74. Twilight

Autumn, 1862

The November sunlight slants in low through the windows, making amber pools on the library carpet and casting a kindly light over the two occupants. One is absorbed in his writing; the other, slouched in a chair across the room, is watching him with a melancholy air. Except for their silvered hair and the inescapable respectability of their surroundings, it might be thirty years ago.

Grantaire seems to sense this, for after a while he breaks the silence with a slightly wistful, "You don't change much, you know."

Enjolras laughs at that, and puts his pen down. "You must be thinking of someone else. Yourself, maybe. All these years and you still interrupt me."

Grantaire chuckles a bit. "Sorry."

"No, it's all right. I was basically done, and I couldn't quite think of the right word, besides." Enjolras rubs a hand across his forehead. "It happens."

"Well, well, I know. I was just thinking, you know, you get so caught up in what you're doing..." A slight shrug. "You all right?"

"Fine." Enjolras puts away his bottle of ink. "Why?"

"Just checking. Can't have you straining your eyes." This last is playful, turning the concern into the joke it's gotten to be.

"Of course not. Then how would we pay the bills?" The joke is acknowledged and a riposte is delivered.

Grantaire's smile has lost most of its former bitterness. "Precisely."

Enjolras yawns. "So, no, my eyes are fine. My head is fine. I am, altogether, fine, but slightly distracted. The latter is more a point in favor of health than against it."

Grantaire looks innocent. "Now what could be distracting you?"

"Perhaps the incessant commentary and coddling of one of my acquaintances? I'm not sure."

Grantaire grins at him, unabashed. "Care to put that in layman's terms, m'sieur?"

Enjolras smiles slightly. "You were distracting me."

"I am sorry," very gravely indeed.

"I already forgave you, mon cher, so stop apologizing." Enjolras stands and shakes out his hands. "God knows one can only write so long."

Grantaire chuckles. "Isn't that the truth. It's coming all right, though?"

"Well, yes. I have been arguing for a long time, especially cases like this one. It's not that difficult." Enjolras shrugs.

"Of course." Grantaire regards him with twinkling eyes.

"Still, every case is different. I do my best."

"I know you do." There's a note of soothing in his tone.

There is a knock on the door. The maid enters, says, "Messieurs, there is a visitor," and delivers a small calling card to Enjolras, who glances at it and sends her back to the door.

Enjolras comments, "Jean's here. You did interrupt me at a fortuitous time."

The maid returns. "M'sieur Courfeyrac," she announces, then leaves again.

Grantaire brightens. "Is he."

Which rhetorical question is answered a moment later by the entrance of Courfeyrac fils, on the maid's heels, in a storm of cheerful good-humor. "Good afternoon!"

Enjolras stands. "Yes, isn't it?"

Grantaire pushes to his feet with a grin. "'lo, brat."

Jean laughs, and proceeds to envelop Enjolras in a hug. "God, it's good to see you two-- sorry I haven't been by--"

Enjolras thumps him on the back reassuringly. "It's all right, really. How have you been?"

"Oh, fine, fine. Marvelous." Jean detaches himself, the better to deliver an affectionate cuff to Grantaire's shoulder. "I just wanted to come and let you know the baby came. Last week. Finally."

"That's wonderful! Is it a boy or a girl?" Apparently Enjolras can be enthusiastic about human events nowadays. One might call this 'gushing' in a different man.

"Did it!" Grantaire tousles Jean's hair roughly, twenty-nine or not. "Splendid."

Jean grins, elated. "Boy. And, my God, can he yell."

"So could you, at that age," Enjolras points out, "and I'm sure it was no different with either of your parents. Manon can still yell when she has a mind to, I'm sure."

Grantaire chuckles. Jean grins. "And does, I assure you. She sends love, by the way, and so do father and Jacqueline and Cel..."

"What have you named him?" Enjolras inquires.

Jean links his hands behind his back, looking a bit shy. "Well, actually, we thought of Marcelin. But it ended up being René." This comes out nearly apologetic.

Enjolras claps him on the shoulder. "That's perfect. Heaven knows you wouldn't want to name him for me; look at how I turned out." Sarcastic, even.

Grantaire snorts, amused, and leans on the back of the nearest chair. "Modesty ill becomes you, my dear." He grins at Jean. "But yes, it is perfect."

Jean chuckles a bit, embarrassed. "He could do worse. But thank you." He returns the shoulder-clasp firmly. "We'll bring him to see you soon, I swear. As soon as 'Lina can travel."

