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[personal profile] splinteredstar
this is @kaleran‘s fault. also i wrote this instead of freaking out over a new job.
features: canonical character death, implied suicidal intent, grief, transubstantiation, angst, butterflies.
Once, Cosette remembers later, her Papa had told her about butterflies.


 

Marius hires the best coach, but they are days, even weeks too late. All Cosette can do is stare and weep as her precious Papa smiles and gives up his strength, draped in a blanket like great, limp wings.

Once, Cosette remembers later, they had gone to the gardens. They walked in the gardens often, of course, but this time Cosette had been drawn away into the bushes to look at something - an insect, she thought, but she wasn’t sure, so she got Papa’s attention and asked. Her Papa smiled, and it was the good kind of smile, the one she knew that he meant, so she wasn’t afraid.
“That, my dear, is a caterpillar. It is a very special creature.” Cosette looked down at the bug, her face screwed up in suspicion. It looked strange, but not special. But her papa just smiled wider and gestured to the leaves around the creature. “See, it eats and eats and eats, causing gardeners - such as your uncle and I - great strife in the process,” but he chuckled, and she knew he meant the little creature no harm. Her papa meant no harm to anything, she thought. “But one day, it will stop eating, and seal itself up in a box.”
“Like a coffin?” Cosette gasped, her hands flying to her mouth as she realized she’d spoken out of turn. “I’m very sorry, Papa.”
Papa patted her arm gently. He had large hands, rough and calloused, but they had never been anything but soft to her. “It’s all right, dear. And yes, it is a little bit like a coffin. For the caterpillar goes into its little box, but it does not come out of it. Instead, what emerges is that most graceful and beautiful of creatures - a butterfly.”
Cosette gasped once more, picturing this drab little green creature becoming one of her beloved butterflies. “It turns into a /butterfly/, papa?” She frowned, tilting her head. “Or does the caterpillar die and the butterfly take its place?”
Papa smiled even wider, and took her shoulder to lead her towards a bench nearby. That meant a lesson, she knew, and the sort of lesson she would enjoy. “Well, here is another question. When we take mass, is it bread and wine, or is it the Body and the Blood?”
Cosette blinked, looking down at her hands as she thought. “Well, it is the Body and the Blood, of course, but it is also bread and wine. Oh!” She clapped her hands as she understood. “It is both, then! It dies in one flesh and is reborn in another.”
“Yes, exactly!” Papa gestured back to the bush where Cosette had found the little creature. “For the caterpillar is a blessed creature, to mimic that most sacred ritual - salvation, through which the old greedy flesh dies and is reborn as something beautiful.”
Cosette stared at the little bug, now to her eyes holding all the potential of a present or an unopened book. She smiled widely. “May we come back, Papa, when it is a butterfly?”
Her Papa patted her arm indulgently. “It will be impossible to tell which caterpillar becomes which butterfly, dear, but of course we will come back.”

Cosette does not remember the rest of that day. She hardly remembered that moment until now, standing at her father’s grave and weeping. She remembers it, and cannot help but think over it again and again - was he wistful, as he spoke of the creature no longer eating and sealing itself away? Was it piousness that drove his lesson, or eagerness?
She does not know, and she does. It is both, it is neither, and all she is sure of is that this box will not open up again. Humans are not caterpillars, granted a second life on this Earth after death. Her Papa is in the hands of the Almighty, now, and from there there is no return.
She knows this. She knows this, and yet her heart aches to see her beloved Papa again. And yet, when she looks up to wipe her eyes and sees a butterfly, far out of season - she smiles, just a little. .

 

 

this might be a a complete fic, I'm not sure yet
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