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It starts with a game of Never Have I Ever. (Technically, it ends with the game of Never Have I Ever, but no one realises that until later, much later.)

"I have never had sex," says Marius. His cheeks and ears are red, but they've been that way since his third drink so no one can tell if he's blushing. He grins with triumph as most of the others pick up their drinks with a grumble. Cosette eyes him with interest from her corner.

Bossuet has a mouthful of coke and vodka in his mouth when he sees Enjolras sip from his plastic beaker. He chokes on his drink with a gargle, and spits it back into his drink.

"Oh my god, that is disgusting," says Eponine, recoiling from flecks of saliva and alcohol.

Spluttering, Bossuet wipes his chin with his sleeve. "Enjolras," he says. Everyone turns to look at their leader, who merely blinks at them. "Enjolras," says Bossuet again. "Enjolras drank." He elbows Grantaire in the ribs.

Enjolras frowns. "Yes. You drink if you have done the thing the person says. I have done the thing. I drank."

"Enjolras has done the thing," repeats Joly. He leans across Grantaire to make eye contact with Bossuet; they both snicker at a private joke. He, too, elbows Grantaire, who grunts and rubs both sets of ribs.

Enjolras just looks bewildered. Everyone's still looking at him, and he clunks his plain coke onto the table. "What?"

"You've had sex," says Grantaire, just to clarify. He gives Enjolras an obvious look up and down, as if he's trying to imagine it right now: Enjolras having sex, Enjolras in the act of having sex. The curve of his mouth gives away his smirk; it's Grantaire though, so his smirk is two-thirds mocking and one-third self-deprecating.

"Yes," says Enjolras, confusion starting to fade into irritation. "What – for the love of France, have you all actually thought about this? Does everyone think I'm a virgin?"

There's a staunch chorus of 'yes'. Combeferre leans forward. "Enjolras, to be fair, I have lived with you for the last two years and you have never, ever brought anyone home." Enjolras scowls at him, and Combeferre merely puts his hands up and smiles sympathetically. Blast him for fuelling the imaginations of their friends, even though he knows full well that Enjolras has had sex. Has sex, present tense.

"I think it's my turn," says Enjolras. Combeferre opens his mouth to protest that they're skipping over him, but snaps it closed when Enjolras barrels over him because two can play at this game: "I have never ever had sex in my own bed."

Courfeyrac whistles admiringly, and takes a very generous drink. Drinking games inevitably devolve into sexual innuendoes but Enjolras never participates in it. He'll attempt to turn it around into extreme sports or amusing life experiences like accidentally calling professors 'Dad'; this is the first time Enjolras has egged the situation on. Courfeyrac has tried for years to rile Enjolras into joining in with the spirit of these games.

Most of the others have, obviously, had sex in their own bed. "Does it count if I don't have a bed?" asks Grantaire with a lopsided smile; his bedroom is also his professional studio and so his bed is technically a reclining sofa. (One third mocking; two thirds self-deprecating.)

"I've modelled naked on that thing for you," says Joly with sudden, horrific realisation, but this time Grantaire manages to intercept his elbow before it hits, and Joly's drink sloshes across them both and Jehan's tucked up legs.

(Half an hour ago, Jehan started his turn by saying 'never ever have I never ever, ever never, ever... never...' and then pillowed his cheek on Combeferre's thigh and dropped off sleepily. No one’s had the heart to wake him up.)

Enjolras loses track of that exchange there, because Bossuet is still staring at Enjolras like he's just grown an extra head – and it's shaped like a penis or something. "Seriously?" Enjolras says with a huff.

"Details," says Grantaire, clutching his chest as if pained. "You can't just drop something like that on us and not tell, Apollo."

"It's not – there's nothing to tell. It's not like we all hear about every time you have sex, or every time Joly and Musichetta and Bossuet have sex, or, in fact, any time any of you others have sex." Enjolras does not get the sudden fascination in his sex life.

"Yes, but if we heard about every time I have sex, we'd never have the time to talk about injustice and corruption," says Grantaire, "And that would be such a pity." Eponine snorts, and hits him. "Me having sex is nothing special." (All three thirds self-deprecating now.)

"Yes..." Enjolras waits for the penny to drop.

"WHAT," whisper-yells Bossuet, startling Eponine. She hits him too.

"He has frequent sex and none of it is with me," says Grantaire mournfully with a wide, woeful sweep of his arms at the same time as Eponine says determinedly loudly:

"My turn. I have never had an injury caused by sex." That drags the attention off Enjolras for the moment as Bahorel pauses, then raises his beaker and drinks.

The game moves on, but Bossuet nudges Enjolras with his knee when Joly is taking his turn and says in a low voice, "Seriously? Frequent sex, Enjolras?" He wiggles his eyebrows approvingly and holds his fist out for Enjolras to bump it. When he doesn't, Grantaire grabs hold of Enjolras's wrist and tries to smack it into Bossuet's and they both dissolve into giggles.

Enjolras shrugs, and nurses his knuckles where they actually hit the side of the chair. (It's partly because he really doesn't talk about his sex life, ever, but also partly to see the confused frown that his friends pull when they try and weasel the information out of him.)

Soon, all the drinking games have devolved into the inevitable Drink The Drink which mostly just involves someone occasionally shrieking 'DRINK!' and... well, drinking. Enjolras has been sticking to coke tonight, so this just results in a sugar high that leaves him as excitable as a chipmunk. Well, as excitable as Enjolras gets. His hair trembles when he tosses his head as he proclaims and declares.

What he's proclaiming or declaring, Grantaire isn't entirely sure because he's much more invested in concentrating on the sight of him doing it. Grantaire squints, and he's fairly sure that Enjolras is glowing. His hair catches the lights just so, his eyes flash as he yells at Courfeyrac who nods and yells right back, and he's sitting upright with fervour even though Combeferre is leaning his entire weight across his shoulders.

Eponine leans on the back of the sofa behind Grantaire and hangs her face upside-down over his and he jumps. "Poor baby," she says, laughing at him, or at least that's what Grantaire thinks she's saying from looking at her lips because sounds are still odd right now. She pats his hair, the feel of her fingertips fuzzy on his scalp. Grantaire's had a lot to drink, but then he has a lot to drink quite frequently so he's only just past the cutesy stage of tipsy.

"What," says Grantaire. He struggles to drag his attention from watching Enjolras some more to concentrating on what Eponine is saying at him. It takes him a moment to match up to the shape of her lips to real words.

"You've been staring at him for the last twenty minutes," says Eponine, maybe a bit more loudly than usual, as if that would help with Grantaire understanding her words.

"No," says Grantaire disbelievingly. He looks down at his drink, because he hasn't got up to get a new one since he started admiring how Enjolras spreads his thighs apart so he can lean forward to emphasise his points, which means that it can't possibly have been that long.

"Yes," says Eponine, and then rolls over the back of the sofa to join him as she muffles laughter into his shoulder.

Grantaire scowls at her, but pulls back her hair to make her more comfortable. He looks back up at Enjolras and the scowl pulls into a frown. Enjolras isn't waving his hands and talking anymore. Instead, all three of them – Enjolras, Combeferre and Courfeyrac – are all looking over at Grantaire as if he were a particularly delectable piece of cake.

"I'm not a cake," blurts out Grantaire before he can stop himself and Courfeyrac's lips part, showing a gleam of teeth as he grins. "Oh no," says Grantaire, because he knows that look. He sinks back into the sofa and tries to hide behind Eponine's hair.

It's not Courfeyrac who stalks over though. Grantaire peeks out from behind strands of Eponine's hair to see Enjolras coming towards him instead.

"What," says Grantaire in utter confusion as Enjolras holds out a hand to Eponine. She raises an eyebrow at him, but takes the hand anyway. Enjolras leads her over to his usual seat, and firmly presses a glass of water into her hand. ('Spoilsport,' is what Grantaire hears her mutter, but she drinks from it anyway, pleased by the small moments when people take care of her.)

"What," says Grantaire again when Enjolras comes back over a second time.

"Grantaire," says Enjolras.

"No," says Grantaire, wide-eyed and slightly terrified. "You can't make me."

Enjolras huffs at him, and shakes a blond curl out of his face, undeterred. "Grantaire. Want to have sex?"

"What," says Grantaire, because he is apparently a broken record. He can see Bossuet and Joly clutching each other and making obscene gestures somewhere behind Enjolras. Bastards. "I mean – I – no."

