2. Kissing Kin


The Cafe Musain's back room is not unduly busy tonight. Bossuet and Joly are sitting at one table, discussing the cure for an interesting strain of malaria with Prouvaire. Grantaire is more or less asleep at his customary table.

"You don't say," Prouvaire says bemusedly to Joly.

Joly nods vigorously. "They say bananas work wonders. I've never really noticed, myself, but then they recommend eating three a day, and I've not that kind of money."

Bossuet adds, nudging Joly in the side, "Sometimes he eats one a day, but I don't know why."

Prouvaire chuckles. (Any subtext mercifully goes over his head.) "The things people come up with."

A dim snort issues from Grantaire's corner.

Joly shrugs slightly, with half a grin at Lesgles. "I would eat anything that kept me healthy, and in the tropics they've bananas to spare. Of course, most people don't get malaria in Paris."

Enjolras opens the door and almost holds it for Christian before he realizes just how that will look and goes ahead of his guest.

Christian twitches a bit at the reminder. Casual. Right. He trails Enjolras in, diffidently.

Joly looks up first. "Ah, Enjolras! And..." he pauses for a moment, looking for the name. "Caron, is it?" He coughs slightly as the C-sound rasps his throat too much.

Prouvaire laughs. "True enough." He glances over at the door, and blinks; then breaks into that unconsciously sweet smile of his and waves to the pair. Two of his friends have met. All's well with the world.

Christian nods mutely.

Bossuet looks over at the door. "Caron?" he asks, standing. "Enchant. I'm Laigle, or Lesgles, or Bossuet, or just 'Hey, you,' if you forget."

Christian dips his head again, venturing a smile. "Pleased."

Joly raises one eyebrow, then tugs Bossuet's sleeve to make him sit again so that Joly can steal a handkerchief from his lapel pocket and sneeze on it.

Grantaire, alerted by some built-in Enjolras radar, looks up slowly as the door opens. He raises a brow, equally slowly, but ventures no greeting. We're morose today, apparently.

Enjolras gestures over to the occupied corner. "Caron, that is Grantaire, as chipper as he usually is this time of day."

Prouvaire darts an amused look at his tablemates.

Christian glances up at Enjolras, then says politely to Grantaire, "Hello."

Bossuet rolls his eyes at Joly. "The day I run out of handkerchiefs is the day you'll have to learn to blow your nose on your sleeve like the rest of us." When Enjolras speaks, he glances over at Grantaire sympathetically.

Grantaire lifts a hand in token of greeting, his expression sardonic. "Afternoon."

Joly tucks the slightly used bit of fabric into his own pocket. "I'll just have to make sure you send them to the laundry, then."

Christian deflates a bit, which one would have thought wasn't possible. He glances up again at Enjolras, as though for guidance.

Prouvaire shakes his head at the two nearby, affectionately, and remarks to the two across the room, "You've met, I take it."

Enjolras looks at Christian as if to say, 'I warned you, didn't I?' He sets his mind to the everpresent task of ignoring Grantaire and asks Prouvaire, Bossuet, and Joly, "Do you mind if we sit with you?"

Joly shrugs, then looks at Christian more closely when Enjolras uses 'we.' "If you like." He glances at Bossuet, who nods.

Bossuet bends down slightly to ask Joly, very quietly, "Who is this 'Caron' fellow, and why is he standing so close to Enjolras?"

Joly bites his lip so as not to laugh at the question, and whispers back, "I'm not sure. I met him yesterday. He seemed like a nice enough sort, but they are standing rather close. Do you think...?"

Enjolras ignores this whispering. Those two frivolous people do it all the time. He pulls out a chair for Christian, then sits in it himself after an awkward pause. "How is the entree this evening?"

"By all means," Prouvaire echoes. And gives Joly and Bossuet a look. "Rather dreadful," he says to Enjolras, "I thought."

