13. J'Aime Mieux Ma Soeur

Rue de la Chanvrerie. June 5, 1832

Enjolras shouts a few orders, but generally, the men swarming through the street are doing well on their own. There are a lot of stones torn from the street, and carts, and tables from the Corinth. Most of the men have guns, and there are also stacks of them.

Combeferre collects boxes and bags of ammunition, and makes a tally of them on a list in his hand. He stands by a stack of munitions, taking down names carefully.

Feuilly kicks another stone into place near the Corinth wall with cool efficiency, flagging over lean Desmarais who's been collecting rubble.

Joly sneezes at all this dust in the air, but tries to hoist three stones at once nevertheless. With Lesgles's help, he manages to put them onto the new wall.

The landlady wrings her hands just inside the doorway, watching her furniture being ferried out and dumped in the street. Jean Prouvaire pauses to pat her shoulder comfortingly before ducking past.

Courfeyrac tries to herd three gamins and get them to leave, but they thumb their noses at him and go on helping like everyone else. He shakes his head as they go, then returns to work as well.

Combeferre puts aside his lists for a few minutes and suggests to Mme. Hucheloup, "You might want to find somewhere else to ride this out."

"I knew there'd be trouble," she mutters in distress. "Oh, my poor carpet-- Why, it's not safe to be out in the streets today." With lunatics like you. But Mme. Hucheloup is fond of Combeferre in her way, and doesn't add that bit aloud.

"Mind where you're putting that!" someone expostulates.

Combeferre nods. "No, it isn't safe to be out. But it isn't safe to be in here, either." He looks down the street. "The Rue Mondétour is still open. Why don't you go while you can?"

The gamins run amok and swarm past Mme. Hucheloup into the cafe.

The widow yelps and presses her back against the doorframe. "Oh, Lord."

Combeferre calls after them, "Be careful, lads! Don't hurt the mistress of the house." He looks back at her, then down at the stoop. "I am sorry about this. I never thought they'd descend on you."

Enjolras actually cooperates with Lesgles to lift a table onto the barricade. War makes for strange comrades. Once the table is up, however, they lose the illusion of camaraderie and part with looks that are almost glares.

Courfeyrac thumps Joly on the back when the latter has a particularly prolonged coughing fit. "Easy, now. The guns will be here soon enough without your going and dying before they've had a crack at you." Joly and the men nearby laugh, which sets Joly off again, and only makes the rest laugh harder.

Feuilly, noting the tension, sighs and reaches out to collar Joly as he goes by. And offers a handkerchief.

Joly blows his nose. "Merci."

Mme. Hucheloup just shakes her head, edging a little further out of harm's way and surveying her demolished entry.

Combeferre looks into the Corinth just as the boys rush out again. He dodges out of their way, then asks Mme. Hucheloup, "What about Chowder and Fricassee?"

Feuilly slants another look in Enjolras' direction, but says to Joly only, in a wry undertone, "Try and keep your friend out of trouble, eh?"

After the almost-confrontation with Enjolras, Bossuet shakes his head and wonders what's become of Grantaire. He comes over to the door of the Corinth and nods to Combeferre and Mme. Hucheloup.

The widow frowns. "I'm sure I don't know where they've got to, the silly creatures..." She returns the nod, nervously.

Joly almost laughs, but catches himself before it can trigger yet another coughing fit. "I dod't think I can helb him. Bossuet has to take care of himself aroud Enjolras today."

Combeferre frowns slightly, then nods to Bossuet. "I only hope they are somewhere safe. Keep an eye out, Madame." He goes back into the bustling lot of people.

Feuilly shrugs, having done what he can. "Take care of your own self then." He turns back to help Desmarais with the piling of stones and odd bricks.

Bossuet looks into the doorway, but it is dark inside the Corinth when one has been standing in the sun. "Is Grantaire in there?" he asks the landlady.

Mme. Hucheloup frowns. "I expect so."

Bossuet looks toward the doorway again. He begins, "Why..." and stops himself. No point in asking why Grantaire's here. Even though he doesn't like the answer, he knows it quite well. With that in mind, he looks for Joly, and is slightly reassured. "Why don't you go somewhere safe?" is his question, when he completes it.

Jean Prouvaire braces a chair against the growing barricade, and starts to slip through the crowd back toward Corinth; but he catches sight of Combeferre, and detours. "Are you doing all right, Etienne?"

Combeferre looks up as Prouvaire addresses him. "I'm worried about Madame Hucheloup. She won't leave, and I don't want her to be hurt by any of this. Heaven knows what will happen here tonight."

Prouvaire nods, brow furrowing. "Do we know where to send her...?"

Combeferre frowns. "I don't know. Away from here, to begin, but beyond that, who can say?"

A slight shabby figure with tousled dark hair appears at the corner of the Rue Mondetour, observing the goings-on somberly.

Enjolras notices Prouvaire and Combeferre have paused to chat, and walks over to them. "Come, now, what are you standing about for? There's work to be done."

Combeferre turns to Enjolras and says, almost testily, especially for him, "We were discussing the safety of our hostess, Madame Hucheloup. But of course you don't particularly care."

Jean Prouvaire glances up, reddening a bit, starts to move away, then pauses.

Enjolras was not really asking because he wanted to know the answer, but Combeferre surprised him, and now he feels obligated to respond. In his most 'caring for the welfare of my fellow humans' tone, which is not much like anyone else's expression of humanitarian virtue, he asks, "Where is she?"

Combeferre points towards the Corinth. "Where would you expect to find a landlady? In her house of hospitality."

Enjolras looks toward the Corinth, sees Mme. Hucheloup talking with Bossuet, and frowns. "You told her what was likely to happen, didn't you?"

The newcomer's gaze seeks out Combeferre, but at once finds Enjolras with him. He looks away quickly, and instead ducks over toward the barricade, joining in with whatever appears to need to be done.

"I should think she could probably guess," Prouvaire points out, tartly for Prouvaire, which isn't awfully. "If you can convince her to go..."

Courfeyrac participates in the destruction of the street, happily prying up stones. When he sees the newcomer, he smiles and says, "Bonjour. I was wondering when you'd come, Caron." But not very loudly. Certainly not loudly enough to do anything more than make Caron feel welcome.

