A/N: I apologize for the title, which is pretty irrelevant. Still, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" does have the lines "let nothing you dismay" and "with true love and brotherhood/ Each other now embrace", which ties in well enough with Bossuet being the POV character.
It was far too cold, Bossuet had no plans for Christmas or New Year's (his vague plans to dine with one or more of the aunts or uncles who occasionally sent him money or asked for his limited legal advice had, as usually, completely fallen through), and he had no success in finding lodgings of his own. Not only was he broke, but rent had gone up for the winter, and Bossuet was not inclined to spend more than he could afford on a stoveless garret where he could freeze to death and inconvenience strangers (as opposed to inconveniencing his friends), with his balding, frozen corpse. Bossuet thought a moment, decided against thinking any further, shrugged on his tattered tailcoat (his overcoat was in hock again) and went off to go see Courfeyrac.
"Ah, my poor eagle, buffeted by the wild winds of fortune?" Courfeyrac asked, opening the door at Bossuet's knock. "You look dreadful. What happened to your hat?"
"The wild winds of fortune attempted to steal it," replied Bossuet, trying to knock the dent out of the crown. "Then a carriage ran over it."
"I would offer you one of mine, but I'm down to my last hat and I have to go to a really endless round of parties where my aunt Mathilde will go on two hour long rants about how much shame I bring upon the family name, and the only way to get through one of those alive is to be impeccably dressed. One must hold one's top hat before one so that the blows glance off instead of lodging themselves in your Robespierre waistcoat." Courfeyrac was, at that moment, impeccably dressed in a pair of spotless white breeches, a double-breasted black tailcoat, a green waistcoat that matched his eyes, with a second, fawn-colored waistcoat under it to make the green look yet more vivid, a cravat so perfectly arranged it would make Beau Brummel bite his lips in impotent rage at being unable to recreate such a work of art, and, to top it all, a sprig of holly in his button-hole.
"Going to visit your mistress?" asked Bossuet, giving up on his hat.
Courfeyrac took Bossuet's hat and brushed it off as best he could. "Ah, dear eagle, your eyes are not as sharp as they should be. I dressed to visit a girl I would like to make my mistress. If she had been my mistress, my cravat would not be the perfectly pinned down specimen you see before you; it would have flown off in the whirlwind of passion. As is, she holds me off with cruel persistence and will not take it upon herself to derange curls just begging to be deranged." Courfeyrac shook his head, his curls, carefully parted to the side, with several falling Romantically over his forehead, swinging back and forth. "I suppose it is all for the best; I had to take tea with my great-aunt Marie-Therese just after that, and I doubt my own artistic powers in recreating such a masterpiece as this cravat."
"How long did you spend tying it?" asked Bossuet, whose own cravat was already unravelling from its knot.
Courfeyrac coughed and busied himself trying to knock the dent out of Bossuet's top hat. "You cannot rush genius, you know."
"A lesser mortal cannot possibly comprehend how you manage to pass an entire morning getting dressed," said Bossuet. "You are to congratulated, Courfeyrac."
"On the finished product, yes, I know," said Courfeyrac, with an impish smile. "Perhaps one of those new frock coats would have made more of an impression on my little boot-maker, but great-aunt Marie-Therese can never say no to a good tailcoat and I exceeded my allowance on Christmas presents again this year. Speaking of presents—"
Courfeyrac pulled a sheet off of his bed to reveal a very messy collection of packages wrapped in brown paper and tied with a great deal of string. "I believe yours is… somewhere. I may have forgotten to label them."
"You attire your presents as deftly as you dress yourself," said Bossuet, being glib just to keep from showing how touched he was. "That knot there would not be out of place in Bond Street."
"See? There are more applications to a thorough knowledge of men's fashion than one would previously expect." Courfeyrac began sorting through the lumps of brown paper and string without any very clear idea of how to identify their contents and eventually unearthed a smaller package than the rest. "Ah ha, here it is! I saw it in a shop and immediately thought of you!"
"I hesitate to strip something you have taken such pains to dress," said Bossuet.
"Meaning that you cannot untie the strings?" asked Courfeyrac, rather wryly. "Say no more, I mangle corset strings often enough that I know anything thinner than a cravat that is not a bootlace will end up in a horrible muddle. There ought to be a pair of scissors… somewhere."
