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Arbeit Macht Frei: Chapter 4: Der Unterschlupf

God, this took forever to get around to. It's only up on THFF, not the Panik archive which is kaputt right now anyway, so I'm trying to keep it TH focused and not shift over to the Panik boys who I'm more comfortable with and it's very amusing because it's giving me the feeling of writing from the outside in. I have the ending written which practically killed me because I couldn't figure out how to get my story from point C to F so I basically gave up for a while. I like how this came out, though.


Arbeit macht Frei: Work will set you free. Three famous words that greeted those the Nazis sent to Auschwitz. Three words that could not have been a bigger lie. Tomas Kaulitz is a talented young violinist reduced to playing in empty concert halls for Nazi officers. The war has stayed relatively far away until now, when the horrors of the Nazi era take him and his friends away from a ruined Magdeburg.
 

 

 

They were led down a winding route through back alleyways and up and down staircases, sometimes crossing from roof to slated roof in the dim Hamburg afternoon. Tomas could not tell how long they traveled or how far but he knew that Wilhelm was exhausted and would soon collapse without rest. He opened his mouth to speak to their dour guide. Christian pressed a finger to his lips and glared at Tomas sternly. They continued on.

Tomas became increasingly worried about Christian and the path he was leading them on. Every few minutes Tomas would see a newsstand or a building that looked eerily familiar and he could only surmise that they were going in circles. Perhaps Christian was not a ‘friend’ at all. Perhaps he was a Gestapo spy and was leading them to their deaths. The cold man’s hair was blonde enough and his eyes blue enough, his body strong enough and his height tall enough to be a soldier. Tomas ran his tongue over his teeth to keep from asking where they were going.

Finally, Christian’s pace seemed to slow, though his breathing was hardly labored, unlike Wilhelm’s and Tomas’. They came to a dark building, the windows boarded up and the door covered in dirt and dust. Christian ignored the door at the front and went to one of the windows blanketed in late afternoon shade. Christian pulled on the window frame. It creaked open with difficulty, revealing a dark cement surrounded hole. Christian lifted a leg up and put his foot down on the ledge, using the motion to swing inside. From inside the building, he looked over his shoulder at the twins, frowned, and then motioned for them to follow him.

Tomas looked at Wilhelm in alarm. Wilhelm shrugged one shoulder wearily. Tomas licked his bottom lip and cupped his hands so that Wilhelm could place his foot there and step up. Wilhelm swung inside gracefully, dropping with a slight plop to the ground. The ground inside was higher and Tomas could see Wilhelm almost to his waist.

“Are you alright?” Tomas whispered, earning a hiss from Christian standing next to Wilhelm.

Wilhelm nodded. Tomas handed Wilhelm his suitcase and the guitar. Tomas looked behind himself uneasily and copied Christian and Wilhelm’s move. Once he landed inside, Christian shoved past him and pulled the window shut, the metal frame grating horribly against the cement. Tomas blinked at the sudden darkness, unable to see a thing.

“Sit,” Christian commanded as he lit a match against the wall. “Your eyes will adjust faster if you wait it out.”

The match flickered for a second, showing the twins a cement room with a thick carpet of dirt and broken glass interspersed with shattered bricks and pieces of newspaper. Christian dropped the match and squashed it out with his shoe.

“Now,” he said, his voice eerily disembodied in the blackness. “My friend thinks you two are worth trusting. I do not. He asked me to take you somewhere safe. I have done so. Until he returns, you two will stay here where you can do no harm to me or mine. In the meantime, I will go. I am needed elsewhere. I repeat, I do not trust you. Goodbye.”

With a crunch of glass underfoot, Christian padded away, though in what direction Tomas could not tell. He hung his head and sucked in a dust-filled breath.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Wilhelm asked, sounding like a frightened child.

Tomas sighed and smacked at one of his thighs to warm it. The room was deathly cold, the ground even more so. They would likely freeze if they spent too long sitting there.

“I don’t know, Wil,” he said.

“I wish we had stayed in Magdeburg,” whispered Wilhelm. “We would be fine if we had stayed in Magdeburg. What’s going to happen to us, Tomi?”

Tomas sighed again and pressed his forehead to his knees. This had been Wilhelm’s idea but Tomas would not argue with Wilhelm now.

