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A Dilemma on Love

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She smiled as he studied the map in his hands, he showing more attention to a piece of paper than the amount he usually gives to her on a weekly basis.

He didn't understand it.

She laughed, a tinkling laugh that wavered at just the right octaves, at something he said as he watched her with a disgruntled, unamused expression.

He just…didn't understand it.

She studied him, all of her undivided, adoring attention focused on him as he became lost in his own thoughts.

Jean grit his teeth from where he leaned against the wall of Le Repaire and glowered. A bright, sunny day in Paris was to be had by all and the beautiful Sophie was going to waste it by crawling around ruins with that…that dour imbecile. Well, granted, Lautrec wasn't so much of an idiot as he was oblivious but it made Jean feel better to call him so just the same.

Another laugh – the beautiful giggle that was so childish yet so like a woman – reached his ears from across the courtyard and he had to keep him self from crossing his folded arms even tighter than they already were. No doubt the two a distance in front of him had taken on another mission to find more treasure in the underground labyrinths of Paris and were merely debating the riddle which was present on the map. Soon they would depart to dwindle down possible entrances to this specific crypt. Jean almost convinced himself to force his presence into the little-group-of-two, but, no, his little Sophie would not appreciate it. That being said, he was pretty much stuck today, leaning against the wall of the famous opera house as he counted down the seconds for when Sophie and the doctor would leave his sight yet again.

He huffed with a frown.


He jumped at the exclamation and jerked his vision away from the two ahead to stare at the intruder of his thoughts.

Marie stood with her hands over her mouth in surprise, her eyes reflecting the same emotion but slowly becoming rather sheepish. "Forgive me, Jean. I didn't see you there until just now." She smiled in embarrassment.

Jean tilted his head to the side as he finally took notice that he was rather close to the entrance of the opera house – he had probably been startling a few patrons on their way out and never even noticed. In response, he moved away from the door and smiled at Paul's "little belle". "Well, look who it is," he commented and studied her outfit - a high-classy-like dress with plenty of ruffles and layers on it to make it cost more than his and Paul's family finances combined. "That's not adventurer wear. Actually out to see a play, are you?" he asked with a tilt to his lips. He liked Marie well enough. Not his type of girl, but she was a nice little thing.

Marie brought her hand – gloved, that was new – to her cheek as she answered. "Yes. Milady and Claude recommended a few of them to see the last time I was here. It's such a beautiful day today, I thought I would go see one."

"Ahhh, I see. Alone…?"

"Oh, yes. There is no one with me today."

"Hm." Paul would have a fit at the opportunity wasted to spend a day with Marie. Ah, well. Best wait till later to tell him.

"Um, and you, Jean…."


"What are you doing today? Is Paul not with you this time?"

'This time'? What did she mean, 'this time'? Sure, he and Paul were usually together but they weren't joined at the hip. He shrugged. "Paul had something to take care of at home. Family business and what not. Thought I would come and see the sites while I was waiting for him to get done," he said with a smirk as he cut his eyes to his lovely in the courtyard-

Oh. She had already left; how disappointing. He felt his arms go slack. "Blast it all."

Marie frowned and followed his eyesight. When she didn't see anything out of the ordinary, however, she turned back to him. "Well, it is pleasant to see you again, Jean. Will you give Paul my regards?"

Jean agreed, distracted by the disappearance of Sophie, "Sure, sure." His mind caught up with him, however, just as Marie began to turn away. He hurried to grasp her elbow as if she might break into a run at any moment. It was only when her startled and slightly worried eyes met his behind his glasses that he realized his action may have not been the best. He released her just as quickly and held back a pang of guilt as she rubbed her arm distractedly.


"A-Ah. My apologies, madam, but…I would like to ask you something. …If you don't mind, o' course. While we have the time, that is, away from all those distractions," he added. Distractions like Lautrec.

She had stopped rubbing her elbow at this point and was staring away him as he floundered through his explanation. She rested her hands in front of her dress, folded (a discreet defense mechanism; oh, hell, he had scared her), and asked in that quiet voice of hers, "What is it you wish to ask?"

Jean rubbed the back of his head briefly, almost wishing he would've let her continue on her way from the start. He soldiered on. "That Lautrec. What do women see in him?"

Marie's head rose when he mentioned the archeologist and now she was looking at him with a smile. "Lautrec? He's just…so kind. And helpful. And he never asks for anything in return for the help he gives."

Alright, Jean had to call a farce on that one: he was pretty darn sure he had heard Lautrec bargain for things on missions before...more than once. The good doctor could also be sneaky and conniving when he wanted to be. He just didn't show it as much. Also… "Kind?"

