Prouvaire begged like a man insane. "Touch me, oh please, touch me." He tugged at the bindings on his wrists and would not cease his demands until there were bright handprints across his buttocks, blending into one another in a fading labryinth. The mild pain silenced his pleas for a time, but when he began again there was no remedy. The silvery lines of melted wax down his back made him wail and beg louder, spreading his legs and moaning softly, bereft of all human eloquence. Genius inspired the twist of his hips when his wishes were granted at last.

* * *

Bossuet asked in the calmest possible voice, in the blandest tone, with the least exceptional expression, as distant from his topic as a man half-dead with laudanum. He had heard -- he would not say from whom -- of a certain expert in such delicate, necessarily discreet matters --

His request required research into the arcane, the obsolete, the commonplace. He paid for the coach, paid for the coal to heat the irons, paid for the laudanum to deaden his own pain and stop himself from jerking away from the searing heat.

When it had begun to heal, he swore he felt luckier.

* * *

It pleased Courfeyrac to spend long afternoons in the company of his mistress, mornings with his mistress' pretty friends, dine with sweet-lipped whores, meet delicately painted boys at dusk, or prowl the streets at midnight for dangerously lustful men. From Friday to Thursday, he made love to them, fucked them, gave himself to them, licked and sucked the filthiest parts of their bodies, and exulted in their debaucheries. On Thursday, he was a defiled innocent, ashamed of his fall from grace. Only a detailed recitation of every moment of licentiousness and a well-deserved whipping gave him the absolution he needed.

* * *

"Mea culpa, mea culpa." Combeferre wept, but not at the pain, although the livid lines the cane inflicted persisted nearly from week to week. He confessed every transgression, every hesitation: the death of a patient on Tuesday, the lack of an immediate answer to a pressing question on Thursday, the failure to denounce a royalist in a café on Friday night. "I will try harder," he swore, every week. "I will not fail you. I will not fail anyone."

When Enjolras assured him, "You are a good man. You are forgiven," and caressed him lightly, he climaxed with a sob.

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