“We wait, Wil. That’s what’s going to happen.”

ØØØ

Gustav shuddered in his icy tent. Three other men were in the tent with him and all were unbearably cold. Their combined body heat had no effect on the cruel Russian weather.

They had been marching for days past burned out villages and empty farms. There were no Russians to fight, only skeletal peasants begging for food and work. Gustav and his fellow soldiers had tried desperately to ignore the women and children with their open maws for mouths and hollow, death-filled eyes. They had yet to see any men.

Whatever orders the officers had been given; they did not relay them to the soldiers. Every morning Gustav would awaken to pack the tent up, eat his measly, mealy rations, and get ready to march again. Every morning they would move farther northeast, closer to the Russian heartland and battle.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

Gustav shot up at the sound of gunshots and crouched down in his spot. The men- boys, really- around him stirred as well, their eyes large in panic. Gustav smelled gunpowder in the air. He lifted the tent flap to see outside and grab his rifle- and came face to face with the barrel of a gun.

Cruel, black-brown eyes gleamed down at him, set in the face of a pale, grinning Russian soldier. The Russian barked at Gustav. Gustav shook his head

“I don’t speak Russian,” he said, hoping the man would understand, “No Russian. Ruskie no.”

The grinning man shook his head and prodded his bayonet against Gustav’s chest, indicating that Gustav stand. Someone whooped a cold, accented laugh behind him. Gustav raised his arms above his head as the man motioned him to and looked past the Russian to see his company in similar positions. A huge mass of Russian soldiers stood around their camp, all heavily armed and grinning maniacly.

Fear flooded Gustav as he realized what had happened: sometime in the night, the Russian army had discovered them. They had been captured.

ØØØ

Georg tried to steady his breathing. Tomas was gone. Georg had looked and looked for his friend but there was no note, no trace of the man anywhere. None of the other violinist’s knew where he had gone and Wilhelm was nowhere to be found. Georg wanted desperately to contact the police and send out a search party, a ridiculous idea. In all likelihood, it was the police that had taken them.

He cursed Wilhelm once again, hating the stupid man/woman for putting his friend in such danger. Tomas was a good, hardworking man. He had never done anything wrong, never done anything suspicious and selfish, foolish Wilhelm had gotten them both in trouble.

Georg snarled and slammed a fist into the wall once, twice, many times. With every blow, he muttered Wilhelm’s accursed name but still his anger did not fade.

ØØØ

A creak and the sound of Wilhelm’s long hair swishing warned Tomas that they would soon have company. He glanced toward where he remembered the window being and realized he was completely wrong when a crack of light came from further down the wall.

There was a scraping against the cement and a small flame appeared. A small face came into sight.

“Oh!” the person at the window said as he climbed over into the room, landing as lightly as a kitten on the floor. “I did not realize you would be waiting here.”

The person, who Tomas could only assume was a boy, smiled at them as he closed the window behind him.

“Who are you?” Wilhelm asked.

A soft snort.

“Did you forget me so soon?” the boy asked, lighting another match as the first died. He pulled a candle out of a pocket and held the match to it. The candle lit and the flame filled the tiny room. “My name is Jan. I suppose you two are waiting for me since I do not see Christian anywhere.”

Tomas swallowed dryly. They had been waiting so long that neither twin had remembered Jan, only cold, unkind Christian.

“Do you have any water?” Wilhelm asked, standing up and gathering his suitcase and Tomas’ guitar. “We’re quite thirsty, you see, and we have been waiting such a long time.”

“If you two will follow me, we can go somewhere more comfortable,” Jan promised, a wide smile turning slightly eerie under the candlelight.

He began to walk across the dirt floor, the candle’s light glancing off the walls.

Tomas glanced at Wilhelm to ask a silent question but Wilhelm was already following Jan. Tomas winced and ran to catch up.

They walked down a passageway Tomas had not seen before, walking for a long time, passing closed doors and dusty lamps with no end in sight. Jan led them on for what seemed like hours up staircase after staircase, Tomas’ legs aching from their earlier strain as though he had not rested at all.

“This is it,” Jan whispered almost too quietly for Tomas to hear. They stopped before a door identical to all the others, the numbers one and nine scratched into the wood. Jan rapped his knuckles against the doorknob, creating a dull ring.

