Opening night goes without a hitch, slightly to everyone's surprise. It's a sharp play, one of Combeferre's best. The comparisons to Noel Coward aren't unjustified and they make Combeferre flush with pride every time, even though he tries to deny it, waving a hand and smiling, bashful, dropping his eyes.
There's not so much an after-party as there is an after-event, the whole lot of them pouring into the pub on the corner opposite the theatre. There's Combeferre, glasses askew, being hugged round the neck by an exuberant Eponine, leaning over the bar to get to him; Courfeyrac, still in his costume bow-tie, dancing in the limited space by the old-fashioned jukebox, Feuilly and Bahorel whooping by his side; Cosette, shiny from removing stage make-up, coming through the door hand in hand with Marius. Marius is still covered in grease from the lighting rig and it's rubbing off on Cosette where their arms brush but neither of them seem to mind at all.
There's Joly, cane on the table in front of him, laughing and bright-eyed in Musichetta's lap; Bossuet on his way back from the bar, ill-advisedly juggling their all drinks.
There's Jehan, his hair in a long ponytail, wearing two clashing kinds of orange plaid and a pink tartan waistcoat, watching Courfeyrac dance. Jehan's sleeves are rolled up to his elbows and Grantaire can see the rose vine tattoos on his forearms from across the room.
And there, leaning on the opposite wall in a crisp shirt and creased jeans, tousle-haired and flushed from the stage lights, is Enjolras.
Enjolras still has his stage eyeliner lingering near his long eyelashes and his hands look like an aristocrat's of old: pale, long-fingered, ready for indolent use. He has a mouth shaped for sin, made for dirty words and dirtier deeds, and a jaw made to bear bite marks along its strong lines. Enjolras talks like he's upholding justice but Grantaire thinks there's something of the bacchic in him, kept well masked.
They've been doing this since the first day of rehearsals, catching each other's eyes on them. Even as friends, weeks in, it’s true. One of them looks up: the other is looking back.
Enjolras always drops his gaze when it's noticed. Grantaire has started not to.
Rehearsals are long and the theatre small and everyone knows everyone better than they probably should but definitely not more than they'd like. Courfeyrac picks at his hangnails when he's nervous, for example. Bossuet forgets to wash up almost one hundred percent of the time. Habits come out in shared spaces and, in the theatre, Grantaire has seen Enjolras reveal almost all of his. He sleeps tucked into a stall chair between acts, head lolling on Grantaire’s shoulder; when he’s bleary and hoarse after long nights he still refuses to go home until he's happy with a scene; he checks his phone absently in the little theatre kitchen while the kettle boils but always remembers how Grantaire takes his coffee. What Grantaire hasn't seen before is the way Enjolras is looking at him now across the happy, noisy pub floor: Enjolras, dark-eyed, and clearly wanting.
Wanting, and looking at him.
Neither of them says anything. It feels like they're holding something up between them, a game of telephones with cans on wires, just as easily cut as pulled to a tight conclusion.
Enjolras disappears through the bathroom door. Grantaire follows.
All the stalls are empty but for the one at the end of the little row with its door closed. Enjolras's feet are visible in the gap below.
He knocks, very carefully, on the stall door. It swings inwards slightly, not locked, and he hears Enjolras catch his breath. He waits.
After a moment, Enjolras opens the door.
There's something wild and adrenaline-fuelled about him now, the way everyone gets after a good show. Enjolras looks like he's pushed his limits and found them easily expanded, like he's looked at Grantaire properly for the first time and found himself feeling his lack.
They've been circling each other since the day Enjolras walked onto the stage for the first time and Grantaire had looked up from the table he'd been carrying. Backlit, Enjolras had looked mesmeric, untouchable, but he'd come over to greet Grantaire all the same.
"Hi," says Grantaire, now, a peak of conversational genius. "You okay?"
Enjolras's breath is coming quickly. Grantaire can see his chest rising and falling with it. He looks like a man making a decision. Grantaire waits for him to find his answer.
When he does, he reaches out for Grantaire and drags him in by his belt.
Enjolras kisses like a man with nothing to lose, and Grantaire backs them into the stall, flips them to get Enjolras pressed against the door. Enjolras tastes like chewing gum and cheap lemonade and god knows what Grantaire's breath is like, late in the day and three cigarettes down, but it doesn't matter at all.
What does matter is that Grantaire was right, that all the times he's caught Enjolras looking guiltily away from him when he's been staggering off-stage, sweating through his t-shirt after a scene change, they’ve been exactly what Grantaire has thought. Enjolras hasn't said anything, anything about what he likes or wants or wouldn't go near, but there's a way that people look at Grantaire that he knows how to recognise, and he's seen it written bold and clear across Enjolras's face for weeks.
Grantaire has been with his fair share of first-timers, shy guys from small towns that’ve never had another guy's hand on their dick, guys who aren't sure who they want, guys that don't want to want him but do, that really do. Enjolras has never said anything, just looked, and scowled when he's been caught looking, and so Grantaire has waited, patient, just in case.
Enjolras is anything but reticent now, though, clutching Grantaire against him like someone's trying to pull them apart. Grantaire kisses him as well as he knows how, letting all the weeks of need and hope and want come out in the hint of teeth he presses into Enjolras's lower lip, the slide of tongue. Enjolras's breathing turns ragged fast and Grantaire can feel how much he wants this, Enjolras pressing hard and insistent against him.
"Can I?" Grantaire asks, his own voice raspy, playing his fingers along the waistband of Enjolras's jeans.
The muscles in Enjolras's flat stomach shudder under Grantaire's touch, Enjolras's head thumping back against the stall door.
There’s a sudden burst of laughter from outside, a roar of good humour, and Enjolras freezes for a moment. Grantaire pulls back a little, giving him space. No one else comes into the bathroom. Enjolras breathes out.
"Yes," Enjolras says, looking Grantaire dead in the eye, his hips already bucking faintly up, "god, please."
"All right then," Grantaire says, and undoes Enjolras's zip.
