Summary: The streets are hard for the destitute and the poor in a rapidly growing city. After leaving the workhouse by choice, Gilbert finds himself surviving on the streets once again, homeless, penniless, and ill. Ivan is an escaped convict from the mental ward of the city's worst prison. They meet each other one stormy night while hiding inside an old burnt church. Needing companionship, they stick together to survive. Both have nothing but the clothes on their back and fight to survive on the streets. The only happiness and love they have in their lives is each other. Can they pull together and use their love to bring themselves up from the slums of poverty? Or will the constant dangers of the city swallow them whole?

/

***Welcome to another RusPrus fic! ^_^ This fic will be set in an Alternate Universe based on Victorian England. In other words, altered history. These first two chapters will be introducing Ivan and Gilbert. The following will be their story together. I hope you enjoy it! This will be a fic full of angst and suffering, so be warned.

***Warnings: Language, mentions of non-con, violence

***Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia. I am making no money off of this fic.

For the night is dark and full of terrors. - A Song of Ice and Fire

Goodnight Noises Everywhere

Chapter 1: Gilbert's Story

The heavy rain pummeled on the deteriorating roof of the old burnt church in the midst of a powerful thunderstorm. Bolts of purple opened up the sky, making bright flashes of light illuminate the room. Shadows from the debris danced on the blackened rotted walls with each flash. The shadow of a rat flashed momentarily along the far wall, its form appearing in a different place with each crash of lightening. Across the way there was a large hole in the ceiling where the rain poured in and splattered against the rotten floorboards, its echo helping to drown out the sounds of squeaking from the rats. The wind blew in through broken slits in the walls, blowing at cobwebs and what little wallpaper had survived the fire.

Yet all of these things did nothing to frighten the young man who resided in the old building; alone, hungry, tried, and sick. Gilbert Beilschmidt sat propped against the far wall near a cracked stain glass window of a shattered cross and an angel. He wore a tattered and torn brown trench coat, hole-filled shoes, patched pants, fingerless gloves, and a moldy flat hat. As the thunderstorm raged on outside, Gilbert calmly played a familiar tune on his flute; his one and only prized possession. Not one of life's cruel and unforgiving challenges could ever make him sell his precious instrument. It held sentimental value to him, which was and had been the only shred of happiness in his life.

In the summer of his sixteen years of life, Gilbert had found his way into the life of a workhouse where the poor and downtrodden were given a chance to earn money and a simple, basic education. It was a vile and disgusting place; overpopulated with people from men, women and even children. Even the elderly were present. Each and every day, Gilbert, along with many other men, were sent to work in their assigned groups. He had first been placed with the able-bodied men group of the workhouse where they were made to crush bones to be used as fertilizer for local farms. It was a dirty job that he grew accustomed to. His job had been to sort the bones as they came in, everything from horses, to dogs, livestock and even the dead. Sorting the human bones were the worst, but Gilbert wanted that single meal and a bed to sleep in so he did as he was told. That was until he showed signs of contracting a disease, something the workhouse inhabitants called, 'the cough'. Once word had reached the Master of his beginning illness, Gilbert was reassigned to the sick and elderly group of the workhouse where he spent all day shining or making shoes. Due to his illness he was forced to wear a mask around his mouth and nose to keep it contained. The hospital ward did little for his aliments and all the mask did was scare people away from him.

