The Knight-Errant and His Fan Painter
May 12, 1829
"Keep getting as much information as you can, we'll need it to gauge public feeling. Anything you can find out that doesn't have to do with other university students is all the better, we need to branch out some."
There was a general murmur of assent to Laurent's words as the crowd began to stir and slowly disperse and Combeferre beckoned Enjolras to one side of the room for some conference on the latest developments as the rest of the amis made their way out of the back room in twos and threes. René dawdled at the rear of the crowd, seeming to ponder something, watching as Daniel sat, apparently not intending to leave right away, pouring over yet another sketchbook.
"Daniel? Tell me you aren't planning on sitting here until all hours of the night perusing your sketches again." René grinned as he leaned against the table, tapping one finger against the rough cloth covered tabletop. "Don't think I haven't noticed that more often than not you haven't been leaving with the rest of us the past few weeks."
Daniel blushed slightly as he shrugged, making an ineffectual show of gathering his things that were littered across the small table, sketches and bits of charcoal and pastel and a partially empty carafe. "Well it's easier to work here than at my flat. And it's comfortable, being around people takes my mind off things."
"I know your accommodations may not be the most desirable in Paris, Daniel, but I find it difficult to believe that the back room of a dark, sooty wine shop is a preferable place to sketch than your own rooms." René's voice was blithe and would have sounded crass or uncaring had it come from anyone else. As it was, it was merely René, quite immune to the differences between himself and his friend that may have been plainly obvious to some. Daniel was simply Daniel to him, and being an orphan and the only one of their circle of friends to owe everything he had solely to his own industry was quite simply not a thing René would pay any mind to.
"There are no screaming children or half-mad grisettes pacing the hallway, so I have to admit that it's an improvement, unlikely as that seems." Daniel's tone was laughing, easy, filled with the knowledge that the minor inconveniences of his present living arrangements were indeed minor, and hardly worth his concern in the grand scheme of things. René however was noticeably a bit shocked, despite his smile.
"Daniel, that is no place for an artist to be living, much less attempting to be productive." He stood and started gathering a few of Daniel's things. "And neither is this. At the very least I insist that you come home with me and use my sitting room to work on your sketches. I have some reading I've been putting off doing, you'll hardly notice I'm there, and I assure you my lodgings are usually quite quiet and free of any screaming from people of any age." For a moment Daniel hesitated, visibly attempting to resist the guileless smile flashing back at him from René's open and friendly visage, but the thought of a pleasant evening's company, which it invariably was with René, away from the shrieking of his many neighbors, and the thought that he could, perhaps, finally get some real work done on these study sketches, was a tempting package.
"How does anyone ever say no to you? I'm beginning to think it can't be done."
René laughed as two sets of hands gathered the sketchbooks and other effects from the small table and reached for coats. "It's hardly impossible, I promise. But I've rather made making it difficult into an art. One of my few true talents."
"René, I find it hard to believe you lack talent in anything." Daniel flushed inexplicably as he spoke, turning his gaze down towards the table as he fussed over arranging a few drawings back inside a portfolio.
There was a pause from René too as the perfectly innocent words hung in the air between them and he smiled bemusedly. Certainly Daniel hadn't meant anything by it, certainly it wasn't at all like him to make jokes like that, and not after having to have his arm twisted to go back to René's. Still though, the color on his face spoke volumes, or so René hoped, in spite of himself. It didn't matter one way or the other, in the utmost truth. He had extended the invitation out of friendship and a genuine concern that Daniel be able to work on his sketches, and live, in relative peace. Even with all this though, it did make René smile a little brighter to think that perhaps the comment wasn't entirely innocent. Their kiss the month before, on an evening nearly identical to this, had lingered uncharacteristically in René's memory, emerging fresh in his mind at surprising and entirely unplanned intervals. Not that this had dampened his interest in any of his numerous mistresses, quite on the contrary in fact, but he had caught himself several times comparing the feel of their lips or, even more frequently, the merry blankness in their eyes, hardly any more interesting than a marionette's, to the softly trusting bewilderment he had seen in Daniel's.
"That is very flattering, Daniel." René smiled genuinely and handed off a bundle of papers to Daniel as he shifted his coat onto his arm, unneeded as it was in the warm spring air. "Come now, I think we both have work to do, and I know there is a bottle of wine waiting for us in my sitting room."
