berseker: (fruk)
[personal profile] berseker
Title: Their Finest Hour [2/?]
Characters: France, England, Germany, America, Canada.
Pairing(s): Fr/Ger, Fr/UK that can also be read as friendship, but still.
Rating/Warnings: R. Abuse both implied and on-screen and lots of angst. And whipping. And very cruel Germany. And did I mention angst?
Summary: Germany takes over France. Francis tries to survive, and Arthur does what he can.


part 1





3. Touring Paris


now


There's a wooden bench right by the Eiffel Tower.

Francis likes to sit here and watch the people. He can spend the whole day doing just that.

He's been here many times before. He's been in every touristic site and every non-touristic one, the places everyone remembers when they think about France, the ones not even his own people know about. Of course he’s been here before. Is just that... well, here...

It's funny, he thinks, how used we can get to extraordinary things. He's always amused with the surprise some people feel when they see how tall Eiffel Tower actually is, how beautiful it is.

Francis likes to impress. He likes the wide eyed admiration, the joy and emotion people feel when they see that thing, and that's what it is, a huge enormous completely useless thing scraping the sky and it's so, so pretty. He sits in this bench and looks and waits, and feels their wonder like a warm blanket over his shoulders.

Well.

Usually.

Today Ludwig is here with him. He stands by his side, waiting for his boss to get his picture taken.

Francis watches.

Ludwig rests his hand on Francis' shoulder, and Francis stiffens – but he doesn't raise his face. Not yet, he needs to take a deep breath first, needs to prepare himself, needs to get used to the touches. He hates how fazed these small things make him, but -well. Every move Ludwig makes, every breath or gesture makes his heart beat faster, every click of his boots on the floor makes him cringe and he needs to cut it out, get used to it or at least learn how to pretend.

“Herr Bonnefoy,” Ludwig says “I want you to take my picture,”

Francis immediately gets up.

He immediately regrets it, but – no. He doesn't want to admit it, he doesn't want to show fear but now, now what difference does it make? Ludwig barks the order in German and someone pulls Francis to the camera, teaches him how to use it, and he knows, he doesn't need to learn it, but- what difference, what difference does it make?

His hands are shaking.

Ludwig stands, straight back and proud eyes. He's so young, so, so fucking young.

“Try to get as much of the Tower as you can,” he says “Everyone who sees this must know exactly where I am.”

Francis bites his lips. He thinks, for a brief second, that he will risk everything, he'll just take the damm picture and pay for it later, but in the next second he knows he won't, not here, not now. He takes a deep breath, forces a smile that he's sure won't convince anyone, his lips are trembling, he wishes so hard he could control this but he can't and, and fuck it, then, he smiles and says:

“This is not the best spot, you know. The- the best one would be over that bridge. So I can include the whole tower.”

He feels dirty. But Ludwig frowns and he bites his lips harder, all guilty forgotten, and tries to hold back the apologies that want to spill over.

Then Ludwig shrugs:

“Do the best you can. We'll go there later.”

No punishment, then. The relief is painful, and Francis thinks if Arthur were here, if he could see me now. Dieu.

“Come here. I want one with you.

One of those men, those tall and blond people that looks so much like Ludwig himself, takes his place by the camera. And Francis takes the five, six, seven steps that separates him from Ludwig and stands by his side, not knowing what to make of his hands, his face, if he should smile or cry or pretend he's dead. Then Ludwig’s hand is on his head, his fingers trough the strands of his hair.

Francis' breath catches in his throat. Ludwig pushes down his neck and he lets his body follows the lead.

With one hand, without sparing him one look, Ludwig brings him to his knees.

When the flash sounds, loud like a shot, he's knelt by Ludwig's feet, head down, and Ludwig holds him by his hair. Maybe he can feel his trembling, maybe not, and he won't stop now, will he? He won't stop now, Francis knows, but he can't think of any way to avoid this, this- whatever it is, is over, everything is already over, it was over the moment they took the first step on his soil and-

“These pictures will be in every German newspaper tomorrow,” Ludwig says. He doesn't even sound pleased, just proud and distant and there’s something like disgust when he looks down at Francis. “Do you understand what I'm saying?”

Francis looks up to him. So young, he thinks, so very fucking young. He understands him, but he won't speak German here, he won't. He won't.