Enjolras glances at Christian. "What do you say, Caron? Are you hungry?"

Joly watches Enjolras treat this stranger with more courtesy and deference than he accords anyone else, and nudges Bossuet again.

Grantaire, watching from his corner, just shakes his head darkly.

Bossuet puts a hand on Joly's leg, under the table, gives him a bit of a pinch, and whispers, "Stop. Maybe he's just reformed."

Christian is slowly turning pink. He shakes his head, dragging out a chair between Enjolras and Prouvaire.

Enjolras smiles at Prouvaire, slightly nervously. He has never had to share a room with a female, and it's wearing on him quite a bit. The sleeping arrangements are terribly uncomfortable. And now Christian won't even talk. "Jehan, Caron tells me you met him the other day. What did you tell him about Our Cause?"

Joly coughs again so as to have an excuse to put the handkerchief over his mouth. It wouldn't do to let Enjolras see that he's being laughed at, especially not in front of this new person, whomever he is.

Prouvaire raises innocent blue eyes to his friend. Not for a minute is he going to admit that he and Christian have been talking mostly about poetry. "Oh, the usual introduction."

Enjolras looks at Prouvaire with a slightly brittle smile. "Ah, good. I knew I could trust you." His eyes pass briefly over Joly and Bossuet. Joly is now smirking at him, and he could almost swear that Bossuet winked.

Christian is beginning to look a little pained. He looks at his hands briefly.

Bossuet notices that Enjolras is turning pale and makes a show of rubbing his eyes. "Ah, I must have got a bit of dust in my eye somehow, and you've gone and taken my last handkerchief," he says, berating Joly.

Joly frowns, coming dangerously close to a pout. "Do you need help? I've a swab in my bag, somewhere."

Bossuet wipes at his eye again and tries to wink at Joly with the other to explain the situation. "No, no, it'll be fine."

Prouvaire clears his throat. "Speaking of dust..."

Enjolras looks at Prouvaire instead of at the perplexing duo. "Yes?"

Christian looks to Prouvaire as well, with something of relief.

Prouvaire runs a hand through his untidy hair. "...I, er, what are they making you read this week, Enjolras?"

Joly hits Bossuet gently on the arm for making him worry. "If you're going to be all right, don't complain," he chides.

Enjolras turns bright red. "Rabelais," he answers, trying to sound calm about it.

Prouvaire chuckles. "Oh dear."

Joly smirks slightly. "Have you even read Rabelais, Jehan? I thought you stuck with the classics more than that."

Prouvaire protests, "I tried. I couldn't get into it."

Bossuet chuckles. "It's your own language; how hard can it be?"

Enjolras is still quite pink. "I don't really enjoy it, either. It's too straightforward."

Christian just looks bemused as he listens.

Prouvaire sputters in amusement. "A well-chosen word."

Joly grins and nods. "He doesn't beat around the bush, that's for certain."

Bossuet pokes Joly in the side and mutters, "Neither do you."

Prouvaire just shakes his head, grinning. "No. Ah, well."

Enjolras coughs and looks at Christian, hoping that he won't understand all of this.

Christian looks like he's contemplating asking, but wisely doesn't. He's still being very quiet.

In the corner, Grantaire has lapsed into quiet again, contemplating the tabletop.

Bossuet notices the glance and pokes Joly again in a significant way.

Joly bats Bossuet's hand. "Leave me alone, would you?"

Prouvaire kicks Laigle discreetly under the table in a 'need-you-be-so-obvious' kind of way.

Bossuet frowns at Joly and kicks back at Jehan. "Ah, I am under attack."

Enjolras watches but doesn't understand quite what is going on over there. He turns to Christian and asks, "What do you think of Rousseau?"

Prouvaire looks innocent, as only he can, and glances back at Enjolras, then at the boy.

Joly sighs, which makes him cough, then looks over at Caron.

Christian blinks. "Well... I..." Oh, Marcelin's going to get it later. "I'm not quite sure, yet."

