The lazy afternoon sun was slowly dipping down towards the horizon, a mottled grey tom cat stretched out on the cobblestones undisturbed by footfall for the street's were quiet. Paris, that great beast, had cast off her fichu and settled into half-lacing; her inhabitants had inherited her lassitude.
Grantaire was watching Courfeyrac cajole Marius Pontmercy into a carriage. This was the latest line of persuasions that Courfeyrac had been forced to work on their friend in order to get him even to this point. Pontmercy, insular mouse that he was, found himself dragged along by his vivacious tomcat of a friend.
“I cannot pay” Pontmercy was a prefect model of virtue in excess.
“Don't worry; we've already taken care of it” called Bossuet from the carriage, already settled in.
Grantaire raised a doubtful brow in Lesgle's direction “We?”
“Hold your tongue, scoundrel, I pay my debts.” As Bossuet playfully rebuked Grantaire, Pontmercy stepped closer to Courfeyfac and pressed the issue “I could still walk? It's isn't very far”
“Its two and a half leagues; get in.” called Grantaire over his shoulder as he climbed into the vehicle. They were headed off to the Ball at Sceaux, in hopes of putting an end to Pontmercy's moping by way of finding the girl he was moping over. Grantaire would wager on Pontmercy's reticence being more about his nerves than his financial scruples.
“You'd get dust all over you” said Bossuet with the heart-aching certainty of a man who has found himself short of a cab fare one time too many.
Courfeyrac jostled Pontmercy gently towards the carriage “If we leave now we should arrive just before the ball starts. You don't want to risk missing this girl of yours do you?”
“So that's why we're heading out so ridiculously early” Grantaire groused.
“Love conquers all” beamed Courfeyrac “Now alight your carriage sweet Marius; we must spare your feet for the night of revelry ahead.”
As Marius was about to mount the steps to the carriage a voice rang out in the street, Grantaire jerked upright.
“Is that Enjolras?” Bossuet said, squeezing his head between the door and Pontmercy to peer down the street.
“It is; something must be up.” Pontmercy yelped as Courfeyrac patted his rump consolingly “We might have to postpone our outing.”
The Driver who had already climbed up into his seat, coughed pointedly.
“We'll be just a few more minutes” Courfeyrac appeased the man “I'll go and see what he wants.”
Pontmercy descended the carriage steps again which meant that Grantaire could finally see out of the door. Enjolras looked radiant, possibly a side effect of the late afternoon sun catching on his hair, possibly because he was flushed and panting, a stark contrast to his usual pallor. He was smiling, wide and bold; Grantaire clutched at Bossuets head for support. Courfeyrac ran up to Enjolras and was met with a embrace, Grantaire couldn't hear the words they exchanged but the warmth and the relief Enjolras expressed was palpable. Something serious must have occurred.
“What's afoot?” called Bossuet when they were within speaking distance, shrugging off Grantaire to join them on the street.
The pair glanced at each other again, Enjolras clutching at Courfeyrac's shoulder as if he were afraid to let go. He was still smiling slightly as Courfeyrac said in a tone tinged with astonishment
“He's coming with us.”
“To the Ball?” Bossuet asked.
Courfeyrac looked to Enjolras who said abruptly “I have someone to meet there.”
Vague as he was they all accepted Enjolras' explanation; Enjolras was preoccupied with only one goal. That told them everything they needed to know about the person he had arranged to meet.
Bossuet coughed, thoughtful “Is that so? Should we be on our guards?” Enjolras turned to Bossuet shaking his head “No. It's not serious” he said and, as with Courfeyrac, enveloped him in a hug. Bossuet, smiling returned the embrace.
Having finished embracing Lesgle, having clasped hands warmly with Pontmercy, Enjolras turned to Grantaire. Grantaire, who had been preparing to meet Enjolras' terse greeting with obsequious warmth, froze; Enjolras was staring at him.
It should be illegal to stare at someone like that, so blatantly, Grantaire thought, disregarding the fact that he was wont to stare openly at anyone who caught his attention. Still in silence, still staring, Enjolras reached out to touch Grantaire's hand where he was gripping the frame of the carriage.
“Grantaire” Enjolras said finally “Its good to see you” He frowned “You look tired”
“Enjolras you flatterer” he offered Enjolras his other hand to help him into the carriage. They were on their way before Grantaire realised that Enjolras had settled himself next to him and that they would be pressed together, flank to flank, for the whole journey.
The Ball at Sceaux was, by Grantaire's estimation, not the most interesting dance one could attend however it did carry the distinction of being the prettiest with the administration at Sceaux having the advantage of both long experience, the Park's natural beauty and more than their fair share of wealth. An outside dance, it was held within the part of the Park called the Orangery and already the large level field was dressed up with bunting, hanging lanterns and a long trestle table loaded with refreshments.
They had arrived unfashionably early. There weren't yet many young men about, aside from their own group, mostly young women accompanied by ailing relatives so they easily found themselves a table with a clear view to the entrance and watched as more people began to arrive.
“Where did you arrange to meet with your mysterious contact?” Courfeyrac asked Enjolras who demurred until the pressure of Courfeyracs curiosity provoked the statement “I've not seen him yet; its likely he won't come.”
Enjolras' confidence seemed unwarranted given that they had only arrived a half hour ago however, at odds with the urgency he had displayed in coming to the Ball, Enjolras was unaffected by this disappointment; he seemed content to sit and listen to the ebb and flow of conversation.
When enough people had arrived, the Orchestra started playing and Bossuet approached a young woman to dance. Courfeyrac was unable to resist following him. This left Enjolras and Grantaire sitting with a morose Pontmercy who was staring out at the sea of youth and merriment with a dead look in his eyes.
Not ideal, socially.
Grantaire could say just about anything to Pontmercy and it would garner vague approval unless it touched upon one of the two or three topics that Pontmercy happened to feel particular burning passion for. Enjolras on the other hand would return almost nothing but cool disdain whatever Grantaire happened to say. This was well enough; contempt from Enjolras was expected, almost pleasing. However neither of these responses inspired conversation and while Grantaire could, and would, speak for hours, pouring lavish speech upon lavish speech into deaf ears, he preferred a partner to an audience. Grantaire racked his brain for a topic but to his surprise Enjolras turned to him first.
“Do you often attend this dance?”
There was no way Enjolras had any interest in the answer to that question but Grantaire wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Not often; not without friends” Grantaire gulped back his drink, borrowing some of its bravado “And you Enjolras? I know you never spare time for dancing but now that you're here how do you find it? Are you enjoying the excesses of the bourgeois? ” It was halfway intended as a jibe but Enjolras merely smiled.
There was a heavy-lidded, flushed look to him that raised Grantaire's suspicion but when he spared a glance for Enjolras' glass he saw it remained untouched. Enjolras gestured towards the dancers “Its beautiful; everybody know the same steps and they mutually agree to follow them. Everyone contributing to create something that benefits everyone.”
“Not everyone: look” A quick glance over the crowd, past the attractive hopefuls who had gravitated towards Enjolras' celestial person, and Grantaire found what he was looking for.
