My usual disclaimers: all copyrights go to those who rightfully own them.

So I've been a Les Mis fan since I was a freshman in high school. One of the things on my bucket list is to see the musical on stage (I've seen the movie and love it). And I've always wondered what would've happened if Valjean had decided to settle the argument that got Fantine fired. So this is a one shot but I might continue the story if people like it.

So enjoy and destroy

Second Chances

Valjean looked up from his account books. What was going on? He could hear the sounds of arguing coming from the factory yard outside. Was there a dispute over the pay? Better settle it now. Getting up and putting on his coat and hat, he went outside.

Outside, the factory girls were circled around two ladies, fighting over what looked like a letter. "What's this fighting all about?" Valjean raised his voice. "This is a factory, not a circus." He went up to one of the ladies and gently pulled her away as Andre, the foreman, pulled apart the other. "Now ladies, settle down." The fight automatically stopped.

He was tempted to leave it to Andre and head back to his accounting. But he caught a sight of how Andre was holding the other woman. Of how he was grabbing her breast and his hand was lower on her hips. Valjean could see it in the woman's big brown eyes. She was afraid and disgusted. He had heard talk about Andre's inappropriate behavior to the women. Her look seemed to confirm it.

He'd handle Andre later. Now he had to settle this argument.

"Will you two ladies come into my office and we'll settle the matter there?" Valjean asked. Andre let the brown eyed woman go. Valjean and the two women walked back to the office.

Fantine felt her heart grow heavy as Monsieur Madeline closed the office door. At least Andre wasn't handling it; he probably would've fired her upon hearing the rumors the other girls were spreading. Of how she was sleeping around…she blinked back tears. She heard of the Mayor's kindness and charity, but still, she was a single mother who bore a child out of wedlock. An invisible badge of shame if there ever was one.

Monsieur Madeline sat at his desk. Fantine and Collette stood before him. She could see the gloating joy in the woman's smug face, the letter clutched in her fist. Collette had never liked her, why, she didn't know.

"Answer me truthfully. What happened?" The Mayor asked in a gentle voice.

Fantine took a deep breath. "We were getting ready to leave when I dropped my letter. Collette snatched it up and began reading it aloud. I tried to get it back."

"Is this true?" the Mayor turned to Collette.

"Yes, but I've learned something very interesting. She's got some little kid. I've got the proof right here." Colette held up the letter proudly. "You can bet she's been earning her keep selling herself like a common gutter slut. Thought it would bring shame upon your factory, sir."

Fantine felt a tear escape. Of course it wasn't true. She'd never stoop that low. Not even if times were hard. But the secret she had kept was out now.

The Mayor was looking at Fantine. To her surprise, it was a sympathetic look instead of the condemning one she was expecting. "Would you like to talk about it privately with me?" The Mayor asked in a low voice. Unable to speak, Fantine nodded. "Collette, will you please leave us?" Collette, still smug and satisfied, left, closing the door behind her. Fantine began to cry, unable to hold it back anymore. "It's all right." The Mayor got up and put a hand on her shoulder. It was a kind touch. "Come here, let's sit somewhere more comfortable." He led her to a pair of comfortable chairs by the window. "Here," he passed her his handkerchief. She wiped her face and blew her nose. "It's true about the child?" The question was asked kindly.

Fantine nodded. "I couldn't afford to take care of her by myself so she lives with an innkeeper and I pay for her keep. I haven't seen her since she was a toddler."

"What's her name?" The Mayor asked gently.

"Cosette." Fantine took a deep breath.

"You love and care about her very much don't you?" The Mayor put a hand on her shoulder.

"She's my whole world. The only reason I'm still alive is because of her."

There was silence for a few minutes. "What's your name?"

"Fantine." She replied.

"Fantine, I'm afraid I can't let you work in my factory anymore." Her face fell, all of that for nothing. Now what was she going to do? "Because I have a better job to offer you. One that will not only allow you to earn a living but also take care of Cosette." Fantine looked up, curious. "I'm in need of a housekeeper. Somebody to keep everything in order while I'm traveling. You will earn not only your keep and a monthly salary but Cosette will be living with you. Will that be satisfactory?"

Fantine smiled. It looked like things were looking up after all. "Yes, thank you so much, Monsieur la Mayor."

The Mayor smiled. "Just promise me you'll take very good care of Cosette."