cold_clarity: (dresden dolls)
nearly done with the clean-up posts! this is the last thing from the OTP meme.

Mata Hari, Mother Night
PG
written for [livejournal.com profile] suspiriorum, who requested backstory about Bridget and Hans.


This is a summer of galas, premieres, and social events. She finds it amusing, in the bleak and ugly way, that the SS are now a fixture at these sorts of things.

This is how they find one another, again. An estate in Bavaria; the back pavilion overlooking a lake. Guests drink and laugh and smile. A host, eager to remind the world that the Reich has his support.

Hans Landa offers her champagne.

“It’s been some years, Fraülein,” he says, and smiles.

“Indeed it has.” She takes the glass. Strings of lights canopy the pavilion and the party carries on in a pale nimbus. Her drink sparkles. Over the chiming partysounds, she says, “I believe the last time I saw you was before the Anschluss.”

“So you did—-and I’ve whiled away my time in Austria since. With the occasional travel that duty demands, of course.”

“Of course.” She sips her drink. “I can hear it.”

His smile doesn’t falter. His clear gaze fixes on her face. “Hear it?”

“Your accent-—you’ve reacquired it.” She smiles, too, now, and shows her teeth. “One might expect it. Home has a way of reviving old habits.”

“We can only hope that old habits won’t be held against me.”

“We certainly can.” She sips more of the champagne. It’s thin and fizzy in her mouth.

“And you’ve been well, I trust?”

“I have.”

“Good.” He squints out towards the lake, where the moon sprawls in reflection on glassy black. “You know, I read that unfortunate interview with Marlene Dietrich.”

“Oh?”

“A critic compared your talent to hers and an American journalist asked her opinion on the matter.”

He takes a swallow of his own drink, now, and Bridget examines him, cut out sharply against the night. The razor lines of military regalia. She asks:

“And what did Fraülein Dietrich have to say on the matter?”

His gaze cuts back to her. “That she’s never been terribly concerned with the Nazi Party’s puppets, and that she doesn’t appreciate comparisons to the members of Goebbels’s harem.”

“In that case, it was shrewd of her to move her profession to America.”

“Indeed. Although—-I was wondering what you make of the comparison.”

“To Fraü Dietrich?”

“Yes.”

“Talent is talent. I’m certain that Marlene Dietrich has chosen to give hers to the people that she feels are deserving of it.”

“So it would seem.” He offers her his arm. “Would you walk with me? I would love to hear about your exploits in the film industry.” He leans closer, as if to intimate some secret. “I’m afraid a great many of my own comrades have no real taste for art. Your sensibilities will be a breath of fresh air.”

She fits her hand into the crook of his arm. Her glove against his sleeve; a rustling sound. For the second time, she smiles, practiced and effortless.

“I’d be delighted,” she says. “It really has been too many years.”

He chuckles. As they walk, their heels click over polished flagstone. Rhythmic. Well-matched.

The party carries on.

.

Theirs is not a love story, no matter how inevitable a love story may seem.

It’s true that pretty things have always charmed him, but, more than that, he resents all those to whom prettiness has come easily, for whom life has been nothing but dazzling.

To the Reich she is the ideal embodied. To him, the Aryan Ideal is exactly one thing: an utopist notion—-and like utopia unreachable. To embody that (and to embody it without having suffered or struggled) is some desecration of true beauty, he’s certain.

For them, there can be no love story.

.

“Fraülein, you seem distressed.”

She looks up from the letter in her hands. Landa stands over her table.

“Hans.” She folds the letter in half, then into quarters. “I-—Hello. I hadn’t realized you’d returned to Berlin.”

She sits outside of a café. The autumn day is crisp and clear. The sunlight catches in his hair and turns brown skeins to something luminous, like golden wheat.

“Only for a few weeks,” he answers. “A pleasure to see a familiar face, though. May I sit?”

She has no excuse to drive him away. “Of course.”

He takes the seat across from her. “Ill tidings?” A gesture to the letter in her hands.

“More mentions of war.” She draws her thumb over one sharp crease. “The world’s favorite topic, it seems.” A man she knew once—-enlisted, now. An idiot.

