72. Athens

The breeze atop the Acropolis is uneven. In some places, it is channelled by the ancient buildings and columns; in others, the construction and the elevation itself block it. Another curious feature is the dearth of Greeks to be seen among the caryatids. On the other hand, tourists nearly outnumber the statuary.

"Amazing," murmurs Grantaire, amused, "how many people have the same ingenious idea."

"Rather unfortunate," Enjolras agrees. "But one can hardly blame them. It is magnificent."

Grantaire takes in a breath, tucking his hands in his pockets. "'Tis that, I suppose."

Enjolras yawns. "It is. Yes. And a long way from home."

Grantaire reaches out to rest a hand on his shoulder, solicitous. "Tired, my dear?"

"Not particularly." Enjolras smiles at him in thanks for the question, then turns to look at yet another carved column. "Is this Doric or Corinthian? I can never remember."

"Lord." Grantaire chuckles. "You're asking me? I never did figure out what the difference was."

"I read somewhere that they make the columns lean slightly or taper or something so that they look straight to the eye," Enjolras comments mildly, sighting up the edge toward the ceiling far above. "It makes one feel rather unsafe."

Grantaire grins at him. "Well, if it hasn't fallen down yet..."

"Yes, but it might have been lying in wait for centuries," Enjolras says, as deadpan as he can manage.

Grantaire's eyebrows quirk, and he nods gravely. "Just to find the right head to tumble down on."

Enjolras squints upward again. "It seems that neither of us has the right head."

"Oh, tempt fate, why don't you?" Grantaire grins again, nudging him.

"I just did, and it seems to have ignored the temptation," Enjolras answers, nudging him in return.

"...he said, just before the earth opened up and swallowed them both."

"Not quite. Did you want it to? I did not plan to go to Vesuvius. If it was what you really wanted, you should have said."

Grantaire bursts into laughter. "Thank you, I'd just as soon forgo that."

Enjolras smiles in a self-satisfied way. "I thought as much."

"'course you did, being the infinitely foresighted fellow that you are." Grantaire slants another grin at him.

"I thought I knew you relatively well," Enjolras answers, grinning back.

Grantaire chuckles again. "God knows you ought to."

Enjolras takes his hand. "God knows, indeed. After all the time you have spent putting up with my nonsense."

"I always thought it was the other way around," lacing their fingers together, "myself."

"You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. I reserve the right to disagree."

"Just as you like," amiably.

Enjolras chuckles. "Yes, yes, I know." He kisses Grantaire's cheek.

Grantaire returns the favor, slipping an arm about his waist. "Yes, yes, you know everything, don't you?"

"I still do not know what kind of a column this is," Enjolras says, though he does not really care.

"I haven't the first idea, my dear. Ask someone."

"I don't care, chéri. I was merely pointing out that I don't know everything."

"But you do win every argument." Grantaire grins at him again.

"I do not." Enjolras grins back, rehashing an old, old argument.

"You do, and it's damned annoying." Grantaire's expression is markedly less than annoyed. His eyes are twinkling.

"Is it really. I am so very sorry. Perhaps I should let you win an argument."

"Oh, we can't have that."

"Whyever not? Wouldn't you like to win, once?"

"Wouldn't know what to do with myself, in that case." A kiss brushes his temple. "Might expire of the shock."

"I suppose, if you were incapacitated, I would have to help you along," Enjolras says quietly, kissing his cheek in return. "But if you expired -- well, then I would have to find someone to help me."

Grantaire embraces him then, right there before the indeterminate columns and a passing trio of gawking Englishwomen. "I don't plan to."

Enjolras nods complacently to the women as if it were perfectly normal for middle-aged men to embrace in ancient monuments. "You had better not. I would be most upset with you."

"And we can't have that."

"My God," one of the ladies exclaims in English. "Just wait until I tell Henry. He will be absolutely horrorstruck."

"Not if you know what's good for you," Enjolras agrees, ignoring the woman entirely.

"Exactly as you say, my love." Grantaire slides his fingers into Enjolras's hair quite deliberately, half smiling.

The second woman seizes her companion by the sleeve. "Merciful heavens. Come away, Sarah."

