tagRomanceBelleau Wood

Belleau Wood


Oh, the snowflakes fell in silence
Over Belleau Wood that night
For a Christmas truce had been declared
By both sides of the fight
As we lay there in our trenches
The silence broke in two
By a German soldier singing
A song that we all knew...

- Belleau Wood, Garth Brooks

Private Gabriel Hitchcock looked up into the black night sky, watching the snowflakes drift lazily down, covering the trenches and ground in a light, filmy blanket of ethereal light. The snow fell silently, softly, unperturbed by what it found upon reaching the ground; it covered the mud and the wooden firing steps and the barbed wire and the shell craters equally, quietly, without murmur. The snow fell lazily, each flake spiraling down from the heavens, through the cold and crisp night air. In a sense of wonder he had not felt since childhood, Gabriel reached out with his hand, palm up, and caught a snowflake, staring at it as if he had never seen such a thing of beauty before.

Or perhaps, as if he had feared what he had to have known was true. That he would never see one again. Gabriel looked around again, up into the night sky, and then around the cold, narrow, muddy and damp confines of the trench that had been his home for the last year, since that fateful day that he and his mates had been caught up in the euphoria of the moment, in the sheer excitement of the mob - even, Gabriel reflected to himself as he watched the snowflake melt in his hand - even in the smile of the pretty girl who had run up to him and the lads as they waited in line, and planted a kiss on his cheek. Gabriel exhaled heavily, his breath condensing in the cold night air. It was almost surreal, he knew, as he looked around the trench again, at the men huddling under thick canvas parkas, cleaning their rifles, warming small tins of water for coffee or tea, Privates Grady and Little over there, arguing, again, over a card game, cigarettes the stakes.

As he listened to the arguing, the hiss of boiling water, the metallic clack of a rifle's bolt being slammed home and a bullet chambered, Gabriel reflected on what he didn't hear. The explosions, the booming tenebrous waves of thunder that rolled across the blasted wasteland between the trenches, the hateful staccato of machine gun fire, the slower, higher pitched reports of rifle and pistol shots...and the screaming, the screaming of the dead and the dying and the wounded. For nearly a year, those sounds had been woven into the background of Gabriel's existence, and as horrible as they were, it was almost uncomfortable to hear the silence, the mundane sounds of everyday life, the soft whisper of the winter breeze and the barest echo of the snowflakes falling down.

Though I did not know the language
The song was 'Silent Night'

Then I heard my buddy whisper,
'All is calm and all is bright'
Then the fear and doubt surrounded me
'Cause I'd die if I was wrong
But I stood up on my trench
And I began to sing along

Then across the frozen battlefield
Another's voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn

Gabriel ambled across the frozen, muddy floor of the trench, and squatted near Grady and Little, holding his hands out over the small fire they had nurtured in an old shell casing. He watched with disinclined interest, as Little laid down his cards - full house, tens over jacks. Grady threw his cards down in disgust on the big barb wire spool that served as a makeshift poker table.

"What do you hear?" Gabriel asked, as Little grinned, sweeping in the pot of hand rolled cigarettes. "Do you think this truce is going to hold?"

Grady looked up. "What do we ever know?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders. He paused, lighting a cigarette, and exhaling heavily into the cold night air. "You don't hear any shooting, though, do you?" He gestured with one hand toward the firing steps, and beyond. "Fritz seems content to enjoy his Christmas too."

Little paused in his cigarette inventory. "I hear the truce lasts until midnight," he said. He reached inside his coat and pulled out an old battered pocket watch. "About six hours from now."

"A horrible thing," Grady commented. "Six hours to live."

"We've made it this far, right?" Gabriel asked, mustering a smile. The other two privates regarded him, and the smile faltered. "I know," he said quietly. "I know."

"Goddamn the General Staff," Grady said to no one in particular. "Sitting thirty five miles behind the line in some goddamn French villa, sipping their tea, while we lot get slaughtered every day. Up over the steps, lads! For England! For King and Country!" He spat on the ground, and took another long drag.

"Careful," Little commented. "That's seditious talk." He finished his counting, and began dividing his cigarettes into three neat little piles.

Gabriel shivered involuntarily, pulling his coat tighter around his shoulders. Out of instinct, he looked down and checked his rifle, his hands moving over it, almost of their own volition.

