The woman he loved, he met her only once in his life.
It was early in May, when the air was crisp and the clouds were grey and the promise of rain hung still in the air. Puffs of smoke snaked through the sky as a train sped forth and travelled through the rails. The horn resounded and the wheels screeched to a stop as the train reached the station, the bellow of the conductor and the patter of footsteps enough to call the attention of the German soldier seated inside.
"Excuse me," a woman called out, her heels clicking as she made her way towards the man. "Is this seat taken?"
Sapphires met emeralds as Gilbert's eyes fell onto the girl, the power of his gaze like a torrential downpour waiting to be released onto the world.
He blinked. She tapped her foot, impatient.
"Not at all, Miss," the soldier replied at last. "Go ahead; sit by me. My name's Gilbert, by the way."
We're so different, you and I; it's a wonder how we'll ever survive.
"So…" the woman began, "what brings you to this lovely train ride, Herr Gilbert?"
The soldier blinked at this, mouth agape, almost in disbelief. "Sind sie auch Deutsch?"
"Nein," she answered back, "but I could tell you were by your accent. I can speak German, but I'm actually from Hungary."
"Oh. Well then…" Gilbert said in between mouthfuls of wurst, "what brings you to this not-so-lovely train ride, Miss – uh, Miss…Hungary?"
She laughed at this, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. It's brown, almost like chestnut, just the shade between caramel and chocolate. A tulip rested on her temple. Pink, like the color that slowly stained her cheeks.
"It's Elizabeta," she replied, "Elizabeta Hedervary. I used to go by Hedervary-Edelstein, but it's just Hedervary now. "
"Oh?" the soldier cocked an eyebrow in askance. "What happened? Divorce? Lover's spat?"
She shook her head before taking a bite of her share. Gilbert didn't hesitate to call a waiter and ask for seconds.
"No, it wasn't. Something just…something came up. He, uhm," she paused for a moment, almost hesitant, and fumbled for the right words. She moved closer to him, and rested her elbows on the table. Her voice was softer, more hushed, like she was divulging a secret not meant to befall another's ears.
And with her next statement, Gilbert knew that it was.
"He was sent to a camp and he never came back."
She didn't need to say anything more to him, and neither of them needed to have it explained anyway. It was 1944, and everyone immediately understood that being sent – or rather, being sentenced to camp meant being sentenced to death row. There was no need for niceties or sugarcoating. It was the truth. Harsh, cold, bitter, and relentless as it may be, this was the truth. Their reality.
Gilbert, however, thought of trying to make light of the situation. He opened his mouth, but the words were caught in his throat. His tongue seemed to be at knots.
"I-I see…" he managed to say at last, his voice sounding nearly choked. "I'm sorry for your loss."
An unsettling silence washed over them, neither making a sound besides the clatter of their utensils against the surface of their plates. The waiter soon came with a second serving of wurst and potatoes for Gilbert, which he gulped down gratefully if only to keep himself busy.
Elizabeta was the first to speak up.
"So what brings you here?"
"The food," he said, cracking a joke in hopes of alleviating the tension, but found himself unable to do so.
Elizabeta only forced out a weak smile.
Concentration camps were no joke.
After they finished their meals, the soldier excused himself and headed out of the dining cart and towards the smoker's area. Gilbert, however, didn't light a cigarette.
Instead, he bit on his lip as he fished in his pocket, cracking a smile once he managed to retrieve his harmonica.
Outside, he let the view encompass him. His eyes gazed upon the trail of alpines, the mountains snow-capped and serene, while his skin relished in the breeze that tousled his silver hair.
Trapped within the shelter of his melody, the soldier failed to notice the clicking of heels or the presence of the woman who came up from behind him.
Gilbert's shoulders jolted in surprise at the sound of a voice, ready to blow off the idiot who interrupted him and ruined his music, but his mood instantly shifted as he spun around to face its owner. "Wh—"
Strong vermilions softened at the sight before them. Green eyes. Brown hair. Pink tulip. It was her.
"Mind if I stay with you?" she asked politely.
So she didn't think he was much of an ass earlier. So she didn't hate his guts just yet.
Relief washed over him.
"Sure," he shrugged, faking nonchalance. "Be my guest, Miss Liz… Mind if I called you 'Liz,' by the way?"
"It's fine," she said with a smile. "'Liz' is fine."
And Gilbert smiled too.
"You can call me 'Gilbert,' or just plain ol' 'Gil.' I like it simple. No fancy titles and whatever."
"Sure, Gil," she said, and noticed that Gilbert had already begun to put away his harmonica. "You can keep playing, you know. I don't mind."