Hours had passed now, and a companionable silence had drifted over the occupants of René's comfortable but not ornate rooms, the only noises the occasional scratch of a pencil on paper, clink of a glass on a table or turn of a page. René had entirely kept his word, Daniel had indeed hardly noticed his presence, and both seemed rather pleased with the outcome of the evening. A goodly portion of wine had been consumed on both of their behalves, but it had blessedly served only to make them a bit drowsy and nothing further. Resting his book on the empty seat of the divan beside him, René yawned and stretched his arms over his head in an elaborate gesture, smiling as he caught Daniel's eye from the opposite corner of the room.
"I'm beginning to wonder if wine was such a grand idea if I really planned to get this reading finished. I remember now why I so seldom study."
Daniel smiled and flushed slightly, opening a small pouch and dropping the piece of charcoal in his hand into it. "I should get out of your way, you probably want to go to bed if you're too tired to keep reading."
"Now Daniel, stop being so damnably self-effacing." René laughed casually and sat up, leaning his forearms on his knees and tilting his head up to be able to lift his eyes towards the far side of the room where Daniel sat. "If I wanted you to leave I'd have said so. There's a far distance between not wanting to read any more about the history of inheritance taxes and wanting to go to bed like a good little boy, and if you haven't noticed I am rather fond of your company."
Nodding slightly for lack of a better response to René's friendly chastisement, Daniel closed the small cloth pouch that held his charcoal and pastels and wiped his blackened fingertips on the thighs of his pants, already marked with other smudges and traces of pigment from his workday. "I do appreciate the hospitality René." The thanks seemed hollow, not lacking sincerity but somehow not quite what he wanted to say. He did appreciate the hospitality, but he didn't need it. What he appreciated really was René's concern, his friendship, not so much the tangible evidence of it.
"I know you appreciate it, that's a good portion of why I enjoy offering." René sat back again, winking almost imperceptibly and waving a hand in the general direction of where Daniel stood. "If you're going to take a break from sketching come over here and sit down and save me from my own sloth. I should be reading but if I'm not I should at least attempt to make decent conversation."
"Determined to drag me with you into your horrid procrastination are you?" Daniel laughed as he spoke, crossing the room and taking a seat in a well worn but comfortable upholstered chair just across from René. "If these paintings never get finished you'll have no one to blame but yourself, you know."
"Oh I wouldn't dream! I wouldn't even begin to contemplate the horror of keeping you from your work." René's melodramatic teasing was laughable, but tinged with an earnestness about his admiration of Daniel's work. "I promise, I want nothing more than to see you triumph when you finally get your introduction to Mme."
"I know you do, René." Daniel smiled gratefully, the conversation turning serious for a moment. He did know, quite certainly, that there was no one he could count on for support of his painting more than René at this moment. The promise of an introduction to Mme du Pont-Villette was the starting point, but the continued checking up and interest in his work proved more than a simple favor, conferred on a whim and because of a coincidental acquaintance.
"I'm glad…" René's voice trailed off as he spoke, his smile softening from his teasing as he looked at Daniel. "You look so tired." René leant forward, his hand reaching across the space between them to brush against Daniel's cheek. "Is it really that bad, with the neighbors, or is there something else?"
Daniel sighed and closed his eyes for the space of a breath, resting his cheek against René's hand without entirely realizing it. He never thought about how tired he was, how much pressure he put on himself, how much he was missing in life at times, until René and his seemingly innocent questions brought everything to the surface. "No, that's really just a nuisance, I've dealt with worse."
"Then what?" René lightened his voice, smiling a bit more broadly now, hoping he could find out what was eating at Daniel easily, for both their sakes. He would never have admitted or acknowledged it, even to himself, but René was meant to be a savior, to fight the good fight and to ease the suffering and tiresome woes of life for those around him, as often with a quick remark and a grin as with a carbine or a sword. He was, in short, the knight-errant of fable, passing an evening with wine and a troubadour's song and then riding smilingly into a noble battle at first dawn. Sitting idly by and watching anyone, particularly someone as amiable and kind as Daniel, be in pain or discomfort was more effective a torment for René than even the most advanced and horrific torture. "Come on now, don't clam up on me. What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, there's just a lot going on, it's hectic and I'm just… tired." The pause before the last of his sentence belied what Daniel had wanted to say. He was tired, that was entirely factual, but it wasn't from lack of sleep. It was tired from fighting – fighting for what he wanted, fighting for what he needed, battling every step of the way to find some sense of peace and belonging. That was what had held him in René's arms for that moment a month earlier. It kept him from shying away from his touch even now, but at what cost?
