Initium Sapientiae

Spring, 1827

"We can finish this batch tomorrow Daniel, come to Momus with me." Marcel tossed his brushes roughly into the waiting bucket of water and wiped his hands across the heavy oilcloth apron he wore before pulling it over his head and depositing it unceremoniously on his stool. "It's a beautiful night and I've made Rodolphe promise not to read us anymore depressingly romantic poetry."

Daniel laughed and shook his head, wiping his hands and lifting a stack of books off a high shelf behind their work table, most likely the only one free of paint splatters in the small workshop where the two artists spent their days painting designs onto dainty fans for the bourgeois ladies of Paris. "Thank you Marcel, but I had some reading I wanted to do. I'm nearly finished with this book."

Marcel glanced at the book on the top of the stack, raising an eyebrow somewhat disapprovingly. "Wealth of Nations? Please not another American without a thought in his head like that de Tocqueville you were reading last time. But I suppose it's good that it's at least not more about Poland. So what kind of idiocy is it now?"

Daniel sighed and felt his face flush as he shifted the stack of books so that their titles were no longer visible to Marcel's critical eyes. "Alexandre de Tocqueville was French, Marcel, though I had assumed the name was a bit of a give away." He shook his head and set the stack of books down on his stool, moving one last fan onto a drying rack and setting the bristles of his brushes quickly with his fingers so they were ready for the next day's work. "It's political economy if you must know, and there is nothing idiotic about it. It makes perfect sense really. It talks about how the imbalances of a country's economy, between the poor and the wealthy, have to do with who controls the resources, and how they use those resources." Daniel could feel Marcel's eyes rolling before he even turned back to face him. He was always like this, and Daniel thought he must be the most insane man in Paris to continue to attempt to make Marcel appreciate his books the way he did.

"Resources be damned Daniel, the only resource I want is a good bottle of wine and a spare evening to spend with Musette." Marcel was lounging, rather obnoxiously if it was possible for one to lounge that way, against the doorframe, arms crossed as Daniel bustled around the room finishing his meticulous cleaning.

"That is of course assuming she'll have you," Daniel teased, setting his books into his rucksack and slinging it over his shoulder as he moved toward where Marcel stood in the doorway. At the moment Musette was doing quite well at playing the loyal and caring mistress, but this was what they had all come to expect shortly after another one of her and Marcel's cataclysmic reunions. In a matter of weeks she'd be flirting with everyone in sight again and inciting another of Marcel's jealous rages and they'd replay the entire scenario from the beginning, just like clockwork.

"Oh by god she'll have me alright. You saw her last night, I have entirely figured out that harpy's game and she is done for this time." If Daniel had been a less sensitive man, and hadn't known how much Marcel, and Musette as well to an extent, was pained by their repeated and volatile partings, he may have taken an all too easy opportunity to poke fun at Marcel's bravado. As it was, Daniel smiled and laughed gently, nudging his friend's shoulder as they shuffled out of the workshop and into the fading sunlight of early evening.

"For your sake I really do hope that's true." Daniel smiled as they made their way down the narrow street and picked their way slowly towards the wider boulevards.

"Oh it's true, trust me." Marcel clapped him on the back amiably, sending a corner of a book into Daniel's shoulder painfully. "And if it isn't, she can just go to the devil."

Daniel laughed and reached a hand behind him to rub the spot where his book had poked him. Marcel was admirably optimistic about the future of his relationship with Musette, something which amused Daniel and saddened him slightly at the same time. That optimism, that dedication, it could be of such use! If only Marcel were interested. Marcel had a good mind, if one that was seldom used for serious reflection on anything but his friends and his lover's infidelity, and a good heart. All of it was going to waste, if only Daniel could get Marcel to just open one of his books. If he started reading he'd be interested, Daniel was certain. Colline even, he was a philosopher, he appreciated Rousseau, and Rodolphe and Schaunard with their artist's spirits, how grand a club they could be if they'd only stop talking of nonsense constantly!

"So everyone will be at Momus as usual I presume?" Daniel smiled hopefully at Marcel as they turned the corner onto the little street where their flats stood, the rows of gray buildings becoming increasingly familiar as they walked.

"Ah of course they will be! I knew you could do with a night away from your books." Marcel laughed again, the broad almost barking laugh of a workman tinged with the brightness of an artist.

Daniel smiled then, almost a smirk, and nodded. "I suppose I could. And if nothing else I'm always eager to see what Musette's next move to torment you will be." Marcel glared in the least threatening manner imaginable as they climbed the stairs that led to their spare flats, separated by a few doors, and made their way down their hallway, standing in the landing for a moment to bid each other goodbye as usual.

"I'll knock at 7:30 and we can go over together. Go eat, I could break you in two!"

Marcel elbowed Daniel a bit sharply, but with all good intentions, as he stepped inside his flat, leaving Daniel fumbling in his stuffed sack for his latchkey. He'd bring his books to Momus tonight, it was worth a try. Perhaps show the de Tocqueville to Colline first, he'd be the most likely to appreciate it. Where Colline went, thus went Schaunard, and it wouldn't be long before Rodolphe and Marcel would follow suit simply out of curiosity. He couldn't help but feel slightly dishonest, plotting to win his friends to his own interests this way, but it was for their own good, and what grand things they could do, what wonderful discussions and thinking could be done, if they were finally all thinking together.

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