The door bangs open, allowing a gust of cold air and the sounds of the busy street to stream in before it closes again with a dull thud. Enjolras glances up from stirring sugar into his coffee to see his two best friends at the entrance, still huddled under Courfeyrac’s umbrella, shoes soaked and laughter shaking their bodies. There’s something else about them, something that definitely looks different, but Enjolras can't place his finger on it.
It’s an average, rainy September afternoon in New York. The small cafe is filled with the sounds of silverware against dishes and the chatter of eating customers, the lunch crowd having just settled, and Enjolras watches as the pair weave between occupied tables and chairs to reach the table that the three of them always occupy, Courfeyrac nearly hitting an unsuspecting elderly woman in his struggle to close the umbrella while walking.
“Hi,” Combeferre greets as he takes the seat across from Enjolras, slightly breathless, water droplets sliding down his glasses. “I was just telling Courf about the disaster of a morning I had; thankfully he became a ray of sunshine in this storm when he showed up outside my lecture hall to walk me here after class!”
“Oh, it was nothing,” Courfeyrac beams, trying --and failing-- to suppress how pleased he is while taking the seat beside Combeferre. “After all, it is your birthday!”
Combeferre smiles fondly at him, his expression softening the longer he watches his friend, who is struggling with the wet curls sticking to his forehead. Combeferre catches Enjolras giving him a questioning look and tears his eyes away from Courfeyrac, grinning but also avoiding eye contact as he hurriedly takes a sip of the tea Enjolras had ordered for him.
As usual, they spend a few minutes staring at the signs above the counter only to order the same thing as always, waving at Musichetta once she takes a break from making her famous soup to peek outside of the kitchen. She glances between Courfeyrac and Combeferre, her eyes wide at first before a smug expression settles on her face. She cheerfully wishes Combeferre a happy birthday and offers a free dessert, which Combeferre gladly accepts. He stares at the choices, deep in thought, before picking out a pastry and handing it to Courfeyrac when they return to the table with their food.
Knowing Combeferre too well to even bother trying to refuse the treat, Courfeyrac accepts it with a squealed “I love you!” and Combeferre’s face lights up. He turns to his sandwich and Courfeyrac watches him for a few moments, his usually bright smile dimmed softly, lost in thought. When he looks away, he catches Enjolras raising his eyebrows at him, a small smile on his face. Courfeyrac blushes and rolls his eyes, trying way too hard to be casual about it.
This has been going on for quite some time.
It isn’t until Courfeyrac stands up thirty minutes later, promising to visit their apartment that night with birthday brownies and cuddles, that Enjolras notices what is different about his two best friends.
There is a thin, red thread suspended between them, one end tied around Combeferre’s right pinky and the other around Courfeyrac’s left.
Enjolras’s eyes slowly widen as he stares at the thread, too speechless to offer anything but a small smile and a wave as Courfeyrac grabs the umbrella and heads out. Enjolras watches him leave, numb with shock, staring as the string stretches with each step, twisting around a chair, completely invisible to any stranger who might walk through it. Combeferre watches their friend leave with that soft expression he reserves only for Courfeyrac, completely oblivious to the life-changing revelation that Enjolras has just witnessed. Enjolras quickly shoves some bread in his mouth to avoid talking while he processes it all. Thankfully, his friend and roommate is too preoccupied with his own thoughts to notice any strange behavior.
Combeferre takes the last sip of his tea and stands. “It looks like the rain has cleared up, so I’m going to go ahead and stop by the library before my next class. See you later tonight?”
Enjolras nods, not really hearing him, but glancing at the string again. “Yeah, sounds good.”
“I saw that coming from a mile away,” Musichetta says from behind him right as the front door closes behind Combeferre, and Enjolras jumps. She smirks before continuing, “I assume this means an emergency meeting of Les Amis?”
Enjolras nods. “My apartment?”
“I’m off in thirty, meet you all there,” she nods, returning to the kitchen.
A half hour of Enjolras pacing the apartment later, all of Les Amis save for Combeferre and Courfeyrac are lounging on the couches in his and Combeferre’s living room, some eating whatever food they managed to find and some disrupting the nice pile of blankets that had been in the corner of the room. At this point, Enjolras doesn’t really care.
“So what is this ‘emergency meeting’ all about? And where are Ferre and Courf?” Bahorel asks through a mouthful of chips.
“They’re not coming. I didn’t invite them,” Enjolras says dismissively, pacing for a few more moments before stopping and facing the room, glancing at Musichetta. “Combeferre and Courfeyrac are soulmates.”
Jehan squeals, Feuilly drops the microwave burrito in his hand, Bahorel gasps, Éponine’s eyebrows raise in half surprise, Marius’s jaw drops open, Joly and Bossuet immediately start cheering, and Musichetta rolls her eyes at her boyfriends.
“When did you find out?” Feuilly asks Enjolras, picking up his burrito carefully.
“We met together for lunch, I saw their string.”
(A red string connects soul mates together. That string can be seen by friends, family, coworkers-- basically everyone that someone knows. Except for whomever it is tied to. It shrinks, it grows, it stretches across streets and houses. It winds around lamp posts and hangs over rivers.)
“Oooh. What was the big decision?” Joly asks.
(No one is certain when the threads appear, but almost everyone agrees it happens when one person makes a decision that will lead to them falling in love with the other, or in some cases, others. For Joly and Bossuet, they became connected with Musichetta when they decided to go grab a coffee from the cafe she works at (and accidentally set one of the tables on fire while there).)
Enjolras shrugs. “I think it was when Courfeyrac decided to walk Combeferre to the cafe for lunch, since I don’t recall Combeferre having a string this morning.”