Enjolras is wearing tight red boxer briefs and even just opening his fly seems to give him some relief, because he groans as Grantaire works his jeans down just off his hips, pushes the briefs down too. He swears, broken off and longing, when Grantaire first wraps his hand around him, finding Enjolras wet and wanting, already seeming strung tight on the edge.
God, but Grantaire has thought about this. He's watched Enjolras declaim with the fire of a god on stage and he's wanted to go to his knees for him right there, suck him off with the whole audience watching. He wants Enjolras breathless for him, undone.
"That's it," Grantaire tells him, jerking Enjolras off as slowly as he can bear, "that's it, just like that.”
Enjolras clutches him closer even when there's no closer for them to get. There's something desperate in his face, beyond the need to come. Grantaire kisses him for it, presses his mouth to Enjolras's cheeks, the furrow between his eyebrows, Enjolras's own gasping mouth.
"Easy, easy," he soothes. "I've got you."
Enjolras closes his eyes. "Faster," he says, rocking into Grantaire's hand. His voice is a wreck far beyond anything a handjob in a pub bathroom should account for. "Please, oh, please."
Grantaire speeds up obligingly and Enjolras moans, arching into it. It's barely taken anything, but Enjolras is shuddering like a tide is running through him, his fingers tightening to the point of pain on Grantaire's shoulders.
"Your hands," Enjolras says. There's colour burning high and frantic in his cheeks. “They’re so - “ he laughs a little, like it’s shaken loose from him. “Do you know how much I’ve thought about your hands?”
Grantaire kisses him. It’s either kiss him or say something he shouldn’t, something softer than this moment has space for. All the long nights they’ve put in to make this play work, all the early mornings and tattered script pages, the cups of coffee made side by side and the shared cabs to the train station - they’ve all been leading up to this, Enjolras gasping at the slide of Grantaire’s hands, Grantaire wanting to kiss him for it and knowing Enjolras wants that too.
Enjolras is bucking his hips without a rhythm now, breathless. Grantaire kisses him again, and again, until Enjolras gasps properly against his mouth.
"I,” Enjolras says, eyes still tight closed, "oh, you're so - I think I - I'm going to -"
"Do," Grantaire tells him, in the whisper-hot space by Enjolras's ear. "It's okay, you can."
"God," Enjolras pants, "oh, god, god," and he comes hot over Grantaire's hand, gasping like something is being branded onto his skin.
“Fuck,” Grantaire says, helplessly, “oh, fuck, look at you.”
Enjolras laughs again. He sounds just as taken apart as Grantaire feels, like something has wobbled off its axis and pushed them both together.
“Look at you,” Enjolras says, and bites his lip.
Grantaire has never seen him bite his lip before, and he’s seen Enjolras pace in the wings, nervous and hiding it badly, as the first audience was filing into the seats beyond the stage. He touches his finger to the indent on Enjolras’s lip, the white dip of it.
Enjolras shudders again, and flutters his eyes closed. When he looks back at Grantaire, there’s something very determined about him. He brings his hands from Grantaire’s back to the curve of his ribs. Grantaire imagines his heart banging against his bones, just to show Enjolras how much he wants this. Enjolras doesn’t stop biting his lip but he does slide his hands down further, until his fingers are brushing the tops of Grantaire’s thighs.
Grantaire ducks his head to look. Enjolras’s hands are pale against Grantaire’s jeans. Grantaire has seen Enjolras’s hands toying idly with his scripts, gesticulating on stage, closing around the prop Grantaire has handed him. Their fingers have brushed like that. It was the most they’d touched, until today.
Enjolras’s hands tighten against him. “R,” he says. “Let me?”
Grantaire laughs, leaning their foreheads together. “Let you?” he says. “God, Enjolras. I’d beg.”
“Don’t,” Enjolras says, and kisses Grantaire like he’s trying to prevent him saying anything at all. He sounds choked up, but he has just come. Maybe that’s what he always sounds like post-orgasm. Grantaire wants this again, so he can know the always from the rarities. “Just, just, let me - oh.”
They both breathe out together when Enjolras finally touches him. Grantaire has to plant his hand flat on the door behind Enjolras, just to keep his balance.
Enjolras is tentative, at first, the curl of his fingers at hesitant odds with the sound he makes when he first touches skin. He's looking down at his hand disappearing into Grantaire's open jeans like he can't quite believe it, his face lit up like a third act resolution.
"Fuck," he says, and his voice is equally amazed. "R, god. Can I - "
"If you want," Grantaire says, on a gasp. "Whatever, whatever you want."
Enjolras doesn't move for a second, still staring down between them. Grantaire twitches helplessly into his hand, just under the weight of his attention.
It seems to snap Enjolras back, because he says, in a tighter voice, "I don't - I haven't - " and then exhales, exasperated. "I haven't done this before," he says, tilting his chin up like he's expecting a fight. "With a guy."
"Oh," Grantaire says, and Enjolras's face tightens up too. "No, hey," and Grantaire reaches out, sets his fingertips gently to the thin bones at Enjolras's wrist.
Enjolras looks up at him like a shot, startling.
"Enjolras," Grantaire says. He doesn't make his voice gentle, just says Enjolras's name like this is any other day, nodding hello if they pass backstage or mentioning him in group conversation. He says again, trying to sound as warm as he feels, "Whatever you want."
Enjolras nods, something in his shoulders visibly untensing. "I want this," he says, leading man certain, and moves his hand. Grantaire gasps, curling forward. Enjolras smiles, satisfied. "Again," he says, and strokes Grantaire faster.
Of course, of course Enjolras is good at this, when he's never done it before. Grantaire remembers the adjustment, the first time he jerked someone off, the jarring moment when his knuckles brushed skin at an unfamiliar angle. It's not a challenge but it is different, and it doesn't seem to have phased Enjolras at all.
"You sure you've not done this before?" Grantaire pants, as wryly as someone can pant. "You're very good."