The soldier grinned at her in response.
And, just like always, he blew on his instrument and let the tune carry them away; out past the mountains and farther than the train could ever reach.
Gilbert continued playing for about an hour and a half, until he wore himself out and was left with nothing more than a parched throat and chapped lips.
Elizabeta clapped. "You're a wonderful musician, Gil. I enjoyed your performance."
"I don't need you to tell me that, I know that the awesome me is awesome," Gilbert said haughtily, chin up and head held high. "Danke schön…how do you guys say it over in Hungary?"
"Köszönet," she answered him.
"Well then," he said to her, feeling almost shy all of a sudden, "Köszönet."
She laughed, yet another light and pleasant giggle, but with a small snort at the end. "You've got the pronunciation all wrong, you know? But I'd give you points for effort."
"Pfsh, yeah right. I'm too awesome to be wrong."
"Oh, sure. Whatever you say," she scoffed, though she couldn't hide the grin in her voice.
There was a quiet stillness that lay between them again, only this time, it was more comfortable than it was unsettling.
"Well, uhm," Gilbert shifted awkwardly in his place, "you know you never really answered my question. What led you to ride this rickety old train anyway?"
"It's not that bad, actually," she reasoned. "Better than what I had to deal with at home. It was horrible there. I needed an escape."
"An escape, huh?"
She nodded, her green eyes fixed on his. "My family was killed in the war. When I heard news that they were evacuating the women to a safer and more secure shelter, I boarded this train right away."
"Hm… So where are you headed to?"
There was light in her eyes as she said it, and it broke Gilbert as soon as the word had slipped past her lips.
Gilbert swallowed at that, a nervous lump forming itself in his throat. He knew what that meant.
She was a Jew.
He was a soldier, and she was a Jew.
They were on the farthest ends of the world, the oppositions of a broadened spectrum.
Well of course she's a Jew, Gilbert mentally slapped himself, though the pain from the knowledge of this fact had already numbed his senses. He was an idiot. Her husband was a Jew so it'd make sense that she was one, too.
"So what are you, Gil?" she said, her voice interrupting his train of thought.
"Uhm, a person?"
"Not that, idiot," she teased. "I know that. I mean, what do you do?"
By now, Gilbert would've bragged about his being in the army – his position, most of all. About the badges that they've pinned onto his chest, and the stars that adorned his shoulders. By now he would've told her of his dreams of proclaiming victory in battle, and leading his country to win the war. He was a soldier; it was simple enough. But he was out of uniform that day, and was, instead, clad in a light brown day suit, a vest in a darker shade of brown, with a white polo underneath and a tie, red like his eyes and loose enough so as to let him breathe freely.
So how could she have known?
Bile rose up his throat, dread settling itself in the hollow of his stomach.
His mind screamed, but the words only came out as a soft whisper.
"Oh? M-me? "the soldier stammered. She nodded, waiting patiently.
He didn't have the heart to tell her.
He knew that if he did, she would be afraid. Of him. Or worse, that she'd finally hate him and his guts.
So he lied.
"I'm a musician, you see…a traveling musician. I play the flute, but that's in my suitcase in the baggage car right now. My old man taught me how to play it. I carry this harmonica around though, so I'd still have something to do if I got bored on the train."
"Wow, your father must'v—"
Gilbert shook his head. "I say 'old man' but he wasn't really my father. I was an orphan, and he just took me in."
"I see. That was very kind of him. How is he doing now?"
"He passed away already."
"Oh, I'm sorry-"
"Nah, it's fine. It was a long time ago. Old age," he replied, albeit grimly.
"Wouldn't you like to die of old age?" she asked him then, fingers curling at the hem of her skirt. "I know I would. It would be peaceful, almost fulfilling, to know that you have spent your life fruitfully down to the last minute. How about you, Gil?"
He looked at her, his eyes knowing and pained, and hesitated, but didn't answer.
It was quiet again, but it only happened for a second though, for without a moment's hesitation, Elizabeta spoke up.
"My husband was a musician too, before." Even if they were hardly alike, she didn't really mind the change. Music was music, and she loved it all the same. She said it wistfully, almost plaintively. "He was a pianist."
"That must have been nice."
"Yes, it was." Her voice was warm, still heavy with affection, but now seemingly distant. "He was."
"It's all right," she cut him off. "You don't have to be."
"So, Liz, why…why Auschwitz, of all places?"
He tried to sound calm about it, but his voice was tinny, and even to himself, seemed so far away.
The woman, however, didn't seem to mind.
