70. Rome

July 14, 1857

It is a fine summer morning. Over breakfast, Enjolras says offhandedly, "I do not want to work today."

Grantaire grins at him. "Don't you? Shocking. Feel the man's forehead."

Enjolras smiles and tries to smother it. "I rather thought we would be a bit too busy for me to go, today."

"Did you." Grantaire is very solemn.

"Yes," Enjolras answers, on the verge of laughter for a moment, then swallowing it. "We are going to be busily packing."

Grantaire blinks, and sits back a little, having been successfully surprised. "Oh?"

Enjolras nods. "It would be rather impractical to take a trip in these clothes." He is smiling broadly. "The elbows would be terribly worn before we even arrived in Italy."

Grantaire stares at him a moment, then laughs in bemusement. "You've gone quite mad," he observes cheerfully.

Enjolras takes his hand and kisses it. "I am perfectly sane, mon amour. We leave in two days. Unless, of course, you would rather be here."

A blink; a crooked grin. "Well, if you're going, someone has to keep you out of trouble while you're there, yes?"

"Yes." Enjolras squeezes his hand. "God knows what I would do if I were by myself. Tear up the streets, maybe, or run off with some handsome Italian."

Grantaire nods solemnly. "Being the capricious fellow you are. Very well."

Enjolras tries to feign a similar level of gravity, but he is grinning like a schoolboy. "Thank you for deigning to accompany me. I know this is rather sudden, but the timing seems appropriate."

Grantaire's eyes crinkle at the corners. "Chéri," is all he says, but his tone is eloquent.

Enjolras maintains his composure long enough to say lightly, "Somehow, I thought you might," before kissing Grantaire.

The mighty harbor of Rome smells of fish, salt, and people. On the docks, round women wrinkled from the daily accumulation of salt on their faces hawk citrus fruit, fresh water, bread, and other dry land commodities for far too much money. The patient traveller can easily find the equivalent slightly farther inland. The proprietors of cafes on that edge of the city do not bat an eyelash at tourists.

As they make their way into the city, Grantaire, for all his fifty years, is fascinated as a schoolboy by nearly everything, though, to do him credit, he's not overly obvious about it.

Enjolras, for his part, has a fatuous grin on his face. "This is absolutely marvelous."

Grantaire laughs at that, nudging him in the arm. "Indeed. Clever of you to think of it."

Enjolras nudges him back. "I had inspiration." His attention is caught by the dome of a cathedral. "I want to see that."

Grantaire tucks his hands in his pockets. "Well, then, we should go there."

"That was exactly what I thought," Enjolras answers, putting his arm across Grantaire's shoulders.

"'course you did." Grantaire chuckles, returning the gesture. "It's... damn. Remarkable. I feel bloody provincial," though he doesn't seem much perturbed.

"We are, in a manner of speaking," Enjolras says, smiling. "After all, this is Rome the conqueror, Rome the destroyer, home of eagles that soared over all Europe. Even Lady France."

"Oh, to be sure, to be sure. Fount of civilization--" Grantaire sidesteps a rather suspicious looking puddle of something "--such as it is."

"Fount of something, at least." Enjolras stops outside the church and lets Grantaire go. "After you, m'sieur?"

Grantaire sketches a bow. Hesitates, then, for a moment before climbing the steps.

Enjolras smiles slightly at the bow, then looks up at the statuary and starts up the steps.

At the door Grantaire hesitates again, with an odd half-smile, and glances quizzically at his companion.

Enjolras takes his hand. "What, cher?"

"Ah, nothing." Grantaire smiles ruefully, and gestures. "After you?"

Enjolras looks at him for a moment. "Nothing. I don't believe you." But he lets it go and enters the church, in whose doorway he stands looking around with wide eyes.

Grantaire follows, a trifle cautiously, peering into the dimness.

"The windows," Enjolras says with a sigh, pointing up at the stained glass clerestory that provide colorful illumination for the frescoes on the walls.

Grantaire rests a hand on his shoulder, smiling, and looks up. "Remarkable."

Enjolras puts his arm around Grantaire's waist. "It is. They are. It all is." He chuckles quietly. "This is so odd."

Grantaire slants an affectionate glance at him. "Odd, the man says."

