pro_patria_mortuus: (the people have not stirred)
Enjolras ([personal profile] pro_patria_mortuus) wrote2015-02-05 02:49 pm

(no subject)

[Just before: bringing unwelcome news to Valjean.]

It's very warm indoors, after the chill and quiet of the lake and the tension of that conversation. The café hubbub is like a heavy weight in the air. Enjolras stops by Bar to retrieve his note to Valjean. It's irrelevant now.

Then he goes upstairs to room 89.

Combeferre is in the bathroom doing something probably experimental with the still's piping, to judge by the clank of metal and the way the copper boiler is currently gurgling. Good. Enjolras would have gone in search of him or Courfeyrac or Feuilly before long, otherwise. But he doesn't need to disturb his friend immediately. His presence nearby is comfort.

He hangs up overcoat, hat, coat. Removes his gloves, props his walking stick against a table. There's a fire lit; this room is warm too, but it's cozy now rather than oppressive.

He drops into a chair with a weariness he didn't let himself acknowledge around Valjean. The old man's pain and fear and weariness mattered far more, then. Now Enjolras rests his elbows on his knees and, just for a few moments, his forehead on folded hands, and breathes out.

It's done, at least.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-06 01:23 am (UTC)(link)
Between clanks, Combeferre hears the door open, the quiet rustle of hat and coats being removed, the soft sound of a chair as someone falls into it.

The boiler will do its work without Combeferre's supervision. He tidies up the bathroom to make it manageable, and then comes out. Enjolras is folded up in the chair, head in his hands.

In three quick steps, Combeferre is at Enjolras's side. He drags the other chair over so it's closer, and sits, taking Enjolras's hand in his. "What's wrong?"

It's extremely obvious that something is. But there is more than one possibility of what that might be.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-06 04:55 am (UTC)(link)
Ah. That would explain it: Enjolras's evident respect and liking for the man would make it especially hard for him to see Valjean's pain. And Valjean has suffered more pain than most men could bear, if one-tenth of Hugo's account is accurate.

"It was as difficult as we expected, I take it."

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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-06 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre presses his hand.

"He had to be told, of course. I'm deeply sorry that task fell to you." There was no kinder way. Of them all, Enjolras was the one who knew Valjean best, and was therefore the best messenger. But that same acquaintance would only heighten Enjolras's sorrow at having to deliver such news to such a man.

"I suppose it was the prospect of having his daughter know the contents of Hugo's book that wounded him the most." Likelier that than the idea of strangers in the future knowing, anyway. Somehow Combeferre does not think Valjean is concerned much with his legacy. "Though she must know them nonetheless."

Combeferre has read the book. He knows what happens, in Hugo's account at least, to Mlle Fauchelevent, and to Valjean himself, thanks to her enforced ignorance. He knows, too, what information there is on Mlle Fauchelevent: her prostitute mother, her childhood of slavery, her unchaperoned interaction with Marius Pontmercy. And of course, Hugo's thoughts on her beauty.

"Damn Victor Hugo," he says aloud.
Edited 2015-02-06 05:47 (UTC)
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-10 04:23 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre sees Enjolras's expression change. He wants nothing more than to say something, anything, that might console. But he also knows exactly what consolation Enjolras is asking for.

"Catalytic distillation," Combeferre says. "Specifically, to purify gasoline."

He explains the chemical process, watching Enjolras's face carefully all the while. He will wait for Enjolras to bring the conversation back to Valjean. Combeferre's more than happy to provide a distraction until then, if that's what Enjolras wants.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-10 05:30 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre finds Enjolras's earnest attempts at questions (which are intelligent, but also betray his utter ignorance) highly endearing, of course. Still, he grows animated, gesticulating wildly with both hands as he explains the chemical reactions involved.

When the lull comes, he hesitates, and notes Enjolras's silence. He lets a hand come to rest on Enjolras's shoulder. "Is Valjean still at Milliways, or has he left?"

It's as good an opening question as any, Combeferre feels.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-10 06:05 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre had known that returning to the subject would cause Enjolras pain, but it still makes him wince.

