Jehan tucked a strand of their long hair behind their ear, sighing in disappointment at the piece they were working on. They crumpled the paper into a ball before throwing it across the room, not even bothering to aim for the trashcan. They let out a groan of frustration and threw their head into their arms, the force of the movement sending papers flying. Their hair hung in waves around them, hiding them from the reality of the outside world. Why did this have to be so hard? It was one art piece that they had to work on for class, it was such a simple assignment; a self portrait. That was it. All they had to do was paint a picture of themself and they’d be done, it should’ve been the easiest thing in the world. The problem was that it wasn’t. It wasn’t easy for them to paint themself because they hated the way they looked. They looked at themself in the mirror and saw someone that was dangerously close to being too fat, they saw someone with a million acne scars and with faded scars on their arms. They saw a disappointment, even though they knew this wasn’t an accurate assessment of their appearance. They knew, logically, that they were actually rather beautiful. They knew that no one else noticed the acne scars, that the faded lines on their arms had become so light that no one could possible see them unless they were looking, and they knew, despite what people seemed to think, that they were dangerously underweight. They knew these things, but they couldn’t accept them. That was the problem with mental illness, you could have all the thoughts presented to you, but still believe something that contradicted them.
Jehan lifted their head up and took a breath, brushing their hair back. They just needed to take a break and then come back to it later with a fresh eye. They could do that. They stood up from their desk, carefully pushing the chair in and tidying up the mess they made until the surface was perfectly organized. They walked downstairs to their kitchen, checking to make sure their parents were around to confront them or say something condescending. They got themself a glass of water and sat on the counter, scrolling on their phone through various social media sites. They couldn’t completely distract themself from the looming dread of their art project, however, as the reminder of it kept creeping into their head. They sighed deeply and put their phone down, thinking to themself for a moment. Their mind drifted to their class, they really enjoyed their art class more than most others. It was calming and painting allowed for them to express themself with colors and shapes that were pleasant to look at. Their teacher was also kind and supportive and the students in the class were generally quiet, but kind. Grantaire shared that class with them, they recalled. Art seemed to be one of the few things that really captured Grantaire’s attention and held it. Grantaire could just sit and paint for hours at a time and never seem bored, Jehan had seen it. His art was always absolutely astounding too, not that he ever seemed to agree with that opinion.
Jehan’s mind drifted to their conversation with Grantaire earlier that day, if it could even be called a conversation. Grantaire had clearly been upset, so Jehan had confronted him, leading to the boy snapping at them, which resulted in them revealing their own rough history with mental health to him. They really, really wanted to help him. It was clear that Grantaire was struggling with his own mental health issues, but refused to accept aid. Jehan understood what he was feeling, they knew that it was scary to admit that something was wrong and it could feel humiliating to think that one needed someone else save them. It was tough and frustrating and a complete mess, Jehan knew that. They also knew that nothing could possibly get better if Grantaire refused to try.
Jehan chewed on their lip, pulling up Grantaire’s contact on their phone and hesitating, just staring at the number for a bit. Would Grantaire even want to speak to them? Did Jehan even have an idea of what to say? They sighed, they really didn’t have anything to lose by texting him.
Hey. Have you started on your self-portrait for art? ~JP
They were surprised when the message nearly immediately showed that the text was read and that Grantaire was typing.
Good! I’m struggling with mine. :( ~JP
Do you need help? -R
I don’t really know how you could help. XD ~JP
I could come over and maybe give you a new outlook on it. Art can benefit from a fresh take on occasion. -R
You’d do that? ~JP
Only if you want. It’s kinda stupid. Don’t worry about it. Forget I said anything. -R
No! No, I’d really appreciate that, thank you. ~JP
Absolutely! When can you come over? ~JP
Whenever you want, I guess. -R
Great! Could you come over now? ~JP
Jehan chewed on their lip, hoping that they didn’t put too much pressure on Grantaire to come over immediately. They just didn’t see the point in waiting if they were both free and they were excited to see Grantaire. Maybe they could apologize for what happened at lunch. There was a moment’s pause before Grantaire wrote back his confirmation and Jehan sent him their address. They smiled to themself, feeling almost giddy about Grantaire coming over. They weren’t quite certain why they were so excited about him coming over, but they were. They went quickly to their room, tidying everything up before returning downstairs so they’d be able to hear Grantaire knock. They stood around in the front room, fiddling with various objects in an attempt to busy themself.
The knock came not long later and Jehan was quick to open the door, being greeted with the sight of Grantaire, slouched over as usual and wearing his familiar dirty hoodie. “Hey.” He raised a hand in greeting.
“Hi!” Jehan smiled warmly, brightly. “Come in, come in!” They stood aside to allow Grantaire room to enter.
He walked in and seemed immediately taken aback by the size of the house, whistling lowly. “Damn. I didn’t know you were so rich.” He mumbled, clearly not intending to be rude, on the contrary, he sounded impressed.