"Oh, yes. So kind-"

"I'm sorry for interruptin' ya', but…really? Kind? I have, honestly, never seen that man be kind to anyone in the time before and after Vidoq started his whole rule-Paris plan. I just can't see it."

Marie frowned at his sentence and he thought he had offended her or something. On top of everything else today; I've already frightened and manhandled her within a few minutes. ...Best not tell Paul, after all...

She smiled, however, after a moment. "Well, I suppose it is hard for others to see. I have just known him since I was very young..."

"Ah, right, right," he nodded along before getting down to the core of this conversation. "And, er...what does Sophie see in him?"




Jean leaned forward as she stalled. "Yes?"

"Well..." she smiled bashfully. "I don't know!"

Jean felt like throwing himself into La Seine. Well, no, he was not that desperate yet, but still- "Really? That's all you have to say about it?"


He adjusted his glasses as he felt them slip in response to his aggravated state. "Nothing else?"

"Well, I just assume she enjoys his company, like I do." Marie blinked and turned to gaze out at the courtyard with a serene look. "I cannot answer for her, but...I think she finds Lautrec to be a stunning man who will always do what he has to do, to do what is right."

Jean's mouth twisted. "Hm." That wasn't exactly the clear-cut answer he had wanted.

The afternoon bell rang across the space and Marie lifted her head in surprise.

Jean shifted as he resumed leaning against the opera house. "Busy day, then? You late for something?"

"Oh, just a little. But they can wait until I arrive."

"Oh? Didn't think you'd be the type of lady to keep others waitin'."

Marie let out a breath of humor. "It is not that important of an engagement. And I much prefer speaking with you over them."

"...Thank you?"

Marie outright laughed. "I did not mean it that way; I merely meant that I enjoy spending time with friends than with anyone else."

"You and I – friends?"

"Why, yes, Jean." Marie suddenly looked at him in concern. "We are friends, are we not?"

"Ah..." The word 'friends threw him for a loop. He'd only ever seen Paul as such. He mentally slapped himself so he could answer her. "Y-yes, milady, friends tide-and-true!"

"Oh, good! You had me concerned."

"Uh...sorry." It seemed he still wasn't quite the confident casanova he viewed himself to be if someone as sheltered as Marie could make him nervous. He felt like a child suddenly, like he was not on equal footing with an adult and it was starting to make him feel self-conscious. Right, time to cut this short. "Ah, well, Marie, it was lovely to see you again."

"Oh! Yes, you as well, Jean."

"And don't hesitate to visit, you hear? I'm sure Paul would like to see you sometime. Y'know, since you two are friends, too...?"

"Yes, I'll be sure to stop by."

"Alright, then. Go on." He smiled to show he didn't mean any harm.

Marie turned to leave and descended the stairs. Jean watched her go (in a 'you-could-be-my-future-sister-in-law' kind of way). The clouds in the sky were pure white and Jean gazed at them now over the horizon as Marie left. Once she reached the bottom, however, she turned back towards him. Jean raised his eyebrow and waved at her, wondering what else she wanted. Her mouth perked up as she said:

"I think Sophie would not mind a man who is sensitive to what she likes. And the 'date' you and Paul arranged that time...well, she enjoyed it more than she let on."

Jean stared.

"Next time you two plan another date, however, make sure that we know it's a date from the beginning."

And, with that said, she walked away – parasol that he hadn't even noticed twirling in a pleased manner, or at least that's how he saw it. Eventually, she disappeared amongst the crowds and around the corner.

Jean tilted his head back to rest against the wall behind him. Lately, he'd been starting to lose hope; that he would never win the lovely Sophie's heart and was a fool for thinking he could. Paul was more of a pessimist than he was, but neither of them could stay hopeful forever. Marie's last words... He smiled, no, grinned as he replayed them over again in his head. Sophie not only enjoyed her day out last time but the ladies seemed to have found a soft spot for sad saps like he and Paul.

His brother in all but blood appeared around the corner then (opposite side of where Marie left, so they truly had missed each other) and huffed his way over to Jean.

"Jean! There you are! Hah...hah-!"

"Lord, Paul! You run all the way 'ere or somethin'?" He waited while his friend caught his breath.

"I...hah...I just thought...I should hurry. Don't really know why."

"Hm." Jean folded his arms. "Maybe your intuition was tellin' you that you might miss somethin' if you didn't hurry."

"Yeah, maybe."

Jean laughed at that. "C'mon, Paul," he put his arm around his friend's shoulders and gave them a friendly jostle, "we have another date to plan for our lovely dames."

Paul smiled a goofy smile. "Marie?"

"The one and only! And, o'course, my little Sophie." They descended the stairs and made their way towards the street. "I feel like this one might be the one to make them realize their love for us. What do you say?"

Paul tapped Jean's arm with his own and grinned back. "I think we won't miss being bachelors too much."