Title of Story: Loving the Alien

Word Count: 11,111

Type of Edward: World War II Edward

Category (Literotica or Young Adult): Literotica

Story Summary: With a battered body and an embittered heart, Edward is struggling to do the right thing for his family in the midst of a dishonorable war when chance blows a girl in need of protection into his power. If he's the only thing standing between her and death, will it be enough?

Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


Loving the Alien.

Edward couldn't sleep. This was nothing new. He'd always needed very little sleep, and after his leg was injured the dull ache that came and went did nothing to improve his rest. Sometimes he would get up, read or write but mostly he would lie awake like now, staring into nothing while his mind wandered. And there was much to think about right now.

Irritated, finally he flung the suffocating soft duvet to the side and heaved out of bed, almost losing his balance when he carelessly put his weight on his weak leg. That damned leg! He clenched his teeth. If it hadn't been for his injury leaving permanent damage maybe he could have flown again. Not that he particularly relished going up to gun down men that only a few years ago might have been his fellow students, but because the alternatives seemed so much more degrading.

He paused in the middle of the darkened room, the only illumination being the sliver of grey light that penetrated in between the thick blackout curtains. He knew that the moon must be on its way down and dawn approaching. He let his senses reach out, listened to the faint sounds of birds outside, to the creakings of the old house around him, felt the soft, thick carpet under the soles of his bare feet.

A frustrated sigh escaped him. This big house, so bustling full of life when he grew up was half empty now. Several rooms had been shut off, the furniture covered with sheets, to save the cost and work of warming and cleaning them when nobody used them. The staff of servants had been diminished down to a man and a woman who came in, cleaned, cooked and looked after the huge garden.

His mother put a brave face on things, but he knew that she worried. They all worried. His father came from an aristocratic family with a fine history but very little money after the war and the Weimar Republic and it was his mother's American inheritance that had saved them. Now, most of that money was locked away on the other side of the Atlantic because of the war and the new regime of upstarts was wary of aristocratic families with military records. Such families were thought politically conservative at best and at worst unsound.

Drawn against his will to the doors of the closet, Edward stopped with his palm against the cool wood, then clenched his hand into a fist briefly before opening the door. Nothing but blackness met his eye. How appropriate.

He turned and fumbled for the switch of the lamp on the desk, and suddenly the room sprang to life with warm, yellow light. Heavy wooden furniture from the last century, pictures in gilded frames and dark green wallpaper made the room look like a museum. It was a well-cared for and comfortable room, but still, a museum to a time and history gone by. He turned to the closet again, and reached inside for the uniform he knew was hanging there, waiting for him.

Some perverse wish to torment himself or maybe desensitize himself in face of the inevitable made him lay every article of clothing meticulously out on his rumpled bed, and then, with rigid face muscles, he proceeded to get rid of his pajamas and dress himself, slowly and carefully. Finally, he placed the cap squarely on his head, and turned around to look at himself in the mirror on the inside of the closet door.

An SS Untersturmführer stared back at him with mouth set in a hard line and eyes like stones. He remained standing there for a moment, or an eternity, trying to wrap his head around his new identity. Then, with a curse, he flung the cap across the room and started tugging at the empty holster and struggling with the stiff top button of the collar that was suffocating him.

He walked to the window, trying to minimize his limp out of habit even though no one was here to see him. The blackout curtain was heavy, but he pulled it aside with a quick tug and leaned against the cool glass of the window, looking down into the garden. The rising light made the dew shimmer on the grey grass. Soon, color would flood into the world again just as the lighting of his lamp had made his dark room vivid.

He looked quickly over his shoulder, but the light was low and night was almost over. No great risk of being reported for violation of the blackout now. A movement at the corner of his eye caught his attention and he stared down, trying to make out shapes in the shadows of trees and bushes. Was there a fox in the garden, or a small deer?

Rabbits and deer had been known to find their way into the leafy gardens of the wealthy houses to eat flowers and vegetables even here, in Berlin. Very little moved at this time in the morning, no servants were about and no gardener kept watch over his rows of flowers anymore. The kitchen garden at the back of the house had been expanded after the first year of war as a precaution, but now his mother was grateful for it. She wouldn't be happy if something went for the carrots and potatoes grown for winter or the salad and herbs that was her indulgence for the summer months.

Something moved again, cautiously. Edward squinted. No, not an animal. Or, an animal on two legs. A human. A thief maybe? A shadow slunk around the corner of the garden shed and disappeared. Edward waited to see if it should reappear, but when nothing happened he looked around the room for a weapon. He wasn't going to sleep so he might as well investigate.

He looked down at the unfamiliar, stiff fabric of the new uniform and thought briefly of changing before going down. Then he shrugged. Maybe the uniform would be an additional weapon in itself, scaring a presumptive thief witless. He smiled, a lopsided joyless smile, picked up the poker from the unused fireplace and moved almost soundlessly out through the door to his bedroom and down the corridor.

Limp or no limp, he'd practiced moving around diligently, day in and day out. First, he'd been on crutches with a nurse at his side, mopping the blinding sweat of pain from his eyes, the training making his arms strong and sinewy. Then later he walked slowly, with a cane to keep his balance. Now, he could manage anything well enough, even stairs and hills, as long as he concentrated with mind and body. He might pay for it later in pain, but it was still worth it to be treated like a normal man, not a cripple.

There was nothing for it, though, he couldn't march long hours or fly in a narrow cockpit with a stiff leg that didn't fully obey him. His father had suggested trying for the navy, where his great grandfather had made a career, but the thought of being confined onboard a ship for weeks, maybe months, or God forbid, onboard a submarine, made Edward shudder. Spending your life inside the iron bowels of a floating prison when you had once soared right under God's feet, touching the edges of his blue cloak? Unimaginable.

The bolts on the back door were stiff and Edward reminded himself to have them oiled later, but the faint screeching sound didn't seem to penetrate very far. Nothing stirred indoors or outdoors. When the chill spring dawn air hit his face he drew a deep breath, feeling the fragrance of green growing things, wet and rich, fill his lungs and his mind with pleasure. For a moment, he almost forgot why he was standing there, the flooding of his senses reason enough.

