Summer, 1857

The southern slope of Mount Parnassus is gloriously beautiful in July sunshine, although it is rather warm for people who happen to be standing on it. The town of Delphi is unassuming except for the portion designed for people travelling through, which is crowded in this sun-drenched season. The inns are full of many languages, lilting accents and halting Greek. The sights the tourists come to see are equally crowded, particularly the vaunted temple of Apollo where the Sibyl once sat and spoke the truth. It is not yet so crowded that no one goes there anymore, but the guides who will go in the cool of the evening find themselves with huge groups. As the sun approaches noon, only the dedicated and the borderline insane take the long walk out. This proves to be worth their time, for the Navel itself is in a cave whose coolth does little for people who see it when it is not blazing outside, but which is a great relief when the sun reaches its zenith.

As they reach this shelter, Grantaire casts his companion a slightly worried glance. "You all right?"

"Yes, I suppose. I see now why they said not to go at this hour."

"Yes. Well, it's done now." Grantaire reaches for his hand, unobtrusively.

Enjolras stumbles over a stone in the path, then takes his hand. "This is a very odd place."

"Odd? I'd have said 'inconvenient', maybe."

"It feels strange." As they enter the cave and the guide begins talking in what may be German, Enjolras looks up. "I don't know."

Grantaire squeezes his fingers. "Are you sure you're all right?"

'More or less." He smiles, though it is a bit forced.

"Mon cher--"

"I'm fine," impatiently.

Grantaire looks doubtful, but lets it drop.

Enjolras closes his eyes for a long moment. "It's good to be out of the sun," he says quietly.

"Yes." Grantaire studies him. "D'you want to rest a minute?"

"I'm hardly going to collapse. No."

Grantaire falls silent, looking away.

Enjolras blinks in the darkness. "Did you hear that?"

There is a slight pause. "I can't hear anything over that fellow's nattering." Grantaire's hand tightens on his. "What-- Marcelin, you're shaking."

"It must have been nothing -- just an echo." He frowns and tries to let go. "I'm not shaking. I'm fine."

"You're not," with abrupt conviction. Grantaire draws him aside, against the wall. "My God, love."

Enjolras is pale in the half-light. One of his hands is clenched into a fist. "I'm all right. It's just -- I don't know. The echoes in here are odd."

Grantaire rests both hands on his shoulders, steadyingly. "Shhh. It's all right. Sit down a minute."

"No. I'm fine." He turns his head to the left and looks over Grantaire's shoulder at nothing. "God, what was that?"

Grantaire glances where he looks. "Nothing. It's nothing, chéri. Sit down. Please?"

The rest of the group moves slowly past them, going further into the temple. Enjolras shakes his head. "I don't need to sit down."

"For God's sake, Marcelin-- you frighten me. If you could see yourself..."

"There's nothing wrong with me." Enjolras pushes Grantaire's hands off of his shoulders. "It was too long a walk to stop here, and they said it would be cooler inside, the farther we went. Stop fussing over me."

Grantaire subsides into stricken silence.

Enjolras strides after the disappearing group with every semblance of stability, except that his face is still too white and his hands shake.

Grantaire rakes a hand through his hair, and follows, still frowning.

When they start to be able to hear the guide again, he seems to be speaking in hesitating English, with frequent help from one of his compatriots. One of the other people who is paid to make the expedition takes over after a few minutes and explains in terrible but mostly intelligible French that this was the chamber where priests made sacrifices on behalf of petitioners, before they put the querents' questions to the oracle. Several sentences into this, Enjolras puts a hand on Grantaire's shoulder and squeezes tightly.

Grantaire reaches up to lay a hand over his, looking over at him anxiously.

Enjolras is biting his lip. His eyes are half-closed, except when he looks away, over his shoulder, or past the guides to the corridor that leads farther in. Every once in a while, he shakes his head slightly.

"What's wrong?" Grantaire asks him in an undertone.

"What?" Enjolras asks, too loudly. A man nearby turns to glance at them.

Grantaire winces. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." Enjolras raises a trembling hand and rubs his eyes. At the head of the crowd, the guides finish an explanation in something that may have been Portuguese but was trying to be Spanish, and the group begins to move forward.

