah,” Brad nods. “Sorry, bad day,” he adds and Fick’s face breaks into a quick grin.
“Here’s hoping it gets better,” he offers and nods, stepping away. “See you, Brad. Ray,” he adds, polite and inclusive and all fuck and heads towards the main entrance, still smiling slightly.
“You know, I can’t even,” Ray says, sounding delighted, like something great has occurred to him, something that will make Brad regret the whole encounter later. He knows that tone too well.
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me you know Nate Fick?” Sandy demands in a heated whisper, apparently getting over the rule of not speaking to Brad in public. Her friends look on, as excited as she seems.
“We have English and algebra together,” Brad tells her and tugs at the strap of Ray’s backpack, demanding they move. The benefit of the growth spurt: long legs, perfect for escaping his sister. Ray grumbles as he runs to keep up but he follows all the same.
“Were you going to tell me?” he demands of Brad when they stop by the lockers.
“That my sister is insane? That’s self-evident, I thought.”
Ray looks at him closely for a moment before nodding. “Okay,” he says, like he’s letting it go. Brad fervently hopes he is letting it go.
For anyone interested and possibly needing this kind of information in the future: proper response to someone (your grandfather, for example) informing you that you are the sole heir to the throne of a small European country is not asking if they’re fucking kidding.
The Royal Assistant, or whatever the fuck is the suit’s title, might never recover.
He’s been giving Brad the stinkeye since the moment he arrived, but that was pretty standard in the Plaza, pretty much everyone in the lobby gave Brad a once over, taking in the dirty sneakers and the torn jeans (not fashionably torn, torn because he happened upon a rusty nail in the garage, and then further frayed when he kept tugging at the hole during a particularly boring algebra class. It was that or staring at the back of Nate Fick’s head, and the fucker had an uncanny way of knowing when he was being stared at, rubbing at his neck in a distracting manner before he always, always turned to look, green eyes flashing. Most of the times Brad managed to look away in time and pretended to be terribly busy with tugging at the hole in his jeans. So, yeah, jeans, pretty torn.), the faded t-shirt and the suspicious-looking backpack. But their faces always kind of shifted into this fake, plastered-on smile when Brad asked to see Grandfather Ferrando and explained who he was.
Clearly, everyone knew he was fucking royalty. Go figure. Not something you’d tell your own grandson though.
He always thought Grandfather was just kind of really rich. The Christmas presents were always ridiculously expensive, and vexing Brad’s mother a great deal. Not only because of the whole Hanukkah thing, even.
So, stinkeye in the lobby, plastered-on smiles, elevator, passing the idiot in the suit and the two bodyguards outside (filthy rich theory or Ray’s mafia theory), and then waiting until Grandfather finished his phonecall. Roughly forty minutes, give or take. Pretty standard so far. Then the usual lukewarm greeting (Brad was actually happy with that one, overt displays of emotions freaked him out.), the drinks (soda for Brad, whiskey for Grandfather), and small talk (how’s school, how’s your mother, yadda yadda), followed by a conversational bomb of “no one told you that before, but your father, before he went and got himself killed, was the Royal Prince of Genovia. We’ve hoped he’d marry some contessa or whatever the fuck and have some more kids, but well. Tag, you’re it.”
Maybe not in those words.
Brad did the only sensible thing and left.
Really, what the fucking fuck?
He hides out in Doc’s garage, mostly because no one would really look for him there. Well, Ray would. And Brad’s mother, because she worries, but Brad calls her and leaves a message on her voice mail: “the prince is going into exile. Don’t wait up with dinner. Also, what the hell?”
She texts back three minutes later, with a sad face. Brad mourns the day they taught her the emoticons.
“I’m almost afraid to ask what’s bothering you,” someone says, above and to the left from where Brad’s sitting on the floor, propped against the wall. He thought he was well hidden by one of the cars, but apparently not. “You look like someone died,” the person adds and Brad looks up, right into green eyes of Nate Fick’s.
His day was going so well, really. Let’s invite another chance to humiliate himself, why not.
“Jesus, did someone actually die?” Nate asks, mortified, as if Brad’s expression suggested just that.
“No,” Brad hastens to assure him. “Well, my father,” he adds, because that’s part of the problem. “But that’s been a few months ago. And I didn’t even know him that well,” he says, because Nate looks really worried now, worried and appalled at himself for putting his foot in his mouth like that. “Sorry, bad day.”
“You said that,” Nate says.
