nancefics: (Lips)
[personal profile] nancefics

So apparently when I get into a fandom I still manage to pick a 'ship that all of 10 people are into, if not actively appalled by.  I'm so glad I'm consistent. ;)


Title: Beware of Falling Objects

Author: [personal profile] empty_marrow

Rating: Mature (some language and mild sexual situations)

Characters/Pairings: Cosette/Javert

Word Count: 11,055

Warnings: somewhat irreverent discussions of suicide and religion

Summary: In which Cosette and Javert discover it’s not so easy to burn your bridges, especially if you happen to be standing on one at the time.



Fic can also be found on AO3 here.


one


Unlike many of her youthful Parisian contemporaries, Cosette Fauchelevent possesses a truly kick-ass set of organizational skills. You might think this was a by-product of spending her early years in a sketchy foster-care situation, or perhaps a remnant of a slightly later time in her life when she had to be prepared to blow town in the middle of the night with her adoring-yet-annoyingly-mysterious adoptive dad.



If you were to ask Cosette for the secret of her success, however, she’d tell you that this skill-set is almost certainly a result of strict adherence to the many meticulous mental checklists she keeps on every single detail of her day-to-day routine. Sure, it might not be sexy or exciting, but it generally gets the job done.



Take tonight, for example.



Adoring-yet-annoyingly-mysterious father conveniently out of town for the next twenty-four hours: check. Carefully chosen spot on a nice tall bridge over the Seine, right under a big stone eagle sculpture for a little extra historical ambience: check. Sexy dress and killer heels to make a fab final impression: check. Pitcher of ice-cold cosmopolitans and a frosty glass to complete the send-off: check.



“Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase! I am the Law and the Law is not mocked!”



…Oblivious uniformed dude a few feet away from her, leaning over the edge and muttering to himself: not on the checklist.



Crap.



Cosette isn’t a fan of going off-plan. She’d also really like to avoid standing back up again, because these stilettos are starting to pinch, but what’s a girl to do?



“I’ll spit his pity right back in his face, there is nothing on earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Jagaahh!



Judging by the yelp and the little flaily dance when she taps him on the back, he wasn’t expecting an audience either. She has to give him credit for a fast recovery, though; in a matter of seconds he’s off the ledge and looking only slightly rattled as he’s invading her personal space.



“Assault on an officer of the Law is a criminal offense, girl! What the hell are you doing up here this time of night?”



“Sorry to interrupt you, Monsieur, but I was hoping to stop you before you – you know.” She puts her hands together and pantomimes a diving gesture.



He draws himself up to his full height – which she would say is impressive, but let’s face it, almost everyone over twelve years old in this city seems to be taller than she is, stilettos notwithstanding - and glares down at her with narrowed eyes that seem a little bit weary.



“Mademoiselle, if you’re trying to save my immortal soul let me assure you that more persistent people than you have made the attempt as recently as this morning, and you won’t be any more successful or any less annoying. That ship, as they say, has sailed, so be on your way.”



Seriously, why does everyone assume she’s some tender little angel with a salvation complex? Jimmy Choo was apparently going through a torture-porn phase when he designed these damned shoes, and her pitcher of frosty cosmos is getting warm as they speak. As far as she’s concerned this man’s immortal soul is on its own.



“Actually, Officer –”



Inspector.”



Inspector, I’m not trying to save your soul. I’m trying to tell you that this bridge is already taken. I was here first, and I’m on kind of a time-crunch, so you’ll just have to find another spot to jump.” She glances at her watch. “Or you can come back here in a couple of hours, with the way the current’s running tonight I should be pretty far downstream by then. OK? Thanks!”



She turns and starts hobbling back toward the stone eagle, only to be stopped by a gloved hand on her shoulder. The long arm of the law has a pretty firm grip.



“Wait.” The Inspector looks – what, confused? Constipated? (Probably confused. The stupid stars just went behind the clouds again and it’s dark on this bridge.) “You’re telling me you were about to jump?”



“Well, not technically about to jump,” Cosette explains. “First I plan to spend a little time enjoying the fact that tonight I can dress like my peer group without my father clutching his rosary beads and pitching a fit.” She gestures to her cute cleavage-y hot-pink dress. “Then I’m going to enjoy a last lovely starry night, weather permitting, while I consume this entire pitcher of alcohol. And then I’m going to haul my fabulous-looking drunk-ass self up onto that ledge and commence with the jumping.”



She considers mentioning that she’s hopeful her feet will be numb by then, but he really doesn’t look like the type who’s into the nuances of women’s footwear. For his part, her new bridge-buddy seems to be having a little trouble processing her explanation – perhaps he’s impressed to the point of speechlessness by her flawless planning?



“You – that – that’s totally unacceptable! This is my final warning, girl, leave now or I’ll arrest you on the spot.”



Or it could be that she forgot he’s a cop. Why is everything so difficult tonight?



Cosette resists the urge to smack her head repeatedly against the ledge – which would probably also result in her demise if she wants to get technical about it, but ew, messy, and damn it, she spent time on this plan.



“Officer –“



Inspector.”



“Yes, right, Inspector, doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose for both of us? If you arrest me we both end up in the police station for the rest of the night, which would be kind of a lose/lose situation, all things considered.”



“Mademoiselle, if the thought is rattling around in that vapid little blonde head of yours for one minute that you’re going to get away with such a mockery of the laws of God and country while I’m standing right here –“



Inspector Buzzkill is really starting to piss her off.



“Just so I’m clear, Inspector, that would be the same mockery of God and country that you were about to commit on my bridge?”



“It’s not your bridge!” the Inspector shouts.



“I was here first!” she shouts back.



Hand to God – not that she consistently believes in Him, and if He’s actually up there she’s probably on His shit-list at the moment – but if this man arrests her tonight she’s going to confess to being a serial killer as soon as they get to the station, if only to see him stuck with all the paperwork.



“One evening of peace, that’s all I wanted.” The Inspector seems to be addressing the stars as he starts to pace. “I’ve devoted years, decades to an ideal that turned out to be nothing but a lie. I don’t think exiting with a little dignity is too damned much to ask for. And yet apparently it is, because here I am wasting time arguing with some insipid twentysomething over her petty little problems.” He whirls around and points an accusing finger at her. “What’s the worst that could happen at your age, anyway? Did you fight with your boyfriend? Didn’t get invited to join the sorority of your choice? Oh no, let me guess, your parents just don’t understand you, how’s that for a tragedy?”



“You’ve got to be kidding, we’re turning this into a competition?” Cosette blinks in amazement. “Gee, Inspector, so sorry to intrude on your mid-life career crisis, but it just so happens that some of us are able to recognize the hopelessness of our situation and act on it before we creak into our late fifties.”



