Grantaire’s eyes have barely flitted open, but already he feels draining exhaustion seeped through his bones and weighing him deeper into his mattress.
Not this shit again.
Sighing, he throws a glance toward the bright green numbers of his digital clock, allowing himself two minutes to wallow in despair before he needs to get his depressed ass in gear.
It’s been getting better over the years: there was a time when he would have let the heaviness in his chest anchor him to bed and sink him into the ocean, a challenge to see if he could locate his newest rock-bottom. The self-hatred felt justified, the world was out to get him, and nothing in his life was worth getting out of bed and staying sober for anyhow.
These days, it’s just tedious.
The two minutes pass quickly, but Grantaire’s limbs still feel too heavy to lift out of bed. Fortunately, his phone is nearby.
[07.02] You: hey
[07.03] You: im having A Day
[07.03] **Perfection** <3 :) :) :) : omw
A telltale creak sounds at the door, and Grantaire can already smell the coffee. His brain only feels more acrid in its presence, but jolts of Pavlovian energy shoot through his limbs nevertheless.
“Are you gonna be okay to go to work today?” asks Jehan tentatively as ey seats emself on the bed. “I can call in for you, if you want.”
Nothing sounds more appealing than any excuse to stay in bed, but Grantaire knows if he gives into this now he’s only starting a rapid downward spiral for the days to come. “No, I want to do this, just—useless fucking chemical imbalances, y’know?”
He likes work, he knows he does. If he can just get himself out of bed, it’ll be okay. Okay-er, anyway.
Nodding sagely, Jehan nudges Grantaire’s coffee closer. “Useless fucking chemical imbalances,” ey agrees. “Need help?”
“Maybe.” He allows Jehan to help pull him upright and to his feet. It helps that Jehan is a tallass stringbeany motherfucker and that Grantaire is decidedly not: if he were closer to Bahorel’s massive proportions, it’d be an operation requiring a Goddamned crane. “Thanks.”
“Anytime. I’ll keep my phone on vibrate today, okay?”
“Kay.” He should say more, he knows he should: Jehan is a notoriously difficult friend to get a hold of, and making emself available in case of Stupid Brain Emergencies (SBEs) is a gesture of huge magnitude on eir part, but today he just…can’t. He’ll have to make em another painting, one more gorgeous and massive than the last. “Love you.”
Eir face lights up in tired appreciation. “I love you too.” Leaning in, ey deposits a soft kiss on his cheek before heading back to the doorway. “Anything at all, okay? Keep me updated. I care, and nothing I’m doing is too important for you.”
“I know. Thanks.”
Ey leaves him standing in the middle of his room, coffee still in-hand and wiping blearily at his eyes.
He can do this.
His morning routine had been a process today: doing his whole hair and skin ritual had been beyond him, as had flossing, but he showered and brushed his teeth and ate the bagel that Jehan had pointedly left out for him, and he is basically on-time for work.
Work itself is an entirely different story.
Normally it’s easy to smile and engage with the customers while making their drinks. He’ll put on a show, joke with them, sometimes even draw a picture in the foam if he’s feeling particularly zany or inspired.
‘Zany’ is not remotely how he’d describe himself right now.
“Having A Day?” Floréal guesses, bumping her hip against his as he flubs another triple-venti soy something.
“That obvious, huh?” It’s not something to be embarrassed about, Joly has told him one thousand times, but it doesn’t stop the shame from roiling in his stomach. Depression is a cowardly little bitch, he reminds himself. “What brings you out front?”
“Ép said it’s time for your break.”
“I already took lunch and my fifteen.”
The towering blonde shrugs. “Just passing on the message. Go, you know there’ll be hell to pay if you don’t. I’ve got things under control here, no worries.”
Not that Grantaire has ever been one to avoid a good fight, but talking his way out of a second break hardly seems worth the effort. He heads into the back and is fully prepared to collapse into the break room’s armchair when he catches a glimpse of Éponine through her office window squinting at some paperwork on her desk.
