A/N: Hello everybody! This is my first foray into a story I know so well, having been lucky enough to read the book when I was a kid before being introduced to its many adaptations. I recently watched the BBC adaptation, which was, seriously, the BEST adaptation of them all, in a heartwrenching way.
And, of course, the muse had to strike. So here I am, giving Marius some love, because he is a cutie. :)
Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Les Misérables or the characters mentioned in the book. I only own my OCs Emilie and Luc Dumas, and Jean Pontmercy, along with a few secundary characters.
Paris was truly enchanting at this time of year. Spring. It truly seemed to bring out the best in people. More citizens than ever smiled and laughed, from the most upturned bourgeois to the filthiest beggar.
One would almost forget the unrest in the streets after the failed rebellion of 19832. Six years later, something brewed, dark and malfeasant, but God be damned if anybody knew what was going to happen!
Emilie and Luc Dumas, husband and wife, lived on the 18th of the Rue Madame, not too far from the church of Saint-Sulpice. Luc had inherited a nice fortune from his grandfather, a banker, as well as a comfortable sum coming from his wife's dowry.
The spouses were unemployed, as was often the case of rich people in those times. Luc had studied economy and politics – Emilie had met him through her brother Jean-Antoine – but had never really put his knowledge to good use.
While his wife managed their home and entertained, Luc roamed Paris' most infamous bars, cafés, and brothels, of course.
They had not married for love. He had needed the money – and the wife, his grandfather being adamant that he'd only inherit should he be wed – she had needed the relative freedom having her own home provided.
Their marriage was a barren one, much to their families' dismay. But, considering Luc had not shared his wife's bed since their wedding night, there was no wonder why.
The Dumas may have been unhappy together, but to the outsider, they were the epitome of marriage bliss.
If only they knew…
Emilie and Luc had been invited to one of their friends' house for dinner. His son was turning five, and, well, the child was his father's pride and joy.
Luc had met Marius Pontmercy through another lawyer friend, and they had easily hit it off, despite the Baron's much quieter and more uneventful way of life. Rumour had it that his younger years had been filled with their share of mischief, but not anymore.
Emilie adored the Baron's son, little Jean Pontmercy, a blonde-haired and green-eyed boy whose passions were horse-riding and swash-buckling stories.
Often, when Luc and Monsieur Marius talked late into the night, she would sneak away to Jean's room to read him a story before leaving him to peaceful slumber.
At this point, it might be necessary to explain that Madame Cosette Pontmercy, Jean's mother, had passed away a few months after giving birth, leaving her husband utterly devastated.
Emilie knew that Monsieur Marius was far from being over losing her. Despite not knowing much of their story, she could easily tell that, unlike her and Luc, the Pontmercys had married for love.
It might also need saying that Madame Emilie Dumas was most definitely in love with Marius Pontmercy.
The evening was as grand and as lovely as it always was in this house. Bernadette, Monsieur Marius' old governess and the current housekeeper, had readied a feast that pleased both the eyes and the tongue.
Monsieur Marius had invited very few people to his son's name day: the Dumas; a Monsieur d'Argenteuil, little Jean's godfather, with his wife Marie-Anne; and Madame Neuilly, the godmother, along with her daughter Amélie and son François-Marie.
Emilie knew all these people well, and naturally found herself drinking her glass of wine with the ladies who, like true women, started gossiping about their host's marital status.
"Isn't it such a pity," whispered Madame d'Argenteuil, "that such a young and handsome man should remain unmarried?"
Madame Neuilly sighed wistfully. "It is indeed. As much as I loved his Cosette – everybody did – it is time he considered it. If not for his sake then for the boy's."
Marie-Anne smirked almost cruelly. "I hear that our dear Emilie is taking care of that already…"
Amélie turned to the young married woman, giggling with all the silliness of her seventeen years of age. "Come come, now, Emilie! You already have your man, share with us!"
Emilie took a sip of her wine with an amused smile. "I am genuinely fond of Petit Jean. He's a spirited lad."
"Well," Madame Neuilly stressed, "let other young ladies try to get close to him. It's unfair, when you already have such a perfect husband."
Emilie smiled, as she usually did when someone mentioned her seemingly flawless marriage. It always amazed her that none of her close acquaintances were aware of the utter horror that was living under the same roof as Luc.
"I'll try my best," she answered.
The other three women then good-naturedly launched into a thorough account of Monsieur Marius' qualities.
"He's very handsome," said Amélie with a dreamy look on her still-juvenile face.
"Not to forget he's rich…" continued her mother.
"…and he owns one of the most beautiful houses in Paris!" finished Marie-Anne.