“How dare you, I’m not a day over – beside the point.” The Inspector takes a deep breath and looks down at her gravely. “Fine, Mademoiselle, since you’re already wasting my evening you can be my poor substitute for a confessor. Let’s compare hopelessness, shall we? Yours evidently necessitates matching your shoes to your dress. Mine revolves around losing a man that I’ve pursued for years.”



“Does he even know you have feelings for him, or are you all broody and irritating with him too?”



“What do you — for Christ’s sake, I didn’t mean that kind of pursuit!” The Inspector looks like he’s caught somewhere between blushing and having a stroke. “He’s a fugitive who broke parole, and I pursued him to bring him to justice. And I had the chance to do it today, to arrest him and close out an era that was decades in the making for both of us. Had him dead to rights, and I couldn't do it. He had to go ahead and do something ridiculous and self-sacrificing and not at all what a hardened criminal would do, and he got me to thinking differently, damn him, and now nothing makes sense anymore.”



“But if he acted better than you’d expected, isn’t that a good thing?”



“No!” He looks at her like she’s the stupidest thing on two feet, which may not be too far from the truth given how her feet are actually feeling at the moment. “Men like us can never change, and the Law trumps all – except he did, and it doesn’t, so where does that leave me but spending my entire life living a lie? I’m already as good as dead thanks to that man – no, not a man, he’s a devil. I’m here tonight to finish the job the devil started.”



Honestly, if she’s going to spend her final hours as some broody policeman’s confessor she would’ve much preferred a plot that involved hot gay sex. This unfiltered stream-of-consciousness thing is getting very confusing, and she hasn’t even broken open the booze yet.



And he’s still not getting her bridge.



“Oh please, so the guy’s not who you thought he was, so now you’re obligated to over-think your way into the Seine? At least he gave you a change of pace. You think living with a devil is bad, Inspector, try living with a saint.”



“I hardly see how that –"



“Hey, if I get to be your confessor tonight you get to be mine.” She hobbles closer until she can glare up at him. “For the past two decades I’ve grown up with a father who literally can’t think of himself. Somewhere along the line he decided that he had to atone for some horrible sins in his past, not that I’d know what they are because that would involve his actually talking to me like an adult. And now his only remaining goal in life is to slowly wither away while he sacrifices everything – for my ‘best interests,’ whatever the hell those are, for the entire indigent population of Paris, for some random dumb-ass college boy that he dragged home like a pony for me. And I can’t even get angry at him because he’s so damned noble that he’d probably just wander off and go die of a broken heart. Which, incidentally, I suspect he’s going to do anyway if I ever move out or get married or otherwise try to have a life, because that’s all he thinks he deserves. Try living up to that set of expectations on a daily basis and tell me you wouldn’t be jumping off the highest bridge you could find.”



She winds down with a sigh, guilty at even speaking the words out loud, and sees the Inspector looking at her skeptically.



“That’s a touching story, Mademoiselle,” he says with the slightest hint of a sneer. “But you need to work on making it more believable. Nobody on this earth could be as self-sacrificing as the man you describe.”



OK, she’s officially volunteering to push him off this bridge.



“Oh my God, you really are that much of an ass, aren’t you? You don’t believe me and yet you expect me to buy into some shadowy convict who conveniently escaped you yet again just this morning?”



“If you were listening, he didn’t escape. I let him go. And despite that, he still gave me his home address so I could arrest him as soon as he finished rescuing his hopeless idiot of the day.”



She makes sure he can see her eye-roll. “Sure he did. This guy sounds more over-the-top than my father. It’s probably not even a real address.”



“I’m an Inspector of the police, you ridiculous girl – don’t you think I confirmed what he told me? As opposed to you and this fairy-tale father you've pulled out of your ass."



“Oh, I'm sorry, do you want an address from me now? Fine, Inspector, but in that case I get to hear your stupid fake address.”



Fine, you stubborn –“



“—Number 7, Rue de l’Homme Arme.”



They stare at one another in shock as the address rolls off their tongues simultaneously.



“What.”




“What.”



“You did say Number 7?”



“Rue de l’Homme Arme, Paris, right?”



“Several blocks away, turn left at the dry-cleaners and…”



“That’s…yes.”



Well, that was unexpected.



And yet...



Vague images are starting to coalesce in Cosette’s brain.



She remembers herself as a little girl running down narrow alleyways with her brand-new dad, thinking this was a pretty cool game of tag and wondering who those pursuing footsteps belonged to – and why was Papa so nervous all of a sudden?



And last week when they’d almost been robbed on the street…well, shit.



If Cosette were a cartoon character this would be right about the time the little light-bulb went off over her head.



“So…your criminal fugitive,” she begins tentatively.



“Your father...”



Scratch the little light-bulb -- this is more like the cartoon where the anvil flattens her into a Parisian pancake.



“I…guess that makes you Javert?”



“And you’re Cosette.”



One well-organized night that's gone way, way the hell off-plan: check.



Javert slouches back against the ledge, still staring at her in astonishment.



“Pleasure to make your acquaintance," he says hoarsely. "Did I hear you mention you brought alcohol?”



Cosette nods numbly and reaches for the pitcher.



“Have a seat, I’ll pour.”




two


She can’t help thinking that if her father were here to witness this he’d have a massive guiltgasm and spend the rest of his days trying to atone for every single sin against every living creature in the history of ever.



Either that or he’d piss himself laughing at both of them.



To be fair, Cosette’s still not sure which of the two she feels more like doing.



“Of course I knew about you, or at least that you existed,” Javert tells her.  “The last time I saw 2 – Val – your father he was trying to convince me to hold off on arresting him until he could go collect you.  Evidently you were his hopeless-case prototype.”



“Thanks.”  She leaves the “you asshole” part of the sentence unspoken, but by the expression on his face she’s pretty sure he figured it out anyway.  “And did he convince you?”



“Certainly not.  I still had my priorities straight back then.  He escaped, again, and by the time I tracked him he’d already acquired you and headed to the city.  I caught up with the two of you briefly, but the old bastard disappeared into thin air on me.  Again.  And here we are – you know the rest.”



“No, I think we’ve established that I very much don’t know the rest.”  Cosette ponders that for a moment, frowning.  “So you were the one chasing us?  I remember wanting to peek over the edge of the roof to see what was going on.  Papa kept telling me I had to stay still.”



“Damn it all, I almost looked on the roofs that night!”



The man is honest-to-God pouting.  Cosette just manages to keep a straight face.



“Excuse me if I don’t feel too bad about your failure.  From the little bits and pieces I can recall from that time of my life, I was in a pretty bad place until he pulled me out.   So you could argue that something positive came of it all – you know, if that’s any consolation to you.”



“It really isn’t.  And this is disgusting.”  Javert glowers at the pitcher of pink liquid as though it personally offended him in a past life.



