Another Way Into Paris

July, 1840

A hazy summer day has settled on the city, rendering the portions thereof near to sewers almost impassable. In the nicer districts, it is merely warm, not stifling.

Grantaire wanders along by Enjolras' side, hands locked behind his back, and remarks something about it having to break sometime.

Enjolras wipes his brow on a sleeve. "It can't stay this way until December, no."

Marie calls out, "Valeska! Come back! I've not told you about the advantages of being a nun!" She enters hurriedly, obviously looking for someone. She very nearly bumps into the two men. She starts, "Ack! Sorry about that."

Enjolras stops short. "Pardon me, madame."

Grantaire puts out a hand to steady Marie, and remarks, deadpan, "If the vocation isn't there, it isn't there."

Valeska continues to walk away, but peers back over her shoulder. "I don't wanna be a nun! Jesus!"

Marie hears the voice, "I hear you! Where are you? It's really quite a nice life. You get to go places. Share God's Love with them and make them feel good...!" She spends a moment, since the men are right there, to give them a good once-over with her eyes... "You make a cute couple!" She calls to them.

Enjolras pales significantly, and asks Grantaire, "What did that woman just say?" as if he did not quite hear.

Valeska stops and turns around again. "Well. I guess perhaps I could share God's love with people, if he'd ever shared some with me!"

Grantaire's eyebrows lift. He glances again at the sister, then back at Enjolras. "Nothing, I don't think," he says kindly. And looks over, a trifle quizzically, at the irritated girl.

Enjolras nods, trying to make himself believe this assertion. "Good. I didn't think so. I must be hearing things. Perhaps it's the heat."

Marie brightens to Valeska, "Oh, God's Love is everywhere! Why, take these gentlemen here." She looks them over carefully, as if they were in a store. "Why, these men may be able to help me show you God's Love."

Valeska laughs. "I've met a lot of 'gentlemen' who wanted to show me something or another... some of them did. I can almost guarantee it wasn't God's love, even if one was a priest." She stands there defiantly with her arms crossed, and a surly expression on her face.

Grantaire pats his companion's arm reassuringly, and regards the two women in some amusement.

Marie frowns to Valeska. "Perhaps they weren't doing it right. How about you watch me with one. His friend can watch and pick up pointers, then you can try with the other one?"

Enjolras looks for a moment as if he is going to interrupt, but sighs, and looks away from the women, and prepares to walk away again. He is not listening with all of his might.

Valeska softens a touch, and unfolds her arms, clasping her hands in front of her almost demurely. "All right, I'll watch... but I get 5 francs from someone before this dress comes off..."

Grantaire, true to form, moves to follow Enjolras, but at this he can't help but laugh. "Well, that's straightforward."

Marie looks at Valeska. "Look at that one." She points, pointedly at Grantaire, "He's kind of cute." She shakes her head at Valeska. "We're nuns, not prostitutes. We do it for God." She seems quite serious about this.

Enjolras presses his lips together tightly. He is still trying not to listen, but at Grantaire's comment, he has to say something. "Yes. I believe it would be best if we were going now."

Valeska raises an eyebrow. "We-ell... all right. I'll buy that. I used to have a God, long ago. I'll pretend he's still alive," she mutters.

Marie walks over to Grantaire, "Come on. I'm sure you've done it before." She glances to his partner, "Even if not in a while." She looks back, "He can watch and get pointers. It'll be fun."

Grantaire begins to look mildly perturbed himself. "It probably would, at that." He casts the young girl a somewhat sympathetic glance, and starts on his way again, only to be intercepted by the ... nun. "Er."

Enjolras clears his throat. He is going to pretend that he did not understand any of that, and he is going to pretend it very, very hard. "Pardon me, ma soeur, but we must be going. Now. Let's go, Grantaire."

Marie gently (yet quite firmly) grabs ahold of Grantaire's jacket and begins an attempt to pull him over to a grassy spot of grass. "Come on! I'll show you God's Love! You'll like it!"

Valeska gasps. "Hellfire! She wasn't kidding!" She looks at Enjolras. "Can you believe that?"

"Yes. Quite. --Now see here!" Grantaire tries, somewhat ineffectually, to fend Marie off, which is difficult to do when one's been conditioned not to use force to women in habits. "Of all the--"

"I cannot believe it at all," Enjolras answers in a voice that crescendos to an imposing volume. "Let him go this minute, woman." He is not going to hit her, but he is certainly not going to stand by and let... whatever this is going to be... happen.