The sun was coming up above the trees, and the sharp golden light warmed him where it touched his skin. He moved cautiously, avoiding the gravel walks to make as little sound as possible as he approached the garden shed, a small house of grey wood aged by rain and wind, but sturdily built.

He could see the traces of footsteps in the dew going around to the door. Only one pair of feet, as far as he could tell. The windows were small and set high in the wall. Nothing seemed to move behind them, no light, no shadow. He stopped outside the plank wall and tried to listen, trusting that the morning sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong around would be enough to cover the sounds of his own breathing.

A faint scuffling noise, like that of a small animal settling down for the night. Something that might have been a moan or a half-strangled sigh. Someone was in there all right. Thinking that the element of surprise would be best, Edward clenched his hand on the door handle, then with a swift movement pulled the door wide and stepped inside, poker raised at the ready.

His eyes roamed wildly about the room, trying to identify his opponent in the dusk. Something moved, and his eyes darted to the far corner away from the door. A young girl scrambled to her feet, dark eyes wild and huge in her pale, lovely face, clutching at some sacking that she had obviously been about to make her bedclothes. A hand flew to her mouth as she took in his threatening appearance, and she seemed to stifle a scream.

Shocked and at the same time mortified, Edward lowered the poker and straightened up. A girl! What on earth was she doing here, in their garden shed? He looked her over. She looked poor, but not beggarly poor. Her coat and skirt were scuffed and dusty, well-worn but of good quality, her brown leather shoes looked sensible but not cheap. The dark hair tumbling about her shoulders was a bit lanky as if she needed a bath, but she didn't look like a tramp. In fact, Edward thought that she was breathtakingly beautiful in spite of the horror on her face and her disheveled appearance.

Making a hopefully calming gesture with his left hand, Edward put the poker down by the door and said in a low voice used to calm dogs and horses:

"I'm sorry if I frightened you. I thought there was a thief in the shed. Please, I won't hurt you, miss."

The girl pressed her hands against her chest as if willing her heart to stop racing, swallowed, but no words came out of her mouth, no apology or plea or explanation.

Edward raised his eyebrows, pointing in the direction of the house. "This is the residence of my family. My father is Karl von Masen. My name is Edward. May I ask why you're here?"

The girl's eyes darted from his face to his chest, then up again. Finally, she seemed to gather the courage to speak.

"Are you … are you an SS officer?"

Edward winced. It seemed a strange question and at the same time a slap in his face. He didn't want to be an SS officer, but by God, he was going to become one, soon enough. He gritted his teeth, trying to remain polite.

"Well, technically I haven't taken up commission yet, but I will be. Now, if you don't mind, would you explain why you're hiding in my parents garden shed, miss …?"

She looked down, wringing her hands, and a blush stole across her pale cheeks. Her small, white teeth worried her plump lip and he had to fight down an impulse to step closer and gently release it from the assault with his fingers.

"I … I can't explain, really. I had nowhere to go, I know no one in Berlin and I was tired and looking for a safe place to sleep. I'll go now, if you can forgive me for trespassing. I assure you I haven't stolen anything." She looked him in the eye now, a pleading expression on her face. Suddenly, something clicked in his brain like a lock sliding home. Her dark hair and eyes, her timid looks, her fear. It all made sense now.

"Excuse me for asking, but are you Jewish?" He felt a mixture of rage and exasperation boiling up inside. How could he have been so clueless? He'd seen them often enough in the past years, the closed shops, the abandoned houses, the holes in the fabric of this country where people were torn away and erased as if they'd never been.

Soon enough, someone else took over and the original owner never returned. Some escaped abroad, surely, but most were carted off to unknown destinies. He'd heard of the camps for undesirables that would cleanse the fatherland from the Jews, the Communists, the sexual deviants. They'd spoken of Hitler's policies in low voices in the family when they were on their own. He gritted his teeth. And now he was forced to become a part of this mad army of Führer-worshippers!

Her desperate, haunted look told him everything even though she shook her head emphatically.

"No, of course not. What makes you say that? I'm a seamstress from Hannover and I came here to look for work. I won't bother you, just please let me leave now …"

She shuffled carefully towards the door to the shed, but he was between her and her freedom. When she made a mad dash for the door, he had no difficulty stopping her, in spite of the slight imbalance that his weak leg gave him. Her body was light and small, struggling in his arms, and he tried to hold her without hurting her, but when she kicked him in the shin he swore, and pushed her away roughly. She fell down on her behind and the enraged look on her pretty face would almost have been enough to make him laugh if his leg hadn't hurt so much.

"Let me go!" she hissed. "You have no right to hold me here, no right at all. I'll have you arrested for assault, I tell you!" He noticed that she didn't raise her voice above conversational level, probably as conscious as he of not attracting the attention of any other residents in the nearby house. He made a face and leaned his back against the door. The kick to his shin had been quite fierce – she was stronger than she looked. He spoke in clipped sentences, trying to get her to listen to him.

"Look, I won't hurt you, and I won't hold you here against your will, but I wish that you'd let me help you. Are you on the run? Do you have family members nearby? Anyone who would take you in? If you're Jewish you're done for as soon as someone in the street stops you and asks to see your papers, you do know that don't you?"

Suddenly she became very still. Her pale face turned almost white, and a tear slowly leaked from the corner of one almond-shaped eye. Her lips unmoving, she finally whispered,

"I have no one. No papers. Nothing. If you turn me over to them, I'm dead, I know it." She looked up at him, and his heart turned over in his chest at that look of bleak despair. She could be no more than twenty years old, probably younger than he was. What had happened to her? He didn't dare ask but he really wanted to know.

Impulsively, he sat down, stretching his legs stiffly in front of him. This way, their eyes were on the same level and he wasn't towering above her. But she couldn't open the door without first wrestling him away.

"I understand that you're frightened, and I know that this," he gestured to his uniform, "must be scary as anything to you right now. But I'm not one of 'them', whatever you may think. I do want to help you. If you're sure that you have nowhere to go, please stay here. I'll bring you a blanket and some food until I think of some better place to hide you. All right?"

She stared at him, her face unreadable. Finally, a shudder went through her thin body and she seemed to relax slightly as she looked down at the dusty floor boards.

