“What the hell?” Grand R shouted as he tried to sit up, gasping for breath. The man who had just landed on his stomach scrambled to his feet.
“What the hell yourself!” the other man said. “This is my bed. This is my house. Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?”
Grand R's eyes widened. “Oh. You, um, must be the owner of the house?”
“Damn right I am, so I would be very happy if you would get out,” the red-headed man said angrily, gesturing at the door.
“Okay, okay, sorry.” Grand R said, holding up his hands placatingly. The man watched him warily as Grand R got up and left. As he passed through the door, he turned back. “Oh, and, uh, sorry about the blood.”
“What blood?” the man asked suspiciously. He looked away from Grand R to glance at his blankets. A dark red stain marred the pale blue cloth.
“Where did that come from?” The redhead said, his voice calmer.
“My arm, but...” Grand R trailed off as the man grabbed him by his other arm and dragged him down the stairs. There were several more men down here, most of them eating.
“Joly, Combeferre, there was a man in my bed, he needs help.”
“There was a man in your bed?” A man with curly brown hair asked, a smirk on his face. “Don't tell me -”
“Shut up, Courfeyrac,” the redhead said. “Joly, Combeferre, he's bleeding!”
A man with dark brown hair jumped to his feet. “Why didn't you say so?” He led Grand R into the next room, a kitchen. Drawers were opened hastily and shoved shut just as quickly. “Where are the damn bandages?” the brunet asked.
“I found them, here.” The redhead passed the brunet a bundle of cloth. The brunet set straight to work, cleaning the cut carefully.
“This might sting a little,” the brunet warned. Grand R hissed when the ointment the brunet was dabbing at the wound made contact with his skin. “Sorry.”
“S'okay,” Grand R managed to say while the man wrapped his arm in clean white bandages.
The brunet straightened and smiled. “There. Now, I'm sorry if this seems rude, but what are you doing in our house?”
Grand R blushed. “I was – well, it was raining, and I was tired, and I was hungry and I hadn't drunk anything since last night, and I just needed to lay down. And your house was just sort of... here. If you don't want people walking in, you might try a lock,” he added. “I'm sorry.”
“You haven't drunk anything since this last night?” the brunet asked.
“Nothing. Well, I had the last of my absinthe then. And I walked here until about... midmorning?”
The brunet rolled his eyes and ran out a door without answering. He returned with a bucket filled to the brim with water. He dipped a cup into the bucket and handed it to Grand R. “So, do you have a name?” He took another cup and filled it for himself.
“Um, yes.” Grand R gave the brunet a look.
The man scoffed, then said, “Hello, my name is Combeferre. What's yours?”
“That's more like it. Pleased to meet you, Combeferre. My name is Grand R.”
Combeferre nearly dropped his own cup. “You're what?”
“My name is Grand R. Yes, I am the Prince. No, I don't plan to go back, and I'd be very pleased to hear it if you didn't plan to report my presence here.”
“You couldn't have, I don't know, lied?” Combeferre said.
Grand R frowned. “I could have, I guess. I don't know, I haven't had alcohol since last night, I'm too sober for all kinds of name games. I take it this means you aren't going to tell people I'm here?”
Combeferre closed his eyes, as if trying to compose himself. “I don't see any reason to, I suppose. But, if you don't mind me asking, what are you doing out here without an escort?”
Grand R shifted uncomfortably. “That's sort of private.”
“I can respect that. It won't stop anyone from wondering, though.”
Grand R didn't know how to proceed. Fortunately, though, a distraction came in the form of another resident. The curly-haired man breezed into the room, smiling. “So, you were in Feuilly's bed? I hope you were having fun.” The man sat down on the edge of the table. “Charmed to meet you, I'm Courfeyrac.” He extended his hand, but Grand R shook his head and pointed at his bandaged right arm.
“Sorry, I can't. But it's nice to meet you. I'm Grand R.”
Courfeyrac did a double take and stared at him. “Are you trying to pull one over on me?”
“No.” Grand R sighed. “Can you get over your shock in the next two seconds? I don't want to talk about it.” Grand R suddenly hoped he didn't sound rude. He didn't even know Courfeyrac.
“All right. You don't have to worry about it; your secret's safe with me.” Courfeyrac grinned. “Wait! Did you tell Combeferre?” Courfeyrac asked.
“Um, yes?” Grand R said.
“It's not going to stay a secret.” Courfeyrac smirked.
A chorus of “What?” and “No!” and “Are you joking?” erupted from the living room.
One voice stood out. “Oh, Ebjolras is goig to love thad.” This was followed by several sneezes.
“Is he really going to stay here?”
“I don't see where else he can go.”
