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You never have to wonder; you never have to ask.

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Grantaire approaches the old tavern and sees that it’s unchanged. It’s maintained the same level of artful shabbiness it’s always had, neither improving nor deteriorating further. The brick facade, greening with age; the door painted an ambiguous color that may have been orange once; the crumbling sign in sturdy block script: CORINTHE. And, still the only part of the whole place that isn’t faded or disintegrating, the one detail that seems to have been put there on purpose: the bright green graffiti, foot high letters. Carpe Horas. He goes in.

He doesn’t have much time to look around-- dim, smoky, like always-- before someone calls “Is that R? Grantaire, hey!”

Joly and Bossuet are the first to mob him, of course, tackling everyone else to get to their best friend. Courfeyrac actually shrieks, Bahorel spins him around in a hug that may have cracked a rib or two, Jehan presents him with a “welcome back” dandelion crown he made just for the occasion. Grantaire settles it into his own wiry curls right away, and Jehan beams.

Combeferre, characteristically, waits politely for his turn. They exchange cheek kisses and Combeferre, smiling that serene smile of his, says, “Thanks for coming, R. It means a lot.”

Grantaire’s responding at once to Feuilly’s cuff to the arm and Musichetta's good-natured ass grab when someone comes clambering down the rickety spiral staircase at the front of the bar.

“’Ferre, I think you were right, it’s definitely--”

It’s irritatingly close to a classic Hollywood moment when Enjolras stops in his tracks and locks eyes with Grantaire. It’d almost be funny, the way he’s frozen stock-still on the steps, Android in one hand and a pamphlet of some sort in the other, eyes wide and shocked. It’d almost be funny, if it really, really wasn’t.

His composure only slips for a moment, though. “R!” he says. “This… is a surprise.”

“It is?” pipes up Courfeyrac. To anyone who hasn’t known him for upwards of six years, this tone would sound innocent. “I thought I told you he was coming in for the wedding and would be stopping by the meeting?”

Enjolras’ eyes narrow. Just slightly. “No, you didn’t.”

Courfeyrac shrugs. “My bad.”

The momentary distraction gives Grantaire a much-needed pause to get his shit together. He thanks Courfeyrac internally, looks up at Enjolras, and inclines his head. He smirks and, with shit-eating mock reverence, says “Boss.”

To his surprise, Enjolras doesn’t scowl or ignore him, or any of the usual stuff. Instead, he smiles, and makes his way through the clump of his friends to greet Grantaire. This could be construed as politeness, something their leader doesn’t entirely lack, Grantaire assures himself. That is, until Enjolras pulls back from kissing the air by Grantaire’s cheeks, laughs to himself, and says “You still smell like turpentine.”

Over his shoulder, Grantaire sees Joly blink heavily, as if he too were in temporary doubt as to whether or not he’d just fallen into a parallel dimension.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They all go upstairs, and it’s unsettling how easily Grantaire falls into the seat closest to the back (he stops himself from thinking “his”, no, it’s not his table anymore). How his body drapes itself across the table like no time’s passed at all, like he woke up here, hungover and disoriented, only this morning.

Everyone clambers for seats. Bossuet lounges beside him and smiles. “Good to be back?”

Grantaire’s trying to come up with a smartass comment to derail that monster of a question when Joly shows up with a bottle of wine.

“R?”

He forces his mouth into a smile. “Running dry today.”

Joly lifts an eyebrow, but before he can say anything Courfeyrac calls the meeting to order.

“Okay, folks,” he says with an air of great importance, “You know why we’re here. Let me be the first to say how great it is to see all of your bright, shiny faces after our long absence--”

Feuilly raises an eyebrow. “You see us all the time, dude.”

He shoots him a glare. “You know what I mean! Fearless leader--” he turns on his heel to face Enjolras, “how long have you been officially parole-free?”

“About twelve hours,” he says, with an air of victoriousness that Grantaire finds a little hilarious.

“And you waited this long?” pipes up Bahorel. “I’m surprised you didn’t make us all convene at the stroke of midnight.” Everyone laughs. Enjolras rolls his eyes. Just like that, it’s a meeting from the old days.

Grantaire aches a little.

Commencing theatricalities finished, Courfeyrac yields the floor to Enjolras. He stands.

It’s not like Grantaire forgot what he looked like; he’s not easily forgettable. There’s just something about the difference between seeing Enjolras in his memory and getting the full brunt of him, up close and in person, that’s too much for a second.

He’s as hot as he always was, sure; he’s still all height and cheekbones and movie star blond hair. His curls are a little longer, tumbling over his ears now. He still wears that fucking red leather jacket (vegan leather, obviously) and those near-translucent white t-shirts, because God hates Grantaire. But that’s not it, not completely. Grantaire knew going into this that there was no point in trying to prepare himself, because there’s no holding that presence in his mind’s eye. There’s no preparing for that fire in his beautiful blue eyes, especially when he was pretty sure he'd never see it again.

Oh god. This was a bad idea.

“Well,” Enjolras says after a pause, “We’re a year and a half behind as it is, so I’ll forego a speech.”

Next it’s Joly and Bossuet interjecting.“Who the hell are you--”

“--and where have you tied up Enjolras?”

“I wasted ten months in a cell,” he says, his voice cutting through the laughter, “can you blame me for wanting to get started?”

Everyone falls silent. Marius mutters “Awkward…”

“My friends, we can’t go back to where we were,” Enjolras continues, “or pick up where we left off. Just because I’m not on parole anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping an eye on us. After the events of two years ago, they know nothing will stop us being dangerous to their system.”

Bahorel lifts his drink. “Hear hear.” There’s a smattering of applause.

“So in the meantime, we’re going to have to compensate. We’re going to have to convince them that they’ve defanged us for good. Which brings me--” he spins his laptop around for everyone to see, “to our starting project.”

“Love locks?” comes Jehan’s perplexed voice. Grantaire cranes his neck to see the PowerPoint and, sure enough, it’s a picture of a bridge railing, laden with thick clusters of padlocks. “Isn’t that a little...petty?”

“Yeah, that’s more or less the point,” Enjolras answers. He flips to the next slide, which has some numbers and figures. “The entire city agrees they’re an eyesore brought over by tourists, and the fact is they’re hurting our bridges. A railing at the Pont des Arts collapsed a few weeks ago. It’s a safety hazard, not to mention the environmental implications of everyone throwing keys into the Seine--”

“Enjolras, seriously?” says Feuilly. “I mean, I agree with you, but...seriously?”

He glares. “Entirely seriously.”

“It’s just... we go from starting an uprising to this?”

Enjolras opens his mouth to respond, and Jehan places a soothing hand over his on the table. “It’s just that it sounds a tad anti-fun, honey.”

“It’s not about fun, it’s--”

Combeferre bites thoughtfully at his thumbnail. “While it would definitely go over well with some native Parisians, Prouvaire's right; it’s not the most, ah...sympathetic project.”

“Am I the only person in this city who doesn’t mind them?” Courfeyrac asks the world at large. “I always thought they were kinda cute.”

Enjolras looks like he’s about to scream. “You’re all missing the point!” He runs a hand through his hair, tugging fiercely at the curls. “Christ, I’m just trying to give us some momentum! Like I said, we need something stupid and innocuous to keep up appearances while we wait for the fucking pigs to forget about us!”

Grantaire leans into Joly. “He still unironically says ‘fucking pigs’?”

“All the time,” Joly whispers back. “Bless him.”

“Well, maybe for now we should table the discussion about exactly what our next cause will be, and focus on getting the group reestablished,” says Combeferre, ever tactful. “For now I think we should consider some rebranding. We’re gonna have to redo our whole social media presence, as well as starting a website from scratch.”

“Yeah, after they fucking shut down the last one,” grumbles Bahorel, leaning back on his elbows against the pool table.

At his side, Feuilly nods. “It was a good-ass website, too.”

“Yeah,” says Combeferre, “It may have been for the best, really. We’ll probably want to keep our names off of any of the material from now on. Like, one Google search of Julien Enjolras and you get ‘convicted terrorist’.” He looks up at Enjolras. “No offense.”

“None taken.” He actually looks kind of flattered.

“And, Enj, I know you hate this idea, but we should really consider assimilation with--”

Enjolras slams a hand on the table in frustration. “That group is a bunch of pricks in Che Guevara shirts and you know it, Ferre.”

“I know,” he replies patiently, “But it’s still a good idea if we want to move forward unhindered.”

“‘Unhindered’?” Enjolras has that fire in his eyes again. “They'll hold us back! They aren’t anywhere near serious enough to keep up with our goals.”

Grantaire opens his mouth, because apparently that’s just a thing that will always happen. “Oh yeah, your lofty ambitions of ridding Paris of the tyranny of fun.”

A weird, vacuum-like silence falls.

Everyone knows what happens next. The same thing always happened, back in the day, when Grantaire was a rude, disruptive dick on purpose. Enjolras would snap at him, ask him what he was doing there; he’d tell him that if he didn’t have anything useful to add he should leave, he said a whole manner of different things that always added up to Grantaire’s being useless, and hopeless, and impossible. He never had to say much. Bigger fish to fry, of course, than dealing with one drunken asshole (he fried some pretty big fish, towards the end).

Grantaire’d crawl into his bottle and disappear for a few more minutes. Repeat indefinitely.

The room waits.

For a moment, Enjolras just looks at him, with a slight parting of his lips. Then Grantaire watches in awe as Enjolras’ face does something like a smirk; it might be an exhale of a laugh. It’s the shock of downstairs, again: another little laugh, just to himself. About Grantaire.

Still smiling-- smiling-- at Grantaire, he says, “Yeah, not exactly.”

He turns his focus back to the slideshow. Grantaire feels himself slump back in his chair a little too quickly, like whiplash, like a shift in gravity.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Some time later they call a break, and the room dissolves into cheer and chatter. Everyone else is content with huddling around the plastic ashtrays on the tables for their smoke break, but Grantaire eventually decides he could really use some air.

As his (truly abysmal) luck would have it, Combeferre and Enjolras seem to have figured the same thing. They’re standing in front of Carpe Horas, apparently deep in conversation. Enjolras, facing the door, sees him first, and his eyes go wide for a fraction of a second. Combeferre stops mid sentence and turns.

“Hey, R.”

He puts out his unfinished cigarette against the brick facade, pats Enjolras’ back in a gesture that could mean a million different things in Combeferre-speak, and goes inside.

Combeferre, in addition to being pretty much the greatest person on earth, is also a total dick.

Grantaire jabs a thumb back toward the door. “Did I interrupt something?”

Enjolras shrugs as well as he can while relighting his cigarette. He keeps his eyes on the task at hand. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Whatever you say, boss.”

There’s nothing for it, Grantaire decides, and he leans up against the wall next to Enjolras.

They pass a moment in silence while Grantaire digs through his pockets, finds a cigarette, and sticks it between his teeth. Without prompting, Enjolras leans forward with his zippo and lights it.

“Thanks.”

“Sure.”

More silence.

This is not why Combeferre left us alone, he thinks, and orders himself to say something. What comes out of his mouth, though, ends up being “So, how was prison?”

Enjolras gives Grantaire a look that could curdle milk. “Stupendous.”

“You make any friends?”

“No, can’t say I did.”

“Ten months, right?”

“Yeah. Eight on parole.”

Grantaire gives a low whistle.

“Yeah. The lawyers say I’m lucky, though,” Enjolras adds, disdain a familiar note in his clear, strong voice. “They told me, it’s lucky that the police nearly killed me. If I hadn’t’ve been so battered up the jury wouldn’t have been so nice.”

Grantaire grimaces. “If ten months is ‘nice’, I shudder to think what ‘mean’ looks like.”

“Leader of a terrorist organization? The state takes charges like that pretty seriously.”

“The ABCs, terrorists,” Grantaire snorts. “What a fucking joke. You’d think they had bigger problems on their hands.”

“You’re telling me,” Enjolras mutters, staring out over the street.

"I mean, we're activists, not M-19," says Grantaire, then he considers for a second. "Not that we haven’t gotten close, on occasion."

When Grantaire realizes he's just said 'we', he changes topic.

“It must’ve been horrible."

“It was a fucking dungeon.” Enjolras has given up smoking his cigarette in favor of playing with it. He turns it over between two long fingers. “My next project would be prison reform, if my hands weren’t tied by the establishment.”

This is the kind of shit, Grantaire contemplates, that Enjolras can say without it sounding cheesy. He remembers that from the old days: Enjolras saying stuff about how ignorance breeds darkness in the soul, and all people everywhere are his brothers and sisters in humanity, said it like it was nothing. The extraordinary sounds normal coming out of his mouth, mundane. My hands are tied by the establishment. Pass the salt.

Before he can say anything else incredible and absurd, Enjolras changes the subject. “So, you just got in this morning?”

“Yeah. I went from the train to drop my stuff off at Éponine’s and then I came straight here. Cosette told me about the ABCs’, uh, grand reopening, and I was here anyway for the wedding and she and some of the others invited me to come, so, y’know, why not.” He doesn’t know why he’s suddenly feeling the need to justify his presence here.

No, that’s not true. He does. He does know.

“You’re staying with Éponine? How’s that?”

Grantaire shrugs. “It’s pretty crowded, with her little brother crashing on the couch. Plus, I’m like ninety percent sure her roommate Montparnasse wants to murder me.” He waves a hand. “It was nice of her to offer, but she really doesn’t have the space in that cozy little drug den of hers. I’ll probably just suck it up and dish out for a hostel. It’ll be a cultural experience, I’ll pretend I’m backpacking across Europe, meet some colorful characters. I could write a book. Watch out, Eat, Pray, Love."

"No.” Enjolras takes a drag, huffs out a stream of smoke, and says “Stay with me.”

He coughs. “I-- what?”

Enjolras gives him a look like Grantaire is being stupid on purpose, just to annoy him. “It makes sense. I’m the only person in Paris without a roommate.”

There’s probably a very good reason for that, Grantaire just barely doesn’t say.

“I have space, I have a couch. Stay with me.”

Grantaire agrees. God help him.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” says Éponine the second he walks in the door. She’s sprawled on the couch with Montparnasse, watching American TV.

He closes the door behind himself. “Not shitting you.”

“I thought he hated you!”

“He does!” Grantaire says, whining like the pathetic baby he is. “Reality is splintering!” He sags against the doorjamb in defeat. “What’s real? How can I know?”

She ignores his histrionics and gets to the point, as usual. “And you said yes?”

“Of course I did.”

“Why the hell did you say yes?!”

“Because I’m a horrible, masochistic, weak-willed person that incurred the wrath of the Fates at some point, probably,” he explains. “Also, because I’m pretty sure if I stay here Montparnasse will smother me in my sleep and steal my shoes. Offense intended, Montparnasse.”

Deeply engrossed in Scandal, Montparnasse waves him off.

Grantaire redirects his attention to Éponine. “You should’ve come. Everyone was asking about you.”

She scoffs. “I seriously doubt it.”

“They were!”

“Like hell I’m going back to the ABCs after what happened. I can’t believe you went at all.”

“Wait, ABCs?” Montparnasse tears himself away from Olivia Pope’s latest scheme to stare at Éponine in disbelief. “That’s who you were with?”

“Yeah, why?”

“They were the ones who started the riots a couple years ago at La Defénse, right? I heard they were done for. Like, their boss got put away?”

Grantaire crosses his arms. “He’s out. They just reformed today.”

“Damn,” says Montparnasse. “We don’t fuck with those guys, not after what happened. They’re fucking brutal. Like, shit,” he waves his hands expansively, “a guy of mine tried to get the jump on one of the girl’s dads. This crotchety old motherfucker kicked the shit out him-- my guy, I mean-- gave him a talking to about ‘responsibility’, handed over his wallet, and went off on his merry fuckin’ way.”

A voice comes from the other side of the room. “‘A guy of yours’?”

Éponine’s fifteen year old brother has stuck his head around the kitchen doorway, mouth full of Hot Pocket. “Wasn’t that you?”

Montparnasse’s face heats up before their eyes. “Like hell it was!”

“I know it was,” Gavroche says. “I swiped that wallet off you five minutes later.”

Éponine’s focus has returned to the TV. “Good boy, Gav,” she mutters distractedly.

Grantaire, unnoticed, takes up his duffel bag and leaves.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He has absolutely no expectations about what Enjolras’ place will look like. Hell, Grantaire has trouble imagining him living anywhere at all. He has to go somewhere between meetings, though. Maybe he hides in a lair somewhere, like a dragon. Or, like, a keep. Grantaire isn’t sure what a keep is, but he’s pretty sure dragons live in them.

Enjolras’ place, as it turns out, is neither a lair nor a keep. It’s a pretty normal apartment. It is, in fact, not markedly different from the apartment of any other single twenty-something man. This shouldn’t be surprising.

Enjolras locks the door behind them and drops his keys into a mug painted like a panda bear sitting on the nearest bookshelf. This detail, for some reason, strikes Grantaire. The mundanity of it.

“I’d offer you a tour, but I figure it’s pretty self-explanatory.”

It’s Parisianally small. The living room they’re standing in has a tall, rectangular window at the back, with a desk pressed up against it; there’s a TV and a coffee table stained with the rings of tea mugs gone by, and a faded red couch. Through a doorway to their left is a galley kitchen, and a dining area just big enough for a little round table and four chairs. On their right, doors to presumably a bedroom and a bathroom.

“Thanks, I got it.” Grantaire drops his bag over the back of the couch and flops himself after it, sprawling out. It’s comfier than it looks. “I’m good here.”

“You sure? I should take the couch, you can have my bed--”

“No, no no, no way, the couch is grand. I know couches, this is a good couch.” He pats the cushion closest to his head. “Faithful. Reliable.”

Enjolras shrugs. “Whatever you want.” He wanders into the kitchen. The sound of the tap. Grantaire turns over and smushes his face into the cushions.

He’s done an okay job of not freaking out so far, but all the weird is starting to press in. He’s staying at Enjolras’ apartment, at Enjolras’ invitation. His apartment, with its reliable red couch and panda bear mug, and Enjolras just offered him his bed, which means there’s a bed in here somewhere, one where Enjolras sleeps and-- well, probably just sleeps-- or, or maybe not--

--and he breaks off that train of thought, quickly.

The feeling metaphorically weighing on him manifests itself into a heavy thing that is now, unmetaphorically, weighing on his back. It’s warm.

“What the fuck,” he says, muffled.

He hears Enjolras come back into the room, and then his voice: “Christ-- Jean-Jacques, go away.”

The metaphor on Grantaire’s back meows loudly.

“Jean-Jacques, get! Now!” His commanding tone of voice is the same one he uses when he delegates at meetings.

Another meow, louder this time. Enjolras sighs and the weight leaves Grantaire’s back. He un-smushes his face and turns over, looks up.

Enjolras is clutching a bony grey cat. The cat is wearing an extremely put-upon expression. It kind of looks like Enjolras, Grantaire thinks distantly.

“This is Jean-Jacques. He’s a brat, so I'm sorry in advance.”

Jean-Jacques meows, as if in agreement.

Something occurs to Grantaire. “Enjolras, I need you to be honest with me.”

His eyes widen. “Yeah. Of course. What?”

“Did you name your cat after Rousseau?”

Enjolras purses his lips and says nothing as he gently sets Jean-Jacques on the floor. It’s not until he hits the kitchen that he calls “I’m making tea, are you interested?”

Jean-Jacques, redelivered of his liberty, hops up onto the couch, crawls onto Grantaire’s stomach, and curls up there. He purrs loudly.

“Merde,” Grantaire mutters, addressing the universe at large.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They sit at Enjolras’ kitchen table, drinking tea. Neither of their mugs are painted like panda bears. Jean-Jacques has manoeuvred his way onto Grantaire’s lap, and is purring with a sort of possessive insistence. It isn’t as awkward as it should be, somehow.

“He really likes you,” Enjolras says. “Usually he’s so skittish.”

“Animal magnetism,” he says vaguely. Grantaire scratches behind Jean-Jacques’ ears, and the cat tilts his head in encouragement. “Still can’t believe you named your cat after fucking Rousseau.”

“I can name my cat after whoever I want.”

“Yeah, but Rousseau? Fuck Rousseau.”

“I remember this argument.” There it is, that barely-there little laugh that’s been confusing the crap out of Grantaire all day. “I’m not taking the bait.”

That’s new. Still, he keeps going. “The guy never had a consistent idea, he does nothing but contradict himself in his writings-- he was all, ‘Theatre’s morally repugnant!’, but he wrote operas! He was a naive moron who thought humans are really good, deep down,” he sing-songs, “it’s just the fault of civilization that we are the way we are, and everything would go back to peace and-- and butterflies, and brotherly love if we all ran outside and lived in caves again, and he was a shameless misogynist to boot. Not to mention he was a perverted weirdo-- did you know he got arrested a whole bunch of times for flashing women and like, trying to get them to spank him and shit? Like, I know, ‘no kink-shaming’, I’ve been on the internet, but whatever, I’d kink-shame Rousseau in a second. He had like nine illegitimate babies that he-- why haven’t you cut me off, you’ve usually cut me off by now.”

