"Marius!" Bahorel bellowed, a wide grin spitting his face. Feuilly's head drifted up from his work long enough to see the poor boy quite nearly leap out of his skin. A wave of general greeting rose from the room and Feuilly tilted his head to Marius in acknowledgement. After suffering a friendly clap on the back from Bahorel, the solemn, dark-haired man made a beeline for the table tucked away in the corner. Feuilly made a small effort to swipe away some of his work supplies from the table but Marius waved him off, sliding down in his chair and burying his nose in a book of German essasys. Feuilly gazed fondly at the mop of dark hair poking over the brim of the book. Every few minutes, Marius would start slightly and look around, blinking, like he had been so deep in his translations that he had forgotten the world outside existed. He would then give his head a quick shake and sink back into his page.
In the fifth such episode, Marius's eyes seemed to catch on something. Feuilly noticed his sudden stillness and looked up to see Marius's gaze locked on one of Feuilly's works resting on the table amid his pencils and pastels. A charcoal portrait of a young woman, gazing over her shoulder out of the paper, a lively smile on her face. Marius looked like he was fighting to say something but couldn't quite form the words. Feuilly shifted nervously.
"That's yours?" Marius asked, his eyes still on the sketch.
Feuilly was used to the same repeated questions when people discovered he did more than fold fans He braced himself for the expressed shock that he was a 'real artist'. "Yes."
"She's very beautiful," Marius breathed.
Feuilly paused. "Yes, I thought so too."
"How...why did you choose her?" Marius's intense gaze sparked with interest, his tone focused and sincere.
Feuilly's lips curled up involuntarily as a bubble of warmth settled in his chest. "I was drawing in the park...she wasn't even a customer. It was-" he tried to illustrate what he couldn't convey in words with his hands. "The breeze caught her hair and she turned to look behind her just," he gestured at the page, "like that and..."
Marius's fingers hovered over the curve of the woman's cheek. "She looks so free. You captured her beautifully."
Feuilly didn't have words. "I..."
Marius finally looked up at him. "Customer? Do you work in the park?"
It took a few moments to answer. "I...charge a small amount for a portrait. There are always people interested passing by."
Enjolras's voice cut in. "Do you ever do landscapes for people?" He had appeared behind the table and was studying the woman's portrait. Marius jumped violently again, his chair scraping along the floor. Feuilly placed a bracing hand on his arm, watching Enjolras's reaction.
"If someone asks," he said. "They usually don't, more interested in seeing themselves." He smiled, seeing Enjolras's brow pinch up. He knew Enjolras felt sitting for portraits was a bourgeoisie, elitist practice. "I enjoy drawing people. They're so much more dynamic that trees or grass or...rocks, water. People change and shift right in front of you." He knew he was getting a bit of a fanatical gleam in his eyes. "And you have to catch that in a second!" He snapped his fingers. "On paper, with charcoal and graphite. People in their purest moments and their truest selves and I get to see it and how can I see that without trying to capture it?" Feuilly paused and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'm rambling."
He then noticed that the entire ABC was circling the table, each member hanging on the his words with laser focus. "Um, guys?"
"I think you made Enjolras cry," Courfeyrac said, throwing an arm over said man's shoulder. Enjolras did indeed look starry eyed.
Jehan leaned over the table and grasped Feuilly's hand between their own, pressing it to their lips. "My friend, may I go with you on your next expedition to the park? I would love to see what you describe."
Feuilly nodded, still dizzied by the sudden attention. "of course...anytime."
Combeferre cleared his throat and Enjolras snapped to attention. He bounded to the front of the room and hopped on a chair, calling the meeting to order. The clump around Feuilly's table dispersed slowly. Grantaire gave Feuilly a long, knowing look before ambling away.
Feuilly sat back overwhelmed. He spun a piece of charcoal between his fingers. A warm, bubbly feeling sunk into his bones and his smile seemed stuck to his face.
Marius was still gazing at the portrait. He glanced up at Feuilly and his cheeks colored. "Sorry," he mumbled.
Feuilly pushed the drawing toward Marius. "Here. You can take it."
Marius's eyes went wide. "What?"
"You love it. It means something to you. You should have it."
"I-I can't pay you," Marius stammered.
"Marius," Feuilly slid the woman's portrait into his hands. "I'd like you to have it."
Marius reverently lifted the visage. "I can't thank you enough, Feuilly."
"I'm glad she makes you feel something," Feuilly said. It's what makes the work worth it, he finished silently.