Colour rises in Enjolras’s face again, something pink and pleased that Grantaire doesn't think Enjolras would want attention drawn to. Christ. Enjolras hasn’t done this before and he’s chosen Grantaire for it. He has looked at all his options and picked Grantaire, wanted Grantaire’s hands on him, wanted to see Grantaire unravel.
“Very sure,” Enjolras says. His mouth twists on a clearly private joke. “Trust me.”
“I do,” Grantaire says, “I’d put my dick in your hands,” It’s for the express purpose of making Enjolras laugh and it works: Enjolras grins. “There you are,” Grantaire says, at the sight of it, and even as his hips are hitching forward for more, even as Enjolras keeps pulling him to the edge, he cups a hand around Enjolras cheek. “Hi.”
It’s grossly sentimental and almost certainly pushing the limits of this, whatever this is - a post-show hook-up? an inevitability? - but Grantaire wants it, the tender comfort of Enjolras’s face in his hands. Enjolras breathes out, a little ripple of air, and lets his eyes close, just for a moment.
It’s not a new thought by any means, but it hits Grantaire again now: this - they - could be more.
Enjolras is still flushed and his eyes are still dark. "God," he says, again, like Grantaire has done something much more remarkable than arch into his touch and stroke his thumb across the sharp line of Enjolras’s cheekbone. "God, you're going to come."
Grantaire laughs, very shakily. “Am I?” he says. “You seem quite certain.”
One of Enjolras’s eyebrows goes up. “I am,” he says, a sudden clarion clarity to his voice again, and then, “and you are.”
Enjolras, who hasn’t been with a guy before, curling his hand around Grantaire’s dick and telling him to come.
“Fuck,” Grantaire breathes, and does.
His whole body seems to contract with it, a tense and release of every muscle almost as painful as it is good. He leans his sweaty forehead against Enjolras’s and holds on. Enjolras strokes him through it all, gentle as anything, until Grantaire feels wrung out and boneless.
“Yes,” Enjolras is saying, an amazed, proud whisper. “God, R, yes, like that.”
Enjolras tilts his chin up for a kiss, while Grantaire is still shivering with aftershocks. His mouth finds Grantaire’s gently. It’s not the kiss Grantaire was expecting: instead, it is something much softer. There’s a romance to it that is entirely at odds with a hook-up in a pub bathroom.
Grantaire smiles into it, and feels Enjolras’s mouth turn up against his own. For a moment, it’s almost transporting. They could be anywhere, surrounded by anything, with the only real thing Enjolras’s mouth warm and curved with happiness, pressed against Grantaire’s own.
It doesn’t last, of course, but Grantaire wishes it could. They break apart slowly, both of them leaning into the kiss until the last moment, and the air on Grantaire’s mouth again feels cold.
Enjolras leans more heavily against the door and Grantaire peels himself away, bracing himself to support his own weight again. He manages it but only with an effort: he’s never at his best, right after he’s come.
Grantaire wipes his hand on his own jeans, a little reluctantly, and zips himself back up. Enjolras is doing the same and they awkwardly navigate each other’s elbows in the small cubicle. Enjolras lets his hands drop to his sides.
Something feels off, suddenly. Enjolras seems tense again, and when Grantaire looks back up, his mouth is set, and worried.
“Hey,” he says, gently, reaching out to touch Enjolras’s arm. “You okay?”
Enjolras doesn’t flinch but it’s abundantly clear that it’s only by sheer force of will. Grantaire takes as much of a step back as he can in the limited space.
“No,” Enjolras says, starting towards him, obviously torn, “no, it’s not that - I wanted to, I definitely wanted -” He takes a harsh, frustrated breath and scrubs a hand over his face. Grantaire has never once heard him stumble over his words before tonight but here in this locked, private cubicle, something has caught at Enjolras’s voice.
In the silence, the noise from the pub washes back over them. There’s the faint underscore pulse of music under the rumble of laughter, their little theatre family making merry. Enjolras looks like a man fighting the urge to run.
“I wanted,” Enjolras says, again, obviously as much to himself as to Grantaire. He sounds wrecked, and then angry, in equal, awful turn. “I have to go,” he says, and bolts.
When Grantaire follows, there’s no sign of him out in the pub at all.
Enjolras doesn’t mention it the next day, or the day after that. Grantaire, who remembers too well the tight strained lines of Enjolras’s face just before he turned and ran, goes with it. If that’s what Enjolras needs, then fine. Grantaire is no stranger to hook-ups in bathrooms or the tangled sex webs of theatres. If he keeps thinking of the careful way Enjolras kissed him at the end, thinks of it more than he does the desperate way Enjolras reeled him in at the start, that’s his own problem. It is what it is, and Enjolras seems determined that it is what it was.
Their hands don’t touch when Grantaire passes him props, any more. They’re never in the little theatre kitchen at the same time. Enjolras stops sharing cabs with him. One rehearsal day, on a quick runthrough to work out the kinks revealed by a couple of weeks’ run, Grantaire leans over to ask if Enjolras, empty-handed, wants to share his script and Enjolras just moves away.
Grantaire leaves it at that. If his gaze lingers when Enjolras stands golden in the spotlight, well, he works in the wings. No one can see. Eponine rolls her eyes at him when he rolls into her bar at the end of long weeks, and Jehan has kindly not mentioned any of this at all, and Grantaire hasn't told anyone, hasn't said a word, about Enjolras staring at him, kissing him, wanting him.
He would start to feel like it was something he'd conjured up from adrenaline and the heat of the theatre, a fever-dream frantic tumble in a toilet stall, but never quite can. Enjolras doesn't drink the coffee Grantaire makes in group rounds but he always takes a cup. He doesn't collect his props directly any more, sending a mildly confused Courfeyrac along in his place, but lingers by Grantaire's side in the wings when there's no need for him to be there, nothing happening but Grantaire bent to his work.
The play goes from strength to strength and the collection of favourable reviews stuck to Jehan and Grantaire's fridge is starting to outnumber the magnets. Grantaire doesn't buy more, out of sheer theatrical superstition, but Jehan comes home one day with a four pack of farm animal magnets and sticks them all to the edges of the fridge door, "just in case." That weekend, a YouTuber films a video about their play and the week after that, they get their first full house.
