beengone

Stain the White Snow


The Bois Jacques
Late December, 1944

 

 

“Morning, sir.”

Wilmot’s voice was soft, barely louder than the crunch of the new fallen snow under Lew’s boots. “Morning,” he answered, his breath forming a thick cloud about his face. “Anything?”

“No sir. Quiet as a church.”

“But not as warm, right?”

The joke was half-hearted, stupid, but Wilmot chuckled anyway. “No, sir.”

Lew nodded. “Carry on.”

“Will do. Have a nice rest, sir.”

He waved, turned and picked his way around a felled tree.

The pause in his journey, for all it was just a few seconds, had chilled him to the bone. Walking the lines in the Bois Jacques, making sure the men were on their toes, he’d found that moving was essential to staying warm. The minute he stopped moving, the cold invaded like it was a conscious thing, slipping underneath his collar, cap and gloves.

But that was all right—in a few minutes he’d be back in the foxhole, warming himself in the most pleasurable of ways.

He looked at his watch and quickened his pace. By intent, he was forty-five minutes earlier than usual. Not enough for Dick to make a fuss about dereliction of duty but enough to mean that they’d have over an hour instead of fifteen minutes. Because Dick had a schedule and maintained it no matter what kind of enticements Lew threw his way.

He smiled, thinking of one such attempt, and threaded his way around the bushes, carefully avoid the hillocks of snow that were actually the coverings of Easy’s foxholes.

As he was passing the hole that held Muck, Penkala, and Malarkey, he heard a low shred of laughter. He paused, but didn’t call out. The foxholes had turned out to be more than just a place to stay warm and safe from gunfire—they were a refuge from the insistent presence of the Army.

He’d overheard men crying, arguing, laughing, and other than making a mental note so he could pass the intel onto Dick if it looked like trouble, he didn’t interfere. Privacy was as rare as a warm meal and the good Lord knew he didn’t want anyone checking up on he and Dick when they had their foxhole covered.

He got their spot just as the sky began to lighten.

The command tent was dark, the flaps closed up tight. He ducked inside on the chance that someone had already been up and had made a fresh pot of coffee. Luck was with him. The fire was out but a pot was sitting on the small stove and—he took off his gloves and touched the sides—it was still warm. He said a silent ‘sorry’ to anyone else looking for something warm to drink, then took the pot.

He trudged to their spot and surveyed the area. The tarp was still over the entrance, but there were boot tracks all around. Which meant that Dick had either gotten up to piss or to review the night guard’s report, and then had gone back to bed.

Setting the pot in the snow, Lew flipped back the tarp and, as quickly and quietly as he could, he slid in, fetching the pot before pulling the tarp back in place.

He couldn’t see anything at first. Just a dim dark filled with darker grey shapes. But he didn’t need to see to know and he took a cautious step and then another, hitting something soft. He knelt, his eyes finally adjusting enough to make out the pile of blankets, clothes and sleeping bags.

He leaned sideways and set the coffee down, then fumbled for his flashlight. He turned it on and cast it about.

Dick was asleep, buried under the blankets, only a flip of red hair showing. He’d never managed to learn to sleep with his helmet on, even though Lew had argued that it would keep him warm and be a hell of a lot safer. But Dick was a stubborn son of a bitch and Lew had finally conceded defeat.

He turned off the flashlight, then unslung his rifle and placed it within easy reach. He hesitated for a moment, wishing they were someplace with a locked door between them and the world. But they were where they were, so he just pulled off his jacket and boots and slipped under the covers.

The warmth hit immediately and his sighed. It felt so good, being warm. He carefully spooned up behind Dick, edging nearer until he was close enough to curl an arm around his waist.

Dick made a small movement, a sudden stiffening of body and breath. And then he relaxed and pushed into Lew, barely sighing.

Lew warmed his own lips against the back of his arm, then pulled Dick’s collar and scarf down and kissed the back of his neck.

Dick sighed again. “Hey.”

He smiled against Dick’s skin. “Hey, yourself.”

“How did it go?”

“Fine. No movement. You?”

“Heard from General McAuliffe.”

“And?”

“Nothing new. They’re on their side and we’re on ours.”

“Same as always.”

Dick nodded and pushed back, harder this time.

“How did you sleep?” Lew asked, moving from Dick’s neck to the shell of his cold ear.