“This morning. You said that. So, it didn’t get any better?” he asks and slides down to the floor, his back against the bumper of the car Brad’s been hiding behind.
Brad’s not sure what to make of this. Apparently, Nate remembers the inane conversation they had in the morning. Remembers it well enough to quote it back at Brad, which is...well. Then again, that doesn’t mean anything, Nate’s smart, he could just have a good memory.
Doesn’t explain why he’s talking to Brad. Why he initiated a conversation in the morning to begin with, and Brad’s beginning to suspect that’s what it was, an attempt at conversation, and not just an attempt to salvage the situation when he nodded at Brad by accident or something.
Hey, they’re not exactly moving in the same circles. Nate’s on the football team and the debate team, on the student council and does volunteer work and whatever the fuck you can come up with. He’s going places. Brad’s mostly going to the Principal’s office. More often than not to make excuses for Ray, but still.
“Downhill. And then some,” he shrugs. “What’s beyond downhill?”
“Depends on your philosophy, I guess,” Nate shrugs. “You know, core of the earth, or, if you’re fanciful, hell.”
“Hell,” Brad muses and stretches his legs, kicking the car’s tire. Nate’s hand twitches on the ground, an inch away from Brad’s ankle now. It’s a weird thing to notice but there you are, Brad does notice that. Nate’s long fingers tapping out some quick rhythm against the concrete. “What are you doing here?” he asks. It might be rude but hey, how much worse can this day get?
Nate Fick thinking him rude is kind of preferable to Nate Fick not thinking about him at all.
Yeah, okay, that particular thought was new levels of pathetic. Maybe he is in fact a fourteen year old girl. And a drama princess to boot.
He could probably get Grandfather Ferrando to find him a tiara now.
Nate waves his hand somewhere in Doc’s general direction. “Picking up my car. I’m too early, apparently.”
“I didn’t know Doc was fixing your car.”
“Why would you?” Nate asks, shrugging. That means he hasn’t figured out Brad’s blossoming stalker tendencies yet. Not that they’ve amounted to much, just a thorough internet search.
Should have done one on his own family, by the way. Might have saved him some trouble. But you never actually bothered to google your parents, right? Look for embarrassing pictures in the family albums, maybe, but parents were, well, old, they probably haven’t built up much of an online presence. Brad’s mother, for god’s sake, has just learned few weeks ago what emoticons were.
“I work here,” he offers, which could be an answer to Nate’s question, however vague, or just a general explanation for his presence here, on the floor. “Sometimes. Not today. Today I’m just hiding here.”
Oh, kill him now.
Nate, however, nods seriously. “Sorry for interrupting that,” he offers, shifting minutely, like he’s gathering himself up. That doesn’t quite sit well with Brad.
“It’s fine, you can stay,” he says quickly. “As long as you keep quiet,” he adds and Nate smiles, quick and easy, the kind of smile that reaches his eyes, the kind of smile that makes something in Brad’s gut turn like he’s going to be sick, but in a good way.
“Quiet or complete silence?”
“You can speak,” Brad allows magnanimously. “But try to be interesting, at least.”
Nate laughs, covering his mouth with his hand to keep it quiet. “Thanks,” he says and moves this time, gathering himself up and shifting, sitting next to Brad, his back against the wall, their shoulders almost touching. Brad knows he’s doing that only because it’ll allow him to keep his voice down and still be heard by Brad, but a part of him (a very, very big part of him which may be almost the whole of him, except for the tiny part still pissed off at the prince thing) thrills at the new closeness. “I appreciate that.”
His breath is warm on Brad’s neck when he speaks, leaning in just slightly.
Brad’s never been so tempted to kiss anyone in his life, not even Jenny their freshman year, when he was most in love with her.
Hey, he could kill two birds with one stone. Find out how it would feel to kiss Nate Fick and maybe cause a royal gay scandal and be disowned or whatever. No downside whatsoever.
Except that Nate could punch him, or worse, just simply not want him. And his mother would be really disappointed in him if he did cause a scandal. The gay part probably wouldn’t feature in her disappointment, but she never, despite everything, she never said a single bad word about Brad’s father, she would hate it if Brad did something to dishonor his legacy and family and all.
Fuck, normal people only had to worry about the punch or letdown part of the problem.
“I’m sorry about your father,” Nate says, soft and apologetic, like he still feels guilty about mentioning that.
