A/N: merlin_emrys on Abaissé discovered the hidden Horatio Hornblower reference in Aunt Wodehouse Pays a Visit and has therefore won fic. She requested Joly, Jehan and Courfeyrac. Why Bossuet and Musichetta tagged along for the ride and why there is so much fail!science in here is one of those unavoidable results of having Joly as your viewpoint character of choice. All credit for Enjolras's Platonic form goes to The Highest Pie, who shows that, like pie, people are layered, and in her case, her wit is kept piping hot between two layers of win.
Somehow Courfeyrac had taken it into his head that Feuilly needed to be wooed into joining the Amis, just as one had to woo a recalcitrant grisette into one's arms. No one was quite sure how this had happened, but Bahorel, Joly and Bossuet had several bets on the subject. Bahorel thought that Courfeyrac had come up the idea himself and was so fascinated with his new toy (i.e. Feuilly) he simply had to have him as their token member of the working class. Joly was convinced that Courfeyrac had misinterpreted Combeferre's request that they treat Feuilly with just a tad more delicacy any other student they would wish to befriend. Bossuet had devised an elaborate theory wherein, after Enjolras had pulled Courfeyrac aside the night Feuilly had met the group, the two of them had come up with an elaborate plan to shanghai Feuilly into joining that included Courfeyrac making Feuilly into a pet, much the way Combeferre had tried to make pets of Joly and Jehan, and tempting Feuilly into joining them à la Mephistopheles with pastry and political argument, at which point Enjolras would spring up out of the floorboards and administer the loyalty oaths.
Jehan, who had declined to join their betting pool, but engaged in their debate, pointed out that Enjolras was more likely to hesitate and then mention that Courfeyrac was better suited to making Feuilly feel like a comfortable, welcome part of their circle ("Because Courfeyrac could seduce Martin Luther into a life of bohemian Romanticism and secret republican activism," as Jehan pointed out, looking extremely disgruntled when Joly, Grantaire and Bossuet had started laughing at the word 'seduce'). Grantaire had then bet an unspecified sum that Enjolras would win over Feuilly rather than Courfeyrac and drank until he started babbling incoherently about gradation of beauty and virtue and Courfeyrac's role as Socrates to Enjolras's Diotima.
"Looking at this poetically," said Jehan, in an undertone to Joly, upon whose lap he had laid his head, "one can see, perhaps, the wreckage of the gradations of beauty in Grantaire, but even then, one would have to be feeling extremely charitable and be unusually alive to the glories of one's fellow man. I am more inclined to see him as a Romantic ruin, created of a classicism that has no place in the world any longer. Or... a Tintern Abbey of sorts that one can look upon to inspire sorrow or inward reflection about the changes wrought in nature and then, from the inward turning he so kindly inspires, be divinely inspired and leap into the sublime. There is always something grotesque in the sublime."
Joly, being more than a little drunk, patted Jehan on the forehead, but said nothing. He was vaguely uncomfortable with Jehan, as he was with anyone or anything that he did not understand past the point of bearing it with cheerful resignation. Though, Joly thought to himself, that was not it entirely. He often just got ideas stuck in his head, along no lines of logic he could quite understand, and started overthinking them and trying to rationalize them and contextualize them until he had worked himself up into a panic and needed Bossuet or Courfeyrac or someone to force him to think of something else. As it was, he was relatively sure he had seen Jehan kiss Combeferre but, as Joly had been three sheets to the wind at that point and also mildly feverish, he kept doubting what he saw. He was not sure and the uncertainty was putting a brittle edge to his usual high spirits. Bossuet had noticed and asked, in his gentle, joking way, if Joly was feeling alright, but Joly couldn't find the words to explain. What exactly was one supposed to say?
"Oh yes, fine, Bossuet, I just saw Jehan going completely fairy on us, is all. More wine?"
"I finally found a way to get Combeferre to become incoherent. Get Jehan to kiss him!"
"Hey, can you hallucinate to the point where you think your friends are re-enacting the more scandalous bits of Greek philosophical discussion?"
