The build-up comes and everything in the Top End just stops. The pubs empty out, no one has the energy for the pool, even the chilly bliss of the cinema is deemed too bloody hard because that would mean getting into a baking hot car to drive there.
“You think the wet’s bad? You should see the place during the build-up, mate. Heat’s bad, but the humidity is way worse,” Josh tells his friends back in Sydney, knowing only one or two of them will ever make it this far north. No skin off his nose – he doesn’t even think of himself as Josh, in Darwin, and none of them know him as ET.
It’s like another world up here, beaches so beautiful it breaks your heart to find they’re too full of crocs to swim, and no surf at all unless there’s serious weather on the way. Frangipani thick in the air as the year lurches from hot and dry to hot and wet, with just a few weeks of sheer hell in between.
Working through it is a bitch, all frayed tempers and half-assed everything, the CO gritting his teeth and the X doing her best line in chilly courtesy. ET knows better than most how to yes ma’am and no ma’am his way out of trouble, so he makes a point of keeping his eyes front and his voice even, counting down the days in his head.
An entire week off, the first he and Nav have managed to swing at the same time, and it'll be too damn sticky to do anything about it. Last weekend, they'd fucked in concert to the thwack, thwack, thwack of the fan overhead, licking the sweat from each other's bodies and ignoring the press of too-hot skin for as long as they could before peeling themselves off each other and retreating to different sides of the bed.
"Thermal slug," Nikki had said sleepily, poking him with her toe, and he'd been too sated to do anything other than run the sole of his foot up and down her leg in seeming protest. He needed to touch her while they slept, but as December ticked towards January and the storms still hadn't come, his toe next to hers would be enough. For sleeping, anyway.
For everything else, there’s creativity. He fixes the depth sounder when it goes out, his hands itching to stray to the muscled curve of Nikki’s thigh, just centimetres away from where he’s buried in the control unit. Shower sex, he decides. He’ll open her up like a flower against the tiled wall and eat his fill, then let her slide down onto his dick. They’ll be clean and cool by the time they make it to bed, comfortable enough to sleep right through and wake just before dawn. It’s the only time of day when it’s cool enough to take their time, and he’ll wind them up and up and up until she’s clinging to the headboard and begging him to drive her over the edge. Or maybe he’ll love her so slowly and thoroughly they’ll both need another shower by the time they’re done.
They exchange a long look as he rises to his feet and the way she flushes makes him even harder than he was before. He slaps the specs folder over his crotch and tells the X he needs to fill in the paperwork downstairs.
“Righto then, ET. Nav and I have things under control here.”
Josh wills himself not to take it to the dirty place, but his smirk pops out anyway, and Nikki – Nav, has to remember she’s the Nav at work – glares at him over the X’s shoulder. He winces, knowing she’ll tear strips off him for being unprofessional the minute she gets him alone, and retreats down the stairs as quickly as he can.
Four days ‘til they’re back on shore, he tells himself, and he can have his sweet, easygoing girlfriend back. Seven whole days of slippery, sweaty bliss.
Maybe he should shell out for a room at the Hilton, he thinks. The aircon there is over-the-top cold, the pool is indoors and they’ve even got their own cinema. Not to mention – room service and a minibar. They’d never even have to leave the bed.
ET smiles and leans his forehead against the cool steel of the fridges in the galley. Knowing Nik, she’d want to run along the esplanade or go to the Museum or something, and they’d end up hot and sweaty anyway. Might as well do it from the privacy of his own home, where he can rip her clothes off as soon as they hit the verandah and be balls deep before they even make it inside the house.
With a bit of luck, the build up would tip over into the Wet proper, and they’d fuck frantically in celebration before heading out to dance in the rain with all the other idiots. They'd soak in the glory of it all, warm rain and cold beer and being madly in love in the craziest, wettest, wildest town either of them have ever lived in.
The weather gods can go ahead and turn up the heat, Josh grins. He'll be a civilian before the Wet's out, and by the time the build-up rolls around again, maybe Nikki will be up for taking advantage of the Navy's maternity leave. Or maybe not, because everyone knows Darwin babies are born in July and August, and the build-up? The build-up is when they're conceived.