“Awww, this is so romantic,” Jehan sighs before clapping their hands together in excitement. “So, can we tell them?”
Enjolras hesitates for a moment.
(Some want to know their soulmate right away and are very open to the idea. Others don't actively seek it out, but perhaps they'll get curious and ask a friend if there is a string when they meet someone they like. Still others don't want to know at all. They refuse to get caught up in such an idea as soulmates. So they seek out true love without worrying about any soulmate nonsense, and when everyone sees their string at the wedding, well, no one mentions it.)
Enjolras falls into the last category. So does Combeferre, but he is less adamant about it. Courfeyrac is in love with the idea and can't wait to meet his soulmate, which is why those two make a strange combination.
“No. Not for now, at least. We shouldn’t meddle in their relationship. Let them figure it out on their own,” Enjolras decides.
“Is that what they want or what you want?” Éponine points out.
“I think we should leave them be, see how this all unfolds. Once the pining is too much, we can tell them, but otherwise, let’s keep quiet about it, yeah?” Bahorel proposes, not looking up from braiding Jehan’s hair.
“That’s a good idea. Let’s vote on it,” Enjolras says.
The idea gets an unanimous vote, which Bahorel seems surprised but pleased about.
“Alright,” Enjolras says. “So we don't say anything.”
Marius raises his hand hesitantly before speaking. “I’m not the best liar, guys, and Courf is my roommate, so-”
Musichetta glares him down. “Say a word, Pontmercy, and you deal with me.”
Marius gulps but looks immensely relieved when Chetta breaks into a smile and tousles his hair fondly.
“But for real,” she whispers, “Say. Nothing.”
Enjolras nods at the group. “As far as they know, they don't even have strings, so let's keep it that way.”
"Do you see it?" Courfeyrac will ask, lifting up his pinky after going out of his way to do something dumb in the hopes of finding his soulmate. This time he has just announced his plan to ask the person working at the smoothie shop to give him the strangest combination of smoothie ingredients possible.
"No," Enjolras responds automatically, not even looking away from the mall map, despite the fact that he does see the string, but never connected to this attractive stranger or that weird cashier.
(Despite his efforts to find his soulmate, Courfeyrac never looks that disappointed to hear Enjolras tell him there is no string.)
A glance at his friend confirms that Courfeyrac isn’t even holding up the correct hand, rather, the string is tied to the hand holding his phone, trailing across the floor and connecting him with Combeferre, who is off to the side sending coins down the wishing well with the utmost concentration. Enjolras glances back and sees Courfeyrac giving their friend heart eyes. He isn’t sure if the heart eyes have to do with the focus on Ferre’s face, the fact that the sign says the money from the well is donated to a children’s hospital, or if that look is just permanently on Courfeyrac’s face when it comes to Combeferre. All three are totally possible.
It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so Enjolras’s best friends have been connected for a little over two months. (“Longest two months of my life!” sighed an overdramatic Marius once Enjolras had pointed this out.) Enjolras has no problem keeping it a secret, sometimes he even forgets about the string since there are still lingering glances and that hopeless pining that has been present for nearly a year now. The three of them continue their friendship as usual, grateful for days when they are all available to spend time together.
The day comes to an end as they walk home with their smoothies (Courf ended up deciding on a relatively normal one), making a quick stop at some vintage bookstore that Combeferre is fond of on the way home. Enjolras and Courfeyrac are unfamiliar with it and decide to finish their smoothies and rest their feet while Combeferre takes a look around. He leaves them at a table, exploring the shelves with the air of excitement a child has while wandering around a toy store.
"Why don't you ever ask Combeferre if he can see the string?" Enjolras eventually asks, breaking the comfortable silence.
Courfeyrac puts down his smoothie and bites his lip, eyes slowly raising to meet Enjolras’s. He looks at the blond for a few moments, his eyes trying to say what words can not express. Enjolras maintains the eye contact, feeling as if he’s on the verge of understanding Courfeyrac’s answer. But a second too soon, his friend looks away, giving up on the struggle and instead sighing uncharacteristically, "I'm afraid of his answer."
He then quickly changes the topic, the two falling into a discussion about their course work and Enjolras completely forgetting about reading into Courfeyrac’s words.
A few weeks later, Enjolras returns to the apartment he shares with Combeferre after an afternoon of studying and shopping, their groceries in his hands. He frowns at the silence, wondering if perhaps his two best friends went to get dinner or maybe even ice cream without him.
His confusion increases when he drops the bags off in the kitchen and looks out the open door to see Combeferre on the couch, alone. "Where's Courfeyrac?" Enjolras asks, raising his voice to be heard over the rustling of bags as he begins to put food away.
“He doesn’t live here,” Combeferre says matter-of-factly, barely loud enough for Enjolras to hear him.
Enjolras rolls his eyes, even though the couch is facing the other direction. “True, but he’s over so often he practically does. Plus, it’s a Saturday night, the silence is unsettling.”
After hanging his scarf and jacket on a chair, he enters the living room and walks around the couch so he can face Combeferre. His friend is wrapped up in a blanket, a book in his hands, a kicked-puppy expression on his face.
"He's on a date," Combeferre says simply, attempting to sound and look casual but failing when his voice wavers and his lip twitches.
(Courfeyrac likes to date, soulmates be damned, and it isn't the first time they've had this conversation. It is, however, the first time that Combeferre doesn’t bother to try and hide the fact that he is moping.)
