The Angel On Her Wing - 5 & 6 - Weinacht im Deutschland

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The Angel On Her Wing


THE ANGEL ON HER WING


War Changes Everyone.
Christmas in captivity and a new year bring a new Brian Campbell

 


Dear Reader: Double bill this week as neither chapter was super long, I didn't want you to feel cheated! Enjoy!

 

Chapter Five - Weinacht im Deutschland

 

“We will conclude the lesson here for this evening, thank you, men. Please ensure that you practice your Akkusativ and nominativ before we see each other again, ok?” Captain Anders concluded. The man closed his book and looked out across the German class as he meticulously wiped his spectacles. Placing them neatly into his jacket pocket, he absent-mindedly patted the pocket twice.

Brian smiled at the man’s little tick. Anders had been a Captain in the Dutch Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war. Originally an academic, he had been thrust into the fray due to his civilian flying experience. It had put him in the line of fire in the Netherlands’ desperate bid to halt the German advance. Here in Stalag Luft IX, he taught both German and History classes to the men as an educational distraction from their circumstances.

It was early December and the camp was in the first grasp of winter. Outdoor recreational activities had slowed as men sought warmer conditions indoors. Brian and around a dozen others attended Captain Anders classes in the evening after the mess had been cleared from dinner. Language seemed far easier to master on a full stomach.

“You know, you’re getting rather good at this stuff,” the man beside him offered “Makes me feel rather a dullard.”

Brian smiled and shook his head. “It’s just a matter of practice, Archie. I had never spoken a word before we got here. Now, it feels far more necessary.”

The two stepped out of the mess and into the chill of the night air. “I just don’t seem to have your knack with it.” The red-headed Bomber pilot admitted sadly. “I could manage to order a beer, if the krauts would let me, but that’s about it.”

Brian smiled. “Mein Deutsch ist nicht perfekt, aber ist ok.”

“That’s what I mean… bloody showoff.”

Brian grinned and waved goodbye to the man as he ducked between the rows of huts to make his way back to the place he now considered home. It had taken a great deal of time to find comfort in the routine of the camp. As the months passed, it was impossible not to adapt to the new normal that life had presented them with. His world at present revolved around the men in hut twelve, their daily routine, and what little freedom they managed to enjoy within the confines of imprisonment.

For Brian, studying German had been a practical skill as much as it had been a distraction. Matheson had suggested it and he had been right; it had made a difference. If they managed to escape it would be a vital asset to them, but even more simply put, it gave him a sense of pride to succeed at something even in their present circumstances. Wrapping the thick woolen greatcoat around his body more tightly, he pressed on through the darkness.

“Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab' im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!”

As he walked along the fenceline towards his hut, Brian heard the muttered singing in the distance. Someone was singing Christmas carols in German, and not particularly well by the sound of things. Ahead of him in the darkness, a dark figure was swaying slightly as he walked, his deep voice barely keeping in tune as he struggled to remain upright as he trudged along the fence line. Drawing closer, Brian recognized the silhouette of the man’s helmet and the shape of the submachine gun on his back; the man was a guard.

Keeping to one side of the space, Brian kept his head down and walked steadily onward as he approached the guard. He had yet to have any real problems with the Germans that patrolled the camp, but he also worked hard not to antagonize them. Especially when they were drunk, as this man appeared to be from the sickly sweet scent of Gluwein that followed in his wake.

(Text in Italic is German, translated to English for your ease)

Brian’s foot crunched in the frosty snow, causing the German to halt his singing and turn to face him unsteadily. The man grinned stupidly, his cheeks rosy red from the alcohol as much as the cold. “Hello Fraulein, how are you this fine evening?” slurred happily.

Brian was frozen for a moment. The guard had to be speaking to him, as there was nobody else present. “Me?”

“Yes, you my dear,” the man leered staggering in his direction.

Brian backed up a step and came in contact with the hut wall behind him. “I’m, uh, fine thank you, yourself?”

The guard sighed heavily, almost theatrically. “I hate my job! I join the Luftwaffe to fight and here I am! I guard prisoners in the arse end of German for all eternity! I’m cold, I’m tired and I’m not paid enough! But at least I have drink!” he slurred, waving a canteen at Brian. “What’s a pretty thing like you doing in here?”

