Weeks later, Courfeyrac was still missing.
They were weeks of agony for Enjolras. He'd been entreated by the others in the group to stay home and ride out the anger they'd stirred in the Germans. But he couldn't. Enjolras couldn't sit still, safe at home, when Courfeyrac's whereabouts and safety had not been confirmed. He kept attending his classes and he kept delivering anti-Nazi pamphlets. The thought of Courfeyrac plagued his mind constantly, and for the first time in his life Enjolras understood firsthand what it was to have something so precious at stake in wartime as one's friend.
Though he tried to pretend otherwise, things had changed. His professors seemed to see right through him whenever he entered a classroom, and nearly every single one of his fellow classmates followed their suit. These were the very people with whom Enjolras had engaged in fiery debates (and defeated, it should be noted) and seen everyday. He knew them, whether he had gotten along with them or not. Now they wouldn't dare meet his eyes. It was as though they were afraid that any moment might bring a squad of German officers to interrupt their classes and arrest them for association with Enjolras.
There was no doubt about it now that the action taken at the Arc de Triomphe would not be forgotten. It would not be forgiven. Everywhere he went, it seemed, Enjolras was being watched, baited. He'd long stopped lingering too long at German-frequented areas, even for delivering the pamphlets; too many times he'd turned around to see foreign and cold eyes on him. Enjolras had the chilling sense that something was coming for him, but he neither knew what it was nor when it was coming.
Yet it wasn't for his own safety Enjolras was worried. It was Courfeyrac's. For all he knew, Courfeyrac was dead. In all likelihood he had been taken into German custody and shot, and was now rotting somewhere in a ditch in a field. Perhaps he wasn't even in France anymore - there were new reports every day from the BBC concerning the labor camps to which the Germans had been sending Poles - the Death Camps, they were being called. What if Courfeyrac had been sent to one of them? Or maybe Courfeyrac was here, hidden somewhere in Paris, being tortured for information about the Resistance. It was impossible to keep every new possibility at bay, and Enjolras felt his despair dash the former hopes he'd entertained in days past.
He had failed Courfeyrac. He had failed his friend. That, above all else, was what kept Enjolras awake at night. He had promised so many times, Everything will be alright. We will win. So many times Enjolras had fanned the flame of Courfeyrac's hatred and anger towards the Germans in order to direct it to their cause. And now Courfeyrac was suffering for it.
Enjolras' apartment had stopped being a home to him long ago; first with the absence of Combeferre, and now with the knowledge that Courfeyrac might never come knocking round again. It was with the excuse of making it harder to be detected by the Germans that Enjolras took Bahorel up on his offer to stay with him. In truth, it was because Enjolras simply couldn't stand the emptiness.
"We're going out," Bahorel declared one day, more than three weeks after the incident at the Arc de Triomphe.
Enjolras didn't look up from his law textbook, which he had been staring at unproductively for going on three hours. "No thank you."
Bahorel laughed a rumbling laugh that felt as though it were shaking the foundations of the room. "You already said yes."
Enjolras raised his head suspiciously. "I did no such thing."
"You're in my debt for saving your skinny ass at the protest," Bahorel reminded him smugly, squashing Enjolras' hat on his head for him. Enjolras sent him a withering stare, but decided against further resistance. Bahorel was right, after all.
Enjolras sighed, already standing up to fetch his coat. "Will it be dangerous?"
Bahorel beamed. "I don't make any promises."
Enjolras hadn't known what exactly to expect. This hadn't been it.
"Why are we here?" He asked Bahorel impatiently. With the short days of winter approaching, the sky was already darkening at what was barely past noon. Enjolras shivered and longed for a scarf to soothe his wind-bitten, reddened cheeks. Enjolras surveyed what was once a small restaurant, but now was hardly more than a boarded up shack covered in weather-worn and nearly unreadable German-issued notices. The white paint was peeling from a sign above the main window, but the name of the place emblazoned in swirling black letters could still be read - Corinthe. The occupants of this place had been gone for a long time.
"It's quiet around here."
"Why would you want quiet?"
Bahorel laughed at that and shook his head, saying, "You said the Musain's been patrolled by Germans a lot recently, so I found us a new meeting place for this week." He tossed his wild mane in fixed concentration as he approached the door and knocked a peculiarly specific pattern on it. Rolling his eyes, Enjolras was about to comment on the absurdity of Bahorel's expectation of any reply until he saw Bahorel's raised fist, ready to smash through one of the windows of the restaurant.