Enjolras is just sitting there, looking at him. He’s smiling again. Grantaire is in the Twilight Zone.

“I remember that too,” Enjolras says around a smirk. He takes a sip of his tea.

“Remember what?”

“Those…” He spins a hand thoughtfully. “Fits of eloquence of yours. You talk and talk and talk, then you go quiet for an hour.”

“I…” He works his mouth. What does he say to that? Finally he settles on “When did you get a cat, anyway?”

“Feuilly got him for me when I got out.” He rolls his eyes. “He worried I’d be depressed, so he got me a cat.”

“What a guy, that Feuilly.”

“Yeah.” He swallows more tea, seeming eager to change the subject. “How is…” He hesitates. Drums his fingers on the table. Exhales heavily through his nose. “I’m sorry, I forgot-- what was the--”

“Devolny?” Grantaire prompts. “It’s fine, I don’t blame you; population of four thousand, doesn’t tend to linger in the memory.”

“Yeah. Devolny. How is it? Your family’s still there?”

“Parents and sister, yeah,” Grantaire answers.

“That must be nice.”

“Uh huh. Maman likes having me around. Now that I’m in town I get calls from her like a million times a day--” He puts on a high voice. “‘Thibault, the dryer’s making a funny noise,’ ‘Thibault, I think robbers are watching the house,’ ‘Thibault, what’s a WiFi?’”

Enjolras blinks. “Thibault?”

Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “You’ve known me for six years, and you’re just learning my first name?”

He has the grace to look a little embarrassed. “I...guess I never thought about it.”

Grantaire drops his eyes to the table. Studies the wood grain. Jean-Jacques headbutts his hand, which has gone still.

Enjolras clears his throat. “You like living there?”

“It’s fine. Cost of living is low.” He shrugs. “Not exactly the city of lights.”

A hum in response.

“I have to find a new roommate, though. My friend Floreal’s getting married. To a banker, would you fucking believe it.”

Another hum. “People have been doing a lot of that lately.”

“Marrying bankers?”

“Generally getting married, I mean.”

“Guess we’re getting to be that age. Weird.”

“Yeah.”

It goes quiet again. Enjolras gets distracted by his phone while Grantaire looks out the window. It’s nice out for April. The sky is a pale wash of blue-white; there’s a light breeze stirring the treetops. The top floor apartment offers a pleasant view of this corner of the tenth arrondissement; some shops, some pedestrians.

This is one of his favorite areas of Paris, Grantaire remembers. Not that it’s anything particularly exciting, removed as it is from Champ-Elysees and the heart of the city, but it’s familiar. He used to live not too far from here, forever ago. Walking distance, probably. It strikes him for some reason-- in the same sort of way as the panda mug, the cat, the odd little smiles-- that Enjolras lived so close, and he’d never known.

It’s dawning on Grantaire, slowly, that Enjolras exists in the same world he does.

Or, he did.

“Hey,” says Enjolras. Grantaire tears his gaze from the window and looks at him.

“Do you want to go for a walk, or something?” He runs a hand through his hair, a self-conscious gesture. It looks foreign on him. “You’ve spent all day in a train and then a bar. You probably want to get out.”

“No, don’t worry about me, you’ve got shit to do, I bet--”

“I really don’t.”

“It’s a Friday afternoon, you-- fuck, you just got off parole, like, yesterday, I’m sure there’s stuff you’d rather be doing than traipsing around Paris with me--”

“There really isn’t.”

He says it simply, in that tone of voice of his that brooks no argument. Firm.

“Why…” Grantaire stammers uselessly for a second, then centers himself. “Okay. I need you to be real with me.”

He raises his eyebrows. “What else would I be.” You can tell when a question is rhetorical with Enjolras-- there isn’t a question mark at the end.

“Why are you acting so...chummy?”

His eyebrows go higher, until they threaten to disappear under some low-hanging curls. “Chummy?”

“You’re acting like we’re friends.”

“We are friends.” Firm.

“No, we really aren’t.”

Most people would look hurt by such a statement, or at least a little offended. Enjolras is not most people. “I was terrible to you,” he states.

“Only when I was being an annoying dickbag and disrupting meetings. Which I did, a lot.”

“Yeah, but I was still terrible. I wanna do better.” He folds his hands on the table in front of him. “I wanted to be your friend, I was just in the habit of dismissing people who disagreed with me. Can I try to make up for it?”

This one has a question mark. He wants an answer.

Grantaire doesn’t give one yet. “Is this some kind of pity thing?”

“No!” This manages to shock him a little. “No way.”

Quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid: “Is this about what happened in the alley at La Defénse during the riot, like, like, like feeling like you owe me or some misplaced gallant bullshit that--”

“No! For Christ’s sakes, I want to be your friend, is that so hard to believe!” Rhetorical.

Jean-Jacques, sensing tension, leaps down from Grantaire’s lap and hides under the table. Coward.

He sighs. It might be a little shaky. “Okay, yeah. Cool. Yeah, a walk sounds good.”

With an expression that’s unmistakably relieved, of all things, Enjolras nods. “Great. Let’s go.”

He stands up, Jean-Jacques winding himself around his legs, and without a look behind makes for the door. Grantaire, feeling lighter and more confused than ever, follows.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“That one.”

“Where?”

“That one, over there.” Grantaire seizes Enjolras by his upper arms and turns him in the right direction. “Her.” Enjolras sighs and squares his shoulders.

The two watch the nice old lady, sitting by herself outside a cafe, until she happens to look their way. Grantaire gives him a nudge.

Catching her eye, Enjolras waves.

Her eyebrows furrow. She scowls and looks away.

Enjolras, predictably, pouts. “This game is stupid.”

“And you’re really, really bad at it. What’s that make you?”

“I told you, Parisians don’t smile. It’s part of our mystique.”

“Sure it is.”

Grantaire casts a look around the charming little street they’re wandering down, lined on one side by quaint shops and restaurants and on the other by the Canal Saint-Martin. There’s a sizeable crowd, drawn out by the mild weather and impending weekend. He isolates a target and waits for his moment.

Three young women stand in front of a shop window, chatting in what's unmistakably American English. When they turn back toward the street, Grantaire grins. He stands on his tiptoes, waves merrily, and yells “Bonjour!”

All three smile and wave back.

Grantaire, predictably, gloats, while Enjolras, predictably, pouts.

“That wasn’t fair. Those are tourists.”

“So?”

“So they’ll smile at anything. They pay thousands of euro to be here, they want to smile.”

“I’m a tourist, technically.”

“Not really.”

Grantaire ignores him. “I find the ‘bonjour’ to be very effective. Foreigners, especially the women, find it charmingly French.”

“Now, that’s definitely cheating,” Enjolras protests. “If you’re relying just on being handsome and French that doesn’t count.”

“In the rules it was never--” It takes a second for that to catch up with him. “What the fuck, handsome?”

Fair skin betraying him, Enjolras’ face begins to color. His expression, though, is still hilariously severe. “You just said, you-- in specifying that it was especially the women who find it charming, you made it clear that it--”

“Such heteronormative thinking! This is shocking, Julien.”

“Unfair tactics! And don’t call me Julien."

“Julien, Julien, Julien.”

Thibi.”

“Hey! Only Maman Grantaire can call me that. I can’t believe you called me ‘handsome’, who says ‘handsome’?” His mind-numbing shock is less to do with the word choice and more to do with, like, literally every single other thing about the situation, but that will do.

“If you ca-- fils de salope!”

Grantaire would probably help him with the scalding coffee down his front and the extremely angry old man if he weren’t too busy doubled over laughing, gasping for breath.

“Thanks for your help,” Enjolras grumbles later, plucking at his ruined t-shirt.

Grantaire is still wiping tears from his eyes. “I’m sorry, but that was the funniest shit I’ve ever-- Such language, at such a respectable old gentleman.”

“It wasn’t directed at him, that coffee was hot!”

“That’s what you get for not watching where you’re going. And being bad at people-watching games.”

They’ve stopped walking at this point. Enjolras, red-faced and coffee-stained, throws his hands up in defeat. “This is not my day. And that is not my game.”

Let it be known that Grantaire, for all his faults, is capable of taking pity. “Let’s play a new one, then. This one’s easy.”

Tugging at his hair in frustration, Enjolras mutters to himself, “How did I get roped into this?”

“You’ll like this one, I promise. Me and Bossuet used to play it all the time in the wealthier areas.”

“Fine.”

For the second time, Grantaire takes him by the arms and steers. He doesn’t allow himself to think about how long he holds on before deciding on a target and letting go.

A man in a suit, lingering outside a coffee shop. Perfect.

Grantaire leans into Enjolras and mutters, “Follow my lead.” Then:

“Hey,” he says (or rather, yells), “isn’t that the guy?”

To Enjolras’ credit, he goes along with it. “Yeah,” he replies, matching his volume. “Yeah, that’s definitely him.”

“That’s him! That’s the guy! Hey! Monsieur!”

The man in the suit is eyeing them worriedly. Grantaire tugs at Enjolras’ elbow, and they rush toward him.

“Monsieur!”

“Excuse me, monsieur!”

They’re pushing through the crowd, shouting and giggling (actually giggling, this day will not get weirder) and calling “Monsieur!” at the increasingly alarmed-looking shop-goer, when Grantaire feels a hand on his shoulder stop him.

He looks up. Yeah, that’s a cop.

It’s not the angriest he’s seen one, but he doesn’t look too happy either.

“Do you two gentlemen have anywhere to be?” says the cop.

Enjolras, previously red, has gone white. “Yes sir. Yes, definitely.”

“Yeah, yes, of course--” Grantaire stutters, pulling him, “let’s go--”

“Yes, good idea-- let’s leave--”

They nigh sprint over the nearest bridge to the other side of the canal, Enjolras looking increasingly angry and Grantaire laughing increasingly hard the whole way.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They sit on the concrete edge of the canal, legs swinging, having procured a surprisingly edible vegan pastry thing each from a place Enjolras likes.

“It’s way more fun when you catch up with The Guy. Then you shake his hand and tell him how much of an honor it is. No one responds the same way. Fascinating character study, if you ask me.”

“What do you and Bossuet get up to…?”

“That was about it, actually. We were both too broke to get up to much else.”

“I see.”

“We entertained ourselves.”

“Clearly.” He bites into his piece of weird vegan nonsense, and talks with his mouth full. “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Playing a game me and Bossuet made up is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done? Are you sure? You’ve literally been to prison.”

Enjolras manages to swallow and glare at the same time. “Yeah, and I almost got put back just now.”

“You should’ve seen your face. Classic.”

“Get scolded by a cop the day your parole ends, see how you handle it.”

Grantaire tips his head back and laughs. The comment wasn’t particularly hilarious, but it feels like the thing to do. He relaxes his neck, lets the sun hit his face. Through the canopy of leaves overhead, the sky is getting steadily bluer. Somewhere behind him, some students are chatting about exams. Water laps below. Beside him, Enjolras’ steady breathing.

Grantaire feels, suddenly, a great sense of place, like everything in the world converged into just the right pattern to put him exactly where he is, here, right now. It’s a weird feeling, and hard to explain. Maybe, he thinks, it’d be easier to call it ‘happiness’.

“I like it down here,” he says. “I used to hang out by the canal all the time.”

“You seem happy to be back.”

“Yeah, it’s a nice spot.”

“Back in Paris, I meant. You seem happy to be back.”

He looks at Enjolras. “I’m not back, I’m here for the weekend. The wedding, remember?”

“How could I forget,” Enjolras mutters. “Pontmercy won’t shut up about it.”

Grantaire sniggers.

Then, abruptly, Enjolras says,“Why did you move? I was never sure.”

And, the happy feeling’s gone.

“Are you kidding?”

“No.”

He sighs. “Of course you aren't.”

Enjolras just looks at him.

I tried to die next to you and then they took you away, and then I kind of wanted to die for real, and everything went to hell.

He shrugs. “Everything went to hell.”

Enjolras keeps looking at him, as if to say And?

Grantaire groans. “It was just a lot, okay? The Amis couldn’t meet anymore or we’d all get arrested-- they investigated all of us, they thought we were, like--”

Enjolras quirks an eyebrow, wry. “Terrorist masterminds?”

“I mean, yeah! Like, that’s some pretty intense shit. You can’t blame me for wanting to go back to my podunk little hometown where no one’s ever tried to do anything rebellious or interesting, can you?”

It isn’t a lie, but it feels like one. By omission, probably. But what would the whole truth even sound like?

I didn't act like it, but that stupid club was everything to me. We all still hung out but no one could look at me because they knew how much it was fucking me up that we lost. We were trying to change the world and I never believed it could happen but I was still fucked up when it didn't work, and you were gone, you were locked up somewhere and I'd never told you-- not that you didn't already know, of fucking course you did, everyone knew-- and Paris wasn't mine anymore.

“No, you’re right," says Enjolras.

I swore I wouldn't come back. Not ever. I was gonna forget about you and forget about Paris, but here I am, because Cosette and fucking Pontmercy convinced me. Not that I needed much convincing. I'm never gonna be over you, am I?

"I just needed some peace and quiet," says Grantaire.

"That makes sense. I'm glad you're here, though."

Grantaire's poor, stupid heart skips a beat.

"There was something I wanted to say,” Enjolras announces. “You asked me earlier if I was only being nice to you out of gratitude, and I'm not, but I still want to let you know that I remember what you did for me, what you tried to do."

Grantaire drops his face to his hands. Something kind of like humiliation but not exactly is welling up inside him. "Enjolras, can we not?"

"No, I'm going to. I never got to thank you."

"I'd really, really rather you didn't."

"Thanks. For offering to do that. It was extremely brave, it was the bravest thing I've ever seen."

He buries his face deeper in his palms. Something brushes his right wrist, guides his hands from his face. Enjolras' hand, on his. It's very gentle. So is his face right now, which isn't something Grantaire ever remembers seeing before. Not directed at him.

"It was an incredible thing to do for someone, and I'm trying really hard to deserve it."

His eyes are very blue and very soft and it's unbearable. This is just what Grantaire told himself he wouldn't do: talk to Enjolras, spend more time around him than absolutely necessary. He's been doing okay, the past year or so. He was, maybe, getting closer to his ultimate goal of 'Forget Enjolras'.

Well, that plan's good and fucked now.

He tears his eyes from Enjolras', focusing on some spot slightly above his shoulder, says, "Look, I don't--"

And promptly bursts out laughing.

Enjolras looks confused, and more than a little offended.

"R, what--"

"Look, look at the bridge, behind you, the railing, look--"

"I don't--"

"No, just look, look."

He turns around and looks. It only takes a moment or two.

"Fucking Christ. You're kidding me."

There's only a few, but they're unmistakeable: the bridge a few yards down the canal from where they sit has little metal padlocks hooked on the railing.

"They're..." Enjolras' voice is awed, "everywhere."

Grantaire isn't done laughing yet. Once again, it just feels like the thing to be doing. "Looks like you've got your work cut out for you, boss."

"How are they everywhere?! Everyone who lives in this city hates them!"

"They are kind of annoying." Truth be told, Grantaire never had that much of an opinion about them when he lived here, but he can humor Enjolras. He's just glad whatever moment they were having thirty seconds ago is over.

"Except Courfeyrac," Enjolras says with distaste. "He thinks they’re ‘cute’.”

“That’s because Courfeyrac is a weepy sentimental twink and he knows it.”

On the ground between them, Enjolras’ phone rings, as if on cue. Enjolras picks it up, looks at it, and makes a face.

“Uncanny.”

He turns the screen to Grantaire, showing the caller ID. It’s a photo of Courfeyrac making finger-guns at the camera. The displayed name is ‘Colonel Snazzypants’. Grantaire is about ninety nine percent sure that was chosen by the man himself, but he can’t be positive.

“Speak of the devil, I guess.”

Enjolras picks up and hits the speakerphone button. In lieu of a greeting he says “Grantaire called you a twink.”

“Nonsense, I’m too tall. And ethnic.”

Grantaire snorts. “‘Ethnic’? You’re Latino, not a station at a buffet.”

“Oh, is he there with you? Hi R.”

“Hey Courf.”

“Did you want something, or just to talk racism in the Parisian gay scene?” Enjolras asks.

“While I know you’re prepared to have that conversation, no. The gang’s making plans for tonight.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh yes. You’re a free man, R is here, my dear, dear friend Pontmercy's getting married, like, somehow. We’re celebrating!"

"Celebrating?" Grantaire turns quirked eyebrows to Enjolras.

Courfeyrac's voice, crackling over the speakers, is full of glee. "We're going clubbing! No complaining."

Enjolras grimaces.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They make their way back to Enjolras’ apartment slowly, taking time to wander a little. It’s not even dark yet; they have hours to kill.

When they get back, Enjolras changes out of his stained shirt and works on an article he’s writing for some online publication, the name of which Grantaire immediately forgets a second after he’s told it. Grantaire sits on the couch (red, faded, reliable), watches TV, and pets Jean-Jacques. The cat seems to prefer snuggling with him to snuggling with his owner, and Enjolras pouts about it. Grantaire tries to comfort him by saying that it’s nothing personal, Jean-Jacques just looks at Enjolras, takes him for a marble statue, and decides to forego cuddles. It doesn’t seem to work.

They wait until eleven o’clock to leave for the Metro, which feels bizarre to Grantaire. A year and a half in Devolny is long enough, apparently, to make Paris’ collective lack of interest in sleep a novelty again. The night is cool, the moon is big and white. The streets are busy, people pouring in and out of brightly-lit clubs and bars; the city of lights shows no sign of winding down anytime soon.

He’s missed this.

 

~ ~ ~

 

"Okay, so technically we're banned from this club," Bahorel yells over the heavy bass, "but that was like two years ago and it's a different bouncer, so I think we're cool."

Having successfully collected them from the entrance, he leads Grantaire and Enjolras through the crush of people.

"What happened?" Grantaire can barely hear his own voice over the music. "Why'd you get banned?"

"Enjolras' famous left hook is what happened."

"Some guy was being a dick to Prouvaire," Enjolras yells back, defensive. "Racist, bigoted piece of shit."

"You broke his jaw."

"I'd do it again."

“Mon chous!” Courfeyrac comes hurtling out of the crowd. He’s wearing plastic neon green shutter shades. It’s one of those nights, Grantaire figures. Combeferre surfaces behind him, looking comfortably drunk.

“Having fun?” Grantaire says.

“So much fun. It’s euro shots until one.”

"It's where they give you a shot for one euro," says Combeferre, fulfilling his role as the rare State-The-Obvious drunk. Looking around, Grantaire sees he’s not the only one who’s gotten good and liquified: Cosette and Musichetta cling to each other, leaping up and down in time to the music; Bossuet does some sort of flailing dance while Joly tries to avoid a black eye; Marius stands by himself, looking dazed but content.

Grantaire’s gotten pretty used to the hot, stomach-churning feeling of need a drink over the past year. It doesn’t make it any easier, though.

“Yeah, pretty much everybody’s here--”

“Except Feuilly, he didn’t come because he’s working tomorrow morning, like a LOSER.” Courfeyrac yells the last word in the vague direction of Feuilly, at home sleeping and unlikely to hear.

“Éponine came, though!” Combeferre continues. He sounds really excited. Grantaire hopes one day to have half as much enthusiasm as Drunk Combeferre. “I think she’s at the bar.”

Grantaire nods. “I’ll go check on her.”

Enjolras grabs him by the elbow and looks him the eye. The expression on his face is pitiable and, admittedly, hilarious. “Don’t leave me.”

Grinning manically, Courfeyrac grabs him. “Oh no you don’t, grumpy. You’re coming with us.”

The three of them disappear into the crowd and strobe lights, and Grantaire shoves his way over to the bar. He spots Éponine’s sleek dark hair, sneaks up behind her.

“Glad to see you decided to show up after all.”

“You need me,” she says as he sits beside her. “Even with Cosette and Chetta, you guys are such a sausagefest.”

“Don’t ‘you guys’ me, I’m only here for the weekend.” Grantaire’s had to remind people of that a little too frequently on this trip. It’s worrying.

“Yeah, whatever. The bartender’s giving you the eyes.”

“He’s not ‘giving me the eyes’, he’s trying to place me. I swear to god, he’s like the eighth person tonight already.”

“I forgot you know half the people in this city.” She rolls her eyes. “Usually biblically.”

Knew, ’Ponine. I’m only--”

“Here for the weekend, I know.”

“And it wasn’t biblical, you creep. I used to spar with him at the gym." He hesitates. "I mean, there were a couple of times, but a lady doesn’t kiss and tell.”

“Speaking of sparring partners.”

“Yeah?”

“And people you’re dying to know biblically. I wasn't gonna go into it with Parnasse there--"

He leans back, lets out an eloquent Euuughhh. “Do we have to do this?”

