Germany/Türkiye ; the final year of WWI.
Ludwig thinks, this must be dangerous. Sadık industriously perched in windowsills and wrenching out, uprooting the weather stripping from around the windows. He precariously teeters as his kaftan catches on edges, splinters, that mask with its limited peripheral vision and hindsight urging him forward like bad advice; he leans in and digs into the stripping with his anonymous scrap of metal and painstakingly pulls, loses his balance, wobbles and draws himself back in with the trusty little scrap. He falls into a rhythm until the freed stripping drops to the ground with a gratifying clamor, and he plants himself in the next battered window and pulls again.
And, "Thank you," Ludwig calls with every dismantled window. He folds his arms to hide his idle hands. He bunches his fingers into loose fists so the raw lines, the deep and blood-red cuts demarcating his palms, are hidden. He gazes up at Sadık and wonders if it's about the time when his hands will be the next to give in to the sharp edge of that steel.
Sadık glances down, pulls away that dehumanizing cloth from his mouth, and grins.
Clang. The next stripping falls and dreams of becoming the decisive bullet.
It's 1917 and the first breath of winter is encroaching upon Europe's heat.
"Well then. It's probably best we distance ourselves from each other from here on," Ludwig says, three years too late.
Sadık spits on the frozen wooden floors. "'S everything I ever wanted."
"Now isn't the time for regrets."
"I don't regret shit, I'll tell you what."
"That's your hobby."
"I don't regret anything!" Pause. Loftily: "...Save for the fact that the whole of Europe could not understand what I had worked to -- "
Sadık barks a laugh; it rattles against the bones of the gutted church. "Watch your mouth. They'll take anything you say as an epitaph these days, and before you know it they've signed your name for you and you're over, buried alive. Imagine that! The whole world forgetting your sorry existence."
Failure is the color of the puddles unifying into larger puddles passionlessly outside while the rain begins to freeze over. Success, it seems, as hopeless as hunting crocodiles in those muddy pools. His breath mists and his palms ache when he rubs his arms.
Sadık will not remove his hands from his robes.
"I don't need their acknowledgment," Ludwig says, sounding horribly childish. "I would prefer only my own satisfaction."
"I don't wanna have the world," Sadık joins in helpfully, to prove they aren't the bad guys at all: "I wanna be its meaning."
Ludwig passes his hand through his hair. He never imagined he would need to consider this: bodies buried, trenches futile and gunfire ruthless. Knowledge of emergency, of the oppressive force of being alone at the end of this wrong turn, and yet he voices it all so that Sadık will stay.
Sadık stays. "So how are we gonna knock this bell down?" he asks, his ever-moving gaze raising to the rafters where the last significant piece of metal hangs.
"We knock the church down," Ludwig decides. He's willing to let religion redeem itself a final time.
A stretch of silence. Relief. And then the radio snaps awake again with an electric pop, that old, dying burst, and the Viennese waltzes kick up again. Dust. He's beginning to see his home as dust, he lives in the dredges pushed up against the edges of Berlin.
Sadık knocks at his door. Ludwig's head raises; he knows Sadık's arrival because Sadık thought it hilariously appropriate to make their unspoken bond's password a ruthless snap-kick on the heavy door.
He keeps his beer in hand, opens the door. February 1918: freezing. Sadık wears his new uniform stiffly, has been diving desperately into the latest revolts imposed against him. It almost looks like he knows what he's doing. It makes Ludwig overjoyed to see him.
"Come in," he says after casting a cursory glance at the wintertime surroundings. Sadık smiles a long smile and pulls off his fez as he enters.
Ludwig pours him a beer. Sadık looks ready to laugh. Taps a case of French-made cigarettes against the table and offers Ludwig one, and neither of them comment on contraband.
He strikes a match: lighting, smoldering, Sadık leans forward with the flame under his chin and the smoking tip of the cigarette to share. Ludwig leans forward, biting his cigarette between his teeth and pressing it to the other; and in this light, that white mask looks unglazed and the parentheses of Sadık's laugh-lines so pronounced.
Sadık exhales; smoke signals. Morse code, or the puffing of a train on a track that Ludwig couldn't finish for the both of them. That's fine by me, Sadık had said, throwing down his pick-axe and looking for fresh water to rinse in -- that's alright, nothing disappoints me anymore.
And y'know what's wrong with you -- everything's a great upset to you. Everything's like earthquakes and goddamn tidal waves and running out of coffee, they're all thorns in your sides and fractures in your bones but believe me. You can walk. So stop making that damn face at me. We'll find something better.
He wonders what Sadık would say now but that is the language of oppression: words of discouragement and disaster. Flames lapping at their shared plans, excited by the slightest breath.
Sadık leans back and grimaces at the radio. "What's that?" he asks blithely, recklessly breaking the silence.
"'Rondo Alla Turca,'" Ludwig answers immediately, thinking first of Roderich's approving nod and second of what a damn embarrassment Mozart is right now.
