A Little Fall of Rain
"God, what a day." Combeferre looked up at the sky, and rain splattered over his face, dripping in his ears, slicking his red-gold hair down, and trickling between his lips. His eyes squinched shut unintentionally to block out drops. Spectacles, he had learned long ago, pretended to be useful for protection of the eyes, but truly did nothing of the sort. It was as easy for him to be blinded with a spray of mud as it was for any other man.
The rain was coming in torrents, far heavier than it had fallen in several months. He wore a coat, but it was a cloth coat, a greatcoat, and he was completely drenched. His spectacles really were too clouded to see much, but he seemed pleased, smiling at the clouds amiably. He was seated on a set of steps before a rather nice boarding-house, his knees drawn up to his chest, and his head back to drink the rain.
The door behind him opened suddenly, and a booted toe nudged him gently in the back.
"Phillipe? What are you doing? Come in."
Combeferre turned about slowly, drawing his eyes up from brown linen calves to a pale face with golden curls dripping past it. Anxious and dark blue eyes met his, and he smiled again.
"Isn't it lovely?"
"It's grey. It's dark. And cold. Come in."
He shook his head, and sighed. "No, it's much more than grey and dark and cold. It is those things, I grant you. But much more."
The boy knelt beside him, the rain pouring down on his slender shoulders and his golden head. "What do you see in it? I only see that more of the people I want to save shall be cold, and lonely, and they shall be sick and no one shall care for them."
"If you look at it and think that, you shall never be able to look at it and love it. You must try and find the good in it, as well. What good things shall happen because of it, Michel?"
"The fields shall be given drink. But the rivers shall swell. They shall flood their banks, Phillipe. People shall drown. I can't think of anything good."
"Isn't it beautiful? It's going to wash the world clean. Like crockery. Surely."
The beautiful boy sneezed.
"Is it? Suppose everything just mildews."
"No, but you can't let it look that way. It's a fresh start, not more misery added on to what's there already. Well. I shan't argue with you."
Combeferre went back to looking out at the rooftops and the grey mists and the expanding puddles that scattered over the streets. Suddenly, the boy touched his shoulder.
"You must. You must argue with me. I'm wrong, aren't I? Show me what's right."
"You'll learn that yourself. You're still learning, clearly. But you're only nineteen, Michel. You can afford to keep learning." He laughed at himself. "You can always afford to keep learning. May I show you something I call right?"
"What is it?"
"Come with me." Combeferre stood and brushed the dripping hair out of his face. The boy followed him obediently, shivering without a coat. "I would offer my coat to you, you realise, but that it won't do any good. We're both soaked to the skin."
"Yes, I know."
They walked on in silence, and then Combeferre made a sudden sharp turn, and kicked an old wall gently, experimentally. It was a terribly old wall, with pieces broken out of it and vines creeping up it. Combeferre inclined his head to it, in a greeting, and took hold of one of the vines.
"Well, come along."
The boy stared. One moment, his companion was on the ground, the next smiling at him from the rooftop above. "But how did you do it?"
"I climbed. You shall too. You shall learn even more things, and you shall come to understand what you're doing. And one day, you'll fight for the right to keep on with what you're doing, and to make it so everyone can do it. But that's no matter now. Climb up."
The boy clutched a vine awkwardly, and scrambled, in an entirely undignified fashion, clawing at the plaster and stone, and slipping rather frequently. It took him ten minutes to achieve what Combeferre had in one, and even that required some assistance. At last, he stood on the rooftop, looking about himself in wonder.
"Now, see, doesn't the world look better from up here?"
"My God... is this allowed?"
"Michel, Michel, you're seeking to create a whole new world, against the will of everyone else in this one. You worry that to come here is not allowed? It doesn't matter either." Combeferre sighed and wrapped his arms about the boy, daring now when no one could see them.
"It is beautiful. You were right."
"You've learned to see the beauty of it. It didn't just become beautiful. Your eyes changed." He turned the boy about, carefully, and tilted up his chin with three fingers. "Yes. Your eyes changed. They're darker now. You're learning. You must remember the things you learn. You mustn't forget them. You'll need them." He kissed the boy's forehead. "Don't forget."
Enjolras sighed, and for the third time he scraped a thick, black line over his sentence. He wrote again, and frowned, and sketched the sentence out again, pressing hard. The tip of the quill cracked and smashed beneath his hand, and ink splattered over the pages. He let out a low moan of despair, still holding the ruins of the quill.
It was late, and the Amis were gone, but Combeferre had remained. It was his place to do so. Of all of them, it was his place to look after the leader. He fulfilled his occupation admirably, and his head came up in worry at the sound, and he stood. "Enjolras."
"No, don't tell me I'm working too hard, I must rest, I mustn't make myself go on so long. I'm tired of hearing that. I have work to do."
Combeferre stepped over to him, and gently slipped his arms about the man. "Yes, tired. Tired is the word."
"Phillipe...?" Enjolras' voice was tentative, experimenting with tones it hadn't used in a terribly long time. "Phillipe, do you remember when you took me with you up on the rooftop?"
"Will you take me again?" he whispered.
"Certainly I will. Come along. It's not far from here." Combeferre took his hand and drew him towards the door. "It's cooler there, and it's lovely now that it's nearing summer. When there's a breeze, one can feel it so well. You'll like it."
"I will," Enjolras smiled.
Combeferre was surprised, later, how quickly Enjolras fell asleep in his arms. He had been watching the stars in utter delight, with Enjolras' head against his chest, enjoying the soft weight, and at once he leaned close to tell him what the name of that bright star over there was, and found that Enjolras was sleeping. His blue eyes were closed, and his chest rose and fell rhythmically. Combeferre was enchanted, and he kissed Enjolras' hair. It had been a long time since he'd done that, he thought.
He couldn't bear to wake Enjolras, though he tried for a short while. He told himself that it would be so much easier to sleep in a bed, and that they'd both wake up stiff, and likely catch cold, and anyway it was a rooftop, for God's sake, but somehow himself wouldn't listen.
So, in the end, he carefully set Enjolras down on the roof, and spread his coat over Enjolras' cold shoulders as a blanket. He lay down beside Enjolras, and put his arms about him protectively, just in case. So if they rolled off the roof, they'd roll off together, he told himself in amusement. Then he too fell asleep.
When he awoke it was raining.
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