Fandom: Generation Kill.
Disclaimer: based on fictionalised characters as seen on a tv show. All fiction.
A/N: An AU based on Discworld's Mort. I don't even know, guys. Extended notes at the end of the story, because I clearly need to explain myself.
Brad goes to the job fair expecting to end up as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Fine, to be honest, that is what he wants. What he expects is more along the lines of a farm job, doing basically all the things he’s been doing for his father but which somehow count as work experience if you’re doing them for someone else.
What he does not expect is to see, among the craftsmen and blacksmiths and carpenters, to see a black rider on a pale horse, carrying a fucking scythe.
No one screams or runs away, which is highly suspicious. Brad would expect the villagers to have more sense of self-preservation.
Except that after a moment he can see that their eyes go glassy and unseeing when they look in the rider’s direction. They act and move as if they don’t see him at all, except they somehow still manage to give him a wide berth, driven by something basic and primal.
Brad isn’t sure why he’s apparently the only one to see the dark figure, but it’s not something he wanted. Especially not something he wants when he sees the figure stop and pet a cat. It’s somehow both terrifying and awkward, the long bony finger scratching the kitten behind the ginger ear and then under the chin.
“What the fucking fuck,” he mutters to himself. It’s a mistake. The rider looks up, straight at him, and Brad can see under the hood now, can see the skull and the darkness where the eyes should be, darkness and blue lights.
One of them goes out for a second.
Brad realizes that the Death has just winked at him.
He’s rooted to the spot while Death approaches, his palms sweaty and the hair on his neck standing on its ends.
COME WITH ME, Death says, his vowels falling down like old tombstones.
Brad looks down at himself. He doesn’t feel dead. “I’m not dead,” he tries.
“Then, well, thanks, but no thanks. Why would you even fucking...”
IT’S AN INTERNSHIP POSITION. BASIC LEVEL. BUT THERE’S HEALTH INSURANCE. IN CASE OF ACCIDENTS. AND ME.
“And you,” Brad repeats. “Are you offering me a job?” he asks incredulously.
YES. DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN AGAIN?
Brad shrugs. It beats work on a farm. And health benefits are probably off the hook.
Death’s house is not what you’d expect.
Except that of course Death’s house is not what you’d expect, you already knew that, so you were already thinking of something as unlike what you would normally consider as a house suitable for Death. So, you’re expecting a white picket fence and a nice garden, maybe.
So, Death’s house can’t be like that either.
It’s a... it’s a place. Brad can’t tell you much, the journey is blurry and he didn’t take a good look on the outside. The inside is enormous, except no one uses much of it. He gets a proper room, which is nice, in most apprenticeships you’re lucky if the barn is dry and there’s plenty of hay.
Death leaves early (if time matters, Brad isn’t quite sure, the clocks aren’t working and the hourglasses are... too creepy) and Brad is left to wander around the place. He finds the kitchen quite quickly, a great big room suitable for a castle. You could cook a dinner for a hundred or a few.
As it is, now there’s a breakfast being cooked for one.
“Ah, he finally gets here,” the boy doing the cooking says and nods at Brad.
Maybe the breakfast is for two, Brad concludes, when a plate of eggs and bacon is being placed in front of him. “For me?” he asks, to make sure. The look he gets suggests that the boy was expecting an intelligent human being and is wondering if he got an imbecile instead.
“If you are Bradley,” he shrugs. “If not, then I have to warn you, you picked a really, really bad household to break into. When I say my father could be the death of you, I am not kidding.”
“One, this was a terrible pun,” Brad mutters. “Two, father? Really?”
“I’m Nate,” the boy says, picking up a coffee pot and filling two mugs. He pushes one towards Brad.
“Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see the family resemblance.”
Nate snorts, saluting Brad with his coffee mug. “I can see nothing gets past you. This bodes well.”
“Job security, for one. We’ll see about the rest,” Nate shrugs, and digs into his breakfast, chewing thoughtfully. After a moment, Brad follows the example. He didn’t realise how fucking hungry he was. “I’m adopted,” Nate offers.
Brad gives him a look. “No shit.”