"Holy shit," Sadık mutters.
"I, uh," Ludwig says. "Don't have the means to make a proper dinner. On me. At the moment."
Sadık laughs through his teeth, tips his chair backward. "Ain't it the same in every home on this goddamn continent. Your horrible coffee's all I need."
Ludwig has enough sugar to mask the taste. This makes him feel proud. Once they're tipsy enough, he trips to the kitchen, chuckling as Sadık whistles hopelessly to some naive marching song. Tasteless instant rations, and five, six teaspoons of hoarded sugar. He slides the mug to Sadık and it tips; half spills out and Sadık presses his lips to the wet table, laughing, laughing, inflicting his well-practiced snap kick on Ludwig under the table.
Loneliness is one cigarette. Is letting everything slip from your grasp alone. Sadık gulps down the coffee and his head tilts to the side, dreamy, and he smiles his wide cheshire-cat grin and Ludwig wants to kiss his forehead or something similarly reassuring and restrained but it's covered by a mask.
He pours Sadık another beer, instead. Another coffee. Soon both of their hands shake, buzzing and jittering and rattling like bones, and Sadık lights up two cigarettes, holds them both between his lips and feigns control, snorts when Ludwig hums along to an anthem and shoves one of the cigarettes into his mouth, his gloved palm pressed and unsteady against Ludwig's chin until Ludwig simply shuts up, simply breathes in smoke. They stay silent for as long as it takes for the ash to progress to the butts, and then they lay their heads against the table.
This reminds Ludwig of loss. Ineffectual, like hands threatening through bars.
Sadık paces like a caged tiger for hours. He bites his nails and doesn't undress, wanders through Ludwig's house like a specter.
Ludwig sleeps fitfully, as long as it takes for that murderous mixture of nicotine and alcohol and caffeine to wear off, and then he sits up in bed, props himself up against the wall.
Sadık always speaks first. Sadık has opened the front door and let the snowy air inside, has closed it and opened a window. Could use this metal for weapons, yes, one day it'll have to go.
Me or the windows.
There is a certain danger to waking up before the sun, at this time when things shine plainly. We can't make it back from this. It makes Ludwig snatch his pants and pull them on hastily; he grabs his belt before he pauses and stares around his dark room, wondering what exactly he intended to do to extricate the both of them from this mire. Wondering why Sadık came. Wondering if there is anything language can conjure that is not in speech of oppression.
He lies back down and lets it settle on his chest: a great, dark, warm thing. He imagines names to call it, this feeling, feeling for two.
The next telegram will come tomorrow; the next outbreak; the next fall. He will pull himself through it with the knowledge of termination. How inescapable the truth: they are not coming back.
5:40 AM, Sadık claims the unguarded space next to him. He doesn't slip underneath the covers, only tucks his hands behind his head and stares at the ceiling. He has left his mask lying somewhere, haphazard. The wind tears above their heads and Sadık has left the front window open, accident or intent doesn't matter. Soon, they will remove the shingles and destroy the house so no one could guess they ever had anyone.
Sadık glances at him, finds him awake and brightens.
"Your hair's too long," he remarks, the shadows under his eyes darker than the outside (lightening, somehow, in spite of the weather).
Ludwig paws his ruffled hair out of his eyes. "Your face is human."
"Ouch," says Sadık. They stay silent.
7:40 AM, Sadık sits straight up and Ludwig only notices twenty minutes later, when a breeze knocks the open bedroom door against the wall. He sits up, aching for a shirt, for a coat. The rustling of fabric, the crackle of the radio; rain like percussion, foots harsh against doors, making splinters. All tangible. The necessity of touch being necessary.
Barefoot, he pads to the kitchen.
Look: it's spring. The snow has begun leaking into the ground and hardening where it remains; the gales have abated into breeze.
Fluke, Ludwig decides, rationality settling comfortably in for the day.
Sadık is in the kitchen, tearing bread with his raw hands. Sometimes he seems faint, like static. Flicker, pale, softer than he had anticipated the ending would be. Ludwig could reach right through him.
"Sit," Ludwig takes charge. Sadık squats on the floor and grins winningly up at him.
Ludwig uses the last of the flour for pancakes, to make this all worth Sadık's while.
- The (flailing, fragile) Ottoman Empire and Germany made the secret 1914 Turco-German Alliance for two reasons: the Ottoman Empire, by this time considered the 'sick man of Europe,' would not be able to defend itself against the Triple Entente and Russia; and German pressure. Ironically, entry into WWI was what finally killed off the Ottoman Empire and paved the way for the Republic of Türkiye.
- Germany suffered horribly during the last few years of the war; its people starved and resorted to melting down any bits of metal from homes or buildings to produce bullets.
- Both the Ottoman Empire and Germany were forced to surrender in November 1918.
- This is kind of crap and needs a lot of work and I'll probably edit it, you don't have to tell me. D8
ETA: oh god what slgsghsfgsd EIIIINSAMKEEEIIIT