Chapter 1: By Your Side
Author’s Note 1: It’s been awhile, since I'vewritten any fanfiction. A couple of months ago, I was re-watching Hetalia and then it happened! I wanted to write again and this story is the result!
IMPORTANT! Author’s Note 2: To write this story, I have done a lot of historical research on the time frame. I am convinced that to write a decent story you have to do research. There are no excuses for not doing it, if you have any respect for the characters and the history they represent. I places and words in German and you can find the translation (italics) and further information (numbers) at the end of each chapter. Bear in mind, I’m not an expert of German history and am definitely open to suggestion if something should be corrected. I have consulted encyclopedias, books specifically on Prussia and the DDR/GDR, watched documentaries and read articles.
Italics for translations, emphasis, dates
(Numbers) for more historical information and explanation
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
PART I - By Your Side
12. August 1961
Crafty and Genius.
These were only a couple of word how his older brother had been described at one point or another, but he would never, ever have been called quiet. Until today.
It was a hot day in August 1961. All of the windows had been thrown open despite the oppressing midsummer heat outside. Someone had thought opening them would provide relief and cool down the rooms. What had been a nice gesture made it even worse. The heat penetrated every corner of the building making its occupants suffer just a bit more.
A special delegation of personnel who worked for the leaders of the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) had discarded their jackets. The shirts were opened halfway with ties hanging loosely around their necks. Some tried to work despite the temperatures, while others had given up and relaxed in their chairs trying to find some relief in an ice cold drink. One or two went so far as to put a cold wet tower on their head and wait for their working day to be over. The gears of the administration machine would keep on turning nonetheless in Berlin. None of them realized yet what was happening at the garden party of the government guesthouse in Döllnsee (1). In the great scheme of things they were not important. As government employees they would continue working and not lose any of their privileges.
The people who did matter and had changed history were just next door. The guesthouse had only one spacious room and it was just about enough to cram in the leaders of the DDR, USSR and their national spirit in human form. Unlike the personnel, these people were all dressed in perfectly tailored suits. Nothing was out of place except for their sweaty foreheads as they all stared at the two men standing in the middle of the room.
“As of today, the order has been signed to close the border completely and finish construction of the wall that will separate East Germany from the West.” Announced Walter Ulbricht, the chairman of the DDR State Council. “Gilbert Beilschmidt, the national spirit formerly known as Prussia, you will reside in the DDR under supervision of our comrade Ivan Braginski, the national spirit of the USSR.” Ulbricht was staring at the fair-haired man watching his reaction, but had to raise an eyebrow as nothing came. Gilbert Beilschmidt remained silent and looked on with unreadable eyes. All of them expected some kind of outburst and protests. The Prussian was known to display erratic behaviour. The DDR delegation even placed four security guards in the room as a safety measure. And yet, nothing happened. The albino was standing there calmly watching him. The chairman cleared his throat and quickly continued to read off the official statement: “Ludwig Beilschmidt, you will remain in the West, residing in Bonn the official capital of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland under supervision of the Allied forces. They will be notified at a specific time.”
Ludwig clenched his fists slightly. “Gilb-“
“Bear it, brother.” He interrupted softly unclenching his fingers and let them hang limply. You need to survive this, boy. No matter what. Nevermind what happens to me, he thought to himself and gritted his teeth.
Ludwig glanced sideways to see the other man tremble slightly. It was so faint nobody noticed it, except him. Several centuries together ensured he would notice the slightest change in this man’s behaviour.
“It’s hard to breath-.” Prussia only managed to get out before he fell to his knees and started coughing up blood. He managed to break the fall by falling on his hands, but the red liquid splashed across the marble floor in front of him. Just when his battle wounds finally started to heal they were being ripped open again. He could more or less bear the pain of a bullet wound, gashes, cuts and bruises. It was a completely different pain to feel your heart seize up.
The younger brother was immediately kneeling by his side, shouting to get a doctor.
Ivan was the first to act and knelt next to them as well, checking for Prussia’s pulse. By just looking at the man’s pale face he understood this was a different kind of pain. The humans would be unable to help. “A human doctor won’t be much of help to him.” he said softly.
“Then what will?” Ludwig demanded, looking desperately at the tall Russian. During the war, his older brother had taken all of the hits from the USSR’s attack. The Russian army had been an unforgiving and menacing force freeing and defending its regions. In Ludwig’s personal opinion it was more than justified after what the leader of the Third Reich had done to Russia. The war had been 20 years ago now, but Gilbert had only started to heal from it and now this. The DDR, the vassal state of the Kremlin was at a breaking point and might lead the world with its actions to a possible World War Three between the US and the USSR. At this point his brother might die.
The national spirit of the USSR ignored the younger German and stood up, turning his attention to the human leaders in the room. “Gentlemen, the decision has been made, how the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and the USSR will proceed. I ask you to vacate the room. The matter of the national spirits of each country should be dealt with between ourselves.” He sensed and understood the curiosity of the human leaders to see what would happen to Prussia. However, he had not only an obligation to his own country, but also to his fellow nations’ spirits. Prussia, later a part of the Third Reich had invaded his lands several times, but it were the human leaders who had done it. Their national spirit had the option to try influence its leader’s decisions, but always had to bear the consequences. No exceptions existed to that rule. For this reason the relationship between spirits were strictly dealt with care and without human presence. Ivan held no grudge for neither Gilbert Beilschmidt nor his younger brother. His own existence was far too old and twisted to make such a pointless distinction between good and evil. There was no such pure duality in their world.
Understanding that this was not their business, Premier of the USSR Khrushchev vacated his seat and headed for the door. His delegation followed quickly after him and lastly the leaders of the DDR.
Once the room was empty, Ivan quickly knelt down again cradling Gilbert’s head with both hands. “For goodness sake, Gilbert you have to let go.” He said softly to the man. “If you keep holding on, it will destroy you.”
Gilbert managed only a cough in reply and the blood stained Ivan’s face and a part of his white dress shirt. The Russian paid no attention to it and continued. “Don’t make the same mistake as the Holy Roman Empire...” He never had forgotten how the boy had suffered a tragic death. It was in fact a slow process of decay for more than hundred years: the worst kind of death for them. Prussia had been declining since 1918 and it was 1961 now. “It’s 43 years now…you have to stop.”
Ludwig let his brother lean against his chest and listened to the Russian. “What do you mean?” He frowned, not understanding what was being said.
Ivan glanced over to him and cocked his head to the side. “You don’t know?”
Gilbert grabbed Ivan’s hand squeezing it lightly. “I’ve…never told’im.”
The answer made the Russian sigh heavily. “You are insane…” He studied Gilbert’s pale face noting his ruby coloured eyes were too bright to be normal. Placing one hand on his forehead confirmed his suspicions. The man had a fever and it was quite high. “Alright, I’ll keep it short. Humans make history and we change with it. There are certain key moments for us, when we must change to survive. I started my existence as a small kingdom of pagan tribes, became an empire and almost got killed during the Bolshevik revolution and had to change again into a collective republic of different countries. Each time I had to let go of my past duties. We cannot let ourselves get trapped by memories long gone. If we do…” Ivan watched as the Prussian was leaning slightly forward to have the hand cover his forehead completely. Having the legendary General Winter on his side gave the Russian perpetually cool hands. He did not like the cold, but on this occasion it came in quite handy. “If we do not change with the times, we start to lose our existence in a very painful way, as you can see. Gilbert has been holding on to his existence as the kingdom of Prussia, although the dissolution happened already in 1918.(2) You have to let go. Become East Germany, while your brother will be the West.”
“If I do, the Wall will…we won’t be seeing each other for god knows how long.” Gilbert gritted his teeth sitting up properly. “I’ll have to follow your Kremlin bosses.” This could not get any worse, but then again it could. Dying was always the worst outcome.
“Is the option of dying and leaving your only family all alone more appealing to you?” Ivan could be level-headed and patient, but only to a certain degree. At this moment both of those qualities start to wear thin. “Sometimes we do, what we have to do in order to survive. Given your history, you know that better than others.”
He could not abandon his brother. “I know…”
13. August 1961
Exactly at midnight, just like clockwork construction trucks started rolling on and off with blocks of concrete. Both the workers and machines were protected by army and police from each side of the wall.
Gilbert stood at the last open space of the wall clenching his fists from time to time. “Brother…” he couldn’t get any more out than that. The tears in his eyes spoke for him.
On the other side Ludwig was looking back at him. Seeing his brother was on the verge of breaking down he took a step forward wanting to cross. America grabbed his arm preventing him to go. “Ludw-“
“Fuck you.” The taller man cut him off and turned to the Allied force. “I’ve never given you permission to call me by that name,” he said narrowing his eyes and yanked his arm free. America had such a tight grip on him that it hurt. For a second he thought this would lead to a dislocated shoulder, but deep down he was beyond caring. “To you I am Germany.”
He took one huge step forward and held out his hand as far as he could through the opening. If even going to his brother one last time was not possible then at least reaching out would have to do. Ludwig refused to part ways without even holding his brother’s hand.
Gilbert was watching the exchange with wide eyes. His younger brother was not exactly known for using crude words and having sudden emotional outburst in public. It was rare. So rare in fact, Gilbert could count on one hand how often it had happened. When something like this occurred, then that was really saying something about his mental state.
’I’ve never given you permission to call me by that name. To you I am Germany.’
As he heard Ludwig’ statements Prussia raised his head high and grinned, whipping away the tears quickly.
Their former leaders were defeated.
Their country lay in ruins.
People were dead.
The scars they had because of it would take years to heal, if ever.
Other nations were deciding their fate. One part would belong to the West and the other to the East separated by a wall of concrete, barbed wire, landmines, dogs and automatic gun installations.
Despite all that, both of them continued to live. Ludwig was the best example, that all of it did not break his perseverance and will. As the older brother, he could not show the other his crying face. Not now. Gilbert was in fact more than proud of him for saying these two sentences. It was everything Gilbert had hoped for Ludwig, because he would carry a great burden on his own in the decades to come. Just as his little brother and even more, he had to be strong.
Deep down all the nation spirits were influenced by the population and its leaders of each country. They rarely had the option of overruling the majority of their nation. Former Prussia was in that regard no exception, but his reasons ran even deeper. As Gilbert, his destiny was entwined with his younger brother. He may have been an artificial state created out of war. He also may have been pulled into WWII and participated in it. In hindsight, you always regret some of the decisions one’s nation had taken. However, he could not and would not let Ludwig think he was alone. If Germany was at war, then former Prussia would stand by his side on the front-line.
Ivan was standing next to him and just gave him a light push forward. “Go.” This was the last time the brothers would be able to talk like family. He was witnessing yet another tragic historical moment of a country being divided. Letting Gilbert say goodbye to his other half was done by Ivan, not the USSR.
Gilbert grinned at him before leaping forward and landing right on the borderline. “I’m proud of you,” he whispered as Ludwig pulled him into a tight hug, cradling his head against his chest. “Ich wünsche dir alles Glück der Welt, Ludwig.” His younger brother had become so tall and actually needed to lean down to hold him. (“I wish you all the best”)
“Don’t…” Ludwig replied holding him even tighter. When had his big brother become so much smaller? “Don’t say goodbye.”
Gilbert gently pushed him away. “I’m not. Never.” He needed to see his brother’s face for what was about to be said. “You are a part of me. Don’t ever forget that, you hear?”
His older brother had put both hands on each side of his face and pulled him down so they would be on eye level. Ludwig blinked and nodded his head quickly in agreement. Gilbert had dark eye bags from lack of sleep and worry. The ruby red eyes were in pain too, both mentally and physically. After breaking down the day before he was exhausted beyond what humans would be able to bear. At the same time his eyes were smiling. Pupils wide which only manifested when they were seeing somebody he loved. Despite the anguish, Gilbert’s eyes had that glint, which was practically saying: I will not back down.
“I don’t know how long this will be, but I will come back to you. In the meantime, help our people. After all, we are here because of the people. We are the first servants of the state. (3) Never forget that.” He leaned up and gently placed his lips to Ludwig’s forehead. “I, Prussia am the past. You are the future. May your reign be longer than mine, Ludwig Beilschmidt.” Gilbert closed his eyes and leaned their foreheads together. “I’ll be watching you as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and one day…” his voice broke and he took a deep breath clutching at his chest. “One day…” His chest was burning, right where his heart was. It felt like a knife was slowly being dragged over the skin in an excruciatingly slow manner. Carving every second of this moment into his skin as a lasting memory. He refused to give in to the pain and looked up catching Ludwig’s heartbroken eyes again. “I swear, we will see each other again.”
Ludwig started to tremble and grabbed onto Gilbert to make it stop. His heart hurt. It was like a mirror, which had gotten a hit so hard it developed cracks and started to break. Bit by bit. He witnessed Gilbert kiss people’s foreheads before. It was performed right before a battle, which the national spirit of Prussia was not able to attend in person. This gesture was only done to those he had respected greatly and had been fond of. These people went to battle and rarely came back. Ludwig had understood only later that this gesture was Gilbert’s way of saying ‘I’m proud of you, stay save and come back’. If these special people did not return, his older brother looked for the first opportunity to ride out and look for them himself. The man did find them, but not in the state he had hoped for.
Stay save and come back.
No matter how long this Wall would stand and what challenges he was about to face on his own, he was going to wait for his brother. “I, Ludwig Beilschmidt, am the Bundesrepubliek Deutsch-” he said slowly and stopped as the realization hit him even harder. They were literally dividing up the country, their hearts and souls.
Gilbert saw his brother’s hesitation and pressed their hands together and bound them in a brotherly handshake. It was a silly thing to do, but it had saved them so often, when times had gotten tough. This was their symbolic oath that would last forever. “Say it, brother.”
The blonde man tightened his grip in the handshake and then relaxed his hand while letting out a sigh to calm himself. If that was even possible. Here he was almost renouncing his own brother. Separating both of them for god knew how long. “I, Ludwig Beilschmidt, am the national spirit of the new Bundesrepubliek Deutschland.” Since he had also a hold of the now DDR, he pulled him closer and placed a kiss on his forehead as well. “Stay save, brother…come back to me.”
Gilbert stared into his face, surprised that the other knew exactly what the gesture meant and he even said it out loud. “You know…”
He smiled, but his eyes could not. “You are the East. I am West. But together we are one Germany.” They were separated by a wall and overseen by different nations, but Ludwig personally hoped that one day all of the parts would come together again. Until then he would bear the painful scar over his heart. It was bleeding now, trickling down his chest and staining his clothes. He accepted the pain as a sign of being alive. Alive meant there was hope.
Gilbert squeezed his chest again with the free hand and looked at it with a small smile when he saw the bloodstains. How ironic that his life was always painted in blood. It had started with blood and would probably end that way. “Alright! You better do your best! Don’t you dare embarrass your big brother!” He stood straight and held his iron cross out to him. “Keep it safe for me...”
Ludwig hesitated for a moment. Their twin iron crosses were one of a kind and held a very special meaning to both of them. “Why would y-“
“I will come back to you.” Gilbert emphasized again, grabbing his hand and pressed the item in Ludwig’s hand. He did not want to explain with others present and just hoped his brother would understand.
The Iron Cross was the symbol of the Teutonic Order of Knights, an elite force of noble men who had only answered to the Holy Roman Empire. His brother had started his very existence with that order. Without them invading pagan Prussia, thus forcefully Christianizing it and put it on the world map as a region, Gilbert Beilschmidt would not exist. If Gilbert were not here, Ludwig himself might have not existed the way he was now. The Teutonic Knights with their Iron Cross were their beginning. Gilbert was asking him to keep their origins save, no matter how morally questionable they were. (4)
“I’m waiting for you.” Ludwig nodded and held the cross to his chest.
“Comrade Beilschmidt,” Ivan Braginski, the national spirit of the USSR cleared his throat as a sign that it was time to leave.
“Da,” the albino called in acknowledgement, but looked past his brother for a second to America. He glared at him as a warning to not mess around with West Germany for there would be consequences. The war had not been won by America alone and the biggest sacrificed had not been on their side, but the USSR. Gilbert knew what his responsibilities and duties were now. He might not like them and being a vassal state was a concept he needed to get used to, but he would fulfill his duties nonetheless. If necessary, he as the DDR, would remind the Allies that the world had finally a chance at peace. The price for it was the death of 26.6 million on the USSR side alone and the division of his country. (5)
Gilbert turned back to his brother again. “I love you, West.” he said and hugged him tightly for the last time.
“Ja…” Ludwig replied as he reluctantly accepted his new role. Being a capitalist country meant his own brother was the enemy now. “Forgive me…” It was hard to look at him and Ludwig buried his head in his brother’s shoulder.
He brushed gently trough the golden hair and looked up at the night sky with a sigh. They had never been apart for longer than three months at a time. This time would probably be decades, if not more. They would see the same stars, breathe the same air, but be divided by walls, politics and the schemes of their human leaders. Gilbert only hoped the future politics of the DDR would not make his brother suffer. He was unaware that he himself was going to suffer the most and come close to death. “Mein Lieber…you have to let go.” He said gently, patting his head as if he were a child. Compared to him Ludwig actually was.
“I know…” he mumbled into his older brother’s shoulder and then stood straight again towering over him with a forlorn expression on his face.
“13th August 1961.” (6) Former Prussia said loudly and lifted his hand as if in a greeting. “Never forget.”
“Never.” West caught the hand in mid-air and held it for a second before letting go reluctantly.
Gilbert did his best to smile for his baby brother and took one step back to let the workers continue with sealing the wall. The last thing he wanted to show him was a pathetic crying face. His title might change, but he was and would always be the great Prussia. The small backwater kingdom that had overthrown kings, queens and eventually changed all of Europe.
Ludwig willed himself to smile back. It was probably just a forced grin on his part, but that was the best he could do given the circumstances. He would not disappoint his older brother. If it was in his power, he would create the right circumstances and influence the nation so that both of them could exist at the same time. He tightened his grip on the Iron Cross until it dug into his skin and made a vow to himself. Whatever happened, he would be prepared to give up many things and make compromises, but Ludwig would never give up on the reunion with his brother.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your opinion on this story!
See you in PART II!
• DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) is the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in English that existed from 1949 – 1990 during the ‘Cold War’ period as a socialist state in central Europe. It was a vassal state of the USSR after WWII. The capital and seat of power were located in East Berlin. The DDR included the following states: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, East
Berlin, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen.
• Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BND) was West Germany with its capital in Bonn (state of Nordrhein-Westfalen). It was under control of the Allies (France, UK and US). The seat of the Chancellor of West Germany and the seat of power of the DDR were 598 km away from each other.
• ‚Ich wünsche dir alles Glück der Welt‘ is the direct quote from the song ‚An deiner Seite‘ by Unheilig. I could have directly translated: ‘I wish you all the luck in the world’, but that would be a literal translation into English. I do not like those. So, I looked for one which would be close to native English and ended up with ‘I wish you all the best’.
• Mein Lieber can be translated as ‘my dear’ more or less. It is hardly used anymore and usually only in written language e.g. a letter. It can also be used to reprimand someone. However, the use was more common in the 17th, 18th and probably still in the 19th century by both men and women. Since the brothers lived through the centuries mentioned above, it can work. Especially, in Ludwig’s case because he came into existence in the 18th century. Mein Lieber here is again symbolic for their close relationship. Gilbert had been a father figure and a brother for him.
(1) Döllnsee (Templin, near Berlin, state of Brandenburg): Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was the First Secretary and later the Premier of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1954-64). So, basically the president of the Party. In this scene, I am describing the actual facts. The Wall that separated the East from West Germany had not been spontaneously decided. Walter Ulbricht, the key figure of the GDR was urging Khrushchev to build a wall since January 1961, but the leader of the Communist Party declined. The reason was that West Berlin was located in the DDR and he wanted the whole city. The US refused and were secretly stocking up on arms for a possible war. Parts of the Wall were already there in several regions of the country and were secured. West Berlin was the last part that stood still open. Once Khrushchev heard that the US were not giving up the western part of the city and were armed, he agreed with Ulbricht’s proposal. The last part of the Wall was build overnight and completed on Sunday 13th 1961 at 6 am. The date was not chosen randomly. The Allies were aware that the Wall would be closed, but they had not anticipated that it would be done on a Sunday in a matter of hours. Later, JFK actually did admit that having the Wall ensured a sort of fragile stability between the two major nations.
(2) Gilbert calls himself the Great Prussia, a reference to its status as a kingdom, when it was at the height of its power. The Kingdom of Prussia ended in 1918 and became a republic until 1933 before becoming a part of the Third Reich. He knows that it does not exist anymore, but has difficulties of truly letting go.
(3) Reference to a quote from Frederick the Great or Old Fritz. His motto was ‘I am the first servant of the state’. I believe Gilbert had a close bond and a lot of respect for him. It would not be a surprise if he took over some traits which stayed with him even after Frederick’s death.
(4) The full name of the order was: The Order of Brothers of the German House of St. Mary of Jerusalem and was founded in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order was called upon the pope of the Holy Roman Empire to subjugate the regions of Prussia. The whole European continent needed to be Christianized so the Empire would gain more power. The region of Prussia was inhabited by pagans, who vehemently refused to become Christians and were constantly fighting. The Teutonic Knights were the elite of experienced noblemen, who were also the most ruthless of all. Pagan tribes, who refused to comply were cut down and their villages pillaged. That is the reason I hint at the morally questionable origins of the Order.
(5) I am stating pure facts here. No other nation had suffered and sacrificed so much as the USSR did during the war. Because they defended their regions and freed other countries to the last man, the war could even be won. The US came when the war had actually already been decided.
(6) Gilbert is referring to the official date when the last part of the Wall between West and East Berlin was erected overnight.
Chapter 2: Unforgiven Comrade
“It is commendable how you want to protect your brother. I really do admire that, but do you think this motivation will be enough to survive long-term?”
United We Stand
PART II – Unforgiven Comrade
„So, where to, oh Genosse?“ Came the cocky question after a moment of silence.
Renouncing his country’s name did not mean he immediately changed his personality traits and attitude. He even would have walked next to the Russian or even in front. These were still his lands, defeated nation or not. Protecting them and his people would always be his priority. After all, audacity and wit is what had gotten him into the history books in the first place. Discarding these now would mean abandoning himself and this course of action was out of the question. Old Fritz would definitely be turning in his grave should such a thing happen.
"Your new home, Gilbert.” The Russian replied like it was common sense.
Home? He wondered. Where was his home now? Did Russia mean Moscow? That thought made him uneasy. Moscow would mean leaving Germany altogether. Ludwig would reside in Bonn from now on. That was already a distance of roughly 500 km. Gilbert stopped walking and had to swallow a couple of times. Moscow was…2000 km away. “Where is home?” he asked hoping against hope it was not the capital of Russia.
Ivan quickly caught on the uncertainty in his voice and smiled lightly. The man was afraid of his answer. Gilbert was known to be feisty and outspoken, but the recent wars and the separation with his brother had taken its toll even on this warring nation. Ivan could be cruel and say he was going to be shipped off to Mother Russia. “Where would you like it to be?” He asked instead, deciding to take a different approach.
“Like I get to choose…”
“You are the GDR, Gilbert. You’re place is rightfully in East Berlin at the Palast der Republik, don’t you think?” The smile staid plastered on his face as he watched Gilbert’s eyes grow wide.
“East Berlin…” He had expected the answer to be Moscow. This Russian surprised him again and it was frustrating. Why was he being nice? Gilbert had fully expected to be thrown in prison somewhere in Russia and never see the light of day. “I…can stay…” he whispered to himself. The whole situation was just too much for him to process. The country was divided. Half of his people had run away. He got renamed. Their whole way of life was about to change into a different system. He barely escaped death and it was still not entirely clear if he would even survive. Ludwig was gone… At the last thought his eyes misted over and he put his hand over his mouth to silence the sobs that threatened to get out.
Surprisingly, Ivan seemed to care enough and wrapped one arm around him. Gilbert protested at first trying to pushing this huge guy away. It was out of embarrassment and disappointment with himself that he couldn’t control his emotions in front of the USSR. The Russian had only tightened his hold. His huge coat and the cool air engulfed Gilbert like a cocoon. Ivan did not say a single world. There was no need. He understood. That huge communist bastard understood too well. Gilbert realized only now he needed to get the pain out somehow or he would drown in it. In fact he already was drowning, had been since they were losing the war. Losing his brother to the Wall was ultimately the last drop. If the decision had not come to close off the GDR completely, he would be dead. His people had been leaving the country, looking for a better life in the West. Gilbert did not blame them and hoped those who managed to escape had a good life. The people did not know leaving the GDR would eventually result in his death.
The 1.393 km of concrete guaranteed his survival for decades to come. Without the intervention of the Kremlin, his brother would witness him fading away. Gilbert pressed his head against Ivan’s chest and screamed. He had been given a chance to live by a former enemy. How was he supposed to take this? If there was a good answer, it did not come to him. He made a fist and punched Ivan’s chest, but it lacked any force. He felt so frustrated at his own helplessness and a strange form of gratefulness toward this unpredictable guy. Thanks to him, he might see his brother again someday. Gilbert hated to be indebted to someone. “What am I supposed to do?!” he shouted, desperation clear in his voice as his legs started to give out from under him. His head was spinning again and just like the day before he could barely breathe. Something was happening again to the population and he felt the effects. They probably discovered the complete lock-down of the country…Family, friends and colleagues were separated and would not see each other again.
“You’re alive, that’s all that should matter for now.” Ivan said smiling lightly and lowered him to the ground. His first priority was to keep him alive and make him strong enough again to stand against capitalist powers. If the US were not willing to hand over all of Berlin, which should be rightfully USSR’s, then his nation would continue to be the counter measure to American imperialistic regime. The GDR would be the state to hold the line. Russia had already more than enough submissive states like Lithuania. Ivan needed a couple of warring states. Former Prussia filled into that category perfectly.
“If you planned on finding my weakness…here you have it. It’s my brother. It had always been him.”
The tall Russian tilted his head to the side at the response and sighed. “I was aware of that already. Just watching you two interact made that clear. I don’t need to do something in a roundabout or sneaky way and eventually back stab someone. That is something America does.” he commented and sat down on the ground opposite of the German. “Your and your brother’s actions resulted in a new power shift. You’ve been made into a knight for the game of chess between my nation and the US. My leaders are not happy to take in a former enemy. Luckily, the matter of nation’s spirits lies not within their jurisdiction, but mine. You are now part of the USSR. A part of me and I will protect you. Like I protect all of my friends.”
“Friends?” Gilbert said between coughs and turned his head away to spit out blood. “I’m the spoils of war.”
“That you are, but you have accepted being the German Democratic Republic, a communist state, da?” Ivan said back and held out his hand to him. “Knowing our past history we will have disagreements on politics, but as Ivan I would like you to be my comrade, Gilbert.”
He frowned at the distinction the man made. They would have conflicts as states, but Gilbert was also offered an olive branch to have a personal connection to the Russian. Once again there was only one option available: move forward and push on. And push on he would. He looked over his half-restored city, the ugly grey concrete wall and back to Ivan’s outstretched hand. “I’ll give you one hell of a time, comrade Braginski,” he said with a smirk accepting the gesture. Russia and the USSR were strong allies and he as the GDR needed them to survive and keep the promise to his brother: Stay save and come back to me.
Ivan had a matching smirk on his face. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, comrade Beilschmidt. We are both the USSR, we do not back down.” Ivan shook his hand and then suddenly pulled him closer. “Also, you will need to atone for what you did to my ‘children’. Do not think for a second that I’ve forgotten how your beloved Führer broke the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1941 and then dared to invade my lands (1). Your little plan of destroying Stalingrad was genocide, dear Gilbert,” he said in a low voice still with a small grin on his face.
Gilbert had to swallow hard as he was forced to look into the violet eyes. They were a couple of shades darker and had a hard look mixed in with pure murderous intend. “What…are you going to do?”
Ivan brushed through Gilbert’s silver hair with his other hand. “You’ll pay for it by being your younger brother’s worst enemy.” The grin disappeared at the explanation. “After all, you know him best, da? Especially now, that you’ll be integrated into the socialist system. Every action you do will be for the state of USSR. Deviate from it and your brother will get acquainted with the Stasi (2) and that, Genosse Beilschmidt will be you. Should it come to that, I will make you personally have a ‘talk’ with Ludwig or your future colleagues will.”
“Don’t you dare t-“ Gilbert had been resigning himself to the consequences of the war. That was the reason he had been so calm during the official meeting at Döllnsee yesterday. Even before the gathering was announced he had requested and pleaded for a private meeting with Ivan and the leader of the USSR party. Ludwig had been playing the crucial role during the war than Gilbert and was supposed to be handed over to the Russian, but he managed to convince them they were better off having him become the GDR. Gilbert had experienced first-hand, what toll the whole war was taking on his younger brother. They may not have been part of every operation conducted during the war, but they felt all the effects and aftermath of them mentally as well as physically. It was practically an everyday occurrence to see Ludwig collapse from sheer exhaustion or some sort pain. Gilbert hated their leader for that and had decided to participate in Operation Valkyrie (3). It had ended in the death of brave men. Through their actions they had gained some of their dignity back, but paid a horrible price. Gilbert did not want his brother go through any more pain and believed the option of sending him to the lesser of two evils was the best solution at the moment. He had not considered the fact that he himself could be used as a weapon in the upcoming cold relations between the USSR and USA. “Just…leave him out of this.”
“What I will be doing depends entirely on you. Whatever you may think, I’m not a savage to stoop as low as your fascist friends. There are rules of international law now to which I will abide. But to a certain degree. Although, the state needs followers like Lithuania, it also has a need of warring nations like you. You were created through conflict and the USSR needs a couple of individuals who do not choose the easy way out,” he explained to him letting go and stood up. “It is commendable how you want to protect your brother. I really do admire that, but do you think this motivation will be enough to survive long-term?”
“That is none of your business,” Gilbert bit back and stood facing the Russian head on. If you have been driven into a corner, face your enemy head on, he said to himself remembering his lessons with the Teutonic Order. The Russian had already seen too much and Gilbert would rather get a beating than break down again in front of this guy. He was far from being emotionally stable, but his brother and country came first. “I agreed to be the GDR for as long as it is necessary and I will perform my duties as national spirit of that state. I swear on it with my own life. So, stay away from my brother.”
Ivan smiled again and nodded. “I will remember that and remind you of this, should you fail.”
See you in PART III!
I would love to hear what you think and if it is worth to continue posting.
(1) Ivan referrers to:
- The Nazi-Soviet Pact or better known as the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact. It had been an agreement of neutrality signed between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union Moscow on 23 August 1939. The pact provided a written guarantee that each party would not ally itself to, provide aid and be an enemy to the other. The pact ended, when Operation Barbarossa was launched on 1941 by the Third Reich
- The Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943) would follow later with German troops fighting to control the city. It is considered the bloodiest and largest battle in warfare history. An estimated 2.2 million personnel and 1.7–2 million were wounded, killed or captured.
(2) Stasi is the abbreviation for Staatssicherheit or State Security Service. It was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was described to be the most effective repressive intelligence service and secret police force. There will be more information about it in future chapters.
(3) Operation Valkyrie is now associated with the plot to assassinate Hitler. On 20 July 1944 Claus von Stauffenberg and other co-conspirators executed the plan to kill Hitler in his headquarters called the Wolf’s Lair (near Rastenburg, East Prussia). Von Stauffenberg planted an explosive disguised as a briefcase in the headquarters. Their intention was to wrest control from the exiting power and make peace with the Allied Forces. This endeavor was supported by the German Resistance (Yes, there was one! Shame on you, if you thought there wasn’t). The plan failed and resulted in 7,000 people being arrested by the Gestapo, of whom 4,980 were executed.
* Genosse: comrade
* Palast der Republik was the official seat of power of The German Democratic Republi (GDR) in East Berlin.
Chapter 3: Winterland
His sense of duty dictated that he had to be there among the soldiers on the front-line. Sitting around in a cozy room behind a desk was not an option.
Divided We Fall
PART III – Winterland
18 December 1967
Freshly fallen show was always clean, giving off a glow of something pure, even innocent. Of course the frozen water itself was neither good nor evil. It was merely a meteorological phenomenon during winter times. And yet, it had something magical.
It was cold and devoid of any feeling, which humans could feel.
At this very moment, it was the only thing he was able to experience.
His feet had once again carried him to the large gates of the half-demolished Berliner Dom. A part of the church which the city had managed to reconstruct was open even this late in the evening. After all it was close to Christmas. He stopped in front of the gate and closed his eyes for a moment recalling an old memory when the church had been newly constructed. Wilhelm II, the last king of Prussia had taken him to the grand opening of the wings that were added to it. At the time Gilbert was already past caring for religion. Leading such a long existence had made one re-evaluate many thing, but he appreciated the architectural and artistic feats humans were able to achieve. Churches were the physical evidence of that. His dear friend and mentor Frederick II had instilled a fondness of arts in him.
He opened his eyes again when a voice politely asked: “Would you like to come inside? It’s warm.” It was one of the priests standing at the bottom of the stairs.
Glancing up at the arch of the church he mulled over the idea of going in for a short while to warm up his frozen hands. In a hurry to get on time for guarding duty he had forgotten his winter gloves at home. It was far too late now to retrieve them. “If it isn’t too much trouble.” He replied politely with a nod.
“Not at all,” the priest replied immediately standing aside and held one hand out towards the church as a gesture of invitation. “The house of Our Lord is open to everybody.”
Gilbert cared very little about deities of any kind. Instead he was grateful for the man’s genuine hospitality and followed inside.
As soon as the doors opened he heard gentle and soothing sounds of a male choir chanting in Latin. Veni Creator Spiritus (1), he thought picking up a couple of lines and realized this was a Gregorian monks’ chant. The choir solemnly consisting of men reminded him of his days with the Teutonic Order. The warrior monks had taught him many chants, which were similar, if not identical to the Knights Templar. Over the centuries, he had forgotten many of them, but Salve Regina (2) he still knew by heart. A centennial later he had been at a dark time in his long life and decided to hide away from the world. Spending ten years at a monastery with Gregorian monks and their simple yet strictly regulated life devoted to silence, praying, chanting and manual work to be self-sufficient had saved him at some point. The chanting of Veni Creator Spiritus in this church pulled him right back to that time. Gilbert closed his eyes and for a moment joined in the chanting. “Accende lumen sensibus…” (3) He sung softly and then abruptly stopped when he caught himself actually saying the words out loud. “Are they practicing for a sermon?” He quickly asked clearing his throat.
The priest raised an eyebrow curiously hearing the perfectly sung hymn. There were only a couple of people around, who knew the words, but it was rare to find someone who could pronounce them properly. It was even rarer to meet a young person, outside the church, who chanted it perfectly. And here appeared a border guard fulfilling all the requirements. “Oh no,” the priest replied with a small grin. “This is just for practice.” Although, this young man had peaked his interest, he did not ask anything. It was not his place to pry, but he was more than willing to listen to the soldier should he wish to talk. “Please take a seat wherever you like. I do have to say, though, the benches in the middle are the warmest. If you need anything do not hesitate to ask.”
Gilbert did catch the curious look before it disappeared just as swiftly as it came. “Thank you...” he replied and headed for the benches in the middle. The priest had been right about the warmth, he concluded. The warm air seemed to rise up from the floor, coiling gently around his legs before rising up towards the ceiling and slowly dispersing.
The choir kept on chanting, despite some members glancing his way. They were probably contemplating the possible implications of having a man enter the church in the uniform of the GDR border guard. The population called them ‘Grenzer’ and this name was linked to the Secret State Police better known as the Staatssicherheit or Stasi (4). It was true for some of them, but not all. The Grenzer had the task to patrol, secure and guard the Wall, which separated Eastern Germany from its Western part.
Gilbert was not a religious man, but he liked the atmosphere of a Baroque style church. They were warm, full of light, beautiful art and lifted his spirit. He had always disliked the churches build in the Gothic style. That particular architecture was too dark, smelled of mold and had an oppressing feel to it. At the moment he needed some of the warmth and light for he felt hollow and the scar over his heart was bleeding again. He was one of the guards keeping watch of the Wall on the Eastern Side of Berlin and he had witnessed yet another person trying to get over that concrete monster.
It had been a man, desperate enough to leave everything behind in the East and risk his own life. His age was unknown and it did not matter. The only fact of importance was that his people were risking their life to escape the German Democratic Republic. This man had been caught by the automatic machine guns and bled to death not far from the mine field. (5) Tomorrow he would get his file on his desk in the headquarters of the Statsi to analyse and give a report to the temporary head of the organisation: Erich Mielke. That man was a devotee to the regime and in love with his own ego. Being around him was like treating on quicksand. The national spirit of the GDR had to force himself to report in which manner the people died and give suggestions how to improve the Walls's security. The crimes ranged from sheer desperation in some cases to publishing works, which did not comply with the government.
Gilbert looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Parts of the dome representing the sky of heaven with archangels guarding it were partly scorched by fire. The previous magnificence and meticulous artwork of the artists was still visible despite the damage. Closing his eyes he recalled how it looked like 60 years ago, when he visited the completed church with Ludwig. He had just been standing there marveling at the sun streaming through the windows and engulfing the walls and paintings in a warm glow. It had been an ingenious trick by the architects to produce the illusion of being on some higher plane of existence. His younger brother had bothered to look up the schematics of the building and explained to him in detail, how the walls where supported and other technicalities. Gilbert had just smiled and listened to him. He did not care about the exact application of the formula for the Golden ratio in architecture, but hearing Ludwig talk passionately about it put a smile on his face. Remembering this random memory made him smile again. It was these particular moments that saved him sometimes and just seven simple words: Stay save and-
“Sir, sorry to disturb you.” A polite voice cut in pulling him back to the present.
“Y-Yes?” he asked blinking a couple of times to clear his vision. It was the priest who had led him into the church.
“You fell asleep and it’s past midnight...”
“Midnight?” His guarding shift started at 10 pm. “Oh fu-“ he stopped himself remembering where exactly he was. “I have to go! Thank you, Father!” he shouted while running towards the exit.
The priest watched him run out of the church and smiled lightly. “Good luck, boy.” The man commented unaware who this young looking man really was.
Gilbert sprinted out of the church and had to run through four streets to reach his post at the Wall. The snow on the streets did not make it easy to run as fast as he would have liked, but it was still better to make an effort and show up at the guarding tower. As he was one of the higher officials and an attaché to the government he would not face any consequences. The only reason he was concerned to get to his post were his fellow soldiers. His sense of duty dictated that he had to be there among them on the front-line. Sitting around in a cozy room behind a desk was not an option. He had the most famous king of Prussia to thank for that. Frederick II had included him in every plan and taken him to every battle. An army was only as good as its soldiers. The king had taught him it was an obligation and duty of the commander to know their strengths and weaknesses. When times were hard it was imperative to instill hope and confidence in them. Gilbert was running to his fellow guards because he knew how harsh it was to stand guard or walk along the border in such inhospitable weather. This task was even made harder with the knowledge of someone trying to escape and as a soldier you were obliged to neutralize them. On top of that every soldier had someone on the other side of the Wall. Deep down they understood the system was wrong.
He reached the post in no less than 20 minutes and leaned on the nearby barrier to catch his breath. His second reason to be here at this particular post every night without fail was because this position was the closest to the Western border. On the other side were rows of houses and apartments. It was also this very spot where he had said his goodbyes to Ludwig.
“Herr Beilschmidt, Sir. Are you alright?” One of the guards rushed over to him with a concerned expression.
Patting the young guard on his shoulder the Prussian breathed deeply. “I’m alright, Hans. I was held up...and am a bit late for duty. Sorry about that...”
Another soldier approached them lowering his scarf from his face to talk and gave Gilbert a brotherly hug. “That’s alright, Sir. We’re always glad, if you come. No matter the time.”
Still out of breath he gladly returned the hug. “All quiet around here?” They trusted him and had formed a sort of loyalty over the years, but it had not always been that way. Five years ago, when Gilbert first came to the regimen the welcome had been chilly to say the least. He blamed it all on the fact that the higher-ups of the military brass had insisted on doing the introductions. Gilbert wanted to enlist as a normal soldier, but met with opposition from the head of the Stasi, Erich Mielke. In the end it took him a full year to convince his fellow soldiers that his appearance was not to spy or rat them out to the secret police.
The man named ‘Hans’ nodded. “Yes, sir. Reinhart and Wulf are patrolling. You can go in, if you want.”
“Good!” He exhaled stretching his limbs a bit and headed over to the entrance of watchtower number 17. “And you should really stop calling me ‘sir’.” Gilbert added, squeezing the young man’s shoulder lightly. Hans Breil was their latest addition to the garrison and after five months still called him ‘sir’.
“Ah yes, my apologies!” Hans shouted saluting.
The other guard snickered. “Idiot.”
Gilbert just waved dismissively and entered the three story concrete building. They would eventually get the boy to loosen up a bit. The new recruits were supposed to serve up to two years at the border. Over the five years he had already seen several serve until the end of their term and go. Some had resigned earlier, because complying with the orders went against their morals. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and combed with a hand through his silvery hair to get the snow out. The truth was the other soldiers trusted him because he was keeping quiet about the smuggling of western products and plans to get over the Wall. He did not advise them how to get to the West nor was he actively trying to help. The old Prussia, the daredevil who had lived by the motto ‘All or Nothing' (6) would have wanted and tried to help. But Prussia was long gone and the past. There was no Prussia since 1933 and he had given up on ‘All or Nothing’. That particular mindset had been paid by far too many deaths.
I’m the GDR, he told himself while going to the small kitchen in the corner to set a fresh pot of water. It did make him sad to see people risk their lives by trying to get over the Wall. At the same time it also made him angry. Their lives were not that harsh. All of them had a roof over their heads. Nobody was starving or living under the constant threat of bombs falling from the sky. They could travel to other countries that were part of the USSR. For most of them the war seemed to become a distant memory even though it was only 24 years ago.
But not to him. As the GDR he was prepared to do anything to not experience anything like that ever again. The current system only provided a fragile stability, but it was better than nothing and he would uphold it. If some of the citizens tried to escape, then he let them. They had their own life in their hands, but he drew the line if it were political dissidents. Once they showed up and actively questioned the system, he acted as the Stasi. His task would be to track them down and send these individuals to places like the prison for political dissidents in Hohenschönhausen (7). He was spared the further procedure, but knew how the cases were handled from the detailed reports that landed on his desk. It was nothing to be proud of. Each day he felt the scar over his heart ache and bleed occasionally, but resisting would make it much worse. Gilbert squeezed his eyes shut trying to concentrate on to the sound of the water boiler, but the last thought kept swirling in his head. Resisting is what had gotten him into the twisted and complicated position he was in now.
1961 had been the first year behind the Wall for him. Ivan, the national spirit of Russia had appeared with orders from their leaders in Moscow. They required to be executed by Gilbert Beilschmidt, the German Democratic Republic. Ivan had personally warned him that any of his mistakes would reflect on Ludwig in the West. At that time, Gilbert had agreed to do anything to protect his brother.
He broke his own promise a short time later.
The national spirit of Russia considered promises a sacred thing and made sure the GDR would not forget.
By breaking his promise Gilbert ended up placing himself in a position Ludwig would come to regard as the actions of an enemy.
See you in Part IV and what exactly Gilbert did!
(1) ‘Come Spirit of the Creator’ is a hymn usually sung in Gregorian chant and is an invocation of the Holy Spirit. Gilbert did start with a Christian Order of Knights. This is mainly my own headcanon for Gilbert: it would be sort of logical to assume he may have returned to an order of monks to be away from the world for some time and seek solace at a monastery to think.
(2) Salve Regina is a Knights Templar chant. You can easily find the full version of it at YT. The Teutonic Order did take many rules over from the Knights’ Templar.
(3) ‘Accende lumen sensibus’ (=guide our minds with thy blest light) is a verse from Veni Creator Spiritus. You can find the full chant with translations at Wikipedia.