Bossuet raises an eyebrow. He quietly asks Joly, "What is this? Enjolras has a new friend who doesn't have an opinion of Rousseau?"

Prouvaire blinks once at Caron, then aims another remonstrative kick at the whisperers.

Joly mutters back, not exactly quietly enough, "Well, that certainly answers our questions."

Prouvaire gives up. Gossip will out. At least they're not being audible any more. He casts about for something to say.

Enjolras opens his mouth, but cannot think of anything to say, either, so he closes it again.

Bossuet smiles wickedly at Christian. "So, what will you have for dinner, Monsieur Caron?"

Christian adds, rather defensively, "I haven't... finished... reading. Yet." He looks at the tabletop a moment, then blinks over at Bossuet, certain there's something he's missing.

Joly gives Bossuet a shove to make him subside.

Enjolras looks sharply at Bossuet, and says, "Perhaps we should eat elsewhere."

"Now, Enjolras," Prouvaire says peaceably. "Oh, I know what I meant to ask you -- have you seen Combeferre? I wanted his opinion on something but I haven't been able to catch him in..."

Enjolras nods. "I saw him last night." He looks angrily at Bossuet. "If the entree here is not worth eating, I might as well go elsewhere."

"I think," Christian pipes up suddenly, pushing back his chair, "I think I'll just step out for a moment..."

Joly says firmly, "We'll behave." He pokes Bossuet. "Won't we." To Christian, he says, "No, do stay. I apologize for his conduct."

Bossuet rubs his side. "Yes, I'll be good."

Prouvaire glances up at Christian and then over at Enjolras in mute apology or rue, and picks at the fraying cuff of his sleeve for a moment.

Enjolras turns to Christian with a questioning look, but does not object to his departure.

Christian protests faintly, "No, I... I'll be right back. If you'll excuse me..." He smiles fleetingly, and scoots out the door.

Prouvaire blinks after the boy, then shakes his head slightly and turns back to the table.

Enjolras's demeanor changes completely. He takes hold of Bossuet's collar and says angrily, "Stop making those jokes. Now."

Bossuet eeps. "I'm sorry. I will," he says in a small voice.

Prouvaire stares. "Enjolras..." he protests tentatively.

Joly stands and tries to disengage Enjolras's hands from Bossuet. "Leave him be, it was my fault."

Enjolras turns his glare to Joly. "Stop, do you hear? It isn't funny at all."

Prouvaire strives for a calm tone, emulating his absent friend. "I'm sure no offense was meant..."

Bossuet agrees quickly, "No, no, we were only joking. I'm sorry."

Enjolras shakes him, then lets go. "You certainly have an overrated opinion of your humor."

Grantaire peers over at the commotion. Gradually, he registers the tension, the absence of the boy, the potential violence. "Hell," he mutters, "I leave you people alone for five minutes..."

Joly frets. "Oh, stop, Enjolras. We'll behave ourselves. Is your friend so delicate?"

Enjolras turns to Grantaire. "Go back to sleep, winecask. You've no business here." When Joly asks his stupid question, he answers vehemently, "Why treat everyone as if they were him?" with a wave of his hand toward the corner.

"Enjolras," Prouvaire says again, softly but firmly, and reaches up to lay a hand on the leader's arm. He's not Combeferre, of course, and may get it bitten off for his trouble, but he has to try.

"No business, he says," mutters Grantaire, crossly.

Enjolras pushes away Prouvaire's hand. "You are a bunch of meddling fools. I do not know why I associate with you at all." He glares at the three at that table, then again at Grantaire. "You've no business to be here at all."

Grantaire tilts his head back insolently. "I'm not saying a word, monsieur. I have no opinion of lovers' quarrels."

Prouvaire slants a remonstrating glance at Grantaire at the first word, then winces.

Enjolras pushes aside his chair and fairly storms over to the table where Grantaire is sitting. "You had best take that back. Now."

