8. Fraternal Instincts

The next afternoon, Enjolras strides into Musain and, without asking, sits with Christian. "Bonjour. How are your new lodgings?"

Christian looks up quickly, turning pink. "Oh. Hullo. --Just fine."

Enjolras frowns. "What's wrong? Do you need more money to contribute to the rent, or something?"

Feuilly is slung in a chair near a sunny window, at his ease. Sundays are wonderful things. He waves to Enjolras as the latter comes in, carefully casual.

Christian shakes his head. "No, no... I mean-- really, we-- we're managing. Quite nicely."

Courfeyrac and Pontmercy walk into the café. Courfeyrac is reading a bill and cursing. "Every time I look at it, it's still too much. How could Manon have spent that much money in only a week?"

Pontmercy smiles vaguely at Feuilly, then at Enjolras, who pays no attention to him at all. "I don't know. Perhaps she needed new bedding, or something, and it was the time to buy it. I know I spend more than I should, sometimes, because I can't avoid it."

Enjolras doesn't stop frowning. "You look worried. Have you heard from your parents?" It doesn't seem likely; he'd have heard something first, but it would worry her.

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "I am sure I don't know." He smiles at Feuilly. "It's really not all that much. I was just surprised."

Feuilly grins that understated grin. "Afternoon, you two."

Christian looks blankly at Enjolras a minute; then, "Oh. No, no. --I'm not worried."

Pontmercy blinks. "Is it? I could have sworn it was lunchtime." He pats his coat absently, then frowns. "Ah, that's right, I sold my watch."

Enjolras persists. "Then why did you look so nervous when I came in?"

Courfeyrac fumbles for his own watch. "It's noon," he informs his timeless companion.

"I didn't," protests Caron, his voice rising a bit. "Don't be silly."

Feuilly shrugs, looking on imperturbably. After a moment he kicks out a chair by way of invitation.

Enjolras sighs. "I am not being silly. You're my-- cousin, I think I know your expressions quite well. But if you are not worried, then that is good." He shakes his head slightly, and asks, "Would you eat lunch with me? I don't see you enough anymore."

Christian takes in a breath. "All right."

Courfeyrac grins, and asks unnecessarily, "May we sit with you, Feuilly?"

Feuilly chuckles a bit. "Be my guest."

"All right, what would you like?" Enjolras is having trouble remembering that this person is his little sister. Christian is just so different from prim and proper Chantal, because no matter how much Chantoinette wanted to be a boy, she never looked this much like one. "And are you thirsty?"

Pontmercy appears vaguely surprised that he's been invited to sit, but he does, and so does Courfeyrac. "How has work been?" Courfeyrac asks as he folds the bill and puts it in his pocket.

Christian looks utterly at a loss, proving that yes, there's still a Chantoinette in there, who's never really needed to decide these things. "I don't care."

Enjolras blinks. "All right, how about soup, then? I believe it's onion, today."

"Same," says Feuilly, nudging aside the book he's been half-reading, "except that the more I have to deal with Lefevre the more I want to throw him out a window. How's school been?"

Christian shrugs. "All right."

Pontmercy shrugs. "Blondeau always asks such difficult questions, and I still don't know why an attorney should have to take mathematics."

Courfeyrac nods. "It doesn't seem like it would be all that necessary."

Feuilly flashes one of those startling grins, but says nothing.

Pontmercy continues, "Besides, if the professor doesn't know what he's talking about, why should I?"

Enjolras hails a waitress and orders two bowls of soup and two small loaves of bread.

"After all," Marius mutters, "if they understood, why would they ask so many questions?"

Christian ventures, "How have you been?"

Feuilly cuts a glance over at Courfeyrac, amused.

Courfeyrac is smirking and trying not to laugh too loudly, because Marius isn't even smiling, and he might be offended if they do. "That," he says finally, "is a very good question."

"Ah, the same as ever," Enjolras answers. He's quiet for a moment, then admits, "I miss you."

Pontmercy nods solemnly. If it were anyone else, one would say he was joking. "Thank you, René," he says. "It has been puzzling me for years."