"All right." Then her head jerked up. "But is it safe? Won't someone come in here looking for something during the day?"

Edward smiled and shook his head. "We don't have gardeners anymore, and Mr. and Mrs. Blücher very rarely come in here. The rake and shovel for the kitchen garden are kept in a cupboard by the back door now." He gestured to a key that hung on a nail above the door to the shed.

"But if you like, you can lock the door from the inside. Should someone come looking, they'll come to the house and ask for the key and it will be some time before anyone decides to do anything about it. Nothing valuable is kept in here. Don't worry." His expression softened as he looked at her again and saw the traces of exhaustion on her face and the slump in her body.

With some effort, he struggled to his feet and then held out his hand towards her with a hint of a formal bow. "May I please know your name, miss?"

Surprisingly smoothly, with the litheness of a dancer, she got up, brushed off her skirt, and hesitantly gave him her dusty hand. It was small and cool in his grasp and he felt a faint charge of static electricity jolt through his fingers on contact. Her eyes widened and her fingers tightened around his hand in response.

"My name is Isabella," she said. "You may call me Bella."

'*'*'*'*'*'*

It was after midnight and the house was dark and quiet when he went to check on her, bringing her dinner wrapped in a napkin. After that first, nervous day which she spent in the shed, huddled in an old picnic blanket from the hall cupboard, he'd smuggled her inside in the early hours of the morning. She moved like a ghost beside him in the darkness, and he cursed his own clumsiness compared to how she hardly seemed to touch the floor with her feet.

Edward had put her in one of the unused bedrooms, as far away as possible from his parents' suite of rooms and his own. It was dusty and drab and very cold, the furniture covered with sheets, the carpets rolled up and the curtains permanently drawn. But it was reasonably safe. No one came in here except maybe once a year to dust perfunctorily and check that mice and moth hadn't got into the fabrics.

He didn't bother to knock now, but slipped quietly inside, closing the heavy door carefully behind him. Something rustled, an abrupt sound, and he hurried to whisper,

"Bella, it's me. It's all right."

A faint click as she turned on the flash light he'd given her. In the ghostly, white light, her face was a pale oval where she sat, huddled on the bed, with the bedclothes wrapped around her. He shivered involuntarily. In spite of being indoors, the damp sort of permanent cold in the room made it feel more like November than April. As he moved closer he could see that even her lips were pale. She was shivering, too.

Edward frowned as he sat down on the bed, at a respectful distance from her, and held out the package of food. Her fingers felt like ice when they took the napkin from his hands and he winced. She made a face, then twitched in what must have been a shrug as she unwrapped the sandwich and gave him a small smile.

"I'm sorry. It's so cold in here. I can't believe a house could get this cold." Her voice was a whisper, and the flash light, propped against the bed clothes, which shone up into the ceiling sent strange shadows across the room, making the whole scene seem dreamlike to him. She was a ghost speaking to him in a dream.

He shook his head. "I'm the one who should apologize. My father always wished to have the house rewired for central heating, but at first there was no money, and then he didn't want to waste any of my mother's money on his family's house." He smiled, a crooked smile, which turned into a grimace as he noticed how her shoulders trembled.

"This is no good. You'll catch your death in here." He looked down at his hands, then up at her, taking little bites out of her sandwich as if uncomfortable with him watching her eat. "Look, please don't take this the wrong way, but maybe we should move you into my room. At least I can have a fire there when it gets chilly, and it's not half as damp as this room since it's been in use all winter."

She hesitated, swallowing convulsively while fixing him with her huge, almond-shaped brown eyes.

"But will it be safe? Won't someone come in there? Your parents? Your … girlfriend?"

He made a face and shrugged. "No one comes in there, except Mrs. Blücher when she cleans on Thursday afternoons. She's very regular. We could get you out of there on Thursday morning and you could hide in here until she's gone. If someone should come up to my room while I'm out of the house, you can always hide in the back of the closet. No one has any reason to look in there. Or you could lock it from inside." He paused.

"And I don't have a girlfriend. "He made a small gesture to his leg. "No girl wants a cripple for a boyfriend."

Bella finished the sandwich, brushing crumbs daintily away from the sheet before looking at him thoughtfully.

"You're not a cripple," she said, matter-of-factly. "You're a war hero. Every girl loves a war hero." There was a note of bitterness in her voice, and it was reflected in his face as he replied,

"There are no heroes in this war, believe me. Only those who survive and those who don't."

Bella reached out across the cold expanse of sheets and touched his hand briefly before pulling back and hitching the bedding up around her shoulders.

"How did it happen?"

Edward looked at her then, wondering how much to say, wondering how much of the war she'd seen and what had happened to the rest of her family. She looked very small, a hump under the blankets, with only her dark hair and her heart-shaped face visible. He swallowed.

"I was a pilot, a bomber pilot. My plane was shot down as we were going back. I was empty, so I tried to save the plane and do an emergency landing. We crashed. I and the other pilot made it. The rest of my crew didn't." He pushed away the memories, the flashes of panic and confusion, the darkness, the smoke, the pain. And the fire, always the fire. He straightened up and got up from the bed.

"We should get you out of here, and get you warm. If we're quiet, you can probably take a bath. My parents know that I'm up at all hours, because of the leg. If they hear me running a bath after midnight they won't think twice about it." He held out his hand in invitation, picking up the crumpled napkin with his other hand and shoving it into his pocket for later.

Bella slowly and hesitantly disentangled herself from the bedclothes, brushed down her rumpled skirt and fumbled for her shoes under the bed. She'd been sleeping in her clothes here for two nights now, and God knows how long before that, he thought. Edward was briefly reminded of an orphaned waif from a Charles Dickens novel as he watched her small, brown-grey form bend down before him. When he found his gaze lingering on her shapely behind, he turned his head away for a moment, embarrassed.

While he watched she swiftly but carefully straightened the bed. He helped her replace the dust sheet on top of it once it was smoothed out, then took the flash light and moved to the door. He let the darkness close around them, and took her cold, small hand in his as he led them down the hallway, the place as familiar to him in the darkness as in the daylight.

