I am aware that piquant means stinging, biting, the like. I just couldn't resist the alliteration and assonance after piquenique, even if it's a stretch to apply meaning wise.
"Honestly, Albert, I don't know why I let you get me into these things," Franz chided irritably as he tugged at his wilting collar, ducking his head even further under the torrents of rain battering the sprinting friends.
The viscount turned slightly without breaking pace, broad if sheepish grin in place as he shouted in return,"Well, gosh, Franz! How was I to know it was going to rain! There wasn't a cloud in the sky this morning."
Temporarily bested by truth, the young baron's temper faltered as he thought back on the scene Albert was referencing. He had in fact been enjoying the pure cerulean heavens from the safety of his balcony with a refreshing citrus juice when…
"Hey! Down here! Hey, hey! Down here"
"What…"Franz snapped to attention from his idle and peaceful musings. A quick scan of the lawn revealed, "Oh, Albert!"
"Hey! Hey!" The viscount brightened at the hailing. He abated his frenzied waving. "Wanna come for a drive with me?" Albert heaved something with a great deal of effort from the handle of his moped. "I got a picnic lunch!" He waved it appealingly.
Franz was not so easily swayed.
"Where're you going?"
"I was gonna go out of town, to that hill, you know the one!"
"All the way out there? That's pretty far, Albert."
"Oh, come on! It's not like you've got anything better to do today!"
It was true…
And that was where Franz had made the mistake of coming downstairs.
"Hey come on!" The baron blinked back to reality, coming to an abrupt stop at the top of a short but terribly steep incline. Albert was skidding down, one hand to the grassy slope and the other aloft for balance. Franz's eyes narrowed as he noticed the muddy trenches left in the hasty garçon's wake. The hems of Albert's pants were in a wretched state, and his sleeve too. "Franz, hey! Come on, hurry!" The more prudent noble continued staring in utmost distaste at the veritable miniature canals his companion had left in the hillside. There was just no way he could deign to do such a thing, and no force in the universe was going to change that. Though one was going to try.
Albert's gaze followed Franz's to the muddy tracks. He bounced up and down in place as a shiver seized hold from the chilling rain seeping through his numerous layers. The viscount shot a wistful glance towards their mopeds not three strides to the left then rolled his shoulders and sighed before planting a foot bravely halfway up the slope. It wasn't as if he enjoyed getting muddy any more than Franz did, but if he was going to stand there like a brainless damsel in distress only so many options remained. He reached his arms up towards the motionless bonhomme, offering support so he could more easily descend. "Come on," he repeated a bit wearily. Franz's eyes left the offensive skid marks and lit upon his friend's outstretched arms, provoking a slight scowl at the sight of the single muddied hand. "Oh, for," Albert withdrew the repulsive appendage and wiped it sloppily on his trouser leg. "Okay," he looked forcefully into the baron's gaze and reached towards him once more. Tentatively, Franz took hold of the extended hands, then sleeves, inching his way down with careful steps. Albert watched the agonizingly languid progression, encouraging, "That's it, thaaaat's it, come on," as if coaxing a timid pet out from under the bed. Franz was finally approaching the halfway point when he reached Albert's shoulders and looked up in panic, feeling something terribly amiss about the accompanying step.
"A…" he glanced down wide eyed and the viscount followed suit, both noticing too late Franz's foot accelerating via a loose pebble beneath his heel. All of a sudden he was moving far too speedily, and he looked up in time to see his companion bracing for the impact. "A…" his feet came out of under him and his forearms collided with the chest in front of him, a hand gripped his waist. "Albert!" he exclaimed in surprise as the two fell backwards, landing jarringly in a boggy bit of grass with a splash. For several pounding heartbeats, Franz stayed motionless, muscles tight in fear as the sensation of the fall ran its course in his nervous system. Immediately after the adrenaline had calmed, his eyes flew open and he perceived Albert's sopping coat front. He sprang into motion, scrambling to lift his torso. "Albert!" he cried in alarm as the viscount spluttered, silty water running off his face. Franz drew his knees up on either side of Albert's hips where his legs had fallen, kneeling to lessen the pressure on his unfortunate friend. Hurriedly he wiped the puddle-plastered strands of hair from the garçon's scrunched visage, repeating frantically, "Albert!" The viscount shook his head and propped himself up on his elbows. Franz stared attentively, waiting for continued signs of well-being. Albert cracked an eyelid and spluttered again, a laugh beginning as he wiped his mouth with the back of his dripping hands.