“Says the man who just inhaled two full glasses of my alcohol.  Hand it over, it’s my turn.”   She makes grabby-hands at him until he grumbles and fills up the glass they’re sharing.



True to form, Cosette had check-listed her way through multiple mental what-comes-next scenarios when she was making her final preparations for the night.  Some of them had given her a sense of peace and relief.  Others were resentful and angry.  A few were imbued with a healthy dose of paternal Catholic guilt that must’ve rubbed off despite her best intentions to the contrary.



Somehow amid all the what-ifs, she hadn’t envisioned a single scenario that ended up with her sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the same bridge with her father’s long-time adversary, dangling their feet off the ledge and getting comfortably drunk together.



Well, Cosette’s getting comfortably drunk.



Apparently the Inspector needs something to obsess over at all times or he just can’t function.



“But why exactly is it so pink?”



“Because I wanted a completely color-coordinated suicide.”  Cosette rolls her eyes in exasperation.  “I don’t know, OK?  I personally like the flavor and the girly color and I didn’t think this was going to be a co-ed bridge tonight.  What do fearsome police inspectors prefer as their beverage of choice?”



“Blood of the guilty and tears of the unjust.”  The side of his mouth quirks up slightly, and she snorts in surprise – Javert can crack a joke, who knew?   “Black coffee, mostly.  Occasionally something stronger if I’m forced into celebrating Happy Hour with my colleagues.  Although I really don’t know what’s supposed to be especially happy about that hour, because my colleagues are all idiots.”



“And here I was so sure you’d be the social butterfly of the prefecture.”



He raises an eyebrow at her sarcasm.  “Unlike some of my so-called peers, Mademoiselle, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with trying to bring criminals to justice.  Val – 2 – shit, your father hasn’t made it easy for me to prop my feet up and relax.”



“Apparently not.”  She eyes him appraisingly over the top of the glass.  “You realize I’m eventually going to ask you about all those names you’re almost using for him, right?”



“Be less annoying and eventually I might tell you.”



Javert reaches behind her to grab the pitcher and replenish what she just drank.  Given who raised her, Cosette’s pretty expert at recognizing when someone’s trying to distract her and change the subject, but the Inspector is being halfway tolerable for the first time all night so she figures she’ll let it pass for now.



He also smells kind of nice up close.



…Hmm, maybe she’ll slow down a little bit on the cosmos.



“I’m a bit surprised you knew who I was,” he says as he pours.  “I assume I wasn’t exactly a household name when you were growing up.”



“I put two and two together from something that happened last week,” she says, swirling her glass and watching the small pink whirlpool she’s creating.  “Papa and I were volunteering at one of the soup kitchens downtown and someone made this half-assed robbery attempt when we were leaving the place.  Next thing I knew people were yelling ‘run, it’s Javert,’ and everyone just scattered.  Including us.”



“Ah, the mysterious well-dressed couple who disappeared before I could question them.  That explains that.”



The Inspector nods, looking oddly satisfied as though he just solved a puzzle, and Cosette has to admit to some grudging admiration for anyone who retains such a good memory for details in the middle of an interrupted suicide attempt.  He must have some pretty kick-ass mental check-listing skills of his own.  



“I’ve never seen my dad go so pale at anything before.  Of course, as soon as we got home he insisted he was just rattled by the robbery and he had no idea who this Javert person was.  Then he told me to drop the subject and go think happy girlish thoughts.  Or as we like to call it in the Fauchelevent household, a typical Tuesday night.”  She shakes her head and sighs.   “A few days later my university went into lock-down and my nice organized exam schedule went all to hell thanks to a bunch of revolutionary hipsters, and in the middle of that I managed to acquire the world’s most awkward stalker.   I hope you can see why I kind of forgot about you until you poached my bridge tonight.”



“I told you this is not your –” the Inspector begins indignantly, then trails off when he sees her grinning at him.   He looks like he’s caught somewhere between a laugh and a growl for a second, and he ends up smiling uneasily back at her as if the expression isn’t one he’s used to using very often.  Based on the reaction she witnessed to just his name last week, she supposes most people are too scared of him to actually consider teasing him.  Then again, most people aren’t swapping germs with him via an oversized plastic martini glass.



If pushed on the matter, Cosette might admit to thinking his blue eyes are almost pretty when they’re warmed up by an actual smile.  (Or are they grey?  The stupid stars are behind the clouds again.  Apparently even the weather patterns are going off-plan on her.)



“You’re a real pain in my ass tonight,” he mutters, shaking his head and gesturing for the glass.



I’m the pain?  I expected to be a couple of miles downstream by now.”



“So did I.”



The sentiment sounds suddenly, surprisingly wrong when the words come out, and by the expression on Javert’s face he feels the same way.  Cosette hands him the glass and shifts awkwardly where she sits, listening to the thrum of the river below her.



It’s ironic, she thinks, but under other circumstances this might actually be considered peaceful.  The cool night air and the steady rush of the water is a pleasant change from all the smoke and noise of the last few days, especially after half the city was shut down by –



-- oh, hell.



“Um, where exactly was my father when you ran into him today?”



“With those revolutionary hipsters of yours at the barricades where he could get into the most trouble, where else?”



“Damn it, I knew he was going somewhere dangerous!  His story sounded suspicious even for him – ‘don’t wait up sweetheart, I’ll be reading Bible verses to the blind at the nursing home all night.’  Insomniac little old religious ladies my ass.”  Cosette groans into her hands.  “Why do I keep falling for that crap when all the evidence is right there in front of my face?”



“Welcome, Mademoiselle Fauchelevent, to my life.”  Javert knocks back a glassful of alcohol in a single swallow.



She thinks she hears him mumbling something about a “Monsieur le Maire,” followed by a string of expletives as he slams the empty glass back down on the ledge, but at the moment she’s too fixated on Ultime Fauchelevent and his Very Secret Adventures to pay much attention.



“I’m not sure I want to know this, but what exactly was he doing there?”



The Inspector looks like he’s still personally insulted by the memory.  “I caught him trying to escape down a back alley with one of the injured demonstrators.”



“Of course you did.”  Cosette pinches the bridge of her nose, thinking that bashing her head against the side of that big stone eagle is looking better by the minute.  “And why exactly did you decide to let him go?”



He turns away from her with an unintelligible mumble.



“I’m sorry, what was that?”



“I said I owed him one,” Javert grits out, looking like he’d rather take a bullet than repeat the words.  “When we approached the final barricade some idiot started waving a Molotov cocktail and a lighter in the air and threatening to blow the entire thing to hell if the cops came any closer.  Seems he got a bit too excited with all the arm-waving and set his friend’s flag on fire, and then there was so much chaos that the whole thing fell down on its own.  Your father pushed me out of the way of a pile of falling furniture and probably saved my life.  In retrospect, I think I would’ve preferred death by a flaming futon to the head.”  He sighs and stares morosely at the river.  “Ex-convicts aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing for their former guards.”