She stumbled a little, unsure of her footing in the dark, and he enjoyed the brief contact of her side pressed against him more than he thought he should. He held out his arm to stop her as they came to his door, opened it quietly and pulled her inside its lighted cave with him.

He'd never had a girl in his room before. He'd been with girls, the kind of girls that students from good homes visit in establishments of disrepute when far away from home, but that was a long time ago now.

There was no connection between those painted girls and this pale, slim girl with lanky brown hair and the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen, except that she was standing right next to him in a room with a bed, a bed that suddenly seemed twice as large as before. He swallowed. Maybe this was a bad idea.

But then he saw her shoulders relax slightly as she rubbed her arms and felt the comparative warmth and comfort of his bedroom wrap around her like a coat and he knew he'd done the right thing. He pulled his hand through his hair as he looked around the room.

"You can have the bed, obviously, and I'll sleep on the carpet. We'll divide the bed clothes between us. Damn, I should have snagged a blanket from the other room. You can borrow some clean clothes from me, until I think of something better." He pulled out some long underwear, an undershirt and a blue cotton shirt, all much too big but the best he could think of for her to wear.

Her dark eyes were darting around the room, then fastened on him. The light from the lamp on the desk made her pale skin glow golden, and he imagined he saw a flush rising in her cheeks.

"Um, you mentioned something about a bath …" He winced.

"Right. Yes, of course. Look, would you mind very much if I stay in the bathroom with you while you take your bath?" She frowned at him and he hastened to add,

"I promise I won't ogle you, not at all. It's just that if my mother comes knocking at the door in the middle of the night it's better if I can answer her from inside the bathroom, so she'll know everything is all right."

Bella looked doubtful. "I thought you said they won't think anything of it if you take a bath in the middle of the night?"

Edward shrugged, helplessly. "I don't think they will, but just in case, it's better if we're together. If you're in there and can't reply, that will make her worried, and then she'll never leave until you've opened the door."

Bella nodded, biting her bottom lip thoughtfully. "I see. Well, no peeking then. Do you promise?" She looked at him, as grave as a child, then grinned, a flash of humor that completely took him by surprise. He grinned back at her involuntarily, feeling twelve years old again.

"Absolutely no peeking, cross my heart and hope to die."

With the bundle of clean clothes pressed against her chest, Bella tip-toed after him on stockinged feet to the bathroom across the hallway. Fortunately, his parents had their own bathroom and dressing-rooms closer to the stairs and never used the bathroom next to his room.

She drew a deep breath as he lit the lamp and the high ceiling and blindingly white tiled walls glinted back at them. They'd decided not to speak, not to risk the sounds of even a whispered conversation echoing between the walls, but with hand gestures and mouthed words, Edward showed Bella where she could find towels and more soap and where she could put her clothes away after undressing.

He started filling the bath for her, silently thankful for the thirty year old plumbing that still ensured a reasonably big supply of reasonably warm water at most times of the day and night. He took the bath crystals he never used from the cupboard and sprinkled them generously into the stream from the tap, watching the white bubbles form and snap, making tiny rainbows in the air that was already starting to feel warmer.

Edward looked over at Bella, who had taken her jacket off, and now stood, nervously fingering the buttons of her formerly white blouse that had the look of a wilting, rumpled flower. He gestured to the toilet seat, then sat down and put his head down, resting his elbows on his knees and hiding his face in his hands to reassure her that he had no intention of looking at her undressing. Looking at her naked. Dear God, this was going to be harder than he'd thought. He was already harder than he'd been in a very long time.

Fortunately, Bella couldn't see Edward cringing and blushing behind his hands, and his erection was safely if rather painfully tucked away beneath his elegant wool trousers. He strained his ears to hear the faint, rustling sounds of her clothing being removed over the noise of the tap running. He tried not to see it in his mind, but he couldn't help wondering what she looked like, beneath her clothes.

Slim, probably, and pale. Were her breasts small and perky or round and firm? Was her behind as deliciously round as it had looked under the straining fabric of her skirt? Edward swallowed. He really should quit this line of thought.

The water stopped running, and he heard the small, splashing sounds of Bella getting into the water and a tiny sigh of pleasure when she settled that had shivers running down his spine. She was quick, though, he had to give her that. With economy of movement, he could hear her lathering up and washing her hair, imagining in his mind's eye how she disappeared beneath the bubbles only to rise again, wet, dark hair plastering itself to her face and falling down to settle between her rosy nipples …

Then he heard her rising, fumbling with the stopper to the bath, before the gurgling sound of water draining out announced that she was finished. A surprised whelp had his head snapping up, and he opened his eyes in panic, thinking that she'd slipped and hurt herself on the cold tiled floor. He caught a glimpse of slim leg, a long pale spine, an elegant curve of hip and ass, before Bella found her footing and pulled the white towel up around herself.

He quickly closed his eyes before she turned around and caught him, the image of her naked loveliness engraved on his mind as he pressed his face into his palms again, cursing silently to himself. Damn. How would he be able to sleep, now?

When he felt her hand on his shoulder, he looked up. Her hair was toweled but still damp as it snaked across her shoulders, leaving darker patches of wet on his light blue shirt. She was clutching the bundle of dirty clothes under one arm and holding his long underwear up with her other hand, hopelessly swimming inside his too-big clothes. She looked very young, very vulnerable, and achingly beautiful. He tried to smile reassuringly at her, but the wariness never left her eyes.

He gave her the extra toothbrush he'd kept hidden in his room and let her brush her teeth while he quickly erased all traces of her bath, leaving the towels to dry in the bathroom. He turned out the lights before carefully opening the door to the hallway, just in case someone hovered nearby. The house was as dark and silent as before, small wreaths of fragrant mist snaking past Edward's head into the cooler air of the hall. He could feel Bella standing right behind him, her breaths warm against his shirtsleeve. She tapped his shoulder to get his attention and nodded to the toilet seat. His face warm, he stepped outside, and waited with the door pulled to behind him while she completed her business in there.

Edward then quickly led her back to the comparative safety of his room, locking the door behind him. His parents had come to accept his sudden mood swings and his need for privacy after he came back from the hospital, and no one came up here and knocked on his door unless they had good reason to. Now, that seemed like a very fortunate circumstance.