“Yeah,” Brad says, because anything else seems like an empty phrase. He was pretty sure he’s dealt with the whole thing, but, well, maybe there’s some residual... whatever. He hadn’t even gone to the funeral. The official version was that taking a week off from school to fly to Genovia at that time in the semester wouldn’t help his grades (especially not his History grade, but what can he do if Mr. Kravitz is a tool?), but they probably didn’t want him to realise the whole crown prince thing. Royal guard would be a dead giveaway.
“Okay,” Nate says, a new sort of nervous energy in his voice. Brad tilts his head to the side instinctively, listening. “This conversation was a disaster so far, how about a new start?”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you put your foot in it.”
“You weren’t helping.”
Brad nods in agreement. “Point. But I maintain the majority of sucking was on your part.”
Nate’s eyes flash with... something, and Brad wants to take that back. He’s heard how it sounded, thank you very much. But Nate’s lips twitch in a barely held-back smile and he nods slowly. “It usually is,” he says mournfully and Brad can feel himself grinning in response.
He hadn’t expected to enjoy this so much. Sure, part of the draw was Nate’s intellect, his quick wit and sharpness. They had classes together, Brad was perfectly aware Nate’s green eyes and really great ass weren’t the only qualities to admire.
But this is fun. And unexpectedly easy, like they’ve found their rhythm within seconds. “So, starting over,” he nods seriously. “Hey, Fick. What brings you to this fine establishment, business or pleasure?”
“Thought it was the former, but I’m actually enjoying myself much more than I thought I would,” he offers, earnest and easy. Something in Brad’s stomach unfurls even as his throat tightens. This might be... this really might be. Maybe he’s not imagining this. “And how’s your day going, Colbert?”
“Shitty so far,” Brad shrugs, then shifts a little, bumps his shoulder against Nate’s. He could play it off as an accident if the need arises but he doesn’t want to. “Could be looking up, though.”
“Fick!” Doc calls out, absolutely ruining the moment. Brad takes back every nice thing he ever said about him for letting Brad hang out here. “Ready for you,” he adds, appearing on the other side of the car they’re sitting behind, and Nate nods, standing up.
“Coming,” he says and hesitates, looking back down. “You busy on Saturday?” he asks Brad, his words a little rushed, like he wants them out before he rethinks them. “A bunch of us are going bowling, if you want to...”
“Yeah,” Brad mutters. He’ll take that.
He’ll take anything when it comes to Nate. He’s not afraid to admit it, at least not to himself.
“Great,” Nate grins. “I’ll call you.”
“Don’t you need my number?”
To Brad’s amazement, Nate flushes, hesitates before answering. Making a decision. “Way ahead of you,” he says finally. Brad’s pretty sure admitting something like that is absolutely against whatever rules they are for flirting, dating, or generally surviving high school, but that’s Nate Fick for you.
“Okay then,” he says and Nate nods, his mouth moving without any words forming.
“Okay then,” he echoes finally and steps away, heading for Doc and his car. Brad sits there for a while longer, until he can’t quite justify it anymore, until his phone perks up with his mother’s number flashing - she’ll give him space, sure, but not that much of it.
He could emigrate somewhere. There must be a bunch of countries willing to grant asylum to a Genovian prince, right? There’s probably some precedence, too, other royals hiding out through history.
Then again, he has a bowling appointment on Saturday, so maybe he’s not leaving the country just yet.
At home, he has to deal with his mother alternating between concern and guilt for never telling him and slight disappointment in Brad not facing this head on.
And then there’s the stilted phonecall to Grandfather Ferrando, in which Brad stiffly apologises for running out like that and ultimately agrees to give the whole prince thing a try if it’s kept quiet until he at least graduates.
‘Quiet’ apparently means that the Prime Minister and the Parliament of Genovia will be notified, so there’s no constitutional crisis. And that the public is given a carefully worded statement to make sure they don’t panic over, whatever, not having a monarch to complain about. Hopefully no one in States gets Genovian first public tv channel or Brad is burned in school.
And then he has to deal with his sister, who first decides Brad’s newfound heritage is the best thing ever and then proclaims he’s an idiot for not wanting to have anything to do with it.
He’s seventeen. His future plans involved, vaguely, the MIT or the Marine Corps, not ruling over a European country.
Not that the King of Genovia does much of that. Brad googled it, it’s mostly a representative role, but according to the Wikipedia entry Grandfather Ferrando had a great impact on Genovia’s foreign policy and its internal growth in the last few decades.