“You’re staying with Enjolras. With Enjolras.”

“I know.”

“In his apartment.”

“Yeah.”

“With En-”

“Are you gonna get to lecturing me any time soon or just keep gawking?”

She lifts spread hands in surrender. Grantaire doesn’t believe the gesture for a second. “I’m not gonna lecture.”

“Sure you are.”

“I can say I think it’s a shitty idea and that this is exactly what we said you wouldn’t do without being lecture-y.”

He Euuughhhs again, with feeling. “What was I supposed to do? Say no?”

“Yeah, dipshit! That’s exactly what you were supposed to do! I know you’ve never been awesome at the whole ‘just say no’ thing--”

“Low blow,” he mumbles, eyes tracking the movement of her screwdriver as she takes a sip.

“--but that asshole damn near killed you.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

As a rule, he tells Éponine everything; she’s the one person from Paris he’s stayed in contact with. Out of all the ABCs she understood him best; they're fucked up in similar ways. They've both been getting better, though, in the time since, at their own pace. He's glad to see she isn't as thin as she was, presumably eating more and doing coke with Montparnasse less.

But he hasn’t told her about what happened between him and Enjolras in that alley a year and a half ago. He hasn’t told anyone. Whether it's due to shame or denial, he isn’t entirely sure. Hard to tell, with him. He’s pretty great at both.

“Seriously, are you cool with being strung out over him for the rest of your life? ’Cause that’s how you’re acting.”

“Like you can fucking talk,” he says. “You said yourself like eight hours ago that you weren’t hanging out with the ABCs anymore, and, lo and behold, you’re sulking at the bar like you’re me or something.” This whole place smells like vodka, and it’s making him feel antsy and bitter. “He’s getting married in two days, Ép, and you're the maid of honor. You don't see a problem there?"

“I’m not here for fucking Pontmercy, okay?” She slams her glass onto the counter. Grantaire watches it. “If you really gotta know, I’m over that, I like somebody else now.”

“Yeah, sure. Who?”

She glares, spins around on her barstool, and pushes away into the crowd.

About half a second later, Courfeyrac, Bossuet, Jehan, and Marius show up.

While the others are busy with shots of something blue and undoubtedly poisonous, he leans in to Courfeyrac. “Who’s Éponine trying to seduce? Did I miss something?”

Courfeyrac squints thoughtfully. “I have a theory.” He leaves it at that.

“Capital R, my man!” shouts Bossuet gleefully. “You’re way too sober!”

He was hoping this wouldn’t come up, but that was a pretty faint chance anyway. “Have been for six months. Not stopping now on account of you morons.”

Everyone gets it, except Marius. “What? Why?”

“Oh my god, Pontmercy,” mutters Bossuet.

Grantaire spreads his hands. It’s meant to be a hurray kind of gesture, but it might end up looking a little sarcastic. “Guess who’s in recovery.”

Jehan puts a gentle hand on his arm. “I’m proud of you, R.”

There’s an awkward few seconds of indistinct supportiveness.

“Hope I’m not raining on the parade. Especially since this is kind of my party.”

“Don’t sweat it,” says Bossuet. He leans in to whisper (or, rather, yell in a conspiratorial manner) in his ear, “This isn’t actually for you. It’s Pontmercy’s bachelor party!”
Grantaire looks over to Marius. “I thought he said he didn’t want one?” Grantaire asks at full volume.

“Yeah, so we’re not telling him.”

“What?” asks Marius.

“Nothin’, kiddo. Let’s go dance some more.” Everyone but Courfeyrac leaves. He sits down on Éponine’s vacated stool.

“Soooo,” Courfeyrac says innocently. Grantaire smells danger. “I hear you’re roomies with Fearless Leader.”

Grantaire drops his face to the counter. It’s a little forceful; he might’ve bruised his forehead. “Are you gonna lecture me too?”

“Not sure what you just said, but it sounded grouchy. I’m not judging, only curious.”

Grantaire turns his head, rests his cheek on the bar, and generally looks really pathetic. “What do you wanna know? We, like, went on a walk. By the canal. It was gay as hell."

“Charming!”

“Yeah. I made him play some of those dumb people-watching games me and Bossuet used to play and he got coffee dumped on him by an old guy, and then we got yelled at by a cop, and then he showed me this cafe where he goes to eat his funny vegan nonsense--”

“You got Enjolras to play The Guy?”

“Yeah. That’s why we got yelled at.”

“Oh my god.” He tugs Grantaire into sitting up, looks at him with a very serious expression. “R. R, my dude. Are you Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ing a convicted terrorist?”

“If Enjolras is a terrorist, I’m Batman. And...what?”

“You know,” he says. “Are you showing him, the lonely and cynical young white man, the beauty of life through, like, whimsy? And stuff?”

“Courf, for fuck’s sakes, I--” He stops. “Oh my god. I’m a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”

Courfeyrac tsks. He reaches out to give the scraggly curls over Grantaire’s forehead an experimental tug. “Too bad you can’t pull off bangs.”

“Euuuggghh.” Grantaire slumps back onto the counter and says helplessly, “He called me handsome.”

It’s Courfeyrac’s turn to look confused. “What?”

“‘Handsome’. It made a little more sense in context but not much.”

“Why?”

“Beats me. Especially considering this," he gestures vaguely in the direction of his everything, "isn't exactly the paragon of earthly beauty."

“Hey, you're--”

“That was about to be very nice of you, I’m sure, but save it.” Grantaire knows he’s not easy on the eyes; it’s never bothered him a whole lot. “I just wanna know, what the fuck? You’re his best friend. When did he suddenly get...like….why is he acting like he doesn’t disdain me all of a sudden?”

“I mean, I think jail kind of mellowed him out in general, but, like…” Courfeyrac shrugs. “As far as suddenly deciding to be friends with you, I have no idea.”

Courfeyrac calls the bartender over and orders a drink. When it shows up, it has an umbrella in it. Not for the first time, Grantaire is impressed by Courfeyrac’s absolute comfort in being a stereotype. He sips it with an air of thoughtfulness.

Then he says, “You should sleep with him.”

Grantaire chokes on air. “I'm sorry, did we hop on over into an alternate dimension without my noticing?”

He grins. "It's been so long since I heard you talk I forgot how weird you are. No one talks like that, Grantaire." Courfeyrac ignores the middle finger flipped at him and continues. “What? He’s twenty-five and not, contrary to popular belief, asexual. He’s just never gotten around to it. It’s about time he lost his virginity, and I can't think of a better man for the job. I'd do it myself, but I'm--"

Grantaire talks to the counter. The counter is his friend, and doesn’t say weird, stupid, outrageous things. “That's lovely and all, but it won't happen in a million years. The sun will burn out, and the heat death of the universe will arrive before that happens."

“Why not? You’re in love with him.”

“I’m not in love with him!” he lies.

Courfeyrac sighs, stirs his cocktail with its stupid umbrella. “Grantaire. Do you remember, right after the riots, that week we were all in the hospital?”

Half in beds, half in waiting rooms. He remembers. “Yeah?”

“Remember what happened?"

Grantaire goes cold. “Of course I fucking remember. What, like I’d--”

"What happened? Tell me."

"He was comatose all night, they didn't know what was going to happen. He might've had brain damage, or he might've--" Sense memory of that sick helplessness overwhelms him; his throat closes up, something inside him shudders and heaves. "Not woken up."

"Mm hmm." Courfeyrac nods encouragingly. Then he says “Remember how it was almost two days until Jehan regained consciousness?”

Grantaire's mouth hangs open, useless. “I...forgot about that.”

It happened, though. He remembers now: a year and a half ago, Jehan-- weird, lovely, gentle Jehan, his friend-- got a nightstick to the head and almost died. How did he forget that?

Courfeyrac shakes his head, and a breathy laugh twitches at the corners of his mouth. “I haven’t,” he says. His voice sounds shaky.

Wait.

“Courf, are--”

“I don’t mean to make you feel guilty or whatever, I know you love Jehan. I’m just saying, what you remember first says a lot about your priorities.”

Grantaire sits up, eyes wide. “Are you in love with Prouvaire?”

He laughs. It's like his usual one, almost. “It’s funny, no one’s figured it out. That’s funny to me. I mean, I’m me, I’m not subtle.”

Grantaire doesn’t know what to say.

“Look, all I mean is, sometimes people around here are surprising.”

Grantaire shakes his head, still gaping. “Dude. Fucking Paris.”

Courfeyrac raises his glass in agreement. “Salud.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

An hour later, Grantaire’s dancing to some Rihanna song with Éponine when Enjolras appears out of nowhere.

“I just wanted to let you know--” He’s leaned in very close to speak directly into Grantaire’s ear, hand on his shoulder. The club is hot, but his breath feels warm anyway. “--I talked to Combeferre, I can stay with him tonight if you need the apartment.”

It’s such a weird comment, Grantaire forgets he’s sober for a second. “What do you mean?”

“Like…” It’s hard to tell in the dim lighting, but he imagines Enjolras’ face reddens. “If you need it.”

His meaning occurs to him, and Grantaire really, really wants a drink. “Are...are you insinuating that I’m, like, on the prowl? Why the fuck would I--” God, he doesn’t even want to say this, “--why would I want to bring someone to your apartment?”

Yep, Enjolras face has definitely changed color. Grantaire doesn’t remember that happening so often. “I don’t know. You’re on vacation.”

“Yeah,” he says slowly, like Enjolras is a toddler, “I’m also not disgusting.”

“Okay, okay. It just seemed polite to offer.”

Grantaire doesn’t know how to respond, so he says, “Is Combeferre even in any state to consent to that plan? He was hitting the euro shots pretty hard last time I saw him.”

The two of them look around for a second, until Enjolras points. Combeferre’s attempting to sing along to the lyrics.

“Does he speak English?” Grantaire asks.

“Not well enough to know what ‘bitch better have my money’ means, I think,” Enjolras says.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Grantaire isn’t used to waking up after a night out clubbing without a hangover. It’s a nice change, he thinks as he rolls over on the faded red couch.

At the other end of the room, Enjolras is sitting at the desk, meowing.

Jean-Jacques twists around the bottom of the desk chair. Enjolras types one-handed on his laptop while he reaches down to pet him.

“Meow,” says Jean-Jacques.

“Meow,” answers Enjolras.

Grantaire is about to lose his damn mind.

“Are you,” he asks, his voice still creaky with sleep, “meowing?”

Enjolras turns slightly in his chair, and thinks for a second. “Yeah, I guess,” he says eventually. “I wasn’t really thinking about it.”

“Okay,” says Grantaire.

“When someone talks to you, you answer. You do the same with cats.”

“Okay,” says Grantaire.

“I’ve been talking to the others,” Enjolras says. There’s a Facebook chat window open on his laptop. “Combeferre and Courfeyrac have been doing research for the love locks campaign, and Prouvaire already has a poster design. There was going to be a breakfast meeting at the Musain today, but everyone’s too hung over.” He looks at him. “You look okay, though.”

“Yeah, I don’t drink anymore.”

Enjolras doesn’t bother hiding his surprise. “Really?”

“Yeah. Nearly six months now. Wouldn’t ya know it.”

“Are you in a program?” Enjolras’ well-meaning indelicacy is almost charming, soothingly familiar. Almost.

“I was. The people were annoying, though, so I’m going it alone. Been doing pretty okay.”

Enjolras nods. “That’s good. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. Kinda.”

“I mean it.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“You have to start believing me.”

Grantaire rolls his eyes. “I’m gonna go brush my teeth.”

When he comes out of the bathroom (which he learned last night is as messy as any other twenty-five year old dude’s, scummy stuff between the tiles in the shower, toothpaste flecks in the sink; he adds that to the collection in his head he’s taken to calling The Panda Bear Mug List) Enjolras is in the kitchen. He’s at the table, eating toast and typing away on his phone. He hears Grantaire come in and says, “Help yourself to anything. There’s coffee and oatmeal and stuff.”

Grantaire ends up eating a bowl of cardboardy cereal with almond milk (honestly, he doesn’t understand how a person can be so aggressively French and be a vegan), leaning against the counter. For some reason, sitting down next to Enjolras and eating breakfast at the same table feels...familiar, and he can’t bring himself to do it. If Enjolras notices anything, he doesn’t voice it.

Instead, he says “What are you going to do today?”

Grantaire shrugs. Jean-Jacques leaps up onto the counter and rubs against his elbow. “Dunno. Go out, whatever. You?”

“I don’t have much of an agenda. I have to pick up my suit for tomorrow at some point, but that’s about it. I might just make Courf do it, he went to the same place as me for his."

“For the wedding.” Grantaire’d almost forgot, even though, he reminds himself firmly, that’s the entire reason he’s here.

“Yeah. I had to get it dry-cleaned; this asshole coughed a hairball on it.”

Jean-Jacques purrs happily.

“Good kitty,” says Grantaire.

Enjolras rolls his eyes. “Where do you think you’ll be going?”

He shrugs again. “I don’t know. Some of the old haunts. I was thinking I might play the tourist and go to the Louvre. For old times’ sakes.” He sat in those galleries during his art school days for more hours than he can count.

“I’ve never been.”

“Wait, what?” Grantaire stares. “You’ve lived in Paris all this time, and you’ve never been to the fucking Louvre?”

“I never got around to it.”

“That’s like...that’s like never going to the Eiffel Tower.”

Enjolras takes a bite of toast and says nothing.

“For God’s sakes Enjolras, tell me you’ve been to the fucking Eiffel Tower.”

“Why would I do that? I see it every day.”

“Jesus God. How do you fight for a city when you haven’t seen any of it?”

“Just because I don't go along with the mass commercialization brought on by the bloated appetites of the tourist industry--" Grantaire imagines him rehearsing that line in his water-stained bathroom mirror, "--that turns all of Paris into a, a consumerist machine-- for God's sakes there's a fucking shopping mall with a Starbucks underneath the Louvre and you're trying to imply that I'm--"

“Do you wanna go with me?”

Grantaire’s stomach churns. Why did he say that? Most people have control over what comes out of their mouths, don’t they?

Mid-storm, Enjolras’ eyes go big. “Really?”

“I mean, you don’t--”

“I would like that, I think. Can we do that?”

Only Enjolras can go from full speed ahead anti-capitalist rage into gentle surprise in a single breath. Grantaire is aware that he’s staring. “I’m. I mean, yeah. We can do that.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

They walk, foregoing the metro in favor of the hour-long trek into the first arrondissement. All the while, Grantaire points out his favorite spots. He's not surprised that he still remembers them all. A few years gone or no, he could navigate Paris blind.

That place on the corner has the best coffee. And over there-- you can play a good game of pool over there. That bakery's awesome (he doesn't mention the added bonus that its clientele happened to, back in the day, include a lot of people who were interested in sleeping with him). And this hole in the wall makes matelote better than anyone's Grandmere ever dreamed, and a few streets that way, there's another little place with the best wine list in the city. And down that way lives his old dealer.

"Dealer?"

"Don't sound so scandalized, it was only pot. But then, you barely touch caffeine. I shouldn’t be surprised that I upset your delicate sensibilities."

"I like to stay...unpolluted. All the toxins and shit pumped into us every day are bad for focus. Not to mention how these industries are capitalist parasites that sit fat and happy in the government's front pocket, while the consumer--"

He cuts him off with a scoff. "Dude, please. You consume just as much tobacco as every other person in this country."

Enjolras concedes that one.

“But I don’t have delicate sensibilities. For God’s sake, I--”

“I know, you’re a hardened criminal. Still, incarceration didn’t take your seventeen-year-old schoolboy face. My friend, you’ll never have street cred, you’re far too blond.”

“I’m not delicate.”

“Okay, fine, I believe you.”

Then:

"R. I have an idea."

 

~ ~ ~

 

In retrospect, it probably should’ve occurred to Grantaire. He hasn’t smoked anything stronger than cigarettes in a year or two, but he still built up a pretty impressive tolerance back in the old days. Enjolras, being the straightedge badass he is, has not. Naturally, then, it should’ve occurred to Grantaire that when the two of them stopped to smoke a joint in an alley in the first arrondissement, he should’ve let Enjolras have one hit and had that be that. Not let him stand there waxing rhapsodic about the corruption in the French prison system, puffing on it like a cigarette.

Grantaire’s an idiot, so he didn’t think of this.

“Oh my God. Oh my God.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s the ceiling.”

They came in the Port de Lions entrance (not before Enjolras stopped to gape for a few minutes at the big glass pyramid, mumbling vaguely about The Da Vinci Code), and are wandering through the sculpture gallery, flanked on all sides by eager tourists. Well, Grantaire is wandering. Enjolras is being led along by the hand while staring fixedly at the ceiling.

“Oh my God.”

“You know, there are sculptures here. Like, important ones. Here, look at this guy." Apollo Sauroctonos, the weird one with the lizard. "Look at him. He looks like he could be your brother."

Enjolras’ head stays tipped backwards, glazed eyes on the vaulted ceiling. Sighing, Grantaire drags him over to a sculpture. Cupid and Psyche.

“Look.” Grantaire shakes him by the arm. “Art.”

Slowly, Enjolras rolls his neck and focuses on the embracing marble figures. “Hey, art,” he says.

“This is one of my favorites. See how dynamic the pose is? If you look at the figures--” he lifts the hand not around Enjolras’ wrist to gesture at Psyche’s arms, held aloft around her lover’s neck, “you can see that they’re in this kind of perfect, like, three-sixty degree X shape, and it makes for this really energetic composition from every angle, cause, like, Psyche just woke up, right, and Cupid--”

Out of the corner of his eye he sees that Enjolras has stopped looking at the art, and is now watching Grantaire wave his hand and ramble, a hazy intensity to his gaze. “Dynamic,” he says, carefully turning every syllable over in his mouth. His blue eyes drive into Grantaire’s.

“Yeah.” He’s really conscious of the way he’s practically holding hands with Enjolras. He’s stoned out of his mind, he’d wander off somewhere, he thinks weakly. Yeah, sure. Sometimes Grantaire gets tired of his own bullshit.

He has an idea; a weird memory that surfaces. Something he used to do in art school. It’s dumb as hell. Enjolras, in his current state, will love it.

“Here, look-- like this. This is the only way to look at it right.”

He tugs on Enjolras’ wrist, fingers finding the skin under his red leather sleeve, and starts jogging slow laps around the statue.

His high makes itself known. The world breaks up into gentle frame-by-frame seconds, streaming together like a flipbook painted in watercolor. The gallery blurs around them, and whether that’s the pot or the moment is anyone’s guess. He pulls Enjolras along behind him and feels their footfalls on the marble floor. A looseness, a sleepy wildness has set in.

Trailing after him, Enjolras is laughing, and it sounds like joy bubbling up.

“Look,” Grantaire yelps, and a school trip steps out of their way,  “look at it like this, focus--”

“Oh,” says Enjolras. It’s not the most eloquent he’s ever heard him, but Grantaire knows what he means. This sculpture’s better in three hundred and sixty degrees.

They trip to a stop. Enjolras’ velocity sends him stumbling into Grantaire’s side, and then he kind of just stays there. Grantaire swallows, and rambles.

“Yeah, that kind of all-angles, uh, movement, the elimination of the idea of a statue as something static and still that you look at from one angle, and, like-- yeah, that was characteristic of the Neoclassicists, right, they were all about, like, passion and emotion and stuff--”

Enjolras cuts him off, his eyes fixed on Cupid and Psyche’s passionate embrace with new interest. “It’s really sexy.”

“I-- what?”

“I mean…” There’s a moment’s struggle where he tries to talk but it doesn’t work, and he settles on a vague gesture instead. Enjolras tongue-tied is a rare sight indeed. The wonders of marijuana.

“No, yeah, you’re-- yeah.” Grantaire suddenly finds himself unable to look at Enjolras or the sculpture. Which, he notices now, is really sexy. Like, he knew that before, Cupid's hand is on Psyche's boob and all, but. Yeah.

“Let’s move on,” he says.

They continue the tour-- ‘tour’ in this case meaning Grantaire picking out pieces at random as they pass and vomiting stoned ex-art student thoughts all over an increasingly distracted Enjolras. He takes him by Winged Victory, thinking it’ll incite some sort of revolutionary fervor, but it turns out Enjolras isn't interested in doing much besides moving his head back and forth while making whhhshing noises. Grantaire gives up. Maybe, he thinks, he’ll drag him up to Liberty Leading the People. It's been Enjolras' phone wallpaper since he was nineteen, he might enjoy it.

They follow the crowd up the marble staircase and Enjolras says, “We should play a game.”

Oh my god. “Do you know what museums are?”

“Yeah, I do. A whole lot of walking.” He falls into breathless laughter at his own not-joke. Grantaire wishes they had a full film crew following them around right now.

“What do you want to play? We probably shouldn’t play The Guy in the Louvre.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” He doesn’t finish that thought until about ten minutes later, when they’re wandering through Egyptian antiquities. “I tell you something you don’t know, and you tell me something I don’t know.”