Marie retains hold, and starts to make a pouty face. "Am I going to have to get all preachy? I'm trying to convince this young lady here," she jerks her head to Valeska, "about the wonders of God's Love... Usually with strangers I have to get all preachy first, I was hoping we could skip that step first, though..." She glances over to Enjolras with an expression which clearly says Come on! You know it'll be fun to watch! -- Okay, perhaps that expression would look clearer on a harlot than on a nun, but still.

Valeska giggles slightly. "Perhaps Monsieur would care for a little fun, too?" She raises her head and looks at Enjolras. "You're rather handsome; I wouldn't mind a freebie." She reaches up to put her arms around his neck and attempts to kiss him.

No, he would not hit a girl, but pushing one away forcibly is well within the scope of Enjolras's actions. "Take your hands off me!"

"My God, woman." Grantaire detaches Marie as gently as possible, and backs away, only to pause in something midway between horror and laughter as he catches sight of Valeska. "Is it the weather, or what?"

Marie shakes her head to Grantaire. "It's God's Love, Monsieur! I'd like to show it to you, if you wouldn't mind." She sighs, "Would you like me to tell you about God, and why His Love is so important to your life?"

Valeska backs up slightly. "Well. All right." She looks down at the ground, scowling in such a manner that she resembles her father, as much as she ever could.

Enjolras blinks at this strange girl, who is familiar suddenly, then decides it must be a trick of the light. "Have you no sense of dignity?"

Marie looks to Enjolras and bites back, "This is God's Love we're talking about, Monsieur! This is as dignified as it gets!"

Grantaire chuckles a bit, wryly. "I never went in for religion." He returns rather promptly to Enjolras' side, for the latter's protection or his own.

"Oh, I used to have pride, once upon a time," Valeska sighs. "Do you think I like living like this? I had to make my money this way... and somehow, I learned how to like what I do, if only for a moment." She turns to glare at Marie. "God has been quite absent from my life these last few years, I assure you."

Enjolras is contrite at that, and says apologetically, "I did not mean to offend you, mam'selle, but perhaps you should be more careful whom you approach. I assure you, I am not interested in hiring you."

Marie stalks after Grantaire, frowning. Remembering herself, she calms down quickly. "Why not?" she asks levelly. "God Loves you... let me show you just how much." She starts nervously playing with her rosary beads.

Grantaire studies the girl, frowning slightly of a sudden. He says nothing, however, nor gets involved except to rest a hand on Enjolras' shoulder in as subtly pointed a gesture as he can manage.

"Yeah. Sorry to bother you. I'll find my fun, and my bread, elsewhere." She notices R's eyes upon her. "You want a turn, then, Monsieur?"

"No thank you," the R says with as much dignity as he can salvage.

Marie frowns to the two, "Look at the poor girl, she needs a better life. The nunnery can provide that, as well as it brightens the lives of all those around. I just want to show her sharing God's Love, so she can know what it's all about."

"Share with someone else," Enjolras suggests. It is not really much of a suggestion, more of a command.

Marie frowns to Enjolras, "What are both of your names? I want to at least pray for you."

"I shudder to think," Grantaire remarks, not quite under his breath, "what that entails."

"Well, then, why are ya looking at me?" She stares into R's eyes. "Ain't you seen enough whores? Am I that much of a curiosity?"

Enjolras can only agree with Grantaire, but he has been trained to listen to nuns, even strange ones. "Marcelin Enjolras and Francois Grantaire." Give him credit; he doesn't even wince at Francois.

Valeska takes a step back. "What did you say?" she shouts at Enjolras.

Grantaire glances back at Valeska. "No, but I'll give you this much, you're a better conversationalist--" He breaks off, glancing back at Enjolras, not quite sure what was said.

Marie starts to recite a prayer, but stops when Valeska outbursts.

Enjolras is beginning to think that this poor girl is affected by the English disease. "I am Marcelin Enjolras," he repeats slowly, pointing to himself, and then to his companion, "and he is Francois Grantaire."

Valeska shrieks. "You can't be!" she shouts, this time at R. "You're dead! You can't be him!"

Grantaire blinks. Glances, again, at Enjolras. Decides he's not going to say anything, this time, and begins to contemplate outright flight.

Enjolras stares at this girl, and is certain that she will begin to drool at any moment. "Who isn't he?"

Marie looks back and forth from Grantaire to Valeska, then turns to Enjy. She looks him over and says, "If you want, we can step away and share God's Love, while these two get reacquainted."

"My father. You can't be the same one. He's nowhere. I've searched this godforsaken city..." she pauses to glare pointedly at Marie. "For nine years. He can't be him."

Grantaire blinks. Then, unexpectedly, breaks into laughter. "Well, that's a new one."

Enjolras does not hear what Marie says. He's too busy staring at first this insane girl, and then Grantaire.

Valeska presses the back of her hand to her mouth. "Jesus! But it could be... Where the hell have you been hiding?"

