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01 January 2014 @ 09:16 pm
Chapter 79: Hitting the Ground Running  

A/N: Happy New Year! Three more chapters after this.

Chapter 79: Hitting the Ground Running

It was the ticklish sensation of something too near his nose that brought Enjolras out of the haze of his dreams and back to the waking world. When he opened his eyes he found his vision obscured by a familiar curtain of reddish brown hair, which he had to quickly smooth down before he ended up sneezing and possibly waking up Eponine, who was still snuggled comfortably in his arms and using his shoulder as a pillow. A quick check of his surroundings was enough to tell him that it was already way past dawn, at least judging by the way the sunlight pierced past the drapes and played over the smooth walls of the room and the whiteness of the now rumpled bed sheets.

He glanced down when he heard Eponine murmur something incoherently in her sleep. It took all his self control not to wake her up with a kiss or something more. 'I never thought I'd see her this way too,' he mused as he moved her very tousled hair away from her face and her bare shoulders. While Enjolras had always thought that Eponine was lovely when she was speaking or laughing, he had to also admit that there was also a certain beauty in her quieter moments, such as this. For a little while he allowed himself to enjoy the tranquillity of simply staying with her, even if he knew that soon enough he would have to get up and prepare for a whole day of meetings and hearings. It was an unlooked for and yet a very natural peace, and one that he made sure to commit to memory.

After a few minutes he felt Eponine stir and raise her head slightly. "It's morning already, Antoine?" she asked in a raspy voice as she blinked her eyes open.

"It was already morning before we managed to get to sleep," he said before giving her a light kiss, feeling her smile widely against his lips before he pulled away just enough to rest his forehead against hers. "Did you sleep well?"

"Oh very much," Eponine replied as she affectionately ran a hand through his hair, stopping when her fingers brushed against a tell tale bruise that she had left on the left side of his neck. "What about you?"

Enjolras felt his mouth go dry at the intimate memories her mere touch evoked. "Of course," he managed to say, making sure to look her in the face instead of letting his eyes wander over the rest of her slender form pressed up so close to him that he could feel the curves of her body fitting in so well with the angles of his.

She grinned mischievously at him. "Last night was eventful. I'm sure you have no complaints."

He smirked as he kissed her again, this time making sure to leave her flushed and breathless when he pulled away. "That is a delicate way of putting the situation," he said in her ear as he moved his fingers down her back while he planted soft kisses on the slope of her shoulder. "Unless you would rather phrase it otherwise?"

Her eyes were dark with surprise and desire as she used one hand to trace slow, maddening circles on his chest. "You definitely know what I'm talking about," she whispered breathily before capturing his lips with a fiery kiss to further demonstrate what she meant. It took a while before more conversation became possible again, at which point she then gave him a last teasing kiss on his throat before she sat up to get a better look out the window. "It's funny to wake up and already see the sun out," she said as she caught her breath.

"Why?"

"Normally we're so busy by now, but I s'pose no one expects us to be at work today."

"I do not see why we would have to be absent," Enjolras remarked nonchalantly as he sat up and reached over to push her hair behind her ears. He gingerly reached for his pocket watch, which he'd made sure to wind up and leave on the bedside table the night before. "It's five minutes before seven."

"It's still early enough for a good breakfast," Eponine said, now looking for her own watch on the same table. She sighed with frustration on finding that she had yet to set the time on it. "Most people would take the day after a wedding as a sort of holiday, but that's not something that we can think of on a Monday. You most especially."

He nodded slowly, knowing that she had already read him all too easily. "Since we are on this topic, Eponine, do you intend to be at the Rue des Macons today?" he asked tentatively.

