His mom had always said that Dick didn’t know when to give up, usually when patching him up after he confronted yet another bully. Being a small and sick child, he always lost, but Dick couldn’t help the way his blood started to boil whenever he saw anyone being mistreated. He didn’t so much mind the taunts directed at himself, “weakling, sissy, mama’s boy, girl”, he’d heard them all before, but when some good-for-nothing decided to take some girl’s lunch money or three boys ganged up against a younger one, Dick forgot all about common sense and jumped in.
He only stopped losing after he met Lewis Nixon.
The Winters' had moved to Brooklyn, New York, when he was 12, hoping for better job opportunities to feed the family after Dick’s mom became pregnant with his sister Ann and Dick had spent another winter battling pneumonia. If his parents had hoped that he’d get into less trouble in the big city, they were sorely disappointed, since New York was just as full with bullies as Lancaster had been.
However, three weeks after the move Dick found himself hitting the dirty cobblestones of an alley near the Docks for the third time after two much bigger thugs had decided he’d looked at them funny. He was trying to convince his bruised body to cooperate and get back up, when suddenly a new voice rang out: “Why don’t you fucks pick on someone your own size?”
This was accompanied by a sudden interruption in the stream of insults and continued kicks from the two older boys, giving Dick the chance to struggle to his feet and face his rescuer, who turned out to be a dark-haired boy his own age wearing a fancy school uniform. That was all he managed to register before his attackers recovered from their surprise, one of them turning back to Dick while the other took a swing at the new arrival. They were still outmatched, but out of the corner of his eye Dick noticed that the other boy certainly knew how to fight dirty, and together they managed to hold off the two bigger jerks long enough for a passerby to alert a copper.
At the sight of him, the bullies took off, but Dick’s rescuer remained behind, giving the cop a charming smile, as if he wasn’t covered in dirt and blood. Dick himself couldn’t have run if he’d wanted to, every inch of him hurting. He just hoped his version of events would be believed - he had on several occasions in the past been delivered to his parents’ door by stern officers of the law. This copper, however, didn’t seem at all interested in getting them into trouble, and Dick wondered for a moment if that was a big city thing, until he noticed the way the man kept glancing at the crest visible on the dark-haired boy’s jacket.
He did ask them for their names, which was how Dick learned that his new friend was called Lewis Nixon III. Then the cop actually inquired whether “Mr. Nixon would like to report the miscreants” in such a servile tone of voice that Dick had to bite his lip not to laugh out loud. The boy thus addressed, Lewis, caught this and his dark eyes gleamed with amusement even as he declined with matching formality and just a hint of imperiousness.
A couple of minutes later they found themselves on their own, and Dick immediately stuck out his hand, saying frankly, “I don’t know why you did this, but thanks for saving my butt. And for dealing with the copper. That was impressive.”
“Nah, that was nothing. The way you kept your own against those two assholes, now that was impressive!” Lewis grinned openly now, his handshake firm and warm, even as he waved away Dick’s thanks.
Dick winced a bit at the profanity, something completely forbidden in his Mennonite family, but he couldn’t help but blush at the compliment. He hated his complexion, fair even when not pale from some illness, because he knew his looks, fine-boned with red hair and green eyes, “like a girl”, contributed to the way bullies treated him. But there was no condescension in Lewis Nixon’s face, only friendliness and honest admiration, and Richard Winters knew with bone-deep certainty that they were destined to be friends.
If he’d known exactly from what posh stock Nix, as he preferred to be called, hailed, Dick might not have been so sure. However, despite his family’s money and his private school education, Nix not once gave Dick the impression that he wasn’t good enough. On the contrary, he seemed to have what Dick considered to be an exaggerated notion of Dick’s worth, more than once ditching fancy family gatherings to come across the Bridge to Brooklyn to the Winters’ simple accommodation.
The only times Nix was happy to use his connections were when Dick fell ill, which admittedly happened on a semi-regular basis. Nix never hesitated to buy medication, no matter how expensive, and several times he even brought his family’s doctor to Dick’s bedside. Dick’s parents, proud people, were loath to accept charity, of course, but Nix shrugged off their protestations as easily as their thanks, and Dick once overheard his mom telling his dad in whispers, when they thought he was still sleeping off yet another fever, “Even if I could have borne to see Dick suffer for our pride, how could I resist the look on that lad's face? I swear, it breaks my heart how lonely he seems, and how he lights up when he’s round our Dick…”
The words made Dick feel warm all over in a much more pleasant way than the fever had, and he had to bury his face against the coolest spot of his pillow to hide the furious blush on his cheeks. He knew it was wicked to feel so pleased that their friendship was special to Nix, too, but the older he got, the harder it was to push aside these feelings - and other, even more wicked ones that Dick dared not think about too much. But he knew his Bible, was preparing to be baptized into the church, and the deacon had talked about the sins of the flesh to Dick and the other young men.