"Daniel, I may not always seem it, but I like to think I am a lot more intelligent than I sometimes get credit for, and even the most oblivious person could notice that you are far more than just tired from not getting quite enough sleep." René rose and moved to stand behind Daniel, squeezing his shoulder comfortingly as he spoke, his usual smirk entirely absent from his face, replaced instead by a ghost of an almost sad smile.
"It isn't just lack of sleep but…" Daniel sighed and closed his eyes, leaning slightly against René. "I don't know how to explain it, or what to do about it. And it isn't anyone else's problem to fix."
"There's a difference between making someone fix your problems, and letting a friend help, especially when they offer." René laughed gently as he moved around to the other side of Daniel's chair, pulling him to his feet and back down against one cushion of the divan as he slid an arm around his shoulders, brushing a hand against his hair. "Forgive me if I'm speaking out of turn, but I do rather think that if you would just relax you'd feel better."
Daniel grinned and chuckled bemusedly, leaning his head back against René's arm unthinkingly. "And how, precisely, am I supposed to do that? If you have some secret trick I'm all ears."
"Well for one, stop thinking so much. Serious thinking is something I really believe should only be used when exactly necessary, and never more than twice a day except under extraordinary circumstances." René shifted slightly, his familiar smirk returning to his face as he turned to face Daniel more. "I'd suggest a mistress but… they can often bring as much stress with them as they manage to relieve. But, I will let you in on my special trick."
Daniel grinned as he stifled a yawn, closing his eyes happily for a moment. "Oh please do pass on your secret. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather take advice on this particular subject from."
"When you find something, or someplace, or someone that makes you happy and makes you feel as if the large boulder you've been carrying between your shoulder blades has been lifted off, even a little, take note of that and keep with it. Take the vice, or the secret place, or the friend, or the lover, and hold onto them and keep yourself sane." The advice was true, and the most accurate René could have given to anyone in the circumstances, but spoken to Daniel, in a soft lilt of a voice in the quiet and comfortable parlor of his flat, sitting so near together on the low divan, it carried a weight with it. It ceased to be merely advice and became an implicit permission to stay, to hold on, to grasp for the thing that seemed, to René's perhaps biased eyes, to be keeping Daniel afloat.
"I appreciate the advice, and the shoulder to lend support." Daniel laughed, the familiar hint of embarrassment behind the hollow sound, as he noticed his head leaning near René's shoulder. "Literally it seems in this case. But I should really be going. If I can get home quickly, it might be quiet enough for a bit that I can get some touch ups done on the painting so that they can dry tomorrow while I'm at work." His hands reached for his notebooks and coat fumblingly as he pushed himself up, nearly tripping over one of René's outstretched legs in the process, landing a bit heavily against the table as he snatched up his things. "Thank you though, really, for everything."
"Daniel please, for the love of god did a word I said get through to you tonight?" René had struggled to his feet, and was standing now, an uncharacteristically annoyed and frustrated cloud to his expression, on the other side of the divan, staring at the table Daniel was now frantically gathering his things from.
"Yes, it did René. It did. But what got through to me was that I am not what you want and you are not what I need. I am not someone who can just magically be happy because I have a smiling face to wake up next to, I am not someone who will ever be happy go lucky and charming and careless and easy with everything and everyone the way you are. You're sweet, really, and it is… " Daniel paused now and laughed, a hand pushing through his hair heavily and a crease across his forehead in thought. "It is incredibly generous and kind of you to care as much as you seem to, but it is for the wrong reasons and you will figure that out soon, I promise. Go find one of your pretty, giggling mistresses and stay the man without a care that everyone loves you to be, and leave me to be the pensive one with his paints."
