The first time Grantaire wakes up that day, the ceiling above him is pitch black (it’s always black) and the windows just behind him are wide open. He shivers as a cold breeze races across his back – then sits up on the couch, because he can both hear and feel the strings of Éponine’s bass in the next room over, and if Éponine is awake, Grantaire feels like he ought to be awake too.
He pads his way into what Courfeyrac had initially termed the ‘common room’ but which is now more or less a haven for all of their junk, mostly the instruments and the speakers and all of the things Combeferre tells him not to touch. The flat only has two bedrooms. Éponine and Grantaire, when they do sleep over, usually take a couch each. Not tonight, apparently.
Grantaire listens to Éponine idly from the doorway for a moment, trying to gain a sense of where she is. (Judging from the strength of the vibrations, right in the middle of the floor.) She’s not using her bow, plucking at the strings with her fingers instead, her hands slapping quickly up and down. She’s so fast that Grantaire can hear her. Either she never changed, or she’s already dressed – her combat boots move with her as she taps her feet to the music, a continuous thump, one hand moving up and down the neck of the instrument with alarming – and precise – speed. The noise is perfect; something close to jazz. Grantaire reaches out a hand for the side of the wall and settles down cross-legged next to the doorway, eyes closed, the deep notes sinking into his sternum and right into his heart. This is what he likes about the bass. He can always feel it. He always knows where he is when those notes are playing.
The last deep note fades out, and Éponine’s location disappears. Grantaire thinks she might be looking at him; her tone is pretty direct.
“Couldn’t sleep, huh?”
“Not with you making that racket,” counters Grantaire good-naturedly. He reaches for the doorway and uses it to stand himself up. Éponine’s combat boots thump towards him. She heaves him to his feet.
“You wanna practise?” she asks. She’s close enough that Grantaire can smell the make-up on her face – fully dressed, then. But they are both insomniacs. He pushes her hand away with a rueful smile.
“We’ll wake everyone up.” he says. Éponine sniffs.
“I only woke you up,” she points out. There’s a pause, like she’s looking over at something Grantaire can’t see. Ironic, that one. Probably his kit. “You really need to find that drumstick, you know.”
“The chicken one or the other one?”
Éponine smacks him on the back of the head, which Grantaire feels is moderately unfair. He can’t see that kind of shit coming. “Ow! All right, fine. I think I left it in Courf and Ferre’s room.”
“Where in their room?”
Grantaire smiles his favourite smile, the one that drives Enjolras completely batty. It’s the shit-eating smile. “Oh, my bad,” he says, slamming a hand to his forehead, “I’ll go look.” Éponine hits him again.
“Jesus, Ép, are you wearing those rings again?”
“We’re playing at the Musain tomorrow. I’ll look for you once they’re up.” Another pause; probably another glance. This time at Grantaire’s expression. “Oh, come on, don’t make that face. I really don’t understand why you hate it so much.” Grantaire purses his lips.
“It’s a fine venue. I don’t mind it.”
“Who’s coming? Anyone we know?”
Éponine sighs, picks something off the floor and begins tapping it lightly against the leg of her jeans. It makes a funny sort of noise, considering how many buckles and straps are attached to the individual pant legs. Grantaire figures it’s probably her bow.
“Musichetta, obviously, she’s on bar duty that night. And Bahorel and Feuilly, maybe. Marius if he can get out of the house.”
Éponine makes the funny little sound Grantaire associates with her laughing, though she isn’t really laughing. Most likely smiling. An enamoured smile. He wishes he could see it sometimes.
“She’s coming too,” comes the admission. “Hopefully she’ll stick around long enough for us to finish the set.”
Grantaire reaches out a hand to keep Éponine from swinging the bow against her leg. The rhythm is uneven and he’s never been able to stand it. “I don’t see why not,” he answers. Éponine hums.
“Least it’ll give Enjolras a chance to let his hair down. Like, I know the venue pays well, but jeez. So much stress. So many background numbers. Why can’t we just form a jazz quartet, R? It would be amazing. I would be amazing.”
Grantaire smiles. Some days, it seems unfair that Éponine can play two instruments. Then he remembers that Éponine is Éponine, and that Éponine can do pretty much anything if she really applies herself. Except maybe tell Cosette she loves her, of course. But then, Éponine is like that.
“I think you better stick to the bass guitar for this one,” he says, “Unless you can see Enjolras playing the trumpet?”
Éponine snorts. Her happiness is another sound that Grantaire likes. He turns towards the doorway as another voice says:
“Laugh all you like, but he did take clarinet lessons in la quatrième. It was unfortunate for everyone involved.”
“Oh?” Éponine asks, her voice teasing. Grantaire will never really know what she looks like, but he’s gotten a good idea of her over the last few years based on her voice. It’s a lovely voice. “And what were you doing in la quatrième, Combeferre? Playing percussion?” Combeferre laughs. This is also a sound that Grantaire likes.
“Overseeing the lighting for Doctor Faustus,” Combeferre replies, deadpan, but the smile is still in his voice. Grantaire listens to the sound of his feet as he walks over towards them. “You ever play anything other than the drums, R?”