It was yet another way in which his body betrayed him, Dick figured in his darker moments. However, when he was with Nix, with his easy smile and warm hands, he couldn’t help but feel as if this was exactly how things were supposed to be. Dick just had to keep fighting the strange impulses that sometimes gripped him, the urge to touch Nix more than in passing, to press his mouth against the bow of his lips, to push their hips together. Even if it hadn’t been a sin against God, Dick couldn’t risk giving in for fear of losing Nix.
He managed well enough, even urged Nix on when he was dating Kathy and tried to convince himself that sweet Annid made his own heart beat even half as fast as Nix did. The only time he came close to breaking was when Nix told him he’d enlisted. Until that moment Dick hadn’t minded so much that he would definitely be considered unfit for duty, the thought of killing another human being going against both his personality and the way he'd been raised, but the thought of Nix going off to war by himself changed all that.
The night before Nix went off to OCS they met in Manhattan and walked around the city for hours. Dick thought Nix had never looked more handsome than in his uniform, and when Nix slung an easy arm around Dick’s neck Dick felt as if his heart was going to burst. They’d reached the area around Times Square where the queers and fairies hung out, a part of New York they’d walked through often and never commented on, but Dick had never been more aware of their presence in shadowed alleys and dark doorways to hidden bars. For a moment he wished they were a part of that world, wished it so much it hurt. But soon common sense took over again, and he focused on enjoying the time they had left.
They ended up taking a train to the entertainment of the moment, Stark Expo, but instead of admiring the technological marvels on display, Dick zeroed in on the Recruitment Center. Nix tried to dissuade him, from a desire to spare Dick the rejection as well as a wish keep him safe, Dick knew, but it hurt anyway, and they almost parted on bad terms. However, at the last moment Dick simply couldn’t send Nix away without a hug and a promise to join him soon. The hug was too brief and the promise felt too empty, but Nix’ eyes were glistening when they separated, and Dick himself had to hold back tears.
He did end up crying after Doctor Erskine found him at the Recruitment Center and offered him a way to make good on that promise that very night. He waited to break down until he was back at home, of course, after he’d told his parents. They weren’t happy, which hurt more than he’d expected it to, both because they wanted him safe and because the church preached pacifism. However, the thought that he might be ready for OCS before Nix shipped abroad kept Dick’s focus firmly on the road ahead.
It also helped him all the way through bootcamp. He just hated that he wasn’t allowed to tell Nix that he’d been accepted into the army, but when he read Nix’ own letters, in which he told him of his decision to join the paratroopers, worry replaced his bad conscience. What was Nix doing signing up to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Time until the procedure that would turn Dick into a proper soldier seemed to crawl by, even as his entire body ached, muscles he hadn’t known existed pushed beyond their limits.
Finally the day came and Dick left the Capsule a foot taller, quite a bit broader and without any of the pains he’d felt for most of his life. It was exhilarating to be able to run after the man who assassinated Doctor Erskine right after the experiment, to jump and fight and do it all without even breathing hard. It was annoying when the higher-ups called him a “Super Soldier” and treated him like a slab of meat, but all Dick cared about was whether they’d let him go to Europe. When he was told he’d only be used for propaganda purposes, that he was an experiment and they couldn’t risk him out in the field, triumph, already soured by Erskine’s death, turned to ashes in Dick’s mouth.
He still wasn’t allowed to write to Nix, but after endless months the propaganda tour finally made it overseas, and Dick was hoping he’d get a chance to find his friend. However, when they got there, everyone was in uproar, and Dick learned that they’d just missed D-Day. Nix was in France and there were reports of heavy casualties. It was too much for Dick to stand, and he stormed HQ, not quite sure what he wanted to do, just knowing that he had to do something.
He found the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, getting ready to cross the Channel after receiving news that the plane carrying the 506th PIR’s command had been shot down. Later, Dick realized how lucky - for a certain value of lucky - his timing had been, because at no other time would his offer of help have even been considered. As it was, he found himself on a boat to Normandy, every minute carrying him closer to Nix.
The first order of business, however, was to storm a battery above Utah Beach, and Dick had to learn quickly how to operate under fire. He figured it was lucky he got thrown together with a bunch of good men, and even luckier when he discovered that they were members of Easy Company. Nix’ Company. They couldn’t tell him whether Nix had survived, however, and when he had the chance to catch his breath, Dick closed his eyes and sent a prayer heavenward that his friend was safe.