“We don't know anything about him!”
“I talk nonsense when I'm drunk,” Grand R called. When Courfeyrac snorted, he gave him a look of mock offense.
“I paint sometimes. I'm really awful at it, you should see some of my work. I tried a portrait once; it ended up looking like a pig in a dress.” A few snickers this time. Grand R continued, “I've tried boxing. As it turns out, a ten-year-old can beat up a grown man.” This time Grand R could hear a proper laugh.
“I'm no good with women – Irma Boissy hasn't spoken to me in four years. Apparently, I'm 'impossible,' or something. Though come to think of it, that may have been the portrait's fault.” The laughter increased. Grand R smirked and looked at Courfeyrac again. He was struggling to hide his own laughter.
“There. Now you know about me.” Grand R stood and walked to the doorway. He leaned against the frame, smiling.
One of the men on the sofa stood and crossed to Grand R. “Welcome, Grand R, Prince of the Kingdom, Heir to the Throne. We will allow you to stay, on one condition.”
Grand R tried not to show his confusion. What sort of... condition?
The man rubbed his scruffy beard thoughtfully. “You have to do the dishes and the laundry.”
“Chores, Grand R. Ever heard of them?” The man clapped him on the shoulder. “I'm Bahorel.”
A man with a kerchief held to his nose waved. “I'b Joly. Dod't cobe too glose; I'b sigk.” Behind Joly, a bald man rolled his eyes.
“ You're always sick. I'm Laigle,” he said, tipping an imaginary hat. “Or Bossuet, whichever you prefer.”
“Which is to say, call him Bossuet or you may very well catch his luck,” a tall, thin man said, half-standing. “I'm Jean Prouvaire, that is, Jehan. Jolllly here is, unfortunately, a bit psychoneurotic.”
“Prouvaire likes to nickname people,” Courfeyrac said, sprawling across the sofa. Bahorel sat on top of him. “Get off!” Courfeyrac protested, trying to push the muscular man onto the floor.
“My name's Feuilly,” the red-headed man said. “Sorry I was rude when I found you.”
“Don't apologize; I would have screamed at you if you'd been in my bed.” Grand R smirked wickedly and sat on Courfeyrac's legs. “MMMMFFFFF!” was the muffled complaint.
“Do you have anything to drink?” Grand R asked, ignoring the squirming man beneath him.
“Combeferre keeps the wine under lock and key, ever since last winter,” Bahorel said, twisting so he could glare at Courfeyrac.
“What did he do?” Grand R asked.
“Drank three bottles in two hours and proceeded to ransack the house and carve ridiculous nicknames into our headboards,” Feuilly said
“They were very stupid nicknames, even by Prouvaire's standards,” the bald man – Bossuet, Grand R remembered – said. Prouvaire hit him playfully.
“He designated Feuilly 'Sleepy,' since he works the most out of all of us. He's usually asleep by now, actually,” Combeferre said. To prove the point, Feuilly yawned.
“Prouvaire was 'Bashful.' To save you the trouble of asking why, he blushes whenever he talks to girls, when he's proud of himself, when he's sick, when he's tired, when he's reading, when he's cooking, when he's eating...”
“Enough!” Prouvaire said, throwing a pillow at Feuilly to cut him off. His cheeks were pink.
“My point exactly,” Feuilly said, nodding in his friend's direction.
“Bahorel was 'Grumpy,” Prouvaire said.
“I'm only grumpy when I'm drunk. It's not as accurate as Bashful.”
“Shut up, Grumpy,” Prouvaire muttered. Everyone laughed. Grand R could feel Courfeyrac trying to, but it was hard with Bahorel seated on his chest.
“Combeferre was 'Doc'; that one's probably obvious. And Joly was 'Sneezy.'” Bossuet said. “He christened himself 'Happy,' though he wasn't quite so the next morning.” Only Courfeyrac didn't join the laughter this time.
“Excuse me, dear Laigle. I believe I had the last laugh on you.”
Bossuet turned bright red. “That nickname was stupid.”
“Actually, it was Dopey.” Courfeyrac quipped.
“It was a stupid nickname, and I don't know why we didn't just get new headboards after that fiasco.”
“Because my charm and wit must be memorialized,” Courfeyrac said.
Prouvaire had been staring at Grand R for half the conversation now. “What?” the newcomer asked, trying not to show his annoyance.
“R,” Prouvaire said, sounding as if he'd decided something. “I shall call you R.”
Grand R felt a pang of homesickness for Éponine. He cast it aside.
“So, how about that wine?”
All the world's a party, and I'm usually the awkward wallflower in the corner with a glass of water and a copy of Les Mis.