Title: Suffocation

Disclaimer: Based on the characters portrayed by the actors in the HBO miniseries.

Summary: Brad/Nate. Based on the prompt:too close.

A/N: And this started out as such a sweet thing in my head...

***

Thump-thump-thump. The bass is relentless, unforgiving, unstoppable—it forces the beat into the crowded room; more, more, more until the pressure is so high Nate can hardly breathe. It's all around him; worse than a thousand feet of water over his head, worse than the shockwave from a Hellfire missile, worse, worse, worse than the screaming and crying of voices he still can't do anything about that continue to fill his head in the dark. Between flashes from the strobe lights, red, blue and green, he catches the angles of Brad's face. Jaw bone. Cheek. Clavicle. Adam's apple.

He's so close. Too close—Nate can't see his eyes.

The crowd holds him up; doesn't let him escape because that's what Nate suddenly wants to do. He shouldn't have come here (maybe he shouldn't have gone there, either, he doesn't know). They don't want him here (there), but now they won't let him leave. In their ambivalence, they don't tear him apart either, though, and Nate wishes they would hurry up do something. Anything. Accept him or hate him. Either let him move forward or back, but this—this—in between is killing him alive.

Nate makes the mistake of opening his mouth, desperate to get some air, but the sound (maybe the sand) pours in instead. He can't form words around it, he can't scream, though he can feel one bubbling up inside his throat and suddenly there's a war going on in his trachea. A scream frantically trying to get out but the beat is forcing it back in. Caught in the middle is the air he needs to survive, going nowhere.

Desperately, he reaches forward. An arm. A strong arm. Brad's face angling in.

"Fuck, Nate. Breathe!"

The crowd around them parts, but whoever's leg is still in front of Nate's is pushed aside by the one arm that's not around him, holding him up. Nate looks at the feet—shoes, fancy shoes, dancing shoes on all side. Not broken sandals or combat boots, no bare feet or lost entrails. There's no sand on the floor, just tacky linoleum scattered with trash.

Suddenly there's air again, like cold water hitting his face. Brad's got him out on the sidewalk, sitting on the curb, forcing his head between his legs.

"Breathe, Nate" Brad says, squeezing his shoulders.

Nate gasps in a ragged breath. Then another. One at a time. That's all he can do.

"I shouldn't have come here tonight," he says eventually, when the pressure's finally subsided. The night air is calm. There are no bombs exploding and the only Humvee he can see is one pimped out with chrome and expensive rims, blasting rap as it drives by. The street is anonymous and the club, forgettable. Just an attempt they made to fit back in with the general populace.

Brad's hand has stopped its squeezing but his arm is still around Nate's shoulders like a lifeline back to shore. Brad leans forward so his forehead rests against Nate's head. Nate can finally see his face. He's solid and real and they share the same air between them.

Fuck trying to fit in. This is what he needs to survive.