It didn’t snow very often in the Midi. Joly used to wonder what snow looked like, what it felt like. He remembered sulking for weeks after he woke up, one childhood winter day, to find the ground wet but snowless, his sister chatting joyfully about the white blanket that had covered the ground only hours prior. Joly had been dreadfully sick, suffering from a fever that had taken days for him to shake off and left him weak as a kitten for twice that length of time, and he knew his sister simply listened to their mother when she told her not to disturb him, but he had resented the missed occasion to play in the only snow that had fallen that year.
Joly had loved snow, back then. He still did, though not enough to die surrounded by it. Not while hiding from the National Guard on the second floor of a run-down, abandoned and isolated structure, in possession of a list of contacts and copies of a to-be-printed pamphlet, both of which would now never be delivered to Enjolras and his contact at the printshop, oh—
(Keep breathing, Bossuet’s deep voice echoed in Joly’s ears. Don’t forget to breathe. And just like that, Joly’s lungs cooperated just a little better.)
At least Joly wasn’t alone; he had a friend with him, like he had always hoped he would have, if — when the time came to it — although in most of his anxiety-induced, imagination-fuelled dreams, the head resting on his shoulder was, well, balding. And at least somewhat more talkative.
It wasn’t that Joly didn’t like Feuilly. Of course he did, considered him a friend, a close friend, but they’d never had much in common besides friends and a shared cause. And Feuilly had never been the most loquacious of the group, unless Greece, Italy or Poland somehow made their way into the conversation — which they usually did, when Feuilly was present — but at that moment he was being especially quiet, even to his standard. Joly found it a little intimidating; he’d much rather have him crack jokes, or talk about plans for tomorrow. Perhaps Feuilly was merely thinking of something to do, or perhaps he was just as scared and cold and worried as Joly.
What would they do now?
“We stay here, and we wait for Bahorel,” Feuilly said and Joly, jolted suddenly out of his thoughts, realized he had been speaking out loud. Feuilly’s entire body was shaking lightly, though Joly suspected it had more to do with the blood slowly soaking the left sleeve of his thin shirt than the cold itself. He cursed himself; he had been so focused on locating the shelter they had settled on as a rendez-vous point that he had forgotten his friend had gotten injured in their brief clash with the patrol guards.
“It’ll be fine,” Feuilly continued as Joly inched closer to inspect the injury. “Bahorel is brash, but he’s not stupid. He’ll do whatever it takes to shake off the guards, you know him. Maybe even jump into the Seine.”
Joly grimaced. He delicately pulled the ends of fabric from Feuilly’s skin where it had started to stick to the drying blood. “He’ll catch his death someday.”
Feuilly gave a strained kind of laugh. The left side of his face, where he had hit the wall of a building when the guard had caught him and thrown him back, was starting to swell and darken. “He’ll—he’ll wear the stains as a badge of honour.”
“Not on that pink waistcoat, he won’t. Trust me,” Joly said, which earned a small smile from Feuilly. It was short-lived, however; Feuilly winced as Joly’s fingers found the source of the worst of the bleeding; the cut was deep, but no major blood vessels seemed to have been hit. That, at least, reassured Joly as he helped his friend take off his coat.
“It isn’t too serious,” he said, holding on to the professionalism and certainty of his diagnosis like a piece of wreckage in a cold sea. “It looks worse than it is, I’m fairly sure. It’s just bleeding a lot, probably because you moved around so much. I don’t have bandages with me,” how short-sighted it was of him not to bring any, but Joly bit the inside of his mouth to keep himself from voicing that thought. Beating himself up wouldn’t help Feuilly, wouldn’t help either of them. “Just — hold your coat, like this — good. Until the bleeding slows, alright? Try not to move around at all — don’t fidget — and it should start feeling better in no time. Oh, I wish I had alcohol to help you, but alas. This will have to do.”
Feuilly nodded mutely; his eyebrows knitted together in a frown. He shivered, and Joly settled closer to him, taking off his own coat and putting it on his friend’s shoulders.
“Bahorel’ll be running around Paris trying to find someone — trying to find someone to clean the sludge and whatever else from his waistcoat.”
“Probably.” Feuilly settled against Joly’s shoulder and closed his eyes; his expression relaxed somewhat, but he didn’t speak again. Joly felt his heart beat a little quicker.
“You mustn’t sleep,” He shook his friend, careful of his injured shoulder. “Like — like you said. Bahorel will be here soon.” If this is the right shelter. If I haven’t gotten us lost. If Bahorel is still alive. If he hasn’t gotten caught, or worse…
“I won’t sleep,” Feuilly opened an eye for a moment to look at Joly, before closing it again. “You mustn’t either… It’s quite cold.”
