47. Delphine


Perhaps it is not surprising that Enjolras is awake in the middle of the night, for he has not slept well in several weeks, whatever bed he has occupied. He is unwilling to be alone in his insomnia and shakes his companion's shoulder. "Wake up. I have to talk to you."

Grantaire shifts, sighing, and turns over to blink at him fuzzily. "Hm?"

"I think -- no. I know that this has been very pleasant, but it -- it's not right. I don't think it should go on."

Another blink, barely less groggy. "...What?"

"This should not be as comfortable as it is," Enjolras says, trying again. "I cannot, in good conscience, do this anymore."

Grantaire buries his face in the pillow a moment, with an inarticulate noise. Surfacing, "What're you bothering about now?"

Enjolras sits up and begins setting his clothing to rights. "I wanted to thank you for everything. It has been -- I have no words. But it should not have been good. It will be so hard to forget this."

"What?" Grantaire scrubs a hand across his eyes, and tries to sit up a bit.

"This is not right, no matter how much I like it or how much you do." Enjolras looks for his shoes. "Perhaps, given time, I can forget."

Another blink. "...What are you saying?"

"For my benefit, and for yours, I shan't be here again." Enjolras pulls on his coat.

Grantaire goes still. After a moment he remembers to breathe. "What--" He sits up further, catching at Enjolras's arm. "I don't-- look, it's late, you can't go anywhere at this hour--"

Enjolras turns away from him. "I can go home." His voice is quieter and rougher than it has been since he woke.

In half a voice, "Why?"

"I told you." The answer is choked. "This cannot continue."

Grantaire watches him in stricken silence.

Enjolras pauses by the door and stares at it. "I will see you in passing, I'm sure. Be careful." He opens the door.

"Careful?" echoes Grantaire incredulously, and starts to stand. "Marcelin--"

"Mon Dieu." Enjolras stops in the doorway. "Don't ask me to stay. Please."

Grantaire takes in a shaky breath. "Would it make any difference if I did?"

"I don't know if I could leave," Enjolras admits, putting one hand on the doorframe. "I don't want to go."

"I don't want you to." Grantaire reaches for his pants, without quite taking his eyes off Enjolras. "Tell me what I've done-- or haven't done--"

"You've done nothing wrong and left nothing undone that I requested or wanted." Enjolras's hand tightens on the doorframe, but he does not retreat into the room. "If I could stay with you and believe myself a good man, I would."

"Why in God's name can't you?"

Enjolras hits his hand against the doorframe. "This is wrong."

Grantaire flinches slightly, and looks away.

"I want to stay." Enjolras's shoulders slouch. "I want to, but it would betray you."

"Me?" Grantaire stares at him a moment. "Oh, God. Listen--" and he gets to his feet, crossing to rest a hand on Enjolras's shoulder. "Listen to me, fair haired boy. You have no idea--"

Enjolras steps into the hallway. "Please don't." The request is quiet and heavy with emotion.

Desperately: "I love you."

"You shouldn't."

"Maybe not. I can't help that." Grantaire tries once more to catch his sleeve. "I know-- I know you don't-- but not like this, Marcelin, don't do it like this. Please."

Enjolras turns back toward the room. His head is bowed, which does not obscure the fact that his cheeks are wet. "How would you have me do this? I may never find the resolve again."

A hesitation. "Would that be so bad?"

"Yes. It would be wrong."


Enjolras shakes his head. "This is unnatural. It should never have happened in the first place. If it hadn't, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't want to stay."

Grantaire says nothing.

"Goodbye." Enjolras backs toward the open door.

"Don't." But it's very soft, barely above a breath, and without much hope.

"I must."

Grantaire watches him in something like despair. "I love you," he says again, quietly.

Enjolras nods, then leaves.

Delphine, a dark haired young lady with a long, narrow nose and dimpled cheeks, is sitting alone in a dingy cafe with a book and a glass of wine. The book is a medieval romance, the wine is a watered down table wine.