“That girl there, with the unfortunate nose; the rabbit teeth”
“What about her?”
“Whose going to dance with her?” Grantaire was wincing at his words even as they left his mouth; he had killed their conversation before it had truly began. Enjolras didn't concern himself with refuting Grantaire's ideas, weak as they were Enjolras would never offer them the respect of challenge.
Suddenly breathless he blurted “Alas what in the world can be enjoyed with a clear conscience? Those cold creatures of fashion flow from exquisite form to exquisite form and girls like that sit in the corner; I pity her, I pity her teeth I pity her ugliness and yet I make merry. What a-”
“Why are you calling that poor girl ugly” Bossuet interrupted, having returned from the dance floor.
“I was disproving the idea that the dance floor is a bastion of human cooperation by pointing out one who is inevitably excluded”
Bossuet gulped Grantaire's drink down in one swig, then declared“Inevitably? Balderdash; you run your mouth as a Post Chaise runs its horses; too quick and a change at every station. In half a minute you would declare her the Queen of the faeries. She looks sweet; I shall abscond with her and her well formed bosom. Wish me luck.”
He swanned his way across the dance floor as if his trousers weren't patched at the knees. The girl broke out into smiles as Bossuet made his introductions; Enjolras looked pointedly at Grantaire who rolled his eyes “He's just doing that to spite me“
“You are better than this” Enjolras looked almost disappointed.
Grantaire startled “I am?” gathering himself he slouched down in his seat pasting a smirk on his face “Am I?”
“What you said was no falsehood but you can criticise a part without dismissing value of the whole. I would have thought that you would feel more sympathy for her.”
“Are you calling me ugly?”
Enjolras shrugged and there was an apology in his acknowledgement of the fact. That Enjolras felt his looks were something to be apologised for hurt almost as much as the novelty of hearing the tired insult from Enjolras' perfect lips. He did not mind being ugly, truly, being ugly was one thing, being handsome was another but both brought you attention and Grantaire had never concerned himself with the quality of attention he received. He never had to be introduced more than once; that was enough.
Besides, “My situation is very different from hers. Its worse for women, they only get a one glance to determine their worth, the privilege of my sex is such that people normally give me at least seven good lingering looks before they realise I'm an ass” Grantaire smiled and, out of habit, reached for the glass Bossuet had emptied.
“Seven? I only gave you three.”
The familiar acid in Enjolras voice served only to widen Grantaire's smile. He flicked the rim of his empty glass and, when the it had finished singing, said “Ah but you, Enjolras, are by no means an ordinary man; Solomon himself would envy your insight”
“Or not” Enjolras bit his lip “I judge only what I see; I cannot claim to see everything clearly.”
Enjolras earlier joie de vivre had faded, Grantaire felt a pang of guilt. He didn't usually regret the things he said, the girl was ugly and with a few more drinks and greater proximity he might have said so to her face, but he did regret the hurt he caused. Grantaire touched Enjolras' elbow“You do better than most of us, I think”
“I don't know what to think of you” Enjolras whispered.
Grantaire blinked, surely it was obvious to someone as clever as Enjolras that it was best not to think much about Grantaire at all. He thought to inform him of the fact but confronted with Enjolras' undivided attention Grantaire desperately wanted to do or say something worth thinking about. As usual nothing came to mind but Enjolras was still looking at him. For the first time in their long acquaintance Enjolras wanted something from him; something he didn't know how to provide.
“Stick with your third impression” he said “I never change; that is my one recommendation”
He winked at Enjolras who looked away hurriedly, Grantaire winced; he had hoped to provoke laughter, or, more realistically, a smile.
Casting about for a distraction, Grantaire nudged Pontmercy, who had fallen into a deep and solemn reverie, with his foot “Seen her yet?”
“I don't think she's coming”
“Why not take a turn around the field” Enjolras suggested “Lots of people arrived in groups; you might have missed her in the crowd.”
Pontmercy only twitched in response to this suggestion his eyes still fixed on some empty spot in the middle distance but after a time he rose from his chair and trudged off into the crowd all the same, offering a parting nod to the both of them.
“Why don't you dance?”
Not the most subtle attempt to get rid of him “Why don't you?”
“Ah yes, my mistake, your feet are sworn to a nobler cause”
“Not exactly; I cant dance”
Grantaire started it was unlikely Enjolras was teasing him and yet ...“you know how to dance. Everyone knows how to dance”
“Its been years” Enjolras's eyes crinkled “You are very easy to shock”
“Shocked? I am a cosmopolitan, I cannot be shocked. Enjolras you disgust me; even savages dance”
“Then I am a savage” Enjolras said simply. Grantaire was in awe; a brute for all of his fine features, marble hewn for once purpose uncaring of man's petty amusements. It would have made any other man dull and yet for all the years he had know Enjolras there had never been at time when Grantaire's attention had wavered. Enjolras turned in his chair so he was facing Grantaire head on “But I have been led to understand that you have some aptitude in this arena; if you are so insulted by my lack of ability, teach me”
“No, Enjolras I dare not. Look at them” Grantaire gestured blatantly at the young women who lingered with an equal lack of subtlety near Enjolras “If I steal their chance they will do away with me”
“It not as though I would dance with them in your absence”
“They don't know that! These young women, Enjolras! I shudder, tigresses have their claws, women their hairpins and poor Grantaire is bound by chivalry”
Smiling Enjolras entreated him again, with a playfulness that Grantaire had only seen bestowed upon his other friends. He felt, without understanding, without wanting to understand, that there was a certain danger in obliging him. It would not end well if he agreed.
The music carried poorly through the shrubbery of the Orangery gardens; they had wandered out away from the noise of the ball until they came to a stretch of path a little to the South of the Orangery.
Grantaire had agreed.
Now, determined to be thorough, he strained to hear the beat of the music “I think they have changed to a minuet , that's good. I wondered what we would do if they kept at the quadrille all night. We could have press-ganged Bossuet as a third but he might have had to partner with a flower pot”
“Is Lesgle a good dancer?”
“Wonderful when he's not treading on some poor girls feet; I think he's caused more injuries in his time in Paris than have occurred in all the City's history. Cobblers everywhere praise his name but I'm astonished he hasn't been banned from every dancing hall in Paris. Now am I, the master, to assume you are a complete novice? Good. I shall not have my wisdom diluted by the words of lesser men” Grantaire was sat on the grass one leg brought up to his chest, his head tilted regally.
Enjolras, stood in the centre of the path looked down at him “I think I would learn quicker if I had a partner”
“How will I correct your form if I cannot observe it?” It was already too much to be alone with him.
“How dedicated” Enjolras said dry as high summer as Grantaire began to give his instructions. The process of teaching was hindered by Enjolras who seemed more interested in learning about him then learning his steps, Grantaire batted away his questions. If Enjolras was looking to alleviate his boredom then Grantaire would at least have the satisfaction of teaching him something.