Christian relaxes a bit. He knows Courfeyrac, Courfeyrac's all right. He ventures a grin, mutters something wry about getting the door unlocked, and helps a tousled fellow not much older than he to shore up a sagging tower of empty crates.

Enjolras declares, "If Combeferre cannot, I am unlikely to have more luck. It is her trouble now." He turns away from them and goes to supervise something else, and possibly get his lilywhite hands dirty.

Prouvaire blinks after the departing leader. "Sometimes..." he begins, and falls silent, stuck for words.

Combeferre says, much more quietly, "That, at least, is true." He gives Jehan a rueful look. "Shall we get to work, then?"

Jean Prouvaire nods, with a faintly ironical expression.

Combeferre laughs, but not as if he is amused. "Who's more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

Prouvaire glances up again, in the act of digging up another cobblestone, and frowns. "You're no fool, Etienne." He drags the stone out of its bed, with a slight wince; Enjolras isn't the only one unaccustomed to get his hands dirty. "Don't let him bother you. It's just, you know, Enjolras."

"Ah, I know." Combeferre bends to get a particularly difficult stone. "I have been dealing with Marcelin quite a bit recently. I only wish he had more sense."

"We can't all be like you," Prouvaire says without a flicker of irony.

Caron lets out a startled yelp as a chair eludes his frail grasp and lands on his foot. And immediately after that, a rather surprising cussword. Feuilly raises an eyebrow as he rescues the chair.

Combeferre chuckles. "Nor like you, Jehan the thoughtful."

Courfeyrac clucks his tongue and shakes his head mockingly. "Ah, Caron, such language. Enjolras will have my head for teaching you those words."

"Now that's a mercy," returns Prouvaire with a rueful grin, handing the stone off to some sturdier fellow and leaning down to dig out another one.

Joly joins in the tsking. "Heaven forfend that anyone actually speak like a normal human around Monsieur Enjolras."

Christian blinks, blushes, then rallies, chuckling. "Nonsense. I learned that one from Manon." He casts a wry grin at Joly.

Joly nudges Courfeyrac, who is looking rather embarrassed. "It's good to have a mistress who speaks her own mind, isn't it?"

Bossuet, having returned from checking on Grantaire (he's still asleep), comes over to where Joly is chatting with these silly people, and, in an altogether overly enthusiastic voice, because he's sick to death of Enjolras and wants to peeve any member of the family he can reach, shouts, "Bonjour, Caron!" and thumps Christian solidly on the back.

Christian, that frail boy, staggers a bit and has to catch himself on the barricade, and his polite "Bonjour" is rather faint.

Although Combeferre dropped a stone on his toe at the shout, he still manages a credible turn of speed through the now-ragged street to the barricade. Upon arrival there, he catches Christian in his arms, says in an almost maternal tone, "Whatever are you doing here?" and forestalls any answer with a kiss. Quite a kiss, too.

Joly, who had been about to chide Bossuet for his overexuberance, is the next to drop a stone. He didn't think Combeferre had it in him, and can only watch.

Courfeyrac turns bright red and looks away. The world is going insane in more ways than one, today.

Prouvaire jumps. And blinks. And blinks. A small sort of baffled cough escapes him. Just when you think you know a guy.

Feuilly's eyebrows lift sharply. He shares a look with the bewildered Desmarais.

Enjolras is the next to sprint across the street. It's a wonder he manages not to turn an ankle. When he arrives at the knot of people, instead of kissing Christian, which would be difficult at the moment, he yells angrily, "Chantal, go home!"

Christian really can't find it in him to protest this greeting, and in fact returns it -- before this second shout penetrates, and she remembers where she is, and oh Lord, she's done it now.

Feuilly blinks.

Combeferre releases Chantal as soon as the wrath of God descends. "Don't you even want to say goodbye, Marcelin?" he asks, quite angry, especially for Combeferre.

Joly looks at this little confrontation, and asks Bossuet, almost quietly, "Who is Chantal?"

Jean Prouvaire stares a moment, then makes his way over unobtrusively to the rest of them.

Courfeyrac blinks, and looks as if he might faint. Christian... Chantal. Is that the same person?

Enjolras shakes his head. "No! I said goodbye this morning." He turns to Christian, so it is absolutely obvious whom he is addressing. "Chantal Marie, go home. Now. Before you get hurt."

Chantal, we will call her by no other name hereafter [sorry, Victor, it had to be said], is crimson to the ears. She doesn't, however, let go of Combeferre's arm. "I will not," she says tremulously to Enjolras, by way of confirming everyone else's doubts. "What do you take me for?"

Enjolras raises his voice further. It might be enough to wake Grantaire, if anything could. "My sister."

Combeferre pales. "Marcelin. She does have a right to be here."

Various others of the company are gathering now, to see what all the fuss is about. A couple look stunned, a couple baffled, one shakes his head.

Courfeyrac realizes, now, why Manon kept chasing him out of the room when Christian came to call, and could almost kick himself for feeling jealous.

Chantal struggles to keep her voice even. "I can help."

Bossuet stares. "Sister?" he asks Joly, not sure if he has heard correctly. Joly nods.

Feuilly murmurs to Joly, simply, "I apologize. You're not mad."

"You cannot!" That has the definite graven-in-stone overtones of a "Thou shalt not." "You must go home. You cannot stay. I refuse to allow it."

Joly almost smiles, and answers Feuilly in the same quiet tones. "Thank you. But I think we have more problems. I may not be mad, but I know someone who might be."

"You refuse." Chantal tilts her chin up defiantly. "You're not my father, you're not my keeper and you can't make me go."

Prouvaire leans on an abandoned table, feeling suddenly dizzy.

Combeferre gives Chantal's arm a little shake. "It would be best if you left. I would take you."

Enjolras is positively livid at that. "I am your brother!" He looks away from her to address the gathered spectators. "Would any of you allow your sister to be here, today?"

"I would," says a lanky young workingman at the back of the crowd, and his tone of asperity is oddly familiar.

It is Courfeyrac's turn to pale. He pushes through the crowd toward the newest voice. "Manon, damn you, go home."

