32. Tacit Apology

The next morning, Enjolras is sitting on his neatly-made bed, trying to read some play or other, when he is interrupted by a knock on the door. "Marcelin?" Etienne's voice calls. "May I come in?" The surfeit of manners would be almost amusing from anyone else. With Etienne, it feels like there is a new wall between them.

Fortunately, there is a door in that wall. "Yes, please do." The man who enters is more timid than is his wont, but after a moment's hesitation in the middle of the floor, he meets Marcelin's eyes.

"Are you all right?" The question betrays a day of worrying when he could not speak of the situation at all. Chantal and Régine would not have understood in the slightest, and neither would they have been able to help.

The question takes Marcelin off guard. "All right? How do you mean?"

"My God, man, everything!" It is odd how a normally calm man can be inspired to raise his voice: not by revolution and certain death, but by concern for his friends. "Have you gone mad? Did he make you drink?"

The first question goes unanswered, because the proper response has yet to be determined. "No. He didn't make me do anything." Marcelin's voice is even. It occurs to him how odd it is that he is defending Grantaire to Combeferre. It is a true reversal of the norm. "Please, Etienne, sit down. Relax."

He does the former, but not the latter.

"I'm --" 'all right,' but that isn't necessarily the case. "I wasn't forced into anything at all."

Etienne looks both frightened and reassured by that. "Are you sure you're not going mad? Doing -- that -- with him, no less."

"I'm not sure of anything." Marcelin is almost hysterical; he laughs before he speaks again. Etienne watches him, concerned. "It was what I needed. Maybe I still need it."

The next question is more difficult. "Are you in love?"

With anyone else, Marcelin would avoid this issue entirely, or be upset that it was raised. For Etienne, he answers quietly and honestly. "I don't know. I haven't thought about it." He puts a hand on Etienne's shoulder. It calms both of them. "Please don't worry about me. You've always thought it would be good for me to have a little fun, find a willing girl, and relax." Another laugh, this one more natural. "I'm sorry I found the wrong gender."

That was the first issue Etienne expected to deal with, so he has a response prepared and delivers it immediately. "That's not a problem." As he says it, it sounds almost like a lie, so he amends, "I'm not used to the idea, yet. I just want to know that you're all right, whatever you're doing."

"I'm not used to the idea, either." Marcelin is tired; his voice goes from giddy to dragging very quickly. "And I don't know if I'm all right. I only know what I want to do, and that doesn't happen much in advance."

He sounds lost. Etienne puts an arm around his shoulders. "If you ever need someone to talk to, you know how to find me. I will listen, whether it helps or not."

"I know. Thank you." It is all that needs to be said. They sit together for a few moments, then Etienne gives him one last squeeze and stands.

"I need to go, take care of your family, mend friendships, all that." He winks.

"Take care. I believe I shall be presentable today, if Mother wants to see me."

Etienne grins at that. "I'll tell her." He pauses at the door. "I always told you he was human, didn't I?"

"You never told me I was. That's the problem."

He stands there a moment, thinking that over, then nods and leaves.

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