Sorry that this is so incredibly uninteresting. Hopefully I'll be back later with something more meaningful to say.
Sorry that this is so incredibly uninteresting. Hopefully I'll be back later with something more meaningful to say.
A/N: This was originally my submission for a fanfiction collaboration on the Abaisse boards where each participant had to write a short fic detailing how and/or why your chosen Amis came to Paris, but I was proud enough of it that I felt like people on here might like it as well. Feedback is extremely welcome and highly encouraged. Thanks to those who take the time to read this!
It's dark in the backroom of the Musain. The only light comes from the soft glow of a candle in the center of the table. The fire started to dwindle an hour ago, and the temperature rapidly dropped soon after. Feuilly shivers ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly so, and pulls his threadbare coat closer to his shaking frame. Even with the barely adequate light, it is obvious the painter is unwell.
"If you're feeling ill, you should go home." I say.
He growls in return. "I'm not ill," but then he coughs, a large hacking one, and we both know it is a lie.
When his fit subsides, he jumps into his work with as much vigor as he can manage in his current state, placing out the fan, paints, and brushes. He mixes a little black into the red to deepen the shade, and a rose slowly starts to take form with each brush stroke. The fan is beautiful, even if the materials themselves are cheap. The colors are vibrant against the black fabric. I find myself entranced by his hands, how fast and confidently they move, and how small and they look.
You can tell a lot about a person through their hands. Bahorel's are big and calloused, the hands of a farmer and a fighter. Prouvaire's are soft and delicate, but purposeful when holding a pen. Feuilly's are pale and smooth though, with little flecks of paint decorating them. The hands of an artist, not a worker.
The rest of the man is not so picturesque. He looks tired. Draping shadows accentuate the dark bruises under his eyes.
My fingers begin to itch for paper of their own because this is just the sort of scene I might have tried to capture at one time. I search around, but the closest thing I can find is one of Combeferre's discarded pamphlets, though there is enough space on the back under the medical student's spindly writing for a decent sketch. Before I can stop myself my fingers are flying. I am only barely intoxicated, so the lines are bold and confident. A long one here, an ovular curve, and the body begins to take shape, though the picture is nearly impossible to perfect. For a moment it might be close, but then Feuilly sneezes or coughs and the light shifts so I have to start all over again.
An hour, perhaps more, passes without either of us pausing to check the time. It's not until Louison asks if we are planning on passing the night here that we both startle out of our reveries and realize the lateness of the hour. The fire is now completely dead, and the room is cold, though it was unfelt only a moment before. I am not bothered by this for I'm accustomed to spending nights in this exact spot, but Feuilly seems almost distressed, an emotion that is out of place and one I attribute to the man's obvious illness. In the rush to pack his supplies a pencil rolls out of reach, and for the first time that evening Feuilly's gaze comes to rest on my work.
"You've been sketching me?" He asks.
I mumble an affirmative and feel a blush creep up my neck, infusing my cheeks with pink. The drawing is rudimentary, decent enough at very best. Feuilly's rose is a better piece of work and I tell him so.
"Thank you, though this is quite good Grantaire." I beam at his praise though it is somewhat diluted by exhaustion.
Instead of thanking him, I say "I'm out of practice," which is a lie. I've spent too many nights perfecting pictures just like this one, illustrating images of Combeferre studying fervently for an exam. Joly and L'aigle laughing over some trifle. Enjolras who, when no one else is watching, looks so worn from carrying the world on his shoulders. Those go into the fire soon after. They're not how I want to remember my golden god Apollo. Kindly put, I do not allow myself to get out of practice. "Your rose is still far better."
"It is a popular design requiring little thought or skill to replicate." Which is good because those thin, pale hands are shaking now with illness and fatigue. He moves to leave, but I can't let him go in this condition. He'd likely collapse in the middle of the street.
"Take a glass of brandy before you leave. It will warm you, though you might not need it with your fever."