Again, Emilie smiled. Internally, while she looked upon their host with the hint of fondness in her eyes, she recounted his other and most important qualities: he was kind, brave, passionate, pious, just, fair, generous… This list could go on.
But yes, it was true that he also was very handsome. Or perhaps he was thus because of his other attributes…
The evening stretched pleasantly between friends, until, sometime after midnight, it was decided to retire. Monsieur and Madame d'Argenteuil left first, Emilie and Luc second.
It was all she could do not to roll her eyes as she watched young Amélie practically fawn over their host. Although it lacked the bitter taste of jealousy, the feeling that filled her was far from pleasant.
Luc parted with his friend with a promise to call in the following afternoon, and Monsieur Marius helped Emilie into the carriage as he always did, a fond but sad smile on his lips.
The ride was by no means a lengthy one, as they lived quite close to the Pontmercys, but Emilie had time to question her husband nonetheless.
"What was that about, you going back there later?"
Luc didn't hide the displeasure on his face, and he answered harshly: "It is, as usual, none of your business."
She pursed her lips but couldn't retort, as they had, in fact, reached their home. If it could be called that, anyway…
Time went by, seasons changed, and at the birth of autumn, a terrible and chilling storm hit Paris.
Luc had been away, as per usual, leaving his wife to mind the house in his absence. Emilie hadn't had much to do, and so, unsurprisingly, she had gone to pay Petit Jean a visit.
The child had been in the middle of lessons with his preceptor – she could hear them do Maths in the English language – and with Monsieur Marius gone to work, she found herself in the drawing room, alone and with little else to do than watch dark clouds gather overhead.
At three in the afternoon, a massive lightning rod pierced the skies, accompanied by thunder so powerful that it made the house tremble.
Downstairs, she heard screams and hurried paces, and Emilie followed them to Petit Jean's classroom. The boy was whimpering, screaming when another crack of thunder made the walls quake. His teacher, a Monsieur Dampremy, seemed as annoyed as he seemed worried.
"Monsieur," Emilie said as she drew Jean into a motherly and comforting embrace, "I'd say you should probably go home. I sense this storm will be violent enough to cut us off from the rest of the world."
And indeed, rain had begun to fall, hard, fast and unforgiving. The preceptor nodded and bowed before hurriedly putting on his long coat and opening the front door.
Curious, Emilie had followed, Jean still glued to her legs for comfort.
The street had begun to flood, pavement almost invisible under the river of water that fell from the sky. As Jean's teacher ran, protecting his head as best he could, she saw it was already ankle-deep.
"Bernadette!" she yelled, picking Jean up, paling by the second. As the housekeeper appeared, face equally as ashen.
"The street is flooding, fast. Have you got any sand bags, beans, anything that could stop it from entering the hallway?"
The old woman thought for a moment before nodding gravely. "Take Monsieur Jean upstairs, Madame, I'll have something warm brought up." And then she proceeded to shout to call several footmen and maids for help.
Emilie smiled reassuringly at the child in her arms, and took him upstairs, indeed.
She'd been right to be cautious. The storm didn't settle at all and kept battering the whole street – the whole city – with thunder, lightning, wind and enough rain to create a second Seine.
Despite their best efforts, Bernadette and the others couldn't stop a thin layer of muddy water from running through the basement windows and flooding part of the kitchen. It was all under control, though.
As night fell over Paris and no streetlamps were lit – for obvious reasons – came another worrying issue: Monsieur Marius hadn't yet come home, and sending a messenger to the magistrate's office would be a folly in such weather.
Emilie briefly worried about her own home, and her husband, in smaller measure. But her servants knew where she was, and she doubted Luc would spare her a single thought unless someone brought her up.
Jean had calmed down but had refused to leave her side. They ate the soup the cook managed to produce feet two inches in water, and sat in the smoking room with a fire and a book. With every rattle of the shutters, with every crack of thunder, the boy's arms tightened their hold around her waist.
For a crazy moment, Emilie thought back to a conversation she'd had several months prior – and a few more times after – about her affections for Petit Jean and the fact that it basically ruined the child for any woman who'd wish to marry his father.
She'd cared little about it at the time. She wasn't at the Pontmercys' often enough to 'ruin' anything, and the boy had always treated her as a friend rather than a mother.
Now, though, she could understand Madame Neuilly and Madame d'Argenteuil's points of view. Now, draped protectively around a child that wasn't hers but who she could die for, Emilie understood their point.
She'd come to terms with her unrequited love for Monsieur Marius, but hadn't considered she'd have to let go of his son, eventually.