Bossuet unearthed them from underneath a dilapidated gothic romance and cut the strings. A dented pocket watch fell out of the paper and into Bossuet's hand. Bossuet did not need to open it to see the various misspellings of his last name scratched out on the inside of the cover. "You found my grandfather's pocket watch," he said, a little stupidly.
Courfeyrac grinned. "Yes. Luck smiles upon me when it seldom does upon you, poor fellow. I discovered that we use the same watchmaker."
"You sent me to that watchmaker," replied Bossuet. "You sold your pocket watch to him last semester when you lost that bet to Dumoriez over whether or not you could steal a policeman's hat and lost. And nearly went to prison."
Courfeyrac waved off this detail as unimportant. "Yes, but this literally had your name on it. You like it?"
Bossuet could not quite find the words. Though Courfeyrac was usually the one to initiate embraces (and seldom needed any justification for them), Bossuet had the urge to fling his arms around Courfeyrac's neck. He instead managed a garbled phrase of something that might have sounded like French to someone who had never spoken French before.
Courfeyrac slung an arm around Bossuet's shoulders and squeezed him close. "Thought you'd like it. Well, do you have any engagements this evening? My boot-maker tends to haunt the Cafe Musain, she's close friends with one of the waitresses there, and I very much wish to get in one last visit before familial obligations take over my evenings."
"No, I have no plans what-so-ever," said Bossuet, still staring at his pocket watch. "Courfeyrac, my dear fellow—you did not... there was no need to do this—"
"Which is precisely why I did it," replied Courfeyrac, with a positively dazzling smile. "Since great-aunt Marie-Therese cannot keep her hand from moving to her purse strings once said hand has been kissed by a Romantic like myself, I am even capable of overemphasizing my point by buying you a drink or two. By the by, Bossuet old fellow, would you allow me to loan you a new cravat?" He pulled at one frayed end of Bossuet's cravat, and the strip of muslin gave up the fight and slid to the ground. "I cannot promise I can tie yours as well as I have tied mine, but at least you will no longer look homeless."
"The correct phrase is 'bohemian'," replied Bossuet, putting the watch into the battered pocket of this tailcoat. "Eagles do very poorly in captivity. We far prefer the open air."
"Meaning you are sleeping in Joly's armchair again," said Courfeyrac, pulling a cravat out from the wad of fabric spilling out of a drawer and draping it around Bossuet's neck. "I rather like Joly. Charmingly eccentric fellow, extremely sweet under it all, surprisingly dedicated to his ideals. He's an odd and likeable person who has already discovered the efficacious treatment of laughter against any ills. You found a treasure, my dear boy. If you have worn out his patience, which I doubt, considering how good-natured you both are and how well the two of you get on, I would be happy to pull a mattress off my bed for you. Although... hm, no I think you may trust our jolly Joly to always keep a perch for you."
"Thank you, but I am sleeping on the chaise-longue belonging to another friend of mine, Bahorel. Have you met him? He studies the law the way we do." This not only meant, 'he skips class with as much frequency' but, as Bossuet used the word 'droit', which could also be translated as 'Right', it meant that he shared their republican sympathies.
Courfeyrac grinned, but did not look up from the intricate process of cravat-tying. "I should be delighted to make his acquaintance. Oh, I have been meaning to introduce you to Enjolras."
"The blond in our Monday lecture. Chin up, please?"
Bossuet obeyed. "There are a good number of blonds in our Monday lecture, and I do not attend said lecture often enough to remember them all."
"No, no, the blond," said Courfeyrac. "You can spot his hair halfway across the Luxembourg."
"Oh, that one," Bossuet said, glancing to the right, where Courfeyrac had a mirror on the wall. Bossuet eyed his reflection with amusement. Though the cravat was certainly shaping up to be a masterpiece, Bossuet looked horribly shabby. It was particularly noticeable against Courfeyrac, in all his sartorial splendour. Bousset tried to bring himself to care and only missed having his overcoat, since it was going to be a very cold winter.
What was slightly more annoying was that, in contrast to Courfeyrac's perfectly tousled curls, Bossuet's hairline had retreated another half-inch and his bald spot was starting to become obvious. Bossuet briefly envied Enjolras but decided that he would rather not have his hair be his defining characteristic. "Does he study the law as we do?"
