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Movies grow tiresome quickly, even when Leckie’s alternative is push-ups in the sand or collapsing face-up on his pungent cot. The beach looks endless and empty after a few refills from the still. In the dark it’s easy to pick Hoosier out on the beach, the cherry of his cigarette glowing red-orange. He’s sitting up where the beach meets the trees, swallowing the rest of the island into darkness. The beach is white and empty save for the billions of crabs and rats skittering along, crick, crack, snick around Leckie’s ankles. Lights from the camp pick up gold in Hoosier hair and his eyes are black wells as he watches Leckie’s approach.

“Skippin’ the entertainment?” Leckie asks, stopping just short of where Hoosier’s feet are burrowed in the sand. As if on cue, catcalls swell from the make-shift theater.

“Unless Dorothy Lamour’s droppin’ her sarong, I ain’t interested.” Hoosier’s face is shaded and thin, long days on Pavuvu giving him a deep golden tan under the dust and sweat.

Leckie drops down next to Hoosier, leans back on the heels of his hands. Hoosier takes the invasion of his space with stubborn grace, neither complaining nor flinching when Leckie nearly knees him in the eye. The sand is soft and fine between his fingers, still warm from the relentless sun beating down during daytime. Hoosier offers him a puff off his smoke but Leckie shakes his head. Flickers of light from base scatter across the waves, breaking up the glassy stillness. It’s hard to believe that somewhere just beyond the reach of human eye a Jap boat is circling, waiting to kill them all.

“Ah, paradise,” says Hoosier as if reading his mind, cheeks hollowing when he takes a long drag.

“Just like you imagined?” Leckie asks. He can’t help but be aware of the yawning jungle behind them.

“Pretty close,” says Hoosier, “Beach, stars, beautiful woman at my side…” he grins when Leckie laughs. “I think my idea of paradise included a steak dinner though.”

“Grub here too pedestrian for your refined tastes?” asks Leckie, feeling a rush of warmth. He’d missed this, had been surprised to find that the camaraderie he’d grown used to, even under the sodden skies of Gloucester, ached like a pain in his chest on in the relative haven of the hospital. He’d missed Bill’s quiet amusement and Lew’s endless mothering.

Hoosier ducks his head to rest his forehead on his knees, his back a smooth arch. His smouldering cigarette dangles between his fingers. “If I ever get home I’m never eating rice again for the rest of my goddamn life.”

“We had burgers on Banika,” says Leckie, the words tumbling out before he can stop them. It bothers him, itches under his skin, that he broke and none of them did. They haven’t mentioned it much except to knock him about his four-star vacation, but Leckie can’t quite convince himself that’s the end of it. Hoosier turns his head Leckie’s direction, squinting at him with one bleary eye and Leckie’s cheeks warm. “Coke and fries at every supper.”

“Shit.” says Hoosier, drawing out the word. “If I’d known all it took was pissin’ my pants a few times, my sheets would’ve been wetter than a whore’s.” He lists to the side and knocks Leckie’s shoulder companionably, leans his weight against Leckie just long enough that the vise in his chest eases a little.

Leckie drops to his elbows, stretches out a little more fully. “Steak dinner and a pretty girl under the stars? Not gonna aim a little higher?” The first night out on Guadalcanal, before the Japs lit a fire under their asses to the tune of half the fleet, he’d been awed by how bright and magnificent the stars were, constellations practically drawing themselves.

“Stars are optional, so long as I could stick my dick in it,” says Hoosier. He ashes on the sand.

“There were broads too. Nurses.” Leckie feels the smirk bloom across his face. “Hospital whites, panty hose, that kind of thing.” Hoosier grins, lewd and knowing, whistles when Leckie talks about his sponge baths.

“Fuck you. Fuck you straight back to ‘canal. I’d be jealous if I didn’t know you’d as soon sit around with your thumb up your ass than chase a nurse.” The words come without heat, lisped around Hoosier’s ever-present smoke. He hoards them greedily, makes rounds through the whole platoon’s shanties to gamble for packs, but he’ll give up his last to any H Company man who’s short. “And you volunteered, you sad sentimental sack.”

“I missed you, Bill. None of those nurses know me the way you do.” Hoosier laughs, a rare full-out shout, tilts his head up to the sky.

“It’s true the things I can do to a man are the stuff of legends,” says Hoosier, laughter not quite subsided. It feels good, out here with Hoosier, with the sand warm beneath him. “We did miss you though,” he continues, tone serious. “Sometimes I’d catch myself feeling a spark of hope and I’d think, god if only Lucky were here to bring me down.

