Thunk, went the ball against the wall. It bounced back to Bahorel, who caught it neatly, and flung it against the wall again. Thunk. And again, thunk. If he was confined to his bed by the fatal combination of influenza and two despotic medical students–who, in his weakened state, were more than capable of pinning him down when they came to check up on him, as they all too frequently did–then he might as well have the feeble satisfaction of hurling the ball against the wall, and hearing the thunk.
The thunk-thunk-thunk was interrupted by a rap-rap-rap, a very recognizable sort of rap, like the sound of a schoolmaster rapping some unruly pupil’s knuckles–but that comparison was unfair to Combeferre, who believed in instruction through appeal to reason and conscience, not fear or pain. “Oh, come in, damn you,” Bahorel called out.
Combeferre came in, poking his head in through the door first, and the rest of him sliding in after, like a snake emerging from its hole. “How are you feeling?” He set down his bag and felt Bahorel’s forehead.
“Like hell,” Bahorel said. “I will probably die from this. You may as well let me get up and fight someone, Combeferre, the end result will be the same, and the process much more enjoyable.”
“You will not die,” said Combeferre, taking Bahorel’s wrist to feel his pulse. “You should–” But what Bahorel should do, he never learned, because Combeferre interrupted himself by falling into a coughing fit.
“You’re sick, too!” Bahorel said, with the mingled concern and self-righteous glee of a true friend. “Ha! You’ve worn yourself out, worrying about me like a mother. Except my mother never worried like this–she would send me out to milk the cows if she saw me now. Sit down.”
Combeferre allowed himself to be pulled down, which said something about his condition in itself, but he still protested: “I don’t think I’m sick, and I have work to do.”
“Stay for a while, and rest,” Bahorel said. “Or if you don’t think you need a rest, then keep me company. I’m a poor helpless invalid, see?” He made his eyes very big and pitiable. Combeferre snorted, but sat back. “Good boy. Here, let’s play a game–I’ve drawn a target on the wall, and I’ve been trying to hit it. I bet you can’t, from here.”
He handed Combeferre the ball, confident this challenge would hold him for some time.