blue flamingos

Getting It

Fandom: Generation Kill

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length: 2009/ ~4000 words

Pairing: Brad/Ray, Poke

Spoilers: Post-series

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Brad's home from the Royal Marines, Poke's back in the civilian world with his wife and kids, and Ray's in a rock band. Either everything's changed or nothing has.

Author's Notes: Originally written for kitsunejin for YAGKYAS

Beta: beta'd by the awesome team of dossier, shoshannagold and ionaonie

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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The thing about Reporter's book is – well, okay, one thing is that it just shows Brad what he's always known, which is that the liberal media have no respect for a man's personal privacy if they can use it to make some point about the evils of war and how they're all messed up because of fighting it.

But the other thing, the thing that's relevant to the situation at hand, is that Reporter was only with them for a month and the book doesn't read like he it's about them as they were in that short space of time. It reads like that's who they are, Brad and Ray and Trombley and Walt, Fick and Wynn and even Captain Fucking America, like who they were in that fucked up invasion is who they are all the time.

And he's wrong. The book's wrong. Color Brad stunned.

He prefers Nate's book, for the record: not that it doesn't talk about some stuff Brad would rather not have written down anywhere, but it's about Nate, not them, and at least he knows that Nate gets it. Was one of them, even though he left.

Brad blames Poke for the fact that he's scrunched up in a too small seat on a civilian aircraft, thinking about this shit. Well, partly, if he's being strictly fair, he blames the girl reading the book while he was waiting for the flight to be called, but mostly he blames Poke. Poke's the one who called him and made him agree to fly across the country to see Ray's glorified garage band play, like Brad's got nothing better to do with his leave.

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"It's their first show, dawg," Poke said.

"I can't wait until they've gotten better?" Brad asked, already flicking through his calendar – sunsets, Christ, he'd never get what his sister was thinking when she picked out stuff to mail him.

"It's a show of moral – Lily, sweetheart, you know you're not supposed to be playing with that, put it back – support, Brad, come on."

"I'll call and tell him to break a leg," Brad promised.

"F – excuse me, no to that. Man, come on, what're you going to do otherwise? Like any of the hookers down there'll even take your calls."

In the background, Gina said something sharp about language.

"Talk about whipped. She even letting you out of the house for this thing, or are you going to climb down the drainpipe?"

"You wish you had my situation," Poke said confidently. "And as a matter of fact, it was Gina's idea. She and my girls are going to make popcorn and brownies and watch High School Musical while they paint each other's toe nails."

"Now I get it," Brad said, scribbling a note in his calendar. "I'm your savior, come to rescue you from the terrors of the women in your life."

"White man always gotta be saving someone. Just book the damn flight."

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So now Brad's on a plane ride that's rougher than a helicopter being shot at, stuck in his seat due to turbulence, thinking about Reporter and his book and how he got them wrong. Or not wrong, but not quite right either. He knows, he read the book when it came out a few weeks ago, though he'll deny it to his dying day if anyone asks. He's even read the bits about him, his ex, and the shepherd kids. How he was the den mom for a Humvee of killers and reprobates and Walt.

And Ray, running his mouth on Ripped Fuel, high as a fucking kite and nothing like the Ray Brad's expecting to see.

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Poke's waiting for Brad when he gets through arrivals, gives him a back-slapping hug like they haven't spoken to each other in months, and Poke at least is just like Brad's expecting, more or less the way Reporter made him out to be.

"Man, I swear, you get whiter every time I see you," Poke grumbles. "One of these days you're gonna just fade out like some Casper the friendly ghost shit."

"Broadening your education again, I see," Brad says, falling into step with him.

"Laugh all you want, I own the pop culture round on Jeopardy."

"In a house with two rugrats."

"Smarter than most of the people you know."

"Most of the people I know are Marines, that's not saying a lot."

"True," Poke admits. "So?"

"What?"

Poke rolls his eyes. "So, tell me, dog, what's the good word? Any new intel on any of the boys? Births, marriages, deaths – their own or other people's."

"Poke, just because you live in a house of women, it doesn't mean you have to turn into one."

"Fuck you, man, I still got all my vital parts."

Brad takes a minute to be thankful they're in a civilian airport, if it stops Poke from showing him. "Limited though they are," he says.

"Guess you'd know."

"Any time you want a little hard evidence."

Poke actually comes to a complete stop for long enough that Brad has to walk back to him. "I can't decide whether to start with the hard or the little."

Brad raises one eyebrow at him and Poke laughs. "Okay, never mind. That came out all kinds of wrong."

"Say that again," Brad agrees. Poke's happy, he thinks, out of the Corps, back with his wife and his girls. Seems like everyone's happier out, except him. He's still happier in. He still feels like he's doing something right, something worthwhile.