Enjolras is glorious with it, declaiming centre stage like he was born to it. Grantaire adds more and more detail to the second act backdrop, adds a tiny cow the size of his thumb right at the bottom by one of Jehan's marks, just for him. The better the play does, the more extras he adds.
Eventually, their run gets extended and the bottom of the backdrop has a tiny border of Old MacDonald's finest, a proud line of pigs and sheep and cows. From far away, from the audience seats, it's nothing. Close up, it makes Jehan beam from ear to ear.
In notes, smaller and smaller details get worked over. Marius's lighting cues get a little more complex; Bossuet's conducting gets a little looser, a little more free. Courfeyrac gets his costume more tightly fitted and Combeferre creates prompt cards for everyone to dip into when they want a fresh take on a performances. They've been going long enough that they get prompt cards, get the opportunity to distinguish between standard emotional beats and ones tried out for a night to be put aside, or kept, at will.
Grantaire doesn't use them because he's not on stage but, every time Combeferre produces the bag of cards for the cast to try their luck with, he thinks about the catch in Enjolras's voice after he'd shuddered and come over Grantaire's hand. Does he sound like that, every time? Would he make that noise again, for Grantaire?
Sometimes, Grantaire catches Enjolras looking at him like he did on opening night. Dark-eyed, he looks like something straight from their play, a wandering forest god. Even still, Grantaire makes himself look away when Enjolras sweats through his first act shirt under the stage lights, when Enjolras changes fast in the wings between scenes.
There's a scene towards the end that sees Enjolras nipping on and off stage, swapping props like Shakespeare spilled words. Grantaire is there with him, to make the switches. One night, at the end of a double show day, Enjolras fumbles the book Grantaire is passing him and swears, almost loud enough to carry to the stage. Grantaire drops to his knees to catch the book before it hits the ground and when he looks up, leaning back on his haunches, Enjolras has cut and run, has fled empty-handed back onstage.
"You okay?" Grantaire tries, passing him in the corridor at the end of the show.
Enjolras sets his jaw. "Fine," he says, shortly, and shrugs Grantaire off.
The last show of the week comes slowly. It's been a long week and everyone is running a little ragged. Grantaire has to count his props twice when he's setting up the opening scene and he even spots Joly, down in the orchestra pit, take a second espresso when usually Joly claims too much caffeine makes his hands shake on the bow of his double bass. Musichetta squeezes Joly's shoulders as she passes.
In their notes session, Courfeyrac is leaning hard on Enjolras's shoulder, slumped into him over an armrest. Jehan pets Courfeyrac's hair, fondly, and smiles when Courfeyrac nudges his head back for more, like a particularly petulant cat.
Combeferre yawns twice in one sentence and then puts his face in his hands. "All right," he says, emerging and rubbing at his eyes. "One more show, okay? Then we can all go get -"
"Laid?" Courfeyrac suggests, grinning up at Jehan.
"A drink?" Bahorel corrects.
Combeferre gives them one of his fonder wry smiles. "Some sleep is what I was going to say," he tells them. "But do with your day off as you will, dreadful children."
"If you say so," Courfeyrac calls, and they all haul themselves up to get ready. No one falls over in warm-up, which is practically a miracle, and by the time the audience is filing into their seats, everyone is propping up a wall in the corridor behind the stage. Jehan is still fiddling with his cravat and Courfeyrac bats his hands away with an indulgent smile, reties it himself. Jehan kisses him, a quick little press of mouths.
It’s a good audience, responsive in all the right places. Grantaire stands just out of sight, just behind the curtain falls, and listens to the applause at the end of the first act. Nights like these remind him why he does this, why he loves it so much. There’s a tiny parade of his cartoons along the bottom of a stage backdrop just metres away and an auditorium full of people who’ve seen his work. His work has brought something to life for them, raised up a fiction and made it real. His friends’ hands keep his props aloft -- his re-covered books in Enjolras’s long fingers; his carefully sanded stools manoeuvered by Feuilly and his easy quirk of a smile -- and that, that collective glassblown belief in the fictional and the could-be, that keeps Grantaire going.
He stays there for the whole interval, just this once, and listens to the rise and fall of conversations he can’t see. He’s much less tired, after that.
Just before the lights go down out in the auditorium for the start of the second act, Enjolras waits for his cue by Grantaire's side. Even Enjolras looks tired tonight and he's always the last to show it. He must be wearing thin, because he doesn't keep his usual distance while he's waiting for the curtain to go back up. He's close enough that Grantaire can almost feel the warmth of him bleeding through both their clothes.
They've not been this close for weeks, not since they were pressed together in a bathroom stall and pulling at each other's clothes. Grantaire breathes out, very slowly, and turns to look at Enjolras just as the stage lights flicker on.
Enjolras is already looking at him. Chiaroscuro in profile, he's smiling. It's a tired thing but it looks well-worn. Familiar.
When they shared cabs home together at the end of long days of rehearsals, Enjolras would smile at him like that, soft and easy, streetlights outside casting flickering light over the curve of his mouth, the lines of his cheekbones. When Enjolras was on a break and Grantaire was finishing off some last piece of scenery, or rearranging the stage furniture just to see, Enjolras would sit by him, dangling his legs off the edge of the stage. Grantaire used to make Enjolras smile by bringing him coffee and now it's a surprise to see Enjolras looking at him at all.
Grantaire misses him.
Enjolras's costume for the start of the second act is almost obscenely handsome. He's done up in well-cut trousers and a loose shirt, a waistcoat hanging open at his sides. He must have dressed in a hurry tonight, or maybe it's another sign that it's been a longer week than anyone would like, because on his left the waistcoat is twisted up by his ribs, showing the pink split of its lining.
It's a small thing but Grantaire has watched Enjolras fuss over his collar and cuffs every night of the play's run, and he knows Enjolras likes to go onstage wearing his costume just so. It's an almost hilarious contrast to his ordinary clothes - dark straight jeans that pale at the knees and look like they've seen too many washes; t-shirts worn through at the shoulders - but it matters, to Enjolras, how he presents himself in a role.