"Oh. All right," says Enjolras, and sits down where Eponine had been. Grantaire stares at the spot where their knees brush together. "How's the portfolio going?"

"Not bad," says Grantaire faintly, wondering if he's much drunker than he had thought and is having blackout dreams. Also, he does want to have sex with Enjolras, he wants to desperately and he has no idea why he just said no. "I can't believe you're not a virgin." It takes a moment, but Grantaire's brain-mouth filter does eventually kick in, and he gurgles in horror.

Enjolras is smiling down at him, his mouth stretched wide and his teeth biting down on his lip as if he's trying to stop himself. "That was a terrible segue, Grantaire."

Grantaire leans back, and closes his eyes. He can hear wafts of his friends' conversations floating around him. His left hand is cold from holding his drink. He's reasonably sure he's not more drunk than he thinks he is, because he's actually really good at judging how drunk he is due to having had a lot of practice.

"R?" The nickname slips across Enjolras's lips and Grantaire opens his eyes to see Enjolras hovering over him, a small crease between his eyebrows that might pass for concern in lesser mortals.

"So, can I just clarify," says Grantaire slowly and being careful to enunciate. He very gently puts a hand on Enjolras’s chest and pushes him back. "Did you just ask if I wanted to have sex? With you?" He's been high before. Maybe someone spiked his drink, or Jehan's cookies were special cookies. He's been delusional before. He's had legit hallucinations before. It could be any of those things right now.

"Yes." Enjolras relaxes, slouching – slouching! – across the other arm of the sofa. "Do you?"

Grantaire thinks it over. "No." He drains his drink and stands up to go and get another. He pats Enjolras’s shoulder on his way past. “Thanks for thinking of me though.”

~

Grantaire makes terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life choices. He gets halfway to the drinks table before he has to just put his empty glass down on the nearest surface and flee to the next room, which happens to be Jehan’s bedroom. He sinks down onto the bed and presses his hands to his face. “Thanks for thinking of me,” he says, mimicking himself with a hysterical laugh. “Thanks. Who says ‘thanks’? Who talks aloud to themselves? Me, that’s who.”

“R?” A sleepy voice mumbles behind him and Grantaire shoots about a foot into the air and screams.

Large eyes peep out from under the haphazard pile of duvet; someone must have put Jehan to bed properly. Fluffy strands of hair drift over his face, and Jehan blinks several times. “‘Lo,” he says with some confusion.

“Sorry, sorry,” whispers Grantaire, touching his cheek with the back of his hand to check if he can feel the heat that he’s sure must be emanating from them. “I didn’t mean to wake you, go back to sleep.” He reaches out, pulling the covers back up and tucking Jehan in. He’s guiltily glad that Jehan is so overworked, because his friend would surely have more questions as to why Grantaire is hiding in his room, in the dark, talking to himself if he had been awake enough to think about it.

Grantaire stays, perched on the edge of Jehan’s bed, as Jehan drops off. If anyone had walked in just then, they would have been treated to a sight of Grantaire staring down at Jehan like either a fond guardian angel or an obsessed serial killer. As it is, Grantaire just happens to be looking at Jehan, but he’s thinking of other things. Other things, like Enjolras and sex and how he needed a drink, and how he was only half joking when he despaired that Enjolras had sex and it wasn’t with him, and he really needs that drink; how Enjolras hadn’t looked twice at him until he’d expressed that interest in sex and even then, even then it was just sex and now, he just really needs that drink.

Courage. Grantaire needs courage so that he can walk back into that fucking room and pick up some more liquid courage. He groans softly, and goes for the back door. He scrabbles for a cigarette - he’s only got the one left and he huddles in the back yard and smokes it as slowly as he can. He slips back into the living room quietly, and it’s only Eponine who shoots him an inquiring look and a glance at the clock. Grantaire shrugs and smiles and raises his fingers and wafts them in the universal gesture for ‘needed a smoke’.

Picking his glass up again, Grantaire stares at the drink table for a second, two, three. He crosses over and pours in an inch of wine. It mixes with the leftover whiskey at the bottom but he doesn’t care; he can’t do this without a drink and he can’t do this with guilt of just having had a strong drink so this is his compromise because wine is at least classy and less alcoholic, right? He takes a deep breath.

Grantaire downs the wine and winces, sets the glass down before he can look at the spirits and walks over to Enjolras. He tries very, very hard not to make it a stomp. Enjolras is no longer on the sofa, he’s back in his rightful place in the largest armchair in the room, talking with Combeferre and Courfeyrac again. Their heads are bent together and Grantaire takes a moment to admire the gradient of their hair from light to dark. “Enjolras,” he says, licking the remains of wine from the corners of his mouth. “Enjolras, I do want to have sex with you.”

Three heads break apart, and Enjolras blinks up at Grantaire in surprise.

Grantaire raises a finger. “Let me clarify. I want to have sex with you. In a general sort of way. But I do not want to have sex with you right now.” He takes a deep breath and realises something. He tips his head to the side and frowns. Enjolras blinks. Grantaire squints. “I want to paint you.” There’s a weird noise from Courfeyrac behind him but Grantaire is steadily only looking at Enjolras, possibly because he might chicken out if he doesn’t focus on this.

The silence stretches between them as Enjolras struggles to keep up with the conversation he seems to be missing half of. Grantaire thinks Enjolras is still not quite getting it. “I would like your permission to paint you,” he says as clearly as he can.

“I – sure?” says Enjolras, startled. “Yes, of course. You can paint whomever you like.”

(Enjolras really doesn’t get it. It’s all right. He will, soon. Afterwards.)

“Naked. Nude. Right now,” adds Grantaire.

Enjolras blushes, a sweet red staining the swell of his cheeks. “I – okay.” He stands up and tucks his hands into his pockets.

Grantaire nods at him, and then breaks into a smile, a beautiful wide smile. He reaches out and tucks one of Enjolras’s curls behind his ear. “All right.” He leads the way, his walk slightly unsteadier now although if that was because of the drink or Enjolras, Grantaire can’t tell.

His room is the one in the attic, the odd sloping angles of the ceiling and three flights of stairs compensated for by the slightly larger space, and he spends the climb up the stairs trying to work out exactly what he wants to paint. (It’s not a lack of ideas that is his problem but an abundance of them, vying for attention. Does he want Enjolras as Apollo tonight? He’s yet to try Apollo and Aurora – the Reni, not the Lairesse – or Bottecelli’s Venus.)

Grantaire holds the door open for Enjolras and kicks piles of clothing out of the way. His light stutters on, harsh and stark, and Grantaire frowns at it for a moment before turning it back off and fumbling forward in the dark instead. Enjolras treads, light and cautious, into the room. A tiny flame flickers somewhere in the back of the room before spreading into a warm glow, and suddenly Enjolras can see Grantaire’s face backlit in oranges.

“Much better,” says Grantaire triumphantly. He waves Enjolras in, already bundling the duvet off the recliner and onto the desk chair and kicking the door closed. There’s a heavy punching bag hanging from the ceiling right in the middle of the room and Grantaire unhooks it, stacking it into a corner with a grunt.

Enjolras slides onto the recliner, fingers playing with the hem of his t-shirt. “Naked?”

“Nude,” says Grantaire loftily. “This is art, after all.” He twirls a paintbrush and Enjolras laughs. Grantaire can’t tell what he’s feeling but he doesn’t look nervous, not even remotely. He sneaks peeks over at Enjolras as his back arches when he pulls his t-shirt off, how he shifts his balance to peel his trousers off, how he hesitates just slightly before tugging his underwear down all the way; then he remembers that he doesn’t have to pretend he’s not looking because he’s been given permission.

Enjolras sits on the recliner, and looks over with amusement. “Grantaire. I thought you wanted to paint me, not just look at me.”

Grantaire laughs, and reaches for his oils. “Musegetes,” he murmurs fondly as he scrapes leftover solidified oils into the bin to clear his palette, and he knows he’s mixing his references now because Enjolras is not Apollo tonight.

“What am I supposed to do?” It’s probably amusing that Enjolras is absolutely fine with being buck naked but looks uncertain about the bit to do with art.

