"I hardly think that the way to assure our lords and masters that we are worth existing is to huddle amongst the trash like rodents – off with you! Back to your homes before your parents worry themselves to death."
The children watched him warily, and then the largest there shook his head carefully. "We can't."
"Can't? I rather think it is the opposite."
"No – we can't."
He frowned, but the youngest child – a little girl piped up: "We don't have parents."
"Then an aunt or an uncle." He sighed when they shook their heads. "Brother or sister? Cousin?"
"There is no one, sir."
He winced. "Do not call me that."
The boy hastily nodded, ducking his head.
He pressed his lips together for a moment, folding his hands as he considered the wary children. "Will you be here come tomorrow evening?"
The boy hesitated, then nodded.
"Thou shalt not lie," He stooped for a moment to snap some mud off the hem of his trousers, looking up again at the spokesman. "Even delinquents such as you were taught that, were you not?" He thought for a moment more then straightened fully, tilting his head to count the children. "There are five of you forgotten ones, hm?"
The boy grit his teeth at the description, but the little girl nodded her head.
"Very well, it seems that I have no choice but to care for the strays of this land – come along." He stepped aside, gesturing towards the mouth of the alley.
The spokesman hesitated, looking from the adult to the street and back.
"I've not all night, young man – either come with me now or I deliver you to the Germans."
He stiffened. "A traitor?"
"Strong words – save them until you understand them, child. No – I merely wish to sleep well tonight and I will not do that if I leave you to molder here. So, march – and you will speak a word of where we go or what happens to no one lest I make good upon my promise."
"What if we died, sir?"
"Death is merely an inevitability, young man – it is only the method of its appearance that differs." He gestured again towards the street. "Raus, children."
The boy hesitantly stepped forward away from his post beside the sheet strung up around the makeshift tub the children were quickly and quietly washing up in. "Sir? Please, how long are we to stay here?"
He didn't look up from the trunk he was rummaging through, separating the items into two piles. "For as little time as possible – I would rather my home were not incessantly overrun with nuisances."
The boy bit his lip and retired back to stand beside the make-shift curtain again. As the fourth child finished, he handed him a nightshirt from the pile the adult had pulled from the trunk and thrust at him, ordering him to order the children in something resembling humans.
"Sit him with the others in the kitchen and remind them to be silent – it is hardly a time for celebration when one has intruding upon one's hospitality." He straightened, shutting the trunk lid. He sighed and leaned backwards slightly to stretch the tightness from his back. When he turned and saw the children still standing there – the fifth having finished and fidgeting beside the spokesman – he impatiently gestured them towards the kitchen. "Begone! Unless you'd rather die at the hands of the Germans?"
They hurried away, and he sighed. He pulled the sheet down, using it to sop up the spilt water before dropping it into the shallow tub and pushing it into the corner to be emptied in the morning. Crouching, he pulled a pile of blankets out from beneath the bed, counting out several and standing after pushing the remainder back beneath it.
He walked into the kitchen, pausing for a moment as the children separated quickly as he startled them with his entrance. He stepped forward, handing two blankets to each child and nudging them closer to the stove they huddled around. "The heat will hardly burn you. You will not move from this spot until morning – do you understand?"
They nodded, watching him.
He straightened up. "Guten nacht."
He hissed as he jabbed himself in the finger with his needle, glancing up at the quiet knock on the door. When nothing happened, he looked down to continue sewing, only to jab himself again as the knock repeated. Setting aside the shirt with just enough care that the needle stayed on the thread, he crossed the room and pulled open the door.
"Please, Dr. Abler; please come and help me."
He stared at the nervous young man for a minute, considering shutting the door. "Perhaps you begin with an introduction, prithee?"
"Josef – my aunt, you delivered Hannah. My mother did not think her sister would live – you saved her. Please, come help my mother."
"I hardly think that my license has been renewed – and I do not make midnight calls."
The young man darted forward before the door could shut. "I will pay. However you wish – I will pay. I can work! My mother says that I am a good worker-"
"Perhaps not wise to speak aloud."
"...But I only ask that you come see her."
He closed his eyes, leaning slightly against the door. The boy before him shifted his weight, twisting his cap in his hands as he waited.
"Hannah – breech, was she not?"
"And your father, a tailor?"