For a long, thick moment, René simply stared. He could hardly decide whether to rage at him for having essentially called him a brainless gad-about or to laugh and kiss him for the sweetly self-deprecating nature of it all. "Daniel, if I wanted to be spending this evening with my mistress, any of them, I would be. I say that merely as an assurance to you that inviting you to spend the evening here and use my parlor to do your work and keep me company while I read was purely done out of my own desire to see you happy and pass a few hours with you, not out of any strangely philanthropic or otherwise excessively noble motives." René laughed and shrugged, once again the careless boy who hardly, if ever, appeared as old as his barely twenty-three years. "I like seeing you smile Daniel, it is as simple and rather silly as that." Closing the distance between them with a few steps, watching as Daniel stood there seemingly frozen to the spot, René brushed a hand against his cheek and smiled again. "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you haven't been more relaxed the two nights that you've spent here than you have been every night I've seen you at the café or anywhere else. If you can honestly say that you haven't felt a little bit better talking with me, than by all means, I insist, go home and work on your painting and don't let me take anymore of your time."
"I didn't say that… " Daniel's voice was soft and his face was strained as he spoke. "I didn't say I didn't enjoy spending time here, or feel better being here, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea."
"What was my advice to you Daniel? Find something or someone or someplace that makes you happy and makes you feel a little lighter and hold onto that. I mean that entirely, and I doubt you can find a reason to leave if you really felt as relaxed and happy as you seemed to here."
"I can René, because I know what I am capable of and… not capable of. I don't… I can't keep up my end of the bargain, and I wouldn't feel right taking you up on any offer under those circumstances."
"Your end of the bargain?" René laughed, nervously but with a depth of amusement that comes with an appreciation of the absurdity of life. "So businesslike! Daniel, there is no bargain, there is nothing I am expecting from you in the least except a smile occasionally if you feel so inclined, and perhaps a few interesting sentences of conversation. Beyond that, nothing but your presence. Stay here and talk with me, work on your sketches, enjoy a warm parlour and a glass of wine, and fall asleep…" René paused for a moment, one finger picking at the nail of another as he shifted his gaze from Daniel. Fall asleep where? René wanted, rather truthfully, to tell Daniel to fall asleep beside him, warm and safe and comfortable, but was it possible for it to be just that? Even if he had no designs in any intentional way whatsoever, the idea of sleeping beside someone who was not his younger brother without being an exhausted and sweaty mess, paying no heed to the stickiness of his own body after his exertion, was a rather ludicrously foreign one. "Fall asleep on the divan, or collapse dead away on top of your sketches…" There was a sharp intake of breath and the faintest of blushes on his cheeks, which he would surely deny. "Or come and share a comfortable bed."
God but he was a damnably impossible man to say no to about anything. "I still don't know how wise an idea this is." It was true, Daniel didn't know, but he was resting into René's embrace as he finished in spite of himself. It was stupid, utterly and completely stupid, to agree to spend a night at René's, but there were his arms again, so horribly comforting, and a quiet, rather cheery parlour with enough coal in the fire and enough light to work by, and the thought of getting a good night's sleep, for once in far too long, listening to the soft whistle of René's breathing.
René sighed softly and smiled, feeling surprisingly relieved to feel Daniel relax into a friendly and easy embrace. "I'm glad you finally saw the error of your ways." The teasing came naturally as always, and seemed to normalize the situation. Regardless of whether they stood in the middle of René's parlour embracing, one of René's hands running gently through the pale brown flyaway hair at Daniel's collar, it was still simply René and Daniel. A knight-errant and a fan painter, in all their complexities and faults and endearing oddities. "So, now that that is finally settled, are you tired or shall I set the fire for a bit longer and fetch some more wine?"
"Well I still have half a glass yet to finish," Daniel said with a slight laugh. "But once that is finished, I think we… or at least… I should retire."
René smiled and leant to brush his lips against Daniel's for a moment. "Of course, I think that sounds like a wonderful idea, particularly since I always hate to see any wine go to waste, even if this bottle isn't the best I've ever had." As the two of them returned to their seats, wine glasses in hand for René had refilled his to match what remained of Daniel's, René couldn't help but laugh slightly. "Is it always this much work to convince you to do something for your own good? I daresay I feel as if I've just battled quite a formidable opponent."
"I don't think so… but I suppose I really am not sure. I'm afraid I don't have a large amount of experience with people trying to give me advice, especially advice I don't want to take." Daniel smiled shyly as he spoke, the wine in his glass steadily disappearing.
"Well then allow me to inform that you are, indeed, dreadfully difficult to persuade to do anything." René gave a slight wink, almost a twitch, as he set his now empty glass onto the table, fingering the slightly rough grooves of the cut glass for a moment before it settled onto the heavy wood.
