The next thing Enjolras knows, someone is very inconsiderately shining a light in his eyes. Groaning does not make them go away, but it does wake him up enough that he realizes his head hurts. He manages to squint after a few moments, in case being able to see the person with the light will encourage them to stop.
There is no one there. It's just morning. The light does not help his head. He is apparently sitting in a chair, but that's confusing, as he doesn't have a chair suitable for sleeping. Even more confusing is that there is a man, apparently asleep, by the chair. Upon examination, this man is revealed to be Grantaire. That makes absolutely no sense, and, when considered in conjunction with the chair, gives Enjolras the feeling that he may be dreaming.
When he stands to look around this place, he learns that standing is not good for his head, and realizes that, for whatever reason, he is in Combeferre's apartment. As he believes he is dreaming, he shrugs slightly -- another bad move for the head -- and opens the door to Chantal's room. The scene inside assures him that this is not only a dream but a nightmare: Combeferre and Chantal are sharing a bed in a state of dishabille. It does not shock him, because, after all, it is just a dream. He shuts the door quietly; no use in waking up nightmare versions of his sister and best friend, especially since they have been doing wholly inappropriate things. He shakes his head, wondering why he is dreaming this. In the room whose silence is broken only by the even breathing of Grantaire, he can hear, far off, a tocsin.
That identifies the dream for him. It is another 'overslept and missed the barricade' dream. He has been having this nearly every night for a week. The little tangent with Chantal and Combeferre is a relatively new twist, and particularly cruel. He must have eaten something that disagreed with him last night, but he cannot recall what that might have been. He rolls his eyes and sits down in the chair where he first woke up, hoping that if he goes to sleep in the dream he will wake up somewhere considerably more pleasant. After making mental lists of all the men and guns who will be needed for a revolution, he falls back asleep.
Some time later, Combeferre quietly opens the door between Chantal's room and his, and looks in to check on his guests.
Enjolras snores gently, head back, in the chair where he collapsed last night. There is no obvious change there.
Grantaire is on his feet, hands in his pockets, trying to shrug the kinks out of his back and shoulders, and peering at the textbook left open on the desk without a great deal of curiosity. He looks up as the door opens, blinks at his tousled host, and after a moment grins crookedly. "Good morning."
Combeferre half-smiles, looking slightly embarrassed. "Is it?" He adjusts his shirt slightly self-consciously, though he was perfectly confident of its respectable appearance before he opened the door. "No one dead yet, I hope?" It is an almost pathetic attempt to move attention away from himself, the door, the room beyond, and Chantal. He says it in a relatively light tone, but he's worried. "Marcelin is still asleep?" That's not really a question. It's rather obvious.
Grantaire's expression grows distinctly more wry, though no less amused. "I won't tell on you, if that's what you mean."
Combeferre blushes bright red and almost involuntarily looks back into the room where Chantal is. He clears his throat, trying to collect words. They run away from him. He looks at Marcelin again to reassure himself, and thereby gains the strength to answer feebly, "I'd be much obliged."
Grantaire chuckles quietly. "You're disillusioning me terribly, you know, the two of you."
Combeferre thinks first of Chantal. Pardon him, he's fixated, or in love, or whatever the difference is. "Oh, you thought you..." he trails off as the actual person in question takes a rumbling breath and catches his attention. "Oh." That brings a little more reality back, which is a shame, because it was a short honeymoon. Combeferre tries to look debonair, or rakish, or anything other than upstanding and pure. "I'm not really a saint, you know. I love her."
Grantaire ducks his head briefly in a spasm of stifled mirth. Looking up again, he reaches out to cuff Combeferre's shoulder lightly. "Yes. I know. I'm relieved." A fleeting glance at the sleeper. "One tower of purity is enough."
Combeferre does not become any less red at this affection. "But he isn't, is he?" The uncomfortable memory of leading Marcelin home, stumbling step by staggering lurch, returns full blast and drives out more pleasant contemplations of the afternoon and evening. "He was drinking." There is no good reason for him to sound horrified, but he does.
Grantaire says, deadpan, "Happens to the best of us."
