Courfeyrac reluctantly went to bed by himself that evening and spent most of the night alternately smoking, dozing and simply wondering. The next morning he could not actually manage to fit his half-connected thoughts from the night into words or explain why it had been so difficult to fall asleep without Enjolras beside him. He was in an uncommonly thoughtful mood as he gathered together his provisions and pulled on his Saint-Just costume. It quickly faded into excitement as he arrived on the Rue de Richelieu at a quarter until one and saw the long queue of Romantics blocking traffic- pedestrian and otherwise. There were several very perplexed carriage horses twitching their ears in bewilderment at the mostly figures before them, and the be-sabred policemen attempting to keep the Romantics in an organized line. Jehan, looking as if he was going to go sit for a painting by Velàsquez in his ruff and doublet, was standing towards the front of the line and waved at Courfeyrac eagerly.
Courfeyrac strolled over and was delighted to see that Jehan had a box with a representative-on-mission hat in it. The sight of such a magnificent hat, with its tricolor plumes, served to drive out any lingering melancholy at once. Courfeyrac put it on, listening with amusement to Gautier's exasperated protests that the red waistcoat he had chosen to pair with his broad-brimmed hat, pale green and black striped trousers and his enormously lapeled overcoat was a. actually a doublet and b. not a political statement, God, he wasn't a Saint-Simonian. Bahorel, standing by him in an eye-bleedingly crimson waist-coat, merely clapped Gautier on the shoulder and shook his head.
Despite the fact that the theatre employees had now come out on the second-story balcony and had begun to pelt the long line of Romantics with the contents of the theatre's waste baskets, Courfeyrac was abuzz with excitement. He could scarcely keep still and Jehan wasn't much better. He was bouncing up and down in line, tossing out steadily more excited and less coherent witticisms until the doors opened and a stream of oddly dressed and enthusiastic Romantics poured through them. Courfeyrac was terrifically pleased at the sheer variety of costumes- there were ruffs and high cravats, hats à la Louis XIII and crowns and laurel wreathes, long hair and pompadours - in fact, clothes of every fashion except the current one. They all very cheerfully ignored the rain of garbage, which, as Courfeyrac rather trenchantly said, was sadly common at the Comédie-Française, since they were always staging Racine.
It was a bit harder to ignore the sabre-wielding policemen lining the Rue de Richelieu, but the fantastic beings whom the Romantics had transformed themselves into wove blithely through the columns around the theatre and through the antechamber with the statues of Moliere and Racine, unmoved by such every day figures as police officers. Hugo and the Baron Taylor, who was the Royal Commisioner of the Comédie-Française and a Romantic, were on either side of the door. Hugo was giving out slightly nonsensical but very grandiose statements of encouragement and Baron Taylor was waiting anxiously for Courfeyrac. He pulled Courfeyrac aside at once. "This evening, you gentlemen are the claque—" or rather the group of audience members (usually paid) to lead the applause in spoken word theatres "—but one of the ticket ladies has been selling seats to our enemies. You are the chief this evening, you must make sure not to let the classicists hiss or boo, or the reactionaries will carry the day and get all Romantic plays banned from our theatre's repertoire. I won't be able to do anything to stop it, it was all I could do to get this play performed… we really must make this evening a success. Whip up the general enthusiasm, impress upon your fellows the seriousness of the effects of his evening- I am sure Monsieur Hugo has much more eloquent things to say on the matter, but do believe me. If we lose this battle we are well on our way to losing the war."
Hugo was very solemnly reciting one of his own poems to an enraptured Jehan and so did not comment, but Courfeyrac took his hat off and pressed it to his heart anyways. "You have the word of honor of your paladin of Romanticism, gentlemen. This band of brothers will applaud anything even vaguely Romantic. If there is so much as a daring caesura, they'll be on their feet at once."
The baron smiled at Courfeyrac in relief. "I always knew you were a good lad, Courfeyrac."
"You are kindness itself! Now, lock us in."
The baron did so. The little Latin Quarter Army had entertained themselves in line with a Romantic sing-along and saw no reason to stop once they had gotten locked into the theatre and set up camp in the cramped rows of seats in the orchestra. Courfeyrac, feeling daring, nudged Jehan and Bahorel in the ribs, and all three of them started in on the first few lines of the Marseillaise. "Allons enfants de la patriiiiiiiiie—"
The Romantics took up the song with alacrity and much applause.
Courfeyrac was elated. There was not so very much difference between an artistic and a political revolution. As Jehan would say, just as there was very little difference between art and life. It was easy to see that, in the theatre, where each Romantic had turned themselves into living works of art.
It was not difficult for anyone to make the connection between 'La Marseillaise' and 'the Romantic captain dressed as Saint-Just' and all those with a political, republican bent meandered their way over to Courfeyrac once the singing was over and Courfeyrac had finished discussing with the battalion leaders which lines to applaud specifically. He left a good chunk of them up to the discretion of his lieutenants, and to his strong feeling that most of his lieutenants (and all of their subordinates) were going to be very drunk by the time the curtain rose. Mlle Mars could sneeze and expect a brilliant round of applause.
The picnicking was a bit difficult, considering how close together all the seats were, but they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Courfeyrac did a count of Amis before he dealt with other business. Bahorel, as usual, wandered away, and Joly and Bossuet got called away by some of Joly's friends in the medical school before Courfeyrac could see if Musichetta had actually come or not. Jehan was running around the theatre with some of bousingots and Combeferre got sucked into a discussion with some Polytechnicans who were very disgruntled that they had only had time to sneak out in their uniforms. Courfeyrac then sought out Drouet, partly to find out what was being said in the newspaper offices and partly because he found Drouet's company restorative and genuinely liked Drouet's air of child-like glee at the proceedings. Drouet seemed curiously shy but Courfeyrac could not think of any reason for him to be so. He already told Drouet everything he knew about the preparations and had taken pains to meet with Drouet at least once a week since preparations had begun. At a pause in their curiously meandering conversation, Drouet held out a parcel carefully wrapped in brown paper.
