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Bleeding Out

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Bleeding Out

 

Lewis Nixon was known by Easy company as the map guy.

The guy who always stood by Winters’ side and knew where to go and what to do.

The unassuming guy who always drank a bit too much but always made sure to provide the soldiers from Easy the best possible options in battle.

Captain Nixon was known by Easy company as the S-2 intelligence officer who, even though formally part of battalion HQ, was there for them.

He was also known to make crude jokes at times, to be sarcastic. Winters’ left hand man. Nixon wasn’t perceived as a lone entity. Always at the captain’s – and later major’s – side.

Easy company didn’t know Lewis Nixon – which wasn’t that much of a surprise as Nixon never let any of the Easy guys really get to know him as a person. That alone was for Dick.

But Easy company also didn’t know him as the Captain – the S-2 intelligence officer.

Again, not so surprising, as he wasn’t officially part of Easy and most of his map reading, calculating and gathering information was done at HQ, right next to Strayer and under the watchful eye of Colonel Sink.

Easy company members would later say – after the war – that although Nixon remained a mostly unknown mystery to them, he always had their back. Winters’ back. So yeah, he was a good guy, a good soldier who got his job done. What more was there to say? He was good at his job, at interrogating prisoners – though no company member was ever present at these – but what, he did get results. Good results, which helped them in the war. He never got close to any of the company members, but – shrugging their shoulders – he didn’t have to, to do his job. He was mostly the link between Easy and HQ.

Lewis Nixon was unknown by Easy company.

 

 

Dick Winters knows Lewis Nixon. He knows the more common things to be known about Nixon – unhappily married, alcoholic, sarcastic, father of a child (but judging from his behaviour you would never know), part of one of the richest families in the whole of the US, Yale man, privileged, the best education money could buy.

Dick Winters also knows things about Lewis Nixon which aren’t known as widely and maybe not even known by anyone else other than him – Nix was not only unhappily married, but he couldn’t stand his wife. Never married out of love but out of obligation – there was no love lost on either side. Cathy Nixon probably despised Lewis Nixon as much as he despised her. Nix joined the army – first as part of the Military Police, later joining OCS – to escape his personal hell on earth in Nixon, New Jersey. Without any perspectives, not seeing any meaning in his life – laid out by his parents, grandparents and the whole lot of expectations coming with the prestigious name of Nixon – Nix had turned tail and run away. Dick also knows that, by the time Nix had joined the army, he had already been dependend on the bottle. When exactly the sometimes-having-a-drink became more Dick doesn’t know – not because Nix didn’t tell him, but because Nix himself can’t remember for sure. What Dick does know are the reasons for the drinking: all of the above components of Nix’ personal hell motivated the dependence on alcoholic liquor – but also Nix’ own insecurities and inability to cope with his problems. Dick knew, deep inside himself, that many of the reasons for Nix’ drinking were born out of fear. Fear of not being enough, fear of not meeting the expectations (not his family’s – maybe at the beginning they were a reason but not anymore – now they’re the expectations of the military, of Sink and the dependence of the lives of the Easy company men on Nix’ successful work), fear of being a hindrance to Dick, someone who might drag Dick down. Dick knows about this fear Nix never tells him about – but Dick can see it in his eyes when Nix looks at him at times. Eyes, deep and silently pleading, unsure, searching for help, looking for assurance. Dick knows Nix is a man of many vices, but Dick also has learned to live with them, see them as part of Nix. He may not approve of quite of few of them – the gambling comes to mind as well –, but when you love someone you accept them as they are. Dick also knows that ultimately, Nix is a good man on the inside – maybe not pure in any sense of the word – but there is a goodness in him Dick desires and longs for. So whatever vices, demons or what else Nix may have, Dick doesn’t think any less of him because of them. Nix doesn’t voice them openly but whenever the strain is too much, Dick is there for him. He sees the little tears in Nix’ outer shell, the turmoil on the inside shining through the hairline cracks. Dick doesn’t voice his assurances either. When the world – the war, he means to say – gets too much for Nix, Dick is there for him, assuring him with his presence, grounding him with a little subtle touch to his shoulder, back or – rarely – hip. Dick knows Nix and how to help him and is very much willing to do so, as he loves him with his whole being. So yes, Dick Winters knows Lewis Nixon pretty well.

Dick Winters also knows that his friend and fellow officer Lewis Nixon never fired a single shot in the whole war. Nix had told him so after coming back from Operation Varsity.

 

 

What Dick Winters doesn’t know is that by omission Lewis Nixon never said that he didn’t hurt or kill anyone.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know most of what Lewis Nixon did during the war. Even though Nix was by his side most of the time – it wasn’t all of the time.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know about the torture, the killings Lewis Nixon was responsible for and oftentimes active part of.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that Lewis Nixon was willing to bleed out for Dick Winters even if it was the last thing Lewis Nixon would do.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that Lewis Nixon almost bled enough in the war for it to be the last thing he might ever do.

 

Dick Winters won’t ever know all of the above.

 

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– One –

 

Lewis Nixon didn’t start out in intelligence – he was one of the lieutnants of Easy Company in the newly formed 101st Airborne infantry camp Toccoa. Under Sobel all of them were suffering and Nix was part of it. Part of a collective entity, just a tiny little component of something big. Someone who would be jugded by his actions, not his name or relations.

 

Under Sobel this being part of something big – existing undetected – worked out for a few weeks – before his legacy caught up with him – as Lewis Nixon the III. of Nixon, New Jersey.

The reason was not actually Sobel – he was only the catalyst of the effect – the reason was one Dick Winters.

 

Lewis Nixon had met Richard “Dick“ Winters in officers candidate school. It was a chance meeting in the latrines – not a glorious first meeting place for their would-be famous friendship – as Nix was trying to cure a hangover by hanging over one of the holes which constitued as a toilet and hoping he wouldn’t upchuck half his innards as a consequence of last night’s overdo and Dick Winters coming in, in just the moment his innards had a different opinion. And as everyone knows, Dick Winters wasn’t one to leave people suffering – even complete strangers and poor slobs at that – and thus offered help to Nixon by handing him a wet towel and finally helping him back to his bunk.