He leaned against the door and whispered a soft word, then leaned back. Nothing happened. Wilhelm looked alarmed.

“Is something wrong?” he hissed to Jan.

Jan grinned again and shook his head, rubbing his lips with his fingertips. After thirty seconds, the door opened. Jan walked inside and the twins followed.

Tomas and Wilhelm jumped when they heard a loud thump and Jan squeak. Tomas whirled in the direction of the sound, throwing his arm out to protect Wilhelm from whatever danger was now before him.

Jan laughed somewhere further inside the apartment and the twins relaxed. Tomas walked farther into the room cautiously, Wilhelm a step behind. Jan had laughed but something had still caught him unaware. Tomas put Wilhelm’s suitcase on the floor and walked into what had to be a kitchen. A tall blonde haired man, taller even than Christian, sat at the table, a glass in one hand. He looked at Tomas and Wilhelm with curiosity and motioned that they sit down before he stood up and grabbed two glasses from inside a door less wooden cabinet. The man set them down and filled them from a large glass bottle, setting a glass in front of each of them before sitting back down with a soft grunt.

Wilhelm sniffed the glass as Tomas stared at the blonde man. The man smiled slightly and took a sip from his glass. He had blue eyes and a narrow chin with a splash of freckles across his cheeks. His clothes were dark and splashed with grime, though his fingers and hands were clean. On his right upper arm was a thick wad of bandages, tinged slightly red at the center.

“You can tell your friend it’s water,” the blonde man said, his smile fading. “I’m not interested in poisoning either of you.”

“How can we trust you?” Tomas snapped as he looked longingly at the glass in front of him. His thirst was incredible.

The man raised an eyebrow and took another sip from his glass.

“You would not be here if you did not trust my friends. Christian and Jan led you here and you came. So drink, Tomas, before I take your water away. We have need of that water if you do not want it.”

“Who are you?” Tomas demanded, leaving the glass be.

The man blew out a slow breath, looking amused.

“My name is Max and I have no intention of hurting your brother or you. This is my home, where I and my friends live. Does that satisfy you?” Max said, nodding at Tomas’ glass. “Now drink before I take my water back.”

Tomas looked at Max warily until his thirst took over. He drank, his mind spinning with questions: Where were they? Who were these people that claimed to be friends yet left Tomas and Wilhelm in a freezing cellar for over an hour? What were they doing hiding out in an empty building? What had happened to Max’s arm? Where had Jan disappeared to and Christian for that matter? Who were these people?

They were led down a winding route through back alleyways and up and down staircases, sometimes crossing from roof to slated roof in the dim Hamburg afternoon. Tomas could not tell how long they traveled or how far but he knew that Wilhelm was exhausted and would soon collapse without rest. He opened his mouth to speak to their dour guide. Christian pressed a finger to his lips and glared at Tomas sternly. They continued on.

Tomas became increasingly worried about Christian and the path he was leading them on. Every few minutes Tomas would see a newsstand or a building that looked eerily familiar and he could only surmise that they were going in circles. Perhaps Christian was not a ‘friend’ at all. Perhaps he was a Gestapo spy and was leading them to their deaths. The cold man’s hair was blonde enough and his eyes blue enough, his body strong enough and his height tall enough to be a soldier. Tomas ran his tongue over his teeth to keep from asking where they were going.

Finally, Christian’s pace seemed to slow, though his breathing was hardly labored, unlike Wilhelm's and Tomas’. They came to a dark building, the windows boarded up and the door covered in dirt and dust. Christian ignored the door at the front and went to one of the windows blanketed in late afternoon shade. Christian pulled on the window frame. It creaked open with difficulty, revealing a dark cement surrounded hole. Christian lifted a leg up and put his foot down on the ledge, using the motion to swing inside. From inside the building, he looked over his shoulder at the twins, frowned, and then motioned for them to follow him.

Tomas looked at Wilhelm in alarm. Wilhelm shrugged one shoulder wearily. Tomas licked his bottom lip and cupped his hands so that Wilhelm could place his foot there and step up. Wilhelm swung inside gracefully, dropping with a slight plop to the ground. The ground inside was higher and Tomas could see Wilhelm almost to his waist.

“Are you alright?” Tomas whispered, earning a hiss from Christian standing next to Wilhelm.