Little looked up again. "Here," he said, holding his hand out. Gabriel looked at him. "Take it. Merry Christmas." Gabriel nodded in thanks. Little nodded, and nudged Grady. "Merry Christmas, ya old bastard," he said, handing over a third of the cigarettes he had managed to stockpile.

"Merry Christmas," Grady answered back, gruff, but clearly touched. "Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men."

"Smoke them fast," Little said. "I heard Captain Hollister say we were going over the top as soon as the truce ended. General Staff," his lip curled sarcastically. "They think they can force a breakthrough. Catch Hans unaware. Like the Huns aren't planning the exact same thing."
The three men were silent. Finally, Grady exhaled, long and slow, looking at his cigarette, with a sad, faraway eye. "Merry Christmas and goddamn the General Staff all to hell," he finally said.

Gabriel sat, motionless, his mind racing. "Over the top?" he asked. "Are you sure?"

Little nodded. "Captain seems pretty sure of it. There's going to be a general inspection at 2300, and over the top at one minute past the witching hour."

"Jesus on his throne," Gabriel said quietly.

He suddenly stood up, his eyes blazing. "Right," he said. "Well, if we've got five hours, then by God, we have five hours left." He picked up his rifle, slinging it over his back.

"Where are you going, boy?" Grady asked.

"I'm going to the back," Gabriel answered, nodding his head. "It's Christmas, and I'm going on leave."

"Um," Little said. "You know they shoot deserters, right?"

"I'm not deserting," Gabriel said. "I'll be back in time for the big push. But even so, if we're going over the top, then shooting me for being AWOL won't be much difference, right lads?"

"God speed, then, boy," Grady said, shaking his head slowly. He lit another cigarette. "God speed."

Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
'Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here's hoping we both live
To see us find a better way

Gabriel carefully picked his way through the snow. The scars of war were less here, away from the trenches, towards the small town. The German guns couldn't reach this far behind the line, and both side's scouts and bombers were tangling miles to the north, over the main front. Still, the evidence that all was not right and peaceful in the world still abounded; the odd shattered shack, tree trunks splintered and blasted, occasional tread marks from trucks and men moving from civilization toward the relentless drumbeat of war and death.

He walked into the town, his rifle still slung over his shoulder, but loosely slung, within easy reach, a bullet chambered and the safety off. The small village was dark, quiet, lights extinguished in the off chance that a German cannon or plane decided to use it as easy target practice. As Gabriel walked up the lonely main street, though, he saw that the residents had decided, on this night, to at least try at a semblance of normalcy; the church at the north end of the town was open, lights on, kerosene lamps burning under dark hoods.

Gabriel smiled, making his way toward the church. Just as silence had replaced the sounds of war in the trenches, now the sounds of singing replaced the sound of snow. The notes of hymns and carols bled out from the front doors of the church, and Gabriel gladly walked toward them now, making his way up the steps, and pushing the door open, leaning against the inner archway, watching the townsfolk sing. A few turned toward him, curious, noting his uniform and his rifle, smiling, and then turning again, their voices lifted up in song.

The townspeople fell silent, as a priest stepped up to the altar, offering benediction and blessings. As the service ended, Gabriel ducked out of the doorway into the cold, as the people from the town began to file out of the church.

A young, pretty woman, wearing a jacquard dress with a princess collar, stopped, her eyes downcast, a small smile on her lips nonetheless. Gabriel looked at her, noting her dress, which would have been the height of style about five or ten years earlier. But she was young and pretty, and her cheeks were flushed with the softest hint of pink from the cold, and she carried the dress well. She glanced up at him, and her smile grew faintly larger, her cold gray eyes assessing him, traveling over his face and upper body. Gabriel swallowed quietly, returning her gaze, barely noticing that she extended her hand, taking his hard and dirty and calloused hand in her small, dainty, gloved one. She smiled at him, her eyes moving away, flicking down the street. Slowly, Gabriel nodded.

She led him down the road, toward a small cottage nestled in the shadow of the general store. Smoke lazily from a nondescript tin chimney. Still silent, smiling, the woman led him up to the front door of the cottage, opening the door, pulling Gabriel inside.