His presence in the doorway is announced with two knocks at the glass. “Floréal sent me on break?”
“Yeah,” she responds without looking up. “I have an errand to run in a few minutes, so we’re gonna have to keep this short, but once you’re back on can you make a bunch of those chocolatey bonbon bitches? You’re the only one around here who seems to be able not to burn them, and I want them ready to serve for opening shift tomorrow.”
Grantaire can see exactly what Éponine is doing, and he’s grateful that they have this unspoken language: this is Éponine’s way of giving him a break from being in a high-pressure setting and letting him do something they both know he’s good at and enjoys. Éponine isn’t like Jehan: she doesn’t do hugs or talk about her feelings. Affection is a covert affair but one she nevertheless takes extremely seriously, and the quiet understanding between them speaks to the near-decade it took to reach this point.
“How many brigadeiros are you thinking you’ll want?” Thank you.
“Fuck if I know. As many as you can finish before the end of your shift.” Enough for you to take home.
“That’s a lot.” You sure?
“Fuck knows they’ll sell.” You’re good at this, and I trust you.
“You’re the boss.” If you say so.
“Damn fucking right.” She claps her hands decisively. “Now get out of my office: you’re off in two hours, and I want the openers tomorrow to have to call me complaining about digging their way into the kitchen with a shovel through untold amounts of truffly-goodness.”
“Aye-aye, Cap’n,” he grins, effecting a salute before turning back into the kitchen.
There are too many messages on his phone.
It’s not normally an issue, but today it’s overwhelming. He’s just finished cleaning the kitchen, no fewer than seven trays of truffles cooling in the fridge and a container set aside in Éponine’s office in unspoken thanks. His vovó had always taught him that brigadeiros are most delicious when they’re shared, but that doesn’t stop Grantaire from eating half of his own container on the way home.
“Jehan? You in?” he calls to the apartment when he arrives home.
“I am!” The poet springs up from where ey was layed out across the couch. “There’s sandwiches in the fridge whenever you’re hungry. How was work?”
“Can you check my messages for me? People want to talk, or something.” It’s easier to play it off as a joke, with a tired smirk and a roll of his eyes. He tosses the phone to Jehan before going into the kitchen and tucking the remaining confections into the refrigerator. There’s a pitcher of sunflowers on the counter that wasn’t there when he left that morning, and he feels some of the strain that has been tugging at his muscles since retrieving his phone dissolve.
“Ummm.” A thump indicates that Jehan has flopped back onto the sofa. “Ép wants to know how much you got done?”
“Okay.” Where would Grantaire be without Jehan? Nowhere, that’s where. “Bahorel is checking to see if you’re still on for boxing this evening. Are you?”
Sighing, Grantaire rubs a hand over his face. He loves spending time with Bahorel, but going to the gym feels like a lot today. “I have to budget my spoons.”
“Gotcha, I’ll let him know then. Aaaaaaand Boss and Jojo wanna know if you’re planning on going to the meeting tonight.” At this, Jehan looks up at Grantaire.
Fuck. As focused as he’d been on getting through the day, he’d entirely forgotten about the meeting. Les Amis meetings are always a double-edged sword: on the one hand, all of his friends are there, and it’s a low-energy way to be near people who make him feel loved in a space he feel comfortable in. On the other hand, it’s also where he can count on having all of the atrocities of humanity rubbed in his face and be reminded in harsh detail how awful people and the world can be.
It all hangs on a single thread: Enjolras. Whether Grantaire comes away from the meeting feeling hope or despair depends on one man and how persuasive he can be today.
It’s not a gamble Grantaire can afford.
“I’m proud of you, R.”
There’s so much sincerity in the statement that Grantaire’s throat tightens for a moment before he can control his breathing again. Useless fucking chemical imbalances. “Thanks, Jehan.”
Ey hums, and Grantaire starts for his room. “Bahorel’s asking if you’re up to hang out here instead.”
