Study Partners

Author:   Pairing: Combeferre/Joly  Rating: PG-13

"Monsieur Joly, what is this?" The red-faced professor held out a bloody, disgusting bit of human flesh in his closed fist.

"Er... a spleen?" The nervous boy couldn't even raise his eyes from his shoes. A series of chuckles told him immediately that his guess had been incorrect. His cheeks began to redden.

"Indeed. May I congratulate you, then, on having been the first student in my laboratory to remove a spleen from where a lesser man might find a pancreas!" The professor shook his head sadly. "You are in dire need of an anatomy lesson before you enter this room again. Class is dismissed, clean up your work all of you."

Joly cleaned up hurriedly, meeting no one's gaze, and strode along the sidewalk towards home. He would go and read his books over and over again, and all the words and diagrams would lose their meaning by the next laboratory. There was so much material to cover so quickly, and the written aspect of it helped very little next to the hands-on. If only he could always study with a human body.

"Hey there! Joly!" He turned and saw one of the second-year students running to catch up with him. He was a quiet, serious man, always working on some mysterious exploratory project or another in the lab. Joly realised that he didn't even know the man's name. He wondered what he wanted.

"He came down pretty rough on you, back there." The man clapped him on the shoulder. "You didn't need that. Perhaps you could use a study partner. I'm Combeferre."

"Joly." He shook Combeferre's outstretched hand, feeling like an idiot. Of course he knew his name already! He'd only been shouting it a moment before. "Er. Thanks for the offer. I suppose I do need some help, but... I don't know what will help me, it doesn't stick in my head, the diagrams don't seem much like a real person. It's like trying to find a particular street from a map, when if you just knew the name of the wineshop on the corner, you'd be fine." He shrugged. "Do you think you can do anything for that?"

Combeferre smiled. "Certainly. What do you say we get some dinner and then see what can be done. Come along, there is a good place along this street." Combeferre directed him toward the restaurant, chatting about various establishments around Paris, and their merits and downfalls. Joly was mostly silent, his brain was tired from the grueling day of classes and labs, and he could not figure out why this man was helping him. Perhaps the professor had put him up to it. Yes, that must be it.

Combeferre encouraged Joly to talk about himself over dinner, and the bashful lad did so without too much difficulty. Still he let Combeferre take the brunt of the conversing.

"Shall I come over tomorrow morning? You have no classes tomorrow, I presume?" Combeferre asked as they walked home after dinner. Joly shook his head. "Tomorrow will be fine. I can't thank you enough for this." They parted in the street outside Joly's building, and he went inside and slept like the dead.

Joly arose just after the sun the next morning and made himself, and his room, presentable for company. Soon Combeferre arrived, his arms curiously empty of books. He brought only his case of medical instruments.

"We've the tools, but we haven't a body," Joly said, grinning. "Unless you've got one packed away in that case, too?"

"Not in the case, no," laughed Combeferre. "But as long as you promise not to cut me up, you can get some practice on a live body." He began to remove his coat, then his tie.

"Oh. I see," stammered Joly. In the first few weeks of class, the students had done some practice on each other, taking pulses, bandaging elbows and ankles and foreheads, checking pupils and breathing sounds. But he had mastered that well, it was the internal organs in the chest and abdomen he was struggling with. He glanced over, and Combeferre was removing his shirt as well. Joly blinked. Combeferre shrugged. "I'm not bashful. A good skill to learn when working towards this career is to be completely unfazed by the human body in any state of dress, undress, soundness, or deformity. Always be calm and perfectly natural about it, and your patients, their families, and bystanders will be so as well."

Joly nodded. "That makes sense." Combeferre laid shirtless on his bed and handed him a piece of chalk, the same chalk they used to mark the cutting lines on the cadavers. "Now, I want you to draw where you think my pancreas is." Joly located the spot and drew a pancreas on the man's skin. Combeferre glanced down. "Excellent! Now, the spleen." Again, Joly outlined the organ. They continued with all the major organs, Joly locating them all expertly. Satisfied with the lesson, Combeferre brushed the chalk off his skin.

"Now, I don't suppose you'd care to reciprocate? You can say no if you'd like. But it might help you somewhat to have them located on you, as well." Before Joly could open his mouth, he found himself allowing Combeferre to help him out of his shirt. He laid back on the pillow and listened to Combeferre's smooth voice explaining the relationship of each organ as he drew them in logical order.

"Here, attached to the intestine, we find the appendix," Combeferre was saying, his soft hands sketching an outline of it. Joly started, sitting up suddenly, his eyes wide. "What's wrong?" Combeferre asked, frowning.

"Nothing, nothing-- I'm ticklish," Joly mumbled. Combeferre chuckled, and brushed a lock of hair back from Joly's forehead. "You're blushing, my friend. Not to mention, lying." Joly followed his gaze, and blushed further.

"I can't imagine what you must think--" Joly began, but he was interrupted by Combeferre's lips on his. "Shhh. No thinking now, lesson's over," Combeferre murmured, and Joly was silenced, though not for long. Combeferre did not attempt to hush him this time.

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