“Anything you want. Sit, or lie down, whatever you want. Something you can hold for a while.” Grantaire kneels by Enjolras’s leg and tugs out one of his larger canvases from where he keeps them under the recliner. It’s a special occasion. He’s momentarily close enough to see the soft blond hairs rise on Enjolras’s leg and hurries away to cranks the heater on up high.

Enjolras looks around for some clue, but the drawings and paintings pinned around Grantaire’s room are no help because they’re a myriad of poses, sketches contorted in every which way for practice. He lies down on his side instead, stretching along the full length of the recliner. He doesn’t flaunt himself, but he doesn’t hide either. This is not the body of a man who has never had sex. It’s the body of someone who knows exactly what he looks like, has had his body mapped out for him under other people’s fingers.

Grantaire inhales sharply as inspiration hits. “I – I know. I mean, I know what I’m going to paint.” He scuttles around the canvas and moves the lantern to the end of the recliner, hovers his hand over Enjolras for a moment before gently pushing one shoulder down, pulling one knee further up. “How’s that? Is that comfortable?”

“It’s fine,” says Enjolras, resting his head on Grantaire’s pillow. Grantaire stumbles back to his canvas, picking up stubs of pencil and sharpening them expertly with a retractable utility knife, leaving shreds of pencil sharpening over the carpet. He wraps his duvet around himself and wedges himself and the duvet into his chair.

“You can’t possibly be cold,” says Enjolras, the side of his lips curling. “I’m naked and I’m not cold.” Grantaire wishes that he could take that smile and put it in a box and keep it, except he’s aware that will sound infinitely more creepy if he tries to voice that thought aloud.

“Habit,” says Grantaire, tucking his legs up. He’s painted hungover; too broke to afford heating; heartbroken. His duvet is his armour and his paintbrush is his sword. His sketch takes bare minutes, thin lines leaving only the barest of impressions on the canvas because the image he wants to paint is already burned into his mind.

Grantaire squeezes out paint with shaking hands, plenty of goldenrod and crimson, ochre and the tiniest dab of cerulean. “Are you drunk?” asks Enjolras, and Grantaire raises his eyes from his palette to see Enjolras watching him from beneath lidded eyes.

“Aren’t I always?”

“Sometimes, you’re less drunk than you pretend to be. And sometimes you’re more drunk than I realise.”

Grantaire rolls the words around in his head as he lines up his brushes and starts in on the base. There are meanings there he knows he’s missing, and he can’t figure out what. “I’m drunk on you.” He smiles lopsidedly. The taste of wine lingers in his mouth, but he can barely feel it. “Sorry for dragging you from the party.” They can still hear the music downstairs, the occasional thump and cries of their friends.

“I’ve never been one for parties,” says Enjolras easily, shrugging one shoulder.

Grantaire works quickly, feverishly, as if Enjolras might disappear at any moment and Enjolras’s eyes take on a faraway look as he mouths words to himself. Grantaire doesn’t know what brings it on - perhaps he’s thinking over logistics for their next project or he’s composing a new speech in his head.

“Close your eyes,” he says impulsively. Enjolras looks at him, startled back into the present and Grantaire sees a flash of blue before Enjolras does as asked. Grantaire is looking at Enjolras; he’s painting half blind because he’s too busy memorising the soft dip of where buttock turns into thigh or the downy gold hair against a soft stomach, and so he sees when Enjolras relaxes. Not that he wasn’t relaxed before, but this is the slow, swirling fall into unconsciousness and Grantaire licks his lips reflexively when Enjolras’s mouth parts slightly.

Grantaire reaches out – not to Enjolras, he’s asleep now – and uses the soft pad of his fingers to ease the thick paint into where he wants it to lie along the line of Enjolras’s back on his canvas.

It’s sometime in the wee hours when Grantaire finishes and he puts his brush down with a sigh. The background needs filling in, still blocked paint barely over white canvas, but he can do that from imagination. The important part is all done. His fingers are cramped and half his knuckles click when he stretches himself out. He leaves the heater on high, a luxury he can’t really afford, and just watches the light and shadows dance over Enjolras’s skin.

~

Morning dawned a couple of hours ago, but Grantaire has black-out curtains so all he can see are the escaping wisps of too-bright light around the edges of his window in his peripheral vision. He’s got up exactly once all night, and that was to change the candle when the lantern burnt out, flicking its last smouldering glow against Enjolras’s hip. Enjolras’s eyelids start to flutter and so does Grantaire’s heart. He peels his armour off and slips it over Enjolras, swiftly turns the heating off. He can just hear a sleepy mumble of “R?” when he makes his silent escape out of his attic room.

Jehan and Combeferre are both awake and talking quietly when Grantaire slinks into their dining room. They don’t technically have a dining room, just a large open area in an L shape; it’s differentiated from the living room by the number of bodies sleeping in the other half of the room. There’s two people on the pull-out couch and at least three others tangled in an assortment of covers and cushions on the carpet. “You’re up early,” says Combeferre, looking down at Grantaire’s clothes and making no comment that they’re the same as what he wore yesterday. His hands and sleeves are covered in paint, as is his hair and probably his face.

“Couldn’t sleep,” says Grantaire, and he really shouldn’t be smiling so much. His head is starting to go hazy now that he isn’t focussed on something, and he reaches for a mug. He suspects that he’s managed to completely bypass a hangover – and he really should have had one – by sheer virtue of having stayed awake and busy through it. “Not what you’re thinking,” he says as Combeferre opens his mouth. “Painting.” The thrill of it is still humming through his veins.

Grantaire is huddled over a cup of coffee and inhaling its smell by the time Enjolras makes his way downstairs. Enjolras looks well-rested. Grantaire would know: he watched him all night. Again, significantly creepier were he to voice that aloud. “You painted me as a sleeping angel,” says Enjolras in lieu of a ‘good morning’.

Jehan and Combeferre raise eyebrows at him. “It’s not an angel,” says Grantaire. “It’s wishful thinking.” Enjolras looks puzzled, but doesn’t ask him to clarify. Grantaire half wishes him to ask, but he also knows that the roiling feeling in his stomach is nerves. He isn’t sure he wants to have to gut himself in front of them like that.

Enjolras fishes out another mug from the cupboard. (They might not all live here all the time, but it’s the biggest of the Les Amis houses and they do all live here.) “You should see it,” he says to the others. “It’s beautiful.” Enjolras doesn’t do art. It’s not that he dislikes it, but he doesn’t understand it, doesn’t see it the same way Grantaire does. Grantaire glows.

“Well, if R is willing,” says Jehan, placing a hand over one of Grantaire’s and squeezing.

“I don’t want anyone to see it, ever,” says Grantaire. “I’m going to exhibit it the next time I get a chance.”

“That makes no sense,” says Enjolras, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s art.” Grantaire wags a finger at him and bops Enjolras on the nose. “I’m a masochist, you know.”

Enjolras stares at him, bemused, and finally seems to take in his appearance. “Did you sleep at all last night? Are you delirious with a lack of sleep because I was in your bed?”

“I am,” admits Grantaire with a cheeky grin and Combeferre splutters.

“Grantaire! You should have woken me,” Enjolras says, not quite making eye contact and hiding in his coffee. He clearly hadn’t expected that answer.

“How could I, my Apollo?” says Grantaire dramatically, “For who would have awoken such a god?”

“You are quite ridiculous,” says Enjolras, face entirely pink now. He pauses for a thought. “Did you paint me as Apollo?”

“Not this time,” says Grantaire airily.

~

Enjolras's friends are stalking him. This... is actually not a new occurrence. When Marius had first joined their group, he had shadowed Enjolras in awe for a week to try and emulate the most charismatic parts of their leader. Combeferre kidnapped Enjolras every day for lunch (Enjolras had tried to let him down politely without ruining their friendship after the first month of this and Combeferre had laughed in his face; he was just trying to make Enjolras eat at least once a day). Last year, Grantaire had turned up in half of Enjolras's classes and kept saying 'It's for art, Apollo' every time Enjolras had asked why he was there. He still doesn't understand that one.

This time though, it's different. Enjolras is often oblivious to feelings. He knows this; he's been told often enough. He isn't completely unobservant though; he can tell when his friends have set up a schedule to stalk him. They have apparently split it into shifts and now he has been saddled with Courfeyrac for five hours every Tuesday afternoon for the last month because they have no lectures and Courfeyrac is very vocal about the fact that the others are stalking him to see when he has sex.