"Odette will scold me if she sees me there, but she can't deny she'll need help with some new papers today," Eponine replied with a laugh. "If I finish those early enough, I s'pose I can talk with Allyce about some things. Then you and I have to fetch my brothers and move all their things over here. "

Enjolras regarded her with both admiration and consternation, having half-expected to hear her declare a holiday at least for herself. 'Then again, the words 'Eponine' and 'idle' do not belong in the same sentence,' he thought as he showed Eponine how to wind up her watch. "We can come for the boys at five in the afternoon," he suggested as he handed the timepiece back to her before he got out of bed.

"Which would mean we'll be done with everything just past dinnertime, so we can't visit your parents today even if they said they want to see us," she said, smiling appreciatively as she watched him rummaging through a chest of drawers in search of clean clothes. "Hopefully they won't mind; they said to come only when we have time for it."

"They'll be here in Paris till next week, so we can call on them tomorrow," he pointed out. "That is unless they gave a specific time for a visit?"

"No. I wonder though if they'll ask if we even have time to breathe," Eponine quipped as she got up to also begin readying for the day. As she passed by him, she stopped to give him a long hug. "At least we'll see each other later?" she asked, her eyes bright with anticipation.

"Of course," he said, kissing her forehead before he quit the room in order to wash up and shave. After sharing a breakfast of fresh bread, some cheese, boiled eggs and coffee, they headed out for the day, only parting ways at the Place Saint-Michel. From here Eponine only had to walk a short distance to the Rue des Macons, while Enjolras headed down to the other end of the Rue de Gres, where he could find an omnibus headed in the general direction of the Hotel de Ville.

It was a quarter to nine in the morning when he finally arrived at the Hotel de Ville, which was even busier than usual owing to the exceedingly packed agenda of the month. The first meeting for the day was on the third floor, in a cramped room right beside the diplomats' office. In addition to the flurry accompanying preparations for this session, there was an unexpected visit from the Dutch consulate, thus making the corridor nearly impassable. Despite this, Enjolras had no difficulty locating his two colleagues Bamatabois and Rossi in the middle of some sort of discussion. Both of them were pale and a little gaunt, clearly having not slept much the night before.

Bamatabois' jaw dropped when he saw Enjolras. "What in God's name are you doing here at work? It's the day after your wedding!"

Rossi shook his head with disbelief. "And punctual too; I figured you'd show up in the afternoon and not at this horrible hour."

"There is much to attend to especially in light of the upcoming events this September. This is no time for either idleness or lassitude," Enjolras deadpanned.

Rossi yawned and rubbed his temples. "The latter cannot be helped. I should have left at the same time Courfeyrac did instead of waiting for Grantaire and the rest. This is the last time I'm spending the rest of the night in the Cafe du Foy."

"I already warned you that you would not make it back to Montmartre any earlier than four in the morning," Bamatabois said.

"You and Citizenness Moreau did not do much better, I can tell," Rossi retorted balefully. "It's all over your face-"

"I believe that we can put the picture together, Rossi," Enjolras said, knowing better than to inquire further about his friends' adventures after leaving the Rue Guisarde. "Where are Jeanne and Mathieu?"

"Jeanne is dealing with the artisans; they are not happy that their comrades from Lyon have had their petition's hearing delayed to next week. That might take him the better part of today. Mathieu sent a note saying he's dealing with personal affairs, but he was vague about them," Bamatabois replied.

"The question now being whether Mathieu will show up for voting this week," Rossi grumbled.

Bamatabois gave him a withering look. "I will make sure of it," he muttered, taking care to keep his voice down since Lafayette was in the hallway speaking to an official from the consulate.

'A single day's absence is unremarkable, but one of several days' duration is not,' Enjolras mused as he saw more people showing up and a particularly frantic official calling a hearing to order. Perhaps it would soon be necessary for him or Bamatabois or some other trustworthy friend to speak with Mathieu soon, if only to ascertain his colleague's welfare and if necessary, find some way to ensure his being able to vote on petitions before the September deadline for hearings and voting could elapse and the process of deliberation would have to start over. The rest of the day was taken up by one meeting after another, with only very brief recesses to simply calm down increasingly frayed tempers.