“I… was just going back to my hut.”

The guard stared at Brian for a moment and scratched his chin thoughtfully. “What are you doing in here?”

“I’m a prisoner.”

“I didn’t know we had any women in here.”

Brian didn’t know how to respond to the man’s mistake but refused to potentially anger an armed drunk by correcting his error.

“Can’t let a pretty lady like you walk around here all alone; there’s dangerous prisoners that might not be so virtuous as old Hans,” the man grinned stupidly “Allow me to escort you back to your hut Fraulein.”

“Uh…”

“It is agreed!” the guard, Hans clasped his hands together with glee. Wobbling unsteadily over to Brian he took the British pilot by the arm and began leading him along the pathway.

A few moments later, they were outside hut twelve, and Brian attempted to tactfully detangle himself from the inebriated German.

“Thank you Herr?”

“Gefreiter Hans Bauer, Fraulein,” The man slurred, nearly tumbling into the snow as he bowed theatrically. “Woah Scheiße, excuse me.”

“Thank you for the escort,” Brian replied slowly, still uncertain as to what exactly was happening. “Good night Herr Bauer.”

“Good night Fraulein!” Bauer grinned as he wobbled away along the row of huts.

Brian watched the German go with a look of bemusement on his face. He wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened, but he was positive that it should concern him. Beside the fact that one of the guards that was meant to be in charge of them was drunk off his arse, the man had been utterly convinced that he was a woman. This was despite the fact that he was wrapped up in his RAF uniform and an oversized German Greatcoat.

Had he really changed that much? None of the others seemed to have mentioned it, but then again, he was around them every day. Were the changes more stark to someone he had never met before? He wasn’t positive, but something told him that Bauer wouldn’t be the last to make the same mistake.

 

* * *

 

Christmas in captivity was a surreal experience for Brian and the other tennants of Stalag Luft IX. The men of the camp did their best to make the place feel as festive as they could with their limited resources. To their credit, the Germans actually gave them some decorations and a small tree, although the latter being sourced from the forest just outside the camp did dampen the significance of the gesture somewhat. Weihnacht for the Germans was a largely similar but differently executed holiday to their festivities back home in England. The meaning however translated across international borders.

Christmas had always been a joyful afair in the Campbell house. Every year when the children returned from school they would hang decorations with their mother and sing carols. Brian could remember the smell of minced pies and the scent of pine needles.

There were no minced pies but the scent of pine was strong in the still night air as Brian sat quietly on the step of their hut long after lights out. Around him, the snow fell silently as he thought of Christmases past. With the holiday the Germans had left only a skeleton perimeter guard for the night. It meant that he could enjoy a brief rmoment of nocturnal solitude without being written up for it.

The guards celebrating the holiday on Christmas Eve could be heard singing carols in their accommodations just outside the wire. The music lazily drifting through the still air brought a small token of joy to his heart. Pulling the thin blanket tighter around himself, he watched his breath mist as it left his lungs. The night was still and peaceful; if he closed his eyes he could almost be at home in England again.

The hut door creeked open. “Isn’t it a little cold to be out here at this time of night eh Bri?”

Jumping at the sudden voice, Brian glanced up at Andrew Matheson and grinned sheepishly. “I was just enjoying the peace of the moment.”

“Couldn’t you do that somewhere a little warmer?” The Big officer asked, settling down on the step beside Brian. It’s like a bloody icebox out here.”

Brian smiled and glanced out toward the perimeter fence and the forest beyond. “I’m just enjoying the singing.”

“Oh, the weinachtslieder?”

Brian nodded, “I know a lot of the tunes and I understand most of the lyrics thanks to Captain Anders; it’s beautiful all the same. If I close my eyes, it lets me forget this bloody war for a moment.”

Matheson didn’t reply. Instead, he settled in beside Brian on the wooden step and joined him in listening to the distant voices sharing carols on the festive night.

“You seem to be getting on with the others better?” Matheson opined a little while later after a song had finished.

Brian nodded, “They’re good people and I like them. I’m not sure I deserve them though.”

“They like you too, you know? You’re far too hard on yourself.”

Brian shrugged and shivered against the woolen blanket. “Perhaps, but I’ve plenty to bash myself about. I think I’m mostly afraid that they will see what’s wrong with me.”