Jehan blushed and shrugged slightly, their shoulders barely raising. “My family is.” They said dismissively. “I personally don’t care for most of it, but I am rather privileged.” They searched Grantaire’s face for any hint of distaste. When they found none, they led him upstairs to their room. “I apologize for the mess.” They said quickly, horrified at the sight of their room. “I tried to clean up before you arrived, but I didn’t have much time.” They flushed darkly, pale face burning red.
“Are you kidding?” Grantaire snorted. “This is probably the cleanest room I’ve ever been in.” There was that tone of sarcasm, of joking, but Jehan could recognize the truth in his words and their heart sunk.
They nodded, not quite sure how to respond to Grantaire’s jokes at times. “Right.” They said lamely, standing awkwardly in a corner of the room, rubbing their arm nervously. “Well, we should start on the painting?” They suggested, hoping that a defined task would help ease the awkwardness from their interactions.
Grantaire nodded. “Yeah.” He agreed. “So, let’s pull up a canvas.” He suggested.
Jehan nodded and grabbed their easel, setting it up and getting out their art supplies. They stood in front of the blank canvas, feeling it stare back at them, the emptiness across it mirroring their own lack of ideas. “I guess that I don’t really know where to start or what features to draw attention to.” They explained.
Grantaire shook his head. “Don’t worry about that.” He said quickly, coming to stand behind Jehan. “Don’t think of what you look like, that just makes everything worse.”
Jehan was so confused. “But the project was-”
Grantaire shook his head. “No. Shh.” He took a paint brush and held it out for Jehan to take, which they did. “Don’t think about the whole picture. Just focus on the part.” He instructed. “What part of your face do you think looks good?”
“My lips.” Jehan said immediately. “My lips and my eyes.”
Grantaire nodded and the smallest of smiles pulled at the corners of his lips. “Then we’ll start with that. We’ll do the outline of your lips.” He took Jehan’s wrist in his hand, guiding their arm to dip the brush in paint before pulling it to the canvas. “Draw your lips, the gentle curves of them. Paint the way they quirk up when you smile or purse when you’re thinking too hard.” He whispered, face against theirs.
Jehan nodded and got to work, drawing the paintbrush across the canvas, tracing their own lips from memory, painting the curves like mountains, deciding in the moment to give the lips a smile. They focused on the exact lines, the dips and waves. They made sure to perfect them, making every detail perfect. By the time they pulled away, they weren’t certain how much time had passed. The canvas was no longer white, but was a simple picture of perfect, clean lips.
Grantaire smiled. “There, you see?” He looked so proud, an arm around Jehan’s shoulders. “Just lips. A beautiful pair of lips.” He praised with a grin.
Jehan blushed. “They’re just lips. It’s not that great.”
“Oh, hush. They’re gorgeous.” Grantaire hit Jehan lightly on the arm. “They’re gorgeous because they’re your lips.” He said gently, eyes showing honesty and gentleness that Jehan wasn’t quite used to seeing from the cynic. “Now, you said that you like your eyes? We’ll work on those next.” He stood behind them and was gentle, carefully helping them sculpt the eyes, helping them mix the correct colors to make the perfect shade, watching with minimal speaking as they created an image of stunning eyes. They stepped away eventually, Jehan feeling rather proud of the art they’d created.
“It’s...beautiful.” Jehan said quietly.
Grantaire nodded. “That’s you.” He reminded them gently. “See, when you start with what you like, you don’t feel bad about it.” He smiled. “It’s getting late. I think that’s enough for tonight?”
Jehan looked up at the clock hanging against their wall. “Oh! I didn’t realize that so much time had passed.” They blushed. “Yeah. Thank you so much.” They grinned at Grantaire. “That was really helpful.”
Grantaire just shrugged modestly. “It was no problem.”
“It means a lot.” Jehan insisted, taking Grantaire’s hand and looking into his eyes. They wanted to see how much he was helping them. “Really. Thank you.”
Grantaire looked incredibly flustered. “Well, you’re welcome, I guess.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Text me the next time you need help?”
Jehan nodded. “Yes. Absolutely. I will be sure to do that.” They assured with a smile. Grantaire nodded and moved towards the door. “Wait, Grantaire?” They called after him.
Grantaire turned around. “Yeah?”
“Can I text you just to hang out ever?” They asked.
Grantaire’s eyes showed genuine surprise. “Uh…” He smiled, a warm and genuine smile. “Yeah. Yeah, you can do that.”
“Thank you, Grantaire. Goodnight.”
Whoo, this was pretty fun to write. Let me know if you see any mistakes, errors, or anything at all!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jehan had taken to texting Grantaire a lot over the past few days. They couldn’t quite explain it, but it truly felt like they clicked with the cynic, worked with him like they couldn’t work with others. He understood them in a way that most people didn’t and they repaid this relatability in turn, the two of them being able to have entire conversations without the use of words or sign language, though they did fully take advantage of their shared knowledge of the language, communicating across classrooms with nothing more than their hands. It was enjoyable, having someone they could bounce off of so well, and it made Jehan wonder why they didn’t become close to the cynic sooner. Their self-portrait was coming along nicely, Grantaire helping them with each part that they painted, though he never did allow them to see how his own portrait was coming along. They didn’t push, however, and when he asked them to back away, they immediately did so. Grantaire just had a way with making himself mysterious and Jehan had always been a curious individual, it was simply their nature. The two of them balanced each other out, in a way, Grantaire’s blatant cynicism conflicting against Jehan’s blissful optimism. Together, they seemed to make a whole.
