At last, the final chapter... though there actually exists a naughty additional chapter from Marat's point of view. E-mail me if you're interested, and be sure to at least claim you're old enough.

22. Nothing else matters

It was getting really late. Robespierre could not remember ever staying at a party for so long. Except at one of his friends' place, a couple of years ago, but they had spent the night there, so it didn't count. And a couple of times he and Desmoulins had sat up for hours with a handful of others, but that had been in the school dormitory.

Oh, and once he and his siblings, many years back, had slipped off to the attic and spent the whole night there – a rather amusing memory – but technically that had been at home, so it did not count either.

Across the room Jérôme Pétion was getting rather closely acquainted with the late king's sister. Robespierre preferred not to watch. His gaze roamed over Barère, who was entertaining a couple of others with yo-yo tricks, Billaud-Varenne and Collot d'Herbois, who seemingly were trying to impress a handful of young ladies by emptying their glasses in one go and then refilling them and starting all over again, Vergniaud, who was doing nothing much (though that was highly suspicious), Condorcet and his Sophie, who were about to leave as it seemed, along with Jean and Manon Roland, Augustin, who was chatting with Couthon and his wife… Then it returned to Éléonore, who was once again sitting closely beside him. What an angel she was, so pretty, so gentle… Of course she could be a wildcat, and of course she had claws when she wanted to, but he had already forgiven her for all her recent unpleasant behaviour. She was a wildcat, but she was his wildcat.

There still was a numb feeling in his groin, but it was much better already. Danton and Augustin had taken him aside to see whether he was hurt and had decided that there was no damage done, yet he tried to wince a little from time to time because he enjoyed it very much how Éléonore fussed over him. She stroked his cheek and hair and murmured soothing words to him, and from time to time he even got a kiss. She also regularly dabbed at his lower lip with a handkerchief, despite the fact that it had stopped bleeding already. Of course, he did not point it out to her.

The Dantons had disappeared into the park. Robespierre had a pretty good idea what they were doing out there.

In the meantime, Saint-Just had taken over the stage again, along with Le Bas and Augustin, and they all had taken their shirts off while the guitar intro was played, which seemed to be highly appreciated by the female half of the assembled. Robespierre rolled his eyes. This was one of the reasons why women just did not belong in politics: If they cast their votes by ogling the anatomy of the deputy in question, what would become of the Republic?

What was Éléonore's opinion on women and politics? It occurred to him that he had never asked her.

"So close, no matter how far, couldn't be much more from the heart…"

Oh. This was getting definitely romantic.

"Forever trusting who we are, and nothing else matters…"

Robespierre boldly slipped an arm around Éléonore's shoulders and pulled her close. Saint-Just did have a point there.

"I think now it's about time you say it," she whispered to him, her eyes twinkling with mischievous glee as she tickled him under the chin. "Don't you think so?"

What, exactly? "You're up to something," he stated.

"I always am," she replied, wearing a petulantly innocent expression that made him laugh. "Come on, say it for me…"

Say what? "You're a sweet little minx," he came up with. It sounded pretty good, in his opinion – and pretty true.

"Not that, silly. Try again," she suggested.

Heavens, what? What did she want to hear so suddenly? Was it that obvious, or –

Of course. She had mentioned it out in the park already, she had wanted him to tell her at first, but then had preferred to just be shown… "Seems to me, though, this is a rather unromantic place for a love pledge, don't you think?" Or is Saint-Just inspiring you?

"Never care for what they do, never care for what they know…" Augustin and Le Bas had joined in by now.

"Hmm." Apparently she considered it. "Would the corridor by your room be a suitable place? Given it's dark enough?"

"But I know…"

Dark enough? What should that love pledge contain, then? Kissing for sure, but did it have to be dark for kissing? Robespierre had the growing suspicion that some of his clothes might vanish mysteriously in that dark corridor if he wasn't careful. Heavens, he couldn't just end up in bed with the daughter of the man who had kindly taken him in when he had been on the run two years ago! That would be rather rude towards Maurice Duplay and his wife, somehow.

Well, if they got properly engaged, though…

Or maybe he should rather marry her as soon as possible, just in case such an adventure in a dark corridor, or what might possibly follow it, had certain unforeseen consequences? He knew exactly that he had been born four months after his parents' wedding already, and that his excessively early arrival had been a major embarrassment to his mother's side of the family… He did not want anything like that to happen to Éléonore.

Well, in that case keep your trousers on in her presence. It's as simple as that.

And get your mind out of the gutter, damn it!

He still had not answered her question, he realised. "Er, yes," he hastily said. "Wherever you like. Didn't we agree on going out a bit earlier on?"

Éléonore nuzzled her head under his chin; he could feel her warm breath tickle the side of his neck. "Maybe it's time to go home," she suggested, and it seemed to him she was stifling a yawn.

He patted his pockets until he found his watch and was surprised to discover that it was past three o'clock in the morning already. "Too right you are," he agreed. "There's no session tomorrow, but still… Hang on, you'll have to be at your master's atelier in the morning, won't you?"

"Yes, though he won't mind much if I'm a bit late."

"I doubt you intend to, or do you?"

"Well…" She giggled. "Maybe I'll be wanting a cuddle in the morning, before I go? And maybe I'll be wanting that cuddle to last just a little bit longer?"

Caressing the back of her neck, he wondered whether she was subtly implying that she would like to wake in the same bed as him in the morning. And, if so, this was implying that a certain something ought to have happened between them by then. Not necessarily, though he would find out soon enough once they were under the same blanket. The question that really mattered was, did she want to be under the same blanket with him in the first place?

But he would find out just as easily, wouldn't he? It all depended on her decision to accompany him to his room instead of going to her own, or maybe she would lead him to hers.

But what if she expected him to take a certain action and just waited for him to do it? What if she did not give him any sign and instead just sulked in the morning if he had not done the right thing?

She would tell him what she wanted, wouldn't she? Or at least give him a hint? Otherwise she would not be acting logical.

On the other hand, she was a woman. She might not act logically at all.

He sighed inwardly. His sisters were logical enough, at least most of the time. Lucille Desmoulins and Gabrielle Danton weren't that unpredictable either. But would Éléonore be? He knew her rather well, and still she managed to remain a mystery to him at times. Just the female nature.

Danton claimed women were easy enough to understand, but Danton had enough experience with women for three men, at the very least.

Be that as it may, he would learn to understand Éléonore now. And he would do his best to please her… starting by taking her home now and vowing undying love to her in the dark corridor by his bedroom door. He just hoped Candide would not spoil the romantic mood. "Shall we go home?" he asked.

"I think so," she agreed. "It's late, after all." Here she paused, then whispered in his ear, "And I'd like to hold hands with you while we walk, if you don't mind."

"Any time," he promised readily. And I'd like to kiss you, if you don't mind… though that might be difficult now, thanks to that bastard Hébert giving me a cut lip…

They bade their friends goodbye, or at least those of them who could be located or were available. Danton and his Gabrielle, for example, had come back from the park – in a rather dishevelled state, by the way – but were so busy with snuggling fiercely in a niche that Robespierre preferred not to disturb them. With Candide faithfully plodding along beside them, they headed out into the night, walking hand in hand.

Lyrics and title very obviously stolen from: Metallica, Nothing Else Matters