"What's this?" asked Corufeyrac, puzzled, and carefully stubbing out his cigarette in the end of a sausage no one had wanted.
Drouet smiled sheepishly. "The black sheep of my family form their own little flock, to be honest. There's Juliette, who I half expected to see here tonight, then there's me then there's my second cousin, who disgusted everyone by running off to be a drummer in the army of the Republic when he was twelve."
Courfeyrac had been unwrapping the package and, much to his surprise, a tricolor flag slid out into his lap.
"The pole got snapped by an Austrian canonball," said Drouet, looking pleased with Courfeyrac's dumbfounded expression, "but the flag remained intact. It was at Valmy. I have a feeling it will fly over another triumph of the Republic soon enough."
"I'm honored, Drouet," said Courfeyrac, gripping his hand.
Drouet ducked his head in embarrassment. "Come now Courfeyrac, I'm a journalist. I make a narrative out of the news, not the news itself. You'll be able to use it far better than I ever will."
"But," said Courfeyrac, tugging Drouet closer so as to embrace him properly, "in this new age of Romanticism, a play can be a battlefield. I wouldn't be surprised if the journalists helped start the next revolution. Anyone reporting the truth has to have seen it for themselves; it makes sense that you lot can provoke the revolutionary apocalypse that reveals the truth to the rest of the world."
Drouet was clearly enchanted with this idea, but folded Courfeyrac's fingers around the tricolor. "Perhaps we shall, but still. Put this to good use."
"Of course, Saint-Just." Drouet saluted. "I expect to write brilliant reports of you someday."
"Don't worry," said Courfeyrac, taking care to wrap the tricolor securely in the brown paper once again, "I'll make your papers sell."
At that point, Jehan and several doublet-clad Romantics made their way through the tight rows of the Comédie-Française and Drouet went off to talk to some of his reporter friends. Courfeyrac stowed the tricolor under his seat.
"Courfeyrac," Jehan said, seriously putting his hands on Courfeyrac's shoulders. "We haven't any bathrooms."
"What do you mean, we haven't any bathrooms? The privies—"
"—are locked," squeaked Paulier, doing the newly popular dance-step of 'the-privies-are-locked' that was being everywhere imitated among the Romantic Army locked in the theatre.
"The keepers haven't come yet," Jehan said, in tones of very real anguish.
"Just…." Courfeyrac grinned and lit a cigarette in triumph. "I say we leave a very potent message for the classicists, as to just what we think of their literary opinions."
After consulting a scrawled map with several other captains, Courfeyrac managed to successfully determine which theatre boxes could suddenly be turned into bathrooms, and dispatched several Romantics to unburden themselves and express their rather pungent opinions in privacy. Courfeyrac was particularly pleased by this bit of tactical brilliance, and even kindly designated one box for any female Romantic who had dressed in drag for the evening. Speaking of female Romantics-
Courfeyrac had yet to see Musichetta, but that didn't necessarily mean she wasn't there. Courfeyrac had yet to see the musician Berlioz's famous mop of red curls either, but knew that Berlioz wouldn't miss the glory at having been at such a famous performance. After apologizing his way out of his seat in the middle of the second row, Courfeyrac made his way over towards where Joly and Bousset were very merrily drinking with a handful of other students.
"Hallo Saint-Just," said Joly, beaming and holding his arms out to Courfeyrac. "Embrace me, Gautier's been telling us all about how we're an army just like the Army of Italy."
Courfeyrac did so, causing the dark-haired Cherubino beside him to grin.
"Joly, I do believe you are a trifle foxed," said Courfeyrac, though he took a moment to grin at Mushcietta.
"Psh posh, I can be as affectionate with my friends as Musichetta is with hers," Joly replied, placing a rather sloppy kiss on Courfeyrac's temple. "I don't need alcohol to prove it, but Gautier- hallo where's Gautier gone?"
Bossuet grabbed at a passing red waistcoat. "Here's Gautier."
Bahorel looked deeply offended.
"No that wasn't him at all," said Bossuet. "He has changed faces on me."
"Well find Gérard de Nerval, where Gérard is, Gautier is," replied Joly. "You cannot go on red waistcoats alone, Bossuet."
"I acknowledge the fault- mea culpa, mea maxima culpa on the fashion front," Bossuet agreed sorrowfully. "To judge a man not by the content of his character, but the color of his waistcoat? Alas!"
"You certainly have sinned on the fashion front," said Courfeyrac. "Why didn't you like Musichetta make your costume?"
Bossuet had draped a bedsheet over his shirt and trousers in a rather pathetic imitation of a toga. Joly, on the other hand, was dressed in perfect imitation of Voltaire, complete with a powdered wig he had rented specifically for the occasion.
"He forgot about the costumes until last night when I reminded him," Joly replied, trying and failing not to laugh. "It's an impressive bit of forgetting, considering that all of Musichetta's orders for the past three months have been costumes for the Battle of Hernani."
"It is a talent," Bossuet said modestly. "I just displayed it with Bahorel."
"Hmph," said Bahorel. "I can't say I found it particularly impressive."
"We were looking for Gautier though- where's Gérard?" Joly demanded, getting up a little unevenly, but managing to stay upright once he had done so. "Where is- ah ha, I see him, come on Bossuet! And Bahorel, you should come to, I think you have out-crimsoned Gautier's waistcoat. We'll put it to a vote."
"In vino veritas," replied Bahorel, and allowed himself to be borne off to another part of the theatre.
Courfeyrac grinned. "Well now, Musichetta, you accepted Joly's little present after all."
Musichetta looked, admittedly, a little flustered to be dressed in drag. "He was so eager about it really, how could I say no? Oh, I see you haven't lost your hat yet- turn around, let me see my handiwork, would you?"
Courfeyrac was pleased to oblige her. "I'm a good advertisement for your business, don't you think?"
Musichetta offered him a small smile. "Of course you are. With all the business we got Rosalie and I have enough clients now to start up our own little atelier of sorts. We are the best doublet-makers in the Latin Quarter, you know."
"I can believe it!"
