"Borodino Aftermath: An Epilogue"
A/N: I know, I had the story tagged as complete, but it wasn't done with me yet! I think I'm really done with this story now, except for a few tweaks on the first part that I will take care of when I can. Napoleon is copyright to himself, the Napoleonic Wars copyright to history, and Rapp...well, I don't know much about him...but he sure ain't mine. This story is also inspired by Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
"Many great generals were lost today, Rapp; it's an unavoidable part of battle. I wouldn't call them friends—my presumption has its limits. Still, I knew them well. They were brave to the end, and every one of them earned the cross of Saint Andrew's." Napoleon gazed one more moment out at the battlefield and then turned his fat little body in the saddle, scanning Rapp with a practiced eye. "Not a scratch on you, Rapp; you must be the devil who stole my luck, eh?" Relief underpinned the sad jest.
"I…had not the heart," Rapp, who had joined the Emperor on the ridge a moment ago, choked, twisting the reigns in his hands. "I could not kill—I fled."
There was a momentary pause.
"I take my hat off to you, Rapp; you were a greater man than I today."
"But…?" Rapp looked at him in dazed wonder. "Aren't you angry?"
"Not as much as I should be, I suppose." Napoleon paused, resting his voice. "Rapp, you say you had not the heart, but…if you want the damned truth, neither did I. So I can't fault you. If I was adjutant, not emperor, I likely would have done the same as you."
"Ma foie, you're the Emperor Bonaparte! How can you feel anything but confidence?"
Napoleon looked over the fresh graveyard. "There was no power in me today." He gave a sigh which was almost a groan. "I am so tired of this war, Rapp. Yes, yes, yes! I speak truth so stop staring. I never want to see another man killed by a cannonball and I never again want to smell the stench of blood…I want only solitude, peace…rest…" he trailed off wistfully and then grew stern. "I tell you this because I like you, but if you spread that around I will be forced to call you a liar and have you executed, you understand." His voice trailed away raspily and he sighed, which segued into a fit of coughing.
Rapp himself shivered in the sudden wind. "Your Excellency, oughtn't you to return to camp? It's getting colder…"
The orange-ruby hues had intensified, and all the plains and hills seemed bathed in blood and marred by the gruesome twisted shadows of broken arms and legs and blades. "Your Excellency…the chill will only make your illness worse…" Rapp tilted his head, waiting. There was no answer, and at last Rapp turned the horse's head and let the beast pick his way downhill into the shadows cast over the camp.
Napoleon sat silently, sunk in miserable thought. He knew he was expected to be confident for the men—probably make some sort of heartening speech and move right into new battle plans. He was expected to do so much...
...when all he wanted was to climb under his blankets, burrow his head under the soft pillow and cry. His spirit was crushed, his health broken, and in his heart he wished he'd never begun these damned wars.