Whilst this normally isn't a problem – Courfeyrac, Combeferre and he are ridiculously codependent on each other, after all – Enjolras usually spends Tuesday afternoons working in the university library, and Courfeyrac... Courfeyrac does not.

"I am so bored," Courfeyrac hisses, flipping idly through the pages of his novel.

"You don't have to be here," says Enjolras in a low voice from where he is studiously highlighting every other sentence in the paper he's reading on health psychology and practical uses in lesser developed countries.

Courfeyrac makes a face – Enjolras can't see it, but he can imagine it. "Yes, I do," he says. “Cosette’s orders. You try defying her.”

“I thought I was your fearless leader,” says Enjolras, deadpan. He has no sympathy. (He does, a little. Cosette is terrifying and has run out of fingers to wrap them around.)

Courfeyrac snorts and flops sideways across his chair, leaning his head on Enjolras's shoulder and putting his socked feet up on the table. Students stare aghast at him, tut disapprovingly and go back to their work. It's not that Courfeyrac doesn't work. He’s proud of the consistently good grades he works for. It's just that sitting still and reading silently isn't his thing: he walks around, reading aloud, or taps out rhythms on his leg as he chants, or makes large, scrawling mindmaps as he narrates his thoughts. Sitting still and reading silently is, however, Enjolras's thing, and Courfeyrac has been disrupting his Tuesday afternoons for a while now.

"Stop it," Enjolras says, with no real heat. Courfeyrac groans, and snuggles more into his shoulder. "You are the worst wingman ever," he says finally, caving. He gives his paper up for lost, and buries his head in his hands. He can't believe he just admitted that.

"At the library? You kinky bastard." Courfeyrac is laughing at him, Enjolras knows this even though he can’t hear it yet. He also knows that Courfeyrac finds this entire thing hilarious.

“You know it’s not at the library,” says Enjolras, stoically looking down at his closed laptop.

“Actually, I don’t,” says Courfeyrac. “I know you get laid – even if your afterglow face is very similar to your ‘I helped someone and made a real difference’ face – but I don’t know when. Or where. You do know that you are welcome to bring people home?”

Enjolras groans. “Not you too.” If it were anyone apart from either Combeferre of Courfeyrac, Enjolras wouldn’t be admitting to any of this. "I work for two hours and then take a break. If it happens that sometimes someone else wants to take a break at the same time, then... we do." He pinches the bridge of his nose.

"What," says Courfeyrac.

"If that happened to you, or to Grantaire or to Jehan, no one would blink twice," says Enjolras, sounding rather put upon.

Courfeyrac tugs his hand fondly through Enjolras’s hair. “But only you could have regularly scheduled spontaneous one-date stands.”

Enjolras gives his studying up for lost. “It’s not – it’s only when I feel like it. And not – every – there are other places, or, or times, people who –.” Very few people have the ability to sunder him ineloquent. Enjolras looks at Courfeyrac, who looks like he’s about to burst out laughing, and scowls, stalking out of the library. They might as well get out of here and go somewhere they can talk above a whisper. Besides: seats at actual tables are prime real estate in the university library. He can see the students circling around looking for somewhere to work and glaring at them occasionally.

Courfeyrac throws his things into a bag and follows him; Enjolras stops just long enough to give him a sharp elbow in the ribs and exhales a sheepish grin. He knows better than to let Courf rile him up. “And that is why I don’t talk about it.” He glances around as they hit fresh air, and heads for the Cafe Musain. Fiddling with the strap of his bag, Enjolras adds quietly, “If it were a… relationship, you know I’d introduce you."

Courfeyrac stretches out his back. “I know," he says easily. “Come on, I’ve got another three hours of tailing you yet. You are entirely welcome to find someone to fool around with in that time though. I might even not tell the others about it if you ask nicely and let me watch.”

“The thought of you watching is horrific,” says Enjolras, because he considers Courfeyrac his brother. They fall into step with each other automatically.

“The thought of watching you is actually also a little horrific,” admits Courfeyrac. “I didn’t think that one through.”

~

“It has been over a month,” says Combeferre. It’s very early in the morning, which is probably the only reason that he’s pouting like a grumpy kitten.

“Trust me, I know,” says Enjolras darkly. They’re both huddled over their respective textbooks, Combeferre suffering from a lack of coffee because his first cup hasn’t kicked in yet, and Enjolras suffering from a lack of sex because he hasn’t had any for over a month.

“I know that everyone is under the delusion that my life revolves around you, but it actually doesn’t.” Combeferre bites viciously into his muffin. Enjolras just gives him a look. “Alright, yes, that’s a lie. My life revolves around you quite frequently, but so do all of ours. It’s what you sign up for when you join Les Amis; an unhealthy portion of your life gets swept along in your charisma.”

Coming from anyone else, Enjolras would have thought it a callous remark, but Combeferre genuinely means it. Of course, if Enjolras is the commander of their group who leads the men from the front, Combeferre is the secret scout who has roamed ahead so that they can anticipate what’s coming.

“I just want to get laid in peace,” says Enjolras, and those were not words he thought he would ever utter. He lays his head on his arms in defeat.

I just want you to get laid in peace,” says Combeferre. “Once you have sex, everyone will stop stalking you, and I can have my free periods back.” Combeferre has been allocated Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings by Cosette, since he both lives with Enjolras and shares half of the same early classes. (Not even Cosette was cruel enough to assign anyone to Monday mornings.) “Why aren’t you having sex?”

“It’s difficult looking for someone when someone is trailing your every move with a phone ready to text the sordid details to everyone else,” says Enjolras. “And awkward for someone else when I have a friend literally peering over my shoulder.” He steals a bit of Combeferre’s muffin, and rubs his temples. “Do you want to–?”

“No,” says Combeferre, making a face. “We do not speak of that, we promised.”

~

“It’s open the whole week, so if you have time or something, just drop by,” Feuilly is saying as Enjolras walks into the Cafe Musain. Grantaire drops a small stack of flyers on the table, and Enjolras takes one. (Enjolras always takes flyers; they’re a waste of paper and most of them are for frivolous things, but he wants to support the people stuck handing them out.) This one is for the third year Fine Art students’ Christmas exhibition.

“R and I got spots next to each other and it’s in the Art hall off the central quad,” says Feuilly, “so there is no excuse for not coming round if you have a free twenty minutes.” He smiles mildly, sweetly, threateningly, around at them all.

“What are you exhibiting?” asks Enjolras, skimming the details.

“Three pieces from outside the class assignments in the medium of your choice,” quotes Grantaire dryly. “Feuilly’s got these gorgeous clay and wire sculptures–”

“–And R has porn of Enjolras,” says Feuilly right back, nudging Grantaire with a laugh.

Enjolras can feel his neck getting hot. “Are you–”

“I said I would, didn’t I, Apollo?”

Silence stretches for a moment. “What just happened?” asks Bahorel.

“R is going to be showing his painting of Enjolras,” says Jehan excitedly, because of course he manages to follow that pathetic excuse of a conversation.

Bossuet blinks. “Which one?”

“The one where you painted me as Cupid,” says Enjolras, eyes focussed on Grantaire.

Grantaire gasps in delight. “You figured out who it was!”

“Well, I figured out that you didn’t paint me as a dead Icarus,” says Enjolras, shifting uncomfortably. He might have worked out who it is, but he still doesn’t quite get the story behind it. (He doesn’t mention that he spent a good hour typing ‘Greek mythology characters with wings’ and variants thereof into search engines.)

“And two others,” says Grantaire but he won’t explain what the other two are of, cutting Feuilly off when he tries.

~

In the end, Les Amis all go together on the Friday afternoon. Cosette and Marius are off to have family dinner with Valjean but they came earlier in the week to compensate, and Jehan has already come twice. “Our boys first,” says Eponine loyally when they’re inside and snatches of colours, shapes, ideas catch their attention. They weave their way through as Feuilly points out the way.

Enjolras happily admits that he doesn’t understand when Grantaire and Jehan bend their heads over a painting and talk about the roughness of the brush strokes or when Feuilly points at another student’s sculpture and just mutters, “I can’t believe she managed to make that out of wood.”

In this respect, he’s more like Joly, who is in awe over the anatomical accuracy of a sculpture or Bahorel, who’s trying to figure out if one piece of work is actually a photograph or a drawing. This painting is accurate, is detailed, is precise. That photograph makes him feel sad. Enjolras doesn’t know how to explain art better than that.

