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[personal profile] berseker
Title: Battle of France
Genre: Drama
Characters/Pairing(s) : France, England, Germany, VichyOC, IsraelOC
Summary: During France occupation, Francis must face his alter-ego.
Rating/Warnings: I hate to warn for OOC, but, well, yes. A lot. You won't even recognize Ludwig. There’s some violence and dark themes too, so I guess that makes it PG-13?

Written for the kink_meme.




Battle of France



The Ring:


A library. There are three men here, a table between them, a white sheet, a golden pen.

The air is heavy. There’s an overload of raw emotion floating up and closing in, bitterness, fear and barely disguised hate. A fire will start any time now, they can feel it, but every time the flame goes too high there’s this pair of icy blue eyes to tame it, and the fire never comes.


The Boxer:


Francis moves slowly, partly because he likes to be gracious and doesn’t plan to change any time soon, partly because something in him still hurts and he doesn’t want to push his luck too hard. For now.

He barely blinks. Watches Vichy intently, every nervous, spasmodic gesture the kid makes, biting the corner of his lip. Francis thinks of what he’d like to do to him now, what he will do when all this is over, because it will end someday, mark the words, it will end and then this brat will pay.

So will Ludwig. But Ludwig- well, Francis will have to think this carefully, he and the others allies, because Ludwig is taking his own revenge now, isn’t he? Francis can see the words Treaty of Versailles burned in his eyes and he knows that if he keeps this up, ten years from now they’ll still be running the same old circles, over and over and over.

Vichy, now, Vichy is a different story. Vichy should be fighting by his side, should be fighting for France. Vichy is disgusting, a filthy little rat, and he will-

“You can glare at me all you want,” Vichy mumbles “You have no power now. Soon you’ll be answering to me.”

Francis tilts his head. Gives him a slow, sensual smile that glints like a sword:

“You don’t need to remind me, chéri.”

Vichy is a rat, yes, but Francis knows exactly what you do with pests. Mark the words. Vichy won’t even know what hit him.


The Brawler:


Vichy looks young. He has dark eyes and black hair, long bangs that fall over his forehead and he dresses always in black and red, because – because he does, that’s why, and doesn’t have the swastika yet, but he will, later, maybe. Part of him is excited about it because, really, when did something like this ever happen, a small town becoming a nation, just like that? Is not something that you see everyday, that’s for sure, not now anyway, and is happening here, now, with him, even young as he is.

Now he is, technically speaking, Free France.

Francis disagrees. He can see it in his eyes. Francis despises him, considers him a traitor. Francis wants to spit on his face.

And Vichy couldn’t care less. Francis’ very presence here is a mere formality, Ludwig won’t even talk to him. Francis won’t decide anything, he isn’t anything anymore, he’s Occupied France and he’s… nothing, German territory or whatever. Francis’ under his rule. Under his rule.

Vichy can’t help but smile. Even if makes Francis’ eyes twitch.


The Referee:


The fist thing Ludwig does, after Vichy signs the armistice (with a shaky hand and a nervous smile, not that he cares) and Francis loses his status of sovereign nation (with a frown and a dangerous glint in his eyes, not that he cares) is to ask Vichy to read the whole thing aloud.

Vichy obeys him promptly, and there’s a bit of pride and much of fear in his voice, because only now, under Ludwig’s cold blue eyes, he stops to wonders if that was really a good idea, the silly kid. When he finishes it is Francis’ turn, and Francis reads the words Vichy just said, a little confused, still resentful but very dutiful and when he’s done he gives the document back to Ludwig.

Then Ludwig strikes his face. The blow throws him to the floor, and before he can get up Ludwig’s boot is on his neck, pressing his face to the ground:

“I hope,” he says, very slowly, every word clearly stated “That both of you are aware of your places in this new order.”

He’s not asking anything, but the silence that follows begs for an answer and Vichy hurries to give it, like a puppy eager to please its master:

“Sir, yes, we are, mister Montag. I-”

“Francis?”

Francis grits his teeth. He feels Vichy’s black eyes on him and guesses his triumphant smile, and that’s the only reason he smiles too:

“I believe, dear Germany, that my place couldn’t be any clearer.”