Bella left her folded clothes on a chair and climbed into his bed, a big four-poster that his grandparents or their cousins had probably slept in. Pulling the duvet up she then sat and looked at him while her fingers nimbly braided her damp hair into a thick braid.

"There's plenty of room here," she whispered finally. "No need for you to sleep on the floor, unless you want to." He didn't want to, and his face must have conveyed as much, because she blushed then, and lay down on the far side of the bed, with her back to him. He hardly heard her faint "Good night."

Thinking himself safe from her eyes, he still put out the lights before he undressed and pulled on a new pair of pajamas. No need to show her the ugly scars on his legs. No need to make her pity him any more than she already did. He scowled to himself as he pulled his pajama shirt over his head.

Edward crept carefully into bed, not wishing to alarm her, and lay down stiffly on his back on his side of the bed. He could hear her breathing, faintly, and feel a certain heat from her back that was stubbornly turned to him. After a while, he began to relax, thinking her asleep.

It was then that she slowly started moving, and rolled around so that she was lying on her side, facing him. Her hand crept out from beneath the duvet, landing carefully on his chest, sending an electric current to his nipples and groin. He looked over at her, breathing slowly, and thought he could make out the paler patch of darkness where her face was.

"Why did you help me, Edward?" she whispered out of the black night. His head whirled. He hardly knew.

"Because you were here. Because you said there was no one else." His voice sounded terse, even as a whisper. She hesitated, then continued.

"What did you mean when you told me before that you're not one of 'them', Edward?"

He didn't know what to say. He was one of them, after all.

"It's complicated. My father … he's an officer in the army, but he's not popular with this regime. They mistrust his family, and his foreign wife. None of us supported Hitler's rise to power whole-heartedly." He sighed, and unconsciously moved closer to her so that their faces were mere inches from each other.

"When I became a pilot that was another way to prove our loyalty and to avoid being singled out as unsound. My SS commission …" Edward's throat felt dry. "It's not what any of us would have wanted, but a powerful friend offered it to my father as a favor when it became obvious I couldn't fly. It was impossible to refuse him."

When she didn't speak, he fumbled on. "It's a desk job, mainly. My leg is no good for marching or flying. They may send me out to the front, though. I don't know yet."

He felt a small hand clutch at his, squeezing, and he squeezed back in an attempt at reassurance.

"Where's your family, Bella?" he whispered, the questions he swallowed earlier resurfacing in the strange feeling of intimacy in his bed, floating like a raft on a sea of darkness. She was quiet, and he almost wanted to take the question back when she replied,

"Dead. We were … hiding in an attic room for months and months. Someone felt sorry for my father and hid the three of us in their house. It was cramped … and we had to keep quiet. There wasn't much food. Then, a couple of nights ago, they started searching houses on our street." Her breathing hitched.

"Our hosts showed us the way to the roof, told us to make a run for it, jump between buildings, get away and hide and then maybe we could come back later." She was quiet for such a long time he almost thought she had drifted off to sleep before he realized with a jolt that she was weeping silently into the pillow.

He reached out then, and gently touched her wet cheek, wiping at her tears with his fingers. Her soft lips moved against his hand like a kiss, when she spoke again.

"Father tried to help my mother, but they fell down, four stories down. No one could survive that. I kept going. I didn't know what else to do." She paused, her breaths ragged. "There's no one now. And soon, they'll find me, and it will be all over." She put her face in her hands, and silent sobs racked her body.

He scooted closer, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her face to his chest, feeling her tears wet his pajama jacket.

"I won't let anyone take you away, Bella. I'll find a way to get you out of here. I promise." His whisper was fierce and hot in her ear, and she shuddered against him under the protection of the duvet.

As her sobs faded and her small body became relaxed in his arms he felt himself drifting away into sleep, deeper and more untroubled than any he'd experienced since his return from the war. He woke to the grey dawn with his arm still slung around her and her hair fragrant against his cheek.

*'*'*'*'*'*'*'*'*

It had become a habit of Edward's father to take his son with him in the car when he drove to his own work at the War Ministry in the mornings. Since fuel was rationed it was a sign of his father's continued importance that they were able to enjoy the luxury of driving it even when it wasn't strictly on official business.

For Edward it now meant getting more quickly and easily to a destination he detested, but since he otherwise would have been forced to walk and take a crowded tram to get there anyway he tried to feel grateful.

His thoughts were on the lovely girl he'd left huddled in the damp guest bedroom with some bread and cheese this morning. She looked absurd and adorable in his socks, long-johns and a navy sweater that he'd dug out of the bottom of his closet and which reached halfway to her knees. He stifled a smile. She looked good in blue. She looked good in his clothes, period.

"I'm glad to see that you're in a good mood today, Edward," his father said, eyeing him with a smile. His blonde hair was graying at the temples and his handsome face was becoming lined but he still walked with a straight back and a spring in his step that made Edward envy his father's vigor.

"Are you settling in all right?" Karl von Masen was used to leading young men, but he'd never managed to lead Edward anywhere he didn't want to go. From the time when Karl married Edward's mother Esme and adopted the young widow's three-year-old son he'd tried to be a good father to him, but he was frequently baffled at how strong-willed and independent Edward grew up to be.

Now he watched his son's face set into its accustomed inscrutable expression, the sensitive mouth drawn into a line and the sharp jawline clenching as strong teeth ground together. When Edward spoke, it was through his teeth.

"It's not possible for me to 'settle in' as an SS officer, father, and you know it. They're rabble, most of them, and some of them are worse. It's like walking knee-deep in garbage day in, day out."

Karl let a frustrated huff through his nose, but didn't rise to the bait. They all knew that this was a distasteful but necessary move. After the initial shouting match, Edward had acquiesced stiffly and refrained from complaining. It wasn't necessary. Both his father and Esme could see what it cost him.

"Maybe you'll be able to make a difference then," Karl said quietly, as he pulled in to let Edward step out of the car. "Help us win this war honorably."

The look Edward shot him was bleak. "I don't know if that's an option," he said, as he straightened his shoulders, pulled his cap down over his forehead and pushed the car door open.

