Author: Anne Marsh
Title: A Scrap of Pink and a Star
Summary: Sometimes, when two people are fated for each other, even the worst of circumstances will bring them together.
Notes: Inspired in part by the film 'Bent', and in part by those History Channel ads that say 'if you had been born in another place and time, who would you be? Who would you love?'-- because Josh would still have to be Josh, and he'd still have to love Sam. Set during World War II (and if you keep in mind that I'm evil, you'll see that this could get very bad for Our Boys...)
A Scrap of Pink and a Star by Anne Marsh
Joshua Lyman braced himself, tried to stand despite the rattling of the boxcar, tried to hold onto his stomach, or the contents thereof, despite the overwhelming urge to retch.
The man sitting next to him held his head in his hands, whispering a prayer. When the prayer ended, he looked up, having felt a pair of eyes on him.
"Can I help you?" He asked wearily.
"Do you think He can hear us?" Josh's voice was barely audible.
"Couldn't hurt, might help." The man shrugged. They both looked ahead, into the packed crowd.
Over the heads and hunched shoulders of one huddled mass, Josh saw something-- someone-- that caught his eye.
"Psst," He nudged his fellow traveler. "That man there, you see him?"
"No." The man sighed. "I can't see much of anyone."
Josh extended a hand, pulling the man to his feet. They nearly fell, the shoulders of nearby riders catching them. There wasn't room even to fall over.
"Who is he?"
"How should I know?" The man replied, nettled.
"He-- he's not-- He doesn't belong here."
"He should tell *them* that." The man rolled his eyes.
"Joshua Lyman." He extended his hand again.
"Tobias Zeigler. Toby."
"He shouldn't be here..." Josh shook his head. "I wish I knew what they took him for... if I could get over to where he was, I'd ask him, but--"
"Don't cause trouble, Yehoshua." Toby shook his head.
"Don't cause trouble? We're being sent to our deaths, I'm causing trouble for wanting to talk to someone?"
"Nu." Another shrug. "It can always get worse. Do you really need to see how much?"
The train came to a shuddering halt, and the urge to vomit intensified, but Josh grimaced and held himself together. The doors of the boxcar flew open. Some people were pulled out, others were pushed in. The boy who had caught Josh's eye before was shoved back, until he stood near Josh and Toby.
The boxcar doors were shut, and soon the train came coughing and sputtering back to life.
"Hello." Josh greeted.
The boy braved a smile. He was beautiful-- moreso close than he had been over the crowd. "Hello."
"You're not-- one of us. You aren't--"
"He's not German, either." Toby sighed. "Where are you from?"
"America. I-- I was going to live a year in Germany, to write about travel... I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so..."
They shook hands, both feeling the spark their touch generated.
"It's nice to meet you." Sam said softly, blue eyes genuine.
"Pleasure's mine." Josh muttered back, eyes downcast. He lingered on Sam's hand for a fraction of a second.
They reached the camp at the end of the day, and were sorted, stripped, scrubbed, clothed, and crammed into barracks.
Josh, Sam, and Toby all ended up in the same room. Theirs was not as crowded as Josh had feared-- he'd heard some of the living conditions in camps like these, about people having to sleep on the floor for want of room. As it was, a few men had to share bunks, but most of them slept one to a mattress. That is, Josh frowned, if you could call it a mattress.
He and Sam shared one, and he was glad of it as the thin, itchy blanket didn't quite shield him from the cold, and Sam burrowed his face against Josh's neck.
"Sam," Josh whispered, arms coming up around the other man.
"Yes?" Sam whispered back, looking up.
"Why are you here?"
"I-- the cabaret was raided. Half the people there at least were arrested, I was one."
"Your German is good."
"Sleep now, Josh. You don't want to get into trouble."
So he laid his head down, and slept.
That first morning, there was a moment of discomfort when Josh realized that he was aroused, and perhaps holding Sam just a little too close.
