Chapter Six

Something in Common

Hanschen blinked his eyes open slowly and squinted into the darkness. The candles on his bedside table had long since burned out and the moon remained the only source of light. He felt around the floor until he found his pants and the pocket watch which resided in them, he tilted its face towards the moonlight so he could make out the numbers, one fifty-five in the morning. He sighed and quietly slipped out of bed, careful not to wake Ernst, and made his way downstairs.

Putting his jacket on over his nightshirt he walked out the back door and down the short road that led to the nearby woods, stopping to rest against a tree. He stood there for a while, leaning his head on the bark and letting his eyes flicker closed, reviewing the earlier events in his mind. Ernst had clearly expressed his wishes to run away if they were ever caught, but if the time came would he really be able to do it? So much of his life revolved around the things that he would need to leave behind. It was no longer a question of love, it had become a question of sacrifice, of trade, of how much they were each willing to give up to be together, of how much longer they could hide.

The leaves in the bushes rustled and Hanschen considered going back inside, but he knew that Ernst wasn't going to wake up any time soon so he decided against it. He felt a tap on his shoulder. He may have overestimated how deep a sleeper he was. He grinned and turned towards the source of the touch, "Did I wake you?" He received a giggle in response and his eyes flew open. That had not been the high pitched, boyish giggle he was used to, it was more melodious, more female. "Ilse? What are you doing here?"

"I could easily redirect that question to you," she said, tilting her head as the corners of her mouth curved into a barely visible smirk.

"You shouldn't be out this late."

"On the contrary Hansi, this is the only time I should be out, at least this far, it's the time when there's no risk of getting caught," she explained. "So that leaves us with the true question, what are you doing here so late at night? Or early in the morning, whichever you prefer."

"I have no obligation to tell you, but if you must know, I was thinking. Nothing more," his annoyance shone clear through his voice, he had no desire to put on a calm face for her, he was tired and had nothing to prove.

"What were you thinking of? And can't you think inside, if I'm not mistaken your house is empty, I saw your parents leave the other day with suitcases," she said, walking her fingers up and down his arm.

"Why do you need to know?"

"I'm curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat," he sighed, falling back on childish phrases as one last attempt to evade her questioning.

"Then we should all be dead. Everything we do is driven by curiosity, especially the interesting things. I also happen to know that you are just as curious as the next person, if not more so, you just don't like to show it," she grinned, looking him over as if she could know his thoughts if se tried hard enough.

"I don't believe that the world needs to be aware of my private life."

"What about Ernst?" she asked.

Warning signals sounded in the back of his head but he willed them to silence and kept a neutral face, "Care to explain what you mean by that?"

"I'm simply assuming that because you spend so much time together he must know something about your private life, unless of course, he is your private life," she smirked and her eyes sparkled as she worked to figure out her own personal mystery.

"Please elaborate."

"The two of you are astoundingly different, generally people with such conflicting personalities can't stand to be around each other for very long. I've seen this before, no one expects them to like each other, so when they do become friends no one bothers them or questions it, even if the do wonder. If you two are anything like that then your friendship would be most of your private life. Or, there is another distinct possibility. Would you like to hear a secret?" Her mind was working fast, jumping from one conclusion to the other and never once stopping to consider the fact that any of them could be wrong.

"No, I would not," he stated firmly, once again suppressing the warnings.

"I've been held at gunpoint, more than once."

"Are you sure that is something to boast about?" Hanschen

"No," she giggled, "but it sure was exciting. I should say I'm a bit of a scandal, don't you think? You know, running away, living at the colony, being a model, getting threatened with death. There is no feeling like it in the world, it's terrifying and amazing all at the same time. I wouldn't give it up for anything." Her breathing had quickened, she was getting caught up in everything she was speaking of, and her eyes were wide with exhilaration and adrenaline.

"You're not a scandal until word spreads about what you've done," he stated firmly.

"Not true, I was a scandal the minute I walked out my parent's door and knew I wasn't going to return," Ilse corrected. "One thing leads to another, Hansi, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. So tell me, who did you think I was?" she asked, referring back to what he had said at the start of their conversation.

"That is not something you need to know."

"It is something that I would like to know. Tell me. Was it Ernst?" Her smile disappeared and she waited patiently for his answer.

He closed his eyes and sighed, "If you tell anyone..."

"Why would I? We have something in common."

"And what is that?"

"A scandal." She grinned one more time and vanished, running back into the forest one swift, bare feet. He stared after her for sometime before turning back up the walkway to his house. He hung up his jacket and ascended the stairs to his bedroom. Ernst hadn't moved. He pulled his shoes off, climbed into bed, kissed him lightly on the lips, and pulled him close, gazing out the window until he managed to fall back into sleep.