As Edward walked down the hallways towards his office, he tried to keep his body straight and ignore the small flares of pain that the stone floor sent up through his leg to his hip. He saluted the men he had to salute, ignored the rest. As he closed the door to his room behind him, he made an effort not to slam it.

Before he'd even had time to hang up his coat and cap and sit down, there was a knock at the door and a curvy blonde stopped on the doorstep, simpering at him. Tanya. He sighed inwardly, but forced a smile.

"Untersturmführer von Masen, I have some documents here that you need to read. Hauptsturmführer Beck wants your input before lunch. If you want me to take notes, I'm available in my office. Just ring me. Oh, and don't forget the transport committee meeting at two o'clock." She deposited a brown folder on his desk and left the room with a suggestive sway of her hips probably meant to be alluring.

Edward frowned as he leafed through the papers. He was supposed to give his input on how to improve hygiene in the field for the troops out fighting under primitive conditions. Hardly his line of expertise. He had been preparing for a career in medicine when the war came and pulled him out of Oxford and had a pretty good grasp of chemistry and biology, but this …

He was in his first week in the SS and was by turns appalled and intrigued by the way he saw the work organized in a mixture of slapdash improvisation and ruthless efficiency. He had known little about the labor camps but he was learning more every day, and what he found was making him queasy with fear for the slip of a girl hiding in plain sight in his home.

"Problem solving, captain: that is our main object." Hauptsturmführer Beck, a tall and lithe man in his thirties with unusually long strands of slicked-back blonde hair, was walking back and forth across the carpet in his office as Edward sat in the visitor's chair, uncomfortably following the movement with his eyes.

"The Führer is a genius, but even a genius needs the support of good and loyal men who are able to solve all the little knots and smooth out the bumps that get in the way of truly big ideas." Hauptsturmführer Beck stopped and stood weighing on the balls of his feet, eyeing Edward with a cold smile.

"And your task is to be one of the bump-smoothers, Untersturmführer. I've heard that your family has a fine history of serving your country in the military field, but some battles begin at home." Under the Hauptsturmführer's pale blue stare Edward had the disconcerting feeling that his penetrating gaze could see all the way to the bedroom where his brown girl was hiding.

"Our enemies are not only those we fight with our guns, but all those who oppose the goals of the Führer – a strong people, purified from sloth and unsound thinking. A people made to rule the world. I trust it you've studied the Führer's ideas during your training, Untersturmführer von Masen?"

Edward swallowed and nodded. He had read Mein Kampf years ago, only because his father had told him he had to understand the new power that was smothering the country like a heavy grey blanket. And during the SS training it had been drilled home again and again that obeying the Führer, purifying the country from the weak of mind and body, the corrupted and degenerate was the number one priority.

"Of course." Edward cleared his throat and forced himself to look into the Hauptsturmführer's eyes. "I'm prepared to do whatever the Führer requires of me. I'm just not sure that the Department of Hygiene is where I may best serve him. I have some theoretical and practical skills in natural sciences and engineering, but perhaps not…"

The major waved his hand impatiently in the air, losing interest in the conversation. "No matter Untersturmführer. You will accompany me as one of my staff on my inspection trips next month and help us improve conditions in the institutions we oversee. I'm sure you'll be able to contribute. Meanwhile, I want a suggestion by the end of the week on how to prevent sickness along the front. We need every man standing on his own two feet, ready to fight. Dismissed."

Edward quickly got to his feet, saluted, and left the office without looking back, afraid that he might turn into a pillar of salt. His mind was churning. If he was going to be driving around the country with Hauptsturmführer Beck, he would need to make sure that Bella was taken care of without his help while he was away. But who could he trust? How could he get her out of Berlin? Where could he leave her, where she would be safe? He realized he needed to take his mother into his confidence. As an American national, she would be most likely to sympathize. He wasn't sure about his father.

Over dinner, he barely listened as his parents made conversation about the deteriorating quality of food and worries about British bomb raids, too distracted by thoughts of Bella arrested, being interrogated in a cellar by someone with Hauptsturmführer Beck's icy eyes and threatening demeanor to even feel the taste of his soup. His head snapped up as he heard his name spoken,

"I tried to leave clean linen in your room today, but your door was locked. Do you lock it regularly these days, Edward?" His mother looked curious but not upset, yet the unspoken question was there. Why would you feel the need to lock the door to your room, unless you were hiding something.

He shrugged, giving his mother an apologetic smile.

"Sometimes my room is in such a mess when I leave in the morning that I don't want anyone in there. I'll clean it up tonight and change the sheets if you'll give them to me." His mother held his gaze for a moment, then picked up her spoon again.

"I'll help you if you want. Or you could leave it until tomorrow when Frau Blücher comes in to clean. She's used to changing the linen. I hope you're not trying to do her job for her? I'm sure she would take offense. She would like to do much more for us as it is."

Edward gritted his teeth.

"You know I don't like people to do things for me that I can manage perfectly well myself, mother. I'm not an …" His voice caught in his throat. But he was an invalid now, for all intents and purposes, a tiny voice whispered inside his head. He felt his face flushing red as he stumbled on, staring at his glass of water that glinted in the light from the lamp.

"I mean that I'm perfectly capable of making my own bed. And although I appreciate Frau Blücher dusting and cleaning my room, I prefer to keep my things in order myself, so I know where to find everything." He carefully set his spoon to the side of his almost empty plate, stood up and executed a quasi-military bow.

"Mother, thank you for dinner. Father. Please excuse me, I think I need an early night." He caught a glimpse of his mother's troubled expression as he walked out of the room, but since no one tried to stop him, he quietly shut the door behind him and climbed the stairs. He would have to sneak into the kitchen later to get some food for Bella, but his mother didn't grudge him the extra snacks and hadn't commented so far. In return, he tried to eat less at meals. After all, rations were only so much and he was trying to feed an extra person without making it obvious. Lucky that Bella ate like a bird.

It struck him as he quietly scratched their signal on his door that maybe Bella was suppressing her hunger, as conscious as he was of the scarcity of food. It was an uncomfortable thought, but would explain why her body had felt light like a leaf whenever he'd had the privilege of holding her. His stomach lurched. How could he protect her and keep her alive?

