Author's note: So my friend Ve mentioned on tumblr that she wanted to see rule 63!Enjolras/Feuilly. I meant for this to actually get to, like, kissing, but that didn't happen so instead it's just them having adorable crushes on each other. I did basically no research for this, which I do feel kind of bad about, but I'm actually really fascinated by what happens when you make Enjolras and Feuilly (and also Jehan) into cisladies so there may be more in this UA at some point. (Probably not soon though, since I don't have time to research things that are not for homework so any writing I do manage to get done for a while here will be light on the history/politics/stuff I don't already know.)
To call Feuilly a mere working woman was, in Enjolras' opinion, a simplification of her character so drastic as to be nearly blasphemous. Certainly, the young woman looked to be of that class, with basket she carried with her at all times and the dress cut in last year's style hanging in such a way that it obscured her natural figure. An outsider might reasonably be forgiven for thinking her nothing more than the lover of some student, a working woman with no greater aspirations than to feed herself and look attractive.
Enjolras, for better or worse, was not the forgiving type.
She and Feuilly had first met when Grantaire all but dragged her into their usual meeting room and announced in a voice loud enough to be classified a bellow that he had found them a new convert. Feuilly had spent that entire evening sewing almost defiantly, speaking up only to refute a minor historical fact relating to Russia's ambitions in Poland. For the rest she listened, eyes darting around the room without quite meeting anyone's gaze, needle flashing in the firelight. Enjolras couldn't look away.
Later she learned from Joly that Grantaire and Feuilly knew each other through one of Grantaire's few female acquaintances and that Feuilly worked as a fan painter and took in sewing to make ends meet. She learned too that Feuilly had apparently not only taught herself to read but had found the time to absorb all the history she could find, and she wondered if it was possible to die from admiring someone too much.
Living with Combeferre had many advantages, primary among which was that Enjolras' parents trusted him to keep her out of trouble and thus had allowed her to follow him to Paris with little fuss. Quite how her parents had failed to realize that, far from being a tempering influence, Combeferre supported and encouraged her so-called dangerous ideas Enjolras had no idea, but she was certainly not about to enlighten them. The moment they realize the truth of the situation they would order her home to be married properly and, quite aside from the disaster that would be for her cause, Enjolras could not fathom being so separated from her best friend. It was Combeferre, after all, who listened to her rant furiously about the lack of protection for women in the workplace, and Combeferre who bought her books of which her parents would never have approved, and Combeferre who reined her in each time she lost sight of basic practicalities in her burning need to see the world reshaped into utopia. Combeferre stayed rooted where Enjolras soared, approached problems from six angles where Enjolras saw only one, looked out where Enjolras looked forward. They completed each other, and together their individual melodies created the most sublime of harmonies.
Thus it was to Combeferre that Enjolras went when she found herself unable to think of anything but Feuilly.
"She'll come back," Combeferre said, when Enjolras broached her new-found deepest fear.
"How can you be so certain?" Enjolras wanted to know. She picked at the cuff of one sleeve, a worried frown on her face. "She stood out so much; what if she felt unwelcome?"
Combeferre laughed. "Would you let that stop you?" he wanted to know.
"Of course not," Enjolras said instantly, then paused. "Well, unless my presence would be somehow detrimental to our goals, though in that case I wouldn't be there to begin with." Her frown deepened. "Even if she does come back, I don't want her to feel unwelcome."
"Perhaps you should tell her so then," Combeferre suggested.
"I don't want to cause her distress," Enjolras said. She sighed. "What if she thinks I'm patronizing her? She kept to herself last time; what if she thinks we only let her in on sufferance, or to say that we have a grisette, or because Grantaire wanted us to? What if she thinks I'm just another bourgeoise offering false charity, or just trying to use her for my own interests, or mocking her, or..."
"Enjolras," Combeferre interrupted, reaching out to put both hands on her shoulders. She stopped, aware that she had been rambling, and took a steadying breath. "She won't think those things, because you won't give her that impression, not even accidentally. I'm sure you won't take it as an insult when I remind you that you are not known for saying something other than what you mean. Leave unfortunate misunderstandings for the playwrights; those characters are all rather less blunt than you and less sharp than Feuilly." He sat back, smiling at her. "Try not to worry about it too much. I suspect she'll like you just fine."
As Combeferre had predicted, Feuilly came back the next evening. Again, she kept to herself, her expression still wary, her hands still busy with her sewing. She wore her auburn hair pinned up out of the way and her sleeves were far more sensible than most, though whether that was due to taste or practicality was up for debate. Enjolras, whose interest in fashion began and ended at keeping herself fully clothed and able to move, found herself hoping for the former. She considered asking about it, but the idea of asking Feuilly about fashion of all things brought a blush to her face, which she looked down hurriedly to hide. It seemed sacrilegious for her first proper conversation with Feuilly to be about something so mundane.