“Just doing my part,” Leckie replies. It’s hard not to laugh with Hoosier, knock their knees together. “Didn’t work so well on the nurses, though.” The women were the stuff of dreams; every man tracked their whites striding through the hospital — except guys like Gibson, which is when you knew you were well and surely fucked.

“Yeah, well, sad poetry don’t exactly make ‘em wet. You know,” Hoosier says contemplatively, drawing out the words slowly, “with the action these guys have gotten, you’d’ve probably had better luck here.” When he glances over, his smile is distant. “Can’t do nothing about the smell though.”

“Wish I’d thought of that sooner,” says Leckie. “Woulda asked.”

Bill’s laugh is a gray puff. He flicks the butt of his smoke into the air, the dying cherry somersaulting through the dark. It lands few feet away, smolders its last bits of tobacco in the sand. He mutters something indistinct into his own lap and when Leckie knocks his hand against Hoosier’s side, asking for a repeat, Hoosier turns to hold Leckie’s eyes for a minute, worries a spot on his lips with his tongue.

He pushes himself up onto his knees and very suddenly, almost like Leckie checked out for a minute even though he saw Hoosier move, Hoosier is right there kneeling between Leckie’s legs. He’s still half smiling, his elbows resting on Leckie’s knees like he’s quite comfortable there. Bill? he almost asks, but when Hoosier leans and puts one hand on Leckie’s hip, thumb pressed over the ridge of Leckie’s pelvis, it’s obvious. Hoosier stills for a moment, suspended, and if Leckie were going to say something, now would be the time.

He doesn’t though, just leverages himself a bit higher when Hoosier moves his hands to the front of Leckie’s dungarees, fingers making quick work of the fly. Five minutes ago he might’ve gaped at the idea of Hoosier shoving his hands into his pants, but now with Hoosier’s body warm against his knees and tongue wiping over his lips, it sounds like the best idea Leckie’s heard in years. He doesn’t feel fully present when Hoosier pushes his underwear aside, his fingers pale against the dark curls, like he’s seeing this frame by frame in a theater. When Hoosier spits and closes his hand over Leckie’s cock, a surprised sound escapes him, something like a cross of a laugh and a gasp. “Oh, Jesus.” Hoosier’s mouth twitches, curving up at one side when he glances up briefly to Leckie’s face.

Leckie’s breaths are loud, embarrassing in the dark, matched by Hoosier, whose eyes flutter shut and he swallows, the sound seeming to echo over the waves. It’s hard—too much — to watch Hoosier, utterly absorbed in his task as the head of Leckie’s prick slides in and out of his fist. Hoosie’s shirt is open, perpetually unbuttoned in concession to the heat; it hangs loose over his chest, sweat-damp in spots. Leckie reaches almost blindly for the shirt, not sure what he’s after until Hoosier lurches forward suddenly, hand landing near Leckie’s shoulder so he’s suspended in the air, hovering over Leckie like a phantom.

Hoosier drops to tuck his face into the juncture between Leckie’s shoulder and neck, mouthing wet and hot at the skin there. He murmurs something that Leckie isn’t quite sure is meant for his ears. He’s heavy against Leckie, balancing on his knees, hand between them on Leckie’s dick, rutting against his own hand and Leckie’s hips. He smells like sweat and salt and deeply in need of a bath. Leckie grasps the back of Hoosier’s head and his fingers tangle in Hoosier’s salt-stiff hair. He bucks up against Hoosier’s fist, torn between wanting to throw Hoosier off shove his own dungarees down to his knees and gripping Hoosier closer.

Leckie pushes his hand beneath Hoosier’s shirt to spread his hand against his sweat-slick waist. He hitches one up leg in the sand to urge Bill on, faster now. Bill thumbs the head of his prick, reaches his other hand down to Leckie’s balls. He traces his fingers over them; the one traitorous finger slides along the crack of his ass. It’s been so long since Leckie did anything but stare at the ceiling and hope this was all over that he’s already embarrassingly close to coming.

Hoosier licks along Leckie’s neck and jaw, leaving a damp trail in his wake, and Leckie turns his head out of instinct more than anything else. He breathes once, smells the acerbic scent of liquor on Hoosier’s breath, and then he’s pulling Hoosier in, mouths locking in a slick messy kiss.