Enjolras isn't sure what to do, so he joins him on the couch. He hesitates, wondering what to say to be helpful, but words fail him. As they sit in silence, an understanding seems to come between them. After all the times Enjolras has caught Combeferre staring at Courfeyrac, all the hidden jealousy and helpless pining, they never talked about it. But in that moment, Enjolras gains a pretty clear understanding of what Combeferre can’t say.
A minute later, Combeferre’s favorite space documentary is playing, a carton of ice cream on the coffee table in front of them.
"Thank you," Combeferre smiles, grabbing the ice cream and one of the spoons and turning his attention to the television. Courfeyrac isn't there, so there's no cuddling. They just watch the movie, which is somehow still entertaining the sixth time.
"I don't understand it, why he goes on dates. What's the point? He goes on and on about soulmates but suddenly he's dating all these random people. And yeah, maybe I am jealous, so what?"
Enjolras tears his eyes away from the death of a star. “Wha-” he sees Combeferre furiously wiping away a tear or two and he quickly pulls the spoon of ice cream out of his mouth. “Oh. Er, Courfeyrac?”
Combeferre blinks at him and waits a few seconds before sighing. “Yes, Courfeyrac.”
“Right. Um. Do you want to, want to talk about it? About Courfeyrac?”
Combeferre seems to seriously consider the offer before offering a small, grateful smile. “Thanks, but I think I’ll just go to bed now.”
Enjolras frowns but knows his friend and roommate well enough to not push him when he needs his space. “Alright, goodnight.”
After a few more spoons of ice cream, he puts the carton back and grabs his laptop. He settles on the couch, waiting for Courfeyrac to return like he always does after Saturday night dates.
“Where’s Combeferre?” Courfeyrac asks the second the front door closes behind him, returning much earlier than Enjolras had expected. His laptop tells him it's barely past nine.
Enjolras looks up from his essay and raises his eyebrows. “In bed. How was your date?"
Courfeyrac sighs and joins him on the couch, instantly snuggling up to his side and putting his head on Enjolras's shoulder. "Eh." The man is radiating sadness as opposed to his usual positivity and joy. This only happens after awful dates. He doesn’t even seem in the mood to go on his occasional rant about how he should give up on his soulmate, just be patient like Enjolras and Combeferre, stop dating, blah blah blah.
Enjolras stands to put the laptop on the kitchen table. When he returns, Courfeyrac is lying across the couch, his head buried in a pillow. The red string is there, as usual, trailing from his hand to the floor and down the hall to Combeferre's room.
"I can see your thread," he says once he decides there isn't really any prelude to what he needs to say.
Courfeyrac lifts his head up slowly. "You can?"
Enjolras nods curtly.
"Well, it's not connected to my date from tonight, is it?" Courfeyrac nearly whines.
Enjolras shakes his head with a smile and the other looks extremely relieved.
"Might as well get the heartbreak over with," he mutters. "Who am I connected to?"
Enjolras stands and looks at the other’s pinky. “Follow me.”
Courfeyrac scrambles off the couch and trails behind Enjolras, who is following the thread down the hall. He stops outside one of the doors in the hallway, the thread disappearing underneath the door, and turns to the man behind him.
Courfeyrac looks dumbstruck. "Please tell me this isn't some cruel prank."
Enjolras grins. “This is not some cruel prank.”
Courfeyrac’s jaw drops. “So I’m...he’s my- Combeferre...soul mate?” he squeaks out, letting out a squeal when Enjolras nods. “Well then, I'm gonna have a little talk with him."
"Can't you wait until morning?" Enjolras chuckles.
"I've waited for months, I can't wait any longer," Courfeyrac scoffs. "Plus, you know he's probably still awake reading or something," he adds, a hint of fondness in his voice as he stares at the door.
Enjolras rolls his eyes but steps aside and goes into his own room, closing the door and hearing the soft knock on Combeferre’s door as he heads to bed.
The next morning he walks in on his best friends in the kitchen looking happier than they've been in months. Courfeyrac is flipping pancakes while Combeferre is making coffee, and they both grin when he enters.
"Wow," Enjolras says when he gets a plate and a mug in front of him the second he takes a seat. "I should've told you guys ages ago."
"What?" Courfeyrac asks flatly, a pancake falling from his spatula.
"How long have you known?" Combeferre raises a curious eyebrow.
"Uh, a few months now? Since that time when it was raining and we met up for lunch on Combeferre's birthday?"
They exchange exasperated looks and Enjolras shrugs, only slightly sheepish. “Sorry.”
"I'm just glad you did say something eventually," Courfeyrac smiles sweetly, standing on his tiptoes to kiss Combeferre lightly on the lips and stepping back. Combeferre grabs Courfeyrac by the wrist, bringing him close as they kiss again. Courfeyrac holds onto Combeferre’s shirt, his hands then moving up to wrap his arms around Combeferre’s neck, fingers playing with his hair. Combeferre trails his hands down Courfeyrac’s torso, stopping on his waist. His fingers disappear under the edge of Courfeyrac’s shirt and rest on his hips.
Enjolras allows them a few seconds before clearing his throat. "Still here."
"Right. Sorry," Courfeyrac says breathlessly once they break apart. "I’ve been wanting to do that for months."
Enjolras rolls his eyes at them but is hiding a smile as he takes a sip of his coffee, making a mental note to set some rules about what they can and cannot do in the kitchen.
They're both kissing on the couch when he leaves for his class, earning only lazy waves when he tells them goodbye, neither breaking apart.
That night at the Musain, everyone cheers when they enter hand in hand. Combeferre looks exasperated. "I can't believe none of you thought to tell us."
“We had a super secret meeting the day your thread showed up. And we all agreed to let you two figure it out,” Musichetta explains.