Jehan skipped through the cafeteria, light hair swinging behind them in a braid down their back. They took their seat at Grantaire’s table, sitting in front of him with a cheerful smile that seemed to glow.
“Jehan Prouvaire, will you ever learn how to dress yourself?” Grantaire’s words were cruel, but his tone was playful, as was his smile. “You can’t wear polka dots with stripes, come on now.”
“I think I can wear whatever I like.” Jehan teased back, grinning. “Anything looks amazing on me.” They didn’t truly believe that, but it was part of cognitive therapy, if they told themself and everyone around them that they looked wonderful, they would start to believe it. It was doing them wonders ever since they had started trying it.
Grantaire snorted. “Yeah, lucky for you.” He grinned. Jehan took into account his lack of food and reminded themself to make sure he ate something small later. “You have a poem for me today, Mx. Stripes and Dots?”
Jehan laughed and shook their head. “Not today.” They had taken to sharing the poems they were working on with Grantaire because he gave them an honest opinion. If he thought a line was too flowery or could be embellished, he told them without blindly insisting that everything they wrote was absolutely perfect on the first try. Jehan was far too aware of their own faults to believe that.
“Aw, what a shame.” Grantaire let out a long and dramatic sigh of disappointment. “And here I was hoping that you had written me an extravagant love poem.”
“Not today, R.” Jehan smiled. “But I was actually going to ask you, you’re coming to Les Amis meeting after school, right?” They asked.
Grantaire’s expression immediately soured and Jehan wondered what exactly they had done wrong. “Why should I?” Grantaire muttered.
Jehan blinked at him in confusion. “Because you’re a member and we all want you there?”
Grantaire let out a self-deprecating snort that caused Jehan to frown, they had a feeling that they weren’t going to approve of what he said next. “That’s some bullshit and you know it.” He grumbled. “I’m not a real member, I’m only allowed in because you don’t turn anyone down. You don’t have to lie to make me feel better about myself.”
That made Jehan’s heart sink to the bottom of their stomach. They knew that Grantaire actually believed what he said and that made it all the more painful to hear. “R…” They were unsure of what exactly to say. They took a breath. “You’re right that we don’t turn people away, but that’s just our policy. Just because we don’t turn people away, doesn’t mean that we don’t value all of our members.” They explained gently. “I want you there. Even if no one else does, which I don’t believe is the case, I enjoy your company and would love to have you there.”
Grantaire looked doubtful, eyeing Jehan up and down. “Why? I never do anything.”
“Because you choose not to.” Jehan pointed out. “You don’t interact with the others unless you’re arguing with Enjolras or goofing off. If you took part in the activities or projects we do, you’d be able to contribute quite a bit.”
“No one else wants me to contribute.” Grantaire insisted stubbornly. “My ideas are foolish, everyone knows that.”
“I’ve never heard anyone say that.” Jehan said. “People appreciate your ideas when you’re willing to share them. Even Enjolras admits that your arguments are valid and that he’d be likely to actually listen to you if you didn’t present your opinions in a way that makes him defensive.”
Grantaire just shrugged, apparently unable to form a response. “I don’t think that’s true.” He mumbled quietly.
“Well, it is.” Jehan said firmly. “If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to, but don’t let it be because you think we don’t want you there.”
Grantaire let out a long sigh, defeated. “Fine. Fine, I’ll go.” He grumbled. “But you’ll only see how useless I am.”
“You are far from useless, Grantaire.” Jehan took his hand and squeezed. “So, so far.”
Grantaire looked away and just shrugged, unwilling to believe Jehan’s words. They understood how he felt, they had gone through it too, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. They waited out the remainder of lunch like that, just sitting in silence and holding each other’s hands. They stayed together until the bell rang, both of them getting up and going their separate ways to separate classes. Jehan tried to stay focused, but their mind continued to drift back to Grantaire. They knew he was struggling and they knew that he wasn’t as okay as he’d like people to believe. Jehan saw so much of themself in him and they just wanted to help, but Grantaire needed to want to be helped.
Classes eventually ended and Jehan made their way to Monsieur Valjean’s room, as he was the teacher who supervised Les Amis. They smiled up at him when they arrived. “Good afternoon, Monsieur Valjean.” They greeted, setting their bag down beside one of the desks.
“Good afternoon, Jehan.” Valjean replied warmly, his ever present smile warming the room. Valjean was one of the nicest teachers Jehan had the pleasure of knowing, both he and his wife, Fantine, were known throughout the school to be the most warm-hearted and caring teachers in the school. Their husband, Javert, on the other hand, was known to be the strictest teacher in the school and one that nearly everyone hated.