Joly looks at Bossuet with a very worried expression, and calls out, "Grantaire, don't push him. Not now."

Bossuet puts an arm around Joly and asks him, "Do we help R, or leave?"

"Enjolras," Prouvaire protests rather desperately. "Grantaire... oh, good Lord," in an undertone.

Enjolras pays absolutely no attention to the other people and their name calling. "Take it back," he says again.

"Take what back?" Grantaire squints upward unrepentantly. "I told you I'm not saying a word."

Enjolras says very quietly, "That's it." As he speaks, his voice becomes louder. "You have insulted me with your presence for years, annoyed me and my friends when we ought to have been left alone, and now you insult not only my honor but that of my friend, whom you do not know at all?" By this point, he is shouting. "I will not stand for this!"

Grantaire stares unreadably up at him, with no particular expression except a faint sardonic half-smile.

Prouvaire rakes a hand through his hair. "Oh, God... Enjolras!" He pushes to his feet. "Just-- let it go. Please? Let it go."

Enjolras doesn't turn around to look at Prouvaire. Instead, his tone drops to normal speaking voice, or rather declamation, since this is Enjolras we're talking about, and he says, "No. Not this time." He pushes Grantaire's chair over backwards.

Joly jumps to his feet, answering the quiet question loudly. "We help!"

Grantaire naturally goes with it, with an involuntary squawk. He's mercifully still for a moment, the wind knocked out of him.

"Gods," Prouvaire groans, and darts forward to catch Enjolras by the sleeve after the fact.

At which juncture Christian reappears, alarmed no doubt by the crash, and stops in the doorway, staring appalled.

Bossuet and Joly come to assist in the rescue. Bossuet tries to catch hold of Enjolras's other arm, while Joly tries to get between the two.

Enjolras tries to pull away from Prouvaire and push Joly out of the way. "You cannot tell me he does not deserve this!"

Grantaire, still out of breath from the fall, starts laboriously to pick himself up, but doesn't really make any attempt to defend himself verbally or, of more immediate importance, physically.

Christian blinks a few times, stammers, and finally squeaks, "--What's going on--? What..."

Prouvaire half whispers, hanging on doggedly, "For God's sake, mon ami, he's drunk, he doesn't mean it--" He glances distractedly at the door. Oh, just wonderful.

Enjolras turns at the new voice, all the blood dropping from his face, which had been flushed, so that he is rather more pale than normal. Prouvaire, since he is very nearby, just might hear him say, "Merde."

A small spurt of sound issues from Grantaire, possibly hysterical amusement, but it's cut off too soon to really tell.

Bossuet lets go of Enjolras's arm as the fire drops out of his anger. He looks at Prouvaire and says, "Will you be calm, now, Enjolras?"

Joly stays between Enjolras and Grantaire, just in case.

Christian looks from one to another, his eyes resting finally on Enjolras in something close to stark panic. "Is... I... Is everything all right?" Bright boy.

Enjolras runs his now-free hand through his hair and backs away from Grantaire. "Well, yes," he says, utterly unconvincingly.

Prouvaire just shakes his head, and loosens his deathgrip on Enjolras' sleeve. "A slight... misunderstanding."

Grantaire sinks back onto the floor, very slowly, with his back to the wall, and buries his face in his hands.

Joly shakes his head, offers Grantaire a hand up, and says, half to himself and half to Bossuet, "He's gone."

Christian darts another worried glance around the room, lingering by the door. "I, er..." What is there to say?

Bossuet looks from Enjolras and his pathetic attempt at a smile to the terribly nervous Christian, and answers, very quietly, "Yes. I didn't think he'd ever fall this hard. Like an angel from the heavens."

Presently Grantaire notes the offered hand, and decides he may as well make use of it.

Joly helps Grantaire up and gives him a pat on the shoulder. "It'll be all right," he says, though that doesn't seem to be the case.