“Took a while, but I'm glad you guys managed to finally work it out on your own,” Bahorel grins.
Courfeyrac avoids eye contact with Enjolras but sneaks a glance at his new boyfriend. “Right. Completely on our own.”
Before anyone can push the topic, Marius shows up, looking disoriented and dreamy, and he makes a beeline to Courfeyrac.
“Is it there? My thread?” Marius asks immediately, holding up both hands, displaying the red thread on his left pinky. Courfeyrac gasps and nods excitedly, both men practically squealing.
“I saw her in the park, as I was taking a walk. She was so beautiful, my heart stopped when we made eye contact!”
Courfeyrac beams and holds up the hand that is intertwined with Combeferre's. “You aren't the only one who found your soulmate this week!”
Marius gasps, noticing the hand holding for the first time, and it's way too dramatic for him to have not picked that up from living with Courfeyrac. He grins, looking way too relieved. “Thank goodness. I'm so bad at keeping secrets. It's a miracle I didn't say anything before now.”
Courfeyrac lets out a sigh and turns to Combeferre. “To think we could've been kissing this whole time.”
Combeferre imitates his sigh. “Guess we'll have to make up for lost time.”
Enjolras clears his throat before they can start as he stands to start the meeting.
Éponine sneaks in as he is beginning and takes the seat next to Marius. She whispers something to him before freezing completely at the sight of his thread, her face paling. Enjolras notices her expression as he listens to Joly speak and feels a pang of pity. He had spoken with her only a few times, but he admired her personality and the insight she offered on some of their discussions. Even Enjolras, who wasn't very observant when it came to romance, can see the way she looks at Marius. But now, she looks like she's going to be sick.
Unsurprisingly, Éponine stops showing up to meetings for a few weeks. Thanks to numerous pep talks from Courfeyrac, Marius gets the courage to talk to his soulmate. He even brings Cosette to two meetings and a movie night, and everyone takes to her immediately.
When Éponine does return, she's practically dragged in by a newcomer. He's wearing paint stained clothes and has curly black hair and a nice butt- not that Enjolras notices. He sits with her at a table in the corner, both of them holding beers, and shoots Marius a glare.
"Oh my gosh, is our child staring at the new boy in school?" Courfeyrac asks Combeferre from his lap, the three of them sitting at their usual table and organizing the agenda.
Enjolras looks away quickly. "I'm not staring. And I'm not your child."
"Oooh, defensive. You know, denial isn't just a river in Egypt, my son," Courfeyrac tells him solemnly. Enjolras gives him a slap on the arm for that. "Ow. You're gonna let him hit me like that?" Courfeyrac asks his boyfriend.
"I thought we agreed I was the good parent," Combeferre reminds him.
Enjolras huffs. "I'm not your son."
"You live with us and roll your eyes when we kiss," Courfeyrac points out smugly.
"You don't even live there!" Enjolras scowls.
"Oh no, the moody teenager emerges," Courfeyrac gasps.
Enjolras just rolls his eyes and stands up to start the meeting a few minutes early just so he can end the conversation.
(Of course, Courfeyrac doesn't let him forget about the new guy for very long.)
"Alright, thank you all for coming tonight, in this meeting we- yes, Courfeyrac?"
"Ah, I just thought our visitor should introduce himself."
"Right," Enjolras shoots him a glare before he turns to the table in the corner. "Er, would you like to do that?"
New Guy stands up with a smirk, his hands buried in the pockets of his green hoodie. "Hey guys, I'm Grantaire. I'm Éponine's best friend, she wanted me to come."
Éponine snorts and mutters, "Yeah, more like you dragged me here so you could ogle at Goldilocks more after he handed you a flier."
Grantaire laughs, although it sounds slightly forceful, glancing at Enjolras quickly. "Hilarious. I was interested in hearing what you all had to say."
Enjolras tries to keep a neutral expression when he hears this. That is not disappointment when he realizes Grantaire did not come to see him, definitely not. Honestly, it’s no big deal, this is a meeting, after all. Lots of people came just to listen every now and then. He pushes his confusing thoughts and feelings away and nods politely. "Thank you for coming."
He sits back down and eventually Joly and Bossuet join him and offer to get him another drink as the meeting goes on. He seems like he truly did come to listen, he pays attention and listens closely, even raising his hand to contribute when they are finishing discussing their petitions.
"Yes, Grantaire?" Enjolras asks.
"I'm just wondering what these petitions will accomplish," Grantaire shrugs, the second beer of the night in his hand.
"We are going to submit them to the board-"
"Yes, I got that part. But what are they going to do with all those signatures? Maybe they'll just crumple the papers up and throw it away without a second glance. Maybe they'll look at it and decide that there aren't enough people who signed, or that no amount of signatures can change their mind and that you are wasting your time."
Enjolras blinks at him. “Do you have any idea what we have accomplished with petitions in the past? Take the changes that the college has made in regards to harassment and sexual assault on campus, for example.”
“Okay, sure, but how many of the people who signed it actually cared about what you were saying? I’m willing to bet at least half of them were just signing so that you would leave them alone.”
“That’s a bet you would lose, because we held meetings about it, and there were over a hundred people that attended to hear what we had to say-”
“Where are they now?”
“-And others who had heard about the petition sought us out so they could sign as well, and we got a thousand signatures in two weeks.”
“Well congratulations. Any other accomplishments that came from petitions alone?”
“Petitions aren’t all we do, we make sure to hand out fliers and host meetings specific to those causes so the people can be informed and know what they’re signing for and how they are helping the community.”