Grantaire thinks about the question for a moment. “I wanted to play the harmonica when I was younger,” he says eventually, surprised at his own truthfulness. “Couldn’t really lose that one, could I? Like a xylophone without the added risk of breaking a vase.” When Éponine cuffs him around the ear, he adds indignantly, “Oh, come on! That one wasn’t even self-deprecating! Do you know how many vases I have put at risk?” In response to this, both Combeferre and Éponine shush him with a hiss. He imagines they’re probably doing the finger thing, too. Grantaire wonders if that makes them feel foolish.
“Courfeyrac and Enjolras are still asleep,” Combeferre says in a whisper, because Combeferre is often quieter than Grantaire. Grantaire plays the drums; he can’t help it. “If we wake them up before noon there’ll be hell to pay. Think about Enj’s hair, R.”
Grantaire nods, because he’s the only one who can without making it awkward. He thinks about Enjolras’ hair quite a lot, actually – less about how long it takes to boot him out of the apartment bathroom in the mornings and more about what it would actually feel like to be running his hands through it. He doesn’t know much about Enjolras’ hair. He’s knows it’s long, and by the sound of it maybe the colour of spun gold, but—
Combeferre, naturally, interrupts these thoughts, because he is efficient and also kind of their manager at times like this. He likes the Musain venue quite a lot, Grantaire thinks with a sigh.
“Are you two going back to bed soon?” he asks. “You’re going to be tired tomorrow.”
Éponine lets out a yawn that makes Grantaire yawn too. She sounds a little disappointed. “I guess so,” she says. “Though to be honest, I put a lot of work into wearing this lipstick so that I could play in an imaginary jazz quartet.”
The day before a gig is always kind of awful. Grantaire wakes up dangling from the tail end of the couch and lies there for a moment, listening to the almost-silence. He can hear Éponine breathing quietly somewhere beside him, which probably explains the ache in his back. Damn Éponine. She never keeps to her own couch.
She lets out a deep breath as Grantaire sits up, extracting his almost-dead arm from beneath hers before standing. The apartment is immensely quiet without the low sound of Éponine’s bass playing in the background, or Courfeyrac’s records stringing along the silence. Without noise, he feels strangely lopsided. Grantaire wonders then, as he has done at least a hundred times before, if maybe he should get some kind of guide dog – something other than a goddam stick. As soon as the thought completes itself, Éponine wakes up.
“R?” she asks, her voice fuzzy with sleep. Grantaire hears her jacket rustle as she turns to face him. Still dressed, then. Typical. He turns in her vague direction.
“It’s early yet,” he tells her, which is probably true; Combeferre always sets an alarm for days like this; the apartment is too quiet for him to be awake as well. “Go back to sleep.” Éponine makes another vague noise of agreement and then rolls over onto her side. Grantaire makes his way into the kitchen.
He turns on the lights out of habit, then wanders around for a few minutes trying to find all the things he needs to make breakfast. It takes a couple of minutes to find the fruit bowl; Enjolras must have moved it again. Grantaire turns on the hob and begins to make pancakes. It’s probably the kindest way to wake everyone up, considering the night they’re going to have this evening. Back at the Musain again. Honestly.
(Contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t actually have all that much of a problem with the Musain. It’s more that the Musain has a problem with him. Grantaire has a serious issue counting stairs.
The Musain has a lot of them.)
The smell of banana pancakes wakes Combeferre up first of all, and then Courfeyrac. Grantaire hears them stumble in behind them and turns to wave a greeting. According to others, he gestures with his hands a lot. He doesn’t know why he feels so proud of that fact. Courfeyrac ambles over to him.
“R, those smell delicious. Do I get one?” Grantaire laughs and bats a hand in his direction.
“Find my lost drumstick and they’re all yours, mon ami,” he replies. From behind them both, Combeferre makes a faint sound of disapproval.
“You still haven’t found it?” he asks. Grantaire guesses – correctly, as it turns out – that he is frowning. He shrugs.
“It’s somewhere under the bed, I’m pretty sure.” Courfeyrac says. He clearly wants those banana pancakes. “I’m sure I saw it last night. One sec.”
His footsteps fade. Grantaire scoops up another banana pancake and adds it to the pile at his side. He can still feel Combeferre standing behind him.
“Something up?” he asks lightly. Combeferre does this sometimes. Stands and stares for a while, not saying anything, just thinking. He gives a little sigh as he shakes himself out it.
“No, nothing’s up,” he replies. He does it a lot these days. Probably, Grantaire thinks with a little pang of sadness, he was about to ask what the hell’s been going on between him and Enjolras. But Grantaire doesn’t really know himself. He pours more batter into the frying pan and turns to smile at Combeferre. “You want a pancake?” he asks. He loses track of Combeferre so easily with his silent footsteps he barely knows if he’s facing the right direction. Combeferre makes the noise Grantaire associates with his smallest smile. He scratches idly at his close-cut hair.
“That sounds nice, R, thank you.”
It doesn’t get any worse again for a while after that. Grantaire is grateful for small mercies.
