A Near Miss
Disclaimer: I do not own The Count of Monte Cristo.
Note: Mondego is terrible. Why do I like him so much? I blame Guy Pearce.
Fernand Mondego woke up with the most terrible hangover and the realization that his best friend very well might be imprisoned for treason because of him. Huh. That was the hazard of being resentful and drunk around people who didn't like your friends, he supposed.
Though part of him wanted to just stay in bed the whole day (or at least until his headache subsided) he knew that he couldn't do that. Edmond might very well have had his life shattered forever because of him and so he considered it his solemn duty as Edmond's closest friend to at least find out if anything had come of that or not.
He dressed (a little slower than usual because he really wasn't kidding about that hangover) and went down to the Dantès house. He wasn't really up to an elaborate deception but surely he could manage to look shocked if Edmond had been taken. He was certainly up for comforting the grieving fiancée but he'd have to move slowly. It would be less than a day since she lost him forever, after all, and he wouldn't want her to think him insensitive.
Fernand knocked on the front door and was greeted by a beaming Edmond. Well, that answered that question.
"Fernand, good, you're here!" Edmond exclaimed. "I have the most incredible news!"
"Not so loud, Edmond," Fernand said, wincing. "My head is committing mutiny and I must concentrate it order to stop it."
Mercédès bell-like laugh was not so painful as she came into the room. "Then you must stop drinking so much, Fernand, and make peace with your head."
"Never," Fernand vowed.
"You might sound a little more convincing if you weren't holding your head," Edmond teased.
Fernand, who hadn't realized what he was doing, immediately dropped his hands to his side. "So what's this incredible news of yours? I already heard of your promotion and I made the connection that you two can marry now all on my own, thank you very much. How blessed can one person's life be in one day, Edmond? Even yours."
"I hope to never find out," Edmond said, grinning.
"We're planning to wed in the spring," Mercédès informed him happily. "What do you think about that?"
"Oh, does my opinion matter now?" Fernand asked, offhand.
"Of course it does!" Edmond exclaimed, surprised that he'd even had to ask. "You're the best man!"
"I don't recall agreeing to it," Fernand muttered.
Edmond grinned at him with fond tolerance. "Fernand," he said mock-seriously, "would you do me the honor of being my best man?"
Fernand shrugged. "Well you'll never find one better."
Edmond laughed. "That's the spirit!"
"You never did say, did you have more news or didn't you?" Fernand asked.
He didn't particularly want to know what other wonders had befallen Edmond while he'd been drinking himself senseless yesterday to try to pretend that he wasn't wishing to be Edmond. It had been something he'd been thinking about more and more lately and now the man even had his captain paper's a full two years early and could get married in just a few short months! Honestly, at this rate he'd need to arrange for his brother's death or something to get ahead of the game. And maybe if Edmond were smug about it or even noticed it, really, then he could look down on him for inferior character but St. Edmond would never do that.
And since Edmond was his best friend he couldn't hide from his good news forever. The only thing worse than his rising jealousy would be if Edmond were to know of it. He didn't think he could ever forgive him for that.
He was also a little curious as to what had happened to Danglars plot. It was conceivable that that bitter old fool hadn't struck yet but he seemed in a hurry when he'd left the night before so Fernand rather doubted that. Maybe the charge had seemed ridiculous? Edmond wasn't actually guilty of treason, after all, just too pure-hearted and convinced in the goodness of others to make it in this world. Who knew where he'd be without Fernand? And was he even grateful? Well…actually, yes he was. But it was still annoying.
"Yes, Edmond, tell him your news," Mercédès encouraged, moving to stand near him and resting her head on his shoulder.
Edmond's eyes softened as he watched her for a second before glancing back at Fernand. Well, it was nice of them not to rub their relationship in his face or anything. Edmond, at least, didn't know but Mercédès should have a little more tact.
"Last night armed soldiers came to my house to arrest me for treason," Edmond began without preamble.
Fernand had been expecting it – sort of – but he still choked. "W-what?"
Edmond nodded. "I know, I couldn't believe it either. They wouldn't explain what was going on until I got to the magistrate. Apparently Danglars reported me for going to Elba and accused me of conspiring with Napoleon."
