A/N: Partially inspired by Cary, who, for whatever reason, tends to draw really cute lobsters.
Marius had put on his best suit of clothes and new hat and gone to the Jardin de Luxembourg for the seventh time in two weeks. Courfeyrac, who had passed Marius on the way to Jehan's apartment after a game of billiards in the Latin Quarter, had told Jehan this and then said, "The poor fellow must have taken the devil of a lot of classes this semester to have so many exams."
"Oh, no, I don't think so," said Jehan, taking a lobster out of its tank. "Marius passed the bar last year, remember?"
"Oh, right," said Courfeyrac, eyeing the lobster suspiciously. "Jehan, I thought your lobster died. You wrote a Petrachian sonnet about it."
"Yes. Lobsters don't like Parisian winters. I went back home during the break though, and rescued Hébert III here out of some lobster traps in La Rochelle. The fishermen weren't terribly happy, but I looked into Hébert III's eyes and could have sworn that it was Hébert II staring back at me. I believe Hébert III is Hébert II's reincarnation. I really couldn't just let him get boiled alive, so I paid for my damages and Hébert was mine to do with as I pleased. Isn't he adorable?" Jehan gleefully held up the lobster for Courfeyrac's inspection.
Courfeyrac eyed the yellow ribbons Jehan had tied around Hébert III's claws. "Er… yes, adorable. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I see a lobster—what are you doing?"
Jehan was tying one end of a long, yellow ribbon around his lobster's neck. "Why, taking him for a walk! The air is splendid. I know lobsters are nocturnal creatures, but Hébert III is an insomniac and likes taking afternoon walks."
"A walk," repeated Courfeyrac, eyeing Jehan's ruff and doublet. "You intend to go out of doors with that and a lobster on a leash."
"Of course I do," Jehan said, a little surprised. "Why would you—oh, right, it's all buttoned correctly. Why should I let society tell me that buttons ought to go in opposing buttonholes? You are quite right to stop me."
Courfeyrac was, for once, speechless, as he looked at Jehan's modifications to an already bizarre outfit.
"Would you like to come? The Jardin de Luxembourg is so lovely—"
"No, no," Courfeyrac protested hastily. "You go ahead, I, er… have a game of billiards."
"I cannot quite recall. I am positive I have one somewhere. I am always promising fellows a game of billiards." Courfeyrac seized his hat, causing Jehan to break out the feathered velvet poof he was planning on wearing.
Courfeyrac was speechless.
"It is wonderful isn't it?" asked Jehan, beaming. "A wonderful find—it was a mock-up of a hat to be worn in Hernani, though it got thrown out because the brim broke and they forgot to add a feather. I asked a grisette friend of mine to fix the brim, and I found a couple of ostrich feather hair-pieces in a pawn-broker's and just pinned them to my hat instead of my hair. I think it looks charming, now. I'm terribly in love with it."
"Occasionally I envy you your ability to fall in love with random, whimsical items like lobsters and mock-up hats from Hernani," said Courfeyrac. "Other times, my dear fellow, I wonder if you are entirely sane."
Jehan beamed, and, pressing his cheek to Courfeyrac's theatrically kissed a lock of Courfeyrac's hair. "Why thank you!"
"That's not how you give a bisous," said Courfeyrac, demonstrating properly by pressing his cheek to Jehan's and kissing the air above it, and then repeating the process with the other cheek.
"Well yes, that was the point," replied Jehan, though he submitted to Courfeyrac's correction readily enough. "Why should one every constrain affection, or even question how it manifests itself? As Chateaubriand says, 'we must not always try to plumb the depths of the human heart; the truths it contains are among those that are best seen in half-light or in perspective.' It is better to follow the impulse of the moment, to allow one's heart to make its feelings known without questioning how it does so. Are you sure you don't fancy a stroll in the Luxembourg?"
"As Chateaubriand is as fond of cats as I am, I will side with him like the good Romantic I am and say, no, I prefer my pets to get their exercise without me. Like the cat, I shall half-doze so as better to observe my society."
"You just mauled that quote, Courfeyrac."