OK, he said ex-convict, so apparently her father isn’t on some most-wanted list even with the whole parole-breaking thing, and since he actually made it to “ex” status he probably wasn’t in jail for being an axe-murderer – so far, so good, right?



Also, there must be some truth behind Javert’s bad-ass street cred for him to have climbed all the way up the career ladder from prison guard to Parisian police inspector.  Cosette quietly fills in the boxes on two new mental checklists.



…wait, how did Javert manage to get his own checklist?



She’s totally blaming the man’s stupid possibly-blue-or-maybe-grey eyes for this.



“What can I tell you, Inspector?  Oblivious self-sacrifice has kind of been my father’s M.O. for as long as I’ve known him.  I doubt he can change his ways this late in life.”



“I told him something similar this morning.” Javert smirks unpleasantly as if he’s rehashing a private joke that isn’t very funny.  “His response was to ask if I wanted to help him rescue his poor daughter’s true love.  When I told him I wasn’t feeling all that generous toward the moron who almost blew us all up, he invited me to swing by Rue de l’Homme Arme later in the day and arrest him there.”



“I wonder exactly how he was planning to explain it to me when you showed up on our doorstep ready to – wait, what, true love – what?”  Cosette swings around so quickly that she has to grab at him to keep her balance on the ledge.  “Marius was the injured demonstrator he rescued?”



“I didn’t get his name, Mademoiselle, just a good look at his face when his friends were yelling at him.  And a better look at his ass when your father was slinging him over his shoulder like a sack of potatos.”  Javert gives her a withering look.  “Your boyfriend has more bravery than brains.”



“No no no, he is not my boyfriend.”



“Your father seems to assume otherwise.”



“My father needs to stop making assumptions about my love life!”



Honestly, she still has no clue why, when or how her dad switched from thinking of Marius Pontmercy as the ultimate threat to father/daughter harmony to deciding he was ideal son-in-law material.  Perhaps he’d had an epiphany last night when he wasn’t reading to fake blind old people in his fake damned nursing home.



And he wonders why she never introduces him to her dates?



Javert glances down at his arm with an inscrutable expression, and Cosette realizes she’s still holding onto him.  She quickly releases his sleeve and smoothes down the wrinkles she’d made in his uniform.



What were they talking about again?



Oh, right, Marius.



“Want to know how I met this epic love interest, Inspector?  I was out watering the garden one night last week and he just popped up at the gate and scared the living crap out of me.  He told me he’d seen me walking with my dad in the park and he decided to follow me home, because apparently that’s not creepy at all, and then he started spouting poetry about how he doesn’t know my name but it’s OK because his heart is oh-so-full of love and song for me.  Who even does that?”



“Perhaps someone who shouldn’t be unsupervised around flammable objects.”  Javert looks suspiciously like he’s trying to choke back a laugh. 



“I’m glad one of us is having fun with this,” she grumbles, reaching across him for the glass.  She must still look like she’s at risk of wobbling off the ledge, because he places a hand at her waist and holds her there lightly.  “At first Papa went into overprotective-father mode and started hovering around me like a bodyguard, which would have been a lot less irritating if Marius had actually taken the hint and gone away.”



“I gather taking a hint isn’t the young man’s strong suit.”  Javert still sounds highly amused by the whole situation.



“I think he actually took it as a challenge to ramp up his many awkward annoying displays of affection.  Within a couple of days my dad just got sort of melancholy and started moping around the house dropping little hints about how it was the natural course of things and he always knew he’d lose me to a young man one day.”



Which is a rather insulting assessment of both her daughterly devotion and her ability to multi-task.  Although in all fairness, she does have to give her not-soulmate points for creative courting – so far he’d done everything short of hiring a skywriter to put ‘Marius Cosette 4EVA’ over the Eiffel Tower.



God, she really hopes he isn’t planning that.



“Why didn’t you just talk to your father about how you actually felt?”



Cosette huffs in irritation.  “You can’t talk with my father about anything important, because he never hangs around long enough to actually get to the talking part.  As soon as a subject comes up that’s more serious than the weather or what’s for dinner that night, he gets uncomfortable and finds a reason to leave the room.  It’s been that way as long as I can remember, I mean, you should’ve seen him when I had to talk to him about shopping for my first bra, not to mention when I got my first –” Great, now Javert looks like he wants to leave the room.  “Never mind, you don’t need to know those details.”



“Thank you for that.”  The Inspector plucks the glass from her hands and swallows a little too loudly.



“Anyway, it’s not like I didn’t try.  I kept telling him that I was much too busy with school to worry about a boyfriend, and I tried to distract him with stories about my classes and all the things happening on campus.  It’s probably my fault he learned about the barricades in the first place.”



If memory serves, she’d spent more than one evening complaining about the earnest young group that was fighting the System via their magical furniture fort (and yes, it’s possible she’s still a little bitter about her exam schedule going completely FUBAR thanks to them).  Who’d’ve thought her father would find resisting authority such a big turn-on?



Right, ask a stupid question….



“Don’t blame yourself, Mademoiselle,” Javert says, handing her the glass.  “Val – 2 – damn it, your father has always had a knack for stumbling into trouble.  Chances are he’d have ended up there whether you’d mentioned it or not.”



“I’m probably still going to feel responsible for everything, but thanks.”  Cosette takes a sip and leans against his shoulder.  “In your own off-putting way you can actually be kind of sweet.”



“You’re delusional,” he scoffs, but the arm at her side tightens slightly, and she decides that Javert makes pretty comfortable bridge furniture.



“I’m allowed.  It’s been a strange twenty-four hours.”



The Inspector makes a non-committal sound.  “Do I dare ask where your father finally ended up tonight?”



“Marius has a grandfather with an estate in the country and they drove out there this afternoon.  I suppose it’s a nice quiet place to recuperate, although naturally Papa never told me anything about anyone being injured.  All I got was a generic text message.”



She pats at the front of her dress until she locates her smartphone, then pulls it out of its hiding place in her bra and hands it to Javert.  For a moment the Inspector seems to be frozen in place staring in the vicinity of her cleavage with a raised eyebrow; then he clears his throat and starts to read the contents of the screen.



“‘He’s like the son I might have known, I am old and will be gone, call u later once I…bang him home?’”  Javert’s eyebrows are on the verge of disappearing into his hairline.  “What the hell was your father planning to do when he got Marius to the country?”



Cosette retrieves the phone and squints quizzically at the screen.  “Oh, it’s supposed to be ‘bring him home.’  Papa really shouldn’t try to text, his thumbs are too big for the keyboard.   When I called him back he was in the middle of driving, so all he could tell me was that he was officially giving me his blessing to be Mrs. Pontmercy and now he could die happy.”  She sighs and tucks her phone back into her bra.  “Five minutes after I hung up I started planning my big date with the Seine.”