Wilhelm nodded. Tomas handed Wilhelm his suitcase and the guitar. Tomas looked behind himself uneasily and copied Christian and Wilhelm’s move. Once he landed inside, Christian shoved past him and pulled the window shut, the metal frame grating horribly against the cement. Tomas blinked at the sudden darkness, unable to see a thing.

“Sit,” Christian commanded as he lit a match against the wall. “Your eyes will adjust faster if you wait it out.”

The match flickered for a second, showing the twins a cement room with a thick carpet of dirt and broken glass interspersed with shattered bricks and pieces of newspaper. Christian dropped the match and squashed it out with his shoe.

“Now,” he said, his voice eerily disembodied in the blackness. “My friend thinks you two are worth trusting. I do not. He asked me to take you somewhere safe. I have done so. Until he returns, you two will stay here where you can do no harm to me or mine. In the meantime, I will go. I am needed elsewhere. I repeat, I do not trust you. Goodbye.”

With a crunch of glass underfoot, Christian padded away, though in what direction, Tomas could not tell. He hung his head and sucked in a dust-filled breath.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Wilhelm asked, sounding like a frightened child.

Tomas sighed and smacked at one of his thighs to warm it. The room was deathly cold, the ground even more so. They would likely freeze if they spent too long sitting there.

“I don’t know, Wil,” he said.

“I wish we had stayed in Magdeburg,” whispered Wilhelm. “We would be fine if we had stayed in Magdeburg. What’s going to happen to us, Tomi?”

Tomas sighed again and pressed his forehead to his knees. This had been Wilhelm’s idea but Tomas would not argue with Wilhelm now.

“We wait, Wil. That’s what’s going to happen.”

ØØØ

Gustav shuddered in his icy tent. Three other men were in the tent with him and all were unbearably cold. Their combined body heat had no effect on the cruel Russian weather.

They had been marching for days past burned out villages and empty farms. There were no Russians to fight, only skeletal peasants begging for food and work. Gustav and his fellow soldiers had tried desperately to ignore the women and children with their open maws for mouths and hollow, death-filled eyes. They had yet to see any men.

Whatever orders the officers had been given, they did not relay them to the soldiers. Every morning Gustav would awaken to pack a tent, eat his measly, mealy rations, and get ready to march again. Every morning they would move farther northeast, closer to the Russian heartland and battle.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

Gustav shot up at the sound of gunshots and crouched down in his spot. The men- boys, really- around him stirred as well, their eyes large in panic. Gustav smelled gunpowder in the air. He lifted the tent flap to see outside and grab his rifle- and came face to face with the barrel of a gun.

Cruel, black-brown eyes gleamed down at him, set in the face of a pale, grinning Russian soldier. The Russian barked at Gustav. Gustav shook his head

“I don’t speak Russian,” he said, hoping the man would understand, “No Russian. Ruskie no.”

The grinning man shook his head and prodded his bayonet against Gustav’s chest, indicating that Gustav stand. Someone whooped a cold, accented laugh behind him. Gustav raised his arms above his head as the man motioned him to and looked past the Russian to see his company in similar positions. A huge mass of Russian soldiers stood around their camp, all heavily armed and grinning maniacly.

Fear flooded Gustav as he realized what had happened: sometime in the night, the Russian army had discovered them. They had been captured.

ØØØ

Georg tried to steady his breathing. Tomas was gone. Georg had looked and looked for his friend but there was no note, no trace of the man anywhere. None of the other violinist’s knew where he had gone and Wilhelm was nowhere to be found. Georg wanted desperately to contact the police and send out a search party, a ridiculous idea. In all likelihood, it was the police that had taken them.

He cursed Wilhelm once again, hating the stupid man/woman for putting his friend in such danger. Tomas was a good, hardworking man. He had never done anything wrong, never done anything suspicious and selfish, foolish Wilhelm had gotten them both in trouble.

 

Georg snarled and slammed a fist into the wall once, twice, many times. With every blow, he muttered Wilhelm’s accursed name but still his anger did not fade.

ØØØ

A creak and the sound of Wilhelm’s long hair swishing warned Tomas that they would soon have company. He glanced toward where he remembered the window being and realized he was completely wrong when a crack of light came from further down the wall.