Enjolras was about to call down lightning, but if that horrible disrespecter of families is Manon, that makes all the sense in the world. He looks around, again. "Would any of the men here allow it?"

Chantal's face tautens against tears. "You're my brother, and if you're going to be in danger so am I." Then she glances over at Manon, and her chin lifts again.

Combeferre tries to catch Marcelin's eye. "I would no more allow my sister to be here than my friend." He raises his voice to address the throng. "You are all my friends. And yet I recognize your right to be here."

"I will not," Manon says furiously, raking off the cap that's hitherto kept her hair confined. "You idiot. Did you think I'd tamely sit home and mend your socks?"

Courfeyrac looks as if he wants to shake her, but he daren't. "No, but... no. Why didn't you?"

Enjolras does not look at either Chantal or Combeferre, even when Combeferre talks, and the crowd affirms his little speech. He fixes upon Joly and Bossuet. "Would you allow your mistress to be here?"

Joly clutches Bossuet's arm. Enjolras in this kind of mood, here, is not a laughing matter. He gains enough courage to straighten his shoulders and answer, "If she wanted to be here for a good reason, I would have no right to stop her." Bossuet nods.

Manon scowls up at her lover with all the righteous indignation of a small army of crusaders, but doesn't respond; her attention is caught now by the other debate.

Unexpectedly Feuilly raises his voice. "If she was your cousin Caron, Enjolras, you'd let her stay, no?" It's not challenging, just matter-of-fact in that way of his.

Enjolras is horrified at Joly's answer. He dramatically turns his back on them, and looks at Feuilly. The question makes him falter. "I don't know." His voice loses volume, and he glances at Chantal. "It doesn't matter." That gives him a bit more confidence. "Chantal is not my cousin. I have a responsibility to my family."

Combeferre puts an arm around Chantal's waist. "You abdicated that responsibility, Marcelin. Let it go."

"Yes!" Chantal shouts. "You do! And if you don't care enough about them to stay with them and not go off where you could get yourself killed then why should I!" She presses instinctively against Combeferre's side, her eyes tearing up despite herself.

Enjolras's hands clench into fists. "Chantal," he begins, and stops himself for reaching for her. She has Combeferre. She obviously does not need him. "Please. You promised me you would stay safe."

Manon reaches for Courfeyrac's hand, even though she's scowling more ferociously than ever.

Courfeyrac embraces Manon roughly. "Damn you," he says into her hair. "This is insanity. Why did you have to come?"

Chantal tries to speak, and fails, with the knot in her throat. Tries again. "You promised me too. Marcelin..."

Combeferre lets Chantal go and gives her a little push towards Enjolras. "Take him home," he suggests, quietly.

"Why did you?" Manon shoots back, yielding reluctantly. She adores René, of course, but how she'd like to shout at Enjolras right at this minute, and you can't shout when you're hugging your man.

Courfeyrac explains, almost patiently, compared to the fight that's going on in the midst of the throng, "I believe in the Republic. I could not abandon my friends when they decided to seek it."

Manon pounds at Courfeyrac's shoulders. "Well then. You impossible man."

Courfeyrac lets her go, perplexed. "Don't you believe in it? Why did you come, if you don't?"

Chantal folds her arms, trying hard to be calm.

Manon throws up her hands. "And dense, too." She turns back to the others, frowning still, but particularly at Chantal.

Enjolras has no such inclination. "You promised me. You have to be safe. Go home. If this scuffle ever reaches you there, it will have been successful by then, and there will be nothing to worry about."

Combeferre advises again, "Take him with you."

Jean Prouvaire starts to say something, then bites his lip, caught between loyalty to Combeferre and his own impractical idealism, and a sneaking certainty that Enjolras, for once, is talking perfect sense.

Courfeyrac protests, "Dense?" He follows Manon's gaze. "They're being dense. Especially Caron, or whatever her name is."

"Neither of you are listening to me!" Chantal bursts out.

Manon shoots another Look up at Courfeyrac. "Chantal's not any stupider or more stubborn than her brother. Or any of the rest of you. Don't be such a masculine clod."

"By Heaven, I don't know how you can call what you are doing listening!" Enjolras answers, just as irritably. "Must I explain it all again? We are illegally blocking the street. The National Guard will come. They will not be happy. This is an offense against the law. We may all be punished, if we do not break through to a higher law, one that does not depend on a king as its figurehead." He looks around the crowd. "According to the law, none of us should be here. By my law, I would not have any women here. This is war."

Javert is busily not making himself known. A brief glance at the cluster of arguing people, and an internal movement of exasperation. He should leave, now, and call back the National Guard. They'll bicker themselves into the grave, first.

For a wonder, Combeferre's chin is raised and he seems as ready to do battle as Enjolras or Chantal. "Gender has nothing to do with willingness to fight, or strength of belief. Isn't that right, Manon?" he asks, as if he does not know her answer.

"Your law?" It's Manon, of course, who pounces on that. And, "Damned right."

That's the trouble with Marcelin; he talks you to a standstill. Chantal stands mute and defiant, possibly hyperventilating just a touch, but at least not crying. Or blushing.

And from mild Desmarais: "He's got a point, Enjolras."

Bossuet speaks up next. He, at least, is not afraid of Enjolras. "It is not your law, is it, Enjolras? It is the law of the Republic. If that law says anything about the inequality of women or other different people," with an emphasis on different to be absolutely clear, and a slight tightening of his arm around Joly's waist, "I, for one, will go home now."

Enjolras, beset from all sides, does not back down. It is simply not in his nature. "I will not be responsible for the deaths of women!" He looks from Chantal to Manon, and it is not a glare. It is almost tender. "You should teach your children, not die so that someone else's can be free. That is unfair. If you are wise enough to want to fight, you should be intelligent enough to do what is best for the world, instead of following this foolish whim."

The tears do well up again then in Chantal's eyes, and she ducks her head fiercely.

Manon blinks. She straightens her shoulders, as a person who is reorganizing her thoughts. "Fair enough," she says after a pause, quite mildly. "But, Enjolras, that has to apply to everyone here. Not just us," and she gestures from herself to Chantal.