"Here," Grantaire says, raising a hand to gesture to Enjolras's waistcoat, "you've got - "
Enjolras starts back like Grantaire has shoved him. "Don't," he snaps. "Don't.” His breath shivers out of him.
"Woah," Grantaire says, startled. He steps back too. "Sorry, I'm sorry."
Enjolras looks startled too, like he's surprised even himself. The noise of the audience outside seems suddenly, intrusively, loud.
"I'm sorry," Grantaire says again. He stays carefully where he is. "Are you - " he starts, but the orchestra starts up again, and the show goes on before either of them can say anything else.
Enjolras doesn't look back once as he strides onto the stage. His waistcoat stays unfixed and Grantaire can't look away from it, the flash of lining at Enjolras's side like a beacon, something is wrong. Enjolras doesn't miss a beat all night but he's tense, his shoulders drawn up.
They get their second standing ovation that night, the whole cast gathered exhaustedly at the front of the stage to take their beaming, breathless bows. Enjolras leaves the stage at a pace, afterwards, and Grantaire has packed his bag and changed his shoes for outside before he decides if he should go after him.
He can't quite shake it, the run-through look on Enjolras's face as Grantaire had stepped away from him. He turns on his heel and heads for Enjolras's dressing room.
Most of them share a dressing space in this tiny theatre but Enjolras's room is so small it would probably violate a thousand health and safety codes to have more than one person taking residence in it. Grantaire has dark suspicions that it may have a been a larger than average closet in another time of its life.
He knocks, once, and squares his shoulders to go in. If Enjolras needs to yell this out, fine.
At least if they talk about it, Grantaire will know what the actual boundaries of this thing are and won't just be left here, in this strained limbo between Enjolras not talking to him and Enjolras looking at him like Grantaire is something he's lost.
There's a noise from inside. Grantaire takes it as invitation.
"Hey," he's saying, as he steps through the door, "are you - " but he's brought up short almost instantly by the sight of Enjolras.
Enjolras, folded into his chair with his head in his hands, shoulders heaving.
"Shit," Grantaire says, on pure instinct.
Enjolras’s head jerks up. He looks awful, and though he wipes viciously at his eyes, mouth twisting, he's still obviously crying.
"Fuck, sorry," Grantaire says, stepping back into the doorway, "I'll go, I'll get someone. Courfeyrac, I'll get Courfeyrac."
"No," Enjolras chokes, emphatic.
Grantaire freezes. "No?"
His heart is pounding double-time. He hadn't even considered finding Enjolras like this. In his mind, Enjolras had been angry, or defensive. It was like the pair of them set a match to a long fuse that night in the pub bathroom, struck a light to it and had had to wait, to watch it burning all the way down to tonight, to the pair of them staring each other down in the wings. He'd never considered this, Enjolras shutting himself up in his tiny dressing room, crying, alone, into his hands.
"No." Enjolras scrubs at his face again. His breath is shaking horribly. "Don't bring anyone else here. Please."
Please. The last time Enjolras said please to Grantaire, he had his hands on Grantaire's hips and his boxers round his thighs. It was the last time Enjolras said anything to him, really, before this afternoon.
"All right," Grantaire says, "I won't, I promise." Enjolras hides his face again. His shoulders are still shaking. Grantaire hesitates, torn. "Do you want me to leave?"
Enjolras is holding himself tense, like he could leap up and bolt at any moment, so Grantaire is expecting a quick answer, a snapped yes and then a closed door between them, Enjolras shutting himself off from comfort.
Instead, a long moment passes in which Enjolras just doesn't say anything at all. Grantaire considers just fleeing the room anyway, in case that helps. Then, slowly, Enjolras shakes his head.
"Don't," he says, very softly. "Don't go."
Grantaire pushes the door shut. "I'm right here," he promises. "Whatever you need."
Enjolras takes a couple of deep, shuddering breaths behind his hands. His t-shirt is stretched across his shoulders, pulled taut across his back. Grantaire leans back against the door and waits.
There's a knot of undoubtedly selfish concern easing in Grantaire's chest. Whatever Enjolras has been struggling with over the last few weeks, it hasn't stopped him asking Grantaire to stay.
Enjolras is a difficult man to read and has been especially so since he left Grantaire in the pub bathroom. Enjolras has been keeping away from him but coming closer when he's tired and rundown, not speaking to him at work but always looking up when someone says Grantaire's name. I wanted, Enjolras had said, wretched, before he'd turned and run, and Grantaire has been holding on to that to see them both through.
They were friends before and now he doesn't know what they are. Grantaire wants, sure, but more than that he wants them both to be okay. Right now, Enjolras looks the furthest thing from it.
Enjolras sobs, once, horribly, into his hands, and then visibly forces himself quiet. Grantaire aches with wanting to go to him, to soothe out the tense line of Enjolras's shoulders with the careful flats of his palms.
When Enjolras looks up again, it's with obvious effort. His hands hang between his legs; his shoulders are slumped. He looks exhausted, and unhappy as hell.
"You can go, if you want," he offers. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean - you don't have to - "
"Don't be stupid," Grantaire says, a little harsher than he means. "I'm not going anywhere, unless you want me to."
"I don't," Enjolras says, very quietly. "I really don't."
"Well then," Grantaire says. "I'm staying here." He sinks to the floor where he is, turns to lean his back against the counter that Enjolras pretends is a dressing table. "What would you like to talk about?"
Enjolras is watching him closely. When he speaks, he has to look up from Grantaire's hands. Enjolras doesn't usually avoid anyone's gaze. "Do we have to talk about something?"
"No," Grantaire says, "but I hear it's customary. Bonhomie, and all that."
"Can't we just - " Enjolras breaks off and sighs. Grantaire doesn't think he's ever seen him look this tired, not even when they kept at rehearsal for a solid 15 hours the week before opening night. "Just for a minute, can't we just be... "
"Quiet?" Grantaire supplies, when Enjolras uncharacteristically falters. "Sure. We can do that. Quiet. I'll start."