“But what if you don’t get enough signatures? All that effort for half the amount you needed? All those people thinking they did some good in the world when you really just crumpled up the paper and threw it in a dumpster.”
“We don’t give up that easily, that’s not how change happens.”
“Well, I hate to disappoint you, but you can’t change the world with a piece of paper that has a thousand scribbles from people who don’t really listen.”
“This isn’t about the world. This is about making change in the community, one step at a time. People do listen, and we do make a difference," Enjolras replies through gritted teeth. "If you don't believe me, then by all means, don't bother coming back here."
Grantaire steadily meets his gaze, and Combeferre hastily wraps up the meeting then, everyone breaking into conversation once it is over.
"Let me see your hands," Courfeyrac says to Enjolras with a wide grin, taking his friend's hands and examining them.
"I don't have a red thread, piss off," Enjolras tells him, pulling his hands away.
"How would you know?" Courfeyrac asks.
"There is no thread," Combeferre says.
Courfeyrac frowns at him. "Work with me here, babe."
"After that disaster I'd cut my hands off to avoid having a red thread with him," Enjolras tells them flatly.
"You're being overdramatic," Combeferre points out.
"He gets it from me," Courfeyrac smiles, looking much too proud.
Enjolras rolls his eyes once again.
Enjolras has every intention of just ignoring Grantaire. In fact, he started hoping Grantaire would lose interest and he wouldn't want to come back to any meetings after what Enjolras said, but the others seem to have different ideas, inviting him to all their events and get-togethers. He’s there for the Christmas/Hanukkah celebration and he’s the one who brings the ridiculous party hats to the New Year's Eve party.
And the others are so open to what he has to say as well. The day after Grantaire’s first meeting Bahorel walked with Enjolras to one of their classes, explaining how Grantaire was actually good for their group (“He does bring up some good points, Enjolras. Instead of petitioning, I was thinking we could-”). Grantaire fits in with them seamlessly, getting along well with everyone. Well, almost everyone.
He isn't afraid to speak his mind during the meetings, and the worst part is, his friends are right. Grantaire does bring up good points that leave Enjolras to go over his notes again and again, revising late into the night only to make some much needed adjustments after the next meeting. He doesn't let Grantaire know this, of course, he's much too prideful. Thankfully, Combeferre doesn’t mention it either when he catches him in the living room on his laptop, hours after a meeting.
Outside of the meetings, they've had a few civil discussions. He finds out that Grantaire is an art student and that he moved there recently from a small town. He doesn't like to talk about himself that much so that's the most that Enjolras gets from him. He seems to be more interesting than he lets on, even if Enjolras does dislike his cynical approach to his ideas.
At his seventh or eighth meeting, Grantaire stumbles in late, a bottle already in his hand. Enjolras shoots him a look but doesn't say anything. Grantaire stays quiet for most of the meeting, only whispering with Éponine and Bahorel until the end.
"Does anybody have any problems with going to the riot this weekend?" There's silence, and he looks around. "Everyone good?"
He hears Grantaire snort and mumble something along the lines of, "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Enjolras frowns but nods anyways. “Alright. Meeting adjourned.”
He hesitates before approaching Grantaire, avoiding eye contact with Courfeyrac as he does. When Enjolras reaches the table, Éponine drags Bahorel away to talk to Feuilly.
“Is there a problem?”
Thankfully it comes off as less confrontational and aggressive than Enjolras thought it would be and Grantaire raises an eyebrow in surprise, hand gripping the third bottle of the hour. “Are you showing some concern for me ?”
Enjolras frowns. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Oh, I don't know," Grantaire leans forward, his body swaying from the alcohol, yet his words and gaze remaining steady. "It seems you only argue with me every meeting and it's obvious to everyone you think I'm a waste of time and space."
"That's...that's not true at all," Enjolras stammers, thrown completely off guard.
"Well, you have a hard time showing it. The mighty Enjolras, oh how dare I speak his name. He has a crown placed upon his golden locks and only has glares like daggers and words like fire for the peasants of the street."
"What are you-"
"I just don't get why you hate me. You love everyone here, and sometimes they have different opinions and you value that. But me? No, you hate me. You loathe me. I've accepted that by now, so you don't have to worry about trying to play nice. Don't bother asking me for my two cents if you're just going to throw it back in my face."
"None of that is true," Enjolras scoffs, confusion turning to anger. "But if that's how you feel, I doubt I can change your mind. Go ahead, leave. And don't bother coming back until you've sobered up."
There is a tense silence, and Enjolras realizes their argument has gotten the attention of everyone in the room. Grantaire stares at him blankly. Enjolras can see Éponine glaring at him from the corner of his eye, but he doesn't look away as Grantaire mumbles, “Fine” and rises from his chair. He shuts the door loudly behind him as he leaves.
Enjolras instantly regrets it and knows that Combeferre will tell Enjolras to go after him and apologize any second now, that Éponine will come over and threaten him for minutes on end, that Courfeyrac will not know whether to make a joke about it or not. He decides that before any of that can happen, he will go after Grantaire himself.
Courfeyrac lets out a quiet gasp and Enjolras remembers that he is the center of attention. He looks around at the group, everyone gaping at him and sitting in stunned silence.
"What?" he asks defensively, a touch rude. "What are you all looking at?"
(They don't say anything, but everyone saw it. They saw his thread, and they all knew who it was connected to, even though he had left.)
Enjolras goes back to his table to retrieve his coat. "I’ll meet you back at the apartment, yeah?" he mutters to Combeferre, who is looking at him with wide eyes before he glances away and gives a quick nod. Enjolras hurries out after Grantaire, hoping he hasn't gone too far.