He scowls at me now, but it is tinged with relief. Feuilly shares little about his life beyond a few simple details. We don't know where he works or where he lives, and the one time he let slip his wages we didn't see him for nearly a week, so embarrassed was he. Yet, wherever he lives cannot be more comfortable than here, so once he is seated again, I pour him a large glass of the amber liquid. It's fruity aroma fills the ear, coating the inside of nose. I try my best to warm it over the candle, but succeed in little more than burning my hand with the small flame.
He takes it gratefully nonetheless. "You said so once, but I did not believe you." He murmurs almost inaudibly, still looking at my sketch. "You studied at the Ecolé de Beaux Arts once, didn't you?"
"I was drunk, why should you have believed me?" I say, bitterness in each word. Although it should not hurt, the fact that they do not trust my word always does. "But yes."
"But you aren't drunk now, and your skill is undeniable. This might be mistaken for reality if it were not on a page."
I take the drawing now, and hold it over the candle. Its edge catches fire, and as it slowly burns I take a large swig of brandy straight from the bottle.
Feuilly looks on me with curiosity. "What happened?"
"It was a long time ago," I'm not nearly drunk enough for this.
Feuilly looks at me intently though, unwilling to let the topic go now that he's latched on, for I spout a lot of nonsense. When something is revealed to be true, then it is to be thoroughly excavated, and thus is the mystery of Grantaire. "With talent like this you could have been great."
"Damn right." I mutter, taking another swig of the bottle. It no longer burns when it goes down, but I can feel it go straight to my head since earlier I did not eat, making it that much easier to dredge up the past. "But they didn't think so. Didn't think so at all."
"They weren't thinking-" Feuilly begins, but I cut him off with a dismissive wave of my hand.
"They were right I suppose."
He looks uncomfortable now, and it's obvious the liquor has gone straight to his head as well. His face is still pale, but his cheeks rosier. At least the glow looks healthier than the death pall before. "Why did you come to Paris in the first place then?" His fingers fondle the empty glass, and I think about refilling it, but I am selfish enough to want the rest of the brandy to myself now that I have started.
"I had hopes. High hopes. Perhaps too high. I had talent, and I knew it would be difficult. Of course my parents weren't happy about this, but they supported my tuition because they felt it was just a whim of mine. When I got done playing bohemian I would come home and learn law like a proper son, following the steps of my brothers. I wanted to prove them wrong desperately."
"Why did you stop then?"
I continue, Feuilly's question almost unheard. "I underestimated the tolerance of people. They would say, "Look at that young man. Isn't he talented? It's a proper shame that he is so ugly. If he could paint he might go somewhere, but instead he just sits all day, sketching things like a girl in her drawing lessons.'"
He begins to protest as I knew he would. But even he cannot deny the power of appearance in this world. He of all people should understand the allure of golden hair, a slender hand, and a refined face.
I put the now empty bottle down on the table, and point a limp finger at the painter. "No one wants an artist who isn't worthy to be painted himself, and no one wants an artist who couldn't do that painting if someone actually wanted it in the first place. " It's a bitter sentiment, but a true one nonetheless, though I wish I didn't have to be the one to impart it. "No one wants someone whose work can't go beyond rough sketches on the backs of old pamphlets. You could be great too. But it's money that holds you back. There's always something..." I trail off, properly drunk now. I will hurt in the morning, but now the alcohol takes my aching heart and wraps it in a numbing embrace. I can't think, and therefore I can't feel.
Feuilly has no such advantage though, and appears to be on the verge of something not quite resembling tears, and not quite resembling understanding either. That's when I know that it really wasn't smart to give him a brandy at this time of night (or perhaps morning), and in this condition.
"I dropped out when I turned 19, started doing portraits for people on street corners. It brings in enough pocket money to supplement my allowance, which will keep coming as long as my parent's benevolence or delusions of me continuing my studies lasts."
Feuilly says nothing, and the evening ends quietly after that. He falls asleep in that chair, and doesn't wake the next morning except for my prodding in order to make him more comfortable. It's a Sunday, so he'll miss no work. The others come in later that morning. They politely inquire about him. Joly makes a remark about how happy he is to see that Feuilly is resting and that he hopes that he won't spread his disease around. Enjolras settles into a chair in the opposite corner, not speaking to anyone. His golden hair catches a beam of light from the window, and I sigh, pick up a pencil, and see that first line appear, signaling a new day after the long night.