Gilbert had been born an 'albino', a name he had only heard from a priest as a little boy trying to rob the church's grain shed. His parents had abandoned him when he was six, pushed out onto the streets to fend for himself. Gilbert ran with a group of orphan street children for many years until he decided to enter the workhouse. Being an albino and poor kept him from finding any work. People were afraid, even terrified of his pink eyes and white skin. Due to constant malnourishment, his pale skin was slightly transparent where one could see the light blue shade of veins beneath. To many God-fearing people he looked like a demon from the deepest layer of Hell, or the walking dead. Gilbert often heard the words 'demon', 'monster', 'ghost' and many more as he was turned away from potential work. People thought he was a 'bad omen' and would bring death, disease, and misfortune down on them. However, in the darkest and deepest alleys of the city streets his looks were a curse to himself. Pimps, soldiers, and the scum of the city wanted to either fuck him or force him to sell parts of his body, mainly his eyes. Once, when he was thirteen, he sold two teeth for some gold. The pay wasn't much, but he was able to put warm soup and bread in his belly for a day. He hated being on these streets, but he wasn't wanted in the higher parts of the city. The poor had to live in the slums where sewage water flooded the sidewalks and disease, along with crimes, ran high. Gangs ruled these parts; painted prostitutes decorated the building walls, murder and muggings happened all day, every day. Thus was the life of the poor.

It was no wonder the poor begged and fought to become part of the workhouse. Gilbert was fortunate himself to get into one. The workhouse provided the poor with the most basic needs of living, but at the price of working to the bone. The people who ran it were cruel, merciless, and wicked. The overseers were always beating their workers; women and children alike. Everyone in the workhouse suffered the same. Gilbert was often beaten when caught slacking in his work. It wasn't because he was lazy but more the fact that he was weak and ill. But it beat living on the streets in the darkest parts of the human world and not all of his time at the workhouse was unpleasant.

The second day upon being moved to the sick and elderly group, Gilbert happened to sit beside a middle-aged man, who was in his early fifties. The man's name was Fredrick, but everyone called him 'Old Fritz'. Day after day, Gilbert would talk, laugh and confide in the old man. To him, Fredrick was like the father he barely knew and unlike the other men, Fritz didn't fear him. At night, when the sick and elderly were packed into their small room, Fredrick would play his flute for everyone. To save room, all the single beds were pushed together, and Gilbert's was right next to Fredrick's. The man's music helped to ease the strains and pains of the living. Some nights, Fredrick would teach him how to play the flute until Gilbert was just as good as he was. Fredrick was the only friend in the workhouse he had, and Gilbert cherished their time together. But that happiness was taken away when Fredrick fell deathly ill with influenza. Fritz had tried to hide his illness, but the constant vomiting and use of the outhouse quickly gave him away. Before they could be separated, Fredrick gave his flute to Gilbert to keep in memory of him. Gilbert begged and pleaded with the Master to let him be present with Fredrick in the hospital ward, but his plea was answered with a riding crop to the face. The Master, in his twisted way, offered Gilbert entrance if he would 'put out'. Gilbert had never been with a man, or ever with a woman. He wanted to see his friend and 'father', so swallowing his pride and shame; he gave himself to the Master. But he should have seen the truth before it happened. The Master, once finished with him, laughed in his face, whipped him with the crop and sent him back to work.

Two days later, the Master came to him and said, with a jeering smile, that Fredrick had died. Gilbert tried to hold back his tears while polishing the shoes, but they fell in silent streams. Depressed and alone, Gilbert went about his work in a mindless daze. His attitude and slow work ethic caught the attention of the Master, who apparently had other plans for him. One day, while fixing a sole, Gilbert looked up as two shadows suddenly loomed over him from his place on the floor. Next to the jeering Master was a tall thin man in a white coat with glasses. Gilbert had a bad feeling about the tall man, so using his hat to shadow his eyes he hid his fear.

"Gilbert, this is Doctor Wainwright of the Willingboro Hospital and Research Labs. He is interested in talking to you."

Gilbert didn't answer and he was thankful for the white mask hiding his sneering mouth.

"Good morning to you, Gilbert." The doctor said in a friendly tone. "How are we feeling today?"

"Why does it matter to you?" Came Gilbert's sharp question.

The Master spoke next. "You see, Gilbert, Doctor Wainwright here is looking for peculiar people to study. And you, with your strange albino features, will prove to be a great help to the world of science. Isn't that right, doctor?"