“You do know that they’ve noticed, right?” Matheson asked quietly. “They don’t say anything because it doesn’t matter to them.”

“What have they seen?” Brian asked turning to his friend, his voice rising slightly in panic, “Please Andrew, what have they said?”

Matheson raised his hands to placate the panicking youth. “Woah, calm down ok? Nothing too bad actually. Look, we live in close quarters; they were going to notice something eventually and they don’t seem to be that worried. They just mentioned it at one time or another is all.”

“Like what?”

Matheson shrugged, “Hamley noticed first it I suppose. The others, they seemed to have cottoned on after the fact.”

“What did he say?”

Matheson hesitated for a moment, uncertain as to how to soften the blow. “He…well, don’t take this the wrong way old chap, but he did mention that you reminded him more and more of his fifteen-year-old.”

“So I look like a kid? That’s it?” Brian asked uncertainly.

“Daughter.”

“Oh,” Brian slumped forward and hugged his knees to his chest inside the blanket.

Matheson cautiously put his arm around the young pilot in a comforting gesture. “Hey, don’t feel bad, this isn’t your doing.”
“I feel responsible though,” Brian sighed. “I know I’m not, but, it doesn’t stop me feeling like a freak of nature.”

He watched Brian for a moment, taking the young aviator in. In the nearly four months that they had been in the camp together he had certainly noticed a change in the boy. Every since he’d first revealed his injuries to him, he had been more attuned to his friend’s changing condition. It hadn’t been a significant shift at first, but it had been enough to quickly push the already slight and fine-featured lad over an invisible line into androgyny. Looking at Brian now, he could see that the young pilot had left androgyny far behind and was looking more and more girlish by the day.

“I can’t begin to understand what you’re going through Bri, but you know we’ll stick by you. You’re one of us and we protect our own.”

Brian pushed his hair out of his eyes in what appeared to be a rather girlish gesture to Matheson. “I’m not worried about you chaps. It’s the rest of the camp that worries me. German or Prisoner, I’ve seen some of the looks they’ve been giving me. I really don’t like it Andrew, I know what it means.”

Andrew winced visibly at the implication. He too knew exactly what his friend was suggesting and the very idea filled him with anger. “Nobody will touch you if I can’t help it,” he growled quietly. “I won’t tell them why, but I’ll make sure that I have some people looking out for you that I trust, ok?”

Brian smiled weakly in response, “Thank you, I’m sorry that I’m such a burden.”

Matheson shook his head and stood, pulling the young pilot to his feet. “Nonsense, we’re a team, and we look out for our wingmen.”

“Sometimes you need to leave them behind for the good of the squadron,” Brian pointed out morosely.

“Not on my watch, ok?” Matheson replied firmly. “Now get back inside and get to bed or Father Christmas won’t bring us any wire cutters eh?”

 

* * *

 

Brian arose refreshed and more at peace the following morning. The Germans had put a hold on work parties for the day, instead allowing the prisoners a day of rest. It was no truce of the Great War, but there was an easing of tension between the two sides for the first time in a long while.

After their usual plain but warm breakfast, Brian spent the morning in the hut with the others playing cards and talking. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. It was one of the first times in his life he had felt truly comfortable in the world. His conversation with Matheson the night before had eased his fears somewhat, and while he still felt strange about his changing body, for once he was less afraid for the others to know that it was happening. The future might as yet be uncertain, but for the first time, he was confident that one might exist.

“Back home we’d have the biggest spreads, you wouldn’t believe,” Down sighed happily from his bunk. “Turkey, goose, ham, taters and gravy.”

“We’d always have a turkey in my house,” Hamley agreed. “My wife and youngest would spend the whole mornin cookin’ and we’d eat ourselves into a coma.”

“Fat chance of that happening at the moment unless we want to cook the American,” Maddox mused with a chuckle.

“What about your lot Bri?” Andrew called, reshuffling the deck. “How did you celebrate the day back home?”

Brian shrugged from his spot, cross legged on his bunk, “Like anyone I suppose, Church, family gatherings and dinner. It was always my favorite time of year; the snow, the carols and the atmosphere.”

Matheson grinned. “You know what I miss? Minced pies.”

