Brad walks with deliberate ease as he heads back to his platoon's tent.
It doesn't fool Ray, though, because he pushes his fucking J.Lo shades up off his face and says, "Homes, did nobody ever tell you that you're actually allowed to say 'no'? And, okay, it's possible that you're totally hot for Encino Man because he's some kind of sub's dream that I'm never gonna understand, but you don't look like it."
"Shut up," Brad says, and settles gently onto his rack. He can't cope with Ray just now and, when Ray opens his mouth again, Brad lifts one hand. "I'm asking you, Person. Please. Just this once, shut the fuck up."
Ray stares at him, eyes narrowed with concern, then shrugs and pulls his shades back down. "Shutting up, sergeant."
Two One Alpha has been behind the action since they left Mathilda. The other Bravo Two teams get more than their share, and the LT looks unhappy about it, but not as unhappy as Trombley. Brad overhears him at the airfield, complaining that he'd rather be riding with Captain America than some pansy-ass sub who needs to be protected from everything.
"You ever think-" Ray's words are garbled by his toothbrush, and he stops to spit out the toothpaste. "You ever think command is maybe trying to keep Reporter alive? Doesn't make us look good if we get our only civilian killed off."
"You think?" Trombley sounds thoughtful.
"I was with Brad in Afghanistan. Trust me, his sub ass don't need any protection." Ray pauses. "Well, condoms. Fuck knows what retard brain diseases Encino Man's carrying."
Schwetje is no sub's dream. He can't tell pain from dominance; can't tell physical force from submission; can't tell the difference between enough and too much.
But it's something, and Brad learned back in Basic not to turn down anyone with more stripes than him. Learned in SERE that the more he can cope with, the better he'll survive.
"Sir," Brad says, as Schwetje snips through the plastic cuff. Brad eases his arms forward, trying not to wince. "The reporter's been asking if he could see a bit more action."
"Oh." Schwetje thinks about it. "I'll transfer him to one of the other victors."
Damn. "I meant-"
Schwetje pats Brad's shoulder. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll try not to get your pretty face scratched up."
"I think he'd be safest with my team. Sir," Brad says. "My victor's got a little more armour."
Reporter doesn't get any more action, but Brad gets to keep the cover story Ray invented.
Brad's back is too painful for him to lie on it. He shuffles around in his grave, trying to find the least uncomfortable position, and draws Ray's attention.
"I never thought you'd let a hot ass get in the way of combat effectiveness," Ray says, and shakes his head. "You have shattered my illusions, and my faith in the command structure of this fine organisation."
Brad bares his teeth in something that isn't even close to a smile. "At least I'm getting laid," he says.
"You're the only sub in the battalion," Ray says. "I'm pretty sure you can do better than Encino Man."
"And when Godfather asks," Brad says, "I'll be ready. Until then, I'm trying to sleep."
Brad hates that he likes it. Hates the shiver of need that runs through him as he kneels at a top's feet. Hates the way the pain lights him up with adrenaline. Hates that the sting of a knife down his back can make him come without his cock even being touched.
Hates that he is so completely a sub.