"Oh, he exceeds us," said Courfeyrac. "It's his passion. I go to the same fencing master as the fellow and he trounces me every time, so I invited him out for a drink afterwards one particularly brutal bout and... my God, to hear the man speak on his ideals is to see his soul illuminating the world. Or at least your café table. I mean, very reserved fellow, didn't quite know how to handle me at first, but get us both onto politics and we're as fast friends as Nisus and Euryalus. Hold onto that, would you?" Courfeyrac stuck a pin into the knot and eyed Bossuet with fond exasperation. "And you insist on wearing that old tailcoat?"
"I am very fond of this old tailcoat, as you so ungraciously call it," replied Bossuet. "We are always in each others' company and we have yet to grow tired of one another. It is the Claire to my Julie."
"Then let an old overcoat of mine that can still sort-of pass as fashionable be the Saint-Preux," said Courfeyrac, shaking his head. "I don't know why you won't take it. I mean, I wouldn't wear it again, and thanks to my dear, ex-mistress Madeline's enthusiasm, half the buttons are missing, but it does well enough keeping out the elements. You are one of the first friends I made when I arrived in Paris, and certainly the dearest, but really, Bossuet. If your smile didn't make up for your wardrobe, I would be ashamed to be seen with you."
"Ah, but my wardrobe is a service to your good self," said Bossuet. "You look like Beau Brummel next to me. We might as well have a Romantic friendship- the opposition of two contraries walking arm in arm."
"Ha, like I could tear you away from Joly these days," replied Courfeyrac, somehow or other managing to shove Bossuet into the old overcoat anyways. It was slightly too big, but no matter; Bossuet had no gloves and the long sleeves would keep his hands warm. "Shall we be off then? I want your opinion on my bootmaker and... oh, hello, who is that?"
Someone had knocked on the door, and, as soon as Courfeyrac opened it, Joly burst in, with a whirl of overcoats and scarves and a characteristically energetic and slightly hysterical monologue about his health. "I am terribly ill. I think it's influenza. All the bad air bringing in the snowstorms, and, oh, have you ever seen such snow? I am sure it has soaked through my overcoat and has dampened all my layers- I shall be chilled and it shall settle in my lungs and turn my cough pneumatic, I swear, and worst of all, I shall probably give it to Bossuet, because his chest has to be weakened from all the times he goes running about without an overcoat. I would give him one of mine if it would actually fit him, but, alas, his shoulders are far too broad. Oh, speaking of that, I'm all finished now, but do you think the bed—"
"As you can see," Courfeyrac interrupted hastily, grabbing the snow-dampened coats and mufflers Joly was flinging off, "I forced Bossuet into one of mine, if only so that I do not have to see that travesty of a tailcoat ever again."
Joly looked momentarily abashed, but Bossuet's smile won an answering one from Joly. "Oh, hallo Bossuet! You look quite dashing. Off to visit the Paris relations?"
"No, none of them are permanent residents," said Bossuet. "We eagles are sadly provincial."
"Provincial—oh, that reminds me, Courfeyrac, I have your Christmas present somewhere." Joly began searching his pockets. As he was wearing about five layers of clothing, however, he had quite a few pockets. "Er...."
"Take your time," said Courfeyrac, rummaging around on the bed. "I don't know which one is yours either. Let's see... ah, this one's for Enjolras. Hm. I've seen him at the Café Musain. He might be there. Joly, do you know Enjolras? He's friends with that Polytechnician-turned-medical student you always have a drink with on Wednesdays."
"Oh yes, before my dissections," said Joly, still busily digging through his pockets. "I suppose you are talking of Combeferre's blond friend. Looks rather like that statue of Saint-Michel in the fountain by the Latin Quarter and doesn't really say much, right? Ah ha, here it is." Joly pulled out a tin tied with red ribbon. "I had to search half the city for them."
Courfeyrac chose one of the packages on the bed, apparently at random, and the two exchanged presents. Joly was delighted to find a dry muffler with a matching waistcoat Courfeyrac had bought for himself and never worn, and Courfeyrac was beside himself to discover the tin was full of calissons.
