Work Header

Three Songs Ray Sings Questionably Well (And One He Doesn't)

Work Text:

Just Around the Riverbend (Trombley's Gonna Skullfuck Ray. To Death.)

When Brad admits to liking Pocahontas, Reporter writes it down but puts a question mark next to it. Over the last couple of weeks, he's learned that he only needs to pay attention to about ten percent of what Ray says; the other ninety caught by the digital recorder so Reporter can get some occasional sleep. And he's learned that Trombley, while perhaps a little fucked up, is not a threat outside of giving Reporter a severe case of the heebie-jeebies on occasion.

But Brad. Brad's harder to read even now. Reporter thinks that part of it is that he spends most of his days sitting behind Brad, so he isn't as practiced at reading Brad's expressions as he is with Ray and Trombley. It doesn't help that most of Brad's expressions are a smirk of some kind, and Reporter is still trying to differentiate between the sardonic smirk, the amused smirk, and the murderous smirk.

"Really?" he asks Brad a few minutes later. "Pocahontas?"

Before Brad can answer, Ray starts humming. In another second, he's singing in the same horrendous falsetto he uses for Avril. "What I like most about the river is—" Ray points at Trombley, and Trombley just stares back at him, horror on his face, looking scared for the first time Reporter can recall. "You can't step in the same river twice," Ray continues. He points to Walt, and Walt flips him off cheerfully before going back to working on his gun. "The water's always changing, always floooowwwwing." Ray finishes.

Reporter watches Brad, waiting for Brad to tell Ray to shut up. Brad's grinning, falling into chuckles as Ray continues into the first verse.

"Please, stop." Trombley says, surprising Reporter. Brad just starts laughing harder. "Corporal Person!" Trombley nearly yells. "Fucking quit it, man!"

Ray pauses halfway through the line, "They all must pay a price," and raises his eyebrows at Trombley. "What's the matter, Trombley? Your fucking psycho brain can't appreciate some solid Disney work?"

"Fuck you, you…" Trombley works his jaw back and forth for a second. "You in-bred, donkey-fucking shit for brains."

Ray's eyes widen. Brad stops laughing. Reporter can't read Brad's face. Ray looks to be somewhere between being proud and being pissed. "The fuck you say to me, Trombley?" Ray demands. Trombley blinks and swallows hard. "Man up and repeat yourself, you bitchy little fag."

Reporter watches Trombley take in a deep breath. He spares a glance at Brad. Brad's sitting upright, watching Trombley with an intensity Reporter—once again—can't read.

"Shut your fucking mouth, Corporal." Trombley repeats, and his voice shakes on the last word. "Quit singing that fag-ass song."

Ray squares his shoulders and lifts his jaw. "And if I don't?"

Reporter glances at Brad again. There's the smirk, smaller than usual, just barely pulling at the edge of Brad's mouth. Brad's looking straight at Trombley. His eyes narrow as Trombley fumbles for a new response, and Reporter realizes it's a hazing, this whole moment, with Ray pushing Trombley and Brad not trying to yank Ray off the scent.

"I'll skullfuck you," Trombley says finally.

Ray laughs. "What?"

"I'll skullfuck you," Trombley repeats, harder. "I'll eat your fucking eye out of your head, stick my dick in it, and skullfuck you. I'll skullfuck you. To death."

Ray goes absolutely silent and still for a handful of seconds. Then he throws back his head and laughs. He glances over his shoulder and grins at Brad. "Did you hear that, Brad? Our little psycho is gonna skullfuck me!"

"To death," Brad deadpans, and then he's laughing as well, loud and open in a way Reporter wouldn't have guessed him capable. "Good work, Trombley," Brad says between fits of laughter. "That's solid fucking work."

"Skullfucking!" Ray crows. He takes three steps, tackles Trombley to the ground and punches Trombley on the back. "It's about fucking time, you nervous little shitbag!"

"Get off me, Corporal!" Trombley hollers and manages to roll so that he's the one pinning down Ray.

"Which eye?" Ray asks as he dodges the punch Trombley aims for his ribs. "Which eye would you rip out and eat, Trombley?"

Reporter glances at Brad again as Ray jams his fingers against the nerve cluster in Trombley's neck. "What just happened?"

"Finally broke the psycho," Brad explains. "I was wondering how much longer it would take."

Reporter raises his eyebrows. "Huh?"

"Ray," Brad calls out, "stop trying to teabag him. He'll probably bite off those Ripped Fuel shriveled raisins you call your nuts."