What followed was the fast development of a friendship neither had anticipated: Nix couldn’t explain it, but somehow the two men who seemed to be almost polar opposites clicked immediately and from then on were each other’s pillar on the uneven ground that the OCS was. Within this timeframe Nix also realized that Dick Winters was to him – to Lewis that is, not to a member of the Nixon family – the single human on earth he would do anything for. To Lewis Dick Winters was anything and everything Nix had ever longed for. He wouldn’t have been able to describe it, to put a word to it, this feeling, this longing he had to be near Dick, to make sure Dick would be okay, to shelter him. The word love came to mind: strong enough to capture the intensity of the feeling Nix felt for Dick, but also not all encompassing for the certainty Nix felt about giving his all to and for Dick, whenever the blue gaze of Dick’s eyes would sweep over Nix. Destiny and foreordination were not terms which were part of Nix’ vocabulary – so those were impossible, though they might have been if he had been a more religious man. But he wasn’t. So yes, while love was at least a term Nix could maybe grasp and understand in time – before he had never felt anything as strong as the thing he did for Dick and it scared him often which made it difficult for him to accept his emotions – it couldn’t represent the fierceness of Nix’ willingness to do anything for Dick. And by anything no goodness was meant – that might have been able to be categorized as part of love – but absolute determination to burn the world down if it so much even brought Dick a little bit of a better chance to survive the war. Nix didn’t know what this determination might have meant in detail – and he never told Dick about it, though he did tell him – or show him – how much he loved him. It was risky, dangerous behaviour of the two to risk such a form of their relationship to be developed in the army. But hey, Nix thought, he didn’t know how long he might still have to live – not even including Dick’s chances of survival, but Nix knew he would die before Dick ever did – so he might as well chance it all. Because for the first time in his life Lewis – the individual, the person, the man Nix was – had something for himself, a safe space just for him, a person just for him and it gave him a purpose in life which hadn’t been there before.

 

 

While they were lucky and in OCS no one ever caught on, in Camp Toccoa it took only a duration of no more than two weeks before Lewis’ legacy caught up with him and his feelings for Dick would be utilized.

Colonel Robert Sink was a perceptive man. And he had seen the way Nix always watched out for Dick, looked at Dick with that fierce protectiveness whenever Sobel was harping on Winters in front of the company. As Colonel Sink was a military man who had gotten his position by hard work and using his every ability available to him, he took the chances he saw and turned them into opportunities.

Lewis Nixon had been ordered to report to Colonel Sink in his office, without knowing what the Colonel wanted from an ordinary lieutnant. Nix had an inkling – all thanks to his lovely family name, wouldn’t be the first time – but it didn’t turn out like Nix had been expecting. It had been a highly immoral offer of Sink, but it had gotten both men something they wanted. It had gotten Sink a willing henchmen with a powerful name and a corresponding influence by that – and it had given Nix the power and ability to protect Dick as much as was possible in a war zone in Europe. Sink had, after Nix had saluted him in his office, offered him a glass of bourbon and told him flat out that he knew Nixon probably often got offers of this kind manyfold because of his name. He had told Nix nothing new of his family’s history, of how his grandfather had single-handedly (more or less, Nix thought wrily) given the US modern warfare ships and how his family served their country faithfully. Nix was waiting for the question he knew was coming and of course it came – Lewis Nixon the III. would of course do anything for his country as well, wouldn’t he, considering his family’s history and faith, correct? But as Lewis Nixon the III. was an emptly shell, Lewis had answered no, he wouldn’t do anything for his country. Something, maybe, he had joined the army after all, but not anything. Nix hadn’t liked the calculating and almost pleased look Sink had given him then, almost as if Sink had been anticipating his answer. The following minutes had thrown Nix off kilter – Sink had acquiesced Nix’ answer and then delivered a fatal blow to Lewis’ freedom of action: Yes, Nixon (no, not Nixon, but Lew) wouldn’t do anything for his country – but surely he would do anything for Richard Winters? (Yes, yes, he would, goddamnit.) Something cold had settled into Lewis’ stomach then, knowing some good part of him had died the second Sink had offered him all the means possible to protect Richard Winters by either Sink himself or by giving Lewis the corresponding power to do so – in exchange for his work in intelligence – and not just reading maps and gathering general information, but the immoral work, the dirty work, which isn’t spoken about, ever. The things men do in war, which happen, but are never mentioned. Faceless men are the executioners. Lewis knew that his determination to shelter Dick would be used and the part that scared him then – sitting in Sink’s office on a sweltering hot summer day – was that he was very much willing to do anything if that meant Dick might be safe(r) in upcoming combat. Lewis Nixon would become the shadow which makes light possible, which makes it possible to shine, as only with shadow in existence light can shine. And as Colonel Sink told him that day, shining heroes – protected adequately of course – would survive the war. Lewis knew Dick was meant to become a hero in the war. And to avoid a dead hero protection would be essential. Which is how Lewis Nixon the III. became an intelligence officer and transferred out of Easy to battalion HQ.

 

 

Easy company always thought Nixon transferred out of Easy to avoid Sobel, that damn son of a bitch – Nix never corrected any of them.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that Lewis Nixon agreed to bleed for him in the dark.

 

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– Two –

 

Intelligence officer Lewis Nixon finished his first mission successfully on D-day and brought Easy company two much needed tanks for support. Lewis Nixon earned his real reward when catching sight of Dick Winters – gloriously alive – from his seat on one of the two Shermans. When helping Dick onto the tank – taking his hand, because that was as much as they could risk in their joy of seeing each other again while surrounded by soldiers – and locking his own with Dick’s grateful gaze who was looking at Lewis like he was worth so much of the world – worth everything. Lewis decided then and there, grinning back at Dick, that what he had done that night had been worth it.

Lewis Nixon killed his first man on D-day by stabbing him with a knife in the neck and watching the life drain out of the german soldier in the form of his blood gushing out of the wound and spreading around the struggling, wheezing man – gasping for air, which wouldn’t help him at all but his body’s instincts didn’t know that – in a pool of deep, saturated black until Lewis Nixon had to take a step back from the spreading pool so his boots wouldn’t get drenched in it. Lewis Nixon had felt no remorse then – he had felt detached. When Nix remembers this night he only remembers silently thinking to himself so this is how it begins while categorizing the twitches in the dying man’s body, his futile struggle for life and analyzing the battle with death for future references.

