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War of Hearts

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October 1799. Napoleon had just come back safe and sound from Egypt. The Muiron, his favourite frigate (that he named after his aide-de-camp that died taking the bullet that would have otherwise killed him), just dropped anchor in Fréjus. He had escaped the debacle by next to nothing and he knew it. His idea to leave Alexandria even though admiral Nelson’s fleet infested the waters of the Mediterranean Sea made him look like a fool if not like a suicidal man in the eyes of his troops. Of course the idea was bold, of course it was double or nothing, but Napoléon has always believed in his lucky star. He knew nothing could happen to him as long as it shone upon him. It was his destiny.

 

Come to me
In the night hours
I will wait for you 
And I can’t sleep
Cause thoughts devour
Thoughts of you consume

On the ride back to Paris, Napoléon’s mind boiled as he thought about his wife. Josephine. His adulteress, manipulative, gold digger wife. His beloved Josephine. The most beautiful creature he ever had the chance to lay his eyes upon. The mother of his children: his beautiful Hortense and his already magnificent Eugene. He loved them more than anything else in the world, more so than his wonderful creole.

Sorrow consumed his heart as much as it burnt through his soul at the thought of being infatuated to the point of madness with such an unfaithful woman. She had cheated on him many times, more than he could ever count, sometimes leaving his letters unanswered for weeks, sometimes writing lies she probably thought he couldn’t make out. He missed her still. When she couldn’t head south and meet him in Toulon, he knew she didn’t want to come. Yet he loved her still. He wasn’t really sure about why his heart refused to let her go, but no matter what he felt, he knew he had to make a choice. He knew he couldn’t let himself wallow in self-pity anymore.  After all, wasn’t he destined to have the brightest future one ever had ? How could he let love obstruct his ascent ?  

Asking himself these questions over and over again was driving him crazy. Asking for advice wasn’t an option. He didn’t need advice. He needed justice. Retaliation he had made by being unfaithful with the delicate Pauline Fourès back in Egypt. He wasn’t looking for vengeance anymore. He wanted to crush Josephine with shame and pain, to make her understand what it was to be cheated on for years, to show her what it made to him to be madly in love with the cause of his affliction. He wanted justice, and justice he would have. His decision was made. As soon as he would be in Paris, he would find Josephine and divorce her.

 

I can't help but love you
Even though I try not to
I can't help but want you
I know that I'd die without you

 

Barras knew everything, and how could he not - wasn’t he one of Josephine’s many paramour after all ? He had listened to Napoleon’s every complain since he came back from Egypt. He felt relieved: the ever so threatening military man, a brilliant strategist according to people (even if Barras would rather call him a reckless fool), was on the verge of sinking into depression and insanity. “Remain philosophical” he used to tell him whenever Napoleon came whining in his office. After all, no matter how great an opinion a man had on himself, marrying an infamous adulteress remained a senseless move to everyone else. However, he couldn’t disagree with Napoléon’s wish to divorce Josephine, as he was a man who claimed he wasn’t one for feelings.

Back in their Chateau de Malmaison, ready to tell Josephine about his decision, Napoleon found nothing but silence. She was gone. For how long, he didn’t know, and she might as well never come back at all for what he knew. So he decided to cloister himself away from the world, as she was his whole world. He spent the first day locked in his office, only leaving at dusk to reach his bedroom and to lay in their cold, empty bed. He sent away every servant that came to him and threatened to dismiss the ones that still came back. If he couldn’t have Josephine, then he would rather have no one. He preferred being alone than in bad company even if it meant being lonely. He would grow accustomed to it somehow.


Stay with me a little longer
I will wait for you
Shadows creep
And want grows stronger
Deeper than the truth

On the fourth day, Napoléon exited his bubble of loneliness and asked to his servant to close the doors of the chateau, especially if Josephine dared to come back. He didn’t want to see her anymore. He didn’t want to hear about her anymore. He had been betrayed many times over and she had to pay for what she had done to him. He highly doubted that she would come back any time soon, but this time, for once in his life, he could use caution. Napoleon knew she was a poison, he knew her ways, he knew if he let her in he would succumb to her charms again. As for everyone else, he wasn’t in the mood to receive them anyway.

On the morning of the fifth day, Napoleon’s eyes opened abruptly when he heard a familiar voice coming from afar. After a third sleepless night, his head felt weighty. His mind, even if in constant contemplation, felt muddled. His body, that had slimmed again due to his refusal to eat, was a burden he struggled to carry around. But when he heard that voice, he almost ran to the nearest balcony where he knew nobody could see him to make sure he didn’t mishear. A silent sigh escaped him when he saw his beautiful wife at the door. She was back.


I can’t help but be wrong in the dark
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts
I can’t help but want oceans to part
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts

 

 

He asked the servants to tell her to go away, to tell her that he no longer wanted to see her. She came back, one day after the other, to supplicate him to take her back. She swore she would be faithful, she swore she would follow him everywhere. Napoleon knew better. He closed his heart and his ears and asked his lucky star to make her leave. She left. The next day, she was back with Hortense and Eugene. Such a treacherous woman, to bring their children as a way of exerting pressure. He wouldn’t yield. He couldn’t yield. After spending her day using his sweet children as emotional blackmail, she left again.

