"Are you coming?" Bahorel asked.
Grantaire looked up from his project and sighed. "Yeah, I'm on my way." He shook his head at the Baby Moses in the basket, threw down his pastels and shrugged on his jacket.
Bahorel grinned as he joined him by the door. "You're going to love this."
Grantaire rolled his eyes. "Really?"
"I definitely hope so." Bahorel cracked his knuckles. "If nothing else, your entire social circle is going to be there."
Grantaire raised an eyebrow. "Hopefully not my entire social circle."
Bahorel shrugged. "The only part that matters."
That was fair.
The two shoved their hands in their pockets to protect from the biting cold and started the trek to the nearby Cafe Musain.
The minute Grantaire stepped foot in the back room, he was accosted by a bundle of dark curls and obscenely yellow pants. "Hi, you're R! I'm Courfeyrac, we're friends now."
The sincerity of the statement nearly knocked Grantaire off his feet. "Okay," he said, because what else could he say?
Courfeyrac swept him into the room, introducing him to everyone he hadn't met yet, which turned out to be only one person so far, Courfeyrac's roommate, Marius Pontmercy. The poor boy stammered so much, Grantaire worried his teeth might fall out, so he quickly excused himself to go both Joly and Bossuet.
"So!" he shouted, flinging his arms around both of them, then he lowered his voice to continue. "Who are we still waiting for?"
At that moment, the door flew open, and in stalked the most beautiful man Grantaire had ever seen, and right behind him, a twink if he ever saw one.
Said twink stormed over, furiously tying up long blond hair before sticking out his hand and smiling. "Hello, I'm Enjolras, the organizer. I don't believe we met."
"Grantaire. It's my first meeting." Grantaire took the hand and shook it firmly, appreciating Enjolras' grip through the fabric of his sleeve. "How old are you anyway? You look like a teenager."
Enjolras scowled, and Grantaire noticed then he hadn't blinked once in their entire interaction. "I'm twenty-two."
Grantaire grinned. "Nice! You'll look great when you're older."
"That's what everybody says." Enjolras turned and walked away.
"Rude," Grantaire muttered.
Joly patted his hand. "Us short people are very sensitive."
And with that, the meeting began in earnest.
Grantaire didn't care much about it, but he managed to keep the commentary in his head to himself this time, and just tuned everything out in favor of watching Enjolras move.
Or not move, as it turned out. His voice was powerful and emotive, but his hands stayed clasped behind his back like he was reciting some mandated poetry he didn't really care for. His tone and his posture were at odds, and while everyone else seemed to instantly fall for that voice, Grantaire couldn't tell which to believe.
"I'm having a party," Courfeyrac announced, once Combeferre had adjourned the meeting. "Everyone better be there, even you, Enjolras."
Enjolras and Combeferre shared a look.
"How long have they been together?" Grantaire asked Jehan - if anyone knew, fae would.
"Together?" fae asked, shaking faer head. "No, don't get me wrong, they're frighteningly codependent, but they're not together."
"Huh," Grantaire said.
Grantaire arrived early to Courfeyrac's party - early enough to be put to work. He'd just put the last of the streamers up when the host ordered him to take peoples coats and bags to the spare room.
Grantaire laughed and took up his post at the door, greeting each person as they arrived.
Jehan was third-to-last to arrive, and fae turned around and swept faer jacket off faer shoulders with a huff, before grinning and jumping around. "I've always wanted to do that!"
Combeferre and Enjolras walked in together. "Sorry I didn't introduce myself last time," Combeferre said as he handed him his jacket. "I did notice you, but I left some things to the last minute."
Enjolras mumbled something about a bad example under his breath. He wasn't wearing a coat, but he did have a small backpack slung over his shoulder.
Grantaire reached for it. "I can take that for you, if you like."
Enjolras ducked out of his reach and glared. "No. I need it."
"It'll just be in the bedroom," Grantaire promised.
Enjolras shook his head. "I need it."