Thankfully, he’s just turning a corner as Enjolras steps out, and the blond runs to catch him.
"Grantaire!" he calls when he's within shouting distance, his breath foggy in the freezing night air. The other turns around, looking confused, then he stops to let Enjolras catch up to him.
"What?" he asks, but he isn't as bitter as expected. He sounds more defeated.
"Listen, I didn't mean what I said back there, any of it. I was being dumb and I just acted out without thinking."
"It's no big deal," Grantaire shrugs, and he continues walking. Enjolras falls into step beside him.
"No, it is a big deal. I actually value your opinion and instead of showing my concern for how you were acting tonight, I just argued with you, and that's not what I wanted. I’m sorry. I don't want us to argue all the time.”
Grantaire gives him a look out of the corner of his eye. "So you want to...get along?"
"Yes," Enjolras nods, glad Grantaire caught on to what he couldn't find the words to say.
"Hmmm," Grantaire says thoughtfully.
"I can be a friendly person,” Enjolras insists. “Why were you upset tonight?"
Grantaire looks at the ground. "This little girl, Natalie, in the children's hospital where I volunteer... She passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer."
Enjolras’s mouth drops open in surprise. He looks at Grantaire, who is staring at the ground, and wonders how he didn’t know this detail about him. To think that Grantaire, who seemed busy enough already, spent time to volunteer, especially at a children’s hospital...and now he is mourning the death of the poor little girl, when Enjolras had just assumed he was drinking for the fun of it. "I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Thank you," he replies quietly, and they walk in silence for a minute or two.
"What else do you do?"
"You volunteer at a children's hospital, what else do you do?"
"Eh, nothing much, I'm not that interesting."
"Says who?" Enjolras asks sharply.
Grantaire raises his eyebrows. "Well, I guess if you really care..."
Combeferre and Courfeyrac walk into the apartment kitchen an hour later, Courfeyrac squealing at the sight of Grantaire sitting on the table and Enjolras laughing at something the other said while he leans against a counter, both of them holding a cup of coffee.
Combeferre grabs his boyfriend's shoulders and steers him back into the hallway. "We'll be outside."
The air is suddenly awkward between Enjolras and Grantaire once the door closes behind the couple.
"Uh, thanks for the coffee," Grantaire says after a few moments, scratching the back of his neck. "And, you know. Talking with me."
"Of course," Enjolras nods, grinning. "I enjoyed talking instead of arguing."
Grantaire grins back. "So did I."
He stands up to leave and Enjolras is aware of how close they are in the cramped kitchen. He clears his throat and leads the way to the door but doesn't quite open it yet.
"We should do this again sometime," he suggests.
Grantaire winks. "So I've earned a second date?"
Enjolras flushes slightly and Grantaire laughs. "I'm just kidding. Sure. If you really want to hang out with me."
"I do," Enjolras insists. He hesitates, then opens the door for Grantaire. Grantaire bids Enjolras a goodnight before doing the same for Combeferre and Courfeyrac, who are sitting against the opposite wall in the hallway. Enjolras smiles and watches as Grantaire heads to the stairwell and disappears around the corner.
He looks back to Combeferre and Courfeyrac, who are both watching him with raised eyebrows. He feels his cheeks flush once more as he drops his smile and retreats into the apartment, leaving the door open for them to follow.
"You're in love!" Courfeyrac sings once he closes the door behind them.
Enjolras scowls. "We just had coffee."
"It's been over an hour," Combeferre points out, smiling slightly.
"We were just talking. He's an interesting person. Did you know that he has three sisters and that he was a pizza deliverer in high school and he's allergic to shellfish?"
"Aww are you going to stop eating shellfish for him?" Courfeyrac asks with a wink.
Enjolras scowls. "I'm going to take a shower."
"Don't use all the cold water!" Courfeyrac calls after him, and Enjolras flips him off.
They fall into a sort of schedule where Grantaire always walks out with Enjolras and comes to his apartment after the meetings, having coffee and sometimes whatever leftover food they can find. Courfeyrac and Combeferre always give them privacy, sometimes taking long walks before returning to the apartment building, kissing in the stairwell, or spending the night at Courfeyrac's place. They always give Enjolras suggestive looks, and he always ignores them. He knows what they imply, but he's happy being friends with Grantaire. Of course he notices his attractiveness, and his muscles, and his smile, and how talented he is...alright, maybe he wouldn't mind if there was more than coffee and talking between them, but he doesn't want to make unwanted advances on Grantaire or make him uncomfortable with his feelings.
When he eventually voices this to Courfeyrac, his friend looks like he is going to cry and then screams into a pillow for a solid fifteen seconds. When he's done, he turns back to Enjolras with four simple words that he hears multiple times over the next week or so:
"Just talk to him."
Enjolras is skeptical, so he decides to do nothing about it.
They're in the kitchen again, and Enjolras is making the coffee, as usual. It's the only thing he can manage to not burn while making, and he pours it into their mugs, Grantaire always using the same green one with Enjolras keeping to his red one. Grantaire lifts his as a toast before raising the mug to his mouth, but he misses, and a lot of hot coffee spills onto his shirt.
"Crap!" he hisses when the hot drink begins to soak through his shirt and to his skin. He puts his mug down on the table and grabs the hem of his shirt. Enjolras realizes what he is doing a second too late and he can only watch as Grantaire lifts the ruined shirt over his head. Grantaire is standing shirtless in his kitchen, and sure he’s no swimsuit model, but the years of dancing and boxing have really payed off, and Enjolras is sure he is blushing, and he's probably been staring too long...