“Ugh, the Germans don’t know what they’re missin’.” Hamley agreed. “Minced pies with cream, mulled wine and a crackling fire.”

“Christmas cookies,” Down agreed, “And Eggnog.”

“Ugh stop, I’m starving.” Brian laughed. “You’ll make whatever they serve us for dinner a let down if you carry on like this.”

“You know I hear the Kommandant actually ponied up some supplies for the cookhouse, we might actually have a half-decent nosh.” Maddox pointed out.

“That sounds rather lovely.” Brian agreed wistfully. “I’m so hungry these days I could eat a whole goose myself.”

Hamley chuckled warmly. “Given how skinny ye are, you might need it. I don’t know where you’d put it though.”

Brian found himself pleasantly surprised that evening when they made their way to the mess hall. While not a banquet by any means, the Germans had provided enough provisions to prepare a reasonable facsimile of an English Christmas dinner. As far as he could tell, the Komandant had a simple approach to his job; keep them placid and there’s far less likelihood of trouble. He couldn’t fault the man’s logic, he would have done the same thing in his shoes.

Food was enjoyed, carols were sung and for a brief time, men were happy. Brian was able to set aside his fears and truly be one of the many. His own fears and insecurities were swept aside in the festive mood and as the snow fell on Christmas night, the camp forgot for a short while that they were at war. For one night, it was simply Christmas.

 

 

Chapter Six - Keeping Up Appearances

 

Not every work detail conducted outside of the camp fence was hard labor. Often tasks were graded depending on one’s status with the Germans. If you were on the Kommandant’s shit list, you could admittedly find yourself chopping wood or hauling materials. However, Prisoners with clean records and good standing were often tasked with more mundane day to day maintenance tasks around the camp and guards quarters that carried more privilage.

Brian and four others had been recruited to assist with painting the offices and dining quarters of the Guard’s facilities by the main gate to the camp. It had meant three days outside the camp and time spent around the administrative staff.

Matheson had been keen for him to pay close attention to the Germans during his labor. From within the fence, only so much could be gleaned of their captors operation. However, with Brian able to spend more than a few days outside and in direct contact with them, he was able to better grasp the comings and goings of the Germans that kept their gaol.

“Make sure you take care of the corridor before you finish up here today I don’t want to see clutter in the way.” the guard supervising them called out in German.

Brian nodded and started cleaning his brush. He and the others had been mostly selected for this task because they spoke reasonable German. It allowed them to work as assistants to the local painter far better. Herr Mayer was an elderly fellow that lived in a nearby town. He hadn’t volunteered the information, but Brian had noticed a Regensburg newspaper in his lorry that gave him a fair approximation of their general location. One that was later confirmed by Hamley’s calculations.

“You know people get paid good money for this sort of thing back home.” One of the others muttered. “Here, we’re bloody slave labour for Jerry, it’s just not right.”

“It’s that or we can say goodbye to that grain they’re promising us for this, I quite fancied some bread.” Brian pointed out.

“Why not get your boyfriends in twelve to get you some then fruit?” the man sneered.

Brian bristled but remained quiet.

“What is going on?” The guard snapped, noticing the tension in the room.

Brian shook his head and hefted the fresh paint pot. “Es ist nichts.” he sighed leaving the room.

Berkeley had once told him that there were gay men in the camp. Time had proven this to be the case, but they had always kept to themselves. Most of the camp population tolerated them out of necessity, but some took particular umbridge. Brian’s more feminine appearance seemed to place him in the crosshairs of both groups. No matter what, he was stuck in the middle without many friends to his name. The only viable solution was to keep his head down and get on with his work. Opening the fresh pot, he got down to his work on the corridor.

There was a rustle and a clank as someone stepped on the painting cloth and knocked over an empty pot. “Watch out, it’s still wet,” Brian called.

“You are with the prisoners fraulein?” A female voice asked, startling Brian.

The woman was about his height and blonde. Wearing a Luftwaffe officer’s uniform, she looked barely a year or two his senior. She was carrying a stack of files under her arm and was carefully attempting to navigate the painters' rags that covered the ground.

“Uh, oh, yes… Frau Oberleutnant,” he added straightening up, noticing the markings on her collar. “I’m sorry, let me get that.” Brian blushed pulling the speckled cloth aside so she could pass. “I just started in here.”

