“Ah, Monsieur Mabeuf,” said Cosette gently as she entered the room of the old man, who was staring at the wall, morose. When he looked up at her, frowning as if he was trying to remember who she was, she felt her heart clench. “It’s so warm in this room, Monsieur. Wouldn’t you like to get a bit of fresh air with me in the garden?”
“The garden,” repeated Monsieur Mabeuf, his eyes suddenly slightly brighter.
“Yes.” Cosette smiled. “Éponine mentionned to me that you had a fondness for flowers. I happen to have a lot of them, and i’ve neglected to see them for a long time now.”
“It’s no good to do that,” said Monsieur Mabeuf, shaking his head. “Flowers, they need care, and love. I had the book for you – i had, i had a lot of books…” His voice trailed off. He sighed. “I don’t know if I can move much, my lady. I am quite tired. Old men should not, perhaps, survive two bullets in the chest.”
“I won’t insist if you are too tired of course,” said Cosette carefully, moving in to rest a gentle hand on his frail shoulder. “But I would love to hear your advice, and i’ll be honest with you, it’ll be nice to have company to keep my mind off Marius’s sickness…”
“Oh,” said Mabeuf, startling. “You’re Marius’s lady. I thought – i was told you never left his side these days.”
Cosette’s cheeks turned dark, but she did not falter.
“Marius is well-cared for while I am absent,” she told Mabeuf. “He is with his friend Monsieur Courfeyrac, whom I think you know. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit agitated, as you understand. All signs point to him getting better, and yet -”
There was no pretense in the way her voice shook at the idea that Marius might truly never wake up. The thought horrified her still, and being far from him did not help her ease her worries. But the emotion seemed to do the trick at last. Mabeuf awkwardly patted her hand.
“There, there,” he said softly. “If an old man like me could get out of this barricade, I’m sure Marius can only do so too. He’s a brave boy, like his father. Help me out of his chair. We’ll go see your flowers now. Truly, flowers are more fragile than young men, we have to make sure they’re doing well.”
Thank you i hope so too!!
It surprised Feuilly when he looked at his watch and realized that it was almost nine am already. He was not used to sleeping in or, indeed, to being wake up by the booming laughter of Bahorel rather than by his alarm clock and the radio. He opened his eyes, and startled when someone grabbed his arm and mumbled against him “not yet”
He glanced at his side. Courfeyrac, eyes still heavy with sleep, was nuzzling his shoulder. That’s when it hit Feuilly all over – he was in holidays. He was in Croatia, with his friends – there would be no work for the entire week, just a long list of museums and towns to visit, people to talk to, places to be amazed at.
He grinned and rose, ignoring Courfeyrac’s moan.
“Get up,” he said. “I’m sure everybody else will be waiting for us.”
“Liar,” muttered Courfeyrac, though he seemed less to reluctant to get up faced with Feuilly’s sudden enthusiasm. “You know Joly and Bossuet just like I do. They’ll sleep in.”
“But imagine the surprise of everybody if you come outside with me, so early,” Feuilly pointed out, and got out of the bed quickly, raising an eyebrow at Courfeyrac, who snorted. “Fine,” he said. “Go ahead, i’ll be right behind you.”
Feuilly was pretty sure Courfeyrac wouldn’t, but now that reality had settled in once more, he couldn’t wait. He got out of the little room they shared, and moved to where all the chatting seemed to come from, the terrasse. Outside, it was warm, and sunny, though there was just enough fresh air not to be uncomfortable. Enjolras, Bahorel, Jehan and Combeferre were all up. Grantaire was technically there too, though he seemed to be finishing his night against Jehan’s shoulder.
“Feuilly,” said Enjolras immediately. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
“Very,” said Feuilly. “Courfeyrac said he’d joined us soon. Are we waiting for everybody to be up to chose what we’re doing today? There’s the museum we saw when we arrived last night -”
“We have the maps and plans out,” said Combeferre.
“But first, breakfast,” said Bahorel firmly. “Sit down. Your enthusiasm will not be enough to sustain you. You need coffee and some pastries. Most important meal of the day, don’t forget”
“Yes mom,” said Feuilly fond and happy, and sat next to Enjolras, who took a sip of his coffee, and subtly offered him a guide book under the table as soon as Bahorel went back to discussing with Jehan.
Rain and wind often come together, which, Enjolras think, is the worst part. Still, at this exact moment she is tempted to curse the heavy materials of her dress more than the elements themselves. At least she knows Feuilly kept the pamphlets that had just been printed, so they won’t be too damaged – although Enjolras can’t say as much for her clothes; she can’t remember the colour her shoes were before they were covered in mud. Every step she takes, she feels like one of her shoes will leave her feet and stay stuck, probably sinking in the mud.
Thankfully, Enjolras manages to keep both of her shoes on, though by the time she reaches Feuilly’s rooms, she is certain she will never feel dry again.
“Here.” Instead of a greeting, Feuilly hands her a towel as soon as she opens the door to let Enjolras in, her expression a cross between amused and disapproving. “You didn’t have to come in this weather, you know.”
What a pitiful sight Enjolras must be to warrant that look. Feuilly’s face is pale – she has been working longer hours than usual, Enjolras knows, her workshop having lost several workers in the recent breakout of cholera. There are ink stains smudged over her cheek and nose, but she looks more respectable than Enjolras does, at the moment. Enjolras can feel cold strands of hair sticking to her face, dripping down her back. She choses not to address Feuilly’s question.