It had been a mission orchestrasted by Colonel Sink without the knowledge of Strayer who was in Nixon’s jump squad on D-day and technically Nixon’s ranking officer. Sink had given Nixon a small unobtrusive folded paper – already yellowed with age – the evening before of the supposed jump. Nix had been told to memorize the instructions and information on the paper and to then burn it. Not a word to anyone – especially not Strayer. Nixon had nodded mutely at Sink and then left. Lewis had – hands shaking and sweaty with apprehension – unfolded the paper in the damn latrines of the makeshift camp in Upottery as the place was crawling with soldiers and Dick was back in their tent. When Lewis had taken sight of his mission the first time on that old crinkled page he had deflated inside a bit in relief. The instructions didn’t call for the nightmares Nix had been paiting in the deepest recesses of his mind. It hadn’t been a strict instruction to kill anyone – only if the circumstances necessitated it – so Nixon had been relieved up to a certain point. The mission itself mostly only consisted of Nix parachuting directly behind the line of the first defensive positions on the beaches and to find a suitable stretch of land on which the tanks could be deposited – and if that included killing a lone german sentry in his hut surrounded by the enemy’s maps full of valuable information – then so be it. Why it was a secret mission? It was because Nix was to detach himself from Strayer’s unit on purpose to carry out this mission – and so not to fulfill his designated role as S-2 officer for Strayer and thus indirectly being responsible for possible casualties – but in war men die, Sink had pointed out, whether by missing information or bullets – men die, Nix, and we wouldn’t want one of these men to be Winters, would we?

Only after the mission was completed, as he stood by the edges of the black blood pooling in front of his feet Lewis realized the instructions never had to specify any kills – they were as sure to be a part of the missions as oxygen was a part of human survival. The necessary means to accomplish a mission – and that’s what the torture and killings were called – were entirely Nixon’s responsibility. Sink would never instruct him on paper or even verbally – it was an unspoken rule which had to be adhered to.

In the foggy light, while watching the wonder and beautiful disbelief in Dick’s eyes as he sat next to Lewis on a tank which by all means Nix shouldn’t have managed to scrounge, scarce as the supplies were at that point in time, let alone two – Nix realized Sink had kept up his end of the bargain to offer as many options to provide safety for Dick Winters in a combat zone as was possible to him.

What did it mean to kill one man in war – an enemy at this – when other soldiers had killed so many more (Dick surely had to have killed more than a single soldier that day when disabling those canons) by more cruel means (Speirs would later come to mind if Nix ever had to justify to himself what he did that night)?

(Inside his head a silent voice asked Nix what about the men that died that night because you didn’t provide the information Strayer would have needed? They were your men. But they weren’t Dick, Nix answered. And he hadn’t killed them – the enemy had. Men died in war all the time. Nix only had to make sure Dick wasn’t one of those.)

When Dick Winters asked Lewis Nixon about the white bandage on his thigh that night, huddled in their foxhole, Lewis Nixon told Dick he couldn’t exactly remember how it had happened, but it was a cut (a cut made by a common kitchen knife, whielded by the german sentry’s wife in a desperate attempt to save her husband – Lewis hadn’t registered the cut at that time), don’t you worry Dick, I’ll be alright.

 

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know who made that cut on Lewis’ thigh or what Lewis Nixon did to get those tanks to Dick and Easy.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that the blood on the outside of the bandage isn’t Lewis’ but was wiped on it from the knife Nixon had used and that it’s actually the blood of more than one person.

 

Dick Winters can’t see the blood Lewis Nixon has bled for him that night.

 

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– Three –

 

Intelligence officer Lewis Nixon had – along with others of Strayer’s staff – gathered the information of german troop movements for the 101st Airborne’s jump into Holland. It had all gotten along well, even after they had jumped into Holland and had liberated Eindhoven. Sink had pulled him aside in the sea of orange flags and told him to use all means neccessary to get more goddamn information on the strength and position of the german troops, something was iffy and didn’t correspond with the information they had. But no talking to the troops about this, no need to make anyone jumpy and no talking to Winters, understood Nixon? We wouldn’t want Winters to march on the front line, be the first to get into sight of unexpected german snipers huddling somewhere, would we.

Intelligence officer Lewis Nixon had nodded grimly and used the introduction to the dutch resistance figthters to slink away afterwards, while Dick was busy organizing the battalion’s placement for the further advance. Nixon had used the children – as advised by the dutch resistance fighter, but in a more precise order – to gather more necessary information and have them show him the last known whereabouts of the nearest german battalion, in the opposite direction of Easy’s marching direction and to the flank of the british forward movement.

He hadn’t expected a german sniper to take notice of them in the flowery fields. He really hadn’t (or maybe he had, but he had never expected any action resulting of the notice – it had been a calculated risk). It had just been a gaggle of loud, dutch kids and a single man. The shot had been precise as the boy next to him crumpled to the ground in front of Nix. Having stood there, gaping for a second, as the dead innocent eyes stared up at him in confusion, Nix hadn’t grasped the situation fast enough, had underestimated the german’s determination. The children had scattered, screaming and crying, running in all directions but the next bullet found the back of a girl, the deep blue summer dress getting decked in red dots. Nixon’s legs had been longer – so he was faster than the children running back and wasn’t one of the two recipients of the next bullets. Two of the children had been in the way and Nixon only realized at that point that the sniper was specifically aiming at him.

Nixon could have decided on many actions then, but Lewis only saw a flash of red hair before his mind’s eye and a crooked smile, accented by a lower lip with a single curious dent in the middle and the many heroic decisions (not heroic, but the right moral decisions) escaped Lewis’ mind as he raced back to Eindhoven, panting along the dirtside road, his boots kicking up the gravel, past the beautiful flowers growing in the fields, still hearing rifle shots and the children screaming behind him.

