Title: 13 Thermidor
Author: Simply Kelp
Pairing: hinted Pimpernel/Chauvelin
Rating: pg-13 (gore)
Summary: Today is 13 Thermidor; it is the day Chauvelin will die. minor slash-- Pimpernel/Chauvelin
Disclaimer: If I owned The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chauvelin would be a more likeable character-- and Margot would be dead or non-existent…
A/N: Like 'How to Tie a Cravat', Chauvelin is in his late twenties.
Today is 13 Thermidor; it is the day Chauvelin will die. The overturning of Robespierre guaranteed the death of every man associated with him in one way, or another. Yesterday, Chauvelin overheard some of the prison guards talking of several men-- men Chauvelin had known well-- who were torn limb-from-limb by a group of passing maenads. Chauvelin is set to meet Madame la Guillotine, and he will accept his death as it comes: cold, and harsh, and biting. He has always known that he would die violently; the thought brings a smile to his lips-- there is no happiness in it, but there never was before.
Currently, he sits in a cart, casting a disinterested eye at the jeering crowd as they make their way to the Place de la Révolution. The convicted party is a motley group: three ci-devant, a clockmaker, a secretary from the Tuileries, a young boy who has not spoken a word since Chauvelin has seen him, and, of course, himself. The crowd roars at them. Chauvelin frowns, thinking at how it, only days ago, had shouted praises at him.
Two of the ci-devant are women. One is silent as tears trickle down her face. The other, who looks about twelve, sobs loudly. Chauvelin watches the display with detached disgust. "Don't cry, Hortense. It will be alright," the other ci-devant, a young man, says, wiping the tears from the hysterical girl's eyes. Her sobs soften a bit. The man turns his attention to Chauvelin. "I used to think that you were the monsters," he says, "but I suppose the real monster is the mob; see how easily she turns on her friends?" He smiles wryly. Chauvelin wishes that he had a pistol to shoot this man.
He wonders if the Pimpernel will show. The thought is not some idle hope of being rescued. He has earned his fate, and would hate for the man to snatch it from him. But he should like to see the Pimpernel one last time before he dies. A silly, insipid wish, really; perhaps it is the thought that 'this evening I shall be dead' that is making Chauvelin so sentimental.
Suddenly a shout of "Vive le roi!" is heard over the clamour. All heads turn to face the noise-- all but one, that is. Chauvelin looks the opposite direction. The Pimpernel has managed to take over the cart, and begins steering it slightly off-course. The crowd is too distracted to notice. By the time they will notice, the cart will have gone a considerable distance; Chauvelin knows this game.
The cart jostles, little by little, further away from the crowd. The other members of the group look about curiously. They turn abruptly down an intersecting street, and Chauvelin notices that it is empty save for a carriage. The Pimpernel hops down from his seat, and gives a hand to each of the women as he conducts them out of the cart.
One of the Pimpernel's men-- Chauvelin remembers duelling him once-- exits the carriage, and helps the women in. The ci-devant, clockmaker, and boy follow. Chauvelin, and the Pimpernel are left standing alone in the street.
"Blakeney," Chauvelin whispers.
Were this a book, they probably would kiss. The Pimpernel's soft lips meeting his own chapped ones in a confused mixture of uncertainty, and mortality, and this is not the end. But as it were, they are not in a book, and the Pimpernel only nods curtly. Chauvelin feels his lips quirk slightly at the thought; how stupid of him-- but, he thinks idly, the Pimpernel has always had that effect on him.
"Will you come, Citoyen?" the Pimpernel asks quietly. He already knows the answer, Chauvelin thinks. Chauvelin shakes his head; he cannot bring his mouth to form words. The Pimpernel smiles sadly, and nods as he enters the carriage.
Chauvelin allows his eyes to close momentarily. When he opens them, the door to the carriage opens again; Chauvelin wonders whether the Pimpernel has decided to force him to escape. But it is not the Pimpernel that is at the door. The ci-devant steps briskly out of the carriage, and gives Chauvelin a nervous smile. "Lovely day for a walk," he says pleasantly amid the sobbing, and cries of 'don't go!' from the two women. "Do you mind if I join you?"
Chauvelin shrugs as he turns, and follows the trail left by the carriage's wheels. Perhaps if he is quick, they can execute him today. He hears the carriage jostle from behind, and the sound of the ci-devant running to catch up with him.
He looks over to the man, who smiles nervously again. He quickens his pace; the man follows suit. The frustrating ci-devant has to ruin the peace before his death; he has not liked the man from the moment he saw him. "I used to write vers, you know," the ci-devant says conversationally. He chuckles slightly, and adds, "Very funny ones, everyone always said." When Chauvelin remains silent, the man continues: "I find it amusing that now I shall be fodder for a different kind of vers."
Chauvelin stops suddenly, and fixed the man with a piercing look. "Why are you here?" he asks pointedly.