Then they were pulled outside and pushed into ranks, and there wasn't any time to think about that.
The food was of poor quality. Luckily, Josh thought bitterly to himself, he didn't have to eat very much of it. There was no talk as they sat at the tables, each man reciting his prayers internally for fear of punishment.
Instead, Josh wondered if Sam said prayers as well.
They fell into the same bunk again, and Josh was secretly glad of it. Sam's head rested against his shoulder, the younger man content to lie wearily against him. If the morning had offended him, that offense was forgotten during the toil and misery of the day.
"Sam?" Josh whispered, as he had the night before.
"What is it, Josh?" Again, he raised his head, though with little energy.
"You're not like us."
"No." He sighed, head lolling back down towards Josh's shoulder.
"I mean--" His fingers probed a triangular patch stitched onto the younger man's shirt. "Here, where we all have the Magen David... what is that?"
"It's nothing, Josh. Go to sleep." Sam said, bone-tiredness reflected in his voice, and Josh had no choice but to be quiet.
He didn't know if he would sleep, even as exhausted as he was, his mind seemed to rebel against the thought. But Sam deserved to.
Josh awoke, only then realizing that he had slept, wondering when, for how long. Sam lay heavy against him, a thigh brushing his half-hard member.
He shook Sam, rousing him as quickly and quietly as he could, and they marched out and fell into rank, watched as men to either side of them were sent, some to work, some to the showers.
Out of the corner of his eye, Josh saw Sam shudder as the man in front of him was directed. Already they understood-- when you left, you didn't come back.
On Josh's left, Toby prayed, lips barely moving, spoon just touching his watery soup. On his right, Sam too bowed his head, whispering a strange prayer, neither German nor Hebrew. English, he could only assume. It was Sam's native tongue, after all.
During the meal, his eyes lingered on the scrap of dirty pink on Sam's shirt. Part of some coding system, but he couldn't think what it could mean. Aside from the Jews, the only people he knew of being taken away were simple-- wrong in the head. Sam obviously wasn't.
Sometimes he caught the other man's eye, and then Sam would turn away. And they never spoke.
That night, one of the men from their barracks was missing. Josh knew he was dead, had been pulled during the day, sent to die...
Sam still slept with Josh, and one of the others who had been sharing took the empty space.
This time, he let Sam fall asleep without questions, without even the 'goodnight' he'd half-formed, but before he drifted off himself, his fingers travelled again over the other man's breast, as though he could learn the meaning by osmosis.
That day, as they worked, Toby stumbled. Sam caught his arm and quickly let go, and they all carried on as though nothing had happened.
Josh's stomach went cold. The last man to go missing from their barracks must have stumbled, for he hadn't been pulled in the morning. At any hour of the day, someone could pull you aside. He'd already seen it happen to at least two who had become musselmen.
He liked Toby, through some sort of kinship rarely communicated-- at least not verbally, he knew he liked Toby. He certainly didn't want to see him killed. The only man there he cared for more was Sam.
As they ate that evening, Josh sat to one side of Toby and Sam to the other, and each discreetly placed some of his own food into Toby's bowl.
At first he shot them reprimanding looks, but they remained firm. An entire conversation went unspoken, in which he first denied their charity, dared them to imply that he needed any, and then, humbly, accepted it, as the friendship they'd meant it as. He would have done the same, he figured, had he been the younger, abler man.
"Please, Josh..." Sam whispered, shaking his head. "Go to sleep."
Toby was in the bunk next to theirs, his head by Josh's. As Sam drifted off into sleep, Josh tried him.
"For the love of-- Don't *speak*, Yehoshua."
"I want to ask a question. Now is the only time we *can* speak."
He sighed. "Well, I suppose-- I *suppose* that I owe you. Ask, but-- be quick, and be quiet, and for heavens' sakes, if that door opens, you had better be asleep!"
"Where we have the Magen David... because we're Jews-- Sam has only one triangle. Do you know what it means?"