A/N: Just like "Backroom Musings," this was originally my submission for a fanfiction collaboration on the Abaisse boards where each participant had to write a short fic detailing how and/or why your chosen Amis came to Paris, but I was proud enough of it that I felt like people on here might like it as well. As usual feedback is extremely welcome and highly encouraged. Thanks to those who take the time to read this!
An Unlucky Man and a Lucky Encounter
To his credit, he was a lot calmer about the entire circumstance than I would have expected. I mean, it's not particularly common to return home and find a young man sitting on your doorstep, a young man that you do not even recognize much less know the name of. It is even more awkward when that particular young man is bald as a newborn babe and nursing a rapidly forming bruise which he had just gained by hitting his head on the low frame of the front entrance of the lodging house. And then that young man decides to ask you what your name is and if you would mind too terribly if he came in for a few minutes to warm up and possibly borrow a cup of coffee. This is the current state of my life.
After several moments of increasingly awkward staring, I stuck my hand out, introducing myself as Henri L'aigle please-don't-ask-me-how-to-spell-that-
He didn't answer whilst taking his key from his pocket, and when he had nearly walked inside the flat without answering I felt the need to remind him that this was nearly as awkward for me as it was for him and that I'd at least appreciate the courtesy of an introduction despite the highly unconventional circumstances of our meeting. "Excuse me!" I said, clearing my throat to catch his attention. When he turned around I asked again what his name was.
"Christophe Joly." He replied, rubbing his nose with the tip of his cane. "Forgive me for asking, but I do not know you, so why exactly are sitting on my stoop?"
At this I colored again, suddenly embarrassed by my current prospects. "You see," I cleared my throat, "I've just arrived in Paris, and I don't have a place to stay, and no money to rent an apartment of my own. Seeing as I'm a fellow student, I figured that perhaps another student might be willing to take me in. A stupid idea I see now, so I suppose I'll be leaving-" I cut off, the stupidity of my assumption beginning to really set in. I had no possessions to gather except one bag, and turned to leave when Joly implored me not to go, as I would catch my death of cold and should at least take a cup of coffee since I was indeed a fellow student.
So grateful was I that when I turned the momentum flung my bag from my clasped fingers, dumping its contents on the cold and somewhat grimy floor. "I should probably mention that I have a natural propensity towards bad luck." It took several minutes to put everything back in my case, and as any seasoned traveler knows, nothing ever goes back in the same way the second time as they do the first, so now my bag would not close properly. Joly would think that my complexion was naturally bright red with all the blushing I had been doing.
Once through the door, he gestured to a small table with two simple chairs in the corner of the room. I sat, taking in the rest of the room. The flat was relatively small, consisting of two rooms, one a bedroom, and the other a general living area. In it there was two bookshelves, filled to the bursting point; a small sofa in the most garish shade of puce I had ever seen, a small stove, and an armchair in an equally ugly color.
The coffee took a short time to brew. It's aroma filled the room, and I breathed deeply, enjoying the warmth and hominess of the flat.
"If it's a little weak, it's because I can't take it strong. It's bad for my heart." Joly apologized, sitting in the adjacent seat.
"For your heart?" I asked, taking a sip of the proffered drink.
"My heart is weak. If the coffee is too strong it makes it beat too fast and I feel like I might suffocate." It was his turn to blush now.
It wasn't the response I had expected. I apologized for my insensitivity, and managed to knock my cup over in my agitation.
"It's alright. I don't mind explaining it so much anymore." He mopped up the coffee with an errant handkerchief. "What brings you to Paris?"
"My studies foremost." I fiddled with a thread on my shirt cuff.
"Forgive me, but you seem older than most students." Another thought seemed to occur. "Not-because-of-your-baldness." He said rapidly.
