Summary: Grantaire has been having a rough time, so he and Combeferre get high and go to the Met.
“I’m sorry,” Grantaire breaks in, “could you repeat that?”
“Spliffs,” sighs Combeferre for the fifteenth time (he has been counting).
“Spliffs,” repeats Grantaire slowly, his features twisted in a terrifying combination of pleasure, confusion and abject horror. “Spliffs. Spliffs.”
Sighing, Combeferre raises a lighter against the tip of a seemingly harmless hand-rolled cigarette. He shrugs at Grantaire’s wide-eyed gape, inhaling slowly, savouring the burn of the thick smoke in his chest.
“But, you’re a doctor,” insists Grantaire, edging closer. His fingers dance tentatively through the air just beyond the second spliff that Combeferre has been trying to hand him for the past ten minutes, as though afraid the hand might retract at any moment and reveal the entire interaction for little more than an inventive and wildly inappropriate dream.
“A med student.”
“But,” he begins again.
“And I am Combeferre, yes, Enjolras’s best friend, and no, this is not something I usually advertise about myself, but you have been beyond impossible at meetings, and no one can get through to you, so we are doing this.”
“But - ”
“No more buts,” says Combeferre firmly, pressing the spliff into his hand.
With a counter-argument like that, could he even really refuse?
* * * *
“Why did we do this.”
Combeferre, his eyes transfixed on the tiny, gold statue labelled ‘Aquamanile in the Form of Aristotle and Phyllis’, says nothing.
“Why is she sitting on him,” Grantaire tries again. “She is riding him like a donkey. This is like the kinkiest shit I have ever seen. She has her hand on, possibly in, his ass.”
They fall back into contemplative silence, glaring with stop-sign red eyes at the figure in the display case, Grantaire shifting his weight from one foot to another.
“I have an aunt named Phyllis,” says Combeferre mournfully.
* * * *
They stand side-by-side, gaping, open-mouthed, at the crumbling top of the tomb.
“People graffitied the shit out of this in like, the 1800’s,” breathes Grantaire in awe.
It takes a full five minutes for Combeferre to process and answer this.
“Yeah,” he says.
“I would have graffitied the shit out of this in the 1800’s, too.”
“You would have been thrown into jail for nineteen years and tied to the rack,” says Combeferre pointedly, his eyes still trained on the top of the tomb. “Because you are an asshole.”
* * * *
“I bet they had flying contraptions like those Atlas-ians in Atlantis: the Lost Empire.”
Neither of them seems to have noticed that they have been staring at the same cracked, Egyptian vase for the past twenty minutes.
Grantaire ploughs on dreamily, unperturbed, “I mean, look at this. Look at all of this. That fucking tomb. I bet Perneb is buried with one of those flying contraptions in there.” He glances hopefully in the direction of the tomb, which they had to abandon at the urging of a Museum guard, after standing and gazing vacantly at the graffitied walls for a good forty-five minutes.
“I really liked the Lost Empire,” says Combeferre. “Apart from their stereotypical portrayal of the women from Atlantis as exotic pixie dream girls in practical lingerie.”
“But flying contraptions,” insists Grantaire.
* * * *
Those eyes are starting to freak him out.
“He’s staring at me,” hisses Grantaire, nudging the taller boy’s shoulder. They lean in in tandem to inspect the oil painting of a seated man titled, ‘Toussaint Lemaistre (1807-1888)’. “He’s staring at me, and he hates me, because he knows I’m staring at his freaky Quasimodo eyes.”
Adjusting his glasses, Combeferre leans in further, until his nose is mere inches from the canvas. He remains like this for several minutes, blinking sporadically. ‘No,’ he says at last, sounding relieved. ‘No, I don’t think he is.’
They leave the European paintings gallery quickly, anyway. Just in case.
* * * *
It had remained an unspoken agreement between them that the Greek and Roman statues would be saved for last. After two hours of traipsing through galleries full of Japanese samurai costumes, suits of armour, a myriad vases, plates and religious articles, they had stumbled into the café near the American ward and stopped to gorge themselves on stale cheesecake, soda and sandwiches that tasted like fridge and cardboard before making a beeline for the Greek and Roman statues across the museum.
Combeferre even steps back an inch or so, to allow him a moment with the headless statue of Apollo that they have been blinking absently at for the past quarter of an hour.
Swallowing his disappointment, Grantaire points and sighs, “It has no head, though.”
“It’s just a big, naked, headless body.”
“Yes,” agrees Combeferre neutrally, polishing his glasses to peer up at the jagged edge of a neck, where the head should have been.
“The penis didn’t fall off, but the fucking head did?”
“I mean, I guess a penis is kind of a head, if we’re going to be vulgar, but the face. Shouldn’t the face have been more important? How does a head even break off, anyway?”
Combeferre, still staring intently at the headless neck, appears to be putting something together in his head. It takes him a while to respond, his head shaking in disagreement at Grantaire's complaints until, finally: “One of the heads had to go,” he says simply.
“Neither can live while the other survives.”
* * * *
They both agree, after the two-headed Apollo incident, that they have overstayed their welcome. That doesn’t stop them sharing Combeferre’s final spliff on their way to the subway, nor the fifteen or so odd minutes that they stand, blinking at one another, until Combeferre, nodding in agreement to nothing, offers:
“I always wanted to try that at the Museum of Natural History, too.”
“I have no classes on Thursdays.”
“I’m free after three o’clock.”
“I vote we bring lunch with us next time. And Doritos.”
“Courfeyrac’s mother buys value packs of Cool Ranch from K-Mart,” says Combeferre sagely, nodding.
Shrugging, they take off in the direction of their prospective trains, Combeferre uptown, Grantaire downtown.
“Combeferre,” calls Grantaire over his shoulder, struck suddenly by a grave, new idea. He waits for the other boy to pause in his tracks and peer at him curiously from behind the glint of his glasses. “Thanks.”
Combeferre shrugs, but they both catch the small, satisfied smile hidden in the corners of his mouth before he manages to bite it back down.
“Say hi to your Aunt Phyllis for me,” says Grantaire, then mentally kicks himself, because honestly what is he even talking about. Nodding a final time, they wave goodbye and part for good. Grantaire is surprised to find, as he drops heavily into a plastic seat in the back corner of the near-empty car, that the heavy, leaden feeling he has been carrying around with him for weeks has lessened. Grinning to himself, he ducks his head over his phone and remains like this, coiled like a spring in the back corner of the car with his eyes glued to a slightly blurry snapshot of the headless Apollo, until the stop after his stop is announced and he shoots up, swearing profusely, to jog out the door and down the street to his flat.