Combeferre raises an eyebrow. "I know. I have indulged myself on occasion. But have you considered how unpleasant he will be with a hangover?"
That gets another chuckle, though it's rueful. "There's a frightening thought."
Combeferre clears his throat. "You're frightened by it?" He grins slightly. "What did you do last night, sleep with his mother?"
Grantaire aims another cuff, grinning. "You jest. Have you met his mother?" Then, more kindly, "What he doesn't know won't hurt him. And even so..." He shrugs.
Combeferre looks down at the floor. "I've met his mother, yes. We both survived the experience, but she didn't seem your type." He shakes his head. "I only wish he'd understand, so I wouldn't have to hide this."
"It's his sister," Grantaire says, more because defending Enjolras is as much a habit as poking fun at him than because he disagrees. "God knows, if he thought anyone was good enough for her, it would be you."
Combeferre looks up at the slight bitterness in Grantaire's voice. "Thank you. I think." He almost smiles. "Look how this has brought you two together. You've been in the same room for almost twelve hours, and neither of you is dead yet."
Grantaire chuckles again, still more ruefully. "One or both of us has been asleep the entire time, that's how." He leans on the back of the chair precariously.
Combeferre nods. "It does make it easier to get along if you're asleep." He still seems to be fretting. "Do you think he'll forgive us?"
Grantaire quirks a brow. "He's hardly in a position not to. He hasn't behaved so well himself, has he?"
"His, ah, transgression was of a much more individual nature." Poor Combeferre. He's very upset about this, though it all seemed like a good idea at the time. "Besides, he couldn't have hurt anyone else by what he did." His knees give out and he sits on the bed. "Lord, what would his mother say?"
"To him or to you?" Grantaire straightens, turns the chair around, sits in it. "I have no idea."
This does not help at all. "What have I done?" as if it was entirely his idea. He puts his head in his hands. "Maybe I should go back to the barricade. If I fight there, at least Marcelin will have a reason not to hate me to balance this."
Grantaire sighs. "Look, mon ami, there's no point in ruining a perfectly nice interlude with morbid guilt."
Combeferre doesn't look up. "I know. But I can't help it." This is too much for him to deal with alone. He looks up just enough to call, "Chantal?"
There is a muffled "mmph" from within, and then, sleepily, "Yes?"
Combeferre asks, in a rather uneven voice, "Could you come and talk to me, please?"
"Oh...." A pause. "All right." There is then a longer pause, and presently Chantal slips out of the inner room, her boy's clothes rumpled but on. She glances at him, then at Grantaire, and blushes.
"It's all right." The words may be comforting, but the tone isn't. Combeferre pats a place on the bed next to him. "Please, sit down." He pauses, then says, "I'm sorry, Chantal."
Chantal crosses to perch beside him, slanting an uncertain glance at her oblivious brother, and then looks swiftly back. "Why? What for?"
Combeferre can't say that. He can only look at her, crestfallen.
Grantaire starts to comment, then shuts up again.
Chantal frowns anxiously up at Combeferre, her hand stealing out to find his.
Combeferre takes her hand gratefully and sighs, trying to smile to reassure her. "I suppose if you can't think of any reason I should be sorry, there is no reason."
Chantal nods a little, and leans over to embrace him.
Grantaire politely glances aside.
Enjolras's breathing catches slightly. It looks as if he's awake, now. Sounds that way, too, since he's groaning. He puts a hand to his head and asks, "What happened to me last night? What a dream. What a headache!"
Combeferre lets go of Chantal as quickly as if she'd bit him. "I believe you were drunk, Marcelin."
"Good morning," Grantaire drawls, with more pronounced irony than he gave Combeferre.
Chantal jumps, pinkening somewhat, and sits back a little.
"That's ridiculous," Enjolras says incredulously, and sits up slightly, opening his eyes. "What am I doing here?" He blinks at the three people in the room -- Grantaire? -- and then remembers vague bits of the day before. "Oh. Of course. I was drunk." He asks Grantaire in an unpleasant tone, "Does drinking give you bad dreams and headaches?"
"Only in excess," returns Grantaire angelically.
