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Band of Brothers 100 Challenge

Chapter Text

It was the same damn thing every night.

He’d finish brushing his teeth, take a leak, and pad barefoot down the hall of their comfortable San Francisco apartment. He’d think about slipping between those cool sheets and making slow, gentle love all night long.

But this was never the case. It never had been.

Tonight was going to be different.

Joe Liebgott grabbed the book from Dave Webster’s hands and tossed it to the floor. Webster cried, “I was reading that!”

Liebgott put his fingers to his lover’s lips, leaning close. “This is a bed, honey. Not a fuckin’ library.”

Chapter Text

It was pure, stupid impulse.

One minute he was there, half-asleep, the next he was sailing off the end of the pier like a drunken trapeze artist. Dick Winters’ mouth dropped open in surprise as Lewis Nixon did a Flying W right into the drink. Boots, jacket, the whole kit and caboodle. He disappeared under the water with a mighty splash.

The major stood knee-deep in the shallows, towel wrapped around his shoulders like a shawl, staring.

Nixon surfaced with a shriek and a sputter. “J-JESUS CHRIST IT’S FREEZING!”

Winters’ laughter echoed across the lake with his best friend’s screams.

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Children

She was the spitting image of his mother. She stood on the platform at the train station by herself, looking so much older than eight with her suitcase in her hand, dark-eyed and confident.

Dick saw her first and pointed her out to Lewis, who lost his breath for a moment. Then he slowly went to her.

She seemed to recognize him, despite his absence from her memory. He kneeled down to her height while Dick watched from afar.

“You’re my dad, aren’t you?” asked Judy Nixon.

Lewis smiled sadly, his heart achingly full. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m your dad.”

Tears

“Who’s that man?” she asked, peering over Lewis’ shoulder. “My uncle?”

How could he explain? He couldn’t. Not yet. She wouldn’t understand. “That’s Mr Winters,” he said softly, rising to his feet and taking her suitcase. “You can call him Dick. He’s going to help me take care of you from now on.”

“Is he nice?”

“Very nice.”

The feeling of a small hand slipping into his own surprised him; he looked down into Judy’s worried face. “You’re not gonna get rid of me too, are you?”

Lewis bit his lip as tears stung his eyes. “Never,” he whispered. “Never.”

First

Dick smiled to himself, charmed, and watched from the doorway as Lewis tucked Judy into bed.

“Do you need anything?” Lewis asked anxiously. “Glass of water? A bedtime story?”

“I’m fine.”

“Want me to leave the light on? The window open? Do you want a stuffed animal or a—”

Judy snuggled under the homemade quilt and giggled, amused by his nervousness. “It’s okay, Dad. I’m fine.”

Lewis felt a lump form in his throat. Dad.

He swallowed down his heart. “Okay then. G’night, kiddo.”

“G’night.”

He leaned forward, tenderly kissed his daughter’s warm little forehead, and turned out the lights.

Chapter Text

If he was going to fail out of Yale, he was going to do it with a bang.

He’d come to class late, saturated and reeking of whiskey. He’d interrupted his history professor’s lecture and fallen clumsily into his seat, making as much noise as possible. Then he had the gall to smile his most condescending smile and say, “Please, do continue.”

Somewhere between Britain’s industrial revolution and antidisestablishmentarianism, 21 year-old Lewis Nixon took a draw from his flask, mounted his desk, and declared to the whole auditorium, “Disestablish this, you pompous, arrogant pricks.”

And he boldly dropped his trousers.

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“It’s here!”

Joseph Liebgott had barely enough time to move his glass out of harm’s way before a package slammed onto the table. He looked up at David Webster, who was on the verge of exploding with joy. Suddenly he knew what it was. “Holy shit.”

Webster tore into the package like a kid at Christmastime, and Liebgott watched him pull a freshly-printed hardcover from its depths. He passed it to Joe like it was a newborn baby.

The Story of Easy Company,” he read, then looked up at Webster and smiled. “Aw, Davey. I knew you could do it.”

Chapter Text

He wasn’t an ignorant bumpkin. He wasn’t a humorless rock. And he sure as hell wasn’t a virginal farmboy from Backwater, Pennsylvania. He liked pretty faces, eyes especially. And smiles. A good kisser was better than a good lover in his book. He admired patience and humility, gentleness, kindness above all. Those were his turn-ons.

But right now, trapped in the blistering arctic meat locker of Bastogne, with two weeks’ worth of grime and grease festering in the darkest regions of his anatomy, the thought of hot water and soap was giving Dick Winters a painful and utterly useless hard-on.

Chapter Text

The fog rolled in like it had been poured from God’s teacup (it was a huge teacup, he decided, because he’d always pictured God as being huge and huge men required huge dishes). He watched from his bedroom window as it drifted in across the field, slithering between the stalks of corn like ghost fingers. The way it moved made him uneasy. Monsters lived in the fog, and they ate little boys like him.

Twenty years later Dick Winters stared into mist hanging above Upottery, Nixon smoking silently beside him, and knew that the monsters had only changed their names.

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Turbulence jostled the men. It was uncomfortably hot. Outside the open door, the bright Georgia sun beat down on the plane’s sizzling fuselage. The jump instructor’s voice was nearly drowned out by the steady roar of the props.

Donald Malarkey wiped the sweat from his brow and cast a glance over at Skip Muck, who sat on the bench, pale as death. “YOU OKAY, SKIP?” Malarkey shouted to him.

“YEAH . . . FIRST TIME FLYING!”

“NO SHIT? HOW’RE YA LIKING IT?”

Muck licked his lips and smiled wanly. “WELL, DON, I GUESS IT’S NOT SO BAD.”

“YEAH?”

“EXCEPT I’M TERRIFIED OF HEIGHTS!”

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Nixon was in a really bad way. He held his lower lip between his teeth and made pained expressions. He squirmed. He moaned. Yet the hands on his body never seemed to go where they were needed most. He finally lost his patience.

“Touch me,” he grunted. “Please, for the love of Christ, I’ll do anything you want.”

The hands slid down his thighs and lingered there. “So it seems, Captain. Shall we begin?”

“Yes,” Nixon panted. He was so aroused he thought he would faint. “Please, God, yes.”

Dobie smiled lazily and gave the feverish Yank what he wanted.

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Warm

Clothes lay folded neatly on the grass like an insect’s empty, khaki-colored cocoon. Boots stood in unlaced vigil, socks spilling out of their leather chimneys.

Dick Winters lay on his back, looking up at a blue sky framed by bright green foliage. Birds talked to one another quietly. The warm Austrian breeze rustled through the trees and water lapped lullabies on the shore of the nearby lake.

He breathed in slowly, filling his lungs, and closed his eyes. The sun spilled over his nude body, soaking into his skin like liquid. He remembered Bastogne, and tried to forget it.

Black and White

The slow approach of footsteps faded into his hearing. Dick recognized the loping stride—he’d been listening to it for years. A cool shadow fell across his waist as the footsteps stopped. He cracked an eyelid.

Lewis Nixon was looking down at him, a monochromatic portrait of disheveled fatigue against the sparkling, sun-dappled background. He looked drained, used up. A soul in search of something it couldn’t find.

Dick smiled gently and said, “Join me?”

The light in Lewis’ dark eyes shifted, emotions stirring eddies of hope in his blood. “Sure,” he answered quietly, and began to unbutton his shirt.

Heaven

He lay down beside him on the grass, folding his hands beneath his head. He stared into the blue with Dick, listening to the peaceful world around them. He fell into the gossamer realm of waking dreams and immortal fantasy: here they were in Eden, two naked souls lying beside each other in a grave in Paradise, Love and Friendship carved onto their headstones—the world, their names, all the insignificant things left behind.

His hand found Dick’s, and their fingers wove together like a symphony of flesh and bone. Lewis turned his head and whispered, “Do you love me?”

Emotions

Dick rolled his head to the side, grass tickling his cheek, and stared into Lew’s hopeful, desperate eyes. “Why bother asking if you already know the answer?”

Those dark eyes gleamed intently. “But I want to hear you say it . . . It’s the only way I can believe anything anymore.”

Dick propped himself up on his elbow and leaned over him, casting a shadow onto his face. Lew looked frightened, worried, ashamed. Dick was tired of seeing those emotions worn so often. If he only knew how much he was cherished and admired and—

“I love you,” he breathed, “Lewis Nixon.”

Perfect

They came together like water, sinking into each other and drowning without shame or remorse. Hot mouths and hotter faces burned against each other, skin igniting as the coals of desire were stirred deep inside them. It was a kiss that should have happened years ago. Or maybe not. Maybe it had been waiting, biding its time, until this glorious, perfect moment.

Lew sobbed when Dick touched him. Dick gasped for breath against Lew’s glistening throat, panting his vows as they moved together rhythmically.

The trees watched them make love under their shadows, and pitied the briefness of mortal life.