"What is wrong with you?" Enjolras hissed, grabbing Bahorel's arm and looking around at the empty street before pulling Bahorel back. Bahorel waved him off.
"We're the first ones here. Someone has to do it."
Enjolras gave him a bewildered look as he pointed to the window. Upon closer inspection, it was clear it was already open by a slight sliver. "It's not even locked."
Bahorel opened his mouth and abruptly closed it as he looked at the window. "Good eye," he said reluctantly, sounding almost disappointed as he jiggled the window open. Enjolras winced as it squealed from lack of use.
As Bahorel battled with the task of reaching the lock from inside, curiosity settled in Enjolras' mind. Bahorel was still a strange character for him to understand - his immediate loyalty and dedication to Enjolras' cause and ideals, his personality, at once reckless and irresponsible yet somehow completely aware - all of this was new to Enjolras. He wondered how deep Bahorel's motivations went.
The door swung open with a loud groan, startling Enjolras. He lingered at the doorway as he watched Bahorel shuffle into the dark room of the restaurant, in which Enjolras could just barely make out the outlines of a counter and glass display. Most of the furniture had been cleared out so that only the built-in essentials of the kitchen remained. Bahorel was swallowed up in the darkness of the place, and, uneasy with the sudden silence, Enjolras hurriedly followed, carefully closing the door behind him. Enjolras blinked, struggling to see in the dark, until a moment later the Enjolras heard the flick of a switch and light filled the room.
The sound of scratching on wood made Enjolras snap to attention as he inspected the darker corners of the room, undeniably a little cautious of somebody else in the room with them. He breathed a sigh of relief as he watched a rat the size of a small terrier scurry across the room. He wondered with more than a little impatience what it was Bahorel thought they could accomplish here.
Where was Bahorel?
Bahorel had stationed himself in front of the large display case in a corner of the restaurant. The glass windows were covered in a layer of dust inches thick, but upon further inspection Enjolras saw they still contained a few pastries, somehow untouched by the rats. Bahorel must have noticed as well, because he pointed to them with a grin.
"They must be oatmeal raisin. Even the rats didn't touch them."
Enjolras shook his head at the joke, looking away to hide the small smile he couldn't resist. He imagined what Courfeyrac would say - he would have been sure to appreciate Bahorel's humor. Enjolras imagined how well Courfeyrac and Bahorel would get on -
He stopped himself before his thoughts could return to places that had haunted him for the past few weeks.
Bahorel didn't seem to have noticed. He swirled a little dusting of flour on the counter with his finger, inspecting it and smelling it. "Potato flour," he remarked approvingly, cheerfully licking his finger a moment later.
"How would you know that?" Enjolras asked him, surprised and a little disgusted. The flour on the counter looked the same as any flour he had ever seen used, besides being less clean. Bahorel grinned, but after the brief weeks of their acquaintance Enjolras could tell it wasn't quite so enthusiastic as usual.
There was a long pause before Bahorel filled the silence with an affectionate comment that seemed to be a musing to himself, "My parents used to own a bakery. I always wanted to have one myself. Still would, maybe, if this war is ever over."
Enjolras nodded, unsure of what to say. His contributions weren't necessary, however. Bahorel was oblivious to Enjolras' awkwardness and returned to some one-sided enthusiastic conversation about some bar fight last week.
"Why are we here?" Enjolras asked again.
"Like I said, we're waiting. Christ, man, a pretty face isn't enough if you can't sit still for more than a minute."
Enjolras let the comment slide. He'd learned quickly that Bahorel's tongue was uncensored and brash but well-meaning; Enjolras would have liked to point out that he could very well be patient, and it was Bahorel who was pacing around with the anxiety of troops preparing to go into battle. Instead, with a silent sigh, Enjolras picked up an overturned step stool from behind the counter and seated himself, deciding that that would be the end to any questions put to Bahorel.
There was a knock at the door.
As Bahorel jumped up to open it, Enjolras crossed his arms, still wary of Bahorel's plans in bringing him here. When a familiar face came into view, Enjolras rose from his seat with a cry of outrage.
"What are you doing here?"
"I was invited," the newcomer replied, slipping into the dingy room gracelessly. Whether he was inebriated or not was, strangely, difficult to tell. Grantaire's face was flushed, yet his eyes were clear and alert. His greasy mop of dark curls obscured part of his face, thankfully concealing the sardonic grin that no doubt would have infuriated Enjolras to every end, and he immediately found a wall to slouch against.