It earns him a smile, one that starts in Nate’s eyes and quickly takes over his entire face. Brad concludes that he might be in the deeper cacky than he previously expected.
“Where is your...” he gestures vaguely with a fork to indicate how ridiculous he finds both the concept and the word, “father?”
Nate snorts and shrugs at the same time. “Working.”
“See, here you go and give that one innocent word a whole new meaning.”
“Brad. You’ve accepted the apprenticeship.”
“Would you say no to Death himself?”
Nate gives him a look and Brad remembers the whole ‘father’ thing. Maybe it’s different than you argue about who’s doing laundry and what time is bedtime.
Fuck, now he has the whole image stuck in his head and it’s probably not going to go away any time soon. “So, adopted?” he says, because that particular concept is still a little, well, fucking weird.
“I suppose he wanted someone around. He’s...”
“I swear, if you say ‘a nice person’ I’m going to spit the coffee all over you.”
“Charming. And he’s not a person, really. Personification, yes. And I was going to say, lonely. For a given value of lonely. Or maybe he thinks he should feel lonely because he’s alone. Dad sometimes gets those ideas.”
“Dad,” Brad repeats, shaking his head. “It’s getting worse,” he mutters, making note of the way Nate’s lips twitch again, with a smile he’s holding back. If Brad is to be honest with himself, he likes that, he wouldn’t mind seeing more of that smile. “Let’s quit while I’m ahead and hadn’t gone insane. What do I do?” he asks. Person or not, it would be nice if his new boss outlined his duties.
“The stables need cleaning out,” Nate supplies helpfully and grins. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
So, apparently Death uses real horses. Of course, Brad had seen the horse before (name’s Binky, apparently, and this is one more thing he’s repressing, really), but the stables kind of drive home the point.
Only a real horse could produce this much manure.
“We’ve had a skeletal one,” Nate offers. “But Dad had to go back too often, to look for the bones, and then fix them up with wire. And the one made of shadow and flame, well, you wouldn’t want to clean the stable after that one.”
“Why?” Brad asks before he can stop himself. Sometimes he thinks he must hate himself, really.
“There was not much stable left, for starters,” Nate says, handing Brad a shovel. He picks up a second one and Brad gives him a look. “I thought you might want some help.”
“Not one to argue, but, why?” Brad asks casually, leaning against the shovel. Nate shrugs.
“Beats sitting in the library again,” Nate says, something in his voice not quite congruent with the seemingly light tone. Brad doesn’t think he should pry, he’s done a lot of this already, besides, he has some other shit to deal with.
He digs in.
The first real assignment Brad gets, on his own, happens something like two months into his apprenticeship.
He’s not quite sure, time doesn’t really pass inside the house. Or if it does, it’s on a whole set of other rules. Nate shrugs when Brad asks.
“It’s the same day,” he offers. “Again and again. We recycle in this house,” he adds with a grin that isn’t his usual one, the one Brad likes. This one is sharp and cracked on the edges and a little painful.
“How long?” Brad asks and Nate shrugs.
“That question requires a normal passing of time to answer. A long time, I suppose.”
Brad doesn’t ask again, just concentrates on the board. Nate’s been teaching him chess between assignments and Brad is pretty confident that in a little while, he’s going to kick Nate’s ass. If there was a little while. Back to the time issue, and he’d rather not tread there.
So, assignments. He’s been on some. The death of an old monk, an inhumation of a minor ruler in the mountains by an assassin, two people in a rather interesting accident involving some oil, two metal spikes, and a hamster...
This is his first solo one. Death has, in his own words, MATTERS TO ATTEND TO, and when that’s the explanation you get, you really, really don’t want to ask if the trip is business or pleasure. Both answers lead on a path of trouble.
The subject, for a lack of better word, is the Royal Princess of Na Zdrowie, and it’s going to be, according to Nate who actually likes research and consulted the books of lives, an assassination again. Something about a cousin who thinks the throne should be his, Brad tuned out after a few lines of the lecture on the Na Zdrowie ruling family.
Nate really likes research.
