In spite of the rules established on one side by Roland and on the other by the major, both on one side some of the boys of the Charterhouse and on the other some of the German soldiers, the curiosity to see the other and to talk with him was rather strong.
It was a little the fascination of the uniform, old-fashioned but rather elegant of the boys and of that always in perfect order of the soldiers, a little of the fascination of the stranger, a little even for the subtle desire that many feel to transgress a rule, were relentlessly pushing some of the boys and some of the soldier to try to communicate with each other.
Thus, the ones and the others started to loiter nearer and nearer to the boundary line of their respective areas, marked by the lesser brook; that is the brook that from the little lake fed both the pool and the fountain on the square in front of the church. At first it was just matter of glances thrown from one side to the other, then hints of a smile, then some started even to do a light salutation gesture with a hand...
The most brave started to sit on one side or the other of the brook and to exchange a salute, then after a few times some short sentences, from the side of the soldiers in the more or less coarse and approximate French that they could learn in those months of occupation. Some of the soldiers started to give a chocolate bar, which they passed always without crossing the limit marked by the brook.
Amongst them there was a young German soldier, a boy of twenty-two, somewhat lean, with really light blond hair, eyes of a light blue like a spring sky, and a boy of seventeen from the C house.
"Hi." the soldier said.
"Hi!" merrily answered the boy.
"What's your name?"
"Maurice. And yours?"
"Nikolas. How old are you?"
"I'm seventeen. And you?"
"I thought nineteen or twenty. I'm twenty-two."
"If I were twenty, I couldn't stay here at the Charterhouse any more..."
"It's fine here at the Charterhouse. I like it here. And you?"
"It's my home, of course I like it here."
"Do you smoke?"
"None of us smokes. It's bad for the health. Moreover it's wasted money."
"Yes... but I got the vice. I didn't smoke, before, you know?"
"They called me into the army."
"You like being a soldier?"
"You like being an orphan?"
"Ah, I see. It's something you don't choose... life decides on your behalf."
"Life... or other men. Do you have many friends, here?"
"More or less we all are friends. And you, do you have many friends?"
"More or less all are but comrades. I had friends at home."
They were sitting on the grass, the soldier turned towards the barracks, the boy towards the church, as if each of them was on one's own, even though at times they turned their heads for a short moment and threw each other a glance and a smile.
"If the corporal sees I'm talking with you, he would flip out."
"I know. We too should not talk with you."
"Who knows why?"
"Because we are enemies, aren't we?"
"I'm not your enemy."
"Neither I, but our people are... and even more our masters."
"But your master talks with our major..."
"We two too are talking now... even though secretly."
"I would like to be able to talk with you... looking in your eyes, without problems, without pretending I'm looking at the landscape and you are thinking to your fucking business..."
"I too would like that... You seem a likeable guy..."
"And you seem to me so very beautiful..."
"Even though I'm just seventeen?" Maurice asked looking furtively at him with a little smile.
They met so on some two or three more occasion, each time chatting in a low voice, almost without looking at each other. At times one of them had a newspaper or a book in his hands, pretending he was reading it, other times one was lying down on the grass, his arms under his head, as if he was resting or lazily looking at the sky.
One day Nikolas said, "Maurice... do you know that I like your name, and that when I'm alone, I repeat it in my mind, and so I feel less lonely?"
"You often feel lonely?"
"Mainly when I am amongst my comrades... they all the time talk about girls or other stupid subjects... You never feel lonely?"
"No, we boys love each other, we are all like brothers even more than if we were real brothers."
"So it's really good. I would like having a boy who loves me, a boy I could love, do you know?"
Maurice kept silent. He asked himself if the young German soldier was by chance trying to send him a message... "that" message... and thought that he would have been pleased - Nikolas was really a handsome boy and his face showed he was a good person...
"You can possibly find a boy ready to love you..." Maurice then suggested.
"But where? Not amongst my comrades, I can grant you. And when we are on leave, downtown... everybody avoids us... besides the whores."
"Do you go with the whores?" Maurice then asked him.
"No, no. I never went with a whore. And rather... I still haven't done it with a girl, do you know?"
"And yet you are such a handsome guy, it should not be difficult for you finding a girl who wanted to do it with you..."