(4) Stasi or Staatssicherheit was the Secret State Police which was part of the Ministry of Safety (Ministerium für Sicherheit – MfS). The Stasi had its motto of 'Shield and Sword of the Party' (‘Schild und Schwert der Partei’). Its task included: spying on population through a huge network of citizens acting as informants, fighting any possible opposition by covert measures in the GDR as well as in Western Germany and psychological reprogramming of dissidents. Erich Mielke is well known as the long-serving chief of the organisaton. The GDR existed for 40 years and Erich Mielke served 32 of those. After the reunification of Germany in 1990 he was prosecuted, incarcerated and died in 2000 at a nursing home.
(5) This is based on a true account. A man had tried to escape to the West and had bled to death not far from the mine field. His body was later retrieved by the border guards.
(6) ‘Alles oder Nichts’ or ‘All or Nothing’ in English was a motto that Frederick the Great seemed to live by.
(7) Hohenschönhausen: The prison of Hohenschönhausen located in the north-eastern part of Berlin was one of several prisons used by the Stasi. This one was specifically for political dissidents. Now it is a memorial.
Chapter 4: Stronger, Braver, Faster
“Don’t screw up. The whole world depends on you…I depend on you…again.”
I wanted to post this sooner, but holidays and celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s got in the way.
So, here is finally the next part, which I split in several parts.
This part and the next to follow were inspired and written while listening to 'Two Steps From Hell’s – Stronger Faster Braver'. It’s an instrumental piece and I like to listen to it when writing about Ivan and Gilbert. Somehow it became the main tune of their history.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART IV - Stronger - Faster - Braver
October 26th 1961
Berlin Crisis Part 1
Gilbert was sitting almost at the edge of his seat while listened to Khrushchev giving a heated speech to the members of the Politburo* about the recent clash with the US military at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
“We have tried, comrades, to have peace talks before, despite the vehement resistance of Mr. Ulbricht. We got ourselves carried away with peaceful construction and, I believe, we are going too far. They fly without our authorization with their U2-planes over our lands, while shouting about sovereignty and respect of borders. (1) Where is the respect! We have not invited them to fly over the USSR. Is sovereignty a one way street that is reserved for the USA alone? These double standards are absolutely unacceptable! I have told our ‘partners’ that if they deploy one division in Germany, we will respond with two divisions. If they declare mobilization, we will do the same. If they mobilize such and such numbers, we will put out 150-200 divisions and as many as it is necessary. The Americans are skulking around every passing day dressed as civilians and refuse to show their identifications. Now, they even went so far as to bulldozer the Wall down!” Khrushchev took a deep breath before continuing with his long speech. “Comrades, I understand that our enthusiasm for peaceful construction acts as poison, weakens our muscles and our will. We are forced to deploy tanks defensively along the entire border and seal every weak spot they might look for. And we will start this at the heart of Berlin!” (2)
Gilbert gritted his teeth hearing the direct translation through his headphones. This was an aggressive move which would only intensify the conflict. At the same time he could very well understand that the First Secretary of the Soviet Party was angry. However, the two former Allies were already at a breaking point and this move could possibly lead to World War III. “This is madness!” he whispered and started to get up in protest.
Ivan immediately grabbed his hand and yanked him back down. “Sit and be quiet!” he growled and squeezed his hand hard.
The rough action nearly threw him back on the chair. “Are you fucking mad!” Gilbert hissed back concentrating on his own anger to ignore the pain as Ivan still had an excruciating hold on his hand.
This was Gilbert Beilschmidt’s first ever meeting at the Politburo and he did not know the leader of the Party Nikita Khrushchev vented his anger and outrage in a very direct way when he had enough, but he was too much of an experienced politician to let it influence his final decisions. Ivan would have explained this in a more relaxed setting, but right now Gilbert needed to keep quiet. “Relax,” the Russian said in a softer tone loosening his grip on Gilbert, but did not let go of the hand. “Let him speak until the end. This is only for public display. Once the meeting is over, he will consult with his advisors and me.” (3)
Will I ever understand you? Gilbert wondered to himself as he looked at the Russian with a frown. It was often difficult to deal with the man’s sudden change in behaviour. Now and then it was even frightening when he smiled in the most unlikely situations while his eyes alone could make your knees buckle in fear. Being part of the USSR and be around Ivan Braginski made Gilbert realise you had a very powerful and reliable ally. He could be patient and never made promises lightly, but when he did they were kept until the bitter end and often at the man’s own expense. Being on the other side as the enemy was devastating. Gilbert had experienced that first hand during the last war. Maybe it was true that you should never poke the bear. He will endure it for a bit, but once you cross the line he will rip you and everything else to pieces. Ivan Braginski, the national spirit of Russia was as much fascinating as he was formidable. Former Prussia was officially part of the USSR only for three months now and had spent almost every day in his presence, but was not an inch closer to understanding the other man. The statesmen of the USSR had similar personality traits. At the moment, they were being poked by the US and Khrushchev was losing his patience. “Fine…” he only replied glancing down at the large hand on top of his. It was heavily bandaged indicating a serious injury. Despite that Ivan had grabbed his hand firmly and even used force. “What happened?” he asked after a moment of silence. The wound had to be new. It was not there a couple of days ago.
Ivan sighed closing his eyes for a moment and then just shrugged. “Like yourself, some WWII wounds take a lot longer to heal.”
Gilbert looked away and pulled his hand out of the man’s grip. “I see.” Sometimes he desperately wanted to apologize to what he had done during the battle in Stalingrad. Especially when he remembered Ivan had at first asked several times to convince his leader not to attack the USSR. Later he personally nearly begged the German to stop because Ivan himself was appointed to assist the Soviet generals to lead the counter-offensive and they would not make a difference between humans and nation’s spirits. “I can’t listen to any more of this!” Gilbert growled trying to stand up again. He was sick of listening to war propaganda for the rest of his life.
Standing up in the full auditorium and make his way out gathered almost everybody’s attention. Ivan cursed under his breath storming off after him. Before Gilbert could leave through the door on his own, he grabbed him by his arm and dragged him out.
“Russia, you bastard!” Gilbert shouted, still furious with Khrushchev’s speech and now the manhandling he got for leaving the room.
In that moment, Ivan turned around. His open suit moved fluently with the move. Gilbert’s eyes automatically followed the graceful move and the next action caught him off-guard because of that. The taller man suddenly punched him in the face splitting his lip slightly. “Do not ever question the First Secretary again in a public meeting, Beilschmidt,” he said in a deadly calm voice. “You can always discuss things with me privately, but not in the Politburo. You have no power or mandate as the GDR. Do you want me to remind you of that fact?”
Gilbert stumbled back a couple of steps taken off-guard by the sudden action. “Like I didn’t already know that. Thanks for reminding me, asshole,” he glared rubbing the blood away with his hand and spit the blood out.
The taller man let out a deep sigh and grabbed him by his sleeve and pulled him into the next empty room. It was a small sitting room furnished with a couch, chairs and TV.
“Let go off me!” Gilbert shouted, not appreciating even more erratic behaviour from him. “What the hell are you d-“
Letting go of the other man Ivan held a finger to his own lips indicating that he should not say any more and turned the TV on with the maximum volume.
Gilbert frowned for a mere second, but then understood why they were in this small room and the loud TV. The Russian wanted to talk in private and this was the only way to communicate without anyone listening in. The whole building had to be full of bugs and other listening equipment because many people in the government were under surveillance. (4) The national spirit of the USSR wanted to discuss a matter that only concerned them both. A way to ensure secrecy was the creation of interfering background noise. “What’s really going on, Ivan?” He decided to ignore his anger for the time being and concentrate on the matter at hand.
Ivan closed the distance between them by putting both hand on his shoulders and leaned down. “I do apologize for hitting you.” He said softly in his ear. “But I can’t have you questioning our leaders in front of the Politburo. They are already breathing down my neck for why you are still existing. In their and the Allies’ opinion you should have disappeared long ago with the dissolution of the republic in 1933. It was your brother and the population, who kept you alive back then. And now it’s me with the creation of the GDR. So, I ask you to not question my and their orders in public. My means of influence have limits too.”
Gilbert stiffened at their sudden closeness when Ivan’s voice was practically whispering into his ear. “I own you my life, Ivan. I know that and I’m grateful, although I’m not sure why you would go so far and it seems at your own expensive as well.” The warm breath on his skin sent a shiver down his spine and he cleared his throat to distract himself for a moment. “But you can’t ignore the fact that they are preparing for another war. They talk about an arms race. But now all have nuclear weapons! Neither the USSR nor USA will survive this! Hell, it would be a miracle if anyone would on the planet at this point! We can’t let them do this. I’m not saying this out of my own survival’s sake and I couldn’t care less about any politician on this planet. They serve their terms, they die and another shows up. It’s my people out there I’m worried about. It’s my brother!” He whispered back to the tall man and grabbed his face with both hands. “There was so much disaster already…”
Ivan sighed again letting Gilbert force him to meet his eyes. “My leaders fought against yours, but I looked up and respected your famous king and the kingdom of Prussia, you. That stays with me until this day. It is unfair for you to be accused and punished for the war. Several parties carry the blame since the Treaty of Versailles.” (5) The ruby red eyes were staring back at him with anger, slight confusion and pain. Ivan was already too tired to hold this discussion, but knew it had to be done. Gilbert needed to understand what his plans were. Once everything was explained he hoped there would be a moment to lie down and sleep for a couple of hours. His bandaged hand was not the only injury he had. The armies of the USSR were fighting another conflict with China now and had sustained several losses. Ivan was taking the brunt of it as a national spirit usually did. His arm showed burns while his chest was covered in cuts and bruises. It also hurt to breathe now and then when he moved too quickly, but he refused to show it. He was a major nation and was not allowed to be weak. “I don’t want any more wars than you do, believe me. And I do understand this is getting out of hand. That is why I want to ask you for a favour.” He asked opening his eyes again and decided to concentrate on Gilbert instead of the pain. "Will you listen?"
Gilbert was still slightly glaring, but seeing Ivan comply without any resistance and the praising made him wonder what the guy was up to. “Sure, what is it?” he asked deciding to play along for the time being.
“I want you to go to Checkpoint Charlie. It is the only place now left where crossing the border between the BRD and GDR is possible. Politics between the USA and USSR are at a breaking point. If something should happen…it is there. I can feel it. Be there. And no matter what happens, I want you to hold the line,” he explained squeezing Gilbert’s shoulders lightly. “Do not provoke the Americans, but be there should they cross the border and take military action.” Saying he respected and looked up to him was only one part of the truth. The reason he had taken action to establish the GDR and make Gilbert Beilschmidt into a new state was that he considered him a friend over the centuries. When they were not fighting they had gotten along quite well. To Ivan, Prussia had been always a bridge between Russia and the other countries in Europe. Losing a friend because of a conflict with a power-hungry, immature and irresponsible brat like Alfred was out of the question. “Promise me, you will hold the line no matter what, while I will meet with our foreign intelligence officer Georgi Bolshakov in Washington. He’s the primary communication channel between Khrushchev and Kennedy.(6) It’s the only chance we have to reach an agreement.”
God, you confuse and surprise the hell out of me, Gilbert concluded and grinned unable to help himself. This man was strange, but in a good way. Here he was thinking Ivan would go along with the irresponsible ravings of his leader. It was the other way around. He was convincing everyone to have a dialogue with the ‘enemy’. Khrushchev listened and valued his national spirit’s advice. Granted the human did not always follow it, but he often let it influence his decision making. This was something the leader of the Third Reich had never done. Gilbert respected both Ivan and Khrushchev for that. “Alright. You have my word. I will hold the line. Contact me as soon as a deal is reached.”
“Thank you…Gil.” A smile appeared on the Russian’s face again. He was glad the other man agreed without putting up a fight and also because he had the chance to use the short version of Gilbert’s name. It has been almost a century since he had uttered it.
Gilbert smiled lightly at the mention of that old nickname. It reminded him of a time when the kingdom of Prussia had been defeated by the Napoleonic Army and had to submit territory losses. His army was reduced to a measly 42,000 men and a forced treaty with France. To ensure the kingdom’s loyalty Gilbert Beilschmidt was obliged to stay with the French army and attack Russia. He revolted ending up as a high profile prisoner of war. When Russia advanced in 1812 pushing Napoleon’s Grande Armée back, Ivan personally saw to his rescue. That was when their unusual acquaintance began. Being both born out of conflict they showed several similarities and could relate to several things like the urge to show adversity and follow their own rules against all odds.
“Is that…you’re way of saying ‘don’t fuck up’?” Ivan commented with a grin, when Gilbert leaned his forehead against the taller man. He knew what this gesture meant and this was only the second time in 200 years that he received it.
“You know what it means, you bastard.” Gilbert shot back matching the grin and put his fist on Ivan’s chest gently. “And yes, don’t screw up. The whole world depends on you…I depend on you…again.”
Russia tightened his jaw not to wince in pain. Gilbert did not mean any harm, but had unwillingly hit one of the fresh bruises on his chest. "And I on you." He avoided looking at him by closing his eyes and leaned against the German for a second. Sometimes he did not want to be a nation and the world should just find someone else to depend on. "I will do my best." Both of them had to rely on each other. Gilbert had to make sure nobody would bow to pressure at the border, while he had to use the time to reach Washington and get some form of a peaceful deal.
“Are you alright?” Gilbert asked, catching a flash of pain in the violet eyes.
“Da…I’m good.” Moving away from the German, Ivan slightly straightened up again. There was no time to wish for something he could never have. The safety and continuation of the Union came first. “Alfred…he’s a backstabbing little bugger. He will do anything to get at you. He might even use your brother. Should he be there, do not talk to him, don’t cross the line, promise me.”
Promising to protect the border came rather easy. It were his lands, but ignoring the chance of speaking to his brother was difficult. Gilbert nodded reluctantly. Just like Ivan, he had no choice. As the socialist GDR there was no question where his loyalties were. The ‘capitalist enemy’…his brother would not take a single step over the white line dividing east and west Berlin in the Friedrichstrasse. He would make sure of that with any means necessary. “As you wish.”
“No. I’ve never wished for any of this.” Ivan shook his head slowly reminding himself not to make any sudden movements. His body could break down later once everything was finished. “It is something each of us must do. You are my right-hand man in this. I trust you.” Living a long existence such as his should have taught him not to trust anybody anymore. Everybody had betrayed him at some point, but Gilbert had not yet misused his trust where it counted. He was willing to believe in him.
“Don’t put so much faith in me…” Gilbert whispered and sighed once Ivan had left the room to catch his plane to the lion’s den. “I’m not even sure how I will react, if he will be there.”
The GDR turned off the TV and went outside as well to get on his own plane to East Berlin. He hoped Ivan would be able to turn the situation around in Washington while he himself would try to prevent another war in his city.
See you in Part V!
Oh, I've ended the chapter with so many questions. Will Ivan reach a deal with the USA?
Will West be at the border as well and try talking to his brother?
Will Gilbert take the bait?
Thank you for reading and the kudos!
* Politburo was the principal policy making committee of a communist party in Soviet Russia and other countries.
(1) The U-2’s incident was in May 1960 when an US U-2 spy plane was shoot down after entering Soviet airspace. Before this incident many more U-2 planes have been repeatedly doing illegally surveillance activities. The US initially tried to cover up the main purpose and mission. In the end the government was forced to admit its military nature after the U-2 pilot had been captures by the Soviets.
(2) Once again I’m describing pure facts about the Berlin Crisis in 1961 here and took some parts from Khrushchev speech.
(3) Nikita Khrushchev was known to be good at rhetoric’s, which made him often unpredictable and he used that to his advantage as a statesman.
(4) Turning on a radio or TV as loud as possible was a regular occurrence when politicians like Egon Barr met with the Russian ministers to discuss politics in private. So, I’m not making this up. ^_^
(5) The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 brought WWI to an end. The treaty is in many things controversial and forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay a sum, which was impossible to return. The treaty was already then considered too harsh and brought neither stability nor peace.
(6) Georgi Bolshakov was a KGB spy posted in Washington with the cover of a journalist. He was in fact an expert in diplomacy and played a vital role as the primary communication channel, a back channel so to speak between the First Secretary Khrushchev and president Kennedy in the Berlin Crisis that I am describing in this chapter. As always, I took only a few key moments for this story. If you’re interested in the whole history, please check out Wikipedia as an introduction.
Chapter 5: Division and Duty
"I'm not your brother anymore."
In this part I'm using again real historical events. If you interested in the scene with the tanks and want to see the photos just type in 'Berlin Crisis 1961 Checkpoint Charlie Standoff' in a search engine of your choice.
I've also put also several Prussian values, which are displayed by Gilbert and Ludwig. Some of them include Determination (Zielstrebigkeit), Frankness (Redlichkeit), Toughness (Härte: in the meaning of 'be even harder on yourself than others') and Duty. At the same time the brothers both fail in Self-restraint and Subordination.
And just as a side note: TODAY is Frederick the Great's or Old Fritz's 306th birthday! Sadly, I can't be in Sans Soucci to leave a fresh potato on his grave.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
This chapter is for lis3sh and maermary as a birthday present!
PART V– Division and Duty
Berlin Crisis Part II
27 October 1961, 18:14
The buildings in the capital might not have changed but the atmosphere had certainly taken a turn for the worst. Especially among the government personnel. Everyone was tense and you could taste it in the air like smelling the upcoming rainstorm on a dry summer's day.
That was the feeling Gilbert Beilschmidt had as he got off the plane from Moscow in the German airport of the GDR in Berlin Schönefeld. (1) He was accompanied by representatives of the Soviet Party who all headed to the airport building. All of them wore neatly tailored suits while he was dressed in a German Democratic Republic decorated military general's uniform and trench coat. The business suit had to go because he was on an official military focused assignment. Personally, he preferred wearing the uniform. It was not his old Prussian uniform, which he did miss, but this was the closest thing he could get his hands on. He started his existence as a nation born out of conflict and he was not going to let go or abandon his origins. There was yet another conflict here in Berlin, in his city and he would fulfill his role. As he descended the stairs three men immediately approached him each shaking his hand. The one in the middle introduced himself as Erich Mielke, vice-president of the secret intelligence service.
"Welcome back, Herr* Beilschmidt. It has been awhile since you've been in our GDR. It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person."
Gilbert nodded and exchanged the usual formal pleasantries that went with meeting politicians. Once the man invited him to join them at the official seat of power of the GDR at the Palast der Republiek, he politely accepted the invitation for a later date. "I'm afraid I have direct orders from Moscow to head for Checkpoint Charlie in the Friedrichstrasse. The conflict there has priority, gentlemen. This cannot wait."
"Yes, I will have to agree with you." Mielke's face grew serious and he nodded. "Follow me. There is a car waiting for you."
As the designated car drove to its destination Gilbert had put on the military cap on his head and pulled the visor down almost to his eyes. Both of his hands were clasped together all the way to the checkpoint and he appeared to be deadly calm. Part of him was excited for some action and he glanced now and then out of the window hoping to reach his destination soon. His mind, however was on edge and a bit afraid of what was about to happen. The last time he had taken responsibility in a war was not that of a diplomatic military personnel standing in-between to uphold peaceful relations. In the previous war he had been fighting along his brother, not against him. Gilbert sighed in an attempt to stop the conflicting emotions and closed his eyes.
In that moment the car came to a halt. "Sir, this is as far as I can go." The driver said with a slightly worried voice.
Gilbert looked up wanting to ask what he meant. The question quickly died in his throat. The government car had been stopped by a barricade of a dozen soldiers guarding it. Two men left the group approaching their car. That was not the important fact. Gilbert was speechless at what he was seeing behind them. Several platoons of T55 tanks with no clear national markings were positioned in different formation in the Friedrichstrasse. The soldiers who approached wore only a black uniform with no visible identification. Gilbert frowned at these two peculiar observations. They tried to obscure their identity although it was clear these people were from the Soviet Union. The heavy Russian accent gave them away and the fact that only the Soviet Red Army could even have tanks in Eastern Germany. The red eyes surveyed the set-up quickly and spotted more small groups of soldiers placed here and there. Their car had stopped at the back of the whole platoon which was placed in a right flank formation. This meant a lot more tanks were up ahead exactly where the border was between East and West Berlin. There had to be at least 20 of them here if not more, he thought to himself. Fuck.
"Thanks for the drive." Gilbert commented getting out of the car and prepared his identification papers for the soldiers to see.
One of them skimmed through the passport and quickly performed a salute that was followed by the other soldier. "Major General* Beilschmidt, sir. Major General Schulenberg has already been informed of your arrival."
The man in charge at the front line was already waiting for him and Gilbert asked to be taken to him immediately.
"Yes, sir! This way," the soldier acknowledged and let the way to the front line and the only official crossing between East and West Berlin. It was former Prussia's first time seeing the checkpoint. If it had not been for the ominous looking tanks then it would be like any other street in a city: clean, well-kept and structured. The tank formation continued in a vee, wedge and ended with a left flank formation. A meter ahead was a small house that was used as the border post and a 50 meters ahead was a thick white line on the pavement. The street continued on behind the line, but was also blocked by U.S. soldiers and M-48 tanks. Gilbert cursed lightly under his breath at the whole sight. The checkpoint was right in the middle of the city surrounded by simple civilian building like apartments, a pharmacy and the Underground. Should it come to a standoff it would result in mass murder of civilians. He straightened his posture and approached the commanding officer of the border guards.
"Herr Beilschmidt, welcome. I've been briefed about your arrival by Colonel General Branginski," the officer immediately greeted him as soon as he spotted the unusual looking man.
"Yes, thank you." Gilbert shook his hand as a greeting.
"I have also been instructed to give you this letter."
Gilbert took it and looked the envelope over. It had the official address and stamp of the Soviet Union government. The envelope itself had also a seal. Gilbert stepped aside to read. Just as expected the envelope was laid in with a special foil to protect it from being damaged by liquids. Once the paper was unfolded it revealed a curvy elegant handwriting. What was more surprising was the content. The three sentences were written in Old Prussian, an extinct Baltic language since the 18th century. Gilbert himself had spoken it, but that was roughly two centuries ago. For Ivan to use that language really meant he was extremely cautious to the point of paranoia. However, in times like these being paranoid was a healthy thing.
If everything went to plan, you've received this letter from a trusted comrade. As soon as you've read this, please call the following number: 004-739-011-4.
Gilbert memorized the number before pocketing the letter in his coat. "I need to use a phone with a secure line." He told the so-called trusted comrade.
The man nodded showing him to the patrol station on the GDR side. Once the door was closed he called the number and only two beeps later he heard Ivan's voice.
"USSR," He acknowledged.
"Good to hear from you. What's the situation?"
Ivan's voice sounded normal, but Gilbert had to frown a bit at the slightly tense and tired undertone.
"I've just arrived at the checkpoint. Tanks on both sides. The line is secure for now." He kept the reporting of the situation short and clear on purpose. This was not the time for detailed explanations and Ivan was probably still on the plane to Washington with company. Gilbert had no idea if they were in on the plan or could be trusted.
"Good. I should arrive in Washington in an hour. The orders are for now: hold the line. Should the U.S. cross it, your orders are to open fire. Defend with whatever means necessary."
Gilbert had to swallow at these kind of orders. "Russia. There are civilian buildings on both sides… The border had been drawn right in the heart of the city." He could easily see a simple bakery still bustling with normal people.
There was a short pause on the other end then followed by a resigned tone. "I am aware of that." Ivan had accepted this decision even though he himself did not agree.
The Prussian was also left with no choice. "I understand." This was bad, but he would rely the orders to the border patrol nonetheless. "Is the line secure?" he asked after a moment of silence.
"Ivan…are you alright?" He had not forgotten the injured arm and the pained look on his face. The Russian had been trying to hide the pain, but Gilbert had seen enough physical misery and experienced it countless times to realise when someone was suffering.
There was another pause. "I…have to be. I hope, it will all be resolved in a couple of hours. Schulenberg will remain here and inform you of any changes."
"Alright," Gilbert sighed accepting the answer of 'I have to be' for now. "I will wait for your update." He was about to hang up, but then heard: "Thanks…Gil." Grinning lightly at that he decided to sound a bit encouraging before ending the call. Both of them needed courage. "Anytime. Now go and get it done."
"Schulenberg!" He called the soldier into the station after the phone call. A few seconds later the man hurried towards him. "Yes, what can I do for you?"
"Your orders are to stay here and rely any incoming calls to me. In the meantime, I'm taking command. Debrief the platoons."
"Understood." The man saluted and Gilbert returned the gesture before going outside again when all the tank formations were radioed of the change. Just as he was about to approach the first tank that stood just a mere 50 meters away from the white line he stopped abruptly.
The word had been said in a calm tone, but to Gilbert it echoed in his ears like a scream. For a second he even forgot how to breathe. He did not turn to the source of the voice, just stared at the tank. What he had feared the most and what the national spirit of Russia warned him about had come to pass. His younger brother was at the front line calling to him.
"Scheisse," he whispered to himself curling his hands into fists. What was he supposed to do now? Ignore his own brother? Alfred, you son of bitch, he thought angrily. Ivan had been right after all. That damn American was using Ludwig for his, but Gilbert started to get angry at his brother as well for taking the bait. There was no way Ludwig would not have seen through it. He was too smart not to notice.
He choose to ignore his younger sibling and continued approaching the tank.
"If you don't look at me, I will have to cross the line." Ludwig said again.
Gilbert did stop at the threat. Had the situation been different, he would have laughed at that lame sounding threat, but this was not a joke in this situation. Sighing lightly, he finally looked up.
Unlike him, Ludwig wore a tailored business suit. It was too sleek and too thigh fitting. Wrong. The blond hair was combed back in its usual style. At least that remained the same, Gilbert concluded a bit relieved. His younger brother was wearing a suit because the BRD was not allowed to have an army of its own anymore. Unlike the GDR.
Gilbert wanted to at least greet him, but tightened his jaw instead. This was an unofficial meeting of two different states. He was the German Democratic Republic protecting the border and he was not going to converse with the enemy unless it was necessary.
"I just want to talk." Ludwig said trying to catch his older brother's eyes. This was a rare opportunity. He just did not know when they would have the chance again. It was obvious he was being used by the U.S. Even though, Alfred was not around for this he would find out anyway. What he did was dangerous and irresponsible, but what choice was there? His brother was in pain, most of it emotional. Ludwig could feel it through the scar over his own heart. It often itched and nothing could ease the discomfort. Sometimes it bled and got so hot Ludwig needed to cool it with ice. Right now it was searing hot and he ended up wearing just a suit despite the chilly autumn weather in October. "I know, we shouldn't, but I don't even know if I'll have another chan-"
"I am the national spirit of the GDR and you are nearing the border of USSR territory." The fair haired man declared suddenly. "You have not been given permission to approach this border. Any actions of crossing this very line will be interpreted as an act of open aggression."
The tall blond man on the other side of the line listened to every word. Each one of them cut just as intended, but it was the other's face he paid attention to the most. It was déjà vu all over again. They were standing on opposite sides, representing two different countries and political systems. This time, however, they could not reach out and talk like family. This time they were trying to resolve a dangerous situation that would have an impact on world scale.
"Do you understand, Bundesrepublik Deutschland?" The GDR asked for clarification. He wanted to talk in a different way, like brothers. There was no East and West. They both were Germany! This conversation was too formal and not to mention aggressive. The conflict between two world powers was just using them both as pawns. It was between the U.S. and USSR: Alfred and Ivan. It had nothing to do with them. Gilbert was aware he had taken the bait the U.S. had set out for him. With this he had also broken his promise to Russia. Ivan had said to hold the line and he was. At the same time he let himself talk to the 'enemy', which he should not have. Even if it was his own brother. "We are both idiots, Ludwig. Do you realise that? Alfred had sent you out here to provoke me and I took the bait. And you thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to me, right?"
"I know. But I wanted to see you." The blond bit his lip and curled his hands into fists.
"And start a war? If you want to talk there are official meetings to discuss things. I'm sure you know that, right?" Gilbert asked softly.
"I want to talk to you, Gilbert. Just. You." Ludwig clarified. His brother knew what he meant, but refused to acknowledge it. Probably because of the setting. For this reason Ludwig did not mention that his older half was in pain.
"Are you still so naïve? Even after all this time..." His younger brother looked so miserable and he wanted nothing else but pull him into a thigh hug. He suppressed the urge and steeled himself for what he was about to say next. "Do not cross the line, BRD. I am the German Democratic Republic and have direct orders of the USSR. I advise you to stay in the territory of the American jurisdiction, your leaders." Gilbert cursed both the U.S. and USSR for making him do this, but as the GDR he reveled in the excitement of hurting his enemy. "I am here as neither your friend nor your brother. If your master fires, we will respond in kind." Every word cut and he tightened his jaw seeing the anguish on Ludwig's face.
As his brother started talking as the GDR and the tone got harsher Ludwig understood what he was doing. The realization did not make it hurt any less. He should have listened to reason and avoided approaching him. Just standing at the front line should have been enough. What he had done by listening to his heart made it only worse.
"Do not appear in front of me like this again." Gilbert felt a painful jab where the scar over his heart was and something wet was trickling down his chest to his stomach.
"Wait, Gilbert!" Ludwig called after him once his brother deemed the interaction to be over.
The other man ignored the call of his name and continued on walking. Gilbert looked down on the pavement. God he wanted to turn around, but this was not the place to react to his personal name.
He knew calling that name was inappropriate in this situation, but Ludwig wanted him to turn around. "Bruder!" he tried again. Calling on their family relation was even more out of place. Still, he needed to try. There were just too many biting words from his older brother and he was too dazed by this to react in a proper way. They had been forced to be on different sides and he understood that. Ludwig was also aware of being bait and a pawn in this insane game, but he finally had the chance of seeing his brother after three months. They could not or rather he would not end this opportunity with spiteful words not knowing if they would even meet each other again after this to rectify anything.
Gilbert's body stopped at that. Ignoring his name was within his power, but Ludwig called on their kinship. He was calling on a bond that had existed for centuries. The one which could not be broken unless one of them died. It was impossible to ignore this. He looked ahead at the Friedrichstraße and the row of tanks extending to the end of the street and probably beyond. In Berlin the Americans with their 30 tanks were outnumbered. The USSR had more than 70 ready to act. He hoped nothing would happen and both sides would retreat. Instead of turning around, Gilbert squeezed his eyes tightly shut for a second and then glanced back at his younger brother. "I'm…not your brother anymore," he declared in a loud voice and turned around walking toward the tanks of the USSR.
Ludwig was left behind standing alone in front of the white border line. He was just staring at his brother's retreating back as the final words slowly started to sink in.
I'm not your brother anymore.
In this setting you are not, he thought to himself bitterly and curled his hands into fists. "Here, as the GDR…you are my enemy." Ludwig was unsure if he was supposed to hate the Allies or not. If it concerned Russia, then he was actually thankful. Ivan Braginski had saved Gilbert by making him into a nation again and agreed to the final order of building the Wall to keep the population in the land. Had it not been done, his brother would have ceased to exist. As for America: he hated him. That guy acted as the hero of the world ridiculing other nations and provoking his former ally into another war. Alfred's bosses were holding the whole of Europe on a leash by handing out billions of loans to rebuild. That money had been earned in the last war and was blood money, but now it was made to look as if it were some kind of a holy grail. Alfred himself was an arrogant prick, who had absolutely no interest in respecting other nations' cultures, although he himself was in essence a European colony.
Ludwig had made up his mind to pay for what the former leader of his country did. National spirits had to, whatever they personally wanted to or not, but he was not going to change or forget about his origins.
"Forgive me…" The Prussian whispered under his breath curling his hands into fists until nails cut into his own flesh. He also thanked his common sense to wear the standard military peaked cap. It shielded his eyes from the world and hid the fact that he had tears in his eyes. He had officially renounced his title as the kingdom of Prussia, later as a Republic and now it was his own brother.
Gilbert thought he did not hear his last words, but Ludwig did and shook his head lightly watching him walk way stiffly. "There is nothing to forgive..." The scar over his heart was throbbing even more. He wondered what his older sibling felt. It was probably worse than his.
Reaching a corner of the first side street Gilbert immediately took it. "I'm so sorry! I'm sorry!" he whispered punching the wall a couple of times. He did not want to whisper! What he really wanted to do was scream until his lungs would have no breath left. Just now, he had in the presence of soldiers and observers from both sides renounced his only family member he had cared for the most. There was no other choice than do just that. Ludwig would have stepped over the line had Gilbert not talked. He was aware his baby brother would take risks if it was for him. Gilbert loved him for his guts, but that move would lead to war. That was something he vowed would never happen again. Not on his watch and not while he was still alive. "I'm….so very sorry, West," he said again leaning his forehead against the red brick. The GDR officials needed to see his determination that he was loyal to their system. If not they would have started to take measures and possibly provoke the Americans.
Don't cry. Just…don't, he thought to himself seeing the man in uniform disappear into a side street. The soldiers on the East side looked even tenser with their commander temporarily indisposed. Ludwig took a step back to the West of Berlin eyes still locked on the side street. It could not go on like this. Being on a constant alert, hanging in by a threat and hope they were not on a brink of war. He was prepared to sacrifice a lot of things and it was already happening by being a prisoner to the whims of the U.S. However, he would never fight against his own brother. No matter what. In the worst case scenario he much preferred to end his own existence. But before he actually would consider that option Ludwig started thinking how he could unite the two parts again. It needed to be done without the involvement of the U.S or any other country that was friendly with them. If it had been up to them Germany and its population should have been wiped off the map. He really needed to be grateful to have Russia on the council whose decision had been to let the country exist.
"I'll get you back," he whispered and took his place on the side walk next to the bustling bakery. Gilbert had to return at some point and he would not leave without seeing him one last time.
The man in question remained leaning against the wall for a couple of more minutes and let the tears fall freely. The wound on his chest was burning by now and it was difficult to take deep breaths. "Shit…" he growled seeing the uniform under the coat was stained with fresh blood. This was really not the time to bleed in a place full of military. Quickly he buttoned up the leather coat again making sure nothing could be seen what was underneath. Lowering his cap again he dried his face with a sleeve and went to the main street again. He could have a mental breakdown later. There was too much at stake now and he needed to be in command. There was at least one promise he could keep to himself and to Ivan. The border would not be crossed and a war would not break out.
The soldiers, who had been standing close to the line and had witnessed the exchange with his brother, nodded in acknowledgement to their newly appointed commander. As Gilbert took up his post at the front line again he glanced towards West Berlin. Ludwig was still there standing by the bakery with a paper bag in his hand now and watching his every move. Gilbert quickly looked away as the other caught his eye for a moment.
The grip on the paper bag tightened when Ludwig noticed the red-rimmed eyes hiding under the military cap. Gilbert had quickly turned away, but not fast enough. You did cry…, he thought sadly closing his eyes for a second to commit this moment to memory. Ludwig then nodded his head lightly towards Gilbert and made up his mind to find people who were willing to work on the reunification of Germany no matter how long it would take.
Another chapter that was hard to write and it is still not over!
Thanks for reading!
See you all in Part VII – Berlin Crisis III
(1) Berlin Schönefeld Airport (German: Flughaven Berlin-Schönefeld) was the only major civil airport in Berlin during the GDR time.
* General Major (German: Generalmajor) was the highest rank the border troops could attain in the GDR .
* Herr - Mister
* Bruder - brother
* Scheisse – shit
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART VI – Never Back Down
27 October 20:02
Berlin Crisis Part III
The GDR avoided looking across the border at all costs. At least that is what he tried telling himself and failed. He glanced over just in time to see his brother nod towards him and a small grin appeared on his face. Gilbert frowned lightly, wondering why he was nodding. Yet, what slightly worried him was the grin. It was not malicious in any way, which put him a bit at ease, but not entirely. Being close to his brother for more than 200 years gave him the experience of knowing what all of his expressions usually meant. They shared a similar mindset when it came to planning and exactly that made him worry. The grin meant Ludwig had an idea and was going to set it in motion. (1)
Gilbert positioned himself next to the control post and faced the Russian tank where he could still see his brother out of the corner of his eye. The other general major remained inside the post.
Hours passed and the tank formation as the soldiers all remained in their places. It was a relief nothing happened, but Gilbert was getting worried. Russia had not contacted him for nearly 8 hours now. He could see the soldiers who were on night duty also wondered how long this would continue. It was nearly 03:00 in the morning now and Gilbert had split his time between sitting in the post to warm up and walking along the tanks to talk to the soldiers. They all seemed to know exactly who he really was and probably had been briefed before being deployed for this mission. Ludwig had left his post by the bakery at around midnight. There was no guarantee that he was not somewhere in the vicinity though. The fair-haired man just returned from his round when he spotted Schulenberg waiving at him from inside the small building. He hurried to him without trying to run. It would not bode well to do that in a situation like this one.
"What is it?" He asked entering the small building.
"Phone. General Braginski for you." The man announced.
"Thanks," Gilbert took the phone from him and waited until the man left.
"I've finally reached you..." Ivan sounded relieved, but his voice was even more strained since the last call.
"I was on patrol, sorry."
"No matter. I have nothing to report except for that the negotiation require more time. I know, it has been 8 hours already. Let's put it this way, there are still too many disagreements." The Russian sighed over the phone and Gilbert could practically see him close his eyes in frustration and exhaustion. "Anything to report on your side?"
"The border is secure, but the soldiers are getting restless, but they will follow orders no matter what." The German avoided mentioning the exchange with his brother. Once everything was over, he would tell him in person, but not now. Ivan needed to concentrate on the negotiations. The main goal on Gilbert's part was reached for now: the border was secure. Even if the German would avoid saying anything, there were enough witnesses and overseers who would report to the Russian anyway. Gilbert just hoped beating them to it would be possible. Ivan should hear it from him, not a random stranger. They did not know the backstory behind it.
"This will be resolved as soon as possible. Stay close. I'll call you."
"Understood. Ivan…" Gilbert called his name, but then stopped. Taking a deep breath he forced himself to smirk, despite physically feeling like utter crap. The other man would hear the tone even over the phone. "Make him pay." There was no need to say the name. They both knew who he was referring to. Former Prussia and the GDR wanted to see the American, who called himself a hero suffer in any way possible. Even if it was just a bit. That guy had signed his death sentence with a smile.
"It would be my pleasure." The other replied snickering lightly.
Hearing Ivan being more laid-back just for a second made him feel surprisingly pleased. Gilbert knew Ivan would make life difficult for Alfred even without being told to by someone. The American leaders were rude egomaniacs of which Alfred F. Jones was the physical manifestation. They needed a power as a counter balance and the whole of USSR had become one. Some nations had been more willing than others, but in the end they all were in this together. Being able to tell Ivan to get some payback and have him actually joke back was for some reason special. Gilbert could not even explain why he felt that way.
"Tell the soldiers I appreciate their effort and it will be resolved. I won't go anywhere until I have results we are satisfied with."
"I will," he promised while glancing at the tank formations.
Ivan ended the call afterwards and Gilbert closed his eyes with a sigh. He grabbed the table with both hands to steady himself. Being on his feet without break for more than 20 hours and a painful wound was taking its toll even on him. In all honesty, he wanted to curl up right on this very floor in this little post and sleep for all eternity.
The soldiers were serving in shifts. Sleeping with their weapons in hand in nearby buildings and inside the tanks. He did not have any shut eye even once.
Just a bit longer, he told himself and pushed his body away from the table. The wound started to ache again with the sudden movement. Gilbert hissed lightly and bit his lower lip to silence any other noises that might come out of his mouth. He had survived two world wars and he would survive this too.
It probably was even worse for Russia. Gilbert could effort to show he was tired now and then. The national spirit of the whole USSR was not allowed to show any weakness at all during negotiations. Not even a bit for Alfred and his bosses would notice and use it against him.
"Resolve this, Ivan," he said softly curling his hands into fists. It was only a matter of time before malcontent would follow among the military. Soldiers were human too and could take only so much.
Oh yes, this chapter is short compared to the other ones and it was done on purpose. The next part is after all called 'Standoff'.
See You in Part VIII – Standoff – Berlin Crisis Part IV
(1) Here I'm introducing the next stage of this fanfic which will involve the term 'Ostpolitik', the Stasi and double agents on both West and East Germany. As always I will use some historical facts as the basic outline of the story, but everything else will be just my own imagination. I think the tune to describe the future parts is done best by Two Steps From Hell - ASAP.
Chapter 7: Standoff
"We will make the first move to withdraw and you follow."
I was planning to post this chapter during the weekend, but today is a very special date that fits this story. Today, I have heard over the radio today marks the 28 years that the Wall was torn down. It is still two years to go before it is 30 years, but 28 is already special and there was a whole radio program devoted to it. So, in honour of that here is the next part!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART VIII – Standoff
28 October 1961, 10:18
Berlin Crisis Part IV
The silver haired man remained as promised next to the first three tanks that were close to the small border post. Everybody kept close watch what was happening on the other side of the street, but the soldiers also talked to their newly appointed general major. Gilbert had used the kettle at the post to boil hot water and prepare a thermos with black tea. The nights at the end of October were freezing and he was handing out a cup to the soldiers in the tanks. It was not a glorious task, but gave him something to do instead of constantly watching the enemy line. The guys on the other side were also huddling together against the cold. Gilbert sipped his tea and glanced at the Americans. They were made into enemies by politics, but in the end all soldiers on both sides were not that different.
"May I ask why you're bringing us tea, sir?" The soldier asked sitting on the edge of the tank while holding a steaming cup to his face. He was clearly enjoying the warm drink. "We appreciate it, really. It's just…uncommon for a….you know, General Major."
"I wasn't always one." Gilbert snorted at the hesitant tone as well as the carefully chosen words. "Once upon a time I was also just a simple soldier too." He did not mention the fact that his 'simple soldier years' as he called it were more than 300 years ago. "Besides….I don't know about you, but without the tea I would be freezing my bollocks off. If I had the chance I'd put some Schnapps in it as well."
"That would be even better." The soldier and his companions laughed in agreement.
It would take another 7 hours until the GDR received another phone call from across the Atlantic. The long awaited transmission finally came at 15:09 EST.
"We've got a deal and move first. Contact the tank formation to move for 5 meters backwards and wait until the U.S. follow. Repeat this until all the tanks are gone on both sides." (1) Russia instructed.
That move made Gilbert raise his eyebrows, but he did not question the order. "Alright." The GDR said calmly over the phone, but he really felt like leaping in excitement and relief. The standoff was finally over.
"Meet me at 20:26. I'm staying at the 'Interhotel Stad Berlin', 40th floor, room 348." (2) Ivan informed him with a flat voice. "You…didn't keep your promise, Gilbert."
He closed his eyes hearing the last sentence. Someone had already told him. At least he had the chance to give an explanation. Would Ivan have enough patience and willingness to listen? The man was really unpredictable for him most of the time. "I'll be there," he replied ending the call and went out of the station looking around for Schulenberg. The man in question was talking to one of the soldiers sitting on top of the first tank.
"Herr Kollege," he addressed him, since they shared a similar rank. "It's over. We can start to pull out. But first I need to talk with the Americans. Once I give the signal get ready to move the tanks 5 meters backwards and wait for the U.S. to do the same. We will retreat in that fashion. Radio these orders to the rest of the formation. For now be on standby."
The two men breathed a sigh of relief almost in unison. "Finally," the tank commander said cheerfully adjusting his winter hat and climbed inside the vehicle.
The GDR headed to the border and step over the line, but did not go the other side. Just stood in the middle of the road and waited. "General Clay!" he shouted "We need to talk!"
There was some hectic movement on the American side once he had stepped over. A soldier ran off to the back behind the tanks. Gilbert just put his hands into the pockets of his trench coat and watched, until he spotted an older man emerge from the other side. He looked even older than the general major Schulenberg. He was a tall stocky man with a rather pointy nose that seemed too big for his face. Gilbert paid no attention to that. Instead he watched his eyes very carefully for there was no real emotion in them except for contempt and total distrust. I see, so that's how we are going to play, the German concluded. Alright, then so be it, capitalist.
"I'm General Lucius D. Clay of the U.S. Army Forces," he announced stepping over the border line as well.