Feuilly just looks down at the tabletop with that subtly amused expression. Presently he remarks, "Missed all the fun, yesterday."

Courfeyrac raises an eyebrow. "Ah, how sinful of me. What fun?"

"Fistfight," says Feuilly succinctly. Nods covertly at Enjolras.

Even Pontmercy perks up at that one. "Really? Him?" he asks incredulously. Shows you just how much he pays attention.

Christian raises his eyes a bit uncertainly. After a moment he puts out a hand to squeeze Enjolras' comfortingly. Or for comfort.

Enjolras takes her hand and still does not smile, though he squeezes it. "He's taking care of you, isn't he?"

Courfeyrac looks over at Enjolras and says, "Let me guess. It was something to do with Caron, and he took it out on Grantaire?"

Feuilly raises a hand. "On my honor. Was a mess in here." He slants a glance at Courfeyrac, brows lifted. Amused again, possibly. "You did hear."

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "No. I know Enjolras, and I can see him hovering over that cousin of his."

Pontmercy blinks and looks. "That's Enjolras's cousin?"

"Of course," she says at once, and blinks at him.

Feuilly grins a bit. "So we're told." And to Courfeyrac: "I don't know what set him off, myself, but..." he trails off expressively.

A ghost of a smile tweaks the corners of Enjolras's mouth, and then is gone. "Good. He'd better."

Courfeyrac leans back in his chair. "Go on, don't stop there. You have to tell me about it, at least."

Pontmercy looks again and Enjolras and the boy, and shakes his head. "I'd never have thought Enjolras had a cousin at all. Or anyone he'd be that close to."

"Even Enjolras didn't hatch out of an egg," Feuilly remarks. He looks doubtfully at Courfeyrac for a moment, but if he doesn't spill, someone less impartial will. "I don't know. We were talking. Caron wanders off, talks to Grantaire a minute, the next thing I know about it Grantaire's on the floor and Enjolras is shouting something about... how did he put it..."

Courfeyrac listens to the story, and tries to picture it.

Pontmercy's lips move. He's apparently repeating some of the words so that they sink in.

Christian ducks his head a moment, blushing again despite himself. "I, um." He runs a hand through his untidy hair. "Are you... all right?"

Enjolras is taken aback. "I'm fine. You were the one who was looking worried."

"Well, I forget his exact eloquent words, but Joly and Lesgle took exception, and it went to hell from there." Feuilly shrugs, resettling himself in his seat.

The waitress brings the soup and bread, and puts it down on the table. Enjolras pays her.

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Oh no, he was on about that again, was he?" He sighs. "I do wish he'd learn a little tolerance."

Christian glances up at him again. "I mean, after last night..." He mentions it hesitantly.

Pontmercy looks from Courfeyrac to Feuilly. "On about what again?" he asks.

Feuilly nods; then, "Nothing," he says to Marius patiently.

Courfeyrac also answers, "Nothing," then rolls his eyes slightly at Feuilly.

Enjolras blushes bright red and looks studiously at his soup. "I don't think you understand Grantaire. You were sitting with him." It's a terrible tone of censure. A casual observer might think that this Grantaire fellow was a leper or something of that kind.

Christian says as he said to Combeferre, simply, "I had to sit somewhere."

"You let him touch you," in the same sort of tone, only more so, as if Grantaire had been acting like Joly had been.

Pontmercy knits his brows. "Then why did it all go to hell?" he asks after a moment.

Feuilly takes a breath, and decides that Courfeyrac can explain this bit.

Whereupon Caron goes red in his turn. "It wasn't anything."

Courfeyrac thinks before he answers. "You know that Enjolras doesn't like Grantaire, right?" That's a safe enough start.

That doesn't reassure Enjolras. "Yes, it was. It's enough you suddenly decided to move. I shouldn't have let you, if you're going to fall in with bad company like that."

Pontmercy nods. "I think so."

Christian's chin comes up. "I'm not falling in with anybody. The others were busy" and scary "and he asked me to sit so I did. Was I supposed to say no, my cousin doesn't want me to associate with you?"