"Don't tell me 'nothing'."

Enjolras glares at him. Though his cheeks are pale, his jaw is set, and he looks as though if he were not on the verge of fainting, he would be well and truly furious. There is something odd about the lamplight from the wall sconces that makes his eyes bluer than they normally seem. "I'm all right," he says slowly, in a cold voice. "Stop asking me how I am. If something were wrong, I would tell you."

Grantaire jerks his hand away as though scalded, and stares a moment; then he looks at the ground, mute.

"You act as though I were dying," Enjolras says scornfully, and walks toward the group that has once again left them behind.

Grantaire takes in a tremulous breath, and follows him, with less assurance than before.

There are too many people present to fit into the innermost room. The corridor is full of those who have not yet seen the oracle's seat. A guide entertains those of them who understand German by telling what may be a myth, with grand gestures and sound effects. Enjolras and Grantaire are quite at the back of the group. They can hear the story, but there is nothing to see but other people's backs. After a few minutes, another guide steps forward and begins repeating the myth in something approximating Spanish. Three sentences in, Enjolras cries out and turns away from the crowd. He starts back toward the entrance, walking quickly at first, and then almost running, though the floor is not as smooth as it might be.

"My God," Grantaire whispers. He stands paralyzed a moment, then heads after him. "Marcelin--"

One of the guides who is not telling a story looks up, then shakes his head.

Enjolras seems not to hear Grantaire calling his name. He only stops when he reaches the entrance of the temple, where he sits down, hands over his ears.

Grantaire, emerging, drops to one knee beside him. "In God's name, chéri-- It's all right. It's all right."

Enjolras looks up with frightened eyes and stares at him for a moment before the fear disappears, abruptly, and he takes his hands away from his ears. "I don't know what it was," he says, getting slowly to his feet. "I thought I heard voices that couldn't have been there."

Grantaire holds out a hand to him, tentatively.

Enjolras takes it. "I'm sorry, love. I don't know what was wrong, but it seems to be all right, now."

Grantaire embraces him tightly. "Are you sure you're all right?" in an oddly small voice.

"I hope so." Enjolras kisses his cheek. "I -- I didn't feel at all like myself. I'm sorry I was upset with you."

"It doesn't matter. I--" Grantaire breaks off; then, with a note of pleading, "Sit down a minute, cher. You still don't look well."

Enjolras frowns, but after a moment, he says, "All right," and sits.

Grantaire eases down beside him, putting an arm about his shoulders. "I'm sorry."

"This was my foolish idea," Enjolras says mildly. "I don't blame you for any part of it."

Grantaire glances down. "Even so."

"It was my mistake, mon amour. Don't be so upset."

"I'm not," Grantaire assures him quickly, and takes a deep breath.

"Do I look better, yet?" Enjolras asks.

Grantaire hesitates. "There's all that way to walk back, still."

"Ah. So I don't, yet. All right."

"I want to make sure you are better. I thought you were going to keel over in there."

"I think -- I don't know how I felt." Enjolras shakes his head. "I think I want to go to bed, and never mind that it's noon."

"All right, love." Softly.

"I also think I can stand up now, though walking a long distance in the sun may have to wait."

Grantaire nods slightly. "If you're sure."

Enjolras stands, slowly. "I shan't fall over." He offers Grantaire a hand.

Grantaire climbs to his feet. "All right."

"Damn this climate, anyway. Who gave it permission to be so warm?"

"I'm sure I don't know." Grantaire kisses his cheek. "Another time we'll know better, that's all."

"I should hope so."

"You're sure--" begins Grantaire, and checks himself.

"Am I sure of what?"

"That you're going to be all right, I was going to say."

"Eventually, yes." Enjolras kisses his cheek. "As soon as I've slept."

"All right."

"I'm sorry I frightened you."

Grantaire touches his hair. "It doesn't matter. As long as you're feeling better."

"Much better, yes, thank you. I think we could perhaps start back, if you're prepared to stop along the way."

"Very well."

... Outtakes ... Table of Contents ...