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Entrance

The Berchtesgadener Hof was surprisingly peaceful and cozy despite its notorious reputation as Hotel Nazi.

With the officers settled for the night, Carwood Lipton made himself comfortable in the sprawling downstairs study, writing letters by lamplight and enjoying the cool breeze wandering through the open window.

Then a crash sounded at the front entrance, followed by a burst of raucous laughter. A sober voice scolded: “Could you be any louder, Nix?”

Amidst a peal of giggles, the doors opened and allowed Lewis Nixon to spill into the foyer, drunker than Lipton had ever seen him and laughing his ass off.

Weak

He took a step, stumbled, fell, and was saved from the floor by Winters, who dragged him upright and hissed, “Get a hold of yourself, Nix, honestly—”

“Why don’ you getta holda myself, heh.”

“That’s enough. I’m taking you straight to bed.”

“Good. All that throwin’ up made me weak.”

“Nice,” Winters muttered. “Think you can make it upstairs?”

“Me? Nuh uh. I’d kill myself.”

Lipton stared from the study, unnoticed by either of the officers. He thought about saying hello but decided against it—Winters looked pretty annoyed and Nixon was in no shape to carry on a conversation.

Truth

He watched as Winters drew Nixon’s arm over his shoulders and helped him limp up the stairs. Lipton didn’t know how or why Dick put up with such reckless, unattractive behavior. Truthfully, Lipton didn’t know how those two could even call themselves friends with all their myriad differences. Surely they had at least one thing in common with each other . . .

He went back to his letter, trying to relocate his train of thought. Then he heard something.

Thump.

It sounded like it had come from upstairs.

Thump.

Probably Nixon falling down.

Thump.

Lipton’s pen hovered above the paper, motionless, waiting.

Hard

Thump.

There was a distinct pattern emerging, Lipton felt quite sure of it now.

Thump.

And then, something new:

Creeeak—thump.

And so it continued, gradually speeding up.

Cree-thump. Cree-thump. Cree-thump.

Lipton sat riveted at the desk, counting, listening, trying to figure out what on earth was happening when—

“Nnhhaaaa, harder, Dick, harder!”

Lipton put a hand over his gaping mouth. No. No, it couldn’t be. That was insane. Winters wouldn’t possibly . . . And Nixon simply couldn’t be that drunk . . . could he?

The squeal of bedsprings and the thump of a headboard against the wall said that yes, in fact, he could.

Morning

It was awkward seeing them at breakfast the next morning. Winters seemed to be his usual self, chipper and ready for anything, but Nixon was a rumpled, hungover, sleepless mess. He looked as if he’d spent the entirety of last night getting royally fucked by a man with far more energy and sobriety than himself. Lipton decided to drop in and say hi.

“Good morning, Captain Nixon, sir.”

Nixon glared up blearily from his coffee and muttered, “Christ, Lip, it’s not even eight. Drop the formalities already.”

“Sorry. I felt it was necessary, considering.”

Nixon cocked an eyebrow. “Considering what?”

Smoke

Lipton slid into the chair beside Nixon and nonchalantly reached for the sugar. “Well, considering your new position.”

“What new position? What’re you talking about?”

Lipton dipped his fingers into his breast pocket and pulled out a fresh, crisp cigarette. He offered it to Nixon, who accepted the unforeseen gift with some reluctance. “I didn’t know you smoked.”

“Oh, I don’t,” Lipton said cheerily, watching Nixon take a long sip from his steaming mug. “But I thought you might need one after last night. I know I did.”

Nixon blew coffee like a spouting whale and began to cough uncontrollably.

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Airborne

They may have been in the same company, but the first time they really met was during Easy’s first training jump. He was right behind Joe in the stick, the only smiling face in a plane full of straight faces. Then he jumped, his lines fouled, he veered off course, his chute crumpled, and he started to plummet. He sure wasn’t smiling then.

He came down right on top of Joe, thumping onto his chute and riding it like an airborne surf board all the way back down to Mother Earth. He and Joe hit the ground one second apart—

Silk

—and Joe was fit to be tied. He raged around blindly, plowing through folds of puffy white silk as he sought out the moron who’d almost gotten him killed. He could hear the dumb bastard laughing, and when he wrenched aside the final fold, the only thing that stayed his violence was the prettiest pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen.

His fist went slack. “Woah.”

“I know,” David Webster grinned. “We’re pretty lucky, huh?”

Then Joe lunged forward and started throttling him.

He never imagined that after the war they’d find other ways to roll around under silk together.

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Replacement

He didn’t look a day over  fifteen. Bull wondered if the kid had lied about his age in order to enlist, but he never asked—wasn’t his business. It was his business, however, to make sure this kid—Garcia was his name—knew enough to stay alive and do his job. He was fresh and frightened, still wet around the edges.

I’ll look after ‘im, Bull thought, chewing his cigar as he watched the kid struggle with his life vest. Li’l guys’re as tough as the rest. He’ll make it fine.

“C’mere, Private,” he said. “I’ll help ya with that . . .”

Hero

Sergeant Randleman was huge, not just in stature. He was bigger than life to Antonio Garcia.

He talked around his cigar with an accent as country as fiddles and flapjacks. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he was the portrait of the American soldier: rugged, muscular, handsome. Garcia himself was slender, short, and very Latin. He felt inadequate standing beside a man like Bull. A Toccoa man. A Normandy man.

“—lose your reserve, ya won’t need it, we’re jumpin’ low. Take yer belly band n’ wrap it around ya. Yer fine.”

Garcia hoped he wouldn’t let him down.

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Beginnings

He was still known as Corporal Winters then. Twenty-four, tall, slim. The sergeants called him Red or Rich but the nicknames never seemed to stick—he didn’t have enough personality.

Corporal Nixon had nicknames. He was flamboyant, humorous, sharp as a tack, but surprisingly closed. He never bragged about his wealth or his Ivy League degree or his lovely young bride back home in New York. He kept his mouth shut, which made Winters suspect he was trying to escape from something.

Everyone called him Nix. Winters stared from across the mess hall and thought, He looks like a Nix.

Choke

There was the first time.

He was looking at the cot beside him, observing Nixon (Nix) twitch and frown in his sleep. Most of the time that would be all, but tonight was different. It was June, and in Georgia that meant it was about ninety degrees and so humid the mosquitoes were swimming.

Winters, red hair matted wetly against his pillow, watched the sweat trickle down Nixon’s pale neck and collect in that little hollow at the base of his throat. He tossed, turned, clutched the sheet in his fists, mumbling unintelligibly.

The dream worsened, and Nixon began gasping.

Water

Winters reached over and laid his hand on Nixon’s arm. His flesh was clammy and hot. “Hey,” he whispered. “Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

Nixon continued to thrash helplessly, unresponsive. Winters sat up in his cot, grabbed his canteen from the peg, and unscrewed the cap. He took one last look at Nixon’s grimacing, tortured expression before upending the reservoir.

Water poured onto Nixon’s face with a resounding splash, and he reeled upright with a tremendous gasp. He drew in a breath to scream, but Winters clapped his hand over Nixon’s mouth and bodily forced him back down onto the cot.

Skin

Dark brown eyes stared up at Winters, terrified, those thick eyebrows knitted together with confusion. They were nose to nose, soaked with perspiration, the heat rolling off their faces in waves. Nixon’s hands reached up to grasp Winters’ wrist, but they didn’t pull or push. He breathed heavily through his nose and lay still beneath Winters, who made no move to uncover his mouth.

Winters studied the face under him. Its dark freckles, less dense than his own. The beads of water droplets on his skin. The wet clumps of his eyelashes. The deepening pink hue of his glistening cheeks . . .

Unity

He removed his hand and slowly leaned down, giving Nixon ample time to defend himself.

He didn’t.

The hot, humid barracks became the highest castle chamber—the cot became the bower which held the enchanted maiden in eternal sleep—and Corporal Winters became the prince who woke her with true love’s kiss.

That was how it started. A nightmare and an impulse. Two lives tangling into one.

They parted reluctantly, their lips unclasping with a shared breath.

“What’s your name?” Nixon whispered, eyes roaming over a galaxy of freckles.

“Dick.”

A smile twitched on his lips. “Hi, Dick. I’m Lewis.”

Chapter Text

Ronald Speirs was a hardass. He pushed his men, expected too much from them, and put each and every one of them through the wringer.

But he also cared about them.

Speirs was fair, trustworthy, the antithesis of chickenshit. He was a hell of a commanding officer, and his men respected him. Some even admired him. David Webster was one of those men, and his letters home reflected his fondness and support of his captain . . . But it was the on the ink-smudged, water-stained pages of his personal journal where he allowed his heart to bare itself in shameless, unrequited honesty.

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Beggars could not be choosers. The men of Easy knew how to make it through in a pinch. They measured their rations and kept inventory of their personal belongings, including whatever they could “borrow” from unwilling German townsfolk. Socks, scarves, gloves, caps, anything wool was the coveted lot, but sometimes they arrived too late and got only the picked-over dregs. They found ways to laugh at their misfortune, though.