"Then I am in need of the half-doze of billiards. Until the meeting!"
Jehan went off to the Jardin de Luxembourg, as he had promised to meet a brother Mason from Lyons there. The Master of the lodge on the rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honoré had decided, for whatever reason, that it would be impossible for anyone to possibly miss or mistake Jehan and would therefore be the best person to send. To that end, the Master had merely asked Jehan, in the name of the brotherhood, to go meet a friend of theirs in the Luxembourg tomorrow afternoon and Jehan had accepted (he hadn't any other choice, really, when the Master asked him specifically) with only a cheery, "Alright, I usually take Hébert III for a walk then."
As no one had presented themselves during Jehan's usual promenade, Jehan wandered over to the Medici Fountain, Hébert III lagging behind. "Poor Hébert, it was a long walk," Jehan said, picking up his lobster. "Here you are, into the fountain for a bit."
Jehan deposited Hébert III into the Fontaine des Medicis, much to the alarm of the ducks gliding along the surface. A few of the nursemaids there gave him odd looks, but their charges had such an entertaining time watching Jehan jog around the fountain, pulled by a submerged yellow ribbon, that they ended up more amused than alarmed by his antics and appearance.
Jehan blushed but offered a few timorous smiles all around. Jehan sometimes suffered from sudden fits of timidity; he would retreat inward, hiding behind his outlandish clothes and his Romantic flourishes, blushing at nothing, until he was roused from his fit of shyness by some chance remark, or the sudden whim to speak made him burst forth in Romantic passion.
As it was, however, Jehan got distracted by the play of light on the water and began composing a poem in his head. He wasn't entirely sure what the poem would be about yet, but he had several metaphors in mind that were gradually approaching some sort of apocalypse.
"Ah… excuse me?"
Jehan looked up, blushing, and began hauling Hérbert III out of the fountain. The ducks were extremely upset, but the children standing off to the side, staring at Jehan, were utterly delighted.
"It's a monster!" exclaimed one of them. "He had a monster on the end of the leash!"
A soberly dressed gentleman with an impeccable top hat, looked askance at the child, looked askance at Jehan and then finally made a Masonic hand gesture. Jehan made the same gesture in return and said, quite happily, "Oh, hallo, I suppose you are the brother from Lyons?"
"I was told to look for the fellow with a lobster," said the gentleman, still looking somewhat overwhelmed at the full force of Jehan's bohemian eccentricity.
"I don't think that there are any others here," said Jehan.
"…no, I very much doubt it. I have some news from the other brothers in Lyons for the Master of your orient."
"Marvelous! Shall we walk?"
They did, Hébert III determinedly scuttling after them, with his leash stretched taut between man and lobster. Jehan and the other Mason talked in low voices, with a few vague allusions to Masonic practices and some highly cryptic metaphors about political cells in Lyons.
"I'm sorry, Hébert is still rather young," said Jehan, pausing in the middle of their conversation. "His legs are still short, so even though he has ten of them he cannot walk very quickly."
"No, no, quite alright," said the Mason, watching in fascination as Hébert III attempted to catch up with them. "I, er… where were we? Ah yes, I have told you everything too dangerous to put the paper; the rest I cannot tell you, but is written here. You are to give it to the Master, but it is in some sort of code for a fellow named Prouvaire to decipher—"
"How lucky," exclaimed Jehan, accepting a small, sealed letter with the Masonic square and compass pressed into the wax. "I'm Jean Prouvaire. I suppose Uncle Augustin—sorry, Uncle Octavius Augustus—managed to make Secretary after all. I'm not supposed to know, but he was always terribly annoyed that my father made it to Worshipful Master before he did. Does Uncle Octavius Augustus still take all his notes in Latin?"
"Yes, he seems convinced that Latin can become a spoken language again if…" The Mason trailed off. "You… I beg your pardon, but I cannot restrain myself—"
"Bravo!" cried Jehan, tucking the letter into his doublet. "Never restrain your passion."
"Er, right. Just… a lobster, really?"
"I couldn't let someone eat him," Jehan replied simply. "Just look at him! He's too cute to end up as an entrée."
