1. The New Boy

Paris. April, 1832

Christian might be sixteen or seventeen; certainly he's no older. Small and slight, fine-boned, he has a look of frailty. His dead-black hair, rather badly cut, has a tendency to wave, and his eyes are a startling deep violet in a pallid, oddly elfin face. His hands are delicate, immaculate, neither callused nor inkstained; he moves with a sort of hesitancy, like a skittish cat. All in all, 'Mother's boy' is written rather plainly on him, and the impression is only softened by his shabby though well-made clothing: faded brown coat and trousers, the linen shirt yellowed a little from age.

Enjolras walks into the cafe and sees that there is no one here he knows, just some new boy. Never one to miss a chance to proselytize, he walks over to the stranger. "Bonjour, Monsieur."

Christian is perched, not slouched but perched despite his efforts, in a chair near the back. He flicks a startled glance upwards, and instantly looks down again. "Bonjour," in a thread of a voice.

Enjolras raises an eyebrow at the timidity. "Are you new here? No matter what you might have heard, I do not bite."

Christian coughs rather violently of a sudden. "I... Yes, I--" Oh God. "What should I have heard?"

Enjolras smiles, which makes him look slightly less forbidding. After all, this isn't his nemesis or some silly girl trying to seduce him. He just wants to recruit this boy. "I shall explain, if you like. May I sit down?"

Christian takes in a breath quickly, sitting up a little. "...Of course."

Enjolras shakes his head slightly, and pulls out a chair. As he sits down, he says, "Really, I won't hurt you." Then, he looks more closely at the boy's face, and blinks, then laughs slightly at himself. "What's your name, Monsieur?"

Christian keeps his head bent a little. Shy, perhaps. "Christian, monsieur. Christian Caron."

Enjolras nods. "Delighted, Caron. My name is Marcelin Enjolras."

Again the cough, a bit less thorough than before. "Pleasure to meet you." He shifts a little in his seat. Fidgets would not be too strong a word.

Enjolras frowns slightly. "Are you quite well? Perhaps you should have something to drink." He gets back to the spiel. "Where are you studying?"

Don't panic, Chris. Don't give him a reason to look real hard at you... don't hyperventilate... The boy glances up with a vaguely distracted air. "Hmmm? Oh... Why?"

Enjolras looks rather worried about this terribly confused student. After all the first question is 'Where do you study?' and the second is 'What are you studying?' It's strange to see a student shake over such a simple thing. He thinks that perhaps the boy has run out of funds for his classes, or something like that. "I was merely curious as to whether you'd met any of my friends."

"Oh." Christian blinks a few times. "I see. Yes, I... Jean Prouvaire spoke of you." Another cough.

Prouvaire? He would probably have discussed something of the Republic, unlike some of the other men who come to this cafe. He's pleased by that. "Ah, good. Then you have heard of the cause? Are you afraid of change, Monsieur?" His tone doesn't make it seem like much of an option.

Christian squares his shoulders, which only makes him look younger. "Certainly not."

Enjolras's eyebrows draw together. "You look like someone I know."

Christian coughs again, protractedly and for real this time, because in the middle of that involuntary gasp he got dust in his throat. "...Really?" he says weakly when he can talk again.

"Yes, really, but I can't think who." He listens to the cough. "You sound like you're quite ill."

Christian puts a hand to his throat momentarily. "Cold," he says faintly. "I'm getting over it. Thank you."

Enjolras notes that the boy's hands are incredibly delicate, without even a callus from writing. "That's too bad." The gesture looks familiar. "You remind me of one of my cousins, that's it."

"How odd," Christian says lamely. Oh, this is not going well.

Enjolras shrugs slightly. "Where are you from? Perhaps we are related in some distant fashion."

Combeferre walks into the cafe from the blustery day outside. He smooths his hair back and calls out, "Marcelin! Christian! Good day to you both."

Christian, flustered, takes a moment to react. "Oh!" Oh, thank God. "Hello."