None of them worked, so Joly was just left to feel awkward when Jehan got drunk and started draping himself over people, or whenever Jehan and Combeferre were in a room together. Combeferre had an air of deliberate camaraderie around Jehan for the first few days after Feuilly's debut, as if he was forcing himself to treat Jehan like the sweet little poet who needed a wise medical student to look out for him instead of just doing it automatically. That alone was enough to make Joly think he hadn't been hallucinating. At some point, though, Joly thought Combeferre had decided that Jehan had just been drunk and had no idea what he was doing and had started acting relatively normal. Joly wanted to do the same, but he blamed his mind again. The image was just stuck and poking 'Jehan was drunk' under it was not doing anything to push it out of his thoughts.
"Still suffering from pneumonia?" asked Bossuet, since Joly's usual bright smile was a bit strained and he wasn't drinking.
"No just... I don't know. I'm sure I'm coming down with something." Joly heaved an overdramatic sigh. "I always am!"
Fortunately Courfeyrac came in with Feuilly then, and irritated Feuilly into another rant about Polish serfdom by pressing pastries and brandy on him. Joly wanted to point out that Courfeyrac never thought about showering presents on people, and, in fact, Joly owned several waistcoats that Courfeyrac had bought in various fits of sartorial enthusiasm before realizing that brunets do not always look good in colors more suited to blonds. Generosity was the chief part of Courfeyrac's character. If he liked someone, there were no limits to his unthinking and automatic kindness. He always wanted to be doing something for them, and simply couldn't help himself from doing it. It could occasionally grow overwhelming, but it ought to be taken as a compliment. Whenever Joly tried to open his mouth, however, Feuilly started off on another aspect of the horrors that had befallen Poland and Joly was forced to take another pastry or another sip of brandy so that he didn't just have his mouth hanging open like the slack-jawed idiot he quite felt like he was.
Courfeyrac had discovered, though some trial and error, that he could feed Feuilly when and only when Feuilly was distracted by Poland. Feuilly just took whatever was set in front of him and ate or drank it, just to get it out of the way so he could talk about Poland again. Naturally, this meant that the Amis had learned far more about Poland than they ever cared to know and that Feuilly was starting to look less scrawny. It also meant, however, that if Feuilly went on an extended rant about Poland's history of partitions, he ended up drinking himself under the table.
This was currently the case and, since Grantaire was rambling nonsensically about Enjolras being the Platonic form of virtue and was no longer amusing but rather awkward, the Amis decided to call it a night. Courfeyrac was quite disappointed and, by virtue of looking sorrowfully at them all and pointing out that he couldn't carry Feuilly on his own, and would they really condemn him to walk all the way from the Latin Quarter to wherever it was Feuilly lived, Joly, Bossuet, Jehan and Bahorel all followed Courfeyrac on his journey out of the Latin Quarter into God-alone-knew-where. Joly was too drunk to quite realize where he was going, though he had sobered up considerably after an hour's confused wandering in the less salubrious parts of the city.
They eventually reached a respectable, clearly working class neighbourhood and Feuilly staggered over to a lodging house he appeared to recognize. Once he reached the door he turned back to them and said, "Haven't th'key."
"Did you leave it in the Musain?" asked Courfeyrac, catching Feuilly by the arm before he fell down.
"No, left it 'na book." Feuilly staggered back and threw a pebble at a window five floors up, underneath the roof.
He missed. Quite badly, in fact; he managed to smash one of the glass plates around the flame of the lamp-post Jehan had been staring at in poetic abstraction.
"I'm all for the destruction of governmental property," said Bahorel, who had been clapping his hands over the mouths of any Ami who felt like shouting or singing, "but a little less noise in future, citizen. Perhaps you could wake up one neighbour instead of the whole neighbourhood?"
"Muuuuuuuuuusicheeeeeeeetta," Feuilly caterwauled. "I left my key upstairs!"