"It is," Enjolras says defensively. "Standing in a cathedral, gazing at the windows with you."

"Not something we usually do," Grantaire concedes, half-smiling.

"Nor is it a habit I want to acquire," Enjolras admits. "I would not want to go to Confession again after all these years." He chuckles. "The priest would probably give up halfway through."

Grantaire snorts, then chuckles. "Likely," and drops a kiss to Enjolras's hair. "A hardened sinner, you are."

"Not yet." Enjolras gives Grantaire half a hug. "This is such a peaceful place. It seems nothing like Paris at all."

"That's certain." Grantaire is quiet a minute, regarding the floor tiles.

Enjolras admires the architechure a few moments more, then sighs. "I was wrong. I did not really want to go into this church. I feel so out of place here."

Grantaire glances up at him again, with a slight smile. "Oh?"

"Absolutely." Enjolras starts for the door with considerable alacrity.

Grantaire shakes his head, and follows.

Once he reaches the street, Enjolras slows his pace and shortly stops.

A light touch on his wrist. "What's the matter, love?"

"It is too perfect," Enjolras tries to explain. "The church at home was little, dusty, stodgy, patently not the sort of place one would find salvation if any such thing existed. The only beauty was in the chipped gilding of the altar. It was easy to scorn and easy to forget. But there -- here -- that church is almost worthy of a higher power."

"That's a bad thing?"

"No. Yes. I don't know. That is the sort of church that demands obeisance and obedience." Enjolras sighs. "When I was a boy, they told me that God wanted everyone to follow all of his laws, to increase and do their best." He smiles weakly at Grantaire. "I love you, cher."

"Ahhh." Grantaire sighs, and falls silent again for a minute or two, being unable to think of anything both flippant and reassuring to say.

"Foolishness," Enjolras scolds himself. "Utterly childish foolishness." He kisses Grantaire's cheek. "I'm sorry."

Grantaire chuckles, and takes his hand again. "Needn't be."

"I fear that is irrelevant." Enjolras takes a deep breath and straightens his shoulders, thereby regaining the semblance of dignity. "Where shall we go next? Somewhere secular, but other than that it is your choice."

Grantaire composes himself likewise. "Don't quite know. Shall we wander, and see what we find?"

"All right." Enjolras squeezes Grantaire's hand, glances back at the church, then walks away from it with him.

Other tourists are also wandering the streets. They are easily distinguished from the natives by their air of confusion. However, near the more famous monuments, they seem more focussed. In one plaza, the nonresidents flock to the side of a glorious fountain, admiring its white marble statuary.

Grantaire quirks a half grin, and leans down to pick up a flattish pebble with a definite glint of mischief.

Enjolras blinks at him. "What on earth are you doing?"

Grantaire grins at him. And skips the stone deftly across the ripples. "Think they'll have the law on me?"

A small boy shakes his head at the odd man. "No, signore, dovreste gettare una moneta."

It takes Enjolras a moment, but when he understands he smiles. "Ah, yes." He prods Grantaire's arm. "Of course. You are supposed to throw coins, not stones."

"Bah. Even the statuary's mercenary these days." Grantaire grins, and then, at the child's expression, "all right, all right, very well." He fishes in his pocket, comes up with a coin and tosses it in.

The boy nods and turns away. Enjolras shakes his head, then smiles fondly at Grantaire.

Grantaire smiles back, a trifle sheepishly. "I know. You can't take me anywhere."

"If I were embarrassed, I certainly wouldn't." Enjolras shrugs. "Fortunately for you, I've become accustomed to your habits."

"Fortunately," agrees Grantaire cheerfully.

"You are incorrigible," Enjolras says affectionately, then yawns. "And I am tired."

Grantaire is at once solicitous. "Ah, let's get you back, then."

"If you are not, there is no reason I should waste your time," Enjolras chides him, then yawns again. "We can walk, if you want."

"Nonsense. There'll be time enough for that." Grantaire pats him on the shoulder. "Getting dark soon, anyway."

"True. All right, you have convinced me." Enjolras wipes his eyes and smiles sleepily. "To the hotel, then."

Grantaire chuckles lightly, and starts in that direction.

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