Grantaire huffed. "What is it? Social justice things?"
"Yes," Enjolras said a little too quickly. He blinked.
Grantaire stared back, recognizing a tell when he saw one.
Combeferre stepped between them. "It's alright, Grantaire. He'll keep it out of the way if that's your concern."
Enjolras nodded vehemently, once, twice, then froze.
Grantaire shrugged. "Alright. What the marble statue wants, the marble statue gets."
Enjolras grabbed Combeferre by the hand and practically dragged him away.
Grantaire's eyes skipped to their fingers and then back up to Enjolras' wrist, where there were thick scars all around it in a very familiar pattern. He swallowed and hurried to the spare room.
Joly was there, hiding from humanity for a bit, and Grantaire had never been more grateful. He dumped the coats on the floor with the rest of the pile and turned to his friend. "Have you seen Enjolras' scars?"
"Hm?" Joly looked up, nodding. "I don't think it's self-harm, if that's what you're thinking, at least, not from cutting. And I haven't seen any new ones since I've known him."
Grantaire nodded distractedly. "I don't think they're self-harm, either. They look like they're from handcuffs."
Joly frowned thoughtfully. "As far as I know, Enjolras has never been arrested."
"Do you think-?"
Joly cut him off with a laugh. "Trust me, it's not a sex thing."
Joly laughed even harder at the look on his face. "You have a very predictably dirty mind, my friend. Come on, I'm feeling more like myself now. Let's go enjoy ourselves."
Grantaire tried, he really did, but he ended up staring at Enjolras' wrists the entire night.
Grantaire made it to the next meeting. Enjolras, however, did not.
Courfeyrac looked up from his phone about two minutes before they were supposed to start and called the meeting to order. “Okay, Enjolras and Combeferre are out tonight, so I’ll be leading.”
Grantaire leaned back in his chair to send a meaningful glance Jehan’s way.
Fae shook faer head and mouthed sternly, “They’re not dating.”
Grantaire raised an eyebrow and turned his attention back to Courfeyrac. He tapped on the surface, trying to come up with a plan.
After the meeting, he came up to Courfeyrac. “Hey, good job. Does this happen often?”
Courfeyrac frowned. “Enjolras missing a meeting? No, rarely. He always gets really grumpy when he’s not following his usual routine. He must be really sick or something.”
Grantaire nodded. “Do you want to go ‘round to theirs tomorrow? I make a mean chicken soup.”
Courfeyrac smiled gratefully. “That would be great. I always want to go by myself, but well, it’s intimidating….”
“You? Intimidated?” Grantaire snorted. “By what? I know all three of you are upper-class kids.”
Courfeyrac shook his head. “That’s not it. You’ll see.”
Grantaire did see.
Every inch of the apartment was perfectly controlled, in a kind of rigid chaos. The shoes were in a pile by the door, but more of a pyramid, with the most loved on top. Same with the books, stacked on every surface on only the east side of the living room.
He was afraid to touch a single thing, to accidentally move anything even one millimeter to the left.
“What’s going on?” Combeferre asked, smiling pleasantly.
Courfeyrac beamed. “We thought you might be sick, so Grantaire made soup.”
“Soup?” Enjolras stumbled out of the hall, looking exhausted, but no more worse for wear than that. He walked over and took the Tupperware container from Grantaire’s hands, scanning the contents.
“No noodles,” Grantaire said. “Courfeyrac said you didn’t like them.”
Enjolras nodded, then pointed to some sort of sliced root. “Carrots?”
Grantaire shook his head. “Ginger.”
Enjolras nodded, turned, and walked back to his room, without so much as a thank you.
Grantaire glanced at Combeferre for an explanation.
Combeferre sighed. “Why don’t you go follow him? He won’t mind, and I need to talk with Courfeyrac about the meeting anyway. Fair warning, though, he may try to cuddle you.”
Grantaire raised an eyebrow, but he nodded and followed.