She is approached by a young man with a book under his arm and a glass full of something that is certainly alcoholic, and more so than wine. "May I join you, mademoiselle?" To lessen the brashness of this approach, he half-bows to her, averting his eyes from her table.

Delphine looks up. "Oh! Ce-certainly." A thinly disguised attempt not to look overeager. She closes the book and tucks it into her lap.

He sits smoothly and tries to return her smile. Before he can succeed in looking more than wistful, he sips from his glass. The expression after fortification is charming. None but a close friend would know that it is slightly melancholy. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, mademoiselle...?"

"I'm called Delphine," she says, lowering her eyelashes just enough to be demure. "And you, M'sieur?"

"Enjolras." He offers her his hand, discovers that there is a book in it, sets the book on the table, and offers his hand again.

She slips her hand into his, thin and soft, except for the calluses from the needle and thread. "It's a pleasure. I haven't seen you in here before. Are you a student?"

"I don't remember ever having been here." Enjolras glances around, but sees nothing that provokes a reaction. "I'm studying law, yes. And you? What is your trade?"

"I make handkerchiefs," she answers. "Very uninteresting, but it's work."

"I see." Enjolras drinks from his glass again. "What are you reading, mam'selle Delphine?"

"A story about knights and dragons and treasure," she admits shyly. "It passes the time."

Fair eyebrows lift. "Ah. I suppose it would, at that."

"And what sorts of things do you do in your spare time? I hope you don't study too much." She brushes her hair back from her forehead carelessly.

Enjolras coughs, which might be because he is not used to what he is drinking. "I -- I enjoy attending operas," though he has not done so in months.

"Ah. I've seen a few, but I confess that I didn't enjoy them much." She leans her elbows on the table and cups her chin in her hands. "I prefer comedies, without music."

"Do you? I don't know of many that I've enjoy much, except Voltaire's. Which playwrights do you favor?"

"Moliere. Scanerelle and Martine make me giggle every time." She smiles, her cheeks dimpling charmingly.

Enjolras smiles back after a moment. "It has been too long since I saw anything of his. Do you know when something else is playing?"

"Oh, certainly! A friend of mine is playing in "The Doctor In Spite Of Himself" this week and next. She's a very good actress."

"I would like to see that." Enjolras looks more sincere when he speaks. "Is there a performance tonight?"

Delphine nods. "Every night, until the run is through."

Enjolras takes out his watch. "When is the performance?"

"Eight." She blinks at him, curiously.

"Are you busy then?"

Delphine shakes her head, causing locks of her hair to fall loose. "Not a bit."

Incongruously shy, "Would you like to go with me, mam'selle?"

"I would be honored." She raises her eyes to his face.

At this juncture a dark figure enters from the street, unobtrusively; and then freezes in the doorway behind them.

Enjolras looks down hastily, as if one of them must have their eyes averted. "No, the honor is mine." The words are proper, if not heartfelt. Looking down has brought his attention to the empty table. "Have you eaten dinner?"

"Oh, not yet, no." She glances away, too, staring at the floor.

The newcomer shudders; then, taking care not to draw attention, he makes his way to a corner table and collapses there, watching the two of them with reddened eyes.

"I would be happy to eat with you," Enjolras lies with a smile. He looks up again, but does not notice that he is observed.

Delphine waves a hand at the waitress. "That would be nice. I think she's going to come over here when she finished with that new fellow."

Enjolras follows the wave of her hand and glances at the waitress. His face goes immediately pale. "I should --" For a moment, his hand reaches blindly for the book on the table, and he looks as if he is going to stand. After a deep breath, and another, less covert look at the corner table, he sits down again, though his posture is rigid and he seems to be there against his will. "I mean, yes, she probably will." His light tone sounds absolutely forced.

Grantaire bows his head, blending as nearly as he can into the woodwork. He murmurs something to the waitress in an undertone, and is thereafter silent.

Delphine frowns. "Yes, here she comes now..." Puzzled.

The waitress arrives at their table, still writing down the previous order. "Bonsoir monsieur, mam'selle." And waits for their order, pen hovering over the paper.