Maybe that's why he likes Nate's book better than Reporter's. Because even when Nate hated it, even when it made him miserable as fuck, he still got that they were trying to do something, that they weren't all like Trombley who just wanted to shoot things – people.

Which is part of Reporter's problem, as far as Brad's concerned, that he wanted to write about Ray and his musical dreams and his ability on the radio, and after months away from him, Brad's finding it hard to remember that isn't all Ray is.

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Brad caught up to Ray out on the far edge of the field, same line of flight the helicopters had left on. At least Ray didn't look like he was going to start crying any second. Not that Brad couldn't deal with Marines having tearful breakdowns – he'd never get it, but people seemed to think he'd be good with their problems, that they could *talk* to him, Iceman or not.

He just preferred not to have to deal with it.

"You all right?"

Ray shrugged, dropping his weapon and sitting down on the grass, knees drawn up a little. Brad sat next to him, and Ray said, "You think we'll be going home soon?"

"We better be, or I just spent all afternoon counting bullets and filling out fucking triplicate forms for nothing."

"Thought you made Walt count things."

"He's younger. Better eye sight."

"Sure, old man. What's your range score again?"

Brad shrugged and let the silence descend again. The sun was starting to go down, the football game still going strong behind them, mostly without screaming, vicious fights now. Should have stuck to something less confrontational – there had to be a nice abandoned airfield someplace close that they could storm.

Ray was still practically vibrating next to him – the bad kind that didn't come from Ripped Fuel and gun-fight adrenaline – but it was abating. Brad had a hard time remembering how it felt not to be hyper-aware of Ray at his nine, same way he had a hard time remembering home – America.

"Did I really try to punch Rudy in the face?" Ray asked after a while, sounding honestly curious.

"Apparently in the expression of some deeply repressed high school angst," Brad told him, figuring it was about the point at which Ray could laugh about it.

"Great," Ray grumbled. "Four weeks keeping all your asses alive, and *that's* what you're gonna remember me for."

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They've got neighboring rooms in a decent hotel. Poke disappears into his, muttering about calling his wife.

Brad checks out the head – gleaming white, and no pink soaps; the TV – not as good as his own, but that's to be expected in a hotel; the room service menu – nothing he wants to eat, even after months of what the Marine Corps considers food; and the mattress – actually pretty comfortable, even more so after he gets rid of half the pillows, strewn across the bed like he's some Roman emperor who's going to recline and wait for scantily clad serving girls to feed him grapes.

Once he's down, it doesn't seem worth getting up, and after a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if the weird stain is blood (and if it is, if it's fresh enough that he needs to worry about the dead body it's come from crashing through his ceiling at 0400) he digs out his cell and turns it on again.

No messages.

He could call his sister, listen to how many steps his niece took and how much apple sauce she ate today, or his mom, and probably get the same thing. He could call Gunny Wynn, who's heading out to Afghanistan in a couple days, or one of the Royal Marines he was with in England, one of the ones who like to think they bonded. They probably did.

He could call Ray.

Assuming Ray hasn't changed his number, or isn't at work. Sports club desk jockey. Brad can't picture it. That's not true. He can picture it well enough to get him through midnight patrols where there's fuck all happening and he needs the laugh.

Not so much on nights when he missed them all and couldn't forget that he wouldn't be in the UK for much longer; he didn't like the reminder that he didn't know Ray the sports club desk clerk any better than Reporter knew Ray the at-home Marine.

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First night back from Iraq, Ray came home with Brad for a couple of beers and didn't leave for a week. Slept on the couch – fell asleep in front of the TV, and Brad lay on his back in his double bed feeling like he might as well have been in his grave in the desert, listening to the murmur of late night infomercials the same way he'd listened to mortars and Captain America's hysteria.

Ray was mostly okay. They all were. Nothing like a long sail home to decompress and get your head on straight. Brad kind of hated flying home.

Brad made breakfast, Ray made dinner, and they went out in the day so no-one had to make lunch. It still felt domestic – nothing like with Lisa, before she left him, but some other kind of familiar, like he'd brought a bit of Iraq back with him, and he didn't know what to do with that information.

He was pretty sure the answer wasn't for them to sleep together, but, like a lot of things that involved Ray Person, it felt like the best choice of a bad lot, at the time.

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Brad turns his cell in his hand again. He doesn't know if Poke's told Ray they're coming – Brad's coming – because he couldn't figure out a subtle way to ask, and he doesn't want to know what Poke knows, or thinks he knows.

Forewarned is forearmed, except Ray's the kind of person to get Brad black-listed from the club if he knows Brad's coming. Sex and friendship, and Brad should've learnt his lesson with Lisa and Mark, but it doesn't seem like he did.

"Generals are always fighting the last war," Nate said once, meaning all of them, their lives and the way they fucked things up by being at war instead of at home. Brad's pretty sure it's not true about him and Ray.