The cottage was small, but sturdy and well kept. A bed nestled in one corner, next to the stove, which double as a fireplace. There was an agreeable amount of warmth coming from the open flames, and a mince pie of some sort sat atop the black cast iron.

Without a word, the woman gently but firmly sat Gabriel down in a chair. Before him, on the small, rough wooden table, lay a plate, chipped in a few places, but bright and clean. She pulled a linen napkin from a trunk near the stove, and offered it to Gabriel. She then reached into a small icebox, and pulled out a small bottle of home brewed beer, setting it next to the plate. Gabriel felt his stomach rumbling involuntarily, as the scents of the mince pie wafted through the air. She turned from him, grabbing the pie with two towels wrapped round the handles of the pan, and brought it to the table, setting it down. Gabriel smiled, licking his lips; the smells were a heaven’s distance from the muck and the slop of the trenches.

She cut him a generous chunk of the mince pie, dropping it onto his place, and handing him a fork. Gabriel glanced at her, and then, able to resist no more, he bent down and began shoveling the food into his mouth, washing it down with the cold beer. The young woman sat at the other end of the table, her head cradled in one hand, watching the soldier eat, smiling, her gray eyes sparkling. Gabriel ate quickly, hungrily, wolfing the food down, his alternating between the food and the pretty young woman who was sitting across from him.

Finally, finished, he leaned back in his chair, a sigh of contentment escaping his lips. The cares of the war, the mud and rats and death and screams seemed far behind him, away, gone, some sort of fleeting memory lost in the warmth of the moment, the glow of the food, and the smile and sparkling eyes of his pretty, silent, hostess.

She cleared the table, quickly, efficiently, and then returned to him, leading him by the hand to the small bed in the opposite corner. She sat him down, her hands in his, facing him, smiling all the time, never speaking. She stood before him, standing straight and tall, and Gabriel sat, looking up at her, his gaze never wavering, never breaking from her own.

The woman stood before him, very still, reaching up with her left hand, unclasping the back of her high princess collar. The collar fell away from her neck. Now with both hands, she reached behind her unclasping the bodice of her dress, the heavy antique fabric falling away from her body. She stepped out of the pile of ruffles and silk and taffeta at her feet, standing before him, unashamed, her small, high, pert breasts dusted with the faintest pink of blush, the nipples already hard and pointing. The corset around her waist was laced tightly, pushing her breasts up and out, the pale ivory lace and brocade blending into her own pale skin. Heavily laced and ruffled garters extended from the boned ribs of her corset, attaching themselves to the lacy tops of her stockings. Pale, translucent, gauzy fabric covered the junction between her legs, until she pushed the bloomers down, stepping out of them, standing before Gabriel, the same small, enigmatic smile on her face. Her final act of undressing was to unclasp the small golden locket that she wore around her neck, laying it on a small, rough table near her bed.

Gabriel's breath hitched in his breast as he regarded her body, and when she came forward, embracing him, he embraced her as well, tightly, breathing in the scent of her body, losing himself in the moment, the now, his hands running up and down her body, feeling her curves and skin and sinew, his face buried in the joining of her neck and collar, his lips brushing against her. She nuzzled at his ear, his jaw, kissing up and down his face, as her hands expertly stripped the old, worn, dirty trappings of his soldier's uniform from his body, the buckles and straps and shirts falling away from him, revealing the hard, wiry muscles born in an environment of combat and hardship. Smooth and soft met hard and calloused, as their lips found one another, meeting together, pressing against each other. Her tongue darted from between her parted lips, exploring his mouth, the heat from their bodies radiating out, pouring into each other, the two of them melting together.

She kissed lower, her lips caressing his chin, his neck, the hollow of his throat, her mouth and body moving down his, kissing the hard, flat muscles of his chest, the depression of his sternum, down the center of his body, across his abdomen. Her hands worked at the top of his pants, unbuckling, unbuttoning, pushing the hard coarse fabric away from him, eager to unearth skin and muscle, pushing in between his legs, toward the heat.

Her hands on his cock were like an electric surge through his body. Gabriel hissed, once, involuntarily, the heat and the soft snapping him to attention, his cock rising, engorging, responding to her eager touch. She smiled up at him, eyes flashing, the light from the kerosene dancing in her pupils, and then she looked down, her mouth traveling across his skin, until her lips and tongue found her hands, and soft breath replaced the clasp of her delicate fingers, tongue replacing the feel of silk.