Marie frowns and settles on the ground to see what turns up. First she says her usual prayer for the two men, then she rapidly degrades in to her own little mantra. To the untrained ear it almost sounds like a long list of sometimes quite complicated sexual acts. She periodically licks her lips and pointedly plays with her rosary.

Grantaire still seems amused. "You're original," he tells Valeska, genially. "I'll give you that. But you're trying it on the wrong man entirely." He grins at her, and with a glance at Enjolras, turns away.

Enjolras takes Grantaire's hand. "Perhaps we should just stay out of the heat until it goes away."

Valeska steps toward him and tugs at his coatsleeve. "My mother, Jolanta Stelmaczyk, brought me here from Poland in '31, to find my father. I never found him yet. And his name was Francois Grantaire. He was a student... I just assumed he died in one of those stupid street fights."

Grantaire freezes. His hand tightens on Enjolras', probably painfully. "My God."

Enjolras asks, "What? Is it true?" Anguished would not be too light a word.

Valeska bites her lip. "You know that name. You remember my Maman?" Her voice softens, as she drops her tough-girl act.

"Jolanta..." Grantaire seems dazed. "I thought-- but my God, that was... seventeen... years ago." He trails off, staring at her. "God almighty, it can't be."

Marie periodically looks up at the two men and then to Valeska. The words still flowing from her mouth. Potential outcomes flow through her mind... all of them surrounding God's Love. (It is God's Sacred Work, after all.)

Enjolras pulls his hand away. "You bastard. You never told me. How could you?"

Valeska notices for the first time that Enjolras and... her father were holding hands. "Uhh... all right. Well, if you two want me to leave..."

Marie, upon hearing Valeska's tone of voice, stands to add some support. "There's nothing wrong with two men sharing God's Love with each other.. As there's nothing wrong with two women sharing God's Love, too. It's God's Love, after all. Sacred and Holy, whatever is done with it."

Grantaire looks to him, stunned, for once utterly without defenses. "I--" Then they come back. "Told you what, that before I ever knew you I was seeing a Polish girl who left me without warning?"

"Mon Dieu." Enjolras is lost for words, but not for long. "I don't know what is going on. I only want to go home and have this all be a mad vision induced by the heat."

Valeska frowns at Marie. "Well... yeah, I guess so. But, they seem to be... busy. I think I shouldn't have bothered." She sighs.

Grantaire rakes his hair back distractedly, staring at nothing. Then, gently, he reaches out to reclaim Enjolras' hand, and extends his other to Valeska. "Please. I... God. What's your name, chère?"

Marie frowns and looks to Grantaire. "Surely you can't just let your daughter fall in to your life and leave it again!" She turns to Valeska. "See, if you joined the nunnery, he'd at least be able to know where to reach you. Likely, if you asked around you could even find out where he lives!"

Enjolras allows his hand to be captured, but does not look at anyone else.

Valeska takes R's hand and smiles. "I'm Valeska." She gives his hand a squeeze, then turns to Marie. "I have a steady abode, thanks anyway. You can reach me at the Pont Neuf."

Grantaire returns the squeeze, shooting a look at Marie; then he turns back to Enjolras, with almost an anxious expression. He says nothing, however.

Enjolras misses the look completely. He's still staring at the ground.

Marie nods to Valeska. "We've not finished our conversation about you joining, I hope. It can wait, though." She nods to Grantaire.

Valeska lets go of R's hand for a moment and turns to Marie. "Did it ever occur to you to show yourself God's Love for a change?" She smiles sweetly.

Marie looks taken aback by Valeska, "Oh, I do that every night! Some mornings, too!"

Enjolras only says, again, "I want to go home."

Grantaire stares, then sputters a bit, and finally comes out with, "Yes. Excellent idea." He slips an arm about Enjolras' shoulders, and reaches to reclaim Valeska's hand. "Out of the sun. Good day, Sister."

Valeska clutches his hand and gazes at him, the first twinges of adoration growing. "Where are you taking me? Isn't your... friend going to mind?" she whispers hoarsely.

Marie turns away. She looks back to admire them briefly. She sighs. "Oh well. At least she managed to find her father. They're a cute lot, I'll have to drop by and see how they're doing..." She sort of shrugs and somehow her day becomes right as rain, once again, and she almost skips away.

Enjolras walks along as if he was by himself, acknowledging neither the arm on his shoulders nor the girl accompanying them.

Grantaire just shakes his head, not to say that Enjolras won't, because Enjolras plainly does, but to indicate that now is not the time to think about it. True to his word, he directs the three of them out of the sun and into the comparative coolth of a shaded and mercifully secluded avenue.

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