12. Her Brother's Keeper

June 4th

Combeferre and Enjolras are sitting in the Cafe Musain with their heads together, poring over stacks of irregular, smudged lists of names with numbers beside them.

Christian slips inside, and wanders over to look over their shoulders.

Enjolras looks up. "Christian." He sounds distracted and runs a hand through his hair. "What are you doing here?"

Christian's chin tilts up. "Nothing. What are you doing here?"

Combeferre puts aside his stack of papers. "I believe we are planning to send General Lamarque off in proper style."

Enjolras nods. "I don't want you to attend the funeral, cousin. It might get dangerous."

Christian links his hands behind his back. "You're going."

"Of course I am going. In Combeferre's metaphor, I would be the Master of Ceremonies." He would almost smile, except that he's not really paying attention to the conversation. Enjolras is contemplating the next day and what he dreams will happen. It makes it hard to talk to Christian. "Truly, it won't be safe. Particularly not for a young... boy." He corrects himself at the last moment.

Combeferre adds, more gently, because he is more in touch with reality, "It would be difficult for us to look after you."

Christian emits a wonderfully impolite noise. He's been hanging out with Courfeyrac a little too long. And, come to think of it, probably with Courfeyrac's girl. "I'm not the one who needs looking after."

Enjolras's chin rises slightly at that. "I am responsible for my own well-being, not you. At this point, I am also responsible for your health, and it will not be good for you to attend the funeral." He begins to look worried; his mouth tightens at the corners. "Please. Promise me you'll stay home."

"I'll do no such thing."

Combeferre frowns and puts a hand on Enjolras's shoulder to forestall an explosion. "Christian. People will be hurt."

Enjolras is only slightly subdued by the hand. "You must not go!"

Christian almost says "Men!", but catches himself. "All the more reason. --No --don't lecture me, Marcelin!"

Combeferre's hand is brushed off. Enjolras stands with strips of paper cascading off of his lap. "Christian, I forbid you to leave home tomorrow. Listen to me. This is more important than you think."

Christian looks up at him undaunted. "How do you know what I think? I'm not stupid, cousin. I know what's going on."

"Then why do you insist that you must see it?" It's a good thing the cafe is not crowded. People might start looking toward the back room and wondering what the yelling is about.

Christian shoots back, "Why do you? --Why does he?" with an impatient wave at Combeferre.

Combeferre is much more mild than Enjolras, but no less worried. "I do not want to see you hurt, Christian," he says in answer. "Neither of us do."

Enjolras tries to calm himself down, but he has little hope of that. "There are things that must be accomplished, and there may never be a better day for them. I cannot miss this chance because my little cousin insists on putting himself in harm's way!"

Christian clenches his hands on the back of the chair to keep from hitting something. "Has either of you thought that maybe I don't want to see you hurt? Have you thought--" he rounds on Enjolras "--that maybe I might help?"

Enjolras pales. "You cannot help! You're a... you're young." He stops himself, lamely. "You'll be hurt. That would injure me more than anything else could."

Combeferre sighs. "If all goes well, we will not be hurt. We have plenty of hands to help." He waves a hand at the table mounded high with the names of men with guns, though many of those are duplicated on other bits of paper on the same table.

Christian glares at Combeferre. "And if all doesn't?"

Combeferre looks away, toward the door. "Then it won't, and Heaven knows what will happen."

Enjolras slams his hand on the table as punctuation. "That's why you must not come. If you were hurt, Christian..." he looks around the room. No one is near enough to overhear, so in a quieter voice, he entreats, "Chantal. You must be safe."

Christian says loudly, "I'm sixteen years old!" And, dropping her voice, but just as fiercely, "I don't care. If you aren't, I won't be."

Enjolras sits, or rather, collapses into a chair. "Don't do this to me. I know you are old enough to be stupid, just as I am. Do not demand that I abandon my friends. Not now." His voice is much weaker than before, and he looks at the table instead of at his companions.

"Sixteen is younger than you think, Christian," Combeferre adds in a soft voice. "It is unfair of you to insist that you must be in a dangerous situation, just because we will be."

"I'm not." Christian's voice breaks. "I'm -- I don't know why I'm even asking you, either of you! If you won't listen to me, why should I listen to you?"