"You're just jealous I still have all my dick, you Jew douche," Ray replies, but he shifts so that his crotch isn't half-balanced over Trombley's face.

"I'll be jealous when you can find your dick without having to squint," Brad shoots back.

Trombley and Ray tussle for another five minutes. Brad watches, amused. Walt hums tunelessly between murmurs to his gun. Reporter sits with his back against the tire of the Humvee and wonders which parts to tell. Ten minutes later, Ray starts humming again. Brad joins in, and then they're singing in harmony:

But people I guess can't be like that
They all must pay the price
To be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing

Brad and Ray both pause and look at Trombley.

"Fuck no." Trombley says.

"You know you want it," Ray tells him. "You know you're aching for it."

"You're thinking about a dick up your ass, Ray," Brad says.

There's an instant of something on Ray's face that Reporter can't read. Brad's grinning, looking proud of himself. Reporter's not sure why. Brad's let loose much more imaginative insults at Ray. One quick jab shouldn't get that look on his face, Reporter thinks.

"What's around the riverbend!" Ray wails at the top of his lungs. Brad joins in again.

Waiting just around the riverbend
I look once more

Trombley curls his arms over his head. "Fucking hate both of you."

Just around the riverbend
I look once more
Just around the riverbend

"C'mon, Trombley," Brad coaxes. "Give us one line, and I'll make Ray stop."

"How?" Reporter asks, the question coming out before he can stop to think about it.

"I'll get an officer at a glory hole," Brad says. "Always worked before."

"You and cock today, Brad," Ray says, shaking his head. "What's the matter? Not enough tech in the victor for you to come on?" Ray looks at Trombley. "But seriously, one line, and we'll shut up."

"Like fuck you will."

Ray shrugs. "All right, fine. I fucking won't. In fact, I'll probably be singing this gay-ass song for another fucking week because Disney rapes my ears with their crack-cocaine style shit, and I'd apologize for that, but I think it's fucking funny that your psycho ass freaks like a faggy little girl when I sing this shit."

"Skullfuck you," Trombley mumbles. "To death."

"Can't wait. Don't come in my hair." Ray turns away from Trombley and raises his eyebrows at Brad. "Beyond the shore! Where the gulls fly free!"

"Don't know what for!" Brad picks up, and Walt throws in his voice for the next line. "What I dream the day might send!"

"Just around the riverbend!" The three of them sing together. "For meeeee!"

Reporter watches Trombley. Trombley stands up and rummages around in the victor until he comes up with a shovel. Reporter is half-concerned Trombley's going to clock one of them with it—Reporter's money is on Ray taking the blow—but he walks ten feet away instead and starts stabbing at the ground with the shovel, digging his grave as Brad and Ray continue singing. Reporter watches the tension leech from Trombley as he digs. He remembers Trombley talking about not being scared of getting shot, of being calm when people are trying to kill him. The Corps stresses learning self-control through training, Reporter knows, and he can see it in Trombley as his stabbing at the ground smoothes out, as the walls of his grave square off. He glances over his shoulder and finds Ray and Brad standing shoulder-to-shoulder. He can just barely hear Ray singing under his breath over the noise around them. Walt's quiet above them, his concentration taken by his gun and the care it still needs.

"Should I choose the smoothest course? Steady as a beating drum?" Ray glances at Brad. Brad stares across the camp. "Should I marry Kokoum? Is all my dreaming at an end?"

Brad looks down at Ray, the smirk on his face, Reporter thinks, could almost be confused for a suppressed fond smile. "I don't want to know about your dreams," he tells Ray. "It's probably all chicken fucking and cow tipping."

"And getting skullfucked by Trombley," Ray agrees. There's a pause, and Reporter thinks they're going to laugh it off and talk about something else. But Ray's voice pitches even lower, and Reporter knows he's not supposed to hear what he hears next.

"Or do you still wait for me, dream giver?" Ray sings in a—and Reporter knows he'll be the one skullfucked to death if he ever describes it this way without a covershoot for Ray's band—very pretty tenor. "Just around the riverbend?"

There's a flash of something in Brad's eyes, much the same way there'd been something in Ray's eyes a few minutes earlier, and Reporter squints, trying to catch it. Trombley's shovel clattering to the ground pulls Reporter's attention away. When he looks back, Brad and Ray are a few feet apart, Brad digging into the victor for maps and Ray ripping into an MRE.