Enjolras says, almost without thinking, "The soup of the day and a carafe of the house wine." He is not looking at the waitress, but rather at her last client.

Who glances up, briefly, meeting his eyes, then swiftly away again.

The waitress, writing busily, notices none of this. "Merci, monsieur," offering Enjolras a flirty smile as she hurries toward the kitchen.

Delphine studies the tabletop. "Well, it's not the most pleasant place in the world, but the food is good. I eat here often."

"Oh." Enjolras glances after the waitress after several moments. "If I'd known she would run off, I would have asked you what you wanted."

"Oh, it's all right! I quite like the soup here." The wine is pretty bad, but she doesn't mention this.

Enjolras drains the last of his glass. "Oh, good. I'd hate to feed you something you didn't want to eat." He attempts another smile, then reaches across the table and pushes her hair back from her forehead. "That wouldn't be friendly."

"It would be difficult to accuse you of being unfriendly, m'sieur." She smiles at him, her cheeks pinkening.

In the corner, Grantaire laces his fingers together tightly, watching covertly.

"I hope so," Enjolras answers, then leans back in his chair, satisfied that he has covered his earlier confusion. "I'd hate to be accused of being unfriendly to a pretty girl like you." He watches her intently, mostly to keep himself distracted from the man in the corner.

She bites her lip and looks away, her cheeks flaming. "Thank you." Softly.

"You're welcome," Enjolras answers. Having exhausted his fund of compliments, he glances toward the kitchen. "How long does the food usually take here?"

"Oh, not long at all, generally." As he moves his glance toward the kitchen, so she moves her glance at his face.

"That's good. I don't remember eating breakfast." Enjolras looks back, catches her eyes, and smiles deliberately.

She returns his smile. "Oh, that's not good! However can you think and study all day on no breakfast?" she chides mildly.

"Not very well, I'm afraid. Sometimes, however, other things distract me, and I forget."

"Well, I hope you don't make a habit out of it." She pats his hand, almost maternally.

Enjolras blushes. "No, I don't. I've -- you see, I've made a habit out of eating breakfast with one of my friends, but he is visiting his family, so I forgot."

She makes a sympathetic noise. "Well, perhaps you ought to alter your habits a bit."

"I intend to do that, yes." Enjolras seems to find this inexplicably amusing.

His chuckling is cut off by the return of the waitress, who carries a large tray. "Soup, monsieur, mam'selle," she announces, giving each of them a bowl and a spoon, "and the wine," a carafe of red and a glass for each of them. "Enjoy your meal." She gives them each a broad wink and goes back to the kitchen.

Enjolras pours himself a glass and half-drains it in a swift movement that looks almost practiced, then offers the other empty glass. "Would you like some?"

"Yes, thank you." She folds her hands in her lap and waits for him to serve her.

There is a slight rustle, then a creak of hinges.

Enjolras looks up from pouring her a glass in time to see the door shut. He sets it down with a perfunctory smile and glances toward the now-empty corner. "For you, mam'selle," he says politely, mimicking the waitress, and finishes his glass of wine to cover everything else on his mind.

"Merci." She sips the wine slowly.

Enjolras refills his own glass with hands that shake slightly but eats some of his soup before beginning to drain it again. "You're welcome."

Delphine, too, starts on the soup. "It's very good, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." Enjolras makes himself smile again. "You have good taste in restaurants."

"Oh, thank you. I started coming here because it's so close to home, and I stuck around because it's good." And cheap.

"That sounds perfectly sensible." A pause, then, "Where is your friend performing?"

"At the Theatre del Sol, several streets from here. It's a pretty place." She sighs.

Enjolras thinks a moment. "I think you'll have to show me the way."

Delphine nods. "I can do that."

"I don't know this part of town very well," Enjolras admits.

"Oh, I've lived around here for years. There are a few good things about this neighborhood. It is nicer in the Latin Quarter.. do you live there, near the school?"

"Yes. It's more convenient, really. This evening, I simply wanted a change." He waves a hand at the cafe. "And I ended up here."

