War and Peace
Hugo belongs to Brian Selznick and Martin Scorsese.
A/N:The battle that the Inspector fought at was the Battle at the Somme, for those who wish to learn more about it. This is my first Hugo fan-fiction, so any response, even constructive criticism, would be greatly appreciated. :D
It was raining.
Gustave ran for his life, the fiery bits of dirt falling around him. Like a macabre rainfall, he reflected somewhere in the back of his mind. Nothing like the gentle, beautiful rains that swept through Paris at this time of year. An explosion went off right beside him, nearly tossing him off his feet, but he managed to regain stability. The coattails of his blue greatcoat, smudged with mud, grit, and ash, flapped behind him in the bitter wind. The rushing of the river Somme beside him couldn't be heard over the gunfire and cannon blasts, and the water was already murky, with mud and blood staining the opaque surface.
Another shell landed startlingly close, and the young man picked up the pace. A fellow soldier shouted something from his left, and another answered to is right, but he didn't have time to place the voices. More shells hit the dirt around them; creating enormous craters and making mud and grit fly dozens of feet into the air. The visor on his kepi kept the worse of the muck from falling into his eyes, but now walking at all became dangerous. Gustave could hardly see anything through the resulting smoke, and he had to get to the trenches on the other side.
Another rumbling explosion, and the voice to his right shrieked, before abruptly cutting off. More dirt flew into the air.
Gustave tightened his hold on his large, unwieldy bayonet, not that it would do him much good, as it was out of bullets. But then, he heard a familiar explosion—from the French side of the battlefield.
A shell went whizzing over his head, courtesy of the Canon de 75, and he felt a joyous war cry bubble to his lips. The Germans were outmatched, and outgunned for sure now!
He could see the vague outline of the trenches now, soldiers poised with their rifles over the edge. He raised an arm, the one with his bayonet, and waved it, calling out to his men. "Dasté, commander! This is Corporal Dasté!"
A following cry rose from the men, now only a few dozen feet away. "And he returns to us alive!" one shouted.
Gustave concealed a grin as he went on, arms and legs pumping. He momentarily forgot about the gunfire, about the explosions that echoed like firecrackers by his ears, and only saw the trench, and his men. Safety was so close…only five more feet….
And then, Gustave felt the most painful sensation in his life.
It was abrupt, and through his haze of pain, he knew that it was a bullet in the back of his knee.
His bayonet fell from his limp fingers, and the young man collapsed, ever so slowly. The dirt came up at him, the world muted, and he hit the ground hard. His shaking fingers instantly went to the wound, and he saw that the blood was already seeping through, making his red trousers an even darker shade. He pulled his trembling fingers back, and saw that they were coated in blood. His blood.
The sharpness of reality hit him, just as sound returned.
Another cacophonous explosion sounded, dirt flying into his eyes. Gunfire echoed from around him, followed by the grunts and cries of men as the bullets hit their mark. The sound of running, booted feet against hard packed earth… and utter chaos swirling around him.
Gustave didn't even have the energy to call for help. He would open his mouth, but no sound came out. He kept his hands around his knee to try and staunch the bleeding, but he knew that it would do no good unless he could get to his field medic. Fighting through the haze of pain, the young man pushed himself onto his forearms, and tried to stand.
A ripple moved through him, and his left leg felt as if it had been immersed in liquid fire. The pain actually brought tears to his eyes, and he buckled, falling back down onto the dirt.
More bullets pierced the smoky air, cannon fire striking the ground far too closely. His mind swam, a miasma of pain and numbness, and he opened his mouth again, desperate for help lest he bled to death on the battlefield.
He opened his mouth, and yet sound still refused to come out.
Inspector Dasté awoke with a strangled cry, sitting up as he gasped for breath.
His dark eyes flitted across his surroundings, not recognizing the quaint room, nor knowing why he was sitting on a rather comfortable loveseat. He heard a distant humming from further within the flat however, and abruptly recollected that he was in Mademoiselle Lisette's apartment.
The woman came through the door then, pushing it open with her back as she juggled the tray laden with a teapot and small pastries, and when she turned, caught his haunted expression.
"Oh, Gustave!" she cried, swiftly setting the tray down on the coffee table before them, and rushing to his side. Still stunned, the station inspector didn't react as the woman seated herself next to him, nor did he blush at the close proximity as he usually would. She took his gloved hand in her own, hazel eyes wide with worry. "What's the matter? I left for only a few moments to prepare the tea…"
The inspector shook his head, as he were shaking off the memories, lifting his opposite hand to tiredly rub his forehead, before allowing it to rest there, holding his head up. "Nothing is the matter, Lisette," he murmured resignedly, eyes closing. "I only seem to have fallen asleep."
Lisette's expression only grew more curious, but still remained anxious. "And what did you dream about?" she queried softly, rubbing his gloved knuckles in a circular motion with her thumb to help calm him.
Gustave released a world-weary sigh. "Nothing that I should trouble you with," he mumbled. He felt a cool hand on his cheek then, and finally looked up to meet her gaze. His love's eyes were hard, but her telltale softness still remained. She wanted to comfort him.
Now that she had gotten his attention, Lisette allowed her hand to fall from his cheek, both of them now clasping his one gloved hand. "Was it…was it about the war?" she asked softly, as if she didn't wish to startle him, or even know the truth.
He managed a stiff nod.
"Oh, Gustave," she said again, this time softer. Gentler. She wrapped her arms around the one closest to her, and rested her cheek on the firm cloth of the uniform over his shoulder. Lisette closed her eyes, sighing quietly. They remained in that position for some time, the inspector not having much of a clue of what he was supposed to do, when the woman spoke again.
"I had nightmares as well…after my brother passed."
Gustave felt a twinge in his chest. How could he have forgotten that she had suffered at the hands of the Great War as well? He cleared his throat, and she glanced up at him. "What…what did you dream?"
Lisette released a humorless chuckle, eyes falling downcast. "It was usually the same dream, over and over again. I would see him, running across the battlefield. I would see him get into the trenches, and load his weapons, just before the shells hit…I would try to stop him…how I tried…but I was a ghost. I was never really there." She sighed again. "I was told by a few of his living comrades that he died a noble death, taking down dozens of Germans before the trenches were blown apart, but…"
When the inspector saw that she appeared unable to continue, he finished for her. "But you wish that he was back home just the same."
Lisette gave him a watery smile. "Of course. We…we both lost something because of the war." Her dark eyes flickered to his leg brace, before meeting his gaze, a determined smile gracing her features. "And now, we will lose nothing else."
Gustave remained silent for several moments, his own eyes flickering this way and that. The Frenchwoman patiently waited for him to speak, and her features noticeably softened at the same time his did. "Agreed," he finally said, threading his gloved fingers through Lisette's own slimmer ones.
She smiled again, and the inspector felt his heart melt at the gesture. Lisette wrapped her arm around his own once more, letting her head rest softly against his shoulder. As her eyes closed, Gustave felt a smile twitch across his own lips, and he let his head rest against that of his love.
And so, the tea forgotten, the couple fell into a deep sleep on the loveseat. And for the first time in months, years even, no nightmares plagued their dreams.