Enjolras blinks at the innocent tone, trying to figure out whether he's joking or not. "No, really. Does it give you bad dreams?"
Chantal slants a wry conspirator's look at Combeferre.
Combeferre points out delicately, "Marcelin, you're not used to drinking. Almost any amount could be too much for you, and you weren't being careful." He puts a hand on Chantal's knee to quell her, in case such a thing is necessary.
Grantaire murmurs, "There's that."
Chantal, however, is being quiet. Very quiet.
Enjolras covers his eyes to keep out the light. "That must be it, then." He misses the little exchange between Chantal and Combeferre, which is probably all to the good. "Any word from the barricade?"
Combeferre looks to Grantaire, who was, after all, up first. "The door was locked all night..."
"No," Grantaire says tiredly, and leans back in his seat a little, expression grim. "I think they probably have other things to think about."
Enjolras uncovers his eyes. He is, obviously, not happy about being here. "Damn it, Chantal, why couldn't you just listen to me?"
Chantal scowls. "Why should I when you don't listen to me?" Lovely. They're back to that again.
Enjolras glares, but that lets too much light into his eyes, and makes him squint. "I know more about this whole thing, this city, that barricade, than you do. I knew what I was doing, what I'd be doing right now if it wasn't for some upstart girl who wants to die for no good reason other than to annoy me!"
Combeferre begins to consider confessing, if only to change the subject and bring some of this irritation toward him. "You're being a fool," he points out. "She knew what she was doing, maybe more than you did."
Chantal is scarlet again, for rather a different reason than before. "I --" And then Combeferre, as usual, says it for her. "Yes, I did. I keep telling you I'm not stupid!"
Grantaire keeps out of it for the moment, tsking quietly.
"Then stop telling me and act!" Intending to take his own advice, Enjolras stands. He brings a hand to his forehead, but starts heading for the door. "I know where I am needed, and it certainly isn't here." He waves his free hand at Combeferre and Grantaire. "Stay with your nannies where it's safe, Chantoinette." The nickname does nothing to soften the insult.
That does it. Chantal shoots to her feet and flings herself on her brother, with fingernails aiming for his face. "You--!!!"
Combeferre stands, trying to hold Chantal back with a hand on her arm. He's ready to stop Marcelin any way he can. "I am no one's nanny," he says in a deceptively calm voice. "You have no idea of anything but what happens in your own head."
Enjolras tries to nimbly dodge her, but runs into the wall, because it is surpassingly difficult to be agile when one is seeing red and cannot think. "Chantal! Stop this at once!" Combeferre's admonitions go completely unnoticed.
Grantaire blinks. "Now, children." It's said very quietly, though, so it might not be heard, particularly since Chantal is still shouting somewhat incoherently as she pulls free of Combeferre. "You don't! You don't know anything! You never listen to me and you don't, you don't understand, don't tell me what to do!"
Enjolras tries to open the door and leave, but finds it still locked. "Stop this!" he tries, again, louder, as if that will help.
"Stop what!" she flings at him. "Stop telling you how miserable you're being!"
Combeferre actually raises his voice, to a rather impressive level. "Quiet, both of you!"
Enjolras, surprised by this, falls silent and looks at Combeferre curiously.
Grantaire raises his eyebrows, impressed.
Chantal subsides to the point of not yelling any more, though she's still breathing hard and scowling for all she's worth, and still looks as though she'll sock her brother at the slightest provocation.
Combeferre lets the silence sit for a moment, then says, "You're both being childish, and neither of you is going anywhere." Despite what he said about not being a nanny, that's precisely the tone he's using. "Sit down, Marcelin. You're hung over, and going out and getting shot is not going to be good for your head." He regards Chantal for a moment, then says, slightly more gently, "Chantal, he has a right to be upset. We've been planning that barricade for years. Sit down. I think we all need to talk." He follows his own orders and sits on the bed.
Chantal mutters something about boys and idiots, but she does sit.
Grantaire says helpfully to Enjolras, "Cold water."
