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24 November 2013 @ 08:26 am
Chapter 73: Accord  

Chapter 73: Accord

"I am sure that you have now arranged your schedule to allow yourself to be home each day at noon."

"It seems to be the only time when both Armand and I are awake, and I can give his wet nurse some time to rest."

As wry as Courfeyrac's words were, they were enough to have Claudine laughing out loud. "You'd better enjoy the quiet while it lasts, especially Armand takes after you in demeanor as much as he does in looks," Claudine finally said mirthfully.

Courfeyrac chuckled before looking down to meet his infant son's curious gaze. "Then it is good that he is not a de Courfeyrac," he said softly."He never will be even if I could tell my parents about him."

Enjolras clasped his friend's shoulder sympathetically. "There may come a time when they will rethink that opinion," he said. It had been two and a half weeks since Armand had entered the world while his mother had left it. To the casual observer it seemed as if Courfeyrac was bearing the situation well and was almost unchanged save for the fact that he was in mourning attire, but to his close friends it was clear that his speech was less ebullient and his look more grave than before. 'But nonetheless still valiant,' Enjolras thought as he watched his friend talking to the child.

In the meantime Claudine was looking out the window, as if watching for someone on the street. "Combeferre should be here any minute."

"Is he bringing anyone with him?" Courfeyrac asked. It only stood to reason that Courfeyrac's apartment was now where their friends had been gathering for the past days, sometimes to lend a hand to the father, and other times to simply spend time with the son.

Claudine merely smiled. "Next month, when things are more settled, we will refine some of our work on acoustics," she said, shaking out some dust that had clung to the hem of her black dress. "It's something that I promised my father I'd finish." The regret and pain that had clung to her voice over the past few weeks had finally begun to diminish, only to be replaced by a more heartening sort of resolve. "Who knows, I might get to teach it someday," she added more hopefully.

"Perhaps you'll be Armand's teacher, if he is inclined to the scientific field," Courfeyrac said amiably. He bit back a swear word when he nearly tripped over his shoelaces. "Could you please hold him for a moment?" he asked Enjolras even as he carefully handed over the child.

Enjolras winced when Armand let out a brief yell of protest at being away from his parent. "Sorry there. I know I'm not your father or any one of your aunts," he said even as the baby began to calm down, only to snuggle into the crook of his arm. He couldn't help but smile as he looked at the infant; the resemblance between Armand and his friend was even more pronounced now than it had been at birth. The only trait he seemed to take from Paulette was a dimple in his left cheek. The rest of him, from his lustrous brown curls, his hazel eyes, and even the slight stubbiness of his nose, was all from his father. The likeness became downright ridiculous when Armand's face scrunched with a quizzical expression as he studied Enjolras.

"He's bright. He seems to know all our voices," Courfeyrac remarked, wiping his hands on his coat before going to retrieve his son.

"How would you know? He's not even a month old," Enjolras said.

"He does turn to look about when we're all here," Courfeyrac explained.

"You're falling into that trap every parent does," Claudine said with a laugh as she got up to answer a brisk knock on the door. She nodded to Combeferre and Joly. "Finally you're here."

Enjolras had to keep a straight face on overhearing this double-edged greeting; of all their friends, it was only Joly who had stayed away from visiting Courfeyrac, only allowing himself brief appearances during Paulette's wake and then Armand's christening. 'Only Combeferre then could draw him out,' Enjolras thought, seeing how Combeferre practically had to push Joly into the apartment.

Joly set aside his cane nervously before looking at Courfeyrac. "Good afternoon. Are you and Armand well?" he asked, his tone just level.

"As well as the spring can make us. Please sit down; I know you've come from the Bourbe and that is a long way," Courfeyrac said amiably.

Joly glanced at the seat Courfeyrac offered. "I do not think I should."

"Would you refuse a friend's hospitality?" Claudine asked.

Joly swallowed hard before sinking down wearily into the chair. He cast a pained look at Courfeyrac and Armand. "This isn't fair to either of you."

Combeferre gave his friend a despairing glance. "Joly, please. I've told you it wasn't your fault; the sudden onset of a seizure is not something most physicians could predict."