"General Major Gilbert Beilschmidt of the GDR," the German said back with no pompous emotions like the American. He never much cared about titles for they had a fleeting existence. Actions spoke always far louder than words ever would.
"General Major?" The man raised an eyebrow. "Looking quite young for such a high position, son."
Gilbert pulled his hands out of his pockets letting them hang loosely and tilted his head to the side. "First of all, I'm not a 'son' to you. And second has my title any relevance to the current situation?" He was aware Americans used the term 'son' not only for family relations, but he did not like it one bit. False friendliness and familiarities were something he had no place for. Especially from this man.
"I hope, you know what you got yourself into, general major." The man pulled a smile that looked more like a grimace.
"The feeling is mutual general," Gilbert replied having a perpetual boring expression on his face. "I assume you have received orders from Washington. We will make the first move to withdraw and you follow." He made sure to emphasize almost every word.
The general's jaw tightened so much at that, Gilbert thought for a second one of his bones would pop out through the skin. "Yes, we did."
The GDR did salute the man for his acknowledgement. Although, he personally did not feel like it at all. However, some military decorum needed to be upheld if he did not want to sink so low and be called rude as the burger munching national spirit across the Atlantic. The General returned the gesture, albeit hesitantly.
Gilbert smirked and before returning to the Eastern border he said: "I'm also the national spirit of the former kingdom of Prussia and now the GDR. It is me, who should be calling you 'boy'." The slightly shocked expression on the man's face was satisfying enough. He took a step back and was now in GDR territory. Schulenberg as well as the tank commander looked at him waiting for any sign.
Gilbert lifted his arm up. "Retreat! 5 Meters only, you have your orders!"
Once all the leaders of each formation acknowledged the order, the first tank in front of the line started moving slowly 5 meter backwards as instructed. The American one mirrored the action when the Russians stopped. The second tank backed away clearing the sidewalk. That is when Gilbert spotted his brother standing there watching the retreat with an American border patrol guard at his side.
The two brothers looked at each other for a moment. Ludwig gave him a faint smile that was quickly gone and Gilbert did the same in reply. The fragile situation of peace between two world nation was going to remain. As soon as the guard looked in his direction the GDR narrowed his eyes at him and pulled his cap down. He had enough of Americans for a while. It was far better to devote his attention on the retreat procedure. The 5 meters retread was repeated until all the tanks had left the street. Only the usual border patrol and a handful of additional soldiers remained as it had been before the escalation.
Gilbert had been watching the whole escalation for a solid 16 hours and even though it was all over he still remained on the sidewalk a couple of meters away from the checkpoint. Sighing he leaned against the wall of a nearby building and looked up at the grey October sky. His new wound had stopped bleeding, but it continued throbbing. He put his left hand on his chest then squeezed at the trench coat. The scar was usually annoying him with the constant itching. Today the pain made him almost mad.
"General Major Beilschmidt, sir…The car you requested is here." A slightly hesitant voice informed him.
Gilbert opened his eyes with another sigh. A Grenzer* had disturbed his temporary moment of peace and quiet. "Yes, thanks." He pushed himself of the wall and followed the man to a black Tatra 603. (3) Sending such a car that was used only by politicians meant the GDR government really saw him as important. This kind of realization made him a bit suspicious. Getting these perks was a double-edged sword. He would have to be prepared for both favourable and unfavourable consequences.
The car drove slowly through East Berlin earning some curious looks from the pedestrians. This kind of car was a rare in comparison to the Trabant and the slightly higher class Wartbung. (4) The passenger in the backseat had leaned his head against the window watching the streets roll by with half-lidded eyes. In the end nothing had happened at the border. All of the soldiers had done an excellent job of staying calm. Ludwig was fine as well as the rest of the world. On the one hand it was a successful mission. On the other, on a personal level it was a total failure for Gilbert. The close relationship with his brother took some damage and probably lost a bit of standing with the only person who was supporting him until now.
Deal with it. Whatever it is, he told himself and sat up straight just in time to see the hotel appearing in his view. Stepping out of the car he took a moment to look up at the building. It was huge and the highest construction he had ever seen.
The Interhotel Stad Berlin was a 47 story high block like formation with the state of the art furniture. The interior design did use bright colours making it look lively. The clerk at the reception desk noted down his personal details and showed him to the elevator.
Time to face the music, Gilbert though with a heavy sigh and knocked on the door of room 348. Ivan knew now he had broken his promise. He would face the consequences whatever they would be. In all honesty a part of him felt bad, because the Russian really did trust him. Aside from his brother, no other nation spirit really did that anymore. He was beyond caring what the others of whom he some had called friends thought of him now. They had made their positions clear after the last war. His younger brother had not much choice than to serve one world nation. While he himself had the national spirit of the USSR on his side. Looking at the closed door he vowed to himself that whatever consequences he had to face they would be accepted. If it was really the case he would end up at the Stasi, then so be it. He would be harder on himself and atone for the mistakes.
He knocked once more on the door, louder than the first time and waited for Ivan's voice to say 'Come in' or 'Da' as he usually would reply. Nothing came. There was only dead silence on the other side. The German frowned. This was unusual and a bit unnerving. First the Russian called him to his room, despite knowing Gilbert was dead on his feet after 16 hours of constant high alert. He was left hanging between despair, physical and emotional pain as well as loss. Now that he dragged himself to this door, the man did not even have the courtesy to let him in.
"Ivan! Either you let me in or I'll leave, damnit. I've be-" He threw the door open, stalking inside and abruptly stopped growling once he saw the scene before him.
Ivan was on the floor and his upper body was leaning against the couch. One arm was on the soft cushion as well as his head while his injured arm was half missing the bandages and what was left of them had blood stains. It looked like he had tried removing the gauze, but failed to do it properly. Half of the pieces were lying on the carpet.
Sometimes, a story just needs a couple of good old cliffhangers, yes? ^_^
Thanks for reading!
(1) The scene I described here in short, really happened like that.
(2) The ‘Interhotel Stad Berlin’ really existed and was a hotel chain in the GDR. I wanted to use a real hotel for the scene in the next chapter, but it took me a bit of research to find out how the hotels were called during the 1960s period. This one was the closest I could find for the time line. The Hotel Adlon (the most fancy and expensive one, where politicians and stars stay) was still partly demolished from the war in the 1960s and the other part was left abandoned. The reconstruction only started at the end of the 60ies. Then there was also the Hotel Metropol, but this one was built in 1971. That’s why the Interhotel Stad Berlin is the only one that worked.
(3) A Tatra 603 was a popular car used by statesmen and politicians aside from several Volvo models and the Citroen CX. Yes, you have read correctly. Western cars were used as well in the GDR.
(4) Both the Trabant< and the Wartburg were cars manufactured in the GDR. Manufacturing of both stopped with the unification because it was impossible to compete with West-German manufacturers. You can still find many of them being used almost exclusively in East Germany. Many car lovers collect them as so many other things produced from the GDR. It has become part of the complex term Ostalgie.
- Herr: Mr.
- Kollege: colleague
- Grenzer: a soldier, who served at the border of the GDR was often called like that by the population.
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART VIII – True Strength
28 October 1961, 20:45
"Ah…shit!" he rushed over to the collapsed man checking for his pulse. "Wake up! Hey! Ivan…come on!" The light blond hair was in the Russian's face and Gilbert brushed it away. The man had usually a pale complexion, but now he was as pale as snow. "Wake up…," he said on a gentler tone. Ivan was taking shallow breaths and shivering from time to time. This did not look good.
Violet eyes slowly blinked open at the constant verbal prompting. Gilbert's hand was warm and he slowly leaned in, but even the slightest movement pulled at his muscles forcing him to remain lying where he was. "Gil…"
"Don't move! I'm just checking your wounds." He reassured the man not wanting him to remain where he was. Taking a look at the bandaged arm Gilbert frowned. Those were not WWII injuries like he was told two days ago. Ivan's hand palm as well as the arm showed second degree burns and they looked recent. Something was not right. Putting the arm back down to its previous position, he started to unbutton the white dress shirt.
"'m fine. D-don't…" Ivan protested at that, wanting to move away.
"Like hell you are," Gilbert mumbled angrily opening the shirt all the way. His whole chest was black and blue with bruises and numerous cuts. They looked bad now, but would heal quickly. The more concerning part to him were the scars on his neck. They looked old, some of them slightly faded, but others were bright red. It was still clear they had been very deep and driven in by several sharp objects. "Just what happened to you?" He did not expect an answer from the injured man and just wondered out loud.
The bruises were the reason Ivan had closed his eyes when he had placed his fist on the man's chest before. The scars on his neck were completely different. A nation's spirit had faster healing abilities and all of them disappeared over time.
Gilbert frowned at the scars again. The only scares that were not healing were emotional ones. It involved very difficult moments for them personally. Just like Gilbert and Ludwig had matching scars now on the left side of their chests, right over their hearts. The division of East and West Germany was to blame for that. Something horrible must have happened to Ivan a long time ago. The tall man hid the scars with the long white scarf or buttoned up his shirt all the way. (1) Russia was an old nation and had to have seen so much more than Gilbert. Maybe these scars had caused to change him mentally. He had a childlike attitude sometimes that quickly changed and became menacing. When they had met during the Napoleonic conquest Ivan was a reserved man not looking for friends nor comrades as forcefully as now. Something horrible must have happened between then and now. It could also be that the constant fighting for survival was taking its toll on him. Russia was always fighting to not get invaded or taken advantage of by other nations. Being such a big nation even without the union was a dangerous existence.
Gilbert shook his head quickly reminding himself to concentrate on the matter at hand. "Ivan, hey. I need you to co-operate a bit. We need to get you into a bed." The Russian was half out of it and probably did not hear what he was saying, but he needed to rouse him even a bit. The more he would co-operate the easier it would be.
Ivan did hear parts of the conversation attempting to sit up. It did not work the way he wanted. One arm was useless and his body just refused any movement. "C-can't…"
Gilbert bit his lip seeing him try. "It's alright, I'll get you there. It's fine." Ivan was of similar build and height as his younger brother. During the last stand in the war Gilbert had carried and half dragged his brother over the battlefield of 10 km. Getting Ivan into a bed, which was just in the next room would be a walk in the park. "This will hurt." He warned crouching next to him. Wrapping one hand around his waist he slung the burned hand over his shoulder. "I'm sorry." Ivan hissed in pain at the movement and his whole weight rested against the smaller man. Gilbert immediately glanced at him. Ivan was half out of it from the pain. "Hold on." He tried to encourage him while dragging the larger man to the bedroom. "Just for a bit."
The only answer he got was a groan.
"You need a doctor…is there one I can call. I mean, who knows about us?" Gilbert asked while disposing Ivan on the bed as carefully as he could.
"Da*…in my briefcase…address book. For Berlin it's…is…Ste…Stefan Walz…ig." Came the slurred answer.
Gilbert glanced over at the bed hearing the slow answer. Ivan's eyes were half-open and he tried to open them and sit up, but his body just refused, lacking any strength.
"Stay still, will you?" He put his hand mindfully on the Russian's good shoulder and held him in place. "I'll get the number and call him. Just stay still." It was really the first time Gilbert had seen the national spirit of the world's biggest government so worn out and that he was on the verge of losing consciousness any minute. He had seen him tired and bleeding, but never to the point of completely breaking down. It was just…wrong and he did not like it one bit.
"Can't…can't lie ar-round…" Ivan protested weakly. There was still so much to do and by passing out next to the couch he probably lost a couple of hours already.
"Ivan stop! Just stop," Gilbert leaned down and carefully cupped his face and turned it to himself. "It's fine. You. Are. Not. Weak." He said with clear conviction in his voice. The Russian was so similar to him in putting up a front of being strong and neglect his own well-being. But there were times when they needed a break just like humans. Especially when their country was involved in military conflict. They were in a way immortal, but had their limits as well. It was their weakness and strength at the same time. In this way they had the ability to relate to the population. However, Ivan representing a whole continent did not want to show weakness. Especially during times of frosty relations. "Just stay still." He waited first for an answer of acknowledgement before leaving him alone.
"Ja…d-da," Ivan eventually replied after a moment of silence.
"Rest. I'll be right back. Just calling the doctor." He told him and let go. It was best to tell him what he wanted to do. Maybe Ivan did not process everything, but a couple of words would definitely stick to keep him calm and not wonder where Gilbert had gone.
The briefcase lay discarded on the floor by the couch and Gilbert had to leave through several documents and folders before he found a thin wallet with cards. Stefan Walzig's was one of the first he found and grabbed the phone to call. Within a couple seconds the caller picked up.
"Dr. Walzig speaking."
"Hello, my name is Gilbert Beilschmidt. I'm calling on behalf of Ivan Braginski and h-"
"Is he injured?" The man on the other end cut him off as soon as the name of the Russian was mentioned.
Gilbert grinned a bit at the question. The man definitely knew who it was about. "Yes, he's got cuts, bruises, a couple of burns and he's suffering from long term exhaustion." He listed all the injuries he had seen and his own observations.
"Noted. Where are you residing now?"
"Interhotel Stad Berlin room 348."
"Thank you, Herr Beilschmidt. Expect me in 30 minutes."
Gilbert was just about to say 'thank you', but the man had already hung up. It looked like this doctor was a man of a few words and more action. Putting the horn back he returned to the bedroom.
Ivan looked like he finally had succumbed to exhaustion in the meantime. Once again, he checked his pulse and placed a hand on the man's forehead to check for fever. It felt cold and clammy to the touch. Gilbert frowned in concern. Dealing with fever was often a clear cut case. Ivan was freezing and it seemed like his body was going into shock. This was a more complicated case.
The Russian started to stir at the warm hand on his forehead. "Cold…" he whispered looking up at him.
Gilbert sighed seeing the violet eyes looked miserable from pain and exhaustion. "The doc is on the way. I'll go and look for another blanket." He sprinted off to the living room area and started opening drawers and pulled up the sofa to check. The drawers were empty safe for champagne and wine glasses. The sofa proved more useful. Inside were pillows and blankets. He grabbed them both and ran back. "Ivan, still awake? He called again covering him up.
"…'m awake…" came the muffled answer.
The German sat down next to him. "Good, I've gotten you two blankets."
"…pasiba*," Ivan signed trying to curl up, but winced as all the muscles in his body protested.
"Don't move!" He called immediately grabbing his arm that lay on the mattress. "Just stay still, will you?" The man was still a handful even when incapacitated.
Ivan only nodded his head lightly and just lay limp under the covers. "…still cold…"
"I can't do anything else." The heating was already turned on and he had brought all the blankets there were. There was a water boiler which he could use to make tea, but Ivan would not be able to hold a cup in his hands and might choke on it.
"The doctor will be here any minute. Hold on."
"Walzig…will scold me again…"
Gilbert raised an eye brown at the comment. Again? Did that mean it was a regular occurrence for him to be injured and breaking down? He wanted to ask what he meant, but decided against It. The Russian was barely conscious. The doctor in question was about to arrive anyway. Ivan grew quiet after that and looked like he was asleep.
20 minutes later, there was a knock on the door and Gilbert immediately went for the door.
Stefan Walzig was a middle-aged man of an average statue with a thinning haircut. He greeted Gilbert with a serious face, but he had very kind grey eyes.
"What did he do again?" he asked entering the room and headed for the bedroom as if he was a regular guest and knew his way about.
"I'm not exactly sure. It seems he had been working non-stop or didn't sleep enough. And there are too many wounds like he's been in a war. But you will have to ask him." Gilbert explained as best as he could. Ivan was not forthcoming in his undertakings.
Walzig had removed the mountain of blankets and leaned over the injured man to check him over. "The conflict with China is taking its toll on him and not to mention the long hours he puts into work."
"I'm aware of the tension with China," he said thoughtfully. "But I did not know about the fighting." Ivan had not informed him and the other statesmen of the USSR mostly ignored the national spirit of the GDR if it did no concern the state itself."
"He doesn't inform you, although you are the national spirit of the GDR?" The man wondered while taking a pair of scissors out to cut the shirt off. It would be too much of a hassle to move the patient. "He must have a reason…" Once the shirt was out of the way he prepared a syringe.
"What's that for?" Gilbert asked immediately with suspicion. When Ivan was on his feet again he would ask about the China situation.
"His body is going into shock. I need to stabilize him. Relax." He administered the syringe while talking matter-of-factly and then started to inspect his chest, checking if any ribs or internal organs were damaged. The pressure of his fingers started to rouse the man.
Ivan squeezed his eyes open with a groan. "Hurts…."
"Good, then it means you are alive, you stupid boy." Walzig scolded the Russian with a concerned, but friendly voice. "I've told you several times to take it easy. You're not human, yes, but you have also your limits. Ivan, I know you don't have to do everything by yourself."
Gilbert watched the older man and for the first time in a while smiled gently. This Stefan Walzig was talking like a father figure would to his charge. Frederick the Great had talked to him in a similar way. "And you have Beilschmidt here now. Let him do the work he's supposed to do."
Ivan was just blinking a couple of times. "Good…to see you….again," he breathed. Ivan did not hear everything that was being said, but understood he was being scolded.
"We will have this conversation again, when you're more coherent," the medic sighed devoting his attention on the burned arm. "Beilschmidt give me a hand, please."
Gilbert approached the bed at the prompt call. "What should I do?"
"Hold his arm up, while I apply some ointment at the burns and bandage it." The medic instructed. "Can you make sure he applies it twice a day?"
The German did as he was told. "Yes, I will make him do it."
"Good, because I know he will forget now and then."
"It seems you've known each other for a while," Gilbert commented watching him work and glanced down at Ivan. The man in question and dozed off again. The injection was probably taking its effect of calming him down and reducing the pain.
"You could say that." The man started to bandage his arm in precise and swift movements. "I know to him it is just a blink of an eye, but to me it is 20 years of my life. You can put the arm down now. Thank you."
"I'm sure he appreciates it nonetheless." It was true they lived far longer and often different existences as national spirits than humans. However, most of them cherished humans. Their average lives lasted for less than 100 years, but because it was short-lived they shone the brightest. For a short while some humans could change the entire world. Their personalities and action were magnificent, selfless but also frightening. It was often hard to get close to humans because of that. Gilbert himself did not get close to one again after Frederick the Great had passed away. The man had been his best friend and mentor. Granted the king had a complicated character, but Gilbert himself was eccentric as well. Attending his funeral after 60 years was one of the hardest moments in his existence. He had needed several years to get over him. Even now Gilbert remembered him fondly and the lessons Old Fritz had thought him still influenced his conduct to this day. He liked humans in general, but tried not to get close anymore. It was just too much hardship. Once his brother had appeared he had filled the void and he was never lonely anymore. Gilbert was assured that at the end of the day Ludwig would not die from disease or accident. Also if anything were to happen he would feel it. They both always knew through their connection as being one country. It had become even more intense since their separation and a change of the political systems. Each time they performed opposite actions like he had done today, the scar over his chest bled. He had yet another scar now. It was itching like a mosquito's bite, but scratching it would not remove the poison. All he could do was clean the blood away and do his best to bear it.
"I damn well hope so. He's giving me gray hair each time I see him like this." The doctor continued to fuss, while taking care of Ivan's bruised chest. His words pulled Gilbert out of his revere.
"You really do care about him, don't you?"
"Just as a patient at first, but after all this time…he grows on you. And someone should take care of him. He's such a careless idiot sometimes, as you can see."
The man was quite forthcoming about his relation to the Russian. Gilbert started to reconsider his first impression of him being tightlipped.
"By the way, once I'm finished with him I'll take a look at you. You don't look well either and…you're bleeding."
"I…no, I'm fine." Gilbert said too quickly to be honest. The medic had been called for Ivan's sake. He had not even considered this Stefan Walzig would check on him as well. He was just exhausted and it showed on his already pale complexion. The wound over his chest did hurt, but both symptoms were not life threatening. "Just tired, that's all."
"And what explanation do you have for the blood?" The older man asked, refusing to let go.
"It is a wound that often bleeds," Gilbert sighed just giving in too tired to have an argument with a medic. He had learned long ago not to argue with doctors. Especially one whose field was threatening nation's spirits. They were rare, but the few that existed were truly experts and usually meant no harm.
"Oh, and that is not a reason for concern?" Walzig commented sarcastically. "You won't die from it, yes? And it doesn't really hurt."
Gilbert snorted. "It itches and hurts like hell and won't heal, but it's…complicated."
"You don't have to explain everything to me. Just the minimum how you got it and let me have a look." The man explained, trying to make him understand he was not going to be noisy. "Let's go to the living room. And let Braginski rest." He could not do much about the bruises than put some ointment on to speed up the healing process a bit more.
Gilbert nodded slowly before leaving the room.
Walzig followed him a second later with his medical case. He waited until the patient sat down on the couch and unbuttoned his shirt.
The long military trench coat was the first garment to go followed by a partly blood stained jacket. The white dress shirt looked the worst of all. It was soaked in red at the front.
"You're fine, huh," Walzig snorted taking out a package of medical tissues to clean the blood off his chest. Dabbing away the red revealed one deep straight gash over Gilbert's heart, which had left a deep scar. The new one went right over the older one in a jagged fashion.
"How did you get this?" The man frowned. "This looks like it has been carved in…"
"No this is…" sighed thinking how he should explain it. "I'm the GDR and my younger sibling is the BRD. The scar has something to do with the Wall. It appeared when it was erected. Sometimes it bleeds, but this is a new one. My brother probably has a similar one, I think." He did not want to elaborate the reason it appeared. It was his own business that his brother and he were growing apart. The scars were the physical manifestation of that.
The man nodded while cleaning the wound. It was still bleeding a bit. "These are emotional scars."
Gilbert merely raised an eyebrow at the conclusion. The medic was really good at figuring it out. "I guess…" Having a chance to finally sit down after all the ordeals made him realise he could collapse right on the spot and sleep on the couch for the rest of his days.
"Stay awake!" The man's voice pulled him back to reality and he looked up blinking a couple of times. "Just stay for a bit. I need to bandage this. You can lie down afterwards."
"I'll try," he sighed letting himself get pocked and bandaged. The man worked quickly, but was also careful about not to cause any more pain. Gilbert had stopped watching him and just waited until all was done and he could collapse on the couch. Being under constant pressure was worse than being wounded in some regard. The feeling of adrenaline pumping through his veins had been exhilarating. However, the crash afterwards was the worst thing ever. He felt completely drained and wanted to collapse just somewhere.
"Do you have a clean shirt to put on?" Walzig asked eyeing the man carefully.
"What? Aaah…" Gilbert blinked up at him again. "No, I don't live here. I'll go back home and-"
"Over my dead body," the medic cut in. "You can barely keep your eyes open and don't you dare stain my bandages with that bloody shirt. I'll get you one of Ivan's. He won't mind." Walzig left him sitting on the couch to retrieve a new shirt from the Russian's luggage.
Gilbert did not have time to respond when a white shirt was draped over his shoulders. "It's huge, but that will do for now."
Gilbert put it on and buttoned it up. "Thanks."
"Do you need painkillers?"
"Yeah, that would be great."
The medic rummaged through the bag and pushed a package in his hands with a card. "If you're sick or injured call me. Any time of the day is fine."
Once the doctor was finally gone, Gilbert curled up on the couch pulling the oversized shirt together around himself. It did little to warm him up this way, but the tight grip created by it made the wound hurt somewhat less. The last thing he wanted to do was sleep. There was just too much to think about, but his body was too exhausted from pain and being on high alert. He was also concerned what the consequences would be for him since he did talk with his brother. With a worried expression he drifted off a minute later into a dreamless slumber.
I hope you all still like to read the story!
See You in Part X!
(1) It is mentioned in the manga he wears either his long white scarf or bandages around his neck. I did not find a reason for it and that gives me the freedom to invent something of my own. The origin of Ivan's 'emotional scars' will be a topic in the chapters to come.
* Da - yes
* pasiba - the short form of 'spasiba' which means 'thanks'
Chapter 9: Remember
Thank you to all for reading my story and leaving kudos! I really appreciate it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART IX – Remember
October 29, 1961
The hotel room had been quiet for several hours with both GDR and Russia sleeping. Ivan awoke in the early morning hours to a dark room with only a faint light shining from the streetlights outside through the windows of his room. He blinked around, too disoriented from the drugs and just lay still for a moment hoping his head would be clearer. For some reason he did not feel alarmed with the unfamiliar place. The only pressing thing on his mind was to get a glass of water. His throat hurt from being too dry. Ivan slowly tried to roll over on his side to get up. Being in a dazed state he realised too late the movement would put all weight on his injured arm. He nearly screamed from the pain shooting through his body and fell off the bed. The impact with the floor caused all his other bruises to hurt as well. The air was knocked out of his lungs and he just gasped trying to bear the pain somehow without crying out. At the same time he also concentrated on the pain as a means of not losing consciousness again. The Russian lay on the floor for some time until the room did not spin that much and he could breathe more easily. The last time he felt this bad or at least similar to it was during WWII. Back then it was then times worse. The thought of war reminded him of the Prussian and he opened his eyes to glance around. Obviously, it was a bedroom having all the necessities one would need. There were no personal trinkets or anything that indicated someone was inhabiting it for long periods. A small package lay lonely on the nightstand.
A hotel room, he concluded slowly remembering the flight from Moscow to Washington for negotiations with the U.S. Believing it would only take a couple of hours he had not taken any painkillers with him. That had been a grave mistake. Negotiations took up 16 hours dealing non-stop with Alfred’s provocations and his suspicious bosses. It was a success in the end, but Ivan did not exactly remember how he got on the plane back to Europe. The landing in East Berlin and arriving at the hotel happened all in a blur. The thought keeping him going had been: not to collapse somewhere and reach the hotel as soon as possible. The last clear memory was Gilbert dragging him off somewhere. How he got into a bed remained a mystery.
Gritting his teeth he started to get up pushing himself off the floor with his good hand. It did not work as he wanted. The arm barely could hold the weight of his body and he collapsed back down on the floor catching his breath. In the end it took him a couple of tries to get up and stumble to the other room that was equally dark. Leaning against the wall for support he tried detecting the light switch in the room. The streetlights provided just enough illumination to see the outlines of the furniture. He sighed leaning the back of his head against the wall. A light switch was next to the front door. That was a distance of at least six steps. Barely able to walk, he did not feel like crashing down on the floor nor into anything on his way to it. There had to be something else. Turning his head towards the other side of the room he noticed the couch and a long, thin object next to it. A floor lamp, perhaps? He wondered with a frown while counting how many steps were leading to it.
“Four...just f-four,” he mumbled to himself trying to sound optimistic, but felt anything else but that. Four were at least better than six. With that in mind the uninjured hand pushed his body away from the wall setting a hesitant step forward. It was unsteady and he swayed a bit, yet remained standing. That was motivation enough to set another one despite feeling the pain pulsing from his arm to head. Thanks to the streetlights he could make out there really was a floor lamp. Only one step remained until his final goal. That knowledge made him impatient and he took the last one too fast. Both legs gave out under him and he landed on floor. Instinctively he reached out trying to grab anything to break his fall. The couch was the only thing nearby to hold on to. His good hand had stopped the fall by grabbing at it. Instead of collapsing he landed with his knees on the floor. “Chert....*!” he gasped doubling over and tightened his hold on whatever he had grabbed as to not fall all the rest of the way.
“Was zum Teufel*!” A voice shouted half in pain and anger.
Gilbert had curled up as much as he could to preserve some warmth and slept quietly when suddenly he felt something pushing down on his knee with full force. Instinctively he cursed in German and sat up pulling at the cord of the floor lamp to see what the cause of his pain was. His eyes fell on the kneeling shape in front of the couch. “Gott im Himmel*, Ivan! What are you doing?” The pain quickly forgotten he leaned down to have a look at the other man.
Ivan did not realise what had happened too busy trying to breathe.
Getting no reaction from the Russian made Gilbert act. He put a hand on his shoulder and asked in a calmer voice. “Ivan, what are you doing here? You should be resting.”
The touch had the desired effect and the injured man turned his head squinting up from the light. “Gil...”
“Yes, hello.” He grinned a bit at him. “What are you doing here?” Came the question again since there was no reply.
The sudden assault by the light made his eyes hurt for a second, but they soon got used to it. He noticed the German’s eyes were worried although he grinned lightly. “W-water...” he finally answered and frowned. Even under the faint lamp light he could see Gilbert’s lips had a tinge of blue, then his eyes feel on the slightly open shirt and the thick bandages around his chest. “...you...you’re hurt.”
“What?” Gilbert looked down at his chest as well. “Oh, never mind that. I can get you water. Just a second.” He stood to fetch a glass, leaving the other man on the floor and returned a short while later.
“Can you hold it?” He asked sitting back down on the couch with a glass in one outstretched hand.
“Yeah...thanks.” Ivan took it with a shaky hand and gulped it down. “W-what happened?”
“Just...see it as personal punishment for talking to my brother.” Gilbert sighed, seeing the other man refused to let it go. “So, what’s the USSR’s punishment? Working even more against my brother?” Gilbert asked with a sarcastic snort, not really caring what the answer would be. His brain and body were far too exhausted for that. Renouncing his own family in front of a crowd was already the hardest thing to do and he wondered if there was any worse action to perform. Gilbert waited patiently on the couch for an answer, but it never came.
Instead Ivan grabbed him with his good hand by the sleeve pulling him off the couch and against himself. It send shockwaves of pain through his whole body at moving so abruptly and press Gilbert against his bruised chest. Clenching his teeth together he wrapped his arm around him. “Tha…that’s not it at all…you misunderstand me...”
The pull was unexpected and Gilbert fell against the other man without having any time to grip onto something. He heard Ivan hiss in pain and tried to move away. “What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s fine!” The other replied still holding him in place. “And I’m sorry. I threatened you with the Stasi, so that you would not get close to the intelligence service and Mielke. I even got you a special status of a government attaché of the USSR.”
Gilbert had no choice but to hold onto the other man so that he would not fall on the floor. Once Ivan started explaining he looked up at him with a frown. “I…don’t quite follow.” It sounded like Ivan had an elaborate plan, which did not go exactly as he had planned. “Can you…explain it to me?” he asked carefully and stopped struggling. They were actually both physically not fit and it certainly influenced their mental capacities. “Or you can do that later.” Ivan seemed to give the impression that the threats he heard three months ago had been empty ones from the start.
“I can try…” the other replied. “But…don’t know if it will be clear enough.” He did see the point of them both being too exhausted for long conversations.
“Look we can do this later. You should go back to bed and rest. I’ll continue sleeping here and tomorrow we’ll see how things are.”
“You want to sleep here?” Ivan asked with an incredulous voice. The couch was too small for the German. That was the reason he had slept curled up in an uncomfortable position. On top of that there was no blanket and he had even developed a blue tinge on his lips from the cold. “It’s too small…you need a blanket. You were freezing when I woke you up.”
“Where else can I sleep, but here? I won’t make it back to my place,” Gilbert said still sitting within Ivan’s arm and half on his lap. “I’ve slept in worse places.”
“Take one of the blankets on the bed. I don’t need that many and…oh, just sleep on the bed. It’s huge and can fit three people.” The Russian suggested with a shrug.
“You’re serious?” Gilbert would gladly accept a blanket, but he was not sure about sleeping that close to the Russian. If it had been Ludwig then his brother would already be complaining for about him hogging the bed. Then again he had been sleeping next to Ivan on an army cot during the Napoleonic War. The winter period had been one of the harshest at the time. Ivan and Gilbert had to curl up and hold each other because the army cot was too small and their warmth kept of them from freezing to death. (1)
“You decide…I was just offering. And it’s not like we haven’t slept in one bed before.” Ivan shrugged and looked at him for a moment longer before closing his eyes with a tired sigh.
Gilbert tilted his head to the side when Ivan’s hand held him just a bit tighter for a short moment then let go.
“Help me up?” the Russian commented with a sheepish grin.
Gilbert grinned standing up and held his hand out. “Sure, come on, old man.”
“Who…are you calling o-old?” Ivan sounded insulted, but his eyes were amused as they looked at each other again. Both of them were ancient compared to humans, but Ivan was indeed far older. Gilbert was speaking the truth, but personality wise it was the other way around sometimes. The Russian was just like a kid fascinated now and then by the simplest things. Some of them ended up being broken by that same childish behaviour that did not seem to understand what limits were.
Pulling Ivan up was not as easy with Gilbert himself being injured. Additionally, he was limited to grab one arm instead of both. They did manage somehow in the end. Slinging Ivan’s good arm over his shoulder and wrapping the other around the man’s waist for support. “Ready?” The German glanced up at the taller man.
“Yeah,” he whispered holding in the pain of moving again.
Ivan looked like he would just fall over any second now. “Stay with me,” Gilbert said to the man.
“’m trying.” Ivan just concentrated on breathing and staggering to the next room. “We’ve…done this…b-before…” he remembered the same situation had happened. Yet could not pinpoint exactly when.
“Yes, a couple of hours ago,” Gilbert confirmed with a groan. The Russian was heavy leaning all of his weight on him. “I found you…half-collapsed against the couch and…” he broke off remembering the deep scars on Ivan’s neck. Was it really his place to ask how he got them?
“And?” Ivan saw him struggle to drag him to the bed and attempted to walk on his own, but it made him only dizzier with pain.
His actions also caused Gilbert to walk unsteady. “Don’t move! Just…stay still, I’ve got you.”
“I’m too heavy for you…” They had reached the bedroom and Gilbert leaned on the doorframe with Ivan against him.
“You’re taller than me…of course you’ll be heavy.” Came the matter-of-factly reply. “Almost there...” He took another deep breath steeling his body to practically carry the taller man across the room to bed. At least it was not that far and he could feel Ivan was warm now. The injection had done its job. “The pills on the nightstand…doc said you need to take them.” Once the man was in bed again he would make sure they were taken. Something told him if Walzig’s orders were not followed there would be hell to pay.
“If he say…so” Ivan’s started to lean even more the smaller man.
“Oh Scheisse…!” Gilbert cursed unable to hold him up and they both tumbled on the floor. He could at least make sure the Russian would fall on him instead of the hard floor. The crash and the additional body temporarily knocked the air out of him. “Gott…” he groaned seeing black little dots dance over his eyes. Despite feeling completely like death, hurting all over and a heavy body on top of him that made it difficult to breathe he started laughing lightly. It were the similarities of the situation that amused him the most. 200 years ago it was Ivan lying on the ground with Gilbert on top of him being too wounded to even stand.
The small whisper brought him back to reality. “It’s fine,” he still laughed rubbing his eyes while the other hand still held onto Ivan. “See it as favour that is returned.”
“Favour?” Ivan lifted his head a bit to look at him. “W-what?”
“200 years ago, remember? The Napoleonic war…you saved me.”
“Yeah…that…a long time ago, but…n-never forgot. You were…so angry.” He was too tired to keep his head up and put it back on Gilbert’s chest.
“Of course I was! You made fun of the fact that I was called Prussia.” Gilbert shot back still laughing at the memory.
“…still is funny...you’re copying me.”
“Good thing, you’re hurt…or I would kick you again.” He joked and tried to shift his weight. It was getting really uncomfortable to lie on the hard floor.
“…should be grateful of y-your thoughtfulness then.” He pressed his head on Gilbert’s chest when he tried to move.
“We…should move.” Gilbert glanced down at the man and frowned. Was he planning to lie on the floor or what?
“Yeah, for you maybe,” he groaned sitting up slowly holding Ivan against his chest. “I can barely breathe with you smothering me.”
The movement made everything painful again for the Russian. “You…suggesting I’m fat?”
Ignoring the painful sounds Ivan made Gilbert slung an arm over his shoulder gain and pulled him up. “That would fit that burger eating idiot. You’re just huge.” They finally reached the bed and he tried to lay Ivan down as careful as possible. “You need to take the pills…”
“I’m…not angry nor…do…I want to punish you,” Ivan had grabbed the oversized shirt making him stop. “I’m…just…sad you’ll…leave.”
The explanation made him frown even more than the last time. “Leave?” he asked moving back to the bed with a pill in hand. “Where would I go?” Gilbert lifted the man’s head to make it easier to swallow the pill. “Can you take it like this or do you need water?”
Gilbert put the pills in his open mouth. “Ivan, listen. Let’s talk about this tomorrow.” He said noting the sad expression on his face. “Right now, you’re not making much sense. I want to understand you and for that I need you to have a clear head. Until then, I’ll…” It was the Russian’s childlike side again. He did not want to be alone, but would rarely say it out loud. Gilbert found it strangely endearing. Being useful, needed and not left out were really simple emotions for a huge nation like Russia. Deep down he did not like to see him look sad. “I’ll stay with you.”
The last five words were really the only thing he truly wanted to hear and having actually been said made him smile. “pasiba…Gil.”
Gilbert felt something pull at his heart. Ivan was smiling honestly, making his face look soft as well as his eyes. “Just…go to sleep,” he said preferring to look down at the hand still clutching his shirt. Here was a huge nation, who had so many countries with him and yet he seemed to be so terribly alone. Ivan wanted someone to just stay close. Gilbert wondered if he should find it sad, endearing or concerning. Maybe it was best to keep all three emotions in mind. He took Ivan’s hand pulling it free from his shirt and placed it back on the bed.
Ivan just watched him with half open eyes. “Blanket…”
“Thanks,” the other man grinned grabbing one before crawling himself in next to the Russian.
Have some Prussia and Russia bonding and it will continue in the next chapter with more history about their past.
See you all in PART X
(1) It is a historical fact that Napoleon and later the leader of the Third Reich made the same mistake and lost the war. For one, it is not advisable to attack Russia on their own territory. The population will even burn down their own villages and sacrifice a lot so that the foreign army won’t be able to use it. They will also never give in and will strike back twice as hard. And two, in both wars the same mistake was made by underestimating the winter season in Russia. Napoleons army may have lost the battle, but the whole army practically died out because they marched back to France in the middle of winter. Most of them either froze or starved to death. In this chapter I’m dropping a little description of that time.
* chert (черт in Russian) it usually means ‚devil‘, but in colloquial use it means more or less ‚heck‘ or ‘damn it’.
* Was zum Teufel literally is ’What the hell’.
* Gott im Himmel means ‘Good Heavens’ and is used informally here to express the same as in English: surprise, anger, etc. This phrase is rather old fashioned now, but Prussia is an old nation. It kind of makes sense he would revert back to his old roots when he is disoriented or in severe pain, don’t you think?
Chapter 10: Believe in me
We are on chapter 10 already and here is the longest chapter so far!
Just as a side note, but have you noticed I do not use words like 'OK' or 'Cool' at all in this story? The reason is that, during the time of the GDR and USSR words like that were not in use at all. So, I keep that in mind and avoid them.
Have fun reading and thanks for commenting!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PART XI - Believe In Me
29 October 1961
Ruby red eyes moved slowly behind closed eyelids before slowly opening halfway. They soon closed again. The light in the room was just too bright for his tired and sensitive retinas. For wearing only a shirt and trousers, he was not cold. There had to be a blanket somewhere since he felt warm and comfortable. One hand resting on his side started to feel around on autopilot until it came in contact with something soft. Thick and silky strands was not a consistency of a blanket. He squeezed one eye open and turned his head to the right. His hand was on top of a light blond head of a person. The head was resting against his stomach and a bandaged arm loosely wrapped over him. The rest of the body disappeared under the object of his desire: the blanket. Judging by the shape it was curled up against him. That was where the warmth was coming. His own blanket was nowhere in sight. He closed his eyes again with a groan cursing the light for waking him. His mind did not realise yet there was another person lying against him.
It took a couple more minutes for the thought finally sunk in. He was lying in a bed with Russia curled up against him. Moving his hand slowly out of the hair, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. What...am I doing here? He wondered glancing back at the sleeping man.
Gilbert slowly started getting out of bed, moving inch by inch hoping the other occupant would not notice it and wake up. The problem was the injured hand and as well as Ivan's head were resting on him. He could hold one or the other and put it softly back down on the bed. It was impossible to take care of both without waking him. "Damn…" he sighed resting back on the mattress. It was not only the light which woke him, but also the pain caused by the new wound on his chest. Waking the Russian was the available option if he wanted to retrieve any painkillers. Clearing his throat he put one hand on Ivan's head again patting it lightly. "Ivan…wake up."
There was no reaction at all at first. The taller man just lay motionless against him. Gilbert frowned in slight concern and moved his hand down to Ivan's neck to check for his pulse. That move made the Russian shiver and he said with a soft gasp. "'D-don't'."
Thinking he woke up Gilbert called his name again. "Ivan? Are you alright?"
The man in question did not reply just curled up more and pressed his head against Gilbert hiding his face.
These kind of reactions did not tell him much, except for Ivan was in some sort of distress. He was not exactly good with dealing with these kind of things and choose the more direct approach. "Damn it, man. Tell me what is wrong with you?" he said in a loud voice and shook him lightly but with a firm grip on his shoulder. Having a headache made his nerves already more strained than usual. He was also worried. Seeing him have a breakdown was an unnerving thing. Not to mention just wrong. In a way Gilbert looked up to him because Ivan Braginski was Russia and the USSR, a huge nation. A vast nation that was intimidating, often unconventional and unpredictable. At the same time mysterious, childishly irrational, patient and kind.
The shaking had roused the man a bit as he lifted his head just lightly. "Too loud…" he mumbled sleepily and put his head back down.
Gilbert sighed. "Hey, don't use me as a pillow." He actually did not mind the man for using him more or less as a pillow. It was his bed after all, so Gilbert could not kick him out. Also Ivan was injured and he was never going to use any force on someone, who was already down. On top of that, it did not look like he had any control over how and in which position he slept.
"…what…?" Came the disoriented question. Ivan slowly lifted his head again and blinked up at him.
The pills were probably doing something to his head too. Gilbert pulled up one leg, which was free put his arm on the knee and let his head rest on that hand. "You were sleeping on my chest, just so you know."
"Oh…," he said with a frown attempting to sit up. "…sorry."
"Don't you dare trying to get up. Not like this," Gilbert threatened him and put a hand carefully on his shoulder to pull him back down. "That doctor of yours will lecture my head off for letting you move around. I'm not in the mood for that."
Ivan ended up laying on Gilbert's other upper leg and just stayed there without moving an inch. "I'm not…too dizzy and…tired."
"Do you need anything? Pills, water or…I don't know food, maybe?" Gilbert had given his word to take care of the other nation. He intended to keep that promise to the best of his ability.
"Water…" For once he did not feel any pain at all, which was a good thing. His eyes had a hard time focusing on anything though. The room as well as the German were too unclear and he only knew the surface he was lying on was a bed, because it felt soft and Gilbert's mention of it. "Gil…I don't wanna sleep…talk to me."
Gilbert started to move mindful of the injured hand draped loosely over him. He held it up a bit while slipping from under Ivan's head. "First I'll get you a glass. If I hear or even see you attempt to get up in the meantime, it's-"
"Da*…I know, you'll make me pay." Ivan cut in lying on the mattress without a pillow to support his head. "I'll stay...promise..."
"Good. I'll be right back." Leaving the room he immediately went to the package of pills Walzig had left on the coffee able for him. His head was killing his nerves and he drowned two pills dry. Getting a glass of water for Ivan was the next thing on his list. The compact kitchen on the other side of the room was well stocked with a mini bar and all sorts of glasses for mixed drinks. He picked up the simplest looking one, filled it with water from the mini bar and went back.
Ivan in the meantime had crawled towards the bed's headboard collapsing on the nearest pillow.
Once he heard the other man approach he opened his eyes pushing himself up to the best of his ability.
Gilbert crawled back on the bed and gave him the requested glass of water, which Ivan accepted with a nod before gulping the whole thing down. Medication always made him incredibly thirsty and he closed his eyes with sigh feeling the water flow down his parched throat. "Thank you..."
"...Sure." He replied watching with interest how grateful the Russian seemed to be with just a glass of simple water. "We…need to talk about several things, but," he stopped and observed Ivan laying on his side again resting his head on the pillow. His eyes were open completely, but looked exhausted. The man should be resting and yet was asking to have a conversation to keep himself awake. "It would be better to do it later, when you're back on your feet. Don't you think?"