"Speaking of, Rosalie said she was going to be here. Have you seen her?"
"No, but I have been admittedly sucked up in my own concerns. Ask Bahorel, if they are still on speaking terms this week."
Musichetta pulled a face. "Half the reason I agreed to come was because Rosalie said she would make at attempt at a trouser role too. Otherwise I would have just waited at home in a dress and not be showing my legs to all the wilder elements of the Latin Quarter."
"Come now," said Courfeyrac, "they're very nice legs, they oughtn't to be hidden away behind three layers of petticoats every day."
"You're too kind," Musichetta replied dryly. "Take care not to say that around Joly or he'll have an asthma attack."
"Well they are!"
"I know it may surprise you, but I'm not actually too keen on the whole idea of crossdressing. I don't like feeling this exposed. I prefer to be in the wings."
"If I promise not to look at your legs, may I at least have the pleasure of keeping you company until Rosalie, Bossuet or Jolllly reappear?"
Musichetta smiled at that. "Of course! I take such pleasure in your company. Come sit down."
She reached up a hand to him to pull him down to sit next to her and Courfeyrac, moved to gallantry, kissed her knuckles.
"Oh, that reminds me- how are things?"
"Complicated," said Courfeyrac, flopping down in the seat beside her and stretching out his bad leg. "I never realized how serious of a commitment it would be. I mean… it's not that it frightens me or anything, and we spend every evening together- devastatingly chastely, I must add- but, as Combeferre so devastatingly put it, it's a question of if I love one person enough to reject the love of society forever."
"Poor boy," said Musichetta, scratching his head affectionately.
"Mm, thank you," Courfeyrac replied, leaning into the hair petting like a particularly friendly kitten. "Oh hello, Paulier just caught on fire."
He had- or at least his hat had. Paulier had adorned himself in a multiplumed monstrosity that seemed to account for the extinction of an entire race of multicolored birds and had taken a position leaning against the side of the Salle de Richelieu. Though Paulier was tiny, his plumes rose to the edge of the boxes above him, and the embers of a bousingot's cigarette had dropped on said plumes and caused the hat to catch on fire without his noticing it at all.
The Romantics all applauded this spectacle.
"Is it art?" asked Musichetta, still scratching Courfeyrac's loose, uncurled hair.
"Eh, I think one could feasibly turn it into art," replied Courfeyrac, as Jehan and Jean the Bousingot solemnly took Paulier's hat away, burning brightly between them, and Gautier held a program for Racine's Athalie above it. Someone attempted to start a slow clap as the program burned. "The symbolism makes very little sense, but, then again, most of the audience is seeing it through the bottom of a wine bottle. We should applaud the fact that Jehan and Jean successfully managed to take off Paulier's hat at all."
"I suppose?" replied Musichetta. "That's the odd thing about Romanticism, the line between art and real life is so very thin. You're always tripping over it from one side to another. And it makes me think…."
"Yes?" prompted Courfeyrac.
Musichetta took off her tricorn hat and absent-mindedly smoothed her hair down. "It… it seems so much more likely now, doesn't it, that there will be a real revolution instead of just an artistic one. It's… it's exciting, but it frightens me all the same. Here there's only character assassination by your enemies, not hand-to-hand combat in front of the Hotel de Ville or wherever."
Courfeyrac put a comforting arm around her shoulder. "There very well might be, but I'll do everything in my power to make sure we're prepared for it- and hey, Enjolras is our leader."
"That is, admittedly, very comforting," Musichetta said, leaning against Courfeyrac's shoulder. "Are you at least…?"
"Absolutely smitten, yes, I'll admit that. Oh, and I have to thank you for my Saint-Just costume. You were right. Enjolras liked it enormously."
Musichetta hid a laugh in his shoulder.
"Oooh, you planned it that way, didn't you? I haven't the heart to scold you for it. To be honest, I feel like getting down on bended knee and kissing the hem of your skirt in worshipful gratitude."
"I'm not wearing a skirt, so we can dispense with the formality. Ah, there's Joly."
"We found Gauuuuuuuuuutier," Joly sing-songed, draped over Gautier who, probably thanks to the bottle in his hand, was beginning to look as rosé as his wine. For once, Gautier was without Gérard de Nerval, as the latter was dreamily studying the frescos on the ceiling and could not be bothered to leave the life of the mind for the life of the body. Joly was not without Bossuet, however, even though Bahorel kept attempting to drag Bossuet away to be bawdy with a group of increasingly drunken art students in the second balcony. "Gautier, tell Courfeyrac what you had to say about the Romantic Army."
"For that is what we are," Gautier said, attempting to strike a pose more appropriate to portentous declarations. "A Romantic Army. As Hugo said at the door today, we are the army of progress, fighting a war of ideas. In the Romantic Army, like the Army of Italy, everyone is young. For the most part, the soldiers haven't attained their majorities—"
"Even you can't be twenty-five, Courfeyrac, and you're our captain," Joly said, with a beatific smile.
"—and," Gautier continued on, unconcerned with the interruption, "the general-in-chief is twenty-eight. It is the age of Napoleon Bonaparte and it is the age of Victor Hugo."
"Madame Hugo's no Josephine though," said Bousset, shaking his head sorrowfully.
"Oh, there are far prettier French ladies than the Empress Josephine," Joly said, releasing Gautier to go sit in Musichetta's lap. He attempted to kiss her cheek but got her ear instead, which made Musichetta almost helpless with laughter. The talk turned generally to the prettier ladies of the Latin Quarter, which drew in the Polytechniciens and thus, Combeferre, though he didn't really seem interested in the discussion and instead engaged Musichetta in a sadly dry conversation about the print trade.
As Courfeyrac had feared, the conversation gradually wound its way toward mistresses, and from there sprouted the ever popular rumor of 'Courfeyrac will bleed to death from a leg wound if he has sex'. It had crossed from 'amusing joke' to 'active annoyance' several days after it had first made its appearance and Courfeyrac felt more-or-less like a cat who had just been shoved into a bucket of very cold water.