"Here," he quickly grabs some paper towels and gets them wet so Grantaire can clean the sticky mess off of his skin.
"Thanks," Grantaire grins as he accepts the paper towels and wipes his chest.
"I'll...I’ll get you a shirt," Enjolras offers.
"No it's fine, I have my sweatshirt, and I should go anyways. Besides, I don't think that you or Combeferre have a shirt I could actually fit into," Grantaire shrugs.
"Uh," Enjolras says, because he has no solutions, but he knows that he can not have Grantaire standing half naked in his kitchen for another second.
"What, is this distracting?" Grantaire teases, but he looks apprehensive.
Yes, it’s distracting, you are a very distracting person in general and I would really love to kiss you right now , his mind thinks, but his mouth won’t work, so he just closes it and swallows, desperately trying to think of something to say when the front door opens and Courfeyrac walks in.
“-I’m not saying we should eat the moth, I’m just saying, with a name like peppered moth, you gotta wonder…” he trails off his rant to Combeferre, who follows him into the kitchen, and lets out a soft ‘oh’ at the scene. They look from Enjolras to Grantaire to Enjolras to Grantaire’s bare chest, eyebrows raised. “Sorry, we didn’t hear anyone so we assumed you were gone, R,” Courfeyrac says slowly.
“Hespilledcoffeeonhisshirt,” Enjolras explains, his face burning, avoiding the strange look Grantaire is giving him.
“I see,” Courfeyrac is grinning suggestively, and it is definitely not helping matters.
Grantaire forces a cough. “Yeah, it’s about time I head home anyways.” He grabs his green hoodie from the chair and pulls it on, waving goodbye to the three before heading out the door.
Combeferre and Courfeyrac turn to him with identical expressions and Enjolras sighs. His two best friends follow as he makes his way to the couch and collapses on it with another sigh.
“On one hand, I’m sorry we interrupted. On the other, if we hadn't, you probably would’ve been standing there all flustered over R’s bare chest all night,” Courfeyrac shrugs, sitting on Enjolras’s legs.
Enjolras lifts his head slightly to scowl in his direction. Combeferre watches the exchange from his seat on the armrest, hands unconsciously running through Courf’s hair. They look so perfect together, they seem to complete each other so naturally and effectively and Enjolras feels a pang of jealousy for that.
“Caught me off guard, is all,” Enjolras mutters, now staring at the ceiling. There’s a spider crawling across it, but he doesn’t point it out for fear that it will result in Courfeyrac screaming bloody murder while Combeferre tries to save it. Out of the corner of his eye he can see his friends nodding, looking like sympathetic parents listening to their kid’s relationship problems.
Before Grantaire, Enjolras never thought too much about soulmates. Once he decided in high school that he wasn’t going to care about the whole soulmate business, he didn’t revisit the thought. But now… He glances at his hands and wonders if there is a string there, invisible to him, lying limp across the floor, disappearing beneath the front door of the apartment. Or maybe it is wrapped around a chair in a kitchen, or hanging out the window. Could Combeferre and Courfeyrac see a string? Would it make a difference if they did? Would Enjolras ask Grantaire out if Courfeyrac marched in his room one day and said that Grantaire was his soulmate?
“What if he didn’t catch you off guard though?” Courfeyrac begins, bringing Enjolras out of his thoughts.
“What do you mean?” Enjolras frowns.
“We could have, like, a pool party or something. And Grantaire would be shirtless. But you could prepare and make your move. Cue making out in only swim trunks.”
Enjolras glares at him again while Combeferre points out that they can’t have a pool party in the middle of winter. Courfeyrac only seems slightly defeated at this, and Enjolras knows he won’t give up on matchmaking easily.
What he isn’t prepared for is how quickly Courfeyrac moves to other ideas.
“Hello hello!” Courfeyrac greets as he enters the apartment the next Friday, Combeferre immediately emerging from his bedroom to greet him with several noisy kisses.
Enjolras rolls his eyes and returns to the paper he is editing, his laptop on his lap and feet propped up on the coffee table.
The two come out of the kitchen and Enjolras glances up. “Why do you have pizza?”
“Feet off the coffee table,” Combeferre reprimands.
“Nice to see you too, Enj. I thought I’d bring you two some dinner!” Courfeyrac beams, holding up the boxes as evidence.
“Let me rephrase that, why do you have five boxes of pizza?”
“Oh, did I not mention? Oops. We’re having movie night.”
Enjolras raises his eyebrows. “Here?”
“Yep! In about...twenty minutes.”
“What?” Enjolras closes his laptop and stands. “Why wasn’t I informed? I have a paper to finish-”
“A paper that is due in two weeks. Work later, socialize now. Oh, and Grantaire will be coming, so you might want to change.”
Enjolras looks down at his bright red sweatpants and old t-shirt with a faded print of the French flag and sighs. “I don’t get a say in this movie night, do I?”
“Nope!” Combeferre says cheerfully as he takes the pizzas from his boyfriend and returns to the kitchen. Courfeyrac gives Enjolras a wide grin and goes to examine their DVD collection as the blond retreats to his bedroom. He’d like to say he didn’t spend nearly ten minutes picking a decent outfit, but that would be a lie, and Courfeyrac can tell when Enjolras walks out with a slightly wrinkled button up and some skinny jeans.
He’s given up on the DVDs and is browsing Netflix as the others arrive, walking through the open door without invitation. Joly brings some soda and Feuilly has a platter of cupcakes that they add to the table, making it really feel like movie night.
