Outside of Amsterdam City, Amsterdam, Holland. May 25th, 1943
Ciel spent the night in the holding cell of the local police station, except instead of the kindly officers he knew from the times Alois had left and his elder brother went on search for him, it was Nazi soldiers, bored but fierce.
The Germans perked up when a new face came in, being hauled by the same guard that had caught him and that bastard Sebastian in the alley. “ Judenschwein ?” the one at the front desk asked shortly. By the look of his bunched muscles and bruised and scarred face, Ciel guessed he was a whole lot of brawn with very little brain.
The other shook his head. “No.” he said in surprisingly clear English. “Fag.”
The dumb one made a face before spitting on Ciel. He snarled and wiped the saliva off his cheek. “I suppose that’s the worst you can do, seeing as you can barely form two words.”
The cop rose from his chair but stopped when his superior officer held up a hand. “He is staying here for the night, we’re not laying hands on him. Not here. The citizens are already too rowdy. We don’t need more need to provoke them.”
“They don’t have to know…” the blonde Nazi from earlier said softly but that got him a glare.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll leave him untouched.”
“Which means I’m in for hell later, doesn’t it?” drawled Ciel then faked a yawn. “Can we hurry this up? I really don’t like being dangled around like some doll.”
The muscular one once again rose only to be stopped. “I will make sure he gets what’s due. Just stay where you are.”
And with that, Ciel was hauled roughly into the cell at the end of the hall, thrown none too gently against the far wall.
He grunted, biting his split lip as he slammed against the stone. He put a hand on his mouth when fresh blood dripping off his chin, making a face at the bloody palm he got when he pulled his hand back, pressing the collar of his jacket to the wound instead. But it didn’t hurt. He was so pleasantly numb in every way, his back didn’t ache like it should, his lip didn’t have a stinging pain. He didn’t really feel any of it, barely felt the Nazi’s strong hands gripping him tight. In the course of a few hours, he’d managed to shut off all emotions and more. Inside, he couldn’t really say what it was he was feeling - something like a black hole the crackpot scientists were always talking about. Or maybe he-
That’s exactly how he felt. Completely, totally empty. There was barely anything keep him from biting open his wrists to let himself bleed out, fall into some blissful abyss. He didn’t need to know what came after death, it was sure as hell better than where he was. Maybe he would feel full once he died, wouldn’t feel like there was this massive effort to keep himself together going on constantly, wouldn’t always be on the verge of tears. Maybe death was nice…
He shut his eyes, pressing harder on his lip until he finally did feel a massive rush of pain that made him hiss. He had a mission - one that could all very well go wrong if Alois was gone already - but a goal no less and nothing was going to stop him from finding his little brother.
He put more pressure on his lip until the barrier he’d put up dropped, his back starting to ache as it should, cold seeping into his slacks from sitting on the concrete floor, and tears flooded up in his eyes. Sebastian… He’d just thrown his lover aside without a second glance. If Ciel listened to the silence, he could have sworn he could still hear the student saying that he wasn’t gay, that Ciel had forced himself on Sebastian.
Shaking his head miserably, Ciel got up with a wince at his back to move onto the straw cot in the corner of the room. That fucking bastard had started their relationship in the first place! He could have at least been willing to go down with it too!
And suddenly his anger had exhausted itself to be replaced by that deep longing in the pit of his stomach as he recalled the screams he’d hear at night, see people getting dragged away from their families, teary mothers trying to get their child back, fathers damn near ready to fight off the Nazis themselves, and scared little children hiding themselves behind their parents. It was worse when whole families were taken though, then you could hear daughters screaming for release, knowing something would happen to them, sons futilely fighting, and all the while their parents were trying to comfort them, tell them everything would be alright and they’d be safe.
Ciel sighed out his fury. If that was just the deportation, what were the actual camps like? How could he truly be angry at Sebastian for trying to get away from the cruelty he was headed for?
And yet, all logic inside him was drowned out by want, longing for arms to wrap around him and hold him close; gentle kisses and quiet confessions of love; caring touches.
His teary eyes snapped open fully. Had Sebastian ever cared for him at all? He might have been a spy, planted by the Nazis. But if that were true, why didn’t he turn Ciel in as soon as he knew for a fact that Ciel was a Jew? Maybe Ciel was his first target, he didn’t know exactly what to do so he went along with everything until his superior officers showed - which meant those blasted triplets were Nazis too.
The man let out a loud noise of frustration and punched the wall, confusion running rampant inside him, actually glad for the pain that shot through his hand. He hugged it close to his chest, wincing. At least it gave him something to focus on besides his answerless questions.