The man smiles. "They have assigned me my death, but I can choose to accept it with dignity. And if they demand of me my head, then it is my duty to deliver," he says steadily.
"Spoken like a ci-devant," Chauvelin mutters. He continues walking, resigning himself to the fact that he will have to be accompanied by this annoyance when he meets Madame la Guillotine.
"And you?" the man asks suddenly. "Why have you chosen death?" The man speaks so calmly; Chauvelin wonders whether he is quite aware of the permanence of his choice.
"I wouldn't tell you," Chauvelin mutters.
"O really?" the ci-devant asks amusedly. "There is no one I can tell it to, and we are still quite a way from the Place de la Concorde."
Chauvelin suppresses the urge to correct the man; because, really, what use is there in doing so? "I suppose," he says softly.
"So?" the man presses. Chauvelin really does not like this man.
He shrugs; Suppose it does not matter either way if he tells this annoying ci-devant. And if Chauvelin entertains the man, he will likely be quiet. "I suppose that I have nowhere left in this world," Chauvelin says finally. "I gave my oath to the Revolution; I cannot-- will not-- leave France, so what would I do?" he asks. The man does not respond; he did not expect him to. "I wondered if the Pimpernel would come, but I never thought that he would offer to 'rescue' me. He's really quite naïve; he told me once that he thought we could be friends," he says, laughing slightly.
The ci-devant raises an eyebrow. "Perhaps you could have been friends," he says quietly.
Chauvelin mutters a noncommittal "perhaps." They are nearing the Place de la Révolution, and he can hear the angry screams of a crowd denied its entertainment. He quickens his pace; the ci-devant follows a step behind. They pass through the crowd as two unknown faces; no one looks at them, no one speaks to them. It is like they have already ceased to exist.
The mob is silent as the two men ascend the scaffold; Sanson raises an eyebrow at them, but nonetheless readies the guillotine. The ci-devant is called first. One of Sanson's assistants makes to drag him off, but the man shrugs off the hand, and walks soberly to the machine. He turns to offer Chauvelin a small smile-- there is little happiness in it--, which Chauvelin returns in kind.
The man climbs onto the bed, and rests his head in the lunette. The crowd, who, it seems, has regained its senses, cries for blood. Chauvelin frowns slightly. The man in the guillotine is perfectly still. Chauvelin has witnessed many executions in his career, and very few people have been so calm in the face of death.
The blade falls. The man's head falls into the basket with a definite thump. Sanson's assistants carry off the limp body. For all its life, Chauvelin thinks, the body may as well be a slab of meat. Chauvelin has seen more deaths than he can count, but the thought has never seemed so immediate, so real that: this thing that is being dragged away was just one moment ago human. What is it now? He does not search for an answer. There is little he can do now.
As one of Sanson's assistants taps his shoulder, Chauvelin realises with some regret that he had never asked the ci-devant for his name. But, he thinks, it would have mattered very little. The information will be useless where he is going now.
As he approaches the guillotine, Chauvelin can smell the blood, and death. He resists the urge to wrinkle his nose; he will not give the crowd the satisfaction of seeing how it affects him.
The lunette is sticky with fresh blood; nevertheless, Chauvelin places his neck there, and waits. His eyes watch the crowd, not in the frantic 'I am dying' way which most of the convicted have met fate. His eyes are firm, and resolute, boring into the mob. It is the last thing he sees; let it be the last thing that the crowd remembers: that Armand Chauvelin is no coward.
The last thing he hears is the deafening chop! And the word fades to black.
The Pimpernel turns away as the blade slices through Chauvelin's neck. He has sent his men, and the condemned party ahead in the carriage. They will meet him a few streets down.
As he faces the scaffold again, Percy watches Chauvelin's body being carried away to join the other man. The crowd is a confused jumble of angry roars. Neither of the executed men made a show: no crying, no struggling. There is no enjoyment, he thinks vaguely, in watching someone welcome death.
And Chauvelin is dead; Percy knows this, and yet his eyes still dart over the crowd, expecting to see the man waiting for him. But that is silly of him to think. He ought to be relieved that the one man who actually could have caught him-- who knew his identity-- is dead. But for some reason, all he feels is regret that he let Chauvelin die.
Percy dashes down the street, and jogs to the carriage. Andrew opens the door, and he climbs inside. "So, he's gone?" Andrew asks.
Percy cannot speak; he nods. Both of the women they have rescued are still sobbing. His head hurts, and he cannot wait until they are aboard the Daydream, and away from France. There, he can pretend that all he has seen today is only a dream, and that he will wake next to Marguerite, and that he does not feel like he has just lost a piece of himself.
Percy has always wondered whether, under different circumstances, they could have been friends. Probably not. But the thought is nice.
I rather like my ci-devant. It's too bad he, and Chauvelin are dead; I think they would have made a fun pair-- in some convoluted alternate universe... Maybe I'll write something with them.
Thank you so much for reading! I would love to hear what you thought.