"Did you have a chance to ask him about keeping the information in the book from the spy?" He asks this as gently as he can. If Enjolras didn't get to that issue with Valjean, Combeferre will not press him on it.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-10 01:22 pm (UTC)(link)
"That is a fair response," says Combeferre. No different than he'd expect from Valjean, based on Hugo's book. "But we will need to discuss what to do should Valjean decide to tell the spy."
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-11 03:27 am (UTC)(link)
"Bar may be willing," says Combeferre. He is thinking of some examples of her mischievous sense of humor. The fleur de lis room, just for instance.

"Other than that, the only idea I have--besides the extreme solution, which I agree is not to be contemplated yet--"

(Yet. Even for Combeferre, it's a 'yet,' and not a 'never.')

"--the only idea I have is to appeal yet again to Valjean, and try to persuade him. And I know you would be grieved to place him under any more strain. So perhaps that idea should be rejected as well."
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-11 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
"It would matter," Combeferre says quietly. "But if it's unlikely to be useful, that settles the point."
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-11 04:32 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre nods. "In the book, the spy commits suicide, after betraying his own code of obedience to authority," he says, after a moment. "Perhaps Valjean could be persuaded that it would only harm the spy to be told of that. Although I myself would hold that Javert has the right to know regardless, and could only be denied it because his knowledge would put others in immediate danger--but Valjean does not share my view of most things."

He slips into calling Javert by his name, although he mostly does not think of the spy that way. It's hard to connect the Javert in Hugo's work, seen first as a policeman and finally as a suicide, with the man Combeferre knew only as an unrepentant spy at the barricade.
Edited 2015-02-11 04:33 (UTC)
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-11 05:35 am (UTC)(link)
"The suicide happens near the end. And the book is--you've seen it. It's long." Hugo lacked restraint in that regard, as in so many others. "Valjean won't learn of it until he reaches that part. At which point, he will have read information much more important to himself and his daughter than Javert's suicide."

"I suppose there's nothing we can do to save Javert's life, even if we would," Combeferre adds, looking down at his knees.

The man had been condemned to death on the barricade. He knows things that could still doom their comrades, even without the book. Still--to know of a man's impending suicide and do nothing to stop it, well. It sits ill with a physician.

But Combeferre cannot and would not imprison Javert, and Javert would never listen to a word Combeferre could say. Except perhaps to contradict it.

This thought makes Combeferre give a mordant almost-smile. "Though perhaps if we all told him we badly wanted him to commit suicide, he might refrain, simply to spite us."
Edited 2015-02-11 05:36 (UTC)
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-12 03:43 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre hesitates before speaking. It's an awful thought, one that betrays so much of what he holds dear. But it may be a necessary one.

"If Valjean does not wish to help us, there's another possibility. Only a theoretical one as yet, and it would need serious practical consideration if we were to do it. Which I hope we won't need to. But if the spy is mentally...unstable...well, in the future, the science of psychology will refine the art of tormenting and manipulating one's enemies."

Combeferre has read about this, thanks to Hannibal Lecter. Both Lecter's book recommendation and Lecter's own manipulations were informative on the subject.

And what has he come to, that he is taking lessons from Hannibal Lecter.

"If Hugo's book is accurate--it may not be--then it's possible we may be able to say, or do, something to Javert, that will weaken his resolve, and put him in too much emotional turmoil to act swiftly."

It's less terrible than other solutions might be. But it disgusts Combeferre the most: to take a science meant for healing, and turn it to destruction.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-12 04:13 am (UTC)(link)
It's a relief to hear Enjolras say it, to affirm what Combeferre already knows but must question nonetheless, like worrying at a wound.

He feels sick about even giving voice to the thought. Though he would have felt like he was shirking by keeping silent. He can't bring himself to say anything more than, "I agree, but considered it a duty to point out the option."
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-12 04:57 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre doesn't notice Enjolras's golden halo. He's grown accustomed to such things. But he, too, looks into the fireplace, finding some comfort in its warmth and light.

At Enjolras's declaration that killing is more honest, Combeferre winces. He can't truly argue; nevertheless, there's something cruelly absurd about such a statement.

"Let us hope it will not come to that point," he says. "When do you expect to hear from Valjean on this subject, distressed as he is?"