Combeferre listens to the impassioned speech, but if he is moved, it does not show in his face. "Could you not teach your children just as well as your sister might? Do not ask something of her that you will not give, yourself." He puts a hand on Chantal's shoulder, comfortingly.

Jean Prouvaire has no such iron control. He looks to the ground, shaken.

Feuilly just listens, impassive, leaning deceptively casually on the barricade.

Joly listens to the words, also seemingly moved, as he moves his own hand to rest on Bossuet, while using the other to wipe his nose with a handkerchief.

Enjolras is calm, now. Heaven alone knows why. Perhaps he thinks he has won. "I am willing to give my life, if it is necessary, so that tomorrow's children can live in a better world. If everyone in France gave that sacrifice, there would be no children. The more of my family survives, the more people there will be who believe in the Republic, who will keep her strong, or who can wake her if this does not work."

Combeferre takes a little of the initiative, now that Enjolras has abandoned his haranguing tone and slipped into oration instead. "If you want your family to continue, go home." It is an eminently sensible suggestion, and in the same sort of calm tone that Enjolras is using now, although it is slightly quieter.

Chantal scrubs furiously at her eyes. Not crying. No. Christian wouldn't cry. Lord knows Marcelin wouldn't. She's not going to cry. Not anymore, anyway.

Manon says in that same unwontedly moderate tone, "Be fair, Enjolras, that's all. She wants you safe as much as you want her safe. And we're all equals here. Aren't we?"

Courfeyrac looks at Manon after Combeferre's suggestion, then steps forward slightly, though he is still on the edge of the crowd. "A family in the abstract is all well and good, but I, for one, would not want a brood of little Frenchmen to instruct in any ideals, not now." He gestures at the crowd of men, most of whom are under 30. "We are students. Students learn, and then they do the best they can to follow the ideas they have learned. This is what we can do. Let it happen."

Feuilly, who isn't, smiles fleetingly but nods, finding truth in that.

Manon starts to say something, then shuts up. Rather abruptly.

Enjolras looks at Manon without anger, for once. "Perhaps we are equal," he says, as if he had never thought of it before now. "Are we all equal to the soldiers who fight in our country's wars? Even if we are, we do not have to share their fate."

Manon glances at Courfeyrac, then back to Enjolras, waiting for him to finish his thought.

Chantal reaches up to take Combeferre's hand again, white-faced but somewhat composed now.

Combeferre points out, "This is not a normal war. We are but citizens, not soldiers. We are fighting the soldiers. Every citizen has a right to be here."

Enjolras looks as if he is about to object to this, then nods, and spreads his hands. He looks down at the torn-up street. "You all have a right to be here, then." His voice catches on the last word, and he turns his gaze to Chantal. "That does not mean I like that fact."

Chantal looks at the ground. "I know," she says, very quietly. "But I'm not ... I won't leave you here."

Enjolras takes a step toward Chantal, and gives Combeferre a hard look. Combeferre squeezes Chantal's hand, and backs away. Enjolras takes her free hand. He looks at her, almost sadly. "I cannot leave, but I shall never forgive myself if you stay for my pitiful sake."

Feuilly blinks.

Chantal gasps, speechless for a moment. Then, "Don't say that!"

Courfeyrac speaks up again. "Enjolras, you are our leader. You always have been." It is the simple truth, whether it has been spoken before or not. "Do you think you can abdicate?"

"Of course he doesn't," murmurs Manon. "That's what he said, isn't it?"

Enjolras looks at Chantal, again. He is terribly torn. "It is not my choice," he declares, abdicating that responsibility instead. "Chantal, sister, please. Do not force me into this."

Manon sighs, barely audibly.

Chantal whispers, all in one breath, "Iwon'tleaveyouandIwon'tleaveEtienne," and having said that, pulls away from both of them, scarlet, and turns to start stacking crates again, as if the discussion is over.

Joly watches from Bossuet's side. He begins to think his eye tissues are becoming enflamed.

Combeferre catches Marcelin's eye. "Well. In that case, it's settled, isn't it?"

Enjolras deflates entirely, and sits down on one of those crates. He puts his head in his hands, and says nothing.

Feuilly straightens, shaking his head, but doesn't offer his thoughts. Which is usual. He too turns away, and silently gets back to work.

Joly briefly tugs on the edge of Bossuet's shirt, thinking they ought to follow suit.

Courfeyrac asks Manon, "Do you think you can help?"

Manon glances up wryly. "The boy or the barricade?" By the boy, plainly, she means Enjolras.

Courfeyrac shrugs, looking lost. "Anything. Anyone. We all need feminine guidance."

Bossuet follows the tug, whispering something to Joly as they go back to work.

Combeferre walks over to where Enjolras is sitting on a crate and squats down to have a quiet conversation with him. Enjolras avoids looking at him, but responds after a few minutes.

Manon laughs. It's an odd sort of sound, almost as though she'd rather cry instead. "Yes. You do." She moves to slip an arm around Courfeyrac's waist and bury her face in his shoulder a moment.

Prouvaire debates trying to soothe Enjolras, but Combeferre beats him to it, which is just as well, since he has a chance of being listened to. Jehan ducks into Corinth instead, to try and talk sense into the landlady and her staff.

Courfeyrac strokes Manon's hair. "I am glad I don't have a sister to shepherd here. You're enough, and then some." He takes a slight step away from her, looking at her curiously. "You knew about Caron, Chantal, I mean, all along, didn't you?"

Manon looks up with a faintly amused expression. "Nearly, yes. She's a dreadful actress."

Courfeyrac feels rather stupid that he let himself be taken in by the girl. "I almost knew," he protests. "When I first met her, I could have sworn there was something odd." He shrugs. "But no one else said anything, so I didn't think about it."

A small grin, not quite smug. "Exactly. You wouldn't insult him by asking." She pats Courfeyrac on the shoulder consolingly.

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Of course not." His face shows considerable trepidation. "You didn't, did you?"

Manon just grins wickedly at him.

Courfeyrac's eyes grow wide. "You didn't! That's what feminine intuition is for, isn't it?"

Manon laughs. "No, of course I didn't. I asked Combeferre."