Jehan took a seat on top of one of the desks, looking around at the other members who were already there. Courfeyrac was sitting on Combeferre’s lap, murmuring something in his ear that caused the guide’s face to go darker. Jehan smiled to themself before pulling their eyes away when they heard someone new entering.
“Hey, I’m not late, am I?” Bahorel stood panting in the doorway, wearing a tanktop that left very little to the imagination, wild and dark hair pouring down his back. He was covered in sweat, a spare bag in his hand telling everyone that he had just came from gym. Jehan caught themself staring at the muscular boy when he turned to wink at them, causing their face to burn scarlet and look away hurriedly.
“No, you’re just on time, don’t worry. We’re only waiting a few more people.” Valjean assured with a smile, gesturing for Bahorel to sit down.
“Good, good.” Bahorel heaved lungfuls of air before setting his bags down and claiming the seat beside Jehan’s. He looked over at them with a grin. “Hey, there.”
Jehan could feel their cheeks heat up, but they didn’t pull their gaze away. They were sure that they looked absolutely ridiculous, but they had to act confident to be confident. “H-Hey.” They stumbled over the word in their embarrassment. God, this was humiliating.
Bahorel chuckled, oh God, he was laughing at them. “You’re cute when you blush.” He said fondly, resting his chin against the palm of his hand.
Jehan just went darker, if that was possible. Was Bahorel actually flirting with them? Was that possible? How were they supposed to respond? They were certain that they were going to faint. “Y-You’re not so bad yourself.” They squeaked out, sounding absolutely ridiculous.
Bahorel grinned. “I’m very glad that you think so.” He responded cooly. How was he so calm? How did he make flirting look so easy? He was too attractive to be legal, Jehan was sure. They were certain that their entire face was a bright pink color, if not just a deep red.
They opened their mouth, trying to think of a response that didn’t sound utterly pathetic, when Enjolras walked into the room. They sighed in relief and thanked everything there was for being saved.
“Sorry that I’m late.” Enjolras said quickly. “I was held up by Monsieur Javert.”
“By “held up”, he means that he got into a political debate.” Grantaire walked in after the blond, a smirk on his face. He looked to be in a better mood than he had been at lunch, which brightened Jehan’s spirits.
“An academic conversation.” Enjolras corrected calmly. “It was a very civil disagreement.”
Grantaire snorted loudly. “Sure, that’s what we’re calling it now.”
Valjean chuckled and shook his head. “I’m sure that it was very respectful.” He said, but there was a knowing twinkle in his eye that couldn’t be missed. Jehan covered their mouth to keep from laughing.
Enjolras sent Valjean a look of mild frustration, but he quickly regained his composure. “Is everyone here?” He looked around the room.
Courfeyrac, ever the dutiful secretary, piped up; “Yep! Everyone is accounted for, sir!”
“Courf.” Combeferre shook his head. “Marius, Cosette, and Eponine aren’t present, but all other regular members are in attendance.” He adjusted his glasses.
“Yes, what he said.” Courfeyrac blushed at being called out for not doing his job properly. Jehan sent him a sympathetic smile.
“Cosette has an audition tomorrow that she’s practicing for, Marius is sick, and Eponine doesn’t come when neither of them are here.” Valjean explained. “We don’t have to wait for anyone.”
Enjolras nodded. “Thank you, Monsieur Valjean, Combeferre.” He thanked the people who were actually helpful, causing Courfeyrac to slink into his seat in embarrassment. Combeferre pat the top of his curls comfortingly. “Now, we need to discuss fundraising today.” Enjolras continued, his back straight as he stood at the front of the room. “We all know that this GSA isn’t getting as much funding as we would all want, but it’s up to us to change that. We need to raise money ourselves by doing events, sales, something. We need ideas.” He looked across the room. “This is where you are permitted to speak up.” He said, voice as calm and professional as ever.
Grantaire snorted as he took the seat on the other side of Jehan. “You’re just as capable of coming up with ideas as the rest of us, Mr. President.” He pointed out. “Why don’t you make suggestions?”
Enjolras bristled and glared at the cynic. “I thought it would be better if everyone had a say in the matter so that no one would feel like they weren’t being included.” He said coldly. “This is a club, not a dictatorship. Everyone has a say in what we do.”
“Or so you’d have us believe.” Grantaire muttered.
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” Jehan could feel Enjolras’ temper rising and see Grantaire’s posture change to one of attack. They did not like where this was going.
“It means exactly what I said!” Grantaire snapped. “You preach about how it’s a club and how we all have a say, but whenever anyone has an idea that you don’t like or if it comes from a person you don’t like, it goes out the window!”
“That’s not true!” Enjolras snarled back, standing up straighter and marching towards Grantaire. “I try to listen to everything our members say and take it into consideration!”
“Unless that member is me!” Grantaire stood up, leaning over his desk to get into the blond’s face. “Everything I say just isn’t worth consideration, now is it?”
“Everything you say isn’t taken seriously!” Enjolras snapped, hair slipping from his ponytail to fall into his face in an image of unkempt anger. “Because you don’t even take what you say seriously!”