"Calissons! Ah, Joly, you are a treasure! I was just telling Bossuet that you are beyond rubies, etc., not that he has ever failed to acknowledge your shining worth, and here you are, providing evidence. Calissons! In Paris!" He enthusiastically kissed Joly on the cheeks and then sat down to eat more calissons in one sitting than was entirely good for him. "But, to return to Enjolras, yes, that's certainly him. Joly, my dear fellow, I see you are more terrified of finals than I had previously imagined."
Bossuet turned to look. Joly had knocked off his hat while trying to search his pockets, revealing that his hair now rose two or three inches above his head.
"My now ex-mistress thought it would be fun to curl my hair before I sat for my exams," said Joly, with uncharacteristic glumness. "I objected. In the ensuing struggle, this somehow happened and now my professor of clinical surgery thinks that I really do experiment too much with electro-magnetism and I got a re-telling of Frankenstein as soon as he saw me. Apparently he has a tendre for Mary Shelley. He once wrote her a letter and got a reply from Percy Shelley, asking him to please never try to write to Mrs. Shelley again, as it gave her nightmares."
"What the hell did he send her?" asked Courfeyrac, though a mouthful of masticated calissons.
"I'm not sure I want to know," said Joly. "I got the story from a professor in the pathology department, who said my surgery professor's contributions to the general hormonal fug in their boarding school had been keeping a box of half-dissected wildlife under his bed."
"What is it about medicine that attracts all those who ought to be the care of moral alientists?" asked Courfeyrac. "What medicine you know has only served to make you sick, and last night your friend Combeferre, finally giving in, came with me and Enjolras to get a drink and then proceeded to monologue about the stages of bodily decay. Clever fellow, and I know you think the world of him, Joly, but...."
"Combeferre is just interested in everything," Joly said diplomatically.
"Including Ways to Put Courfeyrac Off His Food," replied Courfeyrac.
"Maybe he wanted whatever pastry you were eating," said Bossuet.
"I am not always eating pastries," Courfeyrac declared indignantly, albeit somewhat unintelligibly, as he was still eating calissons.
"No, sometimes someone else takes them," agreed Bossuet, deftly stealing the calisson out of Courfeyrac's hand.
"Hé, Joly got those specifically for me!" Courfeyrac protested, trying to grab it back. "It is almost impossible to find a good calisson once one enters the city; I haven't had one in years."
"You will have relatives driving up from Aix-en-Provence within the week," replied Bossuet, through a mouthful of calisson. "Let the poor Northerner have a taste of Southern warmth."
"I'll give you a taste of Southern warmth," Courfeyrac replied, and in the ensuing scuffle, managed to lose his boutonniere and his calisson but also managed to pin Bossuet to the table.
"Ha, I win," said Courfeyrac, though he glanced anxiously at the mirror to make sure that no lasting damage had been done to his cravat.
"Have you been scuffling with your law-school friends more than usual?" asked Joly, attempting to dry his overcoat on the stove. "You actually won that time."
"How kind of you to notice," said Courfeyrac, grabbing the tin of calissons and gamely offering one to Bossuet in apology. "Oh, right, I completely forgot. I invited Bossuet to go to the Café Musain this evening to see my little boot-maker. Would you like to come?"
"I am always happy to go out for a drink," said Joly, with a smile, "particularly with the two of you. Bossuet, I have something for you too, but you will be here for Christmas Eve, won't you? I know Courfeyrac's spending both days at his aunt's."
"I have no plans whatsoever," said Bossuet. "And, since I am currently rebelling against the trend of consumerism infiltrating the ranks of our fellow students and turning them all into bourgeois nuisances, I shall put myself at your disposal tonight as my Christmas present to you."
Joly grinned. "Poor Bossuet, are you really that hard up?"
"I wasn't until I paid off parts of my bar tabs," replied Bossuet. "I always pay my just enough of my bills so that the various cafe owners of Paris do not lose faith in me or decide to take their money back in pounds of flesh, but never enough so that they think I will never return. I like to end the year on good terms with everyone, particularly my creditors. Courfeyrac, my dear fellow, I think I have just about given up trying to repay you."
"That's the spirit!" Courfeyrac said, flinging his arms around Bossuet's shoulders. "In fact, that is the best present you could have gotten me. I think it has stopped snowing. Shall we head off?"