When he had reached the the outskirts of Eindhoven he had hidden himself in an abandoned building for at least an hour, fearing the sniper to still be at his heels. He had lost sight of the remaining kids when he had taken off at the fastest speed Sobel had ever made them run up Currahee and he never found out what happened to them afterwards or how many had made it. He only had that deep, unshakable knowledge that he hadn’t seen the last of that one particular sniper. It scared him, shook fear loose inside him – of red hair getting ever redder.

Nix made sure to have Sink position Dick in the middle of the forward movement, right beside Nix' more laid back position as they approached Nuenen. The lieutnant who got shot by a sniper in front of Nuenen as he stood as the first in line later passed Nix on a stretcher, still breathing but barely alive – Nix had felt no remorse then, only satisfaction and knowing he had done the right thing.

As the Airborne retreated after the failed attempt at invading Nuenen, Nix felt guilt for not gathering the necessary information about the german troops and their movements – seeing that angry and remorseful gaze of Dick as he listened to the cries of wounded Easy company men and stared the the silhouette of Nuenen. Lewis asked himself for a split second if he should have risked getting shot by that sniper, if he could have staved off the feelings Dick’s face was displaying by the intel he hadn't managed to gather. The next second Lewis was laying on the gravelly ground, confused and hurting, staring up at the blue-white sky of Holland and then he felt hands on his hip and under the back of his head as Dick’s face came into view, his ears still ringing from the bullet that had pinged off his helmet. Staring into Dick’s face – drawn and pale, making his freckles stand out garishly against the white skin, and tight lines around his mouth and eyes, and god, his eyes, full of agony and a veil of unaldulterated fear making the shining blue of his irises pale like dead flowers – Lewis Nixon knew he could never risk getting killed.

He had made the deal with Sink forgetting a crucial point. Lewis had never considered what all the components were to get Dick out of this war alive. Sure, ammunition, protection, man power, intel, strategic good positions, power on military political and adminstrative levels – but he had never taken a closer look at the emotional points apart from Lieutnant Winters being with his men – Lewis Nixon had forgotten in order to get Lieutnant Richard D. Winters through the war alive, Dick Winters had to be willing to survive the war. And Dick Winters was only willing to fight for survival if Lewis Nixon was next to him and not dead on the ground somewhere in Holland. Stop looking at me like that. It had put the fear of god in Lew (and damn, he wasn’t even a believer) seeing that expression on Dick’s face. It had made evident what Lewis had always known somewhere deep inside, something corresponding to his own darkness inside him, which made it possible for him to be willing to do all the things he did for Dick. It had shown him that he wasn’t the only one willing to do anything for the other. And this knowledge had shaken him as well – not only was Nix’ own survival fundamental for Dick’s survival, but there was a light inside Dick because of Nix, a light (love) so strong for Nix, that it might be used and get twisted into something ugly, something the opposite of pure. It came around to the same need again – Nix had to stay alive to make sure Dick was never put in a position where this light could be morphed or abused.

 

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that Lewis Nixon had run faster than the children, so that Lewis Nixon wouldn’t have to risk Dick Winters dying because a dead Lewis Nixon wouldn’t have been able to protect him any further.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know about the blood-drenched colorful clothes of four bodys lying amid yellow and purple flowers.

 

Dick Winters doesn’t know that Lewis Nixon wasn’t almost hit by a random bullet, but almost hit by the bullet of a sniper Nix himself had set on his own heels.

 

Dick Winters can’t see the blood Lewis Nixon bled for him in Holland, that it was the blood of his soul – getting darker and more twisted in order to preserve the light.

 

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– Four –

 

After Holland and having been stationed in France for the time being – Lewis Nixon (or more specifically Intelligence Officer Lewis Nixon acting on feelings Lewis has) makes sure to get Dick to Paris for a few days. Nix doesn't want to see the disbelief so clearly written across Dick's face when he presents him the pass (signed, of course, by Sink) and he knows Dick can't make head or tails of his phrase about visiting a certain young lady in Aldbourne as she was sitting right in front of Nix as he said that.

(It was all for show – to let Harry think Nix had a girl in Aldbourne he visited at night, when he was not to be found in his billet – in reality the young lady had had red hair, pale freckled skin and had been very much male. Thank alcohol – and probably the fascination with one Kitty Grogan – for Harry never having realized when Nix was visiting this particular lady that his own partner Harry shared a room with in Aldbourne had always been missing as well.)

It had left a constricted feeling in his throat as Dick had looked at Nix as if he had betrayed him by sending him off to Paris alone and in the same second knowing Nix was not going to tell Dick what he was going to be up to – Nix had never had willingly withheld information from Dick before and Dick had never been aware of it.

It had left their relationship strained as Dick had boarded the train to Paris, but Nix had been willing to pay. He just needed to get Dick far away, as far away as possible for the next 48 hours from here, so there was never any chance Dick might have walked in on Intelligence Officer Lewis Nixon at work for Colonel Sink – however small and unlikely this risk might have been, Nix wasn't going to take it.

So Nix had spent half a day waiting in front of Sink's office to get an unscheduled appointment with him, before taking off on his mission. Told him (with the door closed) he was perfectly willing to do what Sink had ordered him to, but for heaven's sake let me get a pass for Winters, so he won't be even in near proximity of where his work was going to take place. Sink had sat at his desk, listening silently to Nixon's rambling (pleading), his hands intertwined in front of him laying atop the wooden desktop. When Nix had trailed off, hoping not to have come across too desperate (though that would have been the whole truth, no question on that), Sink had told him, son, I get it, you don't want Winters to know what you're doing, don't want him to see anything which might strain the (and there a slight hesitation in Sink's speech and Nix knew what he didn't want to know) friendship between the two of you. Winters is an idealist, I know that as well as you, hell – you only have to watch him for more than a few seconds (if, at that) to know he understands fighting (and he's a damn fine soldier, Sink added to his own statement), but (and Lew thought, yeah but the damn but) Winters is, as we both know, not capable of accepting what the war really consists of. I'm sure he could handle it if it became necessary (Lew had audibly sucked in a lungful of air then, but Sink had only held his hand up to stall him), but he won't have to. We have you for that. So, one pass, fourty-eight hours, as far away from this hellhole as possible, you say? Here you go, Nix. And Sink had handed Nix a pass to Paris, the goddamn bastard. Nix had felt his eyes glued to the destination printed on the paper, feeling Sink's amused eyes on his face. Hopefully Winters will enjoy his stay enough with you not being there, Sink had grunted and as Nix looked up he had been presented with a full-on smirk on Sink's wrinkled face. Will do, sir, Nix had croaked and then all but fled the office, pass clutched in his sweaty palm.

