perpetual_motion: hang yourself please (tight white shirt!)
[personal profile] perpetual_motion
Title: Seek Truth and Report It
Author: Perpetual Motion
Fandom: Generation Kill
Pairing: Brad/Ray (maybe)
Rating: R (for Ray, natch)
Summary: The column inches feel shorter every day.

Dis: Lies and bullshit, as always.

Author's Notes: As will come as a surprise to probably no one in this fandom, it's all [livejournal.com profile] shoshannagold's fault. She told me to watch "Generation Kill," she got gleeful when I liked it, and then she did the beta on this. And it's so much better because of her.


Seek Truth and Report It
By Perpetual Motion

He figured out halfway through his first day with the team that Ray isn't an idiot. He plays a foul-mouthed dispshit pretty well, but no man (person, Reporter's automatic politically-correct detector corrects) can stay in the Marines for five years and be just a foul-mouthed dipshit. Having heard stories about and had conversations with Captain America, he's starting to consider the possibility that one can become only a foul-mouthed dipshit, but he still feels confident in standing by his theory that you've got to be initially useful to be a Marine in the first place.

And Ray is useful. Reporter's heard the story about Ray getting parts for the victor, sees the way Ray handles the radio. Watches how Ray can defuse everyone in the vicinity by going completely over-the-top and dissipating whatever anger or frustration is around him by coming off as angrier and more frustrated.

Ray's also smart. He's a Recon Marine. Reporter's only shocked to hear that Ray was a debater because he only knows the Ray who drives the Jeep and curses like three other Marines put together and takes great pride in making Brad tell him to shut up.

But there's smart, and then there's smart, and sometimes Ray's general attitude makes Reporter underestimate him a little.

He makes a note of it in his notebook as they pile in to drive to the airfield.

Ray =/= dumb. Good faker. Can occ. underestimate.

Even writing it down in the afternoon, he's surprised in the evening to hear Ray say with complete certainty that they've passed seven villages and they turn at the next. He's even more surprised to see how easily Brad accepts it. He has to remember that Brad and Ray trust one another, and that Ray plays up his dipshit persona to amuse himself. Hell, Reporter thinks, even in persona, Ray gives away his intelligence. There's a great deal of situational awareness peppered in Ray's Ripped Fuel rants (Reporter's still trying to figure out which ones he wants to showcase word-for-word and which ones he'll shorten to their main points). Ray's not an idiot, Reporter repeats to himself, but Brad's little nod and Ray's certainty of their location make him pay attention. Something's changed in the victor. Some switch just got flipped. Brad, unsure of his maps, trusts Ray, and Reporter senses something deeper going on, something important.

And then Brad does his Big Gay Al impersonation, and Reporter is absolutely certain he's having a heat-induced hallucination. Brad Colbert is the reason the Marine Corps has sustained for over two hundred years. He's every hard-working, honest, talented soldier (part of Reporter's brain says, "grunt," but he's not sure he's allowed to use the word himself) who's ever put on the uniform, and while he might watch "South Park," he doesn't do impersonations of a barely-used character.

Except that he does. And it's pretty good. Reporter wishes that his digital recorder was actually on, rather than tucked away in his pocket because he keeps forgetting that these guys don't really sleep at night. He scribbles down the whole exchange, but even with the word-for-word down for proof, he realizes it won't be enough, even with the recorder. There are only so many adjectives he can put into work, and they're not enough to explain Brad's wide eyes and rounded mouth, or the way Ray giggles when Brad leans closer.

Or the way the temperature in the victor drops to nothing when Trombley tells the story of the gay bar in his town. Trombley doesn't feel it at all. But he's one of them, a Recon Marine, and he trusts the other guys in the vehicle to take his shit and take no offense.

Ray launches into his plans for his own gay bar, and Reporter tries to watch him so he can paint the details later—Ray never looking away from the road, looking alien with his night vision goggles sticking out from his face, sounding every single second like he really is going to open the bar—but he catches Brad watching Ray out of the corner of his eye when Brad's flashlight flicks off, and he watches Brad instead. Brad who's staring at Ray, completely expressionless, and there's something in the blankness of Brad's face, something honest and real, and Reporter squints at it to try and understand, but all he has is the side of Brad's face, the unmoving line of his jaw while Ray paints his picture larger and larger.