"What?" Ray asks when he catches Reporter watching him.

"Nothing," Reporter says, shaking his head. "Just wondering who's going to kick my ass if I tell anyone you and Brad know all the words to that gay song."

"I will," Brad promises. "I'll skullfuck you."

"To death." Ray finishes, and they're laughing again.

Reporter looks at Trombley again. He's sitting at the edge of his grave, smoothing the mounded dirt into smaller piles. Reporter sees a small grin on his face. When he sees Reporter looking, Trombley presses it away.

"Fag-ass song," Trombley says.

"Yeah," Reporter agrees, and he leans against the tire of the victor again and tries to put into printable words the pride on Trombley's face that Brad and Ray are laughing at something he said.


Sweet Home Alabama (Is Where Brad is Gonna Bury the Bodies)

It's been quiet in the victor for twenty-seven minutes according to Reporter's watch. He knows the exact time because it had come when Brad had ordered Ray to—according to Reporter's notes—"Shut the fuck up or take one between the eyes." Two and a half weeks ago, Reporter thinks, he'd have probably been worried about pissing himself at Brad's threat, but Ray had laughed, finished his latest rant (the retardation of retard education in his dumb-fuck retard home town and how it should be fucking fixed so those poor retards could actually do something with their retard lives), and gone silent, and Reporter has learned by now that if Ray gets to finish a rant, Brad's more tired than angry.

But quiet only lasts so long in a victor, and Ray's starting to work his jaw like he's about to go off again.

"No," Brad says when Ray opens his mouth. "I don't want to hear any more shit about how your dog-fuck town actually differentiates between the levels of brain damage caused by all of you jerkoffs fucking your sister-cousins while writhing around in pig shit and pesticides."

Ray glances away from the road and grins at Brad, open and shit-eating. He's about to insult someone else in the victor, Reporter thinks. His money's on Trombley, because it's usually Trombley.

"Brad, Brad, Brad," Ray starts, and Reporter shifts so he can see Brad's grin start at Ray's fake disapproving tone. "We've been through this. The whiskey tango inbred fucks in my town only fuck their cousins. To do that sister-cousin fucking you've obviously been thinking about, you've got to go to a real redneck assfuck shithole." Ray pauses for half a beat. "Like Virginia."

"Fuck you," Walt calls into the victor. He kicks at Ray with one foot, his boot glancing off Ray's shoulder. "Virginia is not Alabama, dickbag."

Reporter knows what's going to happen as Ray draws in a breath. He still can't quite read Brad (and what, precisely, did Brad's grin at Ray's tone mean?), but Reporter had learned Ray's, "I'm going to break into obnoxious song" look by day three. It's the only defense.

"Big wheels keep on turning—"

"Ray," Brad says, the word more warning than threat.

"Carry me home to see my kin—"


"Singing songs about the Southland," Walt joins in, voice twice as loud as it echoes into the victor.

"Walt, I will fucking impale you on your gun!" Brad yells.

"I miss Alabamy once again," Walt and Ray sing together (Reporter can't even call it harmony on accident). "And I think it is a sin, yes."

"There is to be no goat-fucking music in my goddamned victor!" Brad hollers.

"It's not goat-fucking music, Sir," Trombley says, looking away from his window to look at Brad. "It's Southern Rock."

"That's the same distinction as fucking your cousin versus fucking your sister-cousin, Trombely," Brad replies as Walt and Ray move into the second half of the first verse. "Doesn't make you less of buck-toothed fuckrag producing offspring with water on the goddamned brain."

Trombley shrugs and joins in on the chorus as Brad continues yelling insults and threats. Reporter decides to play it mostly-neutral: not singing, but mouthing along.

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

"Dig your graves deep, boys," Brad threatens. "You're not getting up from them tomorrow."

"You're assuming we're getting sleep tonight, Brad," Ray replies. "You stupid bastard."

"Ray. Shut up."


Big Girls Don't Cry (But Sometimes Marines Want to)

Reporter watches Ray mime how close Rudy came to getting shot between the eyes in the ambush. He sits up straight, leans over. Sits up straight. Leans over. Reporter can't hear Rudy's response, but he sees Ray's mouth tighten. Reporter will write about Ray's never-ending mouth, about the way he's competent and smart and dedicated when shit goes sideways. He will not, he thinks, be able to capture Ray's off-kilter way of being sympathetic by being a complete, clueless asshole.

