I admit I have sadly neglected Passepartout in my Jules Verne writings...but that's because I've always felt I couldn't do him justice (he is a hard character to...characterize...you must admit). But, at last, I came up with an idea that I think might work--it evolved from scenes such as those in "Rocket to the Moon" and the second part of "The Cardinal's Design"--scenes in which Passepartout must stand outside...and wait. You'll see. Usual disclaimers: don't own characters, make no money off story, intend no copyright infringement, write only for entertainment purposes, and the story contains no spoilers. Please write a review at the end--feedback is a godsend (or dogsend, as I originally typed out--what kind of Freudian slip is *that*?)

DUTIES UNSPOKEN

A manservant's duty is to wait on his master, to give his master a life of consummate ease.

Sometimes, though, Passepartout felt as though he were always merely waiting *for* his master. Waiting for Phileas Fogg to come back and rescue him, waiting for Fogg to decide his destiny, waiting for Fogg to accidentally or purposefully kill himself...

And now he was waiting to see if his master would live.

Fogg and Master Jules had been invited to a nobleman's castle for dinner, no doubt to either gain access to Jules's mind or Fogg's secrets. It didn't matter which nobleman; it didn't even matter what nationality the nobleman held. The nobleman could have been in league with the League--or he might have been out for his own nefarious purposes. In the end, it was all the same. He had to be stopped.

Passepartout had been waiting in the servants' hall, unneeded for his usual duties at the moment. He'd felt bored and useless, watching the other servants moving about with almost supernaturally silent efficiency, and for his own amusement had started doing tricks with various bits of fruit and knives, anything he could get his hands on really. He started out with juggling but quickly his tricks became increasingly complicated. The other servants had not been amused, however, and so he'd given it up. It was hard to concentrate with so many frigid, unapproving looks focused on your back.

And then halfway through the desert course, when Passepartout had at last begun to feel that the evening would come to an end and he could go back aboard the Aurora and tend to his master, or perhaps share a laugh and a coffee with Master Jules, a couple new men had appeared--big, heavy men in awkward suits, certainly not a typical house servant, and they had escorted Passepartout out of the kitchens. He'd gone without a struggle, playing up his nervousness and confusion even as he furiously thought through and discarded several escape plans. He would simply have to wait until he discovered what exactly the situation was. And then he would wait for his master's orders.

He was taken to the dining hall of the pretentious old castle belonging to the nobleman, and the sight that met his eyes made him pause his stride involuntarily. He was pushed forward violently by one of the disagreeable guards, broken out of his momentary paralysis.

Jules was struggling fruitlessly in the grip of two more of these particular servants, his nice newly hired evening suit that Passepartout had just specially pressed for the young man getting mussed by its rough handling. The young writer was looking up defiantly at the nobleman, shouting something proud and angry and defiant, and the nobleman was ignoring him, favoring Fogg instead with a thoroughly irritating smirk on his no doubt handsome and aristocratic face. Fogg stood near his young friend, looking between the nobleman and Verne, unheld by anyone yet surrounded from the back and sides by his own set of guards, a calculating look on his face.

Passepartout knew the scene of old, could act out everyone's part and have it finished more quickly than it would take in reality, and yet every time it happened his heart juddered to a halt and for the space of a tiny, tiny instant in which thought, feeling, experience, knowledge, and the current happenings all coalesced and converged into one compact realization, he knew someone would die. And he was always frightened it might turn out to be his master--or Jules, or himself, or Rebecca were she here--this time.

Fogg was including Passepartout in his gazes now, communicating with the valet silently, using cool green eyes alone. Passepartout understood and nodded imperceptibly. He would wait for his master's signal, and then he would do what needed to be done. He was prepared. Just like always.

How they came to these circumstances always varied, and how these circumstances were resolved also held an infinite variety of possibilities, and yet the situation always seemed to remain the same. Perhaps Master Jules would unexpectedly save the day, or perhaps someone else would put in an appearance and complicate matters, tilting them toward one final end or another. Passepartout knew it wouldn't be Miss Rebecca appearing from nowhere this time--she was on a mission, far away, out of reach and unknowing of the current circumstances surrounding her family. Things never went the way they expected; these things always got at least a little out of hand. It was inevitable. It was maddening.

And it was still a shock when the nobleman actually fired his pistol at Jules, tired of waiting for Fogg to talk, and when Fogg shouted "No!" and rushed forward with blinding speed to push Jules out of the way, and when his master fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, suprisingly small for such a tall and strong man.

Neither Jules nor Passepartout hesitated, though, taking that breathless moment of surprise that comes after an action has come to its unexpected end to despatch with the nobleman and as many guards as they could. Passepartout punched and kicked; Jules tripped and found a chair to smash over someone's head. Passepartout was gratified that he was given the chance to knock the nobleman unconscious. The rest of the guards ran away; they were the hired thugs, after all, and with no one left to order them about or pay them, they had no reason to stay and fight. They didn't matter.