He mimes zipping his mouth closed elaborately and is rewarded by a smile pulling at Enjolras's mouth. It's a real smile this time, something warmer, less unhappy, at its edges.
They sit in silence. Grantaire stretches his legs out in front of him and his toes almost touch the opposite wall. He doesn't look at Enjolras, giving him the time. Grantaire isn't used to not being able to hold his friends when they're upset and he almost wants to sit on his hands to keep himself from reaching out for Enjolras now.
It's a stupidly small space and with two of them in, it feels smaller still. In the quiet, he hears Enjolras's breathing start to even out, start to sound less laboured, less miserable. There's something peaceful about this, just sitting and listening to each other breathe.
I miss you, Grantaire thinks, loud and strong to stop himself from saying it. I really miss you.
Eventually, he hears Enjolras stir, and turns to face him.
"All right?" he asks.
Enjolras looks less pinched now, less like he's fighting his way up from something trying to hold him down. He smiles, wan and a little rueful.
"Better," he says and grimaces. "Sorry."
Grantaire stretches out and knocks his foot against Enjolras's ankle in mock-reprimand. "Shut up," he says. "I'd sit on the floor while you cried any time."
Enjolras laughs at that, properly laughs. "My hero," he says.
It's not fair, really, how handsome he is even still blotchy from tears. The dark circles under his eyes just make him look mysterious. Grantaire is under no similar illusions about his own. He knows when he's that tired, he just looks ill.
And yet - and yet Enjolras's smile is changing to something softer the longer he looks at Grantaire, legs out on the floor, and he takes Grantaire completely by surprise when he slips from the chair to join Grantaire on the ground.
He hesitates before moving beside Grantaire. "Can I?" he asks.
Grantaire thinks about saying something incredibly uncalled for but nonetheless satisfying, like I thought you couldn't touch me? He doesn't, though. He doesn't think he could, right now.
"Sure," he says, instead, and makes a show of budging over an inch to make room that isn't really there to make.
Enjolras settles beside him slowly, not looking at him. He stretches his legs out like Grantaire. They touch at the ankles, at the hips. Enjolras leans his shoulder against Grantaire's.
“I miss you,” Enjolras says, so quietly Grantaire could almost think he’d imagined it.
This isn’t like Enjolras at all, still. Enjolras isn’t slow, when he wants something; not unsure once he’s made up his mind.
But maybe that’s it, Grantare thinks. Maybe Enjolras can’t decide what he wants.
Beside him, Enjolras is just as slowly letting his weight rest more and more against Grantaire.
Grantaire can feel all the tension in Enjolras's strung shoulders start to ebb away. It gives him a quick, reckless burst of courage. "I miss you too," he says.
He almost doesn't ask but just - it’s been eating at him, all through the long days of Enjolras drawing away and then veering back close, all the nights Grantaire has spent wondering. "Are we okay?"
Enjolras laughs again, hollowly, bringing his hands back up to his face. Grantaire shifts to face him properly, alarmed.
"Hey, hey, sorry," he says. "I shouldn't have asked."
"No," Enjolras says, fast. "No, you should."
Grantaire's heart, traitorous bearer of hope, speeds up a little. "I should?"
Enjolras nods, and lowers his hands. "You really should," he says, sounding hoarse. He pauses for a moment and then says, looking very determinedly at the wall in front of them, "It's all just felt - a lot, you know? I'm not used to this."
Again, Grantaire swallows down at least five incredibly flippant comments that rise to the tip of his tongue. Later, maybe, but now is definitely not the time. "To what?" he asks, instead.
"To not being sure," Enjolras admits. He sounds suddenly very young, which is doing nothing for Grantaire's composure. Enjolras's tone turns wry. "I know what you're going to say."
"Purple," says Grantaire, to be contrary. It startles a real laugh out of Enjolras, so Grantaire keeps going. "Sugarplum. Upholstery. Cappuccino. See, you didn't know I was going to say that, did you?"
"Admittedly not," Enjolras says. A real smile is tugging at the corners of his mouth. Grantaire opened the door to Enjolras sobbing into his hands and now he's got him to smile. It feels like that should mean something. "I know you were thinking it, though."
"Oh, you're a mind-reader now too, are you?" Grantaire takes his cue from Enjolras and stares at the wall in front of them. They've both got their legs stretched out and the sides of their shoes are touching, leaning into each other, Grantaire's battered docs and Enjolras's stage brogues. They're his own, Grantaire has discovered. Enjolras had auditioned in them and Jehan had taken a shine to them. "And I wasn't going to say anything of the sort."
Enjolras makes a sceptical noise. Grantaire fakes an affronted gasp.
"Are you impugning my honour, sir?" he says, raising an eyebrow. With rehearsals and shows and matinees, they all spend a worrying amount of time together and inevitably little in-jokes arise. One of Grantaire's favourites is when they all suddenly pretend they're in a badly-written costume drama. Courfeyrac and Combeferre once had an entirely mimed swordfight all the way up the auditorium stairs.
It seems to have been the right way to go now too because Enjolras smiles wide. Even in profile, his smile transforms his face. Enjolras has the looks of a leading man or an antagonist, clean and defined, but when he smiles - properly smiles - he looks every inch the man Grantaire knows. Enjolras falls asleep mid-word, sometimes, and there's a stack of comics under his desk for when he gets to work early. He's terrible in the mornings and he has a fondness for colourful biscuits. No character could be written as honestly as Enjolras lives.
"Sir, I am not," Enjolras says, continuing the bit.
Grantaire bows as much as he can whilst also sitting down. "I accept your apology," he says, and Enjolras snorts.
"It wasn't an apology," he says. He's grinning, now, unreservedly. Grantaire is almost incandescently proud of helping that happen.
"Blackguard!" Grantaire cries. "To arms!" and he pokes Enjolras repeatedly in the shoulder until Enjolras gives, laughing in earnest, and bats his hand away.