He's got no idea what they're doing, and he's pretty sure Ray doesn't either. Experience suggests that's not going to be a good thing – it hasn't ever turned out to be a good thing for Brad before.

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Brad's expecting the club to be full of teenagers in too-tight jeans, couple inches of striped boxers showing over the top. He's never felt more like a frustrated drill sergeant than he did in the UK, wanting to go round and give them all belts, tell them that if they wanted to show off their underwear to do it Superman style.

Instead, it's the kind of laidback club that Brad might actually go to voluntarily, mostly groups of people his age and a bit older, mix of casual and the sort of smart-casual that says they've come straight from work. No lighting that makes him wish for either NVGs or sudden-onset blindness, and a selection of drinks he'll willingly let pass his lips.

"Don't look so shocked," Poke reprimands him, leaning one elbow on the bar and watching Brad. "I can pick a decent club."

"You didn't pick this one."

Poke presses his hand to his heart and gives Brad a wounded look. "Why you gotta hurt me like that, dawg?"

"Credit where it's due, that's all."

"You get no credit here, my friend. You were all set to cry off and stay home moping in the dark about opportunities lost or some shit."

"Opportunities lost?" Brad parrots. "I know I accused you of being a woman, I didn't realize you were so far gone as to be reading your wife's Harlequins."

Poke winces and gives the bar a quick once over, like Gina's about to leap on him from behind a pillar. "Don't let her hear you say that. She's got a ten minute lecture on how those books normalize an attitude towards women that promotes sexual and domestic violence disguised as a loving relationship."

Brad loves Gina Espera, at least in part because she can make Poke spout this stuff with a straight face. He wonders if he can get Poke drunk enough to give the whole lecture. Probably not on what they're drinking.

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Brad left, and claimed he wasn't leaving, he was going back to work. In another country.

Ray stopped taking his calls.

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Maybe they do need to switch to something stronger.

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Brad's not a teenager with a crush, so when Ray steps onto the club's tiny stage, he doesn't feel faint, nor does his heart skip a beat or any of that romance novel crap.

On the other hand, he's a recon Marine, trained to be observant, and what he observes is that Ray looks good. He's bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands twitching on the neck of his guitar, obviously buzzing, but it's different from the buzzing Brad's used to, or the everyone-thought-I-was-high buzz Ray talked about from high school.

People join the Marines to grow up, but it looks to Brad like that's what happened to Ray after he left.

Brad wonders, amused, what Reporter would make of that. He's glad the book doesn't go that far; if he's got to have part of his life available for public perusal, at least he can keep the rest of it private. The parts that he really can't have in print.

Their front man's rambling on about something Brad doesn't care about, and Ray looks away, rolls his eyes. Brad feels his face slide into amused reproach way too easily.

"You two start up with the public displays of affection and I'm dumping your ass," Poke mutters.

"Baby, you know you're the only one for me." Brad even flutters his eyelashes, but Poke just rolls his eyes. Brad's losing his touch.

It's weird, watching Ray play, trying to ignore the actual music, which is not so much Brad's thing. He might have gone through Iraq with a constant sense of where Ray was in relation to him, but not mooning around composing odes to Ray's hands or some shit like that. Ray was Ray, the whole instead of the parts, and Brad paid about as much attention to the curve of Ray's hands on the wheel of their Humvee as he did to the fastenings on his MOPP suit – still there, still functioning, move on. He's paying it now, though, Ray's hands steady and sure, quick and confident on his guitar, same competence and flair that Brad does remember from Iraq, Ray-the-driver, Ray-the-RTO, and before that, stateside up to his elbows in engine parts, and Afghanistan, Ray's silent, certain competence when they were doing what they were trained for, something he felt good about.

It's a hell of a lot more familiar than anything he remembers from after they came home, the last time.

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Poke says, "Come on, we gotta say hello, we're not in fucking high school," and Brad's the Iceman, even if he isn't here, so he follows Poke through the club, waits while Poke talks his way in back, then keeps following him.

He'd lurk in the shadows, except there aren't any shadows big enough to fit him, the corridor is all white walls and harsh lights. They make Ray look even skinnier than he is, made up of harsh lines running into jeans and t-shirt when he tumbles at Poke, adrenaline-fuelled embrace that lasts maybe a half-second.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Ray asks, too focused on Poke to notice Brad. That's not going to last long. "What happened to the weekend with your kids, God, you didn't bring them did you? Did you see what some of those girls are wearing, *I* wouldn't want to be around Gina, you bring your little Latinas-in-training here and I'm not married to her."

He looks around for them, or maybe for scantily-clad women, and sees Brad instead. He comes to a complete stop, all the twitching that Brad wasn't entirely aware of coming to a halt, though his face doesn't show it at all. "Brad," he says, neutral like Brad's never heard him.