He twisted his moustache and in general acted as though he were about to make a dreadful critique of Enjolras' abilities, though, in truth, Enjolras was spry and focused. Grantaire noticed his steps were a shade too heavy and his form bespoke more of the martial than the muses but that held its own charm.
“I need a partner for the turns” The command, only implied but undeniably present, propelled Grantaire to his feet but by the time he had reached Enjolras, his proffered hand was ignored.
“The music's changed” Enjolras said a peculiar look upon his face, Grantaire tilted his head. While he could only hear a suggestion of a melody the beat was clear enough.
“A waltz” Grantaire laughed “you must remember this one.”
“Turn, step then repeat” Enjolras stepped forward into his space “Isn't that right?”
Grantaire nodded helplessly then recovering himself blurted “Many would criticise you for degenerating the grand tradition of the waltz, the Viennese in particular would be up in arms to defend their national pride but” Enjolras' hand found his waist “in essentials” he trailed off. Enjolras had brought him much closer than traditional form dictated. He decided not to mention it. It would be cruel to discourage a novice.
“To my left” Grantaire directed.
In theory this landed Enjolras with the woman's part but he was so much taller than any woman Grantaire had danced with before that it was difficult to say with honestly how much steering Grantaire was doing. They danced through the song and then, even though the music had changed to a Quadrille, through the next.
“You seem pleased with my progress; are their no more corrections you have for me?”
“None. There is only one trick to the waltz and that is to spin just fast enough to have the girl dizzy” at Enjolras' frown, Grantaire clarified “so she will lean on you.”
“I see” The next step they took Enjolras tightened his hold on Grantaire's waist and turned, fast enough that Grantaire fell forward onto his chest. Delighted enough to laugh but too startled to do so, it was all Grantaire could do to keep on his feet as Enjolras swung them both round till they were both flushed and panting. Enjolras came to an abrupt stop and looked down at Grantaire who had given up on supporting himself and was resting flush against him “It appears I was successful”
Grantaire stumbled away from Enjolras, breathless, and collapsed back down onto the grass “I acknowledge my student; with that I have taught you all I know, we should return. Its been a while”
“No” Enjolras said, sitting down besides him “let's stay a little longer.”
Well, that was fine. Grantaire was not pleased; only satisfied, obviously, it was only right that Enjolras should see the value of his company. He was smiling because it was a beautiful night, with the scent of cut grass on the air and the orchestra lively. It had nothing, Grantaire told himself firmly, to do with Enjolras or his soft touches, or his kind, serious eyes. Their fingers brushed together in the grass.
A drink” Grantaire cleared his throat “If we're going to stay out here I'm getting myself a drink”
The walk would clear his head.
“Could you fetch something for me as well?”
“Nothing strong“ Enjolras warned, smiling.
The knowledge that any trespasses would be forgiven made Grantaire strangely reluctant to trespass. Respect was perhaps beyond him but he did bypass the stronger wines and instead brought back something more acceptably mild and glasses of sweet sorbet drizzled over with crème de menthe which they ate rosy light of the gardens until the sweetness turned cloying on their tongues.
Grantaire lent back on his elbows groaning, Enjolras cross-legged next to him was little better.
“I'm getting too old for this; when I was twenty I would eat all manner of disgusting concoctions. I'm glad I'm going to die young or I might grow out of all my pleasures.”
Enjolas set down his bowl “No! I would see you live to eighty.”
“I like to think I will see all my friends grow old.” the sudden reminder of the outside world shook Grantaire from the lazy joy that had settle upon him; Enjolras, he remembered, had cause to think none of them would grow old.
“I expect I shall drink myself to my grave” he said, taking care to sound indifferent “but the rest of you can spend as much time as you please on this life business.”
“Perhaps you might surprise yourself.”
“I never surprise myself; possibly because I am far too clever, but more likely because I am preeminently dull. However it occurs to me that I am not so old after all, would you like another?” He clinked their empty bowls together.
“I think I would” said Enjolras.
Later, much later, they found themselves walking alone. They had decided to walk back to Paris, leaving ahead of their friends who seemed determined dance out the night. Neither of them were so inebriated that they needed to support each other to walk but they had linked arms regardless. Ahead of them, shoulders hunched and trudging like a street dog along the dusty road, was a familiar figure.
Is that Pontmercy?”
“Looking downcast. He didn't find his grisete then. Alas Pontmercy destined to pine away forever. He is a fool.”
“He is in love.”
“He's found someone who he loves, someone who captured his heart with no more than a glance. We shouldn't blame him for mourning its loss. I-” Enjolras paused “That is, theoretically, if you found such a person, if they came to you so unexpectedly and disappeared just as suddenly, would you not do anything in your power find them again. However lost they might appear.”
They had stopped aside the road, in the shadow of the walnut trees lining the avenue, watching Pontmercy's slow progress. Swallowing against the dryness of his throat Grantaire muttered “You might be overestimating Marius' abilities.”
“He'll find her” the queer intensity of the moment before had evaporated, Enjolras' was smiling“he is more of a lion than we give him credit for.”
“Such confidence! Misplaced sadly, for if he can't find her here, then he will find her nowhere. It would be like expecting to net a butterfly outside of a meadow” Grantaire sighed; it appeared he couldn't monopolise Enjolras forever “should we be comradely and offer him our shoulders to cry on?”
“No?” queasy with hope Grantaire laughed “Enjolras where is your heart?”
Enjolras shrugged “Let him find his own happiness; tonight I want to walk with you.”
The rattle of an approaching wagon, saved Grantaire from having to form a reasonable response; at the sound Pontmercy began to turn around. The road was well lit so even with the distance between them Pontmercy would recognise them instantly.
Linked as they were it was no effort for Grantaire to pull them both away into the shadow of the trees. One such tree was broader than the others, Grantaire ducked behind it, leaning against its sturdy trunk.
“If he sees us we will be obliged to walk with him” Grantaire whispered apologetically to Enjolras.
They were stood so close together that Grantaire could not discern the thrum of his heartbeat from Enjolras'. Perhaps the sweet syrup of the sorbet had left his mouth dry; it was suddenly difficult to swallow.
Enjolras nodded, his arms bracketing Grantaire's head “Let's wait for a while until he's gone.”
It had been a beautiful slightly nonsensical dream; whoever Enjolras had gone to meet had failed to make their appearance so Grantaire made an admirable distraction for the night. Back in Paris Enjolras would have no need of him; the spell would be broken and Grantaire would return to courting Enjolras' barbs, his cool silences and the terrible looks he gave that dripped with pity.
Through the tree branches he could make out a few stars. Grantaire let his legs buckle underneath him. He looked up at Enjolras head lolling back to rest against the trunk “Sit with me for a while”
Slowly Enjolras sank down next to him. They conversed lazily in the darkness; the words less important than their tone. It was late; Grantaire let his eye's slip closed.
Grantaire woke to a chill in his bones and a ache in his neck. The tree which had offered such benevolent support the night before had turned on him; every knot and splinter determined to dig into Grantaire's back. His mouth felt rank and his nose was dripping from the cold. It was still dark. The road was empty; of vehicles, of people. Enjolras was lain sprawled out on the grass, his head resting on Grantaire's thigh.