"You just... wandered in here for no apparent reason?" She empties her glass, sipping it slowly.

"You might say that. And see how lucky I was to come and meet you." The fallacy of logic is forced.

"I can't tell you how glad I am," she murmurs. "You're a very nice man, M'sieur Enjolras."

He blushes. "Thank you, mam'selle."

Delphine shifts in her seat. "Er.. it may take a few minutes to walk there. We should leave soon."

"We can do that." Enjolras makes an effort to hail the waitress.

Delphine rakes her hair back from her face with her fingers, studying Enjolras's profile with a little sigh.

The waitress brings the bill. Enjolras pays it without comment and abandons part of the wine on the table. He stands and collects his book, then offers her his arm. "Shall we go, mam'selle Delphine?"

She tucks her own book into her reticule, and stands. "Yes, just a moment." She retrieves her shawl and bonnet from the rack and ties them on quickly. Finally, she takes his arm.

After the production, some of the effects of dinner's wine have worn off, but Enjolras is still markedly more merry than usual. He asks Delphine, "Do you think we could visit your friend? She was splendid."

"We could try. It's sometimes hard to get near the door, with all the boys crowding around all the actresses." She giggles.

"Oh." Enjolras has never considered himself part of an adoring crowd of that bent, and it is disconcerting. "Well. I suppose it isn't worth the effort, then."

"Oh, we could try. I probably exaggerate, opening and closing nights are the worst. Come on." She heads toward the stage door.

Enjolras follows, trying to keep her in sight in the crowd.

There are in fact a few young people loitering when they get there, but not in throngs. Mademoiselle Dechesne is engaged in polite conversation with one of these, turning aside his none-too-subtle advances patiently. She brightens, however, on spotting the new arrivals. "Excuse me. --Delphine!"

Delphine waves cheerily. "You were marvelous.. May I present Monsieur Enjolras? This is Mam'selle Dechesne, M'sieur."

Enjolras takes the actress's hand and kisses it. "You were amazing, mademoiselle."

"You are too kind, m'sieur." She curtseys prettily, regarding him with lifted brows.

Delphine smiles. "No doubt we're keeping you from other engagements. But we wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed it."

"I have not had so much fun at the theatre in months," Enjolras says in all honesty.

"Ah--" Constance affects a rueful shrug. "I should be going home. But come to visit someday soon, darling." She slants a bright glance at Enjolras. "And you too, if you like."

Delphine nods. "I'll do that; it's been a long time since we had a chat." She looks nervously at Enjolras.

Enjolras is no more affected by feminine charm than he usually is. "Perhaps, someday, mam'selle." He nods, says, "Congratulations again on a grand performance," then offers Delphine his arm. "Shall we be going?"

Delphine takes the proferred arm, leaning against him a little. "Certainly. Right this way." She points them back in the direction of the cafe, which is not too far from her home.

"Oh, we're back here," Enjolras says when he realizes that they've returned to the cafe. "Are you still hungry, mam'selle?"

Delphine shakes her head. "No, I live upstairs. Would you like to come up for a drink?"

Naivete preserved by careful treatment speaks. "That would be pleasant, yes, thank you."

She unlocks the door, her hands trembling slightly, and leads the way to her room.

Enjolras follows, a little uncomfortable, but still cushioned by the drinks he had earlier.

Delphine waves her hand vaguely. "Have a seat." She goes to the cupboard and takes out a bottle and glasses. The furniture of the room consists of a tiny table, a washstand, and a bed. No chairs.

Enjolras pauses in the doorway, then obeys the command and takes a seat on the bed. "It's a pleasant enough room."

Delphine sits down beside him and hands him a glass of white wine, fairly good stuff. "It's little and cozy." She squeezes his hand.

Enjolras sips the wine, then sets the glass down before he spills any. His hands are shaking, but he does not remove the captured one from Delphine's grasp. "Yes. It is."

Delphine, too, sets her glass down, and her other hand finds its way to his cheek. "You're a terribly handsome man, did you know that? Irresistible."