Wainwright nodded. "Indeed. If you allow me to study you, Gilbert, I can offer you a comfortable room for lodging in my establishment. You'll have a clean bed, warm food, fresh clothes and even hot water for bathing." The man smiled with yellow teeth. "All I ask is that you allow me to study you. The more we know about your kind, the easier it will be to help others like you. Forget what God and his followers say! You have a condition brought on by mutations in the body, to put it simply. So what do you say? Will you come with me and help the human race?"

Gilbert ripped off his mask and stood up to face them with a look that could kill. "How dare you ask something like that of me! Don't think just because I have nothing and live in this godforsaken place that I'd willingly give up my life to…to SCIENCE! I am not some dead animal to be tested on! Not for any warm bed or food!"

The Master sneered at him. "Mind your demon tongue, freak! How dare you speak to a high society nobleman like that!"

"Gilbert," Wainwright started, "Think of all the possibilities you-"

Gilbert spat in his face. "Get away from me before I shove this shoe up your ass!"

Wainwright removed his glasses to wipe away the spit. "I see. Well then, forgive me for ruffling your feathers." He said with a hint of sarcasm. "You are a foolish, stupid man, and I pity you."

"You're no better than I am!" Gilbert said to him.

"Such spirit for a sewage dweller." Wainwright mocked and patted him on the head. "Have it your way, then. Die alone and forgotten in some shit-filled ditch somewhere rotting with disease. Good day to you."

It was then he made the choice to leave the workhouse. There was no law or contract binding him here and one less sick person in the house would not be missed. That was only one doctor who approached him; so many more were likely to come. But he was still too proud to give his body over to 'science', to be cut open like some slaughtered pig.

So with only the clothes on his back, Gilbert left the workhouse and took to the streets once again.

/

While on his search for a place to live and in search of food, the sound of joyful music filtered his ears. Following the sound, Gilbert pushed through the crowd to see a large colored wagon with a stage. The banner sported the name in bright red letters but he was unable to read. He could tell that it was a traveling circus and the man dressed in stripped purple pants and matching waistcoat with a broad rimmed top hat was the ringmaster. The ringmaster, whose name was Clifford Rochford, owned the largest traveling circus in the country. The circus, entitled, 'ROCHFORD'S AMAZING AND STUPENDOUS WORLD', consisted of wild animals, painted clowns, acrobats from around the world, magicians, performers, fortunetellers and the worst of all, the 'Freak House'. Gilbert was disgusted by it. But after the show, as the crowd was piddling away, Gilbert walked around the various wagons in the town square where the circus advertising was being held, searching for dropped food. It was there that the ringmaster approached him.

"Good afternoon to you, weary street dweller!" Said Clifford, twirling his thick brown handlebar mustache. "Do you see something you like here? These wagons are only a small portion of what my circus has to offer in the capital!" He tapped his cane against a painted poster of a tiger jumping through a flaming hoop.

"Sorry, not interested." Gilbert answered him. "I was just passing by."

"Nonsense! Judging by your dress and sad eyes, you live on these streets." Clifford gave him a pout and Gilbert sneered at it.

"You know nothing about me. So butt out, tent-pants!" He tried to walk way but Clifford jumped in front of him, nearly knocking him to the cobblestone with that big stripped belly.

"A handsome young man like you doesn't have to starve on these streets."

Gilbert glared at the man. "I'm not like that. Go get your circus rocks off on someone else!"

Clifford laughed heartedly. "No, foolish boy! I don't mean that!" The devilish eyebrows turned mischievous. "Hear me out first. I know what you are. You're an albino! A being missing all pigmentation of color! Why, I have a few animals in this wagon here that are albino as well! Doesn't God play a cruel joke on all His life forms?"

Gilbert pulled his coat closed over his chest. "What are you getting at, then?"

"Join my Freak Show. You'll like it there. I have many strange people like you who are searching for friendship and understanding."

"No." He started to walk away.

