It starts after Iraq, after Nate has left, after Nate has become a civilian again, someone worthy of Brad's scorn, even though he's kind of still a Marine.
In some ways, it's a continuation of something that started in Iraq, something that was only heated glances and brief moments where nothing was said but everything was communicated. In some ways, it's new, and exotic, and strange, and a little bit scary, even though Nate would never admit that, especially not to Brad.
And it's Brad, who seems tangible now, a webbing of skin and bruises and colours and witty remarks and sharp insults that never seem insulting, and it's Brad who still calls him LT, even in whispers in the dark as they try to fall asleep in something that is not a ranger grave, with sounds that aren't heavy artillery surrounding them.
"You can call me Nate you know," he says, over piping hot coffee, with Brad at his sink, with sunlight making dust motes dance. "It's my name. I'm not your LT anymore." Brad doesn't say anything for a moment. He shifts, moves his weight from leg to leg, and the muscles are stark and lean, and Nate watches the shadows while he waits.
"Nate," Brad says, finally. He says it like it bruises his gums and cracks his teeth, but it's not the first time he's said it, not nearly, but it's the first time it's felt like that, like it's more than a way to catch his attention, or the first thing to come to mind with skin pressed to skin. "I don't like it," he says. "LT," he says, and it's comfortable in his mouth.
"I could call you Iceman all the time," Nate says, feels the rush of the burn of hot coffee in his mouth. Brad shrugs, one shoulder higher than the other, a casual movement, because it doesn't bother him, because it's not a nickname that makes his neck burn and it's not a nickname he has to say don't too, it's a nickname hard earned and deserved, a nickname that became him, one he didn't have to become. "I guess it could be worse than LT," he says, and catches the way Brad smiles.