Napoleon, head in his hands, was feeling his sanity slip away little by little, like droplets escaping from the tiniest crack of a glass. Brows furrowed in an attempt to silence his mind, he was within an inch of pulling his hair out. He didn’t understand why he was so deeply in love with Josephine when all she wanted was to make the better of his fame and fortune. He had a great future ahead of him, yet he longed for what he couldn’t have. His heart ached more with every second that he spent far from her. His will not to cry hung by a thread, only held up by the last of his pride.


I can't help but love you
Even though I try not to
I can't help but want you
I know that I'd die without you

Alone in his office, Napoleon was ready to face Josephine. She was back at last, and his heart could not take any more of her torture. Slowly, he rose from his chair, clutching the table with shaking hands. Trying to breathe normally, he straightened and turned towards the door. He needed to see her, to embrace her, to kiss her. It would be the last things he would do before divorcing her. Napoleon swallowed hard and walked to the door, soon grabbing the handle. He was about to turn it when he heard a soft noise coming from behind him. Swiftly grabbing the pistol he always had on him, he aimed at the intruder. He frowned, confused.

“Arno.” It was barely a whisper. Napoleon lowered his arm and put the gun back in his belt. He turned around, now facing the assassin.

“God, Napoleon..”

Arno graciously leapt from the ledge of the window and took the few steps that separated him from his friend. He couldn’t believe his eyes. The commander he used to know was no more; before him stood his ghost. His face was livid, his cheeks gaunt, he had shadows under his reddened eyes, which seemed to be a dull grey rather than their usual bright blue. His clothes were wrinkled as if he had slept in them and his long hair was tousled as if he had brushed his fingers in them hysterically.

“Good God.. What happened to you ?” Arno cupped Napoleon’s face gently, a concerned look on his face.

Napoleon smiled weakly before closing his eyes, two tears escaping them and rolling down his cheeks. No matter how hard he had tried, his last night had been spent sobbing to the unbearable heartache that he brought upon himself. He didn’t care about his pride or self-esteem anymore. He wasn’t afraid of shame either, he bathed in it since France knew of his unfaithful wife. What he couldn’t bear, though, was the harrowing experience of feeling vulnerable. Of course, Arno was no stranger, but he felt naked in front of him.

 

Tears started filling his eyes once more and Napoleon felt defeated. Maybe his lucky star had abandoned him, after all. He had won wars people believed beyond all hopes, lost close friends because of his fearlessness. His outer shell was the strongest. Except that inside, he was the weakest bastard he could have imagined.

“Have you been eating ?” Arno grabbed Napoleon’s arm and slowly guided him through the corridor that separated them to the bedroom. He knew the place by heart. “Did you sleep at all ?”

“Arno, I don’t need your help.” He breathed, tired. “Please, leave. I have more important matter to deal with.”

He lost the only war that ever mattered to him. The war of hearts.

“I’m afraid I can’t, my friend.”

He sat on his bed and sighed wearily. He hated when the assassin used this nickname. Arno sat next to him and slid his hand on his cheek again. Napoleon pushed the hand aside.

“Arno, I have other things to do.”

“Napoleon, stop being childish. I know Josephine came back.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You know very well I do. Elise was the love of my life, just as Josephine is yours.”

“Then let me see her.”

“I heard you talk about divorce.”

Napoleon felt a faint anger rise in him. “Forgive me, my friend, but it does not regard you.”

“I..” Arno frowned, displeased. “I was there for you before you married her.”

“And this marriage is why we stopped seeing each other.” Napoleon stood, his face reddening with indignation. “I did not ask for any help, neither did I ask for your advice.” He breathed deeply. “Arno, my friend, don’t make this more difficult than it already is. I can take care of myself.”

“You clearly can’t.” A small smile brightened Arno’s features. “How many kilos have you lost ? When was the last time you slept ?”

“Let’s.. Not talk about that.” Napoleon winced, sitting back down next to his friend. “It has been a long time.”

“I was busy.”

“How did you know I was back from Egypt ?”

“I know a lot more than what you think.”

“It’s strange, I was about to say the exact same thing.” A mischievous grin stretched Napoleon’s lips. “Out of every day you could have chosen to come back into my life, you chose today.”

“It seems I couldn’t have picked a better one.” Arno softly put his hand on Napoleon’s knee, slightly leaning toward him. “Don’t you think, my friend ?”

“This is debatable.” Napoleon murmured before gently pressing his lips against Arno’s.

 

I can’t help but be wrong in the dark
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts
I can’t help but want oceans to part
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts

 

“Are you really divorcing her ?”

Napoleon hummed in a non-answer, still looking at the ceiling. The open window let in a light breeze that carried the sounds of nature and that cooled their skin barely covered by the bedsheets.

“How did you come in, I told my servants not to let anyone in ?”

“They didn’t let me in.”

The commander smiled. Maybe his lucky star still shone upon him. Maybe this battle was lost, but the war was yet to win.

 

I can't help but love you
Even though I try not to
I can't help but want you
I know that I'd die without you