Courfeyrac grows pale. "How on earth did he know?" An idea presents itself, but it doesn't seem to fit. "He didn't.... did he? Our Etienne?"

There's a definite amused twinkle in Manon's black eyes then. "Didn't what, cher?"

Courfeyrac looks almost embarrassed. "He wouldn't take advantage of such a young girl." His tone wavers between conviction and faith in Combeferre's moral fiber, and a more self-conscious wobble that has to do more with his own thoughts about young girls.

Manon is not above teasing her man, even at a time of crisis. "I'm not so sure. That was an awfully precipitate greeting."

Courfeyrac chokes slightly. "I suppose it was."

She outright giggles then, and takes pity on him. "No, darling, I don't think it's like that. He's perceptive, that's all."

Courfeyrac looks quite worried, though it's not really any of his business. "If you say so. You're perceptive, too, but you didn't kiss her."

"That's because I'm not a man, dear," Manon says patiently. Adds, after a reflective moment, "And haven't been living alone as long as Etienne has."

"But he doesn't live alone," Courfeyrac objects, "he lives with. Oh dear. Christian. Chantal." He's blushing. "My goodness. I wonder what Enjolras thinks of all of this."

Manon says dryly, "Take a guess. If he wasn't Etienne, I should think he'd be dead by now. Or at least incapacitated."

Courfeyrac nods. "At least. Yes." He folds his arms across his chest protectively, shaking his head. "Of anyone's sister, by heaven. Only Combeferre could survive this."

"It's not," Manon points out, snaking an arm around him again, "as though it's a bad thing."

Courfeyrac unfolds his arms to embrace her. "That depends entirely on whom one asks. I don't think Enjolras would agree with you."

She presses against him, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder in her kittenish way. "Enjolras doesn't know what he misses."

Courfeyrac kisses her when she stops nuzzling him. "That is entirely true."

Enjolras says something in a strangled voice. Though Combeferre tries to comfort him, he pulls away and storms into the Corinth.

Inside, Jean Prouvaire is talking to the landlady, with great earnestness and persuasive fervor, while she bustles about trying to clean up the ravages made by the insurgents.

Enjolras pays no attention to either of them. He knows exactly where he is going. He finds the only table left in the whole place, gently moves the head and arms of its occupant to one side, takes the glass out of said occupant's hand, and sits on the table. He takes a drink, winces, and takes another. To anyone who knows Enjolras, it will look like a mental breakdown.

The occupant stirs lethargically, with a faint inarticulate mutter.

Prouvaire, who is luckily still downstairs or the sight of this tableau might be too much for his highly-strung nerves, gives up on the Widow Hucheloup and heads outside again, raking a hand through his hair.

Enjolras looks down at Grantaire, almost sympathetically, and says, reflectively, "No wonder you're always so aggravating, if this is what you drink. I couldn't be well-behaved if I was quaffing this all day long." He chuckles ruefully. "Not that I have been, recently." He drinks again, and winces. "Perhaps this will give me an excuse."

Presently Grantaire raises his head slowly, blinking at the gutted room. "Damn," he remarks, mostly to himself.

Enjolras, still comfortably seated on the table, drinking, looks at him, then follows his gaze. "Yes, they certainly were thorough, weren't they?" He makes no comment about what brought him to be on said table, drinking. Yet.

Grantaire looks up sharply, or what would be sharply if he wasn't still severely fogged. Slowly the image registers. "Hells afire, my demigod." The tone is bemused.

Normally, Enjolras would have some sort of violent reaction to this. He just sets the cup down, a little bit unsteadily. "Is it? It should be warmer than this cafe, at least."

Grantaire looks at the glass. At the man. At the glass again. Shakes his head ponderously. "What brought this on?"

All of the moderating influence of the alcohol is gone in a flash. Any anger Enjolras feels is, however, directed solely at himself. "My sister is going to die, and it is my fault." He looks down at the dusty floor, away from Grantaire.

This statement has sufficient shock value to clear Grantaire's head a trifle. He props himself on his elbows and peers at Enjolras quizzically.

Enjolras might be crying, but since he is not looking toward Grantaire, no one can see. "She is here. She should be at home, but no, she would not go, and she would not even stay in the apartment today, even when she'd promised." His voice is breaking as he speaks.

Grantaire blinks, stunned equally by the news and by the tone. "God," he murmurs, and, forgetting himself, reaches up to clasp Enjolras' shoulder in bewildered sympathy.

Enjolras picks up the glass again, and drinks. He still can't drink the nasty alcoholic punch without coughing. He looks at Grantaire without rejecting the advance. His eyes are watering, but that might be from the drink. "I wish she would go home. I wish anyone could make her."

Grantaire's brow furrows. "You need help dragging her?" A direct and simple man, Grantaire.

Enjolras objects, "I can't do that. I love her." This is a new objection. Loving her had nothing to do with it, before, when he called her a second-class citizen. "And besides, she'll fight."

Grantaire's rough laughter echoes in the comparative quiet of the room, and it's bitter. "Don't they always." He rubs Enjolras' shoulder a bit. "Hell. I'm sorry."

Enjolras shakes his head. "Don't apologize. For once, I can't blame anyone but myself." He drinks and winces. His eyes water more, or he is still crying. "The worst thing is that Combeferre would fight, too, to keep her here, where she'll die."

Grantaire blinks once, wondering dimly what Combeferre has to do with it all. For the moment he can't think of anything more intelligent to say than a mild, "You're here."

Enjolras waves his free hand incoherently. "Here? I'm here, yes. I'm not going to bring my sister into this cafe and give her this, what is this horrible stuff, not going to let her get drunk here. Again."

Second blink. "Again?"

Enjolras hangs his head. "You met her. Of course you did. You even flirted with her. Poor Chantoinette." He doesn't take many breaths. He just talks in fits and starts. "Poor Christian."

Grantaire blinks a third time, and his hand slips from Enjolras' shoulder to fall to the table heavily. "I never flirted with your sister." His tone is a little aggrieved.

"You did so." He's quite peevish. "I saw you." If the rebels outside heard Enjolras sounding this much like a five-year-old, they might go home right now.

Grantaire protests, "I never laid eyes on your sister."

