The other Guild members filtered out of the library, chattering amongst themselves about the dilemma their leader's news had placed them in.
Her friend's voice brought Lucy from her thoughts, and she gazed up into Eliza's pale and drawn countenance.
"Are you--all right?" Eliza queried.
"Yes, yes, I'll be quite fine," Lucy hastened to reassure her, her cheeks stained with pink, "I was just thinking--"
"You are relieved that Sir Andrew is safe." Eliza's words were tinged with a certain sadness, and Lucy felt guilty. Her cousin was safe, as was Percy. But Lord Hastings--Eliza's darling husband--his fate was unknown. As was the jovial Tony's. Young Mackenzie. So many men--such danger they willingly placed themselves in.
"I'm so sorry, Eliza," Lucy whispered, "I didn't mean to--"
The two women embraced, both filled with a certain terror, a certain pain. Fear was one force that could bring two friends closer together. Or, if one was not strong enough, tear them further apart.
"Lady Fairchild, your coach has arrived." the impersonal voice of the Hasting's man-servant broke through the momentary silence.
"Of course."
With one final, comforting glance and a parting word or more, Lucy left.
It was scarcely two days after the meeting in the Hasting's library, that Lucy found herself once again in the Parisian streets. She had dressed herself in the woolen garments of a peasant boy, hoping to blend easily into the crowds--nondescript enough to come and go, as she pleased, garnering as much information as she could about the League's whereabouts. With dirt smudged upon her normally pale cheeks, and her golden-brown hair shoved beneath a cap, Lucy could have easily passed for a young streetsweeper. The multi-colored sash around her waist would inform others of her `Republican` sentiment. Enough 'Viva le Republique!'s could do a girl a great deal of good.
She chose a small tavern, not far from Temple Prison, to begin her mission. It was rumored that the prison guards would stop in that particular establishment for drinks at the end of a long day.
`Get a man drunk enough and you could know his family history`, Lucy thought to herself.
"I saw the Pimpernel with me own eyes!" a drunk was boasting, "'E thinks 'es so smart. Well, no-one's too smart for old Bubet!"
A few soldiers jeered the drunk's exclamations, but Lucy's curiosity was piqued. She had neither seen, nor heard anything of Sir Percy since leaving England. Surely, he, too could not have been captured....
"You--Bubet--are an imbecile."
Lucy almost dropped her glass of ale in surprise, at the sound of the mockingly familiar voice. Sure enough, Paul Chauvelin was in the bistro. His eyes shone coldly, as he spoke to the soldiers. She couldn't hear most of his words, but they were obviously threats of some sort--for, within moments--the soldiers had all hurried back to their posts.
"All of you--" Chauvelin announced, his harsh voice clear above the din, "Curfew will begin at nine. You will not be out past that time."
Pulling the lapels of her dirty coat up in an attempt to better-hide her face, Lucy slipped out of the building.
"Young man!"
Oh no.
"Papers, citizen."
"Of course," Lucy answered as smoothly as possible, hoping that--in the dim streetlamps--Chauvelin wouldn't recognize her.
"Pierre Gaultier?" Chauvelin's shrewd eyes moved from the crumbled paper to her face, "Lucille!"
Her eyes widened, "You don't know me,, may I be...."
"I would know YOU anywhere," his voice a tad softer, "What are you doing in Paris?"
"That's not a fair question," she responded, "You know I won't answer."
"Yes," he said drily, "I know you won't. Nonetheless, Lucy, the streets are dangerous at this time of the evening."
Lucy smiled coyly, "And if I were to say that I had no place to go?"
"I suppose I would be ~forced~ to invite you to dine with me--to take you off the streets, of course."
Her eyes widened with shock. He was actually--teasing her. Stoic Paul Chauvelin. The unamused `Chambertin`, as Percy enjoyed calling him...was making a joke.
"I accept. Why don't we meet at the small cafe you took me to when first we met?" Lucy suggested, "An hour?"
"Why don't I walk you home--"
Lucy laughed, feeling daring enough to stand upon tip-toe, pressing a brief kiss to his lips.
"I am no imbecile, Paul. An hour, then."
Before he could protest, she had slipped into the darkness...
After the meeting with Paul, Lucy went immediately to the gate near Temple Prison. She had almost forgotten her promise to meet with her old friend and fellow Guilder, Connor MacLeod. Connor had agreed to blend in with the darkness near the prison, and report back to the other Guilders on what he saw. Lucy had a guess that where Connor was, so was his former paramour, Isabella Delacroix. Knowing Isabella, she was probably somewhere inside the prison...
"Connor," she hissed into the darkness, "Where on earth are you?"
Something plunked down onto her head and Lucy looked up. She sighed, shaking her head, "Are you planning on coming down from that tree?" she demanded.
She was probably imagining things, but Lucy could swear she saw her old friend smile in the darkness..
"You come up." he replied, his Scottish burr thick with mischievous laughter.
Lucy sighed, "Beast she muttered, as she began climbing.