“Ah—-unfortunate.” He sounds sympathetic. “Not something an actress need trouble herself with, though.”

She flattens her palm against the tabletop, the letter pressed there against the arc of her hand. She smiles, and the expression feels thin. “Of course not.”

He watches her, as he has always done, until she turns her head to stare out into the day. Milling citizens. The street gleams in the sunlight, winding away. The paper presses into her hand. A breeze picks up—-the smell of frost. It tugs at the fringes of her hair and leaves her with the feeling that she has only just missed someone that she should have been expecting.

“It isn’t just the prospect of war that’s upset you, Fraülein.” Landa’s voice breaks, clear and exacting, through her reverie.

She looks at him again. Her throat is tight. He has settled into his chair, as though he’s musing over her.

“I’m sorry, Hans,” she says. “I should be going.”

She could spare him another smile, she supposes, but she doesn’t. She gets to her feet.

“Bridget.”

Her shoulders stiffen. He continues:

“I hope you know that there’s no reason for you to lie to me.”

She grips the letter and thinks neither of its author, nor of Landa himself. “Hans, darling. Why would I lie to you?”

He’s standing now, too. “I can’t imagine.”

She meets his gaze. Exhale.

“I’m sorry to rush off, but I really must—-”

“Of course.” He leans in and gestures a kiss to her cheek. “Take care, Fraülein.”

“And you.”

His eyes gleam. “Most certainly.”

.

Perhaps this is the greatest offense:

She is who she is and her father is who he is and it seems so obvious that one of them is lying.

No one mentions it, though. In all her years as an actress, only one interviewer makes the mistake of mentioning her family.

“Your father has decried the Reich, in public, on repeated occasion.”

Bridget holds her cigarette between two knuckles. Exhales smoke. “Indeed he has. Did you mean to ask a question?”

“Do you share his sentiments?”

“I love my country.” She smiles now, and her whole face looks very sharp. “And I haven’t spoken to my father since 1930.”

.

She recalls the party on the lakefront from time to time, and the things she learned there.

On that walk, she said to him:

You aren’t very much like them.

A risky assertion, true-—some might even call it an accusation—-but Landa only glanced at her and in the moonlight his eyes were bright, and strange, like hyaline.

Not like them? he repeated.

She gestured with the hand that wasn’t on his arm, sweeping, shapeless. The whole breadth of the night.

The other officers. I’ve been to state events, you know. Their eyes light up, their blood runs hot—-they can taste the glory and the struggle. I can tell. She grinned then, as if they were sharing in some great secret, just the two of them. She told him, sotto voce: But not you. You don’t believe a word of it.

He considered her, all his features etched pale against the deepening night.

A mild laugh.

And what of you, Fraülein? Do you believe it?

I wouldn’t be a very successful actress if I didn’t.

At that, he laughed again, as though something had just dawned on him. Of course, he agreed. Of course.

He chuckled again, amused by some joke known only to him.

.

She has a sister, Marla, whose voice she hasn’t heard since childhood, it seems--and now the whole world has gone to war.

Before this, Marla used to write, and Bridget used to read every letter before she burned it.

I think of you fondly, darling. I’ll see you soon, I’m sure.

Now, there is only silence, and no room for the memory of someone she loved very much.

These are the things that she has made herself to be.

.

The last time she sees Hans before Le Gamaar, she has just arrived in Paris.

He spots her in the hotel lobby, checking in.

“Meine Fraülein!” He holds her at arm’s length. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“Always, Hans.”

“You’ve just arrived?”

“From Berlin, yes.”

“You look exhausted.”

A wan smile. “I’ve traveled better, I must admit.”

“Of course, of course. I’ll let you rest.”

“Thank you.”

His hand lingers on her elbow. “I’ll see you at the premiere, I trust?”

“Naturally.”

“You’ve arrived a bit early, haven’t you? The occasion isn’t for another two weeks.”

She feels his fingers on her arm. She smiles again. “I can’t afford myself a bit of a holiday beforehand?”

He laughs. “Certainly.” His hand falls away. “Rest well.”

“Thank you. I’ll see you soon.”

“And you.”

She does not move until the sound of his footsteps has receded completely into silence.
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