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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-13 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
"Ah, yes, Marius. It's good to know he will be happy. But perhaps Valjean is distressed at the thought of his daughter being grown, and living apart from him. Fathers can be, I'm told." Combeferre doesn't know how his own father felt when his sister married. His parents were proud of him, he knew, but his sojourn in Paris had left him removed from things in the family home.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-13 03:50 am (UTC)(link)
Jean Valjean, according to Hugo, had grown particularly attached to the idea of keeping his daughter with him always. And he was particularly grieved and angered by the prospect of losing her. But Combeferre will not say that. A man's most private and tangled feelings were not to be aired against his will, whether Hugo described them accurately or not.

"Will the spy leave Milliways with Valjean?"
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-13 04:23 am (UTC)(link)
"I heard about them working on the church together," Combeferre says, sensing that an explanation is needed.

He pauses. "But I don't know if they're from the same time--indeed, I don't see how they can be, if Hugo's account is accurate. The spy commits suicide sometime before Mlle Fauchelevent's marriage to Marius."

Of course, Hugo may have embroidered the truth, or altered it to suit his literary vision.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-13 05:10 am (UTC)(link)
"He clearly had a source close to the barricade," Combeferre says. "And in some ways--he seems as though he's more informed than we are, about some things."

He pauses, and curses himself. What he's about to say, he should have told Enjolras much sooner. What was he thinking? How could he be so unfeeling, to delay telling Enjolras this for even one moment? Not that the information truly changes anything, but--

"Everything Hugo says about Le Cabuc's execution, for instance. How it happened. What you said. It's all accurate, as far as I know." And described with an excessive amount of poetic drivel about the executioner's beauty, in Combeferre's opinion, but he does not say this aloud.

"But it goes further than what I know. It says Le Cabuc was a police spy."

Again, it changes nothing, not truly--except to cast into sharper relief that which they already knew. That killing Le Cabuc was necessary. That he was no innocent. That Le Cabuc's actions, whatever motivated them, were evil, and could only hurt their cause. That their enemy was cruel and utterly without regard for the people's lives. That it was still killing, nevertheless.
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-13 09:47 pm (UTC)(link)

Combeferre is equally melancholy, though much less calm. He turns back to the leaping flames in fireplace and lets his gaze settle there. His eyes are still but unfocused.
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[personal profile] clayforthedevil 2015-02-18 10:20 pm (UTC)(link)
The knock on the door is loud and perfunctory, an announcement rather than a request. Bahorel carries his second knock through to push the door open and strolls in, grinning with amusement. "There you are! I have been deployed in the interest of science--"

The mood of the room is obvious. Obvious, and familiar, and potentially aggravating. He raises an eyebrow. "What dire calamity has come on us now?"

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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-20 03:26 am (UTC)(link)
"No," says Combeferre gloomily, still staring into the fire. "There's no calamity."

In a moment, he'll rouse himself to ask what precisely Bahorel was doing in the interests of science. For now, he keeps silent.
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[personal profile] clayforthedevil 2015-02-20 04:44 am (UTC)(link)
"And yet here you both sit in mourning. Or is the fire revealing grim portents?" Bahorel leans between Enjolras and Combeferre with an arm around each of them, very pointedly trying to look into the fire. There's probably at least a chance that the fire really is showing dramatic portents. But it is, sadly, not the most likely reason for the current mood in the room. "Or are you determined to argue with it until it does?"
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-20 05:24 am (UTC)(link)
Combeferre scowls perfunctorily at the teasing. He's not actually irritated and can't muster up the energy for a proper scowl. But it's the principle of the thing.

At Enjolras's gesture of comfort, Combeferre attempts a smile.

"Enjolras told him about Hugo's book," he says, to Bahorel. "It seems Valjean didn't react well."
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[personal profile] clayforthedevil 2015-02-20 05:34 am (UTC)(link)
That is news, a matter of practical and perhaps immediate concern. There's no obvious change in posture, but Bahorel's attitude shifts. "Not well--how? Do we need to do anything about it?"
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[personal profile] wings_of_a_swan 2015-02-21 03:50 am (UTC)(link)
"Valjean helped us save an extra man at the barricade, and fought without killing--hopefully he won't wish to endanger the survivors' lives and their families. Even though he has no political opinions. Otherwise..."

Combeferre trails off.