20. Same Old Story

June 7th

There is a knock on the door of Grantaire's flat, followed immediately by the opening of the door and Jeanne entering in tears.

Grantaire is sprawled fully clothed on the bed, having apparently been sitting on its edge when exhaustion caught up with him, so it's just as well that she lets herself in. He picks himself up, blinking owlishly, and frowns; then, wordlessly, holds out his arms to her.

Jeanne flies into his arms. "God, how could he have been so stupid?" she wails, scrubbing her eyes with one hand while still holding to him tightly. "Damn him." She gasps, realizing what she has said, then lets go of her brother to cross herself.

Grantaire watches her, keeping one arm about her shoulders, his foggy brain trying to make sense of all this carrying on. "...What's happened?"

"He's dead. Him, of all people. Like he didn't know we depend on him, more than anything, like we don't need him more than the damned Republic could ever need him." She looks at the floor, trying not to cry for the moment, not until she's explained. "He's just another corpse now, and I needed him alive. I still need him. What shall I do?"

This takes a minute to filter through. When it does, it takes him another minute to restrain himself from remarking 'good riddance to bad rubbish'. At last he sighs. "Ah, Jeannette..." and he reaches out to gather her against his shoulder. "I'm sorry."

Jeanne lets herself sob again. "I didn't love him," she blurts out. "My heart's not broken." Her voice is rough with tears. "But oh, what can I do without him? I needed him."

Grantaire sighs again, and strokes her hair. "It'll be all right, chère. It will..."

"How? How can it possibly be all right?" She rubs her face on her sleeve. They are both quite dirty, but it rearranges the smudges. "I can't work. I have children. You can't look after them, and if I hire someone to do it for me we'll have no money for food, or shelter."

"I..." He pauses. "Look, we'll talk to aunt Claudette. If she can persist in trying to fund me into a model citizen, she won't balk at keeping you on your feet. I'll talk to my friends... We'll think of something."

Jeanne takes a deep breath, composing herself. "Your friends? I didn't think any of them had money to spare."

Grantaire half shrugs. "Some of them do. We'll work something out, Jeannette, I promise you. Haven't we always?"

She's almost calm now. "We always have. I only wish he hadn't been so damned stupid." With another rub of her eyes, she asks, "Weren't any of your friends there?"

"Some of them," he says cautiously. He digs a more or less clean handkerchief out of his pocket and offers it.

Jeanne accepts it and blows her nose. "Are they all right?"

Grantaire sighs. "Some of them."

She embraces him comfortingly, now. "I'm so sorry."

Grantaire shrugs, not very convincingly, and returns the embrace roughly. "Damn stupid, all of it."

Jeanne can agree with that. "Did you lose any?"

He'd be flippant, but he hasn't the heart or, truth to tell, the energy. "Friends? Yes. A few." His voice is somber; but he feels compelled to add, "None who didn't know what they were getting into."

"God, I'm sorry." She hands back his handkerchief, looking at his face worriedly. "Who was it?"

Grantaire crumples the square in one ungainly hand, not quite looking at her. "Jean Prouvaire." That comes with an effort. "Nobody else you know."

Jeanne frowns. "How horrible. The poor thing. He was so sweet." She remembers him, enough. He was the one who was nice to her little boy when poor Robert was fretful. She shakes her head. "And so young."

Grantaire's mouth twists slightly. "Yes." It comes out gruff. "He never hurt a fly. So of course they shot him as a danger to the country." He takes in a breath, and goes on rapidly. "Combeferre stayed home with his girl. Feuilly got out in time."

"He stayed with his girl? I doubt she could appreciate how lucky she is." She nods a little as he continues. "And Feuilly, I'm glad of that." Perhaps she would smile if she wasn't having such a rough day. "He didn't deserve anything less." Jeanne looks at Grantaire again, trying to figure out what he isn't saying. Eventually, she gives up and asks. "And yours? Was he leading the charge in a blaze of glory?"

A short laugh escapes him. "'Mine'?" He pushes a hand through his hair, which does nothing to improve its disarray. "Enjolras is fine. Of course. You can't kill a demigod." Or maybe he's not a demigod anymore, given recent events. "We dragged him home, Courfeyrac and me. He slept for hours. He'll be fine."

Jeanne looks quite surprised, and upset again. "My idiot husband ran into the fracas, and your ringleader got home safe and sound?" Her hand clenches into a fist on her skirts. "That's terrible." She realizes what she has said. "I mean, I don't want either of them dead, but that does not make sense." She's not complaining to him anymore, more to God or whomever is listening.

Grantaire tightens his arm around her with a small, bitter grin. "Nothing makes sense, chérie. I've told you for years."

"Damn it. I needed that stupid man." There are tears on her face, now. "I don't care what's right, or sensible, or what the best government is. I want my children to have food."

"I know." He kisses her hair; then, with sudden force: "Hellfire. You're going to be all right, Jeanne. If I have to quit all this and throw Auntie's benefices back in her face and go be a bricklayer, I'll see you're taken care of."

That is insane enough to draw a laugh out of her, as harsh as his normally are. "You'd be a hideous bricklayer, mon frère. Better to milk Auntie for whatever she'll give. And I'll think, and you'll think. We're not stupid, just unlucky." She glances at the floor again. "Unlike some people I could mention."

"Yes. Well." He chuckles faintly, dryly, then sobers. "I'll help you, chère. I will. One way or another. You'll get through this."

Jeanne sits down on his bed. He may be exhausted, but she is, too. "I hope so. I don't know how. I do have friends, or I'd not be here now, and they'll look after my little darlings, but I owe all of them equal time."

Grantaire nods slightly, and shifts position a bit, moving to rub her shoulders soothingly. "Right." After a moment, he says mildly, "I could come and stay with you a bit, if you want. Look after the brats. Help you out while we think of something. I do vaguely remember how to boil water."

"Do you, then? That could be a good idea, give them a little chance to meet their uncle." She rolls her shoulders under his hands. "What I really need is money."

"We'll find it." His fingers go on working gently, trying to ease the tension out of her muscles. "I do know some people. We'll write to aunt. It'll work out."

Jeanne sighs, and leans into his hands a little. "Ouch. I only wish I had rich friends."

Grantaire grins slightly, and pats her shoulders. "Not a bad thing, no."

Jeanne arranges her skirts. "I had best be going." She stands, and turns to give her brother a kiss on the cheek. "Goodbye. I'll probably be by to see you tomorrow, and ask if you've found anything helpful."

Grantaire returns the kiss, looks up at her with more of a genuine smile than anyone else can win from him. "All right. I'll do my best. Take care of yourself."

"You, too." She blows him a kiss with as much of a smile as she can muster, and bustles out the door.

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