So that was why his foot was numb.
Grantaire flexed his leg tentatively; Enjolras grumbled in his sleep turning onto his stomach and bringing one hand up to marshal his disobedient pillow. Grantaire forced himself to relax despite the ache in his limbs and watched with relief as Enjolras settled back into sleep.
Time passed slowly for Grantaire that morning.
By the time Enjolras stirred the dawn was breaking, casting a soft glow upon the scene. Hoping that it wasn't obvious he had been staring, Grantiare smiled down at him. Enjolras, fresh from sleep and blinking drowsily in the faint light of the dawn, would fool the uninitiated into thinking him vulnerable.
“Whose idea was it to sleep out here, I almost wish myself dead.”
“Don't” Enjolras said frowning “Its too early for your pessimism. I forbid it until-I forbid it.”
“As you wish” Enjolras' hair, just long enough to fall over his eyes when not brushed back was splayed over Grantaire's lap. He thought to touch it to see if it felt as silken as it appeared but the idea of his hand, calloused and ungainly, next to Enjolras' smooth forehead curdled in his chest. The contrast made one of them look ridiculous; Grantaire was not such a fool that he couldn't tell which.
Enjolras jerked upright “We are alive” he said wonderingly, reaching forward to cup Grantaire's face. Had Enjolras taken something the day before? That might explain his strange behaviour but the idea of Enjolras dabbling in any such substance beggared belief.
“I have things I must do.” he declared, intent all of a sudden on returning to Paris and their ordinary lives. Grantaire followed him back to Paris when Enjolras left him, almost running in his eagerness to be away. Then, his feet like lead, Grantaire trudged to his bed where he slept the day away.
That night he dawdled on the way to the Musain, knowing that Enjolras would be present. He wondered what he would say. A joke came to mind first, a jest, a little tease about the night they had shared just to show that he didn't think very much of it, or rather that he knew Enjolras thought little of it.
He made his way into the clamorous back room and spotted Enjolras with Combeferre and Courfeyrac. They were sat together, the three of them a closed circle. Grantaire adopted a swagger and made his way towards them. Engrossed as they were Grantaire went noticed and under the clamour of the room he heard them argue.
“This won't help us. We need to focus on-”
“It would be immoral to ignore, Enjolras I can't -”
Grantaire lent over their table and Combeferre snapped his mouth shut, askance at the intrusion. The table was dominated by a map of Paris. Sections of the map were marked by crosses in red or black or green circles, Grantaire furrowed his brow, a few harsh lines which might represent barricades. They had circled Hôtel-Dieu twice; what made this hospital so important?
Enjolras stood, blocking his view of the map with his body. The map, Enjolras informed him was a private project of Combeferre's and would Grantaire be so kind as not to disturb them?
Normally Grantaire would have pushed till he was met with rebuttal however he did not want it to look like he expected kindness just because Enjolras had made one exception. He was clever enough to understand how their game was played. Grantaire resigned himself to his corner and bullied Bahorel into playing him at dominos, Pygmalion returned to her plinth, he thought with mingled relief and embarrassment, all was right in the world.
All was not right in the world. Enjolras had seemed, for the space of a few days, perfectly normal. Busy, his friends commented, even for Enjolras, scribbling away in notebooks that he only shared with Courfeyrac and Combeferre, and unusually buoyant in the presence of his friends but normal.
Then Grantaire's world was unbalanced again and the relief which he had so prematurely felt was swept away in the storm of attentions Enjolras began to pay him.
“Enjolras sits with me” Grantaire commented to Joly. He had intended it as a boast and was surprised to find his tone desolate.
Joly, who had been feeling congested all that morning had been interrupted by Grantaire in the midst of preparing himself a steam bath, now he took a bottle of oil of eucalyptus and swirled a few drops into the basin of boiling water he had prepared.
“He has to sit somewhere” Joly commented, deliberately obtuse.
“But next to me?”
“It's not hurting you”
“It ruins my fun” Grantaire muttered.
Joly raised a brow; it was an accusatory brow, thought Grantaire. It was a brow that reminded him of yesterday night when he had traded increasingly convoluted puns with Enjolras, each putting forth their best effort to break the others composure.
“He told me to go to with him to listen to a debate at the Cafe V----”
Joly blew his nose cheerfully having taken a few deep breaths of steam “Go! It will be good for you to get some ideas in your head, that's probably Enjolras' thought.”
“Ideas” Grantaire rolled his eyes “what does he expect from me? I won't sit about in silence watching strangers cross swords over definitions.”
“Are you going to tell him that?”
No, no Grantaire was not.
It was not cowardice so much as pragmatism; Grantaire knew that if he saw Enjolras he would waver. Enjolras wanted him to go with him; Enjolras thought he could drag Grantaire into proper thought, no Enjolras took it as written that Grantaire could be relied on to politic, to agitate, to rebel. Grantaire would show him rebellion. Who did Enjolras think he was, having expectations of him?
He went boxing, exertion usually quieted his mind, soothed the ache inside of him when all other pursuits left him restless, and earned himself a black eye. Then with much of the afternoon still to waste and not wanting to run into any of his friends he went to the bath house on La Rue Chantereine and dozed until his water turned cold. Later he drifted from place to place until he found himself at the Corinthe. This was more Courfeyrac's domain than Enjolras' and thus held a certain amount of safety without it looking like he was seeking to avoid anyone. He found none of his friends there so sat alone and occupied himself with the cheap swill that the Corinthe attempted to pass off as wine. After a bottle or two, Grantaire had to admit, their attempts weren't entirely unsuccessful.
He found himself speaking for the sake of drowning out his thoughts. The blare of his own voice disconcerted him, it was humiliating to think himself boorish and humiliating to feel humiliated; Grantaire shouted louder.
A hand slammed down on the table in front of him. Grantaire blinked; it was Enjolras.
“You said you would meet me.”
“Did I?” Grantaire lent back in his chair “Heavens, Enjolras', may the Lord rain down Locusts upon me. Cronus ate up all my time. I found myself hypnotised by the swaying hips of Madame Hucheloup. Can you forgive me? And how was your little meeting, if I haven't lost the privilege of asking?”
Enjolras stared at him “Why do you have a black eye?”
For reasons unknown even to himself Grantaire felt that the only way to sufficiently explain his injury was to explain the origins of the boxing. He had digressed briefly on the topic of Turkish wrestling when he looked up and saw that Enjolras was still present and listening to every word of his babbling. Every. Word.
The waitress arrived with another bottle. She was new to the Corinthe, not exactly pretty but, to her credit, dressed as well as she could on her pay. Without taking his eyes from Grantaire, Enjolras took the bottle from her.
“Thank you” he said and Grantaire almost smiled at his reflexive politeness but he was not meant to be smiling at Enjolras, no, he was very upset with him. Enjolras was not acting as he should. There were some natural laws that were widely considered immutable and Enjolras not wasting his time listening to Grantaire was one of them.