Ludwig’s foot press him a little tighter, enough to make it harder to breath, and Francis thinks- I won’t beg, I won’t beg, he can break my neck for all I care but I won’t beg-

The pressure disappears:

“I’m glad to hear it,” Ludwig says. He leaves the room.

Francis and Vichy are alone now.

Vichy stands biting his lips, all hidden smiles and shining eyes. Francis raises himself over one knee, massaging his neck to erase the mark of Ludwig’s boot.

They face each other.

The game begins.





1. First Round: Travail, famille, patrie




Vichy sits in his office and pretends to be working.

Francis stands before him. His legs are tired, but Vichy doesn't offer him the chair. I would, he says, but see, you need to stretch your legs a bit, I think, after all the time you spend on your knees for Germany and Italy, and France smiles – shows his teeth, actually- and declines to answer, because he has no energy for this now.

So he stands.

He shouldn't even be here, actually. This brat will do whatever he wants no matter what Francis says, so he has no reason to come. But Vichy wants to rub his power in Francis' face, wants him to watch while France is destroyed from the inside by foreign politics or whatever the hell that is. It takes a great effort, but he keeps his voice steady. Vichy's having fun enough without Francis collapsing now:

“You understand, of course, that you're throwing away everything I built.”

Vichy shrugs. It's his standard reply when Francis criticizes him, or- whenever he speaks, really. Vichy wants to be indifferent and cold- like Ludwig – but he, as much as it pains Francis to admit it, is too French for that.

“Yes,” he answers. “I know, but, see, we both saw how much everything you build actually worths. The only thing we had here is a nation of cowards and whores.”

“Cowards? Who are you talking about, chéri? Oh, I suppose you mean the ones who collaborate, who betray our country for their own security.”

Vichy's eyes flare up:

“No. No, chéri.” he emphasizes the word, mimicking Francis's voice “These are just adapting. I meant the ones who surrendered without fighting, the ones who humiliated us in front of England and Germany and the whole world, you know? The ones who dragged our name in the mud? Those are the cowards.”

Francis feels a pressure on the back of his head, like hot pliers right on his brain. He knows he'll hear that again, not only from him. He can even imagine the same words in Arthur's voice, the shame, the disgust. Not that he needs to. He hears it from himself, every night, all the time.

Still, Francis answers:

“Not every war ends in victory, my child. This one was lost. That's no excuse for you to destroy everything we ever were.” Everything I ever was, he thinks, and says, “A free country, a place were everyone has the right to be- to be anything they want, to do anything they want, a country were people are equal-”

“Oh, shut up!”

Francis does.

He has to. Vichy has all the authority here, this petulant child who know it all too well. Vichy gets up to face him, to glare at him more effectively:

“Shut up,” he says, again, and he looks almost sulking “If anything survives here, if there's anything of our- of my culture after this war is over, it will be because of me, because of my work! Because when you're lying there spreading your legs to half the Wehrmacht I am here trying to keep things working, which is more than you ever did! And, anyway, what's so wrong in trying to learn with the winning side, uh? They obviously know more than you!”

“I can see that,” Francis whispers, “Work, family, the oh so precious fatherland. Ideological trash, that's what you're making of the richest culture in the world-”

“I told you to shut up!”

“Yes, I noticed. And you like this so much, don't you, cherie? Playing German, almost having an orgasm just because now you can raise this screeching voice of yours to give me orders-”

The backhand doesn't surprise him. Francis' licks his lips, tastes the blood, and keeps talking:

“I see,” he slowly says “That I put the finger on the wound, no?”

Vichy's eyes are cold. He walks around the table, and what Francis hates the most is how his first reflex is to back away.

“We both know where you put your fingers,” Vichy whispers, “And your mouth. And only you know what else.”

Vichy is too close now, Francis thinks, he can feel his breath – wine, he thinks, and how long has it been since he last drank wine?- and smiles, a bitter bloodied smile:

“You think you'll turn France into Germany, don't you? You know, Vichy, when this is over, when this war is over, you won't have an, an improved France, or whatever it is that you want to create. But you won't have a Germany, either. I don't know what this will be, but whatever it is, it won't be worth having.”

