TITLE: Maurice
AUTHOR: Adela Torres, "Daurmith" (daurmith@msn.com)
SUMMARY: As the Foggs hurry back to Paris in a desperate mission, Jules receives an unexpected gift.
CATEGORY: Action / Adventure
CHARACTERS: The whole cast, plus the Aurora, plus, of course, Maurice. Special guest star: Felix Nadar.
ARCHIVE: Certainly. Just tell me where.
DISCLAIMER: All characters but Maurice belong either to themselves or to Talisman. I'm not making any money out of this, nor should anyone.

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A 'Secret Adventures of Jules Verne' fan fic
By Adela Torres "Daurmith"

- Chapter One -
"Once more unto the breach"

All was over bar the screaming. And the screaming was over rather quickly, after Rebecca delivered a carefully gauged kick to the kidneys of one of the men who lay in different states of bruising on the ground.

"Be quiet," she said curtly, without looking. Her attention was centered in a pile of documents she and Phileas had just extracted from a hidden safe box. In front of her, her cousin Phileas, one hip perched on the table, leafed through the papers, frowning.

"These are all in code," he said, absently sorting them out by the type of code. "I'm not up to date in all of them."

"I am," Rebecca said, scanning rapidly through the papers. She knew what she was looking for. Phileas left her to it and turned a deceptively lazy eye towards their prisoners. None of them were in situation to be a problem, but just in case, he let them see his gun, as a reminder of what could happen if one of them but breathed in an ambiguous way.

"Hah," he heard Rebecca say, and turned to her with a raised eyebrow.

"It's as we feared," she explained. "They have been on to us for quite some time. It's a good thing that Chatsworth sent us here so quickly."

"Chatsworth," Phileas said, with contempt. "That idiot would have never seen beyond the end of his own nose if you hadn't shown him the way."

Rebecca didn't answer to this, which surprised Phileas mildly. She normally put up a nominal defense of her boss, for the sake of the Service mostly.

"Oh, Lord," he heard her say. He tensed and turned back towards her. She was bent over one of the documents, and was following a string of symbols with a finger.

"What is it?"

"This... Phileas, this is about Jules."

"Verne? What about him?" They had left him in Paris. They'd had literally no time to tell him they were leaving, and besides, he'd been only marginally involved in this particular affair; it had been months since the last time Verne had been directly involved in one of Rebecca's missions.

"They... I cannot make full sense of it yet, but... Apparently they are aware of the help he gave us in the past. They... I don't quite understand this bit, but here..." Rebecca raised her eyes towards him, and, for the first time during this mission, there was fear in them.

"Phileas, they've ordered his assassination."

* * *

April in Paris. Verne had heard it was supposed to be a charming season, bright and warm, sparkling with romanticism and =bonhomie=. The only thing sparkling so far was the frozen ink in his inkpot. Jules stabbed the small black iceberg to get to the remnant of liquid under it, and succeeded only in splashing some ink on his sleeve.

A French curse echoed through the garret and peeled some paint off the dilapidated walls. Jules took his shirt off and attempted to get rid of the stain. It was his only decent shirt, and he had a class that afternoon.

Someone knocked at his door.

This was unusual. The only people who came to his garret were either his landlady, his friends, debtors, or the Foggs. Both his landlady and his friends never knocked, for different reasons; the debtors normally preferred to shout his name through the keyhole; and the Foggs used the window. This had been a polite, civilized knock. For a moment Jules stood still, shirt in one hand, bar of soap in the other. Then he went to the door and opened it.

In the hall there was a young man, looking only a bit older than Verne himself. He wasn't very tall, and his blonde hair was soft and curly as a baby's. He was a bit on the stocky side, in a solid, well-proportioned way; he reminded Verne of a friendly shepherd dog. His suit was sober and scrupulously clean, of good quality but not extremely so.

All this Verne noticed in a second, before the young man touched his hand to his hat politely.

"Monsieur Jules Verne?"

"Er... Yes?" If he was a debtor, he was by far the most polite Jules had ever met.