"Do you think? Do you find me a handsome boy?"
"Certainly! Even though I never saw you naked... I think that you should also have a great body..."
"We can't take off our uniform in public... Besides when we go to play some sports in the church or in your pool..."
"But when you go there, we can't go. Therefore I can't see you without your uniform..."
"Would you like that?"
A few days later, always there near the brook, Nikolas said to Maurice, "Possibly... possibly I know how we can do it..."
"Do what?" Maurice asked, curious.
"To see each other... you and I... without the others seeing us..."
"Really? And how?"
"Are you interested?"
"Yes, surely. How and where?"
"I noticed, when the captain sends us to bring the fuel oil jerry cans for the hot water down into the crypt, that the door is never locked... and in the middle of the staircase there is a small door leading to a room filled with wooden crates..."
"Yes, that's right..."
"If we could get there without being seen..."
"It's quite easy... Are you free around three in the afternoon?"
"No, my shift ends at four o' clock..."
"Also at four can be good for me. Tomorrow?"
"All right, Maurice. The first who gets there waits for the other?"
So, the day after the boy, being careful not to be seen by anybody, rapidly slipped down the stairway, pushed the little door and closed it at his back, being so in the almost total darkness. He stopped trying to let his eyes to get used.
"Nikolas?" he called in a whisper.
A light lit - the young German soldier had an electric torch on one of the crates, whose narrow ray of light was pointing to the wall, so that Maurice saw his slender silhouette lightened by the reflection.
"Yes, Maurice, I'm here." the young German whispered.
Maurice took a few steps forward and they were face to face, a few centimetres from each other. Their eyes were looking at each other with a smile. Nikolas raised his arms, girdled the boy's waist and pulled him gently towards himself, then kissed him on the mouth, intimately. Maurice welcomed the inquisitive tongue of the soldier with a shudder and returned the kiss with passion. Their bodies adhered and each of them clearly felt the strong erection of the other.
"I want you, Maurice..." the German murmured.
"I'm here... for you..."
They caressed each other's back, put their hands on the other's arse and pulled strongly, one against the other, and vigorously brushed their pelvises one against the other, starting again to kiss each other, overcome with desire.
"I want you..." Nikolas repeated to the boy.
"Yes..." Maurice answered stepping back a little and started to unbutton his companion's uniform. "Yes..." he repeated with emotion.
Nikolas made him turn and leaned against his back, pushing his pulsating turgidity against his little arse. With both hands, meanwhile, he started to unbutton the boy's trousers. Maurice bent his head backwards, leaning it on the shoulder of the soldier, who started to kiss his cheek. The boy turned his head a little and their mouths met again, while the feverish hands of the handsome soldier finished unbuttoning the boy's clothes. The boy pushed down his trousers together with his underpants, to his knees, while Nikolas in his turn unbuttoned his trousers and dropped them with his underpants. The soldier adhered again with his naked pubis against the boy's small naked arse, and brushed his hard naked member in the furrow between the firm little buttocks of the boy.
"Take me..." Maurice murmured feeling totally aflame and pushed back his hands to drive the strong pole to its coveted goal.
"Wait... I brought some Vaseline... I don't want to hurt you... Wait, Maurice..."
The boy heard the soldier bustle about, then one of his fingers penetrated into the furrow and, finding the hidden small hole, spread the fresh ointment on it and tested the resistance of the tight sphincter, teasing it, pushing until the tip of the soldier's finger slipped inside.
"Ooooh..." the boy gurgled pushing his pelvis backwards to meet the finger's light push, "Take me, Nikolas, go on..."
The soldier adhered with his chest against the boy's back and driving his strong pole with a hand, found the hole throbbing in wait and started to push, moving his pelvis forwards. Maurice pushed vigorously backwards and the member, overcoming the first weak resistance, spread the elastic walls and worked its way in with only one slippery movement, until the hair of his pubis brushed against the small and smooth buttocks of the boy.
"Oh, yes!" Maurice murmured making his anus throb around the root of the member that had finally invaded him, and wiggled his pelvis slightly right and left.
"You like it? Are you happy?"
"Yes, Nikolas, and you?"
"I have dreamt for days of this moment. I like you to die for!"
"Go on... make me enjoy it, Nikolas..."
