A/N Evadne is bothering me. So i wrote this instead.
Feuilly's hands were often stained with paint when he came to the café Musain in the evenings. Jehan would often watch his hands as he gestured, hypnotized by the colors, the patterns, the designs his brain would form the stains into. 'Like watching clouds' he thought.
They all knew Feuilly painted fans for a living, but beyond that, they really knew nothing about him. He was from the South, that was clear from the accent, and was an orphan, he had mentioned that, but really, that was it. As a rule, no one talked of what they did during the day when it was time to discuss what they would do at night. When the talk turned to revolution, there were no other thoughts in their heads, and when the talk became lighter, friendlier, Feuilly was rarely around. He worked long hours and rarely had time to frequent cafes or hang around talking until the wee hours of the morning. Besides Jehan himself, he was the newest member of their society.
Jehan would often wait for Feuilly without really knowing why, casting subconscious glances towards the door, and starting when he was spoken to. Eventually, after hours passed, Jehan would have to resign himself to the fact that Feuilly was not showing up that night, and he would have to go home with a small bit of his heart missing.
But then, on nights of Official Meetings, when Feuilly would show up, usually coming straight from work, and always with stained hands, Jehan's heart would soar. He would wave to him like a ridiculous child and pat the seat next to him, and Feuilly would sit down. They would exchange a few words before the meeting was called to order, and Jehan would spend the rest of the night casting secretive glances at Feuilly's hands.
One night, Feuilly noticed him.
" You were staring at me." He said abruptly. Jehan started, and could say nothing. He turned bright red. He shook his head vigorously. Words wouldn't come.
"Don't deny it. I saw you." Jehan's eyes were studying the floor, or else he would have seen that Feuilly was smiling. " Why?"
" I wasn't staring at you." Jehan said, when words finally came. " I was staring at your hands."
"My hands." Feuilly repeated, raising one eyebrow. " What's so interesting about my hands?"
" Not so much the—the hands, but the paint." Feuilly said nothing, obviously waiting for Jehan to clarify. " I was looking at the paint stains. I was thinking about what you might have made today, what you might have painted. I was thinking about the blue stain, here—" Jehan hesitantly reached out for one of Feuilly's hands, staring again at the small blue stain, "—and I was thinking that it was the same color of the sky on a woman's fan I saw today. She was a pretty girl, and I was thinking how she was waving her fan, even though it isn't hot out, she was waving it to show it off, because it was obviously expensive. And I was wondering if perhaps you had painted the sky on the fan—it was a pastoral scene, if I didn't mention it—and I know that you don't make much money, but I knew from looking at it that that fan was expensive. And the girl who was showing it off was rich, that was clear, so she must have paid a lot for it, and I was wondering how much you actually got from the price of the fan. I mean, it takes a lot of people to make a fan. Someone has to go to Africa and get the ivory, and then the ivory has to be imported and someone else has to put the ivory together, then someone has spin the silk, and then someone else has to put it together, and then someone else has to paint it. And at every stage, someone has to buy the previous product, it must not be cheap to make just one fan. But then they sell fans to rich women at what must be ten times the cost it takes to make one and I was wondering how much, after expenses and profit, how much you got. And I was wondering if it was enough." Jehan looked up, then noticed he was still holding Feuilly's hand. He dropped it hastily. Feuilly raised his eyebrow again.
" Well," he said, with a hint of humor in his voice, " Looks like our young poet can speak just as well without iambic pentameter." Jehan looked up, reflexively angry that someone else was laughing at his poetry, and missed the compliment completely.
" Just because I write poetry," he said, staring into Feuilly's eyes, " Does not mean I cannot think of worldly things as well."
" No, it seems like you certainly can. And to answer your question, Provaire, the money one gets painting fans is not the sort of salary you would consider to be enough, but I make more money than any factory worker, and the work isn't too hard either. Don't worry yourself over me. There are a lot worse off than I am."
" I—I know that." Jehan said, stammering slightly. " But I was just wondering. We all know you aren't rich, and if you ever needed anything—"
" I'll repeat this." Feuilly said, his tone still soft, in contrast to his words, " I don't need anything, and even if I did, I wouldn't ask any of you."
" Why not?" Jehan asked, curious. One of the strangest things about their odd brotherhood was the ease in which they asked each other for things. Courfeyrac, whose allowance was so large that no one knew the exact number, was notorious for borrowing money from nearly anyone. Bossuet had lodged with all of them at one time or another, and was currently living with Joly, in an arrangement that suited them both quite well. Enjolras had once paid Combeferre's rent without a word, and Combeferre had written a school paper for Enjolras so the latter could finish writing up republican pamphlets. Jehan himself had once spent a very interesting fortnight lodging with Enjolras due to a discrepancy with his landlord about his flute playing. No one bothered to keep track who owed who money or favors—it was assumed that if you didn't then, you would some day, and everything tended to even out in the long run. The feeling that you might very well owe your life to someone one day made owing them money seem trivial.