Hébert III twitched his antennae, presumably in thanks.
"Besides, he doesn't bark, he eats his exoskeleton after he sheds it—"
"Charming," the other Mason said faintly.
"—and… really, there is no rhyme or reason to love. I saw him floundering helplessly in a lobster trap and now he holds my heart in his beribboned claws."
"I am quite glad I found him. I was distraught when my violets died. Man must always have something to love!"
"I suppose so," the other Mason said politely. "I had heard eccentricity runs in families."
"Certainly runs in ours," Jehan said chipperly. "Can I treat you to a glass of wine? There are some very good cafés in the Latin Quarter—I recommend the Musain."
The Mason eyed Jehan's lobster. "Ah… thank you, no. I have some personal affairs to attend to in the Marais. Have a good day." The Mason was almost too distracted by Hébert III, staring up at him and twitching his antennae, to remember the proper handshake goodbye, but left politely enough.
Jehan was in good spirits, as he always was when something good happened to someone he cared about very deeply. Uncle Octavius Augustus, who had shown Jehan just how violent Latin authors could be, was one of Jehan's favorite relatives, so Jehan was alright with vicarious joy. He felt as if he simply couldn't contain himself and picking up Hébert III and cuddling him simply was not enough to express his joy. Jehan began looking around the Luxembourg to see if any of his friends had cut class or gone for a walk.
"Oh, hallo Marius!" exclaimed Jehan, setting down Hébert III and waving his hat at a vaguely familiar figure.
Marius was dithering in front of an alleyway, apparently unsure of whether or not he wished to walk down it. He looked up at the sound of Jehan's voice, but did not seem to place it until Jehan came jogging up, Hébert III determinedly scuttling after.
"Hallo Prouvaire," said Marius, with a very formal bow. "I am… is that a lobster?"
Jehan beamed. "Yes! This is Hébert III. Hébert I got flung into a pot of boiling water and Hébert II didn't live through the winter, poor thing, and nothing I did corrected his humors."
"I was unaware that lobsters had humors," stammered Marius, edging back from Hébert III, who was displaying far too much interest in Marius's newly shined boots.
"That's probably where I went wrong then," replied Prouvaire. "I haven't seen you in an age, ever since we had that discussion at the Voltaire over Nerval's translation of Faust. I must say, your grasp of German has improved wonderfully since you started your translation work. Have you been translating much?"
"Er… I make a living off of it," said Marius, shying away from Hébert III's dusty claws.
"I hope that you are well?"
"Yes, thank…." Marius trailed off, his eyes on the approaching figures of Monsieur Leblanc and Mademoiselle Lanoire.
"Oh, I rather like that Quaker and his daughter," said Jehan, who rather liked everyone. "I have half a mind to write a poem about them—two contraries as an inseparable whole, man and woman, age and youth, white and black, brought together and made one by familial love. Rather a different spin on the theme, I thought, of holding two contraries together at once. The Romantic imagination can do it, yes, but then it produces the sublime and love certainly is sublime so perhaps, within the sublime, there is both love and the simultaneous existence of two contraries."
Marius had followed with difficulty this explanation of Romantic philosophy, and was now blushing in the direction of Monsieur Leblanc and Mademoiselle Lanoire.
Jehan, who often blushed at nothing, smiled encouragingly at Marius and did not mention it. "You write poetry too, don't you Marius?"
"N-nothing worth calling poetry," replied Marius, blushing yet more fiercely.
"Come now, I'm sure it's lovely. You express yourself with such passion when it's a subject that interests you. If you would ever like me to look over it for you, I would be very happy to do so."
"I, euh… yes, thank you." Marius, by now the same shade of red as dearly departed Hébert I, turned to watch Monsieur Leblanc and Mademoiselle Lanoire sit down on their bench. "I, ah… am going for a walk."
"Oh, allow me to accompany you!" exclaimed Jehan. "I really feel as if we never talk and it does make me terribly blue-deviled to feel as if I am on the outs with anyone."