He found Enjolras seated at his desk, staring at the microwave he had in his room. He looked up when he entered and shrugged. “Sometimes, the kitchen takes too much energy.”
“You’re alright, though?” Grantaire asked, taking a seat on the bed.
Enjolras nodded and retrieved the soup from the microwave, immediately digging in with a spoon he had in his pen cup. He had separate cups for pens and pencils, Grantaire noticed. There were forks in the pencil cup. Enjolras took a bite and hummed appreciatively, readjusting in his seat in a way that looked more like an attempt to stay still than anything else. “Sometimes, my brain doesn’t like me,” he said.
Grantaire nodded. “I have depression, so mood.”
Enjolras squinted at him with his spoon hanging out of his mouth for a moment, then nodded, returning to his meal. “Yes. It’s exhausting for a couple days afterward, but I’m fine.”
“Okay,” Grantaire said, not sure what else to say.
Enjolras sighed. “You make good soup,” he said, then fell silent in favor of eating.
Grantaire sat with him until he’d finished half, then walked back out to the living room with him to put the remainder in the fridge.
“Alright?” Combeferre asked.
“We should… probably go,” Courfeyrac said.
Combeferre smiled. “Well, we won’t keep you.”
Grantaire and Courfeyrac walked out and down the street together. “That was weird, right?” Grantaire asked eventually.
Courfeyrac nodded. “Everything about those two is weird. I keep referring to them as boyfriends in my head, even though I know they’re not. At least, not yet.”
“How long have you known them?”
Courfeyrac shrugged. “Couple years. They’ve been friends since birth, though, it’s hard to top that.” He sighed and raked a hand through his curls. “I don’t know.”
Grantaire bit his lip. “What about the scars?” He grabbed his wrist.
“I don’t know. They don’t talk about it. Enjolras hates it when people stare at them, but he hates it more when he wears stuff over them. You probably didn’t notice, we were all really surprised when he showed up in a sweater your first meeting.”
“I didn’t know.”
Courfeyrac sighed. “One thing’s for sure. Now that I know he likes cuddles, I’m going to hug the shit out of him the next time I see him.”
True to his word, at the next meeting, Courfeyrac tackled Enjolras to the ground in a hug. "You’re back!" he cheered.
Enjolras went limp, eyes wide with terror.
"Enjolras?" Courfeyrac propped himself up on his elbows, trying to find out what was wrong.
Enjolras pushed him off of him and scuttled away until his back was against the wall, hyperventilating as he pressed his fists into his eyeballs.
Grantaire ran out the door.
"Enjolras?" Courfeyrac took a step forward.
"No," Enjolras said. "No, no. Please."
It was the 'please' that stopped Courfeyrac in his tracks.
"Enjolras!" Combeferre came running into the room, Grantaire just behind him. He dashed for Enjolras' backpack and fished out a worn stuffed rabbit. "Move, Courfeyrac," he ordered. He pressed the rabbit into Enjolras' arms. "Enjolras, do you know where you are?"
The silence as Enjolras hugged his blue rabbit to his chest, eyes flitting to and from every corner of the room, was even more worrying than a negative answer.
Combeferre crouched down to eye level, maintaining a respectful distance. "You're in France, in Paris, at the Cafe Musain. Do you know who I am?"
Enjolras nodded, burying his head in his knees.
"Do you need anything?"
He shook his head.
"Do you want them to leave?"
Enjolras hesitated, then nodded.
Combeferre turned and shooed them away, grateful when they obeyed without protest. "Hey," he murmured as they filed out. "They're gone. Can I touch you?"
Enjolras nodded and held out an arm to wrap around Combeferre's neck as he was scooped up into his lap.
Grantaire looked at the ground and closed the door behind him.
The others waited nervously in the hall.
"What do you think is happening?" Feuilly asked.
"We've all seen the scars on his wrists," Grantaire said, mind working overtime. "I bet it has something to do with those."
"Shush!" Courfeyrac hissed from where he had his ear pressed against the door. "Combeferre just asked what he should tell us."