In the middle of the night, after Jean had dozed off from exhaustion and after the storm had quieted down a notch, Emilie heard a great commotion downstairs.
Making sure her young charge didn't wake, she exited the room into the hallway and stood on the gallery, peering downstairs.
Monsieur Marius had come home, completely and irrevocably drenched, demanding to see his son even as Bernadette fussed over him.
"Where is he?"
"Sir, you need to get dry and warm!"
"Where is he?" He tried climbing the stairs, shivering and voice trembling. His housekeeper stopped him.
Emilie moved towards the stairs herself, speaking up but not too loud so as to not wake Jean. "Your son is safe, Monsieur. He's asleep in your smoking room."
Marius raised his wonderful green eyes towards her, seemingly stunned to see her there.
Bernadette finally managed to shake him off his coat, and provided her employer with "Madame Dumas was visiting when the storm hit. Thank God she was, too."
Marius moved upstairs, hair dripping, teeth shattering, shoes squishing, and as he reached her, he whispered a quiet "Thank you" that warmed her from head to toe.
They went to check on Jean, but chose not to wake him. Outside, it rained still, but less violently than before.
"I need to talk to you," said the Baron after a minute of silent contemplation.
Emilie stared at him, brow furrowed, and nodded. "You need to change and to get warm, first. I'll call for your valet."
Again he stared at her funnily, but nodded anyway.
When he'd gotten out of his soaked clothes and put on dry ones, Monsieur Marius showed her to his study, where she forced him to wrap himself in a blanket in front of the fire.
"Thank you, again. For Jean, for the house," he said softly.
Emilie smiled, readjusting the shawl she'd placed on her shoulders. "I would do it again and again, as you know."
"Yes, I do know." Her eyes snapped to him, but he was staring at the flames. "I wasn't at work, today."
She arched a brow. "Weren't you?" If her husband had announced such a thing, she'd have known exactly where he'd been instead, but she couldn't fathom Marius Pontmercy even thinking of entering a brothel…
"No, I was…at the bank." He seemed pained, as if what he was to tell her was shameful. Then his green eyes met her blue gaze. "Has Luc ever told you I've lent him money?"
The surprise that flashed on Emilie's face was answer enough, but, still, she asked "What on Earth for?"
"He told me and a few others that he was placing it, investing it, but, today, I learnt that he basically kept it for himself. For bets, most probably."
The shock soon turned to outrage and anger. "He stole from you?!" She stood, pacing back and forth to calm herself. "How much did you lend him?"
"Altogether? About a hundred thousand francs."
"I can't believe it." And she couldn't. Despite not being in charge of the household's accounts, Emilie knew what money was worth. And this was far too much…
She turned back to her for-now host, raging and a plan to promptly murder her husband on her lips, but stopped short.
Marius had collapsed on the armchair in front of the fire, forehead sweaty, eyes glazed over.
Without hesitation, she pulled the chord to call a valet up.
Marius had caught a fever.
Emilie tended to him for the rest of the night, along with Bernadette who, apparently, cared little for the fact that her single employer was alone with a married woman.
Scandals were made for storm-less days.
So, for hours, she kept him warm, dabbed at his forehead and made sure he kept breathing.
Slowly, the sun rose in the sky, chasing away both the rain and the clouds, and the streets opened. Like streams of mud, they were a chaotic sight but, at least, people could come and go.
About two hours after dawn, Bernadette sent for a doctor, and Emilie rose to take her leave.
"No…stay…" stopped a weak voice. Monsieur Marius was awake, barely, green eyes drooping as he repeated "Stay…"
She approached the bed he'd been placed on, and smiled gently. "I have to go. If only to throw some things at my dear husband's face."
Marius chuckled, even if it was pained and weak. "Thank you again, Emilie."
It was the first time he used her first name like this, and it made her heart flutter all the way back to the Rue Madame.
Four months later, after a long time spent in court or in lawyer's office, after building her case and using many high-ranking acquainted as witnesses, Emilie Dumas was officially no longer Luc's wife.
He'd fought it hard, knowing that he'd lost what remained of her money – the part he hadn't…invested – but, since he'd stolen from all his so-called friends, including a magistrate, there wasn't much he could do.
Emilie kept the house Rue Madame, of course, and soon enough, rumours started spreading that the now Mademoiselle had plotted this divorce to get her hands on a more interesting prospect: the Baron Pontmercy.
It was somewhat logical that people would think this: after all, Emilie and Luc's marriage had always appeared pristine to the outside world. And, as often in these cases, the blame was the wife's.
"I've heard that she planted false evidence against her husband."
"I've heard she slept with the judges to get her way."