"Wait!" Clifford stopped him again. "Don't give such a haste answer without hearing the perks! You'll get paid a quarter of the price I get for showing you. There will be a warm bed and food! You will have shelter from the cold and warmth from the storm! Doesn't that sound just heavenly? Hm? After what you came from, it MUST sound like Heaven!"

"It sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me!" Gilbert roughly shoved past him. "I'm not a circus freak! I am myself!"

"You are an abnormality! An abomination! A blemish on this good world! Why allow yourself to suffer and starve when you could have a better life?"

Gilbert's shoulders stiffened, but he would not turn to look at Clifford. "I may not be proud of what I came from…but I'm still proud of who and what I am. Something a freak like you will never understand!"

"Don't you walk away from me!" Clifford hollered after Gilbert's retreating form. "You belong in MY world, albino! My offer still stands! Don't make me have to force you!"

Gilbert let the threat fall on deaf ears. He would never see this Clifford circus man again, so he didn't care.

/

This was to be his last night in the ally with the stray cats. For a month he had wondered the streets, but now it was time for a change. He had to find somewhere to stay; somewhere to hide away from the cruelties of this place and he was hungry. Very hungry. So much that he wandered into the back ally of a rich person's home to go through their trash. For hours he would wait behind the large bins, hiding from sight of the servants coming in and out; just waiting for the trash to be dumped. Just as he was about to fall asleep, a loud banging and clanging raddled his body and jerked him awake. The trash was being poured into the bins! His stomach rumbled and his mouth watered with the promise of food. Gilbert waited until it grew dark and the lamp lighter had passed the building before digging through the bins. His hands touched various textures of grimy food but to him it was a feast. There was a half-eaten chicken leg, which he tore into, nearly swallowing the bone whole. He closed his eyes and savored the taste of the cooked chicken as the bone lay on his tongue. While digger further, his hands came upon something soft. Pulling it out, he saw that it was a blanket. It smelled terrible and appeared to have some sort of spit-up on it. But that didn't bother him. It was still a good blanket that would keep him warm, so he tossed it over his shoulder and continued to dig. Up came dirtied fruit, half eaten nuts, a steak bone with little meat, and a half burnt candle. The candle he could use as well and he stuffed it inside his coat right next to the flute. Once he found a proper place to stay, in hopefully a better area, he would play his flute on the curb and hope people would give him money. Often times the police would chase away the poor if they were near the 'high dollar' part of the city. Begging and pleading with the rich in their carriages and steam engines could only get someone so far.

With a blanket and one candle, Gilbert took to the streets once again in search of somewhere to stay. He walked through the night and into the new day, passing through rich and poor parts of the city. But he was growing weak with the pains in his chest and the coughing was slowing him down. His legs were like weights pulling him down, yet they were thin. If he didn't find a place to rest away from harm he would collapse, thus getting robbed of his blanket and candle. If God really did exist in this dark world then He must have led him to this church; one that had burned and was decaying. Gilbert felt tears sting his eyes as he looked upon the blackened structure. Half of the roof was still there. Many of the windows were broken and the siding was missing on a wall or two. The church was set back behind some old buildings, as if forgotten about. That was perfect! This was going to be his new home!

Gilbert used his shoulder to push the doors open and slide between them. The area opened to the sermon room where all the pews and benches were broken, rotted, or burnt. There was nothing left on the walls; no crosses, no statues, no paintings. Everything was probably stolen after the church first burnt down. Which was fine by him. With there being nothing of value here he could live safely. Looking up, he noticed there was a wrap-around balcony with other rooms. Gilbert searched for the stairs, found them and started to ascend. He gasped and shrieked when his foot went through the floor of the step, the wood having rotted away. Luckily he caught himself before he could fall and continued up the stairs. The second floor held only two other rooms, each one more disheveled and burnt than the other. Gilbert found one room to have more of a closed in structure with all the walls in tact save for a hole here or there. Sunlight shone through a large hole in the ceiling and Gilbert went to stand in the bright ray. He smiled, closed his eyes, and breathed in the sunlight. It was warm against his skin and for the first time he felt as if he belonged.

