Dave slapped at a mosquito on his arm. Even with Cody's fire, the bastards were everywhere. Several minutes ago, he had told Cody that he'd give his left hand for a citronella candle, but Cody just scoffed and sat down on the raised bed.
Dave decided he could deal with Cody being angry. If Cody wanted to be pissed because Dave had taken a risk to get enough food for both their asses, then fine. Dave could deal with that.
He couldn't deal with the silence.
For a long hour, the only sound in their camp was the crackling of the fire and the wet noises of meat being stripped from scales as Dave gutted the alligator. The flesh was slimy and that made it all the more alarming when his fingertips brushed against the hard flat plates. As Dave leaned over the carcass for the second knife, his instincts kicked into high gear. The feeling that he was being watched from behind by a predator filled his body. He moved his hand from the knife and reached out for his staff instead, gripping it tightly.
"Cody," he started. "put your feet up on the bed."
There was the rustling sound of Cody shifting his weight behind him.
Slowly, Dave stood and turned around. His eyes darted from bush to bush, expecting to find a lurking alligator or water moccasin. Instead, there was only Cody, who was growing increasingly irritated.
"Is there something here, Dave? Another fucking alligator you might want to wrestle?" Cody's tone was smooth like stone and it hit Dave just as hard.
"I thought there was something here, in the bushes," Dave took a breath and steadied himself. "Just keep an eye out, brother."
Cody looked him dead in the eye. "I'm on it," Cody said, "don't you worry."
Dave nodded. He bent back down over the alligator's carcass and returned to his previous task of rending meat from bone and scales.
The prickling feeling of being watched never went away. He looked back twice but all he saw was Cody, sitting still and silent on the bed.
Dave had to congratulate himself - since it was pretty damn obvious Cody wasn't about to - on his very satisfying kill. Whatever Cody's mother hen sensibilities, there was no way anyone could deny that Dave had provided for his hippie, homemaker ass.
It tasted good, too.
Dave held a particularly fatty piece of roasted alligator out to Cody, who accepted it with reluctance. He turned it around in the firelight, as though inspecting it for quality before finally biting off a chunk and chewing thoughtfully. Dave watched the annoyed twist of Cody's face melt into a more contended expression. Without even waiting for him to request a second piece, Dave snagged another strip of meat off the makeshift spit they'd made. This time, he chanced a smile as he passed it along to Cody. Cody gave a grunt of thanks and slipped half of the sizable piece in his mouth at once. Dave snickered.
"Tastes pretty damn good, don't it?" Dave grabbed a piece for himself and bit off a burned corner. "That's hand-caught gator right there, brother."
Cody's expression soured briefly at the reminder of Dave's risk, but it softened with another bite. He cleared his throat. "I will say that the more I eat, the less angry I become."
Dave had to grin at that. Finally, they were getting somewhere.
After two days with little food, the gator meat was nearly intoxicating. Dave felt almost giggly with a stomach full of meat. At some point, he had moved to the makeshift bed with Cody stretched out beside him. Cody's head was propped up on his elbow and he was licking the juice off his fingers. Each time he finished with one, he shoved it into his mouth and made the most ridiculous slurping sound. It was annoying and disgusting, but Dave smiled at the noise. He glanced up at the stars, pretending not to be so damn proud at the sounds of his friend eating. "Damn, Cody. Is this your new favorite food, or what?"
Cody didn't respond. The prickling feeling on the back of Dave's neck returned.
Dave whipped his head around to see nothing but Cody. Cody, who was sliding his index finger from his mouth. Cody, who was licking his lips and shifting closer.
Cody, who was looking at Dave like he wanted to eat him.
"Dave," Cody breathed against Dave's lips, soft as anything, "you stupid ass."
Then Cody was kissing him and oh shit. For all of Dave's "Susie Homemaker" jokes, he had always known that Cody was tough. The man walked across thorn patches barefoot, for Christ's sake. But it was nothing like this. This was a pair of arms thick and corded with muscle winding around him like a snake. This was chapped lips and stubble scraping his own across his jaw. This was long hair like mane under his hands when he reached up to hold Cody's head to his.
This was Cody he was kissing, and the thought made him moan loud enough to draw the alligators but he didn't care. Cody tried to pull back and Dave held him to his chest, kept him from retreating because he knew the man would start spouting some shit about brotherhood and Dave really didn't think he could listen to that. Not with the taste of Cody's sweat still on his lips.
Cody shifted his head again and broke the kiss, gasping. "You still shouldn't have done that. We're a team. You can't fucking take risks like that."
Dave leaned forward to bite gently at Cody's earlobe, tasting earth and smoke. "Somebody's gotta feed you," Dave's voice was hoarse with the sheer force of honesty behind his words, giving voice to the nameless pride he felt as he killed the alligator, "gotta bring food home to you."
"Goddamnit, Dave," Cody groaned, "you just-- you-- goddammit." He shoved their lips together again, apparently giving up on words entirely.
Dave groaned under the onslaught of teeth and tongue. This was gratitude, and the blurred edges of something else, something huge and threatening. The hair on the back of Dave's neck raised again, but this time, Cody's hand was there to brush it down.