“Guys, please!” Jehan stood up, unwilling to let this fighting go on any longer. They took a few breaths as all eyes turned to them, making them swallow. “Please.” They repeated quietly. “Nothing will be solved with this pointless yelling.” They pointed out gently. “You need to find a compromise.”
Enjolras cleared his throat and straightened his shirt, clearly trying to maintain any dignity he still had. “What compromise do you suggest?” He asked, brushing his hair back.
Jehan was taken by surprise, staring at the president in shock. Why was it up to them to find compromise? They took a breath and looked down, thinking. They could feel all eyes in the room fixed upon them and it was quite overwhelming, but they fought to stay calm. “Well…” They considered. “Why doesn’t Grantaire decide this fundraising activity?” They suggested. “That way we get to have our fundraiser and he doesn’t feel like his ideas are being ignored.”
Grantaire snorted and shook his head. “We both know that he’d never-”
“Okay.” Enjolras said, a look of absolute determination on his face. “I’m okay with that.”
Grantaire stared at Enjolras blankly, clearly disbelieving. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I said that I’ll do it.” Enjolras crossed his arms. “You can decide our fundraising event.”
Grantaire stared, mouth hanging open slightly. “Oh. Oh, uh, okay.” His brain was clearly trying to process this information. “Right. Good.”
Enjolras nodded. “Well, what ideas do you have?”
“Well, uh…” Grantaire was clearly at a loss. “Well, we could, uh…” He cleared his throat. “We could have an art show?” He suggested quickly, his gaze falling to the floor. “Like, different people could make art that could be seen and sold? All of the money can go towards Les Amis.”
There was a moment of silence as everyone considered Grantaire’s words. “That could work.” Enjolras said eventually, causing the cynic’s head to snap up in bewilderment. “Yes. Combeferre, could you figure out a good time and location for this to take place?”
“Yes, right away.” Combeferre nodded and pulled out his laptop, immediately getting to work.
Grantaire’s eyes were trained on Enjolras as if he couldn’t believe that the president had actually agreed to his idea. Enjolras glanced at him before looking away. “We can plan all of the details next meeting.” He decided. “That’s all for now. You can go.”
Jehan stood up and took Grantaire’s hand, seemingly pulling him from his trance. “Hey, that was a really good idea.” They told him with a gentle smile.
“It was?” Grantaire stared at them before blinking repeatedly and shaking his head. “I mean, I guess.”
“It was brilliant.” Jehan insisted, hugging Grantaire tightly. “I’m really proud of you.”
“O-Oh.” Grantaire seemed unable to accept or process those words, which was understandable. He wasn’t exactly used to compliments, but Jehan was going to make sure that he received at least one each day. “I-I need to get going home.”
Jehan nodded. “I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah. Yeah, sounds good.” Grantaire nodded and walked away without another word.
“Hey, Jehan?” Bahorel tapped the poet on the shoulder, catching them by surprise.
They spun around. “Oh, Bahorel.” They flushed, but smiled brightly. “Yes?”
“That was really cool, what you did.” The boxer complimented. “I can’t wait for the art show. I’m sure you’ll make something amazing.”
Jehan blushed deeply. “Oh, well I’m not sure I-”
“Would you want to go with me?” Bahorel looked almost nervous. Nervous? That couldn’t be right, Bahorel was the perfect picture of confidence.
“Go with you?” Jehan asked, staring at him in confusion.
“Yeah, like...like as my date?” Bahorel pulled his bottom lip between his teeth as he searched Jehan’s face. Jehan was just staring blankly back at him, barely processing his words. They must have stood that way for longer than they thought, because Bahorel was quickly eating his words. “I mean, you don’t have to, of course. It was kinda stupid, I just thought-”
“What?” Jehan snapped out of it. “Oh, no! No, sorry. I’d love that!” They admitted, a blush spreading across their cheeks and reaching the tips of their ears.
“Yeah?” Bahorel grinned almost shyly.
“Absolutely!” Jehan confirmed with a grin.
“Great! I’ll, uh, I’ll see you?” Bahorel seemed to be unable to wipe the huge grin from his face.
“Yes! Yes, I’ll see you!” Jehan nodded enthusiastically and waved as Bahorel left, feeling their spirits absolutely soar. Now, they just had to finish their art projects.
This feels like it's longer than I meant for it to be, but oh well. Please tell me what you think, what I can improve on, or what you want to see! Feedback is my life force.
Here we go, the final chapter! This was really fun to write, if long. I hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jehan found themself at a bit of a painter’s block, unable to focus on finishing their self portrait. It was nearly completed, just the final details and coloring needing to be filled in, and yet Jehan found themself unable to finish. They just had no motivation to complete it, they didn’t know how to complete it. Every time they’d set everything up to start working, the ideas wouldn’t flow through their head and they couldn’t bring themself to lift the brush. They just had no idea how to start working, it felt impossible to do. They could sit and stare at the canvas for hours and still accomplish nothing. It was extremely frustrating.