Brad had been pretty sure his impact on foreign policy would limit to whatever he’d be doing in the Corps. If he could finally convince his mother he wanted that. Helping to shape a policy of an entire freakin’ country? Jesus fuck.
“Yeah, but you could at least introduce me to Prince Harry,” Sandy says, her expression completely serious, but something in her tone hinting to Brad that she might be making fun of him.
“Hey, you’re full-on adopted,” he shrugs at her. “Maybe you’re British aristocracy or European royalty too, apparently these things happen.”
“You know how one gets acquainted with crown princes? Ivy League college,” their mother interjects. Sandy gives her a look, but Brad has to admit, she probably knows what she’s talking about.
“Did you just suggest I go to college to find a husband?” Sandy asks suspiciously. “What happened to women’s lib?”
“I’d love you to major in Women Studies, but if a thought of finding your prince charming gets you into Harvard I can start preparing your wedding chest right now.”
“I can’t even,” Sandy mutters and pokes Brad in the shoulder, like it’s all his fault. “Also, I’m going upstairs to study algebra. And not because it gets me closer to prince Harry, but because I have a stupid test tomorrow.”
“I don’t get what is the big deal about prince Harry,” Brad mutters. “Weren’t everyone all about William just recently?”
“He’s taken. Harry’s the last chance for any girl wanting to become a princess. Of course, now you’re on the market, Bradley,” his mother says, reaching out to ruffle his hair and fuck, what had he done to deserve this?
“On the market? Sandy’s right, this household’s turning medieval.”
“Speaking of medieval, I’m thinking of inviting your Grandfather to dinner Saturday, so you can discuss the whole situation.”
“Sunday,” Brad says, too quickly. “I have plans on Saturday,” he adds, trying to make it sound casual, like all he’s planning is hanging out with Ray or working on his bike or whatever, picking up new parts for his computer.
His mother, of course, isn’t fooled. She beams at him and, again, tugs at the hair behind his ear gently, scratches like he’s a cat.
So, okay, he’s had a phase. He’d lay his head on her lap and purr, but for god’s sake, he was what, seven or eight at the time? The neighbours had a big orange tabby at the time and it was kind of awesome, all royal disdain until it deigned you worthy of its attention, and it purred when you scratched its head, and well, Brad couldn’t have a cat because Sandy had allergies, but he could play at being a cat.
And now, years later, he’s still suffering the consequences.
“Plans that can’t be cancelled to discuss your future? And the future of your country, apparently?” she teases. “Bradley Colbert, have you found your princess already?”
He offers a one shouldered shrug, because he could easily say no and it wouldn’t be a lie, no princesses involved whatsoever, but he knows better. In a way, it would be a lie. She sees something in his face that is an answer enough and her smile grows wider and softer at the same time.
“Do I know her?” she asks next, and Brad knew it was coming.
He drops his head and follows the lines and arches on the wooden floor, busies himself with making out shapes. “Him,” he says, maybe too quiet for her to hear.
Of course she hears. Her fingers go still on his hair for a brief moment. Brad freezes, everything still but the frantic beat of his heart, loud in his ears. He half expects her to drop her hand, sigh at him, maybe shift away.
After a few seconds her hand resumes the steady movement, fingers pressing a little harder, like she wants to say ‘I’m here.’
“You’re going to have an uphill battle to fight with this one,” she offers. “Your grandfather might just have a heart attack, too. Are you ready to rule Genovia right now?”
“You’re...” he starts, daring to look up.
“Brad,” she shakes her head and pulls him close into a tight hug, her hand on the back of his neck. He hides his face in her shoulder and closes his eyes. “Okay?”
“Yes,” he nods and doesn’t pull away for a few moments more. When he does, her eyes are bright and wet and he thinks his might be too. “Okay.”
She nods curtly. “Just one thing. That boy of yours, it’s not Ray Person, is it?”
“What’s wrong with Ray?” Brad asks, automatic, because he’s been defending Ray for so long it’s second nature to him. “Besides the obvious,” he adds, because as long as he’s been defending Ray, he’s been mocking him too. It’s how they work.
“I love Ray, I’m just not sure he’s a princess material,” his mother laughs. “Of course, it wouldn’t matter if you...”
“No,” Brad says quickly. The very thought is strange. Ray’s Ray and Brad might love him (never going to admit that, but they’ve been best friends since they were six, they’ve been blood brothers for just that long, a pact made in the park on the very day they met) but he definitely wouldn’t want to get acquainted with his dick. Not like...
