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 anything but your kind [18+], complete
XANDER
 Posted: Sep 28 2015, 12:57 AM
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If Leon does not die, then he will live. If he lives, what then? The idea of 'then' seems very far away, a distant concept compared to the stomach-turning immediacy of Leon's broken bones, and the cost of them.

Reese heaves a sigh internally. He wants to say, 'Don't worry,' or at the very least, 'Don't think about it.' But words are all the comfort Leon is asking for, and it feels like cheapness and cruelty to deny him.

"And then you can go, if you want to go. Stay, if you want to stay. With me."

Leon is the finest, purest product of his environment: a bitter Germany, chafing from the chains of the last Great War; a hunger for greatness, and a national resurrection; racism, which has always been at home in Europe and beyond. Leon was shaped by hands almost as fine as his own, until he was the very best snake, in the very best uniform. And yet -- he is not a snake, but a man, with bones and blood and teeth and eyes, just like Reese, and the horror of what he and Germany have wrought lies within that truth. Neither of them are snakes, or dogs, or beasts of the earth. They are men. They are the same.

Reese can never say that he loves Leon. Leon will have to spend the rest of his life guessing at it. But he is a smart man, a smart soldier. What is his guess?

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abbey
 Posted: Sep 29 2015, 06:19 AM
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If you want to. Leon smiles. He cannot help himself. It turns into a half-wince, the pain making his gorge rise. But with that smile, he saves them many words; Reese has seen him smile like that, whenever things plainly don't make sense. He smiles at the simplicity of it. Stay if you want to, now that you are deathly afraid of me. Go, if you want to go. He tries to summon a memory of Reese's body, when it was not a weapon. His hands running over Leon's waist and belly, his dark hair falling across Leon's jaw, the muscle in him flexing, his skin sweating in the firelight. Leon hears his bones break again, hears Reese roaring— But there, beneath it all, there is a glimmer of that memory.

It will be many weeks before his bones knit, and they can do that again.

"...with you." Yes, they are the same.

Regret and sorrow shine in Reese's eyes. Leon wouldn't be sure he was seeing correctly, if he hadn't seen it so often in so few minutes. Reese, feeling sorry for him.

"Take my hand a while." The words are a whisper, consonants all blunt and slurring with the effort of not moving his lips. Reese will understand this too. 'A while', meaning only as long as Leon is awake, before the drug in his system shuts his eyes. It shouldn't be long. Reese can let go then. Kammerjäger is on Leon's good side, but only some of the fingers are broken and splinted on Reese's side of the bed. Leon reaches out with his hand, and lets it fall where it may.

It wilts after a while, and he falls into a morphine sleep.
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XANDER
 Posted: Sep 30 2015, 02:04 AM
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In some way, it is only fair that Leon is afraid. He should have been afraid much longer, should have reconsidered the weight of those words, You can still kill me. Part and parcel of guilt is fear, the fear of vengeance, the fear of consequence: within that fear is the understanding that one's sins are grave enough to warrant a reaction, and suffering. They are ever more alike in Leon's new knowing, for now he can imagine a little better what it was like, to lie in the cold and the mud and fear death, fear it deeply, and know powerlessness.

Leon's bones were broken by Reese's hands and the Golden Rule. Do unto others.

Why is it so sad and strange, how Leon answers? It recalls his surrender in that tiny apartment, where he refused to raise his fists. He would not fight then, and he does not fight now. He says he will stay. It is an unfair answer -- unfair to himself, more than it is to Reese. But it does not brook argument. The explanation is in the crash of the waves on the sea, resounding, unbroken. Reese's lips twitch in a mirror-smile, there and gone.

Reese leaves the bed briefly to retrieve a chair stowed in the corner of the room. He draws it up next to Leon and sits, and there Reese takes his hand. He covers it with his own, lightly, as not to press down on the broken fingers. He traces soft, swirling patterns on the exposed skin, a silent lullaby for the morphine sleep.