"I find it difficult to believe that persuading anyone to do anything could be difficult for you." The joke seemed to fade as the words left Daniel's mouth, his face growing a bit pale and then suddenly flushed as he glanced back at René.
"I doubt I'd be able to get you to go lie down with me." Normally, coming from René, it would have been a challenge, but tonight it was very nearly a request. Daniel laughed softly, a faint crimson spreading from below his collar. René really did seem to mean lie down, and not… anything else. The blush deepened at the thought and he finished his glass of wine in an only somewhat desperate gulp.
"Why are you so certain you wouldn't be able to? You haven't so much as asked yet." For a moment, it was if René had lent him his easy charm and Daniel was trying it on, like a borrowed velvet frock coat resting upon the shoulders of a man accustomed to simple waistcoats and unstarched shirts. It fit a bit awkwardly, but it did fit, in a beautifully unusual way.
"Well in that case, why don't you come lie down with me so we can both get some rest?" René winked as he spoke, brushing a hand through the perpetually green or blue or carmine tinted forelock of Daniel's thin light brown hair. He still didn't entirely expect the simple request to work, but it was a place to start, a jumping off point to what would likely be a long series of negotiations.
The word sounded foreign as it hit René's ears, causing him to blink and pause for a moment as he watched Daniel's face pale slightly. He had planned on spending a good portion of the evening in a studied effort to relax Daniel enough that he'd agree to have the sense to sleep where he would be most comfortable, but instead he got this cheerful, and rather concise, acquiescence. It quite startled him.
"Well in that case, given that the wine is finished and the fire is beginning to die down, I think retiring for the evening sounds like a wise plan." Poking at the last of the coals in the grate, René tossed the wine bottle into the waste bin in the corner, setting the used glasses upon the sideboard to be washed later, and turned to smile into Daniel's pale and rather tense face. "Daniel really, you're supposed to be relaxing, don't look as if you're going off to your death."
"I'm not. I just think I had a bit too much wine." A flush of embarrassment and nervousness replaced the pale of Daniel's cheek from a moment earlier as René pressed a soft kiss to each of his temples in turn, standing close to him as his hands rested against his back.
"Well then sleep is precisely what you need." René smirked slightly, his familiar charm and confidence taking charge of the room and of Daniel as he gestured for him to follow into the small but more than adequate bedroom.
It was a comfortable room, furnished simply but with furniture of fine sturdy wood and good craftsmanship, perhaps a bit out of place in the student's flat but somehow homier because of it, looking as it did as if the furniture was all cast offs from the well appointed family home, which in fact was the case. A small writing desk, piled high with papers and books and obviously never used for writing, stood beneath the window, the soft white fabric of the curtains covering it glowing yellow in the lamplight. A heavy chest of drawers stood nestled into the corner beside the desk, its top littered with a few brass and mother of pearl studs, a lone kid glove whose partner no doubt lay in some mistress' chamber or simply behind the chest, and assorted bits and odds and ends, glass bottles and handkerchiefs, and in one corner a dried rose boutonniere, obviously long since past its prime. Across the room stood a washstand, a simple white cloth draped over its rung, and beside that the bed, its linens suddenly gleaming white, making it take on unusually large proportions.
"The wash stand is just over there, and there is an extra washing cloth behind the door under the bowl." René smiled again, almost reassuringly, as he turned the chair from the writing desk and sat in it to remove his stockings, his boots having been long since discarded during the course of the evening at home. Daniel managed a smile as he crossed to the wash stand, splashing water on his face a few times bracingly before perching on the edge of the bed awkwardly as he began to disrobe, taking, to René's mind, rather remarkably meticulous care with the placement of his discarded clothing. Standing from his chair, René shifted himself free of his shirt, draping it over the chair so that it hung listlessly and rather sadly before his hands paused at the waist of his pants. He certainly didn't normally make a habit of sleeping in his pants, particularly not the new peg-top variety he had chosen for this evening, a fashion he still did not prefer to the more generously cut variety favored by his bohemian counterparts that he made a habit of wearing, if in a more subdued style. However, given Daniel's presence and his conviction, both to Daniel and to himself, that sleeping would be the only activity this evening, it seemed perhaps prudent to leave them on. When René finally turned his attention back towards Daniel and the bed, he noticed that Daniel had quite solved the issue for him, standing as he was clad only in his shirt, the soft bleached fabric hanging nearly to his knees. Removing his pants quickly, and making a note to not bother with the damnable idiocy of peg-tops ever again, particularly since he was quite certain they made his legs look stubby, René stepped beside Daniel, brushing a kiss across his cheek quickly as he bent before the wash stand, splashing his face and hands and running one damp hand through his dark curls.