"Jealous little ponce," Fernand spat the way he knew Edmond's best friend should. "Loses out on that captainship so tries to sell you out instead. He should know that Morrell will never make him captain after that travesty."
"You didn't comment on the charges," Mercédès pointed out innocently.
"I wasn't aware I had to," Fernand replied. "Our Edmond? Conspiring with anyone? He wouldn't know how."
"I will have you know that I am making my dreams come true and I have managed just fine these last twenty-odd years," Edmond protested. "Why is everyone acting like I haven't or can't?"
"It could be the fact that you slipped up and told me about my surprise birthday party three times last year," Fernand said pointedly.
Edmond winced. "I apologized, didn't I? Each time, too."
Fernand actually smiled at that, recalling how horrified Edmond had been even on the subsequent slips when he had known full well that Fernand had already known. "That's not the point, Edmond. The point is that you are far too innocent to conspire with Napoleon."
" 'Innocent'," Edmond repeated, nodding. "Yes, the magistrate said that, too. He seemed rather concerned about if I'd read the letter or not. I had to tell him that I couldn't read."
"Now that you're a captain you'll have to read," Mercédès said positively. "Fernand will teach you, right Fernand?"
Fernand snorted. "Not sober."
"You never do anything sober," Mercédès complained.
Fernand shrugged. "Some people might take a hint."
But Edmond shook his head, still smiling. "You may say that but you were also the only one to come with me to Elba."
"My judgment was off; I was drunk," Fernand claimed.
"You didn't start drinking until I decided to go ashore," Edmond pointed out.
"I was thirsty," Fernand argued. "And someone had to save your life. Honestly, Edmond, shooting at soldiers with instructions to kill anyone who approaches?"
"I didn't shoot at them!" Edmond protested, flushing. "But yes, you're right, I should have tried a different way to get their attention."
"I'm always right," Fernand said, mollified. But something was eating at him. Edmond had said that he'd been suspected of treason but he hadn't read the letter. What letter? He knew, of course, but Edmond hadn't said and someone (probably Mercédès and not the too-trusting Edmond) might realize that and know that he knew of the letter. And unlike Edmond he could – and had – read the cursed thing. "What letter?"
"Huh?" Edmond asked, puzzled.
"You said that magistrate wanted to know if you'd read the letter but you never mentioned any letter," Fernand pointed out. If this had been anyone but Edmond (a man who would keep his word, even to despicable criminal like Napoleon) he would have suspected he was being set up to reveal his knowledge of the letter. As it was, he knew Edmond was just too excited to tell a coherent narrative.
Edmond nodded. "Right, that. Napoleon took me aside and demanded that I deliver a letter to a friend of his back in Marseilles. I didn't want to but he said that it was his price for letting our captain be treated by his physician."
"And you thought that delivering a treason letter to Napoleon's agent was a good idea?" Fernand couldn't believe it.
"I-I didn't know! You know that I can't read," Edmond reminded him.
Fernand resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Would you have read it if you could read?"
"Well…no," Edmond said, unable to meet his eyes. "He promised me that it was just something sentimental that he was embarrassed to let the soldiers see and they always read his mail."
"And you believed him? And were going to deliver it?" Fernand pressed. Even without him, one day Edmond might very well accidentally commit treason or aid in a murder or agree to hide stolen goods in his house or something. It was a little depressing, actually. Edmond, for all that he was the son of a clerk, wasn't stupid, he was just so unbelievably trusting that sometimes it made Fernand want to hit something.
The fact he could get so protective of Edmond and his own naivety while still resenting him was one of life's little mysteries, he supposed.
"I gave him my word," Edmond said, looking weary as though he'd already had this conversation.
Mercédès exchanged a mildly exasperated glance with Fernand. "We know how important your word is to you but I don't think that it should compel you to commit treason just because someone is holding saving someone's life over you."
"But I didn't know-" Edmond started to say.
Fernand knew what the look Mercédès was giving him meant and he held up his hands in surrender. "Yes, yes, I'll start teaching him tomorrow."