“No. I payed for that wine I shall have it.” Grantaire grinned, what could Enjolras do now? No man could remain kind to Grantaire in this state and retain their pride.
“Yes. You shall” said Enjolras curtly. Then with the air of an executioner he upturned the bottle over Grantaire's head.
The stream of wine, diaphanous in the candlelight, hit him full in the face. The shock did nothing to sober Grantaire, in fact as the fluid ran down his face to soak his cravat, his shirt and his waistcoat, Grantaire felt himself grow ever more intoxicated. His blood thrummed under his skin as the stream dwindled to nothing.
Enjolras shook the last few drops from the bottle's clinging neck; the scant droplets fell to Grantaire's lips and he reflexively licked them away. Distantly he could hear laughter but the only reality in the room was the distinct form of Enjolras, standing proud above him.
“It appears I've stained your shirt” Enjolras set the bottle down “We should get you clean. Are you ready to leave now?”
Meekly Grantaire rose from his seat and followed Enjolras from the Corinthe in a daze. Enjolras curtly directed him through the streets. Grantaire had forgotten his coat back in the Corinthe; he shivered. He followed at Enjolras' heels, not sparing a thought for his surroundings and was vaguely surprised when Enjolras led him up into his rooms. They were plain and clean, the only extravagance being the number of books Enjolras had packed onto every flat surface.
“Sit” Enjolras gestured to a chair. Grantaire sat, the damp cloth chafing at his thighs.Enjolras went to a chest of draws and produced some trousers and a shirt.
“You should change; it's not healthy to sit in damp clothing” Enjolras looked calm, too calm.
Grantaire dropped his eyes, parodying shyness to conceal it “Do you want me nude so badly? Enjolras you need only have asked-”
“Don't be ridiculous.“ Enjolras turned away from his sharply; dismissively. “Just- undress. Please.”
Shivering Grantaire raised numb hands to his waistcoat buttons. He hadn't been serious, he hadn't, but for Enjolras to be so disgusted that he couldn't even look at him... Mechanically he began stripping away his layers. He let each article he removed fall to the floor. At every dull thump of fabric Enjolras twitched, his back ramrod straight. Grantaire curled his lip; if Enjolras wanted neatness from him he should be prepared to look him in the eye and ask for it. Finally he stood, swaying in his damp underclothes, the wine had soaked down even into this innermost layer. Grantaire hesitated, they were friends; it be stranger at this point to shy away from nudity, almost as though he were afraid. The decision made he quickly removed his draws then stood naked, arms held defiantly at his sides.
Grantaire looked at the pile of clothes Enjolras had left him. He looked again at Enjolras back; his narrow waist and hips, his frankly unnecessary height. A problem had presented itself.
“I don't think your clothes will fit me” Grantaire began to wish he hadn't disrobed so hastily.
Silently Enjolras crossed to his bed and stripped it of its topmost sheet.
“There” he said thrusting it at Grantaire.
Still Enjolras would not look at him. Grantaire flung himself down into one of Enjolras' Spartan little chairs draping the sheet over his lap. By the time Enjolras deigned to face him Grantaire had arranged himself like a life model, one leg hooked over the arm of the chair the sheet slung over one shoulder, covering his crotch and the leg resting on the floor. It was a cold day to be making this particular point, especially when Grantaire wasn't entirely sure what point he was making, but he persevered.
“Why?” Enjolras averted his eyes “Never mind; you are drunk I should not be-. You must have clean clothes at your rooms?”
“Yes” Grantaire's point, whatever it happened to be, had been made, though he objected to Enjolras diagnosis of drunk. By Grantaire's standards he was barely tipsy, he was sure, never mind this thin layer of fog that he was currently perceiving the world through.
“I'll fetch them. If you'll give me your key?”
“I don't lock my rooms”
“You leave your rooms unlocked.” Enjolras stated, face carefully blank “that's unbelievably careless.”
“I don't posses anything of value or, unlike yourself, keep sensitive material under my floorboards and the concierge is always about...”
There was a blanket folded on the edge of the bed, Enjolras shook it out then wrapped it around Grantaire's shoulders “Wait here.”
Enjolars was gone long enough for Grantaire to rearrange his sheet in a manner reminiscent of the childhood games he would play with his sister. A child's idea of a chiton. There had been a wonderful golden summer when they had poured over an old copy of The Odyssey together, Grantaire struggling to read sentences that his sister spelled out for him with ease. Two children who had never seen the sea captivated by tales of distant lands separated by raging oceans. They had taken turns playing at heroes and monsters until the summer faded away. After that summer his sister stopped liking Grantaire so well as she had and there was no one else willing to help his clumsy hands knot a sheet into a costume. Now however, he did it well enough himself.
The fashion's of the ancient greeks, however, were not well suited for Parisian autumn and even with the blanket Grantaire felt the chill. He set upon dressing himself with unparalleled eagerness when Enjolras finally returned.
Enjolras began gathering up his wet clothes, a frown etched between his brows “I'll pay for their washing if you don't object?” Enjolras sighed “I apologise for doing this to you. I was – impatient. It was wrong of me to react so viciously.”
Cautious Grantaire smiled “What's a little wine between friends? I didn't know you cared so much, to ruin my third best shirt.”
“I do care. Grantaire, I don't blame you for not accompanying me tonight, though I wish you would have told me to my face, I understand that I haven't been clear with my intentions. I want us to be friends.”
“Aren't we already?”
“Better friends “
“Why not. If you don't mind being so and if you'll forgive my yawning when your mind turns to loftier topics
You take such great care to appear indifferent” The fondness in Enjolras' voice was palpable and Grantaire shifted nervously under the weight of it.
“You have the right of me Enjolras. I am but a tragic fellow who drowns himself in all sorts of pleasures to escape his own noble heart. Each eclair I choke down is but a stopper on the flood of great and noble sentiments that bubble within me near constantly. Wine cask they say to me; close! I am a brewery allowing only the most noxious gasses to escape but there is sweet wine in me yet”
“Great care” repeated Enjolras, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Blushing, Grantaire cast his eyes down and set about buttoning his waistcoat “If I cared my inaction would be terrible”
“I forgive you” Enjolras said firmly “I believe in you.”
It was clear; something was terribly irrefutably wrong with Enjolras.
Grantaire knew only two men who could be Enjolras' match, who could divine the cause behind Enjolras' strange behaviour. He found them as soon as he could. They were sat side by side – Grantaire settled in the chair opposite them. He glanced about the room; no blond heads to be seen.
“Grantaire?” Combeferre prompted him “You wanted to talk about Enjolras?”
“Yes. Could it be that, Enjolras. Enjolras is not as he was” Grantaire stared desperately at them both, willing them to understand “He talks the same, looks the same, I'd wager he even smells the same but it's not him hes not right. Since we went together to Sceaux do you recall, Courfeyrac, you saw yourself that he was acting strangely.
“Enjolras was just out of his element, he's been normal since.”