Enjolras looks from Christian to the door. "Did you have a nice walk?" he asks, lamely, and with full awareness of how lame it is.

"Thanks," Grantaire rasps faintly, pushing a hand through his hair.

Bossuet walks around behind Grantaire and sets the chair upright again, then puts an arm across his shoulders. "Don't worry. He'll be back to normal soon, I should think."

"I just..." Christian seems to be having a touch of trouble breathing. "Just needed a ... bit of air. Smoky in here. I..." He blinks a few times, reddening slowly.

Enjolras, without thinking, walks across the room to Christian and puts a hand on his shoulder. He asks worriedly, "Are you quite all right?"

Joly notes the hand on the shoulder and steps between Grantaire and Enjolras again, hoping to shield Grantaire from a worse blow than a simple chair falling over.

But Grantaire is either chastened by the fall or reluctant to embarrass Caron to his face, for he's quiet, leaning on the table while he gets his breath back.

Christian bites his lip, then unobtrusively shrugs the hand off. "I'm fine. Just, you know..." A watery grin. He glances over at the mess in the corner. "Er, can I help, or something...?"

Enjolras mouths another curse as he realizes that he's done it again, and draws his hand back as if Christian's shoulder has suddenly burned him. "No, no. It was just, you know, he drank too much."

Prouvaire is staying quiet. Very quiet. He looks on rather worriedly.

Bossuet frowns at this. "Caron, do you know Enjolras very well?" He can't let this insult to Grantaire pass. It's enough that he's been ignored and insulted, but this lie is too much for him.

Joly pulls on Bossuet's jacket and shakes his head meaningfully, but it seems to be far too late.

Christian takes in a breath. "I see." Then he turns that startled-fawn look on Bossuet. "I, I... n-- why?"

Grantaire seems oblivious to either his slander or his defense, staring at the floor.

Enjolras, who didn't feel at all threatened by the question, is now more worried than before at Christian's attempt at an answer. It being too late to shush him, he doesn't even try.

Bossuet answers with a scowl, "You might think that our Enjolras is truthful, but it was not Grantaire's fault. He was pushed."

Prouvaire murmurs, "Bossuet," but the rebuke doesn't carry much if any conviction.

Christian blinks, not in the least sure how to take this. He glances anxiously at Enjolras, then at Grantaire, back at Bossuet, speechlessly.

Joly stops Prouvaire and supports Bossuet. "He deserves it," he says, not quite as angrily as Lesgles, but firmly.

Bossuet continues, "Enjolras was upset over some issue of your honor, Monsieur Caron, and he pushed Grantaire's chair. It was unfair and pointless."

Enjolras pales further and walks toward the door. "I'm sorry, Laigle. I was upset."

Bossuet asks angrily, "Why are you apologizing to me? Apologize to Grantaire!"

Christian's wide eyes widen even more and his pale face goes paler. He tries to say something, but no sound comes out. He backs away a little.

Joly puts an arm around Grantaire's shoulders. "He isn't hurt, except his dignity," he says to Bossuet, hoping to slow him down.

Grantaire raises his head slowly at the sound of his name. Blinks owlishly at the tableau. "Bossuet," he says dimly, "you talk too much, mon ami."

Enjolras looks at Bossuet, then at Joly, but not at Grantaire. "I will not apologize to him until he apologizes to me. He insulted me."

But it is Christian who gasps, "I'm sorry!" and rakes a hand through his hair in dismay, almost in tears. "I'm sorry..."

Enjolras turns away from the confrontation and puts his arms around Christian, not thinking about anything but that his sister is crying and he's not going to leave things as they are. "It's not your fault," he murmurs comfortingly.

Joly almost loses his jaw. "Lesgles? I think we have more of a problem than a tiff."

Bossuet nods without being able to say a word.