He’d never been happier than when they stepped onto the road, and there, only a few yards away, came none other Lewis Nixon, riding a tank as if it was his own personal pleasure vehicle. Their eyes locked, and Nix’ eyes widened in shocked recognition: “Dick?! What the fuck happened? I must have hit my head during landing, because I could have sworn you were smaller...”
“Oh, I joined the army.” Dick was aware he was grinning from ear to ear. He knew he’d have to explain, but even if it hadn’t been classified, all he could feel right now was relief and an excitement that left him almost giddy. He stepped onto the road and offered his hand to Nix. There was a pause, and suddenly Dick felt almost nervous. Only for a second, though, because then Nix’ face broke into a wide smile that transformed his dirty, tired features and he took Dick’s hand and pulled him up onto the tank. Dick sat down next to him, their shoulders bumping as the tank made its way back to headquarters, and they kept trading looks full of happy disbelief.
Later that night, after seemingly unending meetings with Sink and the other commanders had finally confirmed Dick as Captain of Easy Company, Dick made his ways through the dark streets, lit only by the glimmers of the soldiers’ blacked-out fires, until he found his own men. His men, it was hard to believe. They didn’t know him yet, but Brécourt Manor had been a start, he figured, and when he downed an offered drink, it burned down his throat like fear and hope.
His head was full to burst, but when Nix caught up with him, it immediately felt lighter. They walked for a while, and Dick had never felt more aware of his new body than now, when he was actually taller than Nix. Nix seemed to feel it, too, because he kept glancing up at Dick with an unreadable expression. Finally, Dick simply couldn’t stand it anymore. They’d been apart for so long, and he’d been through so much to get here, the silence felt unbearable.
“Nix, what? Don’t tell me Lewis Nixon III is dumbstruck. Told you I’d join you, didn’t I?” His smile felt a bit forced, but Nix returned it, relieved, and quipped back, and for a while they were back to normal. Except then they reached the edge of the camp, and Nix stopped walking, forcing Dick to turn and face him. He forced his voice through a suddenly parched throat, “What? Something wrong with my face?”
“Nah, it’s a perfectly alright face.” It was so dark he could barely make out Nix’ features, but something moved behind his expressive eyes, and his smile was warm and intimate in a way that made something in Dick’s stomach twitch. Before he could parse what had changed all of a sudden, Nix reached out and trailed hesitant fingers over Dick’s cheeks, causing Dick’s breath to hitch in his throat, even before Nix whispered, “I liked it before, too. And when I jumped and everything went to hell in a handbasket, I must admit I was afraid I’d never see it again. Swore to myself when I saw you again, I’d stop being such a coward.”
Dick could hear his own heart beat loudly, and he had to swallow hard as hope began to take root. Before he had managed to gather his wits enough to reply, Nix leaned in and pressed his lips to Dick’s. It was a quick, dry affair, barely more than a peck, but no other kiss had ever left Dick reeling like that.
They separated and for a long moment just stood there, so close their chests were almost touching, staring at each other. A thousand thoughts ran through Dick’s head at once, of years of longing, of God and sin, of the war they were about to face. Yet somehow it all paled, faded into the background like so much noise, until his world consisted only of the two of them. He only realized he was grinning when Nix’ eyes crinkled with a relieved smile of his own, and then they were kissing again.
This time it was rather more than a peck, Nix licking his way into Dick’s mouth, Dick’s fingers cradling Nix’ skull, enjoying the bristles of his military haircut tickling his palm as he angled their faces, allowing the kiss to become even deeper. Dick became increasingly aware of his hardening erection, and then Nix inserted a muscled thigh between his legs, sending sparks of pure pleasure racing through Dick as he rocked his hip forward. Someone made a strangled noise, and it took Dick a moment to realize it was him.
Once he did, however, it was enough to return at least some of his senses to him, and he reluctantly broke the kiss. Taking a step away, he took a deep breath, trying to regain his composure. Nix did the same, then licked his lips, an expression of wonder on his face, and Dick was almost undone again. Still, he managed to restrain himself, although his voice sounded wrecked to his own ears, “So. You don’t by any chance have a billet to yourself, do you?”
There were a million reasons why this was a bad idea, but it was entirely possible one or both of them might die tomorrow, and seeing the smile that lit up Nix’ handsome face, Dick simply couldn’t believe that God would deny them this. After all, what had started out as Dick’s desperate wish to follow Nix and had brought them here, felt more and more like part of God’s plan every day. Maybe not the part where Dick wanted to spend as much time kissing Nix as he possibly could, but now that he knew Nix felt the same, Dick simply didn’t have the will to deny it.
Leaning down, he gently kissed Nix before letting himself be led back to camp. This was his own personal miracle, and he wasn’t about to squander one more moment of it.