They sat on their floor, paint surrounding them as they gazed up at their own face. Why was it suddenly so difficult to paint? They groaned and laid down, staring up at their plain, white ceiling. Things were going great for them, Les Amis were going to be having an art showing, they were becoming friends with Grantaire, and Bahorel had asked them out. Things were perfect, so why did they still feel so empty? It didn’t make any sense, they should be feeling better. They should, but they just didn’t. Recovery was harder than it had any right to be.
Jehan sat up, hair sliding down their back and bangs falling into their face before they pushed it all back, tying it into a messy ponytail. They picked themself off of the floor and stretched with a loud groan at the strain. They walked around their room a few times, just tracing the perimeter, around and around, stuck in a state of perpetual boredom without motivation. They pulled out their phone, falling on the bed as they scrolled aimlessly through social media, processing none of it. They sighed, putting their phone down on their chest and staring up, caught up in an emotion that they couldn’t quite describe. They decided to text Grantaire, as he was usually the one with answers.
I’m bored. :( ~JP
You should work on your self portrait. -R
Tried that. Can’t find the motivation. ~JP
Need me to come over? -R
Be right there. See you soon. -R
Jehan smiled to themself at how eagerly Grantaire responded. He was always ready to help when someone needed it, but he never admitted how kind he was. It was heartbreaking that Grantaire didn’t see how good he was.
They sighed and stood up, walking downstairs to wait for their friend, walking around lazily. They walked in small circles, finding nothing better to do with their time. They looked up at the loud knock at the door, smiling as they opened it.
“Hey.” Grantaire waved a bit in greeting, a tired smile on his face.
“Hi!” Jehan replied happily, pulling their friend inside. “Come in!” They closed the door behind him before leading him up to their room, sitting on their bed. “How are you?” They asked, trying to maintain the appearance of having energy.
Grantaire shrugged. “I’m alright.” He said without much conviction. “So, what seems to be the trouble?”
Jehan sighed and shrugged. “I don’t really know. I just feel like I can’t do much right not.” They admitted sheepishly. “Everything I do just feels boring.”
Grantaire nodded slowly, looking thoughtful. “Hm, alright.” He sat beside Jehan. “I say that you just need to work.” He said simply.
“Just work?” Jehan stared at him, cocking their head. “But I just said-”
“I know that you feel like you can’t.” Grantaire said. “But I promise you that you can. Maybe you just can’t work on the portrait right now. I promise that you can work on something else as long as you’re working.” He stood up and removed the portrait from the easel and placed a blank canvas on it. “Come on, get up.” He took Jehan’s arm and led them to their feet. He put a paint brush into their hand. “Just paint.”
Jehan looked down at the brush before looking at Grantaire. “What should I paint?”
“Whatever you want.” Grantaire shrugged. “It’s up to you.”
“But I don’t know what I want to paint!” Jehan insisted. “I really don’t.”
Grantaire sighed deeply and thought for a moment. “Alright.” He considered. “Okay, paint your name. Just your name. Paint it in any way that you want.”
Jehan looked taken aback by the request. “Okay.” They nodded slowly and got to work, dipping their brush into pink paint and bringing it to the canvas before hesitating.
“Don’t doubt yourself.” Grantaire urged. “Don’t stop. Just put that to the page and just work with it.”
Jehan nodded, a newfound determination lighting behind their eyes as they pressed the brush to the canvas and drew it across the sheet, not hesitating in their work. They just painted, not worrying about how it looked or if they messed up. They found their mind disappearing as they worked, not having to think about the task at hand. They just kept painting, not worrying about the flecks that ended up on their face and overalls or all over their floor. They didn’t pause for even a moment, a smile falling over their face as they painted in long strokes, creating their own masterpiece.
They stepped back after they didn’t know how long, tilting their head as they studied their completed product. Their name was painted on the page in bright pink, flowers and vines growing off of the letters as the background depicted a sunny sky. They grinned, turning to face Grantaire, pulling him into a tight hug.
Grantaire seemed surprised, but he returned the hug. “It’s really good.” He praised, smiling at his friend. “Very you.”
“Thank you.” Jehan said quietly. “For helping me out of my funk. You’re the best.”
Grantaire blushed and shrugged. “It was no problem.” He insisted, but he couldn’t hide the proud smile that sneaked its way onto his face. “You think you have motivation now?”
Jehan nodded quickly. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.” They said. “I think I can finish my portrait and make some works for the art sale too.” They told him excitedly, mind already planning.
Grantaire laughed and patted their head. “That’s great. I’ll leave you to it, yeah?”
Jehan nodded. “Yeah. Thanks again.”
“Anything for you.” Grantaire smiled as he left, leaving Jehan to paint the whole night long. They painted after school for the next few days, working proudly. They couldn’t wait for the art show, to display their hard work, for their friends to see it. They drifted through the school days easily, helping Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac plan the event over the course of the next Les Amis meeting. They presented their self portrait to their art class when the time came, showing their acne scars and their wild amount of freckles and the way their hair tended to fly everywhere. They watched as Grantaire showed his, an ugly mess of colors blended together, not resembling a person at all. He claimed that it was abstract and it broke Jehan’s heart to hear him say that no one would want to look at a picture of him. Jehan made a mental note to paint Grantaire someday.