There was a brief pause in the raillery when the theare reopened, to applaud the arrival of the Romantic poet, Alfred de Vigny, and to jeer at the classicists in the balcony and the first gallery who dared to murmur at this, but the others found it so amusing they avoided Courfeyrac's continual attempts to change the topic of conversation.
"Look," Courfeyrac ended up saying, brandishing his representative-on-mission hat at Bossuet. "I may have borrowed your luck for an evening, but I swear to you only my leg got injured in the attempt, not my heart or any other bits involved in the pursuit of love. I'm still a devotee of Eros and Aphrodite."
"So which nymph has lead you into greater worship this week?" piped up Paulier, looking very pleased with himself and his extended classical allusion.
"Paulier," Courfeyrac said, genuinely appalled. "For heaven's sake, man, a gentleman never tells."
"But you…." Bossuet trailed off. "My God, I never realized that you actually have never flat out told me who you have slept with. I always operate on assumptions."
"It's called, 'manners' and 'respect for the other person', knee-head," replied Courfeyrac, setting his hat back on at a rakish angle. 'Knee-head', which meant a balding, set-in-their-ways classicist, was the latest Romantic insult, along with 'grocer', which was somehow a very grave insult, though no one quite knew why.
"So… have you ever actually slept with someone?" asked Paulier. He was usually a step or two behind everyone else and his visit to Spain had left him even more in the dust than usual.
Courfeyrac threw him an unamused look. "No, like Kant, I intend to die a virgin. What do you think, Paulier? Of course I have. I believe in free love."
"Then you don't gyser blood when—"
"For God's sake, no."
"Then right now do you have—"
"I can't see why it's anyone's business but mine and my lover's."
"So you don't have one!"
"God, Paulier, you win- don't you know I'm wooing Enjolras?" replied Courfeyrac, which caused every single Romantic who knew Enjolras to start bellowing with laughter. Bossuet found it so hilarious he actually started to tear up. Paulier turned bright red and mumbled an apology for rudeness, as it really wasn't his business which grisette Courfeyrac was in love with for the moment.
At that point, however, the Romantic essayist Delphine Gay appeared in her box, in a white dress with a blue sash, looking exactly like she had in her Romantic portrait by Louis Hersent and the Romantics burst into applause. No more was said on the subject, though Bossuet clapped Courfeyrac on the shoulder and thanked him for the excellent joke, and chuckled at it intermittently throughout the evening. Mme Hugo arrived after that, and installed herself in the box opposite to Delphine Gay. The Romantics went positively wild and Mme Hugo, looking- if Courfeyrac was going to be honest- completely unmoved by the spectacle, inclined her head.
This was taken as a sign for the Romantics to return to their assigned seats. It was five minutes to seven and, at seven-o-clock precisely, the curtain rose and Hernani began.
Much to Courfeyrac's dismay, the first line, with its daring and unclassical enjambment: of 'Is he here already?' [knock] 'it's certainly the staircase' did not receive any applause. In fact, the first scene and the beginning of the second went completely uncommented upon. Courfeyrac was appalled and poked Jehan in the side.
"Juuuust wait," said Jehan, on the edge of his seat. He beamed at Courfeyrac. "Hernani is about to insult Dona Sol's guardian."
The actor playing Hernani, who was delivering probably one of the worst performances of his life, if Courfeyrac was going to be quite honest, exclaimed "Go get yourself measured for a coffin, old man!"
"Bravo!" cried Jean the Bousingot, applauding wildly. The other Romantics began to cheer and stamp their feet causing the bourgeois gentleman the seat behind Courfeyrac to express some concern for the safety of the building to his neighbor.
"After all, the Comedie-Francaise was built for the purpose of having an audience sit down and watch a play, not actively participate in it."
Jehan turned around and glared at him. "Oh, so you would rather we act like automatons, forever caught in the same, dull progression, never actively engaged in art?"
"I would rather you behave, young man," the bourgeois said coldly.
"I would rather think, instead of checking my brain along with my top hat," Jehan replied.
The bourgeois gentleman did not know quite what to say to that and so merely looked grumpy and stared at the stage, where Mademoiselle Mars was excellently rising to the occasion, even though the rest of the actors were performing like epileptics. The Romantics kept cheering at anything that seemed even vaguely exciting to them, but their enthusiasm, the wine they had consumed and Hugo's poetry had a remarkable effect. Several Romantics were outright weeping at Donna Sol's anguish.
Of course, the classicists were not as keen on the whole spectacle. Many of them hissed when Don Gomez, the old villain of the piece, began to ramble on about his ancestors. Fortunately, that monologue ended before the hissing turned into boos, and Jehan whirled around in his seat to shout rather virulent obscenities at all those who dared hiss behind him. The classicist from before was an unrepentant repeat offender and kept muttering to himself about the lack of respect from both Hugo and Hugo's friends.
At the end of Act III, Jehan had had it, snarled, "We show respect to the things that deserve it!", whirled around in his seat and punched the grumbler in the face. Several other Romantics were equally virulent; Courfeyrac saw Bahorel slap someone who had the audacity to look bored at the proceedings. There was some increasingly violent argument going on near one of the boxes about whether one of the lines had been 'veillard stupide' or 'vieil as de pique' ('stupid old man' versus 'old ace of spades'). Little Paulier had drunk his weight in claret, embarrassed by his gaffe with Courfeyrac, and was shrilling out, "Guillotine the knee-heads!" which Courfeyrac took to mean 'Let us condemn all the balding, old classicists to the death penalty'. Fortunately, it was now the intermission, so a number of audience members got up to puzzle out just what the Romantics in the pit meant by calling all the classicists 'grociers'. Courfeyrac was rather glad there was an intermission- if there hadn't been, the Romantics would have all hyperventilated by the end of the play.