“But he's paying” Grantaire steeled himself to sound ridiculous “attention to me and I don't know why; I've done nothing but be myself which on normal days is worse than nothing. Last night he told me that he believes in me. He keeps saying things like faith will come with time and I cant even laugh at him for it because he'll join in with me. Do you know how difficult it is to mock a man who jokes back? It's intolerable. You two are his closest confidants, I charge you to restore Enjolras back to himself.”
Courfeyrac and Combeferre shared a glance.
“What you are describing is just the two of you becoming friends. We've all known each other a long time. I'm glad that you're finally putting your differences aside.” Combeferre smiled, it wasn't, Grantaire felt in his gut, a smile born from genuine feeling. It was like a slap seeing that such a disingenuous expression on Combeferres face.
“But were not putting our differences aside Enjolras is just ignoring our differences he treats me like” he could not say glass, nor could he honestly say Enjolras treated him as a brother or a child. While he was struggling in the mire of semantics, Combeferre crossed his arms and said to Grantaire with gentle severity “It appears to me that Enjolras is just trying to be a good friend. Perhaps you should follow his example in this if nothing else.”
“Thats right” added Courfeyrac “None of the rest of us like the way you talk but you don't question our friendship. As long as you don't provoke Enjolras into wasting more good wine it can only be a good thing.”
Courfeyrac had seen that? Or had Enjolras already told him about it “you don't understand-”
“I think we do understand.” Combefere spoke as if cajoling a child “you like to sit in your chair foreseeing disaster but you are only jumping at shadows. You are not Cassandra, Grantaire, no God has cursed you and what you believe isn't always the truth.”
Grantaire blanched; he didn't like to think the worst of things nor could he help noticing the general wretchedness of the world. He muttered “I bet that's what they said to Cassandra.”
“Grantaire” Courfeyrac laughed “Trust us.”
His friends wouldn't lie to him; if they didn't want him to know something, or didn't trust him to know something, they would say it to his face.
“Of course” Grantaire muttered “Pardieu, of course, I should lay off the Absinthe for a while; its making everything look sinister.”
Courfeyrac and Combeferre nodded and smiled, too synchronised to be fully reassuring; Grantaire let himself be swept away anyway. So what if Enjolras had lost his mind, especially when it was so obviously to Grantaire's benefit. Enjolras thought him trustworthy, well, he could be clever in his own way, when he put his mind to it, so whose to say that faith wasn't warranted? He could meet these new expectations, he could, he would.
Enjolras began to accept when Grantaire found reasons for them to walk together, matching Enjolras' long stride with his quick steps, gradually, through Enjolras' efforts, their destinations began to coincidence more as well.
They talked and talked riposted his teasing with his own wickedly sharp barbs. Grantaire adored his wit, the savagery of his tongue, he felt as though he was watching Alexandre cut the Gordian knot. An Impossible puzzle solved in an instant. He talked less; he conversed more. He was dazed more often than drunk. Enjolras gave his time, impossibly precious with all the other responsibilities that Enjolras shouldered, to Grantaire and Grantaire tried to ensure it wasn't a waste. A little more than two months after that fateful night at Sceaux it was difficult to remember how he had lived before Enjolras decided to take notice of him.
Christmas was fast approaching. As a group they didn't exchange gifts in any formal sense but they did exchange favours and presents as freely as they poured each other drinks. It wouldn't be as if Grantaire was buying Enjolras a Christmas present, rather a present that just so happened to be given around Christmas. And Enjolras had given Grantaire his own gift, had pressed a key to his rooms into Grantaire's hands and told him that he was welcome to intrude on him, at any time, for any reason. A privilege he hadn't yet exercised.
But what to give him? A Bicorne? No, Grantaire had no such measure of nerve. Though the suggestion of one might do well to rile Enjolras before presenting him with his real present. He even though to draw him something, something small that would make Enjolras smile but dismissed the notion almost imminently. What could he draw? A tolerable rendering of a fruit bowl? Or stretching his abilities he might produce an uninspired watercolour.
No better something Enjolras would value, a book? That was a good idea, personal but not overly personal, valuable but not expensive. The only problem being that Enjolras owned a great many books; it would be a waste to buy him a copy.
Which was how Grantaire found himself in Enjolras' rooms. It wasn't snooping when you had an invitation, he was sure. He scrupulously kept to his purpose and set to examining Enjolras' catalogue of books. Although certainly radical, the contents weren't surprising. Then one volume caught his eye, small and pushed back against the wall, it was overshadowed by the other books and could have been easily missed had you not been looking closely. Grantaire pulled it from the shelf and found it was not, as he had thought, a small reference book or a volume of poetry but a leather bound notebook that fell open in his hands.
Grantaire saw his name.
His name, his full name, who had told Enjolras his first name? Probably Jehan who mistakenly thought it romantic. He focused on the page; his name, peculiarly Enjolras had seen fit to scrawl it out many times many times in different fonts, his own rebus, that bold capital R drawn out in an approximation of Grantaire's own hand and numerous observations. Observations on him, commenting on his drinking, his moods, Enjolras lamenting his unhappiness with both. Grantaire snapped the books shut. Torn between the desire to read the whole thing and the sick dread that had chilled his blood upon reading that single page, Grantaire leaned heavily on Enjolras' desk.
Was that it? The reason Enjolras was keeping him so close, so that he could note down all of his undesirable qualities and – What? Seek to correct him?
Enjolras who seemed determined to keep him near but carefully hid his papers when he approached, Enjolras who smiled and lavished undue praise on him for completing simple tasks. But he had changed to deserve this treatment, no, all Enjolras was doing was muzzeling a dog that wouldn't stop yapping. The Ball at Sceaux hadn't bourne in Enjolras a new found appreciation for Grantaires company it had just shown him that a lick of kindness did more to restrain him than any number of lashes.
He tried to remember; all of Enjolras' smiles had seemed so genuine and yet what smiles had he seen before to compare them with? Enjolras bestowed his smiles sparingly ergo, Grantaire mused bitterly, it was likely that the smiles he had seen were simple artifice.
It hurt more to think of Enjolras privately deriding him than all the years of his honest disdain. Grantaire deserved both, he knew, there was much in him to disparage, but he could not bear to think of Enjolras upright and candid, authoring such a deception.
Had he been such a nuisance that it was easier for Enjolras to grit his teeth in his company rather than endure one more minute of a Grantaire unfiltered by devotion? And that's what it was, was it not, devotion; that chain that bound all his worst impulses. If he cared to be more accurate he would say love but Grantaire was not built in the scientific mould and the honestly of that label disturbed him. Devotion asked nothing from its object; in that there was safety. Grantaire could allow himself devotion and he could learn to bite his tongue but he was not so pathetic that he would allow Enjolras to sully himself playing Galoer. And perhaps in this Enjolras, even if he never truly came to like him, would come to respect him.
He could not allow it to go on.
Or perhaps, he would allow it; just until Christmas, he could give Enjolras his gift and then, then he could go and visit his family, which wouldn't be better just a different kind of awful, and return to Paris with a new perspective on things.
