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[personal profile] ishafel
Summary: Erik, between the wars.
Warning for dubcon, underage, prostitution, the Holocaust.

Three days before the Americans came, Shaw disappeared with an SS transport truck and a fortune in looted property. And before he went, he set them all free: Erik, and the Gypsy woman who claimed to be able to see the future, and the double-jointed man, and the deafmute girl with the harelip: all of his pet freaks, turned loose in the middle of the war. Most of them died within the day.

Erik lived. Erik walked across Germany in midsummer, starving and afraid, stealing when he could and going without when he couldn't. Sometimes he slept in ditches with the dead, and sometimes Allied troops marched past him and thought that he, too, was dead.

He was sixteen when he crossed into France, thin and dirty and angry, even then, at the world which had not saved him. He could read and write Polish, and he spoke some German and a little French. He had no papers, no money, no shoes, only a number on his arm he dared not let anyone see.

He found himself in Paris, late in the fall of 1945, with winter coming. He slept in doorways; he ate from trash heaps. He did not use his gift, or even think of it often. He was far from the only orphan on the streets, and he would not have been the only one to die there.

Except, he had something else: the thing Schmidt had marked, and the guards remarked: he had been a pretty child and was becoming a remarkably beautiful man. A sheltered fourteen year old has no word for the things that sometimes happen between men, no word for rape. A sixteen year old can see the whores at the docks, and on certain corners.

Erik had lost his family, his home, his faith. If he could sell what had been taken from him by force in the camps--. A sixteen year old understands currency, and when the snow came Erik joined the whores on the streets of Paris.

He was not very good at it, not at first. Even starving and desperate, he was too proud to be good at it. Whatever else Schmidt had taken, whatever else in Erik he had broken, he had left him pride, tempered in a fierce forge. But being bad at this meant the soldiers with money in their pockets passed him by and chose the boys who smiled, the ones with soft hands and clean faces and bright, cheap clothing. Erik was too sullen, too bony, too dangerous, all hard angles and flashing eyes.

He had been hungry in the camp, hungry walking across Europe, hungry all that autumn. Now it was a thousand times worse. Now, when he was finally willing, it was very nearly too late. No one wanted a boy who looked like he was dying-- or only the worst sort of clients did. Erik went into dark alleyways with bad men, and if he was lucky there were a few francs afterward to pay for the bruises. If he was very lucky they took him to a cheap hotel for a few hours, and sometimes gave him something to drink beforehand.

He survived, that first winter, but nothing more could be said for it. It didn't matter, because even then there was no room in him for anything but his longing for revenge. The money was only to keep him alive until he he found Schmidt and the other men. There was no future he could imagine wanting, nothing but blood to live for.

But spring came, even for the whores of Paris, and in Paris spring was the season of love. Erik was still thin and angry, but even that was not enough to hide his beauty. Men began to seek him out. Sometimes they were even kind to him. There was the Italian diplomat with a taste for rough trade, who brought champagne and left extravagant tips. The American colonel who liked to tie Erik's hands. And then there was Simon.

Simon was British, which was the only thing Erik knew about him for a long time. He taught Erik a great deal about both pleasure and pain. In the beginning he was like the others, borrowed time in seedy hotel rooms, as if Erik were no more than convenient. But unlike the others he sometimes talked to Erik afterward, in stumbling German and fluent French, and finally in English.

He was the first person since the war ended to ask Erik about Bergen- Belsen, and Erik had been alone for a very long time. “It was-- very bad,” he said in answer. “They did not, he did not--,” and he halted, unable to summon the words in French. “We were not human, we who were there. That is how they made it, how they explained it to themselves. We were less.”

Simon lit a cigarette, and watched him over the flash of the lighter. Erik looked back at him. “No one will ever make me less again,” he said, and the words were a promise. “We did not fight-- my family-- not when they came for us, not until it was too late. Next time I will fight.”

“Next time,” Simon repeated, but he did not ask what Erik meant by it. He touched Erik's swollen cheek gently, examining the bruise a sailor from Dieppe had given Erik the night before. “Tell me, mon petit, how would you like to come to England with me?”

Erik didn't know what to say. Instead he leaned forward and drew Simon down, and closed his eyes. Simon stubbed out his cigarette and rocked his hips gently against Erik's, and then less gently. Erik could feel the other man's cock hardening against his belly, which was good. Simon always paid, and sometimes if he came twice he paid extra. It was one of the things Erik liked best about him.