"Nyet*…Time is something we don't have," the Russian disagreed calmly watching his ruby red eyes. "Let's just do it. I can concentrate long enough for this."
"Alright," Gilbert sat crossed legged on the bed again in front of the other man. "Then first of all, I need to apologise to you and I will accept any consequences. But first I want you to understand why I did it." Ivan already knew he was not someone who acted in such situations on a whim, but he wanted to make clear he had no other choice. "I don't know what else you've heard except I've talked to Ludwig. I had no choice, but to talk, because he threatened to cross the border if I didn't. He's got the guts to do it, I know him well enough for that," he said smiling sadly and looked away. Instinctively he clutched at the wound over his chest. "I…had to denounce my own brother and tell him he's my enemy."
Ivan listened as the Prussian explained, asking neither for forgiveness nor looking for excuses. One of the observers from the USSR side had reported exactly the same thing. The second fact was mentioned in detail that Gilbert had left his post for a couple of minutes to calm down and was professional enough to carry the mission out until the very end. As Gilbert was clutching his chest Ivan's eyes fixed themselves on the heavy bandage peeking out from under the oversized shirt. There was no report of the GDR sustaining any injuries. That made him more aware. "What did really happened? Did you…get hurt?"
"No, no one hurt me." Gilbert quickly shook his head seeing Ivan moving and his calm voice changing. "It's…well, it's because of the Wall. I guess, it is similar to the scars on your neck." It was a bolt move to mention the scars, but the Prussian never had a real talent to talk in hints. He liked the direct approach.
The move hit home just as he had hoped. "Emotional scars…" Ivan said the words Gilbert had avoided. "Your brother must have similar ones."
He decided to push a bit more. "What about yours? Does someone have the same ones as you?"
The next question earned a small grin from the Russian. "No…this," he touched his neck while looking him in the eyes. "Was done by my own nation. They were fighting and killing each other for some lost and misguided ideals. The Russian Revolution...almost killed me."
Russian history was not his forte and he frowned wondering what exactly happened. "I have to admit I don't know much about it."
Ivan's grin turned into a broken smile and he shook his head lightly. "Nevermind, it's not-"
"But I want to know!" He found himself shouting suddenly and frowned at his own reaction. "Um, I'd like to know..." He continued in a calmer tone and did not add the rest of the sentence that he was thinking. …about you.
Hearing the German shout suddenly made Ivan raise an eyebrow curiously, but it made him a bit suspicious too. "Why?"
Why, indeed... Gilbert wondered a bit himself. "I want to understand you. After all, we're working together now and I'm still around…thanks to you."
Gilbert's pause at the end made him ask the next question. "Does it bother you…being indebted to me?"
"What? No, I don't really see it as a debt." He might have thought of it as one in the beginning, but seeing Ivan interact with the other nations of the USSR and comparing it to himself made him realise there were vast differences. Estonia and Lithuania seemed intimidated and even scared by him. However, if the opportunity arose they would gladly help any other nation to kill Russia off. Being prone to cowardly behavour yet opportunistic in nature they would support anyone. Poland was hostile, but this nation was always aggressive and unsatisfied with everything and anything. Gilbert ignored all of them most of the time. Then there was the medic's comments yesterday of Russia taking on too many tasks which should be rightfully the GDR's. Russia still did them even though he had his hands full and suffering from the conflict in China. Taking on and helping with other nation's task was something a Union was supposed to do, but only sometimes. Russia did more than that. The question was why. "I have the chance to continue existing and I want to help you. If you see it as a debt, then that is your opinion, but I don't because you seem to do so much more for me than is even necessary or for anyone else. Some nations are either afraid of you, want to see you dead or are constantly complaining." Gilbert tried to explain his point. "Walzig said you take on tasks that are actually my responsibility, the GDR's and you keep quiet about the conflict in China. Now, what happens in China has no direct influence on the GDR as it has on the nation of Russia. But it has influence on you! Ivan, you can barely move! And yet, you do things for me that you don't do for others. I'm not complaining. It's just…I know you don't trust me. Not after '45 and yet I'm surprised you send me to the border to resolve the conflict. I can only apologise I could only keep one part of the promise…" he sighed at the end watching the other man. "But honestly, why do you do all these things? It's fine that you can't trust me, just send an observer along with me and he will report what I'm doing, but let me do the work I'm supposed to be doing." Gilbert hoped Ivan had enough energy to concentrate on all that he was saying. "I don't want to see you breaking down like this." He meant everything that he said. Maybe Ivan would believe some of the things and if not he would show it through his actions. Actions spoke louder than words.
Ivan wanted to sit up and face the German properly. It was the first time they were having such a conversation in a very long time. "Are you…afraid of me?" All the sentiments Gilbert summed up were shared by one nation or another. That was no secret, but they gladly spend all the financial aids provided mostly by Moscow. It looked like Gilbert did not realise completely that the national spirit of Russia and USSR would not let just about anyone get that close to actually help when he was injured or sleep next to him.
"Not really," The German replied almost immediately. "You're completely mad sometimes as Russia, yes. But I don't fear you, Ivan." Just like the Russian, he made a distinction between the man as a nation and person, because the differences were stark.
Ivan looked away at the frank answers from the Prussian. They were direct without a second of any hesitation or pauses. Sometimes it felt uncomfortable to get them, but at the same time it made him happy. "I've never had any intention of punishing you. I just..." Ivan said back after a moment of silence. "Prussia and Russia...you know our history and now the GDR...it has a special status. On the one hand it is associated with the USSR and on the other it is not. You have your own culture here while you are aware and can related to ours. I'm happy you are the bridge, Gilbert. Erich Mielke... he is the secretary of the Stasi now and basically the government. He's too radical in his views and approaches. I wanted to keep you at a distance from him, because in some ways he resembles your former leader and I know what kind of influence that one had on you."
The two days before the USSR had started the attack to reclaim Stalingrad were probably forever etched into Ivan's mind. He had personally met with Gilbert Beilschmidt as a last attempt to prevent the fighting. Meeting another nation in secret during the battle in full swing was a dangerous and highly unorthodox move, but Ivan Braginski did not always abide by the rules. Especially, if it involved a nation he had befriended in the past. He did find Gilbert at the edge of the German military encampment bandaging his brother who was unconscious and had looked half dead. The Prussian had not looked any better himself wearing a uniform that was covered with grime, blood and old bandages. Ivan had tried to reason with him to call off the attack, but Gilbert could only apologise that he had no other choice but to fight him. He had been sent to Stalingrad as punishment for questioning his boss.
"I made sure you would receive the position of an attaché to the USSR and be on a level Mielke won't be able to get you, but now..." Ivan sighed trying to sit up in a better position. "You proclaimed to be the GDR right at the border and denounced the BRD. He will make a personal request to have you solemnly as the GDR. My bosses will grand him that gladly because it is an excellent way to get you out of the Politburo."
As he listened to the Russian explain what his plan had actually been, he kind of wanted to stand up and bow before the man out of respect like it was done back at the court a century ago. "Ivan, why are you so hell bent on keeping me in Moscow?"
"Because...Divided we fall," He answered with a heavy sigh holding his arm closer to his chest. It was gradually starting to itch and burn again. "You going to the GDR completely will mean there will be a division. I…would have liked you to be the go between, who is not bound to only one country."
"Politically that would be a position with advantages." Gilbert agreed with a thoughtful voice.
"It's not only because of that…" He commented lightly glancing over to the night stand to see if there was something to relieve the pain.
Gilbert tilted his head lightly out of curiosity. Nothing was ever simple or clear cut with Ivan Braginski. Sometimes when the man behaved in a childish way Gilbert momentarily forgot about the many sides of his personality and the deeper meanings his words could have. "Oh, Walzig said you need to apply some ointment on your arm twice a day," he suddenly remembered noticing the slightly uncomfortable expression on Ivan's face and the cradling of his arm. Gilbert got out of bed and retrieved the small container from the nightstand. The Russian would need help removing the bandage, as well as taking care of the burns before bandaging it all once more. Would he ask for help? Gilbert wondered and was amused with that thought. Both of them were not known to just ask for assistance that often.
Ivan took the offered container with the other hand and just looked at it. The lid on top of it was already going to be a challenge, let alone taking care of his arm.
Gilbert smiled lightly taking pity on him. It had been a mean move and Ivan did not need to ask for help. He would gladly do it. "I'm not a medic, but I'll try my best." He took the small container from him and unscrewed the lid before placing to the side. "Can I have your arm?" Moving closer he seated himself cross-legged and held out his own. Saying 'give me your arm' would have sounded too much of an order and was not necessary in this situation.
Looking at the outstretched hand for a moment and then at Gilbert, who was even smiling a bit Ivan held his arm out. "The Revolution in 1917 consisted of several parts...," the Russian started to explain about his past. (1)
Gilbert in the meantime was unwrapping the bandage carefully and noticed how Ivan's voice had gotten more subdued carrying a tone of regret.
"The main goal was the complete dismantling of the Empire and the tsar. The soviets believed that as long as I was in existence...a part of the old system, the tsar autocracy would remain. They didn't understand nor wanted to know what I really was. I don't remember everything, which...is a good thing, I guess, but...I do think they tried every method known to man to kill me." Ivan had curled his healthy hand into a fist and looked away from Gilbert. "Eventually, they understood I suffered more when people within the country fought and killed each other. I was practically dead when after a couple of years the civil war between contra-revolutioniaries, several independence movements and other socialist groups ended. The soviets managed to win and...I...I'm missing memories from 1918 to 1922." He closed his eyes and shook his head trying to dispel the few recollections he did have of that time. (2)
Gilbert watched him closely while he told about his past. 1917 and the years after that had been turbulent times for Prussia as well. In 1918 it went from a kingdom to a republic and there were many unrests. Gilbert himself had to focus on his own nation just to keep it afloat only to be assimilated into the Third Reich several years later. The unrest in Russia and the many revolutions which followed one after another were something he had vaguely heard about. He bit his bottom lip lightly hearing that Ivan's own people had tried to kill him. Fighting a war against another country was one thing and they could sustain it for quite some time. It was something entirely else when your own nation went against you and even directly tried to hurt and even kill their own nation's spirit for the sake of an ideology. Ivan had been betrayed in the worst possible way. The four years he was missing probably were memories that should never be remembered if he said the people tried to kill him like a human. That definitely included torture. Gilbert closed his eyes at that thought. This was just too much.
"Ivan…" he said with a heavy sign. The injured arm was unwrapped revealing burns covering the entire arm almost until the elbow. There was not even one speck of healthy skin left. He thought back to the Politburo assembly where Ivan had grabbed his arm and yanked him back to sit. That just had to have hurt and yet there had been no sign of obvious pain. The only time he had seen it was during their private conversation in that small room with the TV turned on. Even then Ivan had tried to hide it. He was good at bearing pain. Far too good that it was already concerning. Nobody had to bear pain and absolutely not in solitude. Gilbert wondered if it always had been this way and that is why he was exceptional at it. Looking at him sitting here now resigned to it all made him at a loss of words. Pain and anguish were not foreign words to former Prussia. He had experienced a fair share of it himself, but had been lucky in his life to share it with his brother and with a couple of trusted human before that. Never all alone and the nation had never turned on him personally. That is why he was unsure what to stay to the Russian. Situations like these were difficult and he felt completely inadequate to behave in the appropriate way. The only thing that came to mind was just to hug the man. Was that the right thing to do and would Ivan even let him?
"I'm missing nearly 4 years. I know what is written in the history books, but that is what the human leaders wrote, I...I couldn't find any information what happened to me personally and-"
"Stop...you don't...have to explain anymore," Gilbert interrupted him deciding to stop hesitating and listen to his gut. Letting Ivan's injured hand go he wrapped his arms around the taller man pulling him into a thigh hug. What was he thinking asking about the scars? His curiosity had gotten the better of him. Despite being a sensitive subject, the Russian had enough trust to tell even the short version. "I apologise for asking you...," he whispered having the other man's head close by. Having their own people turn against them was the worst kind of pain to endure. If it happened to Ivan over several years and involved torture then being erratic fterwards was practically nothing.
Thanks to the pills he had been more or less comfortable, but Gilbert's thigh embrace was excruciating. "h...hurts," he gasped out barely able to breathe.
Gilbert had underestimated the effect a simple squeeze would have on the injured. His motivation was just to help Ivan somehow, even if it was just an embrace. "Ah… !" The thought did not even occur to him of causing Ivan any pain. "I'm…sorry, really, I just…" he broke off looking for the right words and immediately loosened his hold, but did not let go of him. "I wanted to help…somehow." It started to really get embarrassing. "...Sorry, I asked. You didn't have to tell me."
Ivan leaned his head on Gilbert's shoulder coughing and just trying to get his breathing back in order. "Why…ar'you…apologizing?"
"What do you mean why?" The question alone made the Prussian frown and he looked down at the mop of fair blond hair. "Isn't it obvious? You've lost four years. It's hurting you even now and…it's sad. It's too much! And I'm sorry, because my stupid curiosity knows no bounds and…" He sighed wondering if what came out of his mouth even made sense. "…I don't want you to be hurt…I…" I need to shut up. This is embarrassing, he thought to himself feeling his face getting hotter than it should and turned away looking towards the window. The Russian would definitely notice and might make fun of it.
Gilbert's voice had gotten a light nervous tone, which did not happen that often. Ivan's curiosity was peaked and he lifted his head up lightly. The other man was facing the window looking towards something he could not see. The curious thing was his face: it was usually pale, but now had developed a faint blush. The Russian grinned a bit realizing Gilbert had unwittingly said more than he meant to and was feeling embarrassed about it. "Danke*..." he said squeezing Gilbert's hand gently letting his head rest on his shoulder again, but continued to look up. Some colour on his face suited the German.
Ivan's reply was rather surprising. He had expected Ivan to make a teasing comment, but that did not happen. On the contrary the man sounded honestly grateful. Both the touch on his arm and the German word for 'thank you' made him glance back down. "Ah...sure," he commented clearing his throat meeting the violet eyes that were watching him. "I...ah...need to take care of the arm." Quickly glancing back at the limb he spread some ointment on it trying to busy himself with something else than face Ivan's eyes again. They had that soft look in them, just like last night. It was not uncomfortable. On the contrary, there was this warm feeling again and he was not entirely sure it was a good idea to pursue it.
"Ivan..." Gilbert cleared his throat trying to focus on something else. "How am I supposed to…to maybe repair that which has been lost during the last war?" he asked after a moment of silence while gingerly applying the ointment. Spreading it on the burned skin without causing pain was impossible, but he tried to smear it as gently as possible. The effort did pay off since Ivan did not gasp out of pain that often. "I...miss those days and what our countries had…" A wistful smile appeared on his face. He was referring to a time roughly a couple of centuries ago when the kingdom of Prussia had close ties to imperial Russia. Both of their aristocracy and royal families were interconnected through marriage and cultural exchange. One of the symbols of that friendship became the world renown Amber Room. A generous gift by the father of Frederick the Great of Prussia at the time to their ally tsar Peter the Great. (3) Gilbert had attended the official gift giving and had stood in awe of that room. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. At the time Ivan and he had only ever officially met, but it had been based on honour and respect. Their personal friendship began once imperial Russia's government had to fight against Napoleon's forces and rescued him.. Gilbert believed now that this friendship had been destroyed during the last war. They were in one and the same boat now standing up against capitalist powers, but would Ivan ever trust him again like he had done in the past?
"Things were a bit….simpler back then," Ivan mumbled into his shoulder before sitting up again. "As for repairing… I know you were sent to Stalingrad as punishment for questioning your leader's orders and you were part of the planning for Operation Valkyrie." Wars were a difficult time for everyone, humans and national spirits alike, but the ultimate decisions for a country were the leader's own responsibilities. Nation spirits could reason with them, but that's all they ever could do. Gilbert Beilschmidt had actually done far more. He tried to take action and change the system by possibly removing his own boss. "You do realise that you were left with no choice at some point. You tried to do something that is rarely done by any us. That is one of the reasons, I am willing to put my trust in you, Gil." He lifted his good hand and patted Gilbert's head gently. "It's just…I should have elaborated on my plan a bit more instead of threatening you with the Stasi. I'm not used to involve others in my plans…not anymore." In the past, Russia had been let down by other countries far too many times and preferred to keep important plans to himself. Maybe it was time to make an exception to his former ally and friend, Prussia. "Don't take all of the blame on yourself. You were trying to change the course of events, while others just profited from it. There is no such thing as pure good and evil sides in war, you know that. Everybody is to blame for something and we will all pay for it one way or another."
The Prussian looked up feeling the gently touch on his head. From past experiences he knew Ivan did that when it was meant as encouragement and what he said only confirmed that. Support was not something he expected to get, but the Russian did exactly that. "…thanks," he nodded while taking the gauze to rebandage the arm. This whole situation reminded him too much of a similar time centuries ago. He bit his lip lightly trying to ignore what it made him feel towards the other man . Back then he had avoided thinking about it because the sense of court propriety just did not allow for that. There was no court now and the old rules hardly applied to anything, but it was too late now. The war had probably driven them too far apart. Russia saved his life making him into the GDR because it gave the Soviet Union an advantage over the US. Also as the major force in the Second World War who freed Eastern Europe and Eastern Germany they had the right to govern over the lands just as the other Allied forces did on their side. Deep down Gilbert really wondered if Ivan had done it also out of a personal motivation. They had been allies and really close friends, but that was before the war. "But…you make it sound as if you're forgiving what I had done…to you. I'm hardly in a position to receive something like this, don't you think?" He stopped bandaging the arm and looked up. Continuing his existence, even if it was not as Prussia was something he was happy with, but sometimes he wondered if it honestly was a good thing. He was the past that would never return and maybe that should have been also his fate as well.
"I am forgiving a part of what you were…made to do. I have a history of which some actions are not exactly something to be proud of either, like all of us national spirits. We all…were part of something, but it is what we do afterwards that counts, Gilbert." He brushed a hand through the soft silver hair and placed it on his shoulder. "You wallow in self-pity, yet always get back on your feet and push on. You have a country now that is closed off by its own leaders. Mine were reluctant to finish the Wall, but it needed to be done economically as politically. Right now, the GDR needs your support and…I would like to have your help as well." Ivan leaned his forehead on Gilbert's shoulder again with a sigh. All the talking was exhausting him faster than he had anticipated. "I like that fighting spirit of yours….don't ever change, Gil." The pillow was too far to lean back on and Gilbert was bandaging his arm, so he stayed where he was.
Putting a bandage on injured skin was trickier than he thought. The medic with his swift movements made it look so easy yesterday. Gilbert knew how much pressure should be applied on gunshot and stabbing wounds, not when it came to burns. Sometimes he put too much pressure with the bandage, which made Ivan falter in his speech due to the pain. Once the pressure was reduced the Russian continued talking, but his voice got softer. It took a lot of energy at the moment to have long conversations. "Criticising and praising me at the same time…it's just like you," he commented lightly as Ivan rested against him again. He thought of ending their talk for now. Ivan had already spoken a lot and he noticed the man was resting his weight more and more on him. "Ivan, how about you just get some more sleep? I'll finish with this soon."
"No…we still need to talk…what will happen next…with the GDR," The Russian protested lightly and turned his head up towards him.
"No, you're too tired for thi-" he insisted looking up from his work and faltered. Their faces were just mere inches apart. "I mean…." Having the other man so close to his face made the room suddenly far too warm for him than it actually was. "…you can barely keep your eyes open," he commented quickly looking back down on the injury. Stop doing that, damn it or I might get ideas, he thought to himself but also would have wanted to say it to the Russian, but did not. "You're going to rest."
Ivan noticed Gilbert's face blushed even more and he had to search for words. "You're…ordering me?" he asked still looking up at him now with a small grin. Gilbert Beilschmidt, former kingdom of Prussia was actually blushing and got nervous when he got far too close. Interesting…
"You bet I am." The German said continuing to have a light commanding tone and pulled on the bandage a bit harder than necessary. "Got a problem with it?"
The pull was on purpose and reached its goal. Ivan winced and tightened his grip on Gilbert's shoulder. "I guess…" He liked seeing Gilbert behave like his old self and agreed. "I should…listen to…Prussia."
"I'm not Prussia…" he commented his attention mostly on the bandage. "Not anymore…"
"Nein*…to me… to Ivan, Gilbert Beilschmidt will always be Prussia." The other man had loosened his hold on the bandage and continued to wrap it in a gentle manner, which made Ivan relax again. After the war he had rarely used any German, although he was fluent in it, but now with Gilbert here and his frequent visits to the GDR it was time to use it more often.
It felt really good to hear his country's old name. Especially if it was said by an old friend. The last sentence made him glance back at the Russian again to find the violet eyes were gazing at him with intent. To Ivan, Gilbert Beilschmidt will always be Prussia, the sentence echoed his head. Personally, Ivan still saw him as Prussia, while Russia and the USSR accepted the reality of him being the German Democratic Republic (GDR). "Danke…really…" he let his head rest against Ivan's for a second and then continued to wrap the last part of the bandage before securing it.
A small smile tugged at Ivan's lips as Gilbert actually leaned against him for a short moment. "No need to thank me for that…"
"Maybe not, but I want to…" Checking the arm over he nodded lightly at his more or less decent wrapping skills. "Alright, it's done. Now go back to sleep."
"Thanks…looks good.." Ivan looked at his arm, which had been wrapped up in similar fashion as before. It would have been impossible without Gilbert's help. "What will you do, while I sleep?"
"Wait until you wake up, I guess. You wanted to talk…" Gilbert shrugged. "Or I can go back to my own place. I've received the address before coming to Berlin. I will return when you're awake again an-"
"Stay," Ivan cut in saying it louder than necessary, then cleared his throat and added in a soft questioning tone: "…please stay, if you want…" The truth was he liked having Gilbert close. When he woke up it was warm and it calmed him down knowing he was nearby.
"Sure, I can stay…" Getting only a couple hours of sleep was not nearly enough to get rid of the headache nor make him feel more alive. He only suggested to go and leave Ivan alone because he could not exactly tell if he was overstaying his welcome. It did not seem to be the case. On the contrary, Ivan insisted on him remaining.
Hearing the answer he wanted, Ivan carefully started to move back to his pillow. Gilbert watched him making sure the man lay down before doing the same. Getting some more sleep was really a good idea. Armed with a soft blanket against the cold he rolled into his left side pillowing his head on one arm. Being more aware than before Gilbert honestly appreciated the feeling of resting on a proper bed instead of a small couch. He sighed starting to relax, but then he felt something lean lightly against his chest. Curious what it was he slowly opened his eyes.
Ivan had curled up in his blanket cradling the injured arm against his chest. The mop of light blond hair was resting against Gilbert's chest, just under the scar. The hair was obscuring his eyes, but the rest of his face was visible. "Just...for a bit..."
The German did not reply right away, just looked at him. Closing his eyes again Gilbert grinned and put his other hand on Ivan's head tangling his fingers in the soft hair. "As long as you need..."
See you in Part XII!
I was deleting and rewriting this chapter so many times! It was really frustrating, because on the one hand I wanted to show the characters as Ivan and Gilbert (not Prussia/GDR and Russia/USSR) and their connection. On the other hand I wanted to put in some historical facts about Ivan's scars and the Amber Room.
I hope this is not too out of character.
* Da: yes
* Nyet: no
* Danke: thanks
(1) The Russian Revolution consisted of several parts. It started with the fall of the Empire with Tsar Nicolas II abdicating in Saint Petersburg (or Petrograd), the capital at the time. It continued with the October Revolution with the Bolsheviks winning and gaining support from the soviets and establishing the capital in Moscow in 1918. Soon after the civil war broke out with many groups, which I mentioned fighting for power. The Communist Party later paved the way in 1922 to establish the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR.
(2) To go from one political and social system to another in such a short time is very destructive and turbulent for a country (same with Japan with the feudal system to a republic). That is why I have this idea of Ivan really suffering from it. On top of that there are always radicals around who would misuse everything and anything to reach their own goals.
(3) The Amber Room is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World and was a given by the Prussian King Frederick William I to his ally Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire. It was looted in World War II by the Nazis and remains lost until this day. A reconstruction has been made from 1973 until 2003 and is now located in the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg. Thank you Amber for giving me this idea! I'm mentioning it here as an introduction and it will pop up now and then in future chapters.
Chapter 11: Renewal
Being around the Russian made him experience unconventional things and he truly liked him for that.
Thank you for your patience!
This took me a while to write just for the simple reason that I had to do research for the next couple of chapters.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XI – Renewal
30 October 1961, 09:27
Watching other people sleep was certainly not a favourite past time of his. Mainly for the obvious reasons that you had to be quiet and not move or the sleeper would wake up. Limited movement resulted in having nothing to do and that was extremely boring. Gilbert Beilschmidt was not fond of staying put and lazing around for long. At least that was usually the case.
The autumn sun was slowly raising, painting the walls of the room into light orange and reddish pastel colours. Gilbert had split his attention between watching that and the person sleeping next to him. The second had proven to be far more interesting. He had expected Ivan Braginski would be a very calm sleeper and barely move. It was not exactly the case. The man did move faintly now and then, but his face was not a picture of serenity. He seemed to frown a lot and sometimes pressed himself even more against the German as if wanting to hide away from something. Gilbert let him be and had decided to take only action if the man showed signs of distress. That did not happen and he just lay there observing him and sometimes doze off himself.
At some point he got really bored and carefully crawled out of bed to take a shower. Before it was even possible, he had a fight with the thick bandage around his chest. The medic had really outdone himself securing it with tape. Gilbert had been too exhausted and in a daze to notice it at the time. Once he finally freed himself the bathroom light gave him a good view of the scar’s state. It actually seemed to resemble a large healed bullet wound. There was a centre with thin little lines making its way out across the skin. On top of that and going over the left side of his chest was the new one. It was jagged and looked carved in just as the doctor had said. Right now, it was red with dried blood here and there.
He sighed wondering how many more there would be in the future. Closing off the country and the standoff with the US at the checkpoint in the Friedrichstraße would not be the last conflict. The USSR would never allow the US to dominate the world and that was a good thing. But how much would Ludwig and he have to pay? Gilbert turned away from the mirror shaking his head to clear his mind and climbed into the bathtub for a much needed shower.
The hot water cleared his mind and he had even managed to dress the bandage in a proper way, but with less tape. Putting the oversized shirt back on he buttoned it up all the way, except for the two top buttons. He had tried his best to dried his hair, but it was still dripping due to its thickness and a second towel was needed.
“How are you feeling?” Gilbert asked entering the bedroom again and saw the Russian moving on the bed.
Ivan stopped rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “Better,” he said looking Gilbert up and down. The white dress shirt was at least two sizes too big for him. Out of the sleeves you could barely make out the fingers and the towel hanging on top of his head, made him look more like a teenager rather than an adult. He merely smiled lightly at the observation, but did not say anything about it. “You?”
“Yeah, a bit better too…I’m hungry, though.” He could not exactly remember when there had been a square meal. Probably two or maybe three days ago?
“Food would be a good idea…” Ivan agreed starting to get out of bed. “What’s the date today?”
“October, 30th.” Gilbert rounded the corner coming to stand right in front of the other man. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I see…” Ivan stopped closing his eyes for a moment, but then shook his head and started moving again. “Calling room service to get us food. The phone is in the other room,” he said looking up at the German with a frown. Act normal. There is still time, he thought to himself
“I get that, but…you are staying here. I’ll call.” Gilbert’s voice sounded like he was scolding a small child. “Last time you got out of bed, I barely managed to drag you back across the room. I’m not doing that again.” Ending up falling on the floor and see starts was really not something he wanted to do once more. “What do you want to eat?”
“How can I decline, if you insist on being my personal valet?” Ivan merely raised an eyebrow at the tone and then grinned. “I have no preference. I’ll be fine with whatever they have.”
“Valet? Like that will happen!” Gilbert crossed his arms over his chest and smirked at him. “I’ll make sure you’ll get a generous portion of stale bread and water.”
“You’re a heartless man, Gilbert. Really heartless,” he shook his head lightly feigning hurt. The truth was he really enjoyed himself when the Prussian was with him. “I’m injured and need extra care, remember?” Gilbert did not think he was evil and it looked like he was trying to see past the lies and discover the real him again. Ivan was a country like all of them and was not as heartless as some may think.
“Of course, that’s why I said a ‘generous portion’,” Gilbert repeated walking out of the room.
“How kind of you,” Ivan called after him and moved back to sit on the bed.
The other man did glance back, making sure the Russian really did stay put. He checked not because he mistrusted him, but out of experience. Ivan could be just as pigheaded as he and was not a person to just sit around. Seeing that Ivan made himself comfortable on the bed, he devoted his attention to the information brochure about the hotel. Room service was limited to the higher class rooms and luck was on his side, because Ivan was staying in one. Gilbert did not want to imagine having to go down, pick up the food and return. More than likely he would end up leaning against a wall somewhere. He dialed the number while wondering what kind of food would be available on an early morning. Ivan said anything was fine, which left him with a lot of freedom to choose. It turned out they could serve anything and Gilbert picked something that was easy to eat. Soup, stew or a full course were too much trouble to have, since Ivan had only one hand available and even that one was shaking. The dispatcher told him it would be ready in 15 minutes and be brought up. He used the opportunity to be in the living room area to drown another painkiller before going back to the other man.
Not one to lie around uselessly, Ivan sat up on the bed unwrapping his arm to have a look. His vision had gotten good enough to see if the wounds were mending. One of the perks of being a nation’s spirit was a much faster healing ability. Gilbert had also made sure the salve was applied regularly which sped up the process even more.
“Need help with that?” Gilbert asked entering the room again.
“Hmm… it will need to be rebandaged.” Ivan nodded looking at the red skin and the cuts which had brownish crusts. It was not a pretty sight. He could not help himself and sighed lowering his arm again. When was the last time he was devoid of some kind of injury?
“It looks a lot better.” He said trying to shift Ivan’s focus on the more positive side of things. “Food will be here in 15 minutes.” Sitting down across the Russian he held his own hand out. “I’ve ordered some breakfast food. It will be easier to eat.”
“Great. I can’t remember the last time I even ate…” The Russian grinned lightly giving Gilbert his arm.
“Same for me. I think it was…two days ago, maybe more.” Food had really been the last thing on his mind while guarding and preventing an escalation at the GDR border. Now he was starving and hoping it would arrive quickly. Ivan seemed to share his sentiments.
Gilbert inspected the arm first and was pleased to see the burns and blisters were looking less severe. They still must hurt a lot, but at least they were healing and there were no new ones. “If I ask about China…are you willing to tell me what is going on?” He decided to take the diplomatic approach for now and ask politely. “Having wounds like these…,” he commented while carefully touching some of the blisters. “It’s not just a minor spat.”
“It’s a long story going back to the time of tsarist Russia,” Ivan replied with a sigh. Just thinking about it put him in a sour mood. “To make it short, back in the 19th Century, tsarist Russia and Qing Dynasty China signed a treaty establishing the region of the border between the two nations. Now China demanding more land. I’m sure they can read their own handwriting, but apparently they don’t. So, now they try acquiring land by guerrilla tactics.” (1) Ivan kept the history short on purpose so that talking would not tire him out like the last time. What was happening in China was not that important at the moment. The issues with the GDR were more pressing. “China aside, your situation is more important. We just avoided an open confrontation of war. And Kennedy had to admit that the Wall is the best solution to have some form of stability at this moment. I’m sure the GDR leaders, especially Ulbricht and Mielke are delighted now.”
Ivan squeezed his eyes shut for a second and suppressed the urge to hiss in pain when Gilbert’s fingers were smearing ointment on a blister which was still raw. “Having…an US president admit that means a recognition of the GDR and a validation of their policy. Don’t forget, it is the German Democratic Republic party who insisted on a Wall. The First Secretary of the USSR Khrustchov was reluctant to complete it until the very end. Not until the US General got too cocky, the news of the US building more nuclear bombs despite an agreement with the USSR not to do so and the invasion of U-2 spy planes on USSR territory.”
“Ivan…if it hurts then just show it. Don’t will it down.” He knew Ivan was a proud man and did not like to show weakness, but sometimes it helped in the presence of people you trusted. Gilbert had understood by now the Russian had a lot of trust in him. “I’m just trying to help. I won’t use it against you.”
“Old habits die hard.” He nodded in understanding fully aware the German was not going to do anything.
“Clearly,” he only commented to that statement looking the arm over to judge which wounds needed more care than others. “I’ve received an invitation from Erich Mielke to the Palast der Republik just before I went to the checkpoint.” Returning to the main subject of their conversation, he wondered what procedures would have to be taken. He did not forget the invitation he had received from Erich Mielke personally to the Palast der Republik, the official seat of the GDR’s power. It was not a curtesy call, but an official political visit of a national spirit of a state that tried to establish itself. Presenting himself meant he was accepting being the embodiment of it. It was his duty to accept it and Gilbert Beilschmidt would. What he wondered about was, what kind of tasks would he be made to fulfil and how much leeway he had within the government. Russia repeatedly indicated he should be weary of the head of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) and he took that advice to heart, because these warnings were never made lightly. “I cannot decline.”
“Yes, you must attend.” Ivan said after a moment of silence. This was exactly what he did not look forward to. “Whatever happens, keep in mind your status as an attaché to the USSR is not revoked. You can always fall back on that in case you need my assistance.” They did represent nation’s, but if they were personally attacked Ivan Braginski made sure that within the USSR it was possible to ask a fellow spirit, who you trusted for help.
“Danke…I’ll keep that in mind.” He said with a smile while wrapping the arm in bandages again, but then his expression got dead serious. “He will ask me to join the Ministry of State Security.” Gilbert was stating a fact, which sounded like a comment.
“We’re all involved in state security being nation’s spirits…but some are more than others. Look at the US, Jones does nothing but that and I’m not saying this for propaganda sakes. It’s the reality.” Ivan placed his good arm over the German’s making him stop in his work. "The GDR has a lot of leeway, but when it comes to the important issues of overall governance, it has to answer to the USSR. Should something go wrong y-…”
“I can call upon you.” Gilbert finished the sentence for him. This was a phrase they often had said to each other in the past and it had always held true. Until the last war. “I will find out what exactly they expect and want from me once I’m finished with you.”
Ivan let go of Gilbert’s hand and tilted his head curiously. “Finished with me?”
“I mean, once I can be sure you can walk out of here on your own two feet.” He clarified with a snort continuing his work.
“No need for that, I’m fine.” The Russian immediately replied without thinking, but then quickly added. “More or less.” He knew it was a lie.
“Yeah….right….” Gilbert did not feel like having a discussion about this and only commented. “…idiot….”
“Well, thanks...That’s not anything knew, is it?”
“Definitely not,” he replied absentmindedly. Half of his attention was on bandaging the arm.
Ivan decided to push a bit further just to see what the other would reply. “But you like me anyway.”
“I do and d-“ Gilbert stopped, realizing fully what the comment was and what he himself was saying. “You….shut up.”
That earned him a light laugh from the Russian. It was a sly move, but he did get an answer and it was actually a positive one. “Yes, sorry.” In fact, he was not sorry to have asked. It was also amusing to see Prussia get uncomfortable with these kind of questions. On top of that, this light-hearted mood helped him to cope with what would happen later.
“Oh no, you’re definitely not sorry, you vodka drinking idiot.” Gilbert pulled on the bandage lightly and knew it would sting quite a bit but only because of the injuries.
“You…really have no compassion for the injured.” Ivan winced at that and bit his lower lip trying to bear the pain again without making a sound.
“Well, not for the sly ones,” he returned and continued to bandage the arm in a gentle manner now. There was a loud knock on their front door making Gilbert look up with a grin. “Finally, food!” He wanted to jump off the bed to run happily to the door, but remembered just in time the wound on his chest would make him pay for that. ”I’ll get it.” Instead, he slowly got off the bed.
"And I still like you.”
That comment made him falter in his step for a moment. "I see....thanks." He replied with a frown not expecting the man would say that. Good thing Ivan did not see his face. The second knock on the door signaled for him to get a move on and he was glad to leave the room for a short while. He decided not think about the last comment for now.
Ivan watched him leave with a slightly curious look. It sounded like Gilbert was not sure how to take his words. What do you really want me to say? He wondered.
Gilbert opened the door before there was a third knock. A young woman with light brown hair tied into a bun and dressed in a standard hotel uniform was standing there with a service cart. He greeted her and had to grin noticing her stare. Practically all people stared when they met him for the first time in person. His pale complexion, silvery coloured hair and red eyes made sure of that. There had been a time when he hated how he looked. It was believed he was a demon, but that was a long time and did not matter anymore.
“All of this is for me?” he asked calling for her attention.
“Ah yes, my apologies!” She said quickly realising the stare was rude. “Enjoy your meal and have a nice day!”
“Thanks.” He took the cart over from her with a snicker. “And you too.”
Gilbert closed the door after that and wheeled the service cart into the room placing it at the end of the bed. “You’ve got a fancy room. Others do not have the option of room service.” He smirked placing one tray with the food on the mattress followed by the second which had tea and coffee.
“I’m the nation’s spirit of the USSR. Providing me with food is the least they can do,” Ivan grinned lightly looking the trays over. “Breakfast in bed, though is even more of an upgrade.” He wanted to ask if this was a special service on Gilbert’s part because he was injured. There was also the option of teasing the German even more and mention that it could also be interpreted as a romantic gesture. In the end, he decided to keep quiet. Gilbert already had been uncomfortable with his last comment before leaving the room. Ivan knew there was a fine line between teasing and being annoying that should not be crossed. In the past, he had known how far it was possible to go with Gilbert, but it’s been more than 40 years. War changed them as well and rarely in a good way. He needed to rediscover where the German's boundaries lay now.
“Don’t get used to it." Gilbert may have said something disgruntled. Yet his face and eyes were saying something different. He was not displeased nor looked unhappy. If anything, he was amused.
"Yes, yes, it's a one-time thing. Thanks for taking pity on me." Ivan did wonder a bit, if the other man was motivated by pity because there was really nobody else who would help. A part of him hoped it was not the case.
“I’m not doing this out of pity,” Gilbert shrugged sitting back on the bed and took a boiled egg from the tray. “Never have and never really will with you.”
Hearing something that he actually hoped for put a real smile on his face and he looked down at the tray. He had not smiled that often in a long time. “Then why?”
This was one of those key moments where he had to be honest and choose his words with care. “You’ve risked your own well-being in the past and you still help me now. Except for my brother… You are probably the only other person who would be truly sad if I’m dead.” Gilbert felt ridiculous saying all this while holding a boiled egg in his hand and put it back down on the tray. “I want to do something, not because of repaying a debt or pitying you. I do this because you were someone I could call a close friend. You’ve seen me at my worst, but never once used it against me. Even when I thought you would…you proved me wrong.” He was referring to that empty threat of sending him off to the Stasi. “I know, right now I’m close to being like a regular human…I’m hardly a country and exist only because of the USSR. But I want to give something back, even if it is just this at the moment.”
“Gil…You are a country and you are doing far more.” Ivan shook his head still smiling while taking the teapot with his good hand and poured them each a cup. “You’ve helped me prevent a war. You’re here now…” Keeping me sane, he finished the sentence in his head. “…because you care without an ulterior motive. That is more than enough.” He raised his tea cup towards Gilbert. “To a renewed friendship?”
The German had to laugh at that. Never once in his life had he toasted with a simple cup of tea. Being around the Russian made him experience unconventional things and he truly liked him for that. “To a renewed friendship…” he repeated clinking his glass while looking Ivan in the eye.
The Russian held his gaze for a moment, but then looked down. “I…need to apologize in advance what you are going to see…in probably an hour or so.”
“What?” He frowned at the sudden change of subject. “What are you talking about?”
He got no answer from the other man. Ivan was just sitting there looking at his tea cup. Having Gilbert here with him was really nice. Despite being in pain, he had truly enjoyed it as much as possible, but on the other hand Ivan wished he would have been all alone in this hotel room. What would follow in an hour was terrifying for he had no idea what it would do to him. He had planned not to mention it at all to the German, but the fear was gradually getting too much. It was better to warm him.
“Ivan…seriously, what is going on?” Gilbert put the cup down on the tray. Something was up with the other man and not in a good way. His behaviour was far too erratic. One moment he said he liked him and wanted to be friends. The next there was an apology. It was strange, even for Ivan.
“I…” Ivan closed his eyes curling his good hand into a fist and let out a heavy sigh. There was a reason he kept all USSR plans to himself. It was easier. He would not have to deal with security breaches and the anger of others. There was just no simple way to explain what was going on and it was classified. The GDR was the last state to get to know about it. Personally, Ivan felt like he could trust Gilbert with this information. However, as Russia the nation’s spirit he was not allowed to do that. “…I can’t….”
Gilbert moved the tray to the side to sit closer. Ivan seemed to be conflicted with himself. That meant he had to tread carefully. “Can you tell me why?” he asked putting a hand on his shoulder and frowned. The Russian was shaking. It was so faint he had not noticed it until touching him. “Ivan…come on, talk to me?
“That’s…the problem…I can’t and…it’s classified…’m a nation’s spirit, I won’t die from it. So, it’s fine I’ll-”
“Stop.” Gilbert interrupted him almost immediately putting his other hand on his shoulder. “What did you just say? You won’t die from it?” ‘Classified’ always was military and that meant warfare. “Tell me right now. What is going on.” He was not asking, but demanding now. Something was going to take place in an hour and it scared Ivan enough to show it physically. What was going to happen at round 11:30? It was frustrating not to know what the leaders of the USSR were doing.
Ivan looked away when Gilbert put his other hand on his shoulder still not giving an explanation.
“Ivan, hey…” Gilbert decided to put his hand on the man’s cheek and cupped his face to get his attention. “I swear on my life, whatever it is, it will stay between us. I understand it’s about warfare, I do. But please tell me, so I can help you somehow. I can’t do anything, if you won’t tell me.”
“…remember Kiku and what the Americans did to him even though Japan already declared capitulation?” The Russian asked in a soft voice.
Honda Kiku. The nation’s spirit of Japan. He was nearly ripped to shreds because the Americans wanted to teach Japan a lesson by testing two atom bombs on unarmed civilians.
“Of course I do! Don’t tell me a bomb will be dropped on the USSR?” he asked incredulously.
“No…the Soviet military are going… to test a new hydrogen bomb themselves. They said…it’s the biggest the world will ever see. The testing will be on Severny Island…that’s in the Barents Sea…close to the Arctic Circle, but…it’s still part of me. It is being tested on my lands…”(2) He squeezed his eyes shut wanting to look down, but Gilbert‘s hand held him in place. “They said, it’s too far from the mainland and there are no people living there, but….it’s still part of me!”
Gilbert remembered what the man had told him about the Russian Revolution. His nation’s actions had consequences on him. Ivan had lost memories and had scars when they were fighting each other. What would a bomb made by his countrymen and be detonated on his lands do to him?
I like cliffhangers. ^^
Thanks for reading!
See you in Part XIII
(1) In 1945, the Soviet Union granted all the territory of the Japanese puppet state of Manchuko (Manchuria) to Mao's communists. The Chinese started demanding indirectly that the USSR also had to make territorial concessions on Outer Manchuria. They used as basis for this the 19th Century treaties made between the Russian Empire and Qing dynasty China and called them 'unequal'. Moscow did not accept this interpretation. Later in 1964 Mao even claimed that tsarist Russia took parts of Siberia and as far as Kamchatka from China. It has never been claimed nor controlled by China ever in the past.
(2) The Soviet military tested a nuclear bomb in October 30, 1961 at around 11:30 am. It is the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created. It was detonated on Severny Island located between the Barens and Kara Sea. I will tell more about it in the next chapter.
Chapter 12: Kuzma's mother
For the non Russian speakers this chapter's title probably sounds strange.
You can find information what it means and the historical reference in the 'Additional Notes' below.
Have fun reading and I'd love to hear what you think.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XII – Kuzma's Mother
30 October 1961, 10:00
Ivan's words brought him back to the situation at hand and Gilbert looked into his eyes. "All I can say is…whatever happens, you're not alone."