Like George Luz, who danced around the billet one morning dressed in a scandalous pair of black stockings and garter, singing Walk With a Wiggle and slapping his sleeping comrades’ asses.

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Skittish

“But what if they hate me?”

Dick cut the ignition and gave Lew a dubious look. The man was all eyes; anxiety was practically gushing from his pores, and he kept licking his lips. Dick had never seen him so nervous, not even before the Big Jump in ’44.

He leaned over and squeezed Lew’s knee. “Relax. They’re my parents, not the Wehrmacht.”

Lew stubbornly shook his head. “This is a mistake. I should’ve just stayed in Jersey.” He looked out the window at a white colonial farmhouse. “What’s this?”

Dick smiled and opened his door. “Where I was raised.”

Home

The front yard was a carpet of grass where several large oaks stood in quiet audience. An old rope swing dangled from one. The house itself had seen better times, but it was tidy and well-kept. No peeling paint or missing shutters. A flower garden bloomed under the windows, cheery pansies and sunny marigolds. Everywhere was happiness and love. Here was a real home.

Lew shut his door and stuffed his hands in his pockets, squinting at the Winters residence with a prick of envy in his heart. He would have killed to grow up in a place like this.

Prisoner

“You were some lucky kid, Dick,” he mumbled. “I grew up being told to keep off the grass, stay outta the trees, go play in your room. I never had a childhood.”

Dick didn’t reply, but Lew felt his hand on his shoulder, as gentle and kind as the flowers in his mother’s garden.

He looked up when he heard a screen door slam and beheld a tall, slim woman in a blue dress and yellow apron. Her hair, perhaps once as red as the sunset, was fading to white and pulled back to reveal a plain but caring face.

Parent

She stood on the porch for a moment, staring at them. Then she smiled and called, “Richard! They’re here!” A second later she was joined by her husband, a stern, reliable-looking man, and they both descended the steps.

Lew swallowed dryly and wondered if the Winters ever got drunk and fought in front of guests like his own parents.

They met on the lawn, and Lew was shocked when Edith Winters threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek as if he were her own son. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Lewis,” she said. “Welcome to our home.”

Relief

Lew thought nothing could beat the cozy, comfy farmhouse, but he was wrong. Mrs Winters’ cooking was to die for.

He’d never eaten a real country meal in a real country setting before, and Lew would have cried if he’d known what he was missing: homemade biscuits, pot roast with potatoes and carrots swimming in gravy, sweet, crisp, home-grown corn on the cob . . . It was better than caviar and Steak Diane.

They talked about the war and told family stories, and by the end of dinner, Lew’s nervousness was nothing but a memory.

There really was no place like home.

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Determination

Nixon had let himself go a few times back in the States, usually during holiday furloughs when he had the luxury of drinking and oversleeping. Winters wasn’t the one who had come up with the nickname “Blackbeard”, but he often got the credit. It seemed fitting he should, seeing as how Winters had an inexplicable dislike of beards and always kept himself smooth.

But things changed after D-Day, and Nixon became less diligent about his grooming in the following months. His unkempt appearance began to annoy Winters until finally, while billeted in Holland, he decided to do something about it.

Shave

He dragged Nix out of bed and sat him, half-asleep, in front of a washbasin. He splashed water on Nix’s face, making him squawk and complain, and lathered his chops with soap. Nix didn’t stop bellyaching until he saw Dick pick up a straight razor. Then he suddenly got quiet.

“Dick . . . ? Whadda ya think you’re—”

“Stop talking and sit still. You don’t want me to cut you. Now lean back.”

Nix swallowed dryly and did as he was commanded, leaning back against Dick’s chest and tilting his chin upward. Dick gently placed his hands on Nix’s face and began shaving.

Metal

The razor lightly scraped against Nix’s stubble, taking away beard and cream. Dick frowned in concentration, leaning forward and carefully guiding the deadly-sharp steel down Nix’s throat, over his Adam’s apple, before stropping the blade and returning for a second pass.

Despite all the possibilities of pain and blood and accidents, Nix felt no fear. The hands on his face were gentle, trustworthy, dependable, and would never, ever hurt him.

When it was over, Nix rinsed his face and patted it dry. “Thanks,” he said to Dick’s reflection in the mirror.

Dick smiled and shut the razor with a snap.

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When the 60s arrived, Dick was still dressing in khakis and button shirts. His hair was kept in that military-short crop and looked the same as it did in 1945, though the white at his temples was beginning to spread. Nix, however, Mr Free Spirit, had embraced polyester and the hippie culture and let his hair grow down to his shoulders.

At the Easy reunion in 1970, Winters had no problem telling his best friend that he had no business dressing like a scruffy teenager when he was pushing 52. Nixon just laughed it off and offered Dick a drink.

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Lonely

Every man in Easy felt a little homesick at some time or another. There was no weeping in the barracks or heavy sighing—they were men, and they dealt with their feelings like men.

They would form groups in the evenings, gather around a semi-comfortable place and play cards, trade cigarettes and chocolate if they had it, talk about sex, women, their favorite dishes back home. This brought them closer, made them feel more like family, and soon they forgot their sadness.

But it seemed like no matter how hard he tried, those feelings of melancholy wouldn’t leave Chuck Grant.

Desolate

They were stationed at Mourmelon, enjoying a little respite after so much time on the front, when Grant’s forlornness became too heavy to hide.

As he lay on his cot in the empty barracks, listening to the laughing men outside enjoy the festivities of the night, Sergeant Talbert appeared unexpectedly, grinning. “That you, Chuck?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The hell are you doing in here for? The party’s outside! Guarnere just bet Buck he couldn’t—”

“You go,” Grant mumbled, rolling over. “I’m not feelin’ good.”

Tab’s smile faded; he knelt by Grant’s cot. “Hey,” he said gently. “Chuck, buddy, what’s the matter?”

Escape

Grant moodily shrugged the hand from his shoulder. “Go away. I said I’m not feelin’ good.”

Tab studied his friend for a moment, sucking on his lip as he thought. He put his hand on Grant’s shoulder again. “I can make you feel good.”

Grant scoffed. “Yeah, sure. Unless you’ve got California in your back pocket—”

His sentence was cut off as he was rolled onto his back. Tab’s face was hovering above his own, large and shadowed, inches away. “I wanna help you. Just gimme a chance.” His lips brushed Grant’s ear. “Let’s escape,” he whispered. “You and me.”

Regret

Grant shoved Tab away with a mighty heave and sat up. His breath was coming in short gasps, his face as red as a tomato. “What the fuck, Talbert! The fuck you think you’re doing, man?”

Tab lowered his head and didn’t answer. Grant caught his breath and forced himself to calm down. “I mean, Jesus. You’re not a . . . you’re not like that, are you? Are you? . . . Fucking say something to me, Tab.”

Tab lifted his gaze with a grim little smile. Grant could see the hurt swimming in his eyes. He didn’t need to be queer to see that.

Women

Grant hadn’t meant to react so violently—now he felt awful. He didn’t think he was capable of hurting his comrade so deeply. “Hey, Tab . . . Floyd . . . man, I’m sorry. You just, you scared me is all.” He feigned a smile. “Nothing against you, but I like the ladies, y’know?”

“I do, too,” Tab said quietly. “Brunettes. Green-eyed ones. Don’t mind a few extra curves, either, in all the right places.” He grinned weakly, and Grant suddenly felt his remorse melt into sympathy. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get married and go on after . . . after all this.”

Hope

Silence fell between them for a moment, then Tab spoke again. “I’m not askin’ you to change your life or who you are, Chuck. I’m just askin’ if you want me to help you find some happiness in this goddamn mess. I mean, here we are, six months into this shit, spending Christmas on the other side of the world, and I can’t even comfort a friend.

“But if I can do that, if I can make you forget about dying and this living fucking hell so far away from California, then maybe I’ll have done something right for once.”

Affection

Grant sat on the edge of the cot, staring at Tab’s clasped hands. Then he reached out and put his hand on the back of Tab’s neck, bringing their foreheads together.

“You’re a good friend, Tab,” he whispered. “Maybe there’s something you can do for me after all.”

“Name it.”

“Take off your clothes. Get in bed with me. Just . . . lay with me for a little while.”

Tab paused, nodded, and began to undress.

In a few moments their clothes lay in a pile at the foot of the cot, and Talbert wrapped his arms around Grant’s warm, naked body.

Easy

“We fit together nice for a couple of dicks,” Tab joked.

Grant smiled for the first time in weeks. He knew it had been that long because his face hurt when he did it. He nestled back against Tab’s body until he could feel his heartbeat against his shoulder blades.

“You sure you don’t wanna go out and . . . I mean, I’m fine with this, this is nice, but just in case you were hungry or someth—”

“I’m fine, Tab. Shh.”

Tab shushed and closed his eyes, his lips beginning to arch. “Wish everyone was as easy to please as you.”

