I'm done with revolutions.
Thus her lover, thus her husband-to-be, the father of her child, a week after the world fell apart. Manon cannot find it in her heart to disagree. Despite everything, despite Gregory and Jehan and poor, silly Marius, despite the battering of a dream, she is happier than she remembers ever being before.
She has faith in names. She does not often speak of this, for fear of being chuckled at like Joly with his constant colds; but it runs deep. Names are identity. Names have power. Her own name is Marie-Madeleine, and like her namesake she is, by most standards, a fallen woman; like her, perhaps, has been redeemed through devotion to something greater. For she's been to the barricades, in the name of love and liberty, and come away again with the one, if not the other.
I want us to be safe. All of us.
With her love, her Courfeyrac, her René, who in that crisis was indeed reborn: as an older and graver man, who's done with revolutions. Who wants to take his wife and child away from Paris, to somewhere safe and quiet.
It hurts her a little to see him so subdued, who only last week was so gay and reckless, so quick to catch fire. Yet in her heart she knows the fire is still in him -- spent, banked perhaps, but still alight. It is what she loves in him.
If he had died --
If he had died she would have named the child René, as a tribute and an odd recursive wish, that he might be his father reborn. There are worse things a baby could be. Now, thank God, there is no need. And instead?
Instead there are other names to bestow in honor of fallen friends. Such as Gregory, which is "watchful" -- which heaven knows Bahorel was not, but it is far from a bad thought all the same -- and Jean, which is "gift of God".
Yes. She approves of that.
23. To Have and To Hold
René Courfeyrac lies awake in bed, one arm around the waist of his mistress -- his fiancée, he corrects himself firmly. Almost his wife. They have had their tiffs in the past, parted screaming, been apart for weeks at a time, but that is over. They went to hell together, one lonely night in the Rue de la Chanvrerie, when too many people died that they did not know, and far too many that they did.
It is one thing to watch the sparrow fall, and quite another to have to inform the sparrow's mother. Love was no protection for their comrades; Marius, the most infatuated man of anyone's acquaintance, had stayed even after the saviors had come. The archangels had descended to bring succor to the rebels, help and forgiveness and a chance to begin again. Marius had ignored that message, as he was apt to ignore anything that did not remind him of his beloved, and so he had fallen to the King's troops later in the day, a little wisp of life stomped out by the forces of oppression that no paltry forty students could hold back. Jehan had fallen just at the moment of the turning, the last martyr to the lost cause. That would make a poem, but no one could do it well enough in tribute. As for Bahorel, he would not have wanted to die any other way than screaming his defiance of the order of things.
The fighting was over. René came back alive, with Manon in his arms and a very good sense of their mortality. Some of their friends, likewise saved, have been celebrating life with nightly bacchanalias. He would have joined them, last month, but not now. Manon is pregnant. Life's debts of reason and caution have come due at last. He smiles in the dark, listening to her breathe. Fate could not have found a more lovely collector, nor one more likely to reach him. Daily life with her has never been dull, and it is unlikely to become so. She is endlessly intriguing, and he loves her. That is all he wants in life.
She has saved him. His parents would have made him a suitable match, some brainless girl from a village somewhere who had never enjoyed any sort of interesting conversation, but they cannot force him into such a union when he owes such a debt of honor to Manon. They will fight, yes, but they have fought before, and yet here she is, willingly, even happily sleeping in his bed. It will be no challenge to stay with her.
The trouble will be in keeping her safe. He's been doing a very poor job of it. Like any Parisian girl who survives without a chaperon, she has some ability to guard herself, but she showed a lapse of judgement by coming to the barricade. He could not forgive that had she not been there seeking him.
He will relax again, soon, and be able to smile and joke. But not yet, not until he knows for certain that she's safe. Marriage will take a weight off of his mind, because then, even if something horrible happens to him, she'll be inextricably linked with his family and his parents will have to take care of her and the child. If he died in his sleep, tonight, they would turn her into the street and leave her to Paris's tender mercies.
That thought makes his breath catch in fear. He has to protect her, even from the dangers he cannot see. Now, more than ever before in their tumultuous relationship, she is his Manon. Whatever happens to her will happen to him, all the more so because he has taken away her other life. She cannot simply get out of bed in the morning and go home. He has bound her to him without meaning to do it. To make amends, he binds himself to her. With a whispered, "I will keep you from harm," he buries his face in her hair. It takes many deep breaths before he is asleep.
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