Dick was the first one to realize. Of course he was. He was down on the line with Easy Company every day. He saw what Lipton was doing as well as what Dike wasn't. He saw how run down Lipton was getting. How tired he was, running around, taking care of everyone but himself. And Dick, being Dick, decided that they should take care of Lip. They, being him and Nix.
They'd been noticing Lipton for a while. He'd stood out at Currahee. They'd both thought he was attractive, and, while their own relationship grew, they occasionally fantasized about him, too. Well, Lew fantasized and Dick blushed and tried to hide how much it turned him on.
As the war went on, they grew to respect his leadership abilities, too. He was quick to take responsibility and help where he could. He never seemed to run out of energy.
Then, they went to Bastogne. Lipton had to shoulder the burdens Dike wouldn't. He fought to keep up morale amid the cold and shooting. It was only right that someone else do the same.
"I'm not sure what you think I'm going to do," Nix said, "Go down there on a white steed and sweep him off his feet?"
"Nothing that dramatic. Just, give him an excuse to come off the line, maybe." Dick sighed. "Try to let him rest. He deserves it."
"We all do," Nix muttered.
"I'll do it, if you don't. I'm going down to the front tomorrow," Dick said, "I'll probably see him then."
Lipton was harder to find than Dick thought. He was constantly on the move. "He was just here, sir, but-" was becoming tiresome to hear. It only made him more determined, though.
After another fruitless day, he managed to find time to complain to Nix. They curled up together at the bottom of Nix's foxhole, for warmth and companionship. With the tarp over the opening, if they cuddled close together enough, they could almost forget where they were. Nix offered him his flask, as usual, and, as usual, he turned it down.
"All I want to do is talk to him, you wouldn't think that would be that hard," he sighed.
"That's all you want to do?" Nix asked. He chanced a quick kiss. No one was around to see them, anyway.
Dick blushed. He wondered how Nix had the energy to think about such things. He was so tired, a kiss was all he had the strength for. "Yes. He needs some rest. And I'm with you. And I'm his superior officer."
"So? He's a good looking guy. I wouldn't mind... helping him relax." Nix waggled his eyebrows.
"Nix." Dick frowned. "Stick to the topic at hand."
"I thought I was. We're talking about Lip, right? The guy you're trying to help. The one who needs to... relax."
"Stop saying it like that. He needs rest. If we can find him. That's all," Dick said. He rubbed his forehead. "We just need to find him."
"We? You go to the front more than I do. He can't avoid you forever. You're fast and wily." Nix laid back and pulled Dick along with him. "I have faith in you." He kissed him. "Now be quiet and enjoy the mood."
"Yes, Lew." Dick returned the kiss. He was too tired to argue, anyway. They had to take what moments they got, after all.
The next day, Dick's luck changed. He intercepted Lipton as he was walking between foxholes, checking in with the men.
"Sergeant Lipton, do you have a moment?" He asked.
"For you, sir, of course." Lipton rubbed his hands together and blew on them. "What do you want?"
"Nothing much. Just, I'd like to meet with you." Dick realized he hadn't thought this part through. "Perhaps, we could talk at my camp? It's probably warmer than here."
"I'm fine, sir. What did you want to talk to me about?" Lipton asked. He was shivering enough that Dick could notice, but he seemed to be trying to look warm.
"How are the men holding up?" That was always at the forefront of his mind. "Are they keeping warm?"
"As well as they can, sir. It's hard, without being able to build a fire. And the snow." Lipton wrapped his arms around himself and yawned, like he couldn't help himself.
"When did you sleep last?" Dick noticed dark shadows under his eyes. All of them had them, but he thought Lip's were darker.
"I caught a couple of hours last night, sir. I'm doing fine," he said.
"I could arrange so you're back from the front. You could get more rest," Dick offered.
"I wouldn't want to be away from the men, sir."
"You should take care of yourself, though," is what slips out before he can stop it.