“Really?” his mouth is too close, now “Do you want to tell this to our – my people? See if they agree with you?”

“My love,” Francis says “You don't have people. You don't have anything.”

Vichy raises his hand. Francis braces for another slap, but Vichy holds a lock of his hair, twists it around his finger:

“Oh yes I have. You're the one who doesn't. You don't have a name, a reason to live, you have nothing. Nothing but Ludwig's cock on your mouth.”

“Everything you ever wanted, non?”

Vichy pulls at his hair, and Francis holds back a whimper. Vichy glares at him, black eyes burning:

“All I ever wanted,” the boy says, his voice trembling, “All I want is to save this country, to get us out of this hole you threw us in!”

“All you have to do is ask, then. A sweet little puppy like you, I'm sure he'll let you suck him. Maybe even more.”

Vichy twists his hand, and the curl of hair comes lose in his hand. Francis bites his lips, tears spreading in his eyes:

“Maybe,” Vichy says, “Maybe I want to put it in your mouth.”

“Do it, love. If you think you're brave enough.”

Vichy touches his face, the tip of his finger on the corner of Francis' eyes:

“I'll make you cry again. That's a promise, you can count on that.”

“I am. As for me, I'll make you scream.”

Not now. Later, later. When the time comes to kill some rats.

Now, Vichy takes one small step back. He raises one eyebrow, opens his fingers and let the golden threads fall softly on the floor.




2. Second Round: Claire de Lune


Francis stands by the window, arms crossed over his chest. He tries to look calm and, and, not happy, happy would be out of place to the point of being offensive, but comforting, and- calm. He'll settle for calm. And in control, sort of, she knows he's not anymore, but still. Still.

Well, fuck.

Claire Novak is here. It was- predictable, really, Francis knew this day would come. She's here, this young woman, a girl, actually, thinner than he remembered, her hair a darker shade of blond. A dirty little whore who never belonged to us, to me, Vichy says, and of whom we- I – will finally get rid.

“But mister Vichy,” she's saying “The papers says I'm foreigner. I can't sign this, I'm French.”

“No,” Vichy answers. His voice mix coldness and triumph while he tries – and not quite achieves – for Ludwig's clipped efficiency. “You're a Jew. Your people never actually adapted here.”

Claire's voice, on the other hand, is soft and confused and makes Francis die a little inside:

“But that... that's not true,” she answers “I didn't even had to- to adapt, I always lived in Paris. You know that, don't you, sir? I've always...”

Francis wants to close his eyes. But no, he owes her that much, even if facing the girl's round brown eyes is the hardest thing he's ever done:

“You can sign it,” he says kindly, and if his voice sounds more like a cough, more like the croak of a frog, he pretends he doesn't notice it. “We all- we all have to make sacrifices for the country, now.”

Which is dumb, of course. They're making sacrifices for Germany, and that would be a stab in the heart even if Claire could actually work. Claire is a talented painter, a great artist and so on, but he's afraid to imagine those stained fingers trying to pull together a grenade. Or whatever it is that Ludwig wants her to do.

Claire turns to him. Now she's wringing her hands:

“But, mister Francis, they want to take me to Berlin. I don't even speak German, and they told me that- that awful things happen to the people who enter those trains.”

Francis smiles.

He raises his hand and touches her face, tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear. She swallows hard and almost leans into his touch, and he smiles at her and thinks you, you fucking stupid little whore, then what the fucking hell are you still doing here, why aren't you in the mountains or in Switzerland or in England or hiding in a fucking hole on the floor? Why, why are you still here?

But then, he knows why. Claire is here because he is here, because she trusts him, trusts he'll protect her. He sees the tremble in her lips and thinks, a crazy thought that he can't begin to explain, that she should wear more make-up.

It's- silly, really, because where would she find something as trivial as that now, when she can hardly buy food? But like this, clean-faced, she looks plain, unremarkable, the kind of face you see and immediately forgets. Like a ray of light, he thinks, and remembers those eyes lighting up with her shy smile, remembers kissing the back of her hand and calling her Claire de Lune, just so he could see the traces of red coloring her pale face, remembers-

“Don't waste your time with him,” Vichy says, harsher than he has to be “I'm the one making the decisions here, and I decided I don't want you anymore.”