It was left to Jules and Passepartout to lift Fogg and carry him to the Aurora. Jules immediately after that ran off to find the nearest physician or at least the nearest house where he could find help, while Passepartout tended to his master as best he could, attempting to staunch the flow of blood from the wound on Fogg's forehead. The gentleman never woke, and Passepartout was gently but forcefully removed from his master's quarters when the doctor and his nurse arrived. There simply wasn't enough room for them all in that cramped space.

And so now Passepartout paced the hallway outside Fogg's room, waiting to see if his master was still alive. He heard a step behind him and turned. Jules, in only billowing shirtsleeves and braces, joined him by the door.

"He'll be alright," the young man said. He had his arms folded in front of him, as if he were hugging himself. "He'll be alright, Passepartout."

Passepartout nodded. "Yes, Master Jules." He looked again at the other Frenchman. "Are *you* being alright?" he added in concern.

Jules nodded distractedly. "I'm fine, Passepartout...are you?"

The valet nodded again and turned back to the door, willing it to open, to let him know. He hated these waiting games. He hated that his master always made him wait. But he did it, as patiently as he could, because there were no other choices.

"I shouldn't have gotten riled up," Master Jules was saying. Passepartout glanced over, saw the intense, inwardly focused look on the writer's face. He was still hugging himself, the top buttons of his shirt loosened to allow him more comfort. Passepartout hoped the young man had neatly laid his coat down, rather than tossing it over a chair, and then chastised himself for such a silly thought when he had more important matters to worry about. "Fogg was giving me a look, telling me to stay calm. He knew it was a trap. He knew that-that--that *man* was waiting for me to make a mistake. And I did. And Fogg..."

Passepartout laid a gentle hand on Jules's shoulder. "Is not your fault, Jules," the manservant said gently.

"But I should have been shot, not Phileas!" Jules stared at the other man, horrified, pleading to have his guilt taken away. Passepartout wished he could do that, but it was only up to Jules. "He shouldn't have jumped in front of me!"

Passepartout shrugged. "Is Master Fogg's way," he said. "Is what he be being best at, Master Jules. We cannot stop him from that, can we?"

Jules nodded, the look on his face crumpling in on itself. He still looked fairly miserable. "You're right, of course, Passepartout," he offered a wan smile. "As always."

Passepartout didn't quite feel up to smiling back. Not yet. "Yes, Master Jules," he said. "You should be sleeping now, after busy night, yes?"

"No," Jules shook his head, leaning against the railing that went along the corridor of the upper floor. "No, Passepartout, I'll wait with you. If you don't mind?"

Passepartout paused, then shook his own head, stepping back so that he stood level with the writer, even if he didn't actually lean against the railing as well. "No no, Master Jules, I don't mind. Company...might be helping."

Jules smiled a little at that but said nothing, for which Passepartout was grateful. He was grateful for the silence and grateful for the company. He usually never had company when he had to wait for his master. But then, usually, Fogg was haring off to do something the others wouldn't like, and therefore wouldn't be allowed to know about. His manservant only knew about them because...well, because he was a manservant and usually already knew what Fogg was going to do anyway. That was the problem with being a manservant, the manservant's curse. You were entrusted with all your master's secrets.

They waited together for an hour or more, sometimes sitting with their backs against the wall, sometimes pacing the floor, sometimes simply standing in place and watching the door. Jules remained quiet, for which Passepartout remained grateful; he didn't feel up to being his usual chatteringly cheerful self. And finally his master's door opened. Passepartout didn't dare speak; he was only a manservant; he waited for Jules to say something.

"Well? Is he--will he be alright?" Jules scrambled up, rather stiffly; he'd been sitting on the floor, legs pulled up to his chest, without moving for quite a while. It had been Passepartout's turn to pace, neatly avoiding the younger man's booted toes. Jules didn't take up much room, but the corridor was narrow.

"He'll be fine, sir," the grizzled old doctor with a splendid pair of muttonchops looked at Jules with kind grey eyes, and then turned the same soothingly competent and clear-eyed gaze on Passepartout when the little valet took an involuntary step of relief forward. "The bullet grazed his forehead but barely even broke skin." The older man paused, resettling his spectacles on his nose. "I don't suppose you'd care to tell me what happened?"

"Er..."

"Hunting accident," Passepartout blurted out before Jules had to stall for too long. The younger Frenchman gave the manservant a wide-eyed, disbelieving look--a hunting accident at night when dressed for dinner?-- but the doctor, glancing between them both, apparently decided to refrain from any comment. Instead he went on, "As I said, it's nothing too serious, though I do ask that you keep him in bed and make sure he gets rest for the next few days. Check on him occasionally, wake him every few hours as he sleeps. He seems a feisty fellow, but I'm sure you both already know how that."