Enjolras whipped his head towards Bahorel, who was already talking about something to Grantaire, making wild, excited gestures. Enjolras tried to focus on the words passing between the two of them, but the only thing he could hear was the sarcastic laugh of Grantaire filling the room.
Enjolras crossed the room in what felt like one step and pushed Bahorel out of the way, slamming Grantaire's back against the wall with all the strength he had in his body. Grantaire put up no fight, but his dark eyes stared coolly back at him, and the smile he'd been hiding now flashed to goad Enjolras.
"Why are you here, you blackguard?" Enjolras' voice was low and fiercer than it had ever been. Looking at Grantaire's untroubled face, Enjolras felt his face grow hot at the drunkard's nerve in coming here. It was easy enough for Enjolras to avoid conflict with Grantaire when they weren't in the same room - but here, now, Enjolras knew there was no way he could avoid this confrontation.
"Bahorel told me you need my help," Grantaire said, his eyes never shifting or breaking Enjolras' gaze. It annoyed Enjolras; Grantaire showed no indication of even bothering to put up a fight. The look in his eyes, rather than challenging, was gentle and patient. Enjolras just then thought about how easy it would be for Grantaire to overpower him, to push him aside; the latter, though shorter, was broad and well-built, strong in comparison to Enjolras' tall but unintimidating lithe figure.
"Enjolras," Bahorel said impatiently, moving to help Grantaire, "Grantaire can help with Courfeyrac -"
Enjolras turned to Bahorel sharply, his hands still on Grantaire's collar. "Don't. This man is a traitor, a German collaborator who's turned his back on his country. You don't know what he's done."
Before Bahorel could argue, Grantaire let out a little laugh and addressed Enjolras, "Happening to be in the same place as a German in a bar on occasion is an offense that warrants this violence now?"
"The fact that you did not leave immediately from the insult of a German officer entering a Parisian bar alone is bad enough," Enjolras said as he shook his head. "But you know that's not all."
Grantaire stared at him, holding his arms out in a questioning gesture. "What have I done to deserve your ill will beyond enjoying a drink?"
It was then Bahorel intervened, picking Enjolras up and away from Grantaire, who slumped against the wall again in relief. Enjolras twisted around furiously, pounding Bahorel's back with his fists, and fell out of Bahorel's hold.
Bahorel didn't seem the least disturbed by Enjolras' violence. He waited till Grantaire had cleared away at a safe distance before setting Enjolras down.
Burning with anger and humiliation, Enjolras brushed himself off and was about to storm out of the restaurant until Grantaire said, "Give me a chance to explain."
It nagged at Enjolras, it did. Every fiber in his body screamed at him with indignation, pointing out the obvious. A traitor gets no second chances. And that was what Enjolras believed, wasn't it?
Except maybe he didn't know the whole story. Enjolras' doubt did not waver on what could only be Grantaire's ill will. He had proof on that account; but he decided he'd listen to Grantaire first before kicking him out. Grantaire possessed knowledge that he could use to deliver Enjoras into German hands immediately - it was better to hear what Grantaire had to say first. However, that didn't make the conclusion any easier to come to.
Enjolras sent one more pointed glare in Bahorel's direction for the indignity he had suffered before turning to Grantaire. "Tell me, then. You say you can tell us something about Courfeyrac. Lie to me, you drunkard, and I promise it won't be the war that finishes you off."
Gantaire didn't bat an eye at the threat. "Of course." He hesitated before continuing, almost as though he was actually ashamed. Enjolras refused to soften. "What is that terrible thing you believe I've done?"
Contempt rose like bile in Enjolras' throat. "You were responsible for Marie Blanche's arrest. Everybody knows what you did."
Grantaire stared back at him. "You mean the restaurant owner's daughter?" He looked around the room, and his expression turned to one of understanding. "This restaurant owner's daughter. Well, you're wrong about that. What is it you think happened?"
Enjolras scoffed impatiently. "You got her family into trouble with the Germans for their involvement in the black market in exchange for a few drinks. There have been more, too - and every time someone else is arrested, you always seem to be enjoying luxuries denied to the rest of Paris."
"I'm not an informer," Grantaire said, a hint of anger in his voice.
"And you just happened to be the only Parisian who can afford those drinks and food?"
Grantaire shook his head. "I didn't betray her family for the black market deals. I work with the black markets too," Grantaire said, "I'm one of the middlemen, on occasion. Informing wouldn't do me much good, would it? And," he added with a short laugh, "if the occasional bottle finds its way into my own hands, well, that is not my fault. You might even say I'm also serving Paris - in my way."