Once the throbbing was gone, Ciel turned onto his side to stare at the brick and plaster that made up the building. He grunted and shifted when he couldn’t get comfortable only to twist again. This was awful, how was he supposed to sleep on this thing? Ciel shook his head at himself. This was going to the most comfortable bed he’d sleep in - maybe ever again - he should enjoy it while he could. He sighed and closed his eyes but then opened them once more with a drawn out groan. No, this bed was fucking terrible and he hated it. This is what he got for growing up with luxuries: he’d get to die without them.
He furrowed his brow. Did he truly think this was his end? From what he’d heard, nothing good ever came from concentration camps, and no one ever came home. He nodded. Yes, he was probably going to die and there would be nothing noble about it. He wasn’t searching for Alois for his brother, but as a lifeline for himself. At least he could be assured he’d go down with a purpose, probably fighting as well.
Ciel sighed and dug his fingers in under his patch to wipe away his tears, repeating the action on his naked eye, then turned over on his cot once more and settled himself in for a long night.
Waking up the next morning proved to be just as uncomfortable as sleeping had been, jolting upright when a guard banged against the door, a new one he hadn’t seen last night. The guard, a tall and scrawny brunette with a face far too nice looking for the job he had, slid a tray of food through a slot but Ciel could only stare at the brown porridge-like substance next to a bruised apple. “I’m rather fond of caviar.” he said after a moment and regretted it as the guard swished his tongue around in his mouth before spitting a large glob into the porridge. Suddenly he didn’t look so handsome.
“There is your caviar.” he growled, his accent giving him away as German but there was only a hint of it in his English.
Ciel looked at it then at the guard and gave him a sickly sweet smile. “Thanks.” he grunted and sat on the floor, careful to segregate the contaminated portion of food before taking a bite. He gagged and tried to swallow it quickly, anything to get the putrid taste off his tongue. As soon as it was down his throat, Ciel looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know who’s up there, but please at least let me stomach this. If you want to be kind, you can make the camp food better than this rubbish.” he snorted to himself as he got another spoonful. “But when are you ever kind?”
It was a lot of gagging and dry heaving before he finally managed to finish the plate, the water they gave him was of no help either since it was almost as acidic as the meal. “I can’t believe I ate that.” Ciel muttered in disgust as he got of the floor, knees popping and sore from sitting there so long. The bruised and rotten apple completely ignored; he wasn’t that desperate.
The same guard came in a few minutes after. He left the tray where it was, instead grabbing his captive roughly to shove his arms behind his back, Ciel holding in a cry as his shoulders were jerked painfully far, and cuffed his wrists together.
Not much gentler than the cuffing, he was hauled out to the police cruiser, thrown in the back. He grunted as his head hit the door. It took him a while to find a way to sit up, not that it was really any better than just laying across the seat that was more comfortable than last night’s bed.
The ride was uneventful, just bumpy with the Germans spitting out curses in their native language that Ciel half understood from the times he’d get bored in the library and study the textbooks, giving him a good bit of knowledge and understanding of most Germanic languages - and those curses the Nazi were spewing were not pretty in the slightest.
But the librarian ignored them and soon enough they were at a train station on the edge of town. Getting out was difficult with the handcuffs, but eventually he managed it
As soon as he stepped out of the automobile, a wave of sorrow swept over him, seemingly unbidden. He twisted to shove his nose against his shoulder as the smell of unwashed bodies drifted stagnantly through the train depot, dreading when the soldiers would force him into the throng of so many people: a good number of them on their knees, praying with tears streaming down their cheeks. Others were more sullen, accepting their upcoming fate with as much dignity as they could muster in their ratty clothing, tattered and frayed. “They’ve just come from a ghetto.” Ciel whispered in horror as he stared at the malnourished cluster, their sunken cheeks , loosely draping clothing, and frail arms giving away how well they had been treated in the Nazis care. Ciel’s hand drifted to his stomach, feeling over the the thin layer of muscle and fat covering his ribs and abdomen. That wasn’t going to be there for much longer. Soon he was going to be nothing more than a skeleton with a bit of flesh stretched over its bones.
“Nothing close to ‘just,’ lad.” one of the Jewish men said when he overheard the words, something of a Scottish accent causing his voice to jump in ways the librarian wasn’t accustomed to. He caught Ciel when the guards pushed him forward after they took off his cuffs, smelling so completely dirty, as if he hadn’t bathed for a month, that Ciel nearly vomited on him as he straightened himself. “Most of us have been here for a week and a half, some smaller groups have come, Jews and gypsies and disabled they rounded up in nearby towns. Which are you then?”
“I’m a Je- Oi!” barked Ciel when a Nazi cut him off with a slap to the back of the head.
“Don’t lie.” he growled and looked at the Jew, probably something he didn’t do on a regular basis as the Jew flinched, but the soldier was making an exception for this occasion. “He’s a queer.”
The man, once kind, stepped away hastily, making a cross with his fingers. “Queer?”