“Holy shit,” says Bahorel eloquently, being the first one to round the corner and see Grantaire’s 48 x 48” canvas directly opposite them. It’s exactly as Enjolras remembers - Grantaire’s sketch-covered walls are swapped for luxurious red drapes and beneath his body are crisp, cream sheets, but the rest of it is him swathed in orange light, asleep on Grantaire’s recliner. Oh, and of course, there’s the addition of two huge, fluffy wings that cushion Enjolras’s body. The artist, Psyche is all the placard says, and Enjolras makes a note of it to look up later.

The other two works slightly smaller, arranged either side of The artist, Psyche, and they are both also of Enjolras. Now he knows why Bahorel asked which one.

The one on the left, he vaguely recognises one as the view of him from where Grantaire usually sits in the Musain. He’s standing and talking to them about something and he’s glowing - no, there is literal light emanating from around him. “Am I God?” Enjolras blurts out, somewhat horrified, and Courfeyrac gurgles his laughter.

A god,” corrects Grantaire, cheeks high and round from laughter. It’s set on a grassy knoll somewhere and sitting around him are definitely Combeferre, Courfeyrac and Jehan. It simply says ‘Musagetes’ beneath it and Enjolras vaguely remembers not getting that reference either.

“Grantaire!” Combeferre calls, a peculiar shade of red on his cheeks that means he’s extraordinarily flattered, “Did you paint us as Melete, Mneme, and Aoide?”

“Yes?”

The others swarm together for a closer a look, asking Combeferre to explain the reference and Enjolras moves for the last painting. He squints, takes the small clues in the picture and rolls them around in his head. He’s not uneducated; he remembers some of the Greek myths from various history and literature lessons.

“Athena?” He hazards a guess, resisting the urge to stroke a fingertip over the tiny fluffy owl balanced on his shoulder.

Grantaire stuffs his hands into his pockets. “A very androgynous Athena? It’s a comment on her military – it’s not a comment on how you – you should be honoured to be painted as Athena, she’s awesome,” he finishes, looking slightly panicked, and Enjolras puts a hand on his arm.

“I like it,” he says firmly. He’s in a red cloak, arm raised, and he has to admit that it’s a very good likeness of how he tends to shout at rallies from photos he’s seen. There are multitudes of people around him and some are strangers, but he can spot most of Les Amis around them.

“There’s a very generous homage to Joan of Arc there too,” says Jehan with a significant look at Grantaire before following the rest of them to sidle towards Feuilly’s sculptures. It leaves Enjolras lingering behind with Grantaire, who’s watching him with soft eyes.

He crosses his arms. “Joan of Arc and the goddess of military strategy is a bit much to live up to,” says Enjolras.

“I believe you can do it,” says Grantaire. He’s said those words before, ten times, a dozen times, and it usually makes Enjolras both pleased and flustered, but the smirk that comes with them this time has him laughing right back.

“I want to paint you,” says Enjolras, eventually, because he doesn’t know how else to voice his feelings about these paintings and Grantaire raises an eyebrow. “But I really, really shouldn’t, because you’ll end up looking like a baby threw up on the canvas, so do you want to have sex with me instead?”

Grantaire looks at him from hooded eyes and his smile lights up the room and it feels like ’yes’ when he says, “No.”

Les Amis separate out after Feuilly shows them his creations, at once sleek and effortless and dangerous (as Bossuet found out when he reached out to touch one and pricked his finger on some of the barbed wire – Feuilly had sighed, and just said that at least it added ambience). Musichetta drags her boys to some conceptual photo-manipulations; Jehan and Combeferre linger over an interactive installation. There’s a feedback wall near the exit where people can leave comments or sketches; it’s already fairly full, being near the end of the week, but Feuilly has a whole plethora of pieces he’s scribbling compliments to, Bahorel reading them before sticking them up.

Enjolras, who can feel perfectly at home at the head of a mob several thousand strong, finds himself lost as to where to go in an art exhibition. He turns to find Grantaire, but he’s slipped away whilst Enjolras was staring at the paintings of himself. He sidles toward the feedback wall and searches out for comments about Feuilly and Grantaire instead.

~

This is all going too far. Enjolras was, well, not content about being stalked by his friends, because he’s not entirely delusional, but he didn’t have any real complaints about spending more time with his friends, but Grantaire is a whole different kettle of fish.

‘Swing by the art studios pls?’ is the text that Enjolras receives as he finishes up his lunch the next Thursday afternoon.

‘???’ sends back Enjolras, typing with one hand and trying not to drop his slice of tomato.

‘Bring stuff? Need to finish an assignment.’

Enjolras frowns, and hits the call button. “Bring what stuff?” He asks when Grantaire answers.

“Hello? What?”

“Bring what stuff,” Enjolras repeats patiently. “You told me to bring stuff. What do you want me to bring to you?”

There’s a pause, and then the sounds of Grantaire moving the phone around. “No, you misunderstand. Bring your stuff. To the studio.”

Why?”

“Because it’s my shift and whilst I would normally be very happy trailing around after you all afternoon with a great view of your arse, I have a deadline for five pm today so you’re going to have to come to me instead.”

Enjolras hangs up, and goes to the studio. “This is not how it works, R,” he declares the moment he’s through the door and he can make out Grantaire’s mop of curly hair over the back of a chair. This studio belongs to the Art Department, with each student getting a small cubicle. Most students have earphones in and ignore him, but everyone who doesn’t turns to glare at him.

“Can you not make time for greetings like the rest of us?” asks Grantaire, pulling one earbud out and swivelling around in his chair and revealing that a paint-smeared duvet-burrito is indeed his habit despite not being at home.

Enjolras scowls. “If you lot are so invested in my sex life then you are more than welcome to stalk me like overprotective mothers. This does not involve roping me in to follow your lives because you can’t be bothered to keep up this agreement you all made with each other behind my back.”

Grantaire throws some blu-tack at him. “And yet, here you are,” he says, swivelling back around. “Sorry, it’s not very spacious in here, but I made some space for you if you want it? Take the chair from the next cubicle, it’s Feuilly’s.”

“I – thanks.” Enjolras sets his bag down on the only clear patch of Grantaire’s desk – and judging from the rest of it, it did take a while to clear – and pulls out his things. To his right, Grantaire has a red clay pot miraculously balanced on a stack of scrap papers and increasingly thin paintbrushes trapped in his curls.

Enjolras brings out one of his textbooks and then forgets to open or read it as he watches Grantaire. “Greek pottery?”

“‘The application of your preferred art style onto a contrasting medium’, actually,” says Grantaire, making a face. “I wish I’d chosen screenprinting or something now. Something not fucking round.” He has the tip of his tongue poking out of his mouth as he leans forward until the vase is two inches from his nose, occasionally tipping forward to dab a bit of black paint onto it. “I can see you staaaaring,” says Grantaire suddenly in a singsong voice, not looking away from his pottery.

“Ah – sorry,” says Enjolras quickly, flicking through his textbook. “I just never get a chance to see you work.” It’s true; he’s only ever been to this studio once before, when Grantaire needed a lift to an evening protest and no one else had been available, and he knows that the others sometimes drop by to just hang out.

Grantaire snorts. “You watched me paint you for multiple hours barely a month ago.”

“I saw you squint at me every other minute. Or sometimes your feet occasionally twitched from underneath the huge canvas,” retorts Enjolras dryly. “You sit and do nothing but watch me for hours every week, surely you can’t begrudge me doing the same?”

“There’s nothing to watch here,” says Grantaire quietly. Enjolras’s mouth sets in a thin line, but he says nothing. (Perhaps Combeferre would say that he’s learning which fights he can pick with Grantaire.) Enjolras has his textbook at the right place now, but he keeps watching for just a tiny bit longer. He watches Grantaire pick out exactly the right brush he needs with nary a glance at it, he watches him swirl black paint onto the dark red clay with a confidence that he doesn’t see emanate from Grantaire often, and smiles discreetly as Grantaire frowns just a tiny bit before adding the minutest of detail that Enjolras can barely see.

Reaching over, Enjolras picks up the one discarded earbud and sticks it in his ear. Grantaire stops at that, turning to stare at Enjolras inquiringly. “If I’m going to be your prisoner for the afternoon, you can at least share your music,” says Enjolras, determinedly looking down at his textbook.

