I was looking through my files on my computer the other day, and what do I find? A fic I wrote when I was about ten. I had forgotten it even existed, to be perfectly honest. It was a Les Mis/Little Match Girl crossover that I wrote one December because I wasn't in the holiday spirit and was on a Miz fix. I uploaded it to my FF.net a few months ago, and I thought I'd load it here too. Warning: this goes wildly, and I mean wildly AU. I bend canon a bit too, as I like it when Cosette remembers Fantine and I needed it to fit with the story. Oh well, here it is.
December 24th 1823, Montfermeil.
Little Cosette crouched on a street corner, huddling her knees to her chest and shivering. Earlier that evening, the Thénardiess had ordered her to go out onto the street and sell matches instead of bringing in the water. Cosette knew she would get a beating if she made one whisper of protest, but it really was too cold that night for a young girl such as herself to be out. Madame Thénardier had said to her,
"If you haven't sold all of them or you haven't got at least five francs you'll be going out again and again and again"
Cosette nodded fearfully at this, not wanting to spend the whole night out in the cold if she could help it. She traipsed out of the inn and into the streets of the town in her ragged clothes, a large bundle of matches in her grip. By the by, Cosette found a small alcove in the busy street and settled herself into it, huddling against the wall.
The bundle of matches was clasped in her cold, red hands and she was offering them to the passersby in her croaky voice,
"Two for a sou! Two for a sou! Matches! Matches!"
Her efforts were all in vain; everyone who passed simply ignored the little waif of a girl, all anxious to get home to their families.
Cosette shivered again, clutching her thin shawl to her in a feeble effort to keep warm. It had begun to snow lightly, the wind howling and nipping at Cosette's little face. She looked at her matches and began to think.
"Surely the Madame wouldn't mind if I just lit one, to keep myself warm." she whispered, pulling a single match out of the bundle and striking it against the wall.
The flame rippled into life, showering Cosette's features in a warm yellow light. She held the match to her face to get closer to the heat, but through the fire she began to see a curious vision. It was of the church in the town square, decorated for Christmas. Cosette could see the beautiful créche, with the images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the shepherds, animals and of course the baby Jesus lying in a manger, his arms stretched and welcoming. At seeing this, the little girl felt a burst of joy in her heart, the beauty of the season enveloping her in wonder. Unfortunately for Cosette, a gust of icy wind caught her match and snuffed it out, ripping her from the warmth, light and happiness.
Cosette sighed sadly and bowed her head. The night was getting colder still and she had yet to sell a single match, let alone five francs worth. She returned to her bartering, calling out her offer repeatedly. The icy gale blew again and threatened to tear Cosette's shawl away from curled the calloused fingers of her right hand around the scrap of material, holding onto it for dear life. The wind blew harder and the shawl flew into the road. Cosette jumped to her feet and ran after it, only for it to be picked up by a young boy who was coming home from midnight mass with his parents.
"Why," he said grandly, "this seems to be the swaddling garment that the Christ-child was wrapped in! I shall take it and give it to my own children when the time comes!"
The boy scooped the material into his arms and skipped after his parents, despite Cosette's cries of protest.
By now, poor Cosette was close to tears. She felt cold, alone and miserable, wishing she had a loving family of her own. She ultimately decided to light another match so as to have some vestige of light and warmth in the bleak winter's night. As the new light sprung into existence, Cosette witnessed yet another vision. This time, it was of the feast that came after midnight mass, 'Le Réveillon'. There were steaming geese, chicken, plenty of vegetables, fruit, cheese, wine and the centrepiece, a huge 'Bûche de Noël' covered in white icing. It was a banquet, especially for Cosette, who more often than not was hungry herself and didn't expect more than one decent meal a week from the Thénardiers. The little child swore she could almost smell the fine dishes, making her empty stomach growl. The familiar feeling of warmth and hope filled Cosette once more and she savoured it, closing her eyes and imagining herself sitting with her own little family at that well stocked table, ready to tuck in.
A sharp 'whack!' jogged Cosette out of her fantasy, and she realised with dismay that some unkind gamins were pelting snowballs at her. She yelped and shielded her face, dropping the match in her haste, where it snuffed out on the snow by Cosette's feet. Now wet as well as cold, the poor child finally let herself cry, tears coursing out of her sunken eyes. She slumped back against a wall and looked at the heavens. It was a clear, beautiful night. The stars were shining brightly and the crescent moon looked calm and peaceful. Out of the corner of her eye, Cosette saw a flash of light speed across the winter sky; a shooting star.
"Maman used to say," she whispered to herself, remembering Fantine fondly, "that every time a star shoots across the heavens, a soul goes up to be with God"
As she thought of her mother, Cosette began to cry again, missing her. In the five years since Cosette had last seen Fantine, she grew more and more desperate for her to come and deliver her from the hell she had been suffering under the Thénardier's 'care'. The little girl huddled her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth. She decided to light a third and final match to shed light on her misery. She struck the match and at once a vision descended on her. However, this one filled her with the most joy.
Fantine was before Cosette, her former beauty returned to her face. Perfect teeth showing in a warm smile, pale blonde hair flowing down her back and dressed in a gown so white that it rivalled the freshly fallen snow. Fantine's arms were spread wide, inviting Cosette into a hug.
"Maman!" Cosette cried, "Oh maman please stay, for when the light fades you are sure to fade too!"
Fantine's mouth moved, but no audible sound came out of them. Cosette, desperate for contact with her beloved mother, seized all of the matches and let them all at once. The light shone brighter and Fantine stepped forward, becoming clearer to Cosette, and somehow even more beautiful.
"Cosette, ma cheri," Fantine smiled, "How I've missed you."
"Maman, please, if you must go, take me with you!" Cosette pleaded, reaching for Fantine's ethereal figure.
"Yes, my baby." nodded Fantine, "I will take you somewhere where no one can hurt you anymore, where you will be happy forever."
Cosette threw her arms around her mother, and within seconds of mother and daughter reuniting, Cosette's features were restored to what they should have been; thick, shiny brown hair, large glittering blue eyes, plump, rosy cheeks, a wide smile and a properly nourished body. Fantine and Cosette faded away together just as a shooting star glittered the sky with a flash.
The next morning, a crowd of people were huddled around the alcove. The young, malnourished girl that most of the town knew as 'the Lark' was lying dead against a wall, a smile on her face and a handful of spent matches clasped in her frozen fingers.
I'm the one to shout "Down with Polignac!"