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August 1830.

The bright, warm light of the afternoon had nearly gone by the time Combeferre had slipped back into consciousness. Though awake, he was still too exhausted to open his eyes immediately; his head was in a fog, every inch of him heavy as lead. Laudanum seemed to affect him quickly and severely, no matter how small the dosage, and struggling to rid himself of the torpidity throughout his body would take an age.

At first, he had to wonder whether the events of that morning had just been some feverish dream—a hallucination borne out of illness and hope. Perhaps Enjolras had not sat at his bedside, had not spilled forth his feelings and confessed his imaginings of death. Perhaps he had not kissed him.

The mere thought that any of it may not have happened made Combeferre’s heart sink, but once he managed to open his eyes and bring the room into focus, this dismay was replaced with warmth. Enjolras was there after all, sound asleep, no longer sitting in the armchair across the room nor steadfastly averting his gaze as he had done all week, but lying next to him in bed, just as Combeferre had bid him to do earlier after he had sat back from kissing to coax Combeferre into more laudanum and rest.

Dazed, happy for the first time in weeks, Combeferre surveyed Enjolras where he lay facing him, hair shining in the dappled sunlight, an arm crooked under his pillow and his body curved towards Combeferre as if he had wanted to fall asleep embracing him but had refrained. The hand that was not tucked under the pillow lay between them, and Combeferre valiantly tried to inch closer to hold it in his own, not worrying overmuch about waking Enjolras, for he always slept like the dead.

The shifting movement, however sluggish, was still enough to tug at Combeferre’s broken ribs. A sharp pain shot through his left side, making him gasp, which in turn served to irritate his bruised lung and make him collapse back onto the mattress in a fit of pained coughing, clutching his side. He had been struggling with this horrible cycle all week, but this time there were fingers in his hair as Enjolras, awakened by the noise, moved to cradle his head and hold a handkerchief to his mouth until the cough subsided.

Breathing shallow, Combeferre gingerly relaxed again, trying to take solace in the fact that however terrible he felt at present, the handkerchief came away clean—at least he was no longer coughing up blood. Enjolras reached over him to place it back on the nightstand and take up the glass of water resting there, and supported Combeferre again to help him take a few sips.

Up close, Enjolras no longer looked quite as peaceful and luminous as he had when he had been asleep in his patch of sunlight. There were shadows beneath his eyes, his skin pallid and hair mussed, so worn that he still seemed half asleep even as he lowered Combeferre onto the pillows and replaced the glass of water on the nightstand. He looked every bit like a man who had spent every night of the past week dozing in an armchair, and every day in agony. Combeferre found himself struck with guilt for ever being so annoyed with him.

Enjolras stayed where he was for another moment, looking down at Combeferre with his hand still beneath his head; he seemed quite ready to fall back asleep then and there, but some realization appeared to startle him awake again. He pulled away slowly, back to where he had originally lay, and Combeferre despaired.

“You might come closer, you know,” he said tentatively. This was all so new, and even if his head was not swimming from the laudanum, he still would not have known quite how to ask for what he wanted. Enjolras gave him a look of skepticism, and Combeferre added, “You won’t hurt me. Really.”

Enjolras hesitated another moment, but then managed an exhausted smile before carefully drawing close again, curling against Combeferre’s side and resting his cheek against the other’s shoulder. Perhaps the summer’s day was rather too warm to lie so near each other, and in all honesty they both could have done with a wash and a decent meal, but as Combeferre nestled down into the pillows, he would not have changed his position for anything on Earth. He turned his head to press his lips to Enjolras’ brow, and felt Enjolras smile against his shoulder as he reached up to grasp Combeferre’s hand.

Even despite the pain, and the dizziness from the laudanum, and even the new, nervous, happy flutterings in the pit of his stomach, Combeferre found it remarkably easy to drift off to sleep once again. After all that had occurred over the past week—over the past month—at that moment, he could not have been more content.