"I used to be a cook in this restaurant, but the war took that away from me. I lost my job, and I lost my home…but they told me that there would be plenty of job opportunities over in Auschwitz, and that they'd be happy and willing to accept me despite my…uhm…circumstances." Elizabeta continued with a sigh, almost dreamily, "It's the land of promise."
So this was the lie they'd been feeding to the masses? That the Jews would be sent to women's shelters and given job opportunities? They were being deported, for Pete's sake. Sent to a camp. There would be no job opportunities, no safe homes. They were going to die.
She was going to die.
Gilbert reeled with disgust, not only for his superiors, but also for himself. How could he let this happen? He didn't want to let this happen.
But what could he do?
He could tell her to come with him and have her dropped off at his stop, but soldiers would be waiting there and that would be like feeding her to the wolves. He could tell them to stopover at some station and delay their travels so he could give her a chance to escape, but then that would make him appear suspicious and the German troops think of him a traitor. He could abort this deportation mission, but then that would cause his superiors to charge him with treason, meaning he could die as well. And he was only a Lieutenant, there was no guarantee that anyone would even listen to him, much less obey his orders. He would still have to bring it up to his superiors before anything could be done, destroying the whole point of his plans in the first place.
Warning bells rang at the back of his head, but he tried to ignore them the best way he could. Ignorance is, as they say, pure bliss.
But it wrecked havoc on his mind, this dilemma between fulfilling his duty as a soldier and his duty as a man. To serve his nation or to protect this woman?
It was a gamble, all or nothing.
Gilbert dove and took the risk.
"H-hey, you know what, "Gilbert began to ramble, like he always did whenever he was nervous. His palms began to sweat, and he rubbed them as discreetly as possible onto the cloth of his trousers. "I've got this gig at a bar in Moravia and they could probably use someone who's handy with a pan in the kitchen…"
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Gil, I don't think that'd be such a good idea. I can't accept those kinds of terms if it's just a possibility, or a probability. Auschwitz, on the other hand, has already promised me a job."
Now, Gilbert had never met such a stubborn woman before and honestly it all became infuriating and yet…and yet, he found it oddly endearing. The way she was driven. The way she set her mind to something and paid heed to nothing or nobody else.
None of this was going to end well, and he knew it, but he tried to forget. Tried to overlook that, for he couldn't help but hold on to even the smallest sliver of hope possible.
Hope, after all, was something he hadn't clung onto so tightly upon entering the war.
"Oh yeah? Well, screw Auschwitz." Gilbert said all of a sudden, and Elizabeta's eyes widened in momentary shock.
"Yeah, it's a crappy place to live in. Why …why don't you come with me instead?"Please, he almost added, but he bit his lip in order to keep himself from pleading and sounding desperate.
"Why should I?"
And she was right. Why should she? What business did he have to tell her to come with him? Because she was going to die? He'd fought in battles. He'd been to war. Nobody liked the weight of a burning carcass lying on top of their conscience. But people died, and such was the brevity of life. So why would it matter to him if anything should happen to her? Why would it be any different?
Because she was nice?
Because he liked talking to her?
Because he – god forbid – loved her?
But it was true.
All of it.
In the briefest of moments, in the short span of time that they had shared together, he loved her. He loved her more fully, more fiercely, and more passionately than anything or anyone else in the world. It didn't matter how long they had known each other, or how short his duration of stay had been there aboard that train.
He loved her in that moment just as much as he would've in an entire lifetime.
The only life that matters to me is yours, he wanted to say, but none of it seemed right to him. The words all seemed too futile, too mere, too inadequate. So he did what only he knew he could do best.
He kissed her.
The rain began to fall right then, starting as a light mist then a cool drizzle, before eventually leading to a heavy shower at its peak.
Let the rain wash over your soul, he remembered someone say to him before as a child, and the water kiss away the tears which stream down your cheeks.
Not that he was crying, but he sure felt like it, though.
"We should probably head back inside," he murmured, before pulling her in for another kiss, clothes drenched as he used his back to try and shield her from the downpour.
"You should probably change out of these clothes too," she whispered, pulling away as she further undid his tie, all nimble fingers and clockwork precision. "Lest you catch your death."
"Mm, you're right."
"Come," she said, latching her small hand in his. Her touch burned him, searing his insides.
And even after she let go, the feeling still remained.
What lingers in our senses are the things we crave the most.
"You know," she said, shifting in the sheets of the sleeping car. "I hate my legs."
"How come? I love them," Gilbert grinned mischievously.
"Oh shut up," she said, playfully swatting his arm. "They say that legs are the measure of a woman. That every scar demotes them of their worth."