He merely looked up at him meeting the red eyes for a second without saying anything and then looked away.
"Ivan! Look at me!" Gilbert shouted grabbing his face with both hands lifting his head higher. The man needed to pay attention to him. He had seen similar reactions from Ludwig when they were losing the war and were witnessing their brother Brandenburg take all of the damage and pass his traits on to Gilbert. Pure fear was numbing emotionally and physically making one unable to think. Ivan needed to get past that. Gilbert had found direct confrontation helped overcome anxiety and he did that right now with Ivan. "Talk to me. Say what you feel, whatever it is, but don't close yourself off. Not now!" He knew what it felt like to have bombs crashing on your lands from all sides without break. Granted it had not been nuclear ones, but all of them fulfilled the only purpose they were built for. "Talk to me..."
The Russian met Gilbert's eyes again and lifted his good hand to hold onto Gilbert's arm. "I know!" he said in a loud voice and took a deep breath. "I know, Khrushchev is agreeing to the test to show the Americans not to underestimate the USSR. They...they've gone too far."
"Good." Gilbert encouraged watching him get the words out he was trying to keep in.
"He...He has to prove it after his speech at...at the UN General Assembly. He said: 'We'll show you!' and I agree, but..." (1)
"But what?" He saw the man falter squeezing his eyes shut. "Ivan, look at me!"
"...not like that! I don't…want them to test it on me...I'm..." He finally got out having a near death grip on the arm and looked up at the Prussian. "I'm...s-scared!"
Gilbert narrowed his eyes a bit at the pain in his arm, but then bit his lower lip. The Russian had tears in his eyes. He had seen the man cry only once and it was not even for himself, but someone else's pain. Seeing him now on the verge of tears spoke volumes. "I know. Ivan, I know..." He pressed their foreheads together and closed his eyes bearing the discomfort. "You're not alone in this." He was relieved Ivan had forced himself to share, even if Gilbert had to push him almost over the edge. "You're not, Ivan...nekogda (never)." His knowledge of Russian had never gone further than the most basic vocabulary and grammar. He would have to rack his brain to remember it all, but this one word was one he had not forgotten. "You're not alone." He changed his tone to a calm one and started to brush through Ivan's hair with his free hand.
Ivan was quiet leaning on the German slowly losing the excruciating grip. Gilbert heard him take irregular breaths and looked up in concern hoping the other was not starting to hyperventilate. "Ivan..."
The Russian had his hand on his chest squeezing his shirt and looked at Gilbert with pain filled eyes. "C-call...Walzig." It was better to have the medic nearby. If he got injuries the German lacked the knowledge to help him.
"We'll call him right now." The German agreed immediately and moved slowly to stand straight again. "Let's go together." He suggested holding his hand out. The last thing he wanted now was leaving Ivan on his own. If the detonation was going to be on time, then with the time difference they had around 30 minutes left if not less. Ivan, you idiot! Why did you not say anything sooner! He thought angrily. This test had probably been planned for months and Ivan knew about it. Even if he had no power to stop it, why did he get himself involved in resolving the crisis here in Berlin? He was afraid the test will injure him, then why did he fly to Washington and staid here afterwards? The man had to be in a military hospital now or at least with medics who knew what to do. Instead, he was in this simple hotel!
Ivan looked at the outstretched hand inviting him to follow and then up at Gilbert. Sharing what he was feeling and asking for help in his present state meant completely trusting him and let the other take the lead.
Gilbert saw the insecure expression on his face and took a step closer. "Trust me."
Eventually he slowly nodded still breathing too fast.
Gilbert did not wait for him to react and took Ivan's hand hauling him up. They did not need to go far, only the sofa in the living room. "Let's go." Just like two days ago he slung the Russian's arm over his shoulder and took a first step.
Ivan was in a better shape and walked along, trying to match his steps. It still hurt, but not as bad as before. They reached the sofa without stumbling. Ivan collapsed on it digging one hand into the arm of the furniture and was breathing heavily. "...too hot in here...n'hard to breathe."
Gilbert was already on the phone talking to the medic, when Ivan started speaking. "He'll be here soon." He quickly said before focusing on the phone again. The only information he was able to provide was that the medic needed to bring everything he had on powerful painkillers preferably morphine and a lot of bandages. If this bomb would cause similar wounds as Kiku's, then they would first need to deal with the excruciating pain or Ivan's body would be unable to deal with it, go into shock and eventually a coma. The bandages were hopefully going to prevent the body from bleeding out. Gilbert abandoned the phone once the call ended and turned immediately to the man. "Lean back." He instructed moving to the sofa as well quickly checking that Ivan's shirt was not too tight and allowed him to breathe. The Russian had buttoned it up safe for the first button. It was probably done to hide the scars on his neck. Too tight, Gilbert thought leaning over loosening a couple of more buttons and placed two fingers under the man's chin. His pulse was irregular, but that could have several causes. Ivan was in mental distress and physically injured. What worried him more was his comment: it was too hot. The man had no fever and the room had a normal temperature. Gilbert considered himself lucky to never have witnessed a nuclear test, but had heard from Kiku that one of the characteristics was the unbearable heat of the explosion even if you were standing 30 km away. (2)
"Mist*…" he cursed glancing up at the clock on the wall. It was 10:33, which meant that with the 1 hour time difference it was 11:33 Moscow time. The bomb was in the process of detonating.
"Gil…" the Russian managed to gasp out before falling off the couch. His whole body suddenly constricted and the only thing he could hear was the ringing in his ears as if a grenade had gone off right next to him. Only then came the thumping of his heart. It was so powerful making his muscles even tenser than they already were. Ivan gasped again fearing that it would rip itself out of his chest. All of his attention was mainly on that and he noticed only later how he was throwing up blood on the carpet. It was too hot. Too much. His skin was burning, although the room was devoid of any fire. "M-ma…ke it st…stop," he croaked falling on the floor almost in his own blood, but a pair of hands caught him.
Ivan had seized up collapsing so quickly that Gilbert had not reacted fast enough to break his fall, but he managed to catch him just in time before the man would end up in the pool of his own blood. "I can't do anything. I'm sorry…" The test was in progress thousands of kilometres away and could not be stopped. He hoped that their medic Stefan Walzig would be here soon to at least sedate the Russian. That was the only thing they could do for Ivan. Gilbert was getting furious at the seemingly irresponsible behaviour of the scientists for lying to their own nation's spirit about the consequences of a nuclear bomb. At the same time his worry for the Russian overruled the anger and he brushed sweaty bangs away from Ivan's face before checking for his pulse again. It was beating far too fast against his fingertips.
Ivan's eyes were half open looking in the direction where his voice had come from, but they were dull with none of the usual spark of life. "G...il..." As he called the Prussian's name again, Gilbert noticed the tears Ivan had been holding in were now slowly making its way down his cheeks. "...h...hurts..."
"Walzig will be here soon. We'll help you...somehow…" It was the only thing he could say and brushed sweaty bangs away from Ivan's face. Criticizing the man for not informing him on time or say he should have stayed in Moscow was useless now. He was going to talk about informing him of the happenings in Russia, but that would be for later. Ivan needed help now, everything else had to wait.
Ivan squeezed his eyes shut lifting his bandaged arm to clutching at his shirt. That's when Gilbert noticed the bandage was starting to get soaked with blood. "M…move…" the injured managed to whisper before turning on his side and threw up more blood.
Gilbert was kneeling on the floor next to the Russian and had barely time to move even with the warning. Half of the blood ended up on his sleeve and hand. He cursed and moved the other man to keep lying on his side to prevent him chocking on his own fluids. "Walzig…damn it…hurry up!" he growled impatiently. Having blood on him was not something he was disgusted with. He started his existence in bloodshed and conflict. It was Ivan he was starting to get afraid for. His body would not be able to sustain the pain, blood loss and also the wounds on his arm that had started to bleed heavily now. "Shit…shit." He cursed taking his own shirt off. There were no spare bandages available, but the bleeding needed to be stopped somehow. "You idiot…should have gone to a hospital…and stayed there, damn you!" He continued to curse while ripping the shirt into long thick strips and started bandaging Ivan's arm tightly to prevent the blood from flowing out. He may have been crap at dressing wounds properly, but he was one of the best at makeshift and emergency bandages. Being part of war campaigns had made sure of that.
"feels w…orse…than….r-revolution like…ike dying," Ivan said between coughs.
"Don't you dare thinking about death!" Gilbert growled instinctively curling one hand into a fist. In the past decades he had seen his brothers fade away and hand over their task to him as the representation of the GDR. Brandenburg had disappeared during the last stand in 1945. Hesse, Holstein and Saxony were living human lives and were close to disappearing. He had played a role in seeing the Holy Roman Empire end his existence. There was no way he was going to just sit here and watch Ivan…Russia even entertain the thought of death. Narrowing his eyes he leaned down close to his face. "Did you hear me? Don't even think about death!" Gilbert said in threatening tone and grabbed his hand. All he wanted was for Ivan to get through this in the best way possible. "You are Russia, Ivan. The USSR might fall one day, but you will not. Don't ever forget that. Do you understand?" He was saying this to remind Ivan that governments came and went, but the core of a country, which was them, the nation's spirits remained.
Ivan would have stared at him in surprise at the things he said, but he did not have the strength for it and just squeezed the hand back.
Gilbert felt the weak squeeze, but it was not enough. Ivan had to say it. "I said, do you understand?" he asked again as if talking to a rookie soldier.
"Y…yes!" The Russian said as loud as he could, although it was merely a whisper.
"Then stay with me…" he said smiling weakly and squeezed Ivan's hand back gently this time. "Don't think about dying." The man was listening, but only for a short time. Gilbert had no idea how to deal with this kind of injuries caused by a nuclear explosion million miles away. A proper medic was needed.
Walzig appeared a couple of minutes later not even bothering to knock. "Good God, what's going on?" The man asked out of breath rushing over to them.
"A…nuclear bomb test is being performed in the USSR and Ivan gets the consequences." Gilbert explained stepping aside so the doctor could work. Ivan was barely awake and had stopped reacting to him. The only way to tell the Russian was alive was the laborious breathing and he had started shivering.
The middle aged man immediately started to get a syringe out with a vile. "I will sedate him now and call the government's hospital here in Berlin." (3)
Gilbert raised eyebrow at the last words. The government's hospital?
"He's going into shock..." Walzig said under his breath getting the syringe ready.
"Just...give it to him already!"
"Give me a second."
The Russian could vaguely hear Gilbert curse in German and shout at the medic. That was all. He could not see or think clearly anymore. The pain was paralyzing everything. He wanted to scream, but even taking a single breath was almost impossible. "...G…il..."
Gilbert kneeled down again next to Ivan's head. "Here...I'm here," he replied placing his hand on Ivan's cheek and turned his head towards himself to distract him while Walzig shoved the syringe into his skin.
"Watch him, while I call the hospital."
"Which one? In the Scharnhorststraße?"
"That's the one."
Gilbert let out a sigh of relief. "Good." The one in the Scharnhorststraße at least meant the Russian would get first grade help and it would stay classified. The less people knew what was happening here the better. "You'll be fine..." he said brushing the tears out of Ivan's face. What irritated him the most was the fact that nothing could be done about it. It was not within his power.
See You in Part XIII!
Are you curious about the secretive GDR government's hospital?
(1) Khrustjew promised the US government by saying: "We'll show you!" in Russian referring to Kuzma's mother at the UN General Assembly in 1960. Kuzma's mother is a Russian idiom which in full goes like this: 'to show Kuzka's mother to someone'. It is an expression of an unspecific threat and/or punishment like to 'teach someone a lesson' or 'punish someone in a severe way'. This saying is associated with Khrustjew, just like the famous shoe banging and the phrase 'we will bury you'. All of them were uttered when the First Secretary had enough of the constant and disrespectful provocations by the US government.
(2) This is based on real accounts from soldiers who had attended nuclear tests.
(3)There was really a hospital (1949 – 1979) in the Scharnhorststrasse, Berlin which was exclusively kept for government officials and their families and people associated with the government of the GDR. I will write about it in the next chapter.
Chapter 13: Edge of Consciousness
Thank you so very much for continuing to read this story, leaving kudos and comments! ^^
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XIII – Edge of Consciousness
October 30, 1961
The house with the number 38 looked like any other building in the Scharnhorststrasse. Tall, 6 storey high located between the Ministry of Health and the Justice department. As it was part of the government district, nobody paid particular attention to the fancy black cars or the people who entered the building in formal clothing with their sleek black suitcases.
What the citizens of the GDR did not need to know was that this particular building with the number 38 was not part of any ministry. It was a hospital established 1949 and reserved, only for the GDR politicians, their families and special associates of countries that were part of the USSR.
It was this very place the embodiment of the USSR had been brought to for emergency treatment after Stefan Walzig had notified the hospital. As the spirit of the GDR had found out later exactly this middle aged man was the head physician of East Germany in charge of nation's spirits. Gilbert had been aware of this special hospital and had been a couple of times himself after the war, but had not expected the man as the head of a department to personally appear to assist them.
Letting out a heavy sigh while closing his eyes Gilbert leaned his head back to rest partly on the couch and the wall behind him. This place really had not changed. If anything it looked more like a luxurious spa than your standard hospital.
The large windows as well as the chandeliers illuminated the whole building in a pleasant light giving it an inviting feel and a large open space. All the floors were carpeted with the intention of not disturbing or drawing attention of the patients. Living plants were smartly placed in the hallways to give the impression of a living and breathing space without standing in the way. The most important thing was the lack of the usual smell associated with a hospital. The waiting room where the nation's spirit of the GDR was currently sitting in had the appearance of a sophisticated living room. Couches, chairs, a coffee table with newspapers and magazines and lastly the wallpaper all facilitated to that impression. Only a double sided door on the other side of the room with a red light indicated it was used for something different.
This hospital was probably the perfect symbol of the double standards the German Democratic Republic politicians had. While putting emphasis on an ideology of being the true Germany and praising socialism against the evils of capitalism in official statements, the politicians themselves had magazines from the West lying around in this hospital. Both medicine and food that was used here came from across the Wall as well. Double standards were difficult to uphold, Gilbert sighed looking up at the ceiling. It made him feel conflicted with himself almost all the time. On the one hand he was the collection of feelings, hopes and beliefs of the population, who was kept in the dark of so many things. On the other, he was a politician and military man who got to see what was really happening behind the scenes. On top of that, he had also his own mind and personality to deal with. All of this wore him out now and then.
Although the carpet dampened most of the noise, he could still hear the faint thuds of shoes going in his direction. It was a soft and small step. A woman, he concluded and remained as he was.
"Excuse me sir, would you like some refreshments? You've been waiting here for some time." The woman said to him letting her eyes scan him over.
Almost three hours to be exact, Gilbert thought opening his eyes and turned his head to her. "Sure, why not. Strong coffee would be great." Just sitting and waiting without being able to do anything was hard. He was on the verge of falling asleep most of the time. A good cup of strong coffee would help him stay awake to wait for any news on Ivan's condition.
"Of course." She nodded and quickly left to prepare his order.
Gilbert sat back up properly for when the coffee would arrive. His eyes automatically glanced towards the double sided doors. He was not wondering what the medics were doing. Having seen the wounds himself, he understood it was serious. The only thing he was concerned with was that it had been almost three hours. Longer times often meant complications. Ivan was a nation's spirit and would not die, but being in a severe condition would require him a longer time to heal and that was going to have consequences on the government whenever the politicians liked it or not. He leaned forward resting both elbows on his legs and clasped his hands together similar to a thinkers pose. Spirit's and the nation influenced one another. A weak or hurt spirit meant a weaker country.
"Your coffee, sir."
Gilbert had smelled the coffee even before the woman announced herself, but did not move until she started talking. "Thanks..." He reached out with both hands taking the cup. "You probably don't know, how long it will take them, do you?" Gilbert asked glancing at the closed door with the red lamp.
"Sorry, no. I only take care of the guests and patients." She informed him. "But the doctors are the best we have. I'm sure they are helping."
Gilbert had heard the standard wording a million times over and had it used as well. So, he just listened to her, but dismissed them immediately in his head. She thought he was a normal human and meant well by probably thinking he needed to hear a hopeful message. He was not and preferred reality. "Thanks for the coffee."
She nodded and left to go about her other tasks.
Taking a swing of the coffee he started to devote his attention to the window watching the people outside. Nothing good would come from starring at the door.
Gilbert had dosed off at some point and woke up when someone was shaking his shoulder insistently. "Jaaa..." He called indicating he was awake.
"We're finally done." Walzig said with a sigh rubbing his forehead.
Gilbert noted he was pale and looked worn out. The clock on the wall told him 5 hours had passed in total. The man had a perfectly good reason to look exhausted. "Can I see him?" There was no point in asking how he was. The good thing was Ivan could survive this physically. How he was mentally was a totally different matter.
"I was hoping you would see him." The man replied leading the way to the room. "He... shouldn't be alone right now."
He followed after they man, watching his back curiously. Walzig genuinely seemed to care. "Is he...awake?" It was highly unlikely, but knowing Ivan, he would do a lot to stay awake.
"Oh thank god no, we gave him enough to sedate a whole hoard of elephants. He wouldn't have been able to stand the pain otherwise." The man did not hide the relieved tone as they rounded the corner and came out into another large hallway. "He was...bleeding out at some point."
His hand involuntarily tightened into a fist at that. Gilbert could not help but wonder if the scientists as well as the leaders even realised completely what they had been doing.
"Here we are," Walzig commented opening the door slowly. "Normally, this room is reserved for our GDR leadership only with all the privileges it entails...Like secrecy."
"Good." The last thing they needed was information getting out that the embodiment of the USSR was lying half dead in a hospital bed. Had the roles been reversed Ivan would have kept it between them as well. Unless it had involved America, he found himself thinking with a slight smirk. It was rather peculiar to notice how he really started to dislike Jones after he had happily signed the complete dismantling of his country. Right now, he would gladly sign his death sentence as well. Gilbert dismissed his thoughts with a faint shake of his head and followed the doctor inside. Thinking about it right now was pointless. There was a much more pressing matter waiting for him in this room.
He did not have any illusions how Ivan would look. Having been confronted with death and misery too many times he knew it would not be a pretty sight. The only thing he did not expect were the heavy amount of bandages. From what he could see the Russian was bandaged up from his neck on down to his chest and right arm. His left arm was connected to an IV drip with blood, while on the other side it was with some translucent bag. The whole scene was completed with a machine that kept track of his heart. To his relief Ivan did not seem to need any breathing aid.
"He was bleeding out." The doctor explained again seeing him look at the bag and all the wrappings.
"I…see," he tried to make his voice sound calm and collected, but it was trembling slightly. Nation's spirits could sustain a lot, but Ivan often seemed to go beyond what seemed possible even for them. It was disturbing. "Any idea, when he might wake up?" Coming closer to the bed he let his fingers ghost lightly over Ivan's hand. Even if he did not touch the hand completely, Gilbert could feel the hot temperature radiating off of it. "His hand is burning…"
"He got third degree burns all over his body while we were working on him and his body temperature stays over 40°C. We can't lower it no matter what we do. I've never seen anything like this before." Walzig explained while checking on the bag with the saline fluid. "Moscow will need to be informed about this."
"Leave it to me." He replied immediately while still watching over the patient. Both the GDR and the American side were spying on each other and intercepting messages. The facility at Teufelsberg was the spy installation of the Americans and very close to the GDR border. Gilbert did not trust the GDR installations to be secure enough to send a message to Moscow. There had to be another way and Ivan had to know of it. Gilbert had decided to wait for Ivan to wake up and tell him how. This was a matter concerning nation's spirits not human politics. On top of that, he was an attaché to Moscow, which left him with more power and jurisdiction to act.
"I agree. You can stay as long as you like." The man waved dismissively and headed for the door. "I need a break."
"Thank you." Gilbert called after him.
"Actually, I have to thank you." The medic replied. "I understand you two know each other, but…in such a way that he trusts you with his life. That is incredibly rare. Whatever it is that binds you two together, I really hope it stays that way. He really needs a person to trust..."
Gilbert merely raised an eyebrow curiously at him. The man was far too perceptive and said things which hit right home. "Yes, we do have history like all nation's spirits." He was unwilling to elaborate any more than that.
"No, what you have is different. He would never let any other country get that close, except for his sisters." He commented with a smirk before closing the door and left Gilbert alone with the injured.
"Different…" he mumbled sitting down on a soft chair right next to the bed and wrapped his military coat tighter around himself. In a hurry to get to this hospital, he managed to grab another white shirt from Ivan's suitcase and threw his military coat on. The blood on the inside had dried by now and provided him with a bit more warmth. The older man was right, they did have an unconventional relationship. It was one he did not quite understand himself sometimes. A couple of hours ago, Ivan let him mentally drive against the wall. Gilbert had forced him to tell and admit certain things that were hard to say for the Russian. The truth was Ivan told him, but only because there was a certain level of trust present. Otherwise, he would have never said anything. No matter what. How was this relationship even defined? He wondered looking back at the unconscious person.
While he contemplated all this Gilbert did not notice himself how he had dozed off in the comfortable chair. Their medic had come by an hour later for a check up on the Russian and found Gilbert resting his head on the arm of the chair. Walzig took a spare blanket out of the closet and covered the nation's spirit of the GDR with it before leaving again.
The doctors had given the Russian one of the largest doses of sedatives to make him comfortable and let his body rest as much as possible. He was resting physically, but his mind was not. Ivan was dreaming. The bomb test brought back memories of war. The biggest war Russia had been fighting in recent history of devastating loses and immense sacrifices on his side and that of others. Just as Gilbert Beilschmidt felt immense guilt over what had happened in 1944 in Stalingrad, Ivan felt similar over Eastern Prussia. Königsberg.
It was bombed to extinction by the British RAF and later made into part of the USSR. Millions of East Prussian inhabitants were forced to flee from their homeland. The USSR had played a part in destroying a whole country and Prussia was being forgotten by the world now.
"...prosti...men..ya...Prussi...ya...*" A raspy voice whispered breaking the silence in the room. Ivan's eyes were closed, but he did turn his head slowly to the side. Königsberg had been a very special place to Prussia's nation's spirit and seeing it destroyed had made him break down. Ludwig Beilschmidt had lost all hope over Berlin, but his older brother had cried in the ruins of the 'king's mountain'or Königsberg. Ivan had watched it all being ripped to pieces. Although, it had not been his country at the time, it hurt his heart all the same. The images of destruction flashed before his eyes and he moaned painfully not wanting to remember any more of this, but could not help himself.
He felt something soft touch his cheek and then rest on his forehead. It was cool and helped him become more aware of other sensations. He felt no discomfort whatsoever. If anything his mind seemed incredibly light as if he was floating gently in water. It felt really nice than the recollections of war and he let his mind be swept away by this particular current.
The current also carried this one word. He heard it being whispered over and over again in a gentle manner. Never getting louder. It was just there, an unwavering constant presence that could not be ignored. "Ivan."
"Ivan..." He repeated after it in a questioning tone. That word sounded familiar. He should know. It was important to him, but he could not place exactly why.
Gilbert had been sleeping quietly for several hours, but then woke up by sounds of painful gasping and moans next to him. Ivan seemed to have some really bad nightmares. Abandoning the chair quickly he sat on the bed next to the injured and leaned over placing one on his forehead to check for fever. The Russian's skin was warm, but at least not as hot as before. Yet, it still was not entirely normal either. He frowned once he heard him whisper words in Russian, which meant 'Forgive me, Prussia'.
"Just what are you dreaming about, Ivan?" He wondered out loud keeping his cool hand on the forehead. Ivan instinctively leaned his head into the touch seemingly liking the low temperature. Gilbert smiled lightly at that placing his other hand on his cheek. "Ivan." he called again, wanting him to wake up from his nightmares. "Ivan..."
The rhythm of the heart changed slightly becoming a bit faster, but the man remained locked away in a sleeping state. He did appear somewhat calmer than before though. "Ivan..." The Russian suddenly whispered back in a questioning tone.
Gilbert tilted his head lightly at that. Why was he repeating his own name? Ivan needed to wake up not only because of the nightmares. He needed to tell him who the German had to contact to reach Moscow. The secret back channel. Ivan should be back in his country and with people who could really help him take care of these wounds. The USSR leaders also needed to know all these secret test were hurting their own nation's spirit. "Wake up...come on." He carefully patted Ivan's cheek trying to rouse him. Ivan was almost there. Just needed to open his eyes. Gilbert was sure the other man heard him more or less and he decided to wake him with any means necessary. Leaning down he brushed the blond hair away from his ear. "Ivan, I need your help!" he suddenly said making his voice sound as desperate as possible. "Help me, please!" It was a sly move to perform on an injured person, but the man had to open his eyes. Ivan was incapacitated, so Gilbert needed to act in his stead. He was only able to do so with enough information. At the moment, he lacked almost everything. It needed to change. "Ivan!"
The man in question had continued to wonder about who it exactly was that called 'Ivan'. He found himself really liking the sound of this voice. It was soothing and at the same time made his heart beat faster in excitement. He frowned when all of it changed and the voice called for help. Ivan did not like to hear the desperate tone. "Help me, please!" A memory of a pair of ruby red eyes, silver hair and a pale face flashed before him. He groaned at the sudden images. He knew this face too well! "Gil..be..t..."
The German heard the groan and looked at his face. Ivan's eyes moved quickly behind closed eyelids.
"You're almost there...Come on, you can do it," Gilbert bit his lip watching him struggle with his own body.
It took him a couple more tries and a lot of strength to open his eyes. Violet finally met red and he closed them for a moment. He was too worn out for any more actions.
"Ivan…." Gilbert whispered, feeling his chest tighten at the dull look he had seen in the Russian's eyes. "Can you…hear me?"
He swallowed trying to get his mouth working, but that took also so much energy. "…d…a…" His raspy voice managed to reply. "whe…re…?"
"Hospital. You're safe, Ivan. Nothing will happen." Gilbert reassured him reaching out to put his hand on top of Ivan's.
"Gil…" he croaked, a weak smile on his face appeared. "You…alr…" Forming words was really difficult for some reason. "…f-fine…?" Ivan remembered him asking for help. "...eed h—help?"
The German snorted at the question. So, he had heard that and woke up. "Yes. I need to know who the backchannel contact is for Moscow. You need help, Ivan. Moscow must know you're hurt…really bad."
This was too much information for him to process. His mind was too drugged up. "Wha…"
Gilbert sighed, frustrated with himself. Ivan was in no fit state to understand. "Backchannel for Moscow. Who is it?"
Ivan's fingers hesitantly curled around Gilbert's and he closed his eyes for a moment trying to understand what exactly the question was. It was really hard. His mind just could not process it all very quickly. He was in a hospital. Safe. Moscow…he needed to be in Moscow. The secret channel for Moscow…he tried to recall. "Soviet…Embassy…Andrey…S-Soloviev…dial general…n-number an…and…" Ivan mumbled and broke off. He was so tired. (1)
"Take your time. It's alright." Gilbert squeezed his hand lightly reassuring him there was no rush. In reality there was, but it would not help to pressure the injured. Ivan was already trying so hard.
"Say…s-say…'Michail, Dimitri, Boris, Natalia…45623'…and you…you'll get further…instructions." He whispered with a sigh too exhausted to say anymore. (2)
It sounded like a specific sequence of code words. "Got it," he acknowledged with a nod and patted Ivan's hand gently. "I'll take care of it."
"Gil…" The Russian called and tried to move up, but his body did not let him and he sank back squeezing his eyes shut. His head felt dizzy and his limbs refused to listen.
"Stay still. It's alright, Ivan. I'll take care of it." Ivan was getting restless and Gilbert tried to calm him down. He brushed threw the blond hair a couple of times while whispering: "You're safe. Trust me."
Ivan tried to concentrate and failed, but at least his brain registered the soft words of reassurance. "Da…"
"I'll contact the embassy." The German continued to say in the same tone, seeing the positive reaction. "Just…rest." Ivan had been through more than enough. It hurt to see him like this and before Gilbert realised what he was doing he had leaned down placing his lips against Ivan's forehead. Just as the medic had said it was hot to the touch and he sighed. Ivan needed help from professionals who dealt with injuries caused by nuclear explosions.
The Russian blinked up, but then smiled lightly at him. "…m…tired…"
"Then go to sleep, you stubborn fool." He whispered back, feeling his checks burning because of what he just did. What the hell do you think you're doing, Beilschmidt! he thought to himself shaking his head. But somehow it felt right in that moment and Ivan was even smiling just a bit.
Ivan only squeezed Gilbert's hand weakly as a reply and stopped fighting against the exhaustion.
Gilbert waited a couple of minutes until he was sure the Russian was asleep before turning to the small round table on the other side of the bed. These rooms were the only penthouse in the whole building reserved for the GDR leaders. This meant the telephone connection had to be more secure than others and with the cryptic code he received it would hopefully be even more secretive.
He grabbed the phone and placed the call to the embassy of the Soviet Union. The connection on the other end was established immediately. A serious sounding male voice said in Russian that he was speaking to the consulate. Gilbert greeted him in German without introducing himself and said the code sequence Ivan had given him. There was a short pause on the other end before the man told him to hold the line. The German could hear some clicking sounds and a buzzing noise before a different male voice, which was lower than the first introduced himself by his last name. "Soloviev speaking."
"This is Gilbert Beilschmidt, the embodiment of the German Democratic Republic and attaché to Moscow. I require assistance with Ivan Braginski. We're in the Scharnhorststrasse 38."
"The state of the matter?"
Gilbert glanced over to the bed tightening his hold on the horn. "Critical."
"Understood. 10 minutes." The man said and hung up.
Gilbert was about to mention which room he was in, but then shock his head. They probably already knew. 10 Minutes, he thought while going to the window to look out. That was a very short amount of time. The embassy was probably very close by because this district consisted of government buildings only. It made him feel a bit relieved because Ivan would get help faster and he was finally able to do something useful. He hated to be confined to just watch things unfold before him. Approaching the bed, Gilbert sat down next to Ivan's body again. No matter what he did or thought something pulled him right back to the injured nation. He just could not stay away and wanted to make sure the man was alive.
Ivan was breathing and the heart monitor reassured that his heart was beating. The rhythm had not been the healthy or steady one, but it was there. While Gilbert waited for the Soviet colleagues to arrive his hand had curled itself around Ivan's again.
It was even less than 10 minutes when there was an insistent knock and the door was opened afterwards. Several people filled into the door. Three men in suits followed by two nurses and two men in white doctor's coats. Gilbert stood up approaching the suits.
"Andrej Soloviev," The first man introduced himself holding his hand out. His eyes quickly darted from Gilbert to the injured person. The medics immediately went to check on Ivan and ignored everything else. "Did he tell you how to contact us?"
"Yes," Gilbert replied watching him carefully.
"Good. That means he trusts you, so we can do the same." Soloviev let go of his and sighed brushing a hand through his hair. "I think, we both know the reason why General Braginski is in this state?" This was not a question, although the man made it sound like one.
"Yes, we do." Gilbert glared at him. "What were you even thinking? What happens on our lands no matter how small or remote, effects us nations." He had been keeping his temper in check in front of Ivan. The man was injured and suffered exactly because of his people's irresponsible behaviour. He had also tried to be calm to their medic Stefan Walzig since he was doing his best to help. There was no reason to hold back around the representatives of the USSR. "Weakening your own nation's embodiment, makes your country also weak. There will be repercussions because of this."
"I understand that, but my hands are tied as well." The man told him as he approached the bed. "All I can do for now is get him back to Moscow." Turning to the medics he asked if Ivan could be moved. They told him as long as the patient remained lying down it was possible to move him with extra care.
The examination of the doctors woke Ivan again and he tried to look around with a suspicious expression at all the people. "gde...*" He mumbled turning his head into the direction where the angry voice had come from. "…Pruss…iya."
The Russian diplomat raised an eyebrow at the question. The man just woke and the first thing he asked was after a non-existent country?
"I'm here," Gilbert replied going to his fellow spirit and touched his arm lightly. "It's alright. These people are from the embassy."
"…stay…Gil…" Ivan called weakly looking up at the German once his eyes were able to focus. He understood by now the people were here planning to move him and he did not want to be alone with them.
The embodiment of the GDR faced the diplomat again. "I'm going with him."
Soloviev was already aware the GDR was attending Politburo meetings and having him around Ivan Braginski might be a good thing. Their USSR nation's spirit seemed calmer when the albino was there. "Good, then keep him calm. We'll leave for the military airport immediately." Soloviev nodded holding the door open to wheel the injured out of the room.
Gilbert followed the whole group staying close to Ivan. Soloviev led them all to the back entrance of the hospital where an ambulance was already waiting. Before he got into the car Walzig approached him. "You're going with them?"
"Yes, making sure Russia will be alright." He nodded and held his hand out. "Thank you for all your help. Really."
The older man shook it firmly with a grin. "That's why I'm here for, Beilschmidt. Don't do any more stupid things."
Gilbert let out a snort before climbing into the car. "Can't promise anything."
"You're as troublesome as he is." The medic shook his head with a sigh watching everyone leave. "But don't forget. The GDR is part of the Union, but you have your own country to represent. No matter what he is to you."
Gilbert stopped and glanced back at the medic unsure if he understood the connotation of the last sentence. "We are both nations and have each a country to represent. I am aware of that."
"That is not what I'm talking about, but you'll figure it out." Walzig grinned and walked back inside the hospital. "Good luck, Beilschmidt."
The silver haired man frowned at him, not getting the point of the man's rather cryptic message. Gilbert did not have time to think about it as the whole group drove to the military airport and boarded the place to Moscow.
See You In Part XIV!
Thank you for reading!
(1) The Russian Embassy is still located in the same street and building as it was at the time of the Soviet Union. Andrej Soloviev had been part of the East German Command between 1961 – 1962.
(2) I took inspiration from the many reports about the radio stations that had been around since WWI that send out cryptic messages of beeps and buzzes. For this part I am taking information about a Russian radio station where a robotic like female or male voice is reading out names and then numbers. The most famous one which operates for over 3 decades now is called UVB-76 or 'The Buzzer'.
* prosti menya Prussiya: 'forgive me, Prussia'.
*gde: 'where' (gde Prussiya: 'where is Prussia?')
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
Here I am again and it's really great to receive all those kudos, thank you all!
This chapter has something, I think many have been waiting for.
Happy reading and let me know what you think!
PART XIV – Stay
November 1st, 1961
Unlike the capital of the GDR, Moscow remained the same. He had left the city only a week ago and no change had taken place. A week in Berlin, however, could alter the world.
It almost had…on October 30, Gilbert thought while sipping on a cup of tea. He had nestled himself on a large window sill and was looking out over a large boulevard that led directly to the Kremlin. He could easily see the official seat of power of the USSR.
The tea was too hot to drink and he closed his eyes with a sigh letting the steam warm his face. Sitting in this spacious room with high windows, a 19th century arc which had been smartly integrated into the overall modern and functional design as well as the thick stone walls helped him shut out the rest of the world. He was really enjoying this quiet moment for it had been incredibly rare the past week.
A week ago, Gilbert Beilschmidt had arrived at the Military Medical Directorate (1), the main military hospital facility within the Ministry of Defense. He was able to get inside this building only because it had been an emergency and the insistence of the embodiment of the USSR. Since then, he had been splitting his time between attending Politburo meetings and working as the representative of the GDR. Once there was some time left he was checking up on his fellow nation's spirit and friend Ivan Braginski. The constant pace and on top of that still being injured was slowly wearing him out. He was glad to finally have a sit down in peace even if it was on a window sill.
He opened his eyes again and glanced across when he heard a painful groan echoing in the room. The wounds Ivan sustained from the thermonuclear bomb testing were healing, but at a very slow pace. Too slow for a nation's spirit and he was also having really bad nightmares since then. Judging from what he was mumbling during sleep it was about war. Which one was not entirely clear. Maybe all of them. The nightmares were a side effect of the strong pain medication. It helped reduce the pain, but made him disoriented. Although, Gilbert had suggested to lower the dosage the medics could not comply. Lowering it had resulted in excruciating pain for the patient to the point where he did not even know his own identity. The dosage was kept high and the price for it was psychological pain. That was the reason why Gilbert was coming by as often as possible. The doctors had noticed Ivan was resting better and calmed down quicker when he was around. The theory had been because it was a fellow nation's spirit. In a way it was because of that, but not entirely. It did also work when USSR's sisters were there too. Ukraine and Belarus had often come by between attending meetings as part of the Soviet Bloc. Ukraine was the older sister and constantly worrying. The youngest, Belarus loved her brother a lot and showed it through her actions, but it was also a rather concerning when she mentioned her intend to marry him. Seeing Gilbert interact with Ivan, she threatened to behead him if he ever broke her brother's heart. Gilbert had only grinned and said 'to do his best, so it would not happen'. It was better to avoid an argument with her about the exact meaning of 'not breaking her brother's heart'.
Calming Ivan down did not work at all when other nation's spirit where present. Lithuania was a nervous wreck as always and made others uncomfortable. The other Soviet Bloc countries dutifully came by, but where looking either pleased or indifferent that the head of the USSR nation was down. Being part of the USSR was a complicated matter. Gilbert did seriously miss being the kingdom of Prussia who did not rely on a Union of mismatched states. But that was the past with no way of returning.
He left the cup on the windows sill with a sigh and stood up going over to the bed.
This nightmare seemed to be a really bad one. Ivan was clutching his shirt with a bandaged hand as if he was struggling to breathe and tried to curl up, but had to stop due to his injuries. Gilbert sat down quickly on the bed and shook Ivan's shoulder as carefully as possible. Half of his body was wrapped up in bandages hiding the burns underneath and Gilbert had no way of knowing where he could touch him without causing pain. Since the nightmares were a regular occurrence the German had noticed Ivan did not react in a painful way when he touched his shoulders. "Ivan, wake up," he called shaking the left one. It took him a couple more tries for the other man squeezed his eyes open.
"You….look horrible," Ivan commented, his voice rough with disuse, but did manage a weak grin.
"Speak for yourself." Gilbert let out a light laugh at the greeting. "I don't think we're going to hold a dark circles contest now, do we?"
"Are you ready...to lose?" The Russian asked back continuing to grin. "Is there some...water around?" It was too warm and although he did have almost a full bottle of water a couple of hours before he felt incredibly thirsty.
"Sure," Gilbert said turning to the small table. It had a full bottle of water, an empty glass and a vase with flowers on it.
Ivan followed his moves and blinked a couple of times at the table. "Sunflowers…" he smiled.
He saw the small, but kind smile and turned back to the glass in his hand. "Belarus said you still like sunflowers…" The German commented trying to focus his mind on filling the glass and not think about Ivan's face which was a mix of pleasant surprise and happiness.
"I do…" The taller man nodded using his left hand to push himself up from the bed to sit up. "Did you…get them?" By the time he had moved his body into a semblance of a sitting position Ivan was almost out of breath.
"…da," he found himself saying in Russian and held the glass of water out to the injured man.
Ivan continued to smile taking the glass and immediately started drinking. "Can you say it again?"
The question earned him a curious look. "Say what?"
"The Russian word for 'yes'." Ivan clarified once the glass was empty.
"Da…?" Gilbert said with a questioning tone. The Russian was really strange sometimes and asked curious questions. "I know my pronunciation is crap."
"No, it's great." Ivan put the empty glass in his lap and reached out grabbing Gilbert by his suit to pull him into a hug. Sunflowers were his favourites because they always reminded him of the warm sun. Gilbert is warm too…like the sun, he found himself thinking and held the suit a bit tighter.
The German was too surprised to react at the sudden pull and almost fell against the Russian. "D-don't! Your wounds!" He shouted wrapping both hands to pull Ivan against himself instead of falling on the injured because of his sudden grip. "Don't pull so suddenly, damnit. You're going to get more hurt like that."
"For the flowers…spasiba*," he whispered leaning his forehead on Gilbert's shoulder letting him do the lecturing.
"The room is too empty, so flowers work." He muttered holding him in place.
"So…you got them for the room…"
"No! Yes… I got them for…Ah, fine! I got them for you, alright?" The Prussian finally admitted and was happy Ivan did not see his face. "The room is too empty and damn depressing! You're stuck in here for a week already and I thought…since you like sunflowers…well, maybe they'll cheer you up." He did not mention the fact that he had to run across the city to find a market where a babushka* was selling the last sunflowers of the season.
"Gil…they're not in season anymore…" The Russian mentioned softly. Back at his home, which was the Meiendorf Castle near Moscow he was growing sunflowers every year and knew the exact blooming season. (2)
"…Shut up you." He did not know what the Russian exactly did, but when they talked Gilbert could hardly talk himself out of something.
He sat up a bit and leaned his forehead against Gilbert's. "Danke*…" Ivan looked into his eyes and laughed lightly liking the fact that the he was a little flustered.
The Prussian had to blink a couple of times at the sudden closeness and looked down after meeting the violet eyes. "They're…just flowers. It's not like I brought a treasure or anything."
"It's more than that…you've brought me the sun, Gil." Ivan explained his reasoning with a small smile. "Thank you."
"Aren't you being poetic," he grinned while looking back at the violet eyes.
Ivan returned the grin, but soon closed his eyes with a sigh and leaned his weight on the other man. The injuries started to ache from sitting up. "Oh I can, Russian poets are world-renown after all."
"You'd better lie down," Gilbert said noticing the injured was resting more and more. Using his hold on him he carefully pushed Ivan back down on the bed. "The poetry session will have to be for another time." Attending poetry readings and classical concerts was not a foreign thing to him. He had done that a lot in the past and had actually known several poets personally. Gilbert was amused that they ended up with mentioning poetry and wondered if Ivan really would recite it. In truth, he was curious how his fellow spirit would perform. Reciting poetry was an art form in itself.
Ivan had still a hold on his suit refusing to let go and pulled him along.
"Ivan…let go?" he asked putting his own hand over his, wanting to loosen the grip on the jacket.
Once he lay back down with Gilbert on top the hold only tightened as much as his injured hand allowed him to. "Can you stay…just for a bit?" he asked. He was warm and Ivan wanted him to stay close.
"Sure, I plan on staying. My flight back to Berlin goes only tomorrow evening."
"No…I mean like this." Despite holding into the suit, Gilbert could easily pry it open if necessary.
The answer made Gilbert raise an eye brown curiously. He was resting half of his body on top of the injured, which would have hurt, had Ivan not been drugged up. "Why? This is not exactly comfortable." He commented loosening Ivan's grip.
He could not help it and showed a disappointed expression. "You're warm…" he said after a moment of silence and looked away. The truth was Ivan wanted to say he could not take it to be alone in this room anymore. Staying here and see people occasionally, then wake up to solitude and heavy silence afterwards had become hard to take. Above all he wanted company and it was preferably the Prussian's. His presence was calming and the embodiment of the USSR did not need to watch his back. Most importantly Gilbert was not intimidated or afraid of him and they had lighthearted conversations which he enjoyed so very much. There was no other person who could compare to that.
"I'm…warm?" Gilbert started to frown even more. Knowing and remembering some of Ivan's expression, Gilbert understood the man was avoiding the real reason. He decided to find out what he really thought. "If you're cold, I can get you another blanket," he suggested, acting like there was nothing behind the comment of 'you're warm'. There seemed so much more to it and he was going to get a proper answer out of him.
His fingers had been pried open, but Ivan grabbed Gilbert's hand again. "No…I'm not cold."
"Ivan…" he said with a sigh letting his hand be held. "Why don't you just say what you're really thinking. I'm not as stupid as I may look. There is more to this."
"These people, all of them are…KGB. I'm being watched all the time." Ivan explained, knowing full well his previous reason was lame. "And I've never said you were stupid, Gilbert."
"Painkillers and lying down can be done elsewhere. You can ask to go home," he thought out loud watching the Russian closely.
"It's not only that," he replied still avoiding to look at him.
