The Advent of Roseline

ca. 1835

An observer passing in the street would not say that the blond student appears any more harried than his classmates. However, his companion seems to have that idea, because he glances at the former frequently with a worried expression of his own. The interjection of "Well, really, it does bother me, but one does what one must," sounds as if it should be part of a continued conversation, but Enjolras presents it with no immediate context.

Grantaire takes in a swift breath, digging his hands deeper into his pockets. "I know."

"I would rather --" Enjolras falters. "I would rather there were someone to take care of her."

"How d'you mean?" Grantaire glances cautiously at him.

"My sisters were never left to guard themselves. They had nursemaids and governesses. It makes me uncomfortable to think of the poor child, alone all day long."

Grantaire points out, for the sake of practicality, "She's been looking after herself for... hell. However long it's been." Though he looks uneasy.

"I understand that, but I know that you do not want to continue as she has been -- and nor do I." Enjolras sighs slightly. "She needs help in every form. She needs a mother."

"Well, there's not much can be done about that." Grantaire's tone is involuntarily sharp.

Enjolras slows his pace slightly. "How has your sister been?"

"Well, she's-- Oh no." Grantaire frowns abruptly. "I'm not unloading this on Jeanne, my love, not even to spare you. She's got enough to worry about."

"How would I know that?" Enjolras protests in his own defense. "You never speak of her." He relents somewhat. "I did not mean any harm."

Grantaire softens. "I know. I know you didn't. But I can't ask that of her. She's got the three of hers to handle, on her own...."

"We can hardly help her at the moment," Enjolras says somewhat acidly. "But, you are correct, we cannot ask her to help -- though we could certainly give her some compensation."

"She's my sister," Grantaire rejoins, very mildly.

Enjolras blinks at him. "I know."

Grantaire falls silent for about half a block, then. At last he says, dispassionately, "We'll think of something."

"We must."

The edge of tension creeps back, not quite daring to be irritation, but there nonetheless. "I'm doing the best I can, Marcelin."

"As am I. If I could ask my parents for help in this situation, you can be certain I would." Enjolras looks straight ahead. "Unfortunately, I find it difficult to understand, myself, without attempting to explain it to them."

"What's not to understand?" Still tautly.

A pause, then, tentatively, especially considering the source, "They might very well wonder why I would help you."

"In looking after my bastard child, yes, I'll bet they would. You ought to write your lady mother about this, I'm sure she'd feel vindicated."

Enjolras stops. "Must you put it into those words? You do not need to be angry at me for their opinions; they are my parents, they support me to some extent, but I certainly do not share their views of the world in general or you specifically."

"It's the truth, isn't it?" Grantaire retorts, halting beside him; and then sighs. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. It's not you I'm angry with."

"We'll be all right," Enjolras says lightly, taking his hand. "All three of us. She'll be able to look after herself, you're right, and I do not need to change that. It will be enough when she has a proper place to sleep, for now."

Grantaire stands still, rigid with tension, and does not answer, except to lace his fingers tightly with Enjolras'.

"I'm sorry this is difficult."

Grantaire quirks one crooked brow, wryly. "Not your doing, now is it."

"Hardly," Enjolras answers with an attempt at a smile. "I know that you did not mean this."

"No, I didn't. I--" His grip on Enjolras' hand tightens, probably painfully. "I wish to God I... I don't know."

Enjolras puts his free hand on Grantaire's shoulder in an open-air embrace. "Wishing won't help. I've been wishing very hard." He shakes his head. "One of my classmates is leaving his job in a week."

Grantaire glances up at him. "And?"

"He is leaving for political reasons," Enjolras admits. "His employer is a staunch royalist and will not hear a word against the policies of the king or the government." A faint smile. "You can imagine that he has had trouble keeping employees in recent years. The job pays well, and I am certain that I can do it." He adds, unnecessarily, "And we need the money."

Grantaire blinks, taking this in. "Oh, by God. Marcelin, you--" and abruptly embraces him. "You don't want to go and do a thing like that."

Enjolras pulls away, blushing and looking up and down the street. "I don't want to, no, but I must."

"No such thing." Grantaire keeps both hands on his shoulders, watching him with a curious mingling of awe and tenderness and bemusement. "We aren't that badly beset."