"Well, I say otherwise," Gilbert inched towards her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He brought her closer to his chest, cradling her in his hold.
"Every graze of skin, every cut on the surface, every blow you've dealt, and every brush with death. Cicatrices formed over the years of your existence. "His fingers traced over the marks on her legs, carefully so, as if she were fragile. Forged of porcelain and glass and fine china. "These are the burdens you've carried. These are the scars that make you…you."
"See?" he whispered to her now, voice soft and gentle and lilting in her ear, and it took every ounce of Elizabeta's strength to keep her eyes from misting over. "It is your wounds that make you worth more."
They were here now, blinking, awake in this moment. He leaned in closer. She smiled.
And for a while, it's almost as if nothing else ever mattered.
She will never remember this. Those starlight kisses and this featherweight embrace. The way he touched her, fingers grazing over her cheek ever so gently; large, calloused fingers warming themselves over the petite ones of hers. The way their bodies thrust together and melded as one. They way he would hold her.
The way he would love her.
No matter how gentle, how careful, or how sincere he may be; no matter how much effort he took to fill in every crevice and gap in her heart…still, she will forget. Her memories will vanish, withering away in the trickling sands of time.
Only four hours left.
Life is too short for whom you hold close.
Afternoons bled into evenings as they sat together in the passenger car. Gilbert leaned against the window, and by this time, the rain had stopped and the sun was setting, and the light shrouded the soldier in hues of orange and red and yellow that turned his silver hair into something nearly blonde, and he looked like nothing Elizabeta had ever seen before.
"Gil, " she said, "sing for me."
"Sing for me."
"I...I don't want to disturb the other passengers."
"I'm sure you won't," she answered confidently. "Now, come on."
"Alright, " he acquiesced, "but I'm not very good…"
"You'll be fine. Your voice is fine. I'm sure of it. I have a good ear."
"Uh…so what do you want me to sing?"
"Anything. Your favourite song, maybe."
So he sang for her, soft like the feel of her skin, warm like the press of her lips, gentle like the touch of her hands. For she was the love song he sang and he'd sing – at dawn, at dusk, at morning, at night – when his mind was clear and his heart was alight and his voice was ringing with such pristine clarity it rivalled even that of the most beautiful sunrise.
"Blue skies, smiling at me…"
There was the comforting weight of his hand resting on hers, the tiny puffs of his breath, warm amidst the fog, that bristled past the skin on her cheek, and his soft voice that pulled her, just a little bit deeper, into the drowning depths of her emotions. Their fingers intertwined and she leaned on him, head resting on his shoulder, her weight falling on him as she sank into his chest, just a little bit closer – but not too much lest he found her heavy and uncomfortable – as she took a deep breath and let out a small yawn.
"That's good. You can sleep if you want. I'll wake you up when we reach our stop."
"Okay," she said, almost half-asleep.
He hummed, fingers tap-tap-tapping on the armrest, his thumb rubbing gently atop hers.
"Oh…and Gilbert?" she said, almost above a whisper. Quietly. Hesitantly. Cautiously.
She stirred in her sleep and woke up to the sound of a gruff voice beside her.
"We still have another hour, you know."
"We…?"she raised an eyebrow, her attention now more alert. "I didn't say that I would be going with you."
He paused for a moment, turning to face her and look her in the eye. "Are you sure you still don't want to join me?"
"How about you join me? We could go to Auschwitz together," she smiled, looping her finger round a stray lock of hair. "We could elope."
A small glint of pain and guilt coated his expression, which he attempted to mask by plastering a wry smile.
"Sorry, Liz. I don't think I can, "He licked at his lips, chapped and worn from all the biting he'd done. "I can't go to Auschwitz. Please, Liz. Just go with me."
"Why are you so against Auschwitz?"
"Because…" he said quietly, "because you might die."
He said it not as a fact, but like a possibility. Like there was still a chance that she might still live. Because he wanted to believe it. Because he wanted her to believe it, too. He knew the truth would break her – that she was being sent to a camp. That she would die the same way her husband did. Tortured. Executed. Murdered.
He wasn't lying, not exactly. He was only embellishing the truth.
"It's not safe there, Liz," he said, "I'd rather you be with me."
"I'm sorry, Gil," she cupped his face in her hands. "Czechoslovakia's not the safest place for people like me either. I promised my husband I'd seek a better life, and I know Auschwitz is where I ought to be headed."
"So…" his voice trailed off nervously. "Is this the end for us?"
