The first time it happens Schofield thinks that he's dreaming.
Blake and himself had situated themselves underneath their designated tree, proper worn out from a day spent fixing wire and digging trenches. It was the usual manual labour a man had to expect upon the front lines, working until your hands, legs, entire body hurt. What a man should expect, but not a boy. Schofield supposes that's why Blake was complaining so much about it.
"Honest to God, it's proper mental that they work us like that. Won't have any soldiers left to fight, cause they'll use 'em all up digging trenches." Blake crosses his legs, tapping his thighs with hands far too soft for war. There's still that hopeful mirth kicking around inside the younger man, and it hurts Schofield. It hurts him.
"Someone has to do the work." Schofield replies, plainly. He goes over his webbing carefully to make sure he still has all his items, making sure everything he owns is fasted to his body. He does the check twice over as Blake continues on, complaining cheerfully about every responsibility they had. How such a thing could be accomplished, Schofield hardly knew, but somehow Blake managed. Quietly, he places his tin helmet in his lap
They sink easily into their normal routine: Blake talking about anything and everything, with Schofield occasionally making a noise of acknowledgement. It's one of the things Schofield knows he's going to miss whenever Blake inevitably gets shot down by the Germans. Schofield was never the one who died. It was always those he had grown close to. Maybe that was God's way of punishing him for a sin such as existing. He shakes away a shiver, and leans himself back against the tree, heavy lidded eyes falling shut.
He doesn't take much note of how Blake scoots closer, slowly, and carefully. It was easy to sense the movement, even with his eyes closed- he could hear the faint shuffle of dead grass and wool pants. On these frigid February nights, this was common place, for Blake to not-so-subtly plaster himself to Schofield's side. The older man thought it best not to say anything, not to scare him off. Besides, the younger man was so damn warm. It'd be downright wasteful to turn him away.
What he does take note of, albeit mentally, is the way Tom's hot breath suddenly beats down against his forehead, followed by a small, just barely there press of the lips. Will can't tell if physical exhaustion or pure shock is keeping him from responding, but he's thankful for whatever it is.
Blake's warm face pulls away after a moment, and Will can feel him curling up next to him.
That had to have been a dream, right? There was no way in high heaven's Blake, or any solider for that matter, would never, ever realistically do such a thing. Schofield doesn't bother moving, still as a stone next to Blake's breathing, presumably sleeping body.
Schofield decides it had to have been a dream, and promptly tumbles into a bout of unconsciousness.
Blake has always been terrible affectionate, and it's something Schofield feels both blessed and cursed by. Be it countless grips of the wrist, tugs of the sleeve, and the ever so occasional tight hug. It's more so he's verbally affectionate, never hesitating to bolster or compliment. It truly was terribly optimistic trait of his, and one that played harp solos on Schofield's heartstrings. War was not meant for pretty boys with tender hearts, Schofield thought. War took boys like that and dipped them into it's tea like biscuit, swallowing them down whole into the stomachs of Hell. It was unfair. Utterly unfair. Schofield absolutely hated it.
What he hates more is how naive Blake is, and how he doesn't even realize the horror of his enlistment. He doesn't hate Blake for that, no, but rather life, and it's peculiar fucking ways. Why young men with such stellar kindness are pulled into wars far greater than their understanding, why they fight endlessly for uncaring and ungrateful figureheads, why they're left to die with no dignity. It weighs on him terribly at night, especially. Or it used to. Until Blake wormed his way into his life.
These days, he's been falling asleep to the sounds of Blake's damn near never ending chatter, a small comfort he'd never admit to taking. That was weakness, verbally announcing your fondness for another person. That made it real. That made you weak. Schofield had been taught that lesson the hard way, and he sure as hell wasn't going to repeat his old mistakes. He was grown now, a man, with many warranted reservations. Safety was what he practiced.
Perhaps that's why it was so shocking for Schofield to find himself more and more enamored with Blake. He had realized far before the sleep deprived, exhaustion induced hallucination of a kiss. He loved him. Plain and simple. It was a love that was pure and warm and sent bright, clean light through Schofield's heart- and that was why it terrified him so. Anything pure was bound to be tainted. Anything warm would eventually go could. Whatever was bright, would eventually be lost inside of darkness, in inky black seas of misery.
Schofield despised the fact that he had to be so cynical about things, but cynicism kept one safe. Cynicism kept you from harm. Cynicism made your low exceptions almost always overfilled and made under-filled expectations only minorly disappointing. It was strategic, really, and a code Schofield had stuck to since his mother bludgeoned such a lesson into him.
There was something that troubled Schofield: Blake hadn't learnt that lesson yet. Blake went into everything with optimism, joy, and a particular pleasant attitude all his own; Just how soon would such a beautiful, flowery atmosphere transform? What would be the breaking point, the thing that killed the kindness inside the young man? Would it be swift, all at once? Or would the friendly, familiar attitude of Blake slowly become infected, terminal in it's illness?
Such thoughts scared Schofield.
It scared him now, the thought of Blake losing the one thing that made him stick out, even if it was dangerous. It scared him now, as they sat tucked against the icy mud of the trench, shoulder’s pressed together.
Schofield resigns himself to continue being scared later, for Blake has opened his mouth.
“What eye color do you think’s the prettiest on a bird, Scho?” Blake asks, leaning his head slightly closer to Schofield’s. His helmet’s placed in his lap, and Schofield can just barely make out filthy brown curls in the corner of his vision. He remains facing forward, lips flattened into a thin line.
“Women or animals?” He responds after a moment. It’s a bit foolish, he thinks, to avoid eye contact while speaking. His father always told him it was rude. He glances at Blake.
The younger boy licks his lips, and while Schofield might normally be compelled to follow such a motion, he finds himself stuck. Eyes. A single pair, terribly reminiscent of sea holly, stare up at him.
“Women.” Blake says firmly with a nod. “Personally, I think blue eyes is the nicest. Very bright, and all that. Could look at ‘em for hours.”
“You wish for my opinion?” Schofield catches himself staring, and quickly makes work of checking his kit. Any reason to avoid prolonged eye contact with Blake.
“No, of course not, I only asked you the question.” Blake snorts sarcastically, thankfully returning eyes to look up at the clouded sky.
Schofield clears his throat.
“I like any eyes.” He says, fiddling with a strap. “But blue eyes are very nice too, yes. Any eyes are.”
“Avoiding the question then?” There’s an elbow in Schofield’s side, Blake’s.
“I am not.” He lies, elbowing Tom right back. Tom laughs.
“Don’t be so stiff, mate. Just playin’ around is all.” Tom pats Schofield’s sides in a mock apology, before hauling his pleasantly round frame from the ground. Schofield stares at him.
“Where are you off to?” He asks, already halfway to his feet. Tom turns on his heels and shrugs.
“Figured I might go find some place to take a piss. Do I need a chaperone ?” The emphasis on that last word is silly, the whole statement and question are, really, and it makes Schofield roll his eyes.
“God, no. Trot off then.” He waves a hand urging Blake to go, and the younger boy beams up at him, before stepping up the trenches.
Schofield sits back down in their spot, already planning to keep the space beside him reserved.
He decides right then that he likes blue eyes best.