"Can one simply say that about losing a friend in this way?" Joly asked, looking at Combeferre pointedly. He took a few shaky breaths before looking at Courfeyrac. "I'm sorry that I could not save Paulette. I'm sorry that I've put you in the position of having to take sole responsibility for your child. I'm sorry for causing such pain."

"Joly, it wasn't you who did it," Courfeyrac said. "I was there. I saw you and Musichetta tried to save Paulette while I could only..." he trailed off before shaking his head. "I refuse to blame you for this."

"You should. I failed in my duty as a physician."

Enjolras moved towards the door in order to stop Joly from quitting the apartment. "Perhaps it is not for Courfeyrac or most persons to judge you with regard to your profession. However as a friend you went far and above beyond what was asked of you," he said firmly as he clasped Joly's arm. "This is not the time to turn away."

Joly looked at his friends, clearly struggling to believe the truth in their words. "May I see him then?" he asked, looking at Courfeyrac.

"He's been waiting to see you, he's been looking at you the entire time you've been talking," Courfeyrac said as he handed Armand to Joly. "I told you he was bright," he said to the rest of the group.

In the meantime Claudine glanced at Combeferre. "Have you told them yet?"

"Told us about what?" Joly asked, looking up from his attempts to check if Armand was cross-eyed.

Combeferre smiled proudly. "Tomorrow I'm going to meet with a panel at the Sorbonne; I'm being considered as a lecturer there."

"That is good news. However that will mean you will no longer take the day shift at the Necker?" Enjolras asked.

"Nor the night shift," Combeferre said.

"You're giving up Medicine?" Joly asked incredulously.

"Not entirely; I can still take on a private practice of sorts," Combeferre said. "I believe though that in the long run I will be doing more work in a teaching capacity. It is something I have been anxious to do for a few years now."

"If Grantaire were here, he would say you are transforming from Asclepius to Mentor," Courfeyrac said. "It suits you."

"I hope you're right."

"You have the gift of explanation, and more apparently, the patience for it," Enjolras said encouragingly, even as he heard the bells of Saint-Merry tolling the hour; it was now one o'clock. "Unfortunately I cannot pass another hour here; I am expected back at the Hotel de Ville," he said as he went to get his hat and his coat.

"So should I," Claudine said. "I have to prepare for the meeting later."

"What meeting?" Combeferre asked.

"With the Societe of course, at the Rue des Boulangers. I told you about it this morning. It's starting a little later than usual since all of us have much to finish at work and no one has a half holiday," Claudine said, swatting Combeferre's shoulder lightly. "There's been a lot of fuss, especially about whether we are to participate or not in the festivities on June 5. It's the last thing we need to be talking about now, since some of the other members have come up with projects that they want to discuss tonight."

Courfeyrac laughed out loud. "Is it true there is to be a whole day fete?" he asked Enjolras.

"That question is causing more debate than it should," Enjolras replied.

"It is impossible to keep from celebrating," Combeferre pointed out.

"That is true, but I do not see what end can be achieved with extravagant pageantry or theatrics. A simple commemoration would suffice, leaving people free to still conduct their business if they wish, instead of hindering all movement in Paris for the sake of festivities in one part of the city," Enjolras said. 'A parade and a tableaux of Marianne are not befitting ways to celebrate something that is just as well a memorial,' he couldn't help thinking. Inasmuch as he was fond too of symbolism, he could see no utility in such an expensive gesture, and he was also keenly aware of the insult this would be to those who lost loved ones during the bloodier days of the revolution.

"Practical as always," Combeferre said approvingly. "Though I doubt the idea will be well received."

Enjolras merely smiled grimly; he had his own debates to wage regarding this frivolous but unavoidable matter. 'I never thought that these things would actually become a memory,' he caught himself musing. It was an astounding realization; a year ago he had merely been planning and hoping for an upheaval. The world had done that, and in addition to this, it had turned on its side in such a startling fashion, in the way that only orderly chaos could.