Dick turned his head, giving Lew more access. “Fine. I dreamed.”

He gently bit Dick’s earlobe. “Of what?”

Dick gasped softly. “Feels good.”

“It should. What did you dream?”

“Of you and me. Back home. In Lancaster.”

He’d never been to Dick’s home in Lancaster, but the word ‘home’ did weird things to his chest and he slid his leg between Dick’s. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“What were we doing?”

“Nothing much.”

He let his hand wander, searching for buttons and entry. “Nothing, huh?” He unfastened a button and slipped his hand in.

“Swimming. In the riv—” Dick gasped once more, arching as Lew stroked his belly.

“Swimming?”

“Yeah. In the river. Near home.”

“So not a nightmare, then?” He returned to Dick’s ear, biting the tender skin, taking care not to mark.

“No. Not a nightmare.” Dick mumbled. “Not unless you consider the bodies on the riverbank.”

He stopped stroking and biting. “Yeah?”

Dick nodded. “A squad of twelve Germans. I've just shot them. They’re on the bank and their blood is dripping into the river.”

Lew held his breath, unsure if Dick knew he was talking in the present tense. “I’m sorry you dreamed that.”

“Yeah.”

They were both quiet a moment. He didn’t know what Dick was thinking but he was remembering that day in Holland, standing on a dirt path, watching Dick watch the piles of dead Germans. He cleared his throat. “Are you okay?”

It was an echo, also of that day, but all Dick whispered was a steady, “I’m fine.”

“Sure?”

Dick turned, twisting so he could glance back at Lew. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Okay.”

“Thanks, Nix.”

It was getting lighter outside—the pale morning seeped through the tree roots and the gaps between tarp and ground and he could just make out Dick’s features. He looked tired and worn and Lew wanted to say, ‘For what?’ But it was an evasion and evasions never worked with Dick. So he just smiled and said, “Sure thing.”

Dick smiled in return and turned back around.

Lew waited for him to pull away, saying something like, ‘Well, I better go see if anyone needs me,’ or, ‘The men will be up soon; better not take a chance,’ or even, ‘I gotta go shave.’ Because Dick had that damn schedule and he was discreet, to boot.

But he just lay there for a moment, then reached around for Lew’s hand and drew him close, like he was drawing a blanket over him. “What time is it?”

“Four-thirty or thereabouts.”

“Hm.”

“You’re not gonna get up?”

“No. Not yet.”

He tightened his grip, holding Dick close with all his might for just a moment. Then he relaxed his arms and whispered, “Good.”

Dick didn’t say anything for a long moment and Lew was thinking he’d fallen asleep, but then he murmured, “Nix?”

“Yeah?”

“Do me a favor—tell me about your house. The one in the country.”

Lew hesitated. They had only a relatively few minutes and he didn’t really want to waste them talking about his family’s place in the country. But Dick rarely asked him for favors and that was reason enough. “Well,” he said, squinting, trying to remember the details because Dick loved details. “You enter by the wrought-iron gates and take the drive—”

“The oak-lined drive,” Dick interrupted sleepily.

“Yeah, the drive that is lined with the oak trees that were planted by my grandfather. You drive for about a half a mile, around a small lake that has its own jetty, and then on to the house.”

“Where you can either park in the garage or off to the side.”

Lew smiled. “Who’s telling this story, you or me?”

Dick squeezed Lew’s hand. “You are.”

“Good. So, yeah, you can park in the…”

And he continued on, forgetting the words as soon as they were spoken, so familiar they were because they’d been here before even though the sites were different—Normandy, Carentan, Eindhoven. Different landscapes but the same need—the need to remember why they were doing this, why they were hiding in the frozen ground like moles.

Dick dropped off in the middle of Lew's description of the ridiculously ostentatious foyer and the twin staircase. He lowered his voice to a murmur and then stopped talking.

He wouldn’t sleep—Dick would have his ass if they both missed morning duty. So he watched the day brighten and thought about the Germans on the other side of their invisible Maginot Line, and Dick, quiet in his arms.

 


fin.


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Story notes:
Richard Winters/Lewis Nixon
Band of Brothers
1,600+ words
Episodes referenced: Bastogne, mostly
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me
This story is for Retardedcookie—thanks so much for the beta!