“How do I know what you don't know? Like, secrets?”

Enjolras doesn’t break his gaze with The Seated Scribe. Their eyes are equally glassy. “Sure.”

“Okay. Uh.” He runs a finger over a title placard, thinking. “I’ve never actually watched a Shark Week. Never got around to it. Your turn.”

“That’s not a very good secret.”

“What’s a good one, then?”

Enjolras’ turn toward him is slow, as if through water. He walks up to him-- slowly, slowly-- until their shoes are nearly touching.

“Hmmm. Mmmm.” Hums, ducks his head until their eyes are level. “Your eyes,” he says quietly, “are not brown. They are….” He stares at him from under light eyelashes. “…In fact, they’re hazel.”

Grantaire swallows. “It’s not a secret if it’s been in my face for all to see for twenty-five years.”

“But it was,” he whispers, like they’re ten years old, up too late at a sleepover. “Because I didn’t know that. But now I know.” Enjolras brings up one slim finger and-- actually, seriously-- boops Grantaire on the nose. “Hazel.”

He walks away towards the paintings gallery. Grantaire stands there like an idiot.

They stroll around the gallery, and Grantaire gives up trying to teach him anything about art. Instead, for every painting, they take turns telling a ‘secret’.

La Grande Odalisque.

“Do you remember that time I was in a cast like four years ago because I broke my wrist sparring? I was lying, I broke it falling off my bed.”

“What were you doing?”

“That’s a different secret.”

The Coronation of Napoleon.

“Combeferre and I met on the first day of school when we were five. The teacher tried to move us to opposite sides of the room and I started crying. That was twenty years ago and he still sits next to me at every meeting, to make fun of me, but….subtly.”

“Holy shit. That’s the most Combeferre thing I’ve ever..."

“Yeah. It. Yeeeah.”

Liberty Leading the People.

“When Courfeyrac and I met he was naked. It’s a long story.”

The Raft of the Medusa.

“Feuilly didn’t give me Jean-Jacques. I went to a shelter of my own vol..." He struggles for a second. "...volition, and picked him out.”

Woman with a Mirror.

“One time, me and Bossuet and Joly went to the pharmacy counter at the grocery store and tried to buy all the Sudafed they had, just to see what would happen.”

“I….how…how am I the only one who’s been arrested?”

"This other time, we got really high on painkillers and bought, like, four turtles."

"You....what?"

It’s not until they’re standing in front of the fucking Mona Lisa (or, rather, standing behind a huge crowd of people standing in front of the fucking Mona Lisa) that Enjolras says, “My parole ended three weeks ago.”

“What?”

"Not yesterday. Three weeks ago.”

Enjolras giggles the giggle of the truly stoned. The room they keep Mona Lisa in, it’s worth mentioning, is echoey and reverently quiet. Less than ideal.

"Okay....” Grantaire says slowly. “Why?”

Enjolras looks at him like he’s stupid. “The wedding’s this weekend, and I thought that, maybe, you’d be in town for the wedding, so I waited. I wanted the chance for you to be there for the first meeting, it wouldn’t have felt right, so I lied to everyone. I felt guilty at first, but losing three weeks of fighting against love locks isn’t…it isn’t so much, in terms of.” He flaps a hand, frustrated at his own fuzzy brain-to-mouth connection. “Overthrowing the establishment. I thought…” Hums again. His eyelids are so heavy they might slip closed. “I could do something for myself only. Just. Just this once.”

It’s like a wind came in and swept Grantaire’s brain clean. He couldn’t speak even if he wanted to.

Enjolras doesn’t seem to have noticed. His head has lolled back onto his shoulders again, and he opens his eyes up to the ceiling. They widen slightly. “Oh my God. It’s in here, too.”

It takes a reminder of just how not-sober Enjolras is-- fixating on the ceiling in the presence of the most famous work of art of all time, specifically-- to snap Grantaire back to reality. If he hadn’t already pretty much come down by now, that did it.

Grantaire’s heard enough intoxicated babbling in his life; he knows. That what Enjolras just said wasn’t what it sounded like. Obviously. He hates himself for even entertaining the thought, the possibility.

He guides Enjolras over to a bench, away from the reverent crowd, and indulges in a small spiral of self-loathing.

That even for a second he'd-- no, he's an idiot, he's a bigger idiot than he gave himself credit for in the past, and that's saying something. It wasn't what it sounded like, not at all. It's impossible. He's impossible. He's bitter and cynical and boring and ugly, and Enjolras is Enjolras.

Enjolras is also, at the moment, staring at him.

His gaze is slow and heavy, and doesn't move away when Grantaire turns and sees him looking. "You okay?" Grantaire asks.

Enjolras blinks heavily. "Yeah." His voice is lower than normal, breathier.

"Uh," Grantaire says, "did I grow another head, or...?"

"No. Nope."

"What's so interesting, then? You barely glanced at the Mona fucking Lisa."

"I've seen that."

"You've never been here before."

"Yeah, but, like. Everyone's seen it. Lady with no eyebrows." He blinks again. His eyes, still blurry, slip down to Grantaire's arms, where his sleeves are rolled back. "You got tattoos."

Grantaire swallows. "I already had tattoos."

"I mean. You got more of them. I like them." Enjolras lifts his hand from where it was sitting limply at his side to trace lightly down the roses and stained glass on Grantaire's forearm.

In a moment of attempted self-preservation, Grantaire says "It doesn't feel any different from normal skin." A shiver follows Enjolras' fingers.

"I know how tattoos work," he snaps. That's comforting-- familiar, in this sea of weird. Grantaire doesn't know how to handle Tremendously Baked Enjolras; he can barely handle the normal one.

He grasps for a change of subject.

"We're still playing. Tell a secret."

"It's your turn."

"I'm all out."

"Secret. Okay." Enjolras hums. "Okay...got one."

"What?"

A slow smile, one Grantaire's never seen on him before, creeps up his face. "I reeeaally like your tattoos."

"Oh my god." Grantaire drops his head against the wall and closes his eyes on this whole stupid day. "You're so fucking high. You're high. You're not actually-- what it sounded like you were doing, you're stoned, you're stoned."

Enjolras only sniggers in response, the dick. Then: "I like this. I see why you used to do it all the time."

"Glad to hear you're enjoying yourself."

"It's nice, not caring about things. I don't care about anything right now. Is this how you always feel?"

Grantaire's eyes are still closed. "Not quite," he mutters.

"I should be more like you. I wish I were, I want to be."

He opens his eyes. "Come again?"

"You don't believe in anything. You...make a point of it. I'd be better off, wouldn't I?"

Something in Grantaire’s throat plummets into his stomach. Grief? "Enjolras?"

"Really." His beautiful blue eyes are glassier than ever. "I mean...look what happened. They tried to kill all my friends. They almost succeeded."

"They tried to kill you too," Grantaire points out. "But they didn't."

"There were so many things I wanted to do, R." That secretive voice is back, the one from earlier. "Whole lists of things, and I had all these plans. But they won't let me now. I look around and see problems everywhere. Everything's so fucked up and so many people are miserable, but it was inspiring before, because I was going to fix it, even if I died doing it. And the future was going to be happy. People were going to love each other..."

He drifts off. Grantaire waits. Finally, Enjolras shakes his head.

"They're not. I tried, and look what happened. I wish, I..." He grapples for words. "I wish I didn't believe in anything."

Grantaire wants to cry his fucking eyes out.

"What happened to you?" he asks.

Enjolras shrugs. With a sad smile (it's so wrong, that look doesn't belong on his face), he says, "I lost."

Trying his best to pretend the world didn't just end for the second time, Grantaire stands up, pulling Enjolras with him. He takes him by the wrist and leads him away.

 

~ ~ ~

 

It takes another couple of hours for Enjolras to come down. It’s kind of comically sudden when it happens. They've finished stumbling around the museum and are wandering down the wide lane into Tuileries Gardens.

"Um," says Enjolras.

"Yeah?"

"I'm sorry." He manages to make I'm sorry sound severe, and Grantaire knows he's back to normal. "I shouldn't have said all that."

"It's fine."

"It's really not. You were trying to have a good time."

"What, like I was always such a fucking delight at meetings back in the day. I remember drunkenly yelling fuck God on at least two separate occasions."

"Good point."

"Call it a trade."

"Okay."

They walk in silence for a few more minutes, toward the grand basin, and Grantaire takes it in. It’s a spectacular view-- the start of the historical axis of the city, a straight shot down Champs-Elysees into the heart of Paris. On a clear spring day like this you can see for miles. He’s seen it a thousand times, it’s familiar and well-loved, but still it’s...different. He expected this; he knew the city wouldn’t let him forget. It doesn’t do that.

He looks out into the distance and imagines he sees it, all of it. Past the Place de Concorde and its obelisk, past the shops and theaters and noise of Champs-Elysees, past the Arc de Triomphe and the second loop of the Seine and the outer reaches of the city proper and through the shining skyscrapers of La Défense, all the way to the steps of the big rectangular Grand Arch where, a lifetime ago-- a lifetime ago, but not even two whole years-- Enjolras riled the crowd, and a protest became a riot that became an uprising.

Grantaire watches, just for a second. Then Enjolras speaks-- the Enjolras of the present, not the one from before, wet with blood and screaming for justice, for love and brotherhood and a future full of light, light, light. The Enjolras walking next to him, right now, says, “I don’t feel like going back. Do you want… want to just keep walking for a while?”

“Okay.” Grantaire nods. “Yeah, sure.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Look, I’m not saying I’m an anarchist, I’m just saying that at a certain point it basically has the same philosophical core as communism, and I know you’re all about that particular philosophical core, so that’s--”

“I think even you don’t know what you’re saying anymore,” says Enjolras. They’re strolling through Tuileries Gardens. “We-- okay, we’re past the point as a species where the state isn’t necessary-- Yeah, yes I know the-- no, shut up, let me talk. I know the entirety of prehistory was conducted by hunter-gatherer societies but we aren’t in prehistory anymore, we number in the trillions now and the situation’s changed entirely, so you can stop forcing that point-- but, yeah, I absolutely am right in saying that anarchism fundamentally isn’t a political ideology, so by insisting that it’s--”

“I’m not ‘insisting’ anything, I have no political views to uphold here, you’re the one with all your, your ideologies.”

“That’s what you’ve always said and it’s always been bullshit, you can’t just not have a political view, because that in--”

“‘In itself is a political view’?” He does his best Enjolras voice, which sounds very little like Enjolras. “Yes, which is best described as ‘anarchism’.”

“You just said you weren’t an anarchist.”

“I’m not, I’m just saying that I--”

“And there’s a difference in believing there should be no government at all and deciding to not care at all about your own government that does exist, you can’t call your kind of intellectual and moral laziness-- you can’t smack the title of ‘anarchism’ on it and make it legit!”

“Have I not been saying that I’m not an anarchist?” Grantaire turns around, addressing the imaginary audience. “Have I not been saying that? Cause, I thought I was saying that.”

“Yeah you have, yeah, but it’s been negated consistently by, like, everything else that--”

“Am I speaking in tongues? Or have I suddenly started speaking not French but, perhaps, Mandarin? Do you speak Mandarin, Enjolras?”

“Would you be serious for, like, one s--”

“Ugandan? Basque? Am I speaking Basque?”

“Oh for the love of God-- do you EVER shut up?”

“You know the answer to that question, come on. Anyway, back to anarchism--”

“I thought we weren’t talking about anarchism.”

“Well, now we are. What about your old buddy Rousseau? ‘Noble savage’ much?”

“I see where you’re going with this and it won’t work, that was purely a-- that was philosophical, a philosophical exercise, not a political one, so in the context of a debate about political ideology it doesn’t even make sense to--”

“Philosophical or political, what the fuck ever, he still maintained that humanity would be happier if we’d just stayed in our caves and never discovered fire, and never established government, which to me sounds like, aaaall together now--”

“So now I’m an anarchist!"

“Son of a fuck Enjolras, no one’s an anarchist! But then, come to think of it, you do wield a pretty formidable ‘fuck the police’ mentality and you really wanna overthrow the establishment, sometimes with violent means, which is kind of--”

“Haven’t you switched sides like three times during this argument?”

“I think it was only twice. Oh, hey.”

They’re passing under a shady crop of trees along the perimeter of the gardens, where an artist has set up his stall. There’s a board propped up against it, with sample portraits in different sizes and prices. Grantaire gets an idea.

“C’mon.”

“What?”

“I want a souvenir. C’mon.”

Grantaire greets the artist-- he reminds Grantaire of this one really old professor he had in art school, except with a thick German accent-- and scans the board for its offerings. Mostly oil pastel, a few charcoal, and all beautiful. There’s something about the grace of a well-practiced hand, he thinks. One in the upper corner catches his eye, and it’s different from all the others: much smaller, and nowhere near as gentle. It’s an angular, gestural kind of thing in ink, marker, and what looks suspiciously like yellow highlighter.

He points to it. “I want one like that. Except bigger.”

The artist looks at him weird. “No one wants that one.”

“Yeah, the effect is pretty severe. It’s perfect.”

“Alright.” The old man points at the stool. “Sit down, then.”

Enjolras, even less interested in art than he was while stoned, has slunk away down the path. Grantaire pulls him back.

“You heard the man. Sit.”

Grantaire gets looked at weird, again. “It’s your souvenir,” says Enjolras.

“And I know what I look like, don’t I? Sit.”

For a second it looks like Enjolras is going to argue, but he sits down. The old man doesn’t look surprised; he pulls out an assortment of mismatched markers and pens, clips a new sheet of paper to his easel, and dives in.

Grantaire’s so busy watching him work-- it looks easy, all confident strokes, and he feels a surge of longing and jealousy-- that he doesn’t hear the man’s question at first.

“You two are on your honeymoon, then?” the old man repeats.

While Grantaire is busy having a stroke, Enjolras says, “We’re friends. Old friends."

And, in a moment that would be utterly fucking hilarious if it were happening to someone else, the old man stops and peers over the top of the page to give Enjolras a look, one with furrowed brows and pursed lips. The expression is subtle, but universal: Yeah, sure. He goes right back to work, seamless. Grantaire continues having a stroke.

The drawing doesn’t take long, thank god. The old man caps a marker decisively and sits back to survey his work. He cranes his head to address Grantaire, who’s been watching over his shoulder this whole time like a creep, and says in his thick accent, “He has beautiful architecture.”

That should’ve made him freak out again, but there’s just something so fucking charming about it that Grantaire only grins. “Yes, monsieur. I very much agree.”

He pays the man and they leave.

“You know,” says Enjolras, studying the drawing with an odd look on his face, “that could be you.”

“An old German guy?”

“No, I--”

“No, I know what you mean. Eh, it’s whatever.”

“Do you still do your art?”

“Kinda.”

“Kinda?”

“I paint houses for a living.”

“That doesn’t count.”

“Paint’s involved.”

“It doesn’t count.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

They leave the gardens and take to wandering the streets. They argue some more; Grantaire keeps switching sides mid-debate just to watch Enjolras go red with frustration. Enjolras calls him “morally lazy” and says that cynicism has “rotted his intellect” and all this other Enjolras-y shit, but Grantaire maintains that it’s a special skill. It’s tough to achieve, holding no single concrete opinion on any subject. It’s taken years of hard work. He should get an honorary PhD, or something.

What’s even weirder are the debates where they come to agreement. Grantaire wonders if this is a sign that the times truly have changed and things are different between them, or if that will just eventually happen sometimes, when Enjolras doesn’t have the authority to shut him up. The vast majority of their arguments back in the day had, after all, ended with Enjolras threatening to kick him out of the Corinthe or Musain.

They’ve wandered across the Ponts de Arts to the sixth arrondissement. The sun is setting over the Seine when they remember that for the past couple hours they have been, in theory, looking for a place to get dinner. Enjolras voices this.

“I think we strayed from the plan.”

“‘Strayed’, he says.” Grantaire scoffs. “We haven’t strayed anywhere, or from anything. This is the plan.”

“Sauntering around all night is the plan?”

“‘Sauntering’. I like that, ‘sauntering’. It’s very French of you. To stray is human. To saunter is Parisian.”

“I thought you weren’t Parisian anymore.”

Enjolras’ voice is light, but when Grantaire turns to look at him his blue eyes are hard. He looks down at the cobblestones instead.

“Yeah, whatever. Don’t poke holes in my quip.”

“Why are you going back?”

“What?”

“Why are you going back to Devolny?”

“Uh.” What the hell kind of a question is that? “I live there.”

“You didn’t used to, you used to live here. You like it here better.” It’s like they’re back to arguing about political philosophy. Enjolras has never been good at differentiating that kind of thing.

“I didn’t say that--”

“You did.”

“No! No, I never said--”

“Okay, fine, you didn’t have to, then. You belong in Paris.” He says it like it’s a fact.  “Why don’t you stay here?”

Grantaire wants to scream, kind of. And break something. He wants quite a lot of things.

“It...it doesn’t...that’s not how it works.”

“I don’t see why it isn’t.”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine you would.”

He steers them toward the nearest hip little bistro and changes the subject.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Dinner’s going fine-- the evening’s mild and breezy, they’re sat in a courtyard cramped with tables and a little stage, and they’re talking civilly like normal people-- until Grantaire turns down the wine list.

“Why’d you use to drink so much?” says Enjolras. Like he’s asking about the fucking weather.

Grantaire leans back in his chair and talks to the strings of lights overhead. “Gee, you’re just full of questions tonight.”

“Only curious.”

Grantaire risks a glance, and gathers from Enjolras' expression that he’s telling the truth. He’s just curious. Fucking incredible.

There’s another facet of the ‘pass the salt’ phenomenon of Enjolras; how everything sounds normal coming out of his mouth. What’s cruelty from someone else is curiosity from Enjolras. Or obliviousness. Both, probably.

Grantaire crosses his arms. “Well, see, there’s this thing called alcoholism.”

Enjolras lifts his hands, reprimanded. “I’m sorry. That was insensitive.”

“Just a tad.”

“Forget I asked.”

Neither of them say anything for a while. It’s noisy in the courtyard, and dusk is falling. Enjolras stares into space, Grantaire looks at his hands. The waiter brings out their food. For a few minutes they eat in silence.

Finally, Grantaire speaks.

“I drank because I wanted to forget everything,” he says. “Like...life. I wanted to forget about life.”

Enjolras looks up from his potatoes. “Why?”

Grantaire shrugs. “Life’s a stupid invention by someone I don’t know. It's over fast and it’s pointless.” He looks down at his plate, rearranging bits of pike. “You break your neck just living.”

There’s a long moment where Grantaire feels Enjolras’ eyes on him. Then Enjolras says, “I get that.”

Grantaire scoffs. “Sure.”

Enjolras sits forward, a familiar urgency to his expression. “I may have been stoned when I said all that stuff at the museum, but I meant it,” he says, and suddenly Grantaire’s heart hurts. “I’ve had a hard time believing what I used to, as much as I did.”

“I was really hoping you hadn’t meant it. But I guess I can’t blame you if you did.”

“I’m.” Enjolras sighs heavily, and he looks frustrated. “No. I don’t mean it anymore. I did for a little while, but I’m not giving up. I have every intention of keeping up the fight for justice.”

Pass the salt.

“I’m feeling more like myself lately, now that the group's back to work," Enjolras continues. “I’m just hoping that I can be more of a person this time around.”

Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“It’s Combeferre’s terminology, not mine,” says Enjolras, sounding fond for a second. “We had a conversation. He told me that, last time, I wasn’t very good at being a person, and I know what he means. Like…” He takes a bite, chews thoughtfully. “If I wanted anything that wasn’t for the cause-- if I wanted something that was just for me and no one else, it made me feel like I was failing.”

“That’s stupid.” At some point a band (or maybe just one beardy dude with a guitar, Grantaire can’t see that well from here) took the stage and started playing, and people are getting up to dance. The strings of lights above them flicker on in the falling darkness as Grantaire says, “You don’t need to give up your life to do good things for people.”

Enjolras shrugs, which is weird. This whole topic seems to be making him really uncomfortable, but he keeps talking. Grantaire appreciates it. “I’m think I’m getting to be more of a person," Enjolras says.

“Cool.”

More of a person. Huh. Here in the cool spring evening, music playing on the crackly speakers, that actually makes a lot of sense. Is that what Grantaire’s been doing for the last year and a half as well? Becoming more of a person? It seems concise enough.

Trust Combeferre to crack the secret of his existential journey, in perfect parallel with Enjolras’. Grantaire’s said before that Combeferre is the best human being ever invented, and he stands by it.

“Yeah. I mean,” and Enjolras makes a forcedly casual gesture with his fork that looks so, so weird, “you don’t think I’m made of stone anymore, or any of the stupid shit like that you used to say.”

Grantaire smirks. “I don’t, do I? I dunno, you’d still make a pretty good statue.”

“Well, you haven’t called me ‘boss’ all day, so that’s a start.”

He laughs. “Yeah, like I’m the deciding factor in your...personhood.”

