Death comes late for its appointment with Bossuet. How else could you explain the bullet clipping his cheek, the saber skimming his shoulder, the guard who collapsed on him with his rifle and bayonet slipping slickly from his fingers, its point on the top button of Bossuet's coat?
Two, three feet away, Joly has stopped shivering. Bossuet had wrapped the coat around his friend like a blanket a little while ago, but it was not much of a luxury, and for his part Bossuet has not the luxury of believing that Joly's stillness comes from comfort. Finally yet another surge of guards shakes the barricade. Bossuet grips his bayonet as the paving stones shift beneath his feet. He loses his balance, catches it and loses it again with his blade in a man's gut, pushes, scrambles, chokes suddenly with another man's bayonet in his throat.
The door that opens into Milliways opens not into the Bar but into a utility closet. After the last hours of the barricade, fighting a mop and bucket is an exhausting, rather than amusing, anticlimax. But Laigle's not very surprised when he gets the door open and sees the Bar. There's an old jacket in the closet, something you might throw on before stepping outside for a quick chore in cold weather, or for a smoke: something you might throw on so you don't horrify people by walking into a room with your shirt wet and red from the neck down.
It all looks much the same there in the Bar. You wouldn't think two years had passed. Maybe they haven't. Maybe--Bossuet hiccups on a yelp of suppressed humorless laughter--maybe he's come back to before he left. Or to before he first came here. How would you know? He can sit himself down and have a chat about gunpowder and germ theory--
It's a good thing the place is empty, or near to it. Bossuet leans against the back wall in his borrowed coat. When his breath steadies, when he can go through the proper motions of leaning on the Bar and greeting it with good cheer, he asks for a key. Room 31 again. With every turn of the hallways another memory of the place comes back, so much clearer than what he had managed to dredge up in France.
(Courfeyrac had arrived, chipper and hungry and dead, and Bossuet had offered light condolences on the loss of his hat. Now the words cling together with others inside his head, little burrs of double memory
. Enjolras, here: "He told me, 'At a conservative estimate: a ninety percent reduction of the risk of contagion of cholera.' Ninety percent." Combeferre, in 1830, staring meditatively at the ceiling: "It's a plausible mechanism. It's been argued once or twice before. And I read Bassi's work on silkworms...he calls it a 'vegetable parasite,' but whatever its nature it is a microscopic organism, responsible for the disease that nearly ruined our silk industry. Twenty years ago, I think? But how to convince them at the hospital...")
Among so many adhesions of memory, the familiarity of Lesgle's room barely registers. He peels off the clothes that can't be salvaged--which is all of them--and falls asleep face-first on the bed without bothering to wash.