He nodded again.
"If you will alter these garments by morning to the markings I have made, I will consider your payment paid and I will see to your mother."
The boy nodded eagerly, slipping past the adult to gather up the pile of clothes. He hesitated a moment, and then turned back to the adult. "Please, Doctor, could you see my mother now? I will finish these, I promise – but..."
He sighed, reaching behind the door to the nail his coat hung on. "I hardly think that I will have to time tomorrow – come along and mind you drop nothing."
The boy nodded, wrapping his arms tightly around the bundle he had made. He waited for a moment for the man to lead, but Abler only impatiently motioned him through the door ahead of him.
"I am not omniscient, child – I have no way of knowing where you would take me!"
The young man bent over the shirt in the light, quickly making the tight stitches as the doctor sat on his mother's bed, quickly examining her. She had roused when the doctor had come in with her son; but had quickly fallen back on her bed, too tired.
He patted the woman's hand a last time and then straightened up, letting her sleep as he spoke with her son. "Is it too impossible that she prepares the meals?"
He didn't look up from his sewing. "She usually eats before I come home, warming up my plate when I return."
"And she is often tired and listless?"
"In the evenings, but she is up all day."
"My apology – the one that does naught but lie in bed must by nature be more exhausted than the one working through the day?"
He glanced up. "All day? No, she cleans the house."
"Ah, yes." He ran a hand over the small table. "I noticed the lack of dust. But I am also well aware that the time it would take is negligible in rooms this small." He stood, dusting his hands off. "She is merely in need of food."
"But we can't get any more!"
"Quantity is no so much the difficulty as 'any at all'." He glanced down at the woman for a moment. "She 'eats before you' because she is giving you all or most of it. Perhaps make an effort to ensure that she does not do that again?"
The young man looked up at the Doctor. "Yes, of course."
He reached and pulled on his coat. "I hardly wish to remain here watching you make stitches – return them to me when you have finished, hm?"
"Yes, sir – of course."
"Don't call me that. Auf weidersehn."
He had just finished pulling most of the food from his cupboards and placing them in two boxes when Josef knocked on his door again and he dropped the newly altered garments on the bed.
"Thank you, Doctor."
The boy looked into the box he was given, gasping at the contents. "No, sir, I couldn't!"
"You will. And you will speak of it to none, do you understand?"
The young man hesitated, and Abler finally just pushed him out of the room into the corridor shutting the door after reminding him to tell no one. He had only just shut the door when the spokesman for the children woke and carefully stuck his head out of the kitchen.
"I do not recall summoning you – but then I understand that the strays have awoken? Come then." He took the pile of clothes, folding them into the box atop the food. "Your clothes have washed and dry – change into them quickly. I have not all day to baby sit you."
He carried the box out into the main room, setting it on the bed as he listened to the rain begin as the children dressed. He grimaced, picturing going out in it.
Several minutes later, the children cautiously filed out of the kitchen, waiting in the corner by the door.
"I will carry this lest you drop it. Open the door as if you were sneaking from something and follow me closely. I will not have you disturbing everyone's rest this morn."
He pulled the door of the cellar open, gesturing the children within and following them down the steps. There were several lamps in the simply furnished room and no heat, but being below ground the temperature was bearable. He place the box upon the ground and straightened.
"Keep the door closed and you will remain warm. Use these clothes and wash the worn ones. When you are out of food, tie a stocking to the door of the cellar and you will get more. Tell no one of what has happened, but you are perfectly safe here." He turned to leave.
"Wait!" The boy stepped forward, then hesitated. "Why?"
The adult paused, thinking. He looked back for a moment when he answered, before leaving: "Because you remind me of a myrtle tree."
AN: Companion to Ave Maria. The title was chosen because of the companion piece, but it still fits. In the same era as 'hail' being a greeting, 'grace' meant 'to thank'. So this would more or less literally mean 'full of to thank', which I will interpret here as 'full of reasons to thank'. Which is incorrect, sure – but it works in my mind. 'Gratia Plena' also stands for 'full of patience' as grace sometimes means patience or the ability to deal with things – something which an Immortal definitely must have if he plans to remain in secret. The myrtle is either Haddassah/Maria or life and hope. This wasn't what I wanted to write either... *sighs* 11-27-2015