June 8, 1832
"Marius, who is this girl?" "Monsieur, what is my sister doing here?" "I do not know, Gavroche. Someone please help me get her indoors…is it serious, Combeferre?" "She'll live, Marius. Do not worry," Blood was everywhere. That much she could see beyond the clouds of smoke and the smell of powder. She felt hands pick her up off the pavement and carry her away from the cold ground. She could barely focus on anyone's face for the sheer intensity of the pain wracking her body. "Marius…don't go," she managed to whisper before passing out.
Was she dead yet?
Eponine Thenardier knew she had to be. Why else would she be lying on something so soft? Why else was everything so warm?
The young girl opened her eyes and blinked at the sight of the room she was in. "Where am I?" she asked aloud. The bed she was lying on was actually clean and the damask curtains fluttering nearby at the window were free of dust. There was a vase of pink roses in the corner, along with an upholstered chair near the bureau.
The first thing that flashed through her mind was that she must have been in Marius' house. "Where else could I be? He's the one who found me!" she whispered excitedly as she tried to stretch. She bit back a cry as pain flared up in her side.
Eponine looked at her swathed left hand and felt for the bandage that bound her side, just under her ribs. "I'm alive…is Marius alive too?" she wondered. She wished she could get out of bed to look for him. Was he still at the barricades? Was there still even a barricade?
The door opened and Eponine sat up straight. "Ah, you're awake already," a voice greeted softly. "How are you feeling, Eponine?"
Eponine's jaw dropped as she met the gaze of the newcomer. "Cosette?"
Cosette smiled as she sat down in the chair. In the morning light, her beauty was almost angelic. She had some bandages with her. "So you remember me? The Lark?"
Eponine nodded dumbly, half-wishing she had the strength or the nerve to chase Cosette away. Instead of the hot anger she expected to feel, the only thing in the back of her mouth was a strange sort of bitterness. "Where am I?"
"My house…at the Rue De Homme'l Arme," Cosette replied. "You've been asleep for three days,"
Eponine swallowed hard. "Where's Monsieur Marius?"
To her surprise, a distraught look flashed across Cosette's face. "He was hurt too at the barricades, a day after you were,"
Eponine's shoulders shook and she would have covered her face with her hands were it not for the bandages. "Oh my God!" she gasped. "How…what happened?"
Cosette moved her chair closer. "They won, but so many people died. So many were hurt," she said sadly. "I do not understand it, honestly,"
Eponine took a deep breath,
trying to make sense of what was happening. She was alive, Marius was
alive…but there was still Cosette. What was going to happen? "How
did I come to be here?" she finally asked.
The Café Musain was open for business as usual, taking advantage of the hubbub that was taking Paris by storm.
Enjolras tried to slip in unnoticed, aware that if people noticed him, he would be mobbed with queries, congratulations, and if he was in for a bad time, threats. Being one of the heroes of the revolution that had swept across the city and out into the countryside had this one disadvantage.
The tall, golden-haired revolutionary noticed a familiar figure seated in a corner, also trying to be inconspicuous. "Combeferre!"
Combeferre looked up from his reading and smiled. "It's not like you to be so late,"
"I had to make a few detours on my way here. Calls of courtesy to the leaders at the other barricades…to various families…talking about plans to be settled on. All I can remember of the past two days is a whole series of meetings and decisions about what's coming next for France," Enjolras said, managing a casual smile though the strain was evident.
"You never expected that we would win?" Combeferre asked lightly.
"I have thought about it, of course. However, somehow the anticipation seems more rational than the actual event," Enjolras said ruefully. "Feuilly gave me some news an hour ago. There is support trickling in from the countryside, but unrest beyond the borders of France,"
Combeferre frowned. "From England?"
"Yes, and Austria," Enjolras said. "Rumors of assistance that will be given to the National Guard, and the King who is fleeing at the moment,"
"Enjolras, you know very well what the rest of Europe thought of the Republic,"
"Progress moves as it will, Combeferre,"
Combeferre began playing with a pen. "Have you heard from the others besides Feuilly yet?"
A smile spread across Enjolras' face, which appeared more mirthful than it had been in many weeks. "They will be fine. I thought that Jehan was lost, but he turned out to be only wounded. Bahorel will be out of the hospital in a week, but his broken ribs will still need tending," As impassive as the young man appeared to many, it was obvious to those who knew him that he did care for his friends, and was concerned for their welfare even amid the tumult of the revolution.
"Which is more than we can say for Marius, from what Courfeyrac told me yesterday," Combeferre said. "Gavroche, that boy who was with us, is in the same house with him,"
Enjolras nodded grimly, remembering precisely how Gavroche had taken a bullet while searching for cartridges. "Thirty dead…and more at the other barricades,"
"There would have been five more if you hadn't sent them away," Combeferre reminded him. "Enjolras, you know the price we paid was very severe. That old man, M. Mabeuf is never going to walk again like the rest of us will,"
"You think I like killing people, Combeferre? Or sending them to their deaths in a barricade? We do what we must, and I know that I risk condemnation for what I did," Enjolras said, his voice rising slightly.
Combeferre put a hand on his arm firmly. "I know that, mon ami. Lord above, I do. I tended the wounded; I was with you when you shot at that artillery sergeant," The medical student sighed. "We were lucky to walk away with only a few gashes and scrapes. So many paid with their lives, but what is nearly as painful is the fate of those who lived but are now crippled or maimed by the shots that were fired. There is that young lady that Marius found at the barricade…"
"Gavroche's sister," Enjolras said quietly. "A gamine who Courfeyrac and all the rest of us took for a working man, if I'm correct,"
"That's her," Combeferre replied. "She was shot right through her left hand and her side. I was able to care for her a little. But she'll never use that hand of hers properly again. Poor child; she was there apparently for Marius, that much I gathered when she was delirious inside Corinthe. That other man who came in a National Guard uniform, Monsieur Fauchevelent, came back after a while to bring her to his house to be cared for better. He's the one who told me where Marius is now; he brought him there,"
Enjolras looked down. "That man is a rare one. Not only did he help us, but he helps the wounded," he said at last. "Do you know where he lives?"
Combeferre shook his head. "He apparently recognized her. That's another mystery. Will wonders ever cease?"
"If they did, you'd be terribly bored. So what are you going to do today?" Enjolras asked.
"I'm visiting Picpus later, to talk with some of the families there. I want to see how they are doing," Combeferre said.
"I'd best visit Marius when I get the chance to," Enjolras said. Among the revolutionaries who'd been at the barricade, Marius was one of those for which life still wavered between safety and death.
"Tell me and the rest when you go. He'll need his friends. Though I doubt, in his current state, that his grandfather will let us in the door," Combeferre said wryly. 'Don't overwork yourself till then,"
"I won't," Enjolras promised. "Tonight, we'll meet back here…at least those of us who are able to will be here,"
"As always. With all that's happening now, who'd want to miss out?"