"Damn you, hold still, grisette!"

Bahorel grunted through clenched teeth, while the thing on the other end of his fist squealed, thrashed, and soaked the front of his waistcoat quite thoroughly. He had it hunched over in a big tin basin, dressed in something that resembled a shift, or had, before its distressing immersion in lots and lots of water. He was scrubbing it furiously with a fat cake of Courfeyrac's shaving soap, when the door opened, and did not shut.

"what on earth...?" The voice belonged to Marius, and caught Bahorel's attention for the necessary moment.

"Hullo lawy.. OW! Hell..." The girl-thing's teeth had lodged themselves full in his arm. "Dammit, get this thing off of me!"

Marius did not help so much as hover, flittingly, about Bahorel's head as he struggled with the lithe creature, soap suds and brackish-water sloshing everywhere.

"Bahorel, what... who is that!?"

"Murderer!" squealed the creature on the other end of the big republican's fists, spitting out with it soap and a mouthful of skin. "Beast! Bastard! Rapist!"

"What's going on!?" ejaculated Marius in a panic, while Bahorel continued to grit his teeth, and shoved the cake of soap between those of the very startled and furious creature.

"Mmph!" Its eyes flew wide and it startled backwards, upsetting the tub as it did so. Bahorel cursed, catching the tub before too much more water escaped, but the girl was an eel. She slithered under Courfeyrac's bed and refused to emerge.

"Bahorel...?" Marius stared plaintively at his friend, who had determinedly got up and slammed the door shut, before the girl could dart for it.

"I have as much of a clue as you, little lawyer," growled the bruiser. "I'd come to see Courfeyrac. This creature, I found curled up on the sheets. I couldn't tell precisely what it was under all the dirt, (and besides, it was getting Courfeyrac's blankets all muddy) so I thought it could use a bath.

"Ha! You were trying to drown me, you scoundrel!" feminine ire spat from under the bed.

Bahorel sighed. "I haven't had the easiest time of it."

"What on earth possessed you, Bahorel..?" Marius knelt by the edge of the bed, and resisted the urge to make little tsking sounds, as if he were calling a kitten.

"Ah... come now, what's your name?"

Hesitantly, her voice returned, "Monsieur? You're not that monster. Who are you? I don't know you, do I?"

"My name is Marius. And that's Bahor... "


"Er, Gervais. No, I don't think we've met, Mademoiselle...?"

"Azelma." Her face appeared at the edge of the bed, inches from Marius's own. "Ooh, you're very handsome, Monsieur. I like you much better than... " She turned her head to glare, a little, though Bahorel was much further up than she could see. "You'll protect me from that brute, won't you?"


But the dripping, though no longer quite dirty, girl had already slipped out from under the bed, and positioned Marius between herself and Bahorel. Rather, she flattened herself against Marius's back and scowled over his shoulder at Bahorel, who climbed up off of his knees with a snort. She made a quite horrible face at him, then cooed in Marius's ear, "Are you quite sure we haven't met, monsieur? I am certain I know you from somewhere..."

"Um, please! I... will you... ah! You're getting me all wet!" Marius lurched forward and Azelma, caught by surprise, let him spring from her grasp. Bahorel snickered at the damp, feminine print that remained on the back of Marius's suit as he wheeled, like a startled woodland creature, to stare at her.

She looked terribly awkward and a bit embarrassed, clasping her hands in front of her modestly developed fore, and shivering through her shift made transparent by the water. It clung everywhere. Bahorel smiled appreciatively. Marius, flush with embarrassment, snapped to focus on her face.

"No, I... wait." He speculated more closely on her features. "You're the child, aren't you? You live next door to me?"

"The young gentleman!? The student! Ah!" Azelma wailed, turning dark purple with a deep humiliation and anguish, then threw herself towards the door.

"Wait!" called Marius, but Bahorel stepped quickly to intercept her, and she bounced into his arms. He closed them about her, and she struggled, but not so fiercely as she had in the tub, being quite chilly.

"Now then, Mademoiselle, not like that. Let's wash your clothes now, eh? And while I'm doing that, you can tell nice Monsieur Marius and I exactly what you're doing here."

"I won't tell you anything!" She scowled, as best she could, up at Bahorel from her otherwise cozy position. He was immovable. She made several valiant attempts to crush the tops of his boots under her dainty, bare feet, but it did not do any good.

"Please, Mademoiselle, ah, Azelma..." Marius tried, and then the door opened again.

"What's this?" Asked Courfeyrac in cheery surprise, discovering his friends and the girl in his quarters. Marius, at least, was frightfully aware of what manner of scene they must have presented: The girl in damp dishabille, crushed in Bahorel's mighty arms, and himself staring dumbly at the fracas. But Courfeyrac was imperturbable.

"Hullo Marius! Hullo Bahorel! Now you know, I'm not going to be a brute, if you want to dally with a mistress of mine, but I'd think you'd be so kind as not to do it in my own room. And certainly not without the lady's consent... Hello!" Bahorel, in his surprise, had let the girl slip free, and she immediately, well, squished wetly onto Courfeyrac's front, dampening his vest as she burrowed in and threw her arms around his neck.

"Hooray!" She shouted, "Jean-Baptiste! I am saved!"

"That creature is your mistress?" Bahorel's awed attitude fell into something deeply amused, "I didn't know you went in for..." but Marius prevented him from finishing with a swift elbow to the ribs.

"That wasn't it at all!" He assured Courfeyrac swiftly, "I-- we just came to borrow..."

"That fiend! That murderer!" Azelma shrieked, pointing an accusing finger through Marius, at Bahorel, "Tired to drown me, he did! I was taking a nap, waiting for you, Jean-Baptiste, when all of a sudden, this great lumbering ogre seizes me and dunks me in that horrible device he's got!"

All eyes went to the innocuous tub, half-emptied of water and complacent suds, with the bar of sandalwood shaving soap still floating in it. Bahorel looked at Courfeyrac, who looked as if he wanted to laugh, but dared not.

"To tell the truth, I thought it was your friend Dominique." Said Bahorel with a grin, "Though whatever she was doing in a shift and a muddy dress, well, you know better than I what she gets up to..."

This was met with an indignant shriek from Azelma, and hushed with a quelling squeeze from Courfeyrac. "Shh cheri, he didn't mean it like that..."

"I think, Bahorel, we had best come back later..." Marius murmured diplomatically, as, for once, Courfeyrac looked a touch flapped. Well, more than a touch...

"I think we'd best." Bahorel grinned, grabbing Marius by the arm, and bustling out of the door with him, past the decidedly spluttering Courfeyrac and the wriggling, furious Azelma. "See you later, Jean-Baptiste!"

The instant they were gone, Courfeyrac wheeled to speak, and found himself shoved over into the poor, battered tub!

"So!" Azelma cried, tight little fists on her hips, "Who is this Dominique!?"

tell me quickly what's the story...