"Purple? He's a Jehovah's Witness. They're a Christian cult, or something. I don't know." He hissed, nettled.
"No... no, it's pink."
Toby sighed heavily. "Yehoshua, that it is not my place to tell you."
"Do you know? You know, don't you?"
"If I *do* tell you... will you go to sleep? Will you not talk?"
"That means he-- He's-- oy... Faygela, Yehoshua, that's what those are for."
True to his word, Josh didn't say a thing. He didn't sleep, either, not for a long time.
The next morning, Josh was too exhausted to embarrass himself before Sam at all, though Toby's words had instilled in him some measure of new insight.
He wondered, in those still, pre-dawn moments, if one could be a Jew and a homosexual, and what would they do if they found out? Add another scrap of fabric to his shirt? Send him to the showers, because one black mark on your name is bad enough, but two is intolerable?
But he *knew* that if Sam was a homosexual, then surely he was as well, because he'd never seen anyone so beautiful, and never felt anything so wholly right as holding Sam in his arms at night. And maybe, maybe that wasn't so wrong after all, maybe, the whole thing about sin, was just a misunderstanding. After all, if the Nazis placed it on the same level as being a Jew, and he knew being a Jew wasn't wrong at all... who's to say that this is? And Sam, Sam could never be *wrong*, could never be inherently *sinful*, not *Sam*, with his face like an angel, even in this place, beautiful...
That day, the day of his revelation, no one stumbled.
That night, Josh held fast to Sam's wrist before he spoke.
"What it means."
As he had anticipated, Sam made a sudden attempt to bolt from the bed, but Josh held him in place.
"No-- you'll make noise, you-- there could be trouble. It's all right, sleep."
"But-- you know."
"It's-- all right?"
"You-- you're my friend, Sam. We spend each day, each night beside each other, work, eat, and sleep beside each other. And-- you're a good man, and I will not let you go off and get yourself into trouble when you should be sleeping here with me."
"Th-- thank you."
Sam lifted his head again, and Josh pressed it back down to his shoulder, whispering softly in Yiddish, words that Sam couldn't understand, but they calmed him anyway, because Josh had said it was all right.
That morning, as Sam first lifted his head from the pillow, he shot Josh a questioning look. Josh only smiled tenderly.
They filed out and were sent to work.
Josh let his hand brush Sam's at every opportunity, during that day, redoubled his efforts after his courage failed him the night before and he didn't tell him. He tried to instill a deeper meaning into the looks that passed between them.
Sam took the gesture as simple acceptance, and nothing more. When they had the briefest moment, he managed to whisper only a few words.
"Thank you for-- understanding. Your friendship."
And then he had to move on, and Josh's face fell-- how far, he had to wonder, could a face fall, if even here it was possible.
Josh was frustrated. He had been trying to get a message to Sam, and Sam... Sam was so naive, he supposed. It might have been sweet, if it didn't mean that the other man was so thick to his intentions. He couldn't say it-- didn't know if it would be safe even to say it in their bed at night, the one time they could speak at all.
Instead, as they were working with some old equipment, when Josh cut his finger, he wiped the small amount of blood, spread it over the downward-pointing triangle of his Magen David, and caught Sam's eyes again, directing them to it. Maybe, *maybe*, he could take a hint, Lord, just this once?
Dinner was never a drawn out affair, but this time even the brief meal took too long for Josh. He breathed a sigh of relief when finally, the doors were closed on their barracks, and Sam was pressed to him again.
"You mean-- you?" Sam whispered. "You've been trying to tell me *you*--"
"You didnt' say..."
"I didn't know. Until you. Until-- I didn't know anything." He laughed bitterly. "I didn't know anything before..."
"But-- that night, when you told me you knew?"
"I couldn't speak... we-- we are never free here, Sam. If I-- spoke those words, someone might hear."