A garret window slid open, a candle flared into sputtering life and a pretty, dark-haired woman appeared. She held the candle aloft with one hand and, with the other, held a gray shawl closed around her throat. The candle flame reflected quite interestingly in her dark eyes. "Feuilly?"
"," Feuilly replied.
She stuck her head out the window, her long dark hair tumbling over her shawl-clad shoulder. The ends of her hair swept across the very edge of the sill. "Are you... oh my god, Feuilly! You're drunk!" She burst out laughing. "Oh God, Feuilly, drunk! What, did you ask him to support the efforts of starving Polish potato farmers and give him vodka?"
"What excellent alliteration!" exclaimed Jehan. "Ah fair muse, pray grace us with your presence!"
"No, no, it's Musichetta," she replied, with a quick smile. "Musetta moved out last week and in with what's-his-name, the painter that keeps doing nudes of her. Very reverse Galatea, I thought, though Musetta told me I ought to shut up and would need glasses if I kept reading so much. Well, the bitch can go to hell since she didn't pay her half of the rent before moving out. Feuilly, if you left your key in your room, there's no way I can get to it. We share a stove and a library, not a lock, and I can only fit my arm through the bookshelf even if I take all of the books out of it."
"Left the key in the... in the thing. The book. As a bookmark. The one I was reading. The book I mean, not the bookmark, because I didn't have the bookmark and that was why I was using the key." Feuilly paused and frowned thoughtfully, having realized that he was not quite saying what he wished to say, but also having realized that he no longer had the ability to say anything coherently. He turned to Courfeyrac and, feeling some explanation was in order said, "Stove's on her side of the wall, but there's a... a thing missing in the wall, so there's a gap and I made the gap into a bookshelf, to share, like the stove, only the spines are in my room and the pages in hers. It has books on it. The shelves, not the stove. Be bad if there were books on the stove. Books on the shelf. And my key is in a book on the shelf."
"Which one? I had to sell my copy of Voltaire today, thanks to that bitch Musetta, so if it was in there, it's lost."
"No, 'sin Montesquieu."
Musichetta disappeared from sight but soon reappeared with a book and a key. "Alright, it's here, but I have to point out that the key is up here and you are down there."
"'Sproblem," Feuilly agreed.
"Well, I'm not coming down," said Musichetta. "It's late and I'm not fully dressed."
"Throw it?" suggested Courfeyrac.
Musichetta choked back a laugh. "And I suppose one of you is sober enough to catch it?"
"I don't particularly want to crawl around on the cobblestones," Joly pointed out. "Who knows what sort of miasmas are clinging to them?"
"Ah, fair muse, then we shall rise up to your window on the wings of poetry!" exclaimed Jehan.
"Or," said Joly, "you could take a handkerchief and turn it into a parachute. Just tie a string on each corner and tie the ends of the strings to the key. If you hold the center of the handkerchief and release it, the key ought to fall slowly enough that one of us will catch it." Joly glanced at those assembled and said, "Er, slowly enough that I can catch it, then."
How had he ended up the soberest in the group? That was just bizarre. It felt so wrong that Joly unthinkingly put his hand in his coat pocket to find his hand mirror. It was only when he brought it out that he realized checking his tongue would not explain why he was coming out of his rather mild buzz and he felt like an idiot again.
"Hmph, how would that work?" asked Jehan.
"By the manipulation of natural laws against themselves," replied Joly.
"That was remarkably practical of you," said Bahorel. "How did you come up with it, alone, among all of us?"
"Oh who knows? It seemed like common sense to me, but then again, common sense is not so common."
"Bravo, Monsieur Voltaire," said Musichetta, disappearing from the window. A few moments later she returned with the improvised parachute and said, "Right, man being reasonable, must get drunk, but are any of you really irrational enough to be catch this?" She eyed Joly's long scarf with amusement.
Joly tugged it down to smile at her. "I am, alas, quite irrational. As Jehan would put it, I am worshiper of Urizen over Bacchus and blinded by Newton and not wine, even though I'd pick Ampere or Arago over Newton any day. Was that Byron?"