Christian almost leans against Marcelin, then catches himself and pulls away. Oh, he has truly ruined things. He swipes at his eyes with one shabby cuff. "You don't understand," he says indistinctly to all of them or none of them.

Prouvaire murmurs, "You're right there."

Enjolras realizes that he'd be able to explain his actions more easily if he'd torn off his clothes and run through the cafe screaming 'Long live the King.' He doesn't let Christian go, but steers him towards the door with one arm around his waist and, turning back, says, "I'm sorry, Grantaire. This has all gotten quite out of hand."

That gets an actual reaction out of the abused though culpable Grantaire. Shock, to be precise. He says nothing, however, just stares.

Bossuet looks from the flabbergasted Joly to the bewildered Grantaire, and manages to answer for them, "Thank you, Enjolras. Au revoir, Christian." His voice breaks on the last.

Prouvaire takes in a deep breath and lets it out again. "Afternoon," he says to the couple with as much composure as he can muster.

Christian squeaks again, miserably, "I'm sorry," before eluding Enjolras' hold and darting out.

Enjolras starts to go after him, then turns back to the men in the cafe and says, "He's my cousin. Don't make stupid assumptions," before he leaves apace.

Joly mutters something about "kissing cousins."

Bossuet looks to Grantaire. "Well, that explains some of it."

Prouvaire blinks, and reddens. Why didn't he think of that? "I... see." Go home and crawl in a hole now, Jehan.

Joly smiles lopsidedly at Prouvaire. "You weren't the only one, Jehan. Don't worry about it overmuch."

Prouvaire buries his face in one hand. "I feel like a fool. A low-minded, ineffectual, unsufferable fool."

Bossuet grins at Prouvaire, almost. "And so do I. At least you weren't the one making rude cracks."

"S'pose it does," Grantaire mutters, somewhat shamefaced.

Bossuet looks at Grantaire and smiles more sincerely now that he's talking again. "Yes, it explains rather a lot, though I'd not have expected him to have such a delicate family."

"If he'd said that in the first place," Prouvaire laments, sinking back into a chair.

Joly blushes. "This is Marcelin we're talking about, Jehan. He probably thought we would be kind to anyone, and not make that sort of assumption."

Prouvaire scrubs a hand over his face. "I would have thought we would too," he says, half reproachful, half miserably.

Bossuet sighs. "It was such an intriguing concept."

Grantaire subsides slowly into his chair, which creaks rather more than it did before.

Joly looks at the creaking chair. "Bother. Perhaps we'll have to pay for that."

Bossuet shakes his head. "Enjolras ought to. He did break it, even if he had some sort of a reason he wouldn't tell us."

Grantaire grimaces faintly. "I didn't know he had cousins," he says vaguely.

Joly raises an eyebrow. "Why would you know a thing like that?"

Grantaire peers at Joly dimly. Shrugs.

Bossuet wrinkles his nose. "They do look enough alike to be cousins, now that I think of it."

Prouvaire blinks. "You know, you're right. The boy's so dark, I hadn't noticed."

Joly nods. "It's easy to see once you're thinking of it."


In the street, Chantal stops about half a block from the café and breaks down in tears.

Enjolras catches up to her and puts a hand on her shoulder. "It's all right, really. I told them you were my cousin. They'll be more sensible now."

Chantal turns and throws her arms around him, heedless of the hundreds of strangers who might see them. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't know it would be like that!"

Enjolras holds her. "Shhh, Chantoinette. It wasn't your fault at all. I did not think that Joly and Lesgles would be so rude, and I have never had the patience to listen to Grantaire. It was my fault. I ought to have warned you." Most of the words are muffled in her hair or drowned out by her sobs, but the comforting tone comes across.

"But I..." she gasps, "...should have, have.... s-said something..."

Enjolras shakes his head, though she cannot see. "What would you have said? If you'd told the whole truth, they'd have been giving you odd looks for another reason entirely. If you'd tried to explain in a lie, it might have fallen apart."