By half past one in the afternoon, Enjolras was sure that much of the vocabulary of the Hotel de Ville's regulars had been reduced to 'defer , 'impossible', and 'inconceivable', particularly with regard to a variety of matters ranging from petitions written outside Paris all the way to the simple matter of accounting for the past few months' expenses. 'This is far more than just summer lassitude,' he noted during a very short recess that had been declared as a form of lunch break. For one thing some of his colleagues were irate; in fact Bamatabois had almost gotten into a fistfight with an obnoxious delegate from Calais. Conversely, there were others who had taken to listlessly shuffling through papers, almost without reading what was in front of them.

He hardly had time to set out the bread and cheese he'd brought when he noticed a pudgy, moustached man seemingly trailing Rossi in an attempt to make conversation. Enjolras' eyes narrowed as he realized who this man was; he'd seen him fairly recently along with some other journalists, lingering at the corner of the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. 'Something is afoot if 'Le Journal des Debats 'has sent a correspondent here,' he noted. The Journal des Debats was also one of the more reputed broadsheets in Paris, though lately it had taken a less forgiving slant against the more radical policies and personages. To some degree this was forgivable owing to the general excellence of the paper's writers, both with the actual craft as well as with avoiding the crime of libel.

In a few moments he saw that the correspondent walking in his direction. "What are you here for, Citizen Huguelet?" Enjolras asked cordially.

The journalist stopped in his tracks at this query. "I only need a comment about the proposed moves by the legislature." He wiped his hands on his sleeves. "It seems as if the voting on some of the petitions will have to be delayed owing to differences in opinion from some of the deputies?"

Enjolras raised an eyebrow at this vague query and got to his feet. "Regarding which particular petitions, might I ask?"

"The ones drafted here in Paris, Lyon, and Verdun," Huguelet answered.

"Well, what have you been told of them?"

"The one in Verdun is delayed because of some dispute among the authors themselves, but it seems as if there are stronger and more pertinent objections to the other two from the women and the artisans. It's only natural given the content and the authors..." he trailed off before realizing that the room had fallen silent and everyone was giving him pointed or wary looks. "I've offended your party, haven't I?"

"Petitions that are in line with the party's agenda, but are nevertheless the concern of all the representatives regardless of political affiliation," Enjolras replied seriously.

"Perhaps you speak of representatives who are less heedful of the interests of the aristocracy and a large part of the bourgeoisie," Huguelet said. "Not all of the legislators of France can betray their class as readily as some of you have."

A murmur sounded throughout the room as Enjolras regarded this journalist coolly. "There is no use in framing this discussion in terms akin to those of the old estates, not in this present day and era. That is bygone and divisive. A policy is considered in terms of its benefit to all citizens, not merely for the material gain of one group over another, or for the increase of any one's cachet."

"Everyone knows that your vote is behind those petitions; your wife is one of the principal authors of the Parisian petition, and you have contacts in Lyon," the journalist said. "Personal interest cannot be disregarded even in your case, Citizen."

"It cannot be disregarded, but it is not the primary merit in making a decision. Even if those petitions had completely different origins, I would still subject it to the same process as any other petition. To do otherwise is a disservice to all citizens."

"Clearly you do not fear your colleagues."

"I respect them, but that is all. It is not to each other that we owe our mandate. You would do well to remember that portion of the Charter."

Huguelet nodded shakily. "Very well said, Citizen. The threat though of the delay is still real. It is not only in the legislature that meets in Paris, but even in the voting as it takes place in other districts outside of this capital."

"All the more this will have to be promptly addressed by reaching the districts most concerned," Enjolras replied, knowing that this would be heard by everyone else in the room. 'Though it is not only from here in the legislature that this push should come,' he decided, seeing the aghast looks from Bamatabois and Rossi, as well as the disgruntled expressions of some other convenors and committee members.