The air feels a little lighter, after that, like something pushed between them has fallen away. Their shoulders touch again when Grantaire leans back against the wall. Enjolras is still smiling.
"Seriously, though," Grantaire says, after they've been quiet a little while longer. Everyone has the right to be uncertain, you know?" He nudges Enjolras gently. "Even you. I wasn't thinking otherwise."
"Thanks," Enjolras says. "I think?"
"You're welcome," Grantaire tells him. He takes a breath, steels his nerve. He's been avoiding this thought since Enjolras had run from him in the bathroom. "But if - if you're not sure about me," he says, "that's understandable. I'm not always sure about me."
"What?" Enjolras turns to Grantaire, looks him right in the eye. He looks confused, and then, slowly, angry. "Of course not, that's not it at all. Of course I'm sure about you."
He says it as easily as that, of course I'm sure. Grantaire stares at him for a moment, but Enjolras seems serious.
"Of course you're sure," Grantaire repeats. "What does that even mean?"
To Grantaire's surprise, a blush starts stealing up Enjolras's neck. "Like I said," he says, "I'm sure. I said I wanted you - " a hesitation, "that night, and I meant it."
Grantaire is scrambling to make sense of this. "You meant it?" he asks. Enjolras nods. Grantaire is suddenly very aware of his own pulse. "Okay," he says, working it through, Enjolras watching him closely from the corner of his eye, "okay, so, you wanted me."
"Yes," Enjolras confirms. He's caught his lower lip between his teeth. It must be a nervous habit, Grantaire realizes, but he's only ever seen it happen twice.
Grantaire shifts his weight a little. "But it was the wanting, not me, that was the problem?"
This hesitation is longer, long enough that Grantaire almost starts wondering if he's somehow misread everything. There's something about the way Enjolras is pausing, though, that stops him. Enjolras doesn't look like he's preparing to argue; he looks like he's preparing to answer.
He takes one of Grantaire's hands in his. Grantaire doesn't think he's ever been so aware of someone's hand in his own before. Enjolras's hand is warm, his skin a little dry. He's holding on tight, so tight.
"I wasn't always certain," Enjolras says, and his voice is quiet but he's holding his chin high again, "about - about what I wanted. Or if I wanted what I thought."
Honestly, that could mean anything. Grantaire specifically? Men in general? People in general? Grantaire doesn't need to know, if Enjolras doesn't want to tell him. Enjolras says he wasn't sure, and now he is, and he's holding Grantaire's hand.
Enjolras is holding Grantaire's gaze, almost desperately, like if he wills it enough, Grantaire will just understand what he wants. Grantaire is trying, and he thinks, he thinks he knows, but god, he has to be sure.
Grantaire's heart starts pounding hard again. "And," he says, "god, I don't - should I ask, if that's a problem now?"
Enjolras looks a little wild, and a lot like someone spreading their arms to turn them to wings. "It's not," he says, still very quietly.
Grantaire looks down at their linked hands and swallows. "It's not?" he repeats.
Enjolras shakes his head.
Everything seems very still, suddenly. The radiator by the door clanks in the way of old plumbing but it almost feels like it's happening somewhere else. All there is really room for here is the two of them and the way Enjolras is starting to smile again.
Grantaire takes another breath. "And should I - should I ask what you want now?"
"Please," Enjolras says, not lowering his gaze. "Yes. Please, R. Ask."
The tiny room feels very quiet, very close.
"What do you want?" Grantaire whispers, and Enjolras leans in the last bit of distance like it's as easy as breathing and kisses him.
The play is such a success that none of them can really believe it. There's a full house most nights in the last weeks of its run, with people calling to book tickets and being turned away. Everyone is lit up with it, bubbling round the corridors, laughing with it even on nights when everyone's exhausted. This is theirs, their little world from Combeferre's pen brought out into the world by all their hands: lived and walked by the actors among them; thrown into focus by Marius's lighting work; raised up to melody by the orchestra below. Jehan, a vision of a co-director; Grantaire and Feuilly crafting and sanding and painting until the world around their actors fills with colour.
It's all of them, every last one of them out there on the stage. Their theatre, their work. Their hearts.
It's amazing, a heady buzz like nothing else in the world, and just as unbelievable is the tentative sureness of Enjolras, warm by Grantaire's side. Enjolras takes his hand in notes, one afternoon, mouth set like he's taking a leap, and Grantaire squeezes back tight. Neither of them stop smiling for the rest of the evening.
No one comments, no one pushes. Grantaire can count on one hand the number of times he's been more grateful for his friends and their incredible over-involvement in each other's lives. Jehan doesn't even ask about it at home, just says it's nice to hear Grantaire humming again, stirring dinner on the hob. Grantaire grins at him, says he's open to requests, and Jehan calls him a human jukebox and kisses him on the shoulder in passing on his way to get the plates.
Lasts creep into the theatre: last few months, last month, last week matinee. Backstage feels like being on a steamer finally approaching land. the love of the ride and the satisfaction of seeing a destination all at once.
For Grantaire, everything is cut through with the gold weave of firsts. The first time Enjolras kisses him outside the closed door of his dressing room. The first time Enjolras accompanies him home. The first time they come to work having left the same warm bed.
There are other firsts, more vivid. The noise Enjolras makes when Grantaire first drops to his knees and takes him into his mouth is one particularly bright memory; likewise, the flush of want and pleasure blossoming across Enjolras's skin as he first brought his mouth to Grantaire and bruised a stepping-stone path up his thighs. The first time he sucked Enjolras to a begging, desperate orgasm in his own dressing room chair, well after everyone else had left, Grantaire on his knees with his hands keeping Enjolras's thighs apart; the first time Enjolras ran off stage for the interval and kissed him, a daring dart of a thing, in the secret darkness of the wings.
There on his dressing room floor he'd held Grantaire's gaze and told him he'd never been certain he wanted what he wanted, and though he'd turned red he hadn't faltered once when he'd said, you, R. I'm sure about you.
