Time and Time Again

Courfeyrac sat by himself in the back room of Musain one afternoon after classes, with a few books spread out on his table, along with a piece of paper, a quill, and an inkpot. His sleeve was rolled up to his elbow, and he was scrawling terrible drawings on his arm in black ink. The general idea seemed to be a cat on a fence, but it was surrounded with a few oddly shaped flowers as well. He had used too much ink, and it was running sloppily all over, but he didn't appear to mind; indeed, it seemed to amuse him greatly, and once he had completed his left arm, he attended to the right. He found this much more difficult, for his hand shook and refused to work correctly, and even more ink covered this arm. He was surveying the mess ruefully when Feuilly came through the door.

"What the hell...?"

"An experiment." Courfeyrac held up his dripping arms, grinning wickedly. "To see how much hand control I have. Virtually none. Come here, Damien. I want to greet you properly."

Feuilly started to edge back through the door. "No, no. I can greet you well enough from here. Good afternoon. How are you? Pleasant? That's wonderful. I'm a bit peaky myself."

"Why on earth?"

"The stench of ink is quite overwhelming..." Feuilly put a hand to his forehead and swooned.

Courfeyrac looked at him for a moment, stifling a laugh, then rushed over and caught Feuilly in his arms. "Darling, don't worry! I'm here! You provided me with the perfect opportunity," he murmured, holding Feuilly dramatically close.

"Martin! My clothes!"

"Oh dear. Well, black is a lovely colour on you."

Feuilly stared. "This isn't black! It's black and white splotched!" His sleeves were smeared with ink, and so, he noted with displeasure, was his face, and the telltale wetness seeping through the back of his shirt proved he'd been touched there as well.

"Ah, there's nothing to be done. You must allow me to give you a shirt of mine. In exchange, you know. I fancy that one terribly. You give it to me, and I'll give you one of mine."

"Liar. I wish to God you'd all stop with the kindness to me, being ever so careful not to show your charity. Don't think I can't tell."

"I mean it! Here, I'll exchange with you now. Take it off."

"No!" Feuilly glowered at him. "You really don't have any dignity, do you? Any sense of what standards one keeps in society?"

"Of course I do. But my standards are quite different from yours. In my standards, one helps one's friends out. Also, if one finds a shirt one wants, one barters for it. You want a clean shirt, and I have one; you have a nice shirt and I want one. According to my standards, that's a rum situation, and it calls for a trade."

"Not here!"

"Look, I'll lean against the door and you can--"

"Absolutely not."

Courfeyrac rolled his eyes and gave up. "Absolutely not, then. But I want that shirt tomorrow, and I'll bring a one of mine from home."

"Fine." Feuilly sighed in exasperation. "Now clean yourself up. The others will be here any minute, and Enjolras will be far less tolerant of an inky embrace."

Courfeyrac's eyes ceased rolling immediately and lit gleefully. "So he will! I should get more on!"

"I sincerely doubt that."

"As do I, man. I'm not utterly mad."

"Oh, you're not, are you?"

"I'm not. But clearly, it'll take a lot to convince you so. Now, look here, dear man. I have a playful soul. You must seek to understand me. Aren't you a good Christian? Have pity for my spirit and attempt to reconcile me with the forces of light. Really, you're not doing your part."

Feuilly held out his arms wide to either side. "Frankly, considering the state of my shirt, I hope you go to hell."

"Ah! You dreadful, dreadful person!" Courfeyrac stepped forward, and Feuilly eyed him distrustfully. "You have ink all over your face, dear." He kissed Feuilly's cheek, streaking ink over his own, and then stepped back again to see the reaction.

Feuilly raised his eyebrows. "And you really expect me to think you're not mad?"

"Certainly I do." He caught Feuilly in his arms, quite amused, and kissed him again.

"Stop that! You're getting both of us filthy with the stuff."

"Rather... Was that a rebuke? Do you scorn my love?"

"That was love?" Feuilly's eyebrows went up again.

"For God's sake! What must I do? Ask you for your hand in marriage? I simply want to be able to walk out with you. Surely you won't refuse me that?"

"I suppose not. But you must promise me not to come covered in ink. No matter how fashionable you find it, it is still a ruin of good shirts."

"Very well. Conditions accepted. We shall walk out together."

"This is a fancy, not a will?"

"Damien..." Courfeyrac sprawled in his chair. "A fancy, with a will. If nothing else, you can keep me about for laughs."

"So I can. How very useful."

"Isn't it?"

Feuilly pulled out a chair beside him. "You've ink on your face."

"So have you."

"I wonder what Enjolras will say."

"He'll stare disapprovingly at us. The dear man's such a spoilsport."

"That's hardly the word I'd use."

"And yet it's the one I would." Courfeyrac kissed Feuilly again, cheerfully. "Everyone has such high praise for sensibility. Well, I say if you're not having a good time of it, to hell with sensibility."

"Does this count as having a good time?"

"It does."

"Dear me." Feuilly shook his head.

"Salut, Enjolras!" Courfeyrac called over his shoulder, grinning.

"Salut, Courfeyrac." Enjolras looked dubiously at them. "You seem to have had some bother."

"We have! Let me tell you about it!" Courfeyrac cried.

"Suppose you don't," muttered Feuilly.

"But, damn me, what's the use of having a splendid spot of bother if you can't tell anyone about it?"

"It has its uses. --Enjolras, we were just about to go. We both need to change clothes."

"Yes... Yes, it does seem that way. Should I expect you later?"

"Later, yes. Excuse us." Feuilly took Courfeyrac's arm, and began tugging him gently to the door. Courfeyrac didn't resist, fixing Enjolras with a grin.

When they were gone, Enjolras moved to their table, picked up the inkpot, and shook his head. He was looking curiously at it when the door opened behind him. Startled, his hand moved, and ink splashed over his shirt.

Courfeyrac, who had returned to fetch his books, could not help but burst out laughing.

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