Great, he’s sitting on the couch with his mother and thinking about dicks. He can’t wait for the whole adolescence hormones extravaganza to be over, it’s bound to be better later, right?
“Alright,” his mother shifts away finally. “I want to meet him, be aware of that.”
“Ray? You’ve met him.”
“Don’t play dumb, Bradley. I can tell it’s new for you, so you don’t have to do the meet-the-parents thing right this week, but bring that boy of yours home at some point.”
Second time she used that phrase. Boy of his. Brad kind of likes it. He hates it, too, of course, because it’s sappy and stupid and pretty pathetic, but whatever. He could... yeah.
Provided he hadn’t been delusional and hallucinating stuff back there at the garage and Nate really meant it as a semi-date. Or whatever comes before dating, when it’s the group outings for cover.
“Alright,” his mother repeats and pats his hand. “Homework.”
“Do princes even have to do homework?”
“Oh, honey, I’m afraid they have to do twice as much,” she says, mock apologetic.
“Bummer,” he says, conveying all the feeling he could express in a four letter word.
Brad will never, ever, admit to fussing over his appearance or his clothes. Ever.
Whatever his sister might have to say about the whole Saturday morning and part of the afternoon is a vicious lie.
“Do you have a date? Aren’t you going to be thrown out of the social outcasts club if you have a date? Do I know her?” she asks, sitting down on Brad’s bed, as if she hadn’t been banned from the room ever since she was eleven and chose to paint her nails over Brad’s bed, because “it couldn’t smell worse in here even if you added the nail varnish.”
“Thrown out of the social outcasts club?” Brad shakes his head. “Listen to yourself.”
“Don’t tell me you’re not a card-carrying member. Maybe the president, even. A treasurer, perhaps?”
Brad has to laugh at her serious expression, the look of mock curiousness she calls up. “Ray’s the treasurer.”
“Figures,” she nods. “So, do I know her?” she asks again.
“None of your business. And it’s not a date,” he adds belatedly, because sure, denial works after defensiveness. “It’s just, some people.”
“A group thing,” she nods. “Good for the first time.” Her voice grows authoritative and sure, and Brad wonders when the fuck did his little sister become an expert on dating.
Then again, she already has some freshmen offering to carry her books for her, so maybe there’s something of a method to her madness. Which reminds Brad there are some freshmen to threaten some time soon, because Sandy might be insane but still, little sister.
“It’s not a date.”
“Uh-uh,” Sandy nods cheerfully, swinging her legs as she points at the shirt Brad’s holding. “That one, yeah. I have been conditioned to find you generally disgusting but this makes you less so. Also, matches your eyes, if that girl is alive and breathing she’ll like it.”
“There’s no girl,” Brad says, a tad desperately, because, for fuck’s sake. And he can’t quite throw her out of the room, that would lead to either an argument or a lot of whining and Mom had retired to her bedroom with a migraine, so. “For the last time, there’s no girl,” he repeats, a little more quiet, a little more forceful.
Sandy stares at him for a long moment, her eyebrows high. “Oh-kay,” she mutters. Brad doesn’t like the look on her face, he forgets sometimes that she’s actually smart, sharp mind under the layers of highlights in her hair. It’s never a good idea to underestimate her. “Are you trying to tell me something?” she asks, her tone teasing, but her expression is serious enough.
“No,” Brad says quietly and she nods.
“It would be okay if you were, though,” she tells him and well, sometimes Brad likes his sister.
He’s not fessing up to that, though, she’d be unbearable for months.
“If I were telling you something,” he says, trying for a casual tone, and she nods, “would the shirt choice still stand?”
“Yeah, you look good. And by good I mean not idiotic,” she adds, the last word drowned up by the sound of Brad’s cellphone. Sandy laughs as his hand shoots out to pick it up before the first ring is over. “So fucked,” she mutters and Brad doesn’t go with his initial response of ‘hopefully.’ Little sister, after all.
“Yeah?” he says into the phone and waves his hand at Sandy, who moves a little closer, probably to try and listen, the little witch.
“It’s Nate,” Nate says. “Fick?” he adds after a few seconds, when Brad doesn’t answer immediately, mostly because he doesn’t quite trust himself not to say something stupid. He might have rehearsed the conversation in his head last night, before falling asleep, but it’s kind of different when it’s real.