Bamatabois swallowed hard as he looked at Enjolras. "It would be easier if Jeanne were here to support this move, or if even Mathieu was present."

"I think that Jeanne may have some wisdom in speaking to his neighbours today," Enjolras remarked in an undertone. He knew better than to comment again on Mathieu's absence. 'Perhaps I should call on Jeanne tonight or early tomorrow morning and ask what he's learned from the artisans,' he decided even as the meeting suddenly was called to order again, prompting Huguelet to make his exit.

For the rest of the afternoon, Enjolras found himself mulling over the issue of delays, if only to figure out how to best manage the matter. 'In fact it's likely that more answers might be found outside these meetings,' he decided. It was possible that some insight might even be found in the Latin quartier, where there was no end to discussion. At about four in the afternoon he departed from the Hotel de Ville and immediately made his way to the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. On arriving at the tenement he found a hand-cart already outside the house, clearly in preparation for the move at hand. Almost as soon as he got in the doorway of the tenement, he saw little Jacques running up to greet him. "Well now, how have you been?" Enjolras greeted, picking up the boy before the latter could climb up all over him.

Jacques giggled as he moved so that he was dangling from Enjolras' arm. "I've been very, very good. More than Gavroche and Neville."

"They got into a fight using ink," Combeferre said as he emerged from the kitchen with a guilty looking Neville in tow. "Claudine and I literally turned our backs for one minute, but that was enough."

Neville gave Enjolras a sheepish smile. "Sorry. We still washed up!" he said, holding out his clean hands.

"That is evident," Enjolras said. "Do you boys have all your things together?"

The two little Thenardiers nodded gleefully. "Can I read in the room full of books?" Neville asked as he picked up his cat.

"Not till too late," Enjolras replied, setting down Jacques before going upstairs in search of Gavroche. Not surprisingly he found the oldest Thenardier boy still in the middle of packing his own things. Courfeyrac and Bahorel were helping him out as well. All three of them were in their shirtsleeves and also seemed to be in the middle of some raucous storytelling, judging by their uproarious laughter.

Gavroche groaned when he saw Enjolras. "Now you'll have to tell the story again!" he said to the two other men.

"While we were waiting at Saint-Sulpice for you and Eponine, Courfeyrac had a most interesting interlude with a beautiful lady in a gown of gold," Bahorel teased.

Enjolras raised an eyebrow, already guessing where this tale was going. "Isn't it rather early for that?" he asked Courfeyrac a little worriedly.

"It is, hence my erring on the side of being cordial," Courfeyrac admitted despite his friends' scoffing. "If we are to be exact about it, it was Armand's presence that briefly drew her attention away from her helping the organist look for a missing shoe." He shook his head as he helped Gavroche close the carpetbag. "She is the daughter of one of my father's acquaintances. Considering my standing in my family's eyes, or rather what used to be my family, I doubt that anything more than a simple exchange of names is possible."

"You will find a way around it, in due time. How often is it you will find a woman who likes you, and your son as well?" Bahorel drawled. "I would not say it was the doing of any of Eros' arrows, but there was something more than mere gallantry there."

Courfeyrac shrugged good-naturedly at this. "We may have to make more than one trip to move all the beds, even if we already have a handcart," he noted, eager to change the topic.

"What if we have another?" Eponine greeted from the hallway. She had doffed her bonnet and her shawl and her face was flushed from having run a long way. She had with her a large basket with bread, cheese, and some other foods she'd picked up in the market. "I was able to borrow one from a house near the corner."

"Then only a single trip may be necessary," Enjolras replied, smiling at his wife's excellent timing. He made a mental note to ask her about her meeting with Allyce, knowing that rumors of a delay would probably have reached them too. "How were matters at the Rue des Macons?"

"As I told you they'd be; Odette was surprised but she still had a lot for me to do," Eponine replied as she checked Gavroche's carpetbags as well as two more that had been left to one corner of the room. "I s'pose we should put these in one cart with one of the beds, and then put the other two beds in the second cart."