"Now that's more like it!" he said through his smile before succumbing to the humor Franz saw much less of in their unseemly situation.
He crossed his arms, straightening and saying with mock bitterness, "Oh, Albert, honestly!" His relief was evident however in the warm gaze that followed this statement and the soft laugh in his resigned comment, "You really do get us into the worst messes." The viscount stifled his laughter at last and beamed at his companion.
"Hey, whenever you're ready to get off of me, I'll be happy to get us out of this one!" A tad bit embarrassed at his absent-minded straddling position, Franz rapidly regained his feet and preened himself as Albert rose with a few stretches and winces.
The baron cast him a furtive glance and then offered seriously, "I'm sorry I fell on you, Albert. I really didn't mean to." His companion faced him cheerfully, a bit concerned at the somber tone.
"I know, Franz, don't worry about it." The pair strode briskly to their transportation. "Besides, it was kind of fun." Franz halted next to his moped. That phrasing struck him as considerably odd, if not indeed rude.
With an irritated flick of his head he demanded, "What on earth do you mean by that, Albert?" Confused at the sharp inquiry, the viscount glanced up from the unsuccessfully dried seat of his moped, buckling his helmet to stall for time in search of a response.
"All I meant to say, Franz, was," he took his seat, unable to maintain eye contact in the face of such acute accusation, "ummm." Franz mounted his own motorbike regally, taking care to exude distaste for Albert's vague word choice with every motion. "Iiiii… oh, no!" Franz looked over, less worried than suspicious of a change of subject. The viscount faced him apologetically and said quickly, as if speed would decrease the following wrath, "I'm out of petrol!" The baron opened his mouth with the intention of scolding his hapless bonhomme, but the rain doused his fury to a hopeless skyward glance.
"Albert… what are we going to- hey!" His attention returned to earth to find the damp in body but not in spirit viscount mounting his moped in front of him and starting the bike. "Albert, we can't-"
"Sure we can, I'll come back for it later," Albert revved the engine and let the wheels turn a few experimental rounds in the mud. "Anyway, I left the picnic basket on the hill, remember?"
"Oh, Albert," Franz sighed as they jerked forward several times before obtaining a smooth path on the pavement.
"It'll be fine, Franz, don't sweat it. I've got the keys," he assured over the compound noise of rain and motor.
The baron turned back to watch the bike disappear then loosened his grip on his uninvited driver and rested his head against his back, groaning in despair, "Oh, Albert…" as the duo sped dangerously into the growing darkness.
"Well… yes. Yes. I know… Yes, thank you, if you could relay that to Mother. Good. Evening." Franz shut the door quietly as one of the Morcef house workers exited the threshold with a departing bow. He listened to the rush of water in the shower, highly envious of the warmth and cleanliness Albert was presently experiencing, having drawn the longer of the straws in a fair if irksome assignment of lots. At the aubèrge they had passed on the trip out, members of both the Morcef and Épinay servant body had been waiting on behalf of the boys' parents with covered coaches and missives to return with the young nobles. Franz had been more than amenable to the idea of returning and had very nearly expressed this opinion when…
"Actually, we were planning on staying here!" Albert, resilient as ever, placed a fist on the check-in counter with vibrant enthusiasm. "A room, monsieur!" he exclaimed to the slightly surprised clerk. The Morcef servants bowed respectfully, accustomed to the impulsive behaviors of their young sir. The butler from the Épinay estate hesitated in wait of Franz's reply, which was a roll of the eyes and curt nod. Albert's fervor was irresistible.