Enjolras makes a face like he wants to say something, but nothing comes out.

“What?”

“Nevermind.” That’s weird. Enjolras looks over his shoulder at the couples around the low stage and says “Wanna dance?”

That’s weirder.

“I-- what?”

“Dance, do y--”

“Yeah I heard you, I--”

And there's Enjolras, doing that stupid face like that’s a totally normal thing to say and like there’s nothing even kind of surreal about this moment, and Grantaire wants to punch him. All he manages is, “You...why?”

Enjolras looks at him like Grantaire’s the weird one in this situation. Honestly, what the hell. “I don’t know. Seems like the thing to do. Might be fun.”

“‘The thing to do’,” Grantaire says slowly. “Like. Like, a person thing to do.”

“Yeah.” Unabashed. Damn him.

“Do you even know how to dance?"

Enjolras looks over his shoulder at the dancing couples, who are doing little more than holding on to each other and rocking back and forth. "It doesn't look like rocket science. Besides, you do."

"I what?"

"Know how to dance."

"How did you know that?"

"Everyone knows that." He stands. "You want to or not?"

This is a terrible idea, thinks Grantaire. He stands up.

Enjolras was right-- it’s not hard. Grantaire steers in time to the music (he spins himself under Enjolras' arm once, just to be an asshole), but there’s really nothing difficult about it. Except that he’s dancing with Enjolras in a romantic little courtyard on a lovely spring evening. That’s difficult.

Even with all the dancing he used to do, he’s never been more conscious of his body in his life. His body that’s interacting with Enjolras’. Warmth of his shoulder seeping up from under two layers of fabric to meet Grantaire’s palm, and the long hand resting on a place on Grantaire’s body that’s either his waist or his hip, and he’s not sure which is going to drive him insane faster. He thanks his relative shortness (a hundred seventy centimeters is perfectly respectable) for not having to look him straight in the eye. He lets his gaze fall somewhere around Enjolras’ chin and tries to remain calm.

That’d be easier if Enjolras would shut up, but of course he doesn’t.

“Why couldn’t you be a deciding factor?”

“What?”

“A few minutes ago, you were like ‘I wouldn’t be a deciding factor in if you were a person or not’, and I’m--”

“Did you get a brain transplant sometime in the last hour, because you are being so fucking weird all of a sudden and it’s making me suspect foul play--”

“Be serious, I’m really asking.”

“Oh my god.”

“I think you’re the one being weird today, and I think it’s...”

“Finish that sentence, I fucking dare you.”

Enjolras puts on his defiant face, and does. Grantaire really should’ve anticipated that. “I think it’s because you refused to believe my apology.”

“Apology?”

“Don’t play stupid, Grantaire--”

“I wasn’t!” He was.

“I tried to tell you I was sorry for how I treated you before, but I’m like ninety percent sure you don’t believe me.”

He is not prepared to have this conversation. He is not mentally, emotionally, spiritually-- not in any sort of way prepared to talk about this while dancing with Enjolras. The band/beardy guitar dude starts a new song, and it sounds like it’s a little slower, because of fucking course it is. Grantaire’s standing extremely close to Enjolras, they have their hands on each other; there is no way this situation could not be construed as bizarrely intimate, and he is not ready to talk about this.

“Oh my god boss, could we not?”

The ‘boss’ wasn’t deliberate (at least, not on any immediate levels of Grantaire’s consciousness), but he watches it hit Enjolras like a slap.

He’s never seem him lost for words.

“Look,” Grantaire says, to fill the sickening silence, “I get that I’m one of your twelve steps, or whatever, but you really don’t have to. I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Would you humor me and just fucking listen for once?” That stubborn look. “I was cruel to you.”

“For fuck’s sakes, you weren’t, Jesus--” Enjolras opens his mouth but Grantaire talks over him. “You’re remembering wrong because Combeferre or somebody guilted you about it--”

“No, I’m--!”

“You only yelled at me when I was being an asshole, I always deserved it. You’d scold me when I was being deliberately stupid and disruptive and rude, no one could fault you for that, you had shit you were trying to get done and I did my best to stomp all over it-- whatever you gave me, I deserved it, so shut up.”

And he’s telling the truth, or at least most of it. Enjolras’ memory may be skewed by misplaced guilt, but he remembers those meetings like they were yesterday: Enjolras was never mean. He was never even really angry, not exactly. He didn’t hate Grantaire, that would’ve been awesome. He would’ve loved to be hated. It’d have been better than the disdain he got. And so, so much better than the pity.

“I’m not remembering wrong,” Enjolras says, icy. “I remember everything, some of which we’re pointedly avoiding--”

Grantaire’s stomach turns. No, he takes it back-- this topic is fine, he’ll talk about whatever Enjolras wants, as long as they don’t have to relive that particular memory, that memory--

But Enjolras moves on.

“You said it yourself, I remember, you called me heartless.”

The relief made him tune out for a second, so Grantaire doesn’t really register that. “What?”

“Heartless, you said I was heartless.”

“When did I say that?”

“A year and a half ago, I remember, you said ‘You’re heartless, Enjolras’. That’s what you said.”

“Why? What had you said to me?”

“I can’t remember.”

“But you remember me saying that, that specific sentence?”

“Yeah, because you weren’t wrong.”

Grantaire remembers stuff too. Like, how even after years of knowing Enjolras the world used to have a way of tipping over when he walked into a room. Grantaire’d run his mouth to get those eyes on him for just a second, anything, anything for a moment of his attention, and once he had it he never knew what to do with it. Sometimes he’d talk more, sometimes he’d curse God, sometimes he’d clam up. There were times he could’ve been mistaken for shy. He remembers that, alright: a jerk in debate, a crushing schoolgirl in conversation, he was always something worse than himself when they spoke. Anything for anything but apathy. Or the pity-- the pity was always, always worse.

It was fucking absurd.

He remembers that Joly and Bossuet used to tease him about it. Only once the three of them were good and drunk, though, that was the only time it was allowed to be mentioned, even though everyone knew, everyone with eyes and ears knew. They’d tease him about how Enjolras was the only one who could ever dream of getting something like sweetness out of Grantaire. They made jokes, it was only ever jokes. Ribbed him when he took home blue-eyed blonds (it happened a lot), that kind of thing.

It was an act of mercy. He needed it to be cheap jokes about wanting to sleep with Enjolras; allusion to the truth, to the big horrible truth of just how strongly he felt, would’ve hurt no matter how much he’d had to drink. Joly and Bossuet knew this. They were always so good to him.

For a second, he feels a stab of something like loss. For what?

He lets go of Enjolras. “Are you ready to go? I’m ready to go.”

Grantaire walks back to the table, and it’s a second before Enjolras follows.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They make it out of the restaurant, up the street, and halfway across the Ponts des Arts before Enjolras has to open his fucking mouth.

“We have to talk about it at some point,” he calls after Grantaire, who’s been booking it.

He doesn’t turn around. “Talk about what.”

Enjolras doesn’t even answer that. “I just want to know why,” he says, and Grantaire’s really glad he can’t see his face. “Eighteen months later and I still don’t know why!”

It’s completely dark out now, only the yellow puddles of street lamps lighting their way across the bridge. The sky’s the flat ink blue of polluted light, and on either side of the railings the Seine ripples kaleidoscopic. Grantaire forgot about that, how it did that. City of Lights. He forgot. He stops walking and turns around.

“You’re gonna make me spell it out?” His voice sounds so pathetic. He hates it. He hates how it’s shaking, how his hands are shaking in his pockets. He hates this bridge, and this city, and himself. “Is this a punishment?”

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Would you do me a favor?”

Grantaire’s drunk, but not so much he misses the crowd in the street. Five, six times more people than they were expecting. Seven, eight. More. He doesn’t think the level of drunkenness exists where he could miss that. He’s willing to try, though.

“Anything, boss,” he manages, though the consonants smear together a little. “I’d shine your shoes.”

“Don’t fuck this up for us,” says Enjolras. He doesn’t even look at him, focusing on the group in front of him. “Go sleep off the vodka.”

Enjolras is turned away from the expression on his face, but everyone else can see it shudder. “You’re heartless, Enjolras.”

That seems to surprise him, and he almost laughs, the most bitter sound Grantaire’s ever heard Enjolras make. “Okay. Please leave.”

The earth tilts.

He finds a bar a block away, and sits with his back to the window.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“It’s not a-- a punishment!” Enjolras sounds genuinely confused. “God, what does that even mean? Why won’t you talk to me?”

 

~ ~ ~

 

He isn’t sure what wakes him up, or why he leaves the bar and stumbles through the rioting street. It must’ve been something.

He comes up to an alley, and there are people in it.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Jesus, what do you want me to say?”

 

~ ~ ~

 

For the riot going on around them, Enjolras looks miraculously clean. After this long, everyone in the street is all dingy with dirt and blood and sweat, but his clothes are pristine. He might’ve just gotten dressed for the day if it weren’t for the blood; it soaks the left half of his head, streaming from his hairline, painting his face. Under the blood, he glows. He’s always looked good in red.

He’s holding his handgun with the serial number scratched off, hanging loosely at his side (and that would come to be the last nail in his sentencing, that gun).

“Last chance,” says the man in the uniform. One of them. All of them have guns, raised.

“Go ahead,” says Enjolras.

Grantaire thinks about yelling ‘Wait!’. What comes out of his mouth instead is “Long live the revolution!”

The men in the uniforms turn their heads. Enjolras’ eyes land on him.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“You can’t just act like it didn’t happen!” Enjolras fires back.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“I’m,” Grantaire feels calm like he’s never experienced before, but he’s panting, for some reason. He points vaguely at the ruined street behind him. “I’m with them.”

He’s made a decision. The uniformed men part surprisingly easy. It’s a simple thing, going and standing next to Enjolras. “You’re gonna have to take us both down.”

For the first time since he walked in, he locks eyes with Enjolras.

“I mean,” he says, “if that’s okay with you?”

He feels a hand grab onto his, and Enjolras is smiling at him like he’s never seen before, never could’ve even imagined, and he’s ready for the bullets, more than he’s been for anything in his life. For a second, he thinks they hit. And he's happy.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Grantaire groans. "They weren’t even real guns, they were fucking tasers, what does it matter--"

"But you didn't know that!"

“Did you?”

“No!”

"Did you feel like a dumbass too?"

"Yes!” He looks furious, the blond curls are a mess, “Completely!"

"What about regret? Were you sad when you realized you weren't actually dead after all?"

"For a second, yeah! But I passed out pretty fast.”

They're both breathing heavily, like they ran all the way here.

“What is it, exactly, that you want to know, Enjolras?”

The frustration’s left his features, but his face is still flushed. His eyes are wide, intent, and Grantaire’s never seen him like this, whatever this is. “Why did you try to die with me?”

There it is. It’s kind of a relief, really. Feels like a weight taken off his shoulders. Or like tens of thousands of volts to the chest. It’s kind of both, somehow.

“I had to.” He takes a shuddering breath. “Why wouldn’t I? I’d have jumped in front of a fucking bus if you’d asked me to.”

That can’t be awe on Enjolras’ face. None of this is news.

“I wanted to believe everything you said, you know I did. I spat all over it, but I wanted to feel...I wanted to do something. To help. Not making you face them alone-- I thought, that’d make my life mean something. If you didn’t have to die by yourself, my existence wasn’t pointless after all.” He lets out a shaky laugh that sounds kind of hysterical. “I was so in love with you, Enjolras, don’t even act like you didn’t know it.”

“I didn’t. I didn’t know.”

“Oh, excellent!” Grantaire cries. “The earth’s round, by the way, anyone told you that yet?”

“I swear, I swear I didn’t know, I honestly--”

“Everyone knew! God, I fucking told you, I told you all the time!”

“In huge, exaggerated declarations! Would you have taken any of that seriously?”

Grantaire flips through his memories, all the times he took as confessions. Tumbled across a friend’s couch on Enjolras’ birthday, especially drunk, monologuing about his hands, and his voice, and the light in his eyes; the more everyone laughed, the more dramatic he got, the bigger the performance.

“You thought I was joking?”

“I thought you….more or less, yeah. I didn’t think you were for real.”

Grantaire snorts. “Great. Well, now you know.”

“R, just let me--”

“Can it, boss. Don’t try to tell me it’d have been any different if you’d known.”

“It...no, it probably wouldn’t have been.”

The easy submission throws him for a second. “Yeah. You’d just have kept on pitying me.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean, then?”

“I wanted it to be different, but I didn’t know what to...do with that fact.”

“Was that a coherent sentence in your head?”

“You can't be this stupid!” Enjolras looks angry, but it’s not the righteous anger Grantaire associates with him. He looks about ready to take Grantaire by the shoulders and shake him. “I convince you to stay with me instead of Éponine, I get you to walk around the city with me all day, I get high with you and look at art and ask you to dance, R, I thought you were sharper than this!”

It’s quiet. All Grantaire can hear is the hammering of his heart in his ears.

“What does that mean?” he asks. His own voice sounds far away.

“Are you still?”

“What?”

Enjolras has that stubborn look, and the bridge and the night and the city stop mattering. “Are you still in love with me?”

Grantaire gapes. And then, he gets really, really angry.

“I don’t have to put up with this manipulative bullshit from you!” He turns around and stomps away down the bridge. “I’m done letting you bully me!”

He hears Enjolras’ footsteps behind him. “R, just let me--”

“Fuck off!”

“R, for the love of god--”

“I’m going to a fucking motel! I’ll sleep in an alley-- no, not an alley-- I’ll sleep in a ditch, I don’t care--”

Enjolras follows after him and pretty much shouts “R, would you please kiss me?”

That only makes Grantaire angrier. He spins around.

“Why? Why the fuck would I do that?”

He’s looking at Enjolras again, who’s standing a meter or two away from him at this point. The stubborn look’s gone. He isn’t standing the way he usually does, there’s something going on in his eyes. This is the most vulnerable Grantaire’s ever seen him; the second before his would-be death was nothing compared to this.

“Because I want you to,” Enjolras says.

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s not always about you!” Grantaire snarls. He marches forward, closing the space between them, clutches Enjolras by the shoulders, and kisses him like he means it.

Grantaire wastes no time in disbelief. There’ll be time for that later; for now, he pours every thought and every muscle, every square inch of his soul into kissing the hell out of Enjolras. No point in being shocked when there’s that pouting lower lip of his to pull and suck on, and his soft delighted sounds to swallow. He curls his arms around Enjolras’ neck and clings tightly, fists a handful of blond curls to tilt his head to a better angle.

Enjolras kisses back with conviction. He can’t seem to decide where he wants to put his hands, switching between Grantaire’s face and his hips, and gets their arms tangled in the process. He’s so warm, and so close, and when he opens his mouth it’s sloppy, but not to its detriment, not at all. No, a bad kiss from Enjolras is an oxymoron, any form of Enjolras’ tongue in his mouth is earth-shatteringly, mind-numbingly wonderful, because Enjolras decided to put it there.

It’s at this point that Grantaire remembers to wonder about stuff that was implied, every now and then, years ago. Their leader doesn’t have sex, everyone knew that, but--

Grantaire manages to break them apart only by forcibly shoving Enjolras’ face with the palm of his hand. “Okay, wait, wait--”

There was a time when he thought Enjolras couldn’t be any more beautiful than he was ordinarily. This was the time before Grantaire saw him freshly, thoroughly kissed. “What,” he gasps.

“I’m sorry if this sounds, like, condescending, but I’m th--”

What.” He has that fire in his eyes, and Grantaire’s legs are frail, frail things.

“Have you ever kissed anyone before?”

He’s panting. “Not like that.”

“Okay. Then, I...I shouldn’t…” Grantaire makes to untangle them and step away.

“No, no fucking way,” Enjolras growls, and pulls him back in.

It’s hard to say how long they stand there wrapped around each other, kissing on the bridge in the shiny Parisian night, but it’s long enough that Grantaire stops aiming. He lands kisses on Enjolras’ cheeks and jaw and neck and nose and eyelids and every other part of him he can reach, savoring the taste of his skin, and Enjolras shivers and shivers.

At some point, one or the other of them tries to step even closer and intertangle their legs. Enjolras gets backed up against the edge of the bridge, knocks his hip against a railing, and curses into Grantaire’s mouth.

“Ow, shit--”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, I don’t know what I bumped into-- Jesus Christ, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

In the dark, hundreds of little metal locks glisten on the railing.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He doesn’t remember much about how they got back to the apartment. A few things stick with him: his hammering heart and shaky legs and the carefully calculated distance between their legs as they sat side by side on the metro. He remembers feeling like everyone else on the train knew, like they could hear him breathing like he’d just run a marathon, or see the way Enjolras’ hair was all fucked up from having hands (his hands, holy hell) tangled in it.

At the time he wasn’t sure if the idea freaked him out or turned him on. Jesus Christ.

Enjolras unlocks his door and they step inside while Grantaire frantically tries to think of something to say. He’s never shut up before in his life, there’s no reason why saying a sentence, any sentence, should be so difficult right now.

No, there is. Plenty of reasons. Thirty minutes ago he spilled his guts to Enjolras about his feelings for him that have been aging like fine wine since they were nineteen, Enjolras answered with a lot of vague rhetoric that added up to him reciprocating for at least some of that time, and then they made out for like fifteen minutes on a bridge full of tourists. And Grantaire is leaving day after tomorrow and will probably never see him again.

Reason enough to feel tongue-tied, he figures.

Enjolras says something, though it isn’t exactly profound: “Do you want anything? Tea, water?”

Grantaire hovers at the arm of the sofa. “No, I’m good.”

“So, you don’t need anything.”

“No, uh. I’m good.”

“Just checking.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re good?”

“Uh huh.”

“Awesome,” Enjolras says, and he walks over, puts his hands on Grantaire, and shoves. Grantaire tumbles backwards onto the sofa with a shocked grunt.

He has something he can say, finally. ‘What the hell, I could’ve landed on the floor and cracked my fucking skull open’, is what he could say, theoretically, but it gets lost on the way to his mouth because Enjolras is crawling on top of him.

He doesn’t know why he thought this part of Enjolras would be any different from the rest of him, why he’d approach making out on the couch any differently than he approaches anything else. Grantaire should’ve seen it coming, the way he’d fall into this with one hundred and ten percent, all fire and reaching hands and quick breaths and groans cracked magnificently against the back of his throat. He’s wondrous, he’s glorious, he’s all-consuming, and of course he is. Obviously.

It’s some time later when he registers that Enjolras is pulling away, registers it with a kind of dazed petulence that has him reaching after him with vague and sleepy hands. Enjolras catches one and pulls, as if to drag him off the couch.

“Where are we going?” He’s slurring like he’s drunk, gone utterly stupid, he barely recognizes himself.

Enjolras, half on the couch with one foot on the floor, says “My room.”

Grantaire’s swallowed a hysterical bird. It’s in his ribcage, thrashing fit to die. “No, let’s stay here.”

And, oh boy, he could’ve phrased that better, because Enjolras gets this look and climbs back over him and yanks at his shirt--

“Cool it sparky, that’s not what I meant.”

Enjolras shifts into stubborn face with remarkable dexterity. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“You don’t want to have sex with me.”

“Well, sure I do.”

“Then why won’t you?”

Because Grantaire’s sworn off this city, because Grantaire loves him, because this is bad bad bad. “Plenty of reasons. You, for example.”

“What about me.” Rhetorical, no question mark.

“You’re a virgin.”

A truly spectacular roll of the eyes. “Virginity isn’t real.”

“You don’t have sex.” Everyone knows that. It was a thing.

“Just because I haven’t doesn’t mean I can’t.”

“So you’re not asexual?”

He looks loftily frustrated by this, like Grantaire’s being condescending and ignorant. “It was never relevant, so I never thought about it much. I’m not gonna start now.”

Though Grantaire would like to point out that that is something of an answer in itself, he instead says “This wouldn’t make you more of a person, you know that, right?”

“What?”

“That thing Ferre said, about being--”

“Jesus Christ, R.” He actually looks startled. “Of course I know that.” He exhales. Warmth on Grantaire’s neck. “When he said that, he meant that I should do what I want. Which is what I’m doing.”

There’s a long stretch where they both just stare at each other, Enjolras propped over Grantaire on an elbow. Neither of them say anything, but it’s never quiet in the city. Cars rush by outside, some pedestrians are loudly drunk. There’s faint R&B seeping over from the apartment next door. The refrigerator hums, and Jean-Jacques is chewing on something (maybe the table leg, he does that). Soundbytes of Enjolras’ day-to-day existence, and Grantaire has visions of toothpaste flecks and mugs of tea, shirts with huge coffee stains and tiny, confusing, lovely smiles. The pieces of a life, revealed to him, surrounding him.

“I,” says Grantaire, without much of a plan for the rest of the sentence. “I’ll tell you what. If you still want to when you wake up, I’m all yours.”

He could kick himself, but it’s the right thing. No matter what Enjolras claimed to feel about him on the bridge, if Grantaire’s honest with himself he knows it won’t be true in the morning.