"I don't believe you."
"I can prove it to you when the next shipment comes," Grantaire said with a shrug, slipping something discreetly out of his pocket. Enjolras glared at him as Grantaire removed a flask and helped himself to a swig.
"And Courfeyrac?" Enjolras asked reluctantly. "You said you can do something for him."
"Yes." Grantaire's smile failed to conceal a touch of smugness at Enjolras' ask for help. "Then you know I sometimes drink with the Germans in the bars," Grantaire began. Enjolras bristled at the reminder, but Grantaire resumed, "Well, I hear them talk. For some reason or other, they aren't as cautious in bars, especially when they've had a drink or two. While it is true I tend to allow myself a treat here and there -"
Grantaire mocked offense. "I'd never. As I was saying, I'm not always drunk. But sometimes my charmingly outgoing personality seems to suggest to them that I am."
Obnoxiously intolerable personality, Enjolras corrected him silently.
"So what you're saying is…"
"I hear things, Enjolras. Useful things, too. It's why I drink with them." Grantaire paused. "Well, that, and they do have a fine Burgogne specimen. That's hard to come by these days."
"See! You'd sell your country for a drink," Enjolras snarled, back on the defensive. "You disgust me."
Grantaire straightened and settled a stare as hard as flint on Enjolras. "Do I? You are just what the Germans want, you know. Blond, blue-eyed, beautiful Aryan marble that you are. Maybe that's why they've left you alone. You would have been arrested right with Courfeyrac otherwise - I'll bet they want to recruit you for their master race plan. You're a fine candidate for it."
Before Enjolras had the chance to react, Bahorel did the job for him and knocked his fist across Grantaire's face, sending him crashing to the ground. Bahorel stooped down and picked Grantaire up by his shirt then and held him against the wall. "Sorry," he said, the sincere lightness of his tone surprising Enjolras, "but you were asking for it. Apologize and stop messing around, Grantaire, or I'll let Enjolras loose on you."
Breathing hard, Grantaire nodded, wincing and raising his hand to his jaw and rubbing it as he muttered something under his breath. Bahorel stood tactfully between Enjolras and Grantaire, ready for any move Enjolras might attempt to make.
"Continue," Enjolras said coldly, clenching his fists to stop them from shaking with the anger he felt for the situation building up. He noted with satisfaction a purple bruise already forming on Grantaire's face.
Grantaire smiled at him and, through gritted teeth, said, "As you wish. Besides the occasional drink with the Germans, well, I've curated a collection of wine I've collected in my apartment for the last year. The Germans will be on rations too, though not like we are, so the lower-ranking ones are always happy to loosen their tongues for an extra bottle or two. Yesterday I heard one of them mention the November protest, and one of the leaders who they'd taken away."
Enjolras' stomach somersaulted and, for the first time in weeks, he felt hope spread in his chest. "So you can get one of them to talk about what happened to him?"
Grantaire nodded. "Some of those young German boys are absurdly friendly. Most of them are too stupid to even realize there's a war going on. They've asked me, 'How's your sweetheart?' 'Did you see Arlette-Leonie at the cinema last weekend?' They're praising our actresses and our people for our art and culture, all while they're murdering Poles and sending Jews packing."
Enjolras didn't know at what part of the short speech he found himself agreeing with Grantaire, but he shook himself off before it went any further. He took a deep breath, reminding himself to remain diplomatic. To his surprise and chagrin, he was finding it a little easier by the minute to resist landing a punch of his own on Grantaire's other cheek.
"So you'll try?"
Grantaire nodded. Enjolras suddenly felt frustration tug at him again. "What do you want?"
Grantaire stared at him uncomprehendingly. "What?"
"What do you want in return? Rations?" Enjolras asked exasperatedly. He couldn't shake off the feeling that something about this was wrong. Enjolras was then seized with terror at the thought of what Grantaire would be holding over them - he might go immediately to report Enjolras and the others. He might already be an informer working against them on the Germans' side, and this was his way of getting them to trust him -
"I don't want anything for it," Grantaire said, hurt in his eyes. "I want to help, same as you. I don't see why that's so hard to understand."
"You know why," Enjolras said quietly, but his voice wavered now. He wasn't sure anymore. "I don't know how we can trust you again."
"You will see," Grantaire replied, a new air of gravity in his voice. With a nod to Enjolras and a half-hearted glare at Bahorel, Grantaire was gone.