Pausing with his hand on the doorknob, he takes a moment to evaluate his current state. “Yeah. Tell him he can come over whenever.”
Spending time with Bahorel is always nice because they don’t have to say anything. Sure, sometimes they shittalk when they box, but other times they’re silently lifting on opposites sides of the room, or taking the same track at completely different paces, or just sitting next to each other on the metro to or from their next destination.
Today is a quiet day: it’s one of the rare periods that Bahorel is actually trying to study for his bar exam, and Grantaire is playing on his phone. It should feel awkward, but it doesn’t, and he is grateful for it.
The sound of a book shutting dramatically echoes through the room, and he looks up at his friend. “I’d better be heading out to the meeting, then. You coming?”
Grantaire shakes his head. “Not tonight. Maybe next time.”
“Solid.” Bahorel pulls Grantaire into a hug, slapping his back twice before letting himself out.
Stretching, Grantaire is halfway to his room again when he feels someone pressing up behind him, foreign fingertips gently rubbing at his nipples.
“Bahorel let you in, then?” he guesses, pulling away to turn to Bossuet.
“It’s a movie-night kinda night,” Bossuet shrugs, wrapping himself around Grantaire again. “Your options are shitty comedy, shitty action, shitty horror, or Princess and the Frog.”
A laugh rises in Grantaire’s throat. If Bossuet had asked earlier Grantaire might have declined, but after his downtime with Bahorel he feels rejuvenated. “How could I possibly choose?”
“Fortunately you won’t have to,” comes another voice. Joly must have snuck in during Bossuet’s assault. “I have more notes for your board.”
The Positivity Board had been Jehan’s idea, but it had taken mere days for Joly’s salmon-colored post-its to overrun the corkboard. The love notes make him smile every time he sees them, reminders that his friends value and appreciate him for him even when his troll-brain refuses to believe it.
“Put ‘em on, we can wait.” Withdrawing his phone, he unlocks the screen and goes to open the appropriate app. “Is Muse hiding somewhere ‘round here too?”
“Unfortunately the Lady Musichetta is stuck on second-shift, but she sent us over with some stickers that reminded her of you and fudge. Joly’s prolly putting it in the fridge now.”
Grantaire’s eyes aren’t watering, they aren’t. “Thanks,” he says, voice totally not cracking at all. “I’ll uh. Pass on my thanks, yeah?” He sniffles once, twice, before pulling himself together again. Useless fucking chemical imbalances. “Chinese sound good?”
“Chinese sounds amazing,” responds Joly emphatically from the other side of the apartment.
By the time Jehan is letting emself in from the meeting, it’s hard to tell where Bossuet ends and Grantaire begins: their legs are a tangled mess on the sofa, wrapped up in not one but three fleece blankets. In an armchair claimed all for themself sits Joly huddled in a snuggie that Grantaire suspects they brought.
“Shit, is it already that late?” Releasing a leisurely yawn, Bossuet stretches to check his phone. “Jo and I need to be heading out: they and I both have early starts tomorrow, and if Muse gets back before we do she’s going to be meaner than usual when she wakes us up.”
“She shouldn’t have to,” Jehan offers in friendly chastisement from the kitchen.
“She’s always up anyhow.”
“It’s our ‘us’ time,” Joly adds, pushing themself up. “We really should be going, though.”
It’s another minute before Grantaire and Bossuet are able to extract themselves from one another, and once the four exchange hugs Joly and Bossuet head out.
“Chinese?” Jehan surmises, surveying the wreckage.
Reflecting on the past fifteen hours, Grantaire feels warmth wash over him. “Good day.”
A smile breaks across Jehan’s face. “That’s great, R. You deserve it.”
Heading to his room, Grantaire pauses when his hand reaches the knob. “Hey Jehan?”
He hesitates a beat before pushing on. “Can I sleep next to you tonight?”
Grantaire hears rather than sees Jehan’s grin. “Of course.”