He personally rather fancied a cigarette and wandered out to smoke it under the awning on the Rue de Richelieu. It was bracingly cold- a delightful contrast from the now overheated and somewhat pungent theatre- and Courfeyrac leaned against a marble pillar a bit away from the other audience members taking the air, to savor in private the tastes of both triumph and tobacco. Ostensibly, he was also supposed to be trying to remember which lines they had to make sure to cheer on, and which ones they needed to defend against the classicists to refresh the minds of his lieutenants, but Courfeyrac was really just gloating until he finished his cigarette.
Without really meaning to, he remembered the last time he had had to lean against a pillar at the Comédie-Française. How far he'd come since then and how close to Enjolras—
"Hallo Combeferre," said Courfeyrac, before taking a long, deep drag on his cigarette. He opened his eyes and grinned. "I didn't think you smoked."
"I don't. I wanted to have a word with you." Combeferre paused, looking somewhat awkward, for all the wonders of the blue velvet doublet Jehan had made him borrow. Combeferre looked uncertainly at Courfeyrac. "I think…."
"I know you do," Courfeyrac said, feigning puzzlement.
Combeferre took off his glasses and began polishing them. "If you will forgive the colloquial expression, Courfeyrac, I do believe that you are playing silly buggers with me."
"I will be direct with you- Jehan… did not mean to, I'm sure, but he knows, and I know Jehan well enough to glean the truth from his behavior."
Courfeyrac smiled crookedly at Combeferre and then looked down at the glowing end of his cigarette. "Having traversed this revolutionary apocalypse, what have you discovered?"
"That the truth can be present but unnoticed, and that the truth will often not be believed in favor of whatever seems true instead."
Courfeyrac looked up and blinked at him. "I was playing silly buggers with you again, I hope you realize."
"I know," Combeferre said mildly. "No one would believe you capable of being serious at times, Courfeyrac—"
"Yes, and that's as much a defense as Jehan's tendency to hide behind his bizarre wardrobe, or Enjolras's seeming coldness."
Combeferre smiled faintly. "I know that now. I make no judgments, Courfeyrac, but I will repeat again, that this is not something to be continued lightly."
"Combeferre, has all this," Courfeyrac interrupted, waving his cigarette at the Comédie-Française, "failed to convince you of my seriousness of purpose? I am capable of planning things out and doing things right and, what's more, of taking things seriously. I… well, damn it all, if that doesn't suffice, you know me, I'm—"
"You are all heart."
"That was kind of you. And I... look." He lowered his voice and leaned forward, so that only Combeferre could hear. "Nisus couldn't have loved Euryalus more than I love him, so you don't have to worry. I mean, I am generally very charming and I don't think I'd ever get kicked out of society for this, but I do, in fact, love him enough so that that possibility- which I think is much slimmer than you are making it out to be- doesn't alarm me at all." Courfeyrac paused, a little taken aback by this revelation himself.
Combeferre blinked, then took off his glasses to polish them. "Courfeyrac, did you just realize that yourself?"
"Yes," Courfeyrac said, a little guiltily. "It's been coming on so gradually, though, you can't have expected me to notice once the revolution had really run its course. Its effects are clear enough."
"They are." Combeferre folded his arms and stared fixedly at a streetlamp, an Enjolraic gesture that made Courfeyrac feel slightly off-kilter. "It is, as is commonly reported, transformative. But Courfeyrac…."
"I know you care for him too," replied Courfeyrac, dropping the remnants of his cigarette to the ground and crushing the embers beneath his boot heel. "But please believe me when I say how serious I am about it. And I fancy that he's not indifferent to me. Enjolras told me something about living a constant lie but it's… it's not. It's the truest thing I've ever known, and if no one else recognizes it, then boo to them. Someday, once we've all traversed the revolutionary apocalypse the truth will out—"
"And if it does before the necessary revolution?"
Courfeyrac grinned. "That's the odd thing about the truth. Very often, it isn't believable. I told my aunt I was a Jacobin and she hit me with her fan and told me to stop playing silly buggers with her."
"It is your favorite game."
"Ah, you know me well at this point."
"I believe I do," Combeferre said slowly. He looked oddly at Courfeyrac, as if he were trying to make out the view through a stained glass window, then began looking quite sad. "This will be the hardest thing you will ever do."
"I'm prepared to bear it," Courfeyrac replied simply. "There's a reason Eros has wings- love lightens nearly every burden. It's still there, but one is never crushed by it."
"I believe it." Combeferre paused, then, in a startlingly tactile gesture, put a hand on Courfeyrac's shoulder. "Be careful. Enjolras is the best man I have ever known."
"I merely wish to make him happy."
"He never expected to be."
"That's no reason why he cannot."
Combeferre looked measuringly at Courfeyrac and said, "No." After a moment he added, "According to some strains of socialism, the progress of humanity through the ages is to happiness. Who says that it cannot be the endpoint? Why deny that we can have it now?"
"You don't seem entirely convinced."
Combeferre's smile was slightly bitter. "Perhaps someday I shall believe it myself. I can neither affirm nor deny anything. I can only observe and draw what conclusions I may. In my experience—" He cut himself off abruptly and said, "I think- Jehan has been… he has actually been very upset with me. We have not spoken of it specifically- I have not spoken about it with Jehan or with Enjolras but I realize I have… caused pain when intending to relieve it. It is only that Enjolras can be so absorbed with the ideal at times and you often seem to think that you can just change reality to whatever you like, and I have never myself been…." Combeferre shook his head. "No matter. I hope—"
"And there you have it in one," said Courfeyrac, putting his hand on top of Combeferre's and squeezing. "I hope. You hope. We all hope."
"Are you giving me a lesson in grammar?"
"In philosophy, my dear friend, though I have doubtless shocked you in my temerity in attempting to lecture you on either. I bow to your superior knowledge in all cases but this. We hope, we love, we live and in that is the progress of humanity that no society can truly stop."
"That is truly what you believe?"
"That is what I know to be true." He grinned at Combeferre, then gave into the Romantic impulse and hugged him. "Come now, the interval's almost over. Let's see what Hugo has in store for us, eh?"