"But-- one of us-- another prisoner, wouldn't--"
"I don't know, Sam. I don't know what might happen, or who might hear. So-- I did not say. I tried, to let you know, I tried-- over and over. You thought I was only--"
"If you can't speak the words, how much more can you--"
"Anything we can have. I know, it isn't much, but..."
"You-- nothing. I-- can't say it. Can I?"
"But-- you know?"
"I think." He offered a weak smile. "I hope."
"Then yes." Josh echoed, his arms coming up around Sam. "Sleep now... you need your sleep."
"We both do."
Days went by, always the same. Only the faces changed, as more and more of those who they had come in with were lost. As new prisoners arrived, were sorted, worked, and sometimes, died.
The first time Josh had awoken without the energy to summon an erection, he had been thankful for it-- it had avoided him what was, at the time, merely embarrassment. Now he wasn't. Then again, it would still be inconvenient, and if he were caught having sex with Sam, they would both be punished.
Would they shoot Sam? He'd seen one man shot already, execution-style. Not disappeared like the other murdered prisoners, sent to showers, burned later, but shot, in front of everyone. He didn't know what for.
No, he wouldn't let them shoot Sam. Those Nazi bastards could have Sam over his dead body.
Not that that would be a deterrent.
Josh and Sam had been able to hide any hint that Toby might be working any less ably than they were. The strain was beginning to show, but none of them had been caught.
Toby, for his part, had covered those hints that led to the love between the younger men. He wasn't blind-- he'd seen it from the beginning. From the way Yehoshua had looked at the goyish faygela, the very first day on the train. It was inevitable, the way things were, that they would turn to each other eventually, to search for even the slightest scrap of happiness in this crazy world. He only hoped he was the only one to notice. People in the camps were not allowed to be happy.
That night, Josh wept.
Sam held him gently, and didn't know what to say, and Josh wept. He wept because of all he'd lost, he wept because of all who'd lost so much more. He wept because he couldn't make love to Sam. The one thing he had in this place, and he couldn't truly savour him, the way someone like Sam ought to be savoured. Couldn't so much as kiss him, for fear...
The sobs that shook him came less frequently, petered out, and finally, he quieted, listened to Sam's heartbeat, began to feel sleep tugging at him.
Just then, the explosion went off.
In the confusion that followed, Josh could keep track of so little. He held fast to Sam as fire burst outside the barracks, loud and violent. Suddenly, the door flew open, harsh light flooded the room.
His focus was all on Sam, on keeping the two of them together, that he all but didn't notice the German officers that scrambled throughout the room. He paid them no heed, until one shouting officer grabbed Sam, and another grabbed him.
"NO!" He lashed out, reached after Sam and the man who dragged him off. "SAM!"
Sam, too, fought against his captor, but they were both so weak from their internment that the struggle was shortlived.
Josh collapsed, his eyes on the face of the man who dragged him away. The officer was grey-haired, his face stern and lined, focused. Every so often, he would shout to one of the others-- 'Hurry', or 'Careful'.
Josh didn't have the energy to spit. His mouth was too dry anyway. Sick to his stomach, he realized that he was just too weak to retalliate at all now.
It occured to him that if the camp was under attack, then the Germans would most likely try to kill as many of their prisoners off as possible, rather than allow them to be rescued.
He searched the riotous crowd-- Sam. Sam was half-slung over the shoulder of another officer, a man with mouse-brown hair, salt-and-peppered at the temples, and piercing blue eyes. Neither officer was a very tall man, but there was still no hope of overpowering them, not now.
Josh spotted a third officer-- a tall, lean man with a chestnut- brown mustache. He was ahead of them, dragging Toby, was loading him into a truck.
Shots crossed the compoud, and as they reached the gate, Josh jerked, felt spreading fire, realized that one had hit him. He heard a scream, but couldn't say if it was his own. He didn't think it was.
He saw Sam thrown into the truck. A female officer was in the back, and she waved Josh's captor forward, shouted something about bleeding, about 'hit'. The officer who'd carried Sam slumped against the side of the truck, massaging his shoulder, and looking anxiously at Josh and the man who held him.