"I think that large, soft, rather white object behind you is quite calling us to it, am I right?" René laughed softly and stepped around Daniel to the edge of the bed, about to lie down when he felt Daniel's hand on his bare shoulder.
"Thank you." It was simple, two silly over-used meaningless little words, but it was the closest to what Daniel really wanted to say as he could come at that moment. He knew better than to let himself grow attached to René, or to trust his humanitarianism would last forever, but it was warm, and safe, and suddenly quite wonderful to be in this little room and readying to lie down in this comfortable bed beside him. René simply smiled and kissed him softly, the unfamiliar warmth of bare skin against the heat of Daniel's chest through the thin material of his shirt making him start for a moment, but only long enough to sigh and return to kiss, feeling his laugh reverberate between their chests.
"You haven't a thing to thank me for, now come to bed."
They slept awkwardly but happily, in the way of new friends or lovers, unaccustomed to the sound of each other's breathing or their murmurings while deep asleep, but content to feel the warmth of another body beside them. René kept his promise, and they slept soundly through the night, their arms loose around each other, their breath the only thing that mingled. And Daniel kept his promise, and relaxed, finally and blessedly, into a warm, deep, contented slumber, the soft tinted patch of his hair, blue tonight, drifting across René's arm as they slumbered.
The sun through the uncovered window the next morning was bright and harsh, even against René's closed eyes as he slowly drifted back into awaRenèss, his face contorting into an annoyed expression that quickly disappeared as he shifted his weight back onto his side and buried his face against a patch of faintly lavender scented linen. For a moment he almost forget whose soft, even breathing he heard as he drifted in that pleasantly hazy area between sleep and waking, even with the decidedly masculine, if rather thin, arm draped casually over him. He couldn't help the smug smile that snuck onto his face as he was reminded who his bedfellow was, as Daniel sighed gently and shifted closer to him, still quite deep in sleep but by all indications exceedingly content. René of course was more than happy to go along with Daniel's unspoken and mostly unconscious request, untangling his arms from the mess of pillows and bed linens long enough to entangle them again, this time around Daniel's chest, his hands resting against his thin back, one hand smoothing along his spine, the bumps noting each of the bones just faintly noticeable to the touch, and tangling into his soft, downy thin hair.
René was hardly known for his restraint in any capacity, rather having a reputation for quick action and indulgence in every aspect of life, and he was quite chagrined to notice that, despite his concerted efforts and the comfort he felt with Daniel in his arms, he was in certain more prominent capacities far from comfortable. It seemed all at once that the thin and normally pleasantly soft linen of his drawers, the only article of clothing that remained on his body, became constricting and was quite annoyingly edging between unpleasantly coarse and not coarse enough to be pleasant. It was not as if this was a situation he was unfamiliar with or unaware of how to solve under normal circumstances. In fact, Marie-Ange had of late made a skill of waking earlier than he did and rousing him in a most continually surprising fashion. Sliding his arms from around Daniel and laughing noiselessly, René sat up and swung his legs out of bed, running a hand through his curls in a futile attempt to tame them. Pulling the counterpane up over Daniel loosely as he stood up and splashing water on his face in an attempt to brace his senses, René sighed and carefully adjusted his single article of clothing, pulling his discarded shirt loosely over his shoulders.
"Good morning." Daniel's voice was sleepy as he propped himself up in bed on his elbows, smiling lazily and only slightly nervously at René, who had just lowered himself into the chair at the writing desk. Glad to have the distraction and to not have to continue his diligent efforts at being quiet, René smiled easily and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees.
"Good morning, Daniel. You slept well I hope? I'd hate to hear that you had tossed and turned all night after all that." It was easier to tease than to be entirely earnest, and in fact, René had found he got better results with gentle teasing.
"I slept wonderfully," Daniel admitted with a faint blush. "And something tells me you just wanted to hear me say that, considering that if I had slept as badly as you seem to have imagined I'm quite sure you would have noticed, sleeping not inches away."