He says it again in a myriad of ways. I'm sure, with the way he starts to take Grantaire's hand when they're walking from the cab to the theatre; I'm sure, running his fingers through Grantaire's hair when they're all crowded around the only free table in Eponine's bar at the end of a night; I'm sure about you, using his mouth to raise bruises on Grantaire's skin well above any collar and standing near him all the next day, radiating smug pride.
Courfeyrac nudges Enjolras with his shoulder when he sees him staring at Grantaire now, and Enjolras flushes chest to hairline, but doesn't flinch away.
Sometimes, in quiet moments, half-asleep in Enjolras's obscenely large bed with Enjolras warm against him side, Grantaire thinks about how afraid Enjolras had been, at the start. Afraid of asking for what he wanted; afraid of wanting it at all. Grantaire has only woken him up to kiss in these situations once, which he considers very restrained. For all his verve and fire for his work, for his friends, Enjolras had been slow to apply the same gravity to something he wanted solely for himself.
"Proud of you," Courfeyrac tells Enjolras one day in warm-up, in a delighted raised-voice whisper deliberately pitched to carry to Grantaire in the wings, and Enjolras looks surprised, then embarrassed, and finally settles into a shy contentment, ducking his head. It suits him.
They're coming up to their last show when Combeferre runs, late, into a notes session. Combeferre has been late maybe once in the whole time Grantaire has known him and that was because he was in a cycling accident on his way. He'd arrived with scraped knees and had still started by apologising for being twenty minutes late. When he runs in late this time, then, they all immediately scan him for injury.
But Combeferre doesn't look hurt. In fact, he looks almost giddy, pink-cheeked. "I," he starts, and breaks off.
Enjolras and Courfeyrac are by his side almost immediately, and Combeferre hugs them both in close, knocking his glasses askew. Something must be up: Combeferre, though one of the most open-hearted people Grantaire knows, isn't as easily physically demonstrative as some of his friends. Courfeyrac, for one.
"We," Combeferre starts again, and again stops, like he just can't find the words. He's beaming ear-to-ear though, so Grantaire isn't too worried. "Oh, just, here," he says, and thrusts a crumpled letter against Enjolras's chest.
Enjolras unfolds it like it might change the world. To be fair, Grantaire thinks, Combeferre is acting like it might.
When he's scanned it, Enjolras glances fast up at Combeferre, his whole face awash with delight. "Really?" he asks Combeferre, wonderingly. "I mean, this is a serious offer?"
Combeferre nods, seemingly unable to speak.
Courfeyrac snatches the letter. "Give me that," he says, even as its in his hands, and his face changes too as he reads it. Next to Grantaire, Jehan reaches over and grabs Grantaire's hand.
"Ferre," Courfeyrac says, looking up, and Combeferre nods again, alight with happiness, says, "I know."
"Oh my god," Musichetta bursts out. "Someone tell us what's going on."
The three of them look at each other a beat longer and then turn, almost as one, to everyone else.
"We’re going on tour,” Enjolras says, wide-eyed, like he can scarcely believe it. “The play has been asked on tour.”
There's another, slightly lengthier pause. Enjolras can't seem to stop grinning, and, between them, Combeferre is gripping his and Courfeyrac's hands. For a second, it's like they're all at the centre of a storm, the whole company of them holding their breath.
Then, of course, the silence breaks.
"Oh my god," Joly shrieks. "On tour? All of us? Really?"
Combeferre nods, eyes shining. "All of us," he confirms. "If you can all make it?"
"We can." Jehan says. "We definitely can."
And, as it turns out, they actually all can. They have to leave sooner than anyone could have expected - sooner, really, than Grantaire thinks larger plays would have been asked to accommodate, but he can't bring himself to care. The last few days become a flurry of subletting flats and packing and last-minute plans, everyone on their phones backstage, beaming when they pass in the corridor.
It's probably much less glamourous than it sounds, being on tour, but all Grantaire can think is it means they get to stay together, the whole theatre family lot of them. Hotel rooms and trains and buses and shitty service station meals seem like a small price to pay, for that.
However the tour goes, Grantaire thinks, it's worth it for these last few days in the theatre. While they're sad to be leaving their first stage together, no one is in pieces the way Grantaire knows they all would have been had this been it, a genuine end. Instead, they go out on a high, all of them over the moon. Courfeyrac corpses on stage for the first time on the penultimate night because he can't stop grinning at Enjolras even under a spotlight.
Combeferre is still working out some of the details but apparently this has been in the works for a while. "I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up," he confesses, the day of their last show, "just in case, you know?" and though they all tease him for it, gently, they do know. Grantaire couldn't have borne it, he knows, if he'd had that hope given and then torn away, and the others definitely feel the same.
They've all had their starts in this theatre: from Courfeyrac's first main part to Combeferre's first time directing. Jehan's first free rein in the costume department and Joly's big break. Marius, who started the run still in training on the lighting rig, now confident with the lights in his hands; Musichetta, now with her first solo conducting credit to her name. Everyone is leaving with something they've gained and no one is leaving, at all.
It feels like a dream, almost, so Grantaire isn't entirely surprised when, at their last curtain call, everyone beckons the stage management team on stage. The audience picks up the call and they all spill out onto the boards too, Feuilly blushing through his freckles, Cosette running up from the sound board, Grantaire being tugged to the front of the stage by Enjolras, flushed from exertion and beaming at him.
Enjolras's hand is sweaty around his own. It's a tiny anchoring detail in this new surreality of people cheering their names while they stand stage-lit, all of them hand in hand together at the front of the stage.
We did this, Grantaire thinks, again, still blown away. We all did this, together.
Enjolras turns to him, grinning ear-to-ear. "Do you mind?" he calls, above the clamour.
Grantaire doesn't entirely know what he means but he does know he wouldn't mind anything Enjolras wanted to do, right now. He feels like he could do anything, himself.
"Go for it," he shouts back.
Enjolras looks fiercely happy, lit up like an old god finally shucking off a disguise. "Thank you," he mouths, entirely silent, and there, in front of all the cheering crowd, he takes Grantaire's face in his hands, and kisses him.