"But -- we have to help her, and we don't have the resources to raise a child properly." Enjolras frowns and looks away. "I'm not saying this clearly, am I?"

Grantaire touches his cheek lightly. "I understand you very well, beloved."

Enjolras blushes again. "It is good to know that someone does, even if I do not." He tries to smile at Grantaire again. "Now, if I understood you, we would be better off."

"Ah, to yourself, but then, you understand me, too." Enjolras removes one of Grantaire's hands from his shoulder and holds it gently. "Perhaps we should get home to the aforementioned girl."

"Probably so." Grantaire presses a fleeting kiss to his knuckles, and lets him go.

"I suppose I could write to my mother," Enjolras proposes again, starting off toward home once more.

Grantaire grimaces faintly. "You could."

"Dear Maman," Enjolras begins, "I -- no, that won't do. I -- I have encountered difficulties."

An amused snort. "Right."

"Nothing sounds possible, let alone acceptable."

Grantaire shrugs. "Well, then."

"But we need money from somewhere."

"So, I don't know. Tell her the God's honest truth, then, if you must write to her. She's bound to figure it out eventually anyway."

"My father would be unspeakably angry." Enjolras shakes his head. "If you were my mistress and this were my child, perhaps he would not be quite so irate, but then he would probably expect me to marry immediately."

Grantaire chuckles without much humor. "Yes, well, if I were, we'd have far less trouble all round. --I don't know, Marcelin."

"I suppose I could lie," Enjolras says, quietly.

"And say what?" Grantaire glances at him wryly. "You're not very good at it."

Enjolras blushes slightly. "I know that. It is a failing in my profession, I assure you. However, this is relatively simple. We could present the story of an easier life."

Grantaire quirks an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"I was able to fabricate some flimsy story for a cousin of mine not terribly long ago. How much harder could it be to pretend that I have a, a mistress?"

It takes a moment to sink in; then he laughs, bemused. "Ah, God."

"It would not be that difficult, I shouldn't think, if we had the thing planned beforehand."

Grantaire regards him in frank admiration. "No, it wouldn't." He chuckles. "Could even be amusing."

Enjolras smiles at him. "I suppose so. I wonder what her name is."

Grantaire grins back at him cheerfully. "Roseline."

"Roseline," Enjolras repeats, curiously. "I suppose so. Roseline, beloved Roseline." He coughs. "It does not sound like something I would ever say."

Grantaire hoots with laughter. "God. No, it doesn't."

"My father does not need to know that. Roseline needs a last name." A moment's thought, then, "I knew a Monsieur Lalande when I first came to Paris. Roseline Lalande is euphonious. 'Ah, Mademoiselle Lalande, how I long to throw myself at your feet,' or some rubbish of that sort." Enjolras very nearly grins at Grantaire. "I never was much good at romance."

"None at all," agrees Grantaire, deadpan. "That'll do, I should think. What's she look like?"

"How do I know a thing like that? Pretty, I suppose."

Grantaire socks him gently in the arm. "Naturally. So that you'd match. Not like that, fool of a man. Hair, eyes, figure. Does she come up to your shoulder or does she look you in the eye? Does she dress well?"

Enjolras nudges him back. "Do you expect me to know what a pretty girl looks like?"

"Why wouldn't you? Just because you never cared doesn't mean you've never seen one."

"I never particularly noticed, to be honest."

"No wonder you were always so bad-tempered." Grantaire grins at him. "Well, what would you expect a Roseline to look like?"

"Foolish, I should think. A Roseline -- no, my beloved Roseline, I adore her," Enjolras coughs, "but alas, she has such delicate taste that only the finest dresses are enough for her."

Grantaire dissolves into snickers like a boy half his age. "Alas, indeed." He wipes his eyes. "Dark-haired, you think?"

"Why not? It is not as though I shall ever actually have to see her."

"Of course, of course, but if they ask!"

"I cannot imagine why they would care. Dark-haired she is, and of the finest complexion. I wonder what color her eyes are."

"Mmmmmph." Grantaire kicks a pebble for a few paces. "Grey. About so tall." Indicating a woman's moderate height. "With a penchant for violets, no doubt."