“Mister Francis...”

“Do what he says, Claire. It's better this way.”

She nods and signs the paper, biting her lip.

Trusting his word.

Ludwig enters the room:

“Is everything ready?”

The effect his presence causes is, at the same time, small and overwhelming. Francis straightens his back and hates himself a little more, Vichy's nod is almost a curtsy and his smile becomes more eager than cruel and Claire, sweet and fragile like the moonlight, turns to face him:

“Mister Montag, I was wondering... how long will I stay in Germany? When will I come back to France?”

Ludwig glares at her, and Claire takes one small step back:

“Not that I don't want to- go to Germany, I- I'm willing, I'm just- to come back home- I-”

“You don't have a home,” Ludwig says “And you won't be going to Germany.”

“But I was told- the factories, I was supposed to- they told me I would-”

“No,” Ludwig whispers “Why would I take you to my home? And you two-” here he throws one look at Vichy and Francis “You two will thank me for this later.”

He takes Claire's arm and she's so thin that he can circle it with his fingers. He pulls her forward and she tries to fight him, planting her feet on the carpet:

“Where- where are you taking me? Francis? Mister Francis, where is he taking me?”

“I don't know-” Francis' voice is shaking but he doesn't stop smiling, won't stop smiling even if it kills him, “Don't be scared, Claire. He'll take care of you.”

“I don't want to go-” her free hand grasps at Ludwig's fingers, trying to make him let go, but he holds her wrist and twists her arm, “I don't want to go, Francis, I want to work here! Here is my home, you- tell them, Francis, you know I'm French, you know-”

Now she's sobbing:

“Remember, before the- before the war, I did that art exposition and you kissed my hand, you told me I was the most important artist of this decade, you know, you said you were proud of me and you- tell them, Francis, tell them I'm French, don't let them take me away, I don't-”

Ludwig throws her outside. He barks something in German and Francis hears the soldiers coming.

He hears her weeping.

Ludwig waits until everything is silent. Then he goes to Vichy and slaps him across the face:

“You,” he says “You need better control over your people. I told you I didn't want a scene.”

“Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir, next time I'll-”

“No more mistakes.”

“Yes, sir.”

One last hard look, and Ludwig leaves the room. Francis lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding.

“Where is he taking her? Do you even know?”

Vichy rubs his face, touches the blood on his lip. Now he's downright sulking, and Francis wants to punch him.

“Poland,” he says, “Some place called Oświęcim. Stupid bitch, can't even go away without fucking something up.”

Oh, Francis thinks. That's actually good news, right? It could be worse. Feliks won't- not that he has any power now and- well, even if he had- still, maybe- he won't be- maybe-

Francis doesn't know what to think. He feels sick, for more than one reason.




3. Third Round: La Resistance


Francis is proud of his people. Proud of these men and women so brave and combative, proud of the red blood pumping through their veins under the beauty and vanity, proud of their strength and energy and hate.

A small part of him also raises an imaginary toast to Britain. Ever since Vichy made him break the relationships with England (in person, of course, because Vichy wouldn’t waste such a perfect opportunity to humiliate him in front of his very precious enemy, oh no) trying to communicate with Arthur is becoming increasingly risky. Now with the Blitz and all Arthur has more than enough on his plate, but still, still, he’s been sending all he can spare of explosives and guns and people and support, taking in refugees and training them and sending them back to fight and God, Francis finally feels alive.

Even if he is, at this very moment, in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the train to come nearer with nothing to do but think, think about life and Arthur and how to make the most of what he has. And about how fucking proud he feels of his people. He sees their work on the railroad and thinks, Vichy, mon amour, we'll see who's down now.

“I hope you know,” Arthur had said, his voice distorted by radio static “That I plan to keep on fighting.”

“From you, mon ami, I expected nothing less.”

“Even against you. I'll- I'll do what I can to help, but if I have to fight against you, don't expect me to-”

“Not against me,” Francis cuts him “Not against me. You'll be fighting that bastard who in any way whatsoever represents me or anything that ever had to do with France. Do whatever you have to, with my blessing and full support.”