It really was cold, Joly though, especially without his coat. Their shelter had four walls — well, three and a half, actually, though it had probably been four walls and a window once — but the roof was badly damaged, and it was snowing, outside and inside the shelter. Even if they were both still alive by the time Bahorel or any of the others found them, they would be dripping wet and freezing, and probably catch their deaths—or worse, a cold. Or pneumonia. Joly was a medical student; he had seen first hand what excessive exposure to cold temperatures did to people’s extremities. He’d taken the habit of wearing thick gloves and two pairs of socks from October ’till April to avoid that fate himself. Bossuet, used to the cold rainy winters from the North and used to losing every single pair of gloves he had ever owned, had mocked him for the habit, but at that moment, all of Joly’s precautions seemed both entirely unnecessary and completely useless. His gloves, drenched as they were from the snow, wouldn’t save him from anything.
Damn the cold and damn the snow and damn the North. Joly missed the Midi.
“Feuilly? Are you still awake?”
“Yes.” Of course he was; barely five minutes had passed, fifteen at most, since he had last moved. Or an hour? It was hard to tell.
Either way, it didn’t matter. The snow wasn’t letting up and Joly was having trouble breathing again.
“... I’m really cold,’ Joly tried to laugh; from the worried expression on Feuilly’s face, though, he could tell it wasn’t very effective.
“Take your coat back, Joly,“ Feuilly said with more vigor than Joly thought he would be capable of in his current position. “Come on, I’m warm enough.“
“No, don’t be stupid. You’re injured, and your own coat is ruined,“ Joly said slowly. “You need it more than I do.“
“Joly...“ Feuilly could be incredibly stubborn, Joly knew. It had been wrong of him to assume he wouldn’t be, even in this state. Joly didn't have the strenght or the energy to match him.
“Just come closer, then. S-sit with your leg against mine, and. I’ll wrap my arm around your shoulder — like this. We can try to keep warm that way, although I’m so cold I — I don’t know what good this will be.“
Feuilly inched closer.
“Is this better? Please be honest.“
It was — even if Feuilly was as cold as Joly felt, the weight of his body against Joly’s side was at least comforting. It wasn’t much, but at this point, it was worth a lot.
“Somewhat. Are you comfortable?“
No, Joly tried to argue. I failed — we’re going to die—
“You think everyone else first, always,” Feuilly’s voice was gentle despite the chattering of his teeth, but so painfully earnest it made Joly’s heart squeeze tighter (or maybe it’s the cold; the cold tends to do that, doesn’t it, oh - )
“That’s not true—and you know it,” He turned his head and tried to glare at his friend, but he wasn’t sure his face was taking order from his brain anymore. “If anyone, you—”
But Feuilly shook his head. The moonlight bounced off his hair as it moved, and it took Joly more energy — and time — than it should have to blink, to look away from the glitter of ice at the tips. He was getting slower, aware of so many of his body’s secondary functions fading, fading. His eyelids were so heavy. The fact that he wasn’t outright panicking (anymore? had he panicked? he should have, if he hadn’t) should have worried him, shouldn’t it?
“—yourself, Joly,” he hadn’t noticed Feuilly had still been talking. Had Joly blacked out? But his eyes were still open. With great effort, he managed to tear his eyes away from the melting snowflakes in Feuilly’s hair.
“Joly?” Feuilly’s eyes were very big and very pale against the bruise that was starting to darken on his cheekbone, and his face was even paler; but there was some colour returning to his lips, Joly noticed. His hands itched to check the ruined coat turned makeshift bandage on Feuilly’s shoulder, but his brain reminded him that Feuilly was talking, was moving around somewhat — in fact, he looked better than he had when they had first settled into the shelter. He’d probably be fine, if Bahorel found them soon. At least, his injury should not kill him before the cold did.
Joly hoped he himself would be fine, too, but he was terribly sleepy. It was probably nearing dawn by now.
“The sun’s going to come up soon — see? The sky’s starting to light up. Bahorel won’t be long,” Feuilly offered, but the confidence of his tone did nothing to sooth Joly’s anxiety.
“He should—have been here hours ago,” Joly mumbled before he could stop himself. “Maybe he—did jump. Maybe he drowned.”
“He didn’t,” Feuilly assured. “Just stay awake, Joly.”
“H-how do you know that?”
“I can hear footsteps coming up the stairs, and voices. Listen.”
Joly closed his eyes, and listened. The wooden steps cracked and creaked and he could hear Bossuet’s voice talking in low, hushed tones. He’d found them. Finally. They were safe.
“Joly, don’t fall asleep just yet—”
Joly felt warm arms, familiar arms, wrap around him; then he knew nothing.