"Yes, in bad translation," she replied, with a laugh. "I'm with you; I'm too nationalistic to prefer the English. Lamartine, Scribe, Hugo, and to crown them all, Madame de Stael! Here, catch, Monsieur Voltaire."
"I hate women because they always know where things are," Joly quoted, reaching out his hands towards the key. It drifted down quite nicely into his open palm, and he looked up to share a smile with the pretty Musichetta. "Nicely done, mademoiselle."
"Can you walk up the stairs by yourself?" Courfeyrac asked Feuilly.
Feuilly protested very indignantly that he wasn't going to rely on the bourgeois element to solve his problems. Bahorel, taking the key from Joly and tucking it into one of the pockets of his flashy red waistcoat, said, "Fortunately for you, my parents are peasants," scooped up Feuilly as he might have once scooped up a sack of grain for the marketplace, and carried him up the stairs.
Courfeyrac wandered back to Joly and somehow managed to dig his elbow into Joly's side.
"Ow, my kidney! When it explodes and I get septic poisoning—"
"Come now, I was not trying to call your attention to your internal organs, but to Musichetta," said Courfeyrac, with a rather roguish grin. "She was flirting with you."
"With me?" asked Joly, rather astonished. He glanced back up at Musichetta, who smiled again and waved at him.
"Good night Monsieur Voltaire. I hope Feuilly hears more of your wisdom in future." Another smile and she was gone.
Joly stood, rather idiotically, staring up at the window, until someone on the third floor opened his window, stuck his head out and informed the Amis that some people had to work in the morning and would whoever it was singing either kindly shut the hell up or go back to the goddamn Latin Quarter.
Bossuet and Jehan looked rather indignant that there was no appreciation for their version of Mozart's "Sull'aria… Che soave zeffiretto", but began shambling off in a random direction. Courfeyrac shouted up to Bahorel that they would meet up tomorrow and began weaving his way after the other two, Joly in tow.
"Musichetta seemed rather clever," said Joly, glancing back at the building. "Sharing a library with Feuilly and all, and being up to date on the Romantics."
"You liked her because she called you Monsieur Voltaire," said Bossuet, slinging an arm around Joly's shoulders.
"Perhaps, but there are worse reasons for liking that type of grisette," said Courfeyrac, with the air of an oenophile displaying his knowledge of wines. "I have no doubt she is a mysterious little enchantress, certainly clever, definitely literary, probably dimpled, with a way of pouting that will drive you wild and a maddening way of dancing round flirtation, rarely submitting and always leaving you wanting. In general, one of my favorites for variety's sake, but you occasionally want a little comfort, instead of being continually jolted into the unexpected."
"Oh Courfeyrac, you misinterpret her utterly!" exclaimed Jehan, who had decided to walk backwards, even though he was clearly incapable of doing so. "She is an example of the great brightness of the female soul, polished to a gleaming brilliance through the application of poetry, lifted above the common masses—"
"Oh, don't turn her into a symbol," said Joly, a little nettled. "She's a very literary grisette who apparently had a roommate from hell and has very pretty eyes. I wish you wouldn't keep turning people into symbols it's... hang on, Jehan, is that why you kissed Combeferre?" Joly occasionally got little flashes of insight when he managed to push all the disparate pieces of a problem together and make them work together in watch-like efficiency.
"You kissed Combeferre?" demanded Courfeyrac, stumbling to a halt.
"Well, yes." Jehan executed a wobbly pirouette. "He was upset that Feuilly misunderstood his and Enjolras's intentions, so I showed him that even if the working classes cannot understand the synergy of logic and philosophy in the revolution, the poetic conscience could assure the philosophy that it was acting morally and had its blessing to continue its chosen course."
"... really?" asked Bossuet.
"Jehan, not everyone is going to understand your symbolism," said Joly, quite nettled. "I saw you kiss Combeferre and that was what stuck with me, not that the social conscience of revolution was embracing philosophy and showing the marriage of philosophy and morality at the continued signs of philosophy's humanitarian aims."