"Well, I never!" Sarah exclaims, turning away.

Enjolras kisses him. Subsequently, he asks, "Does this mean I've won another argument?"

Grantaire regards him with bright eyes. "I'm afraid so."

"Ah, hell. I didn't mean to." Enjolras kisses him again.

"My God!" the third lady exclaims. She pales, blushes, and hurries after her companions.

The second puts an arm around her and hurries her away, not without casting a severe look over her shoulder, as if the culprits were paying attention.

After a minute Grantaire chuckles quietly. "Perhaps we ought to be getting back."

"Perhaps." Enjolras lets him go reluctantly, but doesn't free his hand. "You are correct in this -- but I should argue so that you can win."

Grantaire laughs again. "Ah, you're incorrigible."

"And you love me nevertheless."

"Desperately." Grantaire lifts his hand and kisses it, sobering.

"Ah, good. I would hate to think that you could do without me." Enjolras kisses his hand. "God knows what I would do without you."

Athens has many pleasant eating establishments, some in the veritable shadow of ancient monuments. Enjolras and Grantaire have eventually made it to one of these.

Enjolras squints at the menu, shaking his head. "It has been far too long." When the waiter comes by, asking for an order, he asks for several things, double-checks the paper, and adds another before looking to Grantaire.

Grantaire chuckles ruefully. "You're telling me?" He peers at it doubtfully.

"I think I ordered enough for both of us, if I did what I meant to do," Enjolras says, somewhat dubiously.

Grantaire looks bemused, and no less doubtful. "Your guess is as good as mine."

Enjolras smiles and nods to the waiter. "We can always call him back, right?" The waiter departs.

"Presumably." Grantaire settles back in his seat.

"And if not, there are always more cafés." Enjolras takes his hand. "So you trust my Greek, cher?"

Grantaire laughs, twining his fingers with Enjolras's. "Can't be worse than mine. God knows."

"True, true."

Eventually, the waiter returns. He carries several plates of tastefully arranged food, a half-full bottle, and two glasses.

Grantaire releases his companion's hand discreetly. "Thank you," carefully correct.

The waiter sets down his burden and scurries off again.

Enjolras picks up the bottle and sniffs its contents curiously. He blinks. "Well. That certainly is strong."

Grantaire glances back at him, brow furrowing. "Hmm?"

Enjolras offers him the bottle. "Here. You know more about that sort of thing than I do, but I think it smells rather stronger than I had expected." He surveys the food. "I wonder if this is what I ordered."

Grantaire looks wry; then, "Looks all right."

Enjolras dips something into something else and tries a bite. "Not bad." He offers the stuff to Grantaire. "Are you thirsty?"

Grantaire accepts it cautiously. "Not so's you'd notice."

"Ah, now, you don't have to, you know." Enjolras grins at him and manages, despite his years, to appear mischievious. "I am hardly one to force you to drink. But if you wanted to -- it's a special occasion, isn't it, and I'd be drinking with you."

Enjolras assures him, "We shan't make a habit of it, chéri."

Grantaire smiles fleetingly. "As you say."

"When am I not?" With a smile, Enjolras pours each of them a glass and hands one to Grantaire. "Even when I'm wrong, I'm sure."

Grantaire accepts with a good grace enough, and a wry grin. "So I've noticed. Very well, then."

Enjolras sips his and immediately coughs.

Grantaire, about to follow suit, pauses, eyebrows quirking. "You all right, there?"

"Yes," Enjolras answers hoarsely, his cheeks red. "It has been a long time since I had anything this strong."

Grantaire chuckles slightly. "Hmm." And sips, and coughs, though less explosively, blinking. "--Damn. I see."

Enjolras wipes his eyes. "Funny, I can't." He sniffs the liquid in his glass before taking another sip, which brings fresh tears to his eyes but does not bring on another coughing attack.

Grantaire regards him with affectionate amusement for a moment, before doing likewise. He makes a slight face. "God. Take some getting used to, that."

Enjolras nods, not trusting his voice to work very well.

Grantaire grins at him, teasing. "Struck you dumb, lover? We'll have to take home a supply, in that case."