The Russian could really be difficult and a blockhead. "Do I really need to drag it all out of you again?" A week ago when the biggest nuclear bomb known to man had exploded, Gilbert had been forced to drive Ivan over the edge so he would share what he had been feeling. He had been forced to do this, to prevent him from heaving a mental breakdown. The German had been waiting until Ivan was well enough to talk about serious matters. Force Ivan again was really the last thing he wanted to do now. He cupped his face turning it slowly to himself. "Just tell me honestly, why you want to keep me here. I know you…you must have a more meaningful reason than being cold. I think, I deserve to hear what it is."
Ivan did not resist and looked up at. "I…it's hard being alone in here," he finally admitted squeezing Gilbert's hand lightly. "People, my sisters come by, but…it's not the same. Your presence is calming and I can relax. With you…I don't need to watch my back all the time. I…I really like your company."
Gilbert felt his face getting warmer than it should and shook his head lightly with a grin. "This…sounds like a confession, you know."
"You wanted to know. So, deal with it." The other said back seeing the pale face get some colour again. Ivan sincerely doubted many people could make Gilbert Beilschmidt blush except his younger brother and himself.
"I'll stay, but not like this," Gilbert finally replied letting go of his hand and sat up. "Move over a bit." If the Russian wanted him to stay close he was certainly going to need some space to move into a more comfortable position. He really did get a confession, which made him wonder again how he had to deal with it. As Ivan slowly rolled over to the other side, he took his shoes off and moved into a half sitting half lying position next to him. Hearing Ivan's answer made him feel strangely happy and nervous at the same time. "How should I deal with it?" he commented thoughtfully.
Ivan looked at the ceiling, feeling a bit relieved to have told him and closed his eyes. "Makes you uncomfortable, doesn't it?" Everybody had been either bothered, uncomfortable or did not take it seriously. No one had ever considered it had taken him a lot of willpower to admit things like these each time.
"No," Gilbert turned to him at the question. It made him thoughtful of how he should respond to it, but it did not cause him to be uneasy. If anything, he was pleased. "Why should it?"
"I'm Russia and the USSR, remember?"
"This is not about being a nation," Gilbert shook his head tangling his fingers lightly in the blond hair and brushed through it. "This is about you, Ivan."
He opened his eyes at the touch looking up at him, but then turned away. The answers he got made him really happy and he wondered if he could actually effort to be for once.
Gilbert frowned when the Russian avoided looking at him. "I'm not sure if it's right to pursue it anymore, though. Not after 40 years odd years, that is…"
"40…w-what?" Ivan had to turn his head at that.
Gilbert smirked at the reaction. Making the Russian struggle for words was nice now and then. "Not 'what', Ivan. Years."
"Smartass," he commented slowly sitting up again.
"Always," he returned putting both hands on Ivan's shoulders to prevent him from falling on him.
"But really…40 years?" The Russian asked again with an incredulous voice. 40 Years was before the war.
"Longer than that actually," Gilbert found himself saying with a shrug.
"How far back…are we talking here?"
"I think… to times of Peter the Great." He said thoughtfully. An exact date was impossible to give. Over time he had started to see in the Russian so much more than the embodiment of the Russian Empire. "Not that it matters anymore." (3)
Ivan frowned putting his hand on Gilbert's arm squeezing it lightly. Peter lived at the beginning of the 18th century…"Gil…it does."
"Pursuing it, would have complicated matters," he sighed. "It still would now."
Ivan closed the distance pressing his lips lightly on Gilbert's. If anything this was the most chaste kiss he had ever given someone.
Gilbert narrowed his eyes as the other was pressing his lips against his. They were going to regret this in the end. Maybe not now, but definitely in the future. He sighed, deciding to cherish and remember this as a happy memory. Letting his eyes fall shut he returned the kiss albeit hesitantly.
The Russian could not help himself and glanced up when he felt the response. Smiling into the kiss he cupped Gilbert's face lightly with his bandaged hand. He had anticipated Gilbert would bite or shove him back because he kissed him without warning. Since he did neither, Ivan wanted to be closer to him.
Breaking the kiss Gilbert grinned. "You sure you know, what you're getting yourself into?"
"Not really, but I know I will regret it if I don't. Do you?"
"Kind of. That's why I said we might regret it." Relationships between nation's spirits never lasted and all that was left were bitter memories of things that they could not have. Humans had trouble with relationships, but it was often harder for them.
Ivan sighed giving a sad little smile. "I understand." It hurt to hear him say it, but he respected the other man too much to be angry because Gilbert had also a point. Some things were probably not worth pursuing, no matter how much one wanted it.
"Not entirely..." he replied, pulling him back down. "The possibility is very likely that we will regret it as nations, but..." Gilbert was lying at this point for Ivan's sake and his own because the alternative was worse. The USSR would not exist for forever and neither was the GDR. It might be for 10 years or maybe more and as long as it was there Gilbert would exist too. Should it end and Ludwig took East Germany over, he would most likely disappear. He did dread that thought. It started to worry him even more how it would affect the Russian. Ludwig would be sad, but eventually get over it. They had already lost several brothers and thus knew what was coming. Ivan would lose a lot more if he would agree to see how far this relationship would go. For this reason, Gilbert hesitated, although he felt completely the opposite. He really wanted to be close to someone. He had been forced to give up his country and was becoming estranged to his brother. All he had now was a clumsy state, which was struggling with itself while being a buffer zone between two different political systems. There was barely a nation he could call a friend. Except for this one person in front of him who was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Ivan smiled pretending to be fine while hurting on the inside and he had a hard time to trust someone who was willing to try understanding him. Despite that he retained a childish like kindness even after having a harsh life and possessed a quirky, off-beat sense of humour. This sort of kindness was different to the one he had experienced 200 years ago, but it was not less charming. The humour, though had remained. After decades of conflict East Germany's existence had become tied to USSR's and specifically to Russia again. He was not always happy with this knowledge, but also knew that united they could survive. Probably even longer than 10 years. Here he had the chance to have a deeper connection to someone he actually liked and respected. It was actually worth to have regrets over. Ivan was more than worth it. "But I won't regret being with you."
Ivan fell against him listening to what he had to say even if he expected to hear more negative answers. What he received was the opposite. "You…really mean it…"
Gilbert heard the hesitant tone like he did not dare to entertain that thought. "Who do you think I am?" he assured grinning lightly. "A Prussian never makes statements like these lightly." Ivan had said before, to him Gilbert Beilschmidt would always be Prussia.
"I see…"The Russian looked down smiling. He was going to do his best to make this work.
"But just so you know, I've already received death threats and the promise of getting beheaded if I break your heart."
"Death threats?" Ivan asked raising an eyebrow. "Don't tell me...Natasha (4)?" That would be so typically her. Overly attached to him, which made it even scary sometimes.
Gilbert laughed in response. "Wouldn't expect anything less from her." Belarus' attachment to her brother was well-known among the nations.
"I'll deal with her." Ivan sighed. His little sister could be a real handful.
"No, it's fine." Gilbert had still his hold on him and leaned in a bit brushing his lips against Ivan's. It has really been too long since he could let himself openly feel and show affection to someone he cherished. "Nevermind…"
"Alright…" A soft shiver ran down the Ivan's spine as he felt the warm breath against his skin. "Thanks…"
"Hm? For what?"
He moved laying down against the German and closed his eyes. "For staying..." he whispered, feeling Gilbert's warmth. It was a different kind that he felt. A blanket could never provide it and nuzzled a bit into the soft white hair.
"You don't have to thank me for that." He replied in the same way watching the taller man move. "Do you want to sleep?"
"No…I just feel the wounds itching. It gets better when I lie down." Ivan closed his with a sigh. The knowledge of having his trustworthy person stay next to him had a calming effect.
"Some more sleep will do you good, though." Gilbert had not forgotten the almost black circles under the man's eyes. "You win the contest anyway with your shitty dark circles."
"…don't be…a sore loser…" He mumbled absent-mindedly against his ear.
Gilbert suppressed the urge to shiver feeling Ivan whisper into his ear. "I'll wake you later," he chuckled to himself as he glanced over to him.
No reply came from the other as he had already fallen asleep. Gilbert slipped his arm under Ivan's neck to make it work as a pillow for his head, since the only real pillow was under his own. As the Russian slept, Gilbert thought about his original plan of talking about the bomb and the wounds that barely seemed to heal. He had hoped to do it today before leaving for Berlin, but after what just happened could not bring himself to even mention it. Tomorrow was the only chance.
"We're so going to regret this…" he whispered to the silent room while looking up wistfully at the ceiling. Russia and Prussia had often tried to work together in the past and for a time it went well, but it never lasted. They ended up in some kind of conflict influenced and brought upon by other countries.
See you in Part XVI!
I hope, I did not write in a clumsy way. ^^
(1) Military Medical Directorate or Main Agency for Military Medicine is a special division of the Ministry of Defense (located in Moscow), which provides medical services to all Army personnel and their families in war and peace. It was established in 1805 and still exists today and is part of the Ministry of Defense. The personnel consists of 100.000 medical specialists which includes 23.000 doctors and 4 million workers. The Agency has 14 missions in total. Among them are: preserve the health of military personnel, sustainable sanitary welfare and the deployment of troops.
(2) Meiendorf Castle was built in the French Renaissance style at the turn of the 20th century in Barvikha near Moscow. After the October Revolution it was occupied by Vladimir Lenin. Now it is the designated country residence of the President of Russia. From 1935 it was made into a high-profile sanatorium among which where patients like Yuri Gagarin, the first human who journeyed in outer space. For the sake of this story, I'm ignoring the fact that it was a sanatorium. I am using this castle as the home of Ivan where he lives. I can't say with certainty where the leaders of the USSR had their second place of address. Also, in Hetalia it is mentioned Ivan lives in a big house. I'm sure a 'castle' will work, right?
(3) Peter the Great or Peter I (1672 – 1725) ruled the Russian Empire from 1682 to 1752 and made it into a major European power. He led a cultural revolution based on ideas of Enlightenment replacing the traditionalist, medieval, social and political systems.
(4) I am using the informal name for Natalya. Since, Ivan is her brother, there is no reason for him to use her formal name in this situation.
* da: yes
* spasiba: thanks
* babushka: a grandmother
* danke: (German) thanks
Chapter 15: Sense and Reason
Thank you so so much for all the kudos and reviews you all leave! Honestly, I am very happy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XV - Sense and Reason
November 9, 1961
Gilbert had stayed right beside Ivan for as long as it was possibly allowed at the military hospital. Close to the end of visiting hours he disentangled himself carefully from the other man. Putting the pillow under Ivan's head he leaned down brushing the light blond hair away. He needed to retrieve his suit- and briefcase at the Hotel National. (1) It was a hotel he had visited before almost 50 years ago and had some fond memories. He was looking forward to spend one more night there and get some rest. Tomorrow would be packed and not easy. Gilbert did not really look forward to return to the GDR because this particular visit would require of him to make a couple of important decisions. "See you," he whispered closing his eyes and let his forehead rest gently against Ivan's for a second. "I'll be back tomorrow."
Although he had planned on getting more sleep at the historical hotel Gilbert ended up lying awake in the king size bed. His mind just refused to settle down returning each time to what Ivan had confessed. Rolling over on his back he traced absent-mindedly with his fingers where the Russian had kissed him. "Mist…*," he cursed putting an arm over his eyes. It could turn out to be dangerous if any other nation found out about them. Their relationship was good enough to use as leverage.
Ivan had a relative quiet night and woke up only once. Even that was not long enough to realise he was alone. He continued to sleep until a nurse woke him up to have the usual morning routine at the hospital.
The German came to visit him after lunch completely dressed for travel and with a suit- and a briefcase. Ivan looked him quickly over. A business suit looked really good on Gilbert, but it made his serious expression stand out even more. The dark circles under his eyes had gotten worse.
"Ivan," Gilbert started, the business like tone reflecting his attire. "I know, you're not exactly well, but it cannot wait any longer. I'm leaving for Berlin in a couple of hours."
Ivan nodded agreeing they needed to talk and he could already assume what it was about. Although, he agreed his one hand curled into a fist. "What do want to discuss?"
"Why didn't you tell me sooner about the test? You knew about it for months, if not longer." Before talking to the embodiment of the USSR, the GDR had decided to remain calm and collected. That had been the plan and he would do his best to stick to it for as long as possible.
"Would it have changed anything if I had? The test would commence anyway." Ivan said back. "And yes, I knew about the plans for two years. But there was no update given until five months ago, if you want to be exact." He went on without waiting for an answer from the German. "But a couple of months ago, I wasn't even sure, if I could trust you…like I did in the past. I know now, I can."
Gilbert could not say something back to that. It was the truth and logical. Several months ago, the Russian had no guarantee both as Ivan and as the USSR that Gilbert Beilschmidt being a part of the Third Reich could be trusted and was even entirely right in the head. "I know, you could not change the plan for testing the bomb and I'm not a medical expert, but...even I have noticed your body is taking too long to heal." He continued to explain what his real subject was. "Something else is going on."
The Russian had to sigh, for the answer that was about to come, would put the German into a sour mood. "They don't heal fast because RDS-220, the actual name of the thermonuclear bomb is not the only one being tested in the USSR." (2) He avoided saying the actual code name of the bomb for Gilbert would get pissed. When he himself had heard it, he was at a loss not knowing if he should be enraged or cry. It was probably better to do both. What he did instead was just leave the room and find the next deserted place in the area. He ended up in a chapel sitting there on the floor in the darkest corner for hours in a daze. One of the Fathers had by accident discovered him sitting there. The man had offered a handkerchief and some kind words. Only then did Ivan realise tears were falling without him even making a sound.
The science team gave a weapon of mass destruction the code name: 'Ivan'. Some called it even lovingly by the informal name 'Vanya'. He wanted to throw up when he heard it for the first time. A couple of minutes later his stomach emptied itself right on the floor of a chapel. The Western newspapers had nicknamed the weapon 'The Tsar Bomba', the king of bombs. It was an accurate name. There was no other in existence that was more powerful. Ivan sincerely hoped there would be no weapon that would beat its title.
There was no way he would even mention all this to his fellow spirit. Not because it was top secret, but if he did there was no way he could look Gilbert in the eye again. Just thinking about it hurt, not to mention he was ashamed what his people were forced to do in order to have the upper hand in this crazy arms race that was spiraling out of control. Ivan was so deep in thought he only reacted when Gilbert shouted his name and grabbed him hard by his shoulders. "Sorry…" he said forcing himself to look normal. "What did you say?"
While Ivan had been consumed by his thoughts, Gilbert had been watching him very closely. The man had turned white as the walls of this hospital and stared down on the floor. Ivan had gone somewhere far away in his head, where Gilbert could not follow. "Ivan!" he shouted shaking him firmly by his shoulders.
Ivan finally came around looking a bit more like his usual self, until Gilbert saw his eyes. "You…" There was pure anguish in them and he was trying to will it down. "Talk to me."
Looking up at his prompting had been a mistake, Ivan realized avoiding his gaze quickly. Gilbert was far too perceptive. Others would not have, but the German did not get fooled by his face because he always observed his eyes. "I…wish I could."
"You can," he sighed putting his hand on top of Ivan's head. "No matter, what it is." Gilbert really meant it, there was barely anything left now, which he had not seen or would truly shock him. "Remember, I was part of a country that could only be beat through an alliance and most of it had been done by you. The USSR, you,l freed all of Eastern Europe, while other Allied forces barely managed to get the West front. I've been tested on by a part of my people, shot, and almost bombed to near extinction. Not to mention that my kingdom's history was made into some sick story to fit a crazy idea. I'm sure I've seen it all by now."
He was quiet for a moment. "Maybe…maybe that's why you…understand me…" more than anything, I want to tell you. Ivan finished the rest of the sentence in his head.
Gilbert crouched down wanting to see his face. His hand remained on Ivan's head and he tangled some of the blond strands lightly in his fingers. "I want to understand you, but I can only, if you talk to me."
Ivan bit his lower lip when their eyes met again.
"Don't look away." The German said in a calm voice, but there was also a light pleading undertone in it.
"Will you hate me, if I don't tell you?" The Russian asked clasping his bandaged hands together.
Gilbert saw the clumsy movement. His hands were shaking and not only because they were injured. But the question took him a bit by surprise for it sounded childish, yet was asked seriously. He understood the answer had to be given in a simple and straightforward way, almost as if he really was talking to a child. Luckily for him, he had raised a nation from childhood and still remembered how to handle them. "I would be disappointed and hurt. You're in pain and I want to help you. But I would never hate you for it." He explained putting both hands over Ivan's.
"Net*," he choose to reply in Russian this time. "I know…I have to respect and accept the fact that you won't always give me an answer." Each of them had a boundary, which should only be crossed if it was absolutely necessary. Gilbert had crossed it a week ago and that was new enough. It was not right to do it again in such a short time. He also did not want to know everything about Ivan just yet. What he had seen was more than enough for now.
"It's fine, you told me a bit about the reason your wounds can't heal that fast. There are more bomb test the USSR scientists perform," he summarized quickly squeezing Ivan's hands lightly before letting go. "That's answer enough." Judging by the wounds Ivan still continued to heal which meant the bombs were not that powerful. Still, it made him angry tests were made.
"Gil…" Maybe it was better to tell him after all. Going back to the East Germany, Gilbert was bound to read something about it in the newspaper. Ivan also did not want to part in such an awkward way. Not with him.
"It's…" he tried and bit his lower lip again. Getting the words out 'they named it after me' was so hard, but he tried nevertheless. "They…"
Gilbert nodded and smiled seeing the Russian really try.
Ivan continued to look at Gilbert and took the gesture as encouragement. "The bomb…is n-named after me," he finally managed to say.
His smile at that and Gilbert stood up with a heavy sigh. Maybe there were appropriate words of comfort for something like this, but he had certainly never learned them. Instead he closed the distance between them and pulled Ivan into a thigh hug. Human leaders were often incredibly cruel. Sometimes they understood what it did to their embodiments and sometimes they did not. Whoever named the bomb might have thought of Ivan the Formidable. (3) Or maybe of the nation's spirit of the USSR, who looked invincible and proud at an official meeting. They would probably change their minds if they saw what it really did to him. "It's…fine…thanks for telling me," Was the only thing he could manage to say. The fact that the Russian tried to tell him something like this was already a lot.
Ivan tensed at the sudden hug, but then quickly wrapped one arm around the other pressing his face against Gilbert's chest. Unlike in the chapel, he did not feel empty and shell shocked. It was the opposite. He felt too much. A bit proud of himself for finally being able to say it. Aside from that, he was also grateful because the person he could trust was willing to listen. Gilbert did not judge him.
The German let his head rest lightly on top of Ivan's and was glad the other did not see his face. If he had, then he would see completely the opposite of the friendly voice that had thanked the Russian. Gilbert was looking daggers at the windows and what lay beyond: the Kremlin. They were all crazy in there. The lot of them. Just as the GDR leaders and the Americans.
Ivan sat there for a while just clinging to the other man until he had calmed down more or less.
"Gil…" he called lightly still leaning against him.
"This…stays between us."
The German looked down at the man frowning lightly. Almost everything they talked about was only meant for their ears. Ivan trusted him and he was not going to betray that. "Of course it will."
"Sorry…I had to say it." He felt like Gilbert could be entrusted a lot more than others, but sometimes Ivan still had his doubts. Secrets, personal and of political nature had been leaked in the fast far too often.
"No, I understand." He was aware of the reason the Russian felt like this had to be said. Having heard a couple of times that another nation, who had been relatively close to him betrayed his secrets. Some of them were very personal. "And it will stay between us."
Ivan just nodded lightly, but did not say anything. Was it really possible to trust him more?
Gilbert crouched down again to look at him. "You have my word," he said with clear conviction in his voice. "Although, I couldn't keep only two promises in my existence. I failed to save my kingdom from ruin and was unable to prevent…the advance on you."
"Gil…" The Russian was listing his so-called broken promises and ended up shaking his head lightly. They were embodiment of countries, but it was just impossible for them to influence major events like these all by themselves. In fact, Gilbert Beilschmidt did try. He had defied his leader to undertake Operation Barbarossa and was sent as punishment to fight in Stalingrad. To fight him. "These are not broken promises," Ivan replied after a moment of silence. "It is the leaders who decide these things in the end. You did try to change it, but we are not all powerful by ourselves. You know that..." A small grin appeared on his face again as he remembered that Gilbert was probably unconsciously stating a Prussian virtue. "Although I've looked up to the way Prussian virtues were upheld….it doesn't always work. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Gilbert laughed softly at that. "Prussian virtues, huh…" The realization came actually just now with the Russian pointing it out that it was one of them. "…it actually is." He had been Prussia, after all. "You looked up to me…"
Ivan noted the thoughtful tone in his voice and reached out to brush through the white hair to get his attention. "I still do. Prussia grew out of a backwater kingdom into a force that influenced the whole of Europe. What Germany has now is only possible because of you. You are the core of it all, Gilbert. That is why, without you Ludwig Beilschmidt wouldn't even exist. Your brother knows that he needs you. You won't be forgotten and as long you are remembered, you'll exist. I…won't let you disappear…" He shook his head dispelling the words that wanted to get out. I need you. I'm feeling emotions I have never thought I would be able to feel again.
Hearing him say all this made Gilbert's heart seize up lightly in a strange way. It caused his stomach to make that strange flip and a feeling of warmth that he had seldom felt in his life. It was a bit similar to what he felt for his brother and yet totally different. What tied him to Ludwig was kinship. Ivan made him feel something that ran far deeper, more intense. He could not help it but look down on the tiled floor. "Stop…saying things like that…"He bit his lower lip and stood up going over to the large window. This was good and bad at the same time. Good, because he really liked what he felt towards the other man when he said all this. It was exactly that what was making him…scared. Former mighty Prussia who preferred a good fight was worried and frightened of his own emotions now. This was bad. Being insecure was not like him at all.
Ivan frowned seeing him walk away. The German seemed clearly uncomfortable. Standing up from the bed, he made his way slowly over to where the other man stood. He clenched his teeth together not to groan in pain as he set one foot in front of the other. God, his muscles hurt, but his worry of somehow having offended the silvery haired man overruled the discomfort. "Gil…I…apologize." He rarely apologized for something and meant it honestly, but with Gilbert it was different.
He had been distracted by his thoughts to notice Ivan's approach. It was only his voice next to him that pulled him back to the present situation. "What the hell are you doing walking around? Are you crazy?" He nearly shouted quickly maneuvering the injured to lean at least on the window sill.
"Yes, I seem to be now and then." Ivan replied with a light laugh before the expression changed to worry. "But, I mean it, I'm sorry if I said something wrong."
"No…it's the opposite…" Gilbert sighed avoiding his gaze. "And that's the problem." This was a cryptic answer and Ivan would definitely ask to elaborate on the exact meaning, he realised. Giving an answer was going to be uncomfortable not to say an embarrassing affair.
"What I said was good and it's an issue?" His answer earned him an eyebrow raise from the Russian. It hardly made any sense.
Gilbert watched the half confused and slightly amused expression appear on Ivan's face. The softened features on the Russian's face and the violet eyes were going to be his undoing. "Yes…"
"Gil…" He called him by the short version of his name. It was a habit that had started a century ago when it concerned something personal. "What makes the things I've said a problem?"
The question made him sigh and avoid his gaze. How was he even going to explain it without making himself sound ridiculous?
"Gil, come on. That's not really fair." Ivan coaxed touching his cheek.
"What…it makes me feel for you and…I'm worried what it might…make me do."
"What it might make you do…" Ivan replied after him trying to figure out what it all exactly meant. Gilbert cared for him a great deal. That made him really happy, but the last sentence had a painful connotation. Had Gilbert changed his mind after all? Ivan started to get worried. "You don't want…to be close to me…" It hurt to say it out loud.
"No, I do!" He said quickly looking up. "I do…a lot, but…" Curling his hands into fists Gilbert sighed again looking down. "I'm worried." There was no way, he was going to say 'scared'. How pathetic would that even sound? "I'm worried it will be used against us. I don't want to end up being in a position where I am forced to hurt you…not again." Stalingrad had been more than enough. There was another possibility that could happen and it made him feel even worse. Humans played power games and that included also using the family relations between their nation's spirits. Gilbert dreaded the thought that he might end up being faced with the choice between his brother and Ivan.
The German was voicing concerns that the other had been thinking of as well at some point. Ivan was not an idealist to not realise it was dangerous and would hurt them one way or another, but still...He still preferred the pain over the alternative. "Gil…I'm aware of that. Don't think, I haven't considered all that already. But I've made up my mind to make my own decisions when it concerns my personal affairs." He put his bandaged hand on the other side of Gilbert's face. "I've hesitated before and ignored what could have been…I won't anymore…stay with me…please."
Blinking a couple of times at the floor, his fists unclenched slowly. It was a rare occasion when Ivan Braginski was asking for something and it was even more exceptional if it was on a personal level. What is wrong with you, Beilschmidt! He asked himself angrily and started to glare at the tiles. Since when had he become so undecided and second guessed himself? The kingdom of Prussia had been a daring power that grew to govern half of Northern Europe. He himself had been fighting, bleeding and had carried on even if half dead. Whatever happened he had always remained fighting and showed a gritty determination. How could a couple decades change an existence of centuries? Being overly careful and afraid was not like him at all. "Thanks…for reminding me who I am." He did not lose everything and Ivan was reminding him of that. Letting out a light laugh he gently placed one fist on Ivan's chest. "…I'll stay with you…for as long as it is possible." Gilbert could not promise anything more than that.
Hearing the final answer Ivan's fingers brushed through soft silver hair. The Russian leaned over slightly placing a kiss on his forehead while his arms sneaked around Gilbert's back. "Net…spasiba tebe," he replied, his voice not louder than a whisper.
He looked up trying to remember what the last word meant. Tebe…'you'? Yes, it meant 'you'. No, thank you. Gilbert felt his cheeks heat up again and smiled leaning in to the touch. He wanted to remain like that. "Stay…"
Ivan returned the smile and as a reply held him closer leaving no space between them. "When will you be back?" He asked after awhile. Gilbert was expected to be back in East Berlin this evening to meet with Walter Ulbricht, present leader of the GDR. Ivan would have preferred his company longer, but matters of governance came first.
"I'll stay four days at the most," the German looked up and titled his head lightly to the side. "You'll still be here?"
"I'm afraid so. Although, there is a lot of work to be done."
"Good. Better get more rest. You work too much."
Ivan raised an eyebrow at the answer. He would have preferred to hear something else, but knew Gilbert was right. Resting would speed up the healing process. "Hey, whose side are you on?"
"The side of common sense and reason, of course." He replied with a smirk. It was so easy to fall from a serious conversation to a light-hearted one with Ivan.
"Shouldn't you be on mine?"
"Not on this one." The question earned the Russian a shrug, but Gilbert leaned down bringing their faces closer. "I did say: I'd give you one hell of a time, comrade Braginski." The exact sentence had been mentioned back in August when he had said his goodbyes to Ludwig at the Wall and left with the Russian. "I will agree with you on some things, but also disagree."
Ivan grinned hearing the comment again remembering that day. "I wouldn't have it any other way, comrade Beilschmidt." His answer was the same as that time, but instead of threatening the German like he had done before, he sealed his lips.
Gilbert leaned into the kiss, while his fingers tangled lightly into the blond hair. Having the other man so close made him forget the thought of not giving this a chance. He wanted to stay close to him instead of catching a plane. Leaning a bit of his weight on him ended up being a mistake because Ivan groaned in pain. "S-sorry," Gilbert breathed, wanting to take a step back.
Ivan held him in place shaking his head and brushed his lips against the German's. "It's fine. I should lie down anyway as my common sense and reason said."
"Your common sense and reason?" Gilbert repeated after him looking into his violet eyes and wondered what the 'my' made him feel. Surprisingly, he did not feel bad about it, but it was not right either.
"You said it yourself I'm not entirely right in the head, remember? You're my common sense and reason." Ivan explained his reasoning, not wanting to think the German was being claimed.
"Well then, I suggest you listen, while I head to the airport." Their moment together was definitely over now and Gilbert straightened up letting his fingers lightly ghost over Ivan's neck before taking a step back.
The touch on his neck made the Russian flinch involuntarily. It was a reflex his body had developed a long time ago. Although he had no conscious memories of how he got the scars, his body remembered. Nobody had been allowed to touch his scars, not even his sisters. He was aware Gilbert had no intention of hurting him, but his instincts kicked in and his muscles reacted automatically. "I…sorry. I didn't mean to…" He said quickly and held Gilbert's hand in his. Flinching at the touch of the one you actually wanted to be touched by was the worst.
The German had realized before the Russian did not like to have his neck touched. He even reacted badly when asleep. This situation proved it even more. Gilbert himself was not really fond of having his own emotional scar out in the open. "I know," he said with a nod interlacing their fingers. "It's alright. Maybe someday it will be fine."
Ivan squeezed his hand and stood up slowly. "That would be nice..."
Gilbert held his hand firmly and guided him to the bed. "Yeah…"
"Hopefully, I'll be out of here next week. I'm sick of this." Ivan hated being weak. He was a world power! Being bedridden for so long was embarrassing.
"You'll be fine soon." He sat on the bed next to him patting his head lightly.
"I'll have to be. There will be a UN General Assembly soon," Ivan explained his reason. "After…the bomb test, America suddenly wants to talk."
"He pissed his pants is probably the reason why."
"That is more accurate, yes." Ivan could not help but laugh at that. Whatever Gilbert did he ended up amused enough to laugh and he truly loved it. Please, don't stop, he thought watching him fondly. "The Assembly will be held on November 24th. All countries usually are in attendance. The GDR has an official embodiment now, but you are not recognized as a country by others."
"I will attend since I'm associated with the USSR. They will have to recognize the GDR at some point." He lightly squeezed Ivan's hand again and grinned. "There was a time when no one took the kingdom of Prussia seriously too."
"I had hoped you'd agree to attend," the Russian started to smile again. "It will be without the leaders of the GDR, but within the Union of the USSR."
"It's probably better to attend without them," the German agreed with a nod. "After all, I'm a part of the Eastern Bloc." (4)
Ivan looked down for a moment with a smile at the wording. "Yes…you are."
"Then I'll see you in four days." Gilbert announced his departure and moved closer. "Just take it easy, promise me?" he mumbled, leaning in to blow a kiss on Ivan's lips.
"I'll try…" he whispered back against his lips loving the feel of it. "See you soon."
Gilbert sighed slightly, squeezing Ivan's hand one last time and the let go to pick up his luggage. "Do vstrechi.*"
Ivan nodded with a smile. His Russian was really improving.
His smile remained until the door fell shut. Once it was closed the smile of Gilbert Beilschmidt disappeared. The nation's spirit of the GDR turned towards the long hallway and followed the signs to the exit. He was relieved Ivan did not ask what his business in East Berlin involved. The documents lying securely tugged away in the briefcase would surely enrage and get him to act. Gilbert did not want him too. He was the GDR and it was his task to resolve this himself.
This is the last little piece of happy times for them.
It is time for the next stage of drama and angst.
See You in Part XVI
(1) Hotel National is a luxury hotel in Moscow build in 1902 and had a very eventful history of prosperity, but also upheavals. It has 160 rooms with several suites, which housed politicians, actors, writers and musicians. For example, Lenin stayed seven days in Suite 107. Suite 177 is now part of the Kremlin Suite.
(2) Ivan is referring to the Soviet Projekt K nuclear tests was a series of 5 tests that had been done between 1961 –1962. All of the tests involved high altitude rockets fired from Kapustin Yar. Kapustin Yar is known as a rocket launch and development site, which first started as a material and support site to defeat Germany in WWII.Ivan Grozny is better translated as Ivan the Formidable. One of his main achievements is transforming Russia from a medieval state into an empire.
(3) Ivan IV Vasilyevich was a tsar of Russia who lived from 1530 – 1584. He is usually known as Ivan the Terrible. However, this translation is WRONG.
(4) The Eastern Bloc is the name that applied to former communist states that were also part of the Warsaw Pact made in 1955 after West Germany became part of NATO. This Pact was a counter measure to the threat of NATO countries.
Each country made a pledge to defend the others against any outside threat. The organization had the statement that each nation would respect the political independence of the others, each country was one way or another tied to the USSR.
The countries of joined the part are:
Albania (until 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany (until 1990), Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia , Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan)
This Pact ended in 1991.
A big thank you to the readers on fanfiction.net, who pointed out that what I first wrote was not that clear.
* Mist: Shit
* Net (нет): no
* Do vstrechi (До встречи): see you
Chapter 16: Rise Above
TODAY, May 9th is VICTORY DAY in Russia! One of the most important national holidays that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It is celebrated everywhere in the Russian Federation, but also in countries all over the world.
One of my grandfathers and one grandmother had been fighting in the war. So, I'm posting a chapter today in their honour and of all the others who had been fighting to free their country and basically saved more than half of Europe.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XVI– Rise Above
November 10th , 1961
A flight from Sheremetyevo Airport (1) from Moscow to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took approximately four hours and the embodiment of GDR used the time to go over all the files again. Each time he finished reading one, he put it on the table in front of him and picked up another. One thing he could compliment the administration of the GDR: they were thorough, but that was really the only thing about the documents.
"Sir, would you like some refreshments?" A friendly female voice interrupted his reading.
Gilbert looked up at her with a glare his mind still focused on the files. "Was*?"
The stewardess did not see his face and assumed it was an old man because of the white hair. Once a young face and a pair ruby red eyes glared up at her she blinked a couple of times before regaining her bearings. "Refreshments…would you like any?" She said, trying to hide her surprise at the way the passenger looked.
"Oh…" Gilbert's features softened once he realised it was only the flight staff offering something to drink. "No, I'm good, but thank you." He replied, giving the woman a kind smile. It was not fair to be rude for no reason.
She nodded smiling back accepting the indirect apology and continued with the other passengers.
Gilbert leaned back in his seat closing his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. The documents had occupied him so much that he lost sight of his surroundings. Damn you, Ulbricht, he cursed inwardly feeling an oncoming headache creep up. There was no way he would go along with the things that were typed up on these 376 pages. He was an embodiment of a nation, not just some human government official!
"Miss!" he called lifting his hand to get her attention and got out of his seat.
The woman turned at the prompting and tilted her head curiously as the unusually looking man approached. "May I trouble you for some coffee?" He asked with a sheepish smile.
His behaviour earned him a smile that looked more like a faint smirk. "Of course. I'll bring it to you. In the meantime please sit down."
Gilbert noticed the small smirk. She may have looked sophisticated, but the smirk betrayed this women had pluck and it made her more interesting to him. "Much obliged," he said bowing his head lightly and went to take his seat again as instructed.
The stewardess watched him until he had really settled in his seat again before continuing to take orders from the passengers.
The white-haired passenger did get a cup of coffee a couple of minutes later. "I apologize about my behaviour before." Gilbert commented accepting the coffee.
"And I apologize for disturbing you." She replied holding her hand out.
He took it with a grin. "Apology accepted."
Enjoying a couple of minutes of just drinking the cup and look out of the window the embodiment of the GDR picked up a pencil again and went back to go through the files. The last four pages made him clench teeth together in anger. It was a declaration of consent and the last page required two signatures.
His grip on the pencil tightened as his eyes read the word once more.
Never, he thought to himself. The pencil could not endure the pressure and snapped. The sound distracted him from the paper. He grinned at the two broken pieces in his hand. The documents had actually angered him enough to start breaking things. That was a bad sign already. Breathing in deeply Gilbert closed his eyes. Getting worked up in such an early stage was pointless and contra-productive. Breathing out slowly he leaned further back in his and remained relaxing for the rest of the flight.
The plane arrived at its destination and hour later and as Gilbert was leaving the plane, the stewardess was standing at the entrance making sure all the passengers left.
"Good luck with whatever you were preparing for," she said as he was about to walk away.
He tilted his head curiously at the unexpected well-wishing. "Danke*," he replied after a second and smiled lightly. "…good day to you." Luck was something he probably would need for his meeting with the first secretary of the GDR.
She smiled back lightly watching him go to a black government car. The vehicle drove away and the stewardess took it as a sign to enter the plane again going immediately for the cockpit. "Inform the General, Gilbert Beilschmidt has landed safely in Berlin."
"Understood." The pilot nodded turning to his dashboard with all the instruments and communication equipment.
A government car was already waiting as Gilbert left the plane. Once his identity was verified it drove him to the Palast der Republik, the official seat of the government to meet with the First Secretary.
Walter Ulbricht was a man of average build with a receding hairline and did not have any features that would made him stand out except for maybe his beard. It was only noteworthy because it was modelled after exactly the same style as the communist revolutionary Lenin. Thus indicating where his sympathies were laying. (2)
„Welcome, Herr Beilschmidt. Finally, we are able to meet in person." The man said seemingly pleased to see the embodiment of the German Democratic Republic.
Gilbert watched him with interest and hid the fact that he was rather suspicious and on his guard. The man was smiling, but it was an empty expression.
Walter Ulbricht rounded the corner of his desk and held his hand out as a greeting.
Gilbert shook it as the procedures required. "You invited me to discuss matters concerning the country," he replied wanting to get immediately to the point. He did not like the atmosphere of the room and the man was too fake in his behaviour. People like that were slippery and not easy to read. Not reading them could be dangerous.
"Ah, coming right to the point. Alright then." The politician went back to his desk and got a stack of files out from one of the drawers. "I assume, you have read them all already, yes?"
The nation's spirit nodded while clenching one of his fists lightly. "I did."
"Excellent! All is settled then. Sit down and sign them."
"I decline," Gilbert declared, not moving an inch. "I am a nation's spirit, not an employee. I do not sign contracts nor declarations that limit me in fulfilling my functions. My role is to advice and if necessary questions the leader's decision. This contract is basically forcing me to go along with everything. That is not how it works." Gilbert explained. "As it stands, I cannot agree."
"What did you say? You decline?" The man's smile vanished in an instant and he narrowed his eyes. "You? A mere ghost of a nation are defying the actual leaders of this country?"
"I am the embodiment of this country. I do not have to explain what that exactly means, since you already know. I am NOT a member of your party, but an advisor and I AM the country. And thus not bound to personal contracts. I am here to help and advice, not plainly follow orders." He was never going to agree to become a mere party member of a government that would exist for a limited amount of time. Nation's spirits stood above that.
"I have heard you were the rebellious kind, but I did not think you were stupid." The man said in a displeased voice. "You will not sign it?"
"You already have my answer. I will work with you in a capacity as a nation's spirit and not as anything else."
"Well, I'm sure you will change your mind soon enough," he only commented while picking up his phone and dialed a couple of numbers. "Come in," he said into the horn, then put it back down.
Gilbert narrowed his eyes wondering what this man was scheming. The answer appeared a minute later in the form of four men in uniform.
"What the hell is this?" he demanded, all manners forgotten.
"The GDR does not need rebellious elements. You need some reeducation, Herr Beilschmidt. Luckily, we have the perfect place for it. Take him."
The four men immediately approached him.
"Don't you dare touching me," Gilbert growled, before crouching down quickly and swiftly kicked one in the groin area. Not wasting a second he turned to the next attacker. He was a nation's spirit, damn it! Not some simple human. He had been the kingdom of Prussia growing out of a small forgotten state to a force to be reckoned with. Hell would freeze over faster than him being taken somewhere without a fight.
The first man went down on the floor moaning in pain. Another two tried to grab him from behind while the third was getting a syringe ready. Oh, hell no, he was not going to get drugged, he thought turning around and punched one in the face before rushing to the door. He could not get far as the one remaining grabbed his arm pulling him back. The pull forced him backwards and before he could dug out of the way the fourth rammed the syringe in his neck. Gilbert kicked him to the ground. "Was zur Hölle ist das*?" He shouted pulling the syringe out of his skin throwing it to the ground.
"Something to calm you down, you freak." One of the uniformed men said spitting out blood and two teeth along with it. Gilberts punch had broken two teeth and his nose was bloody. He wanted to punch him again, but stumbled back as his vision started to get blurry fast. "F-fuck you…" he curse falling to his knees.
"You just had to sign. Would have made things so much easier," Ulbricht said, watching him struggle to stay awake.
"You…pay for dis…" He managed to say before his vision completely faded and he collapsed on the floor.
Back in Moscow Ivan Braginski was not idly lying around in bed, but was going over all the documents which had been presented to him for the UN General Assembly in a couple of weeks. He needed to be healthy again by then. Showing up wounded and give America any kind of satisfaction was out of the question. Khrushchev had scared the US enough with the bomb test. It was time for Ivan to help reach a good deal that would satisfy the USSR, but also so that weapons of mass destruction like RDS-220 would never be created again. That was his own wish, which he would try to push through.
A knock on the door followed by a man in an inconspicuous business suit entered his room. "General Braginski," he greeted the nation's spirit approaching the bed. "A message for you: 'Gilbert Beilschmidt landed without any complications."
Ivan nodded thanking him for the update. Once the man left, he smiled lightly at the knowledge of the German being alright. "Ya zhdu tebya…dorog- * (Яждутебя…дорогой)," he whispered not finishing the last word. Shaking his head quickly he turned back to the documents unaware that Gilbert was not safe at all even from his own government officials.
Here it is! Short, sweet and as promised with drama!
Soon there will be angst too. XD
See You in Part XVII
(1) Sheremetyevo Airport is one of the major and international airports in Moscow. The other two are Domodedovo and Vnukovo. It was first build as a military airfield and started operating in 1957. By 1959 it was later turned into an airport for civilians and the first flight went to Berlin Schönefeld Airport of the GDR.
(2) Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870 – 1924) better known by his alias 'Lenin' was a Russia communist revolutionary. He is a very controversial figure. Some see him as a supporter of the working class, while others give him the role of the foundering leader of an authoritarian regime that led to mass killings and political repression.
* was: what
* danke: thanks
* Was zur Höle ist das? : What the hell is this?
* Ya zhdu tebya…dorogoy (Я жду тебя…дорогой): I'm waiting for you. The last word that Ivan stopped himself from saying is 'dorogoy'. This word can have two meanings, depending on the context. One is 'expensive' usually used for things like 'an expensive watch/house. The second meaning is for people whom one cherishes (family, friends or lovers) and means 'dear'. You can say 'dear friends', 'dear uncle', etc. Why Ivan did not finish the word…well, I will leave that to your imagination. ^_~
Another note to this is that, I do not believe Ivan would honestly use some weird nickname like it is so often the case in other fanfiction. Having grown up in a Russian family and knowing many Russians, it is kind of uncommon to use nicknames. Ivan is a reflection of the nation and I honestly do not think he goes around calling people 'my bird/rabbit/ and whatever other weird stuff there is out there. Besides, Gilbert and Ivan are both guys. Gilbert was Prussia, a powerful country and even if he is not anymore having an education as a military man and politician will not let him accept some, frankly stupid nickname. As an old nation he understands that times change, but no matter what kind it is every nation will still have a certain command of respect and will demand it. Would former Prussia honesty play a totally submissive role in a relationship? I really don't think so. I see them more of being equals.
Chapter 17: Pain and Honour
WARNING: This chapter contains violent scenes and strong language.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XVII - Pain and Honour
November 10th, 1961
Voices were talking, but the exact words were not clear. Just the tone of the voices and some of them sounded displeased.
What was going on?
Why did his head feel so heavy and why was it so dark?
Gilbert groaned starting to feel annoyed at the situation. Suddenly something was lifted off him and his eyes started to burn at the unexpected light. He hissed quickly turning his head away and closed his eyes. "Wha…" he moaned.
He was only able to make out parts of the conversation. The few words he could pick up already indicated this was not a friendly place. He needed to get out of here.
"Asshole! Do you know where you are?" A voice shouted close to his ear and he felt his body being hauled up and slammed against something solid. Moaning in pain, Gilbert slowly squeezed his eyes open cautiously that no sudden light would hurt him again.
"Wha…" he managed to get out looking around with bleary eyes. It looked like a dimly lit corridor of an underground construction. Thick pipes were running above the ceiling and walls. The air felt stale and smelled of wet concrete.
"I said, do you know where you are?" The same voice demanded again, hitting him across the face.