"Oh good then," Jehan said, linking arms with Marius. "This looks like a nice alley. Shall we go down it? Oh, I did have a question about Nerval's translation of the spinning song."
Marius, embarrassed to the point of mortification, allowed himself to be led down the path by Jehan, but passive-aggressively did not take any part of the conversation. It was of no consequence; Jehan was in a good enough mood that one question produced another, which produced a tangential discussion on nothing in particular, and Jehan therefore did not require any response to his verbal outpouring of Romantic feeling. Jehan eventually noticed Marius's distraction and the fact that Marius had stealthily switched arms so as to be the one passing closest to Monsieur Leblanc and Mademoiselle Lanoire.
"—which Nerval translated as… oh." Jehan watched in some interest as Marius tugged his coat into better order and determinedly did not look at Mademoiselle Lanoire as they passed her bench. Marius, did, however, glance back once they had passed, to make sure Mademoiselle Lanoire had noticed him.
She looked rather prettier than usual, with a slightly melancholy look to her blue eyes at odds with her smile. Jehan found it Romantically appealing and thought, 'Well, no wonder Marius has fallen for the girl!' Mademoiselle Lanoire had been watching Marius from underneath her eyelashes and looked up only when he had walked past, at which point she had noticed Marius had crustacean company.
"Papa, is that a lobster?" asked Mademoiselle Lanoire, with some surprise.
After a moment, Monsieur Leblanc replied, "Yes, I believe so."
"Mademoiselle Lanoire has a rather sweet voice, does she not?" asked Jehan, testing the waters, "though there is something slightly wild in it—like a lark."
Marius dreamily replied, "Sweeter than anything I have ever heard in this lifetime! Perhaps in a dream once, I heard something approaching its beauty, but even then it could not match her for purity of tone. Ah, there is almost a native sweetness in it—uncultivated beauty, all the better for being unconscious!"
Jehan smiled to himself and led Marius on several more turns past Mademoiselle Lanoire and her father. After several minutes, Jehan was relatively sure there had been some sort of eye contact, which had to be as good as a first kiss for someone like poor Marius. At that point, however, Marius's nerves had been worn thin from proximity to his goddess and the overwhelming delight of hearing her say, 'Papa is that a lobster' and so had to sit down on a bench. Jehan bid him a fond farewell and went off to the Musain several minutes early for the afternoon meeting.
There were only three people there; Enjolras was reading a newspaper under the map of Paris under the Republic, though he looked up when Jehan walked in, and, since Joly was still at a lecture, Bossuet was drinking punch with Courfeyrac. They offered Jehan a glass as soon as he made his way in from the private staircase off of the Rue des Gres.
"I have a bowl for the express purpose of sharing it," said Courfeyrac, grinning. "I won it off of one of my friends from the law school. Ha, that's the last time Jourdan will insult my skill at billiards. I defeated him within ten minutes flat and he now has to pick up my bar tab at the Musain for the next week."
"Oh, wonderful," said Jehan, making sure not to shut the door on Hébert III.
Bossuet said, "Come sit… Jehan, did you bring a lobster on a leash into the Musain?"
"Yes," said Jehan, picking up Hébert III, who was now covered in dust from the Luxembourg. "Oh, Hébert III, just look at you! You are getting my cuffs all dirty."
Hébert III flapped his tail fan, presumably in apology.
Bossuet was shaking with laughter at his table, though Enjolras did not look the least surprised that Jehan had dressed like a rejected character from Hernani and was carrying a lobster festooned in ribbons. Enjolras merely asked, "Have you any word from the Masons?"
"Oh, yes. A brother came by and passed on news of the political cells in Lyons. I have to decode it, but I can have it ready for you by tomorrow. Oh, and I saw Marius!"
"Was he looking as ridiculous as has been?" asked Courfeyrac.
"I, for one, approve of it," said Jehan. "If Marius wants to look ridiculous, why shouldn't he?"
Bossuet had the good grace to eye Jehan's own ridiculous outfit instead of saying anything outright.