"That is putting a barricade on wheels!" Gavroche crowed before grabbing a carpetbag and racing down the stairs before his sister could say anything.

Enjolras had to keep a straight face on seeing Eponine's exasperated look, even as Courfeyrac and Bahorel quite failed to hold back their fits of laughter. "You always insisted that you were his older sister, and not his mother," Courfeyrac pointed out to Eponine.

"He wouldn't know what to do with a mother, or even a father," Eponine retorted. She counted something out on her fingers and laughed in disbelief. "This is the longest he's ever stayed with me or someone from our family since he was a very small boy."

"What was the longest before that?" Enjolras asked as he took off his coat and rolled up his shirtsleeves to help begin moving one of the bed frames in the apartment.

"Only a month. I think that was when we first arrived here in Paris."

"Now you'll be able to start counting in years," Bahorel said jovially. "He's come a long way from being that gamin at the Temple, and he does enjoy staying with you and Enjolras."

"I'm only around for the food!" Gavroche shouted from downstairs, much to the laughter of everyone else in the tenement.

Even with the assistance of Combeferre, Courfeyrac, and Bahorel, it still took the better part of the next two hours to move all the Thenardier boys' possessions to the Rue Guisarde. This venture was accomplished with much laughter, some mock threats, as well as a few stubbed toes and sore fingers from trying to get the furniture around corners and past tight spots. "Only seven in the evening! I feel like I've been working alongside Hercules," Courfeyrac said as they finished straightening up the room.

"Better him than Sisyphus," Eponine remarked. She dusted off her hands just as she caught sight of her three brothers scampering into the room. "I s'pose you three now want dinner?" she asked them.

"No, we want a score for a fiddle," Gavroche said.

"Navet was passing by and he says there's some fun at the Marche Saint-Germain," Neville explained.

"Ah, that civilized revel," Bahorel said heartily. "Therese and some of her friends are planning to make a good time of it."

Enjolras nodded, remembering that Monday was the customary half-holiday for some of the seamstresses, masons, printers, and scribes of the quartier. He knew too that this would be an opportunity to speak with friends or acquaintances in order to clarify what Huguelet said, as well as provide some insight or solution to the nebulous events at the Hotel de Ville.

Jacques grinned up at both Eponine and Enjolras. "Can we please go with Navet?"

"I s'pose so, only if Enjolras and I can come along too," Eponine replied teasingly.

Gavroche and Neville made faces at this suggestion. "You'll kiss in front of everyone like some of the married people do!" Neville said.

Combeferre, Courfeyrac, and Bahorel burst out laughing. "If that happened, it would be nothing short of a natural wonder," Courfeyrac guffawed.

"Which is why it will be the least of anyone's problems. We'll be there," Enjolras replied, sharing a conspiratorial look with Eponine. "What about you two?" he asked Combeferre and Courfeyrac.

Combeferre merely smiled. "I'll go for a few minutes, perhaps at the risk of meeting some of my students for next semester."

"A portent of horrors," Courfeyrac quipped. "You'll have to do without me though; Armand is proving to be demanding company."

Enjolras and Combeferre nodded sympathetically. "It may be a while yet till this is feasible, but if you need any help watching him, let us know," Combeferre offered.

Courfeyrac smiled gratefully. "By then we'll find out whose temper he inherited; mine or Paulette's. I hope it's the latter."

After getting what they could of the bread, cheese, and some cold meats in the basket that Eponine had brought, this entire merry group left the house. Courfeyrac went off in the direction of Saint-Sulpice in order to make his way home, while everyone else went down the Rue Guisarde to the Marche Saint-Germain. On most days this square was an edifice and an open market, but on this night it was a cross between a promenade and a cafe. Groups of workingmen sat around drinking and laughing, grisettes openly flirted with students and clerks, some older women snapped at their charges or sourly observed the proceedings, and a few children were starting up what appeared to be a game of boules.