Nix had been grateful for the pass in the end, because the interrogations following the evening and next day...they had been hell for sure. He doesn't like to remember them even now and sure as hell didn't want to remember them afterwards. Much of them are a blur today, but Nix isn't sure if he's just managing to suppress them so well nowadays or if his mind couldn't handle what he had seen, heard, and – anyone who is out there, have mercy – done then. He hadn't known what the limits to what the human body could endure had been before. Afterwards, kneeling in an adjoining alley and retching up all he had eaten that day, still trembling from the screams and trying to wipe away the blood from his fingers on his trousers, one of his....colleagues had found him. Geez buddy, I know it's not a nice job, but you really should get up. Can't have anyone finding you here, retching, with blood on your ODs and your hands. Better get washed up, I think we're done for now. Gotta get the news to Colonel Sink asap, otherwise we'll be overrun for sure. Damn germans and their goddamn pride. Counter attack against us, as if that'd help them anymore.

Nix never caught the face of the guy, but as he furiously scrubbed the dried blood from his hands under too-cold water, he was hoping to never have to repeat any of his actions again. He didn't know if he could bear that, even for Dick. (He did know, he could and he would. But it frightened him, seeing what exactly he was capable of doing. Human tendons, laid bare, blood – not a pool but a whole sea, missing parts of limbs and he had been a part of that. No better than the fucking Gestapo they were.) Nix fought against the renewed urge to vomit and instead splashed cold water into his face, clutching the sink and leaning heavily over it. Breathe in – breathe out. Breathe in (red blood turning into red hair shining under the georgian sun) – breathe out (humans screams turning into the quiet laughter of Dick). Nix shook his head, turned off the tap and without looking in the mirror (he didn't want to see which demons his eye were showing) stomped off to get rids of his bloodied trouses and find new ones before Sink gave the orders for the 506th to get their asses as fast as possible to the Ardennes. Nix knew they didn't have a lot of time, hell, he had heard it himself amidst begging, groaning and pleading, but he hoped Dick would get back here fast enough, so Nix wouldn't have to look for him on the front line, hoping he'd find him faster than the enemy. He was vibrating in his skin, pushing back the memories of the interrogations, and grabbed a whole case of Vat69, stuffing most of the bottles into Dick's footlocker and the few that remained into his own, knowing he'd need them (desperately). He was already needing them and he took a swing from a bottle which had previously been closed. Feeling the whiskey sliding down his throat Nix wished to already feel the effects, of everything getting less sharp in the world, a beautiful space in-between reality and dream where screams weren't so loud and colour not so vibrant. With the numbing came the need to have Dick next to him, to stand close to him, to smell him and feel the warmth of his body (living, whole).

Nix thanked his lucky stars – Dick had been waiting in front of Sink's office as Nix trugded up to the knot of officers in front of Sink's door which was open, everyone shouting and relaying orders. Dick had been standing – still in his dress uniform and Lew's heart had made a leap at seeing this (his) handsome man – a little bit apart from the cluster of loud voices and flailing arms, frowning at what he was hearing. Lew had slunk up to him then, hoping he had been forgiven for the pass and as Dick gifted him with a slight smile that caused tiny wrinkles around his eyes, Nix felt irrational tears burning in his eyes. They hadn't needed words, especially not when Dick had bumped his shoulder against Lew's in silent forgiveness. Nix would have liked to report to Sink about the stars and the moon in some farmboy's eyes right then and there, but he held his mouth as Sink ordered them to Belgium.

In Bastogne Nix made use of the cursed influence he was wielding as Sink's little henchman and got himself permission to stay with Dick at the CP on the front line, amongst the rows and rows of trees, the overcast sky above them and the cold creeping into their bones. Dick kept making noises about Nix going back to regimental HQ and not freezing his ass off with Easy, but Nix wouldn't have it. Instead he dragged Dick back to their (formally his, but whatever) foxhole from time to time to have a sip of Vat69 and put his cold nose to the skin on the side of Dick's neck, who'd jump at the icyness and gripe about Nix' nose but still pulling him closer, cradling Lew's body against his side. Lew didn't think about his absolute conviction that he'd do anything for this man. He didn't think about how he had already experienced it in action.

 

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that Lewis Nixon was part of a group of interrogators who broke the geneva convention under implicit orders from Colonel Sink.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that Lewis Nixon did things he himself cannot bear to remember, but would do them again if it was for said Dick Winters.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know Lewis Nixon didn't excessively drink in Bastogne because of the cold and mortars, but because he doesn't want to remember what he did when Dick was in Paris.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that only alcohol and his own close presence keep the demons at bay, which are clawing at Lewis Nixon's back.

 

Dick Winters can't see the blood dripping and laying waste to Lewis Nixon's mind.

 

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– Five –

 

Operation Varsity turned out to be the last mission Colonel Sink had for Intelligence Officer Lewis Nixon specifically. But that final mission for Nix also turned out to be a – pardon the pun – absolute fucking blast. It hadn't even been the bloodiest order Nixon had ever gotten from Sink. But after his last mission and fucking Bastogne Lewis Nixon had only been hanging on by a single thread. He felt like most of the blood which had remained in his body after all the missions, had drained out in a small foxhole in Bastogne while he himself was drowning in whiskey and watching Dick lose hope, seeing his men die and suffer. They all had lost much in Bastogne, but Nix was pretty sure he hadn't left much to give anymore.

In the end, it didn't matter – if only he survived long enough to see Dick through the war, or at least all of the battles, so Dick might come out alive at the end of it, even without Lew – it'd be enough.