"I'm fine, sir, really. I've got boots that keep my feet dry. Some of the men don't."
"Who needs boots?"
"A few of them. We need a lot of supplies, sir."
"I know. I wish I could say we would get them. Still, you should come, sit." Dick didn't want to give up just yet.
"Well..." Lip looked close to agreeing, but then Dike appeared.
"Sergeant Lipton! I need to talk to you!" He said.
"Ah, yes, sir. Now, sir?" Lipton asked.
Dick nodded to them and left. Trust Dike to disappear when needed and reappear at the worst possible time. He circled through the foxholes, checking on everyone he could find. He noticed that Toye didn't have boots and, of the men who did have boots, few had ones without holes. He was reminded again that none of them had winter gear.
He wished he had some way to change that. He wished he could get more supplies in. He wished he could do something. Maybe, if he came back the next day, he could help Lipton. That would be something.
When he got back to headquarters, Nix was hanging around, as usual.
"Did you see him?" He asked.
"Yes. Then Dike appeared." Dick knew he was being unfair, but he couldn't help it.
"Oh. And he just completely ruined things, right?"
"Yes." He sighed and sat down. "Lip was thinking about coming back with me, and Dike showed up."
"You got that far. Maybe Dike won't be around tomorrow," Nix said.
"Do you think I should try again?"
"Yes!" Nix said, then leaned in and said, quieter, "Yes, of course. You can't give up now."
Dick shifted over so they could sit side by side. "I suppose. He's just worried about the men. I'm not sure if he'd do anything they couldn't."
"You'll have to be very convincing, then. Don't want him out there in the cold," Nix murmured, "All shivering and alone. Huddled in a foxhole. In the dark. Surrounded by Germans. Poor, sad Lip..."
"Yes, I understand your point. But he's not the only one in that position. They're all cold. We're all cold."
"But there's only one of them we want to share a foxhole with." Nix sat as close as he dared. "So get cracking."
After a couple of days of Lipton being busy, though, he'd had enough. He sent Luz, who was his runner, to get him. That way, he couldn't refuse. He told Luz he wanted Lip to give him a report about the men.
Lipton arrived not long after. He looked, if anything, worse. The near-constant bombardments that had started falling recently were clearly affecting him badly. He had deep, black circles under his eyes. Both he and Luz were shivering and weren't hiding it as much as they had before. Luz returned his salute as alertly as he could and left to get warm.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" Lip asked.
"Yes. How is everyone doing?" Dick asked in return. He motioned for Lip to follow him to a more isolated area. If this conversation went where he hoped it would, he didn't want anyone else to overhear.
"As well as can be expected. Sir." Lip yawned, barely covering his mouth in time. "The bombs are affecting morale levels, but... they're doing their best."
"Of course they are. I have faith in them." Dick sat and gestured for Lip to do the same. "I have faith in you."
"Thank you, sir." Lip sat with a sigh. He was moving more slowly, too. "I'm glad to hear that."
"Well, look who's here," Nix said. He wandered over and sat next to them. He always did like making an entrance. "It's good to see you, Sergeant."
"It's nice to see you, too, sir." Lip smiled at Nix. He looked better when he smiled. More like the man Dick first met at Currahee.
"So," Nix said, "how goes the front?"
"Like I told Major Winters, it's as well as can be expected, sir." Lip started to relax and lean back in his chair. "I'm sure you're more aware of the situation than me, sir."
"I know the situation, but I don't know how the men feel like you do," Nix said. "Everyone knows you're the one keeping Easy Company together."
Lip ducked his head and blushed. "I'm just doing my job, sir."
"And you're doing it very well," Nix said. "But you deserve a rest, too." Trust him to basically come right out and say it. Dick probably would have spent another 15 minutes beating around the bush.
"I... I shouldn't, though. Sir. Others need it more than me." Lip was wringing his hands and staring at his lap. "I should go."