“But I fail to see the lack of options here, Mademoiselle.  If they’re already getting along as well as you say, why can’t you just give Marius to your father and take yourself out of the equation?”



“He’s not a scarf, Inspector, I can’t just re-gift him.  He’s a nice enough guy under all the awkward and I’d feel bad about hurting his feelings, but Marius isn’t the one I’m worried about. If I get married Papa will think I don’t need him anymore and he’ll waste away from loneliness.  If I don’t get married he’ll think I’m sacrificing my happiness out of a sense of obligation to stay with him, and he’ll waste away from guilt.  Either way ends badly for him, and it’s all because of me.  At the time, option C seemed to make the most sense.”  She gestures vaguely toward the river.



“And did it ever occur to you that you aren’t responsible for guaranteeing your father’s happiness?”



“Not for the last twenty years or so, no.”  She sips her drink, noting that it’s finally turning into lukewarm slush.  “Did it ever occur to you that you aren’t responsible for guaranteeing that regular human beings do everything in black-and-white absolutes?”



“Not for the last fifty years or so.”  Javert’s smile is sardonic and a little sheepish.  “I never much cared for shades of grey.”



“Not my favorite color either.”  Cosette shivers as a light breeze starts to roll in off the Seine.  “I’m starting to think we share a few personality traits.”



“So it would seem.”



Javert must have removed his gloves sometime during their conversation; his fingers are surprisingly warm against hers when he accepts the proffered glass.  Cosette shivers again and leans a little closer.



“For what it’s worth, though, I’m pretty sure I can be trusted to be unsupervised around flammable objects.”



“Good to know.”  The Inspector takes a sudden interest in his fingernails.  “Just to clarify, then, you’re not involved as an accomplice in any way, romantic or otherwise, with anyone engaging in illegal behavior including obstructing city streets without a permit and inciting public violence?”



If she were a little more sober she’d wonder if he’d just asked if she’s seeing anyone.



“Nope, sorry, apparently I make a pretty boring criminal.  If you’re going to arrest me it’ll have to be for drinking alcohol in a public place and intending to pollute the river.  Which would be pretty hypocritical right now, just so you know.”



"Point taken."  Javert snorts softly.  “I’m not sure it’s possible for this river to get any more polluted.”



“I read somewhere that the amount of fecal matter in parts per million is – well, really disgusting.”  Cosette looks down at the water and wrinkles her nose in distaste.  “It’s probably pretty cold tonight, too.”



“Undoubtedly.”



“I spent an obscene amount of money on these shoes and I haven’t even broken them in yet.”



“Technically, the city paid for my uniform.  It would be a willful misuse of taxpayer funds to destroy it.”



They look over at one another for a long moment.  Cosette thinks she sees a weird combination of guilt, embarrassment and dark humor flicker across Javert’s face; she guesses he’s seeing the same thing.



“We’re not going to do this, are we?”



"I...don't think so."



She swings her legs back onto the ground and starts to pace.  Her feet are somewhere between numb and aching, and at the moment she doesn’t give a rat’s ass if they never feel normal again.  “God, I can’t do this to my father, it’d kill him.  What was I thinking?”



“I’m not sure thinking entered into my decision.”  Javert stands back up and leans against the ledge as he watches her pace.  “Or maybe you were right, I was over-thinking.  I don’t even know anymore.”



“You know Papa would feel horribly responsible for you too, right?  He’d never forgive himself for not letting you arrest him right away.”



“He’s about two decades late to start feeling guilty over that,” the Inspector retorts, but he looks almost amused when he says it.  “I suppose it’s ironically fitting that I’d end up as one of his hopeless cases.”



“As the hopeless-case prototype, allow me to welcome you to the fold.”   Cosette ends her pacing and comes over to lean against the ledge beside him.  “I think we might’ve just had our first official board meeting.”



The Inspector gives a huff of laughter.  “I might have been a little premature with my judgment when I called you that.”



“Hey, you’re seeing a shade of grey and it’s about me!  I’m honored.”  Cosette bumps his elbow teasingly.  “I’d like to think I’m not always this hopeless.  I was enjoying my first year at university before all of this crap happened.  It was nice having interesting classes and thinking about future careers.”



“Let me guess, musical theatre and fashion design?”



“Introductory astrophysics.”  She grins at his raised eyebrows.  “I still think the stars are pretty, Inspector, I just like applying mathematical models to them.  But thanks for giving me credit for an artistic side.”



“God knows you have more than enough flair for the dramatic.”



Wait, when did Javert figure out how to tease her back?



“Funny,” she says, rolling her eyes.  “What about you?  Are you on the fast track to Prefect, or are you still too young for that kind of desk job?”



Javert looks over at her appraisingly.  “Pardon me, Mademoiselle, but weren’t you the one who thought I was creaking into a midlife crisis?”



“Yeah, well.”  Damn it, she is not blushing in front of this man.  “Perhaps we were both a little premature in our judgments.”



Javert rolls the empty glass between his hands with a look that could almost be called smug.  “I’d probably have to become a bit more political to get to that level.”



“Political in the sense of not calling your colleagues idiots?”  Cosette grins at the scowl that evokes.  “Shades of grey, Inspector.  I have expectations for you now.  Who knows, in a few years you could be running the Paris police and I could be an astronaut.  Or a rock star if I give in to my artistic side.”



“I suppose I could join my fellow officers for social events on occasion.  Once a month would be tolerable.  Maybe.”



“I could look into signing my dad up for some evening classes on campus.  Preferably ones with lots of single people so he can find a nice woman to focus his attention on instead of me.  Or maybe a man?”  She frowns in frustration.  “See, this is what I'm talking about, how the hell do I not know this kind of thing about him after two decades?”



“I could join a committee or two.  It probably wouldn’t kill me to talk about the applications of criminal justice once in awhile instead of always being the one doing the actual arresting.  My so-called superiors might even learn something."



“I could always get him a dog.  Unconditional love and companionship with none of the hassles of dating.  And then I could go be an astronaut. Or a rock star.  Or just a typical university student, imagine that.”



“I could write a textbook.”  Javert tosses the glass from one hand to the other as he warms to the subject.  “A former guard’s perspective on the need for prison reform and the best ways to achieve it.”



“I could have intensely hot and inappropriate sex with my father’s nemesis.”



She watches as the glass drops out of Javert’s hand and bounces off the bridge into the river.



“Wow, did not mean to say that out loud.  I should probably cut myself off now.”



The Inspector regards her with one raised eyebrow, then holds up the empty pitcher and upends it to make the point.  His eyes are grey, she decides, and just maybe that could end up becoming one of her favorite colors after all, they’re grey and clear and very close and –-



Cosette swallows hard.