Enjolras wakes up much closer to lunch than breakfast, because he is not a morning person and never will be. He still gets his pancakes though. Grantaire is nice like that.
“Have you heard anything from Musichetta?” he hears him ask Combeferre. There’s a short pause; probably Combeferre shaking his head, he thinks. Enjolras puts down his knife and fork. Grantaire can’t tell if this means he’s happy or disappointed, but he doesn’t ask. He’s still perched on the kitchen counter next to the stove. Combeferre and Enjolras are sitting at the other end on bar stools; further back into the apartment, Grantaire can hear Courfeyrac and Éponine tuning their guitars. It sounds vaguely jazzy.
“You want another pancake, Apollo?” he asks. The nickname is a habit and has been for years. Nevertheless, it never fails to irritate Enjolras. He pushes his plate towards the end of the worktop; Grantaire hears him sigh.
“I’m good, thanks.” he says shortly. His chair shrieks as he pushes it back from the side, metal legs scraping on linoleum, and then he’s gone. Combeferre makes a sighing sort of sound. He only ever seems to use it when he’s talking to Grantaire.
“You two haven’t been getting along lately, have you?”
Grantaire sighs back. It seems like the appropriate response. “I haven’t done much,” he says. His voice is weirdly petulant. “Only tried to talk to him.”
“I don’t think he likes the nickname,” Combeferre reproaches gently. Grantaire snorts.
“I’m sure he has plenty for me,” he mutters, sliding off the counter onto the floor. He walks over towards where Combeferre is sitting, fumbling for a moment as he reaches for Enjolras’ plate and knife and fork, then adds: “He doesn’t want me to go, does he?”
Combeferre sighs and puts down whatever he’s working on. The central switchboard, maybe. A decidedly jazzy motif creeps into Grantaire’s ears from the next room. “Of course not. Nobody wants that, R. But you could make more of an effort.”
“And him? What’s Enjolras going to do?”
A moment of silence, then: “I just shrugged. Okay, Enjolras needs to make an effort, too. But just give him a chance, all right? He doesn’t hate you, he really doesn’t.”
Funny way of showing it, Grantaire thinks, but he doesn’t say it. He gets it. Combeferre just wants to keep things peaceful; it’s in everyone’s best interests. He turns back to the sink and starts on the washing up.
“R?” Combeferre says worriedly. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.” It’s a little ridiculous, really, how much he cares about what Grantaire thinks. Sensible people – people like Enjolras, he thinks with a pang – usually don’t care at all. He drops the sponge back into the sink and turns to face him.
“You didn’t upset me,” he says honestly, because if Grantaire is upset with anyone, it’s himself. It’s always himself. “I’ll try to get along better with Enjolras, I promise. Do you want lunch?”
They get ready not long after that. Enjolras, as is usual for him, takes an ungodly amount of time styling his hair. His face is the only face Grantaire does not know by touch. It’s a mystery to him – he might’ve asked Éponine what he looks like, except for the fact that Éponine would tease him mercilessly for what is probably blatantly obvious to everybody except their lead singer. Damn Enjolras, honestly. Stupid Enjolras and his stupid hair. There are some days where he drives Grantaire to distraction.
They get dressed.
The most disappointing thing about being a blind man in a rock band is that Grantaire has no idea how badass they look. Éponine assures him that they look very badass.
“All right,” he says good-naturedly, pulling a sleeveless t-shirt over his jeans. It’s likely they’re both black, but who can tell? Éponine hands him a necklace of some sort and he puts it on without comment, along with several bracelets and the usual piercings. It’s surprising what you get good at doing, he thinks, after a while. Éponine still worries he’s going to stab himself by accident.
“Prove it to me,” he says to her. Éponine straightens up from where she’s been sitting on the adjacent couch with a squawk.
“Fuck off, R,” she says, also good-naturedly. “I’m wearing fishnets, a red waistcoat and a goddam denim jacket. I’m unstoppable. And these fucking boots.”
They sound more like platforms to Grantaire, but he doesn’t argue with her. One never just argues with Éponine. He stands up, hands flailing around for a belt for several seconds before Éponine just up and hands it to him. His own boots are around here, somewhere. Probably in the bathroom. The trio’s flat has a lot of stuff in it – things do tend to get lost.
“Fishnets?” he asks. “I thought you were wearing jeans.”
“It was a close run thing,” Éponine admits. “But no. Do you have any cigarettes?”
Grantaire does, actually. He pulls a box out of the back pocket of his jeans (slightly squashed, probably) and hands them over to her, waiting for the click of Éponine’s lighter. It doesn’t come. He embraces the silence for a moment, then says, “What’s up?”
Another pause. “I just shook my head. It’s nothing, really. Just thinking about Cosette. You look nice, by the way.”
Grantaire has never given one ounce of a fuck about his appearance, and Éponine knows this and doesn’t much care either, so he knows she’s stalling. He reaches out to prod her. “Are you gonna talk to her?” he asks. Éponine snorts.
“If I can. She might not stick around tonight. I’m not sure if she really likes our kind of music.”