The music is not at all what he’s expecting from Grantaire. He’d thought that there would be some rock, maybe some punk or indie music. Instead, something classical is playing, something he thinks he might recognise from elevator music or phone hold music but doesn’t actually know. “It’s Prokofiev’s Montague and Capulets, or Dance of the Knights,” says Grantaire. “To get me into the dramatic mood for this.” He jabs the end of his brush at the pot.

“It’s interesting,” says Enjolras, because he knows as much of classical music as he does of art. What’s even more interesting, but he doesn’t say it aloud, is that Grantaire seems to have a knowledge of classical music.

He settles down then, because Grantaire mentioned something about a deadline, and he doesn’t want to be responsible for distracting him. Each time Enjolras looks up from making notes on the western constructs of gender, Grantaire seems to have not only added significantly more to his vase painting but also hunched over an additional ten degrees, until it’s four-thirty and he’s all but curled around it and it only makes Enjolras too aware that he’s been doing the same over his books.

Setting down his book, Enjolras stretches, relishing the burn. “Grantaire, if you dip your head any further down, you’re going to be painting your own hair.” He reaches over slowly, so that Grantaire will see him coming out of his peripheral vision, and sweeps a curl out of the way that Grantaire is indeed in danger of painting onto his vase.

“Sh’up,” says Grantaire defensively, but when he finishes the vine he’s painting, he does set his brushes down and unwind. Enjolras is reminded of a scruffy kitten as his back arches; he raises both arms above his head, extends his fingers, and wiggles them. About a dozen joints click for him, and Enjolras groans sympathetically. “Mostly finished,” says Grantaire with a sigh. He twirls the vase around for a quick check. Most of the red has been covered with black now, figures curling around the vase left in red. Grantaire frowns and quickly adds his final touches.

“It looks great,” says Enjolras in what he hopes is an encouraging tone.

“It looks like I haven’t got a clue what Aegean pottery is,” groans Grantaire, scrubbing his eyes. “Oh, wow, look, other colours! Things that aren’t red or black! I’d forgotten they existed.”

Enjolras snorts. “Do you have to go hand this in somewhere?” He looks significantly at the clock.

“What? Oh – no. It’s technically due tomorrow, but we fire up the last kiln of the day at five and then leave them to cool down overnight. Let me go put this in.”

Grantaire leaves, clutching his vase more carefully than a newborn baby, and Enjolras takes the opportunity to look around the cubicle properly without making Grantaire uncomfortable. There are various photos of Les Amis clustered around one edge, scattered multicoloured post-it notes declaiming ‘MILK HAS GONE OFF DO NOT DRINK IT’ and ‘DECEPTION??? INTRIGUE’ and other such things that made no sense without context. Much like his home ‘studio’, there are scraps of sketches pinned up haphazardly, and also a good number of art instruments that are just hanging from nails in the wall for apparent convenience.

When Grantaire returns, empty-handed and his eyes still a little glazed over, Enjolras raises his head. “Grantaire. Do you have a corner dedicated to sketches of my hair?”

Grantaire plonks himself back in his seat and follows Enjolras’s eyes to where he’s looking. “Err, yes? It’s good hair,” he says, blushing. “I forgot about that.”

Enjolras merely sighs. “Want to go for a walk before the meeting?” he asks, still feeling his muscles tight.

“Yeah, I could do with the movement,” says Grantaire, massaging his fingers. “I’ve missed practice a couple of times this week what with all the pottery. Stupid round things.”

“Boxing… practice?” Enjolras hazards a guess as they grab their jackets and wind scarves on in preparation for the chill wind.

“No, fencing. I can always box at home,” says Grantaire, “but even my room is not big enough to be waving an épée around.”

Hefting his bag strap over one shoulder, Enjolras holds the door for Grantaire on their way out. “How do you have time to do all these things? Boxing, fencing, your art degree, Les Amis meetings… How many student societies do you even belong to?”

“I also do street dance, take occasional shifts at the concert hall and do skydiving therapy,” says Grantaire flippantly.

Enjolras makes an inquiring noise and Grantaire laughs. “Okay, not that last one. I have no idea what skydiving therapy might be.” The winter weather hits them the moment they get out onto the street, and they both huddle in on themselves, waking up in the cold.

“Still, that’s a lot,” says Enjolras, admiringly, his feet automatically taking him to the university quad.

Grantaire shrugs. “What else am I going to do with my time? Drink?”

A frown spreads across Enjolras’s face, but Grantaire can’t see it. Enjolras turns back to see Grantaire walking just a step behind. They get into the university quad and Enjolras waits a beat for Grantaire to catch up.

“Stop it, R,” says Enjolras eventually as he comes to a stop and Grantaire stops, again, just behind him. He can feel the bemused tension rise next to him, and adds, “It drives me crazy when people won’t walk next to me.”

The tension fades immediately. “Do you feel like I’m always one step away from stabbing you in the back?” Grantaire asks, amused. He takes that extra step up next to Enjolras anyway, rocking on the balls of his feet like he’s not sure he belongs there.

“It’s not fair,” says Enjolras, and he is the only person who can make that statement seem like a genuinely bad thing instead of sounding like a spoiled child. “I stand at the front of the rallies and talk, because that’s what I’m good at. I’m good at letting people know my opinion, and I’m good at convincing them that mine is worth listening to. Not that you would know; you’re the only one it doesn’t work on,” he adds with a rueful smile.

“But I couldn’t do that without the rest of you,” says Enjolras. “I wouldn’t be up there without Combeferre’s fact-checking or Courfeyrac’s public opinion surveys or, or your flyers to let everyone know or Feuilly arranging for international student interpretations, or–”

“Stop,” says Grantaire gently as Enjolras’s voice starts to rise. “I get it. You’re not very good at being venerated.”

“It would be awful,” says Enjolras entirely seriously, and confides, “I’d make a terrible power-hungry dictator.” Grantaire bursts out laughing in surprise.

Enjolras looks to the side. "You painted me as three different deities, R," says Enjolras. "I'm fairly sure I know why you don't feel like you can walk next to me."

"I'm an addict," says Grantaire. "I have an addictive personality. I've never done drugs, you know?"

Enjolras doesn't know, but he nods along anyway. "Because you know you'd get addicted?" Their conversations are always like this, whiplashing from one subject to the next and leaving the other person to fill in the gaps in between because neither of them are good at voicing the emotions in between.

"Right. Some things, I never had a chance. Too young to realise. I drink, I smoke." It looks like it's taking effort for Grantaire to stay standing next to Enjolras, and he slows his pace right down so that it's obvious. "But I've never done drugs. Because I know, I just know, I'll get addicted. So, I've never done drugs. And I've never done–" His fingers twitch, and Enjolras realises that it's a gesture, a quick scratch across his forearm. "—And I've never done gambling. And I've never done you."

“Because I am a soul-destroying vice?” asks Enjolras. He can see the edge of Grantaire’s thoughts but he’s not quite there yet and he struggles to wrap his head around it before Grantaire has to spell it out for him.

“Well, yes,” says Grantaire with a crooked smile. “That bit’s taken for granted already. You stole my soul and now here I am doing good for the world.” He shudders dramatically, and his hands tremble a little as he sticks a cigarette into the side of his lips. “No, no, I mean the way you keep offering sex,” he says, words a little muffled around the cigarette as he avoids Enjolras’s eyes and hunts for his lighter instead.

“Oh,” says Enjolras, because he doesn’t know what else to say. He pulls his lighter out instead, and lights Grantaire up. (He doesn’t smoke. Grantaire doesn’t comment on why Enjolras carries a lighter around.)

“I don’t have to worry about drugs, because no one in the house ever has them, at least not around me. It’s not a temptation. I can resist temptation if it’s not there, Apollo, but I’m not good enough of a man to keep turning it down if it’s right in front of me.”

Enjolras has finally, finally figured out what this conversation is about just halfway through that last sentence, and it’s certainly not about actual drugs. They stand there in the chill winter weather, squinting through the setting sun, and Enjolras is acutely aware of Grantaire watching him, just looking. “It’s not like that for me,” he says eventually. “I’m sure you’ve realised.”

Taking a long, slow drag of his cigarette, Grantaire exhales. He looks calmer, like he’s come to a realisation. “But you keep asking, and I’m starting to wonder.”