"Wait, do you want me to start reading other peoples' letters?" Edmond asked, scandalized. "I can't do that!"
"Just the ones that could potentially contain treason," Mercédès assured him.
"Wouldn't that be all of them?" Edmond asked, confused.
"We've created a monster," Fernand said idly.
"Just the ones from those powerful enough to get you into trouble," Mercédès amended.
"But that's immoral," Edmond objected. "And don't say 'so is treason' because I couldn't tell that until I read it."
"It's a chance you'll have to risk to avoid the Château d'If," Mercédès said sternly. "You would do that, wouldn't you Fernand?"
"Of course, I'm not that trusting," Fernand replied. And that gave him the opening he was looking for. "Why didn't you tell me that Napoleon gave you a letter to deliver? I thought we were friends. I would have told you." Probably. Unless it was something that Edmond couldn't possibly hope to understand and there were many such things.
Edmond looked miserable. "I wanted to, I really did, Fernand. But Napoleon told me not to tell you."
"You'd listen to that criminal over me," Fernand said bitterly.
"Oh, it wasn't like that at all!" Edmond said earnestly, looking horrified that he thought that. "I just…I gave my word and-"
"Yes, your oh-so-precious word," Fernand cut him off.
"Edmond was doing you a favor," Mercédès said, glaring at him. "The letter did contain treason. What would have happened to you if you read it?"
"Nothing," Fernand said defiantly. "I would have had Edmond burn it and no magistrate need be involved."
"I'm sorry, Fernand," Edmond said sincerely. "I never meant to hurt you."
"Well you did," Fernand said flatly.
"Next time I'll tell you," Edmond promised. "After the disaster this almost became, I can't afford not to."
Why was it that he could never stay angry at Edmond when he apologized? It irked him greatly. Perhaps it was that seeing him so subordinate made it easier to deal with how content Edmond seemed to be in his second-rate life while he could never find that kind of happiness. Well, not when he wasn't around Mercédès who was Edmond's or Edmond himself and someone like him shouldn't be dependent on people like them for anything, let alone happiness.
"Next time, Edmond?" Fernand asked warily.
A mischievous smile. "You never know."
"Tell him about what happened before you left," Mercédès instructed.
Edmond nodded. "Ah yes, that. The magistrate read the letter and said that he believed I was just incredibly foolish and not treasonous and then he asked me if I knew who the letter was going to."
"And what did you say?" Fernand asked curiously.
Edmond smiled sheepishly. "The man was to find me and not the other way around which is fortunate because while Napoleon did indeed tell me the man's name I'm afraid I've quite forgotten it."
If this were anyone else, Fernand would suspect that the convenient forgetfulness was to avoid naming names or facing charges but in this case it really was just an accident.
Fernand sighed. "It's for the best I suppose. That's no way to find the traitor but I suppose that unless another ship miraculously manages to send men to the island – rather doubtful given our little misadventure – then it really doesn't matter."
"Would you like to have dinner with us tonight, Fernand?" Edmond inquired. "Last night we were to celebrate my return home and also my promotion to captain and the fact that Mercédès and I could now set a date for our wedding. We had to put that off and if you're going to be sober we'd like you there."
Fernand glanced curiously at Mercédès but she merely smiled at him. It seemed she'd never taken his interest in her that seriously if she was fine with this. But then, if she had then surely she would have said something or at least stopped spending time with him alone.
Fernand shrugged. "Why not? With this headache, I doubt I will ever drink again."
"You always say that," Edmond said fondly.
"I always mean it," Fernand insisted. "Who knows what I'm thinking the rest of the time?"
So in the end his plot hadn't worked out and Edmond Dantès had once again proven that he had the most blessed life that any person could ever hope to have and that everyone else was blessed to just know him. Would nothing destroy that man? He'd have to have a word with Danglars about his failure and then promptly go back to ignoring that miserable creature who wasn't worth speaking to Edmond, let alone him.
Still, it was probably for the best. He hadn't felt entirely comfortable plotting to destroy Edmond's life in the first place and he was his best friend after all.
But he really would like another drink.