Bahorel lost no time in locating Therese and going off with her in a more secluded corner of the square. Gavroche and Jacques immediately espied Navet in this group of children and ran to join the game. Neville anxiously hung back for a moment to watch the rowdy game and he shook his head. "I can't play like that," he said, sounding embarrassed.

"Ah, problems with the stance," Combeferre noted, observing the way the children had to step back and practically swing their entire bodies to toss the balls into a sort of circle. "There are other games of boules you can play."

Neville pouted and crossed his arms. "Can we go about then?" he asked Enjolras.

"We'll do that in a few minutes," Enjolras replied, for at that moment he had also caught sight of a colleague he'd been looking for all day. "Good evening Jeanne."

Jeanne looked around on hearing his name, and his eyes widened when he espied Enjolras. "I was just about to look for you on the Rue Guisarde," he said, before nodding cordially to Eponine and Combeferre. "There has been some trouble with the passing of the petitions," he added worriedly.

"So it would appear. Very little was accomplished at the Hotel de Ville today, and not just for lack of quorum either," Enjolras said.

"If you were at the Hotel de Ville, then surely you must have heard of the reason for my absence today," Jeanne said. "The artisans intend to speak up at the September assembly if the legislature does not vote on the petition from Lyon before that time."

"That could very well happen given the present state of affairs at the Hotel de Ville," Enjolras replied before giving a brief account of some of the sessions as well as his talk with the journalist Huguelet. "There will be agitation here by tomorrow once this news is publicized."

"That is a difficult state of affairs," Combeferre said. "You as representative will have to give a good answer as to why the others are delaying."

"Unfortunately there is no tactful way of stating the matter; there is simply a delay and the other deputies must be reminded to act swiftly," Enjolras answered with candor. That was not a conversation he was looking forward to, regardless if it would be with a journalist, a colleague, or simply anyone on the street. "However the agitation may be directed to that very aim of reminding."

"So you would have the people themselves, whether in clubs and bodies or just as individuals, pressure their legislators and deputies to carry out the voting?" Jeanne clarified.

"Yes. It can be done in a meeting or even from afar through letters."

"A worthy idea, especially if it can reach the constituents in Lyon and Verdun."

"Well there is no time to waste; all the smaller conventions must act on this within a fortnight so we can be sure of any sort of progress," Enjolras said. He discreetly touched Eponine's elbow, seeing the oddly thoughtful look that crossed her face. "Did you manage to visit Citizenness Legendre today?"

"Yes, and this very thing came up," Eponine replied, looking at him and then at Jeanne and Combeferre. "It would have gone nicely enough but there was this gentleman, some representative from Alencon, who called. He was courteous till he told Allyce that we were best starting over with our petition since there was no way it was ever going to be voted on before September. I s'pose you can imagine what Allyce had to say to that!"

"Yes, and I am sure that she was not the only one who had something to say," Enjolras deadpanned.

Eponine rolled her eyes even as she nudged him. "I only told him that he was presuming too much and that he did not have eyes all the way into September," she said, pretending to adopt a demure tone.

"Once again, you two have done it," Combeferre said knowingly. "Claudine told me that your group's petition wasn't endorsed to any one deputy or legislator in particular, so how will you go about agitating?" he asked Eponine.

"I s'pose it will have to be by reaching friends in other areas and asking them to push their own representatives," Eponine said. "I think that's the only way they'll listen, if it's coming from right in their own homes in a way."

"I see the merit in that approach, but what of a more direct one?" Enjolras asked, picking up Neville, who had begun to quietly complain for someplace to sit.

"It would work if we were men; the moment some of your colleagues see the word 'Citizenness' on anything that's from here in Paris, they toss it out," Eponine replied with an undertone of frustration. She bit her lip before looking at Enjolras. "I know what people think I will do but I wouldn't dare to ask you either to help much there, not when you have several other things to vote on."