“Wonder what?” Enjolras plucks the half-smoked cigarette out of his long fingers and carefully stubs it on the brick. Grantaire holds out the open packet and Enjolras puts the rest of it back in.

Grantaire checks his hands: they’re steadier now. He clenches his hands into fists, and jams them into his jacket pockets. “Never mind. Tell me, Enjolras. Since when have I been on your sexual radar? Because it can’t possibly be since I first mentioned my shock that you have had sex and it wasn’t with me and you mention it afterwards as some sort of pity offering.”

There’s a light edge of anger there, and that’s new. Grantaire is never angry with himself. He’s only ever angry at Enjolras, because Enjolras is worth being angry at. They argue and bicker and say things they mean which is why it hurts so much, but Grantaire doesn’t do that with himself. He just sinks into a shell of self-deprecation and hatred.

“You’re right, it can’t possibly be,” says Enjolras because he is impossibly lost in this conversation. He knows what Grantaire wants from him, but he has no idea what Grantaire is expecting from him. He reaches out and grabs Grantaire’s arm, squeezes it hard enough to hurt, almost hard enough to bruise. He’s seen Bahorel do it a thousand times to ground him, and it works.

Grantaire stares down at where his knuckles are white with pressure, and exhales. “I love you,” he says.

“I know,” says Enjolras. “You’re attractive. I’m single, you’re single, I know you have sex just because. We know each other well enough that you’re comfortable saying what you like and don’t like. I thought that if we had sex, nothing would change about our relationship because you already love me and I don’t love you back, and it can’t get worse than that, can it?”

Grantaire just stares at him. “You are so ridiculous and logical,” he says.

“That’s contradictory,” Enjolras feels compelled to point out. He hums, and reaches back to pull Grantaire forward a step again. “Keep up. Combeferre thinks the world of me too, and he still doesn’t lag behind,” he says severely.

A laugh erupts from Grantaire, who stumbles over his feet as he does so. “Wow, Apollo, wow. You don’t half have confidence in how you stand in other people’s eyes.”

“Well, it’s true. I don’t believe in false modesty,” says Enjolras with a shake of his head, “That doesn’t mean I understand why or approve of it.” His eyes slide sideways to look at Grantaire. “You should have more confidence in that respect,” he says quietly as they step back out onto the streets, heading for the Musain

Grantaire huffs incredulously, shrinking back in on himself as Enjolras cuts a little too close to the bone a little too many times in the last twenty minutes.

“You believe in me, don’t you?” says Enjolras with a twitch of his hand that would be imperious, demanding, downright rude if it came from anyone else. Grantaire steps forward again because what can he do but obey?

“You know I do.”

“I think you’re extraordinary. And I think you are worthy, always, to stand next to me.”

Grantaire gapes, because Enjolras is ridiculous. Only he could say something like that and sound sincere. He shakes his head, because it’s difficult to argue with Enjolras when he’s like this, a force of nature. “You’re wrong. You’re wrong about everything,” he says, and he feels exhausted, suddenly too exposed, and he’s smiling anyway. He looks at Enjolras and he smiles, like an absolute idiot, and he ducks his head and bustles ahead into the Musain.

Grantaire is claiming a table near the back, so Enjolras heads to the front of cafe, ordering a hot chocolate with whipped cream for Grantaire and a coffee, black, for himself. He stops just long enough to heap a generous amount of sugar into his cup before heading to the table.

“Thanks,” says Grantaire, staring at his offered drink like there’s a live cricket in there taking a bath.

“I looked up Cupid and Psyche,” says Enjolras, apropos of nothing.

Grantaire closes his eyes. “Urgh, you can’t just spring things like that on me when we’re talking about feelings and I’m lying bare in front of you,” he groans, smiling anyway like he can’t help it. “It’s underhanded and sneaky.”

“I don’t have feelings and I’m never underhanded,” says Enjolras deadpan, and Grantaire smiles despite himself. “Psyche was stolen away by Cupid and he kept her as his secret lover, only coming to her when it was dark. I haven’t been kidnapped recently, as far as I know, so...”

“Recently? Have you been kidnapped before?” Grantaire jokes.

“Actually, yes. It was a misunderstanding though. They put me back when they realised I wasn’t a girl.”

Grantaire chokes. “What. Apollo. Apollo! You’re messing with me. Right?!”

Enjolras resumes as if they don’t keep spinning off into easy, amusing tangents every other minute in their attempts to derail the emotions. “So, Psyche eventually gets curious about the fact that the man she’s sleeping with won’t ever let her see his face, so she sneaks up on Cupid when he’s asleep with a lantern – that’s the bit you painted, right? – so I’m asleep and Cupid, and you’re Psyche with the lantern. We’re supposedly lovers.”

“If we are, then I am missing out on a lot of memories,” says Grantaire.

“When I thought it was an angel, you said it was wishful thinking,” says Enjolras, and Grantaire looks surprised that he remembered that. “You know I don’t love you,” says Enjolras, and he might be saying it for the second time but he still feels awful for saying it. “I don’t mean - I mean, I’m not like that. I’m not like you. I don’t – love. Anyone.”

“Bullshit,” says Grantaire at once. “Do you love Combeferre?”

“Yes,” says Enjolras immediately, because he does. “That’s different.”

“Oh? Why?”

“It’s a different kind of love,” says Enjolras, squirming in his seat. “We don’t – the sex – no. I love him. I love you. But I’m not in love with him,” he finishes. Or you, goes unsaid, and Enjolras doesn’t mean it to be mean, he really doesn’t, but that’s how it comes out and Enjolras winces, but Grantaire still hasn’t stopped bloody smirking at him like he knows something Enjolras doesn’t.

“You make it sound like you and Ferre have tried having sex –” Enjolras looks down very hard at his coffee. “Ooookay, oh, wow. Wow. Incesty. Okay. But, erm, story for another time?” says Grantaire, eyes wide. “Back to me. And you. And your inability to have feelings.”

Grantaire takes a breath. “Sex aside, because let’s not be those guys who equate sex with a relationship,” he says, “how do you know you’re not in love with me?”

Enjolras almost wishes they’d kept walking for a while longer, so that they don’t have to be at the Musain, alone, for a half hour before anyone else will get here. “Because – because! Because I don’t want to write you poetry or declaim it from the rooftops. I don’t want to tell all of my friends how beautiful you are. I don’t want to, to, to skip my lectures to come and sit in yours with you just because. I don’t want to buy you flowers or chocolate and you drink far too much wine as it is.” It’s like there’s a dam halfway up his throat, causing the stuttered feeling in his chest, sure, but it’s also choking his words.

“Enjolras,” says Grantaire, his eyes bright, and Enjolras just stares at him, because he’s just spent the last half a minute telling Grantaire how much he doesn’t want him and he’s suddenly looking at Enjolras like that. “Enjolras.” Grantaire looks like he’s about to laugh. “You don’t want to do any of those things because those are romantic things, and you don’t have a romantic bone in your body.”

Enjolras carries on staring, uncomprehending. Grantaire sighs patiently, and presses his cold fingers over Enjolras’s own. “You like spending time with me. You just listened to classical music with me for four hours and I know it’s not your thing. You just took me on a walk around our university quad and then bought my drink for me.”

“I would do those things for any of Les Amis,” says Enjolras weakly, except it’s a lie; he never buys anyone’s drinks and he always yells at Courfeyrac to turn his music down.

“You want to have sex with me,” says Grantaire with a soft smile.

“You are…” Enjolras waves a hand. “Attractive?”

Grantaire presses a hand to his chest and splutters. “You are awful at the compliments, Enjolras. Jehan’s attractive. Courfeyrac’s attractive. Joly’s attractive.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to have sex with them,” says Enjolras slowly, frowning.

“Exactly,” says Grantaire, swirling his melting whipped cream. “You let me know you find me beautiful and fascinating to be around when I’m in a downwards spiral. You get the thing I do with my cigarettes even though I’ve never told anyone and you – you didn’t say a single word in judgement. You modelled naked for me for hours, on a whim I had. You saw me exhibit you as three different gods and then you pull me forwards and tell me that I am just as good as you. You want to paint me and heaven knows I’ve seen your attempts at diagrams. You are like me. This is what it feels like. Being in love.”

Enjolras blinks. “I–” He looks down at where their fingers are entwined, and his only thought is that it’s unfair to Grantaire for them to hold hands if Enjolras isn’t serious about this. “Oh.”