I laughed. "It's fine. Much like your heart, I've stopped being ashamed of it. My father died two years back and my mother several years before that. I was their only son, so I inherited the estate and the money. My plans of university were postponed until now."
"Is someone else taking care of the estate now?" He asked.
And there hit the embarrassing heart of the matter. "There was a bad speculation, and the estate was lost since I could no longer continue paying for it." I said, dropping my head in shame. "I suppose I should simply be grateful that my parents are not around to see my failure." There was no response, so I looked up and saw a great deal of sympathy exuding from Joly.
"You said you needed a place to stay in for the night?"
"Yes. I fear that my pocket cannot afford much at the moment. I promise that I will start searching for a place tomorrow." I smiled slightly.
"Then you may take my sofa for the night." He returned my smile with an even brighter grin.
I confess it took much of my strength to keep from embracing him right on the spot. We finished our coffee, and he set out a pillow and blanket for me. I did go out the next day to search for an apartment, but by the time I found one that was cheap enough for me to afford, Joly and I had grown so used to each other's company, that the parting would have been too sad. By the end of the week he presented me with a key of my own, and everything was quite nice until Joly asked that fateful question, "Have you met my friend Enjolras?"
A/N: Please forgive my irregular updating from here on out. I write as inspiration strikes and when I have time, so updates will be scarce. I do have a good portion of Chapter 3 written, but it still has to go through a heavy editing process before it will be ready for viewing. Same feedback policy applies here!
"A man may acquire a taste for wine or brandy, and so lose his love for water, but should we not pity him." ~Henry David Thoreau
He was in a sort of delirium for nearly two days. When he woke, it was only for a few minutes of semi-lucidity, enough to recognize the face of the portress or the presence of the doctor, before sinking once more. Once he cried out so loudly that the portress had gone into hysterics. Other times he was so quiet that they almost feared him to be dying. He could see them talking, but could not catch anything they said.
When he came to it was like breaking the surface of the lake he used to swim in as a child, cold, wet, and disorienting. He began trying to prop himself up in order to gain better perspective of his surroundings when the portress came running, having heard from the other room his grunts and groans of exertion
"At last you've wakened!" She cried, throwing up her hands in relief. She rested her hand on his clammy skin for several moments before reaching a conclusion. "Doctor, his fever has broken!" She ran from the room.
Grantaire could hear several hurried steps outside his flat and the doctor entered. His face broke into a smile when he found his patient awake if a little dazed. He was older with a visage that some might find very attractive. It seemed the portress did, for she was batting her eyelashes in a way that made her look more like a bug a flown in her eye and less like a flirt.
Grantaire saw the whole thing through a sleepy sort of haze. Everything was a little unclear, the voices were still a distant. He propped himself up on his elbows, rubbing his eyes to clear them. "How many days have I been out?" He asked before anyone else could speak. His head still felt thick from the fever, and his voice reflected that.
The doctor seemed a bit taken aback by Grantaire's abruptness, but answered calmly. "Nearly two days young man." Four days then, Grantaire realized. A depression settled upon him, unnoticed by the others. The doctor began to survey Grantaire. He laid a hand on the young man's forehead as the portress had done. "She is right. Your fever has broken, although where you could have gone to contract such an illness is beyond me. A nervous ailment perhaps." The last bit was said to himself.
"I need a drink." Grantaire said gruffly and abruptly.
"Or perhaps a simple cold gone awry. Either way, it has been coming on for some time for the attack to be so severe-"
"I need a drink." Grantaire repeated, louder, this time attempting to get up from the bed. If no one else would get one for him, he would get it himself. There was a small bottle of absinthe which he kept under the stockings in his bureau. If he could find it then perhaps he could think clearer and his hands would stop trembling so.
Before he could do so though, the doctor hurriedly pushed him into a horizontal position again. "Don't agitate yourself."
"I need a drink." He said, more desperate this time. His hands shook harder. He felt anxious and restless like a trapped animal, irritated that they could not perform this one task for him although it would make him feel so much better, and then suddenly tired again all at once it seemed.
"Water would perhaps be best-"
"-in order to stay-"
"-rehydrated, if you are so thirsty."