Courfeyrac glances at Feuilly and mutters, "This is going to take all night." To Marius, more loudly, he says, "It was just an extension of that."

"Preserve his blessed innocence," murmurs Feuilly.

Enjolras looks equally stubborn. "He wouldn't have been in the least bit surprised, I assure you. If you're going to be that unwary, I will not let you out of my sight, or I will have to write to Maman again."

Pontmercy considers it. "Oh. So he really doesn't like Grantaire, hm?"

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Decidedly not."

Pontmercy asks, "But what did Lesgle and Joly have to do with it? Lesgle is so nice, I can't imagine anyone not liking him."

Courfeyrac tries to call in the tag team and looks desperately at Feuilly.

Feuilly takes in another breath, and lets it out again, looking bemused. "They were defending Grantaire's... actions." Right. That sounds all right.

Christian scowls. "He didn't do anything. If he'd done anything I would have got up and left. I'm not stupid."

Pontmercy nods, trying to look as if that makes sense. "That's good of them, then."

"Isn't it?" agrees Feuilly guilelessly.

Enjolras frowns right back. He looks much less pleasant when his human emotions get the better of him. "I wasn't in the room until I saw him touching you. How do I know how careful you are?"

Courfeyrac puts a hand across his mouth to stop himself from laughing. "It certainly is."

Christian slouches back in his chair sullenly. "You might trust me for a little sense."

Enjolras sighs. "I thought I could trust you, and then I find you with that libertine groping you." He says it without a sense of irony, as if R really had been violating Christian.

Pontmercy relaxes in his chair. "It must have been heartwarming to watch such good friends defending each other."

Courfeyrac asks Feuilly quietly, "I can't recall. Was our Pontmercy this absent before he was in love?"

Christian catches his breath, and turns red again, ladylike sensibilities asserting themselves. "I... !"

Enjolras just glares. "I don't think you can really blame me for losing my temper. Heaven knew what the lecherous bastard was going to do next."

Feuilly shrugs. "You're the one lives with him."

Courfeyrac sighs. "I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Christian gasps a bit at this language, and ducks his head in fierce embarrassment.

Pontmercy smiles uselessly, not listening, just nodding.

Enjolras is contrite immediately. "I'm sorry, Chantal, but you know how I worry about you."

Christian takes in a breath. "Yes, I know, and I keep telling you you don't have to."

Feuilly just shakes his head again. "I'm sorry," he says to Courfeyrac in sincere sympathy.

Courfeyrac shrugs slightly. "He's not a great conversationalist, but he certainly can amuse himself, and he doesn't cause trouble. It could be much worse."

Enjolras expostulates, "But you're my --cousin." He catches himself in time, but the last word comes out much quieter.

Christian darts a sharp look up at him, only relaxing a little at the last. "Yes. Exactly."

Courfeyrac looks over when Enjolras gets loudly upset, then turns back to Feuilly. "He doesn't forgive very well, does he?"

Feuilly sighs. "No."

Pontmercy looks away from the window. "Who?"

Feuilly chuckles wryly. "Go back to sleep, Pontmercy."

Pontmercy frowns. "I wasn't asleep."

Enjolras sighs. "Just... stay away from him. Please."

Left to himself, Christian probably would, but now he's in a mood. He frowns at Enjolras, and doesn't say anything.

Enjolras asks again. "Stay away from him?"

A bare nod.

Enjolras raises an eyebrow, but decides he will have to be satisfied with that.

Combeferre walks into the back room. He nods to René, Paul, and Marius, and then walks toward the table where Marcelin and Christian are talking. "Bonjour, everyone."

Christian glances up, and the cloud lifts from his face visibly. "Bonjour," a bit breathlessly.

Enjolras looks over, but does not smile, and he doesn't look all that happy to see Combeferre. "Bonjour. You will keep an eye on Caron for me, won't you, Etienne?"

Combeferre blinks at the unpleasant greeting. "Yes. Of course."

Courfeyrac smiles at Combeferre, then frowns slightly. "Didn't anyone manage to hit Enjolras?"