"Perhaps you are too blinded by science to see clearly," replied Jehan, rather snootily, even though he had decided to move from pirouettes to pliés and looked thoroughly stupid.
"That's nonsense. If I'm blinded by science, then Combeferre's probably had his eyes gouged out by experimenting with the polarization of light."
"Joly, you are the science of the revolution—"
"—and no one denies that you are a necessary part, just as Bossuet is its wit and Courfeyrac its heart."
"Have you been at the opium again?" asked Courfeyrac. "There is nothing wrong with going for the opium, Prouvaire, but, euh, sometimes you come up with some really... really odd symbolism when you have."
"Odd! I mentioned it to Enjolras and he agreed with me!"
Joly rubbed his nose with the knob of his walking stick. "Jehan, um..." He looked to Bossuet for help.
Bousset said, rather tactfully, "I'm not sure Enjolras is the best person to go to if you want confirmation that your ability to make your friends into symbolic parts of a republic has some basis in reality. Out of all of us here, you are probably best able to understand just how he sees us, but we aren't... actually the Platonic Form versions of Joly, Bossuet and Courfeyrac. We are Joly, Bossuet and Courfeyrac who get too drunk to be reasonable and who laugh at bad puns."
"Perhaps it requires a poet to see you as you are, and not as how you appear to be," replied Jehan, giving up on ballet and deciding to run up to a lamp post, latch onto it and use it to swing around in circles. "When the day of judgment arrives and we each of us are stripped of our fleshy envelops to rise as pure spirit, clapping for joy as we enter into the truth, you will see that I was right."
"If I'm the science of the revolution," said Joly, "then the revolution is in some danger of flunking out of its midwifery course."
"Take the metaphor too far and we're going to get a revolution with a high infant mortality rate," agreed Bossuet. "I am not entirely sure that is what you want, Jehan. I might also point out that we're all men, so unless you steal from Grantaire and get Enjolras to be intellectually impregnated by Jacobin rhetoric and then somehow give birth to Beauty, Virtue and Wisdom, the revolution is not going to be so much a lasting revolution of society as a few revolutions of the earth around the sun."
Jehan slid off the lamp post and scowled at Bossuet. "Not if we get everyone to enter into their own personal revolutions, and spin like dervishes until they no longer see this world but the next."
"There are other revolutionary groups," pointed out Courfeyrac. "Where do they fit in?"
"There are truths which are not for all men and not for all times," quoted Joly.
"Oh, stop flinging Voltaire at me, or I shall fling Rousseau at you," replied Jehan.
"I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
"Fine! Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being."
The quarrel only degenerated from there. Jehan began mixing up Rousseau with Romantic poets, Joly began reciting laws of electromagnetism and the two of them got into a surprisingly violent quarrel over the nature of light.
"I'll show you," snapped Jehan. "The symbolic importance of light is infinitely superior to the scientific make-up of it."
Joly blew his nose in polite disbelief.
"It is! It resonates far more with the People than your infra-red polarization nonsense."
"You tell that to Combeferre and--"
"He'd agree with me!"
"Right," said Joly, unconvinced.
"Even--ha, even Musichetta would agree with me! Right, then, I challenge you to an intellectual duel, Jolllly. We'll see whether Musichetta, and thus, the People, appreciates my poetry or your science. The subject is light, the limit is a week."
However, Jehan had then chosen to stride proudly down the middle of the street reciting the names of the months in the Republican calendar and ignored Joly entirely.
"If I have understood this correctly," said Courfeyrac, "you and Jehan are trying to woo Musichetta with science and poetry respectively." He pushed up his hat to run a hand through his curls. "I hate to say it, Joly, but you have about as much chance of winning this as Bossuet has of winning the lottery."
"I could win the lottery," protested Bossuet, "if the prize was bankruptcy."
"I didn't even agree to this," said Joly, bewildered.
"Don't worry," said Bossuet, patting Joly on the shoulder. "I'll bet on Jehan. That way, he's bound to lose."