Enjolras blushes. "I -- "

She traces the curves of his hand with her thumb. "Aww, don't be so shy."

"I've never --"

"Ah, I see. Well, that doesn't matter." Brushes her lips softly against his.

Enjolras kisses her back. His arm slips around her waist, awkwardly, as if he is used to a different shape in his embrace.

Anticlimactically, Enjolras knocks on Grantaire's door at a sensible hour the next morning. "Would you like to eat breakfast with me?" he asks through the door.

There is a long silence.

"I don't blame you," Enjolras says loudly, then sighs, and adds more quietly, "I don't want to eat breakfast with me either."

Another pause. Finally a rustling, and in a moment Grantaire opens the door. He is pale, drawn, red-eyed, tousled, and appears to have slept in his clothes. He says nothing, only stares.

"You should tell me that I deserve what I said I wanted," Enjolras says, not looking up. "I deserve to be that miserable for what I've done to you."

Grantaire reaches out slowly to rest a trembling hand against his cheek. "I..."

"You shouldn't trust me. I must be mad. I thought -- God knows what I thought I thought." Enjolras leans into the touch. "Tell me to leave you in peace, and I won't be able to hurt you again."

Grantaire shakes his head mutely, holding very still, eyes bewildered, nearly frightened.

"I have made many foolish mistakes in my time, but most of them didn't hurt people I loved." Enjolras looks at him, truly, for the first time this morning. "See what I've done to you. This is my fault, every bit of it, as surely as if I had meant to do this. Don't forgive me."

Grantaire sways, and has to catch himself on the doorframe. "I..."

Enjolras goes back down the hallway a step. "I shouldn't have come here. I told you I would not; perhaps it would have been easier. You know what I've done, surely. I cannot understand how you could forgive that."

"No!" Grantaire finds his voice, then, though it comes out low and hoarse. "Don't-- don't go yet--" He reaches out a hand, unsteadily.

Enjolras takes the offered hand with his own, though it trembles. "I should have kept my distance. Or, God knows, I should never have left."

Grantaire kisses his fingers reverently; then, with a dazed look, tugs him through the doorway.

Enjolras pushes the door shut behind himself. "I love you," he admits in half his usual voice. "I have deplorable timing, but it's true."

"Oh, God," and Grantaire embraces him fiercely, trembling.

"Why did you let me put you through this hell?" Enjolras strokes his hair. "You feel as if you're about to collapse."

"God," in an incoherent whisper, "oh, Jesus, God-- Marcelin-- don't go, lover, I'm sorry, I love you, God help me, I'm sorry..."

Enjolras puts a finger to his lips gently. "Calm down. It wasn't your fault. Breathe." Contradicting his last injunction, he kisses Grantaire by way of apology.

Grantaire clings to him desperately, still shaking.

"It's all right," he is reassured at length. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Please," incoherently, with one hand still knotted in Enjolras's hair. "I love you."

"I know. But you worry me; you're still shaking. Sit down."

Grantaire complies after a moment, unsteadily, still clinging to his hands.

Enjolras holds both his hands and kneels next to the bed. "Don't let me hurt you. Never again. Promise me."

Grantaire stares dumbly at him, lost for words.

"I didn't know I could be as cruel as that. Stop me from being cruel to you." Enjolras shakes his hands. "Say something."

A broken laugh escapes Grantaire. "You can do what you like with me." And abruptly he buries his face in their joined hands.

"That's not fair to you," Enjolras protests.

Muffled, tremulous, "What of it?"

"I still don't know if I could promise you the same." Enjolras leans against his knee. "My promises are worthless."

"Hush." Grantaire frees a hand to stroke his hair gently.

"I am sorry. Thoughtless, reckless, feckless, then regretful."

Grantaire's breathing comes a bit more steadily now. "Hush," he murmurs again, soothing.

"If you insist." Enjolras falls silent, perhaps resolving to abase himself further at some other time.

... Previous ... Book Two ... Table of Contents ... Next ...