The day before the art event arrived before Jehan was even aware of it. Les Amis were setting up the venue, discussing where everything would go and how high things would be priced. Jehan’s paintings, along with the paintings of everyone else participating, were covered by white sheets. Jehan smiled as they moved all of the work into the building, putting their hands on their hips in triumph.
A finger tapping them on the shoulder caused Jehan to jump and spin around in alarm. “Sorry!” Bahorel put his hands up, looking remarkably sheepish. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. You just didn’t hear me the first two times, so I…” He trailed off stupidly, looking at the floor in embarrassment.
Jehan shook their head. “Hey, no. It’s okay. You just gave me a bit of a scare.” They laughed awkwardly, not wanting Bahorel to feel guilty. “I just can’t hear when people are behind me, I’m sorry.”
“Right. Right, I knew that.” Bahorel hit himself in the forehead. “Duh.” He laughed, clearly trying to hide his embarrassment. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay!” Jehan said hurriedly. “Really. Don’t worry about it. What were you trying to say?”
“Oh, just that this whole thing is rather exciting.” Bahorel flushed, but grinned. “And to ask if we’re still coming together.”
“Oh! Oh, yes.” Jehan was so quick to nod that it felt like their head might bob off. “Yes, definitely. If you still want to go with me, that is.”
“I do!” Bahorel grinned. “I do. One hundred percent. You don’t have to worry about that.” He assured.
Jehan blushed deeply and smiled. “Good.” They said happily.
Bahorel nodded. “When should I pick you up and where?”
“Oh! We never discussed that, did we?” Jehan laughed airily, unable to believe that they had been stupid enough to forget that. “Maybe half an hour before we’re all expected to be here? I can text you my address.” They offered.
Bahorel nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds cool.” He gave them a thumbs up. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” Jehan smiled brightly as he walked off, feeling almost lightheaded. They turned around and nearly ran into Grantaire, who was grinning at them smugly.
“Aw, how cute.” Grantaire teased.
Jehan knew their face was turning redder than should be humanly possible. “Oh, shut up.” They swatted their friend on the arm before walking out of the building.
“You’re cute together!” Grantaire called after them, loud enough for them to hear. Jehan just went home, trying not to get too worked up by the knowledge that Bahorel was taking them to the art show.
The next morning, Jehan spent an obscenely long amount of time trying to pick out an outfit. They knew that their fashion choices weren’t exactly the best, but they wanted to look nice for this, it was important. They eventually settled on a dress and went downstairs to wait for Bahorel, pacing the floor anxiously. What if Bahorel stood them up? No, he’d never do that, he was too sweet. What if he realized that asking them out was a bad idea and that he wasn’t interested? What if he started flirting with someone else at the show? What if-
Jehan was pulled out of their thoughts by harsh knocking at the door. They quickly opened it and offered their prepared smile to Bahorel, but found themself staring. Bahorel was wearing a suit and a nice one at that. Bahorel had never been one for formal attire, usually just wearing baggy clothes or tank tops that revealed so much skin. This was an entirely different look than the usual Bahorel, not that Jehan was complaining in the least.
“Hey.” Bahorel greeted after a long moment of silence, seeming to have also realized that he was staring. “Sorry if I knocked too hard, I just knocked the first few times and got no response, so I didn’t know if you could hear.”
“Huh? Oh!” Jehan blushed, which they seemed to do a lot around Bahorel. They must have been so wrapped up in their head that they didn’t hear Bahorel’s knocking. “No, it’s fine. Thank you.”
Bahorel nodded, looking relieved. “You look amazing.” He said eventually.
“Look who’s talking!” Jehan didn’t know why they said that, that was extremely forward. Their face must have been so pink.
Bahorel looked surprised for a moment before chuckling. “I’m really glad that you approve.” He winked at them and they felt dizzy. When had they started holding their breath?
“I always approve.” Jehan smiled shakily, trying to act confident. “When it’s you.”
Bahorel laughed and offered his arm to them, which they took gladly. The two of them walked out to Bahorel’s rather cheap car, not that Jehan minded. They talked and joked the entire way to the show, Jehan slowly relaxing in Bahorel’s company.
The two of them walked in together and Jehan was taken aback by how many people were there. They hadn’t been expecting nearly this much of a turnout.
“Jehan! Bahorel!” Enjolras jogged up to them, looking overwhelmed. “We had a lot more people attend than we were anticipating.” He looked flushed, almost shaken. Enjolras rarely looked this vulnerable. “I don’t know why this is, but we have no business complaining about it.”
“I think I might know why.” Monsieur Valjean approached the group, a familiar twinkle in his eye.
“You did this?” Enjolras gaped at his teacher. “How?”
Valjean shook his head. “I didn’t do much.” He insisted. “I simply made it known that the artist R would be selling some of his works at this event.”
“The artist….” Enjolras looked so confused. “What?”