“Good. As long as we understand each other.”

Oh, they do. They most certainly do. Francis runs his fingers through his hair and thinks, a little distracted, about the trouble it will be to make it soft again when this war is over.

Arthur doesn't have to worry. Francis' also, technically, fighting against himself.

But no. That... thing is not him. That ugly, vile, evil thing is not him. Francis can almost see Vichy's eyes now, big and black and full of malicious joy, of miserable subservience, like a dog, like a-

He hears the train.

He’s far enough to avoid the blast, but close enough he can feel it in the land, his land, he touches the ground with an open palm and then-

The explosion makes him gasp.

He thinks again about how much trouble it will be to fix his hair. How the dust, his dust, clings to his lips and eyes and face and clothes, and this will win him one hell of a payback, Vichy and Ludwig won't let it slide, he thinks-

He doesn't care. At all. He knows Vichy felt this too and, with any luck, he's at this very moment throwing up on his shoes trying to understand what the hell just happened. Francis' heart almost bursts with pride and his grin is so big that threatens to splits his face.




4. Fourth Round: The Milice (TKO, almost)


“What can I say, my friend? If you're not going to believe me...”

His voice is, unfortunately, not as steady as Francis would have liked. Still, he can reach the perfect balance between solicitous and contemptuous, and that's one victory on its own.

Vichy narrows his eyes, angry, pouting like a child who didn’t get his way, and then-

Then the blow to Francis' face, given with a piece of wood that looks like a paddle, throws him to the floor.

Francis loses, for a second, the ability to think. He feels the pain exploding in his face and when he spits blood and saliva and small pieces of teeth, the only thing he can do is breathe, breathe, breathe. He tries to touch his face, but his wrists are tied behind his back, his ankles are tied up too and he doesn't have many options now, does he? So he stays down, bleeding on the floor, until he sees Vichy's boot near his face.

“I'll ask again,” Vichy says slowly. He got that trick from Ludwig. Even the pause between the words is the same. The only thing he lacks is the subtlety. Brutality was never Ludwig's style, not when you have perverted science right at your hand, but blood is good enough for Vichy. The kid fills his hand with Francis' hair and forces him to raise his face:

“Who gave you the explosives? And please don’t say England. I want to know who was his contact here.”

Francis doesn't answer. Vichy waits a few seconds and then let go of his hair. Francis' head slams against the floor.

“I don't... know what- you're”

“Don't even bother,” Vichy says. He's not screaming, but Francis can feel that calm will shatter any minute now, and Vichy will go insane with frustration, because he's not Ludwig. Not yet.

Vichy gets something from the table, and he makes sure Francis sees it.

It’s a lighter, small and silvery and Francis closes his eyes for one second, just one, to find strength somewhere, strength he's not quite sure he still has.

Then he faces Vichy:

“You’re a disgrace,” he says, “Do you know that? You are a disgrace.”

“Me?” Vichy frowns, and Francis has a sudden glimpse of thick eyebrows over deep green eyes and he forces the image to vanish. To bring this here, now, would be almost a heresy.

Vichy smiles. The flame flickers in his hand:

“You silly child,” he says, suddenly gentle “You silly little child, you. You think you can fool me. You think you're doing anything. You’re the fool, Francis. Not me, you.”

He grabs Francis’ ear, pulls him up slowly. Francis’ eyes never leave the flame, while Vichy caresses his hair:

“You know our people are with me, don't you? That my Millice has more than thirty thousand members? How many you have in your little group?”

Francis doesn't answer. Vichy lets the flame go off, then on again. On and off, on and off. Francis doesn’t dare to blink.

“You know,” Vichy says and maybe, maybe Ludwig's lessons are starting to make a difference, maybe he’s actually learning, “Actually, I don't give a fuck. I just like to have you here.”

“Really,” Francis whispers, “I'd never have guessed.”

“You know, I always thought your hair was too long,” Vichy comes even nearer, and Francis tries to back away but there's no place to go, “Don't you agree with me? Chéri?