Enjolras looks at the chair, and realizes that there must be something pounding on his head. It seems an inordinate distance to walk, and no one will open the door while it's locked, so he sits on the floor and leans against it. "I don't think I could find water at the moment," he says in a rather weak voice, then looks up at Combeferre and asks, "What are we discussing?"
Combeferre was rather hoping that that question would be considerably more delayed. "Well, what we're going to do today."
Grantaire gets a mischievous glint in his eye, but wisely keeps his mouth shut.
Enjolras sighs. "I want to go back to sleep again." He hears himself add the last word. "I mean, I had this dream that I woke up early this morning, and went back to sleep. It was quite odd." He winces and closes his eyes.
Grantaire observes the wince. Glances to Combeferre.
Chantal has fallen silent again, which may be as well. She sits with her hands tucked between her knees, still frowning.
"Sleeping is a possibility." Combeferre studiously avoids looking at anything but the door above Enjolras's head. "Was it that bad of a dream?"
The answer is abrupt at first. "God yes." Enjolras thinks about it, wincing again. "It was strange, really, because I dreamed I was here, sleeping in that chair," he points to it, "and Grantaire was, for whatever reason, sleeping on the floor. And you and Chantal were sharing a bed." That's amusing enough, in the light of day, to make him laugh. For a moment, he misses the looks on everyone else's faces.
Whereupon Chantal goes white.
Grantaire masks a cough quite skilfully, all things considered, and takes a breath, trying rapidly to think of something to say.
Combeferre turns bright red and looks away. The direction he picks is, unfortunately, also the direction of the door to Chantal's room. "How odd," he says in a very hollow voice.
"Yes, isn't it?" Enjolras stops laughing, and realizes that they're all uncomfortable for some strange reason. He sobers quickly. "What did I say?"
"Nothing," Grantaire says valiantly, and only an eyeblink too quickly. "Is there cold water in the house, Combeferre?"
Combeferre grabs this new conversational topic, too hastily. "Yes! Yes. The concierge ought to have some."
Enjolras looks from Grantaire to Combeferre. "It's not that important. What's wrong with you?" He sighs. "I'm sorry I got so upset. Chantal, forgive me. I worry about you."
"I could," Grantaire says carefully, "go down and ask her."
Chantal goes slowly from white to pink. "I know," she says faintly.
Enjolras narrows his eyes and looks at her. "Well, if that's not the problem, what is?"
"I just..." Her voice is trembling slightly. "I just wish you'd t-trust me, is all..."
Combeferre's conscience is poking him very hard. He looks at Chantal, nervously, then begins to say, "Marcelin..."
Grantaire has gotten to his feet, but now he pauses beside the chair, not at all sure he wants to leave them alone at this juncture.
"What?" The fact that Combeferre sounds hesitant is enough to set Enjolras on edge.
Chantal is doing her best to look innocent and relaxed. We've established that she's a terrible actress.
Combeferre looks at the door again, avoiding Enjolras's gaze. "I'm in love with Chantal," he says as calmly as he can, which isn't really all that calmly. It's not as if it's a secret. After all, he told her enough times last night.
Chantal's hand creeps out to take his again.
Enjolras tries to get to his feet very quickly, but nearly falls over the first time. The second time, he manages it, and gasps out, "You what?"
Combeferre takes Chantal's hand, meets Enjolras's gaze, and says, more firmly, "I love Chantal."
Grantaire watches them keenly, silent.
Chantal lifts her chin, though she's blushing again.
Enjolras looks at Chantal. "And you don't object to this?"
Grantaire can only keep his mouth shut just so long. "Not everyone," he cuts in dryly, "finds the concept as repellent as you do."
The comment sails right past Enjolras without even going in one ear. He's waiting for Chantal's response.
Chantal stares at him for a minute. Starts to speak, and stops, finding she has no breath with which to do so. She presses against Combeferre's side, looking away from all of them briefly.
Combeferre puts an arm around her, asking, "Chantal?" He sounds frightened. Obviously, she's not rejecting him, but he doesn't exactly want to face Enjolras alone. Enjolras looks from Chantal to Combeferre and waits.
Presently Chantal says in a rather flat tone of voice, "Why would I object?"