"Perhaps," she answered quietly. Her gaze never leaving the sight of pitch black; the view out the window was barren of anything, even the slightest twinkle of stars. "Or perhaps it isn't. Perhaps we'll meet again. You can never tell. Nothing is ever too sure in this world that we live in. Nothing is ever 100%. But sometimes, it is enough."
"Are you always this poetic when you wake up from a nap?"
She giggled at that, a dainty chuckle followed by a small guffaw. "I like to read, okay?"
"If this is the end for us, then so be it. I'd be thankful. How great it is for me to have lived a life where I could stay by your side; to have held your hand in the dark and to find hope in the idea of running away with you; to have seen the world, in all its dimensions; and to have spent the remainder of my hours in this universe, proud to have been your companion. If I die, then I'll die, but at least it is enough for me to die with no regrets." Then she moved closer to him, her voice more solemn, more serious. "It is enough for me to be sure that you and I exist in this moment."
Gilbert said nothing to that, only giving her hand a small squeeze in response. Her hold on him was tighter than he had imagined.
"You carry the sky with you, Gil," Elizabeta spoke warmly, almost fondly of him. "You and your music. Never forget that."
"I…I still have another hour. Your stop isn't due 'til another three," Gilbert swallowed heavily, his heart racing and trapped in the narrow cage of his chest. "Go back to sleep, Liz."
"Okay, I guess I will."
Dawn came quickly, like one fell swoop that the soldier had been completely unprepared for. The sun had risen, and Gilbert squinted at the brightness that assaulted his irises.
Silently, he rose from his seat as the train slowed to a stop, and drew the blinds so as not to disturb the Hungarian woman beside him. Not sparing her a second glance, he shrugged off his jacket and draped it across her lithe figure.
Goodbye, he wanted to say.
But he swallowed his words, picked up his heart, and stepped outside.
He saluted his superiors, grabbed his suitcase, and made his way out the station. But as the horn echoed through and the conductor bellowed once more, Gilbert turned around and gazed upon the third window of the third carriage, where a woman with brown hair and a pink tulip lay sleeping. The melody of an aubade played on his lips and he hummed out a tune, watching and waiting until her figure faded in the distance and the train sped away, trails of smoke stretching out farther, much farther, than his music could ever reach.
Hello everyone so I woke up today headache-free after the past 36 hours of torture hahahuhu and decided to finally work on making a new story (yay) So a lot of the tragic PruHun fics that deal with loss tend to be about Prussia disappearing or Hungary leaving to go marry Austria so I figured I ought to try something a tad bit different, and have Hungary fade out –sorta?- instead. This idea has actually been with me for practically a year, and a mulled over it a long time with my friends and stuff but at last I managed to get off my lazy ass and start working on it. It's a pretty long oneshot, because I missed doing oneshots, and I hope this makes up for my 3-month hiatus of any actual progress in the fanfiction world. This may not be my best work (I don't think I'll ever have a best work though lol) but I did get to use some of my favourite plot bunnies stored up from over the past year so I hope you enjoy.
I rarely write in past tense (present just comes more naturally to me huhu), so if ever there are any mistakes or irregularities, I'm sorry. D:
Many many many thanks to Whaddapack and afternoon rain and to my former seatmate G for their support in helping me finish this story. This oneshot would probably end up really shitty if not for your help (now it's only half as shitty HAHAHA jk…1/2)
Anyway, I'll stop rambling so you guys can start. Happy reading and I hope you like my work. J
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia. Huhu.
- "An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which is in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. It has also been defined as "a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak". In the strictest sense of the term, an aubade is a song from a door or window to a sleeping woman. Aubades are generally conflated with what are strictly called albas, which are exemplified by a dialogue between parting lovers, a refrain with the word alba, and a watchman warning the lovers of the approaching dawn." – Wikipedia; as soon as I heard about the word, I knew there wouldn't be any other title as perfect as this :3
-" Auschwitz concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps. The first transports to Auschwitz began in early May 1944 and continued even as Soviet troops approached. During the last years of World War II, they suffered severely, with over 600,000 being killed (within Hungary's 1943 borders) between 1941 and 1945, mainly through deportation to Nazi German-run extermination camps. The plan was to use 45 cattle cars per train, 4 trains a day, to deport 12,000 Jews to Auschwitz every day from the countryside, starting in mid-May; this was to be followed by the deportation of Jews of Budapest from about July 15. One hundred and forty-seven trains were sent to Auschwitz, where 90% of the people were exterminated on arrival. Because the crematoria couldn't cope with the number of corpses, special pits were dug near them, where bodies were simply burned. It has been estimated that one third of the murdered victims at Auschwitz were Hungarian. According to historian Péter Sipos, the Hungarian government had already known about the Jewish genocide since 1943. Some historians have argued that Horthy believed that the Jews were being sent to the camps to work, and that they would be returned to Hungary after the war." – Wikipedia
-"It is enough for me to be sure that you and I exist in this moment." is a quote by the oh-so-very-wonderful Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his book, "A Thousand Years of Solitude." My favourite work of his would be "Love in the Time of Cholera," but hey, ATYoS is a good read too. If you want, go ahead and read both hahaha
-The national flower of Hungary is the tulip.