René laughed off the reminder of the proximity of their sleeping arrangements, quite sure allowing his mind to dwell on it for more than about a single instant would prove a bad idea, and smirked playfully at Daniel. "Guilty as charged I'm afraid, you're on to most of my tricks already." Fetching a small kettle to boil water for coffee and setting it onto the fire he smiled more gently as he sat back down on the edge of the bed, watching Daniel as he rested happily just on the waking side of sleep. "I am glad you slept well though, you looked as if you needed it quite dreadfully and, if you don't mind me saying so, you look immensely better for taking my advice."
"Well I feel much better." Daniel smiled pleasantly as he sat up in bed, bringing his knees up and resting his head against his arms. Having someone ask after his well being so dedicatedly was unusual, and not at all as frustrating as he might have thought it would be. His memories of his family had grown dim over the years, nearly twelve since his parents' death, and he had thought for much of what he could consider his adult life that he was oddly glad of the freedom of being without a family to answer to. In the nearly two years since had known les amis, and a bit more since he had known Courfeyrac, he had started to feel a part of something, perhaps not quite like a family, but as close to it as he could ever have reasonably hoped for, and it was something he was more glad of than he could have imagined in the years earlier.
"Hungry? I was just about to dig something up for breakfast." René stood and crossed just to the other side of the bedroom door, searching through an improvised pantry cabinet. "I'm afraid options are rather limited, I don't usually eat much more than bread and cheese at home."
"No no, please don't go to any trouble for me." Daniel glanced at the clock and sighed, realizing just how little time he had left before he really had to leave. "I really have to get going or I'm going to be late for work." Taking advantage of René's momentary absence and the modicum of privacy, Daniel slipped out of bed and pulled on his pants, following with a hasty tuck of his shirt as he turned to see René in the doorway.
"Don't rush so Daniel, I can't let you go off to work with nothing in your stomach. You're skin and bones as it is." René leaned casually against the doorway as he spoke, showing absolutely no mind to the fact that his shirt had been buttoned askew in his half-waking grogginess and he still wore nothing but a thin layer of linen from the waist down.
"Really, it's not necessary." Suddenly shy and awkward, the intimacy of the previous evening forgotten in the light of morning, Daniel fastened the last button of his waistcoat, completing the setting to rights of his clothing at last. "I really am going to be late if I don't hurry, I'll find something on the way."
"Daniel for god's sake." René laughed, a bemused and exasperated laugh that it suddenly occurred to him he used almost exclusively with Daniel, and slipped through the door to the cabinet, pulling out the remains of a loaf of bread and hacking off a piece from a larger bit of cheese with a small knife. "Take this if you're running late, no sense in stopping somewhere else to eat." He smirked and pressed the small parcel into Daniel's hands as he emerged from the bedroom at last, picking up his other belongings from the sitting room. "Besides, I don't think I trust you to stop anyway."
"René, I swear to you, as difficult as it may be for you to believe, I am fully capable of taking care of myself." Daniel smiled teasingly as he spoke the chastisement, pressing a hand to his shoulder in parting before he started to turn towards the door. "If you are, then you are far better off than I am." Once again the ever present smirk, simultaneously so lovable and so entirely irritating, was planted firmly across René's face. Taking the hand that was resting on his shoulder in his, he pulled Daniel closer for a moment, until, almost as if by accident, René was kissing him rather breathlessly. There was something so warm about having the thin, slightly awkward, but so wholly endearing painter in his arms, and Daniel could hardly deny the giddy lightness that infected him as he leaned unsuspectingly closer. A word of protest began to form itself on Daniel's lips, but the soft insistence of René's blocked them from being spoken and just as quickly shoved them from his mind.
Then, by some elementally irritating corollary to the law that things will always happen when they are least convenient, the kettle that René had put on earlier for coffee hissed loudly and threatened to boil over without immediate attention. Accenting his vocabulary with the sailor's patois under his breath, he dove across the room and yanked the kettle from the fire, cursing again, this time more audibly, as the scalding water poured over onto the floor, narrowly missing his bare feet and thinly covered legs.
"Be careful with that René! I have to go, thank you for everything, good bye!" Sensing a prime opportunity for a less-awkward-than-otherwise escape, Daniel smiled at René's back as he fussed over the kettle and slipped out the door.
"What? Daniel, wait!" The words were scarcely out of his mouth before he heard the click of the latch and managed to turn to catch just the slightest glimpse of light brown hair as the door closed between them.
Once again, the sailor's patois proved a useful addendum to his own dialect.
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