So, Brad gets to ride Binky (no skill necessary, if the horse of Death doesn’t want you to fall off, you won’t fall off. Brad had been giving him extra apples for the last week, just to make sure.) and carry the scythe (some skill necessary, if you cut yourself with a regular scythe, you get a nasty gash, if you cut yourself with Death’s scythe... well, Brad doesn’t know what happens and he doesn’t want to find out.), and he sets off, accepting Nate’s smiling ‘good luck’ with a smile of his own.
He might have jinxed it with the smile.
It goes something like this: it’s easy to get into the Princess’ bedroom, especially since apparently Brad can walk through walls when on official business. He’s not the only one in the bedroom. There’s the assassin behind the curtain, and then there is his target in bed.
And someone else.
The two heads sticking from under the covers give the assassin some pause. The fact that both clearly belong to men, and that there are interesting things going on under the covers, give pause to Brad.
He’d like to say that he does what he does because he suspects none of the men in bed are the Princess. But mostly... well, they’re clearly enjoying themselves and not paying attention to anything, and the assassins is smirking and he looks rather slimy, and it’s just...
He only realises what he’s doing when the blue edge of the scythe goes through the would-be-assassin and he folds like a cheap suit, with barely a groan.
That at least gets the attention of the people in bed.
“What the fuck?” the dark-haired one says, his gaze fixed on Brad, even though Brad was assure he should be fucking invisible to normal people.
“Would you believe I stepped into the wrong bedroom?” he says flatly. The guy looks at him, then at the body on the floor.
“And happened to stop an assassination in the process? Homes, this is some lucky coincidence, but unfortunately I don’t believe in luck, or in coincidence. That’s what the government wants everyone to focus on, luck, so they don’t see the conspiracy beneath.”
“Ray, you are the government, technically,” the blond man points out tiredly. He attempts to cover himself up a little more. Ray doesn’t seem to have false modesty problems, or indeed, any modesty problems. Or any idea what it is.
“I think he got the wrong bedroom too,” Brad volunteers, kicking the leg of the corpse and wondering if backing up through the wall would be helpful or cause more trouble. Or if he can go through the wall now, after all, the invisibility doesn’t seem to be working properly. This whole system could be broken. “He was to kill the Princess.”
“No, he got the right bedroom alright,” Ray mutters, standing up to take a closer look at the body. Still no attempts to find any item of clothing, preferably pants, but Brad’s not picky. He glances back and the guy in bed gives him a look full of understanding. “I see Craig is trying his best. The question is, who are you, homes. I could draw some conclusions based on the rather awesome scythe you’re sporting, but I’d rather not, because those are some pretty fucking strange conclusions and I don’t think I’m that drunk.”
“You are not calling for the guards,” Brad points out and then berates himself in his head. Sure, give them the idea.
Ray gives him a sideways look. “Yeah, no. See, this would be making a fuss, and Walt here doesn’t want people making a fuss. Or indeed, knowing that he has been, let’s say, sleeping over.”
“Some people have very definite ideas about people like me not defiling their princess,” Walt mutters.
“Please. Would you look at him?” Ray asks Brad with a wide gesture. Brad’s been trying not to, but it’s better than looking at Ray anyway, because when he’s looking at Ray he sees way too much of Ray for his comfort. “If anyone’s been doing any defiling, it was me,” he adds smugly.
Brad does the math. Then he does it again, because he didn’t like the result the first time.
“You’re the princess?” he asks Ray, who looks at him strangely and then rolls his eyes.
“Complicated laws. Nothing bans the male heir from inheriting the throne, but the ruler is always the Queen and the heir is the Royal Princess. That’s me.”
“Princess Ray,” Brad repeats.
“Princess Joshua,” Walt corrects, which might be worse. “Can we put on some clothes for this discussion?”
“Really, Walt? A giant-ass guy carrying a scythe I have seen on those Apocalyptic paintings Aunt Marjorie loves so much appears in my bedroom and stops someone from killing us with our pants down and dicks out, and you worry about clothes?”
“I actually second that notion,” Brad offers weakly.
Ray shakes his head. “Wusses.”
The light is lit. The clothes are (thank gods) put on. The corpse is rolled up in a carpet and put aside.
“So, Death,” Walt says, his tone carefully light, like he’s making small talk. He probably is, or at least trying to. “How’s that working for you?”