The woman regarded him curiously for a moment before smiling her thanks and heading through into the main office.

“I didn’t know we had any female prisoners at the camp,” he heard the woman ask the guard outside.

“We don’t, Frau Oberleutnant.” The guard replied politely. Brian grimaced as he realized the woman’s mistake.

“Are you sure? But back there…”

“Oh, them? That is, ah; he’s one of the prisoners.”

Brian didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. The sound was drowned out by the blood rushing in his ears at his embarassment. Here he was in his worn out uniform shirt and trousers and a woman had confused him for another member of the fairer sex. He knew things had gotten worse with his appearance, but he was now more acutely aware of why some of those strange looks were happening. Tucking his hair into his collar, he got back to work and kept his head down.

Later that evening when their work was complete, the guard assembled them in the office before escorting them back to the main camp enclosure. With their own plans afoot, Brian was keen to snatch anything potentially useful. Unlike exterior work parties with access to tools and potential weapons, the guards working with their group seemed far more relaxed about protocol and hadn’t searched them the previous two evenings. Taking a chance while the man’s back was turned, Brian snatched a folder from a nearby desk and stuffed down his trousers. Ensuring the precious cargo was hidden, he glanced around, glad to see his theft had been undetected by even the other prisoners.

The guard led them back out into the darkness and across the yard before escorting them through the double gated entrance to the camp and back into their own world.

Keeping to himself, Brian weaved between the rows of huts and made his way directly back to the safety of hut twelve. Slipping inside, he allowed himself to breathe for the first time since his escapade began. Maddox and Hamley were inside when he arrived, the pair looking up with surprise at his panicked appearance.

“What’s wrong with you eh?” The big Irishman chuckled, “You know the Jerries already caught you right?”

Brian reached under his shirt and pulled out the folder.

“Where did you get that from?” Maddox asked with interest. “Andy’s rubbing off on you I see.”

Brian shrugged as he dropped down onto his bunk. “I’ve no idea honestly. I had the chance in the office to grab something and just… did. I have no idea if it’s of any use at all. Worst case, we have more fuel for the burner.”

“Pass 'em here,” Maddox asked, sticking out his hand for the file.

Brian passed it over and moved over so the Navy pilot could join him on his bunk.

“Hm, what do we have here then,” Maddox muttered as he began to sheaf through the paperwork inside the manilla folder. Brian’s heart lept as he saw a diagram of what appeared to be the camp itself. “Anything useful?” Brian asked hopefully.

Maddox paused and sniffed, “are you using different soap?”

Brian frowned, “no, the same as always. I suppose I’m a little ripe from nerves though.”

The navy pilot eyed him curiously but shrugged and began reading the papers.

“Perha…. Wait a second, these are… Oh Andy’s going to love this.” Maddox wrapped an arm around Brian and gave him a one handed hug, “You bloody beautiful bastard, you only nabbed their plumbing and electrical diagrams.”

“Is that sort of thing useful? I didn't know we going to be installing a bathtub.” The big Irishman chuckled.

“I’d think so,” Maddox grinned. “This outlines a lot of what goes where, and how it all connects together. It might not seem important on the surface but it shows weak points where we never actually expected.”

“So we might be able to mess with things and force them to send in repair people?” Brian offered as he started to grasp the concept.

“Thats the ticket alright, not sure how we’ll use it but that is certainly one way. Good find, we can show Andy later.” After hiding their prize, the three exited the hut and made their way toward the camp mess hall. After collecting their meager dinner the group settled down at their usual table.

It had begun to feel entirely too normal for Brian in the time that they had been at the camp. He couldn’t imagine how it must have felt for those who had been incarcerated for longer than he had. Despite the uncertainty of his own future, this place, this camp had become a home of sorts.

In some ways, it was considerably worse than his boarding school had ever been. Certainly, the standards of accommodation lacked something, but the atmosphere felt quite similar. Cliques and groups stuck to their own territory and everyone existed in a strange detente for the most part. Occasionally scuffles would break out between groups, but it was rare and the guards had a tendency to come down firmly on such exertion.

“Bloody miles away!”