Then she very deliberately takes the pitcher from him and tosses it off the bridge.  She’s already grabbing his lapels and pulling herself up to kiss him when it occurs to her that this wasn’t on any of her checklists.



Worry about that later:  check.




three


Life-lessons learned this evening: suicide’s not the answer, she has a latent uniform kink, and her daddy issues apparently have daddy issues of their own.



Good to know.

It’s entirely possible they would have ended up violating several public decency ordinances if they’d turned right instead of left at the dry-cleaners at the corner of Rue de l’Homme Arme, or if Cosette hadn’t remembered to bring her apartment keys with her (coincidentally, the very last item on her check-list, because a girl never knows when she’ll need one final bathroom break en route to the river). Or if Javert had figured out that her bra hooked in the front instead of the back while they were still on the bridge.



The Inspector seems to think it’s extremely important to explain each of those laws to her in detail right as they occur to him, but somehow his tongue ends up back in her mouth while she’s pulling him down the street and up the stairs to No. 7, so Cosette never does learn the specifics of Penal-Code-286.3-subsection-A-it-unhooks-right-here-Javert.



“Kitchen’s over there, the living room’s off to the right, and here’s the dining room,” she gasps between kisses, because evidently you can take the girl out of her convent school but she’ll still kick into proper-hostess mode even when she’s trying to get her guest naked. Speaking of which, whoever designed the Parisian police uniforms used way too many buttons, and she’s pretty sure that epaulet wasn’t supposed to come off in her hands. Perhaps Javert ought to put that in his next report to his superiors.



More to the point, exactly how big of a ho does it make her that she’s actively engaged in trying to get the man’s pants off and she has no idea if “Javert” is his first or his last name?



…Right, digressing. Where was she?



Oh yes, stepping out of her dress and trying not to trip over her shoes while the Inspector propels her backwards toward the dining room table.



“Lovely,” he murmurs, although she’s not sure if that’s meant for her interior-design skills or for her color-coordinated hot-pink undies. She’s going to assume it’s the latter.



She jumps when Javert licks a wet stripe down her throat and inadvertently kicks him in the shin, because that’s the just the kind of graceful seductress she is. She pulls him back into an apologetic kiss and ends up perched on the edge of the dining room table with her legs wrapped around his thighs.



If what she can feel through the fabric is any indication, the Inspector has a lot to live for.



She’s not sure if she just said that out loud or if it’s the heat of the moment, but all at once he’s shifting to pull her flush against him with a sound that’s somewhere between a laugh and a moan.



“Nice shoes, by the way,” he breathes into her ear.



Now that he mentions it, this is the first position she’s been in all night where her feet have actually felt comfortable enough to –



--oh, that’s what these shoes are made for.



“Glad you approve,” she pants, coming up for air between kisses as she fumbles at his belt. “Bedrooms are upstairs to the right if you want to relocate.”



“Later.”



“L-later?”



“Round two,” he growls as he invades her personal space all the way down to the tablecloth.



“OK,” Cosette squeaks, and Javert sends the contents of the table crashing onto the floor with a sweep of his arm.



Right before her brain announces its impending shut-down and transfer of control to other body parts, she makes a final mental note to get them both into a bed sometime before the night’s over. Because it’s one thing to go from jumping into the Seine to jumping the Inspector, but doing the morning walk of shame from the floor of her own dining room is one step too far into Bizzarro World for her comfort level.



And she really hopes nothing broke when Javert cleared the table, because her father totally loves those fugly candlesticks.









Morning-after Hangover Fairy tap-dancing in golf cleats behind her eyeballs: check. Beard-burn in areas she’d never even thought were accessible before: check. Smug-looking, obscenely awake half-dressed police inspector with bite marks on his neck sitting at her kitchen table and –



- oh, the hell with the checklist.



“Good morning,” she says, stifling a yawn as she stumbles blearily down the stairs. She starts to re-think her wardrobe choices as soon as she catches a glimpse of herself in the hallway mirror. The shirt’s one of her favorites, a soft old thing she’d borrowed from her father and never returned; she knows she’s not exactly rocking the sexy look this morning, but she’s kind of hoping to avoid scare-the-hell-out-of-the-dude-you-just-slept-with hideous.



“Good morning.” Not only is Javert looking at her as though he still likes what he sees, he’s actually pushing a steaming cup across the table toward her. “I hope you don’t mind that I used your coffee-maker.”



She’s reasonably certain the sound she just heard was her ovaries jumping up and breaking into a rousing rendition of the Halleluiah Chorus.



Mind someone having my coffee ready for me, are you kidding? I may have to handcuff you to the nearest piece of furniture to keep you here.”



…Oh wait, they already did that last night. The tips of Javert’s ears are turning an impressive shade of red and Cosette suddenly finds the cup extremely interesting.



“The phone went off a few minutes ago,” the Inspector says as the caffeine starts working its blissful way into her system. “There’s a message on the machine from your father about things going well in the country and that he’ll see you tonight. I assumed you didn’t want me to pick up.”



“Good assumption,” Cosette says, and has to choke back a totally inappropriate laugh. “Should I find that hypothetical conversation funny? I shouldn’t find that funny. I’m a bad daughter and a horrible person, aren’t I?”



“I can only judge by the company you keep.” Javert gives her a look that’s somewhere between teasing and pensive. “You know, if I wanted to follow the letter of the law I’d still arrest him.”



“Actually, please do that. I’m having trouble coming up with an innocent explanation for how we broke his headboard, and the distraction could only be helpful.”



“Shit, that was his bed?”



“It…seemed like the roomier alternative at the time for round two?”



“I wondered why there were so many rosaries hanging off the mirror. Damn it.” Javert drops his head onto his arms and groans into the tablecloth. “I suppose he can add that to his laundry-list of reasons to hate me.”



“Honestly, I doubt that he hates you at all – no, really,” she adds at his disbelieving snort. “I mean, chasing him was kind of your job, right? I’m not saying he enjoyed looking over his shoulder all those years, but I suspect that ultimately he resented the hunt a lot more than the hunter.” She looks back up from her coffee cup and smiles knowingly at the surprise she sees flickering across Javert’s face. “He told you that when you let him go to help Marius, didn’t he?”



“Something like that, yes.”



“See? I may not know anything about my father’s past, but I’ve gotten pretty good at deciphering the way he thinks. I’d lay odds that he doesn’t even take the whole dangerous-criminal-at-large thing as personally as you do.”



As opposed to the whole banging-his-daughter thing, which she suspects would get personal to the point of dental records being necessary to identify the remains. But now’s probably not a good time to mention that, so she settles for perching on the kitchen table next to Javert’s chair.