That hurts. It hurts to think it, but he knows that after whatever illusion today has made dissipates, they’ll be back to the way they always were. Long walks in Paris can play tricks on your mind, but they don’t last the night. Years ago when he was desperate and miserable and in love he would’ve accepted; of course he would’ve, he would’ve crawled through fire to hold his hand, obviously he would’ve accepted this.

He’s not anymore, though. He’s not the first two things. He’s stable enough to recognize that waking up next to an Enjolras full of disgust and regret would be more than he and his newfound sobriety could take.

Enjolras ducks his head and looks Grantaire dead in the eyes. That determined look-- set, stony, intense-- is familiar enough to sting.

“I’m gonna make you believe me.”

He kisses him once, hard, and gets up and goes to his room. Grantaire takes off his shoes and settles back on the couch, not bothering to change, and, somehow, sleeps.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He doesn’t remember much about his dreams that night, only vague impressions. For instance, he gets the impression that he runs into Bossuet outside his apartment in Devolny, who is dressed in a big colorful fish costume.

Why aren’t you in Paris? Grantaire asks.

Carpe horas, Bossuet answers.

 

~ ~ ~

 

At first, Grantaire doesn’t register what’s woken him up. Or that he’s awake at all, really. He’s on his back on a soft couch somewhere, face turned toward some windows. The room is all shadows, except for some soft, warm, pink light. Through the glass he sees the beginning of a sunrise over a familiar, beloved skyline. Some birds are singing, somewhere, probably. The city is waking up.

It takes him a moment to notice the mess of blond curls brushing his jaw and the soft kisses on his neck. He does notice, though.

“Morning,” Grantaire murmurs. He tries to sound confused, but it’s too early for nuance.

He feels an answering hum against his skin, and the warm weight of a body sprawled on his. “Mmm. Good morning.”

“So,” he says, hazy. “Whatcha doin’.”

Another hum, more kisses pressed under his jaw. “Taking you up on your offer.”

That wakes him up.

“You-- wait, you don’t--?”

“We,” says Enjolras, sounding unmistakably smug, trailing his lips down Grantaire’s neck until they rest at the divot at the base of his throat, “had an arrangement.”

Something hot rattles in his lungs, shaking his thudding heart, and he forgets how to talk. “You…?”

Apparently misinterpreting Grantaire’s complete shock as discomfort, Enjolras freezes. “Unless you don’t want to?” he says, looking up. His eyes are worried.

Grantaire laughs. He can't help it.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“So, you’re absolutely, like, one hundred percent sure?”

They’re in Enjolras’ room (small, filled with books and posters and papers) on his bed, tumbled across the duvet (white, unremarkable) and Enjolras looks about ready to throttle him. His bare chest and wild hair make it a confusing mixture of really hot and hilariously funny.

“For the thousandth time--”

“I’m just trying to--”

“R,” he says, straddling him in flannel pajama pants, his shirt very recently done away with. “Do I look like I’m not sure?”

Grantaire, flat on his back again, absently runs his hands down Enjolras’ sides and over his thighs. It’s pretty great. “To be fair,” he says, and he’s stunned how even his voice sounds, when the contents of his chest are beating and heaving for dear life, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you be unsure. I wouldn’t know what it looks like.” He takes a moment to breathe, plays it off like feigning deep thought. “Admittedly, probably not like you tackling me to your bed and taking off your clothes.”

“Thank you,” Enjolras replies, huffy, like he’s just won an argument. Before Grantaire can laugh at how absurd that is, Enjolras rolls them over, hoisting Grantaire on top of him, and throws his limbs around him. He frees a hand to wrestle with the button on Grantaire’s jeans who, to keep from absolutely losing his mind, keeps talking, despite the imaginary hand squeezing his lungs.

“Well, keep me updated. Stopping and forgetting the whole thing is of course an option at any point. I would prefer that were in the event of you changing your mind, not deciding to tease me for shits and giggles--”

An evil little smirk. “Don’t give me ideas.”

Keep talking, losing mind. “Abuse me however you want, I won’t mind. Call me Tantalus, I’ll be tortured forever and quite happy about it, wrapped in these legs of yours--”

If Enjolras rolls his eyes any harder he’ll give himself a headache, surely. “Be serious.”

“I’m--”

“Do you ever shut up?”

“Hypocrisy!”

“My speeches aren’t laden with unnecessary classical references.” He’s fighting with Grantaire’s zipper, which seems to be snagged. “And I don’t try to make them in bed.”

He remembers what Courfeyrac said at the bar-- No one talks like that, R-- and spends a wild second battling for breath and being self-conscious. He does talk too much, he always has, he’s never been able to shut up in his whole life, he goes on long rambling rhetorical journeys and ends up nowhere at all. It used to be especially bad when he was drunk (the number of times at Corinthe after too many that Joly or Bossuet would yell ‘SHUT UP, R’, the good old days indeed), which he may as well be right now, since present circumstances are making him giddy and lightheaded but also really sick to his stomach. And he finds it really impossible to shut up, he does, suddenly in the moment (really quite uncharacteristic of him, he’s very good at this sort of thing) the idea of action is suddenly altogether terrifying--

“You and Courf are in cahoots,” he gasps, frantic, absurd. “Cahoots most foul, as in the best they are--”

“Shut--” With one last yank the zipper unsticks, and Enjolras shoves a hand down Grantaire’s pants. “--the fuck up.”

Grantaire shuts up.

They get out of the rest of their clothes eventually, and Grantaire finds a zenlike calm from somewhere. He leaves the roiling in his mind and the burning in his insides and focuses instead on this new type of joy he’s never felt before: Enjolras’ white sheets and wide eyes.

After an awkward intermission in which Grantaire scrambles into the other room to get stuff from his bag (a responsible traveller is always prepared), they settle in, Enjolras above him. Dawn creeps in the window and casts his hair platinum. Grantaire finishes preparing and they’ve barely gotten started when he gets paranoid again, because Enjolras is trembling like a leaf.

“Hey--” He tilts Enjolras’ face with one hand, they look at each other. “Everything okay?”

A sliver of light runs between them, cutting sideways through Enjolras’ left eye and illuminating it, bright as a marble. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine.”

His breath is so short that saying the words makes him collapse on shaking elbows. Burrowing against Grantaire’s chest he does something like a self-deprecating snort, and Grantaire laughs. He gets that feeling he got by the canal yesterday; a perfect sense of place. The sensation of being here, the sheer impossibility of the idea that he could, right now, be anywhere else.

“It’s fine, it’s a lot--”

“Yeah, it’s just that it’s, ya know,” Grantaire can count on one hand how many times he’s heard Enjolras say something as self conscious as ‘ya know’ and is instantly charmed by it, reaching up to stroke his hair as Enjolras says, “It’s intense.”

“Wanna stop?”

“No!” The look on his face makes Grantaire laugh again.

“Okay, lemme just…”

He starts to roll them over, and it’s a team effort. Enjolras sits back against the headboard while Grantaire settles in his lap and it’s only a moment before he goes back to trembling again, pressing fingers into Grantaire’s shoulders and back. Grantaire eventually loses track of whatever nonsense he’s murmuring in Enjolras’ ear; he feels like an idiot gently shhing him like he’s a spooked horse but he does it anyway for some reason. At one point he thinks he might’ve started whispering breathe, breathe, though which of them it was meant for he couldn’t say.

He can tell when it’s almost over because Enjolras goes to duck his head, hide his face in the curve between Grantaire’s neck and shoulder. Grantaire doesn’t let him. He pulls Enjolras’ head up by the hair and kisses his slack mouth and holds him there while he gasps, and they breathe back and forth until they collapse together onto the mattress, and everything’s dreamy and soft and sunny.

Morning drifts in the window.

Some time later, Enjolras speaks. “Can we,” he says, slowly, light pouring around him like it always does in Grantaire’s mental image of him, “at some point, do that again?”

Grantaire’s too dazed and boneless to laugh, so he grins instead. What had he done in a past life, he wonders. It must’ve been something incredible, and selfless.

He reaches out to run fingers through golden curls, and with great, profound tenderness says, “I must’ve been Mother fucking Theresa.”

“That’s a remarkably weird thing to say after sex,” says Enjolras, and he’s glowing.

 

~ ~ ~

 

They doze.

This time Grantaire dreams that he meets Bossuet, fish costume included, in a little parking lot in Devolny. It’s the one outside the grocery store he always goes to. Bossuet is holding a mug of tea, and it isn’t painted at all like a panda bear, which Grantaire’s dream-brain finds incredibly strange.

You can’t keep showing up here, Grantaire says.

Carpe horas, says Bossuet.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Bossuet appeared to me in a dream.”

“What?”

Enjolras like this is overwhelming. He’s reclining against the pillows, graceful limbs and all white and gold, Neoclassical and definitely not real. He’s smoking lazily. A faint bluish haze of smoke hangs in the sunshine despite the open window-- it’s a small room. It only adds to the dreaminess of the scene: a vision through frosted glass.

Part of Grantaire wants to paint him or sketch him or take artsy sepia-toned photographs and paste them up all over the world; it’s a crime against mankind that this sight is wasted on him, that he’s the only person on the planet who’s ever seen this. The other part of him, the part that’s greedy, finds the thought intensely satisfying. He feels frantic and selfish. He gets big sweeping thoughts-- I want this every day, every day until I’m dead-- the kind of things you aren’t supposed to think after a one-off fling (and never mind how that reality makes him ache) with an old acquaintance in a far-off city, things tinted like ‘forever’.

It’s almost like the feeling of being back at the Louvre, the streets and bridges, the Corinthe. Not quite, but a similar longing; a melancholic nostalgia that makes him lightheaded. There’s an appealing symmetry in the idea: Paris and Enjolras, embodiments of the other. Tuileries Garden in spring, Enjolras’ bed and disheveled sheets. It’s all one. Grantaire can’t keep any of it, none of it can belong to him, but it’s beautiful all the same, he loves it all the same.

“He came to me in a dream. He was dressed like a carp.”

Enjolras leaves faraway gazing and looks down at Grantaire, who is laying on his stomach, face smushed against the mattress. “What do you mean, dressed like a carp?”

“I mean, he was in a big costume. Like the ones at Disneyland.”

“I’ve never been there. By choice.”

“I’m not surprised. You’ve never been to the Eiffel Tower.”

Enjolras doesn’t respond, just trails the fingers of his free hand over Grantaire’s arm, shoulder, back. He’s been doing that occasionally; he seems to be fascinated by his tattoos, traces their lines with gentle pressure. “You’ve been everywhere in the city, then?”

“Maybe not quite everywhere. Most places. I’ve been to Disneyland.”

Enjolras takes a thoughtful drag of his cigarette. His fingers move to studying Grantaire’s most intricate tattoo: an enormous back piece of an ornate rose window. “This is the one at Notre Dame?” he asks.

“Yeah. It took me years to get it all done. Only finished it a couple months ago.”

There’s a pause. “You,” Enjolras says, slowly, with the air of explaining something to a five year old, “spent years getting what must’ve been a painful, expensive tattoo, and it’s the window at Notre Dame.”

“Yeah, so?”

“And you’re still going back to Devolny?”

Grantaire could kill him. He doesn’t know what to say, so he makes a face.

“Alright.” Enjolras shrugs a shoulder. “I won’t press the issue further,” he says, in a voice clearly indicative of the contrary.

Grantaire shoves his face into a pillow. Enjolras takes apparent pity on him and changes the subject.

“What’s this one mean?” A fingertip brushes across the top of his shoulder blade. There’s a furling banner there, with ‘BIBAMUS, MORIENDUM EST’ in black letters. Grantaire snorts.

“Seneca. ‘Let us drink, for we must die’. It’s taken on some unfortunate irony lately.”

Enjolras exhales a laugh. “That is unfortunate.” The sound of tapping against an ash tray. “Why didn’t you like the program you were in?”

“What?”

“You said the people in your program were annoying.”

He did, but he hadn’t expected Enjolras to remember. It was in passing. On purpose. “Yeah. I thought I’d do better on my own.”

He doesn’t press, and Grantaire doesn’t elaborate. They lay in silence for a while. A sense of total peace.

Eventually, Grantaire turns over onto his side. “People assumed,” he says, “at the programs, people...I don’t know, there was this assumption that everyone there had a really messed up life. Like, grew up really poor or in an abusive household or something.”

“And you didn’t, then.”

“Comfortably middle class. My dad was an accountant, my mother was a housewife. Sister’s eight years younger but we got along great. We had a dog.”

“Sounds nice.”

“Yeah. Papa was pretty pissed when I went for painting instead of accounting, but we all knew how hard I sucked at math, so that was a long shot.” He waves a hand in a there ya have it gesture. “Very normal. Very nice. No reason for me to not be perfectly functional.”

Enjolras looks at him with a stern set to his mouth. “That’s not how it works.”

He turns onto his back. “Still. No reason for my life philosophy to have turned out the way it did.” By this he means no reason for me to have ended up such an asshole.

Enjolras makes a disdainful sound. “I don’t think you can call your reflexive cynicism a ‘philosophy’.”

“Do you know what Thomas Hobbes said about the life of man?”

“No, do you?” he says around his cigarette, the sarcastic little shit.

“That it’s solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

“He said that about the life of man in nature, without a governing body.”

Grantaire smiles. “You said you didn’t know it.”

Stubbing out the rest of his cigarette into the ashtray on the nightstand, Enjolras sighs. “I think you should get over yourself.”

That throws him for a second. “Well.”

“I mean that you put a lot of effort into being miserable.”

Concise.

They’re quiet for a while longer.

“Okay,” says Grantaire, “okay Hobbes, what was your upbringing like?”

“I’ll need another cigarette.” Enjolras smiles at Grantaire’s surprised laugh. “I’m an only child. My parents are both lawyers.”

“Yikes.”

“Yeah. They thought I’d go into law too, or academia. History, maybe.”

“You didn’t consider it?”

That gets a genuine laugh out of him. “Good god.”

“No?”

“Me, an academic.” He shakes his head. “I wasn’t good at school. I had a...history with authority figures.”

“I bet.”

“That's not to say I don't believe in education, ardently. The fault of any society that--”

“Enjolras, I was in your club for years, remember?” He gestures to himself, then back to Enjolras. “Choir, preacher.”

Enjolras, amazingly, acquiesces. That seems indicative of something, significant in some way, but Grantaire can’t tell what. He moves on.

“So, do they approve? Your parents?”

Enjolras raises his eyebrows. “Approve of what?”

“Your, like, lifestyle, as a gay terrorist.”

He rolls his eyes. “They know I’m not a terrorist. And they never cared about the gay part.”

“You never gave them much chance. How many boys did you bring home?”

“Guess a number.” Grantaire laughs. Enjolras smiles. “They aren’t thrilled I don’t have a ‘real job’. But they did get me great lawyers, after the protest.”

Uprising, Grantaire’s brain corrects. “You mean the ones who got you put away in exchange for everyone else walking free?”

“That was...more me.”

“I remember.”

“Yeah.” Enjolras reaches for another cigarette after all. “They loved that.”

Some time passes. It's a little after dawn. They drift off again.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Grantaire wakes up to morning fully risen outside the window and Enjolras curled into him, golden head on his chest. He experiences a moment of clear, perfect, unequivocal happiness.

Enjolras rouses a few minutes later.

“What do you want to do?” Grantaire asks. They were conversing at full volume before, but the sleepy intimacy they've woken up into makes him whisper.

“I have an idea,” he answers, and when Enjolras leans up to kiss him it’s a little less sleepy and slow than he would’ve expected. Not that he’s complaining.

The making out starts gaining momentum in a general direction but without much of a specific destination, and Grantaire pulls away half an inch. “What exactly are we up to?” he asks.

“There’s something I want to do,” Enjolras says, unembarrassed, self-assured, perfectly himself.

“Anything.” Grantaire pulls him in and kisses him a little bit more (he's still not over it, he can just do that now) before murmuring against his mouth, “You can have anything you want, mon ange.”

It takes a second.

“R.” Enjolras pulls back, stone-faced, and fixes Grantaire with something like a glare. His voice is deadly quiet when he says, “Was that a fucking pun?”

Grantaire grins toothily.

It all kind of descends into madness from there, when Enjolras makes the most adorably outraged noise and Grantaire fucking loses it. He laughs like a maniac for reasons he can’t entirely understand but he’s sure there’s a whole lot of them, a lot that’s just really hilarious and really spectacular right now.

Enjolras throws his hands up in frustration. He moves his weight over Grantaire and slides down his body, dragging his lips lower and lower down his torso until-- and Grantaire’s not laughing anymore.

A minute or so goes by and it’s wonderful, he holds on to Enjolras’ curls and murmurs his name, over and over until it's just sound. And it would’ve kept being wonderful if the door hadn’t swung open.

“Hey, I--”

Enjolras bolts up so fast he probably gives himself whiplash. Under other circumstances Grantaire would be amused by how huge and horrified his eyes have gone and how his hair stops moving a second or two after the rest of him; it’d be funny if Grantaire wasn’t busy trying to sink bodily into the mattress and then, hopefully, the earth’s molten core while Courfeyrac stands in the doorway, holding a dry cleaning bag.

Courfeyrac’s mouth twitches spasmodically. “Ah,” he says.

 

~ ~ ~

 

The five minutes after Enjolras throws on clothes and runs after Courfeyrac, who’d retreated into the other room, last about eight hours. Grantaire can’t make out what they’re saying (Enjolras must’ve brought them into the kitchen) but the sound, however faint, of Courfeyrac being utterly delighted is pretty distinctive.

Even amidst the humiliation and disaster, though, Grantaire has to stop and appreciate the situation for what it is. Of all the possible humiliations and disasters he’d ever imagined occurring in his life, ‘walked in on while having sex with Enjolras’ was not one of them.

Eventually Enjolras returns. There’s a bag on a hanger in his hand and his face is several shades redder than usual.

“I.” He rakes a hand through his unruly hair. “I’d asked him to pick up my suit for the wedding.”

Cosette and Pontmercy’s wedding. That’s today. Right. Weird, he forgot completely. “Oh yeah.”

“He has a key.”

“Yeah, I noticed that.”

With the look of a man who’s just seen hell, or at least a circle or two, Enjolras flops back down onto his bed. Jean-Jacques takes advantage of the open door, slinks in, and hops up to snuggle next to Grantaire, who dutifully scratches behind his ears.

“What’d he say?”

“He said he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Good. You think he will?”

“Who knows.”

Grantaire grabs his phone from the pocket of his jeans and sends a text: DONT MAKE ME TELL PROUVAIRE UR SECRET

Courfeyrac responds in seconds. The message is comprised of about a dozen happy grinning emojis, followed by at least forty hearts.

Grantaire grimaces. “Blackmail doesn’t seem to be working,” he reports, grim.

Crawling into a sitting position, Enjolras says “I don't think he’ll tell, though. He's one of my best friends in the world, and this is important.”

Important?

“Important how?”

Enjolras shrugs, looking cool and bedraggled, cross-legged at the foot of the bed. “I don't wanna jinx it.”

Great, like Grantaire won’t be picking that one apart for the rest of the day. He runs a hand over his face. “What time is it?”

Enjolras goes to find his phone. “Ten.”

“When do we have to leave for the wedding?”

“About one thirty.”

Enjolras sets his phone on the nightstand and crawls back onto the bed, coming to a stop right in front of Grantaire. He gets in close, shoos away Jean-Jacques, and looks Grantaire in the eyes. The shadow of a smirk plays at the corner of his mouth.

“However will we pass the time?” he says.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Some time later, they get ready together. Grantaire has seen Enjolras in a suit before, but he’s only ever seen the finished product. He’s never been there for the ‘making of’ of Enjolras in suit, shared a shower with him (“We’ll both be taking one anyway,” he insisted, and Grantaire didn’t argue), dressed in the same room, tied his tie for him. It’s all incredibly domestic.  

While Enjolras tries to find two black socks (“Fucking navy blue, why do I even buy them--”), Grantaire takes a moment to appreciate his state of being entirely, horribly, uselessly, irredeemably besotted. He entertains himself for a few minutes thinking of fun adverbs to describe his besottitude, a similar reflex to pressing on bruises when bored. Rhapsodically. Ebulliently.

Mournfully. Cataclysmically. Anathematizedly.

He’s had similar thoughts in the past, multitudes of them, but they were almost exclusively painful. They were never pleasant thoughts. Now, though, he feels like laughing at them. It’s a weird feeling. Grantaire knows better than anyone that odd fleeting moment of joy before everything goes to hell.

This is going to end badly, he thinks merrily.

All the progress he made in the past year and a half toward the final goal of Forget Enjolras-- out the window, gone. And this? If being in love with Enjolras was an open wound before, how bad is the prognosis after this? Now that he’s kissed him and shared his bed and watched the lights come on in his eyes when he woke up this morning…

No, he won’t ever recover from this. He holds Enjolras’ hand on the way to the metro station and thinks it might be worth it.

