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8. Camping

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The Captain lay rigidly on his back, his arms by his side.  He sighed deeply then clamped his mouth shut, worried that he may have disturbed his companion.  He turned his head to the left without moving any other part of his body and regarded the man next to him.

Havers lay on his right side, facing the Captain.  He was fast asleep and oblivious.  It felt strange to be able to look closely, without self-consciousness.  Intrusive, somehow, and yet a privilege that the Captain couldn’t pass up.  He let his eyes wander over the man’s face.

Softened by sleep, Havers looked more handsome than ever.  His usually immaculate soft brown hair flopped on to the pillow and the temptation to gently stroke it back into place was almost overwhelming.  His body formed a hump under the grey regulation blanket and the Captain followed the contour of it, the dip of his waist, the rise of his hip, the long slope of his thigh.  His bare arm draped over the edge of the blanket showing smooth, pale skin.  He seemed to have a small smile on his lips.  The Captain hoped it meant he was having a nice dream.  The idea hurt the Captain in a way he couldn’t quite explain, perhaps it was that he would never have the opportunity to know Havers’ intimate thoughts or to share his own.  He swallowed down the lump in his throat.

The weak pre-dawn light was beginning to creep in and the Captain reached for his watch, laid neatly alongside his pillow. 0658.  A few more moments of this torturous pleasure and it would all be over.  Possibly never to be repeated.  The Captain allowed himself one more look, committing to memory every detail, knowing that revisiting them would be almost impossible to bear but needing to know he could if he wished.

There was a cough, a shuffle and a deep breath right outside his tent, audible only to someone wide awake and paying very close attention.  Then the ear-splitting bugle call of Reveille.  Havers’ brown eyes shot open to see a very rigid Captain laying in front of him, eyes firmly on the ridgepole of their canvas shelter.

“Tamplin punctual as always I see, even on training manoeuvres.  Darned loud without walls and windows in the way!” Havers grinned and stretched himself as he rose to sitting, tugging his white vest into place.  “Good morning, Captain, did you sleep well?”

The Captain turned his head to look at his lieutenant. 

“I…” he began but he faltered.  “Yes, thank you, Havers.”

“I woke in the middle of a lovely dream,” Havers went on, without waiting to be asked.

The Captain’s stomach lurched, his brain unable to convince him for a moment that he hadn’t given himself away or in some way spoken his wish out loud.

“But you don’t want to hear about that,” Havers was continuing as he disentangled himself from the blanket and prepared to get up, “Other people’s dreams are always stupendously dull.” 

“On the contrary,” the Captain said quietly, “I rather think I do.”