Hamley’s laugh snapped Brian back to the present moment. He realized he had been idly stirring the stew on his plate for the last few minutes. “Sorry?” he asked, coloring slightly.

“Andy was asking how the painting was going for the krauts,” Maddox prompted.

Brian shrugged, “Fine I guess. We’re probably a day or two from done, it’s nice to get outside the wire for a bit.”

“I hear you had to paint the bathrooms, spot of luck that,” he added tapping the side of his nose.

It took Brian embarrassingly too long to get the man’s inference before he nodded in reply. “Yes, somewhat a last-minute thing. Wasn’t really sure what I was painting till we got back afterward, you know?”

“Certainly lucky in this case, a rather excellent job you did.” Matheson agreed.

Brian got bumped into the table by a passing body. “Hey!” he spluttered as half of his stew sloshed onto the wooden tabletop.

A group of men were chatting loudly as they moved past the table. Brian recognized one of the men from the work detail earlier who seemed to have been the one to shove him. “Sorry Fraulein,” the man simpered before his compatriots burst into laughter.

“Apologize to the la…d,” Hamley growled standing up.

The man turned, surrounded by his friends, and shrugged. “What are you going to do old timer? Jerry will send you to the hole for fighting. Is it worth defending the honor of your little girlfriend?”

Hamley snarled and was bout to take a step toward the men when Matheson grasped his bicep and hauled him back down to the table.

“Not today Arthur; not today,” he growled quietly.

“I won’t have ‘em insult one of us like that,” the Irishman spat.

“I wouldn’t either, but it will not do us any good if we get ourselves thrown in the hole for it. They won’t try anything beyond schoolyard silliness in here and they wouldn’t date try a thing anywhere private, they’re cowards; big boys in a small yard.”

“He’s got a point old chap,” Maddox offered. “No offense Brian, but we would be on the losing end of that fight and they bloody well know it.”

Brian shook his head and attempted to scoop a few chunks of precious food back onto his plate. “It’s fine, I’m used to it and I know they only want an excuse.”

“The hell did you do to anger them?” Down asked raising an eyebrow.

“Exist,” Brian sighed.

“Don’t they know we’re on the same damn team?” Down muttered sourly.

Matheson shook his head sadly and glanced over prisoners in the mess hall. “You know, the longer we’re in here, the more I think they forget.”

 

* * *

 

Brian rolled over in his cot and stared up at the bottom of the bunk above him. It was the middle of the night, but he had no idea what time it was. All around him, he could hear the faint sounds of the others as they slept, peacefully ignorant of his insomnia. Outside, other than the occasional sweep of a searchlight that illuminated their hut’s windows it was dark and still. In the corner of the room, the last embers in the wood stove glowed faintly, casting the last of its heat out into the cold air.

Brian listened to the faint sounds of breathing from the other bunks and pulled his thin blanket tighter around his body against the chill. He was conscious that his world was shifting and he wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about it. What was occurring was not normal under any circumstance, that much he could appreciate.

With each passing month, he was becoming increasingly feminine, even he could admit that now. Men did not spontaneously turn into women and yet, his body was playing a cruel trick on him. What had begun as gentle and slow changes had clearly reached a point of critical mass. At first, he had been ashamed that he would never become the man the world wanted him to be. After some time and reflection, he accepted his neutrality; his perpetual boyhood. Now that too had begun to shift and move away from his grasp. What had begun as softness and fragility had now grown into something that others saw very differently. In the months since his accident and incarceration, he had changed dramatically; it was becoming harder to hide the fact within the closed world of the camp.

With their reduced diet and the results of his injuries, he was far thinner and more slight than he could remember ever being in his life. Parts of him however seemed to defy that; his thighs, buttocks, and hips stubbornly retained what little fat was left in his body. His trousers still fitted his hips but required a belt to stay up on his far narrower waist.

Looking down the blanket that was wrapped around him up to his neck, he regarded the lumps caused by his chest. He could no longer deny that he had a pair of breasts beneath the thin blanket. They were not large, but they were categorically breasts. When they had first started to become noticeable he had dismissed the irritation and sensitivity as a result of the fabric of his shirt; anything but to acknowledge the truth. Their subsequent development had put paid to that weak hope. Now, he had a small but obvious bust that he had learned to hide with oversized clothing and a hunched posture.