That roused him a bit and he tried to focus on the person hurting him. "How…should I know…you got me h-here, asshole."
"Well, well, a big mouthed one we got here, colleagues. That's rare. We don't like your sort."
"Let…me go then," Gilbert replied leaning his head against the wall. That dizzy feeling just would not go away and he felt like his lunch would make its way up any second. He squeezed his eyes shut willing the sensation down. Throwing up on this guy in front of him was definitely not such a good idea.
"And a smartass too, it seems." The guy commented and let go.
The drug still coursed through his veins and his legs just could not support the weight yet. Gilbert sank to the floor, glad there was at least the wall to lean on. "So….what…do you…do you want from me?" His tongue felt weird too making pronouncing the words a real challenge. It felt kind of numb and he frowned. What did these people inject him with? That thought reminded him again of the possible reason he was in this place. He had declined to sign a declaration, which would limit almost all his involvement in the government business. It would also basically degrade him to a desk job in some unimportant ministry. On top of that the status of an attaché to Moscow would be stripped away too. There was no way, he would accept that. Gilbert decided to play clueless to find out what exactly these peoples' task was.
"Shut up, 3260!" Was the answer and another slap to his cheek. "That is your name here. 3260."
"…very creative." Gilbert groaned at the new pain. Wherever he was, it seemed to be a place for holding people and using violence was permitted easily. The logical assumption had to be a prison. But what kind and where?
The jab had been ignored and the answer to his last question was answered. "Welcome to Hohenschönhausen, 3260." (1)
Hohenschönhausen, Berlin. One of the prisons governed by the Stasi and mainly used for people who were questioning the GDR government. One had to be really actively opposing the powers that be to end up here. This was not going to be easy.
"I must…really be important to end up here." It was imperative to find out if his captors knew who he really was.
"Quiet, 3260." Two of the guards pulled him up roughly dragging him down the corridor until they reached an elevator.
Gilbert did not fight them and actually preferred they half carried him to whatever place. He was still dizzy and his own legs could not hold him up anyway. "Will I…get an answer where to?"
No answer came.
This told him the guards used the silent treatment and were not up to talking with inmates. Gilbert had heard rumours about this particular institution. It was a detention center for people who attempted to flee the GDR. As far as he could see, that was definitely only a half truth. Giving inmates just a number and using silence as a weapon was used for so much more. Gilbert let his head hang and grinned lightly. If these guards employed such techniques, then it was time to remember his lessons with the warrior monks from long ago. (2) Prussia had started his existence with the Teutonic Knights. They had been knights and also monks. His education with them had been hard and unforgiving, but had also its uses. For nearly 15 years he had been living, studying and training like a knight and a monk. The lessons with them had also involved living in silence for a month. In that period not even one single word was allowed. In case of slipping up punishment followed.
It was only when he looked down that he noticed he had different clothes on. The business suit had been replaced by grey coloured clothes. Grey trousers, white shirt and a grey sports like jacket. A prison uniform. Feeling a sudden halt he looked back up. They had stopped in front of an open door which led into a small room. It was pitch black inside and the light from the corridor was the only source giving him the chance to see that it was actually a room. ''Your new home, 3260." One of the guards said as they threw him inside and locked the door.
His body was still half immobile from the injection making it impossible to break the fall. Landing on the floor like a bag of potatoes he slowly rolled onto his back with a groan. It was pitch black and he did not bother look around. The only source of light was a tiny round opening where the door was located. The lamps in the corridor shone softly through inside the cell. It was more extreme than a monk's cell he had inhabited 500 years ago. Back then, the Teutonic Knights' compound did have relative large windows looking over the courtyard. This certainly was not going to be that easy, but Gilbert remembered that he was expected to be back in Moscow in four days. If he would be kept here longer than that, which he hoped not, there were people who would start looking for him. "Damn…"Gilbert sighed trying to lay as comfortable as it was even possible on a hard floor. He was feeling dizzy, disoriented and exhausted. Just what did they inject him with? Closing his eyes with another sight he let the darkness and silence lull him slowly into a half-unconscious state. His body was even so far gone that he did not react when the lamps were turned on without any warning. The tiny room was basking in harsh light revealing a sparse interior. A cot was placed against one wall, a hole in the ground for a toilet and a sink next to it on the other side. The only window was made out of glass blocks. (3)
The guards must have noticed the man lay unresponsive on the floor and one shouted his number a second later through a speaker that was attached above the door. It made Gilbert twitch a bit, but not enough to rouse his drugged mind. When that did not work as well, the same guards came in to check.
"He's almost unconscious again. How much did he get?" One asked checking for his pulse and lifted one of his eyelids.
''A lot it seems…I hope he's awake in two hours. Herr* Dietz will need him for an 'interview'."
"Well, if necessary we'll get him to wake up.' He taller guard stood up again smirking at the unmoving body. "Let's go."
The lights were turned off again leaving the room once more in pitch black darkness and silence.
His mind was jolted awake by hearing his own gasps. Gilbert forced his eyes open with a laborious moan finding himself unable to move. All of his limbs were secured by leather straps to the arms and legs of a chair. His lungs were burning and he tried to take small breaths, but ended up coughing.
"Finally!" A voice said in victory. "You took your sweet time."
The voice did not scream, but it sounded too loud in his ears and shot right to his brain making him cringe. "Shut up…" The words came out even before he himself even registered what the meaning of them was.
The guard did not take it well and grabbed him by his hair. "What did you just say, 3260?"
Gilbert blinked up at him with a frown wondering himself what the words were.
Not getting an answer, the grip on the white hair tightened. ''I said, wha-"
''Enough." Another hand stopped the guard from pulling. Gilbert followed the source of the voice and saw an elderly man standing next to the younger one. "Herr Dietz is waiting. Bring him."
"…yes, sir.'' The younger acknowledged removing the binds. Since the man leaned quite low to him and freed one hand. Gilbert looked down noticing that his face and upper torso were wet. Had these bastards tried a simulation to make his body react to a drowning? It would explain the wet clothes and his lungs hurting. His free hand immediately curled into a fist and he punched the guy in the face as hard as possible. There was a cracking sound and the guard screamed in pain holding a hand protectively over his nose.
Gilbert also had to wince holding the hands closer to his chest. He had not paid enough attention to how he had hit and now his own hand was pulsing with pain, but the knowledge of having broken that bastard's nose made it better. His painful scream sounded like music to his ears, even though punishment for his actions would undoubtedly follow later. "That's f-for…make…making…me choke."
The pain enraged the guard even more. "I'll kill you!"
''I said ENOUGH!'' The older man was barely able to stop him before he could lunge at the prisoner.
Another guard rushed into the room to help.
"Kirchner! You're dismissed! Sickbay! Now!"
The man stopped struggling giving Gilbert a death glare, then nodded to his superior. "Yes, Sir.''
When the injured left, the older man turned to him. "As for you…" he said calmly, but his tone was ice cold.
Gilbert tilted his head waiting for him to continue speaking. Yet no answer came. Instead the two guards hauled him to his feet, handcuffing both hands behind his back and forced him to look down. Before they even took a step an alarm resounded through the empty hall. Once they started walking one of the guards pushed his head down, so he would look at the floor. Gilbert struggled wanting to see how the corridors looked like. The man put even more pressure on his head. After numerous attempts he had to give up if he did not want to risk dislocating some of his joints. "Good doggy, keep your head down."
Gilbert ignored the jab, more interested in the man called Dietz he was supposed to be meeting right now. As long as he was not physically hurting him, Gilbert had no problem ignoring the biting words. Being called a "dog" was certainly not the worst insult he had heard in his long life.
He had counted the steps they had taken from the 'bathroom' to the "interview room". Yes, he was calling it bathroom just to keep his brain occupied from dreading it because the older guard clearly had plans for him to suffer for breaking his colleague's nose. 27 steps, he concluded stopping in front of a door that was made out of wood, unlike the rest. Metal for prison cells and wooden doors for other rooms.
The older guard knocked on the door and opened it pushing Gilbert inside.
The room certainly looked completely different. The walls had white wallpaper and the official logo of the GDR on one side. On the other hung the seal of the Stasi with the characteristic riffle and the GDR flag attached to a bayonet signifying the motto of 'Schild und Schwert der Partei'. (4) He also noticed the high quality carpet covering the whole floor. It was an office fit for a government official complete with a desk and chair on each side.
Gilbert tilted his head lightly when his eyes saw the "windows". It was filled up with glass blocks making it impossible to make out what was laying beyond. He could only tell it was dark outside. His eyes shifted to the subject of his attention. A round faced man with thick rimmed glasses was sitting behind the desk eating a meal on a tray. A stack of files lay next to him. This had to be Mr. Dietz.
"I hope you don't mind me having dinner, Herr* Beilschmidt. It had been such a busy day." The man said while cutting a piece of a Sauerbraten. (5)
Dinner? Another confirmation that it was late evening. But was it still the same day? "Not at all. Enjoy your meal." Gilbert commented being pushed down on the chair opposite of him. Seeing the meal he did wonder how much time had passed since his.
"You probably want to have your hands free?"
Having no handcuffs had its advantages, but even with two guards it was a risk to have him without them considering he just had punched someone. They would not be undone without a good reason. "Not at all, they're quite comfy," he shrugged. Of course he meant it sarcastically. Underneath the jacket there were already bruises forming on his wrists and he had a couple of cuts from the metal handcuffs.
The man stopped eating for moment and gave him a look from under his glasses. "As you wish."
Gilbert just watched him hoping the reason he was brought to this room would soon be revealed.
"Herr Beilschmidt…" the man said between swallowing a spoonful of boiled potatoes. "Are you aware why you're here?"
"I'm sure you will inform me of it in a minute." His body was still tingling unpleasantly from the lack of oxygen, not to mention the manhandling he got in Ulbricht's office and in this facility. He was really not in the mood for mind games.
"You really have not even a hunch?"
"I can't remember having done anything that would validate imprisonment." Gilbert replied calmly leaning back in the chair. It was getting uncomfortable to have his hands behind his back, but he ignored it for now. "You seem to know more than I do, so please do tell."
"I have heard, you were given a very high dosage of… medication. That certainly has some effect on the brain functions. So, let me refresh your memory." Putting the cutlery down, he clasped his hands together and straightened his posture. "For the good of the GDR, you were requested by the First Secretary himself to sign a declaration. Which you refused. Does this ring a bell, Herr Beilschmidt?"
"This declaration is in violation of the duties of a nation's spirit, Herr Dietz." He did remember very well why he was here.
"Is there no way to convince you to sign it?"
"Like I told the First Secretary, my task is to advice the head of state. I am not a regular employee who abides to contracts or declaration."
"I am well aware of what you are. Because of this we are so forthcoming to not give you the standard treatment here." The man resumed eating his meal. "However, or patience has limits too. Is there anything you would like in return for your consent?"
Gilbert had to blink at that move. "Are you trying to bribe me?" This was actually unheard of to bribe your own nation's spirit and even try to remove them from their functions. When an embodiment did not agree with a decision, it was within the leader's option to ignore him or her, but to actually muzzle them was just not done.
"We are prepared in accommodating you with everything you wish in return for your cooperation." He was cutting the rest of the meat in pieces and acted like this situation was the most ordinary thing in the world. It started to annoy the embodiment and made him very suspicious. "Why do you really need my consent?"
Dietz was about to take another bite and stopped grimacing at the piece of meat stuck to the fork. "My meal has gone cold," he said suddenly. "Gentlemen, please bring it back to the kitchens and stay outside. Thank you."
"Sir, the prisoner…you will be on your ow-"The younger guard started to say.
"I'll be fine. Thank you." Dietz moved the tray towards the guards to be taken away.
The older guard motioned his colleague to take the food away and opened the door. "Understood. Call if you need anything."
Dietz only nodded while focusing on the prisoner.
The younger guard carried the tray outside. "The food is still warm," he commented once they stood outside.
"Sir, why would th-"
The older guard turned to him. "What is the first rule around here?"
"Don't question the Stasi higher ups."
"Good. Now go and give this to the dogs."
The younger one glanced at the meal, then back to his fellow guard. "Yes, sir."
In the interview room, the Stasi official was waiting until the guards had left. "Herr Beilschmidt, let me be clear," he began folding his hands together. "I'd rather prefer to have dealings with 3 common murders, than one of your sort. (6) But as it stands this is my task at the moment. Be as it may, you have been placed in a position that has been found not favourable for the leaders of the GDR. You are supposed to be our embodiment. We had expected to have your support and more autonomy. The situation right now is that we are more than ever dependent on the USSR, because you are also an attaché to Moscow. Also we know of your disagreeable and rebellious nature as you have shown during the previous government. No matter how just your attempts may have been, the GDR leaders do not need displays of such behavior," the man explained watching Gilbert's every reaction. The embodiment was unmoving and just listened. Dietz found it rather disappointing. Most inmates would have started to panic at this point. "For these reasons, we ask you to sign the consent of relinquishing your double role and go along with the rule of the GDR Party. Make no mistake, we are asking kindly…for now."
"And I will kindly repeat my reply: I decline on both requests." Gilbert sat up straight and leaned forward to the man. "I am not your puppet. You…should show me more respect for I am your country. No one ever has or will ever ask me, the embodiment of the country to sign anything that goes against the principle of being one. It is in fact, high treason to your own country, Herr Dietz." A century ago, people like this man would have been hung or shot.
"It is very unfortunate that your answer remains the same. I was hoping it would be otherwise. Your stay at Hohenschönhausen is extended." The man went to door inviting the older guard back in. "Next time we meet, I hope your answer has changed."
"Don't count on it."
Gilbert found the man had a creepy smile on his face when his parting sentence was: "We'll see, Herr Beilschmidt. We'll see."
The red eyes watched him depart with a glare.
He had expected his role as embodiment of the country and also an associate to Moscow would be met unfavorably by some. Yet, go so far to force him to sign anything was really something else. It made him rather uneasy to think what this prison was planning to make him give in and sign that blasted thing.
"3260. It's payback time for breaking my colleagues nose."
Gilbert set his jaw and stood up giving him a faint glare. It really was time to remember his Ritterbruder's old lessons how to endure pain. (7) He was not going to sign anything for that would mean first and foremost betraying his own existence.
See You In Part XVIII!
This chapter was focused on Gilbert, but not for long. Ivan will be back soon and other Hetalia characters.
I do have to say this chapter was difficult to write. Information about the Stasi prison Hohenschönhausen is very limited. It is also hard to write intense scenes to recreate a dark atmosphere, since I barely know anything about prisons and there are only a few personal accounts of the inmates. But I did try my best.
(1) Hohenschönhausen in East Berlin was the main political prison of the German Democratic Republic's Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. After the fall of the Berlin Wall many government and military institutions were stormed by demonstrators. This was not the case with Hohenschönhausen. Because of this the prison authorities were able to destroy all evidence of the prison's function and history. The only information there is comes mainly from eye-witness accounts and documents from other East German institutions. While documents from the institutions can be seen as credible, it is a difficult case with the eye-witnesses because it is hard to know if they are telling the truth or not.
(2) Describing the Teutonic Knights in general: some facts are used about them in this chapter also from the Knights Templar (the orders were very similar) and some things I just use of my own to keep the storyline going.
(3) The treatment of prisoners: for the prison parts I watched several documentaries with personal accounts of the inmates who had been there. Some parts of the story, I just had to invent because there is just no information available. It is known that some people who were politically going against the GDR were drugged, abducted and then brought to the political prison Hochenschönhausen. The glass blocks for windows were used in the cells to disorient and confuse the prisoners.
(4) 'Schild und Schwert der Partei' means 'Shield and Sword of the party' and was the motto of the Stasi. It referred to the ruling party: the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (German: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED)
(5) Sauerbraten is a national German dishes. It is a pot roast, which is usually prepared with beef or if you want to be totally traditional use horse (other meat is also fine).
(6) "I'd rather prefer to have to deal with 3 common murders, than one of your sort." This was a quote from one of the prison personnel at Hohenschönhausen. It basically means, murders and killers are straightforward and not as dangerous as a person who is politically involved for they could start demonstrations and endangered the government.
(7) Ritterbruder or 'Knight brother' were the Elite of the Order. The Teutonic Knights originally accepted men who were already knights and some functions could only be assigned to those of noble birth. This title of Ritterbruder was only for nobles and thus they had the very best equipment. The white jupon with the distinct black cross was worn by this rank to distinguish them from the others. Both the Teutonic Knights as the Knights Templar had overall the same beliefs and practices. I've been reading a couple of articles about the Knights Templar who put a lot of importance on spiritual mediation. With enough focus and practice meditation can steel the mind to endure mental and physical pain. Since Prussia/Gilbert Beilschmidt started with the Teutonic Knights it would make sense that he was raised by them. Chants and prayers (no matter the philosophy/religion) are a way to help one to focus the mind and shut out emotion and sensations. Obviously, in this story Gilbert is past the point of believing in any kind of religion, but is remembering how he was taught to use meditation to better bear pain (mental and/or physical).
* Herr: Mister
Chapter 18: Mercy in Darkness
Thank you for continuing to stop by and reading this story!
I so appreciate all the kudos and reviews!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XVIII– Mercy in Darkness
November 15th, 1961
The punishment for breaking the guard's nose ended up being no food for the whole day and several hours in a dark isolation cell.
This one was just bare walls and a hole in the floor. He was tired and in pain from the manhandling since his coming here. It was all accompanied by a splitting headache from the drugs and the waterboarding. Thus sitting in complete darkness and silence was not such a bad thing. However, his torturers started to turn on the lights at irregular intervals and shouted his designated number through the speakers. That made his head hurt even more. Just when his body started to relax the lights would go on. It was blinding preventing him from falling asleep. He could feel it even through closed eyelids. This cell was designed for only one purpose: to drive the one inside mad. (1) For this reason he was leaning against the wall with both knees pulled up close to his chest and rested both arms and head on them. Such a position provided more cover from the light.
At the moment he was reciting the blessing of a knight's sword in his head. It had been taught to him centuries ago. '…deo servientium contra saevitiam paganorum…' He could faintly feel the heat and slight buzzing of the lamps. They had been turned on again, but his mind did not waver and he continued. '…aliisque insidiantibus sit pavor, terror et fomido.' (2)
The blessing was almost at its end and he wondered what to do next. All of the prayers of the Teutonic Knights had been recited. His mind was also much calmer now. He had the option of remembering poetry or music. When the time of knights had ended he had to evolve with the times to become a noble man with all its set characteristics. Poetry, music and knowing other languages were an integer part of that. One king in particular found it paramount he learned French. Before he had considered it a sissy sounding language. No one took it seriously even when you were outright cursing someone. It just sounded too nice. With his fast knowledge of Latin it had been easy to learn and Gilbert ended up liking the language, but only because it reminded him of the one who taught him. That person had been patient and had used his already limit personal free time to teach him. He could never forget something like this.
Instead of reciting poetry, Gilbert ended up thinking about his time as the Kingdom of Prussia. There were so many fond memories and also very painful ones. One could not exist without the other. He had learned to accept that.
Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the wall and smiled into the light at one particular memory…
An exasperated sigh. "You're still stumbling over this part…"
"I can't help it! The holes are too small. My hands are not made for this." The young man replied quickly, glaring at the long object in his hands. The smooth refined musical instrument was just not made for his battle hardened hands.
The soft chuckle made Gilbert look up. "Making fun of me now, aren't we?"
Still smiling mildly, the only other occupant in the room stood up from a richly decorated Baroque style chair and approached the embodiment of the Kingdom of Prussia. He looked about the same age and had his dark blond hair tied by a ribbon into a low ponytail. "Your hand?" The man requested holding out his own.
With a sigh Gilbert put it in his. "What about it?" He inquired not seeing the point. "I'm used to weapons. They're rough, not suited to play instruments at all."
The other man tilted his head lightly at the reply and glanced down. His own fingers traced over Prussia's hand palm following the most prominent lines before turning it to look at the fingers. The touch was gentle ghosting over Gilbert's skin. A display of affection that normally would not be that quickly associated with this particular man. "Now look here," he began his voice taking on a calm tone indicating an explanation was about to follow. His country had been right. The skin was rough with several callouses telling the story of a man who handled swords and muskets on a regular basis. However, his fingers were saying something else. They were long, thin and evenly shaped. No matter how much Gilbert was denying it, he had elegant hands. Putting his own on top he lifted their hands up. "What do you see?"
That question earned him a skeptic frown from the albino. "What am I supposed to see?"
"Just…humour me." Was the reply and a curious glance from a pair of blue eyes, which Gilbert always associated with a clear summer's sky.
"Fine. Our hands."
The obvious answer earned him an amused smile. It was small but honest, because Gilbert could see it also reached his eyes. "Yes. But do you see they have almost the same length and similar shape?" The man held his gaze for a moment then lowered their hands again, but did not let go. "You always said I had the hands of a musician. Yours are not different. They're similar."
Gilbert watched him trace the outline of his hand with an index finger, then looked up. "It still doesn't work, Your Majesty."
While the man had been looking down a couple of his blond strands had fallen into his eyes. He was blinking frequently because they were probably bothering him. Gilbert had the urge to brush them away, but refrained from taking any action.
"We're not in court and no one is here, Gilbert." The ruler of the kingdom of Prussia reminded him lightly while coming to stand next to him. The country's spirit had a music stand placed in front of him with several sheets of scores. "You seem to have difficulties with this section. Watch out for the beamed notes." (3) His king pointed out. "It says allegro*, yes, but play at that speed when you have enough practice. You've started it only yesterday. Take it slow. There is no need to rush."
Gilbert nodded his head slowly listening with intent and looked at the notes again. "Force of habit," he mumbled at the comment not to call his king by the formal title. Calling the ruler of his kingdom by the appropriate title was only for official gatherings and in the presence of others. When it was only the two of them it was just Fritz and Gilbert. Had always been since Frederick II had learned how to speak and that had been almost 23 years ago.
"Try again." Fritz said taking a step back once the other nodded his understanding.
Gilbert stood straight again holding the instrument to his lips and started playing from the top.
The king watched him while listening to every note that was being produced. As the piece moved to the second page Gilbert's arm started slaking a bit making it more difficult for his fingers to close the holes on the instrument. It tainted the sound of the notes.
The more experienced musician moved behind him and gently put his arm back up again into the right position.
The move distracted Gilbert's concentration making him glance over his shoulder.
"That was better, but keep your arm in this position at all times," Fritz instructed not relinquishing his hold. "You can't reach the notes because you start slouching . That's all."
"I…see…" he mumbled looking back at the sheets. The man was standing close. Far too close, it was distracting.
"Once more. Slowly. I'll watch your arm." Fritz spoke softly right next to his ear. Almost a whisper that made him shiver.
Gilbert inhaled deeply closing his eyes and counted to ten. This usually helped him to calm his racing heart, but it could not prevent the blushing on his cheeks. "…alright."
It was on the first day of autumn September 23, 1736 that Gilbert Beilschmidt, the physical manifestation of the Great Kingdom of Prussia had come to realize something that was difficult for any embodiment of a country. Despite his better judgement, he had for the first time in his long existence felt more than he should for one of his kings. It went beyond friendship and comradery.
Prussia had truly rejoiced seeing Frederick II ascend the throne after the passing of his father. His heart had skipped a beat when the new king appeared in full attire. At the same time it had hurt so much because it signaled the end of their equal relationship. From that moment on it would always be 'Your Majesty'. Frederick or Fritz faded in the background and was reserved only for moments like this.
Gilbert glared at the score in front of him. You're in so much trouble, Beilschmidt. He thought to himself as he played in a slower tempo one page after the other without mistakes. The musical piece was supposed to be upbeat, but it took on a somber tone reflecting his conflicting emotions. Ending the piece he lowered his head letting his hands hang limply by his sides. This was one of the biggest mistakes an embodiment could make. You cared for your people, supported, fought and bled for them. But you did not fall in love with any of them. This king like others before him was mortal and destined to die. His existence was a mere glimpse while Gilbert's was not limited to a century. Loving meant losing and grieving which always lead to negative consequences for the country and its population.
Friederick clearly noticed from the way his former tutor, now adviser, military commander and best friend was playing that something seriously bothered him. The notes were correct, but had something heart wrenching about them. "Gilbert…," he called his name once the music ended. "What's the matter?"
At the time he had invented some excuse to avoid the real answer. Frederick eventually figured it out and to Prussia's surprise the sentiments were returned. This made him worry even more.
50 Years later just as he had foreseen, it all ended in heartbreak, tragedy and painful last words written in a farewell letter.
Everything that I have done, I did for you, my kingdom. (4)
He vowed to never get close to a human again. In all honesty Gilbert did not want to. No other human after that moved his heart like Frederick had. Ivan managed to make him feel something similar again, but with a slight difference: they were both nation's spirits.
While Gilbert was sitting against the wall the blinding lights were turned on a couple of times. He was so consumed by the memories that he did not even notice it and ended up drifting off.
His eyes snapped open again when pain exploded in his midsection and he hissed at the sudden assault of light.
"3620! Get up!"
His brain needed a couple of moments to even realize what was going on. He squeezed his eyes shut forcing his brain to work and remember.
"I said get up!"
The voice shouted again and he felt his body was being moved. "What…now?" he said slowly opening his eyes again. The guard whose nose he had broken was glaring back at him. Said nose had been patched up with a bandage and half of his face had turned a shade of blue. "Don't…you look handsome." Gilbert just could not help himself and let his mouth run away.
The man growled slamming him against the wall and let go. "Stand, 3620!"
The rough contact with the wall momentarily knocked the air out of him and he nearly fell back down on the floor. He broke the fall by holding onto the wall.
"Hands behind your back! Move!" The guard said handcuffing his hands again and pushed him towards the door opening. Gilbert walked slowly out where another guard forced him to look towards the floor.
Gilbert wanted to ask, where they were going, but thought otherwise. These uniform clad bastards were under orders not to talk to prisoners. There was no point wasting your breath on unanswered questions. He just followed, but continuously tried to look up, memorizing the corridors. It looked like they were going to the interview room at first, but the guards rounded the corner.
Was he led to another unpleasant dark cot?
"Stay." Mr. Pretty Face barked, while the other unlocked a large metal door. This one led outside towards a large courtyard.
Gilbert could not help himself and breathed in deeply once he was pushed outside. The chilly night air felt good against his skin and cleared his head. How much time had passed since he was here?
Maybe two days or more?
"So, what's the reason for our midnight outing?" He asked making his voice sound bored, masking the fact that he was suspicious of every action the guards performed.
The answer presented itself when they rounded the building and out into a smaller courtyard. There six men dressed in the same guard uniform were standing in a row preparing their riffles. Being a military man himself, Gilbert immediately understood what this meant: an execution troupe.
As expected the guards did not give any answer and just forced him to face a wall with his back to the troupe. He could not see them, but knew he was right in shooting range. Pretty Face wanted to place a bag over his head, but Gilbert moved his head away. "No need for that. Can't see them anyway like this." He growled. Being the spirit of a country he would not die. However since the war he had lost a great deal of power. Six bullets in his body would be difficult to heal and require time.
"How brave. You'll be pissing yourself in no time."
Gilbert turned his head to him. "You'd like to see that, don't you, Mr. Pretty Face."
The guard cursed under his breath and put the bag over his head anyway. "Any last wishes, 3620?"
"Go fuck yourself." Gilbert clenched his first together wanting to kill this one right on the spot.
Unable to see he could only rely on his sense of hearing and smell. His body tensed involuntarily when a motor of a generator was turned on. Its powerful roar filled the whole courtyard and the air started to smell like gasoline.
He had to grimace at that. The noise of the generator had to drown the sound of bullets being fired. You bunch of hypocrites, he thought bitterly. If these kind of executions were perform often, which he assumed was the case judging by efficiency with which the six men were getting ready, then everybody in this building knew anyway what the generator meant.
He vaguely wondered if all these people knew who he really was. Shooting him would not lead to his death, but being heavily injured meant rendering him incapable of signing anything. It was their goal to make him sign that blasted declaration. Shooting him would be contra productive.
The noise of the machine was not enough to drown the sound of riffles being loaded. Gilbert let out a deep sigh trying to steel himself for the pain that was about to come. Having been shot several times in the past did not make it any easier.
For a split second the sound of shots, all released in unison cut through the noise of the machine. The six men lowered their weapons again and stood unmoving awaiting further orders.
Gilbert stood against the wall with eyes squeezed shut, but then slowly opened them again when he did not feel anything. His heart was hammering in his chest making it almost hurt to breathe and drowned out any other noise. Even the generator. He feel cold sweat trickling down his back like a stream in spring fueled by melting snow.
The psychos had performed a staged execution on him! (5)
Calm down, calm down, calm down, he told himself squeezing his fists even more.
"How are we feeling, 3260?" The hood was removed and the first thing he saw was Pretty Face.
His heart was still too loud to even hear the full sentence and words seemed to fail him at the moment.
"Nothing to say?" The guy continued with an amused voice.
"Go…to h-hell," the nation managed to get out. The shock had started to get to him only now and made his body shiver slightly. He would rather prefer to get shot than feel something like this
"So, do you want to sign it now?" The guard asked ignoring the previous comment.
Gilbert had squeezed his eyes again trying to shut out his surrounding to calm down somehow.
The guard leaned to his ear. "Just so you know, next time you might not be so lucky and real bullets will be used. One to your leg. Maybe both and one of your arms. You only need one to sign it, right?"
Having the guy so close made his skin crawl. The shock momentarily forgotten he turned his head and spit in his face. "…Never." He would have preferred punching his teeth out, but his hands were bound. A head bang was out of the question as well. The prospect of another headache, because of this bastard was not worth it.
Punching the guy was not even needed. Spitting was even more humiliating and he grabbed Gilbert by his collar and slammed him full force against the wall. Both of them heard something crack followed by a strangled scream from Gilbert.
The guard immediately let go of the prisoner. Gilbert just slumped against the wall trying to breathe somehow. Had his hands been free they would be clutching his right shoulder by now. The blow had dislocated his shoulder and he could barely breathe from the sudden pain.
He vaguely noticed more guards approaching. "In my office. Now!" Someone bellowed. After that everything happened in a blur. He could feel several hands on him and for a time it was like his body was floating in the air before everything went dark.
The Meyendorff Castle like the country of Russia had a history of ups and downs. Build by a noble as a summer home it ended up being a storage facility, a rundown hospital and finally restored to its former glory. The walls of the castle have seen many things and right now they witnessed even more.
A tall man with light blond hair was pacing in a 19th century decorated room. The Persian style carpet dampened the sound of his boots, but it was apparent it was developing a visible path were the man was walking back and forth. "What do you mean nobody knows! It's been five days!" He shouted stopping at a large oak desk and slammed his fist against the surface. The wood creaked slightly under the force. The man tightened his jaw as the force shot sparks of pain through his entire arm. His body had not entirely healed from the nuclear test performed by his countrymen a couple of weeks ago. Yet at this very moment he did not care. His anger overruled the physical pain.
"We contacted the government. They informed us Gilbert Beilschmidt arrived with the plane, met with Mr. Ulbricht and left. There is nothing after that." A much smaller man replied quickly clutching his briefcase tighter. At this very moment he was wishing to be anywhere else but in this room. The nation's spirit of the USSR was on the verge of ripping his head off. Then there was another person in the room who he feared just as equally.
Right now she was sitting on a couch close to the large office desk. Back straight, hands in her lap and legs a bit to the side. The perfect posture of a lady. Her long platinum blond hair, so much like the embodiment of the USSR was neatly combed and held in place with a white ribbon. Her blue dress with a white apron was spread out on the couch so it would not develop any creases. All in all she seemed like a well-mannered young lady. If nobody paid attention to her eyes. They followed the angry man and then settled on the one who brought the message. If looks could kill, then he would have died a thousand times already.
The man half ignored the messenger's answer and looked out of the large French windows that lead from the room towards a terrace. The young woman watched him with interest, while the face of the other man was sweating heavily.
"Alright…" he suddenly said with a dead calm voice and faced the messenger again. “Thank you for the update, you may go now."
The man had to swallow hard seeing the look on his face. Whatever Ivan Braginski's intentions were it would definitely involve hunting someone down and make that person pay. "Good day." He wished them both and quickly left the room.
Ivan went to the desk and was about to dial a number, but was interrupted by the young woman.
"Vanya*…what's the plan?" Knowing his behaviour quite well, he already had some idea what the next step would be.
Ivan turned to her, his eyes softening a bit followed by a small smile. A real one, actually. "I'm going to Berlin to find him.
"Why?" She asked standing up and approached the desk as well. "Usually, you don't do these things personally."
Putting the phone back down, he turned to his little sister. "I'm sure you know why."
"I told you before, he'll be trouble." Ivan had always been giving his attention far too freely and wholeheartedly to others and often suffered for it later. That was one of his flaws. She loved her brother dearly and did not want to see him in pain anymore. This Gilbert Beilschmidt had been stealing his attention for far too much already and he was bound to hurt him in the end. This time Natalya was not going to sit by and watch it unfold. "And now he is. He's a nation, let him deal with it on his own. It has nothing to do with you."
"No, Natasha. It has everything to do with me." He shook his head lightly. "I had part in creating the GDR and he is…a dear friend. I need to find him."
"He's more than that now…"Belarus muttered. The unhappy tone evident in her voice. "And will break your heart."
"And I can break his."
"I don't like him."
"I know." Ivan did understand her standpoint, but was not going to agree with her opinion. "But still, I want to ask if you want to join me in finding him."
That was a request she did not expect. "Why would I?"
Ivan put his hands on her shoulders squeezing them gently. "Because you are one of the few people I trust and I love you. You're my dear little sister and that will never change," he continued smiling lightly. "But Prus- Gilbert, he's…important to me too."
Natalya let out a heavy sigh knowing that her brother was sweet talking his way to convince her. It was working. "I don't like him, but…I've seen you. When he's around you're happier." It was not easy, but she had to admit this fact. "Neither Katya nor I can make you smile like that. I want to see you happy."
Ivan only grinned knowing already she would agree to accompany him. "You're sweet sestrenka*. You'll join me?"
"Well, someone has to watch you back and all." She mumbled again feeling her cheeks heat up at the praise.
"Spasiba, daragaya moya*." Leaning down he placed a kiss on her forehead. "But before we go, you should put different clothes on. It would be such a waste if your lovely dress gets bloodstained, da?" Ivan had given her the violet dress as a gift many years ago and Belarus let it get manufactured at least 20 times to wear it as often as possible.
She closed her eyes and grinned as Ivan kissed her. "Oh, so it is that kind of plan…I should prepare my knives as well?"
Her brother returned the grin glad she understood and was pleased their trip to the capital of East Germany would most likely involve bloodshed. "Please do."
"When are we leaving?" The undertaking started to appeal more to her liking with the knowledge of making her brother happy by helping him.
"As soon as possible. I was about to arrange a flight. Dima and Misha will accompany us."
"I'll get ready then." She said cheerfully and walked out of the room with a happy gait. “I still don’t like him.”
Dimitri Peskov and Mihail Saharov were two KGB operatives whom Ivan had known for years and deployed for clandestine operations. Paying a visit to the GDR's government was going to be unannounced and it was paramount to have backup. There was no information available of what would await him in Berlin. He also did not know where the German was and in what kind of state.
When Gilbert had left to the GDR capital Ivan had expected to hear from him in two or three days. Communication through the normal channels between East Germany and Moscow was made difficult with the Americans trying to intercept every possible message from their spy compound at the Teufelsberg in West Berlin. It was in the interest of both Gilbert and Ivan nobody knew what they talked about, because it was not only about politics. The secret back channel was only used in emergencies. The embodiment of the USSR had not considered the GDR politicians would actually have plans to undermine their own nation’s spirit.
He leaned against the desk and glanced down at the second drawer. Once the fourth day went by Ivan expected to hear from Gilbert. Yet nothing came. That was when he contacted the KGB department stationed in Berlin to make inquiries.
Letting out a heavy sigh he opened the drawer revealing a glass bottle of transparent liquid and a shot glass. What happened….he wondered, taking the bottle by its neck and placed it on his left hand palm. Having a hold on the object he let his fingertip glide down its body while watching the liquid swirl inside. Having heard absolutely nothing from the German meant there was someone preventing him from forming any contact. The only lead was the government building of the GDR. Challenging the human politicians of another country was not something he was inclined to do, but this involved one of his nation's spirits. On top of that it was someone close to his heart. Leaning the bottle against his forehead Ivan closed his eyes. It felt nice to have the cool glass against his skin.
"Chert…*" He whispered knowing full well his decision was more of a personal nature than a professional one. His sister was right: Gilbert was trouble. Had the German been just a country within the Eastern Block with whom there was no deep personal connection, then Ivan would have made inquiries through the official channels.
He opened his eyes looking at the bottle again. The liquid had stopped moving in the meantime and was serenely swimming within its glass container. Ivan was about to unscrew it and pour a shoot, but then stopped. There was no use in having a drink now. He needed to find the German and the idea of having one together sounded far more appealing. Their last drink in Berlin had been such a miserable account.
Pushing himself away from the desk he stashed the bottle away where it previously was and grabbed the phone instead. "Book me flight to Berlin Schönefeld Airport. Four seats. It's urgent," he said into the phone to his secretary who was among other things also responsible for his to travelling schedule.
"Last minute flights won't be easy to arrange and-"
"A cargo plane will do too. I can even sit among chickens. I don't care. " The secretary meant well for finding a passenger's plane, but Ivan did not care about a comfortable seat. He had been flying in far worse things to end up at a desired destination. "Just get me four places on a plane."
"Understood." Was the answer after a short pause.
"Thank you." Ivan hung up and called another number requesting for the two men he had mentioned before to his sister. Going alone and taking KGB operatives with him without informing and waiting on a decision from the Politburo meant he was walking a fine line. But this was different. Gilbert Beilschmidt was different and Ivan just could not sit still. The UN National Assembly was next week as well, which left him with a limited time to act. In fact he had already lost too much of it.
See You In Part XIX!
Note on Belarus: I am aware many portray her as some crazy yandere, whose goal is to marry her own brother and scare/kill of anyone who gets in the way. Not in my story. Yes, she cares a lot for her brother and does scare away others, but she does this because she knows he is too kind and has a painful and complicated history. For her it is important that her brother can be happy for once. That is the reason she grudgingly and slowly starts to accept former Prussia. I see Ivan and Natalya also as partners in crime on a murky mission. Both of them do not mind to use violence when it is necessary.
(1) Isolation cells as punishment and the lights was also a personal account of an inmate at Hohenschönhausen to make them disoriented and lose track of time.
(2) The Blessing of the Sword involved a special prayer for when the knight of the Order (both Teutonic and Templar) received his sword. The blessing is longer than what I write here.
'Thy servants against the cruelty of pagans, and may it be the fear, terror and dread of all evil-doers. In the name of Christ the Lord.'
(3) Beamed notes: this is diagonal line used to connect multiple consecutive notes to indicate a rhythmic grouping. It is possible to beam only 8 notes. In the piece I used as inspiration it has to be played at a fast pace. The musician has to practice a lot to be able to play it correctly and fast. Also since it is a symphony all of the musicians need to be able to work together to play the piece beautifully. There has to be someone who sets the pace and the others follow. For the flutes it is the same and they can interchange. So, in short each musician needs to know his/her place within the group and be able to reply and respond with the instrument. It is also important to put their heart and feelings into the piece or you end up playing like a robot.
If you're interested how the piece sounds like, just type in 'Frederick II, Symphony in D major: I. Allegro assai.'
(4) Frederick II and Prussia: a fellow Hetalia fan and good friend gave me a couple of stories to read about these two. At first, I was a bit skeptical, but after reading it I can certainly see they can be shipped. So, I'm writing a separate story about them too. This one scene I've described here, will be in the story as well.
(4) Staged executions at Hohenschöhausen: Again, this is a personal account of two inmates. The executions were used to force these two prisoners too sign confessions. I did not find information if it was used for other reasons.
* allegro: This is a term in music that indicates tempo that should be played fast, quick and bright. The piece Gilbert is practicing in the scene is Symphony in D major: I. Allegro assai. It is for two flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns and strings. I've attended and graduated from a music academy and since Frederick II was an accomplished musician, I do think it also influenced Gilbert a lot. That is why I'm including little scenes like this in the story. Because of a really bad childhood and being king (thanks to his father) Frederick II was not exactly known for showing what he really was thinking or feeling. However, listening to the music composed for the flute it is more or less possible to get an idea what kind of person he was. There are happy and upbeat pieces, but also very melancholic and sad ones. For someone who did not have a professional education as a musician (his father forbade him to play the flute or read books about philosophy) he was very accomplished and really had talent.
* Vanya: is the short and more personal version of the name 'Ivan'. Ivan and Natalya are brother and sister, so she prefers to use this form if they talk to each other in a non-formal setting.
* chert ('черт'): damn. This expression is used as emphasis for anger or frustration.
* sestrenka (сестренка): little sister
* spasibo moya doragaya (Спасибо, дорогая, моя): 'Thank you my dear'
Chapter 19: Fire Nation
A note on the title:
No, this is not Avatar! XD This title is a song from 'Two Steps From Hell' and I was listening to it, while writing the part for Belarus and Ivan.
I always appreciate all your comments, so thank you very much for writing to me! ^^
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XIX– Fire Nation
November 15th, 1961
"Like that will help…five days already and still no results."
"…still other options available…"
"Who is he really?"
"Just do you job, that is all."
Voices again. Was this a déjà vu? There were people talking. At least three of them judging by the different sounds. He tried to concentrate on the words and realized it was about him.
"Would be easier, if we knew more...some leverage to blackmail or force him."
"This guy, must have family somewhere. We can use that…in the West, maybe?"
"In the USSR then? Would be even easier…"
He felt his breath catch in his throat at the mention of it. One of the voices belonged to the man called Dietz, Ulbricht's lackey. His memory and senses were slowly coming back to him; this place had to be the political prison Hohenschönhausen. He was laying on relative soft surface and it smelled clean. It was a bed no doubt about that, but not in a cell. The mattresses there smelled moldy. The men were discussing what could be used and force him to comply with their demands. They even mention the USSR…Ivan.
Gilbert let out a displeased moan trying to shift his body. It did not work as he wanted as fresh pain flared up in his right shoulder pulsing straight down his entire arm.
"He's waking up."
"Hold him down in case he struggles, but don't injure him any further."
Unable to move his hand properly, Gilbert concentrated on squeezing his eyes open instead. There was light in the room, but most of it was blocked by two grey prison guard uniforms and one black business suit. They stood right next to his bedside. He moved his eyes up and just blinked a couple of times. It was indeed the face of Herr Dietz.
"Herr Beilschmidt, can you hear me?"
He made a displeased face. This was honestly the last person he wanted to see hovering over him. "Verpiss dich*," he croaked, his voice hoarse from disuse. Why did he had to wake up? Sleep was his favourite activity lately.
"I will take this as a yes." Dietz concluded, ignoring the insult. "Have you changed your mind?"
"You…wasting your time…"
The man let out an irritated sigh. "Alright, bring him to the Tigerkäfig. (2) No one withstood that for long. No food and no water. This is not over, Herr Beilschmidt."
It will be…soon, Gilbert thought and watched him leave through half lidded eyes. There were only so many days his body could function without nutrition and sleep before shutting down to recover. Five days had already passed, if he had heard correctly.
He vaguely wondered if Ivan actually bothered to look for him? Except for the Russian there was hardly anyone else at the moment who would have a real interest.
His thoughts were interrupted, as his body was hauled off the bed sending more pain through his arm. What had Dietz said earlier? Don't injure him? The guards clearly were not following orders. His shoulder had been set in its socket, but if they continued to manhandle him, it was going to be dislocated again.
They dragged him through several halls, which he only half remembered. The final destination was a rectangular space made out of 3-meter high polished concrete walls. He held himself upright with his healthy arm and looked up. It was the first time since five days he saw the sky. It was through barbed wire and packed with greyish clouds, but it was still the real thing!