“Frankly, I find that very insulting.” Grantaire says. Éponine whacks him on the arm. “Ow! Okay, okay. But she likes you, ’Ponine. That’s what matters, right? You, in all of your honestly quite scary glory. Rocking out on the goddam double bass. Wearing fishnet tights and denim jackets.” He scratches idly at his hair, suddenly unsure of what to say next. Grantaire is often consumed by the fear of looking stupid (ironic, again) but he feels like it’s important for him to say something this time. “You’re both badasses. You deserve each other, yeah?”
Éponine sniffs a little, then punches him again. It’s marginally more gentle this time. “You’re such a sap,” she says quietly. “I hate you. Now shut the fuck up and let me do my eyeliner.”
Grantaire sits back on the couch as Éponine stands up and makes her way over to the mirror. He knows her face by his hands; he knows she likes black eyeliner, black eyeshadow, red lipstick. He knows her hair has red streaks in it because she’s told him so, and he knows she wears it in a bun whenever she’s playing or filling out paperwork. She’s his best friend and he doesn’t think he’s ever loved anyone so completely. He sighs again.
He still has no fucking clue what Enjolras looks like. It shouldn’t bother him, but it really, really does.
“Ép,” he says cautiously, going against all better judgement, “What does Enjolras look like?”
“What? Ah, fuck. Now I have lipstick on my teeth, excellent. He looks like a shithead on legs, R, what do you want me to say?”
“I don’t even know what colour his eyes are.”
He hears a click as Éponine opens up a packet of wet wipes, probably trying to get the lipstick off her teeth. “His eyes are blue,” she says eventually. “He has shitty eyebrows.”
“Mm,” Éponine replies vaguely, possibly with an eyeliner pencil in her mouth. It’s difficult to tell whether or not she’s fucking with him. “Complete caterpillars.”
“Huh.” he says. Thinking of Enjolras makes his sternum ache; he hopes Éponine can’t see it in his expression. “He was really weird about me wanting to know his face,” he says after a moment. He still feels ashamed about that, actually. The silence afterwards had been palpable. Even Grantaire had been able to see how uncomfortable Enjolras had been. He doesn’t like to dwell on it at all if possible. God knows why he’s thinking about it now. Éponine puts down whatever she’s holding on the sideboard next to the mirror. It sounds like a tube of lipstick.
“It’s fine,” he says, though it isn’t. “Some people are just like that, I guess.”
They have stalemates like this, on occasion. Éponine sighs and continues doing her make-up. It doesn’t take her long. She falls back on the couch beside him with one of Grantaire’s cigarettes caught between her fingers. She passes him one the same instance he opens his mouth to ask.
“Here,” she says, leaning over with a lighter. They smoke together in silence for a moment, Éponine razor-sharp and Grantaire considerably more subdued. He wonders briefly if Courfeyrac has found his other drumstick yet – he ended up coming back to breakfast in the end, empty-handed. Then, he wonders if Enjolras really does hate him. It wouldn’t surprise him.
Combeferre chooses that exact moment to stick his head around the doorway. Grantaire knows it’s him because Éponine snatches the cigarette out of his hand and dumps both hers and his into the ashtray on the coffee table. Combeferre is no small fan of smoking indoors. They both hear him tut.
“We have a balcony, you know,” he says, and Grantaire can’t even be mad at him because it’s a pretty damn good point. “You could smoke there instead. Are you almost ready?”
There’s a thump as Éponine props her feet up on the coffee table, adjusting her platforms. She stands up a moment later, abandoning Grantaire on the couch. “Nearly,” she says. “R still needs his boots, though. And that goddam drumstick.”
“I have it!” comes the shout. It’s Courfeyrac’s voice. His presence fills the doorway; Courf could never sneak past Grantaire, even without a cane to hit him with. He’s just so loud. There’s a soft smack as the thrown drumstick lands in Éponine’s outstretched hand. “It was under the bookcase. No idea how it got there.”
“I probably kicked it,” Grantaire mumbles, as Éponine passes it to him. “Dropped it by accident when I was in there the other day.” He shoves a hand down the side of the couch to retrieve its counterpart; lucky he didn’t lose that one in the process. He taps the pair of them absently against the side of his jeans, unconsciously matching the rhythm of whatever Éponine was playing on the bass guitar this morning. Ray Brown, probably.
This statement is met with a brief silence; this is how he knows Enjolras has entered the room. He sits up a little straighter.
“Here,” Enjolras says, walking forwards. There’s a solid thump as Grantaire’s Dr. Martens drop to the floor beside him. The man standing beside him is practically frigid. “They were in the bathroom.”
Grantaire’s blushing and he fucking hates it. He picks up the boots and starts to untangle the laces. “Thanks,” he mumbles. Enjolras sniffs and disappears again just like all the other times. The breath returns to the room around him. Courfeyrac is the first to break the silence.
“I can’t believe he’s wearing those braces again,” he says. “And that shirt.”
Another beat of silence. Then: “The checked one?” asks Grantaire. According to Éponine, this is a very attractive shirt. “Fuck.”