“I suppose my contract might get terminated pretty damn soon,” Brad says dryly. Ray snorts and pats him on the back which, well, Brad certainly does not encourage. He glares at Ray for a good measure.
“So, what now?” Walt asks next and Brad shrugs.
“We dump the body in the river, our new friend here goes on his way, and you and I continue on our way to make the kingdom a wonderful place to live, for men and sheep alike.”
“Sheep?” Brad prompts, ignoring the ‘friend’ part.
“Walt likes sheep,” Ray says, with an overdone leer. Walt smacks him on the head.
“Why do you must make everything sound so sleazy?”
“It’s a gift, Walter. One that you really appreciate, if memory serves.”
“Oh, shut up,” he says and turns to Brad. “Technically I’m a shepherd,” he says, looking at Brad as if he’s daring him to comment.
Which he does. It’s too good to pass up. “The princess and the shepherd. Really.”
“I can still call for the guards, homes,” Ray threatens good-naturedly while flipping him off. Brad might reconsider the whole friend idea, this is actually quite amusing.
Except for the corpse in the carpet and the fact that his boss will be the death of him. Possibly soon.
“I should get going. Try not to get killed.”
“Wouldn’t you know if I was about to?” Ray asks cheerfully. Brad isn’t quite sure.
Nate must have been pacing the room or something, because he arrives in the stables the moment Brad starts to dismount the horse. He crosses his arms over his chest and regards Brad coldly. “What did you do?” he asks.
He hoped he might be able to hide this for a little longer. Until he got inside the house, at least.
“How do you know?”
“The hourglasses are in an uproar.”
“The hourglasses are what?” Brad avoids the hourglasses’ room. The fact that it’s bigger on the inside is just the beginning of the creepiness. It’s rows and rows of sky high shelves, and that’s inside a damn room that fits between the kitchen and the downstairs privy. There’s the sound, too. The endless, quiet whisper of the cascading sand, killing people grain by grain.
“In an uproar. You can’t feel that? They’re... worried. Things changed. They’re not sure they like that,” Nate says. His face is a little pale, Brad thinks. His eyes a little more blue than green somehow. It could be the light in this place.
“No, I can’t feel that.”
“And the books.”
“Let me guess, they are perplexed.”
Nate rolls his eyes, clearly not amused. “The library practically spit out the Princess’ book. Like it doesn’t want it. Like it’s wrong,” he adds and Brad closes his eyes and breathes out.
“Have you looked inside?”
“I’m not sure I’m going to like what I’ll see.”
Brad sighs and gently pats Binky, makes sure the horse is comfortable and has enough food, then nods at Nate. “Okay. Show me.”
They head into the kitchen, the book in question sitting on the table. Brad can feel it now, the unease in his stomach. Nate was right, something is wrong, you can feel it in the house. He opens the book and skims over the events of the past few hours. The book is still writing itself, even though it has run out of pages. New pages are appearing, that shouldn’t be happening.
Nate leans over the book and reads through one of the pages. “Brad,” he says, voice full of concern and reproach at the same time. Then, he shakes his head, the corner of his mouth rising in a weak smile. “The princess and the shepherd?”
“You’re not surprised about the male part, I see.”
“Interesting constitution they have there. Did you know...”
“Nate. Not the time,” he offers gently and Nate nods. “Any ideas? When is your father coming back?”
“He’s playing bridge with friends, we have a few hours, give or take.”
“Excuse me, but bridge? And, he has friends?” he’s not sure which part gets to him more.
“The other Horsepeople. They’ve learned a while back, Dad says they’re close to getting the hang of the rules.”
“A while back?”
“Few decades, I think,” Nate shrugs. “Maybe thirty years ago? Also, stop changing the subject, Brad.”
Of course he noticed that. Brad sighs and sits down, closing the book. It trembles under his fingers, clearly worried. “It’s my fault, I don’t want you getting tangled in this.”
Nate doesn’t answer for a long while, long enough to worry Brad, and he looks up. Nate’s staring down at him with an unreadable expression. Brad isn’t sure if it’s angry or worried or disappointed or...