Once Joly had wrapped himself up again and fretted over the fact that Bossuet could not actually close his overcoat, they began making their way through the Latin Quarter. The Café Musain was on the rue Saint-Michel, by one of the exits from the Jardin de Luxembourg and thus by a small plaza full of slush, horse droppings and ice. Bossuet, of course, somehow managed to slide on the ice and fall into a snow drift right in front of the café. One of the waitresses applauded, as did several of the students, sitting at a table outside the café, as not even the coldest weather could keep Parisian students from loitering outside cafés and laughing at the passer-by.
"We eagles are always trying to take off, at the least provocation," he remarked, to take the sting out of his scraped hands and the contusion on his left leg that had somehow managed to make Joly incoherently anxious. Though Bossuet was flattered at this proof of friendship, Joly had not removed either of the two scarves wrapped around the lower half of his face and Bossuet had no idea what Joly was saying, or why he was waving his arms around so frantically.
"Jesus, watch out for the carriage!" exclaimed Courfeyrac, dragging Bossuet out from where he had been sitting, in the middle of the snow bank, and, coincidentally, in the middle of the street. Joly, muffledly expressing his displeasure, helped Bossuet to his feet.
"Joly, my dear fellow, your protestations have been as muffled as your outpourings of republican sentiment," said Bossuet. "I did not understand a word."
"He asked, 'where would you be without us'?" Courfeyrac translated, as he and Joly helped Bossuet to his feet and began to brush him off. Joly nodded vigorously.
"Probably dead," said Bossuet. "I find that is my answer to most everything, which is why I take such pride in my funeral orations. Here lies a fallen eagle, who has not been trapped by a Corsican, or by a Caesar, but by the cruel carriage of fortune."
"There is a crest on the carriage," said Courfeyrac. "You could turn it into the death of a wild, noble creature at the hands of a corrupt, aristocratic society, speaking of which…." Courfeyrac eyed the progress of the carriage, frowning.
The carriage churned up the ugly gray sludge coating the surface of the street was driving around the corner, through the plaza of particularly disgusting sludge, and onto the rue Saint-Michel very close to a sullen, shivering group of workers. The workers attempted to cluster against the wall, but there was a group of seven or eight army officers on leave who did not wish to cede such a prime bit of walking space.
The workers- mostly grisettes and daylaborers in coats far too thin for the cold weather- were soaked in a sudden spray of slush, a few of them slipping and falling in their haste to get out of the way of the carriage wheels. The officers laughed; Courfeyrac, Bossuet and Joly all frowned, republican sensibilities outraged.
"Hey there, there were women there," called Courfeyrac, personally offended. One or two of the officers turned at the sound of his voice. "You might have given them the wall."
"I only see whores," said one officer, turning to walk forward, past the now very soggy members of the working class, in order to cross the street towards the café.
Joly caught Courfeyrac's arm and said something along the lines of, "Don't pay any attention to him, he only said that because they're grisettes and we're students."
"Our top hats and black coats give us away at once," said Bossuet, who was at least certain he had caught the word 'student'. "Come now, Courfeyrac, you of all people should know the importance of fashion—"
"And even if your average grisette finds your average student an irresistible lure into temptation, that doesn't give him the right to call them whores," said Courfeyrac, as several of the grisettes (and their male companions) began glaring and muttering what appeared to be various nasty epithets at the officers, who were now mostly past them but, alas, had not yet moved out of earshot.
"Watch your mouth before I clean it out with snow," threatened a hulking blond officer, turning around to glare at one particularly foul-mouthed seamstress.
"Aristocratic gits," said Courfeyrac, stooping down elegantly to pack together a large handful of snow. "Let me see... they are about to cross the street and have paused, I can very easily get closer and I am generally reckoned to have good aim...."
"Courfeyrac, this is a terrible idea," warned Joly, tugging down his scarf to better express his opposition.
"I've had worse," said Courfeyrac, who thereupon lobbed his snowball at the offending officersand managed to dislodge the hat of the officer harassing the foul-mouthed seamstress. "A la lantern les aristos!"
"Neo-Jacobin!" snarled the hatless one, spinning around.
"And proud of it!" shouted Courfeyrac, packing together another handful of snow. He hurled it with unerring accuracy and this time hit the officer in the face. Courfeyrac was extremely pleased with himself.
