I own nothing. I only wish I owned Marius.
Evenings like this made Marius feel like people were trying to pry into his past. He could hear voices calling out to him from the back of his mind, threatening to drag him back sixteen years.
It was 1848, and wild riots had broken out on the streets of Paris once again. The inferno had come back again, despite his prayers to leave it in the past. Riots had broken out before, but never like this. Not even in 1832.
All day, Cosette had watched him with huge eyes, as though her stares could keep him home and keep him out of danger.
"Don't you dare go out there and fight," she whispered, more of a plea than an order.
He had promised to stay home. Maybe Cosette thought Marius had thought of leaving and fighting, but she was wrong. Marius had left behind any desire for revolution after fighting the first time. He had fought, yes, but he had fought for a different reason. Passion for freedom was not pulsing through his veins like it was pulsing through the veins of his friends. Instead, the pain of loss had been pushing him. The love of a woman, this woman that he was ever so fortunately married to, and the commanding will of his father were pressing down on him, guiding him onto the streets that night and ordering his participation in the living hell.
But now none of that threatened him. He had his family. His grandfather had long since died, back in 1836. They had mourned, but no one could deny it was time for him to go. He had made peace with his grandson, which was all the old man ever wanted. After that, Aunt Gillenormond had grown quiet and pensive. She was getting on in her years, and though she still lived with the Pontmercys, it seemed she was just a shadow living upstairs. She rarely came down to dine with the rest of the family. Her prayers and her needlework consumed her days.
Most days, Marius was happy. After all, what reason did he have not to be? Cosette was in his life, and on more than one occasion he had thought of her as his light and his warmth. Without her, he would be nothing. His life would be cold and dark. She warmed him, she gave him his happiness and his will to live.
Besides Cosette, he had his children. Tonight, they were all assembled in the living room, staying close together amidst all of the shooting and the danger on the streets, far away in other sections of Paris.
Marie Euphrasie had been born in August of 1834, and named for both of them. She had opened her eyes, and they had been deep and brown when they met Cosette's for the first time.
"Oh! Marius," she had cried. "Look at her eyes. She has your eyes."
Marius hadn't seen it at first, but soon he had noticed their resemblance more and more. But that first night, Cosette had insisted in naming their little baby girl after him.
"Marie," she had insisted.
"Fine- if she's named for me, she should be named for you as well." He had joked upon naming her Ursula, but Cosette would have none of it.
"Ugh!" Cosette made a face. "Marie Cosette? But that's just atrocious. I can't have her with my name, it's awful enough on me."
"'Cosette' suits you," he had argued.
"Yes, exactly. I say it doesn't suit her."
"Fine- what about Euphrasie? That never suited you, I thought. Maybe it will suit her. And no one shall know she's named for you, except us."
"Marie Euphrasie?" Cosette asked, sitting back against the headboard of the bed she was resting in.
"Yes. I like it- don't you?"
Now, a 14-year-old girl growing into a beautiful young lady, her resemblance to Marius was striking. She had dark hair that was almost black with wise, dark eyes and a thoughtful mouth. Most of her days were spent dreaming out the windows or strolling in the garden, and she was quick to beg her father to take her to the Luxenbourg for walks.
Jean came along in 1836, robust and large. He was the same now, innately good and gentle despite his strength. Cosette sometimes looked at him strangely, causing the boy to become confused.
"Nothing, darling," she would say, brushing away the thought of his uncanny resemblance to her father, despite the lack of a blood connection.
Next they had twins, Courfeyrac and Isabelle. Now, thathad been a surprise! Instead of just one new baby, two had come out! Because of the shock of the birth and the loud cries of the boy, Marius had suggested naming him Courfeyrac, after his best friend. Despite the fact that it was not truly a first name, Cosette had liked it. Marius thought it fit, anyway: Courfeyrac the elder had never gone by his first name anyway! He had even laughed:
"Courfeyrac Pontmercy. Now that's a name he would have enjoyed!"