His chest felt lighter. The stress of wondering when Enjolras would stop wanting him around, the fear that his next word, his next action would lead to the return of Enjolras' scorn, the sick feeling of unworthiness that followed him like a great black dog whenever he was in Enjolras presence, all that lifted from him. Enjolras had never truly wanted him after all. It was terrible but it was bearable, far more bearable than thinking that Enjolras would willing subject himself to a drunk and a skeptic.
Grantaire had made his choice, a choice he would have adhered to had not Enjolras returned at that very moment.
“Grantaire” Enjolras shut the door behind him “You look pale, are you well?
The ridiculous affection of concern ill suited Enjolras.
“I know what you want from me.”
Enjolras went red “Was I so obvious?”
“I'm not. I'm not a child Enjolras” Grantaire held up the book “I have seen your notebook, I was intrigued, flattered really that you saw fit to include me in your scribblings.”
“I see” Enjolras took his notebook from Grantaire and put it away high up on a shelf “That was private”
“I didn't mean to pry.” Grantaire said, somehow on the defensive despite Enjolras' far greater wrongdoing.
“I know, I'm glad, in a way that you know the truth”
“That you regard my friendship as a convenient way to keep me in line”
“What” Enjolras looked scandalised “No! How could you think that?”
“What then? What else explains your notes on me, I saw nothing on our other friends”
“I admit I took notes on you but only so that I might understand you better”
“Why now? God above you've had years to understand me, if you wanted to. And yet all of a sudden you want to be my friend, you write secret little notes about me, from which hellish spring did this mania flow?”
“I have lived the future. I lived until the point of my death – months from now. There was another uprising, unsuccessful, We all fought to the last man, everyone of us cut down. Then I woke again, alive. As if it had never happened ”
"What? You've foreseen months into the future?”
“Yes, in a way. I had no visions; I lived every day of it just as we are living this moment now”
What an odd lie to tell, if it was a lie; Grantaire was unwilling to rule out insanity.
“I'm relived” Enjolras was saying “I didn't like to keep it from but, It was my selfishness. I wanted things to progress as naturally as before but this is better. I know you had your suspicions about me.”
“So you believe me?”
“I'm at a loss to do anything else! You died? Why would you tell me this? Are you so confident in your ability to change this future that you speak of your death with such ease?”
“I have some confidence, I've made plans that are bound to change things but these changes will be in our favour. Anyway, it wasn't all bad dying.” Grantaire gawked at him “Our barricade had fallen. I was one of the last of us alive; I had shot an artillery officer, his men were about to shoot me. I was happy to die for I had done all that I could in service to the revolution. It was right that I should give my life but then you stood up. You must have slept through the action but you stood up and shouted 'Vive la Revolution'. I saw you” he said simply “I saw you, I saw you and it was like” Enjolras closed his eyes and Grantaire could almost imagine what he was seeing; himself, altered, some ridiculous parody of heroism that Enjolras' fevered brain had dreamt up. “A miracle. The battle had already been lost but you stood up anyway and I remember thinking, I remember feeling that I had never seen you before. You had been hiding and in those last moment you chose to reveal yourself to me, for me, for the revolution. Nothing could touch us; My death was for the Republic but that moment before our deaths was ours. It was a good way to die. The only way. With someone that I love”
“Yes love” Enjolras said proudly “You asked me why I pay such attention to you now; there is your answer. I assume you are familiar with the concept: Philia, agápe, storgē “ Enjolras hesitated and finished almost bashfully “Eros”
“Love! you can't say love. What, you decide in an instant that you love me? You despise me Enjolras for, do you not recall, I am despicable! A pig with all the pretensions of a philosopher. You are a fool. I loathe men like you; I pity you; you see a cheek powdered to whiteness and fall in love, lose your mind, your dignity. There is nothing between those fools and you only that the rouge that caught your eye was a moment of shallow support. Claiming faith at the point of my death, I can believe that! At least I wouldn't have to follow through on my words! This is why Troy fell! Stupid men bending to the wiles of Aphrodite. Paris fell for Helen and now, History having no imagination, you would abandon Paris for Grantaire. You know Women more than anything represent the ideal of society to a man; he sees a pretty face and his admiration for the girl is only a fleeting thing, his admiration for the idea of the wife she will become, the children she will give him the home that she will furnish ever so nicely with lacquered oak sideboards at 30 livre a piece, that is what drives him to settle back down into the role that was decided for him at birth. How like you, to reach for someone outside the natural order of things you seek revolutions even in love, bah, it is not so unusual to yearn for your own gender, true, and I admit that I am not so ugly that my charm is completely obscured. But you! I thought you saw me more clearly than that. You must know” said Grantaire, almost pleadingly “that I am only half of anything – and not the good half either. Any good you think you saw is just - just apparel; a nice silk waistcoat of valour, that I shouldered on a whim. In the time of Caesar I would have wept for the Christians being torn apart in the colosseum, wept for the slaves who had not even the false comfort of martyrdom, wept for the lions and their no doubt inadequate diet, even as I lay in my silks sucking down honeyed figs. I cant give you anything, I cant. I am not capable. To live in this world is intolerable; to believe in a better one impossible and whatever value you saw in my death – its not there”
Grantiare attempted a laugh that his throat warped into a whimper “You seek to prove me wrong?”
“You already have”
It was difficult to argue with one who might very well be mad and yet Enjolras spoke with such an air of conviction that Grantaire struggling to keep hold of his own arguments.
“Still a whim, a momentary whim, a strange fancy that took you at the point of your death, how can you call that love?”
“When, then, should I say that I love you, at what date will my adoration become reasonable in your venerated opinion?” Enjolras pulled him close by the hand; Grantaire caught the scent of gun powder on him “I know you have goodness in you and I know you, is it so strange that I desire you? Yes, sometimes being with you is like panning for gold in an frozen river but I am certain that you are capable of more than you allow yourself and I know you are more profound than you would have anyone believe. Do you think I would pursue you if my actions were ruled by logic? Loving you is an agony, every time you say or do something that should engender disgust in me forever, every time I think I am free of you, and believe me I have wished for that very thing many times these past months, you will contradict your most disgusting statements in a way that uplifts all that I believe or you'll make me laugh and then I forget how I could do anything but love you and being with you. Am I not allowed to be human, must all my desires be above reproach?”
“This one should be! Goodness in me – stop pretending that you have some special insight into my character! You suddenly understand me because you had visions of me flinging myself in front of a firing squad, really?”
“I do know you! Does that bother you that with me you cant pretend that you don't care? Don't pretend with me, Grantaire, pretend for the world, if you must, but not for me.”
This was precisely the kind of statement, overwrought in its sincerity, that Grantaire should have found easy to poke fun at.
Grantaire blinked rapidly “You have no need of me”
“No. I want you” Enjolras hesitated “You haven't rejected me.”
There was a knock at the door. Enjolras sighed and scrubbed at his face with his hands “We'll continue this later.”
He opened the door and Combeferre crashed into the room.
“Enjolras! I have an idea- better a theory! If your information is accurate then, as normal with cholera outbreaks, the- Grantaire!”