Bossuet and Joly were not quite so pleased.
"I seem to recall that army officers have to train in marksmanship," said Joly, tugging Courfeyrac towards the Café Musain by the back of his overcoat. "I very much doubt that this is going to end well."
"Fight for your beliefs, mon joli," said Bossuet, bending down and gamely scooping up a handful of snow. "Your uncle did for his, in the Vendée."
"Yes, and then my grandfather shot him in the head," said Joly.
"Every man of us!" cried Courfeyrac, causing the officers to start rushing at them.
"Oh hell," said Joly, releasing Courfeyrac. "I shall catch pneumonia, I know it." Nonetheless, he stooped, picked up a handful of snow, packed it together and flung it at the face of the nearest officer. Bossuet did the same, at which point an officer flung a snowball at his face and Bossuet slid on the ice and landed in a snowbank once again.
As luck would have it, once he managed to flounder to his feet, he got another snowball to the face and had to rely on Joly to drag him out of harm's way and behind a café table Courfeyrac had toppled over to use as a make-shift shield ("Pardon me, my dear fellows, but I claim this table in the service of the Republic. Oh, hallo Florent, hallo Mothe, hallo Pérot! Want to throw some snowballs at these bastards? Brilliant!"). The proprietor was not particularly pleased, but, as he then got hit by a snowball by an officer, the proprietor dragged another table out of the café and gamely added it to their make-shift barricade. Courfeyrac was clearly in his element, laughing and tossing out quips at the officers as easily as he tossed out snowballs. As Bossuet discovered in half-shouted conversation with Courfeyrac's friends, Florent and Mothe were cousins from Calais and had, like Bossuet, passed their childhood winters throwing snowballs at any carriage unlucky enough to come within range. Though Joly crouched against the side of the Musain, alternatively examining his tongue in his hand mirror ("Snow down the front of my coat is not going to help my bronchitis.") and making snowballs, Courfeyrac, Bossuet and the cousins managed to keep the soldiers from successfully crossing the street.
Though Pérot had decamped to the café with his glass of mulled wine, he opened the door a crack to allow several students who shared either Neo-Jacobin sympathies or a desire to throw snowballs to look out and decide on whether or not to join in the fun themselves. Bossuet, taking a break to crouch by the wall, by Joly, found himself looking into the very blue eyes of the blond from his Monday lecture. What was his name?
"Hallo," said Bossuet with a grin. "Come to observe the fight for the right to be free? Or rather, to prove to some aristos that the working class still has its defenders?"
The blond smiled at Bossuet. Bossuet was momentarily taken aback. He had a relative immunity from Courfeyrac's charm thanks to continued exposure, but was not so immune to one the blond's slow, steady smiles. For someone who seemed so reserved, he had a particularly inviting smile. "Citizen, allow me to observe that your barricade is in need of some support."
"Oh, come join us," said Bossuet. "I'm Lesgle, by the by, Lesgle from Meaux. Courfeyrac has nicknamed me 'Bousset', however, and the nickname has stuck. This is Joly."
Joly, huddled against the wall, gave a cheery wave and said, "Pleasure to meet you. You're Combeferre's friend, Enjolras?"
The blond inclined his head. "I am, citizen."
"Combeferre talks about you quite a lot; it's a pleasure to meet you in person, Citizen Enjolras. Careful there, Courfeyrac, that was an icicle he threw at you!" He handed a snowball to Courfeyrac and then turned back to Enjolras. "I don't think this barricade of ours is actually big enough. I- hey!"
Joly had gotten up on his knees, to better hand Courfeyrac a snowball and to look at Enjolras while talking to him, and was bombarded with snowballs from the officers.
"Stuck your head over the barricade, Joly," said Courfeyrac, with a rueful smile. "Poor fellow, even your hat could not hide the target what's-her-name made of your hair."
"Nothing like a little political squabbling to dampen one's ardour," Joly said.
"I think I shall bestow upon you an extra 'l'," said Courfeyrac, throwing an arm around Joly's shoulder in a quick half-hug. "Jolly, two ailes—" or 'wings' "—and you shall lift us all out of here."
"Ha," said Joly, brushing snow out of his now flattened hair. "I have been so soaked I cannot possibly take flight. We shall have to wait this out."