"Oh, Hébert, you really are filthy. Louison—Louison!" Louison had been passing through to the kitchen; Jehan jogged after her, much to her bemusement. "Would you bring me a large bowl of water, please?"
"How large?" asked Louison, eyeing the lobster.
"Large enough to fit a lobster into—but mind that it is cold water, and I suppose you ought to add a pinch of sea salt to make him feel more at home."
Louison opened her mouth, closed it, and decided that no, this was perfectly normal, as far as one defined 'normal' with Jehan. "Right you are." She returned with a large mixing bowl and set it on the table, and watched in fascination as Jehan stuck in Hébert.
"New pet, M'sieur Prouvaire?"
"Yes! Isn't he darling?"
"I… suppose? Looks right pretty with all the ribbon."
As Enjolras had returned to his newspaper, Courfeyrac and Bossuet gamely turned to Jehan and his lobster for entertainment. Hébert III did not disappoint as, while exploring his new watery refuge, he managed to climb up the side of the bowl and spook Louison into a hasty retreat to the kitchen. Courfeyrac was vastly amused and gave Hébert a bit of apple from the bottom of his glass of punch in reward. Hébert ate it, with several antennae twitches of enjoyment.
"Look, it eats fruit," Courfeyrac said in a tone of utmost fascination. He fished out another bit of apple and held it under Hébert's mouth. "Ooh, that feels decidedly odd."
"You like anything you can feed," said Bossuet. "I still remember how you kept stuffing pastries into Feuilly when we first met him."
"When Feuilly comes tomorrow evening I shall tell him that you compared him to a lobster and you shall have to deal with the full brunt of his rant on Poland. Lobsters—ha, it'll be on what's-his-name, the one Feuilly seems to be in love with."
"Ha, no! General What's-his-name who fought the British during the American Revolution. It will come to me. But back to the point—Jehan, can you shed some light on Marius's new habit of dressing respectably?"
"I have a guess," said Jehan, "but you will laugh at him and he will get very offended. You always treat other people's passions very lightly, Courfeyrac."
"Just as I treat my own," replied Courfeyrac. "It is only that I happen to take matters of dress very seriously. I have been trying to press some old coats and waistcoats of mine on him, but he's too proud to take them. He's either gone mad or started applying to law firms."
"Well that's nonsense," said Jehan, indignantly. "What right do we have in saying how Marius should be happy? If it pleases him to walk around looking as if he is trying to mock the bourgeoisie by adopting their styles of dress and failing badly in the attempt, then why shouldn't he?"
"Well, why should I restrain my curiosity?" asked Courfeyrac, as Hébert III ate a bit of orange out of his hand. "It is a passion for answers as strong as Marius's for whatever the hell he is doing. He's too serious a fellow to mock anyone; I'm terribly fond of our little Bonapartist, but I'll be the first to admit that he is not a bohemian in anything but circumstance. In spirit, he's still fighting at Jena, trying to win the Legion of Honor."
"Because he loves his father," replied Jehan. "Who are we to question to manifestation of love? You always manifest it in gift-giving, Marius manifests it in odd attire."
"A Napoleonic uniform, you mean," said Courfeyrac.
"Well, yes, perhaps. Anyway, Romantic feeling comes out in different ways for everyone. If Marius's is in dressing oddly, then so be it! Let his grander passions move him to whatever action they will."
"Still, he should have asked for advice before going out and buying that outfit. The coat is flattering, I grant you, but the rest… alas, poor Marius."
"How much alcohol-soaked fruit have you been feeding that lobster?" asked Bossuet.
"Hm? I don't know. Everything in my… now empty glass."
"It's not looking very good."
Hébert III was, in fact, looking somewhat off. He waved his claws and antennae somewhat erratically and, in his awkward attempts to climb out of his bowl, tumbled backwards into the water.
"Courfeyrac, you have debauched my lobster!" Jehan exclaimed.
"It was a manifestation of love," replied Courfeyrac.
Jehan then manifested his love by trying to get Courfeyrac in a headlock and nearly sending a bowlful of drunken lobster into Bossuet's lap. Jehan, after all, was not one to suppress any manifestation of Romantic feeling.