“It’s the venue,” Éponine says quickly. “It’s not you, R.”
Grantaire nods, drumming absently again on the arm of the couch. It’s sweet of Éponine to say it, it really is. But that doesn’t make it true.
They make it out on time, somehow, equipment and instruments intact. Grantaire’s kit is always the last one in the van. He gets it. Drums are kinda annoying sometimes. Both Éponine and Courfeyrac carry their guitars with them. Combeferre drives. Enjolras just takes himself.
Grantaire might not know what he looks like, but he does know that Enjolras sings like a fucking angel, and really, isn’t that enough of a justification to give him the nickname Apollo? It’s mostly fair, this game they’re playing. Not fair on Grantaire, but plenty fair on Enjolras. It’s whatever.
Éponine sits next to him in the back of the van, Courfeyrac opposite her. Grantaire has the joy of sitting opposite Enjolras himself. The universe must really hate him sometimes.
Éponine and Courfeyrac are easy talkers; Grantaire isn’t stupid enough to try and make conversation with Enjolras. There’s always a couple of band members that don’t get on. It’s sort of inevitable, isn’t it?
Well. That’s what he keeps on telling himself, anyway. Never mind that the lead singer kind of hates you. Never mind that you’ve been crushing on him on and off for the last two or three years. Never mind all that. At least you found your goddam drumstick. Be cheerful, for fucking once.
Yeah. He’s not really a conversationalist. Good job he’s blind or he’d never catch a break.
Éponine’s already given him the run down on their apparent badassery today. She’s wearing what is probably Grantaire’s favourite ever t-shirt beneath her waistcoat, black with the legend NOBODY KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN pasted across the front, and Courfeyrac is wearing his usual terrible combination of a shirt that’s been violently parted from its sleeves and a pair of very distressed black jeans. Oh, and those stupid fucking ear plugs that gave Grantaire a heart attack the first time he put his hands on Courfeyrac’s face. Grantaire has since decided that he’s quite content with plain studs in that area, thank you very much.
And then there’s Enjolras. Absolute buffoon that he is. He doesn’t join in with Éponine and Courfeyrac’s conversation and he isn’t sitting up front with Combeferre today, so there really must be something wrong with him. Maybe he’s coming down with a sore throat. God knows that would be enough to scare the hell out of Enjolras. Him and his goddam angel voice. Grantaire sighs into his hands. Éponine isn’t the only one wearing a lot of rings today – he almost gives himself a black eye doing it. Yet another reason for Enjolras to hate him; he has absolutely no fucking sense of object permanence when he’s like this. He balls his hands into knots instead.
Courfeyrac and Enjolras have been warring over Enjolras’ current outfit for about as long as Grantaire can remember. Grantaire doesn’t know why. As far as he’s concerned, if a god wants to wear suspenders, you should let them wear suspenders. Even if the check shirt underneath is apparently hideous. Éponine was pretty concise about this. Sleeves, rolled three quarters of the way up. Black jeans rolled up at the cuffs. Dr. Martens, just like Grantaire’s. Except Enjolras’ are both cherry-coloured and steel toe-capped. Because of course they are. Of course they fucking are.
Combeferre isn’t dressed like anything, because Combeferre never is. Grantaire is pretty sure he’s wearing a suit of some sort. He’s pretty damn supportive of his two best friends considering he can’t play a single instrument or hold a note. He’s good with a switchboard though, and at mending the rest of their crap whenever it gets broken (usually by Courfeyrac); there’s no denying he’s a part of the team. Between the five of them, they could probably conquer the world, thinks Grantaire idly. The double bass is a heavy thing, but he’s pretty sure Éponine could launch it at someone if she wanted to. He starts tapping idly at the side of his jeans again, his thoughts distant for a moment, but a cold, long-fingered hand reaches out to stop him. It’s so obviously Enjolras that he doesn’t even need to ask.
“Sorry,” Grantaire says. He’s trying not to be bitter, he really is, but the petulance creeps in anyway. “Am I irritating you?” He hears Enjolras draw a breath; Combeferre’s probably had the exact same conversation with him, Grantaire realises. How fucking wonderful.
“No,” the other man replies carefully. He amends, “Well. Maybe a bit. You packed the hi-hat, right?”
Is he trying to make conversation? Grantaire almost can’t believe it. He sticks the drumsticks into the band of his jeans so he won’t be able to play with them. He shouldn’t be surprised, really. Enjolras has never liked repetitive noise. Maybe Grantaire ought to be trying harder after all.
“Pretty sure,” he replies. He doesn’t need sight to know Enjolras is frowning at him; it’s a fucking powerful frown. “Okay, I’m certain,” he adds hastily, putting his hands up. “Éponine checked it over for me anyway.”
Enjolras doesn’t say anything for a moment. Just as Grantaire is beginning to think that might have been the end of the conversation, he says, “I wasn’t frowning at you.”
“When you put your hands up. I wasn’t frowning at you.”
“Oh,” Grantaire says finally. He doesn’t quite know what else to say. “Right. Sorry.”