Chantal giggles through her tears. "I d-don't lie well, do I?"

Enjolras chuckles. "Nor do I. Maman would be proud of us."

Chantal sniffles, raising her head a bit, and essays a watery smile. "I suppose so. She wouldn't be proud of anything else about me right now."

Enjolras rummages in his pocket for a handkerchief and, when he finds one, hands it to her. "I am proud of you."

Which makes Chantal dissolve again. "Oh..." She takes the handkerchief, mopping at her eyes and nose.

Enjolras adds, "You're going to have fun while you're here. More fun than this, certainly. I'm proud of you even though you nearly helped me ruin my reputation." He calmly holds her while she works her way back to normal.

Chantal gulps, "I'm sorry, Marcelin. I didn't think..." She blows her nose awkwardly.

Enjolras smiles a little. "Neither did I."

Chantal sniffs, wadding up the handkerchief. "I feel like a fool."

"So do I. I wish we'd thought of the cousin story before all of that happened." He shakes his head. "It will all work out. Perhaps you should wash your face, and then we could go back and see how it goes from there?"

"I think--" Chantal blows her nose again "--t-that's half my trouble. I haven't any story. I don't know what to say." She nods docilely, though, to the plan.

Enjolras lets her go. "All right, so we'll think of one. And remind me to keep my hands off of you, even if you are distraught. I keep thinking, 'Oh dear, my baby sister is in trouble,' instead of 'My cousin is upset, but he's a man, he'll be fine.'"

Chantal giggles again, mopping her eyes once more. "I'll try."

Enjolras smiles at her. "As will I. If we fail, the worst that will happen is that we explain the real situation, and go from there. They won't want you to go home, not immediately."

Christian makes a rueful face, and nods.

Enjolras thinks about it. "Well, if you're my cousin, perhaps you don't live far from me. You've just come to Paris, that much is obvious. What do you study, and where, or are you still trying to find a school?"

She looks up at him wryly. "I don't know. What makes more sense?"

Enjolras wrinkles his nose. "You look so nervous, you're probably still looking for a place in a school and are afraid that you'll run out of money any minute. And that's why you're staying with me."

Christian pinkens, but nods assent.

Enjolras pats Christian's shoulder. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it soon, and so will I. What do you want to study?"

Christian runs a hand through her hair. "I don't know that either." Ah, the ignorance of girls.

Enjolras sighs. "I can't decide that for you. I know you had some lessons at home. Which did you enjoy the most?"

Christian scratches her nose. "Well... poetry, I suppose. And history, but I didn't get to do much of that."

Enjolras shakes his head. "And you thought you'd like Combeferre best of my friends. I'll have to keep you away from Prouvaire."

Christian gives him a mock reproving look. "There's nothing wrong with poetry."

Enjolras clucks his tongue against his teeth. "You'll never amount to anything as a poet, Caron." He shakes his head, almost despairingly. "You should follow some profitable career."

Christian's eyes light in amusement. "Don't be so stuffy, Enjolras. Since when do you care about profitable careers?"

Enjolras shrugs and harrumphs. "You are my darling cousin. I should be at least as sensible on your behalf as I am on my own."

Christian bites back a giggle. She is trying.

Enjolras's mouth twitches at the corner. "You're allowed to be sillier than I am. If you weren't, they'd think you were mad."

Christian does giggle at that. "You're not silly at all."

Enjolras nods solemnly. "I know. They know, too, and they think I'm far too serious for my own health."

Christian leans up to hug him again. "Maybe just a little."

Enjolras gently rebuffs her. "I like being serious. If you insist on embracing me, they will think me frivolous instead."

Christian bites her lip; then says gruffly, "Sorry."

Enjolras laughs at that. "Yes, that's it, grunt a bit. If you pick up the habit, you might even be allowed to stay in Paris."

Which elicits another giggle, despite all her best intentions.


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