"That would be a bad idea," Enjolras says, swirling his glass and grinning back. "Then you might drink it all on me, and you know it makes you talk."

A mildly pained look indicates a nerve struck, but the tone stays light. "This? Probably have me speaking in tongues. You're right."

"Interesting idea. Maybe if we drink enough, we'll learn Greek." Enjolras takes another sip and shakes his head. "Not yet."

Grantaire chuckles, following suit. "Evidently not. A shame, that. Think how convenient."

"More people'd drink it, I should think," Enjolras muses, absent-mindedly reaching for Grantaire's hand. "Instant languages. If it worked, they'd be rich and wouldn't sell it to us for -- however much it was. I forget."

Grantaire's fingers interlace with his. "Oh, likely not. They'd make a mint. And put all the professors and penniless expatriates out of work."

"True, true." Enjolras sets down his glass and traces the edges of Grantaire's fingers with his own, a look of intense concentration on his face.

Grantaire watches him quietly, one eyebrow tilted, with a look of quizzical bemusement.

Enjolras's fingers trail along the edge of Grantaire's cuff. "You need to wash your shirts more often, beloved."

"Do I?" mildly.

"I shan't do it for you." Enjolras finds his own joke inexplicably amusing. After an undeserved chuckle, he adds, "Where'd we be then, if I gave up law and did your laundry?"

Grantaire sputters slightly in amusement. "Beyond the bounds of propriety. Somewhere in the untracked wilds of sentimentality. To be sure. --You never did laundry in your life, fair-haired boy."

Enjolras looks from Grantaire's sleeve to his face. "What are you talking about? And why would I want to go and do something like laundry? Waste of time, that; I can afford to support some, I don't know, laundress and her twelve hungry babes, so why wash a shirt? I'd ruin it somehow, probably. There's probably all sorts of trade secrets passed from laundress grandmother to grandchild, and nary a soul knows them who hasn't got prune fingers from birth." He grins. "But it's not about laundry. It's about you, isn't it?"

Grantaire regards him bemusedly, and picks up his glass again. "Is it? I can't keep track?"

"Can you? It'd be nice if someone could. I seem to be losing the thread of conversation."

"So am I. Marcelin, my love, this is why we don't drink." Grantaire pauses to flatly contradict this, and sets the glass down again, reaching for Enjolras's free hand.

Enjolras allows it to be captured and smiles at him. "What's why we don't drink, mon amour?"

Grantaire traces a finger across his palm, half-grinning. "'Cos you've no head for it, and you get ridiculous, and that's plainly counter to the proper order of things. You weren't born to be ridiculous. The very thought is--" he breaks off, brow furrowing, and clears his throat.

"Ridiculous?" Enjolras suggests. "Not that I am." He attempts to straighten his shoulders without pulling his hands away and puts on a vaguely noble air, then winks and laughs. "All right, so I've no head for it, and you're losing your words. It's different, at least, isn't it?"

"Different than what?" Grantaire says wryly.

Enjolras turns his head in order to look at Grantaire out of the corner of his eye. "Are you accusing me of being ridiculous on a daily basis?"

Grantaire concedes, "Not so thoroughly, to be sure. Not so as anyone would notice."

"All right, then. Am I embarrassing you, then?"

"Never." He lifts Enjolras's hand and kisses it lightly.

Enjolras smiles at him. "Good. Did you want dinner?"

Grantaire shrugs slightly. "If you do."

"That's not what I asked," slightly petulant. "Are you hungry, chéri?"

Another quirk of the eyebrows. "Not especially."

"Neither am I, particularly." Enjolras withdraws one hand and fumbles for money. "If I'm going to be ridiculous, I should be ridiculous at you somewhere else, wouldn't you say? I mean, you know perfectly well I'm ridiculous."

Grantaire shrugs, again, watching him amusedly. "May as well."

Enjolras stands a trifle unsteadily and sets the coins on the table. "May as well," he agrees, holding onto the back of his chair.

Grantaire pushes to his feet as well, offering a steadying hand. "Careful, there."

Enjolras gratefully puts his arm around Grantaire's waist. "I'll be careful," he promises.

Grantaire shakes his head, and guides him out to the street.

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