The weirdest fucking thing about this whole debacle? Brad kind of felt that he fit in. He didn't know why or how, or anything except how lucky he was that when the magic (and Jesus it pains him to even say that word) had picked him up and thrown him into this situation, it'd thought to have given him some capacity to understand the language, and he'd kept his own wits long enough, that when the cold eyed man in the wolf skin cloak asked him if he was being sent to join the Frontier Wolves, he'd said yes on instinct. Wolves he could do. Getting tossed back in time by what looked like a thousand years (don't ask him to be more precise than that, he's not a historian) waking up on sodden ground, when he'd fallen asleep in Royal Marine quarters was the real fucker.
It'd taken him long enough to sort out who people were- the slouchy laughing-eyed one who kept everything in quiet order was Hilarion, and while Brad sort of wanted to make the man stand up for once, there was no denying he was good at his job, and something about the way he grinned at whatever joke he was thinking about reminded him of Ray. Alexios... Alexios when he arrived after three or four months, reminded him of Nate which was bizarre because Nate had been good at his job, not some pussy Roman soldier who'd fucked up and got his men killed. But there was something there about the duck of his head, and how straight he stood and met your eyes when it took all the strength in the world, that made Brad long with a sudden fierceness for old times back again.
He stands out here, like he's always stood out, there's not many six foot four blond soldiers round the place, and he's learned quickly to mumble the name of his origin. America fuck yeah, means precisely nothing here. They assume Nordic ancestry, he doesn't deny it. They also laugh at his ineptness with a sword, tell him he has slave hands. For someone who has prided himself on his physical fitness most of his life that stings more than a little, and he wants to prove them wrong. Not to mention here, he is older than most of them. Alexios can barely be twenty he thinks, wants to laugh at how precisely nothing has changed. The old men send the young to war. England in the past, America in the future. At nights, he tries not to fit old names to new faces. Alexios is not Nate, Hilarion is not Ray, and after time he remembers that. Starts to forget where he comes from. The sword comes to his hand easily now, and the laughter is more friendly.
It's been months, but he doesn't keep track of time much anymore. He's not the religious sort, he doesn't believe in a world order, or that things happen for a reason. He's not searching for answers, doesn't think there's a magic bullet that's gonna take him back to his own place and time. He's a Marine, and Marines make do with what they've got. Plus, not once in this new world has he been in a position of considering a diaper, or worrying about getting his lungs burnt out by chemical weapons. Small compensations. And soldiers? Turns out they're pretty similar from place to place. When he's killed his wolf and made his cloak, he's part of them, picks up their ways easily. The food is shitty most of the time, he doesn't know his ancestors lived off this crap forever, but yeah it's still better than MREs, and he hasn't seen a packet of Charms yet. Things could definitely be worse.
Of course that's when the world starts going to shit. He's lived through this too many times, one way or another. Fucked up chains of command, idiots thinking they should fuck with the status quo- and Jesus if he'd got his hands on Connla first, screw the mercy that Alexios had handed out. Better than anyone here Brad knows what happens when you mess with the tribes. Friendliness means nothing, bread broken between you means nothing. You are foreign, alien, other, and the rules do not apply. He thinks the odd conception of honour these ragged men have can't quite grasp that. Their cynicism is skin-deep not bone. He's watched Alexios change and grow, and develop into a leader, watched him gain the respect of his men, and even Brad's own grudging recognition, and he wants to shake him now. Wants to tell him, he's seen this before. That Alexios can't understand the vengeance that's coming his way.
But Brad does what he's always done best. He follows and he fights, grimly without give or mercy, expecting none and dealing none. He's been called a berserker by people who do not understand that he only does what must be done. Going cross-country like this is so different and yet so familiar. He's not in a Humvee, and there's no sun, no sand, no burning heat on the back of his neck. He's drenched in rain, sodden and heavy and soaked in the stuff, and if there's one thing from the future that he wants back with him now, it's some proper fucking pants. But it's all too close to home, only this time he's the pursued not the pursuer.
He'll never know what triggers the wake-up in his own bed, in his own time. He didn't die back in Roman Britain, he's pretty sure of that. And it wasn't a dream- he's wet through and dressed in clothes that belong in a museum, and his fingers are gripped tight around a sword that he kind of suspects is going to be worth a lot of money now. He thumps the bed in frustration, closes his eyes and leans back, tries to recapture whatever had shoved him around from place to place. He can't leave them like that. Can't leave them in a place and time he can't return to, unknowing whether they'll live or die. It's not in him. He strains back for it, doesn't pray just wills it to happen. Nothing does, and after a time he accepts it's not going to. Has a shower, and lets the past wash off him, warm water thudding off him, puddling around him in crazy decadence. Shaves with a razor that seems unbearably childish compared to a drawn blade. Folds up the clothes and the sword and hides them as best as he can, because explaining them to anyone who happened to see would be like madness.
He can't figure out how to work his phone at first, fingers slow and clumsy on the keys as he tries to figure out what the fuck date and time it is. When finally he gets it, as best as he can work out, he's been gone for just under an hour. His face in the mirror contradicts him, new creases around his eyes, a healing scar down the side of his neck reminding him that he'd been ducking a fucking sword just days before. When he leans against it, the glass is cool against his face, and the calluses on his hands itch. The kind you get from wielding a blade for too long, not handling a gun. He closes his eyes and tries not to think too hard or he's going to lose his mind.