"No, don't." Dick was surprised to realize that he was the one who had spoken. So much for beating around the bush. "You really should rest. It will help."
"Is that an order, sir?" Lip asked. He was looking straight at Dick, nerves suddenly gone. He really did have a spine of steel.
"We want to take care of you," Nix said, "That's all."
Lip looked around, but there was no one around except them. "We?"
Nix put on hand on Dick's thigh. "We. Us. Me and Dick."
"That's... nice of you. I guess. Sir." He was flustered again. "...are you saying what I'm thinking you're saying?"
"I don't know, what are you thinking?" Nix asked.
"You... want to..." Lip's voice failed and he was blushing madly. "Both of you? With me? Really?"
"We've talked about it," Dick said. "And we though you could use some relaxation. You're under a lot of stress."
"I... yeah. Yes. Please. I would like that," Lip said. "But, where? How? I mean... there's not much privacy here."
"I've got a foxhole. We can go there," Nix said.
Lip took a deep breath. "All right."
They huddled at the bottom of Nix's foxhole. The tarp over the top kept out the wind and kept their privacy. Without talking about it, they put Lip in the middle. He leaned on Dick's shoulder.
"Are you relaxing?" Dick asked.
"Mmm," Lip said. His eyes were starting to close. He looked more peaceful, now, like he was putting down some of his burdens.
"That's quick," Nix said, "I knew he was run down."
"Not that run down," Lip mumbled, "Just resting for a second."
"Right. You're just resting. Not falling asleep."
"No. M'not falling asleep." But he was leaning more and more of his weight on Dick. His eyelids were drooping and his breathing was getting heavier.
"Just rest." He curled his arm around Lip and stroked his hair. "That's the point."
"Yes, sir." Lip curled more closely to his side and closed his eyes.
"Give him at least an hour," Dick whispered to Nix.
"I'm not going to wake him up. I'm not an idiot," Nix murmured.
After an hour and a half, Lip woke back up. He pressed his face into Dick's neck and yawned. Nix reached out and rubbed his back.
"Feel better?" Dick asked.
"Mm-hmm." Lip nodded without moving away from Dick. "Now what?"
"Whatever you want. What do you want?"
Lip was thinking. "A... a kiss? A kiss. Please. Sir."
"Don't call me sir," Dick said, but he leaned down and kissed him anyway. Lip immediately wrapped his arms around him and pressed even closer, if that was possible. They kissed deeply, clinging to each other. Lip's arms felt good around him and it felt good to have Lip's arms around him. Dick hadn't expected to feel like this; maybe it was the lack of sleep. But it was easy, natural to kiss him. To keep kissing him, until he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"My turn," Nix said. He moved over to behind Lip and stroked his arm. "There's three of us here, remember."
"Sorry, sir," Lip said, breaking off the kiss. He turned to Nix and pressed up against him, too. Nix wrapped his arms around him and kissed him ardently. Nix was the more active one, but Lip was holding his own. Good. He knew he was right for them if he could keep up with Nix.
Dick watched them, not feeling the jealousy he thought he would. Maybe it was that he was tired,
maybe it was something else, but all he felt was a kind of abstract warmth. Not quite arousal, he was definitely too tired for that, but something akin to happiness. Something that pushed the cold back for a bit and made everything look a little bit brighter. Made the unknown future a little easier to bear. He suddenly wished he could have this every night.
They kissed for what seemed like hours. Dick wondered if this is how it felt to Nix when he was watching them before. It wasn't a bad way to pass the time, though. Better than sitting and shivering alone in the cold. Much better.
Eventually, they parted and smiled at each other. The warmth he was feeling grew. He scooted closer and curled his arms around both of them. They turned to him and, smiling, kissed his cheeks. He felt his face go warm.
"Let's sit here longer," Lip said.
"A little while longer." And they sat huddled together until dawn broke and Lip had to leave.