The next night, after another midnight bath where he did his best not to catch agonizing glimpses of Bella's pale flesh, he slid into bed beside her, noticing how much more his body pressed down the mattress, making the bed slope and her body slide a couple of inches in his direction. Her smell of soap and damp flesh was faintly flowery and against reason he felt his mouth water, as if she were something to eat.

Hesitantly, he put out a hand in the darkness until he felt her shoulder, and whispered her name. He felt her tense, then relax and turn toward him.

"Yes?"

"Bella, I just found out that I will have to leave town soon, and I don't know how long I'll be away. I won't be here to take care of you, for a week, maybe longer. We'll have to make some other arrangements."

His whisper was like a frost, settling over her skin and making her movements still completely. He could hear her swallow before she spoke.

"I have to go?" Her voice was without expression, but it could be the lack of tone in her quiet whisper. He clutched her shoulder blindly, squeezing it to reassure her, wishing he could see her face in spite of the darkness that normally made him feel safe with her.

"No. That's not what I mean. I don't want you to go, Bella. But we'll need someone else to help us." He paused. "I'm thinking of telling my mother that you're here and asking her to help." He felt her twitch in a flight response that must have been automatic, since there was nowhere for her to go.

"Can you trust her?" Bella's voice was barely audible, but the way she pronounced every word so carefully made her sound fierce. Edward swallowed. This was, after all, her life on the line.

"Yes, I think so. She's from America. No one in my family sympathizes with the Nazis, but she has no ties to this country at all, no reason to feel any loyalty to the Führer. She hates him, even if she knows better than to let on. My father …" Edward hesitated. "Don't get me wrong, but he comes from a long line of military men. He cares about his honor. He might hesitate to put his family or his name in danger by sheltering you. I don't know. But I trust my mother with my life."

Bella's cool fingers were suddenly on his cheek, tracing his eyebrows, his nose, his lips, as if trying to read the sincerity on his face. By reflex, he caught her hand in his and, without thinking, pressed his warm lips against the inside of her palm. She gasped quietly with surprise.

"Do you trust her with my life, Edward?" she mumbled, and he felt a trickle of ice through his veins at the thought of Bella dragged away by people wearing the same black uniform he wore to work every day. Vipers.

In a violent outburst of protectiveness, he grabbed Bella and pulled her into his body, burying his face in her damp, fragrant hair.

"I'll never let anything happen to you, Bella, I promise. I can't. Never." His voice was choked with emotion and something else, bubbling just under the surface. She struggled feebly against the tightness of his hold, then relaxed with a shudder, burrowing her face into the hollow of his throat. He felt her breath there, hot and moist against his skin.

They were curled together under the protection of the duvet and for a moment it recalled his childhood, rainy days when he built a cave of blankets under a table where he could be absolutely safe, the business of the house going on around him, unconcerned and oblivious. But now, he was no longer alone, and he realized he didn't want to be. He wanted to be with Bella. Whispered conversations in a dusky room, brief touches, stolen glimpses were what his life had become all about. How had it happened so fast? And now, it was suddenly not enough.

Slowly, hesitantly, Edward ducked his head and raised her chin with his fingers, his heart pounding loud enough to shake the bed frame. He knew the moment Bella guessed his intention, because she gasped soundlessly just before their lips connected.

The effect of her sweet breath against his trembling lips was electrifying, and he was already painfully hard inside his pajama pants. He was aching to press that shamelessly straining part of himself against her warm flesh, yet at the same time mortified to force the evidence of his arousal on her. Edward tried to focus his complete consciousness on the feeling of her lips against his, kissing her slowly, reverently, letting all the tenderness he felt for her find expression in this burning connection between them.

At first, she didn't move at all, but just as he felt his heart start to sink in dread and disappointment, her hands wound themselves into his hair, and she started responding with kisses of her own. Bella's kisses were just like herself, shy and fearless, exploring his lips softly, then tentatively licking his bottom lip into the corner of his mouth with a silky tongue, like a cat looking for cream. He almost exploded right out of his pants.

Edward rolled over onto his back and pulled her up so that she was lying on his chest, his good leg pressed up between hers but his arousal straining uselessly to press itself against her hip. He held her head cradled in his hand as he started kissing her in earnest, with all the passion he'd withheld for so long. She made little noises, whimpers of excitement that caused white heat to go off like exploding light bulbs in his abdomen and groin.

His free hand started straying down her body, the shirt she wore to bed crumpled between them so that he quickly found bare skin. When he caressed her naked back from the nape of her neck down to her waist and gripped her round behind in his hand firmly she started rubbing against him in the most maddening way, using his thigh when all he wanted was to press her down on his cock.

"Wait," he gasped, breaking free of her lips in a desperate attempt to regain sanity. "Bella, are you sure? We can stop if you want. Maybe we shouldn't …"

She didn't stop kissing him for a moment, light, burning touches covering his cheeks, his nose, his chin.

"I don't care, Edward," she mumbled softly. "I don't care, I don't care. I want this, please, please, I don't care."

And suddenly the weight of everything, the war, his broken body, the uncertain future, the fear and the danger and responsibility, all fell away from him like a landslide of mud and earth, crashing away down the mountain side, leaving only clean, hard rock behind. He wanted her. Beyond anything in this world, he wanted her, and she wanted him. And there would be no tomorrow.

"Yes," he said. "But, please, I need to feel you. All of you." She stilled for a moment, then understood and sat up, carefully peeling the shirt from her torso, and wriggling out of the long underwear tangled around her body. Impatiently he followed suit, flinging the pajama jacket across the room and trying without grace to remove his pajama pants in spite of the stiffness in his bad leg and the considerable stiffness of his erection.

"Let me help you," she whispered, when she felt his furious frustration. He relaxed as her small, cool hands carefully pulled out the string and deftly freed his cock to the chill air of the room, before pulling the pants free of his hips, gliding down and easing first one leg free of the pajama pants, then the other. He had never felt so naked before, in spite of the darkness. He knew he needed to see more of her.

"Could you pull away the blackout curtains, Bella? I know there's a full moon out tonight." She hesitated, then jumped off the bed and carefully felt her way across the carpet to the windows. Silver light fell in stripes across her white body as she returned to the bed. He couldn't imagine anything more beautiful than her small breasts, the curve of her hip and the mysterious, dark patch between her thighs.

