When the Night is Over
Chapter One: To Love Another Person
AU: This fic will attempt to fill in some gaps left in the play - why Valjean decided not to take Cosette from Paris, for example - and tell the untold story of Marius' recovery under Cosette's care, and how he came to be at 55 Rue Plumet in the first place. I plan on also telling of Marius' and Cosette's life together after the play ends. I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think.
Valjean gazed with a stupefied expression upon the letter clutched in his hand. Could it be true? A young man in love with his adopted daughter – and she in love with him?
For so long he had thought that Cosette lived a life as sheltered as he had established. He had spoken minimally to outsiders, and he had devoted his life to providing for Cosette and protecting her. His heart belonged so wholly to her that he had naively expected the same from her. He had been a fool to think that he could keep someone from falling in love with her, as pretty as she was, and to think that he could keep her from falling in love with someone else, as kind-hearted as she was.
How long had this been going on without his knowledge? How long had he been ignorant? Never did he think that the girl he had raised could deceive him; never had he felt so betrayed by someone so dear to him. He had faced many hardships in his life, but none like this – none incurred by his loved ones. She was the only one he had ever loved; fatherhood fulfilled him and consumed him so completely that he could never spare time, energy, or attention to think of romantic love.
But why would he think that she was similarly removed from the world? She was unknowing of the reasons why he was so distracted, so intent upon ensuring that they kept to themselves. But what was it that he was protecting her from? She was not the guilty one; she was not the one who had been jailed, who had stolen bread and broken windows and been caught taking silver from a bishop and threatening the inspector with a broken chair… But she was tainted by association.
The man who had saw him in the streets the other day, Thenardier… He knew who they were. How was he to know that this boy, this… Marius… was not associated with him? When they had fled the square, he had seen Thenardier speaking to Javert. If they knew who he was, then they'd know who she was. And her reputation would be ruined forever.
Still… normally the reason men worried about their daughter's reputation was so that she would be pure enough to attract and marry a good man. What was the point, if he never let that happen? It was selfish of him to wish to keep Cosette to himself forever.
But he could not help but despise the unknown young man who threatened to steal Cosette away from him. The only things he knew about this Marius were his name and his feelings for Cosette, and yet he felt hate well up within his heart. It was a sensation that had been foreign to him for some time now.
How could he hate someone he did not even know? It was senseless. He must quash it. After all, there must be some things to look about Marius. The boy at least had good taste if he loved Cosette, and must be something if he had made her love him as well. He could not be totally dishonorable, albeit quite foolish, if he was fighting in the barricade in a war that could not be won.
It should have relieved him to know that the boy would die there; the prospect of a relationship with his daughter would be ended conveniently. But instead, he was pensive. Could he deny Cosette her happiness? It occurred to him, suddenly and staggeringly, that it was in his power to grant or prevent Cosette from seeing Marius again.
Perhaps it was prideful to think that he had more control than a slew of bullets, or Providence, but he was overwhelmed by the thought, and sank into the nearest chair with a trembling hand pressed to his temple. What could he do?
The thought of the boy's death made him feel sick, and a pall settled over him as he considered that it would be his fault if Cosette never again saw her beloved. What if he had died already? If he had not, he was about to.
Valjean wondered whether he ought to tell his daughter that the letter had come for her. If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned.
He would never be able to forgive himself for this if he did not let his daughter have her chance at happiness, the happiness that she had given him by being in his life. God had shown him love and mercy by forgiving him his sins, and Valjean had shown love and mercy to Cosette by taking her in when her mother had died. But he was not the only being who could love her.
He knew could not hide the letter from Cosette – it belonged to her. And she did not belong to him. She never had. He was a steward of a God-given gift; nothing more. It was his job to protect her, but if she was old enough to fall in love, she was old enough to make her own decisions.
And he had made his decision.
They would not be leaving Paris tonight. He would not take Cosette away from her Marius, and he would not let him die.
He slipped upstairs, stealing past the closed door to Cosette's bedroom, and dressed himself in his National Guard uniform. He left the letter for Cosette, in the unlikely event that she woke and came down from her room, before heading toward the Rue de Villete.
This was the first argument Cosette could ever remember having with her father. Of course she had always been privately frustrated with him for insisting on constant secrecy in their lives, but she had never spoken to him about it. It would have been disrespectful to question him, and she trusted him enough to know there was a good reason behind it, even if she didn't know what that reason was.
He thought she was asleep at the moment. But how could she sleep, knowing that tomorrow she would no longer see the man who she loved? Perhaps she was just a foolish child, falling in love on a whim. But perhaps this could be something that would last forever. This could be it. She wasn't the sort of person to fall in love with every man she saw, at the first moment of seeing him… and yet here she was. She had always been an even-tempered, sensible child; her father had told her so, even. And she had thought that her father was even-tempered and sensible as well. Yet in hours, her life would be changed forever.