"Yes..." the young and handsome soldier said.
He slipped a hand under the boy's shirt and started to caress his belly and chest, to tease his nipples, while the other hand was gently groping his turgid genitals. Then he started to piston inside him, waving his pelvis back and forth, while Maurice pushed back at each of Nikolas' lunges, lightly moaning to express his joy and pleasure.
"Ooooh, Nikolas, it's too good..." the boy murmured, in ecstasy.
"Isn't it? For me too is incredibly good... I like you to die for, Maurice... I like you..." the young soldier panted, thrusting in him with virile determination.
They both were so excited that soon they reached a strong orgasm, moaning in a low voice the intensity of what one was making the other feel. They unloaded in a set of vigorous jets, then became still, lightly panting, their hearts beating crazily.
They then slowly parted and both felt that light melancholy for not being still connected. Maurice turned between the arms of the soldier and they kissed for a long time, while their bodies were gradually going back to the calm.
"Are you happy?" Maurice asked him with a light smile.
"Incredibly happy. And you?"
"Nikolas, you are splendid... We will meet again, won't we?
"Every time we can... You know... you are better than my boyfriend. I like the passion with which you participate."
"You have a boyfriend?" Maurice asked, slightly disappointed.
"I had... But now he is dead... And you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Not I... not a real boyfriend... At times I do it with some friends... but it has never been so beautiful like now with you. Was he a soldier?"
"No. He was a school mate, a Hebrew... the brown shirts killed him..."
"I'm so sorry... it had to be horrible..."
"Yes, it was. I would like not to be a German... Also your parents... it was us Germans?" Nikolas asked with a sad expression while they were tidying their uniforms.
"It was the war... yes, your comrades..."
"Don't you feel hate for us?"
"Not for you... Not even for the other German soldiers... but for all who decided to make this war. I like you... and not only for how nicely you fuck."
"For what, then?"
"Your voice... your smile made me... conquered me. And I? Why do you like me?"
"Your eyes, your cheerfulness... the fact that even though I am one of your enemies, you didn't shut the door in my face..."
"First of all we are human beings... when we remember to be so..."
"Right, when we remember to be so!"
Nikolas and Maurice managed to meet quite often, and also to make love quite often. In the small room they moved the crates to make a free space in the bottom, well sheltered, where they brought a couple of old blankets. They also found a way to lock the little door from inside, so they could also lock themselves inside, undress completely and make love lying on the blankets. Down there, even in winter, it was never cold, as one wall of the small room had the big boilers on the other side.
They went on to meet for almost two years. Once, after they made love, Maurice gave to Nikolas a leather wallet.
"I made it. I want you to use it, to remember me..."
"It's very beautiful, Maurice... But if my comrades see it, they might think I stole it, as it has the brand of the Charterhouse..."
"They are sold downtown, in our small shop beside the cathedral. You can say you bought it there... But I want you to have it, at least each time you use it you will remember me."
"You are talking as if we would never see each other again..."
"I'm near my nineteenth birthday... therefore I have to leave the Charterhouse... and I have no idea where I will go. And even if I could stay in the area, it would become quite impossible to meet..."
"This makes me terribly sad..."
"You can find another boy..."
"Never like you... I... I fell in love with you, Maurice!"
The boy widened his eyes, then kissed him, then asked, "Are you serious?"
"I would never make jokes of something so important like love..."
"My God... and I who didn't dare to tell you..."
"That I too am in love with you, Nikolas. In love... since the first moment you addressed a word to me..."
"Why you didn't dare to tell me? Because I am a German?"
"No, dumbass! But because you are a soldier, today here, tomorrow who knows where... I thought I was just an adventure for you."
"Sincerely, at the beginning, possibly a little so. But then you totally conquered me. You are a splendid boy, and I don't mean just your body. I don't want to lose you..."
"But how can we do it? I have to leave the Charterhouse and you cannot leave the army..."
"But sooner or later this war will come to an end, won't it? And then... then we will look for each other, we will find each other, and we can finally live together. Can't we?"
"It would be great... You really want it?"
"With all my heart. Promise, then? You have to leave a trail, so that I can come and look for you."
"Each time I have to move to another address, I will inform them here at the Charterhouse..."
"I swear that, if I'm still alive, after the war I will come to look for you, my love!"
