34. If We Forget History

Mathieu steps quietly into the Corinth, eyes sunken. Ever since the barricades... he took it to heart more than he had thought he would, it seems. Thus is the fortune of the idealist. "Wine," he murmurs, "Preferably something better than the dregs you usually sell."

The door swings inward, and an unusually mellow Grantaire braces it open for Enjolras.

The Corinth is still quite shabby from its little tangle with the Republic. Mme. Hucheloup hasn't the money to fix it properly, and at this rate she can't make it. Fricassee is sadder than ever, and Chowder, if it is possible, is uglier. The former happens to be sleeping on the bar when the young men enter, and wakes up to give Mathieu a lugubrious look before serving him a glass of the same wine as always.

Mathieu quaffs the wine in a gulp - he should have expected such. Coins clatter on the counter. "Refill, please, mam'selle."

Enjolras enters, but gives Grantaire a slight warning look. "What are you doing?" he asks in an undertone before he sees the haggard Mathieu. It's a familiar face. Ah, yes, the boy with the artichokes -- and the brawl. This should be interesting. "Bonjour."

Grantaire looks innocent, and follows him in, letting the door bang shut.

The serving girl is a little surprised to be asked so suddenly. She complies, however, and then pulls out a bottle for Grantaire and walks over to place it on his usual table.

Mathieu turns his head. "What's so bloody 'bon' about this day, m'sieu?"

Enjolras blinks. Ah, just what he needs, another rude boy. "Nothing, apparently. I'm sorry I suggested it." His tone suggests nothing of the sort, rather the opposite.

Mathieu sighs, looking down. "My apologies, m'sieu... I'm sorry." He sighs, shaking his head.

"My God," Grantaire remarks mildly, "you sound like me." He meanders over to kick out a chair.

Enjolras points out almost gently, "Wine is not going to make you feel better."

Mathieu shrugs. "Won't make me feel worse either."

Grantaire drops into a seat, slouching there in his graceless way. "He's got a point." Which of them he's supporting is unclear, however.

Enjolras looks levelly at Grantaire. "It won't make you feel better tonight, and it will make you feel worse tomorrow." He's addressing both of them.

Grantaire cannot pass up such a golden opportunity to be annoying. "I'll take it from you," he says innocently to Enjolras.

Mathieu shrugs. "The solution is simple, m'sieu. More wine."

That's a good idea, Grantaire. Let's get him into a murderous rage. But no, he's going to count to five, take deep breaths, and be a little sensible. Instead of attacking the man at his table, Enjolras addresses Mathieu. "That just makes the morning worse."

Mathieu peers at Enjolras. "Dunno. Been awhile since I've seen the morning."

"Noon, then. It's brighter then, and it would be worse." Enjolras may not be an expert on wine, but he knows that hangovers are awful.

For what it's worth, Grantaire seems to regret this little crack once it's said. He subsides a little, and only inquires mildly of Mathieu, "What's wrong?"

Mathieu shakes his head, looking away. "It's not important, m'sieus. Please, I'm sorry to have bothered the two of you."

Enjolras shrugs slightly. "You didn't bother me." He asks Grantaire, "What did we come here for, anyway?"

"The rustic ambiance?" It's lame as witticisms go, and delivered almost meekly.

Enjolras pretends to consider this, smiling. "No, I don't think that was it."

Grantaire does his flippant shrug. "I don't know."

Mathieu just sips at his new glass of wine, watching.

Enjolras turns to Mathieu in his semi-serious seach for enlightenment. "Why did you come to this forsaken place, m'sieur?"

Mathieu smirks. "It was better than the gutter, m'sieu."

Enjolras considers this. "The company's no better."

Grantaire sputters a bit, but holds his peace.

Mathieu raises a brow. "No? You're calling yourself gutter scum, then?"

Enjolras keeps his sense of humor a few minutes longer. "No, no, I said it would be better company. No shouting, no brawling." This seems to be a bit of an apology.

Mathieu blinks. My... that was unexpected.

Grantaire volunteers, with ironical mildness, "He's not usually that violent."

Enjolras shrugs slightly. "Only when properly provoked." He leans across the table to nudge Grantaire, but not particularly hard.

Mathieu murmurs, "Most people generally are."

Grantaire nudges back lightly. "Right."

Enjolras realizes that this man's last significant memory of him includes a fistfight with Grantaire, and that this must look odd, at the very least. "Fortunately, most anything can be worked out with the proper negotiations."

Rather suddenly Grantaire is overtaken by a violent coughing fit.

Mathieu murmurs, "And wine, no doubt."

"Wine, yes." Grantaire gets a look for his coughing, but it's almost affectionate. Enjolras is feeling better now that more twisted past has been cleared away. "It didn't help. Well, not much."

Grantaire recovers enough to murmur, "I wouldn't say that."

Enjolras glances away, a bit chagrined. "All right, so it helped. But I don't think it will help you, particularly, m'sieur. Not if you want to forget."

Mathieu chuckles quietly. "No... forgetting would be bad."

Grantaire flicks an odd little smile at Enjolras; then looks back to Mathieu, and asks again, "What?"

Mathieu murmurs, "If I forget, I cannot learn." He looks away.

Enjolras asks, "Forget what?" as if Grantaire has not been asking the same question.

Mathieu murmurs, "The past. Why certain things fail, and how to keep them from failing again."

Enjolras finds this a sobering observation. "I see. But if you do not want to forget, why do you drink?"

Grantaire folds his arms on the table, and listens.

Mathieu snorts. "Because I don't know if I am up to the task, naturally."

"Remembering?" Combeferre's approach seems merited here. "Talk about it, and we can help."

Mathieu shakes his head mutely.

Grantaire amends quietly, "We can try."

"We can't help if we don't know what's wrong." Trite, Enjolras, but true.

Mathieu murmurs, "Merci, gentlemen, but I will pass for now."

Grantaire inclines his head in silent acceptance, and after a moment looks away again.

"As you like." Enjolras looks speculatively at the bottle of wine on the table, and asks Grantaire, "Are you going to pour that, or just watch it?"

Grantaire glances up, quirking a brow. Half-grins, and sets about doing the former, lackadaisically.

"Merci." Enjolras takes the glass and toasts Mathieu. "Enjoy your wine."

Grantaire deftly pours out another glass and follows suit, in not unsympathetic silence.

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