-"Blue Skies" was a popular song written by Irving Berlin and composed in 1926. I listened to Ben Selvin's and Ella Fitzgerald's versions of this, and like yeah, wow, you just gotta love old music. ( but tbh yes, I picked this song because it didn't just talk about the sky, but because the songwriter's name was Berlin. Judge me all you want but I figured it was perfect WAHAHA)
-"In 1940, under pressure from Germany, Slovakia joined the Axis. The desire for autonomy was one of the great issues of Slovaks in Czechoslovakia. Josef Tiso and nationalists of the Slovak People's Party pushed for Slovak independence and aligned themselves with the National Socialist Party in Germany. Hitler promised Tiso that he would support him if he separated Slovakia from Czechoslovakia. On March 14, 1939 Slovakia declared independence, calling itself the Slovak Republic. German troops soon occupied Bohemia and Moravia." – Wikipedia
-Notice that Gilbert never mentioned his surname here, while Elizabeta gave her full name and even explained the use of her maiden name. Normally, it would be logical to just go with "Gilbert Beillschmidt" but remember that in this story, he was an orphan. Now, I'm not saying that orphans have no last names, because they do. They could either have their last names taken from their first mother/father or assigned by a Judge or staff member from the orphanage/hospital (according to yahoo answers hehe). It's just that I think in this AU, he'd never felt that it was true self, so unless he was required by the law or some officer to give it, (because seriously, imagine if he were just addressed as Lt. Gilbert or something that'd sound pretty silly and unprofessional, I think proud ol' Gilbo would like to sound as badass as possible in his line of work and command all his co-workers to call him Lt. Beillschmidt every damn time as his head continued to swell up in pride) he'd rather just go by with 'Gilbert' or 'Gil' in casual situations.
-Alpines can refer to the mountains or to the trees.
-"A lieutenant (abbreviated Lt., LT., Lieut. and LEUT.) is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces, fire service, or law enforcement.Lieutenant may also appear as part of a title used in various other organizations with a codified command structure. It often designates someone who is "second-in-command," and as such, may precede the name of the rank directly above it. For example, a "lieutenant master" is likely to be second-in-command to the "master" in an organization using both ranks. The senior grade of lieutenant is known as first lieutenant in the United States, and as lieutenant in the United Kingdom and the rest of the English-speaking world. In countries that do not speak English, the rank title usually translates as "lieutenant", but may also translate as "first lieutenant" or "senior lieutenant". Second lieutenant is usually the most junior grade of commissioned officer. In most cases, newly commissioned officers do not remain at the rank for long before being promoted, and both university graduates and officers commissioned from the ranks may skip the rank altogether. In non-English-speaking countries, the equivalent rank title may translate as "second lieutenant", "lieutenant", "sub-lieutenant" or "junior lieutenant". Non-English terms include ensign and Leutnant for the German Army. " - Wikipedia
- "Nearly all 19th century German historians made Frederick into a romantic model of a glorified warrior, praising his leadership, administrative efficiency, devotion to duty and success in building up Prussia to a leading role in Europe. Historian Leopold von Ranke was unstinting in his praise of Frederick's "Heroic life, inspired by great ideas, filled with feats of arms...immortalized by the raising of the Prussian state to the rank of a power." Johann Gustav Droysen was even more extolling. Frederick remained an admired historical figure through the German Empire's crushing defeat in First World War, and the Nazis glorified him as a great German leader pre-figuring Hitler, but his reputation became far less favorable in 1945 in both East and West Germany after the fall of the Nazi regime, largely due to his status as a favorite icon of the Nazis." – Wikipedia; Of course, that Frederick and Gilbert's 'old man' as he referred to in this story do not share the same timeline (because that would make Gilbert ancient lol) but I just wanted to share this tidbit of trivia with you so that you know even Old Fritz had some sort of relevance to Nazi history. (Not that I like/support the Nazis or anything, because what they did was downright horrible and inhumane and words aren't enough to describe just how wrong their actions were…let's all just offer a prayer for the Jewish souls that died in the Holocaust to show respect for their sacrifices J )
-Reference for Gilbert's outfit in 1940's men's fashion: htt 736x/89/ce/ca/89cecacf1
Translations (taken from GT and YA hahahuhu lol sorry idk how to actually speak these languages)
Herr [German] - Mister
Wurst [German] – sausage
Danke [German] – thank you
Danke schön [German] – thank you very much
Nein [German] – No
Sind sie auch Deutsch? [German] – Are you German too?