At least Reporter thinks he's being clueless. There's a whole layer of Ray, right under the realness of his loud, utterly un-pc talking, that Reporter thinks is covering who Ray Person actually is when he's not in a desert driving a busted-ass victor and hoping to murder a bunch of hadjj. And that other Ray—loud motherfucker that he certainly is—vibrates out sometimes, late at night or directly post fire fight. Were Reporter grievously injured with a head wound he might call it "sweet." Calling Ray "sweet" in other situations could lead to Ray leaving Reporter to die of said grievous head wound, and Reporter understands why. Ray is a Recon Marine, a badass killing machine. He's not "sweet." Not even to his mother. Except that Reporter thinks he actually is, when he's not trying to keep himself from getting killed.

But right now, as Ray continues to stare at the bullet hole in Rudy's windshield, he's just coming off as a complete dumbass.

Hours later, as Reporter makes the rounds and tries to get accounts of the ambush from everyone's angle, he looks for Rudy. He's not at his victor; he's not holding court with his coffee pot. Reporter scans the edges of the camp and can't find his silhouette. When he glances back at the victor, he spots a pair of boots coming out from under the fender. When he crouches down to see who it is, he finds Rudy staring at the undercarriage, face blank.

"Rudy?" he asks.

Rudy turns his head. "Rolling Stone," he greets, but he doesn't smile. It's disturbing, Reporter thinks, to see Rudy without a smile. "How are you, my brother?"

Reporter opens his mouth to ask about the ambush, about what Rudy felt when he realized he was stuck, about what went through his mind when he saw Pappy was shot. "Any news on Pappy?" comes out instead, and Reporter's not sure it's a better question when Rudy blinks quickly.

"Nothing yet, brother. But I'll keep you updated."

"I'd appreciate it." Reporter stands and walks away, making a slow circuit of the camp before walking back to his victor, throwing his notebook through the window with more force than necessary. He nearly hits Trombley, asleep low in his seat, his head propped on the back of the seat.

"Rolling Stone?" Ray asks from where he's sitting sideways in the driver's seat, having a low conversation with Brad, Brad bending down to catch what Ray is saying.

"Nothing," Reporter says, but it comes out shaky. He breathes in hard, and watches Ray tilt his head, read him like he's see-through.

"Something," Ray replies. "Something's fucked worse than usual."

"What makes you say that?"

"You're noticing it," Brad contributes. "And no offense, Reporter, but if you're catching up to the FUBAR of all this, shit's gone really wrong."

Reporter's not sure how to articulate what he saw. He's fairly certain invoking the phrase "thousand-yard stare" would get him beaten to the point of needing a kidney. These are Recon Marines, he thinks. They know how to work with the smallest pieces of information. "Rudy's under his victor."

Brad pulls himself out of his bend in a measured movement that still somehow looks hurried. "Under it?"


"Is he asleep?" Brad asks.


Brad and Ray have a conversation with their faces. Brad's barely changes, a vertical furrow between his eyebrows, and a single glance over his shoulder towards Rudy's victor. Ray's face flows through half a dozen expressions, and Reporter spies worry and concern and something that might be anger. At what, Reporter's not sure.

The silent conversation ends when Brad nods, and Ray stands up on the edge of victor's doorframe, twisting at the waist so he can reach Walt, who's asleep under his gun. He thumps Walt's boot. "Up and at 'em, sheep-fucker."

Walt snaps upright immediately. "Wuh?" He blinks a few times. "What's up?" he asks around a dry cough.

"We're putting on a show," Ray says in a horrendously bad Judy Garland impression (and Reporter does not want to know where he learned it).

"Huh?" Walt asks.

"Rudy's under his victor, and he's not sleeping." Brad says, and Reporter marvels at how that answers the question for Walt, who immediately scrambles off the top of the victor.

"Trombley?" Ray asks.

Brad shakes his head. "He's out. Let him have it."

Reporter waits for Walt to grumble that he was out, too. But Walt just nods and follows Ray as they cross the camp in the opposite direction of Rudy's victor. Brad watches them go and spares a glance at Reporter, who looks from Brad to Trombley.

"You want him trying to make you feel better?" Brad asks.

Reporter considers it, and all he can picture is Trombley offering to shoot a dog.

"Thought so," Brad says, reading his face, and then he's nearly-jogging to Rudy's victor. Reporter watches him go, watches the way he slides under the vehicle like he's sliding into a chair. The second Brad is out of sight, Ray starts up from across camp.