And then Nate’s leaning down and kissing him, and it’s both unexpected and entirely welcome. Brad’s fingers tighten on Nate’s shirt instinctively, Nate’s hand on the back of his neck, pressing, angling him for the kiss, one that is messy and, yes, angry, and also, somehow, sweet and perfect.
What is less perfect is Nate pulling back, but Brad can take a raincheck, he needs a moment to breathe anyway.
“Pretty tangled in it already,” Nate offers and Brad has to accept that. Arguing would be counterproductive, even if he knows he should. He wants this too much.
“What do we do, then?”
“Give me the hourglass,” Nate offers, taking it from Brad gingerly. All of the sand is at the bottom, the upper part is filled with... nothing, except, something. Darkness mixed with light, black and blue, like a small galaxy frozen in time. It’s blue like Death’s eyes and it seems to be judging Brad.
Nate flips it over. The sand remains frozen in the top container for a longest second of Brad’s like and then slowly begins to trickle down.
“That should at least buy us some time,” he offers, tone deceptively light. “Do you know what’s going to happen next?” he asks and Brad shrugs.
“I could hazard a guess,” Nate offers, and that’s as much of a yes in Brad’s book as it could be. He gestures for Nate to continue. “Reality will try to right itself. Remove the obstacle.”
“Ray,” Brad supplies, something inside his gut turning with concern. Damn it, he actually liked the guy. He’s obviously slipping, he likes way too many people recently.
Nate nods, something shifting in his expression, like he’s making a decision. “Can’t let all your work go to waste.”
“And Griego would be a terrible Queen. I took a look at that future, it’s pretty bleak,” he offers and walks up to the umbrella stand in the hallway, Brad following him with, probably, a rather confused expression. Nate picks up the sword from the stand and slides it out of the sheath. The blade is made of blue light, even brighter than the scythe. It’s for special occasions.
This is pretty fucking special, if you ask Brad.
The blue light is reflected in Nate’s eyes. At least, Brad is pretty sure it’s a reflection.
YOU COMING? Nate asks and Brad shivers. Nate lowers the sword, his eyes green again. Green and worried. “Sorry. I don’t know what that was...”
“Getting ready to take over the family business?” Brad tries. He’s not freaking out. He’s not. It’s still Nate even though his voice sounded like a thunder rolling over a graveyard. It still, inexplicably, sounded like Nate.
No, Nate smiles, a little sad. “I don’t think it’s the life I want,” he says, then adds, with a small shrug of someone who can’t quite help himself. “Not the death I want either.”
“Where have you been, homes? I have been almost-killed seven times in the past two days. Including the not-so-hilarious incident with the wine cork.”
“And yet, you are still breathing, I see,” Brad mutters. “And, unfortunately, talking.”
“Won’t get rid of me so fast,” Ray offers, grinning. “Who’s your boyfriend?”
“He’s,” Brad starts, wanting to protest, but then again, who knows. Maybe. Hopefully. “This is Nate. Nate, this is Her Royal Highness Princess Ray. And that’s Walt. He likes sheep,” he adds, because well, he needs to get his kicks somewhere. Nate, however, just nods.
“I have a few books you could borrow,” he tells Walt with an expression that’s entirely too serious for Brad’s comfort.
“Books,” he repeats. Nate smiles at him, his eyes shining with mischief.
“Well, I’ve always wondered why this country ignored its main resource for so long. Bad economy, really.”
Brad can’t even. “Sheep later. Inevitable doom, plans to avoid, now.”
“Which brings me back to, who’s he? I mean, your Death’s apprentice, I got that, who’s he?” Ray clearly wants to know. Brad shrugs.
ADOPTED, Nate supplies helpfully.
It doesn’t take Death long to catch up.
He’s sort of known for that, Brad supposes. And they hadn’t even bought the fastest horse and travelled to a remote town.
NOT EVERYONE BREAKS THE REALITY ON THEIR VERY FIRST ASSIGNMENT, Death says, once Brad’s scythe is broken on the ground and Walt and Ray are slowly inching towards the doorway, acting like they’re not there, no sire, they’re very far away indeed. I AM ALMOST IMPRESSED. YOU TWO, STAY WHERE YOU ARE, PLEASE. I WILL GET TO YOU IN A MOMENT.
