Word Count 450
The cold had seeped in around his ankles. There was a stick poking him in the back. Mr Kennedy had burrowed close. He was leaning against Matthew's arm, he was lovely warm, but heavy and crushing everything numb.
And, now that he was aware of himself, Matthews would have to get up. A boy like Mr Kennedy might go all night, and drink his coffee, (if there was coffee, which there was not,) before his morning piss. But Matthews could not. Not anymore.
He pulled himself free, creaked to his knees, and then feet. Mr Kennedy did not wake. The leaves were soft underfoot. They smelled of green things and mud, strange in his nose, now. He could see the stars, through the trees.
Somewhere a bird was singing. It must be one of those night birds, because there was not even a sniff of dawn yet. Dog-watch just beginning, was what it felt like. (And that was the time that he woke for this nonsense most nights.)
He found a place to water the leaves, and got it done quickly, He could see the lumpy shapes of sleeping men, dark as whales, in the tree shadows. Oldroyd was standing, (well, sitting, really,) watch in the back of the cart. He had been given Mr Kennedy's pocket-watch to hold. Oldroyd gave him a wave. He was a good one. Not the brightest light, nor the sharpest knife, Oldroyd, but if you set him a watch, he kept it.
Mr Kennedy had turned, in his absence, seeking heat. Finding none, he had drawn his legs up, and curled against the base of the tree. He was shivering. Matthews could see the white skin of his averted face. No older than Oldroyd, Mr Kennedy. He was old enough to be a father to either of them.
He settled down again, reached out and drew the heavy sleepy body close. “Here you go, Sir. Warm you up a little.” One could not touch them in the day, of course, not officers. No matter how young they were, no matter how they wept, (at 12 or 13, or 15, or 16.) No matter how hurt they were, or how your own heart ached.
But here under the trees, everything was silver and black and silent. He drew Mr Kennedy close, and the boy gave an snort. Warmer, better. Mr Kennedy said something, short and blurry. It was a protest of some sort, but nothing Matthews could understand. Maybe it was French. Matthews rested his head back against the tree. There was enough time to go back to sleep, if he got right to it.