"Yes, you did." He speaks more slowly now, explaining as one intoxicated man to another, "My sister is Chantal. My cousin isn't my cousin, he's my sister. She's my sister. Christian, Caron, Chantal, same person."

Grantaire squints slightly, and sits back as this sinks in. "Good God."

Enjolras asks superfluously, "Do you see, now?" He takes another drink, though that is one of the last things he needs. "I'd have to fight you for the insult to my sister's honor, but Combeferre got there first."

"Combeferre..." The R's only getting more befuddled as this conversation progresses. Or regresses. Then: "We did fight. 'member?" Well, all right, so Marcelin fought and Grantaire fell down a lot. But still.

Enjolras raises a hand as if he is orating to a large crowd, and half turns to face Grantaire. "Ah, but that was about Christian! I should fight you about Chantal." He frowns and looks rather puzzled. "But I wasn't going to, because you didn't kiss her. That was Combeferre." He peers at Grantaire. "Right? You didn't kiss her?"

"I didn't kiss anybody," Grantaire says, half defensive, half mournful. "I don't think."

Enjolras puts his elbows on his knees, and his chin in his hands. "That's funny, neither did I." He muses for a few minutes. "I think I'd remember that."

"You would," Grantaire assures him.

Enjolras sighs deeply. "I thought as much." He clambers off the table unsteadily and wanders around the room, looking for a chair. Finding none, he turns back to Grantaire and asks, "Didn't there used to be furniture in here? I could have sworn there was."

"There was," says Grantaire. "It's gone," he explains.

"Oh." This sounds incredibly deep, and requires much thought. Thought requires fortification, but the cup is empty. Enjolras looks at it sadly, and asks, "Where did it go?" referring to both the brandy and the furniture.

Grantaire ponders this. There was furniture this morning. He knows this full well, because Joly and Bossuet were here and they were in chairs, possibly even one apiece, until-- "Oh. Yes. They were taking it out to put in your barricade." He gives Enjolras a remonstrating look, like a mother who told her child his toys would break if he dropped them out the window.

Light dawns. "Oh, that's right." Since there is nowhere else to sit, Enjolras moves the table a little way from Grantaire so that he can sit on it and not have to be looking away from R while they're talking. He then sits on it, kicking his feet a little. "And the barricade is where Chantal is." He looks sad again.

Grantaire begins, "If my sister went off to a silly barricade," and then pauses, because he's not sure what he'd do, and besides, "My sister wouldn't go off to a barricade in the first place." Hmmm. This requires thought. Where the hell'd he put that bottle?

Enjolras frowns. It comes perilously close to being a pout. "I didn't think mine would, either." He shrugs. "I thought she was smarter than that."

Grantaire nods sagely, and then actually looks at Enjolras for the first time in some minutes. It reminds him who exactly he's talking to, and he twitches a little, some part of his brain registering that all this is very odd.

Enjolras trails off, but doesn't stop talking. "I guess she doesn't have to be any smarter than me, and I'm supposed to be in charge of this barricade, right?"

"Probably," Grantaire agrees absently. "Marcelin, you're tipsy."

Enjolras looks at him. Some little part of his brain that isn't completely overloaded by a barricade and Chantal and Combeferre kissing Chantal and Chantal maybe going to die and everyone else maybe going to die and Marcelin maybe going to die and alcohol objects to having Grantaire call him Marcelin. And he's not tipsy, except probably he is. "I think that's why I'm here. To get drunk. So I wouldn't have to worry about Chantal. But I'm doing it anyway."

Again the wise nod. Grantaire ponders a moment more, checks under the table, looks back up at him ruefully. "Yes. That's the hell of it."

Enjolras's brow wrinkles. "What are you looking for?" he asks curiously.

"I'd offer you a drink," the R explains, "but Bossuet absconded with it. Unless it was Joly."

Enjolras shrugs slightly. "I had a drink. I remember that, at least."

In the street, Chantal perches atop the barricade with Manon, helping her patch the smaller gaps with paving stones and bric-a-brac.

Grantaire shrugs as well. Why should that stop anyone? But the point is moot, in any case, so he slouches back in his chair and contemplates Enjolras a moment.

Outside the Corinth, Combeferre wanders from group to group of men working, looking for Marcelin. When he sees Chantal up on the barricade with Manon, he calls out to them. "Have you seen Marcelin?"

Chantal automatically bridles, though she says matter-of-factly enough, "No."

Enjolras puts his head on his hands again. "Maybe I should go out there and help." He makes no move to do anything of the sort.

"Not in the state you're in," advises Grantaire, and -- can you really blame him? -- reaches out to tousle the fair hair. "Sit for a bit."

Enjolras doesn't protest. He looks as if he may be about to fall asleep. "I suppose you'd know about this sort of thing." Sleepily, he defends his honor. "I don't drink, you know."

Combeferre frowns, and asks, "Do you have any idea where he might have gone? I haven't seen him anywhere since he went into the Corinth, but there wasn't anything to be done there."

Grantaire grins crookedly, wryly. "Yes, I know."

Manon squints at the cafe, then looks back down at Combeferre. "He's not over in Mondétour?"

Chantal frowns a bit.

Enjolras's eyes drift shut. "'sgood. Someone ought to know what's going on..." his voice trails off. He begins to breathe more deeply. Definitely not awake.

Combeferre shakes his head. "I looked there. I haven't gone into the café yet, but I don't imagine he's doing anything there." He looks at Chantal. "Do you want to help me look?"

Grantaire, marginally more sober, perceives this, and permits himself to ruffle his hair again lightly, before leaning back in his chair and leaving the poor fellow to his peace.

Chantal looks to Manon, who shrugs. "All right," she says, and turns to clamber down.

Combeferre offers Chantal a hand at the foot of the barricade. "No one has seen him since we had that discussion." He puts no emphasis on the noun, and he doesn't seem to be sarcastic.

Chantal takes Combeferre's hand, holding it rather tightly. "He must be inside then, I should think."

Combeferre walks with her to the Corinth and looks around the ground floor, which, at this point, is basically empty. "Would he have gone upstairs?" It's an entirely rhetorical question. He shrugs and walks over to the stairs.