Connor held out one hand, pulling her onto a thick branch beside m, "What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
"Ha ha," Lucy replied, "I came to find out what you know of the League. Are they in Temple?"
"Hmm mm." Connor motioned towards the gate, "Bella's inside. She says they're being kept in one large cell, not far from here."
"Two, changing on the hour with the orders of our friend, Chauvelin. He's worried."
"That's a suprise." Lucy couldn't imagine Paul Chauvelin worried about anything. He was too--well, he was Paul.
"Not really," Connor answered,"I'd be worried, too, if I were in his shoes. He can't actually believe he'll get away with this."
"Let's hope not." Lucy muttered,"I'd best hurry on. I need to speak with Lady Hastings."
"You have a plan then?"
She smiled cheekily, "Wait and see, M'sieur MacLeod. Wait and see."
"Eliza! Eliza!"
Lucy was breathless with excitement, as she hurried into the small flat her friend used while on missions in Paris.
"Lucy, what in heaven's name--you look like a street urchin," Eliza chuckled despite herself, Lucy's bedraggled appearance obviously comic relief enough to briefly bring a smile to her face.
"That was the look I was trying for," Lucy said, throwing her cap down onto a scarred table, "Believe it or not, 'Liza, I have a plan."
"Do tell."
"I saw Chauvelin."
Lucy's cheeks flushed briefly as she thought of the upcoming dinner. Was it awful for her to be this thrilled at meeting with the 'enemy'? Almost certainly...."He's asked me to dine with him this evening."
Eliza nodded, silently urging her on.
"If I were to keep him--occupied--do you think that, with the help of the other Guilders, you would be able to sneak the League out of Temple prison? I've spoken with Connor--he says that there are two guards, easy enough to incapacitate, I should think--who change on the hour with Chauvelin's orders." Lucy blushed again, realizing how awful that statement sounded. She hoped she could hold Paul's attention long enough to allow Eliza and the others time to rescue the League.
Eliza nodded, "Yes, of course! I'll give the others their orders--and you had best change into more suitable attire, dear."
"Of course," Lucy replied, wrinkling her nose as she glanced at her reflection in one of the mirrors. She looked awful, but Eliza was far too well-bred to comment on THAT.
"God be with you," Eliza whispered, as the two friends clasped hands.
"And you, 'Liza."
Lucy hurried out of the flat, towards her own...
A scarce half hour later, she was at the small cafe Paul had suggested. Freshly dressed in a dark grey silk gown that matched her silver eyes becomingly, Lucy waited politely until Chauvelin had pulled the chair out for her. She smiled softly across the table at him. To her astonishment, Paul responded with a small smile of his own.
"It's as lovely as I remembered it," she said, as Paul poured wine for the both of them.
"Yes, it is."
Silence slipped over them, as invisible as a fog, yet disturbingly thick. For the life of her, Lucy couldn't think of a topic to converse about.
"I feel--terribly silly," she said suddenly, as laughter bubbled in her throat,"We are behaving like children, Paul."
He immediately protested,"I am behaving in no such--"
"Oh, yes, you most certainly ARE!" Lucy became suddenly somber, "We had so much to talk of once, Paul. Why does that have to change?"
He arched one, elegant eyebrow, "Shall I begin naming the reasons things must change? Beginning, of course, with your family ties to.."
"Paul!" she moved her hand across the table, taking his,"For one night--this night--let us forget who I am. Forget--about the Republic. Could you do that?"
He looked dubious, and she entwined her fingers with his, "For me?" she pleaded.
He tightened his hold on her hand, bringing it gently to his lips, "For you."
At the Temple Prison
"This uniform itches," Isabella muttered, following Connor down a long hallway.
"You take what you get, Bella. Besides, who knows what the man we took it from had..." Connor grinned, "Any number of disease--body lice..."
"Hush!" Isabella hissed, jabbing him in the ribs with the butt of her stolen gun, "We have a mission."
"Aye, that you do."
Another voice joined in with those of the bickering friends,"Connor, Isabella--there's a wagon waiting outside the back entrance. Hurry. We can't wait long."
Isabella nodded,"Of course. We'll hurry as best we can."
"Citizen Chauvelin!"
Paul nodded, "Citizen du Bois. How goes it?"
"They've escaped, Chauvelin! Every single one of them!"
Paul stopped, an intense pain filling his entire being. could she?
"Did you hear me, Citizen?! They've escaped..."
Even as he spoke, Chauvelin's dark eyes grew colder. It would be the last time he would allow a woman near his heart--the last time a member of the gentler sex would deceive him....
A Week Later
The Hasting Estate
"Lucy, darling!"
Lucy tried to manage a smile, as Eliza hurried down the stairwell to greet her. There was a bloom of color in her often-pale cheeks--proof of the joy that had come with the return of her husband. She knew that it was wrong for her to be so unhappy, even when her friends had all returned safely to England; and Eliza was reunited with her darling Timothy. And yet, all Lucy could think of was Paul...
In Paris. Alone and deceived..the guilt she felt was painfully heavy upon her breast.
"Now, tell me of this new mission..."

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