"Even worse: I've heard she's slipped some sort of love-potion to the Baron to have him fall for her tricks."
It all would have been bearable, Emilie supposed, if some of those rumours hadn't been birthed by some of her so-called 'friends'. Young Amélie Neuilly, for example.
It changed her view of things drastically, of course. She stopped going to the Pontmercys', ditched church a couple of Sundays, stopped entertaining. She was giving those bullies what they wanted, she knew, but she just wasn't strong enough to fight them all.
About a year after that fateful storm and the strange night that had followed, Emilie's butler announced that she had unexpected visitors.
She found Monsieur Marius and Petit Jean in the hallway, both looking as dapper as ever. Jean had definitely gained a few inches, his blonde hair was longer and held back, and his green eyes widened in delight when he saw her descend the stairs.
"Emilie!" he shouted, springing forward as if he had waited for nothing else.
His father tried to hold him back, scolding him even, but the little boy just leapt into Emilie's arms anyway, undignified but so welcome.
"You've missed my name day," he said, face hidden in her hair.
Emilie squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, inhaling his child-like scent, one she had missed those past months.
Still, she didn't answer.
Slowly, Marius approached, face grave and slightly sad, if she wasn't mistaken.
"Come now, son, let Emilie breathe." Jean untangled himself from her side, but snatched her hand in his. This made her smile, more to even because Marius had used her given name.
"May I offer you something?" she finally managed to croak, and Jean's toothy smile was all the answer she needed.
That afternoon was lovely by any means. Petit Jean delighted Emilie with a detailed account of what she'd missed in his life, from his games to his studies, from his lack of interest in hunting to the loss of his first baby tooth.
All the while, his father observed, eyes glistening even as he tried – and failed – to hide his smile. Whenever his gaze met Emilie's, something seemed to pause, making her ponder.
Sometime around seven that evening, Jean fell asleep, the day having been far too exciting for him.
Emilie and Marius therefore found themselves sipping on wine and nipping on what the kitchens had brought up, all that while watching Jean sleep.
"He really missed you," sighed Marius eventually. "We both did."
"I couldn't…" Emilie's voice almost broke before she could continue, "I couldn't keep on visiting you as I once did. People-"
"-people say horrible things all the time. You shouldn't listen to them."
She sighed. "Yes, I should. What they say could ruin your reputation, and if, one day, you decide to remarry…"
He huffed, in a way that made her meet his eyes. He wasn't amused, not really. It was more like fatalism, and a bit of annoyance. "I do not know why my lack of wife is so important to so many. But I assure you, if I ever want to marry again, there'll be but one person on the list…"
Their eyes met. The intensity in his green eyes made a slight blush run up Emilie's cheeks. Her heart fluttered happily as disbelief made way to hope.
Marius precised, voice dropping to a whisper, "It was easy to ignore, when Luc and you were still married. But now… After that storm…" He trailed off, as Emilie looked away.
So, he knew. He perhaps had known all along that she'd loved him. How embarrassing… "You must think me a fool," she sighed, fingering the space where a wedding ring had once been, "I was a married woman enamoured with her husband's friend and his son."
Marius' eyes shone, and he smiled softly. What he said next finished to shock her into silence. "Who was the most foolish, I wonder? Was it you, or me, the idiot who fell for his friend's wife after she spent a night caring for him?"
They stared at each other again, and Emilie's heart skipped a beat or two. "Me?" she managed to breathe.
He nodded eagerly, the fire in his eyes so different from the sadness she'd always seen there, associated with the loss of his Cosette. "You cared for my son without asking for anything in return. And that night…when anyone else would have gone back to their own home, you chose to stay in mine, to protect Jean…to care for me when I fell ill…"
The emotion he put in those words almost brought her to tears. Marius stood, only to kneel in front of her and to take her hands in his.
"I cannot promise you a perfect life, Emilie, nor can I promise to be the man you deserve, but if you so wished, I would…like…to marry you. Very much."
This time the tears sprung free. She placed her hand on his cheek, staring intently at this man who was handsome, devastatingly so, but who was also so much more.
So, because she was no longer a young maid, Emilie leaned in slowly, smiling when his eyes fluttered close, and she placed her lips over his in a tender kiss.
As all kissed born out of love in its purest form, it remained slow but meaningful, lips moving in concert as if to convey a most important message.
When, at last, they pulled back with smiles adorning their faces, they then realised that they had an audience.
While he'd been fast asleep – or so they'd thought – just moments ago, Jean was sitting on the couch, eyes wide and toothy grin in place.
"Have you said 'yes' yet?" he asked excitedly.
Marius and Emilie shared a glance, and laughed.