Chantal follows, looking puzzled.

When Combeferre and Chantal reach the top of the stairs, they see Enjolras sitting on a table with his head in his hands, quietly sleeping, and Grantaire in a chair slightly apart from the table, not asleep.

He looks up unhurriedly, and blinks at them a couple of times. Raises a hand in silent greeting, as though to caution them not to wake the slumbering leader.

Combeferre looks quite surprised by this little tableau. "François, you're awake." When all else fails, state the obvious. "Is Marcelin asleep?" he asks, more quietly, as if the noise he and Chantal made coming up the stairs wasn't loud enough to wake someone anyway.

"Out like a light," confirms Grantaire softly. "Can't blame him."

Chantal looks baffled. She starts to speak, but can't quite articulate.

Combeferre looks again at Marcelin, and, yes, he's certainly asleep. "However did he manage to fall asleep in the middle of a barricade?" He sounds quite mystified.

"No head for it," Grantaire says wisely. "That's what comes of teetotalling."

Chantal blinks, and splutters a bit. Her brother?

Combeferre is about as shocked as les Amis were when he kissed Chantal. His jaw falls slightly open. "He was drinking?" He sounds horrified. "Tonight? Oh Marcelin, of all the nights you could have started, did it have to be tonight?" This is said with no regard for volume. Marcelin stirs slightly.

Grantaire levels a finger at Chantal, very earnest. "He's his sister," he explains. "I'd be drinking too."

"Good God, man, Chantal has lived with me for months! Do you think I didn't know?" Combeferre is not being quiet. Not at all. He's rather disgusted with Marcelin, and, unfortunately, can't take it out on him without waking him up, so some of it washes over onto Grantaire. Not much, though. He relents after this outburst. "Why do people have to point that out to me?" he asks Chantal. "Do I seem that oblivious?"

Enjolras's eyes open, and he looks around. This is not a particularly accurate measure of his mental acuity. He complains in a voice marred by stress, sleep, and drink, "Can't you argue more quietly? I'm trying to sleep."

Chantal blinks at Grantaire, and reddens a bit. "Well. They didn't know. I suppose they thought you didn't..." And then, in tones of great pain and chagrin, "Oh, Marcelin!"

"Yes, hush," agrees Grantaire at once, reproachfully.

Enjolras makes an attempt to focus on Chantal, and nearly falls off the table. He catches himself with both hands on its edge and sways back so that he's sitting securely again. "Chantal?" he asks, still in the same voice. "Why aren't you at home?"

Chantal can only repeat, "Marcelin!" with a sort of helpless, baffled rebuke. "Really."

Combeferre steps forward so as to be ready to catch Enjolras, should he tip over. "I think you should go home, Marcelin," he suggests in his most eminently reasonable voice. "This is not the place for drunkenness."

Grantaire's brow furrows. Didn't he hear someone say that recently?

Enjolras asks Chantal, "What?" When Combeferre interrupts his wobbling thoughts, he frowns. "There's a barricade out there. I should be there."

"Not likely," Chantal says, in the bordering-rude tone she's picked up since being Christian, and then, "Just look at you."

Enjolras tries to make a quick comeback, but only splutters. He pauses a moment to collect his words. "Look at me? I'm only drunk. Look at you. You look like a little boy. You're not a little boy. You should be home, besides."

Combeferre shakes his head. "I think you should both be home." He looks at Grantaire. "Would you like to join the merry parade, François?"

She looks up at Combeferre, as one rational being among lunatics to another, and then back to Marcelin and Grantaire expectantly. The latter shrugs, and pushes to his feet, remarking, "At least there'll be furniture."

Enjolras mutters, "That's a good point." He looks at Grantaire with quite a silly smile on his face. "See, you don't have to help me drag her home. She's just coming home with us, and it'll all be all right." This is an incredible weight off of his mind. If he wasn't so drunk, he would be clicking his heels and jumping for joy. As it is, he can barely manage to slide off the table and stand there. "You're coming, Combeferre?" Apparently the conversation isn't penetrating his mind all that well.

Chantal buries her face in her hands for a moment.

Combeferre puts an arm around Marcelin's waist to help him stand. "Yes, I'm coming with you, and I'll stay, too." He gives Chantal a sympathetic look. "I'm sure there will be other funerals to celebrate."

She flinches, and looks up again with eyes suddenly tearful, not quite looking at any of them.

Enjolras objects, "Generals don't die every day, Etienne." He tries to take a step away from Combeferre to prove that he'll be fine without help, and his knees almost give way. Fortunately for him, Combeferre doesn't let go. "Hm." He considers this, and where his supporting person is going. "Let's go home, then. Maybe we can kill a general on the way." He tries to focus on Grantaire. "We'll be sober in time for the next funeral, right?"

"Right," Grantaire agrees after a pause. He reaches out to put a hand on Enjolras' shoulder. Who he's supporting is open to debate.

Combeferre sighs, but makes himself smile. After all, if he is not a part of this, heaven knows what will happen here, or next, but the progress of the world will undoubtedly continue. This thought gives him enough strength to begin leading Enjolras and Grantaire toward the stairs.

Chantal walks along with them, fretting visibly.

Enjolras looks slightly queasy by the time they reach the stairs. Combeferre shakes his head. "We can't go down these stairs three wide," he points out. "François, if you wait, I'll come back up and help you down."

Grantaire glances skyward. "Can get down the damn stairs my own self, thank you, monsieur. What d'you take me for?" He falls back a step.

Combeferre begins the arduous task of teaching an impaired man how to navigate steps. "You don't often fall asleep from your drinking, that's all."

"Damned right," retorts Grantaire with some spirit. He offers Chantal his arm politely, though all he gets is an exasperated look.

After an uncomfortable trip, a rather more tired Combeferre and a less merry Enjolras reach the ground floor.

Chantal and Grantaire are not far behind, the one frowning, the other deliberately casual. Chantal ducks around to open the door for them all.

When Combeferre emerges on the street, Courfeyrac begins to hail him with a glad, "Etienne!" but it is choked off in midsyllable. The question runs through the crowd: What on earth has happened to Enjolras?

From the corner of the Rue Mondétour, Feuilly starts to say something as well, and swallows it, staring.