He stays even after Leon falls asleep, for a few minutes.

They are here. The war is over.
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abbey
 Posted: Oct 1 2015, 06:03 AM
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The cost of anger is unfathomable. Every week, Reese must pay for the cost of boarding in the hospital room, the cost of bandages and poultices, the cost of drugs to kill Leon's pain, the cost of his nurse and the physical therapy to help him walk again. And Leon is there many, many weeks.

He does not complain. He asks for his bed to be moved closer to the window. There he sits, propped up by stiff pillows. When the bandage comes off his eye, he reads. Sometimes the same page again and again, his concentration broken by the fire of his flayed nerves. He weans himself off the morphine with an iron will—preferring to suffer in silence than to become one of the sallow, loping men he has seen on the streets, reduced to begging or stealing after having a limb blown off in the war, and craving that blissful release from pain and awareness, which are one and the same to them. He is patient with Dr. Genovese's orders, though impatience burns in his dark-circle eyes. This week, he is allowed to limp from his bed with a broken leg, a nurse at his side, and wooden crutches.

She helps him down to the garden and leaves him be, as she has learnt to do. Leon sits on a bench with Kammerjäger and a book on his lap. The sun is high in the sky, and the rosebushes planted by the hospital staff throw sweet, unassuming shadows on the brick. His hand roves through white fur. This he has learnt from Reese, this gentleness with his dog. He reads from the book in German. "'Will you kindly explain,' said the Willow to the Bramble, 'why you are so eager to seize hold of the clothes of every man, woman or child that passes by? Of what use can their clothes possibly be to you?'"

Kammerjäger pricks her ears at his voice, the birds, the turning of the page. She is pleased to hear her master's voice restored. His visitors are few, and he speaks seldomly.
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XANDER
 Posted: Oct 1 2015, 08:43 PM
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In time, the cost is fathomed.

Reese is gone more than he visits. The days and the nights are whiled away in grimy alleys, strangers' homes, gambling dens, hot markets, and cold waters. Why he goes, and what he does, he does not say. Sometimes he bears the marks of a scuffle; often, the signs the of exhaustion. While Leon sleeps, Reese argues over the state of him with Dr. Genovese. Each time he begins by wanting to take Leon out of the hospital, the dogs of poverty nipping at his heels. Fear cows him, in the end, and he pays.

One day when he visits Leon, the ring and the chain are missing. A week later, they reappear, without comment.

There are nights when Reese appears in the hospital room, far past visiting hours, having befriended or bribed the night nurse. When the bandages comes off Leon's face, there is one night where Reese kisses him.

The wind blows the perfume of the roses through the garden this afternoon, and Leon's narration covers up the sound of Reese's approaching footsteps. He stands behind the bench and listens to Leon read in German. Listening to him, watching him, Reese wonders if the day will come when someone will recognize Leon Schaefer, alive and well, roving the streets with his great white bitch. And -- if they know the stories -- they may recognize the man who appears in his shadow, bitter and swarthy, kept on an invisible chain. Reese feels the weight of that iron around his ankles. Is that love?

In time he sets a heavy hand on Leon's shoulder, and offers it a gentle squeeze. "How are you feeling?" His voice has roughened over the weeks, due to his brooding silence.
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abbey
 Posted: Oct 3 2015, 07:15 PM
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There should be a greater cost, even surpassing all of that. A loss of trust and love. An inability to have Reese touch him without flinching. But that night, with the bandages missing and a spot of blood ruby-bright in his eye, Leon kisses back. He is a soldier. Hasn't pain always meant an investment?

Today in the garden, the aggression seems far away. Reese's hand covers his shoulder completely, some of Leon's healthy weight having sloughed off in treatment, but the grip is gentle. "Better," he says. "If in need of distraction." Hence the book. Leon must've procured it himself; the Italians aren't as fond of book-burning as the Germans are. He finishes the fable for Kammerjäger. "'Of no use,' said the Bramble. 'Neither do I wish to take the clothes from them. I only want to tear them.'"