Gilbert took a couple of deep breaths of cold winter air and slowly started moving along the walls. One hand always touched the stone for support. Being outside was nice, but his flimsy sport's uniform was hardly keeping him warm. As he came to the third wall his fingers brushed over a small bump. The structure was smooth drawing his attention to the sudden irregularity. Gilbert leaned down to look. It turned out to be a small hole with a piece of paper stuck in it. He pried it out finding three words had been hastily scribbled with a pencil: Walls have ears. (3)
Yeah, obviously, he though throwing it on the floor and continued to walk along the wall.
Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow
November 15 th , 1961
"Just like old times!" A female voice shouted excitedly above the roar of a plane's engine. "I'm glad, I came along!"
The person she was shouting to, stood right next to her with his hands stuffed deep inside a black military trench coat. Two sets of epaulettes decorating the coat indicated he had the rank of a general. Half of his face was hidden under a dark red scarf to keep him warm from the cold typical for a November month in Moscow and also from the biting wind from the propellers of the plane. "You see, without Beilschmidt we wouldn't have this opportunity to fly with an Antonov An-12 again."(1) He shouted back and grinned glancing sideways to the young woman next to him.
"Would be better, if he didn't get in trouble at all…" she said softly waiting impatiently for the plane to finish its maneuver and stop in their direction.
Ivan did not catch the sentence with all the noise, but could assume she was complaining a bit about the German. "You did not mention anything to Katya about all this?"
She shook her head. "Didn't want to worry her and she would try to talk us out of it."
"True." Their older sister, Ukraine tended to worry far too much about them. It was a good thing in most cases. Sometimes, however it was unnecessary and even hindering. "Let's go." Ivan said picking up Natalya's suitcase.
The plane's gangway had been lowered by a crew member and the man was now waving in their direction to come aboard. Ivan was the first to climb in, followed by his sister and the two other men. They had been specifically called for this assignment to assist, in case backup would be necessary. Ivan really hoped it would not, but one could never know. It was better to be prepared.
They had barely entered the plane when the man shouted they had to sit down somewhere because they were going to take off immediately. Ivan looked around spotting a free space for the four of them between medium sizes crates and close to the door of the cockpit.
The crew member waited a couple of seconds just to check the new passengers found somewhere to sit. "We arrive in an hour!" he shouted over the noise. And sorry, there are no seats!"
Ivan waved him his ok and stretched his legs while crossing his arms over his chest. Finding a comfortable position on the hard metal floor between crates was nearly impossible. The cold air in the cargo hold made it also not easy, but they all had a place in less than four hours. His secretary had really done a good job. He would personally thank him later for this.
Belarus sat right beside her brother leaning her upper body on him and pulled her knees up a bit. The blue dress had changed to black trousers and an equally black military coat with a white scarf. This type of attire would allow her to move more freely than a dress. Her brother did also say the dress should not get dirty and she was more than happy to agree with his reasoning.
The two KGB agents Russia called lovingly 'Dima' and 'Misha' were sitting opposite of them with a small suitcase on each side. "The USSR embassy has agreed to provide us with two cars," Misha, the slightly taller one of the two shouted to his leader once the crew member left.
Ivan nodded his head and mouthed a 'thanks' to him before looking down on his wristwatch.
It was now 16:45 Moscow time. The 1-hour time difference meant it was 15:45 in Berlin. The flight took 1 hour in total making it 16:45 again. The First Secretary of the GDR Walter Ulbricht was known to be a workaholic and still would be in his office when they would arrive. Good, Ivan thought and smiled lightly. This unexpected visit was going to take the German off-guard and give the Russian an advantage. There was a higher chance to get a more honest answer from the politician. Even if he would try to lie, they were going to get the truth out of him either way.
"You look happy, Vanya!" Belarus suddenly shouted pulling him back to the present.
"Lately, I'm having 'heart to heart' talks with human politicians." He looked down at his sister smiling even more. "It's very refreshing."
Natalya had to smirk at his choice of words. The last so-called 'heart to heart' talk with a human politician had involved America's boss over the Berlin Crisis in October. That had been in a minor official capacity and approved by the government. This had allowed Ivan to represent Khrushchev and make aggressive demands towards Alfred's boss
This occasion was unofficial and Ivan took full responsibility. This meant, it involved a less civilized approach, if necessary. "Don't overdo it." Belarus knew Ivan was more than capable to control his temper in an official political meeting. It involved the government and was his duty. Although, this situation was political too it involved personal decisions. Natalya was not sure Ivan would be entirely level-headed in this.
"You make it sound like I might go on a rampage." He grinned lightly.
"You know what I mean."
"I do, I do. Don't worry, Moscow still considers him useful. So, I won't do anything too drastic…" He patted her head reassuringly. But I will still make him pay if he has done something to Prussia…Ivan finished the sentence in his head.
His sister still gave him a doubtful look, but did not say anything. The rest of the flight was spend in silence. The KGB agents were talking amongst each other, but the other two occupants could not hear anything. The roar of the propellers and the engine drowned anything.
Half an hour into the flight the crew member from before appeared again to check how they were doing. "Sir, we're landing in approximately 35 minutes in Berlin Schönefeld Airport. Cargo Division!" he shouted to Ivan. "We've received a transmission you'll be picked up!"
"Thank you for taking us along." The spirit nodded and held out his hand, which the pilot shook eagerly.
The plane landed at 16:45 on the dot. Just as the pilot had said their welcoming committee was waiting in the parking area of a hangar.
"Good to see you again, General Braginski."
Ivan shook hands with the man. "You too, Soloviev and thank you for letting the GDR come along." Soloviev was the one who Gilbert had called to get the injured USSR to the Military hospital in Moscow a couple of weeks ago.
"I understand the embassy will be kept out of this affair."
"Da, this is a matter of nation spirits. I will take full responsibility for this. The only assistance I might require is of a medical nature." Ivan had no idea in which state Gilbert might be and wanted to be prepared for anything.
"We will definitely provide it, if necessary." Soloviev agreed and pointed to the three black cars. "Two of them were arranged for you. May I inquire what the destination is? Just in case." Although the nation spirit of the USSR was taking responsibility for this mission, the embassy would have to act if there would be complications.
"The Palast der Republik. I need to have a word with current First Secretary."
"We'll be on standby." The diplomat nodded before going to the third car.
Ivan turned to his three companions. "Alright, let's get this over with." Undertakings like this were a good distraction from the daily government business, but this time it involved someone he cared about. The excitement he would have usually felt had been replaced long ago by worry and anger.
The two KGB agents agreed and took the driver's seat of each car. Belarus did not say anything and just grabbed her brother's arm instead. "He's fine," she reassured him trying to ease that worried look in his eyes. "Being Prussia and all." Gilbert Beilschmidt had been called many things and Belarus did threaten him on more than one occasion. But there were a couple of things she respected him for. Two of them being the fact that he was tough and stood up for his principles.
Ivan smiled lightly pulling her along to the car. "Am I that easy to read?"
"Only to those who know you well enough to notice." She gave him a quick wink and patted his hand lightly.
"Good to know." He removed her hand to get in one of the cars. Schönefeld Airport was located outside of Berlin and it would take them 30 more minutes until they would reach the center.
Belarus got into the other car with a grin. Not only was she amused because of Ivan's reaction, she was also excited for the things to come. Whatever happened, when Ivan was involved personally, things for sure had a way of getting interesting.
Both cars sped off as soon as everyone got in prompted by Ivan's request to ignore any speed limits. He wanted to get this over with and find Gilbert.
Knowing the streets by heart Dima was able to use shortcuts that got them in less time to the heart of East Berlin; the Palast der Republic.
It was only half six in the evening, but due to the approaching winter it was already dark. The parking spaces were half empty as two black cars parked next to each other. As soon as one car stopped, a tall man stepped out walking immediately up the stairs that led to a concrete construction. The occupants of the second car were not so hasty. The young woman first looked up observing the building. It was similar to many official government building in the Soviet Union. Concrete rectangular constructions which took up most space on the square. The front was covered with a long row of glass windows and it the middle hanging proudly the official seal of the German Democratic Republic.
How boring, she though and motioned the other two to follow her inside. Ivan was opening the front doors already when they caught up and entered all together. The interior was also not that noteworthy. On the right side was a reception desk and in the middle a giant white staircase leading to the first floor and followed by many others. The design of the building portrayed pure simplicity and practicality.
Ivan had not even made a first step when the front desk personnel in the form of a smartly dressed woman and a guard approached them. "How may I help you, sir?" The woman inquired her eyes carefully scaning over his and Belarus' Soviet uniforms.
"You can tell me, where I can find the office of the First Secretary Walter Ulbricht." Ivan demanded looking down at her.
"Herr Ulbricht is in a meeting at this hour. If you leave your name and tel-"
"I'm General Ivan Braginski of the USSR and I demand to speak to him. Now." He interrupted her narrowing his eyes. "Should you refuse, I will charge you with obstructing a high-ranking military officer and the KGB." The trip with the plane as well as the car ride had made him impatient and hearing this human use the standard wording which meant: 'Fuck off, you are not important anyway' was just annoying him.
The woman and guard literality stood there rooted to the spot for a moment processing the information before realizing to whom they were talking.
"What is your answer?" Ivan demanded making his voice louder and took one step closer to the pair.
Belarus stood next to him and watched the whole scene, a small amused smile gracing her face. It definitely started to get interesting.
"I…I will call him right now." The woman said quickly wanting to go to her desk.
"No, you will bring me to him right now." Ivan clarified and walked into the direction of the stairs with the KGB agents and his sister right behind him.
"Sir, wait! General!" The guard seemed to remember his duty as well and followed. "Gisela, call the embassy for confirmation." He called to the secretary.
"I'll take you to Herr Ulbricht's office," he said, catching up to the Russian.
"Misha, watch the secretary. Let her only call our embassy. No one else." Ivan said in Russian to the shorter KGB agent.
"Understood," the man replied and returned to the front desk.
"General Braginski, your visit is quite unexpected. A welcoming committee would have been prepared, if the administration had been informed on time." The guard tried engaging the visitors in small talk, but a look at the Russian's face told it was best to be quiet.
"There is no need for that." Ivan replied flatly while glancing around the building and memorizing the way they were walking. "A simple meeting will suffice."
The office of the First Secretary was located conveniently on the first floor and the front office belonging to his private secretary was empty. The desk was arranged neatly and the chair placed behind it. The man or woman had left home long ago. Ivan grinned thinking how convenient it was. The less witnesses saw them the better. A couple of steps away were the double doors with a plaque stating whose office it was.
"Must be an important meeting to have it in his office," the USSR commented sarcastically. It was obvious the German did not have one at all.
The guard looked a bit uncomfortable at the verbal jab, but did not say anything. "If you would wait here, please. I will inform the First Secretary of your arrival.
Ivan was not about to wait and followed the man anyway. "I'm accompany you. It will be a pleasant surprise for Herr Ulbricht to see his fellow comrades from Moscow."
Belarus could not help herself and chuckled at Ivan's words. The guard frowned at her and looked slightly worried, but knocked on the door anyway before opening it. "Herr Ulbricht, my apologies for disturbing you. "
"I told everyone no disturbances!" A male voice shouted from inside the room.
Ivan lightly pushed the guard aside and stepped inside. "Exceptions can be made." He smirked tilting his head to the side. "Don't you agree, Herr Ulbricht?"
The politician was standing behind his desk, but sat down once he saw who had been so brazen to disturb him.
"Thank you for showing us around." Ivan glanced sideways to the guard and indicated he was not needed anymore.
The man in question glanced over to the politician. "Sir?"
"Yes…thank you. You may go." Ulbricht confirmed slowly standing up again.
As the guard closed the doors, Ivan approached the desk his eyes not leaving the older man. This human really did not seem to change in his appearance. The thin rimmed glasses, the Lenin like beard and even the suit had the same colour as always. The only change were more wrinkles on his face and the man seemed thinner. Working long hours, stress and illness were getting to him. Not much time left for you, the Russian concluded and was secretly pleased about this information. He barely had any sympathy for the human leaders of his own country anymore and was mostly concerned to fulfil his duty towards the population. The last leader he actually liked and felt connected to was over 200 years ago. Anyone after that was weak spirited and had sold the country out one way or another. The politicians of the German Democratic Republic received no sympathy at all. The First Secretary of the GDR was a remnant of the last war and Ivan happily saw him join a grave among all the others.
"General Braginski, it's an honour!" The German said with an excited voice rounding the table and stretched his hand out as a greeting. "I have not been informed of your visit, my apologies."
Ivan glanced down at the outstretched hand then back at the man. "Oh no, Herr* Ulbricht. So much attention is really not necessary. I am but a humble servant of the USSR," he commented in such a friendly voice it even made his sister raise an eyebrow. "I've actually came to ask for your assistance. I think you are the best suited person for this." Taking the offered hand the Russian squeezed it lightly. "You see, the Politburo in Moscow has noticed the absence of one of the nation spirits. Notably that of the GDR. Herr Beilschmidt is required to attend meetings regularly. As the nation spirit of the USSR, I see to it that such procedures are followed to the letter." His voice was calm, but the hold on Ulbricht's hand began to tighten. "The last information we were provided with was your meeting with him. Can you tell me, where Herr Beilschmidt has been the past five days after that?"
Ulbricht's hand started to hurt and he tried to pull away. "He was indeed here and left once the meeting was concluded."
"And where did he go?" Ivan asked invading the man's personal space and squeezed his hand even harder.
"He did not tell me." The man growled trying to pull his hand away, but could not. "Let go off me."
"Not until you tell me, where he is and why he disappeared."
"Are you threatening me?" The politician quickly looked at his hand that started to get numb. "Moscow will hear of this!"
"Hear what? That you kidnapped one of the spirits who is part of the Eastern Bloc and under jurisdiction of the USSR?" He asked pushing the older man against the desk. "Need I remind you, that you are just a vassal state that is allowed to exist curtesy of Moscow? You can try scheming all you like here among your politicians. But you stay clear of the embodiments of a country. They are my business."
"You-" Ulbricht growled in pain as he collided with the furniture.
"A couple of words to your high ranking officials about the affairs you were involved in and a new First Secretary might be appointed very soon." Ivan warned him. "So, I'm going to ask only once: what did you do with Gilbert Beilschmidt?"
Belarus approached the table as well and grabbed the thumb of Ulbricht's free hand. "Broken fingers are such a painful business, you know. Takes a while to heal."
"Alright! Alright! " The man shouted finally giving in. "I needed him to sign a declaration to relinquishing his duties as a nation spirit, but he refused. He is in Hohenschönhausen. Had been there for five days now!"
Ivan blinked at the answer. "What did you just say?" He could not believe his ears. This human had not only forced the embodiment of a country to basically denounce his own existence. He even put him in a copy of a KGB prison designed to break people. "You should be executed for this…but that would be far too easy." Ivan swiftly let go of the man's hand and grabbed him by his neck instead. "You'll call Hohenschönhausen right now. Tell them Beilschmidt is to be released immediately and Soviet General Braginski is picking him up. After that, you'll sit down and write a confession you had the nation spirit of the GDR kidnapped and used torture to make him sign a declaration. If you decline, it is not only broken fingers you will have. Do you understand, Herr Ulbricht?"
"J-ja!" The man gasped.
"Excellent." The Russian released him with a smile. "Get to work and I won't mention this to Moscow."
"How do I know you'll keep your word?" Ulbricht growled, rubbing his painful neck.
"Unlike you politicians, embodiments actually keep their word, but only if you keep your end of the bargain. Now call!"
The man did all that was demanded of him under the watchful eye of the two countries and the KGB. Ivan grabbed the letter out of his hand once that was done and checked its content. "Should anything happen, you'll hear from us." He leaned down to the man sitting in his chair. "We countries cannot die and do not forget, unlike you…human."
"We don't need you to govern our countries," the politician glared curling his hands into fists.
"The fact that we exist says otherwise," Belarus cut in looking down at him as if he were a cockroach she just spotted crawling around. "We are the country. Without us, you're nothing."
"Beilschmidt said the same thing."
Belarus wrinkled her nose at him and pulled out one of her knives. "Creatures like you don't deserve him."
Ivan quickly noticed her mood changing and the knife in her hand promised nothing good. "Now, now, Natasha." She had a point that this human did not even qualify to have a nation spirit in his presence, but he could still be useful. Still, Ivan did miss the times when many rulers had been quite humble and saw it as an honour to have an embodiment of the country assist them in their governance. "We have, what we came for. Let's go."
Belarus let out a disappointed sigh hiding the knife in her coat and followed her brother outside. "Yes, at least we have some solace Herr Ulbricht won't life for long." Her voice was loud making sure everyone in the room heard it.
So, you've noticed it too, he thought and grinned. The man's health was failing. That was why he had lost weight and his skin looked greyish. "Good day, Herr Ulbricht. I hope, I won't have to pay you a personal visit again."
Alone again in the room, the First Secretary collapsed in his chair and had to take a couple of deep breaths. It had not even occurred to him, the nation spirit of the USSR would personally appear before him for the GDR. He had never taken all these embodiments seriously or in any way useful. Seeing Ivan Braginski made him seriously doubt his initial opinion. That creature had easily lifted him of the floor, had a lot of influence in the Russian government, but he was also unpredictable. The nation spirit of the USSR was a possessive and ominous creature.
Ivan wanted to run down the stairs and get into the car quickly, but for the sake of decorum, calmly walked down to the reception desk. Dimitri had been standing next to the guard and the secretary doing some small talk while patiently waiting for them to come back. The four bid the Germans a good evening and went outside.
Ivan stopped in front of one car and turned to the two men. "Dima, Misha, take care of the two. No one, except Ulbricht must remember we were here. Join us at Hohenschönhausen after that."
"Should they disappear?" Asked Misha, the smaller one.
"No, memory loss will do just fine." (3) The guard and secretary were just doing their jobs at the wrong place as well as at the wrong time. Killing them for that made no sense at all and Ivan did not want uninvolved people to pay a high price for their employer's transgressions.
The two men acknowledged the order and stayed behind, while Ivan drove off with Belarus to their next destination.
"I hope you know the way, Vanya."
"I've been there before."
Natalya frowned. "Why?"
He snorted at the question. "To pick someone up. It is not the first time the GDR leaders are trying to pull something and think Moscow won't notice."
"Ungrateful bastard…" She muttered, crossing her arms over her chest.
"When we're in Hohenschönhausen, you can do whatever to the guards, if you like. Just don't kill them." Technically, they were not even in the country and the prison was so isolated that what happened there, staid there. No questions asked.
"Oh my…who's thinking about rampage now?" She teased.
"That's what makes us a great team, da? We know what the other thinks." He winked at her and turned back to the road.
"Can't argue with that." His sister agreed looking out of the window. They were driving through well-lit roads indicating these were the main ones. Natalya doubted Hohenschönhausen had those. "How far are we driving this time?"
"Just 10 km."
"Good, I'm getting bored with long drives."
"I'm sure, you will have plenty of distractions once we arrive." He laughed lightly remembering how his sister vented her pend up boredom when the occasion presented itself.
"I really have to thank you for taking me along." She chuckled laying her head on his shoulder. "Let's get your GDR out of there and go home."
Ivan raised an eyebrow as she said 'your GDR' and wondered if he should comment on her exact wording, but then decided to leave it at that. "Home sounds nice."
See You In Part XX!
I hope, I'm still doing okay with describing Belarus. ^_^
(1) Antonov An-12 ('Антонов Ан-12') is a four-engine transport aircraft designed in the Soviet Union in 1959. This plane with a defensive tail gun turret is the military version of An-10. The An-12 is still popular and in use by many countries just like the civilian version An-10.
(2) Tigerkäfig was an open space area enclosed by concrete walls and covered with wire on top. Some former prisoners had mentioned they were kept there for 30 minutes and in any season.
(3) Just like every secret service agency the KGB had also a couple of ways (drugs and hypnosis) to make people forget certain events.
(4) Another account of the inmates was that little messages had been stuck in the holes of the walls as means of communication between the prisoners.
* Verpiss dich: Fuck off
* Herr: Mister
Divided We Fall
United We Stand
PART XX – Frozen Moment
November 16, 1961
Walking back and forth like a tiger in a cage had kept him fairly warm for the first couple of hours, but as the evening progressed and turned to night, the temperatures dropped to zero. The flimsy jacket could not provide any warmth. Prolonged lack of food and sleep-deprivation had pushed his body to the edge. It had become difficult to move and he ended up sitting on the concrete floor. Knowing this was the wrong move to do he still ended up in the corner where two walls joined together. At least there was no draft. Yet, without moving he would freeze to death if he were human. He was not, but with his body's condition, the possibility of falling into a coma like state was not that far away.
Crossing his arms over his chest, he pulled his legs as close as possible trying to preserve some warmth. "Fuck you all," he whispered leaning his head against the wall and looked up. This open air cell had a special net erected above the walls so the prisoners would not throw something or try to climb over the wall. Despite that everything was still perfectly visible. Here he could see the sky in all its natural glory. Berlin's skyline had too much illumination making the sky just dark. Hohenschönhausen was away from the main center and lampposts were scares. He had forgotten that the sky was riddled with bright dots of light. Some small, others big and all varying in their brightness. But all of them were equally beautiful and shone even more intense in the approaching winter season. It was November now. The month to see Andromeda. If he ignored the cold penetrating his every cell he could turn his neck a bit and also spot Cassiopeia.
Seeing all the stars reminded him of better times. He had been camping in a clearing not far from the woods of Potsdam together with little Ludwig. He had been only 13 human years at the time. A baby in the eyes of another nation and extremely curious. Gilbert took him on a trip to show all the wonders of their homeland and taught him everything he knew about the stars. The memory made him smile and he could feel tears well up in his eyes. He missed his younger brother a lot. Not seeing him for a couple of months was alright, but renouncing him was a different matter. It was made easier to deal with it when Ivan was around, but he was back in Moscow. That reminded him, he had promised to be back in the capital of Russia within four days.
He had overheard Dietz say it were five days since his imprisonment here, but it was hard to tell if it was true. There were no real windows in the building itself. The lights were turned on and off in an unpredictable manner and guards were changing. The only constant thing was the visit from Ulbricht's representative asking him every time, if the embodiment of the GDR had changed his mind and was ready to sign.
"Ivan…" Gilbert whispered at the sky. Did he wonder where the German was? What was the Russian doing? He hoped nothing crazy, but one could hardly know with him. Closing his eyes the man wrapped both arms around his legs tightly wishing he could stand up and at least walk around to get somehow warm again.
These bastards really wanted him to freeze to death. "Ihr…k-könnt mich ma…*" he managed to whisper between chattering teeth as his body slowly started to slowly slide along the wall and he ended up lying curled up on the ground. "Shit…" he growled finding himself on the floor all of a sudden. Using both hands he pushed himself up again into a kneeling position. Falling asleep would be the end of him. He was not going to give them that satisfaction and put one hand on the wall for support and stood up again. Sitting for a while had made his muscles stiff and frozen. They could not support the weight and he fell back on his knees.
"Well, well, look at you, 3260. Still moving even after half a day in our Tigerkäfig. I thought you'd be frozen by now."
"Ja…you'd like…that," Gilbert replied holding onto the wall with one hand while the guard was looming over him. "If I..f…freeze to death…who's g-going to s-sign anything...Ever t-thought 'bout that?"
"Still a smartass."
His arm just could not hold his weight anymore and Gilbert let himself fall against the wall. "Always…that…'s part o'my charm." He grinned weakly. The truth was he was beyond feeling any sensation in his body. He knew the temperature was below zero now. The easiest way to tell was a particular smell in the air that indicated snowfall would follow soon. Snow was pretty, he thought smiling lightly at his own random thoughts. Being happy with such simple thoughts meant his brain was more than likely shutting down. It was also a struggle to keep his eyes open.
Even the guards started to wonder how it was possible he continued to live. Technically, prisoner 3260 should have died already. Yet, here he was still struggling. What the guards did not know, he was nearly at his limit. Dying was something he was unable to do, unless all the people itself and the memories of the country would disappear. What would happen instead was his body shutting down and stay in a coma like state until everything was healed or he felt well enough to wake up. When that happened the country itself was going to experience difficulties too. Disagreements between political parties or scandals could happen. An embodiment and the country had a symbiotic relationship. One could not be without the other. That was the reason Gilbert Beilschmidt was struggling to stay awake. The First Secretary and a couple of others wanted him gone and he actually did not care at all about them. Politicians could always be replaced. His worry went out to his citizens who had gone through many upheavals already and he did not want them to suffer any more. At the same time, he could not agree to relinquish his duty to make it easier for the government. On top of that, his personal motivation would not let him give in too. He was half a millennia old and was not going to be beat by a meat sack who would not even make it to 100. Then there was Ivan. The man had been using his own influence and pulled several strings to keep him in existence. The Russian had done all that in the knowledge it would have negative consequences on him personally. Gilbert knew by now what the motivation behind it was and would never betray him.
His mind was slowly turning in on itself and Gilbert barely heard the guard talking to him.
"You're not…human, are you?" The man said while grabbing Gilbert by his hair forcing him to look up.
Having zero feeling in his limbs, Gilbert only noticed he was being moved when he suddenly found himself face to face with the guard. "Was*?" He asked blinking up at him not quite understanding what had been asked.
The guard smirked seeing the reaction and let him go. "No use asking you anything at this point. We'll keep you here for a couple more minutes longer."
The white haired man slumped back against the wall letting his head hang and clutched his jacket with one hand. He needed to stay awake. If he fell asleep now, there was no guarantee when he would wake up. He wanted to see Ivan again…and Ludwig.
The road to Hohenschönhausen was paved, but had only one street lamp every half a kilometer. In contrast to that, the prison was flooded with light making any vehicle approaching the complex very easy to spot. As a black car was approaching the main gates, a couple of guard were already waiting. At further inspection the vehicle turned out to be a Tatra 603 used predominantly by GDR officials. The guards immediately stood at attention when the driver identified himself as 'USSR General Braginski'. They saluted and let him drive through once his documents were verified. Another document check was done right in front of the entrance to the main building. Ivan let the guard go over the documents, while his sister looked around. Brick walls over 4 meters high surrounded the whole compound with barbed wire on top. Should anyone ever climb that high they would get stuck in the wires and injure themselves on the sharp metal pins. The whole area was flooded with light from the street lamps and spotlights making the night almost day with their intensity. Guards stood everywhere and patrolled with German Shepherds. Everything was almost a copy of a KGB prison complex. The only small difference was the personnel spoke German. Belarus was about to venture on the main square, but heard one guard speak up to her brother about the sudden change in orders.
"We were given an order by Herr Dietz no one except him is to see the prisoner and-" The guard broke off as his feet were suddenly kicked from under him and cold metal was pressed against his temple.
"Are you going to question the decision from your own First Secretary and also a Soviet General, soldier?" asked a female next to his right ear.
He glanced sideways seeing the woman who had come with the man named Ivan Braginski lean over him and held a handgun against his head.
"I…the order said it's only-"
"Whose order has more importance, hmm?" She interrupted him.
Ivan stood over them unmoving and just asked. "Are you willing to die for it?"
The guard stared up at the man. "What?"
The safety was removed and the gun was pressed tighter. "Well? Do you?"
Another guard came running the small group. "The General is right," he said to the kneeling guard. "Walter Ulbricht has given the order himself. Prisoner 3260 is to be released immediately. General Braginski is here to pick him up."
"Yes, sir." The guard finally replied and lifted his hands up in defeat.
"Natasha," Ivan said with a small grin indicating she should let go of the man.
She nodded hiding the gun in her coat again and got up.
Ivan turned to the two guards with a glare. "Bring us to Gilbert Beilschmidt. Now!" He ordered.
The guard got quickly off the ground and joined the other one. "This way."
They first walked through administration offices, then walked through security doors to arrive at the holding cells.
"Where are you keeping him?" Ivan demanded, barely containing his impatience. Seeing all the cells made him worry even more for the Prussian and in which condition he was about to find him.
"By orders of Herr Dietz, prisoner 3260 had been brought to the Tigerkäfig 9 hours ago."
"Tiger what?" Belarus asked as they walked through another hall of closed prison doors.
Ivan curled his hands into a fist trying to control himself. A Tigercage was an open space area of bare concrete walls. It was the only place prisoners could get fresh air. It was in the middle of November and if Gilbert had been 9 hours there, he probably had frozen to death by now. "Where is it?" he asked grabbing the guard by his collar. "Get me there now!"
The man tensed at the sudden display of violence and motioned with his head to the end of the corridor. "Right there."
"Alright," the Russian said and punched him as hard as possible in the stomach.
The man doubled over falling on the floor in a heap.
"What are you doing?" Shouted the other reaching for his handgun by his left side. He did not get it in time as Belarus knocked him out from behind. "We should hurry."
"Yes," Ivan agreed going immediately for the door and threw it open.
He saw the white haired man on his knees sitting against the wall one hand clutching his chest. The clothes on him were hanging as if too big, but it was because he had lost quite a bit of weight. "You…" Ivan growled glaring at the guard standing in front of the entrance to the open air area. With a swift move he grabbed the other by his neck cutting off almost all air as the pressure started squeezing the windpipe shut. "I should let you all get ripped to pieces by wolves for this," He said it in a dead calm voice, while his eyes seemed to have turned two shades darker. Belarus was standing right next to him and tilted her head slightly. It was rare to witness her big brother get bloodthirsty. He was incredible in that moment. This was Russia right now and she loved it. He could tear anyone to shreds like an enraged bear.
"Natasha, dear. Mind handling this one while I go check on Gilbert?" He asked while his eyes did not leave the guard, who was struggling to breathe. "I don't mind if he breaks something, but leave all limbs attached and don't kill him. No need to get your pretty hands dirty on the likes of him."
She grinned still looking at her brother. "Sure."
He immediately threw the guard on the floor and rushed over to the hurt nation.
Seeing him go off without hesitation, Natalya stomped her foot on the guards chest. The move caused a faint cracking sound in the man's chest. "Don't worry, I've only cracked a rib or two. It's not broken…yet." She crouched down watching the guard cough in pain and gasp for air. "This is for hurting my brother, you shithead. I won't forgive anyone who makes him cry. And you did." She may not like Prussia, but that guy made Ivan smile and laugh. No matter what, she was just unable to achieve the same. Her brother's happiness was important to her and if Gilbert Beilschmidt was the key to that, then she was going to help.
"You…crazy bitch. Who…are you…" the man gasped out clutching at his chest.
"Shush, human. Shut your mouth if you want to life." Belarus plopped down on the man's stomach. "For Vanya's sake, I'll gladly get my hands dirty, you know." She had assassinated and killed soldiers in the last war, who invaded her country and tried to hurt Russia too. There were hardly any qualms involved in getting rid of this particular German.
Ivan did not look back to check what his sister was doing. She was more than capable of handling the man and he actually did not mind should the guard accidently end up dead.
"Gilbert…Gil. Can you hear me? Gil, it's Ivan!" He said touching the clutching hand and placed the other on Gilbert cheek lifting his head carefully. "…bozhe moy*," the Russian whispered seeing the man's lips were a dark violet colour, black circles under his eyes and his skin just felt like ice. For a moment, he feared it was too late, but then noticed there were small puffs of warm air coming from his lips. "I'm taking you home!" He said immediately taking off his trench coat. The garment was two sizes too big for the German which was perfect to wrap him up. The coat had also been worn for hours and was warmed up enough to at least provide some help. "Gilbert! Don't fall asleep! Just don't…." Ivan rather preferred that he actually would because the dark circles told him the man had been sleep-deprived for a long time, but he had no guarantee he would wake up again. Ivan needed Gilbert to stay awake until he had been checked over by a medic.
The German did neither react to Ivan's talking nor being wrapped up in the coat. All he wanted to do was stay awake somehow, but it was so hard to keep his eyes open.
"Prussiya!* Have you no honour? Don't you dare sleeping on the job!"
The words roused him a bit. He was Prussia and would never fall asleep on an important task. He blinked a couple of times until the fog over his eyes cleared and found himself looking into violet coloured eyes. They were so full of worry. Gilbert frowned at the face. Was he so far gone to start hallucinating? Why would Ivan even be in Hohenschönhausen? "Y…ou…not real…"
While the German had been staring at him, Ivan had buttoned up the coat. "Oh, I'm very real." He snorted taking off his scarf too and wrapped it around Gilbert's neck as well. "Came to bust your stubborn ass out of here and now…" The two garments were not enough to warm him up completely, but at least it was something against the cold. "I'm going to carry you like a lady," he commented lifting him in his arms and swiftly walked inside the building. Although, he said it on a lighter tone, he was fuming in anger, but controlled himself for Gilbert's sake.
Ivan had been moving so quickly that the other did not even register what was happening. "Wha's…"
"We're going home, Gil." Ivan tightened his hold and pulled him closer. There were several people with whom he was going to have a serious talk for messing with one of his fellow spirits. There were also others who were going to pay for hurting his loved one.
"Vanya, time to go?" Natasha asked still sitting on the guard.
"Da…time to go," he said quietly glaring down at the fallen man.
She swiftly got up glancing at the charge in his arms. The German's eyes were half open and with the lack of any healthy colour on his face, he looked more like a corpse than alive. "Is he.. d-"
"He's alive." He cut her off immediately, refusing to hear the word 'dead'.
She tilted her head curiously at the growl and her eyes fell on the way Ivan's arms were holding the injured nation. Careful as if he were some fine precious object. Yet strong enough to protect him against anything. This was unlike her brother. Gilbert Beilschmidt was changing him. Making her brother more vulnerable, but resilient at the same time. Belarus sighed, unsure if she should be unhappy with this development.
"He's…alive," Ivan mumbled gently setting Gilbert on the floor against the wall for support. "We'll leave, just…give me a second. Prussia." For some reason Gilbert reacted the most when called by his old name. Ivan was prepared to call him anything as long as he stayed awake. Placing his hand on his head he started brushing through his hair gently trying to get his attention. "Prussiya… stay awake for me?"
The prompting together with the warm hand stirred Gilbert somewhat and he lifted his head a little..
Ivan had to clench his other hand into a fist at the confused gaze in his eyes. However, when red eyes locked onto his, Ivan knew Gilbert was awake enough to wonder what was happening. …'van...leave…" His voice sounded so strained that Ivan wanted to pick him up again and rush to a hospital immediately.
"Da, we'll leave. I promise. Just a moment."
Ivan quickly turned to the guard on the floor and all concern disappeared from his face. Grabbing the man by his neck again he lifted him slightly off the floor. "Listen to me carefully and don't you dare forgetting even one word or you'll wish you'd never been born."
He waited until the man nodded quickly with a gasp barely able to breathe.
"Good. Now, remind your First Secretary Ulbricht, nation's spirits who are in the Warsaw Pact are the concern of Ivan Braginski of the USSR. This also includes the GDR. Should he ever lay a hand on him again and go so far as to even implement torture…I will personally hunt him, his entire family and associates down. Without exception. The arm of the KGB is even longer than that of the Stasi. (1) Da?"
The guard stared at him and quickly nodded.
Ivan smirked not letting go. "I can't hear you…comrade."
The man nearly chocked, but still shouted. "Da, da!"
Despite getting a positive answer, the Russian tightened his grip ever so slightly. The truth was he wanted to squeeze the air out of this guy and watch the light disappear in his eyes for keeping Gilbert here for a whole week.
He tensed at hearing Gilbert's weak voice and let immediately go of the man.
The German did not register everything that had been happening nor did he care. The scarf and coat were keeping the cold out and he slowly started to understand Ivan was here. That was more than enough for now. All he wanted was to get away from this place. "W…want out…."
Belarus had enjoyed the short dark side of her brother's personality, but had to agree with the German. It was better to get out of here fast. Their car was waiting outside and Gilbert Beilschmidt needed medical assistance. "He won't forget, Vanya. We should leave." She agreed pulling a handgun out of her coat and switched the safety off. "I'll cover you if necessary."
"You're right." He nodded with a sigh, gathering Gilbert in his arms once more and followed closely behind his sister. Pulling him closer, Ivan said lightly. "I'll make them pay."
They encountered a couple of guards on the way, but seeing their Soviet uniforms that signified one of the highest ranks they quickly moved aside. Before coming to Hochenschönhausen, the embodiment of the USSR had forced Walter Ulbricht to announce their arrival as well.
By the time they arrived at the front gate Gilbert had barely any strength left to keep his eyes open. "Ivan…" There was no cold or biting wind anymore. The soft texture around his neck and its thickness were slowly warming him up. The aggressive guards were also gone and he knew the Russian was here. All of this helped him understand he did not have to be on his guard anymore. "…wanna sleep…" He mumbled sinking deeper in the scarf.
Hearing his words Ivan was glad they had arrived at the car and next to it stood the second one with the two KGB agents. "Misha!" He called to one of the men. "We need to get him on the backseat." The man nodded opening both doors in the back of the car and together they maneuvered the injured to lie on the seat.
Once Gilbert was settled down Ivan crouched next to his head squeezing his shoulder lightly to get his attention. "I know you want to sleep, but don't. Stay awake. Just for a little bit longer. Schwöre es, Prussiya.*" Forcing the injured to remain awake was wrong and he felt slightly guilty for the demand, but it was for Gilbert's own wellbeing.
The unexpected German words and his old name spoken in Russian got his attention. "…ja," he forced out, straining his eyes to see better. "…Promise."
"Danke…" Another careful squeeze of his arm and Ivan sighed in relief before standing up. "Misha, watch over him for me."
The man named Misha nodded assuming the same position Ivan had, but mumbled that he needed a hospital.
The Russian went over to the second man. That one was talking to his sister, but turned once their commander approached. "Dima, I need you to drive to the GDR hospital in the Scharnhornstrasse 38 and get Dr. Stefan Walzig as fast as possible to our embassy. Tell him it's an emergency. Under no circumstances is the GDR to be mentioned."
"Understood." Getting the information needed Dimitri started the second car.
"I'm staying with you." His sister said immediately moving closer not planning to leave him to deal with all this on his own.
"Of course." Ivan watched the black car speed off. Feeling relieved his sister had agreed to help despite her disapproval of Gilbert Beilschmidt, he held his hand out to her. "Let's go."
She happily took it thinking they would immediately go to the car. Instead Ivan pulled her into a hug. "For doing this…spasiba*... I know, you hate him, but still…" he did not say anything and held her tighter. "…thank you…"
Belarus grinned lightly at the sudden display of kindness in a situation like this. "I don't like him, stealing your attention away, making you weak…but…" she sighed returning the embrace. "But…he's also doing you good. So, I won't behead him."
It was not exactly the best moment for doing this, but he felt it was important his little sister knew now he appreciated her help. "He can't be that bad if you don't want to do any beheadings," he had to laugh at how easily they could switch to gallows humour. It was always upsetting Ukraine, but Belarus would happily join in. "Come…your hands are freezing." Holding her hand tighter he quickly went to the car.
"We'll see…" she mumbled into her own scarf, not planning to accept the GDR that quickly.
Ivan grinned lightly hearing the muffled answer. 'A we'll see' from her meant she would slowly come to terms with it.
Misha saw the two come back and moved to the driver's seat starting the car. Belarus took the front seat, knowing Ivan would prefer sitting in the back with the injured nation. "Get us to the embassy quickly."
Ivan climbed in the back carefully lifting Gilbert's head before sitting down. "Still with me?" he asked letting him rest in his lap.
Blinking up at the Russian he tried to scowl at the question, but that required too much effort. "…p-promised."
"That you did." A faint smile started to appear on his face again. "A Prussian always keeps his word, ja?" He started to ask random questions, just to keep Gilbert engaged in a conversation and prevent him from dozing off.
Gilbert did not reply right away making Ivan wonder if he had heard him. A soft 'ja' was finally whispered as one shaky hand slowly clasped Ivan's coat.
The Russian noticed that and reached out, but stopped before his hand would make contact with Gilbert's skin. Unsure if it was alright to touch him. "What's wrong? Are you in pain?"
Red eyes followed the moment and his fingers squeezed at the fabric even more when Ivan hesitated. "Don't know…" he admitted frowning at the sound of his own voice. Except for the 'interviews' every two days speaking had been hardly done. He had spent most of the time in silence or screaming when the guards were testing how much pain he could bare. "I can't feel…anything, just…just cold."
Ivan's hand curled itself into a fist, nails biting into skin. A couple of people were definitely going to pay. "Is this alright?" he asked placing his other hand carefully on Gilbert's forehead. After what had happened Ivan was expecting that he did not want to have anyone near him.
The touch startled him somewhat, while he was reminded of the unpleasant events. Once he felt the warmth seep through to his cold skin and the knowledge that Ivan was not going to hurt him, Gilbert leaned in with a sigh. He was away from the prison and safe. "It's…fine."
Touching him was not only done to provide comfort, but also to check for his temperature. The skin was still far too cold to be normal, but that ghastly violet colour on Gilbert"s lips was disappearing, which was a good sign. "I'm not letting them get away with this." He nearly growled brushing through the white hair gently. They had become lifeless, hanging limply and lacked that thickness that he remembered fondly. Another indication the man had insufficient nutritional intake.
"How long…there?" he asked suppressing the need to tremble at the memory of that place. His fingers dug even deeper into the fabric.
"Gil…you're not there anymore. You're safe." He cupped his cheek making him concentrate on his face. Reminding the German he was far away from that hell hole. "Almost a week. Once you did not arrive in Moscow after four days I've started making inquiries. I'm sorry it took me so long to find you."
"Found me..." His grip loosed a bit on the coat. "Danke…*"
"No need to thank me." He would have looked for him everywhere and used even the KGB contacts in the GDR if it had been necessary.
"I was…wondering...if you'd look…"
"Course I would!" He replied, his voice louder than it should have been. "I would. Had I known earlier what Ulbricht's plans were…I would have prevented it."
His sudden outburst made both the driver and Belarus glance momentarily back. "How long until we arrive?" she asked distracting the man from what was happening in the back.
"Just 6 km left. 10 minutes." It was nearly midnight with barely any cars on the road, which made the driving a lot easier.
Gilbert had to blink at the loud voice and his hand tightened around the coat again. "Don't shout…I'm tired of it all," he said with a sigh. One week of imprisonment had made sure that he was so sick of shouts and screams. It did not frighten him, just had made him tired of hearing it, but so many things had become exhausting at the moment. Staying awake was at the top on his list. He knew Ivan was engaging him in conversation to prevent him from sleeping and Gilbert was doing his best to remain awake, but his mind was getting to the point of apathy. "So…t-tired…" he felt his eyes slowly close and did not fight it.
"Don't!" Ivan shouted again grabbing Gilbert by his shoulders pulling him as carefully as possible into a sitting position. Shaking the man would probably yield some results, but he just did not dare. He had no idea if Gilbert had any serious injuries underneath that grey uniform. "You promised! Are you going to break your promise, Prussiya!"
Gilbert was pulled into a sitting position, but his head ended up lolling on Ivan's upper arm.
Yes, a cliffhanger again. I had to split this chapter in two. Otherwise, it would have been 15+ pages.
See You in Part XXI!
(1) The famous saying was 'The long arm of the Stasi' (Der Lange Arm der Stasi) means that no matter where an 'enemy' of the GDR was, the Secret Police would get them. There are several documented kidnapping of former GDR citizens, who were abducted, sometimes even in broad daylight on a random street in the BRD and ended up in one of the Stasi prisons to never be heard from again. Since the Stasi was modeled after the KGB and until 1953 was under their jurisdiction, I used the saying that the KGB has even more influence because it had to operate on a world scale like any other secret service organization at the time. I'm also hinting at the huge spy operations between the USA and USSR that had been conduction throughout the Cold War.
* Ihr…k-könnt mich ma (slang: Ihr könnt mich mal. Side note: author/poet J.W. von Goethe has used this in one of his works): Kiss my ass.
* Was: what
* Herr: Mister
* Danke: Thanks
* Schwöre es: Swear it
* bozhe moy (Боже мой): My God! (an expression of shock or surprise)
* Prussiya (Пруссия): Russian way of saying Prussia
* sestrenka (сестренка): little sister, sis
* spasiba (спасиба): thanks