He turned his attention back to where his friends were now discussing theories about the upcoming festivities; even Joly was throwing in his own wild suggestions. "Shall I bring those for consideration to my colleagues?" he asked dryly.

"If you must pick one, make it the re-enactment of the classical. Togas would be more hygienic for summer," Courfeyrac replied gleefully.

Enjolras rolled his eyes at the ludicrousness of this suggestion, even as the rest of his friends burst out laughing. After a few minutes he took his leave of the group and made his way back to the Hotel de Ville. Even before he could get to the corridor leading to the legislators' office, he could already hear chatter punctuated by guffaws, heralding the presence of a gang of journalists waiting for some official to bother. The young man gritted his teeth, already determined to make the discussion short, more so when he saw Grantaire walk up with a determined, even slightly offended expression on his face.

"There is no calling off the buzzards," Grantaire said when he saw Enjolras. "They're out waiting for Jeanne today; they seem determined to catch him during the brief hour he comes here."

"They will grow tired while waiting. He's not coming till the end of the day, if ever," Enjolras informed his friend. "What else are they here for?"

"Talking about the fete," Grantaire said. "In all the wrong aspects of course, such as the possibility of one of the members of the women's club representing Liberty at the parade."

Before Enjolras could comment on this, the rest of Grantaire's colleagues had already caught on to his presence and were now besieging him with questions. "Citizen! Is it true that you had a personal hand with the transferring of the garrison from the Rue de Babylone?" one journalist from a smaller gazette yelled over the din caused by his colleagues.

Enjolras shook his head, remembering only now that it was this week that the last of the military reassignments had been put into effect, thus breaking up the mutinous garrison. "No. The matter was arranged entirely within the armed forces, as a response to the incidents on the first of April."

"On the contrary, it is said that you arranged it owing to a falling out you had with one of the officers, over a personal matter?" another journalist shouted.

Enjolras' brow furrowed at this ludicrous notion, more so when he saw Grantaire cuffing the journalist who'd asked this impertinent question. "That is baseless. I suggest you speak to the commanders directly if you wish for clarification or more details," he said sternly before making his way through the throng so he could proceed to his office. He could hear Grantaire walking a few paces behind him but he had to wait till he was out of earshot before he could address his friend. "What exactly was that about?" he asked.

"Only an attempt to sow intrigue," Grantaire said with a shrug. "It could be worse; you could have been accused of trying to abolish religion in the face of putting up another age of Reason. You could have been accused of being Robespierre, with the rest of us filling in the parts of the Jacobin party and with Eponine being Citizenness Eleonore Duplay."

"Those last accusations had better be in jest," Enjolras said, not hiding the offence in his tone.

"I am not responsible for what ensues when my colleagues choose to worship Bacchus in the Cafe du Foy," Grantaire replied. He checked his pocket watch and shook his head. "I must go. My Grace will summon me, and I would rather not have her take on the attributes of Eris. She wants to meet me before she drops by the women's meeting at the Latin Quartier tonight."

"Well I shall not delay you. My regards to Citizenness Montrose," Enjolras said politely before going to his office, already determined to make himself scarce for as long as the impetuous journalists were still on the premises of the Hotel de Ville. He shut the door quite audibly but did not lock it; he was not averse to more productive appointments. This had the desired effect; he found himself relatively undisturbed as he spent the next few hours answering correspondence and reading through documents for the next plenary assembly, the only interruptions being from Rossi and Mathieu when they dropped by separately to exchange papers or useful conjectures.

When he was done with his work, Enjolras found a fresh sheet of paper and wrote on top of it: 'Notes on curriculums', before proceeding to list down the subjects being taught in various grammar schools, such as the one that the Thenardier brothers were attending, the schools where the children of various acquaintances were enrolled, and even the schools his relatives in Aix attended. 'Inequalities even here,' he thought as he began jotting down some of his observations with regard to each subject as it was taught in each school. He frowned as he surveyed the results of his setting his thoughts out on paper; there were now more questions than answers. 'Something to discuss with Eponine and Combeferre soon,' he decided, hearing the church bells now toll the hour for vespers despite the fact that the sun was still brightly shining; summer was fast approaching. As soon as his notes were dry he straightened up his desk and then quitted the now silent Hotel de Ville.