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Devil

Herbert Sobel was a petty, vindictive, cruel, spiteful, mean-hearted SOB, that much was certain, but there were a few NCOs in Easy Company who thought he was fucking nuts.

Or possessed by the Devil.

No mortal soul could cook up the Spaghetti Incident, Malarkey insisted. Toye and Perconte agreed, and after a week of semi-hysterical incubation, the rumors were flying at Camp Toccoa that Captain Sobel was, in fact, under the influence of The Beast of the Bottomless Pit.

“It’s incredible, really,” Nixon told Winters at breakfast one morning. “I’ve never seen the Irish and Italians getting along so well.”

Possession

Somehow or another, the noncoms succeeded in convincing Father Maloney that Sobel was infested with evil and a prompt exorcism was the only way to ease his (and their) suffering.

It was a rather unique situation; no Catholic priest had ever performed an exorcism on a Jew before, and Maloney certainly wasn’t qualified to perform one. Nevertheless, with enough pushing from the good Catholic boys of Easy, Maloney and his petrified congregation stayed up into the wee hours of the night planning the liberation of the Wicked One from Sobel’s body.

And one moonless Friday night, Operation Salvation was launched.

Catch

Even some of the non-Catholics got in on it, if anything, to say they’d been present when the Infernal Deceiver crawled out of Sobel’s ample nostrils and went shrieking back to the bowels of Hell.

Roe had swiped a bottle of ether from the medical supply closet (“They’ll nevah miss it.”) and then they all snuck out of their barracks after lights-out and jumped Sobel en route to his bunk. Evans happened to be with him; they fumigated him with ether also and deposited him behind the latrines. Neither had seen anything—all of Easy’s stealth exercises were paying off.

Candle

At half past midnight, in the shoddy little chapel at the edge of camp, Father Maloney cracked open his bible and started praying over Sobel’s unconscious body while the NCOs sat clutching their rosaries and staring with wide eyes. Malarkey was the backup priest, and Guarnere was on standby in case things got violent.

Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe not. But right when Maloney got to the part where he sprinkles holy water on the victim to usher the demon out, a sudden wind blew through the open doors and all the candles were extinguished, plunging the room into darkness.

Chaos

Sobel, who must have been sleeping off an insufficient dose of ether, was awoken by water splashing on his face and leapt upright with an inhuman roar.

Everything. Went. To hell.

The noncoms, believing that the Devil in Sobel had been unleashed, screamed in mortal terror and exploded all over the chapel. Toye went barreling out the doors at twice the speed of light.

Malarkey screamed, “LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE BEAST IS ALIVE!” and crashed into Luz, who was wailing out a Hail Mary at the top of his lungs. They fell to the floor, tripping Guarnere, who cursed irreverently.

Retreat

Being a bit groggy and uncoordinated from the ether, Sobel stumbled about, blind and angry, braying what sounded like modern Hellish (or whatever they spoke Down Below). His garbled, drunken words made no sense to those whom sense had left, therefore, this did nothing to alleviate the escalating hysteria.

By this time the boys’ eyes had adjusted to the darkness and they were finally able to see the exit. Roe and Maloney shot out like they’d been fired from a cannon; Perconte hurdled over Sobel, clearing him by about two feet, and was gone faster than you could say “hallelujah”.

Momentum

The chapel had cleared save for Sobel and three horrified NCOs. Malarkey and Luz cowered on the floor, thinking their lives were over, when they were suddenly dragged up by Guarnere and each tucked under an arm. Sobel’s silhouette staggered in front of the doors, blocking the only exit, but he was no match for Wild Bill. Guarnere howled out a mighty “CURRAHEEEE!”, lowered his head, and charged.

It was like a train hitting a cow. A football tackle gone horribly wrong. Regardless, Sobel went airborne when roughly 400 pounds of America’s finest plowed into him like a speeding bus.

Defeat

Nobody spoke of the failed exorcism of Herbert Sobel. Nobody asked about the bruises and bloody noses some of the noncoms sported Saturday morning. Nobody investigated the discovery of Evans’ sleeping body behind the latrines, or the partial destruction of the camp chapel.

Sobel, walking with a slight limp and meaner than usual thanks to an ether-migraine, pointed no fingers. He must have known who was behind it, but he remained surprisingly discreet.

The company ran Currahee three times that day. They knew it wasn’t punishment—Sobel may have had the devil in his heart, but he hated everyone equally.

Chapter Text

Clash

Nobody ever picked fights with David Webster. Just like nobody ever wrestled Dick Winters or tried to out-drink Lewis Nixon. Webster could take a hit, he didn’t cry, and he knew how to throw a few punches. But guys didn’t pick fights with David Webster because they were afraid of his fists—they didn’t pick fights with David Webster because he had a tongue like a saber and a scathing vocabulary that could leave a man bruised and humiliated for the rest of his life.

The first and last fight anyone picked with Webster was Saturday night, May 22, 1943.

Teeth

Private Lester “Happy” Hapke from Fox Company was the unlucky bastard who deemed Webster much too dainty and passive to be a paratrooper. Webster, sitting in the far corner of the bar and writing in his journal, did the gentlemanly thing and ignored the rude, unsophisticated insults hurled at his manliness.

But when Happy, well into his cups and hurting for some action, decided to snatch away Webster’s journal and play Hot Potato with his cronies, Webster stood, capped his pen, and told Happy, “Give me back my journal, you pus-faced troglodyte, or you’ll be shitting your own teeth tomorrow.”

Speeches

Those were fighting words, and every man in the bar, feeling a rumble coming on, got quiet and formed a wide circle around Happy and Webster.

Happy scoffed. “You ain’t shit, Pretty Boy.”

“I think you mean ‘are not’, unless your brain is as weak as your grasp of the English language.”

The crowd chuckled. Happy sputtered, his face growing red, and stepped forward in challenge. “You need ta watch yer fuckin’ mouth, bitch.”

Webster grimaced. “And you needed a bath last month. Is that meat spoiling in your trousers, or did your dick rot off after fucking your mother?”

Rage

Amidst a roar of laughter, Happy threw a wild, drunken punch at Webster’s face. He dodged it and allowed Happy to stumble into the crowd. Happy recovered and they circled each other slowly. The fight had started, and nearly everyone was cheering for Webster.

“I’m gonna knock yer fuckin’ block off, ya smartass,” Happy growled.

Webster smiled sweetly. “I’m waiting with bells on, you festering rectal wart.”

Another missed punch, another peal of laughter. It was like a bullfight, only the matador was in it just for laughs.

“Sonnova bitch!”

“Jism-belching cretin!”

“Motherfucker!”

“Bovine necrophiliac!”

The crowd was going ballistic.

Pain

Happy finally surprised Webster with a left hook to the jaw. Webster stumbled backward and was caught by a member of Dog. Webster never saw the guy’s face, but he heard him murmur, “Get him, Private. Don’t hold back,” before the helpful hands pushed him back into the circle.

Webster rubbed his aching jaw and sighed tiredly. “You ignorant cunt,” he muttered. The crowd went silent. “You contemptible pile of quivering human smegma. You think that striking another man makes you impervious? I beseech you, please demonstrate that violent, cowardly gesture again. I’m afraid I missed it the first time.”

Victory

Happy swung, but Webster caught his fist and whirled, trapping the intoxicated private in a painful arm lock. It wasn’t an easy technique; he’d only just learned it in Hand-to-Hand, but Webster had the advantage of sobriety over his opponent, facilitating an otherwise difficult maneuver. Happy, not so happy anymore, let out a yelp and fell to his knees, blubbering shamefully in front of his mates.

Webster leaned down and whispered gravely, “Still waters run deep. Remember that.” Then he released Happy with a disgusted shove.

The men cheered to Webster’s victory, patted his back, and bought him a drink.

Spine

“You should have hit him back,” said the man—a second lieutenant—from Dog.

Webster looked up from his journal, his jaw already faintly bruised. “I don’t fight with drunken idiots as a rule, sir. And that man was their king.”

The lieutenant smiled thinly. “You could have beaten him.”

“My journal could have beaten him—at least it has a spine.”

The man chuckled. “What’s your name, Private?”

“Webster, David K, sir.”

The lieutenant nodded slowly. “You would have made a fine officer, Webster.”

“Not I, sir,” Webster smirked. “The air up there is too thin for my liking.”

Chapter Text

They slept in piles, huddled together in ditches or brush or foxholes if they were lucky enough. How many days since they’d landed here? Ten? Fifteen? Too long to go without a shower, that was for sure. They all stunk, some worse than the bloated corpses of German soldiers that littered the hedgerows. Still, they stuck close to one another. For comfort. For security. For each other.

Muck lay on his back in a soggy ditch, pressed against Malarkey and Lieb and Tab. They gazed up at the stars together, the faint light reflecting in their eyes—no wishing tonight.