What Hugo had in store was a gloriously nonsensical and Romantic plot wherein both protagonists unnecessarily poisoned themselves on their wedding night. The Romantic Army Courfeyrac had helped assemble went wild, demanding that Hugo come out to be applauded as much as any of the actors. Even the classicists were forced to applaud such a daring spectacle, if only to keep from getting heckled by the mob of cheering Romantics in the pit, as was the case of the classicist who had unwisely not changed seats since the first act and was sitting behind Jehan.
"Disgusting verses," the classicist muttered.
"You wouldn't know a good verse if it bit you in the nose!" Jehan snarled.
"Tch, what a vile metaphor," replied the classicist.
Jehan therefore took this as permission to punch him in the nose.
"That was certainly an eloquent commentary on his school of thought," said Courfeyrac, as the classicist collapsed into his seat.
"Right on!" said Bahorel, clapping Jehan on the shoulder. "Brilliant work- fingers tucked around the thumb, swift execution- bam! Right on the target!"
The actors were not entirely sure what to do in the face of this Romantic outpouring of sentiment. The king had been smirking his way the entire piece, just to make sure that everyone knew not to take him seriously, but was not sure if he could smirk in the face of a fistfight. Mlle Mars looked disdainfully down into the pit before taking a very regal curtsey and retreating to the wings. This was probably a good move on her part, as the Romantics went positively wild, chanting 'Hu-GO! Hu-GO!' and stomping and applauding until Courfeyrac himself began to fear for the structural integrity of the building. Several Romantics- including Jehan and Bahorel, who had teamed up against the classicists and his friends- were merrily pummeling all those who professed violent disagreement with the tenants of Romanticism. Fortunately, there were not many of them. Most of the audience was stunned and a large number of spectators were still weeping over the ending.
Romanticism had won.
It was not only possible to write and stage a play that rejected all the rules of the theatre; it was actually a good idea to do so. It was possible to touch people without adhering to the idea of life the Academie espoused. Life could be wild and unexpected and full of passion, even if it was kept neatly in line in rhyming alexandrines. The play had been marvelous and the Romantic Army was delighted with their own efficacy in promoting and defending it.
The audience surged out of the theatre, past two Romantics gamboling around the bust of Racine in the foyer and shouting, "Here's one in the eye for you!" and into the Place Colette.
Courfeyrac managed to struggle out of the crowd and wander around the building onto the Rue de Richelieu, while clutching the package with the tricolor to his chest.
Jehan stumbled out after and favored Courfeyrac with a disgustingly bloody smile. "That was satisfying. Are you off to tell Enjolras what happened?"
"Yes." Courfeyrac fished his handkerchief out of a coat pocket and passed it to Jehan. "Here, you need this more than I do. But, ah, Jehan, I was talking to Combeferre earlier, and he…."
Jehan looked distractedly after a group of Romantics shouting out lines of Lamartine. "Hm? Combeferre… oh, how is he doing?"
"He seemed almost bitter," said Courfeyrac.
Jehan frowned. "I had thought… well that confirms it. I knew there was something else at play here than just concern over society. I may be wrong, but I think the reason he's been so insistent on Enjolras not doing anything is because he doesn't want to do anything himself."
"You've lost me."
"I mean that Combeferre's just been flinging all these rationales at you two because they're the ones he has to repeat to himself," Jehan replied, matter-of-factly. "At least, that's what I see. Enjolras actually doing something means that Combeferre has to acknowledge something he thought he'd settled with himself- and probably settled between themselves- ages ago. Enjolras didn't turn out to be ignoring it the way Combeferre is, which upsets Combeferre, but ignoring it or not acknowledging it until it was relevant doesn't make it any less true for either of them. I still don't think Combeferre was being very reasonable, to be honest."
Courfeyrac had been vaguely suspicious himself, but had been too alive to the gravity and the repercussions of his particular passion to think Combeferre had a personal stake in it. "You didn't think he was reasonable? He had reason upon reason, all justified—"
"Well no, they were justified only by society and society is so awfully corrupt. I don't think that Combeferre was being reasonable at all. The truth's the truth, no matter how much it disturbs those that aren't prepared for it. Society's approval or disapproval doesn't make it any more or less true. It's just a fact, which ought to be accepted- like with statistics! Oh I've fallen quite in love with statistics, it's marvelous. There's so much you can tell from them, it's another form of poetry. But…." He frowned and tilted his head to the side, taking the moment to flick his fringe out of his eyes. "What was I… oh yes. It's just what is Courfeyrac, and is true and I don't see why it ought to cause someone like Combeferre problems."
"Because," said Courfeyrac, "he's much more aware of the world than the rest of us. He does tent to be right—"
"He's right that society doesn't like it," Jehan said dismissively, "but that's it and Courfeyrac- we're on the verge of dismantling society altogether. You just watch, we'll tear down the old and build something glorious and new."
"And Romantic," added Courfeyrac, "though that goes without saying."
"And one of the central tenants of Romanticism is to reject society's opinions," Jehan said firmly, putting a hand on Courfeyrac's shoulder. "It's a corrupt and outdated system that will be changed. One day very soon, we'll show the world the truth, and they won't be able to hide from it or reject it. And," added Jehan, lowering his voice, "if you have something that's true for you, that you can live and die for, and no one else recognizes it, well more fool's them. You've been enlightened. The rest of them will just have to catch up."
Courferyrac gave way to impulse and kissed Jehan's temple.
Jehan playfully punched him in the shoulder. "Go on. I know it's not me you want to be kissing. But don't worry, I know it's a truth whose time has yet to come, sad as it is to say it."
Courfeyrac managed to clamber into a fiacre with some Romantics too bosky to walk back to the Latin Quarter and asked to be dropped off in front of Enjolras's building. He had befriended the concierge very early on into his friendship with Enjolras and had more-or-less free license to come and go as he pleased, as long as he took a few minutes to flirt the elderly concierge into a good mood.