Was? [German] – What?
Träum süß [German] – Sweet dreams/Have pleasant dreams
Köszönet [Hungarian] – Thank you
I really appreciate how you took the time to read all of this, I hope that you enjoyed this story as much as – if not more than – I did in writing. Please do leave a review, I love them and they make my day. Thank you
It’s easy enough to see how you wonder for her and think of her presence, despite your steady belief you are a fellow fixed in his ways of life and his own mind.
Even the first time you meet, and despite your cold stare and your hurried burying of your hands in your pockets for lack of sensible words, you don’t ignore her when she bids you a good morning. You don’t simply walk on like the rest, and leave her in the gutter with her wet chalk and her beautiful, yet hopeless dreams of a worldly canvas. Even though you stumble at her soft inquiries, you allow yourself to spend that precious minute with her, watching what she draws with her filthy, blackened hands. You tell her you care, and with sincerity you think her drawings lovely, and she smiles at you. Who knows, maybe you even return it.
You watch her at her work even as the rain falls, when the Heavens open and you cannot see beyond your apartment for the frosted glass and spiralling fog. But looking down at her, you neglect your hot tea and books of chemistry and literature, trading the few solo hours you have for a chance to watch her shelter underneath deserted café chairs and try to protect the work she has slaved away at for hours upon hours, despite the frequent tides of rain and distant, rumbling thunder after August’s wavering heat. Still, you don’t help her. It is not your duty or requirement, you know, when you are warm and comfortable with your blankets and scarves and apathy. But the image of her intrigues you, and even later you allow yourself to think of her, when you know you should be revising Orwell and Coleridge and drinking the tea that is already stone cold from your neglect and contemplation.
For months upon months you watch her, keenly and closely, eyes wide with curiosity and fingers lingering at the window’s glass, pressing against a thin barrier you know is separating you from the rest of the world, and from her. You don’t know whether she has a home, somewhere out there, or whether or not she has resigned herself unconsciously to a life lived in struggle. It’s a strange thing indeed to contemplate, especially when seeing how she smiles upon the passersby, regardless of whether they timidly return it or otherwise look at her in pure disgust, as though she is little more than dirt, or perhaps something far lower. Still, she smiles in her ignorance and naivety, clinging onto her own desperation as though it is all she has left. Perhaps, you think, it could just as well be.
But oh, how she draws so beautifully! Her fingers are her brushes, her chalk her guidelines. She draws with reds and oranges and yellows in the autumn, her greens and blues in summer and her violets in the depths of spring. In the winter her hands are cold enough that she cannot close the tips of her fingers around the chalk but rather paints with the snow, and her own frigid blood.
In truth, she surprises you. The sight of her makes you consider your own living whenever you should properly regard her, and the consideration of how you have lived for as long as you can recall is not something you consider to be of importance. How is it that she can live so easily, so happily, and with so little? How is it that she still smiles and her eyes still glint in the darkness, regardless of the circumstances or the banks of snow surrounding her? How do her hands still create such purely beautiful, unmarred creations, so contrasted to the body of their creator?
It is that same intrigue, undoubtedly, that urges you to one day approach her, almost running down the flights of steps only to find yourself engulfed in the cold. You pull your scarf against your mouth, your coat against your shoulders.
Watching her at her work, it is a time before you are able to bring yourself to try and catch her intention, rather than be lulled into a respecting silence. She lifts her head as soon as she hears you cough, and she grins. You don’t know why, but she grins, the same moment your eyes drift to the colourful marks she has imprinted upon the pavement – a memory engraved in the far reaches of your mind.
Looking back at her, you see how she is expecting you to speak; when you remain silent her face falls, and you turn your head away.
“Sir, this isn’t your home, is it?”
The words are strange and foreign, filling you with an unnerving emotion, and almost against your will you turn back to look at her with wonder and a thought filled pause.
What does she know? Is she aware of how you watch her at her work and dream of a homely city as she draws with the same colour as the rising of the sun? Is she aware of how the snow outside your window can only stir in you recollections of a large, creamy moon in the dead of night, and how the blues and greens with which she paints her dreamt skies and pastures can only strike in your head longings for the shining Thames, despite how you try to tuck them away, trying fruitlessly to forget such foolish sentimentality?