Feuilly lifts a hand by way of greeting. Quirks a brow at Enjolras and his dewy-eyed cousin. Glances back to Courfeyrac. "Yes. Rattled his brains worse than usual, seems like."

Christian incautiously reaches up to take Combeferre's hand, even as he nudges out a chair for him.

Courfeyrac clucks his tongue. "It certainly didn't do any good."

Combeferre takes Christian's hand comfortingly, because Marcelin is obviously being unpleasant again, and moral support is always appreciated. He sits in the offered chair.

Enjolras goes deathly pale when he sees them holding hands. "What on earth are you doing?" he asks in a voice meant to emulate the wrath of God, even though it's blatantly obvious what they are doing, and yesterday he would have said that Etienne was just being kind.

Pontmercy turns at this new question, and answers innocently, "They're holding hands, Enjolras. Even I can see that. Do you need glasses?"

Courfeyrac was just about to say something like that. He stares from Pontmercy, who obviously has no idea what he might have done, to Enjolras, who doesn't appear to have any blood running to his face at all.

Christian goes crimson, and at once tries to extricate his hand.

Feuilly's brows lift again. Well, well, well.

Combeferre doesn't let go. He answers in a very even tone, "If you are going to yell at your cousin, Marcelin, he needs someone to show support. I am sure you were discussing yesterday's events, which were not his fault at all. You, on the other hand, were a large part of the disturbance."

Christian gives up trying to free his hand and just holds onto Combeferre's the tighter. From red he's turned very pale.

Enjolras nearly gapes, but shuts his mouth instead. "I was, at that," he admits, then rallies, "but I had what I considered just cause."

Combeferre holds to Christian's hand just as tightly. "The brawl is over, Marcelin. Let it go."

Feuilly observes the conversation quietly, still with that bemused look.

Enjolras is not pleased to be so publically advised. "I will let the dispute drop when the matter is finished, which it obviously is not." He looks pointedly at their joined hands.

Christian instinctively leans a little closer to Combeferre, his delicate features tense. Says nothing, which is probably just as well.

Combeferre puts his other hand on Christian's shoulder. More gently, he says, "Christian is younger than most of your friends. Remember that. Let him make little mistakes so that he can learn to avoid bigger ones." He knows exactly what he means, and from the way Enjolras's face relaxes out of its carved scowl, it is obvious that Marcelin understands, too.

Courfeyrac shakes his head and mutters to Feuilly, "I'm just glad I didn't have a cousin like that."

"Very, very interesting," Feuilly murmurs, and glances over at Courfeyrac. "Does seem a bit ...naive, doesn't he?"

Christian ducks his head, but fails egregiously to shrug off Combeferre's hand.

Courfeyrac remembers the way Caron looked at him when he met the boy. "Yes. Naive. Apparently Enjolras's parents are human instead of sculptors, after all."

Feuilly quirks a brow questioningly.

Enjolras sighs. "You're right," he admits to Combeferre, not as grudgingly as he might to anyone else. To Christian, he says, "I just wanted you to learn from my mistakes and not be hurt. Really."

"I know," Christian says faintly, to the tabletop.

Combeferre squeezes Christian's shoulder encouragingly. "You will learn most of it, won't you, Christian?" he asks affectionately, with what is almost a smile.

Christian, belatedly remembering himself, shrugs. "I should think," he says gruffly.

Enjolras nods curtly. "Yes, you should."

Courfeyrac shakes his head slightly. "Caron is very delicate. That's all."

"Mmm," is all Feuilly says.

Christian looks up at his cousin with a flare of anger; then he glances at Combeferre, and subsides, with only a tightening of the jaw to betray his annoyance.

Combeferre shakes his head very slightly, hoping that Christian will keep his temper until they can leave, and assures Marcelin, "He will."

Enjolras looks from one to the other and is still not reassured, but he gives up. "Fine." His eyebrows lift a bit. "I would like to see you every few days, even so." This is directed at both of them.

Christian straightens his shoulders with a fine show of carelessness, though he still doesn't let go of Combeferre's hand. "Yes, of course."

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