Worlds Apart

A/N: This is a one-shot for now, but I can always add more to it if people want. This is not the Disney version; it is set in the 1982 TV film version with Derek Jacobi as Claude Frollo. Jacques is my own invention; the rest belongs to Victor Hugo and whoever wrote the scripts…ect…Anyway…I tweaked Esmeralda to be more gypsy-like in my mind.

Ratings: T

Summary: Immediately after Esmeralda is sentenced to death, Claude Frollo has difficulty dealing with the consequences of the things he's done. Fortunately, there are people out there willing to help him if he accepts it. (May eventually become a Frollo/Esmeralda depending on the mood I'm in). Constructive criticism is welcome but flames accomplish nothing.

"Even now, I can still save you…"

His lips still burned with a promise he had not kept. Immediately after Esmeralda had refused him one final time, Claude Frollo had run back inside the cathedral. His entire face was pale, his fingers pressed into his lips. As soon as he'd reached the privy, he'd dropped to his knees as the violent sickness overtook him. Amid all the awful retching and coughing, he felt a hand on his back. He moved to shrink away from it, for he did not deserve comfort. The hand merely moved to the back of his neck. At first, he found the fingers repulsively icy. The repulsion rapidly gave way to relief…the coolness felt good. For some odd reason, it triggered tears. He felt himself being tugged into someone's arms as he shivered and shook.

"It's all right, Your Worship…you tried your best to save her…"

The voice belonged to Jacques, one of his closest friends.

"You…don't understand…" Claude choked out, "it is…because of me…"

He trailed off as another exhausting flood of tears came.

"How could you have possibly contributed to that harlot's downfall?"

A wordless cry escaped Claude's throat. He had never been so ashamed of himself in his life. Jacques's dark eyes were full of concern. What about this particular woman made his brother so distraught?

"Tell me, Claude. I swear I won't say a word to anyone."

"I can't…"

"Then tell me how to help you…"

"God himself wouldn't help me now…"

"Oh, Claude, really? It can't be as bad as all that."

Jacques retrieved his handkerchief from the pocket of his cassock and began to sponge away the tears. He pulled the trembling Claude to his feet and led him away from the now sour-smelling room.

"You look terribly pale…you'd better sit. I'll get you some water."

Claude drew in a shaky breath as Jacques disappeared for a moment. It felt as though the weight of the world had come crashing down on his shoulders. Jacques returned with a tin mug. Claude's stomach rolled again, but he willed it to be still. The cold water washed away the bitterness in his mouth and cooled his aching middle pleasantly. His hands were shaking so hard that Jacques had to help him hold the mug.

"There now…now please tell me what in God's name—sorry," Jacques winced at Claude's stern look, "is going on."

"You swear you won't tell another soul no matter what happens?"

"It's between you, me, and God," Jacques said firmly, "no one else."

"All right…"

Claude recounted everything from his first glimpse of Esmeralda to moments before on the execution platform. He even confessed his feelings of intense lust to Jacques in lamenting groans.

"How can you just sit there? I have turned into a monster!" Claude wailed, his fingers tangled in his ash-blonde hair with the barest hint of silver.

"Claude Frollo, what is the reason that Jesus came to this earth?" Jacques asked calmly.

"Because…we couldn't make it on our own…couldn't uphold the earthly laws…"

"Exactly. No one's perfect. Everyone suffers from one flaw or another. Maybe it wasn't the best way to handle that situation, but maybe it's for the best that she's gone," Jacques soothed, "God will forgive you. It sounds as though you merely lost your head in the confusion you felt. No one ever tells you these things when you take your vows of celibacy."

Frollo's face had gone from ashen pale to blood red.

"But…for years, nothing! Not the slightest stir! And then…in one day…"

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Jacques said matter-of-factly, "we still have bodies, don't we? Just because we choose not to use them in certain ways doesn't mean that they can't still respond to certain things."

Outside, the crowd had dispersed and the excitement had died down considerably.

"Thank you, Jacques. You and God are the only ones I can trust," Claude sighed, "I need some time alone now."

"Why don't you go and sit by the water? You'll be next to impossible to find there," Jacques suggested.

He watched his friend's retreating back and began to pray for him.

Claude paced about the small dock behind the cathedral. Darkness had fallen and he still didn't feel much better about himself. Out there, he had shouted at God, expressed all his anger at Him putting Claude in a situation like this. He had pleaded brokenly with God to save him from this mess and to have mercy on his poor, tainted soul. Other times, he stared blankly at the water and was at a total loss. Two fellow clerics had ventured past and tried to speak with him, but all he could say was "I killed her." Sensing that their leader was in a terrible state, they left him alone.

The awful exhaustion began to sink in and Claude was forced to go back to the cathedral. As soon as he crossed the entryway, Erik grabbed Claude's sleeve.

"Quasimodo has something to show you…he says it's important."

Claude sighed and labored up the stairs.

Poor innocent fool…he's so fortunate that I never let him get attached to anyone…the tortured archdeacon thought to himself. Quasimodo was waiting for him and eagerly dragged him towards the empty cubbyhole that had once been Esmeralda's room.

Claude's mouth dropped open, for surely he was hallucinating.

There, laying spread out on the bed, was a sleeping Esmeralda.

All at once, the joy and torment rose up within him again. He had not yet murdered anyone…Phoebus, he knew, was still alive, and now so was Esmeralda.

Thank you God, Jesus, and Mary! His thoughts cried out.

Very carefully, he leaned over Esmeralda's sleeping form and kissed her lips so lightly that she might have thought there was only a breeze. Her bronze skin was unmarred and her raven-black hair spread out on her pillow like a halo. Before the temptation to wake her became too strong, Claude backed carefully out of the room. Quasimodo was smiling like a child who had done something great. Claude numbly squeezed the boy's shoulder before fleeing downstairs and Quasimodo knew he had done well.

"Master loves you…" he slurred to a sleeping Esmeralda, "I can tell because he kisses you."

"Well done, Quasimodo," Jacques said from the doorway, "he'd have never survived without her."

Jacques went to his own cell with a grin on his lips. He knew it was prideful, but he couldn't help himself. Just moments before Esmeralda was due to die, he had given Quasimodo the coil of rope and asked if he wanted to help his new friend. He knew they had saved more than one life that day.