Somehow, Sink had seen what others hadn't (or he was the only person who could make sense of Nixon's behaviour, knew of the underlying reasons for it and was clever enough to connect everything) and had told a hungover Captain Nixon – stumbling into his office, already reeking of booze again – that Operation Varsity was going to be Nix' last mission from Sink. After this one, Nixon wouldn't have to carry out any more orders from Sink concerning their little deal. The germans were done for, there weren't going to be any more combat operations in "their" part of Germany, in which Sink's influence and by that Nixon's would shelter Winters from possible death. So, son, what would you like to do afterwards? And Lew's drunken, perforated mind had quipped Not being a damn intelligence officer any longer, sir! (His real answer might have been too delicate for Sink's ears as it would have involved the words Dick and bed. Even ins his drunken stupor Nix was able to distinguish between work-related questions and answers concerning his private life.) Sink had looked grimly at him, as Nix lost his balance and bumped into the side of a dresser with a loud crack. Very well, you get your damn ass out of that alcohol-filled gutter for the mission and I'll have a present for you. A present?, Nix had smiled lopsidedly. Yes, Nix and you damn well better be sure to appreciate it – I'll get you out of S-2 and make you S-3 for Easy by demoting you officially. Maybe for drunkenness, might lend itself here as a good reason, don't you think so? Nixon had huffed, wondering why there were suddenly two Sinks staring disapprovingly at him. So I'mma be with Dick, uh Winters, sir? (His speech had been more eloquent at times already, his mind sluggishly provided comment.) The Sinks had looked like they were doubting Nix' abilities in understanding the english language and maybe a bit more. Yeah, son, the only Sink in the office provided (where had the other gone?). Nix yes-sir'd, saluted sloppily and wandered off, after Sink had shouted after him that the detailed instructions would follow at a later (more sober) point in time.

After Nix more or less sobers up (he thanks his drunken mind to still know when it's important to be alert) he gets another damn paper (yellowed with age again) from Sink's oderly delivered to his room. Dick is puttering around, cleaning away the empty bottles, rising one of his eyebrows in question as he encounters one not completely drained, but Lew only shrugs and Dick's pleased-confused look he throws at Lew makes Lew's stomach heave in an entirely different way than for the last few weeks. Damn Sink, damn that oderly and damn that paper – Lew was sober enough to appreciate Dick's presence enough again in another sense, but he had a job to do. Steeling his resolve he knew he just had this one to get over and done with and subsequently he'd be able to sum up his hurts, problems, demons and what not he had gathered since the first mission for Sink and hopefully make them all go down the drain. So smiling one his smiles just-reserved-for-Dick and after checking to make sure the ordely had left and there was no one in their immediate surroundings Lew put his hand to the back of Dick's neck and pulled him down for a quick kiss, before telling him he'd meet him again after having taken care of that little order Sink had just given him. Dick had smiled (a bit dopely Lew had thought, but it was only making Dick more endearing to him and giving Nixon the strength to pull through this last mission) and wished him luck in a husky voice.

Nix had hastily gathered his bag and then found a quite place in the middle of the german town they had occupied – hiding in plain sight – to read the blasted mission instructions. Nix was happy to have sat down beforehand, as the letters ask him something he didn't think he'd find shocking to read anymore after the interrogations in France. How wrong he was. From then till now, it had never been their own boy's lives which were calculated willingly into the missions. This mission was operating on the wish for the jumping stick Nix would be jumping with deep into german territory, to be exterminated – if not all, as many as possible. The bile in his throat was nothing new anymore, so Nix just swallowed that down. The part of the operation Nix was to be part of wasn't supposed to have any witnesses – only selected intelligence officers were to know the details, but to make sure the mission within the operation was to go undetected certain..."safety measures" – the letters said – had to be taken and "unfortunate casualities" were to be expected. The shaking letters (his hands were shaking, goddamn hands) informed him that Nixon was to jump as the jump master, so he'd be the first person out of the plane – afterwards the plane would be "invalidated". Nix swallowed down the bile again and ignored the burning dryness of his eyes. Only one more time, he silently prayed to himself, he could do this, only once more, he can survive this Nix repeated to himself as he watched the fire from his lighter eat away at the paper.

Meeting the accursed souls on the jumping field in front of the C-47 was a waking nightmare for Nix, as he played nice, smiled and shook hands – all the while trying not to look into the faces of the eager young paratroopers who where being sacrificed by the army to cover up yet another inhuman mission. Hoping, praying, not too see those faces in his future nightmares. Nix was almost relieved when finally he could stare only at the ceiling of the plane as they took off. As his parachute had opened in the air a blast of fire caught his attention (he had been expecting it, he knew) his head whipped upward, straining to see if anyone else had made it out. Two parachutes, Nix could see. Ignoring his rebelling stomach, he thought with grim satisfaction that is was two more than wanted. The information Nix was to gather with other intelligence officers in the german parts which were still in enemy's hands didn't warrant sacrificing whole jumping sticks, Nix thought. They were only important to the brass – where and when important Nazi leaders had last been seen and were believed to be holed up. As Nix organized the papers at the end of the mission, in a stale washed-out room full of cigarette smoke from the other participants he had had a sudden realization – and if his body had still known how to retch he would have. So instead, he just stumbled to his feet, the chair crashing to the ground and Nix fled the room (absent-mindedly assuring the other officers that it wasn't because of anything he'd read, no, nothing new there, just not feeling well), seeking solace in a nearby field from which the stars in the dark sky could be seen clearly. Lew stumbled into the field, farther in, until his foot got stuck on something and he fell facedown into the dirt. Rolling onto his back and seeing the stars accusing him – Dick accusing him – Lewis felt tears slip down his cheeks. He curled up into a ball and cried in that field in the middle of Germany, cursing his luck, cursing Sink, cursing himself, cursing everything he could think of for him being so damn egoistic. All for Dick, he had done everything for Dick. But he wasn't cursing himself for being egoistic – he was cursing himself because he hadn't realized that though his promise to do it all for Dick had held fast for a long time – on this last mission, the information, nothing, had been for Dick's benefit. It had just been for Lew's – to get away from the deal with Sink.