She shivered and pulled the bedclothes up around them, then lay down on top of him, pressing every naked inch of chilled skin against his. There was a searing heat pulsing through them that had nothing to do with temperature and everything to do with desire. A deep, shuddering breath that he didn't know he'd been holding left Edward's body. It was as if his heart hadn't started beating until this moment, with her weight solid and dreamlike on him, anchoring him to this bed.

"Have you …" he hesitated. "Has there been anyone else?" She shook her head, and the small movement sent waves of joy, lust and fear through him. He turned her face towards him, so that he could see her eyes, even if it was too dark to gauge their expression.

"I don't want to hurt you, Bella. Are you sure?" She smiled a small smile, and the sight of it made his heart swell.

"I want you. You're a goy, and I shouldn't want you, but I do. And I don't care if you've been with others. At least then one of us knows what he's doing." And she pressed her petal lips against him, softly but firmly, until he opened up and gave her lovely tongue access, too. He was hers. In this moment, there had never been another woman in his life but her.

Her breasts fit exactly in his hands, round as apples, soft as butter, firm like a down pillow. He licked the nipples and sucked them into his mouth, pebbles that rose to him just like he rose to her while she made a clucking sound in her throat as if she found it hard to breathe.

He made her move so that he could kiss her soft belly, kiss his way down to her thighs, and into the secret place between them, although she tried to squirm away from him then. But when he felt her, salty and sweet on his tongue, she stopped struggling and put her hands across her mouth, moaning softly as he kissed and licked her, gripping her thighs and burying his face in her.

Lost in the scent and taste of her, Edward could feel her relaxing and tensing, losing herself in the pleasure more and more, until he teased and sucked her into submitting to it completely with a muffled sound that would have been a scream if she'd let it.

Bella's body went limp and she crawled down to curl on his chest, murmuring incoherently against his throat while he stroked her back and fondled her breast, pressed against him.

"Bella," he whispered, "do you want to stop?" She shook her head vehemently this time and caught his nipple between her lips, biting down on it gently, sending a bolt of desire right to his despairing cock, just as her hand found it. He could have wept with relief as her firm strokes brought him close to climax faster than he liked to admit, and wondered for a minute if it would be better for the night to end here. Bella touching him was a hundred times better than any of the times he'd lain here alone bringing himself to orgasm. But then she climbed up and straddled him, and when he slipped between her thighs, rubbing against the intense heat of her center, slippery and soft, all other thoughts left him. He had to be inside her, now.

"Bella, I need you. Can I …" he choked on the words, empty of meaning. There was only blind need.

She lifted herself then, and agonizingly slowly and carefully started searching for the right angle, positioning him where no one else had been before. He gritted his teeth and held her hips in a death grip, trying to keep himself from impaling her swiftly and violently. But when he felt the tip gliding between her soft lips, it was as if everything inside him focused to a laser beam of awareness. Inch by inch, he entered her, until he felt the barrier inside her. Bella hesitated, lifted herself infinitesimally, then sat down on him slowly but with determination, gasping at the intrusion as she relaxed and opened herself to him.

Edward felt as if the roof of the house had come off, or maybe the top of his head, filling his eyes with stars as the pleasure of being inside her soft, tight heat pulsed through his body.

"Wait," he gave a strangled whisper. When she bowed down to kiss him, her cheeks were wet. Concern overtook the pleasure. "Are you in pain, Bella?"

"Yes. No. I don't know. A little. Oh, Edward, I can feel you. Inside me." Her voice was muffled as she spoke through kisses. His heart swelled at that, and carefully he started moving inside her, feeling his whole body tingle. After a minute, she started moving with him, rubbing against him as she came down, gasping when his movements became larger, pulling almost out of her and then sliding home again, even deeper.

"Yes. Oh, yes," she whispered, and he sped up, unable to control himself any longer. For a time that was all time and no time at all he hovered on the brink of his own orgasm, then, with what felt like superhuman effort, he pulled out of her, and with a few short strokes brought himself over, biting down on his own arm to stop the shouts of pleasure threatening to erupt.

Bella had tumbled down beside him when he released her, and lay panting curled around his side. She put her hand across the hand still resting on his pulsing cock, and squeezed it. His cooling cum felt oddly reassuring instead of disgusting as it coated both their hands.

"Why …?" her voice trailed off. His breathing returning to normal, he put his arm around her, pulling her closer.

"I didn't want to risk getting you pregnant right now. I'm sorry, I should have said something I suppose. Did I hurt you?" She moved her head in denial.

"No, I was just surprised. I thought I'd done something wrong first, that I'd hurt you, but then …" he could hear the smile in her voice. "I think you enjoyed yourself, Edward." He chuckled silently to himself.

"Oh, Bella, that doesn't begin to describe it." He hugged her more tightly and kissed her hair, then realized that the cum was starting to slide away down his body. "Oh, we've got to save the sheets, where's your sleep shirt?" When she groped around in the bed and handed it to him, he wiped off his stomach and chest, then her hand and his own, before crumpling it carefully and disposing of it beside the bed. He'd take care of it in the morning.

Pulling the sheets up around them, he settled her into his arms spooning against the long, delicate curve of her naked back. In spite of his sated desire, something flickered inside him when he felt her soft behind pressed against his crotch. Oh, yes, he could imagine plunging into her from behind, holding her creamy white hips firmly in his hands while he buried himself to the hilt between her round buttocks, hearing her moan and feeling her clench around him … Edward jerked involuntarily as a feeling of guilt coursed through him and tried to move away, but she burrowed back until they were intimately connected again.

He sighed, and pressed his lips against the top of her head.

"I love you, Bella," he murmured softly, realizing with a jolt that he'd never actually said the words before now. Her hands squeezed his arm, wrapped across her chest.

"I know, Edward. I love you." She said it so surely, so matter-of-factly, as if it was already known to all the world. As he drifted into sleep, he didn't feel the familiar ache in his leg anymore, in spite of the last hour's unusual exertion. The only ache was the one in his heart at the thought that there might not be many more nights like this in store for him and Bella. Not many more nights sheltering this brown sparrow in the nest of his black arms from the storm of war.