"Very well, thank you," he dismissed his man, turning sourly towards his friend and adding, "and I can pay for my own board, thanks."
"No, I insist, Franz! Let's share a room, and my treat." If stay in such a rustic place could really be termed a treat at all. "After all, you keep saying how it's my fault…"
The laugh that had followed that statement petered out into the sounds of the present, or rather absence of sound as Franz noticed an end to the indoor patterings of the shower. Eager to quit dripping on the carpet and at long last dry off properly, Franz hovered nearer to the bathroom impatiently, calling anxiously, "All done, Albert?"
He leaned his ear against the door at a lack of immediate response, then heard, "Sure I am! Be out in a second!" The baron straightened and adjusted his previously removed outer jacket, neatly folded in his arms. The door burst open and Albert emerged in a growing cloud of steam with an energetic hop. "All yours Franz! Hope I didn't use all the hot water!" The baron sternly eyed the viscount's bare torso and multiple layered towels.
He shook his head and shuffled on into the cooling condensation with a muttered, "Get dressed quickly, Albert. It's cold out here." He considered mentioning the possibility of pneumonia as an additional spur for rational actions, but predicted cosmic irony would definitely deliver him the symptoms instead and so kept his silence. Franz squinted through an expansive cloud of steam and waved a hand half heartedly as he approached the sink and fogged mirror. As the threat of pneumonia developed itself to new malign heights in the baron's mind, he decided it was imperative to dry off as soon as possible. He undressed himself in record speed then realized he didn't have a towel at hand. Now able to identify bathroom surfaces (all of which were white and thus perfect camouflage for the towels), he began to grope for the terry cloth. Very quickly, his hand touched upon an incongruous textile and, upon further investigation, he discovered Albert's overcoat, carelessly tossed aside in the humid space. "What? Oh, honestly…" he murmured in despair upon noting indeed the entirety of the viscount's ensemble strewn carelessly throughout the elegant bathroom.
Steam now near total evaporation and chill creeping in, Franz procured a towel, secured it around his waist, then piled the neglected clothing and stalked into the main room, feeling very much the maid. "Albert!" The bonhomme twisted his head at the call, arms stuck in a complementary nightshirt. Franz buoyed his armload briefly and cut the viscount a shaming glance before dumping the articles onto Albert's chosen twin bed. "I know you're used to someone picking up for you, but you really should have enough common sense to treat your clothes more carefully. Some of these ruin easily! In fact most of these need to be hung up immediately or they'll wrinkle really badly, and-"
"Oh, Franz," Albert cut in, pulling his nightshirt over his head and leaving the baron staring, mouth agape mid-chastisement. "You're so particular about these little things!" He turned, good-natured smile in place as he smoothed his shirtfront. As usual, his brightness was insurmountable, especially when Franz was compromised with fatigue and chill.
"Well," he continued dictating as he sidled around the laundry-cluttered bed, preparing to return for his much desired shower, "one of us has to be."
In the instant before he turned, he perceived starts of movement from the viscount and looked up in panic as a sort of inverse déja vu commenced. "A-" the space between them was rapidly diminishing and he had no time to brace for impact before a strong pair of arms clamped his own to his sides and he felt himself helplessly plummeting backwards. "Albert!" he exclaimed as his back sank into the padded bedspread with their combined weight. The thoughtthat Franz might object to being willfully tackled evidently had not occurred to Albert, as he laughed heartily in face of the baron's mild shock.
"Hey, Franz, it's cold out here, better cover up!" he grinned cheekily before lapsing back to laughter. Franz sighed with mingled exasperation and acceptance, pushing gently against his companion. "You'll probably catch pneumonia with your luck, after all!" Albert added as he yielded to the prodding and sat up, holding his stomach as he continued heckling hopelessly.
In response, Franz sneezed, surprising both boys into temporary silence.
Then Albert, despite himself, broke into a new and intensified wave of laughter leaving Franz to smile ruefully as he approached the bathroom and retort, "Honestly, Albert, I don't know why I let you get me into these things!"