NO, Nate says. That one at least gets Death’s full attention. Nate’s holding up the sword and stepping in between Death and Brad, which is a very, very bad idea. Brad tries to stand up, tug at Nate’s sleeve and pull him away.
“Love conquers death,” Nate offers, his voice normal again. He waves his hand, the one that’s not busy with the sword that is, in the general direction of Ray and Walt. “I wonder if it could conquer Death, too.”
“Nate, step the fuck away. It’s not your fight,” Brad mutters through his gritted teeth. He’s not sure what would happen if Death’s sword met Death’s scythe and he really, really doesn’t want to find out.
Nate, of course doesn’t move an inch. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he says. Don’t be ridiculous, says the man threatening Death with his own sword. “Of course it is my fight.”
The light in Death’s eye dims a little. Brad worries if it’s the tick that indicates the man... the personification is about to snap and kill them all, here, on the spot.
Then, suddenly, he thinks that maybe, Death is winking at him.
LOVE CONQUERS DEATH, Death says thoughtfully. WELL, I DO NOT MAKE THE RULES. I DO UPHOLD THEM, he says, almost reproachfully.
Nate lowers his sword slowly. His hand is not shaking at all, Brad can almost feel the concentration radiating off him in waves, the concentration that ensures that Nate’s hands are most certainly not shaking at all.
“Thank you, Dad,” he says earnestly and Brad doesn’t know what to say.
“Guys, am I the only one who can’t even?” Ray asks incredulously from the floor. For once, Brad is in complete agreement with him.
Everything goes black.
The thing is on the table in the living room when Brad gets downstairs. Heavy with dark silver, ornaments of skulls and bones all around. It looks ominous.
“I say, we throw it away,” he offers.
As wedding presents go, this one is really, really wrong.
Nate, however, is smiling. “Don’t you dare,” he says, picking the damn thing up. It’s filled with sand, completely, no room for the sand to go up or down, or even slide to the sides. It just sits there, glistening. Sure, it’s pretty, but really fucking creepy.
“What is it, anyway?” Brad asks, gently taking it out of Nate’s hands and placing it back on the table. He laces his fingers with Nate’s, a surefire way to make him feel that little bit better.
“It’s from Dad,” Nate offers, as if Brad hadn’t figured that out. The skulls and bones are kind of a dead give-away.
Pun not intended, fuck.
At least he supposes he’s not the only person in the world whose future father-in-law scares the shit out of him.
“Figured that much,” he offers and Nate’s smile widens. “So?”
“Time,” Nate says quietly. “It’s time.”
extended notes, or: musings of a feverish mind.
Title's been changed, as it has been pointed out to me there is a Brad/Nate fanfic of that title in existence already. So, have the second worst pun I came up with, instead.
So, I have been re-reading a lot of Pratchett in the past few days, because I've ordered Snuff and figured I might as well re-read the Unseen Academicals while I wait. Well, I'm still waiting, Polish Post is worse than the Ankh-Morpork one before Moist took over, and I'm making my way backwards through the novels and am currently readint The Truth.
Which leads to Pratchett AUs. Like this one. Where there are awful puns, and an even more awful joke about Na Zdrowie kingdom that is probably funny only to me.
And the few other AUs I could write.
Like the one where they are all students at the Guild of Assassins' Academy.
Or the Guards, Guards AU in which Brad is a dwarf through adoption but also kind of Vimes in the cynicism area. And Nate is Lady Sybil and raises little dragons.
(I was thinking of a Night Watch AU, but I basically did that already, with Cala, in The Second of Our Reign, so.)
Or the one where Brad is Vimes, Nate is William de Worde, and Ray is Moist von Lipwig and they generally make each other's lives very, very difficult, except that sometimes they kinda sorta fuck?
And the one where, brace yourself, there is genderbend, because they're in the Borogravia's army and are all girls pretending to be boys. And Godfather is Jackrum, so help me Anoia. And Brad is a Black-Ribboner female vampire. And Nate is, obviously, Polly. And Ray and Walt are kind of like Tonker and Lofty. And Reporter might be pregnant. And Encino Man is a female troll.
It makes sense if you're on my meds.