Author: Zalia Chimera
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia or the characters.
Characters: France, Germany, mild hints of England/France
Warnings: Minor violence.
Notes: Set in 1940, shortly after France came under German occupation.
Summary: August 1940. Francis has visited the Moulin Rouge many times before, with Ivan, with Alfred, but the company of Ludwig is most unwelcome as Germany's shadow stretches over Europe.
He has sat at this table many times before; with bosses and politicians, with foreign dignitaries and the wives and mistresses of said dignitaries. He can never help himself, despite the clear disapproval from his bosses, the arguments; they are all so pretty and well dressed and desperate to slip away from formal public life briefly. How can he refuse? They enjoy the dusky half-light, the vibrant music, the risqué atmosphere, and Francis revels in their enjoyment.
He remembers bringing Ivan here, to this little table near the stage, back before Ivan was Red and saw such things as needlessly frivolous, despite the longing in his eyes. Ivan had stared up at the dancers waving their skirts, showing off their frilly undergarments, with mingled horror and enthrallment, like a child finding an erotic book for the time.
He remembers Arthur sitting here, whistles and cat calls on his whisky-damp lips, face flushed with more than alcohol.
Francis is sitting here now, wishing that he was anywhere else.
Ludwig hasn't bothered to cuff him; the German soldiers around them, calling at the girls, cheering raucously at the bit of entertainment to distract them from war with Britain and growing tension in the East, are enough of a deterrent to running, even if the hostages that have been made of Francis's men were not already enough to keep him sitting there in the half-light of the club. He does not think that they could kill him, even now with his lands divided, but with the way things are, he does not wish to take such a chance.
"Your women are very… energetic," Ludwig says and in the dim light, Francis cannot tell if it supposed to be derisive or serious. It stings either way.
"They are very talented," Francis replies flatly, returning his gaze to the stage, to the girls with the long, strong legs, stepping flawlessly through their dances despite the unconventional audience. "Most of them would have been trained in professional ballet," he adds, a touch of pride in his voice. Even his dancing girls have the poise and grace of the ballerinas. He does not know quite why he feels the need to explain to Ludwig of all people, but they are his girls and he cannot help but feel protective.
"It was a brothel when I was here last," Ludwig says, the amusement in his voice clear now and Francis wants nothing more than to throw his drink into Ludwig's face for the comment. He runs his fingers along the edge of the glass lightly, staring into the amber liquid. He wants to shame Ludwig and it is not fear that stays his hand, he tells himself fiercely, but good alcohol is hard to find at the moment and it mutes the sick feeling in his stomach a little.
"It is not a brothel now," Francis says coldly. He can feel Ludwig's hand heavy against the small of his back, beneath the light jacket that he is wearing. His fingers rub lightly over Francis's silk shirt, tracing the line of vertebrae. Francis can't help but wonder if Ludwig is aware of what he is doing. Perhaps he is just thinking about how pretty Francis will look with a swastika carved onto his back.
"Of course not." And this time the smirk in Ludwig's voice is obvious, the thin veneer of civility not enough to hide the disbelief. "But your city does bring such pleasure to my men. Your cities and your women."
Francis shudders at the implication, hands clenching in his lap. He ducks his head, hiding his revulsion behind his hair, glad for the dim lighting which leaves his face in shadow. He feels chilled despite the warm August night, the heat of the stage lighting, the press of the patrons.
"Is something wrong, Herr Bonnefoy?" Ludwig asks, turning to look at him. That nasty, amused little smile that Francis can hear in his voice, is on his lips as well. The light catches him at just the right angle, highlighting sharp cheekbones and bright bright blue eyes, so like America in a way, and Francis would have found him handsome at any other time, but not now, not when he is infecting Francis's land, his people, spreading his Reich through France.
"Everything is wrong," Francis murmurs.
"On the contrary, everything is being made right. You will understand eventually." His smile is proud, satisfied, but there's a flicker of something in his expression that Francis would class as uncertainty if he wasn't so intent on hating Ludwig and everything that he represents.
Francis ignores it anyway, sneers, turns back to the vibrant stage only to have his chin caught by fingers cased in slick black leather, forcing him to meet Ludwig's eyes. "Why do you act like this?" he asks, like he really wants to understand Francis's defiance, and does not understand why he is not welcoming Germany with open arms. "You have your place in the new Europe that will be built. Germany is your ally. I am your ally. We shall be closer when this unfortunate war is over."