Enjolras looks over at the sound of his name. "Ah, Combeferre, come and sit with us." He glances back at Caron. "You've met?"

Joly bundles his arms around him as he follows at some distance, "Goodness!" he murmurs to himself, rubbing his nose with both hands as he feels the first signs of frostbite setting in.

"Briefly," murmurs young Caron, diffident, but visibly relieved. He casts a quick smile to Joly.

Enjolras shakes his head as Joly comes in the door. "Are we having a meeting that I did not know of, Combeferre?"

Combeferre smiles. "I encountered Christian here yesterday. Perhaps we shall have a meeting, with this many people here, and to show our new friend what to expect from us." He raises an eyebrow at Caron. "Would you mind awfully if Alexandre joined us?"

Christian blinks. "Me? No, of course not..."

Enjolras calls out, "Joly! Come join the convention, meet Caron."

Combeferre adds politely and slightly more quietly as Joly approaches, "Christian Caron, this is Alexandre Joly."

Joly shuffles in and moves over, "Oh! The cold's going right to my sinuses." his nostrils flare as though he may sneeze, but he doesn't, and he looks up at the introduction. "Pleasure, Monsieur Caron." He briefly looks the fellow over for signs of illness, but nothing too noticable.

Christian dips his head politely. "Likewise."

Enjolras's mouth twists at the corner. "Don't worry, Caron. You won't catch anything worse from Joly; most likely, he's just joking with you."

Which elicits from Caron something perilously near a giggle. He manages to modulate it to a grin.

Combeferre chuckles, too, which partially covers Christian's more high-pitched amusement. "What is the cure of the hour, Alexandre?"

Enjolras looks at Christian sharply at the giggle. "That sounded familiar," he says, almost completely to himself.

Joly twitches, "Worse? What is it that's ailing you, Monsiuer? I am... almost... a physician." Then, to Combeferre, "A careful watch of the diet, for anything too sour may upset the balance of acids in the digestive tract, while bitter foods will dry the mouth and throat and leave it susceptable to infections."

Combeferre nods sagely. "Indeed. Flavors are ever important to the health. Surely you knew that, Christian?"

Christian protests, "I'm fine, really." He glances up at Joly in mingled admiration and amusement. "Oh. Of course."

Enjolras looks more closely at Christian as he has nothing to say about illnesses.

Joly takes in a deep breath, "The cold has seeped into my brain," he informs the room, "I must go home and take some vapors before gangrene sets in."

Enjolras is momentarily distracted. "Au revoir, Joly."

Combeferre adds, "See you around, Alexandre."

Christian blinks. "Gangrene," he says blankly. "Good afternoon..."

Enjolras looks back at Christian now that one distraction has gone. "You are more familiar than I thought at first, Monsieur."

Christian takes refuge in another cough. "--Oh?"

Combeferre asks, "Whatever are you talking about? Didn't you just meet today?"

Enjolras looks quite intently at Christian. "Yes, I met him today, but I am sure I have seen him before, and he looks more familiar the more I look at him."

Christian looks oh, so innocent, despite the fact that he's reddening a bit. He looks blankly at Combeferre.

Enjolras slaps the table. "Chantal! What on earth are you doing here?" He leaps to his feet and grabs Christian/Chantal in a crushing embrace.

Christian gasps, and is about to protest when he or rather she is engulfed. Whatever she was going to say comes out as a muffled squeak, and she hugs Marcelin back rather helplessly.

Combeferre observes rather curiously, as he's never seen Marcelin hug anyone at all. "Chantal?" he asks after a moment.

Enjolras releases Chantal and holds her at arm's length, looking over what she has done to her lovely self. "Indeed. And I don't know why I didn't recognize her before; she's only my sister, after all."

Combeferre tries to sound as if he understands. "Ahh."

Chantal bites her lip, staring down at her shirtfront. "I don't know why you didn't either," she says, rather ruefully.

Enjolras gathers her back into his arms. "What are you doing here, Chantoinette?"