They don’t talk again after that. Grantaire thinks Enjolras is probably pretty uncomfortable anyway, from the way he keeps shuffling in his seat and running his hands along his forearms. There are a couple of times where Grantaire almost asks him what’s wrong – but he doesn’t. It’s not his job. It’s up to Combeferre or Courfeyrac to manage Enjolras’ moods, not him. He’s never been any good in this kind of situation. They know him better than Grantaire does, anyway – and they can see. Hell.
Éponine gives him a little nudge as they pull up at the back of the Musain; Grantaire unhooks the drumsticks from the band of his jeans and stands up, the floor shaking slightly as they settle into their usual spot.
“You okay?” she asks in a low voice, as Combeferre jumps down to throw open the truck’s back doors. Enjolras steps out first, followed by Courfeyrac. Grantaire reaches out a hand to find that the case of Éponine’s bass guitar is standing right next to them. Courfeyrac is probably carrying his own guitar on his back. Grantaire sighs.
“I’m fine,” he says quietly, because more than anything else he does not want Enjolras to hear him. Not now, right before the set. There’s only so much Grantaire can stand before he personally goes to pieces. “You ready?”
Éponine heaves the case onto her back and turns to hug him. The motion takes him by surprise.
“It’s just his way, R,” she says, a surprising amount of softness in her voice. Éponine is rarely like this – not that he doesn’t appreciate the gesture, of course. But all it does is make him feel worse. “Just ignore him, honestly.”
Grantaire is trying. He is even trying very hard. But certain silences are very hard to forget, Enjolras’ especially. He just wishes he could have a single successful conversation. Something to convince him that Enjolras doesn’t actually hate him would be nice.
It doesn’t matter. He lets Éponine guide him out of the truck (it’s always a tricky drop) and together they begin to unpack the various pieces of drum kit – hi-hat included, thinks Grantaire bitterly. Enjolras, Combeferre and Courfeyrac go on ahead to set up the audio. That’s probably Ferre’s real job, if he has any official job title at all.
Éponine mentioned to him once that Combeferre is the only one out of the trio without tattoos on his forearms. Grantaire has spent a lot of time since thinking about what tattoos Enjolras might have inked there. It hasn’t done him much good so far.
They’re early, for once; a good thirty minutes before opening. Musichetta greets them both in the back hallway, hugging first Éponine and then Grantaire, which he tries not to find too surprising. He leans against Éponine’s shoulder the entire time going down the stairs. These fucking stairs. He’s never going to be over them. Éponine lets him go at the bottom and hands him his cane.
“Bahorel and Feuilly are already here,” she says to him. She gives him a little push in the direction of the main venue space. There’s three doors, here; the one on the far left leads to Musichetta’s small kitchen, and the one on the right leads to backstage. The central door is the main venue space, thankfully empty of steps. Éponine clicks her teeth. “Go say hello to them. I’ll set up the kit.”
“I can do it myself—” he starts, but Éponine shoos him away again, no doubt determined to go and rag on Enjolras for his inhospitality. Well, good luck to her, he thinks. He makes for the main venue door just as Musichetta vanishes into the kitchen.
Apart from the stairs, the Musain is really quite a pleasant venue, Grantaire thinks. The hall is roughly rectangular, with the bar towards one end and a small, raised platform nestled in the opposite corner – their stage, more or less. Tables and chairs are scattered in the space between. Bahorel’s booming voice shouts across to him the moment he closes the door.
“Grantaire! We’re next to the bar.” he says. Grantaire smiles ruefully to himself and begins to make his way through the sea of chairs. Halfway through the endeavour, Feuilly gets up from his seat to help him, guiding him gently by the elbow past a table set Grantaire could’ve sworn wasn’t there the last time they came here. He throws his cane under his seat and heaves himself up onto one of the bar stools, one friend on either side of him like they’re some kind of protection squad. It’s sweet, in a way.
“You want a drink, R?” Musichetta asks from behind the counter. Grantaire pushes a hand into his pocket to look for change, but she taps at his wrist.
“No, no. A free drink, you goose. It’s on the house.” Grantaire scratches at the base of his neck and tries not to feel like this is because of that extra, treacherous table. Or even for just being blind in the first place. Probably not, he decides. Musichetta is his friend, even if he doesn’t know her all that well. He hesitates a moment longer and then says, “Whiskey Sour, please.” Musichetta makes a pleased sound, probably nods, and then turns to look for the lemon juice. Bahorel leans forward to pat him affectionately on the back.
“You doing all right, R?” he asks, just as Feuilly says, “Has Enjolras stopped being a prat yet?” Grantaire wonders if they planned this. If not, it’s wonderfully well-rehearsed. He answers them both.
“Yeah, and, uh, not really. But it’s fine. I’m not going anywhere or anything.” Bahorel gives him another, more sympathetic pat that almost knocks him off his chair. At the same time, Musichetta slides the drink across the bar towards him. Luckily for them both, Feuilly has the good grace to catch it before it slides off on to the floor. Musichetta winces.