"You are very foolish if you believe that this 'unfortunate war' will be over soon," Francis says, smiling, feeling skin pull beneath the leather of Ludwig's gloves. "Arthur is a devil when he is cornered, and I do not believe that I would like whatever place I am to be assigned in your New Europe. Not with how you talk about my girls while you starve them."
Ludwig's expression darkens a little, grip tightening on Francis's jaw until it ache. "I do not think that you are in any position to make that judgment, Herr Bonnefoy," he says, voice cold. "Britain will make peace to avoid over-extending itself. Or it will fall. Either way, it will join me."
"You do not know Arthur like I do. You do not know England like I do."
"I know enough," Ludwig replies with easy confidence buoyed by victory. "I know that one way or another, Britain will join me, and I am surprised to hear you speak so confidently of Britain when they bomb your towns and destroy your fleets. Britain is no friend to France."
Francis hisses, pales, and then makes his expression one of blank calm, even though he knows that Ludwig has seen his disquiet. It hurts to know that his people are being killed by the British, but… "I know England. England is ruthless but it will win him this war."
The way that Ludwig's expression changes, France thinks that the only thing preventing the German hitting him is that there is a lull in the performance as scenes change, no music to hide the sound of the impact. Ludwig's hand does though, come to rest against the back of Francis's neck, squeezing hard enough to make Francis's breath catch, a stab of fear running through him, but Ludwig just forces his head forward, making him watch the stage, his dancers, his girls putting on a show for Germany's soldiers.
"I have heard that you have danced yourself, Herr Bonnefoy." The words are quiet, unassuming, but with dark scorn coiling beneath the surface.
Francis's lips press together into a think line, turning the skin around them white, probably much like the rest of his face at the accusation. And it is an accusation coming from Ludwig, making it something shameful that he has indulged in. Ludwig gives him a little shake when he does not answer, making him feel dizzy. "Yes, he hisses finally, twisting the fine shirt viciously between his fingers. "Yes, I have danced before. Joyfully," he adds, trying to build a bubble around those memories to keep them from being sullied by derision.
Ludwig smirks, an unpleasant expression and Francis bites his tongue hard to keep the tirade which has been growing in him spilling from his lips. He swallows it down, lets it choke him like bile in the back of his throat.
"And what do your bosses think of this indulgence, Herr Bonnefoy?" he asks slowly, savouring the words like a fine wine. "What do they think when they find out that the pure 'Marianne' of the French people is not only a man but one who parades himself as a woman of ill repute? It is hardly surprising that they wish to build a new France under German guidance when you are their exemplar."
"And what, pray," Francis purrs, a tone which had made other nations quail, once upon a time, "would I care about human proclivities?" He keeps his voice low and reasonable, forcing down his anger and distress at Germany's words. "I am France. I am as much my dancers and my girls of ill-repute as I am my soldiers and my politicians."
He feels Ludwig's breath hot against his ear and the curve of his neck. "Work, Family, Fatherland," he whispers, and Francis shudder as though burned at the mocking perversion of his motto. "That is what the people of France want," Ludwig continues. "That is what you will come to believe. The Reich will give it to them because who would want to lay their life down for someone like you?"
"Non!" Francis says harshly, loud enough to draw a few looks from the German officers surrounding them. His fingers clench on the edge of the table, knuckles white, face whiter. "I will not become your docile little doll, serving the Reich obediently while your soldiers take everything from my people! I am France and I am my people!" He tries to keep his voice low, his tone respectful, but it is difficult when he wants to rage and scream and break Ludwig's pretty face until his hair and eyes are unrecognisable beneath the blood.
"It will only last a short time, this shortage of supplies," Ludwig says with disconcerting certainty, dismissing Francis's words as though he had not spoken at all. "Until Britain joins us."
"Joins you, and he will not," Francis replies with certainty that he hopes is carried in his voice. England is no-one's right hand, and that he has to believe or he may as well roll over and show his belly now. "We shall lay waste to your country together and I will laugh as it happens."