Since Courfeyrac was in an excellent mood himself, this was not very difficult at all and he soon waltzed his way into Enjolras's apartment. The door was cracked open slightly, after all and Courfeyrac took this as an invitation to enter. Enjolras had a two room apartment, though the second room served as a sort of general munitions storehouse and library (most of the books were the ones Combeferre could not fit into his room at Necker) and the main room was predictably Spartan. The original wallpaper had been completely covered by maps, newspaper clippings and a large, full-color print of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Aside from the bed, there was a chest of drawers, a set of bookshelves, a cupboard, and a table with two chairs, one of which Enjolras had drawn to the fireplace.
He was sitting in said chair, looking thoughtfully at the fire, a book balanced on his knee, and one had resting on top of the pages to keep it open. Courfeyrac leaned in the doorway a moment, enjoying the sight. There was an almost melancholy look to Enjolras at times, though it disappeared the moment he roused himself into action and in the flickering red and gold light of the fire and Courfeyrac gave himself a moment's Romantic indulgence to watch the way the firelight seemed to caress Enjolras's pale cheek and the waves of his golden hair. The urge to caress them himself became over-powering and Courfeyrac stepped into the room.
"Having a good evening?"
Enjolras came out of his reverie at once, closing his book and standing to face Courfeyrac. "I trust it went well?"
"Brilliantly," Courfeyrac said, beaming and closing the door behind him. "Romanticism carried the day!" As soon as he was close enough, he reached out a hand to cup Enjolras's cheek, and kiss him. He kept it light and gentle, despite the fact that Enjolras was resting his hands on Courfeyrac's hips. "I can say with some authority that we won the battle- one can, indeed, produce a Romantic play that speaks more to the public than a classical one ever could. My aunts and their circle were even getting emotionally invested in it, and they usually save that sort of passion for gambling."
Enjolras glanced at the brown paper package in Courfeyrac's arms.
"Ah ah ah, that comes later in my narrative," Courfeyrac said, sticking his hat on Enjolras's head and dragging the other chair towards Enjolras's. "It's a thrilling one, full of locked privies, fist-fights with classicists, costumes, mistaken identities, and near asphyxiation from enthusiasm."
"It sounds suitably Romantic," Enjolras said, sitting down and smiling at Courfeyrac. Even after months of exposure, Courfeyrac's breath still caught in his throat at that smile. Somehow or other, Courfeyrac managed to spin out a very credible and highly entertaining account of the battle and, when he had arrived at a good stopping point, added, "And Drouet gave me something… hold on, close your eyes for a moment."
Enjolras raised a blond eyebrow.
"It's a good surprise, I swear," Courfeyrac said, languidly rising from his chair and stretching. "Eyes closed- good." Courfeyrac very carefully snuck into Enjolras's other room, where he knew Enjolras kept a few poles that they all kept meaning to turn into pikes. Courfeyrac grabbed one and loosely attached the flag to it.
"Open your eyes, now," Courfeyrac said, striking a pose with the tricolor. "Ta da!"
There was such warmth in Enjolras's gaze that Courfeyrac felt himself blushing.
"Where did you get that?"
"Drouet- his second cousin was a dummer boy at Valmy." Courfeyrac passed the flag to Enjolras with a caressing, "I love you."
Enjolras turned from his fascinated examination of the flag with a faint smile that was none-the-less dazzling. "Do you?"
Courfeyrac grinned at him. "Yes."
Enjolras regarded him thoughtfully and then turned his attention back to the flag. "Courfeyrac, do you know entirely what you mean when you say that? You know my sentiments towards you and hearing you say that has made me…." He trailed off and let his fingertips ghost over the tricolor. "Made me far happier than I ever expected to be, but I do not hold you to it if you find that you did not mean to say it. There is a measure of contentment in simply being with you; there is, admittedly, an overpowering joy in loving you and being loved by you, but—"
"I mean that… that I love you like I love Provence," Courfeyrac managed. He flushed at his own ineloquence and tried, painfully to stumble through an explanation- of why he loved Provence, with the mountains distant, dark shadows at first, half-hidden in fog but protective in their green curves once the sun had come out; the red-tiled roofs of the houses, the scrub bushes flung with graceful abandon over pale rock no one would expect to give life as well as it did; the lush, green rolling hills that burst into magnificent color in the summer; the fields of lavender and sunflowers, swaying in the mistral but always reaching to the sun- and oh the sun! How Courfeyrac loved the Provencal sun, its gentleness, its warmth, how lying down in a patch of it was at once a kiss and a caress, how it brought out the vivid colors that never left Courfeyrac's memory, how it welcomed all, thawed them out and left them open and smiling and given to hospitality because one could not do otherwise when living in such sunlight. As he tried to fit all those images into words, the flood of light, color and feeling that bewildered his senses with happiness, he interleaved his fingers with Enjolras, which was a thing he had never done before.
Enjolras, though listening, had been looking at their interleaved hands. The flag was still half-draped over his shoulder and that, combined with the fall of his golden hair, hid his expression from view.
In some desperation, Courfeyrac cut off a stumbling explanation of lavender honey and vineyards. He pressed their hands together and kissed Enjolras through the tricolor, the fabric tasting faintly of dust and gunpowder, hiding the familiar pressure of Enjolras's lips. "There," he said, his voice trembling slightly because he was not used to the weight and seriousness of this sort of love, "I love you like that."
"Do you?" Enjolras said, with a slow-blooming smile.
Courfeyrac pulled a face. "Oh, being flippant, are you? I still can't tell sometimes when you're joking and when you're being serious."
"I am being very serious," said Enjolras, lightly stroking the short hair on the nape of Courfeyrac's neck and sending an involuntary shiver down Courfeyrac's spine. "You did not need to say anything."
"You would have understood- yes, but you see Enjolras, I often don't realize a thing until I say it. I quip to clear my head. I should have just kissed you through the flag first, shouldn't I?" He was still having trouble understanding how to express the strength and endurance of his feelings. He had never recognized his feelings for Provence as love before, for all that he knew he had been infatuated with Paris. It had endured so long and become such a necessary part of his life- as present as the sunrise, as unspoken and understood as his republican ideals- that it seemed odd to have to try and categorize it. It was, that was all.