" I have my reasons, Provaire. I feel out of place enough here as it is without having to worry about owing money to someone."
" You shouldn't feel out of place!" Jehan exclaimed, " You're right in place! Republicanism knows no boundaries of class or income—our goals are universal and—" Feuilly held up one of his paint stained hands to silence him.
" Yes, now you sound like Enjolras. I'm not talking about the ideal world here. I'm talking about the fact that someone like me does not go putting himself in debt to someone like you or Courfeyrac or any of the others."
" It's not like that." Jehan countered, shaking his head vigorously. "We're all brothers. That's fraternity. Why shouldn't we all take care of each other?"
" That's fine for in here, but outside, society doesn't work that way, Jehan."
" Maybe it should."
" Should." Feuilly repeated, " I've always liked that word. I seem to hear it a lot these days, ever since I started coming here. It's Combeferre's favorite word, that's for sure, and I've heard Joly and Lesgle bandy it around as well. This should be, that should be. Enjolras, Courfeyrac and Bahorel don't use it though—they skip straight to will be. It's the only thing I noticed that really divides all of you. Some speak of should and others of will—and you're staring at my hands again." Jehan started. He had not realized it, but he was.
" What is it now?" Feuilly asked, studying his hands. " Are you crafting a metaphor about the green blotch on my thumb and the rights of widows and orphans?" Jehan was too memorized to snap at him.
" No." he simply said. " I was thinking about how graceful your hands are, and I was imagining them shooting a musket, and it bothered me, because I'd rather see them painting and creating things. But then I starting thinking about free will, and choices, and that we can make our hands do anything we want, and that the same hands that can paint pastorals can build barricades-- I'm sorry," he said, blushing again. " This conversation has become incredibly strange. I know I'm a little incoherent sometimes. My father always used to tell me I jump from one thought to another like a frog on lily pads." Feuilly laughed. For the first time since the awkward conversation had began, Jehan relaxed a little and felt like slightly less of an idiot.
" I still don't see how you can get all of that from paint stains on hands." He commented. Feuilly held his hands out under the light and made a show of studying them.
" You can tell a lot about a person from their hands. Don't gypsies read the lines in your hands? I'm simply reading the stains." Feuilly laughed again as Jehan took Feuilly's hands in his. The craftsman's eyes widened.
" Well, look at that." He commented, " You've got stains on your hands as well—ink stains." Jehan blushed.
" Writing has its drawbacks. One never gets one's hands truly clean of ink." He said.
" I'd love to see something of yours one day." Feuilly said. Jehan reflexively shook his head.
" Maybe," was the word that came out, however, " I'm a bit—private—about my writings. When they're good, though, you'll be the first to read them."
"I'll settle for that." Feuilly said, and gave Jehan's hands a squeeze. " Art isn't easy."
" Art isn't easy." Jehan agreed, and looked back down on Feuilly's hands.
The conversation was cut off by Courfeyrac bounding through the door with a bottle of champagne, sporting a large bruise on his cheek. He was in the middle of a loud conversation with a slightly drunk Joly, who was still carrying his school books, and a hysterically laughing Bahorel who was inexplicably holding a jar containing an unidentifiable body part, a policeman's badge and a violin bow. Jehan distinctly caught the words ' he never saw it coming' a few times, and Joly kept shaking his head and vehemently denying that he had ' said anything disparaging about Italians,' and Jehan decided he simply didn't want to know.
" Champagne for everyone!" Courfeyrac concluded loudly, turning to the rest of the room.
" What just happened?" Feuilly asked, slightly mystified. He had understood Enjolras well enough, but Courfeyrac still escaped him.
" Courfeyrac happened!" Jehan said exuberantly, " Come on, never question good fortune when it comes! Champagne it is!" Jehan led Feuilly by the hand he still held to the table. He began listening to the ridiculous explanation as to why Courfeyrac had bought them all champagne, but when they all started arguing over whether the Italian violinist had challenged Joly to a duel before or after the policeman had caught Bahorel sneaking out of the medical school, Jehan tuned them out.
" Isn't fraternity nice?" Jehan commented, sipping the champagne. Feuilly shook his head in disbelief, but he laughed quietly to himself and squeezed Jehan's hands under the table.