The first time tonight had been rough, a little painful, because Simon was big for an Englishman. This time was less urgent, and Erik's fingers tightened on the worn sheets as his own body responded. This time when Simon came he slid a hand down and brought Erik off, too. “Think about it,” he told Erik as he dressed afterward. “You are a clever boy, I think, and Paris is not kind to clever boys.”

He was not entirely wrong about that. Erik was clever, but not where it was important. His gift for languages, his love of books, were no good at all; what he needed was the sense to keep his mouth shut. All the things he had not dared to say to Schmidt and the soldiers who imprisoned him, he said to the men who bought his body, and often enough he went home with bruises, a bleeding mouth, no money to buy food or pay rent.

Still, he could not seem to stop himself. Anything else was an admission of weakness, and a part of him could not help remembering Schmidt. “Your people are weak,” Schmidt had said to him, his hand on Erik's shoulder as if it was a comfort. “But you are not. You could be so much more.” It was weakness to smile, to pretend to be glad to see someone who was going to fuck him raw and leave him bleeding; it was weakness to be a good whore.

The man who caught Erik lifting his wallet didn't care that he was a Jew, didn't know that he was a freak. He broke Erik's wrist for him, and it was three agonizing days before Simon took him to a doctor and had it set. “You're a foolish child,” Simon said, without even the feigned affection Schmidt would have managed. “Keep this up, and you'll be a dead one.”

He had papers for Erik, quite decent forgeries. Erik ran his fingers over the seals, sounding out the English words. “Why are you doing this?”, he asked finally. “There are boys in London.”

“No boys like you, is that want you want to hear?”, Simon laughed, but for once his eyes were kind. “In a year you'll be older than I like them, you know. I guess you could say we were on the same side in the last war. Maybe I'd like to see someone get clear of it.”

“I'll go with you,” Erik said, struggling to find the English, “but I won't be your pet.”

Simon shook his head. “I'd rather have a rabid dog, truly. Don't worry, mon petit, I shall make sure you earn your keep.”

He had come to France on foot, wearing the remnants of an American uniform he'd taken from a corpse. Erik left it in relative style, in clothes that were clean and almost fit, and with a handful of coins jingling in his pocket, where before there had been only one. He had been in Paris nearly eight months, and he had not used his powers once, by design or by accident, and a part of him thought that he had outgrown the past.

In London he would be someone else entirely. In London he would not be a Jew or a freak or a victim, and he would stay with Simon only as long as it suited him. Erik's hands were white-knuckled where he clutched the ship's rail, but it was hope and not revenge that drove him as they slipped from the harbor.

As it turned out, London was only another Paris. It was bigger than he'd expected, and the streets were full of people speaking a language he didn't understand. Erik was afraid, despite himself: afraid to get lost, afraid of being noticed, afraid of the hatred when people heard his accent, which was not even German.

And Simon-- Simon's flat was all right, half buried by stacks of books on art, books on antiques, books about war. But Simon was less patient than he'd been in France, his hands rougher on Erik's body, his temper shorter. Simon didn't work, not that Erik could see, but he was sometimes gone for days unexpectedly, and came back furious or amorous, or if Erik was unlucky, both.

It always started with Simon telling him how pretty he was, and it always ended with Simon fucking him into the mattress or against the wall, or pushing him down onto his knees and fucking his mouth. He shouldn't have stayed, didn't want to stay, but where else could he have gone? Better Simon than the streets of London. At least with Simon he wasn't cold, wasn't hungry.

Erik taught himself English, slowly and awkwardly, from Simon's books. He ran sometimes, at night when there was no one to see him. He lifted Simon's weights. He began to put on the muscle that starvation had eaten away. Simon liked boys, and Erik was almost too old for him, which meant that a time was coming when he would have to do something besides lie on his back.

The worst of it wasn't the sex, or the bruises, or the cold dampness of London. The worst was the nightmares. Three nights in ten, Simon woke Erik, screaming orders to dead men. When it happened, Erik locked himself in the bathroom and waited, shivering, for him to stop. And the building shivered with him, and sometimes the block, and sometimes it felt like the whole world was breaking around him. There was so much metal, and he could feel it waiting.