Chapter Text

Breakfast that morning was special: lukewarm gravy consisting of flour lumps and either sausage crumbles or shit balls dribbled over a soggy piece of French toast. A hot cup of coffee-flavored water complemented the meal.

“Jesus Christ, are they tryin’ to kill us now?” Guarnere asked, gazing at the gelatinous repast suspended from his fork.

“It’f afully not fo bad,” Luz said, enthusiastically clearing his plate. “Juft don’t look at it.”

“I can’t help but look at it, it’s disgustin’.”

“Givvita me then.”

“No way, I’m starvin’,” Guarnere muttered, then looked down at the gruesome puddle on his plate. “Unfortunately.”

Chapter Text

Fingernails

Lieutenant Winters had red, crescent-shaped marks on his shoulders. Five on each side—four in an arch and one on its own. They were deeply imprinted and quite visible, being that his complexion was so fair. Either he didn’t care or he wasn’t aware of them—but the officers knew they were there. They first noticed the marks in the showers a few months ago. Each time they began to fade, another set would emerge. Sometimes scratches, too. Great raking swipes down his back.

The men grinned and nudged each other. Lieutenant Winters must have found himself a real hellcat.

Secret

“I think the boys suspect something,” Winters mumbled against Nixon’s clammy throat.

Nixon, back pressed against the wall of the supply shed, braced himself as the thrusting grew harder. “So what,” he panted. “Boys will be boy—oh fuck, right there, Dick, yes, yes—”

Winters gripped Nixon’s thigh in his sweaty hand, holding it against his pumping hip. “We’ve gotta be careful, Nix. No one can know about this.”

“I know—yes. No one—ah!”

“You’ve gotta control yourself. Leave no trace.”

“No trace, got it. Oh . . . ohh Christ, Dick, I’m com—!”

Winters silenced Nixon’s fervent scream with a kiss.

Chapter Text

A man usually decided which road to take at the Fork of Vice by age eighteen. One road was Sugar, the other was Alcohol. Winters’ choice was plain to see, if his love of ice cream was any indication. Nixon, though he had never minded the occasional sweet, took the same road as his illustrious father, which happened to be Interstate 69 from Frisco to FUBAR.

It wasn’t until Austria that Nix found he couldn’t stomach chocolate anymore. The taste, the smell, just the thought of it would make him ill.

He did, however, discover a certain weakness for strawberry.

Chapter Text

It was the duty of every member of the military to watch that film, by order of the Surgeon General of the United States. “It might just save your life,” the voiceover declared emphatically.

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES! roared the title screen.

Winters shrank down in his chair, his cheeks burning hotly. Nixon took a sip from his flask and smirked.

The film was disgustingly graphic, boldly parading images of male genitalia afflicted with syphilis and herpes and various other forms of crotch rot. And thanks to Luz’s hilariously obscene commentary, the laughter almost blew out the sides of the tent.

Chapter Text

“No, seriously,” chuckled Luz, “if it had to be anyone in this company, who would it be?”

“Dammit,” Johnny Martin muttered as his comrades cackled. “Lemme think first.”

“Who would you choose, Tab?”

“Alley, probably. He’s got nice skin.”

“Would it be me doin’ the guy, or him doin’ me?” Johnny asked.

“Doin’ you.”

“Fuckin’ ay . . .”

“I’d nail Malark!” Skip raised his hand.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” Malarkey groaned.

“Hey Johnny, you decided yet?”

“I’m thinkin’, goddammit!”

“Whadda ‘bout you, Bull? Who’d you do?”

Bull gnawed slowly on his cigar stump. “You, Georgie, if ya don’t drop this queer-ass topic right now.”

Chapter Text

“Can I open them now?”

“No. And no peekin’ or else I’m takin’ it back.”

Webster sighed impatiently and sat with his hands over his eyes. “It better not be another book. My parents have thrown enough of those at me already.”

“It ain’t a book.”

“Or a lamp. What the hell was my brother thinking? He couldn’t pick out a—”

Hands suddenly clasped his own and pulled them away from his face.

On the table in front of him sat a shiny new Smith-Corona typewriter.

Webster’s mouth dropped open.

Liebgott smirked and ruffled his partner’s hair. “Happy birthday, Liebling.”

Chapter Text

Labor

Tears were tracking down Webster’s hot, sweaty face. He gritted his teeth and tried not to groan, but the pain was excruciating. Liebgott was crouched beside the cot, holding Web’s hand and quietly coaching him through the worst of it:

“Shh, shh, it’ll be okay, Dave, just breathe, c’mon, it’s not so bad—”

Webster had refused pain killers. He wanted to remember the experience so he could write about it later, he’d told the doctor. (He’d done crazier things in the name of literature—like joining the army.)

“Almost there,” the doctor announced, his hands streaked with blood. “Keep breathing!”

Hell

Webster squeezed Lieb’s hand until the bones were grinding together. “AUUGHHHH!” he wailed. “OH MY GOD, IT HURTS!”

Liebgott squeezed back. “Hang in there, Davey, you’re doing great, Liebchen!”

Webster howled pitifully.

“It’s almost out, just hold on a little bit—”

“Here she comes!” shouted the doctor.

Webster threw his head back and cut loose a final shriek, then sank back onto the cot with an exhausted gasp.

The doctor dropped the rest of the bullet fragment he’d excavated from Webster’s leg into the pan, then wiped his hands on his apron. “Congratulations, Private,” he smiled proudly. “It’s a .38.”

Chapter Text

Prayer

The days after Haguenau were the worst. Dick, saddled with preserving the lives of his remaining men and dealing with the rigors of constant relocation farther into German territory, had no choice but to stand aside and watch Nix spiral down the drain in a flood of booze. Or wine. Anything that would numb the pain and erase the memories.

Dick could do nothing except pray. Every night he set aside a few minutes to pass his best friend’s name along to God, asking Him to mend the tears in Nix’s heart, and fill it with something other than liquor.

Heal

God prefers to work behind the scenes, anonymously, and allow man’s faith to be the judge of His work.

Dick didn’t know who was responsible for it, for Nix suddenly seeing the light and sobering up just after the discovery of the camp at Landsberg. Maybe it was the shock of seeing that place that did it. Or maybe Nix had finally seen his condition for what it was: a one-way ticket to an early grave. Whatever it was, Dick thanked God for it nevertheless. He had his friend—his Nix, his Lew—back, only so much happier than before.

Sickness

Things were getting better. The future was bright, winter was over, and by the grace of God, the sun was shining on Easy Company once more.

Then, sometime toward the end of May, Nix stopped eating.

He insisted it was nothing, probably just a bug or too much wild game. But two weeks into June he still wasn’t better. His color was poor, he was sleeping too much, and his mind seemed to be getting fuzzy. Doc Roe examined him but turned up nothing.

They took Nix to a doctor in the village.

He was diagnosed with acute liver failure.

Slow Death

The doctor told Dick in private, in his heavy Austrian accent, that years of excessive drinking had destroyed about 80% of Nix’s liver functionality, and that unless he could to get to a major hospital and receive a complete blood transfusion, death was imminent. The doctor gave Nix about a week, but that was being generous. It would be a slow, painful end, signaled by dementia, coma, and finally—mercifully—cardiac arrest.

But there was something that could possibly buy him more time, said the doctor. A root, Gelbwurzel, which grew on the steep, treacherous slopes high in the Alps . . .

Savior

Dick went back to his billet that night and called in Speirs, Welsh, and a handful of trusted noncoms. He explained Nix’s ailment, his fate, and then told his men that Doctor Schalger had given him a description of the root and where it grew, and that tomorrow at 0500, he was going AWOL to bring it back for Nix.

The men were silent for a moment. Then Ron Speirs stepped forward and insisted he go along. The journey was too dangerous to make alone, he said. If one of them fell, at least the survivor might complete the mission.

Leave

Dick stopped by to see Nix before he left that morning. Nix was weak, sallow, lying in bed with Roe keeping watch over him. He smiled when he saw Dick, made jokes about the adventures they’d have together when they got back to the States, and insisted that he would be on his feet again once this flu ran its course.

Dick didn’t tell Nix what Schalger had told him, nor of the dangerous mission he and Speirs were about to undertake in order to save his life. He just smiled, squeezed Nix’s hand, and told him to hang tough.

Ice

They started at the foothills, scaling huge boulders and stumbling over exposed tree roots. There was no path, so they were constantly turning back if they reached an impasse. They crawled up the faces of cliffs that stood over sprawling, hundred-foot gorges. They camped where the tree line ended the first night, and were stunned by how much colder it was than just a few miles below.

The next day they began to see ice. Their paratrooper boots skidded and slipped, and they had to use greater caution, which slowed them down. They made less than two miles that day.

Snow

After the ice came the snow. They knew they were getting closer, and that gave them hope; they were not well-equipped for this mission. They lacked proper footwear, tools, they didn’t have enough rope, and their food supply was dwindling. They were taking too long.