“Shit, sorry.” she says. Grantaire just shrugs. He’s used to it and says as much. The drink goes down pretty quickly after that.
A few minutes after making polite conversation with the three of them (Bahorel about boxing, Feuilly about work, and Musichetta about how wasted whiskey is as a drink in the most general sense of the word) Grantaire slips off his stool, retrieves his cane and decides to face the music. Which is ironic, isn’t it, because they’ll actually be making music soon—
It’s no good. He still can’t make himself laugh. Grantaire says goodbye to the three of them and slips back out into the hallway, pausing for a moment before opening the backstage door. He feels a bit useless at the moment – has felt useless ever since Enjolras first started acting weird around him, a few months back when they played a gig at that fancy bar close to the Musée d’Orsay. Grantaire can’t remember doing anything wrong that night, although, admittedly, he might’ve been a bit tipsy. Nevertheless, that’s no reason for Enjolras to constantly give him the cold shoulder, now, is it?
He’s a bit tipsy now, he realises, even after a single drink. Hopefully Enjolras won’t notice much. If he pays about as much attention to Grantaire as he already has been doing these past couple of months, he won’t notice at all. Grantaire hopes the alcohol will serve to make him feel a little less melancholy when he goes home tonight. Probably not, but he can at least remain hopeful about it. It’s something to look forward to, at the end of the day.
He sighs, folds away the cane (he hates the cane) and opens the backstage door. They’re well-practised as a quartet, despite his and Enjolras’ personal sideshow of a sparring competition. Grantaire puts on a good show regardless of whatever else is going on around him. He always has.
Just one night, he thinks. Just one night of muddled acceptance, please. I’ll be okay after that.
The uncertainty that’s been plaguing him all day long vanishes when he sits down in front of the drum kit. To the left of him, he can hear the fumble of Éponine picking her guitar up from the stand – Courfeyrac mirrors the gesture on the opposite side. They’re both flicking strings in unison to check the sound system in the minutes before the venue opens. Enjolras, Grantaire thinks, is standing directly in front of him, talking with Combeferre in low tones about the final changes they’ve decided to make to the mixing board and the set list. Grantaire’s going to be playing some of his favourite songs tonight. There is absolutely no reason to be feeling anything but relief. So he lets go. All other feelings drop to the side. Combeferre melts back into the shadows of backstage; Enjolras leans forward to pluck the microphone out of its stand. Grantaire can feel the house lights drop. He’s never really had to deal with stage fright, if he’s being honest with himself. It’s different when you can’t see the fifty or so people you’re playing to. But he can hear them; muttering to themselves as the lights dim, glasses clinking and coats rustling on the backs of chairs. Grantaire leans back on the stool and takes a deep breath, adjusting his grip on the drumsticks. He always forgets how good this feels. He doesn’t know how he could possibly forget.
The people file in, and Éponine strikes out at the bass guitar as if it has personally offended her, the way it’s always been. A grin stretches across his face. He joins in just as Courfeyrac starts on his first set of chords. And then, like the absolute asshole he is, Enjolras begins to sing. The chorus, like always, seems pretty much set to break Grantaire’s heart. They’re no longer a mere quartet, in that moment. They are Se Révolter, and, as Éponine is warrant to say, they are pretty damn badass. Grantaire lets the words and music fill him up with barely concealed glee.
“I’ll give you one night only
For your eyes only
If entertainment is what you want
Then honey, I’m the best
I know that we’re together
For all your pleasure
Forever, forever, forever
This is how we burn.”
They work their way through half the set, ending with a number he’s pretty sure Éponine wrote herself, then end for a break. By the end of it, sweat is leaking through the back of Grantaire’s shirt and his hands are aching like he’s been playing for hours. It feels excellent.
He stands up, shuffles sideways from behind the kit (it’s a small stage) and makes his way over towards the backstage door – only to be stopped by a hand that is intensely and unwittingly familiar. Enjolras coughs politely and steps back, presumably to face him, and says awkwardly, “Grantaire. Can I, uh—can we talk?”
He’s never heard Enjolras nervous before, he realises. The sound of it sets the ache in his chest off all over again. He nods mutely and follows Enjolras through the main door into the hallway. There’s a sudden change in the density of Enjolras’ footsteps; he’s making for the goddam stairs. Grantaire sighs.
“E?” he says. He sounds so weary; he can’t seem to help it. “I can’t—you need to help me with the stairs. Unless you wanna talk here?”
Enjolras seems to hesitate for a moment – probably glancing towards the backstage door, Grantaire thinks. Then, he walks back down a few stairs and reaches forward to grab hold of Grantaire’s hand. Grantaire, needless to say, is surprised. He wonders what thing is so awful that Enjolras has to take him upstairs to tell him. Maybe they’ve got a new drummer. It wouldn’t surprise Grantaire. Though Éponine would probably threaten to quit if they did, he muses. Maybe there’s hope for him yet. He allows his Enjolras lead him up the stairs and tries not to wince every time he misjudges and slams a foot into one of the heavy stone slabs. Damn this staircase, honestly. Musichetta’s boss needs to install a fucking lift.