“Oh, he took it plenty personally for awhile, trust me. More evidence as to how he’s changed, I suppose.” The Inspector frowns as though he’s still not sure that he completely approves of this whole shades-of-grey phenomenon.



“I guess I’ll have to. Trust you on that, I mean – unless you’d care to finally share those details you’d hinted at telling me if I stopped being so annoying?” Cosette places one bare foot on his thigh and shoves at him. “For your information, this is me being less annoying.”



This is you being less annoying?” He grins and runs a hand up her leg to tug at her shirt. “Sorry, but no. It wouldn’t be right. This is your father’s story to tell, not mine.”



“I was afraid you were going to say that.” She sighs in resignation but decides not to push the issue. “You do realize that means it’s a story I’m never going to hear, right?”



“No, it means that you have to talk to him.”



Now who wasn’t listening last night?” She curls her toes against his thigh. “He’ll be down the hall and out the door before I finish the first sentence.”



“Then you’d better make sure it’s a good sentence.” He starts to rub small circles on her calf with his thumb in time with the curling of her toes. “You don’t seem to have any trouble spewing words out all over the place at a moment’s notice. I’m sure you can come up with something to say to him that’s either convincingly reasonable and mature enough to put him at ease or horrifyingly confusing enough to stop him in his tracks.”



“…Why thank you, Inspector, I’m pretty sure you just told me you have faith in me because I talk too much.”



“That’s one way to put it.” He smirks when she shoves harder at his thigh.



They’re interrupted by the incongruous sound of a rooster crowing loudly somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen window. Javert swivels in his chair with a startled frown.



“What the hell was that?”



“Our stupid kitchen clock.” Cosette rolls her eyes and drops her feet back to the floor. “You can program it to coincide with the exact times of daybreak and sunset to mimic life in the country. My father finds it soothing – don’t ask.”



“I could be persuaded to shoot it.”



“So very tempting, but probably even harder to explain than the broken bed.” She nods toward the first slivers of light passing through the curtains and raises her coffee cup to him in a toast. “Well, here’s to another sunrise. Who knew, right?”



“To one more day.” Javert touches his cup to hers. “Here we both are, still breathing. I suppose we might have to actually make good on some of those future expectations we tossed around last night.”



“I think between the two of us we possess enough awesome organizational skills to actually accomplish that.” She grins at him over her coffee. “I’ll start: expectation number one, you’ll be nicer to girls you meet on bridges.”



He raises an eyebrow and gives her a mock glare. “Mademoiselle, if I recall correctly you ended up thinking I was very nice.”



“Well, eventually. I suppose.”



Damn that eyebrow. That eyebrow is entirely too smug and too hot and too aware of its effect on her. She very much wants to pull that eyebrow back upstairs and do depraved things with it that involve nudity and the rest of the spray-can of whipped cream that’s still sitting on the top step (note to self: at the end of the day that evidence is getting destroyed). And if the eyebrow asks nicely she’ll extend the invitation to the snarky mouth with the lips and the collarbone and the shoulders and…wait, what’s Javert saying now?



Honestly, remarkable concentration used to be part of her skill-set.



“Very well, expectation number two: if you decide to wander around the city at night by yourself you’ll wear shoes you can actually walk in. No matter how good you look in those designer devices they’re not worth a broken ankle.”



“Trust me, that’s not going down as an expectation so much as the First Law of Fauchelevent. My feet are still hurting.” And she’s not going to analyze the little flip her stomach and sundry parts south just did when he said she looked good. “Expectation number three: you’ll accept that it won’t kill you to go to the occasional Happy Hour with your colleagues, and notice how I didn’t use the word ‘idiot’ anywhere in that sentence, if only to expand your horizons and remind them of what a superbly bad-ass officer you are.”



Inspector, you little ninny.”



“Whatever, you ass, just take the compliment.”



“Fine.” He executes an eye-roll that does her proud. “Expectation number four: it’s not safe to wander around the city at night by yourself, so you won’t do it without a police escort.”



“Expectation number –” She stumbles for a second as she registers what he just said. Odd, it usually takes at least three cups of coffee for her heart to start thumping like this. “Um, expectation number next: you’ll give yourself a break for once in your life, you ridiculous control-freak, and keep living.”



“Agreed only if you’ll give yourself a break for once in your life, you irksome perfectionist, and keep living.”



“Agreed. You’ll keep doing this until you become Prefect of Police for this fair city, which will in fact happen in spite of how generally annoying you are, because you’re also fearless and intelligent and scarily good at what you do, and they’d be crazy not to want you.”



“Well, my arrest record could be better,” he says, but the grey eyes seem a little less weary and there’s a softness to his smile when he looks at her. “You’ll sit down with your father tonight and have an honest discussion with him, adult to adult, preferably with the omission of some details of the last twelve hours that he really doesn’t ever need to know. And you’ll take the word of someone who’s known him much longer than you have that he’s gallingly good at exceeding other people’s expectations, and he will continue to be his kind, saintly self and smother you with love and concern for years to come. Even if you end up moving out and becoming a rock-star astronaut who only drinks awful pink cocktails.”



“You’re pretty pushy with your expectations, Inspector.”



“So I’ve been told.”



She puts her coffee down and reaches over to tug at the spiky tips of his salt-and-pepper hair. “Don’t arrest my dad.”



“Wasn’t going to.” He grabs her hands and pulls her down until she’s straddling his lap. “Don’t settle for your pyromaniac college boy.”



“Wasn’t going to. Tragically, he’s just not my type.”



“And what is your type, Mademoiselle?”



“Hmm…looks good in a uniform. Looks better out of it. To be honest, he’s kind of an aggravating, unhealthily obsessive bridge-poaching pain in my ass.” She settles more comfortably in his lap, grinning at the rather obvious response that provokes. “Hopefully he thinks I’m his type too.”



“It’s not your damned bridge.” He groans into her hair and pulls her closer. “Shit, at my age you’ll kill me within a month.”



“This is where I restrain myself from saying something terribly cliché like ‘there are worse ways to die.’”



“Oh good, because out of everything that can go wrong here what I’d really hate is to be cliché.” The last word ends on a hitch as she licks the shell of his ear.



“That still didn’t sound like you telling me no.”



“Does telling you no ever actually work?”



“Who knows? It’s probably safest not to tempt fate.” She leans down and captures his mouth in a long kiss, dragging her teeth against his lower lip before she pulls away with a contemplative expression. “Full disclosure, though? I’ll probably end up doing something that annoys you into wanting to arrest me long before the end of a whole month.”



“My bet would be by noon today.” Javert laughs at the face she makes in response and pulls her into another kiss, then begins to gently extricate himself from the chair. “Fortunately for your police record, I have to leave in twenty minutes. There’s a letter I have to retrieve at the station before my chief gets in and thinks I’ve actually resigned. Or died.”