The other prisoners could see what was happening to him and now the guards and staff had begun to see the changes. How long could he last before something bad happened? The others in the hut already knew, Matheson had told him. To their credit, the men were polite about it and never brought it up with him. It gave him a small comfort that he had at least once place where he could relax and lower his guard. He wasn’t ignorant to the fact that they had slipped once or twice regardless.

Friends; that was a strange thought. Brian had gone through his life without much in the way of friendship. His siblings had of course been present during his life but his elder brothers had been somewhat embarrassed by their runt of a sibling. They had both attended the same school and Richard had been two years ahead with Christopher the same year. His sister Anne was a year younger, but she had been off at her own school and spent time with her own friends during the holidays. Beyond his family, Brian had never actually had any friends. People hadn’t been overtly hostile toward him, but he had certainly felt rather detached from the social circles of his peers.

Here in the camp, however, the members of hut twelve treated him like an equal. Andrew, Daniel, Mike and Arthur were people he considered true friends. They included him, stood up for him, and seemed genuinely interested in his wellbeing. They might be in a prison, and he might be suffering from an unknown affliction that was ravaging his body, but for the first time in his life he actually felt glad to be alive.

If he separated himself from the idea of what he ‘should’ look and feel like, he realized that he was overall, relatively happy if one discounted his incarceration. The discomfort and unease of his adolescence was gone and the demands on him to be like his brothers and peers no longer existed. He felt for once that he was truly at peace with himself. For once, he was in touch with his own feelings.

Brian had no idea what he would do when they returned home. If their plan to escape was successful or if the war ended at some point he would be home in England and would have to confront his situation. He supposed doctors would become involved, but he had no idea what he would be by that point. This was all contingent on their survival of course; there was every chance they might die in an escape attempt.

For the first time in his life, Brian considered what he would do once the war was over. Naturally, at some point, it would conclude, all things did. As prisoners of war, they would be returned and he would find a way to build a life for himself in whatever world existed beyond this blood war. He was positive that the RAF would not let him fly again given his evolving predicament. While the military had not been his first choice of career, it had certainly given him a love for aviation and the skills to pursue it.

Brian smiled to himself in the darkness as he pictured a future flying for himself in some far-flung part of the world. The smile faded when he realized that the future he envisaged included a more female version of himself than he was prepared to accept. Perturbed by the image, Brian purged it from his mind and squeezed his eyes closed. He let out a long breath that misted in the cold air above him and pulled the blanket over his head, beckoning sleep's return.

 

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Better foundation

Now that I have also reread the original of this I am glad to see that it sets a better foundation for what's to come. Things like how did Brian know German, how could he appear feminine enough to pass muster during the escape.

The tale seems to be headed for a more gentler arc than the original, I hope. The slaughter of the unarmed Germans, even if they are their jailers seemed uncalled for and I hope that this escape does not escalate to that but who knows, fog of war and all that.

I had hoped Brian would find some way to bind his assets and such. He might be able to prevail upon the doctor for help there. Maybe he can get a buzz cut or something though that is like a trope in trans stories of the past, though not as much these days. Clearly Brian is in the crosshairs now socially from all sides, be needs to be careful not to be caught alone with any not of his hut.

Ironically I would trust the Germans more in regard to Brian than his fellow prisoners as their goal is to prevent trouble from breaking out. Leaving him in the general prison population would be no different than what could happen in a regular prison. It is just a matter of time. His friends may not be around for some reason at a critical moment and he would be in serious trouble.

Finally, I like the 'soap' comment from Maddox. It underscores that body odor differences are present between the genders and that merely dressing up as one does not mean you will smell like one and people will unconsciously notice that.

Deviation from original.

Kit's picture

The plan with the rewrite was give more weight and foundation to the time in the camp now I wasn't limited by this being a novella. It certainly all makes sense.

As for the escape, I can tell you that is largely the same. Why? I needed the brutality to make a point. To me, it proved that there is no good in war, only who is left. Allies or Axis, both did wrong at times. (Obviously one side worse but still, the Allies were not innocent) And Escapes like this, revolts got... bad. It was messy and brutal and the prisoner becomes an animal in a cage, whether they start out good or evil.

Do also remember most of the guards killed in that chapter are armed... so it is technically a fair fight.