"Since you are fighting a defensive war," said Enjolras, "it may be wise to build up your barricade."
Courfeyrac, attempting to scrape together another handful of snow, added, "We're nearly out of ammunition, too."
Enjolras smiled again- really, thought Bossuet, if Napoleon had that kind of smile, no wonder his marshals had followed him across Europe- and said, "I believe I may be of some assistance, then, citizens."
Though neither Joly nor Bossuet were entirely sure how Enjolras managed to do it, a number of students came pouring out of the café with tables and chairs commandeered in the name of the Revolution (or in the name of giving those officers the what-for) and, under Enjolras's direction, began building up the barricade so that Joly and a few of his friends from the medical school who were willing to arm their fellows but not to aim at the officers, could run over to fuller patches of snow a bit farther from the café. Bossuet made his way back to the structured conglomeration of tables and chairs, held in place by tightly-packed snow, and decided that it would be better not to try his hand at engineering and thus destroying the structural integrity of the barricade. Instead, he crouched by the wall and watched in fascination as Enjolras, without ever declaring himself the leader or laying out any specific plan, took control of their now waist-level barricade.
"Six men throwing- yes, to the left, careful, let Combeferre pass." Enjolras, half-bent over, moved Courfeyrac and Florent into position, at a gap between tables, and then looked to a dark-haired fellow in a polytechnicien uniform. "Carnot, shall the wall of Troy fall under siege?"
Carnot, sitting on the doorstep of the Café Musain, grinned. "When Combeferre and I have been its architects? Hardly. I knew, sooner or later, you would lead me to something close to action, Enjolras. I've been waiting for this since my grandfather told me about Valmy. What a Christmas present!"
"I think the barricade will stand," said Combeferre, composedly. He accepted several snowballs from Joly, to pat down around the base of their barricade. "You are to be congratulated, Sadi."
"As are you," Carnot pointed out, though he grinned again. "You ought to have stayed at the Polytechnique, you know."
"I am happier at the medical school," replied Combeferre, turning to Enjolras. "How shall we advance?"
"Our ammunition is still relatively limited," said Enjolras. "Six to stay here- Combeferre, Carnot, Courfeyrac, arm yourselves and come with me."
Courfeyrac left off shouting insulting things about the officers' mothers to clap Bossuet on the shoulder and exclaim, "Well, my dear fellow, I cede the fort to you."
"Me?" asked Bossuet, a little sceptically.
"Why not?" said Courfeyrac, accepting several snowballs from Joly. "Joly has put himself in charge of ammunition and Enjolras has some plan in mind we cannot help but follow, since it will win the day, and has asked me to go with him."
"I think I will break the barricade," Bossuet said.
"Stand with your back to the wall, then," said Joly, handing Bossuet a snowball, "you shall only break your leg that way and- tch, what happened to your gloves, Bossuet? You will get frostbite and your fingers will turn black and fall off."
Enjolras touched Bossuet on the shoulder. "You will undertake this duty, citizen?"
"If you would like me to," Bossuet said, with a puzzled smile.
"Have your men hold their fire until you hear me," said Enjolras, who, after receiving his snowballs from Combeferre, disappeared back inside the café, the three other students following him in a nice show of 'C' alliteration.
Bossuet, feeling very awkward, was left with six students he did not know very well, all of whom were crouched behind café tables and looking at him expectantly. He glanced at Joly, who smiled quite brightly and said, "Well here you are, my eagle, a chance to spread your wings. I have no doubt you shall soar."
"Into the window of the Musain, most likely," said Bossuet. "Joly, ammunition- my other friends, arm yourselves, and wait for that blond fellow to give the signal. Then, I believe we leap up and launch our snowballs altogether, in a show of student solidarity that will teach them to respect the value of education. However, let us wait for the signal."
It came soon enough. As soon as Joly and one of his friends had run over with snowballs and put them in little piles by each student, Bossuet heard a sharp, 'Now!' from somewhere above him.
"Now!" Bossuet echoed, and he and the six students under his command all leapt up and flung their snowballs straight into the faces of the officers who, in the absence of continuous opposition, had decided to try and get closer. This had been a very stupid idea on their part, as Enjolras, Courfeyrac, Combeferre and Carnot had somehow gained access to the upper story of the Musain and had begun barraging the officers with several well-aimed snowballs from above.