Jules smiled wanly, as he obviously felt he was expected to do, and Passepartout nodded seriously. The physician looked between them again and nodded to himself before continuing his instructions. "After a few days-- no more than two or three, I should think--he can move about a bit, but not too much, I suggest. Will you be remaining in the area for that long?" Passepartout shook his head silently. "Then please make sure his head is attended to by a physician wherever you go next." The nurse slipped through the door behind the older man, carrying his things. "Ahh. Thank you, Elizabeth." The doctor smiled at her, taking his cloak, gloves, and medical bag away from her. He turned back to the Frenchmen. "He is still a bit shaken, I must warn you. He doesn't actually remember the-- accident."

"No remembering?" Passepartout asked anxiously, unable to contain himself at that.

"That's quite common for a head injury," the doctor soothed, "and it's only those few moments he can't recall; he seems to be perfectly lucid in all other regards. He did seem worried about another person--Verne, I think he said the name was...is that either of you?" Jules's face tightened as he nodded. His arms were folded in front of him again. "Ahh. Well. I suggest you go in there and reassure him on the matter of your safety at least. But do let him get some rest as well." The doctor fumbled with his case, switching it from right to left hand, then shook hands with them both, surprising Passepartout. "Good evening, sirs."

Passepartout escorted the physician and nurse out of the Aurora and into their carriage. After making sure they were safely off into the night, he came rattling back up the steps to the second deck of the airship. He could hear his master's strident voice and Jules's softer if deeper tones attempting to calm the gentleman down. Jules had left the door open. Passepartout remained outside the room, listening and waiting.

"The doctor said it was quite common if you didn't remember what happened right before you fainted--"

"I never faint!" The words were snapped out particularly crisply and haughtily.

"Fine, when you were shot unconscious!" Jules shot back.

"Ahh." Passepartout could hear his master subside, retreat, at that. "Yes. I was shot. Of course."

"You remember now?" Jules's voice was quiet now, afraid.

"Of course I remember," was the bad-tempered response, with that odd slurring on 'remember' that sometimes entered Fogg's voice even when he wasn't drunk. It overlay the worry and concern, burying the emotions so they weren't recognizably there unless one knew Phileas Fogg well. Passepartout crept closer and could just see Fogg lying on his bed, wrapped in covers, his head wrapped in white bandages. Jules remained out of sight. "That damned fool was threatening you."

"I was the damned fool for ignoring you," Jules replied soberly. "I shouldn't have let him get to me, but his remarks about the poor and the homeless--"

"I know, Jules," Phileas cut him off. "I should have known better than to try stopping you after you'd gotten started on one of your crusades."

Passepartout heard the younger man's wry laugh. By now, the writer required no more reassurance from the older man, and knew better than to take offence at a remark like that. "The doctor said you should get some rest," Jules said, the shift in his voice indicating he was standing up as he said the words. Passepartout pulled back into the shadows, waiting, almost missing the lengthy pause of silence between Master Jules and Master Fogg. "How do you feel?"

"I have a bloody splitting headache, that's how I feel," Fogg replied. "But I'll be fine. Get some rest yourself, Verne."

"Good night, Fogg."

"Send Passepartout in if you see him?"

"I will."

"Good night, Verne."

Passepartout stepped forward just as Jules was leaving the room, acting for all the world as if he had just now innocently come up the stairs. Master Jules met his eye and gestured behind him discreetly, toward the bed. The writer was looking markedly more cheerful than he had before his conversation with the English gentleman. Passepartout nodded, a trademark grin on his face. Jules smiled back, clasping Passepartout's shoulder before slipping away to the lab.

Passepartout entered his master's room.

"Ahh Passepartout," the Englishman said when he saw his valet. "Would you be so good as to fetch me a glass of water?"

Passepartout nodded wordlessly and went to the pitcher standing on Fogg's dressing table. He poured out a glass and crossed the room, helping his master sit in a more upright position before handing over the glass.

"Thank you," Fogg muttered absently before taking a long draught of the cold water. Passepartout remained by his bedside silently and patiently, waiting. At last Fogg held out the glass for Passepartout to take away and clean.

Passepartout clicked his heels together and bowed his head before taking the glass and picking up the pitcher that needed to be refilled, making his way toward the door and preparing to leave the room.

"I trust you are unhurt?"

The casually quiet words arrested the valet's movement. "Fine, Master," he smiled without turning to face Fogg. "And you, Master?"

"I will be. Thank you for despatching with those brutes so efficiently after I...became indisposed."

"Master Jules helped."

"Of course he did." Passepartout could hear the smile in his master's voice, and Passepartout grinned in agreement. "Nonetheless, thank you, Passepartout."

"You being welcome, Master." The manservant waited a moment, and when Fogg said no more, he glanced over his shoulder and saw that Fogg was already asleep. He smiled softly to himself and left the room on well- trained silent feet (no matter what kind of training it had been) to deposit the glass elsewhere and refill the pitcher. He would spend the rest of the night outside his master's room, in case Fogg needed anything, and to check on Fogg occasionally as the doctor had ordered.

He would wait patiently, as always, until he was needed.