“Yes,” he says. In French, right, but the word is nothing but a whisper, far from the challenge he wants it to be and, frankly, who does he think he's fooling? Not Ludwig and certainly not himself.

Ludwig's eyes narrow, two sharp slits made of pure blue steel.

“I thought,” he says “That you were aware of the situation you're in. Am I correct, Herr- Francis?”

“Yes,” Francis says, and if he keeps on talking he'll end up calling him 'sir', because a straight answer doesn't seem respectful enough, subdued enough. He's less than one step away from begging without even knowing what he'll beg him for, just- please, please, please...

“Kiss my boots,” Ludwig says “I want a special picture to send England.”

Mon Dieu, Francis thinks. Mon Dieu, please, Arthur, please...

He must have reacted somehow, must have shown some- something in his face, in his eyes, because Ludwig glares at him:

“Is there a problem, Francis?”

“No. Of course not. I just-”

He stops.

Lick his lips.

Then he bends forward. He closes his eyes and touches Ludwig's boots with his lips, he can feel the taste of dust, his dust, his land, his ground under Ludwig's feet. He tastes the leather and hears the flash and the heavy sound of silence and contempt, he thinks- fuck this, fuck this, I'm France, I'm me and to hell with this, fuck you and your uniform and your tanks and your guns and your pictures, he opens his mouth and licks it slowly, very very slowly, he holds Ludwig ankle in his hand and cover his boot with kisses, he's France, he doesn't have to take this and fuck, fuck, fuck!

When he dares to raise his face, his mouth open and wet with saliva, golden strands falling over his eyes, he sees- he knows Ludwig is hard. There's a touch of red in the German's face and, honestly, he can't say if he just proved a point of he just did something really, really stupid.



4. Sole Champions



Arthur is alone at his Prime Minister’s office. Is late now and he should be sleeping, but staying up all night is pretty much the norm now. Still, this night seems darker than it has any right to be, everything seems a little darker now, because, because-

Because. Because he’s alone now. Here. Alone in this war except for the small resistance groups, God bless them, and now-

Oh, Francis.

He heard the news today, listened to the poetic wording of the speech, It is with broken heart that I tell you today that... and he thought, well, is not the end of the world, we’ve been thought this before. Still. The words doesn’t make sense at first, and even if there’s this small part of him thinking, trying to come up with strategies to work around this problem and adapt to the new circumstances, he can’t quite believe it, and now, now -

Shit.

Shit, shit, shit.

He remembers their last conversation, and the one before that, and the first and the second and flashes come and go, small tidbits of dialogue, Francis’ voice in a thousand different intonations. Going from his usual lazy sensuality to the barely disguised despair when he said there’s nothing, nothing, there’s no strategic victory that’s worth sacrificing Paris, and now Arthur thinks that if Francis hadn’t been so reluctant to fight in the wretched city, if Arthur had offered his alliance sooner, if Francis hadn’t been so unwilling to trust him, and there’s a small traitorous part of him that thinks, dammit, if Francis were a little stronger, just a little bit stronger.

He’s not being fair. But then again, he doesn’t have to be, because he did everything he could, he still has the paper with his proposal stating the Franco-British Union and the whole thing, and he sees, if he closes his eyes, Francis’ white face, his hunched shoulders, hears the question he didn’t make – will I disappear? What will happen to me if we’re together and you’re the stronger and I become part of British Empire, Arthur, what will happen to me?

What will happen to me?

Arthur takes a deep breath; he scratches the back of his neck. He thinks, is not the end of the world, Paris fell, so did the others, we’ll take it back, don’t worry, we’ll take back everything. Denmark and Norway and Holland and God, Poland for sure and France too, your dear precious Paris too, don’t worry, we’ll take back everything, we will, we-

Not we. Me. I will.

My God.

Is not time to despair. He’ll keep on fighting, for himself and for France and all the others, and that’s what he broadcasts a few hours later. His Dominions and Colonies will help, Great Britain will keep fighting, if necessary for years, if necessary alone, and then he adds "Nothing will alter our feelings towards them…” just in case Francis’ listening and he hopes he is, hopes he’ll understand and take it the wrong way like he always do “…or our faith that the genius of France will rise again."

The next few days are hell. Arthur knows that now, more than ever, he needs to be resourceful and efficient, needs to straighten up and make use of his famous British stiff upper lip, but every time he stops to think he sees Francis’ deep blue eyes full of grief, and his focus vanishes.

