The Blood of Angry Women

Chapter 8

Enjolras' eyes fluttered open and she gazed around in confusion. The room tilted and lurched, and there was still that awful ringing in her ears, but she felt somewhat better than she had when she last remembered being awake. She shut her eyes again, lest the swimming sensation cause her stomach to rebel, as well.

"Hello?" she called out, wondering for a moment if all her friends had learned of her deception from Grantaire and left her. But she heard a rustling in the chair beside her bed, and a warm hand touched her forehead.

"How are you feeling?" murmured a soft, low voice. She fluttered her eyes open again and gazed up at Combeferre's face. Of course he wouldn't desert her.

"Lousy," she admitted. "Should I be? I'm better than before, I suppose."

"Well, I had hoped as much, considering the price of leeches, cabdrivers, and the like in Paris. I'd be awful disappointed if you died after all that, even if I do have your battle plans. That wound to your belly might have claimed your life if you hadn't let someone at it." He studied her face for a moment, then took off his spectacles and rubbed the sides of his nose where they left red marks. "You could have told me, you know. I'd never betray you, never abandon you. I thought you might have known that about me." His voice rang with hurt and reproach. Enjolras felt an immense weight settle on her chest that had little to do with her illness. She sighed deeply, as if that might relieve the pressure.

"Austin.." she murmured, using his given name deliberately. "I am so terribly sorry. I wish I could explain to you the fear I've always felt of being discovered and dragged back- not that that's any kind of excuse. I do trust you entirely, I just didn't think it was necessary to tell--"

"Necessary? My God, Enjolras - if that's even your name.."

"It is," she whispered.

"- you could have confided in me, was that too much to ask? All those years, all that I confided in you, and you felt that you had to bear your burden alone? I feel.. cheated. I feel as if you don't care about me. I feel.. all kinds of horrible things, I'm afraid."

"I care about you," Enjolras whispered, her head still bowed. He didn't look at her. He shook his head to try and clear it of the jumble of emotions. His thoughts were suddenly disturbed by a soft, hiccuping sound. She was crying. Her poor, bruised body was shaking all over with the force of her sobs. She'd buried her face in her bandaged fingers and cried for all the pain and fear of that rejected, unloved young girl who'd been exiled by her callous parents. She was sobbing for the friendship she had surely lost, the only person who'd understood and cared about her. She desperately wanted to stop this, to retain some semblance of dignity, but she could not stop.

Austin moved to sit on the bed beside her, and tentatively put an arm around her shoulder. She did not stop crying, but she leaned her face against his shoulder and wrapped her arm around him, as tightly as she could manage with all her aches and pains, and for the first time in her entire life, she felt safe.

He was shocked by this uncharacteristic outburst of affection, but he held her close, rocking her slightly and murmuring "there, there. It's going to be alright. I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have- It's alright. Everything's alright." He kissed the top of her head, gently, the way he might kiss his little sister.

They stayed in this position for several moments, as her sobs gradually ceased. With a start, she suddenly realized that she was in the arms of a man, her best friend, no less, and she pulled away painfully. She was once again the formidable leader, at least in attitude. She wiped her face with the corner of her sleeve, and glanced around the room, wondering where her clothes were.

"Oh no you don't!" he exclaimed. She gazed at him innocently. "You're thinking of getting up and getting dressed, aren't you?"

Enjolras nodded. "But, I'm willing to listen to what you have to say this time. How long do you want me in bed for?"

"A solid week" he answered, folding his arms sternly.

"Four days?"

"Does this look like an bargaining table to you? No. A week, I say. You may read, write, have visitors, perhaps even get up and sit in that chair. But absolutely no gallivanting around Paris. And also, no b-binding yourself, either, until your bruises have healed. I'm still not entirely satisfied that you haven't cracked a rib, and that practice does not benefit that at all."

"It's alright. Covered in blankets, it's not necessary," she replied, with just the slightest blush across her cheeks. "Any other orders, Monsieur le docteur?"

"Yes. Get well, and be strong. We need you. Now, if I were to leave this building just long enough to step down the street and get you some broth, will you still be in this bed when I come back? You won't go out the window, or out the back door again, will you?"

"I'll behave. I'd quite like some broth." Enjolras settled back against the pillow.

"One more thing," said Combeferre, standing in the doorway with his hat on. "Will you tell me what your true name is?"

She sighed, as if trying to remember that long-forgotten appellation. "Raisa. Raisa-Émilie."

--Jeni Baron

Chapter 9