He laid the blanket in the corner by the broken stain glass window and placed the candle beside it. Now that he had a place to stay, finding other tossed items is vital. Once it grew dark and the moon was at its highest, he would sneak around the back allies of the rich people's houses and root through their trash. But for right now, he needed to rest. Fixing the blanket and taking out the flute, he laid down upon it on his belly, folding his arms under his head to use as a pillow. The flute was safely tucked in his arms. He faced the broken window to stare out at the blue sky littered with clouds. The sight was beautiful to behold, but the sudden rocking of his body accompanied by the coughing fit ruined the moment. He was forced to sit up and cup a hand over his mouth, his body wracking with the force of coughs. His lungs burned, his throat went raw and his mouth had gone dry. The coughing fit brought tears to his eyes, but not from pain but rather from the pressure. Gilbert shivered while pulling his coat tighter at the chest with his free hand to keep warm. But when he pulled his hand away, his pink eyes widened to see a tiny speckle of blood on his white palm. Gilbert knew the signs of 'the cough' for he had seen it before. He shouldn't fear it now because the drop was so little. It could also be from the strain the coughing had on his dry throat.

Gilbert frowned deeply as he turned to the broken window with the cross and angel. There was no room in his life for God, because in his eyes, God had forsaken him. God had made him this way, or perhaps God chose to toss him aside like the rest of the poor. At the workhouse he often had to stop work to say a group prayer at least twice a day. To him, every word that God said was a lie. If God cared about his children then why wouldn't he help them? Gilbert knew now that only he could help himself, that God had abandoned him and he was made to find his own way. So why did that realization make him feel so empty? Perhaps it was the loneliness he felt, having no one else to talk to but himself. The world was against him; they hated him because of how he looked. He had no friends, no companions and no lover. Oh how he had wanted a lover. Someone to suffer with him; someone to hold him on dark nights and offer the simple joy of companionship. To have someone to wake up with, a familiar face, a friend. Many times during the day while wandering the streets he would pass by couples, young and old. They would hold hands, stroll side by side, share an embrace and even kiss. Gilbert had no one to share his feelings with. No one wanted him. And why would they? He was an albino street rat whom the world feared, who branded him a monster and an abomination. You couldn't trust anyone in this world; for those who did often times would end up dead or betrayed. Sometimes it was better to be alone and although he knew the reality of that phrase, he still wished to have someone beside him.

But again, who would want him? Everything on him was thin from his skin to his body. Being away from the workhouse food had taken its toll on him for he could feel the beginnings of his ribs start to show. Without some more nourishment and clean liquids the illness within would eventually consume him. He had no body fat to help fight off the infection, or so he was told, by the workhouse doctor. So was this his future? Gilbert Beilschmidt was going to die in an old building drowning in his own blood. His only other option was a slum house, but he couldn't live in those. He did not want to infect other people, especially the elderly and children. It wasn't fair to them.

Once again he settled down onto the blanket, held the flute close to him and let his tears fall. He hated crying. He hated feeling so weak and helpless…and alone. Perhaps that is what scared him the most in this world, was being alone. He had seen so many horrors in his life, but they were so much a part of the city that Gilbert simply turned a blind eye to them. Yet when he lay down his weary body, those images and memories come flooding back. The ones that haunted him the most were of those that he had done; stealing, fighting and every so often, prostitution. Oh how he hated himself for selling his body to filthy men. On a daily basis men feared him, but when (and if) he promised sex, then his looks suddenly didn't matter. He only did it because the ache in his belly from hunger drove him to do such appalling things. Ever since the Master took his virginity and tossed him away, Gilbert had never looked at himself the same. Nothing on the streets had ever made him feel THAT dirty. But it was easy money…something he could do all the time and make a decent, comfortable living for himself. Yet he had too much pride and respect for himself to ever fall pray to the world of pleasure. The 'pleasure world' had its own horrors and codes of conduct.