"It is a pity that you are not a woman in truth," Ludwig says sourly as the girls raise their long skirts to their wild Can-Can, whooping and calling. "Your loyalty to your master is an admirable trait, albeit foolish. I think that perhaps, you would make a good mistress once you had been properly trained, Fräulein Bonnefoy."
Francis sees red, goes for Ludwig's throat only to be drawn up short by the sharp mechanical click and the cold barrel of a gun against his forehead. He hisses, unsure if the panicked gasp is him or one of the girls on the stage. Maybe it's both. He licks his lips nervously, then grins, lips splitting like over-ripe fruit to show his teeth. "If I am the mistress, then who would be the wife in your little fantasy? Angleterre? He is twice the man that you are."
He sees white rage fill Ludwig's eyes and he expects a blow, but feels triumphant that Ludwig is bound by his own lies. If Germany is the friend of the French people, the strong ally against the treacherous British, then he cannot be seen beating Francis into submission over mere words. Not in public. And so Francis continues, digging his claws as deep as he can while he has the opportunity because he does not doubt that opportunities will be scarce and hard won.
"Do you wish that I was a woman because you cannot accept that you fantasise about my lips wrapped around your dick?" he hissed, leaning close so that it is his breath against Ludwig's ear, him making Ludwig shift uncomfortably in his seat. And maybe this will get him beaten once they leave the theatre, but oh, for now he just revels in making Ludwig's face twist with anger.
"It does not fit with your ideology," he whispers, "that you want me, that you jerk off to thoughts of taking England once you have defeated him." His lips turn up into a dark smirk, one that normally makes men and women alike tremble, torn between fear and arousal, and even staid, solid Ludwig shudders slightly. "Or perhaps…" he begins, trailing off, letting the anticipation grow for just a second, "perhaps you would prefer it if he bent you over and fucked you raw."
"You go too far!" Ludwig snarls and his hand closes around Francis's throat before Francis has time to react, squeezing lightly for now, trying to choke his words before choking his breath. "I have been lenient with you so far as a courtesy, in the hope that you would come to see sense but I will not tolerate this disrespect."
Francis grins morbidly, an expression borrowed from Ivan and Arthur at their worst. He can see the angry flush to Ludwig's cheeks, the flash of panic in his eyes, the fear that seems sweet as honey to Francis. "You're afraid of it because you if you admit what you want, then you have to accept that you are also all of your people, your communists and your rebels and your Jews. You are all of them, the ones that you have deemed unworthy of life."
Ludwig's fingers tighten as he speaks and Francis chokes out the last words, eyes wild even as his vision darkens around the edges. Ludwig squeezes and squeezes and Francis wonders madly as he struggles for breath, if he might actually die from this, killed by Ludwig as Germany dissolves France into itself. And if he dies, what will come after? Will there be anything afterwards or will Germany devour the world?
The fingers leave his neck and Francis leans forward, forehead touching the table, gasping and gasping and he can hear someone making hurt little noises and it's him, he realises with a jolt. It's him making those broken sounds as rapid German and panicked French floats around his head.
His arms are wrenched behind his back cruelly, and he grunts as he is cuffed, thick shackles which bite into his wrists. He is dragged upright, forced to walk like an obstinate dog on feet which stumble and god, he must look drunk. If he listens, he can hear the whispers begin, just audible over the music and sounds of dancing feet. They're whispering, gossiping, and it will be halfway across Paris come morning; the drunken man arrested for insulting a German office, unprovoked.
And the music still plays, the girls pale and sick looking beneath their make-up. And when he glances back, he can see Ludwig talking quickly to other officers. He meets Francis's gaze for a scant second, expression unreadable, before Francis is tugged sharply out into the night air.
The soldiers beat him in the dingy little apartment that he is normally confined to. There is blood on the floor by the time that they are done with him, and he can feel that many of the wounds that he had sustained while fighting against Germany (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité) have opened up again where boots and fists have fallen. They scream at him in German how dare the French scum insult their great superior Nation. Francis closes his eyes, curls up on himself and remembers when Europe bowed to the tune of La Marseillaise.
He worries that the wounds will become infected, that German doctrine will seep into his blood and leave him with nothing of his own, just a shallow reflection of Ludwig himself.
That is all that Arthur will find when he comes.