the pacific, snafu/sledge - sledge pov
It's hot as hell, sure, but it's the humidity that really starts to get to you. There's only so much sticky heat a man can take. Only so much pruned skin and trench foot and perma-soaked dungarees a man can take too, and you are about at your limit. Night time was supposed to be a time of rest and rebirth and slow tokes off a newly packed pipe, but not here.
That pipe. That's one thing dad could be proud of... Come to think of him. You're out here, his son, death up to your neck, practically drowning in the blood and the stench of these jungle fuckers, trudging through mud and muck and ash alike, and here you are tending a wooden pipe, reading a thick novel, retrospective thoughts tickling, almost civilized.
You wouldn't use this word lightly (not after what you've seen), but nights are scary here. Whether you wanted to use that word or not there it is: scary. Scary and hot as hell. Your friend would laugh. Or at least try a laugh. He wasn't very good at being what you thought he should be, he just was. Violent and colourful, a blink later quiet and awkward. You've never met a more confusing and intriguing person.
"I don't get you, G."
Your teeth clamp down on the mouth piece of your pipe so you can respond with a huh and not jar your puff.
"You and your readin'," he clarifies.
Those eyes will follow you all the way back home (say you get that far) because they're always watching, always inspecting, always on you. Seeking, devouring, blinkless, clueless.
"It's too hot for words. It's too fucking hot for a tug, shit."
He means pleasuring himself.
"Thought it was never too hot for that," you say.
"Now, see, you'd be wrong."
He's having a staring contest with the folded corner of the tent's ceiling now.
"Conditions don't need to be perfect but Snafu won't tug it anywhere."
What did that last passage say? You bring your finger up to the page, lean forward, stressing your involvement in the object, hoping he leaves it at that. Stray pops and snaps from far off gun fights move eerie on the stagnant air. Punctuations. Exclamations. Snap, snap, pow. You'll be in it come morning.
Your finger drops away.
"Ya wouldn't have a real smoke, would ya?"
You sigh and shrug, closing the book on your thumb to keep place. You turn to him, he's altogether closer than he was before, and you pause, thoughtful, his face dirty and marred and his hair tangled, just like yours, but those fucking eyes... There's not much in there to play off of, hollow, bereft. He really doesn't give you much.
Disappointment can't hide, he visibly wilts, shoulders sag inward to his breast bone. You crack open your distraction again and find your place, happy with the outcome. He goes back to his cot, threading his fingers to place his head on.
"I'd kill for one."
That kicked dog skit never does last long.
He's looking over. Again. Looking. Always.
You drop the book.
"What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet?"
His mouth's still ajar, mid-word. The disappointment from before is evolving into indifference.
"Fuck, someone's a little high strung."
But he's smiling now, that crooked thing, that sly thing, that dirty thing.
You stand and exit, the night air not that much cooler outside. No relief.
"I'd say you're the one needs a tug."
It comes out all too silky smooth and suggestive. He laughs, just once.
You duck your head back inside, leveling him with a stare of your own and say something you'll be regretting as soon as it's off your lips. You were better at this back home. This verbal brawling thing. You were stable and bored and could hold your own, but out here, you're lopsided and tired and wasted and nothing is how it should be. You'd think you'd have choice words because they might be your last, but it's all you can do not to say them; leave nothing to chance, get it all off your chest, you might not have another go.
"Is that an offer?"
A bit off remark.
Snafu gauges it, accepts it, licks his upper lip.
"If you want."
You'd be lying if you said you weren't expecting that. Anger is appealing but a scoff is all you come up with.
But you haven't walked away yet. You're still there, back to the tent flap opening, back to the man-boy still inside.
The gust of air the word forms awashes your neck.
You don't jump, shudder or turn, you take in a deep, deep breath.
"But I like you, G."
Tone dampened and drawling, a living, squirming thing in your ear.
Now you're moving away, walking into the darkness, taking that first stride, but you find that you can't. That you're anchored in fact. Snafu's filthy fingers, blackened nails, are snaked around your arm, just below the elbow, holding you steady. You follow those fingers to a naked shoulder, up to an appealing jaw line, and higher then to parted lips, snow globe wide eyes. He's serious.
"Don't," he says.
His breath is acrid and smokey stale but those lips of his, inches away, are red and vibrant, bitten and chewed on, cracking and peeling still in places.
"Ya don't have to take everything so literal."
The way he leans his head back, taking a look at you from down his nose, eyes now sleepy, half-lidded, it's actions and not words. He's projecting, whether he wants to or not (usually he does). You wrench your arm free. His arm hovers, hand empty. Maybe that's the story of his life: empty hands. No one to hold on to, no one to care. How little do you care? How little do you want to stay? He's waiting for an answer, confirmation, reaction, but you just don't have one. No more truly can be said. He slinks away, understanding, movements a contradiction, loping and liquid. He's back to his cot, but this time he sits. Slumping and loose like a pile of wet clothes.
You can feel your jaw tighten, your teeth squeezing together.
You do stay and you do sit, taking your book back up.
"Read me something."
His hands are far out at his sides, palms down, elbows locked. The atmosphere is altogether more thick than just the humidity could do.