"Big girls don't cry. Bii-iig girls, don't cry!"

"They don't cry-eye-eye!" Walt howls like someone's kicked him in the balls.

There's a collective yell for Ray and Walt to shut the fuck up. And someone says something about bacon-flavored tears. Trombley comes awake in the victor with the same swift awareness of Walt.

"The fuck?" he mutters. He glares at Reporter like Reporter's the one making noise. "The fuck?" he repeats.

Reporter plays dumb, shrugging. "No idea."

Trombly glares out his window. "Fucking hell," he mumbles, curling back into himself. "Faggots." He adds, and he's asleep again before Reporter can say anything in response.

Ray and Walt are back at the victor in less than ten minutes. Walt climbs back on top, stretches out, and is asleep again in under three minutes. Ray sits on the hood, swinging his legs and staring across the camp at Rudy's victor. Reporter walks to the front of the victor and hauls himself up next to him.

"You and Brad—"

"No," Ray interrupts him.

"You don't even know what—"

"No fucking way," Ray interrupts again. He glances away from Rudy's victor to glare at Reporter. "No fucking way, ever. All right?"

Reporter suddenly fears for his larynx. He can see, in this moment, the layer under Ray's layer of insensitivity. He's raw, Reporter realizes. Protective and angry and willing to say or sing everything that comes to his head if it entertains the people around him. If it helps them deal. If it keeps everyone sane. If it helps Brad.

Ray's one of the loudest, most entertaingly obnoxious people Reporter has ever met. Rudy is probably the calmest and most honestly content. They perform the same function, Reporter realizes. Bringing calm to what's around them. Ray just does it loudly and off-key. Handling his team leader like a puppy handles a new toy, chewing off the metaphorical feet while Rudy touches up Pappy's shave.

"You're friends," Reporter says, changing track. "I just want confirmation that you and Brad are friends."

"Probably," Ray says, looking back at Rudy's victor. "He hasn't killed me yet."

Reporter can't come up with a follow-up question. They sit in silence awhile, watching Rudy's victor. Brad emerges eventually, ducking his head to say something they can't hear, and then he's loping in their direction, stopping in front of the victor, nearly dead-center in front of Ray.

"He is." Brad says.

Ray raises his eyebrows, and Reporter watches the tension slide off of him. "That's all you've got? Your upper-middle class upbringing with all those books and shit, and your edumacated pussy brain can't pull out an adjective? For fuck's sake, Brad, Trombley can find adjectives, and I'm pretty sure he's not fully human."

Ray's insult makes little lines at the corner of Brad's mouth fade away. Reporter hadn't even realized Brad was tense. "Your mother fucks horses, Ray. You're probably not fully human, either."

"Yeah, but I'm not fucking Trombley."

"I would hope not. That'd break regs."

There's a beat of silence Reporter can't interpret, something heavy in the air between Ray and Brad that makes Reporter's gut twist. Ray jumps off the hood of the victor, shoves Brad to the side with the right side of his body to Brad's left. "I'm gonna go jam my head in a spare M-16 to get that image out of my head." He gets two steps before Brad tackles him to the ground.

"The fuck!" Ray yelps, and then he's squirming away, Brad nearly twice his size, but Ray quick and malleable like a cat that doesn't want to be held. "I will sing, Brad! I will fucking sing!" he threatens as he gets loose, a boot to Brad's shoulder his parting hit. He makes it three steps before Brad's got him on the ground again.

"Like I'm not fucking immune to your gay-ass shit music," Brad replies, huffing a breath as Ray lands a solid punch to his ribs.

"Brad Colbert is a fucking fag!" Ray yells to the tune of "Big Girls Don’t Cry." "Brad Colbert is a fucking fa-ag-ag!" He stops singing when Brad shoves his palm flat against his stomach.

Reporter watches as Ray slips free again. He catches the smirk at the edge of Brad's mouth, the look in his eyes. The look in his eyes is approval. He had that look when Trombley told Ray he was going to skullfuck him. His smirk is his pre-battle smirk, Reporter realizes. It's nearly sarcastic, but the way Brad's eyebrows lift with it shows there's enjoyment there. Reporter's seen it when Ray is psyching up Trombley and Walt for a possible fire fight, and Reporter's seen it smooth into a blank stare when they actually get close to their coordinates.

Brad appreciates a good fight, Reporter thinks. And Ray likes putting up a fight. Likes starting fights. Likes singing songs Brad can't stand at the absolute top of his lungs.