Cosette starts to stand up, then pauses with a devious smile as that little cartoon light-bulb pops back on over her head.



“Actually, I was hoping you could enlighten me on one more law before you leave, Monsieur le Inspecteur,” she says, shimmying slowly down his lap until she’s kneeling in front of him and her hands are traveling purposefully up his thighs. “Rumor has it that this is both illegal and requires less than twenty minutes to perform. Thoughts?”



“I – no, it’s not technically – that is –” The Inspector’s brain-to-mouth filter seems to have jumped off the bridge without him. She could kind of get used to him like this. “There’s an historical ordinance prohibiting first cousins – possibly livestock or – ahh, Cosette, fuck!”



It’s nice to know she can still pull off some plans perfectly.









Her father pushes open the front door later that evening and stops in surprise when he sees her sitting at the kitchen table with a large pot of coffee and two cups.



“Cosette, you startled me! I didn’t think you’d still be awake.”



“I figured I’d wait up for you.” Cosette stretches up to kiss his cheek. “Welcome home, Papa. How’s Marius?”



“Fine, fine.” He makes a production of picking up a cup and fussing with the sugar while completely avoiding all eye contact. “I might have neglected to mention that he had a slight injury, but it’s nothing to worry about.”



“Good to know. And how about the rest of your barricade boys?”



“I. Um. Pardon me?” Her father just barely misses pouring the coffee onto his shoes. He ends up staring anxiously back at her, shifting from foot to foot and looking very much like a cross between a particularly awkward statue and a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming bus.



Cosette laughs fondly, shaking her head. She should probably feel guilty for being so amused, but it’s such a rarity to actually know more about a situation than he does that she figures she can be forgiven for toying with him just a little bit.



Breathe, Papa. I’m not angry – well, not anymore. Some little kid stopped by this afternoon to tell you thanks for bailing out his friends and paying his sister’s emergency-room bill. He left this.” She points toward a large fruit-basket that’s spilling over the sideboard. “I’m kind of doubtful he actually paid for it, but he gets points for presentation.”



“I, er, well. Yes. As it so happens, I was at the barricades yesterday.”



“You don’t say.”



He shrugs and gives her a guilty smile. “It turns out that Marius was there, and then I met his friends, and I couldn’t just leave them there to get arrested and rot in jail, could I? They’re good kids – their idealism just got a little misdirected and they needed guidance.”



“Guidance and bail money, apparently.”



“Well, yes, but they promised me they'll be revising their protesting methods. I think they’d prefer to avoid being in any more police stations.” Her father seems momentarily uncomfortable at that thought, but then looks over at her with a bright smile. “They were so appreciative they ended up making me their honorary Righteous Bro – I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it was a real bonding experience for Marius and me.”



It speaks volumes that out of all the crazy things that have happened in the last twenty-four hours, the phrases “bonding experience” and “Righteous Bro” coming out of her father’s mouth don’t even crack her top-ten list.



“Um, about Marius, Papa –”



“It’s OK, sweetheart. I genuinely like him and I know he’ll be a loving husband to you, so consider this an old man’s official blessing. It’s time you start your life with him, and it’s only fitting that – why does it smell like whipped cream in here?”



“Um, must be the fruit basket? Papa, come sit down. We need to clear up a few things.”



Cosette gestures to one of the chairs and waits for him to take his seat. Once he’s settled in she takes a long sip of her coffee, sighs in determination, and plunges ahead.



“First off, I’m glad you like Marius, but I’m not going to start a life with him, as a wife or a girlfriend or anything else. I’m in school, I’m still trying to figure out how to start a life with myself. And second, there’s already a man in that life who’s very important to me. Problem is, he’s always been kind of a mystery.” She reaches across the table to lay her hand over his. “I think it’s time I learn more about my dad.”



As predicted, her father smiles sadly at her and pats her hand as he stands back up. “It’s time to get some sleep, Cosette. Those are words and stories for another day.”



“No, Papa, they’re not.” She grabs his hand before he can pull away. “They’re words meant to be spoken while we’re still able to speak them. Because life is short and unpredictable and bizarre sometimes, and you never know when we’ll lose the chance. Either one of us could drop dead, or not wake up, or end up floating face-down in the Seine with alcohol poisoning and mutilated feet.”



…OK then, apparently her brain decided to skip past the reasonable-and-mature scenario and go right to horrifyingly-confusing. She kind of hates that Javert was right about that.



On the plus side, her father’s still in the room, albeit staring at her with a mildly disturbed expression on his face.



“Cosette, why on earth would you use an example like –”



“Sorry, digressing, it’s kind of a thing that I – um. What I’m trying to say, Papa, is you need to realize that I’ll always love you very much, no matter how old I get or what I do, and no matter what you tell me about yourself.” She gives his hand a final squeeze and lets go, sitting back and looking up at him expectantly. “And you have to start breaking down your own barricades so you can get to know your daughter. After all this time, I think we both deserve that.”



Her father just stands there for a minute, looking alarmed and confused and maybe a bit wistful, as if he’s saying his good-byes to a little girl from years past. Then he nods somberly and sits down beside her.









One month and several tentative but heartfelt talks later, her still-adoring-and-no-longer-quite-so-annoyingly-mysterious father gives her an affectionate peck on the cheek, wishes her a good day in school, and heads off to spend a little quality time with his new BFF Marius and the other Righteous Bros from the barricade, who seem to have unofficially adopted him ever since the night he bailed them out. She can’t say it wasn’t a little startling the first time she saw him wearing the official sweatshirt of the Amis de Alpha Beta Chi fraternity, but it’s gratifying to see him throwing himself into a cause that actually allows him to be happy for a change.



Sewage was apparently involved in this transformation somehow, but if the past month has taught her anything, it’s that some things between father and daughter are better left a mystery.



Marius was a bit put out by her rejection at first, but he seems to have decided that he got the fun Fauchelevent out of the deal – not to mention the cute brunette sister of that little messenger boy from the barricade – so she figures all’s well that ends well.



It’s strange to think that things actually can end well without her being responsible for planning out all the little details, and yet somehow the lack of control feels less alarming and more freeing these days. It’s possible she’s growing up.



Or perhaps even the most black-and-white world-view can be comfortably shaded into grey as long as it has the right company to help with the shading.



Later that evening, Cosette celebrates the end of a particularly challenging exam week at Happy Hour in a police bar in downtown Paris, broadening her horizons with locally-crafted ales and betting a bunch of rookies that they can’t pound down a pitcher of cosmopolitans in one sitting (she wins).



Then she celebrates life in general by sitting with her boyfriend on her (OK, their) favorite bridge, watching the stars, and violating public decency as defined by Penal Code 286.3, subsections A and B, twice.

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August 2013

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