“Our Grantaire seems to be rather popular online.” Valjean smiled. “His art is well-known and can sell for quite a bit.”
Enjolras looked completely disbelieving, staring at Valjean like he’d gone mad. Jehan smiled to themself, looking over at Bahorel. “I’m going to find Grantaire. Be right back?”
Bahorel nodded. “Yeah, of course.” He smiled reassuringly.
Jehan thanked him before skipping off to find their friend, discovering him speaking to some very wealthy looking people. He seemed shocked and completely out of it, nodding as they walked away, only for Jehan to take their place.
“Hey!” Jehan beamed at their friend. “Who was that?”
“They’re….” Grantaire stared down at a business card he was holding. “They sell art. They’re really influential. They said that they’re fans of my work.” His voice held no emotion, as if he was still trying to figure out how to feel about that news.
“Grantaire, that’s amazing!” Jehan said happily, feeling so proud of their friend. “Isn’t it?” They asked after Grantaire didn’t seem to respond.
Grantaire shook his head. “I don’t know.” He admitted. “I just don’t know.” He sighed deeply, rubbing his face. “It doesn't matter. This wasn’t supposed to be about me. This is for Les Amis.” He reminded them.
Jehan nodded. “Yeah, but you deserve to be recognized for your work.” They insisted, walking with him. He ignored them and they sighed, deciding to just enjoy the event. It mostly consisted of talking to people and hanging around friends. They flirted with Bahorel quite a bit.
Eventually, Valjean stood at the front of the room. “Excuse me? Excuse me, everyone. May I have your attention?” He cleared his throat until everyone in the room had their eyes on him. “Now, as everyone knows, this fundraiser was done for our school’s GSA, Les Amis.” Everyone applauded. “Now, several members have put together art pieces that are for sale today. We’d like to present them now.” He smiled. “Grantaire, why don’t you go first?”
Jehan watched as Grantaire took a deep breath before walking to the front of the room, bringing out his works, all of which were still covered with a sheet. “My first work is entitled ‘Friends’.” He mumbled, looking so unsure of himself. He lifted the first sheet, revealing an incredibly detailed painting of all of Les Amis, laughing and chatting together. There was an audible gasp throughout the crowd. Jehan couldn’t help but notice that Grantaire himself wasn’t in the picture.
Grantaire shifted uncomfortably before moving on. “My next work is called ‘Icarus’.” He said before pulling the next sheet down unceremoniously, showing a painting of a young boy, fear clear in his eyes as the wings attached to his back molted around him. Everyone in the crowd was murmuring to themselves, impressed by Grantaire’s work.
“My last work is ‘Apollo’.” Grantaire mumbled before removing the final sheet, presenting a picture that was undoubtedly of Enjolras, only dressed in a toga with a harp in hand. It was stunning, the detail involved better than some of the greatest paintings Jehan had ever seen. It was incredible. They watched as Grantaire shrugged and stepped away, getting lost in the crowd.
Valjean cleared his throat. “All of these are on sale, so please see about that later.” He informed the crowd. “Now, Jehan, would you like to go next?”
Jehan nodded and stood up. “I only have two works.” They admitted, pulling the sheet off of the first. “This one is ‘Light of a Rose’.” It was a picture of a red rose, petals falling around it. It wasn’t anything impressive, at least not to them. It was simply a rose. “And my next one is ‘The Bond’.” They revealed their next one, showing two hands clasped together. One hand was pale and small, dainty. The other hand was dark, calloused, and large. Jehan doubted that anyone would notice that the hands belonged to themself and Grantaire. They smiled and stepped down, standing beside Bahorel as some other students presented their work.
The showcases eventually wound down and Valjean handled the sales as Jehan walked with Bahorel. “That was nice.” They said happily. “I’m proud of what I did.” They stated, more to themself than to him. They were allowed to feel proud of themself, they had to remember that.
“I’m proud of you.” Bahorel said with a grin. “And I agree that this was really fun.” He turned to face them. “Can we do something like this again sometime?” He asked, looking so hopeful.
Jehan smiled and nodded. “I think I’d like that.”
“Good.” Bahorel grinned. “You ready for me to take you home?”
Jehan thought for a moment before shaking their head. “No. I think I can get home myself. I need to do something. Thank you, though. I’ll see you around.” They smiled and kissed his cheek lightly, making the boxer turn darker. They said a brief goodbye before Bahorel left.
Jehan wandered around a bit before finding who they wanted, walking up to stand beside him. “I’m impressed.” They told him. “I think everyone was.”
Grantaire shrugged. “Yeah. It was weird.” He looked down at the ground.
“You deserved it, though.” Jehan insisted. “All of that praise, that admiration, you deserved every bit. I’m so proud of you.”
Grantaire looked at them in surprise, opening his mouth to argue before shutting it. “You know, I’m proud of me too.” He said eventually.
Jehan smiled, it wasn’t much, but it was a start. The two of them were getting better, together. Improvement was all they could really hope for and Jehan was proud of both of then,
Please, please leave feedback. Feedback is what I thrive on. The next story in this series is going to be titled 'A Leader's Faults'