Before Enjolras could say something to this, a shout followed by the crash of breaking glass came from one side of the square, where some journalists had been gathered. After a few moments Nicholine Montrose was seen dragging Grantaire away from where a drunken correspondent from Spain was haranguing him with various invectives. "Laurent, there's no use arguing with him in Occitan, he's not from that part of Spain!" the irate governess was heard to say to her lover, whose cravat was already scuffed and out of shape from the debacle.

"Indignation requires no translation," Grantaire said. He smiled cheerily at Enjolras and his companions. "Welcome to the merriest of promenades!"

"If one counts sitting as a form of walking," Nicholine groused.

"It was merely a pause, to discuss the transformation of Citizen Mathieu," Grantaire replied, keeping one arm around his mistress' waist. "He is now the man turned into the millstone around the necks of the Parisian legislature."

"A millstone?" Eponine repeated.

"Why to keep it rooted in one place; he has declared a vote of abstinence on all the petitions," Grantaire said. "He had some sort of meeting and then he mentioned this to the Moniteur."

Enjolras gritted his teeth at this development while Jeanne shook his head. "What reason did he give?" the younger legislator asked after a moment.

"He intends to maintain a political advantage," Grantaire said. "He is on the wrong end of the lever."

"From our perspective," Combeferre pointed out.

"He keeps his own counsel most of the time; it is not like him to make a statement in advance," Jeanne observed. "No, there is a reason for this, and someone or a group he is trying to reach."

"Some matter in Chaillot perhaps?" Combeferre suggested. "Maybe a familial or business interest?"

"I s'pose that would do at least with regard to the petitions from here and from Lyon since those do have some effect in business," Eponine said. "It doesn't make sense for the one from Verdun since it's about roads or anything else."

Nicholine by this time had extricated herself from Grantaire's grip. "So even you're in the mood for talking politics?" she asked Eponine. "There are some friends over there in the same frame of mind, and need a sensible voice from Les Femmes to explain a thing or two to them about what's going on in the legislature and what the ladies have to do with it," she added, glancing towards where some older women were talking.

Eponine craned her neck to see what Nicholine was referring to. "Do you s'pose they'd mind?" she asked, anxiously fiddling with her gloves.

"I wouldn't have come over here if you weren't welcome," Nicholine replied confidently.

Enjolras noticed that Neville had been quiet all this while, but obviously very bored with the discussion. "You could go with Gavroche and Jacques if you like," he offered as he set Neville back on his feet.

Neville looked towards where his brothers were still playing boules. "Can we go star charting?" he asked Combeferre.

The physician made a show of looking up at the sky. "Yes, I think there's a new constellation or two I can show you; it's a clear sky tonight."

Neville smiled gleefully before looking at his sister and his brother-in-law. "Won't you two be walking together?" he asked quizzically.

"There are a lot of people we have to talk to, and it's faster if we go different directions for the next hour or so," Eponine explained to him. "We'll be back here in a while."

Neville nodded before going off with Combeferre, stopping only to throw a boasting look towards his brothers. In the meantime Nicholine looked despairingly at Enjolras and Eponine. "Only you two would get back to political work so soon after a wedding."

"Delphi waits for no season," Grantaire said before kissing her cheek.

She smacked the back of his head. "Laurent, one more reference to mythology..."

Jeanne shook his head at this ensuing argument while Enjolras and Eponine exchanged knowing looks. "It won't be too lengthy I hope," Eponine said in an undertone as she smoothed out her hair and then adjusted her hat. "Is this presentable enough?"

Enjolras nodded approvingly. "Take as long as you need. This may be a long night for both of us," he said, knowing now that he too would also have to pursue a certain line of inquiry and discussion for the rest of the evening. He clasped her hand firmly. "Good luck."

She smiled encouragingly as she smoothed out his cuffs. "You too. I'm sure you'll do just fine," she said, squeezing his fingers one more time before going to the crowd.