It is late evening by the time the last distant relatives have gone and the ones too close to send away for the night have found a place to sleep. The house seems melancholy in the darkness. A single candle is not enough to dispel either the night or the depression, and yet that is all that lights the sitting room that, until recently, was the sole domain of Régine Enjolras. Her son occupies her habitual chair tonight, and reads by the light of his candle.
Toward eleven o'clock, the latch rattles slightly and the door swings gently inward. Chantal pauses in the doorway, another candle in hand. "Oh. I didn't know you were in here."
Marcelin looks up. "Are you all right?"
"Are you?" she rejoins swiftly.
"As well as could be expected under the circumstances, I imagine." He gestures to one of the other chairs. "Do sit down."
Chantal slips inside, shutting the door carefully behind her, and sets her candle down beside the other before taking a seat gingerly. "I just came down to see that it was locked up. I would hate to see Felicienne rummaging in here. Or my Mathilde, heaven knows."
"That would annoy Mother no end, I am sure," Marcelin says with the ghost of a smile. "I don't recall ever playing in here."
She shivers. "No. I feel a little peculiar being in here at all, without her."
"So do I, a little, but I needed a quiet place to look at her will." He offers the paper in his hand to her as evidence of this. "We shall have to change some of this."
Chantal blinks at him. "Shall we?"
"The house belongs to me now, but I do not want it. I could not imagine living here with our Father's ghost glaring at me every day." Marcelin shakes his head slightly. "However, Julie is happily settled, and Elise seems to be the same. Even if I could convince their husbands to move, I would not want to give either a gift of such magnitude." He pauses again. "I would be glad to provide you and Etienne with a place to live in comfort."
"Oh, dear," Chantal says in dismay. "Oh, Marcelin, really."
"I couldn't possibly." She shivers, glancing around the room.
Marcelin blinks. "Of course you could, and really, you should. Etienne would have no problem finding work here."
Chantal's face sets in familiar lines. "It's kind of you, but I'd rather not."
"It would be sensible."
"It would be just as sensible for you and Grantaire to move down here. I don't /want/ to, Marcelin. I don't like the place."
Marcelin winces. "We would not belong here. You and your husband are respectable, as much as our parents ever were. I -- no. We need to live somewhere where we are not instantly obvious."
Chantal sighs, not answering. She rises, and crosses to the window, looking out over the garden.
"What do you think Etienne would say if I offered this to him?"
Her voice has a perturbingly familiar, clipped tone. "He would probably accept, because he can't bear to disappoint you."
Marcelin sighs quietly. "Then perhaps you should be grateful I asked you instead of upset with me for proposing such a hideous thing."
"What do you want from me, Marcelin?" She turns back to face him, pallid. "It isn't you I'm upset with. It's the thought of it, of having to live here the rest of my life after I'd finally gotten away from it. Expecting Maman to come through the door any minute and scold me for having my hair out of place."
"I am sure that you would come to think of it as your home, soon, and expect nothing worse to come through the door than your daughter in a temper," Marcelin says gently. "This is not a terrible area for you. With your things and your family here, it would stop being our parents' house and be yours."
Chantal looks away, knotting her fingers together.
"Consider it, at least, would you?"
"Yes." Softly, defeated.
"Thank you." Marcelin stands and takes her hand. "I want what is best for you."
Chantal sighs. "I know."
"Do you want me to raise the matter with Etienne, or would you like to?"
She shakes her head. "I don't know. I don't know tonight, Marcelin. We'll talk of it tomorrow."
"It will wait." He half-smiles at her in the dim light, offering her an embrace.
Chantal leans into his arms, resting her head on his shoulder.
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