"Say it again..."
"My love!" Nikolas said with a sweet smile and they embraced and kissed again.
The war was coming to an end, the defeat of the Germans was approaching more and more, even though Hitler and the German headquarters didn't want to admit it, and were still under the illusion that they could reverse the war's course. The allied armies started heavy bombings, not only on Germany but also on the main German strongholds all over Europe.
Around the end of 1943, in the useless attempt to hit the transmitting antenna that the Germans had built on the peak at the back of Montsabot Charterhouse, a howitzer, just one, was launched in a rather awkward way and hit a group of houses in the outskirts of the town.
In one of these houses was living Jean-Marie Laforest-Brout, one of the twin brothers of Serge, with his wife and two sons, who were one and four years old. The neighbours rushed to extinguish the fire and to look for survivors. Jean-Marie's house was half-destroyed. They found the young man embraced to his wife, trying to shelter her with his body, but both were dead. Near them they found the two children, miraculously intact, who were crying, terrorized.
Somebody took them, some other went to call Michel who immediately ran there. Michel had three children, and in those war times he barely managed to support his family. He would have liked to keep the children of his twin brother, but his wife made him understand that they were not in a position to do so. So, a few days later, Michel embraced the two children and went up to the Charterhouse.
"Dad..." he said to Roland, "I would have liked to keep them... but I really cannot, we barely have food for us... So I thought that if you can keep them here, with you..."
"Of course, Michel, don't worry. Serge and I will take good care of them. You did very well to bring them here. But you, do you need a hand?"
"No, we can get by..."
"If you need something... we are your family, never forget that."
"We know, Dad. I'm really sorry I can't keep them with us, really... But I know that here they will want for nothing..."
So, Serge and Roland decided to entrust the children to one of the "families", of course leaving them together, where there was room for two children of their age. The Charterhouse hosted one hundred and ninety eight boys, organised in eleven families. Summing up the teachers and the personnel, there were twenty-six adults.
1944 came. One day the major von Schwerin asked to talk with Roland and he, like always, also wanted Serge to be present.
"Monsieur dean, what I am about to tell you has to remain strictly confidential. May I have your gentlemen's word you will keep the secret?"
"Do you trust us, major?" Roland asked with a light smile.
"I know you enough to know that you and your son are two persons of honour and trustworthy. From man to man, I know I can fully trust you... or else I wouldn't be here."
"You have my word that nothing of what you are going to tell us will seep out of this room... or of my lips. Right, Serge?"
"Certainly. You have also my word, major."
"Good. Headquarters has ordered a tactical withdrawal... and this, for one like me, even though not being part of the higher levels, but thanks to our communications centre has knowledge of many things, is an elegant way to say that our army is in rout. To allow the retreat of our men, we here at the Charterhouse have to be the last ones to leave this place. We can leave only when the Allied troops are at the edge of the town... The orders I received are we have to blow up everything as we leave Montsabot..."
"Everything? All the Charterhouse?" Roland asked terribly worried.
"No, only our installations, the antenna, the listening centre... But mining the antenna and above all blowing up our cannons and ammunitions, your buildings also run a severe risk of being gravely damaged, if not destroyed. You hosted us with real courtesy and generosity, and..."
"We really hosted you because you forced us to do so..." Serge remarked with a light ironic smile.
"Yes, I agree, anyway you never were hostile in your attitudes towards us. You met our needs... as we tried to do with you. Therefore I decided... we will place the explosive charges as it's our duty to do. I marked on this map the exact places... the charges will be controlled by timers, one for each charge... so that we can have enough time to go away. As soon as the last of our men quits the Charterhouse, you have to go and stop all the timers. Here are the instructions how to do it. Afterwards, please, burn all these papers. You have to say that you were simply lucky, that you succeeded in finding them and defused them in time... You understand that if by chance we should come back here... I would go under court martial for high treason..."
"Why did you decide to do this, to risk so much, major?" Serge then asked.
"Do you remember what I said once, young man, exactly in this room? That a soldier has to obey his orders; an officer has to act with intelligence and correctness; and that a man has to be faithful to his moral values... The order of these three points, in my opinion, is the reverse... Above all a man has to be faithful to his moral values. I always tried to be so."