"Again!" shouted Enjolras.
Bossuet and Joly joined in this time and, from their positions behind the other students, managed to knock off the hat of the blond officer that had so annoyed Courfeyrac.
"Fire at will!" said Enjolras, and Bossuet, Joly and the other law students were on very pleased to obey. The officers began edging their way away from the Café Musain. However, the workers on the opposite side of the street had grown emboldened from the students' example and began scooping up handfuls of snow and flinging them at the officers too.
Thus outnumbered, the officers had no recourse but to give up and run down the street, towards the Pantheon. A great cheer went up from the students. Bossuet impulsively hugged Joly and glanced up to see Courfeyrac very enthusiastically embracing Enjolras and kissing him on both cheeks.
"You are soaked through!" Joly exclaimed, once Bossuet had released him. "Take this." He pulled off his scarves and, after dragging Bossuet out of the way of several students going into some sort of bastardized version of the Carmagnole, draped the dryer scarf around Bossuet's shoulders. "I am terribly worried about you, Bossuet. One of my friends in the medical school told me that he had lived in the garret you went to look at today and it has no stove. You cannot possibly go back to it soaking wet like this."
"Ah, you forget that I am from Meaux," replied Bossuet. "I am used to the cold breezes of bad fortune. Besides, the warmth of my love for the triumph of republicanism has driven out any chill that seeks to wind itself around my heart."
Joly actually pouted. "Hmph. I still cannot like it. So... here, have your present early." Joly dug a small bundle of cloth out of the capacious pockets of his greatcoat and stuck it into Bossuet's ungloved hand. "Merry Christmas and all."
The bundle of cloth turned out to be several handkerchiefs wrapped around a key. Bossuet shoved the handkerchiefs in the pocket of his shabby tailcoat and said, "Ah... thank you? I am honoured that you have apparently given me the key to your heart—"
"Ha, no," said Joly. "Wish I had thought of that, though. I've just given you a key to my apartment."
Bossuet was, for the second time that evening, struck dumb. He felt himself flushing.
Joly offered him a quick, bright smile. "You stay with me often enough. Why not move in?"
"I don't mind at all. I hate living on my own, you haven't any place to stay... my father pays for rent and I have a spare room that, with a little help from Courfeyrac and a few fellows you don't know from the medical school, got turned into a bedchamber. There isn't a fireplace in it, and the tub is still there, along with the airing cupboard, but when it's really cold I don't mind sharing my bed."
Since Bossuet was still incoherent, Joly pressed on, with an added note of uncertainty. "I mean, I just called things off with my mistress, so that's not a problem, and it is a large bed. There are two mattresses. If you'd rather, I could pull one out onto the floor and you could sleep on that. I mean, it's not as if I mean to say, 'Bossuet, old fellow, you must move in with me', I just meant to say, euh, to say that you always have some place where you will have a bed and a welcome and... it's not an obligation, really, it's just a- an invitation. Not one you have to take or anything- just, if you are ever in need of a place to stay you will always have one with me. It's, er... a gesture of fraternité, really...."
Bossuet looked down at the key, provoking a miserable cry of, "Oh, devil take it, I didn't mean to offend you!", half-drowned out by the Carmagnole the other students were attempting to sing.
"You did not at all," said Bossuet, slinging his arm around Joly's shoulders. "I am... Joly, all I gave you for Christmas was that bout of influenza you had two weeks ago."
Joly's smile was tentative, but all the sweeter for its uncertainty. "That's alright. A gift's not worth much if it's given in expectation of return. Besides, my dear eagle of words, you have given me your friendship and that is a gift I can never repay."
"Between you and Courfeyrac," Bossuet said, pretending his voice sounded strangled because of the cold, even though he was feeling uncomfortably warm, "I will become terribly spoilt."
"If we don't accidentally kill you first," said Joly. He brushed the snow out of Bossuet's collar, with the playful, half-scolding briskness Joly always had when he was teasing. "You shall catch your death of cold if all this snow melts down your shirt and with your luck, it probably will."
"Ah, you are too good of a doctor and to let me perish of cold, though," said Bossuet.
Joly's smile kept him warm for weeks afterward.