Finally, the truck was loaded, it began speeding off. The female officer ripped Josh's shirt away and began trying to stem the bleeding. She was shouting again, but no longer in German. Josh picked out only some words that were even remotely familiar-- English. Sam's English, she was-- she wasn't German.
With that thought in his mind, he passed out.
Josh awoke in a strange bed, to see Sam sitting over him, tearstained face taut with worry.
"Joshua! Josh..." Sam fell forward, his head coming to rest near Josh's. He took the other man's hand in his, kissed the knuckles fervently. "I didn't know-- I didn't know if you would wake up."
"We were rescued. They-- they're Americans."
"America is fighting...?"
"I don't know, I don't know what's going on. They were freedom fighters, some French, I think even-- but the ones who saved us are Americans. That's all I know."
Josh saw the officer who had carried him. Only he was no longer in German uniform, but in plain, ordinary street clothes.
"You made it." He smiled warmly, almost paternally. His German was good as well. "Yehoshua?"
"Yes." Josh swallowed.
"Your mother is alive."
"Yes. She's on a boat right now, to safety."
"And-- my... my father?"
The man looked away. "I-- I'm sorry. No, he-- No. I'm sorry."
He was silent a moment. He hadn't expected any of his family to be alive, but it was still a blow, to hear it. He felt Sam's hand tighten around his.
"He tried, but... it was too much for him. He-- he would be glad to know that you and your mother made it."
"Did you see him?"
"Yes. I-- Yes."
"My mother is alive?"
"Yes. Your mother is safe. And soon, you will be, too. God willing."
"God willing." Josh mumbled.
"God willing." Sam choked.
"The others who were rescued are already on their way out. You, Sam here, and a Toby Zeigler, are all that's left. We'll get you out as soon as we can."
"As soon as we're fit to travel." The 'German officer' who had carried Sam said, entering the room. "How are you feeling?"
"Well, that's certainly saying something."
"Toby-- he didn't go with the others? Is he hurt? Why did he stay?"
"He said he had to... 'look after you two'. Either you need some taking care of, or he owes you a favour."
"Six of one." Sam said. Josh's brow furrowed, but the others laughed.
"All right. For now, we're safe enough here. Once we can move you, the three of you will be on your way back to America."
"The *four* of you." The female 'officer' said sternly, coming in and clamping a hand on her comrade's shoulder. He winced.
"I'll be your escort."
"You'll be stateside, Mister." She ordered.
"*I'll* be your escort." Josh's officer smiled. "Mr. Stateside here is under strict orders."
The others left, and Josh and Sam were alone. Finally, for the first time ever, Josh was really alone with Sam. They kissed, also for the first time ever, Sam treading gingerly, afraid to overexert Josh.
Long moments passed where they were content just to hold hands, to gaze at each other unimpeded. And then, Josh remembered the one thing he'd meant to do, longed to do, been *unable* to do, all this time. The one thing that was most important."
"I love you."
Josh awoke fuzzily, found himself in another strange bed. The immediacy of their situation had him travelling sooner than the doctor, the American woman, would have liked, and he spent much of the journey in pain, or medicated, coming in and out of sleep. The last thing he had remembered was a train.
He looked around, and his eyes immediately found Sam, sitting at a desk nearby, a typewriter before him. Sam looked up, met Josh's eyes with a warm smile. He moved to the bed.
"Where... where are we?"
"Home, my Joshua. We're home. America-- California. My-- my home. And you'll be with me. Do you-- do you want that?"
"More than anything." He was tearing up as they embraced. "When did we get here?"
"Only a few hours ago. You needed your sleep. Toby was here, he travelled with us, though he doesn't think he'll be staying here. He brought some food by."
"Where is Toby?"
