The first time the nightmares came, they scared Cosette. He thrashed in his sleep, waking Cosette suddenly as the mattress moved. His cries made her heart race, and she at first thought he was sick, thought his fever had come back... but no. It was just his mind that was torturing him, not real pain.
"No- n...nn... no..." he moaned in his sleep, the sheets wrapped around his knees, the blankets pushed off him.
"Marius," she whispered, but knew he couldn't hear her. He was tossing his head side to side against the pillows, so violently she was afraid he would hurt his neck. She reached for one of his hands and pinned it to the bed, so he would not accidentally hit her, and then pulled him to her. "Shh... Shh," she whispered. She wrapped her hands behind his head and drew him close to her, pressing him against her chest, his face safe against the hollow of her neck. He sobbed against her, convulsions running through his body, reliving some kind of terror she had never seen. She that felt his cheek was wet, but whether it was from sweat or tears she didn't know. "It's alright," she whispered to him, "It's alright, you're safe with me," until felt him slowly relax. She continued to whisper to him until at last he stilled against her, falling back into a restful sleep.
He had nightmares for months, and she knew he'd been having them since the day he returned from the barricades. She did not know what happened there- oh, she'd heard bits and pieces from him before, yes, but he never sat down and told her what happened. She doubted he ever would, and she did not ask him to. It was too painful for him to relive, and besides, she didn't want to know. She'd heard enough from the words he shouted at night in his sleep, words that burned through her ears and seared her brain, the pain so acute. If it would take away some of his pain to have her understand what he had been through, she would do it in a heartbeat. But his pain could not be shared, and she knew she would never understand.
His best friend's name was Courfeyrac, she knew. He'd mentioned him a few times, lighthearted, but Cosette heard more about him when Marius dreamed. Courfeyrac, and someone named Mabeuf, who he had never mentioned to her when he was awake. Enjolras, Jean Prouvaire, Eponine, Gavroche, Combferre, and more names she would never put faces to. She would never know how they died, or how old they were, but she knew they died too young. They only lived, now, in the nightmares that haunted her husband late at night. Sometimes he cried out for her, but that was very seldom- he seemed to know she was there, and did not need for her to return. She was almost never in his nightmares.
Not that she needed to be, for she heard every one of them.
Once, they'd been walking down the street when a group of young men raced by them, yelling. Their voices were coarse with passion, low and acting like they knew everything, but Cosette could see they were still young. Hardly any older than she was. She shook, watching the fire in their eyes as they ran past. They carried guns, and soon other young men, just common civilians from the street, had gone racing after them, their yells joining the other men. Cosette stared after them, but understanding, but wanting to know and wanting to watch in the sick way one bothers a hangnail. But Marius put his arm around her and directed her away, telling her that they were going home. He ushered her into a fiacre very quickly, and paid the man extra to take a long, different way home that used none of the main streets. He assured her they were safe, that everything was fine.
But that night, sitting in the parlor, she heard shots and screams. Her hands quived, and she glanced at her husband. He stared out the window, one hand steadily holding the curtains back, watching the street outside their house. It was empty, but one could hear the fighting from far away. His eyes had no fear in them- they were resigned, thoughtful and sad. That night his nightmares had been worse than ever. They woke Cosette from her own- she saw the boys, then saw them, young and fresh-faced, lying in pools of blood. She jerked awake, sweating and panting in fear, only to see Marius once again thrashing beside her. He never woke from his sleep whens he comforted him- the best she could do was soothe him into a dreamless sleep, for he was such a heavy sleeper that her words did not rouse him out of his hell. But that night, she felt even sicker when she watched his face, contorted with pain, for she knew he was seeing the same imagines she'd just woken from. Only for him, those boys had been his friends- and the images were real, ones he had really seen. She shivered, her own tears falling on his cheeks and mixing with his as she held him.
The next morning, the fighting had been so insignificant it had barely made the papers, or so Marius said. She didn't check.
Now, it was over a year since he'd been to the fighting. But, in the middle of the night- and who knew what time anyway? After a certain hour, the night seems endless and confusing and dark- she lay on her back, one arm around his shoulders, one hand running through his hair, feeling him shake in her arms. She pressed her lips to his forehead whens he felt tense against her, feeling another wave of horror wash through him. And, until they both fell asleep, she whispered his name and rocked them both back and forth.
He would hate to know that this happened every night. The shame would be unbearable to him. But she never minded. During the day, he protected her and made her happy and cared for her. At night, it was her job to protect him.