Desperation

Disclaimer: I do not own The Count of Monte Cristo.

Note: I always felt a little ambivalent about the 2002 movie Albert paternity reveal because while we know that Fernand betrayed Edmond, to Mercédès he was a nice if pushy guy who she was willing to marry and have her son view as his father. That's a pretty crappy thing to do to someone, passing off someone else's child as their own. Mercédès knew he was cheating on her later on but when she told him Albert was his she still thought of him as a good guy so that can't be taken into account.

Mercédès was in a great deal of trouble. She felt guilty for worrying as much about her own fate when poor Edmond was dead but she couldn't help it. It's just that now, instead of his fate and that terrible injustice being in her every waking thought, it was relegated to her every other thought.

She still couldn't believe that this had even happened at all most days. Even now she really didn't understand any of it. Edmond had returned from the sea and had become the captain of his own ship and they could get married in less than two years after all! She was willing to wait, of course, but she was still naturally thrilled when that was not the case. Things were perfect for one glorious, impossibly short moment.

Now she still wouldn't need to wait two years to marry him but now she would never get to marry Edmond at all because he had been spirited away one night and she knew nothing except that he had somehow died. It was an escape attempt, she thought they had said, but it was hard to keep the details in her mind in the wake of the crushing fact of Edmond's death.

Edmond…treason? He would never! How could they have been so tragically mistaken? Mercédès lost her faith in justice that day.

Mercédès hadn't even begun to think about moving on before she realized the trouble that she was in. Who knew? Perhaps she would have waited forever. Edmond wouldn't' want that, she was sure, but he would expect her to wait a respectable time. She was young enough that waiting wouldn't destroy her chances of having a husband but she wouldn't even be able to figure out how long to wait now.

Mercédès was pregnant. She'd say that she didn't know how that had happened except that she did know; she knew exactly how. The night before Edmond had been ripped from her forever they had come together. It was her first time but clearly it only took once.

She couldn't bring herself to regret it because it was the only chance she was ever going to have to be with Edmond and now, at least, a part of him would live on.

In a kind world – in a sane world – it would be no great hardship. It was the child of her fiancé and a quick wedding would solve everything. Neither of them had particularly wanted to wait anyway.

But now…now Edmond was dead and no matter what she did with the rest of her life this would not change. She had to look after herself now and, more importantly, Edmond's innocent child who did not deserve the scorn of being a bastard.

There was only one thing to do. She needed her baby to have a father and she needed it soon before she started to show.

There was a knock on the door and she got up to answer it. It was Fernand of course.

"You sent for me, Mercédès?" he asked, removing his hat as he entered the house.

The message had not been sent very long ago. He must have come straight here. That was a good sign.

"I did, yes," Mercédès said, nodding. He was her chosen husband now that Edmond was gone. It wasn't her wealth that drew her to me but the fact that she did not know how much time she had – not enough – and he was the only other man she knew besides her sweet Edmond who wanted to marry her.

Fernand did not look much like Edmond but fortunately she did and so her child would resemble her no matter what. It might be cruel to make Fernand believe that it was his child but she was desperate and her child had to come first. She knew that there was no one Edmond would rather have raise his child if he couldn't be there to do it himself. And Fernand claimed to love her which wasn't something she could afford to demand anymore. Fernand loved Edmond almost as much as she did and so he might even want to help but she couldn't risk it. She needed a yes. She'd give Fernand his own children soon enough.

"Is everything okay?" Fernand asked, concern evident in his eyes. "Besides, the obvious, I mean."

Guilt welled up inside of her. Fernand was a good man who had cared for her and Edmond and he did not deserve this. But the sad fact of the matter was that that didn't matter. It did not matter if this made her a terrible person or if Fernand would hate her if he ever found out. All that mattered was saving the only bit of Edmond that she still could.

Mercédès nodded. "Besides Edmond's fate, yes." She knew that she wouldn't be able to keep talking about him once new of her pregnancy came out, once they were married. She didn't know how to pretend not to love him. "I just…I wanted to thank you, Fernand."

"Thank me? Thank me for what?" Fernand inquired, placing a hand on her arm.

"When Edmond was taken I thought I would die. When I heard of his death I thought that I was dead myself," Mercédès explained a little hollowly.

The grip on her arm tightened. "Mercédès, you're not dead," he said anxiously. "Don't talk like that!"

"I know I'm not," Mercédès said simply. "And I don't know if I could say that if it hadn't been for you being there to make sure that I kept living even as everything I've ever wanted crumbled all around me."

Fernand didn't meet her eye. "I did what any friend would have done. I did what Edmond would have wanted."

"Edmond is dead, Fernand." The words were painful but they were true. "And no amount of wishing can ever bring him back."

"I'm sorry," Fernand told her helplessly.

"It's your loss as much as mine," Mercédès replied. "And Fernand…one thing that this whole experience has taught me is that I've taken you for granted for far too long. You're a better friend then I deserve and maybe even…" She shook her head. "It doesn't matter."

"No, tell me," Fernand said urgently, a terrible hope on his face.

Mercédès forced herself to look at him as she lied. "I will never know the kind of happiness that I might have had with Edmond and I may always mourn that fact. But somehow, impossibly, you've made me believe that I might have some happiness after all and no lesser for not being identical to the first."

Fernand stopped breathing. "Mercédès…if you're saying what I think you're saying…"

"Fernand, I love you. I may have always loved you, really, but I loved Edmond, too, and we were together so I could never admit it. But now…I know it's only been a month but I know how I feel and what I want," Mercédès told him softly. And she did, too, but she just couldn't have it.

"I would marry you tomorrow," Fernand breathed.

Mercédès managed a smile, hoping that it looked genuine. "I would let you."

Fernand leaned in to kiss her and all Mercédès could think of was Edmond.

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