"He left, he said he should let you sleep, and me work. I-- there were calls, I have a job again, working as a copy editor, but I'm also writing a book, about what it was like, being a prisoner in the camp. Actually, I'm writing *two* books." He smiled shyly. "One about being a prisoner in the camp, and one about *me* being a prisoner in the camp, and finding a reason to fight, to live. Finding you. I just-- I thought... if ever someone was interested in the real story, some day far from now..."
"I would be interested, if you write it." Josh whispered. "Even though I was there..."
"Let me get you something to eat." Sam kissed his forehead and left, returned with a tray that he set on a chair by the bed, propped Josh up against the headboard with the pillows.
"It's nothing." Sam smiled, fed Josh spoonfulls of lukewarm chicken soup. "This is what Toby brought by. Of coruse, it used to be hot, but... is it still good? I would have heated it up on the stove, but... you should really eat now, and--"
"It's good." Josh laughed, bittersweet. "Sam, it-- it's heaven. All of this. I thought I might never see anything so beautiful as a real bed again in my life, thought I would never..."
"There's also bread. You're still too thin..."
"I'm not the only one." Josh said pointedly, accepted the bread. "Even before they took me, I haven't had something like this in years... you don't-- you don't eat well, in the shtetls..."
"Eat." Sam shook his head. "You live here now. Toby said they would get your mother, they can bring her here. The house is small, but... well, there is still-- she could stay in the spare bedroom, and you would sleep with me?"
"If she wants... if she--"
"She wouldn't have to know, that we were lovers." Sam said quickly. "There are only two bedrooms, and... she wouldn't have to know. She could think it is only because we wanted her to have her own room."
"Is that the ocean?" Josh asked, seeing out the window for the first time.
"Yes. It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"It's the second most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
They finished eating in silence, and then Sam helped Josh to lay back down. He looked over to his typewriter, then thought better of it, and changed into pajamas and climbed into bed with Josh.
"You look so sad, still." Josh touched his cheek. "Sam, be happy now. All right? It's-- it's all-- it's all over. Something new is beginning."
"I'll be happy when I can't count your ribs anymore." He sighed, settling down.
"You're still beautiful." Josh marvelled, stroking the cheek now.
"And you." Sam kissed him gently.
"But... I was too thin even when I came. You were young and healthy and American when I saw you on the train, before the camp, and... but you still look beautiful. Maybe less healthy, but you still look young, and you're still... so beautiful. I-- I was tired and too-old and malnourished when we met, of course I still look so much the same."
"You are beautiful, Yehoshua." Sam whispered, kissing him again. "You. The man I love. And tomorrow, you will eat... and rest. I can teach you English, in the evenings, and when you're better, and you speak it well enough, you can get a job of your own. And we'll have this house... and Toby, he promised he would stay in touch with us, even if he goes somewhere else. He-- he knows, and... he's happy for us. And... life will be good."
"You can read me your book at nights, in English, and tell me in German what it meant." Josh yawned, snuggled up to his lover, his soul-mate, he decided. That was a much better name for what Sam was to him. Sam was his everything.
"When you're better, we can go down there, to the ocean."
"While I'm at home and you're away at work, I can keep house for you, just until I can speak enough English and pull my own weight, with a job."
"No." Sam shook his head. "You're still recovering, and you'll stay in bed, until a doctor tells you you're well."
"Don't you dare tell me you won't have yourself be a burden, Josh... you are my love, my life. I will take care of you when you need me, and you will take care of me when I need you. For now, for always."
"For now, for always."
"Until I die, Yehoshua."
"Until I die, Samuel."
And he rested his head against Josh's shoulder, happy in the comfort of his lover's arms, knowing danger would not snatch them apart in the morning.
"I feel like I should break a glass." Josh murmured, stroking Sam's hair.
"Mm?" Sam lifted his head only an inch.
"In the morning, Sam. I'll explain in the morning. Sleep now, my Samuel... hush... we have a new beginning now, a new life. Don't let dreams of the old one wake you."
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