Enjolras was distracted from this mortifying line of thought by a peal of laughter from Jean Prouvaire, who sat draped over Bahorel, glass of wine in one hand sloshing rather perilously as she gesticulated. Her cheeks were flushed from the wine, giving her an almost feverish look, but her voice was strong as she said, "At this rate you will make me look reasonable!"
Bahorel too laughed. "Anything but that," he said. "If you start being reasonable then in short order you turn respectable, and after that it takes only a small leap of the alphabet to become sensible, and next thing you know you're married doing needlework." He shuddered at the idea, causing Prouvaire's wine to splash even more alarmingly. "And then I'm afraid I will have to refute all connection with you, for fear that the urge to be an upstanding citizen might be catching."
Prouvaire too shuddered, throwing her whole body into the motion. The wine in the glass gave up on fighting gravity and splashed over the rim, staining her skirt. Bahorel all but yelped and pushed her away, throwing up a protective arm as though stained clothing too could be contagious.
Enjolras looked away from the two of them and accidentally caught Feuilly's eye as the other did the same thing. For a moment their gazes locked and Enjolras felt her face heat up again. Hurriedly she busied herself with the book she had brought, one of Combeferre's philosophy texts that came complete with annotations in his precise handwriting highlighting which sections she would find enlightening. So quickly did she look away that Enjolras did not notice Feuilly's own blush, nor the way the other woman kept glancing in her direction as the evening progressed.
"That's not true."
Enjolras all but choked in her hurry to stop the flow of words and turn to look at Feuilly. Everyone else in the room also looked towards the ordinarily quiet young woman, who blushed a little but stubbornly kept her head up.
"About Europe. You're wrong."
Enjolras recovered enough from her shock to blink, suppressing the thrill that went through her at the idea that Feuilly was addressing her and asked, "What do you mean?"
"You said France was the greatest country in Europe. You believe that, but would an Italian? Of course not. What about a Pole? Bonaparte was instrumental in the partition of Poland; would you ask one of her orphaned citizens to love France as you do? It would be throwing salt into still bleeding wounds."
From anyone else Enjolras might have been tempted to divorce Bonaparte's actions from France's, tempted to argue as passionately as needed that he did not speak for her beloved country and his wrongdoings had little do with France herself. Faced with Feuilly's passion, Enjolras found that her arguments had dried up before they could even begin.
"To be denied a country is the ultimate injustice," Feuilly continued, her face scarlet and knuckles white from where she gripped her abandoned sewing. "And we should never minimize that injustice, not even indirectly. Their suffering is every bit as great as ours, no, greater even because we at least have a land to call home and a flag to fight for. Our government is a disgrace but at least we have one to overthrow! At least we are not ruled by a foreign tyrant, denied even the right to be trampled by one of our own. Poland's children cry not just for bread but for a home, an identity. How can we call our country the greatest when some don't even have one?"
She looked straight at Enjolras, her expression fierce, and Enjolras fought to find her voice. "You're right," she said, and blinked as an expression of surprise flickered across Feuilly's face almost too quickly to notice. "I spoke thoughtlessly. I will be more careful in the future."
Feuilly nodded, finally looking away, face still red. Courfeyrac stepped into the resulting silence, changing the subject away from both Enjolras and Feuilly and allowing them both time to recover. Enjolras glanced towards Feuilly, only to find the other doing the same. Again their eyes met; again they both quickly looked away, Feuilly stabbing her needle into cloth with rather more concentration than strictly necessary and Enjolras starting a conversation with Combeferre about his classes.
Only much later as she and Combeferre made their way home did it occur to Enjolras that Feuilly must have expected her concerns to be dismissed out of hand. It explained the defiance, the tenseness, the quickly hidden surprise. Anger swelled in Enjolras' breast at the idea that someone, anyone would dismiss Feuilly's words for any reason, and she vowed to herself that she would eviscerate anyone who even thought about it. Noting her sudden anger Combeferre made an inquiring noise but Enjolras shook her head, mind whirling with ways she could make it clear to Feuilly that, from Enjolras at least, she would always have the respect she deserved.
Enjolras and Feuilly sat alone in the back room of the Musain, the others having already trickled out for the night. Enjolras, who had a letter from her parents waiting to be answered back home and very little desire to give it one, sat bent over two books, frowning over them as she compared two separate accounts of the execution of Charlotte Corday. Feuilly too was reading, her lips moving silently, all her attention fixed on the book before her. Enjolras, who usually possessed excellent concentration, kept glancing over at the other, mind more intent on deciphering what Feuilly was reading than on her own work.