“Oh,” says Grantaire dryly.

~

Enjolras is really, really not a romantic. The other Les Amis arrive, and he clears his throat and stands up at the front and gives them updates on the fundraising drive they’re organising this weekend for the homeless, especially important since the weather has just turned cold. He listens to everyone’s progress, parses out occasional praise, and does not look at Grantaire even a single second more frequently than he does normally.

He waits until afterwards instead. The meeting dithers to a finish and Enjolras spends some time talking to people, one-on-one, clarifying, explaining, because he won’t, can’t, is incapable of caring less about the causes he works for. He moves from Marius to Eponine, to Joly and Bossuet, and then to Combeferre and Courfeyrac. They dip their heads in together and Grantaire knows, just knows that they aren’t still talking about the homeless.

Three heads swivel, again, to look at him. Grantaire doesn’t even know what face he pulls but Combeferre is smiling and Courfeyrac is smiling, and Enjolras is smiling too, and it feels a little bit like the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all beaming down on him (and dear God, he is going to burn for that comparison, isn’t he?). But finally, finally Enjolras makes his way around to Grantaire.

Combeferre engages Bahorel in conversation and Enjolras slips into his vacated seat; Courfeyrac asks Feuilly for his help on something and it is astounding how the three of them really can orchestrate things without having to speak to each other because suddenly Grantaire and Enjolras have the table to themselves.

“Want to have sex?” says Enjolras for the sake of tradition. “My place is closer than yours. No one will notice if we go now.” It’s true. Courfeyrac and Combeferre are expert at running interference, and has grouped everyone nearer the front in about ten seconds flat.

“Okay,” says Grantaire, and tries very hard not to sound terrified.

~

Enjolras’s room is organised chaos. Everything has its rightful place, but more often than not, these rightful places are towering stacks of paper and books. Enjolras ignores it all, and flops onto his bed. “Come on.”

Grantaire chokes with laughter. “Really, absolutely no sense of romance,” he says, but he follows, sliding onto the bed until he’s lying on his side, facing Enjolras. Splayed blond hair tickles his nose as he just takes a moment to look from up close. He remembers, so vividly, the sight of Enjolras’s lips, lightly parted in sleep, and leans forward, pressing his own against them. Enjolras moves back against him, shifting minutely until they fit better together. Grantaire breathes a sigh into Enjolras’s mouth and Enjolras slides his tongue in, hot and wet against Grantaire’s own. Grantaire sinks onto him and is all too aware of Enjolras’s hands sliding around his waist.

When they part, Grantaire’s lips feel swollen, and Enjolras is close enough that his eyelashes sweep against Grantaire’s cheek. “You know I’m not actually a work of art,” says Enjolras. Grantaire makes a low noise in his throat that sounds like disagreement. Enjolras laughs. “I just mean that you can – touch me. If you want.”

“If I – if I want,” splutters Grantaire. “You are ridiculous.”

“You’re ridiculous,” replies Enjolras petulantly, leaning forward to lick along Grantaire’s lower lip.

“I – Are you five?” asks Grantaire incredulously, rolling onto his front with Enjolras half underneath him.

“I’d better not be, I hear paedophilia is bad,” says Enjolras, and that is the absolute last straw.

Grantaire puts his hand over Enjolras’s mouth. “Oh my God. Stop. If you don’t stop, we’re never going to get our clothes off and you have no idea how long I have been waiting to get your clothes off.”

Enjolras noms on Grantaire’s fingers like a baby, and he squawks, pulling his hand away; Enjolras lunges forward for another kiss, quick and sloppy, and rolls them over so that he’s leaning on Grantaire’s chest now. “About three years. First meeting of Les Amis.” Grantaire gapes, and Enjolras flushes. “You’ve always been somewhat vocal about it.” He hooks a finger through one of Grantaire’s curls and tugs lightly.

“Nnnnrgh,” says Grantaire, and runs his fingers across the bottom hem of Enjolras’s hoodie. His fingers slip up underneath, and he can feel the warm, soft heat of Enjolras’s skin.

“You should ask,” says Enjolras. “Consent is important.”

“Oh my god,” says Grantaire. “Fine. I would greatly appreciate it if you were naked. Would you be perhaps amenable to that?”

“I suppose,” says Enjolras, sitting back up. “But I’d prefer it if you were naked first. You’ve seen me already.” Grantaire whines, but Enjolras is straddling his hips, so he’s not sure if it’s a complaint or not. Enjolras reaches up and yanks his hoodie and t-shirt off in one go, rolls off his hips and Grantaire obediently bucks his hips up and lets Enjolras pull jeans and underwear off at the same time too.

“What the fuck,” gurgles Grantaire as he goes from fully clothed to toeing his socks off in about five seconds flat.

“I am nothing if not efficient,” says Enjolras smugly. Grantaire shivers at the sudden chill, and Enjolras leans across him to turn the heating on. With a moment’s pause, he dips down because Grantaire’s nipple is right there, and licks it. Grantaire mewls in surprise, and then puts his hands over his face in mortification.

“Oh my god, you, you. What are you doing, this has got to be the weirdest sex I’ve ever had.”

Enjolras has the audacity to just laugh at him, and run his hand down the length of Grantaire’s side to rest on his hip. “If you are calling this sex, your standards are horrifically low.”

A reluctant laugh bubbles out from Grantaire. “You are going to be the death of me.” He leans in, curling up to Enjolras’s body heat and watches him with hooded eyes.

Enjolras uses one arm to keep Grantaire tucked up next to him, and the other explores across his skin. His arms are tough and roped with muscle; his waist and stomach lean and trim with exercise. Grantaire huffs, a breath of warm air against Enjolras’s ear, when he strokes his fingers down the dark, curly hair pointing down from his stomach and lower. He flicks a quick glance at Grantaire to check that this is all right, and finds Grantaire still staring at him, watching the emotions play over Enjolras’s face. He leans forward to press his lips against Grantaire’s, hot and rough because he can’t stand that look of dazed awe on his face, and Grantaire groans into his mouth, hands curling up to lock around Enjolras’s neck, thread through his hair and grip.

“I think you are attractive,” says Enjolras, panting, when they finally part. He’s given a lot of thought to where they had left the conversation. “You have addictions and vices and gifts and talents that pull you in far too many different directions.” He cups his hand around Grantaire’s arse and squeezes. “You stand downwind of me because you know I don’t care for the smell of cigarette smoke.” He presses kisses across Grantaire’s collarbones and down his chest. “Since Joly told us about his shifts in the A&E during weekends, you’ve starting swapping every other drink for plain coke and you haven’t told anyone.” He runs a finger along the length of Grantaire’s cock, and Grantaire whimpers.

“What are you doing?” asks Grantaire, looking down at him with wild eyes.

“Painting you the only way I know how,” Enjolras says, and takes him into his mouth.

~

Grantaire wakes up, limbs heavy and lethargic, to two phones’ text alerts pinging. He fumbles for where he normally has his phone, and his hand comes into contact with Enjolras’s bare hip instead. “Wha–”

“Nnnrgh,” moans Enjolras, and snuggles his face into his pillow – which happens to be Grantaire’s shoulder.

“C’mon,” mumbles Grantaire, easing himself out so that he can get the phone. He reaches for Enjolras’s too, fishing it out of his jeans pocket and handing it to Enjolras. He reads the first unread message, and snorts, re-reading it aloud for Enjolras’s benefit. “What is this? ‘Are you two screwing like bunnies because we can’t–’ Can’t what?”

“‘–hear you through the walls and that is just disappointing’,” finishes Enjolras, squinting at his phone through strands of blond hair. “‘PS. Yay, I can have my Tuesdays back. Thank you, R.’ Urgh, Courfeyrac. Thinks he’s clever sending us half a text each.” He cups his hand near his mouth and yells, “COURF. EITHER GO AWAY OR COME JOIN US. That’ll scare him away.” He tosses his phone carelessly into a pile of clothing and rolls back over, and Grantaire erupts into a wordless fit of giggles.

Grantaire tugs him so that Enjolras’s back is snug against his chest, and slips one leg between Enjolras’s. “Just a thought. ‘I have never had sex in my own bed’, right?” He says quietly, hiding his smile against Enjolras’s neck.

“Not anymore,” says Enjolras, tugging Grantaire’s arm around his waist.