There's an itch in the back of Reporter's mind, telling him he's still missing a piece. He's not seeing something. Brad's got Ray by the front of his shirt, lifting him off the ground as he threatens him with a grin on his face. Ray is laughing in between more re-written lines from "Big Girls Don't Cry," unconcerned that he's dangling a good two inches off the ground. They've got an audience, now, twenty or thirty guys surrounding them in a loose circle, shouting bets and disparaging the both of them.

"Sixta!" someone hisses, and Reporter looks to the left, seeing the Sergeant-Major double-timing it in their direction. When he looks back at Brad and Ray, Ray's on his own feet, his shirt tucked in, Brad standing next to him with his hands in his pockets, asking if Ray's gotten any sleep.

"Oh, tons," Ray replies. "I can sleep and drive, you fuck."

"Recon training has so many advantages," Brad replies airily as Sixta starts demanding to know why the hell so many of his Marines are standing around with their dicks in their hands when there are graves to dig and heads to shave and boots to clean. As he launches into his daily devotional for the grooming standard, Reporter sees Brad and Ray step backwards towards the victor, Sixta's attention on someone else's unfortunate moustache hairs.


You're Having my Baby (Um. What?)

The sun sets, and Reporter watches from the victor as Ray and Brad slide into their graves, not quite side-by-side but closer than the others seem to dig them, Reporter thinks. They both glance at Rudy's victor, and Reporter wonders if there's a question he can ask that will let him know if every TL and their RTO are as close as Rudy and Pappy and Brad and Ray. Maybe he should spend more time in Lovell's or Poke's victors, studying the dynamics in the interest of a larger research pool.

"Hey, Brad," Ray says, voice a teasing singsong.

"Ray, for fuck's sake, go to sleep, or I'm taking away your uppers," Brad threatens.

"You should sing me a song. You being platoon dad and everything."

There's a five-second silence. "Being what?" Brad asks, and Reporter swallows back his laugh.

"Platoon dad," Ray says like it's perfectly clear. "Tucking us all into bed and kissing our foreheads. Or, you know, climbing under victors and saying pretty things to Rudy. Whatever."

"All that Ripped Fuel and goat-fucking has officially ruined what mind you had in the first place, you fuck. Shut up and go to sleep."

Ray snorts, and Reporter listens to him shift in his grave. There's roughly a minute of silence from them, and then Reporter hears Brad humming, so quiet it barely carries. He squints into the darkness and can just make out Brad's shape in the moonlight.

"Havin' my baby," Brad sings low, "What a lovely way of sayin' how much you love me."

Reporter manages to keep his jaw from dropping. Ray snorts a laugh.

"Brad, you are the gayest gay to ever gay the gay."

Brad hums a few notes and skips a few lines. "You're the woman I love, and I love what it's doin' to ya."

Reporter is suddenly, painfully awake as Ray collapses into giggles. They always sing songs straight through. When the songs get cut short, they get picked up where they left off. They get completed in the right order. Like a Marine on a mission, Reporter thinks, the songs get finished in the right number of steps.

Brad skipping lines—

"Reporter," Brad says, and Reporter realizes he's staring, and that his eyes have adjusted enough that he can see that Brad's eyes are open and staring at him. "Have we told you yet not to be one of those liberal douche retards who writes what he thinks he knows?"

"Yeah," Reporter says. "You've mentioned it."

"Good. Go to sleep."

"Question," Reporter says rather than close his eyes.

Brad narrows his eyes. "Maybe," he responds.

"Rudy and Pappy…" Reporter doesn't know exactly what he's asking.

"Sniper teams are close," Brad interrupts. "And Rudy's a little fruity. Hence the nickname."

And you and Ray? Reporter wants to ask, but he can't push it up. "That's what I thought," he says instead. "I've read a little about sniper teams."

"Do they mention that sniper teams and other hard-working grunts like pussy liberal fucks to shut the hell up when they're trying to sleep?" Ray grumbles from his grave. "Because, seriously, shut the fuck up."

"Nighty-night, Ray," Brad singsongs.

"Eat a bowl of dicks," Ray replies, and there's no way Reporter can take his tone for anything but fond. It's too soft to be aggravation, and he can hear the smile in it.

Badass killing machines, Reporter reminds himself. If he asks any questions, they'll know how to dispose of the body. If he makes any guesses later, they'll find him. A good reporter, Reporter learned during journalism school, knows when to shut his fucking mouth. This is a good time for that.