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what's that thing shakespeare said? about names?

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-z-

 

A conscience.

The most crippling kind of injury in his line of work.

 

 

In Afghanistan, they chant his name, they clap him on the back, they scream ooh-RAH.

They call the enemy slurs to make the killing hurt less, to put some distance between their two sides. The enemy is target and threat and sheepfucker and Barry doesn’t cry when he kills ‘em. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t laugh (after those first two), and he sure as shit doesn’t feel guilty (not until that last one, not until he’s told that he needs to feel guilty) – he just moves on to the next target, enemy, threat.

 

 

Barry puts down his gun—

—he doesn’t get rid of it—

—but he puts it down.

 

 

He calls NoHo Hank an idiot and then thinks about calling him target – (except Barry’s put down his gun, remember?) – and then Hank is standing in the parking lot, leaning against his car and he tells Barry, in exact and precise language, with words that leave no room for argument, that Barry’s to call him boss. That Barry works for him now.

It brings Barry up short, forces him to look at Hank before he lowers his voice and his eyes and asks for forgiveness.

Forgiveness that Hank freely gives – confident that his message has gotten across, that Barry knows the acting class, Barry’s little slice of safe space, would be in very real danger should Barry think to stray again – and then Hank is getting into his car and he leaves.

Barry almost follows him before he stops himself, wondering at the feeling.

 

 

Guilt – hot and ugly, a living and breathing thing that claws up and along the inside of his throat – chokes him.

(A first kill and then two are dead and they chant Barry’s name.)

(A kill, not a third or fourth or fifth, just another target-threat-sheepfucker and this time they send Barry to the hospital. Friend. Ally. Innocent. That’s what they say this time.)

(A kill, no number given to this one, just target-assignment and one of many to come.)

(A kill, because Chris says, “I’m going to the cops,” and Barry screams as Chris becomes threat becomes target.)

(A kill, he doesn’t want to, but Janice becomes obstacle then enemy, and Barry tries – he does – he tries – but then enemy turns to target and then Barry is moving.)

Barry stares at the guns in his mattress and chokes on Guilt as it wriggles and writhes inside him.

 

 

“Do you think I’m evil?” Barry asks.

“Oh, my god,” Hank says, rolling his eyes and smiling. “I mean, absolutely! Do I not tell you that enough?”

Barry wants to recoil, wants to close his eyes against the weight of the words – except Hank says it with awe—

I mean, absolutely!

—with concern—

Do I not tell you that enough?

—then he looks at Barry and there’s adoration and glee in his eyes. And Barry starts to explain himself, to say he doesn’t want to be evil, that he doesn’t take joy in this work, but, looking at the plain acceptance on Hank’s face, it makes the words die on Barry’s tongue.

 

 

Hank walks into Barry’s apartment like it’s nothing and Barry’s standing there, frozen in the hallway.

It’s bad timing – his roommates have just paused their game for a bathroom-and-snack break, the first in hours; five minutes earlier or later and Hank could’ve walked by them without them even knowing – and they stare at him, at his baldness and his tattoos and the way he moves around them without ever looking away from Barry. By the time they remember themselves and go to ask for an introduction, Hank and Barry have disappeared into Barry’s room.

The door locks behind him and Barry knows what Hank is here for.

Barry doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t think about what it means that his mind is silent with Hank around like this – moving against Barry as he likes, talking to Barry as he likes, ordering Barry to fuck him as he likes.

Hank is loud and there’s no secret anymore what’s happening behind this door. Sally’ll know within the hour and Barry mourns her and the life he could have had with her.

This is Hank claiming him, reclaiming him, and Barry will be gone from this apartment before the sun sets – he’ll be expected to follow Hank out of here. And, in the quiet of his mind, Barry finds he has no argument against it.

 

 

Barry enters the monastery and raises his red right hand, his conscience silent.

 

-z-

 

End