Leckie bites at Hoosier’s mouth, cranes his neck to chase him when Hoosier pulls back with a huff of laughter. The heat between them is unbearable, sticky and wet, Hoosier’s fist stripping Leckie’s prick and Leckie pushes up, tries to pull Bill closer for better friction, hears his own name murmured against his skin. He bites back a groan when he feels the familiar coil in his stomach and tips his head back in the sand, mouth open, making desperate animal sounds. Hoosier licks a long line at his exposed neck and Leckie jerks hard against him, once, twice, shooting on Hoosier’s hand and stomach. He reaches one hand back in the sand for — something, purchase, anything that will keep him from grabbing so bruisingly onto Hoosier, not that he seems to mind.

Hoosier breathes hard, hips pushing against Leckie’s in short stuttered movements and he drags his hand over Leckie’s belly before leveraging himself up in the sand, hovering for a second. Leckie feels the loss of weight in his chest, nearly bucks up off the beach to keep Hoosier pressed against his body. Hoosiers eyebrows are raised almost like a challenge, but his mouth his soft and slack.

Hoosier’s pants are open, his dick hard against Leckie’s thigh and when Leckie gives him a sharp squeeze he groans, jerking forward against him. “Wipe your fuckin’ hand off, you’re gonna skin my dick,” mutters Hoosier and it’s as if the desperation breaks and Leckie can’t help the laughter that bubbles up; he chokes on it.

“You ever stop bitching, Bill?” Leckie asks, but obliges by passing his palm over his pants’ leg to wipe off excess sand, uses his own slick for grease before taking Hoosier’s prick back in his hand.

Hoosier users his leverage to hike Leckie’s leg up and maneuvers so he thrusts into the hot crease of Leckie’s leg, rubbing against his still-sensitive cock and down to his balls. It’s almost too much, too soon. Fireworks bloom in Leckie’s chest but Hoosier’s eyes are closed, brow furrowed, breathing against Leckie’s lips. He’s almost blurry this close, sweat damp bangs hanging off his forehead to brush Leckie’s cheek. Hoosier’s fingers find Leckie’s shoulder, the nape of his neck; Leckie feels a slight tug at the base of his skull, like Hoosier is less pulling and more wrapping his fingers in the curls there.

Hoosier’s thrusts deepen, his dick heavy in Leckie’s hand, and it’s hard to get much space to move. He’s on fire; he closes his other knee as best he can to lock Bill against him when he feels Bill start to change pace, when Hoosier drops his head and his elbows give just a little bit, dropping fully on Leckie’s ribs. Hoosier’s movements become erratic, graceless and stuttered, until he makes an impossibly low sound, barely audible over the rushing in Leckie’s ears and he feels the first hot spurt against his thigh.

Hoosier stills above him, hips pumping against Leckie’s, but his face is soft, eyes closed. Leckie pumps him until Hoosier drops his head and shudders, a full-body shiver Leckie feels all over. He curls his fingers around the knobs in Hoosier’s neck where his skin is tacky with salt. Hoosier lingers over him, brushing their mouths together as his breaths even out. Leckie hears him swallow, feels the purposeful swoop when Bill kisses him, licking into his mouth and closing his fist in Leckie’s hair, before arching up and rolling off, the oppressive humid air cool in comparison.

They’re silent a long moment until Leckie laughs breathlessly, staring up into the sky. “I think you’d make a fine nurse.” He glances at Hoosier, aware of his own pants still a mess of sand and come.

Hoosier rubs a fist over his mouth. “It’s all in the bedside manner,” he says, half a grin curving across his face. His eyes are closed and he crosses the crook of his elbow over hie eyes. “Between this and the still maybe finally I’ll get some damn sleep. Fuckin’ crabs and rats crawling all over me in the night.

“Figures you’d be the type to fall asleep right after.”

“Figures you’d be the type to bitch about it.” Hoosier moves his elbow just an inch and cracks open one eye. “You can compose love sonnets while I’m napping.” He shifts and settles in the sand, takes his last long breath.

Leckie grins wipes what he can away with his underwear, figures it’ll just blend in with everything else matted onto his clothes. He looks out over the water. They should get up head back to sleep; Leckie’s cot will be damp and fetid as ever and Hoosier will climb into his and instantly be dead to the world in his way, but he can’t bring himself to nudge Hoosier. For the moment he feels light, like he can see to the edge of the world. Tomorrow the bombs can drop.