 

 

Dick Winters doesn't know – when Lewis gets back from the operation – that Lewis Nixon's demotion was in fact not a demotion.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that it had been a present from Sink to Lewis Nixon, to have Lewis Nixon as close as possible to Dick Winters.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that Lewis Nixon has no more blood left to give for Dick Winters, because he selfishly bled it out in a farm field in the middle of Germany when he had realized he had betrayed his most important imperative.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know that when Lewis Nixon came back, there was no Intelligence Officer Lewis Nixon left anymore and Lewis had been falling freely, crying out for help from Dick silently – instead Major Dick Winters had told Officer Lewis Nixon to use a certain phrase in the letters, but there had been no Officer Lewis Nixon.

 

Dick Winters doesn't know the real reasons for Lewis Nixon's drinking intensifying.

 

Dick Winters can't see the heart, empty of blood.

 

Dick Winters does know Lewis Nixon won't manage avoiding the abyss, looming more closely than ever before, alone.

 

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+ – One –

 

Dick Winters tries everything to get Lewis Nixon out of the stupor he's captured in.

Even though Lewis might be with Dick in body, his mind seems elsewhere, his soul lost, his heart broken. His drinking is as bad as it ever was, especially after Lew's last jump into Germany. At night, when Dick creeps into Lew's bed (which is a dangerous decision at best, a court-martial and a resulting pair of blue tickets at worst) he gathers the shivering, stiff body of his lover into his arms, humming gentle sounds and all the while hoping that this night, the screams won't be so bad that Lew will wake himself again.

Dick shivers, gathering the thin blankets tighter around them, nudging his nose against the space behind Lew's left ear as Lew whimpers in his sleep. Dick doesn't know what has happened in the last few weeks, but since returning from Operation Varsity Lew's more-often-than-not-drunkenness has been replaced by something much darker and uglier. Before, Lew had been drinking to escape from the war, from things he must have seen, to escape from the cold (and a bit of it was habit as well, Dick knew) – but now the drinking was to escape his own mind and judging by the nightmares Lew was having Dick couldn't resent Lew's behaviour in that regard, though it didn't make him worry any less. They never talked about the nightmares – at least Lew wasn't going to and Dick didn't push him. Everyone had their own demons and sometimes, you didn't want them to be seen by others.

Dick sighs now, as Lew's body loses the stiffness a bit and his breathing doesn't pick up – Dick arranges Lew's limbs differently, trying to intertwine them with his own so there are no gaps left between them. Dick doesn't know what the nightmares might be about, but he tries to help Lew through them, to be there for him when he wakes up from his own screams, confused and crying and lonely. Tries to make him forget whatever had been hunting him in his dreams, to show him there was somebody there for him, to protect him, to love him. Dick is relieved that sleeping closely together and making sure to almost always have body contact (at daytime limited, but however much Dick can get away with within in the relatively safe circle of Easy, their NCOs and Ron and Harry) makes it easier for Lew to shake away the shadows faster.

There had been a short time in which Lew had tried to pull away from Dick, blaming himself for something. Dick hadn't let him, had left behind their fight about what to do with the letters to the families of the killed paratroopers from Operation Varsity, and had put himself into every nook and corner he could find, to make sure Lew couldn't hide from him. Lew had given up after two days, silently letting Dick slip into his bed and curl up behind Lew. It had taken all the journey to Landsberg until Lew began actively seeking Dick out again, though the broken gaze remained in his eyes.

Dick often felt like crying in Lew's stead when seeing Lew so broken in their room, away from prying eyes. Lew only ever let Dick see how miserable he really was and for that Dick was grateful because it gave his mind something to occupy him with, to analyze the degree to which Lew was suffering and decide on the appropriate actions.

Dick presses a kiss the to nape of Lew's sweaty neck, murmuring nonsense (I love you, i love you, i need you to stay with me, come back to me) into Lew's skin, hoping at least this night, Lew won't wake up chased by a nightmare.

He isn't so lucky.

 

 

After finding the camp at Landsberg something changes inside Lew. Dick takes silent notice of it, but doesn't say anything.

That night, it's Lew who comes to Dick's room before Dick can go to his. Lew cries that evening, sheltered by Dick's arms, sobbing for what feels like hours and Dick knows those tears are more than just the anger and sadness over the destinies of the people in the camp.

He keeps stroking Lew's back, his neck, his own hands grazing his hips and holding him fast. He bestows slow kisses upon Lew's forehead (where the bullet didn't hit), his eyelids (where from behind demons can be seen), his ears (which make him wake from his own nightmares), his neck (in which the artery is gloriously pumping blood, making Lew alive) and his lips (which Dick captures with his own, not letting go again, grounding Lew).

That night, they make love for the first time since before Operation Varsity. Dick can see – afterwards as they lie between the rumpled sheets, the tear tracks still visible on Lew's face – that something has returned to Lew's gaze (a sparkle which had been lost and focused entirely on Dick), his smile doesn't seem so empty anymore (like his heart was beating just for Dick) and after Dicks blurts his feelings out (I love you, you know that) Lew laughs (Yeah, I do) (his voice sounds a bit nasal, probably from all the snot up his nose) and Dick feels something settle between them, which makes the room they're in seem a bit lighter and brighter, not so dark anymore. But it's probably only Dick's (hidden) romantic nature seeing ghosts.

 

 

In Austria Lew gets livelier again, reverts back (more or less) to a quieter version of his old flamboyant self. It makes Dick love to just observe him at times – see how he laughs at Harry's (hideous) poems to Kitty, teases Lipton with Ron in tow, drinks more moderately again (though never never) and when Dick makes the mistake to move just so which results in a noise, Lew will turn to the sound and Dick will see how a slow and genuinenly loving smile will graze Lew's face, just holding Dick's gaze. The loving care he can see on Lew's face will always make Dick blush (who will curse his unfortunate complexion) and Lew's smile will turn into a smirk, promising things of a more primitive nature later.

When Lew casually makes him a job offer at the lake at Zell am See Dick has to prevent himself from saying something stupid (I do) and pretends to have to think about it. He uses the swim to compare Lew's current condition with the one in Bastogne and other times during the war and Dick comes to a decision – he would do the most he could ever do for Lewis. If that – by extension – is everything Dick ever wanted, then this is just a bonus.