"Violets? Why violets?"

"Why not?"

Enjolras glances at him. "I suppose it would please my father; perhaps he would think I had found the modern Josephine and taken her to bed."

"Oh, bah! Ever the politically-minded. Very well then. Roses, in honor of her sweet name."

"Too predictable. Lilies, perhaps, or orchids."

"Too predictable?" scoffs Grantaire. "Men in love are always predictable. Women more so. Lilies, then, and she's fond of blue."

"Blue? All right. She must have the finest blue silk dress; I saw it at the tailor's shop not a week ago, and it is her birthday a week Wednesday, so I need money desperately." Enjolras chuckles. "Preposterous."

Grantaire grins. "Ridiculous."

"Do you think it would work?"

"Why shouldn't it?"

"It is a complete fabrication, and it makes no sense."

"Plenty of plain truths don't make sense." Grantaire sighs, his cheer fading.

Enjolras puts a hand on Grantaire's shoulder. "I am aware of that."

Grantaire returns the gesture, not quite looking at him. "I don't know."

"I suppose if we try this and fail, I could take the job."

Grantaire's jaw tightens. "You could, yes."

"I would much rather not. Perhaps you could entertain her while I work on this letter about my heart's darling, the radiant Roseline."

That wins another chuckle. "There, you're getting the hang of it."

"I feel as if I am composing a paper for a class in a language I have heard but which I have never been taught." Enjolras gently squeezes Grantaire's shoulder before letting his hand drop. "Frivolous compliments annoy me."

"I know they do, bright angel, love of my life." Grantaire darts him a grin.

Enjolras coughs, his cheeks reddening. "It is a waste of breath."

Grantaire chuckles quietly. "Or ink. Ah, well, most things are."

"I suppose." Enjolras clears his throat and straightens his shoulders in an attempt to look dignified again. "It will not be so much of a waste if my father believes the drivel."

"True," agrees Grantaire, valiantly grasping after practicality.

Few people would dare to knock at the door of Regine Enjolras's study, then enter without waiting for a response. Her husband is one of them. "Listen to what my son has done," he demands of her, but unlike the normal command of this nature, it is delivered with a smile.

Regine starts, pale brows furrowing sharply at the resultant blot in her account book. Resignedly, she lays down the pen and sits back. "What now?"

"He has taken in," a pause for effect, "a mistress. Perhaps this means that something has finally managed to distract him from his damnable politics."

By some miracle Regine manages not to react beyond a faint start, and raised eyebrows. After a moment she says mildly, "Marcelin has not been mixed up in politics for years, darling."

Gautier snorts. "He has been lying to you, has he? Fool boy." The letter rattles in his hand. "In love, he says, head over heels by the sound of it."

"Nonsense, darling, he's a wretched liar." Regine barely bats an eyelash, holding out a hand for the letter. "Let me see."

He gives it to her, shaking his head. "I thought his brain was soft years ago. This is proof."

"Gautier, really. There is nothing out of the ordinary about a boy in love." She smoothes the paper, turning away slightly to study it, so that he does not see the sudden twitch at the corners of her mouth.

"I am sure I was never so fawning as this," Gautier grumbles. "I had more dignity."

Regine is quiet a moment, biting her tongue, perhaps. "Marcelin has always been impetuous," she says absently.

"This surpasses his previous idiocies. He asks for money as if it were water."

"Well, and?" Regine shrugs her shoulders, laying the letter aside.

"Would you have me send it to him, then?" Gautier narrows his eyes.

"Why not, this once? I see no harm in encouraging him, to a point." She blinks at him nonchalantly. "Young men will do as they will do."

"I do not want him to become accustomed to this lifestyle he has fallen upon so suddenly." Gautier frowns, but then, he rarely does anything else. "If you would have me humor the boy, I shall."

Regine smiles mildly. "I would, this time, if I were you. He will only be young once."

"Thank God for that. He made enough mistakes the first time." Gautier glances at the letter. "I shall fund his excursion into senselessness. This, I can afford; perhaps it will keep him out of worse trouble." He nods to her, then leaves.

"Very well, darling." She watches the door shut, and waits until his footsteps die away before remarking, "What in the world?"

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