"I was thinking, major... that if we find all the explosive charges, it would be rather suspect... It would be better to let at least one of them blow up, don't you think?" Serge then said.
The major smiled, "You are a smart young man, I always knew it... Well, you can let the one that will be put in this point blow up, on the east side of our mess... I will make sure that it makes a big bang without doing too a big damage... Do we agree, then?"
"Thank you very much, major. I hope that, when this absurd war will be over, we will still be alive and we could meet... as friends."
"If we all are still alive, yes... I will be off, now, monsieur the dean. I am very busy, now..."
"Major von Schwerin?"
"I never knew your first name..."
The major smiled, "Sieghart, my name is Sieghart. My parents liked the classical names of German culture..."
"Good luck, Sieghart." Roland said, offering him his hand.
"Good luck... Roland. Good luck, Serge."
Two weeks later the Germans abandoned the Charterhouse. Immediately Serge with the other teachers and the personnel went to defuse the explosive charges and let the one at the east wall of the Germans' mess blow up, which made a thick, black smoke column rise towards the sky. Then Serge burned all the papers that the major gave him.
Three days later, the Allied troops arrived in the town, composed mainly of Americans, with some troops of General De Gaulle, followed by a formation of the partisans who came down from the mountains.
A jeep of the American command, with also on board a French liaison officer, arrived on the square in front of the Charterhouse church. The commander informed Roland that his men would soon come to check what remained of the German transmissions centre, to make it operative for the use of the liberation troops. Therefore, he added, the Charterhouse had to host a company of American soldiers.
"Do we have any choice?" Roland asked in a lightly ironic tone.
"Choice? What choice?" the American officer asked, without understanding.
"Nothing. When your men get here, we will show them all that there is to be seen. Just, please... this is an orphanage, we have here also very small children... With the German commander we delimited an area for his men, so that we didn't always have the soldier in our way... so that their presence didn't interfere with our activities and vice versa. I would like to reach a similar agreement with you..."
"Very simple - all the buildings that remain in your usage will be off limits to our soldiers, as well as all the buildings we will use have to be off limits to you and your boys."
"But what about all the other spaces, the wood, the meadows and so on? Wouldn't it be better to fix a... boundary line?"
"No. What would we do, spread a barbed wire? Will we put along it sentries? Come on, our boys are not a gang of dangerous Nazis!" the officer said bursting into laughter.
Roland didn't insist, but asked, "Will you be the commander of the contingent that will be installed here?"
"No, it will be Captain Douglas Pebbleton of the Communications Engineers. A very valuable officer from Louisiana, who speaks French even better than me. His mother was a Cajun."
"She was a... what?"
"Yes, an American of French stock. We call them Cajun..."
Two days later came to the Charterhouse Captain Pebbleton, the Cajun, who spoke a somewhat archaic French, but rather correct and elegant, and with him a dozen soldiers. Accompanied by Serge and other teachers of the Charterhouse, they did a careful survey.
"I've been informed that you saved all the installations that the Germans abandoned. Very well. With a few adaptations we can again make the installation operative. We will also rebuild the part of the mess that blew up and also clean the soldiers' dorm obtained from the colonnade. The krauts did a good job, I've got to admit it. I saw that in the deconsecrated church you have very good sport installations... I presume you have no objection if they are used also by my men, do you?"
"When the Germans were here, they used it on Saturdays and Sundays, when our boys didn't go there." Serge answered.
"No, my men need to do much physical exercise, mainly as they will have a sedentary job here. They will use it every day, but in the evening, after a certain hour. Your boys don't use it twenty-four hours a day, do they?"
"We can find an agreement..." Serge said, hesitantly.
"Of course. Ah, I noticed that the dorms for the soldiers in the colonnade can host the double of my men. The major wants to install in this town also printing works for the newspaper of our troops and for others of our needs, and was looking for the right place. I will tell him that here there is plenty of space. Captain Glickman and his men can settle here."
"Yes, but... where can they install their machinery?" a lieutenant asked.
"We will build a new shed beyond the one used as a mess. There is enough room. Take note, McGrover."
After he made his decisions, the captain left the Charterhouse, installing a couple of his men down the slope, in the guardhouse, to control and to operate the access barrier to the road going up to the Charterhouse.