Enjolras looks up. His brows are together and he is frowning, though more sadly than crossly. "We want what is best for you. Don't you think we know what might be best? Your life is not mine to risk, and I cannot allow you to risk it if I can stop you by any means. I love you, Chantal. Listen to me because I am your brother and you must have cared for me, once, or you'd not be here at all."

Combeferre says firmly, "We both care for you. I don't want to find you hurt because you blindly followed me, anymore than Marcelin does."

Christian gasps as though Enjolras had shot her and been done with it. "I... ! How can you say that? I don't want you to get killed, is that wrong?" Her voice scales upward dangerously.

"No." Yes, but I'm not going to say that. "It's no more wrong than my not wanting you to get killed." Enjolras sighs. "Stay home. Do. Please. It's the best way."

Christian stares darkly at him, silent for the moment, but not at all submissive.

Combeferre stands and looks at Christian hopefully. "Will you?"

She closes her eyes. "Unfair, Etienne," she says very, very softly.

Combeferre answers just as quietly, "No more than you."

Enjolras watches them whisper, but does not ask. Yet.

Christian turns fierce violet eyes on Combeferre. "If I don't have the right to make you stay, you don't have the right not to let me go."

Combeferre spreads his hands, acknowledging this. "I claim no right. I only request, because you are my friend."

Oh, damn him. Why does he have to be so reasonable? She rakes her hands through her hair, staring at the floor. Finally she says quietly, "I'll promise you to be careful, if you'll promise me the same. That's all."

Combeferre nods. "I promise I shall be careful." He looks over at Marcelin, a slight warning in his eyes.

Enjolras falters. "I... I will be careful, as much as I can."

Christian looks that way as well, taut-faced. Clearly that doesn't really content her, but she nods, biting her lip.

Combeferre pushes one of Chantal's curls away from her face. "What will you be doing tomorrow?"

Enjolras is not satisfied with this, either, and looks away from them. He does not like lying, even in the name of a good cause.

Chantal colors a little at the touch. "I... I don't know yet," she murmurs, as if it were an idle question.

Combeferre smiles slightly. "I imagine there will not be much to do. The shops may close. The opera will probably postpone its performances. The parks may not be safe. Would you like some books from the library?"

Enjolras repeats, "You're staying home, Chantal," but his firm tone is weakened because he does not look at her.

Chantal's eyes glitter, rather as Marcelin's might if he were told to run along to his little political meeting. "I'll manage."

Combeferre glances over at Marcelin's back. "I don't think it would be a good idea even to come to the Musain. They may not let you in."

"And it isn't home."

Chantal takes in a breath as though to snap at her brother, but all she actually says is, "I'll manage," again.

Enjolras turns. He is angry again. "That is not good enough! You will stay home, if I have to stay with you."

Combeferre pales. "Marcelin..." he begins, but there is nothing to say.

Chantal tilts her chin up at that familiar arrogant angle. "And you'll have to, if you want to be perfectly sure. I'll be careful, I told you I'd be careful, but I won't be mewed up like a... like a parakeet!"

Enjolras realizes what he's offered to do, and sits down heavily in a chair. "I can't stay. But I cannot trust you when you dodge me like this. Must you be so difficult?" He picks up a list from the table and crushes it in his hand. "If I stay at home, I will be missed."

Combeferre studies the floor for several minutes. "I could stay with you, Chantal," he ventures.

"Then don't," she says shortly to Marcelin, and turns away, only to be caught up short by this. She stares at Combeferre a moment, and finally says rather faintly, "You don't have to. Just... be careful."

"Of course I will," Combeferre answers, smiling more. "I'll take care of myself, and Marcelin, too, if he forgets."

Enjolras's expression softens. "I won't forget. We'll need you, Combeferre, and every ounce of sense we can find."

Christian just watches them both, with eyes wide and somber.

Combeferre looks from one to the other. "I'll go, then." It's almost as if he's asking Chantal for permission.

"If you don't, who will keep me in line?" Enjolras asks wryly.

Chantal just shrugs, though she does crack a faint grin at that.

Combeferre suggests, "Bahorel?"

Enjolras, taken completely off guard, laughs.

Chantal sputters in amusement, and then outright laughs when Enjolras does. "Of course," she squeaks.

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