They huddled together on the night of the third day, shivering under a blanket as gusts of wind pelted them with snow and ice. Dick found himself praying for his own survival as well as Nix’s, and asked God to give him the strength to find this medicine.

And the very next day, they did.

Sunshine

They harvested as much of the root as they could carry, gouging it from the moist, shadowy crags of rocks until their knuckles were bloody and their fingers stiff with cold.

They made their way down the mountain, their hearts alive with hope and their feet slipping in their haste. The ill weather disappeared and the sun shone down on them, warming them after four long days of battling freezing temperatures.

They arrived back at the billet on the fifth day, tired but triumphant, right around noon.

It was there that they learned Lewis Nixon had died the night before.

Broken

He lay on the bed with his hands folded on his chest, as if only sleeping. The men stood outside the door, watching with drawn faces and woeful eyes as Dick knelt by the bed of his best friend and placed his scratched, bloody hand on Nix’s cold, lifeless one.

He lost it then, bowing his head and weeping broken sentences onto Nix’s shoulder. He stroked Nix’s dark hair and begged him to come back, even if just for a minute so that he could say goodbye. But Nix was gone—gone without a word—and he wasn’t coming back.

Drown

The men stood aside as Dick walked over the threshold carrying Nix’s body in his arms. They followed him, a silent funeral procession, as he made his way down to the shores of the sparkling Zeller See. They stared in muted shock as Dick walked into the water, boots sloshing noisily. The water rose to his waist, but still he kept going.

Lipton stepped forward to intervene, but Speirs pulled him back, shaking his head.

They watched Dick’s coppery-red hair disappear under the water. They held their breaths, waiting, until all the ripples had vanished.

The bodies were never found.

Chapter Text

Many things had been between those full, rosy lips over the years. He’d seen them gently clasp a cigarette; he’d seen them wrap around the mouth of a bottle of Vat 69, then pull away glistening wet; he’d seen nails gnawed during bad times, gum chewed during slow times, fingers licked during good times.

But the nicest he’d ever seen them was when they slid over the head of his aching cock, soft like a whisper, slippery like an oyster, and later when they were smeared with his semen, and later when they repeatedly cried his name:

“Ron . . . ahh, Ron . . . !”

Chapter Text

It was all he could do in his frustration. Useless gyrations, thrusting into his fist, pouring himself onto bed sheets or sleeping bags or bare floors where nobody walked. The ghosts of guilt came haunting as soon as he was sane again, but they came back every night. Sometimes twice a night, or as many times as he did it, unable to satisfy his fundamental desire for a body, a flesh-hole, something he could fill and love.

But there was no one for him, not here. So he would grind thin air for now, waiting for love to find him.

Chapter Text

Alcohol

Nix flinched slightly when Dick pressed the alcohol-dipped rag to his forehead. “Ow,” he hissed.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Didn’t think it had broken the skin . . .”

“Yeah.” Dick smiled meekly. “You gave me quite a scare, Lew. When I saw you go down, I thought the worst.”

“I bet,” Nix smirked. “No more map guy. The whole company would be lost.”

Dick removed the handkerchief, revealing the clean patch of skin around Nix’s bullet-burn.

“Well?”

Dick paused. “Well what?”

Nix smiled slyly. “Aren’t you gonna kiss it and make it better?”

“For Pete’s sake, Lew . . .”

“Just a peck? Please?”

Desk

Dick sighed impatiently and glared at Nix, who pouted like a child. “Oh, for crying out loud,” he muttered, then leaned forward and, holding Nix’s dark hair off his forehead, pressed a hurried kiss to the mark on the left side of his brow.

When he pulled away, Nix was grinning broadly. “Feels better already.”

“Wonderful. Now get off my desk. I’ve got to finish that report by tomorrow.”

But Nix just leaned back, taking up even more room. “You work too hard,” he murmured lazily. “Why don’t we find another use for this desk, hmm?”

Dick’s eyebrow arched suspiciously.

Knot

Nix lay with his cheek pressed against the desk, his eyelids fluttering as he was rocked rhythmically up and down. “God, yes, Dick,” he moaned. “That feels so good, oh, don’t stop . . .”

He clutched the sides of the desk and groaned again, enjoying the feeling of the cool wood against his bare chest, and those strong, able hands—

“Mm, lower, low—ah. Right there. Ahhh, yeah, you got it.”

Dick, trying hard not to chuckle, continued to massage the knot out of Nix’s weary back muscles.

Nix smiled dreamily, eyes closed. “Damn,” he mumbled, “I need to get shot more often.”

Chapter Text

There is no such thing as a civil war—war by definition is uncivil. It’s a nasty, brutish, violent method of achieving goals through the shedding of blood, usually innocent. The very notion of war disgusted David Webster.

“Why drag us into it?” he rattled on, chainsmoking as his comrades lay around the billet, groaning for him to shut up already. “If you ask me, they should just put Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill in a ring with Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito, and let them wallop each other. It’d be a lot easier than bringing the whole fucking world into it.”

Chapter Text

Grass

Webster lay comfortably in the warm shade, chewing on a stalk of grass, his legs stretched out in front of him and his head resting on the mossy root bed of an old oak tree. Beside him was scattered a dozen books—poems, essays, fine literature—most of them in German, a few in English. He thumbed through one with a smile on his face.

“What do you think?” Speirs asked softly from his grassy seat.

Webster looked up. “They’re wonderful, sir. Thank you for giving them to me.”

Speirs shrugged. “Books are wasted on me—you’re a better owner.”

Emerson

Webster hesitated, then decided to risk it: “Would you . . . would you like for me to read to you, sir?”

Speirs frowned, but didn’t decline.

Webster began: “Give me truths/For I am weary of the surfaces/And die of inanition. If I knew/Only the herbs and the simples of the wood . . .”

Speirs listened quietly, attentively, as Webster read to him. A scene of peace; two men enjoying each other’s company beneath the shade of an oak, whose heavy limbs would have embraced the gentle young man who spoke the wisdom of nature and earth, and the poet who knew it so well.

Oak

The sun had sunk behind the mountains and the light was fading. Webster had since stopped reading and now sat with his eyes closed, languidly combing his fingers through the hair of the slumbering man whose head rested in his lap. Beside them on the moss lay The Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with a blade of grass holding the place where word and thought should meet again.

The tree was falling asleep as well, happy to have had such pleasant visitors. Perhaps they would return again tomorrow, and pass their mortal hours in the shade of his watchful branches.

Chapter Text

Winters strode among the trucks, idly listening to the voices of men reunited with their comrades. He tried to work the lid off a C-rat, but the opener confounded him and he didn’t care to slice up his hand over a can of gruel. He hated cans. He’d grown up in the country, where foods were fresh and cans were rare. Anything preserved came in a mason jar.

Thankfully, Nixon knew how to work a can opener. He handed the tin back to Winters and advised him to never get a cat. Winters agreed—mice would be hard to can.

Chapter Text

The bleak winter landscape greeted them every morning, chewed on them all day long, then beat them to sleep each night. Skip began to think the Ardennes was cursed, and every time a mortar round exploded into the trees, he felt like thanking the Germans for destroying another piece of this fucking forest.

When nothing filled the long hours of day but snow and silence, a man could go mad. So Skip would stare into the white, imagining he was home in front of the fire, drinking coffee with Don and Alex, and ignoring the snow falling outside the window.

Chapter Text

Orange flags waved in Eindhoven amidst a sea of jubilant cheers. People pulled them into hugs and handshakes, offering cigarettes and other treats. A few of the bolder girls dared to kiss their heroes, and Winters was quite surprised when a young Dutch woman threw her arms around him and planted a direct kiss on his mouth. She was gone the next moment, dashing off to thank the rest of the company, no doubt.

Winters was faintly amused. Nixon, not so much—that little public display of affection had raised a flag of his own, and it was monster green.

Chapter Text

There was a burn on the floor where a cigarette had fallen from his drunken fingers and smoldered to death on the wood. There was a stain on the living room carpet where he’d spilled wine and left it there for days. There was tired resignation in his second wife’s eyes when she begged him to tell her what was wrong. There was nothing Lewis felt when she left and never came back. It was only a déjà vu, the same old song and dance, and he was sure it would happen again. Another burn, another stain.

Another empty house.

Chapter Text

Speed was the main focus when the noncoms lined up for their first day at Camp Toccoa. When they weren’t at attention, they were running, sometimes sprinting. They ran to the mess, they ran to the barracks, they ran to the latrines, they ran Currahee. They wolfed down their meals and threw on their ODs and raced through the showers. Easy Company was a blur.

Once they had mastered speed, Sobel taught them coordination and rhythm. “You must be fast together,” he barked. “Until you people have learned to breathe, blink and bleed at the same time, you are NOTHING!”

Chapter Text

If love was a flame, Webster was in Hell.

