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Quiet Mornings

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Bert had hardly noticed the sun rise. Snoring on the floor beside him, Cec certainly hadn't.

 

The older man watched his mate sleep with faint bemusement – it was at least more interesting than the storeroom around them. He'd spent the better part of the last evening culling boredom by inspecting every inch visually, as best he could in the eventual murk of the night. Miss Fisher supposed there was a contortionist hiding out somewhere in the store room, posting the two on night watch to wait their quarry out. After several hours of tension, they had drawn up watches and settled in for a good serving of hurry-up-and-wait.

Still, the pair had faced worse nights. It was quiet, dry, relatively warm and, if the younger man's comatose form was to be believed, fairly comfortable by Digger standards. They were even getting paid.

 

Cec snuffled and shifted wincingly, drawing Bert out from his mild introspection with a flicker of worry.

Cec settled and resumed his rhythmic snoring.

Bert allowed himself to relax again with a short breath.

 

He was glad his young mate slept undisturbed- Bert had managed to con his way into the harder watch shifts with typical snark, giving Cec the easier gaps. He'd accepted defeat with typical quiet, after all he had a young miss to worry about, not that he'd ever readily admit it. He had always been a quiet one, quiet talking, quiet worrying, so much so that Bert had to wrestle anything out of him at the best of times with all the barbs he could muster. It almost drove him to distraction seeing the man wrestle silently with himself, leaving him powerless to help. He'd spent many nights like this, with one eye on watch - over the wall of a trench, most often, nowadays over the bonnet of the cab - and the other on his mate beside him as Cec caught a quick bit of shut-eye when the things were slow. Cec's demons would often find him in the night and drag him back to frozen kopjes riddled with knee-deep mud and alight with muzzle flashes, until he woke with kicks and screams. Bullheaded, Bert met his demons head-on, often down the sights of a bottle. Liquor would muffle his own evening terrors until Cec, ever watchful, would wake him and gently pry the empty bottle from white knuckles. The pair would sit afterwards, Cec talking gently, and for once, Bert would be quiet.

This night, however, had been blissfully calm. A rude crescendo from the floor tweaked the corner of his mouth in a lazy grin – they'd had enough peace for now.

Bert straightened himself, readying to wake his mate. He paused, taking a last look at the blissfully slumbering Digger. For all the toll of the Great War on him, Cec's youth shone through on occasions such as this, lit by the warm morning sun and for once at peace.

 

The clock tower called the hour outside.

 

Bert brushed the glossy-eyed moment aside with characteristic style- a boot to Cec's hip. The young man jerked, hat slipping from his face, and blinked owlishly up at his mate.

Bert had his wit cocked, ready to greet the man with the ritual morning jibe when-

"Ah!"

The two started.

"Was’at you?" Cec croaked.

Chin jutting and sharp reply readied on his tongue, Bert sat forward and -

"Ahh-choo!"

 

The Diggers shared twin grins. The trunk by the wall had sneezed.