Only once did he ever give his body over just for the feeling of wanting to be with someone. Hunger was always the driving force, but that night he had wanted to do it. It had been a week since leaving the workhouse and he had prostituted himself more times than he could remember. For whatever reason, Gilbert had not wanted to be alone that night so he sought out the arms of a stranger. He found the man resting against a lamppost, offered his services and they were quickly accepted. Gilbert could barely remember where they went, but it must have been the man's apartment or room. As his body lay on its back rocking against the bed, Gilbert wrapped his arms around the stranger to just savor the feeling of having another with him. It was a moment of weakness. He cried. He screamed in pleasure. He begged for more…and for the stranger to never leave. But once the man was finished, just like the others and the Master, Gilbert was turned out. He begged the man to let him stay; pleading with the stranger to let him share his bed and hold him in an embrace. The man seemed disgusted by the idea and kicked him away, screaming at Gilbert to leave this place and never come back. Ashamed, embarrassed and utterly disgusted, Gilbert ran from the building and back into the dark streets where he collapsed in the gutter.

Gilbert shivered at the memory. How could life be so cruel? Why was he and so many others made to suffer so? So many questions were left unanswered. Perhaps he would learn the answers when he died alone and missed by no one. With that thought in his mind, Gilbert finally let his illness and hunger drift him off into sleep. And maybe, just maybe, by the grace of God, he wouldn't wake up.

/

It was dark when he had awoken from his sleep. The city was quiet; everyone was asleep in their beds. Only the demons and the thieves were out right now…and soon so would he. Gilbert tucked his flute away inside his coat and left the church to begin the long walk to that rich person's house. The streets were bare and black, with not a soul walking upon them. Gilbert was the only one on the street tonight, it would seem. His stomach growled with the need for food, his lips and throat dry in need of water. While passing a building he saw a faucet that was dripping water. He threw himself under the drops with his mouth wide open to take in the trickle of water. He was in no real rush so he let his body rest and drink in the droplets. The water was stale and tasted of the piping, but it was wet and that's what mattered.

"Well, well, well, look at what we've got here!"

Gilbert scrambled to stand up as a voice was spoken. He came face to face with two police officers. Gilbert wondered what they were doing out so late at night? That was very unusual for the police to be patrolling the streets. He pressed his back against the wall and glanced at them before keeping his head lowered. Gilbert chose to stay silent unless he was spoken to. They may just be walking by.

"Where you headin' tonight, street rat? Off to steal from the good citizens of this city?" Asked the first police officer.

"N-No sir." Gilbert whispered, still keeping his eyes lowered to the ground. "I was just…out for a stroll."

"Yeah, right." Scoffed the second. "You probably gambled away whatever money you had and spent the rest on booze." The policeman elbowed the other. "No wonder the poor are poor, eh?"

Gilbert slowly lifted his eyes to them. "I don't do those things, sir. Just let me be on my way. I mean no harm." He had learned in the past not to mess with the authorities because they held all the power on these streets. As a young boy the police beat him numerous times for theft. He had even seen them kill in the past and if the victim was poor, then the government didn't care. The police were able to get away with anything so long as the person wasn't rich.

"Whoa, hold up there!" The first policeman used his nightstick to block Gilbert's exit. "We didn't say you could leave."

"But…I've done nothing wrong. I'm just walking. Please, let me go?"

The second guard moved closer to him, peering at his face with squinted eyes. "You a boy or a girl?"

"I'm a man." Gilbert answered.

"Women dress as men all the time." Said the first. "You wouldn't be lying to us, would you?"

Gilbert pressed his back harder against the wall. "I'm not lying, sir. I'm a man." He didn't like the smiles on their faces.

