Author's warning: This story will not be for the innocent. Do not be sensitive. Take everything to have another, dirtier meaning. Cast off your apprehensions and your sheltered-ness. Dare to read on, dear readers.
If you find it believable, let me know; find it offensive, inform me of that too. Have a request, demand of it to me.
Thank you, dear readers.
And now we begin...
"You have been acquitted. You're free to go."
The words washed over her ears like the first rain after a draught. But metaphors of water only made her conscious of the burning thirst in her throat. Cécelie succeeded a feeble smile through the bars before her face, attempting to lift herself from the slimy, filth-crusted prison floor. Her chains, tight around her neck and ankles stop that motion with a clanging crash.
The ring of metal echoed through the stone cell as the key unlocked the bars, screeching and shrieking on their hinges as it swayed open. Hard-heeled boots clacked, and the one face she had seen for the past week loomed over her limp body. His pale green eyes as stony as the prison walls.
Her breath came ragged and thin as she attempted to moisten her cracked lips, parched from thirst. Fighting against her chains, she tried to sit straight and proper, maneuvering her wrists, shackled together, to fix and comb her hair as best she could. Perhaps it was simply because he was the only other human she'd seen for a week, or maybe it was the raw sense of power her jailor exuded. But she cared how she appeared for him, wanting to seem as decent and attractive as she could in spite of her ragged, filthy and torn dress, and her muck-streaked cheeks.
"Didn't you hear the news of which I just informed you?" he leered closer to her crouching form, "You may express your joy, number 3072." His rough hands grappled at the thick metal locks, binding her neck to the wall. A dry laugh tickled the back of his throat as he examined her coiled, sullied body at his feet. There was something about the way women prisoners always rested, crumpled in two and supplicating on the floor that made him laugh. Not in pleasure, and not in pain. Just laugh. The shackle opened with a click, releasing her pale, supple neck from its rusty bonds.
She would not respond to his questions. Strange, he thought; usually they clambered and clawed their way back to the surface without so much as a break of silence in their screeching exultations. Though, he did reflect, this one had been different in temperament than his previous keeps. "Lean forward, 3072," he ordered, finding the locks to her wrists wrapped tightly behind her back.
His keep complied, still silent save the ragged, shallow breathing, which gave way to a gentled grunt in effort as she moved. Another click, and the chains around her hands fell on her lap. Immediately, her hands reached up into her hair, bright blonde save the streaks of grim and sweat. Her fingers combed through the ratted strands, and her eyes remained fixed on the toes of his boots. In fact, he couldn't recall just what color her eyes were. Not that it mattered.
"Give me your legs," his voice was toneless; he had done this a hundred times before.
She did not so much as stir from her hunched position. "Your legs," he growled again, louder, more forceful. Her eyes lifted to his hardened face, a deep, almost violet blue hue to them. And she carefully moved her legs straight out before her, hissing in pain as they straightened, finally loosed from the unbound chains around her.
That blue, like his uniform, like shadowed water; he was surprised he hadn't observed it before. The metal links of the chain he pulled out from the rings around her ankles, opening the final lock between her and her bestowed freedom.
With the final click of the final lock, Cécelie finally forced a sigh from her shaking chest. In swift motion, the jailor stood straight at attention, he never allowed himself to be lax in posture, not off duty, not ever. And yet, those piercing blue eyes did not waver from his face, penetrating into his own from where his prisoner still sat in the filth of the prison. The silence in the cell seemed to reverberate in his ears, as if he needed to issue but one more command.
Clearing his throat, he gratified the silence. "You are free to leave now, 3072."
"I know, Inspector. You told me so already, Monsieur," her voice cracked and scratched with weakness most would deem pitiful.
Taking a step back, he cleared the way between his prisoner and the cell door. "Be on your way then." But her constant position unsettled him. This was not how freed prisoners were to behave.
Her bewitching eyes blinked once. "No."
"What?" the jailor raised his thick dark eyebrow, furrowing the other deeper over his eye. "You have been acquitted of all charges. You are to leave immediately, how do you not understand?"
"I do understand, Inspector. But I will not leave from here to return to them," her cracked lips quivered in suppressed emotion. "I will not return."
"You cannot remain here instead," he scoffed at her, drawing his arms from where they had firmly pressed to his side to instead cross before his chest of impeccably gleaming brass buttons. "You are no prostitute, you are no thief, and you have been cleared of all charges of murdering your own husband," he cocked his cleft chin to the side, "It is your duty now to return to your life."
At the very mention of her husband, her blue eyes widened in intensity, and a sneer began to curl at the upper, right-hand corner of her cracked lips. "I should have been to one to plunge that dagger into his heart, Inspector."
"Yet the law finds you innocent. And so you must leave this cell," he narrowed his suspicious eyes down at her, "That is your order, 3072."
Standing from the floor, she straightened her rags around her full shape, trying her best to cover the indecent tears at her neckline. She drew herself up to her full height. If this was his label of her, his perception of her as her dead husband's wife, then it was a role easy to exploit. Now she was acquitted. "Inspector, you will address me by my title, if you please."
"Of course, Comptesse," he bowed his broad upper-body ever so slightly, returning her stare the moment he straightened. Forcing a smile, he followed her from the cell, turning the key in the iron lock firmly behind them, "You should be glad to return to your nobility, Comptesse. Most of our acquitted occupants only return to the gutter to find themselves back here in a matter of days, guilty of a new crime," he looked at her beside him from the farthest corner of his eyes.
"I would plan to do just that, if my husband were not already dead," she whispered.
The inspector hitched in the rhythm of his stride at her words, and Cécelie came to a stop in the middle of the cellblock, surrounded on each side by unoccupied bar-lined cages. "Come now, surely we can reach some other sort of arrangement," she smiled slightly, her voice having lost its scratched quality. "I have obeyed your command to leave the cell at the very least, Inspector. But now I beg you for a strange sort of mercy." Her eyes stared into this unmoving face, the distance in his eyes, the firmness to his pressed lips, the fineness to the dark sideburns running along his squared jaw. "I may be the only prisoner to deny the second chance for freedom, but do not throw me back to the wolves of noble society."
"What would you have me do then, Comptesse?" Only the slightest inkling of his inner confusion shone from the green depths of his eyes. And so he asked for an order, as was his natural custom.
The Comptesse's face softened at his query, "Inspector, I would first have you forget my title. If I am to remain, I no longer need it." He nodded slowly. "And I ask that you put me to work, not in the prisons, but anywhere else. I can be useful to you," she added gently, a sly sort of smile hinting at her lips.
Taken off guard, he threw back his head slightly at her request, weighing the offer against the glimpse of a threat she had issued not moments before. Why were these women creatures so annoyingly complex and unhappy, he sneered within himself. And yet, for her worth, she was noble although she denied the nature. Surely keeping her from committing anything further was preemptive justice, not mercy nor pity. His duty then.
"Fine," he growled after his moments of reflection, "You are released, and free to do as you wish. And I, for my part, accept your offer."
He could see the wave of tension pass from her form.
"But you will remain under my keeping still, 3072. This offer is incorruptible yet strange nonetheless. I will not have this appearing suspicious to my superiors, understand?" he nodded for emphasis, meeting her inscrutable gaze with his owns severity.
"Yes, Inspector Javert. Only, I have one further request," she replied with the hint of a parched smirk to her lips, "Do not call me by my number any longer in place of my title, if you please."
"What then?" he snarled, taken aback by the thinly disguised command.
"Cécelie will do, Inspector," she answered, "unless you have a title you prefer."