Brad turns on his light and goes back to his map when Trombley asks Ray if he's a faggot. "Ray, give it a rest," he says a few seconds later, and it sounds like all the other times that Brad's told Ray to shut up.

Except it doesn't.

Reporter has to mull that over for a minute, trying to pinpoint the difference. Except Brad didn’t look at Ray when he says it. Brad's said it without looking at Ray before, but that's been when he's been on guard, gun out the window, when looking away could be dangerous. He's always looked at Ray when he's said it otherwise. Reporter closes his eyes and pictures it, a montage of Brad telling Ray to be quiet. Every time there's not a gun in the equation, Brad's looking at Ray.

Maybe.

No.

Brad's career military, an ex-fiancée (the saddest word in the English language, Reporter thinks) to prove his status. And Ray isn't. He's not. He joined the Marines to get pussy, he'd said. To go to Thailand and get pussy. Thailand. The country where any pervert in the world can get any flavor of weird he (or she, the pc detector weighs in) wants.

No. They're not.

He's misunderstood, running on too little sleep and too much Ripped Fuel, and all the joking homoeroticism has pushed him over the edge into looking for the gay the military claims doesn't exist. Or, doesn't claim doesn't exist, if the phrasing on DADT is to be followed to the letter. Trombley's story of the gay bar mixed with Ray being…Ray is just making his over-tired brain put together pieces that aren't even in the same puzzle.

And then, five minutes later, as the radio chatter dies down again, Ray starts in on "Tainted Love." Brad doesn't clap the first time, but then Ray cues him in with a pointed finger, and suddenly they're all singing it, slightly off-key but pretty good overall:

Don't touch me please
I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so


And Reporter catches a look from Brad to Ray that Ray doesn't see because he's driving, but there's…something…and Reporter takes another verse to talk himself out of what he's seen. Because he hasn’t seen it. Because the military says it doesn't happen.

Except.

He keeps lists in the second half of his notebook. Dates and locations. Names and call signs and ranks. Radio jargon and translations. After his first full day in the victor, he'd started keeping a list of all the songs Ray sings. On day two, he added notations. An "F" means Ray sings in falsetto. A "D" means Ray sang it decently. "BM" stands for "Brad Murderous," meaning that Brad threatened to kill Ray at least twice while Ray sang a song.

All the music—in Reporter's "Rolling Stone" trained opinion—is absolute shit. It's Avril Lavgine and Jimmy Eat World and Blink 182, and Reporter considers adding "MM" to the songs that make him want to murder Ray, too.

He adds "Tainted Love" to the list, squinting hard in the dark to make out his handwriting, and he tries to guess which version Ray knows, deciding—given Ray's apparent appreciation for shitty pseudo-punk—that he probably heard it from Soft Cell. And Reporter is praying that he's right because then it might just mean that Ray has musical tastes beyond that of a 14-year-old girl with pink Kool-Aid streaks in her hair. If he can exploit Ray's possible New Wave inclinations, maybe his ears won't bleed out.

Twenty minutes later, in another stretch of quiet as Reporter is trying to convince himself to stay awake with the rest of the guys, lest he miss a piece of information, he hears Brad humming under his breath. It takes him a few seconds, with the rattle and roll of the victor, to place the song. It's "We Didn't Start the Fire." Billy Joel. Reporter thinks he'd rather hear more Avril.

"No." Ray states.

Brad hums a little louder.

"I fucking hate that song."

"That's because you never remember the words."

"Because that song is fucking gay."

Brad stops humming for a second. Two. Three. Reporter counts to twenty before Brad starts in again, louder than before and off-key to a degree that Ray can't even get with "Complicated."

"Goddamned over-educated dickbag!" Ray snarls at him. "Fucking United States Marine singing that bullshit communist dick-suck music. He's a communist, Brad. And you support him. Feel bad about that. Feel really, really, buy-your-buddy-Ray-Ray-a-whore bad about that."