"Guess there's one way to find out!" The second policeman, being slightly larger, was able to hold Gilbert against the wall while the first fumbled with his pants. Gilbert struggled and thrashed in the man's hold, shouting at them to stop. He gasped and shivered in disgust as the man's gloved hand gripped his crotch painfully. But the policeman quickly pulled his hand away, shaking it as if he had touched something vile. "He IS a man!"

The man holding him let go. "Damn and he would have been a pretty girl, too."

Gilbert pulled his coat tightly around him, trying to shrink away inside its threads. "You've had your fun, now let me go."

"Wait, now." Said the first policeman. "We're still not done with you. And you've got some nerve trying to leave when a policeman is speaking to you. Do you know what happens to street rats who don't respect authority?"

The rumbling of thunder echoed in the sky above.

Gilbert knew what happens to those who 'disobey' the law and he made a break for it. But the second policeman grabbed him, tackling him to the sidewalk. Gilbert got the wind knocked out of him from the weight of the man and he tried to crawl away. The policeman got up off of him but he wasn't out of the dark yet. Gilbert cried out as a night stick came down on his back, followed by another blow, then another and then another, until he had curled up on the walk in pain. The policemen stood over him and laughed.

"Now THAT was entertainment!" Said the first one.

The second one placed his boot on Gilbert's ear, pressing his face further into the street like he was putting out a cigarette. "We're on the lookout for an escaped convict! I hope you don't run in to him for he just might cut out your insides and bathe in them!" He laughed, removing his foot and then delivering a swift kick to Gilbert's gut. "So you'd best stay inside tonight, street rat. There's a monster on the loose."

"Sleep tight!" Laughed the first policemen as they walked off, leaving Gilbert alone and trembling on the sidewalk. If he had been a woman he would have been raped and they would have gotten away with it.

"H-Help!" Gilbert wheezed out, holding his aching stomach, yet no one heard. Above him was an open window and as he looked up at it, someone closed it. His cry had fallen on deaf ears. Another crash of thunder forced him to forget his pain and to stand up. He had to get back to the church or else he'd be blinded by the rain and storm. Stumbling as he ran, Gilbert was lucky that he hadn't had made it far from the church. It came in full view soon enough just as the first shower of rain began to fall. His night was ruined now. There would be no food in his belly tonight. His body ached all over and the pain in his stomach wasn't going away.

Just as he sat back against the wall of his 'room', the first crash of lightening lit the room. Gilbert curled into himself, trying to block out the sound and wish away his pain. Something hard pressed against his knee, and he took out the flute to smile at it. He remembered the warm smiling face of Fredrick; remembered the sweet songs they would share; remembered the feeling of happiness and companionship they shared. Bringing it to his lips, Gilbert closed his eyes, took a breath and began to play. He played Fredrick's favorite song, a lullaby that was played to him by his mother. Gilbert liked to play it because the song brought him peace and for a little time he was happy. The flute helped to drown out the sounds of the thunderstorm raging outside. Not that he was scared of the thunder, but more so of the rough night he had just endured. There was no justice for the poor. Why was he still living if life was so cruel? Maybe he should just let himself waste away and join Fredrick in Heaven, or in Hell. Wherever it was the poor went when they died.

But soon, there came a third sound in the room. The first was thunder, the second was the flute, and the third was footsteps. Gilbert ceased playing the flute when he heard the footsteps trudging up the stairs. His blood ran cold. He had no weapon to defend himself. Someone was IN the church with him! Who could it be on a night like this? Was it someone seeking shelter? A dark form of a large man suddenly came into view, his body soaked from the rain. Gilbert's eyes widened as the man turned to face him. Both froze in their place. Gilbert's breathing increased as the man took a step closer to him.

"Wh-Who are you?" Gilbert asked, his voice trembling.

The man pulled out a knife, its silver blade shining against the flash of lightening. "Who are YOU?"

End Chapter 1 TBC