 

 

After the surrender of Japan and the planned deactivation of the 101st Airborne Dick and Lewis ship back together to New York. They go to Nixon, New Jersey where they both work for Lewis Nixon's father and Dick finally understands why Lewis always made such a careful distinction between Lewis and Lewis Nixon. Dick thinks he doesn't like the name Nixon and its inheritance much either.

Though not living in Lew's house together (too obvious Dick says, too dangerous Dick thinks and thinks about protecting Lewis), they see each other daily at work and in private. They take a few of the nicer women on double dates (always handpicked by Lewis), but the two of them generally end up back at Dick's tiny apartment in the end (the ladies lost somewhere along the way) and sometimes even make it to the bed. Rug burns are not something Dick likes very much, though Lewis doesn't seem to mind.

The nightmares still come to Lew from time to time – though having decreased the longer the time spans from the end of the war, they still happen and more often than not wake Lew up, sweaty and shivering (sometimes still crying). If Dick is in bed with him then, he always curls around Dick and lets himself be cradled by Dick's longer limbs. It's when Lew has these nightmares and Dick isn't there with him and Dick only knows because of the dark circles under Lew's eyes the next morning, Dick silently curses society, the Nixon name and Nixon, New Jersey.

 

When the army tries to activate Dick again in 1950 he only has to look briefly into Lew's eyes to know that there is no way he'll go on active duty again. It's like looking at all the demons Lew has ever collected in war at once and it makes Dick want to turn back time and prevent Lew from going into combat. But as Dick has no such abilities, so he tells the army where to stuff it, packs up his and Lew's belongings, bundles Lew up, resigns his job at Nixon Nitration Works formally (Lew doesn't have to resign, he can still work even if he's not on site) and drives them to Pennsylvania, middle of nowhere (well, it's called Hershey) (his hometown isn't that far away, just in case his parents want to visit). When he kicks Lew out of the car and presents him with a big open field next to a dusty road Dick figures he deserves the bewildered look he receives, Lew's way of silently asking Dick if he's alright or has lost all of his marbles.

Lew gripes and groans as they build the farm (he's not made for hard work, goddamn it Dick), but in the end Dick thinks Lew is actually pretty proud of them both for having managed to build most of the house themselves. They exploit the fact that nobody in Hershey knows them or ever heard the name Nixon often enough to ring a bell and just tell everyone who asks that they're old army buddies, one having lost his wife to the war (it's not exactly a lie Lew insists) and Dick is from around here, Mennonite country and all that, still having to learn to live with what he did in the war (Dick will roll his eyes behind Lew's back, not being able to believe how Lew paints them as nutcases). But in the end they're left alone – living outside of Hershey by quite a few miles of course is a benefit as well.

Dick doesn't know if his parents ever caught on on their numerous visits, but they seem to like charming Lewis Nixon well enough (Dick, when he sees this man, asks himself every time where his Lewis went).

 

As they get older Dick makes sure to stay in contact with many of the Easy company members (Lew only with a select few) and Lew prefers the quiet solace of their farm and adjoining lands (sometimes Lew will be seized by wanderlust and drag Dick to all the different places and cities they wanted to visit one day – Chicago, Los Angeles and many more). Lew still drinks (Dick never was brave enough to try to break him completely from the habit, fearing to destroy their relationship) but only very moderately and very rarely ever gets drunk. When Lew gets drunk – these days are always preceded by nights on which Lew had another one of his nightmares, waking sobbing into the pillow (he doesn't scream anymore as the hair at his temples slowly turns into gray) and Dick still there, gathering Lew close, arranging their limbs just so to cradle Lew against his chest. Over the years Dick catches snippets of what the nightmares seem to be about because Lew has started to speak in his sleep around the late 60s (D-day, blood, interrogations, children – Dick can never make sense of this one, but he's not sure he wants to –, the paratroopers lost in Operation Varsity).

 

Dick sometimes has nightmares, too. Though they're never as severe as Lew's they still shake him up. Lew is there for him then as well, often making breakfast in the morning which is just the complete opposite of their rituals (Lew is not a morning person), but makes Dick's heart always swell and leaves him feeling like a sentimental old fool. Lew will see the look on Dick's face directed at him and just snort – trying to withhold the open laughter – but ultimately always failing and Dick will always smile good-naturedly and wait until Lew has calmed himself, because Dick knows Lew will always respond the same (Yeah, I do too, hasn't changed in the last what, hundred years?).

 

When Stephen Ambrose turns up, brining discussions about doing a book on Easy Company, Dick and quite a few of the other veterans get on board, working furiously to have their story told. Lew distances himself from Ambrose and the workings on the book, refusing to partake. While Ambrose seems a bit disappointed, he doesn't – bless him – pursue Lew, even though Lew is always just around the corner in the house, when Dick and the others (often Lipton is in attendance) are working on the book and gathering information. Dick can see how Ambrose would love to hear Lew's story of the war – being as he was an intelligence officer with more information than any of them all gathered together – but knows not to overstep. Dick can see what's stopping Ambrose as well when catching sight of Lew's eyes as the maps upon maps, letters upon photographs clutter up their home. Lew's nightmares occur more often again – they make Dick want to throw out the whole shebang and stop working on the book – but Lew doesn't let him, telling him he needs to do this for himself, needs to tell Easy's story, the same as Lew cannot ever tell his. And even though there are still demons behind Lew's eyes as he says this (more than 40 years after the end of the war) Dick can also see the peace made with himself and the love for Dick in those dark deep eyes.

 

 

Dick Winters does know that something had been drained from Lewis Nixon over the course of the war.

 

Dick Winters does know it wasn't ever something which manifested itself physically.

 

Dick Winters does know that whatever it may have been he won't ever know.

 

Dick Winters does know that it almost meant the end of Lewis – his friend, his lover.

 

Dick Winters can see the destruction it wrought on Lewis and he swears to himself and to Lewis for it to never happen again and shelter Lewis as long as Dick draws breath.

 

 

 

Dick Winters makes sure to keep that promise.