They all fell silent for about thirty seconds.
"What did he say?" Bahorel asked.
"Everything." Courfeyrac's face fell. "'Everything. I'm so tired, Coco.'" He stood up, brushing off his knees. "He's coming, everyone act normal."
"I'm worried," Joly said, wringing his hands.
"I said act normal!"
"This is my normal!"
Combeferre stepped out of the room and shut the door behind him. "You have questions," he said, patient and calm as always – except he wasn’t, five minutes ago.
Courfeyrac broke first. "It's my fault, isn't it?"
"No." Combeferre's face did something downright murderous. "It's his parents’ fault."
"What happened?" Jehan asked.
"Enjolras is autistic," Combeferre said. He watched his audience carefully. "He's just very good at hiding it, because his parents convinced him that having a disability makes him a worthless, useless burden. They also sent him to a facility in America where the staff took away every single one of his healthy coping methods by holding him down and electrocuting him every time he acted 'different'. He was eleven."
Joly sat down, breathing slowly through his nose.
"How did they-?" Bossuet cut himself off with a strangled cry of rage.
"It's America," Musichetta said softly.
Combeferre shook his head. "It's ableism. They do it here, too."
"The scars on his wrists," Grantaire interrupted, "I thought they were from handcuffs. But hospital restraints are padded specifically to keep patients from harming themselves."
Combeferre nodded. "That's true. What Enjolras told me was that he was in restraints an average of eight hours a day. Whenever they took them off, he could still feel them. He wanted them gone."
"They would've gotten rid of anything sharp," Bahorel said. "So, what, he did that with his fingernails?"
It took a few moments for Combeferre's silence to sink in.
Joly dove for the nearest trashcan.
"They tortured him," Feuilly choked. "They would've restrained him and electrocuted him more for that. It's a cycle."
"That can't be legal," Bossuet said, looking sick as well.
"It's not." Combeferre stuck his hands in his pockets. "But there are loopholes." He sighed. "He has PTSD - "
"No shit," Grantaire spat.
Combeferre gave him a grateful glance. "But it's undiagnosed. Understandably, he won't see a therapist after that, and I'm not allowed to treat friends and family. At least, not professionally."
"So, what can we do to help?"
Combeferre huffed a dry laugh. "Not compare him to a marble statue for starters."
"Look," Combeferre sighed, "Enjolras learned many things at that place, none of them good. But chiefly, he learned nobody cares about him unless he's being useful, and anything other than what's expected will bring him pain. I mean-" He heaved in a deep, ragged breath. "There are still things he won't tell me, to ‘spare’ me, but the time he had to smile, look his abusers in the eye, and say 'Hello, how are you doing today?' as they fucking tased him is not fucking one of them. So how much more fucking horrible are they?!"
The others gaped. Combeferre didn't curse.
He wiped his face with his sleeve. "So just don't encourage those types of things. Please."
"I won't," Grantaire said quietly. "I won't."
Enjolras wasn't expecting the door to open so soon, and he definitely wasn't expecting Grantaire to come in. Courfeyrac, maybe, to apologize, but not Grantaire. He didn't have a script for this.
Grantaire sat close, but not too close, leaning against the same wall. "Does your rabbit have a name?"
"Mimi," Enjolras said, rubbing the threadbare, floppy ears between his thumb and index finger. "It's short for Maximilien."
Grantaire smiled knowingly. "Robespierre?"
Enjolras smiled back.
Enjolras shook his head. "It's not your fault. It's my brain's. I told you it doesn’t like me. It's wrong."
"It's different," Grantaire agreed, "but it's beautiful. And I know from experience, it takes a long time to believe that, so I'll just keep saying it. It can be a new thing for us to argue about. Is that okay?"
Enjolras pressed his cheek into his knee and smiled. "Okay."
Grantaire smiled sadly.
Enjolras gave him Mimi and carefully scooched over, leaning his head on his shoulder.