Grantaire stared at Combeferre whose jubilance had faded into confusion as he glanced between Grantaire, red and near tears, and Enjolras, tense and ashen. Grantaire fled.
“Are you going to jump in?”
“What a morbid mind you have Courfeyrac”
The Seine was quiet, Grantaire was perched on the low stone parapet legs swinging freely above the river. He had been settled there for some time staring down at the steady flow of the water. He had been thinking, something he usually tried to avoid. Despite the damp of the stone bleeding the heat from their bodies, Courfeyrac hopped up besides him.
“Enjolras has visions of the future” Grantaire said as if he were commenting on an unusually shaped crowd.
“Just the one.”
“You do know then” Grantaire scowled “So much for nothing being amiss with Enjolras”
“Ah. I'm sorry about that” Courfeyrac winced “We decided it was too much of a risk to tell more than a few people. Enjolras worried that people might think him mad, or worse that they might believe him... It's as much as a curse as a blessing.”
Grantaire spat thoughtfully into the water below “So its true then”
“He predicted too much for it to be anything but the truth. It was hard to accept at first, Combeferre had an easier time than I did but he was too excited about the cholera to be astonished.”
The last sentence was said with such an offhand air that it took a moment for the magnitude of the statement to sink in.
“Cholera? Dare I ask?”
“The Pandemic will make its way to Paris early next year. Combeferre got Enjolras to tell him all he could remember about where it started, how quickly it spread, that sort of thing. Just last night he had an idea and now he's working on a theory about how its spread; he believes the infection is carried in the water.”
That's... That's something. Water, really?”
“Apparently though it would be more correct to say faeces in the water”
“Oh” Grantaire crinkled his nose up in disgust “God I hope he's wrong”
“We'll see; the worst he can do with this is save some lives”
Reeling in the face of Combeferre's apparent confidence in his ability to cripple a pandemic, Grantaire's mind turned the the other unbelievable occurrence.
“Enjolras loves me” he stated and to his relief his voice didn't crack or tremble.
“So I've heard”
“He told you?”
Coureyrac was insulted “Of course he did.”
“So what? He loves you do you love him?”
“It doesn't matter if I do. Enjolras wants the man he saw in the future, not me”
“That man is you!” Courfeyrac exclaimed, annoyed “Enjolras found himself transported back into his own past after seeing all of his friends murders, after facing a firing squad himself and do you know what the first thing he did was? He went to see you. Grantaire are you telling me that you tender heart doesn't beat for him? That you are not in his presence transported to ancient Thebes?”
Maybe Sparta” Admitted Grantaire grudgingly. He sighed “Enjolras would make a wonderful Spartan”
“You really do love him”
“You doubted? It's Enjolras! Who wouldn't return his affections?”
“I wasn't sure. Well, well! Thank god. I worried it might have caused a rift if you had rejected him”
“Enjolras would never punish someone for a lack of feeling.” Grantaire let his head hand down “I can't be with Enjolras and keep on as I have been; people will laugh. People would laugh if they heard that I had any aspirations; let alone this.”
“People laugh at you anyway, R” Courfeyrac said, with good humoured roughness. “Lay your cards on the table and don't prevaricate. Enjolras will appreciate it. Come on, a miracle has been sent from above, a gift of extraordinary foresight, you cant say anything is impossible now”
Grantaire held to the opinion that God was not rich; only a poor man or a miser would let humanity wallow in such indigence but perhaps Grantaire had been harsh to judge him for his poverty. Still sometimes perhaps he saved up, by the dubious grace of all those pointless revolutions and petty wars, enough to pay for a small miracle where it counted. After God had been so extravagant it would not do at all for Grantaire to be cheap. Courfeyrac was right; what arrogance to assume himself beyond hope when the very tide of time had been warped by an unseen hand.
He turned to Coureyrac “Will you tell him to find me in the Luxembourg Gardens?”
When he parted with Courfeyrac he was decided. He would go home, he would change into his most appealing clothes and he would be sincere.
“Hello” The gardens were fairly quiet, astonishing given their popularity, so Grantaire had spotted Enjolras immediately as he had appeared. He had only just arrived which meant that Enjolras must not have delayed very long before seeking him out, Grantaire relaxed a little; Enjolras still wanted to speak with him.
Enjolras sat down next to him “Grantaire.”
Without any preamble Grantaire began “Enjolras, I love you. I am in love with you. There is nothing about you that I do not think is sublime, even your taste in philosophers. That is the most important thing.” Grantaire exhaled sharply. He had not realised, until it was already over, that he had been afraid to give voice to that particular truth “Is it not amusing?”
“How could I mock you when I told you the I loved you not more than a day ago?”
“People are fickle.”
“Nor I, in this case.”
“Then we are agreed. We are dedicated to each other.”
I still think its ill advised of you to love me as I am” Grantaire cut in “But if I were not as I am...”
Alarmed, Enjolras snapped “I don't want you to change for me”
“I know; I doubt that I could. Even for you but I haven't been happy with myself for a long time and for a long time I was resigned to that. I thought that at least I held no delusions about myself which, ironically, was a delusion as well, but I think I could be happy with the man you feel in love with. Tell me: in your dreams of the future was I happy?”
“Radiantly” said Enjolras, as sure as any promise.
“Then I shall change for myself and you may share in the benefits” He sounded confident even to his own ears, Grantaire was surprised. Things seemed to be progressing very quickly but that was probably just a result of his years of stagnation; any progress, to him, would feel hurried.
“Should I kiss you?” Grantaire frowned “would you like to be kissed?”
“Don't you want somewhere more romantic.”
A cesspit would be rendered romantic in Enjolras' presence and the bench they were seated on did not lack charm but, looking at Enjolras whose normally assured featured had softened with uncertainty, Grantaire thought he understood.
“Enjolras” Said Grantaire slowly “Do you want to be romanced by me?”
Enjolras held his gaze even as his blushed deepened and Grantaire's found himself grinning uncontrollably; even in this Enjolras had courage.”What if I do?”
“Then I will restrain myself and kiss only your hand”
Enjolras caught his wrist as Grantaire reached for his hand. Grantaire let himself be pulled close.
“Must you make a mockery of everything we do” he said sternly, though there was no true rebuke in his voice.
“I assure you I am serious.”
Enjolras laughed. He cupped Grantaires cheek “You are wild.”
They were close enough for a kiss. Grantaire's lips tingled. Enjolras had always been chaste; he could not, would not debase that. He hated himself a little, in that moment, how could he care for Enjolras' chastity when he had treated the same quality in others, others who were vulnerable in ways that Enjolras was decidedly not, with such nonchalance. The urge to flee, to pre-emptively disappoint returned. He was a monster, he was not worthy, he- it didn't matter what he was. Only what he chose to be and Enjolras was no different. No more an ideal than Grantaire was a grotesque.
“One day you will have to explain the joke”
Grantaire felt alight with, not hope, hope was still a distant country, but possibility. Enjolras was besides him; the future was theirs to choose.