Brad nods. He's got no idea what to say – what he wants to say, or should. He's not good at being the one who fucked it up.

"Huh," Poke says, looking between the two of them. "Not what I was expecting."

"What?" Ray asks.

Poke shrugs one shoulder. "Thought there'd be more throwing yourselves into each others arms."

"Dude," Ray says, horrified. Brad's on exactly the same page there. "Jesus, Brad, you let him come clubbing with that kind of severe head trauma? What happened to being a responsible Staff Sergeant?"

"I'm not responsible for dumb things said by people not under my command," Brad says. He regrets it as soon as he says it. Ray doesn't need an opening anything like that wide to drive through.

Ray moves, tiny jerk like he's going to speak, then doesn't, just looks back to Poke. "For real, homes, what's up with that?"

"You spend twelve months listening to him trying to be all subtle about wanting to know what you're doing," Poke says, nodding at Brad, who's starting to reconsider making the acquaintance of the limited shadows.

Ray slides Brad a quick, speculative glance. "Okay, him I get. Why me?"

"I got eyes," Poke says. "Just because everyone else thinks the LT was fucking him, I applied my superior intellect to the problem at hand."

"Superior sense of the massively inappropriate," Brad corrects. That's just – yeah. Not a place he ever wants to go.

"Whatever, dawg." Poke looks between them again, then nods. "Think I'm gonna go see about the mini-bar."

"You suck at being a visitor," Ray calls after him, which Poke ignores, and then they're standing together in a too-bright corridor after a year of not seeing each other, walls vibrating with the bass in the club. Brad still doesn't know what to say. He's pretty sure he doesn't want it to be another year before he sees Ray again.

Maybe that's a good start. Or maybe that's the kind of start that led to his girlfriend and his best friend getting married.

"You start talking about the weather, I'll shoot you," Ray warns. "This is the South. Half the band is carrying right now, and nobody'd blink twice if I shot some Hebrew Cali liberal who looks like Hitler's wet dream."

"The weather?" Brad asks, then, because he can't not, "Only half?"

"All that time in England, I'm not surprised you don't know how to talk about anything else," Ray says with certainty, ignoring the rest. He eyes Brad for a long minute, then sighs. "Okay, fuck, I'm not doing this here. Stand still. I'll be back."

He disappears into what Brad assumes is a dressing room, and Brad eyes the light strip and rehearses what he wants to say. It's my fault. I don't know what we were doing, and I got worried it'd go wrong. And also, I'm a Marine and I don't want to be something else. I don't want to have to be.

It's not a very good apology. It's not really an apology at all, but Brad doesn't exactly want to apologize. More than anything, he wants to just start up again, sex and friendship, and make it work. He and Ray are a lot of things; the love affair of the ages isn't one of them. He's pretty sure that's the one thing they both get.

"Okay, so here's the thing," Ray says, suddenly back in front of Brad, now wearing a brown leather jacket and carrying a soft black guitar case. "I'm not in love with you, is the first thing, and I know you're helpless in the face of my fine perfection, but you're gonna have to accept that." The corner of his mouth twitches, and Brad knows it's going to be okay. The Corps teaches bonds that don't break easily, and both of them learned that lesson early on. And he knows all the parts of Ray that the public doesn't know, that only the rest of them do. He's probably had worse starts. "And you did come see me play, so that makes up for all kinds of sins, mostly the bad ones. You don't have to make up for the good ones. So there's that."

"There is that," Brad agrees. "I flew commercial, if that helps."

"Man, seriously?" Ray asks, incredulous. "I take it back, forget the rest of the speech. That's, like, above and beyond the call."

"Well, I am a recon Marine," Brad points out. "We go the extra mile."

Ray barks out a laugh that makes Brad smile, easy click of connection, hundred memories of grinning at Ray in the cab of a Humvee and knowing they were the only two people who got that joke right then.

Poke's right. He missed this, feeling like he still knows Ray outside of the pages of a book by a man who tried his best to get them and didn't, quite.

"So, nice hotel?" Ray asks, still smiling at him.

"Slept worse places."

Ray nods seriously, then says, "I actually meant – do you have a big bed?"

"King."

"Fuckin' A," Ray says, giving Brad his guitar case to carry and heading for the exit. "You can fuck me while you tell me how sorry you are for acting like a chickenshit horse's ass and running off to a whole other continent, and how much you miss my giant cock."

Brad's got a nasty feeling Ray might be quoting him at the end. "Let's start with the second part," he says.

Ray just looks at him for a minute, then grins, that bright, crazed Ray-grin that always makes Brad grin back. "Fuck it, take the rest as read, right? I kind of prefer the sex-high compliments to the groveling anyway."

"That's what makes us a good team," Brad agrees, and follows him out of the club.


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