The flame is closer to his face now, his eyes, and then Vichy grabs his hair and-

Francis screams. He screams and shrieks until he loses his voice, and even then his mouth’s still open in a silent cry, but he doesn't give one name, doesn't give one single address, nothing that could be even remotely considered useful and that gives him comfort, before he passes out.




5. Fifth Round: D-Day (the counting starts)


Francis doesn't know what to think. What to feel. So he thinks and feels and lives everything at the same time and he can't name anything yet but finally, finally, finally they're here, he's ashamed of his looks and scars and at the same time he's proud to have them because it means he did something and he's happy, but happy doesn't even begin to explain what he feels, to explain the explosion of joy and wonder that fills him from head to toe, and when he sees Arthur his legs give in and he falls on his knees.

Then Arthur's kneeling in front of him, arms around his shoulders, his neck, fingers in his hair and they hold each other on the floor, they don't know how many died or what will happen to the world, what will happen now because now everything will be different, everything is different already but now, now Francis doesn't care. Now he loves Alfred and Matthew and Arthur and Ivan and Yao too and his colonies and, and- fuck, he's sobbing on Arthur's shoulder and he'll have to mind this sooner or later, they'll have to pick up from when they left it and fight over who did what and when, who gets the credits and who takes the blame, but now, not now, not now, not now.

Now Arthur holds tight and Francis lets him and thinks of nothing else.

Later, he gets up, of course, takes back his country, he thanks and praises and congratulates and- and thanks again, and maybe he cries a little, because it's hard to avoid it.

And then they find out.

What Ludwig did with the world comes out and- well.

Ivan and Arthur keep a stoic silence, Matt's eyes fill up and Alfred presses his hand over his mouth, fighting the urge to throw up. Francis closes his eyes and, again, Arthur's the one who supports him, who holds him by his elbow and keeps him standing. He thinks, then, he still has something to do.

He thinks of sweet brown eyes and remembers a silvery ray of light, his little princess and he thinks of course you’re French, of course you're mine, I should have, I should have. I should have.

So. One more thing he needs to do.



Knockout


Francis raises his gun. Part of him doesn't want to waste time. More than he already did, anyway. But Vichy is on the floor now and isn't that an interesting twist? Vichy is on the floor with a busted lip, glaring up at him with just one eye because the other is too swollen to open and he's not tied up because Francis has a gun.

Part of him doesn't want to waste time

Other part wants this moment to last forever.

“Just tell me one thing,” he says “Did you know?”

Vichy spits on the floor. Blood and saliva:

“I did what I had to do,” he says, his voice still that mix of stubbornness and cruelty and fear, a fragility that Francis never noticed but that, now that he thinks about it, was always there. “I did more than you ever could, I kept France whole-”

“Whole,” Francis echoes. The word tastes bitter.

“Yes, whole, working, alive, everything you didn't do, you son of a bitch. Shoot me if you want to, but you know that I took care of our- of my country until now.”

“I know,” Francis says. He presses the gun against Vichy's forehead “And what a lovely job you made, mon amour. Now answer me. Did you know? Did you know, when you sent my Claire to Poland? Did you know what Oświęcim was?

The silence grows heavier, stretches over and takes the whole room up to the ceiling while they face each other, and then-

-then Francis turns his face and Vichy raises his chin, defiant to the end, and both pair of eyes are closed when France pulls the trigger.

Francis lets one shaky breathe, and then runs his fingers through his hair. It will be a long time, he thinks, before he can be like he was before. Before his hair is again a curtain of soft golden silk, before his skin loses the marks from Ludwig's hand, it will be a long time before he cleans up the smell of blood from his clothes.

He lets the gun falls to the floor, splashing in a pool of blood. He leaves without looking back and if there's a trace of tears in his eyes, if there's a bitter salty taste in the corner of his lips, he honestly can't explain why.

The game is over.




------------------


Sources:

http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/33d/projects/france/JewsInFrance.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWvichy.htm

And a lot of Wiki, of course. As for Ludwig's last name, I shamelessly stole it from another meme fic – I actually thought it was canon when I first saw it. And, guys, I swear, I suck at rating. I honestly don't think this is graphic enough to be R, but if you think I'm wrong, please tell me so I can fix it. D:

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