Enjolras lets go of his hand as soon as they reach ground level. Grantaire tries not to feel too hurt by that. If he is being kicked out—
He doesn’t get to finish that thought, though, because Enjolras isn’t done. Grantaire stands still as he wrenches open the back door to the venue, a gust of cold September air blowing in with the darkness of the night. Grantaire assumes it’s dark now, anyway. It feels cold enough to be midnight or thereabouts. There’s a timid touch to his wrist; Enjolras, afraid again. Grantaire’s heartbeat speeds up beneath his ribs. The pain in his sternum increases.
They walk out together into the night, and that’s when Enjolras kisses him.
Surprised is not quite the right word for it. Grantaire jerks back slightly as Enjolras’ lips meet his, then relaxes, arms flailing for a moment before he decides to just keep still. Enjolras’ hand is on his shoulder. It feels like his brain might be malfunctioning, alongside his eyes. But this is as real as Grantaire has ever felt. After a moment, Enjolras pulls hesitantly back.
“I—uh—was that okay?” he asks, stumbling again. There’s a shuffling kind of sound as he steps back, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans; Grantaire stretches out a hand to pull him back.
“It—it was very okay, yes,” he gets out, because Enjolras isn’t the only one who’s completely gobsmacked by what he just did. Not necessarily in a bad way though, he thinks dreamily. Kissing Enjolras really isn’t bad at all. Grantaire’s hands fumble for Enjolras’ hands and find them easily; Enjolras practically melts into him in response. “I kinda thought you hated me?” he says, framing it like a question because he feels like it needs to be said. Enjolras’ shoulders curve inwards.
“I don’t,” he says quietly, “I—I just didn’t know how to, uh. You know. Make it obvious or anything.” He lets out a small sigh. Eventually, Grantaire will come to associate it with Enjolras realising he is wrong. It doesn’t happen very often. He reaches out carefully to place a hand on his cheek, fingers grazing against Enjolras’ cheekbone before moving upwards towards his brow. Éponine wasn’t lying about the eyebrows.
“Sorry for freaking out,” Enjolras whispers. “When you asked about – you know. I didn’t realise you meant it. I didn’t understand – why you’d want to know my face.”
Grantaire smiles in spite of himself. Enjolras isn’t wearing his hair up tonight. He reaches forward to run his hands through it, a shiver running between his shoulderblades; Enjolras kisses him again.
The timer on Enjolras’ watch gives an insistent beep. With a reluctant sigh, Enjolras pushes himself back to look at the time.
“Better get back inside,” he says. “All those stairs, remember?”
“How could I forget,” Grantaire mutters, but he’s still smiling. He feels light inside; light enough to float away. He stretches out a hand for Enjolras’, relishing the contact, and then they’re back inside again, and the whole world is waiting, and Grantaire feels positively drunk on love. Must be the Whiskey Sour, he thinks.
They finish the set, Grantaire smiling all the while. Most of the crowd files out straight away, but there’s always a few stragglers, and tonight most of them are Grantaire’s friends. He sits down on the edge of the staging and allows them to come to him. It’s easier, that way. Bahorel and Feuilly are the first.
“You seem happy,” Bahorel comments. He pushes a drink into Grantaire’s hand; Grantaire eagerly accepts it. They sit down on either side of him. Feuilly says, “Did something happen?”
“I sorted out my Enjolras trouble,” Grantaire says. He sips at the drink. He’s probably more than a little tipsy by this point. Never mind. He kissed Enjolras. Twice. In the darkness, that’s all that really matters. “We’ve – well. We’ve come to a mutual agreement.”
Feuilly reaches across him to poke Bahorel in the side. “I told you,” he says to him. “I told you it was a crush. What an idiot,” he adds happily, leaning into Grantaire’s side. Grantaire lets him. Feuilly, he thinks fondly, is a spindly as Bahorel is broad. He’s drunk, and he loves them both very much, so he tells them so. Bahorel laughs.
“Better get Éponine,” he says to Feuilly. They stand up, making their way towards the bar, and are quickly lost amongst the hubbub of Musichetta’s radio and the chatter of his friends’ voices. He really is feeling quite sentimental tonight. Funny how that happens after a kiss and a couple of drinks.
The void is filled suddenly by the presence of Éponine. By the bouncing of her platforms on the wood beneath, she is also feeling particularly happy. She pulls Grantaire up from the stage and dances crazily with him in a half-circle.
“She said yes! I’m dating goddam Cosette Fauchelevent! And you kissed E, apparently, or E kissed you. I still haven’t gotten the full story.” Grantaire steps back from her and shrugs.
“Not much of a story,” he says to her, because he is always honest with Éponine. “He kissed first and apologised afterwards. Who would’ve thought it.” Éponine punches him on the shoulder.
“I hate you so much,” she says affectionately. Éponine must be drunk too, because suddenly her arms are wrapped around Grantaire’s neck in a hug and nothing Grantaire says will convince her to let go. Eventually, he just gives in, going limp.
“Hate you too,” he says quietly. “I can’t wait to hear you seduce Cosette with a double bass solo.”