It did not take long for Enjolras' curiosity to get the best of her. She gave up on getting anything done for the time being and just watched Feuilly read, torn between hoping Feuilly would acknowledge her and wanting to watch her like this forever. The other woman's head was turned down towards her book and the light from the dying fire cast her face into shadow and turned her hair into auburn-colored fire. She sat almost perfectly still, barely even seeming to breathe, with only the movement of her lips and the occasional turn of a page to prove that she still lived. Enjolras was transfixed; it seemed to her as though she were witnessing something holy, something rare and precious beyond all imaginings.
The moment was broken when Feuilly looked up, suddenly looking much less like an embodiment of intellectual perfection and more like the woman Enjolras had come to know. She frowned a little. "Did you want something?" she asked.
Enjolras shook her head. "I was curious what you were reading, that's all," she admitted. "I'm sorry I disturbed you."
"You didn't at all," Feuilly assured her. "And it's history. I borrowed it from Jeanne."
"Prouvaire?" Enjolras confirmed.
Feuilly nodded, a slight smile on her lips. "She said she felt a profound connection to Jeanne d'Arc yesterday and that I should address her accordingly."
"Ah yes, of course," Enjolras said, though until that moment she had forgotten Prouvaire's announcement. "Is it a history of Poland then?"
Feuilly shook her head. "Of Italy," she said.
"I'm sorry," Enjolras said. "I shouldn't have assumed."
Feuilly laughed a little. "You are within your rights to," she said. "I have been told that I am quite insufferable on the subject." She sobered. "Though that is only because the partition is the most appalling issue of our time and no one seems to be doing anything about it. If I don't speak up, who will?"
"I understand," Enjolras assured Feuilly. "And I don't find it insufferable at all. On the contrary, I'm glad you keep us from forgetting the issue. We are working not just towards a better future for ourselves but towards a better world for everyone, and we will never achieve that if we ignore the plight of our neighbors. Your passion helps me remember that, and I am grateful beyond words to you for that."
Feuilly was nodding. "We can't get our liberty at the expense of that of others," she said. "It's false liberty, dirty liberty. We can't trample over others or we're just as bad as Bonaparte was. Worse, even, because he only ever claimed to be working for himself. We're not, and we can't ever forget those less fortunate than us."
"Tell me," Enjolras said suddenly, leaning forward a little. "Your vision of the future, what is it? I know mine, but I know you must have one. I would be honored if you would share it with me."
Feuilly looked startled, but she considered the question, one hand absently worrying at a fold in her skirt. "I believe there will be equality," she said after a moment. "Not just among people but among nations. No person will be denied a homeland and no person will elevate their homeland above that of someone else. Empire will be seen for the vile perversion it is, and one's pride in their home will extend only so far as it does not trample someone else's. Children will have homes and bread. They will speak their own languages, will learn to read and to write, will sing their national anthems without fear. No one will have to work twenty hours a day to feed their families, or send their children onto the streets because they can't afford to keep them. Women will walk the streets without fear, heads held high even at night, and the men who father their children will be held responsible for their upbringing and support. People will learn from each other rather than closing their minds to new ideas before they've even heard what someone has to say."
Enjolras' breath caught as Feuilly spoke, captivated not only by Feuilly's words but by the way her eyes lit up as she spoke, the conviction coloring her voice, the emotion coloring her cheeks. She nodded, wanting Feuilly to keep talking forever.
Tragically Feuilly caught sight of the time and the light of idealism left her in an instant as her eyes flew open. "I'm terribly sorry to run," she said. "But I had no idea it was so late. I should go."
Enjolras nodded, swallowing her disappointment. "Yes, of course," she said. "I'm sorry I kept you."
"Oh, it wasn't you," Feuilly assured her, rising and gathering her things. "I will see you tomorrow."
"Of course," Enjolras said. Then, seized by a sudden idea, she added, "Wait, tomorrow is Sunday, isn't it?"
"It is," Feuilly agreed.
"Are you free in the afternoon?"
"Would you... I mean, I would be honored if you wanted to go walking with me and continue this conversation." Enjolras did not normally trip over her words, but Feuilly's curious eyes on her made her breath catch in her throat and her stomach flutter. It seemed like the longest few seconds of her life before Feuilly nodded.
"I would be delighted," she said with a smile. "There's a park near the Corinthe; would that suit you?"
"That would be perfect," Enjolras agreed. "Around two perhaps?"
"Around two," Feuilly agreed. She settled her hat on her head and picked up her basket. "I look forward to it. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Enjolras echoed, completely unable to keep the giddy smile from her lips.