“You must be from a great place, sir.”
Looking back once more, your eyebrows lift, and she laughs.
“How do you know?”
She can do little more than shrug in answer, but the peculiarity of it all makes your mind drift and thoughts wander.
“You’re from London, sir?”
Her eyes shine at your perplexed, stunned glance.
“Yes,” you answer her, stiff and cold.
“Why are you here, then? Why aren’t you there, sir, where you belong?”
“I can’t afford it.”
She pauses, seemingly regarding your words with a careful consideration. Perhaps she is amused, inwardly laughing at how you bother with speaking to her, but within a short time she speaks once more.
“The train rides must be long ones, then.”
And then she turns back to her work, but you see her falter with the chalk, fingers flexing themselves. Shocked, perhaps somewhat annoyed, you can do nothing but continue to stare, until at last your eyes narrow and you turn back, mind heavy with consideration.
Your summer is spent at the coast this year, a tradition you have not relived since youthful years of boyhood, and one you've grown to miss.
Yet, it’s a pity it was such an unpleasant holiday, you think, somewhat regretful, the train rattling as your hands absently touch upon the opaque glass of the window, idly and pointlessly carving light patterns of boredom and contemplation. Your carriage is solitary, a large portion of the train empty and silent as the world outside grows dark. Still, you can’t consider it a pity, since at last you’re alone and allowed to lose yourself in your own thoughts. The glass is cold, dripping and icy to the touch, flecked with rain. Pity you had to lose what time you had to the storms and the wet.
It’s late, moon large by the time you step onto the platform, sombre and haggard. The trains rush by you, stirring you back into a dim reality as you clutch at the sleeves of your coat, regarding of the large clock against the wall. You've no umbrella, much less any promise of sleep with the pounding of the rain.
Your hands linger at your pockets before delving into the denim, a sigh slipping from your lips before you can hesitate. You try to take the walk quickly, but wind up taking the incorrect street (with thanks, undoubtedly, to the rain blurring your vision and sense) and returning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Your mind is in disarray, thoughts mingling and confused, even more so when your feet touch upon the familiar ground leading to your apartment.
For there you see a strange sight – a dark figure pressing themselves against a wall, hands trembling as they appear to be holding up a blanket or cover of some sort, as if trying to shield themselves from the rain. Throwing the water from your eyes and hair, you step forwards, marvelling but also reeling back in shock at what you now see clearly beneath the streetlight.
It’s the street artist, the girl, the same one you spoke to all those weeks ago.
Her fingers grasp at the corners of what you gradually see to be a large cover, like a tarp, eyes intently looking upon the drawing etched against the wall. For a minute you wildly glance behind you in shock, wandering whether you took the wrong train, after all, or whether you are still lost in a dream.
“I-It’s London,” you stammer.
At sound of your voice her eyes lift, meeting yours with the most intense look of excitement you’ve ever seen in the eyes of another human being. She beams – eyes rich and shining and beautiful in the blackness.
“I was wondering when I’d see you again.”
Her drawing is immaculate, faultless, so softly lit by a sketched moon and dark, shaded paving stones. There is a soft, unspoken thrum in your heart as she stares at you with her silhouette dripping and wearied, regarding the forms of a chalked Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, narrow houses and ancient stone. You choke on your words, staring at her with the most incredulity you've ever thought possible.
Here she is, soaked and alone, without a home or a kindly spoken word to remember, and she has done something so great, so gracious, committing an inconceivable kindness and compassion without a blinked eye or word of resentment.
Is it reality?
For a moment in time, there is nothing you can do but stare, incredulous as your breath hitches in your throat and your body stills, the rain still so relentlessly coming down upon your hesitating form and soaked clothing. You can do nothing but look at her with disbelief as emotion floods you, and you are lost in a sea of shock and your own snagged words, trapped in your throat. How can it be that she is so selfless to someone so undeserving, so unkind? What worth are you, someone so ignorant and unknown? Who are you to her, as apathetic and cold as your demeanour represents? What need, what feeling did she ever possess, to feel so compelled to do something so selfless? What do you mean to her, that she would appease you of all people, and with such passionate anticipation, so childlike in her delight?
Her hands are dusted with chalk and streaked with rain as she folds them and looks at you, smiling with a pride and satisfaction that shines beyond her gaunt face.
“You won’t need to be homesick now.”
You turn to look at her, wordless, but she sees your eyes – as wide and disbelieving as they are.
And in that moment, you know she has understood.