Isabelle was small, possibly from being a twin. She was not so quiet and thoughtful as her elder sister, but not as playful as Courfeyrac. She did not ask many questions or play as much. Her imagination was smaller than the other children's had been, and she was sick often. Cosette had spent many hours worrying over her, and many nights sitting at her bedside.
Poor Isabelle would look at her father with adoring eyes, as though pleading for his love. Neither Marius nor Cosette understood how to tell her how much she meant to them, because little Isabelle did not seem to grasp it. She was often unhappy, and cried. Without the strength to frolic like the others, she sat out on the bench in their garden, smelling the flowers while her sisters and brothers ran and played.
"Papa," she sometimes asked, sitting on her father's knees. "Why didn't God want me to play like the other children?"
Marius had no answers for her. Of all their children, Isabelle spent the most time with her father. Cosette would try and occupy the girl's attention, and Marius knew that sometimes Isabelle's indifference to her mother hurt Cosette. But Cosette's exuberance and playfulness overwhelmed Isabelle a bit. She loved her mother, but she adored her father for his quiet nature. He had thought often that maybe it was his resigned attitude towards life that caused poor little Isabelle, with her own pale and cautious life, to be drawn towards him. That hurt him more than it would have to have been shunned.
Their youngest two were a year apart. Leon was seven, and Victoire was six. Victoire had Cosette's enormous blue eyes, which lent her parents no favors when she wanted something. She had also inherited her mother's playful nature and a knack for cheering people up. Leon had her soft, wavy chestnut hair, Marius' dark eyes, and a lot of questions.
It was quite a lively bunch, Marius knew, but as the eight of them sat in their living room, Victoire playing at his feet, Marie braiding Isabelle's hair, Courfeyrac and Leon arguing, and Jean sitting with his mother, he knew that each of those people held a piece of his heart.
However, even his family could not warm the chill in his heart that night. He stared out of the window, and thought of his dear friend Courfeyrac, who had died sixteen years before on a night much like that one. He shivered, taking his head in his hands as those images from the most horrid night of his life flashed through his brain. Though the pain had dulled after sixteen years, the images were still as sharp and cold as though they had happened yesterday. He saw his best friend being shot almost every day of his life, inside his mind. Barely a day went by that Marius didn't have to push away a thought of that hell. He knew that when he lay on his deathbed, those images would flash over his mind. He would never find relief from those ghosts.
A shot, cold and distant, broke through his reverie. Cosette's eyes met his, and he saw pain in them. He knew what revolution was like, but it seemed to hurt Cosette just as much to hear about it. Cosette hated violence. She never raised a hand to her children, and Marius never had either.
"What was that noise?" Victoire asked, sitting up.
"Nothing, darling," he said, picking her up and pulling her into his lap.
The clock struck ten, and Cosette rose.
"It's much past time for you," she pointed at her youngest four children, "to be in bed. I know we've let you stay up with us tonight, and that Nicolette usually puts you to sleep, but that doesn't mean you'll be staying up any later than usual. Come upstairs and I'll tuck you in."
Marius handed Victoire over to Cosette, who turned and looked at her oldest two, sighing. "Please, can you go to bed too? I... I need to sleep tonight."
Jean stood, always obedient of his mother, while Marie sighed. But she got up, too, and the two trudged upstairs. Cosette and the little ones followed.
Marius sat alone in the living room, gazing about at the room. It was empty now. Funny how a room could clear so fast. Not a minute ago it was filled with little noises of children talking and playing, and now the silence rang in his ears. The gunshots, distant and muffled, were still audible, and he cringed with every little pop.
Once again, he saw his best friend Courfeyrac in his mind, smiling at him, baiting Marius to tell him who he was sneaking out to see late every night. He remembered Courfeyrac pulling the mattress off of his bed and offering it to Marius without question when he needed a place to sleep, making fun of him on his gloomiest days just to make him feel better, and always having something to say that could make him laugh.
Sometimes Marius felt guilty with how he had treated Courfeyrac in the last few months of his life. Did he regret not dying on the barricade with him? No. Not for a moment, except maybe in the first four months of his recovery. But after that everything had changed. Still, Marius sometimes thought of all the times Courfeyrac had offered to talk to him, had asked him to go out to dinner, and how Marius had always turned him down, always turned him away. Had he been angry? Marius would never know.