 

~ ~ ~

 

To no one’s surprise, Courfeyrac’s best man toast is fantastic. He recounts the story of how he introduced the couple to each other, and how he subsequently held Marius’ hand through the whole affair (“I was like, ‘no, man, she’s not looking at you because she thinks you’re a freak, she’s looking at you because you’re cute’.” Everyone laughs, Cosette grins, Marius goes red.). Really, litigators with undergrads in drama shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public. It’s unfair.

Éponine holds her own, though. Standing at the front of the party in her maid of honor dress (lavender, delicate, entirely Cosette and a little funny-looking on Éponine), the change in her Grantaire saw at the bar really hits him. Her eyes have new focus; she doesn’t stand as if to make herself smaller anymore, the way she used to. And as she raises her glass to the newlyweds-- her ex-foster sister and the man she pined over for years-- her smile is genuine. She looks happy.

The wedding’s turning out beautifully, and Grantaire’s a little floored by the whole thing.

The ceremony was lovely (Marius cried, as well as Jehan, Joly, and, though he’ll deny it, Bahorel), followed by the equally lovely reception, here under a big marquee-style tent in Luxembourg Gardens, strung with a thousand twinkling lights. It’s lavish and elegant, courtesy of, Grantaire assumes, Cosette’s dad’s huge and mysterious fortune. The first hints of twilight are shimmering pink and violet above the trees, and his friends are seated all around him. He can see most of them without even moving his head.

Up at the main table are Cosette and Marius, beside themselves with happiness, and the bridal party: Courfeyrac, Éponine, Musichetta. Jehan’s across from Grantaire at their table, dabbing at his eyes with a clumsily embroidered handkerchief. In his periphery, Grantaire sees Bossuet whisper something to Feuilly, who snickers. He can’t see Joly but he’s well aware of his presence, since he’s seated directly behind Grantaire and is rhythmically kicking the underside of his chair. And, to his right, Enjolras, sitting close and smelling of the same shower gel as him. It doesn’t feel real.

Grantaire remembers the days immediately following the riots, days full of lawyers and doubt and hospital waiting rooms, and feels the time that’s passed like a palpable thing. He was sure the world was ending, back then, and sitting here now is like watching it restart itself. It feels like healing, like rebirth.

Maybe, he thinks as Éponine takes her seat again, we’re recovering.

 

~ ~ ~

 

The speeches finish and the party starts in earnest. Even though the smell of champagne is making him edgy, Grantaire’s having a great time at the reception so far. All he has to do now is hope Courfeyrac forgot about him.

It lasts for about ten minutes.

He’s hiding by the bar (he’ll never find him here, it’s reverse psychology, Grantaire tells himself) when, again, Courfeyrac’s perfectly coiffed head appears from around the corner. Grantaire scurries away.

“Oh come on, Grantaaaire! You can’t dodge me forever!”

Grantaire hoped to shake him by walking through the middle of the dance floor, but no luck; he just pushes through the crowd after him.

“Watch me,” says Grantaire, walking briskly, face forward.

“Don’t think we aren’t talking about this!” Courfeyrac cries gleefully. “We are TALKING about this, mister!”

“About what? There’s nothing to talk about, not ever, nothing has ever happened to me ever.”

Grantaire feels fingers swipe against his back: Courfeyrac’s attempt to grab him and haul him bodily into talking about his feelings. He will have none of it.

“R, you’re gonna have to--”

“Lo siento, no hablo française.”

“Español es mi primera lengua, pendejo.”

“Okay, well.” Grantaire dodges who he thinks is Marius’ great aunt. “Well, cállate, then.”

He feels himself suddenly jerked backward as, with one great, final lunge, Courfeyrac gets a handful of his sportcoat. He swings Grantaire around by the scruff of his collar and drags him into a discreet corner by the DJ booth. Grantaire admits defeat, sagging against the marquee pole.

“R,” Courfeyrac hisses, in an effort at whispering that isn’t quite succeeding, “R, you slept with Enjolras.”

“You know what?” Grantaire says, busy becoming one with the tent pole, “I’ll approach this like a celebrity, fielding rumors of an illicit affair. These are wild and baseless accusations--”

“I caught you with your dick in his mouth, do you know what the word ‘baseless’ means?”

“That sounds like your opinion. Baseless slander, I’m suing you for libel.”

“Wouldn’t hold up in court.”

“Whatever, Mr. Attorney.”

“Grantaire.” All of a sudden Courfeyrac’s histrionics have subsided, and he sounds very serious when he says, “I really think we should talk about this. I feel like you should know the whole story, get all the information, and in the interest of time--”

He’s cut off by Bossuet and, shortly thereafter, Joly, hurtling at them like twin cannonballs.

“Guys,” says Bossuet.

Guys,” says Joly.

“Guys?” prompts Grantaire.

Joly looks positively apoplectic when he says, in a crazed whisper not unlike Courfeyrac’s seconds ago, “I was sitting next to him-- next to Enjolras, and his collar was kind of flipped up weird so I told him and he asked if I could get it--”

Bossuet, unable to stand it, yelps “Enjolras has a hickey!”

Courfeyrac beams, smiling like his face might break. Grantaire wants to die.

He remembers that hickey.

Does he now? R? Comments?” Courfeyrac swivels his head at Grantaire, dramatically as a possessed doll in a horror movie.

A few seconds of silence pass before Joly and Bossuet get it. They, predictably, lose their cool entirely. A few elderly relatives nearby give them looks.

“But-- how--”

“How?”

“You two, you’re always--”

“He doesn’t, or I thought--?”

“What did-- how did--”

And then with the mythical twin-like ability those two demonstrate on occasion, the same pressing question hits them both at the same time, leaving their mouths almost simultaneously: “How was it?”

“Awful,” says Grantaire. He can only imagine how he looks right now; backed against a pole like a cornered rabbit, crazed eyes darting around for any possible escape. “I had a horrible time, sex with transcendently beautiful men is the worst.”

Courfeyrac swoops in and grabs him by the arm. “Excuse us, fellas, we’re just gonna...ah…” Before the other two can say anything Courfeyrac is dragging Grantaire off through the party, beelining for an empty table at the far corner of the tent. He doesn’t let go until after depositing Grantaire safely into a chair. He sits opposite him, folding his hands neatly, and Grantaire has a feeling he’s getting a glimpse of Courfeyrac, The Serious Lawyer.

“Okay, champ. We have things to discuss. Ah--” Courfeyrac’s waving at someone above Grantaire’s head, and a second later Combeferre has materialized.

“My friend, I think it’s time we had a chat with young Grantaire here,” says Courfeyrac.

Combeferre pauses, then straightens his glasses. “Yeah, I think you’re right.” He sits down next to Courfeyrac.

Already this is starting to feel an awful lot like talking to Enjolras’ mom and dad.

“So,” Grantaire says nervously. “What are my intentions toward your son?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Courfeyrac, all business. “We know all about your intentions toward our son-- you want to marry him and have his babies. The issue in question,” his inflection is distinctly litigator-esque, “is our son’s intentions toward you.”

“Uh,” says Grantaire.

Courfeyrac drops his voice, low and urgent. “Okay, time is of the essence, so I’ll cut right to the chase. He wants to have your babies right back.”

Combeferre leans in to Courfeyrac and says, quietly, “He should be telling him this.”

“Yeah, but he isn’t, and R is leaving tomorrow, God knows when they’ll see each other again. This is an emergency, and neither of them are talking.”

“All we’ve been doing is talking!” Grantaire interrupts.

Combeferre hums thoughtfully. “Didn’t sound that way.” He looks like he might laugh.

Grantaire, embarrassed and spluttery, turns to Courfeyrac. “What the fuck, Courf? I thought you weren’t gonna tell anybody!”

He looks genuinely confused by this. “I didn’t tell anyone,” Courfeyrac says. “I just told Ferre.”

“I forgot you guys are married,” Grantaire grumbles.

“Love you, sweetie,” Combeferre deadpans.

“You too, sugarplum. Now. What do you mean all you’ve been doing is talking? About what?”

Grantaire finds himself distracted, his mind occupied with thoughts of Joly and Bossuet darting around the reception with hot gossip. He collects himself. “I mean,” he says, “we haven’t shut up for the last two days. We’ve been talking about our feelings all weekend, he had plenty of time to mention any, like, secret devotion.”

He remembers Enjolras on the bridge, and he remembers the closest he came to any sort of confession: I wanted it to be different, but I didn’t know what to do with that fact. Not the stuff of great romance.

Combeferre sighs. “Enjolras,” he says slowly, “is an incredibly eloquent person. But fundamentally, he’s a man of action.”

Grantaire remembers other things from the bridge, too. That stubborn glint in his eye. The look on his face when he said Because I want you to. That look-- the memory of it breaks his heart all over again.

“What’s that mean?”

“What exactly do you think he’s doing right now, R?” asks Courfeyrac. “Hooking up with you for some casual fun? Where does that fit in with our knowledge of Enjolras, the twenty five year old virgin?”

Grantaire...hadn’t thought of that.

Last night, on the couch: I’m gonna make you believe me.

Combeferre speaks over his stunned silence. “The other day at Corinthe,” he says, “I told him-- outside, remember, you interrupted us accidentally-- that this is his opportunity, and he won’t get another one. So, it’s time he made up his mind about what he wanted.”

“What...what he wanted?”

I wanted it to be different, but I didn’t know what to do with that fact.

“You were a great source of frustration for him in the past,” Combeferre explains. “In a way, it’s like you represented a personal failing on his part.”

“Why?” Grantaire’s ears are ringing. “Because he couldn’t convert me?”

“Yeah, that,” Combeferre says patiently. “But also because he didn’t like the reaction he had to you, how you drew him in. It wasn’t what he was used to, and it was out of his control. He didn’t know what to do with you.” He smiles one of those placid, benevolent Combeferre smiles that God bestows only upon the pure of heart. “I think he does now, though.”

Courfeyrac snorts, says “I bet he does”, and thoroughly ruins the moment.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Courfeyrac takes Grantaire on a stroll through the party to clear his head. It doesn’t much help. They end up standing against the bar while Grantaire stares into space, feeling shell-shocked.

Here he is, at an open bar, and the world is tilting. A familiar enough sensation, sure, but he hasn’t had a drop. The world is wobbling on its axis not because he’s drunk but because Enjolras might or might not feel the way he does, and what a change it is. He doesn’t know what to think, because only this afternoon he’d been convinced he was doomed for a life of miserable longing after this weekend affair of theirs, and now he’s been told, the night before he leaves Paris for good, that his feelings were reciprocated years ago. Both possibilities are devastating.

“I can’t believe this,” Grantaire says, finally. “He didn’t even know what my first name was.”

“So?” Courfeyrac is working on one of his ridiculous colorful cocktails. “I don’t know your first name.”

Grantaire blinks. “What the fuck?” A little sliver of outrage interrupts the crisis churning in his head. “It’s Thibault! How many people around here don’t know what my name is?!”

Courfeyrac gives a dismissive wave of the hand that doesn’t have a stupid drink in it. “Don’t be such a baby, do you know mine?”

“Yeah, I know your fucking name!”

“I bet you ten euro you don’t.”

Grantaire freezes. Finally: “....I wanna say François?”

“I’m Chilean, dumbfuck, how does that work?”

“I don’t know! Your last name’s French, I just--”

A slightly hoarse voice interrupts him. “I know your first name.”

Grantaire turns around. Azelma’s obvious hangover is at odds with her bridesmaid’s dress.

“’Zelma!” Grantaire cries, gleeful. It’s nice to see Éponine’s sister after so long, but maybe he’s just dying for a distraction. He ignores Courfeyrac as he surreptitiously dislodges Grantaire’s wallet from his pocket, collects ten euro, replaces the wallet, and shifts away down the bar.

Grantaire nods at the martini in Azelma’s hand. “Hair of the dog?”

“How’d you guess.”

They chat and catch up, and it’s all blessedly normal, which is what Grantaire needs right now, desperately. They’re talking small about their families, their siblings, and then--

“I’m staying with ’Ponine but I nearly said ‘fuck it’ and got a motel room last night. Like, it’s great that she finally landed that dude she’s been trying to get with for forever, but they couldn’t’ve taken it to his place?”

Grantaire imagines his ears perking up, like a dog’s. In the midst of all his own dramatic bullshit, he completely forgot: Éponine’s mystery guy. “So she got with him?” he asks, excited. “What’s he like?”

“Sounded like it,” says Azelma with distaste. “And I don’t know what he’s like, he’s here, go find out yourself.”

“Hold on-- what?”

“What?”

“He’s here?

“Yeah?”

“Zelma. Listen to me.” He takes her by the shoulders and looks her in the eyes. He isn't sure she grasps the seriousness of this situation. “It is extremely important that you point him out to me.”

She shrugs, finishes the rest of her martini, and turns to survey the guests. Finally--

“There.”

“Where?”

She must be bad at pointing, because right now it looks an awful lot like she’s pointing to the table where, currently, the majority of the ABCs are mingling.

“The really crowded table. Short black guy. Not the pretty one, the one with glasses.”

Grantaire makes a nonverbal sound of irrepressible joy. Actually, it was probably more like a yell. It made sense to someone, though, because from behind him comes Courfeyrac’s voice, similarly elated, similarly loud: “I KNOW!”

Whirling around, he sees Courfeyrac’s one hundred and eighty centimeters plus hair sticking out over the heads of the crowd, at the opposite end of the bar. He’s beaming. Grantaire yells back at him.

“That’s--!”

“I know!” Courfeyrac hops up and down a little. People are looking at them weird. They don’t bother moving any closer.

“She never dates guys good enough for her!” Grantaire yells, flapping his hands around wildly, a grin splitting his face. Good news, God bless good news. “But Combeferre’s the best person to have ever lived! This is perfect!”

“I KNOW!”

Much to the dismay of the other wedding guests, they shout inarticulately at each other from opposite ends of the bar for a while, until Grantaire leaves to go track down Éponine. He finds her on the dance floor with Gavroche and Musichetta.

She doesn’t see him coming, and his yelp of “Combeferre!” makes her jump.

“What?”

“Combeferre’s your mystery guy!”

Gavroche gets a grin on his face that’s more than a little shit-eating. “A mystery guy? There’s a mystery guy?” Musichetta giggles, and Éponine shoots her a look.

“Gav, go play, the adults are speaking.”

“I’m fifteen, I don’t 'play'.”

“Okay, go burn some shit, I don’t know.” He trots off into the crowd.

She crosses her arms and turns to Grantaire. “Fine, what about it?”

Knowing how hard it is to pry a story from a stubborn Éponine, Grantaire turns to the one person guaranteed to give him details. “Chetta,” he says, “how long has this been going on?”

She’s all too enthusiastic. “They’ve been, y’know, talking and stuff for weeks,” she answers, a glint in her India ink eyes. “Nothing actually happened until yesterday, though.”

“That’s awesome! He’s way better than what she usually goes for!”

“Still here, guys,” says Éponine grumpily.

“Oh my god, right? All those little scrubby boys Montparnasse knows, and, like, I’m not about to even touch that thing with Pontmercy--”

“Guys, I’m literally standing right here.”

“Combeferre’s a great guy.”

“Mmm, he is, isn’t he?” Musichetta watches him from across the reception with her cat’s eyes.

Éponine’s glare of death pairs strangely with her floaty pastel dress, giving her the impression of a very cranky piece of crepe paper. “So I’ve changed, okay? So what if I’m not still going for the same shithead guys, you don’t need to throw me a fucking parade or whatever.”

“Still, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

Musichetta snorts, raking a hand through her storm of curls. “Girl please, like you were so upfront about you and Phoebus Apollo.”

“Oh my god-- does everyone know?”

“I think there’s a couple of tourists at the Arc de Triomphe who haven’t heard,” Éponine says.

“Jesus.”

“Look,” says Éponine, “I was gonna tell you about the whole thing with me and François eventually, but I knew you would just be a dick about it so I didn’t wanna bother yet.”

Grantaire scrunches his eyebrows, confused. “François? The fuck is François?”

Éponine just looks at him until he figures it out.

“Damn it!” shouts Grantaire. He whirls around, looking for Courfeyrac in the crowd, and when he spots him-- all the way on the other side of the tent-- he yells, “I knew SOMEONE was François, you son of a bitch! I want my ten euro back!”

 

~ ~ ~

 

He doesn’t get his ten euro back.

“Man,” Courfeyrac says, clapping a hand on Grantaire’s shoulder. “you don’t know how hard it was, keeping that one secret. Especially since I pretty much orchestrated the whole thing. Ferre is prone to cold feet, you see.”

Grantaire laughs. Louder than necessary; he feels awesome, he feels light as air, better than he has in years.

A year and a half, if you want to be particular about it.

“How many secrets have you been keeping over the past twenty four hours?”

“Right? I don’t know how I come to be in the middle of all you kids.”

“Oh, you don’t, winged Eros?” Grantaire rolls his eyes. “You love it.”

Courfeyrac makes a ‘caught me’ kind of gesture, palms forward. “Yeah, maybe I do a little bit.” He sighs, deep and contented. “Aw, look at the bunch of us. All happy and in love!” He waves at the reception behind them, at their friends, tipsy and cheerful. “And, like, alive. And unincarcerated. Who’d’ve thought we’d live to see the day we all pair off, huh?”

“I mean,” Grantaire says, giving him a significant look. “not everybody’s paired off.”

At Courfeyrac’s confused look Grantaire points into the crowd, where Jehan’s waltzing with Bahorel to a pop song. He’s a good twenty centimeters shorter, dressed in a green plaid sportcoat, his dreadlocks tied up with a beaded scrunchie. He looks completely ridiculous. Courfeyrac’s face melts into the fondest, goofiest smile Grantaire’s ever seen him wear.

Quickly, though, it’s gone. Courfeyrac shrugs nonchalantly, and Grantaire almost buys it.

“How’d I go and fall for the worst dressed guy I know? Like, honestly, how.” That’s almost his usual airy smile. Close. “We could never happen, I’d be embarrassed to be seen with him.”

Grantaire doesn’t say anything. For once in his life, he finds silence incredibly loquacious. It also leaves him free to watch Courfeyrac struggle to keep his eyes from darting back to the dance floor. Finally, Courfeyrac frowns.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were thinking it.”

“What? You’ve proven yourself to be a pretty good matchmaker-- we are, I might remind you,” Grantaire says, enjoying this more than he should be, “at the wedding of a couple that you set up. It wouldn’t kill you to try your powers out for yourself.”

Courfeyrac gives him an incredulous look. “‘Always a bridesmaid, never a bride’? Who are you and what have you done with R?”

“It wouldn’t kill you!” Grantaire says, defensive. Then he remembers something, something Courfeyrac said at the bar the other night. “I’m just saying,” he says, “sometimes people around here are surprising.”

Raising his eyebrows, Courfeyrac smiles. “This is new.”

“What?”

“You, telling me to follow my heart, or whatever. It’s almost, dare I say it, optimistic.” The smile widens. “Is it catching?”

Grantaire opens his mouth, expecting to have something to say by then. He doesn’t.

Finally: “Don’t start wearing scrunchies.”

It’s a weak joke, but Courfeyrac laughs anyway. Then he stares at him.

“You know what? Fine.” Courfeyrac straightens his lapels, like he’s made a decision.

“What?”

“Fine, you win.”

“I didn’t say anything.” Grantaire has the feeling he’s missing something.

“Fine!” Courfeyrac pushes off from the bar. “Fine.” He stalks away, straight into the middle of the dance floor. He hardly breaks stride when he comes up to Jehan, grabs him, surprised, by the arm, and marches him out of the tent and out into the gardens in the falling darkness.

 

~ ~ ~

 

It’s been awhile since Courfeyrac and Jehan disappeared, long enough that Grantaire assumes it’s either going very well or very badly and one of them’s fled the country. Everyone’s crowded around watching Marius and Cosette feed each other bites of a huge flowery cake when Grantaire feels a presence at his elbow, one that’s been conspicuously missing through the whole reception.

Enjolras looks a little more rumpled than he did the last time he saw him. “Where have you been?” Grantaire asks.

“Around,” says Enjolras vaguely. Then he huffs, irritated. “If you want the truth of it, I’ve been hiding. Everyone’s acting really weird tonight. Your two partners in crime won’t stop snickering at everything I say.”

When Grantaire nearly swallows his tongue, Enjolras gives him a look. “What?”

“I…” How best to phrase this? “did something bad.”

His face falls. “What.”

“I put ecstasy in their champagne.”

“What did you do, Grantaire?”

“I killed the pawnbroker woman and her sister with an axe.”

Grantaire.

“I told them, Joly and Bossuet,” he says, quickly. Then, just as quickly, “No, no I really didn’t.” He just confirmed it. “I could’ve denied it, I guess, but it was Courf more than me. They’d already figured it out.”

“Figured it out? How?”

