After waiting FOREVER for the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables, I have finally passed the rite of passage that is…MY FIRST TIME WATCHING LES MISERABLES! I sat down a girl, and got up a woman. *sniff sniff*

In honor of my coming of age, I am writing this one shot, followed by another tomorrow that is already planned out, and another chapter of my Les Mis story. I've been renewed in my inspiration!

Fantine, leaning heavily against her pillows, was nearly as white as the linens that covered her bed, the only color she possessed being a sickly, feverish flush.

As a violent bout of coughing wracked her frame, Valjean took hold of her small hands, enveloping them within his own. Her body was painfully thin; the type of thin that comes only from prolonged illness and poverty.

"Cosette, it's time to come in, my darling girl; you've played all day."

The woman spoke in her sleep, within the confines of her fevered dreaming.

"Shh, Fantine," Valjean soothed, tenderly brushing back her damp hair from her face, gleaming with a sheen of sweat.

As she blinked blearily out of slumber, Valjean waited until Fantine's fever-bright eyes found his. Hers filled with tears.

"I am afraid of the darkness. It's coming. I can feel it. It frightens me," she whispered, her voice wavering with terror, but not for herself. "My Cosette-"

"Will live in my protection," he said softly, wiping away her tears with gentle fingers. Although her lower lip trembled still with suppressed sobs, she managed a weak smile before yet another fit of coughing overcame her, this time bringing dark splatters of blood.

Valjean rose swiftly to fetch a physician, but was stopped by Fantine. She clutched at his arm with surprising strength, near-frantic in her plea.

"Please…please do not leave me. Stay with me, please," she begged. 'Pride be damned,' thought she.

"Do not fear, Fantine. I will stay with you."

"It's growing colder; can you feel it?" She murmured, sinking back in fatigue. The last of her strength had been depleted by her outburst.

"I will keep you warm," he said, once again taking her hands within his own, chafing warmth into them.

Her eyes closed, her chest quavering with her labored breathing. Valjean leaned forward to catch her breathy words, faint and almost unintelligible. His heart clenched with sorrow. Fantine was visibly fading from the world of the living, her pallor increasing with every second.

"Stay with me…please," Fantine gasped for air in pain, and Valjean, helpless, could only tighten his grip, mindful that he didn't hurt her further. "At least…until…I am…sleeping."

She managed to open her eyes for a moment, and in that small instant, Valjean saw such dependence, weariness, and pain that he knew he could never leave her side, even if he had so desired.

"I will not leave you," he repeated, cupping her feverishly hot cheek in one hand. "Have no fear, Fantine. I shall not leave your side."

"Cosette?" It required almost all that remained of her strength to even utter her daughter's name.

"I shall raise Cosette as my own daughter. For her entire life, I swear to you, she shall know nothing but love. She shall never be without any of her needs, or of her wants. This I promise to you on my life, Fantine."

She smiled, her lips barely able to turn up.

"Thank you."

XXXXX

When, at last, Fantine had drawn her final agonized breath, Valjean released her hands.

Before drawing the sheet over her porcelain face, Valjean pressed a single kiss to her forehead. A tear slid from his cheek, leaving a dark spot on the sheet. Within Valjean's heart, however, an even darker stain had imprinted itself…the stain of grief.