Grantaire shows up last, a few minutes late, covered in paint stains and panting as if he rushed over. Enjolras swallows and looks away, feeling nervous. Courfeyrac catches his eye, a knowing smile in place, and Enjolras rolls his eyes, doing his best to act natural when Grantaire makes his way through the maze of people and sits down next to Enjolras.
He glances over and sees the bags under Grantaire’s eyes, sees the glazed look he gives the television. His hands also have paint on them, and Enjolras wonders how long of a day he had. It must’ve been pretty bad, it’s only been ten minutes and he’s already dozing off, his head falling forward before he jerks awake. Enjolras gives him a sympathetic grimace and pats his shoulder invitingly. He has no idea why he did, and now he regrets it, seeing as Grantaire is fast asleep against him, his curls tickling his chin. He resolutely avoids looking at any of his friends and tries to focus on the movie.
He gives up after a minute and instead tries to remain as still as possible, failing when a loud noise in the movie startles him. Grantaire chuckles as he wakes up, stretching slightly, then he leans over to whisper, “You’re so tense,” in Enjolras’s ear. His warm breath makes the blond shiver, and Grantaire chuckles again, and it’s so low and rough that Enjolras really can’t handle it.
“I’m gonna get some pizza,” he mutters, and Grantaire moves slightly so Enjolras has room to stand up and make his way to the kitchen.
Two minutes later, Courfeyrac climbs out of Enjolras’s window and joins him on the fire escape where Enjolras is sitting, his legs dangling over the edge.
“How many slices have you had?” Courfeyrac nods to the pizza in his hand.
Enjolras swallows a bite. “This is my fourth.”
“You’re stress eating,” Courfeyrac points out
“It’s just,” Enjolras pauses, searching for the right words. “I really care about him, you know? And it’s making me...like this. All flustered and just a mess. And I hate it. So I have to do something about it. But. That thought is distressing in itself. And I’m just so nervous, and I’m freaking out, and I’m worried th-”
“I can see your thread.”
Enjolras stops talking immediately, his mouth opening and closing with no words coming out. He heard Courfeyrac, but the words don't make sense in his head. He’s thrown back in time to the night that he found himself unable to stop staring at the string on Courfeyrac’s pinky as his friend sighed about some unsuccessful date, the memory jarring him because Courfeyrac looked so unhappy then compared to the joy he always has now, with Combeferre.
Only they aren’t in the living room, and this isn’t about Courfeyrac. They’re on a rusty fire escape that’s covered in ashes from the smokers living on the floor above, the distant sound of laughter coming through a slightly open window below. The sun is setting, but it’s hidden behind a building, leaving them to admire the color of the sky, so bright and brilliant compared to the dullness of the snow covered buildings. Their breath is foggy and the metal is very cold beneath them. A car honks in the next street over. A street lamp flickers on, then off again, then it’s on once more.
“You dropped your pizza,” Courfeyrac points out, staring at the food splattered on the sidewalk six floors below.
“What did you say?” Enjolras asks hoarsely.
“I said you dropped-”
“No, before that.”
Courfeyrac meets his gaze steadily. “I said I can see your thread. Ever since that night Grantaire spoke up and you two argued before he just got up and left. You followed him. We could all see it.”
His fingers reach out and pinch the string that Enjolras can’t see.
“So I’m...I’m connected to Grantaire then? He’s my soulmate?”
Courfeyrac hesitates. “I know how you feel about soulmates, but, you did get some say in the matter. This isn’t some predestined thing, you had feelings for Grantaire this whole time, no stupid string did that. It’s just...a confirmation. The universe telling you to get some.”
Enjolras glares at him for a moment. “But he is my soulmate?”
“Yes, of course he is. You two are totally perfect for each other.”
Enjolras takes in a deep breath and stares at the sky again. “Right.”
“Right? Aren’t you going to, I dunno, confess your love to him now or something?”
Enjolras scoffs. “That’s cheesy.”
If Les Amis were confused by the sudden disappearance of Courfeyrac and Enjolras, they were more confused when the two burst through the front door, cheeks flushed from the cold, Enjolras clutching something behind his back.
“Er, Grantaire, can I talk to you for a second? In the kitchen?” Enjolras rushes out. Courfeyrac slaps his ass as he walks over to Combeferre and sits on his lap, ignoring the raised eyebrow from his boyfriend and settling in to watch the movie.
Grantaire looks confused but gets up from the couch. As soon as he walks into the kitchen, a dozen red roses are shoved in his face and he hears “Ireallylikeyoudoyawannagooutsometime?”
He grabs the flowers away from his face and makes eye contact with Enjolras, who is still looking rather flushed.
“What?” Grantaire deadpans.
Enjolras takes in a deep breath. “I said, I really like you. Do you want to go out? Like, on a date? Or something?”
Grantaire looks from him to the roses. “Are you serious?”
Enjolras looks slightly defensive. “Of course I’m serious. If you don’t want to, that’s fine, I just...can’t keep pining like this.”
“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.” Grantaire answers, face breaking into a gorgeous smile, and Enjolras grins.
“Of course, you dork.”
“What? Go on a date now?”
“Why not? I saw a coffee shop open on the way back from the flower shop.”
Grantaire blinks at him for a moment before he rolls his eyes, but he’s still smiling. “Alright, let’s go!”
Enjolras takes his hand and pulls him out of the kitchen. “I’m taking Grantaire on a date. Goodnight everybody.”
The looks of surprise on everyone’s faces almost rival that of Grantaire’s as Enjolras pulls him out of the apartment.
“One quick question,” Grantaire begins as they rush down the stairs.
“What’s that?” Enjolras asks.
“Do you kiss on the first date?”
Enjolras grins. “Guess you’ll have to find out.”