…Just as thoroughly changed as it had been upon seeing Marius Pontmercy for the first time. She savored the name in secret, rolling it around in her mouth like a piece of candy, an ardent whisper in the darkness. So many times had she said it to herself, but it had not lost its sweetness or thrill.
It was not that she and her father had not moved around frequently during her formative years, but never before had she left something behind. For so long, her father had been the only person in her life, the only thing that grounded her, but now… now she wanted more. She was a young woman, and was that so wrong? It was not a betrayal to share her heart with someone else, was it? He had no right to be angry with her, she told herself; but she was perfectly justified in being angry with him for uprooting him at a time such as this.
There was a knock on the front door of their apartment, something rare for two people who kept to themselves, and Cosette sat up in bed, scrubbing her cheeks unceremoniously with the back of her hand in a futile attempt to wipe away the evidence of her quiet weeping. Were they to leave already? She had known the moment was coming, but, illogically, she felt that a few more hours to prepare herself might have made it easier. She had no idea how she would ever find Marius again. It was all over.
For some reason she did not know, it took her father a few moments to make his way up the stairs, and he did so more with vigor than usual, judging by the slapping of his quick footsteps on the wooden boards. She threw herself on her bed and hid her face in her pillows, pretending that she had been sleeping, but the door to her room did not open, and there was no reason for the concealment of her tears.
Instead of coming to wake her and prepare her to leave, her father's footsteps were heard going back down the stairs. Suddenly confused and increasingly worried, Cosette ran to the window and watched the form of her father striding down the glistening streets, an eerie sight as the back of his uniform disappeared into the mist.
Exhausted and frightened, she sank back onto her bed, and fell into a restless sleep.
Marius paced anxiously, unaware of the stares of his comrades. Perhaps they thought him nervous about the upcoming fight, but he had never feared death – he only feared losing Cosette to something that was less in his control. Tomorrow, she would be in England. She was gone from him forever now.
The greatest war took place in his own heart. He had considered going to find her, now that he knew where she lived, but this was where he belonged, with his brothers-in-arms. He prayed that Eponine had gotten the letter to Cosette. Perhaps she was reading it now, perhaps by candlelight on a ship.
He felt that he would never see her in this life again, and it would be a mercy to die honorably in battle, and go Home to God, where she would join him. What was the point of living, if he could not have her in his life? At least if he died, he would be with the angels, and someday, she would be among them.
There had been enough time of talking quietly amongst themselves. Now that they must act and not simply talk of heroism, morale was slipping. Death was real and tangible now that Eponine had passed away in his arms. They were schoolboys in over their heads, and guilt flooded his soul for bringing Eponine into it. This was not her cause, and yet she had died for it. She had died for him.
He had been oblivious, lost in his plans for the barricade or his daydreams of Cosette, to her feelings for him. There had been no chance of him returning them, but it pained him that the only thing he had done for her was hold her and be there for her while she died, and kiss her still-warm forehead with gratitude and affection and an overwhelming sense of loss.
But there was not enough time to reflect or mourn, aside from a short eulogy, fitting for her, and a promise to honor her memory. They were distracted from their grief by the arrival of an unknown soldier. Already on edge, Marius clenched his rifle apprehensively. It was heavy and unfamiliar in his hands, and he barely knew how to use it.
He was still suspicious of the man, but there was no time either for more interrogation. This was it. The battle was beginning. Marius took his position and leveled his gun, firing a shot and grimacing as the butt of the rifle slammed into his shoulder, and moved mechanically to fire and reload. Everything was a blur, and then it was over.
The man in uniform had disappeared with the spy, and Marius blindly moved back from his position. His stomach clenched and he was dizzied, the instinctive clear-headed-ness of the firing leaving him as the adrenaline subsided. He was only faintly aware of Enjolras' encouragement, looking at his friend with a blank, uncomprehending stare for a moment as he was addressed, before he gave a defeated nod. As much as he wanted to help, he was useless like this.
He allowed himself to wallow in self-pity and ruminate again on thoughts of Cosette, waving away the flask that Grantaire held out to him, and not noticing that the uniformed man was gazing at him intently, or that man, upon hearing him called Marius, felt fatherly affection for him swell in his breast. He did not know that the man was to be endeared to him as the father of his beloved, or that the man admired him for bringing his daughter joy as well as for having the passion and determination to fight.
For a while, everything was silent. With the knowledge that they were about to die, the occupants of the barricade reflected upon what they were leaving behind, and steeled themselves, ready to meet their Maker. No one could sleep at such a time, when the next time they closed their eyes, they would never open again.
The voice of the enemy rang out in the morning, and their last hour was upon them. Enjolras answered the cry of the enemy bravely, and everyone held themselves in readiness. Marius was hastening to reload his rifle with trembling fingers, and a ball struck him in the shoulder. He staggered as he was hit again in the chest, his feet slipping on the ground slickened by rain. He fell hard, his head meeting the wet pavement with a sickening crack on the wet pavement. As the blood of him and his fellows ran with the mud in the street and pain overwhelmed him, he thought of Cosette, and then thought no more.