Combeferre leans back in his chair, observing the reunion, but not deigning to comment.

Chantal nestles against her brother's shoulder, though she still looks wry. "Sitting around in dusty old cafes. What does it look like?"

Enjolras half laughs, but stops himself and tries to be stern. "Does Maman know where you are?"

Chantal does the same little drawing-herself-up that failed so miserably earlier. "Of course not."

Enjolras sighs. "She will be worried about you. Perhaps she will think that you were carried off by gypsies."

Chantal glowers. "She won't. And I don't care."

Combeferre hides a smile behind his hand. "Where are you staying, Chantal?"

Enjolras forestalls any answer on her part. "With me, now, until she goes home."

"Upstairs..." Chantal begins, and is drowned out, not unwillingly.

Combeferre nods. "And that will look well, won't it? Marcelin and his new boy, rooming together."

Enjolras turns quite pink and looks away from both of them. "I hadn't thought of that," he says, very quietly.

Chantal, innocent that she is, doesn't even get the implications right away. She frowns blankly at Combeferre.

Combeferre explains gently, "Marcelin has not had so much as a mistress since I have met him. If you should room with him, some of our friends might make, ah, untoward assumptions."

Chantal pinkens almost exactly as her brother did. "Oh," she says, rather faintly.

Enjolras avoids meeting either of their gazes. "She can't stay here. It's not appropriate for a young lady." He looks firmly at the table.

Chantal giggles suddenly. "But he just said it, Marcelin, I'm not a young lady..."

Enjolras stops her, and does look at her in an attempt to frighten her away from the idea. "No! Chantal..." he trails off uncomfortably.

Combeferre is not above a bit of mischief when the occasion presents itself so neatly. "After all, what better way to keep her safe? Unless you'd rather she went home with me, that is."

Chantal smothers a grin.

Enjolras gives Chantal another sharp look. He remembers her affection for Combeferre, though she's never met him until today. "Or she could go home. Isn't that a good idea?"

"No," she says at once, straightening. "I am not going home. No."

Combeferre sees that Marcelin is really considering this. "Come now, let the girl have an adventure. She's come this far without a chaperone, and come to no harm." He glances at her for confirmation.

Chantal nods agreement at once.

Combeferre smiles, then continues, "Think how much fun she can have. You can show her the sights, introduce her to all of your fascinating friends." He spreads his hands a bit, emphasizing the potentials of Parisian life. "She will learn so much. Let her stay."

Enjolras relents slightly under the onslaught of his two favorite people. "For a week, then." He catches the look in her eyes. "She stays with me."

Chantal looks doubtful at this last bit, but forbears to protest.

Combeferre nods. "She stays with you, then." He looks at Chantal, giving her a victorious smile. "Do you need help moving your luggage, mam'selle?"

Chantal shakes her head. "I hardly brought anything with me."

Enjolras takes a deep breath. "I cannot believe I am doing this. I ought to send you home at once," he says in an undertone, then more loudly, "Shall we be going, Cha-- ah, Christian?"

Chantal suppresses another giggle, eyes aglitter with triumphant delight. "Very well," she says in her best Christian voice, which still needs work.

Combeferre grins at Marcelin. "I'll see you two around, then, some other time."

Enjolras nods. "You will." He goes to give Chantal his arm, looks at Christian, and stops himself.

Chantal glows briefly at this prospect; then she slants a grin at Enjolras, and gets to her feet.

Enjolras says slightly sharply in a voice intended to speed Combeferre on his way, "Adieu, Combeferre."

Combeferre winks at Chantal. "Adieu, Marcelin. Adieu, Christian. Take care."

"Au revoir, Combeferre," says 'Christian' very softly, and smiles at him fleetingly and not without mischief.

Enjolras clears his throat. "Let's go, Christian."

Combeferre smiles back at Christian, then starts whistling as he leaves.

Christian just grins, and follows where Enjolras leads. Doesn't everyone?

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