Then he shuts the book, and looks up at Reese. "How are you feeling?"
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XANDER
 Posted: Oct 6 2015, 02:46 AM
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There should be a greater cost. Reese should feel nothing. He should have let Leon die back at Buchenwald, at the hands of justice. There are many shoulds, and almost as many falling to the wayside, ignored and forgotten. They are simply not people who are going to do what they should, and there is no use in denying it, or pretending they will be otherwise. They will suffer as much as their hearts desire.

His thumb runs over a bone in Leon's shoulder, as he listens to the end of the story. What will be the end to their story? Will it be a happy one? Or will they tear themselves apart later, if not sooner?

"Oh," Reese sighs, "I'm fine." He is not fine: there is heaviness and darkness within his eyes, and beneath them. He wishes he could lie down and sleep for days, as Leon did. But there is no time. There is scarcely time to visit, but Reese makes the time, just to see if Leon hasn't caught wise and fled the hospital on his crutches. "I just came to see how you were doing." If you can leave yet.
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abbey
 Posted: Oct 7 2015, 07:06 AM
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Reese had a chance to write the end to their story. An end that, like their beginning, would've been written in the blood of his co-author. With Leon alive, everything is uncertain again. The book has innumerable pages. Leon sets it aside on the bench.

Tilting his head, he rests it against Reese's abdomen, as Reese thumbs the sharpness of his shoulder blade through the skin. Leon gazes up at him, thinking. His eyes are bluer now. "You look tired." The garden rings with sunlight and silence, the resonance of their togetherness and their aloneness, and he reaches for Reese's tired face. Leon is neither blind nor stupid. Der Löwe von Buchenwald's ring has come and gone; pawned one day to pay the hospital bills, and retrieved the next. Reese is tired from overwork. This is his amends, not because he wants or needs Leon to stay, but because it seems the right thing to do, after doing very much the wrong thing. Arbeit macht frei. Is that it?

Leon marvels at him. How wrong the Führer, and Holzknecht, and himself were. How human Reese is. They all must have had that humanity, the dead.

He rises from the bench with difficulty, fumbling with the crutches. Leaning his weight half on the wood, half on Reese, Leon turns to kiss him. Fully, lips finding lips. The warmth of Reese's mouth fills him with new aches. "I haven't taken care of you." His jaw is feeling better. He speaks with less of a slur, though the wires will need to be removed later. There is more apology than seduction in what he says, accounting for the weeks before, and maybe even the year of hell in Buchenwald.

They can be better. Isn't that why he is alive, why God and Reese have granted him clemency? "Let's go away from here," Leon says, nestling into Reese's lapels. "Let's leave."
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XANDER
 Posted: Oct 8 2015, 09:17 PM
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Reese looks tired because he is tired, and he is too tired to lie as well as he is usually able. He is not too tired to cease with lying altogether, telling Leon casually, "I think I'll have a nap," like there is time for it. His tone has such poise that Leon can imagine that Reese only looks tired when he visits the hospital, and when he leaves here, the exhaustion stays behind, and he savors the sun and the sea and pulls lire out of thin air.

Work does not set him free. Only Leon could do that.

He startles when Leon rises, coming around the bench to steady him by the shoulders, half-mumbling, "You don't have to get up..." The serene exhaustion of Reese's expression breaks, and once more the guilt and the worry flow through the cracks. It reminds him, again, that he is the one who did this to Leon, who hurt him so, who reduced the Lion to a waifish cripple. Then Leon kisses him, and there are a few moments where Reese stops feeling guilty, to kiss back.

"I'm sorry." The words come now, when the kiss breaks. "I'm sorry for hurting you. It was wrong." Reese feels a weight lift from his chest as he says it. It was wrong. I was wrong. What Reese did was wrong, and what Leon did was wrong, and for all the people that will live and die in their wake, it will be wrong. Vengeance would make him more like the Nazis, not less. There is peace in that absolute.