That is a good question. "I don't know." In a slightly more vexed tone, Enjolras adds, "You seem to object to many things that are good for you."
Combeferre's mouth falls open slightly. He stares at Enjolras and, after a moment or two, manages to ask hoarsely, "Marcelin?" as if he's making sure he's brought the right person home.
Chantal raises her head slowly. "You... don't... mind?" she says faintly.
Enjolras doesn't exactly smile. "What good would that do me?" He shakes his head. "You have been clinging to him like ivy ever since you got here, Chantal, and I know you always wanted to meet him. And you, Combeferre," with more of a smile, "of all of the pathetic schoolboys with nowhere to go, you take in my sister?" The smile goes as quickly as it came. "I wasn't dreaming this morning." That's not really a question. "You ought to be more careful."
Combeferre blushes bright red and looks away. "You're right. We should have had more sense."
Enjolras says, as lightly as he can, "I suppose you'll have to marry her, then." He pauses for emphasis. "It's the only proper thing to do."
Combeferre looks much less pleased by that, not because he hasn't considered the prospect, but because he's sure that, between Enjolras and his mother, it will happen.
Grantaire raises his eyebrows, and regards Combeferre in some amusement.
Chantal goes from white to crimson, and then white again. She sways, suddenly dizzied by all this, and clutches at Combeferre's hand.
"Is something wrong, Chantal?" Enjolras asks, still in the same stern tone.
Combeferre puts an arm around her shoulders. "Maybe she's a little surprised that you want her married off, Marcelin. It's rather sudden, isn't it?"
Enjolras answers evenly, "Not at all. Someone needs to take care of her during this turmoil." He looks at Combeferre, the obvious designee. "And I must go and help."
Chantal takes in a shaking breath, and leans against Combeferre, trying to steady herself.
"Why?" inquires Grantaire pleasantly.
Enjolras's chin could hardly be any higher at this point. He's looking quite noble, even though he should, by all rights, be staying home. "They need me. I am responsible for this uprising. I can bring more men to its side, to the barricade. More ammunition. If I stay here, I am worse than useless, for I have betrayed my comrades-in-arms."
Combeferre cradles Chantal in his arms. "I don't understand how it would be any worse to leave them than to leave your sister. After all, you are already here."
Grantaire puts in, "If she's going to marry him, I should think she'd rather have you attending than dead or in prison."
Enjolras shows no sign of changing his mind. "I must go. If I do not, every single death will be on my head."
Grantaire says coolly, "You might have thought of that before you went off and started this."
Combeferre takes a deep breath. "Come home again, Marcelin," he says, before Enjolras can become too angry at Grantaire. "I don't want to have to explain this to your mother."
Chantal is oddly quiet. Nestled in Combeferre's arms, she has unobtrusively lost consciousness.
Enjolras, whose cheek is pink with anger, loses the tension in his shoulders at Combeferre's words. "Will you take care of her for me?" He has stopped commanding and begun beseeching.
Combeferre nods. "Come home. That is all I ask."
"He will." It's Grantaire, and he sounds as absolute as Enjolras ever did in his most high-flown moments.
Enjolras is slightly taken aback that Grantaire, of all people, is answering for him, and echoes, "I will." With a glance toward the door, he asks, "Who has the key?"
Wordlessly, Grantaire extracts the key from his pocket and goes to unlock the door.
Combeferre strokes Chantal's hair back from her forehead. "Poor Chantal. She must be exhausted."
Enjolras actually smiles at Grantaire. "Merci." He turns back to the room just before he leaves, and says, "And thank you, Combeferre. Goodbye. I will see you. Soon."
"We had better. Take care of yourself, Marcelin."
Grantaire merely dips his head in acknowledgement, as one does when graced by a demigod's favor, and holds the door open.
Enjolras strides out of the door.
Grantaire tosses the key to Combeferre, and heads out after him, shutting the door neatly.
Combeferre shakes his head. "They're both insane," he tells Chantal in a quiet voice. "I only hope they're careful."
... Previous ... Book One ... Table of Contents ... Next ...