"My name is Maurice Varlet. I'm here for the valet position."

"The what?"

"Oh dear. You didn't receive the letter?"

"The what?"

"Oh dear, oh dear... I do apologize. I assumed you already knew." Maurice patted his pockets and finally produced a sealed letter. "My references. They include a copy of my contract with you."

"The wh...?" Realizing at this point that his contribution to the dialogue had been less than brilliant, Jules coughed. "Excuse me. This is all a bit confusing. Why don't you come in and... and explain, Monsieur Varlet?"

"Please, call me Maurice," the young man said, entering the small room. "It's all very simple really, sir. I work for Mssrs. Ardan, Paganel et Montblanche, purveyors of Domestic Service and Sartorial Commodities. I have been assigned to serve you as a valet for the next three months."

"Assigned? By whom?"

"Ah. I'm afraid I cannot disclose the name of my current employer, sir. He wishes to remain anonymous. But I am authorized to tell you that this has been arranged as a modest present to you, with the hopes that you would find my services useful."

Verne dropped his shirt carelessly over the back of his chair and sat at the table, reading the letter.

"These are excellent references," he said, "really impressive. But I fail to see... I mean, it's obvious that I'm not the kind of person who should have a valet."

"My employer feels otherwise," Maurice said, picking up Verne's shirt and folding it carefully. "I am instructed to tell you, should you display reluctance to accept my services, that he believes it to be the only way for you to focus adequately on your impending examinations. I hasten to point out the temporary nature of my appointment, sir. You are under no obligation whatsoever to keep me beyond this period."

"Well, of course. It's just that... A valet..." How like Fogg, to give him this eccentric gift. Because the mysterious employer was certainly Phileas Fogg. No one else Jules knew could have afforded it, nor was likely to have had such idea in the first place. "And has your employer outlined your duties? As you can see, there's not much to do here in the way of service."

"My duties include anything that you feel might help you concentrate in your studies, sir. I will be happy to clean, cook, take care of your clothes, and run errands for you."

Verne almost laughed out loud at this. Fogg had to be kidding.

"Look... Maurice," he said, kindly, "I understand you are in a difficult position here. But this is ridiculous. This place doesn't even =deserve= a cleaning. I have no clothes to speak of: you are holding my only shirt. And as for cooking, well, the presence of food here is so rare that I don't even own a pan. I eat outside. I'm sure your employer means well, but he's sadly misguided this time."

Maurice smiled gently.

"I am aware of all that, sir. I haven't yet mentioned that my wages include a modest but adequate budget to cover the basic necessities for us both during my employment. It's nothing that will allow you to indulge in extravagances, I'm afraid, but will take care, at least, of the cooking problem."

Verne was speechless. Of course, he should have known that Fogg would cover each and every objection he might have had. He was vaguely offended and vaguely amused, and he didn't know exactly what to say to Maurice, who stood there with polite patience, still holding his shirt.

"Well, this is all... I don't really know what to say, Maurice."

"If I might make a suggestion, sir."

"Of course."

"You could have me around for some days, sir. In a probationary fashion. If, after a week or so, my services do not meet with your approval, I will return to Mssrs. Ardan, Paganel and Montblanche. The remainder of my salary and the house budget will be lost, I'm afraid. My current employer does not wish the money to return to him in case I do not finish my assignment."

"Oh." There went his idea of giving Fogg back his valet and his money. The man liked to burn his bridges after him. "Well, I suppose there's no harm in trying. I gave you fair warning, after all."

"Yes, sir. And thank you very much, sir."

"Maurice, you don't have to call me 'sir'."

"It wouldn't be proper, sir."

"Maybe, but I would feel like my father. Call me Jules."


"Look, I'm willing to give this a try for a few days, all right? But for that, you will have to call me Jules. Every time you say 'sir' I feel like I have to turn around and look for my teacher."

Maurice's broad face twitched slightly, apparently caught up in a class conflict; but finally he nodded.

"Very well, s- Jules."

"That's much better. Now, can I have my shirt back, please?"

* * *
End of Chapter One