There was a scraping against the cement and a small flame appeared. A small face came into sight.

“Oh!” the person at the window said as he climbed over into the room, landing as lightly as a kitten on the floor. “I did not realize you would be waiting here.”

The person, who Tomas could only assume was a boy, smiled at them as he closed the window behind him.

“Who are you?” Wilhelm asked.

A soft snort.

“Did you forget me so soon?” the boy asked, lighting another match as the first died. He pulled a candle out of a pocket and held the match to it. The candle lit and the flame filled the tiny room. “My name is Jan. I suppose you two are waiting for me since I do not see Christian anywhere.”

Tomas swallowed dryly. They had been waiting so long that neither twin had remembered Jan, only cold, unkind Christian.

“Do you have any water?” Wilhelm asked, standing up and gathering his suitcase and Tomas’ guitar. “We’re quite thirsty, you see, and we have been waiting such a long time.”

“If you two will follow me, we can go somewhere more comfortable,” Jan promised, a wide smile turning slightly eerie under the candlelight.

He began to walk across the dirt floor, the candle’s light glancing off the walls.

Tomas glanced at Wilhelm to ask a silent question but Wilhelm was already following Jan. Tomas winced and ran to catch up.

They walked down a passageway Tomas had not seen before, walking for a long time, passing closed doors and dusty lamps with no end in sight. Jan led them on for what seemed like hours up staircase after staircase, Tomas’ legs aching from their earlier strain as though he had not rested at all.

“This is it,” Jan whispered almost too quietly for Tomas to hear. They stopped before a door identical to all the others, the numbers one and nine scratched into the wood. Jan rapped his knuckles against the doorknob, creating a dull ring.

He leaned against the door and whispered a soft word, then leaned back. Nothing happened. Wilhelm looked alarmed.

“Is something wrong?” he hissed to Jan.

Jan grinned again and shook his head, rubbing his lips with his fingertips. After thirty seconds, the door opened. Jan walked inside and the twins followed.

Tomas and Wilhelm jumped when they heard a loud thump and Jan squeak. Tomas whirled in the direction of the sound, throwing his arm out to protect Wilhelm from whatever danger was now before him.

Jan laughed somewhere further inside the apartment and the twins relaxed. Tomas walked farther into the room cautiously, Wilhelm a step behind. Jan had laughed but something had still caught him unaware. Tomas put Wilhelm’s suitcase on the floor and walked into what had to be a kitchen. A tall blonde haired man, taller even than Christian, sat at the table, a glass in one hand. He looked at Tomas and Wilhelm with curiosity and motioned that they sit down before he stood up and grabbed two glasses from inside a door less wooden cabinet. The man set them down and filled them from a large glass bottle, setting a glass in front of each of them before sitting back down with a soft grunt.

Wilhelm sniffed the glass as Tomas stared at the blonde man. The man smiled slightly and took a sip from his glass. He had blue eyes and a narrow chin with a splash of freckles across his cheeks. His clothes were dark and splashed with grime, though his fingers and hands were clean. On his right upper arm was a thick wad of bandages, tinged slightly red at the center.

“You can tell your friend it’s water,” the blonde man said, his smile fading. “I’m not interested in poisoning either of you.”

“How can we trust you?” Tomas snapped as he looked longingly at the glass in front of him. His thirst was incredible.

The man raised an eyebrow and took another sip from his glass.

“You would not be here if you did not trust my friends. Christian and Jan led you here and you came. So drink, Tomas, before I take your water away. We have need of that water if you do not need it.”

“Who are you?” Tomas demanded, leaving the glass be.

The man blew out a slow breath, looking amused.

“My name is Max and I have no intention of hurting your brother or you. This is my home, where I and my friends live. Does that satisfy you?” Max said, nodding at Tomas’ glass. “Now drink before I take my water back.”

Tomas looked at Max warily until his thirst took over. He drank, his mind spinning with questions: Where were they? Who were these people that claimed to be friends yet left Tomas and Wilhelm in a freezing cellar for over an hour? What were they doing hiding out in an empty building? What had happened to Max’s arm? Where had Jan disappeared to and Christian for that matter? Who were these people?


 
Tags: chapter fic: arbeit macht frei, fandom: panik, fandom: tokio hotel, genre: crossover
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