Gabriel stiffened, as she worked on him, her lips closing around his cock, her tongue flicking the underside of his shaft, eager and unrestrained, her blonde hair bobbing up and down in his lap. He felt his hands go to her hair, his fingers diving into the blonde tangle, guiding her, moving with her, his hips even pumping slightly, rising and falling in rhythm with her head, as she traced a wet trail up and down his stiff shaft, up and down, over and over again. He was moaning now, a low, throaty, guttural noise, overlapping the wet sounds of her ministrations on his cock. He looked down at her, lost in the passion, pulling at her shoulders until she rose once again to meet him, and he leaned in, kissing her hard on the jaw, on the corner of her mouth, lips once again finding each other, kissing hard and fast and urgently. One hand fell, and he explored her cleft, finding heat and moisture and desire.

He rolled with her, throwing her back on the bad, his weight over her, stroking her with his had, kissing her still, never breaking contact. He guided himself between her legs, waiting, holding, just letting himself brush against her. She gasped, staring up at him, her eyes wide with lust and passion and desire, and he nodded, dark brown eyes meeting gray, and he leaned forward, until they touched, joined, and the shock of the moment, of the contact, was enough to rip groans of desire from both of them.

Gabriel let his weight fall forward now, toward her, plunging deep inside her, as her body stiffened, hands arched, fingers pressing hard into his back, running up and down, as she struggled to hold on. He began to slowly move in and out, and her hips thrust forward as his retreated, moving in synch and rhythm, in and out, in and out, over and over again. Her gasps became shorter, sharper, as they began to build together, waves of passion and desire and fulfillment washing over the two of them, moving in unison, together, now and forever, their gaze never breaking, never wavering.

Her legs stiffened, her hands became claws, scratching, digging into his back, as the waves built to a crescendo, and they both succumbed to it, together, as one, and as the wave continued to build, as it crested, and he climaxed into her, her own climax hit her, her back arched, head thrown back, and she screamed, a feral scream of pleasure and awakening and joy, and they continued to move together, riding the current of their own passion, moving as one, slower and slower, as the waves receded into currents, and then into the still waters of completion. Gabriel leaned down, kissing her again, this time gently, slowly, her own lips responding, embracing not in torrid passion, but in quiet, still gentility, both of them laying quietly, in the soft deep moment.

Presently, the town clock rousted Gabriel; the tenebrous tones counting towards the devil's hour, and he knew his time was done. She watched him silently as he dressed, one hand holding her blankets over her breasts, her eyes still bright, but somehow, different, sad. Gabriel finished his chore, and sat on the edge of the bed, stroking her hair, looking at her.

His question went asked, silently, in his eyes. The answer came, not silently, but in a lilting, clear voice, a voice as quiet and still as the snow falling on the battlefield.

"Joyeux Noël, Monsieur," she said quietly, kissing him on the cheek. Her hands found his, and she dropped her locket into them, closing his fingers over it, closing her hand over his. "Dieu soit avec vous."

Gabriel nodded. He rose, and walked to the door of her cottage, before stopping, turning towards her as he slung his rifle once again over his shoulder. He looked at her again, as if his eyes were taking a snapshot of the moment, drinking in her blonde hair, now delightfully askew and wild, her gray eyes, the heart shape of her face. "Merry Christmas," he said, before turning toward the door again.

Then the devil's clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again

Gabriel held the locket in his hand, fingers toying with it, as the artillery rained down on the stretch of wasted death between the German and English trenches, as the harsh braking staccato of machine gun fire and the high, individual cracking reports of rifle fire mixed with the yells and the screams and the noises of death once again. Bombs burst over the battlefield, and exploded in the mud, dirt and ice and blood blossomed and flew through the air. All along the line, men rushed to the firing steps, checking for one last time, their rifles, their sidearms, saying quiet prayers, looking at photos or letters from loved ones. Gabriel glanced to his left, saw Little and Grady, both of them looking back, sad, wistful expressions in their eyes. Little tucked one of his playing cards, the queen of hearts, into his belt, and favored Gabriel with a pained half smile, before once again turning his attention toward the front of the trench, the man in front of him already up on the firing steps.

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