The degree of his passion shocked even him, and he was incredibly aware of how distasteful it was for a 23 year-old man to pine, wither and swoon over an officer who probably couldn’t even match his name with his face. Webster was disgusted with himself, but his infatuation with Captain Ron Speirs persisted until he had whole volumes of sonnets and poetry stashed away in his duffel bag and guarded more fanatically than the Holy fucking Grail.

Yes, indeed—if love was a flame, Webster was burnt to a crisp.

Chapter Text

Sparks

He wished George would smile again. His face looked horribly gloomy the way it was now: pasty white cheeks, dark, bruised-looking circles around his eyes, his laughing, grinning mouth frozen into a miserable, heartbroken droop. No more jokes, no more Dike imitations. The spark had gone out of George Luz.

Frank slithered closer in the foxhole and nudged George’s cold cheek with his nose. George stirred but didn’t wake. Frank brushed the frost from George’s eyebrows with his thumb and exhaled a warm fog onto his face, hoping against hope that that smile—that spark—would come back to life.

Shiver

George was dreaming he was home again, warm and safe and happy, when the subdued ache of arousal brought him back to Bastogne with a shiver. He blinked his eyes open and saw Frank Perconte’s face hovering near his own, flushed with warmth. Then George became aware of steady movements and a pleasing sensation occurring somewhere below his belt, and he looked down the length of his body to see Frank’s hand buried into the front of his open trousers, massaging his growing erection.

George shivered much more violently, but it wasn’t with cold. “Christ, Frank, don’t stop,” he uttered.

Mute

Frank leaned his forehead against George’s, forcing their helmets back on their heads with a metallic clack. As they breathed each other’s hot exhaust, George’s dark, expressive eyes roamed over his friend’s face before they fluttered closed. He pressed his mouth against Frank’s, and suddenly they were grappling each other like a pair of horny teenagers. The silence around them made every rustle of cloth seem as loud as thunder. Frank felt George’s cock twitch expectantly, and he jerked him in long, hard strokes. George came, and a silent scream flowed from his open mouth in a thick, lingering fog.

Color

Frank was relieved to see that the color had returned to George’s cheeks, but it was nothing compared to the devilish smile that George sent him as he lay against the earthen wall of the foxhole, trying to catch his breath. “Frank,” he panted, “I would give my right hand to be outta this fuckin’ place.”

Frank could feel a joke hidden in there somewhere, and he grinned. “Why’s that?”

“’Cause I don’t need mine as long as I’ve got yours.”

They chuckled together, then George said, “C’mere, Handy,” and pulled Frank into a thankful kiss.

The spark was back.

Chapter Text

They laid their hands upon one another gently, one just below the shoulder, one clasping the other’s hand. They gazed into each other’s eyes, brown on blue on brown, then Nix took the first step forward. Dick took a step back, his eyes fixed upon his partner’s shadowy face. The rhythm came naturally, just like walking or breathing. They turned—one-two-three, one-two-three—following the slow, somber notes resonating from the record player. Dick slid deeper into Nix’s arms and followed his graceful movements.

“You were right,” he whispered. “It’s beautiful.”

Nix smiled and held Dick like a secret. “It’s Beethoven.”

Chapter Text

He crouched on the floor between Speirs’ legs and watched him pull his impressive cock out of his trousers; it hung heavily, hard and warm and thick, begging to be sucked.

Speirs took a slow drag from his cigarette and said with a lazy smile, “Do you like guns, Private Webster?”

“Only yours, sir,” Webster answered dutifully, leaning forward for a taste.

Speirs’ eyelids fluttered. “Careful, Private. Mine’s . . . ah, always loaded.”

Webster dragged his tongue along the hot shaft. “I’m not afraid of getting shot by you, sir.”

Speirs groaned as Private Webster swallowed his gun down to the trigger.

Chapter Text

He loved hearing it break. It freed him, that bright shattering jingle of something whole being reduced to splinters and shards, irreparable, destroyed forever. He delighted in it, in the vibrant red-and-yellow colors that exploded in his soggy, intoxicated mind. An die Freude! Sing and rejoice! Happy V-E Day!

By contrast, Winters hated the sound. He thought it was angry, destructive, painfully violent. It reminded him of fights and blood and bullets. He abhorred it so completely that when Nixon raised another empty bottle above his head, Winters caught him by the wrist.

“Enough,” he said softly. “That’s enough, Nix.”

Chapter Text

The men sat in the belly of the C-47, covered in darkness, listening to the steady growl of the propellers. Rosaries hitched through fingers one bead at a time. Lips mumbled unheard prayers. Eyes stared, lost in the thunderclouds of the near future. They all had different ways of praying. Lipton’s was song.

Mighty Lord,” he sang, “preserve us from jeopardy . . .”

His voice was barely noticeable above the props.

Grant vict’ry o’er our treacherous and cruel enemies . . .”

Some of the men looked up, intrigued by the haunting hymn.

And by Thy shining, holy light . . . Grant us, oh Lord, peace again.”

Chapter Text

Thank you, Dad, thought Lewis Nixon, for the drinking and adultery. You’d be proud of me. Thank you, Mom, for your tough skin and tolerance for the intolerable. I couldn’t have survived the war without it. Thank you both for passing down your wonderful, fucked-up genes to your kids. Wish you were still alive so you could see what it’s done to us. Poor Blanche, she just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if I can, either.

He thumbed the hammer of his old Browning 1911, raised it to his temple, and listened to the empty snap of metal.

Chapter Text

When he wanted to get away, he would climb the big magnolia in his back yard and stretch out on that thick, wide bough about ten feet off the ground, swinging one leg and staring up at the green leaves and flakes of blinding sunshine. He loved that old tree, with its aromatic blossoms and—

“Shifty!”

A pebble bounced off his leg and Shifty Powers sat up, returning from his Virginian daydream.

Malarkey stood fifteen feet below, his hands on his hips. “What are you, some kinda monkey? It’s chow time, let’s go!”

Shifty grinned and nimbly shimmied his way down.

Chapter Text

Easy was bored. And when Easy got bored, people got hurt.

Winters tried his best to keep the boys busy with inspections, drills, light training and sports, but in the empty hours between dinner and bedtime, they were free to do whatever they pleased. Which included drinking, driving, and playing baseball with live grenades.

One night a monstrous explosion jolted Winters out of a sound sleep. He slapped Nixon awake and they went to the window to see a mushroom cloud of dust rising over the baseball field.

There were no casualties come morning, but Winters politely confiscated the explosives.

Chapter Text

Promotions, while a subject of pride and esteem, came with a small helping of irritation.

When Corporals Winters and Nixon were discharged in July 1942 and reinstated as second lieutenants, they couldn’t stop grinning. Until they were handed their new insignia to sew on.

Winters was familiar with the craft, artfully lacing his needle through badge and uniform, but Nixon, whose life of pampered luxury never meant repairing holes in torn shirts or trousers, put the needle through his skin more often than his uniform.

“Here,” said Winters helpfully, taking the needle from his frustrated friend. “Let me show you.”

Chapter Text

He put his back into it, muscles shifting beneath the filmy gleam of sweat, and plowed deeper into the flesh beneath him.

Webster moaned raggedly, but the sharp note of pain in his cries had vanished. He twisted his bruised wrists in Speirs’ grasp, pinned and utterly defenseless. Just the way Ron liked him. 

Just the way he liked Ron. 

“Don’t stop, sir,” he begged, chest heaving. “Please—”

Speirs waited for Webster’s clenching muscles to relax, then drove himself in without warning. His cock struck gold.

Oh God, Ron!” shrieked Webster, arching up and coming hard all over his captain.

Chapter Text

Cramp

The first few days after the initial run up Currahee, the barracks were filled with the steady sound of groans, hisses and curses as men lay in their beds and agonized over Charlie horses, sore backs, and stiff necks.

Lieutenant Nixon, on the contrary, welcomed the debilitating nightly cramps, for it seemed to be the only remedy for the slow, aching burn of arousal that made him want to touch himself, even in a room filled with dozens of other men. Several weeks without sex or even five minutes’ privacy, and he’d developed an almost permanent case of blue balls.

Net

After a few more weeks the stiffness went away, muscles grew accustomed to the abuse and loosened, and the cramps stopped occurring at night. 

Nixon rued his body for its betrayal, for its inability to ignore the overwhelming drive to mate, even if it was with his own fist. When the pain that kept his libido in check disappeared, it was like falling off a tightrope with nothing between him that hard, merciless ground.

Shame and modesty died the night he grasped himself in his hand and worked in slight, quiet movements until he was satisfied. And he regretted nothing.

Chapter Text

Horns hummed warmly from the radio in the corner, drifting through the dark like cigarette smoke. Harmonious voices, not so much voices as one multi-toned voice, sang softly and followed the music’s steady beat.

Lewis, head resting against Dick’s bare shoulder, grunted peevishly, “I hate this song.”

“Why? It’s a good song.”

“It’s a terrible song. Do you know what ‘perfidy’ means? Faithlessness. Treachery.” 