But he had turned Courfeyrac down because he was spending those evenings in Cosette's garden, he remembered. Given the chance to repeat it, Marius wasn't sure that he would give up time there to spend time with Courfeyrac. He was saddened by that thought, but he knew the truth of it.
Footsteps broke through his thoughts, and he saw Cosette coming down the stairs with a tired look on her face. She sat next to him on the loveseat, resting her head on his shoulder and rubbing her hand up and down his arm. Turning her head, she kissed his neck lightly.
"Thank you for staying here," Cosette whispered. "If you had gone, I..." she shook her head, tears in her eyes.
He was bewildered. "You really were afraid that I would leave, weren't you?"
She nodded, wiping her eyes.
"How could you think that? I had promised you I wouldn't. Did you not believe me?"
"Marius, it's not that I thought you'd break your word. You see..." she shook her head, trying to explain. "The way you... brood sometimes. And all this week, with the danger in Paris, you seemed like you were lost in your own brain. Your eyes were troubled- I know, I can see. There was a storm cloud in your head, you were... strange. You were hurting, I could tell. And I was afraid- I know you were thinking of your friends, and how you miss them, and... I was so afraid you'd take you chance to stand up for what they wanted one more time, and follow them..." She sobbed.
Once again, she had read him like a book. Except for one thing.
"Cosette, I'd never leave you willingly. The next time we're parted is when I die- and I promise I would never try and speed that up."
"How do you know you're going to die first?" she asked.
"Because," he answered, rolling his eyes as though it was obvious. "I won't allow it to happen any other way."
"Alright, Marius, stop playing God," she said, but smiled. "I'm just glad you're back."
That night, however, he rose again. Though he had tried, sleep would not come. His bones ached with tire from a week without sleep, but the ghosts just wouldn't leave him.
After all this time, he thought his past had been buried.
But now, looking out the window he felt like he was a young man again. He did not welcome the sensation. An orange glow was coming from miles away, and he knew it was from the torches at the barricade lighting up the dust that had been expelled into the air from the explosions.
The light pops were more frequent now, and deeper ones were peppering the air. From far away, people who were unaware probably would not even know that those pops were deadly. They were killing a man's best friend, killing a father, a brother, a son, a lover. It had almost been him, but he had escaped.
When he turned and looked at Cosette, sleeping soundly despite the hell a few miles away, or thought of all his children in the quiet household, he knew he wouldn't leave the house.
He knew that the barricades weren't what was calling him anyway and going there would only have disastrous affects. One is not given third chances.
No, the barricades weren't calling him, his ghosts were. The ghosts that had never stopped since that summer of 1832, the most pivotal point in his life. Sometimes the ghosts were just hushed and shoved into closets.
But not tonight: tonight, they were calling out for freedom. What could he do? They tugged at his soul, dragging it down. Nights like this were the worst: riots had broken out before, and all he could think of were the hot-blooded young men who had spent their nights planning something they all believed to be huge, when really it was just a small point in Paris' history, if that. Their names were not known. The government had scarcely taken notice. He remembered the late nights at the Cafe Musain, the shouts of the boys who pretended to be men.
But why did this bother him now? He had left all that behind him, even before they had all died. He had walked out before the revolution, before the deaths and before the real tragedy had even begun.
The next day and for weeks after that, he felt better, but he knew those ghosts would never leave him. When the streets had calmed down, he took an afternoon off and went out alone for a walk.
His feet were both rushed and leisurely as they clapped onto the cobblestone. When he rounded the corner to the street, he knew this was where he needed to be.
The rue de la Chanvrerie was just the same as it had been sixteen years ago, or so it seemed to Marius. No matter how it would change over the years, he would always see the same street where his best friend had died and where he prepared himself for death as well. Running his hands over the stone of the buildings, he closed his eyes. The voices of the young men came back into his mind.
Though they would never leave him, some days they weren't so violent. Like that day, on the street. That day, they did not call out to him, but they watched in silence from their quiet place in the closet of his mind. He had left them in his past.
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