On their way back to Bahorel's lodgings, Enjolras didn't speak. Whether Bahorel was aware of Enjolras' inner turmoil or not would be impossible to say.
Was there any way of knowing whether there was truth to the drunkard's words? Grantaire had proved himself to be weak since the war had begun. Instead of joining the Resistance, he'd stayed exactly where he was. Grantaire was doing the same thing now as he'd been doing all of his life; only now, nations were at war.
Such was the state of Enjolras' mind when they came upon the commotion on the way home.
"- a disgrace to our country!"
"- traitors, the lot of you!"
The voices were female, and as Bahorel and Enjolras drew near an alley, they came upon a small group of older women crowded around a girl, no older than eighteen or nineteen, who had a younger girl pressed close against her side.
"Enough," Enjolras said coldly, stepping forward. The women didn't seem to take notice for a few seconds, until they abruptly looked up and fell silent in a sudden hush.
There was an awkward pause as their eyes fell first on Enjolras, then Bahorel. Enjolras noticed their embarrassment as some looked down, yet others defiantly raised their chins in a challenge.
One proud-looking matron, tall and angular in face and form, stepped up and glared at Enjolras. "I don't see how this is any of your business, Monsieur."
"Tell us why you're harassing this girl, Madame, and he'll be the judge of that," Bahorel came in, glancing at Enjolras.
The group of women stared back at them for another beat, muttering amongst themselves, before finally shaking their heads with disgust. "She's filth, utter filth -"
"Shut your mouth, Louise," the girl said, rising to her own defense now. She marched back from the shadowy nook she had pressed herself against just moments ago. "Shut your mouth and do a favor for us all."
Enjolras took a deep breath and turned to the girl and who he decided must be her sister. "Come with us."
Bahorel smiled warmly at the pair to compensate for Enjolras' slight aloofness, moving behind them so he could provide a protective barrier between the girls and the older women with his bulk. Enjolras waited for him to clear out of the alley, keeping his eyes trained on the older women as Bahorel escorted the girls away.
"I hope we don't have this problem again, Madame," Enjolras said, addressing the one who'd spoken up. Ignoring the daggers she threw at him with her eyes, Enjolras turned to follow Bahorel.
Once they'd gotten out of the alleyway, the four of them walked in silence for a few minutes. Then the older one stopped, addressing Enjolras.
"Why did you help us?" Her tone was more demanding than grateful, and almost seemed offended at the intervention.
"Why shouldn't I have?"
"You don't know, then," the girl said with a bitter laugh. "Do you want to know why those hags were here?"
Enjolras stared straight ahead, but he couldn't help noticing the alarmed look on the girl's sister's face as she spoke. He felt a twinge of discomfort at the situation - he didn't need the girl's explanation. However, she seemed strongly inclined to give it to him.
"It really is none of my business."
"There are Germans in my home, Monsieur."
Enjolras slowed a bit at her words. Military requisitioning had been happening all over the country, with Germans residing in French homes in the countryside and even a few places in the cities. He couldn't see why someone would be attacked for it when it had become so common.
With Enjolras' silence, the girl seemed desperate to continue. "They're in our home, and my parents...my parents are informers. It's why we do a bit better than our neighbors."
At this, Enjolras stopped. Grantaire's words from before came to mind.
I'm not an informer.
For the first time, Enjolras looked at the girls. They seemed rich by no means. The older girl's dark hair was pulled back practically with no elaborate design, and their clothing, though not too worn out, didn't seem too expensive. Their thin figures suggested they'd been struggling since before the war, yet the younger girl's leather shoes were new and shining, bringing the strict leather rationing to mind - there was no possibility of such expensive shoes being acquired in any honest way.
With a sharp inhale and a look to Bahorel to steady himself, Enjolras put them out of his head and softened to the girl.
"Your parents, but not you?"
The girl shook her head, and seemed to hold her sister's hand a little tighter. "Azelma and I -" she gestured to her sister - "We haven't been home often these days."
The elder girl nodded.
"And your name?"
"Thenardier - Eponine Thenardier."
Eponine and Azelma left Bahorel and Enjolras after walking down a few more streets with them, refusing the offer of being walked home. Watching the girls disappear in the night, Enjolras and Bahorel finally hurried home to avoid the patrols looking for curfew-breakers. As he stared at the ceiling from Bahorel's couch that night, Enjolras' mind went through the events of the day.
Needless to say, he had much to think about.