And yes, he sees the pictures. He stares at it for a long time, fingers white from pressing the paper too hard. He looks and curses, and then he throws everything in the fire, before Matt can see it.



5. Scientific



Ludwig doesn’t seem to have feelings.

Francis knows it can’t be true. You don’t get to do the things Ludwig does without something to push you forward, without a vast reserve of hate to give you strength. He knows that.

Still, when Ludwig holds his arm in one hand and a whip in the other and takes him to an empty room, when he turns to lock the door, Francis can’t help but wonder.

“Please,” Ludwig says “Take off your clothes.”

He doesn’t have to say please. They both know that. Francis can’t say why he does it, if it’s his deeply ingrained German politeness talking or if he’s trying to make some kind of point. Like calling him by his name- more than once Ludwig started a more respectful form, only to backpedal in the middle of the word to call him for his first name. It’s almost funny, Francis thinks. Hilarious, even.

His hands are shaking when he unbuttons his shirt. The genius of France, Arthur said. Francis takes off his shirt and then his pants, and he looks at Ludwig, uncertain, and Ludwig gives him a slight nod.

So Francis also takes off his underwear.

The room is empty. A table, two chairs. Ludwig. And the whip, folded in his hand.

The two men stare at each other, two pairs of deep blue eyes. Ludwig studies Francis’ body, but there’s no pleasure or lust in his eyes, just the same disdainful look in which he’s so skilled. Francis wants to shrink into himself, want to hide from those eyes, he who never felt ashamed of his body before. It’s alien, this feeling, this urge to cover himself, and almost most upsetting than the fear of being hurt. This shame. This is new.

The silence stretches. Francis doesn’t dare to break it. He stands there in the same position, stark naked, facing Ludwig in the best way he can, looking down when the weight of that look becomes unbearable.

Ludwig’s eyes, on the other hand, never leave Francis’ face. The game goes on for what may have been five minutes, or five hours, or five years, both of them facing each other while Francis tries not to break.

The genius of France.

“You need to know what’s going to happen,” Ludwig says, and it’s so sudden Francis startles. “England still resists us, as I’m sure you already know. My boss says we should try to break his spirit, but I’m sure you already know that too.”

He didn’t, but he had imagined it. It was predictable, really. Francis bites his lips. Ludwig comes near, one step, two, three. Francis takes a step back for each one Ludwig takes forward, until he hits the wall.

“I will whip you,” Ludwig says, very calm. For a second there’s something like a smile shining in his eyes, but then it disappears and Francis wonders if he just imagined it. Francis doesn’t even blink, his pulse racing, cold sweat running down his back, his chest.

“And then,” Ludwig says “We’ll have another photography session. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to record your punishment, but in the future we’ll see to that. Seeing how deep you fell will be quite the blow to the British pride, don’t you think?”

He takes one more step, and Francis doesn’t have any place to run. Ludwig’s eyes sharpen:

“Don’t you think, Francis?”

“Of course, chéri, I was just-“

The blow against his face takes him by surprise. He touches his cheek, stunned.

“Please. Be more respectful when you address me.”

“I’m sorry,” Francis says. His face is throbbing “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

“I don’t want you calling my by any of your pet names. Don’t forget it.’

“I won’t. I-“

“Now, please. Bend over the table.”

He takes a step back, giving Francis enough room to move, and Francis obeys him without the slightest hesitation. He walks to the table and bends until his chest’s resting on top of the table.

To his surprise, Ludwig doesn’t make him wait. The first blows come and he bites his lips so he won’t cry or do anything more embarrassing. The second blows falls a little under the first, the third a little under that one, and Francis wonders if Ludwig’s trying to create some kind of pattern on his back, symmetric lines or scars mathematically calculated. He takes the blows to his back and buttocks without a sound, even if he’s panting and the tears are falling freely from his eyes to the top of the table, but when Ludwig starts on his legs he moans, and then his control breaks. He screams and begs and bawls, and the beating lasts a long time.

When it’s over, he doesn’t dare to get up. He hears the door opening, hear the steps, the flash of the camera. He hears his own sobbing, harsh and broken, and when Ludwig raises him by the hair and turns him to the photographer, showing off his red and swollen face, he hears Arthur’s voice, British accent and all, echoing in the room like a broken record. The genius of France, the genius of France.

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