"Are you well enough to leave?" He doesn't think Leon is fit to do much beyond kiss and limp, but if Leon wants to go, they can go.
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abbey
 Posted: Oct 12 2015, 02:40 AM
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Every man is made of something tangible and intangible. Tangible: his bones, his eyes, his heart. These things are breakable. Intangible: his past, his thoughts, his sense of self, the feeling he calls "his heart". These are breakable too, and hard to unbreak. How many bones can shatter and knit themselves back together before the entirety of the man is new? Does that kill the old man? Leon wonders, as Reese comes to steady him like an elderly friend. He feels more himself than he has in weeks. So much of him was blackened and pulped beyond recognition, it is a rebirth. But something is missing.

The old hatred is not there. He watches Reese's serenity break like a wave, and in his chest there is an accompanying pang. Sorry? Sorry for hurting you. For hurting Leon. It has been a long time since Leon thought himself deserving of any feeling. That isn't self-hatred, but a rationality that has been with him since he became a Nazi. Reese's guilt is hard to watch. Leon holds onto him, sinking a little on his crutch, the sentiment rising to meet him. His heart flutters. "I'm sorry, too. For— everything."

Sorry. Maybe it isn't how the story ends, but how part two begins. Years later, with sorry.

He inhales, and kisses Reese again. "Yes." With Reese's help, Leon can take the steps that tire him and set his breaks and bruises to gnawing at him. He leaves one crutch propped against the bench. Leaning on Reese's arm, Leon links their fingers together and holds his hand, as they did in the hospital room. Their scars align. Z8594. "I'm well. I have everything I need."
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XANDER
 Posted: Oct 13 2015, 10:54 PM
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Are men ever really new? Can a man ever go back to the beginning, before the beginning, and start again -- before the camps, before the trains, before life's earliest mistakes -- a bitter heart, a bruised knee, a broken promise? What's left of the past if a man is new? Does the blood of the forgotten cry out from the ground, always demanding to be part of the present? These are questions Reese does not have the answers to; he does not expect they will come to him, deep in the night, in the twilight between waking and dreaming. In exhaustion and repetition, in being driven only by a simple, almost inarticulate feeling, he has found relief from these questions. One day, when he dies, perhaps God will judge him. But Reese is still young. He has a long time to be judged.

Sorry for everything. There is so much to be sorry for, in such a short span of time, but today Reese only says, "I'm glad." He does not want to revisit those dark places, those cold times with Leon's cold eyes, the riding crop, his boots. The Leon in his arms seems a different person entirely, and when Reese thinks of it, the breadth of that difference shocks him. What is a lion without its mane and teeth?

I wish I had something I could give to you. When their fingers entwine, Reese recalls his own words. I wish. He can do more than wish now.

Reese smiles.

The hand holding Leon's offers a gentle squeeze. "Come along then. We'll go wherever you like." Back to Polignano a Mare, or somewhere else, to make a new home. The beginning begins again.
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abbey
 Posted: Oct 14 2015, 06:42 AM
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the end

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thank you for reading!


all good things must come to an end. yes, it's the end.

when xander and i started this story a few years ago, we thought we'd be the only ones reading. we didn't know there were others who would read about reese and leon, a romani and a nazi, two men diametrically opposed from each other. since then, we've written a lot of words and had a lot of views, some truly touching feedback, and conversations about life, love, and the nature of writing.

we're very proud and we couldn't have done it without you. so, from the bottom of our hearts, we'd like to say a big 'thank you' to our readers! we wrote this, in part, for you.

watch the horizon. we'll see you at the next beginning!

-- love from,
abbey & xander


CODE
Anything But Your Kind © Abbey and Xander (2012-2015).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons.

Art by Erik
Art by Sackcloth and Ashes (http://ashes.sub.jp)
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