the nights are always cold and the fires are always warm and alex sits close to john, close enough that they brush against each other but far enough that no one would be suspicious.
fires spread in a line, dotted across the sand. they’re vulnerable here, out in the open - but the fires distract from the camp in the trees, and that is how they justify them. few men balk at being assigned to keep watch by the fires. no one has been killed beside one yet, and it’s warmer than a tent. other men, soldiers not assigned to watch, warm themselves beside fires of their own before going off to sleep, and the shore lights up at night, a string of fires not unlike precious gems threaded together.
and here, beside their own fire, alex can laugh with john and drown in his voice. the sky wheels above them, and their toes are freezing despite their heavy stockings, and they smell horrible after so much time spent tramping through mud and rain, but it’s a clear night and the ocean air fills their lungs and in this moment they’re invincible.
one by one, the fires die out. alex can hear sand being kicked over the closer ones. as each jewel winks out, he draws closer to john, and before long the only fires left, the ones manned by other soldiers on watch, are so far away they couldn’t possibly see much of anything from that distance.
alex takes a chance. he seizes john by the cravat, kisses his lips firmly, and then settles back and takes john’s hand.
the fire dances in John’s eyes. “what was that for?” he asks. the corners of his mouth curl upward.
and alex smiles, settles closer against the chill, and says, “just because i can.”