“Yeah, I’ve figured,” Brad offers. It comes out dry because he’s trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice pretty damn hard. It comes out with the coolness quotient he doesn’t feel. “So,” he prompts and there’s a brief hesitation before Nate speaks.
“If you’re still free, we’re meeting at six. Since I invited you it’s been established you’re on my team, for which I’m quite sorry. We’re not that good,” he says and Brad finds himself smiling at the wry tone, at the earnest apology tinted with humor. It’s easy to smile at Nate, always, even over the phone.
“Well, I don’t know if I’m any good either. I’ve never played.”
“Are you lying to make me feel better?”
Nate laughs, warm and easy. “I appreciate that.” Someone says something in the background Brad can’t quite make out and Nate sighs. “Sorry, Brad, need to go. I’ll see you later, yes?”
“Yeah,” Brad confirms. “Later,” he offers before Nate disconnects and Sandy starts emitting a high pitched litany of ‘oh my gods’ right the moment he puts down the phone.
“Oh my god,” she repeats and stares at Brad, finally silent for a blissful five seconds. Maybe less. “Nate Fick? Nate fucking Fick?”
“How do you...” Brad starts and then realises that his first word should have been “no.”
Sandy doesn’t buy it at all. Damn.
“Okay,” she says. “Okay. First,” she mutters and pokes Brad in the shoulder, hard. Hard enough to actually hurt a bit, and fuck, where did she get the strenght to do that, all she ever does with that hand is text. “That’s for turning the coolest guy in school gay.”
“You know it doesn’t work like that?” Brad asks. He’s concerned for her education, really.
“Shut up, idiot.”
“I mean, even if he is...” and Brad isn’t quite sure, still. Even if, well, then there’s the bisexuality thing. Or whatever. He’s not up in correct terminology of ‘maybe somehow sort of liking guys, or that one guy’ even though he’s in that camp, currently. “There’s no way I could have ‘turned’ him, jeez. It’s not vampirism.”
“That’s a good thing, vampires are lame,” Sandy offers sagely. At last, they agree on something. “I meant that without you and, whatever you have, I wouldn’t know. And now it’s the next point in the all the good ones are gay or taken or both column.”
“You need to stop reading whatever you’re reading.”
“I can lend you some of the Cosmo issues, there are tips on blowjobs.”
“I’m just saying. Embrace the gay.”
“I’m so happy we’re not actually related.”
“Speaking of,” she says, more serious, shifting on the bed and tucking her legs under her skirt. “What about the whole prince thing?”
See, this is why he was happy only freaking out about the Nate-maybe-liking-him and nothing else. Yet. The problems spiral, or snowball, or whatever. One thing at a time, that would be a good philosophy. “I don’t know. Too early to abdicate?”
“I think you have to be king to abdicate. I can google it for you,” she offers and shrugs. “Are you actually that serious about him? Enough to consider...”
“I have about a hundred reasons to abdicate first, so,” Brad shrugs. “Including, but not limited to, the minor detail of not actually wanting to run a country.” No one really listens to him, though. “Sides, it’s a group thing.”
“To which he invited you. You’re not exactly, ya know, running in the same social circles. For which you have only yourself to blame, by the way, I’m not sure what’s with the recluse act. Some girls like that, I’ve been told, but apparently you’re not even interested, so it makes no sense whatsoever.”
“Not everything is about girls.”
“Well, clearly,” she waves her hand in a grand gesture and Brad has to smile. “Think positive. And wear that shirt.”
He nods and sits down next to her, poking her knee. “You’re okay with that?”
“With you stealing my chance to go to prom with Nate Fick? I hate you with the strenght of a thousand suns. On the other hand, he’d make a neat brother in law, and your grandfather will flip, which is always entertaining to watch from a distance.”
“Don’t mention it,” she nods. “Also, don’t flirt with Walt Hasser. I hadn’t excluded him from the list of potential prom partners.”
“Everyone is insane in high school, that’s how we survive,” she tells him seriously and he’s not quite sure what to make of it.
Instead, he just bumps her shoulder. “Thanks,” he says, this time meaning it in an entirely different manner.
“Oh, don’t thank me yet, I have plans for you. You’re gonna need some better clothes. For two separate reasons.”
“I don’t want to know.”
She tells him anyway. “The prince thing. And the gay thing,” she says, smiling widely, and jesus fuck, his sister is seriously scary sometimes.
Basically, he’s screwed. Nothing new.