“I couldn’t even find a ‘bus,” she says instead.
“I can’t blame them, really.” Feuilly shakes her head stiffly. “Take off your dress and your shoes. Hopefully they will have time to dry a little by the fire while we work.”
A few minutes later, Enjolras is standing in front of the fire, wearing a linen nightdress of Feuilly’s that was too short for her, tickling her lower legs were it falls. Her thick blond curls are still dripping, but the dry clothes make her feel, at the very least, a little more human.
Feuilly is sitting on her bed, shoulder slumped. Enjolras had noticed she was looking tired earlier – but now that she, herself, is calmer, she can’t help but notice her friend looks especially exhausted.
“Sit here with me?” Feuilly calls, probably noticing Enjolras’ staring.
“Oh. I wouldn’t want to drip all over your bed,” she says. Feuilly’s bed looks so carefully made, every corner of the blanket tucked under the thin mattress, the thicker wool blanket folded at its foot.
“I’d rather you did that ruin the pamphlets.” Feuilly says, and Enjolras feels her own face heat up despite the chilly humidity of the room. She sits down.
“Besides, my bed is worth much less.” Feuilly continues, nervousness punctuating her words. “I’m not sure I could get them printed again so soon – ”
“We can be patient.”
“Well, you’re here, aren’t you? Because you weren’t patient.” Feuilly’s tone is disapproving, but she reaches up to comb a hand through Enjolras’ ruined curls. Enjolras’ closes her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she says. Feuilly doesn’t respond, but her fingers continue combing through Enjolras’ hair, closer to the back of her neck, short trimmed nails scratching her scalp. Enjolras won’t force her to talk – she knows that rarely yields any results with Feuilly – but she lets her play with her hair, untangling strand after strand, a small puddle of water forming on the blanket. The pamphlets are still carefully hidden away inside a book on Feuilly’s shelf, and neither of them makes a move to grab them.
“I’m sorry, too,” Feuilly says eventually. “It will be alright.”
Enjolras feels herself nod, and Feuilly tugs her closer. She rests her head on Feuilly’s shoulder, and notices the room feels a lot warmer.
It’s been raining all afternoon, and
showing no signs of letting up, but that’s all right. Saturday was a
busy day–putting in the garden, grocery shopping, laundry, running
errands, scouring the little thrift shops in the suburbs for the
perfect end table–but today there’s nothing urgently hanging over
them. They can afford to spend the gray, sleepy day on the couch,
reading and watching movies and drawing. And the newly planted
tomatoes need the water.
Feuilly’s half-asleep, their
paperback slipping from their hands to rest against their chest,
their head pillowed against Courfeyrac’s shoulder, when they feel the
soft touch of lips against their temple. Struggling to blink their
eyes open, they turn to look up at Courfeyrac.
whispers. "I didn’t mean to wake you up. I just. This is so
nice and cozy and I love you a lot and–“ He doesn’t need to
finish the sentence. Feuilly knows that Courfeyrac’s most natural
way of showing affection is through touch; that sometimes his love
for his friends just wells up and he has to hug or kiss or caress.
They know–without having to go through that whole discussion again–that
it doesn’t Mean Anything.
But at the same time it means
everything Feuilly could ever want and more. They smile sleepily up at
Courfeyrac, then settle back against his shoulder, their eyes
slipping closed again.
To catch Courfeyrac unguarded was a remarkably rare feat. He always had a quip or comment to hand, always ended up seeming unruffled by even the most unexpected turns of events.
But it could be done. As when Joly arrived a day early from a lengthy trip home and presented himself at the Café Musain: Courfeyrac leapt to his feet in undisguised delight and seized him by the shoulders and kissed both his cheeks.
Despite what some of his friends might believe, Courfeyrac can be both tactful and discreet. He hadn’t asked any questions when Marius
had shown up at his door asking for a bed, and hadn’t made a single ribald joke
(despite the provocation). Marius had taken the offer of a shared bed without
complaint – further proof that something was wrong.
Courfeyrac’s bed is narrow enough that even with Marius
curled up as tight against the edge Courfeyrac can still feel him shiver and
hear his uneven breaths. Courfeyrac wants to tell him that it’s alright, that
whatever has happened he’s safe now and that Courfeyrac will make sure its so.
But even if that were true, it would be the wrong thing to say. Marius isn’t a
child, and he bristles at anything that seems like sympathy.
Instead, he gently throws and arm across Marius’ shoulders
and chest and pulls him in closer towards the center of the bed. Marius goes
still, but at least he isn’t shivering any longer.
“It’s cold,” says Courfeyrac – softly, because Marius’ ear
is only inches from his mouth, and perhaps because of the superstitious sense
that one loud sound would be enough to send Marius back into the snowy night. “If
you come under the blankets we’ll both be warmer.”
“Oh,” says Marius. He relaxes a little – is Marius ever
truly relaxed? – and leans ever so slightly in towards Courfeyrac. “Yes, that –
that makes sense. If you like.”
“Thank you,” says Courfeyrac. He leaves his arm where it is,
and Marius doesn’t ask him to move it. Marius breathing grows steadily softer
until at last it drifts into the shallow rhythm of sleep.