Grantaire touches his own neck. “You’ve got a...you have, uh--”

Enjolras’ hand flies to his collar, and Grantaire can’t help smiling.

“That fair skin of yours must be such a drag. You blush at everything.”

“Shut up,” he says loftily.

“Tell me, what is it that’s turning you red?” Grantaire teases. “The embarrassment or the memory?”

Belying his even, dignified expression, Enjolras’ skin goes redder. Grantaire takes that as an answer and feels rather smug.

“So,” says Enjolras, back straight, eyes ahead. “the whole wedding knows by now, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Grantaire answers with a wince.

Whatever he expected from Enjolras’ reaction, it wasn’t a nonchalant “Well, they might as well.” That’s what he does, though.

“You’re not mad?”

“Why would I be mad?”

“I thought you didn’t want people to know about…” This? Is there a ‘this’? “...what happened?”

“I hadn’t planned on it, but.” He shrugs. “Everyone might as well know.”

Grantaire’s too much of a coward to ask Know what, exactly? The come-to-Jesus with Combeferre and Courfeyrac feels like years ago, and suddenly all the things they’d said seem like fairy tales. It’s different when he’s right here. Standing next to him, it’s hard to believe Enjolras even speaks to Grantaire, let alone that he’d secretly pine after him.

But, really, it doesn’t matter. The crux of the problem stays the same. Enjolras lives in Paris. Grantaire does not. Simple.

They get their cake with everyone else and sit with their friends to eat it. There had been a pretense established in the place setting cards that the ABC members and company would be spread across multiple tables, but that was abandoned early on. The other inhabitants of this table fled a long time ago, making room for everyone in the gang to drag their chairs over in a big, haphazard cluster.

There’s something about having everyone at one table. Grantaire knows he’s not an easy person to be friends with. He talks too much and no one can tell when he’s joking, or if he ever was in the first place; he’s clingy and perpetually bored, he’s dickish and disruptive for fun, he’s a depressive with an addictive personality, and a buzzkill to boot. Right now, though, he’s sitting at a table entirely comprised of people who chose to be his friend. It’s nice. It also sucks. They live in Paris, Grantaire does not.

Enjolras tries to be quiet and discreet when he asks Grantaire if he wants to join him for a smoke break, but Bahorel overhears (ears like a bat, that one) and says “Keep it below the collar, fellas.” Everyone laughs. Enjolras rolls his eyes, but looks generally unperturbed as he leads Grantaire away into the darkness of the gardens.

They stop in the first semi-lit place they find: a little ways through the trees, a bench alongside the Medici Fountain basin. Absently Grantaire pulls out a cigarette, busy watching the reflections in the dark water. Enjolras leans forward to light it for him.

Grantaire smiles. “Are you getting déjà vu?”

“What, the other day?”

“Yeah, by Carpe Horas.”

“By what?”

“Y’know, ‘Carpe Horas’. The huge graffiti outside the Corinthe.”

Enjolras thinks for a second. “I don’t think I’ve noticed it,” he says.

“Unbelievable. It’s right there.”

“Sorry.” He turns his cigarette over between his fingers, an absent habit Grantaire’s noticed in him. A very distinct memory presents itself: Enjolras leaning against the bricks of the Corinthe, playing with his cigarette, talking about prison. It was only two days ago. The Grantaire in that memory could’ve never begun to dream of the fifty-odd hours that followed.

“What’s it mean?” Enjolras asks.

“‘Carpe horas’? Literally it’s ‘seize the hours’. Which doesn’t really make sense. I’ve never been sure what they were going for there.”

Enjolras raises his eyebrows thoughtfully. “Hmm. How profound.”

“You think so?” He remembers Bossuet and the fish costume.

“Sure.”

Grantaire shrugs. “To each his own.”

They sit and smoke in silence for a while, and it’s very pleasant. Another thing the Grantaire from two days ago would never have seen coming: comfortable, easeful silence with Enjolras.

His cigarette’s just about burned down to embers when Enjolras says “I was talking to Combeferre when you came outside, that time at the Corinthe.”

Grantaire stubs his out on the sidewalk, and Enjolras follows suit. They stand. “I remember,” says Grantaire.

“We were having a very interesting conversation.” They’re strolling through the trees toward the tent, and it’s too dark for Grantaire to tell what kind of face he’s making.

“You don’t say.”

It’s minute or two of walking until Enjolras says, “He said I should come clean with you.”

“I didn’t realize we were dirty.” That came out wrong. “Poor choice of words.”

“I know what you meant.” Grantaire looks over in the darkness and thinks he sees him smiling. Enjolras continues. “That’s not really what I meant, anyway. Only that I have no reason to not be completely honest and forthcoming.”

“I’ve never known you to be anything else.”

Grantaire, rather absorbed in seeing where this conversation is about to go, might’ve not even noticed them, except that Enjolras stops short and looks over. Grantaire turns around. They’re dim in the moonlight, but, yep, that’s definitely Courfeyrac and Jehan making out against a tree.

Courfeyrac doesn’t even bother dropping his arms from around Jehan’s waist, just peers over his head at them. “Well,” he says, “karma appears to be a bitch.”

Enjolras is trying not to laugh, Grantaire can hear him. “Looks like it.”

Prouvaire cranes his head back at them. “We’d just had a very nice, long conversation,” he explains.

“Must’ve been a good one,” Grantaire says.

Enjolras walks on, leaving them to their privacy, and Grantaire makes to follow until Courfeyrac says, “Hey, R, hold on a second.” Accepting that the conversation of thirty seconds earlier is dead, Grantaire stops and turns.

Courfeyrac extricates himself and, seeming slightly at a loss with gravity, trips over to Grantaire. In the moonlight he sees the color in his cheeks, the brightness in his eyes.

“Thanks for the kick to the ass earlier.” His voice is low and sincere. “I told Jehan all about it.” He gestures behind him at the man in question, who gives Grantaire a joyful thumbs up. “We’re both very proud of your transformation into a gooey-hearted romantic.”

“That’s great, man,” Grantaire says, rolling his eyes. He pats him on the shoulder and makes to leave. “Now get back to your boy.”

“Hold on, hold on--” Courfeyrac grabs him by the wrist and tugs him back. “You guys were off by yourselves, what was that about?”

Only Courfeyrac, Grantaire thinks (with a little frustration), would be so eager to check on his friends’ romantic woes in his current situation. “We were just having a smoke break, relax.” He doesn’t say You guys ruined what was promising to be a very enlightening conversation with your canoodling.

“Okay,” Courfeyrac says, though he doesn’t look like he believes him. He looks off over Grantaire’s shoulder where Enjolras has disappeared. Then his face goes suddenly thoughtful. “Hey, Grantaire? Could I ask you one thing?”

“What?”

“It’s just,” Courfeyrac says, and Grantaire doesn’t like the mischievous look on his face right now, not a bit. “I’ve always wondered. About Enjolras.”

“What?”

“Is he…” He glances over Grantaire’s shoulder again. “How to say this delicately...” Then he looks at him and says, “Okay, say the two of you were to share bunk beds, who--”

Grantaire snorts. “Goodbye, Courf.”

“Aw, fine. See you later.”

He skips off to rejoin Jehan, and Grantaire walks back to the tent, a warm island of light in the dark.

 

~ ~ ~

 

After a long and beautiful evening, the reception winds down, and the happy couple prepare to take their leave. The ABCs, unashamed, monopolize most of the allotted ‘goodbye’ time.

Grantaire gets his hug from Cosette and she’s stunning, so happy she’s shining with it. “I want to thank you for coming,” she says as they pull back. “I knew it was a long shot when I invited you, I knew you probably wouldn’t want to, but I--”

He stops her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I made the right choice,” he says, and kisses her on the cheek. He means it.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He and Enjolras take a cab back to the tenth arrondissement. They chat civilly in the backseat about the wedding, the music and the food and the venue, as if the first ten seconds after they shut the door of the apartment won’t be a race to see who can shove the other against a wall first.

Grantaire wins.

Frantically making out in the dark (Enjolras lost the race because he tried to get to the lightswitch beforehand, a rookie mistake) is going well. Grantaire wants only to peel Enjolras out of his suit and not think about anything, particularly the train ticket for tomorrow morning burning a hole in his duffel bag. But Enjolras-- Enjolras, who had the nerve to tell Grantaire he talks too much-- says, panting into his mouth, “Do you remember, day before last, when we were down at the canal?”

Hands snaked in Enjolras’ jacket and untucking his shirt, Grantaire says, “After we almost got arrested playing The Guy?”

“Yeah.” He grabs Grantaire’s busy hands and makes him listen, damn him. “That was the time I asked you why you left Paris in the first place and you gave me a bullshit answer.”
“I did not!”

“You said something about wanting ‘peace and quiet’,” Enjolras presses.

Grantaire doesn’t want to talk about this. He really doesn’t want to talk about this. What good could it possibly do them now? One more night before Grantaire has to go back home and figure out a way to deal with his aching heart, and he doesn’t want to waste any of it.

They’re quite a pair, really. Neither of them know how to shut the hell up.

“I mean, that wasn’t entirely bullshit,” Grantaire says. “The situation was a little heated around here, we all thought we were gonna get arrested. You wouldn’t know, you were safe.”

“I was in federal prison.”

“Yeah, so they couldn’t arrest you again, could they?”

“You should take this seriously, Grantaire,” he says softly. He says, in a voice that’s quiet but could take down mountains by sheer force of will, “That wasn’t the whole answer. I want the whole answer.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Explain, then.”

It’s really complicated, it’s a terrible mess, Grantaire couldn’t explain if he tried. At the same time, though, it’s not. It’s beautifully, tragically simple.

There is a simple answer to this.

“I suspect you already know.”

“Confirm my suspicions, then.”

“You weren’t here.”

Enjolras deflates, hiding his face in Grantaire’s neck. “That’s not very complicated,” he exhales. “That can’t have been all there was to it.”

“There was a lot of other stuff. Our near death experience, for example. But it all kinda...went back to that.”

He feels Enjolras shaking his head, imagines he sees his face, that face he wears when he thinks Grantaire is being absurd. “There are two million people in this city.”

“Fuck ’em.”

“This city is, it’s--”

“It can go to hell.”

“It’s… It’s Paris.”

“It didn’t count.”

Grantaire’s floored by his own voice. It sounds like the act of wrenching his heart out of his chest and slapping it right into Enjolras’ hand. Plop.

Enjolras unburies his face and says, “I’m here now.”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“Why not? We thought we were gonna die, but we didn’t, did we?” Enjolras argues, and suddenly they’re having a debate. “A lot can change in eighteen months, why can’t it change? Why can’t we keep moving forward?”

Eighteen months…It sounds hilariously arbitrary right now, a number that means nothing. The number of months since he stood with Enjolras in an alley and tried to die: eighteen. Meaningless.

Everything that happened made a gaping sore in them all Grantaire was sure could never close; all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, etcetera. How does the number eighteen fit in here? How long does it take to heal a wound that big? At the time, it was unfathomable. There weren't enough stitches in the world.

But tonight, his friends smiling and dancing and laughing and gossiping and chasing each other around under strings of twinkling lights-- that hadn’t looked like scar tissue.

Grantaire’s on the verge of a breakthrough so he kisses Enjolras, fierce and deep, to buy himself some time. He, however, underestimated Enjolras’ ability to kiss and debate at the same time. Foolish of him.

“Why-- why can’t we?” Grantaire’s pulling out all the stops, but Enjolras keeps finding a way to come up for air and argue at him. “Why can’t we move on? I have great faith in the future, both for the group and our goals and for all of us personally, as individuals.” He practically gasps all of this into Grantaire’s mouth. “I see no reason why--” Grantaire moves to work on Enjolras’ throat, ignoring the speech and focusing instead on the aforementioned breakthrough.

The Paris he’s seen this weekend didn’t looked scarred to him, not at all. Grantaire knew sitting in that hospital waiting room a year and a half ago that they could never go back, that life before the riots was lost forever and there was no returning to it. But it’s occurring to him now, slowly, in small dawnings, that maybe it’s better that they don’t. His life in Paris had been a tenuous, miserable thing that was less miserable than it would have been without the ABCs; long stretches of darkness that made the flashes of light look brighter. That life he’d lived is gone, so what’s keeping him from aiming higher this time, starting over in the belief that moving on isn’t scabbing over the old, but coming back new?

Grantaire, busy having a spiritual revelation and sucking on Enjolras’ neck, misses most of what he says, but he does tune back in in time to hear, “--people can learn, just because I didn’t know how to handle being in love two years ago doesn’t mean that I can’t grow and--” He cuts off at the expression on Grantaire’s face.

“Oh, don’t give me that look,” Enjolras snaps. “You’ve figured that out by now, you’re smart enough. What I’m trying--”

Grantaire’s first instinct is to start weeping, which he suppresses, and his second is to drop to his knees, which he doesn’t. Somewhere in his head a voice that sounds like Éponine’s says Wow, typical.

When they get to Enjolras’ room later, Grantaire takes him out of his suit entirely by himself, piece by piece, won’t let him untie his own shoes. A desperation that’d been sitting like a hot coal at the bottom of his throat since they left the reception has suddenly, easefully, disappeared. He stops thinking about the train ticket. He forgets about the hours between now and the morning, and he forgets about the weeks and months between the day he thought the world ended and the day he watched it come back.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Grantaire dreams of the train station in Paris. Bossuet’s there, dressed like a fish.

“Let me guess,” says Grantaire.

“Carpe horas,” says Bossuet.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Enjolras escorts him to the station early the next morning. Grantaire really wishes he’d warned him that when they arrived at his platform the whole gang (minus the newlyweds) would be there, waiting to see him off. Oh Christ, says his heart, buckling under the weight. They end up falling into an odd imitation of a receiving line, like the one at the wedding last night, an edition slightly more bedraggled and hungover. Everyone comes up, one by one.

Feuilly tells him to tell his mom he says hi, at which Musichetta giggles and says “Yeah, right?” Bahorel pretends to punch her in the face, then does the same to Grantaire. Éponine comes up next, and wraps him in a hug that lasts a couple of minutes. Then Jehan and Courfeyrac appear, hand in hand, with a paper bag of snacks to give him ‘for the road’.

“I put some stickers in there, too,” Jehan says.

“Yeah,” adds Courfeyrac, grinning. “Just in case.”

“You know, at the wedding,” says Grantaire, remembering something, “I lost the bet and you took my ten euros, but I still don’t know what your first name is.”

“Ignacio,” says Courfeyrac.

Grantaire makes a face. “Your name is Ignacio de Courfeyrac?”

“Well, you see why I stick to ‘Courf’, don’t you.”

Bossuet and Joly are next. Bossuet, uncomfortable with the pressure of the moment, looks over Grantaire’s shoulder, stands on his tiptoes, and yells, “Hey, is that the Guy?”

Joly puts a hand on his shoulder and, gently, pushes his heels back to the floor. “Not now, buddy.”

Combeferre hugs Grantaire and thanks him. For what, only God and Combeferre know.

Finally it gets to the moment when Grantaire, who’s been hyper-aware of Enjolras hovering in his peripheral vision, can’t put it off any longer. They walk toward each other, and meet in the middle. Their friends make no pretense of not watching.

“We need new friends,” Grantaire says.

Enjolras doesn’t seem to notice. He’s staring at him, a hard look in his blue eyes. “Goodbye, R,” he says.

Grantaire swallows. He tries his hardest to sound lighthearted when he says, “Thanks for letting me crash on your couch.”

Enjolras nods. “Anytime.”

There’s a moment where they just look at each other. A palpable feeling of Is this it? passes between them. As if in answer, Enjolras leans in and kisses him. It’s a good kiss.

When it’s over, Enjolras seems hesitant to let go. Grantaire understands the feeling. They hover together for a breath or two, mouths not quite touching, Enjolras’ hand on the back of Grantaire’s neck. Finally, finally, he slides his hand away, and they step apart.

“See ya,” Grantaire says quietly. Enjolras stares at him, unsmiling.

Grantaire gives everyone one last wave. Then he leaves.

 

~ ~ ~

 

On the train, Grantaire stares at the back of the seat in front of him without seeing it.

He sees a bunch of stuff. Carpe Horas in big green letters, five friends around one ashtray, a slideshow about love locks. Combeferre’s kind smile, Éponine rolling her eyes over a gin and tonic, Courfeyrac saying why not, you’re in love with him, Feuilly and Bahorel leading “The Electric Slide” at the wedding. A big, old, beautiful city that never forgets but will sometimes forgive. And, Enjolras. An Enjolras covered in blood taking his hand in that alley, but other Enjolrases as well, new ones. Enjolras leaning against the bricks at the Corinthe, meowing at Jean-Jacques, running around the statue of Cupid and Psyche, drinking tea and smoking a joint and wrestling unsuccessfully with his tie, arguing and smiling and getting his portrait done, sleeping in the cool light of dawn.

Grantaire gets out his phone and dials his parents’ house.

His mom picks up. “Hello?”

“Hi Maman.”

“Hi yourself. You’re getting in sometime today, right?”

“Yeah.”
“Come by tonight for dinner, won’t you?” She’s moving around, he hears the sound of the sink in the background. “It’s been weeks.”

“That’s a great idea, actually,” he says. “I have some news.”

“News? Ooh, hope it’s good.”

“Well, it’s not really news. More like...a decision.” He is the calmest he’s ever felt in his life. “It is good, though. It’s really good.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

Summer is, reluctantly, arriving in Paris. The breeze loses its bite, shirts lose their sleeves, tourists come in droves. The sky brightens early to a warm and uniform blue, and stays that way until nighttime.

Enjolras doesn’t particularly notice any of this.

Well over a month since their reconvening, the ABCs are finally, finally gaining some momentum. The love locks campaign started getting attention some time ago, around the time Cosette and Marius got back from their honeymoon, tanned and sunburned, respectively. They’ve made some major publications since then, good ones. It seems time, Enjolras thinks (and he knows Combeferre will disagree with him here), to start thinking about their next project. A real project. Finally.

He’s at his desk typing a proposal, comforted in the knowledge that even if Combeferre hates it at least he still has to read it, when there’s a knock at his door. For a second he thinks he imagined it. Everyone without prison records (he’s supporting himself with his writing for the time being) is at work right now. He gets up, dislodging Jean-Jacques from his lap, and crosses the room. He opens the door.

“Okay, I’m really sorry I didn’t call,” says Grantaire.

Enjolras can’t speak. Grantaire keeps talking.

“Okay, so I called up an old friend of mine-- technically, I called up a lot of friends of mine, and acquaintances, and everyone else I’ve ever met in this city-- yeah I called this guy, and he owns a restaurant in the sixth arrondissement and he was like, ‘why don’t you come work for me?’ and I was like, well, hey, why not. And then, one of these others people I called, she was like, ‘hey, my friend’s friend is looking for a roommate’ and I was like, well, sure, if I have a job here I have to live somewhere, right? And, and, I have some leads on commissions! Like, painting ones, not house painting ones, isn’t that marvelous? So you see I, I’ve got a great thing established, the only issue is that it’ll be a couple days until I can move into this place, the one with the friend with the friend-- all my shit’s stashed between Éponine’s and this storage place I’m shelling out for, so that’s not a problem. Like, stuff storage is not a problem, but me is a problem. Like, where do I store me for the next few days, right? Look, I know it’s a big imposition, especially since I didn’t call, but, look--” Grantaire digs in the pocket of his jeans for a second, pulls out something small and metal, and shoves it into Enjolras’ hand. It has the air of something done quickly, while the nerve is still there.

“I…” Grantaire says. The words have stopped pouring out of him with abandon, and he’s left looking lost and nervous. “I got you a host’s gift.”

Stunned, Enjolras looks down. In his hand is a metal lock.

“I mean,” Grantaire says quickly, stumbling over words in his haste, “not for sticking on a bridge! No way. I thought, like, it could go somewhere else, I was thinking somewhere in your apartment if you wanted, like, I don’t know, hook it on a sink or a lamp or whatever you want, or put it in a drawer or, or throw it away, you know, it’s whatever.”

“Grantaire,” Enjolras manages. “What…”

Darting a glance at the lock in Enjolras’ palm, Grantaire says, “Oh, uh-- you’ll wanna flip it over.”

He turns the little square of metal in his hands. On the other side, written in black marker, is ‘E & R’. He can’t speak.

Grantaire isn’t having the same problem. “I guess, all I’m asking is-- you know, I just wanna know...” He swallows, and looks at Enjolras with so much hope in his bright hazel eyes. “Can I crash on your couch for a little bit?”

Enjolras hadn’t realized there was something, a big, heavy, leaden something, weighing on his chest until it lifted, light as air.

Grantaire swallows again. “I’m sorry. Really, it’s okay, I’ll--”

Enjolras takes a breath. “Grantaire.”

“Yeah?”

He feels himself smile, wide, giddy, helpless.

“Shut up.”

He kisses him. Then he takes him by the hand, leads him inside, and closes the door.

 

~ ~ ~
~ ~
~