The word seemed to spread like wildfire through the crowd, heads turning to see who had stooped to such low levels as homosexuality, who had confirmed their destiny in hell.
Ciel lowered his head slowly, shame flooding through him. Growing up, it wasn’t something his parents had to address, no known person was gay then, nor had he really been attracted to anyone while still at home. It seemed the population of gays - or known gays - was still as low as it had been growing up as some people looked over at him curiously, almost like they were expecting him to look something other than human. Others drew crosses on their chests when the word was heard and turned away quickly to keep themselves from getting contaminated. Some mothers turned their children harshly when they tried to look at him, covering their eyes. Ciel wet his lips, embarrassed his mouth had ever touched another man’s, ashamed of all the nights of pleasure he and Sebastian shared, nearly letting out a sob as he thought of all the sweet times of just holding one another he had taken part in. He stared at the ground, feeling as small as he looked. What had he been doing? Sin. That was the only answer he could give himself. What he had done was wrong, the worst of any transgression he’d partaken in. He almost choked out an apology as all the men backed away from him like he had a plague that could be spread.
But then a woman stepped forward, dark complexion and golden bangles clinking on her wrists giving her away as a gypsy. “I am Charity.” she said, accent one Ciel couldn’t even recognise - almost musical, as if she could break out singing at any moment. “I, too, have been shunned for being who I am.” he looked up at her through long lashes as she linked their arms together. “It cannot be this way any longer. We are all going to endure the same things, we must band together if we are going to survive them.”
Ciel gave her a soft smile, though his humiliation and disgrace was still written heavily on his features. But at least, maybe there was one decent person in the world.
“Ciel.” he whispered. “My name’s Ciel.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ciel.” Charity smiled, bright and radiant in the gloom of their situation.
“How long have you been here then?” he asked, taking a seat against one of the many stone pillars lining the edge of the depot and leaned back against the cool brick, pulling his jacket tighter around himself to help hide away from the still glaring Jews. So much for the love taught in their synagogues.
Charity looked up, bottom lip between her teeth as she thought. “Four days now. I came right after food was given out for those unfortunate enough to have been for two weeks. But, from what I hear, it would have been better if they hadn’t. A lot got sick from rotten meat, for the others it just didn’t help anything, only made them hungrier. At least it’s rained, made it easy to get decent water.”
“Two weeks?” the librarian breathed out. And ill? No wonder the place stunk. He opened his mouth to ask more of her, but before words could get out a gun fired somewhere in the station, the noise echoing around with cries of surprise from the captives. Ciel jumped, pushing his navy hair away as he looked around for the source. Charity didn’t even flinch.
“There’s four or five of those every day. Someone tries to run, the guards stop them. And yet people still run.”
“Maybe a quick bullet to the head is better than what we’re in for.” Ciel whispered.
Charity agreed with a grim nod. “Still, I could not force myself to do that, knowing that death is the only way it’s going to end.”
“Isn’t that true for where we’re going as well? The only difference is they’re dying while still free. Our death is going to be in captivity.”
The gypsy barked out a bitter laugh. “You call this freedom? Most of these people endured forced separation before this, working day and night.”
“It’s the most liberty they’re going to get, though. Only imprisonment follows for us.” Ciel countered, drawing his knees against his chest.
She sighed and gave a nod. “I wonder if it’s like this in America.”
“It’s something in America right now. They’ve go an ego bigger than their whole continent right now, their economy’s going to hell, not to say the whole world’s isn’t. But the point is, in America they’ve got this false security, fake independence. I think I’d rather be here where I know I’m a prisoner than there, where they think they live in their ‘land of the free’ but in truth it’s no better than here.”
“But they welcome people there, so many leave Europe to go to America for the lack of bondage. We’re not forced to be an Aryan there or die. My people might not be hated in America. Maybe yours neither.”
Ciel cringed at her grammar but figured it was the best she had for someone always travelling in caravans. “Now I know Italians aren’t in high esteem right now, but some great things have come from Italy…” he trailed off slowly when he saw her confusion. “Oh, you’re talking about-”
“Homosexuals, yes.” she nodded with a chuckle. “Not Italians.”
The librarian laughed at himself and looked down with a shrug. “Maybe. But probably not. They’re too busy clinging to their Bibles to think their God might be fake, think their teachings may be wrong. It’s yet another entrapment the American people are doomed to. I doubt they’ll ever change.”
Charity merely shrugged. There was nothing she could say, she was not versed in the ways of the world as he new friend was. “What happened to your boyfriend? Or maybe the man you were with for the night?”
“Boyfriend.” he spat out, voice going cold and hard as steel. “He denounced me as soon as things got rough. Left me to endure this hell alone.”
Charity frowned and put a gentle hand on Ciel’s arm. “I will not leave you, my friend. We will face this together.”