Simon dreamed about the war; Erik never dreamed at all. Not about the trains, or the camp, or the guards, not about crossing Germany and France, not about Paris. Not even about the dead, his dead. There was something wrong with him, inside: he was every bit the freak Schmidt had named him. What he remembered about the day his mother had died was not grief but a savage joy, the unleashing of something too long kept bound. He deserved everything Schmidt had done to him, everything Simon and the others had done to him.

In September Simon caught Erik shaving, and Erik thought that that was going to be the end. Simon liked boys, not too young, but younger than Erik. He told himself it didn't matter, that he didn't care, but it wasn't true. The thought of being on his own again was terrifying.

But Simon didn't say anything, and a week stretched into two. And then Simon came home with a stack of photographs. “Recognize these things?”, he asked spreading the prints out on the coffee table.

Erik touched them with careful fingers, tracing the ornate frames of paintings, the graceful shapes of pale sculptures, the dark gleam of jewels beautiful even in black and white. “No,” he said. It was true. Simon was well-bred and well-educated, born to beauty if not to money. Erik had been born a peasant, and gone to school in a work camp and got a first in prostitution. The artworks in the photos were completely unfamiliar.

“They are the treasures of Europe,” Simon said, “stolen by the Germans from the great Jewish families.”

“C'est la vie,” Erik answered. So many dead, and Simon expected he would care about a rich man's pretty necklace, a painting of fat shepherdesses?

“My job is to recover them,” Simon said, and Erik did not look up. He had wondered what it was Simon did for money, where he went when he disappeared. “My job is to hunt down the German officers of Hitler's high command, to turn them over to the tribunal for justice and retrieve the artwork and money they stole and return it to the living heirs.”

Erik's English failed him altogether. “There is no justice for the things they did.”

“Is there not?”, Simon asked in his soldier's German. “Are they less than human, then? Mad creatures that should be shot where they stand? Is this not what they said of the Jews, that they were animals?”

“Should not the Jews be the ones to render justice, then? Does not your very Bible call for it, an eye for an eye?”

There was no pity in Simon's eyes. He had seen worse things than Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, the burning ruin of the house in which Erik had been born. He had done worse things, maybe. “Would you quote the Old Testament to me, little Jew?”, he asked, and laughed.

In Paris Erik might have hit him, might have walked away. But the months he'd spent as Simon's kept boy had made him soft, and the thought of going back to whoring, learning the unspoken rules of a new set of streets-- he could not do it, and the thought of it alone made his heart pound and his stomach twist.

“These, then,” Simon said. “Look at these.” The second set of photographs were people, men: blurry candid shots and posed formal ones, men in the uniforms of the German army, the Lutwaffe, the SS. Erik flipped through them with numb fingers. The third shot in the set was of Schmidt.

He set the photographs down on the table, very carefully. “Czego ty--,” he began, and then he caught himself. “What is it you want from me?”

Simon smiled back at him, cool and merciless. “Everything grows old, mon petit, and everyone grows old. If you want to earn your keep, you'll have to learn a few new tricks.”

So it had come to that, to the thing he feared most, and Erik could not bring himself to care. “Very well,” he said.

“You'll make a better hunter than you ever did a whore.”

“And you'll find a prettier, younger boy than I, I am sure.” It was the kind of thing he hadn't dared say to Simon in months.

Simon's mouth curved up, rueful, not angry. “Oh, mon petit, there will never be a boy more beautiful than you, I'm sure.” He kissed Erik, while Schmidt's flat empty eyes watched from the faded photograph on the table.

They went to bed then, and Simon fucked him and then fell asleep. Erik waited until he was sure Simon was really sleeping and then he got up. The pictures were still on the table. He flipped through them again, struggling through the typed English biographies glued onto the backs-- names, dates, cities; nothing and no one that he recognized. He slid them into their envelope, and then he sat and put his head on his arms.

He could feel everything in the flat that was made of metal, all of it moving in time with his heart. He thought he could feel all the metal in the house, in the street, in London. The god Simon spoke of so casually had taken everything from Erik, yes, but he had given him something. He had given him a weapon.

Simon's cigarette case rose and hovered above the table. The coins from the porcelain dish joined them. And Erik thought of Schmidt and smiled.
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