Grantaire swore violently.
The portress gave an exclamation of offense, and doctor appeared frustrated. "Such language!" She cried, the very picture of outrage, although Grantaire knew she had heard much worse before, and used it too. She merely wanted to impress the doctor.
The doctor didn't seem to notice. "Do not stress yourself, boy, unless you wish to fall ill once more. You are better, but you are far from completely recovered." The doctor waiting a moment to see for certain that his admonition had sunk in completely before continuing, this time directing his words at the portress who had recovered some face and was once again making hideously annoying eyes at the doctor. "Now that is settled, I would prescribe at least three more days of bed rest before he is allowed up, and that a few powders be administered daily-"
Grantaire swore again, interrupting the doctor once more. He could care less about powders and doctors if it meant he could have a drink. Just one. Something strong, like absinthe or brandy. His hand twitched more violently at the thought.
The doctor glared daggers at his paitient, not caring two whits that Grantaire had just recovered from a serious delirium and was currently trying to burn a hole in his blanket with his own glare. "Young man. If you wish to be up and about anytime soon, then you would do well to listen to me. You may not have a drink, nor will you be getting up from this bed if I have anything to say about it. You have just recovered from a grave delirium of which we do not know the cause. If you agitate yourself any more I shall be forced to give you a sedative of some sort, and having heard all your insane ranting, I can't imagine you want to go under again anytime soon." It was highly unprofessional to snap at a patient-even worse to personally attack one-especially when they appeared to have been greatly distressed, however, the young man had been dancing on his last nerve. A cultivated doctoral indifference could only last so long. On top of the stress of the last two days he was nearly quivering with irritation.
Grantaire stayed silent. The doctor was right; he did not wish to go under again. "What was it that I said?" His tone was entirely different this time, soft and strained. He was filled with a morbid curiosity towards what verbal manifestation his delirium had chosen to take, though he was certain he would be better off not knowing.
The portress jumped in with no hesitation. "Just a bunch of names. Most often Joly, Bossuet, and Enjolras. Although how you could possibly know an Enjolras is beyond me, being relations of the monarch, however distant." She chuckled a little as if she had actually said something witty. When no one else laughed, she coughed lightly and awkwardly into her sleeve and continued, a slight blush lacing her cheekbones. "You screamed once, something about gunshot, wine, and an old man. You also kept apologizing for a hole and stain on someone's waistcoat. Utterly beside yourself about it you were." She couldn't refrain from a little smirk there, even if no one else returned it.
"Shut up." Grantaire growled furiously, angered by her flippant use of his friend's names. "Don't speak the names of the dead so lightly."
The room went silent. The portress at least had the decency to be embarrassed. The doctor shuffled his feet awkwardly, burying his face in his bag when he could no longer stand the intensity of Grantaire's angry stare.
Several moments passed before Grantaire spoke again. "You don't know me. Don't attempt to speak as though you do." He rolled over to face the wall, effectively ending the conversation with both other occupants of the room.
They stood there for a few moments longer, waiting for Grantaire to speak again. But he didn't and soon they left him be. Once he was sure of their departure, he shifted onto his back once more to stare at the ceiling. There was crack right above him, so small that it wasn't worrying, but large enough that it was noticeable. Now he wished that it was bigger, more troublesome. He wished that it would begin to crumble and fall and cover him right there, or break open to swallow him whole. His hands were still shaking, and his head had begun to ache in the time since he had emerged-a dull, throbbing pain. Nothing seemed more desirable than a drink. That would make the whole world just a little bit better he reasoned. A small glass of absinthe and world would begin to disappear a bit, always a change for the better.
A small beam of light broke through one of the tatters of cloth (jokingly referred to as curtains), shining directly in his face, annoying him incessantly. It felt wrong, somehow at odds with his current emotions. The light hurt him in a way, hitting his skin, but doing little to penetrate to the deepest recesses of his mind and soul. Darkness had encroached upon his heart, squeezing his chest like a vice, for Grantaire was truly alone as he had never really been before.