“Thanks.” he sighed out, letting his anger flow out with the breath. “I really cannot see why people hate gays so much. Greece was a heavily homosexual community and look what they’ve done for us.”
Charity tilted her head to the side, her golden earrings tinkling with the movement. “Greece. I am not knowing this word.”
The librarian frowned. “Right, you’ve probably had minimal education.” he looked around. “Well, we’re not going anywhere. I guess I’ll start from what most people assume to be the beginning. Almost all historians agree there was a flood that covered the entire earth…”
Ciel spent the next three hours teaching Charity simple world history, going over the entwining tales of the Middle East, moving to north Africa, then on to Europe. He used a flaked off piece of brick as chalk to draw on the concrete to help her absorb everything, orally as well as visually. Some other prisoners drifted over now and then to ask questions on things they didn’t know, but for the most part they were women, men keeping their distance from Ciel now, and usually ones whose mothers were not there to tell them to stay away from the filthy sinner. But Charity was the only constant listener, seeming highly interested in what Ciel was teaching her.
“...Then in roughly 1440, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to Western civilization, but the Easterners had been using it since the early Eleventh century after Bi Sheng made a mobilized printing press to speed up the printing process they were already using in China.”
“Bi Sheng was Chinaisian?”
“Uh, Chinese, yes. Well, Asian, at least, I’m not entirely sure he was Chinese, might have been Tibetan or something of the like…” he shook his head. “Off topic, sorry. The printing press helped push Europe out of the Dark Ages and into a new age of invention and wonder: the Renaissance-”
Ciel broke off when there was gunshot, this only the second one of the day. Except this one ended with a dull thud instead of a cry of pain, plaster raining down as the bullet was lodged into the roof. “The trains will be here in five minutes!” a voice shouted through the silence that followed the shot, this soldier with a French cadence. “You have two to get yourselves separated! Men on the left, women on the right!” he fired off another round. “ Go ! ”
Charity looked at her friend as chaos broke out over the depot: people scrambling to obey before the Nazis tempers could flare up, mothers trying to get their sobbing sons to the correct side, lovers giving last hopeless goodbyes before they split, trying to stay as near to each other as possible before inevitably being pulled away by the maddened throng.
“You need to go.” Ciel told her when she sat still on the floor as he stood. “Don’t prove them.”
“I promised I wouldn’t leave you alone-”
“Don’t be daft! Just do what they say, don’t make yourself a target!”
“I-” Charity tugged one of the many rings off her fingers and pushed it into his hands. “Give that back to me when we see each other again.” she got out hurriedly before another gypsy grabbed her arm and dragged her off to the right.
Ciel watched her disappear into the crowd before looking down at the ring in his hands, a well crafted silver band with a large blue gem cut into a rectangle on it. He bit his lip as he examined the band that had been on Charity’s short, stubby finger; much too wide for his own long and thin ones. He slipped it on his left thumb, closing his fist to hold it in place since it was too big even for that finger, before he joined the group of men on the right.
His trek to the middle of the cluster was stopped by someone pushing hard on his back, Ciel falling face first onto the ground before he registered what had happened. He grunted and pushed himself up, lip split open once more. He groaned and pressed his sleeve to his mouth. Ciel looked around to find who had pushed him but all the Jews looked guilty of it with hate written so clearly on their faces. To add to it, someone near him shouted, “We don’t want the queer! Put it with the women!”
“Fucking lovely, now I’m a thing …”
“Shut up!” a soldier barked. “You’re going to meet plenty more where you’re going, get used to it now!”
The sullen quiet that had laid heavy on the train station after the groups split was broken in an instant by loud complaints - most of them from the men, a few coming from the women exclaiming they didn’t want Ciel in their group either. Both were silenced when another round was shot into the ceiling.
“I don’t care if you don’t want it with you and the next person to say anything about it gets a bullet to the brain!”
No one spoke up after that, the only noise being two trains rumbling into the station.
Ciel sighed and picked himself up off the ground, clothing still against his mouth as he tried to keep blood from going everywhere. He looked at the ring, trying to ignore the bovine feeling he was getting as they were marched slowly onto the train like livestock. When Charity said, she didn’t stop to think that it might be an if . Ciel knew it was an if ; the two were so unlikely to see each other again, it was barely even that.
Head lowered, Ciel dropped his bloody sleeve. He didn’t look at anyone, ignoring the rough shoves he got from all that stopped only when he escaped to a corner of the train car and sat with his head buried in his knees as he pulled them against his chest. A few men sat near him, only because there was no other place for them to be. They made their unwillingness clear to him, as the globs of spit they put in his hair showed. Ciel did his best to ignore the jeers as the train started to rattle along the track, and it wasn’t hard, too focused as he was on the last ounce of his dignity slipping away to be replaced by silent shuddering sobs.