"Holy mother of..." Manon slides down from the barricade and jogs over to Courfeyrac's side, watching the procession.

Bossuet seems incredibly amused by the question. "Isn't it obvious? He's drunk!" he carols out in answer. "The last thing we expected of him." Joly tries to shush him, but now it is far too late.

Jean Prouvaire looks scandalized, more at Bossuet than at Enjolras, because he doesn't believe it, yet.

Pontmercy stops moping over his departed Cosette long enough to object, "But Enjolras never drinks."

Chantal tries doggedly to keep them moving as quickly as possible, before they are all four embarrassed to death.

Grantaire pauses to clap Marius on the shoulder. "Quite so," he says gravely but audibly, and heads after the others. If he's good for nothing else, he can at least try to preserve his idol's reputation.

Combeferre does not try to lessen the damage to Enjolras's image. If it's over, it's over. He just heads for the Rue Mondétour as quickly as Fearless Leader can stagger.

Enjolras is mildly embarrassed by all of this, but he's so happy that Chantal is going home that it hardly touches him. "Have a good revolution," he says earnestly to Joly as they pass him. Joly blinks at him, then turns away.

"God preserve us," murmurs Manon, and looks up at Courfeyrac.

Courfeyrac can only shake his head. "What happened?"

Manon watches Chantal disappear round the corner with her brother and her ... well ... friend, with what might be described as envy. "Damned if I know." She pauses.

Combeferre leads Enjolras at the terribly faltering pace, past the National Guards who have begun to gather. There is no comment. Why should there be? They are only three drunk men and a little boy, wandering through Paris. Nothing new.

Enjolras asks petulantly, "Where are you taking me?"

Chantal trudges after the others, troubled. After a bit Grantaire falls back and puts an arm about her shoulders, which she doesn't protest, though she sighs.

"My flat. It's not too far, and it has two rooms. You can sleep." From Combeferre's voice, it isn't clear that there will be another option. Even incredibly nice people can only be pushed so far.

When they reach Combeferre's building, Chantal pulls away from Grantaire to open the door again.

Navigating through the hallways and stairs is slightly easier than it was on the first set of stairs, if only because they have had more practice. Combeferre pauses outside his door, then opens it and helps Enjolras through. "Here. Home, sweet home."

Grantaire hangs back in the hallway, watching these maneuvers expressionlessly.

Combeferre turns to Grantaire once Marcelin is sitting down inside. "Come in. I know you're used to this, but I don't want you to get hurt. There will be trouble in the streets tonight."

Grantaire looks mulish, but it's Combeferre. He shrugs, and steps inside.

Enjolras looks intently at the wall. "Are you staying home tonight and tomorrow, Chantal?" he asks. There is still a part of his mind that is worried.

Chantal sinks down in Combeferre's desk chair. "Yes," she murmurs wearily.

For the moment, Enjolras's voice is almost clear. "Do you promise?"

Her voice softens. "Yes, Marcelin."

"Merci." That is slurred almost beyond recognition. Enjolras leans back in the chair where he has landed, and is asleep almost before his head hits the back.

Chantal folds her arms on the desk, and after a moment buries her face in her arms.

Grantaire shakes his head slightly, leaning on the doorframe with his arms folded. "I'm sorry," he murmurs to Combeferre, even though he had little to do with this, for once.

Combeferre shakes his head. "It's not your fault," he assures Grantaire, then goes to half-kneel by the desk and embrace Chantal. "Don't cry. You saved us. There's no reason for tears."

But Chantal, who wasn't quite crying, does break down in tears at that, and throws her arms around him. "Oh, God, Etienne..."

Grantaire pushes away from the door, averting his eyes, and goes and sinks down to sit on the floor next to the chair occupied by Enjolras. So much for furniture.

Combeferre clucks his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "You did everything that you could. Shhh. We will see what's happening in the morning."

Chantal buries her face in his shoulder, quaking.

Combeferre strokes her hair softly. He suggests, "Why don't we go into your room so we don't disturb Marcelin?" To Grantaire, he says, "You can have the bed in here. Sleep well. Don't let him leave."

Grantaire looks up, deadly serious, and nods. He doesn't say anything, and he doesn't bother to move from the floor, but he does manage to convey the impression that Enjolras is, in fact, not going to be going anywhere when he wakes up.

Combeferre tries to smile, but it doesn't quite work. It's been a long day for all concerned, and unlike Marcelin, he hasn't been drinking. "Merci," he adds, then begins to edge toward the inner door.

Chantal picks herself up out of the chair, still sniffling, and follows.

Combeferre closes the door behind them and collapses onto the bed. "This is the last place I expected to be tonight. The barricade, yes. The street, yes. Prison, perhaps. But not home. And not here." He waves a hand at the room. Her room.

The tears well up again. "I'm sorry," she squeaks, somewhat irrationally.

Combeferre shakes his head, and stands again. "It's not your fault. I'll be right back. I want to make sure Marcelin doesn't go anywhere." He goes out, locks the outer door, gives the key to Grantaire, and returns.

Grantaire looks at it, shrugs, and pockets it. He'll go lock them in when the world stops going round and round.

Meanwhile, Chantal has sunk onto the bed, bracing her hands to either side of her, and is making a valiant attempt to stop crying.

Combeferre embraces her. "Just relax. It isn't your fault, and if it is, what have you done?" He holds a hand out and ticks off points on his fingers. "If the barricade falls, you've saved three of us. If it doesn't, you've done no harm because the revolution will happen without three men. And as to Marcelin drinking," he sighs, "you don't need to worry about that. He needed some way to express his frustration."

Chantal nestles against him, still shaking a bit. "I ... I know ..."

"Then don't cry. Please." He's pleading. "I hate it when you cry."

She takes in a couple of long, shuddering breaths, and calms a bit. "'m sorry. I just, I just..." Another breath.

Combeferre asks gently, "Just what?"

"I don't know." She looks up at him dazedly.

"Ah. I thought it was something like that." He leans forward and kisses her.

Chantal's fingers tighten in his sleeve a moment, and then all her pent-up tension is directed in entirely a different direction while she clings to him.

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