As for here... yeah, it's beginning to get to be too much and I really enjoyed driving a wedge between Brian and the other inmates.

I like Turtles.

Brutality

I suspected that would be the case.

Oh, I totally get fighting the guards is an even fight. But you know I am referring to the unarmed Germans but like you said it is clear people are people and they do not like to be imprisoned.

In this case...

Kit's picture

I think it's important to have the bad to highlight the good.

I do love to bury the trans hatchet in deep storylines :D

I like Turtles.

You raise a good point in that both sides…….

D. Eden's picture

Committed acts that were at best questionable, and at worst war crimes. Yes, one side was admittedly much worse - but their are no innocents in a war other than the non-combatants, and even not all of them are innocent.

By joining the military on either side, soldiers or airmen commit to becoming combatants. Combatants in war are fair targets, although under the rules of civilized warfare once a combatant has surrendered the victor takes responsibility for their well being. Having said that, leaving enemy forces loose in your rear area is never a good idea.

Also, to your point, long term incarceration no doubt led to at least some of the prisoners harboring vicious and murderous thoughts toward their captors. The killing of unarmed soldiers is against the articles of war.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Have the bad

Atrocities and wars go hand in hand. The Allied side from my understanding had soldiers who raped and pillaged like the best of them from the Russian side in Germany near the end of WWII.

But hey, this is fiction after all so why not fictionalize that aspect also and go all Hogan's Heroes softpedaling war? Eh?

Anyway, I enjoyed the double helping, it is much appreciated. Here's hoping that Brian (Briana?) winds up in a better place as the only silver lining in this.

Final thought is that those prisoners who do not succeed in their escape (a large number of them I am sure) will surely get German retribution for this bloody escape. They will somehow be 'accidentally' killed while trying to escape, I'm sure.

I wanted to softpedal aspects

Kit's picture

I wanted to softpedal aspects, but I also wanted to show both sides of everyone... good and bad German characters throughout, and good and bad allied ones.

To me, this is about people, not just war.

As for Brian... well, that gets answered next episode :D

I like Turtles.

Bad/Good

I can't agree more.

There have been no doubt stories of German people who were anti-nazi and actually helped downed Allied airmen.

I am too old to expect perfection of any human being and I was being slightly sarcastic with the whole Hogan's Heroes thing though Werner Klemperer who played Klink was well known to be anti-nazi so in playing the buffoon in that series continued to support his cause.

It is highly unlikely that any brutality you can metaphorically put pen to paper for this story would be unbelievable to me.

Between the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking it is hard to not believe humanity is capable of rationalizing the performance of great evil.

More foundation

So, maybe I missed it in a previous chapter, but I can't picture the timbre of his voice. Male hormones tend to deepen voice as we all know so while it had dominated Brian's body it might've lowered it. And then there is intonation. Are people judging him strictly be looks alone or is the voice also androgynous enough to help further confuse the picture.

I believe his voice would be

Kit's picture

I believe his voice would be generally fairly androgynous. Remember, while he did have testosterone in his system, he was never particularly a big or macho guy. Chances are, it hadn't affected his voice that much.

Heck, we don't actually know WHY Brian is the way he is. was there just enough testosterone to leave him in a developmental limbo that was... released once it was gone? was it just enough to slowly androgenise him and then the supply was cut off?

I leave it up to interpretation... but given what comes later... I'd say the author's cannon would be androgynous.

It might be worth a mention actually... hmm.

I like Turtles.

Worth a mention

Sure thing! That would be great.

As far as size goes you'll be surprised how even seemingly petite framed trans can pack a masculine voice.

My partner mentioned when she was younger met a small very petit, very feminine transwoman at a club. And she had a double basso profundo voice. It was hard to believe such a deep voice can come out of such a petit body as she had related to me.

Anyway, in the context, it makes sense his voice is very androgynous but during the escape he better shift it out of neutral a bit more though.

In Any Prison

joannebarbarella's picture

There are the strong who will prey on the weak. If there is homosexuality involved this will be exacerbated. I have not read previous versions of this story but I'm sure that Brian is going to become a victim of sexual aggression and his femininity will become a major factor in the story.

hmm

Kit's picture

I wonder what might happen next...

I like Turtles.