"Billy Joel has never made his political views known, Ray. He could be a stone-cold Republican."

"He wrote fucking "Piano Man." He wrote a song about New Wave rather than actually try out New Wave. He's a fucking loser." Ray slaps the palms of his hands on the wheel as Reporter scribbles down the sentence and underlines it twice. Ray Person does not like posers, Reporter thinks. And Reporter can appreciate that (and steal the line for the next Billy Joel debate in the writer's room when he's back in the States).

Reporter's head shoots up when Ray launches into the first verse of "We Didn't Start the Fire." He mumbles his way through the bits he doesn't know, Brad coming in to fill in the gaps. Trombley doesn't join in, just stares at both of them like they've lost their minds. Walt taps his foot to the beat.

They've known each other for years, Reporter thinks. Ray knows how far to push Brad. Brad knows when to sincerely worry that Ray has had too many uppers and not enough sleep. There's nothing about this moment—the two of them singing the chorus in passable harmony—that means anything else than what shows on the very top surface.

They're friends.

They're Marines.

Brad reaches a hand over the computers, cuffs Ray in the head just above his goggles, hard enough that Ray bats him away but not hard enough that the goggles stand the chance of coming loose. Readjusts his body in the seat as Ray starts humming more Avril. And Reporter almost hopes Brad interrupts with more Billy Joel. Almost.

Except, Reporter thinks, and he sighs to himself as he stares out the window at nothing. There's so much he won't be able to write about. Not because his theory is unfounded and therefore not good reporting. Not because even if he had real proof, DADT and his own conscience and concern for his well-being wouldn't allow him (he's not yet seen Brad in full-on warrior mode, but he's pretty sure causing the guy to lose his career would bring it out). But because there's only so many adjectives, so many expository sentences, that a good writer can cram into a piece without coming off as a hack who can't stay on point.

A visual medium, he thinks. That's what he needs. Something that would let him show in pictures everything he can't show in words. Something where the expressions on Brad's face could be seen. The slow build of Ray's singing voice could be heard. The way they glance at each other could be left to proper interpretation rather than half-assumed explanation.

He should have stayed with "Hustler," he thinks. There were plenty of visuals there. And every expression was easily accounted for. Half-closed eyes, open mouths, hand gestures captured mid-motion. But Recon Marines aren't supposed to be read. They're supposed to be unseen and unheard; shadows in the fringes of violence. Being used in place of lesser-trained grunts doesn't mean their training goes away. The crunch of leaves, the crack of a branch, the tiniest misstep could give them away. Get them dead. Reporter makes a mental note not to use the actual leaves and branches metaphor, to explain it in plain language that will explain that he's trying to read them right but the point of these men is to be read wrong, if at all, and Reporter wonders just how fucked he is as Ray switches tactics and starts humming "More Than a Feeling." Thank god, Reporter thinks. He may get to fall asleep to a good song.

"Thanks, Ray," Brad murmurs, and Reporter hears at least three layers—professional, friendly, and something that might be beyond basic kindness—but he doesn't know which one is the truth. Write what's true, he thinks. Ray's singing, Brad's skills, Trombley's creepiness, Walt's worry. Facts then emotions. Leave the uncertain out of it. But there's still so much to tell. So many base facts people need to know. Reporter's suddenly wide awake, brain whirling. He flips through his lists to a clean page.

Book?
Genre: War biography/Military history (kind of)
How many books on Recon marines?
How many books from primary source day of events?
Publishers of military stuff?


Reporter tries to pull the name of a book editor from the depths of his mind. All he has is the second verse of "More Than a Feeling," which Ray is singing softly. Reporter rubs his eyes, yawns, lets his head fall back.

"Reporter," Brad says, "get some fucking sleep, already. We'll wake you before we get there. Wouldn't want you to miss the fun."

He opens his mouth to argue, but he yawns again instead. Tomorrow, he thinks. Tomorrow, if they live through this, he can pound this out. He nods off to Ray and Brad bickering in an undertone. He can't make it out, but he knows so much already.
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