Enjolras kissed him, so tenderly Courfeyrac had to bury his face against Enjolras's shoulder afterwards. The cloth of the tricolor rasped against his cheek. Nothing more really needed to be said; Courfeyrac clung to Enjolras with a happiness so intense he felt close to tears and Enjolras held him tightly, pressing his lips to Courfeyrac's hair, unwilling now to ever let him go.
Once Courfeyrac felt himself capable, he looked up and kissed Enjolras again, gently at first, one hand still interleaved with Enjolras's, the other stroking his cheek, until Enjolras very firmly tugged him forward by the nape of his neck and took automatic control of the situation. By now, he and Courfeyrac had developed their own dialect of small sounds and movements that said more than either of them could otherwise express. Enjolras expressed himself so eloquently in general, it was not surprising he could communicate so articulately by gesture. Courfeyrac understood what Enjolras was trying to express the moment he tried to express it and Enjolras, who always managed to understand whatever was being said, even if he seemed otherwise occupied, knew almost at once what Courfeyrac said in return.
It was a seamless nonverbal communication, and so when Courfeyrac began unbuttoning Enjolras's waistcoat, Enjolras returned the favor. Courfeyrac, half-afraid to ruin something so unspeakably precious, pulled off Enjolras's shirt with trembling hands. "Enjolras, will you allow…."
Enjolras smiled and smoothed the fringe out of Courfeyrac's eyes. "Yes."
They continued on the conversation to an extent that they never had before, but arrived at the same point, not quite clinging to each other in the pre-dawn light, half-illuminated by the flicking of the candles and the fire, but pressed together, each equally playing their part and yet each inseparable from the other. When at last, all costumes were stripped away, when everything separating them had been discarded as unnecessary, everything seemed almost matter-of-fact to Courfeyrac. Of course Enjolras would look like a marble statue but still shiver at Courfeyrac's touch on his bare skin, of course Enjolras's hands would be slightly cold and he would have no idea what he was doing but manage to keep the same pace, of course they would end in bed together and there would be a moment of confusion as to who was going where, which ended up as the most enjoyable impromptu wrestling match Courfeyrac had ever experienced and of course the flag would the only thing Courfeyrac was inadvertently wearing-
And when there was, at last, only them together, nothing more needed to be said.
They anticipated and understood each other, they talked without speaking and for several very precious minutes, which Courfeyrac felt that he could never in his life forget, they simply loved and that was enough.
After Courfeyrac had helpfully cleaned them both up, he curled around Enjolras, and lazily stroked Enjolras's side. It occasionally caused Enjolras to shiver, which made Courfeyrac feel so smug he had to stop and airily ask Enjolras if he should get up and tend to the fire.
Enjorlas's only response was to pull Courfeyrac up to him and to press a light, almost ticklish kiss to Courfeyrac's hairline. Courfeyrac nestled against Enjolras in a state of languorous contentment. It was a pleasure almost deeper than sex. Courfeyrac felt himself drifting off at first, then shifted and said, "Enjolras?"
"I know I don't need to say it, but I love you." Courfeyrac pressed a kiss to Enjolras's shoulder. "And I'm not… I know what that means. If that makes sense?"
Enjolras was quiet a moment. "It does."
Courfeyrac did not know how else to say that he understood that, to Enjolras, this was a life-long commitment, a passion that could not be extinguished any more than his republican ideals. What he wished to say was that he agreed and thus what came out was, "I'm a second son, I won't have to marry- but you're an only son, aren't you?"
"Yes." Enjolras was pressing light, absentminded kisses to Courfeyrac's hair and so did not immediately realize a further response was required. "My parents are both dead and I intend for my property to become a hospital for the poor once I no longer have need of it."
Courfeyrac trailed a hand down Enjolras's side, giddily delighted by the shiver it provoked. "And so…."
"I could not marry in any case. It would not be fair." Enjolras brushed the fringe off of Courfeyrac's forehead and musingly pressed his lips to Courfeyrac's temple. "You are the only person I could love like this. The idea of this—" he tightened his arms around Courfeyrac "—with anyone else fills me with abhorrence. It would be a mere distraction not…."
"Not a promise," said Courfeyrac, shifting so that he could press a kiss to where he thought Enjolras's heart might be. "Not a perfect agreement or a pledge…."
"No." He buried his face in Courfeyrac's hair.
"It can be done if we go about it the right way," said Courfeyrac. "Do you know Fiévée? I've seen him around, he used to write for the Journal de débats before helping to found Le National. He lives with the playwright Leclercq. I mean, I realize their arrangement worked out because they formed their household under Bonaparte, and Bonaparte didn't see anything wrong with it- I mean, he couldn't when Cambacérès was notorious for flirting with his page boys, and Bonaparte wasn't enough of an idiot to lock up the man who wrote a good chunk of the Code Civile for him, and viola, decriminalization of homosexuality- in the eyes of the law if not entirely the eyes of society- I'm rambling."
"It's alright," said Enjolras.
"What I mean to say," Courfeyrac pressed on, "is that- is that I take this as seriously as the two of them take their arrangement. And… they live openly together in a ménage. Their arrangement is so domestic it doesn't upset anyone. Hell, my ultra-royalist aunt receives them as a couple, or she did until Fiévée got really militant about censorship, as well he should. If we pass it off as a close friendship at first then… someday perhaps… I mean, it won't be seen as odd if two delegates or two lawyers who are old friends live in the same building in Paris, if we are sufficiently respectable,. Then, maybe, one day, when we have a republic, it won't be seen as odd at all. We'll rethink all the odd social rules we have and all the arbitrary boundaries other people insist on. We can be happy and people won't be bothered with how or why we are. All that will matter is that we are two citizens exercising our rights like any other."
"The republic of virtue," said Enjolras, with a smile that enthralled Courfeyrac utterly.
"Exactly! The right to be happy, the right to be free, the right to live in truth—"
Enjolras pulled him up for a kiss. "Someday," he murmured, against Courfeyrac's lips. "Someday soon. We will make sure of it." And his kiss was the most eloquent truth Courfeyrac had ever known.