Enjolras offers, "Or vice versa. Not today, of course, but soon. When it's convenient."

"Well, you're always welcome." The bright grin reappears. "And how have you been?"

"Ah, you know. Getting along."

Grantaire volunteers, with a mischievous glint, "A little distracted."

Jean nods. "Good, good."

"On the contrary," Enjolras adds, for Grantaire's benefit, "some of us seem quite focussed." He smiles to Jean again. "Do give 'Lina our congratulations."

Grantaire just grins that scoundrel's grin, and nods.

"I will." Jean smiles back. "Well, I can't stay. But it was good to see you both--" he's already moving toward the door "--and we'll be by again soon, if you don't visit us first--"

"Good to see you too. Go on, take care of her -- and get some sleep!"

Grantaire amends, from sheer force of habit, "And stay out of trouble."

Jean laughs. "I will. Believe me. I will." He waves, and is gone.

"You know, this means Courfeyrac, or rather René senior, is a grandfather," Enjolras says quietly.

Grantaire lets out a sigh. "God. Yes, it does, doesn't it?"

"I never thought I'd live long enough to see that. Particularly not when I met Rene." Enjolras sits down in the chair by the desk again, and sighs. "I feel old."

Grantaire chuckles, watching him affectionately. "You're not that old, fair-haired boy."

Enjolras shakes his head. "Just because you call me that doesn't make it true."

"It'd better," Grantaire says lightly. "If you're old, what does that make me?" He drops back into his seat.

"You don't have to worry about being old, dear. At least not until you're mature." Enjolras grins at him. "And when that happens, I shall cease to recognize you, and you'll have to find somewhere else to live."

Grantaire laughs outright at that. "Oh, indeed, indeed."

"When you think about it, age doesn't matter. Except when it does. Like today, and grandparents." Enjolras waves a hand slightly, then shrugs again. "God help the world. Fortunately, neither of us will ever be a grandfather, so it is safe from at least one terror."

"That's true enough." Is there perhaps a wistful note in Grantaire's voice? "Something must remain constant, I suppose."

Enjolras blinks at him. "Do you really think we needed another of you?"

Grantaire's eyebrows lift. "To terrorize another generation of perfectly innocent revolutionaries? Certainly not."

Enjolras chuckles. "That, and you'd have had to deal with screaming children in the middle of the night."

Grantaire shrugs. "Quite so. I had enough of that before I was twenty. Leave it to those who are suited." The faint look of rue doesn't go away, but his tone is cheerfully mocking, as usual.

"Which we, clearly, are not."

Grantaire laughs briefly. "No."

"Just as well, really, when you think about it. I mean, I could hardly tell some child not to go off and risk his life for his ideals -- but if it was my child, I would have to, and I would want to, besides." Enjolras sighs. "Not that I didn't do the same sort of thing back in 1848, but it's different when they're young. They're stupider."

"I don't know about that," Grantaire remarks dryly. "Grown men can be fairly stupid at times."

"Of course," Enjolras answers, calmly. "We're perfect examples."

Grantaire blinks, then chuckles wryly. "Well. Yes."

"Even if you are stupid, I like you." It's almost shy.

Grantaire glances up in mild surprise, and smiles crookedly. "Oh, good."

"Not that that's news, at this point."

"Mon cher," he says softly. And then, teasing: "You're not nearly as stupid as a certain fair-haired boy I used to know."

Enjolras chuckles. "I never knew why you liked him, either."

"Ah, but bear in mind, I hadn't met you then." Grantaire rises, and comes over to stand behind Enjolras' chair, resting his hands on his shoulders.

Enjolras leans his head on one of Grantaire's hands. "I seem to recall that, yes. But you did like him, somewhat, or I don't imagine we'd have met at all."

"Oh, yes." Grantaire's free hand plays idly with a strand of fair hair. "But I don't much miss him, now."

"Good. I don't know where I'd find him." Enjolras's fingers trail down Grantaire's arm. "It's just you and me, now."

Grantaire drops a kiss to his hair. "And we get by, no?"

"We do, at that. And no screaming children disturb us. It's a benefit, really."

"All in all," Grantaire agrees.

"Even if it does mean no grandchildren. Ah, well. We can always be a bad influence on Courfeyrac's."

Grantaire bursts into laughter. "Corrupting the youth of France. Some things don't change."

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