He stopped by the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau first in order to check up on the Thenardier brothers. After this, he made his way to the Jardin Royal des Plantes for an appointment with some of the leaders of union and guilds based in this district. By the time this meeting was over, the lamps all along the park and the streets were already being lit and the police were beginning to make their night rounds.

Somehow, he was not surprised at all to return home and find the ground floor of the tenement still lit; what piqued his curiosity were the smell of coffee and the sound of humming coming from the kitchen. He peered in and saw Eponine seated at the table, reading through a pamphlet and stopping at times to scribble in her notebook. Two cups of coffee were set up on the table.

She smiled as she looked up from her work and patted the empty seat next to hers. "I figured you would want to be busy too this evening," she said by way of greeting. "Anyway I'm not about to empty the kettle by myself and it's a shame to just pour the rest out."

"Point taken," Enjolras said. He smiled when he tasted the drink; it was one of the rare occasions when Eponine did not burn the coffee. "How did your meeting go?"

"Mine is a long story. I am sure yours went well?" she said, setting down her pencil and reaching over to slide her fingers over his.

"For the most part. There were a few points to argue with some of the guildsmen asking about how their unions would work with the current laws regarding employment, hence the meeting's late conclusion," he said.

"I s'pose you could say the same for mine too. Maybe a little worse," Eponine replied wryly. She sighed deeply before taking a sip of her coffee. "A lot of it was about the fete; not all of us want to join the parade, but some of us are insisting we should."

"Well, what do you think of it?" Enjolras asked curiously.

"It would be nice to join, but I don't want us ladies to get all silly about it," Eponine said with a frown. "The papers say that's all we ladies are concerned about. That is not true."

"Once the fifth of June is over, then there will be more inclination to focus on actual priorities as opposed to a mere representation of them," Enjolras pointed out.

Eponine grinned at his choice of words. "Maybe between now and that day there will be something different to talk about," she said a little wryly. "Hopefully it won't be about us again."

Enjolras regarded her silently for a long time, remembering the last time this topic had come up while they'd been talking in his office, days before the trials of Magnon and Duchamp. There had been a matter he'd dearly wished to at least mention at that point in time, but it had been evident that then she was too flustered to even contemplate it. The events that had transpired since that time had him all the more convinced that he would have to do more than a simple mention of this question. He looked at her keenly as he set down his coffee. "Eponine, there is something I want to discuss with you."

"Oh?"

He took a deep breath, hoping with every fiber of his being that she would not be startled or worse, angry at what he was about to ask. "When you said all those months ago that you wanted us to be respectable, where did you think it would lead up to?"

She pensively ran her fingers over his callused ones. "I didn't want to be your mistress, to go about the way others did; it wouldn't have been good for either of us, but you in particular," She paused when he held her hand more tightly. "I think after everything we've gotten ourselves into, there's only one place where respectable can end up."

"You already know."

Eponine bit her lip, but there was a growing hope evident in her expression when she met his gaze. "Antoine, are you sure? If you really are, then you know what my answer is."

Enjolras pressed a kiss to her hand, and was heartened to see her smile at this. "Absolutely."

Her eyes were bright with joy as she leaned in to kiss him lightly, making her answer even clearer. "So, when? Within this year, I s'pose?"

"What about before the end of summer? I'm sure we can manage that."

She smiled bemusedly at him. "You're eager."

"Is it too soon?"

"I s'pose so much the better then, before more things come up that could make us put it off," she said with a grin.

He nodded, seeing that she got his point."I hope this wasn't too abrupt," he confessed. "I don't even have a ring to give you."

Eponine laughed. "Not at all, not when it's you. As for the ring, I don't know what I'd do with such a shiner on my hand, not when I have so much to handle!"

Enjolras chuckled at her words before brushing her hair out of her face. "You say the oddest things. But you're in the right of it," he said before kissing her deeply, certain that now that there were no words fitting for the rest of their evening.