Dick arched one orange eyebrow quizzically. “Do you always take music so personally?” he teased.

“I do when it reminds me of my ex-wives.”

Dick gave Lew a squeeze and smiled. “You’ll forget in time.”

Chapter Text

Once the initial shock wore off and resignation set in, it became a contest to see who was the most miserable.

“I’m s-so cold,” Toye said through chattering teeth, “I’d skin a Kraut an’ w-wear ‘im like a coat.”

I’m so fuckin’ cold,” said Guarnere, “I’d g-gut a Kraut an’ crawl inside ta get warm.”

Roe crouched down at the edge of the foxhole, rubbing his frosty hands. “Ah’m so cold,” he drawled in his Louisiana accent, “Ah’d take dick from a dozen Krauts at th’ same time.”

Toye and Guarnere stared up at the medic.

Roe shrugged. “Hypothermically speakin’.”

Chapter Text

It was raining steadily when the Wooster Victory pulled into New York Harbor on November 20, 1945. Despite the weather, every man was on deck, soaking himself to the bone just for the pleasure of seeing Lady Liberty. They cheered wildly, shaking hands, madly hugging each other.

Nixon stared up at the statue, dark hair plastered to his head in a shining mat, eyes narrowed against the downpour.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” asked Winters, moving to stand beside his longtime friend.

“Gorgeous,” Nixon conceded. “I never thought I’d see her again.”

Winters smiled and slowly threaded his wet fingers between Nixon’s.

Chapter Text

Fruit

George Luz was an incredible mimic. He could listen to a man’s voice once and immediately throw it back with near-perfect accuracy. While entertaining, this talent got him into trouble with the officers and senior NCOs. Nothing too serious, but one night he found out just how deep trouble could be.

It was past lights-out at Camp Mackall, and Luz was raiding the supply closet of the mess in search of more canned fruit. Perco was outside keeping watch, but something must have gone wrong because Luz suddenly heard Lieutenant Nixon’s voice cut through the dark: “Is that you, Dick?”

Imitation

Luz immediately dropped his tone and adopted Lieutenant Winters’ relaxed Pennsylvanian lilt. “Hey, Nix.”

He heard Nixon walk toward him and murmur, “You’re early.”

Early? Jesus Christ, thought Luz, stepping back. “When am I ever late?”

Nixon chuckled. “Good point. C’mere.”

You c’mere,” Luz insisted, wondering if he could knock a man unconscious with a can of diced pineapple.

Suddenly a tall, lean body had pinned Luz against the stove. Nixon’s warm, boozy breath poured over him. “Feisty tonight, huh? I like that . . .”

And Luz nearly screamed in horror when he felt Lieutenant Nixon’s erection gently prod into his stomach.

Swear

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Luz yelped in Winters’ voice.

Nixon abruptly stepped back. “You swore.”

“There’s a first time for everything, right?”

He could hear Nixon smirking. “You ain’t kiddin’, baby.” 

And suddenly Lieutenant Nixon’s mouth was slobbering all over Sergeant Luz’s forehead. It didn’t last long, thank Christ. Nixon retreated, and Luz knew his cover was blown.

“When did you get so short, Dick?”

Time to go, thought Luz. And he threw his knee into Nixon’s crotch and bolted, trailing cans of fruit into the night.

After that, George Luz could never look Lewis Nixon in the face again.

Chapter Text

Cavalry

When Dick Winters walked through the door of the Blue Boar Pub, Lewis Nixon spun around at the bar and threw his arm toward his friend. “THE CAVALRY HAS ALIVED! ARRIVED!” he announced to the other patrons. “PASS THE LORD AND PRAISE THE AMMUMITION—”

Dick caught him as he slipped off of the barstool. “Time to dry out, Nix.”

“Lemme buy you a drink.”

“You know I don’t drink.”

“Lemme buy you a water.”

“Water’s free.”

Nix surrendered and allowed Dick to lead him out into the cool Aldbourne night, draping one arm around his redheaded friend for support. 

Map

“Where are you staying, Nix?”

“Shit, I dunno. Over there?”

“That’s a church.”

“I’ll sleep it off in the pews then.”

“Could you point it out on a map?”

“Dick, I couldn’t point out my own face if I was lookin’ in a mirror. Just get me to an alley, will ya? Think I’m gonna be sick.”

Dick led Nix over to a narrow alleyway, where he squatted and spat and hung his head for several long minutes. Finally he retched, twice—one long, one short—and stood shakily to his feet. “Take me to the church, Dick,” he muttered.

Angel

He laid Nix down in the front pew and crouched down to eye level. “Are you sure?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Nix mumbled, closing his eyes. “Go on.  Spast your bedtime.”

“Who’s gonna wake you up in the morning? We’ve got drills tomorrow at 0800.”

“God’ll wake me up.”

“I sincerely doubt that.”

Nix reached out, clawing the air drunkenly until he found Dick’s face. He stroked the freckled cheek lovingly. “I can take care ‘a myself. I know you’re my guardian angel n’ all, but even angels need sleep.”

Dick smiled and gently ruffled Nix’s hair. “Alright. G’night, little devil.”

Chapter Text

Five paratroopers stared at the rotting tree like it was a beautiful woman. Perconte handed Webster an empty jar and Liebgott shoved him forward. “Go on, Web. You can do it.”

Webster whirled around, terrified. “Are you fucking crazy? There’s ten million bees in there!”

“So charm ‘em,” Luz snapped. “Yer pretty enough. Just bat those big blue eyes at ‘em a few times and you’re home free.”

“You’re all trying to get me killed.”

“Aw, c’mon,” Perconte whined, “take one fer the team!”

You take one for the team—a jar of honey’s not worth anaphylactic shock!”

“Annafuh—whut?”

Chapter Text

Alkaline

June 2, 1945

Last night I went to him like I had done many times before, yet it was the first time the alkaline burn of shame and terror did not boil in my stomach. I was clear-headed, unimpeded by the alcohol which had been so plentiful in these peaceful, uneventful days, and as I stood outside the door of his billet, smoking pensively and dwelling on my intentions, I heard the click of a latch. The door opened and I was caught, like a helpless rabbit, in the stormy, dark-eyed gaze of the man I loved—Captain Ronald Speirs.

Rationing

He invited me in with one of his Mona Lisa smiles—dark, mysterious, omniscient—and as he gently placed his hand on the small of my back, I felt my excitement rise and my heart quicken. He was the spider, and I was the fly—his willing victim. I stubbed out my cigarette beneath my boot heel and allowed myself to be led into the house which he and he alone occupied. He took my jacket and seated me before the fire. He offered me wine and I rationed it modestly; I had no desire to drown my memory tonight.

Armchair

He sat in the armchair, I on the rug, like a parent overseeing the play of his child, or a great statue of Apollo on his throne, set before the mortals to worship. I am indeed his servant, his worshipper, and I have no shame in admitting it. 

I read to him from my journal and he listened, quietly sipping his Riesling. Perhaps it was for this reason I loved him so—his patient indulgence of a silly schoolboy’s desperate attempt to carve beauty from the English language. He asked questions, blunt but pertinent, and his audience delighted my heart.

Order

When my glass was empty and my journal closed, he bade me stand and I did. He told me to take off my clothes and I complied, garment by garment, first shirt, then boots, then trousers, and so on, while he appraised me over the rim of his glass with his dark, abyssal eyes. Soon I stood before him, naked as Adam, my heart racing, my body flushed with arousal. He set aside his glass and beckoned to me, come. I slid into his lap and straddled his thighs, and he slipped his arms around me like a hangman’s noose.

Tear

He could be so gentle and tender one moment, so savage and violent the next. Tonight he was both, though his soft caresses seemed to linger and his eyes glowed warmly with ardor. He made love to my neck with his mouth and teeth, and as I stroked my fingers through his shadowy hair, I could feel his need growing against my groin. It wasn’t much longer before the beast in Ron Speirs tore loose, and suddenly I was the mouse wriggling in the eagle’s talons. He plunged his oil-slicked fingers into me, and all I could do was moan.

Stripes

We abandoned the chair in favor of the floor. I spread myself out beneath him and he penetrated me again, never speaking, only staring. He then removed his trousers and positioned himself over me, and I was intently aware of my inferiority, my vulnerability—yet I would have it no other way. I idolized this man, and he pleasured me in return, driving himself deep into my compliant body while I scratched my wordless prayers into the flesh of his back, stripes of adoration, and my unconditional surrender to his power, his glory, his mercy. My God had a name.

Oceanic

I became lost in his sea, sunk by his passion as his passion sank into me time after time. His ruthlessness poured from his skin with every drop of sweat that mixed with mine, every hot gasp we shared between our thirsting mouths, yet I felt his compassion and love in the way he whispered to me, stroking my hair, and moved within me like waves lapping at the shore.

When he came inside me, his seed warm and thick, I sobbed with ecstasy. He nuzzled me, kissed me, smiled at me tenderly, and we sank to the bottom together.